Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Gang

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


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

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Just a Couple of Tidbits

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

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


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

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

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


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

Sunday, July 24, 2022

1Q84 Repeat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bapak mau jalan-jalan sedikit, cari makanan gitu?

Did I want to drive around, look for food? 

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, she said. What number do you have? 

Number? I don't know. 

Oh. I have number one. 

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

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

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

Saturday, July 16, 2022


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

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

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

Had I been dreaming of my son just before waking? 

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

Or maybe heaven is not that far away. Anymore. 


Yes, hello. I am here. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Devils Playground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Center

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

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Taking a Moment

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

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

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