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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

L. E. J. 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.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

German Fest, Roberts Cove, La / Oct 2014

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

October 2014

* * *

German Fest!

Roberts Cove, Louisiana

by Leonard Earl Johnson

A German Fest 

in Roberts CoveLouisiana!
Click for background Deutsch Volksmusik (German folk music).

You laugh? It may tickle the lederhosen off a real German, but this is the best German Festival in the U. S. of A., that I have ever attended. My Mother was German and I have been to a few German Festivals, some mislabeled Oktoberfest -- more on that later.

All German-fests have sausages, potatoes, cabbages, pretzels, beers, singing, Alpenhorns, and yodeling.  Roberts Cove has theirs amid the white marble graves of original settlers decorated with colorful German flags. And the Bratwurst -- in Germany and 
die Nordstaaten (the Northern States) Bratwurst is a mild veal sausage with a strong hint of nutmeg -- in Louisiana it is hot and spicy as die neue Schulemarm (the new School-marm).

Homepage Roberts Cove Germanfest 2014
Technically speaking in all tongues, Roberts Cove throws a German Fest not an Oktoberfest. Because it is held only on the first weekend in October. As we all know Germans are sticklers for order. And in Germany, Oktoberfest begins late in September, on a date that moves with the moon, and runs through the first Sunday in October. Go figure! 

If Octoberfest ends before October 3 (German Unity Day) it is extended to include it. "Sort of a German Leapfest,"  L. A. Norma told our seatmates on the train from New Orleans.

German Immigrants were few in French Louisiana, but those who came left their mark on Pelican State history (Pelican Staat Geschichte)

Notably there were the Germans said to have fed the indolent city folk of New Orleans from productive farms on the "German Coast," along Bayou Des Allemonds (Bayou of the Germans), 34-miles (54 kilometerswest of Big Swamp City. Amtrak crosses this bayou today but no longer stops at the settlement named Des Allemonds.

One day, coming back from New Orleans on the train, we were treated to three Des Allemonds' boys fishing along the Bayou, dropping their drawers at our approach, and mooning the Los Angeles bound Sunset Limited.

Bayou Des Allemands looking toward the Gulf of Mexico
(Bayou des Allemands den Blick auf den Golf von Mexiko)
Outbound swells sipping their morning coffee in the observation car saw three bare bottoms ~ one black, two white ~ shining up at them. L. A. Norma said, "Some things change, some

* * *

Roberts Cove is a prosperous rice-growing settlement near Lafayette, Acadiana's "Hub City," and where we left the train that saw the racially integrated naked rear ends. 

"Do you speak German?" asked a women introducing herself at the Festival. Her English was tinged with the local Cajun accent, but she was German, she said. Her accent oddity owes itself to the fact that late-arrival Germans learned their English from earlier-arrival French-Canadians, the much revered Cajuns. About whom detractors say, "They speak neither English nor French." They taught these German-Americans to speak their English with a French-Louisiana accent. 

We were inside the Song Fest Tent, singing, yodeling and listening to Alpenhorns. "Bisschen Deutsch," I answered. She understood "Deutsch," but not "Bisschen"

"A little," I explained, I speak a little German. 

We raised our "Bier" and joined in the Rucksack Song (Rucksacksong). Her husband wore nice lederhosen and sang with such gusto I would bet money he had been a Boy-scout and sang these same songs with the same gusto then.

Near Roberts Cove is Hawk's, a crayfish cafe' noted for purging their "mud bugs." Hawk's also prides itself on no signage. Finding it is something of a local game. Outsiders are a double muddled source of entertainment. One day, washing up at the dining-room wash basins, I asked a man where he was from.

The man said, "Down the road."

"Is your name German?"

"No," he said, "further down the road."

* *
Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome to continue using for our mailings, 
and we are not able to pay for the  paymail system. 

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.

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) 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 
* * *

Monday, September 01, 2014

Yon Memory Lingers On / September 2014

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

September 2014

Yon Memory Lingers On

by Leonard Earl Johnson

Some High School Poet 

in my oldest Brother's English class was inspired by nearby Saint Louis poet, T. S. Eliot's THE WASTE LAND, to write the following about how short and prickly Life's journey can be:

"The end lurks on yellowing grass beneath yon leafy dew

August is the saddest month
Because it brought us you . . ." 

His literary bullet stung -- it was meant to hurt -- older Brother's friends are not kind people. Of course, my umbrage was not for the Gateway City poet. (Who would ever defend him?) It was because August is my beginning, my birth month! And not a stillborn journey immediately involved in its end, as saith such poets with their cold hearts and pretty words. 

I should have guessed their words right from the first day. My first August welcomed with a sweltering Summer and a disappointed Mother. It happens. 

"You sweat it out," L . A. Norma jokes, to the bartender at Pamplona, who has been idly listening. "And you live to be seventy-one," she points to me as evidence of her wisdom. The bartender fills our glasses as evidence of his.

LEJ's Yours Truly in a Swamp
More evidence
In 2001, New York's Nine-Eleven shadows fell two weeks after my august August celebration in New Orleans. And 2005's Birthday came exactly one week before Hurricane Katrina. Before each dark event we walked along oblivious to the grass yellowing beneath our feet. 

We went to Bacco in 2005 

A large Schadenfreude group -- I was turning 62 and they all wanted to see. We did not know at the time but this would be our last Ten-Cent Martini Lunch. We laughed at age and Hurricane Katrina turning back toward Florida. 
    Ten-Cent Martini Birthday, Bacco, pre-K.
    Victor Campbell, Josh Clark, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
    Alberto Navarro, Melanie Plesh, L. A. Norma, 
    Lee Grue, Karisa Kerry, Margarita Bergen 
   (more off-camera)
Then we parted, planning to meet again on the coming Saturday night to hear Washboard Chaz at the Spotted Cat on rue Frenchmen. Instead we got blown away. 

"Like cotton seed in the wind," Norma said, struggling with her imagery. 

"Try dandelion ...,"  we tried suggesting.

"I'm no poet!" she interrupted, throwing her hands in the air.

We left Town with Katrina licking the wheels of our little red truck skittering across the Rigolets. We left with the storm behind us halfway up to its eye. We left along the very path of The Hurricane. A uniformed policeman told us we could only go East. 

"The West full?" Norma asked the policeman. Rain sprayed from every direction including up. "Just the road to it," he said. 

We landed on the North Shore, in Hammond. At the hearth of a kindly fallen monk. And then decamped to Lafayette, Louisiana. "Where the English isn't English and the French isn't French," detractors say. Yet we communicate, live well, and grow happy. 

"Not a bad outcome for a serendipity-minded old scribe like you, and a flat-lined poet like me," Norma says, when I tell this story. "Not to mention, all those train rides in-and-out of Big Swamp City!"


Our Post-Storm

New World has been good for Louisiana artists and lovers of poetry. It gave us Lafayette musician, Sam Rey's masterpiece, Meet Me in New Orleans. Why this did not become Big Swamp City's official post-Katrina song only proves further that poets speak Truth more than politicians want to hear it.


Sam Rey drove select out-of-town scribes into New Orleans on the day it first opened up to, "Certain zip-coded residents with I. D., and a need to go." 

Rey recalled, "We were the only car on the road and the Sun was coming up big, 'Like a pink fried egg'."

Meet Me in New Orleans by Sam Rey  (YouTube)

Well, Sunday morning sunrise coming up like a pink fried egg
Yeah they say it's Sunday morning
but it's still Saturday night in my head.
That picture of your mother, taken at your party in 1963,
well it's bouncing off the ceiling. Lord she's just as high as she could be.
Please tell me it won't take long
'Cause I'm doing my best to hang on
Please meet me in New Orleans, it's time to come home.

I want to shout it from the rooftops. I wanna be first in line.

I wanna shout it from the rooftops. I hope they hear me this time.
Now if you see my baby brother and that woman they call Shay Duvell
please tell 'em that I love 'em and I hope they're doing well.
Now I'm straggling, and I'm skuffling and I may have lost my mind.
But I grieve my dear beloved, one tear at a time.
I wanna shout it from the rooftops, I wanna be first in line.
I wanna shout it from the rooftops. I hope they hear me this time.
Now give a holler
when you see me
in that Road Home waiting line
Aww meet me in New Orleans,
if only in my mind
I said meet me in New Orleans, if only in my mind.

I want this song at my funeral! 

More Good Art News
Long before Katrina, New Orleans artist, Dawn DeDeaux directed a project at Orleans Parish Prison, called The Prison Art Book. It was administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans, and funded by a two-percent tax on construction dedicated to municipal art, with few restrictions on concept or design.

DeDeaux, a practitioner of installation / conceptual art, was a perfect choice to create what became a concept great in scope and size. Huge books with covers made from welded iron bars similar to a prison cell. Art fit for a mighty big coffee table, and housed today at O. P. P., New Orleans Museum of Art, City Library and a few other sites. 

Conceptual Art is sometimes confusing. L. A. Norma says it is, "Like experimental film. Sometimes you don't know if this is it or the film has flipped off the sprocket." 

DeDeaux has, since O. P. P. days, exhibited at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, Armand Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, and many other distinguished venues. She is represented by the prestigious Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans. Recently she mounted her finest effort to date, at Lafayette's Acadiana Center for the Arts. Wow!

"This is no broken sprocket," Norma said, looking up to the AcA main gallery's 'sky' for a breathtaking view of MOTHERSHIP 2: DREAMING OF A FUTURE PAST, the exact name of DeDeaux's piece. 

I loved this installation, it is an Artist's Louisiana Masterwork.
Dawn DeDeaux will answer questions at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Lafayette: 6:30pm, Thursday, 11 September 2014.

Your thoughts are welcome, the comments button is somewhere below. It is hard to find, I know. Only Google can change its hidden location. If you can find it tell us what you think.

Mothership 2: Dreaming of a Future Past
 Artist: Dawn DeDeaux
Acadiana Center for the Arts, Lafayette
July 12 ~ September 13, 2014
New Orleans Arthur Roger Gallery represents Dawn DeDeaux

Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome to continue using for our mailings, 
and we are not able to pay for the  paymail system. 

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.

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) 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Hemingway: Prt 3, Trains, Fests, Funerals and Food/August 2014

The Hemingway wearing a sailor's cap, and his beard tucked in
is L. E. J., 2013 Hemingway second-placer.
photocredit: Sunday Parker

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

August, 2014

Hemingway: Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food, Part 3
(actually it never ends)
This column is dedicated to
Lionel Ferbos
he appeared in a cameo as himself on TREME' (HBO),
was a featured player at the Palm Court for years, and
the oldest regularly performing New Orleans musician at the time of his death
last month at 103

by  Leonard Earl Johnson

We arrived in New Orleans aboard Amtrak's Sunset Limited, delayed hours behind an elderly freighter with a faulty braking system. They stopped, we stopped. They waited, we waited. I do not know if the freighter ever got where it was going but we did not get to bed till midnight.

Next Day

"Praise the day!" L. A. Norma said, as our cabbie dropped us on Jackson Square, in front of Dickie Brennan's newest, Tableau. A fine dining establishment carved from the once large lobby of le Petit Theatre Du Vieux Carré (America's oldest operating community "theatre"). 

"It happened," Norma lamented. "Amid chagrin-launched parties attended with fleeting concerns, it happened. Now clearly for the better, the little empty lobby became the big Dickie Brennan's new kitchen and bar."

Change Happens. Even in Louisiana.Take New Orleans esteemed restaurant name, Brennan. Those who regretted attaching it to the Little Theatre's lobby -- and those who did not care -- have now made the new bar a gathering place for nearby do-wells partying in their three-centuries-old City Centrum. "With the likes of us," L. A. Norma said, laughing with a couple of Metairie-ians celebrating their first anniversary, "waiting for the curtain to go up." 

"Amid the faux marble and leatherish decor of yore," giggled the pretty young Metairie-ian wife to her beaming yearling husband. They were staying up rue Royal at the Hotel Monteleone, and traveling about the Quarter by pedibike rickshaw.

* * *

Presbyter, Jackson Square, New Orleans
Photo Credit:  Mark Tullos 
"Ground Zero," Norma said, with a wave of her hand towards Jackson Square, "for Louisiana Europeans, and Africans." 

Sounds of the Pfister Sisters came from the back of our skulls. Memories of their harmony wafting from a stage built during French Quarter Festival on land that was once the settlement's military parade grounds. It floated up to our table on the second floor corner on an early Summer day that felt like the best of all possible Summer days.

Lionel Ferbos   1911 ~ 2014
YouTube video by Ricky Riccardi
Tonight, we finished our wine and Oysters Maison, a new fabled dish at Tableau, and led our new friends two doors down to Sylvain ~ where they sometimes remember your name

Tennessee Williams would have loved the Sazeracs here. And the youthful gathering round the pockets of elders, in the best of ways that never change. 


LEJ's San Fermin Story,
Running Bulls New Orleans Style
Hemingway's looking alike contest at The Maison, on rue Frenchmen was everything you could want of a Hemingway-looking event. Silly and worth doing.

Roxie Le Rouge was burlesque's dancing perfection at the party. Delicious, though she looked nothing like Hemingway. She brought dancing up to a sexier place than even a Baptist could imagine. Three cheers from here to her! 

Chris ChampagneNew Orleans finest story teller, stand-up comic, should always be heard -- or read. He prints his tales in book form. A help for non-native speakers. Champagne is one of us, and one-a-those-funny-guys talkin' about us, too! You can catch his act all around Town, and likely next year at Hemingway.

I drank Wild Turkey Rye donated by Hemingway candidates responding to my Judge-like motto, "One Whisky One Vote." A certain kind of judge, that is. Did I tell you I was a judge of this contest? And, as it turned out, an unlikely contestant, too.

"When Hemingway was your age," Norma said, "he'd been dead eleven years!"

Winner was John McElroy, from Arizona via Los Angeles. "A film guy," said L. A. Norma.

Pappa LEJ, 
Lake Martin, Louisiana, 2014
Photo Credit:  Frank Parsley

Downtown, weeks earlier, the real Judge Ginger Berringer gave the real somber former mayor Ray Nagin ten years, and restitution. For Armstrong Park's clay footed statues and free Super Bowl flights. (Berringer did not get those things, unlike me, she is not that kind of judge.) Those were some of the charges against the former mayor.

"And those damnable oversized garbage cans too big to fit in the Quarter," L. A. Norma told our favorite cabbie on the way to the train station.

"Hemingway would have loved the day. But he'd have gone fishing down in Plaquemines Parish," the cabbie said, dropping us on the platform side of Union Station, near the gates to the Westbound train.