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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.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

✍ Jerry Young, Final Draft ~ 1942-2021 / June 2021

  ~ Final Draft ~ 

"May we pass a good time as we pass," 
Jerry Young, 1942 ~ 2021

𝅘𝅥𝅲 𝆔 𝆕 𝅘𝅥𝅰 ðŸŽµ ð…¡ 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥 𝅗𝅥
~ a musical interlude ~
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June 2021

Jerry Young

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson 
 www.LEJ.org âœ

© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

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Hurricane Katrina blew us out the flood gates of New Orleans in 2005 and sent us hurtling over the Atchafalaya Basin and numerous Bayous, including one named in French, 'Bayou of the Germans' / Bayou des Allemandes.  

Life as we lived it pre-K ended.  Pamplona Tapas Bar, downtown Lafayette picked up our slack and offered us new ~ though familiar ~ comfort.  

🍷🍾We took seats at that spot (found in any joint in the World) where forces from kitchen, bar, and dining room floor interact.  Where waiters pick up orders, cooks slip drinks, and information passes hands.  A place where the bartenders learn your name and chefs give you suggestions.  Where patient waitstaff treat you like you might one day be a good tipper.  Or at least sit with them.

My Father owned such a roadhouse in Illinois where I grew up.  I love this spot in any club.  It is where you learn who is good at pulling lines taut, and who is not.  What table with a flock of painted birds is running up the tab of besuited bankers with top-shelf taste?  And who is pursuing and who is fleeing?

Pamplona Tapas Bar
This spot is the social cradle of any café, club or bar, anywhere ~ and literally my own Spring cradle.    Pamplona welcomed me home.

"Who's flirtin', who's squirtin', who's hurtin'," the bartender said setting down a complimentary glass of medicinal red, a gift from someone down the bar. 

Down at the other end sat a group of regulars we came to call 'The Oil Barons.'    Men ~ mostly ~ whose fortunes rested ultimately on the undulating pool of Louisiana oil and gas.  Not oilmen exactly but dependent on it.  They were owners of  varied businesses and farms that gave birth to housing developments and shopping strips.  Lawyers, architects, contractors, politicians, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, and an insurance man who controlled two parking slots forty-five miles away, at Tiger Stadium, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Sometimes such men earned their wealth from "dirt poor scratch."  Sometimes their wealth bubbled up from lands that simply opened up to Texas rainmakers and spilled oil over families who for generations have hired each other to tally the columns and drive around Town in Cadillac sport utilities taking long lunches at places like Pamplona.

The alpha leader of this particular pack was also the majority owner and vigilant overseer of the bar, Jerry Young, 1942 - 2021.  Young had created for himself the kind of retirement boys of all ages dream of having: He owned the bar where he and his cronies passed a good time. 

Increasingly my lunch tabs were paid and fresh glasses of wine slid down my way.  Slowly I slid back up the bar and joined The Oil Barons, who took me in though I was no more than a penniless practitioner of the pauper's art, a writer.  A New Orleans scribe at that, babbling Huey Long's "Every Man a King," and freely willing to share-their-wealth. 

In his youth Jerry lettered in football at LSU, in 1962 and 1963.  During the years '62, '63, '64 he played in the Cotton Bowl, Bluebonnet Bowl, and Sugar Bowl winning two out of the three.   In his muted days he held court at Pamplona, accepting greetings from friends and offering his ring to flattering supplicants buying drinks.  All hustling each other, bartering, making deals, spinning wheels, fishing for whales.  I became their Emperor Norton of the Swamp.

One afternoon, drifting off in the wine's warm glow, I came back in focus finding myself lost in a conversation over 40,000 somethings.  But I couldn't catch what.  Dollars?  Barrels?  Cattle?  Then it hit me that it didn't really matter what.  Whatever it was I didn't have 40,000 of them, or anything else.

Jerry orchestrated his group of cronies with the grace of any ole boy in a dream come true.  One day, when my Mother was 96 she phoned me at Pamplona, on my birthday.  With finger raised Jerry hushed the house saying, "Leonard's Mother is on the phone."  

A patriot with a football hero's love for women and a Southern gentleman's noblesse oblige towards womanhood, when Donald Trump mocked that American Muslim woman on television ~ a grieving Gold Star Mother ~ Young distanced himself from the Bayou State's roiling red politics, and said so at the bar to his friends. 

Oil Barons at the bar

If you live long enough and write, you will write memorial obits for people you know, admire and miss.  I only knew Jerry Young the last fifteen years of his Life, and I'm not able to say much more than mention his glorious younger years when, as one of the wealthiest men in Louisiana, he became a LSU football star, and a world-class fisherman.  

He was also a man who turned down a chance to go pro ~ to go fishing.  

Years ago, off the waters between New Zealand and Australia he came to know the actor Lee Marvin.  They met at the parties world class sailors and fishermen attend.  Marvin was known to nurse the bottle and be hard to handle, as well as one of the great movie actors of the day with a range from drama to comic.  Insults were hurled between the two of them.  The next day, Jerry and his airplane pilot flew over Marvin's yacht and egg-bombed it.  "Then we sailed for Tahiti!"  

⚓ Bon Voyage, ole friend! ⚓

LEJ.org âœ

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Leonard Earl Johnson, LEJ.org ✍

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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 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
© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved