At the back of the hill

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Spent all day immersed in Larsens. Enjoyable. Yeah, my doctors would disapprove, because Larsens are tools for smoking. From Pipedia, W.Ø. Larsen "was one of the most famous tobacco shops in Copenhagen, with a beautiful store located on Copenhagen's famous "Walking Street." During the flowering of the Danish pipe in the '60's, they first began retailing pipes by such carvers as Sixten Ivarsson, Sven Knudsen, Poul Rasmussen, and Brakner." Teddy Knudsen, Tonni Nielsen, Jess Chonowitsch, Peter Hedegaard, et mult altres. Plus Former (Hans Johnny Nielsen).

I know. Surrounded by sin. Because tobacco is evil.
Unlike marijuana, which is green and pure.
Grown by deeply spiritual people.
Who hug dolphins.

Apparently a large number of famous Danish artisans were beset by crippling alcoholism. Which is not surprising, because they lived in one of the most depressing climate zones on the planet. Gloom, overcast, rain.
Fog, dampness, cold. More overcast. More rain. Constant drizzle.

Even a giddy stoned dervish would feel suicidal.
Northern Europe. It's a bloody bog.

Quite unlike the Netherlands.
A sun-drenched paradise.
Positively tropical.

I used to live in North-Brabant, near Eindhoven. I know of what I speak.
Dutch-made smoking pipes are stodgy and unimaginative.
Altogether very Protestant.

More beautiful things get made in awful climates than anywhere else.
It's the unrepressed drang for beauty of desperate people.
Cannibalism and art go hand in hand.

I like Northern Europeans.
They become charmingly human once they see sunlight.


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If you are paying attention, you know that the Chinese New Year is coming up. You may have heard happy tinkly songs featuring the phrase "gong shee, gong shee, gong shee nee", and seen stands along Stockton Street with red envelops, dried fruits and candies, colourful new clothes.
Plus candies, plum branches with blossoms, flowers.

Very well then.

New Year's Eve is on February 4th this year, New Year's Day February 5th.
And you probably wish to prepare for it.

So here are some helpful essays:

A long informational essay with everything you need to know.
Written Jan 30, 2011

The one dish which, to the Cantonese especially, embodies the New Year's Eve family feast. And many other celebrations.
Written Feb 1, 2011

If you really want to please everybody at the feast, serve sea cucumber. It's a marvelous textural ingredient, and soaks up flavourings nicely.
Written Oct 1, 2011

Be sure to clean your house before New Year's Eve, and don't sweep for several days afterwards (to avoid sweeping out the good luck), hand out or receive lots of leisi (Ong Pao), and hang good wishes written on red paper in the appropriate spots. Oh, and set off explosives! Nothing says New Year like a jolly good racket, with red firecracker scraps everywhere.
Have oranges on platters in the main room.
Wear clean new clothes.

Happy New year.

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The waitress had to repeat it several times. Not that the two old ladies were hard of hearing, just that what the young woman said did not compute. Mow tong yuen! What on earth is this world coming to? No sweet dumplings in thin syrup! Mow tong yuen.


Glutinous rice balls filled with sweet paste, in liquid.
It's a good cold weather snack.

She kept saying it, they continued not listening. At last they understood, and disconsolately got up and left. Much like the two old geezers, one of them in a wheelchair, who had asked for egg custard tarts (蛋撻 'daan taat') earlier.
The restaurant is a chachanteng, fairly standard model though improved, and those often do not cater to the sweet side.

I was enjoying a remarkably delicious chicken curry and rice.
Also a good cold weather snack. Totally yummy.
Post errand breakfast and lunch.
With milk tea.

I did not ask for anything sweet.
Sriracha yes. 甜品 no.

That location years ago was a bakery restaurant, and did have sweet things, though I do not know if they ever had tong yuen. There is a new place down the street, one block away, that does have tong yuen (I've seen people eating those there), but it's closed on Tuesday.


What was showing on their television was a demonstration by a bald white Mandarin-speaking dude of how to make Russian Style Meat Balls.
His shiny hairless head was suggestive.

俄式手工肉丸子 ('ngoh sik sau gong yiuk yuen ji'), which are probably also superlative in cold weather, but I cannot read Chinese subtitles that fast, so I do not know. They contain flavoured ground meat, and minced onion. There was a demonstration of how to mince an onion. Very helpful.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Yesterday the middle-aged delinquents in the lounge were discussing the 2020 candidacy of a local politician, with the usual inane insights and immaterial "facts" one expects from them. The problem with both sides is that each overlooks huge character flaws and moral failings on their own side, and pick on the tiniest issues on the side that, by instinct and gut feeling, they oppose.

In all honesty, I do that too. I find Donald's hairstyle repulsive, and despise his manners, morals, and lies, as well as his amoral whore-like opportunistic subservience to coal, evangelical slime, the Russians, and Saudi thugs.
But I seldom say a negative word about Feinstein's coif or Pelosi's teeth. Giuliani looks like a schoolyard thug and acts the same, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are savages who would sell their own mothers to the Turks, and I shan't criticize either Jerry Brown or Gavin in Newsom for their sometimes "holier than thou" utterances and occasional eccentric clothing choices (gentlemen, there are always cameras near you!).

See? Both sides are imperfect.

Though not the same.

Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke are already positioning themselves.
Donald Duck has been quacking about 2020 since he got elected.
The spineless Republicans are all with him. Of course.

It's going to be a very long two years.

But there is a better way. An English solution.

Catapults, cows, rabbits.

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One of the things I now have, prescribed just in case of emergency, is a packet of nitroglycerine patches, which the instructions say to slap onto "hairless" skin. If angina occurs, or a heart attack. I am a white man.
Probably the only totally hairless area is my forehead.

Um. Yeah. No?

Chinese New Year is coming up. Nitroglycerine equals boom.

There must be some way to subvert this.

Blasting caps?

You know, I could be the most impressive juvie down on Waverly, if there's a way to set these things off.

"I'm sorry, doctor, I had to blow up that trash can".
"It's New Year!"

There are, at present, so many things I'm NOT telling my apartment mate.
Nor am I telling my relatives, because I don't want the fuss.
Pills and nitroglycerine would make them worry.
And they would "lecture" at me.

She doesn't need to know about the Nitroglycerine in my backpack.
What's normally there is just pipes and tobacco.
It's a Hello Kitty backpack.

Somehow, I suspect that my apartment mate, if absolutely necessary, would be able to lay her hands on mercury fulminate. She's very capable.

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Monday, January 21, 2019


So a bunch of white boys wearing MAGA hats, who were demonstrating against women controlling their own bodies .....    Okay, whatever their excuses, they've already lost my sympathy. I cannot feel for these dudes. That they and their high school now face death threats plus insulting and hateful activity, nun, ehrlich ist es mir ganz scheißegal.

Oh by the way, they are from Kentucky.
That says a lot.

Kentucky is, by any measure, a shit hole.

Represented by Mitch McConnell.

Who is a shit head.

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There were two sporting events on the television at work yesterday. That means four teams, of whom I know nothing, and two victories presumably, that I could not answer any questions about. Football, I believe.

I'm fairly certain the Super Bowl is in two weeks.

Only because of scheduling details.

If I were forced to watch televised sports I would likely fall asleep. Or run out screaming. The only part of yesterday's broadcast I noticed was the commercial for something I misread as "Turbo Laxative".
Which I am sure was wrong.

Still. There really ought to be such a product.

It would make this American life so much more interesting for witnesses.

Sports fans would not have to miss a second of the game.

Or ever dial a friend for a play by play.

Use Turbo Laxative.

Be happy.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019


My cardiologist tells me that the stent will probably solve all my issues.
Now, personally, I thought that a sparkly young lady with nice kissy cheeks, expressive eyes, a wicked sense of humour, and no goofy food hang-ups or tattoos would work, but if a stent will do the trick, I'm game.

Intellectually, though, I still like my idea.

In this city, finding a woman who doesn't have food allergies either real or imagined, is okay with gluten, non-vegan, and doesn't say "eew that's icky" when faced with something outside of her culinary comfort zone (like eels, lamb, or freshly killed Bambi), and hasn't had meaningful inscriptions or butterflies put on parts of her body, is darn well impossible.

A coronary stent is much easier.

I am a practical man.

The stent, however, will not talk back at all. It cannot hold its own in a conversation. And it lacks a sense of humour. These are all important things, if only because a woman ("sparkly young lady") might, for instance, say "I'm sorry, I wasn't listening, this chapter holds my attention, dear".
And turn again to her book.

I am not as interesting as a book.
Which is something I regret.

On the other hand, the medical device will not utter a single word of protest when I light up a bowl of tobacco. Samuel Gawith's Saint James Flake, or Greg Pease's Stonehenge, or Rattray's Old Gowrie.

From which I deduce that stents and other medical devices may not have a sense of smell, or are fairly casual and accepting of odoriferous stimuli.
And I suppose that they can be comforting.

Within the fortnight I'll possibly find out.

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It has become glaringly obvious that many of my fellow humans are not able to use perspective and any common sense when they watch television or read things on the internet. Fox News understood this years ago, and happily gives their own demented spin on everything, one that accords with their radical agenda. Other news organizations likewise offer interpretation.
The best are still the mainstream sources, the worst are, like Fox and the Russian state broadcaster, determined to twist malleable minds.

Backstory, motivations, nuance, and crucial details.
All of this goes missing for many people.

Sadly, the only things that they seem capable of dealing with are the immediacy and cuteness of cat pictures.

Very well. Here is a cat.

This cat tortures puppies and tears down the rainforest.
He believes that humans are a waste of time.
There is no grass in that pipe.


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Saturday, January 19, 2019


California at times reminds one of elsewhere. Over a week ago, during a downpour, I remarked to a cigar-smoking gentleman that the horrid weather resembled Holland in mid-summer, especially the afternoon when a market merchant's eel boxes overflowed on the central square in Valkenswaard and we ended up trying to scoop the desperate creatures out of the gutters before they all escaped down the drains.
The Dutch love eels. No, not as pets.

The rain reminded me of that, but not the temperature.

The other day when the precipitation drummed on the corrugated iron of the awning under which I sheltered with a pipe, it recalled South East Asia.
Again, not the temperature.

On Thursday, when I took public transit to a doctor's appointment, we passed by several trees downed or damaged by Wednesday evening's storm. Because of the terrain in San Francisco, some of the most beautiful trees, decades old, have not been able to grow a deep and durable fundament, and remain lightly anchored. Almost nothing here has a buttress root system.

Ficus, kapok, and durio spp. do not thrive in this climate. We're not as frozen as New York, but in the wet season we're still rather beastly. Too cold for tropical timber. The trees that do thrive here seldom house ghosts.

Fig trees (pohon waringin), especially, are prone to supernatural occupancy.
The trailing aerial roots, once they hit the ground, become a dense barrier of columns or supplementary trunks. In Indonesia, the pontianak is said to hide within, though many specimens house spirits which are protective of the locality, and some hide the ghosts of saintly people associated with the locality's Islamic traditions or witch craft and daemon worship.

Light incense near them for good luck.
Especially if gambling.


Obviously, we need to plant those here, for our lottery tickets.
Which are San Francisco's most popular folk religion.
Ahead of veganism, crystal healing, and pot.
We'll burn sage. Instead of sandalwood.

Oh wait. No. Sage is purifying. We are all about heterodoxy here.
So we don't need that. The more muddled, the merrier.

Cold wet weather. Cabin fever, addlement.
A constant need for warm beverages.
The season of our discomfort.

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Friday, January 18, 2019


Lunch yesterday at the Washington Bakery and Restaurant was porkloin and egg on a bowl of rice, which is one of their new Thursday lunch specials: 豬腩蛋飯 ('chyu naam daan faan')。 They are updating the menu for a more contemporary fit.

It was very good, but I really wish they would bring back the baked Portuguese chicken rice (焗葡國雞飯 'guk pou gwok gai faan'), one of the old stodgy chachanteng dishes that, in its Hong Kong interpretation, was both completely inauthentic, and yet completely real. Portuguese chicken rice, Hong Kong borscht (羅宋湯 'lo sung tong'), French toast (西多士 'sai do si'), and spaghetti (意粉 'yi fan') as the starch option with a multitude of things, plus hot milk tea (奶茶 'naai cha'), almost define the perfect Hong Kong chachanteng.
That, and the club sandwich (公司三文治 'gong si saam man ji') with fries or potato salad, plus a selection of dishes finished in the broiler, often with cheese on top.

A chachanteng (茶餐廳) is a unique institution, which is in both decor and menu variable and often quirky, as it provides fast food, comfort food, old favourites, and eccentric interpretations of Western and Chinese dishes. Almost Blade Runner meets Clockwork Orange.
With shades of Tampopo.

Many Caucasians won't grasp the concept, and most mainlanders will not understand the nomenclature on the menu. Food snobs may hate it, and Anthony Bourdain would have totally dug it.

For some people it's a beloved change of pace, a break from cooking rice plus soup and sung (餸) in a cramped apartment, for others it's the working man's lunch spot, or a place for a quick bowl of noodles (sometimes with Spam and fried egg on top). Plus a high-octane caffeinated beverage.

Baked Portuguese Chicken Rice exemplifies all that, as well as what your doctor may hate about your dining habits. A base of egg-fried rice, with cooked chicken and potatoes in mild curry sauce ("Portuguese Sauce", 葡汁 'pou jap'), and a sprinkle of cheese, shoved under the broiler till bubbly and golden. The mild curry sauce is, nevertheless, fairly rich, as there is coconut milk in the blend. If the right balance of greasy-salty-flavourful is achieved, it is heaven on a plate. I have often thought that the only thing missing from the Hong Kong production is two strips of bacon, but some chunks of sauteed chouriço would do the same.

Hong Kong style Portuguese sauce (葡汁) is a low-heat curry gravy, light on the coconut milk, thinned with a little chicken stock.

Chinatown is slowly becoming more mainland Cantonese and Mandarin. Things are changing. And successful change means, perhaps, that there will be losses, along with improvements. Less 'kongish', more modern.
Portuguese sauce and baked dishes may disappear.
Or be totally reinterpreted.
Change is good.
Can be.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019


As it turned out, we didn't do the angiogram or the stent today. Just in-depth consultation, explaining what the heck is wrong, next steps and how we are going to approach it, and what the various options are. Then, two weeks hence, the angiogram. Plus Valium to make me receptive and limp.
And then, if necessary and useful, a stent.
Which is a great possibility.

And I should mention that today is Day Two of the additional medicine, and now, more than for the last several months, I truly feel full of piss and vinegar again. The next two weeks should be a cakewalk.

Today's lecture about the evils of smoking was incidental, and mild, rather than fiercely hectoring. The good doctor probably realizes that a pipe or two is more of a comfort at this point than would make the additional stress worthwhile. But he did mention that it was not good.

Because of the many hours at two hospitals being poked and prodded, food since Monday morning has been a bit of an afterthought. A few dimsummy items on Tuesday. Rice porridge and a dough stick Wednesday.
A bowl of rice with pork and egg today.

But there are cookies nearby.

And a cup of coffee.

Sometime this evening, after a nap, I'll head out for a last smoke of the day at the Tower. It's not raining, but cold enough that any anti-smokers should be home, warmly abed, clutching their tofu for comfort.
Nice, non-threatening, gluten-free tofu.
Such spiritual! Such blessing!
Karmic radiances!

All of my prescriptions say not to get pregnant while taking them. This paints a picture of American womanhood which is somewhat disconcerting. What on earth are you ladies up to while so young?
And still fecund.

[This blogger is male and middle-aged. I cannot get pregnant, no matter how many double bacon cheeseburgers I snarf. And I haven't snarfed them in years, btw. I am not a Clemson Tiger.]

Never mind. Don't answer that.
What. Ever.

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My apartment mate has called in sick today, it's that nasty cold that's going around. Makes one sound like a leaky radiator system, steam heat, drips, and eruptions. Now, I hope she feels much better in a few hours. But I will not be around for most of the day to fix her soup. Not because it's one of my work days, which it is, but because for most of the day I myself will be at the doctor's office (heart specialist) having something snaked into a vein with subsequent injection of a radiographic contrast agent.

All of this sounds fascinating. Together we will watch the x-ray movie.
There will be (probably) some lidocaine involved.


The results will determine three possible courses of action:
A) If there are serious blockages, the cardiologist might do an immediate procedure, such as balloon angioplasty and stenting.
B) Coronary bypass surgery could be scheduled, a surgical method for restoring blood flow.
C) If the angiogram shows plaque build-up that does NOT require immediate attention, the doctor will review the images and study the case before coming up with a plan of action.

Life style changes and further medication, in any case, are part of the programme. And in all honesty, I am not looking forward to any of this, but the alternative is not appealing either.

And, of course, there will be a vicious lecture about the evils of tobacco. During which I shall likely be fondling a briar pipe in my pocket. For symbolic comfort's sake, a pouch of something smokable will also be there, and the pipe cleaners and a tamper are also coming along.

I'm thinking a Peterson System Standard.
It's quite the most pipish shape.
Unique and serviceable.

Yesterday afternoon my doctor sounded quite upbeat and positive about the whole thing. Confidence inspiring. By mid-evening, mild panic was setting in, however, which altogether was irrational. Still. I am not looking forward to most of this day.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Ended up at Chinese Hospital again today. Appointment with a specialist tomorrow. But, rather than dwelling on medical issues, let us focus instead upon the hamberder feast our beloved president hosted on silver platters at the White House. Wow. Such .... whatever the heck that was. He probably enjoyed gorging on "hamberders". And all of us liked the pictures.
Photos of the piles of hamberders gave much joy.

"Great being with the National Champion Clemson Tigers last night at the White House, because of the Shutdown I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamberders etc. Within one hour, it was all gone. Great guys and big eaters!"

"Due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders.
Just serving hamburgers today."
------Burger King

Not only are the photos of the event staggering, the mental images are too.
And please imagine the gastric distress from so many greasebombs. Even if there were over a hundred people at the event -- including White House Staff and Lackeys -- that's ten congealed berders per attendee.

An ocean of Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth subsalicylate).
Nursing mothers should avoid taking Pepto.
And people prone to constipation.

Anyone dining at the White House could use dietary advice.
As well as a selection of condiments.
Sriracha at least.

Per Wikipedia: "Bismuth subsalicylate is the only active ingredient in an over-the-counter drug that can leave a shiny metal oxide slag behind after being completely burnt with a blow torch."

Shiny metalic slag. Okay.
"Medical issues".

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As per ancient tradition going back to when Noah exploded the Hindenburg at Golgotha, my friend the bookseller and myself crawled pubs in North Beach. Ending up at a place where a whole bunch of decent and relatively nicely behaving young Chinese people of both types (Mandarin-speakers and Cantonese) were drinking and singing karaoke.

The very least that should be said is that it was better than an e-commerce yuppie Marketing department on a night out. Better singing, better public behaviour. No staggering drunks you wanted to stick a blade into.
Obviously, we were the only Caucasians in the place.

It should be stressed that neither the bookseller nor I sing in public. Although when crossing Broadway we did parlando quote the Knights of the Round Table song from a famous religious movie.

I deeply regret that there were absolutely no Mandarin oldies in the line-up.
It was mostly soulful Canto-pop, with far too much Andy Lau.

At one point an 'Older Brother' type sang.
Which was quite unmemorable.

Did you know that there are several dozen songs entitled "情歌"? All of which are vastly different? And each of them is nauseatingly sappy.
Again, too much Andy Lau (劉德華 'lau tak wah').

In life, there is too much Andy Lau.

His movies are good.

I forgot to offer the bookseller a cigarillo when we left.
I feel bad about that.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019


As you may know, the purpose of the Nuclear Stress Test is to see how your blood circulates in the heart and major vessels, and how it all responds to stress, in a controlled environment with medical personnel standing by, just in case everything goes wrong. Which, in most cases, it doesn't. Part of the whole shebang is introducing a radioactive isotope into the blood, then a while later mapping out everything with a gamma camera.

It's a way of seeing potential problem areas, and acting preventatively.

The stress part can be done chemically, which means that your flabby old body won't be jogging and quivering on a treadmill, but will be lying flat, and a nasty substance which makes your heart pound is injected into your veins. Followed, shortly thereafter, by something that calms the system down again, while the first substance loses it's effect.

That, more or less, is roughly what I've gathered from the words of the professionals involved in conducting it, as well as the internet.

What I didn't know is that it meant sitting around for hours.

Or lying flat, also for long periods of time.

I already knew about the needles.

And I hate needles.

Chinese Hospital SF

One of my earliest clear sentient memories, absolutely vivid, is of being chased around a doctor's office somewhere near Naarden when I was barely three years old, for the purposes of torture (a flu shot).
Throughout much of my childhood, hypodermics popped up with disturbing frequency, flu shots and other innoculations. Since my late teens I have as much as possible avoided the damned things.
A series of visits to the dentist over a decade ago was eased considerably by the humour of the master of ceremonies, a swab of topical anesthesia, and subsequent jabs I did not notice.

I am not a sensitive man. Just phobic. As well as neurotic.

The bad news, when they released me to go get lunch, was "no caffeinated beverages!" At least not until much later, after everything was done. I had not had coffee or tea since morning yesterday, and I am, as are most people, the 'coffee generation'. Cranky without caffeine. As some might say, damned impossible to deal with, and easily irritated to boot.
A pain in the gand for people around me.


Leung go chu yiuk siu mai (兩個豬肉燒賣), leung go po choi gaau (兩個菠菜餃), yat go lo mai baau (一個糯米包). Two steamed pork cups, two spinach dumplings, and a glutinous rice ball with savoury stuff mixed in. Plus hot sauce and a drizzle of soy. It was, after fasting since late morning yesterday, absolutely divine. And the pipe filled with Sutliff's version of Brigg's Mixture afterwards, while standing under a corrugated awning of a shuttered store opposite the hospital was extremely enjoyable. Of course the only thing missing was caffeine, but two hours later I had a cup of gong sik naai cha (港式奶茶,一杯) and a chaa siu sou (叉燒酥,一個).
Hot milk tea and a flaky charsiu turnover.
Followed by another smoke.

And, because I was in Chinatown already, I dropped by my barber and got a haircut. So I am now fully restored, and I look ten years younger.

If any nice young ladies want to drive my blood pressure up, you will be pleased to know that I am full of piss and vinegar.

As well as fuzzy and huggable.
Like a forest creature.
But trimmed

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Monday, January 14, 2019


The refrigerator has tonnes of good stuff to eat, and I am keenly aware of that. Also, a cup of coffee would be very nice right now. Plus a satisfying smoke, aged Virginia in one of my older briars.
Except that I can do none of that; medical tests tomorrow, have to fast.

There is a large new bin of dark chocolate chunk and almond cookies within reach, as well as a hunk of delicious chocolate.

Have to fast.

I can drink water, though. Stay hydrated, which will help "them" find a suitable vein tomorrow.

This is all an intellectual exercise in not thinking of coffee, tea, cookies, cheese, bread, mustard greens, roast chicken, a tomato, an Italian sausage, tomato sauce, pasta, rice stick noodles, garlic and bacon drenched with chilipaste, toast with peanut butter and Sriracha, a jar of capers .......

There is also a bag of interestingly flavoured potato chips on the teevee room table.

Must not think of any of these things.

No lunch, no dinner.

Nor breakfast.

Or coffee.

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They advertised that it had been 'cask-mellowed' for four years. Which improved it, made it softer, richer, and more luxurious. Since the original manufacturer (Lorrilard) stopped making it, two other companies (one now defunct) duplicated it, the last being Sutliff.

Normally I eschew Sutliff. Some of their stuff is truly appalling.

But the other day Neil brought their match of Briggs Mixture around, and, after drying it a little bit, I enjoyed a bowl.

Burley (heat-treated), Virginias, Kentucky. Subtle top dressing.
Sort of a chunky cut, slow burning, and relatively clean.

The forties were indeed a different era. An degenerate affection for overly sweetened goopy aromatics -- a phenomenon that eventually reached it's horrible apogee by the eighties and has still not abated -- had not yet taken hold of America's manhood, and pipe tobaccos were still mostly honest attempts to bring a simple pleasure to the country's living rooms.

I could mention something about how most pipesmokers nowadays spend a lot of time in the garage or the potting shed at the end of the yard, or, lord help us, underneath awnings in Chinatown during the rainy season; banished thither by modern sensibilities and the odium towards tobacco with which society has infected our nearest and dearest. But I shan't. My house mate half the time does not even notice when I am in another room happily puffing away, and I always let the place air out when she is gone.
I also make sure the door to her room is firmly shut on my off-days.
And that both the kitchen and bathroom windows are open.
Simmering ginger-tea for a few hours helps.
The place smells clean afterwards.

Well, the fact that I only smoke indoors before lunch has a lot to do with that too, as well as her less than perfect sense of smell.

That is what I would like to do on my first day off this week, tomorrow, except that I have to be out of the house early for tests down at Chinese Hospital, which means no coffee, no tea, no smoking, and no eating, after early afternoon today. One of the tests is a "nuclear stress test", during which they'll drip a radioactive solution into my veins so that the picture of my circulation is clearer (gamma camera scans), as well as a chemical stimulant (dipyridamole, denosine, etcetera) to measure how my system deals with stress.

The fact that I'll be uncaffeinated, on low blood sugar, grouchy as all git-out, and dying for a good smoke, will both add to the stress level and the excitement. An adventure, by gum!

There will be a pipe in my pocket, as well as a modicum of the Briggs Mixture reproduction by Sutliff. It has a sort of bready earthy taste, is not particularly strong in either the nicotine or flavour department, and there's that old-fashioned fragrance that one remembers adults in one's childhood having. Slightly sweet, slightly herbal. A vegetal pungency. I thoroughly enjoyed smoking it yesterday, and cadged some from Neil for half a dozen more bowls. Decent stuff. Not knock your socks off exciting, but on the whole damn' decent. I am looking forward to that.
It's an evocative air.

The moment they let me step outside for a restorative meal and a hot beverage, I am lighting up.

Yes, I know smoking is bad for my health.


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Sunday, January 13, 2019


Let me make one thing absolutely clear: Fay Wray NEVER went skinny dipping in a banana daiquiri, and there was no sexy banana-peel sarong.
Whoever told you that King Kong was a touching love story between a human woman and an enormous beast may have been exaggerating.

[You smell remarkably like marijuana, and your pupils are a mile wide. Pitch black holes in your face. Please get off the bus somewhere in Sausalito. They'll love you, it's where you belong.
You epitomize a large part of Marin County.]

On the other hand, a giant wall along the border can indeed hold the giant hairy apes and ravenous dinosaurs at bay. As well as humongous spiders.
Precisely such a thing kept the savage Huns and Turks out of the Middle Kingdom, and the Picts out of Britain.

It's quite as effective as thoughts and prayers.

But if you really want to chase away foreigners, tell them about our food.

Nightmare muck in a crispy shell.
Cheese costs extra.
No chilies.

By the way: that white stuff on the right, nobody knows what that is.
There are a number of theories. None of them printable.

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No one likes growing up. It means we have to act like responsible adults, for which we've had less practice than anything else. I am learning that all I can handle is one and a half drinks over a two or three hour period, because it really "augments" my blood pressure medication. Okay, two blocks from home, safe environment, good people, but still.

Rainy night. Two matched pipes. Dutch apples. Shape 419.
Samuel Gawith Saint James Flake.

According to a fellow half my age: "Hella dope".
Which, I think, is good.

As, finally, an adult, I realize that I am linguistically crippled. People say things around me which I cannot quite understand. Let's face it, the phrasing "hella dope" means absolutely nothing, it does not construe.

It means that he can see himself smoking a pipe while playing golf.

"Hella dope."

In the past I would have another shot of Scotch while finishing my last pipe in the teevee room late at night. Right around two thirty, three o'clock. That isn't in the cards anymore, as I am hesitant about the possible effect.
Scotch and Losartan are not the perfect combo.
Hella dope. Or whatever.


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Saturday, January 12, 2019


Tomorrow afternoon ought to be interesting. A brief talk about Briggs Mixture, accompanied by wine and cheese. Plus chocolate, probably. In a warm dry brightly lit environment. Attended by forest creatures enjoying a companionable smoke. With, in another area, several rabid hell-hounds howling at a television screen while muscled shiny spandex men fight the war between good and evil, as represented by an oval shaped "ball".

That scene of barbarism will be far enough away that they should scarcely disturb us. With our wine and cheese. And chocolates. And hummus-pita-creamcheese-smoked salmon. We will feast.
All very civilized, I assure you.

Lighter virginias with Burley, slight top-dressing.
Which might be Bourbon.

Briggs Mixture, like Edgeworth, dates from a kinder, gentler era. A time when having achieved the requisite two and a half children, cat, goldfish, and sleek station wagon parked in the driveway of his spacious modern suburban home, a gentleman would smoke a pipe. While reading the newspaper amid a scene of domestic harmony.

Both newspapers and domestic harmony are largely things of the past.

Although, in an imaginary world, they still exist. Next to the house where teenagers assiduously practice rock and roll in their dad's garage, and marijuana hasn't even been heard of yet.

Apparently the Sutliff duplicate of the venerable old product is quite decent.
Maybe tomorrow I can confirm that.

Many pipe smokers in the forties and fifties were accustomed to stodgy American mixtures and little else. Edgeworth, Briggs, Sir Walter Raleigh, Prince Albert, and Half & Half. Fluecured leaf, extended with air-cured, perhaps mildly spiced with fire-cured or Perique, only slightly topped.
Excepting Mixture 79, which smelled like a sailor on shore leave.

Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, I have heard, smoked Mixture 79. Their music probably reflected that. Stodgy old codgers who go up river for trout fishing expeditions also smoke smoke it. I know two such creatures.

My Dad never mentioned Mixture 79. He may have tried it, but his preferred tobacco, as may be gathered from the faint whiff adhering to his pipes, was a blend of Virginias with a little Burley, a touch of Latakia, and a whisper of Perique. I do not know what he smoked when he was with in RCAF.

When I was growing up, he'd occasionally snake a hand across the dinner table for my tin of Balkan Sobranie and load a bowl.

I never tried 'American' mixtures till I got back to The States.
Drucquer's lighter blends. High quality. Long gone.

From my teens till middle age I liked Latakia.
Now I am mostly Virginias and Perique.

Anyhow, I am looking forward to Neil's talk about Briggs. Several months ago he was very informative at one of our meetings, about Comoys and Blue Ribands, and he himself tends toward particular blends and pipe shapes which are quite nice. The winemaker may still be in Beijing, an author will probably be in attendance, several other members are retired and don't do much, the collector of Rainer Barbi pipes will probably be there. Also someone who favours W.Ø. Larsen and the Danish school.
Readers of books, and folks with interesting knowledge sets.
Basically, a meeting of badgers and river rats.
With good quality leaf.
No! 79!


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Friday, January 11, 2019


The problem with the news these days is the same as the problem with the delinquents huffing cigars in the lounge behind me: too much angry dumb redneckism, and rightwing tantrums. Actually, there is no level of either of those things that is acceptable, it should all be squashed.

Yesterday I told Patrick that there were seven people back there, with five brains between them. So conversationally expect the worst.

He immediately guessed "three democrats and four republicans".

His math is impeccable. Not educated here.

For most of them, if they were to participate in the eighteenth annual 'no-pants Bart ride' this Sunday, it would be totally accidental.

There's a theory that our esteemed dumb-ass president is whacked out of his gourd on Adderall. Used in greater than therapeutic dosages, because as Ben Carson amply demonstrates, not every member of the medical branch is an honest doctor. Some of them are for sale.

At recreational levels of abuse, the side effects are consistent with Trump's behaviour (widely observed as well as anecdotally reported), trailer parks, and the methamphetamine junkies one runs into in North Beach.
Chemically-induced dysfunctionality.

The cigar smokers are prosperous gentlemen of Marin.
A region famous for cocaine and other drugs.
Draw your own conclusions.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019


Sometimes, after a busy day at the salt mines, ideas of a decent nutritious dinner go right out the window. Thick-cut potato chips, a few chunks of chocolate, and a cup of coffee.
Then to nap. Which requires kicking off my shoes.

I may get up in a few hours for the last smoke of the day.

Or I could go right back to sleep.

It's cold out there.

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A friend forwards the details for the 18th Annual "No Pants" BART Ride. In fond hopes that I will alert a mutual acquaintance ('Little White Nipple Guy') and report back what his input on the matter might be.


The instructions are too precise for our friend 'Little White Nipple Guy'. He is by nature a rebel. A dreary unimaginative rebel. But a rebel.


"Sit in the car as you normally would. Read a magazine or whatever you would normally do. Your team leader will have already divided you into smaller groups, assigning your group a specific stop."

"Remember, if anyone asks you why you’ve removed your pants, tell them that they were “getting uncomfortable” (or something along those lines)."

"Exit the train at your assigned stop and stand on the platform, pants-less. You will wait on the platform for the specified train to arrive."

"When you enter, act as you normally would. You do not know any of the other pants-less riders. If questioned, tell folks that you “forgot to wear pants” and yes you are “a little cold.” Insist that it is a coincidence that others also forgot their pants. Be nice and friendly and normal."

"Remember: Taking photos is not keeping a straight face. Enjoy the experience and resist the urge to document. Take those Instagram shots when the ride is over. There will be plenty of people who aren’t pants-less who will be taking pictures."

End cite.

[SOURCE: 18th Annual “No Pants” BART Ride Day | 2019 .]

Furthermore, Little White Nipple Guy has imperfect filters. His rich but dreary imaginary life and his neuroses are in permanent conflict.
And he is imperfectly socialized. No finesse whatsoever.
Were he to participate, he'd likely go 'rogue'.
Nobody wants that. Trust me, NO! body.
I'm worried about the children.
And innocent old folks.

I'll brief him about it after the fact.
That will be bad enough.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019


The way I figure it, Ming-Chai has multiple screws loose. He kept replaying something hip-hoppily insufferable, then changing the song on the karaoke machine within seconds of choosing it, and after about fifty skipped tunes, settling on a Cantopop number for several repeats.

Unlike the "Most Dangerous Man in Chinatown", who wasn't there, Ming-Chai is NOT a pothead. He's quite insufferable, though.

Two years ago he talked down to me in English. When everyone else was quite comfortable with my Cantonese. It took him several months (probably over a year) to figure out that his being a dunderhead in either language was A) quite utterly obvious, and B) not called for. Under any circumstance.
He's still extraordinarily stupid, but less talkative now.
Maybe his mom told him to shut up.

His taste in Cantopop is jejune.

Jennie gu-ma is a very tolerant woman. She deserves kudos for being such a talented baby-sitter. Especially when Portnoy Uncle comes by, or his equally crotchety kin-folk.

He wasn't there last night. Which is a jolly good thing, because Johnny's idiot younger brother was, and he tends to egg on or encourage Portnoy Uncle, which raises the insanity level by several notches.

There were several people in attendance who are splendid chaps, as well as a woman who with great social talent puts up with the madness.

The music was, as you would expect, awful.
Karaoke places often have bad singing.
Rainy nights are no different.

Except, thank the lord, no Marketing Departments, no drunken young white people, no Abba, Michael Jackson, or Elton John. I hate The Eagles, man. I've had a long day, and I hate The Eagles.

情影 was originally a Hokkien song. The tune is nicer than the lyrics.
The videos are always unimpressive.

It was a good night,

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Sometime this evening our president will be on television, which I have no intention of watching. What with reality television shows like the various Real Housewives, red neck swamp rats, and true crime re-enactments, as well as commercial sports, there is enough garbage being broadcast.
There is no need for anything else.

The four faces I want to throw Budweiser and Coors cans at when they are on the telly are: Trump, McConnell, Graham, Ryan, and Kavanaugh.
Make that six: add Louis Gomert to the mix.

If those people showed up for a public rally in the city, I would bring a couple of crates. Plenty of willing arms here.

I shall, obviously, be taking a long nap instead. It's better for mental health.
I fully expect 34% of the country (the alleged Trump base) to be reaching into their greasy long johns while avidly watching, however. Fox News will again briefly be the orgasm channel.

Ivanka, Melania, Pence, Giuliani, and Conway.
Oozing approval in the background.
For them, a shining moment.

Sharks in a sewer.

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When unfriending, who gets cut? A friend on Facebook got axed recently because while he is a superb craftsman who makes beautiful things, his sly weasel sneering at Democratic politicians -- while seemingly being ignorant of their actual policies and points of view, and himself quite incapable of any nuance in that regard -- would, over time, lead me to dislike him as well as his ideas. We share dozens of friends within a narrow community.
But I do not need him anywhere near my life.

Besides, typically passive-aggressive, he silently yanked several of his more outrageous posts, when it became evident that many of his caveman-like correspondents in the Great American Bush lacked finesse.

Lovely wooden objects. Rather flawed human.

He won't notice. I didn't make a big deal of it. No flame war, no reasoned statement of principles objecting to his weltanschaaung, no appeal to his better nature, no shitty review of his products or services, just a click.

While it may take all kinds blah blah blah, as individuals we don't need all kinds. And during my outside life I am tolerant enough.

We're all in this boat together, so to speak, but I have no problem with some of my fellow sailors washing overboard.

It's a feeding frenzy.

Noun: animal matter or fish scraps dumped in the water to attract sharks.
Intransitive verb: to throw chum overboard to attract prey when fishing.

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What upset me, I guess, was that she acted precisely like a bourgeois frat boy. Hypothetically, Brett Kavanaugh boofing in the Triangle with Squid and other buddies, then heading back home drunk and kicking over every single garbage can he could find. Such fun! Very Berkeley.

I do not mind such people pissing in their own backyard, but more usually than not, they do it on someone else's turf.

One of the reasons I never go to the East-Bay anymore is that I would probably end up fire-bombing the place.

Easily triggered, all-green, veggie-pot yoga totem animal anti-everything, latte-swilling trust-fund old souls, whose only grasp of history is what they got from Lord of the Rings. One of the most over-rated books of all time.

I will go across the Bay to Berkeley one of these days and piss or puke all over something meaningful.

Then demand gluten-free fair-trade pizza.

With a potato-starch plastic spork.

Which goes in the green bin.

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