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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 ConsumerAffairs.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 anthologies: 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.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

On The Good Ship 2014 / January 2014

Yours Truly in a Swamp

January 2014

Leonard Earl Johnson
of New Orleans and Lafayette


On The Good Ship 2014

By Leonard Earl Johnson

"Standin' on the corner in Lafayette / In the State of Louisian' ...," from Paul Simon's masterpiece, Graceland, (released August 1986). In a few days I will catch Amtrak's Train #2, aptly named the Sunset Limited, eastbound, in Lafayette, on the far side of the Atchafalaya Basinone-hundred-and-forty-five railroad miles west of New Orleans.

The train will hopefully contain the expansive L. A. Norma, who says she will board a train by the same name and number two days earlier in Los Angeles. "And together, we will ride the Boat Train to Big Swamp City." 

For literary reasons that only wine can explain, we both want to ride "the Louisiana boat-train" to a Caribbean cruise out of the port of New Orleans. "Boat-train" is what English folks called similar trains linking Seaport-less London to South Hampton, back in the day when the likes of Hercule Poirot and Dame Edith rode them.

"Wee-the-people have come a long way," Norma text-ed from her Iron Horse hightailing across New Mexican lands, "and in time for lunch in the dining car, tooToodles! "

Norma and I are taking a ship from the Royal Caribbean fleet to the Bahamas. A Wintering spot for those rich enough to get there. And those too poor to leave. And those like me, with rich friends to pay their way. Thank you.

Amtrak today, and its predecessor (circa early last century)
 bound for Big Swamp City, New Orleans

* * *

Christmas Day 
A little hung over, we donned our big red Santa suit once again and met Train #1, the Sunset Limited, westbound, during its fifteen minute Lafayette smoke-stop.

My Sister gave me the suit to lift my spirits after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew me clean across the Atchafalaya Basin. I have worn it every year since, Ho-Ho-Ho-ing, and red-and-green beading, and giving little colorfully wrapped chocolate bars shaped like, well, me. 

Norma texted, "Have Girth Will Travel!"

Smiles washed the faces of the train crew, their passengers, and me. My Sister knows her therapy. After all, our bloodline flows from Germany (from where all Christmas 
accoutrements come.) "Freude, freude, freude!"

For four hours the day before, at Keller's Bakery on rue Jefferson, I was the Jolly Ole Elf on Christmas Eve, doorman-ing and carol singing among Keller's happy shoppers coming and going with sugar plums dancing in their heads, and their arms. 

"Ho, Ho, Ho," we boomed at two ladies well into their cups. 

"Just two Ho's here, Santa," they both said grinning and giggling. One lady passed Santa (me) a go-cup of seasonal elixir. "Joy, joy, joy!" And when they came back out, I Ho-ed but two Ho's in return for their smiles. 

Later, Santa passed out treats at a private party in a well-fitted-out part of Lafayette. The Children and Grandchildren of prosperous Louisianans and Texans wore their Christmas beads with the inherited ease and grace of people who know Carnival and its relationship to the Birth of Jesus. And wine. Santa ate arugula, smoked-salmon, French brie, and red wine, in full lack of forethought about the coming Christmas Day.

Christmas morning started with Santa meeting Amtrak's old #1, a small guesture that makes me smile. It ended in an early banquet at the gracious home of Jewish friends who were my personal saviors back in '05, the year of the hurricanes. They fished me from the rough nets of FEMA, took me to Temple Shalom, and later celebrated Chirstmas with me. Thank you, and Happy New Year to all and to all a new day.


Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, all rights reserved

  1. * * *

    First non sequitur de jour of the New Year
    Arlo Guthrie on You-Tube

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    Celebrating the Legacy of Allison "Big Chief Tootie" Montana by Acknowledging January 6, 2014, the first day of Carnival as the Allison "Big Chief Tootie" Montana Day in the City of New Orleans.
  2. Tootie's Last Suit
    Allison "Big Chief Tootie" Montana Day