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Although I was born and grew up in Korea, I read books mostly written by English and American authors as a child. I especially loved Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Back then, my only reason for reading was for the joy of reading itself.
After my family immigrated to US, learning to read in my second language has become the biggest challenge I had to overcome. Throughout my colleges years, I spent a lot of time just reading textbooks for all the math and computer science classes I had to take. Then, reading just became a punishing exercise where my only objective was to understand and acquire the necessary knowledge to get through the course work.
In my late 20s, I began to realize that throughout my young adulthood all I read was technical books that did not give me any joy (although without them, I probably wouldn’t have a career). At the same time, I thought my reading level in English was just good enough for me to read books written by “serious” writers.
For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me that I could go back to authors I used to love in my childhood. Somehow, I thought that they had to be “serious” writers. Of all the writers that I started to read, Jorge Luis Borges and James Joyce spoke to me more than anyone else. Borges especially became a literature teacher I never had. While reading some of the forewords in his book, I was delighted to learn that one of his favorite writers was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson.
Inspired by that fact, I recently reread Treasure Island in its original English. There was so much joy in just getting lost in the book and I came upon a scene that was a defining moment in the story (at least to me). It is a moment when Jim Hawkins realizes who he is or who he should be.
The word holus bolus is used ever more appropriately. How beautiful it is to get a reading advice on English literature from a blind Argentine writer whose time was well before mine! This experience made my recent trip to Buenos Aires all the more special.
I hope anyone who reads this post becomes Borges’ disciple like me. I think this beautiful prose “A Prayer” can easily turn anyone into one:
Pigeons, perched atop a roof, staring down at the streets below as if they’d dare never venture below their elevated homes. And in fact they never do. At least the ones that neighbor me.
Three times a day their shadows fall through my window as they swoop in a circle around their building, around the sky. As if they were swimming in a school, they’d stay in close formation while covering every inch with their pattern. A mysterious man would wave a long stick and shout to them as they would fly. They’d come home when he’d stop waving (I later found out this was for exercise). It was best at dusk, for the pigeons would be pink from the setting sun and they’d paint the walls new colors with their wings.
A swarm. A cluster. A gathering of flight. All a mystery to me, until the day I went onto my own roof, and waved over to the man waving the flag.
After our shouted salutations, he agreed to let me find my way up the stairs to meet my winged neighbors. I called up from the street and he threw down a key for me. Stairs, more stairs and a ladder.
He met me with his round smile and informed me that he loved birds, he really did, he just loved them. I found my way to the coop, only to be met with the most beautiful hum. Pigeons wandered the roof, pecked at their food, fluttered about, all while making their individual coo. It was as if they sang in a choir, never leaving a silent moment.
Although not fond of the camera, they were fond of the sky and would soar at any gust of wind or sudden movement. A community of softly singing birds, all with the gift of adorning my apartment with their fluttering shadows and causing the occasional person to glance up when they were in the streets at the right moment.
A Film About: Being in two places at one time.
One: Where you are.
Other: Where you want to be.
The bus driver keeps telling us, “Move back to the rear.”
But no one is listening, people plugged in
with their white earphones, their bluetooth headsets
singing and talking to no one, but loudly.
The driver’s not going to move unless we retreat further into the bus.
I can’t go anywhere, pressed against a heavyset man wearing a backpack.
I’d rather walk, but it’s 30 degrees out and windy. No one wants to move,
did I already say? We finally go and at Calamus Street, I almost crack up,
literally, like Van Gogh, my head almost splits in two. Forty people
cramming to get on and we’re already 10 over quota. Everyone’s a critic.
I’m a critic at 7am when I just want to get on the subway, get a seat,
go to work to make my money and pay my bill. ‘It boils down to bills,’
my dad used to say. Boiling bills, we work to pay and we pay
to work, but not really in that order always, though it seems so.
Oh the subway, we finally make it and people are pushing and shoving
and It’s no goddamn race someone yells. People come to blows at 7am,
did you know? Have you ever witnessed two elderly women having a slapping
fight? A homophobic man reapetedly yelling FAGGOT FAGGOT at the top of his lungs
because another man bumped him? It’s not too pleasant
traveling among strangers, among that energy. No wonder we plug in,
pretend we’re alone, horse blinders protecting us from the universe.
This a portrait of my three friends Lou, Blake and Xavier, who also happen to be roommates.
However, instead of focusing on each individual’s portrait, in THREE BROTHERS I explore to what extent my perception of each individual is an entity that would be incomplete without reference to the others.
All three tell of adventures either true or fictitious: Holus Bolus.