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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.

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
"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.

Papa LEJ, 2014
Photo Credit: Frank Parsley
"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.

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.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

An Interlude / July 2014

Yours Truly in a Swamp,
Monthly e-column by
Leonard Earl Johnson, of Lafayette and New Orleans
July, 2014

* * *

An Interlude
by Leonard Earl Johnson's editor 

Yours Truly in a Swamp, Part Three of Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food, e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson will be late this July.

Mr. Johnson beat his computer to death over multi-use mouse pad issues and awaits arrival of a new machine.
Mickey Easterling at her funeral, New Orleans

In the meantime we suggest re-reading archival columns. Perhaps parts one and two of Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food (good telling of two recent New Orleans funerals).

LEJ was last seen grumbling, boarding Amtrak's Sunset Limited ~ West, in Lafayette. Bound for Houston and Los Angeles.

Sunset Limited, Westbound photo courtesy of Amtrak

Leonard Earl Johnson, Houmas House 
Photo-credit,  Maureen Brennan
"Bet your last dollar he will be drinking in the barcar somewhere between Los Angeles and Big Swamp City, New Orleans," opined L. A. Norma. 

Though headed out in the wrong direction, LEJ will turn around and arrive on Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, in time to join the panel of distinguished judges drinking and adjudicating at the Hemingway Looking-alike Contest, Sunday, July 13, at The  Maison (on the day before Bastille Day)!

Please join us, and remember LEJ's motto: 'One Whiskey One Vote!'

LEJ is the Hemingway wearing a sailor's cap
Photocredit: Sunday Parker, 
New Orleans Hemingway Contest, 2013
- to be continued -

Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Free Interlude music 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

George Dureau: Part 2, Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food / June 2014

Yours Truly in a Swamp

June 2014


a monthly e-column by 

Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans

* * *

George Dureau: Part 2 

Trains, Festivals, Funerals 
and Food

by Leonard Earl Johnson

* * *

George Dureau, 1930~2014,
before the Freeman Courtyard Gates, co-created with Ersey Swartz,
at the New Orleans Museum of Art
Photo credit: George H. Long

George Dureau 
was a New Orleans parade-master like most of us would be, if we could. 

He was born in New Orleans and became an artist renowned in his hometown and abroad. His work graces iconic metropolitan spaces like the walls at Gallier Hall on Saint Charles Avenue (in 1862 City Hall, when New Orleans fell to Farragut's landing party). His rendering of Artemis, Greek Goddess, twin of Apollo, tops the pediment at Harrah's Casino on Canal Street. And his works rest in museums around the World.

"Show me someone with those credits," L. A. Norma said, flicking a Camel Cigarette from the steps of the Patrick Taylor Library at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, "and we'll both be looking at some-great from Big Swamp City, New Orleans." We are here for Dureau's memorial starting inside momentarily. The Library is tucked behind the Confederate Museum, housing swords and remnants of New Orleans first Carnival. Commenting once on the old museum's dreariness, Dureau said he would do it as a"Roman romp."

Why he didn't romp too far from home. 

Like they say in France, "Why travel when you are here!?"

Dureau grew up along Bayou Saint John and never moved too far away. "I lived in twelve houses," he told Otis Fenneley, in a You-tube video biography by David Zalkind. The three are standing on Frenchmen Street outside FAB, Fenneley's Faubourg Marigny Art and Books. Fenneley was not born here, but both men are true sons of New Orleans and longtime friends. Zalkind in earlier days clerked at the bookshop. 

"The elder artist stopping on his bicycle ride through his epic memories to visit his old friend and shopkeeper," Norma whispered.

Fenneley constructed a window-memorial from some old charcoal sketches and fragments of broken sculpture. It faces Chartres street traffic and the tourist-popular Praline Connection restaurant and candy store across the street. 

* * *

Dureau attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Then came back to his succession of, "Thirteen homes - if you count the last one," Norma whispers.  

Once he lived in an exquisitely dilapidated mansion on Esplanade Avenue. Another time, in a large second-floor space overlooking Cabrini Park (the dog park in the Quarter) from a curved gallery over a street-level book store named Kaboom (post-Katrina, moved to Houston). Its erudite owner was famous in the neighborhood -- as Dureau would say, opening his hands beside his large face, "For knowing more about everything than anyone else cared to know."  

 Program from George Dureau Memorial 
Friday April 18 2014, Taylor Library Auditorium, Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Cover by Robert Mapplethorpe

New York photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe 
made Dureau's portrait during a visit arranged by Arthur Roger. It is reproduced on today's memorial program.
Arthur Roger Gallery exhibited both men.

* * *

In his strikingly handsome youth, Dureau drove an open-air black Jeep with his raven hair and beard flowing in the wind-stream. And when he grew older, he sold the Jeep and rode a bicycle daily around the Quarter.

His career began as a window dresser at Kreeger's Department Store on Canal Street. And his most productive years were lived in the Quarter. Variously near such notables as Ruthie the Duck Lady, who once told Dureau, he remembered with glee, "George, we are almost all gone." 

Also nearby lived Clay Shaw (acquitted of killing JFK). And William Fagaly, longtime curator at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Fagaly, along with the English art critic, Edward Lucie-Smith, played significant drums in Dureau's parade. 

Later he met Kate Nachod, who worked as a research librarian at the Louisiana Supreme Court on Royal Street. He walked her from car to Court. "A famous artist makes me breakfast," the smitten Nachod told her friends. She watched over him in his final years. The two effectively adopted each other. 

His was a life lived large, with his last breath drawn -- thanks to Nachod and the Arthur Roger Gallery drumming fans, friends and admirers for funds to do so -- in a nursing home in Kenner. "The place of airports and final departures," Norma whispered, under The Library's cathedral ceiling made from hundred-years-old cypress.

Kenneth Holditch, Tennessee Williams Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans gave eulogy remembering he had delivered the same for Dureau's Mother's memorial. "He asked I do this for him, today."

Dureau moved effortlessly amid the classy milieu of Uptown parties and Downtown romps, and on-the-Lake soirees at the sprawling palace of the late Mickey Easterling.  Both died in 2014, around age 83 / 82, during the time of Louisiana's great music festivals in New Orleans and Lafayette. Otherwise they would have attended each other's funeral. And then gone off to hear the music.

George loved I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl, Nina Simone.  "It was always playing at his studio, I am told," said New Orleans dapper physician / TV-commentator on civic health, Doctor Brobson Lutz, though born in Mississippi, another true son of NOLa.  Lutz is considered the go-to guy by many in the press. You may recall him quoted in the New York Times after Hurricane Katrina, prescribing a beer and seeing to it the only two bars open had ice. A noted art collector, Lutz displays Dureau's work in his Uptown offices, and keeps a prized triptych in his French Quarter dining room. We talked at Mickey Easterling's feast and funeral.

"That's a new take on the old New Orleans' adage about eating meals while discussing eating-meals, huh?" ~ L. A. Norma.

~ To be continued ~
Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved 

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