Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holy Hell at the Holland House

“Is that a pistol?” B asked in a concerned tone as his eyes darted away from the frenetic fun banter of our trio to the front of the Holland House. With my back to the door, my head pivoted to make sense of the question. It all unfolded quickly. At the threshold silently stood a stocky black man, dressed the part of an urban hood, his face obscured by pantyhose, with a blunt looking long-barreled revolver leveled at the head of several patrons seated at the bar. The front door swung open and a second, nastier, pantyhose helmed black hoodlum, taller, leaner, and meaner than his partner, burst in wielding a cruel looking short-barreled shotgun. It was clear that he was in charge. For a fraction of a split second, I wondered if this was not some fantastic theatrical act from a 1970s vigilante film being orchestrated for the amusement of the patrons. The thugs were perfect replicas of those immortalized by Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood films in the 70s and 80s. Only there was no Harry Callahan to dispense the much-needed swift justice with his famous .44 magnum. There merriment of our earlier discussion quickly dissolved as the gravity of a new and hostile situation quickly materialized. Was this really happening?

The taller hood worked his way around the room, waving his squat shotgun in the faces of patrons, while screaming at them to get on the floor. There was an inhumane edge in his cold ghetto voice. The expletive laced threats were no joke for this one. He was no specter from the darkest depths of my imagination. Having surrendered any shard of humanity long ago, this hoodlum represented a chaotic destructive soulless force that one hopes to never encounter. The cruelness and loads of crazy were evident. (What kind of reasonable criminals target an establishment that processes most transactions with credit/debit cards and is not a cash heavy operation, has between 30-35 patrons of unknown background –Tennessee has very favorable conceal and carry laws, plus, with an establishment that serves booze, how many heroes lurk in the crowd – there is also a bar, wait, and kitchen staff spread across three or four rooms in an oddly shaped building? Too many unknown variables in this equation as far as I am concerned for sound criminal decision making, but then again that’s not my bag.) All control and power over my destiny was briefly ceded to this sub-human criminal scum. The socially lubricating effect of the three stiff cocktails I consumed were quickly negated by the adrenaline that coursed through my system. Face down on the floor, listening the cacophony of footsteps, expletives, threats, and demands for all the money were drowned out by the violently shaking of my left-hand and the turbo thumping of my heart as it beat faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings. I could feel my jugular pulse against the collar of my shirt. As the threats became more extreme, I actually wondered if this was the end of line for me. Was my passport of life about to stamped for the last time as a blast from some remorseless hoods gun ended it all? So many ambitions to realize, hatchets to bury, scores to settle, friends to laugh with, girls to love, and challenges to conquer remained. Nascent memories from my earliest years, random life moments never before recalled in detail, to cherished events all flashed in rapid sequence like frames on a film reel across my mind. If a shot reported, was I to bolt up and hurl my highball at the nearest thug, grab a piece of silverware and do what I could? I began to calculate all outcomes as best I could.

Just as quickly as it unfolded, it all ended. These thuggish specters were gone. Frayed nerves and rattled sensibilities lingered, but no physical harm came to any patrons. My left hand still shook with an epileptic violence new to my body. We were all speechless. I had done my best to capture physical details to report to the police, but I began to question how I conducted myself and what this bizarre and unpleasant sequence meant. It sounds stupid, but you never think you are the one in the ugly situation. Those are only news stories and other people are victims, not you.

Rage, fear, and resentment on levels I did not know I possessed all surfaced. It is a crippling blend of emotion that leaves one shaken to some sort of untapped core. There is also a gratitude that you walk away drawing breath. Life is precious.

The genesis of the evening occurred at the gym earlier in the afternoon. Word of mouth reviews had raved about the Holland House as a hot new Nashville destination. Being in East Nashville (the wrong side of the tracks), the Holland House had an allure of the new and exotic to it, a bold venture to rival Nashville’s legendary artisan cocktail and drinking saloon, The Patterson House. It all started with the question posed to B, “How would you feel about an East Nashville adventure tonight?” I thought I was being funny. Words sometimes manifest in the strangest ways.

This memory is still fresh from last night. I registered just over an hour of sleep last night and my nerves are only now beginning to settle. It's good to be blogging today.

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