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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.

Friday, June 01, 2018

BLOOMSDAY, James Joyce / June 2018

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

June 2018

~   ~   ~
Yours Truly in a Swamp

Bloomsday / 16 June 1904 
~ James Joyce's Ulysses ~
And the Night Train to Memphis
BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

One evening in Belfast,
returning to my hotel after dinner, I got lost and turned off down a street that grew darker with each step.  I kept walking until a stranger grabbed me from behind and put a knife to me Adam's apple.

The stranger said, 

'Are you Protestant or are you Catholic?'

In a flurry of inspiration and hope, I said, 

'To tell the truth, 
I'm a Brooklyn Jew!'

My assailant chuckled,

'And fancy me, the only Arab in all of Ireland!'
 Told at O'Flaherty's / Bloomsday, pre-Katrina ~ LEJ.org ✍️


"Otrade it for something by James Lee Burke," L. A. Norma said to a woman named K. O., who was lamenting the obtusity of James Joyce.  We were standing in line, on the marble-like floor of New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal, on Loyola Avenue, awaiting the call of our train, City of New Orleans, North



Green Harp Flag,  first used by Owen Roe O'Neill in 1642
Norma exhaled a plume of Camel cigarette smoke at the young woman, and a large blond security guard got up from an olive green metal desk and started towards her with a yellow plastic bucket held firmly in front.

Norma went on, "The Best thing about Bloomsday parties is that 

none dare climb out too far on any drunken limb of understanding."

The security guard asked Norma to put her cigarette in the yellow bucket. It contained sand, and around its outside was written, "Humeland Secority," in Magic Marker printing. The "O" was open at the top and the "U" was closed, but the message was clear, though the results were not.


Norma glared at him and forced the offending cigarette from her lips with the tip of her tongue, hardly missing a syllable of her lecture to K. O.


We were on our way to the exhibition, The Glory of Baroque Dresden, in Jackson, Mississippi. 


K. O. and her boyfriend, O. K., were on their way home to Memphis. We had met the night before, at O'Flaherty's ~ on Toulouse, in the French Quarter ~ at their annual celebration of James Joyce's obtuse novel, ULYSSES, and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom. The bar was crowded, and on the waiter's invitation the two smiled and took chairs at our table.

K. O. sported purple hair, one gold nose ring, and two chandelier earrings made of tiny red, white and green crystal shamrocks. Her fellow traveler was similarly colored and pierced, with six gold earrings in his right ear and one in the left. They shared a secret bottle of Courvoisier and told us they had come to Town a few days before.  They came to read, "Two short eight-page poems," they had written for the occasion.


"Mercifully drunk on the train down they lost all sixteen pages," Norma giggled under her breath, to some descendant of James Joyce, at the party ~ now living in an undisclosed Louisiana location.


*

"The City of New Orleans, an adventure in slow motion," O. K. said, as we boarded the train. It wasn't clear if he meant The City or the train.  Behind us the security guard paraded across the marble-like floor proudly returning to the green metal desk with his trophy prey.  A trail of cigarette smoke spread out behind him like airplane contrails.

Our train slipped out past the Superdome, gathered steam and rocked over marsh and swamp. Then climbed up the ancient continental shelf and pulled into Jackson,
 on time. 


There a quick transaction with the Conductor secured a bedroom and extended our tickets on to Memphis. 



Courtesy of Amtrak
We stayed on the train so as to laugh more with our new friends and their bottles of old French brandy. We ordered iced-water, and tipped the Train Assistant to not tell anyone we were smoking Norma's cigarettes in our cozy little cabin. 

At ten o'clock ~ twenty minutes early ~
we reached the Bluff City, Memphis.

O. K. and K. O. dropped us at the Peabody Hotel, on Union Avenue, 

in quiet well-behaved downtown Memphis.

"The Bluff City," Norma said, "corporate headquarters of Elvis Presley, Sun Records, Harrah's Casino, and the world famous Peabody Hotel's Marching Ducks."


Norma recited her list while walking in deep carpeting towards elevators that took us to our rooms on the top floor. 


There we slept a few hours before catching a cab, and Amtrak's  #59, the Southbound, "City of New Orleans," to Jackson.  


The hotel kitchen was closed when we arrived and still closed when we left. Same for the famous ducks ~ they would not appear until eleven. We could not wait.


The train arrived at 6:50am. We climbed aboard, and back into bed, leaving a wake-up call for, "Just-before Jackson."

* * *

For a second time in as many days, we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi
.  And once again we extended our stay on the train.  This time, back to New Orleans.

"We are far too tired for the glory of either Jackson or Dresden,"
 Norma told the conductor. 


We did get up for lunch in the diner.  Over coffee laced with brandy, we watched Mississippi slipping away behind us.

After lunch, we returned to our cabin, and slept the rest of the way back to New Orleans tended over by, "The sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers . . . aboard their fathers' magic carpet made of steel . . ."



* * *
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
------------------------
This story first appeared in Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans, July of 2004, under the title "From Bloomsday to Dresden," and in a slightly altered form in the anthology, LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), 
-------------------------




~   ~   ~
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
* * * * * * * * * * * 
© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved 


* * *

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Trains Make Good Walls ~ A Dream / May 2018

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp,

a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana


E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org
Archives: www.LEJ.org  

May 2018

~   ~   ~

Trains Make Good Walls
 A Dream
BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

In my seat, alone dozing the last hour before reaching Lafayette, I dreamt of photographers raising their cameras. 

Art directors composed men shouldering large silver and gold sledgehammers.  Arranging them before my mind's lens, as 'Gandy Dancers' ~ those gangs of mostly black men, who, with muscle alone wiggled and danced heavy iron rails into an alignment that joined the nation by its proud new railroad line ~ linking West Coast gold to East Coast greed. 


"Why not!" the Trumper tweeted.  

"Why not a wall of  
many railroads stretching from California to Florida.  Multiple lines strung with multiple trains running thick as bamboo in the jungle?"


It would follow Amtrak's first coast-to-coast train #1, the Sunset Limited's route, which itself follows the Old Spanish Trail.


"Lets see them beaners get across that!"  Trumper twittered, as Ivanka brushed his hair.  And Son-In-Law, Jared Kushner un-spooled a 'back-line communication' cable behind his patriotic Family.

Roseate Spoonbill   /   Louisiana

The little Family tableau rode along gold plated escalators, and moving-sidewalks, now 
running from the White House up The Mall to the big domed Capitol itself.  


Kushner's 'back-line' spooled off, then on, then off again ~ fully out of any one's oversight.


A mustachioed face claiming 
National Security portfolio to the President of the United States, opened an electric notebook.  A Google map glowed showing Roseate Spoonbill migration routes.  "With almost no 
difficulty with blow back," the mustache twitched as it talked. 

"We can lace migratory feeding sites with chemical-castration drugs that will threaten final solution to their dwindling numbers!"
 Clock Tower bus-bays,
Rosa Parks Transportation Centre
Lafayette, Louisiana

What this will do, he told the President, is convince the last doubters that America means business.  "Mad business, yes, but business!"

"A plausible crazy threat wins the game!" 
Trumper twittered, "Just ask my bankers."  Ivanka brushed and spoke not.  The Son-n-law spooled and spoke not.  The escalator escalated.  

The dream clock struck 11.  We awoke, and the real Conductor called out,  
"Lafayette, next stop."

$~$~$

We had been the week in New Orleans In-The-Sea, with Am-trickling rides betwixt and between.
In first-class, coming out of New Orleans there rode an elderly playwright with whom once I nearly collaborated ~ long, long ago. 

We each saw the other across the waiting room and thought, "That 
looks like...  wonder if...  whatever became... " 

We met on board, in the Club Car, where I'd gone to eat a swoonable salad with moist roasted chicken perfectly seasoned, and packed for the journey at Arabella Casa di Pasta.  The old playwright rocked and toddled with the train's motion ~ blaring over the pneumatic door's swoosh, "Didn't you used to be Leonard Earl Johnson?"

We talked for hours.  Remembering his pieces at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Centre.  In one routine he disrobed on stage. And how he once ensnarled me in a battle with the august Art Centre's press agent.  

He, also, introduced me to the work of Tony Kushner, then a young author of a big Broadway hit, ANGELS IN AMERICA.  "It is in revival," the old playwright smiled, "and I'm going to see it in New York, after Boston."

I told him, Tony Kushner grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, "Out on the Texas border," and the next station stop after Lafayette.  It was something he sort of remembered knowing.

 He was traveling on Amtrak's Rail Pass.  On his way to Los Angeles!  Where playwrights both like and hate to go.  Then up the West Coast, to Seattle; cross country, along the Canadian boarder to Chicago, and on to Boston!  We were currently on board the first train in the World to carry a name (like a ship), The SUNSET LIMITED ~ the very train in Dashiell Hammett's THE THIN MAN.
Also on board was a newly retired couple from Tucson, Arizona ~
 where first I held a Librarian's Assistant job, in the hippie filled Fabled 
Sixties.  Nostalgia grows older by the day.  It is profound being an elder.
AND NOW, to my utter amazement, a space age breathing 
apparatus has joined me in the bed, where once youth frolicked. 

"And Easter on the River of  Bourbon Street would 
not have been more-better with divine intervention," my playwright friend said.

 
*  *  *
Charles Neville
Word arrived just ahead of deadline of Charles Neville's death, at 79, in Massachusetts.  

I remember a hundred or so years ago, when Charles Neville walked into a party.  The Neville Brothers had been famous a few years, but I was just another sailor in from the Sea and did not know who he was ~ to the amazement of friends with whom we were teaching photography to the imprisoned at Orleans Parish Prison. 

The party was at conceptual artist, Dawn DeDeaux's warehouse apartment overlooking the French Market.  She directed our prison art program.  We were creating the PRISON ART BOOK, a limited edition iron-cell-door covered over-sized book published by the Arts Council of New Orleans.  It may be viewed at the New Orleans Main Library; New Orleans Museum of Art; Arts Council; Orleans Parish Prison, and recently an accepted gift to the collection at the Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
LEJ.org 


Your comments and corrections are welcome.


*
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
*


Contact me if you want on the list that may get e-mailed 


Subscribe@LEJ.org   

Lagniappe du Jour

~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~



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