Wednesday, February 28, 2018


If this blogger can shave and shower in an efficient manner, and soon, this blogger will go have pork chops. At the 新麗晶西餐廳 on Pacific. Which includes a bowl of soup and a piece of garlic bread to start, plus a cup of hot HK milk tea, and a cooking show on the wall-mounted television, entirely filmed on location in Hong Kong, by charming overdressed natives of that place, who are speaking in Cantonese and exclaiming over something that involves fatty pork, scallops, or crab, prepared by a random celebrity chef.
And, of course, a request for the bottle of Sriracha chili sauce.

Sounds like a plan, yes?

This pork chop lunch intention formed soon after reading a friend's review of 'Szechuan Sauce'. As well as the frightening chicken bits.
My guess is that he had a lousy meal.

While he was masticating bird parts, I lit up a Camacho Connecticut Box Pressed Toro, and sat down for the first of two cups of coffee.
Yes, the windows are open.

This cigar does get better as it goes down. Nearly one and a half hours of pleasure. It's a damn good thing my apartment mate (presently at work) doesn't enjoy cigars, or this place would reek.

Did I mention that I opened the windows?

Because of the cold, my right hand is freezing. And due to Raynaud's phenomenon, the finger tips on that hand are turning blue.
A man must suffer for the little joys in his life.
My Calvinist ancestors would be proud.

Creamy nutty taste, even burn, semi-firm ash that only flakes a little bit.
Well made. Not particularly complex, but a good cigar.

I just looked at my feet. Raynaud's starting there too.
Those toes look like a zombie.

Adult male feet are never pretty even at the best of times.

Other cigars smoked recently were a Muwat Kentucky Fire Cured Toro (which was quite decent), and an Eiroa Peseta (Honduran puro, robusto, released in 2013, pretty darn good). Fortunately the smell of boiling medicinal herbs drove the smell out before she returned home.
She has always nurtured serious doubts about me.
Her boyfriend purely resents my ass.
Which I don't mind.

Here, for the terminally curious, is the recipe for a somewhat better version of "Szechuan sauce" than any junkfood place does, but it still isn't quite edible by Chinese standards. Feel free to improve it.


Quarter cup Water.
Quarter cup Sriracha-type hot sauce.
Three TBS Golden sugar.
Two TBS Tomato Ketchup.
Two TBS Rice Wine of Sherry.
Two TBS Vinegar.
Two TBS Soy sauce.
Dash of Louisiana Hotsauce.
Minced Garlic and Ginger as you see fit.
Dried Red Pepper Flakes for visual effect.
A pinch of Five Spice Powder.
A pinch of Ground Pepper.
A few drops of Sesame oil.

Mix well. Simmer while stirring til it reaches the right thickness. Serve with cardboard chicken, or incorporate it into a typical suburban stir-fry.

Mmm, yummers, baby.

I'll be smoking a pipe after lunch.
McClelland pressed Virginia.
You probably knew that.

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When first I passed the bus shelter I could see him, but the details weren't clear and he appeared, in the dark and from across the street, to be a weird ethnic woman waiting for the bus. Which isn't running at this hour.
I had stepped out for a pipe and a stroll around the neighborhood. The only people out so late were largely drunks, a few couples stumbling home, a restaurant cleaner, and pavement sleepers.

It is quite beastly cold.

Nearly freezing.

A few hours after dinner in Chinatown I had a nap. Got up again well past midnight. Cup of strong tea, grab a briar, and go outside. Two sweaters.
Darkness, crisp air, slight chance of rain. And relative silence.

The soup had been a little salty, but the roast pork was truly excellent. The waitress there treats me like family, more or less. Okay, I am a white guy, middle aged, and possibly a bit smelly due to the tobacco. And she will naturally never exclaim, in any language, "I love the smell of a pipe, it reminds me of grandpa". But undoubtedly it does trigger memories.
All Chinese people have family members who smoke.
And consequently whiff a bit.

Unlike Caucasians in San Francisco, many of whom shower obsessively, grease their pits and crotch with anti-perspirant stick, never smoke (except illicit substances), and don't even eat meat, dairy, and gluten, all three of which are known to make you reek to your fellow yoga-classmates.
That's where the second or third shower of the day comes in.
Lest the rest of us angrily push you off the bus.
It's been known to happen.

Many Caucasians in the Bay Area are special people.
As well as sensitive and entitled.
Very unique.

I'm not. I enjoy tobacco, eat meat, do not fair-trade source a blessed thing least of all my coffee or tea, don't own any ethnic rags, and did not vote for Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein.

HONG KONG: 16 hour time difference. Presently 7:24 PM.
BOMBAY: 13.5 hour time difference. 4:54. Snackies, yaar!
AMSTERDAM, ANTWERP, MUNICH: 9 hour difference.
LONDON: 8 hour time difference. Time for elevenses.

It's time for deepfried stuff. Somewhere.

When I passed by that stretch of street again, the person in the bus shelter had moved to a stretch of pavement nearby. It was evident now that he was a white man, wearing a tasteful striped cheungsam over everything else. While finishing my smoke in the portico of the apartment building, I could hear him having a fit further down. Panicked grunts, weird thumpy sounds. Possibly he was triggered by the gentle whisps of tobacco, though he did not look that type. More than likely the faint smell reminded him of his grandfather. Or maybe some other relative.

Good golden Virginia flake; it brings back memories.
Especially meat, dairy, and gluten.
Slinky striped sheaths.

I'm on my second cup of tea for the night now. Pu-Erh, rather than the Assam from earlier. Thinking of having another smoke.
I am 'Ongus Pongus'.
Ooh, stink!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018


When I came home this evening I heard my apartment mate, speaking with someone on the phone, say "but Cobra Woman sure as heck isn't Shakespeare; it's nineteen forties kitsch".
Of course I disagree. Precisely that type of technicolor extravaganza could very well be Shakespeare. If Shakespeare were a successful moviemaker in Hollywood during the forties.
It's not kitsch. It's art.

Sultry & exotic.

From Wikipedia:
"Cobra Woman is a 1944 American south seas adventure film directed by Robert Siodmak starring Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu. Shot in Technicolor, this film is typical of Montez's career at Universal Pictures, and, although mostly forgotten today by the general public, venerated ....... for its legendary phallic snake-dance, and Montez's immortal words: "Geev me the Cobra jewl".

Avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger has called it his favourite film. "

That right there shows the multiple layers of this profound film. I did not realize the snake-dance was phallic when I first saw it. Several times.
But perhaps it is.
It probably depends on the individual viewer, though.
If you think phallic, you may see phallic.
I am cleanminded, so I don't.
And didn't.

Maria Montez was one of the greatest actresses of the forties.
This movie showcases her talents.
See it.

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Late last night I found myself on the street, freezing. It was deliberate. And that may have been an unwise move, as now I feel stiff in many joints. So it's rather a good thing that I am off work today and can take it easy.

At an ungodly dark hour I filled a pipe with tobacco, and smoked outside.
My apartment mate is a non-smoker, and the door to her room was ajar, so there would have been no hope of not causing her distress. And, of course, one does not open all the windows to air out a place during a frigid spell.

Years ago one could go to a late night donut shop and keep the bums at bay while smoking. Nowadays they are protected. Which is probably a good thing, because at three thirty in the morning one really does not seek conversation or even human contact.

Warmth would be nice, however.

Over in the British Isles they are presently chasing their smokers out into blizzards, to perish in snow drifts. Because one shall not smoke inside. Ever. Especially when there are children present. Or even in the same building or housing estate. Smokers are a bad influence.

"Come here, little girl, would you like some Samuel Gawith Best Brown Flake? The pressed Virginias give a sweet medium strength smoke, which proves very soothing on a night like this."

One of the other problems with this weather is that it makes the skin dry out. Imagine crusty old farts scratching themselves everywhere you look.
Dermal abrasion, flakes, spots of mange, and inflamed welts.
Fortunately I have lotion, and need not do so.
But "they" are jealous, I can tell.
Their red red eyes.

Please rub yourselves with oil.

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Monday, February 26, 2018


While in that short period before waking I dreamed of the Transit Office. Toward the end of a hot day, but with airconditioning and the blinds down it was very bearable. And, because of the heat outside, almost no chance of any one coming. They only do in season, and before lunch anyway.
My colleague is fast asleep, ON his desk.
He's loosened his tie slightly.
And removed his shoes.

For some reason he has not taken off his spectacles, almost as if he expects to bound up blinking alertly when the phone rings. Given that I have moved the big garbage receptacle to be exactly under his blacksocked feet where they dangle over the desk, any bounding he may do will prove "exciting".
I wonder if I should wake him with my long chicken feather.
Carefully. Delicately.

Going outside to smoke means stepping into a blast-furnace. And it is best to wait till nightfall. We close in two hours.

There are small birds in the mandoro trees outside.
I do not see them. But I hear them.
Apathetic tweets.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018


What does a badger eat when he returns from Marin? Why, potstickers and bacon, of course! With a tangy mustard and Sriracha gravy. Followed by Belgian butter waffle cookies, and a strong cup of coffee.
Believe it or not, I am a thin man.

Must be all that running around.

Actually, it's probably all the tea I swill when at work. Several of my coworkers drink caffeinated soft drinks and have a certain thickness around the middle. There's also the 'pile-o-grease' burgers and burritos they scarf down occasionally, but it's almost certainly because of the sodas.

Nothing bloats you up like an excess of sugar.
It's all about lifestyle choices.
Clean living.

Crispy lard dogs.

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From a tobacco perspective the past week has been educational. Rumours, so far not confirmed, indicate that a much beloved company may soon be no more. McClelland Tobacco, founded by Mike and Mary McNeil over forty years ago, is apparently reducing production OR closing, due to a number of factors, none of them financial. The scarcity of Red Virginia which is up to their standards is one thing, the almost complete absence now and for the foreseeable future of Syrian Latakia is another, the FDA being a blister about tobacco a third, and the government paying farmers to not grow the one crop that made the colonies profitable comes fourth. And there's more.
Plus Mike and Mary have been doing this for over a generation.
It's time to enjoy the fruits of their labours.
Now is as good a time as any.

Roger: "Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land. Nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress at this period in history."

Any substitutions, of course, mean that the blend(s) in question could not be "grandfathered in". It would be a new product, subject to the entire shitcan of punitive measures meant to cripple the tobacco trade.

What the McNeils have reportedly indicated to a number of people in the industry is that despite present circumstances they will continue, albeit with a much more limited palette of products. That likely means that many of the blends that you enjoy will NOT be made, nor likely ever made again.

Other sources state, however, that they are shutting down.
Permanently. Completely. Entirely.

*      *      *      *      *

Many of us have a stash to last us quite a while, but we want more; with the disappearance of so many fine blends and companies over the past quarter of a century, each new loss spurs us to further acquisition, and makes us despise the long cold claw of the anti-tobacco fiends worse.

Smokers of aromatics are unconcerned at present; their tawdry pleasures seem safe, sofar, and there will always be commercial whores spritzing candy essences on worse-than-mediocre leaf. But even they should worry, as San Francisco and other "progressive" municipalities have decided that flavoured tobacco products target children, minorities, and the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans and Queer community, and must be banned.
Which is probably the wave of the future.

That, and higher taxes.


Eventually the only ones left may be the big business manufacturers of cigarettes. Who will always thrive. Because that's the American way.
People will smoke. Even if they have to sell the baby.
And smuggle it in from other states.
Like New Jersey.

PS.: The next meeting of the pipe club is coming up. We will be planning revolution and putting together lists of politicians, lobbyists, and health care professionals. Praise Baby Jesus assault rifles, errm, "hunting tools" are still legal, and likely to be so for years to come.

Come on over to the dark side.
We have wine and cheese.
And hug dolphins.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018


Sometimes I want more out of life. Yesterday shortly after one o'clock I had a meltdown. For a few minutes it seemed as if nothing was going right, ever, I would never have enough money, everything had turned sideways, no one loved me, my body was getting older and more bothersome, the climate was conspiring against me, and I could not find the tobacco I wished to smoke after lunch in Chinatown.

My coat pongs of cigars from work, my clothes are old and ratty, and I hate trudging up the hill to do laundry, I am old goldarnit.
Fudge it all, I shall stink.

Half an hour later I was sitting down to garlicky pork chops and rice, plus hot sauce, and damned glad no one had seen my tantrum. It is undignified for someone so close to sixty to act that way.

Yeah, I still feel that the love of a good woman would make everything else more bearable -- and I did find the tobacco I wanted to smoke -- but pork chops improve one's mood immeasurably too.
Especially when an arctic wind blows in off the ocean.
I just cannot hack this weather.

On the other hand, neither can anyone else in SF.

Normally we have neither extreme heat nor extreme cold. Most of the year our climate ranges between sweaters and shirtsleeves. We rely on a medium range, and things feel wrong when it is beyond that.

I should probably repair this coat and wash it. Four pockets, one of which conveniently holds two pipes and a pouch when I'm wandering around.
It looks like hell (and smells bad, because of the cigars at work), but other than the hyper-sensitive noses of old biddies on the bus, no one else seems to object. And realistically the chances of meeting a vibrant young thing half my age who thinks I'm hot stuff and just what the doctor ordered would not be improved one iota if I were to replace it with something more dashing and cleaner.

I am not social enough to want random strangers to be impressed with my appearance. Chances are they would say something unbalanced and loopy anyhow. And be offended by my pipe.

The folks at the places where I go regularly probably don't even notice.

I am just not remarkable.


Last Friday (Chinese New Year): grilled pork and garlic noodles (燒豬肉蒜麵 'siu jyu yiuk suen min'). Tuesday: Plum vegetable fatty pork over rice (梅菜扣肉,飯;'mui choi kau yiuk', 'faan'). Wednesday: Baked ham and chicken rice, with white sauce (焗火腿雞絲飯,白汁;'guk fo teui kai si faan', 'paak jap'). This Friday (yesterday): baked garlic sauce pork chops and rice (焗蒜茸豬扒飯 'guk suen yung jyu baa faan').
Note that 蒜茸 is a mis-spelling of 蒜蓉。

"Oh, I just LOVE the smell of a pipe. It reminds me of old farts and crusty European eccentrics. Old school, don't you know. So last century."

Yeah, that's gonna happen.

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Friday, February 23, 2018


What does every one wish from their own ethnic group? Other than a mutual support society, validation, and a sense that one belongs? As a Dutchman living in the barbaric wilderness surrounded by scalping savages ethnociding the natives of course I won't get any of that -- "how can you even bear living among those barbarians slaughtering Indians, we've watched 'Bonanza' and read Karl May?!!?" -- and my last trip to Europe was marked by the locals there sneering at my provenance, smack-talking about everything American, and stating unsubtly that I was, because I was a "Yank", responsible for the death of native populations, destruction of ancients cultures, human sacrifice, slavery, and McDonald's.

Dare I mention that all of Great Britain has more McDonald's and KFC proportionally or statistically than Northern California? Probably not. England has chipper vans and fried fish and chips places like you wouldn't believe, plus Haggis and shepherd's pie, which negates all their Yank-o-crap-food preferences big-time.They're "pure". Or sumping.

We Americans are frikkin' barbarians.
Oh, and our 'political culture!'
Yeah, nothing, man.

"Characters described as Native Americans are usually portrayed as innocent victims of white law-breakers."

[SOURCE: Karl May, Wikipedia]

My earliest American ancestors have been here since 1630. The English side come over in the 1670s. We're older than much of your sh*t.
Please get hosed. 'Napoleonically'.

Same goes for Canadians. Bunch of those at the bar last night.

Shove some KFC up your "Molsons".

Evenso. Sometimes one takes pride in behaviour of one's Old World kin.

"Noh finished the race nearly four full seconds after her teammates did. Cameras showed Kim and Park walking away after the race as Noh cried in the infield of the Gangneung Oval. She was comforted only by her Dutch coach, Bob de Jong."

[SOURCE: South Koreans call for speedskaters to be booted from Olympics.]

Courtesy, Gallantry, and an attitude of fair-play. Bravo. Dude.
There are times when one is proud to be "Dutch".
They're pissants and assholes.
But chivalrous.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018


Dinner tonight consisted of a slice of apple pie, weirdly flavoured biscuits and wine-country chicken salad, and, finally, a grilled Andouille Sausage with Sriracha hot sauce. Not French Andouille, which smells like crap, but good American Andouille from Louisiana, double smoked.
The piece of apple pie was an hors d'oeuvre.
Can't get more American than that.

Shan't mention what I had for lunch while in Marin, but to my surprise it contained American cheese. Not real cheese, factory processed cheese. There ought to be a brand of lunchables called 'Microwave Abortion'.
It might not sell, but it would at least be honest.
Truth in advertising and all that jazz.

The Andouille was delicious.

Life is too short to eat processed cheese except accidentally. I am actually surprised that there is processed cheese anywhere in Marin, which is the wine and cheese asshole capital of the universe, but they have a love-hate relationship with the poor there, and probably don't want those folks to develop a taste for the good stuff, as it might make it hard to find.

There is always some decent real cheese in this household. My Chinese American apartment mate loves the stuff, couldn't live without it, and makes sure there is at least one hunk in the refrigerator.

Part of the lunch I bought in Marin is still in my backpack. It is the banana, for which I had no appetite after encountering that processed crap. Even with the hot sauce I keep at work, the chemical glue taste came through.
No wonder American kids are so twisted.
Milk protein concentrates.

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Our president appears to believe that America's schoolteachers need firearms training and bulletproof vests. And that putting them in harm's way is the best way to preserve peace and order in the classroom.
Bulletproof glass is probably also recommended.
So that snipers will have no effect.
When students attack.

To quote from our commander in chief:

"If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly."

"Where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them, they would go for special training and they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."

In all fairness, students should be given the same shot at ultra-violence as their teachers, in order to keep America's wayward docentry in check.
I cannot wait for the day when everybody in school is armed to the teeth, from kindergarten all the way through adult education.

This prospect opens up a exciting new field of enterprise.
I've always thought of school as an armed camp.
Primarily because of those Catholics.
They outnumbered us hugely.
Which we resented.

A sandbagged machine gun position would have levelled the playing field, so to speak, and under the leadership of our capable brainiacs and teachers, we could have forced the bestial Monkish brood into retreat.
All it would have needed is a few bullets.
A well-trained sniper could have taken them all out.
Every single cassocked brute.

Hollow points.



Our grammar school consisted of less than a hundred Protestants, heretics, free thinkers, Jews, and atheists in the making. We were outnumbered over twelve-fold by the Catholics next door, who made our lives a living hell.
It would have been bloody divine to "correct" that.

I'm surprised they weren't ever fire-bombed.

Children need guns around them.
Else they never grow up.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018


An article on the BBC website about Singapore mentioned 'fried bee hoon'. Which is a relatively simple hawker dish cocked-up to a fare-thee-well in the United States, with significant omissions and additions, and sold to the public as 'Singapore Noodles'. In which guise it should really be called "Half-assed Hong Kong Chachanteng Reinterpretation of a Popular Dish with Curry Powder Added", and further qualified as "we sell a lot of this to folks in a hurry and white people". Many, many white people.

White people such as me. I'm very white.

But I have my own version.


Bee hoon are rice stick noodles (米粉), pronounced 'mai fan' in Cantonese, or 'mai foon' in Toisanwa. They are very easy to prepare, requiring only a soak before adding to soups, or a blanch in boiling water and immediate rinse with cold before stirfrying. The hawker or street stall version makes a good breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack.

Gild sliced shallots or onion, garlic, and perhaps ginger and chilies, in a little hot oil or bacon grease. Then dump in some shrimp or squid, pork (charsiu) or chicken if you feel like it, and stir briefly. Add vegetables of any type that have been parboiled or cut appropriately for very short cooking, plus the reserved noodles shortly thereafter. Toss it all together over high heat with dashes of condiments: sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis*), oyster sauce (蠔油 'ho yau'), cooking sherry (or rice wine), and a few drops of sesame oil.
Garnish with crispy fried onion and chopped green chili.
And (essential!) ribbons of sliced omelette.
There is NO curry powder in this.
But sambal is okay.

That basically describes my dinner or late evening snack, most of the time.
My vegetables of choice are chopped Jalapeño chilies and stalky mustard (芥菜 'gai choi'), sometimes little bokchoi (白菜 'siu bak choi'), the meat is frequently chopped bacon or whatever. Even smoked sausage. Along with a hefty squirt of Sriracha during cooking, and I'm happy.
If there are shrimp, I add shrimp.
Oysters also can.

Sometimes I do use curry powder.
For a typical American touch.

Noodles and crunchy vegetables in equal measure, meat less than. Enough soy sauce or oyster sauce for savouriness, and feel free to not add the fried onion on top. If you briefly blanch the noodles beforehand they will clump far less than they would if merely soaked to soften.

A person from Singapore would argue that bawang goreng (the fried onion mentioned above) is essential, it's what makes it truly authentic. And they might add ketchup and Worcestershire to the dish while cooking. There would be less vegetable in their version, perhaps more shrimp, and squid. Also carrot (!), and bell peppers (?), celery, and even frozen peas!
Plus fresh crunchy bean sprouts.

Keep it simple and be careful what you add.
It can grow enormously otherwise.
Keep sambal handy.

NOTE: because ketjap manis is not locally produced and consequently unreasonably expensive for mediocre imported stock, I make my own.

Half cup each: cane sugar, Kikkoman soy sauce.
Two TBS each: sherry, dark vinegar.
One Tsp. salt.
A whole star-anise (kembang lawang, 八角 'baat gok'), optionally a clove (bunga tjengkeh, 丁香 'ding heung'), and a piece of dried Chinese orange peel (陳皮 'chan pei').

Simmer sherry with the salt and solids. Add sugar and half the soy sauce. Heat, gently stirring, till the sugar is dissolved, the liquid becomes syrupy, and starts foaming up. Add the rest of the soy sauce, stir to mix the two liquids, and turn off heat. Cool, strain, and pour into a bottle.
Use the dark vinegar to swirl the pan and take up the last of the soy syrup, add this to the bottle and shake. The acid prevents crystallization.
Refrigerated, it will keep a very long time.
It's good for many things.

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As many of my nearest and dearest know, my weekends are on Tuesday and Wednesday. And as they probably also understand what I like to do on those days is smoke a pipe while being a vegetable in front of my computer in the morning. To which end I shall shut my apartment mate's door after she leaves for work, open all the windows, prepare myself a hot beverage, and light up. Usually I can do two pipe-fulls before my bath.
After which I leave for lunch in Chinatown.
Or an early dinner.

During cold weather that is ill-advised.

"Dammit, Old Toad, have you been entertaining the ice zombies again?!?"

Not opening the windows to air the place out will ALSO present problems.
No, I haven't been burning incriminating correspondence, and there wasn't a trash can fire. Non-smokers have sensitive noses.


Yesterday was International Pipe Smoking Day. But my apartment mate, Savage Kitten, was only going to work for a few hours, because she wasn't feeling well. Combine that with the cold spell we are currently having, and you can see a difficulty. A goodle on the horizon, as it were.
Fly, and ointment.

Turn on the heat in the bathroom, open the window a bit, run hot water for a long soak, and light up a Nicaraguan cigar. Lay back, and occasionally flick the ash into the crapper.

That only goes so far.

[Less than 2 hours.]

I was out of the house before two o'clock. Two pipes in my pocket, a pouch filled with Best Bayou Slice, and planning to have some plum vegetable fatty pork (梅菜扣肉 'mui choi kau yiuk') over rice for lunch.

While eating I was acutely aware of the Chinese loony behind me.
And grateful that she didn't recognize me at all.
I know her. She's a fruitcake.

First bowl, in a Dunhill Liverpool I've owned since I worked at Drucquers.
It was an exquisite smoke, but even with a stop indoors to pick up tea and Yunnan white medicine (雲南白藥 'wan naam paak yeuk'), my fingers were turning blue from the cold. Raynaud's phenomenon in action.
Combined with muscular aches and stiffness.

Bright spot: Three Chinese girls are now freaked out, because I spoke Cantonese in response to their Mandarin, and indicated that I could also understand them when they spoke Toisan.
I am a potent kwailo.

港式奶茶、蛋撻、紙包蛋糕、老婆餅 。

Once I finished that bowl I ended up at a bakery warming my paws for forty five minutes with a hot cup of milk tea while observing the old crotchets who hang out there. All of whom are filled with beans, oh boy! Must be the sugar in the egg tarts and the paper-wrapped cup cakes. After an old wife biscuit
I filled another pipe. My hands had recovered.
I lit up again as soon as I was outside.
A sandblast bent bulldog.

Four blocks later I was wondering if I was an idiot. It is very hard to tamp your pipe with your hands in your coat pockets. Damned well impossible. On the other hand, a bristly pipe cleaner doesn't prick at all. Maybe gloves are a good idea? Perhaps when I get home I should cut thumbholes in two old socks. Yeah, I got those, and I might as well re-purpose them. Maybe four old socks. Two for each hand. The holes go where the heels are.

Long slog to the end of bus line, while thinking about socks. Holed socks. Mis-matched socks. Ill-used socks that could have a new lease on life.
Many old socks. Ratty but warm and colourful socks
Maybe wash 'em, just to be safe.

Ooh, comfy.

Got home by five thirty. Took until seven before my hands had recovered. By which time I felt like having another cup of tea and going out onto the front steps. With a Wilke squat bulldog. Saddle stem.
Filled with Greg Pease's Fillmore mixture.

Bitches, it's permafrostic!

Next year, let's make International Pipe Smoking Day better.
By celebrating it during the warm season.
April or May, I should think.
I hate cold.

All three pipe fulls were delicious, and perfect for IPSD.

I have an entire box of warm footy rags I should look at.
Some of them are in decent condition.
Just need a rinse.


The rodents are thriving in Spofford Alley. After eleven PM, while enjoying a cigarillo, dozens of them traversed the area between where I was standing (near the overflowing garbage) and the lit doorways of mahjong parlours halfway down, just beyond the barber shop. Twenty minutes. Plus.

My friends the feral white rats are still there. At least one of them is male.
They are all charming, with lively personalities.
Two of them don't mind my feet.
If I stand still.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018


There are three places in the Bay Area where a man can smoke. All three of them are cigar environments. The Occidental, on Pine Street just down from Belden, between Montgomery and Kearny. Great selection of Scotch and Bourbon. Telfords, in Marin, just off the highway heading to hell but south of Strawberry Village. Fabulous selection of stogies. A slice of heaven for all people who abjure pot, non-smokers, and the easily triggered gnomes who have taken over California. And my bathroom. Cigars are recommended, because you wouldn't want to drop a fine pipe in the water.

Often I will have a cigar in there. The last time I smoked a pipe while shaving was barely above disaster, and I got a thick smear of soap mixed with very short hair fragments on the bowl. And some of it, in.

I'm somewhat neurotic; you can imagine my anguish.

Seeing as we are going through a cold spell at the moment, I am seeing advantages to pristine cleanliness I had heretofore not imagined.
There is a heater in the bathroom, you see. It is warm there.
And with ventilation, the smoke does not enter the rest of the apartment.
My apartment mate is a non-smoker.

I'm not sure if she likes me clean, as we don't get that close, but she probably doesn't mind. As long as the rest of our digs do not smell funky, and the odours of neither pipe nor cigar enter her room.

Warm bath. Strong coffee. Nicaraguan cigar.
Life seldom gets better than that.

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The boss is heading to the Netherlands for a week. No, I have not advised him or his wife on what to do, eat, see, or experience. He already knows about Hajenius (the world's best cigar store), and I'm fairly certain that neither books at Atheneum nor coffee served by apathetic waitstaff at the Cafe Luxembourg are anywhere on his bucket list.

He'll probably go to a museum or two, and walk around Amsterdam enjoying the quaintness. And have a drink in a cafe of an evening.

I am curious what his impressions of a country where I spent sixteen years (age two till eighteen) will be.

The food may startle him.

Fried objects of uncertain provenance. Semi-raw fish, heavily smoked fish. Cheese. Fries with peanut sauce. Frikandel with the works (mayo, ketchup, sambal, onions). Pastries. Indonesian food.

Some of the Indonesian food is rather spicy (like 'rendang', for instance, if properly made), some of it is richly sauced (kalio and korma), and a lot of it combines a textural excitement with medium spiciness and an undertone of savoury-sour-sweet. It reflects three plus centuries of the Dutch colonial enterprise on Java, and barely a century in Bali, on the Borneo coast, and slaughtering friends and allies in Sumatra.
There are consequently more influences from places like Semarang and Surabaya than anywhere else. Palm sugar, peanuts, fish paste, and tamarind, plus a wealth of sambals, of all different kinds.
Filtered through Dutch sensitivities.

Nothing says "party!" like shrimp chips. Because it tells you that someone has a deep-fryer. Which, in the Netherlands, makes them almost a god.

Peanut sauce can be used on absolutely everything.

When in doubt, add sambal.

And wash everything down with coffee or gin.

It's probably a jolly good thing that I have not advised them. Better that they discover peculiarities and interesting things there on their own, rather than feeling like they had to do something, secondhandedly re-living my trips, and thinking that I must have been a blinkered weirdo as a youngster.

It's the vacation of a life time.

Have fun.

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Monday, February 19, 2018


Mr. Badger is sitting in his easy chair with his laptop nearby, wondering whether he should risk lighting up a bowl of tobacco inside. Instead of going out to the sidewalk for a smoke and freezing his furry tuchus off. On the one hand, Savage Kitten in her room would no doubt come bounding out to kvetch and scratch..... On the other hand, glutei maximi turning blue, uncontrollable shivering, and screaming randomly at passers-by.
Which of these?

Mr. Badger is a coward. Savage Kitten is someone whom he trusts around his stuff, has never rifled my files looking for the discharge from the special forces or the loony bin, and will chew the leg off of anyone who tries to break and enter. Then club them with the bloody stump.

So outside it will have to be.

I'll probably wear the heavy overcoat I got for the last time I was in Canada. There has not been an occasion to take it out of the closet since then. It kept me warm sitting on benches smoking my pipe during freezing weather.
Yeah, it makes me look like a tree stump, but the alternative is going out to the steps with a blanket and looking like a street person camping out.
An extremely bad tempered street person.
Possibly rabid.

The neighbors would likely call the cops.

I do NOT wish to start my weekend with mixed nuts under 72 hour observation. Forcibly washed and shaved, too.

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So it turns out that last nights frigid temperature is what we can expect all week. When I went outside to smoke a pipe I was wearing a coat, two sweaters, a shirt, and an undershirt. And I was miserable. If you, dear reader, had been a very cute woman holding on to me lustfully, you would have had a most boring time.

I would have informed you that I wasn't taking a damned thing off. No, not interested in naughty business. We can cuddle under the covers wearing multiple layers of clothing, no need to get naked.

[To the tune of 'Badger, Badger, Badger': "Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble; puff puff, puff puff; grumble grumble, grumble ...."]

Pipe not quite enjoyable, under those conditions.

The pleasure of a bad habit is considerably diminished when there are no easily triggered people around to hideously offend, and your hot beverage and a shot of Scotch whisky are INSIDE, on the kitchen counter.

The next seven days are going to be like this.

With a distinct possibility of rain.

Didn't finish the bowl.

Too damned cold.

If I have to suffer, all of you non-smokers should too.
Kindly slap yourselves.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018


And yes, you should run for the hills, taking your kids and dogs with you. Forget the wife, it probably means nothing to her, and she'll object to being ten thousand miles away from a nail salon and hand baggery anyway.
If she's anything like most American women.
Of whom, largely, I disapprove.

My ex, while not being like that, and quite a bit more sensible (say, why did she break off the relationship anyway?), would none the less be unaffected, and just shake her head, saying, "poor Toad, you'll just have to do without your red cake". And I would indeed, except that isn't much of a problem.
My friend Nick, however, will be utterly heartbroken.

It made the Upper Peninsula bearable.

That, and killing ducks.


A fully-rubbed Virginia. Soft and smooth, exceptionally nice. Bready, yeasty, creamy. Very many people huff this straight, for other pipe smokers this is the go-to blending Virginia they rely on for beloved private mixtures.
Several tobacconists have this as a house Virginia offering.
As well as an important recipe component.

Probably the best bulk Virginia available.

Which it soon won't be anymore.

No longer made.

Apparently one of the key ingredients is not to be found. Mike McNeil will not make it without that. And the VaPer crowd is in an uproar, calling up brick and mortars far and wide to buy all of it.
Nick bought it by the shitload whenever he headed into the upper Peninsula to massacre ducks, then would re-appear months later smelling of bird guts, watery foulness, gunpowder, and Red Virginia fumes, happily burbling something unintelligible, before switching to Fribourg and Treyer.

It was good stuff. But I never stockpiled it. There are several other tobaccos that I will happily smoke, including Sam Gawith's flakes, and many blends from Greg Pease -- enjoying Fillmore presently, from the very last tin that was at the store -- and there are numerous tobaccos with which I need to re-acquaint myself in any case. VaPers as well as Orientals.

Martin opened a tin of McClellands No. 12 today.

Last time I smoked that was years ago.

Very. Many. Years. Ago.

Shan't mention how many, because on the off-chance a sweet young thing is reading this looking for a mature pipe-smoker with a very neat beard and a civilized way of speaking, who bathes regularly, I don't want her to think that I'm older than Jayzus and skip me.
I am not an antique!

On the other hand, if you are a male pipe smoker who found this essay while looking for Red Cake, I am very sorry. You should investigate other products. Both Best Brown Flake and Golden Glow (Sam Gawith) are very good, and Greg's pressed stuff is exceptional. You're probably already familiar with Union Square, but you should try Fillmore (flake; red Virginia and Perique), Stonehenge Flake (Virginias and smidges of Burley and Perique), and Regents Flake (Virginias and a touch of the Turk).
In fact, most of the Fog City Selection is your cup of tea.
Truly lovely tobaccos, and very easy to smoke.


Dinner, upon returning home, consisted of a rubbed-rind Belgian-style cheese, crispy dry bread, very strong tea, and a wee nip of Scotch. Brother, it is colder than a witches tit outside. I've got a sweater over a sweater. What happened to our fine spring-like weather? I hate the cold!

This frigid wind is beastly, positively Canadian.

I am a tropical hot house flower.
Coddle me with warmth.


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Scrolling through other people elsewhere can be rewarding. Sometimes you see things that spark the imagination. Quote: "that looks like some bougie mac&cheese... I'm gonna hafta make some of that, 'cause I'm bougie". It turns out that he wasn't 'bougie' enough, seeing as he objected to the Brussels sprouts being added. Sprouts. In mac&cheese.
I'm afraid I'm not bougie enough either.
Y'all some evil white folks.
That's just nasty.

Kalen reacted. We sympathized.

Mordechai used aged Cheddar and Gruyère for his version. But he probably didn't add sprouts, yams, or corn bread. He doesn't strike me as bougie at all. And I subtly suggested that he do a Boeuf Bourguignonne sometime, but adapt the recipe to make it more Judaically acceptable.

Do NOT add Brussels sprouts.

Shortly thereafter a friend in South Carolina posted a charming photo of domestic happiness. Featuring an adorable presence in her life.


[Photo credit: Mary Walters]

That is a seriously blissed-out lizard sleeping on a sandblasted quarter bent pipe. Thus preventing its owner (Mary) from filling it with tobacco and smoking it. She probably chose another briar instead.

It's the sweetest thing I've seen all week.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018


One thought that came unbidden yesterday was "why are all these little Chinese girls wearing pretty new clothes, while I'm still trudging around in these sorry old rags?" The answer, of course, is that I am not a little Chinese girl, and prefer to gradually break in new clothes, so that they fit me like an old shoe eventually. This coat is a good example: yes, it's starting to look disreputable, but I've got a tube with tamper and pipe cleaners in one breast pocket, my lottery tickets in the other, some paper napkins for wiping my spectacles plus matches and an extra tamper in the pocket underneath it, and on the other side under the cleaners there are pipes and tobacco.
I can guarantee you not a single one of the tykes have that.
Except for the coat, though, it was all clean.

Okay, the coat was, erm, grotty.
Perhaps old and smelly.
But stylish!

It is customary to wear new clothes on the first day of New Year, which was Friday, February sixteenth. And children especially, because of course they look neat, and outgrow everything. More than us crusty old farts they need new garb regularly. Plus, cute. Major motive.
One marked individualist had a nice BLUE coat, instead of the red all of her peers wore. Sweetheart, you are outstanding!
Kudos on pushing the envelope.

After dropping by my bank I went in search of a place to have lunch. Many of my favourite haunts were closed for the first day of New Year but I did find a place for garlic noodles and grilled pork (燒豬肉蒜麵).
Afterwards a pipe while wandering around. Happy kiddies, the sounds of firecrackers, a lion dance at the intersection of Grant and Pacific, drums, scraps of red on the sidewalk, and enormously loud firecrackers outside Red's Place on Jackson Street.

No one except the tourists looking askance at my smoke.
They do that because they lead such clean lives.
Our healthy "big boned" visitors.

The perfect end to the first day: a cup of very strong black tea with milk and sugar, and a glass of Scotch, after the last pipefull, a Virginia and Perique flake smoked outside among the bums and drunken millennials, because my apartment mate said something about the smell of tobacco .....

[If you smell marijuana on Polk Street, that ain't me. I'm old school, and my second hand smoke will traumatize you, unlike the recreational stuff, which is grown by little green men deep in the Amazon, who recycle and hug dolphins on a daily basis.]

Man, I can still taste that siu yiuk with garlicky noodles!
Laai min (瀨麵), often served with 肉碎。
It was absolutely delicious!

I'm having more noodles today.
Home-cooked this time.

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Friday, February 16, 2018


It is very disturbing that so many people like me look like me. I would like to think that I am unique, but apparently I am not. Most other pipe smokers in the white man's world have beards too. There are only so many selfies of very likable chaps with beards and pipes that the mind can process before it starts running down the street in its undies screaming.
Well, that's the mind, in the minds eye.
A purely mental street.

When did every other pipe smoker out there decide to stop shaving? I'm not asking about the smokers of aromatic pipe tobaccos, because they're young with crappy tastes and multiple piercings, who only puff that shite because they have a Gandalf fetish or wish to be vikings, but civilized well-adapted people with sound judgment, for whom a pipe is not an expression of their personal sense of adventure and their bold and sometimes quite reckless defiance against bourgeois social norms.
No existenzangst in their equation.
You know, normal people.

Vaper and Balkan aficionados.

Well, one of the brilliant minds with pipes pictured above may have had a Gandalf fetish, but he dabbled in aromatics only occasionally -- probably when he was wearing a leather diaper and metal studs, trolling for dissolute Cambridge students in the seamy underbelly of British academia -- but to the best of my knowledge, most of the time he and the other three were stable sane individuals, who enjoyed pipes along with much else.
Please note that they do NOT have beards.
Not a wizard or viking there.

Nor a bear.

My beard is neatly trimmed, and if it expresses anything at all, it's not my unique individuality or my daring attitude toward life, but merely the fact that hair grows out of my chin in a neatly demarcated zone, and only with civilized restraint, to a certain length and no further.
Oh, and velcro as an aesthetic.
Plus soup. Trapped soup.

Nowadays nearly every pipe smoker has a beard.
The avuncular look is in.

Some of you, shave.


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Thursday, February 15, 2018


Okay then. I've had my dumplings (symbolically, gold ingots OR money purses) and a green vegetable (good luck and profits), as well as an exceptionally sweet orange. And I've got a day off tomorrow.
Now it's time to go outside for a while, so as to make sure that I am the first one to enter in the new year. Thus precluding any thing bad coming in, as well as unpleasantness. As an auspicious bare minimum.
And that is the extent of my observance.

It should work.


There's a whole lot more I could do to properly welcome the New Year, but seeing as I am not Chinese nor married to one, making a huge opera out of it would be more than a little ridiculous, and as I am a bachelor and not parent to any offspring, the didactic aspect of setting a good example AND passing out tonnes of leisi ( 利是 / 紅包) to little tykes is not required.
In fact, being a Caucasian, it wouldn't be expected either.

But just in case, I've got some red envelopes.

I'll have them with me tomorrow.

Happy New Year, y'all.

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A friend is bellyaching about his boss, who is a Filipino woman. Which is a Filipina. As a general rule, one should avoid having a Filipina boss, because once they're in a position of power, they become precious little egomaniacs. They dispense favouritism and throw their pudgy weight around.
And they're dangerous.

Yeah, I know that sounds bigoted as all heck.
And frankly, I don't give a damn.
I've worked with them.

Bear in mind that I've had wonderful times in the Philippines. The food was great, the people were terrific, and despite the fact that as a white person I smell bad they treated me with warmth and courtesy.
Exactly as if I were a real human.

I can understand why people love the place and its people.

But I've been a little too close for comfort.

Filipinas resemble sharks.

On the other hand, if you have Filipina "aunties", you are in luck. That is immense good fortune, and you should understand how blessed you are.

No, I have no strategy for avoiding a Filipino/a boss. Other than not taking a job if there are Filipinas working there. To that end, don't work in any of the city government departments, and don't apply at clothing stores. Also stay away from the Walgreens in my neighborhood, as well as any of the big Anglo banks in San Francisco.

And remember, the ONLY reason to visit Daly City is for the food. Lumpia, embutido, morcon, kare kare, pansit, lechon kawali, brazo de Mercedes, ensemada, avocado shakes ..... And some places even have sisig!
Precisely like at night along the estero.

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I've eaten there often enough, I should have remembered that they talk funny. The waitress came out of the kitchen to clarify whether it was pork or fish. And no, you cannot say it was because my pronunciation was bad. They speak differently there. String beans and pork slices over rice (四季豆肉片飯 'sei gwai dau yiuk pin faan'), versus fish slices (魚片 'yü pin').

The owners little daughter once said that she found it hard to understand me whenever I spoke Cantonese. When they speak Toishanese I have difficulty understanding them. Sometimes context is everything.
But my Cantonese is far better than her mom's English.
Her parents prefer it when I talk Chinese.
I become more intelligible.

The auntie who works there understood me perfectly when I asked for the hot sauce. That right there is a life-saver, as I eat everything with sambal.

String beans and sliced pork over rice is simple and extremely satisfying.
If you're Chinese, the only way you can actually bugger it up is by being from Szechuan, Hunan, or the far north. Peking, for instance.
Or by cooking it like the Anglos in this country, who have thus far given little indication of culinary inclinations.

Sorry, that was an opportunistic slag at the dominant culture here. It was undeserved, and I apologize. And you all make marvelous cold cereal with milk, as well as lovely grilled cheese sandwiches! Kraft singles!

Again, I'm sorry. There was no call for me to be sarcastic.

If it wasn't for the Cantonese and Mexicans here, some people might starve.
And I appreciate your table utensils, because my fingers were that cold and bloodless yesterday afternoon, and turning blue (because of Rainaud's Syndrome) that I couldn't hold chopsticks.

It took an hour after I got home for full feeling to return.

四季豆肉片飯 made it worthwhile.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018


It's Valentine's Day today. Which means that if you are like me, you are in a gently sneering mood, quite un-Christian, and resolved to let chili peppers, caffeine, and cigars stand in for a woman or man of your dreams.

I've made a start on two of those already.

Nothing says Valentine's Day like a cigar.

I'm sure that your significant other will agree. And you'll have to admit that it would be a bold statement, especially in a place like San Francisco where tobacco triggers so many little wheat germ heads.
Do it. Go on.

See, that's one of the reasons I like Chinatown. The local people aren't easily offended, and everybody has lovable relatives who smoke. And there are no glandered Protestants to whine about hot sauce being a sign of the devil, non-nutritional, an effete affectation, and indicative of Catholicism and a seedy Latin temperament. Or to start weeping when I light up a pipe, because it just smells so strong and hurts their pure little feelings.

Some Chinese do celebrate Valentine's Day.
Hip, modern, young people, mostly.
The plastic urbanites.


One truly great thing about Valentine's Day is that I don't need to worry about it being a thing in any of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown, because I favour cheap eaties for us common folk: hearty rice plates, chachanteng specials, dumplings, noodle soup, and pork chops. Late yesterday afternoon I had eggplant and fish over rice, with hot sauce.
Last Friday it was steamed dumplings and chili oil. A charsiu pastry on Wednesday, pork chops on Tuesday. Both of those places also have hot sauce. The week before that at some point mui choi kau yiuk (and hot sauce), plus baked Portuguese chicken rice (and hot sauce).
To me this is all glorious, and very romantic.
梅菜扣肉,焗葡國雞飯 。
And 热奶茶!

I dream of taking someone to these places.

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Several years ago I had a coworker down the peninsula who would leave work related voicemails on people's answering machines all weekend...