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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.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Post Katrina Review / September 2018

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

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Post~Katrina Review, 2018

by Leonard Earl Johnson
www.LEJ.org
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
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Courtesy of Patricia Brennan 
The World's first train to carry a personalized name, 'the Sunset Limited,' pulled in to New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal two hours and twenty-two minutes late, on the day before Katrina Day 2018

We were returning for an annual month of remembering that day, August 29, 2005, when w
e turned the lock on Squalor Heights ~ our Faubourg Marigny garrett ~ to never again return to the life lived in that neighborhood for forty-some years. 


Katrina racked up the largest storm-loss in American history, Including 
Super-storm Sandy, Hurricanes Rita, Gustav, Harvey, and Maria ~ all ushering in times more painful than poets or politicians easily salved. 



*    *    *  

The Nation bonded deeply with Katrina's epic loss. 


Death danced with itself and surrounded us ~ then we locked just as deeply in the arms of Hope and Resurrection, succeeding by our own efforts, the efforts of strangers, and reluctant con-servative politicians.  


"New Orleans, the first town FEMA forgot," Norma snorts over her morning coffee.

We personally slid on and off Louisiana's slippery Road Home, finally finding peace decamping to Acadiana, happily rebooting to a new Life of eating cold potato salad along with the rice in our hot gumbo, and riding Amtrak's ageing ironhorse back and forth to Big Swamp City.  

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Courtesy: Rosa Parks Transportation Centré
New Orleans itself re-booted well, with thousands of newer versions ~ even glamorous movie-making versions ~  of ourselves eating, drinking and schmoozing in hundreds more restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, and bars. 

Establishments old and new are filled with returned versions of us, and bright new faces from every corner of Earth ~ all eager to join our famed civic parade.

We sit with these new New Orleanians, talking movies as if we were the largest movie-making state in the Union. 

Well, we were!  Before Louisiana's delusionally presidential 
Governor Bobby Jindal and his hired band of Washington Beltway advisers whittled us back down to a backwater movie plantation. 


"Bible-thumping, budget-juggling, selfserving
 'Out-of-Town Bobby'," L. A. Norma says, throwing her arms towards the heavens.  Then folding them back down on herself. 


We talk with these new movie people as if we know their business as well as we know the bars on Frenchmen Street.  


One night, before Jindal's Republican dystopia had fully kicked in, we took dinner aboard the Sunset Limited out of Los Angeles, with a charming film ingénue relocating, "... from 'L. A.' to 'LA,' for movie work."  


She told us, two days later, as we rocked across the Atchafalaya Basin, nearing New Orleans, of her excitement relocating to "Hollywood South."  


We shared our own first-arrival from Illinois on the train called, The City of New Orleans.  Her traveling companion, a young artist inspired by Norman Rockwell, told us she liked Louisiana, but she planned on taking the train back to California in a few days, "Because it has cleaner lines, better spatial definition than Louisiana."

"Holy cow!" Norma said.

*    *    * 


"New Orleans has changed," Norma says.

But she still sees plump Ignatius Riley almost every time she rides the streetcar. 


Norma is referring to the novel, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, and its protagonist, Ignatius J. Riley ~ author John Kennedy Toole's knee-slapper character whose story captures perfectly the spirit of pre-K New Orleans. 


Today's Ignatius, however, uses i-pads and smartphones in ways that would 
have caused his earlier incarnation's heart flap to flutter, infuriating his Mother, and launching his New York girlfriend on another tour de force awakening Wee The People of The Swamp.



*    *    *



LEJ signing at the Cabildo before The Storm
 wearing a kiss from GiO
the loveliest of Bourbon Street dancers.

Early during the Katrina evacuation, we found New Orleans columnist Chris Rose speaking one night at a kind of teach-in at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, on Vermilion Street, in Lafayette, 
where I taught creative writing to the storm's scattered.


Rose
 said the storm's affect was so vast and life-changing that it 
would be an above-the-fold story ten years into the future.  


Now it has been thirteen years.  


Look at the front page ~ if you can find one ~ and see if the story of Katrina and its diaspora are not still there, perhaps above the digital fold.


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In the years since Katrina blew us across the Atchafalaya and Hurricane Rita, three weeks later, welcomed us to Acadiana, I have learned differences between things I had not even known were things.  Like Bousillage and Boudin.

Bousillage is a mud-and-moss building material favored by early 
Cajuns and current day restorationists. 


Boudin is a rice and liver sausage equally favored and eaten at gas stations, crossroad stores, and white-tablecloth restaurants all across French Louisiana.

More than a million Louisianians were scattered by the winds of  '05. Thousands remain dispersed, and a popular bumper sticker appeared on distant freeways saying, "Be a New Orleanian wherever you are!"  


"That we are," L. A. Norma says, "mais oui!"*

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*Mais oui:  Technically, this is French meaning 'but, yes'.  In South Louisiana, it's basically an interjection that more or less means “Well then, yes” and is used to show delight, shock, exasperation ~ any number of such things as defined by the speaker's usage.


© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

Your comments and corrections are welcome: Comments

Lagniappe du jour


~ Great Music for that time and now ~





~ With post K Video ~






"Great telling of New Orleans character and characters."~ L. A. Norma

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Copyright, 2018Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved



Your comments and corrections are welcome: Comments

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

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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

© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

You Must Remember This / August 2018

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

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You Must Remember This

by


Leonard Earl Johnson

August 2018

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A letter from back in the day when America "Liked Ike," for winning the Second World War, and made him a Republican President more long-sighted and patriotic than. . .

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody ..." ~ Donald Trump
Courtesy New York Daley News
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"There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
U. S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 
in a letter to his brother, David, 
8 November 1954 ~ ✍️


*   *


The View from Squalor Heights
by 
Leonard Earl Johnson

Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved  


www.LEJ.org 



 
Porky's, beside the redbrick-road  /   Ullin, Illinois
My Father owned and operated a roadhouse in Ullin, Illinois, a tiny village along U. S. Highway #51 ~ a roadway he had helped build in his youth, driving a yellow truck hauling red bricks to the work site.  The original roadbed, at least in Southern Illinois, was / is redbrick.  

All his Life he was proud of that roadway, and called it the nation's first transcontinental highway.  Not entirely true.  But almost.  It did cross the continent from the upper middle west to lower Louisiana.  


It was one of the first such hard roads, and it led to New Orleans ~ a storybook journey since the days of Native mound builders ~ European explorers ~ Lewis and Clark ~ Mark Twain ~ and my Father.

He was a lifelong Republican, born and raised by self-reliant Republican Sons and Daughters of the Midwestern frontier.  

Republicans still exist, of course, but they are not like my Father.  


Today they are sycophants to Donald Trump's politics of mad night

tweets and smoke screen mini screeds. 

They support wedge-issue politics ~ designed not for governing but for garnering power for power's sake ~ politics that callously damage their followers' interests (if not their own) and ultimately limit everyone's free choices.


Remember Harper's Magazine's Richard Manning article, February 2016: "The Trouble with Iowa / Corn, corruption, and the presidential caucuses?  

New American Billboard
Think back further, to Ronald Reagan's clever quip, "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

Fast forward to today and those same words are twisted to support Russian objectives over American intelligence ~ in an assault led by Eisenhower's successor!

My Father loved IKE, and loved saying so ~ while sitting at the end of the bar in his roadhouse ~ criticizing F. D. R.'s New Deal ~ railing against centralized strongman rule ~ passing time with his friends.  

He was the house floor-show, famous in his time and place ~ alongside the highway he helped build.  

One of his oft opined tales was about a crony of whom he said, "He wouldn't go to hell for a dollar, but he'd scamper around the edge till he fell in."

Sound like today's Republicans?  They support concentrated ~ nearly one-man ~ centralized power in exchange for the pea-under-a-walnut-shell. 

I think my Father is spinning in his grave. ~ LEJ.org ✍️

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The Calm Before the Storm. 
L. A. Norma dropped a postcard on the kitchen table.  It was from the United States Postal Service and she read aloud from it, "Just about anything you can do at the Post Office, you can do from your office, at www.USPS.com."

She read while exhaling Camel Cigarette smoke.  

"Sounds like your Father.


"About all you do at the Post Office is toss your mail in the trash can.  How you goina do that on the Internet?"

"Actually," I said, "that is about all anyone does do on the Internet.  There is even an app for it."

We both sipped black coffee laced with chicory, and gazed through the kitchen dormer.  


We were at Squalor Heights,

Photo credit: Frank Parsley
my Faubourg Marigny garret, two stories above the lower edge of the French Quarter ~ in the Marigny Triangle, a short walk from Frenchmen Street, the gentrified muse and music street of New Orleans once known as the locals' Bourbon Street.

We were eating beignets, in defiance of our cardiologist's advice, and starting a new day, in defiance of weather, subsiding lands, rising Seas, and Gott knows what else. 


Behind Squalor Heights sits an historic Creole cottage that has spent the past two Summers building additions inside its courtyard ~ perhaps in defiance of cultural sensibilities, and maybe the law.

The renovation has sprouted a third floor above two older ones since last we looked.


"Where are those busybody saviors of our glorious historic past?" L. A. Norma asked, exhaling cigarette smoke out the open window.

Cabildo interior, second floor 
Courtesy Louisiana State Museum
Norma has not felt good about historic preservationists since the Louisiana State Museum, on Jackson Square, began hanging banners advertising Bell South, and other purveyors of the  communication future, under their French mansard windows. They formed a splash of modern tomorrow across the entire front of the Cabildo and the Presbytère ~ the most historic buildings in all of Louisiana.

"The banners proclaim the joys of cell phones," Norma laments.


"On the front of buildings housing Napoleon's Death Mask and an original copy of the Louisiana Purchase."

Thankfully, the State Museum has hung up their cell phone on this shameful practice, in part, because of a visit to the Museum director’s offices by Norma, and her Camel Cigarettes. "An old lady's weapon of mass deconstruction."

*   *   *

Sometimes, men in suits can be seen scurrying about the work site with clipboards and tape measures. 

Bankers, we both reckoned, when we first saw them getting out of  big black cars, wearing dark suits and silk ties. The blue jumpsuited workmen stayed close on their heels all the while they were there.


"Surely they are not City officials openly inspecting and approving such violations," Norma said.

As if that could ever happen!

Approved or not, the old cottage has grown by fits and starts, over the past two years.

"le Frog slowly boiling," Norma observed, in her best Los Angeles French accent. 


Hammers pounded in that new hydro driven staccato rhythm, while saws answered the call with their sweet waltz.

Sometimes the project falls fallow. Once, following a lengthy hiatus, a dormer window appeared looking squarely into Squalor Heights' dormer window. After that, the project went silent for over a month. 


When it started up again, the window was taken down. Norma gloated for weeks.

She had phoned the Faubourg Marigny Association when she laid eyes on the new window.  She also phoned the State Museum offices, in the Cabildo, threatening them with another smoke-filled visit.


Historic district "deciders," from City and State, appeared at the building site.

After that, a civilized spell passed, then a tiny outbuilding said to have once housed slaves, began growing towards the front. Halfway to the cottage fronting on the street it stopped. 


Today, it has fully flowered, with sliding glass doors and budding balconies giving off the sweet aroma of corporate condos.


Norma blew Camel Cigarette smoke out the dormer window.  It wafted towards the construction site and the men in blue.  "Slavery may never be the same," she said. LEJ.org 

 Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


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This story appeared, in a slightly different form, in June of 2005, in Les Ami de Marigny, New Orleans. Two month's later, on August 29, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. 


100 photos of Katrina, The Denver Post. 

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Go here For 

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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.

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Royal at Kerlerec, Faubourg Marigny, NOLa    /   photo by Janis Turk
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 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 

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