Conway Homes is a housing develpment on the South Side of Stockton, Ca. Stockton is a city where I've lived for many years. It is Fat City and Mudville in the two books written about it. It is a city of broken dreams and also salvation. It is violent and loving. It is "not" a city where a loose mouth and unwatched wallet doesn't get un-noticed. It Isn't any more violent than any number of other cities across America, but when a city has been "more" violent than Oakland. Ca., well...it has its days.
The Conway Homes area consists of schools, a park, projects and homes filled with working people. It has had a savory reputation for drug dealing and the beatings, murders, robberies, home invasions and gang activity and othere activities that drugs are intimately tied to. I can remember driving thru the area in the past and turning a corner to have a bunch of young Black males run at my car hand signing the drug that may have been my choice. I would always reach under my seat and grab something long and Black to fit in, just in case. There is something to be said about having something long and Black between your legs when you needed it. If the youngsters felt they coulod punk you, they would
. They had stepped in front of a car or two and just stood, forcing the driver to stop and then reached in a got what they could. A gold chain, Walkman, cell-phone, whatever was clever. This area and what went on there is the focus of my story.
I had been invited to a party by my Dad. A goat was going to be the debutant of the party. She was going to get all dolled up, wrapped in fragrant spices and eaten. The old-timers would make the goat drink vinegar to thin the animals blood and then cut its throat and let the blood pool in a pan. They would later make Chocolat Meat and had other uses for the blood in a number of dishes. For the non-Filipino's, lets just say that a goat cooked correctly is damn good. Throw in some lumpia and other food-stuffs, put some music on, add the pretty girls and lastly some good strong drink and the parties would last long into the night. By the way Dad was a nice guy, but only to a point. You tried to fuck him and a whole other man could show up. The party I'm speaking of had all of the fixings that I've already mentioned. There were women, strong drinks, good food, music and an ass-hole.
Yah, an ass-hole. There is always an asshole who can't go with the flow, it's just a sad part of life. This guy had made noises, talked a lot of shit, threatened , cajoled and generally made the party unpleasent at times and got away with it because he was fond of showing his piece. He may or may not have used it, but everybody was cagey and just let it be. There were a number of men whispering now and then when he acted up and they were'nt smiling behind their whispers., In the middle of it all, someone got the bright idea of bringing in the Rooster's. A couple of Rooster's were brought in from a nearby house and they started setting them down to play. For some reason they couldn't find blades, but made up some make-shift rules on the betting. First hit, first three hits, etc. I loved watching the Rooster's play and so did everyone else. Pretty soon healthy piles of cash were being formed and the drinking got heavier, the music louder, the girls prettier and the ass-hole got bigger.
About two o'clock or so in the morning evrything started getting crooked. The ass-hole started making bets and wouldn't pay up. He was trying to win to pay the people that he owed, but his luck was shit, because he was shit. He was getting behind the curve and they weren't letting him bet any more. So the ass-hole sat and stewed and grumbled and mewed and pretty soon he was "really"vocal about how everybody at the party were being chick-shits. I could feel the energy turn on him. He was going to get his ass kicked. My Dad said that he wanted to pistol whip the ass-hole, because he talked too much and because he owed him money.
My Dad whispers to me to go get his gun in the trunk of the car. I said yes, in a little bit, but I had already removed it from the trunk so he wouldn't have it when he figured out that the ass-hole wasn't going to pay him the money that he was owed from the betting on the chicken-fights. While arguing with my Dad, the ass-hole jumps up and hits one of the older Manong's at the party, a particularly frail and smaller man. The man's head hits the concrete of the patio nearby where we were playing with the chickens with a thud we could hear over the music and loud voices of the gathered men. In a heart-beat out came knives and the fun began. I have to give it to the ass-hole, he gave a good account of himself, he craftily parried a number of the blades that sought out a place to call home in his body. He was one hell of an Escrimador, or he was surviving on adrenaline. The problem was he was surrounded and it was looking bad for him. Somewhere in the fray, someone noticed that the old man who was unconcious was packing
. They went, retrieved the gun and then quietly walked up and shot the ass-hole in the leg. At the sound of the explosion, some ducked for cover, some started running, some pulled their own piece out and some just froze in their spot. The ass-hole was soon whining on the ground and someone walked up and kicked him when he wouldn't give his wallet up and than started spreading the money around that was owed everyone and got the money to where it rightfully belonged. They wrapped up the ass-holes leg and took him somewhere to dump him off. They were talking about taking him off to kill him, I'm not sure that it was all just talk. The ass-hole was lucky to have ended up with just a whole in his leg. The old man was lucky to have just ended up with a concusion.
Watching chickens or men go at it is a long tradition amongst Filipino's. Men no longer go at it as much as they used to, so Rooster's fill the need for watching blood sport. Some just can't help the need to watch blood flow, nothing else fullfils that need. I asked my Dad on the way home if he felt better after seeing the man get shot and he answered that he felt much better, but would feel really good if he had been the man who had shot the ass-hole. I asked him if he thought that the ass-hole knew Escrima. My Dad said that it didn't matter because he didn't have honor. He said that all the ass-hole could do was cheat people and hit old men, what kind of Escrimador was that. There are a lot of men who cheat people and prey upon the weak. Their getting shot would go a long way to fix their problems. A bullet in the ass is potent medicine to cure someone with ass-hole tendencies. Am I condoning violence, hell no! I just don't like standing between a man an his medicine.