Our first apartment in Kaohsiung, into which we moved early in April of 1982, was within half a kilometer of the Kaohsiung waterfront. When the wind blew from that direction we would hear the blasts of horns from ships in the harbor. The waterfront in those days was surrounded by walls and guard towers. One rarely saw ships from where we lived. As Taiwan became a democratic society and less afraid of outside attacks, walls came down. Now, in 2020, you can walk right up to the ships unless they are involved in international customs and immigration status issues.
Living in the middle of America since retiring, we don’t get to see many ships. Within a mile of our house there’s a park on a lake that directly connects to “The Big Lake” (Lake Michigan) and there are various industries here that rely on lake shipping; an occasional gravel carrying freighter or some barges. On a recent windless day we walked down to the shore for some exercise. The water’s surface was glassily smooth (it’s too early in the season for motor boats and jet skis). The only thing moving was a truckable barge pushing boat. There was no barge attached, just the pusher itself chugging in from the big lake for a reason that was absolutely irrelevant to this story. On that still lake the boat left a gentle but perceptible wake which set me to thinking. “The Wake of the Tugboat”, what story would go with that title? What characters would be in it? Where would it be set, in what time period? Would it be a mystery, a romance, an action novel, a psychological drama?
When I run out of Taiwan-connected things about which to write, I’ll think about some of these possibilities. I bet that the entire world of literature hopes, along with me that such a day never comes.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.