still life with wedding party
the part of the story that you need to know is that two years ago, before neil and i were even dating, i gave him the bride for his birthday.
he was 48.
i used to be a bride for a living. many of you know this. but some of you probably don’t.
for about 5 years, off and on, i made my living as a street performer, standing still as a white-washed living statue in a wedding dress and veil, giving out flowers and kisses, selling love, hope and eye contact and staying glued to my milk crate as love and indifference passed me in human waves on the street.
i busked mostly in harvard square, but i also traveled, especially when the winter hit and busking in boston was impossible and my day job at the ice cream store started driving me crazy.
more than ten years ago, my sister got married in new orleans. i flew down early, since my parents were footing the bill for the plane ticket, figuring i’d make some money hitting the street.
my mother took this photo of me in jackson square in front of the st. louis cathedral.
i was 23.
the money was terrible. there was an overpopulation of street performers.
i was nothing special.
rumor had it there was even another bride statue, but i never saw her.
then my sister got married. i was a bridesmaid.
then ten years later, my sister got divorced.
i always said i wouldn’t get married.
why not just live with someone for christ’s sake?
plus, everybody in my family was divorced and just kept getting more and more divorced.
it just seemed stupid.
two years ago, i was 32.
i had just put out Who Killed Amanda Palmer, my solo record.
i didn’t know Neil very well, but i knew him well enough to know that he would love a statue for his birthday.
we were in new york at the same time and i told him to come meet me in washington square park. that i’d be on a bench reading a book. he’d find me.
beth helped me. (and she rocked it. this was the awesome part of the job for an assistant, i thought. “bring me some extra white sheets and face paint and meet me in the park.”)
it was november 10th, his birthday day.
and it was cold.
he was 45 minutes late.
there was construction in the park.
i’d set the bride up on her milk crate against a big stone monument, and it took him a while to find me.
it wasn’t a good pitch for street performing. i think i made $8 in that 45 minutes, and mostly gotten made fun of by the construction workers and a herd of junkies who couldn’t’ figure out what the fuck this crazy chick was doing standing painted white as a bride statue in a park under construction freezing her ass off and making no money whatsoever.
but he came. he gave me a dollar.
then i hopped down and took my collected $9 and took him for a hot chocolate at cafe gitane, but didn’t have enough money to pay the bill (yes, two hot chocolates in New York cost over $10), so he covered me.
now i’m 34.
it was his 50th birthday last week, and we were engaged to be married.
i decided to marry him because i honestly don’t think i’ll ever find a better man for an amanda palmer.
i really don’t.
and so, for his birthday, i wanted to give him something good.
we woke up in new orleans on a gloriously sunny day, where we were all gathering for his big birthday party that night, and we went hat shopping, since i’d told him i’d buy him a top hat for his birthday. friends of his from all over the world were coming.
after the hat was picked, i escaped, mumbling something about wanting to run ahead and arrange some nice tea for him at an undisclosable location. he loves his tea, the brit. he’s very particular about it. magically, the man in the hat shop, named jason, had recognized us both when we walked in and said something like “AHA. I’ve been expecting you.” it couldn’t have been more convenient…i slipped off and left neil my card to pay for the hats (we bought one for jason webley, too, which is it’s own whole symbolic story) and chat with hat-seller jason, mostly trying to convince him to overcome his agoraphobia and come to the dresden dolls gig at tipitina’s.
and i ran to the courthouse steps, where a random assortment of people had gathered. it was going to be just a few people, then the list grew as the word spread.
the courthouse had kicked everybody off the steps for having no permit.
jason made an executive decision to move the entire party to jackson square in the park.
i texted neil to meet me at a restaurant on the other side of the square just as we were kicked out of the park. i tried to beg the park officials to just give us five minutes. he said Fuck Off and Get Out.
neil was about a block away at this point so i scrambled outside the park to the steps right outside the church and it dawned on me that i’d stood in exactly that same spot, 10 years ago, where my mother took that picture.
kitty, kate and holly and maddy helped me with my veil and dress. fabulous lorraine fended off the park rangers.
tourists took pictures.
and the rest of my motley bridesmaids…casey, and laura and frances, and trillian, and hayley and elyse and hera, they all held flowers.
then everybody hid.
i waited there alone, and still, and he came to me.
he put a $5 in my basket. i’ve obviously appreciated in value.
i gave him a rose and we looked at each other. and the wedding party came to life and surrounded us.
i had asked jason webley to officiate the wedding.
he did introduce us, after all, and he also knows how to make magic happen with big groups of people.
his rock shows often end in street theater gatherings where effigies of himself are sent into space via 100 balloons and sometimes he does things like lead whole parades of people to rivers where he gets on a burning raft and drifts off. he’s that kind of guy.
kyle took a lot of pictures and also brought cake and rings that he bought in a voodoo shop.
kitty got the vows on video:
neil lost his ring the next night at the jason webley show during the part where everybody tickles each other.
i said that was the best way to lose a ring and who knows where it would end up but maybe we should take the other ring and throw it in the bayou so we’d always know where it was like in harold and maude. instead i gave him my ring for safekeeping and it fits on his pinky.
he also says that the tea was the best part. i know him by now. i could not promise tea and not bring it.
in all truth the Figuring Out Of The Tea took more energy than everything else combined – superkate and i finally decided on a thermos of hot water and a separate teabag with an additional container of cold milk because that’s the way he likes his tea, for fuck’s sake.
kate brought the cup and saucer and the spoon.
hera took this one, of jason officiating….
and of us kissing, a black and a white:
and kyle and the wonderful olga nunes put together the official wedding album, with some of the most beautiful pictures i’ve ever seen of the wedding party…..
….it’s absolutely beautiful.
thank you kyle, thank you olga. thank you hung-over morning wedding party and thank you neil gaiman, my wonderful moxy, for taking me as your lawfully wedded statue….
i love you with all my human heart.
the wedding party as photographed by kyle cassidy:
trillian, hayley, frances, casey, the fabulous lorraine, superkate, maddy, me, neil, holly, kitty, jason, laura, hjörtur, elyse and hera.