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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.

Friday, June 01, 2018

BLOOMSDAY, James Joyce / June 2018

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp,
a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
 E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org
 Archives: www.LEJ.org  

June 2018

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Yours Truly in a Swamp

Bloomsday / 16 June 1904 
~ James Joyce's Ulysses ~
And the Night Train to Memphis
BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

One evening in Belfast,
returning to my hotel after dinner, I got lost and turned off down a street that grew darker with each step.  I kept walking until a stranger grabbed me from behind and put a knife to me Adam's apple.

The stranger said, 

'Are you Protestant or are you Catholic?'

In a flurry of inspiration and hope, I said, 

'To tell the truth, 
I'm a Brooklyn Jew!'

My assailant chuckled,

'And fancy me, the only Arab in all of Ireland!'
 Told at O'Flaherty's / Bloomsday, pre-Katrina ~ LEJ.org ✍️

"Otrade it for something by James Lee Burke," L. A. Norma said to a woman named K. O., who was lamenting the obtusity of James Joyce.  We were standing in line, on the marble-like floor of New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal, on Loyola Avenue, awaiting the call of our train, City of New Orleans, North

Green Harp Flag,  first used by Owen Roe O'Neill in 1642
Norma exhaled a plume of Camel cigarette smoke at the young woman, and a large blond security guard got up from an olive green metal desk and started towards her with a yellow plastic bucket held firmly in front.

Norma went on, "The Best thing about Bloomsday parties is that 

none dare climb out too far on any drunken limb of understanding."

The security guard asked Norma to put her cigarette in the yellow bucket. It contained sand, and around its outside was written, "Humeland Secority," in Magic Marker printing. The "O" was open at the top and the "U" was closed, but the message was clear, though the results were not.

Norma glared at him and forced the offending cigarette from her lips with the tip of her tongue, hardly missing a syllable of her lecture to K. O.

We were on our way to the exhibition, The Glory of Baroque Dresden, in Jackson, Mississippi. 

K. O. and her boyfriend, O. K., were on their way home to Memphis. We had met the night before, at O'Flaherty's ~ on Toulouse, in the French Quarter ~ at their annual celebration of James Joyce's obtuse novel, ULYSSES, and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom. The bar was crowded, and on the waiter's invitation the two smiled and took chairs at our table.

K. O. sported purple hair, one gold nose ring, and two chandelier earrings made of tiny red, white and green crystal shamrocks. Her fellow traveler was similarly colored and pierced, with six gold earrings in his right ear and one in the left. They shared a secret bottle of Courvoisier and told us they had come to Town a few days before.  They came to read, "Two short eight-page poems," they had written for the occasion.

"Mercifully drunk on the train down they lost all sixteen pages," Norma giggled under her breath, to some descendant of James Joyce, at the party ~ now living in an undisclosed Louisiana location.


"The City of New Orleans, an adventure in slow motion," O. K. said, as we boarded the train. It wasn't clear if he meant The City or the train.  Behind us the security guard paraded across the marble-like floor proudly returning to the green metal desk with his trophy prey.  A trail of cigarette smoke spread out behind him like airplane contrails.

Our train slipped out past the Superdome, gathered steam and rocked over marsh and swamp. Then climbed up the ancient continental shelf and pulled into Jackson,
 on time. 

There a quick transaction with the Conductor secured a bedroom and extended our tickets on to Memphis. 

Courtesy of Amtrak
We stayed on the train so as to laugh more with our new friends and their bottles of old French brandy. We ordered iced-water, and tipped the Train Assistant to not tell anyone we were smoking Norma's cigarettes in our cozy little cabin. 

At ten o'clock ~ twenty minutes early ~
we reached the Bluff City, Memphis.

O. K. and K. O. dropped us at the Peabody Hotel, on Union Avenue, 

in quiet well-behaved downtown Memphis.

"The Bluff City," Norma said, "corporate headquarters of Elvis Presley, Sun Records, Harrah's Casino, and the world famous Peabody Hotel's Marching Ducks."

Norma recited her list while walking in deep carpeting towards elevators that took us to our rooms on the top floor. 

There we slept a few hours before catching a cab, and Amtrak's  #59, the Southbound, "City of New Orleans," to Jackson.  

The hotel kitchen was closed when we arrived and still closed when we left. Same for the famous ducks ~ they would not appear until eleven. We could not wait.

The train arrived at 6:50am. We climbed aboard, and back into bed, leaving a wake-up call for, "Just-before Jackson."

* * *

For a second time in as many days, we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi
.  And once again we extended our stay on the train.  This time, back to New Orleans.

"We are far too tired for the glory of either Jackson or Dresden,"
 Norma told the conductor. 

We did get up for lunch in the diner.  Over coffee laced with brandy, we watched Mississippi slipping away behind us.

After lunch, we returned to our cabin, and slept the rest of the way back to New Orleans tended over by, "The sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers . . . aboard their fathers' magic carpet made of steel . . ."

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© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
This story first appeared in Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans, July of 2004, under the title "From Bloomsday to Dresden," and in a slightly altered form in the anthology, LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), 

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Go here For 

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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 years.
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Royal at Kerlerec, Faubourg Marigny, NOLa    /   photo by Janis Turk
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 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
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© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved 

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