Sunday, January 26, 2020


Sometimes, rather often, actually, I get these vivid scent sensations. It's not, in fact, a scent as detected by the nose, but a mental scent, so strong, so present, that it transports me to another time and place. I smell the water of the lake we used to swim in, the rocks on the shore, the large, flat boulder we lie on to warm our skin on its sun-baked surface, the drops of water on our skin, dampness dripping from my brother's red hair to the pock marked stone, the lively breath of the forest all around, the clutch of roots to pungent earth and the bite of pine whispering and singing in the air. The faded green lichen clinging to the edge of the boulder. The contented breeze. I am both here and there. I am where I cannot be again. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020


Yesterday, I spotted Takut the dog eating a cheeseburger. Not just a bit of a cheeseburger, but the entire burger, bun and all, straight out of the wrapper. This came directly after eating some Indonesian food brought by Pak Aan, the groundskeeper. 

Ever since Takut's election victory over Peter the Complainer, people have been bringing food, as if offering to some sort of royalty. 

Takut likes this arrangement just fine, though I fear he will soon be the size of a hippo and therefore more problematic than ever in my little room. As it is, I am continually stepping on or falling over the poor dog, but he seems to consider this but a minor inconvenience, not really something worth moving out of the way for. 

I begin to wonder seriously whether the residents here will want Takut to leave with me when I move to my new place in April. 

As a nod of acknowledgement to his new found popularity, Takut tries to divide his time between apartment porches. Especially at dinnertime

Friday, January 24, 2020

Almost a Surprise

Well, I guess I misjudged people regarding birthday wishes. Turns out that many sent a note, and Louis, my third wife, even tried to spring a surprise party on me. Almost succeeded too! I hate surprise parties, and she knows that, but she likes parties so the latter cancels out the former, according to some sort of math. 

Her friend Betty, who often assists me in various tasks here, had called the day before to tell me that I was scheduled to see the eye doctor. This struck me as a bit strange, because I had just recently seen an eye doctor for what turned out to be dry eye syndrome, but Betty explained that the doctor just wanted a follow-up to make sure all was well. Dutifully, therefore, I met Betty on my birthday for a visit to Sanglah Hospital. 

What tipped me off, however, was a call that morning from my stepson in Arizona, who said that his mom told him it was my birthday and that he ought to send me a message. What struck me as odd about this was that Louis herself had not acknowledged my birthday. Had sent no message and made no call. Hmmm. How was it that she told Sasha to call and yet had not herself called? 

Something was up. 

So when Betty took the wrong road to the hospital (with the excuse that it as a 'shortcut'), things became clear. I was in for a surprise party, like it or not. 

Well, it wasn't so bad, despite the fact that it was held at a karaoke place (I also dislike karaoke, and she knows that; but she likes it). I was compelled to struggle through three Frank Sinatra songs with my 66 year old voice, but was rewarded in any case with a nice lunch and a chocolate cake (I do like chocolate cake, and she knows that too). 

This morning, which is actually yesterday in America, an old grade school friend sent a picture from the Washington High School yearbook of me appearing not to be me at all. Blast from the past. 

All in all, for someone who didn't want to be 66 to begin with, and who does not like to be the center of attention, the day was fairly palatable. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January 23rd

January 23rd 1954. My birthday. 1954? Really? Kok bisa, as folks here say. How can it be?

Yes, today is my birthday, and I'm seeing whether I can break a record--not only regarding just how old a young man like me can become, but also to see if I can go through the day without a soul wishing me a happy birthday. That is, without my mentioning it first. 

So far I have failed in this second goal, given that one Facebook friend has already sent greetings. But we will see what happens the rest of the day. Will my children remember? (After all, I always remember theirs). Will my ex-wives remember? (After all, I always remember theirs). Will the dog remember? (I have no idea when the dog was born). 

How odd it is to think that 66 years ago I came into existence in the world, and did not even know it--for I have no memory whatsoever of anything until I was about four, according to my hazy calculations. I remember chasing the dog, who had misbehaved, under the porch, and I remember my father stopping my pursuit to explain that the dog would not remember by this time what he had done wrong. Why this incident has engraved itself in my memory to the extent of being the first thing of all, I do not know. 

I tell people who happen to ask my age, at any time of the year, that I am 38, kurang-lebih, again, as the Indonesians say. More or less. Most don't believe me. Some conclude that I am simply senile. Because, you see, I say this in full confidence, without cracking a smile. 

On this 66th year of mine, I watch as the Senate of the United States runs a sham trial, or rather not a trial at all, regarding our president's clearly criminal activity, and it seems at this point not shocking, not outrageous, not infuriating, but simply normal, par for the course. I have lived too long. I have outlived my best years, just as the nation has outlived its best years. 

I commiserate with the dog, who knows something about the hollowness of human affairs. Eat, drink, and be merry, says he. Oh, and sleep. A lot. 

Another celebratory event on my birthday will be a visit to the eye doctor. I don't know why I'm going. I was only told that I must. So once I finish my coffee, I'll be off Sanglah Hospital and the doctor's office. Probably there will be no cake. Which is okay. Because there is no way in the world that I could blow out 66 candles. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Construction Site

Yesterday, I met up with Louis for a walk around the construction site of the place which will, in a few months, become my new home. It had been raining and the ground was muddy and the humidity was so heavy that I was dripping with sweat. As we viewed the site, I found it very difficult indeed in viewing these skeletal beginnings to picture a livable apartment. Louis, however, seemed to have the whole thing clearly in mind. Perhaps that is a woman's special gift--to see what could be. 

In any case, I post the photos below. 

False Doctrine

"A few years ago," Julia Suryakusuma writes in a Jakarta Post article, "a poster was put up by the Islamic Sharia Department in Banda, Aceh, reading as follows:

A woman whose strand of hair is seen deliberately by a man who is not her husband will be punished by 70,000 years in hell. One day in the afterlife is equivalent to 1000 years in this world. A woman who enters hell will draw in with her two of her menfolk: her father, her brothers, her husband, or her son. This is how terrible the punishment is!" 

Allll righty then! Terrible indeed! 

Happily, this is also recognized as terrible interpretation of the Koran through most of Indonesia. It is, as Bu Suryakusuma writes, "a mind crushingly asinine, idiotic and imbecilic fantasy based on nothing but an overly fertile, sick and twisted imagination." No surprise then that such non- and even anti-scriptural doctrines are embraced only by sick and twisted extremists. (In fact, the Koran itself says nothing whatsoever about women's hair). "The ongoing deliberate distortion and manipulation of Islam by a bunch of ignoramus radicals," Suryakusuma continues, "could be said to be Indonesia's Chernobyl. In fact, it's worse, because it's not an accident but deliberately engineered--not just by radicals but by mainstream politicians taking advantage of it to support their political agenda."

Sound familiar, America? 

This sort of violent extremism, politically motivated, with the goal of suppression and coercion, is typical the world wide, no matter which religion serves as its blunt force instrument. This is "the age of jahilliyah (the age of ignorance), which thrives on hypocrisy, greed and ego, and power-driven motives. Radicals so easily point their fingers at others, accusing them of blasphemy, when in fact it is they who are committing blasphemy--of the worst kind because it is done with evil intent." 

Does anyone really believe that Donald Trump and his gang of high level crooks are out to champion Christianity? Are they not merely using Christianity to champion themselves? Do the influential blowhards at the top of evangelical mega-churches really believe that embracing hypocrisy, hatred, exclusion, bigotry, walls rather than bridges, is faithful doctrine? 

Woe to those who have swallowed the lie.

No, the trouble is not in the woman's lock of hair. The trouble is not with sexual orientation or color of skin or choice of religion or country of origin. The trouble is with those who believe that this is the trouble. 


It occurred to me this morning as I trudged up to the mall for my usual morning coffee that my health always varies these days between generally unwell to seriously unwell. Wellness is but a dim memory. 

Just now, and for some time now, I have been in the 'generally unwell' category. My body temperature runs for some reason almost always a bit above normal--normal being 36.7 and the actual temperature usually between 37.1 and 37.3, while 37.5 would indicate an actual low grade fever. On top of this, there is the strange neurologic abnormality that causes me to feel feverish, without having an actual fever. Lately I have been having to take two pregabalin tablets a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, rather than just one a day.

Moreover, the inexplicable pain in my shoulder and neck, sometimes extending to my upper back or side, has reasserted itself, God knows why. For this, I take methylprednisolone, though I am aware now that I need to use this medication sparingly, given its negative effect on my stomach problem. 

Which leads us to the stomach problem. Sigh. While this has been much better in general, it is only kept so by adhering to a strict diet and using a proton pump inhibitor every day. I do get tired of the bland diet, and I do crave my favorite things, but allowing the latter consistently leads to problems with acid rising to my throat again, making it sore, making swallowing difficult, and so on and so forth. 

I think of this general state of ill health as being 'good', and I feel always that I am teetering just on the edge of the 'seriously ill' threshold. Approaching now the time a year ago when I entered what was to be a six month period of serious illness, I can't help but feel a bit nervous. Freaked out, actually. But I suppose I'm just being superstitious. 

After all, I have had assurance from above of a period of relative comfort before the end.