Tuesday, January 26, 2010


When I first returned to California (in 1978) there were three tobacconists in Berkeley and more than a dozen in San Francisco. This was good.
There were, however, only one or two cafes in Berkeley, and outside of North Beach virtually none in San Francisco. This was not good.
At that time it was comparatively easy to lay one's hands on excellent pipe-tobacco, but finding a decent cup of coffee required the dedicated single-mindedness of a mediaeval pilgrim.
Yes, most pipe smokers smoked crap - but fine Latakia blends were nevertheless widely available.
Beyond the immediate vicinity if the Caffe Trieste, the Roma, and Peet's Coffee and Tea in Berkeley, a good cup of Joe was impossible to find. Americans drank blackened bilge-water.

They still do. I shall not mention that outfit from Seattle - they've done more to ruin coffee than any other company.

Smoking is no longer acceptable.

Oral gratification has seriously fallen on hard times.


The Netherlands had great coffee (it's still decent), and was close enough to England that acquiring a tin of fine tobacco did not present much of a problem. At most a matter of logistics.
[Of course it still is as close to England as it was then - but there are far fewer manufacturers of fine tobacco in Britian than once there were. The logistics have gotten far far worse.]

One of my fondest memories of Valkenswaard was playing hooky from high-school on rainy days, and spending hours seated at a table at one of the cafe terraces on the market square, reading, smoking, and swilling coffee. Like all students I was eternally short of funds. This necessitated dawdling over my cup so as not to exhaust my resources. But the plus-side was that the proprietor would ignore me - people who do not order do not require much attention, and there were seldom any other customers seated under the deep awnings in the middle of the day. Certainly no other students giving class a miss.

Things are quieter and gentler during rainy days, and hiding out at a cafe is far better than bicycling several miles to school. Far better to relax, drink coffee, and enjoy the rain-grayed scenery seen through haze.

The Netherlands is a very pleasant place at times, especially in spring and early autumn.
I read all of Shakespeare while smoking and swilling coffee.
All of Wordsworth. All of Coleridge. All of Tennyson. All of Keats, Shelly, and Byron. Then I took a dislike of the romantic poets, and switched my reading to Kipling, Nabokov, and Simenon.
I got so much reading done that I am surprised I ever graduated from high-school.

It is rainy-ish outside right now. But not cold. Not as cold as it was last week. There is a pouch of fragrant tobacco on my desk, and there are several briars to choose from.
If there were any cafe terraces where I could smoke, I would fake stomach flu right now and spend the rest of the afternoon reading....... occasionally looking out over streets softened and made gentle to the eyes by the moist weather.

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