At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may be wondering what kind of person writes this garbage.
Who is ‘At The Back of the Hill’ (ATBOTH), and what goes on in his mind?
Is he really both sanity-challenged AND the club bore?


Affirmative to all of the above.


The short version is that I was born in Hawthorne General Hospital via a Caesarian in 1959, spent slightly over two years in El Secundo (Southern California), and then we all moved to the Netherlands. My father, who was a WWII Royal Canadian Air Force bomber pilot and an aeronautical engineer; my mother, a former radioman in the Waves (women serving in the US Navy during WWII) and a language scholar; my brother, a bright young man who was four years old at the time; and myself, a loud two-and-a-half year old whose most memorable accomplishment up till then had been pissing in my father's eye when he changed my diapers.

[I heard about the eye-pissing incident several times, every year. So much that I have taken it and made it my own. Boastfully so. Yes. It was me. I did it. With great force and determination. Oh gallant bladder! Nu.]

After a few years in Bussum and Naarden, we moved to Valkenswaard, a lively village with cigar factories and a surfeit of drinking establishments near the Belgian border. There were other expats there, mostly Indo-Dutch exiles.
Other than a vibrant night life it was a culturally rather empty place. Despite my general distaste for much that is Dutch, because of Netherlandish attitudes towards Americans, I nevertheless think back fondly to the town. Some of the people there were marvelously insightful, human, and twisted.

When I was eighteen I returned to the United States, nominally to get an education. Dropped out of college in the eighties, worked first at a tobacconist, later as a draughtsman. For a while I was employed as a cashier and bookkeeper at an Indian restaurant. Have been doing credit and collections since the early nineties.

In the eighties and nineties I travelled a bit. South-East Asia mostly.
I've also visited Canada a couple of times and I've been back to the Netherlands.

I currently live within walking distance of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco Chinatown, and North Beach. Also Polk Street and the Tenderloin.
I often eat alone, though NOT by choice.
I am not as happy as I was a few years ago, but I am not bitter.
If anything at all, I am forward-looking.

Pipesmoker. Early fifties. Not overweight.
Somewhat multi-lingual, but let's not exaggerate it.
Animals I most identify with: Badgers, Toads, Raccoons, Crows, and Penguins. In exactly that order.

Favourite authors: Vladimir Nabokov. Somerset Maugham. Joyce Cary. Evelyn Waugh.
As well as J. P. Dunleavy, John Irving, Anthony Trollope, Jane Austen, and Wyndham Lewis. Plus Kipling and Simenon.

Are there any questions? Please note that there will NOT be a test.

Now, you may have seen various subjects on this blog that made you wonder: wombats, nudity, fish, tobacco, and food.


Strictly a metaphor. Or an intellectual conceit of sorts.
Back in 2008, after a slew of comments by various people that prominently mentioned wombats, I wrote a post entitled now more wombat than ever, in which I presented what little I knew of the bad tempered marsupial. It was not enough. Later I wrote baggy boxers, where I cited one of my readers, who postulated that "The petite Asian schoolgirl blushed prettily when she realized the wombat had made off with her panties... what would she do, with an elderly rabbi about to arrive for Torah study (which, under no circumstances, would involve Jeebus)."
The mental image thus created is enchanting. Surely you too can imagine a rambunctious wombat gleefully stealing silken garments?
Throw in an aged Torah-scholar, a sweetly blushing young miss, and a lovely crisp autumn evening, and you have something very good indeed.

"The petite Asian schoolgirl blushed prettily when she realized the wombat had made off with her panties... what would she do, with an elderly rabbi about to arrive for Torah study (which, under no circumstances, would involve Jeebus)."

Jeebus, step away from the panties!


Wombats have cropped up here occasionally since then.
Most recently in 'a silken camisole'.
I still have not eaten one.


The bathing post, naked middle-aged white man, turned out to be a magnet. Since then, any number of people looking for naked middle-aged white men, naked middle-aged women, naked weightlifters, naked fat gangsters, and similar subjects, have happily pounced upon my blog, only to drift away disconsolately after realizing that there were no photos.
No, I will not put up a picture of anything in any way relating to these subjects. If you want to see a naked middle-aged white man, you shall have to be in my apartment when I take a bath. We can talk while I soak.

[I feel safe making this offer, as the vast majority of searches for 'Naked Middle-Aged White Men' originate in Australia, with the Gulf States a distant second, and Germany making up the remainder. Wombats and their kin are experiencing a drought of naked middle-aged white males - or it may be that the concept appeals to them on a multitude of esthetic levels - but no one else has quite the same burning itch.]

Other than that, nudity is sometimes mentioned, occasionally dwelt upon, but an unimportant theme overall.
I like nudity, and would like it to happen fairly frequently.
But there really isn't much to say about it.
Feel free to prove me wrong.


Actually, not fish so much as degenerates finding my blog by means of eccentric search criteria.
One of which shows them a seafood post.

Years ago I wrote in-depth about herring. Anyone who grew up in the Netherlands probably loves this fish.

The favoured version in the Netherlands is groene haring ('green herring'), which is nearly raw by American standards.

Curing is by removal of the gills, throat, and internal organs, with the exception of the alvlees klier ('pancreas'), whose enzymes will help tenderize the fish. Following that it is lightly salted and packed in a cold place to ripen.
The more salt is used, the longer it can be ripened.
The method used by the Dutch and Flemish for herring was discovered by Willem Beukelszoon Van Biervliet in 1380.

It is often served with chopped onions, or itself coarse chopped and incorporated in a salad (“gehakte haring”, “haring sla”), although fish-mongers also sell it breaded for pan-frying. Bread and herring is delicious.
If at a buffet, good rye bread, pickles, onions, and ice-cold Genever (Dutch-style gin) might be served alongside.

[ADDENDUM: The Japanese use herring and similar fish in sushi, most notably mackerel. Like herring, mackerel is fine and fatty, but while the meat of herring is rather buttery, that of mackerel is oily. There is, consequently, a profound difference in mouth-feel, especially when raw. Because of this, and differences in texture and density, the fish can spoil quickly; it must be eaten soon after capture.
For sushi, a very mild cure for the mackerel (to prolong edibility) is common. Taste-wise, it strongly echoes Dutch-style herring, which is also lightly cured. There is even a similarity of appearance, though the flesh looks softer and less glistensome, and has a yellower hue. It is close enough, and hence very nice.]

The 'tempting' post in question, fat green virgins, proved to be electric.
Just imagine what kind of customer was attracted by that name.
Since then other titles have ensnared their own fan clubs.

You can see the entire slew of fetishes here: PERVERT TAUNTING.

'Pervert taunting' is the label for a series of articles in which I entertain myself at the expense of unfortunate internet hogs.
I've enjoyed it. Maybe they have too.
If they have a sense of humour.


Both of these subjects have their own rubrics. Tobacco is best represented by TOBACCO INDEX, which contains a complete list of all tobacco-related posts, briefly described, with links to each article.

And food crops up all over the place.
Useful food labels are: FOOD, 真好食 (chan ho sik: good to eat), Chinese Food, My food, 菜譜 (choi pou: recipes), 雲吞 (wantan: won ton), 腸粉 (cheung fan: ricesheet noodle), and Indo food.

Many of the recipes are also posted on COOKING WITH A LIZARD, but not yet all. My intent is to eventually have all recipes posted there for useful reference, with links to the original article.


A recurring theme, which I cannot explain. Don't live there, don't want to live there. They have ghastly beer, and I'm not a beer drinker anyway.
They also have tea.
We have that too.
Why Canada?


As far as what other subjects interest me, if they aren't anywhere on the blog itself, they're represented by the blogroll to the right. These are links to the sites of people who write well, and whose blogs I enjoy reading. Many of them are exceptionally knowledgeable.
Exceptions being of course the newspapers.

I'm always curious about my readers. Other than the regulars who have by their feedback given me a good idea what kind of people they are and what interests them (and thank you guys for your company and frequent wit and insight), I don't really know much about you.
Please leave comments, or contact me via my letterbox (below) to introduce yourselves.

Also feel free to ask me about other things you've seen here, or, if you wish to bring them to the attention of someone else, for a link to a post.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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  • At 10:38 PM, Blogger SuperBob said…

    I found your blog while googling pipe tobaccos last year and stayed ever since. Your points of view are interesting and I also enjoy your talks about Chinese food and culture. I am Chinese Canadian but more what one would describe as a banana so your topics help educate me about my own people.

    So my favourite tobacco is 3 Oaks Syrian but it seems I am compatible with most latakia blends from McClelland. I also enjoy light vapers and my preference in pipes are classic simple shapes made in Denmark.

    I have relatives south of you. Mountain View to be exact. And so I find myself at Edwards in Los Altos maybe once or twice a year. What a luxury it is to smoke in a tobacconist's shop. Oh yeah, my location is Victoria, Canada where smoking is no longer permitted indoors.

    So yah, I enjoy reading your blog. Maybe you can let us know how you learned so much Cantonese. Or talk about your pipes. Or maybe discuss food and tobacco pairings since you touch those subjects so well.

    Thanks for keeping me entertained.

  • At 12:07 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    "my location is Victoria, Canada where smoking is no longer permitted indoors."

    If I remember correctly, there's a tobacconist in the Gas Light district of Vancouver where you can still smoke indoors. But there are plenty of coffee shops (that chain that presents a superior alternative to Starbucks) in Vancouver that have awnings and space heaters outside that make smoking outdooors tolerable.

    As far as learning Cantonese, well, that was many years exposure to Chinatown, Cantonese movies (I've seen over two thousand), and the fact that I collect dictionaries. Exposure, exposure, exposure. Plus not wanting to be caught falt-footed for an answer.

    Thank you for reading, and I'm very glad you like the blog.

    I'll write about the pipe collection soon.

  • At 2:31 PM, Blogger Dusty said…

    Ok. This is a public service announcement. We need to find this man a girlfriend. I've known him for years and can attest to his sterling character.

    Interested in meeting ATBOTH? Contact me and we'll make the arrangements. In the best of Eastern European traditions, I'll even volunteer to supervise the first 2 dates, so you can be assured of your personal safety. Yes, I know your mother told you never to pick up guys on the Internet, but she was wrong about so many other things too, wasn't she?

    Email now, for your no-risk trial.

  • At 3:55 PM, Blogger SuperBob said…

    If I remember correctly, there's a tobacconist in the Gas Light district of Vancouver where you can still smoke indoors.

    You must be referring to R.J. Clarke. His store has moved into a more central area of Vancouver. Between a shopping mall and a residential area. This new shop has no space for smoking (even if it was legal). Richard is a good man. He introduced me to flakes and perique.

  • At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Very Important! said…

    What, no sugared wahinis?

  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    "What, no sugared wahinis?"

    That is the most baffling comment I’ve seen in months.

    Do you mean Hawaiian babes rolled in confectioner’s sugar?
    Or perhaps (dare I hope!), bright young ladies slathered in ghee and honey, ooooh baby baby, with a sprinkling of almonds, crumbled pistachio, saffron essence, powdered cardamom, and rose petals? With very little else?
    Details, please.

    I've got a spotless tarp somewhere.

    But she really should have her own.

  • At 8:35 PM, Anonymous mr shank said…

    What are your feelings on the Sloth?

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    I have nothing but warm feelings about the sloth, an exceptional creature that serves as a splendid universal example.


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