Another Turn Round the Dancefloor / July 2016
Turn Round the Dancefloor
by Leonard Earl Johnson
|LEJ and Feather Bike / Frank Parsley|
On July 4th last year, L. A. Norma gave me a large American flag. Using Mardi Gras beads we lashed Old Glory to the handlebars of my bicycle, Feather Bike. It fluttered briefly, then fell. Failure notwithstanding this event marked the moment I was ushered in to full-blown geezerdom.
|Feather Bike / Melanie Plesh|
Norma said, "You missed your chance to die young and get a long obit."
A long obit is nice, but a long life gives the special reward of knowing how your dreams turn out while you are still dreaming them.
Chuck Johnson, my dream of a Son, recently went to Ullin, and photographed things like Porky's, my Father's long abandoned nightclub on the highway out of Town; the population sign (800); and the flashing yellow cautionary light in front of the Illinois Central Depot. I read at that light's dedication before Chuck was born, fifty-some years ago. This is where first I saw those old men on their colorful bicycles. My Brothers, Sister and I pitied them their lack of gas-guzzling with-it-ness. Now here I am one with them.
"If Life ain't a big trip," Norma asked, one day climbing aboard AmTrak's City of New Orleans bound for Chicago ~ while secretly tipping a silver flask to her lips between puffs of surreptitiously exhaled Camel Cigarette smoke, "what is?"
Norma's cigarette smoke was like a movie Indian's smoke signals. Gallantly communicating over barren miles though pursued by the cavalry ~ or AmTrak personnel. She piped out puffs of words and letters from her hidden location. Loudspeakers placed along the platform informed us that smoking would result in being taken from the train and left somewhere along the tracks.
"This means cigarettes, pipes, cigars, Marijuana or crack cocaine..." the voice droned.
"Not the same train as my Father's," I said.
"Of course not," Norma snorted, her cigarette smoke floated over the train and off on its own journey. "Your Old Man's train would've been covered with canvas and pulled by oxen."
In conversation a younger writer who rented Squalor Heights, my Faubourg Marigny garret (where I watched ships smoking round Algiers Point, a sight from which much yarn was spun) asked, "Leave New Orleans?"
"Well, I didn't leave all together. And besides I had been a Merchant Sailor ~ that was the thing that first brought me to New Orleans ~ and that meant being away a lot."
|Pamplona / Andrew Payne|
Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved
* * *
Smith always used this introduction: "While the storm clouds gather far across the sea /
Bastille Day, July 14, 1789, marked the storming of Prison Bastille, and the beginning point
of the French Revolution,
Supported by the French and opposed by the English.
Yet many Americans hold a curious allegiance to the English and
an even curiouser suspicion of France and its Age of Enlightenment,
birthmaiden to their Independance from England.
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