Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Neon Rainbow

I remember that it began to snow in the morning before the first bell rang. Every student rushed to the long cold window to watch the big soggy flakes fall past and flutter down to the grass at street level. It was early in the season, early in December, and the snowflakes were too wet to stick. They kissed the grass briefly, then dissolved, as suddenly as dreams upon waking fly away. Nonetheless, we had our hopes. Each of us had his and her hopes and watched together for that one vigorous, high-spirited, cold-hearted flake to take hold, to linger, to join with another of like-minded ideal and thus become the first weave of a thick white bell muffling traffic stopping school terminating carpet of snow.

But there was more than this. 

We had all just come in from the cold, ears nipped by the chill and still tingling, noses pink and probably running, tennis shoes squeaking and stocking caps steaming, and there seemed something newly minted about us, fresh-baked, an unusual glimmer, a glaze.  Someone had turned on a transistor radio, allowed before the sounding of the bell, and the song playing was Neon Rainbow, by the Box Tops. 

All the people going places
Smiling with electric faces
What they find the glow erases
What they lose the glow replaces, 
And life is love ... 

And moreover, and most of all, and most importantly there was the red-haired girl, singing along to that song, my favorite song--and Ah! Hers too! Surely we were meant for each other, surely we were meant to marry someday (but how to speak? How to say such a thing?) What flurry of snow, I wondered then, could match the flurry of freckles on her face? What greater future than to count them all?

I fell in love, for the first time, that very day.

And later it rained. 

But I've never forgotten what might have been. Through all the years that have drifted down and melted away, there remains that uniquely minted moment, frozen in time, honest, true, irreproachable. 

As pure as driven snow. 

Monday, November 12, 2018


Very, very hot nowadays--30C at 11 o'clock this morning, 36 with humidity factored in. 36C is the same as 96.7F. The forecast calls for rain later on today. 

Under these circumstances, one barely wants to move. Nonetheless, I had to go down to the post office in Sanur to pay my electricity and water bills. Riding the motorbike in the sun, head tamped down under the helmet like the top of a hot bottle of fizzy pop, makes for a decidedly less than pleasant experience. By the time I got out of the thing, my hair was completely wet, sweat dripping across my shoulders and down my back  as if I had just stepped out of the shower.

In short, this is not my favorite season in Bali. 

And actually, it seems to bother me more than it used to. Perhaps this is some of the good old MS heat intolerance kicking in. Or perhaps it's just the extra stress on my system on top of already not feeling very well. 

So anyway, once I finish my coffee, I'm looking forward to going back home and standing in a cold shower. As cold as I can get it, anyway--for in this kind of heat, even the shower water comes out warm. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Jeeze, I went to bed at about 8:30 last night and actually slept through the whole night. Well, I did wake up once, thought it was time to get up, but found that it was only 1 am, so smoked a cigarette and straightaway went back to sleep. Don't know why I'm so tired lately, with these dark bags under my eyes, especially after sleeping for like 10 hours. 

I've found that frankincense oil actually seems to have a positive effect on the skin problem on my cheek (though whether that is also a cancer, I don't know). However, it doesn't seem to be having any effect on the skin cancer on my ear (aside from stinging really bad). Louis is pressing me to just go to the hospital and have the thing cut off, and I suppose that's what I'll do eventually, as this is likely a better plan, ultimately, than my present regimen of skin lotion and procrastination. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Return of the Running Man

Restless leg syndrome makes an unwelcome reappearance over the last few nights. Weird how that happens. I had no problem with this symptom for quite some time, and now it's back, who knows why? 

And it's not just restless legs. It's restless feet, calves, knees, thighs, hips, torso, and arms. Sort of flopping around like a fish out of water. Anyone who has had this knows how it feels and knows that it' hard to explain. It's sort of like your body is trying to crawl out of its own skin. 

So I keep getting up, pacing around the house, smoking a cigarette, having a cup of cocoa--whatever. One feels kind of calmed down when he goes to lie down again, but then the jumps gradually jump back to action. So you lie down and think Okay, I gotta go to sleep FAST! Which is not actually the best method of falling asleep. 

There used to be this old joke in the Three Stooges short films. Moe would slap Larry or Curly and say "Hey, wake up and go back to sleep!" Easier said than done, right? 

Given all this nightly wrestling with oneself, one feels decidedly unrested when morning arrives. I can't help but note the dark circles under my eyes. I look like a damn racoon. With glasses. 

So I'm tanking up on coffee, and telling them to add an extra shot. It's gonna be a long day, with no rest in sight. 

*Postscript: Widhi, the barista, just asked me if I am feeling all right. I guess I must look even worse than I thought!

Friday, November 9, 2018

To Live

Just finishing Yu Hua's novel, To Live. This was Hua's first novel (1983) and inaugurates his continuing exploration of life among the poor in China in the years before, during, and after the Maoist revolution (see also Brothers and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant).  Though the narratives are set in a period ripe with political ideologies, the subject is simply the people, their struggle to survive, to raise families, to feed their children, to endure through storms of violence and deprivation--to live. Inspiring both laughter and tears, this novel is a masterpiece of storytelling and provides an intimate acquaintance with a culture that is both very different and yet much the same as our own, for we are all equally subject to these essential markers of human existence: desire, love, hardship, family, joy, sorrow, death, hope.

There is also a film version of this novel, and it, too, is quite good (probably because Hua supervised the writing). A few things were changed or added in the film, but the changes work out rather nicely. (The film received the Cannes Best Actor Award and the BAFTA award for best foreign language film). The film was made in China, but is available with English subtitles.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Frankinsense, Hold The Myrrh

A package came to the house a couple days ago addressed to my ex-wife, sent from a company called "Essential Oils". I figured it was some kind of skin care oil, or maybe cooking oil, or maybe both. It turns out that it is Frankincense oil. Frankincense is known in the natural medicine world for its curative effects on skin cancer. It is also known Biblically as an oil used to anoint the dead for burial. 

Regardless of whether or not it is good for cancer or for a corpse, it sure does smell good! It smells like Christmas and has made for a merry addition to the Christmas decorations and music at my usual Starbucks.

On the other hand, it stings like hell! 'Just put a small drop on the cancerous spot,' she instructed. Yuow! One drop'll do it, that's for sure. I figure that something that stings this bad must be doing something. Whether that means it's curing the cancer or just burning a hole through my ear remains to be seen. 

In the end, it's the thought that counts.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Black Moon

It occurs to me this evening that I would do well to become more familiar with the Balinese calendar of "special" days so that I might be better prepared to anticipate oncoming traffic jams. I was thinking this, anyway, while I was stuck in one of these jams and had nothing better to think about. 

"Special" days and "ceremonies" go hand in hand, you see. Whatever is being observed on the particular day comes with its own particular ceremony, and the point of most of these seems to be to bring traffic to a standstill.

I encountered one such standstill this evening. The road I would usually take to Sanur was blocked off halfway there. Traffic was detoured to a series of narrow lanes, by which the bulging, steaming stream of cars and motorbikes finally oozed back onto the main highway to join the bulging, steaming stream already crawling down that highway. Inch by inch. 

And then it started raining. 

It was dark by the time I got to Sanur. 

Sepertinya hari ini hari khusus di Bali, I said when I entered the Starbucks. Seems like this is a special day in Bali.

"Yes, it is," the barista said. "Many ceremonies today." 

"What's it about?"

"Oh, it's … uh … how do you say … Black moon." 

"Black moon?" 

"Ya, you know, full moon and black moon."

"No moon." 

"Ya! No moon."

Huh. So they got the full moon ceremony and the no moon ceremony. I wonder if they have a half moon ceremony as well. I suppose I can find the answer to that question either by watching the sky or watching the traffic.