“My friend got shot in front of me…”

Originally from Mexico, Joaquim was a big, burly Hispanic dude with dragon and tiger tatoos all over his arms (and probably the rest of his body as well.) He greeted me with a soft tone and had a really shy smile, and made me feel comfortable the moment I got in.

Joaquim lived in Salinas, CA., and drove up to the SF Bay Area to drive for Uber before doing the hours-long commute back to Salinas at 2pm. He said he finished early, so he could pick up his kid from school and bring him to soccer practice. He was also the coach of his kid’s soccer team. Driving in the bay area made sense, because he made a lot more money than if he did a regular job in Salinas.

“Isn’t there something else you can do in Salinas?”

“Sure. But the money’s better with Uber, and I get to leave at 2pm, and not be on anyone’s schedule, you know?”

“What’s it like in Salinas?”

I had been to Salinas airport randomly a couple of times. One time, I read a pilot accidentally landed a commercial commuter flight there while intending to land at Monterey a few miles away.

“Salinas is nice. My entire family lives there, and my ex-wife as well, with my two kids. It can be dangerous though.”


“I grew up in a tough neighborhood. Like I was all into drugs and gangs and drinking, man. I was in and out of jail a couple of times.”

“Did anything change?”

He paused. “Yeah. My friend got shot in front of me. My best friend. By a gang member he disrespected.”

“Oh wow. Sorry!”

“Yeah. It changed how I did things, man. I swore I’d get my family out of that neighborhood, that my kids would never have to deal with that. And I’ve succeeded. I just want them to have the best life possible.”

“Yeah. You want them to have as many opportunities as possible.”

“Right? Like, my best friend, he was a good guy, you know? And so am I. But it’s circumstances, and luck, and love. I can’t change their luck, but I can change where they’re growing up, teach them right and wrong, so they get a better chance. I coach their soccer team, and they’re good kids. They study hard.”

“That’s awesome!”

“Yeah. My best friend would have been their god father. But in a way I feel he’s looking out for them.” He laughed. “That’s stupid right, that I imagine him still around.”

“Not at all,” I responded.

“Yeah. You know, because he really still is around.” Joaquim thumped his chest. “He’s in here, you know. And my kids are where they’re at because of him.”



About the artist

Liana Lucier is a visual artist currently living in Asheville, NC. She hopes her work will inspire viewers to question ourselves, our leaders, and the world we live in.