TIAA #6: “Get Here”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

Caboose alongside Route 99, Seattle / July 4, 2017
“Get Here” / Caboose alongside Route 99 / Seattle, Washington, USA / July 4, 2017

What can I say about the photograph above?

There are a number of things, but I don’t feel like delving too deeply because it’s been an overwhelming week in terms of current affairs. For a while, the controversy of the individuals using their trucks to protest against vaccine mandates in Ottawa and other parts of Canada was trending widely — a cantankerous and disruptive occurrence the world would (typically) expect out of America but not necessarily its neighbor to the north.

This past week also marked a decade since we lost Whitney Houston (a.k.a. “The Voice”). After Janet, she remains my all-time favorite singer and entertainer.

Domestically, the issues inflicting the US remain. It would be odd (and a joy) if that wasn’t the case. I won’t even touch on any of them except the notable animosity and violence against Asian Americans — particularly in New York City — which appear to occur increasingly by nonwhite people. The existence of racism and hatred between nonwhite demographics often seems to be overlooked by the media. I don’t quite understand why its significance is continually downplayed considering how much evidence is present.

Somewhere among all this, Valentine’s Day came and went. It fell on a Monday this year and felt like a fleeting blip in my consciousness.

Nevertheless, the most problematic and foreboding issue this week, for me, could probably be summarized in the first three sentences I received in a text from my father on Monday morning. He wrote:

“Good morning son. Have a pleasant week. Hopefully the Russians will behave and not start a third world war…”

My psyche froze for a moment because between the two of us, I am typically the one who expresses these kind of concerns regarding foreign policy and international affairs. It’s quite rare when he’s the one who raises the topic. We proceeded to discuss the ongoing “Will they or won’t they” matter of Russia invading Ukraine, the consequences of which would benefit virtually no one in the world besides Vladimir Putin himself. The topic disgusts me because it’s a conflict that’s so unnecessary and avoidable. Also, there are so many more critical matters for the entire planet to resolve. What is the logic in initiating a major conflict that could destabilize the entire international community?

As the colloquialism goes, “FFS.”

Nevertheless, the situation still stokes my worst fears since childhood, which I actually wrote about in this blog article in 2020. Coincidentally, I see that I wrote this blurb almost exactly two years ago this week. Timing can be rather bizarre at times, especially when occurrences are unintentional.

Well, what does ANY of this have to do with this week’s photo challenge?

There is a relationship, believe it or not. The image is an excerpt from my “Psycheography” photo project that began almost six years ago. It’s a separate, ongoing project that has an inestimable end date. I chose this image because what I wrote as a description for it back then is central to the theme I would like to address here and now.

The photo features myself encountering an abandoned, disconnected caboose that has often appeared on a railroad alongside a highway a few miles south of downtown Seattle.

Since childhood, I have always loved trains. One of my favorite stories that I would re-read over and over again was “The Little Engine That Could.” According to my father, upon carefully watching a train at a railroad crossing as a child, I would complain if a train had no caboose, claiming that it was an “incomplete train.”

The image, retrospectively, illustrates my affinity for trains, especially those with a caboose. It also features my nomadic pursuits of exploration, particularly as a “lone wolf” — a label a college friend once stamped on me, which I initially despised 20 years ago, but believe it’s à propos today — as the whirls and swishes of traffic continue alongside me simultaneously.

Captured on the 4th of July back in 2017, there were several news stories and events occurring back then as well. Stories of racism, malice, mass shootings, injustice, discrimination — unfortunate mainstays. However, the issue of a major military conflict wasn’t coming from Russia, but from its comparatively diminutive neighbor, North Korea.

Talk about madness in ongoing suspense — a lot of which was also perpetrated by the United States’ federal government at the time.

The original comment for the photograph in July 2017 was the following, in which I’m quoting myself:

“I’m so tired of the intense hatred human beings display to each other for reasons that I believe could be resolved with patience, empathy, and respectful attention. Resolving conflict with missiles, bombs, and weapons of mass destruction is anathema to me, and makes me ashamed to be a human being. I’m so tired of it, yet I strive to think of resolutions, knowing people will rarely listen to reason. I hope I am wrong, but I am the most doubtful person I know.”

I titled the photograph “Get Here” as the subject matter, the news, my wanderlust, and my fears collectively made me think of the beautifully delivered ballad covered by Oleta Adams, which was an international hit coinciding with the Gulf War of early 1991. The words of the chorus are charming and emotional:

“You can reach me by railway,
You can reach me by trailway.
You can reach me on an airplane,
You can reach me with your mind.

You can reach me by caravan,
Cross the desert like an Arab man.
I don’t care how you get here,
Just get here if you can…”

Seven articles down for the TIAA challenge. 45 remain!

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