Mitch, I know where you got them shoes

I follow former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on twitter. I don’t know why, all of his tweets are essentially the same: Condescending, white “progressive” and self-flagellating for woke points. If you saw him on the street and said “Nice weather.” He would probably respond with “Only for white people.”

In all fairness, he is running a business. In 2018, he wrote the book “In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.” Genius grift by the way. How can a white Southern man from a prominent political family gain capital from racism? I chuckle when I see CNN calls Mitch to polish up his head to appear on one of their panels discussing…what?

To paraphrase President Biden: “You’re a one-trick pony soldier horse fat face … come on man, you know, the thing.”

“Hey Mitch, where can I pick up a good po-boy?”
“There’s a place three blocks down from the white supremacist statue to racism, on the left.”
“Uh ok, thanks.”

Like that monotypical uncle who always manages to steer the family dinner conversations back to his favorite topic of model railroading; Mitch will always come back to the statues. I think he deserves a statue for tearing down statues of fellow Democrats. It’s probably safe to say Mitch’s official stance on slavery in this country is that it was a bad idea. I really don’t know any American that would dispute that. None. The minute number of actual real white supremacists share that same belief, also.

The statue issue aside, who cares? Tourist come down here to binge eat, binge drink and cheat on their spouses. They want to see titties, not General Lee. Some locals may find the reminder of slavery from 200 years ago offensive? Slavery bad?

I know where you got them shoes.
CHINA!

You must have at least one pair of sneakers in your walk in closet filled with those wild gray suites. Do you even wear the pants anymore? Or just the shirt, jacket and tie when you’re a talking head for six minutes of relevancy?

I’d bet a paycheck that many of those folks down at the statues protesting wear one of many major brand of sneakers; made by humans enslaved on the other side of the globe, imprisoned for no other reason than their ethnicity, forced to work under horrendous conditions and daily inhumane abuse. Protesting the ugliest part of America’s past that’s been over for about 150 years while wearing shoes made by slaves a few weeks earlier.

Imagine 180 years ago, a Northern educated white lady and an abolitionist, sipping tea and clutching her pearls while saying, “Those Southerners are so evil, using slaves to work in the fields! By the way, do you like my new cotton dress? It’s so comfortable and inexpensive.”

Imagine being a Black slave and knowing that 180 years later your descendants would be wearing apparel made by forced labor. You could hear that facepalm clear across the field.

We cannot correct past injustices to those people. History is etched in stone despite what we write on paper or what bronze we tear down. If you are sincerely and deeply disturbed by this blot on our nation’s past, and feel the need to do something positive, work to end slavery that is happening today. Your moral outrage will not change the past, but it could change today.

Perhaps it’s not important to you since they aren’t Black Americans. They’re so poor and live so far away, it doesn’t matter to you. In 2016, there were about 40 million “modern” slaves, including forced marriages, sexual exploitation and debt bondage, according to the United Nations. It’s difficult to calculate exact number for obvious reasons. Less than 400,000 human beings used for chattel slavery were shipped to the U.S. between 1525 and 1866, according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Imagine if we turned all of our energy and passion for this crime in a direction that could tangibly change something. If protests were directed towards bad actors, instead of inanimate objects from the past, there would be meaningful change.

In September 2018, there was news story about how Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn wanted to ban Nike products following the Collin Kaepernick-Nike deal. Mitch was quick to jump on board that streetcar named Attention and call “unpatriotic” and defended Nike. How could Nike afford to pay Collin Kaepernick $25 million dollars? Slave labor. Does any of this click?

A few corporations have stepped up to the plate and took a stand against China and its Uighur concentration camps: forced labor, sexual abuse, forced abortions and organ harvesting of Uyghur Muslims. Any business that takes a position opposing slave labor in China should be applauded and patronized. Those who ignore or profit from it should be treated worst than Aunt Jemima syrup was. Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous now? Outrage over a syrup label but none over people enslaved today.

Hey Mitch, do you know where the slavery is?
On your feet.

About the title. Here in the French Quarter of New Orleans, specifically Bourbon Street we have street hustlers. “Shoe Guys” will stroll up to unsuspecting tourists, point to their feet and say: “Nice shoes, I’ll bet you $5 that I know where you got them shoes.” The gullible tourist will usually blurt out “Where?” The Shoe guy will respond: “You got them shoes on your feet. You owe me $5!”

If they’re not running shoes, you better pay up.

Purgatory motel hell

A True Story By Jay Slusher…

Some time ago, somewhere in Tennessee, I’d moved back to the 931 a couple of years before. I had kicked the booze and blow and pills and quit living my life like a Johnny Cash song. My lil’ granddaughter’s mother’s family was there and another daughter and her mother also. My love life has always been complicated and I was a rake and rambling boy.

In my younger days, I’d spent half my life working in the fast and dangerous world of Bourbon Street. It’s a rough lifestyle and I told myself I was taking a break. I found a job working at an automotive plant; it was a hellhole and they practically sell meth out of vending machines. My little town had gotten rough in the 20 years I’d been gone.

I really hated being there — too many bad memories. For once, I was doing what every girlfriend, etc. had ever wanted me to do: home and work. There was no drinking and very little womanizing. I wasn’t going to church or anything, but I settled into a routine. I worked four 10-hour days each week, Sunday through Wednesday, on graveyard shift, at a factory living a full but fairly comfortable existence in a rundown motel on the outskirts of town.

In some ways, it was the nicest place I had all to myself in years. When I moved in, it had a brand new California king-sized bed, a new full-size refrigerator, brand new toilet, hot water, satellite TV and the surrounding area was quiet most of the time.

I wasn’t hanging with anyone much over here. There was lots of drug activity and police, but other than running me for warrants every time they got a chance, they mostly left me alone.

On my three days off, I’d cook in my room and watch movies, read, etc. It was boring as fuck after awhile. I had been working weekends and holidays for decades in the New Orleans service industry, slinging booze and working the door, barbacking — the whole nine yards. I missed my friends, the action and the easy money.

One Saturday night, I was chilling and reading Blood Meridian and listening to Johnny Cash, watching TV on closed caption and I dozed off. Sometime later, I woke to total blackness. It was Lovecraft’s stygian darkness! I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

My room was in the back on the bottom floor facing a nice little stretch of woods. I couldn’t find my phone or any flashlight. I had always been a nocturnal person — it’s why I preferred graveyard shift and working at “night” clubs. Always keep a couple of little lights on close by.

I felt my way to the door and it’s dark as a black steer’s tuchus on a moonless prairie night, to quote the great Sam Elliott. It was a perfect 70 degrees, no wind and weirdly silent. No bugs or night birds chirping and dark as my soul in every direction.

I could, however, see a little bit. There was heavy cloud cover and zero traffic sounds despite being only 40 yards from a busy well-traveled highway. Zero traffic. What the fuck? I’m walking around the motel up a slight hill towards the front, wearing only a t-shirt, pajama pants and socks on my feet. I’m thinking I might have died in my sleep? I was very confused and it kinda creeped me out, to be honest.

I thought: am I in purgatory? I died! And in a minute Papa Legba is gonna roll up in a mint condition ’66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and take my ass to hell. Maybe I was just dreaming, but it felt real as fuck though. I could feel the decaying asphalt under my feet.

The front of the motel is dark as fuck, not even the emergency exit lights were on. As I walked the length of the motel, about 100 yards, I noticed very few vehicles. I’m getting more creeped out. The Subway shop and gas station next door were also blacked out.

Suddenly, on the second story balcony, I saw the outline of a man and the glow of a cell phone.

“Hello? What’s happening bruh?” I said to the man.

“Some drunk idiot hit a power pole down the road and the goddamned WiFi is out too!” he replied.

I’m just in a blackout? This time, it was an electrical and not a drunken blackout. The fuck? I wanted to shake his hand and buy him a beer! What a relief. Shit got really bizarre and surreal for a few minutes.

I walk a bit further and see the hospital where they butchered my foot a year ago. The hospital was lit up like a goddamned casino! They had generator power. Then I see the yellow light flashing on a company truck driving down the highway. Ah man, just fuckin’ wow.

I make my way back to the room and sat outside until the power came back on, which was about an hour later. Later, I had learned that the idiot who hit a pole was drunk as fuck and was his fourth DUI offense — and driving on a suspended license. Hello habitual driving offender status and 10 years before the driver will get it back to legal. Jay, I’m thinking to myself, you’ve got to get the fuck out of here!

That night was one of the weirdest and creepiest moments I’ve ever had in my life and I was cold sober. Let me describe it a bit more: it was some freaky, freaky, level nine-type Twilight Zone shit!

One month later, I left back home to New Orleans, where even the bizarre makes sense.

Fear and Loathing in Tennessee

A true story by Jay Slusher

Some time ago, in New Orleans and Tennessee, I’d reached my limit and hit the wall. After being a functional alcoholic and recreational drug user, I’d become that guy: a total pilled out drunken mess, fired from my job of nine years, evicted from apartment and my girlfriend left me. She saved my life and told me she didn’t want to be the one to find me dead. I don’t blame her one bit. I pretty much hit rock bottom.

I got in touch with a friend in Daytona Beach who said I could come stay with her and her husband. My brother from another mother bought me a bus ticket. It was a long, fucked-up trip and I got there in slightly better shape than Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.

Didn’t have any trouble getting a job, but Daytona Beach wasn’t my town, man. I’m a New Orleans guy; I’ve lived half my life (25-plus years) here. Things didn’t work out for me and I recently found out my second oldest daughter was pregnant after suffering a previous miscarriage. Finally, there was hope for something good and decent in my life.

Arrangements were made were made for a place to stay with oldest daughter in Tennessee. I really didn’t want to be back up there, but I wanted something good. I found out the baby was going to be a little girl!

So I got a job in a local factory working the night shift. It was rough work for a 50-year-old, busted-up bartender and doorman, but I hung in there—for two plus years. Felt like I was in purgatory. It was the most boring time of my life: work and home. However, I kicked booze, pills and event quit smoking weed for over a year! (Drug tests at my job.)

Jessica, my daughter, had the baby and named her Journey. Man, I knew she was gonna be something! The first time I held her, she was a week old. Me and my girlfriend at the time drove up to Indiana to see her. My daughter’s house was chaos at the time, with little dogs barking and all the sons-in-law’s relatives there.

My granddaughter was pretending to be asleep and discreetly cutting her eyes at me, like who-in-the-fuck is THIS guy?!?! It was one of the best moments of my life.

Not long after driving back to Tennessee, I broke up with my girlfriend and the boring monotony of work and motel life set in. It felt like I was dying and missing the fuck out of New Orleans. The city is like that really toxic girlfriend who’s no damned good for you, but you still want to bang her. Seeing people I went to high school with looking like death on a tricycle, spun constantly and living in their parents’ basements really got me down.

It seems like I had my shit together better when I was half-drunk and doing drugs? I missed the camaraderie and respect I earned working on Bourbon Street. It’s the only life I’ve ever known and the only place I’ve EVER felt at home.

Music to my fuckin’ ears

The music, the people, the vibe. Bourbon Street is where you think there’s about to be a street brawl, or gunfight, and it turns into a second line with everyone cutting up and getting along. I missed it so bad it hurt! Yeah, it’s fucked up and yes it is dangerous, but goddamn I feel alive here. A part of it all! Never bored and always something going down, good or bad.

Shit started going bad. I got fucked over on my car and was about to point-out at my job and I really don’t kiss ass well, to say the least. I hadta remind myself every day what I got away with in New Orleans, which I’d get fired and catch felony charges for in Tennessee.

Given my nature and personality, I got really tired of toning down my personality and taking shit. It was coming to a head and I was getting a dark foreshadowing of ending up in jail with guys I went to high school with in there and I didn’t get along with most of them back in the day.

I had spend a lot of the past couple of years along most of the time, and sober, with lots of self-introspective brooding; reliving every goddamn mistake and bad decision I’ve made in the last 40 years. Not a good place to be, but I had several epiphanies, or moments of clarity as we alcoholics call them.

At a crucial point, I got a call from my old boss: Cary. I’d been a henchman for over a decade. We had a long conversation about many things.

He said “come back, I’ve got work for you, we need you!” Another friend called and said, “Jay, you can crash at my crib ’til you get on your feet.” A job and a place to stay? Fuck yeah. I’ve started out on less before.

I left the great state of Tennessee on the day the Hard Rock (hotel) fell. I though a friend of mine had been in there working. He was missing and unaccounted for? Found out the day after I got back that he was in New York. Thank gods for that. My boss pretty much put me back to work pretty much the first night I walked back into that world. It felt great to be back. I’d missed pretty much everyone.

Back on the street, back on my feet

I had a nice little gig going. Was working with a lot of friends and some new ones. It’s really rare in this world to meet people and be friends with them right off the bat. And it has happened to me more here in New Orleans than anywhere else I’ve been: Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago or Houston. I’ve really got some good solid friends here in New Orleans that looked out for me and held me down during ALL of the COVID-19 and political fuckery during 2020. Some rough times for all of us.

Thankfully, I DID NOT have a girlfriend or wife and kids to provide and look out for. Hitting 50, my check engine light came on! The whole goddamned board went red: diabetic type 2, arthritis, PTSD and ballistic head trauma from being hit in the dome too many times, too many to count over the years.

Pool sticks and beer bottles and bar stools, memory loss and confusion, waking up dehydrated and not knowing where I am or what year it is. It only lasts a minute, though, if it gets really bad and I’m self-aware enough to realize it. The last skull I crack will be my own.

Not wanting to turn this into a Dark Carnival of the Soul, but I’m getting emotional and in my feelings writing this. It’s very personal stuff. Being back after a couple of years gone by has given my a lot of perspective and insight. Everyone remarks about how much calmer and patient I am now. I owe that to my granddaughter, Journey. Her parents are doing an awesome job with her. She’s got a sweet and kind personality, and she’d want me to be more patient and help people.

I’m not my old cruel self anymore. The path of the righteous man and all that shit. I’m trying Ringo, trying REAL hard. Had a love-hate relationship with the Big Sleazy for awhile. It’s all love now, but I needed that time away, alone mostly and sober.

To put it into perspective: if it’s my fate to die here by God I’m down for it. I’ve never felt at home anywhere else. The people, the music, the history and the vibe. And, of course, the best food in the world. We lost a lot of people over the last few years. Many have fallen RIP and see y’all on the other side.

The future is uncertain and the end is always near. Just want to say I’ve got a lot of good friends and mad love and respect for everyone holding me down. And we WILL get through this. Katrina couldn’t kill the city and neither will COVID-19.

Love y’all man! We few! We happy few! Band of brothers and sisters. Proud of ALL y’all.

Send all questions, comments, feedback, or to welcome Jay back to New Orleans, email dave@thequarterrat.com or styles@thequarterrat.com.

We all have that knucklehead friend

This is a true story by Jay Slusher. Graphic by Eric T. Styles.

Not long ago, in New Orleans, I was working the door at the corner of Bourbon Street and Toulouse. It was a Saturday night. Despite recent COVID-19 restrictions, we were having a great night, a decent crowd, buying drinks and Papa Doc was on the mic.

We got a group from New Jersey: four females and two dudes, buying shots and chilling. One of the female’s boyfriend shows up, a Black dude maybe 40 years old? He gets into a dispute with my manager and shot girl at the door. His girlfriend and friends are trying to chill him out, but he’s not having it and we’re not letting him back in.

His friend is being cool AF and apologizing to us, trying to grab on me and the manager. The girlfriend is wrestling with him and getting pissed. She takes him around the corner and we’re thinking it’s over.

The manager goes up the street to check the other club and the next thing I know, the dude comes charging around the corner heading for me all aggro!

I’m thinking, OK I’m about to go hands-on. It wouldn’t be the first time, but I’m outnumbered 8-to-1 if the friends jump in.

The girlfriend is not having it! She grabs her boyfriend, slams him into the car that just pulled up at the corner and then BODY-SLAMMED him to the street! She hands her jacket to one of her girls and proceeds to beat the breaks off him!!

Then she pins him to the ground for a good five minutes whaling on him and talking shit. Hundreds of people are out and some starting recording with their smartphones. She finally lets him up and it’s a whole attitude change.

He’s laughing and hugging her, shit was hilarious. She kept it gangsta.

Girlfriend and half the group stuffed him into an Uber and left. The remaining group asked if they can come back in and hang out and I’m like, “absolutely!”

We all have that knucklehead friend. I told them if your girl ever needs a job, hit me up! That girl threw some cage match moves!