Visits

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).

Whew. 

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

unfulfilled

one step closer

to the final breaths that stand in our way

time

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. 

Well! 

"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

Booster

 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

Hello

 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. 

Hello.

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). 

"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.