6 minute read
Breakfast And Cynicism
September 29, 2017
This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.
Denny’s in Asakusa is not like any Denny’s in the US, and I don’t mean just the cigarette puffing in the Japanese restaurant. Americans after World War II brought eggs and ham along with Denny’s to the Japanese. So there are some odd similarities to our version, but here there’s also miso and rice, fluffy pancakes, and fish on the breakfast menu; ironically in Japan it’s easier than in the States for me to find something digestible here. Go figure.
Our visit yesterday to the contemporary arts museum was thought provoking, but today’s outing to the Buddha at Kōtoku-in was more inspiring for us. So was the old Japanese man I found questioning Myesha. He came to us with outward curiosity to introduce himself and teach us about the Daibutsu, but his polite conversation also showed us not all Japanese are so reserved. I don’t know why we found his curiosity surprising. Before parting he started another conversation we could barely interpret and after he started pointing I felt guilty about thinking he was leading us around the rear of the Buddha to sell us something. With extremely broken English he was only showing us the access way to get inside.
He was the only stranger in Japan who spoke to us. I feel bad now that we didn’t even ask his name, but I feel worse that I probably acted like one of those thoughtless Americans I complain about. We should have stopped him and thanked him more, but we couldn’t find him after he walked away.
We have been traveling with another couple – a pair of photographers, of course – who take many photos the way I used to. I look forward to all the photos they work so hard to shoot because nowadays I don’t make many images of the places we visit. Shooting so much is a lot of work, and we’d rather keep the moments between us, anyway. Instead, I’m more restrained, shooting particular straight photos or abstractions that prompt memories in an attempt to encapsulate the essence of a place. The significance of my images may not be apparent to everyone, but I don’t really care.
Kamakura Daibutsu, Japan
To the older gentleman who took this picture the view screen on the camera itself was probably just as blurry as this image. We certainly couldn’t speak enough Japanese to explain how to focus. We kept it as a reminder of our great conversation; he gave us one of our best memories in Japan, and he gave me a reason to reconsider being so cynical. More often I do not trust strangers when they approach us, but I developed that attitude when I felt like I had something to lose. That’s not really the case any more since I care far less about things. Old habits die hard, but I’m trying to change.
How fitting it was that viewing the Buddha’s exterior shell while standing among the tourists was less meaningful than the details we found inside.
〒110-0013 Tōkyō-To, Taitō-Ku, Iriya, 1 Chome−4
At one time I was obsessed with street photography because it seemed so accessible, but as I explored the genre I learned quickly that good photography is difficult no matter what. So I stopped altogether trying to fit the mold. We live in the woods so I don’t shoot many streets, but when I do I shoot what I want in a way that pleases me. I’ve got nothing to prove.
Re-examine all that you have been told... Dismiss that which insults your soul.
Bayou Lafourche passes through my hometown. I grew up forty miles from its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico in a wetlands-oriented culture that lived off of the shallow swamps and marshes in south Louisiana, so I never thought about life without fish and seafood and the tools to obtain them. It wasn’t until after moving to Illinois that I really appreciated the work involved with commercial fishing and all the stinking, humid days those people spend on the boats. Now when I travel it’s always easier for me to feel comfortable with small coastal cities because I can relate to them. They remind me of Thibodaux.
I’m fascinated with the idea of Shintoism and its purpose in Japanese culture as a way to maintain a connection with tradition. Unfortunately I’ll probably only know what wikipedia tells me, but hopefully I can learn enough to incorporate it into my work.
Kōtoku-In, Kamakura, Japan
When I was younger I could have been a better person. I’m not sure what distractions kept me from self-improvement in the past, but the memory of who I was humbles me now because I’m embarrassed by who I used to be. At least I’m learning from it.
Maybe some of it was religion. Half my family is Episcopalian and the other is Catholic. Both sides abide by the same dogma that taught me to live by a heavenly checklist to escape the wrath of hell when I die, but the church itself taught me to be weary of appearances.
It took forty years of my own experience for me to be comfortable changing course without giving a damn what anyone else thinks. I don’t blame the church or religion, but they didn’t help. My problem was feeling boxed in by the people I respected, people who bought into the dogma – I didn’t want to disappoint them. But when I realized men decided the sins that Jesus would absolve and wash away, everything changed for me.
Yokohama-Shi, Totsuka-Ku, Shinanochō
A good friend Mr. Ayer once told me “you can never depend on anyone.” At the time I politely agreed with him because I was too stupid to engage him on the topic, but since then I realize he was a wise man and totally right. That’s why I was skeptical about the trip with Carry and Krista, and also why I was so thankful they turned out to be such great travel companions. Nowadays I happily admit to being wrong; thank you Davenports.
After my first marriage I was prepared to die alone because I was convinced my path was unique. She is very humble about her role in my life, so I should probably be more sensitive to her pleas to stop taking pictures of her.
Maybe I’ll stop. I probably won’t stop.