Sunday, October 29, 2006

Can You Tell Amy’s Overloaded?

So this week’s entry is an audience participation one, or otherwise known as “Amy’s Got Way Too Much On Her Plate To Produce A Thoughtful Entry, Give Her Another Week And Maybe Then I Can String A Hilarious Turn Of Phrase.”

This one’s a two parter:

1. Can anyone tell me why it is that dogs bury bones, and then dig them back up again, then bury them again, then dig them back up again?
2. Can anyone tell me if there’s a suitable Bible metaphor that would say the same thing? ‘Cause the guy who had the talents just buried it once, as far as I know.

Sigh. Sorry I’m such a bloggin’ loser. But at least I meet my deadlines!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #19 – Simon Redux!

Once again, I have Simon, the most mellow dog in the world for the weekend. But this time, Simon is running the show. Because he kept doing laps up and down the hallway in until I finally clued in to the fact that he wanted to go on a walk. I’ve only dogsat for him once before, and never the fact that I’m desperately trying to work on an outline for a project that’s due next Wednesday, Simon has locked into the equation in his brain that Amy The Writer = Walkies! Amy The Walkies Writer! YAY!

So off we head to the Tar Pits. I have never seen a dog look happier than Simon does on a walkies. He completely throws off the mellow persona, though, and a lot of the walkies time is spent trying to get him to stop sniffing that patch of grass, stop eating that flower, and could you PLEASE stop peeing on everything we come across.

Nope, nope, Simon is a male dog, and that means peeing on every stationary object he sees.

Light pole.



The only thing he didn’t pee on was Scarlett, the other dog who lives on the street, and I’m sure the only thing stopping him was the fact she didn’t stay still long enough for him to get his pee on.

His stream ran out after the first lamp post, but that doesn’t stop him from going through the motions, and even though this Phantom Pee Routine bugged me the first time around, I find a bit of quixotic joy in it the second time. Yeah, doggie! Pee on everything! Just TRY! You got nothing! Go for it anyway! Why not! Get your happy on and PEEEEEE!

Dear God, thank you for Simon. Thank you for the opportunity to dogsit for him this weekend. Thank you for him dragging me away from the computer to go on Walkies. Thank you for his Phantom Pee Routine, because now I find it funny instead of annoying. Okay, maybe a bit annoying. But still pretty silly. Thank you for silly.

Oh, and thank you for his Pink Puppy Paw Pads, and the fact that I remembered to document them this time. Thank you, thank you thank you. Amen.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


So yesterday I finally settled down to write a monologue for the Christmas show that my theatre company is doing in December. In all honesty, I wasn’t thrilled to do it. I’m not much of a holiday sentiment gal. Thanksgiving is usually a holiday where I can write for four days straight, and Christmas with the family is, well, Christmas with the family. There were several years when there were arguments about whether we should bother to put up a tree or not, because Dad the Great Stoic Wonder thought it was too much of a hassle. I can be plenty sentimental about a lot of things – Twilight Singers songs, classic Muppet Show sketches, sunsets on the Santa Monica pier – but Christmas isn’t on the list.

Nevertheless, I had to write something, my actor is patiently waiting for material to rehearse with, and I decided to do the thing that you’re supposed to do as a Christian Living For God – which is to take every opportunity you have to utilize your gifts (i.e. writing) and give it back to God. This is awesome if you’re a lazy person disinclined to write a Christmas monologue.

So I start by praying So, um, God. I’m supposed to write, and I don’t really want to, and I don’t know what I’m going to write, so if You’d like to smack me with some sort of inspiration that I can turn into an opportunity to glorify You, feel free to commence with the smacking. And then promptly flop on the bed to nap-I-mean-brainstorming.

But lo and behold if it didn’t work in the way that all the pastors bellow from the pulpit that it would. I got the inspiration to double check the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke to see what role the Angel Of The Lord plays. And as it turns out, that Angel (who Luke names as Gabriel) does a lot of talking to the major players in the story.

Boom, I’m off and running. Sketching out a monologue for Gabriel, showing up to break the news to Mary that’s she’s pregnant with God’s kid. And then having to take a few sidebars with God, since Mary’s not reacting well to the news. And Gabriel likes to tell really bad Bible jokes. And whines and pleads for God to do the rest of the talking, since Gabriel’s botching the whole thing, especially when he lets slip that Mary’s son is going to be crucified when he’s 33. Ooops.

I realize that it’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything. Like, actual writing. I’ve been outlining plenty of ideas, but writing dialogue? Running gags? Haven’t done that since Emily and Donovan did their cancer tango back in July. It felt good. Real good. Like, yeah dumbass. You’re a writer. This is what you’re supposed to do.

And when I’m nearing the end of the monologue, I hit a small snag. Gabriel’s trying to explain to Mary how the birth, life, and death of her son and God’s kid is going to redeem the whole world. Except that’s frustratingly vague, and no audience is gonna buy it. I wouldn’t buy it if an angel was telling it to me, I’d be all pissed off and querulous and saying “What the hell does that mean! Redeem the world? Wha-huh?”

And it’s here that I realize that I actually can’t put into words why Jesus had to die for the world. I know it’s got something to do with taking the sins of the world unto himself, how someone without sin had to pay the price for us all and there goes that frustratingly vague button again. I’m not writing for a Christian audience, I’m writing for an audience, and as such, frustratingly vague Christian-ese answers aint gonna cut it.

So I hit Google, a writer’s best friend and constant companion. I type the phrase “Why did Jesus have to die?”

And this beauty of a website pops up.

If you’ve ever done a cursory tour of Christian websites on the web, a large majority of them are Coo Coo for CocoPuffs. They don’t get it, they don’t understand that spouting various Bible verses to make their point isn’t going to connect with a potential audience. Run the ropes all you want to, I’m a Christian, and sentences like “Friend, Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay the penalty for YOUR sin!” don’t connect with me.

So I’m doing a second and a half scroll down, and then I hit the bottom of the page. And they’re asking you three sentences, and you’re supposed to check the box that applies to you.

I reject Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I want to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I have already received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

Ooooooh boy.

Ooooh, I SO wanna check the reject box. I WANNA CHECK THE REJECT BOX! You can’t put up a reject box like that and not have people check it! You’re just BEGGING people to check it! That’s like putting on a sandwich board that blares YOU ALL ARE GOING TO HELL YOU SODOMITES and walking down Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood! People are gonna smack you, and you deserve to be smacked if you do that.

Seriously, what’s the point of checking the “I have already received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior” box? If I’m already saved, I’m not checking yer little box, Sparky. Why would I? So we can dance in the light and delight of the already saved? WHOO HOO! I need my spiritual validation from a scary fundamentalist language web page!

Nope, nope, I’m checking the reject box. But wait! What am I doing! Doesn’t this fall under the Denying My Lord? Matthew 10 verse 32-33 (I had to Google this one too) “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before men. But whoever disowns me before men. I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

Ruh-roh. If you check that box, you are officially denying to the Scary Fundamentalist Language Web Page and the Universe In General that you reject Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. And you’ll go straight to hell. You’re not gonna be able to stand in front of God and explain that you really DID believe, you just had to check the box to see what would happen, because there’s no point in putting a box up there and not checking it. You will take the express train to the Lake O’ Fire, you will.

No I won’t. Yes, you will. No, I won’t. Yes, you will. No, I WON’T!

Dear God, quick sidebar here. I have to check this box, okay? I have to. Who’s the idiot who puts a box up like that on their webpage? What does it accomplish? I have to find out. I HAVE TO FIND OUT. Do you know that me checking this box does not in any way shape or form mean that I deny Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I will proclaim it loudly on my blog so everyone’s absolutely clear that AMY THE WRITER BELIEVES IN JESUS CHRIST BUT SHE’S CHECKING THE BOX BECAUSE SHE HAS TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU CHECK THE BOX! You know this, don’t you? Are we cool? I love Jesus, Jesus is cool. I’m checking the box so nobody else has to. I’ll take this one for the team, I will. Please understand. Please laugh with me about this later. Thank you, thank you, thank you, amen.

I check the box. Here, you can click this God approved link and it’ll take you to the same page without you checking a nasty little DENY JESUS box.

Big red headline I REJECT JESUS CHRIST. Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

And I do another second and a half scroll down. Oh, the reasons they’re giving for why you SHOULDN’T reject Jesus, oh they have no meaning. “The Bible says over and over how much God loves you — but you still refuse His love?” What does it mean? What does it MEAN? Give me a concrete example of what it means for God to love me?

Ah, a slew of Bible verses. And back we go to hitting the frustratingly vague button.

Hey! The bottom of the page has MORE BOXES TO CHECK!

Would you like to change your mind and receive the Lord Jesus Christ?

I reject Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I want to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior


Now we go to this page. THE TRUTH ABOUT HELL. Yipppeeeeeeeeeeee!

Talks all about what hell is like, with a bunch of circumstantial evidence, in red and yellow text because red and yellow equals SATAN, don’tcha know.

YOU CHOOSE HELL! Boogity boogity boogity BOO! Have I scared you enough to choose Jesus yet? DON’T BE CAUGHT DEAD WITHOUT JESUS! BLAAAAAAAAAH! BLEGHITY BLEGHITY BLEGHITY!

But alas, my fun little game has come to an end, because the bottom of this page doesn’t have anymore boxes to check, it has places where you can tell your friends about this webpage. Rats. I thought for sure there’d be another box to check, and if you act now, you’d get a free set of Ginzu knives that you can stick into your heart if you continue to reject Jesus Christ!


My God, I haven’t laughed so much in weeks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #18 – Disapproving Rabbits

I have no imagination today, I freely admit it.

But hell and damn if this page doesn't make me laugh every time I open it up.

(yes, Mom, it's okay to click on the link. It's fine. I PROMISE.)

Dear God, thank you for Disapproving Rabbits. Thank you for laughter, thank you for the internet, where you can find the most wonderfully weird stuff. Thank you for today, because I'm now officially taking it one minute at a time. So thank you for this minute. And the next. And the next. And rabbits. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 6 – Saturday, Oct.7, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This is the last Katrina post! Yay! Yay! No pictures! My camera battery ran out on the last day!

Since we’re not working today, we don’t have to get up when they turn the lights on, so we continue to sleep through the breakfast call, and the singing, and the TESTIMONIES. T-Rock is the only one who hears today’s testimony, and he’s too tired spacey to remember the exact details, but reports it’s pretty much the same as everyone else’s, sob story followed by a breakdown, followed by a solemn “Jesus Heals!” finale.

Because we’ve got an afternoon flight back to L.A., we can’t really squeeze in another day of work, even if it’s a half day, so we go back to the Quarter (parking ON Bourbon street this time, by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on the east end. This is just crazy, folks. You have no idea.) We go down to Café Du Monde, and get the beignets with the powdered sugar that gets everywhere, but it’s all good.

Native Chick directs our van through the Garden District to a college restaurant called Cooter Brown’s for lunch.

Everyone eats family style, and the guy we sit next to is happy and grateful and thanks us for doing the work we’re doing in Gentilly. He tries to persuade us to come with him to Tipitina's tonight, where we’ll get the love back tenfold. But we’ve got a flight out.

And it’s just another example of the famous Southern hospitality. These people are just so NICE. Later on, when we’re driving back to the Quarter, we’re circling around a spot on Royal Street, and this woman is leaving her spot, and says she’ll wait to move until Fearless Leader brings the car back around. She’s so nice, and is even nicer when she hears we’ve been doing gutouts in Gentilly. “Thank ya’ll so much for helping us rebuild.” She says in a great Southern drawl. And that’s how these people are. They ask you about your day, they ask you where’re you from, whatcha doing. And they genuinely seem to care, as opposed to to say, Disneyworld, where you can tell they’re asking you because they probably have their boss in the corner watching them, making sure they ask in the official five minutes of polite question time. As opposed to say, where I’m from in Alabama, where they’re pleasant, but not nice. New Orleans folk are just NICE.

Compare that to our first experience off the plane in LAX, where Native Chick’s husband is giving us a ride home, and as we’re trying to load the suitcases into his car, a cop walks up, cites him for expired tags, and the fact that he’s parked in a white zone. “This whole airport is a white zone!” we grumble. But it does no good, he gets a ticket anyway, which makes me feel awful. Welcome back to Los Angeles.

So I did it. Answered the call. Gutted out some houses in New Orleans. They could’ve done it without me. But I went anyway. I still feel like I’m the exact same person before I left and when I came back. No earthshattering realizations. I didn’t get to handle a chainsaw (apparently, you only get to do that when you’re clearing out downed trees. Rats.) But I did drink a Hand Grenade, so it all evens out.

Maybe this was all seed planting, and the metaphorical fruits will sprout later. I did deepen my friendship with Native Chick (cleaning three disgusting bathrooms will do that to ya.) I made a new friend with Giggly. We’re all in the same Home Group through church, so I see us going on many adventures to come.

Dear Blue Shirt Chaplains.

My name is Amy The Writer. This is my testimony. It’s not as spectacular as yours. There are no visions of Jesus walking through jail cells, or converting alcoholic family members. There are plenty of breakdowns, places where I’ve hit rock bottom and cried out to God for help. If it had happened to you, you’d get bright lights, or overwhelming feelings of peace, or a timely phone call from a friend. I get silence. But I keep going.

I’ve always believed in God. I’ve always believed in JesusChristasmypersonalLordandSavior. Sometimes I get mighty pissed off and bitch His Almighty ears off, but I never stop believing. Without the visions. Without the bright lights. Without the overwhelming feelings of peace.

I believe. I believe without proof (other than the material needs being met factors, which are huge, don’t get me wrong.) I’m a Functional Depressive who believes in a God who, for reasons known only to Him, refuses to take away my pain. It’s a pretty hollow way to live, and it takes more strength than you think. Personally, I don’t think you could do it, because I don’t think you’d understand how your soothing faux-Eucalyptus words of “Do you know how Jesus Christ has helped ME in my life” don’t fill the hole inside me.

And maybe it just takes time. I don’t think it’s an accident that I never saw a Blue Shirt who wasn’t under 50 years old. Maybe the more you live, the more you learn, and maybe I’m in for a earthshattering vision where Jesus steps into my kitchen and does a few tequila shots with me when I'm 49 years old, which would be pretty awesome.

This is my testimony. It’s not earthshattering. No dramatic conversations. No visions. A very mean and petty part of me says I’ve got more faith than you, since I’m doing it without all that stuff.

But there’s room in God’s kingdom for us both. For your obnoxious sidewalk strolling Bible pushing ways, and for my online blogging bitchery. God can use all of us in our own unique ways for His purposes. But forgive me if I stay on the other side of the cafeteria in Heaven from you. It’s how I roll.


Amy The Writer

Coda. On Sunday, Oct.8th, and true to form for me when returning from any God approved adventure (see Alpha Retreat, church retreats, Act One Screenwriting Month) I did indeed fall into a dark night of the soul, where I’m crying, shaking on the bed, and calling out to God for help. Though I didn’t get a vision, I did get a timely phone call from a friend (so maybe it’s baby steps.) I babbled and bared the icky parts of my soul for an hour, and made him swear to silence that we would never mention this again. This is a personal shout out to him. Thank you, Xavier. But you’re still not allowed to mention it ever again.

Folks, that was a week’s worth of blogging, so what do you say we give me a small break, and pick back up on Friday the 20th? Many thanks, I love you all. God loves you too, and would probably give you a vision before He gives it to me, ha ha ha.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 5– Friday, Oct.6, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This is now a tired disclaimer, but I’m paranoid. Is anybody even reading these things anymore? Blogging every day is really exhausting, just so you know.

I’m starting to hate the Relief Organization devotionals every morning. And I feel so awful saying that, because it’s not that these people aren’t sincere, or that they didn’t go through horrible things, or that they didn’t really honestly and truly find Jesus, because I don’t doubt for a second that they did. But to hear a never-ending parade of them reduces their meaningful experiences to nothing more than a clichéd grief train running through the cafeteria twice a day.

We’re excited that it’s our last work day, but man, I’m tired enough that I don’t wanna get out of the car when we get to the site. “You are not the boss of me! You are not the boss of me!” I chant to Native Chick. “I’m gonna need to start drinking now if you’re gonna be like that.” Native Chick jokes. It becomes the running gag of the day, and I add a little booty shakin’ move to it. “You are not the boss of me! You are not the boss of me!” T-Roller promptly identifies it as the Teletubby Dance, which I’ve never seen and am horrified that my booty shakin’ moves are akin to them. Though I was trying to imitate a two year old at the time. Maybe that's where they get it.

I pray for us before we go into the house, and it’s my usual Amy style prayer, “Hi God, it’s us. The Crew Of Destruction.” I pray that God keeps us safe today, “no stepping on nails, no bonking on heads.” that the time goes quickly and that we use it productively. Everyone seems to like the prayer and off we get suited up and then the Chaplains pull up. Now we have to stop and pray AGAIN because they’re here and they want to. It’s rude to say “Umm, we already did, thanks.” So we circle up again and they pray, “Sweet Jesus, please watch over these faithful workers…” the style of prayer is night and day.

Native Chick and I decide we’re gonna tackle the front bathroom, which is the biggest disaster, as you can see here. I saw Native Chick at a home group meeting last night, and she said “I realized that you’ve been with me working in three of the most disgusting bathrooms ever” for various service projects we’ve crewed up for during the year.” “It’s like we need a tiara or something.” I joke.

So we poke out the plaster, we pull down the insulation (which is thicker, and either moldy grey, or pink panther thick. But very thick nonetheless.) We pull out the nails, we truck out the debris via wheelbarrow.

Do you know where roaches live in your house? I do. And it’s not on the floor like you think. No, they hang in the corners between the walls and ceiling. We’ve seen so many bugs that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m not a freaker of roaches in general, so I just mutter to them. Move along, move along, no, you can’t stay here, I’m pulling down all your shelter. If roaches were Christian, I’d start praying now. There’s a few baby frogs in the tub, the size of your pinkie, and they keep hopping and hopping to get out, but the side of the tub are too tall for them. Ahhhh, metaphor for my life, har de har har.

Native Chick and I find ourselves staring at the bathroom tile wall in the bathroom. “How do you think it should come out?” “I think we’re gonna have to whack it from the front.” And so we do, with a sledgehammer. We trade off every two whacks, because the sledgehammer is that heavy. It’s somewhat satisfying to crack the tile, like satisfying your inner juvie delinquent, or the drunken frat boy that EVERYONE has inside them, but the tile is f’ing HEAVY, man. Not a picnic to cart it all outside.

We break for lunch (Powerbars for me), and the chaplains come back around and pray for us AGAIN, for the food. I totally feel like I’m kicking my grandma here. You can tell they’re trying so hard to reach out and connect with us, but that generation gap is just SO wide. When they’re telling us about the people they’ve met on their walks, they always preface the phrase “black man” with a polite adjective, so as not to seem racist. They meet “A very nice black man,” “a polite black man,” “a well spoken black man.” This one man (“ a well dressed black man”) invited them into his house to show them all the renovations he’s done to the house. He’s already a Christian though, so they don’t get another notch in their saved belt.

We’re just about to suit up after lunch when the owners Brett and Liz show up. They’re a black couple (“a smiling friendly” black couple) in their mid 30s. He was so excited to get the box of pictures that Fearless Leader rescued from the closet “Some of those are from high school and my wife hasn’t even seen ‘em.” He had a collection of watches that he pulled from the wreckage when he snuck back in two weeks after the Hurricane, but looters came through and got most of them. Fearless Leader has also found a Fossil watch he had pulled from inside the wall, and Brett is happy to get that as well.

After visiting time, we finish up the work. The bathroom now looks like this. I did that. With Native Chick. Yay us!

We go back to Base Camp, sweating in the rental van (Thank God it’s a rental van.) As we’re turning in our tools for the final check in, Mike the foreman checks out our respirator filters and throws them away “What were you guys doing, rolling around in it?” We get showered and changed, and head out to the Quarter.

And there’s not a lot of people out for 8pm at night. Just the fact that we could park IN the Quarter (on Decatur street, a few blocks away from Jackson Square) is amazing in and of itself. Me and Native Chick lead everyone to the Tropical Isle, so I can get my Hand Grenade drink. Giggly instantly gets buzzed off half of one, making her the SuperGiggler.

There’s hardly anybody in the Tropical Isle, no audience for the lonely little guitar singer. I’ve been here for Mardi Gras more than once with my college crew, and you usually had to push and shove your way to the bar, avoiding gropy college guys, slurring college girls, beads, plastic cups, football egos, what have you. And now it’s this.

I take pictures, of the empty Tropical Isle, of the near empty street outside. I don’t think it’s spooky (it would be spooky if the Quarter itself had been flooded and bodies in the gutter), but it is a little weird.

Brett wants to help us out for helping out his house, so we meet him at the western end of the Quarter, where his buddy is the chef at a chi chi fou fou restaurant. We wait in the ally behind the restaurant, and he brings out a pan of Barbeque Shrimp and a pan of rosemary biscuits for us. YAAAAAAAAY!

We all jump in the back to Brett’s pickup truck, driving through the alleys of the French Quarter to the Moonwalk (Which I’ve always called Riverwalk and apparently am grossly mistaken.), hunker down on a patch of grass for an impromptu picnic, and dig in. And it’s all sorts of yummers good.

And I think that’s what it’s all about. There’s no way you could’ve planned something like a Barbeque and rosemary biscuit picnic by the river. You just take it as it unexpectedly comes to you. And I absolutely think it counts as a blessing from God. It’s not the same as trolling the streets, shoving Bibles in peoples’ hands. It’s not the same as sharing your testimony over morning grits. But it still counts. And I much prefer it to anything else.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 4– Thursday, Oct.5, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This is now a tired disclaimer, but I’m paranoid.

My body absolutely rebels at the cooked breakfast this morning. All the heavy Southern food, yummers as it is, is officially taking its toll on my stomach. No eggs, no biscuits, just a bowl of cereal and glass of milk for me please. And the standard explanation to which ever of the Blue Shirt chaplains I’m sitting with that no, I don’t put milk in my cereal, I don’t like soggy cereal, and it all mixes in my stomach anyway, so it’s no big deal.

I start falling asleep at the table during the morning devotionals. It’s embarrassing, but the speaker - another New Orleans native who’s a fireman, goes on for SO LONG about how he “got saved” when he was 12, and his dad was an alcoholic, and he prayed every day for him and 20 years later his dad “got saved” so praise Jesus, Hallelujah. Getting saved is very important to these people. And it’s not that I dismiss their stories, they obviously have meaning for them. But it’s not something I have experience with, or can relate to, or WANT to relate to. So I end up falling asleep and feeling very foolish. Trust me, people, I know how this make me look like a mega-bitch.

We’re off to a new house today, it’s a few streets up from Miss Ida’s house. This is Brett and Liz’s house - a couple in their mid 30s. They have five kids from previous marriages, and are expecting their first child together in February. They evacuated to Tennessee the Sunday before the hurricane hit. The Blue Shirt chaplains would be disappointed at the lack of exciting I Barely Survived Katrina stories we’ve been hearing from people. And it’s a little ghoulish to want to talk to someone who paddled through their kitchen in 6 feet of water as their refrigerator slammed up against their front door. I guess it’s the entertainment culture we live in, plus the fact that many of us work in the entertainment industry, and recognize the importance of a good story.

We missed Brett’s house the first time because we couldn’t see the numbers on the house for all the choked up weeds in the front yard. We’re also told there’s a wasp nest inside the house, and immediately Doc Brown wants to pray a group prayer of protection. Which we do. Seems a little wonky, but in all seriousness, there have been SO many opportunities for any one of us to step on a nail while tromping through trash piles, or clock each other in the head, or to get overheated, dehydrated. And nothing has ever happened (or will, hopefully.) So you can’t help but think maybe God’s watching out for us in the most mundane ways. Maybe that’s how God works for us non-Evangelicals. We don’t get visions, we get no nails in our shoes.

No nicknames on our Tyrex suits today, we forgot the Sharpie. Oops.

This house is a lot of work. A LOT of work. We have to clear out all the crap in the garage, and there’s a sink and cabinet countertop back there. There’s the most random crap like dirty DVD cases and DVDs (Ghost Ship, Minority Report.) broken junk, junk, and weeds.

After we clear that out, we tackle the front rooms of the house. Fearless Leader finds stuff in the closet that appears to not have been touched by mold, or rain, or anything. A box of pictures, a pillow that says Honey. A Mickey Mouse head bank. It’s like finding the Titanic on the bottom of the ocean floor. Buried treasure! Yay! Something they will be happy to have!

But the rest of the house is moldy. Water marks that go up to about 5’10. It’s not plaster (except for the ceiling), so the water and mold make the drywall very easy to punch through, as T-Rock demonstrates to Giggly. She immediately seizes on it, and does her Tai Bo workout on the wall, making Giggly Feet Sized Holes in the wall.

I was punching up the ceiling with a sledgehammer. There’s something interesting about it raining down plaster and insulation directly on you, and you know you’re safe because you’re covered in protective clothing, mask, gloves, helmet, etc.

But I got that whole ceiling and the plaster off the walls. I’m pretty excited about it, because it’s hard to point to something in this house and say “Yeah, I did that. Me. By myself.” There’s so many hands helping you out, as soon as I make a plaster pile of debris on the floor, someone else comes up behind me to whisk it away. And yes, you want as many hands as possible to help you out. But the peculiar downside for me is thinking all this work would get done if I wasn’t there. It wouldn’t get done if NONE of us were there. But it’s hard to think my contribution to this mission is absolutely indispensable.

And during our share time after dinner tonight, we have ANOTHER long testimonial. I’m dying here, I really am.

Tonight’s speaker is again, very sincere, very plain spoken, there is no doubt that he’s a man after Jesus’s own heart. But he tells a very long story about being accused of child molestation by his ex wife, and how he got that thrown out of court, only to be dragged into court for kidnapping and molestation charges when his ex wife called Crimestoppers on a rash of different child molestations. And he spent a few nights in jail until his lawyer could come get him out, and he’s praying with a nun and then he gets a vision of Jesus walking through the bars of his cell. A vision! Yay vision!

And Jesus gets him through the next phase, because something like 7 cases of child molestations are levied against him, and they’re all thrown out of court because he’s innocent. And through it all, our hero is reading the Bible. Always, always reading the Bible. I tried reading the Bible last night, and it was a slog to go through. I’m so going to hell for saying that, by the way. I couldn’t focus, it wasn’t doing anything for me. You’d think if there was something I’m supposed to be getting out of this, that God would point me to it a little bit harder. I’m not asking for words to be magically highlighted in the Bible. But maybe point me to the right page?

But I’m starting to think that the main reason we’re here is not so we learn anything, but so all the other people here learn that it’s not always about prayer circles and visions and testimonies. That you can still be a Christian without all that stuff. You may not be as earnest, you may not be burning with a spiritual fire. But you still count to God. I think. I hope. I really really hope that’s what it is.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 3 – Wednesday, Oct.4, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This became important, oh, about yesterday.

Before I left to go on this mission trip, I had more than a few people tell me “You’re going to have so much fun.” I don’t know why they think this would be fun. A mission trip on a whitewater rafting expedition would be fun. This is necessary, to be sure, and somebody has to do it, because anybody can write a check to these relief organizations to fund the work, and that’s still important. But people are needed to gut these houses. And fun isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe it.

Slept better tonight. The air mattress is God’s gift to Katrina relief workers. Just $9.99 at your local Walgreens.

I take a pair of scissors to my jeans, and wear a tank top underneath the cotton suit. It’s supposed to be 91 degrees today, but strangely enough, we don’t feel it as much as I thought we would. I have a much better day than yesterday. Whether that’s because I’m used to the work by now, or my wardrobe, or we’re pulling out the insulation so it’s not as hot inside the house, or the breeze that’s coming through, but I’m definitely cooler.

We draw nicknames on our Pyrex suits, to make it easier to identify ourselves to each other while working in the house, since the cotton suits and helmets make us look pretty much like amorphous blobs. I’m Grumpy, of course.

Before I left to come here, I was wrestling with a cough. No fever, no aches or chills, no runny noses, just a cough. It either showed up from the monster allergy attack I had after my housesitting gig or from hanging around in close proximity with other coughers. This results in me very rarely being able to get more than ten words out at a time, without sputtering into coughing spasms. Constant movement seems to keep it at bay. So does the respirator we all have to wear while doing the gut outs. So I’m actually glad for the work.

It’s more of the same work. Pulling out nails, sweeping up slats and insulation stuff. Taking water breaks, taking potty breaks at the Burger King (where nobody bats an eye at the four girls soaked in sweat running in to use the restroom and out again), back to work. Here’s lunch, back to work. Here come the chaplains, they talk about delivering diapers and water to the food bank place, and they pray for us. Back to work.

It occurs to me that I’m not praying my personal prayers or doing my daily devotions like I do back in Los Angeles. There’s just not enough time. Lights come on in the gymnasium at 6:00am, breakfast is served at 6:30am. You’re constantly surrounded by people with little chance to sneak off and talk to God by yourself until lights out at the end of the day at 9:30pm. And by then, you’re too tired to do anything other than to send up a weak Thank you that I didn’t inhale mold and die with a frothing mouth, God.

The Blue Shirt chaplains pray every two seconds for everything that crosses their path, be it us, a neighbor, or a stray street worker, like these folk. To these people, it’s not enough that you believe in God, you also have to “know Jesus.” This strikes me as a no win game. “Do you believe in God?” “Yes.” “And do you know Jesus?” “Yeppers.” “But do you REALLY know Jesus?” I don’t think you’d be able to give an answer to these folks that would satisfy them, because what they really wanna do is talk to YOU about what Jesus has done for THEM, and how THEIR Jesus can do wonderful things for YOU.

I wonder why believing in God isn’t enough.

I wonder out loud to my crew if praying as much as the chaplains do somehow doesn’t dilute everything. That prayer begins to become rote, loses its special-ness. Like if you ate Godiva every day, (“You’d be happy and content for the rest of your life,” chirps T-Roller) you’d forget that Godiva is as good as it is, because it’s all you know.

But at the same time, as much as the chaplains make me squirrrrrrrrm, there’s a part of me that envies them. They seem to have a solid connection with God. Whether it’s real, honest and true, or something they’re magnifying for appearances’ sake, I’ll never know. But I’d love to have that kind of solid connection. I wouldn’t be braying it at the top of my lungs and forcing it into every conversation I have like these chaplains do. But it would be nifty keen cool to possess that kind of confidence.

After work, and despite the fact we’re so soaked with sweat we could squeeze Native Chick’s ponytail and water the bushes with it, we decide that we’re gonna stop by the daiquiri shack on the way home. I think we’re all getting a little bit tired of “being in community” with the rest of the Relief Organization teams.

We kick back with a round of various daiquiris, and the air conditioning forces us to stand on the deck outside. It’s actually nice in the afternoon sun. Giggly sits on the railing and starts waving at the cars that honk at her. “People are so friendly here!” (heh) We tell her to make like a Blue Shirt chaplain and scream “DoyouknowJesusChristas yourpersonalLordandSavior!?” at every car. Needless to say, nobody pulls over.

Tonight when we’re doing “share time” I feel like someone from our group should go up and say something. We’re all a bunch of reluctant cowards, so I get up there and say we had a pretty uneventful day at the gut-outs, but what I can do is talk about some of the outreach things we do in Los Angeles. I tell them all about Homeless Karaoke (well documented on this blog here, here and here ), and they all think it’s the neatest thing. Of course they do, they’re all grandparents, and Homeless Karaoke sounds just like something they think people from Hollywood would do. None of them have ever heard about The Electric Slide, and they think that too, is something nifty keen and fun, and maybe they should do it down the street when they’re evangelizing to people on the block. You can Electric Slide for JESUS! Yeah, right.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 2 – Tuesday, Oct.3, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This will become important later.

Did not get a good night’s sleep at all on the Greeny Meany covered cot in the gymnasium. Every time I turned from side to side (Which I do often because I’m a light sleeper. Only time I don’t move is when I’m drop dead drunk, which I think might be a tiny bit inappropriate on a Christian mission trip), the cot would creak loudly beneath me, and I’m paranoid that I’m keeping everyone else up at well. Though there were certainly a lot of additional creaky noises from everyone around me. It was like hearing an oncoming storm, or listening to an 800 pound giant sliding into one of those red Naugahyde booths.

There’s a new group that’s joined us. They’re a chaplain group from Arizona. The Blue Shirts, as they’re called (the workers are called the Grey Shirts.) On our prep meeting before we left, Pastor Bernard tried to brace us for them. The chaplains assist at local food banks, drive to our work sites in their van, pray with us, park the van and then toodle down the street with Bibles in hand, looking for people to talk to and pray for. This particular group had been down here earlier in the year as a Grey Shirt group (and I wonder how effective they could possibly be, given the fact that half of them look to be in their 60s.) Now they’re back as chaplains.

I am not happy about this aspect of the Relief Organization. Evangelicals like this type annoy the shit out of me. It’s intrusive to have anybody knock on your door and ask to talk to you about religion. If I wanted to talk about it, I’d come find you. Every now and then, the Jehovah Witnesses will knock on our door in Los Angeles, and I, who totally believes in God, hustles as fast as I can to get the door closed in as polite but as a firm a way as possible.

Since the Blue Shirts are all about Getting To Know Ya For Jesus! of them sat across from me at breakfast and raved about how a particular member of their group was great at “saving souls” and how the last time she was out with them, “She brought three people to Jesus.” Like it’s a notch on their belt or something. And it’s that kind of behavior that gives me the heebie jeebies. Where’s the follow up with the Saved Soul, Notch Belter? It’s like you think your job is done if the person agrees to make Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior, when it’s possible they’re only saying that to get you off their porch.

Maybe not. Maybe I’m just a cranky bitch (actually, I know I’m a cranky bitch.) I think, rightly or wrongly, that this kind of heebie jeebie behavior is a generational thing. Old School folks like these will never understand why their behavior is heebie jeebie. When I chatted about it with Native Chick, she disagrees, thinking it’s more regional than generational. We are in the South, after all. Possibly.

Relief Worker Leader tell us one more horror story before we go, about the guy on a previous trip who had a toxic refrigerator accidentally open on him. He got toxic sludge on his arm, it turned orange and stank so bad for days that they moved him to one end of the gym while everyone moved to the other side of the gym to sleep and it still stank. Cool. Can’t wait.

We’re sent to an Orleans Parish house (The Utah group is sent to a house in St. Bernard Parish.) It’s in the neighborhood of Gentilly, and Native Chick is pointing out sights and things along the way. And certainly everything you’ve seen on the news and articles are all true. The numbers on the houses saying what date the house was searched, the name of the task force, the number of bodies they found inside, if any. The broken windows, some houses still crushed. Many businesses closed, places like Wal-Mart, Burger King, Taco Bell. But other businesses are open, it’s not as though it’s a ghost town, it’s not as though there’s not traffic. There’s a couple of places where the stop lights aren’t working, and you treat it as a regular stop sign, but there’s certainly people around.

There’s advertisements stapled to telephone poles, and stuck on sticks on the median, advertising tear down services, put up services, shingle services, drywall, gut outs, vote in the upcoming elections, It’s a mish mash jumble of stuff.

We get lost a few times, but get to Miss Ida’s house. Miss Ida is waiting for us, an African American woman somewhere in her late 40s, early 50s. She tells us her story. She works at a nursing home, and went to work the day the hurricane hit. She stayed with her patients, and evacuated with them by bus to another facility in Baton Rouge.

Miss Ida has actually done a lot of the work already for us. Despite all the hazardous materials instructions we got yesterday night, there is no toxic refrigerator of death, no appliances to wrestle out, no aerosol cans that might explode at a single touch. She’s already made a pile of things that she’d like to keep, and we’re to strip all the walls down to the studs. It’s plaster, not drywall, so there’s wooden beams behind it. You have to hammer through it, knocking the chunks of plaster to the ground, then pry the wooden slats off, then pull out the nails.

Me and Native Chick volunteer to hammer away at the plaster, using sledgehammers, pick axes, hammers, whatever we think will work for us. “We’re the Team of Destruction!” Native Chick chirps. That’s about as much conversation as we get. There’s not a lot of talking or joking. Partly because it’s such tiring work, partly because we can’t hear very well with the respirators on. Giggly jokes that we all sound like Kenny from South Park through the respirators. And giggles about it.

We’re inside, not in direct sunlight, which Albino Me is very thankful for, but it’s still hot, (upper 80s), and the majority of us are wearing jeans underneath our cotton suits, and the jeans get heavy when soaked with sweat. When we zip down the suits to take a break, our shirts are sopping, our pants are sopping, our underwear is sopping. I call My Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much on the cell phone and say, “I win this battle, hands down. Painting in hospital scrubs in Biloxi would be a picnic compared to this.” The Phone Harpy laughs, and concedes the battle ONCE AND FOR ALL.

As I’m sitting there whacking away at the plaster, I try to conjure up something to think about. Think about something that’s made you really angry, so you can take out your frustration on the wall. Nothing’s coming to mind, again probably pointing to my lack of emotion about anything these days. Probably not a good thing. Can’t be helped. Think about God. Focus on God. You’re down here to attempt to get closer to Him, though it’s strange to think this kind of manual labor would do the trick. But try anyway. Have a conversation with God as you’re prying away the plaster. But it’s just too taxing to think. Too taxing to think about why I’m here, and what God is trying to show me. See that nail you’re trying to pull out? Make a cheesy metaphor for how it’s sin, and it’s persistent and stubborn, but armed with the Hammer Of God, you too can overcome! You too can overcome! Yay God! Yeah, not so much.

Lunch is ham and cheese sandwiches and I pretty much choke it down. I don’t feel like eating anything, but I recognize that I have to in order to make it through the afternoon. Maybe tomorrow I’ll stick with my powerbars. Lunch meat in the hot weather just makes me cringe.

The afternoon is harder, because it gets hotter. We had taken one bathroom break before lunch (Which meant the Blue Shirts drove us to a Burger King to use their bathrooms, so they’re good for something), but no bathroom break in the afternoon until we broke for the day. I tried to convince myself that I was sweating out too much fluid to have anything left to pee out. Then I tried to convince myself that if I just kept working, I’ll be able to hold off the bathroom urges. That was more successful. Because you get to a point where the more breaks you take, the harder it was to get back going again, so it’s just easier to keep working.

When we left, we stopped by a Walgreens so we could use the bathroom, buy me an air mattress, and buy T-Roller some heavy duty soap. We’ve quickly recognized that the foofy bath gel we use back home is not gonna cut it here.

We have meat loaf, cornbread, greens, and stone crabs for dinner. Mmmm, Southern food. It’s gonna be hard to keep my stomach from expanding again, despite the fact that I was counting on all the manual labor to be my cardio workout.

We’re supposed to have sharing time after dinner, where people come up and talk about their experiences of the day. It’s where we learn that we lucked out with the Miss Ida assignment, since the Utah crew got a house where nothing had been touched since the hurricane. Thirteen months, and nobody’s gone inside the house. Toxic refrigerator, toxic appliances, crap, crap, and more crap. They dealt with it all.

But nobody from our crew really wanted to share anything. We’re the Crew of Destruction, not the Crew of Sharing. We didn’t really have a lot of interaction with people, since Miss Ida had to get back to work after talking to us for ten minutes, and there wasn’t anyone else that came up to us. The Blue Shirts got up several times and talked about the people they interacted with today. And it’s all about leading people to Christ for them. Makes me squirrrrrrrrm. It’s very possible that the people they find WANT to share their stories. People on the block have been coming out of their houses to watch us, the Moonmen, doing the gutouts. It’s good advertising, I suppose. How do I get those Moonmen to gut out my house? Fill out this application and hey, by the way, do you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord And Savior? Squirrrrrrrrm.

The struggle for me is that by doing this work, I look like I agree with their evangelical ways. Which I don’t. I didn’t choose this Relief Group, 11:00 church did. Does that mean 11:00 church has been evangelical all along and I didn’t know it? Um no, I think I would have noticed. I mean, I HOPE. Nobody tries to shove a Bible in anybody’s hands during our Homeless Karaoke nights. But I don’t think it would’ve been smarter to sit this mission trip out because I didn’t agree with the Relief Group Pushy Christian Ways. Bottom line is, Miss Ida needed her house gutted out. I can do that.

Fearless Leader got up and talked a bit about what it’s like at our 11:00 church in Los Angeles. His crack of “Some of you might be surprised to know that there are indeed Christians in Los Angeles” got plenty of appreciative chuckles from the Old School brigade.

Lights out is at 9:30pm, but nobody’s complaining. I am bone dead tired. And if I feel this bone dead tired after the first day, how in the world do I think I can make it through the rest of the week?

I feel like one of those Survivor contestants that Roomie Jekyll and I make fun of on TV. The ones that start crying on camera, “I didn’t know it was gonna be this hard!” “You’re on Survivor!” Roomie Jekyll and I scream at the TV. “You’ve watched the show. You know it’s hot, there’s gonna be bugs, you’re not gonna have food. You’re gonna lose twenty pounds and have your personality edited to fit the whims of a fickle Story Editor! Why did you think it was gonna be easy?”

Why did I think this trip was a good idea? Following the call isn’t necessarily easy, but surely, there’s a reason I’m here, right? It’s not just that I’m helping a crew gut Miss Ida’s house. Isn’t there some meaningful lesson to be learned here? Why is it the only things I’m learning are things from the Chaplains that make me squirrrrrrrrm?

God, I’m tired. I’m so so tired. I can’t remember being this physically tired since…since I don’t know when. Maybe trying to do load ins at the theater for previous plays of mine? Hefting flats and boxes and painting skyscapes at 1am in the morning? Does it compare? I don’t know.

I don’t know why I’m here. God still seems far away. I know it’s only the first work day and a silly to be expecting a thunderclap realization, but I’m seriously drawing major blanks, and a sneaking suspicion I’m not gonna be getting the answer here, there, or anywhere.

The cornbread and stone crabs. I’m here for the cornbread and stone crabs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 1 – Monday, Oct.2, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the relief organization that ran the show. This will become important later.

Since there’s seven of us on this mission trip, my original thought was to name us after the Seven Dwarves. But that’s not gonna work, because I couldn’t decide whether I was Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy or Sleepy. So I’m naming everyone after…whatever I feel like.

Here’s our Merry Band of Seven:

Amy The Writer – That’s me! Yay me! Doing this Katrina trip because guilt-ooops-I-mean-Christ’s-love compels me to do so!

Fearless Leader - The leader of the crew. He’s the only one of us that was on 11:00 church’s first mission trip to Biloxi, where they were assigned to a single family and helped them build their house to specifications so their special needs kid could get an operation (that she couldn’t get until the house was completed.)

Native Chick – Our secret weapon, because she’s a New Orleans native. Her brother, sister-in-law and new baby nephew live in Metairie, and she’ll be staying with them at night instead of the community college gym like us. A very wise decision on her part, as the events of the week will soon show.

Giggly – The happiest member of our crew. Nothing gets her down. Not the 6am wakeup calls, not the lack of water pressure in our showers, and not tiptoeing in at 5am after a night out on Bourbon Street. Quite possibly the happiest hung over person I’ve ever seen.

Tweedle Rock and Tweedle Roller – a guy and girl pairing that were usually found to be goofing around together in the most sunniest and innocent of ways. Tweedle Rock has worked in construction in the past, this would prove to be very helpful.

Doc Brown – the oldest member of our group, with hair that bears a fierce resemblance to the character from Back To The Future.

Our flight to New Orleans is so nondescript that I’ve got nothing at all to say about it. We land in New Orleans, and the airport is freezing cold. But it appears to be put together alright, no signs of visible damage or anything. It takes forever to get the rental car, and though I’m not there to witness it, Fearless Leader and Native Chick tell us later that the car agent is quite the Chatty Cathy, and wanted to talk about how her house made it through the hurricane okay, it was only the wheels that came off the Budweiser truck and into the living room that ruined the whole thing. Ha ha ha.

We’re in two vans, and we strike out for Chalmette, where our Base Camp, AKA the gym of a local community college is. I’m the navigator in Native Chick’s van, and it’s the better van to be in, because she’s pointing out all sorts of stuff on the roads. There are definitely places we’re passing where there are no street lights, and there are no lights on inside the houses, because nobody’s home on the entire block. Native Chick and I are chatting about various aspects of Southern culture, which Giggly in the back seat wants to know all about. The Greek System in Southern Colleges, what’s a Shoney’s, what’s a Hush Puppy. It cracks us up.

The Chatty Cathy car rental agent had made us late, and I’m concerned that we won’t have time to eat dinner. But one of the things I’m going to work on this trip are my trust issues, which are huge and thorny and often my downfall. So I’ve made the decision that regardless of what I think we’re going to get into trouble about, I’m not going to say anything, and let Fearless Leader be Fearless Leader, and let the chips fall where they may.

So dinner it is! Native Chick wisely makes the decision to bypass a Burger King to hit a local New Orleans fast food place, and I get a BBQ Shrimp Po Boy. YAAAAAAAY! You have to understand, New Orleans Barbeque Shrimp is one of my favorite things to eat in the world. I used to make it myself, but I could only make it once a year because it uses a full stick of butter and three bottles of beer and some other stuff, and once a year would do you. It’s just as yummy as I remember, although I can only finish half of it. This trip is starting out on a very good note.

We make it to Base Camp a good forty-five minutes late. Ooops. Well, they know we’re from Los Angeles, we’re probably fulfilling any stereotypes they might have of West Coasters. They don’t seem to harbor any grudges as we arrive. And it is a Christian relief organization. They’re in the forgiving and helping business.

The college is surrounded by destroyed houses. We might not even need to go to any other part of the city to help people out, all we might have to do is walk across the street.

The Relief Organization has divided the gym into three major sections – the dining room part, the women’s sleeping area, and the men’s sleeping area. There’s showers, there’s a microwave, there’s lots of donated snacks, water, soda, Powerade, la la la.

We’re sleeping in the gym, which I knew, and there are cots, which I knew. But no mattresses, and the other groups have had the foresight to bring those inflatable mattresses that my Dad uses when he takes road trips. I think I’ll be okay using my Greeny Meany as a mattress of sorts. Greeny Meany is the world’s ugliest sleeping bag, and it’s been with me since childhood. It’s neon green on the outside, red flannel with pictures of woodland animals on the inside, because when you’re going camping, you want to sleep on pictures of wildlife that you will be shooting in the morning. Not that I ever did that. But that’s the sleeping bag I got as a kid, so that’s what I have now. It’s pretty thick, and I’m hoping it’ll do as well as an air mattress for me.

Relief Organization Leader leads us through the orientation. It’s a really small group this week. There’s one other group of about 15 from Utah, and then a couple that came on their own from Kansas City. The Utah group is all middle-aged Moms and Dads, and all those fantasies I harbored about working alongside hunky college guys quickly fly out the window. Sometimes I think if God’s trying to tell me anything, it’s that to please get used to the idea of being alone, because He seems to continually put me in situations where there’s zippo chance of meeting anyone. And if that really is the plan, then I rebel. I rebel right now (okay, not RIGHT NOW right now. But soon.) and it’s not gonna be pretty, and I have to think that He must know that, and why would He want me to be alone when it would make, and has made, and is making me very very unhappy. Whatever. I’m here to help Katrina people.

We’re going to be doing gut outs, where we’re assigned to a house, go inside, clear out all furniture, all debris, all carpets, and tearing down all walls, pulling out all nails, reducing everything to the studs, so an inspector can do a walk through of the house and recommend whether it should be razed to the ground or not. We get to pull down drywall, that seems like a good destruction thing. Certainly would seem like a chainsaw would be involved, and that’s what I really wanna get my hands on.

And as they take us out to the parking lot, and we go through a line of things to take with us, it’s dawning on us that we’re gonna be hardcore here. They’re assigning us a type of paper cotton suit, and a respirator with vents on the side, hard hats, safety glasses, work gloves, because we’re going to be dealing with a bunch of mold. We’ll also most likely be trashing our work boots at the end of the week, as we’re not allowed to even bring them into the gym, because of all the hazardous material we’ll be tromping in.

The orientation guy tells us how it’s very important to wear this stuff, because apparently one guy on Extreme Home Makeover inhaled mold because he didn’t wear the stuff and died on the spot. I don’t watch the show, so I have no idea if they showed that (and if they did, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD THEY SHOW THAT!) In any case, it’s definitely more hardcore than My Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much painting in her hospital scrubs. So take THAT, Biloxi! Ha ha ha.

There’s three types of piles of debris we’ll be dealing with. Hazardous materials, like aerosol cans, medicines, household chemicals. Then appliances, like washer/dryers, or toxic refrigerators (which we have to duct tape up first. One of the Utah group people wonders if we should open it to try and salvage anything inside and was roundly laughed at. Like anything could sit inside an unplugged refrigerator for thirteen months and be salvageable.) Then the third pile is anything else.

What’s strange about the whole thing is that if it’s this hazardous, why in the world would they let a bunch of newbies go at it? Is it because we’re the only ones stupid enough to do it? So if any of us die, it’s not like we took valuable construction skills with us? Possibly. Very very possibly.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I’m Back!

Yes I am back from Katrina Country, and I am whoo doogie tired. There’s a lot of stuff to catch up on, a lot of stuff to process, but the important part is that the trip did go off reasonably well, we worked our asses off, nobody got hurt too badly, and my laptop, wallet, and camera all made it back with me to L.A. (and the other stuff too, but those three items were the things My Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much was most worried about.)

What I plan to do is blog every day about what was going on at this time last week, it’ll be much more reasonable posts that way. So check in every day this week for a brand spanking new entry. And to commemorate the experience, I am going against all my principles and posting an actual honest to God picture of me in front of one of the houses we were working on. Yep. That’s me. That’s all the stuff we had to wear. It’s a loooooong story.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And off I gooooooooooo!

Hey gang, this one’s a shortie because I’m still trying to pack, and backing up my computer, and sticking a Post-It on everything in my room on the off chance that the plane goes down. And if I have five minutes left over, I’ll watch another episode of Battlestar Galatica.

I have no idea what to expect on this mission trip to New Orleans, and I suppose that’s a good thing. I think I’ll set my head to expect everything I’m seeing in When The Levees Broke, and that way I’ll either be confirmed, or somewhat surprised. I don’t think it could be worse.

People have been asking me all day if I’m excited, and honestly, I don’t know. I think the best we can do would be nothing but a drop in the relief bucket. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be doing it at all, but I’m not expecting the heavens to open up and the Hallelujah chorus to rain down.

I’m not even daring to hope that I somehow have a breakthrough on the God front. I feel like if I anticipate anything, I’ll be disappointed, so I’m just setting my head low, getting ready to get grubby, and keeping my eyes out for any chance to use a chainsaw.

Several of my friends have emailed me to say that me and power tools might be a bad thing (okay, they said me, power tools, and alcohol would be bad thing.) But I was pleased that so many of them took the time out to email me and to say yes, they would be sending the positive mental vibes. I have all of those emails on my laptop, and I’ll look at them if I’m feeling low.

Yes, I’m taking my laptop. I can’t help it, I’m a writer. To disconnect me from my laptop would be like shredding an umbilical cord, and I’m too scared to do it. Plus trying to transcribe from longhand would be a nightmare.

I highly doubt I’ll have internet access down there, so let’s expect the next blog entry to be mmmmmm next Sunday? Next Monday? Something like that.

Oh, and if the plane DOES go down, it was fun chatting with you all. Ha ha ha.