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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.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

From Lent to Easter / March 2016

LEJ / Janis Turk

"A
n American 

has never seen the United States until he has experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans." 
 ~ Mark Twain


LEJ's Louisiana / 
Yours Truly in a Swamp,
a monthly e-column
~ March 2016 ~
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© 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

LEJ Carnival Time Reading, NOLa / Mark Konikoff


From Lent to Easter
by Leonard Earl Johnson




Dedicated to 

Eugenie "Ersy" Schwartz
September 20, 1951 ~ December 30, 2015 
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OAsh Wednesday all over Louisiana, Carnival lifted its joyous mantle, leaving Lent's ashen smudge in its place. 

From Cathedrals 
and parish churches ~ to mission altars and heathen households ~ the Sacrament of Death is celebrated in Louisiana. 


We got our ashes early at Saint Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square and then caught Amtrak train #1, the Sunset Limited, West.

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Hommage to the Society of Ste. Anne  /  Eugenie "Ersy" Schwartz
photo courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery
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Life is but a passing parade.

 At the Cathedral's earliest Mass business suits stood cheek-by-jowl with crimson capes and smeared-lipstick ladies.  Some held palm fronds, shredded and woven into what-not-box art.  They awaited priests dressed in the violet Vestments of Sorrow. 


With thumbs dipped in their ashes from last year's palms these priests apply a smudged sign of the cross to the forehead of believers. 
 I never miss this ceremony.  I have doubts galore about many theological things, but none whatsoever about this.  To ashes we shall return.


* * *


 We rode the Sunset Limited over Huey P. Long's bridge at Westwego, Louisiana ~ a town named for a verb!  (The original trainmen forded the Mississippi River at this spot and chipperly called it, 

"west-we-go.") 

Away from the Sins of Big Swamp City we rode!  Out of Town, "On our father's magic carpet made of steel". Could Lent's first day have a more fitting manifestation?


Lent is the longest holiday in the Christian calendar.  It holds steady at forty hair-shirted, whip-lashing days of deprivation.

To accommodate this mathematical trickery,

Carnival's pleasurable length shortens by measure of the poorly constructed Gregorian Calendar and Canon Law which dictates adjusting those forty-days of Lent so as to lose not one minute's suffering.

As for Carnival?  It shrinks by weeks!  Great gobs of goose fat!


"Not to worry,"

L. A. Norma says to some altar boys outside the Cathedral discussing the weight of this year's Mardi Gras garbage.

Our favorite cab driver is picking us up on the corner of Saint Peter and Chartres. He arrives wearing the signature t-shirt of an unemployed actor turned cabbie:  
"My Parents Went to New Orleans And All I Got Is This Lousy I.Q."  



For information click the t-shirt
He dropped us without so much as one word.  Lent affects people in different ways.  At Union Passenger Terminal
 on Loyola Avenue we boarded the train.

* * *

Three Days before Easter ~ Lenten deprivation ends.  
March 27 is Easter, and the forty days of Lenten deprivation stop the Thursday before.  You can not fast on Good Friday, it is a Holy Day!  Saturday?  I'm not sure why, but no fasting goes on.  Guess it is 

lost in the boiled-egg and coconut cake preparations for Easter.

Easter is a ceremony about Spring borrowed from religions that came long before Judeo/Christianity. It may be the oldest human celebration on Earth, and it is calculated (or miscalculated) by Canon Law, using instruments crafted from faith in suffering and suspicion of pleasure.  Resulting in temperatures and seasons sometimes out of wack with your costume.


Suffering's forty-days are not to be monkeyed with. This is guaranteed.  Carnival's pleasures, however, are reducible by God or His agents with their inaccurate stopwatches.


Lenten fasting repairs Winter's damage and Carnival's excess, and prepares us for Spring's rebirth. Like the jazz man says,


"Blow the roof off the sucker ..."


Awaiting Easter

It has been a cold Lent with sunny mornings and a warm place in the kitchen to read Internet Newspapers and sip coffee. 

In the dining car, on Ash Wednesday, we lunched with a young Amish couple on their way to hike the Grand Canyon.  And an older painter originally from Pennsylvania Dutch stock, with an Amish ancestor and a Life spent painting the world from passing trains and sailing ships.

* * *

   
Spring is here this morning, and the live oaks outside our dormer windows are budding into a soft young green. 

We wonder how our Amish hikers are doing.  On the train we offered to have them turn grace over lunch.  He said they did not pray out loud.  I offered a little Catholic boy's prayer:
 "Bless us o'Lord for these thy gifts which thou hast provided through thy bounty." The Amish man said it was a lovely prayer.

Amish speak German among their own and call non-Amish people, "English."  My Mother was German. The Pennsylvania painter, the Amish couple and I all spoke a few tentative German words.  None understood the other.  The Amish man said it was because, isolated, they spoke an older form of German.  

"That's reasoning we've heard before," L. A. Norma said, as we


courtesy of Amtrak
rolled over Bayou Des Allemands (Bayou of the Germans) into French~Canadian Louisiana. 

Live oaks are evergreen trees. They don't dump their old leaves till Spring's new buds arrive (as followers of JFK conspiracies know). Then they change from old dark green to young soft green almost overnight. Today soft-green rules the Great Mother Swamp, and old alligators lie on the banks in whatever sun we can find dreaming of the Grand Canyon, Spring and ashes.


Leonard Earl Johnson,  Mardi  Gras 2006,  NOLa    /    Janis Turk
(A version of this story first appeared in Les Amis de Marigny, 2004)
Copyright, 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson
all rights reserved
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LEJ's Mardi Gras Trilogy



For more L. E. J.'s Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp go to 


FYI:  You may not receive a monthly notice for LEJ's Louisiana / YOURS TRULY IN A SWAMP, until / unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system.  Don't hold your breath.  I am a storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer). Contact me if you want on the list - that may get e-mailed.

If  you wish to read any month's story go to the archives at www.LEJ.org 

(They are posted newly 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. 


© 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

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Lagniappe Du Jour


The Day After Mardi Gras
three great songs

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Eugenie 'Ersy' Schwartz:
"Hommage to the Society of Ste. Anne," 105 toy soldier-sized people, animals and surrealistic combinations of the two. The cast-bronze mini parade, arrayed on an enormous table is in the collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Hommage to the Society of Ste. Anne, 2002-2004
Mahogany, plexiglas, brass, bronze and wood
56 x 144 x 36 inches
collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art
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