Sunday, January 9, 2022

An Unexpected Call

 I received last week a rather surprising call from an old, old friend of mine, Todd Spillum, now more widely known as Todd Grimson, author of a number of rather well received novels, including Brand New Cherry Flavor which was just recently released as a Netflix series. 

I had not spoken to Todd since perhaps 1979. The back story is that Todd and I went to the same high school and he was the boyfriend of the young woman who would later become my first girlfriend and then my first wife. 

My contact with Todd last week began with a number of texted and seemingly random vignettes from his lifetime, a record of things he had done, places he had been, people he had known. I was a bit confused by this sudden tranche of information and wondered actually whether this was a communication from a press agent rather than Todd himself. 

By and by, however, it became clear that he was kind of reviewing material to appear in an upcoming autobiographical novel. It's quite a life, I suppose, chock full of unusual stories, famous people, infamous people, just plain strange people and so on. A little like one of his novels. 

Although I cannot say that Todd's choice of subjects for his fiction has ever been my cup of tea (drugs, kinky sex, weird people, grotesqueries, vampires and so on), I was nonetheless keenly and perhaps painfully aware on reading Brand New Cherry Flavor that this was the extremely polished, inventive, able prose of a writer who had mastered his craft. (I say "painfully" here because back in the day Todd and I were somewhat in competition as writers. Or at least I felt that way. Todd likely felt no threat from me whatsoever). 

Anyway, as I finally learned after texting him for a while and then agreeing to a phone call, I play some small part, as does his ex-girlfriend and my ex-wife) in the autobiography Todd is working on, and perhaps he meant to give me a heads up. Or perhaps he was merely doing some advertising work in advance. We must have talked on the phone that day for two full hours. So much to kick around, with Todd doing most of the kicking, so to speak. This is because he possesses an airtight, ironclad memory and so was able to guide me through a wonderfully complete tour of old times, most of which things I had forgotten. 

Strangely, as I discovered, Todd also has multiple sclerosis, having  been diagnosed in 1984. I had no idea. This has at this end put him in a wheelchair. Whereas so far the disease has mostly affected my cognition and memory, Todd has suffered none of this. Which is quite clear in conversing with him. One wonders, really, whether a memory as complete and clear as his, making it almost as if everything were happening (or still happening) at this very moment is necessarily a good thing. 

But I guess that's a subject for some other day (if I can remember). 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

January 6, 2022

Once again this week's Sanur Weekly is mostly COVID news and news of Indonesia's continually changing response to COVID. Omicron is visiting the islands of course, including Bali. The government is shuffling quarantine rules like a deck of cards, with a new deck for every shuffle. It's all getting pretty old, but hey, that's COVID. 

I read as well that during 2021, the Bali immigration office has deported 194 foreign nationals. I'm frankly surprised that there were still 194 foreigners here to deport. Most were deported for overstaying their visa, working without a work permit, or committing some sort of crime. Seven foreigners were deported for repeatedly violating COVID-19 health protocols. 

Nonetheless, with hope everlasting, Bali continues to gear up for what will surely be a flood of tourists. A new international hospital is to be built in my own little town of Sanur, slated for completion within the next three years. At the port of Benoa, a cruise port will soon be under construction, to be the biggest cruise ship port in Indonesia (a step up from none). 

Now this little bit I will transcribe verbatim, so that no one may think that I am making it up: 

A 55 year old woman, originally from Surabaya, has been arrested for stealing a large amount of canned milk from supermarkets in Denpasar. According to the head of the Denpasar police department, Kombes Pol Jansen Avitus Panjaitan, the woman has stolen the milk cans from several supermarkets over the course of three months. When the supermarket noticed a big difference between their sales and their stock they reviewed some CCTV footage and finally identified the woman as the thief leading to her arrest shortly after the police report was filed. According to the reports the woman is a member of a gang of 5 milk thieves. The value of the stolen goods is estimated to be around 95 million Rupiah ($US6,650). That's actually a lot of milk. 

By the way, today is my brother's birthday. He would have been 70 years of age if he had not died when he was 30. Happy birthday, Gary. Still miss you. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Where the Light Fell

If you want an education about what Christianity is not, take a look at Phillip Yancey's just released autobiography, Where the Light Fell--a damning exposure of what American Evangelicalism is really all about and a sweeping castigation of this deeply rooted heresy which has been masquerading for so long as the true faith. 

As many may know, Yancey is the author of dozens of Christian books, the lion's share of which explore the essential questions of Christianity (What's So Great About Grace?, Where is God When it Hurts, Reaching for the Invisible God, and so on). He is a remarkably adept organizer of material and commentary and and presents his remarks in a manner that is both informative and easily accessible (unlike, for instance, theologian David Bentley Hart, whose work is fascinating but very, very dense indeed). Yancey gives us Christianity for the common man, and yet Christianity that is fiercely honest, examines itself, and strives to get itself right.

Although I had read a number of Yancey's books, and knew vaguely of his Evangelical upbringing, I had no idea of how brutal his struggle had been to escape from beneath its dark and ponderous paws, starting with the paws of a mother who was both 'holy' and wholly crazy apparently, serving ultimately I suppose as a metaphor for the tyranny of the cult he was steeped in from birth. 

The truth will set you free, as the saying goes--as long as you have the courage to contend with the lies. 

The Vacant Room

 I had a dream last night--which I have either had before, as it seemed familiar even in my sleep, or perhaps just had twice last night--wherein I was lying in a bed in a rather large but completely barren room, off-white in color, nothing on the walls. There was nothing whatsoever to do in the room. There were no windows as far as I noticed. By the bedside was what appeared to be a calendar, and yet no dates, months, individual days were indicated. Just blank paper. I seemed aware that there was no food to be had in this place, but was aware also that I was not hungry in the least, though I had surely been in this bed for a long while--surely weeks or months, who knows? I'm just thinking in the dream that I might as well go back to sleep when I suddenly hear my mother's voice calling out "Okay, Richard, time to get up! Let's go! Up and at 'em". 

Now what do you reckon all that means? 

Friday, December 31, 2021

New Years: Happy or Not, Here it Comes

 Well here we are again on New Year's Eve. I know I've mentioned before that I have always disliked New Years. And now I've mentioned it again. I don't like the drinking or the parties or the fireworks or the noise or having to stay up until midnight. Lol. Funny thing, though I spent some years as a drunk, I never went out on New Years. That's how much I dislike it, I guess :) 

So anyway, there will be no party here tonight, and in fact I didn't even buy myself any treats to eat, because I had forgotten altogether that it was New Years. Unlike past COVID years, the clubs in Bali, or some of them anyway, will be open and gatherings will be allowed (to a limited capacity, I would guess). 

One certainly hopes above all things as this year closes that 2022 will finally see the end of the scourge of COVID, for it has truly become oppressive. Moreover, it has put a hell of a lot of people out of work here in Bali and depressed the economy something awful. So here's to 2022 and better times, a return to normal, or as close to normal as we can get. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas to All

 Christmas Eve in Bali, otherwise known as 'Where Are You, Christmas?"

Well, as the Sanur Weekly notes, last year at this time the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was just approaching its first real peak in Indonesia and no one felt very Christmassy as it was pretty clear that the situation was not going to get any better any time soon. 

A year later, most Christmas and New Years Eve celebrations have been cancelled with the arrival of Omicron and of course the travel restrictions are still in force. Bali has, on the other hand, experienced a rather large uptick in domestic tourism (although foreign tourism is still nil). 

Can we hope for a significantly better 2022? Not so sure about that. Probably more of a slow crawl out from under this mess, with some face plants along the way. 

In yet another purse snatching incident, a Balinese woman has been seriously injured after being pushed off her motorbike, breaking both legs. Somehow the perpetrator, a 31 year old man who fled the scene (naturally), has been apprehended by police, confessed to multiple similar crimes and is facing a long term in prison. 

In Bali's Buleleng regency police are investigating another case of gang rape, this one being unusually shocking as all those involved were minors, four boys aged 14-16 having raped a 12 year old girl. It is not yet known what will happen to these little shits. 

Tomorrow, although not news in the Sanur Weekly, Louis will host a Christmas lunch, to which I have been invited. Something to do anyway on a day I would otherwise spend watching TV or napping. As Louis' villa is 45 minutes away down in Nusa Dua (farther than I want to drive a motorbike in my old age), she is sending a car to pick me up along with some of the other guests who will gather to catch the ride at my house. It is also terribly hot these last few days--32C, cloudy, and deadly humid--so we will enjoy the two swimming pools she has available. 

Today I am still receiving nasty comments on Facebook connected to yesterdays "debate" on the existence or non-existence of God, but I've tired of the subject and of the uncharitable reaction it has created so I'm just kind of swiping past them without answering. Not gonna let these dummies ruin my Christmas spirit (such as it is)! Lol. 

And that's it for now. Merry Xmas to all. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christian Haters Unite for Christmas

 Well, I almost got through Christmas this year without being attacked by the Christian haters--those folks who are particularly fond of declaring, especially during the holidays, that there is no God and that all people who have chosen to believe that there is must necessarily believe as well in the tooth fairy and leprechauns and all other fantastical creatures. (I wonder if it ever occurred to them that God is not a creature but a spirit). I don't mind the debate, and I don't mind personally that they disbelieve, but many of them do seem to mind rather intensely that I do believe--and that's where the trouble comes in. I mean, why is my belief so offensive to these folks? And if they have such an affection for debate, how is it that they have not learned that arrogance and insult are not part of civil debate, and certainly not effective in conveying whatever point they meant to convey? Go figure. In any case, we're hardly going to sort the thing out on Facebook, are we? Why not read a few books rather than poke and sneer at a lowly fellow like me? The weakness in the lion's share of these arguments of course is that the anti-Christians are not talking about Christianity at all, but about fundamentalist/evangelical distortions of the faith. In short, they are fulminating against something we already know to be false, and indeed are more outraged at this than they. How can we even begin to talk about Christianity when Christianity is being defined by the one side as precisely what it is not? And how do we even begin to explain to these folks that they are contending against their own straw man? Oh well. I will try to clear all this unpleasantness from my memory and simply celebrate the Savior in the days to come.

Sweet little Jesus boy, we made you be born in a manger. Sweet little holy child, we didn't know who you were.