At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, March 27, 2020


While having my first smoke of the day out on the front steps, a crow unhappily hopped down the center of the street cawing. There was no stale pizza anywhere! What was this world coming to?!? Because, of course, the primary function of the twenty somethings is to leave evidence of late night partying on the pavement, so that Corvid Americans may have breakfast.

That crow was the only sign of life.
And he or she was sad.

That's something with which I can sympathize, because I too miss pizza. Admittedly I have not had any since just before Christmas.
I'm not much of a pizza aficionado.
But it's the concept.

At the time I wished that I had thought to put some bread and meat into my bathrobe pocket for the animal. Surely he or she intellectually relished the idea of dissolute behaviour and camaraderie that stale pizza represented, the wicked hints of possible licentiousness, mediocre cheese, and the aura of great good cheer that several hours later would still adhere, faint ghosts of booze-sodden intemperance, as well as the sheer nutritional mayhem. The bread and meat would partly satisfy his or her physical needs, and the friendly grey-robed human nearby making bird-like encouraging sounds while puffing out smoke should impart a veneer of normalcy.

Normally I might worry about other people seeing me hopping in a crouch while making cawing sounds.


In these times we must show compassion. Please seed the public spaces with scraps of pizza. They like sausage and cheese. And pepperoni.
Ham and pineapple not so much.

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In good news for animal lovers all over the city, the plague of chihuahuas may finally come to an end. Coyotes have been sighted in several locations. And, when road-runners aren't about, coyotes necessarily must feast on the pan-sized rat-dogs beloved by dumb blonde chicki-boom-boom.
Life just can't get any better.

What we've seen speaks for itself. There is no stopping them.

I, for one, welcome our new canine overlords.

I've run out of ginger snaps!

If you see someone carrying a chihuahua, demand that they sacrifice it for all our sakes. We must assuage, bribe if you will, our new neighbors. And what's one chihuahua in the grand scheme of things? A bagatelle!

Never did like chihuahuas.
But they're useful.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020


When the leader of the Free World speaks, it is good to listen. Unless, of course, you are Glenn Beck, who is certifiably a vindictive bitch ideologue. For whom clear language of any type is incomprehensible.

For some of you, it is time to learn German.



Sie können "farvergnügen" vergessen: notwendigkeit ist ein besseres wort.

Das war eine sehr gute tzusprache.

I'm fairly certain that Anthony Fauci and Andrew Cuomo listened, and paid attention. Glenn Beck, probably not.

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Two of my friends, whose lives I often spy on Facebook, are taking the opportunity to cook fabulous feasts. Another friend has for several weeks now been experimenting with methods of food preservation that lead to wonderful results. The feasters are Filipino American, and what they are cooking is not in any way native to their grandparents' culture. The pickler and fermenter is Ashkenazic, rabbinicly inclined, and somewhere on the spectrum. Pickling and fermentation IS native to his grandparents culture, but he's approaching it more from an intellectual food maven perspective, deeply fascinated by the process and the eventual results. In between other posts that in their profound humanity and insight show why I FB friended him in the first place.

When this is all over, the people I know will probably be eating better.
Some of them might be little thicker around the middle.

Myself? Well, if I survive I'll be much the same. Perhaps a little thinner, because everytime I get ill, weight evaporates, AND my habits have had to change. I haven't had a pastry OR a cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea in ten days.
Plus, the weather has been cold, and I wish to belly-ache about that.
And the polar bears roaming these arctic wastes.
Who head to the beaches.

In all the years that I've lived in San Francisco, I've visited the seashore less than a dozen times (twice to burn things). That is still more than while I lived in Holland -- there are some beaches there too -- but honestly, the idea of running around nearly naked in the surf is not one that appeals to me. Sunbathing also has zero attraction. Zero.
And I do not have a sun hat.

On the other hand, if there were a restaurant out near Seal Rock, with two Filippino food mavens and a pickler, which also had an extensive selection of delicious Chinese Pastries and Hong Kong Milk Tea, I'd brave the arctic winds out near the ocean on a daily basis. Yes, hullo, me again!
Just let me look at your delicious menu for a while.
No, I don't need a window seat.
I have electronics!

It may be a long time before I have pulpo en su tinta or clams Madrileño again. Or grass carp steamed with pickled vegetables. But the first sign of normalcy will be pastries and milk tea.
That someone else prepared.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020


This morning when I went out to the front steps for a smoke, there were crows overhead. The poor birds are not taking this social isolation thing too well. Normally they feast on slices of stale pizza and bits of discarded fast food left on the street overnight by the drunken twenty-somethings from Polk Street, these days they must forage, which depresses them.

So to every one working at restaurants that are still open, please consider leaving your garbage bins unlocked; the crows will thank you. As will the coyotes which are finally returning to urban environments at night.
And the raccoons.

Things aren't normal anymore.

"Gram'pa Thingpuckey", kids will say to me, "how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?" And the short answer to that question is that I don't. When you have a certain level of OCD, aren't really social, and because you're somewhere on the spectrum there are counting routines, mental lists, things that cannot be done until other things are done, and urges to straighten corners, place stuff at precise ninety degree angles, and sometimes make sounds that originated in Bloom County ("oop ack"), as well as talk back to stuffed creatures, sanity is a very malleable concept even at the best of times.

By the time I've finished saying that, the little blighters will have run off. They don't have much of an attention span, darn it, and there was something blinky over there.

Maybe they weren't even anywhere near me.

There are daily routines that must be done precisely right.

1. Two cups of coffee, several cups of tea.
2. Deal with the garbage before the first pipe.
3. Argue with a stuffed animal.
4. Select a pipe, fill it properly, light it.
5. Read the news and the covid count.
6. Think bad thoughts about politicians.
7. Consider cheese.

8. Attend to reading material: this includes texts that work the mind, as well as stuff that inspires a mood.
9. The necessary actions in 'that' room: shave and shower so that I look decent. This is a matter of self-respect.
10. Walkies. Keeps the joints limber and the circulation going.
11. Clean something. Not everything.
12. Interact with a few people (nowadays via the internet).
13. Fill a saucepan with water, add half a dozen dried zizphus (棗 'jou') and some slices of ginger. I use both red ziziphus (紅棗,雞心棗 'hong jou','gai sam jou') and black ziziphus (黑棗 'hak jou'). This simmering concoction will disguise the fact that I have been smoking my pipes inside, so that when my apartment mate returns at the end of the day I can act totally innocent. Which is very important! It tastes good, as well as being mildly healthy.

14. Tea. Either Pu Er ( 普洱茶 'pou nei chaa') or black tea. Strong.
Add milk and sugar as required.
15. Cook something with curry and chilies. Same functions as the ziziphus and ginger decoction.
16. Do mathematics in my head.
17. Practice or study calligraphy; like the math, it's mental exercise.
18. More reading material.
19. More pipe smoking.
20. Consider cheese.

21. Make lists.
22. Straighten out and unfold corners of paper things.
23. Inspect right angles.

24. Carefully attend to the rims of pipes with a slightly damp tissue, and, if they have a smooth finish, touch them up very lightly with micro-fibre pads. Whoever gets my briars when I die will have clean pipes with crisp lines!

"Gram'pa Thingpuckey, how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?"

I don't. There was no sanity to begin with.
Don't let it worry you, kid.
Count stuf.

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It's so nice that Glenn Beck and Texas Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick want me to die. Both gentlemen are now on record as saying people like me should go back to work to keep the country going. By which they mean that their stock portfolios are tanking, and their supporters are getting riled up at the prospect of having to live like regular folks.

"I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working. Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country."
------Glenn Beck

That's mighty white of you, podner.

You know, I don't think I'm ready for that. Sure, I want all the little children, butterflies, happy kittens, and dancing marigolds to survive. But working for an extra five or six days, then catching Corona, and dying of lung-eating pneumonia by the side of a deserted freeway in golforsaken buggery Marin County doesn't appeal to me. I figure I'd rather kick the bucket in the foyer of a crowded local hospital surrounded by San Franciscans.
If and when it comes.

You know, Glenn, regular people don't have stock portfolios. Or any interest in keeping Republican Party members in East Buggery Texas from going financially under.

The people I want to survive this are my apartment mate, my landlady and her husband, several good people with whom I come in contact when at work, the kiddiewinkies at the childcare centre near the bus stop, the ladies who work at the bakeries and chachantengs where I've spent so many hours, the women who have rung up my regular food purchases on Stockton Street, the staff at the clinic, hospital, and pharmacy (who have all treated me very well), and the regular folks who form their clientele, customer bases, and extended social circles. My friends. My customers.
People I see regularly.

Especially the crusty old geezers at the back tables of those bakeries.

They deserve to enjoy their retirements.

Very decent people.

After this is all over, there will be holes. Several people will be missing.
I hope Glenn Buggery Beck and Dan Patrick are among them.
At the moment, they're breathing our air.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Got back in after a satisfying smoke, just before the rain. With a nice new supply of snackies. Hot cup of tea, and relaxing in front of a television that isn't on, because I do not watch it. Teevee is like marijuana for the mind; it leads to stupidity and impulse buying.

Mmm, chocolate! Or a double bacon cheeseburger!
With our signature rancho-sauce!
And grease.

Good example of stupidity: the idea that America will re-open in time for Easter, because otherwise thousands of people will commit suicide. A grand "resurrection", in a manner of speaking.
Another good example of stupidity: the Corona Virus is no worse than the flu, but there's a conspiracy orchestrated by a pro-vaccination Jewish mafia who are planning to gain totalitarian governmental control and link our social security numbers with our vaccination records.

Only one of those is on Fox News.

Guess which.

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Per SFGate, parks and beaches in Northern California were crowded this weekend. Many people do not understand what the heck social distancing means. What it means is that if you come close enough, I'll take a swing at your head with my blackthorn stick which I will now carry around to damned well guarantee distance. Please understand that there are so few witnesses on the street that I could easily crack your head open and feast on the goo inside for ten minutes before anyone notices.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each others heads open and feast on the goo inside?

Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

No high fives. No fist bumps. No elbow to elbow. Stay away.
Apparently there was gridlock in some places.
And overflowing parking lots.

Normally I would not carry the blackthorn stick with me except late at night.
Now, if more than ten feet from my front door, it will be at the ready.
Because I don't trust my fellow human beings.
There are FOUR people in my apartment building who are older than me.
At least one of whom is probably in her last year among us.
And, of course, I know that I might not make it.
Pre-existing conditions and all that.

In the past I may have suggested that when I am outside smoking my pipe some company would be nice, and it still would. Now more than ever, though, any company should be as anti-social as I myself am. Eight to ten feet away, and fairly untalkative. While remaining on the look-out for people who need their heads cracked.

My apartment mate could inadvertently infect me, there is that possibility; she still goes to work. But I am more worried about something happening to her while she's out of the apartment, because, as I previously mentioned, there are fewer witnesses on the street now, and I don't trust my fellow human beings. I care about her. A lot.

The cigar smokers in the backroom won't infect me. Haven't seen any of them in over a week. My fellow pipe smokers won't either, as most of us have severely attenuated social urges. At best.

But normal people are a threat.

Delicious grey goo.

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It turns out that underneath a very thick veneer of decent behaviour and very good social norms, as evinced by the immense good spirits and humour on the internet, somewhere out there is a vein of complete ass-hole. Racism against Asian Americans in the wake of the corona virus has increased enormously. Also here in SF, where one third of the population, more or less, is Asian American. Most of whom have lived here their entire lives.

Yuanyuan Zhu was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater.

Source: Spit on, yelled at, attacked: Chinese Americans fear for their safety

This hits too damned close to home, even though I am not Asian American. My landlady is of Chinese ancestry. The two women in the apartment next to the front door are too. So is the tenant who lives above them. The guy behind the counter at the nearest store. The people from whom I buy vegetables. The owners of bakeries I patronize. Grocers. My doctor, his stand-ins when he is off, my cardiologist, the nurses, clerical staff, and pharmacy ladies who together form the support staff I see when I'm down at the clinic .....

My apartment mate, a splendid person who puts up with me.

People I know, individuals I like, and friends.

Folks, if you're going to be assholes, could you at least have the goddamned decency to move back to Dumbfuckistan? We'll give you directions, we know where that is. Y'all voted for Trump last time.

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Monday, March 23, 2020


A conversation with the apartment mate regarding the wooden statue of a sea captain from some island in the pacific which is behind her chair. He's wearing a lau lau and cowrie shells, and has a captain's hat. And a glued on-animal hair beard (so you know he's Caucasian). Dignified yet disquieting of appearance. She thought he was a witchdoctor, evil booga booga, and if we weren't careful we'd run out of goats. We have no goats. I explained that he was the nearest thing to a Barbie doll we had here, and that someday, after this is all over, I would show a little girl the statue and tell her that he was just as good as Barbie. Honest.

She looked at me, and blinked.

"You guys are really culturally impoverished, aint'cha?"

"You've got that crazed old coot look in your eyes. Stand back, I have a tazer in my Hello kitty purse!"

My apartment mate is used to my collecting odd things at this point. A few years ago I gave her two 'daemonic' ceramic chickens. Plus, of course, we have several stuffed creatures in both bedrooms. Some of whom are, when they speak, clearly not in touch with reality.

She's also the person who came up with the concept that "butter is truth". Mantequilla es verdad! Which is more 'zen' in Spanish than in English.

Butter is beautiful.

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As a man of regular habits (firm, unchangeable, and cemented in place by stubbornness) this blogger has gotten through an entire week of the social distancing imposed by the City of San Francisco and the State of California in their justifiable abundance of caution. Because even though they realize that a percentage of us will snuff it, they don't want it to happen all at once. Naturally, given my age (60) and underlying conditions, I am sanguine about my own chances, but that ain't going to change my views or bad habits. It would be rather pointless, don't you think? Croak, croak, croakitty croak.
At least I won't need to worry about my next haircut.

My only "bad" habit is smoking.

Which, given that the other person in this apartment is a non-smoker, necessitates frequent walks. And that's altogether a good thing, because otherwise my circulation would sluggify like topsy, and my right leg would stiffen to the point of painful uselessness. My doctors have kind of agreed to scan the damned limb sometime this summer -- circulatory issues and arthritis combined seem to be the issue, as well as long time damage to the knee and hip, basically old geezer leg -- but that was, of course, before Covid 19. If we're all still alive after this is over, I'll bring it up again.

Meantime, I'll just carry on, carrying on.

Pipes smoked this weekend: An Ehrlich straight bulldog. A John's (Los Angeles) Silver Mount straight billiard, older than myself. A sandblasted pot shape, Italian, the brand of which is not worth mentioning. A silver-banded bent bulldog, Peterson. Comoy Tradition shape 331, straight squat bulldog. Peterson Kapet Made in the Republic of Ireland shape 420F, oval shank. Dudley tanblast panel. Sunrise Apple. Comoy off-brand Canadian.
Another Peterson silver-banded bent bulldog, pre-war.

Several cups of coffee (mornings).

Plus cups of milk-tea (afternoon).

And pie, cheese, noodles, vegetable curry, fatty treats.

I'm sure my primary care physician would only have a problem with the pipes. He's rather opposed to tobacco, probably because of traumas suffered while he was a mere child in med school, and I know that the pharmacists are also against it; every time I go in for refills, they holler at me that I really must quit smoking (嘜先生,戒煙,吸煙好危害健康吖 ('mak sin saang, kaai yin, gap yin hou ngai hoi kin hong aaah')!


M-hou yi si, yau di gu-jaap gaai m-laat-ge. That isn't going to happen. Sorry.

But if you see me again, feel free to tell me how bad it is.

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Under normal circumstances one would like to head over to Chinatown on days when not at work, enjoy a late lunch and a cup of tea, then have a long stroll through familiar streets and alleys while smoking one's pipe.
These are not normal circumstances.
It may last a bit.

Watching baby otter videos on the internet is one possible substitute. The Oregon Zoo has two adorable otter pups. Look 'em up. You can also find the formative influences of your young adulthood there, that being, I hope, the Muppets. Particularly Kermit the Frog and Pepe the King Prawn.

You probably cannot smoke a pipe while watching those. Reason being that you live with someone. Who would probably object, vociferously.
Video tape that person please, and put it on the internet.
I promise I'll watch, with avid interest.

Especially if they curse in tongues.

I will never-the-less be heading over to C'town later today. Need to stock up on tea bags (two kinds), jars of sambal, cough drops, and more coffee.
Some fresh veggies, and perhaps a lovely dried fish.

One can never have enough dried fish.

My apartment mate scheduled a 'mental health day' today and is having breakfast as we speak, while conversing with the stuffed creatures. Who are worried about the state of the universe, and possibly being eaten. I am not very good at putting their minds at rest, as I tend toward monosyllabic grunting at this early hour.

I'll probably be out on the front steps in a while. Dirty grey bathrobe, baggy plaid pajama pants, and a red tee-shirt, reading specs, coffee, and a pipe filled half-full. Crows overhead, maybe seagulls. Pigeons.
Is there perhaps any stale pizza anywhere?
It would be a perfect breakfast.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020


As a matter of both deep-seated neurosis and habitually thinking in terms of lists and numbers, this blogger is keeping abreast of the toll. On two blog posts you will find the figures for confirmed cases of Corona (covid 19) as well as number of fatalities, updated daily.

The first one: Perspective

The second one: Contradicting El Trumpo

Think of it as a mental bend I cannot shake.
Possibly cultural or hereditary.
Or just Aspergers.

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My apartment mate's work is public-health related. Which means that during the current lock-down she is considered essential. But, fortunately, not front-line, and no contact with the public required. What that also means is that as some of her co-workers are working from home, she is getting a lot more done, and rather enjoying the quiet at the office.
She is not particularly social.
"On the spectrum".

On the spectrum means somewhere between "neurotypical" and full-blown autism. What is often called Asperger. Which also describes me, and I have been told to stay home, whereas normally on a Saturday and Sunday I would be at work.

You can see the problem here, can't you?

Like her, I am not that social.

And I'm a smoker.

What this means is that this weekend I have been out of the house a lot, so as to lessen friction (mostly my problem) as well as enjoy my pipes in peace and quiet. A briar pipe benefits from a certain degree of solitude, or the company of phlegmatic other smokers.

Hypothetical conversation between two pipe smokers:

Nice pipe.
Thanks. Comoy.

[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]

What (are you) smoking?

[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]

Vladimir Nabokov?

[Very long pause]

Crumhorn music.

[Very long pause]


[Very long pause]

Thanks..., conversation.

[Very long pause]


It will not surprise you that Albert Einstein was a pipe smoker.
A full bowl lasts forty five minutes or more.
Plenty of time to talk.


BRIAR: the mediterranean heath tree (erica arborea), the burl of which is commonly used to manufacture smoking equipment. A porous not richly resinous wood which imparts only a faint hint of its own flavour, most modern day pipe mixtures are blended based on the wood's inherent characteristics and interaction with the tobacco. COMOY: a brand of briar pipe established in St. Claude (France) in 1825, when the Comoy brothers began making clay and boxwood pipes. By the middle of that century the family had switched to briar, and in 1879 a member moved to London and set up shop. H.Comoy & Co. Ltd. was incorporated in 1914. From then until the fifties or sixties of the last century their top-end pipes were second to none (and I own several from that period), and they also made pipes for stores up and down the West Coast. Since then, the brand has had some ups and downs.
BALKAN (TOBACCO): not, as you might think, tobacco from that region. Rather, the nomen refers to a type of mixture with a fair amount of Latakia tobacco (originally from Syria, nowadays Cyprus) complimented by a proportion of Turkish, and a 'base' of Virginias (also known as 'flue cured'). Think in terms of 35+ to 50 percent Latakia, one sixth to one quarter Turkish, and the rest a blend of Virginia flake and Virginia ribbon. The most famous exemplar of the type was 50% Latakia, 22½% Turkish, 27½% Virginias. A lot has been written about it, and it became more popular after it went out of production. There are now far more Balkans available than there ever were. Possibly in imitation.
MATCHES: implements made by little orphan girls freezing in the snow, which because they give a soft flame are ideal for lighting your pipe.
CRUMHORN: a medieaval precursor to the kazoo much loved in Germany. Also given as 'cremorne'. NABOKOV: a prolific Russian literary genius. SRIRACHA: the condiment which makes all civilized life possible. GLOSSARY: a list of words sometimes imperfectly explained.


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A gentleman in Australia craved Bombay Duck, so a friend sent him some. Then he realized there might be a slight problem. "Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fry it cause of the smell. My Aussie neighbors would think there’s a dead body here. Any recipes as a curry alternative I can use?" The obvious solution is to sing loudly while frying, so they won't think you're dead yet.
Besides, getting out of the apartment building and going for a long walk might be just what they need. Exercise! It keeps arthritic joints from stiffening up because of inaction, and improves circulation.
And muscle tone, if they run.

You're doing it for them.


Okay then. Having solved an Australian problem, let us return to the non-kangaroo infested part of the world. Particularly San Francisco. Where I live. We don't have Bombay Duck. And instead of Aussies, we have pavement dwelling psychopaths and dysfunctionals. About whom I am rather worried. Because, in all honesty, they weren't coping under normal conditions.
Then weren't friends before this, and I kept my distance.
But I'll be glad to see them back.

The streets are cleaner and emptier than they've ever been.

The apartment mate has been binge watching old teevee series, as well as clips from The Muppet Show. Sofar, I have heard Sam The Eagle ranting about nudity -- we're all NAKED under our clothes -- as well as the theme song from Bat Masterson (several times). She is in her pajamas, with a stuffed animal next to her while she plonks on her computer.

It's been a little surreal going for a stroll around the neighborhood recently.
Strangers wish each other a good morning or good evening from six to twenty feet distance (or more), shops are closed, one or two planked-up, non-smokers walk their dogs, joggers occasionally go by, and, thank heavens, the local liquor store is open.

The smell of Bombay Duck would be immensely positive at this point.
Evidence of intelligent life on this planet.

So far my landlords have not spoken to me about the dried fish, shrimp paste, and fish sauce I use. That, too, is evidence of intelligent life.

As long as at least one shop in Chinatown is still open, I'll be able to find more, if needed. It's an essential supply.

As you probably know.

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As you yourself have probably done, I've spent more time on social media than before. Largely because the people I have chosen as my echo-chamber are better at alerting me to important news, updates, and insightful points of view than I had thought possible. Both informative and useful.

Like most people, my Facebook friends consist of Rabbis, Torah scholars, Talmudists, fellow pipe aficionados, tobacco mavens, cooking fans, a few random people of the cloth, and gentiles from various religions.
Trump-despising normal people, in other words.

Two comments I made recently on FB serve to show how prepared I am for the end times and everything going sky-high.

"So it turns out I have nearly twenty corncobs that I haven't smoked in years. They're now on a small tray in front of the teeveee. The regular tea tray has 24 regular rotation pipes (one of which is meerschaum), the small tray on the night stand contains nine. There are probably over two hundred pipe in boxes and random places around the apartment. And I won't run out of tobacco anytime this decade. Plenty of ammo, in other words, for the necessary social distancing."

"Six weeks worth of noodles, three months worth of medication, plus coffee, tea, sambalan, and condiments. While kampong tjina (Chinatown) is still open, fresh vegetables are a possibility. As is meat."

Most of my friends, both virtual and real world, seem to be coping well. Their senses of humour and their spirits appear high. Despite not seeing other human beings for most of the day, and not having social lives, we're unsurprisingly mellow.

[Unsurprising, because we really weren't that social to begin with. The degree of mild Aspergers among us is really staggering. So other than regularly walking around the neighborhood trying to avoid people, or writing divrei Torah or snarky blog-posts (separate but equal), there has been little change in our lives.]

As my dad used to say, 'keep your pecker up'. It took years before I actually realized that that was telling us to keep a stiff upper lip, though somewhat risqué. Anyway, keep your peckers up, y'all.

Also, practice love and kittens.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020


When the possibility of Ebola hit, president Obama authorized protective measures, testing of airline passengers, and training of emergency personal. The Pandemic Response Team was created.
At that time, one of the cigar smokers with whom I come in regular contact ranted, several times, that Obama was going to kill us all. Since then, his president cancelled the Pandemic Response Team and slashed budgets in medicine and social programs. When, back in January, the corona virus started spreading outside of Wuhan, Trump repeatedly stated that there was nothing to worry about, it was no worse than the common cold or flu, everyone should carry on like normal, and please don't de-stabilize the market. Since then a number of Senators protected themselves by insider trading while collaborating on urging calm before the shitcan blew up.

Back in late 2014 after Dan had ranted for the so manieth time that Obama was going to kill us all (as part of a socialist liberal Keynsian plot), I advised him that, if he was that worried, he should incorporate ONE sentence into every conversation; it might save his life.


Hello Mrs. Smith, how nice to see you, are you bleeding from your anus? Johnson, congratulations on your promotion, well deserved, are you bleeding from your anus? Richard, is that a new dog and are you bleeding from your anus? Hey Warren, will you be watching the game with us and are you bleeding from your anus? Norman, what is is with you and 'Pawn Stars' and are you bleeding from your anus? Harry, don't even think of hitting me with that rum bottle and are you bleeding from your anus?

A number of the people with whom, before the 'shelter in place' order came into effect, I would come into contact during the day, are idiots.

They watch Fox News, and voted for Trump.

If the answer during Autumn of 2014 to that question had been affirmative, it would have indicated a medical issue of some import. Possibly even Ebolatic circumstances. If Dan had not just been blowing it out of his ear, what with being a right wing dilwad, he should have deployed the question.
His social life might look a little different now.
More interesting people.

Under the present circumstances I shan't see him for several weeks, possibly months. The last time we met, he poo-pooed the dangers, and insisted that Trump was a great man, the best president in his lifetime, and that there was little if anything to worry about. It would all blow over. Which a number of others agreed sounded reasonable.
And Trump was a fine man, bless him.

That was before the cases hit the highs of this week.

I suspect he's bleeding from his anus right now.

Dan, I've got a band-aid, but I can't hand it to you. Social distancing.
Perhaps I should just put it near that rock over there?
Just place it over your anus.

When we meet again, there's one question I want to ask him.

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Friday, March 20, 2020


Perhaps you recall my mentioning that one of the side effects of the blood pressure medication I am taking is that dreams are more vibrant, more intense. At least for me; some folks get nightmares. When I woke up it was with a dream in my head involving a little girl, and a lovely bowl of tobacco in one of my pipes, engaged in conversation with a middle-aged dude in a hospital about his pipe, an artisanal handcrafted item which, apparently, was a very fine smoke. Not my style, but I didn't tell him so.

The little tyke was saying to a nurse that, honestly, she didn't mind the two old fossils smoking, at least they were quiet.

Pipe smokers do tend to be somewhat "quieter".

But she was exaggerating.

Put two of us pipe smokers together in a hospital, or a bakery with a lovely selection of pastries and hot tea, and we might not shut up.

Which, of course, explains why the nurse was upset. Not only were we blowing stinky smoke all over her nice clean hospital, but she had brought us tea along with refills for our I.V. drips, and we just wouldn't keep still.
In fact we had every intention of being co-operative, and were planning to roll ourselves out to the alleyway opposite the hospital entrance so we wouldn't bother any one. "Don't mind us, we'll just be over there with our drips and tea trays, if you need us, just holler. And yes, he's smoking a Balkan Blend, which purifies the air and benefits the humours. The kid doesn't mind."
The kid is nodding in agreement.

The prospect of breaking all the rules with two adults who, seemingly, don't give a damn, and look like they might be in some way authoritative (because of their pipes and inherent gravitas) pleases her.

It is quite likely that she'll also be amenable to being sent to the nearby bakery for a box of egg tarts. One for me, one for the other pipe smoker, one or two for her, and even one for the stressed-out nurse.
Plus one or two for other hospital staff.

Hospitals, it is well known, do not excel in making tea. Surely someone can grab that box of tea bags, pop an extra one into the cup, and zap it in a microwave?

Hospitals also don't have ashtrays. So we HAVE to wheel ourselves out; it's for the good of everybody.

Surely you can trust me, I have 'gravitas'.
Do you see my pipe?

PS. As of this writing, there are 14,631 confirmed cases of Trump's Disease (covid 19) in the United States (210 deaths). And a toilet paper shortage.


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A reader contacted me a few weeks ago regarding two subjects that would bore the snot out of almost everyone else.

Quote: "One of your posts mentions the expense of aloeswood, you suggest something you alternatively call "snow pear and "winter pear". I have googled these terms because I want to add this wood type to my personal catalogue of traditional incense sources. As of yet, I still have no idea what species this is or how the material was used and this vexes me. I need the skinny. If you would be able to furnish me with more information regarding the identity and perhaps some lore surrounding winter/snow pear I would certainly be grateful."
"I have 2 balkan blends that I have been aging in huge 5 pound jars for almost 5 years. In several months I will be jarring all 10 pounds in smaller jars for long term storage.
Both blends follow the same formula:"

[Percentages edited out, because they're his personal blends, but the tobaccos are Latakia, Oriental ("Turkish"), Virginia flake, red Virginia ribbon, Maryland, and stoved Virginia]

"I'll send you 2 of the jars if you promise me that you will smoke them and give me an honest critique and the low down on this Chinese incense I know nothing about."

[sai ou taan heung & suet lei taan heung]
Western Australian Sandal Wood and Sydney Sandal Wood

The incense is probably made from Australian Sandalwood; the written Chinese characters for "snow pear" and "Sydney" are the same (雪梨).
The actual "snow pear" is Pyrus nivalis, which also cultivated in Japan and Taiwan. It's common name in English is 'yellow pear'. The plant is hardy, and can withstand colder temperatures, hence the name in Chinese 雪梨 ('suet lei'; "snow pear"). It is soothing to the throat.

Please note that in common usage on products, Chinese does not differentiate well between sandal wood (檀木 'taan muk'; sandal wood, several purple-red hardwoods) and aloes wood (沉香木 'cham heung muk'; "submerged fragrance wood", aquilaria wood). And further, there are very many trees that are commonly referred to as 'sandal wood', including 檀香('cham heung'; Santalum album), 青檀 ( 'ching taan'; "blue green sandal wood", Pteroceltis tatarinowii), 紫檀 ('ji taan'; "purple-red sandal wood", various Pterocarps). Most of them are simply called 檀 or 香檀.

From Wikipedia:
"Santalum spicatum, the Australian sandalwood, is a tree native to semiarid areas at the edge of Southwest Australia. It is traded as sandalwood, and its valuable oil has been used as an aromatic, a medicine, and a food source. S. spicatum is one of four high-value Santalum species occurring in Australia."
"the primary use when imported to China was the manufacture of incense."
End cite.

If you shop in Chinatown, the "snow pear incense" (雪梨香) you will likely find is 國天香廠雪梨香 ('kwok tin heung chong suet lei heung'; "heavenly kingdom incense manufacturers snow pear incense"). The stores attached to buddhist temples, such as the one around the corner from my house, often carry more elite wood incenses, but I haven't been there in several years because I prefer to avoid snooty white converts speaking Mandarin.
And I'm rather a frightful cynic.

Thank you for offering your tobacco, which sounds delightful, but at present I'm sitting on a stockpile that will last me for a very long time. Several hundred tins. Plus huge jars of my own blends. Perhaps if we ever meet in person, but under present circumstances any travel is out of the question.



PS. there is a stick of snow pear incense smouldering as we speak. The fragrance should hide the smell of the pipe I'm smoking while sheltering in place nicely. I'll ask my friends to burn some at my grave if I croak.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020


Teachers have been using Zoom to interact with their students during the current crisis, and many companies have requested their staff to work from home and video conference. And while it's a darn good thing that none of that applies to me, I've been thinking about what people could observe if it were otherwise.

I always shave and wash regularly, and am neatly dressed. I am not lounging around in my boxers eating crunchy-poofs and huffing a doobie.
A hot beverage and a pipe, yes.

But now would be the perfect time to smoke aromatic pipe tobaccos of which I normally disapprove, and from which I vociferously abstain.
Feh, pollution!

Don't know which one, though. There's still that stash of unopened tins of Erinmore Flake, enough to last a year, which according to many health authorities is utterly tempting to young people and that's why we want to ban all flavoured tobacco products lest the little shits end up imitating grumpy old coots out of sheer hero-worship or something, maybe they wanna be Gandalf or a Hobbit. But there aren't any kids nearby to tempt.
So it would be wasted.

"Come here, little girl, do you want to smell like Bilbo Baggins? Of course you do!"

Alas, you can never look like him, because you don't have bandy legs and hairy feet, or an expression on your face remarkably like a French Bulldog, and you are by no means leprechaunian in any way, in fact you remind me of nothing so much as a Hello Kitty dweeb, but indeed the character in question was short, probably squeaked a lot, and did smoke a pipe.

[Hobbit's Weed, a famous mixture from a long-gone tobacconist, consists of two parts BCA, one part Lane's Very Cherry, and one part Sutliff 1M. It is ferociously aromatic.
Not my cup of tea.]

The main problem with a city-wide lockdown ("shelter in place") is that it's so hard to be a bad example for the young. As the smell of an aromatic pipe tobacco naturally is. They know that generations of whiskey-soaked old farts with bad social habits and raggy haircuts smoked that crap.
And they want to grow up exactly like that.

"Come here little girl, I can make some fried noodles with veggies, hot sauce, and porky bits. And a fried egg! Sorry, we didn't stock up on bacon or fatty sausages, and there's no black pudding..... but this tea is strong enough to put hair on your chest!"

Sadly, I realize that even during the best of times, I'd be perfectly horrid at being a bad example.

Neatly dressed. Shaven. Clean. Hair and beard trimmed like a civilized person. A briar that I've had for years and maintained properly, filled with carefully curated tobaccos, sensible blended. And a cup of tea.
All I have to tempt you is delicious cookies.
With apricot and raspberry filling.
You're bored. I can tell.

There is ONE pipe-tobacco that's rather evil, though. An unopened tin of a mixture that smells remarkably like an old fashioned after shave that a barber in a western town might splash on the rugged cow pokes among his customers after they've washed and had a trim. But I'm scared to open it, and there's far too much back-story there for a little head to absorb.

Breakfast today was strong coffee and a few cookies. Most of the time I do not eat so early in the day. But I felt like smoking a pipe, and one should abstain from tobacco on an empty stomach.


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Many people are outraged by Donald Trump calling it the Chinese Virus. Largely because it stigmatizes an ethnicity and furthers bigotry against Asians. While I can see their point, I am not upset; I've always known that there was a percentage of the white population that was blisteringly racist. Being a white person, you naturally get to hear that stuff from other whites. Black jokes. Asian jokes. Jew jokes. Plus weird crap about food, skin, public pools, crime stats made out of whole cloth, and other things.

No, the Chinese do not deep-fry live dogs. Please think of what would happen if anyone put a whole live animal in a deep-fryer. And remember houses burning down when Thanksgiving rolls around each year. But that person remained unconvinced when I informed him of that. Nor are the Chinese habitually eaters of bats and rats.

I can't remember which city in the Netherlands has the reputation for liking fried rat, based on their WWII experiences, but BTW, the French are frog-eaters, folks in Mississississipi love possum, and Louisianans live almost entirely off reptiles and sautéed flithy swamp things.

Texans eat armadillos, and keep voting for retards.

What I'm getting at is that I cannot be too disappointed in some of my fellow Americans of Caucasian or Black heritage, because I never though better of them anyway. I was told to go the hell back to where I came from in the first year that I was back in the States.
Back. In. The. States.

Look, it's not the majority, but one blistering asshole can ruin someone's day. And most people really aren't prepared to confront assholery when it happens near them, feel embarrassed when the incident is over, and wish they had done something.

The other day on the bus someone told me that because I spoke Chinese to another passenger I stood a higher chance of getting the virus.
But he kept ten feet away when he said that.

I suppose if I spoke French, I'd stand a better chance of getting syphilis. Though probably not as good as all those college kids spring-breaking in Miami right now.

Yes, I wish I had punched his lights out. But ever since I've been put on blood thinners for high blood pressure (and please remember that a VERY LARGE PERCENTAGE of Italians who died of the Trump Virus also had that), I have been a bit more cautious about confronting morons; it wouldn't take much for me to bleed out. Or in any case bleed a whole lot more than the other guy.

[And clopidogrel (Plavix). Nothing clots. One rather minor cut or scrape, and the bleeding goes on for hours. Drip drip drippity drip.]

There's not a whole heck of a lot one can do about in-bred Jed-ism. It happens. But if we just keep objecting to it, and speaking out, eventually the dumbasses in our own slice of heaven, as well as the Aussies, Italians, English, Frenchmen, Texans, and Dutch people will be more hesitant about letting their asses show, and perhaps even stop shagging sheep.
And maybe, just maybe, they'll wash a bit more often.

Gotta remain positive about it all.


The Hong Kong Cantonese often casually refer to COVID 19 as 武漢肺炎 ('mouhon feiyim'), which means "Wuhan Pneumonia". But the correct long-winded terms are 嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎 ('yim jung dak sue chuen yim sing fei yim') or 2019冠狀病毒病 ('yi ling yat kau kun jong beng duk beng'), "severe extraordinarily contagious lung inflammation" or "2019 crown-form illness toxin disease" respectively.

I'm fairly certain that my death certificate will say Covid19; pneumonia.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020


On March ninth, our beloved president poo-pooed the virus, and promised that the stock market would be well. The market has since then tanked like it never tanked before, it could not be anymore tanked, and the president has been quite useless, as one would expect that idiot to be.

Oh, and the number of cases has not gone down.

Friday, March 27, 6:32 PM
103,942 confirmed cases in the US. 1,689 deaths.

Thursday, March 26, 6:40 PM
85,486 confirmed cases in the US. 1,288 deaths.

Wednesday, March 25, 7:41 PM
68,572 confirmed cases in the US. 1,031 deaths.

Tuesday, March 24, 7:30 PM
54,893 confirmed cases in the US. 783 deaths.

Monday, March 23, 6:25 PM
43,901 confirmed cases in the US. 557 deaths.

Sunday, March 22, 8:45 PM
33,276 confirmed cases in the US. 417 deaths.

Saturday, March 21, 7:37 PM
26,138 confirmed cases in the US. 323 deaths.

Friday, March 20, 7:25 PM
19,352 confirmed cases in the US. 250 deaths.

Thursday, March 19, 7:37 PM
14,202 confirmed cases in the US. 205 deaths.

Wednesday, March 18, 7:31 PM
9,249 confirmed cases in the US. 149 deaths.

Tuesday March 17, 11:10 PM
6,496 confirmed cases in the US. 114 deaths.

Monday March 16, 7:10 PM
4,661 confirmed cases in the US. 85 deaths.

Sunday March 15, 8:10 PM
3,774 confirmed cases in the US. 69 deaths.

Saturday March 14, 8:04 PM
2,950 confirmed cases in the US. 57 deaths.

Friday March 13, 9:30 PM
2,174 confirmed cases in the US. 47 deaths.

Thursday March 12, 8:33 PM
1,663 confirmed cases in the US. 41 deaths.

Wednesday March 11, 8:18 PM
1,135 confirmed cases in the US. 38 deaths.

Tuesday March 10, 8:58 AM
761 confirmed cases in the US. 27 deaths.

"This was something that we were thrown into and we're going to handle it and we have been handling it very well."
-------Donald Trump

Dumb ass.

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Normally, at tea time on a day when I'm not working, I will enjoy a hot cuppa down in Chinatown with a pastry. Normally. But Chinatown is quiet, nearly empty, and those places that are open mostly have signs saying they're doing pick-ups only. There are very few people about, there is no hubbub. So after getting my medicine refills at the pharmacy I came back home.
Not being a social person, I'm doing better than most.
The bartenders I know are going stir-crazy.
Judging from Facebook posts.

The refills weren't ready yesterday. So I happily got on the bus down to C'town, and had a smoke before heading towards the pharmacy. Again.]

My apartment mate is back at work; her job is vital for the proper functioning of society. Or at least her department, where important papers are in bins awaiting proper categorization and filing. As part of keeping track of sick people. Many of her colleagues are working from home, and like most rational people she can get more done when "they" aren't around.

So then. Pipe in mouth, aged tobacco at a slow burn, pot of fragrant muck on stove to provide a covering miasma when she returns.
That way she'll never know that I smoked.

Insane people are talking to themselves on Polk Street, more noticeable because of the stillness. Same to a lesser extent in Chinatown. They will soon go stir-crazy on the street, and eventually funnel into the hospitals. The rest of us can go stir-crazy indoors, and start clawing at our walls. Eventually someone will organize an orgy or something to relieve the tedium, and unsafe social distancing will ensue.

My apartment mate will be at work, getting a lot done.
I'll be at home, smoking my pipe.

The pipe is a Peterson Kapet from the fifties. The tobacco is three different Virginias and a minor touch of Perique. Sweet, and not too strong.
A very tobacco-like pipe tobacco.

A cup of tea is within reach.
Helicopter overhead.


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