Sunday, April 12, 2009

Midnight Mass(acre)

Christmas Eve was far from over when the bus pulled back into Jackson Square.

During the drive back our guide told us his story about his experiences during Katrina. He pointed out sections of New Orleans that had been under water and we gazed around recognizing places we had been driving past daily – totally unaware. He told us about the broken glass that lay on the ground and of Walmart dropping water and food and opening their stores for the needy. He talked about people dying on the bus he finally escaped on and how they had to leave them at the side of the road and never knew what happened to them. As he spoke – I turned my head and wiped away tears.

These stories need to be told. The world needs to hear how the people of New Orleans were forgotten and left to die by their own government. How their own president turned his head away and pretended he didn’t see them dying in their own country as they begged him to help. We need to remember – the stories need to be told.

As we pulled into Jackson Square I knew I was in trouble. The Man was looking at me in that odd way he has that signifies I am giving off all the indications of having ingested gluten.

“I think there was gluten in the turkey or potatoes I ate,” I said as I bent over in pain.

Together we figured the turkey had to be one of those self-basted ones – they contain gluten. Why? I have no idea. Why inject gluten into a turkey that is safe for people to eat? Or – it could have also been stuffed with bread dressing and was contaminated. Either way it was my fault for believing (and wanting to) the women when they said it was safe to eat.

My one complaint about New Orleans – especially the French Quarter – is the lack of bathrooms. To be able to use a bathroom in the French Quarter you have to be a customer of the bar or restaurant. Your need has to be accompanied by a drink or a meal and on Christmas Eve – that isn’t going to happen.

With most of the restaurants and bars closed we went in search of a bathroom. Christmas Eve is the only time I saw Bourbon Street not packed with people. As we walked down the empty street we passed a few bars that held a smattering of patrons drinking in Christmas. Some bars in New Orleans are famous for never closing, yet they all have that same sign – bathrooms for customers only. The famous balconies were empty except for a couple of girls who tried to get The Man’s attention by throwing beads at him but I missed it all inside my own little world of pain.

When we reached Canal Street we had already walked blocks and my face was covered with sweat and not from the exercise. The streets were haunting in themselves – so gaily decorated with ivy and ribbons – yet almost empty. Blocks away stood Harrah’s and we suddenly realized the casino would be open and had plenty of bathrooms that were free! The Man took my hand and coaxed me on with that wonderful smile of his and that love he surrounds me with. He knows how much I suffer when my body is attacked.

A half hour later we were back on the street and heading for St. Louis Cathedral to attend Midnight Mass. As we approached the cathedral I realized that once again I was in trouble. When we got inside the cathedral we went in search of another bathroom but there weren’t any. You step inside the front doors and you are almost immediately inside the church. A police officer stood in front of the steps that led to the balconies saying that they were closed and we couldn’t see a sign anywhere that suggested they even had a bathroom inside this huge edifice!

The second surprise was the fact that the church was packed with standing room only left. The Man and I stood against the back wall close to the door in case I had to leave. My body was once again gripped with pain and could only think I was in the perfect place to be praying that I could make it through the sermon.

The Man and I are not Catholic but we have been to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve before with friends. It has always been a lovely experience. This could not be said for this one. The Archbishop preached the sermon and it was so political that it made our heads reel. The sermon had nothing to do with Christmas. With people stepping on my feet and pushing me back into the wall I had finally had enough when Communion began. We stepped out into the fog and hurried back to Harrah’s once again.

Christmas Eve at Harrah’s must be some kind of tradition for the young crowd. Once Mass was over the casino filled with young people on the prowl. The girls were dressed in skintight miniskirts and heels the size of mountains. They congregated in the bathrooms, sitting on the couches or on the counters – doing their nails or hair and just chatting while the boys hung around outside as they casually surveyed the offerings. It was a meat market.

One girl took pity on me as she looked at my knee-length skirt and flat shoes. “Can’t you wear heels honey?” she asked me. I laughed and shook my head and claimed my bad back. “Oh! Poor you!” she said and patted my arm as I passed.

It took until 4am before I felt it was safe for me to leave the bathrooms behind and make the walk to the car and the 20-minute drive back to our trailer. Once home I collapsed into bed and I spent most of Christmas day sleeping off the effects on the front couch. I awoke at midnight as The Man was making the bed up once again. I have no idea how he spent Christmas – but my celiac attack had ruined it for both of us. I was done in then for another couple of days before I had the strength to venture about once again.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Oh! I'm so sorry you were so ill. Thank you for passing on the history of NO after Katrina.

Cath said...

What a Christmas Eve for you two! Wow. They really should have let you in to use the bathroom when you were in so much pain.

It must have been heartbreaking to see the effects of Katrina and hear the stories. But they must be told, as you said. They must be told.

Dr.John said...

I felt so sorry for you as I read this entry. A great holiday and you were sick. The miracle of the birth of Christ and you got a political sermon.
Glad you had someone who knew how to take care of you.
A Blessed Easter to you.

Thalia's Child said...

That sounds horrible. It amazing how much of our foods have additive that is unnecessary and therefore ruins it for people with special requirements.

The Gossamer Woman said...

It must be tough to be always very careful of what you eat. You are always reading labels, I guess, and then you still can't trust some of the food. Being a celiac is very tough.

grandmamargie said...

Aw, Aims, I'm so sorry you had such a rough time. And those bathrooms for customers only deal stinks. You buy a drink, walk the streets and have to buy another one to get rid of the one you just drank. :)

Anonymous said...

Terrible to hear this, hon. Gluten is an awful thing for those unable to take it and I sympathise totally. The man is a wonderful human being.

I was sent some beads years ago by a good friend who visited NO during the carnival.

CJ xx

aims said...

As I wrote this post I was suffering once again from a celiac attack.

The Man bought some snacks at an Asian grocery store and read the label carefully - then assured me they were 'Aimsafe' as he calls things.

I spent all day in the bathroom and then sleeping away the fatigue.

A celiac attack always causes depression for me and I am now trying to fight that off as well as the after-affects.

Such is life for me. The stuff is everywhere and in everything. What is 'Aimsafe' anymore?

Akelamalu said...

Why is it there's no bathroom when you need one most? :(

Daryl said...

What a long walk that is from the casino to Jackson Sq ... twice in one evening even in flats is a lot ...

I guess you are just going to have to stop buying packaged foods and cook/eat only what you yourself make

Lane said...

Oh my, that was a rotten thing to happen on Christmas Eve - rotten at the best of times but to be out and about with no public bathrooms ...:-(

You must have to be so careful Aims but unfortunately there's always the risk that something is labelled incorrectly.

The title of your post is excellent btw:-)

TSannie said...

I hope you feel better very soon. I would never think a turkey would contain gluten. That's awful.

Mickle in NZ said...

Dear Aims

I was so feeling for you as I read this and your additional comment.

And now another bout for you. I hope your "innards" heal up quickly and you are soon back to full enery levels.

I refer to my own dodgy digestive system as "the innards" - they do seem to lead a separate, independant existence!

Zebbycat sends you very loud purrumbles as he snuggles down on the bed.

Care and love, Michelle xxx

travelling, but not in love said...

Being ill like that sucks. Especially far from home and not knowing where the toilets are...eek!

Salute said...

What ashame? I think it is so sad how the people of New Orleans were forgotten and basically left to die following Katrina. That was diaster that will be long remembered.

Anonymous said...

Yes these stories of New Orleans need to be told. All the UK heard was about an event in a sports centre. I learned more from watching Cesar Milan the Dog Whisperer when he helped some of the Katrina dogs and his wife helped reunite them via the computer. That was heartbreaking to hear how so many people had to just leave their pets and not know when/if they could come back for them or know how long they would be evacuated for. It did seem to take so long for help to arrive there.

I'm so sorry to hear about you celiac attack. I have to be careful with celery and now it would seem some fir trees too. I don't know what is happening to people's bodies. It's almost as if the life we are leading in the modern world is causing them harm.

david mcmahon said...

Thank goodness you recovered. Great post title.

Carolina said...

Why doesn't this country have public bathrooms like many other countries do? I've never been in as much pain as you were, but there have been times that all of us needed a rest room, with much urgency and can't find one. I understand that businesses need to make money to pay the help to clean and maintain restrooms, but in a city, especially one that wants/needs to attract tourists, public restrooms should be plentiful and clean.

Brett said...

How awful, we had Christmas away with a group of friend, we hire a large house out in the country and i fell ill on the big day, so i known how you felt. As for our mutual friend she is doing well and is busy planning her next trip, the last one was a great sucsess.

Moonroot said...

What a shame you were so ill for Christmas. It is so awful to be ill away from home too. I got struck down by food poisoning once in Hong Kong - horrible.

I hope you are soon feeling better from the current gluten attack.

lisaschaos said...

That sounds like A Christmas that you won't forget! But not in a good way! Ouch!

Mean Mom said...

Sorry that Christmas was so awful for you. Bathrooms available to the public are becoming quite rare in this country, too. You will find one in a department store, or a restaurant, but the local councils don't seem to want the expense, or the bother of them, any more. Hope you are now fully recovered from your last celiac attack.