Visits

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays

As always with my wonderful Indonesian Internet provider, Smartfren is down in perfect coincidence with my particular need to use the internet. These downtimes are somehow in careful concert with such occasions. So, here I am at Starbucks in Sanur, using their internet instead. Which of course costs at least 31,000 Rupiah (for the 'tall'). So I pay the fee for the internet that doesn't work along with the price of the coffee. Add to this the fact that it pissed down rain all the way from Biaung, and you get a not-so-happy camper.

Oh well, I'm here now. Wet, but here. And I've addressed the necessary emails and last-minute magazine edits. The Starbucks Christmas carols are playing and the street outside is bustling under a light rain, with headlights winking off the wet streets at the lighted shop windows, a few of which actually sport Christmas trees with their own twinkling lights. Almost like Christmas. But not really.

I am told, by the wife, that we will go to Ayu Yan's house for Christmas and that I am to dress as Santa Claus for the benefit of her two little girls, whose names I do not know (and had, perhaps, better learn). Ho, ho, ho.

Well, it doesn't matter. Christmas here is truly just another day. We have no tree, no lights, no presents, no mistletoe, no pumpkin pie, no figgy pudding and certainly no snow.

Friday, December 6, 2013

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

The eternal divide. You don't bring me flowers, you don't sing me love songs.

The wife had been moody, distant, silent, angry. I'm wondering, 'What's wrong? What happened?' I'm trying to cover all the bases. Have I worked hard enough? Have I forgotten a significant date? Did I say or do something hurtful? Or has she found someone else? Is she struggling with conflicting emotions?

Life, it seems, had been going along just fine -- just regular, just normal, just the usual.

Well, of course, that's just it. The invisible 'it', from the man's perspective. Who knew?

You don't bring me flowers anymore. I kiss you, but you never kiss me. You roll over and go to sleep.

No matter what else you had done -- no matter what daily cares routinely addressed, tasks accomplished, issues put in order -- it doesn't matter.

You've forgotten to send flowers. You've forgotten to hold her hand. You've forgotten to kiss her hello and goodbye.

Who would have thought that life's little troubles come with such an easy fix?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chasing Chase

Having this unbelievably frustrating problem with Chase Bank. Been going on for weeks now. The situation is that my ATM cards expired in August. I need new cards. Seems simple, right? Well, turns out it's not simple. In fact, it seems to be impossible.

Now, there is a formula in place for requesting the cards. We must fax the bank with a signed letter of request bearing our address, phone number and etc. We did this some weeks ago. Daily emails ensued wherein they said they had received the fax, but could not send the cards because they were unable to reach the phone number listed. This can only be because they didn't really try. Friends and family in America call the number all the time.

So then they asked us to send another fax with the same information. We did so. Still (you guessed it), they cannot send the cards. They cannot reach the number. I advised that they ask their phone company what they're doing wrong, but they've apparently ignored this suggestion.

At my wit's end here. Every other day, I explain via email what they must do; every other day I receive a form letter saying that it can't be done. No cards.

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home. There's no such thing in Bali, and only a pale attempt by the local 'bule' establishments to acknowledge it for the benefit of the few American expatriates here - which is really only an attempt to make some extra money, anyway. Some of the restaurants catering to westerners offer a 'Thanksgiving Dinner', often having more to do with the European imagination and the American reality. The dishes are wrong, the spices are wrong and, most of all, the price is definitely wrong - 300,000 to 400,000 Rupiah (30-40 dollars) a plate. No thanks. I'll take the nasi campur for 12,000 and simply imagine turkey and dressing.

But Thanksgiving is, ultimately, not so much the food as it is the experience - a yearly gathering of family and friends, an occasion both familiar and new with each year. Parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, children, grandchildren; spiced punch, salted nuts, olives, pickles, sweet pickles; all the windows fogged from the from the heat of oven and stove; the basted turkey, the savory dressing, the boiling potatoes and the candied yams; the pies which wait patiently on the counter, pumpkin pie, chess pie, lemon meringue. Women rubbing shoulders, bumping together from pan to pot in the kitchen; the parade on TV, and then the football; your father's yearly argument with your uncle; the dog which is constantly in the way and doesn't care; and the call, at last, to gather at the table, the ensuing discussion regarding which seat should be whose; and, finally, elbow-to-elbow, young to old, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, father, mother, cousin, fiancĂ©, great uncle and grandfather, and somewhere, milling unseen between the shoes beneath the table,  the dog.

Gone now, and not carried on. It is a memory, almost present yet eternally irrecoverable, a story to tell oneself, marvelous and, from here on, missed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mesothelioma

Here's a good link regarding mesothelioma and its relation to asbestos.

MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org

Check it out.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Turns Out to be Traffic

Snatching a morsel of time from the jaws of tedium to do a bit of writing in the old blog. Got myself set up at Starbucks in Sanur, free coffee with coupon, electricity working, AC working, and the day not so very humid for a change (not deathly so, at least)  - Sempurna!

I read just now that the governor here is tossing around the idea of banning all new car sales in Bali in order to avoid what must otherwise become, a la Jakarta, eventual gridlock. Honestly, it seems like a sound and sober idea to me. The only thing is, my wife wants a car, and has wanted one for the past four years. Better act now, honey.

While they're at it, perhaps they had better address the condition of the roads as well. Just yesterday a tourist bus fell off a narrow road into a ravine when its engine stalled. Really, that shouldn't happen. Seven people killed, at current count, others in critical condition in various hospitals. Being in critical condition in a Bali hospital is a definite minus. God be with them.

And then lets address the motorists themselves. People here are either unaware of the rules of the road, or they just don't want to bother with them. Why should they? There is no enforcement of the rules whatsoever. The police spend their time setting up roadblocks in the hopes of catching people without a license or registration so that they might collect a quick fee and pocket the same. As far as the madness and chaos that plays out every day right before their eyes is concerned, they care not. I have seen motorists blast through red lights right in front of a police post, and the two posted policemen just standing by their brand new supercharged motorbikes. I guess they don't want to put any strain on the engines. Or maybe it's just too hot to make a fuss.

So this post turned out to be about traffic, didn't it. Well, it's a daily trial here, a daily frustration and a daily peeve. The general disregard for safety is continually astounding. The drivers, and most criminally those in cars, seem to have no conception of what is going to happen if they run into something or someone. You see them tailgating at 50 miles an hour, flashing their damn headlights instead of just backing off a bit. We're all trying to get somewhere, folks, preferably alive.

And people are injured every day (3 times for me, so far), and people die every day. Fewer cars on the road? Sure. Brilliant. But lets get some responsible, honest cops out there, too; and maybe even require that people take a driving tests before they're set loose behind the wheel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shadow Summit


(note: I repost this to coincide with the official release of the book - although, being affected, myself, by the memory glitches associated with MS, I have missed the actual day of launch, which was the 12th of November).


Recently, I was contacted by a publicity agent who wondered if I would read a memoir, in digital galleys, by Jon Chandonnet. Shadow Summit, Making Peace and Prospering with MS, is Mr. Chandonnet's personal story of diagnosis, struggle and transformation.

The author takes us on the journey from his first symptoms and diagnosis through the various stratagems he used in dealing with the disease over the ensuing years -- from a first response of denial, to the medical regimens, a fixation on diet, mind and spirit exercises, "sun gazing", and so on.

This is a man who had done everything with particular devotion and energy even before his diagnosis. A graduate of MIT, the quintessential 'young man with a bright future', Chadonnet soon finds himself battling MS shotgun style, having a certain sense, as I suspect, that a disease with a wide range of possible causes and treatments demanded a wide-ranged, inclusive approach.

Through a single-minded, seemingly tireless employment of various methods, Chadonnet sought to  swallow the beast in small bites, through intense exercise, painful endurance, Spartan diet, rigorous mind and emotion training, philosophical awareness -- you name it.

Personally, I tend to be rather the opposite. The less, the better, one might say. Both  I and this author have made significant recovery from a handful of significant early damages. Whether Mr. Chadonnet's modalities or more or less efficacious than mine, one cannot really say. It is, in my mind, a matter of the whim of MS. Yet, no matter what you do, you must do it in the belief that you have adopted the best course, whether that be exercise, diet, meditation, life-style change or what have you. The author of this book set out to take the victory away from MS, to hold it at bay, and he has certainly done so. More power to him.

In the final analysis, this is a well written, deeply felt book that will be educative, inspirational and thought  provoking for any reader, and especially for those with MS. We all have different stories, but, on some level, they are all the same.

I recommend it as both informative and entertaining.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

They Might be Giants

I once saw a movie called "There Might be Giants," starring George C. Scott. The story was of a mental patient who was convinced that he was Sherlock Holmes, locked in an ongoing game to the death with Professor Moriarty. Any random thing that this "Sherlock" saw could become a significant piece of evidence, leading the finder  another step along the trail of Moriarty. So convincing, however, was the deluded detective, that, ultimately, he was able to convince others of the veracity of his suspicions, most notably the young female psychiatrist who had been assigned to his case.

'George' had a contagious talent for bringing together disparate scraps and clues in such a way that they seemed to be meaningful, somehow. Moriarty became not a delusion, but a reality, lurking behind every tree, around every corner. Moriarty, encompassing the essence of evil, was as real as the goodness, the passion, the devotion in Holmes himself -- a tormented man who just wanted to make things right, not only for himself, but for everybody. At last, the "evidence" gathered seems to lead to the meat department of a 24 hour supermarket, where Moriarty waits in the swaying shadows between the carcasses of cows not yet sectioned for sale.

Well, it was a good movie, in its own way, and it had something to say about what is real and what is not, what is and what might be. The title, of course, is an allusion to Don Quixote, who jousted with windmills, believing them to be giants.

This all comes to mind as a result of the conspiracy theories that I continue to hear from many of the expatriates here, and particularly from my best friend, Mike. From 9/11 to Seal Team 6, the Kennedy assassination to the killing of bin Laden, the theories grow ever more complex and absurd, ever more tangled in their own threads -- and yet you cannot talk the believers out of them! Not amount of factual information will suffice, no amount of good reasoning or logic. They smile and wink. They know something, you see? Something that no one else knows.

In short, it's irritating. And it is also revealing -- not of the truth, but of the human mind, the psychological disposition. What is really behind these theories, I wonder? Fear? Paranoia? Helplessness? Why do people go to outrageous lengths to invent alternative scenarios? What is it that makes them believe the shady rumor in favor of the plain truth? As if what happened, on 9/11, for instance, were not strange enough in itself!

They're right about one thing. Moriarty is out there. No doubt about it. Moreover, he stands before us, in plain sight, needing no obfuscating cloak of shadows. Moriarty is bin Laden. He is Oswald. He is the evil will to inflict destruction and death -- one will with a thousand names and shapes. No need to look any further than that.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No More I Love Yous

(I repost this, actually, from 2009. Just came upon it again, having seen that someone else had read it, and I kind of liked it).

I happened to hear a song on the radio this morning--Annie Lennox singing "No More I Love Yous"--and it instantly called forth the period of time just after I had broken up with Jamie, back in 2005. Isn't it odd how music can serve in this sort of mnemonic way, calling forth a sort of encapsulated essence of a certain time? It is more than remembering, recalling details or facts. It is the retrieval of a complex aura of feeling, so whole and accurate in itself that it can actually make your heart ache. In fact, one does not so much recall as he suddenly re experiences. It is not that one remembers and then explores what he remembers; rather, memory comes upon him, more in the manner of revelation. What arrives has not been called forth, but sent.

Strange world, this. Stranger yet the individual in it.

Have you ever smelled something, or caught a glance of something, or heard a sound, and found yourself instantly transported to the very core of another time and place? Suddenly you are five, or twenty-five; suddenly you are in a meadow by a river; suddenly you are sitting with your mother and the Cocker Spaniel on the back porch on a summer day regardless of these many years since they have died.

You smell something--something unnameable, and yet intact, complete--and you are suddenly beside your brother's hospital bed, holding his hand as his life slips away.

You hear a song, this voice, this pitch, and you relive how your heart sank so low, how your breath grew so short, how your soul reached then to the empty air where she had been. You can almost smell her skin again, you can almost touch her hair.

Strange world, strange world. Stranger yet the individual, this man, this woman, this perpetual child whispering well wishes in eternity to the unending cosmos.

Nothing whatsoever has been lost. Nothing ever comes to an end. People only imagine it so.

Pluses and Minuses

Was thinking this morning that there are pluses and minuses to being diagnosed with MS late in life (as was the case with me). On the one hand, MS doesn't have a whole lot of time to do progressive damage. In other words, I may have progressed to the next world before the disease actually cripples  me. On the other hand, people think your symptoms are just due to old age. Like, face it, dude, old people get a little wobbly in the gait and foggy in the mind. You not sick, you just old. The only disease you got is being 60 years old.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MS Update

Been having some troubles recently with extreme fatigue and some muscular freeze-ups. Last Saturday, in particular, I became really profoundly fatigued. I went to meet my friend, Mike, around noon for coffee, as usual, but soon realized that I really wasn't functioning very well. Kind of felt like I was buried under several heavy blankets or something. Found myself searching for words, trying to get through full sentences, practically falling asleep while talking. Mike noticed this, too, and wondered what was wrong with me. It was the first time he had seen a clear attack of the MS short-circuitry.

So I drove on home and proceeded to sleep for most of the day and most of the night, waking up a half dozen times to a kind of buzzing sensation all over, especially from my feet to my knees. It felt like if I didn't get up and move around, I might never get up and walk again. So, I got up, walked around, but soon hit the mattress again and fell back to sleep.

This was disappointing, as my wife and son were both out for the weekend, she in Makassar and he in Canggu, and I had intended to go out and paint the town in mild shades of gray (the best I can manage these days even at top form), but instead I slept.

The next day was a little better, though just a little. Still felt muffled and flat. I actually made it down to Sanur for a beer, but the fun ended there, as I found myself falling asleep halfway through. So back home again, back to bed. Woo-hoo!

Feeling much better now, on Wednesday, except for a persistent gripping of the muscles in my shoulders and neck. Wish I had some meds for that, but I don't.

In a related matter, I'll mention that I received an e-mail recently from the good people at Avonex.  Dear Richard .... They're aware that I don't take Avonex anymore, and they just wanted to remind me of how wonderful it is. That's fine. It's a business, right? Like any other. And they want their money. But the thing I found inappropriate, as well as rather irresponsible and insensitive, was how they went on to assure me that while one may not be aware of the progression of lesions while off medication (i.e., Avonex), it is occurring and doing damage that will no doubt be felt in the future. Thanks, guys. While on Avonex, I was not only sick to death for an entire year, but my symptoms from MS were much more pronounced than they have been during the four I've been Avonex-free. But now I know, thanks to your gracious concern, that I'm really not well after all. It's merely an illusion.

Well, so be it. I'd rather feel well, when really I'm not, than feel one step away from death due to the effects of Avonex.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Conspiracies

If there's one thing that many expatriates here in Bali have in common it's a fondness for conspiracy theories, especially those with an anti-American flavor. The 9/11 theories, for instance. Hidden explosives, government foreknowledge, a Jewish conspiracy, terrorists paid by the CIA, buildings that fell without being touched. It goes on and on. All these they might find perfectly good explanations for on numerous non-government (non-CIA) websites and publications; but no, they prefer to pour through the paranoid periphery of reporting and embrace unlikely, unscientific, wonderfully unusual scenarios. Why? I can't figure it out. I hear it over and over, and get that sly smile, the raised eyebrow. My, my. Poor fellow doesn't realize what's going on in his own country.

Irritating as hell.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Malala

Discouraged to read today in the Jakarta Post that 'Malala' is disliked by her own community in Pakistan. They say she is spoiled, a show-off, and disrespectful. Really? This, the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for championing women's rights and dignity? What in the world is wrong with these people? Malala's uncle commented thus: Sometimes people never learn. Aptly put, I reckon. Sometimes people never learn.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Meeting

Within the next hour, hopefully, I will meet a friend visiting from America. A friend of a friend, really. I've never met him in person. I say "hopefully" because we have been trying to set up this meeting over the internet, the use of which can be rather comedic here in Bali. If you're in a laughing mood, that is. So, we'll see. We have arranged to meet at Angels Bar in Sanur. That should give him a taste of the local area. The south side of it, anyway. Or the backside. It will be good to see an authentic American again. Rare creatures here. Really, I'm the only one I know hereabouts. Maybe he can shed some light on the madness that seems to have overtaken the country. Or maybe not. Maybe he'd rather just have a peaceful beer. Wouldn't blame him.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Laundry

While the dry season remains with us, it remains fairly easy to do ones laundry. You just take it out of the washer, wring it by hand, and then hang it on the rack. Once on the rack, it takes about 70 seconds to dry in the soaring Bali temperatures. Well, I exaggerate. But only a little.

From that point, after drying, the material has turned pretty much like cardboard and needs to be 'worn in' again. My wife and son's clothing goes for ironing. Mine, I just step into (which makes the standing cardboard quality rather useful), and then go about my day as if I'd just risen alive from a heap of variously colored material. We adjust to one another, my clothes and I.

I only mention it because today I'm doing the laundry and ... well, that's what I've got to talk about.

I forgot about the rinse cycle, where you drain the water from the load you've washed, fill the receptacle again, and add some 'softener' which has no affect whatsoever on the clothing. But it's the thought that counts. And an apparent irrepressible need to use water. I regularly see the neighbor watering his driveway profusely, and then, unappeased by this wastefulness, watering the street as well. But he does not water his dog, who seems to have been un-watered since the day of his birth. He used to be black, but now he's brown, wearing a coat of dust which follows him everywhere he goes, leaving little siftings of itself along the way.

Moby is his name -- after the dog that preceded him, who was white (like the whale, I'm assuming)) and died young under the wheels of a reversing SUV.

Moby II, the black one, has a skin disease which has eaten all the fur from his snout.

I remember when my mother used to hang laundry on the clothes lines that were strung between two T-shaped iron poles which otherwise served as chin-up bars for my brother and I. White sheets and pillow cases, shirts and summer dresses. They were like flags in the day and ghosts at night. She could not do this very often, for it is not very often sunny in Oregon. How she dried all these clothes during the rainy months I know not.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Sakit Kepala Ah!

Enjoying a terrific headache at JCO Doughnuts, Sanur. Combination of eye-strain and God-awful humidity. Bring on the caffeine, please - hold the milk. In fact, hold the coffee. Oh, and two double-strength Vicodin. Oh, that's right. Narcotic medications are prohibited here. Damn!

Speaking of Vicodin, I was just thinking, the other day, of the possibility of seeking out, from a doctor, of course, some of the old symptomatic medications I used back home in the States. But then I realized that I have no ready way of proving that I have MS. The MRI films that we brought from Oregon seem to have disappeared. If we even brought them. But we must have, right? That would be stupid not to bring any medical records.

So, how would I prove that I'm diseased? Would they just take my word for it? Well, it is Indonesia, so maybe so. I could give it a shot, I suppose. When I saw the doctor about my cataracts, she accepted my word that I have MS - but then, of course, I wasn't asking for anything. I was surprised, though, that she had even heard of it. Asians don't get MS. By and large.

Straightaway, she told me that people with MS get optic neuritis.

Some do, I agreed.

She looked skeptical. She seemed fairly convinced that if you don't have optic neuritis, you don't have MS.

It's fairly common, I said, but I never had it.

Hmmmm.

Speaking of cataracts, what the hell am I gonna do about these cataracts?  I have to make everything on the computer screen 'besar sekali', and it still gives me a headache.

Well, with APEC currently playing in Bali, minus President Obama, there's a continual fuss of policemen and racing black SUVs conveying dignitaries, helicopters, jets and so on. It all looks like pretty serious stuff. Last weekend, they closed down Sarangan. Dignitaries were having lunch there. Turned back my friend, Mike, who rides his bike there every day. But you never know when a 75 year old guy with white hair riding a push-bike is going to turn out to be a terrorist. Better safe than sorry.

There are policemen here who have come all the way from Aceh. They have never seen Bali before. The dignitaries have. Whose vacation is this, anyway?

Ok, that's it. Visual shut down. Sampai ketemu lagi.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Farcical

Recently, here in Indonesia, a Christian woman was appointed to a District post in Java.

That's two strikes from the get-go.

Immediately, radical Muslims began to demonstrate against the appointment. The demonstrations continue to this day. The demonstrators are calling for her dismissal without further ado.

A woman and a Christian. Outrageous! She must go. She cannot possibly represent the population of her district, which is mostly Muslim. The position has nothing to do with religion, of course, but still ....

Imagine such an uprising in America.

But this is Indonesia, folks. A prime example of the foolishness of Indonesia.

Of course, it's not as simple as gender. It's not as simple as religious affiliation. Somewhere, down at the bottom of the farce, is the likelihood that the woman was granted the post on the basis of prior performance over someone less worthy who had wanted it nonetheless.

Tradition

The traditional Indonesian wife disseminates information in bite size bits and pieces. Her husband is placed on a 'standby/need-to-know' basis. Conversations with similarly situated friends seem to bear out the theory.

For example, your wife announces that a trip to Pak Wayan's house in Ubud will occur tomorrow morning. You get up, you shower, you clothe. But nothing happens. Your wife is still in bed. What happened to Ubud?

Oh, that was canceled for today. We'll go tomorrow.

The next day you do indeed start out for Ubud. But wait -- you've ended up in Seminyak!

Oh, we're meeting Putri for breakfast first.

Ah.

On to Ubud.

But hold on. You note that the pursuit of the current route will take you far to the east of Ubud.

Oh, we're stopping at cousin Ketut's place first to pick up a cake.

A cake?

Yes, a cake, for Pak Wayan, in Ubud. For goodness sake, pay attention!

So you pick up the cake. You visit with Ketut for a short time. Perhaps three hours.

And  you head for Ubud.

When you arrive, Pak Wayan is nowhere to be found. In fact, he's not home.

But why would he leave. He knew we were coming. Right?

I don't know. Maybe not.

But surely you called ahead. I thought this was all arranged.

That was yesterday.

Good grief.

Well, nothing to do but head back home to Sanur.

And yet, somehow, you end up in Kintamani.

Friday, September 27, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog

Moving on.

Finishing up the final pieces of the coming issue of Bali Style, already done with my week's allotment of English First work, and so here I am with chance to write something in the blog.

Umm ....

Hmm.

Well, that's the trouble with going back to work after you've been retired. You get back in that mode and suddenly can't figure out what to do if you're not working. What did I do when I was retired?

Oh, I know -- Go to the beach for a swim! Take my sunblock and a book.  Nice weather today. Perfect. About 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's still only morning. I'll wait till the water gets to be the same temperature, then take a dip.

So, no time to blog, after all.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The End of a Story

Ten years ago, my second wife and I were divorced. She filed, I signed.  In her mind, it was my fault. In mine, it was ours. I left her, at that time, with 200,000 dollars and a house, which I had inherited from my parents. For nearly ten years, I continued to hope that she would share this bounty. I loved her then, and love her now, and never let go of the stubborn faith in her character, never let go of the conviction that she would ultimately see clearly, return to what I saw as a defining 'fairness' in her most basic makeup, and, finally, share whatever remained of what had been given.

Well, I heard just today, through a circuitous route, that she had sold the final portion, the house, for half its worth., and with no intention of informing me of the news.

And I am in disbelief, even now.

She is at this moment, as far as I know, walking the Way of St. James, from France to Spain. And I wonder, what can she  possibly learn that has not already been betrayed?

But do I hope, still?

Yes, of course I do.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Let's Go Glamping!


It’s called ‘glamping’, and to be honest (at the risk of seeming obtuse), I had not so much as heard of the thing until about two weeks ago when Bali Style asked me to stay a night at recently opened Glamping Sandat, in the scenic countryside near Ubud.

‘Glamping’ is a portmanteau word, a combination of glamour and camping, and, as I soon discovered through a perusal of the website (www.glampingsandat.com), as well as other internet info, glamping is a global trend, with sites spreading from South Africa to Europe. The idea is to merge the uniqueness and character of the camping experience -- the quality of serenity, a closeness with nature, locale and culture -- with the personal luxuries so closely associated with the comfort of a rewarding travel experience -- in other words, to enjoy the best of both worlds, nature and luxury.

As a younger man, in another country (long ago and far away), I did a lot of camping -- without the ’glam’. While rewarding in its own right, this does come with some minuses. Exposure to the whims of the weather, for instance. Hardships such as wood chopping and fire building. Trips to the outhouse (if there is one). And meals of generally blackened campfire cuisine.

Not so with glamping. At Glamping Sandat you will find five spacious luxury ‘tents’ and three two-storey lumbung huts. Each high-ceilinged tent is built on a raised wooden platform and has two rooms -- a living room/bedroom and a fully equipped, modern bathroom. Each has, also, a generous front deck with a small, private swimming pool beautifully situated at the verge of a breathtaking, jungle ravine.

The tents are equipped with mesh-screen windows, which may be covered against a chilly night, and a powerful, perfectly substantial ceiling fan, while the lumbung huts have a large living area on the ground floor and a bedroom and balcony on the second level, including air conditioning unit. The lumbung units share the large main swimming pool.

Each dwelling has been lovingly decorated and furnished by Emanuela Padoan, co-owner with her husband, Federico Carrer -- each with a welcoming, gracious mood of its own, furnished with cosy antiques, playful lamps and other, friendly little touches which put an accent on the ‘glam’ experience. The bathrooms are fully equipped with modern toilet, sink and shower. Ours even had a chandelier! In the front room is a centrally placed bed for two, a sofa, other seating options, coffee table, side tables, dressers and more -- without the slightest hint of crowding. These are not pup-tents, folks! They are family dwellings, perfectly comfortable for three or four occupants. Wifi is also online, and music is available -- but no TV.

The idea here is escape. It is a place for quality time, shared with one another and with the natural world -- for personal reflection, renewed appreciation, the chance to have a genuine conversation with the world you had somehow left behind while busy in the concrete jungles back home. Here, the voice of the natural world reasserts itself above the noise of man and machine, such that you can hear the wind again in the tops of the trees, the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, the whisper of the river far below in the ravine.

I took a cool dip in the afternoon, leaned on the lip of the pool to drink in the breath of the untouched, unspoiled landscape, and then laid on the poolside lounge chair, half-awake, half-asleep to the profound and inimitable dialogue of nature. I had all but forgotten what I was missing, transported anew on the wings of peace and quiet. I felt like a child again, somehow -- full of wonder and tranquillity, in a place where time, if only for a time, is able to stand still for precious hours on end.

Situated between the glam-tents and the lumbung huts is a spacious dining area -- an open-air, A-frame structure made completely of bamboo. This features a long, communal dining table as well as an additional social area with sofas and a large, square-ish table made from railroad ties. As with the individual dwellings, this too has been tastefully attended to by the interior decorating talents of Emanuela, featuring antiques and other conversation pieces, a small library, and one wall devoted completely to mirrors (a particular passion). Each mirror has been sourced from local shops around Bali and has been fashioned from a variety of materials, from bamboo to metal, glass and paper. Well, all but one -- a favourite, good luck mirror which has travelled all the way from Italy. I’ll let you guess which it is.

Italy is the home country of Federico and Emanuela, who now spend their year between Italy, Spain and Bali. They are a delightful, friendly and easily befriended couple who will join their guests for breakfast and dinner, for the character here is communal as well as private and peaceful, all in its proper time and place. Sumptuous meals and amity are shared by glampers and owners alike. It is a spirit which extends as well to the surrounding community and its Balinese culture, as the ideological aim is to be one with the surrounding world in every possible aspect, with a compassion for the place, the society and the culture.

In this respect, glampers may easily spend a day exploring the surrounding countryside, with its temples, rice fields and forest attractions, as well as the charming town of Ubud, with its countless shops and restaurants -- and still return in the evening to refresh and renew.

Glamping has become a global trend, devoted to eco-structures with zero environmental impact and a sense of responsibility to the land and its people. But it’s more than that, and I, for one, can see why. In a time of increasing concern for the environment, and a heightened drive to find truly fulfilling, personalized experiences in the midst of options that have become common, or even mundane, here is a shiny new key to open beloved old doors and return to the incomparable amazements of the real world.

(for Bali Style Magazine)

Appreciation

It takes conviction, conscience and determination to truly lead. Thank you, President Obama, for your courage in the face of doubt and indecision.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Omnia Vanitas

We live now in a cowardly, fearful, paranoid world, where societies are typified by malaise and self-absorption. There is no moral compass. Everything is relative, right? What one man thinks is wrong, another may think is right. The use of poisonous nerve gas, for instance. Who's to judge?

Omnia vanitas.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

MS Poetry

Just passing on, from poet Jennifer Evans, news of a new poetry anthology, soon to be published. It's a collection of heartfelt poetry by authors who have MS. Check it out at www.touchingms.com. Will be available for purchase in about 2-3 weeks.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ceremonial Departure

One too many ceremonies for the pembantu (maid). It's been a long battle. Through the past two years, I have always kind of tried to stick up for her out of a sense of what's 'right', somehow; and this has caused more than a few problems at home. One problem with the  'house helpers' here, among the Balinese ones anyway, is the constant obligation to attend ceremonies. It seems that they have a ceremony for just about everything, and are regularly called away to attend these events, which are most often in the kampong (or home town). Thus, the employment of a maid three days a week doesn't really turn out the same as having a maid three days a week. In addition, I had become close to the maid's little girl, Kadek. I felt that the family relied on us for their livelihood (at least in part), and I worried about what would become of the children should their mother lose  her job.

Ironically, it turns out that the maid is not much worried about this, as I learned today when Louis basically decided to fire her (after yet another ceremony).

I suggested that she talk to Louis later, and she declined.

"You're afraid?" I guessed.

"Oh no. Bukan takut (not afraid). Malas aja. Basically, don't care.

She went on to tell me that a German man would hire her for more money anyway.

Sigh. Oh well.

Louis told me about this attitude from the outset. I never listen :)

Live and learn.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Horse

This morning, while coming back to Biaung from Denpasar, I saw a beautiful horse on the Bypass. The horse, with rider, was strolling down the outer lane beside the center divider. There are a lot of strange sights in Bali, but horses are not generally among them. In fact, I've rarely seen a horse here -- just a couple of times on the beach. I reckon that this horse (not to mention its rider) had nerves of steel. Bad enough for a car or a motorbike (which have no feelings or fears) to negotiate the madness of the Bypass, let alone a horse. And yet the horse proceeded apparently without fear, majestic and stately above the buzzing of the motorbikes -- unperturbed, disinterested, serene. It was a beautiful sight, in its own way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shadow Summit


Recently, I was contacted by a publicity agent who wondered if I would read a memoir, in digital galleys, by Jon Chandonnet. Shadow Summit, Making Peace and Prospering with MS, is Mr. Chandonnet's personal story of diagnosis, struggle and transformation.

The author takes us on the journey from his first symptoms and diagnosis through the various stratagems he used in dealing with the disease over the ensuing years -- from a first response of denial, to the medical regimens, a fixation on diet, mind and spirit exercises, "sun gazing", and so on.

This is a man who had done everything with particular devotion and energy even before his diagnosis. A graduate of MIT, the quintessential 'young man with a bright future', Chadonnet soon finds himself battling MS shotgun style, having a certain sense, as I suspect, that a disease with a wide range of possible causes and treatments demanded a wide-ranged, inclusive approach.

Through a single-minded, seemingly tireless employment of various methods, Chadonnet sought to  swallow the beast in small bites, through intense exercise, painful endurance, Spartan diet, rigorous mind and emotion training, philosophical awareness -- you name it.

Personally, I tend to be rather the opposite. The less, the better, one might say. Both  I and this author have made significant recovery from a handful of significant early damages. Whether Mr. Chadonnet's modalities or more or less efficacious than mine, one cannot really say. It is, in my mind, a matter of the whim of MS. Yet, no matter what you do, you must do it in the belief that you have adopted the best course, whether that be exercise, diet, meditation, life-style change or what have you. The author of this book set out to take the victory away from MS, to hold it at bay, and he has certainly done so. More power to him.

In the final analysis, this is a well written, deeply felt book that will be educative, inspirational and thought  provoking for any reader, and especially for those with MS. We all have different stories, but, on some level, they are all the same.

I recommend it as both informative and entertaining.

22 Shots

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail from someone familiar with this blog. She wanted to share 22 short films made by a sister who has MS. Despite the painfully slow internet in Indonesia, I watched these 22 films clips and was impressed by their artfulness and by the aggregate of feeling conveyed. The films are centered around 'Eve''s first 22 injections of interferon and will ring a number of bells for anyone who has found himself suddenly undergoing this process. Although I no longer take injections, I certainly remember it well, and I appreciated the keen-minded, soul searching distillation contained in these short compositions of image and word. I therefore, with permission, pass on the link.

www.everounds.com.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Americans

In a rare feat of sheer genius, I managed to post my new badge on my blog (Healthline Top MS Blogs). Let me be the first to congratulate myself.

So, I suppose, in view of the august occasion (and because it is the month of August as well), I should actually write something.

Hm.

Well, I note that in today's edition of The Jakarta Post, a recent survey showed that Indonesians are overall favorable in their attitude toward America; this, in spite of the generally unfavorable attitude of the Indonesian government and higher powers that be. This is not surprising. In fact, the lion's share of Indonesians are moderate, only marginally 'religious' (in terms of the extremist Muslim tripe regularly tossed at their heads by Ulema, the Islamic Defenders Front/FPI, and such-like), and have a general desire to progress from backward rule and small ideas to a greater inclusion in the pace of life and the modern character of culture.

Just days ago, a certain portion of the South Jakarta populace had their panties twisted in a knot by the appointment of a Christian woman (Ye Gads!) to a district position in local government. Straightaway, they trumped out a petition demanding the dismissal of the woman, on the grounds that she could not possibly lead or be effective in a Muslim culture (proving, thereby, that they themselves could not lead nor be effective in the same). Well, happily, there was a backlash from the thoughtful folk of the neighborhood, and the demand for dismissal was itself dismissed.

Good on ya, Jakartans!

Do Indonesians like the American government, or policies, or drone strikes, or foreign interventions? No, not really. What they like is simply the idea of America - the land of the free, the home of the brave, the myth of riches and equal opportunity, the sheer power, the tall people, the SUVs and the ovens and refrigerators and laptops, the rap music, instant stardom, endless glitter - Wall Street, Hollywood, New York City and the Statue of Liberty. Liberty, yes, that's what they like. The guaranteed rights, the confidence, the swagger, the fearless will against rule and oppression. They play the music, parrot the words (for the point is tone and delivery, not meaning), and they admire the luminaries who have risen above anyone's say-so or judgment. They are all Americans, in heart, in hope.

I have a yellow shirt with blue letters that read American on the front. And you would think I was a shapely woman in a miniskirt. It catches most every eye, and often inspires a comment, if only a word. It must be spoken.

"American", they say, as I pass. And in this, some seminal, some essential meaning is shared.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Way of St. James

I learned just yesterday that my second wife will soon be departing from the US to France to follow the 'Way of St. James'. This 'pilgrimage', featured in a recent movie with Martin Sheen, involves a  480 mile trek from the northwest corner of France to the northwest corner of Spain. A good way to lose weight, at the very least.

She seems to have been very sad and confused ever since our divorce, and has harbored a lot of bitterness and anger. I hope this experience will do her good. I think that it will, as long as she commits to walking with her soul rather than just her feet.

For the last nine years, I have tried to maintain a relationship with her, often visiting while still in America, and then often writing to her since I've been in Bali, but it has been difficult, sometimes impossible. She has more and more invented her own version of the story of our divorce wherein she plays the heroine who has been betrayed and misused. For her, the story of our troubles begins from the day we separated; for me, it began a year before. She will not remember now how often I tried to talk to her during that last year, how many times I warned her about the hole she was digging for us, how many times I asked her why she was doing this. It all fell on deaf ears at the time. Only after the end finally came did she want to undo it. But, of course, you can't undo what has already been done.

It's a sad story, really, which should not have happened. But in this world there are many things that happen when they should not.

So I hope that she can arrive, at the least, at some sort of philosophical peace. You cannot make perfect or proper what is neither perfect nor proper. You cannot right a wrong. All you can do is accept it, integrate it, and move on, though you carry it always in your heart. There is more to come. The story does not end with the end of an imperfect world.

Good luck, Georgia. God bless you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cataract Kerfuffle

So here's the thing - I need cataract surgery, and my wife's insurance will pay for the surgery, but not until after the surgery is done. That is, I must pay for it first, and then the insurance will reimburse. So ... forget cataract surgery. If I had the money to pay for it in the first place, why would I need the insurance?

It appears that the world must remain foggy, and I will have to continue to suffer the daily splitting headaches caused by constantly squinting. It is also becoming quite dangerous to drive, especially at night. Strangely, in the sunlight I can see better without the glasses I have, but at night I'm all but blind.

As a matter of fact, I've developed a headache while typing the above two paragraphs ... but still have four house of English First work to read. :(

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Return of the Sun

After two weeks or so of clouds and occasional rain (apparently scheduled somehow for those times during which I need to be out on the motorbike), the skies have finally cleared and the dry season seems to have returned. Back to the Bali I know and love. This spat of clouds and rain, however, seems to have left me with a sore throat -- typical when this type of weather comes along. So I guess I go buy some amoxicillan at the Apotek. Not that it's actually effective -- it's just the thought that counts.

So, another morning of doing EF work at JCO and waiting for the maid to leave the house so I can return home. I hate to be there when the maid is there. She seems ever to want to clean right where I'm sitting, no matter where that happens to be. Makes it hard to concentrate.

Had hoped to meet Mikey for our usual chat, but he is at the doctor, having fallen off his bike the other day and apparently fractured his elbow. A fracture is not a good idea, especially at the age of 75. His arm is about 3 times its normal size now. Poor Mikey.

As for me, the final scab seems to have finally worked its way loose from my ankle and fallen off. How long has it been?  Three months? Something really wrong there, if you ask me. But now all is well, and I have no plans for falling off my own bike in the near future (or ever again, hopefully).

Will get a 20 percent raise for my work at Bali Style Magazine, and so that's good news too. Almost breaking even now!

I just realized yesterday that I'm not 60 years old, I'm 59-1/2; which means that I have 2-1/2 years before I can collect Social Security, not 1-1/2, as I had been imaging before. Odd to find oneself in a rush to get older, ain't it?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Idiocy

Awaiting me this morning was a one word comment on my blog: "Idiot".

As a friend here suggested, the writer of this apparently accidentally deleted the body of his intended comment in full, such that only his or her own name appeared.

In any case, thanks for trying, Idiot.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reminisce

I think that foot will never touch again
the land where I was born
nor ear will catch
nor eye will see
the bygone places I have been

Watch Out for that Tree

Hard to believe, but the wound on my ankle, incurred after being hit and knocked off my motorbike by a malicious tree, has still not healed, although the other wounds on my calf and knee have.

For a time, I had been going to the ER every couple days for wound scrapings and rebandagings, but the last time I went, they inflicted such extreme pain that I felt like I was going to pass out. So, no more of that.

They did, on that last visit, manage, as I believe anyway, to reinfect the wound as well as injure a nerve. I concluded that a better, possibly more effective and definitely more endurable course, would be to treat the wound myself with a different antibiotic (at my own expense) along with mega doses of prayer.

This wound was incurred more than a month ago, and now finally seems to be on the path to healing. The pain and almost constant aching within the ankle has now improved greatly, and the scab on the surface seems quite dry and hard.

Given the slow healing of the wound, it did occur to the ER staff to check for diabetes. I knew that I didn't have this -- since I raised a son who had it from a very early age -- but it did get me thinking about slow wound healing in association with MS.

And Lo and Behold, the same is associated with MS; which, along with the torments of the ER staff, would seem to explain the long life of this wound and its resistance to healing.

For some time, right up until recent days, I could not stand for anything to so much as touch or brush against the wound -- like the bedsheets, for instance. Anything -- even the wind -- that came into contact with it would send electric shock sort of symptoms through my ankle -- a very odd, very irritating sensation. Thus the suspicion of a damaged nerve.

Considering on top of this that the nerve reactions are messed up anyway due to MS, I guess it's not surprising that my system has reacted in such an inappropriate way. It's another new discovery for me in the wide and wild world of MS symptomatolgy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rules of the Road

Nyelip-nyelip. This is the word used here to describe the practice of darting in and out of traffic, a common and generally practical form of road trade for those who are driving motorbikes. We dart along the sides of larger vehicles, or in between larger vehicles, over the sidewalk and across the center lane when practicable, in order to make our way more quickly through the elephantine pace of traffic, much to the chagrin of those entombed in cars and trucks.

It all works out pretty well -- for the motorbike. But when the larger, heavier vehicles, such as SUVs, dumptrucks, even buses, seek to employ the same method -- well, it don't work out too well at all. In fact, it's downright dangerous. Just imagine the bus veering in and our of traffic, careening from this lane to that, bumping along the edge of the road, half in and half out of a ditch. Madness!

And then there is the driver of the full sized dumptruck who somehow believes that his vehicle can squeeze through the crowd by using the bike lane. What can one call this particular failure of perception? Other than simple stupidity.

Then again, that's a western notion. In Bali, it's simply called "normal".

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Waiting Game

Waiting for my friend, Mike, at JCO. Religiously late is Mike, but today he seems rather more extreme than usual. An hour late. Hmm, maybe he's not coming. I wouldn't know for sure, because my Blackberry is religiously broken. So, I've done an hour of EF work, and soon will be able to go home and do more, as the maid will have finished her exteme sweeping/mopping/dusting and general bustling by noon or so. She tells me this morning that it will cost Rp. 500000 to fix our 'mesin cuci' (washing machine), so it looks like she'll be doing the laundry by hand for some time to come.  The cost for repair is considerably more than I pay her for a month of work. Could hire one and a half more maids instead.

Mike has always been rather 'ish-ish'. For those of you who don't know what this means, I shall re-post an article below which I originally wrote for The Bali Times.


LINQUISHTICS

America has been called ‘the melting pot of the world,’ at least in olden time, for its invitation to people all over the globe to immigrate to its happy shores, but for me it can never hold a candle to the variety and variance of cultures and tongues one finds in the sunny environs of Bali. The trouble with America is that people soon become Americans, shedding the uniqueness of their heritage for a new skin, a gray flannel suit of conformity, such that the quirks and traits that made them foreign people soon no longer attain. I knew, for instance, many Indonesians in America, and yet knew not a single one until I came to Bali -- for they had all become Americans, you see? And no one loves America so well as expatriated Indonesians -- its anaemic culture, its disposition toward greed, its worship of money, its love of ‘things’ -- shoes, clothing, jewellery, cars. Charity, community, character -- all suffer under the stress of a rich yet reductive national ethos.

But enough of America bashing for the moment. What I want to say is that here in Bali the Brit stays British, the Aussie Australian, the Frenchman French and so on the wide world of immigrants over -- for in this far flung archipelago a nonnegotiable divide is encountered. The bule can hardly become an Indonesian, and so he must stay as he is, dragging along his cultural and linguistic peculiarities just as surely as his own skin. We don‘t put on airs, or join the PTA, or sit in the seats of government, or reside over Hindu processions. No, we remain perfectly foreign. We are neither consumed nor altered nor absorbed. Our essential frame of reference remains with the culture and character of our countries of origin, and we continue for the most part to speak in our native tongues and to employ our native idioms of language.

Which brings me to this concept of “ish” as employed by the peoples of some western countries to denote some peculiarly uncertain increment of time. It is a strange notion to the American, for we are precise sorts of people. For the American, eleven o’clock means 11 o’clock. Noon means noon. There is no “ish” about it. And yet for the Australian, for instance, and the Englishman and the Frenchman and the Italian, time is not so easily pinned down. It’s fluid, somewhat questionable, somewhat if-ish.

“Coffee at 9-ish,” my English friend says. What does this mean? Something like 9? Two or three minutes before or past nine? At some point during which the general atmosphere of the day seems to resemble 9?

I certainly don’t know, and so I arrive for coffee at 9. And of course my friend is not there. Nor is he there at 2 minutes after 9, or 5, or 10, or 20. I conclude therefore that the term 9-ish has nothing in essential to do with the actual fact of 9 o’clock. I note also that by 20 minutes past the hour I have already finished my cappuccino. Why were we meeting? For coffee, right?

It may or may not be marginally interesting at this point to note that the word “Ish” was one of the first words used to denote a member of the human race, and can be found, curiously enough, in various widely separated parts of the world -- from the Middle East to South America. Adam, in the Hebrew, was called Ish, and in his first words in the Torah he calls the newly created woman Isha. Clearly then, the term has been a longstanding one, and why it never caught on in America, I cannot say. Other well known ishes would include Ishrael, Ishlam, Chrishtianity, Ishmail, Ishstanbul, and Ish-Kabibble. As well as fishes, of course.

Shall we conclude therefore, given the modern use of the term “ish,” that there was something inexact, unreliable, unpredictable about man and the world and the cosmos from the outset? Or is it just the American expectation of precision that is fishy?

In any case, my friend shows up at 9:30 -- ish having meant, in this case, for this day, 30 minutes past the hour. Why did he not say 9:30 to begin with? Why say 9 if you mean 9:30? Ah, but there is that all important, intangible “ish” attached.

“Well hey, Mike-ish. Run into some trouble along the way?“

“No trouble. Why?“

“You’re a bit tardy-ish, that’s all.“

“Not at all. I said 9-ish, did I not?”

“But as you can see, my cappuccino is rather gone-ish.”

“Ah well, have another. It’s still early-ish, ish-n’t it?”

It is agreed then. Next time around I will plan to arrive for coffee late-ish.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stone Age Realities

Primitive conditions keep me from getting much done today. I find that my internet allowance has run out this morning. You buy it here through an ATM, or by visiting the provider. No such a thing as automatic monthly refill and charge. So I go down to JCO instead to use their free wifi. Trouble is, it doesn’t work. Which is often enough the case. So now I’m headed for the ATM to try to understand the screen instructions in Indonesian. One has to be careful here, as he could end up buying nothing at all. Or sending money to some anonymous number, I suppose. The long and short is that I have already wasted three hours working time on trying to get internet time. One also ends up buying a JCO coffee for no particular reason and then gulping it down as he stresses over the work hours he is missing. Ah, Indonesia, thy primitive charms.

As an aside, I went to the corner “bengkel” this morning to get my motorbike washed. No such luck. His water is not working. Actually, this is no real surprise, for neither is ours. He did change my headlamp, however, which has been carefully designed to burn out every three months to the day. This is why the common Indonesian avoids using his headlights in any but the darkest conditions. It’s freakin’ 15,000 Rupiah, man -- about a dollar-fifty -- so, motorist beware!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Beetles

A storm of flying beetles last night, like raindrops, only as quickly as they hit the ground, or the porch or the table or the top of your head, they unlike rain, start to crawl. This happens every now and again. Why the bugs suddenly decide to take flight en masse, I don't know. It seems to  happen always at night, this flurry of small round insects, and whether they have a purpose or simply grow tired, each eventually regains the earth and begins to explore its new envionrment. They climb the walls, seek porch lights, and crawl under doors to climb the walls and seek the lights within. And to terrify boys such as my son.

I'm sure they must eat something. Happily, they do not appear to feed on flesh. Perhaps they eat curtains, or wood, or other bugs. In any case, they have no great objection to being expelled from the house with a broom. Trouble is, when you open the door to sweep them out, more of their compatriots fly in. This makes a bit of a job, and so is irritating at least at this level, as one may have preferred to watch a movie or read a book.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

GI Joe

Watching the new GI Joe 3D movie last Friday night in a theater packed with Indonesians, many of whom would have been Muslims, struck me in some way as a curious experience. It's an All-American movie, of course, packed chock-full with All-American gung-ho ideas, and yet the audience seemed to connect quite comfortably with the ideologies and the characters. There's the power of Hollywood for you. In fact, despite religion, and despite official high-level distaste for American decadence and bravado, the common Indonesians love us. They love our violence, our guns, our technology, our irreverence, our opulence, our fantasy and our beautiful male and female stars. They identify with and honor the mythos without being a natural part of it. It is clear from all that crosses the big screen that Americans are strong and courageous, justified, predestined - a chosen race embued with with every coveted characteristic. Ah, to be an American!

The Hollywood movie may very well be the victorious politic of the future. They represent, for their largeness, for their color and sound, for their special effects and cliffhanger thrills, a fullness of practically irresitible propaganda that no single person or speech or policy could ever match.

Indonesians love everything American - and everything that think, insist, is American. Money, possessions, bright lights and glitter, rap music, rebellion, profanity, vulgarity, power, affluence, sex and adultery, diamonds, big cars, automatic weapons, nuclear missiles, and women with soap-white skin.

"I love America," they tell me. "I want to go there someday. Everything is clean there, and big, and easy, and everyone has so much money."

Nor are they deterred by my poor example -- for their dream, like the Hollywood movie, is bigger by far than life.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Puppy Love

We find ourselves with another puppy. This seems to happen on the average twice a year or so. In this case, we know where the dog comes from and to whom it belongs. It is his owners who seem to have forgotten. Having left our village a couple days ago for Kuningan celebrations, they have not yet returned, and so the puppy, using his own brain in what seems a more astute manner, has made itself at home at our house, just across the street from that of its absent owners.  He's a cute little fellow  -- milk white, except for various grey smudges of dust, and smart as a whip. He has not been long at all in the world, is still learning to focus with his eyes and walk a consistently straight line, but he picks up on things fast -- like where the food is kept, which room has the most stuff that looks like it could be used as a toy, the sounds of voices and who they are attached to, and so on. He even makes a fine attempt to stand on his hind legs for bits of chicken or cookies. What the owners thought the dog was going to do (or eat) whilst they were gone, I do not know. He started out with crying, loudly and at great length, until he discovered that he could squeeze himself under their fence, and now has not complained since. He is happy, as are we all (or at least should be) with friends and simple sustenance.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Beginning and an End which Begins Again

It seemed that after more than 3 years of trying to sell my book, Everyone Here is Jim Dandy, to a publisher, the venture had finally reached an end, having exhausted all existing avenues as explored by my agent in America, who, himself, has now retired as well.

So I thought that rather than simply retiring the book straight away to the dustbin, I should post it in full here on Blogger. I had written the book in the first place in order to share my MS experience with others, and so in the end I attempted to do so in the only way possible -- that is, through my this blog by the same name. At least a few might read it, I reckoned, and maybe find something to identify with, or some small bit of humor to chuckle at -- or at least come away with the realization that we are none of us alone.  Life's setbacks, of every sort, affect every person at some time in life; and that is really what Jim Dandy is about. It's about change and challenge and adversity and overcoming.

Well, it does not seem as though many people read the book. I had, in fact, included my email address in the conceit that someone out there might want to connect, to comment, to share -- but, as it turned out, I received not a single comment.

Oh well.

So it's back now to blogging mostly about Bali, my experiences on the island, both of the absurd and the sublime (or at least marginally interesting) sort. For as long, indeed, and this itself lasts.

Forward, then -- ever forward -- never look back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the Land of Oz

At the Circle K store this morning, I saw a young man leave his laptop at the table outside while he went in the store to buy something. Later in the afternoon, at JCO coffee now, three women, sitting separately and each alone, left their purses at their tables while they went inside to buy their coffee and donuts.

Clearly, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

For this, in the western world, is unheard of nowadays. You leave it, you lose it. That’s the prevailing wisdom; and, sadly, all too often the prevailing reality. You are not a part of an honourable community, you are in the midst of a den of thieves; and if you are careless enough to give the thief an opening, you yourself are thought culpable, and at least half as much to blame.

This is the new standard. Suspicion and distrust. Don’t leave your bags unattended. Don’t leave your keys on the table or in the ignition. Don’t leave your purchases at the counter. Your brother is definitely not your keeper.

We are amazed, therefore, to see these things in Bali -- trust, community, morality, peace of mind. We remember them, re-experience, as in a glass darkly. Or those of use who are old enough do. And we seem to have come home, somehow. The world has missed us, and we have missed it; and we have lived long in fear and nagging distress.

So long have we lived in trepidation, so long in dread, that our extravagant inclination, now become natural, is to either warn these women about the risk they are running, or at least keep guard of their purses for them. The bogeyman is not only real, he’s common, and he’s everywhere.

And yet no one so much as glances at these purses. No one touches, or even seems to see the lonely laptop.

Do things ever get stolen in Bali? Sure they do. And when they do, you’re sure to hear about it. Everyone in the neighbourhood hears about it, and spreads the news far and wide to everyone he meets, as if this were something important, something particularly meaningful.

Because it is.

“Did you hear about that guy on the motorbike who grabbed a backpack from a tourist? He’s not from around here, I can tell you that.”

“Or did you hear about that guy who robbed the man at the ATM? Other people, neighbours, chased him down and beat him senseless by the time the police arrived.”

Stealing is wrong. It’s not normal, it’s wrong. There’s a consensus. It’s not something that just happens, oh well. It’s not something that happens if you’re careless, or failed personally in some way to take necessary steps. It’s not something that’s tolerated, thought to be just another part of life, like mosquitoes or rain or a flat tire. It’s a crime, and the perpetrator has betrayed the community in the most essential way.

Not everything in Oz is good. There are at least two wicked witches. There are beasts in the forest. Lions and tigers and bears. And there are those flying, ill-tempered monkeys, perhaps worst of all. But there’s safety too, and order, and agreement, and colour, and kindness -- sound thinking, and compassion, and courage.

You can breathe again, sit back, relax, fill your lungs with the fresh air of simpler times. And you can leave your laptop, as I am doing just now, at the table outside, with your phone and your pack and your lighter and your glasses, to go buy a second cappuccino and donut without dreading what might happen while you’re away.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rub-a-Dub-Dub

I’m on the east coast of Bali, near Amed, at Katana Villa. I’m sitting in Matthias Hues’ rounded stone bath watching warm water cascade from the mouth of a dog-like statue. How did I get here? What am I doing in Matthias Hues’ bath? The answers are simple enough, and yet they don’t seem to address the real heart of the matter, this eerie sense of displacement that one encounters when he finds himself sitting in Matthias Hues’ bath.

I don’t know Matthias Hues, you see? I had never so much as heard of him until a week or so prior to this moment. Nor do I know his life partner, Leslie Carleton, also a Hollywood actress. I have seen a photo of her. A beautiful woman, tan, sleek, lying ever so photogenic on the beach. And now I’m sitting in her bath.

Matthias Hues is an actor as well, from Germany. He starred in the movie Star Trek VI. Or so I‘m told. I‘ve not seen the movie. Matthias is in Germany now, with Leslie, and I am in their bath.

Strange enough, folks, for a small town American boy to be living in Bali. But to be staying in a villa on the east coast of Bali sitting in Matthias Hues bathtub? That’s displacement beyond common definition.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back-Stabbed

Better to have an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back.

Well, I recently got a firsthand taste of that old saying after 59 years of being fairly blissfully ignorant. But I guess betrayal hurts just the same whether you're 9 or 59. I would suppose so, anyway.

This all began with a water leak in our bathroom. Sounds pretty simple on the surface,   but these snowballs do grow and get to rollin' downhill. The normal thing seemed to be to report this ever more gushing leak to the landlord with the expectation that some action would be taken. Silly me.

Yes, because, you see, Balinese landlords have actually nothing to do with their property. It's the renters responsibility. The landlord merely collects the money. It is the tennant who is expected to fix anything that goes wrong with the house. And I do mean anything.

As an example, our former landlord demanded that we replace the roof over the parking drive after it blew away in a windstorm. Of course you must, she said. After all, it was there when I rented the place to you,, and now it's gone.

Such, it proved, was the case with the leak in the bathroom. The old, rotting, deteriorating pipe behind the toilet was just fine when she rented the place, so if it was leaking now, it could only be our own fault.

Right. Well okay, then, at least send a repairman.

Ah but now she doesn't want to -- because I had insulted her by telling her the pipe was not in good condition, and could not have been in good condition for the past 9 years or so.

To this point, the story is pretty simple. A story of typical dishonesty and greed. Ah, but the plot thickens. It so happens that the landlord's husband is my best friend in Bali. I have known him for 3 years and we have visited daily. It so happens, also, that said husband and best friend has been basically estranged from his wife for the last year. They live in different parts of their house, they rarely speak, and he regularly refers to her as "the bitch". In fact, he appears to refer to almost every woman as the bitch, my own wife included.

Now, I've always let this pass, because he's typically an angry, curmudgeonly sort, like my first wife, and so I'm kind of used to it, and I think he has a good heart somewhere down there in the recesses of his chest or bowels.

I felt comfortable therefore, while discussing the leaky situation on Facebook cat, to myself refer to his wife as a bitch. I was angry, you see, and increasingly frustrated by the wasteful fountain of water coming out of the pipe in the bathroom.

But don't ya know, my 'friend' ran straight away and told his wife what I said.  A relationship leak has now become a disastrous flood. Next thing, the wife is on the phone with my wife complaining about the terrible insults I have cast upon her, while my own wife, ever faithful, begins to stoke the fire with further insults and counterattacks.

Gee, all I wanted was to get the water pipe fixed.

Well, next thing I know, Vick is sending me a message saying that "the whole thing has gotten out of hand" and that I simply need now to apologize to his wife and all will be well.

LOL.

Apologize? What, for the can of worms he opened himself? Apologize for what was very clearly never meant for the woman to hear, and for what she never would have heard but for the big, inexplicably moronic mouth of her husband? Apologize for using the same words, in a private conversation, which he himself regularly uses to describe both his wife and mine?

Good grief.

So apologize, I did. Though of course to no avail. What's done is done. The snow ball is rolling faster than ever, crushing everything in its path. And here I am standing with a knife in my back.

End result: I hired a man, got the pipe fixed, and paid the bill myself. And we are all now dire enemies.

Moral of the story. Hm. Trust no one, I guess, and especially a friend -- for one is never in greater danger than at the hands of a friend.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JCO vs Starbucks

Although there are a couple of Starbucks hereabouts, these are rather far distant from me, and so I have had to switch to JCO -- an Italian owned doughnut and coffee house which features Starbucks-like cappuccinos (well, sort of) along with a free doughnut with every drink order. It's also cheaper than Starbucks, at 24000 Rupiah compared to 34000 (although it's still more expensive than the pot of black coffee for 10000 at the nearby Chill-It bar and cafe). Yes, it's hard to give up my old haunts -- those prolific Starbucks in the States which yet inspire such lasting affection in me -- but it's the next best thing, and better than struggling through the traffic to Denpasar or Kuta -- a long way to go for coffee. The JCO cappuccino has no foam to speak of, but the size is ample and the coffee is rich and hot. It's also a more interesting place to write or relax and lounge or visit with friends than the Starbucks here, mainly because normal people here cannot afford to drink at Starbucks, and so they tend to be pretty quiet, even deserted sorts of places. But here at JCO one finds a consistent bustle -- adults, school children, gaggles of gabbing, giggling girls, so there's always something to look at or listen to if your bored of looking at your computer keyboard and listening to the keystrokes. It's restful to me -- more restful than home, which is either too quiet or too noisy, never just right. I do hear that there are plans underway to erect a Starbucks here in Sanur (my neck of the woods), but one never knows. Rumours of all sorts abound in Bali. For the time being, I make do with whatever is real.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Black Magic

Our maid tells me just now, via telephone text message, that she will not be able to work tomorrow, as her 5 year old daughter has been incapacitated by black magic, such that she cannot walk or feed herself. She tells me that if I do not believe this, I may come to her place in person and see for myself. But no need for that. Of course I believe it. I believe it because I know she believes it -- and so there you have it, God help her. I wish I could speak Indonesian better, but I'm afraid that addressing such matters as black magic and bogeymen is quite beyond my limited vocabulary. But if I could speak, I would tell her this. That nothing - not life nor death, sickness nor health, powers in high or low places, can separate us from the love and power that is in Christ Jesus. No worries - if only she knew.