My first encounter with Daniel was strange, but fitting considering the kingship our friendship is built upon. For some reason, which I can’t recall, Vega challenged Chuy Miranda, Jimmy Duarte, and myself to a wrestling match after our freshmen football practice by the high school plaza vending machines. Remember, we never met or talked to this undersized pretty boy—I guess our gladiator football armor did not impress him. In a matter a fact way, he proceeded to tell us how he could pin anyone of us in 15 seconds! Needless to say, Jimmy stepped up to the task and, yes, Daniel took out my good friend in under 15 seconds. We stood there contemplating whether we should “jump” this cocky kid, but Jimmy stood up and shook his hand. I must admit, Daniel would have been a hand full considering what he had just done, but his cousin Big Fern was also present—big dude for a Mexican back in the day. We figured these two cats would make better friends than enemies. And so this narrative began . . . .
Next stop: The Ranch. Way back when “The Ranch” was part of the Vega Trilogy Hill. Daniel, Pilon, and Fern’s parents owned the lower half of Startrek Lane. On Juanita’s property there was a nursery with plenty of ample space for us to roam and plot mischief. None of us owned a vehicle to get around at the time, so we christened the nursery “The Ranch” and our designated playground on weekends. Plenty of nights were filled with laughter, bonfires, and debauchery. Shoot, we have been known to assault discarded refrigerators and old broken down buses, pull classic “Stand by Me’s,” and faced the dear consequences of crudas: El Huevo!!! (ask the Boyz for definitions and explanations) Vows of camaraderie were taken on this natal ground and a sense of acceptance, loyalty, and identity was cultivated. Roll Dogz ever since—como mugre y uña as mom would say. Ironic, isn’t it, that our communal friendship has roots in a nursery.
Acceptance, loyalty, and a common cause/identity are attributes every young, first generation Chicano needs to somehow find in a country that has historically marginalized our culture, language, and history as a people. As young teenage rebels, we understood our subjugated existence within a school system intent on policing racial identities, limiting academic resources (assigned autoshop for math credit!), funneling brown bodies into Ivy (continuation school for at risk students), and exercising expulsion as the final remedy for “unruly” students. We understood this environment and retaliated the only way we knew how: questioned the established order at every turn. Teachers, counselors, principals, school boards—never had chance. Of course, some of us were funneled to Ivy, expelled, and bounced around to different school districts. But we managed. Survivors of a school system that produced one of the highest drop out rates in the county in 1993—second only to Oceanside High. Dark times to say the least, but no excuses. We never needed pity and never swam in a pool of apathy. Battle scars that’s all. These wounds, however, came with future accolades. This lowly circle of unruly, at risk youth has since produced 4 Bachelor degrees, four Master Degrees, one PhD, company administrative heads, and business contractors and owners. Not bad cabrones, not bad at all.
As you can see, we’re equipped to travel these hard roads, to take the long route to success. So Doc’s, please, don’t give me stats and percentages—don’t want to hear it. Just patch my Boy up and he will smooth out the edges and wrinkles. Vega does not accept failure and acquiesce is not in his nature, never has never will. We fight . . . he will rise, dust himself off, gives us his signature clap, and say “WHAT!”
So you take your time brother. Navigate these uncharted dark waters and find your way. Because, as a great Nuyorican poet once said, “The Sun Always Shines for the Cool.”
Walk Tall, Talk Big, and Live Strong.