Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Story

When I was very young, time did not exist. Or at least that was so on Christmas Day. There was this Christmas and the next and the next and each and all were one and the same. Memory was not a thing of the past but something enacted in the present, both perfectly new and perfectly eternal. My brother and I had our own Christmas tree in our room - a small, tattered, beautiful cellophane thing, blue, and bedecked with ornaments that our mother had discarded, the themes of previous years, chipped, faded, beloved. And there were always two presents under our tree, one for him and one for me. We had chosen carefully from our allowances of saved quarters and dimes. Our parents would not yet have awakened - no parents are awake that early on Christmas morning - and so we quietly unravelled our clumsily bound and taped treasures, still winking the previous night's slumber from our eyes. This was the first light of forever, this waking dream into which we had fallen, the first step toward the hallway and the stairway and the descent to the main floor where our stockings waited by the frosted window, spilling over with candy and trinkets, and beyond that, in the main room, the evergreen tree, dressed in dazzling light and tinsel for just this moment, every moment, then, now and forever, the lower branches lost in bright packages and boxes, of every conceivable size and shape. No, There was no time, just this: bounty, color, life, love. It was Christmas, with us now, with us forever, even to the end of the age.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


So I've ended up with a cat. I don't like cats. I was praying for a new laptop or an e-reader, and I got a cat. Did I mention that I don't like cats? And yet this cat seems to insist that it's exactly where it's supposed to be - to whit, in my unwilling care. You will note that I say "it"; and on 'it', I shall insist.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evening Stroll

Always such a pleasure to take an evening stroll in Renon, especially on mild evenings such as this. It is always an adventure of some sort - a quiet adventure of chance meetings, pleasant chats, curious children wearing wide-open smiles. A man named Wayan wants to know what I'm doing, where I'm going, where I live, where I'm from, where my wife is from, whether I have children and what ages they are. Strangely, my life seems suddenly significant. Anonymity is marvelously banished by simple words of uncalled for friendship. A band of children skip along behind me as I leave my new friend. It's only a trip down the street to the store. You could do it in America in 10 minutes without uttering one word or enjoying a single smile.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Old Times

I sure miss my parents and my brother sometimes. For a moment, a split second, it feels as if they had died just yesterday, or indeed as if I could go home and they would be there, the windows lit from within, the porch light shining, the TV casting colors and shadows on the ceiling and walls, food waiting in the kitchen, the fireplace burning. I would shake the rain off my coat and enter the side door and there, in the next room, would be my father in his chair, my mother on the sofa, while my brother would be back down the hall in his room, listening to music. Weren't they all there just a moment ago? And yet they have been gone for 15, 20 and 30 years. How can it be? How can it be? This was my family, my parents and my brother, the last great people in the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Nowadays, communication is practically instantaneous - a miracle of modern technology. And yet it often seems that more vital, longer lasting relationships were forged and perpetuated in the day of the written letter, which would sometimes require months for delivery. People devoted themselves to these efforts because they were precious and meaningful. Despite our unparalleled opportunities, we live in an age of the trite remark, the smiley face, the abbreviation, the careless barb, the single word and the fragmented sentence. We are not connected after all, but increasingly disconnected.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gotta Love It

Gotta love it. I left my newly bought pack of cigarettes on the table at the nearby Circle K, came home, eventually realized I had left the cigarettes, and so drove back to the Circle K. Probably about 45 minutes had passed in between times, partly because a car had parked pretty much in the middle of the street and two garbage trucks had tried to go around it at the same time. Anyway, arriving back at the Circle K, I find that the cigarettes are still there! Even though people have come and gone, and there are now new people sitting at the table, the pack is still there. Folks, this just doesn't happen in America. You can forget about those cigarettes. Don't even bother to go back and look. Guaranteed, they're gone. Even if a nonsmoker has come along, he'll take them anyway, just because they're there. And this is not an isolated incident. Same thing happened to me last week at a different CK. I find this sort of thing tirelessly amazing. I have seen people leave laptop computers on a table while they went to the restroom. I've seen people leave cellphones on a table or on a beach chair. I've seen women leave their purses on a chair, for heaven's sake! No one takes these things because they recognize a simple fact that we in America seem to have lost sight of. They belong to someone else.

We Are the World

Really, we all have so much in common. We should concentrate on those things, rather than on our differences. For instance, we all suffer from itches that cannot be scratched. No matter how you contort your limbs, you cannot reach the spot that itches. We are all good drivers stuck in a world of bad drivers. We are all aware of the flaws of others but not of our own. When we try to throw something into the trash bin. we almost always miss. If we drop something on the floor, it almost always rolls under some immovable piece of furniture. If we put on our raincoat in anticipation of rain, it doesn't rain. And vice versa. In like manner, if we leave our laundry out overnight, it gets rained on; if we bring it in, it doesn't rain. We all think of what we should have said several days after we should have said it. Whenever we are trying to concentrate on something, there is bound to be a fly disturbing our train of thought. Truly, the list goes on and on. We are all the same.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I've always made things very easy for takers. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I believe that they will eventually learn something and begin to give in return. Yet, I must admit that that's probably not likely. Having taken without shame, they will likely only take more. So why? I always remember the words of the Lord. "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." The road is both short and long. Some are focused on their own feet, some on the unseen, though truly authentic goal. This is the foolishness of God, wherein being emptied is the same as being filled.

What's on Your Mind?

Three chairs and a table that I've always intended to paint. The tree that is sprouting new leafs and shedding old ones, not more than a stick when we first placed it there beneath the blue clothesline. Autumn in Oregon, the skeletons of summer, the last of the red leaves gasping in the gutters while the palm of dead winter turns the window glass to ice. Another cigarette, the possibility of sleep, obstinate poverty, the question of love, unsaid words too late imagined, of untold, untellable, uncomfortable depth. Fear and surrender, perpetual passion mitigated by small spaces. The last things, the final things. The laughter of a fountain that I cannot see and the mouse that just ran under the kitchen counter. That's what's on my mind. And so, goodnight.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Night on the Town

"It was late and every one had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light."
--Ernest Hemingway, A Clean Well Lighted Place

I guess that pretty well describes my own night on the town last night. Except for the Swedish guy at Angels who reckoned he could speak English, and maybe could have, too, if he hadn't been too drunk to form real words in any language. He tried Indonesian, as well, with the mostly somewhere absent bartender, with an equal lack of success. I know that he said something about every place in the world being the same, except not, really, because of global warming and that it should have been snowing in Sweden a long time ago. He was 44 and thought that he might marry the bartender, whose name he could not remember. In any case, he was thinking it over. To be honest, I thought that the vacant Circle K at which I had first stopped offered better company

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coffee Critic

I think I'll become a coffee and cuisine critic, specializing in those establishments less often (or perhaps never) frequented by the general public. O-Bin coffee, located on Jalan Tukad Badung, seems just such a one. Very peaceful indeed. As with nearby D'Kiddo's, I had (and will likely always have) the place to myself. The black coffee comes at a reasonable price and, after entering, I was soon treated to a selection of knock-off Beatles tunes from the early years (which all Bules love). But the thing that really distinguishes this place is its menu of specialty juices for various diseases - breast cancer, kidney stones, high blood pressure and heart disease. Whether these juices cause or prevent these maladies, I am not 100 percent certain, though I'm assuming it's the latter. Sadly, however, there was nothing for toothache. Nor were there any patrons suffering from these diseases, on the occasion of my visit, anyway. Perhaps they were too sick to show up. Nonetheless, should I myself contract any of these illnesses, I will certainly return. Otherwise, the non-curative beverages at D'Kiddos are larger and a bit less expensive.

Pak Botak

Why is it that people here think baldness is so hilarious? I swear, whenever I go outside my house, I'm like as not to have someone shout "Pak Botak!" It's almost like being famous, like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Usually I get this from a gang of boys, but sometimes from grown men as well. Just this morning, for instance, I was having a coffee at the nearby café, when two men on a motorbike passed by on the street and one of them shouted "Botak!" I'm surprised I was even that obvious from that distance, although I suppose maybe my head was gleaming like a beacon in the sunshine. Look at that! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's someone with a bald head! My lucky stars! Can't wait to get home and tell my kids!

But I have hair. I really do. Some, at least. And so I'm determined now to grow it. That'll show 'em. No more Pak Botak in this neighborhood. Yes, I'm prepared to give up the fame. I'm sure that Mister Hair will be not nearly as amusing as Mr. Bald.

Monday, November 17, 2014


A beggar just showed up at my door wanting money to replace her missing teeth. Ironic, that. She showed me hers, I showed her mine. Show and tell. I explained that if I had any extra money, I'd replace my own teeth, right? And, as a matter of fact, hers didn't look all that bad. But she was not impressed. Figured this was just a rich bule thing, I guess. A lifestyle choice of the wealthy and eccentric.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Just Another Nutcase

I read a little blurb yesterday on Facebook about a guy who had written a book 'proving' that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene, fathered three children and moved to France. I commented that marriage and family must have been difficult for someone who had been crucified, and moved on to more worthwhile news. Well, this morning I find that I have received a book-length reply from some woman explaining the 'factual details' of this story, which is not new, really, but about 30 y...ears old (something, in itself, that she seems unaware of). The story itself is not shocking, but merely silly. What's shocking is the length to which these sorts of 'conspiracy theorists' will go to dodge sound reasoning, the historical record, the rules of logic in order to achieve this core of refutation which, sadly, resides deep within the souls of those who are, truly, merely at the mercy of a psychiatric complex.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Visit to the Dentist

I have long had problems with my teeth, such that, at this point in my years, there are not all that many left. Teeth, I mean; not years. Who can say about the latter? Some doctors say that dental problems are associated with the neurodegenerative effects of MS. Some say not. In any case, I have lived a lifetime of struggle with ... dentistry.

Most recently, one of my top teeth, an old root canal job, came out with a Snickers Bar, while a bottom tooth broke off at the gum-line, for no particular reason. So, it's off to Kasih Ibu and their department of advanced dental technology - on the second floor, just next to the out-of-service bathroom. The dentist is a pretty, young Balinese doctor (well, I guess she's a doctor), whom I have seen before. She speaks no English, but we make do.

First off, she replaces the dead root canal job with superglue. Although it was she who put this tooth back in its socket the last time it fell out, it does not seem, this time, to fit. But, eventually, she makes it do so.

"You have strange teeth", she says.

Yes, indeed.

And now it's the turn of the tooth that must be removed.

"If you want, you can just leave it," I tell her. "Tidak apa-apa, ya."

No can do. Akan infeksi. Must go.

So she sets to work. Her assistant brings out of tray of instruments that look like an assortment of screwdrivers, icepicks and pliers.

"Will this hurt?" I ask.

"A little," she smiles.

What does that mean, I wonder. It's a relative term, right. A little - like a bee
sting, or falling ten stories, or decapitation? Which 'little' do you mean?

But I'm ready. I'm relaxed. I wait for the Novocain administration.

Which does not come. There is no needle, no little poke, no numbing sensation. There is only the jab of the icepick as she sets to work.

There are problems from the outset. This tooth just does not want to budge. She pries, pushes, wrenches and pounds, but the tooth stands its ground. .

"Hm, ga mau, ga mau," she mutters, frowning, eyes gleaming. The matter is becoming personal.

She reaches for the largest screwdriver, leans close, white-knuckled, and says something near my ear. I'm not quite sure what she has said. She talks very quietly and quickly. As far as I can tell, she has either said that it's a nice day outside or that what she's about to do next is going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

Turns out to have been the latter.

Though she is prying and yanking at one tooth, it really feels as if the entire row of bottom teeth is going to pop off like a bottle cap, and leave my chin hanging in the air like the leftover strip of aluminum foil.

"Sakit?" she says.

"Yeah, a little," I gasp. And there's that relative term again.

And so she speaks close to my ear once more, wielding a claw-like metal object in her right hand. Again, I'm not sure what she has said, so quietly and quickly, Indonesian with a Balinese accent. I think she may have said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet, sucka."

After what seems hours of struggle - she grimly determined, I grimly clinging to sanity - the doctor triumphantly pulls the tooth free. I and my tooth, I think, are a milestone in her career. She admires what's left of the bloody thing at the end of her pliers, shows it to me, and then drops it into the metal basin, where it clatters like a silver bullet.

There is no tooth that can defeat this doctor. There is no tool that she will not employ.. This is the motto of Indonesian medicine. Just do it!

It's also the Nike motto, and that company has done pretty well for itself.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Here We Go Again

Once again (as seen in the Jakarta Post), Indonesia's game of six acknowledged religions rears its absurd, uncomely head. Every time this happens, I want to tear my hair out - and I would, if I had any hair to tear. Is there not one sensible person in the government who can explain this matter to the others? Sigh. Here goes again. You cannot have Islam or Christianity without Judaism. Neither of the latter two religions can have come into existence without the presence of the former. Therefore, you cannot recognize Islam and Christianity as religions without recognizing Judaism also. The God, events and people that these three religions share in common ORIGINATED in Judaism. That's where they came from. That's where Christianity and Islam got them. Okay? Do you see how dull-witted it is not to recognize the religion from which your own religion arose? If Judaism doesn't exist, then neither do Islam and Christianity - because, you see, you have removed the very foundation of their existence. And while we're at it, someone in government also needs to be told that Catholicism and Protestantism are not two separate religions. They are one. Namely, Christianity. You list them as two among your acknowledged six. How is it that a country can think of itself as a 'religious' country, and yet be ignorant of religion in general - and actually make a proclamation of that ignorance? Good grief. It's downright embarrassing. Honest to God ... if there is someone out there who can unravel this perfectly impossible contradiction, please enlighten me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


The woman in the kost behind our house is crying again and talking. Crying and talking. The invisible insects are making a singing, pulsating sound, like crickets, but i dont think they're crickets. The woman sobs and talks loudly between sobs. She is angry. Sometimes the man speaks. His tone is very quiet and seems either reassuring or apologetic. He doesnt want to make trouble. There is already trouble. For a moment he goes into the bathroom and begins to sing quietly, but then stops. The woman's voice follows him. Two little lizards chase each other across our kitchen counter. The insects sing. There are three pieces of clothing hanging on the line. A yellow shirt, a white bra and a pair of blue shorts. There's nothing else to look at. There is nothing else to hear. This happens two or three times a week. On the days the woman is not crying, she sings.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Renon Jam

Nearby my house in Renon, there is an intersection of two 2-lane streets, both of them often heavily travelled. When the hour of heaviest traffic arrives, lines of cars naturally form on each street, in both directions. So far, this is in line with predictable circumstances and, though unpleasant, not an insurmountable problem. Ah, but this is Bali, and these are Indonesian drivers, and there are no acknowledged nor enforced traffic conventions. And this is where the problem starts -- for, you see, those driving, or rather mis-driving the motorbikes decide that they don’t want to wait in line to get to the intersection, so they move forward and line up on either side of the cars. The motorbikes behind these motorbikes do the same, and so on, until you have motorbikes filling both lanes of traffic, as well as the sidewalks. Now, where is the oncoming traffic to go? There is no more street, you see. It is now a one-way street. At the same time, of course, the oncoming drivers have made the same decision, such that their street is now also a one-way street. You have arrived at a collision of two one-way streets. And from there on, it’s sheer chaos. And the strangest thing of all is this: everyone is smiling! Now, I admit that when I first came here to Bali, I found this sort of pandemonium mildly funny -- the way stupid things are always somehow mildly funny. But when stupidity becomes habitual, it’s no longer funny. It’s just … well, stupid.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I haven't written much here lately, because I've been feeling discouraged by the constant junk replies of my doggedly devoted spammer. However, it seems that he has suddenly disappeared. Maybe something I did, in the way of deleting, or marking as spam, or sending to junk folder -- or maybe he just got tired, or grew up and got a job, or died. In any case, I'm newly relieved not to be receiving 20-30 spam mails per day.

Truth is, I've been pretty much limiting my jewels of wisdom to Facebook posts, which actually get more response than posts on this blog get. Which I kind of fun. I always like to make a connection with someone, to know that someone has taken the time to read, and comment, or simply check 'Like'. Silence is not a big motivator. I tend to talk to myself all day long as it is, and don't really need to write to myself, too.

I had just now posted something on Facebook about rats who run straight up walls. Sounds ridiculous, I know. In fact, I didn't believe it myself when my son first told me about it. The wild imagination of a boy, I thought. Rats are not cockroaches, not lizards, not flies or ants or spiders. They simply don't run up 8 foot walls.

Ah, but they do -- for now I have seen it myself. Straight up the wall he went -- from the kitchen counter to the wall and then over the top. How can it be? I don't know. Perhaps the roughness in the cement provides just enough of an edge for their little claws to get a purchase. Or perhaps they have been bitten by a radioactive spider and now have special powers. In any case, seeing is believing.

Also saw a Tokek on the wall the other night. This is a medium sized lizard, bigger than a cicak, smaller than a buaya. I believe this particular fellow used to live next door, but now that the occupants of that house have moved out (perhaps three months ago), the tokek seems to have grown  lonely and moved his residence to our yard (specifically, behind the washing machine). He comes out only at night, so far as I have seen, and prefers the sink area. And he will sometimes hide in solitude and simply repeat his name, as all tokeks do, until he runs out of breath. "TOE-kay, TOe-kay, to-kayyyyy".

Friday, October 10, 2014

Just When You Think There's Hope

Just noticed an article from Jakarta Globe regarding the awarding of the Nobel prize to Malala, the courageous and outspoken Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head and left for dead by the Taliban for insisting on the right to attend school. Miraculously, she survived and lives, now, to champion peace and women's rights around the world. A feel good story, right? One that lifts one's hopes for the goodness of mankind. Well, think again. Upon reading the comments, I was s...hocked to find hateful, lunatic blatherings about how it didn't really happen - no, it was all a CIA plot to have this young girl shot in the head (for some reason), oh, but not badly enough to kill her. She's a fake, they say, an instrument of the imperialistic Americans, or what the hell ever. Hoping to feel good about people, I came away feeling sick at heart instead. Would that these soul-sick, brain-dead knot-heads themselves had been the ones shot in the head - every last one of them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Praise Music

Just behind our house stands a four unit Kost-Kostsan. The back of this building faces the back of our house and in the wall, rectangular vents have been cut into the concrete for ventilation. Just beyond these vents are the bathrooms of the Kost units. This provides us with excellent acoustical seating for the daily showers and such-like; but, there is a little bit of a problem, in that one male resident in particular regularly makes the most God-awful noises throughout his ...daily bathing routine. It's difficult, really, to describe this combination of coughing, snorting, hacking, spitting, and perhaps vomiting that accompanies each shower. How can any one man contain so much phlegm? But the funny thing, and the more striking, really, is that in the spaces between these retching expectorations, the man will break out loudly in song - and I do mean 'loudly' - with a voice that is true and clear as a large bell, but for a little bubbling and gurgling mixed in here and there. I had begun to eat my breakfast at the outdoor table the other day, and then paused to allow the man to finish with his various bodily expulsions, when at once he began to belt out the song "Amazing Grace" with such clarity and assurance - even passion - that I could not help but immediately forgive all that was less pleasing in favor of the gifting of this heartfelt, irrepressible praise. What is truly beautiful so often stands alongside the less comely things.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dear Scammer

Dear e-mail scammer, Just so you know, I am never going to open your e-mails and I am never going to click on your links. I will always mark every fake email and send it and its fake link to my real junk box. I know that you've probably arranged for this shit to be sent automatically for the rest of eternity; but, again, just so you know, it's never gonna happen. Why not consider getting a real job and growing some self-respect instead?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


So, I take my Starbucks card this morning and head out for a coffee at JCO.

Now, those of you who are able to think clearly will have already seen the problem. Ah, but not I.

I arrive at JCO and stroll up to the counter, card in hand. I want a medium cappuccino, I tell the young woman, hot, please use a glass cup.

So far, so good.

When I hand her the card. I tell her that there is a little money remaining on this card, and that I will add what's lacking.

She actually swipes the card, then tells me that she cannot grant my request. She says that I have to have at least 50.000 rupiah on the card. Or this is what I understand her to say. We're speaking Indonesian, you see?

But anyway, it doesn't make sense. Why can't I use the card and then add money? There is 20.000 on the card, so I should be able to add 5.000, right, for one medium hot cappuccino.

Cannot, she says.

Really? "Nah, kalau begitu, pakai kartu ini aja". I bring out the new, yet unused Starbuck's card my wife had given me and hand her that one. Just use this, then.

Again, she swipes the card. I don't know why. Apparently, I am not the only one who is in the wrong store. .

Cannot, she says. And adds, as I understand it this time around, that one must make a purchase of at least 50.000 in total in order to use the card.

Really? But it's not like that in Sanur.

But, of course, she is not responsible for realities in Sanur. She glances about, looking for someone else who might help this difficult bule. She looks sad and worried.

"Okay, no problem. Saya bisa kasih uang aja. I'll just use money.

Relieved, she returns my card and takes my 25.000 rupiah. I shuffle away, discouraged, intent on talking to the guy in Sanur tomorrow, who always takes my card, no matter what or how much I purchase. I sit down to wait for my coffee, and just about the time I pick it up from the barista, I make the elusive connection. I find the missing link. I am holding a Starbuck's card in one hand and a JCO coffee in the other.

Red-faced, I apologize to the girl at the counter. I explain what happened (such that she, too, now understands where she is).  Salah saya, ya. My mistake.

Selalu seperti itu. It's tough being stupid, folks. And often embarrassing, too.


“…and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.

--Friedrich Neitzsche

Three times in a handful of mornings I have been visited by a dragonfly at my table in the yard. It is a black dragonfly, of medium size as dragonflies go, and seems, just as I am, a creature of habit, for he comes to visit just as soon as I sit down and take my first sip of coffee and light my first cigarette of the day.

Do I appear to imply in the above that this is the same dragonfly on each occasion? Well, I intend to imply no such thing. Rather, I state the matter as a fact. He is the same. He is black, as I have stated, he is of medium size, and he comes as if by appointment, or perhaps as somehow appointed.

Moreover, he possesses a certain character that cannot escape notice, nor allow him to be judged as an anonymous sort of creature. He sits always, for instance, at the top of the chair opposite mine. On the top right, in fact, facing me. Not on the side, not on the seat, not in the middle or on the left. He sits on the top right, as if returning to a personal notch in space and time. Nor does he sit only (and herein lies further proof of his authenticity). Rather, he sits facing me for some minutes, then rises to hover perhaps a foot above the chair top, then returns to his seat (same notch, same groove) to examine me anon with the same carefulness, ever so focused and yet so perfectly serene.

He is devoted, this fellow, a reliable bug. He inspires me, and conveys in his simple presence something of magic, a hypnotic effect, so that my own mind falls back in repose on the stillness of fragile wings, resting, rising, moving gracefully in space and by a will not my own, as if attentive to a conductor’s baton or a wizard’s wand. I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags . . . .

How long like this are we silent together? I know not the duration, but seem lost (and yet found) in a shapeless parcel of time, a lotus tree moment. I think at once that the dragonfly is my brother, dead these 27 years and 4 months, returning now not in the splendour one might expect, but as this homely creature all dressed in black. But this, you see, is just how he was, and what he would do. Much of beauty is no more than pretence. Earth laughs in flowers, Emerson says; but I say that most of the world only comes around in full force when the rest of it goes away for a time.

People are continually given over to the notion that in order to seek something, they must do something. They must move their arms, move their legs, struggle through strenuous courses, as if revelation were a cliff to climb or peace of mind a set of rapids to cross. We go on treks--the river trek, the jungle trek, the mountain trek--and come away with the reward of a passing flush of hormones, sticky with an effusion of sweat.

And all the while this black dragonfly waits, as placid as the Sphinx, in-filling the whole world through the medium of silence from his humble throne in my yard, and echoes for the edification of he who will simply stop and see, the words that once rested on another mortal’s tongue--

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Most of us who are diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening disease develop an instant sort of obsession about the nature of the disease, the cause, the treatment, the prognoses, the research, the psychological ramifications, and so on. It’s only natural. This is our life, now, and we need to learn, in some sense, to live again -- not according to the patterns by which we had been so comfortably guided in the past, but according to the uncertain shape of new realities, new limitations, new necessities, and what soon becomes an altogether new view of the value of life, of health, of meaning and of mortality.

As our appreciation of our own weakness grows (for we were strong beforehand - invincible), we begin to consider, with real knowledge and compassion, the multiplicity of ailments that affect so many people - just like us. They are unearned, unasked for, undeserved scourges that compromise not only the life of he or she who suffers, but the lives around them, of family, friends and loved ones.

For this reason, I am glad to post this reminder about a disease called Mesothelioma - an incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a rare and fatal disease, and since only 3000 or so Americans are diagnosed with this disease per year, research and funding is less than abundant. Treatment for Mesothelioma can involve chemotherapy, radiation, and even operative procedures - but the treatments themselves are painful and noxious, and effective in no more than a palliative manner. The disease, like MS and so many others, is presently without a cure.

Please commit yourselves to being especially aware of Mesothelioma on September 26th, National Mesothelioma Awareness Day -- for awareness becomes knowledge, knowledge becomes power, and our hope is that, someday soon, a prayerful combination of the knowledge of medical science and wisdom may rid the world of this deadly ailment.
For more information on mesothelioma see

For Heather’s awareness page:

Friday, September 5, 2014


Fire is what you found
my love
and in the most unlikely place--
fire from a cool well,
fire from a sleeping coal--
You came for clay
still damp and lax
You came with hands
to sooth and save--
And yet I burst
to seething flame
and broke the vessel
in the kiln

(Sept 2009, I don't remember why)

Fire When (not) Ready

Sekarang tiba-tiba jadi sakit flu juga. Dua masalah sekaligus. Gawat!

This means, in Indonesian, that now I have the flu on top of the MS relapse. Not cool. I suppose this is one of those 'opportunistic infections', right? The defenses are weak - attack! Like on the old Star Trek shows when the shields of the enemy ship were down. Fire all phaser banks, now, Scotty!

Ah, but it never worked against the good guys, shields or no shields. The captain always found a way out. As will I.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This Mysterious Garment

In my journey through this poor, beautiful, fallen world, I have seen life and death, love and divorce, passion and pain, health and illness, joy and despair. It is all interwoven into the fabric of our days, every thread individual, yet part of every other, essentially indivisible, subject to the indescribable, ineluctable wisdom that fashioned the garment from the beginning. "Meaningless, meaningless," said Solomon. But not so. The meaning is simply hidden in the un-seeable twists that bind the threads.

House Fire

The house was burning
One wintry night
When I pulled her from the flames
And carried her out
And rushed through the rain
Barely knowing the chill
And sat by her berth
Till she opened her eyes...

But life is more
Than sight and breath
Life was gone before she slept
Not to be wakened
By brightest light
How can the living save the dead?
Only drop the arm
And let them fly.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Thoughts

My first attack of MS, in 2004, affected, mainly, my cognitive abilities, my sense of awareness. The second relapse, in 2007, affected sensation in my feet and legs, my sense of balance, my cognition and my memory. This third attack has affected my hearing, my eyesight and (again) my cognition. Wonder where the third event will strike. Can't wait to see.

This is just something I posted on Facebook, looking back at how each relapse has manifested itself in my body. Even though the none of the effects are pleasant, the disease always seems somehow interesting to me - to think that something can be 'touched' somewhere inside ones nervous system and cause a specific result on the outside. It's kind of like that old kid's game, Operation. Remember that? On a game board, you operated on this poor two dimensional guy, seeking to remove various parts of him with tiny tongs. If you hit the edges of an operating site, a buzzer went off and, as I recall, his nose lit up.

In this case, some malicious, misguided cell, bit off an edge of whatever nerve center controls my hearing. My nose didn't light up, but my ears certainly are ringing. It nicked off a few bits of my eyesight, too. I had just recently gotten new glasses, and was feeling enthused about being able to see again -- well, sort of  able -- when these nasty little munchers chewed the myelin off some of the nerves that regulate my eyesight.

I have said before that these things -- things that are suddenly damaged, made imperfect -- continually remind me how amazingly made we have been. Every inner particle is working together to actuate, to realize, to animate the human being according a plan we ourselves did not make and cannot truly understand. And another amazing thing about this machine is that, when it is broken, it cannot be repaired. I'm not talking about a broken leg, of course, or a malfunctioning heart valve. I'm talking about the essential pathways that underlie every gross part, the electricity that runs through the wires, the 'lightning that comes from the east and is visible even in the west'. I am reminded again of psalm of David -- which I have quoted before, and may as well quote again.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. 

 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

(Ps 139: 14-16, NKJV)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stormy Weather

Amazing, astounding, nauseating storm in my head last night - ringing, hissing, sighing, shrieking - the clamor of three dozen demons spilling from a wild party in hell. What is it within a brain that can hear these sounds, and not only hear, but suffer, as if from a physical assault?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tonight's Appointment

So, I go to the Senior neurologist tonight. I take my MRI scans with me, along with the radiologist's report. We discuss my previous visits with his partner, the meds she prescribed, and so on, and he says, "Do you have MS?" Sigh.

Well, welcome to Indonesia, folks. Can't blame 'em, really. They've barely so much as heard of MS, much less treated it. Ya, we don't have that here, the doctor said. Ya, well you do now, I answered.

But he was an amiable sort - which actually goes a long ways where doctors are concerned. I once had a doctor in America who "fired me". Yes, fired me, because I refused to continue with interferon injections that were making me deathly sick on a weekly basis.

Once again, we had to communicate in Indonesian. At least he was honest enough to say straight out that he couldn't speak English. Another plus, there - honesty. But we did quite well. Which is either because my mind was clearer tonight than it had been in the morning, or because I just can't understand what female doctors are saying, whatever language they use.

So, he gave me some various potions for my fatigue (such a hopelessly inadequate term, that), and we shall see what happens.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


How can anyone, having any semblance of a stable mind, manage the unconscionable temerity to defend the beheading of an innocent journalist, the mass murder of captive soldiers and citizens, the kidnapping and rape of women, the burial of infants while still alive, with a complaint about 'drone attacks'? What in God's holy name can they possibly be thinking? Well ... they really can't be thinking at all, can they.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Lost an old friend on Friday last. My step-daughter's father. A Prince among men. The kind of person who was everyone's friend; a spiritual man, a sensitive listener and one of the best joke-tellers I've ever known. Reginald Rutherford - God's speed, my friend. See you at the King's table before we know it


I used to type well over 100 words a minute. Now, my fingers have become noodles. They are worms, blindly roaming about the keypad. Not likely to be playing Chopin anytime soon, either.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


So anyway - there's this new bread and pastry place nearby. Bread Time or Bread Place or something like that. Bread is a big deal here in Indonesia. It's considered a 'western' food, and so a great treat. It's a cozy place if one goes early enough in the morning - otherwise, it becomes way too crowded. But in any case, you can get yourself a little cake or whatever, a latte for Rp. 11000 (unheard of), and settle into a chair with a book, or just watch the people come and go. Lots of school kids show up in their identical uniforms, gabbing away in the usual gobbledygook, which is not, for any practical purpose, Indonesian, but their own shared invention - a mystery to the westerner, no matter how much he has read or studied. You pick up bits and pieces, each as mysterious as a newly spilled jigsaw puzzle. And of course everyone takes notice of the bule - quick glances, smiles, whispers.  Oh! That's it. It's called "Bread Life".

Yeah, Don't Bother

Well, some of you out there are going to be getting sick of these continual MS entries. But hey, it intrudes, it speaks, it insists. And, after all, the original inception of this blog had to do with MS anyway.

So, what's the pleasant news for today. My arms and legs are extremely weak. My fingers don't work - a disastrous circumstance for a writer. I'm practically hunting and pecking these days. Takes me four hours to do two hours of work.

One tends to think that after he has surrendered and gone to the doctor, he will simply get some medicine and that will be that. All well again.

Not so.

I don't really remember how long it took me to recover from my attack back in 2007. I do remember, however, now that I think of it, that I was still having difficulties in February 2010. Not encouraging. I remember my old friend, Vick, giving me his arm to help me up and down stairs. So, yeah.

No magic meds.

Just a long road.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can't Wait

Actually looking forward to returning to the doctor on Friday. Just like old times. Lots of questions. Seeking answers. I guess I had forgotten how long it takes to recover from these relapses. I mean, I'm ready right now. But the truth is, I feel lousy. I feel very weak now in my arms and legs. Just limp. Coordination is fucked. Takes me hours to type what used to take minutes. Every other letter is wrong. Fingers poking about the keyboard like mindless worms. And in the meantime, I have work to do.

Well, the good news is, though, that I'm enjoying my wife's 'sunshine regime' in the chaise lounge in our backyard. Just like sticking yourself into an oven. Lie there as long as I can bear it, then jump into a cold shower. If I didn't have things I was supposed to be doing, it wouldn't be so bad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Illness Reveals

I have always thought that what is most miraculous in the healthy human organism is most distinctly revealed in the aberrations of illness.

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made," David said;
"your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

Quiet Time

When you are ill and laid up, you see the things that are always there, those things that you have not seen before with precision or even interest. They are the passing things, of no account. Clouds in their courses, the eye of the sun, now blinded, now piercing. You see the leaves on the small tree that was no more than a stick 6 months ago, now blooming, stretching prayerful palms to the nearest... heaven, breathing and breathed. A dragon fly sits on your knee, not knowing any better, and for once he is right. He seems to mean something. Everything, the smallest thing, seems to mean something. The mind of the breeze crosses arms on your chest, and then surrenders again to the incomparable sun, as much a component of your skin as of the heavens.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Latest Curative Measures

My sweet, well-intentioned wife has decided that the way to cure my MS symptoms is for me to get LOTS of sun. Bali sun, that is. A cut above every other kind of sun. To this end, she bought me a chaise lounge which she has positioned in the backyard, directly under the most intense rays, and I am to lie in this chaise lounge several times a day, as long as humanly able. I may occasionally evacuate the chair for a quick cold shower at reasonable intervals. The demyelinating processes of a defunct autoimmune system  are apparently blasted into submission by violent doses of searing tropical sunlight. Upon completing the regimen for the day, I am to drink spinach juice and aloe vera. Well, who knows? If it don't kill me, it may cure me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Long Journey

Cabin fever. Climbing walls. Can't take it anymore - disorienting meds or no - I head out on the motorbike to Sanur, Problem is, the thing keeps going sideways. Don't know how many times I ended up driving in the ditch. Oh well, just a bule who don't know how to ride a bike properly. Finally made it to JCO. Never tasted a better coffee. Enjoyed it immensely while reading two newspapers. And then back home through the same roadside ditches. Made it! Don't think I'll try that again. Seven more days of methylprednisolone, five more of clonazepam.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Med Regimen

Wow, these meds are spacing me out. Long time since I've taken strong medications. Methylprednisolone and clonazepam seems to be the worst. Dizzy, disoriented, exhausted, feverish. Well, four more days of this, and then we'll see what happens.

It has been very kind of so many people here to wish me well and to show concern, some of whom I barely know. On the other hand, from my own step children from my second marriage: Nada. Not a solitary word. And I know they've seen this on Facebook. Ah well, as I've said, the best way to find out who your friends are, or who really cares in the least, is to have a sudden health problem. The silence is not only deafening, but, hopefully, instructive for the future.

One never wants to just face these things. One holds on to dear memories, of the years spent caring and enabling and sympathizing and teaching and, yes, paying their way through their young lives and beyond. And for what? One doesn't like the answer, and yet there it is - a slap in the face.

And so it makes me feel lonely -- and not only as if I have failed, but that they have failed as well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MS Update

Well, I found out this morning that there are multiple new active lesions on MRI scan. No wonder I ain't been feelin so good. I suspect the doctor thinks I'm a bit weird because I can't remember anything -- when was my last MRI, what medications did I take, how could I have lost my medical records, and so on. Well duh. I have MS. That's why I can't remember anything. Or rather, that's why I remember things about 2 hours later. Or 2 days later.

In any case, they've put me on corticosteroids, some kind of sort-of strong analgesic (narcotics not allowed in Indonesia), clonazepam for whatever reason, and Ginkgo Biloba. Yup.

Will return to the doc in 10 days or so.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Once again, internet is out at home. Came down to Starbucks to work, but, lo and behold, internet is out here too. So that’s a motorbike trip and 31000 rupiah for nothing.

Btw, Bali traffic rule #2 for people who don’t know what they’re doing: Motorbikes should stay in the proper lane, The opposite lane is for oncoming traffic. If you pile up in the oncoming lane, oncoming traffic will be unable to proceed, as will traffic in the proper lane. This is what we call a “traffic jam” and should be avoided for the benefit of all motorists.

Went to the hospital this morning to try to get some medications for my “new” MS symptoms, and the doctor insisted that I get an MRI first. Damn! I hate MRI’s. Nonetheless, I’m scheduled for one tomorrow morning. This ought to be interesting. I didn’t know they even had MRI beds here.

What I rather suddenly ended up with is ringing in the ears, pounding headaches and heat intolerance. That latter is a very common symptom, which I, lucky until now, had never experienced. Now, I can attest first hand that it’s a bummer.

Interestingly, I only recently learned that many of the symptoms that we associate with MS are really symptoms of a separate condition known as “dysautonomia”. This symptoms include cognitive problems, fatigue and, my new favorite, inability to “thermoregulate”, aka heat intolerance.

I thought I could just waltz in and ask for ‘some pills’; however, since I don’t have my old MRI exams (somehow lost in the last four years), and since I have no medical documentation stating that I even have MS, the doctor, understandably, insisted on getting an MRI. Aside from that, as she points out, if the ringing in the ears is attributable to MS, lesions will appear in specific locales.

So, more later on that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Creepy Books and Things

It's not that there's nothing to say. It's just that I'm lazy. But anyway ....

Just finished reading Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. Quite a good book. I'd been hoping for years that he would one day write a sequel to The Shining, and, finally, he did. And did so very well. It's not quite as scary as The Shining, but maybe that's a good thing. I remember The Shining giving me nightmares, way back when. This one I read in English, which was also a bit of a treat. When you read in a foreign language (like Indonesian), there is an unfortunate barrier between the reader and the book. You cannot simply ride the current, but must continually apply another part of your mind to translation. So, you end up distanced from the story, overly aware of the words and sentences. It was also a treat because books in English here tend to be ridiculously expensive, whereas books in Indonesian are cheap. I got the book at PeriPlus, and the price was not actually that bad, as these things go. Rp. 100.000. Nonetheless, a book in Indonesian will cost half this amount (while most books in English will cost 2-4 times this amount).

So, it's off to Gramedia in another hour or so to look for a new book, in Indonesian. I most recently read the Divergent Trilogy, which was enjoyable and fairly easy to read (being geared to young audiences).

I forgot to mention the snake on our kitchen sink the other day. Creepy, like a Stephen King book. It was about 3 feet long, I reckon, and gray. It seems to have come from a hole in the wall, into which it returned after we poked it a few times. I stopped up the hole, but who knows? I suppose they can slither through lots of fissures. In any case, that was perhaps a week ago, and we've not seen it since.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Republic of Indonesia denounces Israel's attacks on Gaza, the Jakarta Post headline says. So, I look further to see the whole story. But guess what? I don't get the full story. There is no condemnation, for instance, of the rocket attacks on Israel, launched before these most recent Israel counterattacks. There is no condemnation of Hamas for the murder of three Israeli teens; although, to be sure, there is the condemnation of Israel for the revenge murder of a Palestinian teen. There is a call on Israel to stop these air assaults, though no call for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. Something's wrong with this picture. I'm sorry, but I'm confused.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two Bits (of flesh) for a Haircut

I just cut my ear while shaving. Well, not my ear, but behind my ear, whatever that spot is called (behind the ear, perhaps?). That's what  happens when you have to shave your entire head and get into a rush. I mean, I don't have to shave my entire head, but I've done so for the past 7 years or so, since there's very little hair that actually grows, and what does grow is grey. But in any case, these razor cuts hurt. Sure wish I had an electric shaver. But they don't seem to have them here in Bali. Isn't that odd?

When I went to the Circle K store the other day to buy a pack of cigarettes, the girl at the counter reached for a pack, noticed that it was one of the new packs bearing a gross picture or a cancerous something or other, and then quickly reached for a pack that did not have a picture. I thought that was so sweet of her. Not that I really mind the pictures. But it just seemed such a simple, automatic regard for another person.

"Nggak suka gambar yang jelek itu ya?" I asked. (You don't like the gross picture).

"Ya Pak, nggak suka."

People here are often very polite and caring in this way. Until you put them on a motorcycle.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

More of the Cataract Saga

The cataract saga continues.

Let's rewind for a moment.

Perhaps a year ago, I went to an ophthalmologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital and was told that I had cataracts and was in need of an operation. Only then could my sight be corrected with glasses.

But there was a fly in the ointment. Kasih Ibu did not perform cataract operations and I would have to go to a different hospital. This meant that our insurance would only pay in the form of a reimbursement. We would have to pay up front. Trouble is, we didn't have the money to pay up front.

So we waited, and explored other options. Another such option did arise a few weeks ago. We discovered that we could go to a doctor at an independent clinic -- an eye expert, we were told -- who could then do the operation at any hospital covered by the insurance.

So it looked like I was close to getting cataract surgery.

But ... uh ... there was a fly in the ointment. This doctor did not find operable cataracts.

Hmm. But then -- why can't I see?

Ah, that's the question.

I'm inclined to believe this doctor. After all, he certainly has nothing to gain by telling me I don't need the operation, and he could have collected money by telling me that I did.

So where to now? Well, it's back to the optometrist to just get fitted for glasses as best as they can make them. Not normal vision, to say the least. In fact, not good vision at all. But better than no glasses at all. They will be good, at least, for reading, and also for driving at night, at which time I am practically blind.

What's wrong with my eyes? Well, they don't know. It's cataracts, the one doctor says, but apparently it isn't. It isn't cataracts, the other doctor says, but cannot say, then, what it is.

Perhaps it's MS. Very probably, I reckon.

I feel fairly certain that an American doctor could sort it out. But, I'm not in America, am I.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Internet at home kaput today, so I'm trying to get some work done at Starbucks in Sanur, but internet here is fairly kaput, too. Damn! Two-and-a-half million for this internet at home, and it doesn't even work.

So, what next? We called the people and they said they will come to the house. But when? That's the question. In Indonesia, this may mean today, tomorrow, or next week. And in the meantime ....

In the meantime, I'm just sitting here watching the internet cogitate forever about sending or receiving material while I watch people come in and out of Starbucks. Some Americans just came through. Rare event. Most tourists in Bali are Australians, Europeans, Japanese and people from the other Indonesian islands.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


I hate to keep writing about being sick, but, hey, what else is there to think about when you're sick. The good news is that the sore throat and fever have finally gone away. The bad news is that this whole episode seems to have MS to kick in with a bit of relapse. The continued ringing in my ears, as the doc here said, is a neurologic problem, and so likely due to MS. Now, there is also pain from my feet to my ass resulting in a stiffness in gait, and there is also an overwhelming sense of fatigue. So I guess I just have to grin and bear it and wait to see how much of this my system will repair over time. Right now, I'm only good for about half a day, after which I feel totally wasted.

So, I get things done in the morning. This morning, for instance, I went down to Sanur for some decent brown bread, and then stopped by for coffee at a new restaurant. The waitress there was very nice and talked with me while I drank my coffee. There was no one else in the restaurant -- which is common, because there are way too many restaurants and far too few people in Sanur. In any case, I learned an interesting thing. I was already aware that most people in Bali have one of four possible names - Wayan, Ketut, Made or Nyoman. What I did not know is that Putu, Kadek and two other names (I've already forgotten) are the same as the first four. That is, Wayan and Putu are the same name. They both mean "First born" and are given to both males and females. Ketut is second, Made third and Nyoman fourth. However, you see, if the father's name is Wayan, his first born must be called Putu, which also means first. Made and Kadek are the same.

The Balinese also have two birthdays per year, but they don't celebrate them in any big way. This is not considered important. I wouldn't celebrate birthdays either if it meant I was getting old twice as fast as other people.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Well, I spoke too soon in my last entry. Although the throat infection and fever went away with the antibiotics, the ringing in my ears continued, day and night, so back to the doctor again. There, I learned that the infection in my ears, and the inflammation, had gone, and what was left (the ringing) is a neurologic problem. In other words, MS. Got some pills for this, but they have helped only slightly, so far. Will finish the course and then, if the ringing persists, will try to find a neurologist here. One who has actually heard of MS, hopefully.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Note from the Sick Bed

Just approaching, or so I hope, the tail-end of a three week illness entailing a sore throat, ringing in the ears, massive headache, fever and so on. Been to the doctor twice, got two different kinds of antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, etc. etc. What a drag.

Funny, my wife got the same illness and was better in two days. But that's MS, ain't it. Immune system too busy attacking harmless systems to bother over-much with a real-life illness. Takes forever to heal from these common viruses. Will be the death of me yet.

So, I've been pretty much out of it. Just wanted to take a minute to jot something down, to serve as proof that I'm still alive.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Discovered a store nearby that sells Cronuts. Love at first bite. Addicted now. Bought one last night and two more this morning. Delicious! I could totally live on Cronuts and Kapal Api Java Latte powdered coffee. Breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions.

Why is it that the more my wife concentrates on healthy eating, the more doughnuts and cakes I consume? Is it a passive-aggressive rebellion? Or do I just enjoy doughnuts and cakes more than ... well, more than food. Vegetables! Ick! She's taken to going to the outdoor markets and buying broccoli and carrots and lettuce and such-like. Last time there was a worm in the lettuce. I don't like worms with my lettuce. Frankly, I don't even like lettuce with my lettuce.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adventures in Mopping

A busy bee am I today. Actually, starting last night. I had intended to wash the wife's car while she's gone to Jakarta. This is something I am always accused of not doing -- rightly enough, since I never do it. So anyway, I got to it yesterday evening. Troubles, however, from the outset. I could not get the hose to stay on the spigot to save my life. Every time I turned on the water, the hose would blast free. Not to be defeated, I stuck with it, and finally fixed the thing on the spigot with a combination of force and a rubber band. As long as the water was not turned on very strongly, the hose stayed fixed. However, by that time, it was swiftly getting dark. That happens fast, here in Bali. Darkness falls in the tropics like a drawn curtain. So, in the last light, I washed the thing as best as I could. And I note, this morning, that it does look vaguely as if it has been washed.

Onward, then, with things that I never do. My early morning task was to mop the floor. This proceeded much more smoothly than the car. After that, it was off to the ironing board, and then a trip down to Sanur for a break at JCO. Everyone, naturally, wants to know where Mike is. They are used to seeing us together, and they look a bit unhappy to see me arrive on my own.

Mana Mr. Mike?

Hmm, well ... mungkin marah, ya? Maybe angry.

Eh! Marah? Kenapa? Why? How can it be?

Ga tau. I don't know. Of course, I do know - but this would be rather more difficult to explain in Indonesian and ... well, I mean, what business is it of theirs anyway?

So I drank my coffee, ate my free doughnut and read some of the book I am currently reading - The Child. A pretty good book, so far.

Back home, now, with nothing more to wash, clean or mop.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I'm not sure what I did today, but suddenly it's over. Goin' on 10, and I'm thinkin' bed. Maybe I was abducted by aliens for a while, and thus the loss of time. Or maybe I stared at Facebook too long and simply spaced out. Ah, but there's that key word, "space"! I remember feeling vaguely hungry around dinner time and trying to decide between nasi goreng (fried chicken and rice) down the road or a slice of real honest-to-God chocolate pie from Ruth's in Sanur. I opted for the pie. No word from Mike today. Maybe he, too, was abducted by aliens. Or by Queen Elizabeth and her shady, satanic crowd. Hopefully, he wasn't molested. I mean, apart from being abducted. Lonely? Sure. But of well, I have my books and my poetry to protect me. Am I tired? Sound like, don't it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Badge

Got a nifty new badge for the blog from Health Line, as you can see to the left. Took me a while to attach the thing, actually. Kept turning out so big that it covered the whole blog. This may actually be a plus for some. But, anyway, I finally succeeded in making the badge of normal size. I'm challenged, right? I have MS. That's why I got the badge.

I may do a bit more writing here than usual over the next few days, as my wife and son are going to Jakarta and I'm fresh out of money, so expect to be holed up in the house for the most part.

Unusually rainy here this week, for being dry season. Kept hoping for a break this morning so that I could put our laundry out to dry, but no such luck. Looked like a let-up around 11:30, so I made a dash for Hardy's in Sanur in order to buy some groceries for dinner. But, again, by the time I got to the lonnnnnng traffic light on the Bypass, it started to piss down rain again. Just as the light turned red. Soaked straight through my clothes. Stopped at JCO for shelter, and a chance to dry out, but the rain continued. Finally had to get a second soaking on the way to Hardy's. Sloshed through the store, got our food, and headed back home. At which point, the clouds suddenly fled, the sun came out, and it is bright now and about 210 degrees Fahrenheit. I will hang my laundry, and then myself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sick Day

Not feeling quite well today. Started last night, really. Scratchy throat, feverish, weak and tired. So the family went off to Bedugul without me. Why Bedugul? Hm, not sure. Started raining shortly after they left the house and it's been raining off and on ever since. Not my cup a tea, especially where a road trip is involved.

So I'm just doing my own thing here, which turned out to be the pembantu thing, since there is no pembantu. Well, there is, actually. She's me. Did the laundry (but, of course, can't hang it out because of the rain). Ironed. Washed dishes. Waiting now for a break in the weather so that I can go purchase some drinking water.

No JCO coffee today either, I reckon. First off, because of the rain and, secondly, because Mike seems to be angry again about his conspiracy theories. Or, rather, angry at me for disagreeing. The latest involves some guy by the name of Kevin Arnett, a defrocked Canadian Catholic minister, who believes that the Queen of England, in concert with the Catholic Church, George Bush Senior, Henry Kissinger, etc., etc., are involved in the systematic kidnapping, molestation and murder of children from around the world.  Arnett points to "mass graves" of Indians, which can be seen, he says, by satellite imagery. At first, the Canadian government was willing to believe, but, as it turns out, they've dug and dug and can't find a thing. Additionally, the leadership of the Canadian tribes has rejected these claims and asked Arnett to leave them alone.

To me, these sorts of conspiracy theories seem like cancers that only grow and obscure. They multiply rapidly and very little seems effective in combating them. They are like the Jungian concept of the complex which grows and swallows up the ego. In short, they are not matters of logic and reason but of paranoia and fear.

The troubling thing is that I have been trying to simply change the subject with Mike, and yet, first thing I know, he's back to the conspiracies again. And it seems that just about any subject can lead to the return. For example, I had recently visited the Bali Peace Gong here in Kertalanggu. Situated around this giant gong are statues of world figures known for their efforts in the name of peace. One statue is of Barack Obama. What interested me, as I watched the people in the park, was that everyone wanted to stand by Obama to have their picture taken -- not Mother Theresa, not Mandela, not even their own Sukarno. Children and adults alike -- straight to Obama!

So I mentioned this to Mike as a point of interest, a sort of testimony to Obama's popularity among the common people of Indonesia. He nodded his head, seemed to be listening, but then piped in with the following:

"Obama, you know, is in big trouble. He's been hobbled. He's been bought by the powers that be and is nothing more than a figurehead now. He does the bidding of the illuminati. If he doesn't they'll kill his wife and children."

And so on.

Obviously, our friendship is becoming a bit difficult and uncomfortable. Which, for me, is sad.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mie Setan

Stopping by this afternoon at a place called Lylo Mart, owned by a friend of my wife's, to use the internet. We do have our own internet, but it is usually slow, and sometimes doesn't work at all. So here we are. She's downloading something lengthy, my son is playing a game, and I'm sitting here wondering what to do.

Oh! I know -- BLOG!

Went to an interesting place last night called "Mie Setan", named so, I suppose, because the noodles are devilishly hot. The interesting part, though, was how crowded it was - full inside with a line outside. It's a popular spot for young people, and young women in particular, for some reason. Something about satanically spicy noodles and females? People wait a long time for these evil noodles and generally seem to have a lot of fun. It's not really about eating, I guess. It's a place to see and be seen. Bules are considered of particular interest, since there generally are none. Strange feeling to attract the attention of about 150 pairs of female eyes all at the same time.

Frankly, though, the noodles suck. I've been there twice, and on two occasions, have ended up with a stomachache.

Got into a fairly major 'tiff' with my friend, Mike, about stupid conspiracy theories (there is no other kind). But I felt bad, apologized for my temper, and all is well now. On the positive side, the argument inspired further research into the theories, which, in turn, led to the huge body of material on the subject in the field of psychology, which seems much more interesting, to me, than the theories themselves. One can come away with a better appreciation of what's going on in the minds of these people, and may be better prepared to discuss the matter in the future (with less violent results).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Night Vision

I swear, I gotta get my eyes fixed. Took a rare nighttime journey to Sanur tonight - about 10 minutes away - and had several near death experiences. Just can't see worth a damn. Have to rely on "the Force". Amazing, though - having reached my destination - how many people gather at JCO on a Sunday night. (That's right, folks, I took this death defying journey just for a JCO coffee). For many, if not most Indonesians, Sunday is their only day off. JCO, it appears, is a favorite gathering spot, for those who have a little money, anyway. For those who don't, Circle-K serves as the location. (It's your circle, as the ad on the window says). So you have friends and couples and children, all splurging on sweet iced coffee drinks, ice cream and, of course, the free donut that comes with every order. It's a lively spot, indeed, on a Sunday night. Most often, I and my friend, Mike, meet during the morning and we are sometimes the only ones there. So it was nice to be in a crowd for a change. Amazing, too, how people dress up to come to JCO. You'd think they were going to Hard Rock Center Stage.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


There are three levels of temperature in Bali - Hot, Hotter and Hell. We are currently experiencing the latter of the three. I just walked to the neighborhood store, about three blocks away (measured by the Portland, Oregon block), and by the time I got back, there was sweat streaming from every pore of my body. My shirt, front and back, was plastered to my skin. Couldn't wait to free myself from it and stand under the water in the shower, which it at least mildly cool. Sitting here in the buff now, trying to catch the slightest breeze from the open doors and windows. Oh, did I mention that it's cloudy? Just imagine if the sun was out!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Faulty Connection

Here's kind of a good example of the brain malfunctions associated with MS. It's a bit of a complex tale, so bear with me.

Some time back, my wife's friend had given her a copy of the movie series, Revenge, season 1. There were supposed to be 5 disks, but there were only 4. After watching number 4, we went to the video store to find number 5. Turns out we had to buy the entire 5 disk set in order to see number 5. Okay. The woman in the store said we could buy the 5 disk set and then bring in our 4 disk set and return it and get another 4 disks (of anything) for free.

Well, the day of this transaction arrived. We drove down to the video store, but then I realized, while still sitting outside in the car, that I had brought the set with 5 disks rather than the set with 4. Oh no! I've brought the wrong set. We'll have to do this another time when I can bring the original set that lacks disk 5.

My wife is sitting there listening to me, and then just kind of staring me, as if I'd gone crazy. I can see that she's actually starting to get angry.

"What are you talking about!"

I explain the situation again.

She stares. Then grabs the package from me, takes out disk five, and hands the package, now containing 4 disks, back.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On the Road Again

Just read an article in the Jakarta Post this morning about the ideological gobbledygook behind the 'apocalyptic war' in Syria. Seems it all has to do with a great final battle between the Sunnis and the Shiites over the progression of prophets and the true faith. at the end of which the world will end. Well, I guess that's the Reader's Digest version. It's too tedious to go into detail. Not sure how accurate this can be. It's not really much of a war, is it, as far as great wars go? And I would have to wonder about putting much stock in a prophecy that comes from a man who couldn't even get the story of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael right. I mean, really. Take a closer look, fellas. Think again.

So, anyway, I'm just chillin' at Starbucks in Sanur, glad to be out of the house again after the forced imprisonment of Nyepi.

Read another interesting thing, too. Apparently there's a Balinese festival here around the same time as Nyepi that I had not previously heard of. This is a kissing festival. Crowds of people get together and kiss one another. This is thought to bring good luck. I don't know if you can kiss just anyone, or if it has to be someone who is already close. Likely, the latter. Actually, I'm surprised that the Muslims don't have a fit about this,  as they do with Valentines Day. But then, I reckon that the source is of considerable importance.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Another Nyepi Day in Bali - my fifth, by my reckoning. The day of silence and reflection. Not my favorite, at all, although it seems that I'm getting used to it by the progressive year. On this day you can have no lights on, you cannot go outside the house, and you are to be as quiet as possible. We buy candles, pull the curtains and watch DVDs. And, of course, write in our blogs. Of course, there's nothing to keep me from working, since I work at home anyway - although, technically, you're not supposed to use electricity at all. But who knew, right? So, I got some work done, and some emails sent, and some DVDs watched.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting a License

Finally, this morning, I got my driver's license renewed. This is easier said than done, here in Bali. Especially for a foreigner. Firstly, you must know someone, either an agent or someone in the police department. In the past, I have taken the former course, as the cost was included as a sort of 'courtesy' for using that agent for the Kitas (foreign visa) process. This year, however, my agent decided her fee would be $500,000 Rupiah instead of the usual $350,000.  In general, one might expect to receive increasingly better treatment after 3 years when the same agent, but such was not the case here.

So, my wife said 'Forget that, I can get it for $350,000. I know a guy."

Well, turns out she actually knows a guy who knows a guy - which is a very popular sort of arrangement here in Indonesia. Everyone knows a guy (who knows a guy).

Last Saturday, therefore, I drove to her office in Denpasar to meet up with Sugung, a driver, who was said to know a guy in the police department. However, when we got to the police department, we found it closed. He called his guy, who happened to be having breakfast nearby at the time, and we were told -- yes, you guess it -- that the place was closed. Come next Saturday, the guy said.

"But," as I pointed out, "my license is expired now. What if I get stopped in the meantime?"

"Oh, no problem," the guy said.

No problem for him, sure. But I would remain, for the next week, a juicy possibility for the random, lucky police officer.

Meet me next Saturday, "Sungung instructed. We try again."

Friday night comes around and I find that Sugung cannot go to the police station tomorrow. It's a holiday. So sorry.

So my wife, on Saturday morning, contacts Sarsen Oka at the department and tells me to meet her at the office. It is not, as it now appears, a holiday. By the time I get to the office, I find that she has moved even  higher up the line, through a friend at work, who -- yes, you guessed it -- knows a guy.

Off we go. The goal, if you've forgotten, has been to get a driver's license. A little card with my picture on it. A $350,000 Rupiah little card with my picture on it. (As a note of interest, these licenses cost $25,000 for Indonesians).

The young man whom we meet at the station turns out to be so important, indeed, that he does not even have to wear a uniform. He's wearing batik, comes to us immediately, has me sign a sheet of paper, and ushers me, forthwith, into the office where my picture and fingerprints will be taken.

And it's done. And it only took a week.

Carlos. Remember that name. For, next year, the whole thing comes around again.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Two things in today's Jakarta Post that newspaper that make me want to beat someone with the same. The first is the banning of the movie, Noah (along with the likely banning of Son of God). I'm not saying that these are good movies. I haven't seen them. But it's just the very idea. What kind of country bans movies in the 21st century? Well, an ignorant one, I guess, which is, by its own actions, bound to remain ignorant. In fact, Noah has been banned by all Muslim countries. It goes against the teachings of Islam, they say; although they cannot say exactly why or in what way. But, of course, that's not really the point. I feel fairly certain that it goes against the teachings of Christianity and Judaism, too. It's Hollywood, right? What do you expect? Do these religious police fear that someone will see the movie, embrace the Hollywood version,  and straightaway leave the mosque for the new truth they have discovered? Or is it that they do not know the Koran in the first place and will therefore fall victim to falsehoods, mistaking them for Islam (if that's possible). Purely ridiculous, of course. What kind of country states,  up front, "We are, and intend ever to be, an ignorant people, unable to think or judge for ourselves."

More disturbing yet is the list of movies previously (and still) banned in Indonesia, for it includes Schindler's List, a perfectly factual tale of the holocaust, the plight of the Jews, the death of 6 million, and one man's attempt to save just a few. What about this is at odds with Islam? What about this can be harmful to Muslim viewers? Is it not factual? It never happened? Well, of course, the answer is pure and simple. The problem is anti-Semitism, the pointless, baseless, unreasoning, evil hatred of another people. What a shame it is. What an insult. What an ugly smear on the face of a religion (Islam) and the honor of Muslims in general.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Honk if You've Never Seen a Bule

Took a walk around the neighborhood today and met a few more friendly types. Apparently, people out here are in the habit of honking when they see a bule. Makes me feel kind of a like a beautiful woman. But it's a bit unnerving. I keep thinking I'm in the way, somehow; but no, I'm just there. But that's not what I mean by friendly. That's just a bit weird. I did, however, meet a couple of folks at various markets who actually smiled and talked to me, which was nice. One supported my suspicion that there must be a reclaimed drinking water warung around here somewhere - although she couldn't say exactly where; while another chatted for a minute about where I was from and what I was doing and so on. Oh, and I found Pall Mall Menthols. Just when I thought the entire island was empty of the things - as happened with Marlboro Menthols. So I bought two packs and made her promise to order more. Not that she'll do so. Also found a car wash place, a motorbike wash place, and a number of food warungs that looked halfway decent, and smelled so, too. There is an IndoMart, a Circle K and a gas station. There is a tool shop, a helmet shop, and any number of laundries. Tomorrow I will stroll in the opposite direction, accompanied, no doubt, by a fanfare of horns.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Finally beginning to seem like home in the new house. Felt impossible for the first couple days. Actually scary. So much stuff, and so little room. But we've managed to pretty much  push it into place, in part by buying another big piece of furniture, oddly enough.

So, just have to get used to the new neighborhood now. Always confusing - especially so here in Bali. Streets don't seem to have been made according to any plan. Rather, probably a house was built, a street was laid down leading to the house, another house was built, a street was laid down leading there, and so on. It's a maze.

Need to get accustomed to the people here, too. They do seem different than in Sanur and other familiar haunts. There, many of them are involved in the hospitality industry and so they're -- well, hospitable. Not quite so friendly out this way. I get a lot of stares, because they don't see very many bules, and if I try to talk to them, they seem to panic.

So, new things to learn, new places to explore. Keeps life interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Moved and Done With

I surely do hate my anonymous comments on Blogger. Every day they show up, and never have anything to do with the entries on which the comment has been made. Free Provigil! Cialis by special order. Viagra. Gabapentin. Or just a lot of gobbledygook in Russian, possibly pushing porn. It's irritating, depressing, annoying. I would say "please stop," but I know they won't.

So anyway - We finally made the big move to Renon. What a pain in the ass. I hate moving. When you first get all your stuff in the house, it seems like nothing will ever be back in place again, your life has turned to chaos, you're uncomfortable, you can't find anything, nothing is the way it's supposed to be. But, obviously, that passes -- because the next time you move, you experience the same feelings all over again. Ah, I wish we were still in the old house.

Little by little, you and your surrounding adapt and the house seems like home.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We Found It - Really!

Okay, I'm gonna go out on a bit of a limb here. But I think I can say this with a fair bit of assurance - or more than fair, really - a pretty damn good bit of assurance: We've found and rented a house!

Yes, in lieu of some strange occurrence - strange even for Bali - we've successfully rented a house in Renon and will move in at the end of next week.

This is a small house, smaller than the one we are currently living in, but a nice house, seemingly in good condition, and in a nice, quiet neighborhood (no two-legged chickens), and close to my wife's workplace. Sempurna! Well, lumayan baik, anyway. It is also close to Sanur, where I most often hang out when I'm not in the house.

This one also has an outdoor kitchen. We had one of those some four years ago, and they seem to work out okay. Kind of pleasant, really, since the inside of the house gets so deadly hot here in Bali. And a nice yard, too, where we can set up a little table and some chairs for sitting and chilling in the evening.

So, move won't be fun, but we should be settled in within a another couple of weeks and able to get back to the (more or less) peaceful life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Chicken Next Door

Yesterday, we thought we had found it. The house we had been looking for. A house fairly near my wife's workplace, with two bedrooms big enough to actually be used as bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a back patio for washing and drying laundry and a driveway big enough to park a car in. Gee, were we excited.

But my wife had a reservation. Sharp girl that she is, and one familiar with the  life of Indonesia, she had noticed the presence of a café next door to the prospective house, and determined that we should return late at night to see what, if anything, was going on there. It could be a chicken club, she noted. These are the two-legged sort of chicken, regularly for sale in Denpasar.

Sure enough. We returned to find the establishment lit up with flashing Christmas lights, booming music pouring from doors and windows, roaring motorbikes in the lot, and about 15 cross-legged women on display in the front of the property. In short, a chicken club.

Now, we don't have anything in particular against chicken, but we do like to sleep during the night. Have to, really.

So nix that one.

Today, we looked at yet another house. It has some of the specifications, lacks others. For instance, on the plus side, it is close to my wife's workplace. On the minus side, the two bedrooms are tiny. It does have a nice outdoor kitchen, and a nice bathroom (by Bali standards). And no chicken. In fact, it would seem to be a quiet, family neighborhood.

So we'll put in our bid and see what happens.

More to come, I'm sure.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cop Stops

The policemen I meet here, at their ritual dragnet stops on the Bypass, generally like me for three reasons. 1) I have a local driver's license, 2)  I'm an American and 3) I'm retired.

Polisi: "Oh, local,  local!" At this point they generally hold up the license for all to see. "Local! Ini bagus!"


Polisi: "Where are you going?"

Me: "Pulang" (going home). I still don't understand why where I'm going matters.

Polisi: "Where are you from?"

Me: "America."

Polisi: "Ah! Obama!"


Polisi: "What do you do here? Have business here?"

Me: "No, sudah pension."

Polisi: "Sudah pension!" They generally tell another officer or two. "Hey, sudah pension!"


Polisi: "What did you do in America."

Me: "I worked at a hospital."

Polisi: "Ohhhh, orang kaya!" (rich man). "Doctor, ya? Big, big money."


I wish.