Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Just found out that Bluehost had renewed the domain name for my second blog, which I don't use anymore, and had charged the credit card I had used, DESPITE the fact that I had instructed them, via their own online renewal form, NOT to renew the blog. I had even deleted the credit card number, which they were able to retrieve somehow. Bastards! I hate this kind of dishonest business practice. So I will need to go through what is sure to be the maze of contacting someone there, and I certainly will not pay their charge to my credit card. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Wedding Bell Blues

My little friend, Sabrina, happened to ask yesterday, via Instant Messenger, how she might convince a certain bule (a westerner) to ask her to marry. I answered that the man, no matter where he comes from, convinces himself by falling in love with the woman, and once that happens, he can hardly be 'unconvinced'. In short, he asks her to marry because he wants to marry her. 

To me, this seems like a no-brainer. But maybe I'm just old fashioned. I mean, to me, love is love, and if you love someone, you just naturally want to be with that person--the closer the better. Marriage would not seem strange or like going too far. It would be the arrangement most desirable. Am I wrong? 

Well, she explained that the man wanted to 'focus on his career' at this time. Yes, he loves her, but he wants to focus on his career and then marry 'at the right time'. 


It seems like I married and had children and focused on my career all at the same time. Isn't that the way it works? How, I wonder, would a wife keep one from focusing on his career? Wouldn't she, rather, compliment his career?

So, to me, to be honest, this sounds like BS. Yes, I have several friends who have spoken of career first, and then marriage--but they are quite young, in their early 20's, while this bule boyfriend is in his 40's (and Sabrina is only in her early 20s). These young men understand, and I think quite responsibly so, that they will need to have a reliable means of supporting a wife (especially in Indonesia, where this is both the culture and the economic reality). But a westerner already in a career and already in his 40's? Nah. I'm sorry, Sabrina, but it sounds like an excuse, an evasion. And I told her so, as gently as possible, and with the caveat that I could be wrong.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Facial Recognition Disconnect

I had another of these facial recognition brain failures the other day. I was at Starbucks, sitting outside talking with Hendra during his breaktime. Hendra, as I've mentioned previously, recently broke up with his girlfriend, Ratih, and the three of us had very often sat together and chatted. 

Well, it happened that while we talked, Hendra connected with a young woman on video call, and he turned the screen to me so that I could say hi. 

"Oh, hi, Ratih," I said. 

"Pak Will! That's not Ratih!" 

I look again. And I say, "Yes it is."


"No, Pak Will!" 

"Huh? Really? Are you sure?" 

"Yes! I'm sure! This is Ayu."

Well, I muttered something about how all Indonesians look the same--quick cover-up for senility, I guess. 

The thing is, the woman really is not Ratih. She really doesn't look much like Ratih at all. So why has my brain jumped to the conclusion that Ayu is Ratih? Why has it not instantly recognized the difference between one woman and another? Is it because I am accustomed to seeing Hendra and Ratih together--like, if this is Hendra, that must be Ratih. Yet, how has my brain happened to skip over the evidence of my own eyes? 

Oh well. It provides a moment of humor. For others. 


There's a little rat in my kitchen--well, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and call him a mouse--who seems to be on the road to becoming tame. At first, upon seeing me, he would run like he was being chased by the devil, but nowadays he seems to become ever more nonchalant, as if saying to himself "Meh, it's just that same guy again. Why get in a sweat?'

I was sitting at the table in the yard the other night and I noticed little scraping, tapping noises coming from the nearby cupboard. So I opened the drawer, and sure enough, there he is, just sitting there staring at me. Not running this time, no panic, no bother. "Peep?" he says. 

Now, I'm not conversant in rodent language or in any of its dialects, but I have the feeling that, combined with the mildly put upon expression on his face, Peep? may mean 'Would you please close the drawer so that I can go back to my business in private?'

Later that night, I saw him again--this time tiptoeing across the tops of the spice containers. Upon seeing me, he rather unconvincingly 'fled' to the hose which connects the stove to the gas cannister and serves as his stairway from ground level to mezzanine and second floor--and I swear, he kind of shook his head as he went, as if to say 'Okay, okay, I'll play your game--Yikes! A Man! I'd better run! Blah, blah, blah.' 

I'm not at all a fan of rats, or of mice, either; but this little guy is becoming so familiar, his presence so predictable, his attitude so polite and civil, that killing a pest begins to seem the same as murdering a neighbor. In short, he has become the mouse rather than a mouse--as if he were somehow my mouse! 

And I'm pretty well certain that this is his plan. 


Two sharp earthquakes in Bali this morning, 6:30 am and 9:50 am. Actually, the epicenter was at the island of Lombok, north of Bali. Someone said they had been measured at 6.4. I happened to be lying in bed both times, and the feeling was like sitting in a boat on a quiet lake and then being rocked by the waves from a passing motorboat. I suppose that these are associated with the mood of the continually puffing and grumbling volcano up country down Karangasem way. Coincidentally, the ocean tides have been strange in Bali, with swift currents and sudden 'mini-tsunamis'. In short, the earth seems to have its nose out of joint about something. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Last night, I heard a sudden crash, went to investigate, and found a hose-like stream of water gushing out the bathroom door. Above the basin where the faucets connect to the shower there had been one of those suction contraptions holding a container of shampoo, my razor and so on, and this had lost its suction, fallen from the wall and impacted the faucet. This would not have been a problem if the pipe itself hadn't been paper-thin, but as it is, this plastic contraption broke the pipe right in half, thus releasing a torrent of water. Only way to stop it, of course, was to turn off the water at the main source outside in the driveway. This meant no shower, no dish washing, no clothes washing, no nothing using water.

Luckily, I have a friend here named Samuel. Samuel can fix anything. He reminds me of my brother-in-law from my second marriage. Plumbing, cars, washing machines, electricity--you name it, he could fix it (whereas I am hopelessly stupid and can fix nothing at all, aside from grammar, that is.  It's a pleasure to watch Samuel work. He will take the thing apart, clean it, examine it, purchase the new "thing", place it in the wall, test it, take it off again, clean it, replace it again, ensuring that it is tight and functional and without problem. What would I do without Samuel? In Indonesia there is really no 'guy' to call, no official repairman, no white pages and no yellow pages. You have to know someone or know someone who knows someone. 

Friday, July 27, 2018


Another night-long night of nightmares. How strange. I reckon there must be something bothering me deep down, right? This one, once again, was about ghosts and hauntings. And it was really pretty creepy. The house I was in was said to be haunted. I was kind of trying to investigate what was going on, and while some things were explicable, others were not. Some things seemed rather obvious attempts by some trickster to make the place seem haunted, and some seemed actual hauntings. It was one of these dreams where you wake up and instantly know that you have merely been having a nightmare, but nonetheless must spend some time convincing yourself that there's nothing in the house to be afraid of. I got up and walked around and smoked a cigarette, and then when I went back to bed, naturally I reentered the same damn dream. Lol. 

So why is this house of mine being haunted? Who are the ghosts? Are they real or are they not? What do they want? 

Or, as Ebenezer Scrooge supposed, are these ghosts but bits of undigested meat? Are the nightmares simply dream depictions of the discomfort present in my body while I sleep? Are they merely telling me that I am in pain? Well, Jeeze, I already know that! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018


There's a strange synchronicity at work in the every day events and patterns of life, a meaningful acquaintance of seemingly unrelated tangents, a merging and meshing of coincidence which strives toward a knowledge which transcends and integrates the parts. You may find, for instance, that the novel you just happen to be reading seems curiously enough to be specifically addressing some trial or issue you are facing personally. The film or the TV series you have chosen to view may end up offering its own interpretation of what is currently transpiring in your life. You may find that the casual conversation has somehow of its own accord defined and focused an interior debate. Everything conspires together to leap toward meaning if only it will be seen, if only it will be heard. Synchronicity is described by Carl Jung as the meaningful coincidence of events having no causal  relationship yet seeming to be meaningfully related. That's one way of putting it. Another may be to say that synchronicity is the language commonly employed by the Holy Spirit. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ship of Fools

Reading the morning news these days is a strange experience. It's kind of like the way one feels when a loved one has recently died. You wake up in the morning and sit down with your coffee and kind of realize all over again, piece by piece, that new realities prevail in the world. It was not a bad dream. This, in fact, has happened, and will continue happening from here on out. You scan through the stories, looking for a loophole in the narrative. You think that perhaps things are not really what they seem. Surely the world will soon regain its senses.

For a long while, through the impossible march of the months after November 2016, I found the news very upsetting, distracting really. But as time lumbers on, I begin to slump into a general sigh of apathy on the one hand and a raised brow of curiosity on the other. How strange this all seems, how alien! How is it that the actual shape of the world is so different from what I thought it to be? 

Things that once seemed outrageous now become commonplace. Predictable. Life has been speaking a different language all along, and I've only just now realized that I don't understand it. How to make sense of this gibberish? 

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, 
ship of fools sail away from me. 
It was later than I thought
when I first believed you.
Now I cannot share your laughter,
ship of fools. 
[lyrics from The Grateful Dead]

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sixteen Candles

I happened to be thinking yesterday about an old movie I had very much liked at the time--Sixteen Candles, with Molly Ringwald. Now, as it happens, one of the particular blessings that come with MS (my brand, anyway) is the inability to remember the details of anything not seen in the past hour or so. This makes viewing favorite old movies or reading favorite old books practically a new experience all over again! 

So what the hell, I  looked up Sixteen Candles online and watched the flick--and I must say that I found it delightful and hilarious all over again. This, to me, is a truly endearing, mature (so to speak) 'teen movie', and provides the viewer with an opportunity to revisit the nightmare of high school days without having to suffer through actually being there. How nice it is to be able to sit back and laugh, and think "Whew, I'm glad that's over" before it even begins. 

Living Arms Manor

Curiously, for the last two nights, I have been without 'dead arm syndrome'. I'm not sure why (not that I'm disappointed, mind you). It could just be coincidence, the whim of MS. It could be that I had been taking one methylprednisolone tablet in the morning. It could be this skin cream, Armicare Cooling Gel, recommended by a friend. Who knows? It has been pleasant, in any case, to have living arms upon awakening, in that it makes my whole body feel a bit more alive and well than usual. The trouble with methylprednisolone, for me, and perhaps for many, is that it tends to be terrifically constipating. But oh well. Small price to pay. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Iron Man and Green Lantern

When I went out the front door this morning, just about to head off on my walk, I found the air filled with the smell of sizzling bacon, and instantly fell captive to the aroma, as to an angelic song, reaching to the recesses of memory and experience. I close my eyes and breathe and stand suddenly before my mother as she kneels above the glowering coals of the campfire, turning the strips of bacon and four small, crisp brook trout. It is July and I am at the Metolius River and the day is already hot and I can hear the  buzzing of wings in the air, of birds and of flying bugs, and the insouciant harp-sound of the breeze in the grass and the chortling, chuckling river close by, and the accidental tune my father plays as he juggles tablespoons and metal pans upon the Coleman stovetop, preparing a pot of coffee while he puffs on his pipe. There will be bacon and eggs and fish and hash browns and coffee and Prince Albert rising like a genii. Later, when my father swirls down the stream a-fishing, we will go up the hill, my brother and I, between the uncombed cowlicks of sagebrush and the salt-dry soil and the porous red lava rocks, to where the Ponderosa Pine trees grow taller and taller and smell of sweet vanilla, and I will be Green Lantern and my brother will be Iron Man, dying day by day as his miraculous iron heart fails, burns low, brings him to his knees. Such goes our story, tragic but for the fortuitous intervention of Green Lantern and the incomprehensible powers of his ring. God, I miss you, Gary. My God, I miss those days. 


I've been calling this guy "Arthur", although he may actually be more of, a "Spence". I'm not sure. Anyway, he's a sweet little dog, quite friendly and personable, with some intelligent things to say. 

I first met Arthur not long ago on my morning walk. His territory seemed to be the area on the other side of the cow pasture, but I  don't know who he belongs to, if indeed he belongs to anyone. He has no collar, and has not seemed to display an attachment to any particular house. More than likely, as with many Bali dogs, he is loosely associated with a person or household in the neighborhood, but pretty much runs free.

Arthur began to follow me home because he was following the big fat brown dog who was in heat and who generally accompanies me on my walks. Since then, however, he has fallen into the habit of visiting my house 'just because' (or maybe just because he will often get a sausage or a cookie or a bit of cheese). Like the big fat brown dog, he will come and go throughout the day, just hanging out, or snoozing for a few minutes, or what have you. Curiously,, he is irritated if he happens to find me snoozing on the bed, and stands there at the bedside growling at me. Why he is angered by my naps, I do not know, nor has he said. 

Arthur has the coloring of a classic Bali dog--brown with black striping. He is sharp-witted and independent--although still too young at this point to have developed a suspicion of human beings and the resultant stand-offish-ness that typifies most dogs in Bali. 

Since Arthur has no collar and roams freely, he is fairly liable not to last very long; for, you see, every citizen in Bali is deputized to kill unaccompanied, unmarked dogs on sight, if they feel like it. No penalty. It is a bit of a hysterical, not to mention brutal, reaction to the threat of another rabies outbreak. One can think of any number of ways the situation might be addressed in a more humane, and more efficient fashion. Public education, for instance? Free clinics or neutering programs? A leash law? 

Ah well. Take care, Arthur. Watch your back. Good luck, buddy! 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Liberty Valance Rides Again

My MS symptoms, which started some eleven years ago in my feet and legs, prefer nowadays to roam about an area generally described by the triangular region of my upper back, shoulders, neck and head. Let's call it 'The Devil's Triangle'. Like the outlaw gang which periodically shows up to terrorize the frontier town, MS rides roughshod through the region, whooping and howling, guns blazing, tormenting one quiet hamlet  on the plain and leaving behind ruin and destruction as it rides on to the next point of riot on that wild west stage, or simply returns for a time to its base camp, the box canyon just behind my right shoulder blade.  

I note over the past few days that my eyesight has been the victim of the latest raid, as I am unable to read print on a screen--especially that on the screen on my iPhone. The letters just simply won't stand still, but each letter must mix with its neighbors, rendering words suspiciously like Arabic script. At the same time (and this is totally weird), I am suddenly able to see things clearly at a distance, which has not happened since I was about 12 or so. Yes, I'm sitting out in the yard this morning when I note that the clothes hangers on the distant clothesline are quite crisply distinct while the news stories on my Facebook page, seen close-up, are all in inscrutable Arabic! 

Annoying, sure--but at the same time a blessing! How wonderful it is to see things faraway--my goodness, just look at the sharp green leaves on that tree, and the fact that there is a tree there! Who knew? And that little mouse that just ran under the washing machine. Ha! And he thought I couldn't see him! Thanks, MS! 

Sometimes, the renegades will split into two riotous groups, simultaneously attacking one town in the west and one in the east--or in other words, my arms. Last night, for instance, it wasn't enough to kill one arm or the other, but both must die! So it happened that I awoke between two dead bodies. Who can this be who is in bed with me? Oh. It's just me. 

Sadly, there is no Jimmy Stewart, no Rance Stoddard, in this drama, standing for law and justice; or, rather, there is, but there is no John Wayne, no Tom Doniphon, to protect him. There is no man who shot Liberty Valance. There is only Liberty Valence shooting me. 

Our Cartoon President

I just noticed yesterday that there is a TV cartoon series (Showtime) about Donald Trump called "Our Cartoon President". Lol. Only in America, right? Well, not only. I suppose this could happen in any western country (if there was another such that could find an equally foolish Head of State). But I'll tell you where this wouldn't happen (and I do mean "wouldn't"). Russia, that's where. 

The funny thing about the cartoon, kind of a Family Guy style thing, is that it's actually not very funny. That's because Donnie and his band of goons have actually said and done most of what is depicted in the cartoon episodes. In other words, we've already heard the 'jokes'. Another reason it is not funny is that this rampant government stupidity is currently very negatively affecting any number of people who are having the suffer the real-time consequences--the poor, minorities, people in need of health insurance, people on Social Security and Welfare, Veterans, asylum seekers, refugees fleeing war and death, and so on and so on. I can see that it would be funny at some future time, when the threat is gone, times are better, and people can laugh at the absurdities that an earlier generation endured, but right now, in the middle of the mess, not so much. 

And, of course, the people who need to see a graphic, cartoon-style representation of what's going on in order to grasp the meaning of the same will not be likely to watch the show in the first place, because nobody likes to feel stupid or, indeed, complicit. 

I suppose that to some extent the show might work in a cathartic way in as far as humor might provide us with a moment of relief, appealing to the 'misery loves company' effect. In other words, 'Whew, it's not just me. This whole thing really is bat-shit crazy!' 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Gang War

The "parade", as I have called my morning walk with its rather tuneless band of accompanying neighborhood dogs, devotees of the big fat brown dog, who is in heat, has become more of a running mob war, as the all-male band has tired to playing nicely. Now, fights break out all along the way--sometimes involving two, and sometimes involving four or five (as far as can be counted in the storm of snouts and tails. It has also become distinctly embarrassing, a riot with which I would prefer not to be associated. (Note, for the historical record, that I say 'would', not 'wouldn't', and that indeed I intended to say 'would'). People look on at the noisy, fur-tearing scrambles and seem to say (or maybe I just fear that they mean to say), "What don't you control your dogs, Mister?"


The Ghosts that Haunt

I had an unusual dream last night--which is unusual in itself, as I did not dream at all whilst I was taking Xanax at night, given the deep state of sleep induced by that drug. It's kind of like being put under before a wisdom tooth extraction--you don't know nothin' till you wake up in some room, wondering whether you've had the extraction yet, or whether you just nodded off for a minute. Anyway, I've been off the Xanax for a while, not by choice but because a prescription is now required, and I've been having a number of vivid dreams, as if they are trying to catch up after the downtime. 

In this dream, the dead--or ghosts--had "learned" to co-occupy living hosts. The idea seemed to be that, on the model of evolution, ghosts had acquired the ability "to become", to crawl out of aimless, powerless limbo and enter into a flesh and blood vehicle, to live, move, and have their being in partnership with an already animate vessel, which would then contain their essence, and itself be altered by the new presence. 

Okay, my dream did not give me all the scientific or biological or metaphysical details--or if it did, I can't remember them--but anyway, it seemed an inventive sort of Idea.

Curiously, the host, in this way, becomes haunted--haunted, and intimately so, by a ghost. The host, of course, has no idea that it has been entered and now shares its identity with a ghost. Nor, for that matter, is the ghost any longer a ghost, any more than the human being is any longer an ape. It is an equal partner in a single vessel. 

Ghosts, as we know, do not ever shed their history in previous sentient life. Rather, they tend to be obsessed by their history, unable to release it, and therefore unabl e to leave the world. Or at least that's how many of the ghost mythologies go. Wandering, troubled spirits, you know? People who do not know they are dead. In short, even as ghosts, they are haunted by themselves.

Now, suddenly, the corporeal dwelling is haunted not only by its preexisting shapes and patterns, but by the new, foreign shapes and patterns as well, and likewise for the new bodily occupant, such that the one and the other hardly know who is haunting who! 

Lol. Well, if I were a young man, with talent and energy, I'd see if I could formulate a cohesive horror story of all this; but as it is, the whole thing is starting to give me a headache. And so I will sign off in hopes the matter will haunt me no further. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Parade

I am the accidental grand marshal in a daily parade of wild dogs,  all but one male, and each having brought along his personal instrument, so to speak, to march intimately at the tail of the big fat brown dog, who marches along behind me pretending to be oblivious to her retinue. They are a shaggy, ragged, disorderly band, an unseemly flash mob, a coalition of bitter enemies, adversaries according to sex and breed, yet united in a single purpose, that being to impregnate the big fat brown dog.  They are brown, white, black, and all shades in between. They are small and large, long and short. They are quick-witted, slow-witted, and nit-witted. Cars honk at these dogs, drivers shake a fist, children on motorbikes shriek, neighbors close their gates, and the woman who sells fruit drinks at the little stand up the street, seeing that the band has grown from 2 to 10 in number, exclaims "Aduh!" Some of the dogs get bored along the route, or distracted, or forget what they were up to. A few reach my house at the end of the route, and here they argue and pose, bare their teeth and exchange insults, but things rarely come to a full fledged fistfight, the preferred form of combat being to tell your opponent in fearsome detail what you're going to do to him if you feel like it. And then at some point, these most patient and persistent of suitors will realize that their object, their goal--i.e. the big fat brown dog--has slipped away behind the blood-red curtain of their rage and is now nowhere to be seen. Therefore, each will line up before the grand marshal to receive a cookie, and then will head on home. Tomorrow is another day. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

It's Facebook, Dude

My goodness, things get downright silly sometimes on Facebook. I mean, I always begin with the acknowledgement that It's Facebook, Dude, not the lecture hall at Oxford--meaning that I will take note of some news article, perhaps express my reaction in a comment, and move on. 

There was an article yesterday, for instance, declaring that "science" had now disproven the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Well, if you read the article, you find that no such thing has been "disproven". To be sure, new doubt has been cast on the most recent official study of the shroud; but then again, if shroud research adheres to its long, contentious character, doubt will soon be cast on the doubt. 

So, I said something to this effect, and noted, as well, that this "bombshell" new study and refutation of the old is concerned with only one aspect of the many layered questions and mysteries of the shroud (namely, the dating of a small fragment of the shroud). In other words, casting doubt on one thing does not cast doubt on all things. 

Well, this comment was met with aggressive, sometimes insulting responses and demands. Produce your evidence! Show us your research! Cite and detail your sources! Lol. 

Umm … no. I have neither the energy nor the time--nor, indeed, the inclination to satisfy the demands of anonymous 'Facebook scholars'. Material on the shroud is both voluminous and readily available for study. Do your own research, man! 

I mean, I don't know whether the Shroud of Turin is authentic or not, and I'm skeptical both of the believers and the skeptics. I find the artifact curious and interesting, and so I have always followed the latest research. Aside from being a curiosity, however, the thing is not really of earth shaking importance one way or the other. 

Ah ha! You won't answer!, they say. So that means you don't know what you're talking about! Ha! Busted. 

Well, no, it means that I have no idea who you even are or why I would be spending precious time and effort to fulfill your demands for documentation and bibliography and footnotes. I mean, gosh, I was just passing through and dropping a short line! 

I mean, It's Facebook, Dude!   

The Lovers

This skinny little brown dog has become a constant companion of the big fat brown dog of late. The big fat brown dog is convinced that this is because she is a pleasant, fascinating individual, where intellect and general body odor are concerned, although, in fact, it is because she is currently in heat. Will females never learn? In any case, the little dog accompanies her at all times, like a second tail, and enjoys, as a fringe benefit, sausages and cookies at my house, which is the big dog's home away from home (and she's away from home most of the time). 

I will say in the  little brown dog's favor that he is friendly and personable with me and comparatively polite and respectful with his paramour. It is clear that the big brown dog appreciates this comportment as well, as she has rarely needed to bite him. Well, fairly rarely. A firm though polite growl seems generally sufficient. This may not be the most direct or expedient way to score for the little dog (I don't know, for I was never good at that sort of goal myself), but it is civil, nonetheless, and seemly, especially in the realm of common dog manners. 

In addition to making himself comfortable in my house and eating food from my refrigerator, the little brown suitor also accompanies us on our morning walk, such that people along the way will exclaim "Ah, you have two dogs now!" and I will need to modify my customary response--"It's not my dog"--and answer instead that "They" are not my dogs (neither of which, in any case, people seem inclined to believe). As a matter of fact, over the past couple days, we have begun to pick up several additional hopefuls along the way, becoming something of a neighborhood gang.

Honestly, I guess I'll kind of miss the little brown dog when the big fat brown dog is no longer of interest to him--although she has told me that I needn't worry along those lines, for he will surely love and cleave to her till the end of time. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Great Mother

Mothers are the original extremists. Not all mothers. Not my own mother, for instance. I'm talking about the classic mother, the mother of vicious love, the terrible and awesome bear-like, lion-like mother. The archetypal, all powerful mother. 

It is from such mothers that the young boy and girl first learn the meaning of terrorism, fear. It is from such as well that they learn manners and respect and the futility of lies.

I well remember one time when my stepson, Sasha, accidentally set fire to my desk chair when I was out in the yard taking a break from work.  The poor, panicked boy came running outside, sounding the alert, and I went in to find flames leaping from the plushly cushioned chair and smoke billowing from the room. 

At just this moment, his mother arrived home, and it soon became clear that the true terror lay not in the flaming chair but in his mother's retribution; for whilst I was busy at smothering the flames with wet bath towels and looking to determine a quick way for the chair and its trailing cloud of smoke to exit the house, Sasha's mother had backed the boy into a corner, wielding a BIC lighter while demanding to know if he knew that he could have burned the house down, and whether he thought it was funny to play with fire, and whether he thought she should light him on fire. "Would you like that, huh! You want me to set you on fire?"

"Noooo! I don't want to!" Sasha cried. 

In the meantime, I am trying to lift the large, unwieldly, blackly smoldering chair and find a way to edge it out the door. 

"Um, Louis," I said, "can you stop setting fire to the boy for a minute and help me get this chair outside?"

Another incident, years later, involved an accident with Sasha's brand new laptop. It was raining as he arrived at school one day, and as he ran from the bus to the schoolhouse door, he lost his footing and fell. On top of the laptop. A heartbreaking disaster for the boy to begin with, given his love of computers, the internet, online games and so on. In short, it was his life. And yet this tragedy was nothing compared to the fury of his mother, likely making the boy wish that computers had never been invented. 

"I can't believe how careless you are! How clumsy! Do you have any idea what that laptop cost? No! Because you didn't buy it. I did! (Not strictly true, but I digress). Well, I'm not buying you another one, I'll tell you that--not until you can appreciate the value of money." 

"I know, I know. I didn't ask--"

"I'll tell you what you're going to do. You're going to get a part time job after school and you're going to make every bit of that money back and buy the next laptop for yourself!" 

And so the boy went to work, his first job. And the laptop incident faded. And behind the scenes negotiations quietly ensued between Sasha, his father, and his new boss toward the goal of procuring a new laptop. And soon the boy was equipped again, computer-wise, and had some pocket money to boot! 

During the tenure of my second wife, there was an incident wherein my stepdaughter and her friend had taken my stepson, Preston, to the park with them. Well, they had not intended to do so, but had been told that they must, for the little tyke was bored at  home. Well, it happened later that my their mother, Georgia, was passing by the park while on some sort of errand, and spied her son sitting all alone on a swing set whilst the daughter and her friend sunbathed in the grass some distance away, likely under the impression that some passing boys might notice them. Georgia parked the car, retrieved Preston from the swing, and drove him home, without a word of this to the girls, who blissfully continued to bath in the summer sunshine. 

Bye-and-bye, a telephone call came into the house. 

"Hi, Mom … Um … how are you? How are things at home?"

"Great. Why?" 

"Oh, no reason. Do you … umm … do you have Preston there?"

"No, he's with you. You were watching him at the park, remember?"

Silence. Panic. A broken connection. A desperate search for Preston ensues, who, of course, is nowhere to be found. Not in the park, anyway. Within a half hour, the pale faced, tear streaked girls show up at the door. 

And find Preston watching cartoons in the front room. 


Outraged, wet faces contorted, hovering between extremes of fear, relief and anger, the girls march through the house to confront Mom. 

"How could you! How could you do that to me!"

"I did something to do you? Hah, that's rich," Mom says. You were responsible for Preston in the park, were you not? Is that how you watch over your little brother? If I could come and take him, anyone could come and take him. Ever think of that? A molester, a pervert, a pedophile. Ever think of that?"

"Oh. My. God. I HATE you!" the daughter retorts. 

Extreme, is it not? And, if nothing else, a lesson that a young girl will never, ever forget. 

One other incident (among many). The same daughter, having survived into her later teen years, has adopted a bit of an attitude, as later teen girls are wont to do. She's having a tiff with her mother, and she's not about to back down this time. Words grow sharper, the air grows tense, as before a thunderclap, and then, suddenly, Whomp! upside the head. 

Ah, but the youngster--an adult, as far as she is concerned--is not having it. 

"Do it again," she challenges. 


"Nice, Mom. Do it again if you want." 


And then, "Do you want me to do it again." 

"No," the dazed girl answers. "That's enough." 

Mothers are extreme. Mothers are always right. Mothers are not to be messed with. 

Although my own mother was a gentle, quiet, angel of a woman, I think now, in my later years, that it might not have hurt me to be squashed now and then by a more decisive, less tolerant thumb. For one thing, I had no idea, growing up, that real women in the outside world could be frightening monsters. Or crazy. I had no frame of reference other than my mother's mild, nonconfrontational nature. I was, therefore, ill-prepared. Moreover, I enjoyed a sort of unchallenged kingship. King Richard, they called me. Which, again, did little to prepare me for the advent of other royal personages, such as queens and princesses and wicked witches. And wives. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bule Beware

I was talking to my young friend Sabrina this morning and she mentioned how bules need to be careful about being charged a higher price for items, even at seemingly trustworthy establishments. Her friend, she said, had been charged 100.000 Rupiah for an umbrella at the minimart which should have gone for about 27.000. He was also ripped off at a national name pharmacy, Kimia. 

It's true, sadly enough, and happens regularly to tourists who are unfamiliar with the money or with what things ought to cost. It happens even to those of us who have been around for a while. Even when you've been here seven years, as I have, you have to remain aware and watchful. When I was at the gas station the other day, I gave the attendant Rupiah 100.000 for about 30.000 worth of gas. I was aware that he asked me whether I didn't have smaller money, but assumed, unwisely, that he was just trying to make his job easier or didn't want to give out his smaller bills. Obviously, I should have counted the money he returned as change, but I was kind of just on automatic pilot, pocketed the change, and went my way. Later on, I realized that the man had kept 50.000 for himself.  Too late to go back, of course, because he would merely claim that I was mistaken. It is unfortunate to have to slow up the line while one counts his money, but there you have it. Take care, or take a loss. 

I remember the pharmacist at one Kimia outlet giving this sort of thievery a shot perhaps a year ago, asking nearly double the correct price for a medication. I was aware of the proper price because I had often bought the same medication at another Kimia store. I pointed this out to him, but he stuck to his guns. "No, that the price here." 

"You mean this Kimia has different prices the other Kimias?"

No comment. Blank stare.

"Right. Not likely, man. I'll just buy it at my regular store." 

Balinese are generally very honest people. But in these sorts of 'transactions', I think the act is reasoned away as a sort of on-the-spot tax collection from a customer who is a foreigner and therefore surely wealthy. What is 100.000 Rupiah to him? After all, he has traveled around the world to play in my country, so … well, pay to play, right? He's already paying exorbitant prices at his hotel and his salon and his fancy restaurant, so what the hell. I may as well get a piece of the action, too. 

The moral of the story: Bule beware!  

Monday, July 16, 2018

Older Men

This is Vyt and Tina, whose wedding party I did make it to yesterday afternoon, despite sore back and threat of rain, and I'm glad I did, for it was a pleasure to visit in person again with my old buddy. I think the last time I saw him was on New Year's Day. 

You will note that Vyt is rather much older than Tina--although exactly what age Tina is, I do not know. This is one peculiar quality of Asian women in general and Indonesian women in particular--they tend to appear quite fresh and young up to the age of about 50 or so, and then some kind of biological or genetic process kicks in, they crash, and suddenly they appear not only their actual age, but older! Weird. 

Another peculiar, and much discussed thing about Asian women is their unusual affection for older men. No end of articles have been written about this. There is no simple, neat explanation. Rather, there seem to be a number of factors at work. One, of course, is riches. The Asian woman, a natural business person, sees a lucrative deal to be made, and makes it. It is not just a matter of how much the man is worth, but how much she herself, in her own estimation, is worth. And so they seek and secure a gainful situation. Love often comes later with the Asian woman. It can be learned, acquired. In fact, it has been said that Asian women do not know what love is, in the western sense. And that could be. Who knows? 

But riches are but one reason, sometimes playing a role in combination with other desires, and sometimes playing no role at all. One other attraction seems to be "status". Whether it seems quite correct or not (again, by western standards of what is correct or appropriate), the Asian woman assigns status to an engagement with western, usually white men, and she knows that her peers ascribe status here as well--to her, that is, as a woman. 

Related to this facet is the Asian fondness for Caucasian features in their children. Nothing seems so desireable as Caucasian features--light skin, a large nose, blue eyes, and so on. Curiously, light skin is rather famously sought after when it comes to the Asian woman's own skin, such that the use of "whitening" products is common, as is a reluctance to go out in the sun without an umbrella or some other thorough covering. This is partly because light skin is considered more comely and partly because dark skin places one in the category of a  lower class individual, a field worker. 

And then there are those, in poorer circumstances, who just want to get out of what seems a guaranteed life of poverty in their own country, given the restrictions of class and education and family and so on. The Indonesian woman is, if nothing else, logical, reasoning, even calculating--though, again, she will see it as a matter of making wise, beneficial choices, both for herself and for her family; for, after all, if she is successful in marrying a foreign citizen and immigrating to his country, she may then sponsor her family members down the road, such that they may join her as well.

But why the affection for men of an older age? This is particularly difficult for westerners to understand (or even to stomach, in some  cases), like "Eww, that guy is sooo old!" I can only guess at these things, but it would seem that the Asian woman finds something particularly attractive about the mature, or weathered facial appearance or the older man. Moreover, she is attracted to the emotional maturity and stability of the older male. In short, she does not care for spoiled, needy, self-centered young men, because the right to be spoiled, needy and self-centered is reserved for the woman herself!  Although Indonesian girls must face being a second class citizen in a Muslim or Hindu culture, they are at the same time commonly treated as royal princesses by their parents, especially by the father. There may therefore be a sort of transference of father figure to husband, along with the expectations that were regularly met by  her father.  Indonesian women do not like to be restricted or suffocated. They love to hang out with their girlfriends for hours on end, and not be questioned or accused or put on a schedule, and so the older man who is sure of himself, and able to amuse himself, and able to give a lot of rope without yanking it all the time, is highly appreciated. 

Indonesia, as I've mentioned before, is much like America 50 years ago and more. The central achievement for the woman is to marry and bear children. In this way, the woman satisfies her function in society, as well as in herself. What is sought most keenly, therefore, is a provider who is reliable, steady, and ready to settle down. Thus, the older man.