Time to get on a plane again. I am leaving a house construction project that is nearly finished. I have the bathrooom I want, the fireplace I want, the friggin' door knobs I want, and yet I leave it all behind for ten or twelve days.
I will be taking this trip for several reasons.
The first reason: A theory... I have traveled so much and so often in the last 16 years, I tend to mark the passage of time in terms of trips taken. I had to book a flight. Back in June, I could not think about the future without a flight itinerary acting as a kind of softly glowing beacon demarking the limits of my time in California.
The second reason: the girl can't pass up a bargain. In the month of June only, Cathay Pacific Airways (nice seats, pleasant crew, good routes, terrrrrrrible food) was offering US$600 round trip flights (economy class) from SFO, LAX, EWR, or JFK, to Denpasar. How can you beat that?
The third reason: I miss my loving husband, who will be in residence at the Bali house, having just returned from a business trip down under. My marriage vows did not say, "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, separated by the world's largest ocean..." It's high time we renew our reciprocal slavery. Truly, I could have booked the mini-break for 3 weeks ago, and it would have been just fine, but back in June I thought my will power was stronger, I guess.
The fourth reason: My dear friend Ann S., sound engineer and video editor at ABC News in LA, is already there in Bali. It'll be great to see her (even though she lives in Manhatten Beach and I have spent most of this year in the Bay Area) and it's too wonderful that she and a friend have planned this holiday in my Asian stomping ground. Actually, I don't seem capable of socializing unless I get out of the Bay Area. I have gone out to dinner with exactly one friend this whole summer. Jetting to Bali to host a dinner party for my Canadian pals does not seem so bizarre when I think of my local duties to my ailing mother and the house. These are enormous pulls on my attention, and I have to really get out to loosen their hold on me.
There may be other reasons, but I know when I am getting boring.
What is so great about Bali?
The weather, the color of the sea and the fishes that inhabit it, Wayan's cooking, the greenstone pool, the feel of my own mattress. It's home.
There is a big volcano that looms over much of Bali... the 10,000 foot Gunung Agung. It erupted in, what - 1963?, blowing a perfect apex and making everyone realize that he wasn't dormant after all. Agung is visible from our property when I cut behind the dining balé to turn on the hose there. That's a very powerful geographical marker for me.
There is nothing better than hopping into the car to go to the waterfall or to snorkel the Liberty Wreck or to go have dinner someplace fabulous like the Serai (woops, renamed the Alila Manggis).
We love to take in a shadow puppet show, a Kecak trance dance, or something unique to the island, whenever we want a dose of foreign culture. We love to hire the local dancers of our village, too, whenever we have a big dinner party. The girls have an audience, they become better performers, and they earn some very valuable pocket money. Also, there is a real charge to be had from moving about in a place where the culture is colorful and high profile. To drive the byways of Bali is to suddenly come upon beautiful ceremonies and processions along the side of the road. The architecture is continually fascinating. Parts of the countryside are wonderful, just wonderful.
The expats, though a varied lot, have many within their ranks who are so much fun to be around. Knowledgable and talented, or intrepid and entreprenurial... it's a great little scene in the intense global realm of explorers. There are plenty of flakes cluelessly using Bali as a way to find their way in the New Age, but there are also people who have a quest and stick with it. There are helpful people, concerned people, compassionate people. There are those with a real sense of adventure and style. There are some truly wonderful people at work in this little pocket of the world.
There is my crazy, loveable neighbor, Michael C., whose heart is in the right place even if he sometimes does the totally wrong thing. He has a way of garnering enemies, but I have to say that my husband and I can't get enough of the guy. He is bright, creative, energetic, and funny. He is never at a loss for words, nor for a new project or idea. He is mercurial but somehow genuine. When I tell them my C. stories, my friends beg me to write them down... to get a book together a la Colin McPhee's A House in Bali. I don't know about that, but I will say that having Mr. C next door is a lot like being able to tune in to some really great comedy show on TV... like Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In or The Simpsons... you don't know what the plot is going to be this week, but you know it's going to be great!
What else about Bali? The sunlight glinting way down from just above the western horizon... the cast of the light at magic hour. When my husband J walks outside to the banana leaf chair, guitar in one hand, music book in the other. The day is almost over, and its light flames out in a climactic spectacle.I can't wait to get back to all that.