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.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


A line of fine tobaccos that originated over in the East Bay, produced in Jersey, much sought after and in short supply.

These are made by Germain and Son, that being half a dozen old men in a brick building on an Island in the middle of the English Channel. They buy their tobacco up to ten years before they intend to use it, so increasing production to meet skyrocketing demand is rather out of the question.


Full Latakia, addictive. Comparable to Black Mallory, Balkan Sobranie 759, Dunhill Nightcap, and also somewhat to Synjeco's Elephant Dung.
Extremely good.

Aromatic. Dark-stoved with a remarkable bright flavour. Virginias top-dressed with a hint of licorice/anise. It offers a thick, creamy smoke, reduces to nearly nothing.

A straightforward mixture of flue-cured leaves, somewhat light and bright in taste. Smooth.

Four Virginias pressed and stoved till brown, fully rubbed.
Light, herbal, earthy, and sweet.

A lovely flue-cured compound, touch of Perique. Deeply fragrant, with a naturally occurring aroma of carotenoids from the Virginias (plummy, apricot-like). Bright and happy tobacco.

A blend of several Virginias, Perique in a manageable measure.
Ready rubbed. Piquant.

Aromatic. A complex blend of Virginias with a fruity berry-like topping, possibly apricot brandy. Really mellow and really smooth.

Non-Aromatic. Dark-stoved fully fermented Virginias. Solid, yet ethereal. Prunes, raisins, plums. Long matured. Ready rubbed.
A tobacco for old coots.

The classic full English. Lighter than Germain's Latakia Mixture, comparable to Balkan Sobranie. Delightful, rich and reeky.

An English mixture spritzed with brandy.

Latakia, Turkish, Virginias, all pressed and steamed into brindled flakes. Very reminiscent of the old Bengal Slices and various products from G. L. Pease. This has become a cult tobacco, and occurs on every damned “must-try list”.
- - - - -
[By the way, dudes, I've got large amount of this. So I'm gloating like you wouldn't believe. But honestly, I hardly ever smoke it. I was stockpiling this years ago. Before it became famous.]

Aromatic. Virginias steam-pressed till black. Topped with licorice. Possessed of great character, yet sweet and mellow, and easy to like. Broken flake.

Virginias and air-cured leaf steampressed. A very English product. A broken leaf for old-codgers, but a surprising number of young men are old-codgers.
Shows up on every “must-try list”.

Virginias with a touch of air-cured. Light and buttery. With a plum-like Virginia sweetness. Top notch. Noticeable nicotine.

Aromatic. Several flue-cured tobaccos. Brights somewhat dominant. Mottled and shaggy of appearance. Fruits and anise / licorice. Hay, citrus.
Not fruity enough for most Americans.


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


Surely like everyone you associate mango flavour with fine tobacco? And coconut? So undoubtedly you will be happy, even overjoyed, to know that it isn't just products under the Peterson label that have been so aromatized. Yes, little children all over the Western Hemisphere will, years from now as adults, say "I love the smell of your pipe, it reminds me of my grandpa".

I am not a grandpa. And I refuse to smell like one.
Guess which in the following line-up I smoke.

Scandinavian manufacture

A finely balanced English mixture, medium strength. Exceptional.
Damn' fine product, no mango.

Virginia, Maryland, Burley, Latakia. English in character, but mild enough that it won't bowl you over. Creamy, slightly nutty, slightly spicy.
Damn' fine product, no mango.

GOLD RUSH [Virginia]
Straight Virginias. Ribon cut. Smoked slow, it will be grassy and sweet, with a slight raisin-plum hint, as is typical of good Virginias. Soft, slightly sweet.
Damn' fine product, no mango.

Cavendish, with Burley and Virginia. Mango top dressing, with other fruits and vanilla. Tropical.

RAINY DAY [Aromatic]
Black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia. Underneath the pronounced fruitiness, the Burley comes through. Oranges, mango, and liquor. This is not subtle, but will please people with a sweet tooth, as well as your maiden aunt who normally prefers that you not indulge. Great indoor notes.

Maple, coconut, chocolate. Bright and golden Virginias, Cavendish. Good in a meerschaum.

A subtle aromatic; apricot and caramel. Old lady tobacco. Less fruity than other aros, rather traditional and old-fashioned. Needs to be smoked slow. No mango.

Maybe your grandpa smelled like a yoghurt drink in an Indian restaurant?

The flavour of mangos comes from a number of volatile organic chemicals, primarily terpenes, furanones, lactones, and esters. Different cultivars of mangoes have different chemicals or the same chemicals in different ratios. Asian mangoes have high concentrations of monoterpenes such as (Z)-ocimene or myrcene, and are also characterized by lactones and furanones.

As a personal fragrance, mango rates very highly. Some of my favourite men in the whole wide world smell enchantingly of mango. Whenever I think of Little White Nipple Guy, or the demented bald dwarf ("Ebola Man"), it's almost as if I am in a mango orchard. Coworkers too.
It is the best aftershave ever! Honest!

Heady, butch, and fruity.

Very masculine.



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


One more day of this and I can finally have a real lunch. I have a day off tomorrow, so convenience store crap won't be on the menu. Nor will trying to convince the boys in the back that I am Mister Congeniality. Had to threaten one of them with a savage choking if he didn't concede the point. Which he finally did, gracefully, in a charming Russian Accent.

Congenial, jovial even. These define me.
As everyone of them agrees.
Or else.

Another one of them needed to be reminded of the time he foamed at the mouth over Obama's dastardly plan to wipe out White America by letting Ebola deplete the ranks. This was back in 2014, when Trump was still a desperate conman blowing Vladimir Putin for candy and spare change.
Rather than the world-class statesman he has since become.
Naturally he voted for the fellow.
Because Hillary.

Many of the folks in the back seem like they belong in the Piranha club.

It's very refreshing being exposed to solid Republican values like that.
Normally I wouldn't come anywhere near these gentlemen, and wouldn't converse with them at all after the first time they opened their mouths.
In fact, I never even knew that there were such people in California.

One of these days I'm bringing a carton of eggs to work.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


There is weirdness on teevee in the morning. NewYorkese bitchiness. My apartment mate's choice. As yours truly does not turn the television on that early.
Or, actually, ever.

It's raining.

Probably a good thing that rather than my normal schedule, this is a work day. The boss is somewhere in the Caribbean on business, and Alexander Haig-like I am in charge.

Won't be off again till Friday.

When it might also rain.

Suburban dingos.


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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


For many months, people were saying "why is there no Samuel Gawith to be had anywhere?" And "what?" Not you. People. Other people. It was, per a discussion a few months back, an import-entry issue. Something bureaucratic. But there should be Sam Gawith a-plenty now.
So dry your tears.

[Clarification for the tobacco-impaired: Samuel Gawith is a brilliant company located in Kendall, Cumbria, England. They produce some marvelous smoking products, as well as some bizarre things aimed at a hobbit demographic living in their moms' basements all over the States.]

Numerous tins we have seen for sale recently:

Fifty percent Latakia, fifty percent Virginia, steam-pressed. Dark and perfumy because of that treatment. If aged, crystals form on the ragged slices. This is a delightful afternoon's smoke.

Medium in strength, with a pleasing mellowness. Straight Virginia, nothing else. One of the classics.

Black cavendish, blonde Virginia, honey essence. Queer fish.

A dark pigtail, quite strong. Suitable for young men with something to prove, and old men who are bored. Mono-dimensional.

Mostly Virginia. A little Latakia, and a whisper of whisky. Liquour in tobacco usually translates to a mellowness and a melding of flavours, rarely to any noteworthy taste of booze. Quite enjoyable.

Virginia with a little cigar leaf. Do not smoke this on an empty stomach. Tangy notes, but a powerful product. Unless you are impossible to live with, this should be only an occasional indulgence.

Little roundels with a smidgeon of Perique. Delightful.

This is bizarre. Very suited to Americans.

Virginias with Burley and a little Latakia to support the chocolate flavouring, which is not over-the-top. This is a high quality old-fashioned smoke. Pleasing woodsy notes. Mild to medium.

Fifty percent Latakia, fifty percent Virginia. Rich and delicious.

Sugar crystals! It has sugar crystals!

An extremely nice blonde Virginia in a coarse cut.

Strong tobacco, but rich and creamy. This is a solid whoomp of a smoke. It has nuances.

Virginia with Turkish, steam-pressed. A very slight tonquin dressing added. Very pleasant, a good blender, also excellent smoked straight. Mild to medium in strength. Refined.

Full load of tonquin extractives. You may fall over smoking this.

A medium mixture where the Turkish moves to the fore, surprisingly mellow.

The paradigm of medium English mixtures; Virginia, Turkish, Latakia. Nearly divine.

The perfect Perique dosage on a Virginia base. Spicy, but it perfectly hits the spot. Worth stockpiling.

Currently smoking from a tin of Sam's Flake, and from a large stockpile of Saint James Flake. Purchased Cabbies Mixture, Golden Glow, and Skiff. Primarily to augment my stash. One should not deplete without refills.

[By the way: please note that Pipestud (Steve Fallon) has written a recent post on his blog: "Is Cyprian Latakia Dead or Alive?". Remember, this is the man who seeded a pipe-smoking competition with Dunhill's Royal Yacht, sheerly for the pleasure it would give him and the discomfort of the participants. An inspired man.]

Current beverage: Strong coffee. I should go to sleep soon. But I have a large amount of tobacco drying in a stainless steel tray on my bed, near the vicious little black kitty who wants to eat the little girl hamster when she visits. So instead I'll load up a last pipe for the night, and go stand on the front steps looking wiser and more mature than I actually am.


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


It's always nice to receive compliments on one's handwriting. And apparently mine is rather decent. In Chinese. This pursuant the question what that smell was in the pipe tobacco he was trying. Caramel (焦糖 'jiu tong'), vanilla (香草 'heung chou'), and probably a minute addition of anethole (茴香脑 'wuiheung nou'; "fennel brains").

[Brains also means types of camphor, and related substances.]

The gentleman of the question collected all the written paper scraps of our conversation, including everything not relevant to the tobacco flavouring, a few of which were in lesser seal script (篆書,小篆 'suen syu', 'siu suen'), which is not quite the same as the stone drum script (石鼓文 'sek gu man'), a datum he then brought up -- even though they resemble each other in several ways there are important differences -- and of which he showed he had sound knowledge. Stone drum script precedes seal script, and many students of calligraphy practice brush-writing it. From one point of view, stone drum style characters are a more interesting version of seal script characters. And more satisfying.

In some ways I am a possessor of useless knowledge; familiarity with ancient Chinese scripts allows me to have fruitful exchanges with one or two people per year.

That's still better than Mediaeval Dutch. Knowing that 'bardenwerper' means the man who flings the battle ax got me a ten minute phone call nearly two decades ago.

It's not all entirely pointless, though. Knowing that if she weighs the same as a duck, then she's made out wood, and, therefore, must be a witch, may come in handy one of these days.

At least it's good information to have.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019


Now that the long Saint Patrick's Day weekend is over, I can finally piss on everyone else's parade. No, I did not celebrate. In fact I support the snakes in this one. Instead I hid out in familiar places yesterday, counting all the yutzes wearing green. Most especially the cuckolds. In Cantonese, 戴绿帽 ("wearing a green hat"; 'daai lok mou') means that one's esposa cheated on one, the green hat (绿帽 'lok mou') in effect advertising the familial shame.

Good luck with your silly holiday, all you leprechauns.

Three solid days of a drinking binge.

Puking frat rats.

Saint Patrick's Day is a holiday primarily for folks who have a small percentage of Irish blood, if any, and are mostly male and stupid.
Many Irish people do not celebrate it much.

Normally I work on Sundays, but because the boss is on a business trip, I will be opening four days this week. He decided that having me work six days in a row would lead to bloodshed.

Lunch yesterday: fish flavour eggplant and rice. 魚香茄子飯 ('yü heung ke ji faan'). Cup of milk tea. Followed by a smoke; flue-cured leaf in an old Dutch bulldog. After that was over, a snackipoo: a small old wife cake (老婆餅 'lo pou beng') and another cup of milk tea.

After which I smoked flue-cured leaf in a Peterson pot, shape 606, which has been with me for a long time. Peterson pipes are from Dublin.
So in a way that was Saint Patrick-ish.

No alcohol. No jigs. No stupid behaviour.
Nor any need for Beano(®).
No cabbage.

My ancestry includes no Irish blood, my family heritage is severe Protestant. Because of medicine I take, I have to avoid alcohol for at least a year.
And I've always been somewhat hypocritical in any case.
So I'll sneer at anybody else's drunken excess.
As well as their hangovers.
Damned louts.

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019


One of the brief joys of this time of year is the return of green on the hills of California. For a short period, barely one or two weeks after the last rain, the veridian and jade hues will refresh the eye, startling in their intensity. Then gold returns, and the familiar visual pattern of rolling terrain fading in pale yellows into the distance reasserts itself.

At the moment, there are glorious overwhelming greens.
The weather is mild enough that one can enjoy that.

There are darker shades where there are trees. Along the highway near the Waldo Grade it almost resembles a jungle, and in parts of Marin it looks foreboding, dense, and evil. A bit beyond the beaten track there may be rattlesnakes, coyotes, and chicken eating monsters. Or feral hippies.
You can stumble and be ensnared in the undergrowth.
Something is out there.

In the Emerald Triangle it will soon be planting season. Followed in a few months by helicopters and raids.

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


Statement by the apartment mate: "You can tell elderly Cantonese women what to do, but they ain't gonna do it". Shortly after which she said "I think I hate pudgy men who are into theatre". Both of these in descriptive mention of her hours yesterday doing a regular volunteer thing.

Fifty pound sacks were involved. As well as Protestants.
And a number of Toishanese individuals.

"Some people were there but they really didn't do much."

She's a person of Toishanese ancestry who understands more Chinese than she lets on, is not elderly and not into theatre.
For your information, I am none of the above. Well, technically Protestant, yes, but not observant. Not a believer, more a scoffing atheist.

Anyhow, she's "Toishanese". According to a visiting East Coast medical man, no one understands the Toishanese, their dialect is strange and weird. Which I would have disputed, except that I really didn't want to talk to him, because like many East-Coasters he was an arrogant know-it-all prick.

[台山人 Toishanese (people): Chinese from four large districts outside of Guangzhou in Canton Province, who speak a language related to Standard Cantonese, but with some Southern Min correspondences. Also their overseas descendants. Sometimes called 四邑人 (Toi: 'hlei yip ngin'; Cant: 'sei yap yan'); Mand: 'si yi ren'.]

Chinese, as a linguistic phenomenon, has hundreds of dialects and accents, spread over several distinct Sinitic languages that differ from each other in grammar and vocabulary, and are extremely diverse phonologically. As an example, the Shanhainese language is as different from Beijingese as German is from Dutch and English. Yes, one can map similarities and general rules about the differences, and show how they both derived from an ursprache, but that is of little practical use in comprehension when faced with someone speaking the "other".

In San Francisco Chinatown, a slim majority speak Toishanese, which is a Cantonese dialect. But of the Chinese-origin people in San Francisco, a slim majority are from Guangzhou or Hong Kong linguistic origins, though they may not speak their grandparents' native tongue. Other versions of Chinese spoken here are Mandarin, in several goofy accents (as a common second or third language, but also by most Northern Immigrants as a home-tongue), Min Nan, Hakka, Shanghainese, and even Zhongshan Min Yu (中山閩語 'jung saan man yü'), which began deviating from its nearest relatives several centuries ago.

Broadly speaking, Mandarin or Standard Cantonese will allow you to communicate with eighty percent of Chinese speakers here. If you are conversant in both, that's nearly one hundred percent.
That is, of course, a generalization.

Often one can tell where someone is from in Chinese by their accent. But not always. At one of the chachanteng in Chinatown, a waitress for years was convinced that I had grown up in Hong Kong, because of how I spoke, whereas in reality I learned the language from movies.

One must make allowances for white guys speaking Cantonese, even if they occasionally sound like goombas from gangster flicks, because, after all, they are freaks of nature, and it's miraculous that one can understand them in the first place. Their mouths, you know. Not shaped right.

Chou Yunfat snarling at the prison guard in 'Prison on Fire' was a formative linguistic influence. Pretty much all of Chou Yunfat's oeuvre was formative. The hero-gangster; a man on the bad side of the law, but possessed of gallantry and chivalry, a righteous man despite his situation.
Plus, of course, it's difficult to order food when you don't know what it is. Or to purchase books on seal-script (篆書 'suen syu') or I-Hsing pottery (宜興陶 / 紫砂 'yi heng tou'/'ji saa') and Sekwan ware (石灣窯 'sek waan yiu').
So reference works and dictionaries were acquired.

[From Wikipedia: "Zisha is a mixture of kaolin, quartz and mica, with a high content of iron oxide. It is mined principally at Huanglongshan and Zhaozhuangshan and has a somewhat sandy texture. The process of preparing the clay is lengthy and was traditionally regarded as a trade secret. Typical firing temperature is between 1100C – 1200C in an oxidizing atmosphere."]

I'm an opportunist. I like getting what I want.

Native speakers of Cantonese usually appreciate another person being able to communicate. Mandarin speakers less so, and American-born English speakers often not at all.

Their ears, you know. Not shaped right.


American-born English speaking Chinese sometimes have a chip on their shoulder, and mental blocks. They are like second generation Dutch Americans in that regard, or arrogant East Coasters.

Outside of Chinatown I seldom use Cantonese.
Dutch comes in handy once in a blue moon.
A few other languages, extremely rarely.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019


She held her chopsticks under the hot water from the coffee machine in the corner, then dried them assiduously. Very Hong Kong. But if she so distrusted the cleanliness of the place, why did she bother ordering any food? I've eaten there many times without fearing for my health -- well, it probably hasn't had a positive effect on my cholesterol or blood-pressure, now that I think about it -- and I enjoy the sheer goodness of the fare.


Mui choi kau yiuk (pork belly and salted vegetable). Keh ji (eggplant, slightly browned on the edges, then stewed). Syu-chai (potatoes) with a little sliced fatty pork. Plus rice, and a bowl of old fire soup.
And hot sauce.

They also do fabulous steamed rice sheet with fresh cilantro.
Plus black bean sauce spare ribs rice.
And won ton noodles.

That's 芫茜腸粉 ('yuen sai cheung fan'), 豆豉排骨蒸飯 ('dau si pai gwat jing fan'), and 雲吞麵 ('wantan min'), respectively, in case you're hungry.
Please imagine Facebook-style photos of food here.
I don't have a cell-phone.

As far as I know, their chopsticks are clean.

Being neurotic about utensils is a very Kongish thing. Often they'll dip their chopsticks and soup spoons in the first cup of hot tea from the pot, then wipe 'em furiously, because everyone knows there's minute specks of horse puckey in the air, and people with deadly infectious diseases have been coughing all over the neighborhood. Or within a dozen miles of it.

Plus plague-carrying mainlanders.

The family that runs the eatery happens to be from the mainland. Lord only knows what they're spreading whenever they talk Toishanese. As they often do. My apartment mate is of Toishanese ancestry, and has never infected me with anything, but I'm just a stupid white guy, so what do I know?

All indications were that chopstick-wipey woman enjoyed her won ton noodles.

Let us pray that she doesn't come down with Marburg fever.

Which, naturally, she might.


Many fastidious South-East Asian Chinese do the same thing with tea and wiping, because, of course everything is filthy if natives or white people look at it. And there is all-kinds of airborne filth around, that's just what foreign countries have. Natives, German or British sex-tourists, and flying faeces.

Much like Ireland or Holland, in other words.

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

Friday, March 15, 2019


Quite possibly I am defective; I cannot engage in long pointless telephone conversations, and the concept of spending over an hour talking or listening to someone on a phone gives me the heebie-jeebs. This in contrast to the woman at the laundromat the other day, who was deep in conversation for well over eighty minutes. No, I haven't a clue what it was about.
I wasn't listening, and I don't speak Spanish.

The Cantonese grannie two seats over had two content-rich exchanges in that time. One telling her daughter that it would take another fifty minutes, the other informing her it was almost done, she'd wait for the car.

My recent telephone conversations have mostly boiled down to "you are a scammer, please don't call this number again" and "we don't have airducts, kindly put me on your 'no-call' list". "No, the lady of the house isn't in."
Which is almost all the interaction I need from Alexander Graham Bell's fabulous invention. And it's a landline, not a cellular device.

Fun little Cantonese idiom: "boiling telephone congee".

To talk on the phone a very long time; 'bou din waa juk'.

For most of my life I have considered the telephone a tool, rather than a social aide. Let us talk about this invoice, that order, whether you have the thing, and that horrible rash on your shiny bald head.
Okay, fine, and see you there.

Hey man, I can't come in today, I have a daemon erupting from my sternum.

Obviously I do not text either. No insta-message software.

As an alternative, I could throw something.

At someone's head.

Otherwise I can communicate via e-mail, face to face encounters, and either likes or random comments on Facebook. There may be delays on the e-mail, and my privacy settings on Facebook are rather strict.

My ring tone is indeed highly unusual. You will only hear it if you are inside this apartment. It's best in the teevee room, where most of the non-cuisinary electronic equipment is. It sounds like a phone.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Yesterday at the bus stop a gentleman next to me whiffed of a cologne much stronger than the street. This was at Drumm and Clay, where the San Francisco sewer system is absolutely Roman in its intensity. This leads to three thoughts: 1) His coworkers had one heck of a day with him; 2) His nose died; 3) Thank you, strange man, for defeating the pong of ages.

Breathe, little sheeplings, breathe!

As a smoker, I like people like that. Normally people draw away from me in terror and bury their delicate little smelling organs in their perfumed hankies while scrolling through their text messages. He took the burden off my shoulders, and manfully distracted every offended nose on the bus.

Years ago if you got on an office elevator in the morning it stank of Aramis. Because every young man between twenty and fifty slaving away for the corporate masters in this city shopped at Macy's.

Well, it was "better" than the oh-so-butch smell of Brut.

Or health club exercise reeks, recently.

Stale yoga sweat too.

In all that time, I have avoided dousing myself, just yellow bacterial soap while showering, and a dab of anti perspirant in the morning. Plus, of course, the usual mild fragrance of pipe tobacco and the occasional cigar or cheroot. Meaning that my personal smell is of a freshly washed cowboy or tough guy straight out of a film noir fantasy, totally nightmarish for the modern sensibilities. Twixt Clint Eastwood and The Dude.

I probably smell like gluten and vaccines.

Most of you smell like tofu.

Vanilla tofu.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Last night I got to observe a young white guy trying to sweet-talk a young lady in a Chinese bar. It was a sad performance, halfway through which he and his friend started wrestling (falling on the floor in the process), and many of the people there cut him slack because he was young, stupid, and clueless. He actually thought he stood a chance. And would probably have ditched his friend if he had had any success. Sorry, guys, a loud Cantonese karaoke joint is probably the very last place in the world where you'll pick up a pretty little Asian flower. Have you tried contacting sexually-depraved top-level Republicans instead?

I shall commend you on your Chad-like dumb-assedness.

Two screens: One with Andy Lau being precious and artistic, one with a Buddhist Abbot lecturing about sutras. Most of the clientele at that hour are local Cantonese, many of them playing liars dice. It is not a pick-up joint. Perhaps you should act like a temporary tourist, instead of a predator.

It is rather bad form to go into a place where no one has any fellow-feeling for you, and the only other people who are white, if they think about you at all, consider you an expendable idiot. When you act like that.

If anyone wanted to beat your ass, the bookseller and myself would have observed, apathetically, but remarkably not seen a damned thing.
Actually, no one there would have seen a damned thing.

Whole lot of damned thing, not seen.

"He must have fallen off his stool, officer. Repeatedly."

Perhaps you didn't realize that she wasn't alone? Unless the place is filled with women, or she's white and drunk, she's not alone. And the woman behind the bar was keeping an interested eye on you.
You were disturbing the force.

It's because of you that Jenny did not switch off the abbot on the other screen for such a long time. She was too busy talking to the woman you were trying to talk up. So do please come again; the bookseller and myself prefer him over Andy Lau. Vastly.

"Can you show us on this Buddha statue exactly where the bad man touched you?"

Next time, pick a karaoke song. White guys singing are very impressive.

Pick several songs. Everybody loves Rap.

Honestly, we do.


In other news: I am impressed by the adventurousness of the middle-aged French-speaking couple at the chachanteng yesterday, whose English was so poor, selecting dishes from a menu that must have baffled them entirely (Hong Kong soy sauce-western), and enjoying a meal together.
Best use of the internet on a cell-phone ever.

If only more were like you.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


The caffeine has hit the brain. The medulla oblongata is fully sparkling, and synapses are firing all over the place. Coffee and tea are wonderful. Except, of course, for many millenials, who are the idiots their parents would have been, and often were. Stimulation means little to the over-entitled and under-informed. Revved-up crap is still crap.

Random thoughts, semi-inchoate:

Nabokov knew someone like Humbert Humbert; his associates will have easily marked the man. That book is not about the female protagonists, but about the mind of an obsessive person.

Has that orange-faced conman been indicted yet? Yet?!?

When ancient civilizations made agricultural advances, they created ripe conditions for the spread of disease. Malaria thrives where there is irrigation.

Have you ever noticed how many people are peaceful while smoking in war photos and films? Ban tobacco, and there will be far more bloodshed.

What do monkeys think about anal leakage? Damn, bad ammo?

Cats are over-rated.

More Madeleines have been consumed since the publication of À la recherche du temps perdu (in search of time lost) than are justified by taste or texture.

While drying this flake for the right smoking humidity, I notice carotenoids, and a faint hint of tonquin. No athenone, and no sooty terpeneols. Very pleasant.

The acacia trees on my street are in full bloom now. Soon it will be allergy season ..... except for me. Pollen scarcely affects me.
And I enjoy the anise-like fragrance.

Mmm, cookies!

Now, you may argue that I probably haven't had the good Madeleines, and my opinion could change if I did, but I will then say that at this point I have almost certainly had a representative sampling -- small shell shaped sponge cakes made according to various culinary traditions, English, French, Belge, et Americaine -- and in any case the Tom Poes and the Palmier are more evocational of fond recollections. For me.

But I am not Marcel Proust.

Madeleines are très très middle-class.
Paradigmatic of that status.
Bourgeois epitome.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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


For some reason I was reminded of a word in Dutch that had naughty connotations, albeit somewhat innocently, and originally had none such at all: Sjansen. It's a verb. first person present tense: Ik sjans. Second person present: hy sjanst. Zy sjanst. Plural second person present: zy sjansen.
The 'j' in Dutch is like the 'y' in English, 'sj' sounds like 'sh'.

It entered my ken when two teenagers were making out in the shrubbery of a vacant lot behind our neighbors property. One of us kids described their activity with that word. Clearly the derivation is either from English 'chance', or French. It sounds delicious, if drawled a bit, with a 'z' instead of an 's'.


No, they weren't naked or doing anything sticky, just an innocent bit of face licking. They were 'shawnzing'. It was an experiment.

One of the previous occupants of this apartment was Shawn. Irritatingly, the Scientologists still send him publications and letters, over a dozen a month. And while I could call up each particular unit of that berserk cult to ask them to stop, and inform them that he moved, went to heaven, got arrested, is probably dead and deservedly so, converted to hairy fishnuts, got married, or lost his marbles and any possible and misguided interest in them, that would only get them to change the name on the robomail.
They'd send it all to me instead.
And I'm not crazy.

I usually put the Shawns in the garbage.
Much like election literature.
Or anything occupant.

In an ideal world, we'd hunt down all these generators of junk mail, and whack them. Shawn too. Idiot.

Never give your mailing address to cults.
Or political outfits.

This blogger, for your information, has not 'shawnzed' in oh, like donkeys' years. Even during my most romantic period, face licking was limited to discrete pecking, sometimes nuzzling, and the avoidance of tonsils or teeth. The problem with any of those activities, you understand, is that it is difficult to look the other person in the eye while doing so, especially if glasses are involved. And glasses are damn' sexy.

"Heavens, miss Twitchet, you look stunning with that lipstick, the high heels, and those spectacles!"

"As do you, Mr. Thingummy, with your pipe, rumpled wardrobe, and reading glasses!"

As you can see, it helps if you can take a good look.
Proper lighting, and warm caffeine, are key.

Either that or a fabulous display, like many bird species. Spreading feathers, inflating colourful throat pouches if you have them, ritualized prancing, and exultant vocalizations, harmonious and repetitive.
It will drive the neighbors wild.
Full throttle shawnzing.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019


Tomorrow would be a porkchop day, except that the folks at my preferred chachanteng have taken a month's vacation, and will not re-open till two weeks hence. So I do not know what I will do. Perhaps jook or fried noodles.
A cup of Hong Kong milk tea is definite. Might just go to the place with the elderly Toishanese and have salt fish and chicken fried rice.

I note, by the way, that all of my favourite eating places are within very easy walking distance of the Chinese Hospital (東華醫院 'tung waa yi yuen'), where I receive medical treatment: I chose them as my primary care providers when I signed up for healthcare because I figured if any one had experience dealing with stubborn coots of a certain age (*), who sometimes use languages other than English, and have a hard time accepting advice, or are going to be a bit neurotic about stuff, lord knows they would.

["stubborn coots of a certain age". That does NOT mean 'elderly geezers' or 'antiquated old fossils'!]

Usually I think in English. Often, especially when I'm thinking something peculiar, it will be in Dutch. Just in case someone's listening in.

Sometimes it will be in another language entirely.

In case they understand Dutch.

When people say that they can't hear themselves think, it may mean that they mutter to themselves while deep in concentration. Not everyone vocalizing randomly in public is insane or talking into a cell-phone.

"Ach, dat arm ding, wat akelig grote borsten! Zij zou echt niet in die hoge hakken moeten rondzwalken!"

['Oh, that poor thing, such unpleasantly large boozums! She really shouldn't swagger about in those high heels!']

Mental remarks about someone else's appearance or physical burdens are better expressed in other tongues. Precautionarily.

Monetary math in the mind ("let's see, I spent nearly ten dollars on coffee, three and pennies at the vegetable store, and a buck and a quarter on dried shrimp, so I have sixty eight dollars left in my wallet, and three quarters extra in my pocket ..... ") is also best done in Dutch.

"Eens even nagaan, bijna tien daalders aan koffie, drie en enkele centen bij de groenteboer, en een en 'n kwartje aan ebi, dus ik heb nog acht en zestig dollaren in mijn portemonee, en drie extra kwartjes in mijn zak ..... "

Blog posts are rather like that, except that these are in the common tongue. Rather than talking to oneself while on the street.

Anything the stuffed animals could use against me should never be said in English in any case. They have keen ears.

Free association? Best not aloud.

No one deserves Stolichnaya! And no, Snidely, I will not protect you from the angry arachnid.

Carrot cake is NOT healthy. Even if it's made out of vegetables.

I will absent myself if it is served.

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


One of my fondest fantasies involves a girls-school playground and a billboard. The billboard says: "smoke Happy Kittens; they're zesty!" Advertising a brand of cigarettes for the young. Because when I am old and knackered, I will need a strapping nurse half my age to push me in my wheelchair, which I will need by then, out to the designated smoking area regularly. And obviously her motivation must be a yen for a smoke herself, quite possibly a Happy Kitten™, rather than shoving me over a cliff.
That means a whole new generation of tobacco aficionados.
So not folks who have learned to vape.
Actual tobacco.


Other possible billboards: "Live well, get vaccinated", and "get strong, eat gluten". "Milk and meat build healthy bodies"
For very obvious reasons.

Happy Kittens™: a quality Virginia leaf cigarette, with cute cat pictures on the package. Lacking the California government warning that you should not become pregnant while smoking. Because of those chemicals that the State knows about. So possibly smuggled in by foreigners.

In England they now insist that the front and back of a package of smokes should have photos showing gangrenous feet and dead kittens, and tell you that smoking causes syphilis. Probably because syphilis is endemic over there, among all ages, incurable, frightening numbers.

That is the wrong approach.

Napoleon funded the conquest of all of Europe by turning tobacco into a state monopoly. We have Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico to our right, who are just begging to be taken over as colonial dependencies. Yes, and both Oregon and Alaska are north of us, but no one wants them.
We could fund education and medical care for the rest of eternity if tobacco became a state monopoly. Great projects. Public health. The defeat of every damned Republican between here and the frigid Atlantic. Eradication of childhood diseases and Evangelicals.

Instead, in another thirty years the only place where smoking will be allowed will probably be out in the salt-marshes. My co-smoker at the time will have to paddle a canoe when the tide is in. Or mount my wheelchair on a flat-bottomed Florida airboat, as if we're hunting alligators.
We'll have import alligators.

Because of the enormous taxes on tobacco in California, little old ladies in the ghetto are funding their retirement by selling smuggled cartons. Drug dealers are busking coffin nails outside of schools instead of pot. Children have become goons for hire, so they can afford their smokes. The senile elderly wander into traffic for the discarded buts.

Do-gooders and puritans need something else to sneer at and vociferate against now, and there's no guessing what their next target will be.

America's children are a potential gold mine.

Happy Kittens!

For your information, that cute little nurse over at the hospital is unsuitable. She's barely five foot tall, and can't weigh more than ninety pounds.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019


My apartment mate admits, not shamefacedly, that she finds poetry on the whole to be a load of bollocks, most especially modern "free" verse. Which is marked by an absence of any rhyme or metre, frequently pretentious and meaningful, and so damned high-fallutin' as to be beyond us mere mortals.
Both I and Lord Drummond (nickname of one of North Beach's rare intellectuals) agree in that estimation.

All three of us are, in our own ways, heartily sick and tired of poetry that sends a message, as well as mentions of flowers, butterflies, and precious little orphans.

And similar "meaningful" twaddle. Especially if the rhymes are laboured or utterly non-existent, and the rhythm is ridiculous. As a rather old-fashioned man, I would also ask for alliteration, and a mirroring of images and ideas.

Poetry has to catch you by the mind-hairs.

One of the pieces I cannot get out of my head, along with a lamentably large amount of Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, and Keats (not nearly enough Alexander Pope, Joannes Six van Chandelier, Brederode, and Lear) is something from Robert Browning.

Or who in Moscow toward the Czar,
With the demurest of footfalls,
O'er the Kremlin's pavement white,
with serpentine and syenite,
Steps with five other generals,
That simultaneously take snuff,
For each to have pretext enough,
And kerchief-wise unfold his sash,
Which, softness self, is yet the stuff,
To hold fast where a steel chain snaps,
And leave the grand white neck no gash...

Translation: they're gonna whack the despot by strangling him, and leaving no obvious signs of violence. It paints a picture of the world as it should be.

Another stellar bit of verse:

A talentless poet from Putten,
Could never find suitable rhymes;
Metre proved problematic,
Caesuras? Purely hypothetic
Al; And the last line seldom made sense.

Can't remember the author. Sorry.

In that vein, and of that ilk, a reader here recently gifted me a poem:

The boy stood on the burning deck
Picking his nose like mad;
He rolled it into little balls
And flicked them at his dad.

Which is truly a classic of its genre.
It's Shakespeare, man, Shakespeare.
Far better than Alice Walker's crap.

I am glad I never had to suffer through American High Schools.

Please note: Overmuch rhinotillexis often causes epistaxis.

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

Saturday, March 09, 2019


The food is okay. Not spectacular, but honest and decent. Still, it could've been better. With far less onion. It's just a personal thing, but I tend to avoid onion. What I ended up having was black been sauce spareribs and rice (豉汁排骨飯 'si jap pai gwat faan'), what I really wanted was the fish fragrance eggplant (魚香茄子飯 'yü heung ke ji faan'). They were out of eggplant.
Common Canto cooking, twixt restaurant and home style.
Good stuff, either way.

It's not the best restaurant in the world, just a decent eatery operated by a hard-working family, offering honest food, a good value for the money, cooked to the taste of a home town audience. If your home town was somewhere in Toishan county.

I have never been to Toishan, but I could probably locate it on a map.
It's not the home town of any of my kinfolk. But many San Franciscans ancestrally hail from there and neighboring districts, hence its importance as background in our universe. It's warmer there than here, by about ten to twenty degrees, and even in the cold season the pavement's frigidity does not cripple you like it does here. Yes, some of my acquaintances often say that they like the bitter cold and rain of winter -- which they have stressed repeatedly in the last six weeks whenever I bellyached -- but they are demented, masochistic, and have a mean streak as wide as the Milky Way. They should shut the heck up, and kindly get stuffed. Offensive cretins.

I do not think I ever want to visit New York, or anywhere on the East Coast, between the end of October and, let us say, May. Everything I've heard tells me it is an unbelievably horrible place for six months of the year.
For your information, Chicago is also East Coast.
Everything dammit east of Denver.

Guns, nuts, bad pizza, and weird accents.

You probably don't need the name of the restaurant, because if you are white you will not be impressed, and I don't want folks sneering on Yelp.

I might take you there, if I think you can handle it. It's regular food, as I said, nothing spectacular. I don't know if they have egg-rolls and sweet 'n sour. Maybe no kung pao either, or mu shu pork and General Tso's chicken.

Many people go there for claypot rice, of which they do a large selection. Rice cooked in a casserole, something layered on top. When it's served, you take off the lid and drizzle some soy sauce around the edge, to sizzle when it hits the hot inside surface. The slight crustiness this style of cooking gives to the rice where it touched the ceramic is part of the attraction, the stuff that cooked along in the steam is often savoury and probably bad for your heart. Salt fish and chicken, Chinese bacon, fatty pork, lahp cheung, dried meats, plus mushrooms and various vegs that benefit from the association.


There were five other people there: a couple in their thirties, very Hong Kong of a likable type, a salt of the earth gentleman happily snarfing a late lunch or early dinner, and an old gentleman with his two or three year old granddaughter, who was just about the cutest thing. The child, not the grandpa. Gentle manners and well-behaved, but vibrant and curious. Pretty round face, that lovely skin that some Chinese toddlers have, and clean, neat, intensely black hair, which even from my distance looked soft and feathery. She was still at the stage of asking questions. It was her first exposure to a certain steamed pastry (he had carried her over to the counter so he could explain the items there to her), and several other things. Claypots (don't touch), a standard metal teapot ("chaa wu").
And, probably, forks.

As well as other human beings to studiously observe.


Having grandparents mind the kids is a splendid thing.
They grow up to be real persons.
Instead of brats.

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

Friday, March 08, 2019


Yesterday Roger only had time for one cigar, as he had to go pick up his wife at the hairdressers in Novato immediately afterwards. I told him sincerely that I wished her a complete recovery.
I too have suffered heartache.
I seldom smoke cigars, and find the people who do rather a handful.
Roger is one of the nicer ones.

Especially when so many of the regulars are cavemen.

Later on some of the boys in the back spent an hour defending confederate statues. I did not say anything, because I had work to do, and they're utterly hopeless. But I am still baffled that a side so effing reprehensible, that lost a war they started, and should have been expunged entirely out of existence, should have so many monuments.

I hope some of those people choke on their cheroots.

It is a well-known fact that Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin were excessively fond of cigars, both men firm in their belief that nothing so well evinced the manliness of their people, the radiant machismo of their societies, as a big-ass Churchill clenched firmly in the brown-toothed jaws of a flacid potbellied hero of the masses, only waiting for the chance to reveal his ultimate shape, video-game-like, as he bursts out of his apartment in his mother's basement (trailer parks have basements?) and battles heathens on judgement day.
Somewhere in the parking lot of Poland.

Habitual cigar smokers, largely, fraternize with alligators, swamp rats, and rattlesnakes. If married, their wives are masochists, gorgons, and vegan.

There are also a large number of hipsters.
[Who all look alike.]

Pol Pot and Idi Amin were cigar smokers.

Vladimir Putin is one too.

Pipe smokers, of course, are quite different.
Many are thoughtful liberal humanists.
Most of whom voted for Hillary.
The literate crowd.

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

Thursday, March 07, 2019


As many readers know, on work days my lunch is bought at the nearest convenience store, and sometimes leaves me wondering "what?". Today's yum-yum fab food item was grilled chicken strips in a cream and cheese sauce, allegedly Italian, over screwy pasta. It lacked anything that might increase flavour, such as perhaps nutmeg, fresh green herbal crap, white pepper, black pepper, any damned pepper at all, or cheesy sharpness.
The addition of Sriracha made it edible.

An altogether shallow attempt.

I'll probably have it again.

More Sriracha.

Reason being that el-cheapo sandwiches eventually tire one. "Oh Lord", one mentally exclaims, "those mediocre luncheon meats on pallid bread, again". The alternative being deep-fried fatty mystery animal parts.
Which also need Sriracha.

[My colleague had a sandwich product from Safeway, which had mayonnaise instead of the advertised Ranch Dressing that her heart was set upon. Which probably made it bland, almost Scandinavian. We'll have her on Sriracha yet.]

But a solution is at hand!

Thanks to a fellow pipe-smoker who is married to a fellow Dutch American (a natural source of culinary knowledge), I now know about this product:



[Photo: Jon Brunner (@jonBrunner), his Twitter.]

Quote: "A canned meat product with certified and reference values for a large number of constituents. SRM 1546 Meat Homogenate consists of a mixture of finely ground pork and chicken prepared and canned by a commercial process. NIST determined the concentration levels of cholesterol, sodium, calcium, iron, and seven fatty acids in this SRM using well defined methods and procedures. These analytes as well as 34 other constituents or properties were determined in an interlaboratory comparison exercise involving 21 laboratories, most of which are associated with the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) Food Industry Analytical Chemists Subcommittee (FIACS). From statistical analysis of the data, NIST assigned certified concentrations for the eleven analytes measured at NIST and reference concentrations for the proximates, six additional fatty acids, seven minerals, and seven water-soluble vitamins."
End quote.

[Source: Research Gate -- SRM 1546.]

Count me in! Finely ground pork and chicken prepared and canned by a commercial process? Did I mention Sriracha? Heck, I'd even bring in an electric fry pan and some curry paste, plus real bread.

We'll get Mayo at Safeway. Assuming that they have never heard of Ranch Dressing, never mind what they promised on my co-worker's sandwich.

Nutmeg, fresh green herbal crap, and white pepper.

We can feast! Hot curry!


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