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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Having been a bachelor for over four years, my bed has become a better expression of my personality than you can possibly imagine. I am not Hugh Heffner, so there is no red velvet on my place of repose, nor a reflective mirror above.
It is a quiet restful place, not a cesspool.

[Hugh Heffner: the less said about that reptilian old cock the better.]

Instead, there's a library and a zoo. Cookbooks, dictionaries, history and language textbooks. A couple of cartoon collections, some Dutch authors, and reference material on incoterms.

A rooster, a kitten, the one legged monkey, a sheep, and a froad.
Two Totoros -- one grinning, one quizzical -- and a rat.
Emotionally vulnerable teddy bears, plus penguins.

Let's not forget the skimming ladle.

[Skimming Ladle: a large flat spoon-like implement with numerous perforations, twixt spaghetti scoop and sieve, that the froad uses to chastise the one-legged monkey, whom he believes to be an evil beast deserving of violent punishment. The froad is dysfunctional.
It's a complicated issue; don't ask.]

Plus, naturally, some newspapers, and a few tins of pipe tobacco.
I assume that most men have these on their beds, or under.
It is the normal thing to do, quite orthodox.

A bachelor's bed, properly, is where one reads and consumes the occasional plate of buttered toast with preserves, while safe from the howling gale and drunken party-jugend outside.
Pensive nibbling, wandering thoughts.
Tea, cookies, and books.


There is also a large container of Sutliff's Mixture No. 79, which is the famous pipe tobacco that Frank Sinatra enjoyed. I had for years run into references to the product, most of them damning, several mentioning the bizarre flavouring added to mediocre leaf, but I was too stingy and penny-pinching to spring for a pouch.
Knowing, instinctively, that I would never finish it.

Courtesy of the relatives of a not-so-recent decedent, I now own roughly a pound of it. No, I don't know how recently he deceded, but judging by several factors he stopped smoking at least four or five years ago. Which is at least how old this is.
The tobacco still feels fresh and moist after all this time in an opened container, and even micro-waving it in several eight second bursts to dry it out does not dry it out. It is permanently spongy, a space-age tobacco. Spreading it out and leaving it for several days has very little effect.
There is an oiliness to the touch; probably added chemicals.

[Sutliff: the company started in San Francisco in 1849, invented Mixture 79 in 1933. In the early fifties they sold their retail establishment to Ed Grant and moved to Richmond, Virginia, to concentrate solely on manufacturing. During the sixties and seventies they bought several other small companies, having themselves been acquired by Consolidated Cigar Corporation in 1969. They bought Century Tobacco in 1993. Further consolidation and mergers ensued, the company becoming part of Altadis in the nineties, bought by Imperial Tobacco of England in 2008, and the pipe-tobacco branch finally ending up in the hands of MacBarens on May 1st., 2013.]

Yes, I've smoked a few bowls. Who wouldn't want to experience Frankie's depravity? Everyone knows about the Las Vegas scene in the sixties, and we've all heard those songs. Hugh Heffner also smoked Mixture 79, which is remarkable because one would have imagined him preferring a decadent or even totally depraved English blend. Possibly something with Turkish, Latakia, blonde Virginias, and a top-dressing added that consisted of rose essence, lilac, and gardenia. But no.
The paradigm of sleaze smoked strictly drugstore.
Perhaps that is fitting. Appropriate, even.

Mixture 79 is a solid Burley blend compounded of unremarkable leaf that might not be unlikable straight but certainly does not perform brilliantly in concert. The flavouring is reminiscent of anise, licorice, and vanilla, plus urinal cake and old lady talcum powder. This is an American approach to the well-known and elsewhere described "Lakeland florals", and in all it is more subtle than you would initially presume. Half the bowl is enjoyable, but like any Burley blend it can bite like a viper and leave your bottom soggy.

[Frank Sinatra: my mother loathed the man, and for many years I didn't quite understand why, without much considering the matter. But as I learned more about him I realized that he was in many ways a repulsive lizard, coming off as arrogant, neurotic, chicken, and vain. But in his favour, he was also forthright, witty, and a stout defender of equal rights. Like many performers of that time he defined the age, and it is hard to imagine the forties, fifties, and sixties, without thinking of his musical presence.
This is Frankie's world; we just live in it.]

For years, Mixture 79 was more popular than Prince Albert and Middleton's Walnut combined, and tobacconists compounded upscale equivalents for more snooty smokers. Hard to believe, but true.
I can only lament the vulgar indiscriminance of the past.
The smokers who went before made mistakes.
Repeatedly, habitually, painfully.

You know, I like Burley, but it's an intellectual concept.
I don't really want to smoke it, most of the time.
It is not a product that belongs in a pipe.
But I have a large quantity of it.
In a container on my bed.

There's also a suggestion of mint, perhaps mentholatum. I think it might be perfect for sachets to put in my sock drawer. Much like the bars of soap my mother used to use for that purpose.

Except that I do not have a sock drawer. Being, as I mentioned, a bachelor, my sock habits are extremely casual. There is scant neatness or order, and no neurotic logic, to my socks regimen. My ex girlfriend long derided how I organized my socks life, but mostly realized that it was not really important in the grand scheme of things.

How a man deals with his socks is significant only if the damned things smell bad.

For total podiatric-comfort, think in terms of foot powder.
It keeps your toes dry, and prevents fungus.
Use lots of it for abundant health.

[Foot Powder: not all brands are equal. Some contain nothing to inhibit infections, nor any substance that actually maintains dryness, just talcum, chalk, and starch. Always read the fine print that tells you what's in it, and avoid the types that include menthol as one of the "active ingredients".
Your choice of foot powder says a lot.]

I'll definitely keep the jar of Mixture 79. I like opening it up and sniffing regularly. Sometimes, when they don't think that anyone's watching, the stuffed animals do the same, and mutter appreciatively that it smells nicely of old dame.

Perhaps I'll smoke another bowl of it in the coming week.

Or crumble some of into my freshly washed socks.

The stuffed animals would approve.

They despair of my habits.

Because I am human.

Not a lizard.

PS: I'm not sure, but I think that Mixture 79 is crocodile repellent.
That's comforting, and extremely commendable.
I'm opposed to crocodiles.


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