It all started when I ran away from home.

I was five years old. Almost six. I lived in a simple, nice, yet thug-ish city in LA. Not that I ever noticed. I was a bright kid and had the street smarts needed to survive. Playing on the streets of LA makes you grow up fast, one wrong move and you’re toast.

One day, I got mad at my parents for eating the last piece of yellow cake with fudge frosting (yeah, sprinkles too). Those monsters. So I packed up my favorite He-man and Star Wars figures, hopped into my Big Wheel, and hit the road. It wasn’t long until I stumbled across a few rough and tough-looking hombres smoking and raping with each other. Not sure how they could even hear each other with their giant ghetto blaster blaring. One of the bigger thugs with a mean-looking red bandanna and a wife-beater looked over at me with a penetrating stare. I was frozen. Fear enveloped me.

It was then I realized I had stumbled into some bad-ass gang and was trespassing on their turf. I was a dead man. After a few seconds of staring me down, the massive red bandanna dude with biceps as big as my torso finally asked, “You know how to dance?” Confused, but knowing a negative answer would end up with me dead in some dumpster, I replied, “Hell yeah, I’m the best there is!” Then one of the meanest looking guys with a scar down the side of his neck chimed in with, “You better be or we’ll break you!” as he casually and unflinchingly punched a brick wall. Then blew the dust from his knuckles. Truthfully, I was a pretty good dancer, but I knew the clogging and line dancing lessons my parents forced me to take were probably not the kind of dancing these guys were talking about. It was time to improvise. To get creative.

With Run DMC blasting from the radio, I step up and began with a swing and shuffle move trying to match the beat of the music. Then I drop to the ground to do the worm. The gang members laugh and clap a bit. I thought for a second that I just might pull this off…I felt energized, like I was on fire! The guys were cheering me on; I started cranking out moves that surprised even me. Jumping and kicking, pulling moves from my one-day stint at karate. But then, alas, tragedy struck. Out of nowhere I tripped and fell on my back. I began to spin. Later people would tell me I was quite the sight, as I just kept spinning. I spun forever because it seems, by chance, I tripped onto a piece of old, slick cardboard. So, after a quick panic, I realize that the cardboard was smooth enough to do some other creative moves. I even managed to spin on my head at one point! By the time I finished, all the guys had formed a circle around me cheering and yelling at the top of their lungs at this spasmatic dancing kid who had obviously drank too much Rainbow Punch Kool-Aid and was fueled by the power of sugar. By the time I finished, I was sweating buckets and a little green in the face, yet never felt so alive.

Well, needless to say, I joined their gang that day. Eventually, I got my own bandanna and we all started to practice a new type of dancing. It caught on rather quickly and spread from coast to coast. After that first display, one of the guys asked me how I learned to dance like that. I told them, still exhausted, a bit winded, “I made it up so you guys wouldn’t break me in half.” He laughed, “Break Dancing, eh? It’s got a nice ring to it.” I was forever known as Dean, The Mean, Green, Break-Dancing Machine.

Rio Vatos fo life!


Privacy Preference Center