Ramblin’ On My Mind: I’m A Man. But, You Can’t Call Me That.

I always like the story that the term “man” as a slang gesture of affection or recognition came into vogue through jazz musicians of the 1940’s. That Gillespie, Parker and Miles used the term to destroy the humiliating use of “boy” is a powerful demonstration. We’ll just make up our own shit. Better, let’s call ourselves what we are.

I read this comment from El Chavo and it jarred a few memories:

BTW, I hate that fake bonding shit: I get some people in my work environment calling me ‘bro’ or even ‘brother,’ like I know them or something. It makes me want to punch them.

Made me think how slang can be a funny thing. How that term “man” has come to bother the fuck out of me. Even in Havana, being called “mano” (short for brother) bothered me to no end, cause dudes just hawked shit at me continuously. Had to use all my spidey senses walking along el malecon. I have been called man thousands of times, it’s how we talk. But sometimes, I wanna stab a dude. Maybe, its just about context. This is what I mean:

A while back for a job interview, I got to downtown, on Main I believe, I get up to the 8th floor and wait in the lobby with others. A young man and a young woman, clean cut, smile at me and we can all hear parts of the interview being conducted. It is oh so pleasant. She seems nervous and fidgets a bit. He reads a Newsweek. I don’t sweat that stuff. I get the job or I don’t. There are others. I once lived a whole year on an income of $700 a month pushing paper part-time for the California Attorney for Criminal Justice. Rent, car, gas, food all for 7 bills. This was about 10 yrs ago. Those were the days.

Anyway, she goes in and it is all so formal.

“Hello, how are you, uh… Jody?”

Fine, how are you doing?

Then the other guy goes in:

“Good morning… Steve. Nice to meet you.”

Good morning, sir.

The guy in charge of the tutoring program is from Central America, I can tell by his accent and it is later confirmed during my interview.

So, I get in. I’m in work attire, like the others, y know slack and dress shirt, the basics and I am greeted with…

“Hey, man.”

Just something about the way he said it. What the fuck? Maybe if we were waiting for the 30 on Floral and Marianna or putting gas in our rides. I don’t see it. I did see a slight snarl. I ain’t no master of etiquette but I thought this was a job interview?


One time I was in Queretaro, I love it there. The locals are gettin bent because many chilangos are flooding the little historical city. Many are finding el D.F. too crazy but I find it more relaxing than L.A. Yup, I said it. Yes in Qro there are more fresas than in any shortcake I’ve eaten. But, I like it there.

So I’m waiting to ask about a play at a local theater and there is this English-speaking family enquiring about the show. The guy in the information booth also speaks English. In a very formal manner.

“Yes, sir. If you purchase five tickets, we can offer you 2 additional ones at no additional cost.”

Wow, says the father. What a great deal.

“Yes, sir. I believe you and your family will enjoy the play. Are you familiar with the playwright?…”

And it went on for awhile, it was quite a performance. The family leaves and the guy sees me and says, “What’s up, man?”

I look around just to verify he was talking to me. Sure I’m in t-shirt and jeans, but that family looked like they just woke up, rolled out of their sleeping bags and ran over here. I tense up and say, “No… (I stare at him for 3 seconds) …Man.”

Oh, the play was good. My friend Natalie played this hooker, it was funny.


So, last week I’m at Fresh N Easy off of Main in Hellhambra. They have made some changes cuz some of their shit is cheaper. Wheat bread for a buck 20 or those cases of water for like 3 bills. I ask about the soy yoghurts. Same price as Trader Joe’s but here they have blueberry. Well, the containers read soy yoghurt but they don’t claim to be non-dairy or vegan, and many products do. Could soy yoghurt contain casienate or some shit from a cow’s intestinal lining?  I see a guy with a green shirt and apron. He is talking to a woman. I get near. Their conversation is loaded with proper pronunciation. I got no problem with that. Formal and professional. I could deal with that.

“Well, ma’am, I would have to call our main office and ask for you.”

Young man, you have been so gracious and patient in answering all my questions. You have a wonderful day.

“Well, ma’am, we are here to provide you with excellent service.”

Good Golly Miss Molly! Sounds like customer service for the phone company. I step up to ask my innocent “is this vegan?” question and I get greeted with…

“Hey, man…”

I breathed LOUDLY, stared at him and asked my question.


Is that supposed to be some gesture of recognition? How can you recognize me when you don’t know me? Did I miss the invite to the bro-fest? 5 seconds ago you were Johnny Appleseed and now you Johnny Chingas? Spare me the bromance and tell me if the yoghurt has cow shit in it! I just had my fill.

El Chavo, you want to punch em in the face? I wanna punch their gramma in the face and their kids. Wait, you gotta have balls to have kids, right? Man!

It gets to me a bit, no? Some friends think I’m overreacting, but I don’t know, MAN.

5 thoughts on “Ramblin’ On My Mind: I’m A Man. But, You Can’t Call Me That.

  1. Yo dude, man that was a freakin awesome post, bro! Hahaha, but seriously I was laughing so hard I started crying. So hilarious! I see this kinda crap happen ALL THE TIME, it’s not your imagination.
    I go to restaurants and see the servers being very polite and professional, like you said “Good morning sir! What would you like to order today?” and then they see me and my friend and we get “What’s up? What can I get for you guys?” Ugh. Happens all the time. Or the time we were at a party in Encino and this guy was “bro-ing” my friend all night and finally asks “you guys got some mota?” And we’re like “what?” “Mota! mota, dude!” and we’re like no and then he shoots us a look like why were the Mexicans invited to this party if they don’t have any drugs! Haha, stupid.
    It happened to me in a job interview once for Whole Foods. An immigrant guy (also from Central America) was totally polite and cool with the other interviewees but when it came to my turn, he was super shitty with me even before I said much. So I turned it around on him and acted all uppity and challenged him on his perceived notions of me until he was properly humbled. I didn’t get the job but fuck if I’m going to be treated that way. Sometimes the worst treatment can come from other Latinos.
    I don’t know, there are prolly a lot of folks that won’t get this story but the ones that do will be rolling around on the floor laughing their asses off like me! 🙂

  2. Thanks for writing this, I was beginning to think I was the only one that gets bothered with this. I know people are trying to be cool with me, a sort of mild way to signal that they recognize that I’m not one of the other regular folks and in a good way, I assume. But it’s jarring. Just say Hi or Hey, mofo.
    I guess it’s all about context. There’s this waitress at Huarachito that’s friendly enough to everyone, but she puts on her professional proper English when someone obviously not from LH is eating there. And they get that special treatment, you all know what I mean. It’s the equivalent of not being called Bro.

    Great post, CT! I love your writing style, it’s informative and hilarious!

  3. I have a pension for the old one’s that I use to hear my dad use like “maestro,” “profesor” and “licenciado.” Now all I hear is “mi chavo.” Nah. Not cool. I say punch away.

  4. Can i just say, I’ve been quoting this post all day?
    My favorites:
    “Yes in Qro there are more fresas than in any shortcake I’ve eaten.”
    “Did I miss the invite to the bro-fest? 5 seconds ago you were Johnny Appleseed and now you Johnny Chingas?”

  5. Yup, that does happen all the time. I can almost sense when it’s about to go down. City Terrace to Marina Del Rey, I’ve seen it. That look or that tone, you recognize it as soon as it happens. A cop at Hammel Elementary uses all the formal pleasantries in the book when speaking to a parent and then I walk up to sign-in and “What’s up?” is hurled my way. And that stupid, toothy smile is no where to be found. I patiently wait in line at the American Botanical Pharmacy and bam, “Hey, man.” He wasn’t smiling. I just heard him extol the virtues of colon cleansing to a woman for 5 minutes like it was a fuckin all expenses paid trip to Tahiti and he gets at me with that? Man? Mr. etiquette professor/salesman, why can’t I hear the wonders of rectal maintenance? Shit!

    I really like slang. Especially, terms that have stayed with us over the decades, not the trendy terms of the month used to pitch some latest “singer.” Was it used as a slap to the Man? I don’t know. Did someone think, “Fuck Noah Webster and accepted language, we’ll just make up our own shit and that’s how WE will talk to each other?” Home-made terminology, too much fun.

    But, when it’s used, well any language, actually, to create distance or to sell something, man, it gets to me and I can sense it immediately. Glad, I’m not the only one who can smell a rat, especially, when it’s smiling. Even worse, Chimatli, as you point out with that incident in that market, a familiar looking one. “Beware the one who wears your mask.” Ulterior motives I don’t need from anyone.

    Chimatli and El Chavo, thanks for the kind words, they are appreciated. Peace, I mean, I’m out, audi 5000?, outty? late? I’m ghost? ttyl? c-ya? tah tah? one? ay te wacho? dont’ take any wooden nickles? give my love to…? OMG IDK.

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