Avatar - Michael McAleer
Michael McAleeradded this to Okra & Sassafras
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There at the edge of the gulf coast shoreline, running east to west, the planets, stars and moon cross the night sky on their panoramic stage. All the weights, gravity and balance of the cosmos pull playfully at the shoelaces of the way-worn traveler who lies soundlessly asleep on the white sands of destinies beach. In the darkness, the waves speak their encrypted whispering words, telling of the things to come; speaking of the past, present and future in over-lapping terms and telling of the years of running as transient as the wind from or too life, love, heart and home. Running from town to town with need, desire and passion all mixed up in his mind. Nine forty five p m. central time The Memphis bus station. We all line up to get on the bus, seven people, three guitars, one bus driver and me. It s January, it's cold and last year was a very hard year. The bad thing about hard times is that they can be hard times all over again and no matter how long that may be, it's all still considered to have been a hard time. I'd had enough and was on my way to a better land. I can never seem to fall asleep riding on the greyhound bus. We've just pulled out of the Memphis station and that lighted sign on the front of this bus says, "New Orleans". It's going to be a long ride tonight. Yes, we're singing and rolling down those delta blues highways. The one, four, five kind of blues is playing on some old guitars in the back seat of this bus. Janice is singing, "Go on...! Go on...! Go on and take it. Take another little piece of my heart now baby." Bobby McGee is sitting in the seat right up in front of me, and this is the real story. The driver is singing all the way to New Orleans. I saw sun records studio on the way out of Memphis and now I'm seeing a sign saying, "Yazoo city 15 miles. ?Silent dead cotton fields slip past on both sides of this southbound high way in the full moon light. Heritage has got to start somewhere. All I can say about my heritage is what my momma and daddy told me. From what they told me, my biological mother was full- blooded Seminole Indian from Florida and my biological Father was full-blooded French from France. Now in my book, that would make me full-blooded Creole. As long as we are talking about heritage and of things inherited, I would just like to point out here also that all four of my parents gave me what it takes to live. My Mother Ann and My Father Charles didn't give me birth, but they did give me life and a life. They raised me. That was life number one and they told me from the time I could understand, that my birth parents were both artist and designers and that I would be an artist also. This was the second life that was an equal gift to the first and came to me by birth from the parents that I never knew. Inheritance. Now I am a man. I'm a man on a mission; Go to New Orleans and make art. This is happening with the strength of my conscious willpower. I am riding on this bus and physically going there. I did make this choice to go with power as in a quest to seed enlightenment, fulfillment, inspiration, beauty and romance. Something is driving within me and it is pushing me in this direction. It's not just the power of this diesel motor on this bus. It's not my pure will either. Some things truly need to be done. That's all. It was nighttime and cold 20 years ago when I first came to New Orleans. This time I have some money in my pocket and a lot more direction and purpose, but it's still nighttime and cold. This time I know where I would be staying too. Things do get better with time. The New Orleans Greyhound bus station (Late night.) No matter how long you've been awake and no matter what bus station you re in anywhere in this country, there is a prevailing oppressive weight about these places that will rob your soul and take your energy if you let them. Here are many transients in transitional space. People all walking around with a kind of amputated association. People going everywhere and nowhere. Outside is the cab line: yellow cab, white fleet, Dixie cab and united cab. I jump in the yellow cab and say, "Take me to the Lon Pray House on Prytania Street please". Now I'm not sure where this could be from here, but I'm sure that the cabby will know. The cabby says, "Yeah, dats up dare off'in St. Charles Avenue." as he pulls out into traffic, while flipping the meter over and starting at $2.50. "Welcome to N'awlins," he says as we start down the street. Even though it's cold out tonight, we are in the tropics. I'm seeing banana trees, hibiscus flowers and palm trees lining the side streets as we drive along. I just had the feeling that the cabby didn't take the most direct route that he could have, when he asked, "Where ya from?" and I said, "Miami." He said, "Oh?" Well I could have been from anywhere, but I sure wasn't from here and it was clear that I didn't know where I was going. "Miami." the cabby says, "I like them dolphins football." I respond, (as usual.), "Well, I'm from Miami, but I haven't been back there since 1968. I grew up there in South Miami, but everybody still calls me a Yankee. The cabby laughs and says, "It da ways yous talks." I say, "Oh no, I must have spent just a little too long in California, I guess." "Dats coulds be its," the driver says with a hearty laugh. About that time we came up on St. Charles Avenue. The cabby says, "Rite dare on da lefts is't da St. Charles tavern. It's open 24 hours. Day hab sum pert dam goot food. Get'cha a real goot bowl a beans and rice n'dere." The cabby turns and drives on up St. Charles Avenue about two blocks. St. Charles Avenue is four lanes of automobile traffic with the streetcar tracks running up the middle of the neutral ground. This part of the lower garden district has large spreading oak trees with their elongated branches weaving across the street from both sides of the Avenue. From here we drive down St. Charles Avenue and making the one block turn and over to Prytania Street, that runs parallel to St. Charles Avenue. This too is a beautiful residential section in what is termed the 'Garden District', with its 19th century manor homes surrounded by cast iron decorative gates and fences. These one-way cobblestone side streets are also lined with these same old spreading oak trees that are illuminated tonight by this centuries old electric lighting that lights up the large weaving branches with a poised surreal quality of stillness. We pull up in front of a wonderful 1850's Victorian house. The Lon Pray house is a kind of Euro/international guesthouse that serves the true French style breakfast of French bread a la cafe au la croissant in the crescent city. I pay the taxi and walk up to the door. Though it's late, there is a little sign by the front door that reads, Please ring buzzer for front desk at night. The Lon Pray house has lots of backpackers from all over the world and staying here are an assortment of students, writers, eclectics, bohemians and other people of like character staying here and making this space a place to start from in New Orleans. Emily was a painter that I met at the Lon Pray house. She was on break from the Boston school of the arts when I met her there. It seemed like we made an immediate connection right away, as though to point out to me that there was destiny at work in my coming to New Orleans working even at this time. To meet Emily seemed in an unusual way unavoidable. This is something very hard to explain. Things were happening now. I think I stayed at the Lon Pray house for about four weeks at this second time in New Orleans. Emily and I spent about two of those weeks together before she had to go back to Boston and school, but fittingly destiny had it that I would see her again and again over the years of life in this city. Emily painted with a very playful style. She painted these funny little monkeys. They all had a very mischievous looks on their faces. Their eyes were very large and they all had their hands over their mouth. The meaning eluded me, but I liked her style of painting. The work I came here to do was to follow up with the history and architectural studies that I had worked on for years throughout the country. I set up my easel in the foyer of the hotel and proceeded to make one of my very detailed drawings of the wonderful spiral staircase that ascended the three stories of the Lon Pray house. Although I've only produced a very few of these spiral stairways over the years of my studying the architecture of New Orleans, this is what I had come here to do. I wanted to make an in depth study of the intricate details of the architecture of the French Quarter ultimately.

Michael McAleer

There at the edge of the gulf coast shoreline, running east to west, the planets, stars and moon cross the night sky on their panoramic stage. All the weights, gravity and balance of the cosmos pull playfully at the shoelaces of the way-worn traveler who lies soundlessly asleep on the white sands of destinies beach. In the darkness, the waves speak their encrypted whispering words, telling of the