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PRACTICAL PARADISE

Sunday, March 2, 2014

4:13PM - The Chicken Next Door

Yesterday, we thought we had found it. The house we had been looking for. A house fairly near my wife's workplace, with two bedrooms big enough to actually be used as bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a back patio for washing and drying laundry and a driveway big enough to park a car in. Gee, were we excited.

But my wife had a reservation. Sharp girl that she is, and one familiar with the life of Indonesia, she had noticed the presence of a café next door to the prospective house, and determined that we should return late at night to see what, if anything, was going on there. It could be a chicken club, she noted. These are the two-legged sort of chickens regularly for sale in Denpasar.

Sure enough. We returned to find the establishment lit up with flashing Christmas lights, booming music pouring from doors and windows, roaring motorbikes in the lot, and about 15 cross-legged women on display in the front of the property. In short, a chicken club.

Now, we don't have anything in particular against chicken, but we do like to sleep during the night. Have to, really.

So nix that one.

Today, we looked at yet another house. It has some of the specifications, lacks others. For instance, on the plus side, it is close to my wife's workplace. On the minus side, the two bedrooms are tiny. It does have a nice outdoor kitchen, and a nice bathroom (by Bali standards). And no chicken. In fact, it would seem to be a quiet, family neighborhood.

So we'll put in our bid and see what happens.

More to come, I'm sure.

Current mood: hopeful

Thursday, February 27, 2014

3:55PM - Cop Stops

The policemen I meet here, at their ritual dragnet stops on the Bypass, generally like me for three reasons. 1) I have a local driver's license, 2) I'm an American and 3) I'm retired.

Polisi: "Oh, local, local!" At this point they generally hold up the license for all to see. "Local! Ini bagus!"

..

Polisi: "Where are you going?"

Me: "Pulang" (going home). I still don't understand why where I'm going matters.

Polisi: "Where are you from?"

Me: "America."

Polisi: "Ah! Obama!"

..

Polisi: "What do you do here? Have business here?"

Me: "No, sudah pension."

Polisi: "Sudah pension!" They generally tell another officer or two. "Hey, sudah pension!"

..

Polisi: "What did you do in America."

Me: "I worked at a hospital."

Polisi: "Ohhhh, orange kaya!" (rich man). "Doctor, ya? Big, big money."

..

I wish.

Current mood: amused

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

7:01PM - The Arrogant Landlord

So, yesterday afternoon, my wife called a guy about a house.

"When can we see it."

"Tomorrow, at noon."

"Noon it is, then."

She arranged for me to meet her at work at around 11:30, and from there we would drive together to the house.

When I showed up at her workplace, she was on the phone with the landlord.

"Bapak, this is Louise. We're coming to see your house now. 12 o'clock, right?"

"Right. See you there."

So, we arrive a bit before 12, and he's not there yet. He's not there at 12:15, either. Or 12:30. Or 1:00.

So we head back to her workplace and stop for lunch along the way.

The man calls while we're eating.

"Where are you?" he says. I'm waiting at the house."

Sigh. This is so typical. It's not really odd at all. It's normal. It's part of the frustrating farce of looking for a house, and a landlord, in Bali. It's known as rubber-time. As a friend of mine points out, it's as if these people believe that other people have nothing in particular to do but stand around and wait on them. He has heard that this is 'part of the culture', and we ought to be sensitive to that. But he's not buying it. And neither I am. What it is is a passive-aggressive disrespect, a homegrown form of arrogance that strikes people as being a badge of merit, showing that they are 'important' people.

But, of course, it's nothing more than annoying.

And so the hunt continues, of course - quite against a current of unreliability, indecisiveness, bad manners, carelessness, laziness and, as I said, arrogance. One month left to find a place.

Current mood: angry

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

7:59AM - More House Hunting & etc.

Predictably, my wife was not able to see the houses she had made appointments to see yesterday, as the owners were suddenly unavailable. This is normal. It is the usual pattern. So she'll try again today. And may well encounter some other roadblock. It is really so typical - I just can't figure out the psychology behind it.

In the meantime, I've been stuck in the house since Friday (today being Tuesday) because my motorbike registration has expired and - you guessed it - there are problems and delays in procuring a new one. Suddenly, the rules seem to have changed. In order, I'm sure, that the costs may increase. Same thing with the Kitas (permit to live here) and Exit Permit. Oddly, it seems that they don't have single exit permits available. Just simply ran out of 'em. Strange, ain't it? Now, all they have is permits for 6 exits. Which - you guessed it - is about 6 times more expensive.

So, this means that I will not be going to Singapore with my wife and son in March. The 6 permits to exit are far more costly than the plane ticket to get there and back.

It is part incompetence, part greed, and 100% annoying.

Current mood: annoyed

Sunday, February 23, 2014

8:53PM - House Hunting

The house search proceeds sluggishly. Yesterday, we looked at two which were equally ridiculous. The first was on a street that looked more like Bangladesh than Bali. It was a two story house, and even though it was advertised as being for rent, the 17 or so people inside didn't look like they were about to go anywhere, nor was their floor-to-ceiling 'stuff'. A train of children, grandmothers and babies followed us throughout our tour. The upper story balcony offered a great view of a mass of thick, just barely rubber coated cables running from the pole at one end of the street to the pole at the other. Shocking.

The second house was a 'villa'. My wife's thought was that we might combine with several friends from work and rent a large place together. Again, however, the place was already filled with people - most young men, in this case - watching multiple TVs, all tuned to different channels. They, too, did not seem ready to go anywhere. Maybe we could split the rent 25 ways?

So, not a good day, yesterday.

Today, however, we actually got to look at a decent place - and there weren't even any people in it, except for the owner, who seemed pleasant during our short meeting. This is a new house, which is certainly a plus - or I imagine so, anyway. There are three bedrooms, a large kitchen and living room, a carport and a gate. One minus is the small, single bathroom. (And I do mean small). Anyway, hope, for the time being, has sprung back to life.

Tomorrow, the wife will look at two more houses - one in Renon and the other in Sanur. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

11:05AM - New Old Journal

Since about 2007, I had been doing a blog on Blogger. Recently, however, something went wrong and I cannot post any entries, nor can I get any help on solving the problem. So, I decided to return to Live Journal. Most of my entries here will be about the ex-pat life in Bali, Indonesia, and probably some about Multiple Sclerosis (which is my disease of choice). I used Live Journal quite often back in 2004 or so, and often wrote either fiction entries or entries about the girl I was in love with at the time (who has since disappeared - no fault of her own. She was a wonderful girl). So ... just an introduction. More to come when I have more time.

Current mood: busy

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2:06PM - GI Joe

Watching the new GI Joe 3D movie last Friday night in a theater packed with Indonesians, many of whom would have been Muslims, struck me in some way as a curious experience. It's an All-American movie, of course, packed chock-full with All-American gung-ho ideas, and yet the audience seemed to connect quite comfortably with the ideologies and the characters. There's the power of Hollywood for you. In fact, despite religion, and despite official high-level distaste for American decadence and bravado, the common Indonesians love us. They love our violence, our guns, our technology, our irreverence, our opulence, our fantasy and our beautiful male and female stars. They identify with and honor the mythos without being a natural part of it. It is clear from all that crosses the big screen that Americans are strong and courageous, justified, predestined - a chosen race embued with with every coveted characteristic. Ah, to be an American!

The Hollywood movie may very well be the victorious politic of the future. They represent, for their largeness, for their color and sound, for their special effects and cliffhanger thrills, a fullness of practically irresitible propaganda that no single person or speech or policy could ever match.

Indonesians love everything American - and everything that think, insist, is American. Money, possessions, bright lights and glitter, rap music, rebellion, profanity, vulgarity, power, affluence, sex and adultery, diamonds, big cars, automatic weapons, nuclear missiles, and women with soap-white skin.

"I love America," they tell me. "I want to go there someday. Everything is clean there, and big, and easy, and everyone has so much money."

Nor are they deterred by my poor example -- for their dream, like the Hollywood movie, is bigger by far than life.

Current mood: contemplative

11:23AM - Puppy Love

We find ourselves with another puppy. This seems to happen on the average twice a year or so. In this case, we know where the dog comes from and to whom it belongs. It is his owners who seem to have forgotten. Having left our village a couple days ago for Kuningan celebrations, they have not yet returned, and so the puppy, using his own brain in what seems a more astute manner, has made itself at home at our house, just across the street from that of its absent owners. He's a cute little fellow -- milk white, except for various grey smudges of dust, and smart as a whip. He has not been long at all in the world, is still learning to focus with his eyes and walk a consistently straight line, but he picks up on things fast -- like where the food is kept, which room has the most stuff that looks like it could be used as a toy, the sounds of voices and who they are attached to, and so on. He even makes a fine attempt to stand on his hind legs for bits of chicken or cookies. What the owners thought the dog was going to do (or eat) whilst they were gone, I do not know. He started out with crying, loudly and at great length, until he discovered that he could squeeze himself under their fence, and now has not complained since. He is happy, as are we all (or at least should be) with friends and simple sustenance.

Current mood: calm

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2:51PM - Book

Read my book on living with MS and life in general at http://www.createspace.com/3963326

Sunday, May 20, 2012

4:51PM - At Home

I dreamed and you were
home again
home, where you had
never been
and lay with me
upon the bed
and said things you had
never said
while night-time looked both ways
and sighed
to see us lying
side by side
Such games do want and
absence play
to sooth the lonely dark
away

Saturday, May 12, 2012

10:25AM - A Fly in the Ointment

A FLY IN THE OINTMENT

One of the best things about Bali is that there are no horseflies here. Not as far as I’ve seen anyway. It strikes me that this may also be the case in locales other than Bali, and so I should preface any further remarks with a description of the horsefly and why its general absence is to be preferred, such that the otherwise happily ignorant reader will understand what I’m on about.

The horsefly is a special sort of fly, in the order Diptera, family Tabanidae. It is, according to Wikipedia, the world’s largest “true” fly. Whether this means that there are other bugs flying around that only pretend to be authentic flies, or whether something is conveyed herein about some basic sincerity in the character of the genuine horsefly, I am not sure. For all I know, there may be pompous flies among us who, like government ministers for instance, make a lot of noise but are bereft of legitimacy, and there may be honest-to-God flies of integrity and honour, not to be mistaken for blowhards and pretenders, lest you discount their presence and feel their sting.

But I wander.

The horsefly -- which, by the way, does not proceed from a horse -- is known to be extremely noisy during flight -- rather like a flying horse might be. This was the case also with the World War II era Stuka dive bomber. The Stuka’s noise was intentional. The plane was built that way. The object was to strike terror into people on the ground. In like manner, as I suspect, the noise of the horsefly is also intentional, designed to terrorise, confuse and demoralize its targets whilst diving to inflict the actual sting. We should say, so as to avoid putting the cart before the horse, that the Stuka must have come after the fly, and that it is the fly that should be credited with the original concept.

How often indeed are we humans, like the counterfeit fly, found to be merely pretentious. The Blackhawk helicopter, for example, is not at hawk, but merely named after the hawk. A phantom jet fighter is not a phantom, and in fact is anything but a phantom. The horsefly on the other hand is what it is, and has proven itself quite inimitable. There is no helicopter, no plane, no rocket, no missile named after the dreaded horsefly. Not to date, anyway. And God forbid that there ever shall be. The fly itself is perfectly sufficient.

When I was a boy I spent every summer with my family in the high Cascades of Oregon, where we would hike and swim and fish and play. They were wonderful times, those summers, almost idyllic. But for the horsefly. For the horsefly itself spent its summers there too, and seemed ever committed, with unmatchable fervour, to attending our every activity. Whether we were swimming or fishing or sunbathing or climbing, the horsefly was there as well, harassing, pestering, injecting vexation to our every pursuit, the proverbial snake in our garden of simple contentment. Why, I wondered? We were not horses, after all; nor did we bother the private peace of the fly. And yet the thing came loudly buzzing, circling the head, crawling on the neck, landing on the naked back at that exact point which cannot be reached by the hand. It was the closest thing I knew, as a boy, to evil -- that which terrorizes and harms without reason.

I learn however, in these more tolerant years, through the employment of the modern magic of the internet, that the hated horsefly, so long thought merely malevolent and unreasoning, does in fact have a purpose in mind. It is the female of the species which bites animal flesh in order to extract a ‘blood meal’ before she can lay her eggs. Whether the male does not bite at all, or bites just for the hell of it, I cannot find. But in any case, in order to lay eggs and thus produce further swarms of noisome bugs, the female horsefly must have blood. There seems to be something of essential meaning in this, although I cannot quite put my finger on what it is. And though this elucidation of reproductive habits does not fill me with new compassion for the horsefly, an understanding is yet imparted, and a faith in a reasoning creation renewed. Moreover, a certain encouragement and sense of thankfulness attains, given that like bloodletting is not needful in the human female. I don’t say that it doesn’t happen, merely that it is not required.

I have said that there are no horseflies in Bali, but I should amend that I do not know this for a fact. Perhaps it is too hot for them, perhaps too oceanic; and yet it seems just possible that if I were to go looking for horses I might find also a horsefly or two. And perhaps in an equitably measured dose some nostalgic pleasure might arise in the sight -- for the bad has a way of remembering the good, and the good the bad, being both so inextricably entwined in the fabric of this worldly life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

8:25AM - Cow Sex

REGARDING THAT COW

I had other things to write about, really -- in fact a train of things, lined up like boxcars, each packed with its own particular load of goods -- but then along comes this story about sex with cows, as reported in the most recent edition of The Bali Times, and I can’t get the thing out of my mind. Just when the thieving pig, otherwise known as Babi Ngepet, described in the same paper perhaps a year ago, was beginning to lose his novelty, and thus his boorish grip on my daily thoughts, this preposterous bovine tale appears, and my mind lumbers off on the back of the creature, helpless to resume its own way.

But let’s recap first and touch on the salient facts of the matter.

“The incident came to light,” our article tells us, “on September 22nd, when the daughter of the owner of the cow allegedly caught a married local man having sex with the animal in a field.” This, therefore, was not only perversion, but adultery, and would need to be addressed by a ceremony of purification. I’m not sure if both sins were to be covered in the ceremony, or just the one specific to the cow.

A meeting of local traditional leaders and religious figures was immediately called to discuss the matter.
Attending also was a psychiatrist -- a modern touch for an age-old calamity. What to do?

You see, incidents such as this are not unheard of in Bali. In fact, this sort of human and cow hanky-panky has been a recurring problem on the island. In a similar case last year a young man was forced to marry a cow after having sex with it. Pertaining to the case at hand, however, the guilty man, as assessed by the psychiatrist, was already depressed, and so it was felt that marriage would only make things worse.

Now, there is an extenuating factor at play in this otherwise unacceptable romance of beast and man which should be mentioned, lest we conclude the man to be totally bereft of common decency (although we cannot speak for the cow). To whit, the cow had in all cases, by some magic, managed to turn into a beautiful girl. This is strange not only in itself, but also for the fact that such transformations seem more often to work the other way around. In any case, wonderful in its own way is the fact that in Bali, a land of magic and superstition, one can make a claim such as this and be taken seriously.

There was music the man is rumoured to have said, and beauty, and flowers, and bells, and a peaceful field of green-green grass, where a curvaceous maiden, a new blooming bud, beckoned him to come thence and enter with her to the heart of bliss.

The psychiatrist in the case is noted to have said that the man might have mental problems.

And yet we have heard of the Sirens, have we not? And of mermaids and of witchery and of the beautiful and monstrous Medusa -- those ancient, inhuman seductresses who lured sailors to shipwreck and captivity with enchanting voice and song.

“Well, I think I’m goin’ out of my head.
Yes I think I’m goin’ out of my head,
Over you . . .
Moo, moo, mooo-moooo.”

Well, it’s just not quite the same thing, is it?

How does this happen, one certainly wonders -- and not only in the moral sense, but in the anatomical as well. For the largest of men is still rather small as compared to the enormity in the least of cows Did the cow seem a human girl throughout the entire episode, or did the man at some point become sober and realize his mistake? And are men alone afflicted in this perversion, or are women liable also, and saved merely by impracticability?

So many questions, so few answers -- and that’s the hell of the thing. It besieges the mind, tormenting through a repellent dissonance of imagery and inquiry. It’s a puzzle that resists its own picture. We struggle to know, yet can hardly guess; and so we are lost in the redundant folds of the enigma -- until the next interesting animal comes along, anyway.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

6:42PM - Words from the Less Than Wise

Concurrent with the worldwide outpouring of sober remembrance and renewed sympathy on the recent ten year anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks on America came also some rather zany viewpoints from various corners of the globe.

From Malaysia, for instance, comes the notion that the collapse of the two towers of the World Trade Center could not possibly have been caused by the explosive collision of two enormous, fuel-filled jetliners. No. There must have been something else, something more reliably destructive behind the actual event.

Now whether this Malaysian source has some intimate experience with the effect caused by fuel-filled jetliners colliding with tall buildings, I do not know. He did not mention any such knowledge, but I suppose this could have been a personal oversight, or perhaps a copy-reading or printing error. Suffice it to say that the man has been convinced, ever since that fateful day (or so he says), that two enormous jetliners filled almost to the top with jet fuel could not have quite the destructive effect that we saw on 9/11.

There must have been something else.

His theory? Why, that the building had been previously set up for demolition, just as you see when old buildings are demolished to make way for new ones. Of course, for this to happen certain appropriate authorities had to have been aware beforehand so that the thing would go off well, and moreover would appear to be the result of two jetliners flying into the buildings. Who were these authorities? Well, shadowy people for sure, dishonest, manipulative, quite necessarily evil people who wanted to manufacture a reason for the United States to attack Afghanistan, and later Iraq. Obviously this could not possibly have been accomplished without a preceding terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. And on the Pentagon. And on farmland in Pennsylvania.

Golly, even former President George W. Bush could have been involved. Very likely was. And our Malaysian source says as much.

For my own part, I must admit to being unclear on a few points of this theory. Why, for instance, was it deemed necessary (by the President and his co-conspirators) for the towers to be all the way flat? Would not the death and destruction caused by the planes have been sufficient? And what about the multiple truck-sized bundles of explosives and miles of fusing and wiring that attend demotions such as these? How were these kept from the view of janitors, engineers, electricians, policemen, firemen, and pedestrians, not to mention the thousands of employees in the World Trade Center?

Oh, and if it was really President Bush who was behind this terrorist attack, why did Osama bin Laden take credit for the thing?

I just don’t get it.

Frankly, I suspect that a more revealing investigation, and one that might arrive at more useful conclusions, would be an inquiry into the psychology of the fanciful notions we so often see applied to real life events. What is behind it? Is it misplaced guilt? Is it selective blindness? Is it an aversion, either willful or pathologic, to the simple truth?

Moving on.

It has been suggested from other quarters that God Himself was behind the destruction on 9/11 and meant it as a punishment for the imperialist, morally bankrupt American nation. That’ll show ‘em. But again, I would have to wonder why God would choose those particular 3000 for the death sentence. Was there something about that collection of 3000 individuals that was particularly indicative of American imperialism and moral bankruptcy? The method seems kind of random and unfair--two qualities that I find hard to ascribe to God.

Let us finish then with a piece of humour from Al-Qaeda itself. In a message on September 11th, Al-Qaeda’s new leader sought to claim credit for the recent events of the Arab Spring. This was accomplished by “striking the head of the world criminal,” he said, forcing America to press Arab countries to rise up against tyranny and godlessness.

This of course is so convoluted, so obtuse, and so insincere that’s its not only meaningless, it’s laughable.

The Arab Spring has been the work of young peaceful protestors seeking democratic freedoms. In this they have risen, and continue to rise; whereas Al-Qaeda is all but flat on the ground.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

8:23PM - A Masquerade of Madness in the Land of Amity

By and large, my impression of the Indonesian people in general, and of the Balinese people in particular, as imparted after two years of residence here, is of a people friendly almost to a fault--although only a Westerner, jaded and cranky as we are, could find fault in such a happy circumstance, seeming as it does not altogether prudent or quite adult.

But here are a people--though again in my somewhat limited, short-term experience--ever willing toward kindness and tolerance, intensely polite, simply agreeable. Here is a people who love to smile, even in the face of less than perfect circumstances--the near “accident” on the Bypass, for instance, when one is passed on the right while himself actually, and legally, and cautiously trying to turn right. This of course would be in the West, at the very least, sufficient cause for a lashing of carefully chosen curses.

It happens, and by old habit, that the words are already on the uncivil tongue, rising to that member volcanically with the heat of instant anger. It’s a knee-jerk response, and it’s easy. Strangely, it seems almost natural.

But what is this? The offender has flashed a toothy smile! His eyes are actually sparkling!

“Sorry, sorry,” he calls out cheerfully as he proceeds on his way.

What can you do? Kindness, like music, soothes the savage beast.

It may be, and sadly so, that we in the West have lost something of the communal spirit, and that simple tolerance, for all the pseudo-enlightened lip service given to lofty notions of political correctness, has long since slipped our archetypal grip.

Nonetheless, I am convinced that common people the world over--me and you and them as well--are inclined on the most basic level to be friendly and kind. It is when you transition from the general to the particular that you begin to get into trouble--when you enter the land of the special cause, the religious extremist, the political slogan, the shrill alarm. Here is where you find the haters. These are the folks who get into print, who hold the megaphones, who carry the signs. Here is the person, as Mark Twain said, who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.

And yet we listen. Or some of us do. And why? Is it only because of the volume? Is it because hatefulness in its own way, at some sad and degraded level of the human psyche, is simpler yet than simplicity itself?

We read in the Jakarta Post, for instance, that the vast nation of America is merely a puppet of the miniscule state of Israel. Is this not manifestly incredible? We read in another paper that Osama bin Laden “supposedly instigated and funded” terrorism. Supposedly? Really? We read of a 17 year old girl in Denpasar who has been found “partly responsible” for her rape at the hands of a tenant in the house because she forgot to lock her bedroom door. From Aceh comes the news that lesbians will henceforth be beheaded if caught in their transgression. “We are actually allowed by our religion to kill them,” said a district police chief. Good God.

Does this not bring for the better part of us an acute feeling of disbelief and disorientation--rather as if one had fallen off a skyscraper and landed on his head?

What? Where am I? What happened?

When something sounds wrong, sounds foolish, sounds unbelievable, it’s because it is.

These are the things that are truly aberrant--this masquerade of madness disguised as reason. This is where the unfeigned smile fails and compassion falls to the totems of fanatic prejudice and ignorance. In truth, one only needs meet a man to befriend a man. It is, as I said and still believe, the most natural thing in the world. And it is, despite those few shrill voices, the natural treasure of Indonesia.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

3:46PM - A National Treasure

By and large, my impression of the Indonesian people in general, and of the Balinese people in particular, as imparted after two years of residence here, is of a people friendly almost to a fault--although only a Westerner, jaded and cranky as we are, could find fault in such a happy circumstance, seeming as it does not altogether prudent or quite adult.

But here are a people--though again in my somewhat limited, short-term experience--ever willing toward kindness and tolerance, intensely polite, simply agreeable. Here is a people who love to smile, even in the face of less than perfect circumstances--the near “accident” on the Bypass, for instance, when one is passed on the right while himself actually, and legally, and cautiously trying to turn right. This of course would be in the West, at the very least, sufficient cause for a lashing of carefully chosen curses, or for an incident of road rage, wherein one or both parties would receive the actual injuries, via fisticuffs or baseball bats and tire irons, that had only theretofore been potential.

It happens, and by old habit, that the words are already on the uncivil tongue, rising to that member volcanically with the heat of instant anger. It’s a knee-jerk response, and it’s easy. Strangely, it seems almost natural.

But what is this? The offender has flashed a toothy smile! His eyes are actually sparkling!

“Sorry, sorry,” he calls out cheerfully as he proceeds on his way.

What can you do? Kindness, like music, soothes the savage beast.

It may be, and sadly so, that we in the West have lost something of the communal spirit, and that simple tolerance, for all the pseudo-enlightened lip service given to lofty notions of political correctness, has long since slipped our archetypal grip.

Nonetheless, I am convinced that common people the world over--me and you and them as well--are inclined on the most basic level to be friendly and kind. It is when you transition from the general to the particular that you begin to get into trouble--when you enter the land of the special cause, the religious extremist, the political slogan, the shrill alarm. Here is where you find the haters. These are the folks who get into print, who hold the megaphones, who carry the signs. Here is the person, as Mark Twain said, who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.

And yet we listen. Or some of us do. And why? Is it only because of the volume? Is it because hatefulness is in its own way, at some sad and degraded level of the human psyche, simpler even than simplicity itself?

We read in the Jakarta Post, for instance, that America is merely a puppet of Israel. Is this not manifestly incredible? We read in another paper that Osama bin Laden “supposedly instigated and funded” terrorism. Supposedly? Really? We read of a 17 year old girl in Denpasar who has been found “partly responsible” for her rape at the hands of a tenant in the house because she forgot to lock her bedroom door. From Aceh comes the news that lesbians will henceforth be beheaded for their transgression.

Does this not bring for the better part of us an acute feeling of disbelief and disorientation--rather as if one had fallen off a tall building and landed on his head?

What? Where am I? What happened?

Well, I hope it does--for these are the things that are truly aberrant. This is where the unfeigned smile fails and compassion falls to the totems of fanatic prejudice and ignorance. In truth, one only needs meet a man to befriend a man. It is, as I said and still believe, the most natural thing in the world. And it is, despite those few shrill voices, the natural treasure of Indonesia.

Monday, August 29, 2011

5:35PM - Searching for Paradise

Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes (to which Mark Twain added “and children”). I don’t know about contempt. But certainly it brings a dulling of the edge, both of ones own perceptions and attitudes, and of the “character” of the place one finds oneself in--yes, that same place that had at first seemed endlessly exotic and new. In short, the longer one is in paradise, the more it begins to seem like Dayton, Ohio. Nothing against you Daytonians or your community intended. I could just as easily have said Phoenix, Arizona or Boise, Idaho, or indeed Portland, Oregon, my own home town. Dayton just sounded funnier--an evocation of that Midwest sort of sleepy-sameness that infects the familiar in general--where, as Paul Simon songfully said:

“Everyday is an endless dream of cigarettes and magazines,
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories,
And every stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be
Homeward bound . . . .”

I remember a time when my younger daughter was just graduating from high school, and was sick to death of “boring ass” Portland, Oregon. There was a big, wonderful world to be discovered outside our dreary city limits--sights and sounds and people and places, Emerald Cities which beckoned with promise.

Philosophically, I counselled that essentially “All the world is a stage,” and “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” I told her that every day is an endless dream of cigarettes and magazines. And so on.

What a fun dad, right?

Well, she decided forthwith on Seattle, Washington--that soggy yet luminous jewel of the West. And then on Atlanta, Georgia. Then on Washington DC. Then on Los Angeles, California. Then on New York City.

She lives now in boring-ass San Francisco, where the golden sun will shine on her (on those rare occasions when it breaks through the fog). She is older now, she is married, and will likely soon produce a brood of children.

Ah brave new world.

And so I tempt her in my old age with Bali--with the idea that paradise really did, and still does exist--knowing full well that this in the end is as much a lie as Los Angeles (the city of angels) or Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love). Why? Because she herself is paradise. She, my children, my wife, my friends. And so I use her old dreams for trickery. Because I am selfish. Because I want to see her again, to touch her, to hear her voice. E-mail and text messages just don’t cut it.

I admit it. I revel is glowing portrayals of what appears to be my happy circumstance--writing home, posting pictures on Facebook--the swaying palms, the silver surf, royal feasts, costume festivals, girls in bikinis, sexy dancers! The responses I receive fortify my glad delusions. “So beautiful! So exciting! You’re really living the life!”

I can’t bear for them to learn that it’s just Dayton, after all.

The fact is, paradise comes in small doses--which are yet large for their momentary savour. Moreover, it is sprinkled liberally throughout the earth--from Bali to Singapore, Congo to Paris. And Dayton, Ohio as well.

This is paradise: A Friday afternoon. They are launching kites at Padang Galak. They come in trucks. They spill out on the sand, setting it alight with their kites, their clothing, their laughter. And down by the sea some young men make a sculpture, their amazing artfulness producing a shapely black woman, every inch of her winking back at the sun, round buttocks raised in lush love-making to an invisible male just beneath the carpet of the endless sand. Three girls pass by, and look back as they pass, and say Hi!, and giggle, and say Hi again.

There is it, just going by. Paradise after all. Catch it if you can.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

8:40PM - Peeking In

Not been here for a good long time. I suppose this is partly because I have had trouble loading the page, and also because I forgot my password. Now, however, I have remembered it, and it turns out to be the same one I always use everywhere. I do have fond memories of Livejournal. Used to have a number of good friends here. Onein particular, of course. You know who you are. If you hear me, say hi, okay?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

12:52PM - This is the House

This is the house
that is not full
the rooms of which
are quiet and dull
So much of life
passed here once
of laughter and secrets
and love
now locked within
the paintless walls
and hushed to death
in silent halls
This is the house
where once we lived
and dreamed of home's
eternal bliss

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5:26PM - I See It All

From my chair
I see it all
I see it all
ongoing
from the palm fronds
waving
at sapphire morning
to the unfinished painting
propped by the wall
and the hidden rat
with night black mane
who jets
from secreting canvas home
to the folded feet
of the stonework Buddha
poised at the foot
of the waterfall
I see it all
I see it all
from the yellow glow
of the Balinese jaw
to the flame of the candle
in my wife’s Asian eye
which misses nothing
for captivity there
what better place
for my heart to dwell
than the broken stones
that make the road
or the hammered mosaic
tattooed in the wall
yes my love I see it all
and walk where I would
and where I will
and walk from my chair
to the smoldering hill
to taste perchance
what no one else can
the nectar of fire
the flowing land

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2:29PM - On The Beach

Maybe midnight--
the wind on the beach
picks up the white
from the tops of the breakers
and makes it feel like rain
or a cool dew
that falls from the stars--
And I cannot decide
what is more beautiful
The ocean
or her eyes

Current mood: peaceful

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