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. 

Friday, June 17, 2022


 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?"


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?"


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?"



"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


 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. 


"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.




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

"Ya, 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.