Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bah, Humbug!

 My exciting New Year's Eve began with a trip down to the beach for what I thought would be a leisurely coffee during which I would enjoy the last 15 or so pages of the short story collection I've been working on. This is by my favorite Chinese author, Yu Hua, and is actually not a collection per se. It is three short stories totaling less than 200 pages, collectively entitled Nyaliku Kecil Seperti Tikus, which does not translate well to English but means something like My Courage is Small Like a Mouse). But more about that later (perhaps). 

As it turned out, there was no leisure or enjoyment to be had. Although it was still only 6 o'clock, people were already gearing up for the New Year's activities. Loud music was cranked up in restaurants all along the ocean front, each establishment contending with the others so that the combined sound was more like a half dozen brass bands falling from the sky and crashing to the earth at the same time, and continually. I developed a headache. So I put down my book and sipped my coffee. Caffeine is good for headaches, you know. 

This fun activity concluded, I bought a takeaway slice of apple pie and headed home. There, heated my pie in the microwave and tuned in the new Netflix movie, White Noise, which I found to be a load of self-absorbed, faux profound drivel. Whether the Don DeLillo novel by the same name is also drivel, I cannot say, for I have not read it (nor will I now). 

I'm listening to fireworks now which have been outlawed in Bali this year and wondering how I am nonetheless hearing them. It's 11:30 and I must hurry to bed, lest New Year's sees that I'm awake and passes me by. I offer no reflections on the year passing, for it deserves none. Parting is not such sweet sorrow. 

Resolutions? Well, okay. I resolve not to be quite so cranky tomorrow. But you know how resolutions usually go. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022


 For some time, I've been in need of a couple new pairs of pants. Pants that I like, that is. Pants that are comfortable. Pants that actually fit me. The problem has just been with summoning the resolve to actually get off the seat of whichever pair of pants I happen to be wearing and venture out to the mall. 

Moreover, my girlfriend told me to wait till her next visit to Bali, not because she doubts my ability to select a proper pair of pants, but because I cannot by myself manage the feats of balance and dexterity required to both disrobe and re-robe while standing. So why not sit, you ask? Well, because the clothing stores here (or the ones I go to, anyway) have no seating in the dressing rooms--not a huge problem for functioning folks, but an insurmountable problem for me. For this reason, I do not try on clothing at all when I shop. Rather, I employ a combination of guesswork, estimation, hope, and blind faith, a strategy by which I have achieved thus far a perfect record of failure.  

Nonetheless, I decided the other day that I simply could not continue in my rags any longer. They must be replaced before they disintegrate. 

The Matahari clothing and etcetera store is nearby, convenient, relatively inexpensive. Those are the good points. Among the bad points is that the store employs roughly ten times as many employees as are needed. You will see them immediately upon entry, swimming up and down the aisles like sharks, monitoring any movement, sharp-eyed, stealthy, ready to strike. And where one draws blood, the others swarm. I keep my head down, eyes averted, I play dead, drifting with the disinterested current, ducking behind high stacks of clothing, but I am soon detected.

I tell the first young lady that I am just looking, and so of course she just shows me a number of things to look at. Pairs of pants, I mean. 

"These are thin fit. I don't want thin fit. I want regular fit." I say this and attempt to move on. 

"Ah, I show you regular, no problem. Right this way." 

And there it is. From that point on, I am done shopping. I am now being shopped for by a school of female employees. I have lost control. It is out of my hands. All that is needed from me is size. Pant size, I mean. 

I end up with jeans, 36 waist, length indeterminate. Color, blue. I am shown black as well, and gray, and beige, and I am shown underwear and socks and even cologne. It's on sale, you see? A promotion. 

Just as I am about to be sprayed, I break away and make a dash for the cashier's counter. Whew. Twenty percent off too! Promotion. Can you believe it? 

I arrive home with pants that are far too tight for me. I decide that I need to lose weight. 

I also decide that I should have listened to my girlfriend. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Another Day in the Same Life

 I was caught in the rain three times today. For the most part, we do not have the persistent, day-long sort of rain experienced in my old Oregon home, where one never need wonder whether he is going to get wet if he goes outside. He is. But no, here the day will be cloudy and warm, cleverly masquerading as safe for a quick trip to town or to a friend's house. You venture out, and halfway through your trip, though it be but a ten-minute trip, the rain suddenly pours down, and there you are in shirt sleeves on your motorbike. You pull over to the side of the road as quickly as can be managed, as do all the other motorbike drivers (which makes quickness rather difficult to manage), you jump off your bike, you open the seat, you pull out your long raincoat, taking are not to pull out everything else along with it, and already soaked, you throw the thing over your head just as if it still had some kind of purpose. 

So yeah, three times today: once on the way to morning coffee in Sanur, once on the way home from coffee, and once on the way home from Renon this evening. And the thing is, this rain always manages to start when you are nearly to your destination. Very clever. You say to yourself, I can make it! Just a little farther and I'll be home safe. But no. No, you can't. Live and learn. 

I will say that arriving home from Renon, I entered the house to find two cannisters of special Indonesian cookies on my counter, a late Xmas present from Louis, and so that warmed my wet heart. Didn't try my clothing, but one cannot ask for everything. 

And so Christmas is over, as far as I'm concerned. Actually, it never really happened, as I've mentioned in previous posts. And New Years is on the horizon, but I don't care. Bah, humbug. Never have liked the day. 

One year passes, another begins, but eternity has really no perception of the thing. It's meaningless. It's just another year. I will offer only a brief quote from Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

--A Tale of Two Cities

Bye, 2022.

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Day in the Life

 It stopped raining today, of which I was awfully glad, for as I mentioned in the previous post, it was necessary for me to present this morning to the office of immigration in Denpasar and I really preferred to walk in rather than wade in or slosh in under the door. 

Upon arriving, I was given ticket number 193. 

Number 60 had just been called.

Oh good Lord. 

What does one do for two hours in the office of immigration? I had brought a book along, but it was extremely hot in the building and extremely crowded and extremely loud, making reading next to impossible. And I did try. I read the first paragraph of a short story by Yu Hua five times without comprehending a word of it. So much for reading.  

What then? 

Well, I texted with my girlfriend on the phone for a few minutes, but of course she herself had work to do. So, I scrolled through Facebook, I scrolled through Instagram, I checked my e-mail. 

So much for the phone. 

"Number 62," the loudspeaker barked. 

Great! Only 131 left to go. 

My mind was so numb by the time I reached the photo and interview room, waving ticket number 193 in the air, that I had a difficult time retrieving basic details of my life, such as my address, the number of years I had been in Bali, and the type of foreign resident permit I was seeking. 

"Is this for Kitas or Kitap?" the officer asked. 

"Yes ... I mean, it's the one, you know, um, it's--"

"Kitab," the officer said, glancing at the paperwork. 

"Yes! That's it!"

"Very good. And what do you do here?"


"Why are you in Bali?"

Gosh. Why indeed? This seemed a loaded question, as much a puzzle to me as to him. A philosophical question, really. An existential question. 

"Retirement?" the office offered helpfully. 

"Yes!" Whew. 

Yeah, so we did the electronic fingerprints as usual, and I signed the black pad with the invisible pen, such that as usual there was no telling what I actually wrote, and I was done. Finished. Free! 

Until next time. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Day

 Christmas Day in Sanur dawned ... but not very much. The heavy clouds, smothering the natural light of morning, promised yet another day of steady rain, a promise that was kept, and oh so much more. 

I had been in the house for three days, except for the auto trip to Nusa Dua on Christmas Eve, and there were now things that I needed to do. I needed to buy some food for my empty refrigerator. Some more food for my empty cupboard. And I needed to get some coffee and a pastry. Well, okay, that last need was more of a want. But not much more. 

Moreover, I need (yes, need) to go to the immigration office tomorrow morning to get my official photo taken (for the 12th official year in a row), and I wanted to drive out there today in advance because, believe it or not, I have for 12 official years forgotten the official location of the place. In Indonesian, they call that pikun, which translates in English to senile. 

Lo and behold (in keeping to the spirit of the day), the darkness parted (ever so slightly), a sliver of light peeked through, and the flood waters ceased to flow in the land. Here was my window of opportunity. 

First stop: Coffee! 

Second stop: Well ... not so fast, for by the time I had taken two sips, the heavens mightily darkened anew and a new sogginess fell upon the earth. Winds picked up and then doubled up again, buffeting the trees, shaking the branches, ravaging the innocent fronds and leaves and sending them storming after cars and pedestrians and into the entries of restaurants and out the exits, and back into the trees again (much good it will do them now!).  

And so I waited. And waited. And ordered a second cup of coffee. And waited. 

At last, the torrent subsided somewhat and became more of a mere drenching downpour, such that I was able to retrieve my rain smock from my motorbike and head off to the grocery store. Emerging from my shopping, I found that the general downpour had continued, but not increased, so decided this was comparatively perfect weather to make the run out to Immigration (to see if it was still where it was last year, wherever that might be). 

I did not get very far. 

As I approached my own street, along the way, as it is, to the vague location of the immigration office, the wind picked up to what seemed hurricain strength and reopened the floodgates of the heavens, shoving a bike in front mine sideways, and its driver onto the street. 

Ok. Nope. So much for this idea. I changed lanes, made my turn, and hurried on home.

Drenched, with what little Christmas spirit I had to begin with now thoroughly wrung out of me, I spent the balance of the day feeling gloomy. However, come evening, I first received a call from my stepson in America, and then a group call from my girlfriend and her sister in Java, and Lo, the spirit was reborn. Hallelujah. My heart was warmed, after it dried out, and I'm good to go for another year. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve as Ever it Were

Rather severe weather here for the past few days -- starting out cloudy, unbearably hot, followed then by a cannon-shot clap of thunder and an immediate torrent of flooding rain, chickens, cats, dogs, cows, and reindeer washed away on the streets leading to the sea. Bali's version of Christmas weather. 

Attended today what seems to have become the annual Christmas Lunch at the home of Wayne and Louis. As always, an impressive collection of pricey foods was laid before the party along with wines, coffee, and whatever else the heart desired. Strawberry cheesecake was served for dessert, as this is not only Christmas Eve but also our mutual friend Destu's birthday, who turned young once again this year.

The current residence of Wayne and Louis is rather far away in Nusa Dua, so I, Nengah, and Nengah's little boy arranged for a GrabCar driver, to the tune of Rupiah 220.000. Happily, one of the guests and his wife offered to take us back home after the party, as they also live nearby in Renon. 

And so drove we home in another Christmassy downpour, making for a decidedly less than silent night. 

And now? Well now I am listening vaguely to Christmas music on YouTube, sipping some cocoa, wishing I could still drink spiked eggnog, feeling sheepish at the stinging memory of the last time I did so, and remembering better times (or were they merely different times?) lost forever to this old world and this old man but for their enduring, insuperable, imperishable presence.

And so a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Island Where Xmas Never Came

The sky to the north has turned an unworldly aquamarine as I drive home this evening from the Sanur beachfront, the cool hue belying the enduring heat of the day--32C still, at 7 pm, pressing down like sweaty hands on one's shoulders, cooking the rutty asphalt beneath the wheels. It is going on December 20th but there is no Christmas here. Not as I have known it, or knew it, for 55 years. And yes, I say this every year here in Bali, don't I? Every year I miss Christmas, it never comes. I should be pressing gloved hands together, retreating into a scarf like a turtle, stamping boot soles on frozen earth, watching my own breath float away in little clouds, wondering if my frozen nose will soon fall off. Ah Christmas! Every cold color of the Christmas lights shivering on the house fronts against the chill, gathering the blue and red and green strength to shine on. Ice on the ground, ice on the steps, ice sickles of the eaves of the house. That's Christmas. And the humidity is not without, but within, where a fireplace crackles and baked breads and cookies scent the air and the windows fog and frozen coats drip on the backs of chairs. Here is the proper, and only, warmth of December.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Super-Loser Trump

 I've been chuckling the last couple days over the Trump superhero trading cards. How perfectly absurd! How perfectly asinine. My initial thought was, Well there goes the remaining support he had; but no, as it turns out the cards sold out immediately. Lol. My goodness, the country is far, far sicker than I had imagined possible. And far more stupid. A major announcement, he said. Reminds me of the 'Major Award' in the movie, A Christmas Story, which turns out to be a lamp in the shape of a woman's leg. Not much difference between the leg and these cards. Except that the leg makes more sense and is at least marginally useful. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


 Deadly hot here in Bali the last couple weeks--32 C by 11 am (about  90 degrees Fahrenheit), and with added humidity on top of that. So after finishing my coffee down at the beach, I generally just come home and turn on the AC. Naturally, the dogs also enjoy the AC, so they've been camping out here as well. Later in the evening it will be cool enough to go out somewhere (although 'cool' is the wrong word--I should say 'a little less scorching'). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Criminalization of Sexual Intercourse

 The big news of late in Indonesia concerns the "new" law regarding sex outside of marriage and cohabitation among unmarried couples. I put quote marks around the word new because this law is not really new, but merely a redrafting of a law on the books ever since the Dutch Colonial age. In short, sex outside of marriage always has been illegal here in a technical sense, though rarely enforced to any significant extent except in hyper religious provinces such as Aceh. What is new is the attention brought to the matter by the recent legislation.

It has also aroused the ire of foreign tourists and indeed of the tourism industry in Bali, which, should the law actually be taken seriously, would surely be in ruin. 

But it is difficult indeed to imagine how such laws could be enforced, without jailing a large percentage of the population. Believe me, sex outside of marriage is just as common here in Indonesia as anywhere else in the world. The only difference is that they pretend it is not so. 

The new law as written is actually a softening of the old (not that this makes it any less stupid overall). In the case of the new law, a complaint against the offending couple must be lodged by an immediate family member, whereupon people convicted of this commonplace diversion may face up to a year in prison. Beforehand, any random person could make the complaint. 

That's called 'progress' in Indonesia. 

Saturday, December 3, 2022


 Still ill with the flu or whatever, but slowly recovering (God willing). It seems like so many other things go wrong in conjunction with the flu (or because of the flu?). For example, I have a longstanding problem with my stomach/gastroesophageal reflux. This is exacerbated by the flu illness. I am generally fatigued when well, and this is also exacerbated by the flu. My various muscular aches and pains are made worse by the flu. 

Woe is me. 

You know, a good way of knowing that you are getting old is to see it through the eyes of others. For example, a neighbor came by today to bring food to the dogs, who happened to be at my house, and while standing outside the door, he said he smelled gas. News to me, but sure enough, my gas cannister (used for the cooking stove) was empty. One is supposed to know this by the smell of gas. In my defense, however, my stuffed-up nose made it impossible to smell leaking gas or really anything else. Anyway, on seeing that the container was empty, this neighbor took it upon himself to heft the thing down the street (heavy even when empty), buy a refill, and then heft the thing back again. And bring it inside. And hook it up for me. And test to make sure it was working. 

I guess the good thing about getting old is that you get to be treated like a child again. 

Unfortunately, you don't get to feel like a child where health and vigor are concerned. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Back to the Future

 I see this morning in an old 'memories' post from Facebook that on this day in 2017 I had the flu, and I thought Well how about that? On this day in 2022 I also had the flu. Of course, back in 2017 there was no such thing as COVID or its assorted variants. Simpler times, those. 

So is this present flu Omicron? Who knows? Perhaps all flus are now COVID flus. I suppose one could find out if he wanted to drag his poor flu ridden body to a hospital and get a swab test. Maybe. I dunno. Louis had an illness back in early spring of this year and had both a positive and a negative swab, which is something, it seems, that would leave one certain that she is uncertain, or vice versa. 

Better just to isolate, reckon--watch movies, read books, write about having the flu, or at least something that is very like the flu. Very like what I had in 2017, in fact. 

Other than that, the weather is reliably cloudy anyway, and rainy by late afternoon, and downright stormy at night, so not very inviting for outings anyway, even to nearby Sanur. 

Friday, November 18, 2022


 An acquaintance of mine, whom I am proud not to call a friend, posted a photo this morning on Facebook of Indonesian President Widodo helping President Biden after he tripped at a sightseeing tour during the G20 conference in Bali. This photo, as with all other photos of Biden tripping or at least seeming to trip, is meant to convey the idea that Biden cannot possibly be a good president if he trips. Of course, we've all seen this sort of thing before, not only with Biden, but with all recent presidents, gleefully posted by those who don't like them. 

The intended message, however, was lost on me--because what I instantly thought upon seeing this photo was of the many times kind Indonesian folks have helped me along when I lost my footing, or indeed rushed to my aid when I actually fell. Am I stupid because I tripped, suddenly unworthy of respect, surely unable to think clearly? Is Biden?

Well of course not. This sort of foolishness, this posting of photos that are supposed to be somehow compromising, is a game for nitwits. Nitwits who, believe it or not, will someday grow old themselves and likely less sure of foot.  

What must they think of FDR, I wonder, who could not walk at all? 

Oh well he had a disease, they will say. He couldn't help it. 

Right. Biden has a disease too, called old age. And I have a disease, called multiple sclerosis. And Indonesians in general have a character trait called compassion--something that seems woefully lacking in many Americans these days.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Miracles and Mysteries

 I found myself these last couple weeks, as surely many Americans did, on pins and needles over what would result from the midterm elections--partly a feeling of dread, and partly a feeling of hope against hope. I am so encouraged therefore to see what appears to be pretty much a blanket rejection of Trumpism, Trump endorsed election deniers, autocrats, fascists and just basic run-of-the-mill idiots. Perhaps the nation is on the road to regaining its wits and moving forward after this long detour through Looneyville. God willing. 

And perhaps President Biden will finally get his due gratitude for an amazing two years of his first term in office. 


Here on the home away from home front (Bali, that is), I am happy to see the return of Kompas newspaper to the newsstand at Starbucks in Renon--absent ever since the start of COVID these years ago now. I always enjoyed reading Kompas (an Indonesian language newspaper) for the random eerie article that always seemed to be found tucked into the pages, today's example being the story of a family of four found dead in their home in Jakarta. The bodies were discovered after neighbors noted a pervasive unpleasant odor emanating from the home. One neighbor therefore climbed over the locked gate and noted, through a window, a body within the house. The police were called, broke through the gate, then broke through the front door, and discovered four bodies in all, an elderly mother, father, and their two adult children, each in different rooms of the house. It had been reported by neighbors that the family members were rarely seen outside the home during the course of the time they had lived there. Medical examination revealed no sign of foul play. It did reveal however that the people in the house had died at various times over the past two weeks, not all at once. Yet another curious finding was that they had consumed neither food nor drink for an extended period of time, as their stomachs and so on were quite empty. 

A mystery, is it not? With no answer as yet offered. 


At present, I am getting together the money to pay for a 5 year foreign resident permit for Indonesia. In the past, I have always just done a year at a time, but it's quite a pain in the ass actually. Moreover, the five-year permit will be a bit cheaper than the yearly in the long run. The downside is that one has to come up with the full five years payment all at once. But I guess, on a positive note, that I feel pretty sure I will live for another five years. Otherwise it would be a waste of money, right? Not like I could ask for it back were I to expire sooner. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Chopin for Transposed Hands

 I had a dream last night where I was in the house where I grew up, my mother was there in the dream, and I was trying to play a piano piece I played many years ago. It was, I believe, a Chopin Prelude. The trouble is, it was just not working out. I thought I would be able to manage at least part of the piece, but something was just totally wrong. I seemed to have the idea of the thing, but it was not manifesting on the keyboard. Suddenly I realized what the problem was. I was trying to play the left hand part with my right hand and the right hand part with my left hand. Something like that. So I switched hands, or arms, or rotated the piano, or whatever, and the thing sounded a little better. Still not good, but vaguely recognizable. 

So what the heck does this mean? I always wonder what the heck things mean in a dream because I've always believed they're supposed to mean something--or at least I've believed it since college when I studied the psychology texts of Carl G. Jung. The idea is that meaning, wisdom, is arising from the self, making contact with the ego in a sort of coded language, and this should then be interpretable. 

So, what? I'm somehow doing things backwards? Or upside down? Or inside out? Ending up with confusion rather than the well-ordered composition, after the manner of Chopin? And what things? Surely, the things that were on my mind. But what things were on my mind? Jeeze, I don't know.

So it seems that Jung has so far availed me nothing of enlightenment in this case. Maybe the message will suddenly pop into my head, or rather my ego, tomorrow or the next day, if only I can change my right to my left and my left to my right. More probably, however, I will simply forget the dream altogether, thus making room for another dream to forget. Which is, if nothing else, at least a good way of preserving the purity of mystery.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


 Awful lot of rain here in south Bali over the last couple weeks. Major flooding to the point where tourists are being "rescued" from their hotels. Someone may need to build an ark. 

Not really flooding where I am in Sanur. Only problem is that my toilet is acting up. Lol. Strange. When it rains a lot, the toilet will not flush. When it stops raining, the toilet is fine. This is all connected to a septic tank system, and I'm not familiar with those. My girlfriend sent me a couple of articles. Apparently, the septic tank can get full from the rain and unable to handle more water from the toilet. I did not know before this that the septic tank system "cleans" sewage and releases it back into the ground. I thought a septic tank was a totally closed metal receptacle. So it may be that the tank is just not able to handle all the rain, or it may also be that there is some sort of problem with the tank. I dunno. If there is a problem, they'll have to dig the damn thing up, which means breaking through the patio cement and all. Hopefully the situation is not so dire as that. 

I saw videos from nearby Renon where a knee-deep river was running down the street, motorbikes still trying to struggle through, and apparently, water had entered Plaza Renon mall, flooding the ground floor. 

My goodness, this is only the beginning of wet season. Wonder what else might be in store. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Mickey, Roger, Whitey, and Yogi

I've begun to enjoy watching baseball highlights of late, just as I have long enjoyed watching the NFL highlights. Every Monday morning (which would be Sunday night back there in the old country), I watch highlights from all the pro football games. I can't watch the full games, as that would require payment for a special package, but that's probably a good thing because that would have me sitting in front of the TV from sunup to sundown. At least. 

But the astounding thing about tuning in to the baseball highlights is the memory that is touched of watching in the living room of my childhood home with my brother and my father. Dad was a big Yankees fan, and so we were big Yankee fans too, and back then, in the 1960s, the Yankees always won. How wonderful it seems now to have watched Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra and Tony Kubek and Hector Lopez--these legends of the sport. Was I really alive in such a brave time? Yes, I was. And I remember it. I remember collecting the thin cardboard baseball cards, and chewing those thin squares of pink gum which came with the cards and seemed to me at that time what the baseball cards themselves must taste like, were one to chew them. I remember sitting on the floor at the foot of my father's chair, I near one leg, my brother near the other, the smell of my father's pipe tobacco, the smoke drifting between us and rising to the ceiling. It was one of the rare things we did together--I, my brother, and our father. We shared something, a brief camaraderie. We had this together at the height of the baseball season. And we had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and all the rest. We had them too, for a season.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Final January 6th Hearing

 Just got done watching "the final" installment of the January 6th Committee hearings. In fact, it may not be the final hearing, but it is the final hearing before the midterms at any rate. 

Of course, the evidence presented is irrefutable and quite damning indeed. Nonetheless, there are those who feel it is important to hear all of this evidence and that those guilty of insurrection and sedition should be held to account, and there are those who simply don't care. They don't want to hear it. In fact, they have not watched it and their favorite rightwing channels have not televised it. Their minds are made up, evidence or no evidence, hearing or no hearing. They feel that by not caring, they are "owning the libs". 

I see the strangest statements from these folks on Facebook responses. "It was a partisan committee! No Republicans were chosen to participate!" They seem not to have heard that Pelosi invited Republican nominees and merely rejected the unreasonable candidates put forth by the minority leader. McCarthy was perfectly free to nominate more serious candidates but chose not to do so. How have they not heard this? Well, I believe they have, but guess what? They don't care. 

"The hearing was a flop, they say. "Nothing was found!" How so? Well, because they did not listen to the hearing and the findings were not reported by their favorite "news" channels. 

But anyway, as I said, the die is cast. There are those who care and there are those who don't care. It's all pretty dreary, really. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

A Bit of Venting

 My girlfriend, Eveline, was here this last week and we were able to spend seven days (and nights) together. During the last couple days of her stay, her sister also visited and so we got to spend time with her as well. Or rather, I got to spend time with her. Eveline of course sees her on a regular basis back home in Java. Since the weather was rather poor most of the time, we spent much more time in the house than we had during her previous stay and Eveline made use of this time by cooking for me--a rare treat for someone who has been generally cooking the most boring meals possible for the last few years just for simplicity's sake. I used to prepare full meals when I was married and when my stepson lived with us here, but on my own it just seems like a very tedious task, and an unnecessary one. That said, I should have been putting more effort into feeding myself. I started to get more serious about this after I last saw my doctor and got some blood tests that were fairly screwed up. Who knew that eating well can make a difference? Lol. So I had already begun to prepare fresh meats and vegetables and fruits when Eveline came, and then she took over and cooked a number of delicious Indonesian dishes for me. And even froze some of the offerings in little plastic bags so that I could continue to eat well for another week or so. A good woman can make all the difference in the world, right? 

But here's the bad thing about this good woman: her parents suck. 

Here's the situation. Back in central Java, her parents, who own a traditional market, pay Eveline an unusually large salary to work there so that Eveline can pay for her two daughters' college tuition and so on. Essentially, it is the parents who are paying the tuition, and just calling it Eveline's salary. (Were her daughters not in college, Eveline would make a mere fraction of her present salary). Perhaps they do this for tax purposes. I don't know. 

All well and good to this point. Nice parents, right? 


Because when Eveline suggested that she might want to move here to Bali, they answered that if she did so, they would no longer pay for the schooling. She must work at the store, receive the salary, and pay the tuition. 

It's extortion, right? Or something like that. Lol. Quid pro quo? If they are paying for the schooling anyway, what difference does it make whether Eveline is there in Java or working here in Bali? 

To me, it seems a matter of control. And it's not just money. In fact, Eveline must make up a lie whenever she comes here to Bali because her family would consider it a grave and unforgivable sin to be visiting a boyfriend. Horrors! Therefore, she cannot come here often. I last saw her some four months ago, I believe. Instead of being happy that she has found someone to love, they would consider it some sort of betrayal of them and of their own twisted sense of morality. And to be honest, it's not really about morality at all. It's about how they would look to their close-minded, cultish little community. It's not about Eveline. It's about them. What will the neighbors say? 

It's about selfishness. 

Yeah, so, quality time will have to do. The kids are, after all, of the first importance. 

There was some talk about the possibility of me moving to Jogyakarta, but that wouldn't really solve matters. We could see each other a little more often, though she would still have to travel some two hours to the city. Most of the time, though, I'd be stuck in the middle of depressing, repressive central Java with little to do in this sort of landlocked dungeon of a city. Her parents would still not pay for the schooling if she left her little town nor could we spend intimate time together, as such things are actually against the law in Java. Eveline's sister told a chilling story while she was here in Bali. A man and a woman were living together in a house in her neighborhood. One day a nosey, self-appointed morality policewoman came to her door to report this scandal. She was, she said, recruiting the neighbors for an en masse visit to the house of the two sinners. Eveline's sister said, "No thanks, I'm not interested," but the old biddy went ahead and gathered her mob which then descended on the unsuspecting couple. Ultimately, the police were called in as well. Need it be said that the young couple is no longer together? 

Where are we, right? The dark ages? Trapped in a Hawthorne tale? In a Shirley Jackson horror story? 

Good Lord. 

Speaking of whom, did he not say something about he who is without sin casting the first stone? Judge not lest ye be judged? 

Sounds familiar to me, but I guess some have not yet heard the good news. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

They Smile, Therefore I Exist

 I think that I will never be anything other than astounded by the friendliness of people here in Indonesia. I'm walking on the beach this morning and pass a group of teenage males hobnobbing at the side of the path. In America, if my own 55 years of experience is any measure, these boys will say nothing at all, nor even acknowledge an adult passing by. Here I am met by big smiles all around. "Hi, Mister! Hello, Sir!" How very odd, and at the same time how very pleasant this is. 

Again, in the evening, I am headed down to Sanur. I pause on the road to let a large truck pass. There are four men riding atop the cab of the truck. (Not in the cab, atop the cab--which is not something one will see in America either). Again, four toothy smiles, a waving of hands, a chorus of greetings. I suspect that in America this would seem way too "gay" for grown men. But how wonderful it is to see it! 

You cannot pass the people here, on a walkway, on the beach, in a grocery store, wherever, without being acknowledged--and there is something self-affirming in this alone, isn't there? Not only do I exist, but my existence seems to be a pleasant thing, judging by the simple warmth of the smiles. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Never Mind

 I'm really not doing well with keeping up with entries here in the blog, am I. It's not that nothing ever happens. In fact, often I will intend to write something, but then I get interrupted, or merely lazy, or there's something more interesting to watch on Netflix. Thoughts will come to mind, I will be ruminating over them, intending to put them in some kind of order and write them down here, but then they fade away, become superfluous. When you think about it, what isn't superfluous, right? 

I guess one thing that's changed is that I used to have a regular schedule of taking my laptop to Starbucks and just making a habit of writing every day (or nearly every day). But at last, I just decided that Starbucks every day is too expensive when a much cheaper, and actually much better cup of coffee can be had in Sanur at one little cafe or another. 

Another thing that's changed is simply that the typing position now is painful for my neck and shoulders, which indeed I am experiencing as I type this. So that's a bummer. 

Regarding that, btw, I finally went to the doctor (had to because he said he would prescribe again until I did. 

... Well, never mind. I just realized I've already written about this. Lol. 

Perhaps there is nothing to write about after all. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Pain Persists

 The back pain I mentioned three days ago is still alive and well, much to my displeasure. I guess back strains take some time to get better. I think I figured out though how this happened in the first place. I remember now that after the doctor told me about the muscle atrophy in my right arm, I came home and was looking on the internet at exercises that might help this condition. I ended up inventing my own exercise, which was to lean forward at a slant, place my hands on a low tabletop, and push myself up. Like pushups, only when standing. This was apparently an ill-advised exercise, as it was after this that I developed the back pain. 

Well, live and learn. And pay for it with pain. I got something for pain from the doctor, called Tramadol, but this is not helpful at all. Might as well be swallowing Tic-Tac. There are no strong meds here, such as Vicodin, because narcotics are against the law. So you're pretty much up shit creek as far as pain management goes. I did buy some methylprednisolone, which is supposed to help with inflammation, but other than that all I have is Panadol, which is the Indonesian version of aspirin. 

I'm not very much of a happy camper this week. It's always something, ain't it? Especially as one gets older. Can't even walk around the house without spraining your back. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Usual Adventure

 As I've mentioned previously, the last time I got my usual prescription from the neurologist I was told that next time around I would need to make an appointment with him since it had been quite some time since we'd last met. Well, that time came around, the day before yesterday.

My visit with the doctor was interesting, although a bit disheartening. As the reader may recall, I have often complained about the daily pain I have in my neck and shoulder, sometimes extending to the midback. I've never been quite sure what this pain is, but I have noticed that it has gotten generally worse over the last six years (to the best of my recollection, I experienced the onset of these symptoms some six years ago). 

Finding out what has caused this pain is one of those things that are at once a relief and a new stressor. The doctor told me with no hesitation whatsoever, after of course hearing my story and conducting an examination, that this is muscle atrophy from nerve pathways that have been damaged or destroyed in the neck and shoulder--otherwise known as muscle wasting. 

"You may have noticed that your right arm is thinner than your left arm," he said, "particularly the upper arm and shoulder, and that your right hand doesn't function well."

Well yeah, as a matter of fact I had, but I didn't want to think about it. 

"Okay, now I know what it is. What do I do about it?"

I am told that there is nothing that can be done. The muscles are no longer receiving effective messages from the brain, or rather the messages sent from the brain are falling off a cliff midway to the arm.

It's short and sweet. There remains only the matter of paying the bill. 

As I wait in a chair near the cashier's desk, I notice that this is all taking a long time. Then I realize that I've forgotten to tell the doctor that I want the written prescription so that I can take it somewhere, anywhere, other than the hospital, for I had been warned in the past that their prices are far more expensive than those in a little pharmacy. 

Before I can think of how I might remedy this situation, the cashier calls me to her desk. Thoughtfully, as it turns out, they want to inform me of the price before filling the prescription (thoughtful in the self-interested sense that they want to make sure they will receive payment before the med is actually prepared).


The nurse shows me a figure of just over 3 million rupiah. My usual price in the alternative pharmacy is 1.3 million. 

But I am aware that the doctor has written for two medications--the usual med and an added pain med. 

From here some confusion ensues. 

"Three million, you say? How much is each medication?"

"Three million." 

"No, there are two, right? What is the price of the one and of the other?" 

"Three million." 

Good grief. 

"No, no, no. Look, for just the first one, how much?"

"I will have to check." 

"Check what?"

"How much for one month." (The doctor kindly gives me three months at a time, you see). 

Well, this is going nowhere, so I give up. I tell the woman that her price, or rather the hospital's price, is nearly twice that at the nearby pharmacy.

She doesn't seem to understand this either. Not that she cares. Why would she? 

The next, I am off to the blood testing center. The doctor appears to have marked every possible box on the lab request sheet, and to have this done at the hospital would cost--you guessed it--3 million. (They seem to be quite fond of that number). I'm banking on that amount being less at the independent testing center, and indeed it proves to be less, 500.000 less. 

This was to be a fasting blood test, so I had last eaten at 8 o'clock the night before. I got up early, straightaway showered, had a smoke, got dressed, and was on my way to the testing center. Surprisingly, the whole thing went quite smoothly. Didn't have to wait. Just in and out (after about a half dozen tubes of blood were taken, that is) and on my way home, although it would be necessary for me to eat and then return a couple hours after eating for another blood glucose draw.

But for some reason, when I got back home from the first trip, I experienced a sudden pain in my lower back--the sort of pain that keeps you from standing up straight, you know. What in the world had I done? I could think of nothing. God forbid that this is muscle atrophy in the lower back as well! 

Nah, it can't be. That sort of this takes a while to develop, right? 

In any event, whatever it is, it is still present this night as I write this down here. Hopefully a good night's sleep will have a curative effect. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

the end

every day I have remaining

starts and ends with anticipation

the wasted days


one step closer

to the final breaths that stand in our way


is no longer a friend to me

you did not know

you do not know

that heaven

already gnaws at my bones

and eats the days

and makes them small

all is over before it's begun

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Becoming Another Person

 Learning another language is like becoming another person.

     Haruki Murakami

I came across this quote the other day tucked somewhere into my daily scrollings and I found it interesting, for while Murakami has exaggerated somewhat (in my humble opinion), there is an essential truth to the statement. One must not only learn the mechanics of the unfamiliar language but employ them comfortably despite the rebellion in his mind. This is not the way we speak, the mind objects. The words you have employed here are a mere shadow, a suggestion, a hint of what was intended.

When we speak of the world in a foreign tongue, the world itself is altered. We struggle to communicate in the foreign tongue while suppressing our sureness of the way things are supposed to be said. We struggle not only with the plain words but with the plainly absurd manner with which these words are spoken. We put on an accent because we have to, because otherwise the words will not be recognizable to the foreign (or rather the native) ear. And so we become someone else, or at least a playactor for the time being, playing someone we are not. 

And if the language is Indonesian, as it is with my struggle, we are leaving out articles, verb tenses, even the verbs themselves! 

A simple example: I am going to the library, in English, becomes Saya ke perpustakaan in Indonesian--literally, I to library.

I object! says the mind. Why you dolt, you have left out the two verbs and an article!

The brevity of Indonesian, the vagueness, the--what's the word?--clunkiness offends. There are far too few words on my tongue! What happened to the verb, To be (I am)? What happened to the verb used to express movement, I am going?  And when, by the way, did this trip to the library take place? Is it something you've already done (I went to the library), or something you are currently doing (I am going to the library), or something you only intend to do (I will go to the library? We are not told. We are told only I to library.

Now, in general Indonesian relies on context and on assumption. You see a person walking back toward home with a little stack of books beneath his arm, and therefore presume that Saya ke perpustakaan means I went to the library (past tense). Where specificity is required, the language employs a prefix: Saya sudah ke perpustakaan (I went to library already, Saya sedang ke perpustakaan (I am going right now to the library), Saya akan ke perpustakaan (I will go to the library sometime in the future). 

Ah, but do you want more work for your tongue? Take the word for emergency--darurat. Try that on for size. The English tongue does not make this word, right? 

How about this one: ketidaksempurnaan. Imperfection. (It's imperfect, all right). Here, Indonesian has employed a prefix (ke), a negation (tidak), and a suffix (an) to make the base word perfect into the noun imperfection. This is at least similar to the English adjustments made to a base word, but it still seems clunky, somehow artificial. Of course, it is not at all artificial to the person you must become, only to the person you are.

Having (not at all) mastered all this, one is then confronted with that language which common Indonesian people commonly employ, known as bahasa gaul, or nonformal Indonesian. And you will never hear the word ketidaksempurnaan again. We never say that, one will be told, with an added chuckle. We don't talk like that in everyday life  

Hmm. All righty then. Time to become yet another person altogether!

Friday, August 26, 2022

Blue Pants, Not Checkered, But Still Befuddling

 Slipping on a pair of blue pants this morning, I found to my surprise that they were at least three sizes too large. Oh my God! I've lost 20 pounds in my sleep! How can it be? I mean, not that I couldn't stand to lose some weight. I just didn't know it could be so easy. I was actually feeling kind of good about this, searching about for a belt that could be drawn tight enough to secure the waist, but given that the amazing pants fell down around my ankles every time I took a step in one direction or another, I realized that this was not going to work. 

I then remembered another pair of blue pants that I had gotten at the same time as this amazing pair and determined to try those on for comparison. 

Well how about that? They fit just the like any other pair of pants in my closet, blue or otherwise. 

Is there a fat person living in my house without my being aware? Or is there a fat person who comes and goes while I am out somewhere and has left his pants behind on some occasion. 

Don't you just love a mystery? 


For those who don't, it became clear to me after the passage of an absurd amount of time that the ironing service my maid uses had given her someone else's pair of blue pants, who is perhaps even now struggling into a pair of pants three sizes too small for him and wondering how in the world he had gained so much weight in one night!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Cold/Flu/or Whatever

 I've come down with a common illness for the first time in some years. Well, I guess it's common. It feels like a common cold or flu, sore throat, mild cough, stuffed up, fatigue, so far no fever. Could be the latest variant of COVID I suppose, whatever that is, but if so, COVID is nothing more than a flu/cold nowadays. 

That said, it's certainly not pleasant. I'm not sure when the last time I got sick was. A few years ago anyway. So I'm not used to it. Strangely, I spent a young lifetime often being ill, for some reason an easy target for colds and flus. It happened often enough here in Bali too for some years, but then it was gone. Of course I have more than enough unusual problems that keep me feeling unwell, but of the MS/arthritis/who-knows-what sort, not of the common sort. 

So I guess I'm on day three more or less of this thing and digging in for the usual course, which has been at least a week in the past. 

Strangely, the MS symptoms, which had been getting fairly severe recently, compared to the usual, have receded in the face of the cold/flu. Maybe they killed the MS for the time being. Or perhaps gave the immune system something else to concentrate on--something it is actually supposed to concentrate on. I just hope it doesn't overdo things. You know, destroy the village to save the people.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Creatures of the Deep

I was walking on the beach this morning, as I often do. Pantai Karang, which I guess means coral beach. I've never seen any coral there, but of course coral is farther out in the water along with all the alien looking sea creatures, fish with frowning, exaggerated faces, small fish and big fish and bigger fish looking like something one would not want to eat but rather to avoid. Fish of all colors and stripes, rock-grays and unworldly green and golden swirls. I didn't really know these creatures were there until I went snorkeling some years ago, and ever since then I've felt mildly haunted whenever I swim, an eerie sense of these slick, bug-eyed, many finned fantasmagorical vertebrata criss-crossing in the deep below me like pacing tigers.

I don't swim anymore, but that's not the reason. I'm just saying. 

I followed the path at Karang Beach to a point where it branches off to left and right and I took the right branch which leads atop a raised rock causeway over the water itself to a little open hut where fishermen often sit and dangle their lines into the deepening surf. And I thought as I walked away from solid land, What in the world am I doing here? Why am I here? How have I been here so long? Is there not somewhere else I should be?

What is the point? What is my point? What is the point of me? 

I stopped later in Sanur for coffee, and as I came out of the cafe, I noticed four numbers imprinted in the concrete of the walkway. 2009. Obviously, this meant that the concrete had been laid in 2009, thirteen years ago, a year before I came to Bali. And I thought not about that, but suddenly about walking to the end of our block with my brother--when?--1959?--maybe--and seeing in the concrete there, sometime in the century before this one that finds me in Bali, four numbers as well, 1913. Wow, 1913! we exclaimed. So long ago! Even before our father was born. Even before World War I. We may as well have discovered some ancient artifact, preserved over the ages in a concrete curbing on 28th Avenue. Come on, my brother said, let's see if we can find even more! 

Was that the day we saw the double winged plane flying over the neighborhood? I don't remember. But it was yellow, a sort of mustard yellow. I remember that. 

In the afternoon I turned on the TV, looked at the YouTube screen and selected a Three Stooges short that popped up. How did this happen to be on my screen? Not sure. It just was. As I watched, I found myself laughing, and I found myself as well somewhere back in the late 70's. I would stay up late at night in those days because I was writing a novel and then at 1 am I would turn on the TV and watch old Three Stooges shorts. My brother was up late too and sometimes he would call on the phone, 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock in the morning. Hey, you watching the Stooges? Did you see what Moe just did? With the saw or the hammer or the wrench or whatever tool he had just used to assault Curly or Larry. 

Yes, I saw, Gary. 

I'm watching cable TV, a thousand choices, a thousand channels, and I'm seeing something from the late 70's, hearing a voice now permanently stilled, laughing the laugh I laughed in the 70's, albeit with the shaky voice of a 68 year old man. 

Is there not somewhere else I should be? 

Am I not there already? 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Pissing on One's Betters

 To begin with, I will say that I am an enthusiastic fan of Haruki Murakami, author of 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore and many other top notch literary novels as well as short story collections. In fact, I am currently re-reading the 3-volumes of 1Q84 and Killing Commendatore is next in the cue, a novel which I have read before in English and will now read in Indonesian. 

I say all this to impart the impression that I am both intimately acquainted with this author's work and emphatically impressed by most of what I've read. And when I say "most of", I mean that I have read all of this author's fiction titles and found most of them more than satisfying. 

Now then, some time ago I happened to see a Murakami sort of fan site on Facebook and clicked to follow. Most of the posts were simply of book covers in various languages or brief reports on what one or another reader was currently reading. Most recently, however, the novel being featured has been The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and one reader wrote at some length about his disappointment with the experience, stating that for him, honestly, it was a major waste of time. He wondered, somewhat apologetically, whether so many glowing recommendations were due more to the author being Murakami than to the actual value of the work. 

Well, I agreed, more or  less, and replied to this effect. I noted that this novel was a fairly early offering and that although glimmerings of the genius of later works were often  in evidence in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, it was nonetheless far too long for the story it had to tell, unfocussed, and even tedious in some parts.

The reader to whom I had replied expressed his agreement, but then someone else chimed in. Robert by name. Robert seemed an angry sort of fellow--angry at me anyway for having the unmitigated temerity to criticize any work by Haruki Murakami. I had better read someone other than Murakami, he opined, because I was obviously unable to understand and appreciate the material.

I noted in reply that I have read all of Murakami's fiction and that he rates very high among my favorite authors, but that even the best can have a sub par outing. 

This did not go over well with Robert. My comment, he wrote, had merely revealed my own ignorance. 


"All righty then!" I replied. 

Ah but Robert was not done. I had offended him to the core. I had insulted Murakami. It was quite unforgiveable. 

"Pissing on your betters is a sad occupation," Robert wrote in conclusion. 

My goodness. Why is it that people these days cannot manage common civility? Why in the world are they so angry, and so ready to express their anger in such sharp or crass terms to total strangers. I mean, on the one hand I couldn't help but laugh at this man's strangely excessive responses, but on the other I can't help but wonder what in the hell is going on with the world.  

Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Gang

 On my way down to Sanur for coffee this evening I suddenly found myself in the middle of some kind of motorbike gang or motorbike club--all young men, rank upon rank, all wearing black, all riding customized bikes, which means, here, that the mufflers had been removed and the handlebars raised, thin, be-jeaned young woman clinging to waists, flying banners of long black hair in their wake, roaring down the street behind a huge white flag, and me in the midst on my little red scooter. It was jarring, discomfiting, and hilarious as hell all at the same time. 


The house next to mine, long under construction, is finally 'constructed' and it appears I will have new neighbors in the next few days. This is a Balinese man and Russian woman, whom I met briefly at the house blessing ceremony yesterday. The builder, you see, must have his or her house and property blessed. I think it's actually a rule, akin to having the required construction parameters satisfied. A rather long prayer ceremony is involved and many baskets of food and grass and flowers and incense are offered to 'the house gods' (I guess). The neighbors seemed like pleasant people, but I doubt actually that I will see much of them as the door on my street front opens directly into a bathroom (which seems an odd design idea) and the other door is around the corner from my house (as the new house is L-shaped). 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Just a Couple of Tidbits

 On the beach path this morning, out for a bit of exercise after my morning coffee, there was an ancient old woman pushing a cart of fruit. The woman came from behind me and actually passed me on the path. It appears that I'm in worse shape that I thought. 

Walking has indeed become difficult and somehow artificial. By artificial, I mean that it does not feel like normal walking. It feel like I'm on the moon, or perhaps trudging through snow--sluggish, uncertain, laborious. 


We had a little incident on my street last night. Around about 9 o'clock, Lina, the neighbor next to me at the end of the street, began to post video clips from her CCTV camera on the WhatsApp neighborhood group showing three men wandering about in the darkness in front of her house and at the side of her house. Of course, the chat group immediately lit up with concerned comments and then within minutes most of the neighborhood had gathered on the street in front of Lina's house. It was no big deal, as it turned out. These were men from a furniture outlet who had come unwisely after dark to inquire about the house the furniture was to be delivered to (which happens to be the house my ex-wife is building next to mine). They were looking for someone to talk to about the exact location of the house. 

Nonetheless, this got me to thinking. This was what things were like in America when I was very young. There was a sense of community. People watched out for one another. The safety of one was related to the safety of all. Not anymore. Nowadays people don't want to get involved. It is "none of their business". You are on your own. There are many who do not even know the names of their neighbors, as much strangers as some random person who lives somewhere on the far side of town. And that's sad, I think. 

Crime is not high in Bali, and maybe this feeling of community is one of the reasons. It's hard to get away with things. Of course, I have to give credit as well to our neighborhood dog pack, the members of which were already making a monumental fuss in the form of maniacal barking before Lena ever posted the CCTV footage. 


I was surprised today to see my books delivered from Gramedia (discussed in the previous post). To be honest, I was thinking it likely that I would never see them. But Lo and Behold, they showed up in just three days! My goodness, is Bali joining the 21st century? Trustworthy online orders? Reliable deliveries? Or was this just some kind of mistake? ;-)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

1Q84 Repeat

Lately, I have been reading, or rather rereading volume one of Haruki Murakami's three volume novel 1Q84. I had previously read this some years ago, also in Indonesian at that time, but it occurred to me that the novel might feel new and more complete if consumed through the lens of a reading ability that has advanced substantially since that first reading. And I find that it is in fact almost like a new experience when read in a smoother, less interrupted fashion (interrupted in order to look up words, I mean). I find it much more enjoyable and I discover many new interconnected themes and nuances. It did not take long for me to decide that I needed to read the entire three volume work again. 

Problem is, none of the stores I had looked in lately had all three volumes, and in fact by the time I returned to the stores to buy whatever they might have, they had nothing at all. 

I decided therefore to drive out to Galeria today, a fur piece away, and at the very least order volumes two and three. 

I should mention first that this decision was made yesterday and much can change between yesterday and tomorrow. I should have known when I poured hot water instead of milk on my Wheatbix this morning that this would not be a high functioning day for my brain. I should have known when even getting out of my own driveway required three trips back into the house to get things forgotten. Ah but I am forever the optimist, and off I went anyway. 

I found upon arriving at the Gramedia bookstore that they were indeed out of copies of any volume whatsoever of the novel. I was about to say "Oh well" when a young woman approached and asked whether she might help with something. This question ended up sending her on a lengthy search for the books, which she reported apologetically upon returning to be simply nonexistent.  

I picked up a different novel altogether, also by Murakami, and which I had also already read, and headed for the cashier. On reaching the counter, I was intercepted by the same young woman, who came rushing up to say that she had found the books to be available after all from the warehouse and would I like to order them. 

This is where my brain kicked out of gear once again--for as we started the ordering process, I found that I had suddenly forgotten my address, my phone number and the pin number for my credit card. This actually happens often enough, with at least one piece of information at least, and so I have these things written down on my phone's notepad. But it's jarring, you know, and embarrassing. Surely the young woman is thinking Aww, poor old guy

Well, we finally got past all this confusion after I had investigated the details of my own accounts and such-like, and I headed down to the first floor for a coffee before going home, about 400.000 Rupiah poorer than when I had arrived, for I had ordered not only the two books from 1Q84 but also the extra book I had picked up when thinking I would not be able to obtain the other two. 

Lastly, on my trip home, it occurred to me that the journey was taking longer than usual. Strange. Had extra kilometers been somehow added to the route since last time I went. The next thing that struck me is that nothing looked familiar. Thirdly, after puzzling over the oddity of points one and two, I realized that I had driven far beyond the turn to my house. My goodness, I was not even in Sanur anymore! 

Ah well, naptime. The brain makes no mistakes when asleep. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022


 I began to think earlier this week that I ought to go and get my COVID booster shot. I don't know why I suddenly though that, because I had been previously been fairly set against going through this again. But then again, cases have begun to climb once again in Indonesia, apparently leading to a new shutdown in Jakarta. Moreover, a booster shot is being required for air travel in the islands (although it's kinda hard to imagine myself flying anywhere). In any case, by Wednesday, I was suddenly set on getting the booster, and this morning, Thursday, I drove out to Puskesmas to get it. 

Puskesmas in a funny soft of name. I finally looked the thing up today and found that it means public health center (or something like that). The good thing about Puskesmas (as well as some other outlets) is that the shot is free, paid by the government for all residents of Indonesia, including foreign residents. Cool. 

Nonetheless, the adventure was a challenge, as this Puskesmas place is located kind of out in the boonies (if cities can be said to have boonies), and Indonesian language knowledge would surely be required to navigate the procedure. 

I found Puskesmas to be a rather large facility which included a number of buildings with mysterious names and descriptions. Rather than solve this mystery of terminology on my own, I located the first clever looking Bapak I could find and asked him where I was, where I was to go, and so on. He seemed quite helpful, or at least had a pronounced desire to be helpful.

First of all, he said, you are two hours early. 

Oh really. The online announcement had instructed that folks should come to the facility anytime between 8 and 5 or so. I had arrived at 9 am. 

Eleven, the man said. They start at 11. You go to that building there, then bring the paperwork to that building there, then wait till 11 when you will go to that building there again. 

Bapak mau jalan-jalan sedikit, cari makanan gitu?

Did I want to drive around, look for food? 

Well no, not really. I did not want to drive anywhere because I feared I might well get lost and not find my way back to this Puskesmas in the boonies place. However, seeing as how I had two hours (at least), I decided to walk around the area, take some photos and so on. (Walking for me takes a considerable amount of time, even without going very far, so this was sure to cut into that two hours before me). 

When I got back, I asked the same Bapak if he could direct me to a bathroom. He not only directed me, but personally guided me to it. Lol. This turned out to be a closet-like cubby hole arrangement with a toilet that did not look very healthy (for being in a public health facility, I mean). 

I should note that a strange thing about Indonesia is that you can have a large facility and yet no bathrooms to be found. Very curious. I often wonder what the employees in the place do. 

So after this, I sat myself down and soon people began to trickle in. 

Are you here for the booster, I asked a woman. 

Yes, she said. What number do you have? 

Number? I don't know. 

Oh. I have number one. 

Hmmm, that's odd, thought I. I've been here since 9, but somehow she has number 1. Go figure.

Well anyway, the procedure got under way, and it did not involve going to this building then that building then the other building, as the Bapak had suggested. No, it all took place in one building and was actually pretty smooth, which is really quite surprising for Indonesia where the most popular national saying are "Sabar" (be patient) and "Tunggu dulu" (wait). 

So now I'm all vaxed up, folks, and ready to not ever be vaxed again. One hopes the world will not come up with a new disease in the relatively short time I have left here. 

Saturday, July 16, 2022


 I woke this morning to the sound of my son's voice. He said "Hello". Twice. Unmistakable. The tone, the pitch, the unusual inflexion. 

I rolled to my back, sat up in bed. Where? Where are you? Hello. Hello. 

I noted the sound of the darks barking, just outside my door. Everything melted into the sound of the dogs barking. Had I mistaken the sound of a bark for the sound of my son's voice? Surely, as my son has been dead these last three years. 

Had I been dreaming of my son just before waking? 

Or are dogs able to channel the dead, speak for the dead, convey a message, if only of greeting--a message not only from the far side of the world but from faraway heaven. 

Or maybe heaven is not that far away. Anymore. 


Yes, hello. I am here. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Devils Playground

 So as I mentioned, these last two weeks have been a much more active time for me than I am used to, featuring many long beach walks, motorbike trips, other exercise that I won't detail, and culminating finally this last Sunday with a trip to Ubud to see a waterfall with an unpronounceable name at the bottom of countless stairs. How many were there? I don't know. My guess it about 10,000. Anyway, it was quite a challenge for this crippled old man. Thankfully, my companion, who is in excellent physical condition at 49, was patient and helpful beyond the call of duty, often pulling me from above or pushing me from behind. 

Coming from Oregon, a land of grand waterfalls, it is hard for me to understand why people bother to see these mere trickles in Bali, but such is the case, as this particular tourist attraction hosted quite a large crowd on the day of our visit, and I was encouraged to see other people, teenagers even, groaning and huffing and puffing as they gazed up to the top of the long stairways by which they had so easily descended. Not that I enjoy seeing other people suffer, but you know what I mean. 

Ubud itself has become ridiculously crowded, absolutely overrun, such that the streets are in gridlock the day long, cars crawling along inch by inch, motorbikes squeaking along the flanks of the cars (occasionally scratching along the flanks) or trying to use the sidewalks instead while pedestrians cower in doorways. And what is there to see, really? Well, white people, for sure. Yes, it struck me that there were many more white people roaming through the town than Indonesians. Maybe there's a message contained therein.

After the endless stairs to the nameless waterfall, we proceeded to walk around the shopping district in Ubud, by which time I had developed a pretty significant pain in my back along with a flareup of the old sciatica.

While we were having coffee at a little cafe and waiting for my friend's daughters to finish their own trek around town, I got a call from a neighbor in Sanur. Sorry to say, she told me, but you have left Otis (the dog) in your house.

Good Lord--evening now, and since morning Otis has been in the house? 

As I imagined the damage Otis might be doing, I texted the two people who have a key to my house--Louis (my ex-wife) and Nengah (the maid). Happily, I was able to reach Nengah, who helpfully rushed to the house and released the damn dog. For, you see, I did not "leave" him in the house. He snuck back into the house after I made a point of putting him out that morning. That's what he gets. And it's what I get too for not double checking. Upon arriving home, we found that he had torn up the wood at the side of the door and had peed basically all over the room. Thankfully, he did not decide to tear up any of the clothes in my friend's suitcase, which lay open on a low chair. 

So now my friend--or hell, let's just say girlfriend--has gone back to Jogyakarta and I am left to my dull, albeit restful old life. And I'm not even thinking of that stairway anymore. I'm thinking of when I will see her next and of what new escapade she might have in mind. Because, as you know, idle minds, and perhaps idle limbs as well, are the devil's playground. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Center

It has been pleasant having too much to do lately to have time left to listen to the damn American news, which I find keenly irritating and oppressive. How much better it is to wake up next to a woman, admire the honey-hued halo of her hair on the pillow, sense her measured breathing, still sleeping. How much better to quietly converse about nothing over tea than to listen to endless commentary regarding the latest mass mass shooting, the most recent eradication of civil rights so long fought for and painfully won, the newest insult to common decency and civility once taken for granted. The center is not holding, chaos is descending upon the world--but not here in my little house at the end of this sunny lane. Not yet for two days to come, anyway. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Taking a Moment

 I've not had much time to write lately, as my "friend" from Jogya (or thereabouts, actually) has been here at my house this week, and will be here for one more week to come. After some three years without having a woman in the house, it all feels a bit strange. A man gets set in his ways, you know--especially an old man like me. I become magnetically attached, so to speak, to my own daily schedule as well--this is the time I get up in the morning, this is the time I watch the news, this is the time I eat breakfast, this is the time I go out for coffee. And so on. These are the Netflix shows I watch, these are the ones I don't. I don't like run-of-the-mill action/adventure, for instance. I don't like fantasy. I don't like cartoon movies. She does. I like dogs better than I like people, she likes people and tolerates dogs. 

In any case, we have kept ourselves busy, not with doing anything exotic or going very far, but just with hanging out around home and Sanur and the beach (I like swimming, by the way, she doesn't). In Indonesian language it would be said that we are not cocok, a word which might be loosely translated as compatible. And yet we get along well and easily tolerate one another's oddities and habits--and believe me, she has a lot of oddities! Odd compared to me, you know, because I myself am quite normal and everything I do is quite reasonable ;-)

This day (Sunday) she will spend with her two daughters, one of whom has come on this little vacation with her while the other lives in nearby Renon, and so I have been left with some time to jot down these few words here. 

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). 


"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. 


"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?" 


"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.