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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

UMBRELLAS IN THE RAIN, BE CAREFUL

The Admiralty and the mainland army headquarters are both in Jung Waan, as are the Central Government Offices, and everywhere near Lung Wui Road has, in consequence, become a somewhat fraught area.

Normally it's easy to traverse, but these days it is filled with many orderly and peaceful people objecting to CY Leung's obduracy and loyalty to the party of which he is secretly a member in good standing.

Mr. Leung was supposed to not have any party affiliation; that was the rule.
And he insists that he never was a member, no not him.
His denials lack plausibility.

At present it is nearly dawn in Fragrant Harbour.

The crowds have been there all night.

So have the police.


Quote from a news source:

龍滙道防有好多便衣,大家小心!
There are a lot of plain clothes cops at the Lung Wui Road barricades, everybody be careful!

End cite.


These are great times to study Cantonese!
It's a very idiomatic language.
Colourful even.

便衣 = Pin yi: convenient clothing; plain clothes officers. Short for 便衣警察 ('pin yi ging chaat'). In the Chinese context, these can be seen as either spies or provocateurs.
大家 = Taai ga: big family; everybody, every one. Please note the implied kin-relationship in this term.
小心 = Siu sam: little heart; exercise caution, be careful!
中環 - Jung waan: middle ring; Central District.


Lungwui dou fong yau hou-do pin-yi, taai-ga siu-sam.


One really has to wonder how many policemen are currently party members. Probably the upper echelons are filled with them.




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KERMIT THE FROG, THE TERM 'KWAILO', AND WHAT CHINESE GIRLS REALLY THINK ABOUT WHITE GUYS

It's a bad habit, I'll admit. I like listening in on other people talking while pretending that I am oblivious to their conversation. The other day I took the bus from the downtown, and ended up near the beach because of it, where it is cold and foggy, and mostly miserable cretins live.
When I should have gotten off at Fillmore Street.

You see, there were some Chinese girls on the bus, sitting behind me.
For many white men, such girls are a subject of some fascination.
So please consider this field research in a way.
I was intrigued by their chatter.

"White guys are gross!"

One of them is repelled by a fellow student at her high school. Which is understandable, because teenagers go through several developmental phases simultaneously, one of which is the transition from knowing that the other sex has cooties to thinking that maybe not all of them do; one or two of them are actually quite bearable. Huggable, even.

Judging by what she said, her male fellow-student has hit that phase already, but she hasn't. Her friends chimed in to agree -- obviously they too have been 'hit on' by 'white guys' -- but one of them opined that it was not all white guys. Just white guys who weren't George Clooney.
Who unfortunately is already taken, because he was so 'do-able'. "Oh, yeah! A total stud muffin!" At this point I repressed a giggle, because to me, George Clooney, while handsome enough, is a dessicated old fossil who should only date grandma. But it turns out that he looks uber-cute while wearing a tuxedo.

So does Johnny Depp. He's very foxy! Now that I can understand, because in some ways I look far more like Johnny Depp than George Clooney; I've got glasses and well-trimmed facial hair, and I am also somewhat piratical.

One of them brought up Christopher Reeve. Who had a lovely chin.
Personally I always thought it was far too big.
But I have a chin as well.
So whatever.

"But all other kwailo are creepy!"

Umm, you don't say! I am a kwailo. And I am NOT a creep at all! Despite the fact that we just crossed Divisadero, and I was supposed to get out on Fillmore. You ladies are just too darn interesting, and I'm kind of hooked. Even though I'm not saying a thing, and sitting here with a big goofy poker expression on my ponim. A white male fly on the wall.
Silently listening in on your discourse.

"Especially the older ones!"

I nearly snorted.


嚟真嘅?
青蛙柯密特,佢都喺卑鄙的鬼佬咩?

[Seriously?!? Kermit the Frog, he's also a creepy kwailo? ('Lai jan ge? Cheng-waa O-mat-dak, keui dou hai bei-pei dik kwai-lou me?!?')]


No, I did not turn around to offer this cogent query. The key to accurate scientific observation is to never influence the behaviour of the wildlife.
They should be quite unaware of your presence. Same goes for tribal anthropology, except then you have to get tattoos and drink a lot of horrible alcoholic rice mash, so that they forget that you aren't one of them. There's no rice mash on the San Francisco bus lines.
And I hate hot weather.

Kermit the Frog is about as kwailo as anyone can be. That's a personal opinion. And all Chinese girls I know find him a lovable and dashing fellow. My ex told me so, and yes, she's pretty much the only Chinese girl I know, aside from a few former coworkers, whom I've never actually asked about Kermit the Frog, because I'm totally sure they would agree.
This is San Francisco; everyone has such coworkers.
So it's a representative sample.


I'm certain that if those girls met Kermit, they would not even notice that he wasn't one of them, and didn't speak a word of Cantonese; green is the new yellow.

No doubt they'd think him just about the most darling man they had ever met. And he is. Kermit has charm and character. How could they not ogle him out of the corner of their eyes, winking smiling blushing?

Each one of them would "covertly dispatch autumn breakers" (暗送秋波 'am sung chau po') in his direction, and act about as Miss Piggy as they possibly could.

豬小姐喺一個蛇蠍美人!

Miss Piggy is a femme fatale.

A modern-day 楊貴妃。

Hellooo, Froggy!


Ladies, Kermit the Frog is older than I am.

Just remember, men at age forty are mere blossoms (男人四十一枝花 'naam jan sei sap yat ji faa'), and haven't even approached their full potential. Older white guys are by no means a spent force, and if you think them weird, it's probably because they've developed character.
Immense and overwhelming character.

Well, I have. Don't know about any of these other old farts.


Anyhow, I am significantly younger than Kermit the Frog, and far more approachable; there is no crazed and savage pig in my vicinity at all, and I do not smell like an amphibian.

I'm just mentioning this, because I'm hurt by the statement that "all other kwailo are creepy, especially the older ones". I am a middle-aged white guy, and high-school girls are far too young and unformed to be so opinionated about people such as that.

Not that I really care.


AFTERWORD

At the end of the line, I was the only person left on the bus. It was foggy and depressing, so close to the ocean, and I couldn't wait to get back to civilization.

A peculiar phrase went through my mind that I had overheard on Polk Street at two o'clock in the morning while passing a gaggle of blondes.

"Why does it all taste like whiskey?  Well, maybe after what you did tonight, everything will taste like whiskey."

I could only imagine what they had been up to all night.

Wisely, they ended their evening with donuts.

I applaud the maturity of doing so.

With age comes wisdom.




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Monday, September 29, 2014

THE END OF 1997 IS IN SIGHT

Tens of thousands have flocked to the central district to voice their objections to the northern capitol's heavy-handed pre-selection of candidates, and during the weekend they broke into the yamen and defied calls to leave. Outrage has mounted, and on the government side the Mandarins are adamant that they will not give in.

Their jobs -- and their tailored suits -- depend on their resolve.
All who oppose them are 'little people'.

From a distance of over ten thousand kilometres, it looks like soon a tipping point may be reached, in which troops from Stanley may be employed for "crowd control", despite C. Y. Leung's hesitation.


Do I really trust the bureaucrats in the north?


More to the point, should anyone?


The personal histories of the ruling elite incline them against the south, and they remember how useful the 38th. was twenty five years ago.
It is unlikely that they will allow matters to continue.


The concept of 'yat gwok leung jai' was never sincerely implimented in the first place, and that small island and its peninsula were only useful as long as the rapacious relatives of generals and ministers could make obscene profits. Historically that class would gladly cut off its feet if the toes rebelled; how little will they care if they have to use force?


They may end up being more subtle than I think.
Or far more brutal than could be imagined.


Either way, we will probably end up with far more Cantonese speakers in the Bay Area in the next few years.


Once 'those who must be silenced' are covered by a spanking new layer of concrete, the authorities will claim that they had to act because of radical elements, and that they did so only to preserve the spirit of article forty five, and vouchsafe the fairness of the vote for their handpicked chief executive in three years time.
In a dictatorship, plausible deniability is with the government.
Because for them everything is 'plausible'.




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A FEAR OF LOBSTERS IS NOT AN ATTRACTIVE PERSONALITY TRAIT

As you realize, I lead a very quiet life, and never stray into unknown territory. There is nothing I love more than giving my eighteen pussycats all the love and high-quality feline chow they need, and drinking cup after cup of soothing lukewarm chamomile tea while knitting.
It is restful, and non-threatening.

So, on my once-a-month trip to the nearby lunch counter for a treat, you can imagine my dismay at being told, by a complete stranger, notabene, "that looks like it needs some hot sauce; go for the crazy shit".

I am easily influenced, because I never disagree with people.

So I squirted Sriracha all over my grilled cheese.

Oh, the heart-ache! The Montezuma!

I think I feel palpitations!


---DOT--DOT--DOT---


All kidding aside, in real life I have no cats other than a stuffed Hello Kitty on my bed, the smell of kitty kibble is perfectly horrendous, and chamomile tea hasn't been in my cupboard for over a decade. Why it was there in the first place mystifies me, as neither my apartment mate nor I can stand the stuff.

To put it in her words:

"White people drink that crap!"

When pressed, she clarifies that it isn't all white folks, just the soft-in-the-head earthmama hippy-dips and folks with auras and past-lives as Inca princesses; people who are very special.
Not the sane Caucasians.

She concedes that indeed there are a few of those.

I flatter myself that I am included in that category, as I have no aura, have never been an Inca princess, to the best of my recollection have had no past lives, and am neither an earthpapa nor a hippy dip.
Just a normal man, nothing peculiar.


"That looks like it needs some hot sauce; go for the crazy shit."


That phrase about the hot sauce and craziness is also one of hers. I had made myself a grilled cheese sandwich, so she volunteered some sound advice. She knows me well. We never eat together, but we both tend to eat in the television room.


I am somewhat trepidatious about the concept of dating again, as I'm fairly certain most women don't go for the crazy shit. Eating should at times be an adventure, in my opinion, but having spent several years working at a restaurant three nights a week, I realize that most people are not very daring, and my coworkers at my day job during that time abundantly demonstrated that same fey timidity.

Besides, women are very fond of lettuce.

Which is hardly worth sharing.



I may have to borrow that phrase about the crazy shit sometime, substituting "lobster" for "hot sauce".

Trust me; lobster makes everything look better.



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Sunday, September 28, 2014

NO ONE IS GOING ANYWHERE, SO SIT TIGHT! 今天誰也別走了,就這麼耗著!

A while back I reported on a fracas on Chinese Public Transportation involving riotous old people almighty indignant that some brash young fellow did not have the courtesy to yield his seat.
They pushed and shoved the swine.

This is a subject dear to my heart. Despite being older than Jayzus by the standards of the yuppies infesting San Francisco, I always give up my seat for the elderly, pregnant women, the handicapped or excessively burdened, and women who are above college age. As well as women significantly younger than that, especially if they are carrying too many textbooks.

Which is something few yuppies ever do.
They were badly brought up.
That's the problem.

I'm fifty five, but I can stand. Given how many young urban professionals find that incredibly hard, I take immense pride in that ability.


It also marks me as NOT a young urban professional -- an exalted state if ever there was one -- but I will probably have to live with this.


Old people especially should be given a seat. That's just the way it is. They've done their time, and letting them sit down is part of the glue that holds this society together. Same goes for pregnant women, plus over-burdened females of any age. And why is it always women who do the food-shopping for the entire family? Also young ladies who are carrying a load, such as for instance their infant younger siblings, or schoolbooks, or anything at all really that leaves them wobbly and with only one hand to hold on. Centre of gravity meets years of conditioning.
It simply makes sense to keep them from falling.
Let them sit.

On the mainland, however, today's prosperous vibrant urbanite finds such a concept ridiculous. Yes, in the past they would do such a thing, under a crushing sense of propriety and social responsibility.
But that is so last century!
No longer.

We have an increasing number of mainlanders who now reside in San Francisco, including large numbers of Mandarin speakers, and either they have gone native with blinding speed (kudos!), or they are fully in tune with the manners and mores of their kin, who nowadays are not much different from urbanites elsewhere. Many of them seem at times oblivious to the common courtesies, whereas the Cantonese almost without exception 'get it', and get up.

Not so Mandarin speakers.
My seat! My bottom!
哇!真舒服!
Huh!

Like the crop of recent carpetbaggers from elsewhere in the United States, they were their parents' precious little monsters, and believe themselves far more deserving than they could ever possibly be.

Such people wouldn't offer their seat if Christ on Crutches himself were right beside them. "Hah, stupid cripple, my parents think the sun shines out of my grass; do yours?"

Well? Do they?



You know, most of you programmers, law office wallahs, and marketing types have been sitting all day. It won't harm you to stand for a dozen blocks. Good for your flabby thighs!
But if grampa over there loses his balance and breaks a bone, it might take you another two hours to get home, and the emergency personnel will look at you like you are a selfish and unmannered cretin.
Precisely as I am doing now.
While standing.

Grampa is beyond caring; he's about to topple.


GET UP!


From BBC:

An elderly Chinese man, who claims he was not offered a seat by younger passengers, stood in front of a bus for two hours to stop it moving.

The man was spotted standing in the road and waving his arms in front of the bus in Baoding, a city not far from the capital Beijing. "No-one leaves," he was heard shouting, as he blocked the bus from moving. Whether he had actually been offered a seat on the bus is disputed by eyewitnesses, but the issue appears to be the reason for his tirade. A woman who was travelling with him is reported to have shouted: "College students these days have no character, not a single one of them gave up their seats for us."

[END CITE]

Yes, mainland Mandarin-speaking college students really are deficient.
It's the modern age mixed with that entitled arrogance, coupled with the fact that Mandarin is NOT as subtle a language as Cantonese, nor Northern Chinese culture as civil as the South.


我們這麼大歲數了,現在的大學生沒素質,沒一個讓座的,公交車司機也不管,今天誰也別走了,就這麼耗著!

[“Wǒmen zhème dà suìshule, xiànzài de dàxuéshēng méi sùzhì, méi yīgè ràngzuò de, gōngjiāo chē sījī yě bùguǎn, jīntiān shuí yě bié zǒuliǎo, jiù zhème hàozhe!”]

[Translation: 'We are already so old, today's university students lack character, not a single one yielded a seat, and the driver also didn't give a damn, (therefore) today no one is moving, so just sit tight!']


The bus didn't move for two hours. Police were called to end the stand-off, the two indignant people were not arrested, and young Chinese got to vent their general loathing for the elderly all over the internet, protesting the temerity and effrontery of fossils.

Frankly, I sincerely applaud the old man and his female companion.
I am surprised and not a little outraged that a mob didn't form.
To support them, and "chastise" the students.
Or at least stage a "sit-in".


More grey-haired folks need to start rioting. I sincerely believe that the world would be a better place if they did.


*      *      *      *      *


The intelligent reader will at this point object that I am conflating, or at least opportunistically overlapping, three distinctly separate issues.

To whit:

The lack of courtesy which is on the rise in mainland China;

Equivalent boorish behaviour here in San Francisco;

A very slight dislike of Mandarin speakers.


Indeed, the three are only thematically connected at best, and there is no logical link that can convincingly be fronted. I'm seeing a pattern where, in truth, there is none.

My argument is based almost entirely on my own biases.


I've never been to the mainland, and for all I know the old folks there are all vicious delinquents, running roughshod over the poor oppressed adult single children who are fated to inherit a decrepit society.

Many yuppies in San Francisco may be sincerely dead-tired after a long day doing momentous things, the like of which will change our world in unimaginably good ways.

Mandarin-speakers might, on the whole, be as capable of feelings and rational thought as their Cantonese cousins. And as likable, too.


Well all righty then.


You can sit on it.



現在這群雅皮士沒素質,我呸!




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ZEBRAS AND MACKEREL: BRITISH CULINARY QUANDARIES

There are two essays which almost always draw in English readers: How To Cook a Zebra, and Mackerel Is Not Herring. Whenever I look at my blog stats, these are often the specific results of internet searches originating in Great Britain.


CAN ZEBRA BE COOKED, AND WHAT IS HERRING?

The availability of zebra in England must be far greater than anywhere else in the civilized world. Possibly as an alternative to maddened cow. Either that, or it's culinary uncertainty. "Okay, we've got a great stripy beast..... now what do we do with it?"

One imagines vast herds thundering across the moors of Yorkshire.
England must have changed since I last visited.

Like with any other meat, you can grill zebra in the garden, and serve it with nice crisp summer salads, plus hummus and tahini. It would be lovely rubbed with garlic, paprika powder, a pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper.
Zebra is very lean, so doing it rare is best.

Of course, long stewing or 'braising' is also an option, like Africans do, or marinate it overnight. One recommendation: equal measures lemon or lime juice and olive oil, plus a teaspoon each of salt and cumin, and lots of minced garlic and cilantro. Cut the meat appropriately for your cooking method before putting it in, and trim off the membranes that encase muscles, as these are rather unlikable in the mouth.
Chunked and skewered, than seared over hot coals, you'd be amazed at how splendidly this goes with a spicy South-East Asian peanut-sauce.

Almost any recipe for goat can also be adapted for zebra.
Keep in mind that it is a much leaner meat.


As for the curiosity regarding herring and mackerel, the only thing I can think of is that the desperate reader is either newly arrived in England, or has been stuck in the country districts living on haggis, spotted dick, and hot cross buns for the last forty years.
Herring and mackerel are not the same fish, though both have a high fat content, which accounts for their popularity and culinary appeal. A simple preparation is best, and like with zebra, do not overcook.
Also try haddock, whiting, and pollock.


AFTERWORD

Now then. It is before seven in the morning as I write this, and while not a breakfast eater at all, I am ravenous at present. Probably due to the consideration of lovely things to eat, such as zebra stew with tomatoes and okra, goat curry Chettinad style, smoked haddock and rice, herring fillets, Norwegian fish balls, dory in coconut cream, skewered bush meats with peanut sauce, cassava greens, and fufu, plus a nice crisp summer salad, hummus, and tahini.

I shall be in Marin in three hours. Between where I live in San Francisco and where I'm going there is not a single place which serves any of this, not at any time and certainly not for breakfast.

The typical American breakfast, like what is served in Britain, consists largely of fried miscellaneous objects often swimming in grease, with heavy bland starch components, and sugar. It is altogether inedible, and the only bright spot is that there's a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table along with the unavoidable ketchup.
Evenso, acid indigestion is predictable, inevitable.
It's a profoundly Protestant start to the day.
It induces existential discomfort.
And severe regret.


Instead, please imagine zebra curry over rice. Tangy with tamarind, a little ginger, some red red chilies, ground coriander, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, dhania ka patta, cardamom......
Fluffy rice; long grain with a little fried onion.
A side dish of herring or mackerel.
Plus a bowl of salsa.
And a salad.

Doesn't that sound ever so much better?


What is it with Anglos and their appallingly vile and unhealthy gaggy acid-reflux daemon breakfast habits?


It's a 'thing', right?




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Saturday, September 27, 2014

A BED IS A PLACE TO LIVE

Having been a bachelor for over four years, my bed has become a better expression of my personality than you can possibly imagine. I am not Hugh Heffner, so there is no red velvet on my place of repose, nor a reflective mirror above.
It is a quiet restful place, not a cesspool.

[Hugh Heffner: the less said about that reptilian old cock the better.]

Instead, there's a library and a zoo. Cookbooks, dictionaries, history and language textbooks. A couple of cartoon collections, some Dutch authors, and reference material on incoterms.

A rooster, a kitten, the one legged monkey, a sheep, and a froad.
Two Totoros -- one grinning, one quizzical -- and a rat.
Emotionally vulnerable teddy bears, plus penguins.

Let's not forget the skimming ladle.

[Skimming Ladle: a large flat spoon-like implement with numerous perforations, twixt spaghetti scoop and sieve, that the froad uses to chastise the one-legged monkey, whom he believes to be an evil beast deserving of violent punishment. The froad is dysfunctional.
It's a complicated issue; don't ask.]



Plus, naturally, some newspapers, and a few tins of pipe tobacco.
I assume that most men have these on their beds, or under.
It is the normal thing to do, quite orthodox.

A bachelor's bed, properly, is where one reads and consumes the occasional plate of buttered toast with preserves, while safe from the howling gale and drunken party-jugend outside.
Pensive nibbling, wandering thoughts.
Tea, cookies, and books.


NUMBER SEVENTY NINE

There is also a large container of Sutliff's Mixture No. 79, which is the famous pipe tobacco that Frank Sinatra enjoyed. I had for years run into references to the product, most of them damning, several mentioning the bizarre flavouring added to mediocre leaf, but I was too stingy and penny-pinching to spring for a pouch.
Knowing, instinctively, that I would never finish it.

Courtesy of the relatives of a not-so-recent decedent, I now own roughly a pound of it. No, I don't know how recently he deceded, but judging by several factors he stopped smoking at least four or five years ago. Which is at least how old this is.
The tobacco still feels fresh and moist after all this time in an opened container, and even micro-waving it in several eight second bursts to dry it out does not dry it out. It is permanently spongy, a space-age tobacco. Spreading it out and leaving it for several days has very little effect.
There is an oiliness to the touch; probably added chemicals.

[Sutliff: the company started in San Francisco in 1849, invented Mixture 79 in 1933. In the early fifties they sold their retail establishment to Ed Grant and moved to Richmond, Virginia, to concentrate solely on manufacturing. During the sixties and seventies they bought several other small companies, having themselves been acquired by Consolidated Cigar Corporation in 1969. They bought Century Tobacco in 1993. Further consolidation and mergers ensued, the company becoming part of Altadis in the nineties, bought by Imperial Tobacco of England in 2008, and the pipe-tobacco branch finally ending up in the hands of MacBarens on May 1st., 2013.]


Yes, I've smoked a few bowls. Who wouldn't want to experience Frankie's depravity? Everyone knows about the Las Vegas scene in the sixties, and we've all heard those songs. Hugh Heffner also smoked Mixture 79, which is remarkable because one would have imagined him preferring a decadent or even totally depraved English blend. Possibly something with Turkish, Latakia, blonde Virginias, and a top-dressing added that consisted of rose essence, lilac, and gardenia. But no.
The paradigm of sleaze smoked strictly drugstore.
Perhaps that is fitting. Appropriate, even.

Mixture 79 is a solid Burley blend compounded of unremarkable leaf that might not be unlikable straight but certainly does not perform brilliantly in concert. The flavouring is reminiscent of anise, licorice, and vanilla, plus urinal cake and old lady talcum powder. This is an American approach to the well-known and elsewhere described "Lakeland florals", and in all it is more subtle than you would initially presume. Half the bowl is enjoyable, but like any Burley blend it can bite like a viper and leave your bottom soggy.

[Frank Sinatra: my mother loathed the man, and for many years I didn't quite understand why, without much considering the matter. But as I learned more about him I realized that he was in many ways a repulsive lizard, coming off as arrogant, neurotic, chicken, and vain. But in his favour, he was also forthright, witty, and a stout defender of equal rights. Like many performers of that time he defined the age, and it is hard to imagine the forties, fifties, and sixties, without thinking of his musical presence.
This is Frankie's world; we just live in it.]


For years, Mixture 79 was more popular than Prince Albert and Middleton's Walnut combined, and tobacconists compounded upscale equivalents for more snooty smokers. Hard to believe, but true.
I can only lament the vulgar indiscriminance of the past.
The smokers who went before made mistakes.
Repeatedly, habitually, painfully.

You know, I like Burley, but it's an intellectual concept.
I don't really want to smoke it, most of the time.
It is not a product that belongs in a pipe.
But I have a large quantity of it.
In a container on my bed.


There's also a suggestion of mint, perhaps mentholatum. I think it might be perfect for sachets to put in my sock drawer. Much like the bars of soap my mother used to use for that purpose.

Except that I do not have a sock drawer. Being, as I mentioned, a bachelor, my sock habits are extremely casual. There is scant neatness or order, and no neurotic logic, to my socks regimen. My ex girlfriend long derided how I organized my socks life, but mostly realized that it was not really important in the grand scheme of things.

How a man deals with his socks is significant only if the damned things smell bad.

For total podiatric-comfort, think in terms of foot powder.
It keeps your toes dry, and prevents fungus.
Use lots of it for abundant health.

[Foot Powder: not all brands are equal. Some contain nothing to inhibit infections, nor any substance that actually maintains dryness, just talcum, chalk, and starch. Always read the fine print that tells you what's in it, and avoid the types that include menthol as one of the "active ingredients".
Your choice of foot powder says a lot.]


I'll definitely keep the jar of Mixture 79. I like opening it up and sniffing regularly. Sometimes, when they don't think that anyone's watching, the stuffed animals do the same, and mutter appreciatively that it smells nicely of old dame.

Perhaps I'll smoke another bowl of it in the coming week.

Or crumble some of into my freshly washed socks.

The stuffed animals would approve.

They despair of my habits.

Because I am human.

Not a lizard.



PS: I'm not sure, but I think that Mixture 79 is crocodile repellent.
That's comforting, and extremely commendable.
I'm opposed to crocodiles.




TOBACCO INDEX


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Friday, September 26, 2014

IT'S NOT ABOUT SELF-EXPRESSION!

Cossack moustache and women in high heels talking dirty. Remarkable search criteria, and it baffles me that precisely those brought at least two new readers here yesterday. In case you didn't realize it, I do not have a Cossack moustache, and am not a dirty woman talking in high heels.
I have no Cossack moustache, not even a Cossack haircut.
Which, I hear, looks like precisely like a herring.
I am a very clean man several ways.

Standard haircut, normal clothes, regular baths.
Teeth brushed, mouth rinsed, no tattoos.
With a delightful aroma of pipe.
That last takes the cake.
It is SO evocative!
Trust me.


I have never understood the people with tattoos, piercings, unique and dubious clothing choices, and doubtful shower habits, who pull up their noses and wrinkle their little faces at the smell of tobacco. Or, for that matter, the consumerite office bitch-queens with too much make-up, an excess of perfume, and deeply visible cleavage, who do likewise.

What, your over-the-top bad taste, brazen tackiness, clearly evident moral reprehensibility, and look-at-me personal style -- that thoughtless and shallow abundance of spoiled self-centeredness, attitude, ego, and bourgeois rebellion -- is perfectly okay, but my being a middle-aged man with a pipe offends you?

Maybe you aren't repressed enough.


I find it hard to believe that most people with tattoos and piercings are actually worthwhile human beings, although there are some remarkable exceptions, one of whom is brilliant and will become a doctor. I just find skin-invasive skin dermal decoration disturbing, and wonder at the sense and sensibility of the willing victims. Yes, I know that numerous highly respected people have tattoos or piercings; Donald Rumsfeld looks like a biker without his clothes, but I do NOT want to see him naked.
I appreciate him wearing suits.

And, being a completely rigid square, I damned well refuse to be in the company of folks who reek of patchouli oil, Hello Kitty perfume, or a bucket-load of fancy bottle pong. Real people smell real.
Patchouli is not real; it's hippy dipwad concentrate.
Hello Kitty perfume is fit only for cartoon cats.
Fancy bottle pong is the bane of elevators.


General rules for being an acceptable social animal: Dress decently, wash often, open doors for others, yield your seat, be kind, don't make a scene, and have a few civilized bad habits -- pot isn't one of those.
Above all, don't be a spectacle, and don't embarrass others.
No cracks, cleavage, or dirty fingernails.
Modulate your voice.


Growing a big bushy Cossack moustache on your face is probably dashing, socially risk-free, and may even be normal in some places.
Unless you customarily wear high heels and talk dirty.
In that case, people might look askance.
Not just me.


Repress your bestial self.




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Thursday, September 25, 2014

NO POCKETS TO SPEAK OF

Last Sunday the annual Folsom Street Fair was held. I know a number of people who went, though not to show off their lovely nakedness, indecorous piercings, or adorable horse-head and nipple-clamp ensembles.
Not all pink is rosy, some of it is tissue damage.

They went to enjoy the ambiance, I've been told.

Which, when you think about it, makes a drag-bondage nudity and whipping festival in San Francisco the vacation equivalent of Disney World.
With shorter or no waits for even the most popular rides!

"You know honey, let's forego Florida this year and instead visit San Francisco; it will be fun for the entire family!"

Given a choice between 'Walt's Wild Water Wonder World', and 'Wet Wanda Whips And Whips And Whips And Whips Her Dogs William, Bob, and Bruce', I know which one I would choose. And there's no wait!

You always wanted to know about whelts, now you can!

Just so you know, this display is interactive.

Good for college credit.


DRESSED FOR SUCCESS

One year I went. I was there in an educational role, handing out flyers and informative brochures to people who had no pockets.

Three highlights of the event stand out, and made it all worthwhile.

One: The Human Urinal was shut down by fair organizers and the health department before it even had a chance to 'swing into action'.
He was set up for business next to us.

Two: Mexican hamburger stand workers with glazed eyes, undoubtedly wondering why they ever came to this country.
I gave each of them some literature.

Three: "Mom, there's a man there dressed like a native American", uttered by a shy bookish fourteen year old girl.
Said in a tone of innocent wonder.


Let me repeat that last one.


"Mom, there's a man there dressed like a native American"


So we all looked. Indeed, he was dressed like a native American.

An obscenely naked native American.

Feathers at one end, moccasins at the other.

And nary a stitch to cover the lubricant in between.


I had a great time, and that burger was pretty darned good, despite the terror in the Mexican cook's face. I dumped a ton of Sriracha hotsauce all over it, and enjoyed a fabulous lunch.
It was delicious; just the right touch of smoke and char, with a juiciness that was to die for. I should've taken a businesscard -- I was one of the few people at the fair with pockets -- but I was in a hurry to get back to the booth, where my colleague was wiping his mind clean with whiskey.
We had flyers, pamphlets, brochures, and other educational stuff.
I didn't want him going rigid and into mental lockdown.
It would have been counterproductive.

"Mom, there's a man there dressed like a native American"

Just hold that thought for a moment. Feathers, footwear, and body oil.
Clean shaven all over, and very lightly tanned.

Plus a piercing on a very private part.

Très individualistique!



Far be it from me to criticize someone else's clothing choices.

Especially when there's so little of it.




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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FRIGHTENED BY CHINESE FOOD

For the past several weeks, every time I've had a snack in Chinatown there have been white people in the vicinity who are curious but afraid. No, it hasn't lessened the experience. But it has sharpened my ability to listen in on Germans, French people, Italians, and the Fly-Overians speaking in their own goofy tongues about food.

Many of these people have evidently never been exposed to edible substances, and the concept is strange, new, and foreign to them.


Honestly; how hard is it to do some research before coming?

I'm sure that the internet exists where you live.


A google search for images of "Cantonese Food" brings up hundreds of delicious mouthwatering pictures. Yes, not ALL of that is actually 'Cantonese food' -- some of it is Shanghainese, some Szechuanese, or Mongolian hot pot -- but most of it is, and much of that can be found by adding the phrase "in San Francisco" to your search-criterium.

It is all edible. None of it will haunt your dreams. Chinese people are not into dining nightmares, unlike the English and the Lutherans. There are NO prepared foods in Chinatown that contain Lutefisk, you can nosh with ease. So why won't you?

Don't worry about the cost and the unfamiliarity of the offerings, as the price is low and your children must learn about new and different things anyhow. If all they want is MacDonalds, you really should have gone to London; there's thousands of Golden Arches there. Express confidence, ask only ONE question ("is it sweet?"), and take a risk. There's always something else there if you didn't like what you got, and it won't break the bank.

At least I hope not; you're on vacation, you budgeted for that. Even if you're operating on a shoe-string, what are you doing? Are you eating at soup kitchens?

Just experiment, for crap sakes! Real food!

It's cheaper than Kansas or France.

Better too.


FOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO

Some of the best Cantonese food can actually be found a few blocks from my home, at the intersection of Hyde and Jackson, where there are two simple homestyle restaurants run by decent people. No, nothing fancy, just pretty good food in a clean comfortable environment for an affordable price: Sun Kwong (新光) and U-Lee (有利飯店). Just hop off the cablecar that exists for your convenience, and walk on in.

Both places are neighborhood standards.


I seldom visit either restaurant, because I'm no longer much of a dinner person, but if I ever start dating again that will change. I'll measure the other person's character by her appreciation of food.
Dining compatibility is very important.


Particular favourites are streaky pork, steamed fish, crustaceans, and bitter vegetables. Along with steamed chicken, dumplings, and dishes which do not have glowing red factory sauce.
The well-developed palate does not need expensive ingredients, but prefers straightforward food classically prepared.

What that means is that I'm living in the wrong town for fancy dining.
But it's nearly perfect for Chinese food, and other Asian cuisines.
As long as they speak Cantonese, I can get what I want.


[Haggis (哈吉斯 'haa gat si', or 哈革斯 'haa gap si') is described in Chinese as 肉餡羊肚 ('yiuk haahm yeung tou'), or more logically 羊肚雜碎布丁 ('yeung tou jaap-seui bou-ding'), which is "sheep stomach mixed offal pudding". Absolutely ghastly. In which we recognize the word 'chopsuey' (雜碎 'jaap seui'), which properly refers to miscellaneous garbage, rubbishy leftovers, or entrails served in lieu of food, such as is unfortunately quite common in Scotland, the Outer Hebrides, and other parts of the British Empire. Please imagine the keen sense of sarcasm of early Cantonese restaurateurs in California, who figured out that what the gold miners really wanted was everything cheap jumbled together rather that actual food prepared with ANY sense of culinary order.
Haggis is unavailable in Chinatown, boruch Hashem.
Haggis is not what I want. Neither is chopsuey.
These are 風味獨特 'fung-mei duk-dak'. 

A "special taste".]


I can imagine at some point walking into one of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown (on Clay Street) with another person, sitting at the counter, and sharing Oyster With Roast Pork In Clay Pot, Sea Cucumber With Black Mushrooms, and a steamed fish big enough for two.
Sure, it's bright, noisy and not at all intimate, hardly what you might consider a romantic little bistro, but the dishes are excellent, the waitstaff efficient, and the kitchen has both talent and ability.
The ambiance is strictly Cantonese.
There are no tablecloths.


Somewhat more suitable for dates, however, are three other restaurants that I also like.


華記小館
A-1 RESTAURANT
779 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-398-7918

Not the fanciest place in the world, but if you order sensibly (in other words, don't request typical suburban Chinese restaurant food), you will thoroughly enjoy your meal. Their claypot dishes are very good, and you can totally pig-out on their fried chickenwings. Clean, quiet, and comfortable, with quick and friendly service.


再興黄毛雞粉 
JOY HING B.B.Q. NOODLE HOUSE 
710 Kearney Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-981-0531

Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (phở gà 雞粉 'gai fan') with ginger and scallion dip, several other tasty dishes of a quick nature, ice coffee with condensed milk, and the type of food that Cantonese folks like.
A clean bright place with quick service and kindly people.
Sliced pork congee, seafood pan fried noodles, plus grilled pork over cold rice stick and chopped greens dressed with tamarind and fish sauce.
Also imperial rolls, Hainan chicken, ning mung cha.


上海飯店
BUND SHANGHAI RESTAURANT
640 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-982-0618

I frequently have the steamed chive dumplings, however I am always alone when I eat here, and good dumplings are exactly what I crave at that time. But much of what they do is extremely good, especially such things as lions head meatballs, fried nian gao, vegetarian roast goose, fish fillet in vinegar sauce, red cooked pork with bean curd skin knots, imperial concubine chicken wings (can't remember what they call them in English here), sliced pork with bamboo shoots, and braised carp tail.
The atmosphere is calm and civilized, the service courteous and considerate.



My favourite lunch and tea-time snack places are NOT suitable for dates, there is nothing romantic about them, and they would likely frighten very fastidious people like Midwesterners and Europeans.
Locals go there for good cheap eaties, very standard dimsum items, and things like little egg tarts (蛋撻) or red bean pastries (豆沙餠).
Almost all of them have standard Chinatown coffee.

If you like that kind of place, you are special.
I wouldn't take you there otherwise.


And if you'd like a flaky charsiu turnover and a cup of hot milk tea, you are priceless.

But you should already know that.



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AGONY, ECSTASY, AGONY

I am a very bad man. The other evening at our local cigar bar I kept a gentleman visiting from the East Coast enthralled and engaged for nearly five hours, till at last he stumbled out with six expensive whiskies in his system, barely even capable of functioning.
His wife only had one glass of wine.
And lots of ice water.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself (two drinks).
And he also enjoyed himself (six).
She didn't (only one).

When I've recently had a sufficiency of caffeine, I can be charming, and a fascinating conversationalist. This is something it took me years to realize. And I can be quite evil; I knew that all my life.


Whenever it looked like she was fed up and planning to take him away, I made sure to involve her in the discussion, and winkle out her well-considered opinions about matters. A few references to typical girlie things -- television shows, politics, and hot tubs -- plus some witty yet insightful remarks, and she became fully vested again. Then I would subtly change the subject, and observe while she lost interest, turned away, grew bored, and eventually so grumpy that she wanted to drag her husband out by the scruff of his tipsy neck.

Whereupon I would repeat the involving process.

I go there to smoke a pipe. Other men go there to huff expensive cigars. Most women come along with their husbands or boyfriends out of a completely idiotic belief that it is a properly companionable thing to accompany their man to a place he likes.

Which is wrong.



I honestly like women.

But it's a smoking environment, and to me whiskey and tobacco must invariably mean conversation. Otherwise you might as well just hunker down on the stoop and spit at the seagulls in your own neighborhood.

Good wifey behaviour is stupid and irritating.
Especially if you do not smoke.
And have little to say.


Considering how generously the bar-keep poured that man his drinks, it is quite likely that he woke up with a screaming headache, and a still bitter blonde boiling over with resentment. I paced myself, and also drank plenty of coffee, I did not have a hangover at all.
Or any feelings of guilt or remorse.
It was absolutely lovely.

His wife is probably still furious at him right now. Without feeling any ill-will towards me, because as I mentioned before, I can be charming, as well as a fascinating conversationalist.
If only her stupid husband had not gibbered in his cups!
There would have been so much more to talk about.
It could have been a wonderful evening.
Instead of a drunken mess.
Five hours plus.
Fun.


I am a very bad man.




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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

OH NO! I HOPE THAT'S CHEESE!

While drinking breakfast, I clicked on a helpful video. It was an eye-opener. Most of the young people in the video were just so charming, up-beat, and game for almost anything the makers threw at them.
I have a renewed appreciation for their age-bracket now.
Might even consider associating with them.
Under the right circumstances.

[*Drinking breakfast: Strong coffee, two cups. Can't stand food for the first three or four hours of the day, and certainly not a typical greasy pan-fried assortment of blah.]

Notice that there's a bottle of bourbon.

And stuff to eat.


AMERICANS TASTE EXOTIC ASIAN FOOD


[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lK475dxZds.]


All told, that's just five things.

Chicken Feet
Natto
Durian
Balut
Sannakji


The first one is easy; just simmer them with soy, garlic, rice wine, and ginger, plus a little sugar, till dark, rubbery, and packed with flavour.
Nom nom nom.

The third item is educational. Fruit with a killer attitude. You haven't lived till you've tried it. But there is actually no need whatsoever to go there, and you can enjoy the rest of your life to the fullest without ever doing so. You might be better off if you didn't. Even with chopsticks.
I haven't had it in over a decade, despite it being easy to find in San Francisco, nor do I miss it in the slightest.
Some life is over-rated.

Natto, Balut, and Sannakji: oh hell no.
Absolutely not, incredibly nasty.
There are limits, dude.

I come from a culture that consumes eel, raw fish, blood sausage, organ sludge, horse meat, and deep fried hockey pucks, among other rare things. So I  understand the appeal of absurdity on a plate, and unusual comestibles do not inspire me with existential angst.

In the slightest.

I've even eaten haggis.

But Natto, Balut, and Sannakji are icky.


REALLY OPINIONATED, A LITTLE DUMB


[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMJI1Dw83Hc.]



I'd rather eat partially decomposed congealed glandular exudate from ruminants, infected with brevibacteria.

It's kind of a whitish thing.

Cultural.



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Monday, September 22, 2014

THEY GET GARLIC BREAD AS COMPENSATION!

Thanks to Shimmi P., this blogger now knows what lechem shum means. And in fact I have a new-found appreciation for the substance. Especially as it so far does not yet come bi ta'am petel or bi ta'am shoko (in artificial raspberry or chocolate flavour). Distant third: bi ta'am vanil.
Lechem shum is what the pizzeria sends along with your order to thank you for your continued patronage. They appreciate your business, and consider you a valued customer.

I have never ordered delivery pizza.
Now I wish I had.


SHIMON PERES GOES JOB HUNTING


[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__7b9O8k1tw.]


Only part of it is the garlic bread. Whenever we had spaghetti, my dad made garlic bread, and both my brother and I loved it at the time, probably because it was an uncommon treat in the Netherlands in that age.

Since then, garlic bread has become ubiquitous, and I suspect that much of Europe is drowning under a growing mountain of garlic bread precisely like the United States is. At least the western half of this country, which is filled with hard-working Mexican and Canadian immigrants whose only culinary skill is making garlic bread. Piles and piles of it, hot and greasy.
A veritable feast of garlic bread, all for you, Yankee.
We know you like it, we want to be loved.
Have some more, you look thin.
And green, too.
Eat!

It's been a while since I had garlic bread, as I don't mix with the masses, who even now are in a feeding frenzy down on Polk Street, hitting each other with hot chewy loaves, and splashing olive oil on each other.
When whales feed, the smaller animals get trampled.
There are flattened dead pigeons everywhere.
Too much garlicky goodness.


Dot dot dot...


Sorry, I got distracted by lechem shum. Blame it on Israel. Or at least on Shimon Peres, who probably makes totally stellar garlic bread.

Bi ta'am shum, u bi ta'am charif.




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THE NASTY LEOTARD CROWD

Probably should not have had two strong cups of coffee before going to bed last night. It affected my sleep. And, like overmuch lobster, not in a wholesome and beneficious way.

It probably did not help that I had spent all day yesterday surrounded by cigar aficionados. One of whom was overjoyed when another box of Wynwood white bands was found; they're his favourite stogey. Slightly spicy, a profound spectrum of flavour, but mild enough that they don't knock you down and drag you around kicking and screaming.
They're a fun smoke. Just about perfect.
That's his opinion.

I myself am an abstemious man, and rarely over-indulge in anything. It has been years since any bad habit manhandled me. Pipe smoking, in case you were wondering, is not a bad habit at all.
It is the complete opposite of a vice.


No, the caffeine did not keep me up.

Instead, I dreamed vividly of young ladies with bangs, glasses, red red lipstick, and kissy cheeks. As well as squirrels, tug boat captains, and rabbit-men in leotards.

These are not reflections of intrinsic urges or sub-conscious yearnings, but rather the mind desperately reinterpreting the unformed synapse firings and random mind-patterns of sleep.

With more urgency and anarchy because of the coffee.


Young ladies with bangs, glasses, lipstick, and soft cheeks can be utterly charming. On the whole, they are a damned fine thing to dream about. Squirrels are cute, and fluffy. Also good.

Tug boat captains, not so much.


To the best of my knowledge it has been over a decade since I met any tug boat captains. I have no idea why in my dreams I dredged them up.


Rabbit-men in leotards are a horror.

I do not wish to dream of rabbit-men in leotards. Or any men in leotards.
It is far better to have young ladies with bangs, glasses, and lovely faces, OR cute fluffy squirrels, populating one's dreams. This is not meant to cast aspersions on the good name of rabbit-men in leotards, it is just a well-considered judgement, as well as a statement of cold hard fact.


I hope the girls aren't connected to the tug boat captains.


It would be very unfortunate if they were.


Leotards do not look good.


Especially on men.


Or rabbits.



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Sunday, September 21, 2014

AND JUST A DISCREET SMEAR OF CRIMSON LIPSTICK

If you've ever wondered why I go to Marin County regularly, please wonder no more. It's to get in touch with my people: white folks. You see, most white people in San Francisco are somewhat insane, and either stressed out or partying all the time. In Marin county they lead nice quiet lives, interrupted only for a lungful of healthy marijuana. It's medicinal!

Crazy people often ask for candy.

Whereas, of course, the majority population of this city (being Chinese Americans) seldom party, and never ask for candy. This is what my apartment mate reliably informs me. She's of Chinese ancestry, and in a position to know. She also wonders "if I wear a trenchcoat, will I look like Kermit the Frog?"

There are strange sounds coming from the other side of the table in the teevee room, where she's on her laptop internet shopping. We have separate computers; I'm using this one.

If I were to spend more time in Marin, I'd probably hear nothing but normal boring stuff. That would be too much of a good thing. I thrive on a judicious mixture of San Francisco surreality and that typical Marin County medical dispensary weed and other self-indulgent habits induced blandness.
Those are not for me; Marinites require such sustenance.
It would be tedious if one or the other dominated.
Life should be smorgasbord of stimuli.
Some blandness, some spice.


"Goddammit, I cannot look like a white girl!"


Okay, I think she's just found clothing in pastel colours. Chinese women should probably not wear bland pale garb for blondes, as it makes them look kind of washed out. They require bolder hues. Red sweaters, green scarves, blue raincoats. Or maybe the other way around.
Anyhow, must be an internet shopping site for dull-as-dishwater suburban housewives of the wheatish persuasion. You know, the people who drive minivans filled with monkeys to soccer games. They're in the back seats screaming about Barbie and Dora the Explora, plus Hello Kitty pursies and girl-scout cookies -- or whatever it is that America's eight-year old females find noise-worthy -- and their frayed moms are strung-out on valium, and wearing boring femmy shmatte.


"Man, that's freakin' ugly!"


Finding clothes in petite, of a suitable vividness for a Chinese American female with good taste, is a constant struggle. No, Chinatown is not a shopping option; many women there have Hong Kong style ideas, or alternatively a 'Rice-Paddies of Toishan sensibility'. Either choice yields rather garish patterns, unpleasant colour schemes, and clothing advice that encourages startling mix-and-match combinations.
If you're going to wear raspberry and black zebra-stripe leggings, you MUST have a puce top, and a zesty little plaid hat! Or: flower patterned sweatpants paired with solid yellow hoodies. As well as a Louis Vuitton bag.
Your choice of either klunky sneakers or four inch heels.

I think it's so that they can scare tourists.

I'm rather white; it also scares me.


Still, I prefer the self-assured tackiness of Chinatown to the pablum-ish blandness of Marin. Some people over there are very white indeed, and dream entirely in tofu and wheatgrass.

Too much Marin makes me itch.




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POSTING WITH THE TERM 'NAKED' IN THE TITLE

On several occassions I have placed essays on this blog which had, as an important thematic element, nudity or a state of undress. Please understand that there were no pictures, the appearance of the male or female whose nakedness was a matter of discussion had to be imagined.
In the case of the middle aged naked man I described, the key elements other than nudity were small cigars, a newspaper, detective novels, and a cup of hot tea.
As regards the entirely hypothetical unclothed college girl who was fresh and dewy after a bath, chocolate cake and Bengali food were important.
What either of them looked like was NOT mentioned. The bare skin was merely a detail, the surrounding narrative was the thing.

[In the case of naked schoolgirls eighteen through thirty-eight, Bengali snackies are ALWAYS a more important theme. This blogger rejoices in the prospect of college students discovering sondesh, rajbog, rasmalai, and all types of barfi.

Here it is, years later, and stray internet fetishists still flock to this blog hoping to meet a 'naked middle aged man' or a 'naked schoolgirl'.

If you thought I was a pervert, you should consider what kind of person enters either of those two subjects in his searchbar.

The naked middle-aged man is real. The naked schoolgirl of college age isn't, and neither is the chocolate cake.



If, by any strange coincidence, you are a naked university student of a girlish persuasion, please contact the naked middle aged man at once.
He needs to speak to you about rich pâttiserie.
Une belle Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte.
Avec un excès de chocolat.

Other foods you can and should eat in the buff are lobster, crab, barbecued ribs, bonbons, bananas, and ice cream.

Fifteen searches for "naked middle aged man" this week.
Probably none of them were schoolgirls.


Naked people! Unite!



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BEGIN WITH FISH; END WITH PORKY BITS

From somewhere near the sushi restaurant, the sound of a car horn advertised either an intruder or a jangly set of vehicular nerves.
None of the young twenty-something beautiful people at dinner deigned to notice; it would have meant admitting that their gustatory delight might not be more pressing than the peace of the neighborhood, and, quite frankly, they did not care.
Let the locals suffer a bit; this fish was to die for!

Squeeeee!!!!!!

Soon a cinder block put an end to the car's misery.
The sushi-eating masses heard the thump, and most of them assumed that an accident had taken place at the next intersection, if the sound registered at all. Several were too busy talking with their mouths full to even consider what might have happened, and, in any case, it did not concern them.

It had been a brand-new car. The dealer plates indicated as much.
One of the people in the restaurant would have a bad weekend.
His expensive blonde date would have to uber home.
She'd send him a bill later.


Mr. Badger had not been noticed by humans when he cinder-blocked the vehicle, none of the nearby residents had bothered to look outside. They were happy that the noise had come to an end, and did not really care why or how. If they had known that the person who had parked did not even live on this street, they would've sincerely applauded the casual destruction; they usually had difficulty finding a spot within less than three or four blocks of their apartments.

The small stocky figure moved briskly up the street, toward the top of the hill. In the haze, he appeared to be merely a short individual with a fuzzy outline, few people would look close enough to realize that he was an urban wild animal. The pipe lent a human-like quality in any case, as did the snazzy hat.
When the fog rolls in, visibility fades; very few individuals will wonder at the moving shadows beyond the streetlights.


From his perch on the roof, Mr. Crow had seen the incident with the car and the cinderblock. He envied his friend's dexterity and leverage. Much as he would have wished to drop cement on a loud car, all he could manage was a jar of Bonne Maman damson preserves.

It was, in fact, his jar of Bonne Maman damson preserves that had set off the alarm. He should have let it fall on the pavement instead, but he had merely wanted to bust it open, not smash it utterly.
The aforementioned deficit in dexterity and leverage had made it impossible to enjoy his purchase.
The next time, he'd ask the clerk to loosen the lid before he left the store.
Damned jar still wasn't open! He would never get his sweetness!
It had just bounced off the hood, then rolled down.

Disconsolately, he picked up the thirteen-ounce jar, and sped off up the street to find the badger. Who might be willing to twist the top, and perhaps even agree to prepare a few slices of buttered toast.


The wild woods ended at the top of the slope. He found Mr. Badger behind the row of buildings, comfortably hunkered out of the wind behind a low brick wall with grass growing out of the top and sides. The beast was busily twiddling with his pipe, running a cleaner through the shank and blowing into it to remove ashes and scraps of tobacco. When he saw the crow, his eyes lit up and his snout twitched. He grunted a friendly greeting.
They were old friends; both preferred the same patches of shrubbery and unkempt areas behind the apartments.

Mr. Crow mentioned his quandary, and Mr. Badger immediately agreed to provide the muscle. And, indeed, there would be toast! And melted butter! It would be a little feast, and he'd even make a pot of tea!

Of course, he'd have to wake up the household rats.....

Household rats?

Mr. Crow was baffled. What household rats?

"Well", Mr. Badger explained, "since they tore down the old church at Larkin and Clay, I've been living underneath the school between Washington and Jackson, just below Hyde."
This still didn't explain 'household rats'. What was up with that?

"There was a colony of brown rats already occupying some of the space, and as long as I scared off the neighborhood felines, they were happy to provide access and share their territory. They still worry too much, and consequently tend to sleep as close to my quarters as possible."

"Making toast is sure to rouse them."

Mr. Crow found this a little disturbing; he'd long been accustomed to think of rats as flightless pigeons, and he detested the pigeons. Although he was not averse to stealing a fresh egg or two. Or three.
So delicious, and it kept the population in check.

Mr. Badger assured him that aside from being hooked on cigarettes, and chainsmokers to boot, the rats were harmless, and perfectly well-behaved.
And they had never even bitten any of the school children.
Despite at times extreme provocation!
Kids could be so irritating!

Apparently the racket the little tykes made kept the rodents up all day. Mr. Badger wasn't bothered -- he could sleep through a bombardment if he had too -- but the necessary change in their habits had not been easy on the rats, and they kept sending indignant letters to the editor about it.
Good thing that their handwriting was far too tiny to read.
Otherwise it would've let the cat out of the bag.
About their occupancy of the premises.
Right underneath a school.

Anyhow, prolix missives on stationery the size of a fingernail simply look like smudged confetti to the unsharpened eye, and the once esteemed San Francisco Chronicle nowadays employed near-illiterate graduates of third-rate journalism programs, instead of the curious Harvard men of yore.
Newsprint media was a dying breed; who the heck would care what cheese-eaters scribbled in their ire, or how well they expressed it?
All their eloquence ended up in the garbage.
Unopened.


As it turned out, the rats were a thoughtful bunch, and pretty intellectual. They made full use of the school library after hours, and particularly liked the reference section. Even in daylight they could often be found on those shelves, quite undisturbed, because all of the students simply looked for answers on the internet.
The Encyclopedia Britannica is a boon to small creatures.
Why, there's just so much wonderful stuff inside!
High concepts, fascinating articles!

Because the rats kept discussing Satre, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, in those irritating rapid-fire squeaky voices, Mr. Badger and Mr. Crow left them near the hearth with a plate, and went out to enjoy their tea and toast at the far end of the playground, where the wall holds back the slope.  From the streets on either side of the school property there came occasional noises -- cars parking or residents returning home late -- but no one noticed them in the darkness, the neighborhood cats did not disturb them, and there were no pigeons roosting overhead.

As they chatted, two old ladies with walkers went up one of the streets. One of them thought she recognized Mr. Badger, and nodded at him. It was a case of mistaken identity, because he wasn't who she believed he was, but she had met him years ago when she was still a little girl, and he remembered her.
He had returned her little red ball to her when it rolled through the basement window of the church. She had visited him often after that, until she went to grammar school and eventually forgot.
She had been a really sweet child, with a wondrous imagination.
Eighty years later her dreams were still full of badgers.


Mr. Crow also recognized her; she had growled at pigeons once, when she thought no one was watching. He had thought that very amusing, and liked her for it.
He promised Mr. Badger he'd keep an eye out for the old lady.
One should always keep the local old folks in mind.
They are what defines the neighborhood.

When they went back to wash the cups and saucers, some of the rats were arguing heatedly about existentialism, while others were cheerfully singing the Philosophers Song and quoting Monty Python.
Insane and irrepressible creatures, those rodents.
And actually rather likable.


Later, as he bid Mr. Badger a good night and thanked him for his hospitality, a posse of rats asked him if he wanted to join them on a raid of the local liquor store. They had run out of cigarettes entirely, and craved several packs of Camel Filter Kings. Was he interested?

No, he wasn't. He only smoked once in a while.
And then only cigars. A thoughtful habit.
But thanks for the invite!


On Hyde street, garbage trucks trundling past, softly in the middle of the night. A little further on he smelled bacon-wrapped hotdogs being grilled by a Mexican at the corner just outside the Wreck Room. He landed and joined the small line, ordering 'uno, por favor, con todo'. One, with everything. He had no intention of actually eating the bun, but he really loved the combination of 'byproduct' sausage and crispy pork strips, especially with those dangerous chiles en escabeche.

None of the bar patrons noshing on their own dogs bothered him. They knew better than to start something when the other fellow had a beak.
Late night boozehounds in San Francisco are a savvy lot.
Besides, they admired the Goth thing he had going on.


When he flapped back home later, he wasn't aware of the yellow smear of mustard on his forehead. It made him look dissipated.
Like he had had a jolly good time.
Which was true.



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