Monday, April 19, 2021


 My God it's hot today. I know because I just took a "stroll" to Matahari Terbit while waiting for my bike to be serviced--a hop, skip and a jump for most folks, but the incredible journey for me. I truly didn't know whether I would make it back, sweating profusely, pressing my feet onward, the right foot tripping me on every other step, sun beating down my head like Satan's hair drier. What does sunstroke feel like anyway? Well, the good news is that my bike feels great now. Me, not so much; but the bike is running like a top.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Lizard and the Dog

 You may have noticed that I've been fairly speechless of late. I guess there are several reasons for this. It's not that I suddenly have nothing to say. It's just that saying it no longer seems important, or even personally entertaining. I used to look forward to coming out here to Starbucks with my laptop and just writing about whatever was on my mind. Now it's more like a task, seeming like something I should do, or maybe it seems like doing it again will recharge my interest. Nonetheless, lugging the laptop around seems a burden, and writing itself seems a burden--an unpleasant effort now, whereas it used to be just about as easy as breathing. I struggle with the language. I struggle with putting words together, connecting one sentence to another so that a cohesive pattern is maintained. Moreover, the thoughts I think soon fade and flee, such that they have altogether disappeared by the same I arrive somewhere with my laptop. All I can think of now is of a little alligator I saw the other day. It seemed something special at the time, but I have forgotten why. I call this thing an alligator, but it wasn't really an alligator. It was more of a very large lizard, perhaps two feet long, multicolored, fat, slow. I don't know the actual name for these things. It was struggling along the side of the broken crossroad at the end of my street. Not a natural spot for fellows like he. At the other side of this broken road there are three large square holes with concrete tops that have been set aside such that one can view the green irrigation water flowing in its bed beneath the street. In the last of these holes, just before the intersection with the main street, there is and has long been the body of a dead dog in the long process of decay. The smell is nearly overpowering. This happens, I have read, in the 4th stage of decay, known as Black Putrefaction and occurring 10-20 days after death. What all this has to do with a little alligator that is not really an alligator, other than the coincidence of proximity, I cannot say. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Mau Ke Mana?

 I try to take a walk every evening if possible. The only thing that stops me really is if it is raining or if there is a dog lying in front of the doorway, which would require me to step over the dog, thus bothering the poor critter, or leave the dog there and the door open while I go for my walk, which might not be a good idea, although that's actually more of a paranoid suspicion than a reality based one, as never in ten years has my house been bothered, whether open or closed, and also of course, in this case anyway, there's a dog in front of the door. 

I don't walk very far or for very long, although it always seems long enough because of my slowness of pace, even with my cane. Moreover, the heat of this time of year makes the trek seem longer, as it is still around 85 degrees at 7 pm and humid as heck.

As I walk up the street tonight, Ayu, the young woman who works at the corner warung, is coming the other direction, trailed by a little boy who is happily skipping. Ayu is carrying a tray of offerings and incense which she will set before various houses along the way. She greets me with a big white smile, "Mau ke mana, Pak?" 

They always say mau ke mana. Or if you're returning, they say Dari mana. 

Next, I am hailed by a man with three teeth who is sitting on a wall enjoying a smoke after a long day of labor on a property that seems forever under construction. "Mau ke mana?" he says. Of course. 

Ayu passes me (already) on her way back with her now empty tray and the still skipping boy. Another smile. She is, I think, about 19 years old. 

As I pass the warung, I run into Dency. Dency is an old friend of Louis' and has a rental property here and a little grocery store next to the warung. We chat for a minute and she tells me of a coffee shop near Pantai Matahari Terbit--not at all far from here, just after you cross the road at the KFC. It sounds like a place I'd like check out, as she says the chairs are cozy and you can sit and read there. 

Oh, and she also asked 'Mau ke mana?'. 

Now comes the thinnest stretch of our little road, a stretch that's a bit iffy for a wobbly guy like me, especially if a car comes along, requiring one to step off the road and onto a narrow strip of grass between the road on one side and a canal on the other. Here, I come upon an older woman (albeit not as old as I) who greets me with Selamat petang. Good evening, in Indonesian. 

"Rahajeng petang," I respond, which impresses her to no end, as I have used Balinese in reply. Lol. 

As I turn back toward home, an anonymous dog shows up at my side and decides to accompany me along the way; and having accomplished this mission, leaves me at the gate and makes his merry way back to wherever he came from. 

So that's my walk, not very far and not very long, but with always something to see and to say. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Old House

 The old man lives in an old house which is in sad disrepair. He feels that something should be done, and yet the house is slated to be demolished in the near future, though no one can say exactly when. Everything is slipping, sagging. He can see it with his own eyes day by day. He can see that things are in dire need of repair, for without this the house will surely collapse, and yet it is slated to be demolished anyway in the near future. In the meantime, he looks out the windows, opens all the curtains, raises all the blinds and leaves the doors open so that friendly creatures can enter, and at night he closes things down and sleeps immediately and often dreams of things he might have done, or should have done, or did not do, and his dreams tell the same story of neglect and disrepair and are more worrisome than the day itself, for when the day comes he reopens every door and window and curtain and shade and the light floods in and sometimes various dogs come in too, bearing a sharp scent of vigor into the air of ruin. He feeds the dogs, he looks out the windows, he waits for someone to arrive, and the old house creaks and leans and sinks, shedding itself board by board, brick by brick. He only hopes that it can persevere until the indeterminate day arrives. 

Monday, April 5, 2021


 I guess I shouldn't complain about my various aches and pains. I mean, my shoulders and my neck always hurt, sometimes more and sometimes less, and the pain sometimes extends to my right back and flank, and I very often have a splitting headache, and my right hand seems partially paralyzed, such that the fingers move only slowly and cannot be straightened out and cannot reliably grasp or hold things, and my right leg doesn't work properly, often causing me to stumble,  and my stomach can still tolerate only simple foods, and yesterday I simply could not keep my eyes open and ended up sleeping most of the day ... and so on ... but at the same time, I have a friend in Jakarta, only 43 years old, who will be checking into the hospital next week for removal of her entire reproductive system due to cancer, and, as she tells me today, her brother, only 50 years old, just had a stroke and also ended up in the hospital. Happily, my problems, thus far, are bearable and can be dealt with at home. So, apparently, at 67 I'm doing great! Of course, I know people who are as old or older than I and are doing much better, but then again they are lousy people and I wouldn't want to make that trade off. So I'm not complaining (much). In fact, during the time that Louis has been here, sort of looking after me, I've said nothing  at all about these problems. I mean, there's nothing to be done anyway, so why mention them?

Saturday, April 3, 2021


 Sometimes I just have to force myself out of the house. The silence becomes overwhelming, and yet at the same time I am rooted in place, planted there. Freedom is merely a thought that glides indistinctly in the silence. The heat has become so intense that the neighborhood itself is silent, cooking without a sound. The people are hidden in their homes and even the dogs have lost their voices. I begin the task of moving my feet, moving my legs, struggling through the sucking mud of merciless solitude. Everything takes ages. Pulling on a shirt, packing my laptop case, taking a piss, closing the windows, shutting off the fan, locking the door, as all the while the silence says Why bother? Stay awhile. Stay forever. Rest. But I know that when I finally move I will finally awake, activated by the hum of the motorbike engine, the wind on my skin, the challenge of the road. Intention. Purpose. My own presence and the presence of others. I end up somewhere full of voices, movement, hundreds of lives running all at the same time. And someone, from somewhere greets me, taps my shoulder. Pak Will! Dari mana? Sudah lama tidak ketemu, dong. A long time, yes. Forever, it seems. But now, for these moments, I live again. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Sembahyangan Rumah

 They have here in Bali a ceremony called Sembahyangan Rumah, which means 'home blessing', and Louis arranged this for our side-by-side houses this morning. 

The women wore Kebayas while the men were to wear a white shirt and a white sarong plus a particular headgear, the name of which I do not know. In any case, I did not have these clothes, so Louis just told me to  'dress nice', although I did have the customary yellow flower behind my left ear and little yellow seeds, about which I do not know the meaning, were applied to my forehead

A group of Balinese bring like a truckload of baskets and flowers and various other ceremonial items and tools and set all this out at the front of the house in a very precise manner, which does take some time. Everyone then gathers around while the 'holy man', or Mangku, performs a multipart prayer, tossing flower petals, sprinkling water, ringing a bell, burning incense. 

All of the women then take specific baskets and tour the inside and outside of each house, dipping a wicker type brush into a jar of water and sprinkling as they go.

Upon their return, the entire group folds their hands in a classic prayer gesture until the chime of the Mangku's bell; then again hands are folded, once alone, three times grasping petals from three types of flowers. Following this, there is a similar sequence wherein the hands are bathed in smoke from the incense and water is sipped three times from the palm. The Mangku then pours a goodly bit on top of your head. 

During the ceremony, the weather had become terribly hot and heavy, and so it actually felt good to be doused at the end. 

Afterwards, of course, there is food for everyone, and the attendants are given gifts in the form of traditional snacks, which I personally am finding pretty darn tasty.