Visits

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Resolution

When we are young, Christmas is extended beyond the day, for of course we have received gifts on the day - toys, gadgets - and now we get to interact with them. The hopes that sustained the excitement of the season beforehand have now been realized, if we are fortunate children, and we may enjoy their newness, at least up to the New Year. But when we are older, all the air goes out of Christmas on the 26th (or, if you live in Bali, there was probably not much air to begin with).

Speaking of New Year, however, I seem to have come up with some resolutions for this one, which is rare for me. I find that there are some patterns I have fallen into over the past year that seem now a thankless waste of time, and so I hope to adjust my perspective and expectations for the year to come in a decidedly inward manner.

I wonder, in fact, whether I will even see another Christmas, and count that as a good thing, in as far as the appreciation of the preciousness of day-to-day life is thereby heightened.

In the meantime, I will put a brand new large screen iPad on my wish list and hope each day that Christmas comes tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where?

I keep picturing this place with a field of short, tawny grass, a weathered brown fence at the far end, and, far beyond that, a range of low mountains, all beneath a cloudless blue sky. It is a bit reminiscent of the Sisters, Oregon area, but it is otherwise too flat to be Oregon. I'm convinced that I will see this place before I die, but I don't yet know where it is.

A Place for Us

My brother is preparing a place for me. He showed me in a dream last night. It is a big old house, very spacious, but in need of a little work, which he is accomplishing this moment. We will live there together.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reality

How much do we really know about reality? Not really very much, I would suggest. We have, at any given time, our generally accepted scientific versions of the way things are and how things work, but the problem is, of course, that these are constantly changing through time. We are always finding that we were wrong and shifting to the next paradigm, seen now in the development of quantum physics and quantum mechanics. The world would seem to work quite differently from what we had previously declared. And what then after quantum physics? Is it not safe to assume that we will find once again that we were wrong?

On the other hand, religion remains the same throughout the ages. It declares the same truth, adheres to the patterns of a consistent mythology that has unfolded from the beginning of human time. No new discovery can render the mythology false, no adjustments are needed. What is eternally true has always dwelt deeply in the human race. At a certain point, some 2000 years ago, the eternal invaded the realm of time, the natural world, in the supernatural person of Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, the fulfillment of a promise that extended from the very beginning of creation.

Christianity, in short, is the ultimate reality, that which we cannot in our present state fully grasp. It is the end of science, the end of knowledge, the revelation of reality. It is the invitation, in the present time of our blindness, to enter into the very stream of what we do not know, with faith as our conveyance; to enter into a realm far beyond the elementary hypotheses of intellect, a realm where virgins give birth to saviors, saviors overcome the rudimentary laws of the world; where the nailing of one man to a cross satisfies some eternal necessity and saves all; where death no longer holds sway but is subject to the undying principle of life. We must surrender ourselves to the numinous wisdom of the spirit in order to glimpse the true nature of reality. It is really no stranger than is the science now to the man living 100 years ago.

“Now I see in part, as in a glass darkly,” the apostle Paul said, “but then face-to-face.”

The unknowable God, the Ein Sof, as he is called in the Kabbala, will never be described by man. It is man, after all, who belongs to him, not the other way around. We will, however, ultimately ‘know as we are known.’ In the meantime, Christ, who existed with God from the beginning, has made himself known to us, in a manger, on a cross, and through the holy spirit in his resurrection.

Have you been with me this long, he said, and still you do not see? I  tell you, if you have seen me, you have seen the father.

And if you’ve seen the father, you have glimpsed the very essence of all knowledge, which is love.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lights

We came home, my parents and I, from somewhere one December day to find that Gary had put Christmas lights on the house. Not just a string of lights, but a maze of lights, a shimmering web that extended from the peak of the roof to the windows and doors and thence to the walkway and bushes and to the stairs right down to the sidewalk. It was evening when we arrived and cold and the shoulders of my brothers jacket were flecked with tiny ice pellets. His hands were as red faced as crying babies. He was just finishing with the last string of lights on the iron patio railing.

"How wonderful," my mother exclaimed, cherry cheeked, teary eyed because of the wind.

"Where the hell did you get all of these lights?" my father said.

No one could understand where Gary got all the lights. He did not have a job, but he had lights. Colored lights, twinkle lights, tiny lights and larger lights.

"Have you been on the roof?" my mother asked. "My God, have you been up on the top of the roof?"

"Only way to get the lights there," Gary said.

"But how did you get them to stay there?" my father asked (not really wanting to know, I think, but having to, nonetheless).

"Nails," Gary said.

"Nails?"

"Yup."

"For Christ's sake, Gary."

"Yup."

"Do you mean you pounded nails into the wood?"

"Yup."

"For Christ's sake."

"Yup."

We all stood back looking up at the house. The lights made dancing colors on the wet patio and walkway. They danced in the barren branches of the bushes and trees and raced around the wreath on the bottom door. They twinkled with satisfaction in my brother's eyes and glimmered on the icy salting of my mother's cheeks and glowered unhappily in the lenses of my father's glasses.

"The electric bill is going to cost me an arm and a leg," he said.

"Yup," Gary said. "I love you, too."

That was the last Christmas I really remember very well. They've never been quite as colorful since.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bali Road Rules

Bali road rule 52K: When a vehicle slows down in your lane, it is best to suddenly cut across all lanes of traffic to go around said offending vehicle. Don't worry about other drivers. They will watch out for you.

Bali road rule 53: The tukang parkir is not an important person and caution in his presence is not required. If he were an important person, he would not have been reincarnated as a tukang parkir.

#55: If a collision occurs on the road, it is best to instantly stop your vehicle without warning, no matter what lane of traffic you're in, so that it is easier to crane your neck to see what has happened. If you have accidentally gone past the scene of the accident, it is generally helpful to turn around and return against traffic so that you can see. In cases such as this, the entire road can be considered a legal parking area.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Merry Christmas

The latest meme of the absurdist school going around on Facebook tells us that Christians should not object to the removal of Christ from Christmas because Christmas is really a pagan holiday that has nothing to do with Christ. This is so perfectly counterintuitive, not to mention criminally ignorant, that one has to wonder about the mental health of those who would swallow such idiocy. People are certainly welcome to celebrate the season as they wish, and God bless them, but let's keep the general theme in the realm of peace, love and good will, which should be acceptable to all. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Common Illness and MS

Nobody likes to be ill, but we find early on in life that common illnesses, such as the cold and the flu, are something we have to put up with. We agree, through mutual experience, that they are unpleasant, yet have their own place in the whole fabric of life. It has even been suggested that the cold may serve as a sort of periodic reboot for the immune system.

On the other hand, multiple sclerosis is neither common nor natural. And what we get when we combine the common with the unnatural is an uncommonly severe illness, in effect and duration. The last thing we need is any kind of extra blow to our immune system.

The processes of the immune system in MS are already responding inappropriately or in a compromised way on a daily basis. When you throw in a monkey wrench like a cold or flu, two things happen. The first is that the body is not able to respond to the illness in an efficient, focused manner. This tends to result in being sicker than normal for a longer than normal period of  time. Aside from an impaired ability to fight the illness, already existing deficits caused by MS – such as fatigue, muscle aches, numbness, heat intolerance and so on – may become more pronounced.

Secondly, common illnesses may actually ‘jump start’ an MS relapse. The over-excited immune system, striving to address the problem, may actually result in additional problems that have nothing to do with the original illness. Such was the case after a flu I had last year. Upon recovering from the flu illness itself, I found that I had new neurological problems involving severe headaches, impaired vision and a constant ringing in the ears. In short, I suffered an MS relapse.

Now, when I come down with a common illness, I keep a close eye on anything unusual that may arise in concert with the normal symptoms, and I am quick to take a course of methylprednisolone if things seem not quire right. Other than that, the best we can do is try to keep healthy, both mentally and physically, and patiently look to the promises of the future.



Monday, November 30, 2015

The Brain on MS

I had it all mapped out this morning. Take the clothing to the ironing lady, buy some cigarettes and go for a coffee. Yet, here's how it went down. Loading the ironing bag onto my bike, I headed out. Finding myself halfway to the 7/11 for some reason, I do a U-turn and head back for the ironing place. Arriving there, I find it closed, so head for Tukang Kopi. But wait, I still have the ironing on the bike - so I head back home, drop off the laundry and head back to Tukang Kopi. But wait, what about the cigarettes? Back to the 7/11, where I buy a pack of cigarettes and a Kopi Semut. But wait, what about the coffee at Tukang Kopi where I can use the wifi? So it's back to Tukang Kopi.

This is the brain on MS.

Salute

On my way home from Toko Nadya, a little girl stood at attention and saluted me. Now, I'm used to being greeted, or followed, or laughed at, but not to being saluted. Do I look like a soldier? Or maybe she thinks all white guys are soldiers, since we're always invading other people's countries. In any case, she was a cute little girl, and I reckon she can be in my platoon anytime.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the End

Every night, after my first wife went to sleep, I would go upstairs to write in silence. Looking back on it now, it occurs to me that this practice may not have been the most conducive to a strong marriage. But oh well. I was going to be famous, you see. And fame takes committment. It would all pay off in the end. I used the piano bench for a table (having given up on a career as a concert pianist), and I had a giant old Remington typewriter that had a problem with spacing, such that the lines always leaned like the Tower of Pisa. At one o'clock sharp, I would stop writing, sit on the floor, turn on the TV and watch an hour-long offering of Three Stooges shorts. Often enough, the phone would ring and my brother would be on the other end.

"Are you watching?"

"Of course."

"Did you see what Shemp just did."

Whatever Shemp, or any of them, had done always seemed funnier when shared with my brother.

The Stooges were a sort of guilty pleasure for us. When we were little, our mom had forbidden us to watch them because they were violent and she was sure they would inspire us to hit each other with hammers or stick screwdrivers in our ears or poke each others eyes out. Doink. So we could only watch them when she wasn't around, which wasn't very often, or when my dad was there, because he thought they were funny too and said 'Oh don't be silly, let 'em watch.' It was the only thing we had in common with dad, the only thing we shared with him as kids, except for the New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.

One time, I drove down to the old school to shoot some baskets with my brother, and when I got out of the car, I could hear him out on the asphalt, bouncing the ball, heaving it at the backboard, and making noises of frustration like Curly.

I was in my 20s then and we had some catching up to do, because we had spent some years estranged from each other. He was two years older than I and he had grown up too fast and it took me a long time to catch up. Or maybe he just finally slowed down.

In the end, it mattered more than either of us could have guessed it would. As with all young men, life seemed to have no conceivable end.

I was the first to arrive at the hospital on the final day. I had come early because my wife had things to do and she didn't want me to waste her whole day.

When I entered the room, he was already gone. Most of him was already gone. I sat on the bed and spoke, but he didn't answer. It was enough effort just to breathe. His entire being was trapped in one labored breath after another.

(Did you see what Shemp just did? Did you see that hot chick who was dancing with Larry? Did you see It when Moe twisted Curly's nose with the pliers?).

I picked up his hand, lifted it in mine, as anonymous, as unresponsive as a stick of firewood.

He stirred then, seemingly startled. He opened his eyes for a moment. Blue as the sky. They looked right through me.

"Wha", he said.

Famous last words.

"It's me," I said. "It's just me. Rich."

What the hell did I mean by that, I wondered. Just me? Like, don't worry, it ain't the angel of death. It ain't the grim reaper. Just yet. Just me. What a stupid thing to say.

(Do you remember the one where Shemp went to hell and met the woman in the skin tight devil costume, tail and all? But it was only a dream).

A pastor came into the room and asked if he could pray.

Of course.

I went to the table and picked up the phone, dialed my parents. You had better come now, I said.

It was spring. It was April 16th. 1982. It had been raining all night and now the rain had stopped but it was still dripping from the branches of the trees onto the soggy grass and the paved black paths. It wasn't light out yet. It wouldn't be light all day. It wouldn't be light for a long time to come.

Slow Motion

During this extended time of being alone, sedentary, silent and even sick, I have had the opportunity to kind of view the past, as in a slow motion picture, frame by frame, and come away with a clear picture of what transpired, and why. I saw events as if I were there again, reborn to the moment, free of the subsequent overlay of pain and recrimination and revision. I know myself again. I remember the pain and the disappointment and, yes, the shame of having tolerated the intolerable, and I remember the light of freedom, the irresitible opportunity to escape. The life I live now was purchased dearly, but worth every precious penny.Slow Motion

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ashby

In the midst of all the junk movies on You Tube, one occasionally comes upon a gem. Such is the case with a movie called "Ashby", starring a barely recognizable Mickey Rourke and a young man named Nat Wolff (2015). It's an offbeat story about the relationship between a precocious high school student and a retired professional assassin πŸ˜…. An unlikely scenario, but one that lends itself well to comedy as well as some profound observations about life and meaning. On a personal level, the high school boy struck me as very much like my son Sasha, which, of course, made for an additional element of entertainment. Highly recommended. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashby_(film)#/media/File%3AAshby_Movie_Poster.jpg

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grits

While talking to my neighbor this morning, the subject of grits happened to come up, which got me to thinking about grits, which, in turn, got me to thinking about pleasant trips to the South in years gone by - Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia. In the South, they have a restaurant called Waffle House, as prolific as the Circle K here in Bali, and more or less the same size. If you happen to pass by one Waffle House, no worries - there's bound to be another one within a quarter mile. The Waffle House serves waffles (appropriately enough), along with hash-browns, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, ham and, always, grits. Grits are as common and as toast and you can get them as a porridge or, more popularly, fried, with butter, salt and pepper on top. And cheddar cheese, if you want. In every Waffle House you will find a flat grill about the length of a common kitchen counter, and everything on the menu is slapped onto this grill, including the fried pecan pie. The Waffle House is the Southern American equivalent of the Indonesian warung, and you can expect to visit with the staff and the cooks while you eat, because Southern hospitality is the equivalent to the common affability of Indonesian folk. In fact, they are the only friendly people in America.

"Whar y'all come frem? Oh, I ben ta Arygone once-it. Got a kayson thar. Wry-ney, ain't it? Y'all want on-yon wif yer tatters? Grane papper? Y'all wan-a slass-a pee-can pie wif ass-cream?"

Different language altogether - and the further South you get, the more different it gets. I remember buying some boiled peanuts from an old rural Georgia farmer and having no idea whatsoever what he was saying. Biled peenits.

Y'all come back now, hear?"

http://www.wafflehouse.com/waffle-house-menu/

SSA

Dealing with Social Security when you live in America is a difficult enough proposition. Dealing with them from the other side of the world seems pert neer impossible . They will not speak via email, and so you are stuck with calling their 'toll free number'. However, the toll free part does not apply to calls from foreign countries. So you sit on the phone listening to their nearly endless recording as your pulsa trickles away, and then you finally get to be put on hold to wait for a representative. Predictably enough, call volumes are always 'high today', they are very sorry. Eventually, you either lose the connection (a common thing in Indonesia) or your pulsa runs out. So, a process that was supposed to take 'about four days', has now taken about three weeks, with no end in sight. 😑

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nada

We have in the 21st century a special affection for saying "It is not." It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it is not. In saying that it is not, we need never be wrong, for we have admitted to nothing other than what is not.

I am reminded of a Hemingway story called "A Clean, Well Lighted Place," a study in alienation and despair.

“Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.”

The words become vacuous, meaningless, collapsing on themselves under the weight of universal denial.

We insist on a supremacy of meaningless noise, a language of babble masquerading as philosophy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Scent

This evening I sprayed on a couple blasts of Sasha's left behind 'Extreme Rockin' Power' body spray and I was instantly reminded of the anti-mosquito stuff my father brought along when we went fishing. He had gotten the stuff at the Army Surplus, left over from the Pacific Island battles of World War Two. The scent was sharp and acrid and the stuff actually tinted the skin a bit, like a light varnish. The mosquitoes didn't like it at all, and it seemed to repel other people pretty well too.  This evening, I was transported by the scent, to a Lodgepole Pine thicket at the edge of a lake, tall grass in a meadow, a bed of rocks in shallow water and trout leaping just beyond the rocks, where the shelf fell away to the deep and the water turned green, catching the final rays of sunlight on silver flanks. The mosquitoes had risen like mist from the grass in the meadow and from the verge of the forest. The breeze rose and a chill descended as soon as the sun sank behind the shoulders of the hills. We tied on new flies and buttoned our jackets and waded out toward the end of the shelf while we could still see the rocks beneath our feet. The cold white eye of the half moon replaced the steady gaze of the sun and the breeze snatched at the odors  of the grass and the sigh of the forest and the flesh of the fish in our creels and the gurgling brook as it emerged from the brambles and the night that had already fallen in the thickets and the sweet smelling smoke from my father's pipe, and that sharp and acrid stinging scent of the mosquito ointment from the Army Surplus. My father was there. My brother was there. And I was there. I remember. I am there with them still.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Regret

I have the memory of an event from the past on my mind tonight that is very hard to come to terms with. It's not that thinking about it will change what happened, and yet looking at it honestly seems necessary in its own right. Some things, one reasons, are best forgotten - and yet they will not allow themselves to be forgotten. They resurface again and again, asking the same questions, making the same accusations. Why did you let this happen? Why didn't you speak? Why did you you close your eyes, turn your head? How was it that you could allow truth and honor to be strangled in broad daylight by the lie that you called love?

Love hopes without reason, in spite of reason. Love fashions a dream, an alternate reality. Love enables all kinds of evil, desperately defends itself, calls the moon the sun and the sun the moon. The higher it climbs, the deeper it decends. It dreams itself and it dreams its object and believes that dreams may eventually create their own life.

And then finally there comes the point when the hall of mirrors shatters, the house of cards falls. Reality overwhelms the increasingly fantastic frame of excuses propped one against another at the rotten core. The center cannot hold. The feet are made of clay.

"And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Born Yesterday

Yesterday evening, on my walk out for coffee, I had the pleasure of meeting Siti, a fetching girl in pink, 6 months of age. She was being carried by her gramma and introduced to the various sights of the evening - two dogs in a hurry, walking side by side, a sudden flock of birds wheeling south in the fading sky, the funny looking bule with no hair. As I chatted with gramma, Siti gazed steadily at me while gumming an index finger.

Teething, gramma explained.

Lying in bed later on, staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping, which has become my habit of late, I started to think about teeth.

How strange it is that we start out with no teeth, then grow baby teeth, then a whole set of permanent teeth (so-called), which expel the baby teeth, and then, in old age, begin to loose the teeth altogether, to end up, at last, pensively gumming a finger.

In the morning, I awake at first light, swing my feet to the floor, glad to be done with trying to sleep. I glance at a stranger in the mirror. A man old enough to be my father. This face has been folded and creased, crumpled like paper, tossed in a corner like a tattered blanket.

How can it be? Was I myself not born just yesterday?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Out of Luck

Went to several pharmacies this morning, trying to scam them out of my medicine without a prescription. Finally found a girl who was willing to give it to me after some negotiations, but then she found that the medicine is not even available in Indonesia any longer 😁 So that will definitely mean a visit to the doctor to find a substitute, if I find that I can't get along without it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Of Male Minority

(Originally written for Modern Day MS, but havent seen it yet, so will post here)

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common type of MS,  is at least two to three times more common in women than in men. Researchers have long been puzzled by this reality. Various theories have been advanced to explain this discrepancy in numbers and various studies conducted, though inconclusively. It has been thought, for instance, that female hormones might play a role.

However, the most recent, and the most promising research points to an essential difference in brain chemistry between men and women. It has been discovered that a protein “gatekeeper” that controls what gets past the blood-brain barrier is more prominent in general in those diagnosed with MS, and that women produce far more of this protein than men.

Further research is presently underway in hopes of learning more about this protein and how it functions, which may lead to new and more effective ways to treat the disease. If the “gatekeeper” can be controlled, it may be possible to prevent immune cells from crossing the barrier.

In any case, this reality of being in the minority may sometimes be frustrating for men. Much of what is written on MS naturally comes from the woman’s perspective, and MS support groups tend to be heavy on the female side. Of course, many of the symptoms we experience in MS are the same no matter what sex is involved, providing us with an equality in experience. Some concerns, however, can fall outside the male frame of reference, and they are concerns that do often arise in support group conversions. Whether the woman with MS should have children, for instance, or what difficulties she might expect in pregnancy, or whether she should breast feed.

Needless to say, men suddenly fall out of  the discussion.

There is a male frame of reference that also differs from that of the woman. Men and women both face traditional expectations for behavior and in the realm of emotional response. Men feel that they are supposed to be in control, that they need to function at a high level at all times, especially where strength and assurance are involved. No on wants to feel that he has let a spouse down, but I think this feeling can be especially acute in men. We must be strong, reliable, stoic, able – and suddenly we are not.

I myself was married just one year before being diagnosed with MS. I went from being healthy, able, strong and energetic to being ill, incapable, weak and exhausted. I felt intensely that I had let my wife down. I was not what I had promised to be. I concluded, as many men probably do, that she might have been better off without me – with a real man, so to speak.

Well, this is the low point, and we do find, happily, that we regain our strength over time, in RRMS, anyway. But it is a dark time when one would really appreciate having another man to talk to. Our minority situation becomes distinctly pronounced.

As always, it is important to retain a sense of humor, to look at things from the bright side and to keep pressing forward. I observe, for instance, that I have rarely had the pleasure of being in the midst of so many members of the opposite sex. Most guys would give an eye tooth, right? How many female friends do I have online? Hundreds? That’s right. I’m a minority member of an exclusive group, and I reckon there’s some kind of luck involved in that.

Day Trippin'

I used to talk to my friend, Mike, who is no longer my friend, about this curious Indonesian practice of making plans to go somewhere in particular and kind of ending up everywhere in general. This usually involves a party that grows 2-3 times in number before you ever get started. You then set out for the planned destination by heading in the opposite direction. I remember Mike describing his wife's plan to visit "a relative's house", yet neglecting to mention that "a" in this case actually meant "all". In similar manner, my wife suggested that we go to Ubud for coffee yesterday. After packing a half dozen unmentioned folks into the car, we headed not for Ubud, not for coffee, but to breakfast at some obscure locale (who knows where it was?), where we also toured a villa/resort. Departing, then, for the aforementioned coffee in Ubud, we ended up at a Vespa Enthusiasts' convention. Following this stop, I believe we did pass somewhere in the region of Ubud, but ended up at another villa/resort (where we actually did, eventually, have coffee). It was time, then, to head home, so we headed to Gianyar, instead, to stop at the night market for nasi campur. We did get home around 9 pm or so. So these terms are relative, folks. There is really no such a thing as a trip to Ubud for coffee. I know this by now, and yet, every time, I forget. But, anyway, it was fun 

Frustrated

Found out this morning that the only clearly effective medicine I take for MS symptoms cannot be purchased with a prescription 😑 Would have to pay for a doctor visit every f'n month. Guess I'll just see if I can endure without it. Well, at least they gave me my kopi ala orang pelit at Starbucks today. One takes the good with the bad.

Monday, October 12, 2015

In This Together


Chronic illness is the great equalizer, the great leveler of humankind. It plays no favorites. It cares not for riches, nor does it prefer poverty. It cares not if you’re a person of faith, an agnostic or an atheist. And it certainly does not care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat!

This is Ann Romney’s – Mrs. Mitt Romney’s - story of life interrupted by multiple sclerosis – interrupted, compromised, rearranged and regained in a newness of awareness, empathy and spiritual vigor.

It is a story that anyone who has the disease will instantly identify with, drawing companionship and comfort from this strange bedfellow of physical illness. No matter who you are, what family you come from, how much money you have, or don’t have, the experience of MS is the same, the phases are the same, the emotions, the struggles, the adjustments and the solutions.  “You’ve basically moved into a new  body,” Ann quotes a friend as saying. “The things you took for granted before are no longer true anymore.”

One of the things I think we all discover, ironically enough, is an acute awareness of how perfectly God has fashioned the healthy human body. The one we had before. How unspeakably incredible it is that all things worked together so well! Having experienced an essential breakdown in that fine tuned system, we become aware also, strangely enough, of the sinister cleverness of disease, how it has frustrated the intended mechanism, and how it strives to persist.

But as Mrs. Romney herself points out, disease is neither a punishment nor a divine plan to bring about good. Some people will say that God has used the disease to improve you, or so that you can raise the awareness of others, or that your riches may be devoted to a common cure, or even that you have been cursed for wrong doing – we hear it all. Ann embraces no such theory. It is what it is, she says. It is random. It is part of life. We deal with it.

Ann Romney’s case of MS started out much like my own, with numbness in the leg, a loss of balance, and profound fatigue. As she notes, most of us have probably had the disease long before this in some mild form and thought it merely a strange feeling that passed, but then that event occurs that is too significant to ignore. You know that something is very definitely wrong. Like, Wow, I cannot feel my feet … now I can’t feel my legs … now it has climbed all the way to my crotch. OMG!

So you go to the doctor.

The first time I knew something was wrong was in 2005. I went to the doctor, had an MRI, but was misdiagnosed. Gradually the symptoms went away. Maybe it was nothing.

The second attack was in 2007. Again to the doctor, again the MRI – but this time it was read as clearly showing MS. And in fact the first was was reread and determined by the new radiologist to be “classic” for MS. It is a difficult disease to diagnose, as Ann also tells us in her book, but the tools are constantly and quickly improving as research progresses and awareness increases. And we can thank, in great part, people like Ann Romney for her devotion to increasing awareness.

There is no cure for MS, but there are strategies, medical, holistic and personal, for dealing with it. One of these is involvement in the MS community, sharing stories, sympathy, advice, and even humor. Yes, MS is funny in its own way, and as long as you can keep laughing, you can keep going.

Mrs. Romney also speaks at length about the various alternative methods that can be employed – those things that many of us scoff at to begin with – reflexology, acupuncture, diet, vitamins. Suddenly they seem rather reasonable, given that you’ve nothing to lose and there is no curative medicine anyway.  So, if it makes you feel better, do it!

Ann found her love of horses and horse riding particularly helpful. She immersed herself in the activity, even entering competition, eventually. She quips that husband Mitt once threatened to send her to the Betty Ford home for horse addiction, but notes just as quickly that there is no cure. Just as there is no cure for MS, there is no cure, either, for joy, for the will to thrive. It is immensely important, she advises, to discover or rediscover those things that one truly loves, by which he is moved, engaged and pressed.

In my case, this was a love of writing. In younger years I had written many stories (some of them actually published!), but had fallen out of the habit in favor of things that seemed more pressing, or at least more necessary. And yet, within a year of being diagnosed with MS, I wrote my own book about living with MS. And although even a well known agent was unable to place the book with a publisher (books about disease are not wildly popular), I’ve been writing ever since, and every day with eagerness and vigor. As with the combination of Ann Romney’s physical deficits and the challenge of horse riding, the task of writing has been challenging for me, given the cognitive and memory deficits caused by MS. We try a little harder, we push a little harder, and we love a little more fully than before. We grow, as Romney points out.

“In this,” Ann writes, “I know I’m not alone: many people I have come to know that have endured hardship reflect that in some way they are grateful for their trial. It brought them greater understanding and revealed personal qualities they would not have developed any other way. No, we don’t celebrate the hardship and pain, but we do recognize what it has brought out in us.”

Regardless of fame and fortune, Ann Romney seems from the first paragraph as much like the neighbor next door as … well, the neighbor next door. She presents her story with compassion, wisdom and humor - not a tale of riches and high society, but of family, marriage, motherhood, children, faith, humility, and of a monster called Multiple Sclerosis.

Though the book is chiefly about MS, the reader is also provided with a fascinating inside view of politics and of the intimate details of two Presidential races, and it is this facet that will initially draw the interest of readers who have no experience with or particular knowledge of MS. Which is good, for awareness is ultimately the primary mission. Still, I think that the reader, whether or not he has MS, will come away with a greater appreciation of the simple humanness even of Presidential candidates, the genuineness of their convictions, whether we personally agree with them or not, and the common love of country that inspires them to seek office. In this sense, too, Ann Romney has invited us to be more aware, more compassionate and more involved.




Friday, October 9, 2015

Day Trip

Went to put on my brown sandals this morning only to find that they were much, much too small for my feet, which seemed to have grown enormous overnight. How can it be? Had the sandals themselves shrunk? No matter how I tried, I could not force them onto my feet, any more than O.J. could force that potentially incriminating glove onto his hand. Brain freeze thaws only slowly, but of course I realized at last that my wife has a very similar (though significantly smaller) pair of brown sandals, and it was these, not my own, that I was trying to shove my monstrous feet into.

Got the proper sandals on, then decided that it might be fun to drive down to Sanur, park near the beginning of Tamblingan, and walk up to Starbucks. As it turns out, it wasn't much fun, although it was quite hot.

So, Richard is now sweating at Starbucks and missing the old days, when motorbikes were horses and you could whistle for them to come get you.

It is interesting to note, however, how much new stuff has gone up and how much old stuff has come down along the way. I see, for instance, that Laser Bar is empty and boarded up - either closed for good or closed for remodel, I don't know. Oh well, it was always a dive, anyway. I imagine that the popular Casablanca has made it difficult for other nearby bars to thrive. Some places that used to seem permanent fixtures now either stand empty or have been replaced by new, upscale establishments with prices that deter entry but all but first time tourists.

Gus's Coffee

So, if you go to Gus's coffee shop, you can get a good, inexpensive cup of coffee - I chose the ginger coffee - but be prepared to visit with the owner, a delightful Chinese Jakartan who really, really likes to talk. His family has been in the coffee business like forever, and he is carrying on here. A true lover of coffee, he mixes each order in person with an intuitive eye toward what might be most pleasing to the individual (had he known that I was an American, he would have used a stronger ingredient of caffeine, he said).

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Greed

"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."
--Gordon Gekko

And by the same token, corruption, in Indonesia, is good. Graft is good. It is good for the government, it is good for the ruling class, it is good for the powerful and for those with their hands in the pockets of the powerful. It is good for the crippling of the masses, the subjugation of the disinherited, the protection of the privileged. It is good for the future of the few, their families and their friends. Graft is good business, corruption a solid and reliable investment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Little Farmer

After returning from snorkeling at Menjangan Island yesterday, we were sitting at a table in the warung waiting for our nasi campur and, although I should have been listening to what my wife and her friend were saying, I found my attention fixed instead on a little boy as he played in the dirt near our table.

He had brought a package of some kind of powdered stuff he had been eating and he emptied the remainder of the package's contents very carefully on the ground, distributing it in a line along the concrete edge of the warung's platform. Taking, then, a plastic fork, he began to work the powder into the soil from one end to the other, taking care that the powder was fully implanted beneath the dirt, tongue working pensively at the corners of his lips. When the fork became too clumsy, failed to be thorough, he would drop it and use his fingers to perfect the task -- and I came to realize that this boy was not playing at all. He was farming. He was planting crops. He was doing what he had seen to be done in his world, by his elders.

And I remembered playing like that when I was a child -- or, again, not playing, but constructing, preparing, creating. Under the porch in the summer, we moved dirt with little metal trucks, painstakingly building roads, clearing lots, stacking little stones, making the highways and streets and side lanes of entire towns.

We interacted then with the earth, with soil and moisture and stone and vegetation. We grew very, very small and entered our microcosm somehow bodily, occasionally glancing up at ourselves as one might to the peaks of surrounding mountains, pausing to brush away sweat with a dirty fist. We built things, improved them, and improved them again, and in the winter the rains made new worlds in waiting.

Young people now play within computer screens, in an electronic world that they do not touch. Generally, they do not build, but destroy. The object is to erase, to obliterate, to be the last one standing. How different from ourselves we have become, how detached, how simple. What world is this, that has no farmers, no builders, no manual labor? What goes missing when we no longer touch the earth nor soil the hand nor lift the stone nor wipe the brow? Where are the mountains that used to need moving?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tilting with Windmills

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.

"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length."

"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone."

— Don Quixote, Cervantes, Part 1, Chapter VIII.

A modern pastime - jousting with windmills, imagining that they are giants. Take care, the monsters are in your head, and have caught you in the snare of your own evil imaginations. Thus, you hate, you plot, you kill in the name of lies and delusions.

The News

When I was a very young man, just out of college, I worked as a stringer for one of Portland's two newspapers at that time. Now, there is only one, but that's no fault of mine. As far as I know. Every day, I read the paper from cover to cover, and by the time I had been there for a year, I found that I had gotten so sick of "the news" - the killings, the wars, the politics, the kidnappings - the constant trouble and unrest plaguing mankind - that I just stopped reading it altogether. I cannot help but note, now, that I'm beginning to feel the same about Facebook. The news itself is bad enough, but what is even worse is the gross unkindness of many who respond to the news. It is keenly discouraging, and often actually depressing, to see these ugly snapshots of the worst in human nature. Better just delete all sites that concern anything other than dogs doing tricks or pictures of food.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coffee

Bit of an overdose on coffee today, but sometimes these things have to be done. Started out to go to a new place called Milestone Coffee, which my wife said was right close to the Minit Mart in Sanur. Ended up instead at a place called Simply Brew, which is also right close to the Minit Mart. In fact, it is in the same parking lot as Milestone, as I later discovered. Anyway, I found the coffee at Simple Brew to be pretty good, at a price of 25000. The coffee at Milestone, some 20 feet away, was better, and the place is more cozy, but the price there is 32000. Ini bedanya yang lumayan besar sama orang pelit seperti saya. Jadi, yang pertama pada hari biasa, yang lain sama peristiwa yang khusus πŸ˜… Wrapping it up now at Limamike - masih kesukaan saya.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blood Moon

Not long after I got engaged to the woman who would be my second wife, she began to listen to strange late night radio shows, where she learned about the impending "rapture" - the theory of a sudden ascension of Christians to heaven, later popularized in fiction books such as Left Behind. She also read a book - one of the few she had read in her life - that covered the same subject, with the addition, as I recall, of the involvement of aliens.

Just my luck. It was a time when I was looking for stability in my life, sanity, after some years that had come mostly from a bottle, and so the advent of this sudden madness was frustrating and disappointing, and, in fact, almost led to a sudden end to our plans for the future together. It didn't matter anyway, for she was going to heaven, you see, on October 31st or whatever (I don't remember the magic date now).

According to the information she had received, she would hear a sounding of trumpets, which would be followed by the appearance of the Lord in the skies and then the sudden bodily departure of his children from the earth.

I remember talking to her on the phone on the very night of this rapture. She had called to say goodbye. I myself would not be going, because I refused to believe.

Suddenly, she interrupted our conversation. She had heard something, from far away ... What was it? Was it a horn? Yes, it was a horn, a trumpet, a ...

Oh, wait, it was only a train whistle. She lived close to the tracks near the Columbia slough. I could hear it on my end of the phone too.

Well, goodnight, I said. I'll see you in the morning.

Oh no you won't.

Oh yes I will.

Oh no you won't.

Well ...

It was a great blow for her when the Lord didn't come that night. But by and by she returned to life and we married and stayed married for 13 years.

And then 9/11 happened. And the radio shows began again. And there were aliens and lizard people, the new world order, the illuminati, and the Lord and the rapture.

And then that blew over too. And so did our marriage.

Round and round and round we go. I am told lately by my stepson that she is predicting the immanent end yet again, which is putting a damper on his vision of his future. The blood moon is upon us, after all, and the anti-Christ and the false prophet just met in Babylon (Washington DC), and Gog and Magog are rising in the east.

But relax. Just breathe. The end is not yet, though come it will, like a thief in the night. And there will be no more death, and no more sorrow and no more tears, and, most of all, no more waiting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Good and Bad

Well, I guess every place has its pluses and its minuses. Although I have found Bangkok deadly, unreasonably hot, and although the heat or the sweat or the air caused a painful sty, on the other hand, I have not had a headache since my arrival in Krabi along with the stressful run-in with immigration, and I have not had significant ringing in my ears at all. So it's a tradeoff - good for bad, bad for good. Honestly, the heat wasn't too bad today either, which was probably because we spent most of the day on the river. Most of the swelling from the sty has gone away, but the eye itself hurts like an SOB. Tomorrow will be our last full day, and I think Louis has shopping in mind. Not sure where or why. I just do what I'm told, or at least try my best to do so.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Voice

Many people warned me, but I would not hear. I listened to another voice. It has always been so, even before I knew whose voice it was. When I was very young, I thought it a weakness, a personal defect. But I learned that it was strength, the incomparable strength of weakness. In the presence of such strength, which is not mine, I become nothing and whatever else there is becomes all. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. And yet I am nothing. All else aside from me is life. I was told to save myself, but I would not hear. I listened to another voice. My job is done. It is finished, day by day. This is the last day until the last of the last. And in this, the peace that passes all understanding, do I rejoice eternally, both now and forever, until that day when love takes its own hand in glorious embrace.

Thai

Interestingly, as I read in the 'fascinating' Thailand brochure, the Thai language is a monosyllabic language, which means that it is made up mostly of one syllable words. This is probably what makes it so difficult for us to understand. We want something more complex. English and Indonesia are a mix one one syllable and multi-syllable words. Indonesia, with its prefixes and suffixes, seems especially multi-syllabic. Take 'ketidaksetejuan' for instance. Or 'memperlambatkan'. Tower of Babel here. Speaking of which, I happened to watch that movie (one of my favorites) the other night with subtitles in Chinese. Since I know the movie so well, I could remember the gist of what was being said, but it was interesting to get the effect of an even greater increase in separation, isolation and confusion, which is what the movie is about, anyway.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Teen Cow

When one has finally learned, to a reasonable degree, to speak and understand a second language, it seems especially disconcerting to find oneself in a country where the second language is useless, and the first nearly as much so. Thai is completely foreign to both Indonesian and English. Some of the people speak just a very little English, such that one is reduced to sign language and gestures for the most part. One phrase came up a couple of times, sounding, phonetically, like "teen cow," so I have been using that for every purpose.

Want massage?

Teen cow.

What would you like for lunch?

Teen cow.

And so on.

Arrived in Krabi Town in the early afternoon via a little mini bus called a Tuk tuk, but have so far been holed up in our little room with the AC on high speed, as it is deadly humid outside. Hope to venture out in the evening to the nearby night market.

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?

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!

YES, I SEE!

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fresh Food

My wife tells me that we are going to eat healthy now that Sasha has returned to the United States. I was in the general habit of preparing "unhealthy" foods because 1) he doesn't like healthy food, which is generally green or otherwise distasteful and 2) I am convinced that unhealthy foods, such as fried chicken, fried eggs, fried hamburger, fried potatoes and pretty much fried anything is critical to the health of a growing boy's body. Pastry is also important, and potato chips.

But since I am not growing anymore, in any fashion except older, and since fried foods are not considered good low fat diet foods, we have altered our diet to include only things that are either steamed, grilled (with just a pinch of virgin olive oil), or not cooked at all. No white rice. Rice must be brown and organic.

The other day, after preparing our green salad on two plates, my wife noticed a snail crawling out from beneath a leaf of lettuce.

"Ah, good!" she said. "That means it's really fresh."

The last sack of brown rice we had was fresh too, because there were bugs in it. And although these bugs were dead, they wouldn't have been there in the first place if the rice weren't fresh and chemically untainted.

Food ought to prove itself lively in some way so that we ourselves may remain lively. I had actually already gotten a start on this dynamic with the seasoning of ants in my morning coffee at Circle K. That's protein, man, in organic form, and not just powdered cream and sugar.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mrs. Trump

I was thinking about Donald Trump today. Not that there's much to think about, except to wonder how he could possibly be a frontrunner among Republican Presidential candidates.

But the name made me think about Mrs. Trump, who was no relation to Donald, but was our neighbor on the other side of our block when I was a kid.

She was an old woman even then. Ruth Trump. My mother had grown up with her daughter, Elizabeth, which will give you some idea of how old Mrs. Trump was. Her husband, Ernie, had served in World War I and had been injured. I don't remember what kind of an injury it was. All I remember about him is that he was always sitting in the same easy chair and rarely spoke. We were afraid of Ernie, for no particular reason - just in the way that kids are inclined to be afraid of old men who sit speechlessly in easy chairs. He died when I was still very young, such that I can just barely remember him.

Mrs. Trump was alone then, and seemed more natural that way, as if Ernie had always been some kind of an anomaly, just there, and then gone.

Every time my brother and I walked around the block, Mrs. Trump would tap on her kitchen window and ask us to come in for cookies and milk. Honestly, that's why we walked around that side of the block to begin with. The woman had an inexhaustible supply of cookies and milk, which just happened to be always set out on the kitchen table in glasses and on plates.

Her house was huge, and quiet as a grave. It was a very old house that had been built in the days when people had servants, and there were special hidden staircases for the use of the servants, weaving unseen behind the walls like secret tunnels.

We used to stay at Mrs. Trump's house when we were sick and our mother was away, or when my parents went out to a party. We stayed in the den, where there was a TV and a grandfather clock. She would make the sofa into a bed and you would have to lie there, ever so lonely, counting the ticks and the tocks. It seemed always an eternity before my mother returned.

If we had to sleep overnight, she would put us in a room upstairs. The entire house was paneled in dark wood, like mahogany, and furnished in the same manner. The bedroom was so spacious that it seemed to yawn and sigh like a sleepy giant. Next to the bed was a crib and in the crib was an old style porcelain doll. My brother called it "Baby Moses". I don't know why.

It happened, one night when we stayed in that room, that we had just come from a watching a horror movie called Hush, hush, Sweet Charlotte, with Bette Davis. I had been particularly frightened by the movie - more so than my brother, who was two years older than I. To make things worse, as older the brothers sometimes will, he kept reaching down next to his side of the bed to rock Baby Moses' cradle, despite my tearful requests that he desist.

It is dark and deathly silent in that yawning room, except for the intermittent creaking of the cradle - and then suddenly, we hear footsteps on wood, and the closet door creaks open, just like in a real horror film, and the vague, thin figure of a woman with blue hair emerges. No joke, then. No rocking cradle. This was real, and we both screamed in terror.

Well, of course, it was Mrs. Trump, having used one of the hidden service staircases as a shortcut. But I was sure, and my brother was sure, in that critical moment, that it must be Bette Davis herself, probably carrying a knife or a meat cleaver.

One time when Mrs. Trump had us in for cookies and milk, she sat down at the table as well, which was unusual. It was raining outside, cats and dogs, as they say, and the sky was a classic Oregon gray and the windows were blurry with the constant downpour.

"I want to tell you boys something," Mrs. Trump said, "and I want you to listen, and I want you to remember."

Wondering whether we had done something wrong without knowing it, we put our cups down, stopped chewing our cookies.

"I want to tell you," she said, "that you have the best, the kindest mom and dad in the world. I want you boys to know that and never forget. That's all.

She smiled, then, and went back to work in the kitchen, and I suppose that my brother and I exchanged a glance and a snicker.  But you know, I never did forget, not even for a moment, ever in my life, not once to this very day.

Send in the Clowns

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Been listening to that song this morning while doing the laundry. One song that Sinatra actually doesn't do better than everyone else. A rarity indeed. I prefer Barbara Streisand's interpretation. The one by Judy Collins seems too flat. But whatever. Matter of taste, I'm sure.

Funny how one can take lyrics out of context and make them applicable to oneself or one's situation, apart from the originally intended meaning.

I often feel that the order in time is strangely disjointed, improperly put together, like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces have been forced into the wrong spots, skewing, scattering and confusing the picture. If I were in charge of chance, coincidence, chronology, I would have done things differently, redone the order of time and event. What's that word they use nowadays? Synchronize. Synchronize your devices.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Don't you love farce?

My energy is spent, and yet in demand. The capital is depleted just when the time is ripe for purchase. I am finally ready, yet already done.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wine and Cheese

I don't generally enjoy being interrupted when I'm busy doing nothing, but if one must be interrupted, it might as well be by an Italian who has been drinking too much and is carrying a sack full of cheese, ham and wine. This provides the interruption with considerable substance, making it rather more pleasant than interruptions might otherwise be.

So was the case tonight at Limamike's. Moreno came looking for beer, which is not to be found at Limamike's coffee house, but joined me, nonetheless, for coffee, which he himself substituted with red wine from a plastic container that looked much like a baby's bottle, though lacking a nipple.

In addition to the wine, Moreno produced a boulder sized hunk of smoked ham along with a similarly sized ball of white cheese. All homemade, he explained, with real ingrediants, real milk, real pork, real grapes, none of this powder and paste nonsense that passes for food in the local supermarket. No, he makes this himself, both here and in Jakarta.

Moreno sliced the ham and the cheese, poured out my water and replaced it with wine (so that's how it's done!), and proceeded to tell his life story. A chef by profession, he lived ten years in China and owned three restaurants (by profession), speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, English, German, and learned to speak Spanish in the course of one day spent in Mexico. He met the Javanese woman of his dreams in Macao, who had ended up there by way of Jawa Timor, Singapore, Bangkok and Beijing.

The more Moreno talked, the more he drank, and the more he drank, the more Italian he became, such that English itself dropped out of the conversation to a considerable extent. Which pretty much made it time to go.

Ah, what a life we have, he said. Eh, my friend, Ricardo, what a life, eh?

Yes, what a life indeed.

Monday, August 3, 2015

One, two, three ...

One time, my grandfather, whom I never knew, accused my mother of killing his dog. The thing is, there was no dog. The dog he was thinking of had died some years earlier. This was my dad's dad. He was living with my parents in those days because of a worsening problem with senility. Neither I nor my brother had been born yet. My mother was a very kind and sensitive person, while grandpa, by all accounts, had always been something of an asshole, even in his right mind. Well, my mom would try to reason with grandpa about that dog and then one day he hauled off and hit her. After that, my dad sent grandpa to the 'old folks home', and, soon after, he died, under somewhat suspicious circumstances, with bruises about his head. They said he had fallen several times.

Sad story, I guess. Like I said, I never knew him. But I know my parents always felt badly about what had happened, as if it had been their fault.

Sometimes people can get an idea in their head, and the more you reason with them about it, the more insistent they become regarding the delusion. A complex has developed, superseding commonplace reality, and the person so suffering will defend the complex at all costs. I saw this for myself many times as an adult, working in an adult foster home, and then with my own mother when she developed Alzheimers.

With a stranger, it doesn't really matter. You did not know them in any other form. Their delusions are who they are. But with someone you are close to, it is very difficult indeed. You know them only as they were, not as they have become.

My mother used to count to three. One, two three. I taught her to do that. I thought it would calm her. Just count to three, Mom, and take a deep breath.

One, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three.

Just tap your heels together three times and say, There's no place like home.

She got into such a habit of counting to three, that she would not, or could not stop.

One, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three ...

And then one time, just before the end, she did stop for a moment, raised her eyes to mine, focused for the final time in her life, and said, 'I love you.'

Those three words.

And then began again - one, two, three; one, two three; one, two, three - until the final breath parted from her lips.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

CK

Ran into a little gang of anak nakal at the Circle K, two girls and a boy, 17, 16 and 15. Little gangstas. They greeted me with the usual "Hello, Mister" and began to sit at their own table, but finding that I could speak some Indonesian, excitedly invited themselves to mine. From Timor, they said, but they live nearby. The boy explained that the older girl was naughty because she had just gotten a tattoo and because she lives with her boyfriend. He also claimed that the younger girl was his girlfriend, but she denied this. Both became angry for a time, but got over it. We talked about tattoos and school and short skirts and clubbing. The boy wants to go to America because of the short skirts there, and the girls want to go too, just because. They had all been to Adora, on the Bypass, and wanted to know if I wanted to go too. How did you all get into Adora, I asked? Oh, ada teman di sana. Well, of course. In Bali, anything is possible if you have either a friend or money.

They all wanted to know about my son, and how old is he, and when is he coming back. But I don't think Patrik's mother would let him play with these anak nakal.

Just small talk, really, but not something that would happen back home. Young folks don't talk to old folks. Yuck.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Just Look Away

You know how there are some things you don't want to see, but you just have to look anyway? Like a terrible accident on the road, for instance. You inwardly cringe as you approach. You are repelled at the sight. But you look anyway.

It can be the same with ideas. You begin to read something, and you know right away that what is being expressed is repugnant and twisted, but you read on anyway, unable to avert your mind - because what you are looking at is the intellectual version of a disastrous car wreck, the road kill of integrity in thought, the mangled body parts of reason. What started out as a report of some clearcut event or political commentary quickly collides in the readers' comment section with the lunacy of minds that have careened out of control.

Take any news article about Obama, for instance. Once the article hits the eight lane highway of Facebook, the simplicity of its substance explodes into weird shattered fragments, flying in all directions, which are then regathered in the repugnant form of someone's personal Frankenstein monster.

I happened to begin reading one such comment today and, pausing to scroll down the page, noted that it went on almost interminably. Obama is not an American, his birth certificate is fake, his wife is a man, neither of his daughters has a birth certificate either, having been abducted as small children; there are no photographs of his wedding, he has shown no marriage certificate, there is no record of his actually having attended any university, his name is registered under five different Social Security numbers in five different versions from five different states. He is a Muslim sitting in the highest seat in the nation and is committed to the destruction of freedom and democracy.

These things leave me with a distinctly queasy feeling - again, like the sight of blood and body parts.

Scarier yet are the number of 'likes' and replies of agreement that these sorts of comments receieve. Wow, you've really done your research, Bob!

And indeed, Bob has done his research, having, apparently, spent every waking hour pouring over the tomes of paranoia and fantasy that can be found on the internet as easily as measles on skin. Bob has made a masterly study of what is not, and is now passing it on to a confused and unwary culture ripe for infection. A sickness is passing like the grim reaper among us, which is known, by too many, as "the real truth".

Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Something Wrong

It’s hot. Mid-afternoon. I fall asleep again. Wake up again. There’s something wrong with me. I wander out to the back and sit at the table. Light a cigarette. In the place behind the yard a woman is singing to a child. The child has no words yet, but makes only sounds. Whenever the woman stops singing, the child makes the sounds and she begins again. The shirt I was wearing this morning is draped over the opposite chair, having forgotten me. The shirttail lazily furls and unfurls in the absent-minded breeze. The woman sings. I remember the laundry I started this morning, still in the machine. Soup for a week. But someone will have to hang it out to dry. Like me. Me and the laundry and my pretend dog Snoopy. I don’t remember anyone ever singing a lullaby to me. I was too young. Or my brother was too old. Was. That’s the key. I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with me.

Reality

The truth seems often so dreary. We've heard it before. We want something new. We need to be entertained, like discontented children. What if?

It seems now that the mysteriously lost Malaysian Airlines jet has been found. It did not disappear. It was not taken to a secret island by the CIA. It was not abducted by aliens.

Not very interesting at all, and, therefore, unacceptable.

How is it that it suddenly just showed up, they will ask? The entire Pacific Ocean had been searched, and it's not really THAT big of a place, right? Clearly, the sinister forces that absconded with the jet in the first place have now planted a well crafted replica, made to appear the proper age and bear the proper extent of deterioration. Why they waited so long to do it is another question, of course, but maybe they didn't fully think the thing through to begin with.

A similar scenario occurred a long time ago with a squad of fighter planes that disappeared in the fabled Devil's Triangle, off the coast of Florida. They simply disappeared, with no possible explanation other than the fantastic. The most prominent theory was that they were taken by aliens.

But the problem is, they were finally found - not so mysteriously at the bottom of the ocean.

Bummer, right? Once again, we are faced with these dreary facts, the monotony of truth, this maddening creature that retains its form no matter how much you twist it.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

That is where the true and deep mysteries begin, where reality is left to be itself and we begin to contemplate what remains.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lucifer and Joe

The more I think about this, the more it kind of bothers me. Earlier today, I posted photo of the life-size Camel cigarettes Camel (Joe Camel) at the Circle K in Sanur. They must have gotten this in some kind of warehouse sale, because Joe's image is now against the law in the US. It cannot be displayed on cigarette packs or on posters or in any manner whatsoever. It is thought that Joe Camel will inspire people to smoke, and smoking is bad for you. That's one thing they do display on the packs, in graphic pictures.

And yet, here is this 9 foot, 200 pound statue of Satan in Detroit. There are also statues of Satan in Washington DC and other cities. This one is different in that it pictures him standing with two small children.

What is the message here? Is Satan the Saint of children, the protector of innocence? Not at all. Satan is the prince of evil, the father of lies, the archetypal enemy of God and mankind. To this day, sick people, under the spell of evil, carry out deeds of ritual sacrifice, molestation and murder in his name. And so we erect a statue to honor him

At the same time, atheists demand that statues and images of Christ be removed from sight - the most recent one honoring the fallen among ski troops in World War II. Christian images must not be displayed, even at Christmas time, where they may be seen by the public - no, not even on one's own front lawn.

They fear that Joe Camel may inspire people to smoke, but they fear not the inspirations of Satan. They fear that people will be offended by Christ - which is not news, for He said so Himself - but they imagine that people will admire the Devil.

And they may just be right.

Friday, July 24, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again

“Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: "Death  is to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

Two things happened.

One was that my stepson, Sasha, went back home to America to live with his father. I say home because Sasha has never thought of it as other than home, despite having left when he was ten and spent five years in Bali. Three-quarters Indonesian, Sasha was born in America, spent his formative years in America and is, quite simply, an American. Indonesia, the birthplace of his father and mother, was always a foreign land to him. The most that can be said is that he got used to it, more or less.

The first picture I saw on Facebook was of Sasha enjoying fiberoptic cable internet. The second was of Sasha holding an automatic rifle, surrounded by fully stocked gun racks. Both made me feel uneasy.

Arizona is where he lives now. The State of Hate, his father calls it. I wouldn’t know. I was there when I was five and all I remember is buying a little papoose doll from an old Indian woman. That was on the Navaho reservation. It must be different now. It could not have stayed the same these fifty-five years.

The second thing that happened is that I called my old home in Oregon this morning and talked to my son, Holden. I say “home”, but I suppose that by home I mean him, or just the fact of his presence where home used to be. There is no house anymore, no property, no parents and no relatives. And yet, when he describes what he has been doing, where he has been, I can picture the places more clearly than those beyond my own front door.

I’m looking at the present through eyes of the past and I’m not sure which place is the more real between the two. I’m listening to the familiar voice of my son on the phone as we speak of things that always were, always have been, always will be; and now, as I write this, I understand only myself, the words inside my head, whilst without, as dim as the darkness that has fallen, is the exclusive fluency of a chatter shared only by others. This is what we may call loneliness, in the purest sense. It is not intentional, it is not premeditated, it is not mitigable. It merely is. I must try very had to understand what should otherwise be easy. And, curiously, it occurs to me that when you can understand, it doesn’t matter, but when you can’t, it does.

Home. It has not been five years, but five hundred – a multitude of removals, surcease and separation, beginning, ending, thriving and dying. Time, like an atonal music, is a virtuoso of disarray which fervently awaits the comfort of silence.

Wolfe said it best, and in only five words. You can’t go home again.

Until you do.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Difference

There is, to my mind, a critical difference between the classic conspiracy theory and the common activities of espionage agencies. The machinations of such agencies are not conspiracies but ‘spy games’, carried out under the direction of a country’s leadership to secure and protect that country’s interests. The conspiracy theory, as it stands apart now from the typical espionage or political coverup scenario, is a creature of fantastic and inexplicable nature, a counterintuitive set of self contradicting elements that becomes so entangled in its own complications that it becomes, ultimately, merely humorous. It thrives on disinformation and a growing corporate paranoia in society. It is stubbornly resistant to facts, because all facts must surely emanate from the conspirators. It is immune to the basic principles of logic, and when shown to be false, either stubbornly adheres to the falsehood, in the hopes that truth will simply go away, or morphs to an alternate scenario wherein it may, for a limited time, persist again.

The Checkered Pants

When I was young, I used to enjoy reading the tales of Paul Bunyan, the giant logger who tamed the American wilderness along with Babe the Blue Ox and Paul's colorful crew of lumberjacks. I guess they'd be sort of anti-heroes now, since chopping down trees is not cool, just in the way that Pecos Bill, Daniel Boone and bear killing Davy Crockett would be anti-heroes, though of course the latter two were actual personages.

I was just remembering the story of Sandy McNabb and his checkered pants. One of Paul's crew members, Sandy regularly wore a pair of checkered pants and was perfectly happy with these until one day when another crew member asked him whether those pants were black with white checks or white with black checks.

Well, this question got right into Sandy's head and stuck fast there. He began to ponder the thing day and night, such that it tormented him unceasingly. Indeed, were the pants black with white checks or white with black checks? How could one possibly know? How could one ever find out? One simply could not. These pants, once so natural seeming and cozy, had become an unbearable enigma, a curse, a plague, and he must walk about day by day in this indeterminate, insoluble world of doubt, with no escape from the eternal question of those pants.

Well, rather than just change the pants or buy a new pair, poor Sandy went mad, and was no more use to Paul or himself or the world. So things go in tall tales.

And sometimes in life, too. There are some questions that are just plain questions, and are happy that way. They don't come with answers. As questions, they are true enough to themselves, as clear as black and white.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The News?

This morning’s reading of the world according to Facebook led me through an unusual set of absurdities, rather different and yet rather the same as the familiar and ever morphing secular conspiracy theories one is likely to encounter, along with the bonehead comments on serious, real world events. Instead, my eye caught one article regarding the identity of the anti-Christ in an ancient dead sea scroll. Very strange, since the Christ himself had not yet come at that time..  In fact, the word ‘antiChrist’ appears only in the gospel of John and refers only to those who deny Christ, not to some particular individual who is to arise in the future. One article led to another, as these things go, each more absurd and misguided than the former. He is the Pope, he is a Muslim, he is a a Jew, a figure of magical powers and powerful illusion. He is even President Obama (but don’t fret, Barack, he was Bush before you). Essentially, these theories are designed to set various groups of people against one another. They propose a worldly farce in the place of spirituality, a kingdom of confusion in the place of the kingdom of God, fantasies more appropriate to the Hollywood movie than the true depth of truth and wisdom in scripture. In short, he is us. Prophesies themselves are not made to be unravelled and revealed beforetime, but to glorify the omniscience and foreknowledge of God after the fact, not for the pulpit of ignorant men and their naΓ―ve, gullible followers. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Such was told Timothy by Paul. The conspiracy theory, though it is a shame to admit, is originally a religious phenomenon, and, by that measure, secular conspiracy theories are essentially religious in character, in the worst possible sense. They are manifestations of ignorance, of paranoia, of superstition, grappling with the world through the obverse end of a telescope. It is so very much easier to entangle oneself in the adventure of worldly rumors than to take up your rough wooden cross and travel the uncompromising, unchanging road of truth, pure and simple.

Not long ago, my son from my second marriage contacted me via FB Messenger. Seeming rather concerned, he asked my opinion regarding whether the world was set to end at any moment – a conviction that had been conveyed by his mother. Nothing matters. His studies, his career, his love life. One must simply look to the heavens in anticipation.

Indeed, one must. Why wouldn’t he?  From whence do love, joy, hope, promise, justice emanate in the first place? But I’ll tell you this, I said. Your mother has been saying this for as long as I’ve known her, because this, to her, is hope; and is far easier than growing, than changing, than pursuing the hard and the painful work of becoming more like Him.  No, the  world is not about to end. For you it is just beginning. For when they say it is ending, you know most certainly that it is not.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Walking

It seems that I am becoming what I swore never to become - a walking enthusiast! What's wrong with me? I can't stand people who walk, yet here I am walking - walking to the coffee shop, walking to the store, walking on the beach, walking for no particular reason, when I have a perfectly good, in fact a perfectly new scooter in the driveway. Before you know it, I will be wanting special walking shoes, spandex shorts, a headband (never mind that I have no hair), kneepads, an elastic strap for my glasses and, of course, a pedometer.