Last Exit to The Cross
Kenneth Slessor, the great poet of the Cross, lived on Billyard Avenue, and wrote of the flat dwellers who came with the purpose-built apartments of the 1920s and 1930s:
Where the stars are lit by neon
Where the fried potato fumes
And the ghost of Mr Villon
Still inhabits single rooms
And the girls lean out from heaven
Over lightwells, thumping mops
While the gent in 57
Cooks his pound of mutton chops.
The tale of from the century old london plane trees of the Cross on Darlinghurst Street might compare, except their watch has had no retreat from the players of Darlinghurst Road. My daily pathway through the Cross was from The Springfield Lodge to the a nameless white, No Birds hire car that had been rented for my work on foot. Springfield was a $75 dollar a night hotel for tourists with a basement for long term rentals, some where looking to start again and needed a halfway house. That's where I stayed, the basement. I came to Irish Bill at the front desk well enough, he was tall and grew and kept watch from the front desk. My walk was usually an hour before sunrise. Early enough hear Ibis and Cockatoos waking and moving around the trees. The sparrows and pigeons becoming busy cleaning the left over food scraps of pizza and discarded chicken bones before there was any significant human activity.
At night I'd return around 8 or 9 pm, find a carpark and walk back to the Springfield. Tired and needing rest, the unattractive temptations where now lit in neon and seemingly everywhere. I'd keep my neck and head looking straight forward so as to not catch glimmering lights of staircases to the first floor strip clubs and bars. The street with no law was looking inwards onto the pavements opera, so I'd look up to the plane trees for ease and imagine the sound of jangling guitars to match the cacophony of motors, visiting hens, cocks and begging addicts, the before Polly Jean Harvey's empatic voice called 'Speak to me of universal laws, The whores hustle and the hustlers whore, All around me people bleed, Speak to me your song of greed.
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All images © Alan McFetridge