Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reiki Master II

Here’s the thing. First off, how can I know for certain whether I have or have had multiple sclerosis.

Moreover, how can the doctors really prove that MS is what they say it is, or whether it is something else altogether? Specifically, it has been the long held belief that MS is an autoimmune disorder, and yet growing evidence now arises that it is not an autoimmune disorder at all, but a vascular disorder.

And then there is this--when I had my first MRI back in 2005 it was read by the radiologist as suspicious for possible MS, and in turn dismissed by the neurologist as showing nothing specific or diagnostic. Two years later a second radiologist read the old MRI as classic for MS, and a new one as confirmatory.

So which is it?

I do know this--In May of 2007 my right foot suddenly went numb, then my left foot, then both legs to the knees. I believed nothing at the time, suspected nothing, premeditated nothing. The problem was simply, undeniably there. Call it MS, call it vascular disease, call it just plain weird--it doesn’t matter.

The symptom is the disease. Is the lack of symptoms therefore the absence of disease?

Since 2008 my symptoms have been increasingly mild. In fact the worst symptoms I experienced during the period of about a year were from the injected medications, not from MS at all. Upon stopping the medications in later 2009 I felt yet better with each passing week, so that now I find myself suffering hardly any symptoms at all.

Or do I?

We human beings seem to have been made to adjust to circumstances of almost every sort. The mind and the spirit both pursue peace, we acclimate, we shift and turn, we love ourselves whomever and whatever we are. Take the convict for instance who grows so fond of his cell that he has no desire to reenter life on the outside. Take the child who becomes so accustomed to abuse that he takes abuse to be the norm. Take the Cecak, who when threatened discards its own tail, yet carries on with the remainder of its body, making do.

Am I only used to my MS symptoms? It is possible that I have become actually fond of them? They are, after all, mine and nobody else’s.

And what about the healings? I have been healed now by three Christian pastors and one Hindu master. The Reiki Master tells me that I was healed two years ago and need now only to have my chakras cleansed. That’s interesting, because I received a healing from the first of the three pastors just about two years ago. Hmmm.

Your faith has made you whole, Jesus said. This was echoed also by the Reiki Master, who told me that he was doing nothing, I was doing everything within myself. He simply recognized and focused.

When the Lord was walking along a road with his disciples, pressed by the crowd, a woman pushed through to touch the hem of his garment, and Jesus immediately turned and asked Who is it that touched me just now, for he felt power go forth from him.

What power? Desire. Desire had touched him, faith, belief. If only I can touch your garment, then I will be well.

What are the mechanics of this, really? Modern quantum physics instructs that nothing in the world happens without our participation. No sickness, therefore, exists without the participation of the one who is sick; no diagnosis is made without the doctor actually looking at the test, the MRI, and thereby setting the conclusion into motion.

And yet one day my legs went dead, my brain went foggy. I was told that this was because I had multiple sclerosis. I believed it. Beforehand I did not even know what MS is, but now it was in me, of me, and I was explained to myself by the disease itself.

I was told by the Reiki Master to come once a week. For how many weeks, I do not know. But truthfully, I have no desire to return. If you feel just fine, why take further notice of what once made you feel not just fine?

What healing have I received that has healed me indeed? Is there a man who has the power, or is the power already there for the use of the man? Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? The Kingdom of heaven is in your midst.

What has healed me, if I have indeed been healed? Exactly what is it, was it, that needed healing? And if one does not start with a disease, how is it that he may receive healing at all?

(to be continued)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Reiki Master

You have to know someone. It’s all by word of mouth. You hear about it, you know someone, and you drive up into the countryside, past the stone cutting shops, all the grey faced finished idols cued up on the earthen sidewalk like sullen beggars, awaiting devotees, almost to Ubud when you turn to the left and follow the long road between rice fields until finally you arrive in the Reiki Master’s village.

There you find a little community of Java style huts, open to the air all the way through, wooden racks for beds, a porch and chairs, all sweltering under the sluggish sun. The air is incense, everything breathes--the foliage, the earth, the grass, the moss, the stones, the very wood of which the huts have been made.

An old man sits on the porch, motionless, like a growth, a complimentary form of dilapidation. Younger men and women wait languidly on benches and chairs, waiting for their turn to be healed. The Reiki Master, when either he or the powers are ready, will examine the Chakras of each person--head, throat, chest, pelvis, sex organs, limbs, back and shoulders, and divine by the use of a little copper L-shaped rod which Chakra is healthy and which is not. The Master makes the diagnosis, and then sends his patient to the healers, the worker ants, within the humid bowel of the hut.

The Reiki Master says that I am fine in the head, the chest, the limbs; more than fine in the sex organs. This suits me more than fine too. I can have a baby he says. Should, in fact. But my back is shit. And my throat is not too good either.

Do I have MS? No, not at all. Haven't had for 2 years. Yeah, when he measures the time 3 years in the past the little copper gizmo doesn't turn well at all. But then the next year it turns pretty swiftly, in a full half circle. This year it zooms all the way 'round, 360 degrees.


So I am sent in to the healers, though I must wait in line. I stroll out to smoke a cigarette. Handoko (he who knew of the Reiki in the first place) smokes too, but hides behind some bushes. He doesn't want the Master to know he is smoking.

At last I am ushered into the suffocating inner sanctuary of the Java house and receive my healing. There is a man at each side, a woman at my feet, a woman at my head. They pray, silently. I sweat profusely.

Here's the good news: I am healed, I do not have MS. Here's the bad new: My feet are buzzing, the muscles in my legs are pretzels, and I am loosing every ounce of water in my body through the pores.

And here's the plain old news: It was interesting, it was an experience, and it was something to write home about.

(note: sorry about multiple typos in original, now corrected)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cari Duit

In Denpassar today I passed a policeman with a sub machine gun. Yes. It made me feel . . . safe.

After that it started raining and the air actually got hotter than it had been before the rain. It came down thick, drenching, and everyone took cover under the barung awnings, and then after about 20 minutes the rain stopped, just as if someone in the heavens had slammed a door shut.

We had gone to look at our house--or rather the shell of our house, all conception, lacking material--no furniture, no beds, no kitchen, most importantly no air conditioning units (for a place without air conditioning here in Bali is not a house but a hell)--and so we imagined once again, and worked with the numbers. To make up our house will cost us approximately one million billion trillion rupiah. Oh well, no problem. It’s a couple thousand bucks US.

Nearly everyone here is a cheat--or rather an entrepreneur (which is still French for cheat), and so you have to be careful. Cari duit, is the familiar saying. Looking for money, making a buck. We all have to live, and that’s the truth. We all gotta have our daily bread.

My wife knows these people, I do not. I am eternally trusting, which is to say I am callow. My wife is suspicious. Which may just be the same as wise.


On this street, Jalan Tamblingan--the tourist market street in Sanur--taxi cabs roam up and down all the day long. Hundreds of taxis. The same drivers roll by again and again, honking the horn at every bule (white person) they see. They get, I think, very few fares--just like the sunglasses sellers up in Ubud. How many pairs of sunglasses will a tourist need on an average vacation. Surely not fifty or sixty.

Ah, but these cab drivers are a persistent lot. Each one must have tendinitis in his thumb from honking the horn. Where you going? What you want Mister. What you need boss? I take you very cheap.

How long is this street of shops? Ten blocks maybe, maybe twelve? Are there really people who are so lazy that they must have a cab to travel 1/8th of a mile?

It could be. I suppose it could.

The other day while Sasha and I were on the beach we played a game which we called “Man Or Woman.” This game centers around watching the fat cats at the Bali Hyatt, the men with the pendulous breasts and sagging bellies, the women with tans so deeply creased that it looks like they spent their lives herding cattle out on the range. We decide what the true gender is. This one looks something like a bulging loaf of white bread stuffed into bikini bottoms. Man or woman? This other one is so brown and shapeless that the question arises as to whether it is a person at all or actually a duffel bag.

How about that one? Topless woman? How about that one? Pregnant woman or obese man?

Natives here are not very watchful when it comes to the time. I am for instance presently waiting for the café in which I am sitting to actually open and begin to serve. I was told--personally, face to face--that they open at 9 a.m. However, it is 9:15 and I am still here and they are still not serving.

One thing that consumes time, making other things late, is the preparation of food and the lighting of incense for the gods. The food, which looks not very appetizing, is set out on small, square paper plates, and a stick of incense is lit alongside. In the morning in Bali all the air smells of sweet perfume from these hundreds, these thousands of little blazes. It is pleasant--better than the smell of many other things here.

Ah! My coffee at last. Signing off.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Here in Bali there are four kinds of lizards that I know of. Admittedly, I don’t know much. But in any case, there are:

1. The Cecak. This is a smallish lizard, measuring in length from the size of an index finger to the size of a hand. This lizard scurries about rapidly, most usually on walls or ceilings, and has not much to say (as compared with its larger cousins).

2. The Tokek, a larger lizard, is perhaps the length of a child’s arm from elbow to wrist. This lizard says, appropriately enough, “Tokek” (pronounced toe-kay).

3. The third lizard is called Buayak (boo-I-ock). He also speaks, and also says his own name. Repeatedly. One rarely sees the Buayak. One rarely wants to. It is the length of a leg, from hip to big toe. At nighttime the creature can be heard--not so often crawling about on the ground as actually falling (or jumping, I don’t know) from trees. Upon colliding with the ground, this creature always utters its own name.

4. The alligator.

This is what I know so far of reptile life in Bali. Pretty much.

Oh, one more thing. When the Cecak feels threatened, it discards its tail and dashes off to hiding with the remainder of its body, while the tail itself wiggles and creeps about for a half minute or so.

Inventive, no?

The Bug

Sanur Beach, Bali

I was sitting on the patio this morning reading a book called The Sex Lives of Cannibals when I was interrupted by the sudden explosion of my son from the front door, his face contorted to a mask of terror and repulsion.

“There’s a giant bug in the house!”

I take this lightly, always have. Giant bug, right. I’ve heard this one before. For as long as I can remember, the boy has been terrified of bugs--the bee, the fly, the beetle, the mosquito. This was not even worth looking up from my page.

“Kill it then,” I mutter.

“You kill it,” he says.

“Ignore it then.”

“Ignore it? Ignore it? Have you even seen it?”

I continue on my page, though not really reading, of course. It’s hard enough for me to concentrate without background noise, let alone these exclamations of fear and loathing.

“Sorry, I don’t have my microscope with me,” I answer.

“Errrgggg,” he says. He’s frustrated. He’s angry. He shouts for his mom, who is presently on the toilet.

“Oh for God’s sake, can’t you just kill the bug,” she shouts back. But she is not addressing him, she is addressing me. I know by the tone of her voice. There is a pitch for me, and a pitch for the boy. This is mine.

“Shit.” Naturally this is uttered under the breath.

“Mom says kill it.”

I put down my book, crush out my cigarette, rise from the chair as if lifting two mules on my shoulders.

“This had better be good.”

The boy leads me to the door but does not go in. I enter and he slams the door behind. For me it is kill or be killed.

Jeeze, what a wuss, I’m thinking.

I look around, floor to wall, wall to curtain, corner to corner.

“So where is it?” I demand, as if to say See, there’s no damn bug here anyway.

“On the ceiling.”

And then I see it.

Oh my God! Good Christ! Holy shit!

Instantly I am filled with the same terror that had so recently caused my son’s violent expulsion from the house. This is not a bug, this is a monster, a horrifying freak of nature, a genetic experiment of some sort, a creature straight from the pit of hell.

“Louis!” I shout. “What the hell is this thing. Oh my God, what is it!”

My wife shouts something rather unfriendly in reply. I suffer the same lack of interest I had earlier shown my son, little suspecting that he had been perfectly justified.

“Well, it’s either a bug or a small dog,” I say. “With wings.”

She’s angry. I have interrupted something important. But under the circumstances . . . .

“It’s black--a black body-- with one red stripe on it’s neck and one yellow stripe on it’s ass.”

“Ok. It’s just a bee,” she says. “Just ignore it.”

“Ignore it? Ignore it? Did you even see it?”

“Only a million times or so. It’s a fucking bee. Just kill it.”

It was clear I would have to deal with this monster by myself. What to do though? How to approach such an adversary? I looked about for a broom. No broom. I looked about for a swatter. No swatter. I looked about for a gun.

“Is it gone?” my son calls through a small crack in the door.

“No! Stay where you are! Don’t move!”

Backing toward the doorway, I grab a large towel. This will be my weapon. I will whip the end of the towel swiftly at the bee, thus either killing or disabling the thing.

First I take a couple practice shots. Snap! Yeah, that’ll work. Say goodbye, hombre!

Now it was on the wall. Crawling. Looking the other way. Completely unaware. Stealthily, therefore, I position myself on a chair and climb onto the seat in order to provide myself with the cleanest shot.

One . . . two . . . three . . . .

Oh Christ, I missed! The towel end snapped nothing but air. I had succeeded only in waking a sleeping giant.

“What happened, what happened?” my son wants to know. “Is it dead?”

“No, not dead. But mad. Furious. Whatever you do, don’t open the door.”

As if he had intended to do so.

“Where is it now?”

Where indeed? New chills of panic race up my spine. Ah there, it’s back on the ceiling, just by the light. A difficult shot to be sure.

Leaving the chair, I mount the bed, towel at ready, and move forward slowly, inch by inch, for now the thing is ready, aware.



“It’s flying! It’s flying! It’s coming right at me!”

I run for the door. I try to get out, but my son is holding the door shut.

“Open the door, open the door, open the goddamn door!”

At last I’m out. Together we slam the door behind.

“Did you get it?”

“No, I didn’t get it.”

“Did you even hit it at all.”

“No, not at all--but I can tell you this, it’s mad as hell now. You should have seen the expression on the thing’s face.”

“You were that close?”

“Close enough to see its nose hairs, yeah.”

“Well what does it look like? It’s face, I mean.”

“Like a gargoyle. Like a demon. A little bit like Jack Palance.”

“Who is Jack Palance?”

The character of the bug in its fullest is lost on the boy. It’s probably all for the best.

“So what now?” he says. “Should we wait for mom to get off the can?”

“What now?” I answer. “I’ll tell you what now. I’m goin in again. And this time it’s me or him.”

It’s a good feeling to earn the respect of ones son. And more than respect--the sheer awe. I am filled with determination, with new found courage. I won’t be pushed any longer. I won’t be intimidated. I will not be afraid.

Here then is the end of the matter, minus the gory details. One man is alive, one bug is dead. The proof is in the pudding, I will say no more. I write, therefore I am.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Lying on a chaise lounge not far down the beach from the Bali Hyatt, basking, a bottle of Bintang in one hand, a writing tablet in the other. It’s about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit as far as I can tell, but there is a gentle breeze skirting the coast from the West and it is all just right, as perfect as can be.

Just finished a swim in the shoulder deep sea. It will rain again later most likely and last twenty minutes to an hour, and then the skies will clear and the sun will return and the foreign tourists will stroll out in the evening, complaining of the heat at the coolest hour of the day.

I never imagined this. Never in my lifetime. Or never anyway as it is. How terrible it would be to work again, at the work one has to do, I mean. Once we move to our long term place in Denpassar I will, as I am told, teach conversational English to children and women. By the time I heard of this I had already fifteen students signed up, thanks to my wife’s unending efforts to keep me gainfully busy. But it is two hours a day, three days a week, and so I really cannot complain. It might even be fun.

Regarding MS here in the oven, I know that heat is supposed to have a bad effect, but it's hard to tell if it is any different for me because I've never been in this kind of heat before. I'm supposing it could be uncomfortable for anyone, especially between 2 and 5 p.m.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Brief Update For No Good Reason

Today we finally managed to secure a house for a year. Three hundred billion trillion rupiah, which breaks down to about three hundred American dollars a month. So that’s good. . Bagus. Can afford.

House is three stories, open kitchen on the roof (Bali style). This is in downtown Denpassar, which was frankly not our first choice of location, but will do while we invest in building our own maybe a year or two down the road. Short drive anyway up to Sanur and the beach.

Also purchased a scooter and am trying to learn to drive the damn thing. Have not so far fallen off, but have only been up and down the driveway to our home stay.

Also got the boy into school (to start March 1st). His school is directly across the street from our house in Denpassar, about which he is very happy indeed, as it means he will not have to be taken there on my scooter. Apparently he has no wish to die young, or even to be seriously injured.

It appears also that my wife has signed me up to teach conversational English to various Indonesians here. I had already 15 students before I even knew I had a job. Oh well, gotta keep us retired blokes busy.

At last it has just now begun to rain. Throughout the day it has been muggy as hell and one just knew the skies had to break at some point or simply implode and swallow the world up whole.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Silent Shrew and the Starving Child

Today my wife is angry at me. I am not sure exactly why. It could be any number of things, but must remain a mystery until she decides to speak again. She has refused to speak since about 2 in the morning, this now being 9:22 a.m. the next day. If she has a question, request, or demand, she communicates through Sasha. I in turn have decided not to eat until she speaks. We are a childish couple, you see. This tactic so far has had no effect on her silence, although it has made me very hungry.

I think we are to move out of our hotel today, but of course I don't know so for sure. Perhaps the move will be accomplished while I am out shopping, and I will find myself suddenly in the role of a street person, lugging my laptop up and down the beach, rummaging through garbage cans, bumming cigarettes. The big Kahuna.

It's another new life.

Yesterday Sasha and I walked down to Sanur beach and waded about. It's a rocky sort of beach with very shallow water, 3 feet at most, which made swimming quite the challenge. I had fun, but Sasha hated the place with a passion and insists he will never again set foot thereon.

Bought the wide brimmed hat I have been coveting and got a bollocking (Victor-the-Brit speak for cussing out) for spending 250 thousand rupiah on the same, but I like it nonetheless and my head is enjoying its presence immensely.

My body soaks up Bali like a perfumed balm, frankincense and myrrh. The jar of sweet oil is broken and lavished upon my feet, a treasure which might have fed the poor, and the purse is emptied--not 30 pieces but 30 million. I feel the guilt of extravagance, the guilt of money, the guilt of white skin, the guilt of all the riches of the Western World.

The taxi cab driver hales from the street, he tries to drive alongside, oblivious to the horns of the scooters and cars--Taxi, Mister--Where you need--Taxi ya, Mister, cheap, cheap. Another man wants to rent out his motorcycle, Cheap, murah, you enjoy. What do I need? Anything, everything--a shirt, a massage, a beer, a mango, a car, a bike, a chicken, a belt buckle, a statue, an authentic god of Bali. What do I need? They have it, they have it. Dan murah juga, murah sekali.

Everything is money, money is all--we must survive in order to struggle through another day, and sleep the lush nights dry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Up For Another Breath

Denpassar, Bali, Indonesia

At last I find myself with a spare moment for blogging. So this will be my first entry, of many, hopefully, from the other side of the freakin' world.

Was talking to one of my wife's friends last night, a man about my age by the name Handono (or something like that), and he observed that when one retires, one should if at all possible do something completely different from what he was doing during his working years--completely change ones circumstances, location--introduce things that are totally new--a new climate, a new language, a new culture, fresh challenges. In this way we leave our old life behind just as surely as if we had gotten on a rocket ship and set out for another planet. You find a new life, simply bringing along your most favorite things from the old (your wife, for instance). You begin again and you grow. Your mind is active, your experience renewed.

To this I say amen. And I am so very glad that I made this choice--to retire early, to live a second life, to exchange the stress and struggle of the US for a slow life in the islands, where a pack of cigarettes costs a buck and 10 cents, where a meal for 4 costs 30 dollars altogether rather than 30 dollars apiece, where a 3 bedroom house can be had for $300 a month; a place where the sun shines every day, 365 days a year, where harmony prevails among races and religions, where the beach is always about a block or two away and warm as bath water--not a paradise, no (and more about that later), but a pleasant new world with its own challenges and potentials, a place to grow up in one more time, in the hope of becoming a child once again.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Moving Out

Just coming up for a swallow of air, and then back under the heap of all American habitation. Everything must go by Sunday morning, and yet it seems that the more we take out, the more appears. How has it happened that all this stuff has ended up in my house--enough stuff as it seems to fill five houses? How have I lived in this house for three years without noticing half this stuff I am now carrying out, load after load. How in fact have I managed to live in the house without constantly tripping over all the things I am now removing from bedrooms and hallways and laundry rooms and dens? It is curious, astounding, and most of all heavy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Scambled Eggs

We forget in the sedateness of our advancing age the relentless passions of youth, how that all is yet undone, time yet a fluid which escapes around the edges and by nature seeks the cracks and flaws. We cannot live in concert without becoming, old for new, wise for callow, patient for perplexed. What we have become we must also bring back; or else keep the purchase of life--not by our will in the first place--from the ultimate beneficiary.

I am an egg falling
my abode a moment
all but eternal

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Eternal Transition

I am now thinking, in a pretty conclusive way, that merely talking about moving to Bali might be much preferable to actually doing so. In the talk there is excitement and anticipation, and all sorts of other positive and quite harmless angles, whereas there is only sweat and stress in the doing.

Somehow our house must be totally vacated and swept clean by February 6th--and it appears to me at this point that this can only come about by a direct act of God. Where is the hurricane, where is the tornado, where is the earthquake when needed? I'll bet that if I were Moses, these things would be conveniently at hand.

In the meanwhile everything in Bali itself is at ready--the accommodations, the hotel, the house, the friends and the neighbors, the beds and the bed clothing. Lacking only is our presence.

Can it really be that I will find myself on a tropical beach within the next week, a world away from the congested wreck that now serves as my abode? No, it is surely still, and forever a dream.