Yours Truly in a Swamp
a monthly column by
Leonard Earl Johnson
of New Orleans and Lafayette
* * *
Norma's Good Works at Work
Leonard Earl Johnson
The Sunset Limited
arrived at New Orleans Union Station two hours early. Out on the street, L. A. Norma flipped a cigarette in front of an approaching United Cab, and smiled through her cloud of smoke, "It is good to be loved for our good works."
The work of which she is speaking is having telephoned for a cab from the train. The American founding fathers, and all the German mystics might be baffled by Norma's ideas about love and deserving works. Then again, maybe not.
"I am better at it than all the priests, professors, and politicians rolling around Jackson Square," she said, exhaling a remaining puff of smoke from her lungs.
The cab pulled to a stop. The United dispatcher had sent our favorite driver, the unemployed actor with the T-shirt that reads:
My Parents Went to New Orleans
And All I Got Is This Lousy I.Q.©
We slid in the backseat, and Norma commenced explaining what she meant about being loved for her "Lifeworks," as she calls them.
"Yes," agreed the cabbie.
Norma said, "Toting our own load. Making solid our daily do without burdening others too much. That's what makes good citizenry, what makes us loved."
"That, and good tipping," saith the cabbie.
Norma said, "Ah, there is the risk! The self-inflicted burden of rising expectations. The weight of ever yearning for more . . ."
The cabbie interjected, "When unconditional love would have been enough all along."
They both laughed. A small group of tourists stood on the curb with their hands in the air, either in exclamation, agreement, or to hail a cab. But Norma's 'Lifeworks' involved arranging our cab, not giving it away.
Her Works at Work
The cabbie handed Norma a large manila envelope. She opened it and held up two 8 x 10 black-and-white photographs by George Dureau. He had secured them for her as instructed in an earlier phone call.
One portrait was of David Kopay, the former New Orleans football Saint. The other was Edward Lucie-Smith, a world renowned English art historian credited with boosting Dureau into the international art market.
She slipped them back into the envelope, and handed it to me. "A gift," she said. "My Lifework at work."
* * *
Historically speaking, July Fourth has not been much of a holiday in Louisiana. After all, July 4, 1776 came before Louisiana was a party to the United States. Nor, for that matter, were residents here ever too keen on the 1803 Purchase that joined them, come lately, to Washington's victory at Valley Forge.
French and Spanish New Orleans appreciated America saving it from British rule in the Battle of New Orleans, 1815. But she still joined with Louisiana in seceding from that Union altogether in 1861.
It was not until July 4, 1984, when the last New Orleans World Fair caused us to make big shrimp boils for the tourists, and light the sky with Federal fireworks, that the holiday got much more than a nod -- and that mostly to a disputed celebration of Louis Armstrong's birthday. He said it was July 4. The smart folks say he was wrong.
Besides, July 4 is best known in this swamp for being too damn hot to celebrate anything.
Not even Bastille Day, ten days later, on July 14, gets much notice in this French floundering settlement. An occasional baker gives out free pistolets to those wearing the red, white and blue Tricolor. This year there seems to not even be that.
Here come the Spanish
On Frenchmen Street, July 14, 2013, I will be defending the second-place sash in the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, at Maison, from noon to 4pm. This will be the final event of the Pamplona, Running of the New Orleans Bulls four-day celebration.
New Orleans bulls will be roller-skating ladies wielding big soft foam clubs ("Like your psychiatrist uses," Norma says) chasing drunken men. On Bastille Day! Go figure.
Copyright, 2013, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
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