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.