The baby in the window

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The baby in the window

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to ask the question, the one everybody wants to ask: What’s the story behind that naked baby picture?
You know, the one in the display window of the photo studio across from Burger King. The photo has been there forever. It’s a picture of a wee little boy seated on a small wooden chair, smiling a peculiar, precocious smile. And down below, for all the world to see, are the family jewels.
Yes, dangling there conspicuously from his neck is a shiny gold chain with a gaudy cross, and on two of his fingers are gold rings.
The detectives on the Itaewon Wanderings investigative team wanted the lowdown on this kid, so we went to the studio. We noticed that right next to the studio and the naked baby photo is a Danish hot dog joint.
But we weren’t going there.
The staff at the studio was happy to talk about the picture, but loath to reveal the name or background of Itaewon’s favorite son. One man in the studio said that the picture was taken in 1974, at the boy’s 100-day party, and had been in the display window ever since. Imagine, a dictator was running Korea when that picture was taken. The kid was now fully grown, about 28 or 29 years old.
The photo guy said that he knew the kid, and that the boy’s family was still one of his best customers.
“Where does he live now, what does he do?” we asked the friendly staff member.
“No,” he said, “there’s no way I can tell you his name, or anything about him.”
We went outside to get a closer look at the picture. The boy’s face is strangely mature, as if he were born Buddha-like, with the mind of a grown man. We wondered whether this kid was cut out to be a gentleman.
The answer was no, at least not when the picture was taken.
We observed a young American couple strolling by and regarding the little wonder:
“I love this picture,” said the guy to his girlfriend.
“It’s definitely eye-catching,” she said.
“The part I like is that he’s such a happy baby,” he said.
Happy, perhaps, because he didn’t yet know that every day for the rest of his life hundreds of people would be seeing a naked picture of him.
Not everybody bears the display with such equanimity. A couple of American soldiers ― privates, probably ― walked by, and one said, “That’s disgusting.”
To be fair, though, he was probably referring to our interest in the picture ― we were camped in front of it and pointing out striking features ― rather than the picture itself.
It was disappointing to leave the studio without learning the identity of the boy. We suppose that he’ll have to remain a Korean John Tho ― er, John Doe. Or could we give him a more endearing name? Lil’ Kim?
No matter. The story behind this naked boy is a mystery, and will have to remain a mystery.
If the grown-up version of the boy lives around Itaewon, we’re sure that he wishes more had remained a mystery.


by Mike Ferrin
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