Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bah, Humbug!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Another Day in the Same Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

--A Tale of Two Cities

Bye, 2022.

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Day in the Life

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

Upon arriving, I was given ticket number 193. 

Number 60 had just been called.

Oh good Lord. 

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

What then? 

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

So much for the phone. 

"Number 62," the loudspeaker barked. 

Great! Only 131 left to go. 

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

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

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

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

"Yes! That's it!"

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


"Why are you in Bali?"

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

"Retirement?" the office offered helpfully. 

"Yes!" Whew. 

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

Until next time. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Day

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

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

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

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

First stop: Coffee! 

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

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

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

I did not get very far. 

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve as Ever it Were

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Island Where Xmas Never Came

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

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Super-Loser Trump

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


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

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Criminalization of Sexual Intercourse

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

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

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

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

That's called 'progress' in Indonesia. 

Saturday, December 3, 2022


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

Woe is me. 

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

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

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