I Fall and I Hardly Get Hurt

Los Angeles.  March 2010.  We are in Steve's house in a poor neighborhood.  Steve, 20, works in his uncle's car wash and helps to manage it.  His parents have died and he inherited the house.  There are five other occupants, all memebers of the gang he belongs to, Rough Amateurs.  Steve is a protester and he found an outlet for his impulses two and half years ago when Raul approached him and offered him membership.  He loves the gang and has offered a place to stay to four other members.  Everyone shares in expenses when they are employed, so Steve is not down any money.  The other members are: Mark, Nick, Sheryl, and Joannie. They are 18 and 19 years of age.  They left their parents to establish some sort of independence, but gang life was the only path they could take at first.

The living room of Steve's house.  7:30 p.m.

Joannie: Herman? Martha? Who the hell are they?

Mark: Don't worry.  Don't get excited. I met them at Will Gentry's apartment at the party last night.  They're the new members of the Living Bloods. 

Joannie:  Oh, the Living Bloods.  They're new?

Mark: Yes.  They've been in juvenile detention centers for a long while.  That's why you haven't heard of them.

Joannie: Well, I don't know everybody. Even if I did meet them somewhere, I wouldn't keep their names in my head.  I'm not a directory. The only bros that I care about are the ones that call the shots.

Mark: All this fraternizing does us good. That's what we're all about.

Sheryl (who has been listening) We get along so good that I don't even feel like there is any purpose to us being here.

Mark:  Oh, you have a purpose, Sheryl.  Nick can attest to that.  He likes you all hours of the night.

Joannie: Sheryl's right.  There's more to this life than socializing. And we are doing it.

Mark: As Steve says, we make our presence felt.

Joannie: Every gang has a motto and a theme.  We're not into the hispanic theme for gang life.  They are over there (pointing to the west).  This is Los Angeles.

Sheryl: I feel people are watching me, too.

Mark: Gangs aren't conventional.  They suspect that we're up to no good.  They don't understand that we have a message.

Joannie: We're sources of comfort for one another, not for the rest of the community.  They see us as destructive.  Steve believes in us and Steve's a bright guy. 

Mark: Police have to do their duty. We're not writing letters to the editor.  We make statements with spray paint, so somebody will want to hurt us.

Sheryl: I like everybody here.  I hope we can stay together and give each other a boost.

Mark:  That's the whole purpose to gang identity.  You know Nick thinks you're cool.

Joannie: Yes, maam.  But you better take off those rose-colored glasses. Getting along inside is one thing and connecting with the Living Bloods is another.  They've taken an interest in us.  We're about something.  Our message about the neighborhood is clear.  Other gangs may disagree.  There is no nice-guy mentality when a conflict arises.  We have to think with muscle.

Mark: I know what Sheryl means, though.  We are doing it for, helping out, one another.  That's the spirit she's in love with. This place is far from a happy home. 

Sheryl: I'm ready to fight.

Mark: Our solidarity demands it.  We're not just roommates.  Steve owns this house free and clear.  Consider how lucky we are.  For argument's sake, I stop clear of revolution.  I will not go that far. 

Joannie:  I'm not crazy. There are a lot of rough people in this city.  They are speaking a rough language.  You know that, Sheryl.  We're not in a world where people are engaging in a reasonable dialogue.  We have to deal with people on their own terms.

Sheryl: I repeat, I'm ready to fight.

Mark: Now, back to Herman and Martha.  We have to explain to Steve when he gets back that the Living Bloods are interested in negotiating with us about territory and responsibility.  They were there at the party to tell me that.  Steve knows how to contact them about that.  We have to get ready to deal with any situation.

Sheryl: Sometimes they think they are protecting something that isn't there for them to protect.

Joannie: I'm going to try to convince Steve to let us speak through actions and not through fighting.

Sheryl: We should try to avoid wild fights as long as we can. What is ultimately worth fighting for?

Mark: Safety issues are what we stand for.  Be ready. 


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