Friday, May 11, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation

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.

Neon 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.

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