Visits

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Salesman

 I'm at the Bread Basket Cafe this morning when a man shows up selling massage oil. Not just any massage oil. This is special massage oil. He has told me so the many times I have met him. Made in Bali only, the island of the gods, and something any foreigner would die for, or at least pay dearly for. This is apparent to all street sellers who sell the special massage oil. 

"No," I say as he approaches. 

He holds out the precious oil (handling it carefully of course). 

"No." 

"Yes," he says. "You like." 

I don't know whether he remembers the last time we talked. Or the time before. Or whether he remembers me at all. Maybe all bules look the same to Asians, just like all Asians look the same to bules.  Or perhaps he thinks that the tenth offer is a charm, that on the tenth time around we will shake off all previous reticence and realize that Yes, it turns out that we really do what that oil.

But this is clearly not yet the tenth time around, for I shake my head again. 

Far from discouraged, the man slips the precious bottle into his left pant pocket and then slowly slides a little box to the top of his right pocket, just enough so that the name of the product is peeking out. 

Cialis. 

"No," I say. 

"Yes," he says.  

"I don't need it," I say. 

"Yes. Yes you do," he assures me, withdrawing the little box completely from his pocket and placing it on the edge of my table. Curious people at nearby tables are looking on. The man puts his thumb up erectly and grins. 

"Really, I don't need it," I say. "I have a girl for that." 

"No, this no for need. This for fun."

I'm convinced by now that the people at the nearby tables are asking themselves 'Will he buy it or not? Maybe he needs it. He looks pretty old.'

"No, no, no," I say. The girl is enough fun on her own. No need pill."

"Only dua ratus ribu," he whispers, as if fearing that he will be crushed in the ensuing stampede if anyone overhears this bargain price. "Very cheap."

Dua ratus ribu? That's cheap all right. About fourteen US dollars. The man is likely selling little blue vitamins. Or Skittles. Clever. 

He moves the box from the edge of the table to the center of my plate. 

"No really, I'm okay," I exclaim, as much, perhaps, for the benefit of the onlookers as for he. "I swear to God, I don't need it!" 

I pick up the box and hand it back to him, hoping that this has been clearly observed by all. 

Discouraged at last, the man sullenly returns the box to his pocket and moves on. But I know what he's thinking. He's thinking 'Maybe next time, ya? Maybe tomorrow. Maybe at whatever cafe you visit the length of this entire town. I'll be there, and you'll be there, and every dog must have its day.'

Thursday, June 23, 2022

It's Only Right

Something I've realized lately is that I'm doing things like an old man would do things. Another thing I've realized is that I like it that way. You know why? Because it's the right way. 

For example: 

I like to have a particular seat in the cafes I go to. At a particular table. And why not? It's perfectly reasonable. I have, after all, invested my time in going to the cafe, and I've invested my money, both in the gas to get there and in the food and/or coffee that I will imbibe there. In other words, it's an investment. (Actually, those are the same words, aren't they). 

No one takes an investment lightly, right? One would be a fool to do so. I'm going there for a particular purpose, I'm paying for the purpose, and I anticipate that the purpose will be fulfilled at the cafe. One would not feel right if one ordered coffee but was brought tea, correct? One would not feel satisfied if he ordered a pastry and was brought a potato. 

It's the same with tables and chairs.

Imagine the bitter disappointment a man feels upon arriving at one of his favorite cafes and seeing that someone else is sitting at his favorite table, occupying his favorite chair. How is he to enjoy his coffee now? How is he to enjoy all the usual comforts, the book he is reading, the familiar view, the reasonable distance from other diners and their irksome conversations? It cannot be done. The experience is compromised beyond repair. Yes, one can still have his coffee, but only in a stranger's seat. A seat where someone else should be sitting, such as the man or woman currently occupying one's own favorite seat.

What is to be done? One can only move on. Curse first, and then move on. Try another cafe, one where everything will be the same as usual, where the book one is reading will be engaging, and where the coffee and pastry will not only be satisfying in taste, but will be delivered to the right table. Your table. 

You are paying for what you want. Why be content with anything less? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Is The Doctor In?

 Getting ready to head out for coffee this morning required four trips to and from the motorbike as I forgot one thing after another. Of course on each trip to the bike, I had locked the door behind me, so I had to let myself in again. On the fourth trip, it was my mask I came back to get. Yet where was it? Not on the bookcase, where I always put it. Where could it have gotten to? Nowhere on the bookcase. Maybe in my purse? Nope, returning to my bike, reopening the seat, rummaging through the purse turned up no mask. Reentering the house, I searched out an old mask, kept in a pile of old masks under my hats (just in case), reached up to put the mask on my face and ... well I'll be darned, my mask is already on my face! Mystery solved.  

Not such a promising start to the day, but it did provide me with a laugh. 

***

I may or may not have mentioned the troubles I had with obtaining a new prescription recently from Dr. Yoanes, my neurologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital. Thankfully, the doctor gives me 90 capsules on each occasion, and generally I take only one a day, so that part of the scheme works out pretty well. It's getting the refill that is always problematic for some reason. 

Last time around the problem was simply that he was not reading his messages. You see, when I need the prescription, I am to send a message to Dr. Yoanes and also to the ER. The doctor will then send the prescription to them, I will pick up the prescription in the ER, and then take it to a pharmacy recommended by the hospital because the hospital price is much higher than the price in this pharmacy. Confusing, I know, but that's how it's done here. 

So anyway, after sending multiple messages to Dr. Yoanes, as well as to the ER, who told me that they cannot possibly give the prescription because only Dr. Yoanes can possibly give the prescription, I finally went to the ER myself and somewhat brusquely demanded my pills. Curiously, they found a way to do this on the spot. 

Now on this recent occasion, I started out early with attempting to renew the prescription, only to find that the doctor was on vacation. Upon returning from vacation some days later, he wrote a prescription for me and sent it to the ER. I picked up the envelope with the prescription in it and proceeded to the pharmacy. My mistake was in failing to examine the prescription first. I realized only a couple days later that 1) the medicine was not very effective and 2) one ingredient was missing from the three that are supposed to be in this prescription. 

I sent a message to the doctor, pointing out the mistake he had made. 

The fault is yours, he answered. You need to update your records. 

I? I need to update the record? What kind of hospital is this? 

I used the prescription on your record, the doctor wrote. 

But Oh No You Didn't, Doc! Because the prescription you just gave me was from three years ago and I haven't used that prescription for the past two years. Given that you had written for the correct prescription for the last two years, how is it that the records have not been updated? 

The doctor had no further comment. 

Oh well, I'll live with it, I thought. But after two days, I concluded that I could not live with it. I needed that one ingredient that was missing! The magic ingredient. The one that makes the medication actually do something helpful. 

So I send another message, and I suggest one or the other of the following two options: 1) Can you give me 90 days worth of the missing ingredient alone, or 2) Can you write a new prescription for the usual medicine, including the missing ingredient. 

Dr. Yoanes' answer is "Ya." 

Ya what? Which one? And when? Or are you just saying that you can but you don't want to? 

I ask the doctor to elaborate a little, and he elaborates by saying: "Saya masih d saba". 

I am still in ... saba? What is saba? Is it one of the Muslim prayer times? Is it a department in the hospital? What is saba? 

I look up the word in Indonesian. There is no word. I look it up in Balinese. It is not Balinese. As a final effort, I type it into Google, and Google produces the information that Saba is a secluded resort in the jungle.

Good Lord, he's on vacation again! 

"Okay, whenever you can, then," I answer. I want to add 'I'll just suffer till then,' but I don't. 

So I got the damn medication today. Again. And double checked this time. 

***

In the meantime, I had described my troubles to my friend, Eveline, in Jogyakarta, and she suggested that she could check with her neurologist there and see if he could prescribe just the missing ingredient (which, btw, is amitriptyline). 

"Oh, it's by prescription only," I said. 

"Well, let me try anyway. No harm in trying." 

Later on, she called from her doctor's office and said "How many do you want? Fifty? One hundred?" 

"Hah?"

"Yeah, it's no problem. I can get them here and bring them there. (She is coming here to Bali anyway on the 25th). 

Well how about that. That's the way it is in Indonesia. By prescription only here. No problem in Jogya. 

Plus, she is a personal friend of the doctor's. 

So as it turns out, at the end of some considerable though usual trouble, I'm all set, and more. 

Nonetheless, Dr. Yoanes tells me, via the ER staff, that I must see him before he will prescribe again. Which I guess is reasonable. As far as I can remember, I haven't actually seen the man in three years or so. I will just need to find out when he is in his office and when he is in the jungle.  

Gosh, if Eveline could somehow get Vicodin as well, I'd be a happy man indeed. But that's not gonna happen. Vicodin, being a narcotic, is illegal in Indonesia. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Busted!

 It was early in the evening and I was just cleaning up after dinner when five policemen stormed into my driveway. 

Well, okay, they didn't storm. I exaggerate. They congregated. One stepped a bit forward from the others toward the front door and called out "Hello?" several times. 

Examining these men from the window, I could not tell what sort of policemen they were. Surely not just regular run-of-the-mill policemen, for they were wearing what might be described as combat fatigues--boots, red bands on the arms of their uniforms, berets.  

My goodness, what have I done?, I wondered. I was pretty sure I hadn't murdered anyone lately. Certainly something like that would stand out in my memory. But wait ... what memory? What did I do yesterday, as a matter of fact? Ah, there's the rub, for I myself have little idea. 

"Hello," I answer at last, stepping out the door. "Whatchyaall want?"

"Eh?"

The five policemen lean forward as one. 

"Ada apa?"

They look at each other. Do they know what they want? 

"Lapor," says the heavyset one at the fore. 

"Lapar? Hungry? Am I hungry?"

Is that what this is about? Have they brought dessert? 

"Bukan, Pak. No. Lapor." 

"Oh! Lapor. Report, ya kan?"

"Yahhhh!" 

Thumbs up. 

"Lapor mana? What report?"

They look at one another. 

"Lapor," they explain together. 

"Hmmm. Lapor ya? How about KITAS? Do you wanna see my KITAS?" (my foreign resident permit). 

"Yes, good, very good," the heavyset officer exclaims, smiling widely with relief. "KITAS, good!" 

Yeah, so I bring out my KITAS permit from its place in a bedroom cupboard and they pass it around between them, studying it by turns. 

"Ah! Ini dia! Ini alamatnya. Bagus Pak. All good."

They are happy that the permit shows my address. 

I am happy not to have been caught in any heinous crime. 

They shuffle away together and then roar off on their five motorbikes. 

And I call a neighbor to ask if she knows what the hell this was all about. 

Turns out they are not the military police or a SWAT team or a bomb squad. They are Balinese local police and they are checking to see if I have an official permit to live in the house I am living in. A lapor, in other words. 

One thing I still don't understand though .... 

Why does it take five of them to do this?  

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Strangers In The Evening

 So it's early evening and I've stopped by a coffee cafe, as I usually do on Wednesday to read the latest edition of the Sanur Weekly, when a woman passing by on the sidewalk stops, stares at me for a moment, and says "Hi." 

I think at first that I must know her, as it happens often enough that someone will greet me and yet fail to arouse any recognition in my MS damaged brain. I have problems with facial recognition. 

"Hi," I chirp back, hoping that she will say something that will touch off some connection in my brain. 

She begins to talk about some guy named Jimmy who is an Australian and has a nice smile, and she wants to know if I know Jimmy.

I don't know Jimmy. I don't even know her. 

Nonetheless, she takes our conversation about Jimmy as an invitation to join me at my table. 

"Does Jimmy live in Sanur?"

"Yes." 

"Whereabouts?"

"I don't know." 

"So ... you're just walking around thinking you might bump into him?" 

But she has lost interest in Jimmy. She is more interested in me now. 

We talk about where she is from, which is some island here, I can't remember which, and where I am from, and so on and so forth. The usual stuff. She asks for my number. Maybe we can meet for coffee sometime. Yeah, I think, no harm in that. My good friend in Jogya is always saying I should make more friends. It's not good for people to be alone. 

"Do you walk here or drive?" she asks. 

I point out my motorbike across the street. 

"Oh! Um, sorry, but could you give me a ride home? I'm not far from here." 

Yeah, ok, no problem. Not far is a good distance for me. 

As the conversation continues, she becomes more friendly--friendly to the point of placing her hand on my leg or on top of one of my hands, squeezing, kneeding. 

"Okay, I can drive you home now. Are you ready?" 

"To your place?" 

"My place? My house? Why?" 

"You know, hang out, chat, use the AC." 

"Oh, um ... no, I'm not going there. I'm meeting some friends later." 

As if. 

"Oh? Who?" 

"Well, you know, just some friends." I think of adding that Jimmy is not one of them, but I don't. 

"Where?" she says.

"Oh, I don't know. I have to call them." 

I get up, pull my keys from my pocket, and off we go, through back streets, bumpy little cobbled roads, until finally she tells me to pull over. 

"This is it," she says, dismounting. We seem to be parked in front of a Balinese Banjar (a local government building), but there are some apartments to the right as well as behind the Banjar.  

"When will I see you again? she asks. 

I'm thinking never would be a good time. 

Now instead of heading for any of the apartments, she sets off walking up the street. I watch her disappear into the fumes of the traffic and the dimming evening. 

There is a word for this sort of woman. Pelacur. I don't want to say it. You can guess at the meaning. A woman who within ten minutes of casually meeting you wants to come to your house and "chat". A woman who, one will soon find, often needs a free taxi, or money, or a drink, or a place to "hangout". 

The next day at 7:30 in the morning, she rings my phone. 

I block the number. 

I don't know where people find the sort of "friends" my friend in Jogya is talking about. I swear, ninety percent of the people I happen to meet are strange in some way, or false, or downright crazy. 

I'm just lucky that way. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Error

 I realized upon returning home this morning from my usual outing to the beach that I had forgotten once again, for the third time, actually, to pay for the electricity in the house. Here in Indonesia, this is not done as it is in America. There is a preference for making things more difficult than they need be. To that end, one must first purchase what is referred to as a 'token' which bears a number of digits (16, I think) and then type those numbers into a meter mounted on the wall, typically outside the front door. In a giant leap forward, Indonesia has fairly recently begun to use an online banking system wherein one can buy the token online through his phone (the funds automatically being withdrawn from one's account), and then the token is sent to the phone.

In today's case, however, the phone app failed to cooperate, informing me, on several attempts, that some kind of error had been encountered.

So back down to Sanur I went in order to present my erroneous phone to the representative at the bank. My ticket was called in short order and I approached the rep's desk. I informed her that the app was not working, or that I was doing something wrong, and I went through the several steps on my phone screen to demonstrate my arrival at the error message. 

"Ya. It doesn't work," she agreed. 

"So?"

"You must try again tomorrow. Sometimes it will work tomorrow." 

"I cannot pay the bill through the bank?" Silly question, I know. 

"No. The app does not work."

Disappointed but resigned, I began to rise from my chair, but the woman raises one hand, withdrawing with the other a sheaf of papers from a desk drawer. 

I sit down. 

"You know, the app has often had problems," I note conversationally.  

"Oh yes! Just recently the system went down, on a holiday weekend too! No one could use the app or even get money from the ATM for two days. Ha, ha."

Yeah. I remember this amusing event. 

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hear the woman as she works at her screen behind her facemask and behind the plastic partition  standing between us.  

"What is all this?" I ask, referring to the stack of papers she's working at.

"What?"

"WHAT IS ALL THIS?"

"Komplain."

"Oh, that's not necessary. I don't wish to make a complaint." 

"Ya, harus." 

Must.

"What?"

"HARUS."

Oh dear. But oh well ... it'll just take a minute, I figure. 

Nope. More like twenty minutes. There are three forms that she must copy onto the computer screen. Why are the forms not already prepared on the screen? Ah ha! Because it would be too easy. And in the end, I do not receive any of these forms for myself. I am kept there merely because my signature was required on the printout. 

As it turns out, I proceed from the bank to the neighborhood post office branch, which I should have done to begin with, and had actually thought of doing to begin with. Here, one gives cash to a clerk and receives a token on paper, with which he then returns to the meter at home. 

But this is the complicated way. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Happy Go Lucky

 The first thing I saw this morning upon scrolling through my phone apps, which I do every morning after preparing a cup of tea and lighting a cigarette, was a newspaper story with the headline Two People Rescued After Falling in Tank Full of Chocolate in Pennsylvania.

This is all one needs, really. The headline alone is sufficient. The explanation is sure to be tedious, less intriguing. 

Was this all the chocolate in Pennsylvania, I wondered, or just one tank among many tanks of chocolate? Is chocolate situated such that one might trip, for instance, and fall into it? Is all the State of Pennsylvania kind of like the Big Rock Candy Mountain with puddles of caramel and babbling brooks of butterscotch and fluffy clouds of cotton candy? And tanks of chocolate. Commuter Flight Stuck Fast in Spun Sugar Cloud, Passengers Currently Waiting for Rain. 

What does a rescue from chocolate entail? What sort of injuries might chocolate inflict? Does it matter whether the chocolate is milk chocolate or dark chocolate? 

But what a story to tell in old age. Remember the time we fell into a vat of chocolate? Haha. Ah, life was good back then. 

One might even say delicious. 

***

I watched the Congressional Committee hearings on January 6th today. I hope most people did. Considering however that Fox News does not consider these hearings worthy of broadcast on their network, many people will not have heard and will remain entrenched in their unassailable towers of ignorance. Those things revealed in the introductory hearing alone were shocking, alarming, shameful. In other words, more of what we've known since 2016. And the Republican response will be the same as well. Move on folks, nothing to see here. Back to the important business of making sure teenagers have access to assault rifles. 

***

I'm just finishing up with David Sedaris' newest book of essays, Happy Go Lucky. Here once again Sedaris is at his best, at the top of his game. Ranging from stories of his quirky family to current events such as COVID and the BLM marches, Sedaris works his own odd brand of charm in the telling, managing to say so many things that we all would have said if only we had thought of them first. It kind of makes you want to snap your fingers and say--Yes! Exactly!  I've been laughing through every page. Even in public. And I don't care. Thank you, David. 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Old Friends

I know I've mentioned my laptop's power supply issue, this being that it has none other than being plugged directly into an electrical supply. But have I mentioned that it is spazing out in general? For instance, I may be trying to edit a particular passage of writing and the screen suddenly goes wacko, the cursor floats about crazily, the program begins highlighting random parts of the page. Text suddenly ends up shuffled, like a deck of cards dropped on the floor and then hastily stuck back together, some face up, some face down, some in large font, some in medium, some in small. It's like having carefully put together some Lincoln Logs structure only to have someone come along and kick the shit out of it. And this makes the already difficult task or writing a distinctly more difficult one.

Ah well, we'll see if we can get through this little piece before the next meltdown strikes. 

***

I happened to see my old friend Mike on the main street through Sanur today. Actually, the only street through Sanur from one end to the other. He was on his bicycle as usual but I noted when he dismounted that his gait was wobbly, uncertain. His gait had always been a bowlegged one, as though he had spent his life at sea (though he had merely spent it on a bicycle), yet it had been sure nonetheless. Now it was uncertain, syncopated with pauses. Much like my own once I dismount from my motorbike. As he stepped into the open-front cafe across the street, he reached for one of the wooden columns at the entrance for support. Some years ago, I don't remember how many now, Mike and I had broken up. Irreconcilable differences. We have not really spoken since then, except to say hi if we happened to find ourselves uncomfortably in one another's presence. Yet how alike we seem now. 

***

You know, there was a movie way back when (1967) called Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. It starred Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and was the story of a daughter's outrageous, unheard of romantic relationship with a black man, whom she, without warning, brings home to meet her parents. Blinded by love, the young couple enters with a flare of blissful ignorance as to the real problems they will face, while the parents, bound by tradition, propriety (so-called) and sober reasoning find themselves facing up against a power reignited within themselves, the power of love which shines in the young couple's faces. Antiquated now, isn't it? Silly. I think of this as I watch a reality show tonight called Love Is Blind. Here, a number of young men and women must meet each other by turns and see if a spark of romance will light up--the catch being that these men and women can only speak through a wall separating them, never seeing the other's figure or face. Is love blind? Things often seem messed up in our time, hopeless, depressing--and yet look here, things truly have changed, folks. For in this reality series, no mention is made of race. It is not a consideration. It is no longer important. Love is love. The point once was My goodness, he is black; My goodness, she is white. Now the only point is, no matter what color, My goodness, this show is silly.

***

I had a terrible dream last night. My son had decided one night to go to a movie. It was dark, it was raining, but he wanted to go. I did not really like the idea, but he was a young man, an adult, and so off he went. Now for a certain amount of time, this scenario switched over to a girl wanting to go to the movie. A young woman, I should say. The young woman was either very spoiled or actually mentally unsound, and though she fussed, she was not allowed to leave the house. I told her to go to bed. Now the dream reverts to my son. I realize with a shock that I have forgotten all about the time while arguing with the girl and find that it is far past the hour when I was to pick him up at the theater. I tried to rush out in the car, burdened, as happens in dreams, by legs that did not want to move, keys that could not be found, and so on. I sped recklessly into the storm only to find that the theater had closed. Of course it had. The hour was hopelessly late. So I turned around, splashing along the main thoroughfare in search of my son, who had surely set off the miles toward home on his own. Like a needle in a haystack. At night. I knew that the search was hopeless, that I would not be able to find him, and yet I had to try. And the truly terrible thing about this dream, as I realized upon waking, was that essentially it was true. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Good Point

Where I live now, in the UK, it's hard to get a rifle and next to impossible to get a handgun. Yet somehow, against all odds, British people feel free. Is it that they don't know what they are missing? Or is the freedom they feel the freedom of not being shot to death in a classroom or a shopping mall or movie theater?

--David Sedaris, Happy Go Lucky

Outraged Non-Smoking Bules

 As the bules return to Bali, they return as well to the local coffee cafes in Sanur, and with greater vigor than ever before when it comes to the smokers they detest. Like me. Not Indonesian smokers, mind you. That would be rude. But fellow westerners, oh yes. Three days running now I have endured the silent (as yet), bitter objections of people profoundly offended by cigarette smoke and cigarette smokers. They grimace, the sneer and huff in a thespian way, they mutter some words of disgust to their equally offended fellows at the table, crane their necks painfully (I would think), cough loudly, and then remove themselves to a faraway table. Ya, Aku cuek aja. Good riddance. Have a nice day. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

An Unwelcome Visitor

 Yesterday afternoon I began to feel unwell. It began with a scratchy feeling in my throat, an urge to cough, and then by the evening time the symptoms had gotten much worse. Upon going to bed I immediately began to experience an urgent need to swallow again and again, as if something were stuck in my throat. 

Ah, I see, I thought. Here we go again. The return of the stomach ulcer. And here I am again, trying to swallow my own esophagus.

Of course the stomach ulcer had never gone anywhere. It had merely been relatively dormant for a long while. What had I done to exacerbate it? Was it the single beer I had the other night? Was it too much coffee? Hmm, maybe. I had over the past few weeks gone to two cups a day rather than one. Or was it something I ate? 

Well, who knows? Doesn't really matter, I guess. It's here one way or another and the only question is how long will it stay. I have the proper medicine, and know the proper dietary steps to take. So now it's up to my damaged stomach and my swollen esophagus to decide. I can only say that after such a long period of not having this problem to any terrible extent, its return is a real bummer. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Lizards

 The story is the same, over and over, but I watch it again and again. The same story, different faces. CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC. Abcdefg. Twenty-one killed, 19 children. 

Children. 

A lizard emerges from behind the TV screen. A cicak. From above, behind the clock, another lizard emerges. They approach each other cautiously yet deliberately and stop only when they are nose to nose. 

What is happening, I wonder. 

Somehow an hour passed while a growing mob of heavily armed officers and agents outside the school did nothing. The children died. The children screamed, the children bled, the children died. 

One of the lizards, the one that had come from behind the clock, positions itself parallel to the other, then places its body on top of the other's, its sticky little paws pinning the neck, its tail snaking around the lower portion. The two bodies are motionless for some moments and then the lizard on top begins to twitch from head to tail as if electrocuted. Something is happening here. Something ... I don't know ... reptilian. 

One cannot help but watch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

What Can You Be Thinking

 It seems that in my old age a general detachment overtakes me. I move about in the midst of humanity as if encapsulated, walled off, able to see and hear and speak and navigate (after a fashion), yet unable to respond articulately, appropriately, promptly to the most basic of stimuli. 

I am in the cafe, reading, all things as they should be--coffee and banana bread on the table before me, ashtray to the left, a lit cigarette, cellphone to the right. This is my entire field of vision. This and the open book in my hands. Little by little, something intrudes. I am completely unaware of it at first, and then it begins to vaguely stir the air between my thoughts, or rather between the thoughts of Murakami or Hawthorne or whomever happens to be thinking that day, and very slowly, very slowly my eyes wander upward, as slow as sunrise, to find a man standing above me with what started as an expectant smile in the process of fading from his lips.

"Sorry?" I say rather too intensely, as one suddenly jolted from sleep. 

"I wonder," he answers apologetically, "if I might get a light." 

"Oh, yes!" I say, again too quickly, too loudly (having just awakened). I hand him my lighter. 

Where was I? What happened? Where am I in this world? Just a moment ago I was with Murakami's enigmatic driver, just a moment ago I was on the platform of public shame with Hester Prynne, and then what is real alters the world: a man who wants a light. 

Wedged uncomfortably between two worlds, I wander back to my coffee, and I wonder what my girlfriend can possibly be thinking. And why she would think it. I think about kissing her and about how it does not feel right, the way a kiss is supposed to feel. Something is off. I put my palm to her cheek, smooth back her hair, trace the line from her neck to her shoulder, so thin, so slight. I have never known a woman like this. I do not know a woman like this. I kiss her breast (whose breast?). She makes a sound. I can feel her breath. I try to remember the way things are to be done, the way they were once done. What can she be thinking? I have nothing to offer, not even a future. 

"I love you," she whispers.

And I know those words. I do know them, somewhere. They are right on the tip of my tongue. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Idul Fitri

 This last week was Idul Fitri in Indonesia, which is the end of Ramadan, when everyone gets to start eating normally again (Ramadan being the fasting month) and either travels to their kampung (home town) or goes on vacation (which pretty much means they go to Bali). Bali was, therefore, incredibly crowded for the whole of the last week, resulting in massive traffic jams (there is, after all, only one road which goes through Sanur) and inapproachable beaches. 

But it's Sunday now and the tide has receded. Thankfully. 

Toward the end of last week, my bank here in Indonesia suddenly shot itself in the head, which is to say that the system went down completely. I could not get money from the ATM, could not use my card at a store or restaurant, and in fact could not even log in to my account. It just so happens, naturally, that this happened in coincidence with my having run out of cash on hand. This was on Thursday. I had 110.000 Rupiah in my wallet. On Friday morning, I bought two packs of cigarettes, a coffee, and a cookie for a total of 100.000. What now?  Saturday came around and the bank was still dead. What am I gonna eat till ... whenever? Taking a survey of the kitchen, I found eggs, oatmeal, and one square of a dark chocolate bar. 

Ah well, happily they revived the bank at some point on Saturday and I was back in business. The business of eating, that is. 

Other than that, my two remaining teeth (which were not teeth anyway but rebuilt sorts of things) had to be pulled this last week, so now I am altogether done with teeth. Yay. I will need to send my upper dentures away to the lab on Monday so will be gumming food for the next four or five days. Soup, yoghurt, mashed potatoes--stuff like that. Endless fun here in paradise. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Faithfulness

 I've been feeling a bit guilty lately about so seldom writing an entry here that I determined this morning that I would forthwith take up my laptop and dutifully head out to the Renon Starbucks, home of so many past entries, and by God make an entry. 

As I headed down to Sanur instead, without my laptop, I ruminated a bit over the term "forthwith". The word actually means instantly, without delay. So clearly I had used the wrong word for what I was doing, which was heading down to Sanur with no laptop instead of to Renon with one. 

Forthwith, as it turns out, is not really what I meant. Eventually is more like what I meant. 

And so eventually, just as promised in amendment, I packed up my laptop this evening and headed out to Renon, determined to be more faithful henceforth.

Just one little problem. I forgot to bring the power cord to the laptop. The laptop is dead without this electrical life support system. And my plan to be more faithful died along with it this evening. Or until just now anyway. 

So here I am at home, laptop powered up, hardwired in, all at ready at last, and I wonder ... 

What the hell was I going to say to begin with?!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Singing

 Early in the morning, around about 7:30, the sound of children singing rises above the sound of the traffic on Jalan Hangtuah. Their sweet voices, so clear, and somehow so unanimously on key, easily overpower the tuneless clamor of the traffic. The children are gathered in the courtyard of some nearby school and singing is part of their morning ritual before classes begin. I just sit at the outdoor table and listen, sipping from a hot cup of tea, smoking a cigarette. The street outside my gate is yet quiet and unoccupied. The workers next door have not yet begun their pounding and drilling and sawing and grinding. The dogs have already arrived at the house for their morning nap and are lying here and there about the floor like so many throw rugs. The children sing, the dogs sleep, a light breeze dances through the Bogainvillea flowers, and I think of how very blessed I am. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Dogs Again, Oh Dear

 The neighborhood dog hater war has reignited over the past couple days, the main issue being, once again, poop. These troubles had seemed resolved after the last flareup with an agreement being negotiated to the effect that every neighborhood resident would be responsible for the area in front of his or her own house. Additionally, all of the dogs were at that time vaccinated and neutered, at significant expense to the dog lovers of the neighborhood. 

However, complaints have arisen once again, and one dog hater, a woman named Komang, was caught on CCTV actually carrying poop to our end of the street (that is, the dog lover's end) and dumping it in the middle of the road.

The claim was then made that one of the dogs (unnamed) had bitten the driver of a motorbike and torn his or her pant leg. I consider this very unlikely, as none of the dogs has been known in the past to bite, except in play. They bark a lot, yes, but they do not bite. Unless maybe someone on a motorbike is trying to kick them? 

Barking, by the way, has also been added to the list of complaints against the unfortunate mutts.

Yes, they bark during the night, but I have always considered that a free neighborhood watch service. We have never had a single criminal incident on our street (other than pooping), and that is not surprising, because these dogs do set off a godawful fuss if a stranger dares enter the street at night. 

So I don't know what the end of this trouble will be this time around. There seems nothing additional that the dog lovers can do. The demand appears to be that the dogs either be kept inside a house or adopted out and expelled from the neighborhood altogether. 

I cannot imagine keeping any of these dogs locked up in a house at this point in time. They have run free since birth. It would seem cruel and unusual punishment. And splitting them up also seems heartbreaking to me, because they are always together, always have been. It's their family. 

I reckon a better solution would be for these complainers to get a damn life. Live and let live. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

I Hate Rats

 The dreaded rats are back! 

For a long time, I had had no trouble with rats in the house. Yes, I had seen them occasionally, running along the gutter at the street side or creeping inside my gate now and then, but none had the temerity to actually enter my house--until a few weeks ago, that is, when the maid reported that one of the critters had been inside the cupboard under the sink, busy at shredding plastic garbage bags. She did not actually see the rat, but advised me to place a sticky trap in the area and buy new garbage bags.

Well, that sticky trap went untread upon for the weeks to come, such that I began to wonder whether some other culprit might have been behind the garbage shredding incident. Or perhaps the maid herself had shredded the bags for some inscrutable reason. 

Nonetheless, with no rats caught nor seen nor heard, I pretty much forgot the incident. 

Until yesterday. 

It was morning time still, and I was just finishing my breakfast and having a cup of tea when there arose a sudden clatter from somewhere in the area of the kitchen. At first I thought it was something outside, given that men are working every day on building the house next door and do very often cause various clatters to arise. 

Peering out the doorway, however, I discerned that in fact the noise was coming from the inside, and directly, on keener inspection, from beneath the sink. 

Rat! 

Yes, there he was, a big one too, snaking around on the surface of the superglue with which the trap is coated. The more they move, the more stuck they get. In their struggle, of course they eventually fall down, never again to arise. It remains only to shut the lid of the trap and thus smother the poor critter. This has actually always seemed a more cruel method than the old style metal bar traps that break the rat's neck, but oh well--they don't sell those here, and basically the only good rat is a dead rat anyway. 

Closer investigation of this area reveals that the rat must have come up through a pipe beneath the sink that leads to the drainage area beneath the street. This must be fixed. Especially considering that the construction next door is driving a lot of various creatures out into the open and in search of new dwellings. I'm determined that my house not become one of these, because, to put it very succinctly, I Hate Rats. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Crossed Wires

 Every three months or so, I must contact my neurologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital in order to obtain a new prescription for a med called Pregabalin, or rather the doctor's adjustment of a basic Pregabalin formula to best suit my particular complaint, which is of a feeling of intense inner heat from my chest to the top of my head. This is experienced, according to the doctor, by roughly 20 percent of people having an autoimmune disease, and of course it is not truly 'heat', but just a messed up response to who knows what from the central nervous system. 

Anyway, this will seem strange to Americans, who get their prescription refills quite simply through communication between their doctor's office and the patient's preferred pharmacy. Not so in Indonesia. Here I must contact both my doctor and the ER. The ER then sends a message to the doctor and the doctor sends a new prescription to the ER. I will then be informed when the ER has received the new prescription, at which time I must drive to the hospital, pick up the prescription, and take it to a local pharmacy (I could get at the hospital, but the price would be nearly double that of the pharmacy). 

But what happens when the doctor fails to communicate with the folks in the ER? That's what I found out a few weeks ago when I tried to reorder the Rx as usual. No communication between the doctor and the ER. In fact, the doctor did not even read my message, nor did he read the next two that I sent. Calling the ER availed me nothing, as they simply stated that the doctor had not replied to their request. Uh yeah, I know that. 

So I ran out of the medication, and sure enough began to suffer the daily onslaught of the old symptom. Being on fire at the core of one's being does not do much for the mood, and so it happened ultimately that I found no other option than to go to the hospital myself, storm into the ER, slap the old Rx down on the counter and exclaim "Aku mau resep ini, sekarang juga!" Which means 'I want this prescription NOW!'

Well, suddenly they were able to do something about it. A nurse scurried to the doctor's office, one short hall away, and returned forthwith with the written prescription. 

Happily, the doc gives me three months, more or less, worth of these pills (which is really nice of him). I do worry, however, that the same thing will happen next time around, as I see on my phone that he has STILL not read my messages. Lol. 

One thing is for sure--I'm gonna contact him plenty early next time I'm running low on the pills, and then just make another appearance if I'm receiving no reply. 


Monday, March 28, 2022

Born Again

 Late at night the night before last I jotted the following down on my phone, then completely forgot about it. Discovered it again just now, for what it's worth: 

Life never stops because it is never fully lived. 

Desire never stops because it is never fully satisfied. 

Love never stops because it is never fully attained. 

The body grows old but these three--life, desire, love--never age. They are born always new, again and again. 


Friday, March 25, 2022

Eat, Drink and be Merry

 We read in the Sanur Weekly this week that 42 countries are now eligible for visa on arrival in Bali, including America. Things are gearing up. Additionally, quarantine requirements are scheduled to be dropped altogether for Bali. 

A "Rain Shaman", hired by the government to suppress rains during the Mandalika Race Circuit in Lombok, has apparently failed miserably in chasing away the torrential rains, although the shaman herself insists that she intended for it to rain so that the track could be cleaned. 

An Australian national has been detained after immigration officers discovered that the man had overstayed his visa for eight years, having first entered Bali back in 2014. He now faces a jail sentence before being deported and most probably blacklisted for life. 

In another case of catch-me-if-you-can, a Nigerian national has been arrested after having overstayed his visa for two years. He is also set for deportation. 

........

During this past week, I enjoyed the company of my friend from the Jogyakarta area, wherein it might be said that we became more than friends and yet not more than that. If you know what I mean. I was able as well during her visit to gauge the differences in my condition and capabilities between, say, a year ago and the present time. It became clear, in short, that I can no longer walk any considerable distance before experiencing disabling pain in my back and breakdown of motor movement in my leg muscles, thus causing me to stumble about drunkenly and lean on the poor girl like a crutch. Decidedly less than attractive, I reckon, but she didn't seem to mind. On the bright side, my ramshackle condition earned me a couple long massages, so I guess there's something to be said for being a cripple. 

Other than that, we had pleasant visits to various beaches, including Padang Galak, which I have not visited in some years, a couple of dinners out together, a couple of home cooked meals (compliments of her daughter) out at her kost-kostan, and just generally delightful chats and an easygoing time together. 

I find myself readjusting now to the usual drill, my usual abundance of alone time and my predictable daily schedule. We will not often see each other, will my friend and I, given the particulars of our separate and very different life situations, not to mention our distant locations. Seize the day, I guess, is the applicable notion here. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  

I guess another part of the usual routine is writing here, which this evening has led me to the discovery, or the rediscovery, I suppose, that I really can't write worth a damn anymore, and for this I apologize. 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Post Nyepi

 As we enter the month of March, Bali continues to inch closer to normalcy. Inch by inch. By mid March, it is forecast, quarantine for international travelers will no longer be imposed, although individuals will be required to take two swab tests during their stay on the island. 

A number of international airlines are continuing to schedule flights to Bali.

Children are being sent back to school, then pulled out, then sent back again. It's a work in progress ;)

In other news, a young Balinese couple were recently arrested for having sex in a public park in Denpasar. This sort of thing is illegal here. Sadly, the young folks are now facing up to two and a half years in jail. And ironically, the police officers making the arrest have themselves been arrested for recording the event on video and posting it on the internet. Sheesh. They face the same jail time. 

As for myself, I got through Nyepi Day as usual. Happily, they did not turn off internet access, so most of the day was spent watching Netflix (Ozark) and YouTube (US news). On the evening of Nyepi, a major thunder and lightning storm thrashed the island, and so that was entertaining--being made the more spectacular yet for the absence of any artificial light whatsoever. So this is what lightning looked like in ancient times! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Getting Ready

 



Snapped these two pics today of floats waiting for the start of the annual Ogoh-Ogoh parade. Actually, it hasn't been annual for the past two years due to COVID, but it's back now. Good to see it return. This parade occurs on the evening before Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of silence. Cannot leave the house, cannot use electric lighting, cannot make noise until 6 am on the day after Nyepi. So I've bought plenty of snacks and have candles at ready, and I'm hoping that they will not cut off internet service this year, as they sometimes have done in the past. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Sleepless

 I had a rough night last night, although it had started out well enough. I went to sleep at about 11 without difficulty, but then awoke to the sound of a storm outside. From that point on my mind was crowded with thought and rumination. Among other things, I thought of the difference between reality as it is and reality as one only wishes it were, and how the latter type exerts such a great magnetism that it can easily overcome the truer, dispassionate, unloving thing and swallow it whole, incorporate it, replace it. After that, you cannot see the real thing by looking closely, but only by viewing it from far away--through time, distance, indifference. Does it matter after it no longer matters? Well, perhaps for one with time left to learn and years left to live. Perhaps also where it pertains merely to peace of mind.  

Storm at Night

 The storm began at about one o'clock in the morning. The lightning came first, which at first the man mistook for headlights hitting the long window in the wall opposite the bed. He tried to go back to sleep, but then the thunder came and the drumming rain and the repetitive barrages of lightning. He rolled to his left side, reached for the phone on the bedside table, turned it on. There were no messages. There had been no calls. What had made him hope that there might have been? Hope. He was sitting now on the side of the bed, wondering whether he should smoke a cigarette, thinking that it might be somehow medicinal. Something to fill the yawning emptiness in his chest, something to loosen the insoluble knot in his stomach. Standing, moving stiffly forward, guiding himself by touch, refrigerator, sink, counter, stove, he found the cigarettes and moved on to the door. Mark Twain was wrong. It is not difficult to navigate a small room in the dark. The world is not full of sudden surprises, vast spaces, impossible furniture. It is spare, brutally familiar, forever unchanged whether night or day. Everything is the same. It is only all the room inside oneself that is changed, in the darkness, in the silence, in the storm at night. Never in all his life had the man imagined that he would be alone in the end. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Little By Little

 The Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy announced this week that three carriers will now be resuming flights directly to Bali--Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Australia, and Garuda Indonesia. It's only three, sure, but three is better than none, which has been the case for the last two years or so. Additionally, quarantine for triple vaxxed international travelers will be reduced from 5 days to 3 days, making a vacation plan for Bali just a little bit more palatable. In the meantime, domestic tourism continues to increase in Bali, up, according to the Sanur Weekly, 182 percent in the month of January. 

In other news, a young man from Bali's Tabanan Regency faces up  to six years in jail and a one billion Rupiah fine after breaking Indonesia's strict anti-pornography laws when he posted naked photos of his ex-girlfriend online in a fit of revenge. Temper, temper. And, as it turns out, a really, really bad idea. 

A 48 year old American national has died after plunging from the sixth floor of a Kuta hotel. The method of madness behind this incident is uncertain, but it is thought that the man was drunk and simply fell from his balcony. 

In more personal news, I have been suffering for the last week with what appears to have been an exascerbation of my stomach ulcer probably brought on my eating some bad food at a local food stall. Seem to be on the mend now (fingers crossed). 

Coincidentally, my various body aches have worsened, neck, shoulder, back, and so on. This would seem to be rheumatoid arthritis, but that's just my own assumption. I should really see my neurologist about this, but at 800.000 Rupiah a pop, the idea is nearly as painful as the arthritis. Today I fell asleep for awhile and when I woke up my right elbow was frozen in the bent position and very painful to move. My understanding is that steroids and/or NSAIDS is the prescribed treatment for this, but then again both of these meds  worsen an ulcer condition. Bummer. 

Well, simply hunching over the keyboard is now making my neck stiff and painful, so I will sign off.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

February 9, 2022

 This week's Sanur Weekly heralds the arrival of the first international flight to Bali in two years, while cautioning not to get too excited. The flight was carrying only 12 passengers, 6 being Japanese nationals while the remaining six were Garuda airline employees. The aircraft was welcomed with a water cannon salute while it taxied to the terminal. Shops and beaches, however, are not about to be overrun with tourists. 

In the meantime, COVID is once again booming in Indonesia and COVID restrictions and precautions have been raised again to level 3 (out of 4). 

In Gianyar Province, a 54 year old German national has been detained and set for deportation after consistently disturbing residents over a period of time. His behavior was reported by locals as "bizarre" and "annoying" as he wandered about in the street, stopping vehicles for no apparent reason, and so on. 

Also in Gianyar, an intoxicated Russian fell into a ravine and had to be rescued by police. The Russian remembers only that he had to pee and the next thing he knew he was at the bottom of the ravine. 

A Balinese man who had just finished a five year term in prison for drug trafficking straightway committed the very same crime upon release and is now facing a sentence of twenty years. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Culture Shock

 I find of late that I have been largely sheltered from "the real Indonesia" here in Bali. It is an island of comparatively liberal values and culture, both catering to and transformed by western tourism. A live and let live attitude seems to permeate the place. Relationships are relaxed where people prefer it or traditional where others prefer that, and you may have the one on this corner of the street and the other on the next without conflict of discomfort. 

Not so in my friend Eveline's little town, some distance outside of Jogyakarta on the island of Java. There the culture is much more like that of America in 1900 or so. Children, especially female children, are controlled by their parents, who in turn are controlled by the expectations and moral rigidities of the community--even grown children like Eveline, who is 48 years old. She is beholden to her parents and expected to be obedient and "proper", whatever that might mean.  

As an example, Eveline has two ex-boyfriends with whom she is still friendly. They enjoy going out together, hanging out for dinner at the warung, taking a drive, or whatever. They're doing nothing wrong or outrageous or scandalous, but just  having a simple good time. And yet, Eveline came home last night from having pizza with her ex-boyfriend to find herself suddenly forbidden to see him again. Forbidden. Do we even use this word in English anymore? 

But it doesn't look good to the neighbors, her parents say. It doesn't look good to the community. The friendship is an embarrassment and a negative reflection on them.

Goodness. 

No, as it turns out, if a man and a woman spend time in each other's company they must be officially going together, preferably on a short path toward marriage. 

"You know," I told her, "in America we would say 'Mom, Dad, I love you both--but butt out of my private life!'" 

"Oh, we can't do that," Eveline answered. 

"So what will you do? I mean, you've been hanging out together for a couple of years, even after your relationship, right?"

"Oh, I'll just tell them he's my boyfriend again, officially you know, and then I'll break up with him when I find someone else." 

Lol. Well, that's one way to go about it, albeit a rather circuitous one. But it will look better, that's the point. The lie will look better around town. It will look better than simple friendship. 

Sheesh. 

February 6, 2022

 Bali has once again, in keeping with its continued fit of inconsistencies, lowered the travel quarantine period, now from 7 days to 5 days. Apparently they pick a number out of a hat every week or so and just go with that. One number is as good as another, right? In the meantime, the COVID infection numbers have risen from less than 10 per day over the last four weeks to over 300, with an increase of 500 percent marked during the last week alone.

Speaking of quarantine, it has been found that various Jakarta hotels have come up with a nifty scan wherein they produce a positive COVID test after a week or quarantine, thereby compelling the unsuspecting traveler to quarantine for a second week at the same full hotel cost. Dastardly! 

A high official for Bali's forestry agency has been arrested for illegal  logging. Nothing more need be said.

In the meantime, Bali's vice governor has determined that there are too many "well dressed beggars" on the streets. These people show up wearing traditional Balinese attire, which the vice governor insists is damaging to the image of Bali. One wants properly disheveled beggars, certainly. These well dressed individuals are chased away to their villages (only to return a few days later). 

A 36 year old man from Bali has been killed with a sickle and a woman stabbed 32 times with a pocket knife after a jealous husband discovered them meeting at the woman's phone kiosk. The male victim managed to run away with the sickle still stuck in his back, but later expired. The woman survived after being rushed to the hospital. The jealous husband was charged with murder, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years. However, since the attacker brought a weapon to the scene, the charge may be extended to premeditated murder, which might earn him either a life sentence or the death penalty. 

So it goes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

New Locations

 I've discovered of late a couple of new coffee places to go to. It it seems that my life revolves around coffee, that's because it pretty much does. It's not the coffee so much as just something interesting to do, somewhere to go. I don't drink anymore, so I rarely go to a bar or a club. Also, I can't stay awake at nighttime. I did go to a local club recently (the only one I know of in Sanur actually). The music was rather good really, very professional, and I was enjoying listening to it. But then a hoard of people came in and one woman among them eventually asked me to dance. Yes I, who have challenge enough just walking. Not wanting to rude, however, I danced with the woman, and that was fine, but then she wouldn't go away. Just kind of kept hovering over me. Gave me her card, pointing out that her number was on the card. Did I mention that this woman did not interest me at all? That's probably an important detail here. Anyway, I eventually excused myself, having stayed later than I had intended to. Clubs, for a nondrinker, can be uncomfortable places as they pack up through the night with drinkers. One simply does not enter into the mood (or is stupor a better term?). 

So about these coffee places. One is out on Jalan Danau Poso, called Gecko Coffee. It has actually existed for a long time--I remember going there years ago. But it has moved to another location and is much larger now and more comfortable. There is a little outdoor seating area in the front, and then an open air upstairs section. It's quite a pleasant little place with a small, pleasant staff (the staff members themselves are not particularly small, but the number of them is). Oddly, this place appears to attract mostly long time bule residents in the area of a seemingly rather bedraggled nature (myself included, I suppose). Last time I was there, I went out front to sit and ended up across from an elderly woman whom I determined by-and-by to be actually a man. Long gray hair, thin as a rail, wearing what appeared to be pajamas. This customer was eventually replaced by a New Zealander, as I would guess from his accent, somewhere around my age though hale in appearance and looking as though he had been under the sun wind surfing for the past 7 years or so, sitting there now in 7 year old dungarees rather frayed with time. In the upstairs section, it is only fair to add, there were two younger men, in their 40s, I'd say, who were in much better repair, intensely focused, as young people tend to be, on their phones and laptops. 

The other place I found just today, and by accident actually. I was looking for somewhere else--a warung I remembered eating at some years ago--and walked into this place instead. I had some kind of spicy squid dish with rice, but then found upon paying my bill that they have "Ngopi Pagi"--morning coffee--buy one get one free! Can't beat that, so I'll give it a try later this week. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

January 30, 2022

 The annual Ogoh-Ogoh parades will be allowed this year in Bali, after two years of cancellation due to COVID. This is the parade of all manner of fantastic monsters that takes place the day before Nyepi, the day of silence. Many village leaders, however, are nervous about the prospect of contributing to the spread of COVID, given that the parades are attended by nearly everyone on the island. 

In fact, as the number of Omicron infections increases throughout the country, Bali, which has been on level II COVID restrictions, is expected to return to level III or even level IV. 

When will it all end? 

A 29 year old man from Sumba has been arrested for breaking into a shop in Tabanan last week. It seems however not to have been the most cleverly conceived crime as the shop he burglarized was directly next door to his own rented room. The man admitted to the arresting officers that he had spent the 2.5 million Rupiah stolen to host a birthday party for a friend of his. He also stole packs of cigarettes worth another 5.5 million, handing these out to his friends at the party. What a guy! It is hoped, as the Sanur Weekly states, that this was the best party of his life, as he is now facing up to seven years in prison. 


Sunday, January 23, 2022

68

 Been a while since I wrote anything here, but here it is my birthday again so I guess I'll jot something down. 

A few days ago, Louis called and asked "What do you prefer for your birthday--iPhone X or iPhone 10?" I said there's nothing wrong with my phone (an OPPO). She said "Too bad. You're getting an iPhone. 

Yesterday she called and said "Where would you like to have your birthday lunch."

"I don't want a birthday lunch," I said. "As I've already told you, I don't see much to celebrate in turning 68." 

"Yeah, well, you have to choose a place so I can make reservations." 

Good grief. 

So we had a birthday lunch today at Bali Bakery--Me, Wayne, Louis, Nengah (our maid), Destu (our gofer and general helper) and several other people whom I could only remember vaguely. It was a nice lunch, with cake to top it off of course. And I was presented with my iPhone, which I am now trying to switch over to from the OPPO, an Android device. Not something I'm talented at. 

Sixty-eight seems much older than 67. I suppose 69 will be even worse. Not to mention 70. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

An Unexpected Call

 I received last week a rather surprising call from an old, old friend of mine, Todd Spillum, now more widely known as Todd Grimson, author of a number of rather well received novels, including Brand New Cherry Flavor which was just recently released as a Netflix series. 

I had not spoken to Todd since perhaps 1979. The back story is that Todd and I went to the same high school and he was the boyfriend of the young woman who would later become my first girlfriend and then my first wife. 

My contact with Todd last week began with a number of texted and seemingly random vignettes from his lifetime, a record of things he had done, places he had been, people he had known. I was a bit confused by this sudden tranche of information and wondered actually whether this was a communication from a press agent rather than Todd himself. 

By and by, however, it became clear that he was kind of reviewing material to appear in an upcoming autobiographical novel. It's quite a life, I suppose, chock full of unusual stories, famous people, infamous people, just plain strange people and so on. A little like one of his novels. 

Although I cannot say that Todd's choice of subjects for his fiction has ever been my cup of tea (drugs, kinky sex, weird people, grotesqueries, vampires and so on), I was nonetheless keenly and perhaps painfully aware on reading Brand New Cherry Flavor that this was the extremely polished, inventive, able prose of a writer who had mastered his craft. (I say "painfully" here because back in the day Todd and I were somewhat in competition as writers. Or at least I felt that way. Todd likely felt no threat from me whatsoever). 

Anyway, as I finally learned after texting him for a while and then agreeing to a phone call, I play some small part, as does his ex-girlfriend and my ex-wife) in the autobiography Todd is working on, and perhaps he meant to give me a heads up. Or perhaps he was merely doing some advertising work in advance. We must have talked on the phone that day for two full hours. So much to kick around, with Todd doing most of the kicking, so to speak. This is because he possesses an airtight, ironclad memory and so was able to guide me through a wonderfully complete tour of old times, most of which things I had forgotten. 

Strangely, as I discovered, Todd also has multiple sclerosis, having  been diagnosed in 1984. I had no idea. This has at this end put him in a wheelchair. Whereas so far the disease has mostly affected my cognition and memory, Todd has suffered none of this. Which is quite clear in conversing with him. One wonders, really, whether a memory as complete and clear as his, making it almost as if everything were happening (or still happening) at this very moment is necessarily a good thing. 

But I guess that's a subject for some other day (if I can remember). 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

January 6, 2022

Once again this week's Sanur Weekly is mostly COVID news and news of Indonesia's continually changing response to COVID. Omicron is visiting the islands of course, including Bali. The government is shuffling quarantine rules like a deck of cards, with a new deck for every shuffle. It's all getting pretty old, but hey, that's COVID. 

I read as well that during 2021, the Bali immigration office has deported 194 foreign nationals. I'm frankly surprised that there were still 194 foreigners here to deport. Most were deported for overstaying their visa, working without a work permit, or committing some sort of crime. Seven foreigners were deported for repeatedly violating COVID-19 health protocols. 

Nonetheless, with hope everlasting, Bali continues to gear up for what will surely be a flood of tourists. A new international hospital is to be built in my own little town of Sanur, slated for completion within the next three years. At the port of Benoa, a cruise port will soon be under construction, to be the biggest cruise ship port in Indonesia (a step up from none). 

Now this little bit I will transcribe verbatim, so that no one may think that I am making it up: 

A 55 year old woman, originally from Surabaya, has been arrested for stealing a large amount of canned milk from supermarkets in Denpasar. According to the head of the Denpasar police department, Kombes Pol Jansen Avitus Panjaitan, the woman has stolen the milk cans from several supermarkets over the course of three months. When the supermarket noticed a big difference between their sales and their stock they reviewed some CCTV footage and finally identified the woman as the thief leading to her arrest shortly after the police report was filed. According to the reports the woman is a member of a gang of 5 milk thieves. The value of the stolen goods is estimated to be around 95 million Rupiah ($US6,650). That's actually a lot of milk. 

By the way, today is my brother's birthday. He would have been 70 years of age if he had not died when he was 30. Happy birthday, Gary. Still miss you. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Where the Light Fell

If you want an education about what Christianity is not, take a look at Phillip Yancey's just released autobiography, Where the Light Fell--a damning exposure of what American Evangelicalism is really all about and a sweeping castigation of this deeply rooted heresy which has been masquerading for so long as the true faith. 

As many may know, Yancey is the author of dozens of Christian books, the lion's share of which explore the essential questions of Christianity (What's So Great About Grace?, Where is God When it Hurts, Reaching for the Invisible God, and so on). He is a remarkably adept organizer of material and commentary and and presents his remarks in a manner that is both informative and easily accessible (unlike, for instance, theologian David Bentley Hart, whose work is fascinating but very, very dense indeed). Yancey gives us Christianity for the common man, and yet Christianity that is fiercely honest, examines itself, and strives to get itself right.

Although I had read a number of Yancey's books, and knew vaguely of his Evangelical upbringing, I had no idea of how brutal his struggle had been to escape from beneath its dark and ponderous paws, starting with the paws of a mother who was both 'holy' and wholly crazy apparently, serving ultimately I suppose as a metaphor for the tyranny of the cult he was steeped in from birth. 

The truth will set you free, as the saying goes--as long as you have the courage to contend with the lies. 

The Vacant Room

 I had a dream last night--which I have either had before, as it seemed familiar even in my sleep, or perhaps just had twice last night--wherein I was lying in a bed in a rather large but completely barren room, off-white in color, nothing on the walls. There was nothing whatsoever to do in the room. There were no windows as far as I noticed. By the bedside was what appeared to be a calendar, and yet no dates, months, individual days were indicated. Just blank paper. I seemed aware that there was no food to be had in this place, but was aware also that I was not hungry in the least, though I had surely been in this bed for a long while--surely weeks or months, who knows? I'm just thinking in the dream that I might as well go back to sleep when I suddenly hear my mother's voice calling out "Okay, Richard, time to get up! Let's go! Up and at 'em". 

Now what do you reckon all that means?