The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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Indonesia - Djakarta

The red arrow points to Jakarta

Boarding Pass to Djakarta

Economy class again

Return to Djakarta 1

Luggage tag for my suitcase full of dirty clothes

Return to Djakarta 2

Garuda flew Lockheed Electras - my favorite airplane

Melbourne, 29.11.68

Hello again~
After 6 days of Bali, I confess I was fed up with constantly fending off people trying to sell me every imaginable thing. I did, as I believe I mentioned last letter, see quite a bit and get yet another nasty sunburn (which today is all peeling off). So, on Thursday I boarded another Electra bound for Djakarta, via, as it turned out, Surabaja, where there was a brief passenger stop. Because of a mistake on Garuda’s part in Denpasar, I was not confirmed on the 9 PM M-S-A flight to Sydney, but at DJK I got that straightened out soon enough (I
was confirmed, but DPS had my name wrong). Having about 5 hours, I decided to at least go into downtown Djakarta for a quick look round. I questioned the taxi kiosk, 2 information kiosks, and 2 taxi drivers outside about getting from the aeroport to downtown DJK: in every case, instead of information, I got a hard-sell pitch for a 2-hr hired-car sight-seeing tour, and my 6 days’ experience in Bali made me balk. Actually, I was furious, though in the orient or Asia it is best not to let this show. So I resolved to just sit out the lay-over at the aeroport. On the “waving deck” cokes were Rp 300 (=75¢ US); I balked at that too, but found on the next deck up the same coke only Rp 75. Here, though, the waiter did not even bother to bring back the change from the Rp 100 I gave him. So, instead of also ordering perhaps a sandwich later on, I did without, and spent nothing except the inevitable Rp 400 Aeroport Tax. About 7:30 I was informed that my flite would be about 1½ hrs late. The dispatcher, hearing of my difficulty with the taxis, arranged to take me along when he was driven home at 8, and the driver took a rather circuitous route back, so by night, I did see a little of Djakarta after all—free! It reminded me too much of Saigon: about the same size (4M), and in only a little better condition. Traffic is ghastly, & there were more “tri-sha’s” than anything else—more even than Saigon. At least in DJK they are brightly painted and festooned with all sorts of gewgaws, so are more colorful than the broken-down pedicabs in Sgn. Well, making a long story short, the plane departed four hours late, around 1 AM local time. Trouble with the landing gear, and it wasn’t really right: the brakes grabbed badly when we landed in Sydney, and later I heard the return flight delayed for at least an hour.

The problem with the taxis was my own misunderstanding as to just where I was! The airport for Djakarta then was right on the outskirts of town: if I had had sense to walk out to the main road (perhaps a quarter of a mile) I could have hired a tri-sha and been in Djakarta in less than 20 minutes! I had become accustomed to airports that were miles from anywhere, as in the States. The taxi drivers did not want to drop the flag for what would have been a very short ride. Likewise, I had spent down my rupiahs, as they would be worthless the moment I left the country, and did not want to cash a travelers check and have a wad of worthless rups left over.

One amusing thing happened on the flight from Denpasar to Djakarta. My seat-mate was a funny-looking little Frenchman who works as a doctor in a remote village in the Congo. Once a year he goes out for a holiday. He had little to say, but kept repeating that over and over. Finally he said that although he liked Bali, he was disappointed by the Balinese women—they just weren’t “as good” as he’d been led to believe. I guess I was in a bitchy mood, but after the aforementioned annoyances in Bali & this character’s incessant babble I could not hold back, so I said, “Well console yourself with the realization that there is probably at least one Balinese women back there saying right now, ‘I was disappointed by that Frenchman—he wasn’t as good as I’d been lead to believe'”. We completed the trip to DJK in blessed silence!

Boarding Pass for Sydney

The pass shows where to board the plane: clever!

Luggage Tag Sydney

Amazing what stuff I've saved all these years!

It was night, of course, when we finally departed DJK; first light came only a couple of hours later (after we’d passed over a fantastically beautiful electrical storm—I’d never seen one at night from the air, but wow!! what a show!) and sunrise a couple of hours behind that. I could see quite a lot of Australia below, and it certainly has some fascinating topography. We gained one hour of lost time, and there was a three hour time difference, putting us in Sydney about 10:30 local time. We flew right over the huge brush-fire that literally surrounds Sydney and has it in a state of emergency at this very moment. But it was a very cold 70° F when we stepped off the plane! I immediately put in a couple of phone calls, and on the basis thereof decided to transit Sydney for the moment & proceed to Melbourne.

I know—since you’ve all asked—you’re wondering what I’m going to do after Christmas; if I knew for sure, I’d tell you, but I really do not. A number of possibilities are in mind, and a new one opened up here today, though frankly is is so far the least attractive of the lot. My old job is, I hear, open again, and may still be so when I get home. They want me back, but it would be so prohibitively expensive for me to re-settle in SF that I think that is out of the question. I cannot remain states-side more than one month without losing my tax exemption for 1968, which would be a disaster. To prevent this, I’ve set aside enough to keep me reasonably well in Mexico as long as might be necessary to negotiate a new overseas job (I’ve joined Overseas Craftsmens Association, a specialty placement agency with excellent reputation). On the other hand, it is clear that I could come and work here in Melbourne, even on a relatively short term basis, helping (indirectly) [redacted] on the study they’re making of the waste-disposal problem in the harbor here; actually I’d work for the Melbourne Works Board and the salary would be little more than maintenance, but perhaps preferable to frittering away 6 months in Mexico (where I’m welcome to live but not to work).

On the other hand, I must admit having for some time now entertained a notion whereby I might be able to continue traveling but still make money. Frank Lew, my room-mate back in San Jose these many years ago, has been working for some time for Cost-Plus in SF; when I left I know he was getting an urge to do some traveling again, too. The idea has occurred to me that we might team up to open a small import shop (probably in Mill Valley) and art gallery; one of us would stay to run the shop while the other went on buying-trips, and we’d take turns. I’ve seen so many really fine things in SEA that we just don’t seem to be getting at home. A carefully selected & properly displayed sampling would sell very well I’m sure. Thus, the incidental pleasures of the buying expeditions would be, essentially, free. I will explore all this with Frank when I get home—he probably has plenty of reasons why it won’t work, but if anyone would know, he should!

This traveling I’ve been doing since September has really whetted my appetite. A 6 month’s or so stint here wouldn’t really be bad at all, though I find the Australians about as dismal as most americans. They seem to combine the least fortunate aspects of English appearance with the worst of american manners. Perhaps I am over-reacting to re-entering “the West”—it will be interesting to see how I react to america after 11 months’ absence! But frankly, after the down-to-earth Asians, westerners seem so hopelessly over-blown it’s almost disgusting. It’s hard to put my finger on the essential difference, but western “role-playing” is one obvious one. After being with people for nearly 3 months who are on no way afraid of being seen for exactly what they are, westerners all look like walking parodies of themselves! The “hollow men”—wasn’t it Whitman who coined that phrase? Who coined it doesn’t matter: it expresses exactly my impression of western “culture” today.

Our M-S-A flight landed out on the tarmac at Sydney; the stewardi sprayed the cabin to kill bugs, so we had to wait for that to happen before we could disembark. When the door was finally opened, there was a bus parked a dozen meters away, its doors open, with ropes on pylons stretched between the bottom of the gang-plank and the bus. There was absolutely no question what was intended: we should walk down the stairs, walk over to the bus and get into it. There was no other choice. Nevertheless, there was a uniformed gent at the bottom of the steps loudly telling us where to go and gesticulating wildly, as if we were all blind. At that moment, I had the first-ever experience of culture-shock. For ten months or so up to that point, I had been used to finding my own way quite successfully without anyone really telling me what to do or where to go: so this officious fellow struck me as silly and the whole scene as ludicrous. In fact, as I walked along to the bus, I got the giggles, and when I finally got to Australian customs, I was still chuckling. They must have thought I was “on something”, for they went through my bag of dirty clothes with a fine-toothed comb, but found nothing except dirty clothes!

I’ve got sidetracked! What I was about to say was that Australia is, after all, a good jumping-off place for just about any part of Asia, so 6 months or so here might be tolerable if a few week-ends could be spent renewing friendships in Asia—and there’s lots of new territory to explore closer by for that matter. New Zealand, Papua/New Guinea; Indonesia; so forth and so on. I’d like best to work a year or two in Cambodia, which is unlikely, though I guess not entirely out of the question. OCA will know of any possibilities that may exist.

Picked up a recent copy of the Asia edition of News-Week, and was appalled to find Bell Helicopter advertising its latest assault helicopter, describing in glowing terms its various “virtues”, its handy-dandy clamp-on rocket-launchers, bomb racks, etc. ad nauseam. Replete with photo in simulated combat situation. Business—as suppliers of arms to some 40 nations—must be slack; think what a threat peace must be to that segment of our economy. President Nixon, I see, has lately drug out the old chestnut about america being peace-maker for the world (my least affected reaction to that “line” is an offensive and unprintable expletive). Why must we hide behind such meaningless platitudes? Why not just bill ourselves as arms-makers to the world and be done with it? Why not just stop being hypocrites altogether—let the world see us (and thus, see ourselves) as we really are—human beings with all the usual human short-comings (and virtues as well)—instead of the “supermen” we seem to become convinced we are?

The election outcome gets, to repeat Alice in Wonderland’s phrase, “curiouser and curiouser. Those who could see little to choose between Humphrey and Nixon can surely see even less, now, what with the “detente” between Nixon & Johnson. It goes to show how wrong those who thought Nixon would be a “change” were. The spectre of Nixon agreeing that Johnson’s bombing-halt was properly timed is almost macabre, since it came within a hair’s breadth of losing the election for him: had Nixon lost, I wonder what tone his endorsement of Johnson’s timing might have taken? As events have proved, while Lyndon’s announcement was almost perfectly timed for political results at home, it was consummately ill-timed as far as Saigon was concerned. All President Thieu needed was a few days—a week perhaps—to do his own very necessary politicking to get the proposal accepted promptly and a negotiating team whipped together. But US partisanship simply could not wait—and we have yet to see how far-reaching the consequences of that fact may be. Now, the appointment of Ky to lead the delegation to Paris is, I think, a portent that Saigon will give no more—to the US or Hanoi—and a long, drawn-out repetition of Panmunjom is in the offing, with rather similar “results”—if they may be called that—to be expected.

I think I shall post this tomorrow—as you can see I have run out of paper & shall have to pick up some more. I’ll see a bit of Melbourne tomorrow, and am scheduled to visit with [redacted] in the afternoon & stay to dinner. Monday I’ll spend pretty much with the lab director for the Wks Board, and Tuesday fly TAA (“Tee Aye Aye” in Australian) to connect with the Sydney flight to Noumea. Sydney itself I will just have to see some other time: it’s huge, and there’s just not enough time left.

This may reach you before letter from Bali—Indonesia Post is not all that good.

Love to all


I did not stay long in Australia, but some photos will be forthcoming on my next page. Stay with me!



Written by Editor

February 16th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Bali,Indonesia