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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, April 01, 2016

Easter on the River of Bourbon St / April 2016

LEJ's Louisiana, 
Yours Truly in a Swamp

April 2016

Monthly e-column by 

Leonard Earl Johnson 
of Lafayette and New Orleans

Archive: www.LEJ.org

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April's column is 
Dedicated to David Egan...


"Our parade grows shorter." ~ L. A. Norma
Easter on the River of Bourbon Street
by Leonard Earl Johnson
Music Fest Links in
Section Lagniappe du Jour
à la fin. 
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After Easter Mass, L. A. Norma and I left the witch-hat-towers of Saint Louis Cathedral behind us, and headed for the soaring two-storey balconies of Bourbon Street.

Jackson Square, NOLa      /      J. R. Tullos
There we were lifted further on the chaliced wings of whiskey, served from temporal cathedrals named Oz and Bourbon Pub.

There are many Ozs and Pubs on many streets like this in every port city of the world. But only these two dance-halls flanking this intersection of Bourbon and Saint Ann are major cultural demarcation lines. 

Once populated exclusively by gay men. Then gay men and gay women. Now added to the mix are folks who might read the National Geographic and yearn to explore.

The dance-halls have become the line that turns Reader's Digest level tourists ebbing back towards Canal Street's comforting hotels, and those yearning to venture past the gentrified mysteries of the lower French Quarter, into Faubourgs Marigny, Treme', and Bywater.

We took seats on the balcony above the Pub's swinging shingle, and watched the masses with their arms upraised in jubilation of Christ's Resurrection, or for beads from any faith passing by.  

Touched by Easter's spirit and the elfin Mr. Booze, we saw Jesus walking down this 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 saw Him.

Bourbon Strassa, NOLa

True to His Book, he was slumming with the local rabble, and reveling in their Easter experience.  As they were with His.

"Their experience is a sight easier'n His,"  L. A. Norma said, tapping her fingers along the tiny silver figure on her necklace. A crucifixion on a silver chain. A two-thousand year old Roman gismo for torture elevated to a symbol of good. "It's like Donald Trump worked on the Gospels!" she snorted.

Norma exhaled a cloud of smoke and the proclamation: "Skip the crucifixion, forget the fasting, and go straight for the Resurrection!"

Everyone laughed and glowed in the righteous wonder of her thought. 

Chris Owens, 2016 Easter Parade
A few years back, a few blocks up the street, Chris Owens ~ an elderly Bourbon  Street dancer and club owner with staying power ~ conducted her annual Easter Parade with celebrity grand-master David Duke. A brass band made of midgets, elder ladies of the snatched-bodies cult, and a half dozen or so young bunnies in pastel furs marched on the street and rode atop convertibles. The bunnies threw underpants and beads. 

 Margareta and Chiquita Bergen, 2016 St. Pats Day
Spring Beauties, Houmas House ~ 2015 column


None among this human eddy gave any notice whatsoever to our walking Jesus, except a tourist family standing against the downstream wall of Pete Fountain's (now Club Oz), directly across the street from where we sat. 

The father was 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 wrote the book on forgiveness." 

The sinners went on with their sinning. Then the Pope appeared on the Oz balcony. He stood directly above where the tourist family had been, and he was dressed head-to-toe in yellow and white satin. He blessed all who passed beneath him. He looked across the River of 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 wise, said, "You cannot see yourself on the balcony you have just left." We had all had a lot to drink. 

The Pope handed out Wild Turkey and iced water, "Holy Water from the Holy River, he said.

Three real nuns, in old-fashioned black-and-white habits, came trotting down rue Saint Ann, returning from a later mass. They passed our intersection headed towards Cathedral School. The Sea of Sinners parted. We all cheered.

"What would they think of seeing Jesus, L. A. Norma asked of no one in particular. She leaned 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 Laughingyette 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 water.

When we looked up from our drinks we saw Him again. He was at our old balcony table across the street waving. We waved back. His naked arms were lifted 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!" 

When LEJ wore a younger man's beard
Presbytere coupla, Jackson Square
(Evacuated New Orleans, 2006)
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.


Copyright, 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

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FYI:  You may not receive a monthly notice for LEJ's Louisiana / YOURS TRULY IN A SWAMP, until / unless I figure out how to set up a new freemail system.  Don't hold your breath.  I am a storyteller, not a computer-pinball gamer. Contact me if you want on the list - that may get e-mailed.

If  you wish to read any month's story go to the archives at www.LEJ.org 

(They are posted newly on the first of each month and polished for the next few weeks.) 

Hope you do, I love talking with you,
Leonard Earl Johnson,
Columnist to the elderly and early weary. 

© 2016, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

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Lagnappe du Jour