fair weather amigos--
so here i am -- jam packed and crushed in amidst 20,000 local and tourist folk -- at a cremation ceremony in the public graveyard of central ubud.
i've finally made it to fanciful and amazing bali. and i came right here – to ubud. in a thirty mile, nine dollar taxi. right from the airport. not to denpasar – the commercial hub right near the airport. nor to trendy kuta beach with all the beverly hills shops, cheap hotels, and the hordes of australian surfers. no -- ubud. the north central balinese city known for -- "art". ever here of that? not disneyland, the empire state building, the tour eiffel, surfing, diamonds, sex, gold, or rock 'n roll - but "art".
and still, i couldn't imagine it. every guest house is a garden paradise temple. colors of sandy, burnt sienna plastered brick, and sculpted cement gray. elephant-headed, ramayana hindu religious artifacts and hindu-bali sculptures everywhere you turn. erotic pigs making love. fat buddhas with mischievous smiles. performances – barong, ballet, wayang kulit (shadow puppet), kechak (monkey chant) – a different one every night of the week. and maybe your room overlooks - or is in the middle of a geometrically-planted, wet muddy rice padi. or maybe i’ve died and gone to asiatic art heaven....
speaking of dying... my body, resistance, shoulder, back, lungs, gumption, wherewithal, and overall health have abandoned me. sleep is little, travel is great. this has not been a restful or relaxing trip. i'm going to need months to recover.
anyway, here i am at the cemetery. an omen? there are maybe seventy-eight 15 foot high coffin boxes - all topped with ten foot high carved wooden horse/bulls. these boxes have been prepared for days/weeks by local artisans (everyone in ubud is an “artist” of some kind), and they contain the dug up bones and remains of all those balinese who did not have - or could not afford - a public burial - in the last five to seven years. and -- i've just arrived on the day of the ceremony.
so these mighty bull/horse headed boxes are being lifted and run through the street by teams of maybe twenty balinese men each - all in traditional sarong and head attire. of course, i'm wearing my newly purchased batik sarong too - along with the 10,000 other saronged tourists, and we're all somewhere between following - and being chased - pamplona-style - through the streets - by these box/bulls, being sprayed with water by the enthusiastic locals, and now we're all assembled in the graveyard for the cremation.
i'm standing next to a nose-pierced, fuschia haired-dyed american who looks like annie lennox (eurhythmics), and there's a woman in front of us who seems to be taking our photo. annie says it looks like a hollywood actress. i look. i think maybe it's lesley anne warren, who i know - but never recognize when i see her back in LA (awkwardly embarrassing), but annie says no, it's not. so i look again, and although i never see celebs in my own fair weather city, now that i'm looking at the woman taking my photo, i think she does look a lot like susan sarandon. annie says, "yes, that's who it is!" i think, sure, i haven't seen anyone i've even remotely known or recognized in over two months in all of southeast asia, and now susan sarandon is taking my picture in ubud at this cremation ceremony. i say, "no way, jose, where's tim?" but then -- tim appears. and him i recognize. so it's tim and susan with their kids in ubud at the cremation ceremony. why not? (i know, my friend doug thinks i'm still back in echo park making all this up. am i?)
then tim comes straight up to me like he knows me. he looks perturbed – like he’s ready to give me a piece of his mind. fuck. what did i do to tim and susan? no, this isn’t a dream. but then -- tim stops just short and confronts the guy next to me, "what did you say to my son?" oh. the guy (my friend of 45 minutes, wearing a purple and gold lakers' hat) apparently took tim's and susan's photo. and his son, in trying to protect his famous and over-photographed dad, has come up to speak to mr. LA laker cap. so now tim's protecting his son…. and susan is signaling to tim and the son to come back over, and she pointing in a different direction, and all this seems pretty ridiculous to me…. and then -- the 78 boxes go up in flames -- and the mesmerizing, hypnotic burning pyre of human remains and wooden bull/horses, and art and love and death all make tim's and susan's concerns about celebrity and privacy -- seem a bit trivial and mundane here in glorious, south pacific bali high ubud. and we're all now snapping once-in-a-lifetime photos, and all is forgotten and all is forgiven... and have i really come here to bali to die? and what the fuck am i doing here anyway when all i wanted to do was come here with my one time french girlfriend in the first place?
i’m sure you probably don’t know – but any answers would be appreciated.
anyway, that's all for now. sorry i skipped over the romantic side trip to padangbai. east coast of bali – perfect white sandy beach – south china sea, mary martin, mario lanza – south pacific – bali high. you take the ferries from there to lombok and kimodo. you know, the giant lizard – kimodo dragon. but how romantic can you be watching wagered-on, fight-to-the-death cock fights (the cocks with lethal razors tied to their legs) and other couples being romantic…?
there’re other things in life, right?
love from susan, tim, and the boys,
your uncle ubud