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.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

PROBABLY NEAR GERRERREDDI

First it was the Germans. They wanted to get off near the bridge, walk across, and take the bus back. Other passengers half-heartedly tried to remonstrate that it was a very long walk from the last stop on the Marin side to the bridge itself, but to no avail. They were determined to hike. The bus driver gave ans Asian American style half-hearted "whatever, dudes" (meaning a non-committal but readable grunt), and let them on, then let them off at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere.
I had seen him patiently deal with nearly twenty other passengers with unique and / or convoluted agendas before the Germans.
I didn't blame him for taking them where they said they wanted to go.

At the toll plaza several more people gave evidence of private agendas. He explained, with gesticulations, that they needed Muni (the local bus system), not Golden Gate Transit.

Then a frantic South Indian, representing twenty more tongue-tied fellows, shoved his head into the closing door and roared; "please gentleman what is ticket for gerrerreddi?!?"

The bus driver look startled, yelped, and indicated "no".
The South Indian gentleman withdrew his head.
The bus took off down the highway.



Naturally every bus that stops where visitors gather goes directly to all must-see spots: Gerrerreddi, Uniskway, Norbitch, and Colerate Breech.

In actual fact, Golden Gate Transit conveys passengers from Marin along Lombard, down Van Ness, through Civic Center, and then takes Mission to the Trans Bay Terminal. Or conversely folks travelling from SF north to Marin in the opposite direction.

Going nowhere near Ghirardelli, Union Square, and North Beach.
It does go to the bridge, but that's incidental.
The bridge connects two places.
It is just there.



Not everybody is realistic about their plans and what they need to do to get there. Sometimes they haven't done their home-work or come to terms with reality. My stuffed monkey Urasmus keenly desires to purchase a fixer-upper banana plantation near San Francisco and cheap slaves.
But he does NOT want the goat-guy as one of the slaves.

He has five dollars to spend. Surely that's more than enough?

I hate to disappoint him, but five dollars probably won't get him a fixer-upper banana plantation, anywhere. And cheap slaves are a thing of the past.

Besides, that's MY five dollars.
I should get that plantation.

I'll hire Monkeys.


No goat.



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DON'T SCARE THE WILDLIFE

The only places open in C'town beyond nine o'clock are three or four establishments that serve alcoholic beverages, and the bubble-tea bars.
For the late night wanderer, who decides ah screw it I don't really want to go to bed this early, instead I'll take a long walk and smoke my pipe, this presents a problem.

Not a single one of those bubble-tea bars serves real coffee, or milk-tea made with tea leaves and condensed milk. An adult craves caffeine.
A grown-up beverage.


Bubble-tea is made with fruity powder mixes, water and ice, and tapioca pearls. One can, for instance, order a medium-sweet cantaloupe and passion-fruit combo over ice, with big gloppy tapioca pearls, grass jelly, fruit pieces, and pudding slivers.


The other problem is the clientele. They are young. One cannot have a conversation with people of that age, and it is ridiculous and quite suspect to even try. Youthful American Chinese are skittish and often innocent and silly. Which, I suppose, is charming in its own way, but they lack any and all significant life experiences.


After finishing my pipe I wanted something refreshing, but I did not want to hang around the bubble tea lounge, and I felt absurd walking around in the dark with my beverage. I didn't throw it away, because that would have been wasteful, and possibly I could still use it to confound an assailant.
Throw it at them, I suppose. They'd look stupid with tapioca and pudding dripping down their front.


Large tapioca pearls are nearly indigestible.

Next time grass jelly only.




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Saturday, August 27, 2016

FILL ME UP WITH BUTTERY GOODNESS!

What every man needs after dealing with Marin County and its hordes of special entitled people is not a drink, but some meat and a pastry. Plus a caffeinated beverage that is not fair trade, and does not come in cup made out of 100% post-consumer waste. And that has never been anywhere near anyone who wears yoga pants or tie-dyes.

That counts double after visiting Berkeley, with the addition of colourful Guatemalan fabrics and native sh*t, and nearly so when exposed to San Francisco.
The Bay Area is the most consciously meaningful and irritating part of the planet, and many people who live here are insufferable.

No, I no longer want to save the whales. Or the transgender tribals of the Amazon rainforest. Or the spotted screech owl. Or your right to smoke marijuana because it's therapeutic and green.

I am suffering from Pretentious Twat Burnout.

[A coworker asked me what I was going to do after I got home this evening. "Very simple", I said, "I intend to have a cup of coffee, cook dinner, and get on the internet for a while to bellyache. Don't know about what yet. I'll find something. Then I'm going to bed."]


All I really want to do after a full day in Marin is withdraw to an inviting bakery or chachanteng in C'town, order a cha siu sou and a milk-tea, and read a newspaper. I do not wish to head into North Beach to be surrounded by artists and creative people, I have no desire to go to a bar or restaurant that caters to young urban professionals (some less young and urban than they would like to appear), and I certainly shan't visit any of the hip places on Polk Street or in the Mission.

Fashionable clubs and precious eateries do not appeal.

One of my friends owns a restaurant with rather fabulous food. Which the bus back from Marin passes, so I can look in and appreciate that his hard work has borne fruit, the crowds flock to his door.
But I think that being there and enjoying the food would drive me up the wall. Any place that is so popular is incredibly noisy, and, like the cigar bar on a busy night, oppressive and uncomfortable.
Too loud for conversation.

[Last night I slept horribly. It took ages before I fell asleep, my right leg kept twitching and aching. It's probably a good thing that there is no one sleeping next to me, because I kept waking up and tossing, turning ..... it would have driven anybody else up the wall.]


The only time when the loudness goes stratospheric at any of my usual Chinatown hangouts is when Muni Dude has an argument with one of the other patrons. And that is actually entertaining.

Sit back, have a second cup of milk-tea and another pastry.
Enjoy the spectacle, and rate the performance.
Have some more buttery goodness.


I really wish that the old neighborhood stayed open late.
And that there were actual benches along Waverly.
So that one could sit and smoke there.

[In this city middle-aged men with sleep disorder are not well served. When it was still possible to smoke in coffee shops, one could've gone to the donut place around the corner. Yes, it's open twenty four hours, and long after dark it's very popular among the drunks, insane people, pot heads, petty hoodlums, sex-workers, and drug addicts.
But you cannot smoke there, because that's unhealthy.]



I do NOT want to talk about Trump. Or Clinton. Or Jill Stein.
Or work. Or music. Or sports. Or handbags.

Maybe I don't want to talk.
It's been a busy day.
Quiet company




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Friday, August 26, 2016

BEYOND THE TENERAL PHASE

This blogger is obscenely delighted to discover that the ideal woman that many of his acquaintances among the cigar-huffing crowd pretty much swooned over a year-and-a-half ago has, in the estimation of many of them, turned out to be an ethically deficient gold-digger.

This blogger, being a pipe-smoker who hardly ever even experiments with the dark side that is the stomping ground of yutzes and expense-account yuppies as well as rapacious investment bankers and e-commerce hosebags, always found their opinions suspect.
And knows that a fair number of these folks will vote for Trump.
Because they can identify with his struggles.
And have piss-poor judgment.
Cigar-smokers.


Pipe-smoking inculcates a balanced and equitable worldview, as well as kindness and empathy towards one's fellows; cigar-smoking leads directly to syphilis and moral failings of horrendous magnitude.


Most of the time the young lady avoided me, and I was fine with that.
No, I did not growl when she was around, but it was quite clear that she regarded me as the scholarly old grumpus of the group, precisely like a fondly remembered grammar school teacher or village curate with a passion for cultivating prize rosebushes instead of his flock, rather than a sufficiently well-to-do vulgarian exemplar worth cozying up to, who might advance her career or enable her exploitation of prime status-resources.
Being neither recognizable prey nor obstacle, we got along fine.
It was only in the presence of others that we met.
Superficially, socially, and briefly.


Perhaps acting with reserve may make one seem old.
I am not antique, but probably saner.
That staggers me.


I shan't identify the woman in question, nor give sufficient details that would allow anyone to recognize her. In life everyone has their own choices to make, and their paths may go in strange directions.
That is their business.

That also holds for those cigar-huffing gentlemen.
There will be no names or "indescriptives".
You know what to expect.


I am somewhat more likely to end up surrounded with prize rosebushes.



AFTER THOUGHT

In a short while I will head off to lunch in Chinatown. The places where I eat are not high-fallutin', nor likely to impress the cigar smokers in any way.
I get the overwhelming impression most of them sneer at such lowly dives, and only grasp that what they eat tastes good if the ambiance and price accord with their idea of value. Their value. Strictly Chinatown ain't it.

I have never broken bread with many of the cigar crowd.

Chinatown: Real food, served by real people.
Prepared by and for real people.

It's about values.




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CAEDITE EOS OMNES

It is probably better to burn the entire sh*thouse down than to further support and enable the cannibalistic society we have become.

Hillary has a serious problem with honesty. Trump is a caveman, a pig, and a moral and ethical cripple. Stein is a pandering sniveling opportunistic piece of ambulatory viperid garbage.

Voting for the least repulsive candidate still enables the entire corrupt and festering blob to survive.

The problem with revolutions is that they are always bloody and there will be innocent victims.

That price becomes less worrisome the more the present system displays its rottenness.


EpiPens now cost as much as Daraprim.

Our elected officials made this possible.



Have a very good morning, by the way.



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Thursday, August 25, 2016

WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE WHITE BREAD?

One of my co-workers has peculiar taste in music; all day long he was playing Frank Sinatra. So of course the subject of Mambo came up.
For those who have never heard of it, Mambo is an Afro-Cuban musical genre with syncopated motives derived from the older Son style which are combined with improvisation (originally on a flute), and the conga drum brings up the rear.

[No, I have no idea what I just said. Nix I know from music.]

In direct consequence of all of this, I kept playing Polka tunes in my head. Accordions will drown out any amount of Frankie.
And that is a good thing.

I am a kind man; I shall not embed Polka youtubes.

But I could. Just remember that.


HERE ARE SOME MEXICANS!

[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idoDS7Mq5y0.]


Please contrast that with clog-dancing.

Much better, don't you think?


Frankie probably isn't very popular in Mexico. I think I would not at all have minded hearing the Guaracha in countless variations for nine hours of the day. It would have been cheery and refreshing, and it would have been the perfect accompaniment to the hot sauce I dolloped all over my egg-salad on spongy American bread sandwich; the hot sauce was like this music, egg salad is the equivalent of Frank Sinatra.

The trick is to use enough hot sauce to drown out the egg salad.

I work in Marin County; every little bit helps.

Bailar bailar bailar!



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SNOW IN SUMMER

There's something about the light that I cannot forget. Long twilights, when rain threatens. No, you cannot experience that here, you have to be in Northern Europe; nightfall lingers longer there.
Sitting under the corrugated with a cup of tea and a pipe while admiring swirls of apple blossoms from the tree that dominates the far end of the courtyard.
The cats chasing petals.
Bright gloom.


The closest one can come is savouring the end of day in San Francisco. From the front steps of the building the upslopes are showing fog; trees at one end disappearing in grey, the apartment building at the other end of the street barely visible. The fog is layered above this low area, and it is quiet here. Our universe is isolated, its edges limned with plumbum.


An early duck dinner, then a long stroll through C'town. When I came home the apartment was silent. I looked over my row of tobacco jars and the open tins, and in the end decided not to have another smoke.
Without cats or another human about, being silent is not as intense.
No, the San Francisco sidewalk weirdoes don't count.
Their presence does not comfort.


I used to feel in danger of being left out. It was a sense of personal disconnectedness, and not being able to communicate the same way everyone else did, and did so obviously well.
In these past few years I have realized that in-depth communication is better non-verbal. Why take great efforts to say something which need not be so clearly said? Meaning can go missing in overmuch detail.
There is greater lonesomeness in a crowd than when one is alone.

The temptation to seek conversation has diminished.

I'll just have to imagine the cats.
And an apple tree.






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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

YOUNG MAN, AVOID WHISKEY!

It is a tradition, but it is ill-advised. Every week the bookseller and myself head into the undergrowth near where the old second hand bookstore of our depraved youth used to be, and have rot-gut red, a pint of decent beer (Anchor Steam), and too many whiskeys. I will blame the exuberant Ms. Wong for the excess of whiskey.

Ms. Wong proudly boasted that for a sixty seven year old woman she didn't look bad. In the same breath she admitted to having had over twenty shots of tequila that evening.

She was more sane and collected than usual.


Sweetheart, OF COURSE you don't look bad; you are still breathing!
If either this young fella or I had drunk as much, we would be in a coma. And four nights a week of twenty-plus shots of tequila would've put us six feet under by now.


Ms. Wong is a very bad influence.


Because three stupid kwailo came in squiffy and acted up, Ms. Wong needed two shots to calm her ownself down. Which meant that we had to drink with her. Where it not for the hot water she always pours me and the three cigarillos I huffed while there, the trek uphill from the establishment she hosts to my own warm bed would have been a Sisyphusarbeid van jewelste, up to eleven on the amplifier.

Four or five generous shots each.

At the end of an evening.

Gottenyu.


Before last night, I had no idea she was sixty seven. The last time she even mentioned her age, she said "nearly sixty". Still young!
That was less than ten months ago.

When I first met her she was quite fast, perfectly exemplifying the "hot Taiwanese chick" paradigm.

She still hasn't retired. No evident intent to do so.

So she's still a "hot Taiwanese chick".


THIS IS WRONG!

[ Insert appropriate theme music here ]


Tequila keeps you young.




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DO YOUR EARS HURT AFTER SAYING THAT?

The first time I heard Shanghainese being spoken, I thought it was Russians talking Japanese. Then I saw the speakers, and became convinced they were Japanese talking Russian.
And swearing in Tungusic.

Shanghainese is not a mellifluous language.

If there are Shanghainese in the restaurant, it is best to sit at the opposite end of the room from them. Or at least six tables away. You will still be able to "enjoy" their conversation from that distance.

My table was next to theirs.


After nearly jumping out of my seat the first few times one of them said something, I started observing them out of the corners of my eyes. Not only for the forewarning, but also to see how they acted toward each other. It became apparent that despite the snarling and growling they were not only on very good terms, but actually fond of each other. Shanghainese can at times sound like a death-battle between infuriated soda water siphons, so you really do need to look at the people making those sounds in order to figure out whether it's an argument about Donald Trump, OR the gentle kissing of two butterflies drifting languorously around the same red, red rose.

I really wanted to listen in on the four Cantonese-speaking old ladies across the way -- they were noshing on seafood, a bright green vegetable, and noodles -- but the Shanghainese were between me and them.

I do not understand the Shanghainese language.


What I did notice was that the old gentleman ate very elegantly. His mastery of chopsticks, the grace with which he wielded them, and the sheer temperance of his motions, were at complete odds with the reptile space alien snarls coming out of his mouth. The famous actress Maggie Cheung (張曼玉 'cheung maan yuk') speaks Shanghainese, but thank heavens almost every word she has ever said on-screen has been in Cantonese. She never sounded like a daemon was trying to claw its way out of her thorax.

By contrast, all of the more southerly tongues I have been exposed to sound sweeter. Toishanese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hoilam; they are all lovable distant relatives of Cantonese. By no means entirely intelligible.....
But altogether more like a civilized human tongue.

Most Mandarin still sounds like crap, though.

I'm just sayin'.



POST SCRIPTUM

Shan't mention which cha-chanteng it was. That is for you to figure out. One of the waitresses has a face that reflects an innocent world-weary wickedness. I'm guessing her kids did that to her. It's attractive, like all faces which show intelligence. Her two co-workers are prettier, but just aren't nearly as attractive. She's the one with the brains.

Baked Portuguese chicken rice with splurks and squoodles of Sriracha chili sauce, a hot cup of yuen-yeung, and afterwards a walk down to the park to see the parrots. Followed by framboise-truffe ice-cream when I got home.
If your freezer does not have ice-cream, you're doing it wrong.


One of the other customers was an old gentleman with a very young girlfriend; he's well over seventy, she's only in her forties. We recognized each other as he was leaving. Nei ho, nei ho. Friendly nods.
I know him from another place that has milk-tea.
They're a sweet half-old couple.




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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

IS THERE A FEMININE SIDE TO THIS?

My ex likes to read period novels, mad slasher fiction, Jane Austen, and Edward Gorey. My father was into detective novels, Evelyn Waugh, the Larousse Gastronomique, and Edward Gorey. My mother read science fiction, Old Norse, Beowulf, Chaucer, Simenon, books about vampyres and wherewolves, and Edward Gorey. My brother perused chess books, Charles Dickens, and Edward Gorey. A fellow-eccentric in high school liked science fiction, the English romantic poets, and various Dutch authors (naturally, since we lived in Holland). But not Edward Gorey.
I do not know what became of him.

I think I should like the company of someone who likes Edward Gorey.


When a curious commenter on a previous post asked me about my feminine side, I wrote:

" ... a rather shy person, un-attached, who likes nothing better than retiring to her own room, grabbing the murder novel that she is currently reading, and after rummaging around in her pantie drawer pulling out the Charatan Pipe and the Old Gowrie (Rattrays tobacco, now made by Orlik for Kohlhase & Kopp, who hold the entire McConnel Portfolio since that estimable company closed), filling up her bowl and settling in for a long quiet afternoon.

She likes the personalities of the portly or middle-aged detectives about whom she reads, but suspects that they would be a bit much in person, and their tobacco tastes might not synch with hers."


What I forgot to mention was that she also likes Edward Gorey.
It seems a rather important thing, don't you agree?


My feminine side likes Edward Gorey.


Her tobacco preferences are fungible. There are several excellent mostly Virginia mixtures under the Rattray trademark, as well as stellar products made by Samuel Gawith. Germains also makes good flakes and Virginias (Dunbar and Dorchester, as part of the Esoterica Tobaciana line, and brown and medium flakes under their own label.

[Orlik's Golden Sliced is also splendid; I have a nine month supply of it. Navigator and Union Square, by Greg Pease, are very fine indeed. And besides flakes and vapers, there are some truly wonderful Latakia mixtures out there. Such as: Wilderness, Legends, Three Oaks (with Syrian leaf), Westminster, Abingdon, Kensington, Blackpoint, McLelland's #14, Balkan Beauty, and Blue Mountain.]

My imaginary feminine side also likes hot beverages, and despises televised sports.


Her food preferences are varied and flexible.


Excluding "pumpkin".











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AN ALTERNATIVE TO NIBBLING KALE

Sometimes I don't know what to think. This blog is probably not the best display of sanity on the interbets, but this blogger is possibly saner than he ever assumed himself to be. Despite at times speaking of himself in the third person, so as to avoid having the first personal pronoun (capitalized, singular nominative) show up at the end of a line of text, where it just looks discordant and out-of-place, and may easily be overlooked because the subconscious eye will read it as a slash or an exclamation mark.
I am not a slash OR an exclamation mark.

Rarely does she write of herself in the third person singular feminine, whether subjective or objective, or even possessive. Most of her readers by now must have wigged that she is not female, and would consider such a phraseological affectation disturbing.

I have a feminine side.
I just never touch it.


This is all preambular to mentioning a comment left underneath an essay eleven days ago.


Bernie or Bust said…

"Aren't there some Dutch possessions, or former possessions, in Africa?
On another topic, you've mentioned on this blog that you quit smoking cigarettes in the 1990s. Was it difficult? I'm contemplating quitting now, or at least cutting down (I currently smoke 6 to 7 packs a day), and I was wondering if you could share your quitting story and help me with any helpful advice? In a post, please, because my browser has difficulty displaying blog-comments; I'm using a friend's computer to type this.

[Here: EVERYTHING SOUTH OF TEXAS.]


Six to seven packs a day?

It turns out that I am quite staggeringly sane.

The reason for taking up cigarettes was fellow office workers objecting to pipes and cigars, but enthusiastically hunting down ashtrays and lavishing praise on me if I lit up cigarettes instead. Then it became illegal to smoke in a work environment, and during a visit to Holland in 1997, I happily re-discovered fine Dutch cigars. Once I had exhausted the supply I smuggled in, I switched back to pipes entirely, save for the bus-summoning cigarillo or the early morning ship-shave-shower smoke.

I would advise you to visit Holland. You will find it salubrious.

Good cigars, both the long filler handrolled type and the Dutch-preference local product, can be found in the cities and even most towns. Good pipe tobacco is less easily available, however, because the Dutch customarily smoke rancid overly perfumed crap like Clan, Sail Aromatic, Amphora Chocolate, and several other "mixtures" now mostly made by Scandinavians.

It is sad. They used to smoke nice demure Maryland leaf.
Taste-wise they lost their mind after the war.
I blame the Canadians for that.
A bad influence.


But please enjoy the cigars.
Seriously good stuff.



Yes, we were in Ghana and South Africa.




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Monday, August 22, 2016

BLIND SCHNITZELS!

Yesterday evening I wanted a Wienerschnitzel mit kartoffelsalat for dinner, but there was no fresh veal in the house that could be pounded, floured, dipped in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs, and deepfried. Nor potato. Normally there is no potato at all in the house anyway. I have drifted from my culinary roots, and my apartment mate does not have the same culinary roots, though she too has drifted from hers.

For a while she was in a buttermilk pancake phase.

Personally, I rather loathe American pancakes.

The Dutch pannekoek is altogether better.

But I seldom make those anymore.

Which isn't the point.

Schnitzeln.


A schnitzel is a lovely comestible, the preparation of which is perfectly described in the beginning of this post. Traditionally it is served with potato salad, or fries for the tourists. I think it is splendid with one or two rashers of bacon on the side in addition to the potato salad, which I would jazz up a little with garlic, paprika, and a dash of tabasco. It must be zesty.
Put the potato salad on top of a washed crisp lettuce leaf.
Yes, I know that's unimaginative and predictable.
But the Viennese cutlet is NOT nouvelle.
Don't do anything startling.


One reference which I found on the internet to schnitzels is contained in the lyrics of this plaintive song, which is more or less about starvation.


THAT IS NICE MUSICAL NUMBER!


[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8ShAosqzI.]


GIVE ME COMPLIMENTS, MIT HEINRICH!

"Look at that child being rewarded with a breast!"

I, too, wish to be rewarded with a breast, for no clear reason. Some breasts resemble potatoes, and likewise some potatoes resemble breasts. A select few (both breasts and potatoes) resemble Elvis Presley.
Please do not reward me with Elvis.
Nor with potato breasts.

Or potatoes.

American supermarket potato salad is not very good.
Too much mayonnaise, not enough zing.
It must be home made.

A good wine choice with a Wienerschnitzel would be a Riesling, an Elbling, or a Sauvignon Blanc. But a glass of sherry is also highly recommended.


Unlike Heinrich, I do not have turtle neck.
Nor, remarkably, any wattles at all.




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PLAY NO FUNKY MUSIC NOW

I just realized that Burning Man starts a week from now, next Sunday. And, while I consider myself an artistic countercultural freespirit oh my heavens yes, I have no desire to attend.

Poncing around naked in 110 degree heat while on drugs and listening to bad music may be extraordinarily meaningful and rewarding, but that isn't really my bag.

I do all my best poncing while fully dressed, completely sober, during cold days. Preferably near all the civilized comforts of home. Reliable running water, hot caffeinated beverages, public transit, and a plethora of potential snacks.
Plus a comfy throw rug. For afternoon naps.
Not, strictly speaking, wildness.
And no bad music.


My musical tastes are still rather old-school.


Not quite as bad as the drumming for the galley slaves or the trumpeting at gladiatorial games but still pretty old-fashioned. I really wish that garage bands had castrati.

I disapprove heartily of drugs, and any nudeness there is, is best while sober, indoors, in a temperate environment.

I shall not risk dehydration and heat stroke while nude.

In any case, my nudity is a private matter.

I prefer not to disrobe.

In public.





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Sunday, August 21, 2016

I'VE EATEN THERE MORE THAN I CAN COUNT

One of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown is on Clay Street between Hang Ah Alley and Waverly Place. Which, if you think about it, is the very heart of the neighborhood, what with being just down from the bus stop that EVERYBODY gets off at, and slightly uphill from the herds of lumbering orcas ambulating on Grant Avenue at this time of year.

You know, there is more to Chinatown than just shops selling touristy garbage ... but if they don't know that already, they'll never find out, and probably have no need to know.

All of Holland is clogs and windmills, there's nothing in Belgium, and Paris means little bronze Eiffel Towers OR cartoon snails.
Italy? Coliseum on everything.
Yep.


It's a restaurant where I have been probably over a hundred times. Their rice plates, which normally are lunch time only, are just marginally more at dinner time, and the prices are low enough that it won't strain the wallet.
A rice plate meal is just about perfect for the single diner, and in the evening there is plenty of seating at the counter.


京都餐館
CAPITAL RESTAURANT
839 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-397-6269


For the first time in a very long while I went there for lunch, at what is considered a normal lunch time. It was packed, and there was no room at the counter, so they directed me to a table.

The four person tables were normal people, one to four. The big round tables in the centre had parties of five or more non-Chinese, many of whom seemed to be speaking foreign languages besides English.

Yeah, I'm being a dick by saying stuff like that.
But I can read the menu in Chinese.
I ordered lamb chops.


煎羊扒
['jin yeung paa']

The lamb chops are one of three Friday specials in the Western Lunch Selection. As I mentioned to the owner's daughter, when she expressed surprise at seeing me there so early in the day, 我好中意小羊仔 ('ngo ho jung-yi siu-yeung jai'; I really like lamb). Four small chops, nicely done, with a pile of rice and some blanched saang choi. I may have had too much hot sauce, because dipping the nice tender fatty choplette into a puddle of sambal is sheerly addictive.

While eating, I listened in on a table of French people.
One of whom, I know now, is allergic to seafood.


如對海鮮或食物有過敏,請預告知。
"If allergic to seafood or other foods, please let us know in advance."
['yü deui hoisin waak sik-mat yau gwo-man, cheng yü gou-ji']


It must be horrible to be so afflicted. There is just such a huge number of lovely edibles that come from the ocean, and Cantonese food really does fish and crustacean properly. One of the sheer joys of eating in Chinatown is the availability of fresh seafood.

The codfish collops with eggplant there are particularly good. Cod and sole, called dragon tongue fish (龍脷魚 'lung lei yü') in Cantonese, stands-in for the South East Asian estuarine cobbler, which has similar flesh. Combining fish and eggplant is common and quite scrumptious.

They also do steamed fish, steamed oysters, fried fish, mussels .....
Soups, stir-fried with black bean sauce, ginger & scallion .....
Plus lobsters, or fresh ginger-garlic crab in season.
Everything that Cantonese people love to eat.
French people too, when not allergic.


I really enjoyed my lunch. I was, in fact, happy as a clam.

The French people probably found the beef curry over rice, sweet and sour chicken over rice, and lemon chicken over rice very delicious too.
They should come back in the evening and have some Chinese food.

I particularly recommend the soy sauce chicken (not always available).
Or the steamed chicken with lap cheung (also not always).
Ask for pea-sprouts with garlic (seasonal).
蒜蓉豆苗 ('suen yung dau miu').

I really really like the Capital Restaurant.
The prices are good, the food is great.
And I really really like lamb chops!



AFTERWORD

Years ago my ex went there a lot for lunch. She particularly liked the ox tail. But since she started seeing Wheelie Boy, she's hardly gone at all.
Wheelie Boy is "sensitive", and also has trouble with hillsides. Plus he worries about people inadvertently killing him, or poisoning him, or feeding him stuff his delicate digestive system can't handle .....

Lamb chops and rice would probably kill him.

Poor little limited dingus.



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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

To the young lady with with developmental hip displasia (I think that's what it's called) at the bus stop last night, waiting for a different line:

I hope someone gave up his seat for you.

That is all.



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Saturday, August 20, 2016

REMEMBERING HOW WE DID IT

Several years ago I was a regular participant in discussions on a mailing list. At that time, I wrote some of the best things I have ever written in Dutch. Recently I discovered one of those pieces while rereading my blog, in a long post from 2007.

Dutch is, at times, a marvelous tool to have in one's gereedschapskist.
It can be expressive and eloquent, as well as pleasantly unpleasant.
I am actually rather glad that it has limited circulation.
English is the common tongue of the world.
Often badly written.


Languages have different strengths. While English has flexibility and can be used with nuance and subtlety to great effect, French and Italian are better for songs, German is ponderous, and perfect for expressing existenzangst and nihilism, and Cantonese combines swear words and curses with greater eloquence than almost any other tongue.
Perhaps it says something about me that I have learned how to speak, albeit not fluently, in Cantonese, whereas my mastery of the other three lingua francas mentioned is at times rather fragmentary.
Though I can read German rather well.


"Auf nihilistische weise fluchen über existenzangst!"


A significant part of it was because of local environment. San Francisco had significantly more Cantonese speakers than Italians, Frenchmen, or even Germans. And I did not particularly seek out the presence of the local Dutch community for reasons that no one needs to know.

That was then. This is now.

North Beach, Chinatown, the Wharf, and the shopping and business districts have become the stomping grounds of well-heeled migrants from back East, who enjoy the colour and photogenism but largely avoid the natives. Poor people are, after all, far less interesting (or human) close up than the well-dressed consumers of imported luxuries, and while one values the contribution of dishwashers and retail clerks, one would far rather that they live elsewhere. South City, for instance, or even further afield. Real people do not cluster in crowded housing, depend upon public transport, or shop for fresh vegetables at any other place than Whole Foods.
Real people do yoga or pilates.

Oh by the way - Ferry Plaza is just darling!
Real bread, craft beer, and organic food!
It's very clean and almost European!
And everybody speaks English!

This quadrant of the city used to be more Cantonese than it is now. There were fewer bars, and less public misbehaviour. But our real estate moguls have profited enormously in the past few years, more condominiums are going up on corners where there were abandoned churches, copy shops, gas stations, and groceries. One sees more precious Chihuahuas and toy poodles than children on the streets, and what one hears late at night from the nearby intersection indicates a far greater interest in televised sports and big rambunctious boobies than ever before.


This is less of a family city than it was.


Also, there used to be more statuesque drag queens floating around. That, too, might be a sign that our standards have gone down and the city isn't what it used to be.

A city that lacks statuesque drag queens and immigrant families is, when you think about it, no better than the all the anonymous and depressing burgs in Flyoverstan.

I wonder what Cleveland and Detroit are like.
Probably dull, depressing, and Waspy.
Mayor Ed Lee would love that.
No more shrimp-paste!


More than ever before San Francisco is perfect for tourists, single urban professionals and consumerites, and snobs.
A garbage boutique.



We could also do with fewer bros.
But that's just a thought.




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Friday, August 19, 2016

YES. WHATEVER.

The image below was on Facebook. It belongs to The Meta Picture, as far as anyone can tell. It had the following caption: "Naps are way better when you have a snuggle buddy..."


Naps. Better. Snuggle buddy.


On the one hand, it is a very nice picture. Sweet, even. And charming. On the other, it is one of the most intensely irritating and unpleasant things that I have seen in several years.




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WELL THEN WHY DON'T YOU ...

Yesterday evening, after a stress filled day, I fully intended to break my own resolve about avoiding a certain cigar-smoking environment in downtown San Francisco. Instead I had dinner, conversed with my apartment mate and the various stuffed creatures for whom she channels, and after she retired to her room to happily read a big compendium of horror, I indulged in some icecream before bed.
I am glad I never made it there.

One should not inflict oneself on others when one is in a bad mood.

And, given that those others probably would not have even particularly sympathized -- this blogger is, he has finally concluded, not fully human by the standards of many themselves not very likable types -- it would have been like casting little pearls of venom and bile before swine.

The swine don't deserve that.


I also realized, in the middle of my bowlful of coffee-chocolate chip, that the reason why everyone treats a particular coworker better, is because he's a genuinely nice guy.

I am not a genuinely nice guy.


The good thing about NOT ending up in the cigar bar last night is that it gives me much more time today to enjoy my day off, and go have some lamb chops for lunch in Chinatown.
Unlike with people, I have an excellent relationship with lamb chops.
Lamb chops have never taken me for granted.
They've always been surprised.

I've been promising myself those lamb chops for weeks.

The time has come.




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Thursday, August 18, 2016

UGLY AMERICANS

This blogger is not pleased that his nation is represented at the Olympics by juvenile delinquents. As it turns out to be. The swimmers got plastered, behaved disgracefully, acted stupid at a gas station, then came up with a cock and bull story to cover their time out. They may have visited a house, or several houses, of ill-repute.
But they did not act correctly.
And they lied. To all of us.
Whom they represented.


Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger.


Americans do not have a very good reputation abroad.
What these American swimmers did in Rio didn't help.

If it were up to me, there would be a public whipping.



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SHIPWRECKED BOYSCOUTS

In a pipesmoking group, someone asked "If you could only smoke one blend for the rest of your life what would it be?" Given that the FDA now has the tobacco portfolio, and wishes to exterminate the noble weed that made America great, fueled the creative engines of such people as Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Samuel Longhorn Clemens, Joseph Stalin, and William Faulkner -- all of whom were probably un-American (sarcastic sneer) -- and was a solace to General George Washington, this is an existential question.

The responses were frightening. They included Captain Black, Lane 1Q, and Molto Dolce.


These are all popular products.


Sometimes the reasons for popularity are not praiseworthy. Take, for example, the four most popular beers in the United States: Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Budweiser. There are also, not far behind, such sudsy powerhouses as Michelob, Heineken, and Pacifico.

You can conclude from this that Americans have no taste, are slopebrows with hairy palms, and are all drooling syphilitics.


The beers mentioned above are perfect accompaniments for General Tso's Chicken, Crab Rangoon, Sweet & Sour, and Orange Chicken.


Your task, little pilgrim muffin, is to strenuously avoid the company of anyone who drinks those brews, eats those dishes, and smokes perfumed dreck.


No, I shall not detail which beers, pipe tobaccos, or prepared foods, are the desert island must haves. My tastes are not yours. Degustibus non disputandum est. Strive to have a brewing vat, a couple of Peterson System Standards, and a wok with you, if you get marooned.


A book by Henry James would be good also.




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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE PERFECT BABY SITTER

Normal readers may look somewhat askance at my frequent mentions of pipe smoking and fine tobaccos. In fact, normal readers might even fear that I will lead their children and puppy dogs astray, and teach them all about my evil habits.

In truth, I would like nothing better.

Introduce me to them.


It is my fond hope that each new generation throw up a few pipe smokers, as otherwise there will be nobody to wheel me to the designated smoking spot when I am old and knackered.

I doubt that the nurses at the retirement home for disreputable geezers will, as there are probably rats in the overflowing dump five blocks away that will have been designated a municipal non-smoke-free zone.
Along with discarded needles and politicians.


There are, however, some things that I do not wish them to ever be familiar with, or know about, those darling kiddie-winkies and doggie-woggies.
Because I am civilized, and a considerate and humane person.
And there are heresies that even I won't touch.


CULT - BLOOD RED MOON

"This dark, decadent blend combines fire-cured Cavendish, bright Virginias and Burleys with the delicious aromas of natural Royal Ann cherry and dark chocolate. A bit sweet, extremely rich, and unquestionably smooth."
[See: Tobacco Reviews.]

The best that can be said about this product is that there isn't too much goo. Which is relative. If you are used to goo bubbling away at the bottom of your bowl, this isn't for you. But it does have a powerful cherry reek, with hints of chocolate, pepto, and vomit.

It will appeal ONLY to lovers of cherry tobacco.
Who are ALL frightful effing perverts.
Except Miss Walters.


I have never understood the popularity of cherry tobaccos, but suspect that these appeal to people with steampunk goth tendencies. Especially if they love creepy sh*t, which Miss Walters does.
She also likes Molto Dolce.

So far no one has had any luck persuading her to only smoke nice discreet stuff. She and her husband constantly dabble in tobaccos that taste like Halloween candy or overly fermented pumpkins. Probably a rebellious thing. Brash childhoods transformed into daring adulthood, pushing envelopes, and going where none have gone before.

I am jealous of their stamina; I couldn't hack it.

The chocolate is more prominent near the end.

Amazingly, there also seems to be vanilla in it.


What this means is that the new crop of pipe smokers must be caught while young, BEFORE they develop queer tastes. A regimen of Latakia blends and Perique mixtures is recommended, after accustoming them to pale blonde blander products to begin with. As their tastes develop, they will seek out Turkish leaves and matured flakes, possibly pairing them with straight coffee rather than the overly sweet frappuchony crap they usually drink, or mango passion fruit iced bubble tea.

Plus good literature; that's important!
Stretch their little minds.


Perhaps even at some time Lakeland Flake and Fanny Hill for laughs.
Or 'Life in a Girls' Reformatory', and Black Rope.
Anything but cherry.




TOBACCO INDEX


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SOME PEOPLE'S SPIRIT ANIMAL IS THE HAGFISH

There's a video on Facebook of a strangely dressed woman making animal sounds while drumming. It is stated that she is interpreting for her spirit animals (plural), and that somehow this is all deeply meaningful, and if you don't have a spirit animal you are in likely all ways lacking, deficient, and altogether too bourgeois.

The only reason why people keep reposting it is because she is young, shapely, and blonde. And nearly naked. No, I shan't post that video here, because some things do NOT need to be shared. But I will observe that for someone who represents an entire menagerie of wild and possibly rabid animals, she is remarkably clean.
No beasts that roll around in mud.
Or play with their food.
After it's dead.


I'm not sure, but I assume that she is full of chakras, drinks only fair trade coffee and kombucha, recycles religiously, and will vote for Jill Stein.
It is very likely that she is either vegan or gluten-intolerant.


This is the height of the tourist season in San Francisco, and many of our visitors, if they have spirit animals at all, are guided by the mighty beached whale.

Proud, noble, immense, and slightly whiff.
Radiating their bloated goodness.
That, too, is meaningful.


THE WELL-COOKED SPIRIT ANIMAL

When faced with a choice of where to eat yesterday, I picked the place a block and a half way from "Tourist Mob Fustercludge Crossing" (Grant Avenue and Washington Street), and ended up enjoying the peace and quiet of a restaurant filled with Cantonese people. No offense to white people, of whom I am proudly one also, but Caucasians are often loud and unbearable in groups. Or weirdly obsessive, and possibly paranoid.
Some of them dress funny, smell bad, and eat too much.
Not so the local Cantonese folks.
They are refreshing.

Plus, being so white I glow in the dark, I can listen in on their conversations while looking totally oblivious, and none of them will know the difference.

[To clarify: Yes, I do speak Cantonese. Toishanwaa, not so much.]

Unlike me, Cantonese people seldom talk about white people.
Nor do they talk about mundane trivialities.
What they talk about is food.


I seriously doubt that Cantonese folks have spiritual animals. That, plus auras, karma, getting in touch with nature, shamanism, the Amazon rainforest, crystal-healing, special diets, juice-cleansing, and regular appointments for high-colonics, must be a total white person thing.

Bellyaching about white people also seems to be a white person thing.
Which probably means that I am perfect at being white.
I should concentrate on meaningfulness.
Or interpretive dance.



AFTERWORD

You don't get to choose your spirit animal. It chooses you. If you don't like the animal, you must cleanse yourself with an all-organic fruit juice cure, for several days, meditate, and do yoga. Eventually the hagfish will leave your body through the anus and you will become Vani Hari or Vandana Shiva.
Both of whom are spirit animals that only white people can have.

[There's also Deepak Chopra, who has: "epistemic humility, reverence for existence, (and) value(s) transcendence". No, no one knows what the bloody hoohers that means.]

Don't forget to tell everyone you know all about it.
Because spirituality is meaningful.
And, like, important.
Only yours.


My spirit animal eats bacon.



This blogpost was fuelled by strong coffee; I am totally jazzed right now.




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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MOST FRIGHTENING ACCESSORY

What is totally totemic, and brings a smile to the haggard face of every cigar-smoking middle-aged dingus? What, in fact, tells them that all is well with the world, and even though their wife left them because they are dreary sexist spread-gut pigs with body odour and a lack of tact, they have made some good decisions in life?

If I had to hazard a guess, it would be seeing a dashing middle-aged pipe-smoker happily shouldering a lovely Hello Kitty backpack filled with pipes, tobacco, pipe cleaners, tampers, and wooden stick matches pilfered from a place where one may light up.

Plenty goodies!

To the best of my knowledge there is only one such person in the entire San Francisco Bay Area, which is where that scene may be most likely observed.



I like bringing joy to shrivelled little hearts.


A few years ago I purchased the accessory detailed above, because there is no reason why a backpack should not radiate hostility toward potential thieves at bus stops or in coffee shops. "Take me", it seems to say, "and you will be marked for life". Or at least for the next two or three hours, while the legitimate owner hunts you down and kills you.

It's very useful on working days.


PINK GOTH PSYCHO FURBALL TYKE

There is only ONE other person I have seen with the exact same backpack. She's about three feet tall at best, of Cantonese extraction, and wanders up Sacramento Street in Chinatown with her mommy and her little brother when school is out.

No, I'm never going to introduce myself, nor explain to her that my own backpack is exactly the same as hers. Primarily because little girls need to feel unique. It might inspire her to stupendous rage and ultra-violence if she found out that an adult owned a backpack featuring Hello Kitty.
And, precisely like hers, stylishly white, pink, and black.
Those colours speak of dark things, secret things.
Things a grown-up should not know.

Like half a dozen fine briar pipes, two or three fine tobacco choices, pipe cleaners, etcetera.

And probably too much social exposure to cigar smokers.

See description above.




I also own a soft leather pipe-carrying case with room for several items as well as a pouch, but I rarely, almost never, use it. Reason being that it seems too femmy, like a man-purse.

On days off, when I head into C'town for snackies and milk tea, there will be pipes along with tobacco in my coat, and a little tube containing fluffy cleaners and a tamper jutting out of the top right hand pocket.


I flatter myself by assuming that Hello Kitty would never associate with cigar smokers, but would share a fondness for snackies and milk tea.
Though probably not the same pipe tobacco.
Maybe something Latakia instead.
Possibly Bengal Slices.
Balkan funk.




TOBACCO INDEX


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GREAT PROLETARIAN STRIDES

Apparently, Chinese consumers have been slow to accept at least one Western consumer product, despite its staggering popularity in Europe and the United States. Largely due to ignorance about it, its usefulness, and in fact how to use it or even why, the lowly tampon is so little appreciated that till now there has not been a locally manufactured brand.

Like you, I am surprised. I would have thought the Chinese would have actually invented it, like so many other things we take for granted. Here in the United States we're already experimenting with Marijuana tampons, about which I shall have little to say, but over in the mainland most women (and men, probably) are entirely unaware of the item itself.
There are a small number of aficionados in Guangdong (Canton), of course, where people are more aware of Western consumables, and probably heard about it from their Hong Kong relatives.


"...Puff House, a Guangdong-based online store that sells Tampax and Kotex brands from the United States ..... "


Puff house?!? Okay, I like that name. Puff House.

I cannot imagine the initial conversation in which a Hong Kong cousin explains the object to her Mainland cousins. It may have been fraught and staggering.

But the dialogue is moving to the next level.
This is detailed in USA Today: China launches tampon
All quotes here are from that article.

"Ye Deliang, 51, an electrical engineer from central Henan province, plans to launch Danbishuang tampons this month with a social media campaign that stresses their health benefits."

Ye Deliang is of course a man. Because only a male tech whiz is capable of sensibly discussing feminine hygiene.

"When Ye graduated from college in 1986, the government assigned him a job in a factory producing medical cotton supplies, like maternity pads and vaginal swabs. He was initially embarrassed about the gynecological nature of his work, but 30 years later, he is comfortable talking about tampons."

There is poetry in this field; the name of Mr. Ye's brand is beautiful.
Danbishuang (丹碧爽) suggests harmony and comfort, as well as something precious that could be gifted, possibly in a presentation container or a lovely handmade casket.


丹碧爽

Let us analyze: means cinnabar or vermilion, and is much used for pills and medical herb pellets, dating back to alchemists attempting to make the elixir of immortality; is a jade disc, blue or blueish green, sometimes a cloudy white, and one of the totemic items representing perfection and the female principle; means pleasurable, cool, refreshed, or invigorated, with connotations of straightforwardness, brightness, and crispness.

A tampon is described in Chinese as a yuechingmianshuan (月經棉栓), meaning a menstrual cotton peg, plug, rod, stick, or, in this case, contextually a cigarette or cigar shaped object made out of absorbent material.

It strikes me that while I have been quite aware of tampons for several years, I have never much discussed them, especially not with my female friends and acquaintances. Not that I would feel uncomfortable doing so, but the subject comes up so rarely that I doubt that that will change. This is the most I've considered it, its methods, materials, and even construction, in my entire life.


But the tampon is well worth thinking about.


---   ---   ---   ---   ---


Please note: the pronunciation of Chinese characters shown above is in Mandarin, instead of the Cantonese which I would normally use. That is because discussing such things is not something I shall engage upon with anyone locally.

I will not be surprised if male readers tuned out after the forty fourth word.

The word 'tampon' derives from Mediaeval French 'tampion' (tompion), which like many people I first encountered in a passage by Roald Dahl discussing hibernating bears.




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