It’s been a while since we saw the last of San Francisco. A strangely wonderful week it was, in which many of our dollars got shot, leaving our hands for a worthy cause. One of our last evenings, however, left an aftertaste.

Whenever you go traveling, you obviously find a number of layers to any place. You’ll talk to the locals, walk the streets, get a feel of its texture. So far, so good.
And then you see a faint bonfire glow over a pacific ocean dune. Armed with smiles, quips and a crate of beers we boldly crashed the party.

They were boys and girls, most of them 20-somethings. It took a while until I figured out they were from Oakland, San Francisco’s across-the-bay rugged twin, rife with gangs, shootings and who knows what. These were teen gangsters. Off the grid on the pacific beach, they were celebrating some girl’s birthday.
One of the guys – I forgot his name – was all “you feel me, bro?” “nah’mean?” and other slang we Europeans came to know through clichéd bad boy movies. Only here, the clichés are real. Not only was he a gangster, he was actually clawing his way out of that world. Educating himself, rising above his origins. Still, his gang rationale was not that easily eradicated: he’d done a number on some people, an eye for an eye. When you’s from Oakland, ya gotta make dem bitches respect ya, you feel me bro? I believed him.

And then, there was a slight disturbance. People were looking in different directions, all of them busy not-seeing something. I was severely drunk by this point, so it took me a while to understand what was going on. The girls were huddled together, birthday girl included. As I got closer, she sniffed her last tears away. All of them staring at the ground as I approached.
“She got decked”, someone said. Someone had hit her hard.
“Who did this?”, I asked. Repeated the question.

It was a difficult thing to wrap my drunken head around.

“This… This should not happen. This ain’t right, you hear? Don’t you accept this!”

“You girls stick together, you hear me? You look out after one another.”

I almost got around to sorting through the guys, finding the culprit, and then I didn’t. Because it wasn’t my turf, because I didn’t know the precise circumstances, because I was an outsider, because I was drunk,… But that scene stuck with me.