Breaking Stupid

(All art by Eric T. Styles)
Author’s note: the incident in this story took place in 2009. I DON’T do pain pills or cocaine anymore. If I tried to roll like that now I’d be dead or hospitalized!

Publisher’s note: Some references to local establishments were omitted.

Warning: graphic violence, strong language and drug use.

A true story by Jay Slusher… Some time ago, in New Orleans, it was mid winter, leading up to the Saints’ victory in the Super Bowl. The vibe in the city, especially in the French Quarter, was awesome. Steady business and great people for the most part. I was slinging booze out of the alley bar and making stupid money and doing stupid shit too. I’m probably at the high or low of my drug abuse and alcoholism. I was going through a couple of eight balls each weekend and popping Vicodin like Tic Tacs. I HAD help with the former though: a crew of friends and hangers-on. I was 43 and at top of my game.

I’d gotten off work early that busy Saturday night, at 4 a.m. and I headed up to a certain bar on Toulouse Street. My plugs had all shown up that night, and I foolishly DID NOT go to my apartment behind Stiletto’s and and put most of my stash up. I wasn’t thinking straight at the time, but was far from wasted. I had one-quarter ounce of Columbian bambam, 20 Percocets, six grams of fire weed, a collapsible baton and the felony slam dunk–a loaded Smith & Wesson hammerless .38. The pistol was registered in my name and I had valid concealed carry permit, but with the weight in narcotics I had and $700 cash, it would have been armed trafficking had I got busted. I WAS NOT dealing! It was for personal use, but it wouldn’t have looked good.

I was supposed to meet up with some of my guys at the bar. I knew most everyone who worked and hung out. It was not virgin territory for me. The Tropical Isle Club had burned out a couple weeks before and I could still smell the smoke despite the fact that it was shuttered and had a temporary chain link fence surrounding it. Trash littered the street and I stepped over some fresh puke on the sidewalk, looked like crawfish etouffee? Probably smelled better when they first ate it.

I exchanged greetings with Jordan, the doorman at The Dungeon, walked into the bar and ordered a drink–my standard, Jim Beam and Coke. The new bartender was vertically challenged, but incredibly cute. She was an Irish girl from Boston named Maeve. We introduce ourselves and made chit-chat. It was her first night working there and on graveyard, the silly shift.

About that time a guy comes in wearing Pat O’Brien’s gear, including white pants and shirt and green jacket. He’s Black, late 30s and fucked up! Looking like a Johnny Cash song. He immediately orders a shot of Bacardi 151 and cup of black coffee. Maeve evidently knew him because she refused to serve him alcohol and caffeine, given that he was already intoxicated, diabetic and epileptic. He argued his case for a minute and suddenly he turned paler than he already was, his eyes rolled back and he collapsed to the floor, looking like a zombie Richard Pryor!. Me and the barback–the always awesome Billy from Philly, RIP–helped him and cushioned his head. He was seizing and foaming at the mouth.

Maeve called 911 and they showed up surprisingly fast. We explain to the EMTs what happened and they bundled him out on a stretcher. That pretty much cleared out what little customers she had, too. It was pretty late and the crowd had dwindled due to cold and intermittent rain.

I slipped into the bathroom to do a maintenance bump off my keys–a lil dab will do ya! One up each nostril. It hit my brain like a sledge hammer. One second of burn and then an instant drain down the back of the throat. Goddamn!! I said GODDAMN!?!? Instantly, I’m cool and articulate again, at least for a minute.

I returned to the bar and ordered another drink, and discussed what just happened. Suddenly there was a commotion at the front door. People were getting kicked out of The Dungeon by Walter and Jordan, the security. It’s James, my friend I was supposed to meet up with. James was a really intelligent and articulate guy, very talented tattoo artist and had just done a cover piece on my right hand a month prior. However, he had ZERO filter! Combine that with a 6 feet 2 inch and 250-pound frame with extensive training in Muy Thai, and you’ve got your hands full! He also had an Odinist symbol on his face that caused him to be a shit magnet at times.

His girlfriend Sam, bartender and manager at The Dungeon, was off duty at the time and comes in to tell me that I need to go outside. As one of the few people who could handle James, talk him down, etc., I walked out to the front of bar. Walter and Jordan were posted up at The Dungeon’s door.

I immediately recognized the couple James was arguing with: both were White, early 30s, albino-pale with bleached-out hair, meth sores and dilated eyes. Both were dressed in black looking like inbred brother and sister. I’d heard the rundown on them; they were staying at a skid row motel on Tulane Avenue and the dude’s claim to fame was he’d worked at The Dungeon–five years ago for a couple of months. He was about 5 foot 6 inches and a buck fifty at most, twitchy and wearing Himmler-style glasses. She was 5 foot 8 inches and about a buck eighty. Both were pale and flabby and looked like they hadn’t slept or eaten in weeks.

She’s went on about James being a tourist and a Nazi and being a local. I’d been living here and hanging out and sometimes working at these three bars for a decade-plus and I’d never seen them until recently. She’s running her cock holster and the dude is silent, and creepy looking. What the fuck? “James!” I said. “Fuck this shit! C’mon in and I’ll buy you a drink.”

The bitch was still mouthing off. The word I heard on her is that she had been trying, with little success, to hustle guys for drinks and money. They were trick-rolling and playing Murphy games. It’s very common down here: a dude from out of town, probably married, meets woman in bar, then she lures him somewhere and the boyfriend shows up and robs him. Seen it a million times. She’s pretty skanky though, even in the dim light of a dive bar.

I’ve got my arm around James and we’re about to walk into bar when she screamed, “Yeah you pussy motherfuckers better walk off! My husband will cut your fuckin heads off!”

Next thing I saw was the little troll coming at us with, for fucks sake, a straight razor in his hand! Where the FUCK did you get that?! The cliche mine? James whirled around as the dude slashed at his face and I hear a click, or the sound of James’ four-inch combat knife extending from his hand just before he stabbed into the dude’s skull, ripping a good 5-inch gash into his scalp as he took a couple slashes to his face.

I reached for my 24-inch collapsible baton located in the holster at small of my back, underneath my black Dickies jacket. I tried to get in and break up the fight, I really didn’t need this bullshit, especially with felony weight narcotics and a handgun on me.

The bitch jumped on my back screeching about tourists and Nazis, and tried to jam a lit cigarette into my eye, while clawing for the other one with her nasty thumbnail. I flung her to the sidewalk and extended my baton. It’s my weapon of choice for close combat; effective and intimidating, not as messy as a knife or a gun. I used them many times before. A straight razor, though? On paper or in movies it’s scary, but not so much in a brawl. The blade won’t lock back and unless you hit an artery, the cuts are fine but not deep. I thought he’d gotten James in the eye!

Both of them moved in a scuffle down the sidewalk towards Bourbon Street. James basically kicked at the dude, who’s down and blindly slashed at James’ legs. With James wearing knee-high Doc Martens straight out of Romper Stomper under his camouflage battle dress uniform pants, the slashes had no effect and James continued kicking the little shit in the face.

I tried to break it up, but the skank jumps on my back at least three more times. In the three or so minutes that have elapsed since the altercation began, I saw two NOPD cruisers pass by on Bourbon Street. James has kicked the little shit within 40 feet of Bourbon Street. The dude still hasn’t said shit and just grunted from the impacts of James boots.

The skank continued to scream at us, calling us Nazis and while they claimed to be locals. I flung her to sidewalk several more times. They had to be tweaked out of their minds taking hits like that from me and James. I’m 6 feet 4 inches and was 230 and a veteran nightclub bouncer at the time. Not my first or 500th street brawl. I showed restraint, all things considered, but worried about cops rolling up with the narcotics and pistol in my possession. This escalated quickly.

The dude and James were both covered in blood, including the whole right side of James’ head. The scuffle moved across the street and James kicked the dude into the fence surrounding the burned out shell of Tropical Isle Club, located in the 600 block of Bourbon Street. The air reeked of scorched wood, puke and blood. I finally got between them before I pushed James back and extended baton in my left. James staggered into street wiping blood from his eyes.

I stood over the dude, who’s laying on his back in the street, a bloody mess and head swelling up like the goddamned Elephant Man. Where’s the girl? I stomp on his right forearm, he’s clutching the razor and still not talking. I told him to drop the razor and he grunts. I rapped him sharply across his nose and heard it crunch. He let go of the razor and I switched hands, baton in my left, and I dumped the knife and razor into the storm drain. I stood up just as the bitch came back and swung a U-shaped bike lock on a chain into my back, hard. Goddamn it! The fuckin’ tweaker cunt was still screeching about tourists and Nazis.

The dude rolled in the mud, blood and beer and holding his face, crying. Sam tried to pull James back across the street. The bitch hit me again but this time I hook my baton into the chain and ripped it from her possession, flinging the chain and lock combination across Bourbon Street. A small crowd gathered to watch the fight. I grabbed her by her funky peroxide hair.

“You like to play rough bitch?” I said, slamming her face first into the post of the chain-link fence. She stopped screaming and fell to the ground, twitching. Goddamnit! I expected to go to jail any fuckin’ second. I heard several people in the crowd gasp and comment, but I didn’t give a fuck in that moment.

At this point I’ve had enough. I pulled the .38 out of my Dickies jacket and popped open the cylinder to show her it’s loaded. “If y’all come at us again, I’m gonna waste both of y’all,” I said.

I shoved James and Sam into the bar and Maeve yells last call. As Billy from Philly closed the bar, the bitch came around yelling about calling the cops! Fuck me. The bar is closed but you can’t see inside. The tweakers staggered around the Tropical Isle and the female goth-tweaker continued to run her mouth. The damage to James’ face was minimal, only superficial cuts, although it looked worse than it was. The slashes missed his eye. I immediately chopped out a dozen lines to compose ourselves and I hand off my whole stash–pills, blow and weed, about $500 worth–to Billy from Philly, bless his heart, who put it all in an envelope and hid it under a full trashbag lining a can.

I told Maeve to get a bar towel and handed her my pistol. She didn’t bat an eye, wrapping the pistol with the towel and hid it under bar. I tossed the baton, my knife and little flashlight under the pool table and onto the dirty saloon floor. At that moment, we heard a quick blast from a police siren, followed by a rap at the shuttered door. It’s showtime!

As I’m the only one not drenched in fuckin’ blood, I told everyone to stay in the bar and let me talk to the cops. It’s kind of my superpower and know what to say (my dad is a retired police officer and military pilot). I stepped outside and expected a SWAT team to greet me, given there was bloody brutal fight with multiple people, multiple witnesses and weapons were involved. At least no one got stabbed with a trident.

It’s one cop and a rookie by the looks of him. He was very casual and actually had his hands in his pockets. “What’s going on?” he said.

Nancy-fuckin-Spungen across the streets starts yelling, wait for it, wait for it–about us being tourists and Nazis and wasn’t making a bit of sense. She and her trollboy are a bloody goddamned mess, like they’d been dragged across concrete by a bear. Trollboy can barely walk and his head’s covered in blood and swelling. She was still yelling, but now they’re walking away. Was meth the only reason why they weren’t dead? We had beaten the cowboy-tweaker-shit outta them.

“Why don’t y’all go one way and you sir go back in the bar?” the cop said, still cool and casual as fuck. What the fuck? I haven’t said a word at that point.

“Yes sir! Have a good night!” I said and walked back into the bar, locking the door behind me. The Gods of Alcohol have smiled upon me once again! We poured more drinks and chopped out more lines.

Epilogue

Two weeks later, our lives went back to normal, as normal as it gets for the life in the French Quarter, slinging booze and talking trash. The cuts on James’ face were basically scratches from forehead to chin and they healed quickly. Fucker had narrowly missed his eye, though.

When I got home that morning, Melissa, my girlfriend at the time, had heard about the incident and she pulled my hoodie and jacket off. My back was pretty stiff despite the cocaine, pain pills and alcohol I’d ingested. A big horseshoe-shaped bruise across my shoulder blades from the bike lock faded quickly. Maeve’s and Billy from Philly’s bosses, a really awesome husband and wife team, had heard the watered-down version of the fight from me. I left out the pistol and narcotics parts, though. They were cool about it because it went down outside and no police report was filed. Again, the Gods of Alcohol stepped in.

Roughly two more weekends went by and I heard from several sources in my network of spies and informers that the bitch and her trollboy reappeared at the bar and The Dungeon. They were with a posse consisting of several tweaked-out emo kids and a big fat kid in a Babylon 5 shirt. They asked who I was and threatened to kill me.

I paid Dani, my co-worker, to takeover my shift. I called my crew, who were working out in the Quarter that night. Frankie, Nick, Dustin, Avery and, of course, James. All hard-bitten Dog Soldiers who didn’t give a fuck and down for anything. “Meet me in front of The Dungeon, boys.”

Me and my crew of baggage-smashers arrived at the Dungeon. Jordan already knew what was about to go down and met us at the door. “Jay they left and headed to lower Decatur,” he said.

We proceeded to hit every bar on Decatur Street and beyond, from Molly’s at the Market to The John on Burgundy Street, in the Marigny. No trollboy and no fat kid in a Babylon 5 shirt. I was hitting the Columbian bambam pretty hard at the time and could be a ruthless motherfucker. After a hour or two of this, we walked back to The Dungeon and Jordan and Hoss met us at the door.

“Look Jay, the dude talked to some people and him and the girl got in a argument,” Jordan said. “He took his friends and left. He’s scared shitless and still stitched up and in a neck brace.”

James busted up laughing. James was 86’ed for life, anyway. Hoss tells me no trouble and Rachel, the owners wife and a bartender, is about to kick the broke bitch out cuz she’s still trying to hustle dudes. She’s still got multiple stiches and a taped up nose so no one is giving her any play. I tell ’em I’m cool and just wanna talk but I refused to check my pistol. James and Dustin waited outside while Frankie, a lifetime regular, Nick and I go inside. Avery takes a seat in courtyard.

I immediately spotted her sitting at the bar. She’s hard to miss: two fading black eyes and tape across the nose and a few sutures on the forehead. I smiled at her and sit-down, with Frankie and Nick flanking me.

“Hey boo how’re you doing?” I said, oozing charm.

“A lot better now that you’re here,” she said. I bought her a drink and she warmed up. She put her hand on my arm. I buy a round of shots for us and she’s practically in my lap, dry humping my leg. I’m gonna have to burn these pants, I thought. She’s not as tweaked-out but still looking like 90 miles of bad Bakersfield oil patch road. Leaning towards her, I asked if she remembered me.

“Why no, I’d remember a big good looking guy like you,” she said. I told her I’m the guy that did the damage to her and she immediately becomes defensive. Her story was that her ex-husband put her up to it and none of it was her fault. She was sorry and that he’s all spun-out on meth, etc. I told her she’s full of shit and lucky they’re not dead. She said her husband had a broken nose, jaw, collarbone and 60 stitches in his head, etc. I hold up my hand to stop her. I told her my full government name, where I worked and if her and her husband/ pimp ever wanted to find me, that I’m not hard to find. None of us ever saw them again. If I have gained anything from this, it’s don’t take a straight razor to a street brawl.