This begs for a caption…what’s yours?
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN BALI
(after Clement Clarke Moore)
Twas the night before Christmas
And in the villa on Rubbish Lane Way
Not a creature was stirring, not even a tokay.
The listrik was mati and all the candles aglow
The flying ants were swarming and the kids were suspicious
For they believed that St Nick was somebody fictitious.
They were huddled together on one bamboo bed
Trying to stay awake but their eyes were like lead
The Mrs. and I listened to the sudden barking of dogs
Joining the chorus of big-throated frogs.
Then there came from the garden such a loud clatter
I sprang from the tikar to see what was the matter.
The banjar returning from a ceremony afar?
Or a happy tourist gotten lost from the bar?
The moon on the lake that had been the front lawn
Glowed with a light that was brighter than dawn.
And what to my wondering eyes should I see
But a miniature dokar rolling past the lime tree
The driver was chubby, wearing udeg and sarong
And the dokar was pulled by eight little barongs
But was this St Nick? I admit I was doubtful
He looked an awful lot like the Australian consul.
The little old man was lively and quick
And pulled from his mouth a worn toothpick
To yell at his charges tugging his ride
Prancing and dancing with high-footed pride.
“Now Meester, now Seester, now, Toris and Bulé
On, Mas! On Gus! On Sambal and Gulé!
To the top of the porch, to that hole in the roof!
Get along quick, chop chop and hoof hoof!”
And then overhead I heard such a hard landing
I was surprised the walls were still standing.
As I drew in my head and was turning around
Through the hole Pak Santa shot through with a bound.
His beard was matted and he was shiny with sweat,
It’s humidity that gets you, on that you can bet.
He unslung his sack with almighty crash
Just like a picker who’s been through the trash.
“I don’t like the wet season,” he said with sigh.
“But your children have been good, at least since July.”
I wasn’t sure about that, but I wasn’t going to argue
In fact I was hoping there was a toy for me too.
He filled the kids’ baskets with all kinds of goodies
And surf school “The More the Merrier” hoodies.
“I must be off,” said he, “for there is still much to do.
Can you believe there are good children out there in Canggu?”
Up he sprang…and got stuck in the hole.
I pushed him through with a long bamboo pole,
And heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Selamat Hari Natal to all, and to all a good night.”
(Mark on left with Rob Nichols on the Nusa Dewata, Telos, circa early days God knows when. Classic Mark, always upbeat with that delightful and sometimes mischievous grin and full of hugs)
After many moons and two shoulder surgeries, I’m back with occasional posts.
Shall we talk about Bali’s surf schools?
The Snake Lady lived high on a sinuous ridge, her lair hidden by day but illuminated at night by bright lights. The background hills looked straight out of the Stone Age, but a shiny road wound through them, lined by poles bearing a power line.
“I reckon we should pay her a visit and find out where this wave is,” Robert said, gazing up at the glowing bubble of light high above. The Bajo Baji was anchored in a small bay at the foot of the ridge, and the wave he referred to was Albert Taylor’s Mystical Wave of Legend that we had not found. We were starting to think it was a hoax.
“How do we get up there?” Steve asked without looking up from the card game he was playing on his cell phone. There was a gap in the 3G cell phone tower coverage. He’d been a full day without Internet. These card games were his methadone to stave off withdrawals.
“There’s a trail from the beach,” Murray said. A few canoes and fishing huts huddled under the front rank of coconut palms, catching the last rays of the sunset afterglow.
“One heck of a long steep hike,” Steve said, his fingers tapping away as if they had an intelligence of their own at their tips. “Now if there was snow, I’d haul my snowboard gear all the way up to the top.” Steve’s a snowboarding fanatic.
“Albert also says she gets a cell phone signal up there,” I said. “A lot of backpackers trek to her place to use it.”
Steve blinked, his ears pricked with sudden sharp interest. “Oh, yeah?”
“Albert says we should her bring a gift,” I said.
We all glanced at young Clayton, seated in the corner of the boat’s salon and doodling his crayons on his art pad. He stopped in mid-draw, glancing at us in alarm. “Not me,” he said. “I’m too scrawny. I’m married.”
Robert said, “We’ll give her a couple fish.” It’d been a good day of fishing if not surfing.
So early the next morning, an entourage of Robert, Steve, Clayton, Murray and Mike took the dinghy to the beach, bearing a cooler of fish.
I did not go. I had bad feelings about this and a good book to read. Tim Watts did not go, either. Being a man of rampant action, he went kiting instead.
The boys returned hours later, stumbling through the palms and onto the beach, boarding the ship in a dazed trance. Glazed with sweat, they sat in the salon’s air-conditioned comfort in silence, sipping chilled drinks.
I put down my book. “So?”
“The horror, the horror,” Clayton whispered.
“She told us where the wave is,” Robert said.
“She told us how to find it,” Murray said. “It’s complicated”
“Through worm-holes and space-time gaps,” Steve added.
“She had a couple surfboards on her porch,” Murray said. “Left by surfers passing through.”
“Or maybe they ended up in her place for good,” Clayton murmured. He seemed distraught, his perpetual cheer on tilt.
“I wonder if she could sell a few of my boards,” Murray said. Constantly looking for ways to grow his biz.
“But she didn’t want us to leave,” Robert continued. “She wanted to keep us. Fatten him up,” he said, nodding at Clayton.
“You boys were dicking around,” Mike said. “Good thing I got us out of there.”
“She didn’t like that,” Robert said. “And Steve, she didn’t like you not paying her any attention. You didn’t look up once from your phone.”
“The Internet signal was good,” Steve protested. “I had a lot of posts and messages to catch up on.”
Robert frowned. “When we were leaving, she said something strange. She said be careful about smashing into things at high speed.”
“A curse,” Clayton whispered.
Tim chuckled his patented amused and sardonic Wattsian chuckle. “Come on, guys. Snap out of it. Action! Let’s go find this wave.”
And find it we did. I won’t tell you how. I’m not sure I could tell you. Aquatic blue birds, swooping up from deep water, double-overhead and smooth. Mike was in a froth to get out there but Murray, from wisdom born of experience, advised us to sit in the dinghy and watch for a while. (Sidelined by shoulder operations, I was going to be watching the whole session). Good advice, because it soon became clear that there was a deadly trap. If you got caught inside, you had one narrow tiny niche of a chance to paddle through the section soup before you were smashed and splattered onto an outcrop of rocky fangs. This caught inside business happened to Tim, and even though he hadn’t gone to see the Snake Lady, for a tense minute I thought he’d been cursed at a distance and was going to get impaled. Smashed into a hard thing at high speed. But he knows the sea as well as Murray, does Tim, and floated on his board just off the beach for a lull and then paddled like hell.
Later, I asked Clayton to draw a picture of the Snake Lady. That image has since unfortunately been lost, but it was something like this:
“Mate,” Robert complained, “she didn’t look like that at all. She was gorgeous.”
“That is true,” Steve said, “but she was freakin scary.”
From what I gathered, when she was a young woman, an anthropologist had swooped her up from her village near the ridge and carried her off to Europe, where she soon gained fame as mentalist and fortune-teller and esoteric magician, performing astonishing feats of legerdemain that led to her to stardom in Las Vegas.
What brought her back to that ridge in the wild southern waters of Eastern Indonesia, I don’t know. But once one has traveled and tasted the world, the lure of home, where one was born, rises strong. Maybe that was it. Or maybe she was hiding out from certain underworld folks who hadn’t taken kindly to her vanishing a few million dollars (or so went one story I later heard).
The swell died. We moved on, into the less magical waters of a certain well-known Bay, with a small village homestay for surfers. The Snake Lady no longer dominated our thoughts and conversation. The curse? What curse? We had an excellent wave and a new swell to surf.
And now, a word from your blog correspondent, a strictly commercial and crass and tacky appeal for you to click on the sidebar photo for a peek at my novel Bones of the Dark Moon. I have had many people come up to me and say “I loved your book, a friend lent it to me.” I am happy and pleased they enjoyed the book, but an author makes his or pittance from royalties, and not from lending. Buy copies for your relatives and friends and enemies. In other words, I am blatantly trying to guilt trip you into buying my book. Help motivate me to write a sequel.
On New Year’s Eve, when the midnight firecracker bombs of the village youth were exploding all around the house and rattling windows and my brain, something shook loose and plopped into both my consciousness and conscience. Why, it was a New Year’s Resolution: to finish up this damn tale of the Toast surf trip that I’ve been fitfully doling out over the months.
So, with determination and will power, I’ll get cracking on it…next week.
This is weird. Truly, a weirdliness beyond words.
For several days now, I’ve been trying to get this post written on the Mystical Wave of Snake Lady Ridge. I know we were there. This is an absolute fact. We did find Albert Taylor’s mythical wave and we surfed and rejoiced in it. Surely we did. I know this and I believe this as surely as I believe there is a God, or at least a Kelly Slater, both of whom have been in Bali but neither of whom have I met in the flesh, only in the spirit.
But yet as I try to write this post, as I try to summon my memories of the Wave, they rise close to the surface of my consciousness, and for a fleeting moment I glimpse it, empty blue perfection. My soul stirs with excitement. But then a mist comes over the memories and wisps away and I find myself instead grimly remembering Serangan Island of the past few days, the westerly winds blowing every surfer and surf school to the spot, soft tops and longboards and short boards and SUPS flying every which way, and my soul shrivels.
Was the Wave a left? A right? A peak? I cannot recall. What is vivid as blood is the horror of a Russian surf school instructor shoving a shrieking student over the falls and directly at me.
And where exactly was this Wave? The Kupang to Flores Trip was a long journey threaded through many islands. Sumba? Flores? Sumbawa? Rinca? I do recall a Komodo dragon on a beach, and I do recall a sinuous ridge where the Snake Lady dwelled in her splendor, but were they the same place?
None of the boys on the trip remember, either. Except Clayton did draw this from one of his fevered dreams. “I think it was somewhere around here,” he said.
Or maybe that’s just what they say and don’t want to tell me. The Snake Lady put the fear of fangs into them should her wave be revealed to the swarming masses. Perhaps Albert Taylor is her vassal of doom. He will cart away anyone speaking publicly of the holy place and feed the offender to the wild civic cats slinking through his coffee-plantations slurping ripe coffee beans that they poop out and you drink as $10 luwak coffee.
And the Snake Lady herself. Did we meet her? Some of us. Mike did. This is the lad before he entered her lair. Notice those original Ripcurl Bali booties, possibly the only extant pair left upon this earth, but more importantly notice that beaming smile. Little did he know that he would not be smiling for long.
I did not meet her. Certainly not I. I stayed put upon the boat for I feared what I might find, the magic she would weave, as evidenced by the jabbering chatter of the others and their darting eyes that would for an instant go still and glassy.
No, I did not set mine eyes upon the Snake Lady. I most certainly did not.
And yet, dear God, what is this that appears from the mist? No, no, oh have mercy upon my soul–