Thursday, June 30, 2016


Indonesians travel by ships, boats, and ferries between the many islands of the Far East archipelago.

In 1991 I had been diving off Bunaken Island and after two weeks of drifting along the reefs I boarded midsize Pelni liner at Manado with a second-class ticket. I was headed around the top of Sulawesi to Palu with a brief stop on Borneo.

I phoned my mother collect from the hotel. The operator connected with Boston in less than thirty minutes. My mother was happy to know where I was. I had left her a map of Indonesia with my planned itinerary. She was concerned about my safety.

"No one is giving me a hard time about being an American." The USA and its allies were fighting the mother of all tank battles with Iraq. Indonesia was 95% Muslim.It was better that I didn't tell her about a mob harassing me in Ternate. "I'm taking a boat tomorrow."

"You never wanted to leave home as a young boy. Now you travel the world. Be my eyes and ears."

"I will."

I boarded the Pelni liner an hour before departure. The pier was packed with deportees. I had an air-conditioned berth to myself and listened to the BBC on my bed. The war was progressing well for the Coalition of the Willing.

The ship cleared Manado harbor and skirted the coast past coconut plantations and Bugis villages. Few of their names were marked on the Nell's maps. Palm trees were the taller than the houses. A small dirt road veered in and out of sight. The overland journey from Manado to Palu on the island's west coast was a three-day ordeal.

"Jalan tidak jelek," said every passenger with a shiver.

"Sepanjang japan di Sulawesi jelek," warned a Javanese businessman.

Bad roads were bad roads no matter where.

I had driven icy rutted roads in Maine.

Death had waited around every curve in the French film THE WAGES OF FEAR.

I wondered how dangerous the roads could be in Sulawesi and enjoyed the smooth surface of the sea.

Everyone was glad to be on the ship. Its top speed was 12 knots. Our ETA in Palu was for tomorrow morning.

Dinner was a simple nasi goreng, fried rice with chicken and an egg. I washed the food down with a cold Bintang beer and went out on deck to watch the night sky. A lightning storm throbbed in a distant thunderhead and the stars numbered in the millions.

I lay in my bunk and read Joseph Conrad's VICTORY.

His novel was set on these island back in the last century.

On shore it was still 1890.

The ship arrived in Balikpapan around midnight. Oil tanks lined the harbor. The stop lasted about two hours. I stayed on board. A large number of travelers hustled up and down the gangway. I was getting used to the chaos and had another beer.

The crew called 'Semua papan' or 'all aboard'.

Hundreds of people waved good-bye from starboard. The ship leaned several degrees off center and the captain blew the departure horn. We were once more under way.

I listened to the BBC. The War in The Gulf was going in favor of the West. Saddam's army was surrendering in droves. The sea was calm. The engines pounded out a steady beat. I fell asleep dreaming on the tropics.

The ship reached Palu a little past the dawn. It was a small port. There were no Europeans on the dock. A driver came up to me and asked, "Dari jalan?"

I explained that I was heading to Lake Poso and asked how was the road.

"Jalan bagus."

Bahasa Indonesian was an easy language. Good road was a good thing and I sat in the front of his Toyota Pathfinder for the hundred mile ride to Poso.

Poso lay on the Gulf of Tomini. It was a bigger town than Palu with a population around 40,000.

Most of them Muslims, but also a melange of ethnic groups; Butung, Kaili, Bugis, Tolaki, Muna, Gorontaloan, and numerous others.

No one was driving to Lake Poso until tomorrow. Poso City seemed pleasant enough and I booked a cheap hotel for $5.

Nothing about it was clean and that night I opted against dining in their dingy restaurant in favor of a Chinese karaoke restaurant. The cuisine was a nice change from cold Malay dishes and I watched several women sadly sing songs, while gazing with longing at the pictures of Singapore or Hong Kong.

I went to sleep feeling like I was on the other side of nowhere, but that destination was up in the mountains.

The next day I rode up into the highlands. The road was paved thanks to money from the Japanese. The Empire's troops had occupied all of Indonesia during the War of the Pacific.

"Nippon bagus." The driver liked Japanese tourists. They paid twice as much as other tourists.

"Nippon bags sekarang." They were good now, but now was different from 1945.

Not the jungle on either side of the road.

This was true rain forest.

Teakwood trees soared overhead.

No one lived here, but the road was paved and I enjoyed the view, as the car struggled up the steep inclines.

Coffee bushes dotted the slopes. The beans dried in the sun. The smell was tantalizing.

We stopped at a small roadside warung to let the engine cool down. The coffee was instant powder and the sweetened milk came out of can. For hundreds of years the Dutch colonists had shipped the spices and coffee to Europe. Some things never changed, but Asians liked talking about good things and I said to the driver, "Jalan bagus."

"Ya," he explained that the road on the other side of Lake Poso was the worst in Indonesia.

"How bad?"

"Sekali jelek."

The rest of the passengers murmured their agreement and the driver motioned for us to get in the LandCruiser.

Lake Poso was the third largest lake in Indonesia. A covered bridge crossed the outlet river. The driver dropped me at the ferry.

I asked about the road to the other end of the lake.

The driver laughed in my face and said that the road was waist deep mud.

"Tomorrow you see."

The other passengers filed onto the ferry and laid in the shade. The boat wasn't leaving till the night, because of engine trouble.

I walked to a high hill in the hot equatorial sun.

The lake was bigger than it looked on the Nell's map.

Mountains rimmed the horizon. The people living on the slopes had been headhunters. I stayed close to the lake.

The ferry left near sunset. Another Westerner was on board. Ilke came from Germany. She was traveling alone.

"Have you heard about the road on the other side?"

"Everyone has been telling me that it's bad, but people tend to exaggerate. When I was in Ambon, the people there told me that the people living on Seram were all witches and the people on Seram said the same thing about the people on Ambon."

"So the road will be fine."

We'll see soon enough."

The light faded fast from the sky.

The sunset was spectacular.

The darkness was complete.

The winds picked up and the ferry pulled into an inlet. We drank beers around a fire, as a young boy played Michael Jackson hits. The reach of Jocko was worldwide.

We arrived at the southern end of Lake Poso at dawn. Clouds of fog lingered on the mountains. The air was cool as to be expected this high above sea level. Passengers from the ferry packed onto a waiting bus. The cost of a ride down to the Makassar was $3. A Toyota Pathfinder driver offered a seat for $10. For Indonesians as well as us. It seemed expensive.

"What do you think?" asked Ilke.

"The bus is cheap, but I'm not taking a chance." I was hoping to reach the mythical highlands of Tana Toraja by evening.

"I'm with you."

The road was paved for a good ten miles.

We stopped at a warung, where a young girl served us sweet instant coffee and cold rice with a salty egg.

"Why we stop?" I asked the driver.

"Jalan apa-apa." He pointed to a bus being dragged by a bulldozer. The high line of mud was well above the wheels. Two foreigners told us that they had been stuck in the mud for over a day.

"We tried walking, but almost drowned in it," the girl cried into the shoulder of her friend.

"Jalan sekali jerek."

I walked around the corner and saw how bad.

A mudslide had covered the road for about a hundred feet to a depth of ten feet. Workers were clearing the avalanche. I returned to the warung and said to Ilke, "We'll be here for hours."

The driver tapped his watch. "One hour."

His English was good, but I doubted he was an engineer and drank some more coffee. The cute girl's name was Indah.

After an hour I decided to walk to the other side of the slide.

The coffee was strong for instant.

Ilke joined me and we sank thigh deep into the mud.

"When I left the USA, I wanted to come someplace like this. Someplace lost from the rest of civilization."

"You have gotten there and so have I." Ilke was in a good mood.

Standing mud got boring fast and we trudged to the nearest warung.

Road crews were eating breakfast. We joined them. Our Nissan showed up thirty minutes later. We got back in the car and left behind the bad road for good.

By afternoon we reached Tana Toraja. The town had primitive feel to it, but we booked into a clean hotel for $5. Ilke got her own room.

That night I bought Ilke several beers and we had a good laugh about the mud.

"I wonder where the bus is."

"Still in the mud."

And that was the difference between $3 and $10 in 1991.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A MAN OF SPEED by Peter Nolan Smith

In early September of 1960 Hurricane Donna struck New England as a category 2/3 storm. The radio station WBZ announced numerous school closing. My primary school on the South Shore, Our Lady of the Foothills, was one of the first on the list following Beaver Country Day School in Newton. My older brother and I were happy to stay home. We were new kids in town.

That morning a raging gale howled against our split-level ranch house and the windows vibrated in their sashes. The electricity died at noon and my father lit a kerosene lamp, which he placed on the kitchen table. Our family of seven huddled around the flame like Neanderthals sheltering in a cave. Several hours later the howling hurricane abated to a whisper.

“Where are you going?” my mother demanded with hands on her hips, her voice ringing with the authority of a woman, who had carried five babies in her womb.

“Outside to show them the eye.” My father loved a good storm and waves crashing over the sea walls.

“Hurricanes are not a joke.” My mother had experienced the 1938 hurricane. That tempest didn’t have a name, yet hundreds of New Englanders had died in its path.

“I know.” My father shrugged in weak surrender to the truth.

“You act, as if you don’t.”

Hurricane Edna in 1954 had destroyed his sailboat on Watchic Pond. The hull lay in our backyard.

Six years later he had yet to repair the damage to the mast.

My father was my best friend. He's been gone four years. From this life. But not from forever.

To read A MAN OF SPEED by Peter Nolan Smith on Kindle, please to the following URL to purchase the book for $3.99

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MAYBE TOMORROW Chapter 1 By Peter Nolan Smith


The November sun flashed off a West Village window and the wavering reflection stalked the Christopher Street pier to a lone youth tuning a battered guitar. His skin pallor rivaled the paleness of the rising moon and no suburban mall stocked his ripped black leather jacket, torn T-shirt, or battered engineer boots, but the blonde leather boy broke into a sly smile, as the sapphire shimmer transformed the twenty year-old into a fallen angel regaining his halo. Nearly every mother and father in America would have ordered their children to avoid this aberration of the nation’s Bicentennial Spirit. Most teenagers were born to obey their parents’ command, but a few were destined to answer the divine temptation, especially once the guitarist slashed the steel strings of his Les Paul.

Picking out chords Johnny Darling repeated the song in his head, then shut his eyes to envision a small stage. The overhead lighting enveloped a drummer, bassist, and keyboard player. A teenage Lolita rasped words of love and no tomorrows in imitation of the Velvet Underground’s Nico. The imagined feedback of Marshall Amps buzzed in his ears and the audience almost materialized within his eyelids.

“Hey, man.”

A young boy’s voice shattered Johnny’s trance.

This time of night only gay bashers and leather freaks frequented the derelict docks. None of them were dangerous, but the guitarist waited for the last chords to fade before slipping his hand inside his jacket for his knife before turning to address the intruder.

It was Frankie.

The Puerto Rican teenager in a distressed leather jacket was two inches shorter than Johnny and his slanted eyes hinted the taint of Chinese blood and Times Square johns found Frankie Domingo pretty, despite the scars crisscrossing his seventeen year-old body.

“Thanks for letting me finish?”

“I been waiting thirty minutes.” A gust of wind blew a shank of greased hair across Frankie’s face.

“That a new song?”

“Just three chords strung together.” Johnny thumbed his calloused fingertips.

“Doesn’t get more basic than that.” Frankie rattled off a drum roll with frayed sticks. “Snagged these from Jerry Nolan at Max’s Kansas City last night.”

“How were the Heartbreakers?” Johnny had skipped last night’s show to entertain a customer.

“Great and the crowd loved them.” Frankie hunched his shoulders with a shiver.

“They were paid a $100 each. When we gonna have a band?”

“Now I have my guitar back, we can audition for the other members.”

“Great.” Frankie stepped from side to side. A cold damp seeped through his sneakers’ paper-thin soles and he stammered, “Johnny, you have ten dollars?”

“I gave the pawnshop my last fifty.” Johnny slapped his guitar.

“Damn, I wish we could get out of here.” Frankie moaned like a runaway in need of a dime to phone home.

“To go where?”

“What about Florida?” Frankie glanced south, as if the Sunshine State lay beyond the New Jersey docks. “How far away is it? Five hours?”

“More like twenty–four by car.”

“What about by plane?” The young Puerto Rican’s teeth chattered at a 10/10 beat.

“Where we getting the money for two plane tickets?”

“We could hijack a plane. Tell them to give us a million dollars like in DOG DAY AFTERNOON?” Frankie had seen that movie five times on 42nd Street and pumped his fist in the air.

“Attica, Attica.”

“Aren’t you forgetting how the cops shot Pacino’s friend in the head?”

“Movies aren’t real.”

“DOG DAY AFTERNOON was based on a real bank robbery.”

“It was?”

“Yeah, and it didn’t have a happy ending.”

“Your parents live in Florida. That sounds like a ‘happy ever’ after to me. If you called them, they might wire you money to come home?”

“Yes, and tomorrow night we’d be eating my Mom’s homemade apple pie.”

“I love apple pie.” Frankie licked his lips.

“Only one problem.” Johnny gestured toward Manhattan.

“Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

“I’m not leaving this behind.”

“Fuck this city?” Frankie chucked the battered drumsticks into the river. “All I have here are hustles, an empty stomach and the smell of old man’s hands on my skin, and you don’t have it much better.”

Johnny stuck the guitar into its case and walked toward the elevated highway.

Frankie trailed behind him.

“I ran away from Florida for the same reason you want to run away from New York.” Johnny stopped on the curb of West Street and turned to Frankie. “Me and you will make it here as rock stars.”

“But not tonight.” Frankie kicked an empty beer can into the gutter.

“No, not tonight.” Johnny couldn’t lie to Frankie. “Tomorrow Max’s will serve a turkey feast for us orphans.”

“So what about tonight?” Frankie could handle anything as long as he was with Johnny.

“Tonight we go to work.” The uptown light on West Street was changing to green and suburb-bound cars accelerated to catch up with the synchronized signals.

“53rd and 3rd?” Frankie had had his fill of the sissies at those piano bars.

“No, we’re not competing with midnight cowboys tonight.”

“The docks?”

Across the street men prowled the sidewalks in search of nameless sex. A few lurked between the trucks parked underneath the elevated highway. How they were celebrating the night before Thanksgiving was no mystery.

“Never them.”

“So it’s Times Square?” Frankie sighed with resignation.

“The Strip is all about luck.”

“With luck being heads I win, tails you lose and never give a sucker a break.”

“That’s the game there and everywhere. How I look?” Johnny slung the case’s strap over his shoulder and pulled up the collar of his torn leather jacket.

“Like a prince.” Frankie blew on his numb hands.

“Where anyone from Jerome Avenue meet a prince?”

“My grandmother read me fairy tales. They really have princes and princesses?”

“Real as you and me, except they were born in a palace.” The chilled air scrapped over Johnny’s right lung like a boat striking a reef.

“You meet one?” Frankie was oblivious to his friend’s discomfort.

“Not this side of the silver screen.” Johnny fought off the shakes, figuring his ‘jones’ was knocking on the door. “Princes and princesses are like any suckers. We meet one and what we do?”

“We take them for everything.” Frankie snapped his fingers.

“And leave them begging for more.” The ache faded from Johnny’s chest and he draped his arm over the younger boy. “Just one more thing.”

“I know what you’re going to say.”

“Which is?

“For me not to trust anyone.”

“That’s survival rule # 1 in New York.” Times Square killed people who broke that rule and he turned to Frankie. “That means me too.”

“I’m a big boy.” Frankie’s childhood had revealed the worst of what the New York had to offer the young.

“Then let’s head uptown.” Johnny dashed onto West Street. “Watch out, Johnny.”

Two taxis swerved to avoid hitting the guitarist.

“For what? I’ll live forever,” Johnny shouted from the other side of the street, because believing in anything other than his immortality would have been a sacrilege, at least until he reached twenty-one and that birthday was more than a year away and a year was an eternity when you were only twenty.

To read more of MAYBE TOMORROW, please go to the following URL

$6.99 on Kindle

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Women On Cash

The never-ending war against racism in America has denuded southern flagpoles of the Confederate battle banner and forced state capitols to store the statues of ancient slavers.

Nationally Americans agreed that Andrew Jackson, a die-hard slaver and Indian killer, better not represent the nation's higher values and the US Treasury decided the replace 'Old Hickory' with Harriet Tubman, a black woman, who led over a thousand blacks from Dixie too freedom.

There was rumbling from below the Mason-Dixon line as well as north of the border, but Ms. Tubman was a true hero.

Tubman carried an old Navy revolver.

She was not afraid of using it.

No one under her care went back to a plantation.

She was not the first woman to grace paper money.

Martha Washington, another slave owner, was on the $10,000 bill.

We didn't see many of those.

My favorite prior on the $1 coin to pistol-packing Harriet Tubman was Sacajawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific and back.

Without her knowledge and language skills the white men would have never reached their goal.

The remained in the Western Plains, alternatively dying of illness in 1812 or living in Wyoming to 1884.

I have been to her grave.

Amongst her people.

Harriet Tubman was buried in Auburn, New York.

Far from Dixie.

A good thing back then.

May she live on the $20 for ages.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Pattaya Time Warp - Photos from 1969

Sam Royalle emailed this photo.

Paradise 1969 although Hell was only a few hundred miles away in Vietnam.

Click on this URL

These photos were taken by a GI on holiday. Amazing. No Big-C. No traffic. No plastic bags in the water. No Russians, lager louts, or bikers. There is no trick photography. That's how it was. Not that I knew. I was a draft dodger and I'm still trying to get my anti-war pension from the Pentagon. Maybe I'll have more luck now that Obama is in office.

"Hey Ho We Won't Go."

But I would have gone to Pattaya in a heartbeat.

How could I have known?

We were so much younger then.

Pattaya Tai

The future site of Bali Hai

Pattaya Beach.

The old pier.

The beach.

From the admiral's hill.

Florence Foster Jenkins - American Songboid

Some people are just plain lucky.

According to Wikipedia Florence Foster Jenkins (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944) was an American socialite and amateur operatic soprano who was known and ridiculed for her lack of rhythm, pitch, and tone, her aberrant pronunciation, and her generally poor singing ability.

Her audience came to see her faults.

Her pianist tried to hide them.

It was an impossibility.

But she was loved and that's not a small thing.

Not then.

Not now.

And this May the movie starring Meryl Strepp reincarnated Florence Foster Jenkins.

It see

She deserves nothing less.

To see the trailer, please go to the following URL

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tarzan Jesus On VDO

A religious festival in Guatemala featured a Jesus on a very high pole. The spectacle turned bad when 'Jesus' fell from his crucifixion perch, but luckily caught hold of a wire to break his fall.

A miracle for Tarzan Jesus.

His father was part god/ part ape.

To watch Tarzan Jesus fall, please go to the following URL

Tarzan Jesus

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote TARZAN in 1912. The story of a British orphan raised by apes in Africa captivated American readers. The former businessman became wealthy off these tales of Dark Continent and the legend of Tarzan remains a money-maker for Hollywood.

While other actors brought the Lord Of The Apes to the silver screen, Johnny Weissmuller animated Tarzan for the cinematic audiences around the world. The Olympic champion embodied the character with his swimming, fighting, and famous cry swinging through the jungles.

"Me Tarzan. You Jane."

In my childhood Johnny Weissmuller was Tarzan.

Since his retirement Hollywood has drafted numerous actors to play the Lord of the Apes.

Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Ron Ely, Miles O'Keeffe, Christopher Lambert, Casper Van Dien, and now Alexander SkarsgÄrd in a 3D version.

Personally I'm waited for TARZAN JESU.

A tale for the ages.