Saturday, July 31, 2021


In the beginning, after the great flood, it was a muskrat who helped remake the earth.

--The Night Watchman, Louis Erdrich 

There, you see? Even the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians had a flood story. In fact, nearly every native culture around the world has an ancient flood story/mythology at the core of its identity which has endured through the ages. It seems to me nothing more than logical assumption that some such sort of worldwide event did indeed occur and was ingrained in universal memory both as a real event of cataclysmic destruction and as a miraculous regeneration of humankind in the aftermath. In the Chippewa myth, it is the muskrat (wazhashkag) that ushers in this new area of reformation/reimagination/regeneration. In other tribes it is a crow; in others a coyote; in still others a human being; each creature endowed with powers that are salvific and wisdom that is otherworldly. This is the way the world works, this is the way time works, and mythology is the record both of real event and numinous import.

Neuropathic Itching

 I have a new MS symptom to report.  Yipee, right? 

Especially of late, I have had a sensation of itching in one or another spot on my body, and yet when I go to scratch the itch, it cannot be found. It is both everywhere and nowhere. I direct my hand to the place that seems to be itching and do not enjoy the desired result. I take the hand away, and the itch is still there, wherever it is. And to make the thing more bothersome yet, this typically occurs at night when I am trying to sleep. How can you sleep when you have this itch that can't be scratched? 

Well, this is called neuropathic itching, and of course it has nothing to do with the skin itself. It is due, as all things with MS are, to the process which destroys myelin and interferes with the proper functioning of the nervous system. In fact, there is no itch. The itch is a lie. Not surprisingly, this symptom is sometimes falsely put down to psychosomatic itching, but this is not at all the cause in the case of MS. It is a result of nerves compromised through damage to myelin.

The good news is that this is not a debilitating sort of issue. It is simply annoying. Although I suppose it could be debilitating if it were to result in too much sleep deprivation. 

I read that this itching sensation is most often an early symptom of MS, so I don't know why it has waited so long in my case. I read as well that it can be treated to some degree with an anticonvulsant medication, which I already take in the form of Pregabalin. I may simply have to take a second dose at night if the problem worsens. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


 Gosh, these Indonesian COVID rules are confusing. 

Yesterday, I went to Sanur and found one of my favorite coffee shops open as usual, and yet today I note that some of the others are closed and that the beaches are still closed. And yet a friend of mine tells me about visiting the beach just the other day. 

This evening, I went out to Starbucks and found the tables set up again and people sitting inside. 

"Oh, we can drink here now?"

"Yeah, it's okay. Take as long as you want, Pak Will." 

"As long as I want? What do you mean?"

"Oh, well, technically you can't stay more than half an hour." 

"Half an hour? But gee, I just ordered a grande. Do I gulp it." 

"No, no. Ha ha. Don't worry, Pak Will. Take as long as you want." 

The benefit of being a regular customer, I guess. Rules don't apply. 

And here's another thing I can't understand. Although I am 1) old and 2) have a preexisting health condition, I am not eligible to get the vaccine (because I am old and have a preexisting condition). Shouldn't I be first in line? I mean, I am the most likely to die, right? 

Oh well, go figure. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Open and Closed

 Upon driving down to Sanur for my takeaway coffee and pastry this morning, I found that the cafes had reopened in advance of the previously announced date for the conclusion of lockdown, which was supposed to have been August 1st. Cool, except that having believed the original schedule, I had not brought a book to read or my cigarettes, and of course without these there is no point in staying at the cafe. Tomorrow I will make certain to remember these necessary items, though who knows, perhaps I will find the cafes closed again. That's what I love about Indonesia. The organization! Terrific! 

I was looking through the "coming soon" section of the Netflix screen this evening and noticed one titled "Brand New Cherry Flavor". Hmm. That sounded familiar. I realized, after some cogitation and just a bit of googling, that not only had a read this novel some years ago, but that it was written by my high school acquaintance, Todd Grimson (which is a pen name for Todd Spillum), which I why I read the book in the first place. Ah, it all begins to come back to me. I remember for some reason reading at least part of the book by a swimming pool, though I cannot remember whether this was in the US or in Bali. I remember being impressed with the writing itself (for if nothing else, Todd was (is) an accomplished stylist. I don't remember the story, which is not at all unusual for me. 

At Washington High School, Todd was the boyfriend of the girl who would later become my girlfriend, and then my first wife. Even then (I was 17, he 18), Todd was interested in becoming a writer, and had not a little bit to do with me trying my own hand at it. He was also interested in classical music, as was I, and we would share these interests, both before, during, and after the girlfriend changed hands. Ultimately, one of us succeeded in becoming a successful writer (Todd has three novels and a book of short stories to his name), and one of us got the girl. 

And now he has a Netflix movie? Go Todd!

Monday, July 26, 2021

The White Tiger

 I was some fifty pages into The White Tiger, a novel by Aravind Adiga, before I realized that what I was reading sounded quite familiar. I had forgotten altogether having seen the movie version of the novel not very long ago; partly, I suppose, because I was now reading the Indonesian language translation of the story and partly just because of the state of my moth-eaten memory.

In any case, I found this, as I read to the end, to be quite an engaging novel about a subject not often spoken of in the realm of popular literary fiction--that being the sad state of the poor in the rather heartless caste society of India, those who are born in the kegelapan, as the Indonesian has it, the darkness--born in a societal cage and fated to live out their existence in that cage, essentially the slaves of those who are above them. 

But there is a way out, as protagonist Balram discovers, and it is right in front of one's nose from the beginning. He finds the key in a line of poetry, in a dog-eared book he happens to pick up from a table in a market place serving lesser folks like him, located behind the market for the higher class. There is a way to freedom, self respect, independence, although it is, by the way, bad news for the masters!

This is a well written novel, both enlightening and disturbing. I recommend it. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Catcher in the Rye

I'm beginning to feel here like the catcher in the rye where all these little neighborhood dogs are concerned. 

Holden Caulfield put it this way in the novel: 

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean, except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - and mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day.  I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." 

So yeah, who else is gonna keep these little dogs from going over the cliff? Why are they at my house all day?  Because I don't want them to starve. I don't want them to go over the cliff. Who else is taking care of these dogs? How are they eating? Where will they go to get out of the rain? Whose dogs are they anyway? 

Someone recently said that most of these dogs were going to go to some "dog shelter", but that turns out not to be so. A dog shelter in Bali? Yeah, right. They're just going over the cliff, or headed that direction anyway. 

And so they wander into my one room apartment one-by-one, arrange themselves atop the single rectangular space rug, not much more than a doormat, really. I saw one of them up on the main road today, stopped my bike, scooped him up, brought him back to his own street. Stupid dog. You see? There you go, running off that cliff. And why must I stop? Why must I bring him back. 

Because I am the catcher in the rye. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Never Have I Ever

It occurs to me that one of the best ways one has of understanding that he has outlived his time here on earth is to watch one of the many Netflix flicks geared toward teen audiences. 

Take the series Never Have I Ever, for example. In this coming of age love story, the young daughter in an immigrant family from India spends her sophomore year in high school investigating the various ways in which she might manage to trespass against the traditions and morals of her native culture, not to mention my own native culture, and ultimately, sooner rather than later, lose her virginity. 

Having sex as soon as possible is depicted as something quite normal for the average American female teen--and that's because it probably is. See? That's how out of touch I am. I'm actually sitting here feeling scandalized by a plot element that has become nothing more than perfectly common, a no-brainer. Of course the 15 year old lead female's most pressing quandary is how to get laid before the end of the month.

You see, when I was a young teen, we kind of thought more about how soon we should try to hold a girl's hand. Something like that would of course lead to going steady and getting engaged and getting married, so it was kind of a big deal. 

The general attitude in this series, and in all these sorts of series and movies, is not just that anything goes, but that anything and everything is both generally quite okay and generally recommended; and I can't decide whether this is a faithful representation of culture as it is among the young, or whether it is a stealthy sort of social conditioning from the halls of Hollywood. Is this life imitating art or is it art imitating life? 

That said, I am enjoying Never Have I Ever, which strikes me as kind of cute and funny once one blocks out nagging voice of the generation gap (or is it two generation gaps by now?). 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

July 22, 2021

 I am discouraged to find today upon reading this week's edition of the Sanur Weekly that the Sanur Weekly may soon not be distributing any print issues at all. As can be readily guessed, this is a direct result of the continuing COVID pandemic and the virtual erasure of tourists from the island, which of course make up the lion's share of readership of this little English language publication. No readers, no advertiser; no advertisers, no money. 

So damn. I look forward to reading the paper every week and I enjoy the tactile experience of actually holding the paper while I read it and sip my coffee, as opposed to having to scroll through all the eye-tiring online stuff. Moreover, it's the only print newspaper left in Bali, as far as I can tell. Once upon a time, I read the Jakarta Post and Kompas every day, but now those too are gone, thanks again to COVID. 

Anyway, we read today of the scheduled removal of dozens of well-established and well-known beach traders, small local warungs, and some some small bars and restaurants due to something called the "Sanur Beach Arrangement Plan". This is sad, given that these little places represent the last of quaint old spots on the beachfront. Kind of like putting up one giant strip mall instead. 

Out in Denpasar, a certain man man Nyoman seems to have tasked himself for some time in removing road blocks set up by the police for enforcement of COVID restrictions. The 41 year old man was caught in multiple videos removing the barriers, apparently as some sort of protest against government policies restricting movement during this emergency period of lockdown. Nyoman is under arrest at this time, but has posted a final video in which he apologizes for his actions.

Unemployment has soared in Bali, obviously, and in Indonesia in general, but it is not only the people who are hurting. It seems that the monkeys in Bali's Sangeh Monkey Forest are facing hard times as well due to the lack of tourists and therefore a lack of funds to feed them. 

I gathered a bit of news in my own little neighborhood too during my evening walk today. In chatting with Jason, the fellow American who lives halfway up the street from my place, I discovered that only two of the seven neighborhood puppies will stay here, the rest being set to go to some sort of animal shelter (which is probably a euphemism for 'gas chamber'. This is strange to hear, because I had previously heard that all of the puppies were accounted for by one or another person in the neighborhood. It seems now, however, that only I and one other person, I know not who, have ended up with a puppy. Too bad. They were all pretty sweet little dogs. 

Secondly, Jason shares that Lina, the woman who lives in the house next door to mine, has been diagnosed with COVID. I certainly had not heard this anywhere else, so I will take this news with a grain of salt until hearing it from the horse's masked mouth, so to speak. 

Lastly, the large python snake which has been previously spied either in the drainage ditch at the far end of the street or in the wide, jungle-like field that verges on the street, was spotted yesterday in front of my house. Delightful. Perhaps he is hunting puppies. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Lockdown Dogs

 I just learned today that the Bali lockdown, originally slated to be in effect until the 20th of this month, has been extended now to the end of the month.  What a drag. I mean, if can help the situation, it will have been worth it, but I doubt that it will have much effect. People are still out and about, although where they might be going, I cannot say. And I note that some of the local warungs pretty much ignore the lockdown. 

In any case, this leaves me with very little to do, as one can no longer hang out at the coffee shop or go to the beach. So I just kinda sit in the house every day, watching TV or reading a book. Seems like I have barely gotten up before it's time to go to bed again. Thankfully, however, I am actually sleepy by 10 pm. Who knows why, after just sitting all day. 

And I have these dogs to amuse me. You know, recently the neighbors seem to have decided among themselves that the dog named Jagger is my dog, despite the fact that I have said all along that I do not want a dog of my own. I am happy to feed them and keep an eye out after them, but I just didn't want the responsibility and worry of owning my own dog. 

Nonetheless, one of them called Louis down in Nusa Dua and asked her if Jagger could be my dog. Soon after that, I was walking up the street one evening when a neighbor stopped me and said, "Jagger is your dog now, ya Om?" Good grief. 

My dog? It seems to me that all six of these dogs are my dog! Lol. I mean they are at my house a large part of the day, and I often feed all of them. If Jagger is my dog, whose dogs are these other five then!? 

Friday, July 16, 2021

July 16, 2021

 It is reported in this week's Sanur Weekly that the Bali lockdown is not as yet having the desired effect on COVID, therefore leading the government to further tighten lockdown restrictions. All nonessential businesses will close completely and the nighttime curfew will be extended until at least July 20th, with further decisions to be made at that time. 

In south Bali, foreign residents of the popular tourist town of Canggu continue to do their utmost to get themselves kicked off the island, with three more being set for deportation this week, having refused to wear masks and follow health protocols. 

In other, non-COVID news, two men in Denpasar have been shot in the leg after breaking into a Mini-Market. A large number of cigarette packs and some bottles of perfume were found in the men's possession. The article goes on to marvel at the particular talent Balinese police officers seem to have for shooting people in the leg. Surely they have undergone some sort of sniper training, the writer suggests, "given the amount of perforated legs we have heard of over recent years. They seem never to fail and are surprisingly accurate in hitting the criminals at more or less the same location on the leg all the time. Sometimes even on both legs". 

For what that's worth. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

We're Number One!

 I read today that Indonesia has surpassed India in COVID cases. Good job, Indonesia? Hundreds of people are going to the hospital, and the hospitals are of course near the point of collapse. Vaccinations proceed at a crawl, or in my case not at all. I think I will call my neurologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital and ask him if the vaccine site people know what they are talking about. 

A friend of mine who lives just outside of Jogyakarta tells me that her entire town has been locked down such that no one can come in and no one can go out. All of the businesses there have been closed. She herself has two friends who have died. 

Here in Bali, we are still in lockdown--beach access closed, takeaway only at cafes and restaurants, and a curfew is in effect after 8 pm. 

On the other hand, it was wonderful to see the large, safely mask-less attendance at President Biden's recent speech on voter suppression. Couldn't help but feel envious from this side of the world where there seems no end to disease, death, and masks, as well as the ever-increasing poverty of the locals who are unable to work. 

God help us. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021


 I wonder if anyone has seen the Netflix series, Slasher (season 3). This is really an incredibly gruesome, gory show--cringeworthy, really, and rather hard to watch--and yet on some level, as an exaggerated microcosm of present day American society, it does seem to have something to say. It is a picture of a society that is relentlessly careless, hateful, perverse, unfeeling, self-centered, paranoid--in short, murderous in one sense or another. Who needs a serial slasher, right, when we have ourselves? 

June 8, 2021

 More (of the same) news today about the Bali/Java shutdown. It will last, regardless of my previous belief, not two weeks, but until the 20th of July, at least. It may be decided at that time to extend into August, depending, I suppose, on whether COVID cases decrease. No opening, of course, for foreign travelers, and domestic travelers will be required to test COVID free. Honestly, people are dropping off like flies here. 

At the same time, the country is increasing its response to foreigners who refuse to observe COVID restrictions--or as The Sanur Weekly has it, "If you happen to be a member of the anti-mask faction and if you are caught without a mask or violating any other health regulation, be prepared to leave the country in a very short time and at a very high cost." 

Thousands of Bali hotels have cancelled reservations and many have simply closed or gone up for sale. 

The Bali Vice governor, who had recently insisted that Bali is ready to open for tourism, has himself now been diagnosed with COVID. 

In deadly non-COVID news, a 32 year old domestic tourist drowned at Seminyak Beach. I can imagine. At Seminyak and Kuta, the waves are large and powerful. He was simply dragged out to sea and could not get back. 

A three-day-old infant was found in the bushes in Denpasar, discarded there by her mother. The baby was rescued by chance bypassers. The mother, who has later discovered, explained that she had discarded the baby because it was born out of wedlock, something that is often still considered socially unacceptable in this region. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021


 Here we go again. Bali entered a new lockdown on Saturday which is to last two weeks, by current estimation. Marching steadily backward, as I've said. This means that the beaches will be closed and restaurants will offer only takeaway food and drinks. Everything opens for business later in the morning and closes earlier in the evening. I went out to Starbucks this morning and found, of course, that I could only order my latte and take it away with me. So I'm writing this at home, having made my own instant coffee. Frustrating to watch America go back to normal and have no of this in sight here in Bali. 

Last week when Louis went to get her second vaccination, she asked again if I could get the vaccine and was told again that I cannot. Bummer. This is apparently because of my MS (although MS is no problem in America, where vaccine is concerned).  Oh well. 

Speaking of Louis, she and Wayne have moved back into the house next door to mine, where they will stay while their electricity is rerouted in their house down in Nusa Dua (perhaps a week). They have brought along their puppy, Etta, and she has been having a great time with the six neighborhood puppies here. 

For the last couple days, I've been having headaches accompanied by these weird neon-bright lights in my eye. Hard to describe them. They're almost like hieroglyphic shapes, neon hieroglyphics, and they occupy a crescent shaped area in my left eye, partially blocking the vision. This is called kaleidoscopic vision (as if one were looking through a kaleidoscope), and is associated with ocular migraine and, of course, MS. I was so excited yesterday to actually find an artist's depiction of this, because I thought I was crazy for a while there. Who sees neon hieroglyphics? There are various manifestations of this problem, but one rendition in particular very much resembled what I was experiencing. I've had this before at times over the past few years, but it had been quite a while since it last happened. Why is is occurring now? Does it signal a new attack of MS? I don't know.