BALI … All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Bali. In no small part due to a black & white blowup someone gifted me years ago. Etched into my brain was the alluring image of a young woman with only a batik sarong at her waist, standing casually, one arm akimbo, beside a ‘30s-era roadster, smiling all orchids and mangos, with palm trees swaying in the background. That snapshot (sometimes framed) embodied my Bali and graced a number of the residences I once called home (although it’s been “misplaced” for a while in the 30-year chaos of Cloud Acre). Still, in my private mental pantheon, Bali was to beauty what Timbuktoo was to furthest ends of the earth … Reality, of course, was a bit more complex than my imaginings … Bali’s a seasoned international tourist hot spot, and has been for a long time. A driver met us at the airport from the guesthouse, which my daughter Iris had arranged for us to stay at. It took us an hour or so up to motor up to Ubud (on the wrong side of the road!!!), where we’d first planned to stay. It was night, but to my surprise the road was boogieing with motorbikes and car headlights and roadside shops and giant neon signs and even Western franchises. A giant statue of Krishna wrestling a snake (or perhaps some other Indian avatar) stood in the one roundabout we encountered in Denpasar. No mistaking that Bali was Hindi -- although the rest of Indonesia’s scattered island provinces are Muslim. And no doubt that Ubud was not a wild, untamed Asian paradise. All the narrow streets had curbs and there were lots of shops selling tourist goods, most of the signage in English – the lingua franca in the modern world. So my first impression shattered the dream Bali I had always imagined … But one afternoon after lounging in the cafes drinking mango smoothies, dessert lunching on durian, feeding bananas to the primate gangs at Monkey Park, and watching a traditional Balinese fire dance – all the usual touristata – we wandered into a rice field outside of Ubud and came across a marvelous fellow, I Made Rumawan. In a glorious serendipity, he led us on a three-hour tour of the rice fields that surround the tourist enclave of Ubud, interspacing this guided excursion with explanations of plants, structures, customs, everything Balinese. We learned that regular rice was harvested three times a year (harvested and planted all by hand), but that some plots held black and red rice for special holidays. Flags dotted the paddies to keep the many birds away, adding a colorful flair to the landscape. Small shrines marked the 123 family plots that marked the fields we were walking through. Made smiled and spoke with the workers, some working the rice plots and others harvesting grass from the paths between fields to feed their staked cattle. He showed us old workhorse bikes that remained from the days when the Dutch were colonial masters of Bali called “Hollands.” How they continued to carry rice and grass out of the fields, looking as loved as they were worn. Every few acres saw a thatch hut where workers could rest out of the sun, and inside the shelters were piles of small cylindrical baskets that, Made explained, were eel traps. It seems the rice paddies sported Pisodonophis boro, a freshwater swamp eel that can grow to a meter long (almost three feet) and can burrow into the mud with either its head or its tail. Rice workers caught the eels and ate them – a protein bennie from rice cultivation (unless the white “herons” get them first). Made showed us a vanilla vine and a cacao tree, a carnivorous plant that curled up at our touch and a grove of giant bamboo where one could get a rash from touching the hairs on the exposed culm sheaths. And finally Made led us down carved stone steps into the valley of the Ayung River and then out into its rice fields studded with palm trees. It was a most intriguing sight – the “real Bali” as he called. Indeed a paradise. Small humble homes set amid shrines and brilliant green fields. We gazed at the panorama for a long time, just drinking in its beauty, before Made took us to his house to drink tea and meet his family … A most amazing experience. It turns out Made works professionally as a guide (as well as serving as a fine chef at one of Ubud’s better hotels, as we learned from a friend). If you’d like to open the coconut of real Bali, let me recommend I Made Rumawan at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
COLORADO POLITICS … Coming home, I’m completely perplexed to find our good Governor Bill Ritter espousing a state takeover of social services from county governments. What an amazingly wrong-headed idea. This is not long after our previous Governor Bill Owens insisted on a revamp of the state computer system for social services – in spite of warnings from counties that it was a bad idea – a system that didn’t work for months, cost millions, and ended up increasing (not decreasing) paperwork and the time involved from staff. A total unmitigated disaster … Fresh on the heels of that social services blunder, Ritter seems intent on taking social services out of local control and putting it in the hands of the state, which – as we all know – is broke (and cutting services right and left). So, imagine, instead of a Telluride social service office, we’ll get a state office in Montrose (or maybe even Grand Junction) where we’ll have to go for food stamps, child welfare, and assorted other safety net programs. How crazy is that? … And all of this leading into 2010’s election season, where already Ritter and the Dems are facing serious challenges from Republicans screaming political blunders. Sometimes one wonders if Ritter has a political bone in his body … With our good friend Andrew Romanoff running for the Senate seat that Ritter inexplicably awarded to Michael Bennet (a sharp, personable Front Range lawyer all but unknown on the Western Slope), the Dems are sure to draw blood in their primary, and give the Repubs a chance to recapture one of the state’s Senate prizes. As a Green, I like Bennet, but it will be hard not to support the widely popular Romanoff who was the House Speaker and helped Colorado turn blue after decades of red … Scott McInnis lead’s the Repub pack for the Governor’s seat, and he’s playing hardball with his lesser-known Repub challengers – refusing to debate with either Josh Penry of Grand Junction or Dan Maes of Evergreen (and whomever else decides to jump into the race). While smart politics (refusing as a frontrunner to face off with lesser-knowns), it’s bad democratic practice. For me, that’s strike one for Scott. (Again, as a Green, Josh is naturally my pick on the Repub ticket, since he’d finally pay some attention to the Western Slope and its unique issues). Scott’s strike two comes with his blaming the natural gas bust on Ritter, when we all know enviro regs played a very small part (if any) in the downturn, when compared to a glut on the market, lower gas prices and the general economic climate. So, it seems, Scott doesn’t like an open debate among candidates for office and he’s not above twisting the truth for partisan advantage. Methinks this once-bright Glenwood Springs politico has been a Beltway Cowboy for one term too long.
THE TALKING GOURD
Coming home is always the highlight of any trip,
especially when you live in as beautiful a place
as we do. In a rush to get back I drove most of
the night from Denver’s airport in order to avoid
a storm and managed to catch three meteors in
a starscape that was incredibly bright as only our
dry climate makes so possible.
even in Bali
ain’t no shootin’ stars
the Rocky Mountain flag