40 - Tickle My Kuta (Kuta, Bali, Indonesia)
Breath? Caught. Flux capacitator? Recapacitated. Time to jiggle, swiggle, and roll… to Kuta? Et tu, Brute? She’s a he. Will suck for a fee. Hee, hee. Hee, hee. Morning shots. Tourist knots. Revolution by the beach.
by The Nostomaniac
UBUD CAST ITS SPELL YET AGAIN. Inertia and the proverbial quicksand sapped my will to explore. I had to ambulate. Excuses for lingering dwindled. Visa? Extended. Phantom? Tuned. General health and wellness? Examined. Batteries? Recharged. Friendships? Reinforced. No regrets, mind you. I required time to catch my breath. And I had the time for catching. I even read a book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Reading is fun. This one’s filled with all kinds of fascinating information. For example, Yellowstone National Park lies above the largest supervolcano in North America. Beat that “Ring of Fire.” Not if, but when it erupts, it’ll probably take half the United States with it. A nice relaxing read in the rice fields above the village.
So, I left… but didn’t get far. South Bali. Kuta. Crowded, congested, tacky, and overdeveloped. Yep, that Kuta. Everything I hate about mass tourism crammed into what would otherwise be a stunning coastline. I didn’t relish the idea, but I needed shit. A new compact camera (a recent casualty) and decent sandals topped my list. What better place to find tourist paraphernalia than in a place swarming with them? I decided to grit my teeth and power through.
Suspicions? Confirmed. It’s a tourist black hole, a black hole with an unofficial uniform—shirts and tank tops showcasing the logo of Indonesia’s popular brew: Bintang. Everyone and their mother is wearing one, more or less the same one. And they all look good. Real good. If a Spring Break atmosphere is your bag, look no further. Discotechs. Loud music. Louder tourists. Overpriced everything. And (surprise, surprise) traffic is murder, especially in the afternoon
Imagine my disbelief when I started to enjoy myself, even lingering longer than planned. Et tu, Brute? Granted, it took effort and an attitude adjustment, but I admit I savored my time in Kuta. I found a decent guesthouse off the beach (i.e. away from the dense chaos) as my HQ. I knew if I wanted to savor the shore, I’d have to find it deserted. So, on my first morning, I rose before the asscrack of dawn and headed toward the ocean, camera in hand.
The streets were infused with a post-apocalyptic grimness underscored by a power outage. Packs of stray dogs helped cement the visual. They had a sinister air about them, eyeing me like an oversized chew toy. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, a young Indonesian male emerged from a dark inlet and offered to do “whatever I want” if I stayed with him. I declined. If you’re looking for the Bali from the brochure, ya sure as shit ain’t gonna see it in Kuta at 5:30 am. Weird.
The theme continued. While taking photos on the beach, a well-fed transvestite—wait…Transvestite? Cross-dresser? Transgender? Transsexual? (Please insert least offensive, most politically correct designation for a man dressed as a woman here.) Anyway, he/she approached me from behind, put his/her hand on my back and proposed “sucky, sucky” for what I believe was a reasonable fee. I declined this offer as well. Some emphasis and a semi-growl made my wishes clear. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t wanna be loved?
Still, my tribulations were not in vain. Kuta beach is lovely in the dawning light. Sand patterns. Sky patterns. Color patterns. Fresh offerings in the surf. And when you’re alone, all is grand. As the infestation blossoms and the colors fade, the feeling dissipates, and you’re back in tourist purgatory.
On the stroll back to my abode, I passed a dog lying on the sidewalk that oozed such heart-wrenching pathos I was compelled to go back for a photo. Something about Fido struck a chord, one soaked in a sorrow I couldn’t turn away from. I wanted, no, make that needed to capture it. I tried. I failed. I only got one shot before he decided serving as my pathetic muse was beneath him. He rose with a theretofore hidden vitality that gave me cause for optimism, however small. Perhaps, he hadn’t given up just yet. I wonder what kept him going.
What’s more disheartening than a forlorn pup in a sea of vacation revelry? The mall. That’s what. A necessary evil. And my quest for a small compact backup camera replacement? Completed. It was an older model Nikon and certainly overpriced, but not obnoxiously so considering high import taxes. Yeah, baby. You think that’s exciting? I also secured a pair of Tevas to replace the sandals disintegrating off my feet. Cost? A measly $25 US. “How could this be?” you ask. I credit the good fortune to my mutant size. Not much call for Bigfoot sizes even among the hordes of westerners. Score.
I came across a shop named “The Guard” devoted exclusively to safe sex… I think. Or is it just sex in general? Tough call. It claims to donate a portion of its sales to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. “Condoms Galore” would’ve been more fitting. The Guard’s existence says a lot about Kuta. We’re all just a bunch of filthy animals. I’d love to be above the fray, but my exploits on Gili Trawangan say otherwise. Nasty.
I spent a glorious day getting nothing accomplished in support of my upcoming westward push. There are places to escape the Kuta hordes, but it requires transportation and a willingness to mingle with the upper crust. Seminyak, a northern suburb of Kuta, has (or had) a much more subdued vibe in contrast to the chaos of its southern neighbor. I staked my claim on a beachside bar/restaurant known as Ku De Ta (pronounced coups d’etat). By now it’s synonymous with Seminyak itself and well known for its oceanside opulence. It sits atop a small hill on a magnificent stretch of beach. And, yes, it’s more than a little pretentious and stocked with Bold and the Beautiful wannabes. Still, you can’t beat the location. Plus, I’m a huge fucking deal so…
It’s especially favorable in the morning. I arrived around 8:30 a.m. and was sipping a $4 beer by 8:45. I’m not an alcoholic, but I played one in Seminyak. Not sure why, but the mood struck me. And a fine mood it was. Beer and swimming. That was my rotation. The sea was near perfect, refreshingly cool and not terribly salty. One can while away hours and hours frolicking in the waves. And frolic I did. I would float face up with the water just covering my ears for long stretches creating an eerie “lonely man in the sea” kind of vibe. Combine that with smooth wave action and you get a taste of the sublime that still touches me to this day. A Zen-inducing ritual that left me incredibly calm and peaceful. Maybe the beer helped.
That was my morning. My afternoon was something of a mirror image. In between, I broke for a reasonably priced lunch and a haircut. I considered growing my hair long and adopting a vagrant-esque persona. Why? Well, I thought if I looked a bit worn and tattered it might discourage thieves and brigands from engaging down the road. A “Don’t fuck with the long-haired creepy mutant” kind of deal. Just a theory and probably a stupid one for it could also discourage the innocent from reaching out. But, alas, it was simply too hot with a helmet to endure the experiment. I went from hippie-ish to insurance salesman. We all have a cross to bear.
I had a weakening motivation to make further preparations for my follow-on journey, but thoughts of “beach revolution” beckoned me seaward. I had more important things to do, like hiring beach vendors for a massage and foot scrub. Sometimes I have difficulty saying no. Did I really want a foot scrub and a beach massage? Negative. I just assume sit in my chair and let my mind go blank, but I sometimes can’t resist the peddler’s plight. I often bought things I didn’t need or want if only to throw a few bucks their way. What can I say? I’m that guy.
Nothing like the soft caress of two middle-aged Balinese women on a public beach. One for the feet and one for the rest of my leg. The “rest of my leg” masseuse wasn’t shy about hiking up my shorts in the name of thoroughness. When she encroached Poopshoot Land, I giggled, told her I was bashful, and adjusted to a more modest position. I’m sure it was innocent, but I’m a lady.
I wrote a theme song, or more accurately, I wrote the chorus to a theme song. Lots of dirty white folk venture to Bali. Sex. Marriage. Escape. Who the hell knows? The vast majority are older men with the looks of an Idaho potato, but cougars prowled for cabana boys as well. “The Dirty White Guy Song.” That’s the tune. For months, the chorus played automatically whenever I saw aged white men of dubious physical stature paired with younger and often times attractive Balinese females. Either those dudes had million dollar personalities or money was involved. Not to say the women were pros (although the possibility was there), only that some impressionable young ladies were likely swayed by the affluent tourist type. And, yes, there were grizzled kitty cats towing young, fit Indonesian blokes in their wake. I sang in their honor also.
So, wherever I saw this, I would involuntarily chant, “Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY!” I had no control. It propelled forth automatically. Though created specifically for the situation above, it has broader implications, applicable to any seedy, salacious, or unsavory scenario. You see the boss coming out of a hotel with a woman not his wife? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY! You run into your neighbor outside the adult bookstore? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY! Your roommate and his girlfriend are attempting to set a new Sex Olympics decibel record? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY!
It need not have sexual connotations either. Your relative just stunk up the bathroom? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY! The cat just shit on the carpet? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY! Your three year old just did a swan dive into a mud puddle? Dirty-dirty-Diiiiirrr-tee…Diiiiir-TAY! I marvel at the versatility.