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Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for Consumer Affairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the books FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

House of the Rising Sun / August 2017

Yours Truly in a Swamp
August 2017

House of the Rising Sun
~  Of Scholars, Brothels, and Drink  ~
by
Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org

* * *
L. A. Norma crushed her cigarette on the old dormer window's wooden ledge, then dribbled coffee grounds from her cup over the scar. "Coffee, best damn restoration there is," she said.

We are in the kitchen at Squalor Heights, my pre-K garret apartment in the Faubourg Marigny Triangle, between Esplanade and Elysian Fields ~ on the downstream edge of the French Quarter.


Norma pulled down the window and led us down two flights of in-and-out stairs.  First flight was behind a locked door, and under cover of wall and roof.  The next two were outside, exposed to the wind and rain. 


Squalor Heights was only up one floor, but the second floor was up three flights ~ a ventilation feature of antebellum Louisiana houses. 


It was a typical Spring day dotted with rain. The year was 2005. We were steeped in search of the past, with no thought to possible Summer hurricanes. I will only tell you the outside stairs blew away later on the very day I last climbed them, as Hurricane Katrina came ashore on big clawing cat's feet ~ but that is another poem. 


This day's story is about heel-and-toeing it into the nearby faraway French Quarter, and eyeballing addresses ~ like a private gumshoe ~ that might have been, "That House in New 'Or-leens' They Call The Rising Sun."


We first learned about the Rising Sun in the Fabled Sixties, from a popular song by British-rock invaders, Eric Burdon and the Animals. They made New Orleans dance in our heads and pants! 


The irresistible siren of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll has called many an Illinois college boy to all-night drives in pursuit of a randy weekend among the fleshpots of adult themed ports. 


*


Diligence at the Historic New Orleans Collection's Williams Research Center ~ and a ten-cent martini lunch at Bacco, down the street ~ netted three addresses with possible connections to the House of the Rising Sun

The staid Historic New Orleans Collection itself owned one of them at 535-37 Rue Conti. Once the address of a hotel named House of the Rising Sun.


"That's a clue," Norma said, over her second martini. 


Today the site is a proper exhibition and storage annex to the Williams Research Center, around the corner, on Rue Chartres. This annex is cause for much speculation about, "That house in New 'Or-leens'."



*

The Williams Research Center was an experience for me like college must have been for those who actually attended classes rather than driving to New Orleans. 

Hard, but comfy straight-backed wooden chairs sat around well lighted tables, inside a room quiet, clean and serene ~ save for the occasional scholar bobbing about bumping into furniture while in pursuit of his own elusive truths. 



T-shirt
"Must you make such a racket?" L. A. Norma asked one young man. 

The lanky youth glared back and said, "Yes!"


We left for our ten-cent martini lunch break, accompanied by the Williams Center's Pamela Arceneaux, who assured us with the authoritative voice of research librarian's everywhere: "No ironclad evidence existed of any such 'Rising Sun' ever existing."


"What of that name on your building long ago?" Norma asked. "What would you know of that?"


Actually she would know a lot. Arceneaux has written on the subject of prostitution in New Orleans ~ a City licensed profession until WWI ~ and been quoted on this 'Rising Sun' topic in recent books and magazine articles. Because?


During the  annexe's renovation a multitude of rouge pots and wine bottles were discovered under the building, discarded over the past three or four hundred years. Naïve dry-landers in distant publications concluded these were indications of a certain joie de vie giving further rise to legends of The Rising Sun.


Not so fast, saith Pamela D. Arceneaux :

"I have made a study of the history of prostitution in New Orleans and have often confronted the perennial question, 'Where is the House of the Rising Sun?' without finding a satisfactory answer.

"Although it is generally assumed that the singer is referring to a brothel, there is actually nothing in the lyrics that indicate that the 'house' is a brothel. Many knowledgeable persons have conjectured that a better case can be made for either a gambling hall or a prison; however, to paraphrase Freud: sometimes lyrics are just lyrics."

Not to mention that one would likely find discarded rouge pots and wine bottles under most buildings in New Orleans.


The second site we found named Rising Sun was an 1800's coffee house, at #9 Old Levee Street ~ now 115 Decatur. 



Captain LEJ.org

From my experience ~ as a Son of the Sea ~ I am inclined to place my brothel bet on this upper Decatur neighborhood.  Before 2005, I recall it was populated with bars friendly to the needs of Sailors in from the Deep Blue Sea.


The third site was 826-32 Rue Saint Louis. It is listed in BIZARRE NEW ORLEANS, by Frank G. Fox, as having been owned, from 1862 to 1874, by Marianne LeSoleil Levant ~ a name that loosely translates from French to English as, 'Rising Sun.' 


"There's that name again," Norma said. "Maybe the term is generic for something? Like 'up with the rising sun and off to Sea', or someplace."


"Maybe," I said, "But my money stays on the coffee shop at 115 Decatur.


The newest candidate ~ what is now the Williams Center's  annex ~ was destroyed by fire in 1822. 


Though it had been a hotel by the name, House of the Rising Sun, for the preceding thirteen months before the fire, it is not thought to have been a house of ill repute. (It was a 20th Century parking garage, in 1992, at the time of purchase by the Historic New Orleans Collection.)


"So some of those wine bottles came from drunken motorist and parking attendants?" Norma asked like Plato.
*

History can be a fickle pickle, and no more confirming evidence than that exists as to where ~ or even if ~ such a house existed.



"I think it still does, several do," Norma said, as we stepped out on Rue Chartres. She lit a Camel Cigarette, and through its smoke puffed out, "Ask the man who would be Governor, former Senator David Vitter!"


~ 
A version of this story first appeared in June of 2005 ~ 

Copyright, Leonard Earl Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved


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~   ~   ~

~ more ~
Lagniappe du Jour,
 today!
*
~ You Tube
~ ~ ~
50 years later
~ you tube 

* * *

Pamela D. Arceneaux


~  ~
Historic New Orleans Collection

*


*
 Sam Rey, "Meet Me in New Orleans"
Sam Rey's masterpiece Song of New Orleans after Katrina ~ You Tube
~   ~   ~
For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp  go to www.LEJ.org                   
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Forgive me that I know not what I am doing.
(stop snickering, I mean the computer-ing not the writing.)
I am a story teller not a computer gamer.

Archives: www.LEJ.org

© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * 
Go here For  


and such falderal ...

*
If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.org anytime. 
They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks. 
*
*
LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically 
at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
*

Note: LEJ, 29 August 2008, in ConsumerAffairs.com

New Orleans: Three Years Later
A Katrina refugee pays a return visit

By Leonard Earl Johnson

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Today's Train is not Running Today / July 2017



LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
Archives: www.LEJ.org
* * * * * * * * * * * 

July 2017

Today's Train is not Running Today
BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

An Australian couple we had met ~ earlier, aboard Amtrak ~ waved from across Boulevard Jefferson. Behind them sit the double engines of Amtrak's Ole #1The Sunset Limited, West, out of New Orleans. 


The engines are large.  Blue and silver with thin red racing stripes.  Softly the engineer blows the whistle.  He is calling the smoke-break passengers back aboard.  The train starts to move.  The baggage car, two Pullman sleepers, a restaurant car, observation car, with huge windows ~ and the last two cars, day coaches ~ snake off down the track.

The Aussies detrained with intent of staying behind. They are now standing with L. A. Norma at the Cypress Street corner crosswalk, in front of the Rosa Parks Transportation Centre parking lot ~ a Lafayette city-centrum where taxies, trains, buses (City, cross country, and tourist) all merge.




~   ~   ~
We are sitting at Reve's sidewalk cafe, eating a great biscotte and drinking a harsh black coffee without chicory.

Norma is informing the Aussies of such oddities in the culture of Louisiana such as, "No chicory in the coffee outside of New Orleans."


"And horns?" she adds. "Horns! The quintessence of New Orleans' music! 


"There are no horns used in the music of Zydeco or Cajun. Here they use the German-introduced accordion for wind. Or the downswing of the rubboard."


These differences are exactly what has brought our Aussie friends off today's Sunset LimitedWest.


They are on one of those famous ~ often once in a Lifetime ~ Australian journeys to the upper Earth. They arrived in California by plane, and have been three months taking trains across the whole continent, even flying to Europe and back.  


After a week in New Orleans they decided to stop somewhere outside of Big Swamp City.


"To see the country," the man says. They chose Lafayette, "Hub City," to French Louisiana. 



The Alamo      /      courtesy San Antonio, Texas
We talk of World travel. "Our intent was to go as far as Turkey, but because of today's troubles we did not."  Both of them lost ancestors, in 1915 ~ at Suvla Bay, on the Aegean Coast of what was then the Ottoman Empire ~ during Australia's starcrossed entry in World War One.

"That's the way our boys used to see The World," the woman says.  "Pretending they care about Europe's wars ~ some still do, I guess." 


The train aboard which we first met was named, City of New Orleans. It carried us from Chicago to New Orleans, for French Quarter Festival, and the fabled 
Touro Synagogue's Jazz Shabbat.  Today we are happily in Lafayette, helping these friendly Aussies find a phone with an Uber app ~ more compatible than the Australian one on their phone.


A bartender from Pamplona Tapas Bar, down the street, came out of Reve holding a steaming cup

Pamplona's sangria in production
of coffee and an open phone. He offered to call Uber. Then suggested he simply give them a ride to their Airbnb ~ which happened to be near his house in a nearby section of Town ~ across the tracks, where large older homes give shelter to bartenders and travelers off whistling trains.


*

few days later, I went to Amtrak's website to check the train the Aussies were booked on to San Antonio, "By God Texas!"


"We can not miss stopping in 'By God Texas'," they laughed ~ mimicking American accents as they have learned them in Louisiana.


Over Pamplona's award winning paella, and a bottle of Spanish wine, I told them of being five years old, staying in a hotel across the street from The Alamo. Our Parents went out to dinner. Oldest



Pamplona's terrace      /      courtesy Pamplona
Brother, age 11, was our commandant apparent. For behaving well our Parents hid our clothes and rewarded us in advance with footlong hot dogs and French fries from room service.  

Done with the dogs and free of restraint, we three little boys crossed the street in our hotel bathrobes, and pushed open the huge doors to the Alamo. I remember the floor was dirt and there were no guards.


"Today you would be shot, arrested, tried by Texas Homeland Security, and imprisoned in a for-profit prison, for Life!" Norma said.  
She stood and raised her glass, "Antonio López de Santa Anna save us!"  She says this while exhaling a cigarette plume, and glancing about the room for Texans.


The Amtrak website had no information other than services were down at every stop from Los Angeles to New Orleans, in both directions.  It advised us to call "1-800-USA-RAIL, for more information." A long wait on hold got me to a recording suggesting I check for further information on their website, Amtrak.com

Back on the ole website I again tracked the train all the way from Los Angeles to here and back.  At each stop the information was the same, service down, check the 800 number.


I don't know how our Australian
 friends got on down the line. I suspect they took the Greyhound Bus, with its new airline-inspired seating.  Recently I took Greyhound from Big Swamp City, and never do I want those leg cramps again. Am-trickle may disappear for a few days, and close the diner before we board, and never know exactly when they will be anywhere. But they don't cramp your legs. 


"And you get to meet Australians," Norma added.


I wrote an e-mail to Amtrak, asking about the days of the missing trains. They responded with the following letter.  I have no idea what offensive anything they are talking about.  I don't write that way, and surely "Where's the train?" is something their delicate customer service representatives have heard before.


I wrote back asking whatever did they mean.  I have yet to hear.


Amtrak's strange letter:
Dear Customer,

Thank you for writing to us.

We are unable to respond to your inquiry at this time.

An automated mail reader that shields our customer 
service representatives from certain offensive language 
intercepted your communication. We respectfully request 
that you either visit Amtrak.com to re-submit your comments 
or contact us at 1-800-USA-RAIL to speak to one of our 
customer service representatives.

We apologize for any inconvenience 

and hope to hear from you soon.


Sincerely,
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Lagniappe du Jour,
 today!
Australian Warsong
YouTube
~ ~ ~
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - John McDermott
You Tube
~ with lyrics ~
~ ~ ~
Waltzing Mathilda / Tom Waits
You Tube

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Suvla from Battleship Hill.jpg

* * *

~   ~   ~


*

An American in Paris on Bastille Day 2017
~ Selling 'Freedom Fries' to the French ~
*

Alliance Française de Lafayette



*

*
LEJ.org  with Rosa Parks,  Rosa Parks Transportation Centre 
Lafayette, Louisiana   /   photo credit  Mark  Konikoff

~
Louis Armstrong Summerfest

New Orleans, August 4 ~ 6, 2017

~
For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp  go to www.LEJ.org                    


© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * 
Go here For  

and such falderal ...

Don't hold your breath on my figuring out le Internet.  I am a storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer. 
Contact me if you want on the list ~ that may get e-mailed. 
*
If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.org anytime. 
They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks. 
*
*
LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically 
at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
*