Thursday, May 30, 2019

Matahari Terbit

Finally made it down to Matahari Terbit today, and, as often happens, my knack for picking the wrong day to go the wrong place manifested itself as I found myself in the midst of a perfect hoard of motorbikes--too late to turn around once you're in the stampede. The best you can do is keep moving with the flow until it settles down to graze somewhere, somewhere, in this case, being a grass and dirt lot off to the side of the main street. So it would be a walk just to get to the beach I had come to walk on. 

"What's the crowd all about," I asked a man as I moseyed long with the now dismounted crowd.

"Libur," he said. "School vacation." 


Anyway, I did my so-called exercise walk once we got to the beach proper and soon encountered an additional crowd, a separate herd, this one composed of tourists come to take the tourist boats out to the outlying islands, Lembongan, Ceningan, Gilli and so on, and found the usual chaos associated with this exodus in full gear as tourists tried to understand the directions squawking over loudspeakers, jostled in line for their boats and trudged into the knee-deep surf to board.

Matahari Terbit (which means sunrise) is otherwise populated with small food booths, sellers of sate and corn fried on the spot, miniature minimarkets selling whatever the tourists had suddenly remembered they had forgotten, candy for the children, and so on. This is also the beach often used for the launch of boats bearing the ashes of a loved one to be spread at sea.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sleep Sickness

Meant to take my walk this morning on the next beach in line, Matahari Terbit, but I was just too damn tired. More than tired, really. Unworldly tired, rather like when I had mononucleosis. I got up after a long night's sleep, made breakfast, watched a bit of the news on TV, got dressed, thought I'd lie down for just a minute, and straightaway feel asleep. 

What is it? The long illness I've had, and still have? Blood pressure medications? Neuropathic medications? Antihistamines? All of the above?

But then again I have to admit that this is  not new. Long before I came down with this fungal plague, I noted that I was unusually tired, and on many occasions experienced the same pattern in the morning. The only difference is that now it is multiplied ten times over and the tiredness does not go away when I renew my day, as it tended to do in the past. 

What a mess. I keep waiting to live again, and become more and more bedridden, or house-ridden anyway. Life has become a joyless drudgery. 

Now I've forced myself out at least to Starbucks, falling far short of a walk on the beach, and I'm sitting here in my chair feeling like I'm about to fall asleep.  

How long? Where is the end? What is the cure? 

I can only wait, and rue the passing, unused days. 

In the meantime, whilst I've been waiting to live, I have come upon an uncommonly engaging collection of short stories--Exhalation, by Ted Chiang. The book was listed in my 'Recommendations for You' section of my Amazon page and had, as I found on further reading, been the recipient of some fairly extravagant praise. So I went ahead and purchased the book for my iPad and very soon saw that the praise was entirely justified. I'm three stories in and already regretting that I've consumed so much so quickly, as that means I will reach the last page of the final story all the more quickly and will have to return, still thirsty, to the desert otherwise known as contemporary American literature. But I suppose that perfect gems like this are uncommon in any age or literature, and will therefore content myself with the nourishment derived from these intriguing pages while my body sleeps away the days.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hari Selasa Lagi

This morning's walk started at Sindhu Beach and proceeded up toward the Grand Bali Hotel, the first large tourist accommodation to be built, many years ago, on the Sanur seashore. (Only a year ago I regularly walked from Sindhu to the hotel in the evening. Now I make it about halfway, at best. How times have changed). Somewhat ironically, this long-ago developed stretch of land stands nonetheless as the quietest stretch on the entire Sanur beachfront, from the Grand Bali to Mertasari. This, I suspect, is because most of the land here is occupied by old, established beachfront vacation properties, built in traditional, more sedate style, unlike the sprawling, flashy resorts of the present day. On this stretch of beach, businesses do not spill out onto the sand, obscuring the view of the oceanfront, but leave that soft carpet open and uncluttered but for some respectful, unimposing trees.  


I really don't like this new place I moved to. Granted, that's partly because I've been ill ever since I came here, but other than that, I just don't like the isolated feeling. I don't like feeling cut off from the world outside and its goings-on. I can hear the voices and the passing motorbikes, but I can't see outside these walls, and that is somehow keenly disconcerting to me. When I come in from having been out somewhere, it feels like reentering a jail cell. I have only one small room (unless one counts the bathroom as a second room) and a small porch, and in fact I spend most of my time here on that porch where I can see the sky, anyway, and the tree tops, and hear the voices and smell the air. Moreover, I miss having an outdoor kitchen. The extra heat of cooking inside is a bit too much on top of the heat of the day, which is quite sufficient on its own. Honestly, though, it wouldn't really matter if the place was large, like the villa that Louis lives in, for the feeling is the same. It feels too quiet, cut off, pressed in by its own silent space. Suffocating. I think that if I were well, I would very rarely be here in this room. But being ill is its own sort of jail, isn't it--being stuck inside the body that is ill.  It's where I live for the time being. I hope, one way or the other, not to be here much longer.  

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Dog and a Door

Every evening when Takut the dog decides to come out from under the patio floor and head outside for the night, he comes to my door first, because otherwise he can't get outside. This is because the old lady who never comes out of her room, and whom recently insisted that the door be locked at all times, negotiated instead for the attachment of a gadget that automatically closes  (but does not lock) the door. To his credit, Takut has found a way to enter the villa despite the closed door by simply putting his weight against it and bulling through (not a feat that a smaller dog could accomplish). Nonetheless, he cannot get out from the inside because the door swings inward,  not both ways. This is where I come in. My own door is generally open, so he is able to stop by and let me know he wants out. Moreover, we have, through these otherwise pragmatic meetings, gradually struck up a bit more of a personal relationship, such that he will now come in and set a spell. And he's not averse to getting a bit of leftover dinner either.

Dice Game

We are all gamblers to one extent or another. We throw the dice and believe that they will fall in our favor. They will because they simply must. We are aware that for many the numbers that show when the dice finally come to rest on the felt will not be good. They may even be disastrous. But we are not them, we are us. The fortunate. And, we will say, we have thrown to fate with a moral purity, a reasoning beyond the dice and the odds. We deserve to win because we have thrown in faith. It's biblical.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for. Chance cannot be so hard-hearted as to ignore something like this. When we throw the dice, we understand that the odds are against us. Damn the odds, we say. This could work out right--that, too, is part of chance, however small--and if it does, both I and fate will rejoice. Our risk is therefore right, despite the odds, and will surely be honored even by the unthinking statistics. 

Wisdom lies not in prudence, but in extravagant faith, and the humility to accept the numbers as they fall. Love is the bet one makes till he's broke and has not a penny more to wager. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Hari Jumat

I really didn't feel like walking this morning, but did so anyway. Pretty wobbly. So I didn't walk, I wabbled. Found the usual joggers and walkers, and the usual beach dogs, one of whom is apparently in charge of a generous stretch along the way, so has his job cut out for him. Watching the buff young men and the shapely young women go by was a bit disheartening. I mean, I'd settle for just walking in a straight line. Ah well, it is what it is. Definitely time for a nap now, but the maid is busy in my room, so that will have to wait. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Hari Kamis

Got an early start this morning. Not that I intended to. I just woke up at about 5, couldn't go back to sleep, so decided to get up and get going. The most tiring thing about taking a walk in the morning, really, is getting prepared to do so Getting dressed tends to be exhausting, especially when I get down to the shoes. Seems to take forever and require significant effort to get my feet into them, especially since this requires bending down to where my feet are. Moreover, the shoes, which I recently bought, are rather argumentative, seeming generally unwilling to permit the insertion of my feet. 

At the same time, I have found, on the positive side, that my easy chair slides quite easily on the ceramic tiles (and so does an upright human being, as I have found, painfully, many times in the past). But my easy chair, as I had begun to say, may as well be a wheelchair on these tiles, conveying me to wherever I want to go that would otherwise require the effort of standing up and bending over and so on. If the bed weren't in the way, I could slide all the way back to the bathroom! 

In any case, once I finally get ready and head out to the bike, it's fairly smooth sailing from there. And it was nice to get to the beach so early, while the weather is still mild and the sun is just rising from the sea. Nothing yet open on the beach at this hour, and the only people one sees are other walkers, generally doing a much better job of it than I. So I walked from the Bali Hyatt beach up to the next beach entry, whatever that is. 

Moonrise Kingdom

I can't even count the number of times I have watched this movie over the years. I never get tired of it, and there is something new to see or hear every time. This is really a one-of-kind film, unlike any other. It is directed by Wes Anderson, who is known for his distinctive visual and narrative styles. And it is this quirky style of storytelling, in image and in narrative, that gives Moonshine it's charm, for the story itself--that of an orphan boy who runs away from his guardians to be with the girl he loves--is common enough. But it is the narrative and visual style and the acting of a superb cast which includes Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis, that makes the film so uniquely engaging. In short, I love this movie and could watch it a thousand times. Five thumbs up!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bye-bye Miss American Pie

Outrage is hard to sustain. It becomes, over time, numbness, cynicism, apathy.

We thought at first that the things that had always mattered still mattered. We dug in and waited, sure of ourselves, for we were right.

And nothing happened. 

Bye-bye, Miss American Pie …

What we watched happen was what we said from the first would happen. And more. 

Justification is replaced by disbelief, disbelief by dismay, dismay by despair. 

We are not who we thought we were after all. In fact, there is no we. 

And there we were all in one place

A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again ...

We mourn. More than two years into this tragedy, we mourn. There is no going back. They have let this go too long, too far. They have let us go. They have let everything go. 

And in the streets the children screamed

The lovers cried and the poets dreamed …

What country is this, where a president makes himself king, where the governor refuses to be governed by the body tasked by the founders to that purpose, where law is shunned, where the powerful say "Nothing to see here. Move on"? 

And while the king was looking down

The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned 
No verdict was returned …

It's not that they sold their souls when we weren't looking. It's that they sold them when we were looking. We the people. Case closed. 

And as the flames climbed high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

And he was singing'

Bye-bye Miss American Pie

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It's Not a Tumor

Woke up this morning with the headache of the century. Thought I was dying  of a brain aneurysm of something, which wouldn't have surprised me, given all the troubles I've had lately. Got up, went outside, and found the sky cloudy and a sprinkle starting up--a major change from yesterday, which was clear and sunny. Went back inside, gave my nose a couple shots of Afrin, took a pseudoephedrine and found that the headache soon retreated. I'll be darned, it wasn't a brain aneurysm after all. It was the weather. 

Even back in Portland, I had a problem with weather change like this during the springtime. Unstable weather. There's just something about my system that can't handle it. 

What to do? Keep that spray handy, I guess, and wait for the season to change. 

Monday, May 20, 2019


There are about six easy-to-access beaches here in Sanur, which works out pretty well with my new plan to take a good walk every morning after a reasonable breakfast, which itself is part of my new plan to try to follow a diet and exercise regimen toward the end of controlling blood pressure and blood sugar. You have to kind of kick yourself in the seat of the pants to get started in the morning, but once you get down to the beach, it's quite nice, the air is cool (sort of--this is, after all, Bali) and the tourists have not yet descended on the seashore (nor have the Indonesian sellers). I don't know what I'll do in rainy season, but for the time being, I think this will work out pretty well. 

Biting the Dust

Two falls in three days, And the most recent a quite spectacular one on the sidewalk in Sanur--a full body fall. you know, flat out hitting the ground is a cloud of dust, chin in the gravel, and so on. A belly flop, you might say. Embarrassing. Three motorbikes stopped to assist me, just as if I'd been in a wreck. Oh my God, Mister, and you okay?

Again, embarrassing.  

So, was this the high blood pressure pills I've been on or just clumsiness. Hmm. Who can say? 

It is true, however, that I have been feeling awfully spaced out and rather dizzy, which is something I tend to attribute to the BP meds. So I've gone off the damn things for now--and in fact I feel markedly better today. And I have so far remained upright!

How Dry I Am, How Wet I'll be ..

What's the deal.with me and bathroom doors? Once again, another place, another time, mine locked on me, although this time, thankfully, I was on the outside and not on the inside (which nonetheless presents problems of its own.

I had returned to my room from the patio area, headed for the bathroom, and found the door closed and locked. My first thought was "Who on earth can be in my bathroom?" Of course, no one could be in my bathroom, for I live alone. But just to be sure, I knocked before I proceeded to pull and twist and rattle the door. It would not budge and the knob would not turn.

"Ah," I thought after taking a breather, "surely one of my keys will fit the lock (and I was beginning to really need one to do so).

But no, they did not.

Who makes a locking bathroom door with no key?

Well, this time I had my phone anyway (unlike the time I was locked inside the bathroom) and so I was able to call Pak Aan, the caretaker.

Pak Aan rushed over, armed with various tools, but at last was only able to open the door (at my suggestion) by charging it with his shoulder. Just like in the movies.

Whew, what a relief.

"The mechanism is frozen in place," Pak Aan said. "It shouldn't happen again."

Nevertheless, I've placed a towel in the entryway just to be sure!

Sunday, May 19, 2019


I seem to have developed a singular talent for producing writings just vague enough that they are able to inspire equally obscure responses from some readers. I mean to say that from what I write, some readers derive meanings almost perfectly in tune with what I did NOT write. It happens, I suppose, but more often in poetry than in prose.  I believe that I have been succinct, mind you (I do not set out to be vague), and yet I will learn in this or that case that I have somehow ended up saying what I did not intend to say at all. In fact, I have somehow said what I did not say. It's perplexing. 

On the other hand, there are some readers who apparently see themselves at the center of all things, such that any pronoun is interchangeable with the reader's own name, or such that any general sort of statement becomes particular. What can be done about it? I don't know. 

When I used to write novels, people would pick themselves out. "I'm so-and-so," they would say. 

"Umm, no you're not." 

"Yes, I am. And I'm not happy, by the way, with what you said about me." 

So it goes. The poor writer, who has said nothing at all about the person in question, has somehow ended up saying it all. 

Or perhaps this has something to do with the particular reader's expectation, such that the role he finds himself playing is the role he himself has cast himself in. 

It's worth a thought. 

On Second Thought

Several people have responded to my recent post, "Weird", noting the propensity of doctors to "find" problems or to begin treatment of a lot of things quite unrelated to the problem for which one has sought a doctor's help in the first place. I suspect that this is quite true. Especially for older men such as me, we may appear to be treasure troves of potential medical conditions. That might be fine if you have insurance and enjoy going to the doctor, but neither is the case with me. Stepping back, I observe that my blood pressure is not terrifically high, and my blood sugar is just a bit above normal (borderline). It strikes me that these abnormalities may be directly related to the long-running infection I have had, and n any case might be treated with a stricter diet and more exercise.  Rather than giving stacks of money to the hospital for visits and medications, it seems more logical to take a conservative approach and see how things go--for the fact is, when I first sought medical help, I was not aware of any symptoms of high blood pressure or high blood sugar. What I was aware of was the pain from the damn throat infection! So, I reckon fixing that first and then seeing how I feel otherwise may be the best course. It is certainly the most financially viable one. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019


This is actually kind of weird. Back before mid February I was feeling rather well. Just normal, I mean. No big problems. I had the usual shoulder and neck pain, but no big deal. And then suddenly everything crashed or around February 15th, just about the time I reluctantly moved to Sanur (for I did not want to move from the little house in Renon). I was ill, actually, at the time I moved, and thought, at the time, that it was just the common flu. Now it's one thing after another: the fungal throat plague, borderline diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vitamin B deficiency, andropause. 


I always try to connect these things with some event or action. Moving, for instance. Or perhaps the big fat brown dog had put a curse on me because I moved (and thus removed both her bedroom and her easy food source). Or perhaps the villa I moved to is cursed or hosts some evil presence. I don't doubt it, sometimes. 

Then again, perhaps this is all because I've not been to the doctor or had any lab studies in years. How would one know, for instance, that he has high cholesterol? How would one know that he has high blood pressure? How would one know that he has borderline diabetes except by the general notion, in all cases, that he doesn't feel quite well?

Knowing now that one has these problems, they are accentuated all the more. One is aware of them beyond the vague feeling that he doesn't feel quite well. One takes his medication and worries over how many pills remain and how he will get more pills and what he must pay to do so. Naming one's illnesses has a certain downside. Or, as the old saying goes, it may sometimes be that ignorance is bliss

I started out trying to cure what I thought was the flu. I ended up with a multitude of diseases. Sheesh. 

And where is multiple sclerosis in all this. My goodness, it has been forgotten! But of course, it has not forgotten itself. t is still lurking around in the aggregate mix. It involves itself in whatever else is present, like an unwanted hanger-on. The neurologist here told me that he treats another American with multiple sclerosis (wonders never cease!) who ended up with an ischemic attack somehow related to MS. Go figure. The more I learn about all this stuff, the more aware I become of how little I know. 

Friday, May 17, 2019


In the latest medical news, it turns out that I don't have diabetes, I have "pre-diabetes'", which I guess can be controlled with diet and exercise for the time being. Of course I have to discontinue all my favorite foods, like cake and pie and candy and cinnamon rolls and bread and jam and Froot Loops, and so on. I also have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. No more potato chips or salty Indo dishes. What else? Vitamin B deficiency and andropause. Gee, and I was feeling so good just several months ago. And this is getting damned expensive too! More than 2 million rupiah today for the doctor and the meds. Eating myself into a quick demise might be preferable. 

The Kingdom

A long, long time ago, a good friend of my father's had an issue with his neighbor. Or rather, his neighbor had an issue with him. Or rather, had an issue with his children. The children, youngsters of my own age, naturally enjoyed playing in their yard, with one another and with their little friends. Well, the neighbor felt the children were too loud, and suspected that they were occasionally stepping onto his property. In short, the neighbor did not like children. 

Nonetheless, he refused to discuss the issue soberly with my father's friend, preferring to grumble, accuse, and wag his finger. For this reason, my father's friend, George Baganstoss by name, decided to write and deliver a speech from his driveway, which paralleled the neighbor's and was conveniently situated below the neighbor's living room window. He showed my father the speech, which struck my father as quite eloquent, with shades of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln. 

In his resounding baritone voice, George delivered this speech one evening, standing in his own driveway, gesturing appropriately with his arms and hands. 

The neighbor pulled down his shades (and likely plugged his recalcitrant ears). 

I have always remembered this incident, which caused me to genuinely like George Baganstoss for himself rather than just as the father of our friends. And I am reminded of it now as a problem arises regarding the two little children who occasionally visit me at the villa where I live. It seems that someone considers their presence annoying, a trespass of "solitude". Are they running around and jumping through hoops or destroying property or being riotous? No, mostly they like to play with my laptop. Sometimes they will just visit for a bit with me. One girl, Viana, comes just to ask how I'm feeling, for she knows that I've been ill. I find the two of them polite, well-behaved, fairly quiet, and wonderfully entertaining. Having raised five children, who are already grown, and one of them, my natural son, gone forever, I am called back to a youthfulness within myself, an aptitude for simple joy. 

Once upon a time, little children were brought to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them and bless them. The disciples were annoyed and rebuked them. 

"Let the little children come unto me," Jesus said, "and forbid them not; for of such as these is the Kingdom of heaven made."

And again, when asked by his disciples Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus called a little child to his side, and he said "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I would add the logical extension that as long as you reject and forbid the little children, neither will you enter the kingdom of heaven, try as you might through your precious silence and solitude. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Viana and Feby

Yesterday, Viana and her little friend, Feby, came flapping  up to the door--or rather, they flapped up to the parking garage, where one can see the back patio through spaces in the wall, and announced their presence from there. "Meester!" 

You see, we have a paranoid resident in our little settlement who obsesses on the condition of the door, whether it is closed or open or locked or not locked. The preference of this resident, who never comes out of her room, is for the door to be locked at all times. I and another resident objected to this arrangement, finding it both unreasonable and inconvenient. As a matter of compromise, I suppose, she had the caretaker install an attachment that would automatically close, but not lock, the door. The trouble with this attachment is that it is so stiff that one has to push the door quite hard to enter, and many, on first try, conclude that the door is locked. This was likely the conclusion of Viana and Feby, and thus they called out to me through the wall. 


Well, I let them in, and demonstrated that they could actually open the door by pushing harder, although I don't know whether they would do that. These are polite little kids with, seemingly, a  perception of boundaries and a sense of propriety. 

Naturally, they wanted to use the laptop, and the iPad, and the phone. I have had a horse-shaped piggy bank (a horse-bank) sitting around in my residence ever since Sasha moved back to America (some two, or was it three years ago?), so this I gave to Viana and Feby. This was of sufficient delight to wrench their interest away from the internet for a  moment.

The counting of the coins proved a particular challenge, as Viana and Feby proceeded to call out their individual tallies at the same time, like in an old comedy skit, for of course each of them lost count a number of times and had to start again. Ultimately, they agreed upon a system of tens, and each began to arrange the coins in little stacks equaling one thousand ribu. 

I was surprised, however, when they returned the coins to the horse and put the horse in front of me. 

"No, no," I said, "I'm giving it to you." 

"Yes, yes, we know, but we will keep it in your room.

Hmm. Something going on with Viana and Feby, hints of which I have noticed before. For instance, when Viana hears a motorbike on the street out front, she will duck out of sight and peek at who the driver is, sometimes standing and seeming relieved, sometimes not. Is there someone that they fear? Or have they been told not to come here to the villa? Or are they just playing some girls' game? Are they afraid to take the money with them because 1) it might be taken away or 2) they might get in trouble for taking it? I don't know. I've tried to ask Viana who she is looking for or if she is afraid of something, but she offers no comment whatsoever on the subject. 

Oh well, I will keep the coins for them in any case. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


"I can deal with the sore throat," I told my doctor. I can deal with the sinus infection and the high pressure congestion. But I can't deal with this extreme feeling of heat in my neck and head!" 

"Well," she said, "the good news is that it has nothing to do with the infection in your throat and sinuses."

Not really my idea of "good news". 

"So what can we do?" 

"Hmm. I don't know." 

Later in the week I see the neurologist. I describe the heat which is at that very moment raging in my skull. 

"Oh, that's probably male hot flashes … male menopause. We call it andropause." 

Huh? Who has even ever heard of such a thing? Male menopause? Are you kidding me?"

No. No joke. It's actually 'a thing'. 

Andropause arises from age-related changes in male hormone levels. The same group of symptoms is also known as testosterone deficiency  and androgen deficiency. The symptoms are much like those experienced by menopausal women--a sense of extreme heat, sweating, extreme fatigue, mood instability, depression, etc. 

Testosterone does more than fuel the male sex drive. It fuels changes during puberty, fuels your mental and physical energy, maintains your muscle mass, regulates your fight or flight response, and regulates other key evolutionary features. 

Are we having fun yet? 

Whereas all women will experience menopause, only about 21 percent of men will suffer symptoms of male menopause. 

As always, I am one of the lucky few. 

The Sad Saga Slogs On

It seems that the more I try to fix the problem with the fungal throat plague, the more problems the doctors find (without, of course, helping the throat plague any). Went to the neurologist yesterday, at the insistence of the ENT, and he discovered high blood pressure, “male hot flashes” (of all things), probably vitamin b deficiency, and possibly diabetes (yikes). Gave me a few pills and sent me for further blood work (and a further draining of my wallet). I have fasted all  night (appropriate for Ramadan, I suppose, but backwards, as fasting is supposed to take place during the day), and now I have just gotten the first of two blood draws. It seems that I must eat now and return for the second in two hours. So I stopped by a nearby bubur warung, scarfed down a bowl of bubur ayam, and am now enjoying a water at the also nearby Starbucks at the Level 21 Mall. I am finding sipping a glass of water for two hours quite challenging.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Packing One's Bags

Tying up loose ends. Making final preparations. Packing my bags. Filling holes. Removing stones. Making peace. Restoring order. Is that what I'm doing? Healing the only things that can be healed, those things that will be left behind. Bestowing blessings. Forgiving and begging forgiveness. Remembering, repenting, doing the first works, for the first works were the best works, uncorrupted, untarnished by the world. Remembering and reclaiming first love. We've got to go back and do it over again. How does one best expend his final efforts? The sun is sinking, and the horizon, as when one saw the sun rise, is sharp and clear in the hour that is either early or late, untouched by the glare and commotion of mid-day. So much to do and so little time for the doing at the latter hour of the day. A thousand things to say, and a thousand to un-say. A life to reform, a skin to cleanse and groom before the shedding--not for the skin's sake, no; but for those who will look upon it. One must purchase the right to say Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. 

Monday, May 13, 2019


The latest wrinkle in my ENT doctor's thus far ineffectual treatment of my incurable throat plague is her insistence that I see a neurologist before she will treat me any further, as she is afraid of causing havoc with my multiple sclerosis. The condition itself is causing sufficient havoc as things already stand--severe numbness and tingling in the right foot and  leg, RLS every night, a burning hot sensation in the head and neck, extreme fatigue--and so I don't really see how more aggressive medication measures could cause that much more trouble than I already have, especially considering that the neurologist I am to see will probably know significantly less about MS than I myself know. But so it goes. More money on the way out of my bank account. But at this point I'll do anything. I'll see a witchdoctor if it will help. I'll stand on my head four hours a day. I'll eat yogurt only for the rest of my life. I'm just so sick of being sick! 

Sunday, May 12, 2019


I was watching the old cowboy flick, Shane, last night--one of my all time favorite movies--and it occurred to me that nearly anything these days can be compared to the Trump administration and the troubles it has brought upon America. Here you have the lawless, my way or the highway free range ranchers set against  the decent, law-abiding though downtrodden sod busters--no match for the violently unreasonable, gun toting ranchers, not to mention their hired killer (Jack Palance). The sod busters know what's right. Everyone knows what's right. Even the ranchers know what's right, theoretically. But what is right is not the issue. The issue is what they (the ranchers) want, what is most convenient and beneficial to them  But "right" is not good enough on its own. It needs an enforcer. A man of goodness and integrity, who is nonetheless as hard and pitiless as the ranchers and their guns. Enter Shane (Alan Ladd), the steel steady gunfighter with a heart, and a stubborn, nonnegotiable sense of right and wrong. (We see this again in later cowboy heroes such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood). Essentially, the ranchers know that their fate is sealed as soon as Shane shows up. It is just a matter of time. And Donald Trump knows that the game is up, too. It is only a matter of time. Shane, the cowboy Lancelot, representative of basic decency, a law unto himself but a greater one than that which motivates the tyrannical ranchers, is coming for him. And freedom and liberty shall reign again on the prairie--not that of the free roaming beast but of the fence builder and of the boundaries that benefit all.  

Saturday, May 11, 2019


I was surprised at first to find no one whatsoever at Starbucks this morning, and then I remembered that we have entered Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet  Muhammad. Muslims must fast during the daylight hours, from dawn to sunset. And that means no Starbucks. Until the sun goes down, that is. I can imagine that there is quite a crowd here in the evening--sort of a daily "Whew, I'm glad that's over!" celebration. 

Of course, there's nothing keeping Hindus and Christians and pagans from enjoying their usual coffee fix--and sure enough, within minutes of my own arrival, the kafir (the unbelievers, the idolaters) began to trickle in. If in nothing else, we do believe in our morning coffee. Food? Meh, I can take it or leave it. 

To tell the truth, however, I may as well be fasting  because I can't see what I'm typing, and I can't read the newspaper because the print is too small, and I can't read the book I brought along. Allah, with the help of the barista, has provided coffee, but has wielded the sword of candidiasis to sever the outing from its more complete purpose Such is life with the plague, if indeed this may be called life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Meet Mr. Candida Albicans

Some few months ago, I met a stranger named Candida Albicans. He was a stranger to me I should say, but I not to him. In fact, Mr. C. had been around for quite a long time, lurking in the shadows, just out of sight, acquainting  himself rather intimately to me, like some spectral character in an Edgar Allen Poe story, whilst I remained completely unaware of his presence. "The Telltale Fungus" seems a fitting title. To be frank, Mr. Candida Albicans is not someone you would wish to meet, and once you do meet him, you can't un-meet him. 

Candida Albicans, as explained in an article from MS Wellness Route,  is a yeast found in small amounts in the human body, it is harmless and part of the normal gut flora. However, when it is overgrown it can lead to serious health problems. Researchers have linked multiple sclerosis and candida.

Great. As if just having MS is not problem enough on its own, right? 

In fact, Candida, according to a Harvest University study, is the main fungal infection behind human diseases. "When your gut is out of balance, your immune system is weakened causing you to have a greater risk for severe health issues. Most people don’t even realize they have a yeast overgrowth. That is until they start experiencing problems."

In other words, you don't know he's there until you know he's there.

"As Candida grows, its toxic byproducts enter the bloodstream, affecting the blood-brain barrier and also the organs. Once the toxin enters the bloodstream, it triggers an autoimmune response. Eventually, this leads to the development of chronic health problems, such as autoimmune diseases, in addition to wreaking havoc throughout the entire body."

Where my own story is concerned, Candida formally introduced himself back in mid February in the role of a seemingly incurable fungal infection of the throat and sinuses. It seemed a matter, at first, for the usual measures--antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, rest and chicken soup. But as the weeks and months slogged by without bringing recovery, it became apparent that something was seriously amiss here. 

Turns out that something had been amiss for quite a long time. 

It may be that multiple sclerosis itself originally arises from the Candida infection. Studies have linked the onset of MS, as well as other autoimmune diseases, with Candida, finding that the cells of the fungus seem to trigger the immune system, which causes more inflammation. MS is caused by inflammation when the body’s immune cells attack the nervous system. This occurs in the brain and spinal cord, breaking down the myelin that protects the nerves.

Again according to MS Wellness Route, "Candida becomes an invasive overgrowth. It punches its way through a healthy gut lining, attacking the entire body including the organs. Toxins enter the bloodstream and also transgress the blood brain barrier.

It is a debilitating condition that can trigger many conditions, Including MS and other autoimmune diseases. Candida feeds off sugar and carbohydrates. The more you eat, the more it grows.

Unfortunately, many people’s gut bacteria is not balanced due to the overuse of antibiotics, poor diet, and many other factors. Antibiotics not only kill the good but also the bad bacteria. Candida itself is not affected, allowing it to grow."
The whole thing begins to sound more like Stephen King than like Poe, doesn't it? 
"Finally," the aforementioned article concludes somewhat less than cheerily "you need to address Candida overgrowth from all levels, including diet, lifestyle, stress, and toxins to help rebuild your immune system. This is not easy, it can take years to clear Candida overgrowth."
Years! What do you mean years? I 've already got sixty-five of those under my belt! What years? 
Meet Mr. Candida Albicans, inscrutable stranger and unsought companion for life, who, if nothing else, gives true credence to the expression that goes, "With friends like that, you don't need enemies." 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Job and Etc.

Another day with the doctor. Getting to know the woman pretty well! Okay, I know, I had recently said that my illness seemed to be going away at last. Shoulda known better than to open my big mouth. How's the old saying go? Don't cunt your chickens before they're hatched? Ernest Hemingway used to say that if you are expecting something, especially something good, keep your mouth off it! A superstition to be sure, but as with many superstitions, there may be something to it. After claiming to be on the mend, I  became quite ill again on Sunday night, just as if some supernatural evil interloper had heard my enthusiastic predictions and said "Ah ha, we'll show him!" 

So today the doctor finally talked me into getting a CT scan of the head (something she had been wanting to do from the beginning). She claims to have determined from this the presence of a fungal infection in the sinuses and throat, but identified no more serious (so to speak) problem (such as one that would need surgery). So I've gotten three new medicines now and it's off we go to the races again. Will just plod along one step at a time this time around, like the fabled tortoise, and leave visions of the finish line to the rabbit. 

This is, in fact, a candida infection, and it has come to my attention through research that a favorite target of candida is people with autoimmune disorders such as MS. Doesn't seem quite fair of the thing to pick on people who already have a problem, but there you have it. So I am learning this new facet of MS (new for me, anyway)--the susceptibility of those with the condition to various aggressive sorts of infection. The ENT I've been seeing wants me to see a neurologist for a specific discussion of this part of MS,, along with measures, one assumes, or hopes, that might be taken against future incidents. And I do suppose she is right. I haven't seen a neurologist in some four or five years, and I guess that is kinda strange! For a person, I mean, with a neurological disease.

Perhaps some of my posts during this time have been a bit depressing. (I see that my readership has fallen off). Well, I guess that's because I've been a bit depressed. But I suppose at the same time that there is a place for that (as long as it is kept in its place).. I'm not afraid to confront things that are tragic or painful or just plain wrong. No point in pretending that they are not there or that they don't happen. As Al Pacino said in the film And Justice for All, "Something really wrong is going on here." Sometimes philosophy is just too easy--nothing more than a shield. Sometimes anger, outrage, sorrow are the only things that properly fit. The Book of Job can tell you that much, for in that book, Job, having suffered terrible, heartbreaking losses, was subjected to the philosophizing, admonishments, justifications, excuses of three friends, and none of it even touched the raw anger that Job was feeling. This, his heart, he took directly to God, and did receive his answer. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Facing It

It's all wrong, 
it's taken so long
to build this road
that leads down

I happened to see these lyrics from Jeff Lang, Australian songwriter and lyricist, in conjunction with learning that my good friend, Vyt, has been stricken by what is either pancreatitis or liver failure. And I thought, as I have so often thought lately, What the hell is this all about? What has he done to deserve such a fate--other than to be kind and generous and uncommonly attentive and concerned for people other than himself. Is this then, life's reward, life's return for decency and compassion? 

It's not fair. 

I thought too of my son, stricken down in mid-course, 42 years old. I thought of my son who had worshipped God from an early age, who had devoted his life to prayer, who had surely prayed to be healed in the end, to be delivered from the health issues that were making his life, as he put it, a horror.

Why? Why? What is the damn point?

Often of late I have lain awake at night pondering the fate of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was tortured mercilessly by North Korean authorities and finally returned to the US in a coma. What fear and dread  and torment and hopelessness he must have suffered, no one to help him, knowing only a world of sadism and pain and hate.

How can we live with such things?  How can we justify a smile, or laughter or joy? 

I will not acquiesce. I cannot excuse. I must not look away and pretend

The world is 
a bad place, 
a bad place, 
a terrible place to live …

Oh, but I don't want to die.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Plague Update

The incurable throat plague, which may be curable after all, seems to be very gradually improving over the last few days. Of course, the situation has temporarily improved here and there during the last three months only to return with a vengeance, so I'm not yet ready to make any over-enthusiastic pronouncements. Suffice it to say for now that the exudate in the throat has markedly decreased, the pressure and congestion deep in my nasal cavity, or sinuses, or wherever, has backed off, such that I am actually breathing through my nose this morning (amazing what a joyous thing that can be--breathing through one's nose, I mean). The sensation of unbearable inner heat becomes more intermittent and less severe. Although I still feel tired and weak, I have on the other hand been able to take short morning walks and even to enjoy popping out for a coffee at Starbucks, which is a cut above lying in bed and falling asleep throughout the day. Having said as much, I must admit that I feel best in the morning, not so good again by the afternoon, which would seem to suggest that the plague remains active and is trying to hold on for all its worth. I'm scheduled to see the doctor again on Tuesday and shall see what she has to say at this point. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

No Such Thing as Obscurity

In my neighborhood, there is one skinny little street called Gang Mawar, on which my communal villa is located. Gang Mawar runs from the main road, Jalan Hangtuah, and comes out again on Jalan Sedap Malam. Midway along Gang Mawar, there is a connection with one other skinny little street linking it, ultimately, to the Bypass, the main thoroughfare through Sanur. Aside from this anemic little artery, all other lanes end in dead ends. 

I discovered a number of these this morning while trying to find some way to make a less repetitious circuit. There are any number of dogs along each dead end who will tell you to turn around and go back because you're wasting your time, but I decided to look for myself anyway. On the third dead end or so, I came upon a fellow standing outside the gate to his house who was able to authenticate what the dogs on that dead end had already been shouting at me. 

But as so often happens in Indonesia, a brief word was far from sufficient. In fact, there is no such thing as a brief word. After chatting by the gate for a time, the man, Putu by name, asked me to come and sit with him on his porch, put my feet up for a while, have a smoke together. He then wondered whether I would like a coffee, and ran across the alley to buy two packets from a little warung. Seeing that I was an enthusiast of the morning walk, or masquerading as one anyway, Putu was eager that we should walk together on the morrow. 

You come here on motor and we walk to little park. Eight o'clock, ya? Every morning I walk at eight o'clock.

Well …

I'm sorry I cannot give you rice. My wife is at the market. 

Oh well goodness no, don't be sorry. I've already eaten.

Next time fried rice, ya? My wife is at the market.

Where else in the world does one see generosity such as this? Where else in the world such congeniality? 

This is one of the reasons, probably the main reason, that I cling to Indonesia--despite my poor health, despite the fact that some things might be more convenient back in America, despite the fact that healthcare would be superior, not to mention insured, despite the fact that common reasoning tells me that I am being unreasonable. It is the people. Men like Putu. Women like those who greet me along the way, Good morning, where have you been, where are you going? School boys who shout Hi, Mister! as they pass on motorbike. Little girls like my neighbor, Viana, who pops by my door on the way to school just to say hi. One can walk a mile in America and remain invisible every step of the way. Here, one exists. We all exist. No one is anonymous. No one is superfluous. No one is obscure, not even an old friend to obscurity such as I. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Reminder

I wrote this little bit two years ago, of which I reminded when it showed up on my Facebook feed this morning. I will say nothing more just now because I know I will want to weep, and the time for weeping has passed. The time to rejoice, and for peace, has come. Rest in peace, my son. God bless your precious soul. 

I threw you in the air and caught you. Five times. Ten. Again. Again. You could not walk yet, but you could fly. This was the moment caught in time, and scattered from there to here, from beginning to end, fully formed in every instance. Flying, laughing, eyes bright like silver, wide and deep and glowing and gleaming, like only a baby’s eyes can be. You were within me, then. You came from within your mother, yet somehow ended up in me. Flying together. Again, again. Such love surpasses everything.

Sweet Tooth

As has become my habit, I took a brief walk early this morning despite the stupid furnace in my neck and head, itself stoked by an already hot, humid day here in south Bali, and ended up on this occasion at the warung of the ancient old lady who sells fruit. We had a nice conversation and I bought five mangis (mangosteen) and three jeruk (oranges). A cute little white puppy who lives next door to the warung continually cavorted about my feet and it was revealed in due time by the ancient fruit seller that what he wanted was a sweet bread. This is a little bun filled with what they call kacang hijau, or green peanut sauce), and it indeed proved to be his favorite snack. Sweet tooth, like any other toddler!