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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 ConsumerAffairs.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 anthologies: 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.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

✍ The Rector and The Rocking Chair / December 2021

 


πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸŽ„πŸ€ΆπŸŽ„

βš“βš“ 

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December 2021

The Rector and The Rocking Chair
~ Fiction ~
Roman Γ  clef, cher! 
by Leonard Earl Johnson 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
 www.LEJ.org βœ
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 


πŸ’€πŸ’€
πŸ’€
⇓

Dillard leaned on the front gate bell.  Silvia stood a couple feet behind her talking with Baltazar, the fisherman poet.  They are talking about the colored jewels he has pasted to the tops of his white rubber boots.  In Louisiana such boots ~ sans the jewels ~ are a shrimper's uniform and I.D.  The rubber keeps out the water.  No one knows why they are white.

"Some people say boots are white so as to not scuff the deck," Baltazar tells Silvia.  "Those people have never been on a shrimp boat."

On the other side of the gate resting on manicured paths dotted with magnolias and palmettos sits The Rectory of the Cathedral

of Saint John The Evangelist.  

Up a few stairs is a broad gallery lined with windows glittering in the sun.  The Rector and his Housekeeper, Hildegard Bottlebrush, watch unseen through double hung cut-glass windows set deeply in heavy mahogany doors.  

The Rector sees it is the two Red Women whom he does not wish to see; and Baltazar Boudreaux, who he does.  Baltazar has a JFK memento he wants to sell.  The Red Women have banners, stickers, slogans, and madness.

πŸ’œ
πŸ’§

The Bishop of Lafayette Parish (and The Rector's temporal and spiritual boss) was a child of eight in 1963, when his Father and Mother drove him from Basil, Louisiana to Dallas, to see President John F. Kennedy's brains blown out over the long shiny black trunk of the President's Lincoln Continental.  Of course, the boy never forgot it.

He saved his pennant and lapel pin from that day.  Over the years he added to the collection until it grew so large that LIFE Magazine once did a two page photo spread about it.  

Years later one of the government's JFK, "full disclosure," hearings traveled to New Orleans and set up tent in the Old U. S. Mint, in the French Quarter.  That was 1995.  The boy, now grown and a rising Prince of the Catholic Church, was asked to put his collection on display and say a few words.  He did this gladly.

Yes, Baltazar has something The Rector very much wants.  Something to give The Bishop at his January First Birthday party.  The something is a little porcelain rocking chair suggestive of one where the


President was often photographed rocking, flexing back muscles to ease his World War Two wounds.  

The Rector tells Bottlebrush to bring them to his second floor study. "And coffee, please."  These last words were spoken seated upon an ascending electric stairway ~ a folding chair attached to a steel rail bolted to the wall next to the stair treads.  Slowly electrically The Rector rose.  The Housekeeper buzzed open the gate.  The visitors entered. 
~  *  ~      ~  *  ~      ~  *  ~

πŸ—£ 😷

~    ~    ~





Leonard Earl Johnson, LEJ.org βœ
 
Photograph Β© Leonard Earl Johnson 

Subscribe@LEJ.org http://www.LEJ.org
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 years.

~   ~   ~

 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,
Hosted by GOOGLE BLOGGER,
and historically at
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans
publication of the

It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

Monday, November 01, 2021

βš“ Making Groceries at Rouses / November 2021

 


βš“βš“ 

βš“



Making Groceries

at Rouses

~ Fiction ~
Roman Γ  clef, cher! 
by Leonard Earl Johnson 
 www.LEJ.org βœ
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 


πŸ’€πŸ’€
πŸ’€
⇓

Silvia and Dillard detrained in Lafayette at the Rosa Parks Transportation CentrΓ© and walked up Jefferson Street to Carpe Diem Gelato to rendezvous with L. A. Norma.  She has promised to help them 'make groceries.'  Making groceries is New Orleans speak for stocking the kitchen.

The two Red Women are stocking a kitchen in Lafayette across Saint John Street from the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.  Their rooms are airy, clean, with a fine view of the ancient Live Oak Tree known throughout Louisiana as The Cathedral Oak.
  
Natures mystic carrousel
It is said to be over five hundred years old with a trunk that looks to be screwing up from the bowels of The Earth.  Limbs flinging love, order, and discipline.

The Cathedral Oak

In a direct sightline up Rue Principal (Main Street) from the Cathedral to Parish Prison to Parish Court House to the bank formerly known as the Chase Manhattan.  All Institutions in an alliance as outsider-friendly as money and faith will allow.  In Louisiana such allowances are nearly infinite.  

L. A. Norma calls it the three Fs, "Faith, Force, and Finance. As nourishing as the Cajun gumbo," she adds, dipping the ladle, passing the potato salad, exhaling Camel Cigarette smoke.

Here, gumbo is a wholesome seafood banquet.  Lapped up with cornbread as often as French bread.  And cemented to the Cajun heart with a big scoop of cold potato salad plopped at tableside into the bubbling broth.  A culinary curiosity seen as Satanic in New Orleans dining halls.  

"But we are not in New Orleans," Norma says, "and we love the creamy cooling mix." 

πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’›

The two Red Women each take a slice of pizza from the hot counter at Rouses Market near Cajun Field; and a bit of green salad from the cold counter.  

They find seats at tables beside large windows overlooking an ample parking lot off a freeway of streets with many lanes and complex traffic configurations.  Lafayette is a wonderfully stimulating place for automobiles and trucks. "And football," L. A. Norma adds.

Flat on the table beside their food trays they fan out black, white, and red stickers along side a hand lettered sign reading: "Free.Each sticker is a three inch black square holding a white circle inside of which is printed in blood red lettering:
!Turn Back 
Voter Turn Out!

Two black women toting black shopping baskets look at the stickers, then at the women, then walk away.  A redheaded pizza baker picks up two stickers, slips them into his white cook's jacket, and returns to the ovens.

Outside, through the windows a young man with jewels glued to his fisherman's white boots is seen waving his arms.  A square white van marked US POSTAL SERVICE stops and gives him a lift to the front door.
  
 πŸ‘’
πŸ•  πŸ•

Sylvia spots the boots and recognizes the young man from their bus to New Orleans.  His name is Baltazar Boudreaux.  He thanks the Postman for the lift and walks into Rouses and over to the Red Women's table.  "I see you got back good," he says, picking up a sticker.  

They tell him of their new apartment near the Cathedral Oak, and their plans to join the Cathedral congregation. 

L. A. Norma explains she has brought them grocery shopping and will give them all a ride back, if he needs a lift. 

In fact, he says, he does. He is on his way to see the Cathedral's Rector. To show him an artifact commemorating the murder of John F. Kennedy fifty-eight years ago this November, in Dallas. He shows them a little porcelain rocking chair with JFK in gold glitter. It sits empty. A what-not-shelf keepsake from 1963. Baltazar wants to sell it. The Rector is interested. He is in need of a gift for the Bishop's birthday. ~ LEJ.org βœπŸ’”

~  *  ~      ~  *  ~      ~  *  ~

πŸ—£πŸ˜·

~    ~    ~

      
 
Photograph Β© Leonard Earl Johnson 

Subscribe@LEJ.org http://www.LEJ.org
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 years.

~   ~   ~

 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,
Hosted by GOOGLE BLOGGER,
and historically at
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans
publication of the

It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 


Friday, October 01, 2021

✍Home Again Home Again / October 2021

 


βš“βš“

βš“



Home Again Home Again

Wherever You Can

~ Fiction ~
Roman Γ  clef, cher! 
by Leonard Earl Johnson 
 www.LEJ.org βœ
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 


πŸ’€πŸ’€
πŸ’€
⇓

L. A. Norma and sat at tables outside Carpe Diem Gelato, on Jefferson Street.  COVID, for all it has taken away, has given a shot in the arm to Lafayette's sidewalk cafΓ© society. 

Across the street sits the Hub City's second-built City Hall.  Built in 1939 by FDR's New Deal Works Project Authority.  The WPA was a Depression era agency that left helpful Federal thumbprints all over Louisiana ~ though its name is unspoken by today's revisionist politicians.  

City Hall moved not too far away to its third location, a former Sears big box store with lovely murals on University Avenue.  Sears followed the shopping malls out to the countryside, and then out of business.

Jefferson Street City Hall today houses the Downtown Development Authority.  Outside are benches and a table welcoming virus savvy Cajuns.  It was here on this modest green space where once stood the honored, now shamed statue of the son of Lafayette's founding first

 family, Confederate General Alfred Mouton.  Full name, Jean-Jacques-Alfred-Alexandre Mouton.  The triangular park points up Rue Lee to more cafΓ©s, music clubs, and the First Baptist Church of Lafayette.  Newer by a hundred years, but large as the nearby Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.  

General Mouton, of course, was Catholic.  He fell in 1864, at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads at Mansfield Louisiana.  The South is said to have won it but the battle was of no decisive consequence to anyone ~ except General Mouton. 

Confederate General Insignia 

Interestingly the Confederate commander of this battle was Major General Richard Taylor, son of the 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor.  

"What webs our insurrections weave," Norma said, looking up from Rouse's grocery bill, hand delivered on Wednesday to every postal address in the parish by uniformed and masked Federal agents. 

Norma has volunteered to take the returning two Red Women to "make groceries," as they say in New Orleans.

Mouton's Return
In Jim Crow 1922, General Mouton was resurrected in marble by campaign and donation of an organization called the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Lafayette.  The Daughters at no point identified the sculptor.  The identity remains unknown. 

By the time of the statue's 2021 removal the Daughters numbers had dwindled to one-apparent.  Lawyers were hired then fired but no membership list ever joined the public debate.

Mouton fell this second time following a night bullet to the nose, dispatched by unknown assassin or assassins.  The City removed the unlucky General and now teases us with what to do with him. 

"He was collateral damage," LA. Norma points out.  "A casualty of the Facebook social wars." 

πŸ‘’

Back at Carpe Diem we both ordered pumpkin cake layered with cheesecake ~ doberge inspired ~ and iced with cream cheese.  

"Not to worry, if need be we can shoehorn into a heart surgeon's bed amid the respirating COVID patients," Norma said, while blowing Camel Cigarette smoke at a retreating fly. 


The day was sunny and dry with a fresh breeze.  The first such kindly morning since August's hurricanes started picking us apart.  Hurricane Ida, the year's big blowhard, hit New Orleans on Katrina Day, August 29, 2021.  

πŸ’§πŸ’§πŸ’§

πŸ’§πŸ’§

πŸ’§

Old wounds drip old memories.  Friends scatter again.  We sip coffee and taste Autumn in the cake, optimism in the coffee.  

Down the street, Amtrak sounds its arrival from New Orleans.  In a few minutes we will hear it whistling off to Los Angeles.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

Silvia and Dillard, our two Red Warrior Women, are onboard, returning from their spoiled efforts at reviving Vietnam War fervor. 

They were too late for Governor Edwin Edwards funeral in Baton Rouge.  Then found themselves thwarted at photographer Louis Sahuc's deathbed Second Line in Jackson Square.  Their banner was snatched by skateboarding children of French speaking Catholic Vietnamese fishermen families ~ relocated to the Louisiana Gulf following the tumultuous rout of that forgotten war's final evacuation.  The Red Women want it remembered.  "Hell, they want it revived!"  Norma snorted.

πŸš†

"On time!" Norma said,
 "that's something one does not often hear."

She is talking about Amtrak, now discharging passengers at the Rosa Parks Transportation CentrΓ©.

Evacuees arrive at sidewalk tables up and down Jefferson Street with news from Big Swamp City delivered over meals with wine, and followed by Crown Whiskey night caps.  

Finis Shellnut, of New Orleans and Arkansas, was in the crowd accompanied by born-again realtor Sonya LaComb and architect Henri Boudreaux.  

One Christmas Eve years ago, Finis Shellnut and (then) Wife, Gennifer Flowers, intercepted a Washington, DC couple and me on our way to Saint Louis Cathedral for Midnight Mass.  Instead we went to their Saint Louis Street club, Gennifer Flowers Kelsto Club, across from Antoine's, for government gossip and French Quarter distractions.  That night's featured drink: Hot Lips.

Dwyer's on The Great Artway,
Lafayette


 Steve Halpern (this column's fact check editor emeritus), and Leo Watermeier, Armstrong Park's defender of the heritage roses, took lunch at Dwyer's on the corner of Garfield and Jefferson.  

"Lockdown gone, 
food improved,
 and 
garden seating irresistible." 
~ L. A. Norma

πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’›
 
Los Angeles Cinematographer Natalie Kingston and Director Brian Richard, natives of Acadia and NOLa were back in Louisiana on assignment, shooting in the French Quarter when evacuated to Lafayette for Ida. 

I see myself in all their eyes.  Sixteen years ago.  Fleeing Katrina and Faubourg Marigny.

Ah, Faubourg Marigny me Home between ships and trains for forty-some years! Until 2005 when Katrina blew us out the flood gate and across the Atchafalaya. My heart waits there amid the quirky, the quickie, and the gentry come lately.
~ LEJ.org βœπŸ’”


βš“  βš“ βš“

~  *  ~      ~  *  ~      ~  *  ~



~    ~    ~

      

Leonard Earl Johnson, LEJ.org βœ
 
Photograph Β© Leonard Earl Johnson 

Subscribe@LEJ.org http://www.LEJ.org
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 years.

~   ~   ~

 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,
Hosted by GOOGLE BLOGGER,
and historically at
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans
publication of the

It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved