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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

[Photocredit: LEJ Crawfishing by Carlos Detres] Leonard Earl Johnson 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, and Country Roads Magazine, 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.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Butter's Obit / May 2015

Yours Truly in a Swamp, LEJ's Louisiana
Monthly e-column by
Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans

Music, Weddings, Funerals and Big Swamp City
May 2015

by Leonard Earl Johnson
*
Music, Weddings, Funerals and 
Big Swamp City
by Leonard Earl Johnson

Dedicated to Butter,  
who missed all the festivals this year. First time that ever happened, everybody at the bar agreed. He had died a few months earlier ~ "First time for that, too," L. A. Norma said. From causes he didn't much care for, he told me before it happened.  

"He was in here the day he left Town," the bartender said, "had a few, and teared up when he left. His drink was a punch I called, 'Butter', made with vodka, cranberry and orange juice." He was hospitalised in Baton Rouge that evening. They had told him to quit smoking, drinking, and eating so much salt. "But why?" he said. They operated the next day then put what was left of him in a box and sent him home for his funeral. 

Our last conversation was in the lobby of the Chase Bank downtown. He told me he was going to Baton Rouge and he was still smoking. Life was a trip that ought to be easier, we agreed, but nonetheless was full of good times. This was not one of them. Or maybe in some Cosmic way it was.

At Don's Downtown a plaque has been installed atop the long shiny new bar where Butter used to sit. "Don's is 'Louisiana's first Cajun Restaurant,' " he and the other regulars liked pointing out. L. A. Norma headed towards the front door for a smoke on the sidewalk something Butter did often during day long lunches. 

Butter was one of those wise/unwise souls who died early, 50, and may have contributed to it by habits like smoking, drinking and breathing Louisiana's oily air. "Don't forget all that salt," Norma added.

He and longtime friend and companion, Gail, lived in a long slender neighborhood of well kept homes separating the heavily trafficked downtown lanes of the Evangeline Expressway and wouldbe future site of I-49. "When we pull out we're ready to head in either direction," Butter loved telling folks.  Also he said I should order rice on the side on Mondays so as to get the kitchen to put more beans in my bowl.  

Last Monday, 
after the crowds at Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette had dissipated, we ate red beans and rice sitting at Butter's place at the bar. My plate rested next to his commemorative plaque. We lifted Wild Turkey in snifters, with ice-water backs, and went outside to light a cigar. May you rest in peace my friend. You lived till the end. Yes sir, didn't you ramble. 
*
More be coming ~ the Music, Weddings, and Louisiana of it in the title, oui!
For the moment, Leonard Earl Johnson is old, tired and Swamped. 
Thanks for understanding.

Comments are welcome,  post your comments

Lagniappe:

Copyright, 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to 
w w w . L E J . o r g


Go here For T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
and such falderal ...

FYI
Your monthly e-mail notice may not come. New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome for me to continue using. Our mailings can not be done one-at-a-time. We have many thousands of e-readers. Too many, it seems, to keep getting easy use free-mail from Yahoo, and we are not able to pay for the pay-mail system.  So there. 

You may not receive a monthly notice for YOURS TRULY IN A SWAMP, LEJ's Louisiana 
until / unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system. 


(Don't hold your breath.  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. They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks. 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

© 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Comments are welcome,  post your comments


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Houmas House on St Pat's Day / April 2015

Yours Truly in a Swamp 
LEJ's Louisiana

Houmas House

a monthly e-column
Houmas House masters, Keven Kelly, Mother Kelly and Sugar Baby 
at Media Party, Saint Patrick's Day 2015

* * *

April 2015
Free subscription @ Subscribe@LEJ.org



by


Leonard Earl Johnson






















Houmas House
on Saint Patrick's Day



by Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org 

Riverboat, Mississippi River
Houmas House, Louisiana


Cold ManWinter loosened its chilly grip on the bayous, rivers and swamps of Louisiana. 

"Finally!" 

Promptly L. A. Norma and I headed out for the parties, parades, and music festivals umpity thump-thumpin' from Laughingyette bayous to Big Swamp City bar rooms! 

* * *
[Music-fests listed at the end with links.]
* * *
 la Grande Mère Marais 
 All over Grande Mère Marais (the Great Mother Swamp) azaleas bloom and trees bud in promising greens and reds. Spring is chucking hope under Louisiana's chins, from DC-dreaming Governor Bobby Jindal down to wee the people. Jindal is America's first Indian-American governor in history and he wants to take the brand national.  

"Jindal preens for his out-of-state handlers, a lapdog to the Koch Brothers," Norma snorts, blowing smoke out the driver's side window of her little red rental.  "No child left behind, my ass,"  she snorts. "No child left a dime!

We Crossed The River at Baton Rouge singing Al Capps' ode to bad leadership from the 1959 film,  
Li'l Abner: Jubilation T. Cornpone
 music by Gene De Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer
When we fought the Yankees and were faced with utter defeat
Who was it who burned the crops and left us nothing to eat?

University presidents and state administrators wring their hands on television over Governor Jindal's years of foolish Potemkin budgets designed to showcase how he could run a government without taxes and services. He could not. 

Jindal may or may not flee his ruins for Washington, DC, but his replacement -- widely expected to be fellow Republican U. S. Senator David Vitter -- will inherit his stunning mess, and a hard political task announcing school and bridge closings. 


"Already, entire departments at the University of New Orleans have closed," Norma says, "and drawbridges tremble in fear for their maintenance." 


Governor-expect David Vitter is said to care little for the "Magic Maharaja," as Norma calls Jindal. "Would you, in Vitter's shoes?" She crushed her cigarette into a little tin box she carries for the purpose.


* * * 
Giant Sea birds overhead search for their family rookery, and we tell each other stories of Br'er Rabbit. Our little red car crunches chalky white shells in the parking lot of Laura Plantation -- from where the East African Uncle Remus tales first took translation into Louisiana French Creole. Tulane University scholars later translated the French version to English for the amazement of English speaking folks from Senegal to Cincinnati.  


We drove along the West Bank, then crossed over the Sunshine Bridge, named in honor of another colorful Louisiana governor, Jimmy Davis, who was also a movie star and a saloon singer who wrote, "You are my sunshine / My only sunshine..."

It is sometimes said by detractors that Louisiana is built along the Mississippi and organized around Mardi Gras. "O. K. by me," Norma says, "you'd prefer Senegal or Cincinnati?"

On to Houmas House, the grandest sugar plantation on The River.  It is on the East Bank, near Burnside, above New Orleans an hour and fifteen minutes by hard road (by River more).

 From: New Orleans, LA To: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, 40136 Louisiana 942, Darrow, LA 70725

Lord of the manor is Kevin Kelly, a baronial Irishman (with dogs!) who also  
Kevin Kelly with beard, Kyle Edmiston, Doug Bourgeois and
Nippon News delegation


owns a mansion on Saint Charles Avenue, in New Orleans, that is site of his invitation prized five-day Mardi Gras party -- with balconies on the parade route. Oh, my! 

Jim Blanchard and Bonnie Warren



Kelly attended his NOLa Mardi Gras party this year, costumed as the man who carried word to D. C. that the British had been turned back at New Orleans. The man lived at Houmas House Plantation. 

"Damn those wet blankets who claim the War of 1812 was already over!" Norma snorts. It was by a few months.

"As owner of Houmas Plantation, Burnside knew: Had the Brits got  to the steps of Gallier Hall we  might still be flying the British Jack!

 "The Yanks did, and we're still flying   theirs!"

(Gallier Hall opened as City Hall in 1845.  The Battle of New Orleans was in 1815.  L. A. Norma was speaking with poeticly licensed imagery.)
* * *
comments


Lorinzo Bergen, New Orleans artist
 and Leonard Earl Johnson, an elderly scribe

Proper early fenced garden, Houmas House

Properly unfenced radio / tv stars: Bob and Jan Carr, WDSU - NOLa


Garden leprechauns

Garden with small fountain

 The Gardener:
Craig Black, Artist at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens

The Menu

The Chef, Jeremy Langlois


The things you gave up for Lent.

The diners


The Master's table on Saint Patrick's Day!
Paul Arrigo and Kevin Kelly

The Dessert
* * *
All Photo Credits:  Margarita Bergen,   Janis Turk,   Houmas House


French Quarter Fest 2015
April 9 ~ 12

Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette

April 22 ~ 26

NOLa Jazz Fest
April 24 ~ May 3

Essence Festival New Orleans
July 2 ~ 5

Satchmo Summerfest New Orleans
July 31 ~ August 2

Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival
September 25 ~ 26




Lagniappe:


Copyright, 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson


For more L. E. J.'s Yours Truly in a Swamp go to 
w w w . L E J . o r g



Go here For T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
and such falderal ...

FYI
Your monthly e-mail notice may not come. New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome for me to continue using. Our mailings can not be done one-at-a-time. We have many thousands of e-readers. Too many, it seems, to keep getting free-mail from Yahoo, and we are not able to pay for the pay-mail system.  So there. 

You may not receive a monthly notice for YOURS TRULY IN A SWAMP, LEJ's Louisiana 
until / unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system. 

(Don't hold your breath.  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 each month's story please go any time to www.LEJ.org 
(They are posted newly on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks.) 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

© 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Comments are welcome,  post yourcomments

* * *

Sunday, March 01, 2015

From Lent to Easter / March 2015

L. E. J. as Ernie K-Doe

Yours Truly in a Swamp,

a monthly e-column


by
Leonard Earl Johnson
A similar version of this article appeared in Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans, April 2010




Free e-mail subscription at Subscribe@LEJ.org 
You may have to copy-and-paste this address


* * *

"Ain't nothing in the world time and money won't cure."
 ~ Ernie K-Doe, 1936 - 2001
New Orleans Musician and Self-Proclaimed Emperor of The World 


From Lent to Easter


by Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org 


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

In cathedrals and parish churches, mission altars and heathen households, the Sacrament of Death was being celebrated.

 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, applying smears of The Cross to their foreheads.  With thumbs dipped in the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday palms. Outside, rain washed The City. I have many doubts about theological things, but none whatsoever about this ceremony. To ashes we shall return.

 We attended six a.m. mass at the
 Cathedral to welcome Lent, and then caught the nine a.m. Amtrak train called the Sunset Limited, out of Town

 Could ashen Lent have more fitting a morning's metaphor than that? 



Lent is the longest holiday in all the Christian calendar. Should you need reason to be suspicious of religion's political powers, consider that.  Carnival's pleasurable length shortens by measure of the ill-conceived Gregorian Calender.  But Church law prevents this happening to Lent's suffering by measure of Canon law hocus pocus. 

Like traveling Governor Bobbie Jindal's
many Potemkin budgets, L. A. Norma tells some altar boys discussing the weight of this year's Mardi Gras garbage. 


Louisiana State House
Governor's private lift
* * *

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the last day
of Carnival's ever-changing length.
Next day is Ash Wednesday, the 
first day of Lent's forty never-changing days of suffering.

The Catholic Calendar, by which we measure all this, is not accurate, what with the date of Easter changing with the moon! A matter, you may recall, Galileo later tried, without success, to clarify for his Pope, successor to Peter's Throne. And keeper of Heavens's Keys and the temporal clock.

* * *

Easter, the end of Lent, is also a ceremony about Spring. Borrowed from religions that came before Christianity. It maybe the oldest human celebration and it is calculated (or miscalculated) by Canon law, with instruments created with faith in suffering and suspicion of pleasure.


Suffering is not to be monkeyed with by theological calculations. Carnival's pleasures, however, are reducible by God (or His agents with their inaccurate stopwatches).


Lenten fasting repairs Winter's damage and Carnival's excess, and prepares us for Spring's rebirth. Like the jazz man says,


"Blow the roof off the sucker ..."


Awaiting Easter
It has been a long cold Lent, but with sunny mornings and a warm place in the kitchen to read Internet Newspapers and sip coffee. Spring is here this morning, and the live oaks outside our dormer windows are budding into a soft young green. 
Live oaks are ever green. They don't dump their old leaves till Spring's new buds arrive (as followers of JFK conspiracies know). Then they change from old dark green to young soft green almost overnight. Today soft-green rules the Great Mother Swamp, and old alligators lie on the banks in whatever sun we can find dreaming of Easter baskets, Spring and ashes.


(A version of this story first appeared in 2004)
-----------
Copyright, 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson


For more L. E. J.'s Yours Truly in a Swamp go to 
w w w . L E J . o r g



Go here For T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
and such falderal ...

FYI
Your monthly e-mail notice may not come. New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome to continue using. Our mailings can not be done one-at-a-time. We have many thousands of e-readers. Too many, it seems, to keep getting free-mail from Yahoo, and we are not able to pay for the pay-mail system.  So there. 

You may not receive a monthly notice for YOURS TRULY IN A SWAMP, 
until / unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system. 
(Don't hold your breath.  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 each month's story please go any time to www.LEJ.org 

(They are posted newly on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks.) 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

* *

© 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Comments are welcome, post them in the Blog Comments.






* *