Baptism into the Brotherhood!

 

            In the hopes of meeting girls, as was always the case, David and Jorge prepared themselves for a night in the town.  The year was nineteen hundred and eighty five.  The young brothers’ plan was to meet a few friends and to go to the local teenage discotheque, Randolf’s, to hang out and to meet girls.  David, the younger of the two, was thirteen years old while Jorge was seventeen.  Despite the age difference, which teenagers usually perceive to be extreme, they were great buddies and loyal companions.

            The brothers were originally from Venezuela and had only lived in North Miami Beach not more than two or three years. Their interests revolved around sports and women.  They were athletes and both played for their school, Lear School’s Junior and Senior High School teams, respectively.  Their circle of friends surpassed the boundaries of race and ranged from red-blooded Americans and die-hard Argentineans to proud Cubans and vociferous Puerto Ricans.  Some of them were dedicated athletes, others were carefree classmates, and others were party buddies.  Nearly all their friends were in Jorge’s age group.  Consequently, David had the privilege of maturing at a relatively fast rate.

            Going to dance clubs was one of their favorite pastimes, especially for David.  All the girls were older than he was and none of them really objected to cutting the rug with him.  His young inoffensive persona actually allowed him to dance intimately close to the girls, so close that not even a ray of light could squeeze between the tightly unified and melded bodies.  The seemingly young David thusly enjoyed the full breadth of the warm soft figures of many sixteen and seventeen year old girls.  Jorge, on the other hand, would meet the girls and talk to them but they would not so easily permit him to have full tangible appreciation of their bodies.

            As this particular night progressed, David and Jorge went to meet Byron at his mom’s apartment.  Byron, a fellow soccer player, was an avid dancer, a smooth talker, and a reliable friend.  Upon getting ready, Byron drove the group to the predetermined dance club of choice, Randolf’s.  The car was a long bright yellow LTD station wagon.  It, being owned by a music enthusiast, had a spectacular stereo system equipped with a couple of twelve-inch woofers along with a pair of tweeters and mid-range speakers in the rear, a high quality equalizer, and an insanely powerful amplifier.  The system required so much electric power that a dual battery system had to be installed.  In fact, the radio could only operate when the engine was running; the battery would quickly drain otherwise.  The distinctiveness of the car was already well known among the teenage crowd and easily recognizable, by its unique looks but mostly by its almost supernatural ability to carry tunes, from a distance of at least a couple hundred yards.

            It was roughly nine o’clock when they arrived at their destination.  Randolf’s was located in Poehman’s Plaza near 183rd street and Biscayne Boulevard.  The strip shopping mall consisted of several stores.  The arrangement of the stores and the walkways were not symmetrical nor were they regular in nature.  The layout had the feel of a concrete urban park with metal benches, palm trees, and assorted plants scattered throughout the decorated grounds.  Despite the faćade, the structural design was simple and not very impressive.  All the stores, except for three, closed by six or seven o’clock in the evening.  The establishments that remained open through the night until the early hours of the following morning were Randolf’s, naturally, a video arcade, and an eight-theatre movie complex.  A teenager’s paradise!

            That night, the mall was stormed with people.  The threesome parked in their usual space, two to three rows from the dance club.  They met casual acquaintances there, people with whom they had visited during other similar outings.  They hung out, as they initially always do, at the entrance of the club where the bouncers and other enthusiasts resided.  The purpose was to check out the action while, at the same time, trading stories and telling insignificant lies.  The perspective from the door gave a full view of the joint without the penalty of price.  Ascertaining possible prospects, girls, was easily achieved from that angle!  It was generally a good location to meet people since they all had to traverse through this point, the only available entrance.  Additionally, the entire assembly of cool and respected personalities usually congregated here.

            The loud sounds projected from inside the club could probably be heard a mile away.  Talking in such an environment required good vocal strength and stamina.  It was typical to lose one’s voice in less than three hours.  This constraint, however, did not stop the multitude from joking, laughing, yelling, pushing, and amusing themselves.  The odor inherent to the locality was typical of such places.  The sweet smell of perfume mixed with the manly odor of cologne and clashed with the sophisticated stench of burned cigarettes and the proverbial reek of sweat derived from danced-out bodies.  The smoky cloud that floated throughout the club, as a result, penetrated deep into the eyes of many.  It flowed in raging waves causing the eyes to twitch and to burn until eventually becoming bloodshot.

            The popularity of the mall surpassed city limits and attracted teenagers from South Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, North Miami, South Miami, and the “Sowesera,” Miami’s southwest.  Many of the attendees did not even enter the club, the movies, or the arcade.  They just used the mall to “hang out” and show off.  Others did not even get out of their cars.  They would just drive by the club repeatedly, one after the other, proudly parading their cars.  Some of the vehicles had air shocks that allowed them to bounce up and down with great dexterity while others had powerful engines that generated loud low-pitched roaring sounds.  Many of the riders stuck their heads out to attract attention.  The place stank of testosterone!  The constant yet slow flow of cars lasted for hours on end.

            Sometime after eleven or twelve o’clock, Jorge went back to the car to look for something.  David, of course, followed.  Upon their return, as they were walking across the parking lot by the club, a black 1978 firebird with dark tinted windows aggressively and abruptly stopped an inch or less away from the brothers’ legs.  The sound of the music coming out of the hermetically sealed vehicle seemed to overwhelm the club’s.  The monster machine even rattled and vibrated in response to the rhythmic muffled sounds generated from the stereo within.  When the brothers turned to face the car, they noticed that its passengers filled all possible cabin space.  They were several large black males.  They waved their hands furiously while cursing to their heart’s content.  Apparently, they were negatively predisposed to the brothers, a seemingly inoffensive and vulnerable pair.  Thick drops of hot sweat ran down the brothers’ faces while their legs kept trying to maintain some sense of balance.  They, being of sound mind though, decided to refrain from making any sudden movements and to continue their journey to the sidewalk, to a less precarious area.  Much to the brothers’ surprise, the crowd at the entrance of the club, with whom the brothers had conversed earlier, reacted to the belligerent attack of the black car.  As it turns out, these guys were members of a White-American/Hispanic gang.  The barely acquainted gang members jumped to the aid of the brothers.  They surrounded the car from all sides except from the front and urged the driver and his passengers to “TAKE A HIKE!” while vigorously shaking the car from side to side.  The passengers took out a wooden bat and waved it but only from within the car.  All the while, they articulated:  “WE’LL BE BACK MOTHER F___ERS!  COUNT ON IT!”  Soon after, the car accelerated, peeling out the tires, and ultimately disappeared into the dead of night.

            The brothers were shaken but showed, in spite of it all, a casual and debonair demeanor.  They felt somewhat at ease because their company was not dangerous to THEM, a good gang as far as they were concerned.  They realized that these friendly hooligans had reacted perhaps not to defend a couple of nobodies from South America but to attack a sworn enemy.  However, this conjecture was speculative and irrelevant at the time.  Afterwards, the group, as a whole, took the threat lightly despite of its fearful intent.  The general thought was:  “They are too afraid to come back!  Those sons of bitches!"  Dogs that bark don’t bite!  The overall ambiance slowly relaxed to its normal joyous yet highly volatile state.  Cars continued to roll and a sense of coolness and triumph drowned all the commotion.  Jorge and David never literally entered the club and eventually opted to see a movie instead.  The theatre was down a corner and about thirty to forty yards away from the club.  Another equally large pack of people waited patiently in line to buy tickets, four files extending back approximately fifteen to twenty yards.

            While the brothers looked at the colorful movie posters, all of a sudden, several cars stopped in front of the movie theatre about forty yards away.  The riders got out with bats and other miscellaneous objects.  Their conduct did not inspire safety!  Their movements were quite abrupt and drastic.  They waved to each other as if signaling to charge and to attack.  As they approached the theatre, their gladiator faces, tight with rage, voiced soft growls.  The brothers, realizing their imminent danger, ran back to the club to seek for a secure haven while warning the others of the frightful events to come.  The good gang took this gesture to be altruistic and a true symbol of loyalty.  They figured that it was a warning for the gang’s sake and not for the brothers’ selfish agenda.  The group consequently sprinted like wild stallions to the theatre where the black mob rapidly converged from another angle.  Toto, a friendly hooligan whose real name was Antonio, took one of the metal poles from the lines leading into the box office as a weapon.  Soon after, the others dismantled the rest of the poles and similarly armed themselves.  The crowd quickly disassembled and took flight.  A good portion of the spectators, though, did not have a chance to get away from the scene and thus resolved to disperse towards the surrounding walls, away from the action.  Many of them were yelling and screaming.  It was something right out of a movie!  Shirts were ripped and jeans were torn.  Blood flew like spit as fists and bats made contact with tender flesh.  Some guys, while on the floor, were violently kicked, pushed, and tossed.  The all-out wrestling match was intensive and there was no way of ascertaining the potential victors of the encounter.  It was impressive to see Vince, from the friendly gang, handle two huge muscle-bound brutes.  He was about five feet eleven inches and built like a football player.  By this time, his shirt was off and stains of blood trickled over his face and his upper body, whether the blood belonged to him or not was impossible to establish.

            Jorge and David, being curious and somewhat involved, ended at the edge of the audience bordering the Roman Colisseo.  Jorge, showing signs of agitation and outrage, tripped a couple of the opposing gang members who happen to cross in front; they were wrestling others at the time.  David, taking this reaction to be the preamble of his brother’s intention to fight, whispered with force and passion:  “Que haces?  Don’t fight, Hermano!  Let’s leave!”  He exclaimed these words while holding Jorge’s long sleeve shirt and simultaneously fixating his eyes on the vicious battle.  Jorge, without hesitation, turned and answered:  “No te preocupes, I am not going to fight!  I am faking it!”  This response coupled with a familiar stare, which was an effective form of communication for the pair, made David understand.  It was the opportunity to show, or rather to fake, that they too fought side by side with the good gang.  The fact that the encounter had initiated as a result of the brothers served to inspire them.  Acknowledging Jorge’s response, however, did not really mitigate the anguish of the experience nor did it pacify the emotional intensity.  David resolved to support his brother whole-heartedly.  From the edge of the crowd, they both stuck out their feet and their fists waving them like mad men.  They made these gestures only when the friendly gang took notice and when it was relatively safe.  They made sure that the black gangers did not confuse them to be part of the fighting forces.  Quite suddenly, the sounds of police sirens silently but distinctly permeated the place from a distance.  Their volume grew rapidly.  Many of the warriors took the opportunity to run.  Some of the main players, though, fought to the very end.  The cops finally arrived.  The grounds were suddenly flooded with policemen.  They jumped and slapped handcuffs left and right.  They pulled the seeming untamable gladiators apart and threw them against the wall with brutal force and determination.  Their reaction matched the intensity of the situation.  Some of the bloodstained bodies were dragged back to the police cars while others, still resisting, were vehemently escorted.

            The brothers, at the sight of the cops, quickly blended deep into the crowd and slowly stepped away from the scene.  They were quite relieved to see the cops take action.  After witnessing the apprehension of the unlucky few, the brothers spotted, in the distance, a few of the friendly hooligans who escaped the vicious hands of the police.  Toto, the fearless Puerto Rican, was part of the group.  As the brothers walked in their general direction, Toto signaled and invited them over.  With the demeanor of trusted lifelong partners, the whole group, including the brothers, commented on the events claiming triumph and crediting it to unity.  The rush of adrenaline was still high.  Jorge’s plan apparently worked!  The gang actually thought the brothers fought!  This conclusion, of course, was supported by the vivid recollection the brothers told the group, a somewhat embellished account.  The gang had obviously accepted the brothers into their circle.  Although the brothers were not official gang members, the group pledged, in actions and not in so many words, allegiance and eternal protection.  What turn of events!  What started out as being a search for girls ended up being the unofficial initiation into a gang!  It was this night’s chain of events that baptized the young brothers into the brotherhood!

            The prospect of hanging out with the group, however, was not attractive to the brothers.  A game of fists is the game of VILLAINS!  Real and raw danger was not as inviting and entertaining as the company of pretty girls.  The brothers, nevertheless, acknowledged the fraternity of which they now became virtual members and exclaimed their necessary casual hellos upon unplanned but inevitable encounters.