“Oh, I just don’t know where to begin.” Elvis Costello, “Accidents Will Happen”
You’re telling me, Elvis! Just ask my parents. First of all, allow me to apologize for the longer-than-usual hiatus between posts. I’ve never been to Haiti before, but I’ve been to hiati. Second, for those of you who haven’t read the previous post contributed by my friend at sweetenorbull, another blog provided by this service, please take a gander if you will. Yesterday, when I was young, I cluelessly entitled his post “Response to Stew,” as that’s what he’d entitled his email attachment, instead of giving it its more rightful title “In Defence of Fatherhood.”
I also forgot to include the intended pun afforded by the British spelling of “defense,” which would also fit part of his description of the benefits of that role.
Now to the title of this entry: writing has been called a labor of love–or else a love of labor. For some of us it may even be a matter of life and dea(r)th. One thing I lament about my marriage is my wife’s failure to appreciate the joys of reading anything but the Bible. Reading–especially fiction–is my second-favorite thing to do (okay, maybe third, after writing). It’s also an indispensable pastime for any writer, and one of the best ways to stay civilized in a world that appears to be becoming increasingly barbaric, at least if you believe what you read in the news.
I daresay most people marry for love, which is the best reason to do it. It’s also the strongest argument for having kids. As Marty King once said, quoting someone else, as was his (and my) wont, “If you have not love then you have nothing at all.” At least he had plenty of it to balance out all the hate he received from so many different directions, blessedly none of it coming from within.
“I love you” is a funny thing to say. It always sounds corny or cheesy to me when I say it, like a bag of something you might buy in a convenience store. I try not to say it too often. I’m not trying to sound macho; I just don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s sort of like too much information, if you know what I mean. Jonathan Franzen, author of overrated masterpieces, has a good piece on the inappropriateness of saying it in public over one’s cellphone. If you Giggle it, you can find it.
Anyway, I think it’s better to do it instead of saying it. Granted, easier said than done.
The other night as I was coming home from work, drenched in recycled sweat, I chanced upon a bird lying on the road. She (I’m assuming the creature was female, not so much out of ornithological verisimilitude as because I feel like it, okay?) was still full-bodied and hadn’t been flattened by a taxi cab, I’m happy to announce. Yet she did appear to be maimed enough not to fly away.
What kind of bird was it? Who do I look like–Alfred Hitchcock? Jonny Franzen? At first I thought it was a pigeon, but her (sorry about the “it”–goddamned impersonalizing anthropocentric bullshit rearing its nasty head again) plumage was more brownish than purple, so I thought she might be some kind of quail or pheasant. I would have asked, but she probably would have laughed in my face due to the language barrier.
At first I thought she’d lost an eye, but I think her skyward eye was actually closed. I wanted to help her but didn’t know what to do. If I left her there too long she’d probably be eaten by kitties. Stray cats are a common sight on the streets of Seoul, due to the resurgence of early ’80’s rockabilly. I called my wife but there was no answer. Even though it was a Friday night, I assumed she was in church, unbosoming herself to Christ, who gets plenty of action for someone his age.
Then I called a friend of ours who knew the location and I thought might: a) know who could help; and b) make the call for me since I can’t speak Korean to save a bird’s life. She was unable to come up with anything.
I walked down the hill to my apartment so I could put my bag down and use the head, then went back to the scene of the crime. Mulling it over for a moment, I went higher up the hill till I encountered two high school girls walking together. I flagged them down from across the street, describing the situation to them from a distance so they wouldn’t fly away themselves, presumably having been warned by their parents of the well-known fact that all male foreigners are dangerous sexual predators (and damned proud of it too! Just kidding).
One of the girls got on her cellphone and called someone. I reluctantly steered them towards the crime scene, apologizing for having interrupted their lives and making it clear that they didn’t have to come and take a look if they didn’t feel comfortable trusting a devious, sneaky, cunning, manipulative, reptilian stranger with a murder rap longer than an anaconda.
The girl making the call stayed on the phone until she’d gotten a good look at the bird. She said she’d called “119,” to whom she described the carnage (pun intended). Then, to my surprise, she said they told her they’d come and investigate.
I thanked the two girls and encouraged them to head home and get some dinner while I waited, skeptical that the rescue committee would in fact show up. After five minutes or so I called another friend of mine, a Westerner married to a Korean, whose spouse wasn’t home at the time. My friend did some online research for me but was unable to find any phone numbers, only email addresses.
A few minutes later, as I was walking up the hill to confer with yet another friend who works in a nearby cafe, my wife Jina appeared. I took her to look at the bird, who incidentally had moved several inches from her original spot and was resting behind a truck. My wife asked me if I’d touched her; I said no, even though I had stroked one of the critter’s feathers earlier just to ensure that she was still alive. It would have looked mighty funny if the guys from 119 had rolled up all business-like only to encounter a dead bird. The reason I wasn’t honest with Jina is because she’s so paranoid about germs.
One of the high school girls re-appeared and struck up a conversation with Jina. Then, to my delight, from up above and around the corner, emerged the big red form of the emergency fire truck (as opposed to the one used for non-emergencies, such as those involving pesky cases of the hiccups). Three guys got out, one of them carrying a plastic box with a lid with holes in the top, approached the winged victim, gingerly scooped her up, and whisked her away. I shook their hands and thanked them, then waved and smiled as they drove off.
It turns out they do this kind of thing all the time, which restores my faith in humanity. I called my foreign friend and described the outcome to him, and later sent a text message to the first friend I’d called.
As for the stray cats who are hard up for a meal, I’m sorry I couldn’t be of greater help to you, but that bird clearly still has some good years in her yet (pun unintended this time). Jina didn’t think the creature had been hit by a car anyway; we guessed she’d probably flown into someone’s windshield while asking the perennial question:
“Does my hair look all right?”