Nola is standing behind bars at the LA County jail. (Alright, alright, there aren’t actually bars at LA County, but Nola is in charge here and she’s imagining a dirty Brazilian prison with cockroaches the size of her head.) A group of Bridge Elementary fourth graders are touring the jail as part of the city’s program “Gangs are not off the chain”. They are all lined up outside of Nola’s cell– all except for five little cholos who are exchanging kites, or correspondence from outside gang members, in the form of stories they have written with gang members from their neighborhoods. At press time, members from the Latin Kings, five percenters and the 18th street gang all cited ‘Gangs are not off the chain’ as the most reliable way to correspond with fellow incarcerated gang members.
NOLA: (to the fourth graders) hey, pee wees. I want to tell you all a little story about Nola ‘The Chola’ Shumway. It seems like just yesterday I was a sweet, pretty, young girl just dancing and skipping around… a black ribbon in my hair, skipping down the street-
CELLMATE: –yo girl, you just got here yesterday.
NOLA: (turns to cellmate) Ay! Werota! Shut your dirty mouth, Baboso! Tu madre es una puta! I love you girl! (Back to kids) Anyway, putas, there I was skipping down the street minding my own business when I noticed two sloppily written and grossly misspelled words shading my favorite neighborhood wall from the early afternoon sunshine:
CELLMATE: Yo, girl, who did that shi-
NOLA: –ay, chinga tu madre! Hueless a mierda you smell like a dirty see you next Tuesday. If you don’t stop interrupting me I’m going to slice your face up with a dull razor… Thanks girl, I love you. (Back to kids) I was outraged! Who would do such a thing? I’ll admit, PiRo wasn’t the kind of neighborhood to be a braggart about, but it was my hood, that I repped, and I wasn’t about to allow any outside riff raff to invade it. I adored my place in my orthodox Jewish neighborhood, enjoyed the power I was granted just by the simple fact that I was the only non Jew. How I enjoyed the ability to literally give heat to those who could not flip switches on Friday nights. I ran this neighborhood! Who was it? Who was battling me? Who wanted my neighborhood and all the power that came with it? I was outraged! Indignant! I was—
(FROM OFF): Chowtime!
NOLA: I’ll be back in twenty. (To cellmate) vamanos culo puta pupusa!
……..TWENTY MINUTES LATER……
NOLA: I was indignant!
CELLMATE: Yo, girl you already said that…
(Nola pulls out a dull razor from her black ribbon and proceeds to slice up cellmate’s face)
NOLA: (to the kids- all crying) Yo, baby gangsters, I told her to shut her mouth! My own sister! Look what she made me do! So, anyways, I decided to take action! I called up a one Mrs. Ghanghi, head of the anti gang department in Los Angeles.
-LET US CUT TO THAT PHONE CALL-
NOLA: Hi, Mrs. Ghanghi? Nola Shumway here, ready, eager and available after school Monday through Friday to help solve the gang problem. I’ve got ropes, concrete and detailed maps of all suspected gang members’ homes. I even know when they aren’t at home, so getting to their children won’t be a problem.
Mrs Ghanghi: (laughing uncomfortably) Whoa, Nola, hold on dear, you don’t sound much older than a child yourself.
NOLA: I’m eight years old ma’am and fully capable of tying up riff raff and dumping them in the ocean. My father and my father’s father were longshoremen… and Italian. And short.
Mrs. Ghanghi: Well… um. Thank you Nola. We certainly appreciate all the help we can get but first of all I need to ask a few things.
Nola: I’ve never killed anyone and I never do drugs that the president himself hasn’t tried.
Mrs. Ghanghi: No, no, no… (Very uncomfortable now) um, what I was going to ask about was what you saw in your neighborhood that prompted this call.
Nola: Grossly misspelled words sloppily written across my favorite wall.
Mrs.Ghanghi: Oh, well Nola, we have a program for graffiti artists: From Cans to Canvas. We-
Nola: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You’re joking?
Mrs.Ghanghi: Many of these young and adult men are very talented artists. With the proper encouragement we think they can grow into–
Nola: -HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! You’re still joking. You’re very funny Mrs. Ghanghi. Hey, I’ve got one! A tagger is to a gang as a blank is to a blank.
Mrs. Ghanghi: Now Nola, I’m perfectly serious and I want you to be serious too. Where is your mother?
Nola: Teaching a meat carving class to serial killers. Give up? Okay- A tagger is to a gang as a kicker is to a football team! HAHA ha-ha ha-ha HAHA! Thanks for your time Mrs. Ghanghi; I’m going to go it alone. I’m going to find these little rascals, and when I find them I’m going to slice them open and finger paint with their blood all over their neighborhoods. Good day to you.
…….LET US CUT BACK TO THE JAIL………
Nola: So Mrs. Ghanghi wasn’t going to help me. Art huh? It got me thinking. They were bringing their art into my neighborhood and here I was being selfish with my own.
…….CUT TO FRONT LAWN OF A HOUSE IN THE PICO UNION NEIGHBORHOOD…….. (18th street gang stand up!)
Nola, carrying a silver box and a shot gun, walks up to the front lawn of a crappy house. She sets the box down on the porch and hits play.
NOLA: (Singing- terribly. Dancing- terribly.)
where the winds come sweepin’ down the plain!
And the wavin wheat,
can sure smell sweet,
when the wind comes right behind the rain!
A boy of about eight rushes outside. He is wearing a black doo-rag and is covered in large black tattoos; a cross, I heart mi madre, 18th street, and a full color portrait of Rey Mysterio.
NOLA: (still singing and dancing terribly)
Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I,
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk,
makin’ lazy circles in the sky.
NOLO: Ay, Kieta el stupido elephante! Get off my lawn you stupid little—
…………….BACK TO LA COUNTY…………..
WARDEN: Nola! Nola! Are you listening? You have a visitor.
NOLA: Oh? But I was just in the middle of telling these little badasses a fairytale.
WARDEN: You’re coming with me you stupid little girl. (Grabs her by the arm and smacks her in the face)
NOLA: (as Warden is pulling her by her hair down the hall) La RAZA! LA RAZA! Yo Mataria Tu! You understand? Yo Mataria Tu!Warden sits Nola down in his office and leaves.
Out of the shadows appears a tall, dark, impeccably dressed figure.
Obama: That’s enough narration Nola. You’re talking too much.
Nola: Sorry, O, I’ve just been locked up for such a long time. I’m starting to go nuts.
Obama: You’ve been here all of six hours. We’ll have you out soon, but we need to proceed with caution. The last thing I need is an outed operative.
Nola: I know. I’m actually enjoying myself.
Obama: So I’ve heard. Tell me about this Nolo figure.
Nola: Nolo ‘the cholo’ marquelas! I love him! I met him while I was performing a rousing rendition of Oklahoma on his front porch.
Obama: I heard it didn’t go so well.
Nola: (sad) you heard? I knew I should have gone with West Side Story. Anyway, my plan was to get him to ask me out. I figured if I was the girl of a gang member I would see some action- be able to see their inner workings. But Nolo said gangs didn’t work like that. He said that so long as I wasn’t a gang member, when we were out on the town, gang code forbid rival gangs to mess with us.
Nola: Yeah. Who would have thought? Romantics… these murdering lowlifes. My only option was to join the gang. I had two choices. I either had to endure eighteen seconds of the girl gang members kicking me in the head…
Nola: I know, right? Good thing I wasn’t joining the 118th street gang!
Obama: The other option?
Nola: (uncomfortable. Leans in and whispers into O’s ear) spspspps sspsp sssspppp psppspp spspspps ppspp ssp bang spspspa sppp spspps spspps spps 18 spsp spsps.
Nola: I know.
Obama: Tell me you didn’t-
Nola: -O! I’m not that kind of little girl! (Pause) I decided to start my own gang. I rounded up the toughest, meanest, most badass friends I could find. We started THE GaYNG: Gays and Young Nola Gang. We’re effing crazy O!
Obama: (chuckling) Okay, Okay. You and your gays start a gang.
Obama: Gay-ang. Sorry. But it still doesn’t explain why my Sweet Pretty Young Nola is locked up in LA County.
Nola: O! Stop interrupting me pinchi pendejo! (Stops) Sorry, Nola ‘the chola’ coming out there. I’m lost in my cover. Anyways, so me and my Out&About Boys are ru-
Obama: –Nola, you mean homeboys.
Nola: No, O, I mean Out&About Boys. Homeboys would be so offensive to my clique. Have you seen the way cholos dress? It’s appalling. Moving on… Me and the-
Obama: -Out&About Boys…
Nola: we start asking around, talking to anybody. And anybody says ‘come on Riff-
Obama: -Nola, I’m not interested in West Side Story right now.
Nola: Right, sorry. Okay… So I call up Nolo.
Obama: The Cholo?
Nola: Yeah. And I tell him ‘Hey dirty pinchi bendejo. Me cago en tus muertos! La WEHO! LaWeho! Bitch! Why don’t you come down for a rumble?
Obama: So you fought the 18th street gang in West Hollywood?
Nola: No. They didn’t want to meet up. Apparently gangs only fight over location. It’s sort of like realtors with unregistered automatic weapons. Apparently these gangs don’t think West Hollywood is worth the trouble. Except the Mormons. That gang is very interested in WEHO for some reason. Anyway, I proposed to the Out&About Boys that we go down to their neighborhood. I told Ratti it was south of Pico and he said ‘aw, hell no’. So I arranged a date with Nolo. I figured we were both in gangs now; we should be an open target.
Obama: I hate the danger you put yourself in.
Nola: O… you sent me to Russia with an ex-KGB operative four times my age.
Obama: You said it was your dream vacation!
Nola: It was! It was! It was like living in it’s a small world after all- minus the dolls. I’m glad to do it O, helping you. Anyway, nothing even happened. Nolo said the majority of gang time is spent collecting rent with his fellow apartment boys.
Obama: You mean homeboys.
Nola: Whatever. So no one bothered us.
Obama: What do you mean by ‘collecting rent?’
Nola: Nolo said gangs collect rent from business owners in their own neighborhoods. He said it’s a protection they are paying for.
Obama: Protection from whom?
Nola: Who knows? He never could pinpoint exactly who the threat would come from. I talked to one of the shop owners and he said he only feared not being able to make his rent payments- to the gang, not the bank.
Obama: Rent collectors. Interesting.
Nola: Yeah, and you’d think with all the importance they place on collecting rent they would place equal importance on paying rent to their own landlords, aka mamas, baby mamas and granmamamas. But with all the screaming and yelling going on at Nolo’s place I believe this not to be the case.
Obama: And what do you believe they are spending this collected money on? If they are laundering it we can get them for that.
Nola: As far as I can tell they spend it mostly on gawdy cars and accessories, video game consoles and buying nice things for their cholitas.
Obama: Did Nolo buy you those earrings you came in with?
Nola: Yeah, but he got them from the gifts for guns program. Trade in your guns for gift cards. 50 dollars for a handgun and 100 for a semi automatic. It’s how Nolo buys Christmas presents for his family every year. Sweet cholo, that Nolo.
Obama: So what’s your proposal Nola? What do we do?
Nola: World’s Best Gang! A competition to determine once and for all who in the world is the best. It worked for the Warriors! See, we put all of our American gangs in an international competition against all the other gangs around the world. Have them battle it out until there is one gang standing.
Obama: But that’s flawed, Nola. Who would MS13 fight for? America or El Salvador? What about the Latin Kings? They wouldn’t fight representing America.
Nola: That’s why it’s also your immigration solution! Well, at least for Los Angeles. Everyone knows were all Americans until we play sports on an international stage. Then all of the sudden people are representing Lithuania in table tennis even though they’ve been living in Topeka, Kansas their whole life! The foreign gangs will go back to their countries, fight for their home countries. That will leave us with the KKK and the Mormons. But they’re silly, and I already have a plan in action to deal with them. Anyway- that’s the plan. Have them all kill each other in one last final international gang battle- televised.
Obama: But what happens when there is one last gang standing? What do they win?
Nola: Three consecutive life terms in a Brazilian prison.
Obama: And the Brazilians, they have agreed?
Nola: Oh, yeah, it’s a win/win for them. Well a win/win/win. I had to promise them two things. One-2014 World Cup has to be in Brazil.
Nola: Pay off their IMF debt.
Obama: I’ll talk to the Chinese, but I think it can be done.
Nola: Alright, we’re good, can I go back now? I want to tell the kids about the time Ratti almost killed this banger because he repped the five percenters.
(O gives Nola a puzzled look)
Nola: He thought he was talking about tipping.
Obama: (chuckling) Oh, that Ratti. He’s so excitable. But what was the third win for the Brazilians?
Obama: You said win/win/win.
Nola: Oh, well. (She stands, puts her hands behind her back and sheepishly grins at O like a little girl.) The Brazilians are running out of food for their prisoners. We’re going to hand over the largest street gang in the world to the Brazilians. Win.
Obama: (shock, then disgust) Nola Shumway!
Nola: O! Don’t worry. Nobody is going to know a thing.
Obama: And also, you still didn’t explain why you are in here.
Nola: A dictionary drive.
Obama: I’m not following.
Nola: After I realized there was no short term solution to the graffiti problem I decided to hold a dictionary drive- for the taggers. I thought the least they could do when they were tagging my neighborhood would be to get the words right.
Obama: well, that doesn’t seem so bad.
Nola: Well, the first tagger I tried to give a dictionary to tried to kill me. So the Out & About boys and I dropped him over a pole and now he’s paralyzed.
Obama: No you didn’t Nola, that was Blood in, Blood out.
Nola: You’re right. Excellent film though. Okay, really I just threw the book at his head. Little bitch, he told on me.
Obama: He was five Nola.
Nola: Dirty puto. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. And don’t worry, I won’t run into anymore problems with the dictionaries. I have the Mormons handing them out. They were tired of the Jehovah’s always getting to the neighborhoods first. Oh, and you might want to assemble a task force to deal with all the dead Mormons. A tagger takes to a dictionary the way a cat takes to water.
Obama: One more problem Nola.
Nola: Ay! Dejeme solo! Cual ahora es el?
Obama: You sliced up your cellmate. Remember? I have an operative working undercover who has sliced up an innocent civilian.
(Nola opens mouth to speak)
Obama: I’ve read the report Nola. I don’t buy it that you were trying to tattoo eyebrows. And neither does the warden. We have to hide you. Somewhere no one will know to find you. Somewhere where you can’t get into any trouble. You know what I’m thinking?
Nola: New Testament?
Obama: Pack your bag.