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.