The Nashville Shitter
Working in Downtown Nashville, you meet a lot of characters. The streets are lined with bars blasting live music, and people come from all over to get in on the Honky-Tonk fun. I worked Downtown’s busy upper Broadway from 2012 to 2016. The story of The Nashville Shitter, since I was working at Layla’s Bluegrass at the time, would have happened around 2014. Let’s take a magical trip back to a simpler time. The year when Pharell wore that ridiculous hat. The year when every child in the country would not Let it Go. And my personal fave, the year when gay people could finally get legally married. Barack O’bama was president, Nashville was booming (but not so hard that it sucked) and life was gravy. But this is not a story about gravy. This is a story about poop.
There is a hierarchy of bars in Nashville. There’s the Gulch and Midtown and East Nashville bars, all of those are really on the same tier. They’re neighborhood bars. They’re tough to get into (as a bartender, not as a patron), the money is really good, and they lack the cheesy, touristy factor of the downtown bars. There’s Downtown 2nd street bars, those are kind of ratchet and have more of a nightclub vibe instead of the old, honky-tonk vibe. You can still make good money there, but there are slow nights and the off season is a struggle. The downtown bars on upper Broadway, though, ARE MONEY. I’m talking expensive call girl money. I am not joking when I tell you that at the height of my bar career on Upper Broadway I sometimes, albeit not often, made well over $1,000. On my best nights I made more than 2. I know. Opening beers. It’s ridiculous.
(Photo by Jason Levkulich)
Because the money is so good, it’s very competitive. Also, with the good shifts, you have to accept the bad. Most bartenders awarded Friday and Saturday nights also have to take some crap day shift. When I was hired at Layla’s, my crappy day shift was on Wednesdays.
Layla’s was really funny during the day because we offered $1 PBRs. This means that we got a lot of homeless regulars. More often than not, my Wednesday day shifts were five or six toothless bums, grumbling weird things about marrying me over the bar, while a few tourists gawked at the scene. In the foreground Amanda Taylor and her momma Paula Jo played live country classics for us all.
I had a favorite homeless regular named Rocky. Rocky was the best. He would stand out front, barking to the passers by about how Layla’s had the best bartender in town. He’d yell about our ice cold PBRs and actually bring in a decent amount of business, all in exchange for two or three of said PBRs for himself. Rocky ran a coffee kiosk and sold the local homeless paper, the Contributor. Rocky cried when Amanda Taylor would sing Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton, and every time would make up a different tall tale to explain his tears. Oh yeah, Rocky lied a lot. He was always making up something crazy, but it only made him more lovable. One time, right after taking a shot of whiskey with me, Rocky told me he had just had a liver transplant only the night before. So yeah, Rocky lied about stuff. But that’s part of his charm. Oh did I mention he was a dead ringer for Charlie Manson? Seriously. Look.
On Wednesdays, I got off work at 6 and was replaced by Jason. Jason was tall and handsome with a Boston accent. He was no nonsense, but a nice guy, and had worked at Layla’s for years. I liked him. Jason seemed to enjoy his job at Laylas, but lately one thing had really been dragging him down: Jason kept having incidents with The Nashville Shitter.
The Nashville Shitter was a ghost, a legend, a real sick-o. He or she would sneak from bar to bar, smearing feces on barstools every few months. When Jason would come in to start his shift, he’d go red with fury when he realized there had been another poop attack.
“Someone smeared shit! Again! Fucking goddammit! What kind of animal!” He would yell, “Who did this? Someone had to see who did this,” he’d continue, frustrated with me. But I didn’t see anything. I really didn’t.
After three Shitter instances on my Wednesday shift, with Jason growing more and more furious with me, I knew I had to solve this. I had to find out who The Shitter was. I didn’t suspect any of my regulars, but they weren’t to be ignored. People can do crazy things, especially when they’re dealing with the trauma of homelessness and they’re on their 7th PBR.
First up was Rocky. I knew it wasn’t him, but Rocky might know something I didn’t. I inquired if he had seen anything suspicious, or heard of any other attacks.
“Oh yeah, Legends got hit, so did The Wheel, in fact, it was when Amanda was playing at the Wheel. I don’t know about Legends, but she plays there sometimes, too.” His voice was gruff and throaty.
“So maybe he’s following Amanda,” I said, rubbing my chin, “Very interesting.”
Next up was Cecil. Cecil was a short, pink little man with no front teeth who ran a shoe shine business on our front stoop. He’d sit out front with his box and his shoe polish and make a few bucks every morning.
“Cecil, you ever had to clean a shoe with shit on it?” I asked, leaning over the bar-top, toward him, “Like, not dog shit, like human shit.”
“What the fuck?!” Cecil looked shocked which was surprising because Cecil had a disgusting sense of humor. It seemed clear though that, no, Cecil hadn’t noticed any human poop on the shoes of his recent customers.
I asked Amanda if she had any particularly odd fans that she thought might be following her from bar to bar.
“Uhh, all of them?” Amanda was a smoking hot blonde and played all over Downtown. Point taken.
This was going nowhere.
“Excuse me, young lady,” I heard a deep voice behind me at the bar. I turned to see a tall man, with dark, late-Elvis badly-dyed black hair, sideburns and all.
“Hi there,” I recognized the man. I had waited on him a few times, but didn’t know his name.
“PBR me, ASAP,” he sat down at the bar, and put a single dollar bill on the bar. Eye. Roll.
I gave the man his beer and went back to talk to Rocky. We were chatting, going over the list of suspects, when the man started talking, to no one, loudly.
“You know that Taylor Swift really owes me a lot of thank-yous,” his booming voice was impossible to ignore, “I wrote every damn one of those hits she keeps crankin’ out and what appreciation do I get? Nothin’, that’s what.”
This guy was clearly drunk and crazier than hell. I egged him on.
“What a total bitch! Did she at least pay you for them?”
“She stole them. I coulda’ been rich and famous but here I am. Dollar beer and all,” he lamented.
I looked over to Rocky and made an ‘Are you getting this?’ face Rocky twirled his pointer finger around in a circle by his temple and mouthed ‘Crazy as Fuck’ my way.
“You ever hear a song that…that …well it just makes you wanna’ do somethin’ to someone?” The sideburned man asked, and yes, creepily.
I looked nervously at the man. He had one hand on the bar, wrapped around his beer. His other arm was tucked behind him and under his butt. He was sitting on his hand. This was weird, and given my current investigation, a cause for concern. Also, I was a little worried for Taylor Swift and her safety, due to the whole ‘do something’ comment.
Amanda Taylor ended her rendition of Dolly Parton’s 'I Will Always Love You' softly on stage and the band now burst into a lively rendition of 'Mama Tried' by Merle Haggard.
At this, the strange man sprung up from his seat to dance. It was then that I saw it, he’d had his hand down his pants while he was sitting on it. He pulled his hand out and started to dance like there was nothing strange going on at all.
“Rocky,” I whispered in the opposite direction, nodding my head toward the man, “Rocky!!” He looked up from his beer, “Rocky, I think that’s The Shitter!”
The man was dancing wildly, and every few moments would stop to touch his butt. Like, he’d pause and kind of wiggle, and press his hand into his crack, but over the pants. It was like he was trying to hold in a poop, literally, with his hand. He danced this way through the entire song, and by the end, both Rocky and I were convinced. We had found The Nashville Shitter and it was time to shut him down.
At the end of the song, The Shitter excused himself to use the men’s room. I turned to Rocky, still whispering.
“Rocky, that’s definitely him. You gotta’ go in there and stop him before he comes out and smears his shit on everything!”
“You got it, Toots,” Rocky said, polishing off the last of his free PBR and nodding his head, “I’ll gladly take care of this problem for one ice cold PBR.”
Rocky disappeared to the men’s room, and returned five minutes later with a huge grin on his face.
“You won’t need to worry about seeing The Nashville Shitter again,” he assured me as I cracked his beer.
“What did you say to him?” I asked.
“I just told him. I said, 'Lookit man. The bartender knows you’ve been smearing your shit all over the bar. She knows you’re The Nashville Shitter. She doesn’t want to make a scene but you’re fuckin’ banned from here on out, you understand me? Now finish up and don’t you even think about smearing your shit on anything on your way out.'” Rocky took a swig of his fresh PBR and smiled after gulping down the suds.
Just as Rocky finished his gulp, I heard the click of the backdoor opening. I turned quickly and caught a glimpse of The Shitter, fleeing from the men’s room and out to the alley. I ran over to the men’s bathroom and peeped inside. I scanned the walls and toilet seat with my eyes. No trace of any poop! We had successfully stopped The Nashville Shitter!
“Goddammit Rocky, you are the best,” I mixed up two fruity shots and passed one his way, “Cheers, babe. You earned it.”
6 o’clock rolled around and Jason came in as scheduled.
“Jason!” Rocky usually hated Jason because he wasn’t a cute chick and didn’t give him free beer, but today he was proud of himself.
“Hey Rocky,” Jason said without enthusiasm, approaching the staff entrance behind the bar.
I was busy counting down the cash in my register, but listened as Rocky told Jason the good news.
“We caught The Shitter today and we tossed his ass out! He’s gone, we caught the bastard!”
“Who was it? Wait, really? Did he shit on anything?” Jason started to look at the barstools lining the bar, the usual spot for the Shitter to strike.
“Nope, Auriane caught on to him early on account of him diggin' all in his butt on the dance floor. And I kicked his ass out. Told him ‘you better not shit on this bar no more you sick son of a bitch.’ So, You’re welcome,” Rocky said, beer suds in his moustache.
“Then what the fuck is this?” Jason asked, his skin reddening, “There's fuckin' shit all over this!” He pointed at the stool where the Shitter had sat. There was a large smear of poop around the side of the stool.
Rocky looked over to see. I just kept counting money, trying not to bust out laughing at the sheer insanity of it all.
“Well I'll be goddamned, that slick Shitter…but hey, at least we caught we caught the bastard,” Rocky said in his gravelly voice, “And The Nashville Shitter won’t be shittin’ at Layla’s no more.“
P.S. Rocky if you're reading I love ya, buddy! Miss you!