I wrote this piece last year, and am posting it here in honor of Steve Cross, an old friend from high school...
There is a bike path across the road from my apartment building. I
often ride it, smiling and nodding and anyanghasayo-ing the people who
pass me. There is always something to see – the people walking across
the reflexology stones, the children running for butterflies with nets
outstretched ala Inspector Gadget, the half a dozen dogs chasing each
other and nothing at all. It is where the people of my neighborhood
fill their time.
Frequently I pedaled past a small
offshoot, wondering where it led. Yesterday I found out. Along one
side was a creek that flowed into the larger Tancheon River, on the
other was a black rock wall with a trickling water fountain. Arcing
around it were a dozen spotlights. I would see it in the dark I decided
and tonight I did – it must be beautiful I thought. Tonight I trekked
down and around and found, sadly, no lights. But it had beckoned me,
and in pursuing, I found something else. Life is what happens when we
are making other plans. So true.
At the bend in the
path there is a bridge. On six lanes above, cars fly past on their way to
and from Seoul. Tonight it had become a noray-bridge – a singing
bridge. Lights and an amplifier had been set up. And there was a lone
man with karaoke machine and saxophone playing songs of longing into the
night. All around, small town snapshots were visible – young lovers
nuzzling by the river, teenagers trying too hard to be too cool, women
talking about the things women talk about, the men arguing about
whatever men argue about through a haze of blue smoke.
lights winked through the swaying trees as the people clapped their
hands on this Thanksgiving evening, Chuseok it is called. I was about
to leave when an old familiar song tapped me on the shoulder and took me
home, to small town USA. Stand By Your Man wafted through the
night air in Bundang, South Korea. I admit that I sang along. Perhaps
I was the only one there who knew the words, and I marveled even as my
mind was halfway around the world in my hometown, Greenfield Ohio, and
my friend Steve and his friend Georgette. Why you might ask? She’s not
just any Georgette. She’s the daughter of Tammy Wynnette, and that was
her mother’s signature song.
Country music has always
been a part of my life, but I never thought to find it under a bridge
in South Korea, a lone man and a saxophone transporting me through the
air to the place I grew up in. Thank you, Tammy Wynnette. Thank you
for taking me home from so far away.