I’ve written this first paragraph about a dozen times now. In every rewrite my attempts at description fell short, sounded hollow or tone deaf for the same reasons, I think, that my elaborate and myth-fueled imaginings of the city now all seem to me like someone telling a story and telling it wrong. That is, New Orleans speaks for itself. Though, Tom Robbins says it pretty good, too:
“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.”
From the moment I landed, I was met with sights and smells and sounds that rendered silly my expectations. People, like myself, who’ve never been there can likely list by rote these details that I find myself failing to express. So I’ll mention in passing the exuberance and pride in the faces and gestures those people of New Orleans with whom I had the pleasure to cross paths. Everything seemed to be accompanied with the magnanimous authority with which one rules their own kitchen when cooking their favorite dish for friends, or behind the wheel of a self-maintained classic car driving strangers around and sharing anecdotes about their hometown.
The wedding of Linzy and Josh was an incredible experience in large part because it seemed to me that everyone involved was having the time of their life. If there was an instant that encapsulated it all, it was the second line parading down the streets of the French Quarter, dancing, beaming, shouting and crying with joy. There was little explanation going into the procession that led from the Creole Queen to the Paris Room, we all just fell in and did what our souls told us. It was, for lack of any other term that does it justice, a religious experience.
This was a week of love, of beauty, of once-in-a-lifetime moments. My love to the happy couple. And very special thanks to Alex Thompson for being my second eye, and for the incredible images she helped me capture.