In Defense of Slurs

[Note: This article was originally posted on 30 JUN 2015 at www.louisewise.blogspot.com.]

I love slurs. A good slur is a poetic combination of the right consonants, choice syllables and a strong dose of bad-intentioned meaning.  Is there a better way to succinctly sum up your derisive opinion of another person than to call her or, especially him, a “cunt?” (Which reminds me of the Ricky Gervais quote, “There are only two times you can use ‘cunt.’ When you totally mean it and when you totally don’t.”)

Look, I’m not trying to coarsen up society; I’m not making the case that we should bandy “cunts” about needlessly.  Slurs aren’t for everyday conversation in polite society.  But they should be the weapons of choice when a social interaction turns savagely impolite.  (And, as weapons go, verbal ones are far preferable to physical ones, don’t’cha think?) Let’s be clear, the power of a good slur is the rarity and precision of its use.  In those relatively rare moments when we want to offend, the slur is our rhetorical right cross, our semantic stun grenade, our verbal nuke.

Sadly – and even dangerously — the slur is in danger of being drummed out of society.

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Buzzkill

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

The night had started out all right. Dear Penthouse Forum…

There were four of them and they were in love with me. Giggly, shiny twentysomethings in makeup and miniskirts who noticed me the second they got onto the rooftop.

“Oh, he’s cute!”

“What’s your name?”

“If only I was single!”

“You know, she’s single…”

At midnight, they made it back over to me.

“Seriously, do you have a girlfriend?”

“Married?”

“Gay?”

“Because she just got divorced.”

The divorcee was blushing at me. Her straight brown hair ran to her shoulders. A toned body in a playful halter top.

“Come on, introduce yourself!” The girls giggled to her.

“I’m Kerry,” she extended her hand.

I grinned. I was in love with anyone that was in love with me.

“Oh my God!” The girls squealed. “You know she’s staying in the hotel!”

“You are?”

So, that’s how we ended up at her hotel door after hours.

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The Death of a Civilian

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

He was about 6’2 and 220 pounds. “When you step out of this bus, you will see two yellow lines.” He spoke quietly but each word out of his mouth was precise. “Regular Army, line up to the left. National Guard, between the yellow lines. Reserves to the right.” He paused, giving the graveyard-quiet bus a chance to study his Drill Sergeant hat a moment longer.

“Go.” His voice broke the silence like a whip.

I sprang to my feet, slinging my backpack over my shoulder and wedged my way into the line of scruffy dudes shuffling down the bus aisle. I stepped off the bus and saw the lines forming up in front of me. I jogged to the middle line and took a self-satisfied breath of Oklahoma air. I was the first in line. For the National Guard.

Oh shit. I was in the wrong line.

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Semper Fight

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

The summer with its heat and partying and overtime was over. Now the days were cooler and the nights were cold. The Santa Ana winds wracked the city. And Sylvester hired Craig.

Craig had just left the Marine Corps and was an aspiring bodybuilder. I don’t know what gods he pissed off or when. But it was a good thing I had become numb to fighting. Because the moment Craig got hired, we got a whole lot more of it.

I’d just ambled up to the Purple Room door to start my shift when I felt the buzz of the radio in my palm. I pressed the receiver against my ear just in time to hear, “Lounge! Lounge!”

I freight-trained into the lounge, running low, uprooting people, leaving spilled drinks and startled curses in my wake.

I spotted the trouble instantly. Waves of fear and adrenaline rippled out from the far corner of the lounge. People scurried to the perimeter. Space opened around the fight. This wasn’t going to be a grab-and-toss. This was going to be a goddamn pay-per-view. My face tightened and my neck turned to steel and I was ready to brawl. Now…who the hell is who?

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The Craft

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

The longer I stayed in Hollywood, the more I understood what it meant to be a cowboy.   I wouldn’t get (and didn’t deserve) the same respect as cops or soldiers. But there were two things — one skill and one trait — that bouncers relied on more than other Sheepdogs.   The skill? Rapport-building. The trait? Presence.

Cops, for example, can build rapport well and — individually or collectively — exert a strong presence.   But cops also have badges and tasers and batons and guns. The general public tends to think twice before swinging on a cop.

Not so, with us.

The only thing stopping someone from taking a poke at us was our personal presence. Presence. That acquired aura you project, no matter how drunk, angry, big, strong, high or dangerous that cat in front of you is. That seed of doubt sprouting up in the loudmouth’s mind. That speed bump in homeboy’s brain, slowing him down, making him ask himself if it’s worth it.

Look, I’m not a big dude. I don’t have mountainous delts or hammer-sized biceps. And I don’t have a scary face. No broken nose or cauliflower ears. There were people I could physically intimidate. But not many.

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The Soft Landing, Part II

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA. You can read Part I here.

One block away, I entered the large glass doors of The Standard Downtown.

It was no dive bar.

Their legs shimmering and their skirts playfully hugging their thighs, models strolled across the slick, brightly-lit, marble lobby.  Cameramen and lighting riggers, PA’s and grips scrambled around the lobby, shouting and gesturing.

“Sorry,” the front desk attendant smiled at me. “They’re using our lobby for a Dockers commercial today.”

Hey, I didn’t mind. “I’m supposed to interview for a Guest Relations job.”

Forty-five minutes later, a tall, gangly, black man strode towards me. He stared at me from behind black-rimmed glasses. His voice was quiet but firm. “Christopher Meyer?”

“Chris is fine.”

“I’m George McKenzie. I’m the Guest Relations Manager.”

I followed George up an escalator to a plush mezzanine area with subdued lighting. George took a long minute, studying my resume. I acted like I didn’t care. I gazed vacantly at the escalator, watching the parade of bodies step off the moving stairway and veer towards what was labeled the “Rooftop Elevator.” There were nine-to-fivers in khakis and Polo shirts. There were packs of Armenians, their gold chains, 8 o’clock shadow and swagger outpacing their blazers and t-shirts. There were Silverlake-type hipsters, with po’ boy caps, vintage shirts and tight jeans. There were black dudes in FuBu and meatheads in TapOut. In a city as self-segregated as LA, this seemed to be one of the few spots where you could find all 31 flavors of the city.

George finally looked up from my resume. “Why do you think we’re called Guest Relations?”

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The Soft Landing, Part I

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

I spent most days at the internet cafe on Sunset and La Brea where I’d try to find an unoccupied seat among the transients, the trannies and the Goths. It felt like a lot more than three miles away from Century City. This was where LA’s sun-kissed face turned into a snarl. I ignored the whispered propositions, the silent stares and the paranoid glances so I could troll for gigs on Craigslist. Maybe an art gallery on Wilshire needed a bathroom attendant for its next show. Or ABC Family Channel was hiring twenty-somethings to walk around the Beverly Center mall in costumes. There might be a guy paying $120 for someone to drive a limo for him and his friends on New Year’s Eve. Every few days I would find something to keep the wolf from the door for one more week.

After my latest gig, I was crammed next to a crew of starry-eyed, aspiring-somethings around a deli counter on Ventura Blvd. They were actors, comedians, singers, still scrambling optimistically for agents and auditions and big breaks.

I, on the other hand, was Icarus falling, flailing for anything to slow my plummet. In other words, I really needed a steady job.

The blonde at the other end of the counter was mid-paragraph into some long ramble I had stopped caring about minutes ago. “We really need people at my job. They’re getting desperate.”

I tried to remember what kind of job she had said she had. Waitress? No, bartender. At a nightclub. “What kinda jobs?” I asked like I had been listening all along.

“Do you do security?”

I did now. “Hell yeah.”

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Eating Leather

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

“My name is Marcus.” He was a swarthy Brazilian. A fourth-degree black belt with a creased and worn face that looked like it was doused in neatsfoot oil to keep it from cracking. His black eyes were already sizing me up. He stuck out his hand, “You are a professional, no?”

Hey, if he thought so, that was good enough for me. I nodded. “I’m a bail enforcement agent.” It wasn’t a total lie. Just trying to be one was the closest thing I had to a job.

“Then you come five times a week.” He didn’t ask me, he told me.

I shrugged. “How much is it?”

“$450.”

I nodded because it was a better reaction than letting my jaw hit the floor. “A month?”

He nodded. “You need gloves? Shin guards? Cup?” He pointed at the gear littering the countertop.

Yeah, I did.

“I give it to you free.” He bumped my fist. “Because you are professional.”

Lucky me.

He wasn’t done with me yet. “Muay Thai starts in five minutes.”

I stole glances at the guys sitting around me as I wrapped my hands. There weren’t a lot of flyweights here. And even the smaller guys were big. Either their muscles, their bones or their personalities. I smiled at a few of them. Grinned at their jokes. Exchanged nods. That was about all I could do. None of them spoke English. It was a United Nations of brawlers. There were a lot of Brazilians; there were a few Russians. Turks, Africans, Japanese. I noticed that several of them ducked in and out of the back rooms. These guys lived here. I just hoped I wouldn’t die here.

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The Vampire Life, Part II

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA. You can read Part I here.

It was another hour of dealing with small dramas before I emerged from the dark dance floor and returned to the door. The good news was the door had quieted down. Completely.

“What happened to everybody?”

Ivana didn’t look up from her Blackberry. “I’m not letting anyone else in,” she sniffed. I wasn’t complaining: Fabian’s people were all inside; both the club and the restaurant were slammed; Freddy and I had our hands full, so we didn’t need any extra tinder.   And I got paid the same no matter how many people were inside.

I peeked down the small corridor that connected the club to the hotel’s restaurant. Two couples waited in the corner. I smiled to myself — so that’s why Ivana was being a bitch. There were still some people who didn’t want to take “no” for an answer. I decided to play along.

“So we’re done for the night?” I said it loudly for the couples’ benefit.

I unhooked the rope and stepped into the corridor. One of the men approached me. He was a twenty-something muscular Hispanic dude. His eyes were slightly bloodshot. “Can we get in?”

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The Vampire Life, Part I

Note: The following is adapted from a chapter of Christopher Paul Meyer’s memoir, Icarus Falling: A True Story About the Broken Dreams, Broken Heart and Broken Bones of a Nightclub Bouncer in LA.

I was bleeding. I felt light-headed and slightly nauseous. But, standing on the hard plastic tiles of my kitchen and staring into my studio bedroom, I had to smile: there’s nothing like coming home at the end of a rough night to find a lithe, blonde girl sleeping naked in your bed. As experiences go, it really doesn’t suck.

I was glad she wasn’t going anywhere, because I wasn’t getting in bed just yet. It was a ritual of mine to take a long shower after work. I needed to decontaminate myself, wash off the spit and liquor and venom before it touched anything in my apartment, anything I cared about. And this morning, I had more washing to do than normal.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and unwrapped the bandage from my head. I should have looked a lot worse. My almost shoulder-length hair was matted against my forehead. My face was more pale than normal. My eyes were still a little spaced out. I flecked dried blood from my stubble.

“Come here.” Her eyes closed, she patted the bed.

“Lemme shower first.”

“What took you so long?” She mumbled sleepily.

“Just got out of the hospital, babe.”

That opened her eyes. She didn’t like what she saw: the stitches on my head, the hospital wristband. She began to tear up. “I knew something bad happened.”

I had to laugh. She could afford to treat this seriously. I couldn’t.

“Don’t laugh.” She pouted.

“Go back to sleep. I’ll be out in a minute.”

So, of course, she got up and began examining me. “What happened?”

I’d moved to Los Angeles, that’s what had happened. And I’d gotten just what I signed up for.

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