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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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

You Must Remember This / August 2018

LEJ's Louisiana
Yours Truly in a Swamp
Monthly e-column @
 www.LEJ.org
by Leonard Earl Johnson,
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Archives: www.LEJ.org

*   *   *

You Must Remember This

by


Leonard Earl Johnson

August 2018

 *  *

A letter from back in the day when America "Liked Ike," for winning the Second World War, and made him a Republican President more long-sighted and patriotic than. . .

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody ..." ~ Donald Trump
Courtesy New York Daley News
*  *  *
"There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 
in a letter to his brother, David, 
8 November 1954 ~ ✍️


*   *


The View from Squalor Heights
by 
Leonard Earl Johnson

Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved  


www.LEJ.org 



 
Porky's, beside the redbrick-road  /   Ullin, Illinois
My Father owned and operated a roadhouse in Ullin, Illinois, a tiny village along U. S. Highway #51 ~ a roadway he had helped build in his youth, driving a yellow truck hauling red bricks to the work site.  The original roadbed, at least in Southern Illinois, was / is redbrick.  

All his Life he was proud of that roadway, and called it the nation's first transcontinental highway.  Not entirely true.  But almost.  It did cross the continent from the upper middle west to lower Louisiana.  


It was one of the first such hard roads, and it led to New Orleans ~ a storybook journey since the days of Native mound builders ~ European explorers ~ Lewis and Clark ~ Mark Twain ~ and my Father.

He was a lifelong Republican, born and raised by self-reliant Republican Sons and Daughters of the Midwestern frontier.  

Republicans still exist, of course, but they are not like my Father.  


Today they are sycophants to Donald Trump's politics of mad night

tweets and smoke screen mini screeds. 

They support wedge-issue politics ~ designed not for governing but for garnering power for power's sake ~ politics that callously damage their followers' interests (if not their own) and ultimately limit everyone's free choices.


Remember Harper's Magazine's Richard Manning article, February 2016: "The Trouble with Iowa / Corn, corruption, and the presidential caucuses?  

New American Billboard
Think back further, to Ronald Reagan's clever quip, "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

Fast forward to today and those same words are twisted to support Russian objectives over American intelligence ~ in an assault led by Eisenhower's successor!

My Father loved IKE, and loved saying so ~ while sitting at the end of the bar in his roadhouse ~ criticizing F. D. R.'s New Deal ~ railing against centralized strongman rule ~ passing time with his friends.  

He was the house floor-show, famous in his time and place ~ alongside the highway he helped build.  

One of his oft opined tales was about a crony of whom he said, "He wouldn't go to hell for a dollar, but he'd scamper around the edge till he fell in."

Sound like today's Republicans?  They support concentrated ~ nearly one-man ~ centralized power in exchange for the pea-under-a-walnut-shell. 

I think my Father is spinning in his grave. ~ LEJ.org ✍️

*   *   *

The Calm Before the Storm. 
L. A. Norma dropped a postcard on the kitchen table.  It was from the United States Postal Service and she read aloud from it, "Just about anything you can do at the Post Office, you can do from your office, at www.USPS.com."

She read while exhaling Camel Cigarette smoke.  

"Sounds like your Father.


"About all you do at the Post Office is toss your mail in the trash can.  How you goina do that on the Internet?"

"Actually," I said, "that is about all anyone does do on the Internet.  There is even an app for it."

We both sipped black coffee laced with chicory, and gazed through the kitchen dormer.  


We were at Squalor Heights,

Photo credit: Frank Parsley
my Faubourg Marigny garret, two stories above the lower edge of the French Quarter ~ in the Marigny Triangle, a short walk from Frenchmen Street, the gentrified muse and music street of New Orleans once known as the locals' Bourbon Street.

We were eating beignets, in defiance of our cardiologist's advice, and starting a new day, in defiance of weather, subsiding lands, rising Seas, and Gott knows what else. 


Behind Squalor Heights sits an historic Creole cottage that has spent the past two Summers building additions inside its courtyard ~ perhaps in defiance of cultural sensibilities, and maybe the law.

The renovation has sprouted a third floor above two older ones since last we looked.


"Where are those busybody saviors of our glorious historic past?" L. A. Norma asked, exhaling cigarette smoke out the open window.

Cabildo interior, second floor 
Courtesy Louisiana State Museum
Norma has not felt good about historic preservationists since the Louisiana State Museum, on Jackson Square, began hanging banners advertising Bell South, and other purveyors of the  communication future, under their French mansard windows. They formed a splash of modern tomorrow across the entire front of the Cabildo and the Presbytère ~ the most historic buildings in all of Louisiana.

"The banners proclaim the joys of cell phones," Norma laments.


"On the front of buildings housing Napoleon's Death Mask and an original copy of the Louisiana Purchase."

Thankfully, the State Museum has hung up their cell phone on this shameful practice, in part, because of a visit to the Museum director’s offices by Norma, and her Camel Cigarettes. "An old lady's weapon of mass deconstruction."

*   *   *

Sometimes, men in suits can be seen scurrying about the work site with clipboards and tape measures. 

Bankers, we both reckoned, when we first saw them getting out of  big black cars, wearing dark suits and silk ties. The blue jumpsuited workmen stayed close on their heels all the while they were there.


"Surely they are not City officials openly inspecting and approving such violations," Norma said.

As if that could ever happen!

Approved or not, the old cottage has grown by fits and starts, over the past two years.

"le Frog slowly boiling," Norma observed, in her best Los Angeles French accent. 


Hammers pounded in that new hydro driven staccato rhythm, while saws answered the call with their sweet waltz.

Sometimes the project falls fallow. Once, following a lengthy hiatus, a dormer window appeared looking squarely into Squalor Heights' dormer window. After that, the project went silent for over a month. 


When it started up again, the window was taken down. Norma gloated for weeks.

She had phoned the Faubourg Marigny Association when she laid eyes on the new window.  She also phoned the State Museum offices, in the Cabildo, threatening them with another smoke-filled visit.


Historic district "deciders," from City and State, appeared at the building site.

After that, a civilized spell passed, then a tiny outbuilding said to have once housed slaves, began growing towards the front. Halfway to the cottage fronting on the street it stopped. 


Today, it has fully flowered, with sliding glass doors and budding balconies giving off the sweet aroma of corporate condos.


Norma blew Camel Cigarette smoke out the dormer window.  It wafted towards the construction site and the men in blue.  "Slavery may never be the same," she said. LEJ.org 

 Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


*   *   *
This story appeared, in a slightly different form, in June of 2005, in Les Ami de Marigny, New Orleans. Two month's later, on August 29, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. 


100 photos of Katrina, The Denver Post. 

~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~
Go here For 

*  *  *
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.

~   ~   ~
Royal at Kerlerec, Faubourg Marigny, NOLa    /   photo by Janis Turk
~  ~  ~
 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,

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
* * * * * * * * * * * 
© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 

All Rights Reserved 

 *  *

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Anthony Bourdain, Film, Fire, Trains / July 2018


 
ELEVEN on Elysian Fields Avenue
Artist Jason Kimes working in studio
LEJ's Louisiana
Yours Truly in a Swamp
Monthly e-column @
 www.LEJ.org
by Leonard Earl Johnson,
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Archives: www.LEJ.org

*   *   *
July 2018 

Anthony Bourdain,
Film, Fire and Trains
By Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Courtesy Chicago Tribune

Maureen Brennan, the Cité des Arts
impresario, and I went to Popeyes Oil Centre Buffet, in Lafayette, the day we heard of Anthony Bourdain's suicide.

He had been quoted in the local press, the week before, as taking three meals there recently, and being enamoured with their food.


Mostly he was right. The chicken is always fresh and good. And they have chicken livers! Also fresh and good. And the meager vegetables offered do seem lavish compared to the usual Popeyes ketchup ~ as Ronald Reagan taught us ~ as the only vegetable offered.


But Bourdain had praised particularly their thin, watery macaroni-and-cheese. It was awful. Leading to only one conclusion: he was drunk. Something supported by

Jo Ann Towle in
the Chicago Tribune.

When you are actually in need of a tasty cardiovascular assault, go to



 
Pamplona Tapas Bar / Lafayette Louisiana
Pamplona Tapas Bar, on Boulevard Jefferson. Their mac-and-cheese is made with smoked Gouda, and is something worth dying over.

I am very sorry Bourdain is gone from this Earthly table, but I see drink as only one part of his disillusionment with Life. Popeyes mac-and-cheese must also be held to account!


He would never have praised that bland mac-and-cheese without the help of ole Elfen Mr. Booze.

~ LEJ.org ✍️

*   *   *

A
mtrak's Sunset Limited 
left New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal exactly on time. New Orleans is a "terminal town." Meaning not only an accepting place for drinking yourself to death ~ and giving you a parade when you do ~ but also a third coast rail head.  The place where tracks and trains begin 
~ or end. 

Here our trains arrive as off-schedule as any deteriorated third-world rail system.  But here they routinely depart on time for all directions. 


"But South!" L. A. Norma said, smiling through a cloud of Camel Cigarette smoke.

We rolled under the Claiborne Street and I-10 overpasses, and snaked through chain-link protected barren lots filled with railroad bric-a-brac, and general population discard. Outside the fenced area are homeless camps. Under one highway overpass, a bright blue tent had a sleek silver Motobecane bicycle chained outside to its open flap. Inside the tent we glimpsed two bearded men passing a joint. 

"Some new Jack Kerouac on the road,L. A. Norma said, pointing out the observation car's windows 
with her coffee cup


"Or another Eric Hoffer?" 

She is telling this to a young lady from England, who is on her way to Beaumont, Texas and from there a bus to Galveston Island. The woman worked for a huge investment firm with offices in London. She travels constantly, she said, often visiting Louisiana. 

From Brexit to Trumpit
!
"Looking for investment bargains?Norma asked. "Making America a great colony again?" she added, blowing over her steaming coffee. 

Norma subscribes to an idea that Do
nald Trump, "With his vestigial Habsburg jaw," is the spearhead of a very old world order passing itself off as new. 

She thinks Trump is trying to re-throne the most conservative of political ideas, the Holy Roman Empire, and will leave his New World followers bedazzled, dazed and broken amid 
fields polluted with oil spills and littered with their fallen torches and pitchforks.

The English woman said no, "Merely a tourist who likes New Orleans.  I love this place!

"Last April I was here, at the famed Roddie Romero concert in the Historic New Orleans Collection's elegant courtyard, on Royal Street.  It was a night of musical history."

Norma agreed ~ we, too, had been there. Romero and The Hub City All-Stars moved musical standards higher that night in one of those concerts where audience and musicians feed each other ~ the firing of that elusive spark you attend live performances in hopes of seeing. 

The Historic New Orleans Collection is a rare spark itself. A museum endowed by Kemper and Leila Williams
heirs to Louisiana's oldest lumber fortune, bequeathed and dedicated to the preservation of New Orleans and its historic, social and cultural interactions. Nothing this venerable institution has ever done along those lines can top Roddie Romero's April 2016 concert.

*   *   *

Along the railroad tracks, at a particularly green spot on the West Bank just past the Huey P. Long Bridge, lays a discarded yacht. You can not make out the name. She was beached thirteen years ago by Hurricane Katrina. Mast snapped and lost. Her keel sprung for sure. But there she sits sailing on a sea of weeds and forgotten dreams. The years pass quickly since Katrina and soon it will be Winter again.  The green will die down around her.  Then the ghost yacht will heave back to full view.

Further down the line, next to the Mississippi River levee, we pass a small farmhouse surrounded by a large flock of grey and white geese. 

"Some French Quarter tourist will eat one of those birds' liver tonight," Norma tells the young woman from England.

*   *   *

One night earlier, during the New Orleans Film Festival ~ in a Frenchmen Street dancehall ~ a young man handed us a cd-disk of the Cuban film, La Partida.  
A contemporary Cuban story of a straying sports hero yearning for capitalist dollars ~ with a twist. 

Our sports hero sleeps with men and women. No shocker these days. But in this "wed me and save me," saga the young man's girlfriend's mother (to whom he has given a Grandson, and from whom he borrowed a tv for pawn without permission) urges him to pursue a visiting middle aged man with eyes for him, and a passport from a country with legalized gay-marriage. Marry the Spaniard, she pleads, and save us all from the American embargo ~ thought to be more the source of their economic woe than Communism. The film is, "real Cuba," the man assured me.

"Its greater message is the thing that causes us to adore sports heroes," Norma said, after watching. A good film. Recommended, if you can find it.

We live in interesting times, sigh! 

Such times call for caution, said wise Chinese ancients. 

*   *   *

Along Elysian Fields Avenue in Faubourg Marigny is a new sculpture as significant as any standing in The City today.  
ELEVEN on Elysian Fields, 
Faubourg Marigny ~ New Orleans
by Jason Kims

ELEVEN on Elysian Fields, by Jason Kims, is located across from the lakeside-downtown gate to Washington Square 

Park. 

It is made from a varietal of leftover iron disks gathered from Birmingham, Alabama forgers (hear echos of Civil War cannon). Eleven life sized figures looking out from a circle, standing in the neutral ground of Elysian Fields. They tickle the eye and move the soul. 

The title refers not to the eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, when it was erected, but to the eleven men who died in the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, in 2010. Deepwater spewed an ocean of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for five months. 


The young English woman said she had not seen the monument, but she had heard of the oil spill.
~ LEJ.org ✍️ 

ELEVEN  on  Elysian  Fields  ~  Faubourg  Marigny,  New  Orleans

Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
___________


Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~  ~   ~   ~
Go here For 

*  *  *
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.

~   ~   ~
Royal at Kerlerec, Faubourg Marigny, NOLa    /   photo by Janis Turk
~  ~  ~
 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,

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
* * * * * * * * * * * 
© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 

All Rights Reserved 

* *