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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.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

✍ Easter on The River of Bourbon Street / April 2021

~ Final Draft ~ ✍


And they died same as we 
but without the party 
~ LEJ.org

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April 2021
 Subtitled: THE WAY WE WERE, Part Three 
first e-published in a lesser version, circa 1990 

Easter On The River of Bourbon Street,

COVID Caveat 

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson 
© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

Dedication: Lin Emery, artist 

Spring in New Orleans,                    Photo-credit: Jessica Reeves Tullos

L. A. Norma and I left the witch-hat-towers of Saint Louis Cathedral, and headed for the towering balconied temples of Bourbon Street. 

There, lifted on chaliced wings of whiskey served from temporal cathedrals bearing names like Oz and Bourbon Pub, we saw Jesus coming down Bourbon Street. 

Now there are bars named Oz and Pub on many streets of this World, but there is only one Bourbon Street worthy of the name. 
It is located in New Orleans' French Quarter and flows like the Mississippi River to the Big Swamp City's first downriver expansion, Faubourg Marigny
where the street's name changes from Bourbon to Pauger, after Adrien de Pauger (French engineer, designer of the Quarter's 
colonial street grid ~ still in place today).

Two large dance halls flank Bourbon Street where it intersects Rue Saint Ann on its way to Faubourg Marigny, and The Sea beyond. Once they were dance clubs exclusively for gay men. Then gay women and gay men. Today? Anyone. Especially in Spring when balcony seating is practiced openly.

These two dance halls stand guard at a demarcation line between Reader's Digest tourists ebbing back towards Canal Street; and those readers of Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams' pretenders who yearn to go further into the oft ballyhooed mysteries of Big Swamp City's gentrified downstream Faubourgs

We found a table on the balcony above the Pub's swinging shingle.  And watched.

Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals 

The masses below raised their arms in jubilation of Easter's Resurrection ~ or for beads!

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, but was otherwise naked save for a loincloth cut like the ones in the paintings. 

He was very thin and looked like He might be Filipino, but mostly He looked like Jesus. Everyone on the balcony saw Him.  True to The BookHe slummed with the local rabble reveling in their Easter experience. 

"Well, theirs was a damn sight better'n His," L. A. Norma said, tapping a finger along the silver figure hanging by tiny silver nails from an onyx crucifix hanging round her neck. A ringed crown of thorns ~ sculpted from precious gold ~ sat atop the little silver Savior. 

Norma lifted her whiskey, inhaled from her cigarette, exhaled a plume of 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. 


A few years back, and a few blocks up the street, Chris Owens, an elderly Bourbon Street dancer with her own club, and mega staying power, conducted her own Easter Parade ~ a menagerie of celebrants united in little but their joy for The Day. 

Tall and seemingly leading the crowd was David Duke. A brass band made up of midgets played, If Ever I Cease to Love. Elder ladies of the snatched-bodies cults, and a half dozen or so young bunnies in pastel furs marched and rode atop pedicabs and Cadillacs. The bunnies threw underpants to the crowd.

Among such a human eddy no one would usually give notice to a walking Jesus.  But this day, a tourist Family standing against the downstream wall of Pete Fountain's (today's Oz) did. 

They were 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 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 have just left." We had all had a lot to drink. The Pope handed out Wild Turkey and 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 ~ on their return from a later mass. They passed our intersection headed towards Cathedral School. 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 laid 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 neat with an ice-water back.

When we looked up from our drinks 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!" 

Atop the Presbyter, NOLa,
the year after Katrina.
When I wore a younger man's beard.
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, 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

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LEJ.org ~ wearing an older man's beard
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French Quarter Festival 



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© 2021, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
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