A great number of attempts exist to capture the story of Nickel and the days of William St. I hold a bead on this also, but will for the first time, properly compile the story of these events, as they occurred correctly, from the start.
During the days of the William St. Strip there was the Brooklyn Supreme bar, the degenerate center of the strip, and the tragically drunk youth saw this and struck there and drown themselves into the next generation.
And everyone knew the names of the scenic wrecks: Lil Sally, Johnny James, JB, Nicole, Josephine, Mikey, Sarah, Geraldine, Josephine and Nickel. Then it happened on a certain day that Nicole asked Josephine if she wanted to hit the Supreme and Josephine in turn asked Nickel to come along. And though no one knew or cared that Nickel was there, and though Nicole and Josephine did most of the talking Nickel saw in his silence that this was a good bar, even at that late hour.
As it came to pass Nickel had a dream that night and when he woke he described this dream to Josephine, “Last night I had a dream again of a man standing beside his truck in the foothills of the Rockies, at a station pumping gas. In fact, I’m certain that I saw this actual scene once when I was out west. And each time I dream it, the mountains are silhouette grey at exactly the same angle and at the same distance. And though I find it hard to describe, the dream does fill me with the same spirit or feeling each time: in the sense that this has me full of trouble and I feel something is out of place or a profound disconnection of some kind has occurred and that something is at least lacking. And the mood then passes.”
Nickel then said to Josephine, “Perhaps this just needs to be rolled or kicked. I think I’m going to return to the Supreme and have a drink this afternoon. I like that bar.” And Josephine heard this declaration and answered by nodding.
And as soon as it was afternoon the next day Nickel arrived at the Supreme, earlier than the rest of the drunks. And it fortuned that Sadie was behind the bar — Sadie, the owner of the Supreme — which collected Nickel into the heart of the William St and the Supreme itself. Then again the next afternoon and compulsively now Nickel returned to the bar of the Supreme and in the company of these drinkers and degenerates rolled and they together got loaded. This behaviour reinforced by Sadie’s need and pull and the culture of instinct that idled at the Supreme. And it came to pass that there grew a fame of the Supreme and its people through the William St strip and to some extent around the city also.
And it became known that Nickel would arrive at the Supreme most days in the afternoon and sit and champion until dusk.
In the right hands the early effects of alcohol on the body are subtle and culturally significant: when the first thought that spills out of the drunks without control are better thoughts and the confidence results in new kindness and creation. And it fortuned that a pocket of the weak willed stumbled onto this secret and Nickel found the civility of this solution also. And so he found also a response to his anxiety, the source of his re-occuring dream, and hovered and sparked, drinking and carrying on.
And yet some that were in the Supreme heard Nickel and were filled with astonishment and cast him long looks, or turned their backs to him. And they asked him loudly, “Why are you still here?” Their chagrin born because they were wary of new drinkers or they were just angry drunks and uncomfortable talkers. And Nickel rebuked them saying like he did once, “Go fuck yourself Butter Bill.” And satisfied, Butter Bill turned and finished his drink and Nickel was satisfied also. And the degenerate generation stayed loaded and received their lonesome crookedness and were pleased with themselves.
But the burden of drinking is well known and Nickel’s compulsion to respond to each afternoon by training his barstool did test his health. So that Sadie noticed that his stories would repeat and she said to Nickel, “But I’ve heard that one already. You told me that just an hour ago.” And this slip would roll the crowd. Then when Nickel saw his repetition and porous attention it angered him and he began to notice the randomness of his actions.
And it came to pass that Nickel’s corroded attention corrupted his responses and he became surly and unkind. When Josephine saw this she asked him, “Nickel do you think you may be drinking too much? When we started your afternoon would end at seven or eight and now you hold on much longer. You were once the sun burning and rising but have changed into a limp muddler.” And Nickel heard this and looked at Josephine and did not respond.
And he returned to the Supreme the next day. And Sadie seeing that he had arrived poured his pint without asking since compulsion is reinforced by routine. Then it came to pass that Nickel drank enough for himself and several others. Then Johnny James said, “Let’s all go and see My Daughter’s Surprise at the Pretty Fool.” And Nickel nodded and they all cheered and rambled down the strip.
There is an eventual burden to this solution. The initial effects of alcohol become overwhelmed by confused reflexes and mistakes of judgement become more likely. And as he entered the Pretty Fool where the band is corralled by the door, it chanced that a harmonica was on the floor and so as he stepped he saw this and adjusted his lead foot in a way that left him leaning. He then fell quickly toward the plate glass window of the bar’s front and grabbed a microphone stand on his way down. Then falling with the stand and the live microphone he split the window into pieces with his weight, and the speakers resonated this collision so that everybody heard the loud collapse as he crashed and Nickel landed face-up to the night sky outside, while his feet stayed inside planted with the harmonicas in the bar, his back stretched over the sharp edge of the remaining glass, and the final piece to fall remained in the frame above his neck like a guillotine. The alcoholic youth shouted, “Call 911!” And, “Jesus, Nickel are you OK?” Then they carefully eased him up off and back into the bar but he was not hurt. And Johnny James and JB helped Nickel into a cab and they decided it would be best if they had one more drink at the Supreme.
And when he left the cab they walked right back into the Supreme. And though it was now late Nickel ordered a whiskey and sat on the sofa instead of at the bar and quietly passed out, as he leaned slowly forward, until his face pressed into the armrest. And the bartenders saw this and because they were closing soon, and just wanted to leave, they considered what would happen if they locked the door and left Nickel alone. But they asked Johnny James and JB to carry him home. And he left the bar on his side, in their arms. JB managed to lift his legs at the knees and Johnny James raised him by the shoulders. And as they travelled their burden down the street to Josephine, his arms dangled, his waist slumped lower and his head rolled. All of this making their duty awkward as he wallowed.
And after nearly two months Nickel finally returned to the bar and he declared to Sadie, “This place is like no other and knows everything that paradise knows.” Then Sadie answered and said, “It’s good to see you. We miss you around here.” And Nickel once more proclaimed his love for the Supreme and was rarely seen there again.