Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Love is known best, most keenly, in its absence.

I wrote this first sentence late last night, hardly knowing why, or what it meant. It just came into my head. Reflecting on it now, it strikes me that the best way to know the full reality, the full force and meaning of love, is by losing it. Only then do we see the preciousness laid bare - and only too late.

The brother, the father, the mother lost. The wife, the husband, the lifelong friend. Immediately, one strives to touch, to embrace what cannot be regained. Now we know, and would act, and speak. Too late. Too late.

We see the things that were left behind, and clutch them to the breast as if they might magically become corporeal - the shirt, the hat, the coat, the glove. The scent is there, but no sentience. Everything has become invisible air, and every thought, every feeling, every word  made empty by the emptiness we could not have ever imagined, yet should have done, by the hour, by the day, by the year. Now gone. Time itself has been annulled and no longer exists.

Remember, therefore, in every present moment; remember while it matters; remember while love yet resides in the human form, for once it departs, it departs once for all. No magic can revive what was magic itself.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Treatment Plan

Rather than continue to patiently trust in winged ministers of health from above, I decided, yesterday, to formulate and carry out a sure fire, 'scientific' plan for self medication and eradication of the ceaseless ringing in my ears.

As it seemed to me, the problem had been insufficiently addressed from the beginning. In America, an MS relapse accompanied by significantly severe symptoms will be treated, first off, with an intravenous dose of steroids followed by a course of p.o. (by mouth) methylprednosolone. Here in Bali, all I got was the latter. This quieted the ringing, but did not stop it, so I was given Clonazepam to be used p.r.n. ( as needed). Additionally, it had always seemed to me that there was an element of congestion in the head or sinuses related to or exasperating the overall condition, which had never been treated at all.

Therefore, having made my diagnosis, I arrived at the following treatment plan: 1 tablet clonazepam at night, 1 tablet methylprednisolone in the morning and 1 tablet pseudoephedrine in the morning.

In fact, this had a definite effect. It put me to sleep for most of the day and caused me to run into various walls or pieces of furniture when awake. It did not alter the ringing in my ears, except, perhaps, to make it a bit louder.

So I'm keeping an eye out for that little bird that visited from the heavens the other day swooped away with my plague of headaches.

I wonder why he didn't take the ringing, too. Ah, but one should not question these things. This thorn in the flesh may have its own reason. His grace is sufficient for me.


It occurs to me that, once my son has gone back to America, and whilst my wife is traveling about the world on business, I will need to come up with a reasonable plan for feeding myself in a reasonable way. Although I have cooked meals for some forty years, I have never liked to cook. I have always done so out of necessity. There were always other people who needed to eat. Left to my own devices, I am most likely to eat whatever can go direct from the box to the mouth. My dinner tonight, for example, was a raison nut brownie from Circle K and a bowl of Wheatbix. Oh, and half a banana. That was the healthy part. Chances are, this diet is not going to work well in the long run.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bathroon Troubles

I had one of those rare experiences tonight of the type that strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men, that challenge the will to survive, test the limits of faith - akin to being buried chin-deep in an ant hill or stretched on the rack or cast overboard into the depths of the sea.

In short, I locked myself into the bathroom and could not get out.

The doorknob, a rusty, dilapidated, reliably useless bit of garbage that had never worked before, suddenly did work - after a fashion, anyway. It worked to the extent that the bolt went into the slot and would not retreat from thence no matter how you turned the wobbly knobs on either side of the door.

Luckily, my son was at home and, also luckily, did not have his ears plugged with his earphones at the time, which would be the more usual case. So at least I had someone to communicate with.

Fortunate, also, was the fact that the landlord, who had promised to replace the door in February 2014, had never done so, and therefore it still retained the eaten away portion at its base. Through this convenient fissure, my son was able to pass various tools - a screwdriver, a hammer, a knife.

He pounded, screwed and stabbed from the outside while I pounded, screwed and stabbed from within. And yet the door was stubborn, unbeatable, proving itself, despite appearances and the unkind judgements of the past, to be the strongest door that has ever been or ever will be made.

I thought then to attack the thing from the flank, so to speak, and remove the hinges with the hammer and screwdriver - yet, again, the door had me flat beaten, for the hinges, over time and under the influence of daily dampness and rust, had been transformed into impenetrable spikes, solid adamant iron from top to bottom. I succeeded only in breaking the head of the screwdriver.

Now, a cubicle sized bathroom gets pretty hot in Bali, such that, within a half hour, I was dripping with sweat and feeling breathless and exhausted. Shall I end my days here, sitting dejectedly on the toilet, exchanging my parting thoughts with someone who really just wanted to get back to his video game?

No! No, it shall not be. As much as I hated to expose my stupidity, it would have to be done. I would send my son next door to Vyt's house. I have long known Vyt to be a man of high intelligence and practical abilities, and, moreover, a man not likely to be surprised at my incompetence.

Although Vyt has been suffering from a cold, he came right over and began to pound, screw and stab with true expertise. At last, he was able to pound the doorknob right on through the door, and I was free at last. My imprisonment had lasted perhaps an hour. It seemed like ages.

His first comment, in customarily sage manner, was that it was a good thing that the landlord had never replaced the door, else I would have had no tools to work with from the inside.

A blessing in disguise, surely enough. Yet, undisguised is the goodness and readiness of my friend.

As a postscript, I could not help but imagine, somewhat later on, what my predicament would have been had my son already returned to America and had my wife been away in Java or Timbuktu, as she often is. Should I have died an ignoble death, sprawled on the bathroom floor, one hand still clutching that fatal knob in its death grip?

Ah, praise God for His attention to the stupid and His protection of the simple-minded!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deer Me

Once upon a time a strange thing happened to me. This was about 20 years ago, I reckon.

I and my family were camping in the high cascades of Oregon, near Mt. Jefferson, at a place called Monon Lake. We decided one day to take a trip about five miles up the road to Breightenbush Lake, which lies just below the ridges fronting the peak of Mt. Jefferson. Two miles short of the lake, the road - or what used to be a road - turns into not much more than a creek-bed, due to years of snow runoff and neglect. The land is Indian land now, having been turned over to the Warm Springs Tribes after surveyors found that the borders had been wrongly drawn, and the tribes have not maintained the area. More money to be made at Kah-Nee-Tah Resort and Casino in the desert.

When I was young, you could travel the road, albeit carefully, in a common sedan. Now, you need a four wheel drive SUV. I had walked that piece of road many times with my son - from Horseshoe Lake, past Spoon Lake and thus to Breightenbush Lake - but this time we had a four wheel drive Isuzu Trooper and were able to negotiate the ruts and rocks, swaying, jolting and sliding, to be sure, but able to top the final rise and roll down to a siding near the lake.

We got out and shouldered our various gear and backpacks. My plan was to fish during the morning hours while the rest of the family swam or explored. Many years before, my father had shown me how to walk to the center of the lake from a certain point on the shoreline marked by a triangular black rock about the size of a common chair. As long as you stuck to the proper route, you would not go further than chest deep in the water, and that for just a short bit. You would then gradually climb onto a shelf of red rock until you found yourself but ankle deep in the water. This shelf is roughly circular, perhaps the size of a baseball diamond, and you can walk along the edge of the shelf with your fly rod, cast your fly into the deep water just beyond the rocks, and the fish - rainbow, brook and kokanee trout - just love it there, where the water turns deep and green and the breeze stirs up gentle, glittering ripples.

But none of this is strange. I am sidetracked by memory. The strange thing is this:

As we begin down the overgrown trail to the lake, we suddenly find, walking right beside us, as if he were just another member of our excursion, a full grown stag – a male  deer. In these high mountains, where the deer are wild and intensely shy, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen. If you see a deer from a distance, he will most certainly leap away into the woods – or, perhaps, if the distance is great enough, he will warily stare at you, ready to bolt. But here comes this deer, walking right alongside us, allowing us to pet him, rubbing shoulders as we squeeze through the denser spots on the trail, unconcerned, even, with our dog, who seems, oddly, equally unconcerned with the deer. In fact, when we reach the shoreline, the dog steps into the water to take a pee, and the deer follows right along to empty his bladder at the same time. This dog, Norman by name, had otherwise never been known to be anything other than a hater of deers, especially in family protection mode, and I had never known a wild deer to do anything other than his best to avoid a dog.

Something is just not right with this picture – pleasant seeming on the surface, but not right somewhere beneath. As we move along the lake shore, the deer moves right along with us. We keep expecting that he will suddenly come to his wits and shoot away into the forest like an arrow, but he does no such thing. He meanders along, stops when we stop, walks when we walk, waits when we sit.

But then, as we reach the black rock previously mentioned, something changes. The deer will not budge another step forward. He backs up a bit, then walks toward us again, backs up a bit and walks forward.

Beyond the rock is a shallow bay which disperses into a wide green meadow shot through with wild flowers and traversed by narrow, natural canals, home to salamanders, frogs and minnows. Beyond the meadow, the land rises again and hidden in the woods beyond are several small lake basins, containing water in early summer, dry by August. Beyond those lakes is a bald-topped hill, red like a sunburned head.

As a matter of course, deers like meadows. In fact, a meadow is the most likely place to see a deer. But this deer is not going into that meadow. No way. And we all have the impression, somehow, that he doesn’t want us to either. There is much to be seen and enjoyed in the meadow, and it’s the only route to the opposite shore of the lake, but that deer is not going, and, at length, it is decided that neither are we. He knows, and we know, that we shouldn’t.

And I will never know how or why.

My wife later reckoned that that deer was my brother – or rather my brother’s spirit – for we had spread his ashes just a year before over the edge of a cliff not far from here. Others reckoned that he was a guardian angel of some sort, while others concluded that he was just plain crazy.

Who knows, or will ever know? In the end, we did as he seemed to insist we do, and, by and by, he wandered off into the the thickets until we could see him no more.

It comes back to me every now and then, this mystery, and I remember it almost as clearly as the day it happened. I hope to meet that deer again someday, in a realm where animals use words that people can hear and comprehend – and I’m gonna find out just what meant to say.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Hope of Oblivion

Conspiracy theories are the modern day parallel to the man wearing the placard reading "The End is Near". They are the shrill cries of paranoia, alienation, apathy, dissatisfaction and despair. They are "religious" in the worst sense, that which becomes heresy, in that they are immune to facts, allergic to logic, typified by contradiction, blind and deaf to the most common intuitive patterns - pathetically degraded prophesies that have abandoned context and shattered meaning beyond recognition. The hope of glory becomes the hope of oblivion, and the road to oblivion is wide and smooth.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

George and Jeb

If I were George today, I'd be kinda pissed off with my brother Jeb. Knowing what we know now, Jeb said, I would not have gone into Iraq as President. But I suppose George understands it's all about politics and what statements are most likely to get brother Jeb elected. Really, though, it's kind of a stupid statement. I mean, how would anyone know what might happen in the future? And for that matter, how would they know what would happen in a scenario where we didn't "go in"? What is he recommending? A general paralysis as commander in chief? Better not do anything, because we never know what might happen in the future? And what is it that we know now, in Jeb's mind? That the Middle East is a mess? What else is new? Did we make it messier? I don't know. You'd have to have the details on the picture from what didn't happen in order to judge, which, of course, we can never have. A direct statement of what he would have done under the circumstances at the time would have been much more useful than one regarding what he would have done with the gift of seeing the future. So ... Not impressed by the logic here. Wishy-washy warning alert.


Had this nightmare the other night that reminded me in some ways of the movie, The Devil's Advocate. Made me think about how there are so many enticements in life, so many sweet looking traps. Deep down, you know they are wrong, potentially harmful and should be avoided, but in your mind you think, Well maybe just this once it's okay, or Everyone else does it, or I won't be fooled, I will surely know when to stop. And so you take that step, set fate into motion and sign the consequences over to the devil.

I thought I'd tell my son about the dream, so I started out thusly: Do you remember that movie, The Devil's Advocate?


Oh ... Well, it was a while back. Okay, it was starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino.

I know Keanu, but who's Alpuccino?

Al Pacino. You know - Al Pacino.


Really? Hmm. Well, think of The Godfather, Marlon Brando.

I know what a Godfather is - Mafia and stuff - but dunno Marlon whoever-you-said.

Umm. I'm searching my mind. Some thing more recent. The Scent of a Woman?

This only causes him to wrinkle his nose distastefully.

Last chance. Serpico?

The robot?


Oh sorry, that's Destro. Serpico ... No.


Okay, I'll tell you what. Just be good, okay? Don't do things that you know are wrong.

Okay. Is that it? I'm in the middle of a challenge in my game.

So he returns to his room, and I'm still sitting at the table thinking Al Pacino. I mean it's bloody Al Pacino. How can you not know Al Pacino?

Has time truly flown by so quickly? Even for Al Pacino?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Fond Farewell

Very soon, my son, Sasha (aka Patrik) will be returning to live in America. I call him my son, although he is really my stepson, and he has always called me Dad. So I share the honor with his real dad, Albert. I have always treated my stepchildren as if they were my own, although only one out of five is biologically mine.

This will be a big change in life for me, as I have always kind of functioned around his presence and activities. Even though he is often busy at playing video games, I am there, to keep the fridge stocked, cook the meals, do the laundry and so on. What will be my function without Sasha?

Moreover, as I recently realized, this will be the first time in 40 years that I've not had a kid or kids in the house. How strange. I can't really even picture it at the moment. Who am I supposed to pick on? Who am I supposed to joke with or order about?

Of all my children, I reckon Sasha has been the easiest to deal with, the least troublesome and the least often in trouble. He is 15 now and should, statistically, to have begun to become a pain. But he's not, and never has been. He is bright, polite, thoughtful and generally helpful (when he's not too busy on the laptop).

Additionally, he watches over me. Knowing that I walk slowly, he will always pause and wait for me to catch up. Knowing that I have some problems with balance, he will stay close on a steep staircase or take my elbow in hand.

He's a good boy, Sasha is.

A while back, I had a talk with Sasha. I told him about my own father, who was somewhat distant and cold with children. And scary. He loved us, and took care of our needs, but he didn't say so with words or hugs or piggyback rides. I told Sasha that we always say, when we are young, that we will never turn out like our parents. But we often, very often, do. Except for the scary part, I am much like my own dad.

And so I explained this to Sasha and told him that I do love him, and wanted him to know that I love him.

To which Sasha answered, "Yeah, I know that, Dad."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Blast from the Past

Very strange. This morning, I was suddenly and viciously attacked via Facebook post, and on a public site (an MS site, of all things) by a woman I knew only slightly some years ago. For some reason, she decided to publish a lengthy comment regarding her own version, based on my second wife's version, of my private and personal history, presenting a detailed account of highly personal events to members of a community who don't know me from Adam. I cannot begin to guess why she thought this would be appropriate. I could understand her writing to me directly, and privately, with this sudden need to unload her hatred, but to have this posted on a public site made me feel keenly embarrassed and has left me with a decidedly eerie feeling. Happily, I believe I was able to catch this post very quickly and delete both it and her. I have very rarely even spoken to this woman - being one of many FB friends who are 'just there', if you know what I mean - and I have certainly never uttered an unkind word to her. I feel like I should apologize to readers who were accosted by this weird, unseemly rant. I feel sad and discouraged.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


At the recommendation of a friend, I've begun to take something called spirulina, a natural herb. I've never believed in herbs, but I'm desperate. Curious thing about this is that research says it both cures and causes headaches. Hmm. Well, since I already have one, it can't hardly cause one, so we will see if it cures one.

Not a Good Christian

I'm not a good Christian. This is because I don't care whether other people are Christians or not. I don't care whether they understand scripture or not, as long as they keep their ignorance to themselves. What I do care about is people who make grandiose, arrogant statements about religion and Christianity without really knowing the first thing about either, other than, perhaps, what they've read in The God Delusion or seen in some trite, vacuous Facebook blurb. They sheepishly regurgitate the pedestrian conclusions of a mundane modern culture as if as if these were pearls of unassailable wisdom, when really they are only cliches.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Once upon a time, a man named Plato set forth a set of presumptions about mankind in general and the purpose of men individually within a society and in interaction with a plurality of societies. The book was called The Republic. It described in the most essential way how we function as people groups and why we function in just such a way. The glue that binds the scheme is composed of logic, native intuition, individual interest and the dependence of the individual on community. The pattern described by Plato remains in effect at the very core of our everyday existence, though it is continually assailed by rebellion, a perverse inclination toward all that is contrary, counter-intuitive and ultimately chaotic. We do not like the truth. It is too clean, too pure. It is a deep-seated hatred of self that casts a lunatic shadow over all, angered by the inescapable concept of order. The exception, therefore, is made the rule, such that we may become victims rather than members of the cooperative experience known as life.

Monday, June 1, 2015


I am not wild about food that watches me while I eat it. Never have been. A fished fried with the head on, for instance, ogling the fork every time it descends. Or a bowl of fish soup containing the head as a special honor. This head does worse than just sit there and stare. It swims about the broth as you dip the spoon in. And then tonight there was the baked chicken that my wife brought home from Lombok. Wouldn't want to leave the head behind, no sir. There's something distinctly unsettling about a baked chicken that peeks at you from under the wing that you're eating. Hello there. Are you finding me tasty? Bon appetite!