Love. Trash. Mardi Gras.

I’ve been meaning to write this for a year and a half.

Last Mardi Gras I walked out of my St. Charles Ave. apartment at 7pm in a total haze to meet some friends for Lebanese food. I squinted my eyes and looked around after just having woken up from days (fine, weeks) (fine, like a month and a half) of parades and parties and beads and king cakes and mimosas, staying up way too late and attending way too little class, to a totally empty and ghostlike street at dusk. It was trashed. The city had partied itself silly, vomited plastic cups and beads, and disappeared.

Mardi Gras is, without a doubt, two of the most super fun weeks in life. Days end at 3 in the afternoon to get home before parade routes close local streets. It’s normal to be offered king cake 8 times in one day, and its normal to accept all 8 times. Weekends start on Thursday and are stacked with parades, sometimes two or three a day, full of 12-foot high-heeled shoe floats and themes like Your Stimulus Package led by “Spanker Banker.” It’s okay to set up lawn chairs in the middle of the street car track and be drunk at 10am.

Mardi Gras is humanity in its most ridiculous glory. Six weeks of indulgence, leading up to the very last day, the very last hour, of unrestrained reckless abandon.

Why? Because midnight starts Lent: a forty-day season of restraint and self-examination in preparation for Easter.

I imagine myself in life, how I must appear to God, like that street. The aftermath of Mardi Gras knocking on the door to church on Wednesday morning. I’m (metaphorically, of course) sloshing beer and dripping gumbo all over the place, dragging a string of broken beads caught on my shoe, dressed in an Oyster outfit, fat off of King Cake, momentarily sidetracked by tiny little ponies and fire blowers. And God opens the door, and I see him, then I see me. Then I see him, then I see me. And I’m like, Maybe I should wash my hands.

The thing is, at 8pm on Mardi Gras night, the police shut down the streets, the French Quarter is emptied and everyone goes home. Street-cleaning crews start rolling, city employees set out on foot with brooms, rakes and blowers to push 100 tons of trash into the streets, the street guys sweep it all up, and dump trucks carry it away- all before midnight on Ash Wednesday. The city must be clean by midnight. While most of us are fast asleep in a drunken haze, smiling and filthy, our city is being renewed. We wake up on Wednesday morning to sparkly clean streets. The mess we made, no longer there.

So. Back to my story. I squinted my eyes and looked around to a totally empty and ghostlike street at dusk. It was trashed. What came to mind was a Mother Teresa quote I’d seen earlier in the day: Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust. It sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must.

Because it can, it must.

And then I remembered that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (while we stood at the door with our gumbo and beer and tiny ponies and fire throwers), Christ died for us.

God loves us. We trash ourselves. Jesus makes us clean.

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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.

Prince vs. Michael Jackson

Other appropriate titles for this post:

• In which I hit myself in the face with a bed frame
• Moving the entire Southeast Louisiana Red Cross down 8 flights
• An early morning sprint down St. Charles avenue

Last Friday, I moved out of the Med District downtown into a loft-type apartment on St. Charles Ave, uptown. When I got up the six flights to my new apartment and my key didn’t work, I had no choice but to call it a night. When I say ‘call it a night’ I mean I dumped all my stuff on the floor and met some people at Republic for the Prince vs. Michael Jackson DJ battle.

I got there at eleven, which I thought was appropriately late for someone approaching 30. But apparently eleven is the new 5:30. I made it just in time for the geriatric beer specials and sat down at an empty lounge area to wait. There were some little business cards with the Uptown Salon logo on the lounge table, and I wondered why someone had left all their business cards around. It wasn’t until I was served a bucket of champagne that I realized I was sitting in Uptown Salon’s reserved booth, and that Republic thought I was the first member of Uptown Salon to arrive.

I sent this text to Sprinky: I hit a new low. I’m at a club by myself drinking $2 miller high life in someone else’s booth waiting for a DJ battle between Michael Jackson and Prince to start. Where did things go wrong?

I was about to call it quits, but then Prince showed up. Everywhere.

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Michael Jackson followed.
And then my friends.
I’m not sure if Uptown Salon ever made it, but I should send them a thank-you for the champagne…

Prince and Michael Jackson at the DJ booth discussing weather or not Billy Jean was his lover-

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The next morning I met the furniture guy at 8:30, and the leasing agent let me into the apartment. This is what she said: Oh, there is a trick to unlocking the apartments. You didn’t know? (Hello. How could I have known that, lady?)

The apartment is amazing- full skyline view of the city, open loft-type floor plan, HUGE closet- think Carrie Bradshaw in the brownstone- and cheaper than where I was living before. Before you get jealous, realize I am only talking about 450 square feet of goodness. But for me, it’s perfect.

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I spent two days moving and still have not unpacked. I did, however, put together a desk, a futon, a bed frame and a bookshelf and arrange them all myself. And then I hit myself in the face with the bed frame. I was trying to put bed elevators underneath, and the bed shifted and fell on my face. The next day I went to school and introduced myself to all my potential employers at the internship fair with a black eye and small gash.

I also spent Thursday morning moving the Red Cross, which has been displaced for the entire three years following Katrina. They’ll fling open the doors to their original pre-Katrina office tomorrow morning on Canal Street. The chapter has been functioning out the 4th floor of the T-mobile building in Metairie—which has no elevator. We lined up 50 people up and down 8 flights of stairs and moved the entire Red Cross, one box at a time, in an assembly line from the fourth floor down.  It was exhausting, but I felt happy to help considering how unreal it is that this chapter, among everything in the city, is just now moving home for the first time, and I helped carry a box. Or two. Hundred.

On Friday, as if my body really needed the extra early morning sprint, I walked out of my apartment and caught a glimpse of the Tulane shuttle turning the corner a block-and-a-half away. I thought my days of chasing the shuttle were over. Turns out, the only thing worse than chasing the shuttle down Tulane Avenue is chasing it up St. Charles where my classmates can see me. I crossed my fingers hoping that no one was on the streetcar that day.  It was an ugly, panicked run, knocking old men out of the way and flinging people to the side with my bookbag…

The most annoying part happened when I heaved myself onto the shuttle and flopped down, gagging and coughing and sighing and looking around saying, “Thank GodI made it!”

We just sat there for another 5 minutes.

When I walked into Tools, totally stressed and falling apart at the outfit/hair seams from all the running, Allison said, “Brooke. I saw you exit your apartment this morning.”

She didn’t laugh right away, which was nice.
I asked if she’d seen everything, and she said she had.  She said she wanted to yell out after me, “Don’t worry! It’s only Tools!” but I was too fast.
Anytime I picture myself sprinting down St. Charles Avenue at 7:58 am, I laugh out loud.
Here are some pictures of the weekend:Social Work crew at Superior

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These jokers were at Lucy’s on Saturday before the New Kids on the Block show.  1992 threw up all over the room:

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Shea and I at the park on Sunday observing children for the Theory lab-

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Seriously, we’re legitimately observing. Don’t call the police. (You kids want some candy?)

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Social Workers Gone Wild- the TSSW picnic

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Note the face and the hair below. I was just coming off a triple back layout with a half twist.
Karine’s like, Oh God! Not the half twist!
Tiffany’s like, If she dies I’m getting it on camera.

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The poor kids we kicked off the moonwalk

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Tim teaching kids how to fight in preparation for the Pirate vs. Ninja flash mob on Halloween night.

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I love SGA for planning this picnic. It was fun to see everyone outside of class and outside of all the little groups. And for the record, our volleyball team won.