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. All cheese-doodling ended in 2010, and there hasn't been any in far too long. Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, April 18, 2014


The title of this post is taken from the chief spam subjects to which trolls attempt linkage in the comments field. This blogger is a very patient person;
I live in San Francisco. I'll put up with almost any level of insanity no matter how berserk.

Even footwear fetishes and altered states.

From a safe distance, of course.

Not in my apartment.

Or my life.

What kind of woman (because it just cannot be a normal man) has, as her chief interests fervid fanship for nut-medication and expensive shoes?

I'm guessing a Polk Street woman. Very likely early to mid twenties, from Ohio or Missouri, moved here fresh out of college, and living off a trust-fund her wealthy family set up for her.
She's probably working at a charitable organization, so that she can claim that she is doing something meaningful with her life. The Foundation to Save the Randy Porcupine, or something.

At night she goes out and drinks Jager bombs (a shot glass of German herb liquor dropped into a tumbler of Redbull). Then she makes out with her male equivalent, and both of them go back to their loft south of Market Street to commit indecent acts. It's totally fabulous, omg.
Either that or she does Bikram Yoga twice a week.
Which is spiritual, and just as sweaty.

There are TWO styles which NO ONE should wear.
Yoga pants and bycicle clothing.
Oh well, Speedos too.

We really have no desire whatsoever to judge your tightly rounded posterior, even if it is taughtly sculpted. Which it more likely than not isn't. The public sphere is NOT the place to spandexify those ghastly gluteals.
Tight shiny fabric does NOT make you faster or hipper.

The woman who was born here does none of that. Instead, she goes out to a park to feed the raccoons and rabid wild animals, then settles down with Dostoevsky or Proust; entranced by good writing, her wire-rimmed spectacles slightly askew, and a whisp of hair trailing in the breeze.
Instead of Yoga pants, bicycle togs, Speedos, or Jimmy Choos, she's probably wearing comfy slacks, a sweater because it gets windy and cold in late afternoon, and a necklace.
And perhaps Converse sneakers.
Her one concession to hip and with-it is the tall glass of bubble tea.
Because tapioca pearls make splendid spit-balls.
To shoot at hyper-active juveniles.
Someone else's nasty brats.
Who need Valium.

Precisely such a woman must be taken out for vindaloo, rice, fluffy naan, and a spot of masala chai or mango lassi in the evening.
She'd sparkle over spicy food.

Let the raccoons take over.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Thursday, April 17, 2014


An acquaintance has made it clear that he and his young lady take baths together. He explains that it is quite the best way to get clean.
He is a very clean man. Sparkling, in fact. I ascribe that to his ablutionary practices, about which he has a neat-o theory.
Something about two hands good, four hands better.

It does sound like there might be something to his theory.

I would like to put it to the test.


There is, however, a minor problem.

An issue of logistics and organization, in some ways.

For this particular scientific experiment, I shall need a guinea pig.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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The majority of commenters underneath an article on the BBC website are of the opinion that denying a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, Tehran's pick for UN ambassador, is an egregious offense, just not done, and it's high time that the UN move somewhere else.
I agree wholeheartedly with that last part.
All of you, please leave.

I suggest THREE possible venues: Geneva, Brussels, and Mecca.

Geneva was one of the original locations proposed, and had that been acted on over sixty years ago, we would not have had that bunch of third-world gangsters shoplifting, attempting rape, driving drunk, and scoffing at our laws, which at present we are blessed with. Additionally, we wouldn't have to host a whole herd of self-important European pencil-pushing pimps sneering at everything American on our soil while eating our food.

Brussels would also be perfect. Given that the French, Germans, Irish, Walloons, and Brits have utterly ruined what was once the cultured capital of Brabant, and none of those snob-educated poncy Eurocrats will even try to learn the local language -- wich is Flemish, NOT French, that's strictly for poofters -- Brussels has devolved into a hellish crap-hole, and it would therefore be entirely fitting that woggah woggah shouting savages from Dirtwadistan be posted there to hobnob with the trash.

Mecca has the advantage that the paymasters of every depraved regime in Africa and Asia would be just across the street.

While we're at it, let's expel diplomats from a very large number of African, Asian, and Latin American countries, and tell the Europeans that they're on short notice.
Too many poxy blisters from the rest of the world enjoy trashing the United States while benefitting substantially from our economy and largesse; up theirs and the camels or knackered lipizzaners they rode in on.

The United Nations is an expensive and completely useless exercise in giving face to failures, while diplomacy, in the modern world, simply means that some syphilitic party-hack from a foreign country gets to snootily act superior.
Far better that our relations with most of the world are conducted on a cash or aircraft carrier basis.


Per Wikipedia, the top 10 contributors to the UN budget in 2013 were as follows:

United States: 22.00%
Japan: 10.83%
Germany: 7.14%
France: 5.59%
United Kingdom: 5.18%
China: 5.15%
Italy: 4.45%
Canada: 2.98%
Spain: 2.97%
Brazil: 2.93%

As expected, some of the noisiest tin-pot rinky-tink dungheaps contribute hardly anything. Which becomes even more significant when their special needs are taken into account: peace keeping. There are countries that just don't get along with anybody in this world, and barbarian tribes that really wish to slaughter their neighbors. The United Nations, while a miserable failure at actually preventing bloodshed, does have feet on the ground in a number of locations.

Significant cite: In 2013, the top 10 providers of assessed financial contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations were the United States (28.38%), Japan (10.83%), France (7.22%), Germany (7.14%), the United Kingdom (6.68%), China (6.64%), Italy (4.45%), the Russian Federation (3.15%), Canada (2.98%), and Spain (2.97%).

We're not getting our money's worth.

Note: This is a rant. As such, it is not meant to prompt serious discussion, or a careful moot and rebut of points. Especially not by people who are literalists. Or logical positivists. Thank you.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


This man loves fried noodles. Seriously. During the weekend I went over to the Washington Cafe and ordered a plate of mixed seafood fried noodles. Shrimp and squidly bits with green onion and beansprouts over thin wheaten strands. Actually, not over; but in.
Decadent with a ton of hot sauce.
I'm a pig.

I enjoyed my meal.


The Washington Cafe is where the old Upholding Heaven (擎天酒樓) used to be. Since it became a cha chanteng I've been going there nearly every month for food of which the doctor would disapprove. You know, HK teashop chow. They've got macaroni, baked pork chop on rice, salmon steak, and spaghetti (意粉) a la Hongkongaise. Plus fried stuff. And rice plates, stuff with Portugee sauce, soup.

Oh, and a ton of more acceptably Chinese stuff too.
Plus crustaceans.

826 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

Yeah, no, it's not the Man Kee Cha Chanteng near Diamond Hill (鑽石山 chuen sek saan) in Kowloon (九龍 kau lung), directly north as the crow flies from Kai Tak and Kowloon Bay (啟德、九龍灣). That one's located at 31 Yuk Wah Crescent (毓華里), near Yuk Wah Street (毓華街). Between Po Kong Village (蒲崗村) and Tsz Wan Shan (慈雲山), so it should be clear how to get there. Just a short walk from the shopping centre.

The Washington Cafe in San Francisco is at the north end of Waverly (天后廟街), on the block between Grant (都板街) and Stockton (市德頓街).
Also walking distance from somewhere.
And easy to get to.


A cha chanteng (茶餐廳) is halfway between a convenient eatery and a place with affordable satisfying snackfood. The institution originated in Hong Kong after the war, and at the time offered primarily quick stuff that would revive the working man and get him back out on the construction site or at his factory shift. Over time the menus became more eclectic, and many of them practically invented Hong Kong western food (豉油西餐).
But at all stages, from early beginning till now, serving milk tea (奶茶 naai cha, 港式奶茶 gong-sik naai cha, 香港奶茶 heung gong naai cha), yuen-yeung (鴛鴦) or mandarin ducks (coffee and tea mixed together, more milk-tea than coffee), Ovaltine (阿華田), and Horlicks (好立克).
All of which taste much better with condensed milk (煉奶).
Plus lemon tea with honey syrup and lots of lemon.
You can also get toast at such places.
It's very civilized.

Yesterday I fried up noodles and green chili peppers plus meat and egg, with lots of shredded ginger, before going out to do my laundry.
Afterwards I had a cup of half coffee and milk-tea.
Perhaps not as good as at the Man Kee.

I'll have to ask them if they can do 蕃茄豬扒 over 意粉.
I'm sure they can.

Their milk tea is very good.

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The other day a very dear friend who should know me much better by now accused me of being a brutal cynic, altogether nasty, and sarcastic to boot. According to his estimate, an old age of petulant and quivering besottedness awaits me if I do not reform p.d.q., and I should not fear to show the world the sensitive side that lurks deep within.

He also advises me that women LOVE the sensitive side. If I wish to ever engage in attempts at amorous physicality with a specimen of an opposite gender again, he says, I would do well to make sure she knows that I am a warm and lovable individual, rather than the severe and dried-up stick-insect she might otherwise with good reason believe me to be.
A sour old grumpus merits no snog.

"For heaven's sakes, man, stop being such an vile old drit!"

Very well then. Soft, warm, fluffy.

I'll finally admit it.


They taste nasty.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Easter is more than just another pagan spring festival, it celebrates the resurrection of the Christmas ham. Plus something... bunnies... eggs.

A buffet with these three items requires condiments.
Fun additional flavours to aid digestion.
Very many condiments.

Mayonnaise: all three foods above benefit from mayo.
Mustard: hot stone-ground and sweet Hawaiian.
Mango chutney: good with both eggs and ham.
Béchamel: festive, combines harmoniously with everything.
Taco Bell Bold & Creamy Spicy Ranchero: devilled egg sandwiches.
Worcestershire Sauce: make the British feel at home.
Horseradish: especially if the ham is watery.
Tabasco: the all-American condiment.
Sriracha Hotsauce: the better than all-American condiment.
Dave's Insanity Sauce: resurrection medicine.

Acceptable shortcut for all of the above: Remoulade.
Acceptable? Heck, so much more than.

Actually, on second thought, the best food for Easter breakfast is probably pizza. No muss, no fuss, no bother, just call your order in to the twenty four hour pie shop approximately twenty minutes before everyone else gets up.
Nothing says a life well re-lived than anchovy and extra garlic.
Potent juju; it keeps away zombies.
That's a bonus.

Pizza ALSO goes well with condiments.
See the complete list above.
Allow for seconds.

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Monday, April 14, 2014


Several months ago, my aunt mentioned that my super-brilliant cousin (the one writing a book about the Venerable Bede) and her husband, who is equally brilliant, retreated to their respective book rooms between meals the last time the entire clan stayed over summer at their house.
She seemed baffled by their withdrawals.

And when I say "entire clan", that significantly does NOT include me.
Yes, I have been invited, nay entreated & urged, to come one of these years. But my book room for necessary retreating is located in San Francisco, instead of somewhere deep in the Berkshires.
Just pretend I'm there. Hiding out.

Some of us aren't nearly as social as everyone else would like. My own idea of perfect company is another person drinking tea and munching a cookie while reading a book. And by reading a book is meant actually silently and intently devouring it, with greater attention than she devotes to the cookie.
It is an excellent cookie, but only a cookie.
The book is much more deserving.

I have to be alone very often. I’d be perfectly happy if I spent Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment; that’s how I refuel.

---Audrey Hepburn

The radiant miss Hepburn sounds like a perfect friend.

After several hours of dealing with people during work, when I have to be reasonably social and even dogforbid helpful and informative, I'm drained and burnt out. I suspect that folks who tend to go out every night are not like me, in any case wired quite differently. As well as being stark-raving mad, and a humongous pain in the gund.

Worst possible environment: a noisy nightspot.

Remarkably, despite their love of hubbub and bustle, the Chinese are not a particularly loud bunch. A fully packed and bustling Chinese dining hall is less oppressive by a very wide margin than a bar with two dozen people in it, half of whom are young and/or blonde. Unfortunately one cannot retire to a restaurant to spend five hours in the corner with a book by oneself. Especially if one isn't hungry, and just intends to sit there reading.
The staff might object. The owner certainly would.
Lighting up a pipe is out of the question.

We all like company, but some of us take all sorts of warm satisfaction in people's presence, though not in actually interacting on a chitchat level.
Having other folks around is very comforting, and can be cozy.
It is so much better when they can entertain themselves.
My cousin and her husband have the right idea.
Meals are a good break from studying.
They probably eat out often.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014


Several years ago I posted very nasty things about Erinmore flake on this blog. While simultaneously admitting that smoking that strange product with its absurd fruity topping in my pipe was, in fact, a secret vice.
Shan't go into detail, as this post is not about tobacco.

[The curious reader can refresh his or her memory by reading these essays: bad date, and shameful indiscretion.]

In like fashion, I have said some truly horrendous things about Hello Kitty. All of which may be read by clicking on the label appended below this post; doing so will pull up every mention of that repulsive marketing icon ever on my blog, most recent piece first. I encourage you to do so, as it illustrates my loathing and abhorrence of the cat in detail, as well as all the silly twits who fall for that commercial tat.

The Jansport bag in which I carry pipes and tobacco when out of the house for extended periods is getting a little old, the zippers are starting to fail, and it smells a bit.

I am one step away from purchasing a Hello Kitty backpack.

I've seen little Chinese kids with Hello Kitty backpacks, and it looks so darling. Very cute, very cute. Admittedly, for a six or seven year old it's a perfect style statement, especially if she's wearing bold colours and has bouncy hair. Though horribly inappropriate for an adult of any age.

But heck, it would be an ironic gesture. And no one would steal it.
As long as it's sturdy and serves the purpose, why not?
Pipes, tobaccos, cleaners, and a book.
An ideal man-purse.

Hello Kitty backpacks are the Erinmore Flake of accessories.

What do you think?
Should I?

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A reader unkindly alerts me to several errors in recent blogposts, which, he feels, detract from my otherwise excellent site. He didn't actually say it was otherwise excellent, but that is surely why he did so, as their would be little point otherwise. Judging by his detail, he is an avid reader.
All writers should be blessed with him.
An attentive and informed audience.

To whit:

1) When I described myself as having a goatee, I contradicted earlier posts in which I mentioned that there was also a moustache. A goatee, he informs me, is JUST the beard, whereas such a beard combined with an upper lip furslug is actually a Van Dyke.
Both are evil looking, but the goatee much more so.
I should not create false impressions.

2) Stating that tomatilloes did not make chile verde green was, in fact, wrong. Tomatillos would indeed impart a greenish hue, and my point, he insisted, should have been clearly stated: a California chile verde, which is also the more common Mexican chile verde, was quite different from the New Mexican chile verde, that being the chile verde that did not utilize tomatillos, but relied just on green chilies for sauce and flavor.
I was clearly biased in favour of the New Mexican variant.
And profoundly hated beans.

3) In the interests of accuracy and honesty I should have clarified that Jillert Annema is not Dutch, but Frisian. Frisians were around before the Dutch were ever invented, and even the Romans feared them. Their unintelligible Theodesic language has an ancestry further back than English, Dutch, or German, and their patron saint is the missionary they slew at Dokkum.
These are important details; they add perspective.
My readers (if there are any) should know.

4) When I claimed that I "would be near the old church, loudly smoking a pipe filled with a stinky Latakia mixture", I was guilty of both suppressio very and suggestio falsi, in that many other posts in the past two years have made clear that I currently tend strongly towards Virginias and flakes (and actually, that is correct; I do smoke VaPers far more commonly now than Oriental blends).
Misleading people created false impressions.
It might, in fact, cause biases.
I should be aware.

5) My claim that I enjoy the Dutch poets is unfair to the reader, as I did not provide examples either in the original tongue OR in translation. Such an omission leaves a want that remains unfulfilled. He suggests that I rectify that. Sorry, no. I don't feel like it. Why turn great Dutch verse into bad English doggerel? There's far too much crap on the internet already.
I, too, have added to that.

6) I need to post more crow videos. That one which showed the Russian bird trying to steal a frypan was delightful, and there can never be too many youtube videos featuring crows.
Well, there probably can.
But here goes:



7) Postulating that there might be occasions when I flutter around the apartment naked was a disservice to readers everywhere. There is NO need to leave anyone with that mental image, no one wants to see a naked man. Indeed, I had said that I would not be naked most of the time, especially not during a San Francisco summer. But merely suggesting casual middle-aged male nudity was an offense, and would I please never do that again?

Well, I don't know. Personally, I think nudity in private is all right.
Irrespective of the gender of the free-spirited naturist.
Would you object if it was a naked woman?

There hasn't been such a thing in years.
But you can probably imagine it.

If women are, at times, naked, it seems rather blinkered to object to the concept of men also disrobing. The problem may be with you and your fertile imagination. So please DON'T picture me naked. Or any other trim middle-aged men. Of whom there may be many in this city. Who could be naked at this very moment. Early morning sun coming in through the window, illuminating their well-turned limbs, high-lighting their trim goatees, glinting off the spectacles that are the only thing they're wearing right now. Soon there will be the splashing, as a naked man ablutes.
An erect figure, surrounded by steam.
Lithe and glissome.

Moments later, a fierce towel-rub invigorates the skin.
Droplets fly, and wet wet feet smack the tiles.
A naked man goes down the hallway.
Please do not think of it.
Bare and fresh.

I like feedback from readers, I really do. I also like my beard, chile verde, Latakia mixtures (in addition to Virginias and Virginia-Perique blends), Dutch and Flemish Lyric, plus crows and ravens.
All of these things add joy to life.
Especially the Van Dyke.

But above all, I like nudity. One person, or two.
A naked man, or perhaps someone else.
Nudity is the cat's pajamas.

Feel free to comment.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014


Sometimes your day starts on an "interesting" note, and just goes on from there. And, if you are Jewish, your day started only one or two hours ago, at sundown, so there is still a long way to go. Tzeit fir motzei shabbes oneg.
For one thing, your day today probably started with hot food.
Not lukewarm and full of slow-cooked beans.
Cholent has soul, but it palls.

Not even going to mention the vegan reconstructionist lesbian liberation Jewish wymyn's collective and their gluten-free wheatgrass tofu version of cholent; there are just some limitations that make the chumrah obsession of Hareidi circles seem amateurish.

This blogger, as you may shper, seldom indulges in cholent; I've made it several times, though not for shabbes, and I even brought it to an office party once because I have a sense of humour.

Cholent, and possibly also the anarcho-femynyst animal-rights equivalent without meat or peanuts, can be improved considerably by having a big bottle of hotsauce on the tish.

Some people, however, do not want you to have that luxury.
They would rather make you suffer. Considerably.
And they'll do anything to effect that.

The city of Irwindale.


A California city has declared a factory which produces a popular Asian-style hot pepper sauce a public nuisance, after area residents complained of the odour.

The city of Irwindale on Wednesday night gave Sriracha sauce maker Huy Fong Foods 90 days to curb the odours.

The declaration allows city officials to order changes should such odours remain after the deadline.

[Source: BBC article:]

When Huy Fong Foods Incorporated moved their factory to Irwindale last year, local bosses must have smelled a pot of gold. Since then, they have been involved in an unending campaign of harassment that resembles nothing so much as a clumsy shakedown attempt, trying to force the company to invest an enormous amount of money in an air purifier.

Back in 1980, David Tran started producing a condiment consisting of fresh hot peppers ground-up with vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. In those days, if you liked spicy foods, living in California was being an exile from everything that made life worthwhile, because you just couldn't get anything decent to eat. I remember dining at Alice Water's famous restaurant, wondering if that's all there was and craving a bit of spice.
I plotted to sneak my own chilipaste in, but feared that Berkeley's food-Nazis would cry foul. Both sambal and mayonnaise were considered heathen back then.

One of those condiments still is.

David Tran altered the paradigm. By the mid-eighties, instead of spending ten bucks on a several-year old jar of imported paste patronizingly sold in the "ethnic" section of a supermarket, you could find sambal oelek, sambal badjak, Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce, and squeeze bottles of the only sane squirtable sauce to use instead of ketchup in your local Chinese stores, and even humble burger joints would have Sriracha in their condiment bar.

Life had improved immensely, and civilization seemed possible.

Not at all likely, given that there were still Texans and Midianites in the world, but possible.

Sure, I like Tabasco. But it's best for fried eggs and hash browns. And the traditional coffee shop breakfast of eggs and pork sausage with a big mound of rice and various fried crud is not an everyday indulgence. Ever since I was in the single digits, sambals had added colour and depth to my life. Coming back to the U.S. and discovering that good food made one a freak was a shock.
All the ingredients that I wanted were not at the Solano Avenue Safeway or the Berkeley Co-op.

Ketoembar. Djintan. Bidji Sawi. Trassi. Petis. Sereh. Lengkoewas. Daoen Toelsi. Daoen Ketoembar. Ketjap Manis. Tjabeh. Temoe Koentji.
And most of all, sambal sambal sambal sambal sambal!

Eventually one discovers that coriander, cumin, mustard seed, shrimp paste, fish sauce, lemon gras, galangal, basil leaf, cilantro, sweet soy sauce, chilies, and krachai ARE available, if one only knows where to look, but where the hell is the chili paste? A man has just gotta have some sambal!
Civilized life without chilipaste is impossible.
A lack of sambal inspires madness and war.
Sambal is the glue that holds it together.


Huy Fong no longer makes sambal badjak -- wich is no great loss, because if you fry an entire jar of sambal oelek with one or two large minced onions, garlic, and a tablespoonful of shrimp paste, till it is dark brown and the oil comes out you have pretty much the same thing -- but their current range of products contains all the ingredients necessary to survive in the vast interior of this continent.

"Flexing muscle and thumbing Huy Fong in the eye"

Irwindale, population 1400 inbred souls, cares not one whit that without Sriracha hot sauce, heads would roll, pitchforked mobs may riot, and the Jacquerie will burn the castle down, in many places across the civilized world. The quill and gall-ink wielding litigationists of Irwindale merely seek to shake the company down and make them pay for the temerity of re-locating to Irwindale and bringing the twentieth century with them.

It's time for the bigwigs and shakers in San Francisco to step in and move heaven and earth to get Huy Fong to relocate to the Bay Area. Facilities, necessary permits, and a subsidy for employee housing expenses. We are more cosmopolitan than Irwindale, and Willie Brown knows that. If Willie Brown and his heavy weight political henchwoman Rose Pak can make it happen, we'll vote for their candidates next election no questions asked.
We shan't even write-in the name of Leland Yee.
We promise. Scout's honour.

The Bay Area needs Huy Fong; we are a culinary mecca.
The entire damn' world needs Huy Fong.
Cholent needs Huy Fong.

It's a mitzvah.


The interesting note mentioned earlier that started my day was reading on the BBC website that doctors have incubated vaginas in a lab. It's a brave new world out there. I never would have imagined that such a thing would ever be possible.

"The vaginas were carefully grown in a bioreactor until they were suitable "

Anyhow, that reminded me of the BBC article about Irwindale.

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Friday, April 11, 2014


There are far too many newcomers in San Francisco from the primitive parts of this great country. If they were happy to live in grotty little garrets it wouldn't be a problem. But they walk among us, outside the Tenderloin.
In consequence, rents are going up, Starbucks franchises are everywhere, and our quality of life is rapidly going down.
There are sushi restaurants here!
For white folks!

All that, AND we are being diluted. It's time for San Franciscans to step up to the pitch, and fill in the slack.

It could heal on its own.

Better that we help it.


Here are complete instructions:

1) Real San Franciscans carry their portfolio with them at all times. At the slightest excuse, we pull out sheet after sheet of tattoo designs and gothic sex-manga. Then launch into long explanations of what it all means.

2) Wear army fatigues; nothing says creative individual as well as army fatigues. And a realistic twitch or nervous tic. You've suffered, now it's someone else's turn.

3) Speak to total strangers about what the emergency room didn't do for you lately. In splendid detail.

4) Inform people about the yoga instructor you discovered who also does high colonics.

5) Suddenly scream that you want the other doctor back immediately.

6) Ask: "Who came first? The walrus, or the eggman?"

7) Wine is the blood of the earth mother.

8) Everything must be green.

9) Be meaningful.

10) Stare.

The most important thing is that you must NEVER treat strangers as equals.
Either they're your support group, OR they need therapy more than you do. Let them know where and how to get it, along with meaning-filled tattoos, wine, yoga instruction, and high colonics. Tell them about veganism and native tribes. Guess their sign, repeatedly.

Practice telepathy on them.

Or clairvoyance.


Above all, avoid eye-contact, in such a way as to make sure that not only they know you're doing that, but so does everyone else on the bus. Keeping the crazy people at arms length is more than a full-time job, it's theatrical, and all the world is a stage.

If enough people do this, e-yuppies will go back where they came from.

Never let them know about it, though. It is our secret.

Who told you? Was it a man in a suit?

He's one of "them".

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Thursday, April 10, 2014


It truly is very inconvenient. My neighbors at the furthest end of the airwell between the buildings are exceptionally clean. And I am on the floor in the dark. One of these days, my apartment mate is going to catch me, and she'll think I'm nuts. I'm not crazy, sweetie, I'm just being gallant.

The problem is this:

My apartment mate is a non-smoker. So all tobacco consumption elsewhere than in the kitchen, on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, ceases at or before one or two o'clock, so that the place can air out with all the windows open before she returns home. Any smoking will be in the kitchen, next to the open window, if at all.

The kitchen faces into the airwell.

[On Weekends plus Wednesday and Thursday this blogger is in Marin county.]

My neighbors start bathing in early evening, and keep it up seemingly all night. They are three women. They also like ventilation.
Their bathroom window is wide open.
Brightly lit, too.

My kitchen window looks directly through their bathroom window about forty feet away.

I'm fairly certain they're white women (i.e.: Caucasians), but other than that I couldn't tell you anything about them, because I really do my damnedest to not see anything. Couldn't even recognize them if we passed on the street.
Given that their ablutions seem to happen very frequently, and cannot be predicted, I've taken to sneaking into the kitchen on my hands and knees, raising my hands upwards while crouching to fill the kettle, then scuttling over crab-like to slide the container onto the flame. With the lights out.
Feel around for a teabag, the box is on the counter.
Clean cup from the rack, spot of milk.
Fiddle, stir, and clink.
In semi-dark.

It's NOT that I don't want to see naked women; it's just that it would be opportunistic to avail myself of the unintentional splendid view.
A gentleman must do the courteous thing, which in this case means staying at all times below window-sill level.
No accidental glances or glimpses; naked women deserve privacy.
I sometimes wish they were dirtier.
My knees hurt.

I started doing this when I noticed that whenever I wanted a cup of tea and a smoke, their bathroom window was wide open, the lights where on, and one of the ladies was in a position where she would inevitably notice me if for whatever reason I was at the kitchen sink. This usually meant that their window would be slammed shut in a hurry. With panic and indignation.
I felt guilty; they might suffer mildew because of me.
And the towels would stay damp.
How horrid!

So, in short: I have no problem seeing a clean naked woman, provided I am actually meant to see that clean naked woman. In fact, I would love to see a clean naked woman who had no objection whatsoever to me seeing her. In all her clean and naked glory. Especially if she were a clean naked woman with whom I got along very well. It's a hypothetical concept.
I haven't seen a naked women in donkey's years.
Clean or otherwise. But I know clean.
It can be quite nice.

Complete strangers, no matter how clean and naked, are different.

It would be wrong.

Crouch, scoot, scuttle. Wriggle like a snake or lizard forward to the counter and the faucet. Reach up and grab the jar of sugar, then root around for a teaspoon. Good thing the ashtray is at ankle-level, and visible in the light from the airwell. Where, beyond the line of sight, because I'm keeping low, a woman is splashing her naked body with water in gay abandon.
I'm almost certain I can smell the perfumed soap from here.
Exotic resins, vetiver, and nectarine.
It's extremely irritating.


Quite clean.

So very very clean.

Maybe I should smoke less.

I said previously that they are three. But I may be wrong. Maybe more of them, maybe fewer. But it's a plurality, of that I'm sure.
There are different voices, you see.
They sound very young.

On the whole, cleanliness is a mighty good thing.
I'm a firm believer in it, myself.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014


He and his little brother appear to have a wonderful relationship. Despite the HUGE age difference between them. One of them is just so much older than the other. And already in first grade! The little brother is only two, and barely even speaks. Certainly something so queer as a kwailo talking Cantonese is startlingly new, but equally baffling are the unintelligible sounds coming out of his older brother's mouth.
The older brother speaks English.
How extremely peculiar!

But, if the older brother feels unthreatened by the freak, the younger one will relax, and come closer to investigate. I think he was peering up my nostrils and trying to count the hairs at one point. He's a very disarming little fellow, and I suspect both kids will do very well academically.
The younger one may end up in science.

While the two year old boy examined me from several different angles, his brother engaged me in conversation. Children, as you can surmise, have no very great depth but immediate interests. Unlike adults, they are capable of entertaining several perhaps not related themes at the same time.
As interlocutors, they can be quite the ticket.

The older one, at six years old, has a very well developed vocabulary in English, and insisted that we use that tongue. Although every time he didn't know what the correct word was, he said it in Cantonese (tobacco pipe = 煙斗 yin dou) . At one point he asked whether I like paktonggou, and spoke Potongwa and Spanish?

Yes, I like white sugar glutinous rice fudge. It's very tasty, and settles the stomach marvelously after drinking too much the previous evening (a datum which I did not mention), and although I can speak a little mandarin, his dad is far better at it. Spanish, no. Yo quero una burrito con carnitas y salsa picante, sin frijoles, por favor. No mas.

He disagreed. His dad clearly does NOT speak Potongwa better, because he sometimes says very BAD things. Especially if you touch his stuff.
And speaking of bad things, was I a good man, or a bad man?
Well, I think I'm good. Not everyone does.
Not everybody agrees about people.
Was I then a bad man?
Why not?
Because I don't do bad things.
Ney yam jau? [你飲酒?]
Mow. Ngoh mow yam jau. [冇。我冇飲酒。]
Gam, ney sik yin ge me?!? [噉,食煙嘅咩!?!]

["Do you drink alcohol?" 'Nope. I don't drink.' "But but but, you smoke?!?"]

I know he's of two minds about the smoking, because his grandpapa smokes a pipe. Maybe his grandpapa also drinks whiskey on occasion.
I decided to change the subject at that point, as I had told a little white lie;
I do indeed drink. Most white people do, even if they don't smoke.

We only admit this on a need-to-know basis.
A six year old need not know.

He seemed to doubt my veracity, but then asked me if I spoke any other languages. I admitted to Dutch, and was promptly asked to demonstrate.
It sounded very foreign to him, was I perhaps European?
Well, no, I was born here.
He knew it!

He told me he wasn't born here, but his brother was. Which I already knew.
How did I know that? Because I've been coming here for over two years.
And, consequently, I can remember when his brother was still a baby.
Quite unlike the intellectually curious two year old he is today.

In any case, when I left, I had a firm invitation to come again, even if it's only for ten seconds, and even if I actually have to be in Marin that day. Never mind the hike, just come!
I'm sure his little brother agrees. The little fellow said 'bye bye' and gave me the most enchanting smile as he waved farewell.

I hope he remembers me when I return in a few weeks.

Both the six year old and the two year old are turning into fine young men.
Despite the shrieking auntie who desperately tried to reign them in earlier, and make them eat their lunch. And stop pulling their cousin's hair, even though she minded not a bit. Girl, shut up and eat your damned rice!
I was extremely happy when the auntie finally left.
Her angry shouting disturbed my own meal.
She's a frantic sort, easily bent out.
Probably not good with kids.

Smoking does NOT automatically mean that you drink, or are a bad man. Just so you know.

Despite what you may have heard.

AFTERTHOUGHT ONE: the six-year correctly guessed my age. Which is VERY irritating. But on the plus side, he assumed that I was still in high-school. Which is very good.

AFTERTHOUGH TWO: "gam chaau-chaau naau-naau jan hai yiu ge me? Yau pin-go sei-jo nei gam taai-seng chau kwai kiu ah? Haak-sei ngo ah!"
'Is such a frightful racket really necessary? Who the hell died that you should yell so? You're scaring me half to death!'
This is what I felt like saying to the bad-tempered auntie, except that I had no confidence I could've uttered all of it without bollicksing-up the tones and pronunciation to a fare-thee-well. Too tense for that.
One of these days, though, one of these days.
Need more practice speaking.

Eh, probably wouldn't do it even if I could.
It would be very forward and brassy.
Might be considered rude.
Far better not.

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A chance-met conversationalist the other day admitted that guilt informed all of his passions. Which, it turned out, were all rather pedestrian and predictable. Perhaps because of his psychological limitations. I don't know why I continued talking to him; perhaps I senses a loneliness, as well as a desperate need on his part to feel relevant and involved.

I believe more and more that whatever you do, you need to do it with enthusiasm and interest. Pursue intensely, using the capabilities at your command.

Here's a self-help video.



The hero of that scene is not Brian, but Pontius Pilate. Whose appetite for life lets him appreciate the wascality of webellious Jews, as well as the eloquence inherent in the English language.
Oh, and sending people who offend him to gladiator school.

All accounts of Pilate's life are fragmentary, and utterly suspect due to a wealth of ideological biases. Consequently we might as well assume that his portrayal by Michael Palin in the documentary "Life of Brian" is as accurate as any.

A man of classical tastes.

Judging by the scene above, Pilate had a keen eye and a well-developed artistic sense. If he were alive today, he'd probably read Somerset Maugham, Jane Austin, Evelyn Waugh, Proust, and Nabokov.

His taste in pipes might incline towards Charatan's from the pre-Lane period, tobacco-wise he'd incline toward Rattray's Old Gowrie, and he'd be a man of temperate appetites, kind to cats and dogs and impatient with humans, especially if they could not appreciate subtlety and detail.

Unfortunately, I can also see him as a man of a multitude of minor perversions and fetishes. Much like the rest of modern society.
On that level, I doubt that I would get along with him.

Being, as you well know, a sober and restrained person myself.
With no obsessive predilections or hobbies.
Just abiding interests.

Pipe tobacco. Oolong tea. Nabokov. Green ceramics. Joseph Conrad. Stuffed animals. Chilipaste. Pantaleon Gerhard Koenraad Hajenius. Panties. Dutch-Indonesian literature. Tang poetry. Yiddish. Tea-dust glaze. Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini. Petjoh. Ulysses, by James Joyce. Coconut milk. Shui Hsien tea. Perique. Shekwan pottery. Simenon. Bitter melon. Anthropomorphism. Corvidae. Joyce Cary. Schoolboy Latin. Famille Jaune and Famille Rose. Maria Dermoût. Fish sauce. Feminine lacies. Fire-cured Kentucky. Johan Fabricius. Eastern Borneo. Kipling. Manga. Dutch fried foods. Mustelidae. Jean Pierre Rawie. Goryeo celadons. Anna Karenina. Skewered meat with peanut sauce. Su Tung-po. Geste du Roi. Medium flakes. Nipples. Keemun. Elisha ben Abuya. Wyndham Lewis. Ischa Meijer. Pear kugel. French-cut briefs. Gerbrand Adriaenszoon Bredero. Yi-Xing purple stoneware teapots. Marguerite Yourcenar.
Et id genus alia.

Unlike Pilate, I've run out of space. The apartment is somewhat too fully packed. Really, I need an over-the-top and tremendously vulgar palace to redecorate in classical style, and dump all my crap in.

And possibly my very own gladiator school.

For the woudy wapscallions.

Who giggle.

Anyhow, I let the other person mentioned at the beginning of this post waffle on and on, seeing as he felt the need to unburden and talk about himself. Sometimes one needs to do that, and often there are aspects of other people's lives which, though they are not aware of it, are quite interesting and peculiar. Listening to others can let you learn much.
Unfortunately, as I said, he was not particularly unusual. Just a decent person, with nothing but good habits and rather boring tastes.
I doubt very much that he reads for pleasure.
Or has any startling eccentricities.
No rotten behaviour.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Mister Yeh is elderly, and lives opposite the school. It is quite possible that he is a widower, but it is just as likely that his good lady is less spry than he himself.
I only know his name because he sat down to rest on the same bench where I was smoking a pipe. He didn't seem to mind the smell.
For several minutes he sort of swung his legs (too short to hit the ground), and, I surmise, twiddled his toes inside his shoes. Then a passer-by recognized him, and they had a twenty minute conversation. By the time they had exchanged all the news and local gossip, I had finished my pipe. Mister Yeh got up to leave, bid me a good evening, and headed down the hill. As it turns out, his house is only half a block from the bench.
Which I know because I passed him going up his steps.

Why do I think he's a widower or has a wife less mobile?
Because he had shopping bags. And he had come from the direction of Trader Joe's, not the nearest stop where the bus across the hill from Chinatown lets off. Elderly Chinese men doing their own food shopping are, in all likelihood, not really attached to a fully mobile wife. Who might insist that the vegetables should adhere to certain standards, and perhaps a fresh fish be acquired.

There are a lot of elderly Chinese around the peripheries of Nob and Telegraph hills. They bought buildings in the sixties, when racial limitations on residence were already somewhat relaxed. Still close enough to the old neighborhood, but not dangerously deep in Italian or Irish territory. C'town was busting at the seams then, and there were lots of children.
A lot of the children have since grown up, and moved away.
They come and visit, bringing their own kids along.
Cars will park under the trees and disgorge.
Other than that, it's a quiet area.

For someone who must be in his eighties, whose English is probably not so good, mister Yeh knows an amazing amount about current politics. He and his much younger friend (my age) discussed several articles in the Sing Tao daily. Yes, I listened in, but I didn't let on that I understood most of it. Or, in fact, any of it. I was having too much fun digging the details.
Chitchat becomes very limited when a kwailo shows he understands.
Not because of any racism, but due to a change of focus.
No point in starting something I cannot finish.
Good enough to understand most of it.
Not to contribute anything.

It's easier to understand a language than to think in it, and on your feet. Nor do I need anymore praise for being conversant at an idiot level.

Why disturb a fascinating discussion by injecting myself? It seems both pointless and unkind. Mister Yeh was having a splendid time talking about the cost of starting a business in San Francisco, as compared to San Jose, or even godforbid Oakland.
And the difference in insurance rates was also enormous!
San Jose is NO place to raise a kid.
And neither is Oakland.
Nob Hill is.

I rather like mister Yeh. We haven't been introduced, nor have we met in any formal sense. But I'm quite familiar with his vibrant personality at this point, and both his vocabulary and his diction are excellent.
A splendid fellow, who still wears ironed shirts.
Neat sports coat, pressed slacks.
He's got style.

We're all getting older, some of us more reputably than others.

Mister Yeh has already gotten there.

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Monday, April 07, 2014


Moments ago I checked my blog stats, and two facts just jumped out. There is NO denying them. They speak. They illustrate, and they make everything clear. ONE: today I had many more visitors from the Ukraine than from anywhere else. Normally U.S. citizens dominate, presently they're in the place normally occupied by the Chinese, who are a distant third. TWO: a blogpost I wrote two years ago in which I was whining pathetically like a loser about the singular... plural... dual(!) absence of nippletude in my life, while simultaneously savagely taunting the internet perverts who found my blog by specifically searching for nipples on the net, is being viewed.

The inescapable conclusion is that Ukranians have discovered nipples.
Maybe they were rather unaware of such things before.
But climate change has opened their eyes.
Expanded their horizons.
At long last.


Yes, I'm still whining. Sorry. Whatever you are wanting is just not here. In gonzen nicht. I assume that all three hundred plus of you came to this blog today because of your recent discovery, but I refuse to post any pictures or diagrams. This is a family blog, and little children would have nightmares if they actually saw nipples.

Instead, let me describe them.

A nipple is a physical structure located terminally on mammalian lactiferous tissue aggragatata that rather resembles either a finger tip or a lightswitch. You may also think of it as an on-off button, if that is easier to imagine.
It is sensitive. Most human females have two of them, which are larger than the corresponding minor protuberances of the human male.
In general appearance, the entire construction of lactiferous tissues, fatty deposits, derma, and papillae (or papules) on the feminine person may look like the domes of certain mosques and churches, especially in Turkey, Greece, and parts of Russia.
If these things resemble the spires atop the Kremlin (a famous fortress in Muscovy), there is something wrong. They will pendule too much when the afflicted individual ambulates.
For this reason, the French invented a cupping garment to contain as well as restrain, which has the added benefit of supporting the excess weight, and, if of correct size and dimension, preventing chafing.
That last is extremely important.
I mentioned sensitivity.

Some very fine artistic minds have obsessed over these things.
Which is quite understandable, all things considered.

If you weren't searching for nipples here, I welcome you also.
Please let me know what you were really looking for.
And feel free to describe your own parts.
If you feel so inclined.

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The great advantages to being single are that your sleep patterns are not influenced by other people's strange normal habits. My erstwhile significant other, who lives on the other side of this apartment, got up at an ungodly hour so that she could be at work at seven A.M. Oppressively early!
Meanwhile I slept on, in my room, surrounded by stuffed animals.
The stuffed animals are rather like cats; they sleep all day.
In between trying to start a war.

People who sleep in the same bed often get up to go pee in the middle of the night at the same time. Being a gentleman requires that you then stand outside the bathroom door fiercely clenching, while she takes a long, slow, relaxed, and altogether civilized powder break. Possibly even checking her eyebrows, or if that's a mole barely visible above the ear.
Then she brushes her teeth again.

I am aware that she pees in the middle of the night.
We both visit that little room during darkness.
But our bladder schedules have changed.
There's no conflict of interest.

She left the building sometime after six o'clock.
I got up at seven thirty, and thought I had overslept; surely it was already past ten?

I've spent the two last hours listening to Soviet-era martial music. No, not because of the Crimean crisis -- I frankly could not care less about the return of Russia's warm-water naval base to Moscow's control, no matter how dubious the legitimacy of that event -- but due entirely to research into South-East Asian dishes involving meat and soy sauce.

My reading and my listening are divergent paths. These ships do not go bump in the night. My ears trawl for different things than my eyes.
And I just realized that I have NO clue how two different windows ended up with such different search results.

When my ex and I were still together she must have wondered what was happening in my head. No doubt it frustrated her, because the connection between fresh goat and Sebastopol, though quite obvious to me, is opaque without considerable explanation.

No, I am not looking for another person to share my life. That would require too much planning and deliberation, and a degree of wishful desperation quite impossible. I do hope that at some point I'll meet a kindred spirit, but if it happens, it will happen. If not, not.
One cannot find love by frantic searching.
It takes accidental inspiration.

Someday I'll be smoking a pipe along a quiet street, when a person of the appropriate gender will pass by, pause, and ask me a question. I'll answer in too much detail, halfway between Asperger (neuro a-typical) and anal-retentive, and we'll both realize that perhaps a quick visit to a not too distant coffeeshop is in order.
There's a place we can continue the conversation on Polk.
It's not too far from a bookstore; the last one left.
Field's closed down a year ago February.
I found a book on Malay magic.
Over twenty years ago.
I had to have it.

No, not self-help. Anthropology mixed with ethno-cultural depth and detail. It's somewhere in the same case as 'Understanding Witchcraft and Sorcery in Southeast Asia', edited by C. W. Watson and Roy Ellen, and 'Het Adatrecht van Nederlandsch-Indië' (customary law of the Dutch East Indies), by Mr. C. Van Vollenhoven, professor at Leiden University, published (E. J. Bril) in 1925.

There's a lot of interesting stuff in that corner of the teevee room, much of which is hidden. My problem is that there's books in front of books, and multiple tins of tobacco occluding shelves. Two antique Indonesian blades on top of the case, as well as a decorative black betel nut container from Mindanao with a carved sarimanok on the lid, and, I just noticed, a box with my oldest calabash pipe, which I should have brought to the meeting of the pipe club in February. I had forgotten that I had put it way up there.
Some day I'll have to make order out of the madness.
It kind of grew out of hand.
I got distracted.

And speaking of distraction, here's the Russian National Anthem:


[Stupendous rendition of Russia's National anthem on Red Square during a troop review.

Splendid! Lots of stuff about rodnaya zemlya, slavsya svobodnaye what-the-evers, and B-g-m protecting the beloved otchizna.

I got distracted by the large spermatozoon at lower left in the picture, visible for four seconds starting at 56.

Anyway, the basic dish involving meat and soy sauce is darn close to a samor ('semur' or 'semor' in Indonesian, also called 'smoor' in Ceylon, derived from Dutch smoor vleesch - smothered or slowstewed meat).


One pound of chunked or sliced meat.
Four TBS soy sauce.
Three or four shallots, sliced thin.
Two or Three TBS sugar.
A very hefty squeeze of lime juice.
Dash vinegar.
Pinches of clove and cinnamon.
Garlic and ginger; sliced, smashed, or slivered.

Brown the shallots, garlic, and ginger. Put the meat in the pan to colour, add the soy sauce and sugar and a splash of water. Simmer till sticky and fragrant, on the cusp of scorching. Add the lime juice, vinegar, and chilipaste, stir to incorporate, and add a splash more water.
Simmer a little longer.
The total cooking time for the meat should be about an hour or so; less for tender white, more for dark and robust. Pork doesn't take too much time, but goat might be a while.
Lamb requires extra garlic, beef more ginger.
Make it moist enough to wet the rice.

A Dutchman might add hardboiled egg to the dish to stew along with, as well as a chunked potato. Chicken, whole chilies, and tofu can also be found in some versions, and in lieu of lime juice, tamarind may be used.

It's rice food, of course.

Without rice, it is not a meal.

Soup, krupok, and petjil on the side.

Note that the banner in the video linked for petjil is the Surinamese flag.
The "Single Guy" who discusses the dish also has a number of other recipes, mostly of Guyanese-Javanese derivation.
There is also a recipe for Pinda Brafoe.
Which is delicious!

Party food. And home cooking.

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Sunday, April 06, 2014


Behind every learning experience is yet another learning experience. It is a never-ending process. Yesterday was truly educational. No, not because my apartment mate and her kinfolk went to the Chinese cemetery to clean the family graves and do other things associated with Chingming (清明節 ching ming jit: clear brightness holiday), but because of my own particular white boy cultural observances. I'm a bachelor; I can do that.
Such as heading over to a place where smoking is permitted after dinner.
Dinner had followed returning from the wilds of Marin.
Where restaurants cater to savages.
From the hinterlands.
Of suburbia.

Yes, you read that right: Marin County is as nearly a culinary wasteland as the East-Bay. Albeit with far more pretensions. Is there even ONE half-assed decent Chinese Restaurant in Marin?

But aside from that.

At the 'Oxxy', English Dave wistfully remarked that the view was good, but in all honesty one did not go to a cigar bar expecting to meet suitable women of the opposite gender. In fact, possible dates should be last on the programme when entering the premises. The idea was forlorn and insanely optimistic.
Indeed, I know how he feels. I've long ago given up on the hope that a cute intelligent Cantonese woman half my age will strike up an animated conversation with me there.

That type probably hates tobacco anyway.

One of the things I learned yesterday was that it's just not good planning to smoke seven pipes, a Nicaraguan double corona, and a gigantic penile cigar in one day. Especially inadvisable if using an excess of hot sauce on baby string beans with pork spare ribs over rice (豆仔排骨飯) is also part of the course load.
Doing so may leave your mouth feeling like stressed shoe-leather at some point. Suggestive, even, that something vicious crawled in there and died a violent death.

It was probably the giant phallic cigar. Upon reflection, I realize that it wasn't perfectly rolled, and consequently burned irregularly. A big ring-gauge on a cigar also means that the outside will lose moisture faster than the core, and perhaps they should have used ligero in the centre for uniformity of burning cone formation. Whatever the details, it started shredding half-way through. By the time I put it down it looked like Vikings had tortured it very fiercely.
It was a pre-lunch smoke, and the day simply got stranger from there.

San Andres wrapper leaf, binder & filler both from Nicaragua. 7x70.

Another thing I learned is that my Saturday routine might need some re-planning. Due to the booming economy, a much younger crowd heads into the cigar bar after dinner. Expensive cigars are the new 'hookah'.
Shallow e-yuppies should probably not smoke at all.
They simply go about it all wrong.
No indoor voices.

By the way: One peculiarity about Chingming is that it means someone (阿華) will sneak into the bathroom just ahead of you the next morning to clean trowels, buckets, and brushes in the bathtub, leaving grit everywhere, quite overlooking the fact that the smoker has a bus to catch.
I barely made it on time.

I would have gotten up earlier, but the e-yuppies kept me awake till far after midnight. Should probably have gone to bed much sooner; I had been determined to outlast them.
They finally left.

I've been swilling buckets of tea all weekend; I can outlast any number of juveniles.

In consequence of yesterday's reckless adventurism, I held off on filling a pipe till two PM today.

There's probably no logical connection, but on my way home this evening a pigeon skanked on my head. I am, never-the-less, determined to blame the cheroot-huffing e-yuppies.


After finishing my string bean spare rib rice I was asked if, by any chance, there was a Chinese name by which I might be appelled. My white name is a bit hard to pronounce in Chinatown. It took me a moment to remember what Ah-Choi and the gang still call me: Ah-Mak: 阿麥。
A nickname, of course, but it's rather pleasing.
Familiarity breeds conversation.

There was a flock of crows wheeling in the sky above the block when I left the restaurant at twilight. Their cawing made me look up.
I'm taking it as an excellent omen.
Seeing as I like crows.

Final educational item: it is possible to trim one's toenails with a dentist's plaster knife late at night, upon discovering that the aforementioned apartment mate has made the last pair of clippers vanish.
I once bought a dozen of them at Walgreens.
Where are they?

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Just zapped over a dozen spam comments. Boys, you're not even trying. If you are going to post a worthless spammatic contribution, please make it worthwhile.

Checklist for commenting:

1) Do you have something relevant to say?

Urls to loansharks and real-estate speculators are not relevant.

2) Can you say it in a human version of English?

French or Japanese just don't count. Sorry.

3) Are you human?

This blogger discriminates against machines. My calculator weeps in the corner, because I don't pay it any attention. It is alone. It feels abandoned. My neglect has given it issues.

Fairly simple, right?

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Saturday, April 05, 2014


Earlier I mentioned that I started smoking a pipe when I was fourteen years old. And a friend, who is a non-smoking scistoid nutball, asked if teenagers should be allowed to smoke, ever. Well, my parents would nowadays end up in legal trouble, but at the time they didn't forbid it after it was apparent that I had taken the plunge. My mother gave me a long medical lecture, promising all manner of ailments and psychological problems including stunted growth -- she was shorter than me by then -- and threatening dire moral failings as well, but by smoking three Kent Filter Kings during the harangue she unglued her own discourse.


But that begs the question, should juveniles be permitted to use tobacco? To which the answer is, more or less, the same as whether or not they should have rich and fulfilling sex lives: not until they are eighteen.
Smoking, like sex, is allegedly an adult decision.


The boundary is set in law, even though some might argue that it's arbitrary. Some people shouldn't engage in 'sweaty business' until they are past retirement age, and I really wish the drunken young folks on Polk Street on Saturday nights would put it out of their mind until they lose their jobs and go back to live with mommy. Unfortunately, they engage in all manner of disgusting amorous behaviours while drunk in public, and then go home to facebook till dawn.
Far better they should not drink, not hump legs, and not smoke ciggies.
Never-the-less, once they're eighteen, they can decide for themselves.

Again, I started smoking at age fourteen.
Sex had to wait several more years.
Tobacco alleviates frustration.
It's almost miraculous.

I personally feel that cigarettes are unpleasant, and big cigars far too often a sign of depravity. But pipes and pipe tobacco demonstrate a sound moral compass, and young men and women should all own at least one decent pipe, and have a pouch or tin of high quality tobacco around their digs at all times. Nicotine is good for short-term memory -- perfect for when you have to cram for a test -- and, though a stimulant, it calms you down.


Cigarettes are too easy and too addictive, much like vapor devices (e-cigs), and cigars deliver an enormous load of the N vitamin, far more than you really need. Besides, there's something suspiciously penile about cigars.
But a pipe inculcates a contemplative mindset and improves the mood.
Once people get into pipes, it trains their aesthetic eye.
They develop good manners and thoughtfulness.
Books are bought, ideas developed.


Trust me, you really want your daughter to smoke a pipe. If you smell a whisp of Latakia or Perique escaping from underneath her locked bedroom door, she's probably studying, and in any case is not engaged in risky behaviour with the boy next door. She's got her head screwed on right, and instead of dropping out of junior college to raise a brat, she'll go on to graduate school.

That's what you want, isn't it?


The town where I grew up flourished because of the cigar factories that were founded there in the late nineteenth century, and two of them remained when I was in high school: Hofnar Sigarenfabrieken N.V., and N.V. Willem II Sigaren. Both factories are defunct now.
But at the time, almost all my classmates smoked, and although cigarettes were a social lubricant as well as a mark of rebellion, many of them eventually gravitated toward the local product, albeit not the big fat torpedoes that farmers and factory workers liked, but the elegant half-coronas and senoritas with fine Sumatra wrappers.
The entire town smelled like a humidor.
Pipes were thought a bit unusual.
But not at all uncommon.

I have reason to assume that the majority of my classmates are now fine upstanding citizens of sober habit and sensible conduct.
Except, perhaps, for the cigarette smokers.
They're still a question mark.

I firmly believe that the second they turn eighteen, boys and girls should head over to the nearest quality tobacconist and purchase one or two decent pipes and some tobacco. Their parents should provide them with enough money to make the visit worthwhile, and perhaps accompany them so that they can make good choices.

For the pipes, I would recommend Savinelli.
It's a great smoke even at the low end.
You'll get your money's worth.
From $70.00 to $150.00.

For the tobacco, a few tins of medium to full English blends, meaning products that have between thirty to fifty percent Latakia, some Turkish, and a base of aged Virginias.
Not as subtle, perhaps, as fine flakes and Virginia-Perique compounds, but easier to get the hang of, and very tasty.  Turkish and Latakia are naturally low in nicotine, which helps in the beginning. Later on they may wish for something headier, but developing the right smoking rhythms takes time.

Good pipe tobacco costs between fifteen and twenty dollars a tin (1.75 oz, or 50 grammes), depending on the brand. Names to look for are McClelland, G.L. Pease, Stokkebye, Orlik, Dunhill, and Solani.
Samuel Gawith, Gawith Hoggarth, Rattray, Germain & Son.
Also MacBaren, but avoid the aromatics.

English mixtures, Balkan Blends, Orientals.

Besides, if you're going to offpiss the non-smoking tofu-heads (and you will), you might as well go for something that will give them apoplexy.
Anything with heaps of Latakia is guaranteed to do precisely that.
They'll probably huff lots of marijuana to calm down.
Marijuana is both therapeutic and green.
Accepted in Berkeley.
It's Vegan.

Remember, you have to be at least eighteen to purchase tobacco.

By the way, at present I am smoking some very fine spun-cut discs.
Rich, sweet, creamy, and soft; no tongue bite.
Life is good. Trust me, really good.
Except in Berkeley.


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