In Gethsemane: Transcripts of a Journey www.amazon.co.in
These tales are from an enchanted zone that embraces a kaleidoscope of cultures and peoples incestuously woven into the fabric of time, which is frayed by eccentricities and desires and fading in the tropical sun.
In Bali there are two time zones – real time and suspended animation time (also known as the twilight zone). Real or local time shelters the Balinese and their vibrant culture, which fortunately does not form part of the twilight zone.
When the author of this column first arrived in Bali he was unaware that these two time zones existed on the isle. It was only when he was trapped in a watering hole during a thunder storm that he came face to face with strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit the twilight zone. Their incessant chatter, ruffling of feathers and peculiar antics are their chief characteristics.
From the first encounter it has been a captivating journey through many a grim fairy tale.
To understand these quixotic birds and beasts, one must dwell among them in their natural environs to closely observe their daily rituals like flying around on motors with earnest faces and brains sautéed by the sun. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and breath: garlic, turmeric juice, beer, whisky, vodka and clove.
There are certain days in the week when they congregate to gossip, exchange notes on building nests, land prices, football, rugby and baseball. Of course, it goes without saying that events in far off lands are of utmost importance and these are discussed threadbare, argued and sometimes punches are exchanged to press home a point. Curiously most arguments are based on half truths and ignorance which makes it even more entertaining.
Their attire is akin to the homeless walking the streets of some western city.
The mating season of these creatures is year round. It is only interrupted by man made disasters like being ‘caged’ or deported either by the authorities or an irate jilted mate. However, there is no bar on age, color or nationality when it comes to mating. The thin fine line does not exist. In its place is a sensual fluidity that carries all in its path.
But there are precautions to be taken. When I asked a woman what precautions she took, she replied, ‘the pill’. And when I asked a young man why he always dated much older women he replied, “Because they don’t prefer safe sex and are very energetic. They feel that unprotected sex gives them spiritual energy”.
And as for getting work (employment) it has been observed that the prevalent mode draws on the ancient system of barter; work in exchange for food or freebies or in special circumstances, good will. Very often ‘free’ is the operative word. For instance, one can write food reviews and get paid in food that one is reviewing (eating). The result? Instant advertising revenue for the reviewer’s employer because the review is invariably ‘complimentary’ as the satiated writer is required to show his or her gratitude in words.
From work to leisure is just a draught (beer) away; and what better place to partake of decadence than the warung that doubles up as a bar. It is here that the exotic fast dwindling species emerge from the twilight zone to preen their bedraggled feathers and loudly proclaim to all within earshot the importance of being delusional.
Some are ‘retired’ folk, others driftwood and hangers on…hanging desperately onto the hem of a sarong. A few pints down the hatch and all hell breaks loose…existentialism kicks in amidst swear words, verbal diarrhea and melodramatic convulsions.
Recently when I dropped into a southern warung to sample the special of the day, I was greeted by an amiable bloke who introduced himself as Martin.
“You’re from Oz?” I asked.
“Well, I have an Oz passport but am Hawaiian. I just applied for a French passport,” he replied.
Martin told me that he had been to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Bosnia as an AP reporter where he hung out with his ‘mates’. He also enrolled in the University of Oxford but left after two weeks because he got bored. Later on he traveled down the Amazon to shoot anacondas.
Apparently Martin is an invisible scribe who has published one book that is not available at any bookshop or on the net; the title and content can not be divulged by him. He suggested one search it out (like an adolescent on an Easter egg hunt?). He is writing another book. One presumes that this too would be as invisible as the first book.
And now let’s move onto another specimen that travels around on a black monster. From his diction and clothes it appears that he is marooned in a time warp. A myth in the making, he claims he knows everything about weapons. In my opinion he is a kind soul who offers free advice on methods of protecting one’s house from marauding ‘locals’ like – laying land mines in the garden and keeping rottweilers trained to attack the genitals of intruders, uninvited guests and relatives.
But ‘the’ beast in shining armor in the twilight zone is none other than the honorable tattooed singlet wearing gent, a man without a country or wife, who is in a perpetual state of intoxication …intoxication with his own self importance fortified by the water of life. He enforces his ‘final’ verdict on all matters discussed at any table at which he plunks himself. It is whispered that he was in the navy, was a journalist, a businessman. In some circles he is affectionately called, “Do you know who I used to be?”
And then there are the newly arrived incumbents called ‘accidental’ tourists. A story doing the rounds speaks of a scribe from Down Under who arrived to ‘investigate’ these accidental female tourists from Oz who accidentally get knocked up, only to fly home to a generous hand out of five thousand dollars (++) from their government for wearing the badge of single mother; some use this money to return post haste to the twilight zone. The scribe never got beyond the threshold of the hotel room of one particular accidental tourist when she cried, “foul!” which brought a number of cockerels to her rescue. The scribe beat a hasty retreat to reality.
While we are on the subject of birds, has anyone noticed the birds of a different feather who jostle for column space in glossies that portray a lifestyle and manifest a language that exists in the realms of Wonderland? These eager beavers and wannabes throng the pages, falling out of photographs with cleavages and biceps to die for. They write under more than one pseudonym, thus creating multiple personalities, which would give, I am sure, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde an identity crisis.
Just the other day, I met a writer (one book wonder) who ‘reprints’ at his own cost small quantities of his novel and flogs them to seasonal visitors looking for a quickie with the culture. His appetite for martinis is alarming. During our conversation he accosted me with questions about my target audience (readers) as if I were hawking cosmetics or confectionery.
Looking good, talking as if one knows everything and even if one doesn’t know everything, one can always nod intelligently; and dressing the part are essential prerequisites for an artist, writer, poet, film maker, designer, etc. It matters little if the content of one’s work is lacking in originality, passé or insipid, one can always camouflage it with good PR.
The twilight zoners are unforgiving when they see images of reality in print. The offender of the piece is threatened with expulsion to reality. In other words, one is out of the twilight zone…persona non grata.
Finally we come to a village idiot who can be seen trudging up and down the street at all hours wearing shorts in dire need of retirement. He is affectionately called crazy Bob. His mannerisms are reminiscent of John Miles’s role in ‘Ryan’s Daughter’.
Crazy Bob ambushes travel weary customers at warungs and launches in mid-sentence a monologue of past events far removed from coherency and the present continuous. Some attribute this behavior to the fact that, as a child, he could have fallen into a bowl of nuts.
To me crazy Bob is probably the only sane person in the twilight zone for he can deftly navigate between real time and twilight zone time and back in mid-sentence in a blink of an eye. His only passion, it is alleged, is dating grand mothers who are hungry and in need of comfort.
Well I better dash off now as the fantasy express will be leaving shortly for reality. But before I depart here’s a word of advice for all readers: When you visit the twilight zone to frolic or mate with the birds and beasts, keep in mind the validity of your visa to reality. You wouldn’t want it to expire?
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om© Mark Ulyseas, December 28, 2012