Oh man! That’s a big difference. That’s weird. [Laughs] I am so used to this [points at the tattooed picture] I cannot ever imagine myself like this [points to the retouched picture]. It’s crazy!
I like that. So that is how I would look! I got my first tattoo when I was in high school. A lot of the tattoos are prison work. There are actually a lot of good tattoo artists in there.
I am just lost for words. It’s crazy, a big difference, big difference. I just cannot picture myself like that. All my friends that I hang around with, they are all covered with tattoos, it’s just like… Damn it’s crazy. So that is exactly how I would look without them?
It took years, pretty painful too. I think my grandmother will probably trip out. I am going to show her. I am going to give her these. When my grandmother first saw me with my tattoos, she started crying. That’s why I would like to show her these, although she does not really know about the gangs. My first tattoos were the three dots on my face, this “LA,” and just some writing I have here that I have been covering up. After that, it just kept escalating. I got addicted, just kept going. I got the gang tattooed on me numerous times. It’s like apride thing I guess, just pride where you are from. Pretty much advertising it everywhere you go, that is all that is. And there is a lot of the art that I was interested in. I have a lot of artwork on me too.
I think if I woke up like this [without tattoos] life would be a little bit easier. There is a whole lot more I would be able to do as far as like finding employment, just that alone. You see where I work at right now [Homeboy Cafe] there is a lot of people that go in and they just judge us straight away, it is kind of bothering. But there are times when I am out in public; you can see the looks that people give you, like just the attitude towards you. I would not have had to deal with that if I looked like this. I mean I deal with the looks well. I don’t take offense to it. I won't be disrespectful or nothing. The only time I will get mad or disrespectful, is if they tell me something, then I will get defensive. That is when that comes into effect. But other than that I just brush it off, whatever. They just don’t know the lifestyle. That is what it is. They would not understand.
I am from Highland Park. My dad grew up in El Sereno. I was bouncing back and forth. I was a bit with him or with my mom. But Highland Park is the town that I grew up in. There are two main cliques there: mine and my rivals’. When I joined my gang I was probably 15, but I officially became a member when I was 17. A lot of people join at a younger age. They just grow into it, or it is a family thing. Their families are from the same gang. Because of that, they get in at a very young age, they are just born into it. I am like the only one. I have a cousin or two that are from gangs, but not the one I am from. But from my dad’s side, I am like the only one. It was the area that I grew up in. I never got the chance to move out of it, to get away from it. My family was not happy with me joining the gangs. It probably did not surprise them, because it was just a common thing where we grew up. So that is just how it is.
When I was young I had an older homeboy that I looked up to—he is in prison for a long time now—but yeah, you could say I looked up to him. I was attracted to the lifestyle, it caught my attention, it caught my eye. Now I just grew out of it. I have no intentions of going back. It got me in prison for ten years. Waste of time. I still talk to old friends and stuff, but as far as going back to my old ways… It’s not easy, but it's not going to get me any- where. Being in prison sucks! No one wants to have to live like that. So it is not even a question. To go back to the gang life, that’s just where it is going to get you.
My homies respect it. Well, mine do. I cannot speak for others, right? Yeah, but mine respect it. I am not giving up on friendships. They are still my friends. I have a lot of close friends that I keep in contact with and talk to on a daily basis, but I am not active no more. Like, you’re still part of the gang, but you're just not active, you're not putting in work no more. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.