LEJ's Blog

My Photo
Name:
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, December 31, 2020

βš“Tempus Fugit (Marda Burton Obit) January 2021


βš“  βš“

βš“

Tempus Fugit = Time Flies

πŸ’€β³πŸ’€

Column Final Draft  

 January 2021 ~


 πŸ’”LEJ's Louisiana, 
Yours Truly in a Swamp
a monthly e-column 

by

Leonard Earl Johnson

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana



πŸ’”Tempus Fugit
by Leonard Earl Johnson

πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’›

Memorial Obit for 
Marda Kaiser Burton, 
1932 ~ 2020

Β© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Photo credit:  Kay Lewis Johnson
 
πŸ’œ
πŸ’œ
πŸ’œ

"Remember when the wine was better than ever again /
We could not ask, we could not ask for more..." 
Outward Bound  by Tom Paxton (YouTube)

The first notice came from Texas travel writer and photographer, Janis Turk.  Followed immediately by another from FRENCH QUARTER FICTION editor/publisher, Josh Clark: Had I heard, Marda Burton died!? 

I passed the news along over internet links and
Photo credit: Janis Turk
began 
hearing back in an avalanche
.

Paul Mauffray, who often played the baby grand piano, between scribes and comics at Marda's Salons, was one of the first who wrote.  

His credits span from Schloss SchΓΆnbrunn Orchesta, Vienna, Austria, to Filharmonie Brno Orchestra, Czechoslovakia, to the Louisiana Philharmonic, and the New Orleans Opera.  A native of Louisiana ~ with roots back to both Spanish and French creole settlements ~ Mauffray exclaimed from Europe, how dear her name was to him.

Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain), wrote lamenting the loss of Marda's de lux New Orleans literary parties.

So it goes when a great heart ceases to beat.

🍷😎🍷

With age it is no longer too surprising when old Friends pass.  Yet it is still awesome news.  Perhaps even more so as we edge ever closer to our own graves. 

Marda Burton, already a noted travel writer in the late 1980's, when she came to New Orleans on assignment to do a story and ~ like many before ~ stayed. 

She established residence first in an apartment next door to Brennan's Restaurant on Rue Royale (Royal Street), and later down the street in a larger condo above The City's preeminent print-and-frame gallery, 927 Gallery.  

Publication date to be annouunced
927 was owned by another famous New Orleans parade master turned literary wanna-be, Floyd McLamb, soon to release his memoir, THE LONELY ROAD, The Life of Floyd McLamb - More or Less (High Cotton Publishers, 2021).

Decades earlier in his career, McLamb operated the Coffee Pot on Rue Saint-Pierre (Saint Peter Street) ~ a French Quarter eatery famous for many things, among them employing Leah Chase (later the world acclaimed chef at Dooky Chase's). 

In 2019, the Coffee Pot ended 125 years in business, after "Gordon Ramsay's To Hell and Back" (FOX reality-tv) aired a segment showing Ramsay finding a dead mouse in a Coffee Pot toaster.  It was the last cafΓ© in The City known to have on its menu, "Calas Rice Cakes with sugarcane syrup," a dish ~ like the mouse ~ of questionable culinary but historic literary resonance.

Marda's second apartment had originally been the framing department for 927 Gallery.  Confirming yet again a thing New Orleans people love to say about their City, "It is a small town where everybody knows everybody."

Over her balcony rail Marda placed a small flag.  Raised it gave notice she was holding what became her renowned Literary Salons.  Always on Sunday, and always filled with City swells, literati, and visiting cognoscenti of varied skills.  

"It was Paris in the Swamp," regular attendeeL. A. Norma said. "A Twenties Salon, with Marda as the perfect host."

Margarita Bergen, New Orleans most famous party goer ~ "Part Tallulah Bankhead part Perle Mesta," Marda remarked, was always at the Salons.

Margarita Bergen
The two traveled to Europe once, Marda told a gathering. 

"Margarita 
without luggage,"  
 Marda screamed! 

"Anything I needed I bought in Paris," Margarita explained.

 πŸ’”

Years later, in a NATIONAL GEOGRAPIC magazine survey of the Gulf Coast, Marda's Salons were mentioned as an example of the good life lived today in America's French-Louisiana New Orleans.

The Laurel, Mississippi native came to New Orleans on assignment for TRAVEL LEISURE magazine. 

β€œI thought I could come here and write the great American novel. This is just that sort of place,” she toldβ€œbut I ended up partying instead.”

*  *  *

I joined Marda's Salons before the move down Royal Street, about the time of the first AIDS World Awareness Day, 1988.  Invited by the granddame herself to read a piece I had recently published about volunteering to read to residents at hospice Lazarus House.  

It was love at first grammatical stammer and I never missed another if in Town.  

When the anthology FRENCH QUARTER FICTION, The Newest Stories of Ameria's Oldest Bohemia, was published, Marda, with Josh Clark, and Faulkner House Books founders, Joseph DeSalvo (who also passed the last month of 2020) and Rosemary James hosted, A Release Party at a Marda Burton Salon.  First hour was for the authors only, followed by a public reception that had the elegant and the ink-stained lined up down the stairs, out the door, and along Rue Royale passed the 927 Gallery and the Cornstalk Fence Hotel across the street.

Kenneth Holdtich and Marda Burton
πŸ’”

"It was like the line at Galatoires on a Friday before Mardi Gras," said Kenneth Holditch ~ Marda's co-author for 
their acclaimed history, GALATOIRE'S: Biography of a Bistro (Hill Street Press, 2004). 

Every practitioner of the Pauper's Art ~ writing ~ passing through Town came to Marda's.  Musicians also came.  Famous and less.  Prosperous and not.  All required was that you have talent and, "Carry a few empty bottles out with you when you go."  

"Other wise the cleaning staff spends the next day carting out bushels of empty wine bottles." Marda said this both complaining and bragging.  "After all, in New Orleans we measure Carnivals by the weight of our Ash Wednesday trash." 
 
The following stills were lifted by the skilled hand of University of Louisiana at Lafayette film maker, 
Connie Castille, 
from the privately published CD, LEJ's Katrina Moves,
by Kay Lewis Johnson

πŸ’“πŸ’“
πŸ’”

New Orleans standup comic and author, Chris Champagne

Sunday at Marda Burton's Salon

Leonard Earl Johnson and L. A. Norma

Marda introducing guests

Leonard Earl Johnson

Marda's Sunday Salon balcony 

Leonard Earl Johnson on the Balcony at Marda's

πŸ’€β³πŸ’€

πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’›


June 2019, Laurel Mississippi   
Photo credit: Janis Turk

πŸ’§

Marda closed her Royal Street apartment a few years after Hurricane Katrina and returned to Laurel, Mississippi to spend the last years with her Husband, Richard 'Dick' Burton, who passed away in 2015.  They were married 62 years and had four Sons, the first two twinsMartin, Richard, Frank, and Clint.  Marda Burton died in her sleep at home, December 2020, of a Life lived long and well.

Lagnaippe du jour

My Creole Belle

written by Mississippi John Hurt

performed by Taj Mahal 
YouTube

βš“

"Not the one dead, 

(they) turned to their affairs."

Robert Frost, 1874 ~ 1963


LEJ.org  
✍️
 Copyright, 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Your comments and corrections are welcome:

Comments πŸ–‹πŸ˜·

~   ~   ~
 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org

and historically 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

 
* * * * * * * * * * * 
Β© 2021 Leonard Earl Johnson, 



Tuesday, December 01, 2020

✍The First Christmas After Katrina / December 2020


LEJ.org Santa 2020, Handy Stop Market,
Jefferson Street, Lafayette Louisiana
🠟
Column Final Draft

December 2020 ~
Archives: www.LEJ.org

 πŸ’”LEJ's Louisiana, 
Yours Truly in a Swamp
a monthly e-column 

by

Leonard Earl Johnson

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

*

     LEJ.org 2005          /        Photo credit: Frank Parsley

πŸ’”The First Christmas After Hurricane Katrina
by Leonard Earl Johnson

Dedicated to Marda Kaiser Burton, 1932 ~ 2020

Β© 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
Originally published in 2005 in a slightly different version

The year was 2005, the month was December.  The bar was on Saint Charles Avenue, in Uptown New Orleans.  It had recently reopened after The Storm, and had tried since Thanksgiving to coax Yuletide spirit from the flood-weary City.  Their effort had been great, but their task had been greater 

The water was finally gone, but so were most of the customers. In time the bar would fill again with song. But not this shirtsleeve warm night, December 17 ~ nearly four months after August 29.


The street cars were silent.

Now and then a lone vehicle scurried down a darkened street towards some destination not obvious to onlookers ~ had there been onlookers. 

Military convoys made up the only traffic moving on this or any other street. Everywhere in Town, neither stop lights nor street lights blinked a bright red and green.
NOLa After Katrina   /   Coleen Perilloux Landry

Along most streets houses lay splayed open like huge fish with their innards spilled out for the world to see.  Occasionally a cascade of generator powered Christmas lights poured over some brave heart's intact gallery rail. They cast faint light on refrigerators sitting along the curb wrapped in industrial strength tape and the sickeningly sweet smell of a Mafia funeral.

Inside the bar, blue snowflakes hung from rafters, along with toy gray helicopters lifting little plastic refugees from little blue-tarped roofs.  The bartender sported a red baseball cap with cotton pasted around the rim of the bill.  A tiny silver bell dangled from the front.

great effort, indeed! But the bell rang hollow and the bartender looked weary, like some Papa Noel rescuing the hopeless with promises of gifts not always delivered.

had come to this bar to meet an old friend.  He had just arrived in Town aboard Amtrak's City of New Orleans from Chicago, that broad-shouldered behemoth at the other end of the railroad line.  He had ridden on this train to show support for Arlo Guthrie's Friends Benefit Tour for Louisiana MusiciansThe train, an Amtrak special, stopped for fundraiser concerts ~ "Out on the southbound odyssey train pulls out of Kankakee / and it rolls past houses, farms, and fields..." all the way to New Orleans. 

This night my friend and I are making our donations at the tour's last concert, at Tipitina's on the corner of Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue.

*
opened the French Doors and spotted my friend at the far end of the bar. He was clearly overdressed and clearly over served.

He wore a camel hair topcoat, a gray wool suit, with a white cotton shirt and a red silk tie.  A fast-pace Chicago uniform in our flood slowed New Orleans parade ~ a parade joyous but none too swift in the best of times. These were not the best of times.

mural behind the bar twinkled with tiny blue lights sprinkled over a snowy hillock of white deer nibbling mistletoe berries dotted among the evergreen trees.  The mistletoe berries were represented by tiny red lights.

"Mistletoe is poison," my friend is telling the bartender, in his booming Chicago voice, "and its berries should be white!"

beer representative from Saint Louis, Missouri is also behind the bar.  He is wearing a sport coat that looks to be made from Anheuser-Busch labels.  He is passing out samples of Red Wolf Beer.  My friend took one and lifted it in my direction.  I moved down the bar and accepted the brew.

"Must be a Santa after all," my friend boomed to the largely empty room.

From a green felt-covered table, an elderly couple often seen here before The Storm, looked up and smiled.  No one was dealing. Their cards were laying face up. We tipped our beer towards them. They were wearing evening clothes and his gold studs were set with diamonds that flashed back at the mural. She was ash blonde, well-painted, and wearing a red sequined gown.  She unzipped the gentleman's tuxedo.

My friend and I both said in stage whisper that she was an expensive date.

The man laughed and asked, "How better to spend my FEMA money?"   She laughed and slapped him playfully.

"Where is the vice-squad?" my friend asked in a real whisper. 


The bartender sat down two more Red Wolfs and said, "In diapers with Senator Vitter, at the Canal Street Brothel?"  We all laughed, enjoying the sexual peccadilloes of our betters. 


My friend was in his cups, and hanging his observations with the heavy tinsel of Chicago bluntness. "Christmas in New Orleans is not like going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, is it?"

"It's a good system," I said.  "We are 'The City That Works!' "

He snorted at the irony of laying Chicago's famous motto up against New Orleans' famous work ethic.

"Cops protecting brothel patrons," I said, "and people in evening clothes entertaining themselves for free."

We both looked back at the couple and laughed.  My friend muttered, "Maybe not free, but a lot less than the cops charge." 

The beer rep handed us two more Red Wolfs.  He wanted to finish and leave.  My friend asked him, "Shouldn't you call this stuff  Red Riding Hood?"  None of us were sure what he meant by this but we all laughed the laugh required of our station.

The beer distributor gave us two full six packs of Red Wolf and smiled.  "Please, I gotta catch a plane back to Saint Louis."

The bartender said, "Allow me to put that on ice for you."

got up to go to the restroom as my Chicago friend yanked a hanging blue snowflake from its tether. He bellowed at the bartender, "What fathead told you to hang blue snowflakes in this swamp-flooded city?"  The bartender is startled and blurts back, "The fatheads in Chicago who own this bar!"  Of course he did not know he was talking to fathead number one.

The Saint Louis beerman smiled weakly and moved towards the French doors.  Through the glass we saw a waiting limousine with rental license plates.  The man in the tuxedo fell from his chair. The woman in red helped him to his feet and they stumbled outside balancing themselves by holding on to articles of each other's clothing.  They lunged into the limo and motioned for the beerman to join them.  He shrugged and climbed in.

Coming out of the restroom I dropped a quarter into a slot machine.  The last of my FEMA money whirled away.  I did not care.  It was Christmas and my friend was in Town to wine and dine us for three fat days.  We have known each other since the Fabled Sixties, since our college daze in Carbondale, Illinois, where the train had stopped to play a concert.  He liked having, as he put it, "A writer bum for a friend."  We liked having a rich one.

In a wastebasket beside the slot machines, I spotted seven paper teddy bear tree ornaments.  Each had the name of someone lost in Hurricane Katrina written across its belly.  I picked up one and read the name, "Senegal Breaux."  I gathered them all and put them in my shirt pocket. 

Back at the bar I sipped my beer in silence. The bartender smarting from my friend's harsh words, punched up Linda Ronstadt singing Blue Bayou, on the jukebox.  He pushed a remote-control button next to the cash register and a lone gray helicopter opened its bomb bay doors and let red and green glitter drift down into our beers.

We stood to leave and my friend told the bartender to keep the remaining Red Wolfs, and gave him a two-hundred dollar tip and his business card.  "Tell those fatheads in Chicago to jump in Lake Michigan.  New Orleans is in a swamp, not a snowy wonderland!"

Outside, my friend stared at the empty curb.  "Where the Hell's my driver?"  

say, "Forget it, let's walk."

He slipped out of his topcoat and handed it to a bewildered Mexican in dirty blue jeans and a t-shirt that read: "FEMA, Find Every Mexican Available". 


We walked along past mounds of rubble towards Tip's. My friend accepted a paper teddy bear and held it up to ambient Christmas light.

"Ah, Christ, what am I supposed to do about this?"  Then he handed it to a pair of passing National Guardsmen. 

"Let's distribute them like handbills," he said.

It seemed all those who were back in Town were also headed to Tipitina's that night.  


We started singing, "We three kings from Orient are..."  When someone asked, "Where is your other king?" we handed them the teddy bear named Senegal Breaux, and kept on our way. "Bearing gifts we traveled so far..."

LEJ.org  
✍️

 Copyright, 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Your comments and corrections are welcome:


~   ~   ~
 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org

and historically 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

* * * * * * * * * * * 
Β© 2020 Leonard Earl Johnson, 

All Rights Reserved 

* *
βš“
~   ~   ~
Lagniappe du jour

by
Sam Rey😭

*

COMING NEXT MONTH
~ TEMPUS FUGIT ~
Marda Kaiser Burton
πŸ’€β³πŸ’€
πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’›
January 2021
MEMORIAL OBITUARY

Marda Burton reading at one of her Royal Street Salons