FROM LAST ONE TO DIE
In 1986, my brother and I were involved in, what would be considered, a mini-gang war on our street in suburban Reseda. I was two years out of high school, working a late shift at a mall record shop; I came home at about 9:00 or 10:00 one Friday night to find my mom pacing the house, looking through every curtain in the place, generally freaking out. I immediately asked her what’s wrong, and my mom tells me the following:
My brother has a girlfriend at school, due to some craziness, my brother transfers to another school; his girlfriend is still at the old school. A new guy starts digging her, so he tells her that my brother is basically honking on every chick he sees at the new school (bet you didn’t see that coming).
So my brother calls this guy John, and tells him to keep his mouth shut or they are going to have a problem. All seems cool until one night John goes up to Skateland in Northridge (Parthenia and Lindley, it’s still there), gets to drinking and hatches a plan, he chats up every little Cholo he can find in the place and by the end of the night he has recruited three cars full of people to come attack. The last bit of business to take care of – the call. He called my brother and essentially tells him this is the last night of his life. That’s when I get home to a panicky mom.
I tell her that everything will be all right; I’d take care of whatever is happening. I went to the kitchen and retrieved a foot long fishing knife, it had ridges on the blade and a “U” shaped hook on the nose. My mom comes into my room, I already have the knife down my waistband in the back of my pants, and says my brother received another call, and John said “gang-members from Pacoima” are on their way. Again, I assure her no harm will come.
I sit in my room, at the front of the house, with the curtain pulled back, watching everything on our street.
After about twenty minutes three cars drive super slow down our street, pause in front of the house, then park in front the house next door. I slipped out the back door and went to the front yard through the back gate. There they were, fifteen to twenty wannabe vatos and losers recruited by John. All standing on the sidewalk across from our house, almost as if, now that they’re here, they’re not sure as to the next step.
So, I walk across the street and in the middle of all these “gangsters” is John, I ask him politely, what it is that he needs, exactly? His response was, “Fuck you, get your brother.” So I tell him, that was rude, and I am willing to handle this situation, either with him or the biggest guy in his “crew.”
Right as this is happening a neighbor of ours, Chuck, comes walking out. Chuck, kind of yells, “What’s up Mike?” Chuck lived with his older brother, his older brother’s wife, Donna, and his younger Brother Dwayne – who we affectionately called Brain-Dead Dwayne, for his love of Weed. Chuck and his family were basically white trash, but they were cool.
Chuck sees me talking to John, and the hesher blood in Chuck gets pumped, and he starts asking John, “What are you going to do now? You came all the way out here.” Then Chuck’s sister-in-law Donna comes walking out with a sprinkler key as a cane. She asks John what the problem was, and he spouts off with a “Fuck you bitch!” Donna bangs him in the nuts with the sprinkler key, John doubles over.
As that’s happening my brother looks out the window and sees me and Chuck and Donna talking, so he comes out and says, “What’s up guys?” Then he sees John, and it becomes a slow-motion NFL clip, he comes running over to John and grabs him by the throat and crotch and slams him to the ground, sits on his chest and pummels his face.
Then all hell breaks loose, as I’m trying to get my brother back in the house this white guy in John’s crew who uses arm crutches to get around starts beating the hell out of me from behind, I turn to block the right crutch, and the knife I had forgotten about starts cut me in the back, so I take it out and as I do this guy, Chris, charges me wailing with the crutches, I turn around to push him and I end up cutting his shirt and chest open. Everybody screams and starts to scatter, “He’s got a knife.”
Twenty seconds from the time my brother got John on the ground, blood and screams were everywhere, both belonging to John. He was crying, “Get him off of me, get him off of me!” This attack of twenty guys-on-one hadn’t quite worked out his way.
I start to pull my brother away and he grabs my hand to push me back and he grabs the knife and cuts himself, I was two for two here. Finally, Chuck and I get my brother up, and towards the house.
Everybody runs to their cars, just then my mom walks out and starts yelling at the cars, “Get the fuck off my street!” My brother and I laugh, this is a woman who is about five feet four inches, and up to that point had never said “Darn,” but now here she is a lioness trying to protect her cubs. Funny stuff.
As John is driving away, he throws a few more threats; we throw whatever we can find in the gutter at their cars.
Chuck pulls me aside and says he heard one of them saying they were going back to Skateland, “Let’s get ‘em.” We hop into Chuck’s black truck and go.
We tell the security at Skateland we are there to pick up our little brothers; they let us in, nothing. We hang out in the parking lot for a half an hour, nothing.
We pit-stop at the corner liquor store we buy some beer, and I buy a copy of Penthouse with Samantha Fox on the cover, outstanding.
I get home and my mom and brother are stressed because it appears that John has taken a bite out of my brother’s hand, I confess to the knife, he replies “I thought you were on my side, and you stab me.” The knife was stupid.
Some years later, my brother is invited to a party and everybody who was in those cars that night are there, all of them want to make amends, talk to my brother about this and that, everything thing is cool until midway through the party, Chris, the guy with the crutches starts getting drunk and approaches my brother (crutches are now gone) and says, “Your brother is a pussy for pulling a knife and cutting my chest open.” My brother basically tells him to take a hike, but he reaches out to push my brother, my brother shoves him, so hard in fact, that he goes through a huge tropical fish tank. My brother apologizes to the host and asks to have the bill for the tank sent to him.
It took hours to sleep that night in 1986 that kind of adrenaline is hard to shake. This was one of many “wars” my brother and I went through, my brother, often times, did the most damage. 99% of the time, no cops were involved. Weird.
Born Frustrated is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb