Archive for the '1' Category

Holier Than Thou?

First of all, it’s nice to be traveling with friends (and friends of friends), but starting every morning at the Starbucks right near our hotel is a bit much guys! Not to mention it’s right beside a Krispy Kreme, where the line runs way out the door every night. For fairness and full disclosure, I did indulge once, just to support a North Carolina original.

Fortunately my friend Larry (who planned out his Japan trip to every, last, excruciating detail) had highlighted many of the same things I wanted to see. So I have done my best to hang with them, until, invariably, I stop to do some photography and they move on. That’s ok, really, I am fine on my own. So anyway, we have been to lots of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, which is one of the things I want to see.

On the surface, these various religions and faiths look very different, but at the core they are strikingly similar. Sure, when the Japanese Buddhists put there hands together to pray, that make a loud slap, as if to wake the lazing Buddha before them, but still the hands are reverently together. Same same – as they say in broken English all around the world.

Yesterday, we took a trip south out of the city to the seaside town of Kamakura. Which is famous for this giant, if not a bit green, Buddha:


These temples are very interesting, often with long pathways leading to them, sometimes very dramatically. Thare are usually large gates that overhang the pathway marking the entrance to the temple grounds. Incense are a big part of the ritual of these temples, very much like with Catholic or Orthodox Christianity, and these were burning in a spherical container in front of the big B himself.

At another temple, we were fortunate to encounter a wedding being performed. Who would have thought I would come all this way to shoot a wedding! It seemed like I was working harder than the official photographer there. Meanwhile, the guys were impatiently waiting for me back at the entrance, but I wasn’t going to miss this.

In a place like this!

Sorry guys.



Blade Runner Meets the Beaver

Tokyo, what can I say? This place is big and bizarre. Brash and yet oddly quiet. If you have seen the movie Blade Runner, you have a taste. If not, rent it, it’s great. There are countless parts of the city with buildings covered with 5-10 story video screens, huge advertisements, lights, neons, and signs of all shapes, sizes and colors. Yet walking the streets seem relatively quiet. People don’t talk loud. Rides on the extensive subway are odd for their quiet. No one uses a cell phone while on the trains. Not to say no one uses cell phones here, they are glued to them. But they do email and all kinds of other things, often transfixed for long periods of time.


There is a retro feeling about the place because everyone is so well behaved, polite and formal. And they dress so well, the men are always wearing suits by day. And then there are the lights. Hugh TV screens on every corner, screaming lights that more than make up for the relative silence of the city. I am not sure I have even heard a horn used yet. But the lights can’t be missed.


Food has been fun. Many restaurants have fake versions of the dishes they serve. The first night I had just taken a picture of the display in the window when we decided to go in and eat.  And since the menu was not in English I could not tell them what I wanted. So I brought the picture up on my camera screen and zoomed in to my dish, and bingo, instant communication. Technology has been a problem, but it can also help!

Enjoy your dinner. I enjoyed mine (bottom right).


Technology problems

All is well here. I have been having a number of technology problems that have kept me from getting pictures on the blog. But rest assured I am taking many pictures, and am continuing to try to get this working.

Tokyo impressions coming soon.

On a jet plane, almost…

Ok, the last thing I have to do before I go to bed is write this blog entry. Tomorrow will be fun, I will have to get up at 6:00, and basically fly for 15 hours, arriving in Tokyo (via NYC) the next day at 2:30 in the afternoon. Never mind that it will be something like 2:30 AM here in Durham, in Tokyo my day will just be getting started!

But that’s the fun, negotiating a foreign place. I like the challenge. Of course the greater challenge may be nogiating traveling in Japan with my friends Larry and Chris. They don’t travel with a backpack like I do. That’s right, everything I need will be on my back. They stay in nice places, and they have everything all planned out. I stay in grungy places and eat street food. But it will be good to see familiar faces, and when I get sick of those familiar faces I can wander off and do my photography thing. It will all work out.

I guess you can call me a little scrappy.

Kind of like this place:

Ok, bear with me while I take one last look back at Buffalo. Tomorrow I head firmly toward the future. And what better place to go back to the future than Japan.

My dad wanted his funeral service in this scrappy gym, that was part of the inner city ministry he built, instead of in some gleaming suburban church.

I knew on that day, April 5th, I had something to say, so I said this:

Before I honor my father who is laid before us, I want to take this opportunity to honor one of the living.

Most of you believe in angels, and as many of you know, I have my doubts. But there very well may be an angel among us.

She came into my father’s life shortly after the death of my mother,
And as always, I had my doubts.

But somehow, for some elusive reason, she joined herself in marriage to this sincere, but very demanding, dare I say, somewhat difficult, man of god. Not only that, she took him in his greatest season of need, knowing full well it would be a difficult journey. A journey that would end – like this. She literally put her life down to facilitate his. And in ever growing intensity over the years, his needs increased. And she was always there to meet them.

Day and night, in ways few can imagine.

She served him tirelessly, faithfully, and continuously, And always, always, with a smile. And did I mention he could be a little, uh, demanding.

I sincerely believe he would not have made it nearly this far without her by his side, every step of the way.

And for this I simply say, thank you angel Linda

(she received a standing ovation)

But I have no doubt, her rewards in this have equaled if not exceeded her outlay of service to my father, because she yoked herself to a man with the highest degree of integrity I’ve seen this side of heaven.

Yea, my father was always the boss man, always a force to be reckoned with, but he led with humility and honesty, never putting himself at center stage, never bolstering his image with flashy clothes or things, never boasting about his achievements, never preaching as a performance but simply speaking from the heart, never making his leadership about him, but rather about those he could serve.

And though his legs grew weary in his last years, he most certainly walked the walk!

What could be a better testament to his priorities than this scrappy gym we find ourselves in this morning. Take a look around you. Look into the heart of this man. For my father is not in that casket, he is in the very essence of this large but humble room. And it’s no surprise, this is exactly where he wanted to be honored. To my dad, image meant nothing, it was always the underlying truth that mattered. And in this I am standing firm with him. He is not wearing a tie, and neither am I.

Though I never believed in the god he so faithfully served, though we could never find that elusive middle ground in the political landscape, though I could never eat quite as much as he – he accepted me, he respected me, he understood me, and he loved me as much as I did him.

My dad always told me, “The door was always open”. Any time I wanted, there was always a place for me in his home. Of course, now that I think of it, that pretty much went for anyone. – that’s how big his heart was.

And finally let me tell you, he left me nothing. No money, no cars, no real estate, no stocks, bonds or investments. It’s all here in this scrappy building and the people he has served.

And I’m happy as a clam.

Because really, he left me everything. He left me exactly what I need to complete my journey. By his example he left me the greatest inheritance of all – integrity, honesty, sincerity, and maybe a bit too much overconfidence.

And I love you for it.

Ok, now lets go to Japan, where I promise the pictures will be prettier!