Walter Mencken 2 p.m., May 28
Thousands Gather in Gaslamp to Welcome Penitential Season of Lent
Zealous Roman Catholics Throng Neighborhood to Proclaim Fleeting Nature of Life, Extended Nature of Afterlife
Streets echo with repeated cry of "Memento mori - remember death!"
Mardi Gras celebrants engaged in frenzied worship of Jesus Christ; many of them will not taste anything but bread and water from now until Easter, a day marking Christ's resurrection from the dead.
DUST WE ARE, AND TO DUST WE SHALL RETURN, DOWNTOWN - "As for man, his days are like grass," said Alyssa Zincenko, a pretty co-ed smeared in body paint and draped in beads as she lurched against the guard rails lining the street during last night's Mardi Gras festivities.
"He flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Let the good times roll, and may Almighty God have mercy on me, a sinner!"
Zincenko was just one of the many revelers gathered here to mark the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Roman Catholics recall their ultimate destination and adopt penances so as to atone for their sins and re-orient to God.
"The late Pope John Paul II told the faithful not to be afraid to go out into the streets and proclaim the gospel," said Brad Bradley, a portly man dressed in a "Hello Titty" T-shirt. "So here we are - even wretches like me. I wear this shirt to confess my deeply sinful attachment to pornography and fleshy pleasures in general.
"Starting Wednesday, I'll be replacing it with a shirt made from goat hair. Hopefully, the discomfort will remind me of the pains of hell, and of the fleeting nature of physical pleasure. And also of the pains suffered by my Savior when he took upon himself the punishment for my sin. I love you, Jesus! Hooray for Lent!"