Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thanksgiving After All

 After talking to my second wife on Thanksgiving Day (which in the States would have been the day before Thanksgiving), and hearing about the feast she was preparing and the family gathering she had planned, and given that I myself was having a hotdog for dinner, I felt rather depressed and lonely. I had rather enjoyed having a large noisome family during the years of our marriage, especially on holidays.

But then straightaway, Sparky, my old dog, showed up, in the form of a dragonfly, which is in keeping with the beyond-the-grave form that he usually takes. He flew in through the front door, hovered in front of me for some time as I sat at the table, and, as he customarily does, imparted a few wise lessons, telepathically of course, not so much comforting in character as simply blunt and practical. I won't go into detail. It's between me and Sparky. 

Upon finishing his lesson, he hovered down to my thigh and sat upon it for about five minutes more before rising and fluttering back out the front door.  It was a bit of a hard lesson, to be honest, and so I guess he wanted to show his empathy before departing. 

Later that morning I stopped at the grocery store to buy a few things for dinner and such-like. As I exited the store with my armload of stuff (for I had forgotten, as usual, to bring a bag), a woman called out from behind me, "Mister, where is your bag?"

I told her I had forgotten to bring one, but it was not a problem, as my bike was in the lot. 

"No!" she said. "You must have a bag."

"Really, it's okay." 

"No, no. Here, I give you, mister."

At this, the woman took the large plastic bag from the front of her own motorbike and began unloading her own items and transferring them to another cloth bag she had. She then brought the plastic bag to me and loaded my own items one by one into it, packing them in just as if she had been a trained store clerk. 

Now, my goodness, how gracious is that! And the amazing thing is that such behavior is not unusual here. It is common. Which makes things like this all the more amazing to me, given how uncommon they are where I come from. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thankscovid Day

 I guess 'Happy Thanksgiving' will mean as little to many Americans this year as it always has meant to me here in Indonesia, for it will be celebrated this year in neither country. Well, to be fair, it is never celebrated in Indonesia (why would it be?), and at least for those people observing the no large group gatherings advice of America's top healthcare representatives as well as the president-elect, it won't be celebrated in anything like the traditional manner there in America. For those who do have large gatherings despite the warnings, enjoy your super-spreader events, for this may be the last time you see each other.

Large gatherings are being discouraged here in Indonesia as well, and the restaurants frequented by westerners are still but lightly populated on any day of the week. Of course, the fact that there are presently no western tourists helps immeasurably in keeping the crowds light. According to the latest projection, Bali itself will reopen to western tourists on December 1st (although, to be honest I wouldn't recommend vacationing here, as Indonesia's COVID situation remans basically out of control). 

In better times, I do believe Thanksgiving dinners, catering to homesick westerners, are offered in some of the more expensive restaurants, but that has always been outside of my budget, and in any case, a Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant is not the same as a family gathering in the old homestead, is it? Nor would a traditional Thanksgiving dinner go over well with the condition of my stomach these days. No more stuffing on stuffing, and turkey, and yams, and gravy, and pies for me. Moreover, there is no family to gather with anyway, even were gathering recommended, which kind of takes away the celebratory nature of the holiday from the get-go. 

I do see this morning that a Christmas tree has gone up at the center of the mall, so that makes for a bit of a festive feeling. Now if they can just get the Christmas going at Starbucks we can get started on the season.

Monday, November 23, 2020


 I always feel a bit envious of the people here in Indonesia because of their natural acclimation to the heat. Actually, I guess acclimation is the wrong word. They were born acclimated! I am sitting this evening at the neighborhood Starbucks, the temperature is 30C, which translates to 86F (even though it's cloudy), and yet the man at the next table is wearing a thick hoody sweatshirt and the girl beside him is wearing a jacket over her blouse. That's right, a jacket. Did I mention that it is 86 degrees Fahrenheit?

I generally feel that I have not acclimated at all, but then I just remembered this morning, upon catching sight of a particular washcloth in my closet, that I used to have to carry a washcloth along with me wherever I went so that I could continually wipe the sweat from my brow. So I guess I have acclimated to some extent, as I no longer carry or need the washcloth. That said, I'm still not about to wear a thick hoody. My God! It's uncomfortable enough just to wear a button-up shirt instead of a tee shirt, which is something I avoid unless the temperature dips to a chilly 29C (82F). 

Lately, during midday here, the temperature has gone up to 34C, which is 93.4F, or, with humidity factored in, about 900 degrees by any measure. At these times, I tend to hide in the house and watch old movies. Or sleep. 

To tell the truth, folks, you don't see many bikinis here, unless they are being worn by white folks, although you do see a goodly number of white folks who have become rather alarmingly red folks. The fact is, Indonesian girls rarely go to the beach, and especially not in the sun. The idea is for their skin to be lighter, not darker. It's a class consciousness sort of thing. Nonetheless, every Sunday evening, all the Indonesians flock to the beach (wearing hoodies and sweaters, of course), where their children swim while the adults set up picnics and gather in groups to chat. The little children often swim naked or in their underwear (why waste money on a swimsuit), and people come along with carts selling bakso or sate or barbecued corn on the cob. And when night falls and the people leave the beach, there's one hell of a traffic jam on Sanur's single beach front avenue! 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Various Amazing Stuff

 I was sitting outside at the table the other morning smoking a cigarette when I happened to notice the gross picture on the top section of the cigarette pack. Of course, it was not the first time I had seen the picture, but what struck me most about it was how good our brains get at simply ignoring something. It is as if the brain clicks on a little minus sign, as with a computer screen, and minimizes a window in the field of vision, relegating it to a small file on the task bar. What I generally see when I look at the pack is just the yellow color itself with the word Camel emblazoned on it and a little picture of a camel below the word. For this reason, as it seems to me, graphic pictures of cancerous lungs and so forth will never deter one from smoking, for smoking has nothing to do with awareness of the health dangers and everything to do with being an addiction to nicotine. Perhaps a better method of deterrence would be the removal of all addictive properties of tobacco. I suppose there are those who just like the presence of the smoke, although I'm not one of them. For this reason, I am not attracted to vaping. The smoke smells kind of good, but I have no addictive attraction to being surrounded by smoke, whether it smells good or not. 


I am currently reading a book called Homo Deus. This is a sort of sequel to an earlier book by the same author entitled Sapiens. The latter is a scientific and sociologic description of man's rise from the earliest stages and the erection of the various social orders and so on, all in accordance with the logic of evolution, of course. Homo Deus attempts to trace the present state of mankind's progress into a future of very different realities than those that exist at this time, or indeed for ages in the past, as we become homo Deus, the man god. There will soon be, according to the author, no hunger to speak of, no disease, no war, and, apparently, no work (for robots will have superseded us in these needful tasks). 

Frankly, I'm not convinced. Nor am I impressed by the author's appraisal of religion in all this--first getting the salient point of religion all wrong, and then proposing the coming of simple humanism as the new religion. In short, scientists ought never to venture outside the realm of science because religion itself cannot be reduced to scientific formulas or even to the patterns of social science.

What I do find interesting however are some of the scientific observations he mentions. For instance, experiments have been conducted wherein two mice are put together, one with room to run about, the other in a small cage. As it turns out, the mouse that is free will apply itself to efforts to free the mouse that is caged. It is theorized that the free mouse seeks to free the caged mouse because the situation makes him feel stressed and uneasy. In a further variation, a chocolate is put into the area containing the free mouse, and it is found that the free mouse will most often still try to free the caged mouse before eating the chocolate, which he will then share with the caged mouse once freed. From all this, it is determined that mice have emotions and are powerfully affected by the same. They will act to resolve stress so that they may feel at ease. 

Of course, I always kinda figured that mice have emotions, just intuitively, you know. But science is about "proving" such things. 

Another interesting story is of a famous German horse (I've forgotten the critter's name). This horse was said to be able to do math problems--addition, subtraction, division, multiplication. A mathematical problem would be posed, and the horse would tap out the numeric answer with its front hoof, very rarely failing to tap out the correct answer. This horse was paraded about Germany, attracting large crowds with its amazing mathematical skill. Moreover, the horse could perform the correct math no matter who asked the question and no matter whether his owner was present or not. 

Well, what the horse was doing turns out to have been actually rather more amazing than solving simple math questions, for the horse was not solving math equations but reading the physical and emotional attitude of his audience and thereby intuiting when he had reached the proper number of hoof taps--a talent generally beyond that of human beings.

In any case, I am finding the book worthwhile at least as a learning vehicle, for I am reading it in Indonesian and there are, of course, many unfamiliar words of a scientific/technical type.


At the same time, I have also finally received my Bible in English from Lazada (Indonesia's version of Amazon) and have begun to read from page one. For the last ten years, I have had to read the Bible either on the laptop screen, a method that I don't like, or in Indonesian hard copy. The amazing thing, no matter how many times one reads the Bible, is how you find something new every time, or something that you see a little differently than the time before. Most interesting in the first chapters of Genesis is the various uses of the single word 'Adam', which can mean man, men, mankind, humanity, and so on. It makes a huge difference in comprehension of what scripture is saying. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Burden

 A couple days ago, I was in the Papaya grocery store here in Plaza Renon Mall and when I had collected the various items I wanted to buy, I found three very long lines awaiting me. Apparently something had gone wrong with the computer system and the cues had grown while the cashiers worked to reboot the system. 

So I put my basket on the floor and settled in to wait like everyone else. Before long, however, I was approached by a store employee who motioned for me to follow him. I followed along for a ways while he hurried on toward the front of the line, but then hesitated, thinking I must have misunderstood his purpose. 

But no, I had not misunderstood, for, seeing that I had hung back, the man motioned me forward again. 

Now, it is classic that in situations like this, where something unexpected or unusual is transpiring, my mind does not work very swiftly or reliably (thanks to cognitive disorder). I thought at first that I had perhaps done something wrong. Did they suspect me of trying to steal something? Or was there some kind of emergency I needed to attend to? Had someone called on my personally? These were the questions sluggishly circulating through my mind as I dutifully went to the front of the store. 

Arriving there, however, I was merely ushered before the cashier who had newly reopened her lane. After a long wait--and a wait that had been endured by all--I, who had been at the back of the line, was placed first in line. 


Well, as strange as this seems, it is because I am a bule, a white person. Once I realized what had happened, I felt embarrassed, and actually irritated at the employee who had brought me forward. Because it's not fair, you know? I mean, if I had had my wits about me (something which hasn't happened in a decade or so), I would have politely declined to come forward from the outset. 

This is not to say that anyone still in line was angry over the matter. Quite the contrary. There was not a single objection. In fact, this sort of thing is common and even considered natural or appropriate among Indonesians in general. Here in Bali, foreigners are called tamu, guests, and are treated with a deference that is jarring, at least to me, in that it is unearned and undeserved. Nonetheless, the deference is a product of their own graciousness and operates for its own sake in the character of the society. 

My inner response is like Wait, you've got me confused. I'm not a tamu, not one of them--I live here--I've been here in Bali longer than some of you have.

But that's not the point, nor will I ever be considered anything other than a guest, no matter how long I'm here. Whether I feel unfairly elevated, whether the preference is undeserved, whether I feel embarrassed or unworthy--it doesn't matter. I am what I am.

The burden of being white? Well, I guess it's not so bad. Nor, I guess, does it really have anything to do with me personally.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

How Do You Pray?

 I was talking to a Muslim woman the other day (online, from Jogyakarta) who wanted to ask some questions about Christianity. 

"The Al-Kitab (the Bible) was written in Hebrew, is that right?" she asked.

"Well, the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek, or Aramaic in the case of the gospels."

"So, you have to learn Hebrew, right?"


"How can you read it then?"

"The Bible has been translated into nearly every language on earth." 

"Oh, I see. But then how do you pray? Don't you need to say the prayers in Hebrew?"

"Not at all." 

"Oh. We have to say the prayers in Arabic. So those of us who don't know Arabic just memorize the prayers we're supposed to say."

"Do you know what you're saying in the prayers?" 

"Well ... sort of. But the Koran already tells us what to say. We just have to say it in Arabic. That's why I thought you would have to say prayers in Hebrew." 

"In that case, I certainly wouldn't know what I was saying."

"Yeah, but we already know what we're supposed to say. The Prophet told us." 

"But what if there's something you want to say, or ask, or express that's not in the usual prayer?"

"Yeah. Strange, right? I wouldn't know how to say that." 

"Just try Indonesian. I suspect God knows that language too." 

You know, I once read an editorial in the Jakarta Post wherein the author declared that most Indonesians are not truly Muslim at all, because most Indonesians cannot read or speak Arabic. Arabic, he explained, is God's special language and the Koran cannot be understood outside the vehicle of the Arabic language. 

Of course, to a Christian this sounds very strange indeed. Although one can certainly deepen his understanding of scripture by studying the meaning and usage of various Hebrew and Greek words, and one certainly should do so, the notion that God would employ one language as a barrier between himself and his people sounds quite absurd. Of course, the Orthodox Jew also believes that Hebrew is a holy language, in a way similar to the Arabic in Islam, and that certain prayers must be uttered in Hebrew--which is yet another striking similarity between the Muslim and the Jew, as well as, in quite a different way, between the Muslim, the Jew and the Christian outside the Middle East.

The critical difference, I guess, is in the ritual intonation of a prescribed set of words, whether you understand their meaning or not, as opposed to a personal conversation (or, if God doesn't happen to be listening, a personal monolog), subject to variation and circumstance day by day.

Obviously, we are looking at a completely different mindset between the Christian and the Muslim, a completely different manner of approaching God, and each is equally foreign to the other--as if we were speaking completely different languages.  

So one picks up words, and phrases, and concepts along the way. It's the only way to learn. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Fake Teeth

 Turns out that my teeth weren't nearly as big of a problem as I had kind of forgotten that there were already 'fake' teeth, three joined together, and they just needed to be 'glued' back in, although that's a simplified description. I guess the point is that the teeth are still 'alive', or the roots are anyway. The teeth themselves have been rebuilt and reaffixed to the sockets.

Anyway, once the dentist got these front teeth back in place, I decided to just go ahead and get false teeth for the remainder of top, so that I will have full false teeth on the top and the bottom now. These will support the rebuilt teeth in the front, taking stress off them when chewing (which is why the teeth had come out in the first place--too much stress on just five front teeth. As with the bottom set, I will glue these in every day with Polident and remove them at night. 

Ah the joys of advanced age. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

An Outing

 Finally, after saying I was going to do so for the past weeks and months, I actually got down to the beach for a swim today. It's been a long time. 

As I've mentioned before, I used to swim in the ocean every day when we first came here. I could not imagine, then, not swimming in the ocean every day. It seemed then so perfectly exotic, like something you would see in a movie, not something you'd actually be doing. There was something so persistently amazing about having been plunked down on the far side of the world and floating effortlessly on my back in the salt-heavy Bali sea, gazing up into the endless blue sky, warm in the water and warm out of the water. It felt like the novelty would never wear off--not after fifty-five years of cold soakings in Oregon! 

Ah, but a ten year period does gradually wear away the edges of novelty, and increasingly poor health and waning energy doesn't help much either. For one thing, it seems to take me such an incredibly long time get going on an outing such as this, more of a chore than a spur of the moment inspiration. It seems to take me the longest time to get my swimming suit on and everything together. One has to pack a towel, of course, and one has to bring money, but one does not want to bring his wallet and so he has to find a good place for the money, where it doesn't end up going swimming too. One wants also to bring his driver's license, but, again, does not want to bring the wallet. Ah and then there's sunblock, and a hat, and some small money for the parking guy, and a book to read, and so on and so on. I don't remember all these details having any significance in the days of old, and yet it seems now like doing some kind of physical algebra.

Nonetheless, I did eventually get down to the beach and park myself at my favorite coffee spot (Oomba), and I did go swimming in the salt-heavy Bali sea, although it is just the sea now, and it is just Bali. Funny how things lose their charm. I guess it's like any other worldly relationship. The newness wears off, the romance diminishes and you find yourself, though less fervidly engaged, more deeply familiar and serene. Content. 

In short, I enjoyed myself in a casual way, and may go back to doing so at least once a week. It's something to break up the monotony, in any case. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


 This morning I had gotten down on the floor to repair an electrical outlet only to find that I could not get up afterwards--which struck me as funny, as it reminded me of an old TV commercial depicting an old woman lying on her floor and reporting into a special new medical alert system (which was the thing being advertised), "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up." 

As soon as I was able to stop laughing, I began to search about for a way I might regain my feet. It's not as easy as it may seem. One needs some stable object low enough to grab onto with one's arms, because it is clear that one's legs and one's back are not going to do the job on their own. 

I try the chair first, but it becomes quickly clear that this is not going to work. The chair is too tippy and I will end up still on the floor with the added burden of a chair on top of me. So I begin to slide about the room, looking for a likely purchase for my arms. There is not much available, as it turns out. The house seems not to have been constructed with a cripple in mind. The bed leads to another failure, as the blankets and sheets slip off the mattress in my hands. I navigate back to the chair and set my eyes upon the floor fan. And begin laughing again. My God, how have I become this poor old woman who can't get up? What a world, what a world. 

Well, luckily this is a rather large and stable fan and I am able to climb it like a pole. Whew! 

I guess this is why God invented handymen to begin with. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


 This is the centre of gravity, Colum McCann writes in his novel of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Apeirogon, this is where it all comes down. There will be security for everyone when we have justice for everyone. As I have always said, it's a disaster to discover the humanity of your enemy, his nobility, because then he is not your enemy any more, he just can't be. 

And this paragraph in itself is the center of the novel, the idea that everything circles back to--and there is much of everything herein. The novel is as much structure as narrative, presented inventively in 1001 vignettes (evoking the Arabian Nights), each building on the other, each referring to yet another, an ever mounting compendium of images and events, everything ultimately centered on the death of two teenage girls, one the daughter of an Israeli, one the daughter of a Palestinian.

This will not end until we talk is a recurrent phrase throughout the novel, the roughly 500 pages of which concerns the many variations of what we need to talk about and how we might get there, even though the essential answer is clear enough: the senseless death of two innocent girls. The beginning and the end. 

Colum's style here is all about cumulative effect, a relentless palace, brick upon brick, of both human nobility and human weakness, wherein the observer sometimes soars with hope and is sometimes suddenly reduced to tears. 

I do not see the originality of the form here as being somehow the new shape of the novel in general, as some critics effusively suggest. It is simply one of a kind, fascinating and challenging in and of itself, a creature that is part Hemingway and part Melville. And it doesn't always work, at times seeming either overly fond of itself or altogether too obvious. And yet for the most part the accretive building blocks are compelling and thought provoking and seep down to the heart, tugging ever more tightly as the rope is pulled ever more aggressively. 

An apeirogon is a defined as a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. This may seem a contradiction in terms, yet it is appropriate for the seemingly staggering complexity of what McCann is struggling with here, the many sided, endlessly nuanced long running tragedy of these two peoples in conflict. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Suddenly Toothless (Again)

 As I was enjoying a pepperoni pizza last night, three of my front teeth came out in the crust. Oh dear. The long and tragic story of my teeth. Should have had every one of 'em yanked years ago and replaced with false. As I've no doubt mentioned, I have all false (save one) on the bottom now. I think it likely that the same will be the only answer for the top at this point, but will have to wait and see what the dentist says tomorrow. 

Years ago, my uncle Preston decided to just do away with his problematic teeth, although he still had quite a few of them in his mouth. It's just that there were always problems, always another visit to the dentist, and he was dead tired of it. So he went to his dentist, made this request, and the dentist said "Oh, no, we can't do that." My uncle said, "Well, if you can't do it, I'll find someone who can and give him the money instead." At this point, the dentist changed his mind and agreed to the procedure. 

In any case, the sudden departure of my top front teeth kind of spoiled my election victory party (although, to be honest, it wasn't much of a party). On a positive note, however, it begins to dawn on me this morning how many losers we will soon be doing away with: Barr, Pompeo, Mnuchin et al. Hallelujah. A good way to begin the holiday season. 


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Sandy Wexler

 Gee, this election stuff starts to get kind of boring, doesn't it? Here we are in the weekend already, and still no resolution. I mean, it seems like three of the four remaining questionable states will go Biden's way, but I guess they got to be 100 percent sure, and even afterwards will have to deal with Trump's lawsuits and recounts and wacky conspiracy theories. 

So instead of staring at the perpetual deadlock today, I watched an Adam Sandler movie on Netflix called Sandy Wexler. Sandler has a particular talent for making perfectly lousy and often unwatchable movies but then suddenly coming up with something that's actually pretty good. Sandy Wexler falls into the latter category. It's the story of a rather incompetent talent agent who hits on one actual winner, a talented black singer with an angelic voice, played by Jennifer Hudson. Though incompetent and often annoying, there is something lovable and innocent about the man that gains the fondness of the people around him, as well as the viewer, of course. He is essentially a good person who thinks of others above himself.

What struck me most of all about Sandler's performance was its unspoken indebtedness throughout to the great Jerry Lewis (a personal favorite of Sandler). One can easily see the bumbling, good hearted Lewis behind Sandler's character. The movie is interesting also for its slew of cameo walk-ons--Arsenio Hall, Chris Rock, Henry Winkler, Vanilla Ice, Dana Carvey, Jimmy Kimmel, Quincy Jones, Rob Reiner, and many others. Clearly, Sandler has a lot of personal friends in the business. 

Anyway, I liked it. It was funny, touching, off-beat, retro. And much more entertaining that the election results (or no results) at this point. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

From the Indonesian Viewpoint

 It is interesting to me that people here in Indonesia have for the most part only the vaguest idea of what is going on in America, election-wise and so on. Come to think of it, I don't know why they should have. It serves at any rate as a kind of an appropriate reset to my own preoccupations. 

They are aware that there is an election going on, and the outcome is important to them in as far as the importance of America is concerned as it relates to Indonesia in particular and Asia in general. At the same time, however, they seem to pick up some rather odd bits of information, or disinformation, likely from talk on the street rather than official news sources. 

One friend told me, for instance, that her apparently more informed friend told her that Mr. Trump is much better than Mr. Biden because Trump is a successful businessman whereas Biden was a soldier who fought in the Vietnam War (lol) and may have killed hundreds of people. He does not care about human lives, only the advancement of his political goals. 

Hmm. Somewhere, somehow, something seems to have gotten garbled. 

She further explained that Trump is quite feared by China, which she counted as a good thing, since China's "expansion, culture, and military" is a threat. 

Of course, I set her straight on these things. 

I remember another guy telling me that Trump is strong and tough, like a general. 

General who? General Bone Spurs? 

So it is at least entertaining--and in many ways just about as accurate as many American opinions I've seen on Facebook comments. One doesn't have to live on the far side of the world to be ignorant. One can do it in the comfort of his own home. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Post Election Thoughts

 I woke up at 3:30 in the morning here in Bali with a painful knot in my stomach, having gone to bed on election day with things looking like they might well be leading to a Trump win. Though it was still dark outside, I figured it must be nearing daylight, so I got up, made myself a cup of tea, turned on my phone, went outside for a smoke, only to find that the hour was only 3:30. 

The first news I read on my phone screen was that Joe Biden had won in Wisconsin. 

I read next that he appeared to have a win in Michigan. 

And the day began to look brighter. I went back to sleep. My stomach stopped hurting. 

By the time I rose again at 6:30, it had become fairly clear that Biden would win the election, given that he needed at this point only to carry Nevada and Arizona and both seemed very close to being called in his favor. 

Do I feel relieved? Of course I do. But how relieved, really, can one be by the gain of such a thin victory in what was hoped to have been a slam dunk election? Are we not left to face, win or lose, a decidedly ugly picture of America--an America that would nearly elect, for the second time, a man who had devoted himself to four years of reprehensible behavior, to insults and childish fits, to stoking the flames of dissension, coddling his favorite hate groups, groveling before dictators, alienating allies, encouraging racism, and finally to contributing to the death of thousands through his incompetence in dealing with the COVID pandemic? Can we really call this good news? 

You know, when I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I happened to pass an article with a title that went something like this: Is this, after all, who we really are?

Sadly, the election has shown that, yes, it really is. One might expect to see a small percentage of voters who cast their votes for a detestable character--such as those who voted for George Wallace back in the 60's, for instance--but for half of us to vote for Trump, even after the four year opportunity to see the truth and repent? No, this is not a victory. This is a tragedy. 

On the other hand, I was talking to a good friend in Jakarta on election day, feeling pretty morose at the time, trying to express my sadness at what my country had become, when she said "Well, what does it really matter to you? I mean, what does it have to do with you? You don't live there anymore. You haven't lived there in ten years." 

She has a point. What does it matter to me? Why does it matter to me--in such a personal, painful manner? I left America at perhaps America's best. President Obama was just in his first term. Things looked uncommonly hopeful. We had turned a new, and a seemingly permanent leaf. Yes we can, was the refrain. So why not, for my own part, just leave it at that. Thanks for the memories. 

Yes, from here forth I think I'll make myself known not as an American any longer, but as a citizen of heaven. Eventually, my passport will be stamped in that manner anyway. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Election Day

Looks like I was wrong, don't it? Lol. 

Well, to be fair (to myself), I did warn that my predictions are usually wrong. 

Given the picture that we're seeing now--the picture of a very close race, that is--I am quite disappointed, as it seems to me that a marginal victory by either side only means four more years of national discord and governmental gridlock. 

One has to wonder how bad a president would need to be for red states to vote against him. Much, much worse than I thought, apparently. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Eve

 Well here we are on election day eve--almost like Xmas Eve for the anticipation of good things to come on the morrow. Moreover, I find when I arrive at Starbucks that they have switched to their Xmas decor cups. And I got a free latte. A fine beginning, I reckon. 

At this time four years ago, I was arriving in the city of Solo, Java. The next day, we began to hear bits and pieces of the increasingly discouraging election news. At first, I told my wife, and my friends via Facebook, and myself in my own mind, not to worry, that those states already falling into the Trump column were just the yahoo deep south terminally conservative states and that things would soon turn around. I continued to anticipate a solid victory for Clinton. 

Well, y'all know how that story ends. With four years of discord, indignation, national humiliation. Muslim bans, caged children, lies and scandals and scams, white supremacy parades, a multitude of jailed administration figures (and a number of pardons of the same), an impeachment. And so on. 

So here's my prediction this time around (with advance warning that my predictions of all things are very often wrong, yet with the hope that this one will be an exception): Biden will win this election in an unprecedented landslide. I just truly believe that the vast majority of us are tired to death of this shit show, even the Republicans, even many of those who voted for Trump last time around. The vast majority of us want to turn our backs on the last four years and finally rest in something stable. 

This is not to say that things will be smooth between November and January. I do believe that there will be trouble, from Trump and from the more violent members of his extremist core. So buckle in, this ain't the end of the ride. But, God willing, the train is slowing down and the gates at the end are in sight. Inshallah. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A Conversation

 At Square One Cafe on Jalan Tamblingan an American and an Australian are discussing the American presidential election. The American opines that Biden is the far better candidate. He says that he will bring back an atmosphere of cooperation in Congress. He says as well that COVID is a natural function of nature. Sometimes, he says, diseases come along in accordance with the inscrutable wisdom of nature in order to thin out the population, which all in all causes the economy to run more smoothly. My chair at Square One is uncomfortable. I'm trying to read a novel but the conversation of the American and the Australian intrudes. I both want to hear and don't want to hear. The American explains that people are at each other's throats. It's exhausting. It is exhausting. I cannot tolerate this chair much longer. I do not know what I've read on the page I've just read. We are all wondering when this will be over.  Maybe when Biden returns at atmosphere of cooperation to Congress. But will that happen? Can it? Is it too late already? I read today that Texan yahoos carrying guns disrupted a scheduled Biden event and that the event had to be cancelled. If you can't hear the man, you can't be part of an atmosphere of cooperation. We are all so tired of this, aren't we? Government ought to be just running in the background, oughtn't it? Like an AC unit or an electric clock. But no, the Texan yahoos are not tired, and other yahoos are not either. Gun toting yahoos. This is their big event, this is their wet dream. Revolution, rebellion, a use for their guns. Stand back but stand by. They're ready. Is this really all over in three days, or is this just the beginning? Maybe COVID and the inscrutable wisdom of nature will work things out for us. Anything is possible. It is possible that Biden will revive a spirit of cooperation and civility. If not, there are always long guns, there is always the militia, there is always the conservative-heavy supreme court. There is always the wind on the embers of discord.