At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

GLUTEN FREE DIET

This blogger was happily enjoying some artisanal pizza with sliced red Jalapeños, small dairy cheese from Northern California (happy cows!) and free-range pepper-bacon, when a friend saw me and screamed that I was killing myself. No, it wasn't the bacon or the cheese -- I think she automatically assumed that those were all-vegan substitutes for animal exploitative products -- but the delicious pizza crust, crispy along the edges with a nice toothsomeness, and slightly darkened in a toasty manner in spots on the bottom.

Gluten, she wished me to know, is a deadly poison!
Wheat was the devil's own food product.
Eliminate it! Now!

Sweatheart, I do. I eliminate it nearly every day.

Well, actually, it IS every day.

I love my wheat.


The problems with gluten, according to her yoga instructor and several knowledgeable friends, are that it poisons the gut and stunts natural growth, leading to such ailments as autism, chronic headaches, indigestion, and a lowered sex drive.

Given that the two most populated countries on the planet have cuisines very largely dependent on gluten, one might hope for the sake of all of us that at least that last ridiculous assertion might be right.

Unfortunately it's just as bogus as all the others.


The normal diet naturally should include gluten; it's one of mankind's primary sources of protein, and the foods that contain it are the building blocks of civilization. We are meant to consume gluten.

Less than one percent of the population actually has any real problems with gluten; the rest are raving hysterics bucking for the "I'm so frickin' special I could scream" medal.

They need to get over their fine selves.


In fact, a gluten-free diet will lead to exactly all the problems which she enumerated. Besides causing malnutrition-based psychosis, and insanity in rats. Which her shrill puritanism on that subject demonstrated. Amply.
The main reason that so many Americans have health problems is NOT gluten -- mankind has eaten gluten-rich products and thrived for several thousand years -- but that so very many Americans are, on the whole, fat lazy slobs who eat badly, eat too much, and don't chew their food. That long aisle of pills and liquids for digestive discomfort at Walgreen's is based almost entirely on our affection for high sugar, high salt, greasy, non-nutritious crap.

Don't cut gluten from your diet, that's as ridiculous as going vegan.

Feel free to have some nice bacon-wrapped grilled oysters.

And steamed fatty pork with shrimp-paste.

Just eat vegetables also.


No, forget about carrot sticks as a snack. The carrot is a thoroughly nasty protestant thing, especially in its raw state. And lettuce-based salads are far less exciting than you think. Lettuce should be cooked. Perhaps with a little oyster sauce added. Which. Contains. Gluten.


Expand your narrow horizons, experiment.

Here's a short list of items available in San Francisco.
I know this, because I saw them.
In the last week.

A-choy
Almond
Apples
Arugula
Artichoke
Avocado
Azuki beans
Bamboo shoots
Bananas
Beansprouts
Beet greens
Beets
Bell pepper
Bitter melon
Black eyed peas
Bok choy
Brazil nut
Breadfruit
Broccoli
Broccoli rabe
Broccolini
Butternut squash
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrot
Cashews
Cauliflower
Celery
Chayote
Chickpeas
Chillies
Chives
Choisum
Chrysanthemum leaves
Collard greens
Cucumber
Daikon
Dandelion greens
Durian
Eggplant
Endive
Fiddlehead
Fuzzy melon
Grapes
Grapefruit
Green beans
Kai lan
Kale
Laver
Leeks
Lemon
Lentil
Lettuce
Lime
Lima bean
Longan fruit
Long beans
Lotus root
Luffa
Mango
Mustard greens
Mushrooms
Napa cabbage
Nectarine
Okra
Olives
Onion
Oranges
Papaya
Parsnip
Pears
Peas
Peanuts
Pea sprouts
Pigeon peas
Pistachio
Plantains
Plums
Potato
Pumpkin
Radicchio
Radish
Shallots
Snow pea
Soybean
Spinach
Strawberries
Summer squash
Swiss chard
Taro
Tofu and tofu products
Tomatillo
Tomato
Turnip
Urad dal
Wai san
Walnuts
Watercress
Water caltrop
Water chestnut
Water melon
Water spinach
Winter melon
Wood ear fungus
Yam
Yau choy
Zucchini


With the exception of carrots and lima beans, everything in that list tastes nice. If you cannot find at least half a dozen things that can be turned into good food, you are a culinary disaster and need to be put down.


As a bare minimum, add some bacon, cheese, and Jalapeños.
Or sauté with ginger, scallion, and garlic.
A dollop of oyster sauce.
Anchovies.


By the way: most hot-sauces contain vinegar. As do many other fine condiments. And several contain wheat in some form besides.
Real pizza cannot be made without it.
Gluten: it's the staff of life.



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Thursday, October 30, 2014

SF GIANTS WIN, AND SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE!

I am so proud of San Francisco right now. Last night we all pulled together as one, and, in our new-found single-minded unity, set fire to the Mission District.

Yay.

And we finally destroyed all the beer! Bad beer! Evil beer!



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SWEEP LIKE THE WIND, PEOPLE!

My apartment mate came home late on Wednesday. I was rather worried about her, because the last time the Giants won the World Series, proud citizens rioted and torched a city bus.
So I was glad to hear her come in.

She's my apartment mate, there's nothing going on between us.

Which would give me the opportunity to bring home someone sweet, except that I have never been desperate enough for "action" to pick at random, and I haven't actually been looking for any either, given that in San Francisco that must, inevitably, mean being psychologically abused by a stringy rancid vegan blonde who is desirous of saving the wales, blocking the boat, and shopping for fabulous handbags.

By "action" I don't mean volunteering for the French Foreign Legion, or the Israeli Paratroopers. Which, given that most of the asshats I know are married, is the inevitable result of pursuing amour in this city.
Running away to join the circus is one way to escape.
Other than the two methods also mentioned.
All of three of them require rabies.

It isn't worth it.


It didn't used to be this way. Once upon a time there were women in this city who were real people, not walking fashion plates for freakazoid, tweaky strung-out Midwestern trustfund babies looking for someone to subsidize the life-style to which they are oh so entitled, or consumerite slags out to do something meaningful omg! before adopting two Bolivian orphans and settling down as creative and unique individuals.

Since then we've been discovered by the internet.

Be that as it may.


No, I haven't joined any churches or exercise clubs to find a mate either. That meshugge I am not; you never find intelligent people in either place.
Plus I don't worship, and I try to avoid healthfreaks.

Universities are out of the question also, so I haven't bothered auditing classes. One cannot discuss anything at all with business majors or basket weavers.

Or anyone who reads Sylvia Plath.


Anyhow, at a few minutes before ten, a strange and brilliant woman opened the door, and remarked that the streets were going crazy.
There was much happiness out there.

"Yay, our team won! Let's grab mops and Ajax and clean the streets. Let's wash down a bus! Buckets for everyone! 
We'll make it sparkle for the parade!"

You're right, my dear, that never happens. Instead, couch fires, broken glass, overturned dumpsters, and several tens of thousands of drunk and disorderly hooligans, who were completely and utterly convinced that the Giants victory somehow expanded their own shrivelled balls and added three inches to their poor uneducated weenies.

Down in the Mission, police in riot gear with batons circled the crowd, like vegans around a bowl of beandip.

"Grab your brooms and let's do some civic service!"

That, too, was not part of the programme.
To her dismay.

On Mission between Sixteenth and Twenty Second Street, several bonfires were set, idiots were arrested, and passers-by attacked.
The garbage haulers raced around madly trying to pick stuff up before the out-of-control herd could find it and light it up. A mob of ecstatic morons blocked Market Street and marched to the Ferry Building, spreading mayhem and anarchy as they went.

Bus shelters have been vandalized. Shots have been fired. People trying to put out fires have been assaulted. Windows broken. Cop cars gang-tagged. Street signs destroyed. Graffiti. Flying bottles. Fists. Vomit.

Just before 1:00 AM there was gunfire near my apartment.

Elsewhere the feu de joie happened earlier.

Helicopters flying overhead.

Crashing sounds.


Between Broadway and Green Street, Polk was closed to traffic, the paddy wagons were parked, and nearly forty police officers were creating order out of chaos. For two blocks the pavement was ankle-deep in broken glass, spilled beer, burnt pizza and garbage, and over it all the the pungent smell of skunkweed (legitimately therapeutic medical marijuana, you can be sure). Sidewalks were crowded with belligerent drunks and extremely unstable people, and at any moment the storm threatened to break out anew. We. Are. The. Champions.

Many people were dressed in panda suits.

A bad night for liquor stores.

And Muni Buses.



This is why you dill pickles can't have nice things; you just piss on it.





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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TEA IN TSUEN WAN

They're open from very early morning till mid-afternoon. Coca cola and other soft-drinks may be had, and there are small stores nearby where other necessities of the American life may be bought. And, given the impossibility of parking in most other places, you'll be glad to know that there is almost no traffic here. On the other hand, you will definitely have to drive. It's in the middle of nowhere, though elsewhere is visible.

Best get there early. No, don't eat breakfast before you set off. But do have coffee; the road is winding, and you will need to be alert.

You're on a hillside in Tsuen Wan.

It's still dark.


淺灣、賊灣、荃灣。
CHIN WAAN, CHAAK WAAN, CHUEN WAAN.
[Shallows bay, Robber bay, Fragrance bay.]

Along the shore there used to be small settlements, and, during the early years of the colony, pirates hid out along the coast. It was all behind the back of beyond then, and not a desirable place. Far from everything. The area is all built-up now, as is Tsing Yi Island (青衣島 Green Robe Island; 'cheng yi dou') across the strait, where "spring flowers fall" (春花落 'chuen faa lok'). Like all of Hong Kong, both Tsuen Wan and Tsing Yi are densely populated and very busy places. Which is why a tea house, on a two lane road in the hills above the city that wriggles and twists, sounds like the perfect place to be when it isn't raining. It would also be ideal during a heavy storm, but transit is more daunting.
Especially before breakfast.



彩龍酒樓 
CHOI LUNG RESTAURANT
荃灣,荃錦公路,川龍村,2號。

Located on the fragrant brocade highway in creek dragon village. Their shrimp bonnets (蝦餃 'haa gau') are delicious, so are the spring rolls (春捲 'chuen kuen'), barbecue pork sheet noodles (叉燒腸粉 'chaa siu cheung fan'), quail egg dumplings (鵪鶉蛋燒賣 'am-suen daan siu-maai') which have a beautiful thin skin that crinkles around the filling, phoenix claws (鳳爪 'fung jaau'), deep-fried pork and veggie puff balls (鹹水角 'haam suei gok') and glutinous rice chicken (糯米雞 'no mai gai') which naturally comes steamed in a lotus leaf.

Something which almost every table will also get it is choisum (菜心) with black bean sauce, or briefly stir-fried watercress (西洋菜 'sai yeung choi'). Very good! Hou sik!

They also do fresh soy milk (凍豆漿 'tung dou jeung'), which is not something that particularly tickles my fancy. Frankly, I've always been leery of people who drink it.


On a sunny day you can see forever (well, with topographic limitations) from the upper storey. Green green hills, the hue of vert emeraude.
Grey-blue ridges further away, green robe island far off.

It's an old-fashioned tea house (古式嘅茶居 'gu sik ge chaa keui') by local standards, and consequently well worth it. If you've done your job properly, there will be spattered cups and bowls and saucers and plates and pots littering the table by the time you're finished, you'll be grabbing for a toothpick and belching happily, and wired to the gills on tea.

Go on; have just a little more.
There's always room for tofu pudding (豆腐花 'dou fu faa')...
They make it here with fresh mountain spring water (山水 'saan seui').


AND JOHN FROM KANSAS!

Please note that fastidious western tourists may find it chaotic, and too rambunctiously bustling to be really enjoyable, aside from being revolted at the fried stinky beancurd (釀豆腐卜 'yong dou fu pok'), which is utterly delicious! So this is NOT a good place to bring John from the Kansas office, even though the food is good. He'll look around and realize that either he's not the centre of attention (soul-crushing for the average buffalo in any exotic environment), or he is (discomfiting, especially when he's dropped his chopsticks for the tenth time).

And no one supports his football team!

There are chop houses in Tsimsatsui where he'd be more comfortable.
Take him there instead. Give him some beer and apple pie.
When he goes home, come here to celebrate.

It's home-town rustic, our kind of place.
Simple. But good.

You know, sports, particularly American football, bore me to the point of sickness. Whenever people start talking about such things I lapse into a coma, and desperately change the subject. Which, faced with tons of scrumptious things to eat, is remarkably hard to do.
"Oh please, we must have more flaky-crisp taro dumplings (芋角 'wu gok'), they're absolutely divine! Here, chew on a vegetable!"
Whispered: 'don't pour him anymore tea'!
For the love of g-d, shut him up.


ODD TOPONYMS

To get there, take Route Twisk (荃錦公路 'chuen gam gong lou') from the New Territories Circular Road (新界環迴公路 'saan kai waan wui gong lou') at elephant's trunk road (象鼻山路 'jung bei saan lou') in Tsuen Wan, heading towards "big hat mountain country park" (大帽山郊野公園 'daai mou saan gau ye gong yuen').
Take the right fork at Fu Yung Shan Road (芙蓉山路).
It's a bit of a drive (three and a half miles uphill), but extremely scenic.
During the day the public light bus (green top) is an also-can.
The road is twisty-wisty, the embankments steep.
Tall feathery trees, banana leaves, ferns.
Stands of bamboo, phoenix trees.
Banyan and ban-hoi maple.
黃槿 ('wong gan').
Acacia.




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FRIED ROUND CASUAL FOOD: PEMPEK, PEMPEK TJUKO

The best rice noodles for your fish balls are, per common agreement, the thinner kind; these provide a better textural contrast.
The fish balls, naturally, should be freshly made, not those horrid things vacuum-sealed and of uncertain provenance in the freezer of your local market.


EMPEK EMPEK (PEMPEK)

A pound of fresh fish, preferably mackerel; boned and minced. One egg yolk. Four to six tablespoons cold water, one teaspoon sugar, one teaspoon salt. One or two tablespoons of good oil.

Mix well.

Then add tapioca flour. Generally speaking, one to two times as much by volume as the mackerel paste. Do NOT overwork the dough! Form into small balls twixt grape and longan size, and drop into boiling water. When they float, take them out and let them drain dry.

To use, deep fry golden. Serve with cold rice noodles and fried shrimp. Add chopped cucumber and some cilantro. Kwak some fresh chilipaste ('sambal ulek') onto the plate, add a dash or two of ketjap manis ('sweet soy sauce') and dark vinegar (鎮江香醋 'jan gong heung chou'; aromatic ChinKiang vinegar), squeeze some lime juice over.

Pempek can also be made larger, and pan-fried after boiling, served with lots of ground chili sauce and a little thick coconut cream. Or vermicelli, chilies, and sliced hard boiled egg, in a tangy tamarind-curry gravy.
Even accompanied by thick wedges of cooked potato.
Along with the inevitable kwak of sambal.
Everything goes with sambal.

The addition of good black vinegar and something to sweeten it up a little (ketjap manis or plain sugar) is traditional, because it works.

Optional but never-the-less strongly suggested toppings: ground-up dry shrimp, crumbled peanuts, fried shallots.

Don't forget the squeeze of fresh lime juice.

If you can find them, use key limes.

They're like kalamansi.

Fragrant.



NOTE: the term 'tjuko' is a Sumatran name for a condimental sauce made with chili paste, vinegar, garlic, and sugar. Boil one cup of palm sugar in one cup water. Throw in some whole skinned garlic cloves, let's say half a dozen or more, and an equal number of large dried shrimp (the most beautiful kind). Add one cup of vinegar (any kind will work), and four to eight tablespoons of sambal ulek. Stir to combine, let it cool.
If it is too strong for your taste, feel free to dilute; it should not overpower the food too much.

Kuwah tjuko: Often the noodles are served in a dilution of this mixture, or a spicy broth of similar construction made with tamarind and tomato in lieu of vinegar.

Empek-empek, in all possible variations, is associated with Palembang, where aside from pempek-tjuko it is most frequently eaten in a coconut curry soup with egg noodles and dry shrimp powder.
Plus sour, sweet, and sambal.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

STANDING IS GOOD FOR THE BOTTOM!

It seems to happen a lot now. And it's very disturbing.
Either the local Chinese have EXTREMELY BAD EYE-SIGHT.
Or they think that I'm some kind of venerable scholar.


Venerable, my fanny.


I had barely gotten on the bus when a woman who cannot have been more than seven or eight years younger, EVEN if you assume a hard life which put wrinkles on her face prematurely, demanded to give me her seat.
Fortunately I've been well brought-up. So I refused.
I have hardly any skin-age. I've still got all of my hair, and most of it is still a vibrantly dull pale mousy hue. Yes, streaks of white here and there, and my beard resembles a bleached toilet brush it has so much silver in it.
But I still look very young. Not only in the mirror and my own estimation, also compared to my contemporaries. Why, the other day a customer came in who looked over a decade older, and I found out he had just celebrated his fiftieth birthday. Good lord, what a fossil!

I do not look elderly.

And I do not have a stomach.

I am so completely un-decrepit it's amazing!


Heck, compared to half of the yuppescent office drones riding the number one California Street bus line, many of whom are significantly younger than me (and sitting down), I look trim, handsome, and remarkably un-fat.
Fit, even.

Yet every bus ride over the hill, if I'm standing, some Cantonese woman of an age near my own (只有55歲) if not already long past it, will try to insist that I have a seat. And truly, I appreciate the courtesy, it's very kind.
But I'm only "old" if you're looking up at the beard.

My forehead is virtually unlined, I have no jowls, and my eyes, though deep-set, are fiery and alive. My hands are unwrinkled and unspotted.
This old cock is staggeringly full of piss and vinegar, and if you don't watch out, I may end up courting your daughter, auntie.

唔使客氣,你坐你坐!

I am not old.
I refuse.
Sit!


我不老人家,我還是春年的。
阿伯有健康 、能力,也是個倔强固执的老鬼!



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EIGHT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH!

Field mice can be so inconsiderate! Mr. Badger had caught one of the miscreants happily ensconced in one of his favourite briar pipes (the very expensive Charatan Executive, nota bene!), with her little arms outstretched, squeaking "I am the king of the world!", exactly like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. It was most disturbing! Rodents shed! He had wanted to jam some nice baccy in the bowl, but there were small hairs all over!

Later he caught her and her seven sisters playing among the crockery on the tea trolley, but that was easier to deal with. Just wash everything, dry it, and place a heavy towel over all.

He regretted agreeing to baby sit the little monsters.


When the fuzzy little delinquents were all finally asleep -- they looked deceptively cute and innocent at that time -- he retired to the porch with a stiff drink and a cigar. The cigars had been safe, the lid of his humidor had been far too heavy for them to push open. But they had tried.
He didn't know how their mom put up with them.

Mr. Fieldmouse had taken his good lady out to the opera. 'Il Corsaro', one night only, at the War Memorial on Van Ness. Followed by supper at Jardinière on Grove Street. They wouldn't be back till late. But they had left early, glad to get a break from their hyper-active offspring.

The fieldmice all liked singing; it seemed to be a species-thing. Hence the two parents going to see a show. Lots of good arias in Verdi.
Mr. Badger hated singing. Especially whenever he had to do it.
The youngsters had demanded that he sing to them.

Or. Else. They. Would. NOT. Go. To. Sleep!!!

Badgers are musically un-gifted.

He had assayed 'Kansas City' from the musical 'Oklahoma'. It was the only song he could remember at that moment. It had stuck in his head ever since the Guild performance years ago, with unexpurgated lyrics.
He still chuckled when he thought of it.


They got a big thiyater they call a burlesque,
For fifty cents you can see a dandy show;
One of the gals was fat and pink and pretty,
As round above as she was round below.

I could swear that she was padded,
From her shoulder to her heel.
But later in the second act when she began to peel,
She proved that everything she had was absolutely real;
She went about as far as she could go.
Yes sir!
She went about as far as she could go!


If that had been a female badger, she would have still been covered with fur all over. Lovely, dense, thick, silky, fur.

Yes sir!

Naked apes would be at a distinct disadvantage in the forest. Their skin would end up covered in scrapes and scratches without the natural protection of a fur coat. How on earth did they survive?!?


Dang, this was a good cigar! Perfectly packed, nice draw.

Maybe humans weren't so useless after all.


The fieldmice would have just as delicate a touch as 'people', but rolling tobacco into such a perfect shape required not only lightness so that the leaf did not break, but also judicious pressure, and hand-leverage.
They'd fail on that score.

The modern world was frustrating for small creatures.
Gainful employment was always an issue.

If it hadn't been for the growth in micro-electronics over the past two decades, Mr. Fieldmouse would be virtually unemployable, what with the take-over of America's family farms by agribusiness, and the subsequent switch to rural mechanization.

Mr. Badger wondered what the eight daughters would end up doing. Perhaps they'd go into their father's field. There were any number of computer and internet related companies in San Francisco, heck, the downtown was awash with them, but how long would this last?
The previous boom had gone bust back in 2008.
Before that, business peaked in 2001.
Then tanked.

It did not seem a stable career choice. And they'd have to compete with thousand of other animals for jobs. Small rodents are at an enormous disadvantage in the job market, because they're so hard to notice when they're applying. Even with their paws on the desk, all that's really visible are two bright eyes peering at the interviewer.

Oh well. That was a worry for the future.
At the moment they were all peacefully slumbering. The little cretins had forced him to sing his song five times. They hadn't asked him about the lyrics, they had just squealed in glee every time he missed the notes or lost the tune. Sadistic little imps! That snarky giggling!

But they did look so sweet while sleeping.
All soft brown fur and twitching noses.
Tiny pink paws above the covers.

Such adorable little tykes!

Mr. Badger felt truly avuncular at that moment.

He realized that he would likely say 'yes' if asked to baby sit again.


The tea set and pipes would have to be stashed away on top of the bookcases, or in large Rubbermaid® hampers, beforehand.




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Monday, October 27, 2014

PURPLE CLAY STONEWARE (紫砂壺) AND METICULOUSLY BREWED TEA (功夫茶)

At lunch around late-afternoon I ate a little more than I had intended.
A basket of open pork dumplings , a small saucer of black bean sauce spareribs and a steamed northern style bun, plus a couple of sesame balls filled with red bean paste. Then I lit up a pipe and spent a while wandering around -- past the volley ball court next to Hang Ah Alley, down to the First Chinese baptist Church on the corner of Waverly and Sacramento, then finally over to Portsmouth Square -- before returning home.
Suffice to say I am still a wee bit bloated.

Really shouldn't eat so much.

[Open pork dumplings: 豬肉燒賣 'chu yiuk siu mai'; minced pork in a pasta cup, steamed. Black bean sauce spareribs: 豉汁蒸排骨 'si jap jing pai gwat'; chopped spareribs with a little garlic, ginger, and mashed salted black beans for a savoury touch, steamed till done in a shallow bowl. Steamed northern style bun: 饅頭 'maan tau'; A plain wheat dough steamed bun which many Mandarin speakers customarily eat in lieu of rice. Sesame balls: 煎堆 'jin deui'; a glutinous rice dough ball with a yummy filling, rolled in sesame seeds and deep fried. Red bean paste: 紅豆沙 'hong dau saa'; adzuki bean mashed with sugar and oil, rather like a distant relative of marzipan, used for sweets.]


The place where I ate is a hole-in-the-wall, but it's a friendly local food-stop. Cheap, clean, good. Honest people who work hard, make decent food, and provide a welcoming place to sit down and eat. They also do three extremely affordable plate lunches (steamed chicken, or spareribs, or pork cake, with a mound of rice, a serving of veggies, and a bowl of old fire soup (老火湯 'lou fo tong') for four bucks; five with coffee or tea.
Very limited seating, because it is a small place.
I go there three or four times a month.
Though it is small, it is great.
It's just like home.

富祥點心 ('FUK CHEUNG DIM SAM')
NEW FORTUNE DIM SUM
815 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108


I have a taste for their food, and I enjoy being treated like a human being. They're very decent folks. Lunch was a pleasure. So was the smoke afterwards: McClelland's No. 24 Virginia, a seven year old vintage, puffed contemplatively in a Charatan.

As I mentioned, still a little plump.

So I've fixed myself some strong hairy crab king in a purple sand pot that has a bamboo motif.

[Hairy crab king: 毛蟹王茶 'mou haai wong chaa'; a mild Oolong-style tea from Anxi (安溪 'on kai') in Fujian, which is possessed of a delightful fragrance (清清香香的花味 'ching ching heung heung dik faa mei'). Purple sand pot: 紫砂壺 'ji saa wu'; a tiny teapot made of i-Hsing clay (宜興坭 'yi hing nei'). Such products are stone-ware fired, around twelve hundred degrees Celsius in an oxidizing atmosphere. Bamboo motif: 竹形 'juk ying'; I-Hsing teapots are often decoratively shaped or incised, this particular one is a textured squatty globe with sculpted spout, handle, and lid-knob. I have a number of similar pots which are short and round of body, with bamboo-shaped handles and spouts, and a bamboo leaf or knob finials. 紫砂竹形茶壺: 'ji saa juk ying chaa wu'. They all make lovely tea.]

And consequently I am wired to the tits.
Just about oscillating so hepped.
Splendid, forsooth!


Now, you might think that one small pot of tea cannot possibly achieve that, unless it's some potent leaf. But if you are familiar with "mastered effort tea" (功夫茶 'gung fu chaa'), you will have realized that I filled the pot over three quarters full of hairy crab, and have added hot water several times after the first cleansing wash.
I am on my fifth bowl right now. Washing the leaves rinsed off dust and fragments, and opened the leaves. The first real steeping was slightly more than a minute, each subsequent steeping a little longer than the last. All of them tasted different, but the underlying fruitiness of the furry crustacean despot comes through as a signatory quality. It is a beautiful evening that glows intensely golden, with mild vibrating at the edges of sight.
My mind and my senses are awake, with great clarity.

Yep. Entirely and totally whacked.
Zipped to the eye-balls.
This is good.


宜興陶 ('YI HING TOU') I-HSING POTTERY

Purple sand teapots have been a happy factor for over half of my life, even when I was dirt-poor and living in North Beach. At present I own about thirty of them (some are boxed away, don't know how many), and aside from the bamboo motif items there is also a little lobed squash with leaves curling cunningly around the body, a flat inscribed flying saucer shape, and, deserving of particular mention, a large pot in the shape of an archaic bronze rice weight, with seal-script calligraphy on one side.


The so-called purple sand clay from Yixing has been used for tea utensils for nearly ten centuries now, with the oldest surviving examples in museums dated back to the late Ming. Understandably, utilitarian objects made of a breakable material do not have great survivability.

By the middle of the Ching dynasty period, many scholar-literati developed a fondness for them, having noted their unique aesthetic and charm, and having discovered that a well-made pot absorbed both flavour and colour over several years of use, to the point where an empty pot would still echo the fragrance of previous brews.


There are actually three types of clay which we speak of, namely "purple sand" (紫砂 'ji saa'), which yields a purple potting clay (紫泥 'ji nei'); "crimson sand" (朱砂 'jyu saa'), which elsewhere is the term for mercury sulphide (cinnabar) but in this context refers to a soil stratum with an extraordinarily high iron oxide content; and "tempered clay" (鍛泥 'duen nei'), coloured with minerals for a varied range of effects.
What sets the types apart initially is the iron.
That is what makes it "purple sand".

The finest potting material results from crushing and grinding or milling the mined clay, then meticulously sifting it to a minutely fine grit. It is then moistened, kneaded, pressed -- nowadays a vacuum process is used to remove air -- and rested, after which it is further graded before it finally ends up in the hands of a master potter. Such clay is seldom if ever turned on a wheel; instead it is shaped by hand, smoothed, carved and molded with tools, then finally dried before firing.

Perfect clay, fired at a higher temperature, yields vessels with a clear ring when tapped. Low quality wares will sound dull or tinny instead, and are often thicker-walled to compensate for their lack of material integrity and strength.

[As an indication of particularity, before spending any money on such a teapot one must feel the inside rim of the mouth for roughness or sharp edges, and the inner surface for unevenness. The interior should be inspected for irregular scrape marks where tools were used inexpertly, the hole or holes to the spout should be well-made and not ragged. Tap the pot, and also weigh it in the hand. Lastly try it out with plain water; it must pour in an even stream without any hindrance, not drip or drool. A well-made pot does not have teeth that collect remnants, nor inordinate weight for its capacity.]


Yes, these things are collectible. Yet despite the ridiculously high prices for prize pieces, one can truly doubt that a rich vulgarian has sufficient subtlety or discernment to exemplify the "quaint elegance" (古樸雅趣 'gu-pok ngaa ceui') that "hallmarks the literati eye" (文人藝術的眼光 'man-yan ngaai-sut dik ngaan-gwong').

In key ways, a good teapot is like a good person.
It should have the same characteristics.
Honesty, decency, integrity.

簡簡,實實。




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TEA IN A HOT CLIMATE

Whether it is wet or dry, the temperature is much the same. In the hills, there are innumerable thunder storms throughout the year, but not all of them yield rain. During the northwest monsoon from December onwards, the air is humid whatever the precipitation.
And sometimes that precipitation is tremendous.

Sumatra and West-Java can be miserable during that time.

Slate grey skies, twilight at mid-day because of the clouds and rain.
Sheets of lead outside and a steady drumming.
Flooding in low-lying areas.
And bugs.

When the sun does come out the humidity seems even more oppressive.

The animals aren't impressed by the weather, the people even less.

Often, however, there is just a constant thick flow of wind.


BOGOR, DEPOK, BETAWI

Palm trees will resemble black butterflies because all their leaves are bent backward in one direction. Edward Gorey would love it, as the spectrous visual is very gothic.

If you are caught in a downpour, the ferocity of the falling water stuns you, and flooding may be very sudden along rivers. At other times the wind makes everything tremble, and at the seashore breakers make mooring in shallow water risky.
No, it does not increase the chance of ferry disasters; many of those are conveniently distributed throughout the year. Nature assuredly does this for your convenience.

For similar reasons the water may rise up along the Tjiliwong, but that indeed is mostly a monsoon event. Some people live only a few feet away from the river, some barely above it, in houses built of bamboo, scrap wood, gedek, cardboard, pounded tin, and corrugated sheets.
It is not the most secure of residential locations. But if it weren't for the estuarine wax and wane, the smells would build and disease would be far more common. The flooding, I hear, just keeps getting worse.
Deforestation far upriver, near Puntjak.

BATAVIA

This city was the Graveyard of the East; strong men from Europe came here to perish, often taking a few years to do it, as malaria and various other natural checks on imperialism wreaked havoc on their health.
Now the inlanders migrate here and suffer the same.
Every year many dwelling are entirely rebuilt.
Just as impermanent as last year.


TEA

Because the local waters were so malevolent -- just think of typhus and cholera -- tea eventually became a necessary commodity for the health of residents, and has remained so among most segments of society.
Naturally, if you boil the water for your brew, it is sterile. At Chinese restaurants fresh hot tea is always served, and many people entirely unselfconsciously use the first blistering pour from the pot to wipe utensils and crockery, often before even considering what to eat.
American tourists seldom do likewise, wherever they are.
But if they did, they would have far fewer ailments.
It's a good reason to eat Chinese food.
As if you needed one.

Do NOT drink anything with ice.
It can do things to you.
And it will.

From Jakarta to Manila, drink tea. If you are lodging with a local family, there will be a collection of thermos flasks on the kitchen table that are filled regularly, with some loose leaves thrown in to colour the liquid, as well as disguise the repellent nature of the water.

Do not stay near turbid or stagnant creeks and channels.
Always drink tea. All day long, till late at night.

Move slow, to avoid perspiring.
There is no need to sweat.
You glow already.

Sloyong sloyong.





KALI

Ik loop slifslof langs de kali,
Ik hoor tjaplok-tjaplok;
Ik denk 'loh, ada buwaya!'
Maar neen, 't was een kodok.

["I stroll along the river, I hear kersplash-kersplash; I think 'darn, a crocodile', but no it was a frog."]

Older Indos may remember that this doggerel has a different ending, highlighting one of the functions of rivers in that part of the world.
One which emphasizes why you should be wary of the water.



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Sunday, October 26, 2014

IT SMELLS LOVELY, DON'T YOU AGREE?

Some habits are constant, because they are more than the sum of their parts. Often there is an underlying psychological element that plays in the background, often also a feel-good aspect.
And almost all of them are smelly.

I like rainy days because the perfumes and aromas are more intense, more earthy. Sometimes an elevator filled with soggy office workers is exactly right. That young lady's indiscreet trollop odeur, the fat middle-aged man over there still echoing his salami and mustard sandwich, those two clerical types and their profound reek of wet dog......
Is that Aramis? Bay Rum? L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme?
From further down I can also smell leather.
There's Mink Oil on the surface.

The first real storm of the season is always welcome. After a downpour there's a freshness to the air in San Francisco, and for a brief while the Roman sewer reek of intersections in the Financial District is subdued.


CONSTANT HABITS FOR A RAINY CLIMATE

In the Netherlands, when I still lived there, cafes were dark and quiet during the rain. You could look out over the rainy street while savoring a cup of coffee and smoking your pipe. The door would often be left open so that fresh air and the fragrance of the trees lining the bicycle path in front would waft in, and sundry smells carried forth by moisture.
Holland is a wet place at any time of years.
Smells are deeper there.

At home, from the room looking out over the courtyard and the garden, scents of tea and tobacco mingled with the apples rotting in the grass. Sweetness, a semi-floral quality, and a pungent ferment.
Among it all a scent of leaves, the dead and the green.


When I stayed in North Beach near the Caffe Trieste the smell of roasting coffee early in the day was a constant, even more evocative in rain.
The reek of the actual streets was less lovely.

I stopped going to the Trieste every day several years ago. You cannot smoke there anymore (or anywhere else), and the number of pretentious dingos has increased. It is still a wonderful place, but the chances that someone will say something meaningful, or that you might encounter a poet, are far too great to take regular risks.

They still have the best coffee beverages in San Francisco.

Despite the plethora of Starbucks.


Coffee, tea, tobacco. Nice reeky habits, the marks of civilization. Bitter black, resinous fumes, and crisp green or tangy-fruited oolong.

Hot cocoa is also up there. Ink, machine oils, tar, wax, and other industrial age nasal refracta likewise rank high. The smell of a noodle shop is always richly evocative. Dreams of slithery comfort in the vapour from the bowl in front of you, clanging from the kitchen, and lots of tea.


If smells don't turn you on, or spark intense moods and memories, there is a very good chance that you are defective. Emotionally crippled.
You probably drink decaf, don't smoke, and belly-ache a lot.
Plus everything irritates you, especially people.
I relish that, because I smell.

Here are some things in my living quarters that will piss you off:

Tea. Coffee. Cigars. Pipe tobacco. Seal-ink. Sumi-e ink. Sandalwood incense. Agar-wood incense. Snow pear incense. Dusty books. Dust. White flower oil. Toasted chilies. Spanish cedar. Wood polish. Garlic. Ginger. Limes. Dried tangerine peel. Turmeric and curry spices.
Cardamom. Nutmeg. Clove.

By the way: you wouldn't believe how wonderful and intense the metal alloys of good drafting equipment smell.


No wonder that most dogs instinctively like me.
It's their recognition of our similarities.
Except for the butt sniffing.
That's just them.


I look forward to the rain.




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THERE ARE NO SCHOOLGIRLS HERE!

A post which I wrote several years ago continues to pull in readers from as far away as Norway, Kuwait, and Bangladesh. Their curiosity is understandable, though horrendously perverse.  They probably wish they could read Japanese, because more about their fetish is written in that language than any other.

I applaud their diligence and determination.
Getting to the bottom of things is commendable.
Always increase your understanding of your subject.

Sorry, guys, there are NO schoolgirls here.
And certainly not any nude ones.

This blogger probably wouldn't know what to do if a schoolgirl came up and bit me in the butt. If she were undressed at the time, it would probably shock the dickens out of me.
Fluster, at the very least.


SCHOOLGIRLS, NOT NAKED AT ALL

Nevertheless, it is time to review the sum-total of my knowledge of the subject, in hopes that this may aid distant pilgrims in Norway, Kuwait, and Bangladesh. As well as several thousand Pakistanis who seek knowledge, and the entire population of Luxembourg.


SMELLS LIKE SCHOOL GIRL, SMELLS LIKE PENGUIN
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/07/smells-like-school-girl-smells-like.html
December 25, 2009
This post is actually about pipe tobacco. Though the premise from which it sprang was a comment by Spiros, which set then-time frequent reader Grant Patel (a notorious pervert) into a frenzy. There are quotes from Monty Python. A distant familiarity with the concept of schoolgirls as an intellectual conceit on the part of most readers is assumed. Schoolgirls are rather like existential angst; far better not to have any.


PANTIES - NIGHT-TIME PAVEMENT SOUVENIRS!
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/08/panties-night-time-pavement-souvenirs.html
August 29, 2008
The existence of an individual of pre-college age, at one time travelling somewhere near the Larkin and Clay intersection, is speculated upon. There is circumstantial evidence of her transit.
Both Lev and Grant are taunted.


WELCOME ALL BELGIANS!
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2014/07/welcome-all-belgians.html
July 10, 2014
A perverse search gets a well thought out and totally clean response.
I am a very considerate blogger.


NAKED SCHOOL GIRL
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/08/naked-school-girl.html
August 15, 2011
A gentleman from Bengal searched for naked school girls on the internet one hot and sweaty tropic evening. Possibly, due to the temperature and humidity, he was comparably garbed. I subsequently decided to indulge his fondness for food and literature. Bengalis are well-known for their affection for sweets and mustard sauce fish, as well as their firm belief that poetry and prose in their language is stellar only, but mediocre and amateurish in all other tongues. If you were looking for ros gullah (sweetened milk solids ball in milk-syrup), rivulets of warm ghee, and À la Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust (écrit entre 1908-1909 et 1922 et publié entre 1913 et 1927 en sept tomes), please look no further.
Warning: work-safe, and NO photos at all!


PORTRAIT OF A NAKED SCHOOLGIRL ON A BED OF TOBACCO
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2010/07/portrait-of-naked-schoolgirl-on-bed-of.html
July 2, 2010
Pointers for people involved in the marketing of smoking mixtures for the pipe, and other merchandise. This post, probably more than any other, disappoints the degenerates who lurk in dark corners of the internet.
No photos or descriptions; just taunting and an accordion.
Terms that tempt, faux treasure withal!
That was deliberate.


Using the terms 'naked' and 'schoolgirl' has the effect of pulling people in. Not desirable people, but also not folks I will ever bump into in the real world. It's a jejeune and opportunistic attempt on my part to boost my readership, because I like seeing those numbers climb.

I'm not entirely a nice man.

I have scant regard for the skeevy Norwegians, Kuwaitis, and Bengalis that are attracted by such posts. Assuredly they will find whatever their little hearts desire elsewhere.

The only type of 'naked schoolgirl' in which I or any other decent man could possibly be interested, is of college age or beyond, with sound opinions and good taste, whose nudity is pleasantly inspired and private.
It should be her intelligence and personality that appealed.
The lack of clothes could be a later development.
It's purely an intellectual fancy.


Intelligence is key. Life is too short to waste time on twits.
And there are far too many of those around.
Their nudity is not interesting.



POST SCRIPTUM

Yes yes, this is another cynical attempt to drive the numbers up. Of course you realized that I can be a frightful opportunist?

Regular visitors will perhaps enjoy revisiting some of the essays listed.

Which also means more numbers.




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Saturday, October 25, 2014

THE PIMM'S CUP: WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW

In recent years the young and restless (and unbearably precious and special) have demanded that bars fix them mojitos. All over San Francisco bartenders are working their fingers to the bone pressing fresh mint, sugar, and lime wedges, with a muddler, adding ice cubes to the glass, a heavy shot of rum, and filling it up with soda water or other fizzy liquids. The customer will then elegantly lift this concoction to his or her refined lips, sample it, and complain.

"Not as good as at Joe's Bar. The mixologist on Proctolent Cruises makes a better one. Dammit, it supposed to include bitters and seltzer water! Not enough mint, make it mintier, damn you."

"And where's my goddammed maracas!?!"


All in all, it's a nasty and pretentious drink.


MOJITO
Recipe

Two ounces of white rum
Half a lime, cut into thin rounds or wedges
Several fresh mint leaves, and a sprig to garnish
A dash of simple syrup
Ice cubes
Soda water

Use a bar muddler to moosh the mint leaves, lime, and syrup together at the bottom of a lowball glass. Add plenty of ice cubes, pour in the two ounces of rum, and top with a sprits of sodawater. Stick the mint into the drink, hand it to the customer, and charge them a lot for it.
It's made entirely by hand, baby.
We 'curate' our botanicals.
It's artisanal, totally.

Sleight of hand allows for a drop of McCormick's mint extract.

Mooshing some green coloured mint jelly with the leaves and lime might be a nice touch; if you do, cut down on the simple syrup.

[Simple syrup: equal parts cane sugar and water by volume, heated up while stirring till the sugar is entirely dissolved. Let it cool, pour it into a bottle for use in cocktails.]


Real people will order something far simpler. Whisky with a splash; either branch or soda. Or perhaps a glass of sherry, which sensible bar tenders will serve in a champagne flute, so that the wine has room to breathe. This is important, more for the actual taste development of sherry than aroma. Plus it's far less neurotic-looking than traditional sherry glasses.

There is, in fact, only one reason for a bar to stock fresh mint, and it isn't a julep (two ounces Bourbon, a sugar cube and half a dozen mint leaves muddled at the bottom of a tall glass before adding the bourbon and a cube or two of ice). The classic Pimm's cup is always the drink served at regattas and tennis tournaments, though this blogger firmly believes that it would not be out of place at mud-wrestling matches or street craps.


PIMM'S CUP

Invented over a century and a half ago by the proprietor of a London oyster bar, the drink really caught on in the years between the war. The basis is a liqueur made specifically for this beverage; the Pimm's No. 1. Reputedly it is a gin-based decoction. But one suspects that bitters and alcoholic herbal extracts are added in for digestive purposes.

There used to be Pimm's liqueurs all the way from one to six, but the only product everyone ever used was the number one.

The best place to enjoy it is at the Olde Bell in Hurley, England, on a warm day sometime during summer. Stop there for lunch; the food is extraordinary. It's been around a while.
My father went there during the war.


PIMM'S CUP, CLASSIC STYLE
Recipe

Two ounces of Pimm's No. 1
Three thin cross-slices of lemon
Three thin cross-slices of orange
A lengthwise quarter of a cucumber
One small sprig of mint
Ice cubes
Ginger ale (or 7-up)
A squeeze of lime (optional)

Put the lemon and orange slices in a lowball glass, add ice cubes, and stir up with a cocktail spoon to re-distribute the citrus. Pour in the two ounces of liqueur, and top with a spritz of ginger ale.
Stick the cucumber wedge down into the drink, and garnish with the mint.

Some versions add sliced strawberry and apple, which is ridiculous; no self-respecting cocktail lounge has that stuff on hand. Just be glad they have both lemon and orange, and will slice it suitably for this drink.

At Wimbledon, and in pretentious Indian restaurants, it is served in a pewter cup, which is an old-fashioned touch not really suitable for standard bar service.


The Occidental Cigar Club in downtown San Francisco always has a bottle of Pimm's No. 1 on hand, but probably the only person there who knows what it is, is one of the owners, Curtis Post, who tends bar there Wednesday through Friday evening. He makes Pimm's cups without cucumber or mint, simply adding a hefty squeeze of lime juice.
He's a little reserved about complicated drinks.
A traditionalist and a perfect host.
Ask him for it.

He will NOT make a mojito. I haven't asked, but I already know the answer.



Mojitos are for twizzle heads.



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Friday, October 24, 2014

A DECADE OF GROWLING BEAR CUBS

Today marks ten years over at Dovbear's place. Which is a remarkable milestone in the evanescent internet world, and I encourage you to head on over and congratulate the ursine. Not many blogs last that long, or have such an argumentative and fractious commenter-base. The remarkably thing is that discussions in the comment-string are passionate, opinionated, and in contrast to almost every discussion elsewhere both insult and obscenity free. The vast majority of readers react on a level not often attained under newspaper articles or youtube videos, and entirely unlike Yelp reviews, the slagging and falsehoods presented by biased trolls are hard to find.

Dovbear's blog presents a discussion of Jewish material, and subjects of interest to Jews though not limited strictly to the interests of Jews.
It is, in the truest sense, a market place of ideas.

Kudos. Ten more years.
And congratulations.
.

Dovbear wrote: "The only mission in the beginning was to keep things short and funny, if possible. The idea behind the first blog posts were that they were potato chips. I was going to write things that could be consumed quickly and easily and that would make people come back for more (even if what they were coming back for was not nec. good for them) I didn't really get into religion and theology until after the Slifkin ban, which outraged me and was my first real cause, and until I met people like Godol Hador who got me thinking in those directions in a more organized way. I think my very first post was about aidel meidel!"
[End cite.]


I discovered the J-blogs in March of 2005. By May I was a regular reader of Dovbear, Jameel, Renegade Rebbetzin, Gadol Hador (several iterations), Steg, and Mar Gavriel, inter alia (anyone remember the LabRab?).
By October 2005, because I needed a place to park blog links, I started my own blog. Largely inspired by the people and their commenters I read on a daily basis. Nine years later, I am still gibbering. Thank you, Dov.


Another formative influence was Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein. In great part because of his witty and often riotously disturbing weekly shiurim on the parsha, I had headed into the wilds of the internet looking for Jewish material.
Dovbear was a nexus. Steg quirked the linguistic mind and provided keen insights (in addition to Middle-Earthian notes). MarGavriel was a fount of references and eccentric phonetic spellings of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic. And Latin, because that was also one of his many in-depth interests. Renegade Rebbetzin was funny and insightful, the Gadol Hador often infuriating, often mind-expanding, never dull. Jameel at the Muqata was the thoughtful voice of good people facing ridiculous circumstances, and the LabRab presented a profoundly decent point of view.


"I have learned much from my teachers, even more from my friends and colleagues..."

[Rabbi Yehuda Ha Nasi]


There are of course many other people whose thoughts and insights are a pleasure. In particular I would mention e-kvetcher, who is going through a dry-spell, and Midianite Manna, who unfortunately hasn't written for well over a year now.
They, and almost all the others, are in the blogroll on the right.
Perhaps more than my own scribbling they show what interests me, and what I value, as well as matters of intrigue, fascination, and entertainment.

Read.




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Thursday, October 23, 2014

THE FLUE AND COLD SEASON IS UPON US

My apartment mate informs me that she only takes aspirin when she is desperate; fever, achy, stinky, sweating through her jammies. She believes in the natural remedy (because it's free), and has spent all day lying in bed while cuddling her teddy bear.

[COMMENT: great, that's just great; if she gets a bit whiff, I will force her to take an aspirin. Perhaps I'll tell her that she's making the teddy bear smell funky. Wait for the scream as she realizes the horrible truth of that statement. Miss Bruin should NOT have a pong.]


Unfortunately, her nose isn't stuffed up....... so I'll probably have to head out of the house to smoke.

[COMMENT: I was planning to surreptitiously light up a pipe-full of aged Virginia Flake once she retired to her room.]


I offered her an aspirin. I'm a pusher.

[COMMENT: I've got two bottles. I also tend towards occasional twinges of gout. Aspirin makes gout worse. I am farklempt.]


She also says she's getting fat.

[COMMENT: This from a woman who weighs nothing. Nothing!]



I got home at eight o'clock after an eventful busride from Marin. Tomorrow is a day off, and I will probably head over to Chinatown for a flaky charsiu roll and a cup of Hong Kong style of milk-tea.

My apartment mate, with any luck, should be well enough to go back to work. Yes I'm being selfish and self-centered here; I like being able to light up without bothering her (rather than not lighting up), and puttering about the apartment by myself.  It's a perfect way to spend a Friday.

Her schedule and mine don't overlap. Which would be a very good thing if I were actually seeing someone. As it is, it's pretty darned golden anyhow. Being a middle-aged pipe-smoker in a city like San Francisco is very much like having leprosy or ebola. Middle-aged isn't good. And also a smoker? Jayzus, the combination of is worse than being the anti-Christ in SF.
By the way, I am not a vegetarian, and I rarely watch television.
Can't stand sports, so I'm backing the Kansas team.
Didn't know their name till two days ago.
Huzzah for the Royals!
Yay team.


TOBACCO RELATED POSTSCRIPT

What kind of 'aged Virginia flake', I hear someone asking.

I'm looking speculatively at a sealed tin of McClelland.

NO. 24 VIRGINIA
"A flake tobacco deep chestnut in color from extended aging of full-flavored Virginias lightly seasoned with Drama. A smooth, robust tobacco with the rich flavors of the darker Virginias. Especially well-suited to outdoor smoking."

Old and Middle Belt leaf, merest smidge of Oriental.

The production date stamp on the bottom of the tin indicates that it was made in 2007.

I haven't smoked a McClelland in a while.
I'll open it tomorrow morning.
When she's at work.
It's time.




TOBACCO INDEX


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THE OTTER HALF

Ten days ago was my birthday, and as usual my ex-girlfriend made an effort to make it memorable. She always does that, and I truly appreciate it.

Gifts, a card, and a cake.

A cake from a fine bakery in Chinatown.

It was indeed a truly lovely cake, a wonderful cake!


No, not quite an epic cake. Cake is seldom epic by itself, it's the people around the cake are that could make it so. But cake is such a nice thing to have, and there are some fifty-five year old men who do not get cake. One remembers Milton, from Office Space, who was always last in line for cake. I sometimes feel like that, but then I clench my red Swingline stapler, and tell myself that I can always burn this place down and take my travellers' checks elsewhere. Staplers are a profound comfort.

Other than one piece which she ate, I had the whole thing.

I really do like cake. Cake is such a happy word.

Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake, cake!




Found this image courtesy of George Takei.
Those are two epically happy otters.




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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

GENDERLESS VEGAN KITTENS

A correspondent took me to task for the clear male bias in my writing. My focus on pipe-smoking, hot sauce, books, and my frequent claim that there are three primary uses for the internet (id est: pornography, recipes, and kitten pictures); all these betray a deep-rooted sexism that is totally out of keeping with modern social sensitivities.
Especially my food choices; typically 'macho"!
A meat eater!

How, she writes, do I expect to ever find another soulmate, if all my attitudes scream such "old-fashioned male chauvinist predilections"?


My initial reaction was "well shit, bitch, I didn't even know I had praedilections! Slap me!"


Don't you call me a praedilectator.....

However, after a calming thirty-two ounce beefsteak smothered in Sriracha and wine-stewed oysters, I realized that there may be something to what she says.

Among other things, it struck me that the word 'kittens' is, almost by definition, female. And that I had always assumed that men were the only people who looked for pornography on-line.

For all I know, hordes of women are desperately searching for randy male sex-kittens doing incredibly sensitive things.

The world is a strange place.
It's possible.


RANDY MALE SEX-KITTENS AND IMPOSSIBLY SENSITIVE CRAP

Yeah, that's a tough one. I looked on the internet to see if there was anything out there. The first page of search results yielded some rather nasty stuff, including the phrase "the age at which a male kitten is neutered can affect its personality", and advice to see a doctor.

Plus the slogan "welkom in Nederland" (welcome to the Netherlands).
From a blog discussing gay and transgender Arabs.

Okay.

Gay or transgender arabs is one heck of a praedilection. Lord knows it doesn't resemble any of mine in the slightest. I am a fairly simple man; what I'm looking for is a female person shorter than myself, more likely than not wearing glasses, who has a healthy appetite for good food, reads an awful lot, and is willing to put up with a pipesmoker.
I flatter myself that that is one hundred percent normal.
Even in the modern world.

Definition of terms

Female: a human who produces non-mobile ova, and has two x chromosomes.
Person: somebody with a brain, opinions, and a strong character.
Shorter than myself: forehead at lip-level, rather than breasts high enough to put out my eyes; ergo two to ten inches less than five foot eight and a half inches or there-abouts.
Healthy appetite: must like dinner!
Good food: meat, hotsauce, crustaceans, fish, dimsum, noodles.
Reads an awful lot: more favourite authors than television shows.
Willing to put up with a pipe-smoker: not some female dickhead.

Key abilities of this delightful mythical being include a healthy respect for spellcheck, Strunck & White, and a keen ability to argue. Passive little snoots who are barely literate are distinctly not part of this fantasy.
Neither are people with food phobias or hang-ups.
Or rabid anti-smokers.

I didn't even know I had praedilections, but apparently I do.

It's shocking to realize that.


I like gender, heck, I'm totally comfortable with it. Gender is an almighty good thing. Vegans, however, are often genderless and pathetically mewling about something stupid.


"...because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out"


No genderless vegan kittens for me, thank you.

Screw modern social sensitivities.

Bacon and chilies.




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HELLO, NEIGHBOR!

There are moments when the grown man realizes that he really should put on some pants. Naturally, these include those times when he heads off to vote at the local church -- where his local polling place has been for the last four years, before that it was in the Buddhist temple around the corner -- or when he's passing a grammar school. Even here in San Francisco, people get dressed if there's a remote chance that they'll be passing by a school, especially at recess time when all the students are outside.

Most people.

Children are innocent; they're bound to remark if a pantsless man walks past the playground.

"Hey mister," they're likely to say, "those things are remarkably white!"

Or perhaps "bald thigh patches, bald thigh patches!"

Then they'll scream with glee.


That hasn't been my experience, but I imagine that such things happen. Point is that one should not have forgotten one's pants in public; often there is more going on when there's less clothing. It could turn out to be an inappropriate situation for people who are not actually involved in one's personal march of progress.

Sharing pantslessness should probably be arranged beforehand.

I don't know. I have not been pantsless around other people in a long time.
Things may have changed since then.
A very long time.

We'll ignore de-panting during Pride and the Folsom Street Fair. I haven't lacked pants then either -- I heck, wasn't even in town for many of those celebrations -- but some people are remarkably comfortable letting it all hang out on those days, though it isn't fun for all.

There's nothing more discordant than hearing a girlish voice exclaim "Dad, put your pants back on, you're embarrassing me!"

Mister, why one earth did you bring her to this? A bondage and skin-puncture fest south of Market Street is not a place for a teenager, no matter that it's a beautiful sunny day, and you're making sure she gets exposure to a broad spectrum of cultural manifestations.

She lives in San Francisco, she will get that anyway.

If she wanted to go, she would've gone alone.

Or with her Best Friend Forever.

It's Selfie Time!


My apartment mate left this morning at around seven thirty. Till that very moment, I had been wearing pants. As soon as she left, I locked her door and opened the windows, so that I could smoke in the apartment. This is something I often do, and as long as I let the place air out thoroughly for four hours before she gets back, she won't even notice. She works Monday through Friday, I have a different schedule and there are times during the week when I have the apartment all to myself.

Naturally I shave everyday. It's a mark of a civilized man that he shaves and washes even when it isn't really socially necessary. Personal grooming is a measure of self-respect, and so is dressing appropriately for the occasion. In fact, the missionaries out in the Antarctic Wilderness, with nothing but Penguins and dead explorers for company, should ALWAYS put on proper evening dress when leaving their igloos for dinner. As well as attend to their fingernails; nothing says 'grunge' like grotty fingernails.
And stubbly chins.
Anyway, you get the idea.

We are not Seattle, forcrapssakes.

Shaving is best done naked. The foamy soap drips and splatters, and sleep-wear gets crusty if one shaves while wearing it.
So, logically, it must be removed.

[This is something where I follow my dad's fine example. At six thirty in the morning he could always be found at the kitchen sink, shaving in the buff. One time our cleaning lady came early, and opened the door from the stable to the kitchen. No, she didn't scream. She quietly closed it, and waited half an hour. When she re-entered later she remarked that she'd make more noise if she ever came early again.]

Now, opening all the windows means that, if one leaves for instance the doors between the bathroom and the hallway, or the kitchen and the main chamber, open, there will be a crossdraft which blows out the reek of small cigars or pipe tobacco.

This morning I headed back into the main room after shaving, for my first pipe of the day. Enjoyed the smoke, with the large cup of coffee which I had already placed in the teevee room on the little tray on top of the stack of books to the left of my seat in front of my computer.
It was very good.
After finishing, I felt I needed a book from the other room.
At which point I realized that I hadn't closed the door.
And that one of my neighbors was at his window.





It was a very fine Virginia tobacco, from a tin I stashed away several years ago and only opened recently. Mostly red, with a dollop of brown for depth, and Perique for added spice. There may also have been the merest touch of a fire-cured Kentucky leaf in there too; many British companies think that's a fine addition to anything meant to be a broken flake. There was a rich fruitiness due to prolonged fermentation, a distinctly perfumed whiff of the carotenoids so abundant in flue-cured leaf.
The pipe was a Peterson Oom Paul, smooth, with a tapered stem. Normally I don't smoke such extremely bent shapes, seeing as I favour something that I can chase a pipe cleaner through while smoking. But I've fiddled with the interior of this pipe to make that possible.
I did that while naked too; there was too much briar dust to risk discolouring my day-clothes or sleepwear.

Really, I cannot emphasize enough how delicious the first pipe of the morning can be. Today it really sang. A wonderful experience.

We're having a spell of summery weather in San Francisco now.
I understand it's cold back east, stormy in Europe.
But here it's just right for nudity.


I'll be heading to Marin in a few hours.
I'll be wearing pants.




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NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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