As part of NolaVie’s new Yeah you write! campaign, we are inviting readers to submit New Orleans-related content for a chance to have their work featured on our site. Whether it’s a personal essay about moving from New Orleans, a photo of French Quarter Fest, or a video of a second line, we want to know: what’s your New Orleans story?
Today’s featured submission is from new NOLA transplant, Ginger Sexton, about how her impuslivesly joining in on a secondline landed her at a wedding she wasn’t invited to, where Sexton proceeded to partake in an unforgettable, NOLA-style celebration.
My feet hit the water. I hear the waves crashing ashore. I hear jazz playing from the Steamboat Natchez. The afternoon is going to be a calm and relaxing one, and then it happens: “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
Before I know it, one of the groomsman grabs me, “It is time to dance!” he says.
The brass band starts playing and the second line begins. My calm moment on the Mississippi River has just turned into a party.
I begin dancing and singing as someone hands me a glass of champagne. We second line down the Mississippi past the Saint Louis Cathedral and into the French Quarter. All along the way spectators watch as we dance; most tourists do not know to join in, so they smile, giggle and take pictures as we dance by them. A gentleman dressed in a gold outfit, complete with face paint and spray painted shoes, joins in and we continue though the Quarter. The second line comes to an end at a pub near Rampart.
As I walk into the pub, the bride and groom give me a hug like they have known me for years. Since I’m at a wedding reception where I know no one, I congratulate them and attempt to duck out.
The bride grabs me, “What do you want to drink? Grab you a bowl of Gumbo.”
“Really, I am full,” I respond. “And this is your wedding reception for your guests, not me.”
“I am happy, so who gives a damn?” she reassures me. “And besides, my mother made the gumbo. You should have some before she gets angry.”
“Well no one wants their mother angry on their wedding day,” I respond, reaching toward a steaming pot of homemade seafood gumbo.
The afternoon flies by as the party — friends, family, and strangers like me — dances and eats and eats and dances. I make fast friends, and before I know it, the reception comes to an end.
“Off to Frenchmen Street!” some of the wedding party instructs just as I am ready to leave.
The mere suggestion of Frenchmen — its history and music and magic — makes me giddy. The street lined with lively music venues and quaint restaurants. A place where famous musicians and locals alike can come to be fans. A place where talent is abundant and fresh.
As we turn the bend on to Frenchmen, the summer air accommodates the interweaving harmonies of a host of musical sets. Reverberating voices, the percussion of brass, catchy melodies, but one musical thread rings clear above the others: the sound of Big Sam’s Funky Nation.
As I enter a small, dark venue with the remnants of the wedding party, I realize the bride and groom do not want their special day to end; I instantly decide I will dance until the sun comes up; it’s my duty, the party’s duty. So we dance. First to the groove of of New Orleans funk and eventually back on the street to the sweet echoes of a brass band. Drinking, laughing, and eating again — all in the name of love.
As the night winds to an end and the sun begins its ascent, we walk back towards the banks of the Mississippi where it all began. The water is calm again, and the Steamboat Natchez is gearing up to sail for the day. In the distance, I can hear the city waking up — birds chirping and people laughing.
The groom looks at the bride and says, “I fell in love with you all over again today, here, where we first met.”
Even though it was not my wedding (or a wedding I was formally invited to, at that), and I did not fall for a groomsman or one of the many musicians on Frenchmen. I too fell in love that day. With the banks of the Mississippi and the streets of the French Quarter and the clubs and bands on Frenchmen. With the people of New Orleans. With the city of New Orleans — for me, the greatest love I have.