RHINO, Right Here In New Orleans
Sorry we missed you if you were not at the RHINO party in New Orleans.
You missed a great party. It was elegant, grand and packed. Hope your absence means you were well, busy and prosperous.
RHINO is the oldest living artist cooperative in Louisiana. I was asked to M. C. their anniversary party, on the third floor of Canal Place.
We took Greyhound down to New Orleans, crushing along Interstate-10, the World's fastest moving parking lot. One stop in Baton Rouge. Normal traffic. Normal Swamp. It all looked like the hurricanes of '05 never happened. Until a reddish black man with two gold earrings asked if I had worked at Charity Hospital before The Storm.
"That's it!" he said. He smiled, showing matching gold teeth. Dropped the smile and said, "They never reopened that Macy's. Never did."
Now he lives in Ville Platte. He said the Smoked Meat Festival was everything we had heard. He smiled, rubbed his middle and headed out the door for one of life's greatest Popeye's, on a corner one block from the bus station. We had a thirty-minute layover in Baton Rouge.
Cajun art and antique trader, Wade Lege', and I drank our way back across the Atchafalia Basin, along the new, less-traveled bottom road from the struggling City FEMA Forgot to burgeoning Lafayette, undulating on its bubble of oil and sugar cane. We stopped and dined on BBQ Shrimp, at Clementine's, in New Iberia, where Monsieur Lege's brother, Erin Lege', is Chef. Magnifique!
Earlier we toured the new room at the Williams Research Center, in New Orleans, and took a nod from the receptionist for an article on its non-connection (maybe) to the House of the Rising Sun, You Must Remember This
Vitrice McMurry, a talented RHINO jeweler, and her husband, master guitarist John Rankin, put us up out on sunny Bayou Saint John. Next day we stopped at the Pitot House, the first American mayor's house (circa post Louisiana Purchase) and spoke with Mercedes, who is the volunteer gardener you might see saving the mansion's "natural garden." She lives on rue Royal and was a major RHINO patron, in the days before everything changed. Living across the street from RHINO's old Royal Street shop, she even answered police calls to its false burglar alarms.
"If Washington won't help," Mercedes said, pointing to a flower that looked like a mix between a white Swamp Iris and Saint Anne's Lace, "we must rebuild the best New Orleans we can."
A fine weekend for all but those unable to climb aboard any road home. The French Quarter, and such high grounds, looked ever so like yesteryear, sans segregation's distant day. The Essence Music Festival had the streets blocked and musicians signing outside bars near the Louisiana Supreme Court's new/old building. The rest of Town looked like a body amputated of most of its extremities.
America's C. E. O., Goofus W. Bush, can not save a city, win a war or run the trains on time. But have you heard he bought 98,000 acres in Paraguay? In the charitable way he helped flee our country the family of the man he said did September Eleventh, he and Halliburton now prepare to flee. Why stay for the finger pointing?
Hope you are happy and fat as a guiltless Republican, LEJ
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Want an ice-box magnet of my fat face, for your memory board or to ward off future storm vermin?
"Next time it'll keep them bugs out of your refrigerator, sugar!" ~ L. A. Norma
If you do
Send a self - addressed and stamped envelope, along with a five dollar bill.
Leonard Earl Johnson
302 Jefferson, Box 202
Lafayette, LA 70501