Monday, February 28, 2011


From Bali Update Editor
The People of Ubud, Bali Host a Birthday Party for the Hundreds of Primates Living in the Sacred Monkey Forest.

The Bali-Hindu religious calendar has a cycle of holidays, each one dedicated to honoring different elements of our daily life from books, tree, and even the vehicles we drive.

On Saturday February 26, 2011, the people of Bali set aside one day to pay special homage to the hundreds of monkeys that inhabit the Monkey Forest in downtown Ubud.  Held biennially according to the Balinese year of 210 days, or once every 420 days, the ritual is the official birthday party for the monkeys who inhabit the forest and who generally harass visitors for food and handouts.

This year's ceremony commenced with prayers offered by a Hindu priest at 3:00 pm and was attended by hundreds of monkeys, local officials, and a sizable group of curious island visitors.  Spread across the ritual altar were bountiful displays of fruits, cakes and other food stuffs that formed the offerings to the gods necessary to re-sanctify the Monkey Forest and seek the Almighty's blessing on the primates who live there.

Although normally known for their aggressive behavior whenever their food and tourists are about, the hundreds of monkeys watched the ceremony at a respectful distance and only descended on the delicious offerings at the end of the prayers when the essence of the food items had been offered through prayers to the heavens.
The day to honor animals is part of the Balinese belief in 'Tri Hita Karana,’ which requires the maintenance of balance and harmony between man and nature.  This ceremony for the various types of animals that live in the Monkey Forest, and especially for the monkeys, is made so the animals remain healthy and tame. 

After the prayer ceremony concluded, those in attendance shared raw eggs, a variety of fruits, and assorted cakes with the attentive monkeys that emerged from the forest to attend the 'birthday party' held in their honor.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


 Lane Wilcken (left) and Virgil Mayor Apostol (right) in their traditional Filipino garb

Virgil Mayor Apostol, author of Way of the Ancient Healer - Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions, and Lane Wilcken, author of Filipino Tattoos - Ancient to Modern, held their book signing yesterday at the Kamakakuokalani Center of the Department of Hawaiian Studies at UH Manoa Campus.

I was looking forward to seeing Virgil again.  He had bought Phil's car when we left for Bali.  He now lives in Los Angeles.  Virgil received the gift of Filipino shamanic healing from his parents who were both healers and descendants of long lines of ancient shamanic healers.  When we were in Bali, Virgil asked me to take pictures of Balinese indigenous healers.  I was more than happy to oblige, since I had fostered a life-long interest in indigenous healers and healing methods myself. *(see links below)  Three of my photos are published in his book.

Dr. Jean Houston, the highly acclaimed researcher and teacher of cross-cultural studies of spirituality and ritual processes, and the author of A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story, gave Virgil's book this endorsement:

"This brilliant and powerful work is a must for everyone in the healing arts, as well as, those who would increase the depth and breadth of their humanity.  It is not only the first major study of the extraordinary practices of the visionary healers of the Philippines, but offers the reader inner knowledge of human possibilities, once thought to be mythic, now shown to be real." 

The book signing event was preceded by great ritual and ceremony, music, dancing and chants.  The authors spoke about their experiences, growing up in Filipino culture and traditions.  Virgil gave us a fascinating  glimpse of how traditional healers view illness and health.  Lane spoke about the deep meaning of traditional tattoo and its connection to the all-encompassing presence of our ancestors, who are in constant communication with us, if we would just make the effort to pay attention.  I have no interest in getting a tattoo, but it was a great reminder for me to allow silence in my life, the main requirement for being present in the moment and paying attention.  If I got nothing else from the event, this alone was worth it.

Lane and Virgil gave us all a priceless experience in traditional Filipino culture, laced through with the joy of music and dance and good food.   I wish them both wild success with their books and great happiness in all their endeavors.  Aloha ka kou.




* For my story about Jero Mangku Ardita and his wife, Jero Dasaran Ni Ketut Leseg, see HOLY OILS, REINCARNATION & A HOT ROD (in my FOOL"S JOURNEY Bali and Bangkok blog)

  And for my story about Bali's famed bone setter, Jero Mangku Made Rata, see FLOWER POWER FULL MOON MAGIC (also in my FOOL"S JOURNEY Bali and Bangkok blog)

Monday, February 21, 2011


"We Cling To Life However We Can"
Elsha Bohnert (2011)
Ink on paper, 8.5" x 11"

As an added challenge, members of the poetry group I'm in, are writing linked poems -- poems that are linked together by their last line.  It works like this.  We each take a turn writing a poem that begins with the last line of the poem by the previous poet.  For example, Norma's poem ends with the line, "We cling to life however we can."  Since I follow Norma, I must begin my poem with that same line.  Or, I can use it as the title for my poem. 

As I was mulling around my brain for ideas, I started doodling.  The drawing above is the result of my mindlessly running a gel pen over a piece of recycled paper, thinking about how I cling to life.  Or, how I cling to anything, no matter how foolish or false -- things like long-held illusions, old grievances, secrets... 

But the phrase, "We cling to life however we can," mostly evokes tenderness in me.  And tenacity.  I think of people living in utter poverty, in survival mode, with terminal illness, brain injuries, and other disasters. Talk about wobbling between life and death, scraping at the edges...  My friend M, a stunningly original artist, struggles with the effects of the Hiroshima bomb.  Another artist friend has been ill and living in survival mode for the longest time.  Yet both still count their blessings.  There's something heroic going on.
I look at my doodles and think... yeah, life is precarious. We turn this way and that.  Not knowing.  Never knowing.  Yet clinging to it however we can.

Now, if I could also just mindlessly doodle up a poem...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The Clothes Chick is a resale clothing boutique on Kapahulu, within the radius of my Waikiki wanderings.  I had been in it only once before and fell in love with its utterly charming d├ęcor – lime green and violet walls, whimsical painted furniture, and a forest of colorful umbrellas blooming from the ceiling.   Didn’t have any money on me at the time and didn’t find anything I wanted anyway. 

So yesterday, after finishing my errands at the bank next door, I thought I’d just pop in to get another boost of its delightful atmosphere.   I don’t need to buy anything.  I have enough clothes.  But just in case I find something I like, that fits me, and doesn’t make me look like an aging hippie, I have developed an excellent anti-consumption strategy: Instead of buying it, I take pictures of it.  That way I still get what I want, but virtually.   It also makes me feel ever so virtuous.  It works with desserts too. 

So I’m in the store admiring the fancy red velvet sofa, when my eyes light upon a divine gauzy shimmery something... it's not a jacket or a blouse... whatever it is, I try it on.  It's too big, but it's so beautiful...  I know what you think.  You think I'm going to break down and buy it.  Right?...  Right.  Exactly.  I bought it.  Never even thought about taking a picture.  In my defense, I have to say that everything in the store was half off.

Now here’s something I didn’t know: You can book the store (free of cost) for an evening of shopping with your co-workers, families, friends, or club and they will provide pupus and refreshments. A minimum of 12 people is required.

 Sucking on a pair of designer sunglasses while mom is shopping

The Clothes Chick, 415-B Kapahulu Ave., between First Hawaiian Bank and Chevron.  You can parallel park next to the store by Chevron or behind the building.  Tel: 942-2442.


Mercy me, try as I might, I'm still not finished with bicycles.  
This morning I came upon this unique contraption.

Then Kate sent me this:
Freezy rider: Barmy cyclist pedals along busy A-road with huge FRIDGE on the back of his bike.  Traffic came to a standstill as the man pedalled along the A1307 near Wandlebury, Cambridgeshire, with the bizarre enormous load.

Rain sent me a message via Facebook of... "
just one more bike with a fridge attached to the side full of  Grolsch beer, riding around in Nijmegen (The Netherlands). Ice cold Grolsch in the hot park on a sunny day... mmmmmmm..."

 Bali Balloon Peddler (Photo by Thijs Lieffering)

I Googled "bikes under water" and found these:

"Bicycling under water is harder than it looks" -  Georgia Wiggs

The deepest cycling under water is 66.5 meters (214 feet, 10 inches) and was achieved by Vittorio Innocente in Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria, Italy, on July 21, 2008.

A new underwater sculpture museum off the coast of Cancun features "an underwater Citizen Cyclist statue"

Why do I think this is still not the end, that more interesting bikes will show up?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Here comes Agustian Supriatna on his souped-up Vespa motorbike.
He is bringing his paintings, tied to the side car.

Detail of the bike 

I was visiting with someone at an art show opening in Ubud, when I noticed a young man walk by, dressed in Trash Art style clothing.  Since I used to create the popular "Trash2Fashion Shows" for the City & County of Honolulu's Recycling Department, I hastily excused myself  from my company and made a bee line to him.

"You must be an artist."  I said.
He nodded, flashing me a smile, "Yes, I'm Agus. I paint, I make music, and I dance."
"Well, I'm absolutely thrilled to meet you," I told him, "because I'm a trash artist from Hawaii and I've been looking for kindred spirits in Ubud and I love what you're wearing." 
Check out his clothes.

When I left Bali, I gave Agus all my clothes.
"Do something with it," I told him, "whatever you want and I'll sell it in Hawaii."
He gave me a stash of bags he had ready.  They sold within a week.
Last month he sent another supply of bags.  They, too, sold within a week.  This could be a good business.
Check out some of his bags.

Agustian Supriatna
Artist, Musician, Fire Dancer (Tari Api)

Agustian or Agus as he is called by his friends was born in Lampung, Sumatra, in 1981. His grandfather, Datuk Raja Jaksa, was a well known Shaman. From the age of 15 he wanted to become an artist because he thought it was cool. However, unlike many contemporary artists he has no formal training in fine arts.
In 1999 he set up ‘shop’ in Ubud hobnobbing with kindred souls.

His studio looks like a scrap yard; nuts, bolts, chains, blow torches, gas cylinders for welding and large oil drums sliced into pieces. The paintings on canvass reflect a soul searching for paradise within and the used tyres lying around gives it the feel of a motor mechanic’s workshop. But lurking somewhere in the metal scrap is an installation waiting to be born, exhibited and (hopefully) sold.

Agus’s guru is the universe that teaches him a lesson or two every day.  His inspiration for his paintings comes from images of daily life that he encounters. The metal installations mirror Agus’s endeavor to constantly recycle and recreate beauty from the debris of social excess.

In his words, “Fire dance or Tari Api burns the dirt from my mind, my heart, my body and my soul. It cleanses me time and again. When I play the guitar or percussion, sing or make things with my hands it is a kind of prayer, a prayer to the God which resides in me. It reminds me of my place in the Universe, that I am just a small creature. That I should be happy and content with whatever I possess. “

Last year Agus married Rachel a lass from Melbourne. His daughter Indah (which means beautiful Indonesian) was born eight months ago.

“When I hold my daughter in my arms it is like magic…I cannot describe the feeling, it’s too intense. My wife and Indah live in Melbourne. I will be travelling frequently to meet them. However, I also need to create to make money so that I can buy nice things for my family,” he says while lighting the blow torch to cut away parts of an oil drum to make a ‘art’ door, “Rachel has a beautiful heart and I am blessed for she understands what I am trying to do. I dream for the time we can travel the world together, to see and meet other people and to learn their language, their culture. I want to learn. But for now I have to create this door because it’s in my head.”

His advice to contemporaries, “Don’t surrender to the stomach”; translated it means not to compromise their creative work by commercializing artwork to boost sales.

As one was leaving the ‘studio’, Agus shouted above the rushing sound of the blow torch, “Brother, Bali has a two way door, one must learn how to open it, when to go in and when to go out for many use it like a revolving door and therefore are often caught in it…going around in circles…never entering never departing”.

From  On the Fringe

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When I started taking pictures of bicycles, I didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I mean, I didn't know there were so many bicycles around Waikiki.  And I only walk around the Diamond Head end of Waikiki.  I'm afraid that by the time you've scrolled all the way down, you'll have seen so many bicycle pictures, you're either going to scream at me or you'll start taking pictures of bicycles too.

 Ahh, that's the life, isn't it?

 This must be the bike of one of the surfers. 
Slippahs on handlebar, backpack tied high up on pillar so no one can steal it.

 An Aloha Ambassador chatting with tourists

 Check this one out: green front tire, pink rear tire!
Never seen one like it!

 Here's one who knows how to relax in style.
Bike, hammock, trees, and a good book.
What else do you need?

 Park your bike and dry your shirt

 Looks like the owner just dropped his bike wherever.
It was there when I started my walk
and it was still there after I finished 2 hours later.

 Another one that just got dropped in the middle of the park

 That's better, parked in the shade

Bikes around a tent of a homeless family

* * * * *


From Kate: 
"Here's my baby - a single speed workhorse. Unfortunately I've been too ill to ride since I got her last Spring (balance issues etc.). Hoping this year I'll do better - still, you gotta admit, she's pretty gorgeous anyway!"

I agree.  The basket, red seat and handles sure add character and a dash of Valentine cheer.

From Reneke:  An orange rental bike in Amsterdam

From Tetta:  Bicycles parked in Leiden, Netherlands

Another bike parked in Leiden.

A bicycle does get you there and more.... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive.  Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal.  And getting there is all the fun.  
~Bill Emerson, "On Bicycling," Saturday Evening Post, 29 July 1967
The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.  
~Ann Strong
Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. 
~Albert Einstein

Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion.  Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers.  Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville.  Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.  

~P.J. O'Rourke

Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.  
~Grant Petersen