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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.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Yon Memory Lingers On / September 2014

Yours Truly in a Swamp,
Monthly e-column by
Leonard Earl Johnson, of Lafayette and New Orleans

September 2014

Yon Memory Lingers On

by Leonard Earl Johnson

Some High School Poet 

in my oldest Brother's English class was inspired by nearby Saint Louis poet, T. S. Eliot's THE WASTE LAND, to write the following about how short and prickly Life's journey can be:

"The end lurks on yellowing grass beneath yon leafy dew

August is the saddest month
Because it brought us you . . ." 

His literary bullet stung -- it was meant to hurt -- older Brother's friends are not kind people. Of course, my umbrage was not for the Gateway City poet. (Who would ever defend him?) It was because August is my beginning, my birth month! And not a stillborn journey immediately involved in its end, as saith such poets with their cold hearts and pretty words. 

I should have guessed their words right from the first day. My first August welcomed with a sweltering Summer and a disappointed Mother. It happens. 

"You sweat it out," L . A. Norma jokes, to the bartender at Pamplona, who has been idly listening. "And you live to be seventy-one," she points to me as evidence of her wisdom. The bartender fills our glasses as evidence of his.

LEJ's Yours Truly in a Swamp
More evidence
In 2001, New York's Nine-Eleven shadows fell two weeks after my august August celebration in New Orleans. And 2005's Birthday came exactly one week before Hurricane Katrina. Before each dark event we walked along oblivious to the grass yellowing beneath our feet. 

We went to Bacco in 2005 

A large Schadenfreude group -- I was turning 62 and they all wanted to see. We did not know at the time but this would be our last Ten-Cent Martini Lunch. We laughed at age and Hurricane Katrina turning back toward Florida. 
    Ten-Cent Martini Birthday, Bacco, pre-K.
    Victor Campbell, Josh Clark, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
    Alberto Navarro, Melanie Plesh, L. A. Norma, 
    Lee Grue, Karisa Kerry, Margarita Bergen 
   (more off-camera)
Then we parted, planning to meet again on the coming Saturday night to hear Washboard Chaz at the Spotted Cat on rue Frenchmen. Instead we got blown away. 

"Like cotton seed in the wind," Norma said, struggling with her imagery. 

"Try dandelion ...,"  we tried suggesting.

"I'm no poet!" she interrupted, throwing her hands in the air.

We left Town with Katrina licking the wheels of our little red truck skittering across the Rigolets. We left with the storm behind us halfway up to its eye. We left along the very path of The Hurricane. A uniformed policeman told us we could only go East. 

"The West full?" Norma asked the policeman. Rain sprayed from every direction including up. "Just the road to it," he said. 

We landed on the North Shore, in Hammond. At the hearth of a kindly fallen monk. And then decamped to Lafayette, Louisiana. "Where the English isn't English and the French isn't French," detractors say. Yet we communicate, live well, and grow happy. 

"Not a bad outcome for a serendipity-minded old scribe like you, and a flat-lined poet like me," Norma says, when I tell this story. "Not to mention, all those train rides in-and-out of Big Swamp City!"


Our Post-Storm

New World has been good for Louisiana artists and lovers of poetry. It gave us Lafayette musician, Sam Rey's masterpiece, Meet Me in New Orleans. Why this did not become Big Swamp City's official post-Katrina song only proves further that poets speak Truth more than politicians want to hear it.


Sam Rey drove select out-of-town scribes into New Orleans on the day it first opened up to, "Certain zip-coded residents with I. D., and a need to go." 

Rey recalled, "We were the only car on the road and the Sun was coming up big, 'Like a pink fried egg'."

Meet Me in New Orleans by Sam Rey  (YouTube)

Well, Sunday morning sunrise coming up like a pink fried egg
Yeah they say it's Sunday morning
but it's still Saturday night in my head.
That picture of your mother, taken at your party in 1963,
well it's bouncing off the ceiling. Lord she's just as high as she could be.
Please tell me it won't take long
'Cause I'm doing my best to hang on
Please meet me in New Orleans, it's time to come home.

I want to shout it from the rooftops. I wanna be first in line.

I wanna shout it from the rooftops. I hope they hear me this time.
Now if you see my baby brother and that woman they call Shay Duvell
please tell 'em that I love 'em and I hope they're doing well.
Now I'm straggling, and I'm skuffling and I may have lost my mind.
But I grieve my dear beloved, one tear at a time.
I wanna shout it from the rooftops, I wanna be first in line.
I wanna shout it from the rooftops. I hope they hear me this time.
Now give a holler
when you see me
in that Road Home waiting line
Aww meet me in New Orleans,
if only in my mind
I said meet me in New Orleans, if only in my mind.

I want this song at my funeral! 

More Good Art News
Long before Katrina, New Orleans artist, Dawn DeDeaux directed a project at Orleans Parish Prison, called The Prison Art Book. It was administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans, and funded by a two-percent tax on construction dedicated to municipal art, with few restrictions on concept or design.

DeDeaux, a practitioner of installation / conceptual art, was a perfect choice to create what became a concept great in scope and size. Huge books with covers made from welded iron bars similar to a prison cell. Art fit for a mighty big coffee table, and housed today at O. P. P., New Orleans Museum of Art, City Library and a few other sites. 

Conceptual Art is sometimes confusing. L. A. Norma says it is, "Like experimental film. Sometimes you don't know if this is it or the film has flipped off the sprocket." 

DeDeaux has, since O. P. P. days, exhibited at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, Armand Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, and many other distinguished venues. She is represented by the prestigious Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans. Recently she mounted her finest effort to date, at Lafayette's Acadiana Center for the Arts. Wow!

"This is no broken sprocket," Norma said, looking up to the AcA main gallery's 'sky' for a breathtaking view of MOTHERSHIP 2: DREAMING OF A FUTURE PAST, the exact name of DeDeaux's piece. 

I loved this installation, it is an Artist's Louisiana Masterwork.
Dawn DeDeaux will answer questions at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Lafayette: 6:30pm, Thursday, 11 September 2014.

Your thoughts are welcome, the comments button is somewhere below. It is hard to find, I know. Only Google can change its hidden location. If you can find it tell us what you think.

Mothership 2: Dreaming of a Future Past
 Artist: Dawn DeDeaux
Acadiana Center for the Arts, Lafayette
July 12 ~ September 13, 2014
New Orleans Arthur Roger Gallery represents Dawn DeDeaux

Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

New Yahoo's mail system is too cumbersome to continue using for our mailings, 
and we are not able to pay for the  paymail system. 

You may not receive a monthly notice for 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.

If you wish to read each month's story please go any time to www.LEJ.org 

(They are posted newly on the first of each month) 
Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary.