The first of two parts.
I was mugged for the first time when I was 9, about a year or so
after my family moved to Huntington Park. I remember feeling a bit
ashamed when I told my mother the story -- my young pride was telling
me I had coughed up the goods a bit too easily.
I had been walking to a book store on Pacific Boulevard when two
young punks just walked up to me and demanded my money. I had $1.50
on me, which I’d planned to spend on comic books but which wound up
being the price of my first shakedown.
My mother was glad I escaped unharmed, but yelled at me anyway.
“How many times have I told you not to go anywhere without your
brothers?” she asked, further evidence she was in total denial about
my relationship with my brothers. “In New York, we never went
anywhere alone. Where do you think you live, Europe?”
My mother was forever using Europe as a model for crime-free
living. She had read somewhere that in certain European cities, you
could leave an umbrella leaning against a street lamp all night, and
it would still be there when you returned the next day. I remember
marveling at that piece of information when she first told it to me.
In Huntington Park, an umbrella left on a street corner would start a
stampede among thieves.
The next day, I got together with my friends and told them what
had happened. To my surprise, they all sided with my mother.
“She’s right, Dave -- you just can’t go walking alone like that,”
Buck said. “I must have been mugged five times before I figured that
out. You’ve got gang bangers coming in from Bell Gardens and Compton
just looking for some kid walking alone. It’s how they get their
Jack Bear and Little Greg agreed, saying they, too, had been
strong-armed more than once.
“You don’t even have to be walking,” Esteban said. “Remember that
dirt bike I got for Christmas? I was riding it downtown when some
creep ran up and knocked me off it. It happened so fast I didn’t even
see him riding away with it.”
It was the first I’d heard about the fate of Esteban’s dirt bike,
and the news filled me with anger. Esteban was a nice kid who never
bothered anyone. And besides, I had been planning on borrowing that
bike on a regular basis, since my mother wouldn’t get me one of mine.
“This is just wrong!” I shouted. “This is our town! We shouldn’t
be letting a bunch of punks come here and push us around! We should
do something about it!”
“Do what?” Buck asked. “Those kids are some bad dudes. They might
have knives or even guns. What we should be doing is hanging together
whenever we go downtown. Strength in numbers.”
Buck was right, of course. But there was something about the way
“This is our town!” sounded when it came out of my mouth that sounded
cool, and I was suddenly convinced I was onto a brilliant idea.
“Right! Strength in numbers!” I shouted. “Dude! There’s five us,
right? What if, instead of just some of us walking together, we all
joined forces and made sure other kids didn’t get mugged?”
“Join forces?” Buck looked confused.
“Yeah! Join forces as a team! A team of ... of crime fighters!
We’d patrol Pacific Boulevard until it was safe for kids like us!
We’d be an unstoppable force!”
Buck snorted derisively. Jack Bear and Little Greg had a combined
weight of about 150 pounds, Esteban was about 50 pounds overweight,
and Buck and I couldn’t fight. Always the realist, Buck was having
trouble with the unstoppable part of my force idea.
“Well, we’d maybe have to train a bit first,” I added.
“You’ve been reading too many comic books, Dave,” Buck said
“I think it’s a great idea!” Esteban spoke up. “I’m sick of my
sisters teasing me every time I get robbed! I say it’s time to fight
“Yeah, let’s do it!” Jack Bear said. “We’ll be, like,
“Yeah!” Greg chimed in.
And with that, we all agreed to stop being friends and instead
become allies -- allies in the fight against juvenile thuggery. Buck
was convinced we were getting ourselves into more trouble than we
could handle. But if there was one thing I liked about Buck more than
anything, it was that no matter how stupid his friends were being,
he’d stand by them to the end.
Everyone knew what our next step should be: It was time to think
up a cool name for the group and even cooler names for ourselves.
“How about the Fantastic Five?” Esteban suggested.
“Dude, you wanna get us sued?” I snapped. “Besides, I’ve got a
better name: the Fabulous Fighters!”
“That’s a stupid name!”
“Not as stupid as your fat lip’s gonna look!”
So the Fabulous Fighters it was. After kicking around ideas, we
even came up with a cool battle cry -- something we’d all shout in
unison as we rushed into the fray: “Five for one and one for five!
The Fabulous Fighters have arrived!”
Since I was certain I was the brains of the outfit, I decided to
call myself Mr. Fabulous. My job would be to come up with attack
strategies, advanced weaponry and the occasional escape plan. Buck
called himself Shuriken, after the martial arts throwing stars of the
same name. His plan was to carry a pocket full of pointy rocks into
Jack dubbed himself Rubber Boy, because he was famous for being
able to stretch his neck almost two inches further than anyone we’d
ever met. Little Greg had taken a year of tae kwon do lessons, and so
called himself the Tae Kwon Do Kid.
“What about you?” I asked Esteban. “What are you gonna be called?”
Esteban thought a moment. “I want to be called ... Frisbee-O!”
Buck and I looked at each other. “Dude, that’s the stupidest name
I’ve ever heard!” I said. “You’ll embarrass us with a name like
“What’s wrong with Frisbee-O? I like Frisbees!” Esteban insisted.
“I’ll use my glow-in-the-dark Frisbee to knock the bad guys out!”
Esteban crossed his arms. “I want to be Frisbee-O.”
Our identity situation resolved, we now addressed the question of
costumes. I wanted to invest some money in capes, but there Buck drew
the line. “No way am I wearing a cape. You wanna get arrested? You
wear capes.” So we decided we’d all wear T-shirts and jeans until
Buck warmed to the cape idea.
Last came the matter of training. I recommended a regimen of
target practice, weight lifting, martial arts and gymnastics. But we
were all really anxious to get started, so Little Greg showed us a
couple of tae kwon do moves, and we pronounced ourselves ready.
It was time to ride. We stood in a circle and put our hands
together -- “Five for one and one for five! The Fabulous Fighters
have arrived!” -- and headed off for Pacific Boulevard and our first
mission against the legions of darkness.
We were almost there when we had to turn around because Esteban
had forgotten his Frisbee.
Next week: Attack of the Fabulous Fighter Beater-uppers.
* DAVID SILVA, a Burbank resident and former Leader city editor,
is a Times Community News editor. Reach him at 484-7019, or by e-mail at email@example.com.