On Wednesday I invited four gang members from Casco Viejo into the city to watch Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the finals of Spain’s Copa del Rey. My treat. This may sound weird. Madrid beating Barcelona. But it was not the weirdest thing that happened that afternoon.
The first thing I noticed on our way into the city was that gangsters dress really nicely when they want to. Realize that I use the word ‘gangster’ in a casual, endearing sort of way. Sure these young guys were once negatively looked upon for their involvement in gangs. But now, re-socialized as upstanding citizens, it’s actually a war scar they wear semi proudly. I call them gangsters because it’s a part of who they were and are. I call them gangsters because its fun and they don’t harm me for it.
Anyways, these gangsters dress really well. One wore a designer man-purse and sparking stud earings. Another wore a brand new Real Madrid Jersey. The other wore immaculately clean converse sneakers and a button down shirt. It would not be an exaggeration to say I was the least-best-dressed person in our cab. It would also not be an exaggeration to say that everyone in the bar watched us as we walked in: partly because we were mostly gangsters, partly because there were no more seats and I had reserved the best table in the house, directly front and center.
Roughly twenty minutes after arriving, our waitress brought us a free plate of “Boneless” as part of a promotion for buying a bucket of beer – the gangsters thought this was incredible and loved pronouncing the word as “bonelay.” I tried to explain that it came from the fact that the chicken tenders had no bones but they didn’t seem to care.
After our first plate of boneless and a few beers, one gangster, the one with the purse, said he had to go meet a girl at a hotel. Room 137. It was 2pm when he shook everyone’s hand, thanked me for the beer and boneless, then left to meet his woman. That left four of us.
For some reason, the cameraman for Panama’s local station couldn’t get enough shots of our table. The gangsters started off shy but really grew into their roles as interviewees. At one point they aimed the camera at me and I said all that I could think of at that time: “Boneless.”
Several times during the game, I tried to bring up interesting soccer facts but the gangsters were too involved arguing with each other. It was tough to get the gangsters attention in this regard.
The game itself was intense with Real Madrid eeking it out in overtime for a grand victory and the championship trophy. By that time, the gangsters and I had consumed four buckets of beer and four plates of boneless, so we did what any self-respecting group of diverse young men would do. We pissed on the side of a building and caught a taxi home.