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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, February 01, 2014

Winter / February 2014



Yours Truly in a Swamp

February 2014


Leonard Earl Johnson
of New Orleans and Lafayette

L. E. J. aboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Sea
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Winter! 
By Leonard Earl Johnson

Pink Rabbit for New Orleans Poydras Street                      
 Artists: Trisha Kyner and David Friedeim
We heard from a sports writer in Chicago one Winter day during the long years after 2005. He had gone to a post-Katrina extravaganza of New Orleans musicians at the historic Chicago Theater on State Street. Midway through, the musicians started their white-hankies waving, leading a second line into the audience. My friend got up with a few others and followed them to the back of the theater. Thinking the show was short-and-over, my friend went out the door and drove home. The musicians, of course, marched back on stage and continued the second half of the show. 

Second Line and Opening Day

We returned from the Bahamas in time to catch Kermit Ruffins sitting on a barstool on opening day at the Mother-In-Law Lounge, famed nightclub under the Claiborne overpass built by self-proclaimed, "Emperor of the World," the late Ernie K-Doe, a man who lived a life of fictional scope


Emperor K-Doe               Krewe de Vieux, 2001

Among other things, he made "Mother-In-Law" a Billboard hit and a traditional number in the American songbook. And he and his personal savior, Antoinette, rode as Emperor/King/Queen of Krewe de Vieux, 2001.

"He was as New Orleans as they come,"  L. A. Norma said. "From money to living under the bridge to Emperor of the World, he lived more outrageously than a Canadian army of Justin Biebers. 


"A New Orleans hero! 


"Thank you, Kermit Ruffins, for saving the Mother-In-Law Lounge. Burn, baby, burn!"


Not K-Doe's bravado - who else had that - but if there was a contest for heir to Louis Armstrong's horn, Kermit Ruffins would be in the final cut. And if it were a contest for his happy smile, he would win hands down. 

A couple approached Ruffins with telephone cameras. Smiling, Ruffins repeated such photo-ops all day and night.


"He blows like Gabriel and smiles better'n Satchmo," L. A. Norma told the couple. They told us they were studying music at "Tulane, Uptown", and felt being "way Downtown" was being at the heart of where it was happening. 

"Then they teachin' you right, sugars," Norma said, buying beer for all.
  
* * *

New Orleans, Winter 2014 
Photo credit: Leo Watermeier 
Sidney Poitier Bridge, seen from the Poop Deck
Bahamas, Winter 2014
During the cruise to the Bahamas we took a cab to the Poop Deck, an open air dispenser of conch and libation overlooking the yacht harbor, and the Sidney Poitier Bridge from Nassau to Paradise Island. Back-home talk was of ice and snow. We had tv-news on the ship.

Home from the Sea

When our train pulled out of New Orleans we were in the observation car opening a cellophane-wrapped muffaletta from Central Grocery. We were gliding on rails oblivious to the melting ice as we made the great Back Town loop up to the mythic Huey P. Long Bridge. 


"Strongest bridge on the Mississippi," L. A. Norma said. "Built by Long, who had the audacity to tax big oil. 


"He built a lot'a big things with the money. Then he was assassinated, in 1935, inside the new skyscraper State House he had built in 
Baton Rouge." 


From the bridge bearing Long's name we saw a children's pre-school closed for years, reopened with FEMA money and today flying colorful flags. The children waved at us. We waved back.



* *

Next day coastal Louisiana froze down hard. It lasted two and a half days. 


During which, citizens fell from ladders and set fire to their homes.


"In the stores, before, it was like a Hurricane was coming," L. A. Norma told our cab driver. "And it is colder than Bobby Jindal's heart!"

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Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, all rights reserved




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