I figure it’s been a while since I’ve told a story from my youth. Is 22 years old youth? I was working at a bar, bar-tending. I did this job a lot as a young twenty something. I was good at it and actually won an award once in San Diego County. Whatever I had then, is definitely gone now and I’m pretty sure my bar would be empty every night because my patience has shrunk like a raisin. The bars I worked back then could be very eclectic as far as atmosphere goes. They could be fun beach style bars with the fruity drinks flowing and peaceful vibes in the air. Then they could go the other way, where the customer base has one goal: get drunk and fight someone. Setting the atmosphere is only an aside. You see, as far as the bar staff went (bartenders, wait staff, etc..) I was the only dude. So day after day after day of working with some awesome but very fem women, I started to crave some time hanging out with other men. So when one of the kitchen staff, Jose, came and asked me if I wanted to go to the “Over the Line” tournament in PB, I quickly agreed. “Over the Line” is a beach game. Google it, so I don’t have to explain. In SD there is a huge annual tournament every year. It basically turns into a “Mardi Gras” style party with anything going. We found a spot, a few fold out chairs, a giant cooler full of beer and were ready to hang. Jose brought a couple guys with him; his younger brother, another guy that worked in the kitchen and one more, a big Samoan looking guy that didn’t say a single word, just laughed a lot. Anyway, our day went pretty much as planned. Drink beer and check out chicks; I was a pro. Then in a flash a couple guys walked by and dusted us with sand, the equivalent of spraying someone with snow while on skies. We stood up and went face to face with the pretty boy intruders. All I really remember was a bunch of swearing and “Big Boy” pushing me out of the way. Security was there before anything could escalate. A few hours went by and it was time to go. We had all car pooled together in Jose’s family van. We were waiting in traffic on Garnett somewhere and wouldn’t you know it; those guys that were starting shit at the beach came walking by. It got eerily quiet. The van and their walking pace was about the same and we were coming to a big open area, a park I think. Jose pulled the van over. It was “Big Boy’s” time to speak. He looked at me, “it’s your choice, stay or come with us…” Jose struck the first guy in the knee with a tire iron. His brother let loose a fury of punches. The big guy was a wrecking machine. The three of them laid down five guys, gave them a couple extras whacks on the ground and sprinted back to the van. The entire time they were yelling a three digit number and throwing signs at each other. I could see that none of the guys were fatally wounded so that made me feel slightly better and we were still in an age where a good old fashion dust up was publicly tolerated. My view from the van was ok by me. I was fired up and ready to rock when we initially pulled up. I would have been the last to clear the van doors but Jose pushed me back in and said ,”stay…” It was one word and it was very meaningful. They dropped me off at my place and I was left to ponder. What the fuck was that all about?? The next day I came to work. Jose came over to the bar and sat down. He told me a crazy story about the gang that all four were members of. He also told me that the four of them were four out of a dozen or so that remained. The rest were either in prison or the ground. He told me that one of the guys in prison was his father and still their “shot caller.” You’ve seen enough TV to understand that role. He said they’ve been looking for a “white boy” for many years to join, so that they could infiltrate places that they wouldn’t normally be welcomed in. I had no idea, at the time, what that meant. At the end of Jose’s story he said ,”I saved your life homie and we can never speak of it again…” We did the man hug thing and literally never talked about it again. This is actually one of the first times I’ve told the story in it’s entirety. I would have a couple more run ins with members of different gangs, mostly by my country naivety. I pissed off the leader of the San Diego chapter of the motor cycle gang “the Mongols” once, that’s a pretty funny story I’ll save for another time though. After a few of these random incidences it really became evident that your environment plays a huge role in your life outcome. It truly is who you associate yourself with that matters. I quickly left and just in time.

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