Everyone is going to trip out when these tattoos are gone. This one has almost gone already [points to one on chin]. We have a new machine. It works pretty much like, it kills off the skin where the ink is set. The ink is like in the blood, so the top layer lightens it up, kills it out pretty much. Every time you hear the little pops, the little shocks, that’s when you know it is breaking up the ink.
Painful…painful. But it is worth it though because I want to go to people’s houses and install on their roofs and whatnot, and I don’t want them to be like, “Look at this guy with his tattoos, he is probably going to rob us!” I want to look productive, I want to look professional.
I have been out of prison 15 months already. I’m 29. One more month and I discharge my parole, so I won’t have to worry about nothing. Just keep working and doing good. Won’t have to worry about getting harassed by the police.
I was walking with my Homeboy shirt over here [near the Homeboy Industries cafe]. I was walking to catch the bus and the cops were across the street. They just came and got me, asked me, “Where are you from, what are you doing here?” I’m not about that. I explained the whole situation to them. All I do is work and hang out with my family. I don’t gang- bang, I stay out of trouble. I got out of prison and I am just about my family. That’s all I am, that’s all I want to do. Just hang out with my family and stay out of trouble.
They are still skeptical, like, “He is just saying that so we let him go.” Even though they could not arrest me they still kept me there for half an hour.
And every time I get pulled over by the police I have to notify my parole officer. Last time I got pulled over one cop asked me why I had been arrested. And I told him. He said, “You are still alive?” because it involved another police officer. So he was like, “He did not kill you?” His exact words were, “Someone was not doing their job right.” I was like, “Man, whatever…” You know?
I understand, too. They see a gang member, they probably think he has a gun. They pull them over their life is at risk too.
Interviewer shows the photographs.
[Laughs.] That’s crazy! I can’t wait to look like that!
I don’t have to worry when I go to restaurants with my girlfriend, just people staring. It is embarrassing for her too, because she is like, “Do you notice everyone staring at you?” I’m like, “…Yeah.”
When I first got out I was not so aware. But she has been pointing it out more and more lately. I am a little embarrassed when they stare. But not to the point that I am going to tell them something, be rude, or stuff like that. Because they are probably thinking, “What is he thinking having tattoos like that?” or something. Man, I cannot wait [for when my tattoo removal is complete]. When I look like that my family’s going to be so happy.
My dad is military, retired after 22 years, and my mom she was a gang member at one time but she changed her whole life around. So if she can do it, I can definitely do it.
My father lived in East LA, the same area [as my mother] and they married. I guess they fell in love, but it did not last long. He was a good person growing up, he just got involved with my mom and she would not change her life and he could not do it. My mom’s family, there are seven of them, six of them sisters, they were all in the gangs. I first went to prison when I was 19, but the gangs, that happened when I was 13. When I grew up it was just me, my mom, and my two sisters. I was the youngest in the family. I was the only guy in the family. I had no one to look up to.
My cousin had just been let out of the pen so I kind of looked towards him. I seen the way he was: money, cars, women. I thought, “Damn!” That was something that intrigued me.
So I want to be like him; have a nice car, have money. The tattoos on my arm are the same ones that he has. I got into the same gang as him. Instead of, “No, I want you to stay away.” He was like, “That’s right, that’s right, you are from the neighborhood now.”
He gave me drugs, guns, and stuff like that. He was a mentor then, just a negative one. So I guess I let him influence me and it just went all bad from there. Before I went to prison I was hanging out with him. When the cops showed up at the house he took off and ran! Left me in the house, so I end up getting arrested and going to prison. He didn’t care. I thought if he would do this [run away] and he is my family, what makes me think that my other homeboys would even care about me. Just being in there you know, I got busted. I knew how much time I was going to get. I knew I was going to get ten years, but I ended up getting nine years with 80 percent.
You see, I did not expect to come out. I had two strikes, over nine years. There was no way in hell I was going to get out of prison. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.