The Emperor of Chartreuse

A true story by Jay Slusher. Art by Eric Styles.

Some time ago in New Orleans, it was early Sunday morning coming down, about the winter of 2010 and I was slinging booze out of the alley bar in 300 block of Bourbon Street at the time. I had the gig for a couple of years and was a licensed bartender finally after years of working barback and security. I was making good money and having a great time. My good friend, drinking buddy and boon companion, LM, had met up at the Erin Rose after a long night at work and started pounding booze.

A little backstory on LM: he was legendary in the Quarter for his excessive consumption of green Chartreuse, a vile concoction brewed up by some demented monks in a French Alps monastery. The shit is disgusting!

LM had gotten me drunk on Chartreuse once and fuck my life because it’s also in my top 10 worst hangovers–ever! My hair hurt, made me sick to my stomach and my toilet needed an exorcism.

He was well known for getting motherfuckers shithouse-wasted on it that back in the day. We’d get rookie bouncers at Bourbon Blues Club, Razzoo or Famous Door, usually some early 20s cocky kid, bragging they could drink us veterans under the table and we’d be like, “really? We would call Cat’s Meow to see if LM was working. The kids would get nervous after we closed, and after they took out the trash and furniture, and we’d chant in unison: “LM! LM! LM!” We’d meet up at Johnny White’s, where LM would initiate them.

If they survived, i.e. made it to work the next day, they’d usually come in cursing the lot of us. We knew they’d usually survive in our sordid underworld. Aside from the Chartreuse fuckery, LM is a great emcee and deejay. The Mouth of the South! The MAN with the golden voice. I met on the first day I worked on Bourbon Street in the late 1990s and he was always a good friend to me ever since. We have seen each other at our best and when both of us looked like a Johnny Cash song, but he has always been cool as fuck to me.

In fact, at one point, Johnny White’s bar on St. Peter Street sold more Chartreuse than any bar in the world because of LM. The fuck?

Back to the night at Erin Rose. There was Damian, a friend of ours who worked the door at Rick’s Cabaret, and his girlfriend Rain (not to be confused with my good friend Jennifer Collins, also named Rain). Rain was a hot-as-fuck dancer and deejay for Rick’s: lean, mean, tatted-up, pierced and cool as fuck.

Damian was a gutterpunk when I first met him years ago. I actuall kicked him out of a few places I worked at, but he eventually cleaned up his act, got a door gig and then landed Rain as his girlfriend. You go boy!

All three of us–Damian, Rain and myself–were pounding booze and talking mad shit at the Rose for awhile. Some primo Colombian bam-bam reared its head, also, and we decided to go smoke out on my steps. I lived near the corner of St. Peter and Dauphine streets, near the Gold Mine Saloon and a block from LM. Rain and Damian were staying with LM until they could get a place.

We walked up Dauphine Street at 5 a.m., when most of the Bourbon Street clubs are closed, but there’s still the usual assortment of hustler boys and transvestite prostitutes outside of the Double Play bar. The temperature was dropping and the wind got stronger. A big storm was supposed to hit us from the east at at 6 a.m.

We sat on the steps and I went upstairs to put my pistol and money away, but I still had my keys and Jagermeister lanyard around my neck. I had a bad habit of locking myself out when I was drunk. I was drinking a lot back in those days. I was 42 and thought I was immortal. Legend said I couldn’t be killed with conventional weapons, but I new that wasn’t true. I’m alcoholic, not delusional, yet I still pushed it.

LM left us and he staggered up the street against the increasingly strong wind, which was kicking up trash, debris and dust. Damian and Rain tapped out awhile later, after a final bong rip. I didn’t think any of us could get any more drunk or higher at that point.

I went upstairs and played with my roommate’s dogs for a minute, talking to them in drunken dog speak. I was in my jammies and sweatshirt, about to hit my big airbed, when I hear a knocking at my apartment door. No, it wasn’t the raven, forever more, it was Damian, who was really wasted and there was no sign of rain.

“Dude!? Jay!! You gotta get up here,” Damian said. “It’s LM.”

From there it was all gibberish. I follow Damian in sock feet. Damian was listing to his port side and actually fell twice. I had to pull him up. He was a trooper but he needed to lay down soon. Hell, I NEEDED to lay down soon. I was fucked up as a hillbilly’s checkbook!

We arrived to where LM was and I see Rain sitting against the wall, weeping. She thought LM was dead. He was on the security door in between the buildings and his apartment was in the back courtyard. One foot hung in the door and his right wrist got caught in the gate. The wind gust was at least 50 miles per hour out of the east and when another gust of wind caught LM, the door would swing and he’d make a “come on” gesture with his right arm.

I recently watched Moby Dick, the good version with Gregory Peck, and do you remember the scene where the harpooner Queequeg predicts Captain Ahab will die but return and beckon his men to join him? The whale kills Ahab after he gets tangled in the old rigging and harpoons, stabbing him. Moby Dick dives deep and drowns Ahab after sinking his ship. After Ahab resurfaces, he’s dead and still tangled, but his right arm is beckoning to the survivors. This scene is immediately what immediately ran though my mind. He beckons!

Damian is standing on the street in a drunken stupor, mumbling to himself.

“I couldn’t get him down, man,” Damian said.

I lean in close to LM, stopping the gate with my foot, and I hear him snoring AND see him drooling. It takes me a minute to extricate him from the security gate. I was a lot bigger and stronger then.

I dragged him back to his apartment in the back. Thank the gods of alcohol he lived on the ground floor. I was in no condition to carry his fat us up the stairs with me in my sock feet. It’s pouring water now and I really, REALLY need to lay down. The cold rain woke up the hot Rain and she was still crying even though I had left LM facedown on the floor snoring like a goddamned idling chainsaw.

Never, EVER put a drunk on their back. That’s how you Jimi Hendrix, or drown in your own vomit. It’s a horrible way to die and I’ve saved a lot of motherfuckers from that fare of the years, with some I came to regret. I finally got home, soaking wet and STILL wasted as fuck. Thank the gods of alcohol I was off work the next two days–my weekend.

Several day slater, I’m getting breakfast at Deja Vu when I see LM, Rain and Damian walk in.

“Hey Jay!” they said. “What the fuck happened to us the other night? We all woke up on the floor with the door open and it was storming outside…”

For submissions, questions, comments, praise, etc. about this piece, email Dave Minsky at dave@thequarterrat.com or Eric Styles at styles@thequarterrat.com.