Excerpt from my memoir “The Kid Who Got Away“
The Bali I discovered after stepping off that plane from Australia was an island on which art and ritual were an integral part of everyday life, a part of everyone’s daily existence. You might see the kid that’s sweeping out your house performing a 400 year-old dance that same night, unrecognizable in full makeup and costume. The Barong Dance and the Kejak or “Monkey Dance” stood out as the most colorful and popular, though the Legong was also performed frequently. Villages practice daily rituals at the small temples erected outside of every home and temples big and small throughout the island.
The Barong Dance symbolizes the eternal struggle between good and evil. The good is represented by the lion-like Barong, king of the spirit world, leader of all that is good. The evil is represented by his nemesis, Rangda, the demon queen. Locals told me that whenever there was illness or maybe discord amongst neighbors in their village, a Barong Dance was organized. This was necessary in order to exorcise the negative energy and clean the spiritual environment.
Today, most Barong Dances are performed for tourists at theaters, hotels and temples. The first time I witnessed a Barong Dance was late one full moon night on a dirt road leading up to Kuta Beach, the surf roaring in the background. At one point, select men from the village approached Rangda, intent on attacking and driving her away. This first night, I was very close to the action, no one between me and the dancers. As the young village men attacked Rangda, she turned the kris knives against them with her power at full force. I watched in awe as the knives actually bent. I was very close to one young man. He put the tip of the kris knife into his eye right. The knife bent. The astonished and vanquished Rangda ran off, fleeing into the jungle.
The young villager sustained no damage to his eye. I spoke with him later. He said that he had been protected from harm by the energy of the villagers and especially by the power of Barong. Magic was alive that night in Bali.
They are crucial. They make assimilation into a new environment so much easier. They grease the works and show you the ropes. I don’t know what to call them other than “Travel Angels.” Mine took me under his wing about twenty minutes after my arrival here in San Miguel.
I had plans and the Traveling Gods laughed. I had my backpack, my guitar and my laptop. I had made eight reservations through Air BnB in different cities all over Mexico. After a short visit with my friend Robert in Playas del Tijuana (during which I decided that the beach life was not for me…yet) I headed for my next stop: a planned week-long stay in San Miguel de Allende.
I dropped my stuff of in my room, joined my host Marcia in the courtyard and in off the street he casually dropped by. Harry had lived in SMA for seven years. He took one look at me and said, “Come with me.” He led me down the street to an open studios fiesta of San Miguel artists. It seemed like he knew everyone in town. I later began to refer to him as the “Unofficial Mayor of SMA.” He was kind and generous. Still is. Only now, he’s a friend as well.
He asked me how long my reservation at Marcia’s BnB was. I told him a week, after which I had plans to head off to Merida in the Yucatan. He said, “I’m off to the States for six weeks. You should rent my place. Stick around for a while. I think you might find that this place has a lot more to offer than you might think.” I did. When he got back, he found me a most magnificent townhouse at a ridiculously cheap rate.
Marcia, the wacky innkeeper who’s BnB I stayed at initially, has helped so much. So has a new friend, Frank. Sophie, a friend of a buddy of mine in the states, has been exceptionally generous. She has a car and has taken me to the Sanctuary at Atotonilco, La Gruta Hot Springs, and to “Shoppers Paradise” for expats here, Celaya where we used her Costco card to get so many of the “comfort foods” that you can’t find in SMA. She is a healer and aware of my need to heal both physically and spiritually from the Katrina, cancer and my artistic struggles of the past couple of years. She is becoming a true confidant and friend.
Without the help of these “Travel Angels,” my entry into day-to-day life in SMA would have been slowed greatly. I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t eat turkey. I can be thankful, though. I am truly grateful to them for their love, time and generosity.
Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”
“Meow…btw, we sleep16 to 20 hours a day so, we don’t give a shit.”