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.