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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.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

JFK Nov. 22 + Nagin Footnote* / November 2017

LEJ's Louisiana / Yours Truly in a Swamp
by 
Leonard Earl Johnson
November 2017
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

* *


LEJ.org                                                               photo credit: Melissa Dronet
JFK memento, circa 1963                                             photo credit:  LEJ.org 

J. F. K., November 22, 1963
plus
~ More Ray Nagin Footnote* ~ 
by Leonard Earl Johnson
                                              www.LEJ.org
Subscribe@LEJ.org

* * *


When it happened I was living in Springfield, Illinois.  Twenty years old, working for the Illinois Secretary of State!  A glamorous job, looking back on it, for a boy from the Village of Ullin, population 800, where Abraham Lincoln ~ the first Republican President ~ was worshiped.

I had been exiled to labour among Republican cronies of my Father, at the State Capitol in Springfield.  Punishment for failing grades at 

Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
I spent too much time liberating the downtrodden classes ~ in coffee shop and barroom bloviation ~ to attend my own classes.  My Father saw it befitting my civil liberation work that I head North to Springfield, "Where the tax man's bagman takes all that Gott damn tax money!"  My Father clearly saw the World through Republican eyes.  

"So, it was time to put the Son on the state payroll?" L. A. Norma said.

Yes, it was.  For it is true, all over the World, citizens live better in the shadow of the crooked staff  (church and state, cher government), for that is where the taxman delivers his harvest. 


"Anyone seeking work ~ from president to janitor ~ in any capital anywhere is after that tax money.  In one form or the other," Norma's friend, Naami, says, "No matter what schmaltz they ladle over your rice back home."  Naami comes from New York City and is expected to know things.


~ ~ ~
In the square around Illinois' Victorian capitol stands a statue of Lincoln.  I went there 22 November 1963, when I heard the news.  The inscription on its base is from Lincoln's farewell address departing Springfield for Washington. 

 
Illinois Capitol, Springfield 
courtesy Illinois Secretary of State

 "I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return..."
 
Those were arduous times, and it was reasonable in those days on momentous moments to comment on Life's limited journey.  Plus rebellion was in the air.  Lincoln's train from Illinois to D. C. took two weeks, what with olden day technology, political stops, and evasive maneuvers to avoid would be assassins.  


~


Cabildo, Jackson Square, New Orleans     /     photo credit: Mark Tullos

Obfuscation / Disinformation
fogs our hopes of ever knowing fully what happened in Dallas,  22 November 1963.

I don't believe the party line on Kennedy's murder, but I haven't a clue other than I saw it, in me mind's eye, from a hundred different angles, and it did not happen as told. 

~
This I know first hand
One day in New Orleans, decades after the Kennedy assassination, down by The River.  At the Old U. S. Mint.  The Assassination Materials Disclosure Act of 1992 sent out from Washington, D. C., a traveling circus of disclosure-hearings around the country.  Prompted say the good government legislators by Oliver Stone's movie, JFK, the year before. 

At the Old U. S. Mint Hearing, I sat next to Harry Connick, Sr., Orleans Parish District Attorney.  Connick stood and took the witness chair to testify for the latest JFK full disclosure hearing.  He testified as to the wicked work of his predecessor, Jim Garrison, NOLa D. A., at the time of the murder, and later author of ON THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSINS, part inspiration for Stone's movie, in which Jim Garrison played Earl Warren.

Connick testified that Garrison burned the District Attorney's JFK investigation files ~ and he had not ought to ~ because they belonged to the holy people of New Orleans, if not the whole wide World.  The World Wide Web had not yet come to pass, L. A. Norma says, "Or Connick would have planted a righteous flag on its behalf, too!"

Turned out Garrison did not burn the files.  A local tv-reporter, later, captured Connick on camera rolling his eyes to heavenly guidance, and telling this same well dressed 'disinformation,' about the evil Jim Garrison.


When, like chef Emeril Lagasse, "BAM," the reporter out pulled an affidavit from his coat pocket and read a retired office worker's testimony that Harry Connick had so ordered him to do the burning of the files. 


Praise the Lord, the worker did not follow those orders, and kept them files in his car's trunk all the following years. There will always be a New Orleans, oui?  They are said to contain nothing of significance. 

Sending the bar where I was watching it, on tv, into giddy and blustery blasts of laughter, Connick did an heroic backstroke before the tv-reporter's lens, ending with the fine belly-flop of: "So what if I did? We needed the space." 

So much for guardian of the sanctified City's property, mon ami, Harry!?  I think this was on New Orleans' tv-channel 6, if you wish to see for yourself.  If you find a clip link it. 
----------------------------------------------
Copyright, 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

*More Ray Nagin Footnote! 
Controversial mayor of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and after.  Noted for holding The City together politically by traveling the country speaking to the diaspora, and holding elections with voting booths outside New Orleans ~ his administration fought with the Bush Administration over information withheld (under claims of privacy) on the whereabouts of New Orleans citizens.  This, some say, was done to thwart Nagin's efforts at holding The City together as a mostly black and blue-voting block in an otherwise mostly white and red-voting state.  It was during this time, Nagin was widely quoted speaking positively of New Orleans being a "Chocolate City."  Hyper race-sensitive Louisianians (admit it, cher, there are some!) did not like seeing it that way.
~

Two years after leaving office Nagin was indicted for early post-K. reconstruction graft; found guilty, and incarcerated for ten years (2023 release, he will be 66)


Among Nagin loyalists it is argued his offenses and gains were small (e.g., football trip to Chicago, his Son's business ~ Stone Age (marble/counter-tops) ~ enhanced by tax-lapping corporate scalawags.  Whereas, charges against the scalawags ~ reduced for testimony ~ were huge.  So goes the thinking.


Judge Ginger Berrigan reduced the sentence she handed down by one-half of Federal recommendations.  She stated as consideration Nagin's gains from his graft being small, and that he had shown himself to be a good family man, and upstanding citizen outside of these incidents. 


One day ~ during the Evacuation ~ I happened upon Nagin, Seletha, and their accompanying Muscle at a crossroads boudin place in Acadiana.  As I recall, President Obama was coming.  In any case, Nagin and the Muscle were hefting three long ice chests (like we take fishing in the Gulf) full of boudin. 



~ Ray and Seletha Nagin ~
In the checkout line, I said people were judging him too harshly.  "No one knew what to expect from The Storm," I said, "or how to react after."  The Mayor agreed.  His Wife, and the Muscle both nodded.  

Remember, Katrina was the World's first major 'non-global-warming' event.  Neither Nagin, you, nor I knew what to do. 


Carbon spewing interests had not yet switched arguments from, 'Global warming is not-happening' to 'Happening, but not our fault!'  Meaning they, too, with all their science, did not know what to do. 


New Orleans was left between a ghost town and a frontier town, afterwards. 
 The City was mostly empty.  Military convoys roamed the streets.  People dipped water from The River. Everything was broken, and nothing was open but a couple of French Quarter bars!  Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U. S. House, was not alone in his view that New Orleans was too vulnerable and should not be rebuilt. 


A few very angry citizens were in Town ~ on the green strips along The River and the lip of Lake Pontchartrain.  


During this strange time, an angry crowd denied Nagin a place on the podium in front of a parade and rally criticizing FEMA and the murder rate.  Imagine, the Mayor of The City denied access to his own people by some of those people!


Later, the Mayor's sub-office of garbage pickup-and-scatter issued spanking new trash cans too large for the little walkways between French Quarter and other old houses.  Tempers ran high. 

~
As the bumper sticker suggested, we remained New Orleanians wherever we were.  Unlike Orleans area parishes, though, where we were everything worked.  

"Except for you," Norma said.


* *
Click 
here to see or order: T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
~ 
Your Comments or Corrections are welcome
*
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.
 (free)  Subscribe@LEJ.org


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.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
*

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sunset Lmt also Rises + Dick Gregory / Oct 2017

LEJ's Louisiana / Yours Truly in a Swamp
by 
Leonard Earl Johnson
  
October 2017
© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
* *
~ Dedicated to Dick Gregory, a short memorial follows this month's story ~
The Sunset Limited also Rises
                            by Leonard Earl Johnson
                                                www.LEJ.org
Subscribe@LEJ.org
Sunset Limited at Sunrise                                                 Courtesy of Amtrak
"Hi, ho. Hi, ho, i
t's off the cliff we go

No brains, no thoughts, just the guns we brought 
Hi, ho. Hi, ho. Hi, ho!"
~ L. A. Norma singing her New American Anthem, while waiting for the train to New Orleans at the 
Rosa Parks Transportation Center, Lafayette, Louisiana

New Orleans is a town with trains, ships, music, food, even a style of literature named after it. If ever you must be awake and weary at daybreak there is no dreamier place to suffer it.

Friday's Sunset Limited bound from Los Angeles to New Orleans did not pass through Lafayette -- 130 miles out -- until 1:30 Saturday morning.  It was well into the next day when it finally reached the City of Dreamy Dreams.


The passengers were grumpy. The exhausted crew was expected to sweep out the train for its Los Angeles turn-around at 9a.m.  (It actually left five hours late.) And the sun was rising when we stepped out of Union Passenger Terminal, and climbed in a United Cab headed for a French colonial breakfast of beignets and café au lait at  Café  du Monde, next to the Mississippi River flood wall in ole New Orleans.



* * *
L. A. Norma closed the cab door and said, "They could'a re-named her the 'Sun-rise Un-limited.' "  
T-shirt

Our cab driver nodded but said nothing.  We had seen him before. And he had seen us.  He was wearing his T-shirt that read: 'My Parents Went to New Orleans
 and All I Got Is This Lousy I.Q.'

There had been a derailment two days before, way out West.  For the next two days Amtrak could not tell us anything.  Except that the "Incident" was not an "Amtrak Incident."  


We did not know what that meant. The only part of the "what-ever incident" that concerned us was Amtrak's delay. 


"If that isn't an Amtrak-incident," Norma bellowed, "Ray Naginis not an honest man." The cabbie pulled up to the curb, turned around and stared at her.



* *
It was an off-day for the once 
daily Times-Picayune, and we purchased a Daily Advocate, the once Baton Rouge only paper that has absorbed Big Swamp City markets left behind by our venerated grey old lady of New Orleans letters, who has lifted her skirts and shown us she has only enough petticoats left for three days a week. The Times-Picayune has not exactly folded, but she ain't goin' dancing any more. 

Since Katrina, The T-P had been pushing her faithful scribes out the door. Now, she is pushing them out the windows, too, and breaking our hearts all over again with news of more demon change.


On the decadently optimistic side, however, she has given us yet another forget-me-not theme for fundraiser dinners, parties and coffee shop chatter for years, nay, centuries.  


"That will fill our T-P-less days," Norma said, standing beside the cab lighting a cigarette.  She blew smoke in the Cabbie's face and handed him a large bill, "Keep the change."

  ~ ~
The newspaper said we awaited a strong storm headed in from the Gulf of Mexico.

"Debby's the name, flooding's the game," Norma said through a cloud of cigarette smoke. "She's headed for Florida." 


We prayed for Florida, but worried the storm might slip past the point of our prayers and come here.


"Thank Gott, we have a flood wall sturdy as the one that failed us last time," L. A. Norma told the checkout clerk at Rouses on Baronne Street.  The checkout clerk said ~ in a dialect fading from New Orleans' soundscape ~ that she had told her Mother the same thing the day before, "An'da Mayors's been saying dat all weeks."


On our way back to Faubourg Marigny we reminisced over storm preparations of long, long ago. When the effort was no more than stocking up on Camel Cigarettes (for Norma), Chocolate Ice Cream (for me), and batteries for a little transistor radio that had traceable DNA directly back to the 1950s.  We were young and foolish.


"Well, you still got the foolish part," Norma said.  

Next day, she called Amtrak and found the morning train West would not be leaving until that afternoon.  The Governor had been on tv over night telling us not to drown.  We planned on that, but knew some would forget.  "The train will be traveling away from it, on the dry side," Norma said, exhaling Camel Cigarette smoke, "Dry-er side."

New Orleans is expecting a direct hit by a small, fast moving Hurricane and has issued a mandatory 6pm curfew.   Norma booked sleeping compartments to Lafayette.


We phoned for our cabby, and told him during our ride to the Union Passenger Terminal, "New Orleans' DAT DOG hotdogs opened a big place in Lafayette."  On Boulevard Jefferson, just around the corner from the Amtrak stop.

"The menu boasts Hotdogs d'turducken, d'crawfish, or d'gator," I said.

"Two floors, and a music stage, too!  In forty-feet-up, twenty-miles-in Lafayette," Norma added.

He said, "But is it worth it?"


"We will be back in a few weeks for the Tennessee Williams Festival," Norma said to the ticket-taker at the Sunset Limited's platform gate. The ticket-taker closed her eyes and handed us back our ticket stubs. 


We closed the curtains in our cabin, and dozed off as the train slipped out past the Arena and the Superdome. 



Louisiana Superdome          /        Sports Arena         /         Amtrak train yard

"The big one looks like the box the little one came in,"

 Norma said, before snoring.
----------------------------------------------
Copyright, 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

*Ray Nagin 

Controversial mayor of New Orleans during Katrina and after.  Noted for holding The City together politically by traveling the country speaking to the diaspora, and holding elections with voting booths outside New Orleans ~ his administration fought with the Bush Administration over information withheld (under claims of privacy) on the whereabouts of New Orleans citizens.  This, some say, was done to thwart Nagin's efforts at holding The City together as a mostly black and blue-voting block in an otherwise mostly white and red-voting state.  It was during this time, Nagin was widely quoted speaking positively of New Orleans being a "Chocolate City."  Hyper race-sensitive Louisianians (admit it, cher, there are some!) did not like seeing it that way.

Two years after leaving office he was indicted for early post-K. reconstruction graft; found guilty, and incarcerated for ten years (2023 release, he will be 66)

Among Nagin loyalist it is argued his offenses and gains were small (e.g., football trip to Chicago).  Whereas, charges against witnesses flipped by the Justice Department to testify against His Honor were huge.  So goes such thinking.

Judge Ginger Berrigan reduced the sentence she handed down by one-half of Federal recommendations.  She stated as considerations Nagin's gains from his graft being small, and that he had shown himself to be a good family man, and upstanding citizen outside of this incident. 

One day ~ during the Evacuation ~ I happened upon Nagin, Seletha, and their accompanying Muscle at a crossroads boudin place in Acadiana.  As I recall, President Obama was coming.  In anycase, Nagin and the Muscle were hefting three long ice chests (like we take fishing in the Gulf) full of boudin. 

~ Ray and Seletha Nagin ~

In the checkout line, I said people were judging him too harshly.  "No one knew what to expect from The Storm," I said, "or how to react after."  The Mayor agreed.  His Wife, and the Muscle both noded.  

Remember, Katrina was the World's first major 'non-global-warming' event.  Neither Nagin, you, nor I knew what to do. 

Carbon spewing interests had not yet switched arguments from, 'Global warming is not-happening' to 'happening but not our fault'  Meaning they, too, with all their science, did not know what to do. 

New Orleans was left between a ghost town and a frontier town, afterwards.   The City was mostly empty.  Military convoys roamed the streets.  People dipped water from The River. Everything was broken, and nothing was open but a couple of French Quarter bars.  Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U. S. House, was not alone in his view that New Orleans was too vulnerable and should not be rebuilt. 

A few very angry citizens were in Town ~ on the green strips along The River and the lip of Lake Pontchartrain.  

During this strange time, an angry crowd denied Nagin a place on the podium in front of a parade and rally criticising FEMA.  Imagine, the Mayor of The City denied access to his own people by some of those people!

Later, the Mayor's sub-office of garbage pickup-and-scatter issued spanking new trash cans too large for the little walkways between French Quarter and other old houses.  Tempers ran high. 

As the bumper sticker suggested, we remained New Orleanians where we were.  But ~ unlike Orleans area parishes ~ where we were everything worked.  

"Except for you," Norma said.

* *
Click 
here to see or order: T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
* * 

~ In Memoriam ~

Dick Gregory 1932 ~ 2017
Dedicated to a Life well lived

Dick Gregory and I attended Southern Illinois University, back in the Fabled Sixties. 

He was from nearby Saint Louis, Missouri.  
I was from nearby Ullin, Illinois.

He said he had not known segregation personally before Carbondale.  "I lived in a black neighborhood, wasn't no white people to be segregated from."   




In Carbondale, he had two dates the same night, at the Varsity Theatre.  

"In my black neighborhood, back in Saint Louis, getting a seat in the balcony was an honor.  In Carbondale it was segregation."

But he did not know that. Until the night of the two dates.

"For the first date I was honored by a seat in the balcony." He drew on a cigarette and exhaled, "When I took the second date to a seat below I found out what segregation was."

Dick Gregory was a great man, who lived an honorable Life. We are all better off because of his being with us. ~ 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 weeks.
 (free)  Subscribe@LEJ.org


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.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
*