Sunday, January 20, 2013


It is disturbing that little children and small animals like me.  Not that I particularly mind, please understand, as innocent affection is always a warm thing to receive. But both of those types of creature do not have filters, and will therefore express their happiness at my attention without restraint.


The other evening I was noticed by a little dog. His owner said "he LIKES you, normally he never does that". The 'that' being spontaneously jumping up on my lap to be petted. The dog, according to his human, was shy around strangers, and skittish. Reserved, she called it.
It was a very friendly quiet creature, and wanted nothing more than to be stroked while it alertly kept everyone else in sight. I may have been a lucky port in a storm, but he was very glad he had found me. Both a good perch, and a hospitable environment. One which petted well.

Sometimes, when you're smoking a pipe, you need two hands. Fiddling with the briar requires it. When you have a small furry person on your lap, who is clearly enjoying a regular skritchy stroke around the shoulders as well as a long full-handed smoothing of the fur down the back, it may be hard to give your smoking equipment the full attention it deserves. Your mind is torn between the needs of the animal -- mmm, strokes -- and the smouldering leaf threatening to go out if not tamped.

Rocky stayed on my lap for nearly forty minutes. He was reserved, but I find it hard to call him shy. A very nice animal, peaceable and with a warm personality. The pipe had gone out half an hour before he had to leave. The tobacco was, I think, the one thing that kept him from kissing me on the chin.


I sat down at the only space left at the counter, inspected the menu, and told the waitress what I wanted. The little blonde girl sitting next to me with her mom looked astounded at what came out of my mouth. And asked me "what did you say?". Errm, that was 'yuen choi gai kau fan, m-koi. "What's that?" It's chicken and small vegetables over rice, like what it says here: Chinese vegetable and chicken rice plate. She then wanted to know how I knew how to say it differently.
Well, because that's what these markings say.

"What's THAT one?" Oh, that's 'gai' (雞), it means chicken.
"And that one?" Si-choi (時菜), seasonable vegetable - it means fresh small cabbages, very sweet.
"Mm, sweet."
"Why do they write it like that?" Well, to them it makes more sense because of how their language works than to write our word 'chicken'. To demonstrate, I wrote both 'chicken' and 雞 on the paper napkin. She gravely informed me that it didn't look at all like a fowl, but added, "and so doesn't 'chicken'".
Then her food came, and her mom told her to stop bothering 'that man' and eat.
She observed me out of the corner of her eye.
While I waited for my food, I loaded up a pipe in anticipation of my post-lunch smoke. She was fascinated by this action, but kept eating. Finally she couldn't hold it in any longer, asking "what IS that?" It's a pipe, sweetheart, I use it to smoke tobacco. And this is very nice tobacco, smells a bit like dry fruit, but with a hint of grassy sweetness.
Her mom looked upset and hissed at me "we're teaching her that tobacco is BAD!"
Oh. Sorry.
The kid kept looking over in my direction while finishing what she could.
Her mom meanwhile made sure that she knew tobacco smelled horrid!
Which, if the kid had never noticed, was useless information. Especially because my tobacco smells good. Real good. I winked at the kid. She grinned.

"Mom, I'm done!"

"Why did my mom tell you that tobacco is bad?"
Because it is, sweetheart, very bad.
"Why do you smoke then?"
Well, sometimes people like doing bad things. Kinda like the Cookie Monster, who refuses to eat healthy food and scarfs down all the cookies he can find.
"But cookies are GOOD for him!"
Oh yeah, how do you figure?
"Because he's the cookie monster! He EATS cookies! He wouldn't be called the cookie monster otherwise!"
Okay, that makes sense. But I like pipe tobacco, not cookies. So what does that make me?


"Mabel!" Before her mother could say another remonstrative word, I smiled and assured her that it was okay, the child had great powers of observation, it's perfectly all right. Honest!
The mom subsided.
The kid just beamed. Obviously the term "Stinky Man" was a happy inspiration. And accurate too.

When I paid and left, I could hear her telling her mom "I love Stinky Man!"

Stinky Man loves you too, sweetheart.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Anonymous said...

What would the ideogram for "Stinky Man" look like?


The back of the hill said...

Better this combination: 臭郎.

人 means person, not necessarily man.

Anonymous said...

Nice :-)

Search This Blog


There is a new sign at the front desk at my eye-doctor's office begging people to not abuse the staff there. Subtext: if you're goin...