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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.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Ash Wednesday In Big Swamp City / March 2018

LEJ's Louisiana, 

Yours Truly in a Swamp

by Leonard Earl Johnson

~*~  ~*~  ~*~

Yours Truly in a Swamp

Monthly e-column

Coming April First
Leonard Earl Johnson

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
~ 2018 March ~

E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org

Archive: www.LEJ.org 

Meanwhile Back In America

"Hi ho, hi ho. 
It's off The Cliff we go.
No brains, no thought,
 just the guns we bought. 
Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho..." 
L. A. Norma

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by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

On Ash Wednesday all over Louisiana, Carnival lifted its colorful cloak and revealed Lent's ashen smudge. 

LEJ.org Before the Ashes                                Photo: Anson Trahan

At The Cathedral
business suits stood cheek-by-jowl with crimson capes and smeared-lipstick ladies awaiting priests dressed in the purple Vestments of Sorrow.  They smeared the Sign of The Cross on each celebrant's forehead, with thumbs they have dipped in ashes of last year's Palm Sunday Palms.

Outside, on Jackson Square, and up and down the whole Sliver-on-the-River New Orleans calls 'high ground,' rain washed our sins away. 

I have doubts about many theological things, but none whatsoever about Ash Wednesday. It celebrates our journey from ashes to ashes.  On a path directed by Canon Law over forty-days of stony passage called, Lent, a time of man-made deprivation. The handiwork of theologians and politicians pulling together.  

"Like it says in The Bible, when you mix religion with politics you get politics!" L. A. Norma said, descending to the snackbar on the lower deck of Amtrak's ole Number One, westbound.

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Lent is a joyles anticipation of Spring, the most joyful, loving, Godlike thing there ever was.  Yet, by Cannon Law, Lent ~ not Easter ~ is the longest holiday in all of Christendom!?

"They do like their lashings," Norma exhalled.

If ever you need a reason to be suspicious of religious powers in politics ~ all religions and all politics ~ consider that fact.

~  ~  ~

Spring, heralded by Easter, comes at the end of these forty Lenten days of fasting.  So saith Pope Gregory's Calendar, the stick by which we measure all this ~ not too accurately, we note.  

"What with the Moon and all those Stars moving around faster than the dogmatic eye can see," L. A. Norma says, looking out the train window.

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Easter brings an end to Lent's suffering.  Also, budding trees and children's hands filled with fluffy chicks and bunnies, all rolling around like Easter eggs on the lawn.

Lenten-fasting repairs Winter's damage and Carnival's excess, and prepares us for Spring's rebirth.  Like the jazzman and the bean-sprout say, "Blow the roof off the sucker!"

Live Oaks outside our windows are a soft young green. Live Oaks don't dump their leaves till Spring's new buds arrive (as students of JFK's murder know). Then, overnight, they change from old dark green to young soft green. 

Today, soft green rules Big Swamp City, and all the feeder rivers, bayous and swamps beyond.  We old alligators lie on the banks in whatever sun we can find dreaming of Carnivals past, Easter baskets, and Spring.

L. A. Norma glanced around for the Train Attendant, then cracked open the hatch-door window to give her secret smoke greater egress, and asked, "Did you see that man on Mardi Gras day, in the headdress and mantle of an Egyptian Pharaoh?  He wore a sign around his neck reading, 

"I saw him again on Ash Wednesday," she said.  "He was with a Cleopatra who took off her snake armband and held it to her breast. Delicately exposed, of course. 

"We were at the Communion Rail, and I was close enough to see them mouth, 'Asp Wednesday,' to each other. I would not swear to this, but I think the Priest smiled." LEJ.org ✍️

Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
(A version of this story first appeared in 2004)

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© 2018, 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.

Lagniappe du Jour
~  ~  ~

Coming April First
at www.LEJ.org 
Royal at Kerlerec, Faubourg Marigny, NOLa    /   photo by Janis Turk
~  ~  ~
 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org,

and periodically at

Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,

publication of the

It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org

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© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.