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Marsh

Gangbangers vs. gangbangs

Fuck Valentine’s Day. Like so many others, this was the thought running through my head as I made some questionable choices on Saturday night.

I had already talked my best friend into ditching her boyfriend to hang out with me. We were a little drunk, and not using our best judgement when we decided to walk to my neighborhood bar.

I live in a neighborhood that has yet to be touched by the hipsters or the gays. It is still “authentic,” and rough around the edges. That thought crossed my mind as we walked there.

“You know this might be a place where people get shanked, do you still want to go?”

“Hell yeah, dude,” said Annika, my partner in so many of life’s bad decisions.

“Are you girls lost?” asked the bouncer, once we reached the bar.

“Um, no. I live right up the street.” I replied, with indignation in my voice.

I know I’m not your normal clientele, I thought, but I am a homeowner, I’m in the neighborhood association, and damnit I have every right to be here. So I marched my way right past the sign reading, “no jerseys, or colors.”

We walked into a room full of people in red jerseys, and immediately stuck out. Ani took off her Valentine’s Day scarf and stuffed it in her purse. That’s when Eric, our gangland sherpa, noticed us.

“Usually I’m the only white guy in here, and you girls look like fresh meat. So I’m gonna tell you what’s up.”

And thus began our lesson in North Denver gang culture. We drank buckets of shitty beer while Eric explained to us the significance of necklace chain size, shirt buttons, tattoos and bandanas.

“If anyone approaches you, just ask them if they’re a gangbanger and tell them you don’t associate with gangbangers.” Eric informed us.

Not only did that seem like a terrible plan, it lead to a whole series of questions.

“What exactly is a gangbanger? Do gangbangers participate in gangbangs or just gangs? Is gangbanger a derogatory term or is that how they refer to themselves?”

We very quickly and comfortably transitioned from fresh meat to Margaret Mead.

In the end I am grateful for a memorable Valentine’s Day. What started as another day for me to mourn my singledom, turned surprisingly festive. I spent the night drinking with my best friend, surrounded by the color red.

Liz Marsh’s “Running Under the Influence” runs twice a month in the Colorado Daily.

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