Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Gift

My wife is very difficult to buy for. Most women are, I think, and the meaningful point becomes whether they will have the grace to be silently disappointed or whether they will explode. This makes gift giving occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas, veritable minefields, something that men approach with a fair amount of dread.

I remember giving my second wife a red blouse one Christmas. Sounds pretty harmless on its own, no? No. Not harmless at all. I can still remember the anger on her face as she fished into the gayly decorated wrapping and pulled out this item of offense as it were a rotten banana peel.

"I can't WEAR this! she shouted. "You want me to look like a Texas whore?!"

Truly, that was not my intention. Not at all. Nonetheless, I had aroused a holiday fury such as I never seen. I have always wondered since whether Texas whores are in the general habit of wearing red blouses of a similar make. I don't know, because I've never been to Texas. My fault, I fear.

I was to experience similarly disastrous gift givings in the future, so it was with trepidation that I faced my wife's recent birthday. What to do? She is very difficult to buy for. If I buy her something, she doesn't like it. That's a mild description. And if I don't buy her something, she doesn't like that either.

So I came up with the idea of taking her to lunch or dinner at the restaurant of her choice. I was equipped with a suggestion for a place, but perfectly ready to discard this notion, as she doesn't like choices being made for her either, especially when it comes to food. Well, especially when it comes to anything.

Sounds pretty safe, no?


She did not like this idea. We could go out and eat any day, she said. Today is my BIRTHDAY.

Oh dear.

To be fair, i should mention that she wasn't feeling well. Masuk angin, you know. How could I have anticipated such conditions.

So passed the birthday. No date, no gift, no speaky.

The next day, I was driving back to Renon from Sanur, when suddenly a little shop with a sign reading HELM shouted, "STOP, YOU BONEHEAD, I HAVE WHAT YOU NEED!"

Really? Hmm. Come to think of it, the red helmet she had previously used had first been chewed by one of our occasional dogs, and then more recently disappeared altogether when she loaned it to a friend. I do have an extra, but it stinks.

Ah ha! A helmet. A pink helmet! Could it be? Admittedly, she has no motorbike, she does not know how to drive a motorbike, but still ....

So I enter the shop. Pink, I say. The woman shows me a brown one. She shows me a purple and a green.

No, must be pink. Pink, I say.

Her husband comes to the rescue. He pulls a pink helmet from the bottom of a glass showcase. Totally pink! That's it!

Tiga ratus ribu.

But it has no face mask.

"Face mask separate," the woman says. "Empat puluh ribu."

"Oh gitu. Ok. Tiga ratus empat puluh ribu."

"No," the husband says. "For wife, must be special. (Did his wife roll her eyes, or was that just my imagination?).

He brings out a bubble glass facemask.

"Seratus ribu."

"Tapi ibu baru bilang empat puluh."

"Noooooo. Ini dari Malaysia" he explains, tapping the wonderful glass. "MALAYSIA."

Malaysia is apparently nearly as exotic as Mars, when it comes to helmets and facemasks.

Okay, okay. Empat ratus ribu. Done.

Now here's the good news. When my wife sees the helmet, she goes giddy. She giggles, she laughs, she kisses me, she hugs the helmet.

Thus I squeak through another holiday, and begin to ponder, already, Christmas with a certain measure a gloom. Now she has the helmet, and only one head. What else is there?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Adam's Rib

So, I find that the trouble with Tukang Kopi is that they don't open until 1, and I'm sure that even that is jam karet. Downright un-American. In America coffee is a pagi thang, ya know.  A pagi-pagi thang.

As for Limamike, I find that they don't generally open before 3 pm. Even then, it's hit or miss.

So I drive up to Jala Food Court instead, which opens, more or less, at 11. Great. I get my coffee and find that their wifi is rusak.

Should have just gone to Starbucks and done the pelit thing kan.

Anyway, that's just all introductory. I meant to write about an article I recently read wherein a Rabbi explained that the word "rib" in the creation story (God took a rib from Adam's side and formed woman from it) is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for the 'baculum', or the penis bone.

Now this is interesting, because a man has no penis bone, whereas most other mammals, including apes, do. Having a 'boner' is merely a descriptive term, for there is no bone involved in a man's erection, whereas the bone possessed by other mammals essentially makes erection a permanent condition. It is the woman herself who is involved in the human male's erection.

Some men will say, I suppose, 'Wouldn't women love that permanent erection', while most women might be more inclined to consider the idea nightmarish.

So where did that penis bone go in the human creature? It went to the woman. It is the woman. It is for and of and part of the woman and the woman is for and of and part of the man.

"Now she is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone," Adam said - and could not have said more rightly.

Again, the apostle Paul would later say, 'But the man is not without the woman and neither the woman without the man."

God loves a paradox. Separate, but two; two, but one; and with God, three expressed as one.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them."

Who can search the depths of God's wisdom, who can comprehend His ways?

Friday, August 21, 2015

MS + Marriage

People with MS ought to be alone. If not already alone, they ought to arrange to be alone. And those stuck with them ought to be enablers of the same in their own best interest. For it seems that no one apart from he or she who has the disease can appreciate the hilarity of the thing. Rather, the associated foibles and farces seem to strike others as merely irritating and inappropriate. Well, of course they are both of these things, but only the person who has the disorder which enables, nay compels him to commit these spastic aberrations can manage to respond with laughter - which is itself something akin to the amazed sort of delight a small child may automatically experience upon first seeing soap bubbles float through the air or Jack pop out of the Jack-in-the-box.  What the ... OMG ... Did that really just happen?

Yesterday, my wife handed me her cell phone and positioned the view just so for a picture I was to take of her standing on a bridge. A picture perfect picture, you know, with the sky and the sea and the sand and the bridge and her standing on the bridge in elegant pose, hair gently lifting in the breeze.

And yet the result was a picture of my thumb. In fact, three pictures of my thumb. Had my thumb been the intended subject of this composition, it would have been perfect. But, of course, that wasn't the case.

My immediate response, in having the error pointed out, was a mild sort of amazement. How could it be? My thumb was not in the picture when I took it, and yet there it was, most definitely in the picture, sticking out like a sore thumb, so to speak.

On the other hand, my wife's response was was neither mild nor amazed. She was furious. It was the end of possibly the worst family outing of my life.

You see, she did not appreciate the hilarity of these three thumbs. People who don't have MS just don't get it. Why in the hell are you laughing, you complete, you utterly useless moron!

But don't you see, I took a picture of my thumb three times!


The other day, she asked me to get her her a glass of water and a cold pill. I dutifully fetched the water, the cold pill, and then swallowed it down myself on the way back to the bedroom.

Holy shit, what did I just do. And why?

Funny, you see?

I remember, back in Portland, taking my son to the Fred Meyer store in the morning instead of to school. On several occasions.

What are we doing here, Dad?

I have no idea.

Dysfunction is the most reliable, the most inventive sort of comedy.

In fact, Mark Twain once noted that the real trick to comedy is not just to seem a fool, but to convince others that you truly are a fool.

And that is the one thing about MS that is easy; although, as I have already mentioned, the only appreciative member of the audience is likely to be oneself alone.

"Those who marry someone will have many troubles in this life. I want to save you from this."

So said the apostle Paul. It's Biblical. And I think he was onto something there. A little simple addition - MS + marriage - may well become a tangle that defies solution.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Old Times

These days of August, from the 1st to the end of the month, used to be the best for fishing and camping in Oregon's high cascades. Every year, I would go to Olallie Lake, or one of the lakes nearby - every year, from 1954 to 2009. Alternatively, you could go from the north side, from the low-lying Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and drive up into the foothills, where you would end up some six miles by foot from Olallie Lake. There was no road between the two areas, but there was a trail you could follow from Trout Lake to Island Lake to Dark Lake to Long Lake and thus to the far end of Ollalie Lake. There are hundreds of lakes in the area, and, when I was very young, they were all good for fishing. There were lakes you could go to by trail, and there were lakes that few people knew about, tucked into the wilderness almost untouched by men. You had to know where they are, for they are small lakes and you could easily walk right past them, and likely end up hopelessly lost in the process. My dad showed me how to find them, how to look for the right signs, how to follow the right creek beds. In the early years, not many people went to the Olallie area, because the road was very bad and the area was primitive, undeveloped. Over the years, roads were improved, campgrounds were built, word got out, and people poured in. I remember a time - I was maybe 10 - when my brother and I and our friends went about taking down the flags the surveyors had put up - trying to protect and preserve our little Eden. We got caught, however, and bitched out good style by a big guy in a hard hat and a dribble of strawberry jelly on his chin. When more people came to Olallie, we moved up the road to Monon Lake, where there were no permanent campsites, you had to make your own, no outhouses, no faucets, no boat docks - just lake. Our spot was in a meadow, some distance from the dirt road, right on the lake shore. The water was cold, as are all lakes at 5000 feet above sea level, but great for swimming, and in the evening, you could hike to where the two opposite shores reached toward one another with outstretched, stony hands, and cast your line into the deep green divide for rainbow and brook and Kokanee trout. At nighttime, the deer would come to graze in the meadow. You could not see them, but sometimes you could see their eyes, catching the reflection of the light from our fire, and if you walked that way, they would leap back into the secreting forest with a great thumping of hooves and cracking of ground cover.

God, how I miss it all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Burden

I am a burden. I am a burden because I cannot hear well. I am a burden because I cannot see well. I cannot walk well. I cannot remember things. I have a neurodegenerative disorder called multiple sclerosis. I am a burden to myself, and it is a burden to me. Or maybe it simply is me. I have become my own disorder, the way a schizophrenic becomes his disorder, no longer his original self, but swallowed by disease and re-actuated with the inside out, as John Lennon said. The outside is in and the inside is out.

I remember how my dad became a burden, and my mother as well, though they were much older than I. My dad could not hear well anymore. You had to shout to speak to him. It was a effort, a nuisance, a burden. And so you stopped speaking to him. When I was young, he taught me how to fish. He left his own pole against a tree and walked along the lakeshore with me and showed me where the fish would be. He put his hand over mine on the grip of the rod and taught me the motion of casting the line so that it settled easy on the water and the fly lit on the riffles before the line and then you took up the slack so there was nothing on the water where the fish were except for the fly and the invisible leader.

When we were young, we went on a seven mile hike into the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area. Coming back, I left my backpack at the top of a snowbank and slid down the bank with my brother, far down to a lower turn in the trail. My father retrieved the pack. There's a picture of him, taken by my mother, stark, distinct as stone against the backdrop of white snow and blue sky, one hand reaching for the strap of the pack. He carried it the rest of the way. It was no burden to him.

But later, to a forgetful, self absorbed young man, he became a burden, an irritant, not worthy of the effort of raising one's voice.

Before he died, he said there were Indians in his hospital room at night, doing some kind of war dance, beating on tom-toms. He was afraid. There was a tall man standing behind me, he said, the tallest man he had ever seen. He reached his hand toward mine and asked me to take the keys, go get the car, bring it to the front, get him out of there.

But there were no keys, though he shook them in his hand.

Go get the car.

I can't. I can't.

Oh faithless and twisted generation, Jesus said, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you.

How long am I to bear myself?

One thing I know. If a burden I be, it is my burden only to bear with myself, and I shall not be a chain or a weight to any other. I would sooner die. I would sooner be abandoned in the sands of a desert, to want, to thirst, to shrivel alone and shed my own skin. I shall not want, nor be the cause of want. I was here to be of use, and if of no use, I shall not further be.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Moving AGAIN

Just learned that our landlord in going to sell our rental house. Guess maybe selling the house is easier than fixing the bathroom door. What's up with these landlords in Bali? This will be FIVE moves for us since 2010. That's more times than I moved in the previous 55 years of my life! So goodbye Renon, hello who knows where.

As one gets older ...

As one gets older, one faces the paradox of a world that becomes smaller and larger at the same time. The smaller it becomes, the larger it grows. Vast spaces are contained in an area the size of three city blocks. Years worth of memory get pressed into moments that explode and expand into endless heavens.