Brooke Goes to the City

All right, you guys. After 36 hours in New Orleans, here are the current stats:

Apartment- 1
Brooke- 0

Hair- 1
Brooke- 0

Heat- 1
Brooke- 0

Streetcar- 0
Brooke- 1

Navigating- 0
Brooke- 1

As you can see, the city is winning by about 1.

We arrived yesterday (Saturday) at 10:30 in the morning. When I first saw the skyline from I-10, I went back and forth between hyperventilation and something like optimism, only less optimistic. There might have been just a few seconds of excitement, but I was trying to regulate the breathing.

I checked into the apartment building, got my key, and ran (literally) around the entire third floor until I found my room. I smiled and clapped and jumped and then took a deep breath and tried to turn the key. The key wouldn’t turn.

I tried the next door and the next door, and then I made Sprinky try. We tried about 16 more times before I went back down and told the desk lady. Of course the desk lady had to come up and try herself. She did the same thing I did—put her ear against the surrounding doors and tried them all for good measure. Then she shrugged and said the manager was gone until Monday. She also said the on-call person, who has the master key, was off. I was wondering how an on-call person could be off, since that’s sort of the point of being on-call, but whatev. There was no key. She told me that someone would be back at 4 and could let me into a temporary apartment until they could get a locksmith out on Monday to open the right one.

If you know me, you know this sort of thing is always happening to me. You can be sure it gets worse.

Since my dad had to get back to Indy, we had no choice but to unload the cars—right there in the lobby. I was immediately extra self-conscious of every single personal belonging, like the little miniature lamp that I thought was so cute until I saw my dad carrying it through the reception area, also the magazine rack. And the crate of mismatched pots and pans. I didn’t see anyone else bringing in pots or pans. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see anyone with anything. Everyone I saw showed up with about 4 giant duffle bags. And here I am carrying in photo albums and little square wicker baskets and three tubs of hair products. Don’t even get me started on the 7-foot cardboard cut-out of Sarah Jessica Parker.

The desk lady opened a storage closet for us to “store our luggage”. I think she got mad when I started carrying in things like TVs and clothes. But what could we do? My first home in NOLA was a storage closet.

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Once everything was in, we killed 5 hours in the heat of midday with shrimp that set my mouth on fire and beer. We also saw the giant oil spill, walked up and down the river and Decatur street, went to the uptown campus and garden district. But it was about a thousand degrees by three o’clock and we couldn’t take it anymore. We went back to the dorm to sit against the wall in the reception area are stare at the lady so she wouldn’t forget to call for my temporary room. Our luck, the desk lady said the manager had come back with the real key.

Cleaning up the oil spill

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Firey cajun shrimps

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We brought two loads of stuff up to the 3rd floor. The manager unlocked the apartment, which turned out to be a teeny little studio, and found that the air conditioner had frozen and then melted and then molded all over the floor. She said they would have to clean it over the weekend and I could check back Monday. She said for $50 more I could have a one-bedroom, but she couldn’t guarantee a good view. I asked if I could have it right then. She told me to come to the office on Monday.

Cripes.

The manager eventually let us in to a two-bedroom apartment for the weekend. At this point, my dad was at the bottom floor with everything in the storage closet, Sprinky was on the third floor with the stuff sitting outside the bad apartment, and Kathy was with everything else in the new temporary apartment on the second floor. All of us were running back and forth between the three floors trying to move things and keep an eye on them at the same time.

My second home in NOLA

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In the chaos, my dad and Sprinky met a girl sitting in the lobby waiting for her room, and guess where she was from? No, really, guess. Just try. Okay I’ll tell you. Fort Wayne! When they came upstairs and told me, I went back down to meet her, and from the 30 seconds we talked, I decided she was everything I wanted in a first friend. But I was too shy to ask for her room number. Plus, she didn’t have a room yet. These types of things are so awkward. Next time.

My dad left around dinner time, and Sprinky and I, too tired to find food, shared a bag of kettle corn and granola bars and watched cable until we fell asleep.

Today we woke up early with a list of things to explore and find. On the top of the list was Target, Starbucks and Taco Bell. On the bottom of the list were just boring old things like the Social Work buildings and Finaincial Aid offices.

I also really wanted to figure out streetcars. You’d think it would be easy—just pick what direction you want to go and sit in the little hut till it gets there. But no. Three streetcars passed us by until a lady selling swamp tours across the street finally told me that when you see it coming, you have to go to the other side and stand next to these little white spray painted numbers, and then they’ll stop. What the? I spread the word all day and tourists thanked me like I was a local. I told them I just moved here yesterday. Turns out, streetcars have been declared moving national historic landmarks and have been running along St. Charles Avenue for over 165 years.

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Thank GOD everywhere else I went people were friendly. One lady at a tour guide hut told me everything I needed to know, and you better believe the next time I need to figure anything out I’m going straight back to her little hut.

Once she found out my situation and how city dumb I was, she opened a map with pride and told me where to go, what to see, where not to go, where the projects are, where the good jazz is, where to catch the street cars, where the routes ended, etc.

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She told us that Canal Street is the middle of city and that all the streets change names there because one side used to be a Creole neighborhood, and the other used to be a French neighborhood or something. So the street numbers all start at 0 and fan out on either side.

She also told us not to wait in line at Café du Monde, but to slip around to the other side and seat ourselves. She said most people don’t know there is a second entrance and that tables are first come, first serve. Sprinky and I walked past a line that would have take 30 minutes and sat right down. It was local-riffic.

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After the delicious beignets, we caught the St. Charles car to the uptown campus and found all the Social Work buildings and the bookstore (which is a Barnes and Nobles!) and, most importantly, the food court. We cooled off in the cafeteria louge, which had freestanding water walls and a marble bathroom. It was such a stark difference from Taylor, I took pictures. People laughed at me. And by people, I mean Sprinky.

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We walked forEVER around that campus and toured the rec center, the park and the pool, located a Starbucks, a future Borders and a Whole Foods, and then went up to Metiarie and discovered New Orleans’ little Castelton. There were two malls, bookstores, and all my favorite fast food joints. Plus—here’s the kicker—I did it all without my trusty Navigon. I left poor little Navi in my dad’s car, which, but the time I realized it, was already in Birmingham. This week was the sole reason I purchased Navi—to help navigate my way around the city. I was stuck using old-fashioned maps and internet. Obviously we found our way…

Right to Target! The biggest best Target ever, with 22 rows of clearance racks in the Women’s section alone. Did you hear me? Twenty-TWO clearance racks. Plus, wait for it…wait for it…an escalator with a cart rack in the middle! I felt like I was in my own children’s book called Brooke Goes to the City.

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Tomorrow I should (hopefully) get my real apartment and my ID.
Tuesday, who knows.
Wednesday, Sprinky leaves ☹.

20 hours of alone time

Hi, I’m Brooke.
I used to live a relatively stress free life with lots of fun and a part-time job and no kids.

Then last week hit, and I had this epic adventure where the conflict was not, like, dragons or slaying or finding love, but babysitting a ten-year-old whose mom was flying standby and kept getting bumped and bumped and bumped for days.

My little miniature obstacles were things like death defying field trips to the Eagle Marsh—which is a never ending expanse of grassland with pockets of deep mud and murky water along the 102 exit on I69—dragging along a troupe of 7-year-olds in the 90 degree heat behind Miss Nancy, the Ultimate Journey lady, who loves this type of thing. Miss Nancy forged the way, while I jumped around because a spiky caterpillar was on my shirt and a mouse ran over my shoe. The kids were poking along saying things like: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

I should have said something like, “Well, sugar, it’s almost over. We’ll get a nice long drink. Just keep going. One more step.” But instead, I was like, “I know. I hate this field trip too. How about if one of you guys pretends to faint?”
Then there was the Old Fort—which might seem like a fun trip, but it was with that same poor group of 7 year-olds who I had to beg and bribe and convince to come, with the promise of playing in the Headwaters Fountains at the end. Of course that day the Fountains were closed, and all heard was: I hate this field trip. I want to go home. I’m hot.

You can be sure that anytime I show up with the van these days, kids run screaming and crying from the Club.

And, finally, there was the zoo—wherein a bird shit on my head. I had to take all the girls with me to the bathroom to wash my hair. I kept saying over and over that I was going to sue the zoo, which I thought was hilarious (get it? Sue the zoo—it rhymes). I just kept laughing and saying it and laughing and saying it, and none of the girls were laughing, which was so strange seeing as how I am so hilarious, but then I turned around. A zoo lady was behind me waiting to wash her hands. I had to tell her that I wasn’t really going to sue the zoo, but that it just rhymed and all.

Other hardships included occupying the 10 year-old while trying to video conference a Belize meeting in Indianapolis from a coffee shop in Fort Wayne, fighting the dog-and-cat-allergies in a dog-and-cat-house, plus an extra high mold and ragweed count, and warding off an especially annoying encore of shingles, which felt—and this was horrifying for me—like spiders were crawling across my stomach at all times. We also had to defend ourselves against the bathtub in my apartment. Apparently, you have to clean those things. Poor Elaine came to visit and was forced to stand on a tiny little washcloth in the shower so that the tub didn’t eat her alive.

I usually keep a clean apartment. And by usually, I mean 40% clean, 40% of the time. But this month—well, this summer—has been unusually filthy thanks to the chaos of moving. It took $25 worth of cleaning materials and an hour-and-a-half of hardcore scrubbing to get this tiny little bathroom sparkly—the magic eraser shower and tub cleaner gets a gold star.

I gave the ten-year-old a $10 bill and a dairy queen blizzard for her bravery in the face of black mold, and we both learned a lesson. Her lesson, she said, is never to let her bathroom get like this when she goes to college. God bless her for still thinking I am in college. My lesson is that all of us are just too old and too messy to be living together. No one wants to clean up anyone else’s anything. I guess marriage is out.

Finally, the height of action here- the beginning of the end- was running a red light at State and Coliseum ten seconds after finding out the kid’s mom wasn’t coming home for another 36 hours. It was one of those miserable moments where I just thought I could not possibly handle one more thing. The lane next to me had a green arrow, which I mistook for a green light and pulled out. I realized in the middle of the intersection that I was the only one going.
I stopped cold and held my hand out to the scared old man and lady in the turn lane and mouthed, “I’M SORRY. I’M REALLY SORRY!” Then I looked around, totally embarrassed, and crept through the intersection to the other side where I could pull over. Immediately two police tried to pull me over. But I was already pulled over. Fort Wayne cops are just like that. I tried not to cry, but I really believed that I might die of babysitting and sinus pressure. I didn’t have any money left to feed me or the 10 year-old dinner, and everything else I was stressed about somehow made its way to the rim of my eyes and I just laid my head on the steering wheel and looked at Elaine.
“Don’t do it,” she said. “Be strong.”
I quivered and sniffled and swallowed hard.After taking my license and registration to the squad car, the police lady came back to my window and said. “Are you stressed out?”
I said, “Yeah.”
She held my license and registration behind her back and said, “Why?”
Elaine gave me the eye and I didn’t want to scare the kid.

I said in my best strong and shaky voice, “Um, well, it’s just been a long day.”
“I’m going to give you a verbal warning for this,” she said. “You have an excellent driving record.” Thank God.I gave the kid back on Monday at midnight, then had another 12 kids plus the original one all day yesterday at the zoo. One kid accidentally rammed his foot-high soft serve ice cream cone into my elbow.

Today I called in and was like, you guys? I’m taking the day off. I need about 20 hours of alone time, some coffee and a nap.

It has been a spectacular 20 hours.