Even Gang Members Love Starbucks
Friday morning was pretty eventful since I learned that even gang members like Starbucks. In the East Village and Alphabet City, even in a post-Rudy Giuliani New York, one expects their fair share of shady folks, grifters and junkies. But in Gramercy Park, one expects a bit of suburbia in the city.
So imagine this, I’m on Third and 15th in the Starbucks getting what has become the usual–grande iced coffee unsweetened. I approach the milk bar and see a man standing next to me. He’s sporting a grifter kind of dress–baggy jeans, flip flops, shapeless shirt, ungroomed facial hair–you get the drill. But he’s in Starbucks. Bums usually save their pennies for Pabst.
So I’m pouring the skim milk and tossing the ice when I see three dots on his hand. Like a nice, apparently naive woman, I ask what they are. I know they are suspect but it does not occur to me that they might be something I should not ask about directly. However, without hesitation sir launches into a religious spiel about some religion and book that says we are descendants of a combination between aliens and humans. It’s at this moment I see the hospital bracelet on his left wrist. Recent Bellevue alum??
Now, I’m trying to get the right flavor coffee and find a way to exit, when likely because he saw my profile, (I do not have a cute Irish nose) he goes–you’re Jewish right? Given my paranoid parents and the fact that a Muslim cabbie just got sliced simply for being Muslim I hesitate. Why I ask him a few times until I acquiesce. Yes, I’m Jewish. To which he replies, So am I. I respond, well then happy new year soon. Bye.
The rest of the walk to work, I am looking over my shoulder. Once at the office a few minutes later, I commence Googling. I figure I should know what this is because after all, GASP shock horror-I’m moving to Jersey City. Much as people tell me I’m in the best area and it’s totally safe, I know the history and truth about JC’s reputation. There are some parts I will never visit or get close to. I’m old enough to know it’s not exploration-it’s unnecessary exposure.
So, ultimately I realize that the dots, in the shape of a triangle on the top of the hand between the index finger and thumb, are likely a gang sign. While Urban Dictionary naively labels it as a sign worn by some Latinos, the New Jersey Attorney General‘s Juvenile Justice Commission office has kindly put together this Gang Awareness Guide. Turns out my fellow Starbucks customer is or was a Blood. The three dots are a dog paw sign.
It’s not as though I was totally naive. I’d like to think I knew more than most Americans. I’m familiar with MS-13, Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings, and their respective colors and tattoos like teardrops and spider webs. But, apparently there’s a lot to learn and with a shit job market, we better all be prepared for a decent amount of crime. More money may mean more problems, but it’s better than no money at all.