This past weekend was a little odd. For one thing, I traveled all the way to Little Rock (via American Airlines) and then to New Orleans (via my parent’s Honda with do-it-yourself back-window tinting (it was that way when they bought it)).
In New Orleans, I was able to touch base with a few business and Church friends and enjoy the 80° weather. Oh, and the food. The grand finale (food-wise) was Brigtsen’s. Rich and tasty food, but three of us ate for less than $100 (of course, we didn’t order wine).
Back in El Dorado, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my brothers and sister while my wife (7 months pregnant now) and kids celebrated on their own. Like I said, a little weird. Weird, but good. Alexis and kids enjoyed the ride to Philly enough, though. They found Philly’s chinatown and ate good food.
Being in New Orleans by myself, I had plenty of time to think. And I had time to think about what made New Orleans a great place.
Here it is: the city celebrates humanity. Everywhere else, we’re always striving for perfection, but New Orleans celebrates the decay and, yes, decadance of everyday life. We’re human. We fuck up. Our houses rot, our streets sink, the roads flood, mesquitos bite us, palmetto bugs walk brazenly down the sidewalk, liquid trash stinks up the streets in the morning before it is swept away.
And life goes on.
We keep celebrating, we keep living, we keep loving. Ignore the decay — live with it. That cup of coffee with the friend is more important than the fixing a house that is already livable. The house has been there for 100 years. It’ll do for another year or two. It isn’t quite necessary to fix it right this minute.
And it is the drudgery, the everyday-ness of life. We celebrate that to. Maybe not with a party like Mardi Gras — who can sustain that level of activity year round? — but with a beer at the end of the day. Yeah, your day sucked. Have a beer. Watch the grass grow and don’t worry about cutting it for now.
And so what if there are potholes everywhere? That’s just what happens. Things fall apart. Let’s go suck the heads off of some crawfish and drive a little more carefully.
And those bugs. We’ll put up some mesquito netting and maybe stomp a couple of those palmetto bugs. But not all of them. You’ve got to clean up too many bug guts if you smash a lot. A beer is better than smashing bugs.
See, everyone looks at Mardi Gras as the epitome of the New Orleans experience, but it ain’t. That’s like saying the epitome of the Christian Life is Easter. Parties aren’t what everyday life is about. Life is about enjoying what is around you. If that’s decay and peeling paint, well, so be it. We’ll enjoy that.
We’re all about accepting our imperfections instead of reforming everything right now. This drives some people batty. They want a Disney World experience, not a New Orleans Experience. Clean streets (made so by industrious workers!) are more appealing to them than the streets that stink from tourist’s vomit.
But the shopkeeper’s do come out (even if it isn’t early enough for some people) and they do hose down the stench. They battle back the vomit for yet another day. And, even if some people are appalled that they’ve had to witness such an event, the shopkeepers get back to the business of selling t-shirts and Tylonal to the vomiting tourists.
That’s the New Orleans Experience, my friend. Instead of hiding out from the our fallenness, we embrace it. We acknowlege it. We accept it. We don’t hide our cleaning crews. And, yes, you can vomit in the streets. Try that in Disney World!
’Cause refusing to hide from your fallenness is the first step to overcoming it.
All those Bible-Belt Baptist Believers? They ain’t gonna get very far because they are, as a friend so eloquently put it, “back porch sinners”. Only when I have the freedom to sin on my front porch — only then can I really change.
And, ooh boy, can you ever sin on the front porch here. You can practically fuck in broad daylight (some days of the year). So, if I can do that — and I’m not — then I must really have been reformed.
And I’m not talking Las “What happens here, stays here” Vegas, either. I said front porch sinning, and I mean it. You live here — you’re not sneaking off to some other town carry out the dark deeds of your heart. You’re not ashamed of who you are: you’ve accepted it.
Sure, as a Christian, I hope you want to be more Christ-like. But, I also want you to be true to yourself. I want the real you, not some made up goodie-two-shoes who secretly spends all night surfing porn on the Internet.
Let it all hang out. Be real. And learn to accept other people — to love them in all their humanity. They’re all made in God’s image, after all. Accept that they all exercise that likeness through the choices they make. And some chose differently than you or God wanted them to.
God still loves them. And so can we.