- Name: LEJ's Louisiana
- Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Leonard Earl Johnson writes about coastal Louisiana. He 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.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
August 2008 / You Must Remember This
"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 business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a letter to his brother, dated 8 November, 1954
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The View from Squalor Heights
Before The Storm
L. A. Norma dropped a postcard on the kitchen table. It was from the United States Postal Service and read, "Just about anything you can do at the Post Office, you can do from your office with USPS.com."
She said, "About all you ever do at the Post Office is toss your mail in the trash can. How you going to do that on the Internet?
"Norma, that is mostly what people on the Internet do."
We sipped black coffee laced with chicory, and gazed through the kitchen dormer. We were in New Orleans. At Squalor Heights, our Faubourg Marigny garret, on the edge of the French Quarter, eating beignets and starting a new day.
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Behind Squalor Heights, an historic Creole cottage has spent the past two Summers building up new additions inside its courtyard. The additions have sprouted another room, since last we looked.
"Where're all those historic saviors?" Norma asked.
L. A. Norma has not felt good about historic preservationists since the Louisiana State Museum, on Jackson Square, began hanging advertising banners, for Bell South, and other purveyors of the future, from their windows. They formed a splash of tomorrow across the entire front of the Cabildo and Presbytere -- the most historic buildings in all of Louisiana.
The banners loudly proclaimed the joys of cell phones, and such things, 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 the cell phone on this shameful practice, in part, because of a visit to the Museum’s offices by L. A. Norma, and her Camel Cigarettes -- an old lady's weapon of mass deconstruction.
* * *
The Creole cottage's latest room formed a second story above a wing stretching back into the courtyard.
Sometimes, men in blue work clothes can be seen scurrying about the work site with clipboards and tape measures. Bankers, too, we both reckoned, when we saw them getting out of their big cars, wearing dark suits and silk ties. The blue men stayed close on their heels all the while they were there.
"Surely they are not City officials openly inspecting and approving," Norma said. "Such violations!"
Approved or not, the old cottage has grown by fits and starts, over the past two years.
"le Frog slowly boiling theory," Norma observed, in her best Los Angeles French accent. Hammers pounded out a solid rhythm, while saws answered their call with a sweet waltz.
Sometimes the project falls fallow. Once, after 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.
She had phoned the Faubourg Marigny Association when she first laid eyes on the new window. In a poetic stroke of genius, she also phoned the State Museum offices, in the Cabildo, threatening them with another smoke-filled visit. Historic district "deciders," from City and State, quickly appeared.
After the intruding window was removed, and a civilized spell had passed, a tiny outbuilding -- that may have once housed slaves -- began growing towards the front. Half way to the cottage it stopped growing out and commenced growing up. Today, it is fully flowered into a second story with budding balconies that give off the sweet aroma of corporate condos.
"Slavery may never be the same," Norma said, blowing Camel Cigarette smoke out our dormer, towards the construction site and the men in blue.
Copyright, Leonard Earl Johnson, 2008
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This story appeared, in a slightly different form, in June of 2005. Two month's later, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
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Ice Box Magnet
Want a magnetized image of LEJ's fat face for your memory board, or to scare future storm vermin from your abandoned refrigerator?
"It'll keep them bugs out'a your icebox, next time, sugar!" ~ L. A. Norma
If you do:
Send a self - addressed and stamped envelope, along with $5
to: Leonard Earl Johnson
302 Jefferson St.
Lafayette, LA 70501
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