LEJ's Blog

My Photo
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Andrew Payne) 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.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Roberts Cove German Fest / October 2016

LEJ's Louisiana
Yours Truly in a Swamp

Monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
and on paper at
~ Les Amis de Marigny ~ 
publication of New Orleans
Leonard Earl Johnson,
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Archives: www.LEJ.org

* *

German Flags on Unity Day   /   Wikipedia

Roberts Cove German Festival

October 2016

by Leonard Earl Johnson

* *

in Roberts Cove, Louisiana. You Laugh? It might tickle the lederhosen off a real German, but this is the best ~ albeit somewhat zany ~ German Festival in the USA that I have ever attended. 

There is beer, singing, Alpine horns (Alphorn), yodeling, white marble graves of original settlers decorated with bright German flags, and hot spicy (normally mild veal with a hint of nutmeg) Bratwurst sausages. These had Tabasco Sauce added. 

Technically it was a Germanfest, not an Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the German harvest / Munich Bier (beer) festival starting in September and ending the first weekend of October.

German immigrants were few to French Louisiana, but those who came left their mark.  Notably there were the Germans lured over by the Scotsman, John Law.  They are said to have fed the early indolent folk of New Orleans from their productive farms along the Côte des Allemands (French for German Coast) around present day Bayou des Allemands (Bayou of the Germans).  

Hurricanes, floods and the collapse of John Law's Mississippi Company ~ and monetary schemes (he invented paper money) ~ scattered this settlement.  And New Orleanians took further to eating seafood, sugar, rice, and game.

Bayou  des  Allemands  /  Courtesy  of  Wikipedia

Some of Law's Germans resettled near Lafayette, Louisiana at today's prosperous rice-growing town of Roberts Cove.

* *

Crossing Bayou des Allemands aboard Amtrak out of New Orleans we saw des Allemands boys moon ole Train #1, The Sunset Limited.

Amtrak  over  water  /  Courtesy  of  Amtrak
From the bayou's bank two white and one black butt shined up at us as we sipped our morning coffee and zipped across an old rusty iron bridge.

"Some things change, some things don't,"  L. A. Norma said. "Boys mooning trains is still with us, but now its integrated.  Rosa Parks would be proud."

* *
Further, back down the road.
My Illinois-German Grandmother spoke English and German. Her Daughters spoke only English. It was a time when immigrants were bent towards assimilation in all things including language.

It is sad my Mother and her Sisters never talked with their Grandparents.  

We all lived in our turn in a village named Ullin, after early settlers or, as my Father erroneously argued, the daughter of the Polish Count Casimir Pulaski. Pulaski perished in the Battle of Savannah during the American Revolution ~ young and childless.

My Father's nickname was "Porky."  He was vaguely defined as Danish/Norwegian and he did not like the idea of his village being named for Germans.  Besides, descendants of the Ullins still lived there and he did not much like them.

"Germans are pig-headed," he would moan. "I should know, I married one!"

My Father and Mother owned a roadside nightclub where he expounded frequently on this and issues such as F. D. R.'s New Deal (he stood helplessly against it, too).  My Mother, who grew up in Ullin and liked the Ulins "Just fine," would shrug.

My Father must have won the Ullin argument because the resident family named Ullin dropped one "l" from their spelling, and took to pronouncing their name as though an umlaut had sprouted above the Ü

"Out of fear Porky was making people think them Polish," my Grandmother used to laugh.

My antecedents had been citizens of Bönnigheim, near Stuttgart in the German state of Swabia.  Theirs was the land of Black Forests, German industry and people who liked to sing and yodel.

My people arrived three years after Mark Twain captained river boats to New Orleans, fled West to avoid the Civil War, and moved to Hartford, Connecticut to write.

Twain came from Hannibal, Missouri, two hundred miles upriver from Ullin. Growing up, my siblings and I read his books and thought ourselves the better for it. 

The German brother/uncle to first seed our New World became my Great Uncle, though he never lived long enough to know it. I don't know if he read Mark Twain. His name was Wilhelm Staudacher. When he first arrived in Ullin he secured land along the Cache River, on the opposite bank of a sawmill. The new century saw the mill's offices become a roadhouse called Porky's owned by my Father, "Porky" and Mother, "Mac the German."

When Wilhelm returned to Germany he gathered his extended family and led them back to the Promised Land of Ullin, America.

Swabia was a good land full of "Jovial people who liked clocks," my Grandmother told us. It sounded like Texas and Arkansas to me, with a dash of Detroit from the days before Detroit became America's first fallen star. 

* *

"Do you speak German?" asked a lady with a heavy Cajun accent. She was descendant from original Roberts Cove Germans, she said.  Her accent came from the fact the French-Canadian Cajuns had taught these later arrivals how to speak English.  We were in the Songfest Tent, yodeling and listening to Alpine horns.

"Bisschen Deutsch,I said. She understood the "Deutsch," but not the "Bisschen."

"A Little," I explained.

We raised our bier and joined in the Rucksack Song.  Her husband wore nice lederhosen and sang with gusto. I would bet my last Deutsch Mark he sang those same songs when a boy.

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?" I asked.

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

* *

Your comments and corrections are welcome: Comments

Alpine Horns (Alphorn)
Lagniappe du Jour 

 Roberts Cove Germanfest 

German Coast, Louisiana 

Scotsman, Englishman, Frenchman,
inventor of paper money
and German Tour Guide,
John Law

* *
Copyright, 2016, 
Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Go here For 
T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
and such falderal ...

You may not receive a monthly e-mail notice for LEJ's Louisiana / Yours Truly in a Swamp unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system. But you can always go to www.LEJ.org

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. 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. 

For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to w w w . L E J . o r g

© 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Rio Sweet Rio / September 2016

LEJ's Louisiana
Yours Truly in a Swamp

Monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
and on paper at
~ Les Amis de Marigny ~ 
publication of New Orleans
Leonard Earl Johnson,
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Archives: www.LEJ.org
September 2016
* *

Rio Sweet Rio
by Leonard Earl Johnson

Ryan Held
Twenty-one years old, middle-western wholesome 
~ hell, his hometown is Springfield, 
"Land of Lincoln" Illinois ~ 
and handsome as a speckled pup, Ryan Held 
left the 2016 Rio Olympics wearing Gold. 
It was Held's very first international competition.

I lived in Rio de Janeiro when I wore a younger sailor's clothes. 
Three years aboard a U.S. flagged ship 
and in a little apartment on Rua Peru, 
a few blocks off Copacabana Beach. 

* * *

I stayed glued to the tv during the Olympics, 
as cyclists careened down mountains and cameras panned the statue of

Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado,  
 where often in yesteryear we tippled with friends at the bar under the big toe of Jesus. 

 Ah sigh ~ to be again in that beautiful city, 

spirited and broken so like New Orleans.

It was there I met Chilean dictator and torturer-n-chief, Augusto Pinochet 

~ more about that in a minute.

Back to Ryan Held and the U. S. victors.
They made us one with them.
 Gotts off Mount Olympus who healed our old worn heart.

Held won his Gold swimming relay 
with Caeleb Dressel, Nathan Adrian, and Michael Phelps, most decorated Olympian ever!

Standing on the Medals Podium they looked sculpted, 

with lines graceful as sailing ships. 

Michael Phelps, 
latest Olympian Gott to touch Earth
patted Held's arm and then embraced him in his human moment 
of joy and tears. 

Our anthem was playing and these glorious men shed tears. 
Humans touching The Mountain,
as we watched. 

If you lived on Olympus yourself you would have been moved. 

Might it have been thus in ancient Greece? Love? Achievement? Joy? I know the first Olympians wrapped leather dried hard in the Sun around their fists and proceeded to pound each other to the death. 
"That must have brought up some tears," 
L. A. Norma says.

Rio sweet Rio, 

thank you for the political boondoggle and shameful profiteering 
that was the Olympic Games of 2016.

Maybe the Games have always been organized 

by corrupted men ~ feigning greatness but with hearts beating
 far, far below Olympus.

This year we forgot about them, 
while our hearts hang-glided with true Gotts in Ipanema, and on the Mount Olympus of the mind.

* * *

Back to Earthly profiteering and boondoggling.
Here is the story I wrote about Brazil and Pinochet in 2013.

The Day I Met Augusto Pinochet
by Leonard Earl Johnson

It was January, 1991 (Summer south of the bulge) when I met Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet. We met in Brazil. Seven years later he would be arrested while on a medical visit to Europe and placed under house-arrest by order of the World Court for his presidential practice of throwing Chileans out of airplanes over the open Sea, and other undiplomatic policies. 

I had arrived at Hotel Sol Ipanema two weeks earlier, with a belly full of whisky and a bleary eye.

Our plane came down through the clouds over the city of Bras
ília ~ Viewed from above the new capital city resembles a butterfly, some say. Others say it looks more like an air-craft carrier. 

L. A. Norma says, "One might deduce your political inclinations from which you see." 

Brasília is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Planned and developed in 1956. Lúcio Costa was principal urban planner; Roberto Burle Marx landscape designer, and the great Oscar Niemeyer the principal architect. 

Oscar Niemeyer was one of the 20th Century's soaring young architects. Brasília gave him wings. He died in 2012, at 104. He had been blocked from entering the United States to teach at Harvard because of Communist Party membership. (After fighting World War Two to save the U. S. S. R., the U. S. A.'s state religion became anti-Communism, and its zealots greatly feared Commies going to Harvard).

* * *

On April 22, 1960, Brasília became Brazil's new national capital, wrestling the honor away from its ancestral home in coastal Rio de Janeiro ~ a city with much kinship in music, dance and doom to New Orleans. This move into the Amazon, (722 miles by road) greatly chagrined the world's diplomatic corps and their attendant camp followers.

Greeting me at Rio's Aeroporto Galeao was an aide to the United States Cultural Attache.  He carried a small, white box with a red silk ribbon that I presumed was for me. But let us face it, I was drunk. He placed me and the box in the rear seat of a large, white Chevrolet, where the box remained when he departed.

It was early morning when my plane reached Rio. The Ambassador and the rest of his staff still slept in their jungle apartments in 
Brasília.  The Cultural Attache was doing likewise somewhere in giant Rio. I stood beside his aide, with my eyes twirling before the front desk of the Sol Ipanema

The aide explained to the desk clerk, "Mr. Johnson is more important than he looks."

Casa de Cultura Laura Alvim, on the beach at Impanema
And so I was. I was traveling at the expense of the United States government and American Airlines, exhibiting photographs and teaching a workshop at nearby Casa de Cultura Laura Alvim ~ on the beach at Ipanema. 

The exhibition was titled "Bourbon Street and The Sea." It was inspired by New Orleans photographer, John Ernest Joseph Bellocq (1873 ~ 1949), who immortalized the ladies of Storyville. My exhibition consisted of portraits of male street hustlers in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and merchant sailors around the world. 

"America's foreign policy is a baffling beast," Norma says giggling, when this story comes up in conversation.

The exhibition went well, and at the reception afterwards I asked American Airlines' South American Manager if he might bump me up to first class on my return flight.  

The aide to the cultural attache said later, "They don't even do that for us."

The South American manager suggested I come see him the next week at his downtown offices near the Old Opera House. 

I had already asked the embassy for an advance on my State Department stipend. With it I paid for an extended stay at the Sol.

View from the Sol
The Sol is a fine, small hotel popular with several of the world's diplomatic corps and uniformed military. The thought "CIA hotel" crossed my mind but not my lips. (Had we not read Graham Greene in our college daze?)

Next morning, Ipanema's beaches drew the song-praised "young and sweet / pure and gentle," dressed so revealingly! As young and sweet should. 

Me?  I was amply hungover and of a girth not given to bodily revelations. Like the song says, I walked on with a sigh. Cloaked in what Brazilians would see as more like a burka on the beach than 
proper Seaside attire.  I was at ground zero for 

Bossa Nova and the Girl from Ipanema, the Veloso Bar.  Sipping Wild Turkey, while wearing snowflake-looking, tie-dyed navy and gray boxer-baggy trunks with a matching hip length beach jacket. This outfit had been sewn for me especially for the trip by Shirley Jensen, a late New Orleans matron with needlework famous in her day.  

On the day I met Pinochet I was so dressed.

I had walked from my hotel along the beach to a large neighboring resort, the Caesar Park, to take coffee and the afternoon newspapers from Miami.

In front of Caesar Park this afternoon were several large German cars and one large, lone, white Chevrolet. I glanced in the Chevrolet half expecting to see my lost red-ribboned white box, and met the glare of several large men wearing dark suits and glasses. No white box was seen.

Inside the hotel,

the lobby rumbled with similarly dark suited men, assorted reporters, and cameras with portable lights. I caught the eye of a woman who had interviewed me for Brazil's O Globo TV

I wore that beach coat for her interview, 
over a white shirt and tie.  It looked rather like an Armani design, I thought. My coat looked "terrific," she had told me. Head swelling, I agreed telling her I had bought it in Lisbon (always a good lily-gilder in Brazil).

I asked, "What is going on?"

"We are following Augusto Pinochet on a jewelry buying stopover before flying off to South Africa for arms shopping."

Lights and cameras came alive in front of me and by my side stood Augusto Pinochet wearing a double-breasted pin striped suit. He looked neither large nor menacing.  He looked like any Latin businessman. He looked at me, and neither smiled nor spoke. 

Augusto Pinochet
 I said,"Good Afternoon, Generalissimo" ~ perhaps not exactly correct. Pinochet was a president retired "upstairs," to run Chile's military. I should have called him el Presidente.

Generalissimo, spoken by itself being known throughout the post World War Two worlds of that day as the title for Spain's famed military dictator, Francisco Franco.  I had read it was a comparison Pinochet liked.

He smiled and moved on. The crowed followed him. 

A waiter in starched whites brought over a cup of black coffee and the Miami Herald.

Late the next morning I went to see the manager of American Airlines' South American interests. His secretary led me in and brought us black coffee and a bottle of Wild Turkey.

On a large Amazon-mahogany desk sat a small television with a built-in Video Cassette Recorder. On the screen was Pinochet looking at me in the lobby of the Caesar Park. A voice-over, roughly translated, was saying, "Pinochet in civilian clothing and visiting North American photographer, Leonardo Arl Johnson, wearing a 'Lisbon coat,' meet in the lobby of ..."

On the flight home I sat in first class flanked by deluxe food carts, wine, whiskey and a white box wrapped in a red silk ribbon. Inside were expensive chocolates molded like propellers and other airplane parts.

* * *

Lagniappe du Jour:

Hang Gliding, Rio

Adenddum Wikipeddum

Pinochet was arrested in London on 10 October 1998 in connection with numerous human rights allegations, but following a legal battle was released and returned to Chile in March 2000. In 2004, Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and again placed him under house arrest. By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement during his 17-year rule and afterwards. Pinochet was accused of having corruptly amassed a wealth of US$28 million or more.
* *
Copyright, 2016, 
Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Your comments and corrections are welcome: Comments

Go here For 
T-Shirts, Koozies, LEJ.org icebox magnets
and such falderal ...

You may not receive a monthly e-mail notice for LEJ's Louisiana / Yours Truly in a Swamp unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system. But you can always go to www.LEJ.org

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. 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. 

For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to w w w . L E J . o r g