Monday, September 12, 2016

What a Wonderful World

Margaret S. Hamilton

Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer was my introduction to New Orleans, a novel in which place assumes the role of a major character. I recently reread it, amused that Binx Bolling’s concept of “certification”-- seeing where we live on a movie screen--is now replaced by hordes of tourists snapping endless selfies. Percy’s descriptions of the neighborhoods, restaurants, and the manic atmosphere of Mardi Gras enhance Binx’s journey of self-realization.

I grew more familiar with New Orleans when two of my children attended Tulane University. We explored the usual tourist sites and learned how the kids lived in their adopted city. My son and his fiancée held their wedding in New Orleans, the city where they met and helped rebuild after 2005.

At the start of the reception, Louis Armstrong’s gravelly voice filled the old coffee brokerage repurposed as a wedding venue, as we navigated the floor during our mother-son dance, celebrating the moment, neither of us relishing the spotlight. Our family was putting down roots in New Orleans.

When I told friends the wedding location, they smiled with pleasure and anticipation.  Crawfish etouffee, shrimp jambalaya, gumbo. A muffuletta or po’boy sandwich, beignets and café au lait. Jazz pouring out the open doors of clubs in the Quarter. A streetcar ride through the Garden District and Uptown, or up to City Park. A walk along the mighty Mississippi. Pure bliss.

Layers of history, architecture, and tradition. The Zoo, Aquarium, Art Museum and Botanical Garden. A stroll through Audubon Park and Lafayette Cemetery. The new World War Two museum.

As the wedding reception came to an end, we lined up behind a jazz band for a second line parade through the Quarter. Waving white hankies, we walked the cobblestone streets, following the bride and groom brandishing their umbrellas, for close to an hour. At midnight, the Quarter was packed with tourists taking videos of us. I had my own moment of what Binx Bolling termed “certification,” when I appeared in a stranger’s video, Louis Armstrong’s voice still with me.

Readers, have you visited New Orleans?

Margaret S. Hamilton has published cozy mystery stories in Kings River Life and stories about New Orleans in the Darkhouse Destination: Mystery! Anthology and as a runner-up in the Southern Writers Magazine September 2016 short story issue.


  1. Great photos and what a wonderful venue for a wedding. I hope you are going to B'con and will be able to combine business and pleasure.

    I was in Nola once, as a college student in the 1970s Went for Mardi Gras, of course. All I remember are the crowds and promising myself to go back again one day. I hope I get to keep that promise!

  2. On my first trips to New Orleans in the 70s and 80s, I primarily enjoyed the architecture and wandering streets in short sleeves while up north I would have needed winter coats. The last time I visited was several years after we moved our winter home from Cincinnati to Savannah. There are still wonderful things to visit, but the boorishness of the crowds was sufficient to dissuade me from visiting again anytime soon – and Savannah has similarly nice architecture and weather.

  3. This is a beautifully written post that captures the aura of New Orleans. We lived 8 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and loved to visit this city. I went there a lot because of my job too. I'm headed there Wednesday for the Bouchercon, Blood on the Bayou, writers conference. After reading this, I'm even more excited about the trip.

  4. Margaret, Kudos for taking full advantage of the rich heritage of the FQ for your son's wedding. Well done. This colorful post evokes memories from all of us who have been there. Back in the 60s, I visited as a college kid and remember rounding a corner and running smack into Ann Margaret, on location for one of the numerous movies shot down there. Thx for sharing.

  5. Lovely imagery, Margaret! My inlaws taught at Tulane when my husband was a little boy. He still remembers bits and pieces from his life there. We've visited once together, but we've talked about going back far more frequently.

  6. I've never been, but I was fascinated by a friend's description of the tour she took of the cemetery. Sounds like a place worth visiting--NOLA, not the cemetery. But maybe that too.

  7. Great pic of you and the guys ;)
    New Orleans has many charms and it sounds like you and your family are enjoying them greatly. I've been twice - once, sensibly, in February, the other in blazing August. Some of my favorite things on earth are there - the Spotted Cat Jazz Club and muffalettas from the Central Grocery!Enjoy!

  8. I visited the World War II museum with my father, a combat veteran of that war.

  9. Kait, Jim, Linda, Georgia, Julie, Grace, Shari, Warren: thanks for responding. I've been in New Orleans for three weeks tending to a family member. I spent today roaming the Quarter, re-visiting places I've enjoyed on previous visits, sitting in Jackson Square eating a muffalleta from Central Grocery, and taking a tour of Gallier House on Royal Street. I'll be at the Sisters and Crime event on Wednesday followed by Bouchercon.

  10. New Orleans always had a magical aspect to it, and you encompass it beautifully. I'm sorry to be missing Bouchercon this year. I think I would have loved being in such a wonderful place! I have a friend who visits frequently, sometimes works in a cigar shop where old men hand-roll cigars.

    Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

  11. We just got back from New Orleans. My son and his wife spend their honeymoon there twenty years ago and decided to celebrate the anniversary by going back to the same hotel, with their teenagers, and they invited both sets of parents to celebrate with them. A delightful weekend. Such a great city.