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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

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.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

More than an Obit for Sister Marcy / April 2017

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

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April 2017


More than an 
Obit for Sister Marcy Romine

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 
Sister Marcy Romine, 67, died on Valentine's Day, February 14 at her apartment in New Orleans. She was a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 47 years.
Sister Marcy Romine
 Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, she entered the Franciscan Sisters Order in 1968 and professed perpetual vows in 1974. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and a master's degree from Loyola University in New Orleans.
Sister Marcy taught at Saint Adalbert, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Casimir Schools in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. She also taught at Little Flower Academy in Monroe, Louisiana, and Holy Trinity School in Bucyrus, Ohio. Following teaching, she became the Director of Volunteers for Project Lazarus in New Orleans, and then responded to a call from her community to serve as vocation minister in Saint Louis, Missouri. 

She returned to New Orleans about five years ago to became director of special projects at the NO/AIDS Task Force. 

"My temporal spiritual home," was Sister Marcy's sweet rift on the philosophical note raised high by fellow Saint Louis immigrant to New Orleans, Tennessee Williams.  Williams famously called New Orleans his Spiritual Home.

  Soon after her return to Big Swamp City we met for lunch at Cake Cafe and Bakery, on Spain and
Lazarus House, green building foreground of Holy Trinity Church
 Chartres Streets. We were old friends from Lazarus House days, happy to see each other again.

Project Lazarus is an AIDS / HIV services project. I was a new volunteer the year Sister Marcy first came to Louisiana. We met for orientation, and to be given the name of a person I would visit ~ reading to ~ an agreed title ~ visiting regularly ~ as we saw fit ~ befriending ~ and, yes, sometimes sitting bedside at the last hour. I know this may sound creepy, but it was actually liberating.


"What will happen if I start to cry?" I asked, at that first meeting.  


(In full disclosure: I volunteered because it had been suggested by a grief counselor that I do so as a way of dealing with loss of friends. In those early days, when President Ronald Reagan would not even speak the name, the 
NO/AIDS Task Force opened on Frenchmen Street.  With laudable civic grace they offered free counseling for the ill and the bereaved.)

Sister Marcy said"It might give them a chance to cry, too. We hope to demystify death, and it is not like they don't know. They will let you know where they are."


Project Lazarus began as Lazarus House, an AIDS hospice in the former rectory of Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Holy Trinity was founded in 1854, as a prosperous German congregation, on Saint Ferdinand Street. It served the new German and Italian settlements of Faubourgs Marigny and Bywater. 

Holy Trinity Church, founded in 1854 /
 today, Marigny Opera House 
  This neighborhood also supported a German-speaking militia (police), and a German newspaper.  

Holy Trinity had grand French stained windows and magnificent Bavarian / Schwabish hand-carved wooden fixtures. All sold off by the Archdiocese after desanctification. Today the building is rentable as the charmingly misty venue, Marigny Opera Housein this misty post-Katrina gentrified neighborhood. 

During five years at Project Lazarus I befriended a young dark-skinned man from Baton Rouge, who went by the name of Roger X.  He held a PhD in physics, and was teaching mathematics on the graduate level when he was diagnosed. Life had been good. He had friends, a red Chrysler convertible, and was buying a house. He lost his job, most of his friends, his red car, new home, and even his eyesight, after he became ill. 


Once, reading a passage from A LESSON BEFORE DYING, I did cry.  When I had collected myself Roger X. calmly said, "I don't cry anymore. It is alright if you do." 

Roger X. had grown up in New Roads, Louisiana, hometown to Ernest Gaines, author of A LESSON BEFORE DYING, and distinguished professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Like Gaines' protagonist in LESSON (Grant Wiggins), Roger X. wanted out of his Life in "the Quarters," the section of once plantation lands where blacks lived ~ then and now. Both men got out, and both got pulled back by roots, memories, 
membership in the community. 

We were reading A LESSON when Ernest Gaines and Oprah Winfrey took America on a tv-tour of New Roads, its church, and cemetery. 

Homie, Roger X., and I went along, too. 

Roger's weak eyes left him unable to see more than light and shadow ~ no details. I started describing what was on the tv-screen. Roger stopped me. He already saw it in his mind, he said, "As clearly as anyone watching in America."

His Father was a "Hardshell Baptist Preacher," he told everyone, in sad explanation for his never visiting. His Mother was loving, he said, but obedient to her Husband. 


That Christmas he went home for a first visit since diagnosis. He left December 12, and returned December 20.  The Prodigal Son's visit cut short five days before Christmas ~ in a devout Christian family ~ was a very bad sign. Sister Marcy called me to come visit. We read more of A LESSON BEFORE DYING. No one cried.


Roger X. died the following Spring. His Parents did not come, but his Mother phoned. Sister Marcy may have called her. In the last hours of care a hospice crew bathed, powdered and dressed him while I waited in the hall. 

I held the phone to his ear and spoke into it to his Mother: "He smells like baby powder, and is in a fresh blue gown."  I told her Roger's eyes were open and moist, "He knows it is you."

A few weeks after his death I wrote to the Oprah Winfrey show in Chicago. They wrote back and when A LESSON BEFORE DYING was made into a HBO movie I was invited to attend the premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in New Orleans. At the dinner afterwards at House of Blues, I sat at table with actor Cicely Tyson and chef Leah Chase.

Thank you Sister Marcy and Roger X., mes amis!

Post Mortem 
I know nothing of Roger's internment. Sister Marcy is buried ~ like Tennessee Williams ~ back in Saint Louis, Missouri. There was a huge memorial service and Second Line for her at the Marigny Opera House

(Tennessee Williams has annual festivals in his honor in New Orleans; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Provincetown, Massachusetts; and lately Saint Louis, Missouri.)

Comments and corrections are welcome, click here. 

Lagniappe du Jour, Today!

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© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.


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Go here For 
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. 


                            For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to www.LEJ.org  
                                                      
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LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and 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.
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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Dayafter Mardi Gras without Jule Lang / March 2017

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

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March 2017

The Day After Mardi Gras

without Jule Lang


BY  Leonard Earl Johnson

© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


The Day After Mardi Gras, Alex McMurray ~ You Tube


LEJ.org, as the late Ernie K-Doe



LEJ's Louisiana,
Yours Truly in a Swamp
by
Leonard Earl Johnson

"Ain't nothing in the world time and money won't cure." ~ Ernie K-Doe, New Orleans Musician and Emperor of The World 


On Ash Wednesday ~ all over Louisiana ~ Carnival lifted its joyous mantle, leaving Lent's ashen smudge in its place. 

At New Orleans Saint Louis Cathedral.
Business suits stood cheek-by-jowl with crimson capes and smeared-lipstick ladies awaiting priests dressed in the vestments of Sorrow, putting The Sign of The Cross on foreheads. With thumbs dipped in the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday palms. 

Outside, rain washed The City and the parade moved on!

I have many doubts about theological things, but none whatsoever about this ceremony. To ashes we shall return.

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This month's column is dedicated to fallen Faubourg Marigny patron of the arts and marcher in the Louisiana parade, Jule Lang. 


click image to enlarge

Last Summer,
 we met Jule Lang and Clifton Webb outside the Acadiana Center for the Arts, on Vermillion Street, in Lafayette.  

The two had recently returned from Europe, and were now on an art and gastronomy tour of Louisiana.  We talked with German-accented ACA Executive Director, Gerd Wuestemann in the main exhibition hall.  Webb, native of Baton Rouge and New Orleans; and art patron Jule Lang described their visions of art and its weave in our social fabric.

And food in Copenhagen!  Who would have thought?  We adjourned for hot buttered snails at nearby Pamplona Tapas Bar.  During courses of many grand foods and thoughts, Lang spoke of artists ~ local and not ~ and the numerous Louisiana film makers (Atchafalaya, the film ~ Facebook) of interest to her. 


Jule Lang died this year, very early during Carnival Season. 


Thank you for your time in the parade, mon amie. We will remember you during all the rest of the dance. 


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It has been a good Lent this year ~ so far ~ with sunny mornings, and a warm spot under the kitchen dormers to read Internet newspapers and sip coffee. 

Lent, a celebration of abstinence, is the longest holiday in the Christian calendar. Should you need reason to be suspicious of any religion's claims on temporal powers, think of that and be wary. They are likely selling better ways to flog you for their sins ~ and yours!

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~ Mardi Gras Day 2017 ~
President Donald Trump spoke to a joint session of the United States Congress, on Mardi Gras Day, in full Presidential costume.  Most Beltway observers were satisfied Trump did not swing down to the podium from a chandelier.  

The world watched, and quivered. We were becalmed, for we had walked all day beneath skies raining Carnival Beads.

L. A. Norma, riding 
in a French Quarter pedicab, 
smiled at pedestrians along Chartres Street, while preaching: 
"Don't tell me the Baby Jesus does not have a dark humor! 
Floating on a cloud, watching Citizens lining up to get flogged!"

"You got it lady," our driver said, peddling away on Saint Peter Street,  
while tucking Norma's fifty inside his left boot. 

We turned from the curb and headed towards 

Saint Louis Cathedral,
 on our way to light a candle for some good cause.

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Live Oak Trees outside our dormer windows are a soft young green. Live Oaks don't dump their leaves till Spring's new buds arrive. They are never leafless ~ as followers of JFK conspiracies know. They change from old dark green to young soft green almost overnight. It is why they are called Live Oaks, and why JFK'ers say Oswald never had a clear shot.

Today soft-green rules Big Swamp City, and old alligators lie on the banks in whatever sun we have left, dreaming of Reincarnation, Easter-baskets, and Spring.

Lagniaupe du Jour today!

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Clifton Webb and Jule Lang              click image to enlarge
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Scott Ainslie at the Rosa Parks Transportation Centre, Lafayette Louisiana ~ You Tube

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Linda Ronstadt / Blue Bayou ~ You Tube


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Iko Iko ~ You Tube
(old Carnival song) 
Dixie Cups

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© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.

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Go here For 
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. 


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



© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
*
LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and 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



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