139 in New Orleans

Sigh. Last night at like 2 in the morning, I woke up to a lady screaming outside my window. I was totally disoriented and couldn’t figure out if I was night hallucinating or if I’d just had a bad dream, until I heard the lady scream again, then yell—I mean, like, yell, scared and desperate lose-your-voice kind of yell, HELP! She yelled again, long and whimpery and hoarse, and I sat up in this weird paralyzed terror. I listened to her scream again and then heard a car drive away. I thought I might throw up. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat in my bed in the dark. Yes, I realize normal people would have run to the window, grabbed the cell and filed a report. But I was too afraid to look out my window.

When I finally snapped to it and peeked out the window, the street was empty, and leaves were swirling around in the middle of the street where the car must have pulled away, presumably with the lady in it. I could hear the lady screaming in the distance farther and farther away.

I never called 911. I don’t know why—maybe, I think, because I could imagine them saying: where? What did she look like? What did the car look like? Why didn’t you call right away? And I just didn’t know any of those answers. The longer I waited, the more stupid and irresponsible and guilty I felt for not looking and then for not calling right away. I just stared out onto dark, creepy Jackson Avenue, and the saddest, angriest feeling of hatred for this city came over me. I just wanted to pack up all my stuff and go back to Indiana. Like they don’t have abductions, rapes, murders, etc. there…

I love this city, and I have this beautiful view of the skyline, and the front of my building sits right on Saint Charles with the streetcar line and parades and everything. But outside my window, six floors down is Jackson Ave. I started to wonder about Jackson when I first moved here and people kept asking me where I lived, and I’d tell them, and they’d say, ‘Oh, Crack Corner? Just don’t park on the lakeside of St. Charles and you’ll be fine…’ or, “Isn’t that the triangle of death?” Yes. In fact, it is.

I’ve seen a thousand million drug busts and arrests and roll calls out that window, most of them at like 6pm, with a beautiful sunset and skyline view behind the cop car lights, and safety is a daily discussion in class, but I just felt unaffected. Until this lady’s screams came into my window.

So I turned on all my lights, the TV, my music, watched videos of my baby niece, Lily, for 2 hours and took an Ambien. I had to wake up 3 hours later to work this family therapy conference in the quarter—and my body was still on Ambien, I think, until noon. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that lady, and I couldn’t stop wondering if she was safe, and I couldn’t stop asking: what if that had been me and people heard me screaming for help but didn’t do anything?

Anyway. I’ve been telling myself that if I heard her, other people heard her too, and one of those people probably called, right? We looked up the crime stats for last night—3 murders in 3 hours, no women.

At noon today I got caught in a downpour and went home to sleep. I woke up 3 hours later in a gloomy haze. It was a beautiful night with a beautiful sunset and I couldn’t even bring myself to look outside or acknowledge Jackson Ave out my window, which is so unhealthy—as if me and that street and, consequently, this city are in some kind of irreparable fight. It was so strong a feeling of withdrawal and isolation that I forced myself to get up and seek out all the places in this city where I know beauty exists. I went to Audubon Park, I went to the fly, and I went to the lake. I ran and jogged and walked until I couldn’t take another step, and then I cried for a long time. I felt like God didn’t exist here last night, and that ugliness had taken over.

But it’s not true. Ugliness is everywhere. But so is truth and beauty. Are New Orleanians eating and laughing and enjoying things and generally being held together? Because if they are, then God is here. These things—truth and beauty—can’t exist here without Him.

I read this book. It was given to me by my Grandma, who’s friend’s granddaughter had self-published, called Charismatic City: My New York. She did a funny thing with Psalm 139, and I liked it. I claim it as a way of humanizing this amazing, ugly, beautiful, complex city:

139 in New Orleans

Lord, you have searched Crawfish Guy, and you know him.

You know when that avocado vendor sits and when that preacher on channel 79 who hangs out at the Daiquiri shop rises.

You perceive that pickle-tub drummer’s thoughts from afar.

You discern the blind, deaf guy outside my apartment’s going out and his lying down.

You are familiar with all the meter lady’s ways.

Before a word is on the hotdog man’s tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for this streetcar driver, too lofty for him to attain.

For you created those scary guys on the corner of Jackson and Carondelet’s inmost beings, you knit them together in their mother’s wombs.

I praise you because that little girl with the booty shorts is fearfully and wonderfully made. The man following her on his bike was not hidden from you when he was made in the secret place.

How precious are your thoughts about that homeless man under I-10, O God.

How vast is the sum of them! Were he to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When the super skinny lady on Louisiana Avenue awakes, you are still with her.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Amen.

Oh, and please let that lady be safe tonight.

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2008, we did the best we could.


January
Moved to Belize. *Carry-on bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. Attendant made me take out bulge on top, which happened to be a Ziploc gallon-sized bag of underwear. Held underwear on lap for duration of the flight.

Lived on an Iguana reserve. Learned how to do laundry with a hose. Experienced Belizean wedding and funeral in the same week. Set out to teach everything I knew about conflict resolution, drugs, and AIDS. Learned everything I know about love. Got accepted into grad school.

February Caught a parasite, hiked to the top of a ruin, swam in a cave, experienced my first Belizean election and confirmation. Fought a piñata. Lost.

March Overcame fear of spiders. Discovered a new love for choco-bananas. Played with a monkey. Met real Guatemalan Indians in Guatemala. Bought skirt from them. Watched the Ruta Maya river race. Said goodbye to the Caribbean. Understood that life would never be the same.

April Got a niece! Heart opened a little wider. Fell in love with her.
Turned 27. Panicked. Cut my own bangs.

May Got another step-family. Danced! Celebrated! Laughed!
First laid eyes on my new city, New Orleans. Stabbed my foot with a parking lot spike.

June Went back to work at Boys and Girls Club. Happy to find that I still loved the kids. Got shingles. Thought I was dying.

July Sold everything I owned on Craigslist. Moved out of Fort Wayne (ten years!) Received Carrie Bradshaw as a parting gift.

August Moved to New Orleans. Found the two-story target, which I had previously thought was an urban legend. Took a family vacation to Destin. Came back. Became acquainted with city life. Loved it. Went to Tulane for student orientation after a month of waiting. Got evacuated for Gustav at lunch.

September Stayed evacuated for two and a half weeks. Went back to school. Dropped ten pounds for lack of friends.

October Made friends! Gained ten pounds. Heard that Taylor Fort Wayne would be closing. Felt orphaned. Dressed up like a ninja and fought pirates on Jackson square.

November Watched history unfold in the TSSW building with snacks and wine. Found out Bry and Jess are pregnant again. Went to Belize. Delivered school supplies. Painted a cafeteria. Provided flood relief with two armed guards on the Guatemalan border. Became acquainted with Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the tarantulas. Realized I had not overcome fear of spiders. Had the sweetest reunions I could ever imagine at San Marcos School.

Learned that a plan is usually unfolding around me even when I am not still or patient enough to see it. Discovered that if I feel lost even for a second, all I have to do is ask for help. Understood the beauty in a prayer that goes, “Hi God, I’m an idiot and I don’t trust myself. Could you make this one clear for me?” Trusted completely. Found out I am purposed. Convinced Tulane I am purposed. Doing last semester internship in Belize!

December Wrote a thousand papers. Failed a final. Got all A’s!
Watched snow fall in New Orleans. Saw Lily take her first 3 steps.
Went to Chicago. Smile.

NOLA, be kind to me. I’m new.

This weekend:

  1. My dad is getting married!
  2. I am driving to New Orleans with Sprink & Steph to find out about housing options and eat beignets. We’re doing it in 3 days, start to finish, with gas at $4 a gallon. (Sometimes opportunity does not wait for gas prices to go down.)

It just recently occurred to me that school means, like, class and homework. With all this moving and form-filling and financial aid and immunization records and passport-type photos (Yes, I had to order a set of 2×3 inch wallet prints of my face in order to send one in at the school’s request. Now I have 7 more 2×3 inch pictures of my face lying around), I had forgotten that in the end my prize is, um, school? What the. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really the best student the first time around. My plan this time is to make sure there are no classes after lunch. Or early morning. Or on sunny days. Or, like, during Ellen.

I’ve been wondering about school supplies, too. Do you think the other kids in my class would make fun of me if I showed up to grad school with these? I just really like them. And, according to Will Smith in the 1988 hit Parents Just Don’t Understand: If they’re laughing, I don’t need them cause they’re not good friends.

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And look, the inside looks like wood!
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I know what you’re thinking. I should buy these, and fast!

Okay. Switching gears entirely…
Please view, at your convenience, my latest Brookie & Lil pics. They are nice.

(Bryan. Stop zooming in on my face.)
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You might be tempted to think I look pregnant here. Don’t do it.
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Birthday. Bangs.

The bad thing about not having a job is that you have time to do things like cut your own bangs. If you look at my bangs, they’re equally proportionate to my life since returning from Belize: sort of aimless and random, but well-intentioned with a touch of frantic. They scream: Something good can be done with this space if I could just get it together!

There was lots of cutting and fixing and cutting and fixing, because, well, you know how cutting and fixing goes. I tried to do it exactly how Hannah does it—I twisted them all together and snipped. Then I tried to even them up, but they were short on the left. So I tried to even them up, but they were short on the right. So I tried to even them up and they were short on the left, again. So I tried to even them up, but they were short in the middle. I gave up. Then I tried again the next day, because I still didn’t have a job yet and I had already seen all the E! True Hollywood stories.

My bangs are about 2 inches long now. Gosh.

Also, my birthday was Saturday.

We had a little birthday bash on Thursday night at Cheesecake Factory in Indy with friends and family, which was the best ending to an entire week of baby Lily, my adorable week-old niece.

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Weekly Lily pics

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On the actual day of my birth, I made a Belizean Cuisizean dinner in Fort Wayne for a few friends, and then—I’m just going to skip to the punchline here—Elaine from Germany showed up on my doorstep with Doug, home on leave. They spent the night. It was the best birthday surprise ever.

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Pay no attention to Scary Sprinky on the bottom.

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Sidenote:
Isn’t it weird that I’m 27? There was a time when I thought 27 year-olds knew everything about life. Turns out, they’re more like 19 year-olds with 4 grey eyebrows and really short bangs.

(The things I wish I’d known.)

On the upside, I have found that most car dealerships have free popcorn, Diet Coke, coffee, internet and cable. It’s my new thing. Car dealerships.

Lily

Hello. I’m new here.

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Lily came!
Obviously, she is adorable.

Essentials:
April 2, 2008
5:30pm
7lb 4oz
19.5 inches

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Everyone is healthy.
Jessie is doing fine.
Lily has been so alert and awake!

Here are some favorite pictures, with excellent commentary.

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Gag me with a spoon.

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I’m thinking of a number between one and ten…

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Sharon, I’m just going to lay this on you gently. You have something in your teeth.

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(Yawning is the cutest)

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Bry & the changing table.

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Me & Lil (I can call her that, you know)

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Grampy Brooksy

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Three generations

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My brother is a dad. Omg.

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Great Grandma- she wants to go by Gigi (as in, G.G.) which is just perfect, don’t you think? She made that up herself.

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The thing to note here is G.G.’s golden shoes in the corner. Cute.

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In other news, my laptop fell off the bed. Consequently, Season 3 Disc 6 of The OC is stuck in the DVD drive. Tomorrow I’ll hand my trusty sidekick over the Mac surgeons and wait for 7-10 days. I’d say you might not hear from me for a while, but I have a knack for finding internet come hell or high water, or even snow in April.

Just in case. I’ll see you in 7-10. Boo.