If you live in a city, you may have a local homeless person or a neighborhood kook. If you were as lucky as I’ve been, your “kook” was Albert. Not homeless or crazy, he was a Vietnam veteran who I suppose you could overlook if you really tried, count out because of his appearance as someone outside of the social norm in the tony Garden District.
I’ll admit it, I wondered if he was homeless, and yet I never felt the urge to give him money and he never asked me for anything. I walk on Magazine Street a lot and he was part of my routine. Albert was one of the first people I met when I moved here and our small exchanges came to make me feel at home. He had a heartfelt smile that brought out the best in me and he never missed an opportunity to say “God bless you.”
Many people in this city have identities. There’s “fly swatter guy” and “Fess head guy” and “DancingMan504.” In a city full of local emperors and mayors, Albert was the “Moses of Magazine Street,” owing, I’m guessing, to his constant blessings and reminders that, “We are all one” and “God loves all his children.”
I have a rule I try to live by – to never die with my mouth full of all the nice things I meant to say to people. I tell strangers at the grocery that they have beautiful eyes or that I love their sweater. I’ve never been more glad that I discipline myself about living by this rule, because I couldn’t wait to tell Albert that he was my absolute favorite thing on “Memphis Beat” in his small part as the porch-setting pal of the blind witness. He brought, not just authenticity to the episode, but also the funniest moment on the show yet. So, I’m really glad that when it passed through my head to just wave and tell him later because I had ice cream melting in my grocery bag and had nearly a mile to walk home, that I stayed true to my rule, made a big fuss over him and got my last “God bless you.”
I had literally just been talking about him less than 3 minutes before I ran into his festive memorial on Magazine. I felt like the wind had been knocked from me. I hate the idea of Magazine Street without him.
I sat at a sidewalk cafe and watched as neighbors brought feather boas, flowers and candles. Some added toys and a xylophone. Wooden letters spelled out “FAMILY.” Many people brought letters. One read, “If all of us bring just half the sunshine to the day Albert did, it is a life well lived.” Another ended with, “And thank you for getting me across the street when I was drunk.”
You will be truly missed, Albert.
For those looking to memorialize Albert Joseph Jackson, the Moses of Magazine Street: the funeral service will be at City of Love 818 6th Street at 9am Monday. At 11 am, Hot 8 Brass Band will lead the second line. Donations for the second line are being accepted between 10:30am and 6pm at Sabai, 3115 Magazine St.