Lucho loved two types of music. “This shit is gangster,” Lucho claimed. We listened to Tupac Shakur. “This shit is also gangster,” he fiddled the knobs on the iPod. Phil Collins came on. Lucho was a true gangster. We were driving to down canyon Yosemite to climb on the sunny winter cliffs. Black ice coated the road. Phil Collins was signing about the air tonight. Lucho’s Toyota Tacoma hit the ice, skidded across the road to one side. Lucho over corrected and his pick-up hit the snow embank. Phil Collins sang about holding on. The truck flipped and we ended up sideways. Lucho’s shoulder pressed into the yellow line of the road. Glass covered the road from the broken driver’s side window. I hung sideways, supported by the passenger seat belt. Lucho told me to get out quick in case the truck exploded. An hour later, a California Highway Patrol officer flipped the rig onto its wheels with the winch from his suv. The truck ran fine. It didn’t explode- just a lot of dents and broken glass. Too bad about the explosion- that shit would have been gangster.
Lucho painting his house on York St.
Lucho ‘s lived on San Francisco Mission District’s York Street for thirty years. In fifth grade, he joined the Nortenos. They claimed red. Outside of a place they called the Dungeon, the basement in a crack house, a half dozen kids jumped him into the gang. They kicked him, punched him, and beat him for twenty-three seconds. The gang claimed 23rd street. When a group of wetbacks, claiming brown, showed up on 23rd street, the Nortenos grabbed pipes, bats, and chains to reclaim their territory. The smallest kid wearing brown pulled a hand gun out when the Nortenos were across the street. He emptied his pistol on them. Lucho and his gang dashed. A Norteno was shot. Another Norteno pulled a pickup around, Lucho and the others threw the shot kid in the back of the truck, and they dashed to the hospital. They left the shot kid at the emergency room. Lucho was 16. That shit is kind of gangster.
York St in the Mission
Lucho met Cedar Wright in the boulders behind Camp 4. Lucho had some chronic weed. Cedar had a strong desire to smoke it all. They hung out often. Imagine that. They climbed together too. Cedar needed a belayer on his numerous projects. He wanted to freeclimb Wild Apes, an aid route established on Higher Cathedral rock by three local climbers. Cedar convinced Lucho to come with him. Cedar attempted to free the Banana Chute, a difficult thin crack next to a chimney system. The climbing proved too difficult and he tried the next major feature, a huge roof. With Lucho hanging at a bolt next to a crack, Cedar freed the Gravity Ceiling, a 5.13- 30’ crack route. Gangster. Lucho learned a lot. They hiked to Higher Cathedral 8 times. He definitely learned how to hike. The weed supply dimished. Imagine that. Later, the pair headed up to the Turkey Chute on Liberty Cap to attempt another new free route. They climbed high onto the formation, came to some difficult climbing, and retreated. They pulled their ropes and granite blocks came down on their heads. A large baseball fell onto Lucho’s shoulder and broke his clavicle. Cedar and Lucho hiked down the hill together. There was nothing gangster about being hurt.
Zach Romero sat in Coiler’s shop in Chinese Camp. I’m not sure what year it was- sometime before the stripper pole went up and after the three dozen license plates got hung on the wall. A couple cute girls from Tahoe, friends of Coiler tossed back beers for us. They talked about Lucho, who was famous for his suave. “Platinum and I went to the gym the other day,” I told Romero. “Lucho showed up half an hour late. When he walks in, he gets right on our gym project. He’s half way up the route, throwing his limbs all over, screaming like Bruce Lee, and totally going for it. He sets up to throw, and launches himself into the plastic world.” The girls start listening when they hear of Lucho’s heroics in the plastic palace. A thousand pieces of paper exploded out of his pockets as he dynos across the wall. As he’s picking up stuff up, I realize he’s picking up condoms.” Romero cackles, and notices the ladies perking up. “Magnums,” he interjects. “Really!?”, said one of the girls, “Little Lucho?” “Yeah, he’s got a six inch dick- when he folds it in half,” I added. It’s good to make your friends sound like gangsters, even if it’s not necessarily true.
Lucho on Wapama Rock in Hetch Hetchy.
Before the Tacoma exploded outside the park, Lucho and I were driving through Tuoulumne. It was late. The moon was high in the sky. It was cold. As we came into the meadow, Lucho’s headlights hit the body of a fawn laying on the shoulder of the road. He slowed, then stopped. He stepped out of the car, walked to the still warm body, and carried the dead fawn off into the woods. “It’s a better place for it to die,” he said. "I couldn't leave it there." He returned to the truck and we drove off. Lucho was a true gangster.