The Weather

The Tarzana Scarfaces: Swagger Jacker

Well, I’ve joined a gang and oh boy. Bad idea. I realize I’m a bit long in the tooth to start fighting a brutal turf war. But two things. First, my position is positively clerical, and second, this war is unlikely to begin before I’ll be transferred. What I mean is that it’s only been a few days but things are already proceeding poorly.

Tony Montana, our leader, about twenty-five years my junior—and whose name isn’t Tony Montana because it’s Taylor, which I know because we met a year back playing devil’s advocates for Charlie Sheen in a chat room that no longer exists—is exceedingly displeased with my, as he’s put it, “swaggerlack.” It took a number of explanations for me to grasp the term’s meaning but now that I do I’m not sure I want to stay on with this gang, these Tarzana Scarfaces.

(When I was jumped in I had to take an oath wherein I pledged my mortal allegiance to the Scarfaces, be they in Poway, Del Mar, East Palo Alto, South East Portland, or Tarzana. Or in Claremont, where a new chapter will be emerging, I’m promised, just after Easter.)

Initially, I thought the whole shebang would be a hoot and a boon for my career. See, I’m trying to get a literary agent, and Taylor’s father represents some major players. Or so Taylor told me. Like who? I asked. All the big fuckers, he assured me.

Who are we talking about here? Do you mean people like Eggers and Foer, or more like Ehrenreich and Barthelme?

All those dudes.

He specifically represents Eggers, Foer, Ehrenreich, and Barthelme?


When was the last time he spoke with Barthelme?

Like, last week. They’re having lunch today.

Barthelme’s dead.

Not that Barthelme, r-tard. His son.

Oh, I didn’t know he had a son.

Well, he does.

And Smith?

There are lotsa Smiths.

Zadie Smith.

Yea dog, him too.

Zadie Smith is a woman.

Whutevs man. She’s, like, getting an operation.

I was skeptical, but I didn’t tell him that then.

But then the other day, when we were getting Subway, YayYayWolf grabbed his foot-long off the counter and just ran out, as did the rest of the gang, while my sweater got caught in the door and Red Bull had to come back and unhook me.

And it’s stuff like that I can’t stand. I mean, I know it’s a gang and there’s bound to be all sorts of criminal activity, but I received, like, no warning.

Following the Subway sweaterjam, Cocaine, who was bequeathed the coolest name, along with 5-Hour EnerG, who, I have to say, got the short end of the stick as far as nom-de-gangs go, were charged with guiding me in the ways of the Scarface. T Da Full Monty, or Tony Montana, or Taylor (it’s like they each have five names, it’s hard to keep track) sent the three of us to “score some swag-a-lag” at Flimsy Bob’s Liquor.

SoBeIt (which is eccentrically long for my Scarface name, SoBe, unless you count the name that no one calls me, which you can find on the certificate Taylor printed out: “SoBe Adrenaline Rush”; but who’s going to say all that?) SoBeIt, they said, this is the life. This is the Scarface way. You’ve got to get on board or Monty Da Real Bieber is going to send you up to Claremont, and, they assured me, “Shit is like not like really popping off in C-Town.”

Thing is, I don’t know that I want anything to pop off or jump around or bounce about. It might be nice if everything stayed quite still. And for God’s sake, I don’t mean to sound parochial, but can we listen to simply anything besides French Montana or Yelawolf? I’m beginning to feel as though my brain is a coffee grinder.

No, that’s good, they tell me along the way. Get that energy going. Gay Da Raid received his name because he didn’t “step up.” Sounds like you’re gathering your swag, they persuade. Well, what if I can’t step up, either? So up at the Flimsy Bob’s counter, I bought Taylor what he’d requested (in not-so-nice terms, I must admit): one of every energy drink and a pack of Swishers.

And it happened again.

Out went Cokey-Cokey with Cinco-Hora-Bora, with what I’d later learn were Snickers bars, and then it was just me, SoBeLicorice, and Flimsy Bob with his bat.

I was a bit miffed. No, I was steamed.

I talked Flimsy Bob out of thinking I was with the Scarfaces, despite my hat, which was identical to Kickety-Cokers and Flippity-Five-Alive’s, which Gay Da Gay Cumsipper (n.b. not my creation) had cocked along my crown before we’d left Taylor’s parents’ house, a.k.a. “da crib.”

This gang is the worst gang.

When I got back to “da crib,” Shark Stimulation, whose name and face make me shudder, told me I was to meet Tony The No Baloney Cojone All Swag All Da Time and some other bits I don’t recall at “his pad” which meant his room.

None of this is my deal. I like stuff like waiting until midnight and driving to Laguna Beach listening to Bernard Hermann scores, ordering a drink I don’t drink and driving home with the windows down. Email some resumes and query letters, wash the PT Cruiser, maybe order in some Thai and work through some episodes of Leno that invariably build up on my DVR. That’s a weekend.

I knocked and Taylor shouted, “It opens,” and I went in.

He was where he’s usually found, playing video games beneath the 36×42 poster of the “real” Tony Montana and his little friend. Empty neon cans covering his Brick Squad rug.

“Look at this pelican fly. Come on pelican,” I offered in my best Pacino.

“Dude, I’m about to unlock the Thu’um Master achievement. Just sit down.”

The ensuing conversation revealed that Taylor’s father’s a mid-level employee for a company whose name Taylor didn’t know and didn’t care to know. That whatever his father’s position, it had nothing to do with literature. That this didn’t matter as I was a “swagger jacker” and I should know my place. That I was a Scarface, like it or not, and I would do as I was told.

I don’t know if it was all the energy drinks I’d been consuming for days on end, or my disappointment, but I took the Monster I’d been lazily swigging and poured it into his black, almost H.R. Giger-designed video game console. A green dot faded to naught and Taylor attacked. Verbally. But brutally. None of what he said made a lick of sense to me but I could tell, by his tone, that the message was one of acute vitriol.

So, I wait. I did take an oath and Claremont’s a nice enough place I suppose. Perhaps I’ll bump into Lethem there. Jim from Sound Spectrum called to inform that my special order of the Sisters score’s come in so I might take the cruiser down the 405 and hope my answering machine isn’t blinking when I get home in the morning.

To read the second installment of Patrick’s story, click here

Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.