Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Accidental Cafe

 I happened today upon a place I had kind of been keeping my eye out for since probably some six months ago. My American neighbor, Jason, had mentioned it to me--a cozy little coffee spot, he said, with great breakfasts, grilled cheese sandwiches, croissants and so on. It sounded like my kind of spot, but I couldn't remember the name, only that it was next door to a florist.

So, stopping today at a dark and dusty little used bookstore where I figured I could unload some of the dusty little books sitting around on my bookshelf, I spied, upon exiting, the aforementioned florist just close by, and yes indeed, the fabled cafe. Moreover, upon entering, I found also the selfsame American friend and his wife. Now how about that! 

Having already had a coffee and a pastry at another spot that morning, I ordered simply a coffee and sat down to visit with Jason and Komang. 

After some small talk about the usual things we small talk about when we pass each other on our street, Jason ventured into the subject of American politics. The dreaded subject bound to come up between Americans, even those living on the far side of the world. 

"How about all this stuff going on in America!" 

"Umm ... stuff?" 

"Well you know all these millions and millions going into Biden's bank account."


"Yeah, haven't you heard?"

"Well ..." 

"I can't believe it. He's a straight up criminal. What the hell is going on in our country?" 

Oh dear. Good Lord. Here we go.

Or not. 

I reckon maybe vagueness is the better part of valor. Or of any political discussion between Americans, anyway. 

And so I say, "Well, yeah, what indeed?"

"Unbelievable," Jason says. "I just saw it on Fox this morning."

That's why it's unbelievable, I want to say, but I say instead "Ah, Fox, yeah. But you know, Jason, these news providers are making it very hard to know what is real these days. Everything is exaggerated, on both sides. Fox says one thing, CNN says the exact opposite. What's the truth? 

Ah, what is truth? The immortal words of Pilate. 

"And I was watching a Tucker Carlson episode--

I snort at this point and politely turn it into a cough.

"--where he's interviewing what's his name--that guy in Hungary--"


"Yeah him. He made a lot of sense, you know? Like what America needs to do to restore itself, to get back on track. Basically, we need Trump back. That's basically what he said." 

Oh dear. Good Lord. 

"Gee, this coffee is good," I comment.

"And in the meantime they keep indicting Trump, just hoping that somehow that one thing will stick if they come up with enough indictments."

You realize that these are all independent courts, right? In several jurisdictions. With both Democratic and Republican judges. Brought before the courts on the unanimous decisions of several grand juries composed of both Democratic and Republican jurors. Wherein the vast majority of witnesses testifying for the prosecution were and will be Republican lawyers and officials in the Trump administration.

These are the things I do not say. 

Luckily two motorbikes crash on the street. Everyone turns to look out the window. Happily, no one is hurt. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Desert Island Music

 I was reading a short story this morning by Haruki Murakami titled "Carnival" from his collection First Person Singular. In the story, a man meets a woman regularly and though they develop no romantic interest in one another, they discover a keen mutual interest in classical music. At one point, the question arises as to which classical piece of music you would want to bring along with you if you were stranded on a deserted island. They arrive at the same answer: a piano composition called Carnival, by Robert Schumann.

When I came home after reading this, I looked up Carnival on YouTube and played the piece, or at least some of the peace. My conclusion was that I would never choose this piece to have with me on a deserted island. Now I suppose that if one had nothing else to do and nothing else to hear in the way of music, this piece would be certainly better than nothing, and though it is a boring piece, to my ear anyway, I suppose that it could become quite entertaining as compared with silence.

That said, however, I determined for myself that when and if I should ever be stranded on a deserted island, I would much rather bring along a piece by Ravel called Scarbo, from his suite Gaspard de la nuit. This is known to be among the most difficult pieces to perform, and indeed so is Schumann's Carnival. But Scarbo is just much more to my taste. Its swift, captivating phrases catch you off guard, its range of rhythms and moods. Moreover, I would insist of the performance of Katie Liu.

It's something to keep in mind just in case. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Snow White

 One of the latest firestorms of outrage from the anti-woke folks on Facebook concerns Disney's latest film version of Snow White, which, though I haven't personally seen the film, would seem to have had the audacity to suggest that a young woman does not necessarily need a handsome prince in order to fulfill her own potential. That's what I gather anyway. Oh, and apparently there are far too many people of color in the movie 🤪 The surprising thing to me is that these people seem blissfully unaware that Snow White is not an original Disney creation. Why have you made these changes to the original? they shriek. Some do seem marginally aware that this tale came from the Grimm's Brothers, and yet all together unaware that the Grimms Brothers got the material from their review of pre-existing folklore. In fact, the Snow White story has been presented in any number of variations over the centuries, each telling being tailored to the attitudes and sensitivities of its time, including the Grimms' retelling of the tale. They do not know that the seven dwarves had no names in the Grimms version and they do not know that in earlier versions the dwarves were not dwarves at all but malnourished children who worked in the mines. There is much these folks do not know, but lack of knowledge does not appear to bother them in the least. Which is actually not surprising.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Little Russia

I read the other day that the town of Canggu, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, is now being called Little Russia, or Little Moscow, this due to the large influx of Russians, and Ukrainians, who have immigrated to Bali since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. My ex-wife tells me as well that part of Ubud, up in the hills to the north, is also now being called Little Russia. Of course, these folks have come because of the war - - the Russians to escape being pressed into military service and the Ukrainians to escape being killed by Russia's random missile attacks on their country.

It is also true that the greatest number of deportations lately have been of Russian nationals. These have been carried out for a number of reasons, from overstaying visas to disregard/disrespect of the culture and figures of authority, such as the police, and downright criminal activities. I'm sure that not all Russians misbehave, but those who do certainly are giving a bad name to Russian immigrants and tourists in general.

Sanur, happily, seems a bit too quiet and tame for the Russian appetite, and I am glad of it. We don't have the popular bars or any nightclubs at all, mostly just older people, like me, and young families. So not much to see, not much to do, I guess. Hopefully things will stay that way. But for those who predicted the death of the tourist industry in Bali after the pandemic, boy were they wrong! Bali is booming.

Thursday, August 10, 2023


 As August has come to south Bali, so has the sun. And it's about time! It's been a weird year, for the full-fledged dry season has come several months late. Of course, if it extends several months longer than usual, that'll be fine, but I doubt whether we will have such luck. Be that as it may, I am enjoying it while I can--sunny days, barely a cloud in the sky, sunny but mild, breezy, the perfect weather, really, as far as I'm concerned anyway. On days such as these, I miss my old practice of swimming in the ocean, but I just don't seem to have the energy anymore. As it is, I content myself with visiting the beach in the morning or evening, or both, chilling at an outdoor cafe with a coffee and a good book, watching others swim, or walk the paths, or ride by on bikes. And sometimes in the evening it can actually get just a tiny bit chilly. In shorts and tee shirt, I mean. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Cigarette Terrorist

 This morning I went to the little cafe just across the way from Bread Basket, where I had had just the day before my unpleasant encounter with the man who likes to pick up another person's burning cigarette and drop it in that person's cup of coffee, and I'll be damned if the same cigarette dunking nitwit didn't show up again! This time he was without his family and stood leaning forward with his hands on the back of a nearby bench, just staring at me. I didn't even notice him at first, engrossed as usual in my book, but finally glanced up to see what the yellow dog who also frequents the cafe was incessantly barking at. What the hell? This guy again? Unbelievable. Does he just roam around terrorizing smokers or what? 🤣 I mean, yesterday was odd, but two days in a row is downright creepy. Well, I shook my head and returned to my book, but I  can tell you I kept a close eye on my cigarette and coffee this time!

Friday, August 4, 2023

No Smoking in the Smoking Area

 First off, the patio out front of Bread Basket cafe is a smoking patio. That's why it is outdoors. That's why there are ashtrays on the tables. 

So, a fat bule and his fat wife are sitting at the table to my left. I am happily reading my book and smoking a cigarette. The fat people finish their breakfast, rise to walk behind me, and as the fat man passes, he reaches over my shoulder, picks up my cigarette from the lip of the ashtray and drops it in my coffee. As he walks away and down the steps, he continually turns to challenge me with his eyes and, I suppose, his morbid obesity. 

I begin to laugh. I light a fresh cigarette. 

Clearly not the kind of people we need in Bali, or, really, anywhere in the world.

I should add that in cases where someone has asked me, more or less politely, to put out my cigarette (and there have been such cases), I have done so without complaint. It's not a big deal. There is, after all, a civil way of interacting with others--although, sadly,  this is more in theory than in practice these days. 

Astounding, isn't it, how one can live among foreign people in a foreign culture for thirteen years and never have a problem until a western tourist shows up at the next table?

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Liberation Day

 I've just finished reading Liberation Day, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, touted as being 'the best short story writer in English'. Umm, no, I don't think so. Sure, a few of the offerings in this collection are well done little pieces--sketches, really, more than short stories--but even these can hardly represent the best writing being done in English. Others, and unfortunately the longer ones in the collection, range from downright bad to downright unreadable. Yes, folks, I was fooled, once again, by the hype. But what can you do? Live and learn, I suppose. And avoid Saunders in the future. I mean Jeeze I'm an old man, I don't have this much time to waste. Nor do I like wasting my money. Pisses me off. So, I have for the time being taken a safe step for the near future and have purchased a history of the Market Garden Campaign of World War II, by Anthony Beevor, a historian with whom I am familiar and can trust for a good read.