Trouble in East Los
As soon as I dumped my bags in the studio, I went to see the homies. Lila was back but she could not tell me anything since she hardly spoke to them. I was a little nervous. I did not know what to expect. It had been almost two years.
After a few hours, Los Angeles began to look the same as it always had. I checked the walls and freeways for graffiti to see what the gangs were saying and to determine the level of activity.
When I got to East Los, it looked exactly as I had left it. Sometimes it seems the only culture that exists in California is Mexican. East Los was teaming with Mexicans who spoke no English. It was the middle of the afternoon. I drove to Dayton Street. No one was around. Digger went nuts, howling and chasing the cats to impress me. Since Lila was still lat work, I raided the refrigerator.
Lila woke me up when she came home.
"Hey, your friends are outside. I told them you were back. They want to see you."
"How has it been around here?" I asked.
"I donÕt know, I donÕt talk to them. I havenÕt heard any shots in a long time."
"Well, itÕs good you havenÕt heard any shots in a long time. ThatÕs a good thing. Be more optimistic, Lila. You never know, they might change."
She rolled her eyes and yelled.
"WHAAT!!! Are you kidding me? What the hell are they going to change into? Yeah, change for the worse."
"HowÕs Frank? How has he been?"
"Same. He still sits on the porch and gets loaded. ArenÕt you going to go outside and see your friends? They are waiting for you."
It was good to see them. They were still alive. Most of them were much bigger than I left them. Silent was huge and looked even scarier than before. Flaco was sporting a goatee. Sal had taken up pumping iron. He had blown up. Capair was the only one who looked the same, just a little older. There were also some new additions to the family.
"Yo, yo, yo. Was' up, was' up."
"WasÕ up, Spooky. So howÕs New York, ese? What? You tired of it already? CanÕt stay away from L.A. too long, can you, vato?"
Capair handed me a brew.
I popped the can and took a swig. It hit the spot.
"Thanks, homes, I needed that. So was' up? I see everyone is still here. Flaco, youÕre still alive." He threw a punch at me.
"You too, ese, you still alive too. The locos in New York didnÕt fuck your shit up."
"Hell no. They tried though."
"Niggas the same everywhere huh?"
"You know it, homes, just like you niggas."
"Yo', itÕs been chill over here, homes."
"No shit, thatÕs what I hear."
"Simone ese, we just barely got a truce. The shit was loco, homes. All the grandmothers and mothers went to the EME (Mexican Mafia) because a lot of innocent people were getting blasted in drive-byÕs. So the EME passed a law, homes. No more drive-byÕs. Any fool does a drive-by, itÕs finished for them, homes. You donÕt want to fuck with the EME, homes."
"So if someone does a drive-by, howÕs the EME going to know who did it?"
"Trust me, homes, theyÕll know who did it. And then itÕs your ass. They ainÕt sayin' Ôyou canÕt kill your enemies.Õ They just say you canÕt drive-by no more. So if you wannaÕ kill somebody, you gottaÕ walk up to them, homes. You canÕt drive by no more. You either walk up to them or roll up on them on a bicycle. Now you gotta do a walk-by."
"A walk-by, huh? Have there been any walk-byÕs around here?"
"Naah, itÕs been chill, homes."
The new faces were staring at me with big round eyes. They all had that, ÒWho the fuck is this mayate?" expression on their faces. None of them could not be older than 13.
"So who are the new recruits?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, these are our homeboys. Travieso, Blanco, Casper and Bam Bam."
The littlest one, Travieso, reached out and gave me a pound. The rest nodded at me. Chano didnÕt bother to explain to them who I was. The fact we spoke to each other as openly as we did was enough for the new faces to accept me. I turned to the Mexican who hadnÕt said a word but had been grinning since my arrival.
"Que ondes, Mexican?"
He nodded at me shyly.
"You been here almost three years, homes, you still donÕt speak any English?"
He shook his head in the negative. I liked teasing the Mexican. I suspected he understood and probably spoke a little English, but he was just too shy to call any attention to himself.
"So where's Psycho?" I asked.
"Oh, he's in rehab. He comes around sometimes but not really. They barely started lettinÕ him out. HeÕs supposed to get out soon.Ó
"Yeah, you vatos better chill, homes, you heard about that three strikes shit, you all probably have a bunch of strikes already. They're getting ready to start locking niggas up, yo. You know you niggas right.Ó
"Who you callin' a nigga, Spooky?"
"Oh what, you think youÕre better than niggas. Look who's in county, niggas and Mexicans. White people do crimes too, how come they ainÕt all in county, ese,"
Luis, or "Green Eyes" as he is known, was scarcely audible. He was the most soft-spoken of them all. I called him "The Iceman."
"You all better watch your ass, they're getting ready to lock up fools in a big way."
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