Wildlife

11 Apr

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Weird night. Steeping myself in romantic comedies, I watch Notting Hill in preparation for writing Mambo Sun.

At the end of the film I have to get out of my apartment – the unfocused romantic emotions I’m feeling are too intense to go gently into that dark night of a ten o’clock bedtime.

All through the last 20 minutes of Notting Hill, I could hear police helicopters circling overhead.

I wash my face and walk down to the street and instantly notice a police barricade at both ends of my block, with lights flashing and choppers beating in the night sky.

A cop hurries across the street and buttonholes me. “Where are you coming from? Did you see anything?”

Like many writers, I’m hopeless with numbers. I’m thinking, ‘Fuck – what if he asks me where I live – I don’t even know the number of my building.’

I tell him I haven’t seen a thing.

He asks me where I’m going.

I tell him I’m going out for a drink.

“Okay – but don’t come back for at least a half hour – we got the dogs out looking for a guy.”

The cop doesn’t make eye contact with me the whole time.

One block further I see a shape heading towards me under the streetlight.

It’s a raccoon, ambling down the sidewalk.  A perfectly groomed raccoon. It runs past me and crosses Western Ave. and keeps running.

I’m thinking, what a strange night.

I turn the corner and see a drunken Korean lurching towards me. He’s so drunk he’s walking bow-legged, like he’s riding a horse in a John Wayne movie. I haven’t seen anyone this drunk since I roamed the rough side of Mexico City, where I watched a poor campesino literally crawl on his belly down the sidewalk at high noon.

I look into the Korean’s eyes and see an opaque pain. Whatever sent this guy south happened a long time ago.

I walk the last remaining block and make it to the karaoke nightclub and order a beer.

Minutes pass. A Korean guy in a baseball cap pays the barmaid a dollar for me to sing.

I tell them “Always On My Mind.”

That song slays me – I get deep into it. As I sing people murmur and sigh and a Korean gangster gives me the thumbs up.

Later the bar maid, not Gina – she must have had a rare night off – comes down the bar and says, “You sing that song very beautifully. There’s a show on the Korean channel – that’s the theme song – very beautiful…”

(2006)

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