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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, October 01, 2021

✍Home Again Home Again / October 2021

 


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Home Again Home Again

Wherever You Can

~ Fiction ~
Roman à clef, cher! 
by Leonard Earl Johnson 
© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 


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L. A. Norma and sat at tables outside Carpe Diem Gelato, on Jefferson Street.  COVID, for all it has taken away, has given a shot in the arm to Lafayette's sidewalk café society. 

Across the street sits the Hub City's second-built City Hall.  Built in 1939 by FDR's New Deal Works Project Authority.  The WPA was a Depression era agency that left helpful Federal thumbprints all over Louisiana ~ though its name is unspoken by today's revisionist politicians.  

City Hall moved not too far away to its third location, a former Sears big box store with lovely murals on University Avenue.  Sears followed the shopping malls out to the countryside, and then out of business.

Jefferson Street City Hall today houses the Downtown Development Authority.  Outside are benches and a table welcoming virus savvy Cajuns.  It was here on this modest green space where once stood the honored, now shamed statue of the son of Lafayette's founding first

 family, Confederate General Alfred Mouton.  Full name, Jean-Jacques-Alfred-Alexandre Mouton.  The triangular park points up Rue Lee to more cafés, music clubs, and the First Baptist Church of Lafayette.  Newer by a hundred years, but large as the nearby Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.  

General Mouton, of course, was Catholic.  He fell in 1864, at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads at Mansfield Louisiana.  The South is said to have won it but the battle was of no decisive consequence to anyone ~ except General Mouton. 

Confederate General Insignia 

Interestingly the Confederate commander of this battle was Major General Richard Taylor, son of the 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor.  

"What webs our insurrections weave," Norma said, looking up from Rouse's grocery bill, hand delivered on Wednesday to every postal address in the parish by uniformed and masked Federal agents. 

Norma has volunteered to take the returning two Red Women to "make groceries," as they say in New Orleans.

Mouton's Return
In Jim Crow 1922, General Mouton was resurrected in marble by campaign and donation of an organization called the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Lafayette.  The Daughters at no point identified the sculptor.  The identity remains unknown. 

By the time of the statue's 2021 removal the Daughters numbers had dwindled to one-apparent.  Lawyers were hired then fired but no membership list ever joined the public debate.

Mouton fell this second time following a night bullet to the nose, dispatched by unknown assassin or assassins.  The City removed the unlucky General and now teases us with what to do with him. 

"He was collateral damage," LA. Norma points out.  "A casualty of the Facebook social wars." 

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Back at Carpe Diem we both ordered pumpkin cake layered with cheesecake ~ doberge inspired ~ and iced with cream cheese.  

"Not to worry, if need be we can shoehorn into a heart surgeon's bed amid the respirating COVID patients," Norma said, while blowing Camel Cigarette smoke at a retreating fly. 


The day was sunny and dry with a fresh breeze.  The first such kindly morning since August's hurricanes started picking us apart.  Hurricane Ida, the year's big blowhard, hit New Orleans on Katrina Day, August 29, 2021.  

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Old wounds drip old memories.  Friends scatter again.  We sip coffee and taste Autumn in the cake, optimism in the coffee.  

Down the street, Amtrak sounds its arrival from New Orleans.  In a few minutes we will hear it whistling off to Los Angeles.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

Silvia and Dillard, our two Red Warrior Women, are onboard, returning from their spoiled efforts at reviving Vietnam War fervor. 

They were too late for Governor Edwin Edwards funeral in Baton Rouge.  Then found themselves thwarted at photographer Louis Sahuc's deathbed Second Line in Jackson Square.  Their banner was snatched by skateboarding children of French speaking Catholic Vietnamese fishermen families ~ relocated to the Louisiana Gulf following the tumultuous rout of that forgotten war's final evacuation.  The Red Women want it remembered.  "Hell, they want it revived!"  Norma snorted.

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"On time!" Norma said,
 "that's something one does not often hear."

She is talking about Amtrak, now discharging passengers at the Rosa Parks Transportation Centré.

Evacuees arrive at sidewalk tables up and down Jefferson Street with news from Big Swamp City delivered over meals with wine, and followed by Crown Whiskey night caps.  

Finis Shellnut, of New Orleans and Arkansas, was in the crowd accompanied by born-again realtor Sonya LaComb and architect Henri Boudreaux.  

One Christmas Eve years ago, Finis Shellnut and (then) Wife, Gennifer Flowers, intercepted a Washington, DC couple and me on our way to Saint Louis Cathedral for Midnight Mass.  Instead we went to their Saint Louis Street club, Gennifer Flowers Kelsto Club, across from Antoine's, for government gossip and French Quarter distractions.  That night's featured drink: Hot Lips.

Dwyer's on The Great Artway,
Lafayette


 Steve Halpern (this column's fact check editor emeritus), and Leo Watermeier, Armstrong Park's defender of the heritage roses, took lunch at Dwyer's on the corner of Garfield and Jefferson.  

"Lockdown gone, 
food improved,
 and 
garden seating irresistible." 
~ L. A. Norma

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Los Angeles Cinematographer Natalie Kingston and Director Brian Richard, natives of Acadia and NOLa were back in Louisiana on assignment, shooting in the French Quarter when evacuated to Lafayette for Ida. 

I see myself in all their eyes.  Sixteen years ago.  Fleeing Katrina and Faubourg Marigny.

Ah, Faubourg Marigny me Home between ships and trains for forty-some years! Until 2005 when Katrina blew us out the flood gate and across the Atchafalaya. My heart waits there amid the quirky, the quickie, and the gentry come lately.
~ LEJ.org ✍💔


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Leonard Earl Johnson, LEJ.org 
 
Photograph © Leonard Earl Johnson 

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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,
Hosted by GOOGLE BLOGGER,
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