Thursday, March 30, 2017


So the little girl who lives in the house behind our house has learned to scream. This has become her main mode of communicating with her parents and with her sibling (the boy who despises bathing). She screams when she's excited, screams when she's happy, screams when she's angry, screams when she brushes her teeth or gets up in the morning or goes to bed at night. Like the puppy who finds the squeaker inside the squeaker toy, this girl has found her screamer, and boy is she gonna use it. One hopes, for her future husband's sake, that she will eventually unfind her screamer. For my own sake, I hope she will do so in the much shorter term.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hope Beyond Illness

For the MS folks out there, this is from Shulamit Lando, whose book, Hope Beyond Illness, I reviewed some time back.

"I have some news I want to share with you!
I am so excited to let you know that I am launching HOPE BEYOND ILLNESS – A Guide to Living WELL with a Chronic Condition again but now in its revised and expanded 2nd edition and is now INTERACTIVE - You read, you watch videos and you listen to audios of me and other experts explaining and teaching the tips I share there to better deal with the cards you're dealt. This reading experience is so much more dynamic and fun!"

Silence, More or Less

All quiet on Nyepi Day. Well, almost. Several people online have mentioned the presence of operatic roosters in various neighborhoods, and this would include mine. It's just one rooster, mind you, but a very vocal one, just behind the house that is just behind mine. Up to this moment, the neighborhood dogs have had nothing whatsoever to say, although one has now decided to give a long, rather repetitive speech, noting, I suspect, that silence makes for a captive audience. I just don't know why he has to say the same thing over and over again. Typical politician. I do not doubt, however, that this dog is being truthful (which is more than I can say for many of our human representatives). Biznet seems to have lied about ... well, about Biznet. It had been announced that there would be no internet service on Nyepi, but the fact is that it's actually working better than usual. Maybe they couldn't figure out how to turn themselves off. (Where's the off switch, Ketut? Holy cow, where IS the off switch, Nyoman?). Anyway, I'm rather enjoying this Nyepi Day, so far. The thing that would make it even better is that if a person (me, for instance) could go outside and walk around - just kind of bask in the silence, the stillness, the motion of nature. After all, silence in my house is the norm. The loudest thing in my house is the kids in the house behind my house.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nyepi Eve

Just headed into Nyepi Day on Bali, which begins, for all practical purposes, when I go to bed tonight. After lights out, there will be no more lights until 6 am the day after tomorrow. No lights, no noise, no going out of the house. I do hear definitely, as well, that our internet provider will be out of service ... so, no internet. 

Tonight there will be a number of Ogoh-Ogoh parades. These are floats generally in the form of grotesque evil spirits which are paraded through each village with the goal of driving out the "real" evil spirits, thus cleansing the upcoming day of silence. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Well, we're coming up again on Nyepi Day in Bali. I think I write something similar to this every year. It is not a day that I look forward to, any more than I look forward to cabin fever. It's a day that I get through. That said, I hear that there are people who actually come to Bali especially for Nyepi, the day of silence and meditation.  

Nyepi is a Balinese "Day of Silence" that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to the Balinese calendar. It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. Nyepi, a public holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New Year's Day.[1][2] On this day, the youth of Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan or 'The Kissing Ritual' to celebrate the new year. The same day celebrated in India as ugadi.

Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection, and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are no electricity in the form of lights, televisions, computers, machinery and so on; no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and, for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali's usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents and tourists are not exempt from the restrictions. Although they are free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles responding to life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.

So, as pointed out in the article, everyone in Bali must observe Nyepi whether they like it or not, whether they are Hindu or not, and so on. For me, this means stocking up and videos and snacks (and candles) before the day strikes. I do hear, however, that this year the Internet will be turned off as well, which will mean no videos, since my laptop has no disk drive (I watch online these days). So I may just end up hibernating like a bear. 

As usual, my wife is out of Bali on this day. Curious that. Coincidence? I think that, in the last six years, she has only been here for one Nyepi. But that's okay. She doesn't do well with silence and meditation. Or sitting still. Best for all that she will be in Java till the day after. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Had the pleasure yesterday of meeting for coffee with my old friend and neighbor, Vyt Karazija. Originally from Lithuania, Vyt spent most of his life as an Australian and has lived in Bali for about 7 years. I knew him online before he moved here to Renon, to the house next door to mine, and got to know him much better during the two years we were neighbors. We would disagree about many things, especially religion, but always with civility and a sense of humor. He is a uniquely intelligent man, which is something I respect, as well as sharp witted and funny as hell. Vyt saved my bacon several times in those two years, most notably when I locked myself into the bathroom and when I locked myself out of the house. On the one occasion, he was able to free me, while on the other, he was able to assist in getting me back into the house. So, as I think I've said here before, I will need to be very careful about which doors I close behind me now that Vyt is on the other side of Denpasar.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I am currently revisiting the idea that exercise might be helpful for the wacky muscles in my neck and shoulder. I tried this before, and the trouble with it is that it hurts. Bad. And yet, I keep thinking that these muscles, which apparently due to nerve destruction have stopped functioning normally, need to be strengthened and retrained so that they can re exert control over my skeleton and joints in the area. Make sense?  Well, who knows. There is that old saying, "No pain, no gain". Then again, there is the common wisdom that tells us that if it hurts, stop doing it! Anyway, I'll try to stick with it for a few days and dry to gauge whether anything other than pain is resulting. I am really just so tired of this problem, which has persisted more than 7 months now. I keep thinking that there must be something proactive that I can do in order to aid the thing in resolving. 

Monday, March 20, 2017


Heard a puppy making a godawful fuss just up the street this morning, crying and yelping and squealing. Went to investigate and found that the poor little guy had gotten his fat little self stuck half inside and half outside the driveway gate. Couldn't go forward, couldn't go backward. There must be some kind of general life lesson in this, I reckon. Anyway, I unstuck the poor guy by gently pushing one shoulder first, then the other back through the gate. Now he knows. I'll expect to see him at my door before long.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Always quite the experience to get stuck in the rain here in Bali, and not that difficult to accomplish, either. The thing is, it can look like rain for hours on end, even days on end, such that one gets lolled into this sense of the storm being forever deferred, forever impending. The clouds raise great purple fists but seem only to play at sluggish shadow boxing, buffeting one another, but leaving we small creatures below free of harm. The humidity builds and builds, until the air seems pressed to the point of boiling - and then, at last, the clenched fists connect and the tense veneer between earth and sky dissolves in a sudden flood of waters. This is usually arranged by the gods to occur during the time period which will find me on my motorbike between dry point A and dry point B. Every motorbike driver here carries a quite useless rain proof smock in the seat compartment - useless because by the time you pull over, dismount, and open the seat, you have already taken the equivalent of several showers. One may as well bring along a bar of soap rather than the smock, being of more reasonable use for bathing, or for laundering ones clothing. Of course, as soon as you get to your destination, the rain abruptly ceases, again by order of the gods. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Just back from Kuala Lumpur. My third trip there, and always a beautiful city. Just a short jaunt to renew my visa as a foreign resident in Indonesia - a bureaucratic goose chase designed to put money in some folks pockets and extract it from mine. But anyway, a good enough reason for a short vacation in this cosmopolitan city of architectural wonders.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Invasion of the Brain Snatchers, Part 2

Well, I'll be damned if I didn't do it again. Having come to understand that the 10th of March had been significant only in my own mind - that my wife had never said she was coming home on the 10th, and had never intended to do so - the 11th of March proceeded straightaway to burrow into my concept of reality, quite as much without justification or source as had the 10th. 

Therefore, I awoke early this morning, alone again in the house, and wondered instantly what could have happened. Something was seriously amiss. Panic crept up.

So I sent a message to my wife. No answer. I called her number. No answer.

Perhaps she had stayed over in a hotel upon arriving in Bali. Or perhaps she and her friends had stayed out very late and were now catching a bite to eat. Or, of course, the plane may have crashed. Or the taxi. Or her friends. 

While turning these things over in my head, I somehow missed a return call from my wife. Where was I when the phone rang? I don't know. I was busy thinking. 

So I return her return call. 

Where are you? 

In my hotel room. Just got up. 

Your hotel room? 


But why would you stay in a hotel? 

Where else would I stay? 

Now, I'm just about to suggest that perhaps her own house would have been appropriate, the one where we live in Bali, twenty minutes or so from the airport, when a little light goes on in my head. Let's call it consciousness. 

Umm ... (I don't know how to ask this question without appearing ridiculous). Are you in Sydney?

Well, of course she is in Sydney. That is why she is not here in the house. The reason she is not in Bali is that she is in Sydney. And the reason she didn't come home on the 11th is that she never said she was coming home on the 11th. She has no plane tickets for the 11th. My brain said she was coming home on the 11th. My brain made up its own mind about that. Just as it had with the 10th. 

What the hell?

Fake news. Alternate facts. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Dark Man

I remember how my mother, after she got Alzheimer's, used to write her name over and over. Vernabel. Vernabel Boughton. Verne Boughton. She had a notebook in the drawer of her bedside table, and she had filled pages in that notebook with her name. That was at the beginning, before she forgot altogether how to write. She must have felt herself slipping away, must have thought that practice, that documentation might solidify her existence. Later on, when she could still speak, she changed my name to Preston, who was her brother. I became, in her mind, either Preston, or just some guy who worked in the house, like a medical assistant. She had no idea who Richard was. And ultimately, I gave up trying to explain it to her. Later on, she would talk about a man behind the curtain, just at the other side of the bedroom. He was tall and dark and she was afraid of him. Come to think of it, so was I.

Invasion of the Brain Snatchers

Here's what happens. Somewhere along the way, a foreign, unfounded conviction drops into your mind, and, like a dot of food coloring in a glass of water, instantly changes the character of the whole. What you know has suddenly become founded on a falsehood which, nonetheless, has come to color everything that you know.

For example, it had entered my mind, having fallen from somewhere in the dark reaches of the universe, that my wife was coming home from Australia on the 10th of March. Where this conviction had come from, I do not now know; nor did I question the notion, once it had infiltrated, even for a moment - for it had instantly become fact, just as the clear water instantly becomes colored.

It was with some consternation, therefore, that I awoke at around 4:30 in the morning and found myself alone in bed.Had she missed the plane? Had the plane crashed? Had her taxi crashed? Had she run off with a boyfriend?

So I sent a message.

Where are you?

A few moments pass.

I am in Sydney.

Which was actually where she was supposed to be. Because no one ever said anything about the 10th. No one but me, that is.

Similarly, in a reverse sort of way, I had wanted to know earlier what time I was to pick her up at the airport. She was, after all, coming home on the 10th (NOT), but she hadn't bothered to tell me what time - which seemed a bit inconsiderate.

My friends are picking me up, she said. We talked about this before.

No recollection of that.

You said 'Good', because you wouldn't have to drive out to the airport late at night.
Some things drop in. Some fall out. What's left?

Fake news.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Just a Little Piece of Something

I had been talking to a black girl at the bar, who called herself Yellow, but whose real name was Cat, supposedly, or Kat, or maybe Katrina, and yet I found myself now at a table of Filipinos (and Filipinas), because it was Asian Night at this particular nightclub (although Cat, the black girl, was always there).

Really, there was no ‘official’ sort of ‘Asian Night’. Things just turned out that way. Everyone knew that Thursday night was Asian Night, and Tuesday Night was black night. But, again, Cat was there almost every night.

The last thing I remembered about Cat was that she had spilled three drinks, one after another. She had asked me to buy her one. It turned out to be three. Is that why I had ended up at the Filipino table? Because Cat had become too expensive? I had known her for quite a long time – as time goes in the bar scene, anyway. Let’s say three months or so. But that’s about all. I really didn’t know anything else about her. Except that she seemed hilariously sad, and sometimes painfully angry.

Sometimes Cat would call me up at my apartment in the middle of the day. Who knows why? She would say Hi. What you doin? And I could hear a washing machine running in the background and sometimes a baby crying. She would say Are you coming out tonight? Which made it sound almost like a date, but it was never a date, never like that. We just met up if we happened to both be there, and we would sit together at the bar, just because. The only thing we had in common was a preference for vodka. And we were both divorced. Several times over. But neither of us cared about that anymore. Not in public, anyway. We never sat around and talked about someone else’s old times and past hurts. We didn’t really talk at all.

So, it’s not like she’d be angry if I ended up with the Filipinos.  Or rather, the Filipinas.

Come to think of it, I had danced with one of the girls. That was it. A petite girl with very nice white teeth and long black hair and high heels that somehow failed to make her any taller, which was fine by me. Her name was . . .

Well, never mind. It didn’t seem to matter. What I wanted, having found myself at the Filipino table with whats-her-name, two other girls and two other guys, was to get her phone number. She seemed like a really nice girl. 


Last night, I had myself a little campfire in the back yard. I found it distinctly pleasant. It may not have seemed so to the neighbors, whose vented stone wall borders the back of our yard, but hey, we listen to their kids screaming most of the day, and the adults singing (after a fashion), and showering, and vomiting while showering (a curious, inexplicable and less than pleasant habit), so I reckon they can put up with a little smoke sneaking through their vents. Well, maybe more than a little.

There's nothing so cozy as a campfire, the dancing of the flames, the swirling smoke as it interprets the mood of the breeze, the breath of the night, the scent of energy as it transforms its object. I can sit back in my lawn chair (thanks to Vyt Karazija) and just rest in the winking of the firelight, close my eyes, disappear, appear elsewhere, worlds and decades away, still in my boots, wet to my waist, a hot, black coffee at my side and my fishing basket on the table, bearing a catch of worthy brook trout and rainbow and kokanee, tomorrow's breakfast. I can close my eyes and see the slow waltz of the flames from behind my eyelids and hear the lapping of the lake on its shore as the wind picks up, exciting the smoke, sharpening every scent. I hear the metallic clunk of a pan somewhere across the water, soft voices, soft laughter, the dipping of oars in still, dark water as someone else comes home. A lantern lit on the shore, moving among the rocks where the boat will land. The fire dies down. The deep of night descends. A chill touches the tips of the grasses in the meadow, and deer emerge silently from their secret places at the verge of the boundless forest.

The Daily Dose

Rough day for motorbikes. Everyone seems to be wearing a target, such that driving is sort of a dark comedy of near misses. Or hits, in one case. Saw what looked to be a pretty serious accident on my way to Kimia pharmacy. Two bikes, one guy lying on the road, moving but not getting up. About 300 bystanders, of course, 200 of whom helped moved the bikes of the street.
After a coffee at Starbucks, I returned to my bike to face the fairly common struggle of trying to pry it from its parking spot. It looked like a pretty good spot when I left it, but these people have a special talent for turning a parking lot into a wrecking yard The parking attendant, a particularly scrawny little guy, came to help me extract the bike, but between the two of us - I with a very sore shoulder and back, he with his pretzel-like arms, had a rather challenging time trying to lift several 250 pound Hondas.
Sometimes a coffee is hardly worth the trouble, as now, back home, my neck and shoulder hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.


    Sometimes I see strange things. A couple weeks ago, I saw my stepson, Preston, walking through the front room toward the back door. He was there only a couple of seconds, but quite clearly there. It would be difficult to miss Preston, as he is 6 feet 6 inches in height and built like a railroad station. In "common reality", I haven't seen Preston in at least six years. I used to talk to him on Facebook occasionally, but he seems to have disappeared from that venue. Today, jus...t now, I saw him again - same place, moving in the same direction. Very strange. One tends to think, when these sorts of things happen, that something is somehow wrong. So I tried to contact Preston after the first event, but I have not heard back from him. As I've said, he seems to have disappeared from Facebook, and, other than that, all I have is an email address that has rarely been our mode of communicating. Hmm. I wish he would drop me a quick note, at least.


Caught two rats last night, one very small and one very large. The latter rat was as large as the trap itself - one of these sticky box traps, you know. Why these seem to be considered more humane than the classic snap and break their neck traps, I do not know. I mean, here's this poor, ugly, disgusting, giant rat struggling in a quagmire of glue most the night long, terrified and exhausted, I'm sure. I reckon the thing must have lost perhaps 10 pounds through its nightlong trial of futile escape attempts. By the time I found him and shut the trap, thus snuffing out his life, he had shrunk to the size of a poodle from all his struggles. Sad. But not too sad; for, if you can believe it, this guy actually got a package of Sozzis treats down off the top of the microwave - treats which I keep here for the big fat brown dog - and ate them, wrapping and all. And, in my book, that's going too far. And the big fat brown dog agrees. Of course, I discover now that they've been in the silverware drawer again, and this does not inspire sympathy either. Who's gonna wash all those utensils? Them? Fat chance.


Inside the Starbucks at Level 21, a woman is taking pictures of herself. Selfies. Not one, but many. Hoping to capture herself in just the right mood. That shot that will say just who she is, just this moment. She angles her i-Phone just so, tilts her head, tries again, seeks something both familiar and new. Every moment is a beginning, and every moment is a brief history. This is the day that the Lord has made, falling ever just short of perfection.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Okay, so he had made a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake. You don’t have to be old to make a mistake. You can be young and still make a mistake. The only difference is that no one stands around bitching about it and telling you how stupid you are and how you could have burned down the whole damn house and then goes on and on about it like you can’t hear or comprehend or put two-and-damn-two together anymore. It was just a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.

Popcorn. That’s all it was. Or all he meant it to be, anyway. He had a taste for popcorn. Not this dry, super salty shit in a microwave bag that they sell nowadays, but popcorn, real popcorn, the way his mother used to make it. You put some butter in the bottom of a skillet, you heat it up, you pour in just enough of the un-popped kernels to cover the bottom of the pan, and then clamp on a lid before the fireworks start. It’s fun, and it tastes better, and you can salt it to taste and butter it to taste. And then you have something – something you’ve made yourself – something that took some care – and you can pour it in a bowl big enough for everyone and get a coke and go sit down and watch your movie or the TV or whatever the hell.

The point is, he didn’t mean to forget about the damn popcorn! Who puts popcorn on to pop and then purposely decides to forget about it? Talk about stupid. Who’s the stupid one here?

And so this is what had driven him to the end of his rope. Popcorn. He walked out the door, along with the smoke, both of them billowing angrily, and slammed the door behind him even as she, still quacking unending complaints – I cannot believe it! What were you thinking! – threw open windows, dramatically tore back the damn sashes and all that, and announced everything to everyone in the whole damn neighborhood; and moreover, yes, moreover, let the snow come blowing in through every possible entry.

Now, how stupid is that?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Way Things Are

Most of us quickly get used to a certain process in our lives where our health is concerned. From childhood on, there is this common, reliable pattern: We become ill and then we regain our health. That's just the way it works. It's always that way. You get the flu, you suffer for some days, and then you get well again. You break a bone, and then you need to nurse the injury for a while, but before you know it, the thing is only a memory. Renewal, for the majority of people, is simply a given, and you do not doubt that renewal will always proceed from injury.

Until it doesn't, that is. 

With a disease like multiple sclerosis, one finds himself facing a new order, a new reality. Or, rather, one finds himself not facing it, because it is not in harmony with the order one knows so well as part of the experience of his life. Now things have changed. Something happens and one automatically awaits resolution, renewal. But the days drag on, then the months, and you finally realize that this disease, this reality, is not behaving in accordance with what you have always experienced in the past. Your foot goes numb, it stays numb. Your hand goes numb, it stays numb. You become confused. You stay confused. There is no restoration. There is no pill to fix the thing. There is no operation. There is no therapy that will undo the deficit. 

This is a very hard thing to learn. It is not something one wants to learn. In fact, it has taken me seven months to acknowledge that the aching and stiffness in my neck and right shoulder blade is not going to be coaxed away with medicine or exercise or massage or meditation or even with time. It is permanent. Even now, that is a very hard word to say, for it is so ... well, so permanent. It is hard, very hard indeed, to release the hope that you will heal, that you will return to the status quo, that what you're facing now is not a matter of injury, but of destruction. This is the disease, MS. 

You build around what is left. Curing is no longer in the cards. Coping is what remains. 

Silent Wife

The publisher of A.S.A. Harrison's novel, Silent Wife, seems to have thought that touting it as somehow "like" Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl would be a good selling point. And it probably was. But that's really as far as the 'point' goes, unless it can be said that any novel about the dissolution of a marriage is like every other novel about the dissolution of a marriage. Which, of course, it can't. Given the expectations conveyed in the advertisement, it is not surprising that quite a number of readers, apparently, came away disappointed. They had expected to read Gone Girl again, but found themselves wrestling with a very different creature instead.

Silent Wife is a deep study of the nature of men and women, the expectations that the genders bring to love and marriage, their response to infidelity, their differing capacities for both love and outrage. It is a study, also, of the deeply ingrained foundations of character strengths and weaknesses that each participant brings to the marriage. In some sense, the thing is a settled matter before it even gets started - settled long ago in the essential events of childhood. For each couple, according to the nature of gender expectations, the mythologies in force, there exists a fair playing field, with mutually recognized boundaries, upon which the relationship may proceed without fatal injury. The field is wide, the options are many; and yet there are certain lines which, when crossed, constitute an unforgivable transgression - both of the marriage contract and of the safe boundaries of the individual psyche.

I have rarely found myself so immersed in a story, so involved - such that I felt that I knew the characters personally and, over time, more and more completely, and was taking part in their personal drama. Like the title, it is all "quietly", and very artfully accomplished. Ultimately, one knows what the characters will do because he has learned who they are as individuals.

Sadly, Ms. Harrison passed away while at work on a second novel, and so Silent Wife must remain a standalone experience. Happily, however, the novel easily bears the depth to be read again in the future.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Good Night

I was feeling astounded this evening at how quickly time seems to pass these days. Or, I may as well not say "seems to", because it simply does. Here it is 8:30 pm already, and I very clearly remember getting out of bed this morning, perhaps a half hour ago. How can it be? It was not 12 hours ago. Certainly not. Could not have been. I remember waking up, getting out of bed, making a cup of coffee. My God, I just got done drinking the thing. I swear it! 

So I decided to investigate. Easy to do with Google at one's fingertips. Everything is on Google. Including explanations for why time seems to pass more quickly as one grows older. 

But I didn't buy the explanations.  It's all about perception, and activity, and this old cliche about time flying if you're having fun. 

Bah. That's not it at all. Quite simply, the hours in my life, the hours of my personal existence, are passing faster than other hours. They are certainly passing faster than the hours I used to be acquainted with. And because of this, let me tell you, I can't get a damn thing done! I awake with certain plans, I awake with definite intentions, but then suddenly it is nighttime, and the day has not given me a fair chance to get started. How frustrating is that? 

Or here's a thought ... Could it be that I have simply forgotten what I've done, or spent a significant amount of time forgetting to remember what I was doing? How can I say, if indeed I have forgotten the thing? Have the hours passed quickly because they have simply dropped out of my memory. That is, they may have passed quite appropriately, time-wise, but, having dropped out of recollection, they need not have passed at all, for all practical purposes. The reason they went quickly is that they did not go at all, for they did not exist (again, for all practical purposes). 

Well, it bears further examination. It is an engaging question (though, as I must admit, I may soon forget the matter). It is, after all, bedtime, and I'm tired, even though I just got up.


Took a walk down at Mertesari Beach this morning, but a short one, as it was just too damn hot. 31C, which becomes 39C with humidity factored in, which translates to 102.2F. So, yeah ... hot. 

Overall, though, this is really my favorite beach on the Sanur oceanfront. A good place to swim. Wish I would have had my trunks along!

Mertesari is the last beach to the west in Sanur. It is not nearly as built-up as the beaches before it, although things are changing quickly. In just the last six years, new hotel properties have sprung up all along the Sanur oceanfront, and a new one was built at Mertesari last year. It is well back from the beach, however, and so fairly unobtrusive. Otherwise, the beach at Mertesari retains much of the original character of the place, with an open, unobstructed beachfront, brightly painted catamarans bobbing at anchor, small open-air shops and warungs (local food stalls) dotting the sandy pathway, which can be followed all the way to the east end of Sanur, if you have more energy than I, and which ends just after Mertesari in the rich growth of an estuary, which itself extends all the way to Serangan Beach, perhaps 7 miles further to the west.   

Mertesari seems the favorite spot of the locals as well, who gather there every Sunday for a swim and a picnic. For them - many of whom work in some way with the tourist industry in Sanur - it's a good way to get away from the Bules (foreigners) and gather with family members or friends. And I don't blame em a bit. I like to get away from the Bules, too :) At Mertesari, one can find a more restful experience, a quieter, less crowded experience (in fact, you might find yourself practically alone on the beach), and a cheaper one to boot, as the warung prices for food and drink outside the tourist hot spots are far less expensive. You can get a nice plate of fried rice, for instance, for Rupiah 15000 (about a buck ten US, and a nice Bali coffee for about 50 cents. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tender is the NIght

There is a 1986 miniseries version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Tender is the Night. I discovered it today on the 123movies site and tolerated a mere 15 minutes or so of the thing before logging out in disappointment. The actors are wrong, the dialogue is wrong, the delivery of the lines is wrong, the mood is wrong, the atmosphere is wrong, the screenplay is wrong, the focus is wrong. In short, it's just wrong. 

Tender is the Night, published in 1934, was Fitzgerald's 4th, and last complete novel. For me, the novel is far beyond his previous efforts, far beyond even The Great Gatsby, in its presentation of story, its perfection of style, the fullness of characters, the flow of the prose. It is, as Ernest Hemingway noted after Fitzgerald's death, so good that it's scary. One looks at the accomplishment and is in awe.

For me, this novel has settled in to some part of my person. It is like something that happened, a memory. It is either part of me, or I am part of it. And how in the word did Fitzgerald do that? 

I've read the darn thing four times now since somewhere in the early 1980s; and, coincidentally, may embark upon a fifth reading, having seen the book in the Gramedia store here. This in itself is actually a bit weird, as Gramedia pretty much sells only books in the Indonesian language, and books that are either by Indonesian authors or are translations of contemporary western bestsellers. This copy of Tender is the Night is in English and on a table apart from the other bookshelves. 

Perhaps it has followed me here. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Collateral Beauty

OMG, tearjerker alert. Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith. Funny thing - for most of my life, I have felt distinctly removed emotionally from things that I would watch. In my mind, I knew that a sad movie was sad, but it never translated to my heart, never resulted in tears. It was, after all, just a movie. But I must have become, in my old age, a real wus, because here I am weeping, tears running down my cheeks, glasses fogging up, I suppose that some would not find this movie so very sad, but for anyone who has suffered a severe loss, of any kind, this will really yank at the heartstrings. I have become so soft now; but not weak, I think. This is a softness that does not fear, that does not avoid, that has somehow forgotten how.

MS Buddy

I was recently invited by Casey Cronin at Healthline to take a look at their MS App, MS Buddy. I find it pretty nifty. One makes a simple profile for himself, along with "ice breaker" questions of interest, and then is assigned buddies who he can talk to about MS and MS issues. It is nice to be in contact with others who are facing the same problems, comforting to share information and questions, as well as offer advice and/or consolation involving problems which one may have faced himself. Given that I am a bit challenged when it comes to managing my own blog, I will post a permanent link to their site as soon as they send me the link information. Until then, perhaps this link will work to send you to the Apple site. MS Buddy is also available for Microsoft.


We have a particular idea about massages in Western countries. It goes something like this. You go to the neighborhood salon - Massage Envy, for instance. You are given a cup of warm green tea and ushered into your private room, where a cleanly made massage bed awaits. Soft, New Age music is playing and a faint aroma of perfumed oil is in the air. The masseuse, gender of choice, enters and begins to gently knead and rub your muscles, shoulders, back, legs, and so on. You close your eyes and sort of float with the music, aware of the muted swishing of pant legs and arm sleeves, and maybe you drift in and out of sleep.

Not so with the traditional Javanese massage, which is anything other than a relaxing experience. A person of unimportant gender, and shaped rather like a TV antenna, assaults you from the outset with uncommon ferocity, goring muscle and bone with iron-like digits, separating joints from sockets, searching out nerves with sinister expertise and exquisite effect, in the form of excruciating pain. In short, you know you have had a massage. Oh, have you. This is no game. This is dead serious business. And something is bound to result for better or worse, barring death (which, of course, would be catastrophic). 

And in the end, you are happy. It's a happy ending, so to speak. For you have survived, you have seen the thing through; and, moreover, you feel good, like something definite, something helpful has been accomplished. I must say that I was for one night quite without pain, and slept like a baby, or a log, or the dead - whichever can be considered the most restful among these.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Hard to believe that I'm still having this shoulder and neck problem seven months out from the original onset back on August 10th. As I've mentioned before, this began with a very intense pain in my shoulder blade, extending down my right arm and turning into numbness in the right hand. It has very gradually improved, but I would never have believed it would still be present after 7 months. It is now manifested as a general aching in my shoulder, a weakness in the arm, a stiffness in the neck, and a numbness in the right index finger. A combination of Neurontin and high dose methylprednisolone seems to help, but these are expensive, and so I try not to take them every day. 

While in Yogyakarta, it was decided that a massage might help. I use the term "massage" lightly, for this, as it turned out, was much more like getting the crap beat out of me for a period of about an hour. The westerner tends to think of a massage as a relaxing sort of activity, with the application of soothing oils and soft hands, a gentle kneading of the muscles, pleasant aromatherapy and maybe some quiet music. Not so on the island of Java. Rather, this is a violent, trying, frightful experience with some question of the likelihood of coming out alive on the other side. In short, it's serious business. This is not a pampering. It is a pounding. 

Nonetheless, I did actually feel significantly better when finally allowed to escape, and slept like a baby that night. As the days pass, the customary pain and stiffness returns little by little, and so it may be necessary to allow myself to be beat mercilessly on a regular basis. 


So, as you can see, I've at long last changed some of the images on my blog, plus I've begun to type in larger letters, so that I can see what I'm typing. I'll be adding a couple more new things in the next few days. 

Short Trip

Took a week long trip to the island of Java, the cities of Solo and Yogyakarta. I've been to Solo once before, but this was my first time to Yogyakarta. 

Katanya mati, my wife's aunt said about Solo. A dead town. As industry on the island of Java has changed over time, Solo has been left behind, somewhat like an Oregon logging town. It is a perfectly flat, drab sort of place, and yet strangely endearing, to me. Maybe it's the people. Maybe it's the slow pace.  Maybe it's just the rundown quality of the houses and buildings. I don't know. It just feels restful, cozy, worn, like an old shoe. The folks in Solo don't see a whole lot of bules, or white people, so one is accompanied by a bit of celebrity wherever he goes. People want to introduce themselves, smile, practice their English, or simply stare. Could that bald guy be Bruce Willis? They want to know who you are, where you're from, why you're there, and so on. 

Yogyakarta, on the other hand, is a larger city - the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta; busy and bustling, a university town and the seat of Dutch Colonial history. It's a sprawling city with wide roads crisscrossing at the center and spreading out to the periphery into ever narrowing avenues, ending in tendril-like alleys, or gangs, just wide enough for the passage of motorbikes. The city seems to have rusted and crumbled at the edges, ultimately chipping away into the verge of rice fields and lush riverbeds. Aside from the historical district, the place has the feeling of an endless strip mall, decidedly less than beautiful. But again, it is the people who make the difference - friendly, open, eager to interact.

I'm struck, upon returning to Bali, at how plain these places are in comparison. Once becomes accustomed to the lushness of Bali, the quaintness of the place, the abundance of scenery, from beaches to mountains to rolling rice tiers and exotic resorts. It does look rather like paradise after you're gone for a while. Then again, one of the most pleasant things about central Java is the cooler weather, with a brief rain every day in the afternoon. It is truly nice to be able to sit on the porch and read, for instance, without having to swim in your own sweat. If they could just somehow turn down the heat in Bali, just a bit, it would truly be a more complete paradise. 

Necessary Tasks

Well, I've arrived once again at that unpleasant time of year when everything comes due at once. I must reapply for yearly permission to reside as a foreigner in Indonesia, must negotiate with the landlord regarding whether he wants to continue to rent the house, and at what price, must renew the registration for my motorbike, and must renew my driver's permits for the car and the bike. It is a frustrating, tiring time of year -- frustrating because all these tasks are more simply said than done here in this land of bureaucratic confusion, and tiring because ... well, because of the same reason. To add an extra pinch of difficulty, it turns out that I must procure a new sponsor on the resident permission issue, as the one I had used for the last six years has now fashioned for himself a somewhat shady reputation -- a matter of no small effort in an already generally shady complex of red tape. This involves leaving the country, if only for a day, turning over a ream of papers and proofs to the new sponsor, then returning with said ream to the immigration office in Bali. To this end, we have planned a short trip to Kuala Lumpur. Upon returning, I will appear, once again, at the immigration office, have my photo taken (again), my fingerprints taken (again), and pay the fees (again). 

In the matter of our rental house, our landlord decided, as with every year, that he would need to raise the rent. When he called again regarding the matter, my wife explained that we would be moving.  Oh? Why? he said. Because you're raising the rent. Oh ... uh ... I changed my mind, he decided. 

So much for that. I really did not want to face moving house on top of everything else. 

The driver's licence renewal is just a matter of showing up at the motor vehicles office, somewhere out in kingdom come, along with a few thousand other folks, and rubbing shoulders for a couple hours in a space about the size of a closet, getting your picture taken, and paying the man hired to expedite the whole experience (such that it doesn't take more than one day). 

I hope to be a retired man of leisure again by April. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017


    I am told that there are many ghosts in the Yogyakarta Phoenix Hotel, and there probably should be, given that it was built long ago in 1918 as a private residence, was later sold and turned into an old folks home, was later occupied and administered by the Japanese Army, and, after the war, functioned under various names for various times right up to the present day, and yet I cannot say that I have seen a single ghost thus far in my stay. I'll keep my eyes peeled again tonight.