A minute earlier, I was rubbing my bad knee and trying to understand how I ended up in south Louisiana at a Cajun dance hall. Then the music started up and without a thought, I was back out on the dance floor doing a wicked two-step.
After 36 years of marriage, seven moves around the country and now pushing 60, how did this New York native find himself in Breaux Bridge on New Year’s Eve wearing Cayman-skin cowboy boots with a bandanna hanging out of his back pocket?
It started last April as an attempt to quiet the demands of my wife, Rosemary, who for decades had been requesting that we take dance lessons together. Assuming she would never go along with it, I agreed to take lessons, but only if it was for Cajun dancing. I should have known better than to try that trick. Take my advice and never try to bluff a girl from the Jersey shore or you might just end up learning several variations of the two-step.
So while friends and relatives back east were watching the ball drop in Times Square or at some club on the upper east side of Manhattan drinking in 2015, this New Year’s Eve found me at La Poussiere, dancing to the music of Walter Mouton.
Following our dance lessons with Roland Doucet, we are fast becoming regulars at that little Cajun dance hall. While I confess to not understanding what is being sung, and I admit that my jitterbug really needs help, no one points at me and laughs when I am on the dance floor. Besides the politeness of the locals, the beer is always very cold and my wife never stops smiling the whole time we are on the dance floor.
After four somewhat disappointing years in Baton Rouge, we had come to know very few people outside of my work, so it was something of a surprise to be quickly accepted by so many people.
Upon entering La Poussiere on New Year’s Eve we were greeted by people who hugged us, wished us a happy new year and then cautioned us to be careful on the long ride back home — this is an older crowd. For one of the first times, Louisiana felt like home.
What our friends at La Pousierie have taught us is that it is not the band, the drinks or décor that makes a good party — it’s being with a special group of people who are so generous of spirit that they are willing to share their joy and their culture with everyone who walks in the door. The people at this place that calls itself “La Petite Cathedrale de Musique Cajien” believe that music and laughter are gifts to be shared with all they meet and their joy at being alive is simply infectious. They have convinced me that Cajuns actually invented having a good time.
For my friends and family back in New York who have never been near the Atchafalaya, I am sure that drinking champagne cocktails at the Café Carlyle and hoping to get a glimpse of Lindsay Lohan was an adequate diversion on New Year’s Eve. As for those of us who have had the chance to dance to Ivy Dugas and the Cajun Cousins, we know the fun really starts on the banks of the Bayou Teche with our good friends from Breaux Bridge.
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