Nicccceeee... I have been thinking of taking them off. It makes a big difference! [Laughs] A big difference. Wow, so cool. I don’t know what my son would think. I don’t know what my mom would think, what she would be saying right now. It’s not easy, that’s what it is not. It really is not easy. But the biggest thing I have been able to do so far is to stay clean. Now that I am clean, I see things differently, you know? And I stay away from the neighborhood. 

Before it would be very rare you would see me without a gun. Like if I took a shower, the gun would be on the sink, just in case I had to run outside. Or if the cops would try to raid the house. 
My dad did not want me to be a gang member. He tried his best to keep me good. He tried his best. But I was not having it. 
My dad started gangbanging at a young age. Back in his time, fighting is all it was. You rarely stabbed someone, you rarely shot someone. If you used a weapon, you were a punk. He got in so much trouble growing up that my grandfather sent him to the Marine Corps. My father was also a tattoo artist. But he refused to tattoo on the face. Not just me, other people too. Only from your t-shirt collar line down. He wouldn’t touch past your wrist or the back of your hand. 

He used to be all muscle when I was a kid. To the point where to walk through a doorway, he had to turn to the side. He had to stop working out because he was not able to wipe his own ass! They finally ran him over, his enemies. But he’s alive. He got put in a wheelchair. He has one tattoo on his ring finger, symbolizing he is married to the neighborhood. 
I started kind of late with the tattoos. All my dad’s kids had an agreement with him. Once we turn 18, he would draw us our first tattoo. So I waited. 

So when I turned 18. I said, “I want to get some tattoos.” 
He said, “Whenever you’re ready. I have been waiting for you to ask me.” 
I said, “I am ready. Can you do it freehand?”  
He said, “Yeah, what you want?” 
“I want the neighborhood.” 
He said, “No, man, get out of here!” 
“But I want the neighborhood?” 
“Yeah man, but you’re my son.” 
I said, “We can be big homie and little homie.” 
He said, “You don’t want that.” 
I said “What you trying to tell me? I have to go earn it? I have not earned it yet?”  
“Yes you have and that’s what bothers me.”
A year goes by. He was tattooing one of my homies. He was doing his stomach, and on another he did his back arms. I was like, “I’m next.” 
“OK you want to put me on the spot. I’ll tattoo you. Where do you want them?” 
 “I have my pattern right here.” They were jersey letters. 
He was like, “Where do you want it?” 
I said, “I want big ass G and a big ass L across my face.” 
He stopped his machine and said, “Get off my chair.” 
I was like, “What?” 
“Get off my chair, don’t ever ask me to tattoo on your face or your head, I told you already.” 

I get busted a week later. I did my forehead in jail and sent him the picture. I also did my hand, and then I got out. I was only out for a few months but that is when they shot my brother. So, I was on this whole mission. It wasn’t a gang thing. It was like a personal vendetta. I got busted. This time there was a whole lot to reflect on. What was I really doing? I’m trying to find ways to justify everything. My dad told me, “The day you have to find a reason and justify something, you know you are wrong.” So when I was last in, I thought about that a lot. I thought, “I am just going to do this full-throttle.” Found someone to tattoo. He started tattooing me; he would not touch my face though. I was like, “Why not dude?”  He said, “I hear the way that you talk to your mom on the phone. I see the letters you and your mom write to each other. All I hear her say is don’t tattoo your face. I won't do your mom like that.” 

My homegirl, my niece, my siblings, my mom, and everyone all at once, it started hitting me. My mom and dad came down, picked me up, we went to the house. Usually, when they know I am getting out they start flocking all over me, “Hey, we have missed you.” This time no one was there. Nobody at the house. I went inside, my brother is watching TV. “What’s up, fat boy?” He is like, “What’s up,” gives me a hug, “I’ll talk to you later.” I’m like, “Screw you then.” Went upstairs, my sisters are in their room talking. They give me a hug. My bigger sister just had a kid. I say, “Hi, I missed you.” 
My homies come over, “Hey we’re going over to the store.” “Alright.” 
She was like, “Nah fool. What the fuck?” 
I was like, “What are you tripping on?” 
She was like, “Go do what you want.” 
So I tell them I was just going to kick it. I looked at her and said, “What’s wrong man?” 
She was like, “You see? It’s going to happen already. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.