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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.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Crayfish Music Weddings, NOLa / June 2015



Crayfishing at New Orleans Wedding, Spring 2015
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres

Yours Truly in a Swamp, 

LEJ's Louisiana

Monthly e-column by
Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans

June 2015


This Column is Dedicated to:
 Edgar Lawrence "Dooky" Chase 
Recipient of the 2015 Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp Jazz Pioneer Award 

* * *

Crayfish, Music and Big

Swamp City Weddings


by Leonard Earl Johnson

Sunny and Tyler's Wedding Kiss, New Orleans
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres



Before Katrina, neighborhoods below Elysian Fields Avenue were not gentrified. The original Schwegmann's Giant Grocery, celebrated in song and literature, was once un-decorously on Elysian Fields at the corner of Saint Claude Avenue -- where overland passengers today catch the dollar-bus to Atlanta and New York City. 

Soon the dollar-buses will be herded into Union Passenger Terminal, 1001 Loyola Avenue -- New Orleans' transportation "Zentrum," in the European sense of the word -- home to Taxies, Street Car Lines, Greyhound Buses, dollar buses, City buses, and America's proudly budget-starved Amtrikle Trains

Praise FEMA! 

Rumor has it that Roberts, the pre-K. successor to historic Schwegmann's, will soon reopen on the old Elysian Fields / Saint Claude site for the first time since The Storm and they want the parking facilities returned to parking use.

"Ain't nothing time and money won't cure," in the words of the late Ernie K-Doe


Schwegmann's, said to still own the land, and the Roberts, who were running the store on the land on August 29, 2005, have been fighting ever since. Over money -- insurance or FEMA -- but soon that Sun gonna shine in all our back doors once more, "Makin' groceries is coming back to the neighborhood after only ten-years, praise be to FEMA!" L. A. Norma snorted through a bubble of cigarette smoke.



Rampart and Elysian Fields, downtown riverside corner
courtesy Phoenix Bar
At the rear of the parking lot, across Rampart Street sits a historically gay bar, since 1986, named Phoenix. It thunders its wings all hours of the night and day. And is deliciously the site of one of New Orleans better Katrina stories.

Seems die-hard citizens who weathered The Storm in place crawled out in the days following seeking libation at this -- one of few bars open. Stinging images burned in everyone's head of indolent President W. Bush flying over New Orleans peering over the window ledge at our flooded Land of Dreamy Dreams. 


The crowd in front of Phoenix looked up one day as relief planes started tossing out cases of bottled water. The cases came apart midair and the bottles hit the streets and buildings like little exploding water bombs. The wary crowd rallied their die-hard-ness and chanted: "Run, it's the President! RUN!"


L. A. Norma, undeterred of opinion by not having been there, said the plane's music system filled Air Force One with Joni Mitchell singing Both Sides / CLOUDSwhile Dennis Hastert, then House Speaker, and Donald Rumsfeld, Biggest-ever Daddy Warbucks, danced the, "Let New Orleans Go, We Don't Care" waltz on the plane's wings


* *

In the old days, occasionally somebody would have a shrimp-boil on the street. And always there was Lama's Saint Roch Fish Market,
Lama's Saint Roch Market circa yester-near
courtesy Saint Rock Market
 which had, "The best boil in Town, cher!" everybody said. Today, Saint Roch is a gussied yup-palate taster's hall, and down the street a few blocks a handsome young chef is standing atop a flatbed truck stirring his new boil of shrimp and crawfish for a wedding party.



Belgique celebrant with handy hat
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres

"It is said to have oranges in the boil," Norma tells wedding guests from Belgium.



Wedding Guest
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres







The Treme Brass Band arrived promptly after having led a funeral Second Line from Saint Augustine's Church to Saint Louis Cemetery. The object of the parade was bones unearthed during the installation of a swimming pool. It was determined by smart folks, the bones were those of six early settlers thought to have been slaves. The State gave them to the Church, and the Treme Brass Band led them to a donated tomb in Saint Louis Number One. No other reparations were discussed and the Treme Brass Band then played for our wedding celebrants now dancing in the rain.



Dancing in the Rain
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres



Winding Boys at Wedding
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres



A talented Royal Street buskers band, called Winding Boys, also played. Their canary, Jenavieve Cooksang like an angel with experience. And a nuclear physicist from Seattle talked to me about America's one-attempt at a nuclear merchant fleet, the late 1950s-built nuclear merchantman, N. S. Savannah
Alas, she was unwanted in all the world's ports of call and the federally funded, industry boosted project failed. "Of course, we could do it better today," our new friend told us.


Wedding Guests
Photo credit:  
Carlos Detres


A little boy in beads and bowtie attended lavishly appointed for the celebration. Squad cars detoured traffic. Tents covered folding chairs. And neighbor Pete, wearing a brown t-shirt emblazoned with a red star and the word Cuba dragged real church pews from his living room to the curb. Spirit enough bubbled round to lure the Marquis de LafayetteButter, and Bernard de Marigny from their graves.





Wedding Guest in a Puddle
(Daddy, you're wrong this is wonderful...)
Photo credit:  
Carlos Detres
Adult Legs at Wedding
Photo credit:  
Carlos Detres
A passing blond woman stopped, holding a beautiful blond child in her arms. I said she was a lucky Mother. She said her name was Sarah, and she was from Boston, and was an architect.

"I went to school in Carbondale, Illinois," I told her, "where the acclaimed Bostonian, thinker, designer, R. Buckminster Fuller lectured in the Fabled Sixties, at Southern Illinois University." 

Her face fell slack and she said, "Bucky was my Great Uncle. There was a rift in our family." 

I first heard about this family rift from Bucky's own lips, back in Illinois. Her Uncle or Cousin and Bucky had parted ways. Fuller, inventor (promoter?) of the Geodesic Dome and the Dymaxion three-wheel car was a dreamer, not famous till in his fifties. Time magazine,
Bucky on the cover of TIME
1964, also told the story in a cover piece on Fuller. His kinsman wrote a ditty that went: 
"Bucky found a tuppence and he's off to buy a yacht ..." 

" 'If you do not love me I shall not be loved,' "  Norma toasted us all, from Samuel Beckett.

 Your corrections and comments are welcome,  post your comments


Treme Brass Band
 Photo credit:  Carlos Detres


Drumming up a wedding
Photo credit:  Carlos Detres
* * *
Copyright, 2015, 
Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to 
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Contact me if you want on the list - that may get e-mailed. If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.org.
They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks. 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

© 2015, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
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