Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ubud #1

In a small room off Hanoman Street, the tattooist paused his needle from my foot and looked at me.
“You okay, sista?”
I nodded but he had already felt my leg twitching as the gun hit nerves and pressure points. I was sweating, lost in a strange world of low-level, insistent pain.
“We have a quick break,” he said.
It was early evening and scooters, jeeps and taxis beeped and roared. Street side, the tattooist smoked, his bare hands streaked in the powdered flock from his plastic gloves. His little brother came to sit with us on the bench, waved his fist at his leonine dog to squat on the concrete at his feet.
Selemat mallam, guark,” said the little brother, looking at the outline of a crow on my foot.
“Good evening, crow?” I asked him. “Is that what you say?”
“Yes, guark, a crow,” he smiled. He was softer, younger than his brother. “I like birds.”
“What is your best bird?”
“Pigeon. I have plenty of pigeon.”
“You have pigeons? Do you race them?” He look confused. I said, “You know … ah … competition … very fast?”
“Ahh, yes! All around Bali. Very fast birds. I, when I was little -” he held his hand a metre above the ground “- I have lots of pigeon. My mother say ‘take birds way! Too many pigeon!’ So I took them to the market and sold all the pigeon. The next day, all my pigeon come home!”
“Ha! Homing pigeons. So you had money and pigeons!”
“Yes!” He laughed. “Now, I have fifteen pigeon. I sell them every week at the market. Sometimes they do not come back but most times, I get my pigeon back and I sell them again.”
“That’s so cheeky! Don’t you get pigeon buyer come to your house with big stick?”
He shook his head. “Another man sell them for me.”

His brother, smoking, watching the street with the kind of detached cool that only tattooists possess, stubbed out his cigarette in the Bakelite ashtray and nodded me inside.


  1. That's a great story, but why a crow and not a fish?

    1. I bust out of routine whilst holidaying, I guess.

  2. With everything that's happened recently, I'm surprised you weren't getting a pigeon rather than a crow.

    Is this an old story or a new one?

    1. A new story Alex. It began with a conversation about crows. It was kind of important to me that the artist was familiar with them - and I definitely didn't want a crow that looked like a pigeon, or a chicken!

  3. The best thing about Indonesian pigeons is the way they attach little bamboo flutes to their legs so that as the flock circles & swoops the wind rushes thru them and plays music so that even having your pigeons circling your house becomes a multi media event. In Indonesia art & life tend to merge.
    Have you seen that when there? If not look out for it next time you visit.

  4. I never saw or heard that Crispin. It sounds beautiful. Maybe it's an alert for the pigeons' owners as well?