Blog

Street Diplomacy

The school bell rang around 8:50 pm each night and we all knew what that meant.

A gang fight.

A walk home from school had built-in entertainment just a few blocks away from the school gates - a park with a large kiosk that served as front row seats to gang fights. The Undercard - unresolved beef that cooked over the school-day on some gossip between 2 girls always led to the exchange of ideas which included hair-pulling, kicking and punching around with eyes-wide-shut.

The Fight Card - Dozens of students would form a large circle around the girl-fight to watch the mayhem and push the girls back into the circle as they tumbled around the ground. At some point the fight would turn into a fighting frenzy between the 2 gangs. Time to go home. Walking home from school each night was straight out of a scene from the movie The Warriors. Luckily for me, my street-diplomacy and knowing when-and-where to name-drop my classmates names was my passport as I entered and exited several gang borderlines with my backpack and skateboard on hand.

5280 Feet of Downhill

The school bell rang twice per day - At noon to let all the students in and at 9pm to let the students out… straight into the night.

Kick. Push. Kick. Push. Coast.

Getting to school was fast and hot and included dodging taxi drivers who often ran the red lights and rabies-infected street dogs that chase any moving object with wheels… and I had 4 of them under my feet. Getting home was a different story… With the idea of visually identifying the gang members from students on the streets - The school system decided to allow each school to select the color of their student’s uniform and to enforce each student to wear it every school day.

The color of the stripe on the school uniform signaled some sort of gang affiliation - just as much as a colored flag sticking out from the back pocket of sagging’ pants. When all your classmates are the rejects from others city schools who got expelled for fighting, drinking and/or having drugs and guns on them - you quickly learn to be diplomatic.

The Rubber Boat

To stop a leak - another hole needs to be made.

But first - the leak must to be found.

The ceiling is plastic.

The walls are plastic.

The floor is plastic.

A plastic chair sits in the center of the room.

Occupied.

One of our own.

A few weeks back - same location just one floor above - we counted 30 stacks - The loot met our expectations and carelessly - we left it sitting on the bed as we went out to celebrate our milestone. We came back - the room was tossed. Rest of house intact. What we had gained, was now gone. “Stacks on Stacks on Stacks was now …. No-Stacks” is what we told ourselves as we began to bring order to the chaos in the room.

We noticed that when they tossed the mattress over - the sheets had concealed what left on top of the bed. To our surprise - the loot was all there - wrapped in the sheets. Blinded by the floor safe in the closet - they overlooked everything else and fortunately our major loss was just the cracked safe where we normally kept the loot along with the burners. They had the right tool. They showed up prepared.

We have a leak on the rubber boat that can't go unrepaired.

My Fathers Truck

Customers would drop off their trucks and my father would cut them in half with a gas-torch... To later weld them back together.

Throughout my childhood, my father always had several types of jobs, but the line of work remain similar - either a salesman or something related to cars. At one point, he had an odd job working for one of my uncles who had a welding shop in the side side of the city. During that time, he used to pick up my brother and I from elementary school in this one blue GMC pickup truck. The truck was a bit old and it swayed in a funny way here and there when you gave it some gas.

The interior of the truck was huge and the cab always had a sweet smell to it. The strangest thing about the truck was that it had several gas tanks - yet only one of the tanks was intended for carrying gasoline. One day the truck was gone. When I asked my father - He just told me that "It wasn’t the type of truck you keep around".

18 Wheeler Gorillas

My family has been in the business of repairing truck radiators ever since I can remember.

Legacy.

It all started with my grandfather before I was born and after all these years the business still stands in the same location today. My grandfather was a tough man. I never met him, but my mom often tells me that it was a “good thing that he died before you were born” as he was a very abusive person. After my grandfather died, his eldest son took over the business. My uncle - let’s just say he didn’t fall far from the tree - was perfect clone of his violent father who would often get into drunken fist fights with his teenage son. The place smelled like sulfur, sweat and dirt all at the same time. What used to be the master bedroom of my grandmother's house - where years prior I had witnesses a gun fight between the PGR and my family members - was now the radiator shop. The radiator repair shop sat on the side of a busy highway that lead to and from the mountain ranges (La Sierra) to the west of the city. Truck drivers would drop off radiators the size of a small mattress to be repaired by my uncle.

The customer base seem to be the same - just the “regulars” as my uncle would call them - and often each customer would drop off one or more radiators, while picking up others that had already been repaired. The shop was a large filthy room that held a two large baths - one was a pool of dirty brown water and the other was some greenish sulfuric acid mix - that are used to completely submerge large radiators to dissolve all the dirt and grease before servicing each. My uncle would then unweld the radiator caps - do some work - then he would weld the caps back on. He would do this with each radiator. It was a cycle, someone drops of brand-new radiators, my uncle repairs them and someone later picks them up. One thing that I never understood as a child was: Why did customers drop off brand-new radiators to be repaired? It just made no sense.

La Sierra Madre Occidental

My First Memory

The first memory I have of my childhood has me standing in front of a window at my grandmother's house at the age of 2.

It's dark outside and most definitely past my bedtime. As I stare out the window, I can see bright flashing orange lines cutting across the dark sky. Some fly straight, some fly in strange patterns. These aren't fireflies. These are 223s. The supersonic sound from the projectiles and the overpressure of the M16 muzzle flash was just as entertaining as a 4th of July firework display. Somehow I had front row seat to the show as I found myself standing a couple yards away from member of the Mexican PGR.

Separated by a single pane of glass - the agent had positioned himself against a wall outside the house - I could spot him in the darkness only when the night would turn to day with the exit of each bullet from his machine gun. I was raised catholic - just like 99% of my family - and what that means is that every time there is a new birth in the family it is celebrated by a “Bautismo” followed by the killing of a pig that kick off a party that can extend clear into the next morning. What had started as a day of celebration, had rapidly turned into a gun battle that had my father pinned down under a truck as the bullets flew freely thru the unrestricted airspace of my grandmother's front yard.

What happens when La Familia gets together.