Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cold Pills

The employees at Kimia can be annoying, especially when one is not feeling very well. I wanted to get cold pills and some of those vitamin C tablets that dissolve in water.

Jadi, saya minta:

Aku mau vitamin C itu yang ditaruh dalam air.

Oh, ada yang lebih bagus, Pak. Ini.

The woman steers me to another aisle and hands me a bottle of pills.

Kenapa lehih bagus?

Karena pil-pil ini tidak akan ganggu perut bapak.

Oh ya? Berapa harganya?

Seratus lima puluh ribu.

Hah! Perut saya udah diganggu!


Terlalu mahal, mbak. Aku mau yang ditaruh ...

Oh, ada lain, Pak. Promosi!

Another bottle of pills.

Berapa harganya?

Hanya seratus dua puluh ribu. Bagus ya Pak?

Tidak. Tidak bagus. Aku mau yang ditaruh dalam air. Rasanya seperti jeruk.

Tahu-tahu kecewa. Senyumnya lenyap.


Berapa harganya?

Tiga puluh.

Yeah. More like it. I'm sorry, but honestly, I don't believe that vitamin C helps anything. I just like the fizzy tablets. And they taste good. And I'm sure that vitamin pills that cost more than 100000 rupiah would make me feel worse. 😐

Thursday, December 22, 2016

One Xmas Night

Walking down to Toko Nadia this night, wrapped in a rare swirl of wind, I happened to find myself swept away by an Oregon winter, a Christmas night. It had been snowing for some days and the snow was still coming down, dancing rather than falling, billowing like bedsheets, breathing in and then roaring forth like a gang of excited, unruly children, spilling into the yards and along the icy curbing strips and up against the houses and the huddling gables all bedecked with twinkling lights which shuddered to stay warm in the night's icy grip, the very air so cold that it seemed about to shatter and fling all the world in abbreviated pieces to same caprice that ruled the swirling flakes of snow. My son was 12, I think. I must have been 30-something, and I had had too much to drink that night. We took our walk, as we always did. We never missed our evening walk. He walked slowly, always the careful one, clutching trees wherever possible. The whiskey and I skated and spun and tumbled in the glimmering ice where tire tracks had packed down the snow during the day. I was laughing. It was Christmas. I was warm inside and falling felt good. And I was as padded as a fat bear in my two coats and gloves and wool scarf and stocking hat, and as white as a polar bear after my first couple rolls in the clinging snow. Everything was quiet, no traffic was moving, the falling snow whispered a long, great, fluent, urgent, endless secret in our frost stung ears. Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy. Those are secrets that you only hear at such times as these. Those are the whispers you remember forever.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

Another fine novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove. Like Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is a tender-hearted story of human relationships, human foibles, and the common compassion of the human heart in its will to fashion and facilitate community despite the challenges faced in life and the differences in experience and personality. We are ultimately one people and most fully ourselves when we are able to comprehend the other. Told from the viewpoint of a precocious, "different" child of 7 almost 8 eight years of age, this novel is packed with intelligent humor and the disarming wisdom of simplicity. A highly recommended joy to read.

Monday, December 12, 2016


A news article on Facebook today asks "Where's the Outrage?", with reference to the findings of Russian manipulation of the American election process. The answer is that it has been there all along. I have been outraged for months on end, as have well more than half the American voters, at the lies, at the insults, at the hatred, at the stupidity, at the sexual assaults, at the bigotry, at the selection of a cabinet stuffed with racists and lobbyists and billionaires and Wall Street elites and neo-Nazis and white supremacists and misogynists and war mongers, and Islamophobes and conspiracy theory nutcases and so on ad infinitum. For those of us who stood against this absolute lunatic, the outrage has stalked us day after day, always  present, always near the boiling point, interrupting sleep, darkening dreams. At the same time, outrage is conspicuously absent in the other half of our population - those who would make American great again by calling every truth a lie, by bowing to a Russian dictator. There is no limit. Common reasoning is destroyed. They have made Trump the man Trump the god, and I fear that our country is quite irreversibly undone.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Danger Ahead

Drenched for a second time today. Sheesh. Moreover, I was almost hit on my bike, twice, and by the same nitwit 😂😂 First, I was driving up Yeh Sungi when this guy on one of these souped up sort of dirtbike things came careening around the corner so fast that he was way wide of his own lane. Just managed to veer to the far edge of my lane to miss colliding. Then, five minutes later, I'm at the end of Yeh Aya by the little traffic circle and here he comes again, in the wrong lane again, because he didn't want to wait behind the line of bikes in the proper lane. Another close call. I was lucky. Some poor guy won't be.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Four Months

Well, I've had the opportunity over these past four months to see some of the damage that MS can do if it really puts its mind to it. This all started on August 10th with what I thought was a pinched nerve in my neck. Although I had done nothing in particular that would have caused this, the problem was sudden and came with all the classic signs of cervical radiculopathy - intense pain in the shoulder and arm, spasms of the muscles, and numbness in the fingers. The pain was nearly unbearable for a full two weeks, during which time I was able to sleep no more than two hours a night, along with catnaps during the day. In time, and with the help of lots of aspirin, methylpredisolone and clonamzepam, the worst of the pain abated and turned into more of a daily aching and stiffness, with numbness persisting in the wrist and hand. Four months later, my shoulder is still stiff and there's this irritating sensation of something being loose in my back, kind of floating around like an unhinged bone. What I've come to realize is that this was not a pinched nerve at all, but a nerve that has been completely demyelinated and destroyed, causung the muscles to freeze in a protective mode (which thus caused the worst of the pain). Nerve impulses have endeavored to find ways around this burned bridge on the normal highway, regaining control of the muscles through alternate means and sort of retraining them to function as they should, or as nearly as possible. The sort of clicking and snapping in my shoulder, often attended by an aching sensation, is the result of an unusual application of muscle - not quite right, but better than paralysis. I'm still on 16 mg of methylpredisolone every other day, but at least I am able to sleep comfortably and move about more or less comfortably during the day.

It is scary to see what MS can suddenly do, just because, and without warning. I remember feeling just fine back in early August - even energetic - and then suddenly this, and four months and counting of suffering. And as one recovers and finally gets on top of the problem, one can't help but wonder, what next? What part of my body, what function, how serious, how long? And when does it strike a fatal blow? Yes, you think of this, too.

And then, at the same time, as your body recovers, as your function returns, leaving finally but a reminder, a twitch, an ache, a spasm, you feel immensely blessed in each moment of good health,
quietly, deliriously joyful for the presense of an unknowable, indeterminant period of comfort. Is each day like this not blessed beyond all measure? Can we ever afford to take a single moment for granted?

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Some people see them. Some people hear them. Some people both see them and hear them. They appear when you look not. They speak only when you do not listen. They are many and always and always rare though ever present.

I knew of a man who shot himself in the head. High in the mountains, near a rustic resort, at the intersection of one dirt road and another. At that point, that meeting of roads, little more than paths, he died forever. I could not walk in that place, especially at night, for sight is most finely focussed when you cannot see. I would cut through the woods, careful not to touch foot to this living death. Nonetheless, it reached out, beyond itself, both trapped and free. It sought me, seeks all. Some know, some know not, yet all are touched.

The night after this man shot himself, I was walking from a cabin down to the boat dock to help fishermen coming in from the lake, and a voice came from behind me, from behind my left ear.

Where can I get some water?

My first thought was that this was an odd question indeed. Right before us was a lake full of water, three miles in length.

I had no thought that this was him, nor that he both was and was not there.

And this was the first time that I had ever been aware of the unseen.

These are ghosts. They are one type of a thing. Others are demons, small and large, weak and strong. And still others are angels – which are the hardest of all to see.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


So I'm at the new mall in Denpasar this morning and, remembering that we are out of eggs, I decide to stop by the little market inside before heading home. I can't find the eggs, so I ask.

"Mbak, mana telur?"


"Ya, telur."



"Apa itu, telur?"

"Well, you know, telur. Eggs."


"No agz. Eggs. Telur."

Suddenly, I spot them myself, in a refrigerated section to my left.

"Ini dia!"

"Ohhh!" the woman exclaims. "Te-LOOR!"

Iya.  😂😂

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bottoms Up

On stopping by the neighborhood Circle K this afternoon, I met two young men sitting at a table with 12 empty bottles of Bintang, large. They were the happiest Balinese dudes I have ever seen, and Balinese dudes are generally pretty happy to begin with. After learning all of the usual details about me - where am I going, where am I from, how long have I been here - both insisted on shaking my hand at great length - molesting it, really - and wondered if I would share the next 2 bottles with them (making the count 14 for them). No, my drinking days are over, I explained; at which point they explained that they are brothers, although I'm not sure how the one thing relates to the other. In any case, they decided that I could be their brother as well. A rare honor, I suspect. After a pleasant, hilarious conversation, very little of which I understood, I took my leave, warning them beforehand not to drive after 14 bottles of beer. No, they certainly would not, they promised, glancing sideways at their nearby motorbikes. Riiiight.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Fifth Wave

I'm not a big fan of science fiction novels. And I'm definitely not a big fan of teen dystopian novels. But, having read and very much enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, I was tempted to pick up his novel The Fifth Wave - and I'm glad I did.  This novel was so well done, with such fine plot and character development, that it was a pure pleasure to read. Basically, aliens from a faraway planet have launched a five phase invasion of the earth - not with giant spaceships, or lazer-firing robots or armies of monstrous creatures. No, Yancey has come up with a wonderfully inventive invasion scheme - and I'm not gonna tell you what it is 😅. What I will say is Don't see the movie. Read the book. It is a fairly long book, some 500 pages in my Indonesian language version, and the careful development of characters and methodical arrangement of plot elements just doesn't work in a 2 hour film fomat. I did watch the film, after reading the book, and found that it just had to cut too many corners and skip over important developments. No fun.

A Chance Meeting

Felt cheered this morning by the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, playing at Starbucks. Brought a smile to my face, lifted my dark mood, so long oppressed by fucking Donald Trump. While enjoying my coffee, I happened to meet a Canadian tourist. She was having trouble connecting to the internet and wondered whether I could help. After sharing the full extent of my knowledge of these sorts of things, which took perhaps 4 minutes, we proceeded to talk about all sorts of other things, and her husband also showed up and joined us. They live in British Columbia (I knew it had to be west, because their accents were no different than mine), and their son, coincidentally enough, lives in Portland, Oregon, my home town, where my son also lives. And so we talked about Portland, and about the riots, which the son had told them about. They shared about how shocked, how stunned they were with the election of this un-American sort of President, and seemed to expect, or at least hope, that I could somehow say what had gone wrong. What could I do? I apologized. What else can I do? So we switched to the weather back home, which would be cold and rainy by now, and their family, and my family, and Bali, and so on. My goodness, what a delightful old couple they were. This sort of music has a way of showing up just when you need it most.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It Could be Worse

For those of my fellow Americans suffering from the general malaise of this election season (which would be pretty much all of you, I would guess), allow me to offer some relief (perhaps), although only of the misery loves company sort. In Indonesia, where I live, religious extremists from all over the country are converging on Jakarta to demand the removal and arrest of the governor there, a Christian of Chinese/Indonesian descent. His crime? Well, in criticising the violent misuse of certain verses from the Koran, it is said that he has blasphemed against and insulted Islam. Do they really believe this? Probably not. Does it have more to do with a longstanding predjudice against the Chinese and a religious intolerance of Christians? You bet it does. So, the Indonesian Army is on alert, awaiting the arrival of this army of extremists on November 4th. An ugly situation indeed, and maybe, just maybe, hopefully, uglier than that which faces America. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Monstrumologist

Why The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey, is categorized as a ‘young adult novel’, I do not know. But that’s nothing new. I have often felt confused by this categorization, as, often enough, the best among these works will satisfy every qualification that would be associated with the ‘adult’ novel, from the density of the prose to the demands of vocabulary to the complexity of narrative, and so on. The one element that may be missing is specific sexual content – lengthy descriptions of those things that only grown people do. If this is the case, the divide is both shallow and unfortunate and the reader may find himself robbed of a fine work of fiction because it had been sentenced to the young folks’ aisle in the bookstore.

For that matter, I can’t help but think that The Monstrumologist is a bit demanding for the younger reader, especially those who have suckled on the usual fare of handsome angels and mythical kingdoms and the ever popular teen dystopia novel (what the hell is wrong with kids these days?) – formula fiction that is about as intellectually demanding as an episode of Batman or Supergirl. I can’t really picture the majority of young readers having the patience to follow along with Yancey’s development of his story or the knowledge that would be required to appreciate the genre traditions he is drawing upon – Poe, Hawthorne, Charles Brockden Brown, and so on – and which greatly enrich the narrative throughout.

So, I’m going to say that this is not a young adult novel at all. It is simply a damn good book.

Monsters are loose in New Jerusalem, Massachusetts. They are the Anthropophagi, described in the writings of antiquity, Herodotus, Pliny, Shakespeare. Huge and headless, having eyes and mouth (and a whole lot of blade-like teeth) in the chest, between where the shoulders would be, these creatures live to eat, and eat only people. Monstrumologist and man of science, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, has long studied these creatures through travel and literature, and now comes face to face with them in an increasingly intense and truly bloody series of encounters. The doctor is accompanied by newly orphaned Will Henry, whose father had faithfully served Warthrop before dying in a tragic fire.

But there are more monsters in this story than the Anthropophagi alone, for there is a monstrous side to science itself, an unfeeling, unknowing chill; there is a monstrous side to life and accident and loss; a monstrous side to passion and to lack of passion.

Yancey develops his tale carefully and artfully, and then once he has gotten up a full head of steam, the thing races downhill like a runaway locomotive. I thought the ride was rewarding great fun. But I would caution the squeamish, for there are some truly intense, truly gory episodes herein that might make your skin crawl and cause a few nightmares. Reader beware.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Mystery

Went out to Galeria this morning only to find the house in a mess when I got back home - clothes strewn around, sink full of unwashed dishes. It can't be Louis, because she's in Korea, and it can't be Sparky, because he's not with us anymore. So I'm mystified. And I know I haven't done nothing. Seems like this happens about every three days or so. I'm thinking of setting up motion sensors and hidden cameras.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Incredibly frustrating day yesterday, extending into the wee hours of the morning and finally resolved today. I'm exhausted 😜

It all started a few weeks ago when we received an email from Chase Bank stating that they were sending a new card with advanced chip technology (whatever that is). Naturally, we did not receive the card, so I called (again, some weeks ago) and advised them of this. It was decided between the representative and myself that it would be easiest to just cancel the new card and continue to use the existing card. The man assured me, perhaps five times, that there would be no problem, no problem at all.

Well, yesterday morning, when I went to the ATM to withdraw money deposited by Social Security, there was a problem. My card had been closed.

Came home, called Chase, and was told there was nothing they could do about this. Nor could they send a new card because my card was closed. Apparently, this was my fault.

Hold on. You're saying that you closed MY account and there's no way I can get MY money from the ATM?

Yes, sir, that's correct.

But, but, but ...

Is there anything else we can help you with, sir?

But you haven't helped me yet!

So sorry, sir. Thank you for banking with Chase.


So I call again, and again, and again. This department and that department. I tell the story over and over, and every time I tell it, they are sorry, but there's nothing they can do unless I send a photo of my card, front and back, a photo of my passport, and a third form of photo ID.

Well, let's see - I have an expired Oregon Driver's license. No, won't do. I have my birth certificate. No, won't do. I have an expired insurance card. No, won't do. I have a copy of my Social Security awards letter. No, won't do.

But I have no other form of ID!

Are you sure you don't have a valid driver's license, sir.


Perhaps there is someone you know in America that has a current and acceptable picture ID of you and you could have them send it to us.

What? WHAT? OMG, unbelievable.

So at 1 o'clock in the morning, I gather everything that I have. Passport, bank card, SSA award letter, Indonesian car license, Indonesian motorbike licence, Kitas card, expired Oregon driver's license,expired health insurance card, birth certificate, picture of me, picture of Sparky, and I send again, and then I call again.

And, praise God, this time a human being answers the phone.

We talked about Bali, how I happened to come here, how the adjustment period had been, and so on.

Wow, so this is really a bummer, he said. There you are in Bali, and you can't use your bank card or get any money, and you only have the equivalent of about two dollars in your wallet?

Yes, yes. YES!

Okay, let me talk to the senior supervisor here.

He does so, comes back, and says his supervisor says that I need the pieces of ID that I don't have.

We talk more. He actually understands why I don't have multiple active pieces of American ID.

Why would you, right?


Okay, I'm gonna talk to him again.

He does, and the supervisor himself gets on the phone. It's like pulling a dozen more nails, but finally, FINALLY, the supervisor decides he will let me have my own money. He will activate the closed card for 48 hours, and he will send a new card. With advanced chip technology.

Well, I'll believe that second part when I see it, but at least I have money now to buy food for a while.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

You Never Know

I would never have thought, not in a million years, that I, just a poor boy from Oregon, would one day be living on a tropical island with nothing in particular to do other than sip coffee, read books, write stories and float around at the beach. Life is full of fantastic surprises. And all I had to do to get here was to become old and unwell 😂. Totally worth it, in my book.

Crazy Rich Asians

[A review of Crazy Rich Asians. I read the book in Indonesian, so I wanted to do the review in Indonesian too 😅. If interested, just copy and paste in Google Translate.]

Seorang wanita menemukan sms di ponsel suaminya. RINDU KAU DI DLMKU. Kemudian, dia menemukan nota dari restoran mewah di Hong Kong. Dia bertanya-tanya kalau suaminya beselingkuh. Siapa wanita itu (dasar pelacur!). Seperti apa dia?

"Dia membayangkan Michael duduk ruang bercahaya lilin di puncak Hotel Island Shangri-La, menatap keluar ke kilau cahaya pelabuhan Victoria Harbour, menikmati makan malam romantis dengan wanita yang mengirimkan pesan itu. Mereka mulai dengan Burgundy kualitas tinggi dari Cote d'Or dan ditutup dengan souffle cokelat pahit hangat untuk berdua (dengan krim kemon beku)."


Detail-detail bisa sangat penting! Tempat, suasana, jenis anggur!

Orang laki-laki charters pesawat pribadi temanya untuk tiga penerbangan terpisah ke Taiwan karena dia nggak mau semua orang dari keluarga mati pada saat yang sama jika ada kecelakaan. Seorang harus bertahan hidup untuk mewarisi kekayaan keluarga.

Di Paris, Astrid berbelanja di boutique 1st class. Nggak ada biaya dengan baju manapun, kalau perlu tahu harganya, jelas nggak punya uang yang cukup. Pramuniaga di toko itu belum pernah lihat wanita Cina ini, jadi dia mengabaikanya. Kapan Charlie, pacar baru Astrid, cari tahu, mereka kembali ke toko itu.

"Memilih sepuluh gaun," ujar Charlie. "Nunggu - ambil dua puluh! Aku menelpon bankir-ku sekarang juga!"

Menghabiskan uang dengan cara Charlie Wu, pikir Astrid, benar-benar mengasyikkan--jujur saja, rasanya lebih nikmat daripada bercinta.

Ini adalah gaya hidup Cina yang super kaya - yang tinggal di Singapora, di Malaysia, di Taiwan, di New York, di Paris - di seluruh dunia - dicat dengan humor dan persepsi dalam novel ini dari Michael Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians. Ini adalah cerita tentang kekayaan yang tak terhitung, tata krama, tradisi, budaya, dari dunia lama dan dunia baru, kekayaan lama dan kekayaan baru, tentang kesederhanaan  ekses dan ekses kesederhanaan, dan tentang hal-hal yang kekal dan hal-hal yang hanya sementara.

Lucu, menarik, informatif dan mengejutkan, aku benar-benar menikmati buku ini.

"Ku-katakan padamu, yang disebut 'kekayaan' ini akan menjadi kejatuhan Asia. Setiap generasi baru menjadi lebih malas daripada yang sebelumnya. Mereka pikir mereka bisa membuat keuntungan dalam semalam hanya dengan menjual properti dan mendapatkan tip-tip terbaru di bursa saham. Ha! Tidak ada yang abadi, dan ketika ledakan ini berakhir, anak-anak muda ini tidak akan tahu apa yang menjatuhkan mereka."

Ayat favorit saya.


An opportunity to learn about MS management (Nutrition, Stress Management, Exercise)
US workshops Oct 30, Nov 5 and 6, 2016; big discount for our followers
Are you newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis?  Or a medical professional studying or working in neurology, nutrition, integrative medicine, or otherwise interested in treating MS? Overcoming MS ( is a nonprofit that’s raising awareness about a highly effective, scientifically researched diet- and lifestyle-based MS management approach. Professor George Jelinek is an award-winning Australian professor of medicine and a medical doctor. His work builds and expands on the work of Dr. Roy Swank, and after 15 years, there are now thousands of people who are benefitting from adopting OMS’ lifestyle program.  The OMS approach includes a whole food + seafood diet, low in saturated fat, supplementing with Omega 3 and Vitamin D, exercise, stress management and medication as required. All of their recommendations are heavily researched, founded on a synthesis of the huge amount of MS-related research from around the world.  In addition, Professor Jelinek and his team at the University of Melbourne, Australia are conducting a multiyear study (called HOLISM) of over 2,500 people in 57 countries who have been on the OMS Recovery Program. These findings have been published in dozens of peer-reviewed scientific journals, including PLOS One.

The full-day workshops are in Los Angeles Oct 30, New York City Nov 5 and BostonNov 6 and will present the approach, and share an OMS meal and snacks. They cost $99 for the full-day and, followers of our blog can 
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Click to learn more about Prof. Jelinek and for a short video explaining OMS' approach.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Above the World

Yesterday, we drove up into the hills above the south Bali coast and into the rice tiers which cascade down from the high slopes. As you gain altitude, the air cools and the humidity relinquishes its hold. A stark greeness fills the world, spreading out like a plush carpet, dotted with stone dwellings which hug the edges of narrow roads. It seems the passtime of women and children to sit at the edge of their properties and watch the traffic come and go. They are simple and open and as much a part of the land as the rice and the grass and the stones. One has the impression that many of these folks have never been more than a few miles from their homes. Theirs is a world of tradition and labor and ceremony and family. The outside world is a rumor, a tale, a matter of conjecture which pales in importance compared to the life of the community, the latest gossip, the weather, the stage of the moon. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do not exist. Iran and Afghanistan do not exist. The fields, the water, the sky, the temple, the ceremonies, the gods - these exist.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Chaos on Yeh Aya

Another comedic evening journey to Sanur along the ever hilarious Yeh Aya. One lane of the road is closed for resurfacing, but this means nothing. Everyone figures that the closed lane is closed only to the other guys. So it's every man, woman and child for him or herself. Utter chaos. Not to be left out of the fray, a truck driver decides that he will also use this road, come hell or high water. Hell cones first, as the truck instantly gets wedged against the high curb, such that we now have even less than half a road. I turn off as soon as possible, make it to JCO  Sanur, only to find that the coffee machine is broken. 🙄 Oh well, pulang dulu.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I seem to have trouble with the Indonesian word for blue, biru. Bee-roo. But given that my wife smokes Marlboro Blue, I will be asked often enough to purchase a pack for her and thus employ the word.

So I go up to the neighborhood Circle K and tell the guy behind the counter that I want Marlboro Biru.

He reaches for a pack that is white.

No, biru.

He reaches for the menthols.

Bukan Pak, itu hijau. Aku mau yang biru.

He reaches for a pack of kreteks.

Biru, Pak! Marlboro Blue!

Oh, blooo!


Pakai bahasa inggris aja, ya.

Friday, September 23, 2016


I've been meaning for a while now to write about my sufferings with cervical radiculopathy, but I haven't been able to do so because ... well, because of my sufferings with cervical radiculopathy. It has been just too painful to raise my right arm in order to type. CR happens when your spine (in this case, the upper, or cervical, spine) shifts in a sudden, unexpected manner, pinching a nerve root between bones. This sends the muscles into panic mode such that they freeze up in order to immobilize and protect the skeleton. This in turn is very painful indeed. The pain spreads from the neck to the upper back and shoulder and down the arm to the elbow and wrist, turning then to numbness in the fingers. For at least a week, I slept no more than two hours a night. The pain was just too intense and constant, like a knife in the back. Honestly. I was about to shoot myself, though, luckily, I don't own a gun. This pain persisted at maximum level for about two weeks, and then, finally, began to diminish somewhat. At almost six weeks from the outset now, the pain has turned to a dull ache, a general stiffness of the neck, and occasional electrical shock sensations that shoot down the arm if one moves his neck too suddenly. My research of this on the internet shows that the condition can persist for weeks to months! Curiously, whilst suffering with this, I recalled that I've had it before some time in the past - perhaps in the mid 90's. I remembered the symptoms and sensations as they occurred in the present. I guess it was horrible enough back then that I kind of erased it from my mind 😅. One also wonders along the way how involved MS becomes with this problem. How much has MS interfered with the healing process? Which responses of the nerves have been normal and which are responses of MS? And, of course, will there be any sequelae of MS effects after the injury itself resolves?  One never knows until he knows, I guess. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Parking Problems

And now we bring you the motoring incident of the day. We drive out to Bali Mal Galeria, park the car and go in to shop and get some lunch. When we come out, we find that someone has parked their car directly behind ours, broadside to stern, and there they have left it, doors locked, parking brake securely set. We have a meeting to get to, so this is doubly uncool.

So we return to the mall, report the offending vehical, they announce the offense on their loudspeaker, make, color and license plate.

We go back to the car and wait perhaps 20 minutes. No one shows.

I go back into the mall to re-report the problem while the wife orders a Starbucks and keeps a sharp eye on the white car. She's waiting for this driver to show up. Oh yes she is. She has more than a few words in mind to share.

We wait perhaps another 20 minutes and at last a woman shows up. At first, the woman and her friend don't even get into the car. They are standing back, surveying the situation, wondering what the problem might be.

My wife then explained the problem to the driver in a rather fluent fashion, which was frankly beyond my level of knowledge in the language.

What surprised me is that the woman still was not seeming to comprehend the rudeness of her action. It was more like, 'Well I had to park somewhere, didn't I? And all the open spots were so far away.' 🙄

It's just another of those shake your head days. That's why my neck hurts, I think. So much shaking of the head.

Traffic Troubles

So, last night, my wife had a business meeting to attend down on Jl Sesetan. She arrives at her destination, signals a left turn, begins her turn into the parking lot, and here comes this dude on a motorbike trying to zip around the left side of her car as she turns. The guy hits the car, flips his bike, flies over the handlebars, jumps up off the street, retrieves his bike and races away. Criminal irresponsibility all in one fluid motion.

Finished with the meeting, she heads home along Sesetan, and what do you know here comes another dude on a motorbike with passenger at considerable speed. He shoots along the side of the car, starts to wobble wildly for whatever reason, dumps his bike and goes over the handlebars while the passenger ends up on the road, under the bike, not moving. No helmet.

Good Lord. What is up with the appalling carelessness shown by so many drivers here? One sees this sort of thing on a daily basis. Hits and near misses. And nothing ever changes, except to get a bit worse.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


The Indonesian driver is always in a great hurry. It is the first, and I suspect the only applied rule of driving here. You must do it quickly, and, whenever possible, unsafely. Apparently each driver finds himself in the grips of an emergecy, where great speed and recklessness are required. Perhaps he is rushing to a hospital for one last word with a dying mother. Perhaps he is dangerously late for work, or late to a high level government meeting. Perhaps his house is on fire. Or perhaps there has been a zombie outbreak. Or perhaps he's just very hungry and wants to get to the warung, caution be damned.

Whatever the case may be, his hurry causes him to do extrvaganly unwise things. Running his motorbike on the sidewalk, for instance, which may itself be crowded with frustrating obstacles such as fruit stands or bakso carts, or, indeed, pedestrians. Quitting the sidewalk, he veers into the oncoming lane, and does quite well until oncoming traffic, equally in a hurry, decides it wants to use that lane as well, and quite reasonably so.

Now, all the Indonesian drivers in a great hurry are going nowhere at all, for they have created a situation wherein forward progress in either direction is quite impossible. They scratch their heads, they honk their horns, they rev their engines, but all to no avail.

And so they stare in wonder. They light cigarettes. They chat with simmering neighbors until someone can come along and get this knot undone.

In any case, tomorrow is another day. What's the hurry?

The Girl on the Train

Like the London commuter train at the center of Paula Hawkins' novel, The Girl on the Train, this sophisticated 'who-done-it' story moves inexorably forward from page one, picking up speed in a smooth and steady manner as the scenery passes - seeming the same scenery every day, the reliable row of houses, the glimpses of their occupants, the seemingly deserted field, yet with that odd, mildly unsettling little clump of old clothing tucked among the clumps of grass. Everything both is and is not what it seems. It is, from afar, what we imagine it to be, yet something very different on close inspection.

The Girl on the Train is a story of addiction - addiction to alcohol, addiction to sex, addiction to a woman and addiction to a man, addiction to oneself, addiction to the past, and addiction to fantasies of the good mate, the good marriage, to tales of life as it should be.

Hawkins tells her story through the alternating viewpoints of a handful of characters, each one flawed, each one real, each one bringing her own strengths and her own weaknesses into the revelation of the mystery at hand.

And, given the surprise ending, I will say no more - except that I found myself addicted to these pages 😅

Sunday, August 28, 2016


There's something good to be said for trying to sleep through neck pain all night, waking up a half dozen times, then trying to go back to sleep again, which is this: that by about 4 am or so, one is so tired of sleeping, so to speak, that he simply gives up, gets up, and starts his day. The act of surrender, though much maligned, contains its own quality of renewal. The sky is still dark at 4 in the morning, yet certain of the world's creatures are already whispering about something to come. The first of the birds prophesy. The last of the night bugs crawl into their holes. The last mouse takes his final open stroll through the tufts of grass. By and by, the chickens begin to loudly cackle and then at 5 o'clock sharp comes the doleful wailing of the Muslim call to prayer. Man speaks his first official words. Let us pray. Already, I have made coffee and boiled an egg and toasted a slice of bread. I am well on my way while the sunrise is yet a matter of faith. I feel strangely young again, a young man with an old neck, about to shower, shave, splash on cologne, don suit and tie and head off to work. There are thousands of us, heading out to set the world into motion even as the sky finally blinks one eye and peers grayly upon creation. Within another half hour, it will gaze brilliantly bluely over all and bless every stone, and blade of grass, and body of water, and budding flower, and dusty road, and sandy beach, and every four-legged creature, and every two-legged creature, and everything in all creation that flies above or swims below or walks the way of this singular event otherwise known as August 27th, 2016.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Multiple sclerosis does quite a number of pretty amazing things. I mean, for its variety and fluency, it's right up there with the manifold and amazing processes at work in the healthy system. One cannot help but admire the functionality and efficiency, I mean, what with being a "disorder" and all. Consider, for instance, that in the face of an illness or an injury, MS will take just the right steps to combat the speedy recovery from that illness or injury. It actually seeks out and destroys the tiny cellular ambulances being sent to the scene of the trouble. And then it sends little raiding parties into the brain and spinal cord to set their own little fires. Diversionary tactics, I guess. It is the ISIS of the autoimmune system. And what about that exaggerated pain response so often associated with MS? Impressive or what? One contracts a common illness, one injures himself, and MS says, "Boy, you ain't seen nuthin yet! You think that neck injury is painful? Hah! Just wait till I get my claws around it!"

Ah, how fearfully and wonderfully I am made.

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove, by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, has got to be one of the sweetest books I've ever read, without being at all maudlin or saccharine. It is refreshingly straightforward and real, packed with a sort of humor, pathos and wisdom that connect story and reader as if with an old fashioned hard line - the kind that used to plug into the wall by the phone stand. Backman strikes a natural, easy friendship with the reader, much in the manner of Mark Twain in his own time, seeming to link arms and share both winks and tears as we walk through the narrative together. For people of my own generation, Ove - cranky, curmudgeonly, yet lovable despite himself - a man of principle and common sense - is our common father; and it is a blessing to know him once again, and more truly yet. I loved this book, and I'm going to miss Ove's company as I travel from one coffee shop to another.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Damn Neighbor and his Damn White Van

We've had this little problem for a while now with our neighbor across the road - until tonight, that is, when it suddenly turned into a bigger problem. And not for him, mind you, but for me.

You see, the man insists on parking his big white van almost directly across the street from our driveway, making it difficult for us to get out and nearly impossible to get back in.

Well, actually we should drop that "nearly" part and just say impossible, given the fact of the event which I shall soon describe.

Now, my wife had spoken to this man on several occasions in the past, beginning with rather civil requests that he please not park there and leading up to the more direct demand, delivered just the night before, that he stop parking his damn van in front of the damn driveway, dammit!

Oh, ya, sorry, Bu, sorry, ya, ya.

So I come home from shopping in Sanur this evening, and there is the damn van parked in front of the damn driveway. Ya.

I honk the horn. No one appears. I lay on the horn. No one appears.

And here is where I make my first mistake.

Instead of just parking my own damn car, or rather my wife's damn car, because I don't have a damn car and can't drive my damn bike because of my damn neck injury, in the middle of the street and blocking all traffic altogether, I pause, survey the situation, inspect the narrow avenue of approach, and arrive upon the conclusion (which seems in hindsight extravagantly ridiculous) that I can maneuver front-ways into our driveway and be done with the matter.

It might have been a happy ending, or at least a harmless one. But fate was against me. Perception betrayed me. My eyesight failed me. In short, I ran half the car into the driveway and the other half into the wall.

Now, the problem is not only the damned white van or the damned owner of the damn van, but that I myself am damned - quite damned and quite doomed when my wife finds out that I wrecked her damn car.

And who should appear this very moment but the owner of that van. The villain behind this whole sad incident. The cause of my damnation. The snake! The dimwit! This very author of treachery.

So, I commit my second error.

"Hey!" I shout as he tries to slink into the van. "Bajingan tolol sialan. Istri-ku baru minta jangan parkir di sana, kan. Apa-apaan! Dia sudah bilang jangan begitu dengan mobil sialan anda."

And then I added some words in English, which neither he nor anyone else really needs to know.

And after he re-parked his car and reemerged, I returned to his side of the street with even more words which no one really needs to know. Or say.

And now it is hours later, 3:30 in the morning, and I'm sitting in the yard feeling devastated not by this man's stupidity, but my own. I'm sitting here seeing his face. The face of a grown man about to cry. And there is nothing so terrible as the face of a grown man about to cry. I'm sitting here wondering why my brain doesn't work, and why my heart doesn't work, and why I can't see straight, and why I can't do anything right, and why I so continually betray the three loves of my life: God, mercy, and my wife.

I'm sitting here wondering just who I am.

And I will not sleep tonight.

And in the morning I will seek a place for repairs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


There is a bright side to the campaign rhetoric and ravings of Donald Trump, for, in him, we can see finely focused the lurking character of ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, paranoia and meanness that has long poisoned our otherwise decent society from the depths where the basest notions of the uneducated, the irresponsible, the selfish, the poor in compassion crawl blindly in a dead, pointless, unregenerate muck of general anger and disaffection, where hatred is its own sustaining beginning and end. We have seen him before in history far too many times, presiding over the lynching, the cross burning, the crucifixion, the riot, the imprisonment and the enslavement, the purge, the execution, the gulag, the death camp. Just a man, yes, and a clown - but one who is subject to dark powers beyond our reckoning. Herein, the mask is lowered for just an instant and we glimpse the visage of the truly grotesque, the ravenous, pitiless jaws of the enemy. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Blindness is a novel that is a bit difficult to get into at first, but by the midpoint, one finds that it has gotten its fingers hooked so securely into ones belt loops and button holes, that it's almost impossible to put the thing down. What happens when everyone in the world goes blind? What happens to meaning, to relationship - or do these even exist any longer? How can the blind lead the blind? And, on the other hand, what is it that the blind can see that is obscured by sight itself?

Nobel recipient Jose Saramago's style is straightforward, understated, often ironic, and somewhat reminiscent of Camus and Golding, with an odd twist of Steinbeck. Well worth the read, as it turns out, and not too difficult in Indonesian translation.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


To vote or not to vote, that is the question.

On the one hand, I am told that one cannot possibly vote for candidate C because certain parts of the platform she is running on are unacceptable. On the other hand, a vote for candidate T would be perfectly unthinkable. However, if one votes for neither, he essentially withdraws a vote against the unthinkable, and if he votes for candidate C, he would appear to be endorsing the unacceptable.

Hmm. It's a dilemma.


Watching another TV series - this one called Zoo - which has all the now classic elements of the modern dystopian drama: sudden catastrophic disorder, a fragmented society, a rebellion of nature, a sinister corporate power. In this case, the zombies, the plagues, the aliens have been replaced by wild and domestic animals that have decided to rebel against their human masters, who, after all, have been busily destroying the planet anyway. The animals have had enough. Aided by the administration of "funny food" by some large corporation bent on self enrichment (think Monsanto), the animals develop the ability to cooperate and conspire in the overthrow of mankind. This seems to be the dominant myth of our time - disaster, dissolution, destruction and the renewal of the stone age. Interesting, weird, and kind of fun. 😅

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Mother's Big Toe

An old memory popped into my mind this afternoon - a very old memory - and also a new realization. I suddenly remembered my mom having to go for a stay in the hospital. I must've been maybe 6 or 7.  I remember that she wrote little letters to me and my brother and put them on our bedside table. Of course, my brother had to read mine to me. She said that she had a problem with her "big toe" and had to get it fixed. She told us how much she loved us and she admonished us to continue our regular chores and remember to brush our teeth and be nice to one another and to be helpful to our dad. It seemed like a lot of fuss over a big toe, even at the time. It worried me, and it made me feel both incredibly loved and at the same time vaguely sad.

What I remembered today, along with this, is that my mom, as I learned some years later, had to undergo a hysterectomy, having ovaries and tubes removed due to the presence of an abnormal growth.

And I realized at once, more than a half century later, that her little problem, and her little visit to the hospital, had nothing to do with a toe. My God, she was having her uterus removed! Not a simple little thing back in the late 50's / early 60's. Not a sure thing at all.

No wonder! She was, just in case, just on the outside chance, saying goodbye, leaving her love in her own hand. Dear Richy, Dear Gary ....

Dear Mom.

She was the kindest woman in the world. The very next thing to an angel.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mr. Mercedes

Nearing the finish of this novel and yeah, okay, it's cotton candy -but it's really good cotton candy 😛 As has often been said, Stephen King has yet to meet a genre that he cannot do, and this mystery/thriller is as good as most in the genre, and better than more than a few. With twists and surprises salted in at just the right places, Mr. Mercedes serves well as a vehicle (no pun intended) for King's favorite theme of good versus evil, with the villain being, in my opinion, one of King's most convincing to date.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Two Really Bad Movies and a Trail of Blood

I always find it particularly unsettling when I see a movie set in a historical period that has the historical period of its setting all wrong, and largely, moreover, by intention.  The will of the Hollywood invention is to remold history such that it will conform to modern sensibilities and sensitivities. But I don’t see that this really does anyone any favors. Rather, when history is falsified, the truth is made more and more inaccessible, especially in the sphere of common knowledge, and these falsehoods are then applied in the realm of contemporary ideas and relationships.

Such a movie is the recently released Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey. The story involves a disaffected Southern soldier who deserts the ranks of the Confederate army in 1862 in order to convey the body of a fallen young comrade back to his home in Mississippi, and who is thereafter pursued and harassed by those who would not only prefer him to return to service, but who spend the rest of their time robbing the countryside blind in order to supply the armies in the field. Okay, that’s fine. Except …

Firstly, we are given an ahistorical view of the nature of the battlefields of 1862. We are shown trench warfare, which did not come around in any big way until the end of the war. We see soldiers carrying rifles instead of muskets. We are asked to belief in a tyrannical government that robbed its own countryside of food and provisions, somehow able to spare plenty of soldiers for this purpose who could otherwise have been on the front line. Further, we are shown a generally disaffected, demoralized Confederate army, the rank and file members of  which are merely, and rather gloomily following orders such that those at the top – the slaveholders, of course – may retain their slaves. It all feels rather more like Vietnam than the American Civil War.

What the student of the Civil War will find straightaway is that the soldier of the Civil War is very unlike the soldier in Vietnam, or even of World War II. These were young men of high ideals and high notions of honor and bravery. The essential ingredient in their will, and willingness, to fight had more to do with a conception of tradition and honor and home than with the politics of slavery and States Rights. Most Confederate soldiers owned no slaves and certainly did not picture themselves as fighting for the rights of rich people to own slaves. That this issue became the central issue of the war is manifest. Nonetheless, it would be completely unrealistic to imagine that the common Confederate soldier had any such conception of the thing – or even the Federal soldier, for that matter, at least up till 1863.

And yet, this is the picture that Free State of Jones would like to impart – because it is the reductionist, simple minded picture than our modern culture demands – history be damned. Slavery was most certainly the fatal disease of the South, and yet it must be acknowledged that the common Southerner of the time had no very meaningful connection with the institution. His connection was to the land, family, history. Far from moping about in the (nonexistent) trenches and deserting at the first opportunity with bitter acrimony on their lips, a faithful reading of the wartime experience reveals a vigorous readiness to engage in combat that seems almost maniacal in our time, much more like the gung-ho beginning of WWI than the self preserving reticence of Vietnam. These were soldiers, after all, who fought barefooted at Petersburg in the driving sleet. These were soldiers who  advanced across the open fields at Gettysburg, to be mowed down by grapeshot and massed musketry on Cemetery Ridge, and returned at the end of the slaughter to plead with General Lee to let them try one more time.

A band of ragged pawns of the rich, made to do the sinister bidding of the man? Not at all. When we misrepresent history in order to believe what might seem proper at the moment, we do a disservice not only to those who lived before us, but also to ourselves.

To be honest, I found this dishonest movie so discouraging that I couldn’t even watch it to its end.

My second really bad movie of the day was one called Something in the Woods. Based on “actual events”, this movie tells the story of a good old fashioned Texas family which must deal with an aggressive monster – the fabled Big Foot, or Sasquatch. It is a right wing fable of the struggle between decent family values and a stalking beast, and how good an idea it is to own several guns. But what stood out above all in this movie was the really, really, terribly bad acting 😂😂. I mean, the directors must have scoured the earth specifically for people who could not act! It was, at least, absolutely spellbinding for its clumsiness at every possible aspect of filmmaking, from the monotone delivery of lines, to the staged scenes, to the big, furry Sasquatch that looked more like a giant muppet than like a monster. If they hadn’t pissed him off so bad with those rifles, they might have been able to invite him in for milk and cookies.

And then, lastly, there’s this thing with the trail of blood. Which has nothing to do with either movie. Yesterday, I suddenly noticed what appeared to be drops of fresh blood, on the front porch and then also in the entryway. Naturally, my first suspicion was that Sparky had been bleeding from his injured tail. But there were two problems with this theory, the one being that I did not see the blood when he came into the house and the other that, upon examination, his tail was completely dry and the wound appeared to have healed. Well, you can’t figure something out, so you just drop it, right? But then it happened again this morning. Sparky had come in the house, eaten some breakfast and then jumped up on the bed. No blood, on him, on the bed or on the floor. I was outside in the back for a while, reading the gospel of Mark (just the same, in fact, as yesterday), and when I came back inside, I found once again this trail of blood, this time on the living room and bedroom floor. Another examination of Sparky revealed a completely dry tail. Nor was he bleeding from any other part of his body. Nor was I bleeding from any part of mine!

Hmm, what to make of this? It’s a sign, I reckon. I just don’t know what the message is. Yet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cognitive Dysfunction

“Cognitive dysfunction (also known as brain fog) is the loss of intellectual functions such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning of sufficient severity to interfere with daily functioning. Patients with cognitive dysfunction have trouble with verbal recall, basic arithmetic, and concentration.”  [The Marshall Protocol Knowledge Base, Autoimmunity Research Foundation]

Cognitive dysfunction. They are just two words - until you meet them face-to-face in daily life, that is. As a classic symptom of MS, cognitive dysfunction can become a defining characteristic of self – a new self which, like it or not, has been conferred by the destructive processes of the disease, MS.  Where once you may have been verbally sharp and articulate, now you find yourself slow and clumsy. It is like a closed door between your mind and its interaction with the world, and the door is often locked from the outside. You know what you are thinking, and you know the form that you want your thoughts to take in communication, but suddenly you find that a fatal short circuitry has interrupted the path between the mind and the tongue. The eloquence of thought stumbles on the dysfunction of mind, and what tumbles out on your tongue is often but a vague shadow of what you meant to say – or, worse yet, so completely disjointed that it becomes little more than gibberish.

And so you keep it simple. You learn to hold your peace in intelligent, demanding discourse, because the alternative, as you have now learned from experience with your new self, is that you may well end up looking like a complete idiot. The well ordered, well considered thought in your mind has been lost in translation from brain to tongue. You wait till later, when you can write the thing down – when you have the time to pick the lock from the inside and turn the knob.

For someone like me, who has spent his life working with the English language, this failure to be ready, to cogently produce a complex thought in speech, is particularly frustrating. The inclination to share my viewpoint has not left me, but the ability to do so has. It is something I have faced little by little over time. You don’t get around it by trying harder. You get around it by acknowledging the fact, learning patience, learning to defer.

Difficulty with verbal recall is just one facet of cognitive dysfunction, but it is the one that bothers me most. The others, as described in our quote above, are not fun either. The inability to remember details, names, events, people, how to get to where you had gone just the day before – or even to where you had gone many times before – these are all bothersome in their own way – and yet when the transmission of language, this essential means of interacting with ideas and with the people around us, is compromised, something essential seems missing from personality itself.

And the silver lining? Yes, there’s always a silver lining. For just as the nervous system in MS finds ways around the short circuits to accomplish its goals, so we find ways around the deficits. We learn to be patient with ourselves. We learn humility. We learn to practice nonverbal expressions where words fall short – and the truth is, words often fall short, no matter how eloquent or  well informed they may sound. And in learning these things for ourselves, we ultimately share something new and, in its own way, more meaningful with others.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Facing Facebook

Facebook is ruining me. It's abbreviating me. It's lulling me to sleep with single sentences attached to someone's else's thoughts. You read something and you say to yourself, Yeah, I generally agree with that, and so you click on share and type your intellectual contribution at the top - I agree, too true, worth reading, and so on. Whatever this writer said - that's me. Only it's not.

And then you wait for a response. Do other people - your friends - agree as well? Will they click on like or flash a smiley face? Or maybe they will comment. Great! Now you have someone else who agrees with someone else's idea thanks to your free advertisement.

My God, I'm lazy. I could be blogging here on Jim Dandy - I could be thinking, making some effort, examining myself, seeing what I think, going out on a limb - but I'm busy looking at the next and the next post on Facebook, losing focus, flying from politics to religion to Bob's summer vacation to what Mary had for dinner.

Worse yet, you may begin to answer comments written by total strangers who do not agree with the ideas that are not really yours in the article that you did not write. This is where you get to practice the fine art of the effective insult, negative rejoinder, which may inspire a like effort in reply. Now you're arguing with a total stranger from Des Moines. Or not arguing, really. Not even communicating. Basically, what you're doing is name calling. You find that you despise Jake from Des Moines. You cannot believe that such stupid peopke exist. You cheer when sone other stranger who also despises Jake pitches in - so there, Jake, now we see who is right - but then you notice that Jake's comment has 15 likes while yours has two.

And all this time, I could have been blogging. I could have had a V8.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Went to put in my false teeth this morning, and couldn't find them to save my life. I don't like wearing false teeth, but they do come in handy for chewing or smiling, though I don't do a lot of the latter. Still , I do kind of need them. Where could they be? 

My first thought was of Sparky. Had he eaten my teeth? Or perhaps he is wearing them? Ah, there he is in the corner. 

"Sparky, here Sparky, smile Sparky." 

Nope, definitely not my teeth. But where then? How can it be?

Ah, but the maid was here yesterday. Surely she will know. In fact, I see that she has washed the little bowl that I always keep the teeth in

So we call her on the phone. 

"Oh, yes," she says. "I threw them in the garbage."

Naturally. Simple as that. After all, no one was using them at the time.

Good grief. Who throws away false teeth? False teeth, moreover, that cost several millions of Rupiah? 

I did find the teeth at the bottom of the bin, but I'm still trying to figure out the decision making process here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back in the Swing

Having recovered from his most recent troubles, Sparky has returned to a more familiar lifestyle. When ill or injured (ie consumed garbage, hit by car, hit by motorbike, involved in serious dog fight), Sparky will convalesce, which means he will sleep all day and all night for as long as it takes to recover. Now, he sleeps during the day, shifting positions or locations several times, gets up to look for dinner at around 4, eats his dinner, eats my dinner, wrestles after dinner, then goes outside to roam to and fro in the world, as he puts it, seeking whom he might devour.


Last night, a man on Facebook referred to me as "gelandangan". New word for me. This would seem to mean, in common usage, "bum". Right. Later, he tried to soften the meaning to "One-who-does-not-own-a-house-in-Bali". But then, I can't own a house in Bali, can I, given the Indonesian laws. So we're back to "bum", or freeloader, or foreign alien. Made me feel like a Mexican in a Trump America. And quite honestly, this was the first time in 6 years in Indonesia that an Indonesian has directly insulted me. Leave it to the anonymity afforded by Facebook, I guess. My goodness, what is the world coming to when even an Indonesian is rude?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sparky the Neighborhood Dog

Having gone out last night with my friend Adam for a rare taste of the nightlife in Sanur, I arrived home some time around midnight to find Sparky waiting, rather disgruntled, on the porch.

"Do you know what time it is?" he said.

Feeling rather foggy after one too many beers, I answered, "Time for you to go home?"

"Uh, hello, I am home, he said.

"Uh, hello, you don't live here," I answered.

"That's a matter of opinion," he retorted, entering the house as I unlocked the door."

"What opinion is that?"

"Mine. And also I'm hungry. Where have you been at all hours of the night? Is this how you care for a pet?"

"Well, where are your owners? Did they not feed you?"

"Are you delusional?" he asked. But it was a rhetorical question, and he followed this with a more specific request for a slice of cheese.

"Sparky, Sparky, Sparky," I said, sighing. "What are you going to do if we have to move away?"

"It depends," he answered. "What's the place like? Are there fields? Are there other dogs? Is there a fridge. Is there cheese?"

"What? Where?"

"Where we're moving!" He rolled his eyes. "Jeeze. Are you drunk?"

"Hold on, now. Wait a minute. Let's start again from the top."

"You start from the top," he said. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Big Durian

Throughout my six years in Indonesia, I have avoided visiting its capital city, Jakarta. One really hears nothing good about the place, and much that is bad. With a population of more than 10 million, and a rather famously inadequate mass transit system, Jakarta is pictured in countless photographs as one big simmering traffic jam. This has always been enough to deter me.

Nonetheless, when my wife headed out for her most recent trip to the city (where business has taken her on many occasions), I decided, rather inexplicably, to tag along.

And, in fact, I found it to be one big simmering traffic jam.

If you live in a large city, such as Atlanta, for instance, or Los Angeles, you may think that you know about traffic. Think again. No city in the world can lay claim to a bigger traffic disaster than the city of Jakarta. Very often, one could walk to where he’s going more quickly than drive there. But people in Jakarta do not walk. It is simply not done. There is a special word in Indonesian for this phenomenon, which, unfortunately, I’ve forgotten, but it means something like “lazy bastards”.

On the bright side, however, traffic does thin out at around 2 in the morning.

Of course, a three day stay in any given city may be an insufficient amount of time to form a fair appreciation of the character of the place. Nonetheless, I came away with no particular feeling at all. It is just a very large city with lots of very large shopping malls and little in the way of a defining mood – unlike cities such as Savannah, or San Francisco, or even Seattle, which seem to have a distinct personality, an attendant mood, and beckon return in the future. Having visited Savannah once, I have always wanted to return; whereas one visit to Jakarta feels like more than enough.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Here's a link to an extensively researched diet and lifestyle approach to MS,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lost in Translation

Watching Lost in Translation, which I have seen so very many times before; but as for the cicak on the wall, I can tell that it's his first time, for his attention is rapt. He is the very picture of rapt attention. I'm watching the cicak watch Lost in Translation, and it occurs to me, as I less than raptly watch his rapt watching, that there are few things in God's creation more amazing than human teeth, most of which have now disappeared from my mouth. My lost dentition. Perfection can best be seen in its absence. These fake teeth, these imposters announce their imperfection moment by moment, glorifying God and the work of His hands. My tongue interprets these false teeth quite tirelessly, according to the testimony of perfection which lies in the memory of empty sockets. Remember us? Remember your teeth? We were a little bit younger than you, and have left the world a little bit sooner. "Your life, as you know it, is gone, never to return." At the end of the movie, Bill Murray whispers something in the young woman's ear, and we both know and do not know what he said. It all depends on what you see and hear, and how closely you are paying attention.

A Letter to My Son

Hi, Holden. I'm down at JCO doughnuts and coffee in Sanur, as usual for around 7 in the evening, especially when Louis is out of town, and I thought I would write a note to you instead of reading a book, which I normally would be doing. Currently I am working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo, in Indonesian - not because it's any better in Indonesian,  but because most book stores here only sell books in Indonesian. Somehow, I managed to skip classics like this during my journeys in literature. It's actually quite a good book. 

At 7:30 here, I note that the temperature is 35C, which translates to 95F. Add 80 percent humidity to that and you get something truly hellish.  

Anyway, what I wanted to say, before I forget, is that I've figured out what the problem with America is - and I'm only half kidding. The problem is TV. 

Lately, I've been watching a lot of contemporary American TV shows on my iPad, most recently the drama shows. What we often find are three recurring themes. One is the love of catastrophe. Whether it is a zombie apocalypse or an incurable plague or a nuclear disaster, these total, irreversible breakdowns of the world, and particularly America as we know it, afford the viewer, as the writer Walker Percy once noted, a miraculous sense of hope - that the numbing prison of modern malaise, the deadly drudgery of every day life, might after all vanish in a sudden flash of light. We are free again, life is simple again, focussed, moral. 

A second theme involves the notion that we have all been pawns of a sinister power - that being our government and our various official institutions. Whatever disaster has struck, you can bet that by season two, it will become clear that the villain is organized authority. The disease was created in a government lab, the zombies were the product of a plan to control the common people with chemicals in the air, the war was the result of a secret alliance with aliens, and so forth. 

Thirdly, there comes the celebration, the glorification of the common man, of human ingenuity, of the human spirit which somehow, of itself, is intrinsically moral. There either is no God, or, if there is, it was He who caused this mess to begin with. Some foolish people still pray, to be sure, but they are the first to be eaten or otherwise croak. 

In all cases, something has gone terribly wrong, and nothing else could have been so terribly right for the world. And we won't be fooled again. Whatever "they" tell you, it's a lie, it's a trick. They want your money, your freedom, your guns and your soul. We're all the victims of an astounding conspiracy, but now our eyes are open and we are wise. 

So that's my theory in a nutshell. What do you think?

I hope all is well with your laptop and wifi. Haven't heard from you lately, but I'm supposing you're just busy. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Badge of Illness

Thanks to Healthline for the new blog badge. Whenever this happens, I feel like I should say something about MS for a change. I actually started this blog as purely a commentary on the disease and my own daily sufferings, but it all kind of got swallowed up in life as the years passed. It was largely MS that inspired me, so to speak, to retire early and move to Bali, Indonesia, so I suppose that, in that sense, the blog is still about MS. In other words, I wouldn't be here without MS.

My most serious problem lately, as regards MS, has been restless leg syndrome, which rather suddenly disappeared of it's own accord some weeks ago. During the time I had this problem on a nightly basis, I found no effective treatment other than sleeping pills - but of course these come with their own drawbacks, including making you feel rather groggy throughout the following day. At the same time, however, I find that lack of sleep combined with an already existing baseline fatigue generally has me ending up ill with some common malady such as a flu or cold. Now, though the RLS is gone (knock on wood), the fatigue remains and seems, lately, a bit more pronounced than normal. I find that if I don't grab a short nap during the day, I run down like an unwound clock by the evening. Recently, my wife and I were in Jakarta and going here and there at a pace that my body can no longer sustain. By early evening I felt bleary and somewhat confused, by nighttime like a sleepwalker. Needless to say, I wasn't quite what could be called a barrel of fun. These are the sort of deficits that one has to face, however unwillingly. MS gives us no alternative. They are the sort of deficits our mates and friends must face as well, though at times they may be inclined to expect us just to 'rise above our limitations', solely by force of will.  I've tried that. I have. And it doesn't work.

In general, I seem to be in a sort of plateau at this time. I've had no obvious new deficits, no profound changes. I would like to feel better, I would like to have more energy, but that's simply not where I am. And so I enjoy this particular plateau, doing what I can at the pace I can manage, fully aware that plateaus don't stretch out forever, but tend to lie between mountains and valleys.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Making a Murderer

Finally got the chance to watch the documentary series, Making a Murderer (as it is now available on the iPad). This story of a shocking miscarriage of justice, of the blind predjudice rampant in the American court system, is terrifying indeed, and keenly discouraging. We live under the false impression that truth and justice will be sought as a matter of course for all who are accused, whether guilty or innocent, but this proves in practice to be an illusion. One comes away with new commitment to avoiding, at all costs, running afoul of the law and those in authority. A compelling, well done, dreadful but true story.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Inexplicable things happen. For all practical purposes, inexplicable. A lone teenager enters his high school in Oregon and starts shooting. Two teens in Colorado go from room to room, executing random students before shooting themselves. Two planes are piloted into the World Trade Center, killing thousands.

And then there is this: In 1986, a man and his wife entered Cokeville elementary school in Wyoming armed with rifles, pistols and a powerful homemade bomb. One hundred thirty-six children and eighteen adults are herded into a single classroom and a demand is made for the payment of two million dollars per child.

And then things get strange.

The bomb is powerful enough to blow down the walls of the school, but when it goes off, only two of the five blasting caps function. Inexplicably, the wires to three have been cut. Additionally, the bomb has been rigged with a canister of explosive material that would cause the air itself to explode in flame. However, the gasoline container has leaked into the explosive contents situated below and neutralized them. Morever, the smell of gas has persuaded the perpetrators to open windows and doors, thus further diminishing the effect of the blast.

And stranger yet.

Most of the children in the room later report the presence of people dressed in white who gently tell them to gather near the open windows. All of these beings are later identified by the children from photographs as deceased relatives.

Just before the blast, the children and teachers pray together.

In the explosion, none of the children or teachers are killed, though both perpetrators are killed. The children report that the people in white were standing in a circle around the bomb.

Although the bomb was packed with shrapnel and all the walls were pock marked by the missiles after the explosion, no one was hit by the shrapnel.

One teacher was shot while hurrying the children out of the room. Paramedics said that if the bullet had been a half inch nearer his spine, he would have been either paralysed or killed outright. As it was, he was back to work in three days.

One child suffered third degree burns to her face. The prognosis was for severe scarring and disfigurement. Nonetheless, scar tissue never formed and the burns healed quickly, finally leaving no evidence at all of the burn.

We all know the details of most mass killings, but we hear little of this mass miracle.

I wonder why.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Play Ball!

We were playing softball at the intersection of 28th and Salmon. My dad was there, and my uncle, Ed, and my brother, and my cousin, David. The women were inside the house. They were not interested in baseball. There was not much traffic in those days, not enough to seriously interrupt a game, but whenever a car did appear, my uncle would call out "C-A-R - car!", and we would all move dutifully to the sidewalk. Home base was the corner where my house stood, and the pitcher's mound was the sewer cover at the center of the intersection. From their duplex kitty corner from home base, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson could be seen peering out from behind their curtained window. They did not care for baseball either, perhaps because my brother had once broken the window with an unusually mighty swing of the bat. Bam! Glass shattering. "Roger Maris!" he yelled. But that ball was ruled a foul, on account of the broken window, and had ended the game that day. But now, with my father there, and my uncle, we felt safe from windows and Hendersons, and played through the long afternoon. On the corner to the left of home base was Mr. Mueke's house. Mr. Mucus, we called him. He was very old and German and spoke with a heavy German accent, and we were pretty sure he was an ex Nazi, hiding out in post war Portland. He had two German Shepherds who ran up and down the length of his chainlink fence and we were pretty sure they were ex Nazis too. Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a black and white police car showed up. The officer parked on the pitcher's mound and got out. He stood there talking to my dad, kicking the toes of his shoes on the pavement. They nodded and talked, glancing from time to time toward the Henderson's window. It was determined at last that there was no law against playing baseball. "Not that I know of, anyway," the officer said. He climbed the stairs to the Henderson's house to tell them the same, then returned to his car, waved and drove away. Mr. and Mr. Henderson closed their curtains. "Play ball!" my uncle shouted, just loud enough to be sure he'd been heard. Mrs. Mueke watered the flowers in her yard. She smiled from behind the fence. She was unable, my mother once told us, to have children, and we should always take care to be nice. The German Shepherds ran up and down the length of the fence. And the sun dipped low and at last rolled over the top of 27th Avenue, and we were called in for dinner. Game over for the day, but tomorrow seemed already pressing at the horizon. It was always that way when I was ten.

The Tree

Last night, I climbed a tall maple tree. I was asleep at the time, of course, for otherwise I wouldn't have been able to climb it, at my age. Nonetheless, I had climbed this tree many times before, and sat in the crotch of the last thick limbs before the final branches and leaves touched the sky. The tree was the first in a row of four and stood on the northern corner of 28th and Salmon Street. You had to jump for the first low limb and swing your leg over, then stand on that limb and shimmy up the trunk till you reached the next limb. The higher you climbed, the closer the limbs were, but the higher you went, the thinner they became. At last, you found yourself higher than the second story of the house, our house, and you could sit where the last branching of the trunk made a seat and look down over the houses and streets, sidewalks, yards, fences and gardens and lack nothing from the perspective of a robin or a bumblebee. How wonderful it was to climb a tree. How wonderful to reside as long as you wanted in the sky.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Circle

Interrupted Little Dorritt briefly to gulp down a novel called The Circle, by Dave Eggers - a Brave New World for our time, and quite chilling in its view of the internet age, the datafication of our daily lives, the usurption of ideas by the platitudes of the social networks and, finally, man's long sought enthronement in the place of God. It is a truly creepy narrative in the most telling sense, wherein we can't help, however reluctantly, but recognize ourselves. No monsters, no demons, no aliens - just us. A highly compelling, highly readable classic of modern fiction.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Siyotanka Music

Siyotanka Music
A short story

In the yard, Lila pinned up laundry with her mother. There was a wicker basket on the grass beneath the clotheslines, and both Lila and her mother moved back and forth between the basket and the hanging sheets and shirts and trousers like tired bitter, sullen ghosts.

Ghosts, Lila’s grandfather had once told her, are people who no longer understand living. They are people who do not understand they have died.

The afternoon heat was blistering, unbearable. The air was heavy with the smell of grass baking brown in the yard and of old paint sweating and cracking on the house fronts and of tar bubbling on roads where the sun struck hottest.

“It’s too hot to talk,” Lila’s mother said. “It’s too hot to make sense with you, Lila.”

She did not want to answer Lila’s questions. But Lila wanted answers. A straight answer might make her mother see straight. Even silence could be an answer, if it grew loud enough.

“He’s not like my father,” Lila said.


“He’s not like anyone’s father.”

“He’s not.”

Violet Raven took a white sheet from the top of the basket. A breeze came up, smoldering across the yellow grass, and wrapped her for a moment in the sheet. She waited for the material to fall away on its own. It was too hot to struggle.

“Help me with this,” she said.

Lila took one end of the sheet and walked away from her mother until the fabric pulled tight. They pinned it on the line together. Lila’s mother swayed briefly like a tall stalk of grass. The bags beneath her eyes were shiny with sweat, and the skin there was the color of old pennies. She wiped her brow with her forearm, then frowned at the damp sleeve of her blouse, disheartened.

“Better hang myself on this line, too,” she muttered.

“What do you mean by that?” Lila asked.

Lila’s mother glanced at Lila, shrugged one shoulder, dismissed both her own comment and her daughter’s response.

“Lester will be coming soon,” she said. “We’ll be going out to dinner at the casino tonight.

“Who’s we?” Lila challenged.

“We is we,” Violet said. “You and me and Lester. Who else?”

Lila’s mother returned to the basket, withdrew a pair of long, dark jeans and pinned the jeans on the line. All the laundry hung straight down. The trees by the street looked as flat and lifeless as cardboard scenery in a grade school play. Beyond the street was a grassless lot where  broken down cars cringed and sweltered. There was a Ford and a Chevy and an old humpbacked Dodge. Some of the windows had been shattered. The shards of glass hung  together like puzzle pieces and glowered with the reflection of the fuming sun. The hoods were open like great, gaping beaks, exposing cannibalized engines.

In the shade beneath the front fender of the Dodge, Lila could see Randy Smith. His friends called him ‘Wrench’. He knew how to fix things. He went to Lila’s high school. Randy’s shape in the shade was more suggestion than substance. It made Lila think of an animal in a cave. Not a bear, but something sleek and shrewd – a wolf, perhaps, or a coyote or a fox. His legs were stretched in the sun and they were as long and hard and straight and lovely as red-brown shafts of cedar.

“Help me,” Lila’s mother said again. She looked at Lila, then she glanced across the field.

“There’s that boy,” she said. “That Randy.”

Lila’s mother did not like Randy. He and his friends could be loud and foul, and they worked on their cars late at night. Besides, it was Randy, people said, who had gotten Amanda Choppunish pregnant and caused her to leave school in her senior year. She’d left the Reservation for ten days in the spring, and she came back married to a boy from Pendleton. The boy was not as handsome as Randy. He was short and thick and pimply faced and looked something like a dusty badger.

You looking at him?” Lila’s mother said. There was accusation in her tone of voice. She stared at Lila, waiting for an answer.

“You said it was too hot to talk,” Lila answered.

“Help me, then,” her mother said.

Lila picked up a piece of clothing and went to the line. Again, she and her mother drifted like ghosts, bleakly devoted to the tired day. A second rare breeze hushed down from the hills, and a blouse belonging to Lila swelled out in front of Violet like a maternity gown. Lila breathed in, and the hot air stung her nostrils. She imagined that she could divine, on the breath of the wind, the scent of every person, every building, every house and tavern throughout the town. She could pluck he scents from the wind like petals and thorns from a single rose bush. She could even smell the chalky dirt and rusty ridge rock on the hills to the north, where Amanda Choppunish had lived, and the scent was like sand and gravel and broken glass.

Lila paused by the basket and gazed Into the field. She could see only parts of Randy and had to imagine the rest. That was like everything else in her life. In the dark, Lila thought, you can strike a match, and the glow will afford a jealous moment of guidance. But you will still not know the rest of the world all around. And that’s where the most important things live. In places where people cannot see clearly.

Lila’s mother stood behind her. She touched Lila’s shoulder. Lila jumped.

“That boy is no good,” she said.

“Neither is Lester,” Lila answered automatically.

She could sense the stiffening of her mother’s body.

“You’re defending him!” she accused, cocking her chin sharply toward the field.

“I’m not defending anyone,” Lila answered calmly. “I thought we were talking about Lester.”

“What’s there to talk about?”

“I don’t want him here.”

“Lila,” her mother began.

“It’s not just me,” Lila pressed. “ Grandfather didn’t like him, either. He would never have let you bring him here.”

Violet Raven’s face froze. Her lips, pressed together, were pale, almost white, as if all the blood had drained from them like pigment from leaves in autumn.

“It’s easy to speak for the dead,” she told Lila. “You can have them say whatever you like.”

“But it’s true,” Lila insisted. She wished above all that her grandfather could speak. She wished he were here to help her.

“What’s true,” her mother said.

It was a statement, not a question.

She turned her back and walked away. This time, Lila pursued.

“You can’t tell me why you’re doing this,” she said, catching the sleeve of her mother’s blouse – repelled as she touched the fabric, so close to touching her skin, yet intent on stopping her, making her see. “You’re only doing it because you’ve nothing better to do. You’re only doing it because it’s convenient.”

Lila’s mother stopped. She turned around and placed her hands on her hips. Then she answered Lila’s question.

“Men are such bastards,” she said. “That’s why I’m marrying Lester, Lila. He’s the only man I’ve known in ten years who isn’t a total bastard.”

Instantly, Lila backed up. If she could move quickly enough, she thought, she could escape her mother’s words. Lila hated those kinds of words. But she did not move any further. Instead, she glared at her mother, trying to keep the hurt from her eyes by making them hard and hot and dry. Lila concentrated with all her spirit, trying not to show anything.

“I’m sorry,” her mother said. She shook her head, and her arms drifted back to her sides, suddenly as limp as the hanging laundry. She was very tired. She had been drinking again last night. It showed on her face. She and Lester had been drinking.

“I’m going in,” Lila said flatly.

“We’re not done here,” her mother answered, nodding toward the basket of laundry. “I’m sorry, but you’re old enough to know,” she said. “You’re fourteen, Lila. You’re old enough to know.”

For a long moment their eyes stayed locked together. Then Lila’s mother broke away and returned to the basket. In the distance, beyond her mother’s bent shoulders, Lila could see Randy walking between the cars in the field. He came into her hard, cold gaze like a long, sleek buck in the cross hairs of a rifle. His legs and arms glowed with a light film of sweat, and the muscles stood out in sculpted curves which Lila could not help but find fascinating in a strange, unwilling, uneasy way. She could not remove her eyes from the boy.

“What do you want me to do?” Violet Raven asked.

Lila’s attention returned to her mother. She had taken some of Lila’s underclothes from the basket.

“Don’t pin mine up there,” Lila said, a note of panic leaping into her voice as she glanced again at the field. “I can fix it myself in my room,”she added.

Her mother laughed. Just a short “ha”. She pinned a pair of Lila’s underwear on the line. Then she pinned up two bras. They hung straight down. Tiny, pink, disturbing.

Quickly, Lila turned and retreated to the house. She went to her room and shut the door tight, then sat in a chair by the window. She glared at her mother until her eyes began to sting, but her mother did not look  even once at the window. It was hotter in the room than it was outside. The close air throbbed with Lila’s thoughts.

In the field, Randy had hoisted himself onto the fender of the Ford. He seemed to be looking directly at Lila. His legs were swinging slowly and his bare heels thumped on the metal, producing a hollow, rhythmless drumbeat, like something knocking, unseen, in a fitful breeze. There was a radio propped on the fender, too. The music was tinny, almost tuneless, strange in the distance. One strain of melody chased the next in the wide open space. It made you want to listen. It made you want to get up and get close and make the song whole and clear in your mind.

Like Siyotanka music, Lila thought.

That was something her grandfather told her about. In her lifetime he had told her many stories, and Lila remembered every one because she had loved him very much. Stories travel on the wind, he’d said. Like pollen in spring. All a person needs to do is listen.

A Siyotanka is a flute made of cedar. It is used only for one sort of music. Love music. It is shaped and painted like a bird, with a wide open beak at the end, and the sound it makes is strange and mournful, like the moaning of a ghost – sad, fearful, hopeful, yearning. No woman, it was said, could resist the music. A man would play, and the woman of his choice would rise and walk. Her head would fight back, saying, “ Stop, go slow,” but her feet would say “Faster, faster.” In the end, the music always prevailed. The flute did all the talking.

That was Siyotanka music.

Lila’s view was disrupted by a red truck on the road. Lester had arrived. Lila’s mother dropped the laundry and met him in the driveway. He parked there as if he lived in the house. They kissed and then came Inside together. Lila could hear them talking and laughing, sitting together on stools in the kitchen. Outside, the radio still whined and wailed, and Randy’s feet drummed on the metal. From the highway above the town came a persistent humming of hydraulic machinery. Men were making something in the hills.

Lila got up and removed her blouse and put on a new one, dry and crisp.

“Lila?” her mother called from the kitchen.

She sat on the bed and pulled on her sandals. Then she went to the mirror and tugged a brush through her short, damp mop of hair.

“Come on, we’re going,” her mother called. Lester said something, too. There were footsteps at the front of the house, and laughter again, and music from the field.

Lila picked up her purse and opened the door. She walked quietly through the hallway to the back of the house and stepped out the door into the long, brittle grass. Then she moved swiftly to the gate in the fence. Grasshoppers flew up about her ankles.

Stop, feet, stop. Run, feet, run.