SOMETHING SMELLY THIS WAY COMES
Dusk and dawn take longer in Valkenswaard than here in SF. At this time of year, the morning mist covers the market square, the glimmer of the sun from the direction of the Hofnar cigar factory is scarcely visible. A flock of screaming marsh birds from the fens south of town circle and swoop over the bricks every morning at first light.
My father has come upstairs to wash. I go down to the kitchen, have a cup of coffee, and head out on my bike to enjoy the first pipe of the day. Along the square, up the Leender Weg, then north past the other cigar factory (Willem II). Beyond the warehouses there is a reek of fermented leaves, pressed and steamed - Java and Sumatra, Brazil and Cameroon. A warm fecund aroma, strongest at this time of day. Now turn west, then south on the Eindhovensche Weg, and back home to Kerk Steeg.
I wheel my bike into the stables (now a garage for the beetle and our bicycles), and open the kitchen door.
My father is downstairs again, having his second cup of coffee and reading the Dutch newspaper before heading to the office. I pour myself a short half-cup, and sit down to read yesterday's Herald Tribune.
His rustles his paper and asks "did you have the boys over yesterday evening?"
Indeed I did - Dion DeLeeuw, Boudewijn de Bats, Herman Ritter, Tom Bouten, Leendert Westerneng ... And one person whose name I can no longer remember, though I could still find his apartment with my eyes closed (he lived one block away from where the pretty Asian girl went to school).
We drank beer and coffee. A late night gathering after closing Parsifal had become our custom. Last night it took place in our kitchen. The boys put up with my horrid pipe-tobacco because I make excellent coffee. It was a very pleasant hour.
My father knows that this is what we do, and does not object when it happens in our kitchen.
This morning he extends a hand from behind his paper while telling me "ask your friends not to leave this here the next time - they might miss it".
He hands me a one kilo brick of hashish.
Lebanese. Nice quality.
With a corner broken off.
Last night, while I had been smoking Balkan Sobranie (the stinky pipe-tobacco aforementioned), the chap whose name I cannot remember but whose apartment I can still find blindfolded had rolled joints - he was the house dealer at Parsifal.
He had left his stuff on the table when he went home. For my father to discover when he came downstairs.
I am fairly certain my father knew what it was. But I wonder how he knew.
I left before my father finished his newspaper. So that I could return the brick of hashish on my way to school. It was already light out by that time.
Now - 2008
Yesterday evening I went into the kitchen several times for coffee and a smoke (last week Savage Kitten gave me a coffee maker for my birthday, the old one having crapped out several months ago). The smells of Balkan-style tobacco and good coffee from Peet's reminded me of those final years in Valkenswaard. That, and the sense of quiet throughout the building....... My mind's nose again remembered that night, that morning, the perfume of the tobacco, the reek of hashish, and the dry leaves on the Market Square. It was very good.
The name of the Balkan style tobacco is not important, and you probably have your own favourite. It isn't Balkan Sobranie, as that has not been available for over a decade. But if your local tobacconist does not stock a decent Balkan mixture, you can compound something yourself.
Eight parts Latakia
Five parts Turkish
Four parts medium flake, rubbed and fluffed
One part plain cavendish
One part bright ribbon
Let it age in a tightly closed jar for at least a week before smoking. If you added a shpritz of water while mixing, the flavours will meld better.
[Half a part to as much as one and a half parts Perique may be added. Perique lessens tongue-burn.]
Do not smoke it in large pipes - a regular size bowl is best.
Have some good strong coffee while enjoying a pipe full. Peet's is an excellent merchant of beans. As regards the kilo of Lebanese, however, I have no recommendations. I'm afraid you are on your own there. House dealers in the US are not the kind of people you would want to visit you late at night. This is not the same environment as the Netherlands, dusk and dawn are also different here.
Tobacco and coffee however are universal.
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