Saturday, June 30, 2018


Ever since my Facebook friend Sabrina began campaigning for me to "steal" her mother's heart, I've found myself having to think about something that had previously not even entered my mind at this advanced age and after the hazards of three marriages--specifically, the whole idea of being in a romantic relationship with a woman again and whether that seems to be a compelling situation or one to be avoided. And, frankly, I'm  leaning heavily toward avoidance. My inner voice rather insistently advises, 'Learn a lesson from the past already, man!' Lol. 

Three strikes and you're out, right? 

In former years, I have always been the sort that threw his whole heart into a relationship, investing an energy and will that I now no longer possess. Or at least I don't think I do. The very idea is exhausting. Moreover, I was told so many times during my third marriage that my illness was a burden that I have come to believe that it is indeed. What does a man who is old and ill have to offer a wife? 

So, I attempted to gently explain this to the hopeful matchmaker, Sabrina. 

"I just wish that I was younger, you know, Sabrina? I mean, your mother is like fifteen years younger than I."

"Oh, that's okay. She likes older men." 

"Oh, well … yeah, but I don't have any money, Sabrina." 

"Oh, that's okay. My mom has money."

Good grief. What to do? Change my name? Delate my Facebook account? Swim to a nearby island?

Honestly, I'm pretty happy, pretty peaceful on my own. Sure, I get lonely sometimes--but, at my age, I address that by simply going to sleep. My space is my own, my time is my own, my peace is my own and my problems are my own. In my life, as it turns out, there has been no such thing as the faithful, ever loving partner, the flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. It just never happened. I've seen it before, and it's an awesome thing indeed, but it just never happened to me. 


My cousin happened to send me this morning an electronic copy of a telegram sent in 1952 announcing the birth of "Janice", who turned out to be a boy, my brother Gary. 

Strangely, I don't seem to have been aware that my parents were hoping for a girl named Janice. I was aware, however, that my father would have preferred to have a girl and ended up with two boys instead. I know that I was certainly glad to find, as I popped up two years later, that I had a brother rather than a sister. What is a boy supposed to do with an older sister, anyway? On the other hand, I suppose that I might have benefitted from the presence of a female sibling in the sense that it would have provided more of a knowledge of that sort of critter before I grew into adolescence and thus better prepared me for the years ahead. 

My dad probably would have been better off with girls, honestly. He was not really great at showing affection for boys and would likely have benefitted in his own person from the sort of affection shown to a father by a daughter. As it was, he did his best to raise us to be men, and had little patience for boy sorts of things. I know that the little daughters of friends of my family adored my father, and I remember thinking, along with my brother, 'What the hell, are you crazy?' 

Having raised three boys and two girls myself, I know the vast difference between daughters and sons, and that there's something to be said for both. And I'm glad to have enjoyed that balance as an adult. There's nothing like being loved by a girl, and there's nothing like being loved by a boy; and the two loves in themselves are both totally complete and totally different. 

So, Janice, I am sorry to have never met you, for I have missed your tender care and laughter, especially, I think, in my latter years. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

First Thing

Sometimes, one doesn't really feel like doing anything first thing in the morning. Usually, I don't, for usually I am feeling groggy and rather stiff and painful, and often enough my damn arm has gone dead. Nonetheless, after one cup of coffee, I force myself to throw on a pair of shorts and a tank top and head out the door for my morning walk. 

Getting out the door, I find, is the key, and things begin to look up by the time I get to the top of my short lane and take a right toward the cow pasture. Firstly, the big fat brown dog will usually be waiting outside her house for me and will jump up, tail wagging, which injects a sort of liveliness into the venture. 

The big fat brown cows also always raise my spirits. I don't know why, but cows just seem very pleasant and interesting to me. Many will be on the road outside the confines of the pasture, so that you can pet them as you walk by. They are so slow, so hughly graceful somehow, with their big, brown, sincere eyes and lazily swishing tails. 

Before long, I find myself chugging along, lungs full of the cool morning air, heart renewed by the exuberance of the big dog's gait and the kindliness of the cows and of the people along the way who call out hello, good morning, good day! 

By the time I get home, along with the big dog, who now expects a sausage, I feel enlivened and hungry for breakfast. I could have given into lethargy, or the tendency to nurse my various aches and pains with a salve of inaction, and sit and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes instead, but this has been much better. It is always much better. 

It's just getting started. That's the key. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Twilight's Last Gleaming

When I left America eight years ago, it never occurred to me that I would not come back. But now, with what America has become as a nation since then, I doubt that I will ever return. I am an old man now, and the damage that has been done to the country just seems so extensive as to make repair in the near future, if indeed ever, quite unlikely. In a way, I feel lucky to be where I am--as if I had unconsciously seen what was coming, and on the other hand I feel inconsolably sad, as at a death. America has not become great again. It has become all that the fathers intended it not to be. Those we trusted to preserve our democracy have become instead the authors of its demise, and far too many of our people have cheered them on.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Naked and Afraid

When you are outside of American society and popular American culture long enough, things begin to look rather strange upon peeking back in. 

For some years, I did not watch television shows from America at all; but with the progression of the internet in Indonesia, these have now become available on free-to-watch movie sites. As I scrolled through the available TV shows, I happened upon the unlikely title "Naked and Afraid". 

Naked and Afraid? What can this be? A show about a serial rapist?  A nudist colony gone bad? A documentary about current US border detention policy? 

Well, no. As wild as those ideas seem, this is stranger yet, for here is a reality show, rather after the fashion of Survivor, I suppose, where two people, a man and a woman, are sent into one or another of the world's harshest climates to face the challenge of the elements for two weeks. And survive. Maybe. 

Oh, and they must leave their clothing behind. 


Americans do love an apocalypse. It seems an odd thing after all these centuries of struggle toward the comforts of civilization--to be warm and clothed and fed and safe--that the compelling dream should be of returning to the stone age, to throw off comfort and invite all those forces from which we have so long sought to protect ourselves. 

The episode I watched was set in a jungle in the interior of Mexico, where, as the narrator gleefully tells us, the naked couple will be threatened by vicious animals, poisonous snakes, dehydration and disease carrying insects. Lol. Oh boy! 

Angst turned on its head. What do you do when you realize that you have everything you wanted, other than to decide that you really wanted none of it? 

American novelist and essayist Walker Percy wrote as one of his main themes about dis-ease in American society, alienation and malaise. The ultimate product of our comfort is somehow discomfort. We seem to be interacting with our created environment rather than with the environment that created us, and we long not to get somewhere, but to return to somewhere. 

Remember the old 60's song, Back to the Garden? 

I was born to be royal
I was made to be free
But I was torn from the garden
When that devil lied to me

What to do? Suffer the tenderness of our own Frankenstein interminably (and then die), or throw off the fetters, burst through our prison doors, and face something real again--like leopards and bears, hunger and want, pangs and stings!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Seven-thirty, and All is Well

I had the rare pleasure last night of sleeping in until 7:30 in the morning. Strange, given that I went to bed at the same time as usual, and I generally awake somewhere between 5 and 6. On the other hand, the dead arm syndrome, which had not been present over the last few days, had reappeared. Perhaps that's the price of resting well throughout the night. I dunno. Can't win, right? The only trouble with waking up later is that my morning walk must happen much later than usual, which means that 1) the day will already be growing hot and 2) that there will be more traffic on the roads, and that is unfortunate because the big fat brown dog, who will likely see me and come along for the walk, is a retard as far as traffic is concerned. It's odd, because she has always been a roaming dog, never on a leash, and you would think she would have grown wiser about the dangers of traffic. But not so. She wanders in front of cars and bikes, seemingly oblivious. It sets my teeth on edge. Or what few teeth I have. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Empty House

In the midst of my usual unintentional nap this morning, I was awakened by a knock on the front door--fortuitously, really, because I never mean to go back to sleep first thing in the morning, and there's no telling how long I'll sleep if I'm left undisturbed. 

I had fallen asleep between the act of disrobing and getting into the shower, so I had to cast about in this bleary state for something to throw on. The knock came again. "Bentar", I called out (just a moment) as I bumbled about for the sarung that was actually right in front of my eyes.  

Upon opening the door, I found a young woman in a motorbike helmet. Upon seeing me, she immediately adopted the 'deer caught in the headlights' posture so common to Indonesians when they suddenly encounter a bule. 

"Hi," I said. 

Still caught in the headlights. 

"Can I help you?" 

Another few moments of silence and staring pass. I'm thinking, do I know this woman? It's entirely possible. I do often have this problem with facial recognition. Is she my immigration agent? No, I don't think so. A friend of Louis'? Hmm. Well, who knows? Perhaps she is my next door neighbor? 

So, I'm searching about the dim caverns of my mind, rifling through the dusty drawers of my memory bank, when the woman finds her voice and says, "Do you speak Indonesia?"



Relief all around. 

Well, it turns out that she wanted to ask about the house a couple houses down from mine. It seems to be empty and she wants to know if in fact it is empty, for she is looking for a place to rent. 

Strangely, this is often how people house hunt here. They drive around looking for places that seem empty. This process could be simplified, of course, were the house owner to post a sign on the door or the gate, but, well, that's just not the way things are done. 

I happen to know that the house is in fact empty, and has been for quite some time, perhaps more than a year now. Previously, a man and a woman had lived in the house and they had a white dog named Milky. One day, the man and the woman were no longer there, but Milky was still there, locked in the driveway behind the gate. Every night, Milky would cry and howl, and by and by I started stopping by to push some food under the gate. A couple of times, late at night, I saw someone stop by in a car and also deliver food for Milky, but then that human disappeared, too, and Milky was left to cry and howl. 

And then one day there was no more crying and howling, for Milky was gone. Had she starved to death? Had she escaped? Was she raptured? No one knows. Nor does anyone seem to really care. (Do you?). 

That's just the way things are done here. 

Some time after the disappearance of Milky, someone began coming to the house every day to perform a number of rather loud repairs involving electric saws and drills and grinders and a whole lot of pounding. Then they, too, disappeared. 

I shared all these stories with the young woman in the motorbike helmet, which seemed to have the effect of making her glad--to hear, that is, that the house was empty. 

"Is there a sign on the door?" I asked. 


"Do you have a phone number or something?" 


Well, hmm … I suppose, if no other option arises, that she could stand by the gate and cry and howl until someone shows up. 

I did not suggest this measure, however. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Sabrina is an online acquaintance of mine here in Bali. I have never actually met the girl in person, though I've spoken to her three or four times through Instant Messenger. I don't know much about her, other than that she is still quite young (20-21?) and seems to dream on a daily basis of love and marriage. 

I was surprised, therefore, when she contacted me yesterday and asked whether she could talk to me 'privately'. I don't know any other way to talk on Instant Messenger, but anyway I said of course, what's on your mind? 

"You're single now, right Om?" (Om means uncle and is a common way of addressing an older foreign man). 


"Okay. Here's the thing. I want you to capture my mother's heart so that she will fall in love with you." 

"Umm …" 

"The reason is because she meets men online who are not sincere. They say they want to be with her, but all they want is to get her money." 

"Well …" 

"And then, Om, after you marry her, I can be your daughter, and you can give me away to my husband when I get married." 

"Uh …" 

"And I can tell you're a nice man. I know you're a nice man. So that's what I want for my mother." 

"But, Sabrina, don't you think that your mother will have to choose for herself? I mean, she will need to decide what kind of man she likes." 

"No, Om. That's not how it works. Here, it is better if the children choose the man, because they want someone who will be good for their mother. I know, because my cousin did it, and now her mother has a good husband and she is very happy." 

"Yes, but …" 

"Please, Om? Can you just do it?"

"But, sweetheart, I have no money and I'm in poor health." 

"Money no problem, Om. My mother has money, and she can take care of you."

Huh … this is sounding better all the time! Lol. 


With all the recent trouble boiling around immigration, asylum seekers and so on, I've become keenly aware, once again, of a strange side-story. Given my previous 11 year marriage to an Indonesian woman, who herself lived more than a decade in America on a green card permit, I became acquainted with many Indonesian immigrants, most of whom have now become American citizens, and what I find most curious about these folks is that most of them have adopted views that are quite decidedly anti-immigration--as long as they apply to everyone except themselves, I guess.

Is that odd, or what? To me, it seems odd. Most of these people are women who grew up in poverty and then had the good fortune of meeting and marrying a wealthy American citizen. Now, they live in suburban mansions high above the sweat and toil of the native-born masses, and seem to look with careless disdain upon those who would also seek a better life in America, just as they themselves had once done. What can they be thinking? Do they fear that the entry of too many 'foreigners' will somehow threaten their own status or good fortune? Why, when they themselves have had to endure poverty and want, and sometimes fear for their lives, do they now harden their hearts against others? 

It seems that wealth and good fortune often foster arrogance and a lack of charity. 

Friday, June 22, 2018


Religion in Bali is more than a Sunday sort of thing. Religion and culture are inextricably interwoven, such that in many ways the Balinese are enacting their religion on a daily basis and generally in a cooperative, communal setting. Most people here know little about any other religion, tough they are more likely to know at least some things about Islam rather than about Christianity, given that Indonesia itself is a Muslim majority country, with 87 percent of the citizens identifying themselves as Muslim. Eight-eight percent of the population in Bali, on the other hand, is Hindu. 

It struck my friend, Adi, as odd, therefore, when an American showed up yesterday at the Starbucks where he works and kept talking about "Yeshoosh" and how Adi must turn away from Hinduism and follow Yeshoosh. 

After work, Adi stopped by my house, wanting to know from another American why this guy was talking so much about Yeshoosh.


"Ya, Yeshoosh." 

Well, it turns out, predictably enough, that the American fellow is a Jehovah's Witness. These folks occasionally show up on the island as part of a 'mission' trip--you know, to bring the truth to a people in darkness (without, however, knowing anything about Hinduism or the Balinese people and their culture and customs). Often enough, they end up offending people here--interrupting ceremonies, passing out leaflets (to people who mostly cannot speak English), and so on. I reckon they figure they're going to get bonus points in heaven for spreading the good news. They are, after all, Jehovah's "witnesses". 

But of course, Adi has no idea what the man is talking about. Nor does the man, unfortunately. 

I can only advise Adi not to worry about it. 

"I very love him," Adi says (by which he means that he doesn't mind talking to this person), "but I just don't know why he is always talking so much Yeshoosh. You are American too, but not always talking Yeshoosh." 

"Does he speak Indonesian?" I asked. 


Well, I'm not sure where I would begin. Perhaps a familiarity with Adi's beliefs would be a good point? A  passing knowledge of Hinduism and Balinese culture? An effort to communicate in the native language? 

Ya think? 

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Someone once wrote that the greatest argument against Christianity is Christians. Or something very like that. And, particularly in this day’s religious/political climate, one cannot help but feel sympathetic toward the sentiment. I know of no better reason to turn away from Christianity than to take a look at many of those who call themselves Christian and at the institutions and ideas they have supplanted in the place of the true faith, causing it to now loudly proclaim what the faith does not, and never did declare. I’m talking about the religious right, the so-called moral majority, the Evangelicals—or rather, that politically conservative, intolerant, uncharitable, self-interested, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic network that has absconded with the formerly honorable name and turned it into something that seems foul on the tongue. I’m talking about those who equate Donald Trump with Jesus Christ and hail the man as the appointed of God. I’m talking about the charismatics and the TV preachers who pander to superstition and ignorance, who invent fairytales and call them prophesies, who sell the prosperity gospel to a needy and naïve flock and collect the proceeds in plain sight, and ask for more.

Yes, I can see how these things, and more, would constitute a giant flashing neon advertisement against Christianity. Who after all, Christian or non-Christian, knowing the beauty and mildness of love, would want to associate himself with such unlovely company?

Noted Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias writes that the one question that has haunted him the most through his ministry was asked by a Hindu acquaintance: “If this conversion you speak of is truly supernatural, then why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians that I know?” In other words, a God who is said to transform should produce people with transformed lives. Similarly, Nietzsche said “I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed”.


When asked ‘Are you a Christian?, one can longer respond with a simple ‘Yes’ answer. Or at least I cannot. One must first determine what is meant by Christian, which in today’s society, both at home and abroad, will probably mean that you have been pegged as one of those unkind, judgmental sorts of people who have a problem with everybody other than themselves. So, it requires a bit of a theology lesson from the outset, such that you can explain that the Christianity to which you have been called has nothing whatever to do with the profoundly unpleasant doctrine of prejudice, exclusion and intolerance that you are hearing from those who would seem to represent the faith in Protestant America—folks like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell and Joel Osteen and Jesse Duplantis and all their ilk. In other words, Christianity has to do with Christ, who has nothing, really, to do with many of those who are calling themselves his followers these days.

We might well say the same thing about America and Americans in our time—that is, that the most un-American thing about America is the Americans themselves. The nation seems to have wandered far astray from its founding principles and affections and become quite the obverse of what it was intended to be. Rather than a nation committed to liberty, of our own and for others, and to a cooperative relationship with likeminded nations of the world, we have become divisive and untrustworthy, the me-first nation, withdrawing from our natural role in cooperative concerns such as global warming and universal human rights.

As with religion, I must now explain what kind of American I am and what kind I am not. I must explain that what is being called America on many tongues is not America at all—not as I have known it for the last 64 years. It is almost as if people in foreign countries (such as the one I live in) know more about what America is supposed to represent than Americans themselves know any longer. 
And that is pretty sad. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Photo Finish

My ex-wife and I trade photos back and forth via i-Phone message. She sends me a photo of a palace in Abu-Dhabi. I send her a photo of the big fat brown dog eating a cookie. She sends a photo from Paris. I send a photo of a cow. Different lives much? But although I'm certain that she would not exchange her experience for mine, I am just as sure that I would not exchange mine for hers. Yes, I will take the dog and the cow over the palace and the Eiffel Tower. Maybe that's why we're divorced? Lol. The ramshackle shack in the pasture appeals to me. The luxurious hotel with its groomed beachfront does not. Sate smoked on a sidewalk grill is to my taste, squid on a silver platter at the price of silver is not. Ambience is in the breeze, aromas, voices, passing colors, not in sophisticated décor and crystal glasses. Each to his own, and may all be happy.  

The Watcher

I had mentioned in a previous post my proclivity for falling asleep in the morning after waking up from a full night's sleep, but I did not mention the strange appearance in my pre-waking dream of the young Indonesian man who wakes me. I have no idea who this man is--aged somewhere in his 20's, I'd say, and perfectly distinct in his appearance, as if he were actually standing beside he bed. This has happened on several occasions now. He says my name and I awake, quickly realizing that, as real as he had seemed to be, no one is really there. I always think, Who is this? Do I know him? He looks somehow familiar, and yet I cannot connect him with anyone I know. Why is it this young man who awakens me? Wouldn't it be preferable to be awakened by a beautiful young woman, even if only a part of a dream? I can see this young man even now, in my mind's eye. But who is he? Weird, right? And why is he awakening me, anyway? 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Romans 13

What a pity it is that at this late time in history we should find our government misusing a verse from the Bible in order to try to justify tearing children from the arms of their parents at our border. The apostle Paul himself, who is quoted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Romans 13, would be horrified at the evil twisting of his words. Nor is this the first time this particular verse has been misappropriated by the powers in order to justify evil. It was used in the past by American slave holders. It was used in Germany by the Nazis. 

How anyone (with a brain) can imagine that Paul was encouraging  his followers to be obedient to authority even when the authority runs clearly against the message of Christ is a mystery in itself. Paul himself stood starkly in conflict with the law, both of the Jews and of the Romans. Time and again, he was imprisoned, beaten, and ultimately he was beheaded under the authority of the Roman empire. 

So what was Paul really saying? Basically, merely to do good--because in doing good, one has done what is right and proper. On the other hand, it is clear that doing the wrong  thing cannot be the right thing. It's a no-brainer. 

Whenever one comes across a verse that seems at odds with the whole of scripture, or at odds with the established theology of a particular writer (such as Paul), one needs to look more closely in order to see what he is missing. What is the context? What event or situation is being addressed? Who is the writer talking to, and about what? Forcing the verse in where it doesn't fit just won't work. 

Move just a little further into Romans 13, and you find the following: "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law … Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is  the fulfillment of the law".  Love, therefore, is the obedience that is ultimately being spoken of. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018


I see that my 'other blog', on Wordpress (My Practical Paradise) is about to expire. To be honest, I was never able to develop a 'feeling' for the blog, nor was I able to see the oft-celebrated superiority of Wordpress over BlogSpot--especially at my level of competence (which is fairly close to zero, and going down). I do believe that there are those who are making money from the many avenues available for Wordpress, but it seemed to me from the start that one's concern would need to be primarily focused on many money rather than on writing about one's experience. It has always felt manipulative and mercenary to me. Aside from that, one has to pay for access to the aforementioned avenues, and thus tends to feel pressed to recoup his investment. In other words, as far as I'm concerned, it's BS. 

So anyway, I'm gonna let the WP blog lapse. I never received so much as a single comment on the blog, nor a single penny from it. Moreover, often enough, I simply repeated the things I had already written in Jim Dandy. 

One additional point is that part of the reason for creating this blog to begin with was for it to be a cooperative effort with my wife, wherein she would take photographs and I would write text for 'our world travels'. As it turned out, however, she traveled right out of the marriage with another guy who could actually afford to send her traveling around the world. So there you have it. 


I seem to have developed a "normal" illness over the past few days--namely, a sore tonsil. Normal is what I call anything not associated with MS. Throughout my life, for as long as I can remember, I have had problems with my tonsils, a pain that flares up, persists a while, then goes away, sometimes with the help of antibiotics. This will often seem to be associated with an unstable weather pattern, a changing from warm to cold and back to warm again. My ears, throat, nasal passages, sinuses become irritated by this and then the irritation centers in a tonsil. Of course, normal pain is no more pleasant than abnormal pain, and yet it comes these days with an odd sort of comforting side, to the extent that this, after all, is common, explicable, expected rather than weird, unreasonable and wholly inappropriate. It also has a predictable resolution, whereas where MS problems are headed is anyo


We're in the midst now of Ramadan, the big Muslim holiday season in Indonesia (and, of course, around the world), which means that many of the Muslims living in Bali have gone home to their islands of origin. Pulang kampung, they call it. Going home. What this means in Bali is that the traffic is very much lighter than usual, which itself translates to a more pleasant, relaxed driving atmosphere. And that's nice. 

Given that Bali is a very popular vacation destination, many people from the other islands come here to work in the industry or otherwise benefit from the tourist population and its supporting businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, bars and so on. During Ramadan, many Muslim businesses will simply be closed. 

Ramadan is, of course, the holy fasting month in Islam, ending with the celebration of Eid al-Fitri, the end of the fast. During this month, observant Muslims must abstain from eating (as well as smoking, btw) from morning to evening--although I will say that I have observed a few sneaking sneaking bites or puffs here and there :). 

Friday, June 15, 2018


If the visit counter on this blog can be supposed to be a reliable gauge, it would seem that the number of people visiting the blog is steadily declining. Of course this may not be the actual case, as there are a number of ways in which visitors would arrive at the blog and not all would tick the counter. Nonetheless, if visits are declining, I would have to conclude either that what I write here has become steadily more boring, or that some have been offended by the political views I occasionally express. I try not to address politics very often, and yet the subject is often on my mind and probably sneaks onto the page more often than I realize. I note the disappearance of one reader in particular, with whom I had previously seemed rather popular, and I feel sorry to see that reader go. Then again, on the other hand, I have no way of knowing whether previous visitors have stopped following me or have actually died. Lol. I don't know these readers, you see. I just know what region of the world they come from. It may even be that the interest I have failed to retain is that of a bot. In any case, I write of my own experiences and feelings and ideas without meaning to preach (other than to myself). In short, I talk to myself, and thus find employment for several hours of the day. 

The Unruly Sun

Once a week or so, I go out to a mall in Denpasar, not very far from my house, because there is a Hypermart there, which is a good place to buy my groceries for the week. In years past, one had to choose between Hardy's in Sanur or the Hypermart in Kuta, the latter of which is rather far away. Hardy's was closer, but more expensive, being in the middle of a tourist area. Now, however, there are any number of groceries nearby and shopping has become much easier. 

I choose the mall in Denpasar because the Hypermart store has reasonable prices, and there is a Starbucks and a Gramedia book store in the mall. 

But there's a curious thing about this Starbucks in the mall; for although I have never been good at compass directions, often getting them wrong when I write in this blog, I can say that at this particular Starbucks, the sun is permanently fixed over the outdoor patio area. Whether morning or evening, there it is, beating down on the tables, and trashing the laws of astronomy at the same time. According to my observations, in this strange zone of the cosmos the sun rises in the west, climbs nearly to the top of the sky, and then gradually slides back down, ultimately setting upon the same horizon from which it rose. 

How this can be, I don't know. What I do know is that the only pleasant time to have a coffee at this Starbucks is in the evening, when the sun, by not shining at all, has resumed an obedience to the laws of nature.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Weather

As we move through May and June, the weather in south Bali becomes increasingly worldly, as opposed to other-worldly, in that there is actually a chill in the air at night and in the morning, which seems appropriate as worldly weather goes, and is not so hot during the day that you can't bear to sit outside. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting outside right now with my laptop, having a coffee. It's 10:30 am, sunny but mild, with a bit of a breeze whispering here and there. 

To be honest, through much of the year, Bali is distinctly less than a paradise, weather-wise. Either the humidity is suffocating or the sun is blistering, and when neither of these is the case, the monsoon rains are flooding the island. 

So I am enjoying our brief, bearable 'summer', though I am aware that by late August, the sun will crank of the humidity dial and people will seek the comfort of closed doors and rooms with AC. 

I feel like I need to add here that the reason I'm writing about the weather is that everything else seems so Goddamn depressing. I think I need to stop reading the news in the morning. I mean, I get up not feeling very well anyway--lots of nighttime kinks and aches to shake out, and then I sit there at the table pouring over what is basically 100 percent bad news these days. Not fake new, mind you. Just plain bad news. My mind gets stuck on our president's statement that Kim Jong-Un is a 'very honorable, likeable guy'. This is the guy who starves thousands of his own people, who imprisons and tortures them in Nazi style concentration camps, who makes whole families disappear in clouds of blood, who murders even his own family members. A very honorable guy?  I'm just like stunned. Just sitting there staring. How can this be? How can it be that in America a woman's baby is taken away from her even as it is breast feeding? And the woman's crime? She was seeking asylum, protection from the violence and repression in her own country. My God.  

So the weather, as noxious as it sometimes is, seems incomparably pleasant compared to the world that it shines or rains on. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Next Closest Thing to Narcolepsy

It seems that there is nothing else in the world that will so quickly put me to sleep than getting up in the morning. Go figure. I have slept all night, having usually gone to bed at about 10 pm, I wake up between 5:30 and 6:30, go outside to the backyard for a coffee and a cigarette, throw on a pair of shorts and a tank top, go for my morning walk, eat a small breakfast, take a shower, get dressed for the day, and then suddenly I think, Gee, I feel kinda tired. It's likely about 9:30 am at this time. So I decide that I'll lie down for a minute, do so, and Bam, I'm out. It is not a long nap--usually a half hour to an hour--but it is the nap of the living dead. Like turning off a light switch. The curtain descends. The next part of the next hour passes in another universe, a void. And it turns out that I have had to wait until 9:30 in the morning for the deepest sleep of the night to come around. I always wake abruptly from this sudden slumber and my first waking thought is always Damn, what happened? 

It is always difficult to get up from this second sleep. It's like the opposite of getting your second breath, you know? I am aware that though I have slept only a short time, I have slept very soundly. Profoundly so. But I force myself to my feet, feeling, essentially, that I have done something wrong. I'm a lazy bastard. A child. The rest of the world is on the move, but here I am lying in my bed, fully clothed, like a corpse. Get up! Get a move on, soldier!

In the meantime, as I generally find, the big fat brown dog has entered the house while I slept and has herself fallen asleep in the spare bedroom. Perhaps this is all her fault (though I have never seen her with a magic wand or heard her to mutter any strange spells). Like me, the big fat brown dog does not like to end her short trip to never-never land; nonetheless, the day must move forward. I have nothing at all to do, and now I've gotten a late start toward getting it done. 

First off coffee, for sure. The dog must be coaxed out of her room with a sausage treat so that I can get her out the front door and lock up behind us. She meanders back up the street to her house, and I beep the horn as I pass her on my bike. 

"See ya later," she says. "If yer awake." 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Although I have a washing machine at home, and do use it for socks and underwear and stuff like jeans and shorts and tank tops and tee shirts, I take my better pants and shirts up the street to the laundry where they can be washed and dried and ironed, and all for a very low price. My expectation for the other clothing is that it will more or less iron itself while it is on me. But drying clothing in the equatorial sun tends to be hard on the fabric, and so I try to save my nicer clothes from such treatment, which seems to me a cost-effective measure. 

In any case, when I walked up this morning to drop my clothing at the laundry, a new girl was working up front in the laundry. She had a question about the clothing or the price, so she dashed back to the rear area to ask the regular girl.

"Who is it?" the regular girl asked. 

"It's a bule," the new girl answered. In other words, it's a white guy. 

Now this seems both perfectly natural and strangely jarring to me--a manifestation of the clash between my well learned western sensibilities (aka, political correctness) and plain common sense. Of course she has instantly identified me as 'the white guy'. What better way to indicate identity in all brown Renon, Bali, Indonesia? 

But in America, when faced with the same question, we would be slow to blurt out 'It's a black guy' or 'It's an Asian guy', because we have been told that we are not supposed to identify people according to their color. How, then, do we go about answering a simple question without so bluntly categorizing another person? And why, really, must we in cases where this would quite simply be the simplest, most direct route? In Indonesia, there is nothing that typifies me more immediately than my skin color. Therefore, I am not offended at all. I am, after all, white, while the rest of the neighborhood is not. 

We have in some ways, at the extent of our desire to be correct, become quite needlessly less than direct. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tubby Time

It seems that at night my brain must have as a matter of course something rattling around in it in order to keep me from sleeping. Why sleep deprivation is important to my brain, I cannot say. Sometimes it is a piece of music that I would prefer to forget. Sometimes it is a fixation on some unpleasant event in my life. Sometimes it's making a list of groceries I need to buy the next day and which I will have completely forgotten by the morning.

Last night it was a song. Tubby Time. I made up the song a long time ago and I used to sing it when my little boy and I would take a bath together. Tubby time. Oh tubby tubby tubby tubby time. Oh tubby tubby tubby tubby time. I like that time. Tubby tubby tubby tubby time. 

That's it. And like the dreadful "Song That Has No End", Tubby Time repeats over and over and has no end. I have only myself to blame. 

But what struck me this morning, having awakened with Tubby Time still ricocheting around the basin of my cranium, is how odd it now seems that my son and I once took baths together. I cannot recapture from my memory the experience of being so completely comfortable together that there was nothing at all uncomfortable about being naked in the same bathtub. Nothing at all. Rather, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The memory is intact in its factual sense, but has sloughed off the stuff of emotion. Of course, this was many years ago--some 40 years ago--a reality which itself seems suspect when I think about it. Has it really been 40 years? What happened? 

And yet something remains, like a water ring in that same basin of my cranium--something that has become part of bone and marrow.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Quiet Family

Have you ever known one of these people who seem to think that being loud is the same as being right? I suppose the online texting version of this is the 'all caps typist'. You've met them, right--those who appear to believe that texting in all caps is certain to cement their point of view as just plain truth? Sure you have.

My second wife, though a wonderful woman, was an all caps speaker in any dispute. I remember saying to her on several occasions, quietly of course, and once she had closed her lips for a moment, that being loud, that drowning out your 'opponent', is something quite different from being right. Really, it is merely tyranny, isn't it? 

I grew up in a quiet family. I think that I never heard my father "yell", though of course he would occasionally raise the volume of his voice somewhat. The only time I heard my mother yell was when a friend of my father's got drunk at the gathering after my brother's funeral and fell asleep on the dining room table. Other than that, you could have called us "The Quiet Family". 

This loud world, therefore, has always been somewhat jarring for me. I remember a strange period of time, a matter only of days really, during my childhood when everything suddenly seemed painfully loud, piercing--voices, music, chairs scraping on the floor, even the tap of silverware on glass. I remember sitting at the breakfast table and demanding that my family members BE QUIET! Lol. If I remember rightly, I was taken to the doctor for this curious problem, though I don't remember what the doctor's determination was. The boy is crazy, perhaps? In any case, the phenomenon went away as swiftly as it had started, thankfully. 

There have been a few strange symptoms like that throughout the years--odd, inexplicable problems that would come and go. Perhaps all along these were manifestations of MS. When, after all, does malfunction of the central nervous system begin? How many incidents may have been early evidence? 

Who knows. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Dating Project

I happened to watch a documentary yesterday called "The Dating Project", an interesting look at dating, or perhaps the death of dating, in the US. Curiously, it seems that the more readily and easily we are able to communicate, via text and social media and so on, the less we actually do so on a meaningful level. This would be true in the realm of ideas--politics, religion--as well as in social interactions between the sexes. With instant, and often anonymous, communication has come innocuous abbreviation, careless incivility, and a sort of emotional laziness. Dating and courtship have been replaced by hooking up, casual encounters, the whim of the moment, the fuck-buddy. And as it turns out, fewer and fewer people know how to date anymore. They don't know what it is. 

The Dating Project itself is a course designed by a university professor in which students must choose another person to ask out on a date. They must first, of course, learn what this is--what is a date, what differentiates it from a 'hook-up', what pattern is to be followed, and so on?  One of the first things the students discover, naturally, is that this is much more difficult than typing a sentence and hitting the send button. Here, you are putting yourself out there, you are taking the rather frightening step of acknowledging that you are particularly interested in a specific person, so much so that you would like to spend time together one-on-one, not in group gathering, a party, or what have you. You are interested in getting to know this person. 

The documentary was an interesting look at the social scene in America, the deterioration of traditional goals and patterns, the challenge of interacting authentically in a digital society; and yet most interesting to me was the automatic comparison to what I see in Indonesian society, which, despite social networking, retains a character in sexual interaction and expectations that is much like that which existed in the America of the 1950's.

As an example, my friend Hendra happened to mention to me yesterday that he and his girlfriend, Ratih, would be married in three years. They had a contract, he said. I asked if Ratih knew about this and he said Of course. That is our plan. We talked about it. 

Hendra and Ratih have been going together for less than a year, yet they speak of commitment, a plan for the future. They have even decided how many children they will have!

It is the same with Resy and with Adi. They have their girlfriend and they have a plan. Ideally, fashioning  the proper circumstances comes first, security, maturity, and then marriage. This is not to suggest that they do not have sexual relations. Of course they do. So did boys and girls in the 50's. It is to say that the patterns of tradition, expectation, the proper course, a distinct and well-defined goal are still very strong in this society.   

Friday, June 8, 2018

Garbage Disposals

I note on my walk around the neighborhood this morning that the cows are ranging ever further away from their pasture. As I have mentioned before, the grass in the pasture is nibbled down to the nub, and so they are out looking for something more substantial, I suppose. What they are finding, however--or what they are clearly preferring--is garbage. From street to street, the cows raid garbage cans, making not a little bit of noise in the process as they overturn the cans and rummage through the goods. One cow had extracted a plastic bag full of something clearly delectable, and as the cow chewed on the bag, the air in the plastic popped like a balloon. The look on the face of that cow was classic--startled, wide-eyed, frozen in mid-chew, glancing warily over its shoulder, as if to say "What the heck? Is someone shooting at me?" 

Of course, it is rather sad that these cows have been driven to eating garbage, and ingesting much of the plastic along with it. I've actually never seen anyone supervising the cows in any way. In fact, the only people I've seen in the pasture have been children flying kites or playing soccer. Sometimes I will see people bring a bunch of garden refuse--grass and weeds and leaves and what-all--from somewhere else and deposit it for the cows; but where the owners might be, and why they are not more energetically providing for their bovine charges, is anyone's guess. 


OMG! Young Ajus smiled at me today! A first. Unfortunately, there is no photo. One would have to act very quickly indeed, because the smile, almost as if it had startled itself as well as me, swiftly flew off like a bird before a cat about to leap. 

At the time, we had been sitting on the porch together. I was talking, Ajus was staring dispassionately at me as he chewed on a brownie. I had just said that I was about to go out and get a coffee, when Ajus jumped up and entered the house in front of me, then began to close the door behind him. 

"Hey, nunggu!" I exclaimed. Wait! 

And the last thing I saw as the door closed was a big smile spreading across his face. 

It was gone, of course, when I opened the door a second or two later. 

"You smiled!" I exclaimed. "Oh my gosh, you smiled, Ajus!" 

His answer to this was to stare at me dispassionately, chewing his brownie. He seemed distinctly unconvinced by the news that he had smiled. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Bali Dogs in the News

I've inserted a link below to a story in the Jakarta Post about the history of Bali dogs. Interesting stuff, to me--but as my regular readers will know, I'm very fond of dogs in general and enjoy writing about them.

Bali dogs are a breed of their own, and it is interesting to see how they ended up here, and how very long they have been here. 

When I first came to Bali, more than 7 years ago now, the island was in the midst of a rabies epidemic, and there had been a number of human deaths as a result of being bitten. The government had ignored this developing problem for a long while, and then found itself facing a situation that was completely out of control. The belated response, sadly for the dogs, was to cull many wandering dogs, whether healthy or unhealthy. 

The fact is that many of the dogs here are only loosely associated with a home, tending to be more like 'neighborhood dogs' than belonging to a particular family. Many of them also have to pretty much rely on themselves for sustenance, eating sometimes at "home", sometimes at a neighbor's house, sometimes from a garbage can.   

Anyway, I thought the article was interesting.


Life seems a long time getting to its end and yet upon arrival it seems to have been a very short time after all. We have been used to entertaining thoughts of what comes next. We speak of this or that phase, the ex-wife and the next wife, learning from the past, transforming the future; and then one day we suddenly realize that essentially we have run out of time. There is no more space for starting anew, no wiggle room. There is no ladder, no alley, no tunnel. There is only a wall. This is not a maze. It is simply the edge of the page. 

Joan Didion, in Blue Nights, put it this way: "When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast. One day we are absorbed by dressing well, following the news, keeping up, coping, what we might call staying alive; the next day we are not." 

It is just this sudden. It is a dark light suddenly turned on. It is an unexpected, silent exclamation: "Oh!" We lose that sense of the possible and we lose it fast. In the twinkling of an eye. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


I'm up to about page 250 of this 700 page novel by Chinese author, Yu Hua, and feeling glad that I am only a third of the way through, because I am so enjoying living with this story and its characters. Brothers is a comic, picaresque novel, after the fashion of Tom Jones or The Pickwick Papers. The unusual thing is that this comedy is set (so far) in the midst of the violence of the Red Revolution under Mau Zedong, a time of tyranny, of murder and torture, death and destruction. It manages to be comic simply by depicting people as they really are, despite ideology and grand social movements, and it gathers much of its power (for the profundity of drama is always lurking just beneath comedy) from the play of relentless love and decency against cruelty and intolerance. I don't think I've ever read anything else that has been so funny and so sad at the same time. We see that what is truly grand is not the Maoist social revolution, but the perseverance of common people through the unshakeable strength of family and love. 

Monday, June 4, 2018


I was reading this morning about how physicists had discovered a new sort of neutrino which should not exist, but does. It should not exist, I suppose, because it possesses the quality of passing through other matter without affecting or being affected by that matter, somehow both coinciding and not coinciding with the matter. Weird. No matter how much you think about it, you can't explain it to yourself. Or at least I can't. I always find physics fascinating, although I certainly don't understand physics. I remember another study which showed, essentially, that things only happen if they are observed. At the atomic level, or so it seems, things are in a wave form, merely potential, and cannot occur, as a focused trajectory, for instance, unless they are observed. Similarly, each electron has a twin and each will mirror the action of the other even if they have been separated and scattered to opposite ends of the universe. 

What this says to me is that there is a whole lot about life and existence that we do not understand, that science has discovered far more mysteries than it has solved, that at the most essential level we are quite ignorant of the worlds by which our beings are contained. These neutrinos are ghosts, are they not? They both exist and do not exist, they are both here and not here. 

As above, so below, the saying goes. Or, in other words, On earth as it is in heaven. I think what I find fascinating about physics is the same thing I find fascinating about religion, spirit, theology--the mystery at the core, the meaning that is infinitely deeper than the search. We express in both the language of science and the language of religion bits and fragments of what we do not know, those things which God both knows and is.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mr. Mercedes, the Series

Over the past few days, I watched the TV series version of Mr. Mercedes, the Stephen King novel. This, I thought, was extremely well done, and quite faithful to the novel. The climactic event was changed just a bit, in as far as the venue was altered from a teeny rock concert to a community art show, but I think I know why they did that (and it's okay). Psychotic killer Brady Hartsfield is played in a wonderfully creepy way by Harry Treadaway. As with the book, the horror is especially horrible, as the only monsters are of the human sort. 

Apparently, a second season, beginning in August, will follow the events of King's follow-up novel, End of Watch.  

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Road

In the past, I have often had dreams of the sort where I am driving a vehicle which is either careening out of control or will not move at all. Perhaps I am on a curvy highway, going faster and faster, suddenly aware that I must soon lose control altogether and crash and burn. On perhaps I am flying down a hill, going way too fast, brakes not working. Perhaps the road itself becomes absurd, growing way too steep or suddenly as thin as a thread, a tightwire suspended above a bottomless chasm. Or on the other hand, other vehicles may be streaming by whilst the one I am operating is inching along, blocking the progress of others, the victim of some mechanical failure, or perhaps a personal failure to operate the vehicle appropriately. 

Last night, however, I had a dream where I was with one of my sons, I'm not sure which, either in or on a vehicle--either a car or a motorbike--when we found ourselves on a road that was barely a road at all. It was more like a crevasse in a steeply sloping cliff of mud--more like a riverbed than a road. I was surprised, however, to find, despite this landscape fraught with such tragic potent (such a 'slippery slope', one might say), that we were doing just fine. The vehicle was under control, the steering worked, the brakes worked, and my driving expertise was up to the challenge. We seemed to feel at the same time both astounded and secure. 

It was a comforting dream, and I take it as a good sign. I have been preoccupied recently, and praying, about the troubling, uncertain times ahead of me--and for the first time, in this dream, I found that there was no road too treacherous for me after all, no curve that could overcome me, no cliff that could seize me. The landscape was severe, the road steep and hazardous, but I, we, were able, safe.   

Say Cheese

This is my buddy, Ajus. He comes to the house every Saturday morning. Ajus never smiles. He is a very serious person. Which is understandable, because this is a very serious world and these are very serious times. In this way, Ajus and I are rather alike, for I never smile, either. Or rather, I smile only rarely, usually when people tell me to smile. Ajus, however, does not respond to this request. I asked him to smile for the photo above, and this is what I got. Ajus is holding a bag containing various snacks. When he needs a new snack opened, he will hand the item to me and rely on implication; for, you see, Ajus does not speak, either. He does not smile and he does not speak. He does like to sit with me on the porch, though. I smoke a cigarette, he chews a cookie, and we gaze pensively, unsmilingly, on the world before us. I always look forward to our time together.  

Friday, June 1, 2018


The holiday Galungan/Kuningan occurs every 7 months in Bali. During this time, people who have passed away return to their ancestral homes for a visit and then on Kuningan they go back to heavenly iCloud. Many of the Balinese shops and warungs will close during this time (about week) and many of the Balinese will celebrate with a day at the beach. The photo below is of Mertesari Beach, which is the farthest beach to the west in Sanur--a wide, open beach with plenty of parking space and a favorite of the locals. Also, a great place for flying kites, which is also a favorite local pastime. Generally, this beach would be all but deserted--but, as you can see, not so during Galungan! 

Day and Night

Although my neuropathic pain has been generally improving over recent days, I suddenly woke up last night in pretty bad shape--pain in my arms and shoulders and extending from there down my spine. Of course, it didn't matter which way I moved or tried to adjust myself. It was just there. 

So I thought, Well, it must surely be almost morning, almost time to get up. I took a look at my phone, which I keep on the window sill at the head of the bed, and found that it was in fact morning--just barely. One o'clock in the morning. 

Shit! You mean I have to lie here for 5 more hours? My God, I had slept only 3 hours but felt like I'd been lying there as long as Rip Van Winkle. 

Well, finally I went back to sleep, who knows what time that was, and when I awoke--thankfully, this time, it was 6:30 am--I had only residual pain at the top of my spine. 

So I'm tired as the day begins here with my morning coffee, but still, I think, on the road to improvement where the pain is concerned.