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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DRIBBLING DOODH ALL OVER MY DHOTI

Pretty much the only Indian food I still regularly eat is yoghurt. Oh, and hot chilies. Can't forget the pep. But this is hardly a fully balanced meal, and makes for a Spartan and severely Calvinist sort of thali.
I haven't made an achar in a long time. And I never go to Indian restaurants anymore.

No, it isn't that I have developed a distaste for any of it; it's that I no longer have anyone to eat with. The person who accompanied me to so many fine feeds is not my co-conspiratorial fellow diner anymore.

Often we would trek across the hill-hump to Fillmore to indulge in murgh makhni, lamb korma, roghan josh, murghi kabab, bhunna gosht, paya da shorba, rajma ka malai, chole bathura, saag paneer, alu gobi, methi gajar, nimboo achar, raita, lauki masala, bhindi masala, bajee, papdi, adraki jhinga, sarsonwalli maach, bagarellu bhaat, goshtaba, raan, sirkawalli piyaaj, safrani pilao, kulcha, naan, sheermal, makki di roti, parotha, lucha, kabuli naan, puri, biryani, maddur pullao, laddoo, bundi, rasgolla, sondesh, doodhpak, seviyan ki kheer, pista kulfi...........

Yes yes, very standard Indian restaurant fare. But perfect for the freezing fog and windy weather of a San Francisco summer.
Ghee in nearly everything. Scads of ghee.
Bahut tasty!


We had every dabba and tandoori hut for miles around pegged, and knew where the best juicy murghi or flaky bread could be found, who had the oiliest sabji, and which place used the dark-toast cumin.

Oh waiter ji, could we have MORE ghee?

Thank you so much.


SINCE DISSOLUTION

On the minus side, I miss eating rich greasy food with a sweet companion.

On the plus side, I've lost weight. Over twenty years of scarfing down rich greasy roti-shoti have melted away, and I look positively years younger.
Hot dang dawg I'm looking good.

I am the lean beast of Nob Hill, I am the savage hungering hyena howling in the wastelands beyond Polk Street; like the jackdaw, the raven, and the vulture, I wait patiently for that juicy red red tandoori chicken to expire (preferably on a bed of fine porcelain).
Lithe and wiry, I stalk the field of sarson, waiting for the tel walla. Like a giant pink weevil, I roll in the jowhar and the bajra; cover me with besan, and let us pretend that I am the scrawny pakora of lonewolfness.

A little dusting of amchur, kala namak, and lal mirch, and I'll be fine.

Better shape than I've been for a very long time.
Indian food does make one a bit pudgy.
You'd never know I ever ate it.
The evidence is gone.


I should probably celebrate that.

Hot masala chai and a laddoo.

Something sweet, with ghee.




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BLUE MOUNTAIN PIPE TOBACCO

There was a Balkan Sobranie Throwdown at the 2011 Chicago Pipe Show.
Naturally, I was not there. The idea of spending two whole days surrounded by fellow-aficionados ("fanatics") of any type has about as much appeal to me as attending a weekend with the Moonies.
I may be crazy but I am not crazy.

Entirely aside from which, while I myself have waxed more prolix about Balkan Sobranie than many other pipe smokers, the idea of trying to duplicate something that has not been in production for several years strikes me as, forgive the expression, an exercise in pipe dreaming.
Doing so for an audience of fiercely opinionated (and often staggeringly wrong) obsessive types is a form of circle-jerking in which I want no part.


In consequence of that event, there are now at least two new commercial products being offered to the cognoscenti.
One of which is (was) available at the local tobacconist.
A sample of which was offered to me.
Which I took.


BLUE MOUNTAIN
Manufactured by McClelland Tobacco Company of Kansas City, Missouri.

Tin blurb: Rich with the finest Mountain Latakia, a classic full Balkan pipe tobacco mixture, smooth and deeply fragrant. The inspiration for this elegant mixture was a 21-year-old tin of the legendary #759.

"Take a Journey Back to Yesteryear"


Ghastly concept, tasteless graphics, and on the whole a glib slick approach guaranteed to nauseate me.
I am an utter cynic when it comes to marketing aimed at nostalgic oofuses who yearn for the products of their own fondly legendarized past.
Taking a journey back to yesteryear has no buggery appeal.
Yesteryear sucked, in some ways more than it didn't.

Fortunately McClelland, in my estimation, has come no closer than anybody else in bringing it back.
This blend only bears slight resemblance to Balkan Sobranie 759.


Balkan Sobranie 759 (in the black tin) was a creamy full bodied English-Balkan, heavy on the Latakia, with some Turkish mixed in, and a base of Virginia Cavendish ("black Virginia"), a little ribbon, and possibly something in the nature of red cake.
Because it was steampressed into the container, like all products of certain English firms, there was a pleasure upon popping the lid off a fifty gramme tin that many of us have fondly implanted, permanently in our subconscious.
A satisfying thwack as the vacuum was violated, then looking at the neatly crimped paper and admiring the smooth surface of the disk of tobacco, which just begged to be teased and roughed up as you stuffed your pipe.
McClelland's product naturally has similar tobaccos, though without the flat enameled tin, the neatly crimped paper nest, and the smooth surface.
The way the tobacco has been tumbled also yields a different appearance and bowl-pack.


A CHARMING OFFENSE

Within the first minute of setting fire to the sample, I rushed off to the tobacconist to purchase all the tins they had.
I deliberately kept my gaze averted when I passed the other smokers at the wall, as I did not wish to be delayed or interrupted.
Tight-jawed determination, decisive action, and a purposeful stride.
Those tins are mine, dammit.

Again, not much like Balkan Sobranie 759. But indeed a very fine product.
Didn't want the others to grab tins before I had assured myself a supply.
Well, actually I just didn't want them to have any of it at all.

It's sweeter than the old 759, and the perfumed quality I remember is also missing.
The Latakia is excellent, however, and the components of this high quality blend compliment each other well.
Perhaps not the symphony advertised, but absolutely rocking chamber music.

No, I'm never going to like the uninspired label art. Metallic blue squiggles on copper sheet.
Blue mountains mean absolutely flange-all to me, aesthetically or otherwise.
Are there even any blue mountains in Turkey or Syria?
They might have blue-ish stones or bumps.
But who the bucket cares?


The first taste at lighting up is wonderful - rich, delicious in the nose upon exhaling, sweet and resinous. The middle of the bowl is satisfying, meaty, and easy to keep lit. At the bottom there will be some crumbs remaining unburnt, and the ash that the tobacco renders is mixed, both feathery and gritty.
I did not feel hungry after this, but strangely satisfied.
Blue Mountain Pipe Tobacco is the perfect breakfast.
Several bowls later the world seems bright and new.

The only things missing are a purring cat and a thunderstorm.




TOBACCO INDEX


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SMALL FRIEND OF PENGUINS

The most frightening thing you will likely run across in the tropics is a poisonous snake. Fortunately they are rare in urban areas.
Evenso, many people who come from a hot place have programmed into their souls a healthy respect ("unhealthy psychotic phobia") of those creatures that has been festering since infancy.
Once, at the restaurant where I worked, we yelled "snake", and several Desis nearly jumped on the table.
The Punjabi headwaiter practically bust a gut laughing.
The next day we pulled the same joke on him.
You ever seen a Punjabi go white?
It's VERY amusing.

I come from a cold place. So you can't pull that on me.
But it's really cute when you try.


LITTLE FIREFLY

Siu Ying (小螢) did not live in a city but in a small town with a canning factory and a fish-sauce bottling plant. One day she came across a snake under one of the banana trees.
The little girl and the reptile reacted precisely as you would expect.
She screamed and froze, it hissed and reared up ready to strike.

I was the first one to come running, and without thinking I picked up a fallen branch and threw it at the beast. As the serpent struck at the object that had hit it, I snatched the little girl and yanked her back.
I did not stop moving till we were several yards away.
Her uncle beat the viper to death with a long pole.

I was told later that the snake in question normally stays in undergrowth and copses of bamboo. It eats the rats that feed upon the rice, and is actually a beneficial creature in that sense. But you would still far rather encounter a python (ulag sasawa), which is not venomous, than a green arrow (panan idjo), which is quite deadly.

To calm the wailing tyke I offered to take her to get icecream at the store.
Sweets are remarkably therapeutic, and the prospect of a ride in the car with the chaffeur, her older sister, and Uncle White Guy, helped her go from terrified hysterics to sniffles and a whispered 'yes please thank you'.

After she had eaten her ice cream I asked her what sort of stuff she liked, figuring that talking about something nice would chase away all thoughts of what had scared her so.
Turns out she like birds.
Birds were beautiful.
"Very well, let us draw birds. You know how to draw them, don't you?"

"Yes, but we only have pens, no colours! Birds need colours!"

There is one kind of bird which doesn't need any colour - the penguin.
She had never heard them.
I explained that penguins were black and white, because they lived in the antarctic, which is a very cold place where there were no flowers or trees, and it was very cold all the time so everything was covered in ice like the inside of the refigerator or Pak Warno's shave ice cart. You never developed colour if all you saw was the white-white of ice, the black-black of shadows.

"Shadows are purple!"

Oh. Minor problem.
When the sun isn't as bright as it is here, shadows are actually black, especially if seen from a distance.
Trust me, dear heart, shadows on snow and ice are black.

Okay, so I lied to the kid. I know that shadows even in the antarctic have colour - sometimes rosy pink or cerulean blue - but I convinced her that everything there was only black or white.
The more I explained about penguins, and the more cartoons I drew, the more she fell in love with the idea of dignified flightless waterfowl wandering around a peacefull white paradise and having cold treats all the time.
Mmm, shave ice! With sugar syrup, condensed milk, lychees.....
Rambutan, even mangustan.....
Longans. Grated young coconut.
Gingko, sweet jelly squigles, lotus seed.

"And red beans!"

Sorry, no red beans. Obviously in a white and black place, red beans do not belong.
Sweetened adzuki is very common in pastries and desserts among South East Asian Chinese, and this ommission upset Siu Ying immensely.
No es katjang (red bean shave-ice), how can?!?
There should be red beans!
I felt very strongly that such things, because of their colour-connotation, were entirely inappropriate, so I convinced her that in reality penguins much preferred the lovely pale lychees and rambutans.
Those fruits were sweet white juicy crisp, and canned imported luxuries besides.

This she understood - her relatives owned the local canning factory.

The last picture I drew was of a big penguin and a little penguin in a silvery landscape, happily waddling off (in a dignified way) to have a refreshing swim after a feast of shave-ice with sweeties.


Later, throughout dinner, she kept talking about penguins. Such adorable creatures! So handsome! She wanted a penguin friend! A big huggable feathery penguin!
Penguins, yay!

After she had gone to bed, her older sister asked why I had taken the little girl out for ice cream. After all, I had saved the child from the snake, really I should be the one rewarded with a treat.
Well, I wasn't the one who was scared - I did not mention that I wasn't even thinking and had just acted - and Siu Ying needed something to make her happy again.
Ice cream and penguins did the trick.

For the next two weeks I didn't get the time to draw anymore penguins, but Siu Ying didn't forget about them. She loved the idea of a big reassuring penguin pal.
Penguins were the ultimate cool. Could I please draw again?
I promised her I would

The day I left I tucked a drawing under her pillow for her to discover when she went to bed.
It showed a big penguin hand in hand with a little pigtailed girl, whose thick black hair was bunched together with bows, just like Siu Ying.
I made the ribbons red. Precisely like hers.

Sometimes, you have to put colour in a black and white world.



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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PLEASE STOP SHAKING YOUR WATTLES

Yesterday evening, as has been the case for three weeks now, San Francisco's commuting classes got treated to an eye-full of nekkid.
That being two gentlemen who have joined the regularly scheduled and rigidly planned anarchist protest every Monday.
I know what the anarchists are demonstrating against - police forces, commuters, and garbage cans.
What baffles me entirely is the motivations for the two nudists. What do they oppose?
I think it's fabric.

As you, dear reader, know, I am a very open minded man.
And I am incredibly in favour of nekkid - especially steaming hot or adorably cute nekkid - and I think there should be a lot more of it! Really, nekkid has IMMENSE appeal, and I can think of several people whom I would dearly love to see far less clothed. Undoubtedly you can too.
A complete absence of even a stitch can be an altogether marvelous thing.

However, there's a time and a place for it.

I limit my own nudity to small private gatherings of one person - myself.
Usually sometime between brushing my teeth and taking a bath.
Not that I would refuse the company of someone else if the right person came along, you understand, but disseminating my own nakedness too publicly just isn't a very good idea.
I like to think of it as a treat for the select few.
Inquiries welcome.

BUT HOW EVER!

'Naked man on Market Street when everyone else is clothed' = bad idea.
'Naked man wearing colourful feathers pinned to his rump among many men similarly plumed' = good idea.



Most people will instinctively shy away from free-lance nudes.

Anarcho-exhibitionism is the perfect example of unwanted intimacy. The less like a cute young woman or bowl of fruit you are, the better you look with a sufficiency of fabric. It's an inverse relationship: Christina Ricci or Maggie Cheung would probably look fine wearing something small or nothing at all, whereas Larry Flynt or Hugh Heffner are quite dressed best when fully dressed.
You do NOT want to see them swanning around in the buff.
Public exposure just isn't desirable.
But it is a potent diet-aid.

There are now several hundred people who didn't eat last night, as their appetite was off.


ROGUE NUDES

Guys, some people really shouldn't exhibit themselves. Trust me.

It's not just a matter of being suitably garbed for the occasion, though that is a large part of it.
It's about esthetics.
The less fresh and lively you are, the greater the chance of droop.
Gravity is a bitch.
Your chin may still be firm, but you could have double chins that are nowhere near your face.
Many of them.

Children, teenagers, and bright young ladies can sometimes get away with incidental exposure. Even reasonably trim people of either gender in their late twenties or early thirties - especially if they have a nice smile.
Buffed black athletes always look good stark naked.
That's just the way it is.

White guys, however, must be cautious. Especially when they are no longer wiry and active.
What your wife or your big gay stallion of a boy friend finds charming in the apartment or during the Folsom Street Fair may not be nearly as appealing to the rest of us.
Not at rush hour.
Not walking down the street in only shoes.
Not with a tight leather strap tied around your shaved scrotum for effect.


It kind of distracts from whatever cause you are promoting.



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Monday, August 29, 2011

THE LONG WAY HOME

People should not live alone. Having another person in the home keeps you sane and out of trouble. Folks who are by themselves may do strange things, and there will often be times when it’s a whole lot better to have another person in your life. Or at least a companion who can keep an eye on you and makes sure you’re okay.
Someone familiar who looks out for you.


SHAPELY SOMNABULIST

I really don’t know how that woman would have gotten home safe and sound without a friend. I was returning from Walgreens with my shampoo and bath soap when I nearly bumped into them. They were standing in the darkness right on the corner where the tall leafy tree near the bus stop blocks the streetlight. The one in the dark blue sweater was leaning back against the wall, saying “but I’m so tired, I wanna sleep here”. Her friend was telling her “Cindy, no, only two more blocks”.
I’m tired!
I asked if they needed help. Cindy’s friend first said no, then changed her mind and explained “we live up the street at Leavenworth, but she’s zonked and can barely move….
No problem, ma’am, we can do this all together. I’ll hold her on one side, you hold her on the other, and we’ll frog march her up the street.
The first half block was no problem. Cindy was surprisingly lightweight – her hair had more bulk than she did. The breeze ruffled it this way and that, and it glowed in the soft gold from the streetlights that were out of focus and floating above us in the fog. Up by Larkin Street it seemed that Cindy had suddenly grown heavier. Her friend Laura was walking uphill backwards, pulling Cindy uphill by her right arm, saying “come on girl, just a little bit more.
When Cindy nearly fell I braced her. Laura stopped to brush her own hair back with both hands – the breeze was really blowing it around – and twisted the dark mass into a knot behind. Cindy had started to snore, and growled fiercely when we trotted her across the street.
Cindy was pooped! Cindy was cold! Cindy wanted her warm fluffy pillow!


FROM LARKIN TO HYDE

In the second block, to explain Cindy’s zombie-like condition, Laura told me that they had just flown back from London, nine hours, and had just dropped their bags off at the apartment before going out for dinner and a drink. Laura had slept all the way, and was fine. Totally fine. Cindy, however, had been wide awake since five o’clock in the morning London time. Cindy had been up for twenty four hours. And Cindy hardly ever drank. Even one glass of wine was unusual.
Tonight she had consumed a gin and tonic.
Cindy came briefly alert to correct her – “two, I had two of them, and they were goooood”.
Good, I surmised, meant strong. The bars in our neighborhood pour stiff drinks.
The memory enlivened her enough to make it to the next corner without much effort on our part. The fog was thicker, the golden blobs of the streetlights barely visible, despite the stronger breeze at this elevation. The wind was colder and brought in dense swirls of fog.
Cindy’s sweater was pearled with moisture and her hand was sopping wet.

I’m bloody freezing!

Bloody? That must be the effect of two weeks in Blighty, OR the gin and tonic. It effects your speech.
Welcome home, Cindy. The reason why this city is for lovers is because you can only be a heat-vampire when you're holding on to someone.
Like me, for instance. I’m quite warm, I’ve got energy to spare.
I too was surprised at the thickness of the mist. This has been a cooler summer than normal in San Francisco and it’s been absolutely beautiful at night.
Everything looks slightly erased and timeless when veiled by grey silk drifts, the harsh details of daytime are softened and gentled.
And while visibility is obscured to the point that you cannot even see one end of the block from the other end, you are surrounded by a sea of warm amber – the droplets in the air carry the glow from the streetlights further, gilding the haze.
That, alone, was a good reason to help two women uphill, even though my own dwelling was now a block and a half behind us.

Cindy was delineated by white fog fur on the wool of her garment, which emphasized her curves. Her friend Laura looked slender and more mysterious; the coat that hid her figure seemed crimson hued – moisture had darkened the fabric and made it appear velvety and soft.
Indirect light made both women look extraordinarily appetizing.

There are far worse things than struggling up hill with a tiddly ("tired") woman and her bright-eyed companion. Especially of both of them seem like nice people.
I'm very fond of nice people.


HYDE TO LEAVENWORTH

I’m guessing they were in their late twenties or early thirties. I’m not a good judge of age, and while both of them were very attractive, I wasn’t really paying attention. When you’re helping a lady up the street, who is leaning against you and nearly asleep, you may occasionally feel a soft round pressure on your hand under her arm as you steady her. Especially if she has a large bosom, seemingly made much more so by the sweater she is wearing. There is something so warm and inviting about breasts, and I was forcing myself not to imagine what they felt like under different circumstances.
Fortunately the ethereal beauty of the nightscape helped.
Until the next boobquake, of course.
Laura, in her dark red coat, looked trimmer and smaller. I couldn’t even begin to guess her figure, and under those circumstances that was a profound blessing.
When we stumbled at the curb, her coat flew open, but Cindy’s frontage thwopped against my stomach and completely distracted me.
Good heavens.
White women can be quite large.
Laura righted herself, and said by way of apology “she’s usually not like that”.
I very nearly exclaimed “you mean they swell up when soaked?”
In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised if that were indeed the case.
It would explain an awful lot.


HOME AND HOME

In a few moments more we were at the door to their apartment building. Laura helped Cindy sit down on the steps, and draped her scarlet coat around her friend’s shoulders. Cindy looked more vulnerable leaning against her than she had seemed before, with her head drowsily on Laura’s shoulder.
Laura’s lips were slightly parted, she was panting from the exertion of helping the bigger woman home. Laura’s lipstick nearly matched the carmine of her garment and she looked pleasantly pouty.
Did I already mention indirect light? It ALSO does wonderful things to cheeks.
Are you two going to be alright now?
Laura assured me that they would indeed. She’d help Cindy take a long hot shower to warm her up, then shove her into bed.
After that she would have a cup of coffee and watch some television on the couch. They’d be fine.
Thank you so much for helping me, it would’ve been difficult if I had had to drag her uphill by myself!

I bade them goodnight and headed back down the hill.
When I got home I was wondering what would’ve happened if I had offered them coffee at my place instead. Caffeine combines nicely with the female of the species, far better than alcohol. Perhaps Cindy would’ve woken up and energetically bounded up the slope all by herself. Heh.
If they had needed a hot shower, they could’ve monopolized the bathroom and gotten all steamy in there.
How wonderful to take a bath with someone else after a long day!
I would’ve left a tray with hot mugs outside the closed door.
And a plate of cookies, just let them splash for a while.
They could’ve used my shampoo and new soap.
And would’ve felt comfy again a lot sooner.

I’ve got big fuzzy towels.


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

SUMMER FEVER

I cannot quite remember precisely where it was. Perhaps not too far from Valkenswaard or Eersel. But the time was summer.
Some of us were staying in a farm out in the country, surrounded by green fields and dark groves. In early morning the grass was moist with dew, and in a paddock nearby the horses were vibrantly alive – one could see their breath and smell their warm wet coats as they cantered.

Earlier we had woken up in our sleeping bags, some of us to discover that the air mattress had leaked in the night and little separated us from the hard wooden boards of the hayloft. A quick wash at the pump was more invigorating than the coffee that followed, the ice cold water shocking one wide awake.
Please imagine seven naked ivory lads jumping around on wet concrete, furiously toweling ourselves off to get warm.

The first one to finish got to put the kettle on in what passed for a kitchen.

The others actually needed solid food. All I wanted for breakfast was strong coffee, a pipe of tobacco, and a good read. Where once the farm equipment had been stored, vehicles housed, and horses stalled, the landlord had dumped some old furniture that looked and smelled comfortingly fusty.
It was a very good place to make oneself comfortable and drink coffee, with the large doors open to watch the changing shadows under the trees outside as the sun rose higher.

That was yesterday, more or less. Well, a few decades ago.
I think that farm building still exists – the owners rented it out during summer, but themselves lived in a newer dwelling far closer to town, with central heating and hot running water.

They no longer farmed, they just kept a few horses, and rented out the old homestead during summer.
I cannot imagine any reason to tear it down, and as a source of untaxed income it must have great value.

The ‘farmer’ also supplied us with crates of beer at high price. Immensely attractive to my companions, who liked a bottle or two in the evening.
I would simply have coffee or tea, smoke my pipe, and occasionally interject a comment into their animated conversation, before returning to my book. Around eleven or twelve we would gradually filter out to brush teeth and piss behind a convenient tree before retiring for the night.

During summer in Brabant it is still quite warm even long after dark. We’d leave the large outside doors to the hayloft open for any cooling breeze, and then endure the assault of mosquitoes throughout the night.


BLOTE KONTEN VERTONING – NAKED TUCHUS THEATRE

During the two weeks that we stayed there, nominally to write a play – a collective literary masterpiece in coarsest dialect – the sister of one of the boys would come by on her bicycle with fresh food every two or three days. One very hot day she came up the pathway as we were flinging buckets of water at each other at the pump. We didn’t notice her until one of us bumped into her as she stood there silently watching. You’ve never seen such a flurry of shiny wet arses and soggy dangling parts scrambling to pull their blue jeans on again.
She happily giggled at our discomfiture, and tried to reassure us that she had not seen anything. Well, not anything ‘startling’. Nothing ‘out of the ordinary’, really, our private parts were quite pedestrian. There were no surprises there, other than the amount of hair.
Werkelijk, I’ve seen Reinoud naked MANY times – mostly when mom was chasing him around to get him to bathe”. This didn’t quite put us at ease, but we thoroughly enjoyed the furious blushing of her brother, whom heretofore we had considered a very clean young man.
Interesting……. You mean he used to be a filthy little brute?
Apparently, yes. Funky-smelling too.

Later I walked her over to the paddock where the three horses were grazing.
They came over for the carrots we brought, and allowed themselves to be stroked. Velvety, silken, and warm to the touch. With an elegant motion she got on the back of the meekest beast, and persuaded it to trot around the perimeter of the paddock.
I was very surprised. How did she do that, and how did she know how to ride?
She explained that you use your thighs and heels to guide the animal, and she rode often when she was smaller.
That was something about her which I didn’t know.

She was drenched with sweat when she dismounted. Hot horse body, hot summer day, and the effort of clenching her thighs to keep from sliding off. Could I throw a few buckets of water on her?
I could.
Rather a pity that she kept her clothes on during the process.


DE EGELANTIER – THE WILD ROSE

Later we had coffee together and smoked in the shade of the trees outside the farm building. She told me that Reinoud had always wanted to go into theatre.
The period when literati and notables joined chambers of rhetoric to poetize and write dramas had always fascinated him. And many fine stage pieces had been produced, from the output in prosperous Antwerpen in the fourteenth and fifteenth century to the splendor of the golden age north of the rivers in the sixteenth century and beyond. Some of our finest poets had been members – d’Eglantier in Amsterdam and Trou Moet Blycken in Haarlem continued the traditions of the many chambers that had existed in Antwerpen and Ghent before the Spanish terror. Nay, Roemer Visser, who had been a member of another rederijkerskamer in Amsterdam than d’Eglantier, had by himself nurtured the intellectual transplantation in his own house, where poets, playwrights, essayists, and painters – anybody of talent or education, in fact – had found a warm welcome and the comforting companionship of equals.
Vondel, Bredero, Visser…….. rederijkers, each and all.

She despaired of Reinoud ever succeeding as a playwright, though.
His obvious talent was biological science. No doubt he’d write witty little bits for the rest of his life in between bending over petri dishes and microscopes.
But she could see me writing plays. I had the temperament. One day, she was sure, she would read a review of something cleverly wicked that was getting me in trouble.
Hell, with my sharp pen I was bound to rile the public rabid, and would have to flee for my life.

For various reasons I have never gotten around to doing that.
Returning to California was a rather disruptive event, and there isn’t much of an audience for Dutch scribblings in the United States. Though I still write poems in that language, I have never shown them to anybody.
The Netherlandish tongue is far better for verse than English at times, but my sonnets are more private here than my rowdy mongrel-rhymes for beer-swilling fellow students ever were.

Besides, summers in San Francisco are not hot and fevered, but cold and foggy.
This climate is less suited for fierce lyric, better for thoughtful metres.

After she left we fixed dinner, then built a bonfire.
The expensive beer was passed around, and we sang vulgar songs in Flemish and Limburgian.
At one point I remarked to Reinoud that his sister was a charming young woman.
After a few seconds he agreed. “Yes. Yes, she is.
Sleep did not come very easy that night.
I kept thinking of warm eyes.
And soft hands.


THE PUTRID KENNINGS

We returned to Valkenswaard with several hundred pages of incredibly bad declamatory poetry, containing any number of odd locutions and inappropriate quotations in foreign languages. Como eleganza!
Alas, when during a more sober autumn we reread what we had wrought, we could not hammer a coherent tale out of it.
Some of it was truly appalling. Though nevertheless very “literate”.
Boruch Hashem the internet had not been invented yet.
Or we’d never outrun our youthful missteps.
They’d live for all time electronically.
Lousy inelegant haunting.
In rotten rhyme.



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Friday, August 26, 2011

NOT ENTIRELY UN-HUNKISH, THIS ONE

Yesterday evening was fun. Not one but TWO (yes, two!) charming Asian Americans were in utter ecstasy because of my looks.
Apparently I'm a darn fine fellow indeed.
Well just colour me pleasantly suprised.
Nice jaw-line, handsome, lovely eyes.

And they are both into men.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I rather wish that the charming Vietnamese woman was unattached, and it would have been very nice indeed if the huggable Phillipino was female.


In their estimation, if I were to wear contacts instead of the reading specs, and shave my beard, I would be totally irresistible.
Just pure gorgeous. Girls would fall all over me, squealing.



That idea IS appealing.
Oh boy.

However, I shall not wear contacts - I'm not sticking anything into my eyes, and I'm not removing my beard.
I like my beard.
It makes me look like mr. Badger.
You know.... kind, thoughtful, somewhat dignified.

And I must point out that when Julie put on my specs herself, she looked absolutely hot. Stunning as all git out.
Yes, glasses do that. They focus attention on the eyes.
So the spectacles stay.

I will not contradict their estimation of my jaw line. If they think I have a great face - nice jaw line, cheek bones, eyes, even nose - who am I to disagree?
I especially like being described as a younger, more manly, vibrant Sean Connery.
Others have described me as looking like Ritchie Valens or Charlie Sheen.
No, I can not see ANY similarities to those gentlemen.
But it sure is flattering that some people do.
Even if they probably need glasses.

Like the three famous men mentioned above, I too walk upright.
I do it very well.
It's a gift.



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Thursday, August 25, 2011

ST. BRUNO FLAKE AND THE IRRITATING EGG

What should have been a pleasant half-hour with a pipe and some new tobacco became an exercise in more than saintly patience.
One of my friends had given me a fresh packet of St. Bruno Flake recently, and I was looking forward to a satisfying third pipefull of it.

Unfortunately 'Left Testicle Dave' was at the wall, holding forth.
Any conversation with Left Testicle is trying - one seldom knows what he's on about - but today was particularly bad. The dear man must've had THREE bowls of cereal this morning.
I think he practically lives on super sugared chocolate clusters, and big cigars that make a statement.
He was quivering so much he nearly fell off the wall.
Humpty dumpty.


ST. BRUNO FLAKE
"A distinctive blend of smooth Virginia and other fine leaf"

Yellow pouch containing a sealed tray of thin dark slices.
One third of the front of the pouch bears the statement "smoking kills", the back flap has the inscription "smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes", next to a very lovely picture of open heart surgery.

For anti-smokers, such things count as pornography - I'm sure some glandered old puritan somewhere is getting her rocks off on that photo and caption big-time - so I'm delighted that both sides of the fence are made happy by EU labeling laws.
We smokers will simply blip right on over the snuff photo, while the vicious health trolls will get all gooey and deliquescent from our discarded wrappings.
Wonderful.

The tobacco within is considered a classic in England, being one of those products that many people across a number of generations and all classes have long been lovingly familiar with.
Originally made by Ogden's in Liverpool, who started production in 1896, since then the trademark has been held by Imperial Tobacco, who have reportedly farmed it out to Orlik in Denmark.

I do wish Left Testicle would stop ranting..... does anyone have a banana they can give the man to shut him up?

St. Bruno smells vaguely like Ennerdale Flake, which I once affectionately described as having all the fey charm of a cake of pissoir disinfectant.
But it is a far milder and more refined perfume.
More real, and not at all reminiscent of a public loo.

Instead, it's what your grandma would whiff like, if she secretly smoked Erinmore when no one was around. And remarkably, it smokes rather like Erinmore, albeit with far far less of the Hello Kitty trollop fragrance.
Very pleasant. An oddly masculine aroma.
The smell of the topping reminds me of prunes, oil of bergamot, and just ever so slightly of citrus. Other traditional additions to many pressed tobaccos are vanilla or Coumarin, almond essence, and licorice extractum, so I'm sure that the topping is more complex than just two ingredients. But it has not been applied with a heavy hand, and barely influences the smoke.

Dave, have you considered therapy? I'm sure you could get a group discount, there's that much work to be done.

One slice is enough for a good half hour. Fairly smooth, a bit creamy. Not particularly strong, no tongue bite.
Yes, somewhat higher in nicotine than a number of other tobaccos, but it won't have you heaving up your wheatabix unless you hotbox it.

Which I rather wish someone would induce Left Testicle Dave to do. I would bring a tarp for the occasion.

Best in a medium sized bowl, or even one somewhat larger. St. Bruno does not come into its own in narrow bores, though a small pipe makes it is easy to understand why it is a best-selling tobacco.
But in a somewhat larger brier its charm is more easily understood.

Dave, that stogey looks like it's unraveling. You're not supposed to soggify the end of the cigar that goes into your mouth, you know.
Puff, calmly. And dispose of the butt properly, don't eat it.


One of the good things about smoking a pipe is that it inculcates an equitability of temperament. A pipe smoker is a calm patient man, who will neither panic nor over-react even if his car flips over and slides down hill into the gravel pit.
Thoughtfulness, emotional balance, and intelligent awareness are things that mark many pipe-smokers.
Cigar aficionados, on the other hand, are excitable and nervous, and often will shoot off at the mouth when serenity is called for. They crave attention, and will whine and act up when ignored, or their dyspepsia kicks in, or their sex life becomes a natural disaster, or people visit them in the retirement home.
Add to that the normal social environment of some cigar smokers, such as seedy dives with brass poles, or race tracks and pawnshops, and you can see why cigar smokers naturally have a dubious reputation.
Smoking a pipe is a sign of balance and sound judgment.
Cigars..... not so much.

I wonder if anyone can train Left Testicle to sit up and balance a sugar cube on his nose?


At some point in the future I shall have to order some more St. Bruno from Synjeco in Switzerland. This batch won't last forever - might not even make it to the end of the month - and like other products from Imperial Tobacco it isn't imported into the United States.

Good stuff.


TOBACCO INDEX


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

MULTI-CULTURALLY SPEAKING

Many years ago at work I made reference to the Magna Carta. Within mere seconds it became obvious that my colleague didn't have the foggiest idea what that was.
I was flabbergasted. Apparently, because she identified herself as other than American, she had no interest whatsoever in American and English culture, literature, and history. The Magna Carta was just one of those things that 'majority people' found important.
Shakespeare also was unknown to her. Dickens, Maugham, Jefferson, Jackson, Chelsea, Chappaquiddick - ditto.
The list of things of which she had no whit was nearly endless.

I suspect that she wasn't very happy in her 'non-majority' subculture.
The more so as standard English was her first and only language.
She was quite white, by the way. Whitey-white-white.
But very proud to be not like us.


The language you speak determines the broader cultural world to which you belong.


Certainly many Indians are quite Anglo-American - albeit with an irritating tendency to quote from poets like Keats and Shelley to whom we have never exposed ourselves, and a very nasty habit of being blisteringly boring about cricket, which is as silly as baseball but without the hotdogs or the crackerjack.

Philippinos, Canadians, Aussies, Irish, New Zealanders, and many others, are quite at ease using normal U.S. English on a regular basis.
Well, maybe not the Aussies...... but at least some of them are willing to try.

English-language texts determine our world-view, and colour our perceptions.
If you are NOT a fluent speaker of English, much on my blog makes scant sense at all.
Not that it makes significantly more sense if you are, but there are probably things I have said which only fit for those who speak alike.

My mother never mastered Dutch - a bit of a lacune for someone living in Holland.
Yes, she could speak it after a fashion - but the horrible barbaric dialect of the locals in Valkenswaard was entirely beyond her. To my father and myself it was a mellifluous public and private medium, to her it was nobbut ghastly catscreeching and the sound of someone choking on their own blood.

That is what any language resembles to most non-speakers.


KUWANG KATA APA?

If you cannot understand an iota of any western lingo, the two most beautiful words in English may very well be 'Syphilis' and 'Diarrhoea'.
Indeed so.
But they are probably not suitable as children's names.

What you speak on a daily basis is not necessarily the language of your dreams.
Often I find myself awaking with a foreign tongue in my mouth.
Some languages are more closely associated with tastes, scenes, images, and experiences, than others.

Rendang is imperfectly translated as 'seethed meat', and siu ngaap is not the same as roast duck, even if it is.
But jacht, kaapstander, and bolwerk, though odd, you already know - yacht, capstan, and bulwark as well as boulevard.
Typhoon, ketchup, hurricane, and salsa have already made a full transition into daily speech.


There are locutions in your mother's mother tongue that are just waiting to get a word in edgewise too.

Go ahead - let them enter.

There's plenty of room.


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A QUEER LOT

One of my friends was on the internet for several hours last night and achieved satori.
Meaning, in his case, that he found a whole bunch of fascinating links which he generously decided to forward to all of us.
No questions asked.

One of the links showed an extremely elegant illustration.


FACTORY MUTUAL SUPERVISORY GAS COCK
















[SOURCE: '-factory-mutual-supervisory-'.]

A manually operated gas valve designed to prevent fuel explosions in multi-burner gas-fired industrial furnaces, ovens, dryers, and boilers.
Model 3031.
SAE nuts included.


This is an "adjustable flow, supervising gas safety cock approved by Factory Mutual Research Corporation. Body and plug are forged brass, (2) 1/4" SAE nuts included. Capacity, 175,000 BTU per hour, recommended operating temperatures, 32º-125ºF; 1 psi (6.9 kPa) maximum operating pressure."
[Copyright: Key gas Components, Inc..]

You will note that the photograph on the site from whence the draught differs in some minor ways from the ink illustration - one must allow for tolerances, and necessary manufacturing variance.

Nevertheless, this 'diagram' definitely twirled my dugout canoe.
'Fraid I'll never get my petticoats starched now.
It's isometric!

Given that the other links he forwarded all featured another word for rooster, one can only imagine what he was looking for on the internet late at night.

It should come as no surprise that he is a cigar smoker.




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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SOUR 你嘅 臭 GRAPES

No love, no affection, no warm cuddling, no wild sex with gay abandon.
And no fried chicken.

The fried chicken would make up for a lack of the other four things.
Sort of.
But, apparently, there is NO fried chicken either.

I should have learned by now that if I rely on my SF friends for fried chicken I will get royally screwed.

This evening there was a rematch. Someone, I forget who, was unhappy about the results of the fried chicken cook-off several months ago.
Forty pounds of chicken. Four contestants.
Same people as the previous event, and I heard that the fried chicken that evening was just about fantabulous.
Why, they raved about it for weeks! afterwards!

Unlike the last time, I got there early.
But, as one of the contestants was disqualified because we waited for him for half an hour - he couldn't flag down a cab with his bucket of chicken - when the contest was opened up I held off.
I felt it was the gallant thing to do.
It would be so sad when he got here, with his losing entry, if everyone was already full, and no one wanted his fried chicken.
That's okay. Let the rabid piranhas descend on the other three batches like a horde of hungry locusts.
I'll wait. I'm sure his fried chicken is fine.

By six thirty five there was no more fried chicken.

Eric waited. A nice blonde mother of grown children waited.
A woman with a lovely bosom waited.
And I waited.

Last time I didn't get any fried chicken.
And I was so looking forward to it, too!
Today I waited for over two hours.
And didn't get any fried chicken.

How frikkin' long does it take to catch a cab in San Francisco?!?

It has been a year of no love, no affection, no warm cuddling, no wild sex with gay abandon.
I'll settle for some fried chicken.

Left the bar about ten minutes ago.
By which time I had lost my appetite.
Hadn't had a conversation with a live human being since seven o'clock.
The mother left with her roommate. The young lady with the nice bosom was disconsolately staring off into space.
Eric was chatting with miz T.
I was in a corner by myself.
My personal magnetism succesfully kept everyone away.

No social interaction. No love, no affection, no warm cuddling, no wild sex with gay abandon.

AND NO FRIED CHICKEN!

As a matter of principle, seeing as America is determined to deny me any and all fried chicken, I will avoid that dish for one HELL of a long time.
You don't want me to have fried chicken? Fine! That's just fine! Really!
It's TOTALLY fine!
I won't have any fried chicken!

Don't need your horrible greasy nearly burned chewy tasteless southern relative of miniature velociraptor anyway!

Hmmmph!


Dew nei-ge low mow, sei meikok naam fong kuei.
Ngoh m-yiew!


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LET US SHARE OLEAGINOUS SUBSTANCES

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about food lately.
Mostly stuff I used to eat – things which I haven’t had for over a year now.
Like liver pâté, Bearnaise sauce, chicken Kiev, and oysters.

I woke up this morning with the words to “The Walrus and the Carpenter” going through my head.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.


Oysters. To be steamed, with either black beans or green chili and ginger.
Or made into a nice serving of Oysters Rockefeller.
Deepfried with a tangy sauce to dip.
Po'boy.


IT'S SMOOEE!

Mostly the stuff I haven't had in a while is rich food that requires accompaniment by other side dishes to tone down the total effect. Eaten by themselves, they lead to a heavy stomach and the possibility of gout. The Dutch word "smeuig" applies admirably. Sauces of an emulsified or bonded nature, goos and dips with just enough oil or butter to make them luscious in the mouth.
Juicy, thickish, and zesty.
Smooee. There's nothing like it.

The oyster is a remarkably smooee beast. Just chock full of nutrition, and velvety on the tongue.
Or grilled and served with melted butter.
Mmmmm, smeuig!

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

Can't really order them by oneself in a restaurant - too much of a good thing.
Nor is it fun to make them at home, as eating a feast alone is rather like dressing up and finding that the ball was cancelled.


HYPTHETICAL ADVERTISEMENT

I'm thinking of placing a personal announcement, just don't know what publication would be suitable, or would even consider publishing it.

Wanted: young woman with an appetite.
Me: hungry.
You: adventurous inquisitive eater. Must like seafood and various ingredients for which there are no English words.
Let me talk dirty to you: "Murgh makhni, lamb chops, oysters, noodle soup, pad kao, larb, choi sam, lung ley yu, succulent duckling, poached chicken, eel, kufta and kulfi, frikandel, fried objects, chopped liver, gribenes, borsht, lobster Cantonaise, marzipan, mooncake, shortbreads, sweet breads, mussels in butter and sherry, paneer, stuffed squid, smetana, zattar, rasmalai, bheja masaledar, pansit molo, lumpia, gulai kambing, babat goreng asam pedas, curry laksa, murtabak, siu ngaap....... "
You gotta be picky!
If all you want is a burger, what's the point?


The concept of finding someone with whom to share smooee things is infinitely attractive.
White table cloths. Polished cutlery. Candle light.
And something smooee.


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J STREET: MILDER THAN YOUR AVERAGE SAN FRANCISCO NUTBALL

This was the announcement sent out over a week ago by the local chapter of the "not particularly Zionist" conspiracy:

Join us August 23rd at 12:15 PM at the Crocker Galleria to show that a two-state solution has real support by marching together and delivering thousands of postcards signed by J Street members backing the President's vision of a two-state solution. Be a part of this national day of action with other J Street supporters from all over the Bay, and show your representatives and the entire country that you believe in a two-state solution!
We'll go from the Crocker Galleria to McKesson Plaza in front of Senator Feinstein's offices at 12:15 pm, then hold a program with guest speakers and more fun.
For more information, contact Molly Freeman at sfbayarea [at] jstreet [dot] org.

Event Location
Crocker Galleria
50 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94104



Fun! And guest speakers! Plus a controversial subject, bound to attract attention. What a ripping idea for mid-day in the middle of the week.
If you missed out on yesterday evening's rapid transit rumble, with the two ugly naked people, you can still get in on political mass-action.

Ein gonz kolossale idée, Batman, ba emmes!


TWO STATE SOLUTION? FAUGH!

Well, that assertion that there should be TWO states did not sit well with some people.
A day or two later I received this e-mail:

"The Zionist Lobby again is asserting its tentacle like grip on the American political system, advertising a rally on Tuesday Aug 23rd meeting at the Crocker Galleria (50 Post st, San Francisco) then marching to McKesson Plaza in front of Senator Feinstein's offices at 12:15 pm. They will claim they are for "Human rights" and for "peace".
Please join real human rights activists to remind the clueless members of the Israeli lobby that there can not be peace without justice.
Meet us at McKesson Plaza at 12. 1 Post Street San Francisco, right by BART
Use your lunch hour to tell the world that San Francisco will not be fooled by wolves in sheeps clothing, ever again.
Until Justice! Until return!
"


No, shan't mention which organization sent that - they don't need to know that their mailing list includes moles, police officers, outer space aliens, Scientologists, or free masons.

They're paranoid enough already.


ATTENTION, SHEEPLE!

Well, J-street isn't, strictly speaking, my crowd. I'm on their mailing list, but that doesn't mean I sit at the same table.

But I decided that, seeing as their event was in the Financial District, it might be interesting.

Strolled over at 12:30.

Fifty four people.
Nobody I recognized.
Mostly middle-aged to far beyond retirement age.
A dozen with premade signs: “pro Israel, pro peace”, and “two countries now”.
Two speakers – neither very inspired, nor objectionable.
No counter demons.
Rather little attention from lunch-time passers-by.

Several construction workers drinking up the sun while seated on the steps of the Bart entrance nearby, completely indifferent to the quiet, restrained, unnoticeable bunch of people who looked like they were posing for a “class of 1958 – where are they now” photo.

After ten minutes I went off to do my own thing elsewhere.
No point in staying – none of the Jaynicks were going to throw rocks or loot stores. Even chanting seemed too improper.


I guess it’s just difficult to get a crowd together to scream out “we’re solidly wishy-washy and have rather bland thoughts!”


Still, better than playing canasta in the recreation lounge on a sunny day.



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Monday, August 22, 2011

EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

Like everybody else, I turned to the internet news today to follow the developing story in Libya.
And, precisely like everybody else, I promptly clicked on the article about the penis amputee who is suing the doctor and hospital that removed his member.
Turns out the darned thing was a cancerous growth.

As, I’m sure, women suspected about most of those things anyway.

One of my male relatives many years ago described the masculine and feminine organs of reproduction as a horrid mutation and a botched surgery respectively. No, he wasn’t a doctor, boruch Hashem.
Personally I could not disagree more. While I refuse to offer any thoughts about the male member even though I possess one, I have always found the female equipment to be aesthetically very pleasing.
Possibly because I am biased in its favour.


A MASTERPIECE OF DESIGN

Not only quite attractive in its own wicked way, the feminine genital region is also a remarkable lesson in geometry and dimension, as almost any right-minded school boy will readily admit. It has balance. Nay, it has pizzazz! Ergonomics!
And that, you see, is why so many men are attracted to it.
It’s that cunning perfection, those aesthetically pleasing proportions.
It speaks to us.
Inherently, we are artists.
As almost any man will tell you.


That, by itself, should indicate why men and women are seldom on the same page.
We stand in awe of her beauty, she can only think in terms of stuffing something repulsive in the disposal.


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KRUPUK - MUCH MORE THAN JUST SHRIMP CHIPS, DEPENDING ON WHOSE MOUTH THEY ARE IN

Back in 2007, when Dovbear was on vacation, I briefly guestposted on his blog.

Not being in any way averse to cannibalizing myself, especially after an interval of four years, that guestpost is now below.


http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2007/08/creative-dutch-invent-new-nasty-slur.html


CREATIVE DUTCH INVENT NEW NASTY SLUR

The Dutch language is sodden with slurs and insults. We speakers of Dutch are not known for our subtlety.

A sampling of Dutch terms of misaffection will be illustrative:
Kut-Marokkaan = “Erva-Moroccan” (generic term for any North-African).
Kanker-Jood = Cancerous Jew (generic term for a Jew).
Klote-Jenk = Testicle American (again, a generic term – applies to either gender).

There are many more. Some, like the extremely long list of insulting sixteenth century terms for the different types of German, are scatological. Some are heretical.
Some sneering, and repulsive.

Such as this recent one: Kroepoek
Pronunciation ‘crew-pewk’. Diminutive: kroepoekje - 'crew-pewk-yuh’.

[Krupuk is a crispy snack cracker made of tapioca flour (manioc or cassava starch), seafood flavourings, salt and spices, kneaded to a dough, rolled into a snake shape, sliced thinly across, and dried in the sun. The resultant chips are deepfried when needed – they swell up enormously. They are very popular in South-East Asia and Holland. Called ‘shrimp-chip’ in English. Most are not kosher. There are also entirely vegetarian 'shrimp chips', but I do not know the brand names or whether they are even imported. Sorry.]

As the term applies to a human, what is meant is an attractive woman of partly or entirely Dutch East Indies ancestry, especially one to have a brief and exploitative affair with; a tasty little snack of a woman, but not the kind you would marry. The term is both racist and sexist. And, if you think about it, additionally offensive on so many different levels.


BACKGROUND

Indos are people of an Indonesian background, often of mixed race - Dutch mixed with Malay types or Chinese. They were citizens of the Netherlands, who after Indonesian independence either voluntarily "repatriated" to a country they had never seen , or were later chased out.
In the fifties and sixties, most Indos were self-effacing, and did their very best to assimilate. They were ashamed of their Indischkeit, and spoke excellent proper Dutch in public and at work. Maybe at home they spoke Petshaw, Betawi, or Malay, but they did not want their children to speak it. They were the perfect immigrant group.

Now their children and grandchildren are exploring what it means to be ‘different’. And what it means to have inherited non-standard cultural traits. They do not keep quiet when sneered at, they talk back when patronized, they object to stereotypes.
They are no longer quietly just like ‘everybody else’.

Everybody-else does not like this one bit. It somehow feels like a devaluation of everybody else, and of everybody else's values, or a deliberate insult. Everybody else has a remarkably fragile ego and a tendency to act pissy.


Now, while the point of this may seem to be that majority behaviours show similarities in different countries, especially if you are in the deep South or Rotterdam - and if you wish to read that into this, please do - what I am really doing by posting this is expressing my displeasure at Dutch attitudes.
I expected much better from them, dammit. Buncha farty kaaskoppen.


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

TEA AT THE OFFICE

When I got on the bus at Polk Street today, I entered last. It often happens that way. As a general rule I let the pushy people on first. And old folks. Mothers with children. Women of any age.

Even, and perhaps especially, an attractive young lady wearing dark tights and spectacles and a long striped jersey. She tried to yield, possibly because the white in my beard may have suggested seniority.
But no, please go ahead, I am not a geezer yet.
And this way I can keep you in view.
You have a lovely face, miss.
And I’m still vibrant.
I’ve got vim.

She got off the bus at Hyde Street. Much too soon as far as I’m concerned.
Didn’t know that there was someone so nice in the neighborhood.
Such intelligent expressive eyes.
Is it springtime yet?

She looked shyly embarrassed at having gotten on ahead of me.
Call me a pervert, but I thought that was charming.
Also noticed that her hands looked soft.
Such pretty fingers, too.


I may be the only person in San Francisco who actually likes riding the bus.


In Chinatown a mother and her vivacious little daughter got on. When the bus rocketed down the hill the little girl had the most joyfully ecstatic smile on her face I have ever seen. Crazed bus drivers heading to a long over-due bathroom (or smoke) break at the end of the line are far far better than any roller coaster, possibly because you didn’t expect blood-pounding excitement on public transit – this isn’t New York.

They got off at my stop, and the mother affectionately put her hand on the child’s shoulder.
The little girl’s ponytail bounced happily along as they walked ahead.
Such lovely feathery dark hair.
Twenty years from now she’ll probably be dating a race car driver.
Or a Muni chauffeur with a tiny bladder.


NOW FOR A NICE CUPPA

About the title of this post? Well, I left the house far later than normal, right around mid-afternoon. Got to the office just after four. And in keeping with the hour I am swilling tea and nibbling on a lemon shortbread.
It may always be time for tea, but it's only tea time once.

See, I had a very late evening yesterday…… went to the Occidental and smoked several pipefulls.
Kohlhase, Kopp und Company in Germany seem to have finally gotten it right.
At the very least, the current version of Rattray's Black Mallory is an excellent product, with a lovely old-fashioned reek to it. Very nice in a somewhat larger bowl.
A classic Oriental blend with feminine allure.

Brings back mental-echoes of a more straightforward place and time.
In retrospect I should've had it with cognac instead of whiskey.
Why it has been described as "fishy" is beyond me.
Possibly other pipe smokers are nuts.
Thank you, Kohlhase & Kopp.
Darned fine stuff.

Got home late. Woke up late. Coffeed late. Bathed late. Left house late.

Happiness might very well consist of pretty girls on the bus, old-fashioned pipe tobacco, and cups of tea.
Plus occasionally stopping by a familiar watering hole in the financial district on a Saturday night, where one can sit a while in peace and quiet.

Life, really, isn't all that bad.



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Saturday, August 20, 2011

AFTERNOON TEA WITH STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM

British cuisine has considerable charm. You may not think so, having been exposed to their ghastly fried monstrosities – but those things are an over-indulgence in quick cheap luxury, much like American pizza and county fair corndogs.
They aren’t really cooking.


DEVONSHIRE CLOTTED CREAM

An afternoon tea is incomplete without a bowl of clotted cream and some good preserves for your scones.
Clotted cream is made by gently heating whole fresh milk that already has a layer forming at the top, for about an hour, then letting it stand to cool, and skimming off the thick cream. The fat content of the resultant product is extremely high, making it barely one step removed from butter.
Without a goodly sploodge of clotted cream on your scone, the thick preserves will just stain it, and won’t give that luscious oozy feel between your lips.
What’s the point of a nice hot scone if you don’t doll it up?
You might as well eat a blueberry muffin and pretend you’re living high.

Scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves. These are the essentials of late afternoon happiness. Along with a big pot of strong black tea.
Shan’t argue the pronunciation ('skon'), the nature of the preserves (cane sugar and strawberries), or the tea (black, with milk and sugar added).
Green tea with milk and sugar is distinctly odd, and who cares whether you brought the kettle to the pot or the pot to the kettle?
What matters is the rich comforting totality.
Personally, I prefer crackled antique plates for the scones, and a thick-walled ramekin for the cream, which helps keep it cool and firm. Cloth napkins, and fine chinaware for the tea.
A few slices of Dundee Cake for those with more austere tastes.

And perhaps a box of Egyptian cigarettes or Turkish ovals somewhere in the room. That's just a thought, but it would be an appropriate luxury.


AT EARLY EVENING

My friend Arendt lived with his wife in Devon, close to the sea. One day after motoring around looking at ruined abbeys and stone cottages on the moors, we headed back home under a leaden sky, arriving just before the rain started, shortly after five.
Which is a bit late for tea, but his wife, who had stayed home to garden, had sensed our imminent arrival and awaited us with strong hot Ceylon, toasty scones, fresh strawberries from the garden cooked soft with sugar. And a big bowl of clotted cream.
The effect was sheer heaven.
No, we did not have dinner that evening.

[Arendt's wife had intelligent eyes, a clear forehead, and dark brown silken hair.
She herself was infinitely more attractive than the tea tray she carried into the room, but I could not say so, and Arendt already knew.]


Filled with tea, Arendt and I spent the long wet evening grabbing books from the shelves to read and quote. Here’s some Dickens, oh wait, Kipling! Can you believe the doggerel that Coleridge wrote? Heh, Ruskin! Ooooh, Wind in the Willows!
At one point I became entranced by the atlas in one corner, he sat at the table in the other corner reading Le Geste Du Roi.


Ço dit Escremiz de Valterne: "En Rencesvals irai l'orgoill desfaire, se trois Rollant, n'en porterat la teste, ne Oliver, ki les altres cadelet
(Thus spake Escremiz of Valterne "to Ronceval I go, reducing that haughteur!
Should I encounter Roland he will not depart thence with his head, nor Oliver, who hath the others led"
).


DURENDAL

The song speaks of great gallantry, and a battle arranged by the treason of Ganelon, who is an infamous Quisling.

Rollant ferit en une perre bise, plus en abat que jo ne vos sai dire. L'espee cruist, ne fruisset, ne ne brise, cuntre ciel amunt est resortie...
(Roland smites upon a marble stone, which fragments more than I can say. The blade cries out, neither shattering nor splintering, rebounding upwards to the sky.....).


This is the part where Olivier has died, and all of Roland's companions have perished. Mortally wounded, he tries to break the precious sword Durendal gifted him by king Charles, lest the Saracens take it..... but it was made long ago by Wēland the smith, and cannot be destroyed.

We would have sung out the verses, but Arendt's wife had fallen asleep on the couch. We did not wish to disturb her, so we softly whispered the climactic parts.
She did not awaken, but snuggled more deeply into the red blanket, with only her closed eyes and forehead visible, her dark hair flowing over the cushion she used as a pillow.

Did she dream of the great deeds at Roncevalles? Had the chevaliers who fell in that bleak high pass so long ago come alive in her slumber, and smiled again? I do not know. Her capacity for Mediaeval French and Occitanian was far far greater than ours. It was her subject, those were her volumes. So that must have been likely.
We carefully pronounced the words as correctly as possible, so as not to irk her as she dozed.

Later we went out to the terrace to have a final smoke.
After his cigar he went back inside to rejoin his wife, I wandered off to finish my pipe while overlooking the ocean. The perfume of salt-water and the whisps from the brier are strong memories, I can smell them still.
I think of dark red strawberry preserves, thick luscious cream, wet wet evenings, and Arendt and his sleeping kitten when my nose remembers.


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