LEJ's Blog

My Photo
Name:
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 ConsumerAffairs.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.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

More Tales of the Festivals / June 2019

Park International  /  Courtesy: Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette

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 2019
6 January 1923  ~  1 June 2019

© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
NOLa to LFT to LA to SF                                          Courtesy: Amtrak.com 
    🔻 🔻 🔻 
   🔻 🔻
   🔻

More Tales of the Festivals



*

*  *



by  Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org


New Orleans is a rail head town, meaning all trains in and out terminate and originate here.  Good for on-time departures.

But, when an inbound train is next-day late, the schedule folds like a yard-sale tux (see last month's column).   

Today, we are aboard Amtrak #1, the Sunset Limited ~ West, smartly on time, high up on the tall Huey P. Long Bridge looking down at the Mississippi River.  

Great ships pass below on their way out to Sea ~ and skyscraper buildings along the bank reach up to spear tourist-filled airplanes descending to rain money like candy from Cinco de Mayo piñatas.

It is the season of festivals in Louisiana, a state that knows a thing or two about partying. 


Our next stop:
Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette.

🔻🔺🔻


Lafayette is nicknamed "The Hub City" of French Louisiana. 

It is where French Canadians settled after expulsion from Nova Scotia by the brutish New England British, in 
Le Grand Dérangement.

 This diaspora come-lately, 1755 (New Orleans had been a settlement since 1699) established Louisiana's second French colony ~ isolated by the Atchafalya Basin ~ with motherland ties to French Canada.


🔻Isolation🔻

It was more than a hundred years ~ not until 1881 ~ before a railroad was built connecting Lafayette to New Orleans, and it was only in the 1960s that President Dwight D. Eisenhower's post World War Two Interstate highway system finally reached across the Atchafalaya Basin to Baton Rouge.

Prior to this, travel between these regions was cumbersome and slow, involving many water crossings. 



Festival International de LouisianeLafayette is a celebration with the stated purpose of bringing together French colonial cultures from all over the World, as expressed in music, art and food. 

Keep in mind, 

the United States ~ most surely Louisiana ~ is a celebrated part of Worldwide French colonial culture.  


Flying Balalaika Brothers

Curiously "Festival," as locals call it, also includes acts from such non-French outposts as Russia, homeland of one of Festival's perennial favorites, the Flying Balalaika Brothers, performing on Scene (French for stage) LUS International, on opening night, and on two additional Scenes during the the next three days.  



Parc San Souci  /  photo: Tom Vaught
click image for higher resolution
Festival boasts many Scenes around downtown Lafayette, along with art, craft, and food pavilions scattered among green spaces.  Also a selection of excellent  downtown restaurants, music bars, coffee shops, art galleries and museums afford comfortable indoor respite

 Three favorites ~ among the many ~ are Pamplona Tapas Bar ~ where we always find a mini-festival loose inside; 
Rêve Coffee, where lap-toppers and book-readers gather; 
and the terrific new Cloves Indian Cafe ~ with amazingly low prices and huge windows overlooking Boulevard Jefferson's
 Festival activity. 

🔺🔻🔺


"Open and free for Joie de vie,"
L. A. Norma says, stepping off the train, in full view of Parc International, a few hundred yards away, and permanently painted round its grand proscenium with the flags of the World's French heritage countries. 


SOLA Violins  /   Photo: Anya Burgess


On the corner from Parc San Souci, at Rue Vermilion and Boulevard Jefferson is the 





luthier, Sola Violins.  
Operated by owner Anya Burgess, who also plays along with Christine Balfa, and Kristi Guillory in the popular group, BonsoirCatin  performing widely throughout Acadia, and at both New Orleans and Lafayette festivals.  Burgess, along with shop assistant, Chris Segura, are noted violin makers.

 Directly across Boulevard Jefferson from SOLA are the exhibition galleries, workshops and theaters of the 

AcA / Acadiana Center for the Arts


AcA  /  photo:  Philip Gould
A bit further, in front of the United States District Court we found SceneTV5Monde.  

Performing there where Anders Osborne, with Tiffany Lamson (founding member of hometown gone-world-touring, indie-pop Givers) and the Belgian ~ now living in New Orleans ~ showstopping cellist, Helen Gillet.  


"It doesn't get any better than this," L. A. Norma tells a Parisian family we had met on the train in from New Orleans.


We stayed in Acadiana after Festival International ended to accept an invitation from Floyd LeBleu, one time Lafayette High School football coach who returned to law school, at age forty, to become a local barrister renowned.  LeBleu took us to his hometown of Opelousas (founded in 1720).


"Louisiana's capitol-in-exile during The War Between The States," LeBleu tells us on the thirty-minute drive north of Lafayette, on Interstate-49, "The Cajun Freeway."


"During the tenure of Sheriff Cat Doucet, from 1936 to 1940 and again from 1952 to 1968, the section of Opelousas along Highway 190 was a haven of gambling and prostitution, the profits from which he skimmed a take." ~ Wikipedia


We are led by LeBleu not to sin, but to seafood heaven for those who live to lunch, as we La do.

 SOILEAU'S (pronounced Swallow's), at 1618 N. Main St., "since 1937,according to their card.  

"Mon Dieu, quel repas!"
(My God, what a meal!)


Peppers stuffed with seafood, stuffed potato, crabs, shrimps, and more. Tartar Sauce that cries to have other chef's claiming such arrested on site.  


"Bon appétit et venez chez Acadia, cher!" 
("Bon appétit and come to Acadia, dear!")


LEJ.org ✍️
Photo credit:  Alyce Morgan
Corrections and Comments welcome  

♪ ♫ 

For music links scroll down to
Lagniappe du Jour, Today



For archived 
L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp  
go to www.LEJ.org

Subscribe@LEJ.org  (free)

© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Don't hold your breath on my figuring out le Internet.  I am a storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer, but contact me 


if you want on the list ~ that may get e-mailed a monthly heads up. 

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.

Lagniappe du Jour, Today  



♪ ♫ 

The Traveling Wilburys - 
Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison

 End Of The Line
(not on stage at Festival but on a train and in the spirit) 
YouTube

♪ ♫ 


Givers, NPR Desktop Concert


♪ ♫ 


Flying Balalaika Brothers


Festival International de Louisiana, Lafayette


♪ ♫ 


BonsoirCatin

YouTube

♪ ♫ 


Anders Osborne


website / music


♪ ♫ 


Helen Gillet


website / YouTube


♪ ♫ 

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
© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
*    *   * 
Coming July's column

More Yours Truly in a Swamp 
Post date July First, 2019
* * * * * * * * * * * *
© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Late Train to NOLa, Tales of the Fests / May 2019

 LEJ.org at the French Quarter Festival / click image for higher resolution
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 2019

The Late Train to New Orleans,

and Tales of the Festivals


*
*  *
by  Leonard Earl Johnson

© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


Passing Fields and Farms                                         photo credit © Michael Tomb
click image for higher resolution

🔻

An all time, system-wide record, for me, if not for Amtrak. 

The Sunset Limited, scheduled into New Orleans, Tuesday night at 9:30ish pm, arrived Wednesday morning at 7am. 

As the Sun rose, a rusty red petrochemical umbrella opened over Big Swamp City, and our train climbed across the Huey P. Long Bridge, high above the Father Waters of the Mississippi River, late, late, late!


A bleary-eyed Train Assistant passed down the aisle giving each of us a free cup of coffee. Wow, America! Red sky and free coffee! Great Again Already? ~ LEJ.org ✍️

🔽🔼🔽

"In the parlance of today's rails, 
within the hour is hailed as, 'On-Time,'"  
our pedicab driver said, pointing his thumb back over his shoulder at the gray mausoleum of New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal. 

"Aptly named, 'Passenger Terminal'," L. A. Norma slurred, with a yawning exhalation of contempt and 

Camel Cigarette smoke

"The next category," our driver went on, 
'Early-Late,' is two-to-four hours.


"'Late-Late' is five-to-nine hours. 

But the cream on America's dystopian raspberry,

the rarely seen but widely cherished
(by those who most love football and Amtrak: Republicans) 
is the NEXT DAY ARRIVAL!

"And you were on one, folks.

 "Congratulations, and welcome to New Orleans!" 

We laughed ~ giddy from lack of sleep and filled with that old expectation that tickles deep when arriving back in

Big Swamp City.

 We pulled away, past the Superdome, and glittering Loyola Avenue hotels, and the City Library, and the big stone head laying on its side with a crack through the forehead ~ recovered from The Visual Wall at the 1984 World's Fair, 

the very event that spawned 
The French Quarter Festival.  

We were headed to the Festival's press club ~ shamelessly teetering at the far end of one very steep circular stairway.  Leading above the finely refitted bar once known to last century New Orleans' hustlers as, The Wrinkle Room.  

We climbed up and up, and round and around a stairwell with railings of wood softened in the Mississippi River, then bent to form this spiraling torture. 


"In the days before its water glistened with chemical effluent," Norma said, tipping our driver.  

"Today the wood would melt like a penny in a Coke-a-Cola."

We climbed, infirmities in hand, to claim our press pass, and a free coffee on the balcony overlooking Chartres Street.  


It is true, music festivals are a party for all, and a reunion for many, but they are also 
a trade show, for performers, writers, agents, club owners, and that lowest feeder dangling at the bottom of the food chain, 

The Media.

"Let'em climb the riggin', 

like their daddies used to do,"  
L. A. Norma crooned.  

Up to where you can see the street, 
and exchange greetings with folks from "Basile to Brasil."  Balcony-watching is one of the most beloved pastimes of natives in this Land of Dreamy Dreams.  


We watched as Ronnie Kole, the silk fingered pianist from Liberty Bayou, came strolling down Chartres, wearing his signature keyboard-collared gold Lamé Tuxedo.  


Kole has been grand marshal of the Festival's opening parade
Wisteria in Springtime
since the first one, at the time of the last World's Fair
He was returning from opening 2019's Festival.  


He stopped to wave.  We had all been at the first opening party in the Court of Two Sisters breathtaking wisteria courtyard, that Spring of 1984.   


He yelled up, "Happy Mardi Gras," a joke truly understood only by New Orleanians.  Too many too ill-informed, is a sloggy translation.


Dave Ankers stopped by our table.  He is Director of Content at WWOZ, the World's Greatest Radio Station, and he tells us they have found an old tape of my JazzFest interview with Pete Seeger, folksinger deceased, and plan to air it in memoriam.


Festivals are good places to renew and make new. 

     ~  *  ~      ~  *  ~    
~  *  ~

The building just behind our perch, above the once Wrinkle Room, housed a Maison de jeux dans le Quartier (a playhouse in The Quarter) pied-à-terre of Louisiana architect, Henry Boudreaux and the artist and French fabric preservationist, Sonya LaComb. 

These are Aristocrates Francophones Cajuns de Lafayette.  We were blown across their Basin pathway by The Winds of '05.  We are back, now, and invited over for French pie ~ declined because of those ancient ladders.


Instead, we went to noon Mass at Saint Louis Cathedral. 

A Festival is, best of all, 
a time to remember.  

Leaving Mass, we ran into City paraders, Joe DeSilva and Rosemary James, founders of Faulkner House Books, in Pirate's Alley, along the outside of the Cathedral wall where we stood.


We talked of crowds in the Quarter, a common topic in the Quarter; and recollected Dean Faulkner Wells reading at Faulkner House, one bright Sunday afternoon of the Tennessee Williams Festival's Stella Hollering Contest, in Jackson Square.


left to right: Upper Pontalba, Brennan's Tableau and
Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carr
é, The Cabildo, Jackson Square

What a time it was.  
We had the epic occasion, following her reading, to be drunk and leaning on a garbage can in front of the Cabildo, with Dean Paschal, of New Orleans, and Dean Faulkner Wells, of Mississippi.  Tennessee Williams was a couple doors down hollering for STELLA!

⬇  ⬇  ⬇

Dean Faulkner Wells was the Daughter of William Faulkner's Brother, Dean Faulkner. She was born after her Father's death, from an airplane crash, for which William Faulkner felt responsible (he may have owned the plane).

Faulkner raised his Niece and named her after her Father. She grew up in Mississippi but lived her adult Life in Panama ~ or so I drunkenly thought that day in New Orleans.  

She, Dean Faulkner Wells, was reading at Faulkner House, from her book 
(EVERY DAY BY THE SUN: A MEMOIR OF THE 
FAULKNERS OF MISSISSIPPI) 
to a competitive gathering of followers to a literary faith not fully at ease with the more ruckus Tennessee Williams bunch.  

Dean Paschal, a superb practitioner of the Pauper's Art of writing, by night (BY THE LIGHT OF THE JUKEBOX) and a Medical Doctor by day, and I ~ being ecumenical readers ~ had left Joe and Rosemary's reception at their quarters above Faulkner House Books, swimming in a few bottles of their fine medicinal red.

Headed for the head-clearing Stella Yelling Contest in Jackson Square, we ran into Dean Faulkner Wells, resting by the Cabildo garbage can awaiting her driver.

She was in her 80s, and we were in our cups.  She spoke of Panama, and I spoke of the isthmus' renowned 
CrossRoads of The Sea WhoreHouse and Bar.  

She smiled an elderly impish pucker and said she, too, had gone there. However, I doubt it, having been there myself, and ... well... you know. Didn't she marry a missionary and land in Central America purposely stamping out the sins of such an establishment?

Her driver arrived.  Someone won the Stella Yelling.  Dean Paschal and I went for a drink at the former Wrinkle Room, and Big Swamp City's eternal parade marched on, oui?LEJ.org ✍️ 

to be continued:
More Tales of the Festivals
next month.

For archived 

L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp  
go to www.LEJ.org

Subscribe@LEJ.org  (free)

Archives: www.LEJ.org

© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Don't hold your breath on my figuring out le Internet.  I am a storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer. 
Contact me if you want on the list ~ that may get e-mailed a monthly heads up. 

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.


Lagniappe du Jour, Today



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
© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
*    *   * 
Coming in June's column

More Tales of the Festivals
Post date June First, 2019
* * * * * * * * * * * *