Saturday, November 30, 2019

'Tis the Season

I seem to have come down with the traditional Christmas season flu. Fa-la-la. Oh well, what would Christmas in Bali be without the flu? How else would we know it is Christmas? 

Not surprising, really. The weather has been so terribly hot and oppressive. Downright unhealthy. But I guess if one is suffering from the heat anyway, a fever on top of it doesn't make that much difference. Fever, coughing, sniffing, aching, lethargic. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

One More Eye

Well, the cataract surgery in my right eye didn't go so smoothly as with the left. My fault, apparently. During the procedure, I moved just a little bit, because I suddenly coughed without warning, and the laser injured part of the eye.

The thing is, they did not tell me this during the surgery. The doctor merely finished as usual and said 'Okay, done.' As they unwrapped my head and stood me up, I was alarmed, to put it mildly, upon finding that I could not see out of the right eye.

"Hold on, doc … I can't see. Aren't I supposed to be able to see?" 

"Ya," she says, "you come to hospital tomorrow." 

The doctor and nurses are tidying up, getting ready to leave, guiding me out of the room. Here I am blind, and they are all behaving as if this were business as usual.  

"Wait! What happened? Why can't I see?" 

Now, this is something that annoys me about Indonesian speakers, doctors in particular. Although I am speaking to them in Indonesian, they seem to remain convinced that they cannot communicate with me. So they try English instead.

"Ya," the doctor says, "You moved and you injure eye. I … hmm … entered a booble to protect the wound." 

"A booble?"


What in the world could this mean? I searched my mind, trying to interpret the word, and recalled that she had pronounced the word 'goggles', those glasses one must wear after surgery, as 'googles'. Therefore, could 'booble' be 'bauble'? A small trinket? Had she inserted a small trinket into my eye? 

But no, that can't be. 

Booble. Hmm. I glance at the doctor's chest. Had my eye been accidentally poked by a booble? But no, this did not seem likely either, especially considering … 

"Wait! What is a booble?" I demanded. "Did you say 'booble'?"

"Ya," she says, making her first effort at patience. She leans close and pronounces the word very carefully, "Booooble. I make boooble with air, mister," and to illustrate, she makes a little circle with her thumb and index finger. "I put booble around wound."

Bubble! She is saying bubble! Ah ha! An air bubble. 

And the bubble will dissolve in about three days, she adds.

"Three days? Can't you just poke the bubble now?"

"Nooo, mister. Booble must protect eye because of you move, understand?"

So I went back to the recovery room, feeling keenly disappointed. I had so been looking forward to seeing perfectly with the right, just as had happened with the left. I took off the hospital gown and put on my clothes, cursing myself for moving. What if the booble is not effective, I worried? What if my eye is like this forever?

Well, it has been two days now, and I am happy to say that the booble is 95 percent dissolved. And my vision is incredible! Unbelievable! As I went out my front door this morning, I actually started laughing. What a world this is! What a world I have been missing for so many years now! What a world I am seeing here in Bali for the first time! 

I can see the fields beyond the nearby hedge for the first time, and the white flags in the fields, and the farmers in the fields, and the buildings beyond and the little temples on the building tops and fences and cows and children running in the grass and the progression of all the cross-shaped poles of the power lines and the lines themselves and birds on the lines and individual stones under my feet on the road and the end of the road and then beyond the end of the road. My God, I have landed on a whole new planet! Or in any case on a planet that has been hidden to me for as long as I can remember. 

I am smiling still as I sit in Starbucks, seeing every face near and far, of the baristas, of the customers, of people outside the windows walking in the mall or sitting at tables on the veranda. And although I am not feeling well, because of another health problem altogether, I am nonetheless feeling great! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


I met yesterday on Hello Talk, the language sharing app, a delightful young woman from Aceh by the name of Dewi. She already speaks English rather well, and in fact taught English for a time to Indonesian students. It was a pleasure to visit with her, and the start, I hope, of a rewarding and educative friendship. 

It is always hit and miss on Hello Talk. Some people merely say 'Hi', and then never appear again, even to answer one's response. Some chat a couple times and then disappear, having run out of things to say, I suppose. One woman who chatted with me recently told me, rather inexplicably, her entire life story in great detail, and then altogether stopped speaking. This strikes me as strange. I don't know, perhaps she just needed an ear--even, or perhaps especially, an anonymous one. Which is okay. The point, after all, is to learn another language, and to share one's own. 

Most of these folks are young, making their way in life, perhaps raising children, endeavoring to improve themselves, expand their knowledge and experience. I love taking a small part in this way, via communication, in the energy and verve of youth, to hear of their hopes and dreams, to remember, by way of hearing, the immediacy of an emotional engagement in day-to-day life. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Just some of Bali's beautiful scenery.

Morning Music

In the rice fields just across the little road from my villa, farmers bang on planks of sheet metal and howl and hoot in a daily effort to frighten away the birds that come to feed on the new rice. The birds flock in the morning and the farmers bang in the morning, and I wake to this every day, around about 6 o'clock. I don't mind. It's kind of like the sound of ranchers rounding up cows. It is better, I reckon, than car engines and wailing sirens and the roar of the freeway. There is something far more pleasant about the human voice even at this pitch. And each of these farmers has his own little yodel, so to speak, each his favorite vowel and cadence. And we all know that the heat of the day will soon chase the birds to shadier regions, where they themselves might sing their songs in peace. The entire creation is looking to thrive, each creature in its own manner. I brew a cup of tea, wishing it were coffee, and plod out to the porch where the dog is faithfully waiting. I sit and sip my tea and smoke a cigarette and read the morning news, still listening, at least with one ear. Eine Kleine Morning Music.

Monday, November 25, 2019

It's a Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood

I must admit that until I was about 40 years old, I thought Mr. Rogers was some kind of a lunatic. Which I guess says something about my attitude at 40. Then everything changed, my eyes were opened. I understood what he was saying, and where he was coming from, and why it was simply wonderful. Mr. Rogers truly believed the things that most of us only want to believe, or only pretend to believe. 

Therefore, I eagerly looked forward to the new movie, 'It's a Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood', starring Tom Hanks. 

Sadly, the movie, for me anyway, falls short of showing us what made Fred Rogers tick--which, if one does not already know, is Christ. Moreover, Hanks somehow casts a rather cranky shade on his portrayal of Rogers, missing entirely, I think, the mannerisms, the speech pattern, the simple heart of the man. Rogers himself came across as an incomparably kind-hearted man, almost a simpleton, although of course he was really a very deeply thoughtful, deeply perceptive individual, whereas Hanks in his portrayal comes across as either strangely sour or emotionally distant. Rogers was a man who, rather like Mark Twain, drew instant recognition and easy affection wherever he went--on the street, in a restaurant, on the commuter train. Everyone liked him because he liked everyone--"just the way they are". 

Much, much better than this movie is the recent documentary, by the same name I think. This brings us a much more meaningful, a much more intimate look at Mr. Rogers--who he was, why he was that way, what he stood for, the things he was passionate about. It provides a much fuller, much more satisfying encounter with this unusual, incomparable American legend.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


This year I will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day by getting cataract surgery in my right eye. No turkey, no mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, no giblet gravy or pumpkin pie or mincemeat pie. No, just surgery. But then again, generally I would not even be getting surgery, so I guess that's something in and of itself--although it is not something that I could make a tradition of. Hopefully, anyway. And honestly I'm looking forward to it big time, as the marked difference between the vision in my "new" left eye and in my "old" right eye is continually disconcerting and discombobulating, the one side rendering the world an indistinct blur, the other sharp and colorful. And speaking of Thanksgiving, I notice that the Cowboys are slated to play on Friday, not on Thanksgiving Day. What happened to the traditional Thanksgiving Day Cowboys game? What has become of America!

[Correction: I realized later that my surgery is the day before Thanksgiving. Good thing I checked that. So perhaps there is still hope for a turkey and dressing after all. Or at least a chicken.]

[Correction #2: I stated that the Cowboys will not be playing on Thanksgiving Day. I was mistaken. They will face the Buffalo Bills in an afternoon game.]

Saturday, November 23, 2019


I was thinking this morning about cheese. 

Let me explain. 

After my usual coffee at Starbucks, I made then my usual round through Papaya market and I happened to see in the refrigerated foods counter not cheese but a certain meat--little disks of sliced salami ranged in neat plastic-wrapped rows. And this made me think of cheese.

Rather, it made me think of cheese by way of a brief thought-journey back to the time of my childhood and yearly visits on Christmas Eve to my aunt and uncles' quiet little apartment on buzzing Broadway Street. 

This was the event, every year, for years and years, that marked the true arrival of Christmas. It was always dark, it was always cold, it was always raining, or perhaps even snowing, and we would pile into my father's station wagon, with a certain solemnity, with a certain reverence really, and enter the beginning of Christmas itself, which was located on Broadway Street. 

We would enter the apartment, my brother and I would deposit our coats in the back bedroom, and then come back out to sit before the Christmas tree while the adults created suspense with needless small talk, the usual polite chitchat, and my uncle would try to calm the incurably high tempered dog, a little poodle named Pepi which every Christmas was dyed either pink or blue and was ever intent on biting guests.  

And then, after Pepi was locked in a back room (this was how he routinely celebrated Christmas) we would open our presents. 

These were not the real things, as we were instructed each year. They have no children of their own. Just act pleased and say thank you, even if it's only socks or pajamas. 

We understood. And really we did not need to be told. These were the first tastes of Christmas and were delicious in and of themselves. These packages--socks, handkerchiefs, piggy banks, dime store toys that broke the same day--these were inaugurations, the earnest of the day to come. 

And now the cheese. As we played with our miniature gumball machines or readily breakable toys, my aunt and uncle would retire to the kitchen and, always with a great clamor of glass dishes and testy exchanges and debates about whether or not Pepi ought to be released, prepare the coffee, the brimming glasses of soda pop, and, yes, the long anticipated yard-long platter of assorted meats and cheeses. 

These were not just any meats and cheeses. These were sophisticated meats and cheeses. Adult meats and cheeses. No meats and cheeses like the common meats and cheeses we saw throughout the rest of the year, but exotic things, impregnated with nuggets of jalapeno or green olive or little black seeds--salami, pastrami, bologna, roast beef, honey-baked ham, liverwurst; sharp cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, blue cheese. And by God we were actually allowed to eat them!

I remember most often falling asleep beside my brother and being awakened when the night had grown quiet and the rain had taken a breather for a time and Broadway was merely black and bare and glistening, nearly devoid of traffic. And we knew that the next thing we would know is that Christmas Day had come.

So it happened, these many years and miles later, that I experienced in the middle of the Papaya market an insatiable craving for meats that can never again be consumed. And yet the memory remains a delicacy of its own, not to be matched or outdone by others, sweet and rich on the tongue of time, more a fullness, really, than a hunger.


Vladimir Putin recently commented that America's time as a dominant world power has come to an end. Reluctantly, I have to agree--and the painful thing is that we did it to ourselves. A country that insists on the application of the rule of law to the common citizen while excusing and wealthy and powerful from the same cannot long endure. 

We have now a virtual mountain of evidence showing that the President of the United States, our highest citizen, worked in a purposeful and premeditated manner against the long-standing laws and values of the nation for nothing other than his own political interests. Impeachment has never in our history been more clearly justified, and yet our lawmakers, or half of them anyway, are no longer interested in the rule of law or in the values and procedures of the American democracy. President Trump will walk free, acquitted not by evidence for his innocence (there is none) but by the sheer absence of personal integrity in our elected representatives. 

It is indeed, as the Republicans say, a sham--for there is no intent on their part to hear evidence and judge with honesty and impartiality for the good of the nation. The nation itself is made a sham, a glaring refutation of its own ideals, and so yes, Putin is right, its time, its former place in the world, has come to an end.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Dog Update

I am happy to report this morning that the villa manager has decided to take my advice and call BAWA about Takut the dog. BAWA is a loose approximation of what we know in America as the Humane Society, although it operates, as I understand it, wholly on charitable contributions and receives no government support or funding. A strange arrangement for an island that was beset just nine years ago by a rabies epidemic. 

In any case, BAWA will at least send someone to see the dog, dispense medicine for his skin condition, and perhaps administer a rabies vaccination (not sure how that determination is made). So everyone seems happy now except for the people who originally complained about Takut, whose sole recourse now seems to be to make a point of not looking at me or speaking to me. No big loss. They will be leaving anyway in January and going back to wherever they came from. 

Of course, in an apartment complex situation, one never knows what sort will move in from this time to that. I'm still acclimating myself to the arrangement, as I had only once previously in my life lived in an apartment. Oh, wait … I take that back. I lived with my first wife in an apartment on 12th and Hawthorne back in old Portland town, and then again many years later on 99th Avenue after the divorce from my second wife. In that second apartment, one really never so much as saw his neighbors, although one neighbor did complain to the manager that my bed springs were making too much noise when my girlfriend stayed over. 

For his own part, Takut the dog remains perfectly clueless about the conflict over his presence. In fact, I saw him last night standing outside the door to the apartment occupied by the complainants. Apparently he is under the impression that they enjoy his company. Which strikes me as perfectly hilarious. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

I Don't Make the Rules

You know, the more I think about the "dog issue", the angrier I become. I mean, I was lying awake last night thinking about management's suggestion that I simply stop feeding the dog, imagining how I could possibly just sit there and watch while he starves to death on my front porch. What the hell is wrong with people? I have been kind to the dog from the beginning, have let him hang out on my porch or lie around in my room--and I'm supposed to suddenly just turn my back, withdraw all affection or charity, lock my door, pretend he doesn't exist? How? How is it that such a thing can even be imagined? And all because one family of Indonesian people at the back of the villa, where the dog rarely ever ventures anyway, doesn't like the way he looks? Jesus. 

I think that if I weren't presently so hip deep in other demands and expenses--like getting my cataract surgery, like renewing (and paying for) my yearly foreign resident visa, like struggling with my own poor health, I would just move out straightaway, and take the damn dog with me. 

And how has this become my problem anyway? I mean, as I have said over and over, I did not bring the dog with me. The dog was there when I arrived, way back in March of this year. Is his presence not a matter for management to sort out?  They may either allow or disallow dogs. I just pay the rent, man. I don't make the rules. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dog Issues

Well, as I have long feared, "certain people" here at Villa Kampung Kumpul have decided that they don't like Takut the dog, and so they have gone to the villa manager with the request that she come to me and demand that I get rid of the dog. 

"Not my dog," I say. "He was here in the villa when I arrived back in March."

"Oh, hmm. Well, maybe you can keep him outside the villa." 

"No, as you can see, if the door is locked, he will scratch the hell out of it until someone lets him in. Given that my room is nearest to the door, it is I who end up letting him in so that, well, you know, so that I can go back to sleep." 

"Oh. Hmm. Well, maybe if you stop feeding him." 

"No. I'm not going to stop feeding him. I can't do that. What I can do is move out myself. If I'm gone, I suppose that the dog will eventually get the message and look for another safe haven. Or I could maybe move and take him with me." 

Hmm. Well. No. The manager does not necessarily want me to take my rent money and leave.

"Well, can you maybe make sure he doesn't go toward the back of the villa or out on the back patio." 

"No, I can guarantee no such thing. When I am gone, I have no idea where the dog goes or what the dog does. He is not, as I have said, my dog. My impression, however, is that he either lies on my porch or out in the parking garage till I get home."

Takut is an old dog. Mostly he lies around. Mostly what he wants is to be liked, and to be fed. It is clear that at some point in the past, he was simply discarded, and has likely been mistreated given the keen mistrust of people he clearly displayed when I first made his acquaintance. As I have mentioned before, he used to live under the patio floor at the back of the villa, rarely venturing out. Little by little, he became more trusting of people, less fearful. He wanted only for safety and some affection. 

Now there are "certain people" who don't like the way he looks. He seems to them a threat. Perhaps he is diseased. Perhaps he has rabies. Perhaps he will suddenly bite them for no reason. Moreover, he is ugly. And a dog. He is, as I have said, generally either in my room or on my porch, but this, apparently, for them is unacceptable. 

So fine. I advised the manager to handle the matter however she likes, as long as she, or any of them, don't try to employ carelessness or cruelty or hard-heartedness on my part. It's just not me, and I would hope it never would be. 

As long as I have lived here in Bali, in every house or apartment, dogs have attached themselves to me. They come from this or that neighbor who at some point decided it would be fun to have a dog, and then decided they were tired of the dog, tired of caring for the dog, tired of feeding the dog. They come seeking safety, sustenance, and a little bit of human affection. I have never turned any of them away. And I'm not about to start now. 

Some truly shitty people in this world, I reckon. People who make dogs look like saints. 

Dreams Come True

Looks like my Xmas wish will come true, as I am set to have cataract surgery on my other (right) eye a week from today. Happy holidays! Hopefully, it will proceed as well as the surgery on the left--with, that is, excellent results and no problems. 

I'm actually having the usual problem with irritation lately of the eyelid, but of course that has nothing to do with the cataract surgery. My eyelids and eyelashes have always been sensitive to 'the elements'--weather, heat, stuff in the air--often itching and being generally bothersome, and it has been especially so here in Bali, with the humidity and the sweat and the generally grimy air. But oh well, not much to be done about that.

In any case, it will be wonderful to see the world clearly with two eyes in my twilight years. I am simply amazed at my new ability to see faces quite clearly from far away when previously all that was more than a few feet from my eyes was an indistinct blur. And it is all so beautiful! Even the cockroach I spotted in the bathroom this morning seemed beautiful. Moreover, he was not able, as would have been the case beforehand, to suddenly sneak up on me. Nope. Saw him immediately from the far end of the bathroom and eradicated him forthwith.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Truth

"The truth will out." 

So wrote Shakespeare. And he was right. The truth will always come out. What he did not know, could not have known, is that in the 21st century the truth would no longer matter. People simply don't care. The Republican congress, for instance, and the millions of Trump supporters who yet persist among us, simply do not care whether the president of the country uses tactics of corruption or bribery or self-serving threat against foreign leaders to gather dirt on his own political opponents. This is both who he is and who they know him to be. This is why they elected him. This is why they serve him. This is why they now make excuses for him--for, in some way, they are making excuses for themselves, for their own moral, or, rather, amoral world view, in government, in business, in relationship. Integrity? Honesty? Honor? Meh, all a bunch of high falutent, snowflake notions. In the "real" world, the king of the hill is the one who steps on as many people as he needs to, and if they didn't want to get stepped on, they shouldn't have gotten in the way. Might is right. The end justifies the means. What, after all, as Pilate famously asked, is 'truth'?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Christmas Wish

My plan at present is to get the right eye cataract removed as soon as possible, hopefully December. Previously, I had believed that one has to wait 6 months or so to operate on other eye, but the doc says not so. But having nearly perfect vision in one eye and really bad vision in the other is distinctly irritating. It seems to me that the brain also exaggerates the difference, trying to compensate. The doc also tells me that I should always wear these silly goggles she gave me, or most especially when driving the motorbike, because there is soooo much shit in the air here in Bali (and in Indonesia in general). Very bad for eye health. So anyway, I am hoping that by Christmas I will be a new man, or in any case an old man with new eyes. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Tunggu. The most popular word in the Indonesian language, the very first word one is likely to learn. Or some variation such as tunggu dulu, tunggu sebentar, or ditunggu. What does it mean? 


Do you have an appointment with the doctor? Tunggu. Are you waiting for Gojek? Ditunggu. Good food is coming.Do youwwant to pay your bill at the cashier's counter. Tunggu dulu. Are you experiencing a medical emergency? Tunggu sebentar.

Every activity and every function comes with a component of tunggu-ing. It goes without saying.  The best thing about this is that once one learns the word, one has the opportunity to spring it on everyone else. 

Can you help me? 

Ya, tunggu dulu.

Can you move your motorbike out of the middle of the road?

Ya, tunggu sebentar.

Asyik, ya?

In My View Five

After many eye tests and measurements and so on, I finally got my cataract surgery yesterday and I must say that the results are amazing! I am seeing now with a clarity that has not been present since my prepubescent days. In the left eye, anyway. My God, how different the world looks! How much more negotiable! Now I'm feeling greedy in that I want the right eye done too, because the new clarity in the left eye has made the lack of the same in the right all the more obvious, not to mention irritating. 

The operation itself was done at Ramata Eye Hospital, a western standard clinic associated with Sanglah, and was much different than I had imagined. I had been told that it would not hurt, and it didn't (much), but it was quite uncomfortable nonetheless. Feels like your eye is a bowl of thick soup which he being stirred with a tiny spoon, such that you think, during the procedure, that there will be no eye remaining at its conclusion. It is a kaleidoscope of bright lights, colors and shapes that one has never experienced before. At the end of the surgery, one can see immediately, no need for a bandage, but only a pair of clunky spectacles to keep dust and such out. 

Of course, my eyeglasses, which I had purchased less than a month ago, are now nearly completely useless. And the doctor says that if I get the right eye done, I will no longer require glasses at all. Even now, I can actually see quite clearly what I am typing, and it has been a long, long time indeed since that has happened. 

So I am seeing like a 10 year old with the left eye and a 65 year old with the right. Hmmm, I wonder what sort of psychological effect this might have.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Acute and Chronic

One doesn't plan for the medical demands that eat up his finances. Of course he doesn't. When we are healthy, we simply figure that we will always be healthy. And then little by little, step by step, one ends up with the chronic problems requiring regular expenditure (such as my stomach problem which requires daily suppression of stomach acid or my weird internal heat problem requiring at least one capsule per day, and a very expensive capsule at that) as well as acute problems such as the need for cataract surgery. No, these are not things we planned for, and they really don't fit into our financial plans at all. But there it is. What's a guy gonna do other than helplessly watch as the money flows from his account? I have a friend coming to Bali next month. It would have been nice to take her out for dinner, show her around. But no, such funds are earmarked for medicines. Furstrating. Getting old, becoming ill, dragging around health issues like Marley's chains, is a distinctly unpleasant pastime. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In My View Four

An entire day devoted to sitting around in the hospital, punctuated by occasional visits with doctors and/or nurses. Turns out that one has to have any number of tests before actually having cataract surgery. So from 10 to about 4, I was a resident of Sanglah Hospital. Moreover, tomorrow morning I must go to yet another clinic for yet another test, and will then proceed with the surgery. Let's roll! A cataract in the middle of one's vision is truly irritating. Can't see to read, can't see to type, can't see to watch TV … can't see to see. 

So hopefully I will soon get the cataract removed and the fog dispersed. 

Strangely, I was accompanied by a whole gang of girls--Louis, Betty, and another girl whose name I have forgotten. My own little entourage. But I'm glad they were there, because on my own, especially not being able to see, I would never have been able to navigate the various dark and dim corners of the hospital we got sent to. Naturally, every component of eye examinations is located in a different, far flung area. Go figure. 

It does turn out, btw, that costs for this surgery vary widely in Bali. At Sanglah, which is actually considered a better hospital than Kasih Ibu, the price will be half as much. Again, go figure. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In My View Three

As we proceed with the cataract issue, the fabled wheels  of Indonesian bargain hunting kick into  high gear. In accordance with the wishes of Louis and friends, I am now slated to appear at Sanglah Hospital, which, as is rumored, offers surgery for less than half the price at Kasih Ibu. Why this would be the case, I do knot know. Perhaps they eschew highfalutin modern technology, preferring the good old fashioned can opener to expensive surgical instruments and procedures? But no, Louis tells me that Sanglah is more 'western standard' than most hospitals here. So yeah … I don't know. Promotion on cataracts this week? Two for one? Bring your coupon? 

In the meantime, I'm typing this pretty much blind. I really cannot see the words that are coming out, although I can see the red underlining indicating a misspelling. How has this gotten so bad in the space of one week, more or less? Allergy? Multiple sclerosis? Given the itching and sensitivity now in both eyes (let alone the fog in the left eye), I would have to suspect an allergy of some sort. Something in the air. But the eyedrops given by the doctor yesterday at Kasiih Ibu are doing nothing at all. 

This is all even more frustrating in that just a coup9le weeks ago I had gotten new eyeglasses and was seeing better than usual. What a great feeling that was for the few days it lasted! The eyeglasses are now useless, as are the eyes themselves. 

Sigh, sigh, sigh. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

In My View Two

Well, I guess I have to apologize for speaking ill of Kasih Ibu hospirtal in yesterday's entry. This morning, I saw an ophthamologist there and was quite impressed with her. She determined straightaway that I have a central cataract in my left eye, which had only been made more obvious to me after getting something in the eye and having a lot of itching and irritation. 

The long and short, of course, is that this cataract, right in the middle of my vision, must be removed. The cost of this, however, is estimated at 31 million Rupiah, or about 2200 USD. 

Shit! Where am I supposed to get that? 

I am told that the operation is painless and only takes about 15 minutes, and when finished, you can just go home and resume function as normal. Sounds pretty attractive to me. And it sure would be nice to be able to see again. 

I suppose I could come to America and get the operation for free on Medicare (or I assume, anyway). Then again, it would cost 2000 just to get to America, so it all kinda comes out the same, don't it? 

Ah, the curious quandaries of the expatriate. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

In My View

I'm weighing this morning whether I want to go to the doctor for my eye problem. It sounds like a no-brainer, but, here in Bali, it's not that simply. One remembers what they said about teh skin cancer on the top of my ear. "Ah, yes, we must amputate part of your ear." Or, indeed, what I was told perhaps four years ago when I went to an eye doctor about vision problems. "Ah, yes, you have cataracts. We can remove." As it happened, my wife insisted on consulting a cataract specialist, who said "Ah, no, you have no cataracts at all. No surgery necessary." One can only imagiine what they might say about an itching, blurry left eye. "Ah, yes, must be removed. Can insert prosthetic eye."

On the other hand, the problem has gotten so annoying that I'm thinking about removing the eye myself. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Berkabut Mata

I've been having this problem with my eye just lately that's driving me up the wall. My left eye is itchy and foggy. This comes just after having purchased new glasses, although I don't see how that could be related. Just a koinkidink as my daughter used to say. Must be something in the air. Aside from being continually annoying, this also makes it impossible to see what I am writing. In past times, during my old working days, this would not have been a problem, as I was a very fast and accurate typist, and didn't really have to see the words on the screen. No so in my retirement years. I thought at first that this was a sty, but apparently I was wrong, as sty ointment has not helped. My pharmacist suggests this morning some sort of antibiotic eyedrops, so I'll give that a try. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Long Division

He had nerve damage: input could not penetrate. The world stalled out at his edges. Sometimes he had trouble speaking to other people, rummaging for language, and it seemed to him that an invisible layer divided him from the rest of the world, a membrane of emotional surface tension.
--Zone One, Colson Whitehead

Hmmm … are we talking about MS here, or about, as the novel intends, a common affliction affecting survivors of the zombie plague, or both? Seems awfully familiar to me. 

"The world could not penetrate." So often so true, right? How many times have we found pieces of common meaning suddenly missing? How many times have we suddenly felt lost on some route we follow on a daily basis. The world has momentarily turned away, hidden itself. Where am I? Where was I going? We experience pangs of panic. I have never seen this street, these buildings before.

Here comes from the anonymous many colored mob, someone I know, but do not know. Here he comes, here she comes, hand outstretched, smiling, and we, forcing a smile, vanily search the disorder of our memory bank. Who is he? Who is she? Input is not penetrating. The world has stalled at our edge. Immediacy itself is a memory, a thing of the past. Our individual moments vacillate between sleepy vacuity and acute perplexity. .

Language, articulation--formerly cozy companions of mine--are found now in the dictionary, by rummaging through the thesaurus. I know what I want to say, but how to transfer that to the proper words? They must be pried now from the prison of my own tongue. It is difficult to carry on a conversation in this manner, all the while thinking How stupid I must sound. Witticisms, wisecracks, the well placed bon mot are tardy at best, therefore superfluous. That train has passed. We are slow, dreary, clueless, dull. They do not understand how very many things we could have said if only we could have said them. And so we are frustrated. We have trouble speaking to other people. 

Multiple sclerosis is that invisible layer, that membrane of emotional surface tension, that divides, compromises, alienates. Is MS, stripped of all the medical jargon, essentially merely a progressive zombification of ones person, lacking only, though thankfully so, the insatiable desire for human flesh?

Sometimes it seems this way.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Shattered Windows

My laptop had been spazing out for the past few days, and last night I found out why. Yup, it's Wndows 10. 'Must update in order that Windows 10 can run effectively.' That's rich. When does Windows 10 ever run effectively? Ah, but the thing had me cornered, it seemed. I would try to visit a website, for instance, and would receive a message stating that I must connect to wifi. I was connected to wifi. Next, I would simply get the revolving circle of death, and then a message informing me that I must refresh the page, which would bring about a new message saying that Windows could not connect to this page. 

So I ran the Windows update for the next couple hours. Voila. This resulted in Windows not functioning at all. 

I struggled with the thing into the wee hours of the morning, and then resumed the struggle fresh at first light, and I now have it working after a fashion. The update has, of course, disabled pretty much every feature and shortcut I had set up for myself through the years, and so there is the added fun of trying to reconstitute these. It also decided not to communicate with my phone any longer, which led to a separate struggle between laptop and phone. 

This is the second epic fail I have had with Windows 10, and it has convinced me that when I get a new laptop, should I live that long, I will switch to Apple. More expensive, sure--but worth t, I reckon. Of course, this would entail a steep learning curve for an old man like me, whose curve tends only downward, but, still, it can't be as bad as Windows! 

Did I mention that I hate Windows 10? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Xmas Is Here

Upon entry into Starbucks this morning, my mood, decidedly sour, is lifted by Christmas music. The young Dutch couple in front of me at the counter does a slow arm-in-arm sway to the rhythm. Frank Sinatra. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. And they will, for it is clear for all to see that they are very much in love and love is sure to last at least till Christmas. The man gives the woman a peck on the neck, and though very much in love, she seems not so certain of this public display of affection. Rosa, the barista, smiles and gives me a wink. She also gives me a discount. Happy Holidays! Ah, but please dispense with the messy modern renditions. Stick to the classics. Give me an old fashioned Christmas, an old fashioned Christmas, family faces, wide open spaces, covered with snow …. Yes, my neck still hurts and my right hand is numb and will neither open nor close and it feels like I have a bit of a Bowie knife shoved into my right shoulder blade, nonetheless it is Christmas, it's the most wonderful time of the year, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, keeping time, time, time, Oh the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Reading List

I am currently reading two very dissimilar books, the one being a long, scholarly theological rumination by David Bentley Hart called That All Shall be Saved--Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, the other a zombie apocalypse novel, Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. 

I do hope I don't get the two confused! 

The Hart treatise is a very welcome modern offering on the matter of eternal salvation and tackles as its central challenge the often confused  or misinformed theologies that have led to such sad abominations as Christian fundamentalism, Catholic purgatories, Calvinist dungeons of eternal suffering, and so on. Hart himself, of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion, explains, very compellingly, in my mind, how the purity of New Testament scripture has been compromised over the centuries by misinterpretation of the original Greek, misunderstanding of Jewish tradition and practices, misapprehension and rampant category error regarding the place, purpose, and meaning of myth, parable, and prophesy, and eschatological catch-22's wherein the logic of acquired theologies traps interpretation into grim, not to mention contradictory, conclusions. 

How do we approach scripture intelligently, humbly, faithfully. As Hart writes: 

I am not very tolerant of what is sometimes called “biblicism”—that is, the “oracular” understanding of scriptural inspiration, which sees the Bible as the record of words directly uttered by the lips of God through an otherwise dispensable human intermediary, and which entails the belief that the testimony of the Bible on doctrinal and theological matters must be wholly internally consistent—and I certainly have no patience whatsoever for twentieth-century biblical fundamentalism and its manifest imbecilities.

And again, regarding our dutiful affection for our own constructs, no matter how jarring in the compassionate light of scripture itself: 

There are, I admit—unfortunately, I have met some of them—those Christians who are earnestly attached to the idea of an eternal hell not just because they feel they must be, but also because it is what they want to believe. For some of them, in fact, it is practically the best part of the story. It gives them a sense of belonging to a very small and select company, a very special club, and they positively relish the prospect of a whole eternity in which to enjoy the impotent envy of all those writhing, resentful souls that have been permanently consigned to an inferior neighborhood outside the gates. That is the sort of prestige that cannot be bought where the common people shop.

It is all, as I have suggested, a refreshing correction to so many misguided doctrines, which have come to stand on their own almost despite scripture, and so, for me, especially encouraging in our day of popular blasphemy.

Zombies, on the other hand, seem to represent the hell we have inflicted on ourselves, making Zone One, oddly enough, a rather appropriate companion for Hart's philosophy of eternal mercy in light of the threat of eternal damnation--for zombies are, of course, mindlessly merciless creatures, though they do not know it, being obedient only to hunger and rampage. What makes Zone One a good novel by any estimation, leaving the zombies out of it for a moment, is the exceptional prose of its author coupled with his artful examination of the rot, the infection, that plagued western society far before the un-dead ever started to shuffle about and outright devour people. Skels, they are called throughout the novel--which may be short for 'skeletons', given that zombies can be considered human beings only in the most elementary form, but is also an obscure word (skell), defined as a stereotypical or archetypal designation referring to a person who is homeless, vagrant, or derelict, as well as, typically, violent and criminal, without moral sense. We have, then, the complex, tower-ridden jewel of civilization known as New York City and its ironic millions of vagrant inhabitants, quite despite the conglomerate miles of steel and concrete and high windows that house them. 

Zone One rather reminds me of another excellent zombie tale, The Girl With All the Gifts, for its excellence of style and  thoughtful accomplishment of theme--and both The Girl and Zone One remind me of the best of Poe and Hawthorne. Admittedly, I am only a quarter of the way through Zone One, but I am so far impressed as hell, and, I suppose, rather envious. Why couldn't I have thought of all this! The key, of course, is that Zone One is not really about zombies at all. It is about us.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Que Sera Sera

In chatting with my stepson this morning, I realized in a more immediate way than usual how basically disinterested everyday Americans are in what's going on politically, what with Trump and all the scandals and all the democratic candidates and so on. 

He mentioned that he had been to a Halloween party where everyone was dead drunk (although he himself does not drink), and I commented "So it was a Cavanaugh sort of party."

"Who is Kavanaugh?" he asked. 

I briefly explained. 

"Sorry. I don't keep up with politics too much," he wrote.

Well, why should he? Were I young and involved in the struggles of daily living, with friends, with girlfriends, with college, with work, I probably wouldn't either. Who has the time? 

As it is, I follow the news very closely, perhaps obsessively, which actually, ironically, makes me rather out of touch with the current of American life--because most Americans simply do not. There are simply too many avenues, demands, desires drawing their attention. And my stepson is a very bright young man, so it's not about intelligence or an ability to engage. It is, in some sense, all about bullshit that has nothing to do with real everyday life.  

"Like, honestly," he wrote, "either something happens or something doesn't."

The sense, I think, is that all is beyond the control of common people to begin with. Whatever happens is inevitable. And that may be the case, God help us. Was not the 2016 election, ultimately, beyond our control? Who decided the outcome, after all? The electoral college? The Russians? Surely not the American people. 

"Why anyway do people want to impeach Trump?" Sasha asked. "Isn't his term basically over?"

Over only if he is not re-elected, I explained. Moreover, I suppose it has something to do with principles, the integrity of our government, a protection of our democracy in the future, lest we end up as a banana republic.

"A banana republic?" Sasha wrote. 


I do fear that people fail to appreciate the continual frailty of democratic rule. It is as it is and always will be. They have forgotten the warning issued by Benjamin Franklin who when questioned about whether we had a monarchy or a republic said 'A republic, if we can keep it.' 

If. A rather important word. One to remember before it's too late. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Streamers strung with many-colored flags dance above an enormous blue placard emblazoned in white with the word Growember! A young barista tells me that later there will be many pretty girls. It is said that there may be rain as well. Older women are already using long poles to knock the flowers off the trees, and these they will gather for offerings. Nature gives continually of itself. It has a purpose. It is in use most truly observed. Which is something even the bees and the butterflies know. This is my body, given for you. Today we will celebrate something, in color, with pretty girls, and rain. But first, as it turns out, we will be shaken by the wind, and many of the luscious petals will descend and splash on the pavement like red and yellow strokes of paint. The beauty of such small things as these can be something like heartbreaking.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

Guard Dog

I broke down the other day and bought Takut the dog a big bowl for food and water along with a blue collar. It may not be much longer possible to claim that he is "not my dog". Claims that I 'have no idea' where he got the collar and bowl have already been been looked upon with distinct skepticism by other residents. 

For his own part, Takut, following receipt and application of the collar, seems to have deputized himself as the "Villa Guard Dog". What other explanation for his eruption of barking this morning when a woman outside the main door had the temerity to pick flowers from the tree there for offerings? I had only very rarely in the past months heard Takut bark at all. This morning, he made up for all the lost opportunities. Nor did he consider my command that he stop barking of significant importance. 

This behavior, I fear, is not bound to fly very successfully--unless, of course, he can more rightly determine the difference between dangerous intruders and innocent passers-by, such as this young woman and her baby out picking flowers.