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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.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

FILM, FIRE, AND TRAINS / January 2017

LEJ's Louisiana

Yours Truly in a Swamp

Monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
and at
Les Amis de Marigny, 
publication of the

by Leonard Earl Johnson,
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Archives: www.LEJ.org

January 2017
* * *
BY  Leonard Earl Johnson

© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Artist Jason Kimes working in studio. His project: ELEVEN on Elysian Fields Avenue ~ Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans.

Amtrak's Sunset Limited left the Union Passenger Terminal exactly on time. New Orleans is a "terminal town," a rail-head. Meaning here is where the tracks begin ~ or end. 

Here trains arrive off-schedule as any deteriorated third-world rail system, anywhere. But here they routinely depart on time for all directions,  "But South!", L. A. Norma says, smiling through a cloud of Camel Cigarette smoke.

We rolled under the Claiborne Street and I-10 overpasses, and snaked through chain-link protected barren lots filled with railroad bric-a-brac, and general population discard. Outside the fenced area are homeless camps. Under a highway overpass, a bright blue tent had a sleek silver Motobecane bicycle outside its open flap. Inside the tent we glimpsed two bearded men passing a joint. 

"Some new Jack Kerouac on the road,L. A. Norma said, pointing with her coffee cup out the observation car's windows. "Or another Eric Hoffer?" 

She is telling this to a young lady from England, who is on her way to Beaumont, Texas and from there a bus to Galveston Island. The woman worked for a huge investment firm with offices in London. She travels constantly, she says, often visiting Louisiana. 

From Brexit to Trump

"Looking for investment bargains?Norma asks. "Making America a great colony again?" she adds, blowing over her steaming coffee. 

Norma subscribes to an idea that Do
nald Trump, "With his vestigial Habsburg jaw," is the spearhead of a very old world order passing itself off as new. 

She thinks he is trying to re-throne the Holy Roman Empire, and will leave his New World followers bedazzled, dazed and broken amid polluted fields littered with their fallen torches and pitchforks.

The English woman says no, "Merely a tourist who likes New Orleans.  I love this place!

"Last April I was here, at the famed Roddie Romero and The Hub City All-Stars concert in the Historic New Orleans Collection's courtyard.  It was a night of musical history."

Norma agreed ~ we, too, had been there. Romero and The Hub City All-Stars moved musical standards higher that night in one of those concerts where audience and musicians feed each other ~ the firing of that elusive spark you attend live performances in hopes of seeing. 

The Historic New Orleans Collection is a rare spark itself. A museum endowed by KEMPER AND LEILA WILLIAMSheirs to Louisiana's oldest lumber fortune. Bequeathed and dedicated to the preservation of New Orleans and its historic, social and cultural interactions. Nothing this venerable institution has ever done along those lines can top Roddie Romero's April 2016 concert.

The H. N. O. C. is housed in properties donated or bought with funds from the earliest harvest of Louisiana cypress trees. A stunningly profitable industry of yon colonial days. Logs from those first cuts lost in harvest, and found today, fetch thousands and thousands of dollars because the wood is impervious to rot and bugs ~ two things we have in lavish supply along America's Third Coast, Louisiana.


Along the railroad tracks, at a particularly green spot on the West Bank just past the Huey P. Long Bridge, lays a discarded yacht. You can not make out the name. She was beached eleven years ago by Hurricane Katrina. Mast snapped and lost. Her keel sprung for sure. But there she sits sailing on a sea of weeds and forgotten dreams. Soon it will be Winter and the green will die down around her; then the ghost yacht will heave back to full view.

Further down the line, next to the Mississippi River levee, we pass a small farmhouse surrounded by a large flock of grey and white geese. 

"Some French Quarter tourist will eat one of those birds' liver tonight," Norma tells the young lady from England.


One night earlier, at the New Orleans Film Festival, a filmmaker from Cuba ~ in a Frenchmen Street dance hall ~ handed me a disk. It was the movie, LA PARTIDA (THE LAST MATCH), a classic Cuban sports story of a straying young hero yearning for capitalist dollars ~ with a twist. 

Our sports hero sleeps with men and women. No shocker these days. But in this "wed me and save me saga," the young man's girlfriend's mother (to whom he has given a Grandson, and from whom he borrowed a tv for pawn without permission) urges him to pursue a visiting middle aged man with eyes for him, and a passport from a country with legalized gay-marriage. Marry the Spaniard, she pleads, and save us all from the American embargo ~ thought to be more the source of their economic woe than Communism. The film is, "real Cuba," the filmmaker assured me.

"Its greater message is the thing that causes us to adore sports heroes," Norma said, after watching. A good film. Recommended, if you can find it.

We live in interesting times, sigh! 

A time that calls for caution, say the wise Chinese ancients. 

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Along Elysian Fields Avenue in Faubourg Marigny is a new sculpture as significant as any standing in The City today.  
ELEVEN on Elysian Fields, 
Faubourg Marigny ~ New Orleans
by Jason Kims

ELEVEN on Elysian Fields, by Jason Kims, is located across from the lakeside-downtown gate to Washington Square Park. 

It is made from a varietal of leftover iron disks gathered from Birmingham, Alabama forgers (hear echos of Civil War cannon). Eleven life sized figures looking out from a circle, standing in the neutral ground of Elysian Fields. It tickles the eye and moves the soul. 

The title refers not to the eleven years after Katrina, but to the eleven men who died in the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, in 2010. Deepwater spewed an ocean of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for five months. The young English woman said she had not seen it, but had heard of the spill. 

ELEVEN on Elysian Fields ~ Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans

Your comments and corrections are welcome 

Copyright, 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

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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 anytime. They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks. 

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

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Santa LEJ.org in Tropical dress, Christmas Eve, 2016
 Rosa Parks Transportation Centre

Meeting the train from New Orleans
Photo credit: Mark Konikoff 
LEJ.org with Rosa Parks, at the Rosa Parks Transportation Centre
Photo credit: Mark Konikoff

© 2017, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.