Thursday, May 31, 2018


I was just about to write an article entitled "Ambien, and how I became a racist", but nah. It's just another marcher in the parade of absurdities that is known as America these days. It's exhausting, really, this constant head shaking, such that many of us have begun to resemble Parkinson's sufferers. No, no! It's not a disease. It's the news! Believe me. 

As far as Ambien goes, although it is sometimes prescribed as part of treatment of MS, in that it will help you sleep in the presence of pain or RLS, for instance, I have not, to my recollection, ever used it. Can't be sure, though. In the last ten years, I've tried a lot of different drugs, most of which have not been particularly effective. Let's see … Avonex, Copaxone, Baclofen, Provigil, Nuvigil, Paxil, Prozac, Neurontin, methylprednisolone, Dexamethasone, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Xanax, and … hmm, maybe a handful of others I have forgotten. Xanax, I guess, does the same job Ambien is intended to do, but without the racist side-effects, so I do fine with the Xanax.

And as far as Roseanne Barr goes, I had never seen her re-booted series, and wouldn't have wanted to in any case, as I did not care  for the first one (to put it mildly). The celebration of ignorance and bad attitudes seems to me neither interesting nor funny. Moreover, Roseanne's public persona always struck me as equally creepy to that of Tom Cruise or, well, Donald Trump. 

I see, by the way, that the maker of Ambien has now released a public statement rejecting Ms. Barr's assertions about the drug. Lol. As if ….     

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lost in Translation, Again

I was chatting with Adi at Starbucks this morning. Adi is working on his English and enjoys practicing it with me. We were just kind of randomly talking about this an that when he suddenly asked "Do you love me?" 


He repeated the question more slowly. "Do-you-love-me?"

"Do I love you?"

"No, me." 


"Ya, you know, da noodle." 

"Oh! Mie! Like Mie ayam, or Mie goreng, or Bakmi. The noodle!" 


Beach Chairs

I mentioned not long ago a beach in Sanur that is all but deserted except for perhaps 100 lounge chairs. This is where the Bali Hyatt used to be, but the hotel is now being renovated and a long steel wall stands between the beach and the hotel grounds. On the beach itself there are no restaurants nor warungs nor shops, nor even trees, and no people except for those bound for some other place.
So I thought to myself, Gosh, this would be a nice spot to take a swim and lie down on one of these 100 unoccupied chairs. Surely no one would mind.
Turns out that as soon as I took one dip and laid myself down on a chair, a dude shows up and says, "I am sorry to inform you, sir, that you must pay to sit in this chair."
"Oh, gitu."
"But dude, there's not a single fecker on this beach!"
"Maksudku, Pak, ada serratus kursi tapi hanya satu orang … yaitu saya." (I mean, there are a hundred chairs but only one person--namely me). 
"Ya. No people. But must pay."
"Well, for Christ's sake."
"So, is it okay if I sit right here on the sand instead, just beside this raggedy ass chair that's been here for at least 8 years?"
"Ya, oke. No pay kalua begitu."
"By the way, how much must I pay to sit in this chair?"
"Thirty thousand rupiah."
"For how long?"
"We close at 5."
"You close?"
"The beach?"
"And then what?"
"Then … no pay."


Monday, May 28, 2018


Memes are a pet peeve of mine--especially anti-religious memes. You know, those pompous little collections of clichés and platitudes masquerading as truth and wisdom? These are generally intolerant, bitter-seeming declarations which demonstrate most pointedly not the writer's intent, ironically enough, but a woeful absence of intellect and analytical acumen, a laughable ineptitude. Generally, the meme writer (and, by extension, his little army of re-posters on Facebook, Instagram et al) sets his own trap and then eagerly jumps in. 

Why do they post in the first place? I don't know. They seem angry, inclined to act out by belittling and insulting others, although what ends up appearing small and pitiful is the meme writer himself, for he so very clearly knows so very little about the subject he is addressing. 

Here is the particular meme I saw yesterday: 
What struck me instantly about this anti-religious meme is that it echoes, though the author will not have realized this, given his apparent lack of familiarity with scripture, the words of Jesus himself. This same judgment and rejection of the 'religious' powers of his time is seeded throughout the gospels. One need only read Matthew 25. Over and over, Jesus castigates the hypocritical actions and behavior of the ruling religious order, their self-styled representation of a God whom in fact they do not even know. Hate disguised as love? Yes indeed, for it was they, after all, who crucified love. And "fiction parading as fact"? Really? Isn't the meme writer's ignorance really what is on parade here--of the methods and structure of ancient literature, of parable, of numinous mythology, of ages of philosophical tradition? 

Most discussions of God and religion, as contemporary philosopher and theologian David Bennington Hart points out, have not even begun to touch on God and religion. They are superfluous noise, arguing one misapprehension against another while failing to touch meaningfully on the matter at hand.

The unfortunate thing about simple-minded memes is that they cater to lazy, simple-minded readers. In the political realm, we saw this very clearly during the recent American election--and we see now that the Russians understood and used the power of these memes to great effect. Critical thinking and intellectual discipline are being eroded by the ease of the blurb, the disguise of typeface and color and mere presence on the page, as easily consumed as marshmallows. But, of course, if one stuffs enough marshmallows in his mouth at the same time, he will surely choke to death. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

In a Mature Dog's Opinion

The big fat brown dog doesn't always accompany me on my morning walk. Sometimes she's tired. Sometimes she has better things to do. But when she does come along, she always makes the walk more eventful than usual. 

This morning, for instance, she started out by bothering a cow that was in the road. It appeared that the cow was headed toward a more bushy area than remains in her pasture, but the big far brown dog wouldn't get out of her way. The cow would make an attempt to get around her, but the dog continually interdicted the route, such that the cow finally gave up and plodded back to her pasture.

"Big Dog!" I scolded, "why are you bothering that poor cow?"

"Cows are not supposed to be in the road," she answered. "It's as simple as that. The road is for cars, the pasture is for cows." 

Okay then. 

Later on, we came upon a little black puppy who immediately ran over, jumping and wagging and smiling, to greet the big dog. This exuberant greeting was met with several growls and a snap or two of the teeth. As I caught up, however, and reached down to pet the little guy, the brown dog pitched into the puppy, knocking him off his feet and sending him squealing toward safety. 

"Big Dog!" I scolded. "That wasn't very nice. Why did you attack that harmless little puppy?"

"Puppies need to learn," the big dog answered. "Puppies need to grow up. Puppies need to understand that every person and every critter in the world isn't necessarily their friend. They need to exercise reasonable caution. He don't know me from Adam, nor you neither. Who says I'm not gonna bite him in half on the spot? Who says you're not gonna take him home and cook him up for dinner?" 


Well, I suppose that dogs may have their own way of viewing things--that what seems aggressive or unkind in a person's mind may be perfectly justified to a dog's way of thinking. Maybe humans, like cows and puppies, could stand to learn a few basics. 

That's how the big fat brown dog sees it, anyway.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Morning Warm Up

As I exit the house this morning for my morning walk, the little black dog meets me at the gate. He seems to have become a permanent resident of the neighborhood, as I see him around most every day. He tells me each time I see him that he is now living at one house or another--his story changes every day. In any case, he seems happy enough and healthy enough, although he is certainly dusty and grimy, and, this morning, his head is covered with nettles which he has picked up from the bushes somewhere. 

As I start off on the walk, the dog dances along beside me, behind me, in front of me--he's basically everywhere, like a fly that won't go away. I don't really like for the black dog to follow me, for he has no clue whatsoever about the dangers of the street. Every time a car races by (and drivers here seem to know no other way of going by), I cringe at the thought of the black dog getting squished, for he is not at all looking where he is going or where anything else is going.  

Happily, the dog is distracted by something along the way before long and forgets about the walk. Just now, I am passing the field where four dogs live, across the street from the pasture, and they glance at me, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads knowingly. They are apparently already acquainted with the hyperactive caprices of the little black dog. 

I meet the usual people along the way--two men who always smile and say hello, and a young woman who never looks up and never smiles and never says hello. They are all out to maintain their figures--or, like me, to regain what may be called a figure. And then there is the little old woman who goes from house to house looking for little jobs she might do, and there is the woman who is in charge of garbage collection in the neighborhood and always greets me or honks the horn as she passes on her motorbike. 

And then of course there are the cows, who have begun to wander outside their pasture in search of richer pickings, as the grass in the home lot has been chewed down to the quick. Sadly, what they find, often enough, is garbage, and so may be found chewing on a plastic bag or a paper cup as you pass. 

I'm not sure whether the morning walk is really good for me or not, in a physical sense, that is. I can't say that I've noticed any significant weight loss. And I don't know whether it improves or worsens the pain in my back. It does, however, get me started in the morning--fed somehow, wakened, warmed up like an engine in winter, and sets me on my way for the day. 


Had the pleasure of chatting with Resy this morning--an employee at my local Starbucks who usually works at night (and I usually come in the morning). Resy is a tall, big-hearted, talkative guy, always full of laughter and smiles. He works at night, when the crowd is heaviest, because he is considered the most able, most efficient employee here. Nonetheless, Resy hopes to quit Starbucks soon. The hours are long, especially at night, when there is extra work to be done after closing, and the pay is nothing to shout about--3 million a month (less than 300 dollars). As a comparison, I lead a fairly simple life, with few outside entertainments or expenditures other than the necessities, and struggle to get by on 6 million a month (and usually fail in that struggle, spending more like 7 million a month). I do buy some unnecessary things--Starbucks coffee, for instance, cigarettes, books--but these things hardly make for an extravagant lifestyle. And I do not need to pay monthly rent, for this is paid per year from already existing funds. 

How do they get by on 3 million a month? I don't know. It may be that some come from wealthy families. In fact, I know that some do. So they may receive assistance from their parents. Most live with friends, thus defraying the cost of rent. When they go out for entertainment, this generally means gathering with friends at someone's house or apartment. The tourist nightspots and restaurants are not part of their experience. They are not likely to even recognize the name of a popular spot in Sanur, for the only Indonesians who go to those places are the ones who work there or the girls who have met white boyfriends. 

Ah, but Resy is young and energetic and eager and bound to succeed. And while he does so, he brings sunshine into the lives of others. 

Friday, May 25, 2018


Ugh. Another tough night. Dead arm again. Finally got up at 4:30, got the arm to come back to life, but ended up with an intense pain in my neck, which is still present at 10:30 am. Or not in my neck, really, but at the base of my neck just at the top of the backbone. And the morning news doesn't help, though I should be used to it by this time. More of the same. How depressing. I mean, of course, the news from America. Though I've lived here in Indonesia for more than seven years, I don't really understand their politics or their issues. Although it is a democratic republic, it often verges on being a theocracy, as Islam is a very active part of the government. If one really wants to know why religion should not be part of government, one needs only look at Indonesia, where religion is often in conflict with the notions of a democratic society. And unfortunately, as in America, it is the hardline, inflexible voices that are both the loudest and the least reflective of the true faith. In the meantime, progressive, Christ centered Christian leaders are holding a vigil this morning in Washington DC., with Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry (of British Royal wedding fame) setting his sights on "a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership in American churches and government", and warning that "Somebody woke up Jim Crow". Preach it, brother!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dead Arm

More dead arm problems last night. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. Weird. During the night, who knows what time?, I woke up twice, as far as I can remember, with a left hand that was both dead as a rock and throbbing at the same time. Trying to move my arm about this way and that was of no avail, so there was nothing to do but get up and walk around the house. For some reason, when I stand up and walk, feeling gradually returns to my arm and hand. Go figure. Of course, one would rather be sleeping in the middle of the night than aimlessly walking around his little house. I slept again, but, as I've said, woke again some time later with the same dead arm syndrome. Got up again and walked around the house. By the third time this happened, morning had arrived … well, sort of morning … so I gave up on further sleep and got up for the day. It certainly is a strange phenomenon. My right hand is always somewhat numb, and the pain I have is in my right side (neck, shoulder and back). And yet it is my left hand that goes totally numb! Frankly, I'd rather that the right side went numb so that maybe the pain would be reduced. But then again, I'd better not wish such things upon myself. 


I took advantage of a really beautiful day yesterday to drive up the coast to my old neighborhood of Biaung. Much has changed since I lived there four years ago. It is very much more built up, with many more houses and businesses, and many fewer rice fields, sadly. The black sand beaches, however, have changed hardly at all. They are basically deserted, as they always have been--no businesses, no restaurants, and certainly no hotels. Black sand is not a big tourist draw, I guess, although it is beautiful to see, as the sand shimmers with little silver flecks and is alive, for some reason, with tiny black sand crabs. Moreover, the ocean here is rocky and rough and tugs this way and that against itself, creating dangerous tides. In short, it's not a good place to swim. And even if you did swim, you'd be covered with black sand when you came out, which is not really pleasant either. 

Given that there is nothing on this beach, it is a bit strange that the Balinese are charging a fee to park your bike and walk around on the beach. When I entered, the tukang parkir said there was a 1000 Ribu fee. As I gave him a thousand, he changed his mind and said it was two thousand. I gave him the two and his friend then said, 'Give us as much as you can. We need money.' Yeah, me and you both, Dude. 

So anyway, I took a walk along the beach, sand crabs skittering ahead of me, and did a little bit of wading, came upon one fisherman, and a guy who was scraping the sand with a bit of cardboard, looking for something. I asked him what he was doing, or what he was looking for, but he apparently could not understand what I was asking, even though I was using Indonesian. It may be that he does not speak Indonesian, but only Balinese. 

I also came upon a dead bird of some sort, mostly devoured, and what was either a dead dog or a dead pig--it was hard to tell (photo below for anyone who wants to venture a guess). 

Oh, I also came upon a bride and a groom doing a wedding shoot near the surf. Odd. 

In those olden days (four entire years ago), I used to drive my motorbike twice a day from our house in the village to the bank where my wife worked in Denpasar. It's a goodly distance, about a 40 minute drive one way, and features some pretty intense traffic. It's hard to believe now that I did that twice a day every day five days a week! Just the one trip yesterday was pretty hard on my shoulder and back. Well, a measure of my deteriorating health and energy, I guess. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World MS Day Infographic

Cooking With Gas

There's an old saying, even older than me, that goes like this: "Now we're cooking with gas!" It means 'Now we're getting somewhere!' It comes from the days when gas in the house became available rather than cooking on a woodstove--a major leap forward from cutting wood and lighting the fire and trying to maintain the proper temperature, and, oh by the way, heating the house at the same time, even though it may already be hot outside. 

Well, in Indonesia, we're always cooking with gas. Very few people can afford an electric stove and the electricity bill that comes with the stove. But it's not as simple as turning on a burner and voila, fire! No, what one uses is a two burner arrangement called a kompor. This is hooked up to a rubber hose and the hose is hooked to a large canister containing the gas. The dial on the kompor makes a spark and the spark ignites the gas. There is a device at the end of the hose which fixes to the top of the gas container and there is a lever on the device which is supposed to safely close off the gas and prohibit it from leaking. Sadly, there have been more than a few cases where something went wrong, the safety device was old or defective, and the gas container has exploded. Not good, for these things explode like anti-personnel bombs on an Afghan highway. 

And then you come to the point where the gas runs out. The container is empty (more or less). It's not as simple as paying a gas bill and having the gas company continue to pipe fuel into your home. No, you must take the gas container, which is quite heavy even when empty, to a place that sells full containers; and you have to choose the right place, because maybe the container is full in  one place, and in another maybe it's not (though, of course, the cost is the same). 

I was facing this situation this morning, and wondering How in the hell am I going to get this freakin' heavy container to a place that sells even heavier freakin' containers, and get the thing back home--me, my motorbike, and the freakin' gas container? My wife and I used to use the car, you see, back when there was a car and a wife. 

I hauled the thing out to the porch and then kind of stood there examining the container and the bike and surveying the general impossibility of getting me, the container, and the bike anywhere at all. At the same time, I mean. And without injuries or explosions. 

And so I called my old friend, Destu. This is what you do in Indonesia when you can't figure something out in Indonesia. You all an Indonesian. 

"No, no, Om," Destu said. "You don't take it. Destu take it. Too heavy for Om." 

So pretty soon Destu showed up at the house and I watched with great interest how this was to be accomplished. Destu placed the container on the front of the bike saddle, himself behind the container, held the container with one arm and steered, operated the gas control and the brake lever with the other hand. Amazing! I doubt whether I would have made it out of the driveway, much less to a repository perhaps a half mile away. 

Of course, once you get the new gas container back to the house, you must get the thing working again, which is never easy. But Destu finally got a spark and gas at the same time, and so now I'm 'cooking with gas'! again. 

The situation with drinking water is similar, though not quite so problematic. You cannot drink the faucet water in Indonesia. You can't even boil the water and drink it. It's that bad. So, you must buy these five gallon water containers and heft the container atop a dispensing unit, turning the container upside down as you heft it (although I hear that there are these new fangled containers that allow you to leave them at floor level, for the dispensing unit will suck the water upward). There are many nearby warungs that sell full containers of water--you just take your old one and replace it for the new one. However, there is then still the problem of getting yourself, the container, and your bike back home. Happily, however, there are many water delivery men, so you just call your neighborhood water guy and he arrives on a special motorbike equipped with a rack for carrying several water containers. And it costs you only 5000 Rupiah--which, I suppose, is somewhere less than 5 dollars. 

In short, in Indonesia you don't just flick a switch and presto. It's always a bit more complicated than that. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The 12th Man

I was scrolling through the online movie site last night for a film I might watch and happened upon one called "The 12th Man". This is the true story of an undercover Norwegian operation during World War II, and it is a harrowing story indeed. 

The mission, which was to sabotage Nazi installations in Norway, went south from the beginning. The commandos were discovered as they approached land in their fishing boat and 11 of the 12 were either captured or killed. From that point on, the story is about the 12th man's desperate attempt to escape to Sweden. 

And I'll tell you what, if you think you're having a bad day (or a bad half year), think again! Injury and gangrene and starvation and subzero temperatures and avalanches and constant fear and compulsive pursuit by the German's make this man's existence a living hell such as none of us will ever know. As the commando flees the Germans, every day brings him closer to death, and yet he struggles on with what seems superhuman strength, crawling just one more foot. 

This is a story, and a very well acted and filmed one, that grows ever more intense, and includes the sorts of scenes that you don't want to see, but can't help watching--you know? Honestly, I would rather suffer from MS every day of the week forever than to endure one day of this man's struggle. 

And ultimately, it is about the will to live, to take one more step, to overcome one more horror, to cling to life in the tightening grip of death. Truly an amazing and an emotionally immersing story. 

Monday, May 21, 2018


I've begun to read a novel called Brothers, by Chinese author Yu Hua (2005). This is a hell of a thick book--much thicker than I thought when I bought it; for, you see, books in Indonesian stores are sold wrapped in plastic, such that one cannot examine the text or sample the material before purchasing. Given the mere size of the book, I figured that the inside print would be large. Wrong. The print on these 700+ pages is tiny, and fills the page from top to bottom. The book itself is heavy enough to build muscles. 

That said, I will say as well that I am enjoying this story immensely, having gnawed through the first 100 pages or so. It is a comic, picaresque novel  in the classic style, rather like Dickens' Pickwick papers or Fielding's Tom Jones. I'm reading it in Indonesian, and I suspect (though I don't know any Chinese) that the language retains a certain eastern character that may not come across in English, which, for all its complexity and nuance, sometimes comes out blunt and overly direct in turn of phrase. In other words, there is an Asian manner of speaking that is most faithfully rendered in an Asian language. Of course, it would be best of all to read the thing in Chinese, but, as I say, I know no Chinese whatsoever. 

This is one of those books that you kind of live over the extended time it takes to read it. You get to know the characters, carry them along with you, wonder what they will do next--the same sort of feeling you have when you are reading something like David Copperfield or War and Peace or Les Miserables. 

So this will be part of my life for some time to come. 


This little guy picked up with me about halfway through my morning walk and followed me the rest of the way home. Upon arriving there, and receiving a sausage, he decided that this is where he lives. The big fat brown dog, however, soon showed up and "escorted" him off the property. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018


With the publication yesterday of Healthline's list of best MS blogs, I was reading through a number of entries from the various winners, feeling less and less 'alone' as I did so, more connected, more knowledgeable, more distinctly aware both mentally and emotionally. I am thankful for so many who are able to express themselves so well about the many facets of the disease and the many sides of dealing with the disease. Whether what is offered is information or encouragement or advice or simply companionship, it is most importantly all first-hand from people who know because they are there--and, moreover, because they are there, what they know is often what cannot be attained through any means other than hardship, disappointment, suffering. Three words came to mind over and over again. Perspective. Growth. Love.

Especially entertaining, as well as intellectually engaging, was an entry entitled "15 Years a Progressive MSer", from a blog called Wheelchair Kamikaze. Here, the author looks back on his years with progressive MS, and on his years before the diagnosis. He addresses the most essential challenges and questions that we all face in the quiet of our own particular prison cells, and he does so with razor-sharp intelligence, eloquence and, yes, humor. 

"Time and time again," the blogger writes, "you ask yourself and the universe, 'what’s the point?', until you finally realize that the real question is “what’s the point of asking what’s the point?” You decide that if there are any answers, they are beyond the scope of your comprehension, and then you turn on the latest episode of The Walking Dead and start asking the really important questions, like how in the world you would charge your electric wheelchair during a zombie apocalypse? And, if you were to become a zombie, would you suddenly be able to walk? Or would you be one of The Rolling Dead?

I must say that I found the author's sudden transition from suffering and searching where MS and our sad fate is concerned to the "really important questions" surrounding zombies and zombification absolutely delightful--for here is the sort of lively intelligence and active spirit that will not be locked away nor stifled nor compromised by any fate or disease, nor even by the self that suffers and regrets and questions and curses. And this is called Victory.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Best Blogs

I was pleased to learn this morning that Everyone Here Is Jim Dandy has been included in Healthline's best blogs of 2018. 

In the last year, I have probably written more about MS than previously, given that over the past year MS has become increasingly intrusive in my daily life. In the past, I have dealt mainly with cognitive deficits, confusion, numbness, fatigue. Now I am dealing mainly with pain--unrelenting, occasionally debilitating pain. Even as I write this, I am finding it difficult to sit forward and to use my right arm. I have written of sleepless nights and attempts at exercise and massage therapy and I have written of my search for medications that might interrupt or dull the pain. 

In addition to the infliction of physical pain, MS has also been largely responsible, over the last couple years, for bringing my marriage to an end. The worse my condition became, the more unable I became, the farther away my wife drew from our relationship. It became a burden to her, and it was not something she had signed up for 11 years ago (at which time, I did not have MS). She saw no light at the end of her own tunnel, no future but one of deterioration, limitation, and hardship. And so she found her way out. On the one hand, I feel sorry to be so alone; but on the other, I feel relieved to no longer be a burden to her.

So, as you can see, MS has been taking a leading role in my life on a number of levels.

Nonetheless, I try to stay active and divert myself through meeting new people, learning new things, engaging in a world that is becoming ever more precious as one begins to see the dusk falling. Every morning, I arise at about 6 and take a long walk around the neighborhood, freshly amazed at the common things that I see. In the evening, I take a second walk, usually on the beach, and that, too, is somehow always new. 

In quiet times, I reflect on my life, remember things as best as I can, regret what is needful of regret, revisit what has been joyful, peaceful. 

And I write. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Then and Now

Y'all know how Facebook generates these reminders of times in the past, right? Here's what you were doing four years ago! Many of mine, however, may as well say, "Here's a photo from four years ago. What the hell happened to you after that?"


Although Jalan Danau Poso used to be familiar stomping grounds for me, time and circumstance have intervened such that I rarely see the area these days. Some seven years ago, my wife ran an ill-conceived, doomed-from-the-outset salon on Poso. I advised her against entering this business because 1) she knew nothing about running a salon, 2) she knew no one else who knew anything about running a salon or really even working in a salon, and 3) Sanur, even seven years ago, was already crowded with basically deserted salons, as redundant as Waffle House in the State of Georgia. But oh well, she had never been in the habit of listening to my advice, preferring to learn the hard (and the expensive) way.

Nonetheless, we had a pleasant time in the old Poso salon, which she named “Lavender”. There were not many customers, but we (the management) had fun hanging out and eating lunch together and so on. It also served as a convenient base for me from which to go swimming down at the beach and enjoy a shower in the salon when I returned.

Back then, there was not much else on Jalan Danau Poso except for little local warungs and a few bars and a convenience store. Therefore, it is quite a shock to see the place now all built up with new restaurants and various other businesses (including salons). The old Poso is buried somewhere beneath all this, like ancient ruins.

And so yesterday I kind of toured the area and ended up at a new restaurant/community center called Rumah Sanur. It is a spacious, open-air establishment offering multiple communal areas, depending upon what you are communing for, and multiple wifi stations such that no area will end up with a weak signal. My interest was, of course, in the coffee café area, called Kadai Kopi Kultur, where one may order freshly ground coffee drinks of many kinds (and for a reasonable price, too). There is also a bar area, and, in the evening, there is live music. While I was there, at around 6 pm, the place was practically deserted, but I was assured that people would show up later for the music and the beer—which is not to complain, because, frankly, I prefer ‘deserted’, with as little music as possible. The place has a nice ambiance, a cozy, natural feeling. The chairs, however, are unbearable; but then again, most chairs are unbearable to me, given the nature of my shoulder and back pain. It’s just a short drive to the nearest beach, where one can take a nice evening walk after his coffee.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Whilst I was sitting outside this morning in my usual pre-coffee, pre-cigarette daze, I happened to suddenly unravel one of the great mysteries of the universe. Well, one of the lesser among the great, I suppose--not the answer to the meaning of life, or whether God exists, or of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. No. What I suddenly discovered is the solution to the three wishes granted by the genii in Aladdin's lamp.

You rub the lamp and the genii comes out in a cloud of smoke and tells you that he will grant three wishes. Most people expend these on pretty common sorts of things--money, love, super abilities and so on. But here's the key: One should use only two of these wishes on whatever he desires at the time, and save the third wish for making a request to go back in time to the moment just before you found the magic lamp. You go back to that moment, rub the lamp, a genii pops out and says "I will grant you three wishes, whatever you will!" Simple, right? But most people will burn their wishes and then say "Damn, I wish I had just one more wish!" 

One gets to the point in life where he as exhausted the capacity of the magic lamp. He has expended his wishes, and most probably they were foolish wishes. He understands that, and wishes that he had made different choices, but there are no wishes left. The lamp is empty.

 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps." (Matthew 25.1-4)

Keep oil in your lamp. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Bit More on Bombers

Life quickly returns to normal in Indonesia as police and special agents gather up or kill suspects in the recent terror attack. It turns out that three families were involved in the attacks and the family members have either killed themselves in the process or been killed by the police. Two members killed themselves accidentally while making a bomb. We can thank these folks, therefore, for removing themselves and any further threat from their presence on earth. 

In Bali, the populace was advised to avoid certain shopping centers and other usually crowded areas and a number of streets were closed after a man suspiciously entered a police station and then ran from officers there. The man was apprehended and turned out to be innocent of any wrong-doing. 

As most folks know, Bali was the target of a terrorist attack back in 2002 which killed 202 people, mostly tourists, at a nightclub. Further attacks occurred in 2005 and 2009 but were less 'successful'. 

Just a couple years ago, a plot to attack the pre-Nyepi Day crowd in Sanur was uncovered and the perpetrators (five, if I remember correctly) were ambushed in their room and killed by officers of the Densus-88 anti-terror squad (definitely a shoot first ask questions later group).

Ramadhan, the Muslim fasting month, will begin on Thursday and so these extremist groups will likely direct attacks against their own people--Indonesians, that is, who are failing to observe the fast up to the standards of the extremists. Every year a number of shops and warungs are wreaked by over-zealous little gangs. Damned silly.

Of course, in Bali, Muslims are a significant minority, most people being Hindu; and therefore, business will proceed pretty much as usual.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Imagine devoting your life to killing other human beings. Imagine this being your great achievement as you exit this world. Murder. Well, that was apparently the idea rattling around in the heads of the family members responsible for the Surabaya church bombings. Imagine being so confused, so disturbed, that you believe that God wants you to murder people, and will celebrate you for doing so. Imagine not understanding that every life is precious to God. Imagine strapping bombs to your own young daughters and sending them to their death. Nine and 12 years old. Imagine sending your sons as well. Imagine these things if you can. I for one cannot. Here is where imagination fails me. Here is the juncture whereupon a person has failed to be a common human being and has entered a realm that can only be described as dark and evil. Imagine imagining that some magical good will come of randomly killing other men and women and children. I say it again: imagination fails me. I can imagine no world, no circumstance in which this would be anything other than insanity. I read a comment recently in a Facebook thread wherein the writer lavished praise upon the Surabaya bombers. So strong had been their faith, he said, that they were able to take this step, to sacrifice their own lives in obedience. My thought is that they are perfectly welcome to sacrifice their lives if they think it will please God--but just keep it to yourself, you know? Make your sacrifice, die in a blast of glory, but don't take others with you. Here would be the true sacrifice: to realize, in a flash of true intuition, that you have drifted hopelessly apart from humanity, from reason, from life itself, and that you are about to commit an act of blind, unforgiveable, inhuman violence, and so to end yourself, and only yourself, and thus save the innocent from your sickness.  

Dead Arms and Distant Daughters

Jeeze, another of these nights where my arms kept going dead, particularly my left arm, which seems strange, because the pain is on the right side. Go figure. But on the left, it's like the arm hurts and is dead at the same time, if you can imagine that. Sometimes it will come back to life if you move it around or twist it in various ways, but last night it would only come back to life if I got out of bed. This happened maybe three times. I don't know. I'm in a daze at the time because I'm sleepy and don't want to get up, but the feeling/no feeling in arm is both irritating and alarming. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty tired this morning. 

Off and on last night, between dead arm incidents, I dreamed of my stepdaughter, Jamila. I don't know why, but I often dream of Jamila. The dreams are always very happy and I am so glad to be with her. No one else appears in the dreams. No one that I know, anyway. Not my stepson or my other stepdaughter, or even their mother, but just Jamila.  Odd. I think that she must represent a very happy time in my life, a sort of love that was new to me then, for I had no daughter of my own, and that stays with me now

Ah well. Between dead arms and distant daughters, it was a rather exhausting sleep last night. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

At His Post

Every morning, I find this dog sitting on his little pedestal, doing his version of a Buckingham Palace Guard. Usually, he is sitting erect, facing forward at attention. For the photo, however, he had to move in order to tell the photographer to get out of his face.

Pray for Surabaya

In the last couple days there have been four terrorist bombings on the island of Java, three in the city of Surabaya. The targets of the terrorists were Christian churches. At least 13 have been killed (not counting the suicide bombers) and more than 40 injured. One family was at the center of these attacks. The family had recently returned from Syria, where they had joined ISIS forces in the conflict there. 

The mother and two children, aged 9 and 12, blew themselves up after forcing their way into Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church. The father and his sons attacked two more churches with explosives loaded into a car and two motorbikes. 

While the Indonesian police, military, and a special anti-terror force called Densus-88 have done an excellent job at breaking up terrorist groups, often before they were able to launch an attack, extremist groups continue to grow, bolstered by the influence of ISIS. Hundreds of Indonesians went to fight in Syria, although I have no idea why the government allowed this, or why they allowed them to re-enter Indonesia. 

Nor do I know what the goal of blowing up oneself and other people is. History shows us that persecution is more likely to strengthen a faith rather than weaken it. Persecution grows the muscles of resolve. 

In any case, it is a sad day for Indonesia, and for those who had merely gathered to worship God. But there are those whose god is a killer, a merciless mutilator of men, women and children. There are those who worship this god with their blood and with the blood of other human beings. There are those whose hearts are filled with hate and murder, and they call these holiness and devotion. Their legacy on earth is shame and their legacy in heaven is eternal death.

Christians and Muslims alike have gathered in person and online to pray for the victims, and President Jokowi, a Muslim, has condemned the attacks as "barbaric", resolving to even further strengthen anti-terrorism forces in the country.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018


It seems that there are a number of medications that 'sort of' work for neuropathic pain, although 'sort of' leaves much to be desired. The latest one I have tried is Baclofen, which, as I say, sort of works, in that it seems to take the edge off the pain or masks it to some extent. 

I had also been using Gabapentin in concert with Prozac, which sort of seems to do the same sort of thing. At night, I often take Xanax, which puts a person to sleep--and sleep is a pretty good way of dealing with pain. 

Curiously, however, it also seems that the system 'gets used to' these pharmaceutical measures and finds, over time, ways around their effectiveness. Amazing what the central nervous system can accomplish when it really sets its mind to it. 

Unfortunately, neuropathic pain often responds poorly to standard pain medications, so one is left to experiment with SSRIs or anticonvulsants or muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories, or what have you. Which is both frustrating and expensive. 

Fat Dogs and Old Ladies

The big fat brown dog surprised me this morning by accompanying me on my morning walk. She has never done that before. Frankly, I didn't think she would be up to it. But apparently she was able to tap into some unsuspected, and unusual, source of energy far exceeding her norm.

I was happy to have her company, until it became apparent that the big fat brown dog does not know how to behave properly on walks. She chased cats and bothered other dogs who were standing innocently outside their own homes. She also wandered about in the middle of the street, unwilling to move aside for cars. As it turned out, I spent most of the walk saying "It's not my dog." 

When I got back home--or rather, when we got back home--we were haled by an elderly lady in the neighboring driveway. 

"Clean your house?" she said, holding up her broom. 

"No, thank you, Ibu. I have a maid that comes once a week." 

"Wash your dog?" 

"It's not my dog!" 

Nonetheless, I've been trying to picture her doing this chore ever since. To my knowledge, the big fat brown dog has never been 'washed' in her entire life--and I certainly wouldn't want to be the one to try to do it. The big fat brown dog doesn't even much like to be touched, much less washed, I presume. How was this tiny little old woman planning to negotiate the considerable girth and strength of the dog? I mean, without losing an arm. 

It seemed a bit sad as well that this poor little old woman was having to go about looking for house cleaning or dog washing work. Surely, she was older even than I--or else a lifetime of hardship had made her appear much older. She was also intermittently talking to herself, which is never a good sign (although, come to think of it, I do it all the time myself). 

So anyway, I and the big fat brown dog went into the house, and the next thing I knew the little old woman was standing on the porch saying "Yoo-hoo." 

We should note before proceeding, as a point in favor of the big fat brown dog's character, that she does not, for whatever reason, bother or terrorize little old women in any way, even those who are standing on the porch calling out "Yoo-hoo." 

"What is it, Ibu?" 

She holds up her broom again. 

"No, Ibu, sudah--already."

Crestfallen, she lowers her broom. The big fat brown dog waddles onto the porch and looks at me in what seems a judgmental sort of way. 


"Ibu ... Would you like a cup of coffee? Will you sit down for a moment?" 

Ibu declines the coffee, but accepts the invitation to sit. As she sits, she sweeps the part of the porch that her broom can reach. We converse for a while, though with difficulty, for she is speaking a mixture of Indonesian and Balinese, and I speak no Balinese at all. Before long, she excuses herself. She has work to do. I remember, then, that there is a 10.000 Rupiah bill in the drawer of the little table next to my chair. And so I hand it to her. 

"For sweeping the porch, Ibu. Thank you. I'm sorry I don't have more for you to do." 

She smiles brightly and bows her way off the porch and out of the driveway. The big fat brown dog decides to follow her. 

Always something happening here in the little Renon homestead. Something new every day. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018


This is Ajus hanging out at Om's house, as he does every Saturday when his mother comes to clean and mop. Om means uncle and is the name used for every adult male foreigner. Ajus does not speak, except to  his mother. He does not speak to Om, but he follows Om around the house and sits wherever Om sits. Ajus will nod in the affirmative or negative. Sometimes. Ajus generally refuses the food offered him by Om, but then eats it as soon as Om leaves the house. He will refuse a toy offered by Om, too; but then Om notes that the toy is gone when he returns to the house.


This is Soso. Soso is a beagle. Soso lives in the house across the street. Soso has a skin problem quite common in Bali and his doctor said he must sit in the sun several times a day. Since Soso's yard is in the shade, Soso's parents asked whether he could sit in my driveway, which is in the morning sun. Glad to have him. 

Friday, May 11, 2018


I love cows. I don't know why. I feel like they are part of my family. I feel like we have something in common. The cows in the photos below are perhaps not the most fortunate cows, for they are eating garbage. And the garbage is on fire. (Talk about spicy food, right?). 

Unfortunately, the garbage collection system in Bali leaves much to be desired, and many people are in the habit of throwing their garbage to the side of the road rather than paying for it to be hauled away. This is the ugly side of Bali and can be seen everywhere outside the tourist areas. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, folks will sometimes bring baskets of vegetation and grasses for these cows, but they eat those up pretty fast, and then start back on the garbage. 

Kite Day

I seem to have a sort of second sense about when it is kite flying day at Mertasari Beach. I just happen to show up on that day. If I had been aware in advance that it was kite flying day, I probably would have chosen a different beach to walk on, because I'm generally inclined to avoid crowds--and a crowd is most certainly what shows up at Mertasari on kite flying day, for this is a favorite pastime among Indonesians. Nonetheless, having shown up, however unintentionally, I generally enjoy the experience. 

If there is a wind anywhere at all, it will be on Mertasari. It is the last beach as you pass through Sanur and the land juts out a bit seaward just before melting into the mangrove forest beyond. These are huge kites that folks are flying, requiring a band of people to arrange them on the beach and then launch them. While people watch the kites, they also visit the many little food stands selling barbecued corn and fried rice and so on. Many folks also choose this time for a swim.

Mertasari is a "local" beach, a common gathering place for the natives of the island. And this is something that I always find jarring. I mean, here you have a beautiful island and the people of the island clinging to a final, unspoiled bit of seafront. As you walk down the oceanfront away from Mertasari, you will soon come upon a great wall of hotels and restaurants, and in these hotels and restaurants are white people, and on the beaches blocked out by the hotels and restaurants are white people, and the only Indonesians you will see are the ones working in the hotels and restaurants. It seems inappropriate, somehow; and yet, this is business, this is how the island thrives economically. It is a tourist industry.  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Where the Day Begins

Seven-thirty in the morning and the sun is already gazing with keen interest upon the little neighborhood of Renon, South Bali, pushing back the puffy curtain of clouds in the east, climbing to the rooftops and to the crowns of the leafy trees, touching my skin and coaxing a dewy response from the pores in my neck and shoulders. I'm on my usual route, passing the usual houses and the usual people. "Good morning, Pak! Jalan-jalan, ya." A motorbike zips by, school girl on the back in her brown uniform. "Hallllloooo!" Up ahead in the pasture some cows have come out to the road to meet a woman crossing with a huge basket on her shoulder. The basket is filled with leaves and other forms of vegetation. Breakfast! As she empties the basket on the grass, a bull pushes his way into the midst of the group, snout to the new feast, and the woman scolds him and shoves him mightily, budging him not one fraction of an inch from his chosen ground. Gosh, what a convenient way to dispose of yard debris! Halfway home now. The cows crunch at their leafy mouthfuls, glancing up with mild curiosity as I pass by, their eyes as slow and insouciant as the simmering day. To the end of the pasture, on past the moldering shack and the old sofa sinking into the soil, up the alley and past the shrine to Ganesha and to the head of Yeh Sungi, where the big fat brown dog is waiting, tail uncertainly wagging (for her eyes are no longer as sharp as they once were). Knowing me then, she lumbers down the street toward my house, this lumbering being her version of a trot. And I lumbar along behind her. This is the morning walk. This is the beginning of the day.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Traffic Circles

The Starbucks at Plaza Renon where I generally have my morning coffee is situated just above a large, rather complicated traffic circle, and nearly every day a wreck of one magnitude or another occurs--sometimes two. Why it has not yet occurred to anyone to install a traffic light here, I cannot say. Just now there was a collision of two red cars--which actually causes one to breathe a sigh of relief, strangely enough. It is the car versus motorbike or motorbike versus motorbike collisions that are most chilling, because of course there is nothing between the motorbike driver (and passengers) and the pavement. Having been involved in a collision oneself--and pretty much every motorbike driver has--one cringes upon hearing the sound of the crash, knowing that the riders will have been spilled onto the road. Sometimes they jump up and wheel their bike, or what's left of it, out of the way; and sometimes they just lie there in the street until someone carries them to the side. Falling off a motorbike really, really hurts. I can testify to that, for I have done it three times. 


Rough night last night. Just a lot of pain in the shoulder and back. Put myself to sleep with a Xanax, but was awaken several times by breakthrough pain. Woke up permanently at 5 and just got out of bed rather than continue to lie there for no good reason. Feeling a bit depressed now. Or perhaps I'm just sleepy. Still in significant pain this morning, I took one of the oxycodone tablets Louis gave me. Only a couple left now, and these cannot be refilled in Indonesia, as they are illegal here (she got them in Australia after surgery for a breast cyst but didn't need to take them herself).

Sometimes I spend a considerable amount of time stewing over what I'm supposed to do about this situation eventually. I have often looked toward the time when I can benefit from Medicare in America, which is another year away; but then I wonder 1) where I would find the money to even get to America and 2) how I would survive there whilst benefitting from the health insurance. It's a kerfuffle, no doubt about it.

That sort of thing can keep a person awake all on its own without the need of any physical pain. So I think maybe I could just jump off a cliff if things got screwed to an unbearable point--but then again, I don't like cliffs and I'm kinda scared of heights.

Ultimately, I fall back on Philippians 4 as the answer to things that have no answer.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."