A Discussion

I was talking to my friend at Starbucks the other day about smoking — or more precisely, about quitting smoking. This caused me to think back to a time when I did try to quit smoking. So, I thought I’d tell him that story.

“Do remember that old movie, Hatari?” I began.


“No, Hatari. You know, with John Wayne?”

“John Wayne?”

“Yeah, you know, John Wayne. The actor. I mean … I mean, it’s John Wayne, man! You don’t know John Wayne?”

“John Lennon, yes, I know.”

“No, no. Different guy.”

Good grief. Well, on the other hand, it was a long time ago. Hatari, I mean. John Wayne too. And this particular young man is much (much) younger than I. Still, surely any westerner would know John Wayne, I have to think.

“Okay, you know cowboys, right?”

“Yes. The Marlboro Man.”

Ah, now we’re making progress.  Sort of. Not where my story is concerned, mind you, but where the general idea of cowboys is concerned. Which, however, has nothing to do with Hatari.

“Okay, never mind John Wayne and the Marlboro Man. There was this old movie, see, called Hatari. I was trying to stop smoking, but I happened to turn on this movie, Hatari, and everyone, I mean everyone, in the movie was smoking! Like, in every scene!”


“Why what?”

“Why are they smoking?”

“Well … no reason. I mean, everyone smoked back then.”

“When you decided to quit?”

“No. When I watched the movie.”


“You know what … let’s talk about something else.

“Okay. Hmm. Do you believe in Bocong?”

I’ve never heard of the word. I have to look it up in the translator on my phone, which gives the definition ‘Jug’.

“Do I believe in jugs?”

“Hahahaha! No, no. That’s wrong. It is not jug.”

I show him my dictionary.

“Yes, but that is not right. Bocong. This is what we say. It’s like slang.”

“So what is it?”

“Hmm. I don’t know.”

“You don’t know either?”

“I mean, yes … No, I don’t know in English. Hmm. Let’s see. You know the white face, with holes for eyes?”


What the hell are we talking about?

“Sorry, sorry. Oh! Halloween. The white sheet!”




“But that’s hantu, I thought.”

“Yes. But we say Bocong. Do you believe?”

“In ghosts?”

“Yes. I do. I believe.”

“Well. Yeah. I guess I do, too. But they’re not really ghosts. That’s what I think. I mean, they’re not dead people. They’re demons.”


“No. Demons.

“What is it, dee-mon?”

“Iblis.”  Ah ha, I know that one!

“Oh ya, Iblis,” my friend says. “With Muslims they are Iblis. With Balinese, bocong.”

“With Christians, they are different. A ghost is one thing, a demon is another.”

“What is the difference?”

“Oh … well, I mean, I’m not an expert. But a ghost is not real, but a demon is.”

“I believe in ghosts.”

“So you said. But anyway, go on.”

“Go on where?” He looks at his watch. “Still ten minutes in break time. Or … maybe you want to be alone? Maybe you are busy, yes. Please excuse me.”

“No, no.  No!  I’m not busy at all. Look … How about we talk about something else!”

“How about if we have another cigarette,” he suggests. “Just like John Wayne.”


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