At the back of the hill

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

Friday, March 16, 2018


In a just world, everyone involved in this corrupt administration would be in jail. Not a single one is fit to serve. Especially not the Keebler elf.
Let alone his pudgy-fingered pimp.


US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has fired FBI official Andrew McCabe, who had been accused of political bias by President Donald Trump.

In January Mr McCabe resigned as deputy director and was placed on leave.

He had been deeply involved in the FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton's use of email and Russia's alleged meddling in the presidential campaign.

He was sacked just two days before he was expected to retire, and could lose some of his pension rights.

In a statement Mr McCabe responded by saying he was being "singled out" because of the role he played in the aftermath of the firing of last year of then-FBI director James Comey.


Yes, Sessions 'did' it. But his cretinous boss ordered it.
Our Justice Department has been subverted.

By the way: The overlap between Republicans, the NRA, Christians, racists, and Trump-supporting psychopaths is so great that they are indistinguishable.

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One of the people whom I truly admire, an exceptionally bright and engaging Talmudist, posted the following picture on Facebook:

As a Dutchman, I "appreciate" the nod to my culture in the image above.
But I should really point out that the image below is far more accurate:

Late mediaeval, Northern Brabant, portraying a violent inbred possibly syphilitic virago pillaging hell. By Brueghel.

Brueghel lived in the territory of the Taxandria during the fifteen hundreds.
Taxandria is also Northern Brabant, south of Den Bosch.
Known chiefly as 'de vier kwartieren'.
De 'Meijerij'

Now, the earliest ancestor in my lineage was a peasant from that same area who lived more than two centuries before him. I am Northern Brabantine both by ancestry and by fortunate cultural happenstance; my parents moved there when I was still a wee lad.

Violent? Not really. Inbred? I can trace my family back on both sides to the same people. This is disturbing. Quite.

Syphilitic? Not Anglo enough.

Those cute little Dutch tykes in the upper picture wouldn't stand a chance. Ooh, they're so precious!
Kill kill kill kill kill.

Got genever?

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Thursday, March 15, 2018


If there is one thing we've learned from British television it is that penguins are smarter than BBC programming wonks, but no smarter than foreigners who lack any ability to speak English.

"The BBC Programme Planners surprisingly high total here can be explained away as being within the ordinary limits of statistical error; one particularly dim programme planner can cock the whole thing up."
End quote.


In other news, police in Uzbekistan are now forbidden to hide behind trees. Last week it was still allowed. Regular citizens, and foreign visitors, may hide behind trees. If a policeman does so, he might be demoted or fired. And it could affect his pension. This per the BBC.

I now know more about Tashkent than I did a few hours ago.

There are a surprising number of trees there.

It must fill police with yearning.

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In this town, even the large chunky women are cold and dessicated. She was built like a linebacker in comparison to my own slight self, but she radiated no heat when she sat down beside me, and the other bus passengers were equally temperature deprived. Except for a young Chinese fellow who smelled of cabbage.

It was freezing on the ride home. March has turned out bitter and arctic.
Hateful weather.

My body feels like ice cubes, and the concept of heat vampiring my fellow man -- well, the opposite fellow gender, that is -- is incredibly attractive. Except that I'd have to leap upon them to suck out their warmth.
And this bitter cold makes me sluggish.

Besides, none of them look good enough to eat.
Even bright young things look like zombies.
Green and pasty in the bus lighting.


Late lunch at a chachanteng. Roast goose over rice. Delicious. Added hot sauce to nearly every bite. Many restaurants in Chinatown buy Huy Fong's "sambal oelek" by the bucket now. Years ago it was hard to find sambal anywhere in San Francisco, now it is almost omnipresent.
Life here has improved considerably.
That goose was damned good.

When I got home I had coffee with ginger to warm the bones. And wore a bathrobe over my clothes. After an hour and a half I felt good enough to go harass the bartender at the joint around the corner.
He's thin, all bones, and freezing.
Slow night, cold place.
Vibrating corpse.

I think I speak for all of us when I say we look forward to Spring.
If it's warm enough, we may even be tempted to go naked.
Freeing pockets of stale air from our clothing.
The smells of cabbage.

It's set to rain all day today.
None of you get naked.
It isn't time.

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There is an over-ripe mango on the kitchen counter. If I did not know better, it would suggest that my apartment mate is a mid-thirties Anglo, probably Protestant, dippy, and blonde. Instead of a petite Asian-ancestried woman. Because, as everyone knows, mangoes should be green, hard, and sliced into long jade wedges to be eaten with a dab of shrimp paste and smear of chili condiment. Or oily sambal trasi.
That is very heaven.

Green mango, anchovy, and fatty pork.
Another favourite.

For most mangoes, ripe is the first stage of rot.
She will "enjoy" it in a day or two.
I ain't saying nuttin'.

No sambal.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018


A friend who was posted to Fragrant Harbour for several years is returning home to Blighty, and rejoining family and friends in Oxford and London.
It is likely that the future holds gardening, three martinis down at the club, and smoking his pipe outside in the weather because there are fewer places to light a bowl indoors in the modern era.

My guess is that within a few years he will yearn for a subtropical climate, while surrounded by the tumult and uproar of a teahouse, and muttering "damned tourists" at all the mainland interlopers.
Dim sum in the New Territories.
Or Central.

He likes rocky trails and storm-tossed coasts (how do you toss a coast?), so as a farewell to Hong Kong he should really visit Lion Rock before leaving.
Perhaps traversing the entire length of MacLehose too.
Terminating in Yuen Long for restoratives.
And a bowl of Elizabethan.

Better him than me. My legs hurt, and every week crossing Nob Hill late at night after cocktails in North Beach prompts my bile and grumbling.
Bugger it all, I am too old for this, where's my sedan chair?!?
I should be able rent one, for that once-a-week jaunt!
Plus guards, to keep the loonies away.

But a nice hot cuppa and a smoke at the far end sounds exceedingly nice.
If I were to open a business at the edge of Chinatown, it would be an all-night chachanteng (limited menu during the wee hours) with deep awnings and space heaters outside for the other tobacco fiends. Indeed, a totally evil plan, because it would disrupt the family schedules of several old men, as well as the sleep of nearby residents (because many elderly Cantonese gentlemen here play cards and carry on), and just to spite our population of young hipsters, the staff would not be fluent in English (or pretend so), and at night would include persons of a possibly dubious past.

The deep awnings and the corner mounted space heaters are an essential part of the plan. Like bars and cafes in the Netherlands, encouraging the smokers to stay, though outside, but comfortable, is a way of circumventing the health nazis. Even if the clean and smoke-free interior is empty.
Especially in inclement weather.
And the cold season.

Strong milk tea ((港式奶茶 'gong sik naai chaa'), of course. Hong Kong milk tea is very much like masala chai, without the masala.
It's EXTREMELY restorative.

Dunhill's Elizabethan Mixture is in the same ball park as both Dunbar and Dorchester, made by Germain under the Esoterica label. Tilbury, also an Esoterica product, is not too dissimilar, and if you like such blends you will find much joy in Greg Pease's entire Fog City Selection.
HH Mature Virginia is no longer made, alas.
But it was exceptionally nice.

A video celebrating Hong Kong, and a tune with which he's probably familiar:

東方明珠香港 -- 獅子山下 -- 羅文


He'll be back in England in April. I assume the climate will not surprise him. It rains a lot. Apparently Cantonese food in Oxford is quite good.
And there is even dim sum.

It always startles me when I discover that distant places where you would not expect it also have dim sum. But finding good roast duck (燒鴨) outside of San Francisco Chinatown is always a bit iffy, and an actual chachanteng (茶餐廳) is very rare indeed.

A good rendition of 焗葡國雞飯 is probably not possible.


The aroma of slightly scorched fresh ginger is extremely evocative, by the way, and adding a piece or two to stews is something I recommend. And nothing can quite duplicate Lee Kum Kee (李錦記) Oyster Sauce (蠔油);
it's Marmite for some expats.

Also, plant loquat (盧橘) trees.
They should grow there.
Perhaps a hot house?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018


There are evocative smells. Your elderly aunty's hidden lingerie drawer, for instance, or fermenting apples in a neighbor's yard. Both have an autumnal fragrance -- the first because of long forgotten maidenly fruitings, the latter due to late-stage vegetal sugars -- and, remarkably, whatever connotations they might have to dispassionate adults, to your childhood self they meant something much more innocent, and more 'other'.

Aunty used to be flirtatious! Who knew?

A completely fictional aunty, of course, and you'll just have to imagine the sultry perfume of French soap, a bar of which would always be there to chase away the moths, and a young lady's delicate perspiration when the military officer asked her to dance. He was just ever so dashing!
She blushed. And spilled some sherry down her cleavage.
Please do NOT imagine the cleavage.
Modesty, you know.

In the same way I enjoy my fictional aunty's wild side, I enjoy the products of McClelland Tobacco Company. Meaning mostly as an intellectual exercise. Especially that infamous whiff of vinegar (a natural fermentational effect), which some have likened to a ketchup reek, or barbecue sauce.
I found their flakes excellent, but often too dense to smoke.
Splendid products, marvelously well made.
And I shall miss them.

[One anomaly that I like entirely despite myself is the tobacco that Hello Kitty would smoke.
But an earlier phase of profound McClelland enjoyment produced dead camels.]

All credit is due Mike and Mary McNeal for keeping fine tobacco alive during a generation of dross. Their example undoubtedly inspired others, who have gained stature in their footsteps.

That said, I also enjoy other tobaccos as much, and probably more. It will take me many years to smoke the nearly twenty five pounds of various McClelland tobaccos I've stashed over the previous decade.
Sealed tins. I cannot enjoy the smell.
Not until I open them.

If you liked their Virginias, try Samuel Gawith's Full Virginia Flake, St. James, or Golden Glow. For the lovers of Latakia blends, Greg Pease has damned fine stuff, as do Gawith and Germain. And the Germans and Danes are making some very interesting blends, under several names.
Rattrays, McConnell, Zechbauer, Dan; all German.
Though mostly made in Denmark.
Orlik, as well as HH.
Et autres.

Even today there is still good tobacco.

POST SCRIPTUM: at present I am smoking an English flake in an old and very Londonian Canadian. It is very nice. I shall have to air out this place before my apartment mate returns in several hours, as she is not fond of the smell of pipe tobacco, though she seemingly doesn't mind the old fossils who smoke it. She has her own room. The door is closed.
A very stern Teddy Bear is behind that door.


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Earlier today the orange haired buffoon fired Rex Tillerson, and selected Mike Pompeo to replace him. Nah, I'm not going to say anything critical about Mike Pompeo's xenophobic comments on Twitter and elsewhere, because I really cannot. I too say offensive things.

I myself am on record as stating that Kansas is a syphilitic sore on America's political bottom, and I've called the president an orange haired buffoon. What I've said about Texas does not bear repeating.
Those people, especially Christians, revolt me.

Both Rex and Mike are more intelligent men than the president.

And considerably cleaner than him or his family.

But there is more than enough there to offend, and of the three, Rex was probably the only one you would not mind very much as a neighbor.


Every month the proportions of un-Americanism and loathsome cretinism in Washington shift a bit. They wiggle. Like worms and maggots.
It reminds one of dungheaps and rotting corpses.

I sort of admire Rex Tillerson, and will miss his stabilizing influence.

I am reserving judgement on his replacement.

Let's wait and see.

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Give him credit; G-Anne remembered my drink, even when it got wild. Amber ("New Amber") sang a few classics, Jennifer did something punk-o-gothic, and Paul sang three numbers while waiting for the bridge to open up. Because of a suicide attempt that ran into traffic and got splattered (as he had heard it), only one lane had been open till after eleven.
We had a lovely discussion about traffic accidents.
While he "paused" for an improvement.

Of course I didn't sing. For me it was a nightcap at the end of the day, close of the week. I was there with a pipe and spent much of that time downstairs in the portico, because karaoke is, very much like the yowling of randy tomcats, best appreciated from less than close quarters.
Like nearly outside while smoking.

My workweek consists largely of conversations that go nowhere. "Do you remember that thing?" "What thing?" "You know, that thing. The thing that, you know?" "Thing?" "Yeah, that thing!"

Thing, thing.

When I left it had started to rain, again.
I continued smoking once I got inside.
She was asleep, and wouldn't notice.

G-Anne poured me a courtesy smidgen. Upon leaving I lit the last pipe of the evening. Two days off. I shall not think of the 'thing'.
You know, that thing.
The "thing".

There were duck bones in the ashtray.
I had entirely forgotten.

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Monday, March 12, 2018


As it turns out, Gun-loving Bob was wrong about nearly everything. Remarkable for so reasonably intelligent a man, but as a Marine not at all surprising. Every single Marine I've ever met was "off" somehow. The sanest one was 'Rotor head', who got shot out the sky over Beirut.
His sense of balance was a little skewy, that was all.
'G-G' ("Gigi") of course is in a state of denial.
Has been for years, quite batshit.

Maybe the corps selects for that.

Anyhow, here it is, nine years later, over six years since I stopped talking to Bob-the-hose-bag, and Obama STILL hasn't come for his guns, nor is Sharia law any closer to being imposed than it was then.

I mention all this to illustrate that many normal people ("neuro-typicals") can be blazingly stupid, utterly off their rocker, or both.

[Excepting, of course 'Tinfoil Hat Steve', who isn't on the same planet as 'normal'. He probably never was.]

Especially in Marin County.

Where I work.

I am off for the next two days. My weekend.
I have been looking forward to this.

I am filled with a soft golden light.
According to some people.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018


One of the specialties of Hong Kong is typhoon shelter crab (避風塘炒蟹 'bei fung tong chaau haai'). In which that genuine typhoon shelter flavour (避風塘口味 'bei fung tong hau mei') is achieved by the generous addition of fried garlic and chilies. And I do mean generous; per pound of crab, use four or five heads of garlic (50 to 60 cloves), which you separate, peel, and chop. Soak it in water for an hour. Drain, pat well dry with paper towel to dab up the moisture, and fry golden-crisp. Remove from the oil and set aside, to be added to the dish when finishing the cooking. Soaking it in water first prevents it scorching or darkening too much.

Sometimes you don't have a crab. Shrimp will do. And noodles.
For 避風塘蝦炒麵 ('bei fung tong haa chaau min')。
Typhoon shelter shrimp chow mein.

In any case, the smell of the pre-prep (frying all that garlic) nicely hides the fact from one's apartment mate that one is smoking a cigar in the kitchen.

After dealing with the pipe club all afternoon, I needed something soothing (the cigar) and something bold (garlic and chilies) to restore my palate.
She, dozing all day in her room, didn't.
She grumbled a bit when I returned to the effect that she hated the spring forward fall back crap (summertime started today), and the fact that we'd have an hour more sunlight was precisely "meh" in her estimation.
Apparently she slept through it; no body told her about the time change.
She went back to sleep shortly after I came in.

She isn't a girlfriend, just someone nice that I trust, with whom I share quarters, but I've always thought she looked very sweet when asleep.

So I don't want to make her scream angrily by causing the apartment to stink of cheap cheroots. Hence overdoing the garlic.

A dish like 避風塘蝦炒麵 really also needs a handful of beansprouts for a textural effect, but not having that I used stalky mustard (芥菜 'gai choi') instead. As well as a smidge of oyster sauce.

The apartment reeks of garlic right now.
I think I'm covered.

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Dinner last night comprised coffee, whisky and cookies, before, during, and after a cigar. TWO kinds of cookies! One with nuts.

Calm yourself, please do not panic.

The cigar was gluten-free.

On the other hand, nothing was fair trade, green, organic, or supportive of any good causes. And the plight of the buggery rainforest or native people did not enter into it.

Oh well.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018


All week long fellow pipe smokers have crawled out from under their rocks, blinked, and finally realized that a company they respected, or perhaps even of which they had smoked the products several times over the years, had closed its doors. And that every last shred of tobacco had been sold, there was no more, nope, that was it. It all happened in less than a month, and they had been asleep the entire time.

"How could this even happen?" they wailed disconsolately, and "is it a plot? The end times?"

"Well, boys", I would ask, "are you ever on the internet?"

Or "do you do Facebook?"

Apparently, no. And they just cannot understand how one of the bedrock brands of their world could disappear. Why weren't they warned?
Why is there no revolution?

The company, of course, is McClelland, which for over forty two years manufactured stellar aged pressed Virginias, as well as a number of iconic tobacco mixtures containing Xanthi, Samsoun, Smyrna, and Latakia.
Very many tobacconists and pipe mavens relied on them.
They ran out of sources of Red Virginia.
And decided to retire.

[There's more to it than that, of course. Changing crop patterns and post-harvest processes, small family farms versus big tobacco, state discouragement of certain crops, and the FDA as the big Mac Daddy of anti-tobacco thuggery ... all coming to a head at the same time. For McClelland it was the perfect storm.]

The news spread like wild fire, despite the audience being dinosaurs.
Many retailers hadn't a clue till the phones started ringing.

The speed with which all products were snapped up when it became clear that no more would ever be made was a snowball effect. It went from the merest rumbles to enormous clusterfudge in less than a week. But for many of these unhappy cavemen I mentioned, it is still incomprehensible. Evil must be afoot. They forget that they are, in the grand scheme of things, rather small and insignificant, like insects.

While they were puttering around in their forest glade, happily puffing some exquisite mixture that only they had heard about, a few thousand members of pipe smokers' forums, clubs, and Facebook groups went into overdrive and purchased an eternity's worth of their favourite blends, plus several dozen cans of anomalies and mixtures they had meant to try at some point. Plus a pound of this, and a pound of that. When a significant segment of the customers buy up far more than their normal usage overnight, it is not at all surprising that soon nothing is left.

Perhaps you should get out from underneath that rock more often.
Sign up for e-mail and Facebook, at the very least.
Connect with your fellow neurotics.
Be more 'social'.


Oh, and develop some perspective. Pipesmokers don't count for a whole lot. The overwhelming majority of all tobacco leaf worldwide is turned into cigarettes. What little is left (less than ten percent) is divided among cigars (including cheap rotten stogies which are the largest category of cheroot by far), chaw, snus, snuf, nicotine patches, vape liquid, and pipe blends.
Of all this, cigars take up the lion's share.

Pipe tobacco is a mere fraction, and almost all of that will be aromatic shite.
Most pipe tobacco will be a few big brands, sold at liquor and drug stores.
The percentage of smokers who actually like quality leaf, unperfumed and undrenched, is very minor indeed, and their attention is spread over several dozen brands, a few hundred blends. Which are all unique though unimportant, and far too often labours of love.

Admit it: you are the only person who smokes Syphilitic Sailor Shag you know, except for that gentleman you met many years ago while traveling.
But he preferred Porn Starlet Plug, or Fat Slag Flake, Ready Rubbed.

The nearest pipe smokers in your neck of the woods ALL smoke Major Roughshod's Vanilla Cake, and collectively think you mighty queer.

Among the dozen plus active members of our local pipe club, maybe half liked McClelland occasionally, three or four smoked some of their blends semi regularly. Most of the pipesmokers I have met in the last decade, who wouldn't join a pipe club if you paid them, were perfectly happy with 1-Q, BCA, RLP-6, Captain Black, and Borkum Riff Bourbon, Cherry, Black, or Original. Which are all aromatic Cavendish mixtures. The second largest group consists of Half & Half, Prince Albert, Sir Walter Raleigh, plus rare ventures into strawberry mango surprise and vanilla melon custard.
Yes, that's probably more than ninety percent of them.
You can understand why I keep to myself.
Too many eccentrics.

On a personal level, I can sympathize with the Luddites and their loss.
But generally speaking my piles do not bleed.


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Friday, March 09, 2018


A recent article circulated on the internet examines the phenomenon of 'cat cafes'. That being places where one can get a cappuccino or a soothing cup of chamomile while interacting with felines. Who might not be in the mood, grumpy, or just plain bad tempered and averse to being petted.
Sometimes the little furballs freak out.

There are problems.

Two ideas spring unbidden:

1) Possum cafes -- they're adept at playing dead. Or maybe they are dead. You get to watch them from a distance. Don't touch.

2) Cat-girl cafes -- almost like real animals. The star-attractions should be encouraged to be there with free drinks and snacks (sushi in mouse-like shapes). No differences of age, gender, race, proclivity, size, or standard of personal cleanliness will be taken into account, for reasons of political correctness (and stirring things up). Hissy fits will be tolerated, as will long naps. Dating them is discouraged, because we don't know who they are or who they've killed. No children allowed.

If it's your personal sense of identity to be a cat, who are we to judge?

Or perhaps you just want to sleep dressed like an animal.

Some tomcats are huge. As well as mean.

They're cats.

Today is Friday, and I don't have to work.
I'll probably go to a pork chop cafe.
Therapy and a hot beverage.
It's so relaxing.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018


What keeps this blogger so tied to Netherlandish culture, language, and all-round Dutchness? Why is he so adamant about it, when logic would dictate that thirteen generations in the New World make him as American as apple pie? Or donuts? Is it something about the glory of being Dutch and sharing in all that beautiful history? Something comforting? Perhaps a profound sense of belonging? A combination of weltschmertz, existenzangst, identitätskrise, zweifelhaft, und gicht? A weltanschauung?


I can cuss in Dutch.

Today one of my Facebookers wrote: "Just got a tetanus vaccine and shoot now I have autism."

Of course he meant it humorously -- he's on the autism spectrum anyhow, as are a great many people with insight and wit -- but just think about this for a moment. What kind of buggered-up world do we live in when the irony and sarcasm of that absurd statement is instantly understandable?
Where some folks think that vaccines cause autism.

Swearing fluently in Dutch allows me to express myself in a way that doesn't blister English-speaking paint when confronted with idiocy.

I work in Marin, so on a regular basis idiocy surrounds me.
Along with yoga, gluten phobia, and healing crystals.

An ability to express myself venomously with hairballs often serves me well. And not just because of someone searching for an aromatic pipe tobacco made with pure fruit essences.

I'm sorry, Hello Kitty smokes clean flakes or Latakia blends, NOT candied crap. She's also had all of her shots, and she never participates in native healing ceremonies. Drumming and chanting give her the willies.
And like all cats she wants to push things off the table.
So your healing crystals are toast.

I smile while calling someone a unclean scrote.
And wishing cholera upon him. Fervently.

"Just got a tetanus vaccine and now I have autism"

Dutch. It's what keeps me civilized.

Er zijn laesies op uw schaamdelen.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018


The sun warms up the ancient bones of the city, youth runs somewhat sluggishly rampant. It is still winter, but spring is not far off. After two cups of coffee and some internet socializing, a badger in his upstairs burrow settles down with book, tobacco and pipe, and happily twiddles his toes.

Differently expressed: I am smoking, reading, and on a third cup.

Revisiting, for your information: Indian Food: A Historical Companion, by K. T. Achaya. And yes, this makes me esurient. Quite. Sometime during the afternoon I shall head down to Chinatown for bittermelon.
I spent the better part of the morning futsing about with pipes, cleaning up rims and stems. That did not make me hungry.

Last night we discussed the bookseller's recent trip to Oregon, which largely seemed to revolve around books and women. What he had read, who he met on the train, and the old friend with her husband, kids, and an enormous dog whom he visited. An author. A reader. A painter.
A good time in the snow banks was had by all.

Oddly, I cannot remember the books he mentioned (there were three in particular). We also discussed the Twilight Series, which is garbage.
And The DaVinci Code, which is completely unreadable.

Regarding the latter, he lasted for only one paragraph, my ex-girlfriend and enduring apartment mate (who reads a lot, and still tolerates most of my peculiarities in a patient albeit sometimes exasperated way, as do I hers) got through nearly all of the first page, and I win the contest by suffering through one and a half pages of that jejune twaddle.
I take no pride in that.

All three of us would agree that there are some books that you must read. Mordechai in New York bemoaned the sad fact that he got through life so far without ever reading Little Women (by Louisa May Alcott), and I did not comment under his post because while I remember where it was in our bookshelves, I barely cracked it, and don't remember what little I saw.

On the other hand, I do remember Pilgrims Progress (John Bunyan).
During most of which I was looking for horrible stuff.
Dreary barely describes it.
Very long.


My list of a dozen books that a reasonably intelligent person would do well to digest is as follows:

Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
The Catcher In The Rye, by J. D. Salinger.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.
The Odyssey, by Homer.
Ada, by Vladimir Nabokov.
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller.
Heart Of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
Burmese Days, by George Orwell.
To Kill A Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.
The Dubliners, by James Joyce.
Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck.

I shall not argue why, because there are very many more than this. And you will kindly note that this list is extremely 'me centric'; I have read all of them. Which is why you must. They are good. So is Where The Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak), anything about linguistics, and a number of works translated from Dutch, French, Russian, Latin, and Chinese.

Repeated exposure to the Larousse Gastronomique is also a good thing.

The Wind In The Willows is a highly recommended lifestyle.

The Lord Of The Rings is a dubious choice.

Simenon? Good stuff.


Self-portrait, with a hat I hardly ever wear.

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For the past two days I have been smoking a tobacco blend of my own devising. A simple composition, details of which I shan't reveal -- being kinda selfish and private that way -- but sofar it has proven infinitely satisfying. It re-awakens memories of a mis-spent youth. Golden days and nights during my teenage years. Very mood-reverberant.
The best pipe yesterday was while observing the rats in Spofford Alley late at night. They are far more active after dark has fallen. Perhaps I should not have purchased the Oolong Lychee milk tea with ice and grass jelly, because with only two hands it was a bit of a juggle along with pipe, tamper, bristly cleaners, matches, and a walking stick for beating people.
Fortunately I did not drop anything.

My, those rats are lively!

If I were a snake I would be in my element.

As an ambulating mammal, however, I wish it were just a little warmer outside. My right leg is a pain in the gand in colder weather. Which makes me crotchety. I like rats, but I might need a fur coat to observe them.

There are cats in Chinatown -- two of them live just around the corner from the north end of Spofford -- but they are too well-fed and loved to be effective against a thriving rodent population.

Finishing that long drawn out "alley beautification project" would perhaps reduce their number, by reason of making their environment less hospitable.
Further beautifications of the Chinatown neighborhood are planned.

Disruptions, crippled businesses, and more hassle.

Which will likely mean more rats.

Eventually Chinatown will be picturesque, photogenic and colourful, a great boon to the tourist industry, and entirely devoid of people, because it will be too cold, too sterile, and far too high-rent for any of the residents.
Which is probably exactly what the city wants.
But those rats will still be there.
The city is cool with that.
No tourists at night.

Releasing wolves would yield better effects.
And be far more interesting.
And honest.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018


As part of the enduring struggle to Make America Great Again, Russia's top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, is visiting Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe this week. During this visit he will stress that the Caucasian world, NOT Asia, ooh ick, are the dark continent's true friends. After all, our involvement there goes back five centuries, nearly as long as the Arabs.
Asians didn't pay attention to Africans until the Bandung conference.
And even then, it was mostly for show.

Rex Tillerson (our Secretary of State) will also be there, in Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, trying to add perspective to the cogent clear words of the former Soviet apparatchik.

It is a desperate gamble. Because, as many Americans know, all of Africa is shithole territory. We are not quite sure if the place consists of one "country" or a plurality of "countries", but we have it on good authority that there is an enormous shithole quotient there, and all those desperate people are trying to storm our southern border.
Which we do not want. Because ebola and maslim.
Those are bad. Very bad.

From the BBC:

"In an administration that has often struggled for coherence in its foreign policy, and which lives by the maxim of America First, it would be unrealistic to expect Secretary Tillerson to deliver a transformation in the relationship between US and Africa."

No kidding? Unrealistic? Who on earth would have considered anything this administration does just 'unrealistic'? Surely all those wogga wogga shouting savages love us and our leaders, who represent the best that civilization has to offer. We're practically Norwegian.

Anyway, coherence is vastly overrated.

Coherence, faugh!

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Monday, March 05, 2018


Over the past three weeks rumours of the end of McClellands, first angrily denied by people who did not want to believe, then more or less confirmed, with ripple-effects of their closing spreading far and wide and disturbing old codgers from their stone-age reveries as they turned on their computer for the once a month visit to the present century, started what became a perfect sh*t storm in real time, observed with fevered fascination by everyone who was more fully connected.

Such as my self. I do not have a cellphone, and my laptop on which I am typing this is at least seven or eight years old.

[Background: McClelland is/was a manufacturer of top quality pipe tobacco. Because the FDA threw spanners into the works, and states are paying farmers to NOT grow the evil weed, and a variety of other factors culminating all at once, McClelland has thrown in the towel. 
Mike and Mary will retire. Which is well-deserved.]

Some people bought every ounce they could find.
For a variety of reasons.


One member of a large fraternity of pipe smokers vented spleen, roughly at the same time as I returned from Marin where I had been babysitting cigar-huffing dickwads for three days.

Dave E. wrote:

"Not going to point fingers but gonna say what’s on my mind. I know I will get haters but haters are gonna hate.

I knew months ago what was likely going to happen and I personally bought what little I could of McClelland blends so that I could personally enjoy them and share them with friends as opportunity presents itself. I already had stocked up what little I could afford over the last 3 years because I found blends that suited me and I enjoy. Never intending to do anything but smoke them and enjoy them as time passes. I know there are many out there much like me.

I see posts and hear about purchases made in this mad rush of quantities that far exceeded my meager cellar built over 3 plus years. Again if they are for personal use and enjoyment I am glad for those who were able to stock up on their favorite blends.

Now for the part that’s gonna piss some people off. Those out there who bought up every possible blend knowing they have no real intentions of smoking them, some even admitting they don’t even like them or aren’t even going to try them as they just want to cash in on the surge and future rarity of them. Those who bought a tin that some true lover of the blend would love to have for a normal online/retail price and now have them advertised for multiple times what they paid just to cash in and gouge the people they call “friends”. I am sure you know who you are and I am also sure you don’t really care what I think or anyone thinks as long as you make your money, well to you I say you lack integrity at the very least and I find your behavior of such a low nature that I wish for you all to choke and cough and find every bowl of tobacco you ever smoke bitter and vile and as I am sure you have no conscience to nag at you so I hope the gods of tobacco bring karma upon you all."

The majority of the people who reacted overwhelmingly agree.

As, indeed, do I. Wholeheartedly.

My comment:

"I've stockpiled tobacco since I worked at Drucquers. I've always been a hoarder. I started buying McClellands for rainy day aging again when I began to frequent Marty Pulvers old shop. I have enough McClellands to last me three plus years of smoking (if I were to smoke nothing else), which realistically will actually take over a decade or so to get through. And other than what I'll share with the Pipe Club (parsimoniously, because I'm a miser), I intend to smoke all of it. But I regret their passing, and wish that there had been more time.
PS: In the last month I purchased two 50 gramme tins of Dominican Glory Maduro, one 100 gramme tin of Navy Cavendish, and a tin of Bayou Slice. I've finished that last one mentioned already.
PS No. 2: I intend to live forever. My stockpile will continue to grow in that time."

For the record, I have very little Frog Morton. Of any kind.
Products with precious names do not appeal to me.

That's one of the reasons I do not drink vodka.

Or Captain Morgan rum.

Further for the record, I spent the better part of the last three hours cleaning up an estate pipe I acquired today, and will step outside for a while to smoke it now. I am hoping that some adenoidal wheatgerm freak, vegan, new age hippie, or glutenphobe will be triggered and have an amusing tantrum because of that, as it will add so much to my enjoyment.
As Eric Cartman would say: "I hate those guys".

Oh, and another thing: I've got a new bottle of cheapazoid Scotch.
Both for drinking, and pipe cleaning.
Thought you should know.

Why am I looking at a tin of Erinmore Mixture from the previous century? That stuff was unsmokeable then, and is probably more so now.


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Dreams influenced by an excess of cheese are never calm.

There are no leopards on Nob Hill.

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Sunday, March 04, 2018


Dinner tonight was an experience in degeneracy. And I blame a short person in South Carolina. Cooked rice stick noodles, bacon, chunked tomato, egg, hot sauce. Freshly ground pepper. Nutmeg. And cheese. Oodles of cheese. Rice stick noodles are easy to cook, requiring far less time than Italian pasta. While they're boiling you put the chopped bacon in a skillet, then drain the noodles and dump them on top. Add the chunked tomato, messily crack an egg over and stir, add squirts of Sriracha all around as if it were a standard sauce, grind pepper and sprinkle on some nutmeg. Put the lid on the pan and do a few dishes while waiting for the egg to set and the cheese to melt. All that lovely, lovely cheese.
Decant onto a plate and scrub out the pan.

As I said, oodles of cheese.

The reason why Mary shares responsibility for this horrific heart-attack clusterfudge -- which was delicious, by the way -- is because she posted pictures of home-made pizza. And a bottle of red wine, because she and her husband were staying at home. And I didn't really want to go out and find myself a slice of pie. Pizza with no one to talk to takes too long.
So I winged it with what was at hand.

If I had children they'd be fat little monsters by now. What with their addiction to cheese and hot sauce. The wee turnips would probably be eating me out of house and home, and running me ragged.

I'll probably step out and have cigar. Unlike pizza, those can be enjoyed either as a solitary pleasure or a communal thing.

Seriously, I need some young lady half my age (so, between 25 and 30) to have pizza with me. Provided she also likes it with Sriracha.
We split the cost, and I'll provide the cigars.

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Ey, vato, my apartment is half a block away. I have stuff in my kitchen. But if you want to impress the chunky Mission District cholitas, knock yourself out. You are selling bacon-wrapped turkey franks. I'll just go home and grill myself up some onion, jalapeno, tomatillo, pork fat, and an andouille.

Good luck with the slags.
Sorry. Slagitas.

I have condiments.

I could say something about inch-thick layers of foundation and face-powder, but hey, you're licking all that toxic waste, not me.

I can lend you a trowel.

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Saturday, March 03, 2018


When I make it at home I also use black mushrooms, which add flavour and absorb juices. As well as chan pei and Chinese leeks (京蔥), for depth and fragrance. But the common restaurant versions seldom use those, and depending on the eatery it can be good, bad, or even ghastly.
The version at a popular downstairs restaurant that caters mostly to tourists and cheap bastards is particularly bloody awful. So much so that I shan't go there again till they change hands.

Which won't be too long now.

On a cold wet day it is wonderful to have stewed lamb with dried tofu skin over rice (支竹羊腩飯), which is a well-loved Cantonese home meal as well as chachanteng choice.

Half a pound mutton per person ("brisket"), chopped chunky. Plus dried beancurd skin (支竹), water chestnuts, star anise, one Jalapeño left whole, oyster sauce, ginger, scallion, rock sugar (冰糖), and sherry or rice wine. Plus chu hau jeung (柱侯醬), black pepper, and soy sauce. Blanch the meat for seven or so minutes to clean it, saute whatever ingredients will develop flavour by doing so plus the lamb a bit too, then everything else into the pot, water to cover, simmer for ninety minutes.

[Actually, I simply blanch the meat very briefly and rinse, then frazzle it a bit in flavourful fat so that there is some tasty pan-crusties for the sauce. But everything else is mostly the same.]

You can buy suitable lamb at a wet market (街市 or 傳統市場), just tell the butcher that you need it for 支竹羊腩煲 and he'll know what you mean.

Or go to the local butcher shop and get lamb stew meat on the bone.
Which I do, because I like it "meatier".

Some people think you should make a dipping sauce with fermented beancurd (腐乳), but that's really overkill.


When your footsies are frozen this will bring them back to life.
I must have looked miserable when I entered the place.
The boss lady insisted I sit away from the door.
Out of the draft, nice and warm.
They're nice there.

All that plus the mug of Hong Kong milk tea really made my afternoon.
The pipe afterwards was good too, but even in Chinatown one must smoke outside, and brother, the cold pavement pulls a number on one's peds.

This weather makes one happy to be indoors.

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Friday, March 02, 2018


The United States will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium. In response, Europe threatens to do likewise to blue jeans, bourbon, and Harley Davidson motorcycles.
MillerCoors warns that this will cost American jobs.

For the record, I wish to state that blue jeans are now mostly made in China, bourbon whisky is crap, Harley Davidson motorcycles appeal to people with small penises, and American beer is bilge water.

Still, I encourage steelworkers in Michigan and Pennsylvania to show their solidarity and spirit by having a Manhattan with a suds chaser, while fondling someone wearing bulgy jeans, ooh, zesty.
Please have several more Manhattans.
Then roar off on your Harley.

The rhetoric is heating up. And other than a prolonged Bronx cheer, I have nothing significant to say, nor anything I wish to add to the discussion.
I hardly drink beer, almost never touch Bourbon, do not ride or wish to own a motorbike, can't afford a car in any case, and consider blue jeans unsuitable for my rump.

Note: we import far more steel from Canada than any other country.
We're getting back at them for socialized medicine.
Republicans hate Canada.

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It is late. The drunken business men stumble toward the cars they have called, the rain speckles their Shantung suits. They are bald, fat faced, and perfect exemplars of middle-America; well-fed, and probably dyspeptic. Anglos eat fried stuff and 'bad-choice-foods' when they party.
It is a tradition, the gilded heritage of centuries.
Cheese, dough, garlic, salt, grease.

They had sung much, earlier.
Now they will vomit.

In contrast to these fine gentlemen, who have managed to insult the women and offend the men, I am still quite sane. I have had only one drink. I got up shortly after one o'clock, after a restful nap at nine. I was not really intent on drinking -- heck, in this weather all I really want to do is sneeze, and whet my whistle, one of you repulsive turds is wearing some cheap aftershave to which I am allergic -- and I fear the squalls of rain, wind, and frigid wind.
But though late, I brave the three block walk to say 'hi' to a bartender.
Whom I have known for far more than a decade.
The bouncer greets me; "hey, O.G.".
Original gangster.

I don't know where these f*ckers are from. But they live here now. They sing off-key, loudly, drunkenly. And they keep dropping the microphone.
Don't do that, bro. The KJ wants to kill you.
Damned foreigner. From Kansas.
Where-ever the heck.
The Midwest.

In nearly twenty years I have sung karaoke five times. Twice "all my exes live in Texas", when Dildo Bob insisted we do a duet. And also two times a lovely Teresa Teng number (月亮代表我的心 "youtube link").
Once 'Ni zenme shuo' (你怎麼說 "youtube link").

Be glad you have never heard me do so.
I'm an incurable romantic.
I sing horribly.

The rain will only get worse. The druggies that normally infest Polk Street are sheltering at a donut place, from doorways here and there slumbering feet still stick out. The last of this Pease tobacco is fragrant and soothing in my pipe. Say, what is this anyhow? I believe it is Fillmore (a thick-sliced broken flake; red Virginia tobaccos combined with Louisiana Perique, then pressed, sliced, and gently broken), but possibly I misremember.
I opened the tin, then ignored it for two or three weeks.
After which I rubbed it out and dried it.
It is very nice.

One of the waitresses at the chop place intrigues me.
She is not the most visually appealing.
But the most intelligent.

I shall smoke another pipe while remembering.
Men should make passes at women with glasses.

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Thursday, March 01, 2018


Shan't explain how it came to pass, although astute readers will be able to piece together the path it took. I am presently enchanted by a plant.


From Wikipedia:
"Metarungia pubinervia is an Afrotropical plant species in the acanthus family, which is native to forest understorey in the Afromontane archipelago. It is widespread in eastern Africa, with isolated populations in southern Africa and Nigeria."

"The pale brownish bark is covered with lenticels. The opposite and narrowly elliptic leaves are around 20 cm long, with pubescent veins and entire margins. The two-lipped flowers emerge from the reddish-fringed, green bracts on axillary spikes along the upper sides of branches."
End cite.

"The large, dark pink to maroon corollas attract forest sunbirds as pollinators, including Southern double-collared, Collared, Grey and Olive sunbirds. Reproduction occurs in various ways. Seed is produced for a month or so after flowering, producing seedlings that are ready to benefit from rains at the start of the wet season. Suckers develop where plants are damaged, to form new plants."
End cite.

That is impressive prose. It speaks to me.
Veins, covered with fine down.
It's a bit clinical.

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