Tuesday, April 7, 2009
This Rolling Crone has been in love with New Orleans since I first visited 23 years ago and saw an authentic jazz funeral that blew me away. We toured the haunted houses and feasted on crayfish étouffé and heartily embraced the city’s motto: “Let the good times roll!”
This past weekend, with daughter Eleni, I returned to NOLA for the first time since Katrina. I found the city as beautiful and vibrant and filled with festivity, food and music as ever. We were there for the grand New Orleans wedding of Katherine, Eleni’s long-time roommate and dear friend; a beautiful southern belle whose family call her “Blossom”.
All weekend, as we ate beignets and café au lait at the Café du Monde near Jackson Square, we found the French Quarter filled with brides and pirates. It was the weekend of the annual pirate convention, or PyrateCom, and the quarter was bursting with buccaneers and their wenches, virtually all of whom (the wenches) seemed to be ample and voluptuous and showing a jaw-dropping amount of décolletage. The long weekend festivities of the Pyrates included the “Search for LaFitte’s Ghost”, Haunted New Orleans Tours, the Voodoo Queen’s invitation to Party with the Dead at a grand ball, and the auction of afore-mentioned wenches. (We learned that the way pirates greet each other is with a very loud ARRGGHH!)
Katherine’s wedding , on a much more exalted plane, began on Friday night with a cocktail party given by fourteen couples at the elegant Appartement de L’Empereur in Napoleon House just off Jackson Square. On Saturday we began at Café Du Monde (where we counted in the Square maybe a half dozen brides with their attendants in tow). Then we toured the French quarter ending up at the First Cemetery and the grave of voodoo queen Marie LeVeau.
Saturday night was the wedding at the famous Arnaud’s “Classic Creole” restaurant just off Bourbon Street. To get to the wedding on time, we had to push and shove our way through a street filled to overflowing with the Pirates’ Grand Parade.
New Orleans’ grand families attended Katherine and Matthew’s wedding, which filled Arnaud’s rooms from the tiled floors to the crystal chandeliers. There was a jazz band and singers and rooms full of Creole delicacies, spirited dancing and a shrimp boat large enough to sail down the Mississippi. At the end of the evening I witnessed a New Orleans custom that I’d never seen before — the Second Line.
The bride and groom were each handed decorated umbrellas and the guests all received lavender handkerchiefs printed with the couple’s names and the date . Then the band began to play and the bride and groom danced along behind and all the guests, waving their handkerchiefs, boogied and shimmied behind the newlyweds as they “second lined” out into the streets of New Orleans to celebrate the marriage and to mix with the pirates and their wenches who were celebrating a Pirate wedding and also second-lining in their be-feathered tricornered hats. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
(Click on the photos to see a larger version.)