The Story of Me, Part IV: Goob to the Present

I am #1!

After college, which I have mentioned in a previous blog post “Full Circle” (https://vforvinnie.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/full-circle/). I ended up pursuring a career in Advertising though I was painfully close getting a job as a Marketing Coordinator job with the NFL. Here’s the story:

The head of Sirius Sports Marketing was a guy named Dave. He worked many years at Nike before joining Sirius. He liked me a lot because of how knowledgeable and passionate I was about Sports.

He often picked my brain a lot especially about my love of European Soccer (diehard Chelsea FC and Barcelona fan though if Champions League comes between them, I’ll take Barcelona only because I hate Chelsea’s “Captain” John Terry who is an asshole! Google him) because he was looking to do some grassroots initiatives locally at Pubs because Sirius scored the exclusive radio rights to the English Premiership Soccer League. I helped him and his intern Stacy (who I was also dating at this time) set-up the events and they actually were successful. We even got people to buy radios and subs on the spot, it was more successful than he ever imagined.

He ended up leaving Sirius at the time my internship ended, he was hired by Johnson and Johnson to spearhead their Sports Marketing push for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing. Fortunately for me, he never forgot about me and put in a good word for me with a couple of places and the NFL was interested.

I initially thought I was coming in for the “Marketing Assistant” job, which was the entry-level there for the department. They ended “pulling the position” and decided they needed another Coordinator, the next position above. They didn’t think I was experienced enough to interview BUT, in order to keep me in mind once an Assistant job opened up, they had me interview anyway.

I am a bad inteview to be honest. I get too nervous, sweat a lot and I think people got that “weird” vibe from me. I feel that has costs me TONS of opportunities. I have all this great experience and it’s useless because I am too nervous. The jobs I end up getting or almost getting are the ones where I have no expectations (e.g. A throwaway interview, or an interview for future consideration) because I don’t get as nervous and feel more confident.

So not expecting to even be considered to get the Coordinator job was a big help for me and I really did ace the interview. The job would have focused on the NFL Sponsorship opportunities like FedEx and Burger King. The NFL HR contact person had told me, of the 10 more experienced people he interviewed, the last three weeks. I was one of his favorites with a Harvard grad with a MBA. He gave us one final interview.

Now while I was interviewing with him, I interviewed at the then-Grey Direct simultaneously and felt I aced that interview, mostly because I was on a confidence high from the NFL interviews. On the eve of the final NFL interview, I got a voicemail from the Grey recruiter saying there were interested in making an offer.

I panicked because I wanted the NFL job more and was afraid this Opp would never come again. I purposely didn’t call her back (risking the offer which could’ve been offered to someone else if they really needed to get the job filled) for a day to have the NFL interview because I knew I would know about the NFL decision, the next day according to their HR Person.

I know I aced the last interview for the NFL also. I sat nervously the next day by the phone. I got two phone calls around Noon minutes apart.

The first was the NFL, the head of Marketing personally called me to tell me he offered the job to the guy from Harvard (the same guy I would find out through Dave got fired a year later because apparently he was very lazy and coasted). He was very impressed with me but he felt he needed more experience though if an Assistant job did open up in the new few months, it was mine if I wanted it. (Never manifested… I did check though I got hired by Grey)

The second was Grey Direct making me the formal offer (fortunately still on the table) to join their agency. I took it.

Though I wanted the NFL job badly and considering how it ended (I rather not go into detail other than saying I was pretty much stabbed in the back for “doing the right thing”, ethically and professionally. I don’t trust any HR person after that) happened at Grey that made me leave a year later. I have no regrets taking the job at Grey.

I have no regrets because other than what happened to me, I loved my job and I loved the people who I met that I am happy to call my friends, some who I am still close to this day. I loved it very much. I loved the work I did and I loved having a friend who was there for me when I had that bad day and needed someone to vent with over dinner and a movie or junk food and DVD’s.

It was hard to get another job… Somehow I got hired at McCann Relationship Marketing months later and I was part of some high-profile accounts when I was there. It was a nice environment there but to be frank, it was boring, nobody was social over there and given the nature of the place and what was going on I never really settled in. I was very close and still close to the VP who oversaw the primary account I was on. Those suspicions ended up being true, a mass exodus of layoffs and people leaving happened and I was one of the layoffs despite being told by others of my exceptional work. That hurt.

I was hurt because I really worked my ass off and did everything right and well.

It was really difficult to get another job, because of the recession and my complete loss of confidence when I interviewed, it took me two years to get another job. I did some side work for my former boss at MRM to kill time and some other side jobs/odd jobs in order to have money.

While going through a tough job search, I also endured one of the hardest, heart-wrenching experiences of my life.

My Uncle David went to Methodist Hospital to have surgery on a Herniated Back which had bothered him for awhile. The surgery had complications and he was in a coma for around 2 weeks. Our family was there with him everyday at the hospital as he was in a coma. We pretty much only ate at Smiling Pizza close by and the diner across the street.

The doctors then had no clue what happened to him. Once he recovered, and after visits with oncologists and other specialists, it turned out he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the lack of white blood cells in his body when the surgeons were cutting him up for the hernia surgery caused the coma.

That was the only time I ever saw my mom look so devastated. We all were taken back when we heard, he was this wonderful person who looked so strong and never saw this coming.

Fortunately, the healthcare system worked for my Uncle, the 0.09999999% in which someone who was sick got full treatment without worrying of payment.

My mother was able to secure him one of the top Oncologists at New York Presbyterian Hospital on the Upper East Side. My Mom served as his primary caretaker with me (between interviews), my aunt Cookie, my grandmother Isabel, and my Uncle Felix visiting him at the Hospital as much as we can to make sure he had people around. Other relatives also came, my dad, siblings and other uncles would come on weekends. We all visited him on Holidays, he was never alone. We were always there for him because we know if any of us were sick, he would visit us everyday he could. He was that type of person.

I usually visited him around let’s say 3-4 times a week when he was admitted for observation, chemo or other treatments. I also escorted him when he was doing “Outpatient Care” when he was released several times when my mom needed a break.

I remember always taking the N train to 59th Street in Manhattan, switching 1 stop for the 6-train and walking down to the hospital. I would always bring him food and the newspapers. He liked the Philly Cheesesteak Sub from Subway, Pizza from Famiglia or McDonalds.

My Uncle David, you can tell was scared, who wouldn’t be in his situation. But, he was pretty much himself. Sweet, funny and always talking about anything. When I visited him in mornings, we would watch “Rachel Ray”, “The View” and “Millionaire” and on evenings, “Jeopardy” and any sports that was on. I would make him go outside to take walks to get him exercising, staying in bed all day was never healthy. I was always on call when there were times my mother couldn’t make it or someone else couldn’t because I had time, I don’t think I ever NOT did it unless I was sick and didn’t want to risk it with his low immunuity.

My family and I have nothing to say but great things about the nurses and doctors who treated my Uncle, never once I questioned his care. We sent them plenty of fruit baskets during those times.

I tried to keep the faith, hoping and praying he would feel better as did others but my mom who was with him the most could tell he was getting scicker and sicker. It’s hard to see someone you love deterioate in front of you. Sometimes, it would be positive news and then it would get worster and worst.

My Uncle was starting to get frustrated, he escaped the hospital, a couple of times and say things he didn’t mean but none of us could relate to what he was going through especially since he was also a schizophrenic, so we would let it go and just continue to be there.

We got the “news” there would be no more treatment for him, he was going to die. All that hope he was going to get better was out the window. I remember recieving the news from my parents, we all cried. We arranged to get him hospice at my grandmother’s house where he lived so he could die where he called home, a place he was comfortable.

I remember after recieving the news and visiting him at the hospital. By some miracle, I held in my emotions when I visited him because I didn’t want him to be sadder than he probably was. Amazingly, he was himself, I remember watching some sports doc about Fernando Valenzuela with him. I know for a fact, he did know he was going to die but I sensed he was at peace with that and I also knew he wouldn’t want me to cry. David was more worried for me and I wasn’t the sick person. That was my Uncle, he cared and loved everyone.

As I walked back to the train after the visit, I was covered in tears, so overcome with emotion that someone I loved very much was going to die. I purposely walked it to a train station miles away from the one I took let out my crying. Not just the thought of him dying, but also the thought eventually my parents, family and other people I cared about would eventually die. That’s a hard realization to accept.

I visited him at my grandmother’s, several times while he was getting in-home hospice. He deterioated really, really bad. Eventually around Valentine’s Day, it was decided to put him in a Hospital Hospice at Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park instead to give him better care.

On Thursday, February 19th, late night I recieved the call from my mom to come to the Hospital ASAP with my father, he was going to die. The priest read him his last rites. We all gathered around him on his bed. People had to leave the room to let out tears.

David Rodriguez died on Friday, February 20th, 2009 around 12:20am from Leukemia. He was 43 years old. He was a loving son and Uncle who always put family and friends before him. We were all devastated. I remember crying myself sleep and the unforgettable sight of my brother Tony, a more buttoned person who took a leave from boot camp to be with us bawling about his Uncle.

We had his funeral at a Polish Funeral Home in Park Slope, a lot of people came from our family and people who knew him which tells you the great person he was.

For his casket, we didn’t put him in a suit, that wasn’t my Uncle to be in a suit. My mom bought a Yankees jersey to be placed on him. He loved the Yankees. Right before they closed the casket I inserted two more things to be with him: A personal letter to him from me telling him how much I loved him and a DVD copy of “The Dark Knight”, my Uncle loved that movie and watched it in the hospital a bazillion times. I hope he was able to get Heath Ledger to sign it for him up there in Heaven. I remember my dad hugging me after I did that and he whispered to me “I am proud of you for being there for your Uncle and he knows it”. i told my dad without hesitation, “he would have did that for any of us”. We hugged again.

We buried him in Greenwood Cementary which isn’t far for anyone to visit him. My grandmother and Uncle Puto usually visit him once a week. I visit him once in awhile. We always as a family visit on his birthday, bringing a Yankees Flower Cake.

It was very hard for all of us to cope. My mom and grandmother cried alot. I occasionally cried too. I almost had PTSD from his death remembering everything that happened after seeing something that would cause a memory.

My faith in particular was shaken by what happened. I was pretty much questioning the purpose of my faith given how all those prayers for my Uncle’s health were unanswered. I was so hurt by that.

Eventually I came to terms with my faith because of one reason: Remembering when he was sick, my Uncle, who was a devout catholic never and I mean ever even when he found out he was going to die questioned or lost his faith when he really had every right to. I remember him having conversations with the nuns and chaplins and also remembering how at peace he was those final weeks. That’s a hard thing to overlook when it comes to faith. I pray he is up there watching over us and that’s he’s at peace and OK in Heaven waiting for us. I know he hates hugs, but when that day happens. I will hug him and tell him how much I love him.

I miss him very much and there isn’t a day when I or anyone in my family doesn’t think about him and the great times.

I remember getting lost into baseball that particular season. The Yankees had signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera and AJ Burnett in free agency. I remember telling my Uncle the news weeks before he died that the Yankees had gotten CC and Teix and I always remembering him saying Matsui would come up big. Matsui was one of his favorite players. That season was weird, Yankees had these crazy comeback wins and A-Rod became a monster in the postseason. Yankees ended up winning the World Series beating the Philadelphia Phillies in 6 Games. Hideki Matsui ended up winning the Series MVP when he got 6 RBI’s in the clinching Game 6. I guess, my faith was strengthened after that, you can say 😉

A few months later, I ended up taking a Freelance job at H4B Chelsea with no expectations of it being a Full-time job. I was just happy to be working and doing what I loved, any opportunity was welcomed.

It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made because despite the “craziness” that ensued with me, a few weeks ago. I worked my way to a full-time job, met the best and most awesomest boss, someone who appreciates me finally, who I would run through a wall for, great people/friends who I am grateful for, a great team who I love to work with and started to get some of the confidence I lost.

Which brings me to today:

I am still working on my confidence issues. I am not where I should be but I am much better than where I was.

I still have my lapses of “Aspergers” which are related to my confidence issues. Though I also I am much better than I was.

I am still a loser in terms of a love life. I am trying but I am just really a hard luck loser. There is someone in particular I have feelings for but I can’t tell her. I just can’t as much as I want to tell her.

I am still looking to better myself anyway possible.

I am always about my family and friends. My parents have had some recent health issues so I have made it a point to help them more despite my full-time job with things like helping my dad take care of the building or getting the groceries and laundry for my mom who is recovering from a broken knee cap. I am protective of my siblings, relatives and friends and always will be.

I am still trying new things especially different food places and take a lot of photos of them to show off people on Facebook that I am a huge foodie!

I have my faults as a person. I have my regrets and things I wish I could take back or do differenty. Do I wish I could be “Normal”? I do. Do I make mistakes? Yep, I am a human. I am an awkward person and I am really trying not to be one. Do I want to tell “her” how I feel about her? Yes and it pains me to hold this in but I can’t.

To close. Most importantly, I am still “Me”. I am still, Vinnie. Still the person makes equally weighted decisions with his head and his heart (heart winning out if it’s a draw). The person who doesn’t care about listening to Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl” while reading a NY Times article on my iPad and wearing a Pac-Man t-shirt. The person with the insane memory of cartoons and pop culture references. The person who goes apeshit for sports especially with guys like Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow stepping up. The person who despite his deficiencies as a person will not give up to until he proves to everyone who the real Vinnie is. The person who was told when he was a child, he was never going to be normal and wouldn’t accept that. The person who like his Uncle would do anything and everything for the people he cares about.

The person who sees hope is possible.

The next time a person asks me, “Who the real Vinnie is?”, I am just going to say, “The real Vinnie is me”. How meta and shit right?

-V. for Vinnie

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