TLT: The Furry Friends We Leave Behind

My cat was collateral damage when I moved to Japan. I often joked that I got her in “the divorce,” a self-deprecating reference to a failed engagement I felt sure would define my life. Billy, my calico American short hair, never wavered; when I stopped eating for two months and dropped thirty pounds in a bout of nearly terminal depression, she sat on my chest while I cried, purring and demanding to be pet. When her sister died suddenly at three-years-old, renewing my devotion to bottles and nights without REM, she demanded the same.The sociopathic beast was my stability for a very long, very dark time. I left her.

Now, I know: she’ll carry on just fine without me, and by all accounts that’s proven true. Selfishly, though, I’ve missed the steady demand for a scratch behind the ears when the world is blocking out the sun, when I’m made to stare my Sisyphean struggle against myself in the scorching, hating eyes.

The recent trek along the Tokai Nature Trail put me in touch with a number of temporary analogues for my quadrupedal therapist. I’ve often said feral cats are to Japan what squirrels are to Western New York, my snow battered home. Whether on a trail in the middle of the Japanese wilderness or snuggled up with kittens beneath a Buddhist temple, you can always find cats. And where there are cats, there is the tiniest smidgen of crepuscular solidarity and sanity.

Miss you, Bill.

This post is part of a weekly series.  Each entry focuses on a single photograph to tell a story. If you liked this week’s version, take a second to check out the rest of Through the Lens Thursday.

“When in Rome…” Needs to Die

Few things are as ubiquitous to the travel experience as the phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” It’s not bad advice. Experiencing how people on the other side of the world do things — whether that’s communal bathing or getting together to tell bad jokes to foreigners — is the whole point. Why bother going to China, if you’re just going to hang out at McDonald’s instead of expanding your waistline with the wholly sexual treasure that is the soup dumpling.

Do you believe in life after soup dumplings? Not sure I do. #dimsum #food -Dim Sum Go Go, New York

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If you’re about to hit the road, do so with an empty, open mind. Strip off the tighty whities and relax in the onsens of Yamanakako, with strangers’ dangly bits presented in panorama; stuff yourself with one more stick of the starchy debauchery that is La Banquise in Montréal; black out for a spell with some new friends in Osaka and almost miss your train. Take whatever you can from the local way of doing things. Please, though. Please don’t feel guilty when you need a taste of home. Continue reading →