Sunday, January 30, 2022

January 30, 2022

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

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

When will it all end? 

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

Sunday, January 23, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

Good grief. 

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

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

Sunday, January 9, 2022

An Unexpected Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 6, 2022

January 6, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Where the Light Fell

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

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

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

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

The Vacant Room

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

Now what do you reckon all that means?