Visits

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In the Lap of Luxury


Yesterday, we were out looking at villas near Sanur -- row upon row of luxury homes for sale or lease. The villa will commonly be a walled property with 2-4 bedrooms, full kitchen, 2-4 bathrooms with tub and shower (and hot water, of course), commonly arranged around a swimming pool and garden. They are private little paradises, segregated from the outside community -- personal little castles for the rich.

Directly across the road from one such row of villas is the little shanty town in the photo above. These dwellings have been fashioned from sheets of metal, bits and pieces of cardboard and plastic and wood, balanced against one another like playing cards.

"Do people actually live there?" I asked a man on the road.

"Oh, yes!" he said.

So here is the reality of Bali, standing side-by-side, the mansions of the rich, the hovels of the poor. No doubt, those who live in the shanty houses are those who do the yard work and cleaning for the villa owners. Or perhaps they are those one sees standing on the main road, shovel in hand, hoping to be picked up by a work crew.

Upon this, our common earth, every paradise has been enclosed by walls for the benefit of the few. Are other folks starving? Are other folks ill? Are other folks old or unable? Are other folks struggling to survive?

Oh well, let's not think about it. Let's just take a swim and enjoy a brunch of brie and fine bread.

Frogs

I'm having a problem that I have had before. Frogs. Not that I have anything against frogs. In fact, I rather like them. But the problem is, how do they get into my back yard? The yard is surrounded on all sides by walls that are at least ten feet high. That would seem to rule out the possibility that they come from any adjacent property. So, how, then? Do they fall from the sky, snatched off their feet from elsewhere and randomly deposited at the whim of the wind? I think not, because 1) What are the odds that so many would randomly choose my yard to fall in, and 2) What are the odds that they would survive their landing? Perhaps they arise from a sort of primordial soup that brews in the yard during rainy season. But in this case, wouldn't they need a few million more years to actually emerge as frogs? Do they tunnel up from the center of the earth? I would say not. These are clearly not the tunneling sorts of frogs, if such a thing even exists. They're not even very good at hopping compared to the common American frog. Yet they do hop, as well as they can hop, and happily so, whilst I lay awake last night considering them. Oh well, I had nothing better to do -- other than sleep, I mean.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

End of Watch

With End of Watch, Stephen King has composed the perfect finale for his three-part detective series, which began with Mr. Mercedes. As if King's villain was not already creepy enough, here he becomes more than only humanly sinister. In a modulation that could only be managed by King, this particular killer's evil moves beyond what is human and enters the supernatural. A truly well done thriller which gallops all the way to final page!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hospital - 2

Well, yeah ... predictably enough, the hospital was not all that useful. For one thing, they had no x-ray machine that could perform an x-ray of the back (lol), so I just got a complete blood panel. Results were within fairly normal limits except for the white count, which was high (maximum result in normal range 70, my result 71.5). The thing that bumped that up most significantly was the neutrophil count, which would suggest that my body is fighting an injury of infection. Which I already know. Of course, in the presence of MS, the cells that are fighting the infection and probably being fought by MS itself. The motto of the MS process: Something wrong? Let's make it worse!

Last night, I arranged a house call with an expert (expensive) masseuse. He soon discovered the problem in my right shoulder (or rather, behind the right shoulder, beneath the scapula). The muscle there is, in layman's terms, 'in a veritable knot'. 

Damn right they are. 

So, how to loosen this knot? That's the question. Weekly massages? Medication? Both? My plan now is to consult with my local black market pharmacist in hopes of finding a particularly effective muscle relaxer. And also, as the masseuse suggested, to sit in the morning sun. Unfortunately, however, it is now rainy season in  
Bali. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hospital

Well, it looks like I'm gonna break down and go to the damn hospital. The pain that I have long suffered in my neck, shoulder and back has suddenly gotten worse rather than better. My assumption has been that this is neuropathic pain associated with MS, but of course I may be wrong. I decided that it would be at least prudent to try to get an x-ray and some blood work to see if anything showed up. Not that I have any confidence in doctors here in Bali to make a reliable diagnosis, but, hey, xrays and blood chemistry tests don't lie, right? Only two medicines have so far been very effective for this pain, the one being Xanax and the other Zyprexa. The trouble is, you can only take Xanax at night, because it puts you to sleep, and the price of Zyprexa is ridiculous -- more than 2 million Rupiah for a month's supply (or 200 dollars). Can't swing that one. Of course, Xanax is also expensive, at 50 dollars for 20 tablets. For a time, I was able to get by on 2 or 3 a week, but lately I have needed it every night. So here we go. I suppose I am mainly seeking a sort of peace of mind, a reassurance that this is not something more deadly. 

The Old Man and the Goddess

I dreamed of a dying old man and an expectant goddess. Both had just been released from a long stay in prison. Another man -- the warden, perhaps; perhaps a parole officer -- was talking to them about what would happen now. They had been given a small, barren plot of land, a very small hill of real estate, nothing on it other than sparse clumps of grass. 

I may as well just dig a grave and get in it, the old man said. 

You can dig a hole, fill it with water, and drown yourself, the other man said. 

The old man was in pain. So was the goddess. The old man was ill. The goddess seemed to be in labor. 

Suddenly, she produced a mound of perfectly round, iridescent stones.

What the hell is that? the old man said. . 

Kidney stones? the other man answered. 

The goddess relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief. She observed the wondrous mound of jewels on her lap. 

Perhaps we have all been in prison for a time. We have struggled, suffered, desired, despaired. Now we are free -- and what is left? A burial plot or precious new life?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dandy

The idea that family members, loved ones and friends would be disinterested or unsympathetic to the MS sufferer would have surprised me in the past. In fact, it did surprise me as I began early on to discover this reality. It is actually where the name of this blog came from. In brief, I had remarried, and my new wife and I were having some relationship troubles, unrelated to MS. My daughter from the previous marriage, having heard of this 'trouble in paradise' through the grapevine, called me on the phone. She asked no question about my MS. She did not ask after my health or my condition. No, she said, with barely concealed glee, 'Sooo, how are you and your new wife doing?' It was my first experience of the fact that other people, even those close to you, have no interest in the issue of your health. And so I answered, rather tiredly, acutely disappointed, 'Oh, no worries. Everyone here is Jim Dandy'. 

In the years since then, I have heard many stories like this one. I have heard many MS sufferers express surprise and a sense of betrayal that those who they might have thought would come alongside them and help take up their burden were silent instead, disinterested, irritated, annoyed. I have heard, as well, of a fair number of divorces as a result of the disease. I have heard the accusation that we are not well because we don't really want to be well. I have heard the accusation that we are exaggerating our pains. And, of course, I have heard the simple solutions -- you need to take more vitamins, you need to take these stem-cell pills, you need to get more exercise, you need to stop thinking about it. You need to get over it, because your unwellness, your complaints, your deficits are ruining our marriage/friendship/relationship. In short, your disease is ruining my life and I can't handle it anymore.

Of course, this is not everyone's experience. It is just much more common that one might have imagined. Many of us are truly on our own. For many, the only sympathetic ear is that of the doctor -- and, of course, you have to pay him for his time. We find ourselves increasingly left out, uninvited, off the friend list. And that's only natural, in a certain way -- for those who are healthy do active things and those who are unhealthy do not. We would if we could. Please understand. We do want to live again, to function at 100 percent, to laugh, to run, to hike, to party -- to simply feel comfortable once again in our own skin, to throw off the burden that this random disease has inflicted upon us, to recover, to be well, to be able. BUT THIS IS NOT OUR CHOICE. The disease marches forward. It neither seeks nor needs our approval. In fact, it has nothing to do with us. It lives its own dysfunctional life, having seized control of an unwilling host. We are taken captive, blindfolded, gagged. We are locked in cells, slowly starved, yet kept alive.

And in our captivity, the body wastes away, but the heart grows large and strong. This, at least, is within our reach, and the road is open, the way unfettered. Compassion is very close at hand. 


Old Dogs

Old dogs and ill dogs wander off to die. They don’t mean to withdraw their affection. They mean to be out of the way. This is the final act of devotion. They curl themselves into corners, into the darker spaces. They bury the broken heart. They close their eyes, on pupils imprinted with the master’s image. They watch no more. They wait for sleep.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Confusion

Upon entering the Sanur Starbucks the other day, I was greeted by the woman at the counter, who then said something that sounded like "Dee ozoo all?" I figured she must be speaking Indonesian and that this was a word I do not know.

Noting my failure to understand, she repeated the expression very slowly, enunciating each syllable. "Dee-Ooo-Zoo-All?"

Oh! Hang on ... The usual! She was asking whether I wanted my usual coffee drink. Seperti biasa. Lol.

When you are expecting Indonesian, but English comes out, and yet with a heavy Indonesian accent, things can get confusing. The same thing happens with my own pronunciation of Indonesian words, wherein the response may be, 'Sorry, I don't speak English.'

In fact, it happened just the other day with the word Bingung, American pronunciation, 'bing-Goong, meaning 'confused'. And my American accent did indeed 'confuse' the hearer.

And then we have a third language called 'rap music', which is very popular among the young Indonesians.

So it happened that my friend, Iadi, wanted to know what does it mean, Ma Nigga. 

Whoa, Iadi. I means that you, a non-black person, neva, eva say Ma Nigga!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

All

All I ever wanted really was a warm room, rain tapping on a window, two easy chairs, a television, a faithful dog at my feet, embers winking and whispering on the hearth. Trust. Devotion. Sureness. A son, a daughter, calling on the phone, just checking in. And in the summer picnics, and in the winter Christmas, and in the spring long walks under damp new suns, and in the autumn pungent, papery leaves to rake into mounds which would sleep the night huddled beneath a cold orange moon. Simplicity. Peace. Love like a tall and graceful elm with roots descending to the center of the earth. Only this, nothing more.

Back on the American Front

I have seen numerous editorials and comments post-Las Vegas shooting painting Americans as a people in love with guns. The fact is that fewer than 30 percent of Americans own a gun, while a lesser percentage of that 30 percent own multiple guns. A tiny percent of that lesser percentage are nut cases that own multiple guns. The fact is, most Americans would not know how to load, fire, or maintain a gun. Of the hundreds of people I have known in my long life, a mere handful hav...e been gun owners. Most Americans, including gun owning Americans, are fully in favor of common sense gun control measures, from background checks to registration to limitations on automatic weapons. Let us squarely place the blame not on the American people or a fictional romance with firearms, but on the big money behind the NRA and the gun industry and its purchase of irresponsible, gutless politicians whose only shield is the shamelessly disingenuous hijacking of the second amendment for the sake of filling their pockets and advancing their careers. They are fully complicit in the murder that took place in Las Vegas.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Olden Days

Having spoken of lamentable present day realities, let us speak for a moment of olden days.

Up until the time I was about 50, I spent several weeks of every summer in the High Cascades of Oregon -- Camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, swimming, boating.  I hiked seven miles up hill to the base of the peak of Mt. Jefferson, carrying a backpack for a two night stay on the shore of the snow-water lake there. Reaching the highest ridge before the little valley that dipped down to the base of the peak, I decided to descend cross-country rather than follow the trail, down through the shale rock, between the hearty tufts of grasses and huckleberry bushes, past deep blue pools, one of which was bridged by a slowly melting snowbank, over the final crags of stone and to the spreading green below, shot through with wildflowers every color of the rainbow.

I climbed four times the 7200 foot hill known as Olallie Butte, scrabbling up the final barren hump on hands and knees. two feet forward, one foot back. We -- I, my brother and our friend -- made a challenge of seeing who could reach the top first and in the fastest time. 

I rowed the length of Olallie Lake, 3 miles, and then rowed back against the wind. 

I climbed nearly every trail and visited nearly every lake in that wide and rugged wilderness; and if there was a hill above the highest lake, I climbed that hill to see what was on the other side. 

In Bali, already 55 years of age, I swam almost every day; and in Thailand, we boated, swam and snorkeled the day long at Krabbe Island; and in Bangkok, we walked miles to visit temples and markets and the sites of the city. In Georgetown, Malaysia, we walked from morning to evening, visiting the historic sites, stopping off at cafes and local markets. 

The point is, I have not always been a cripple. I was strong, and agile, and sure of foot, and full of energy, and seemingly tireless. And when the day was done, I would go out at night and enjoy the bar or the club with friends.

These are the things that MS has taken from me. This is the me that MS has murdered. I remember it now as if it were a fiction, and yet I was there, once upon a time, in the flesh -- and not long ago, at that. 

You don't 'get better' from MS. You don't recover. You don't regain what is lost. You don't 'get back on your feet' again. You lose, little by little, irrepressibly. Little by little, you disappear.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The End of Something on Nusa Penida

Took a short trip to Nusa Penida Island, which I wrote about in my other blog, Mypracticalparadise.com.  

But what I want to write about here is how painfully evident it became that my condition has profoundly worsened over the last couple years. Two years ago to the day, as Facebook cheerily reminds me, I was on a trip to the north coast of Bali, where we enjoyed a day-long adventure of boating, swimming and snorkeling, during which I experienced no significant difficulties with physical ability. 

Yesterday and the day before, however, merely walking was a challenge. Most of the tourist sites on Nusa Penida start from hillsides far above the sea. Visitors walk down a rocky path so that they can view the massive rocks that rise from the ocean, the crashing waves, the aquamarine pools, and so on. It was soon apparent, however, that my legs were far too weak and wobbly to convey me to these destinations. The two young men who were in our party had to constantly hold onto my arms and steady me. When we waded out to the boat that would take us back to Bali, I had to be pulled from one end and pushed from the other so that I could get into the damn boat. 

Honestly, it was acutely embarrassing. I felt foolish and burdensome and keenly depressed. 

I was truly unaware of how bad things had gotten; for, most days, I simply stay at home or in the immediate neighborhood, never having to call upon much physical effort. But it did not occur to me that I would be any less able than ever to do whatever I was called upon to do. 

It was a rude awakening to the deterioration that has quietly and steadily been at work in my body. Multiple sclerosis is a matter of steady, relentless subtraction, wasting, deterioration. More and more, you don't just have MS; you are MS. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Not a Good Night

I am alone most of the time these days. And I am in pain most of the time. For more than a year now, this relentless pain has been crawling about from my neck to my shoulder to my back, a bit better one day, a bit worse the next. It is as if there is a foreign creature entwined inextricably with my nervous system, endlessly eating and tearing. I feel like excising the entire right side of my body. Just being done with it. I am half a man with or without it. The pain was so bad this evening that I decided to try to kill it with alcohol. I was not successful. I am exhausted, and depressed, and alone. And I begin to wonder why. So many things seem, in hindsight, so senseless, so random, so pointless. My own narrative falls apart, and I begin to wonder which of a thousand mistakes is behind my damnation. The past is ended, is refuted by the present, and the present has no plan, no goal. I am abandoned. I am become an orphan. I am become my own ceaseless pain. How strange it is to have gone this far in life and gathered not a single true friend. 

The Vietnam War

During this week, I have watched the ten part PBS series, The Vietnam War, directed by noted historian Ken Burns. This is a thorough, and a fascinating documentary of the war, from the time of the French colonial struggle to the bitter culmination of the American defeat some 30 years later; fascinating, heartbreaking, and, sadly, eerily pertinent, given the resurgent nationalism of our time, a beating of drums that should have been eternally stilled by that great and senseles...s slaughter that we all watched unfold. This carefully, minutely detailed account serves well in undoing the sort of 'Readers' Digest' version of history that develops over time, dispelling the clich├ęs, restoring fullness to the figures involved and the decisions that were made. Just as one example, it is interesting to note the deeply felt reticence of President Johnson to become very significantly involved in the war. Through official records and through voice recordings, we learn of his conviction from the beginning that America had nothing to gain from this war, and of his repugnance at the thought of becoming embroiled to the point where his own initial aspirations of a 'war against poverty' at home were so steadily overshadowed by a shooting war in faraway Asia. One president, it seems, would say, "We'll do this much, and no more", while the next would say, "Okay, this much, plus this, but then no more"; until, finally, we found ourselves with both feet planted, hip-deep in the muck, invested to the hilt. Step by step by step, we found ourselves not on the periphery but smack dab in the middle. This is how it happens -- through aggressive talk, through demonizing, through ignorance, through pride, through stubbornness, through exaggeration, through a short-view of history, through a failure to appreciate the small picture in favor of inventing a big picture that is composed of at least 90 percent paranoia. One hears the same echoes once again -- America, love it or leave it ... My country, right or wrong ... empty, self-contradictory slogans that lead to senseless disaster. One hopes that this series will be attended to closely by millions, for this is most definitely a history that we don't want to repeat.
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Here and Gone

I seem lately to have periods of lucidity which suddenly arise from a more general sort of fogginess or dullness. Suddenly, my mind will become sharp and active and I will find myself writing artfully and intelligently. This is not one of those days. Most days are not one of those days. More generally, I will awake in a sort of stupor, wander out to the backyard for a cup of coffee, light up a cigarette, and then just kind of sit there, waiting for my mind to boot up like an old-fashioned desktop computer, like dial-up internet. I drag myself through customary tasks, getting dressed, grabbing something simple to eat, a piece of toast, a boiled egg, preparing for nothing in particular. Eventually, I drag myself out to Starbucks, thinking that I really should do something. Most of the time, I am in pain. The neuropathic problem in my neck and shoulder and back is relentless. So I sit at Starbucks, drinking my coffee, thinking that I should go home and lie down. And then one day, unannounced, unexpected, my mind will suddenly light up, fill up with orderly and purposeful thought. Words will return like rain to a drought pocked landscape and suddenly I am swimming in a freshwater lake. Suddenly I am me again. Words tingle in my fingertips and fall breathlessly upon the open page, irrepressible, bright, shimmering, such that they seem not even my own, more like dictation than invention. And then the lights dim again, the fog rolls in, the water recedes, the sky grows gray and obscure. I recall having awakened for a time, but I don't know how I did it, I don't know how to get back again. I recall the enthusiasm, the joy of engagement, and mourn its departure. I am enveloped by an unnamable, unreasonable loneliness, a stone-like, mountainous sense of regret, fatigue, impotence, exhaustion. The world has boxed itself up and sent itself elsewhere, and I alone remain, longing to be rescued. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

On Word Choice

When Samuel arrived yesterday morning to clean the house, I found him in unusually high spirits. It soon became clear that the reason for this was that his wife had just given birth to their first child, a son.

"Well, that is happy news!" I said.

As there were no cigars in the house, I offered him a shot of whiskey instead, which Samuel enjoyed so much that he offered himself another, and another.

"Just take the whole bottle," I said. "I don't drink anyway. It's just been sitting here untouched for a year."

When Sam was done working, we sat and talked for a time (strangely, he was rather more talkative than usual), and before he left, I congratulated him once again on the birth of his son.

Later on in the afternoon, I was visiting with my friend, Hendra, at the nearby Starbucks, and I mentioned the unexpected celebration of the morning. I explained to him that Sam's wife "beranak", which I understood to mean 'had a baby'.

Hendra broke into laughter.

"No, no, Bapak. You can't say that! Beranak is only for animals. If a human being, you must say 'melarhirkan'.

Ehem.

I really must apologize, next time I see Samuel, for referring to his wife as an animal!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Agung 2

One of my neighbors back in Portland, Oregon, was Mt. St. Helens, about 70 miles north in the State of Washington. Thus it happens that angry Gunung Agung brings back some memories.
In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted. It turned out to be the deadliest, most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. The eruption itself reduced the elevation of the mou...ntain's summit from 9677 feet to 8363 feet. Ash covered the earth all the way down to the streets of Portland and hung in the air like a thick, acrid smog. People were advised not to go outside without wearing a facemask due to elements in the cloud harmful to the respiratory system.
The house I lived in at the time just happened to be high on the slope of one of Portland's higher hills, Mt. Tabor. The big picture window at the front of the house faced directly north, such that it became like a movie screen. We watched the whole thing, never having to turn around the look at the TV at the back of the room.
Praying now for the folks in the danger zone of Agung, and that old man Agung, the axis of the universe, may soon take a deep breath and reconsider more peaceful options.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Agung

Here in Bali, the island is on a level 3 (of 4) warning for an eruption of Mt. Agung, the highest point in Bali at a bit under 10,000 feet. The mountain last erupted in 1963-64, killing more than 1500 people. Villages within 7 kilometers of the base of the mountain were destroyed. Mt. Agung is believed by the Hindus to be a piece (replica) of Mt. Meru, brought to Bali by the first Hindus. It is the site of the island's most important temple, Pura Besakih. This time around, people are being evacuated from the area in an orderly manner, just in case. We shall hope that the mountain settles back to sleep soon.   

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Humor and MS - a Free Online Lecture




On Sept 27th, GeneFo, a free medical community platform, will be holding a free online lecture titled :The Medical Benefits of using Humor to Manage MS". The speaker will be Ms Yvonne deSousa (author of MS Madness). 



Please take a look at the following links. 



Link to register:  tinyurl.com/Humor-and-MS



Facebook Post: https://t.co/Un8Hi6Kuu3






cid:ii_j7pswyax2_15e93b7463e202e8

Abou

GeneFo is a free  medical crowd sourcing platform that allows people affected by chronic conditions like MS  to track their condition management and also get access to free tools like clinical trial matching, comparative tools (so people can see what others like them are doing) and  educational resources. 


Friday, September 15, 2017

American Horror Story

Interesting new season of "American Horror Story" (so far). The American horror in this case is the election of Donald Trump Seriously. God bless free speech. Of course, it goes deeper than that. When is fear reasonable, and when a matter of personal issues? Which threats are real, and which imaginary? At what point does fear itself become one's greatest fear? What is really unravelling - the world or one's own psyche?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gut Feeling

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/gut-microbes-could-help-trigger-multiple-sclerosis

An interesting article on the latest culprit in the cause of  MS. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ah, The Arrogance

I was just reading a copy of The Bali Advertizer - well, as far as possible, anyway before the pervasive stench of the paper begins to make your eyes water. Of course, there is the always interesting column by Richard Laidlaw, a friend of mine, a long time resident of Bali, originally from Australia, but other than that ... nada. But the thing that really caught my eye was a small ad about learning bahasa Indonesia, featuring the happy news that one might even learn to talk to "staff". I'm sorry, but this just struck me as hilarious. I couldn't stop giggling for the the longest time! Talk to your staff That which had previously been a flowerpot or a broom has now become a real person!

Underground

As far as it is possible, I prefer for everything to proceed in the exact same way every day. I'd like to say that this is because I'm just naturally a creature of habit, or because familiarity is naturally comforting to me, but the fact is, it's because my brain doesn't function properly. If the unexpected is encountered, it's as if I have suddenly slipped into an alternate universe. What happened? Where am I? What do I do now?

I always take the same exact route everywhere I... go. Nearly every day, I go to the Starbucks at Plaza Renon. I take the same route and I park in the outdoors lot.

As I pulled into the lot this evening, however, I was told by the parking attendant that the lot is full.

"Jadi, harus ke mana?"

"Harus ke bawah."

"Oh. Di mana itu?"

"Um ... di bawah."

Ok!

But I had never been to the underground parking lot. Where exactly was it? Pasti, underground, but where is the entry. And how do you get out again? Hmm. I could just go home, but ... No, by God, I'm goin' in!

So I found the entry, took my ticket from the machine (though parking is free anyway - it says so on the machine - go figure), and down I went.

I parked my bike, rushed up the escalator (asyik!), entered Starbucks, bought my latte, cozied down at my table ... But damn, I'd forgotten my cigarettes in the bike compartment.

Back to the parking lot. Should just take a couple secs ... but hold on ... where the hell is my bike?
After I had toured the fairly small lot for a while, the guard asked whether he could help with something.

"Ya, uh, ha ha, I can't find my bike."

"Ok. I help you. What is license number?"

Damn! I should know this. I do know this. Except, at the moment, I don't.

"Ok. Nggak apa-apa. What color?"

"White!"

Whew. I feel like a Jeopardy contestant. What is white!

So we tour the place together, eventually unravel the mystery. The bike happens to be where I parked it maybe 10 minutes ago.

As I walk back to the escalator, I note the point of entry. Enter here. Turn left. Easy.

My coffee has gone cold, but at least I have my cigarettes.

Resy comes over and we talk a while, then Iadi comes over and we talk a while too, and then I read a chapter from the book I brought.

Upon descending ke bawah lagi, I exit the door, turn left, and ... Well, how about that, my bike has disappeared once again.

So I begin the search for the second time this evening, and I begin to vaguely worry that someone will report up above that there's a suspicious looking white dude lurking aimlessly around the parking lot below.

4655! Bingo! That's the number! I feel like finding the parking attendant from earlier to let him know I've remembered the number - but, of course, that doesn't really make sense at this point. I'm not crazy. Just stupid.

Ah, there it is, praise God, my bike!

And now one final question, Alex. How long do you reckon it takes for me to find the exit?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Last Star

"Penderitaan itu perlu. Penderitaan adalah kehidupan. Tanpa penderitaan, takkan ada kegembiraan."

A while back, I ordered book two of this three book series by Rick Yancey, but, not surprisingly, it never arrived. So I kind of brushed up on the plot through an internet review and forged on to book three, The Last Star.

I found it, like book one, tightly plotted and consistently entertaining and inventive. The development of the central characters was carried nicely through to the end.

When an advanced alien race invades the earth and carries out, through a 5-wave plan, the erasure of millions and the collapse of civilized structure, the final results are not bound to be pretty--and Yancey cuts no corners in this regard. What he shows the reader, ultimately, and what the aliens also discover, is that love itself cannot be defeated. It continually rises from the ruins, gaining strength through every defeat--a strength that cannot be matched or overcome by technology or scheming. Thus the quote above: Suffering is necessary. Suffering is life. Without suffering, gladness has no meaning.

Many are sacrificed, many are martyred, and yet their deaths continually give birth to new life, ever fortifying the relentless will to survive and prevail. This is what the aliens did not know, could not comprehend, and could not have foreseen. It was, ironically, their own doom from the beginning.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Sunset Express

Stumbled upon a very fine movie this evening called "The Sunset Express", from a play by Cormac McCarthy (author of a number of well known novels, including All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing). The play features two actors only, Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. It is a sharply intelligent dialog of opposites: faith and disbelief, love and hatred, intellect and spirit, hope and despair, life and death. From a contemporary master of English prose, this extremely well acted play is well worth one's time.

Paradise

I knew paradise once, and there were not any palm trees. There was not even much sunshine, except in the summer. It was made up of little things, poor things, like love, like trust, like soft words and old songs, and light that can never be matched by invention, the sort of light that can interpret darkness, the flame that hovers above the wick. Everything other than this (and all things are other) has been hypocrisy, at best no more than hope, and hope misplaced, a grotesque masquerade, an aping insult to what it cannot comprehend. This is what we mean when we speak of taking God's name in vain. What a sad and pale shadow we cast, accomplishing nothing other than the obstruction of light. Do you really think that I would cry over such a thing? What has this nothing, this fabricated dream, to say in the remembrance of purity?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Loopy

Feeling a bit loopy this morning. Got up too early, I guess. Went to microwave my breakfast and microwaved the roll of paper towels instead. I can tell you that the taste is decidedly dry, the texture rather fibrous, and they cannot be swallowed without a whole lot of water.

Seriously, though, the problems I experience with cognitive function as a result of MS are generally at their worst either in the morning or if there is too much going on at the same time. In the morning, it is best to sit for a time, have a cup of coffee, patiently wait while all the systems come on line, kind of like an old style computer booting up. 

There's often not much to do about information or activity overload, other than stop, if at all possible, admit that you're having a problem, and hope that the cessation of activity for a time will not prove a critical measure. 

Amen

Amen is a true war story about true war heroes - not the kind that throw themselves on grenades or lead the charge up the hill or command great armies, but the rarest kind of all, the kind who possess the courage and the integrity to object to what is clearly objectionable, sacrificing their own comfort and safety for the sake of the truth, and for the lives of their fellow men.

An SS officer, in charge of clean water production, learns that a chemical he is using to purify water is also being used to gas hundreds of thousands of Jews in concentration camps. At first he is disbelieving, but then sees it for himself as his fellows proudly demonstrate the gas chamber.
The officer immediately goes to the Protestant church of which he is a member, but finds only excuses, denials, fairy tales. No one is being killed, he is told. They are being moved to different countries.

He goes then to the Catholic Church and is met with a generally similar response, except from a single priest, who, through his father, has connections to the Pope himself.

But when this priest goes to the Pope, he is told that he is being unrealistic. There is diplomacy to be considered, and the safety of the Vatican, and the problem of objecting to Hitler and not to Stalin. It's not as simple as simply speaking out against the murder of Jews. Aside from that, the Pope wants proof, and the Americans want proof.

In the meantime, the SS officer pleads with his church pastor and committee to speak the truth, to instruct the parishioners to pin the yellow star of David on their clothing. They can't kill us all.
Madness, he is told. It is still only 1942. The German people are cozy. The economy is strong. And undesirables are simply being removed from the good population (sound familiar?).

The young priest tries again, taking the SS officer with him to the Vatican this time. But Italy has been invaded by the Allies and the Pope is trying to save Italians, and also the holy sites that are being bombarded.

Have patience, the priest is told. God will make all things right.

Dumbfounded, stupefied, the priest stumbles backward, then slowly withdraws a yellow star from his pocket, pins it on his cloak, and walks to the train depot to line up with the Jews about to be transported.

This is the way God makes things right. Through one caring person at a time. One man of integrity. One hero.

The SS officer, discarding his uniform, escapes Germany and enters the Allied lines in France. He carries documents, plans, names, details. It is concluded by the Allied staff members that no man of God would ever have donned an SS uniform. He is, he is told, guilty of murder. He is jailed, and hangs himself in the jail cell.

The young priest dies in the gas chamber.

Later on, during the Nuremburg trials, the testimony of these two men was used in the conviction of Nazi war criminals.

Ultimately, in the hindsight of history, they did not die in vain. Neither, however, while living, did they choose, like so many others, to live in vain.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ennui

It had been a long time since I felt the fragrance of summer: the scent of the ocean, a distant train whistle, the touch of a girl's skin, the lemony perfume of her hair, the evening wind, faint glimmers of hope, summer dreams.

But none of these were the way they once had been; they were all somehow off, as if copied with tracing paper that kept slipping out of place.

--Huraki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing

That's how it is sometimes, isn't it? We experience a pale shade of wonder, something that points to another time, a memory of something, bigger, brighter, stronger, accompanied by a sort of longing, nostalgia, wanting to reach and grasp again, yet unable. One stands outside oneself, an observer, regretfully detached, and there seems no escape from this ennui. Where did my heart go, one wonders? Oh, yes ... it's that part of me that is aching. 



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mesothelioma Link

I have added a link to Mesothelioma Cancer in the upper right portion of my page, as you an see.

 
Mesothelioma Treatment Community of TreatMesothelioma.org is dedicated to the assistance and guidance of asbestos and mesothelioma victims around the world. We exist to not only inspire hope during these unbearable times but to also provide palliative care and comprehensive information through our website, resources, and educational videos. By being the largest resource for mesothelioma treatment options and complementary therapies for cancer, we are designed to help guide patients and their loved ones toward the answers and support they need to improve their quality of life, prognosis, and life expectancy..


Friday, August 18, 2017

Icons

I never much cared for statues and monuments. Still don't. I can remember, as a kid, riding in my parents' car through downtown Portland and seeing the statues that stood at some of the street intersections. They were always covered with bird shit. It seemed a sad sort of way to treat dignitaries from the past (whoever they might have been). Better to have not stuck them up there in the first place, and let the shit fall more unobtrusively where it may.

I remember there being two or three statues on the grounds of the university I attended as well. Who knows what figures they were meant to honor? People ignored them. They were just there. Who cares? I suppose they could be useful if there had been room on the base of the monument to set a spell, or have a quick cigarette, or a sandwich, or a Twinkie, or kiss a girl--but then, those things would have had nothing to do with the statue anyway, and everything to do with anything else.

Somewhere in the mid 1990s, I visited Washington DC, and still suffer a mental exhaustion at the memory of being dragged from this famous monument to the next and the next, each a tourist trap, each just sitting there, or standing there, immensely drab in the humid Maryland July, each standing dumbly by, posing for the next obligatory photograph which would soon be eternally tucked away in a laptop folder, never, most likely, to be seen again. And in the meantime, miraculous things were occurring all around us. The cherry trees were in blossom. Pink petals fluttered down from the branches. The park blocks, which stretch from the capital area right up to the rows of ramshackle apartments in the hood, lay cozily in the shade of trees with a history their own, grand, tall, spreading trees that had stood watch through the decades, and given, as well--beauty, shade, shelter. Homeless people meandered beneath the leaves from chance to chance, hope to hope, hands out, wrinkled palms open. Stark red cardinals flashed from branch to branch. And there we were, our backs turned to the world, staring at grand chunks of stone.

I am willing to bet that if Charlottesville's statue of Robert E. Lee had been knocked over by a falling tree in a storm, no one would have thought much of it. If it had been shattered too badly, I doubt whether it would have been replaced anytime soon. There are more important things to think about, more important things to do. People have more pressing concerns to think about.

Or do they?

Some speak of honoring our history. I can't help but wonder what is honorable about the prosecution of a war that ended in more casualties than all the American wars put together. Should we not rather lament such a costly inability to seek and achieve peace in our own family?

Some have turned these dumb statues into living causes, forcing those who can no longer speak to stand now as icons for racism, bigotry, hatred, white supremacy. Do these people, so loudly waving the banner of Lee, know anything about the actual man. No. They don't.

If history itself is to be trivialized by ignorance, then yes, tear down the statues, every one of them. And in as far as no man among us now, or ever before, has ever been anything other than flawed and weak, full of hatreds and jealousies, greed, self-interest, tear down the memoriam of every member of the sad and fallen human race. And plant olive trees instead. And let no man blight that hallowed land.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Practical Paradise

So, I started up a new blog on Wordpress. I will continue, of course, to maintain Jim Dandy. The new blog will be devoted more to travel and life in Indonesia and the entries will tend to be longer and more detailed.

Wordpress is a challenge for me - a very powerful platform meets a very weak mind. But I've made a first entry and trying to learn the ropes of the site capabilities. 

So can see the blog here: mypracticalparadise.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk


Well, here’s a movie everyone ought to watch – especially our fearsome leaders, from President Lock-n-Load straight on down the line through all the warmongers and fake patriots and cozy, rich old men who think themselves courageous for sending young men to die.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, from the novel by Ben Fountain, is about war, bullshit, and how the two most often go together hand-in-hand. It’s the greatest show on earth, Monday Night Football for the chest beaters, the big talkers, the ravenous press, live TV stars, brass bands, cheerleaders, businessmen and weapons contractors, hotdog and ice cream sellers, fireworks, the ultimate halftime show for everyone who doesn’t actually have to slog through the real thing and see friends die and gaze upon the face of a foe as his life drains away, leaving, finally, only the pale, parting glimmer of a surprised and fearful soul – just another man, after all.

This film did not do well at the box office, largely because, as stated by a reviewer in The Guardian, it did not “resonate well” with American viewers. Ironic, that. It didn’t resonate well with the soldiers, either. The real war, that is, the real soldiers, not the Coke and Karmelkorn version presented by entertainment machine back home.

The End Again

Well, once again, the tinfoil hat Christians are sounding the alarm for the imminent end of the world, to be heralded by the coming total eclipse of the sun. As evidence that 'this is it', they cite the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:29:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

But here's the problem, folks. A total eclipse is not a particularly rare event. It happens approximately every 18 months somewhere around the world. And always has. Which must mean, according to this standard of evidence, that the world has always ended every 18 months, give or take.

Moreover, if one will bother to read the remainder of the passage, he will find that it ends thusly:

"Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Did ya'all get that one? At an hour you do not expect. The eclipse can by no means be considered unexpected.

No one, not even the Son, knows the time or the hour, Jesus said. So I guess the end-of-the-world enthusiasts are saying that they are privy to information not available to Christ.

Of course, these things are, and have always been, silly. The only pertinent eclipse in this matter is the all too common total eclipse of the brain when ignorance is brought to bear on scripture.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tongues

Sometimes, the mind is filled with a deafening silence, roaring with words that cannot be formed, groanings which cannot be uttered. These are the tongues of the heart, of which we would make words, yet have no language. The bridge is out. The chasm is bottomless. One speaks, therefore, of not speaking. One speaks of the deafening, grievous silence, aware that all that is more than that, and all that is so very sorely needed, is unreachable by any means. We cannot say what we must, for it is hidden from our lips, a stranger to even the smallest of words. This is the dire, unutterable anguish. This is the obliteration of narrative, which only the passage of time can restore.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Magic Bird

A couple years ago, I was suffering from a daily headache. It was present when I awoke each morning, present when I went to bed at night, and present every hour in-between. It was a relentless headache, unremittingly severe. I went to the doctor, who said, ultimately, that he did not know why I was having a headache. (It is not unusual in Indonesia for doctors not to know much of anything. It's part of the job description). 

As the headache persisted, I concluded that it was yet another unwelcome symptom of MS - sudden, persistent, inexplicable, and without other cause or specific treatment. (Aspirin, by the way, had no effect. Handfuls of aspirin had no effect, either). 

So, one day I was sitting at Starbucks in Sanur, unable to read, as I would usually be doing. Unable to think. Unable to do much of anything other than hang my head and close my eyes. 

And then, suddenly, something happened. Something splashed onto my head from above. I put my hand to my skin and found that it was bird shit. 

Great, I thought. As if things are not bad enough, now a bird has crapped on my head. 

But wait ... 

In the next instant, I realized that the headache was gone. It had completely disappeared. 

And I have never again experienced anything like it. 

Well, my friend, and former neighbor, Vyt Karazija, tells me that he just happened to be passing by Starbucks at the critical moment, and snapped this picture: 



Thanks, Vyt. We now have proof. 

Dreaming Reality

The other night, just in that space where one is both awake and asleep, aware but drifting away, I suddenly found myself walking through tall grass on the shore of a lake, growing from the soil below, sprouting through the face of the water, swaying in the gentle breeze, and on the other side of that outstretched arm of grass, I saw my mother and my son, sitting together on a bench-like log, a green bay behind them, speckled with lilypads. This wasn't an imagination. It was a memory, somehow stuck fast in the gears of time. I was re-living a moment perfectly preserved, just as I had lived it decades ago. There was nothing critical about the moment, nothing special, nothing ... well, memorable. The grass, the lake, my mother, my son. I was about to join them. My fishing bag was wet against my hip. Small bubbles rose from the roots of the grass. I was about to raise my arm and shout. I was about to join them on the bench-like log.

The Tree

This is such a wonderful old tree at Starbucks Sanur. Of course, it occasionally drops large chunks of bark, or various bugs, but that's part of experiencing the tree. It is also the tree, I think, in which the miracle bird lives.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Someone

Someone was there in the night. In the cold of winter. Someone was there in a heartbeat, in a single breath. When the rain drummed on the window and did not care. When the lights were down and the walls were silent. When deaf veins cried out and had no voice and the unthinking ceiling watched dumbly over all, someone was there. A friend. A man of Cyrene, to carry your cross. How blessed is a friend in the night in the cold in the rain in the dark amid the silence. How very sad it is to have no Simon. How sad when there is no-one to be compelled.

Young and Old

God made two especially beautiful beautiful things in this world. One is the child. The other is the elderly person. If you have ever seen -- really seen -- the eyes of a child, you have seen the eyes of the elderly adult as well You have seen the soul -- new at the one end, new again at the other. Between times, the soul has been out, or on hold, or hidden, or afraid, or unwanted, or inconvenient. Its life is lived not between the beginning and the end, but in the beginning, and in the end. Its life is short, ineffably precious, a billion times over irreproducible. The child is the product of a man and a woman. The elderly person is the product of the child. And the light in the eyes, the young and the old, is the lamp of all that can be remembered, yet never told.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Shipwreck

“I know not what to call this, nor will I urge that it is a secret, overruling decree, that hurries us on to be the instruments of our own destruction, even though it be before us, and that we rush upon it with our eyes open.”
--Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

So here he was, shipwrecked upon a foreign shore. The storm itself, which had driven him upon this tropical land, had blown and tossed the tiny ship for ten years.

Yes, ten years.

It did not rain the entire time. Sometimes the sun shone. Sometimes it seemed even to stand still in the heaven. Then again at other times the clouds grew heavy and day could barely be distinguished from night and there was no moon and no sun and it was very hard to separate this from death itself.

There were beginnings, there were endings, beginnings, endings, and it was all rather more monotonous than dramatic, for drama, when relentless, merely numbs.
In short, shipwreck, the end of rocking and tossing, of nearly drowning, of nearly perishing from thirst, of clinging to the oar, of sleeping drenched in the ruined sail, of tumbling like the plaything of an angry feline god – shipwreck became salvation.

He had lain on that foreign sand for some years before waking, before clearing his eyes, before seeing that the broken silhouette on the beach, half sunken in the surf, was not a rock, but his boat.

Where had he come from? He could hardly remember, the way one barely remembers a broken bone. But he was here, and his two hands clutched full fists of white sand and the sand sifted through his fingers and there was always more.

And the shipwrecked man began to laugh, and he laughed, and he laughed, full to overflowing with joy.


I am here, he said. It is finished.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami.

Amazing.

There you have it. A one word review. What else can one say?

It is the novel that every novelist wishes he himself had written.

Oh, one more thing. When a writer knows his own characters so well that he can describe the dreams they have at night and cause the reader to believe that these were in fact the dreams dreamed by that character - well, then, you know you have seen a work of uncommon talent.

Hear and See

The clear eye encounters no secrets. All things are in plain sight. It is the heart that is clever at obscuration, for it would save its host from pain. But the ear that is tuned to perfect pitch will not tolerate the instrument that is off key. It knows middle C and cannot abide the flat.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Rumination on a Rumination

"...the pain he was feeling now was different. All he felt was sorrow, as if he'd been abandoned at the bottom of a deep, dark pit. That's all it was -- sorrow."

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is such a perfectly relentless, melancholy rumination over self-doubt, the fragility of identity, the seeming durability of moments which nonetheless teeter on the edge of extinction, that the reader finds himself swallowed up in an irrepresible, dusky sea, doing well to keep his lips above water level in order to suck in the uncertain air. One feels the thinness of life in his bones, strives automatically for the next breath, acknowledges the chance that he may breath in saltwater. He persists, he endures, he hopes and regrets. And he visits, revisits, the changing landscape of his own life memories, looking at each once again, tilting it sideways, holding it to a new, another light. Did we truly love as I seem to remember; and, if so, what became of what had seemed unassailable? How had all this happened, at what point were mutual moments, words, hopes and dreams parted, and by what blade? Was it I, really I, who had wielded the blade that pierced my own heart? And now where had she gone, where had he gone, whose hand had lain so naturally, yet so very impermanently in mine? What happened to us, the depot through which the train of the world had once passed on its predictable, unwavering way? Memory kneels before the court of time and faces an objective, implacable judge whose gavel eternally knocks at the door of time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Phil

While reading a chapter today from Haruki Murakami's novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, which described the protangonist's college days relationship with a fellow student, I was reminded by an old relationship from my own past. I was just out of college at PSU, and Phil, my friend, was, rather more impressively, just out of Reed, and we were both working as copy clerks at the Oregon Journal (which, I guess, goes to show you that a prestigious college doesn't always mean a lot). 

In any case, we became friends at work, and eventually got into the habit of meeting at his apartment on Friday or Saturday night. It was always at his apartment in downtown Portland, a dingy, draby, echoing, gray building where each floor had one community bathroom; never at my house, because I had a wife, and a kid, and Phil could bear the company of neither wives nor children. 

We had both graduated as literature majors and were in the process of graduating to careers of alcoholism and marijuana addiction. Without these substances, we may well have not been able to bear one another's company either. 

So we would meet in his apartment, I with my pint of rum, he with his weed, and have long discussions about literature, arguing about Hemingway, whom he despised, or admiring Faulkner, whom we both worshipped. 

Phil was very bright, one might say 'weirdly' bright, but had no discernible heart. I usually needed half a pint, more or less, to dull my own heart and therefore debate on an equal standing. 

It was a strange relationship, when I think back on it now, but it was all we had. My marriage, by that time was unhappy. And Phil was naturally unhappy. 

Eventually, I quit the Journal and went back to college, for no particular reason, while Phil moved up to writing obituaries and little bits on community events. And we stopped meeting. 

I did run into him at a Fred Meyers store years later. He had married, surprisingly, and now had a child, surprisingly. And also, I note, a heart. We exchanged phone numbers, said we would meet, kick around old times. 

But we never did. Those times were gone, and, honestly, left not much to miss. 

Perplexing

A rat has once again been visiting our silverware drawer and making a little night time home and outhouse there. So last night, I put a rat trap, the sticky glue kind, at the base of the cupboard with a bit of sausage in the middle. Upon checking the trap this morning, I found the sausage gone, but no rat. And no footprints! How can it be? Did the rat lower himself, Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible style on a rope attached to the top of the cupboard? Did he jump, snatch the sausage in mid air, and land free on the opposite side? Neither seems likely. So how? It is a mystery, the answer to which I will likely never know.

The Leap

Wherever I am planted, I grow roots, deep into the earth, tenacious, devoted, caring not so much for the appearance of the flower as for its sustenance and increase. My world is dark and hidden, hates the spade, loves the good harvest, embraces the stone.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Onward with Murakami

"It's strange, isn't it? No matter how quiet and conformist a person's life seems, there's always a time in the past when they reached an impasse. A time when they went a little crazy. I guess people need that sort of stage in their lives."
--Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki, Haruki Murakami


It has been interesting to read Murakami in English for the first time. Beforehand, I had always read his work in Indonesian translation - Dunia Kafka, Norwegian Wood, and 1Q84. Having run out of Indonesian translations for the time being, I purchased Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki in English from Periplus. I had wondered whether these two languages would convey the same general tone - though, of course, there is a third remove, in that the originals were written in Japanese. It does seem to me, though, that the tone and diction and mood come across in a pretty similar spirit between the Indonesian and English versions. In other words, they seem to bear the stylistic voice-print of Murakami, his gentle sense of humor, his clean, focused sentence structure, his use of repetition, especially of single words embedded throughout the work. Indonesian does tend to soften 'coarse language', as there are often no words that directly translate from English for these expressions. At the same time, Murakami, as far as I have read, rarely uses specifically coarse words, even in English, so the comparative translations do not suffer much at all in this way.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Four Eyes

Having stopped by my friendly neighborhood pharmacy in Sanur this morning, I was asked whether I would like a 30 minute massage for my back. So I got my massage, which was very relaxing indeed, but upon dressing to leave, I could not find my glasses. I was sure I had put them on the table near the massage bed, and yet they were nowhere to be found. I asked the masseuse for help, but after checking every corner of the room, she couldn't find them either.
"What do they look like?" she asked.
"Well, they're black, kind of rectangular, and ... well, much like yours."
"Oh!," she exclaimed. They do look like mine!"

Friday, July 28, 2017

The News

I was reading through a rather ruffled copy of Kompas this morning at Starbucks. It was a couple days old, but the news is always basically the same, you know. I skimmed through articles about foreign affairs, the affairs of government (basically the same everywhere), dry economic forecasts and such-like, when one small piece down in one corner of one page caught my attention. Two young women in Bandung had committed suicide by jumping from a balcony of their apartment building. First the older sister, aged 33, then the younger, 27. A man, eating a meal in his apartment on the ground floor, witnessed the event. First the one, then the other. When they hit the ground, he said, it sounded like a car crash. Both women's feet and hands were broken, their skulls shattered, and their stomachs exploded. Both, it was reported had been suffering from "sakit jiwa", or mental illness, for the past 10 years, since the death of their mother, and had been in and out of treatment and rehabilitation centers. Curiosly, another woman, some two years previously, had jumped to her death at this same apartment building. This small article, life, loss, suffering, death, compressed into about 3 inches of print space, eclipsed nation and society and conflict and the world at large. It meant something. These two women meant something more essntial than nations and legislative bodies and political decrees and visiting dignitaries and sporting events and terrorist threats and religious debates and the FPI and whether Pancasila was dead of alive. Here was something real, immediate, definite, done, never to be undone. Final. We see them standing on that balcony, one about to leap, the other just behind, a man enjoyng his meal below - a moment that might have meant anything until it suddenly became what it was. We see them standing there, gowns caught by the breeze, perhaps, hair blown sideways, a sheen of sweat,or of tears, on the cheek. Silent. Fixed. Irreversible. Haunting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What Is Your Passion

My wife asked this evening, "What is your passion?"

A wife sort of question if there ever was one.

(Man's mental response: 'Passion?')

"Other than writing," she added.

Ouch. Ummm ...

"Fishing!"

"Fishing?"

"Yeah!"

(The man is now enthused, having finally discovered his passion).

"But, you can fish here, and you never fish."

"No, no, I mean fishing. You know, like--"

[like fly casting, in a mountain lake, with the sun just rising over the eastern hilltops. swimming down the slopes like cold silver and washing across the meadow and plucking up the flower tops and naming every one and trampling through the huckleberries and splashing through the shallow canals and kicking up frogs and salamanders and polywogs and then spilling out gold onto the rocky shore and turning the mirror of deep water to the sky and the sky to the water so that the puffy clouds skim along like boats both above and below, and all of it, everything, comes to lap against your pant-legs, tingle in your fingers, kiss your brow with mist from the tip of your pole and from the line and leader in their seeking arc ...

(you know, fishing, where you skirt the mucky brook by cutting through the woods and emerge again where the rocky shelf spills down from the shore to the shallows to the green of the deep water and you wade out waist deep, lake filling your pockets and your creel and floating your fly box and turning the speckled sides of the caught fish and the creel strap pulling on your shoulder and your forgotten pack of cigarettes wet and your cap bill pulled down against the face-front breeze blowing the mosquitoes back to the grassy verge where you have set a can of beer between two rocks to cool and you see the right spot, the spot you were seeking, where the sility shelf decends and the water turns and a riffle runs along the divide like a rapid snake and a large brook trout suddenly breaks the surface, a poem of three worlds, grace defined ...
(fishing.

(the aromatic smoke of my father's pipe. and mosquito repellent. and trout kept fresh between fronds of grass. and the scent of beer, and wind, and shallow water, and his unshaved whiskers. and the sharp scent of cedar sweating in the sun. and smoke from a campfire somewhere. and lilypads. and the motionless pond in the windless nook. and the minnows that dart just beyond our boot-toes. and the cheese and crackers my mother had sent. and my brother's red hair. his blue eyes. and the far shore from which we had come. and the sun just touching the very top of the tallest tree on the highest hill at the western-most edge of the earth.

(fishing. fly casting. and the long way home.

"Okay. Writing. Fishing. And what? What else? What is your passion?"

What else is there?