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L.A.'s Koreatown -- it’s a jungle out there

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Dawn broke over Koreatown to the sounds of rain on the windowpanes and a rooster crowing. The rain came as a surprise, not the rooster, which had arrived in the neighborhood and quickly became the familiar background music to morning coffee.

Actually, our neighborhood is called Country Club Park, but I refuse to call it that because there’s no country club and no park. It’s Koreatown, or maybe Koreatown adjacent, definitely in the city. So at first, I thought I was imagining the rooster, perhaps confusing its raspy chortle with the sound of bad brakes or a squeaky gate.

We have a lot of bird life in our bit of urban jungle, and a lot of noise. Hummingbirds buzz the azaleas and sage. Besides the pigeons and mockingbirds nesting in the eaves of our house each year, and the crows in our frontyard, a flock of parrots lives in the palm trees on our block and the block behind. What a racket they all make.

The birds are there despite the cats. We don’t own a cat or feed a cat, but somehow there’s always a cat asleep on the front porch by day, or having loud sex beneath our windows at night. The cats don’t scare the birds away, and the dogs in the neighborhood don’t scare the cats away, although they bark at the moon and at moonlighters coming home in the wee hours. I wonder why dog owners are never disturbed by their own dog’s incessant barking. Sometimes I wonder in little notes that I leave for the neighbors.

When the rooster moved into one of the houses behind ours, it was just one more voice in this robust animal chorus. I asked my next-door neighbor if he had heard the rooster, nervous for a moment that he might say, “What rooster?” He didn’t. He and his wife have a new baby, so he’s also often up early and had heard the bird.

“Did you see the turkey?” he asked.

I hadn’t. He had seen a turkey crossing the street on Gramercy Place, or was it Wilton Place? He wasn’t sure which street in his sleep-deprived state, but he was sure it was a turkey, someone’s Thanksgiving dinner gone AWOL. I’ve been listening for a gobble but haven’t heard one yet. My daughter claimed a sighting a few weeks ago, however, so it seems to be surviving.

I don’t know what sound an opossum makes, though I have seen a couple of those in the neighborhood, one in my backyard and one crossing the street in the light of day. I had thought they were nocturnal, but apparently not in Koreatown. Perhaps they can’t sleep for all of the noise. In any case, they’d be wise to stay in the dark because never has a homelier animal shown its face around these parts, and to be that ugly in range of Hollywood surely is a punishable crime. Even the tree rats have a leg up on these critters.

About a year ago I saw a guy walking a pig on my block and we exchanged smiles as though it were perfectly normal to walk a pig down the street in urban Los Angeles. I never saw hide nor hair of them again.

We don’t have any pets at home. I had a string of parrots long ago that died or ran away (don’t ask). We had turtles in the breakfast room for a while, but no one wanted to clean the tank, which started to stink, and soon we had these funny flies with wings like a 747. We got rid of the turtles.

My daughter wants a poodle, but my husband says he’d end up taking care of it and he’s not a poodle kind of guy. Truth is, I don’t think we’d attempt a dog or cat of our own unless we knew for certain that it could survive on hummus and pasta, as we pretty much do.

Instead, we take pleasure in the wildlife of Koreatown.

marjorie.miller@latimes.com


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