Q. So, what do you think it's going to be like this summer?
Ronnie "Rabbit" Lucero laughs at this question, his deep, loud vocals penetrating the quiet, sunny afternoon in his eastside Salt Lake neighborhood."Just take a picture of 'Nightmare on Elm Street.' That's what it's going to be like," he says.
Lucero, 19, has lived half his life running with one gang or another in Salt Lake City. Lately, though, he's been taking it easy as he recuperates from a stab wound in the chest suffered in a fight March 25.
He coughs frequently from complications inflicted by a knife that stopped "about an inch from my alarm clock."
Originally of the "Varrios Chosen Few," one of the city's oldest gangs, Lucero says he has joined another gang - a new one called "18 Street," an import from Los Angeles via Las Vegas.
He says there are only about eight or nine members of "18 Street."
What is the "18 Street gang" into?
"To party and have a good time," says Lucero, an admitted and convicted burglar and thief. "I don't know why we have a gang . . . just something to do."
A mischievous smile spreads across his abundantly tattooed face.
Tell us about the gangs in the Salt Lake area.
"There's no serious gangs out here, ones that will get down and shoot, like they do in L.A.," says Lucero, referring to the Bloods and Crips, black gangs that shoot each other over turf battles in the drug trade or "just because you're wearing the wrong colors."
Later, though, Lucero - known in his new gang as "Mr. Joker" - says things could definitely heat up this summer.
"There could be shooting. It would take a good fight. It wouldn't take much."
Lucero mentions the names of two new gangs in the area and wastes no time putting them down - a favorite pastime of rival gang members.
"They originated in California. They've settled in Salt Lake and made enemies. They come out here to get crazy. They get crazy, but there's gonna be someone who's gonna get crazier than them."
"They're all bunch of little kids. . . . "
To Lucero, there are only five gangs in Salt Lake City - his own, his former gang, the two new ones and another established gang called "Varrios Loco Town."
"I've seen where (Surenos) have crossed out VLT and Diamond Street," he says. "Crossing out" is an act whereby a gang member puts an "X" through the graffiti of another gang and scrawls in his own gang symbol. It's considered a direct challenge or threat.
Lucero shies away from questions about the Bloods, the Crips or the Tongan Crips Gangsters. But he answers affirmatively to questions about whether gangs in Salt Lake are arming themselves more and more with handguns.
"They're much more effective than this," he says, displaying his brown baseball bat, which has almost as many tattoos on it as its owner.
When you go out on the street, downtown to go shopping, for example, do you carry a weapon?
"I'll always carry something. I'll never go out without a weapon. And you can tell that to my probation officer."
On his 18th birthday, Lucero was booked into jail after police searched him at Crossroads Mall and found a dagger concealed up his sleeve.
Mr. Joker becomes suddenly serious when explaining how he lives with the threat of getting jumped by rival gangs.
What would you do if you did get attacked?
"If I was going to fight, like with Surenos, I would try to kill them 'cause I'd just assume they was gonna kill me."