This is what I say when I do not know what to say, when words do not count, when words are useless, when form is hazy, unborn. Something is there, in the same way that ghosts are there. It could be anything, anyone, or just a noise in the night. Colors matter at times like this, and motion, and sound, though they are nothing precise, either on their own or in concert. Everything just is, but what? That's where the telling starts, with recognition. All quick things are caught by the tail.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
So I got my new motorbike yesterday, pictured above. As you can see, it is red. Very red. Louis had wanted to get the silver model, but as it turned out, this was not available. She called from the dealership and asked what I wanted between red, black, or white. I said that she should get the color she liked, so she chose red. It seems a bit lighter in weight than my old bike, and feels great on the road. Actually, there was nothing wrong with my old bike, other than that it was six years old.
To be honest, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to ride a bike. I have this pain and stiffness in my shoulders and neck, which gradually becomes worse over the last few years, such that even now I can't drive very far without feeling very sore. As it is, I regularly go only perhaps a mile in one direction or the other, either to Sanur or to Renon. Sometimes I go out to the mall in Denpasar, which is perhaps three miles. I dunno. I ought to gauge it some day (although even then I would have to report the distance in kilometers, as that is the measurement they use here). So maybe this will be my last bike. Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess. And it is still enjoyable--the feeling of speed, the wind on your face, the freedom of movement not afforded within the confines of a car, and the ability to easily park wherever one wants and not have to roam about searching for an open car-sized spot. Here one can nyelip-nyelip, as they call it--shift in and out between cars, or skim along the outside while the cars are stacked up like dominoes at a traffic light. It is definitely a faster way to get to wherever one is going.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
I've got so many flowers in my driveway now that it begins to resemble a gravesite, perhaps appropriately so. One gets to enjoy the shrine while he's still here to see it, which seems a superior thing to being in the grave already. One foot in the grave has its bright side.
In my lifetime, I've never been big on flowers and plants and all. Never could see the point of the expense. But I must admit that when they just show up like this, and when the maid is largely responsible for watering them, it's kinda nice. The largest of these is a Bogainvillea bush which regularly erupts in large pink flowers, sheds those, and then erupts again. I don't know what the other flowers are, only that they are everywhere one looks.
I have also been supplied with a new, glass-topped outdoor table and chairs, making it cozy to sit under the canopy and enjoy a coffee or a cigarette or a sandwich or even a conversation. In the past, the front driveway has been uncovered and fully exposed to the sun, such that one rarely chose to sit out there. Now, however, it is in the shade, thanks to the new canopy.
Additionally, Louis tells me that she is buying me a motorbike. This is an un-asked for and undeserved gift, as I reckon, and actually makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, somehow guilty, although I suppose that I should simply be glad at another's charity and thankful for the kindness. Perhaps I did something right in my years after all and this has inspired some rewards.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Finally got my passport back from imigrasi today, along with my permit to live here for the next year--always a good feeling to be past this yearly cycle of red tape. Not so good, however, is finding that next year I must go outside the country and reenter in order to receive my permit--twice the red tape with the added burden that one must pay to fly in and out of the country. What a ridiculous rule, right? What's the point?
So now I'll be kind of stressing over this for the year to come, because the fact is that I haven't flown anywhere on my own since 2005. I haven't the first clue how it is done. I mean, folks, I haven't the first clue how to drive anywhere outside of Sanur! Even places I go nearly every day may suddenly look strange to me, the road unfamiliar. In short, my brain doesn't work properly. And now I'm supposed to navigate international airports? Good grief.
Well, I'll just have to hope that it's damaged enough to forget this for the time being and pick it up again when it becomes necessary.
Monday, April 19, 2021
My God it's hot today. I know because I just took a "stroll" to Matahari Terbit while waiting for my bike to be serviced--a hop, skip and a jump for most folks, but the incredible journey for me. I truly didn't know whether I would make it back, sweating profusely, pressing my feet onward, the right foot tripping me on every other step, sun beating down my head like Satan's hair drier. What does sunstroke feel like anyway? Well, the good news is that my bike feels great now. Me, not so much; but the bike is running like a top.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
You may have noticed that I've been fairly speechless of late. I guess there are several reasons for this. It's not that I suddenly have nothing to say. It's just that saying it no longer seems important, or even personally entertaining. I used to look forward to coming out here to Starbucks with my laptop and just writing about whatever was on my mind. Now it's more like a task, seeming like something I should do, or maybe it seems like doing it again will recharge my interest. Nonetheless, lugging the laptop around seems a burden, and writing itself seems a burden--an unpleasant effort now, whereas it used to be just about as easy as breathing. I struggle with the language. I struggle with putting words together, connecting one sentence to another so that a cohesive pattern is maintained. Moreover, the thoughts I think soon fade and flee, such that they have altogether disappeared by the same I arrive somewhere with my laptop. All I can think of now is of a little alligator I saw the other day. It seemed something special at the time, but I have forgotten why. I call this thing an alligator, but it wasn't really an alligator. It was more of a very large lizard, perhaps two feet long, multicolored, fat, slow. I don't know the actual name for these things. It was struggling along the side of the broken crossroad at the end of my street. Not a natural spot for fellows like he. At the other side of this broken road there are three large square holes with concrete tops that have been set aside such that one can view the green irrigation water flowing in its bed beneath the street. In the last of these holes, just before the intersection with the main street, there is and has long been the body of a dead dog in the long process of decay. The smell is nearly overpowering. This happens, I have read, in the 4th stage of decay, known as Black Putrefaction and occurring 10-20 days after death. What all this has to do with a little alligator that is not really an alligator, other than the coincidence of proximity, I cannot say.
Friday, April 9, 2021
I try to take a walk every evening if possible. The only thing that stops me really is if it is raining or if there is a dog lying in front of the doorway, which would require me to step over the dog, thus bothering the poor critter, or leave the dog there and the door open while I go for my walk, which might not be a good idea, although that's actually more of a paranoid suspicion than a reality based one, as never in ten years has my house been bothered, whether open or closed, and also of course, in this case anyway, there's a dog in front of the door.
I don't walk very far or for very long, although it always seems long enough because of my slowness of pace, even with my cane. Moreover, the heat of this time of year makes the trek seem longer, as it is still around 85 degrees at 7 pm and humid as heck.
As I walk up the street tonight, Ayu, the young woman who works at the corner warung, is coming the other direction, trailed by a little boy who is happily skipping. Ayu is carrying a tray of offerings and incense which she will set before various houses along the way. She greets me with a big white smile, "Mau ke mana, Pak?"
They always say mau ke mana. Or if you're returning, they say Dari mana.
Next, I am hailed by a man with three teeth who is sitting on a wall enjoying a smoke after a long day of labor on a property that seems forever under construction. "Mau ke mana?" he says. Of course.
Ayu passes me (already) on her way back with her now empty tray and the still skipping boy. Another smile. She is, I think, about 19 years old.
As I pass the warung, I run into Dency. Dency is an old friend of Louis' and has a rental property here and a little grocery store next to the warung. We chat for a minute and she tells me of a coffee shop near Pantai Matahari Terbit--not at all far from here, just after you cross the road at the KFC. It sounds like a place I'd like check out, as she says the chairs are cozy and you can sit and read there.
Oh, and she also asked 'Mau ke mana?'.
Now comes the thinnest stretch of our little road, a stretch that's a bit iffy for a wobbly guy like me, especially if a car comes along, requiring one to step off the road and onto a narrow strip of grass between the road on one side and a canal on the other. Here, I come upon an older woman (albeit not as old as I) who greets me with Selamat petang. Good evening, in Indonesian.
"Rahajeng petang," I respond, which impresses her to no end, as I have used Balinese in reply. Lol.
As I turn back toward home, an anonymous dog shows up at my side and decides to accompany me along the way; and having accomplished this mission, leaves me at the gate and makes his merry way back to wherever he came from.
So that's my walk, not very far and not very long, but with always something to see and to say.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
The old man lives in an old house which is in sad disrepair. He feels that something should be done, and yet the house is slated to be demolished in the near future, though no one can say exactly when. Everything is slipping, sagging. He can see it with his own eyes day by day. He can see that things are in dire need of repair, for without this the house will surely collapse, and yet it is slated to be demolished anyway in the near future. In the meantime, he looks out the windows, opens all the curtains, raises all the blinds and leaves the doors open so that friendly creatures can enter, and at night he closes things down and sleeps immediately and often dreams of things he might have done, or should have done, or did not do, and his dreams tell the same story of neglect and disrepair and are more worrisome than the day itself, for when the day comes he reopens every door and window and curtain and shade and the light floods in and sometimes various dogs come in too, bearing a sharp scent of vigor into the air of ruin. He feeds the dogs, he looks out the windows, he waits for someone to arrive, and the old house creaks and leans and sinks, shedding itself board by board, brick by brick. He only hopes that it can persevere until the indeterminate day arrives.
Monday, April 5, 2021
I guess I shouldn't complain about my various aches and pains. I mean, my shoulders and my neck always hurt, sometimes more and sometimes less, and the pain sometimes extends to my right back and flank, and I very often have a splitting headache, and my right hand seems partially paralyzed, such that the fingers move only slowly and cannot be straightened out and cannot reliably grasp or hold things, and my right leg doesn't work properly, often causing me to stumble, and my stomach can still tolerate only simple foods, and yesterday I simply could not keep my eyes open and ended up sleeping most of the day ... and so on ... but at the same time, I have a friend in Jakarta, only 43 years old, who will be checking into the hospital next week for removal of her entire reproductive system due to cancer, and, as she tells me today, her brother, only 50 years old, just had a stroke and also ended up in the hospital. Happily, my problems, thus far, are bearable and can be dealt with at home. So, apparently, at 67 I'm doing great! Of course, I know people who are as old or older than I and are doing much better, but then again they are lousy people and I wouldn't want to make that trade off. So I'm not complaining (much). In fact, during the time that Louis has been here, sort of looking after me, I've said nothing at all about these problems. I mean, there's nothing to be done anyway, so why mention them?
Saturday, April 3, 2021
Sometimes I just have to force myself out of the house. The silence becomes overwhelming, and yet at the same time I am rooted in place, planted there. Freedom is merely a thought that glides indistinctly in the silence. The heat has become so intense that the neighborhood itself is silent, cooking without a sound. The people are hidden in their homes and even the dogs have lost their voices. I begin the task of moving my feet, moving my legs, struggling through the sucking mud of merciless solitude. Everything takes ages. Pulling on a shirt, packing my laptop case, taking a piss, closing the windows, shutting off the fan, locking the door, as all the while the silence says Why bother? Stay awhile. Stay forever. Rest. But I know that when I finally move I will finally awake, activated by the hum of the motorbike engine, the wind on my skin, the challenge of the road. Intention. Purpose. My own presence and the presence of others. I end up somewhere full of voices, movement, hundreds of lives running all at the same time. And someone, from somewhere greets me, taps my shoulder. Pak Will! Dari mana? Sudah lama tidak ketemu, dong. A long time, yes. Forever, it seems. But now, for these moments, I live again.
Friday, April 2, 2021
They have here in Bali a ceremony called Sembahyangan Rumah, which means 'home blessing', and Louis arranged this for our side-by-side houses this morning.
The women wore Kebayas while the men were to wear a white shirt and a white sarong plus a particular headgear, the name of which I do not know. In any case, I did not have these clothes, so Louis just told me to 'dress nice', although I did have the customary yellow flower behind my left ear and little yellow seeds, about which I do not know the meaning, were applied to my forehead
A group of Balinese bring like a truckload of baskets and flowers and various other ceremonial items and tools and set all this out at the front of the house in a very precise manner, which does take some time. Everyone then gathers around while the 'holy man', or Mangku, performs a multipart prayer, tossing flower petals, sprinkling water, ringing a bell, burning incense.
All of the women then take specific baskets and tour the inside and outside of each house, dipping a wicker type brush into a jar of water and sprinkling as they go.
Upon their return, the entire group folds their hands in a classic prayer gesture until the chime of the Mangku's bell; then again hands are folded, once alone, three times grasping petals from three types of flowers. Following this, there is a similar sequence wherein the hands are bathed in smoke from the incense and water is sipped three times from the palm. The Mangku then pours a goodly bit on top of your head.
During the ceremony, the weather had become terribly hot and heavy, and so it actually felt good to be doused at the end.
Afterwards, of course, there is food for everyone, and the attendants are given gifts in the form of traditional snacks, which I personally am finding pretty darn tasty.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
I was talking to a friend in Jogyakarta yesterday and was surprised to find that foreigners will not be able to enter Bali until July. I'm sure the authorities had said April before, but it seems now that they want at least half of Indonesians to be vaccinated before the island is reopened. Probably a good idea, although harsh indeed on the businesses here, or at least those associated with tourism.
But I thought then about Wayne, Louis' boyfriend, who is still trapped in Australia. She had told me recently that he would be here in a couple weeks, at which time they would move to their villa in Nusa Dua. How can this be, I asked, given the July date I heard from my friend?
"Oh, it's okay," Louis said. "I already bribed a guy at immigration."
Well, yeah. Yup. That's how it works here. Money talks. And Rupiah talks rather readily.
So anyway it looks like Louis will be my next door neighbor for only a couple weeks longer. To tell the truth, I've kind of enjoyed having her here. I mean, she usually brings me food every day, or cookies, or what have you. And also she has certainly gotten things done at my house and in the neighborhood. Getting a new road built, for instance. Getting my front yard canopy erected. And so on.
The general Indonesian attitude is to be polite and to avoid disagreements to the point of worthlessness. But Louis somehow missed out on that character aspect of the common Indonesian. When people have signed up to do a job, she is not at all shy about screaming at them until they actually do it. She could make some enemies in this way, sure; but the thing with Louis is that she just plain doesn't care! And anyway, ultimately she's not going to live here, so whatever.
Other than that, it seems that my laptop battery is about to die, so this will be the end of my communication today. Over and out and all that jazz.