Tuesday, November 19, 2019

LIKE INCENSE AT TWILIGHT

Tonight there will be no jollification, because my regular drinking buddy ("The Book Seller") is in New York on vacation, visiting the ancestral sod. As he does every year.

He's a very moderate drinker. I am a complete tea-totaller.
Which I did not use to be. Rather fond of a drop of whisky now and then, which, intellectually, I still am. But I do not miss it. I abstain.
Start the evening reasonably sober, and, in the past, unless a particular bar owner demanded "hey have anudder g'dammit" and poured without waiting for a demur, end the evening quite nearly as sober.
Moderation, old boy.

My favourite intoxicant is caffeine. Which is why this afternoon I went to Chinatown for lunch at a chachanteng. Bittermelon omelette over rice, copious hot sauce, one cup of milk tea.


It was obvious that the two people to the left were eating together out of habit, not because they enjoyed each other's company. They spoke hardly a word, barely interacted, and did not share food. Just happened to be at the same table at the same time. Their married life must be a blast.

I ate alone, and but for the lack of pleasant company, shared food, and witty conversation, enjoyed it immensely. Haven't had a girlfriend in many years, and intellectually I miss that, but that absence does not faze me.
I can observe other people's fond togetherness.
Or whatever that is that they do.

The two couples to the right were, all four of them, verging on repulsive. Dull faces, uninteresting conversations, and poorly chosen dishes on the table. But they had more going for them than the folks on the left. Younger, and they wanted to be together. There was plenty of evidence of that.


THEN LATER

Afterwards, lighting my pipe fascinated a small three or four year old girl, who stared at the performance with radiant happiness on her face. Oh boy, a kwailo with a wooden thing in his mouth! Flame! Clouds of smoke!
How very interesting!

She herself was equally look-worthy. The cutest little moppet.

Benton Pipe, Select grade. Early two thousands.

I don't mind the wonderment of little tykes at my oddness at all. There's often a joyful flabberghastion in their eyes, and possibly I am the most exciting thing they saw all day.

Adults usually have a more judgmental attitude.
"It's tobacco, therefore it must smell bad."
"Let me signal my well-bred disgust."
"Or frown a bit. As I should."

There's something magical and inspiring about a well-made properly taken care of pipe, with its patina of age, that children and many elderly country gentlemen recognize. Not instinctively, but quite consciously.

The delicate old-fashioned fragrance adds to that.
Because that's how life should smell.

Solid quality.



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