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Amazing tales of the Fabulous Fighters, Part I

DAVID SILVA

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

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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

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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

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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.

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“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

cigarette money.”

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

flatly.

“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

back!”

“Yeah, let’s do it!” Jack Bear said. “We’ll be, like,

superheroes!”

“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

battle.

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

that!”

“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 david.silva@latimes.com.


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