Alexander, ‘The Philosopher Scientist’, takes a turn.

(We’ve been mostly off the grid for a bit.)

The Mt.Batur Volcano sunrise hike.

About a week or so ago, we decided to take an early morning guided hike up a Balinese volcano at 2:30 a.m. The spry young bucks took on two dinosaurs, Dad and Professor Art.

After passing a 3:00 a.m. cremation ceremony*, we trekked from sea level to over 1750m in a couple hours. For most of you, nothing. But for these old dinosaurs, it was a  wake-up call.  Enjoy Allie’s humorous writing, and narration. The kid spins a fine tale.

*more on cremation in another blog post

No shoes, No shirt, No signal.

Imagine there’s no signal, It’s easy if you try

Nothing to live…or text for?, Above us…only sky

Imagine all the children, Living for the day

Oooo Hooo

You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll unplug, And you won’t think once of Kim Jung Un.

My name is Michael and I’m a addict. I’m addicted to signal, charging, markets, information, and stimulus of all kinds. This is my story. It’s kind of like, “SUPER-SIZE ME”, but in reverse.

This is by no means a heroic post. I write embarrassingly, as the 58 year old pre-schooler that has just tied his shoes and is quite proud of it. Through that lens, I admit I have been the worst example of someone being tethered to an electronic leash, basically since I unboxed my first Blackberry. And having an addictive-compulsive personality honestly made it really really hard to adjust by “simply” stopping. Where did those 25 years go?

The amazing thing is how it never changes. Forty years ago, Pink Floyd wrote about, “13 channels of sh$t on the TV.” Today, one’s ability to get sucked down the worm hole of distracted nonsense is limitless. Click-bait, social-bleedia, breaking news, YouTube, and it never stops. Dear reader, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

This post was written during rehab, The Carpe Diem Center for Compulsive Life-Wasters. Betty Ford, at sea if you will. It happened, not for them. Not for us. But for everyone. And especially me. No shoes, No shirt, No signal. We have been mercilessly untethered at sea for the last week. No information. We chuckled one night when the seas were quite rough at moor, and we wondered if those were the waves of a nuclear test from the angry little North Korean boy.

So what happened?

Faces have come alive. Books enthrall. Dinner calls! “Wait, I’ll be right there, I’m in the really good part”. Laughing and hanging around at meals. “I need to slow down, I’ll be out of my books before we reach land”. “Arthur, can you give me more math puzzles”. Challenge. “Tell me the story about why you passed up being an astronaut.” Discussion. “I get scared I won’t know what I want to be.” Insight “Can you edit this draft for me now?” Engagement. An older brother, who has overshadowed his junior his whole life, reading his brothers work for the first time and saying, “WOW, he’s a really good writer.” Junior, glowing with pride. “I think this can be more than a short story, this might be a book that takes all year to write.” Confidence.

“I love writing.”, one says.

For me, a realization. I hadn’t had a video game on my phone, ever. I had loved digital games when they first appeared in the Paleolithic Era, with titles like Donkey Kong and Missile Command. Just before leaving, I loaded a nonsensical mind-numbing game called, “WoodyPuzzle.” I started to play, and that old compulsive monster arose from the crypt. Hours yesterday, then again three hours this morning, while the kids were in class with Arthur. At mid-day snorkle break, Nicholas comes to get me and asks, “What are you working on?”

I sheepishly tell him I’ve been playing “WoodyPuzzle”, during their morning session. [He laughs out loud] I tell him, “When this match is over, I’m deleting the game immediately.” [Again, a laugh] I also confessed that I am reminded as to how powerfully addicting this garbage can be. And that I will be more understanding when my kids need the devices to be ripped from their fingers. Or perhaps not. As we all hopefully gained some crucial insight from each other about how cool life is without that stuff.

Finally, let me finish by saying I’ve re-learned something very important. Kids hate hypocrisy. For me to stare scornfully at the children about getting off the phone, the network, the iPad, and the games, when you yourself remain entranced under the guise of, “work I have to get done”, is simply not fair. And they see through it instantly. I’m certain it’s been heard as, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, iPad…blah, blah, blah, dinner…blah, blah, blah, blah, homework…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, we’re taking them away…

And now I, and they, know it too.

Imagine all the children…living for the day…Oooo Hooo…

On a Wings Air and a Prayer

We are about to fly from Bima to Densapar to catch a connection. Glancing at the runway, I am watching Lion Air, Air Garuda, and Wings Air planes arriving and departing, and suddenly realized we are not In Kansas anymore. “Hmmm, are any of these the airlines in which the planes disappeared off the radar scope, never to be seen again?”, I ponder in passing.

Everything is a bit off. As we check in our many bags, I marvel at how free of possessions the Indonesians must be, given the 6 (SIX!) kilo baggage weight allowance. This doesn’t even cover the electronics allowance for the Best Buy store I carry on my back daily. Ah HA! It’s a scam. It’ a weight limit set so that every passenger has to ante up a bit more Rupiah. Done.

I look with envy at the Aussie who has a surfboard and a rucksack, that is large enough to hold only board shorts, an extra t-shirt and a toothbrush. I smile at the “change of clothes” he’s wearing, a tank top with a surfboard, looking like a joint, with a surfer on the tip, like smoke. “Looking for trouble at customs I see,” I remark, considering the strict drug laws in Indonesia. “Designed by an Indonesian”, he replies, as if this tid-bit will save him the pleasure of an impromptu strip search. “Good luck, mate”, he smiles, as we depart.

As Yoda would say, “Luck, we might need.” The baggage gets no tags at check in. Disappearing up the conveyor belt, this prompts a confused glance from Nicholas. Stacia has been asking me for a week, “Do you think there’s a difference between Lion, Garuda, and Wings?”

“Only if one of them lands in flames”, I sniff once again, hoping a splash of sarcasm shows confidence. It doesn’t.

As it turns out, there’s a method to the baggage madness. Only one plane takes off per century, and the 10:05 am to Densapar really isn’t a scheduled flight, it’s more like a suggestion. Because Annika, arms folded, has decided I’m the worst Dad in human history, I spend some quality time entertaining a skull-cap clad toddler, using the snapping gator toy that came from Miami B.I. (before Irma), courtesy of Professor Arthur.

He kept this remnant from a Spring Break trip he and I took in collage, in 1979, only to be resurrected for this trip nearly 40 years later. (THAT’s a hoarder!)

We finally hear our call over the loud (sic) errrr… mumbled speaker and stroll out the door in time to see most of our baggage being loaded into the cargo-bay. There is nothing unusual about the takeoff, or the flight, save the fine for smoking on board, which is a cool 200,000 Rupiah, or about 15 USD. I wonder if smoking a cigarette on board, and the ensuing blog post, is worth the fine and the hassle? I am reminded of our tight connection, and pass.

As I idly glance at the materials in the seat back pocket, there is an unusual bonus card I’ve never seen before. Kindly, Lion Air Group/Wings Air has provided prayers in native language, and in English, for 6 different religions.

Interesting reading. My personal favorite, was the one in Chinese language, that is special prayer so that the flight attendants arrive safely.

I look down the aisle, the entire length of the airplane, and hold up the card with a knowing nod, and smile at the flight attendant. She smiles back. I glance at Stacia and Nicholas, across the aisle, hands folded in prayer. Nicholas points out that the smiling attendant sports a seven-point attached seat belt. Prepare for impact, we joke. On approach, I refold the prayer pamphlet, and as I am placing it in the seat pocket in front of me, I suddenly freeze. It looks like this:

The Indonesian language often has repetitive words.

The video of the landing, and the consequent gratitude of a safe landing by my family, looks like this:

Namaste, dude.