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.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

ROSS ALLEY

A good place to wander with a pipe, in the time before Covid, was just around the corner from the San Sun Restaurant on the corner of Ross Alley and Washington Street, where the old San Wah Kue used to be. Where, back in the past, one could smoke a pipe indoors, provided it was a mild blend, not a top-heavy Latakia mixture or a sickening aromatic.
Stealthy flakes. Those were good.

Especially if one was discreet, and sat near the open door to Ross Alley.


Rainy days especially.

San Wah Kue (新華僑餐廳 'san waa kiu chaan-teng') was famous for apple pie, ox tail, pork chops, rib-eye, tongue, and fried chicken. And especially an orange pie, for which people resettled in the Avenues would make trips to the old neighborhood.

There is another restaurant in that location now, San Sun (三陽咖啡餐屋 'saam-yeung ka-fei chaan-ok'), which is also a nice place to eat. Either their bitter melon and pork over rice (涼瓜豬肉飯 ('leung gwaa chü yiuk faan'), or the rice stick noodles in broth with grilled pork: 燒猪肉河粉 ('siu chü yiuk ho fan').With a glass of Vietnamese coffee (越南咖啡 'yuet naam ga fei').

Smoking is of course no longer allowed (even though many Cantonese and Viet-Chinese men smoke like chimneys), and even in their previous location they did not stock the 555 State Express straights in the yellow tin which many Vietnamese Chinese noodle places carried.


At the far end of Ross Alley (舊呂宋巷 'gau leui-song hong') was Alan Gin's barber shop. Alan Gin, you possibly remember, was known locally as the Chinese Elvis, but as a piano player that nickname was of course not quite apposite. He also had roles in a few locally produced films that have sunk out of sight. Good man. Interesting. He passed away two decades ago.
His barber shop has had various occupants since then.

Both of the herbalists I patronized are within a block walking distance, many of the restaurants and bakeries I like are within three blocks. So for a private man who wants to smoke his pipe without angry Berkeley earth-mom types yelling at him for poisoning their precious lungs and killing children, it is the perfect place. Anonymity and peace.

There are one room walk-ups above the printing place and the Christian mission, occupied by small families and elderly single people; the folks who work hard and will eventually escape, or their aged aunties, uncles, and grandparents, who wouldn't feel comfortable elsewhere in the city, away from the shops and services they depend on.
It's a community.

It's quiet there now. The normal bustle of daily life has stilled, the tourists cannot come. But the neighborhood is surviving, and carrying on living. Occasionally when I'm shopping there I visit the alleyways again. From upstairs I hear voices, sometimes a violin, and news programmes on televisions.

Two of the restaurants I used to go to have put tables outside, but I have not gone to either one so far. One is located on Washington Street, the other on Waverly. The idea of eating on the public pavement does not appeal.
They'll survive (I hope), and eventually I'll go back.
When normal life returns.

There have been no opportunities for late night walks there.
But I'm hopeful that next summer there will be.
Toward a brighter tomorrow.



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THE GIFT OF PEPPERS

My apartment mate gave me some lovely chilies and a bottle of hot sauce from the Farmers' Market yesterday evening. Hot chilies.
Incautiously, I had some with my dinner last night.
Lawsy, miss Scarlet, I is wide awake now.

See, they were too small to quickly scrape out the seeds before I needed to plonk them in the pan. When I cook, I cook fast.

Chili seeds are rather like breakfast cereal between the teeth, and there are good reasons why I never touch that stuff. And oatmeal, of course, looks disgusting.

ARTICLE OF AMELIORATION

None of this interfered with my morning walk, though. First cup of coffee while looking strangely alert, instead of bleary eyed. Scope out the news, throw on some clothes, grab a pipe and walk out the door.

A good brisk walk. It's still foggy outside. I can't understand the weather we're having, it has been unnaturally cold this July and August. Frigid. Per the medical man I saw yesterday, feeling the cold more acutely is something that happens when one grows older. And he mentioned his father (anecdotal evidence) for comparison. The man used to go about at all times in his shirtsleeves, now needs a sweater.


I'll forgive him suggesting that I'm old. Which I'm not. Plus he also mentioned that one of the receptionists enjoys speaking Cantonese with me. Which seems to amuse or please him, I'm not sure.


Normally the people who enjoy speaking Cantonese with me are not American born. My apartment mate, for instance, has only belatedly gotten used to the fact that I know things, and am a useful source of linguistic information. Despite my HK thug accent. Often I and the stuffed creatures will have an entire conversation in Cantonese, much of it involving tasty food and why one should not use foul language of any kind (穢語 'wai yü', 爛口 'laan hou', 詛咒 'jo jau'), without her actually knowing what we're talking about. Obviously some of our smaller roomies have dirty mouths.
It's rather shocking, I'm afraid.

Personally I find it disconcerting when creatures who are less than twelve inches tall use strong language.


Because I am a clean-mouthed man. Acquainted with the proprieties.


Which is why I tend to smoke outside (when she's at home) and never swear in the bathroom, no matter how sorely tempted.


Those chilies were hot.


啲椒真係好辣嘅。
椒死啦。



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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

FABULOUS BEAST

Imagine a pipe tobacco mixture with all the exotic appeal of the Orient. Carpets, fezzes, and the hot blazing sun. Something that appeals to the adventurer or strange carnival freak within.

Mystery, romance! Cairo!

Kittens!


Perhaps something consisting of sixty two and a half percent medium red blending flake, twelve and half percent bright ribbon, twelve and half percent Turkish leaf, twelve and half percent Latakia. Or thereabouts.
Five parts, one part, one part, one part.
Think outside the box.

Not a top-heavy Syrian product, but sort of Balkanish.

Actual proportions may vary.
Tentative.




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MEN HAVE OPINIONS

This morning, before I headed out to my cardiologists office for an echo-cardiogram and a treadmill stress test, two friends hissed at each other on my Facebook page. I like both gentlemen, and I can understand both of their viewpoints. My own perspective is not entirely the same as either of them; I am right. Because I am a Dutchman. Dutchmen are ALWAYS right. Well, not always. When other Dutchmen disagree with me they are wrong, and it's sad that they do not always understand that, but we'll keep arguing until they come around to my way of thinking.

How horrible it would be if we all had the same opinions!
There would be nothing to talk about!

One of the two hissies is a South African, somewhat old school, the other one is a gay young blade from San Francisco, unabashedly liberal. And I'll cut both of them a hell of a lot of slack because they're my people. I am of Dutch descent, American colonies, traded to the British like so much cattle in 1664 by that hosebag Peter Stuyvesant. And I am a San Franciscan, having been born in California. My mother's father was stationed at the Presidio, and lived here till the end of his life.


My father, one of whose pipes is pictured above, was at Berkeley both before and after the war. But he bought that pipe when he still lived in Beverly Hills. High school years

My grandmother, who did not have any pipes, lived in Berkeley till her death in the early eighties, after having been stationed on Treasure Island and in Germany.

Though I returned to California long ago, I spent sixteen years in the Netherlands, where I purchased the pipe shown below.


Smoked both of these briars today. The top one before the appointment, the bottom one afterwards.

And yes, I speak Dutch and understand Afrikaans. In my Facebook list of friends are a number of Afrikaners and Dutchmen, as well as Jewish people from all over the world, Surinamers all over the world, Chinese, Indos and Indonesians (ditto), people of various skin tones (ditto), plus several pipe smokers, collectors, and pipe carvers, and a few Canadians (my father served in the Royal Canadian Airforce as a bomber pilot over Germany).
And I'm sure all of them agree that a Dutchman is always right.
Or have a strong opinion about that idea.


The appointment with the cardiologist? It went well. He also had the results of the bloodtests and we went over that in quite some detail, having now adequately established that there was actually blood there. I'm finally off the Clopidogrel, so I won't bleed out from inconsequential cuts, scrapes, or piercings (and can now shave without a quick nick slicing off an ingrown hair bump and making my neck look Gothic and suitable for Hallowe'en), and the echo-cardiogram showed that I do have a heart.
Which some people have seriously doubted.
We know where it is, too.

[He has a heart? We thought he was all asshole.]

We have different opinions about the advisability of smoking, which is a matter that my primary care physician also brings up. And one of these days I shall have to discuss with both gentlemen the peace of mind and equitable temperament that pipe smoking will induce. All physicians should smoke, as a means of coping with the stress of their job and a clientele which is often irrational. Especially these two; my primary doctor deals with a lot of elderly Cantonese, my cardiologist has clients who use ten pounds of bacon every day as a crutch.

Besides, pipesmoking lends a man gravitas, while miraculously also giving him a still youthful collegiate air. It's miraculous.

In celebration of my blood cholesterol and uric acid levels being very much better than the last time, I celebrated with a bacon , pork, and cheese sandwich.



Please note: while all physicians should smoke pipes, they should stay the hell away from aromatics. Such unclean compounds, in addition to being overloaded with weird garbage (caramel, vanillin, fruit essences, and cheap candy flavours) are morally like getting smashed on bar tenders' free shots (lemon drops, blood clots, cement mixers, key lime pies, Ferraris, Fireballs, sex on the beach, Jägermeister, and Green Chartreuse, etcetera).
These are depraved, and show a weak character.

A man's choice of pipe tobacco proves what's in him better than the queer shiznit that sometimes comes out of his mouth. Clean tobaccos, natural, with a sufficiency of the condimental leaves to give it a zestiness.

Honestly, in real life I get along with a vast spectrum of people.
Except smokers of Mixture 79 and Molto Dolce.
Or Clan. Or Firedance Flake.
Perverts.



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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

IT'S THE ACCENT, ISN'T IT?

The problem is that I look like any other person. Which, as you probably realize, is just a trick. It's part of my dastardly plan to gain advantages.
I'm actually from outer space, here to steal your vital juices and force fluoridation upon you good people.


"I really shouldn't be surprised that you speak such good English; you Dutch have a talent with languages, and you probably learned it in school, better educated than Yanks.
Such clever people.
"



Okay.... Should I now reiterate that I was born here, and that we moved overseas when I was two? Or that I've been back in the States for most of my life, and, you know, spoke English at home? Both of my parents were American, my dad's family have been here for nearly four centuries, my mom's family going on three?


"Wow, you speak such perfect Dutch, as far as I'm concerned, you're one of us."


Gee thanks.

The one place where linguistic dexterity does have nearly unbiased rewards is in Chinatown. For one thing, speaking Cantonese (however badly) results in instant comprehension. A channel of communication has been opened, and when there is also evidence that I can read I get extra brownie points.


Sorry, mrs. Lee, I wasn't born in Hong Kong; I picked up my Cantonese from watching gangster movies. The reading ability is because I like dictionaries. And I look things up.


It's all part of my dastardly plan to force fluoridation on white peoples.

一個卑鄙嘅同邪惡嘅計劃 ('yat go bei pei ge tung che ngok ge gai waak'; an evil and malicious scheme).

氟化 ('fat faa'; fluoridation).

We extraterrestrials are good at that.
And we speak Dutch.




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CHINESE STUDENTS IN THE U.S.

As a patriotic American, I was pissed to read about Chinese students in the United States caught between American xenophobia and racism on one side, and the Mainland Government's current restrictions on travel due to Covid on the other. What's abundantly evident in any case is that both Washington as well as American jingoists are intent on being complete assholes and morons.

[See this article: NEITHER THE U.S. NOR CHINA.]

No, I shall not criticize the Chinese government here, that isn't what this post is about. My point is that it is hugely to our advantage to have foreign students come here, we like an influx of intelligent motivated people, and as a country we should "hearts and minds" them, and we absolutely must be gracious hosts.

Which I know is entirely beyond many of the people in the interior.
That entire range of concepts is quite foreign to them.



Frankly speaking, all those worried Chinese students should move to San Francisco. There are far fewer assholes and flat-earthers here, and better people and educational opportunities. Significantly less violent inbred mo-fos and racists. Plus a large Chinese American population which is solidly grounded and well-established.



Yeah, we also have some complete dickheads -- the number of times someone has told me to go back where I came from is depressingly large, and just one dickhead can ruin your entire day -- but the average I.Q. is higher than most of the South and a lot of the Mid-West, there's more here than just corn, and we have MUCH better ice cream.


Come for the ice cream.

You'll like it.




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Monday, August 03, 2020

IT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL

One problem with a bâtard is that if not eaten within a day it dries out. Which turns it hard, and one's apartment mate might then suggest "it's stale, we should throw it away". No. Dissuade her. She's Cantonese American, and does not fully understand the bread paradigm.

FIRST PIPE OF THE DAY, BEFORE HOSPITAL VISIT

Please think back to that scene in A Better tomorrow 2 where Ah Ken (Chow Yunfat) tells the hoodlum "rice is like my father and mother, don't fuck with my family" just before almost blowing his head off and screaming "open your mouth and eat the effing rice, eat it, sik, ham ka chaan!" It's a noteworthy scene. The way Chinese people feel about rice is significant. And precisely so regarding actual bread. Meaning real bread, not that inedible supermarket air-sponge that Americans often eat.
Bread is sacrosant, do not waste good bread!

[食, 冚家鏟! Sik, ham kaa chaan: Cantonese for "eat, (or I will) exterminate your family!"]

So I gently persuaded her not to chuck it out. I would eat it.
We do not EVER insult bread. Bread is life.


The way I feel about honest bread is European, very Dutch, but I'm sure that you can understand. It's years of accumulated conditioning, and similar to the way I feel about herring. You've admired all those sixteenth century still-life paintings in museums, yes? Herring is ALSO life.

Even after steaming a hunk of dried bâtard and then toasting it, it was a bit hard. But it went well with the mixed meats, vegetable matter, and hot condiments (two of them) that I put in my sandwich. Delicious!

That may have been partly because I was starving. I went down to the hospital for blood tests, as part of my yearly check-up, so I hadn't eaten anything since last night, and hadn't had any coffee yet either. When you rely on caffeine to kick-start your engine, the absence of any of that substance in your system makes life "difficult".


Two sentences you might not wish to hear on public transit are "don't (expletive) touch me!" and "what's (expletive) wrong with you?!!?" Both from a few seats over. This is NOT something that many Cantonese San Franciscans often experience, as the loonies here are overwhelmingly Caucasian, and know better than to harass Cantonese. Chow Yunfat's behaviour in A Better Tomorrow 2 shows that if necessary, they can take it to the next two levels, and things may go south in a split second.
Only pester calm and sluggish white people.

The trick to traveling by public transit in San Francisco and arriving at your destination calm, unmolested, and in an equitable mood, is to radiate batshit homicidal psychosis.


After being jabbed by a Cantonese American lab technician down at the hospital, very capably and entirely painlessly, showing that she's dealt with people in that manner extremely many times before, I visited my bank and returned home. I desperately needed coffee.


Fixed lunch and fed the turkey vulture too. Of all the stuffed animals he's the most obsessed about food. Even though he thinks everything good to eat is corpse. Vegetables? Dead Irish people! Dumplings? Dead Chinese people! Sausages? The tubular Americans! And so forth.
Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom!

SECOND PIPE, SMOKED AFTER COFFEE AND LUNCH

The turkey vulture also required dessert; very low blood sugar.

He gets a bit crazy if we don't feed him regularly.

He's had lunch twice today.

Plus breakfast.



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Sunday, August 02, 2020

CULLING THE HERD

One of the people whom I regretfully have to deal with on a fairly regular basis says that Covid-19 will go away on November Fourth. Which is a typical stupid and vicious thing to say, as well as showing what an ignorant fool he is. With a bit of luck he will have died by then.


Sunday August 2, 9:05 PM.
4,667,930 confirmed cases in the US. 154,859 deaths.


Apparently the entire state of Idaho believes the same. They too can die.


As time goes on my tolerance has grown thin.



By the way: if the entire state of Idaho were to disappear overnight, no one would miss them. Absolutely no one.



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PORTLAND POLICE TARGET PRESS

Yesterday at ten thirty PM the Portland Police targeted a freelance journalist. Slashed her tires, and shattered her rear-window.

[This was in addition to casual violence against many people last night when the PPB got out of hand, and several incidents of police brutality. Riot by cop, in other words.]


What the hell?!?


If anybody kills members of the Portland Police, who am I to object? Far be it from me to advise anybody to do so, but on the other hand, no one will shed a tear if Portland cops come to a bad end.
And their families should disown them.


Bull puckey:
Portland Police@PortlandPolice
Sworn to Protect. Dedicated to Serve. Portland, Oregon. NOT MONITORED 24/7. Call or Text 911 for Emergencies (in progress) or 503-823-3333 for Non-Emergencies.


They've proven that they're opportunistic scum, basically gangsters.
There's plenty of video.





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Saturday, August 01, 2020

CHINESE PIPE ART

Two weeks ago I highlighted a number of Chinese briar pipe artists whose work is splendid and well worth being familiar with. They are, one the whole, active people, and I've seen several more lovely pieces on their Facebook pages and posts since then.

Beautiful pipes.

Cang Zhenming



Eagle Fang



Gao Jie



Liu Zifeng



Shi Pu



Chao Han-Qing (赵汉青)



Chen Ce (陈策)



These gentlemen truly understand how to bring out the best in briar, their lovely pipes would grace any collection.


The photos above were copied from their Facebook pages without their permission, for the purpose of showcasing their work, which is among the best I have seen.





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MANNERS AND MORALS

Last night, our neighbors in the next building over, who are idiots, had a Friday evening party in the back yard. With lots of people attending, and lots of booze. Very crowded. Festive and noisy.
During. The. Middle. Of. A. Pandemic.
Yes of course they're white.
What did you expect?


They're young, they're care-free, they're happy.
They'll be dead soon.


Because I am a sour old grumpus, and puritanically inclined, and strongly disapprove of many people and much of modern society, and don't have an ounce of Christian fellow-feeling in my shriveled-up soul in any case, I don't care.

Sorry man. No mask, no distance, no Jesus.



Drunken revelry is an invitation to disease.



The properly abstemious and self-disciplined individual in these perilous times does NOT drink socially (heaven forefend), wears a mask at all times when interacting with others, stays at least six to ten feet away from the natives, and enjoys a pipeful of decent tobacco occasionally in a briar which is neither flamboyant nor eye-catching and that has been kept clean. His neighbors' funeral is NOT his concern.

His choice of stimulating beverage is limited to hot coffee or tea. Such as I myself drink when I get home from work, babysitting the future covidians of Marin County. Of whom I disapprove.



The least you people can do to show that you understand the operational paradigm of this era is to drink anti-socially. Go on.



Control your turpitude, you heathens!




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Friday, July 31, 2020

BENT LIKE AN IRISHMAN

He was going on vacation with his girlfriend, off to London for nearly two weeks. In preparation for which he left me a generous purse for the household expenses, and three orders for while he was away. Make sure there is coffee when I come back. Make sure that there is toilet paper.
Don't burn the house down.

Shortly after the car had disappeared from sight I was raiding his desk in the upstairs living room, because I knew where his pipes were. Oh boy.

Some of the household moneys were indeed spent on coffee and toilet paper. Some of it on food (and I ate a lot of sautéed mushrooms that fortnight). And some of it -- more than I normally would have spent from my allowance -- went for tins of Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco.
For the next several days I was high as a kite on coffee, filled to the gills on mushrooms, and happily puffing good tobacco in excellent pipes.

About as dissolute and self-indulgent as a non-alcoholic teenager with no romantic involvements can be. Read a lot, bicycled a lot, smoked a lot, stayed by myself a lot. I had a wonderful time.

So did my father.


One of his pipes that I "borrowed" was a Peterson System Standard, such as the shape illustated below.


It was my first exposure to the type. I liked it. A lot.

A few months later, when I was sent back to the United States for school, I purchased my own. A slightly different shape. Which I smoked in the student lounge, at a deli on Market near the Embacadero, and at the Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue while "studying".
These are all places where smoking is no longer permitted.


That one I eventually got rid of, likewise the same shape with a gorgeous grain which I had while living on Piedmont Avenue.
Since then I've acquire two more briars of that shape. I've finally faced the fact that while Peterson System Standards are in a way quite pedestrian, I really like them; they look so 'pipe like'.

The last time I visited my Dad before he passed away I bought one at the tobacconist in Woensel, which is unusual because you seldom see sandblasted Peterson Systems on this side of the Atlantic.


The graphic effect above was achieved by drawing the light and shade using the crayon feature of the Paint programme, several different hues, then reducing the drawing for a life like effect.


Spray paint, oil brush, and water colour brush are also useful.
As in the creamy exemplar below.


A few years ago, a friend got rid of some pipes he did not smoke anymore because they were too small. He'd graduated toward big briars, and full Latakia mixtures instead of Virginia Flakes. I have some of his "discards". The meerschaum above and the 314 below.


Here is another one of his pipes.


[The three pipes above (the meerschaum, the 314, and the 305) were often what I smoked in the evenings during the two years when I desperately needed medical attention but had no coverage. During that period I became increasingly ill, often nearly passing out after walking only a few blocks. Frequent excruciating head-aches as well.
In the three months before my insurance kicked in I did not know if I would survive long enough; it was a bit of gamble. But apparently I survived. A coronary stent was put in exactly one month after I stumbled into the clinic. And I'm taking pills. So I'm good for several more years. Thank you, San Francisco Chinese Hospital.]


All three of these pipes are excellent smokes.



Peterson pipes have been around for well-over a century, both pleasing smokers and pissing them off. It's a crapshoot.  Their quality control has at times been "iffy", and they've experimented irresponsibly with weird lacquers and varnishes that are hard to remove, yet bubble and blister.

Evenso, some of their products are considered classics.

Especially their full bent pipes.


And special series items.


I particularly remember smoking the Rathbone above with Mac Baren's Virginia Flake while exiled around the corner from the group with whom I was having coffee. For the benefit of the non-smokers.

Well, anti-smokers. Tobacco nazis.


Nowadays I seldom hang out with tobacco-hating types. They aren't very mellow, and they tend toward mental rigidities in other ways.
Or off-kilter belief systems. Largely not a very flexible bunch.
But I have several Peterson pipes of which I'm very fond.
And I know a fair number of smoke-tolerant people.

One of the remarkable things about many anti-smokers is that they drink too much and are, frequently,  unapologetic pot-heads.
Almost as if they've got problems.
Psychological damage.
"Issues".



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Thursday, July 30, 2020

MIDNIGHT WITH HORNED THINGS

It is with awe that I read that gentlemen used to go for a canter early in the morning to get their blood flowing, and that doing so was considered not only good exercise but also beneficial to the digestion, plus preparing them for the heat of the day and a full work schedule. Obviously that was a different time and place.

By cantering is meant riding their horse around the forest and the fore jungle. Which, to my semi-sedentary mind, sounds perfectly ghastly.


Those same gentlemen started on port wine and gin-pahits at around three in the afternoon, and were quite blotto by tea time.

That too was considered normal and natural.


Nowadays many of my habits, though firmly rooted in the past, are considered peculiar and rather eccentric.


I'm usually out of the house with a pipe before eight o'clock (7:30 today), taking a constitutional around the neighborhood. Breakfast consists of coffee, and a bleary scoping of the news. No solid food, and above all no buggery cereals. Then walk and smoke. At around ten or eleven maybe a cookie, or at work a pastry. Bacon and eggs, if they are eaten at all, go into the main meal sometime during the middle of the afternoon.
It will be followed by strong tea.

A late lunch is the most important meal of the day. There will be sambal (hot chili condiments), maybe chutneys, and, during my days off, rice or noodles.


Getting blotto is a Northern European habit, and also very common here in North America. Like breakfast, it is best avoided. The last few times when I visited Holland I did have breakfasts, because it was expected of guests.
But I wasn't quite vested in the process. Fortunately cocktails were not included at the hotel in Amsterdam.

Because lets face it, Northern Europeans commonly drink like fish.
From Galway to Minsk, alcoholism is common.
Which leads to bad food choices,


You'll be glad to know that even though I am an abstemious fellow, I am still quite capable of making bad food choices. I do not need liquor to be an idiot. Bean chips. Pickled chilies. Two servings of ice cream.

What the hell was in those bean chips anyway?

Vegs and sambal, also a bad idea.

I have regrets.


In retrospect, I should not have been casually snacking while reading news articles on the internet yesterday evening (weird Texan medicine), as what I ate so abstractedly had a negative influence on my sleep last night.
Dreams in which I was pursued by horned beetles.
And a giant scaly cockroach.



The pipe pictured above, which I smoked during my walk this morning, was acquired during a trip back to the Netherlands, when I saw my father for the last time. It means a lot to me.

I am somewhat recovered now.



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