Jun 16, 2016

Prairieville IV: Clerks and Courts and the Mall of Louisiana

Tuesday morning I hit the Keurig button before dawn. Tracy and Kim have a lovely expensive built in coffee machine which will grind the beans, foam the milk, and blend a number of coffee drinks for you. But it stopped working not long after they moved in, and despite Saori and my best efforts to fix it the first day we were there, we managed to only get it open and have the same errors that plagued Kim and Tracy. In the meanwhile, they bought a Keurig.

Saori was also up early and we put on our bathing suits and slipped in the pool with our hot coffees. The pool, heated only by the sun, was nearly lukewarm, and it steamed off vapour because it was warmer than the cool morning. It was a nice moment of quiet and relaxation. Hot coffee in a warm pool on a cool morning, floating around in a float chair. Mmmm...

When everyone was up, relatively early I might add, I fixed fried eggs for whoever wanted them (or maybe that was wednesday, or thursday morning...?) and we all sat down and planned out the day. First and foremost was the trip to the county clerk. After all, if we are going to have a wedding, we’re going to want it to be legal.

We did our homework. I was very familiar with the requirements. Marriage licences are issued by the parishes in Louisiana, and all the requirements are the same across the state. You need to be over 18, have an official birth certificate, $17, and your social security number. Since I misplaced my birth certificate (likely location: storage unit outside of St.Louis) I went to the lengths of ordering a new one, shipping it to dad, who shipped it to me in Germany. Saori had hers already, but since her name was different on the birth certificate, she had her mom send the legal name change, plus a notarized translation of the name change.

All documents in hand, mom, Larry, Taylor, Saori and I went to the parish clerk in nearby Baton Rouge and started the paperwork. The clerk was reviewing our documents when she frowned and pointed out the difference in the first name on Saori’s birth certificate. There was a problem. Larry gamely came up to the desk, and so did the office manager. As it turns out, in the state of Louisiana, there is a law that they could only issue marriage licences to the name on the certificate. After about fifteen minutes of discussion, they gave us a form to take to the family courts in downtown Baton Rouge, where we could ask a judge to waive the birth certificate requirement.

We piled back into the minivan, insides squirming, for the ride downtown. It was such an incredible comfort to have mom, Larry, and Tay there. Even if there was nothing we could really do, it was just having them there to coolly evaluate the situation, and with or without the legal experience, just able to say, ok, you could do x, you could do y, let's think through the implications together, was such a comfort.

Tay hopped out and helped us find our way to the family courts. As a public defender, he had a lot of experience dealing with bustling courtrooms, clerks, staff, and the workings of the court. We tried a few people and a few floors. We met a lot of “we don’t issue these waivers anymore” to “we only issue the waivers for the waiting time requirement.” We met court employees who were sympathetic and tried to be helpful, but it became abudantly clear after talking to some attorneys and clerks that the ONLY way forward would be to have the state that issued Saori’s birth certificate make a correction and reissue it, or we could try directly to put the case on a docket, both options requiring weeks. Standing in the corridor, we decided that instead of putting a false name on the marriage licence, we would forgo the legal ceremony. Saori has been through a lot of trauma over her documents and name change, and we really did not want to make any more muddling on that account.

Next stop was Kinkos to print the boards. Everywhere we went in Louisiana, everyone was staggeringly nice. Even mom, who lives in the US, commented about how much people treated us like royalty wherever we went. Saori had invested a lot of time making boards for the wedding and for the rehearsal dinner- and they looked fantastic, to be honest. We were just going to print them on some 11x17 paper, but mom insisted on ordering them full sized on plastic boards, surprising us with a gift which showcased Saori’s work. We picked up Larry and Tay and went to lunch since we were all starving at that point.

On the way to lunch, I ran a quick search on the possibility of a wedding in Portland. It looked as though all we would need was $60, $5 to waive a waiting period, and valid photo ID. We would only be in Portland for a few days, but it seemed like it could work.

Lunch was really delightful. Kim had recommended a few places and Tay organized a voting system whereby everyone in the car gave rankings to the restaurants and we picked based on the restaurant with the highest cumulative ranking. It sounds complicated, but Tay has been doing this so long and we are so used to it, it was quite quick to decide on the Jamaican restaurant, Rum House, I believe it was called. It was packed inside, and the hostess apologetically asked if we wanted to sit outside. We took her up on it. Louisiana is hot and humid, but after air-conditioning free Germany, I was not enjoying the desiccating, freezing blast that most Americans are accustomed to dine and work in. Anyway, it was under fans, actually not too hot, and the seating was a wrap around terrace around a big overgrown garden filled with birds. It was taco tuesday, so everyone got $2 tacos which were all really really good. Actually, I could have eaten a few more of those tacos.

Next stop, we went to Hobby Lobby, where we spent a good hour buying more ribbons, gift packaging, teal and gold spray paint, etc. Both of us were still feeling a bit in shock over the whole licence thing so we shopped in a bit a of a daze. Mom and Tay finally abandoned us and went to get iced lattes at Starbucks.

Last stop for the day was the Mall of Louisiana, which sounds much grander than it actually was. You hear “Mall of Louisiana” and you think maybe they have a mini-gatorland inside, or at least a Cafe du Monde. No such luck. They did, however, have a Dillard's and I was on the hunt for a gold tie.

Why was I looking for a good tie? For the wedding Saori and I decided to keep it simple for the attendants- for the groomsmen, seersucker pants, leather belts and shoes, white dress shirt, and a teal bowtie. I wanted matching bowties, dialed up on the fanciness, because everything else was kind of plain. It was a task I handed off to my brother, who predictably found just the right ties. Beautiful silk ties with a subtle Paisley pattern, and really really cheap for the quality. Or would have perfect without our meddling. Saori and I saw the ties online and we approved then all except my tie which was a dusty gold. We made Tay buy a much more yellow gold tie, which when we got to see it, was bright canary yellow like two birds sitting on my chest. Hence the hunt for a new gold tie. Taylor actually paid for all the ties himself, as part of his wedding gift to us.

Saori was feeling unwell and so she hung out while Tay and I scoured the mall for a nice gold bowtie. Everywhere we went in, we tried to avoid conversation with store staff because it took fifteen minutes to explain what we were looking for and then have them putter around politely muttering they didn't think they had any ties, apologize, and then try to think of other stores which might have them. Every store we went to. Dillard's had a tie which mostly fit the bill, but it was really expensive. $40. For a tie I was likely to wear once. Ten dollars less than what Saori paid for her whole dress. I dragged poor Tay out of the mall and across the parking lot to the Nordstrom's Rack (OK maybe I didn't have to drag him) but their selection was pitiful. Cheap, though. I found a rusty gold-ish tie with a square pattern for $20, and was waffling when Tay said that we could also search the next day. I mentally whacked my head and said “let's get the right tie” because it's ridiculous to spend so much time tie shopping so close to the wedding day. We went back to Dillard's and I bought the tie.

We hurried back to Prairieville as rain began to fall. It rained and rained. Kim and Tracy had made reservations for us at a restaurant, but given the weather, the emotional fatigue, and general exhaustion from running around all day, they decided to cancel and we ordered pizzas instead. Papa John's in my honor. I do miss good American delivery pizza in Germany. 
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