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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 Consumer Affairs.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 books 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.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter on the River of Bourbon Street / April 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

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"Make of it what you will, April Fools Day and Easter 
are together this year, and the Moon is full,
 April 1, 2018!" ~ L. A. Norma 

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The Parable 

of 


Easter on The River of Bourbon Street

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Spring, New Orleans   /   Photo:  Jessica ReeTull



We left the witch-hat-towers of Saint Louis Cathedral, and headed for the soaring balconies of Bourbon Street.  There we were lifted on chaliced wings of whiskey served from temporal cathedrals bearing names like Oz and Bourbon Pub. 


There are bars named Oz and Pub on many streets in this World, but there is only one Bourbon Street.  It is in New Orleans, and it flows like the Mississippi River through the French Quarter towards Big Swamp City's first Faubourgs, and the Swamps and open Sea beyond. 


The two bars flanking Bourbon Street ~ where it crosses Saint Ann ~ were frequented once only by gay men.  Then, gay women and gay men. And today, anyone ~ especially when balcony seating is open and salty winds blow warm.

This is a demarcation corner.  A separation point between Reader's Digest tourists ~ ebbing back up towards Canal Street ~ and those daring souls yearning towards the 
literary and sensual mysteries of old New Orleans.

We found a table on the balcony above the Pub's swinging shingle, and watched.
Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals 

The masses raised their arms in jubilation of Christ's resurrection ~ or beads!


This day, touched by Easter's spirit and the elfin Mr. Booze, we saw Jesus walking down this famed Street of Sin. 


He wore a crown of thorns over His long black hair. He wore sandals, too, and was naked save for a loincloth cut like the one in the paintings. He was thin and looked like He might be Filipino ~ but mostly He looked like Jesus.  Everyone on the balcony thought so.


True to The Book
He was slumming with the local rabble. And reveling in their Easter experience.  As were they in His.


"Well, theirs is a damn sight easier than His," L. A. Norma said, tapping a finger along the silver figure hanging by tiny silver nails from a crucifix hanging around her neck.  A ringed crown of thorns ~ oddly made from gold ~ sat on the little silver Head. 

Norma lifted her whiskey, exhaled a plume of cigarette smoke larger than her head, and said, "Skip the crucifixion, forget fasting, go straight for the Resurrection!"


We all laughed ~ glowing in the clear and righteous wonder of her thought. 


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A few years back, a few blocks up the street, Chris Owens, an elderly Bourbon Street dancer with mega staying power, conducted her own Easter Parade.  A brass band made up of midgets played from somewhere in the crowed.  Elder ladies of the snatched-bodies cult and a dozen or so young bunnies in pastel furs, marched and rode atop convertibles and pedibikes.  Bunnies and bunniettes, of all ages, threw underpants to their followers.  Tall, face-lifted and ~ perhaps not leading ~ but proudly among the Easter faithful was David Duke, once Grand Wiz of the KKK, Louisiana legislator, and Chairman of neighboring Saint Tammany Parish's Republican Party.

Few among this human eddy gave notice to our walking Jesus. 


But a tourist Family standing against the downstream wall of Pete Fountain's (today, Oz) did! They stood directly across the street from where we sat.  The Father watched wide-eyed.  The Girl, about seventeen, waved up to us.  The pubescent Son giggled and hugged his Mother. Then, along came Jesus headed straight for them. 


The tourist Mother looked offended. She gathered her brood and paddled them off down the street. Jesus did not seem bothered by their departure. 

"After all," Norma said, "He practically wrote the book on forgiveness."


The Pope appeared on the balcony directly above them. He stood dressed, head-to-toe, in yellow and white satin. He blessed all who passed beneath him, and tossed beads at the tourist Family as they scurried away.  He looked across Bourbon Street and blessed us, too. We waved, and he motioned us over. We crossed the street and took our seats at the Pope's table. 


We looked back at the Bourbon Pub balcony. The Pope, ever so wise, said, "You cannot see yourself on the balcony you just left." We had all had a lot to drink. The Pope handed out Wild Turkey and water. "Holy Water mixed with the Holy River," he said.

Three real nuns, in old-fashioned black-and-white habits, came trotting down Rue Saint Ann ~ on their return from a later mass. They passed our intersection as they headed towards Cathedral School, a block away.  The sea of sinners parted. We joined the cheering. 


 "What would they think of seeing Jesus?" L. A. Norma asked of no one in particular.  She leaned way over the balcony rail and yelled to the crowd below for Carnival beads.  A photographer looked up and took her picture.  I yelled down asking if he had seen Jesus. 

"No!" he shouted back.  

Would he like to?  "Yes, of course, yes!"

The Pope lay his hands on my shoulders, and said,"Watch that woman, do not let her fall over the communion rail."  Green Carnival beads landed on the Pope's pointy hat. They looked interesting, but he took them off and tossed them to two college boys on the street below.  Norma told him the two boys should have opened their pants.  He frowned and said sternly, "This is not Carnival!"


I said, "It is not Lafayette either," but the Pope did not hear me ~ he was gone to find Jesus.


Norma looked past my forehead, and talked of far-ranging things.


The Pope returned without Jesus.  He was balancing fresh drinks, and passed them round the table. "He can not be found in this wicked den," said the Pope, handing me a Wild Turkey and Mississippi River water.


When we looked up from our whisky we saw Him again.  He was waving from our old balcony seats across the street. We waved back.  He lifted his naked arms heavenward.  His loincloth flapped in the whiskey-flavored air.  The man with the camera jumped and shouted, "Your cross, your cross, show us your cross!"

Jesus looked down and bellowed: 
"Don't you know what holiday this is?  
"It is Easter, I have no cross!" 

The Pope, assorted communion-rail leaners, and other followers passing on the street below shouted,"Is it Carnival?" 
It wasn't.  It was Easter on the River of Bourbon Street.
 ~ LEJ.org ✍️
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Copyright, 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
(A version of this story first appeared in the mid 1990s)


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Lagniappe




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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
Archives: www.LEJ.org

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© 2018 Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.