This is only
an alert. Right?
by Mad Dog
American tourists to maintain a low profile is like thinking
you’ll wake up tomorrow morning to discover there’s actually a
good choice for president. Good luck.
There’s nothing like being in another country and getting
an official government email that says, “The
Department of State is extremely concerned about the possibility for
violent actions against United States citizens.” Sure some
American sailors were killed by terrorists in Yemen, but is that any
reason to try to get my sarong in a knot? I mean, let’s think
about this: On the one hand we have armed representatives of an
imperialistic bullying military-industrial complex hanging around
the explosive Middle East on a Navy destroyer. On the other we have
a writer in Bali, an island where the last known student
demonstration was described as “a small street party.” Is it any
wonder I’m sleeping well at night?
But it’s nice that the
State Department is concerned about me. “Americans should maintain
a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and
treat mail from unfamiliar sources with suspicion” they wrote. Now
this is just plain silly.
First, expecting American
tourists to maintain a low profile is like thinking you’ll wake up
tomorrow morning to discover there’s actually a good choice for
president. Asking Americans to vary their routes and times is
equally absurd. Right, like we should expect the packaged tour
company to change a schedule that’s already tighter than a
nun’s, well, habit just in case some terrorists decide today’s
target is Walter and Madge Anderson of Dubuque, Iowa, a couple who
don’t remember what country they’re in and are chronically upset
because none of their guidebooks give the translation for chicken
fried steak. And face it, we’re Americans, we’re used to
treating mail from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unless, of
course, it’s from Ed McMahon and says “You may be a winner!”
For some reason we don’t think that’s suspicious at all.
At some Internet cafes they have
offerings sitting next to each computer. I don’t know if this is
in lieu of a service contract or extended warranty, but I’ve seen
very few computers out of order so it might just work.
||This isn’t the first
time this has happened to me. A year and a half ago I was in France
when we bombed Kosovo (see: A Mad Dog in
Bretagne). I was only a couple of countries away yet it might as
well have been on the other side of the world. I remained oblivious.
It wasn’t by choice, it was because I couldn’t find an English
language newspaper less than four days old, the only radio station I
could understand, the BBC on Jersey, was more interested in the
closing price of nasturtium futures than bombing raids, and the one
time I saw International CNN I got the distinct feeling that they
knew less about the situation than I did. It gave new meaning to the
phrase “negative news.”
I definitely feel safe here on Bali. How could you not with so many
shrines everywhere? There are four cottages in this compound and
each has its own shrine, plus the main one for the compound.
Kadek’s sister Kadek—God, I still love saying that!—comes by
each evening to place offerings at the shrines. She also leaves them
on the sidewalk, railings, porches, road, steps, and this morning
(True Story!) on the seat of my motorbike. This isn’t a personal
quirk of hers, it happens all over the island. Every home, store,
and car has an offering. I bet if I fell asleep in the chair on my
porch I’d wake up with one on my lap. It’s actually very
comforting. And makes me feel secure. It also makes me realize I
could make a killing if I opened Offerings-R-Us™ complete with
daily delivery service. I know it would be a hit. Who could resist
with Geoffrey Gecko as our mascot?
At some Internet cafes they
have offerings sitting next to each computer. I don’t know if this
is in lieu of a service contract or extended warranty, but I’ve
seen very few computers out of order so it might just work. I’m in
the process of photographing some of the nicer ones. Think of the
money they’ll save when they buy Mad Dog’s Virtual Offering
Screensaver once instead of having to shell out for fresh ones every
I’m not any more well informed here than I was in France. I
get my daily email news headlines—well, during the week anyway. I
guess they assume nothing important ever happens on the weekend.
Either that or they figure we all have enough of a headache from our
hangover and don’t need to make it any worse. I pick up the International
Herald Tribune a couple of times a week. One day I even bought
an Asian edition of USA Today from a guy on the street and it
was only one day old. And unread. I think. Even if it wasn’t at
least they were nice enough not to have done the crossword puzzle.
Chinese show in Indonesian reminds me of when I was in Paris and saw
The Cosby Show in German. Except Bill Cosby shaves, only has
two eyes, and can’t fly. Come to think of it, what’s the big
deal about him anyway?
don’t see much TV, but even if I did there’s only one English
language newscast and that’s at 6 o’clock. Or so they tell me.
So far I’ve seen Asian MTV which is pretty much the end of music
as we know it. I’ve seen bits and pieces of American movies I
never heard of, featuring casts devoid of a single familiar name,
plot, or anything resembling good acting, yet for some unknown
reason they’ve actually bothered to subtitle it in Indonesian.
Could it be because they’re, uh, dirt cheap? The other night I saw
a few minutes of one and a character called another a “fucker.”
It happened too quickly to ask Kadek how they translated it, but for
a country that will arrest you if you even think about sneaking porn
past customs the censors sure are pretty lax.
The best show is easily Kera Sakti. It’s a Chinese
action/fantasy/martial arts series that’s dubbed into Indonesian.
It’s incredibly popular. I was in a warung the other
night—a roadside food stand—and everyone had their eyes glued to
it. And why shouldn’t they, it has a guy with a third eye in the
middle of his forehead (sure it’s sideways, but who cares?), a Pig
Man with a big pot belly and large breasts, and Sun Go Kong,
The King of the Monkeys! This guy, who’s the main character, has
hair growing out of his face like Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Chinese Boy.
And he’s the king, so you know he rules.
Everyone here loves the
show, and I can see why. They fight, fly through the air on clouds,
appear, and disappear, and all the while I have no clue what the
hell they’re saying. Watching a Chinese show in Indonesian reminds
me of when I was in Paris and saw The Cosby Show in German.
Except Bill Cosby shaves, only has two eyes, and can’t fly. Come
to think of it, what’s the big deal about him anyway?
So is it any wonder I feel
safe? If any terrorists dared show their faces on Bali I’m sure
the King of the Monkeys would team up with Panji the Millennium Man,
who I have yet to see except he’s on the front of every little
kid’s T-shirt, including one the other day that had—are you
ready for this?—a cape on the back! They’d kick terrorist ass in
a heartbeat! And besides, if they needed help we’d all throw
offerings at them. Real ones, not virtual ones. Those are for sale.
Hey, a guy’s got to make a living, you know.
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