Albuquerque, NM – 1995
In my junior high school, the counterculture was divided into rockers and the gangsters. These were ethnic lines as well as social. If you were into the white subculture, you were a rocker. If you were Hispanic, you were a gangster. These two groups weren’t in constant tension, but every now and then a fight would erupt between the two groups.
On one such day, I was approached as a recruit for a rumble that was supposed to occur between one of the gangster clicks and some of the rocker kids. Already, calls were being made to older friends on both sides. Considering myself pretty handy, I was down for anything. At the end of the school day I found myself swept up with a dozen other rocker kids headed to the rumble.
A truck pulled into the parking lot to pick us up. The drivers were obviously high school kids or older. The truck had a camper shell on the back, and we all piled in. There were ten of us in the back and four in the front. We were fully loaded.
I remember realizing that I didn’t really know anyone else in the truck. I kinda knew a couple kids, but they were not close friends. I wasn’t too bothered by this; I was just eager to do something exciting away from home and school.
We drove around the neighborhood for several minutes. We were supposed to meet the gangsters on a certain corner, but it was empty so we circled. After a few laps, we returned to find an Oldsmobile full of gangsters waiting. We pulled up next to them.
After several minutes of shouting and negotiation, we agreed we would go to the park where we could brawl with more space. We pulled out and the Oldsmobile followed us. We drove out of the neighborhood and on to the main street.
At the first stoplight the gangsters pulled up behind us. We looked back to see one of them, a full grown adult, jump out of the car with a baseball bat. He charged up to the truck to take a swing, but the driver of the truck saw him and hurriedly turned right through the light. The gangster ran back to his car and they followed.
It was now apparent that the fight would start now and and be finished at the park. They began to race up along side of us and exchanged heated words. We yelled back. It was exhilarating.
The drive to the park turned into a public game of chicken. We swerved at one another and cut each other off on turns. One car would race ahead and slam the breaks on the other, causing the other to break and swerve. At one point we forced the smaller car up over the curb onto the sidewalk. We did all of this in broad daylight on public roads without the slightest concern for the scene it was making or risks we were incurring, both physically and legally.
The turning point came when one of the gangsters stood out of the sunroof and hurled a tire iron through the closed window of the camper. Glass shattered everywhere and the projectile slammed into the chest of the kid sitting across from the window. We all turned our heads to avoid the glass and the kid who was hit doubled over on the floor.
This incident took me by surprise. I was partially frozen with shock, but several of my companions erupted in anger. One of them grabbed the tire iron, leaned out the window and threw it at the gangster’s car, smashing the back glass of the Oldsmobile all over the road.
The gangsters raced ahead of us in the adjacent lane. As we passed through an intersection they slammed on their breaks and veered right. We passed through the light and circled back through the parking lot of a gas station, but by the time we turned onto the main road they had a big lead. They turned into a neighborhood and we lost them completely.
We circled around looking for them halfheartedly, but we knew it was futile. We returned to the corner by the junior high and everyone got out. We all brushed the glass out of our hoods and pockets and went our separate ways without saying much to each other.
I walked home and resumed a normal afternoon activities as though I had come straight home. I did not think of this as a double life; I simply knew only that I could only do exciting things when I was out of the house. My home life relied on my ability to tone down when I was in the house.
Nothing more came of the incident at school – not that I am aware of anyway. But I was far enough away from the original conflict that I didn’t expect to hear anything. It was just another after school activity.