No More Dope for Dominic

He used to party and smoke marijuana all weekend—he was even arrested a couple of times, but after moving to Santa Barbara 15 years ago, Dominic Gallo, 42, changed his way of life.

"I spent a thousand (dollars) each weekend on clubs and dope," he said.

Gallo first came to Santa Barbara in 1993, when he was invited to his mom's and step dad's wedding. He was so overwhelmed by the climate in southern California that he immediately decided to move here from Long Island, where he worked as a manager for a hot dog stand.

"I quit the same day I went back to New York," Gallo said.

A week later he returned to the West Coast. At first he lived with his mother, but he soon got his own rental contract. Because his mom and her new husband were apartment building managers, the owner gave him a really good price, he said.

"I paid 500 dollars for a one-bedroom apartment," Gallo said.

It wasn't hard to get a new job either. His step dad used to lay down linoleum, so Gallo worked with him. Now he helps the Masonic Temple to arrange for dinner on their meetings.

"I like it," he said. "They pay me good. We set up silver ware and stuff."  Gallo also cleans up afterwards, and he is allowed to take home any left over food.

Last year, he decided to study Digital Imaging at Santa Barbara City College.

"I wanted to do web design and started with the easiest class," he said.

He hopes that he one day will work for himself, but he would accept any company that wants to hire him. Before he started at college, Gallo only had a high school diploma.

"I was more like a burnout," he said. "I partied every weekend."

Gallo was arrested a couple of times when he lived in New York, as when his friend parked in a no-parking zone in Southampton.

"The car got towed, and we had to pay 75 dollars just to get it back," he said. "We didn't even have 75 cents, so we took the police car instead."

To begin with, everything went just fine, Gallo said. He and his friend met another police patrol, and they let them pass by. Then they saw how the other car turned around. Soon, they had four police vehicles chasing them.

Gallo shouted to his friend to drive to the side and stop the car, and he did. The policemen pulled them out, arrested and hogtied them and put them in the back seat.

"The judge just laughed at us," Gallo said. "He gave us a slap on the wrist and said 'stay out of trouble for six months.'" Otherwise he could convict them for this and another crime later.

Gallo has also been arrested for illegal weapon possession when a policeman found a club weapon in his car. A good lawyer saved Gallo that time, and the charges never led to a trial in court. Gallo had to pay for his own defense, though.

Because he has learned from his mistakes, he doesn't regret anything.

"That's things you do and hope your parents will never know about it," he said.

Gallo's father, who worked as a prison guard in New York, always told him to stay out of trouble, Gallo said. Finally, he has followed that advice.

©Torgny Lilja (2008)