Friday, August 31, 2018


On Fridays, per a long standing tradition, I do not work. It's always a day for straightening out paper stuff, purchasing supplies for the weekend, relaxing, kicking back. I intend to head out to Chinatown for lunch in about two hours or so, with pipes and a pouch of tobacco -- Golden Glow, a blonde Virginia from Samuel Gawith, a company founded in Kendall, Cumbria, more than two centuries ago, and I'm assuming that such a detail fascinates you, as it naturally must -- but first a strong cup of coffee and a cigar.

While listening to men talking about menstruation.



You know, I've never watched any of the 12 Friday The Thirteenth movies. At least I don't think I have, but there was a long weekend down in Southern California years ago when a friend stayed up for more or less three days straight copying rental tapes in the den and smoking cigars while his wife and her pals played mahjong. I was there in a supernumerary role, sitting in whenever one of the ladies needed to go to the bathroom or sleep.

I haven't played mahjong since then.
Seventy hours of slasher flicks.
Piles of pancit and lumpia.

It's all a blur.

Voorhees. That's a Netherlandish name. I suppose I should eventually watch a movie about a famous Dutch American, my people after all, but I'm still waiting for an epic bio-pic about Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, and a very great man. Also, a distant relative.
Which is actually neither here nor there.

I don't have a daughter, or any kids at all, but I suppose I'd be cool if she had a menstrual period. Many people I know have had them.

The red velvet cake, however, is dubious.
All that food colouring, that can't be good for you.
Wouldn't you rather have your first cigar?

Yargüera H. Upmann: fine aged air-cured Tapado wrapper around Criollo binder and filler from Honduras. A sweetness that belies the medium body and strength. Fairly even burn. Probably goes great with cake.

Mild spices, oak, and a warm bread impression.
Hints of cocoa and coffee.

Faintly floral.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018


When, after a long day of dealing with reactionaries, you return home and go onto the internet, you don't necessarily wish to hear, see, or read, about Donald Trump. You've dealt with his repulsive fanbase, Kellyanne Conway gives you the heeby-jeebies, and you suspect that he's creating a hideous love-child with the Huckabee Sanders thing as we speak.

So you go onto a foreign newspaper site.

Top news articles for people who don't have Trump:






Political news, sports news, irrelevant news, good news, and bad news.

Out of a hundred-plus articles, two mentioned our president. No, there was no need to read those pieces. In the grand scheme of things, the tiny fingered man is minor.

My e-mail spam folder has more intelligence.

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A friend on Facebook created what may very well be the best short post of the week, if not the entire month. And nothing more remains to be said.
Naturally I am stealing it, because I love it.
I would love to credit it fully, but I will not reveal his name out of respect for his sense of privacy, but it's totally his.
Bit of a quandary, that.
Credit is due.


Female Baby Boomer: "I don't believe mansplaining actually exists."

Me: "Well, actually, it's a specialized term for the condescending attitude of a male assuming a female simply can't have experienced the world as fully as he and judge it through her own eyes."

[Also me: Dies of irony.]

End cite.

That's ... beautiful.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018


This morning a reader commented underneath one of my essays from several years ago about Cantonese women and their relatives. It took me a few hours to discover her contribution and let it through.
For which I apologize.

In that post I said some negative things about parents.
Specifically, Cantonese mothers.

The reader's comment:

"White girl dating a 1st gen Cantonese-American man here. He is the kindest, most caring, selfless man I have ever met.

I've dated many other races and I have to say that there is something that goes beyond culture: integrity and character. He has it.

His mom is an abusive, manipulative narcissist. I combat her anger and am learning to play her game while also preserving my sanity and kindness."

End quote.

I wish her and her boyfriend every possible happiness.

They have what matters.

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There is a Venn diagram overlap between House Republicans, the Russian Mafia, a certain man's campaign staff, Netanyahu's government, and Evangelicals. Also involved: the NRA and real estate interests.

What's going to be quite fascinating is seeing how well "the company" succeeds in subverting our justice department.

Also curious is what they think that will accomplish. We already know that the Republican Party and several individuals currently influential are rotten to the core, that the gun lobby attracts the worst elements and sold what little was left of their soul to the Russians, and that the Evangelicals would like to impose their values on a free society in any way that they can.

And that voting systems can be easily hacked.

No wonder Hillary lost.

Like Hitler's boy scouts or Stalin's NKVD, the Evangelicals are mostly one-dimensional psychopaths, though under the right circumstances likely to become violent. As long as their panties remain bunched up and moist.

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A woman of my age, but we'll assert that she is twelve years younger, walked me home tonight. She and myself are both older than Char, who's birthday it was today. Which neither of us found out about until after twelve o'clock, because she is an insomniac, and I had a nap till quarter past, when I went out for a last smoke at the neighboring public house with a pipe loaded up with Old Gowrie.

Yes, tonight was the normal evening for drinkies with the bookseller, but he's in Upstate New York for several days, squiring his mother around and visiting all the cousins.
However I did smoke "the pipe for watching rats in Spofford Alley".
I always do so Tuesday evening. It gets used twice a week.

Char is Persian, and very intelligent, but he does have a German tendency to oversimplify complex subjects. Which means that convincing him that English is NOT descended from ancient Indo-Iranian (almost the same as modern Farsi in his mind, except the Arabic rape of Iran changed things) is an uphill battle. He is not sure how Dutch (one of my native tongues) fits into his grand scheme of things, and he believes that Shakespeare wrote "Old English". Older than which is Crypto-Persian. Or Medish.

I mentioned Beowulf as an example of 'Old' English.
He may be in for quite a surprise.

Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum, monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas.

Syððan ærest wearð feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah, oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra ofer hronrade hyran scolde, gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning.

And so forth.

It's a bit unintelligible.

Imagine a language that sounds like a drunkard upchucking a soda water siphon. And no, Dutch does NOT sound like that, at all. We are not even close to 'spear-armed Danes'. Something different.
And much, much better.

[Aeþelingas: Atheling. In Modern Dutch that would be 'Edeling', a well-born person. In Anglo-Saxon it meant someone of noble descent, eligible for kingship. And being the king in that day and age meant that you lived in better more high quality mud and grime, with less cold drafts that turned your arthritis deadly. You might die in your early fifties, instead of late thirties. Although the amount of salt pork and pickled deer meat you could afford with your stale bread and warm beer probably gave you high blood pressure, and constipated you even more than the peons. Scurvy, of course, was a constant. If you didn't die of the measles in your teens, because vaccination had not been invented yet. ]

While in discussion with the allegedly twelve-year younger woman and her dog I mentioned the flock of pigeons I had seen earlier, struggling to eat a jin deui (煎堆). Which is delicious, but if you have no teeth, and a beak instead, problematic. It consists of glutinous rice dough deep fried and covered with sesame seeds, a sweet paste inside.
Each pigeon would peck at it, and because it is so tacky and almost rubbery, accidentally fling it upwards when trying to withdraw. It took half an hour more or less for a hundred plus hungry birds to devour it. And during that time it was more air-borne than many of the diners.

The twelve year difference is because she has the same animal.
She was born in the year of the pig.
That's why.

When heading back to our respective abodes -- slowly, because her dog has very short legs -- we talked about engraving, print colourization, and lithography. Concerning which both of us know a fair amount. What I did not mention was the lovely young couple I had seen on the bus, Cantonese American and probably high schoolers. And that was actually something that made a wondrous impression on me today. The male person was shy and scholarly, though well built. The female person had a face which immediately drew my gaze (too often averted, because I am not a skeevy pervert), and had a very impressive cleavage. Which I did not notice until she stood right in front of me. A surprising thing considering that while sleek to the edge of plump, she was slim, not fat. Creamy fruit.

But in all honesty, what I noticed first was the beautiful face and hands.

No, I don't think they were passionately in love. More like a calm rational and extremely intense mutual like. And comfortable with proximity and physical affection. Hand holding, and occasional nose rubbies.

"I'm not tired, I am so out of shape!"

"If you're out of shape, what about me? I am a potato!"

My dear, you are a lovely tuber. And the two of you are darling. And yes, you do have a tum-tum, which is why it's a good thing you are wearing a black tee-shirt, but heavens. Just heavens.

They spoke in well-constructed complete sentences, and were adorable.

Attractive intelligent lovable teenagers.

Yummy. Like jin deui.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018


At times one should ignore the news and distract oneself with happy stuff, lest one get angry, and desire bloody chastising of several vile political opportunists and their vulgarian fat-headed chief. As well as a suitable number of their droid-zombie followers.

Oh, and the Evangelicals. Jerry Falwell jr., for instance.
That man is in the top ten most loathsome list.

So in another screen I've got youtube open. The March of the Onion (le chante de l'oignon) and Yuki No Shingun, among other things.
Farewell of Slavianka.

This is the era of weird shizzle. One wonders about the future of this country.

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It turns out our president does not understand how the internet works, as well as pageranks or algorithms. Statistics are also beyond him. He should probably have someone explain it to him, but there isn't anyone in his inner circle whom he trusts that uses complicated words and long sentences.

It is all a dastardly plot! Something must be done!

Donald Trump tweeted this morning:

Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of....

....results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!

8:02 AM - Aug 28, 2018


Personally, I think that Trump is an idiot, and so far the facts seem to bear that theory out. And I've spoken with more than enough of his supporters to recognize that he truly represents them and their simplistic view of the universe.

[*The term "idiot" in this context should not be taken to mean a bonafide drooling fool, but a person of barely average intelligence at best, whose mental rigour leaves everything to be desired. Such an individual will grasp at easy explanations and argue for what they wish to believe even if the facts don't add up. Rather than striving to understand complexity, nuance, and details, they reduce everything to mono-dimensionality. Faith in their own mental world, suspicion and distrust of everything that challenges that, and adherence to caste-affirming dogmas shared by their peers are markers of their type. This, in a nutshell, describes Fox News, anti-vaxxers, many religious types but most especially fundamentalists, flat-earthers, and racialists.]

There has always been a huge streak of dumb-ass in American discourse, but since the election two years ago it has been stronger than ever.

I thought it could not get any worse since Reagan.

But it did.

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Monday, August 27, 2018


Sometimes all a man wants is whisky and dumplings. What with it being my Friday night. And dumplings, naturally, require a splash of hot sauce and lime juice to be fully wonderful.

What I actually thought of first was fried rice stick noodles with charsiu and velvety egg, with either some asparagus or yellow chive, plus cilantro (*).


But I had all the fixings for dumplings with sambal and whisky. No charsiu, no asparagus, no yellow chives, no cilantro. This was an oversight, and would have sorely weighed upon me if I had no dumplings.

The key is to first panfry the pre-cooked rice stick, decant to a dish, then add the coarsely chunked charsiu to the pan, which after a few seconds to become fragrant should have cornstarch water and a little wine added, and when this has boiled and become milky, the chopped chive and beaten egg. After a short moment break up the egg, stir it all around, and slop onto the noodles. Altogether, if the noodles have been preboiled, the entire process takes about eight minutes, no fuss no muss and hardly any clean-up.

Whereas frozen dumplings need to be put in an oiled pan at extremely low temp for a while, covered, to crisp a bit on the bottom. Then you raise the heat and splash in some water or soup stock, remove the dumplings to a shallow bowl, add chilipaste and lime juice to the hot pan, and simmer till the sambal is the right consistency, twixt pourable and slightly soupy.
Drizzle this over the dumplings, take the bowl over to the teevee room.
Pour yourself a splash of Scotch and water (no ice), and go eat.

Dinner was exceptional. It was preceded by strong coffee.

It will be followed by a pipe and Virginia tobacco.

And a stroll around the neighborhood.

*gwat daan chaa siu chaau ho fan

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After a two hour nap I went out with my pipe filled with fine aged Virginia. And to my dismay discovered that several intoxicated persons were, by that sight and those smells, reminded of their grandfather.
Who also smoked a pipe.

I no longer ask about the smell, because their grandfather probably smoked cherry cavendish, to which I cannot relate.

Yanni tells me that after reading "the book" he will never touch tobacco again. And I should read it too.

Remind me to never introduce this man to my apartment mate.
She does not need anti tobacco encouragement.

I am smoking the tail-end of the second bowl of the night in the teevee room. The good thing about good Virginias is that they are 'stealth' tobaccos. A mild smell, subtle, slightly sweet, old-fashioned.
Old people, little children, and any grand kids love it.
It reminds them of grandpa.

I feel too young to remind you of some dessicated old fart and his tractor.
What with being reasonably trim, not nearly as old as the fossil, fewer wrinkles, and 100% full of piss and vinegar.

Pipe smoke does not remind me of my grandfather. He was a dashing late middle age military man when he met my grandmother in London after the war to end all wars, and passed away when my father and uncle were still children. My parents married late. My father was a pipe-smoker, but never smoked cherry tobacco. Something civilized, from John's pipe store. Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.

What I smoke doesn't remind me of him.
Though actually it does.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018


After a nap from dinner till past midnight, I got up for a cigar in the kitchen, a glass of whisky, and short videos of ancient Chinese battles on youtube.
Everything from the Three Kingdoms to the Ming - Manchu dustup. Charge, oh baffling Madarin speakers! And for crapsakes speak Cantonese!

The cigar and whisky were okay. The battles were epic.

Yes, I could have gone to the neighborhood public house, and smoked my pipe outside while younger folks within whooped it up and got themselves semi-intoxicated, but I did not feel energetic enough. Saturday nights like that require more energy than a middle-aged doofus wants to expend.

And sometimes I just don't want to see people.

Besides, if I did that I would, during that time, not have access to Wikipedia and several dictionary sites. Which are far more interesting than beer-fuelled sports-ranting and sex-talk by beautiful children, or the delicious aroma of bacon-wrapped hot dogs grilling one or two blocks away.

No, I did not discover anything so immortal, life changing, or fascinating that I absolutely must share it, even if a large percentage of people who read this blog are rather like me in some ways. There is nothing that you cannot explore entirely on your own. All I need to say is that in addition to Chinese military achievements of the past, I also explored Thai cooking, the Battle of Texel, a few texts in mediaeval French, and briefly forayed into Italic dialects for no reason at all.

Plus I had a cup of coffee. Because when you wake up in the middle of the night, you surely need a refreshingly stimulating beverage to go with your fine Nicaraguan cigar.

There are, thank the lord, two doors separating my apartment mate in her room from my stogie by the open window in the kitchen. It's a blessing.
She will not notice the reek tomorrow morning.

[She had gone to bed early, surrounded by her teddy bear (Ms. Bruin), the giant penguin, and several monkeys and smaller creatures. All of them in that room disapprove of tobacco.
They are a bunch of constipated Protestants in that regard.]

Eric is working the counter this evening, so I may go out. Now that he's experimenting with cutting back on his alcohol consumption he is more likeable and alert. We could discuss some history.
In between smoking outside.

What this world needs is an outdoor internet cafe that serves small shots of whisky. And has space heaters at all four corners of the terrace or patio, and absolutely no rutting or game talk permitted.
That's what the street is for.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018


A friend and reader tells me he really enjoys my saner content. Which is great praise, even if it was my regular rabid loopiness that prompted his remark. And, upon reflection, I realize that I do indeed have an interest in maintaining an image of sanity. Though that's largely for the benefit of friends, whom I wish should feel comfortable around me, and not regret their association.

So, to preserve what little social life I have, crazy behaviour will be limited to the second cup of coffee in the morning while I am in the bathroom.
I think I can manage that. I am not Trump.

Please rest assured that, except for the half hour or so when I'm in the crapper, I am one hundred percent sane. That's well over twenty three hours of sober rationality and common sense. Well yes, part of that time I might be asleep, but even under the worst circumstances that leaves at least fifteen hours of reasonable behaviour for your social pleasure.

Also, I do not associate with rock stars, druggies, punks, or slags.

If you are seen in public with me, your reputation will not suffer.

It is Saturday night now, but nobody will be seen with me unless I go out.
Which I might do later. Last smoke of the night and all that.

Even then I might spend much of the time by myself.
Quietly smoking my pipe, daydreaming.

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Friday, August 24, 2018


As usually happens on a day off I am thinking about food. Which must mean, quite naturally, neurosis. On the one hand I wish to reward myself for putting up with repulsive people during work -- per one of them, the British are responsible for all the fake currency in the world as part of their clever centuries long plot to destabilize and eventually take over other countries, and the Dutch invented the slave trade for a similar reason -- on the second hand I want something new and interesting, and on the third hand I want to listen in on other diners, because I eat alone and that is what you do when there is no one to talk with over delicious stuff and tea.
There are also fourth and fifth hands.
I shan't mention them.

Tomato porkchops, followed by a stroll with my pipe?
Or steamed dumplings and fried chili oil?
Grilled meats?


I like listening in on conversations in Cantonese, but I shy away from getting involved in them, as my ability in the language is not particularly good at all.
Frequently I phrase things wrong, and I'm not super confident. My reading skills are mostly food and Tang dynasty poetry, so altogether rather limited.

[Meng Tze saw King Hui of Liang. The king said "elder person, not far a thousand miles, also will have benefit my kingdom?"]

"Yo, old dude, you came a long way, what can you tell me that I can use?"

The text above shows that written Chinese from the classic period tends toward brevity of expression, and necessitates an interpretive approach. It can be thought over at leisure, and understood even if there is a cultural gap. It is not the same as spoken Cantonese of the modern era, where grammatical, aspect, and mood-shifting particles densely lard much that is said, and demand complete thinking ability on your feet.

My head is mostly English and Dutch.
It isn't the same.

I can do my banking and eating entirely in Cantonese. But telling you why the movie Totoro enchants me, or what is special about certain pipe tobaccos, requires English.
Existenzangst and weltschmerz often take Dutch.
And you knew that.

Cooking, however, needs Cantonese fluency.

Preparing black truffle fried rice (黑松露蛋白炒飯) demands a deft hand, a good eye, and sound judgment. Fry or sauté everything beforehand, rinse-scrubbing the wok in between items. Finally throw in rice, whisk around, add egg, chicken meats, and drizzle in the black pine dew preparation.
Serve immediately.

Necessary verbs: 切粒 cut into chunks 醃 marinate 煮 cook 炒香 stirfry till fragrant 大火下冷飯炒開 over high heat stirfry the rice till it's hot enough 加入蛋不斷炒 add beaten egg without pausing the frying 落雞肉粒 dump in the chicken chunks 最後加入黑松露醬 lastly, add black truffle sauce.

Some people marinate the chicken in dark soy, and only use egg whites, for a colour contrast. Scallion and ginger are optional.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018


They're big. They're blonde. They have humongous carnivorous boobies. The boobies may have been surgically augmented, surely those things are not that big normally, even if you are rich. They just have to be unnatural. They are the "real housewives of why on earth is she watching this crap-i-stan". Yes, the apartment mate has the teevee on to the tacky channel.
Actually she's the only person here who ever has the teevee on.
We share the teevee room, which is where it is.
Both of our computers are there.

For some reason she is talking like a monkey. And demanding to know where her banana daiquiri and banana flambé are.
They are important, dammit!

The sales person on the phone may be confused by this.
Quite likely that isn't the banana fairy calling.

"You no interrupt! Is wrong!"

After a full day of Marin, I can sure handle a bit of surreality.

What I have far less comfort dealing with is a television set filled with enormously breasted overly underdressed blonde twitheads. These women all look like trophy wives, and are vacuous beyond belief.
It's too much like Marin County.

At the end of the day I told the boys in the lounge to head on back to their cold unhappy households and rejoin their hated ones. It had been real.

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No delicious chops on the list of sets, but the 蒜茸焗龍脷飯 appealed to me. Actually, there was the Thai sauce chop, but I do not find it as interesting as the mushroom sauce or garlicky chops. The lunch set menu includes the main dish with rice or spaghetti, a bowl of soup, a slice of toasty garlic bread, and a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea.

If you try to look up 蒜茸焗龍脷飯 what you will find is something quite different than the reality. And many Hong Kong versions for some odd reason will include cheese. 龍脷魚 usually indicates sole, but any decent white fleshed fish will do. The literal meaning is 'dragon tongue fish'.

Baked sole with a little garlic butter in a foil packet, broccoli on the side, and a scoop of cooked rice. With hot sauce, it's heaven on a plate.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around.

And feeling profoundly furry too.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Got home late after an hour and fifteen minutes of fairly horrible karaoke. Which makes me think that white folks shouldn't sing. Except, perhaps, in the shower. But not if they are drunk. Every damned song you like will get ruined by intoxicated Caucasians, that is all there is too that.

Keep them out of the shower.

One of them kept considerately asking us whether we preferred this performer or that, or had objections to whichever band of which he was thinking. Outside, during a smoke break, he confided that he was of Irish ancestry (though California born), so I should have faith.

I'm sorry, dude, my faith, if there is any left, goes in the opposite direction. White people singing karaoke convinces me that there is no god.
It will take me several days to get over that.

'Country Roads'? Nein danke.
'Black and Tans' instead.

On the other hand, Taai Go (大哥) and Siu Fei Lou (小肥佬) playing liars dice together goes a long way towards restoring one's faith in humanity. What baffles me is their frequent usage of the English word "noodle".
Perhaps it's gangster slang for 'face'.

The taxi driver on the way home and I spoke of Hong Kong movies. We both fondly remember Cherie Chung (鍾楚紅), who was stellar in several late eighties early nineties films. When a gentle woman is required by her role to look fierce, the result is extremely appealing, heart-melting.
There is an extraordinary vulnerability there.

Taai Go and Siu Fei Lou are dubiously employed; "Older Brother" or "Little Fat Dude" are nicknames. They are both very likeable gentlemen, as is the "most dangerous man in Chinatown", who wasn't there tonight.

I have no idea how to appell any of the young white karaoke mavens.
Perhaps "Misguided Person A through F". Or "Crazy Dingo".
A through F.

The best way to finish the night, at three thirty in the morning, is with a hot glass of coffee with dry ginger and panax notoginseng powder mixed in. And a pipe filled with Old Gowrie (a fine tobacco product from Rattrays) out on the front steps. The "pipe for watching rats in Spofford Alley" was already smoked earlier, this briar is the pipe associated primarily with porkchops enjoyed at either of two eateries on Pacific at Beckett.

Which largely fuelled or inspired the account of "Eight Legs Cafe", written three years ago. Always smoked with Virginias.
I'll go there again soon.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Sadly, the Chinatown tutu man (mentioned in previous posts) is no longer wearing his tutu. Now he's down to what are either yoga pants or stretchy dance tights. Perhaps the undersize tutu was too constricting. The problem with yoga pants is that it now looks like his testicles are too big.
Perhaps the britches aren't roomy enough.

No, I did not stop to carefully scope him over.
I'm leaving that for social services.

Never stare, never catch their eye, never start a conversation, with people who have the obsessive life styles. Or made very evident berserk choices.
Which, to many of the elderly Toishanese folks in Portsmouth Square, almost all of us Caucasians did.

If you think about it, that's one good reason to be calm, dress neatly, and have a recent haircut. It lessens the impression that everything about one was a bad accident, or might be such a thing waiting to happen.

It also helps if you speak Cantonese. That diminishes the death-pallor of your white skin, and makes you seem almost human.

Even if, like me, you are 100% kwailo.

Rational, semi-clean.

The tutu man is Chinese, but does not act entirely right anyhow. The child's tutu suggests more than a few bad choices AND weird accidents in his pilgrimage, and leaves one wondering what happened to the original occupant of said garment. Did he perhaps eat her?

Little girl dancing garb is NOT suitable for an adult man, ever. I'm not being judgmental here, just stating what I think is a sane common-sense opinion.

Gender issues do not enter into it, please wear appropriate sizes.

Anyone triggered by this can get bent.

In other news, the three darling little boys at a place where I had coffee were at it again. Great after school fun, under the frazzled eye of an auntie. Boisterous, a bit loud. At one point auntie gently chided one of them "kam mow lei mau ge", when he said something which was perhaps a bit forward to a female customer. It can't have been very bad, she laughed.
Although he recognizes me from previous visits, he still finds it difficult to believe that I speak his language. And I have assured him that I do not. Why, I cannot even say one word in it! Quite a discussion ensued.
He remains somewhat baffled, however.
We didn't talk English.


Hong Kong style coffee (港式咖啡 'gong sik kaa fei') is, as I thought, semi-strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk (煉奶 'lin naai') stirred in. Probably Sữa Ông Thọ brand (壽星公煉奶 'sau sing gung lin naai'), which is a little more common here than Hong Kong's favourite type, Black & White Evaporated Milk (黑白淡奶 'haak paak taam naai'), though they are manufactured by the same company.

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Back in the mid-nineties I lost touch with all my Berkeley friends. I never figured out why, but I do have a fair idea how. And yes, I miss them.
I shall not here go into the details.
After two decades it is all warm pee under the bridge.

None of us are the same as we were.

If nothing else, our peculiarities have become vastly different. I have hardly read Wyndham Lewis since Jack died, and when Pauline disappeared, Marguerite Yourcenar and Nadine Gordimer faded from my list.

I still re-read Nabokov and Simenon; the mood, you understand. My friend the bookseller revisits Dickens, my apartment mate remains committed to Sherman's Lagoon and Brideshead Revisited; it's the "atmosphere".

There are teas, tobaccos, foods, and spirits that, for what are probably very similar reasons, still hold my interest.

I was reminded of this, and it all came into sharp focus, when I passed a place where one year ago I did not feel entirely welcome.
It was a supernumerary feeling.

I still like those people.

But no.

I've been told that change is a good thing.
I am not entirely convinced.

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Monday, August 20, 2018


We all know people who talk like this. When they're at the cigar lounge, we won't finish our stogie, because we can hear our oil tank leaking and the window on the gardening shed crusting over with dirt.

"We have — clean coal exports have increased, 60 percent last year — clean coal, which is one of our big assets that we weren’t allowed to use for our miners. You remember Hillary with the coal, right, sitting with the miners at the table? Remember? That wasn’t so good for her. So the people of West Virginia and all over, you look at Wyoming, you look at so many different places where they just, Pennsylvania, where they loved what we did, and it’s clean coal and we have the most modern procedures. But it’s a tremendous form of energy in the sense that in a military way — think of it — coal is indestructible."

"You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the windmills, boom, boom, boom [mimicking windmill sound] bing [mimes shooting large gun], that’s the end of that one. If the birds don’t kill it first. The birds could kill it first. They kill so many birds. You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field, the birds. But you know, that’s what they were going to, they were going to windmills. And you know, don’t worry about — when the wind doesn’t blow, I said, ‘What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?’ ‘Well, then we have a problem.’ "

[SOURCE: Washington Post: Allow us to translate Trump’s odd comments.]

The speaker is our president.
Who doesn't do drugs.
No sirree.

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The fog had long blown off and the temperature outside was warmer than when I returned from work. When I got home earlier, my apartment mate was asleep in her room -- after two days of volunteer work and watching medical crap on youtube, she must have been exhausted -- and in the twilight I had strong coffee before taking a three hour nap.

During the day Neil had been by to smoke a pipe, and though we were rather hoping that Martin would join us, he may have been enjoying the warm welcoming arms of his new female companion, much like that high school classmate who is never seen again once he has a girlfriend.

Slow day at work. Two bowls of Virginia, one Rocky Patel 1990.

Tonnes of hot tea. Wired to the living gills.

Shortly after midnight I heated up some dumplings, then filled a pipe with Elizabethan Mixture and headed to a nearby public house two blocks away. Eric was behind the bar, sober as a judge, not hung-over after the wedding shenanigans the previous night (only one glass of champagne, and none of the coke that I hear was being shared in both bathrooms OR the pot smoked outside), and the three other people there from nearby steak houses were restrained and very human.

[Elizathan Mixture: Neil had given the tin to Martin to try, and Martin did not find it to his liking, so gave it to me. It is one of my favourites, so I am more than happy to smoke the rest of it.]

After finishing my smoke I had a second drink. I am Spartan in my habit; equal parts Scotch and water, one bowl of tobacco per drink. Which means that I seldom go beyond a second Scotch, as I only carry two briars with me when I head out. I filled the second one with Old Gowrie when I headed home.

[Wikipedia: "Gowrie (Scottish Gaelic: Gobharaidh) is a region and ancient province of Scotland, covering the eastern sliver of what became Perthshire. It was located to the immediate east of Atholl, and originally included the area around Perth (and the ancient Scottish royal sites of Scone), though that was later detached as Perthia. Its chief settlement is the city of Perth. Today it is most often associated with the Carse of Gowrie, the part of Gowrie south of the Sidlaw Hills running east of Perth to Dundee."]

A crazy person shared the datum with the three of us outside the bar that "he" (an imaginary person) was killing "her" (a second imaginary person) further up the block. "yeah I know him" Eric admitted after he had passed, , and while blowing smoke clouds we listened to the violent argument further up the street between the unstable blond man and his invisible demon. After I left, he came walking by in the opposite direction, screaming "kill her, nigger, kill her!"
Normally he sleeps on the sidewalk between the Episcopal church and the Buddhist centre on Van Ness. He's the reason why parents wait with their toddlers till the childcare facility lets everybody in.

When I was nearly home I counted the last of three people with trouser issues. First one: the blond guy previously mentioned. Second one: an English man talking about "weird diseases" with a young lady, belt undone and jeans around his knees. Third one: someone with his pants down at his his ankles, texting intently outside the hip drinking hole which had closed. Those were really ugly knees.

Finished my smoke on the front steps, facing towards Mr. Siew's corner apartment across the street. Sounds of tumult from at least one street away, and a distant police siren. A small insectivorous bat joined me briefly, flitted around snatching bugs in flight, then circled the nearest lantern before heading further up the block.

Neil had given me some Dunhill Dark Flake that he had experimentally shredded in an antique device. I had one bowl of it yesterday, and smoked another today. Seeing as Dunhill pipe tobaccos are no longer going to be made, I have already stashed a half-years supply, of the Dark Flake and am still hunting around for more of it. I have a sufficiency of other Dunhill tobaccos and need not worry about running out before I croak.
My apartment mate thinks that I am completely insane.
She watches dermatological youtube videos.
And has Asperger syndrome.
Me, odd?

When I was on the bus back from Marin earlier, a young East Asian lady with a lovely face got off at Union Street, telling the driver "thank you so much, goodbye". There was something about the way she said it. Sweet, warm, very sincere. One of those people who don't throw up a wall under normal circumstances, but their heart comes out with every utterance.
The old fart she was with was probably her husband.
I rather envy that man.

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Sunday, August 19, 2018


One of my friends keeps posting pictures of the scrumptious food he makes, another does lovely food porn showing what he's eating. Now, I like both gentlemen -- in fact I am extremely fond of them -- but neither one of them has ever messaged me to say "let's do lunch". Or anything.
So that is very irritating.

A coworker asked me the other day what I was going to cook for dinner.
And he naturally assumed that I would be eating by myself.
Just like he eats with his wife and kids.

I may have mumbled indistinctly about vegetables plus chili peppers and shrimp paste, or something like that.

See, the way it works is men of a mature age are meant to eat alone, far from the delicate sensibilities of younger people. That way we can growl and snap, belch, and scratch our stomachs. We will lift a glass of wine to ourselves, then rip a haunch off a wild animal that we hunted down and killed. We fought off the hyenas and vultures to drag the carcass back to our lair, across the wilds of Russian Hill and Nob Hill, and down the savage ravine of Pacific Avenue. We leave trails of blood wherever we go.

Women and wee children are scared of us.
Deservedly we dine by ourselves.
We have claws!

If it were up to me, the entire world would be drenched in chili pepper sauce and wrapped in bacon, then served steaming hot with anchovies.

Conversationally we are, of course, a disaster. We cannot stop mentioning politics, religion, and money at the dinner table, and then, like the vicar of Saint Michael's, inappropriately exclaiming "I like tits ..... particularly the little serving maid with great big knockers!"

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One of the things that astounds me is that people actually seem to like me. This is peculiar, because I am a sour and unpleasant person, profoundly anti-social, grouchy, and with a horrid attitude toward one and all.
Well, except little well-behaved children.
Those folks are okay.

Mr. Siew wants me to drink wine. He was walking his dog when I arrived back at my street, his wife is in Hong Kong for two months, and it was a beautiful foggy night. The fog horns sounded in the distance, the further trees showed black in the silver of the street lights, and the few inebriants staggering home after bar closing seemed rather pleasant, though young.
And possibly randy, but they expressed affection toward each other in a non-hormonal way. Hugs, no groping.

It is quite possible that these people have shared apartments, and cannot plan any wild shenanigans at the spur of the moment. Schedule naughty business in advance, when everybody will be out for at least two hours.
Instead of wide awake in their rooms playing WoW or Battleship®.

Mr. Siew is probably a decade older. Retired, and not strictly Hong Kong.
There's a 'Portuguese' element there from Macao. His daughter-in-law has been an acquaintance for more than a decade. She's fully Cantonese, but, naturally, very familiar with the Kwailo world.

Three hours earlier I woke up from my nap, drank a cup of coffee, and wandered down Polk Street in the mist towards a familiar watering hole, where I am a hero for helping the owner recently clean up puke after someone borked on the door (from the inside, nota bene) a few days ago. Honestly, I did not smell it, I just felt that it needed to be done.
Apparently that's saintly behaviour.

Damned good day. In the afternoon I had gone into Chinatown for shopping (yay, dumplings!), and then dined on roast goose over rice. The waitress who came on shift after I was almost done with my meal greeted me ("what, no use chopsticks?"), and brought me some watermelon afterwards, the grouchy maitre d' was friendly, and later while smoking a pipe near the park several passers-by recognized me and said hello. Now, all of this is unusual. Because in addition to sour, unpleasant, and rabid, I am distant, a pissant, and probably smell bad.

It must be my battle-aura. While puffing on some six year old Old Gowrie (Rattrays, a tangy broken flake, very nice) on Walter Lum Place, the wind quieted down a bit. Earlier on Beckett and Wentworth it had been brisk and bitter, and I protected my bowl from the worst of it while grumbling. Right in the centre of each block it's bearable, but it comes over the hill and slams against the buildings, spreading out. Little children going past are bundled up, pink and red and purple, looking cute and almost roly-poly from the insulation against the late afternoon arctic chill.

Old folks wearing three (!) shirts under their coats.
Tourists freezing their dingles off.
Crazy man in tutu.

In complete contrast to a previous evening with Charles Rattray's fine Virginias, there were no crazy people tossing the contents of a municipal garbage receptacle all over the side walk, no drunken frat-boys yelling at their friends right next to them, no random creapazoids staggering in the direction of single women, and no elderly weirdoes trying to strike up conversations that go nowhere, slowly.

Good tobacco smells like nobody's elderly grampa.
There isn't that horrid vanilla odour.
I do not look avuncular.

Regretfully, I told Mr. Siew that I had to go home and get some sleep.
One of these days I'll take him up on his kind offer.
We'll smoke ciggies, and drink.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018


With the president still expressing loyalty to Paul Manafort, obfuscating well-founded reports of collusion, calling down damnation on the press, pissing on respected civil servants like Brennan and Mueller, and issuing goofy pronunciamentos against Harley Davidson, Washington D.C., and New York, besides his recent idiotic performances in Singapore, Belgium, England, and Finland, it is obvious to everyone except folks in Arkansas and Texas that we are a banana republic.

Except we don't have bananas. There won't be a parade.
Trump says he'll go to France to watch theirs.

North Korea also does parades.
Beautiful ones.

Take the congressional republicans with you.

"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world's stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation"

-----Navy Admiral William McRaven (retired).

You know, Muammer Qaddafi was a far better showman.

Besides being a better speechifier than Trump, the Brotherly Leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was less vain.
More Christian. And cleaner.

Unlike his hero Saddam Hussein, Trump suffers from other ailments.
Same blustersome vulgarity and egomania.
Different chemicals.

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Friday, August 17, 2018


In 1991 Anita Mui (梅艷芳) performed in concert. Seen again, she never looked more "stellar". She wasn't an 'attractive' woman. But all intelligent people look beautiful. And no one would ever call her stupid. So in very many ways she was an attractive and also beautiful female person. As well as one of the most memorable performers, in several different fields.
Adventure flicks. Romantic tearjerkers. Comedic roles.
Songs. Stage presence.

She passed away fifteen years ago.

She had star power from her nineteenth year till her death at age forty.
She still has it.

One main reason being that she was a glorious bitch.

Last night, before heading out for the last smoke of the day, I made use of of several disparate elements. Among which, you will readily grasp, was Youtube.

There is nothing that binds all these things, no glue that holds them together in a narrative other than a time, a place, a person.

Last night, and several years ago.

I've been smoking old pipes lately, briars from the past which are older than me. And mostly aged tobacco. Things are different, and the world has changed. But we have all become immortal.
Or classic at least.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018


It strikes me that karaoke brings out something in most people. Specifically, a dislike of their fellow human beings. Which was evident last night at the bar where a human being (bookseller) and I went to have a conversation.
Many people who sing karaoke are complete misanthropes.
Singing is their equivalent of slaughter.
They hate everyone.

At one end of the bar was a Brueghelian scene of local gentlemen playing dice and chatting in Cantonese. At the other end, yelling hipsters with huge egos, and two middle-aged gentlemen mostly keeping quiet because rational conversation was impossible during the "music".

An intoxicated young lady made it a point to apologize to me for her French. Which I gladly accepted, even though I had not heard her French.
I am sure it was exceptional.

It's all The Eagles, man, and dammit I've had a long day.

Actually the day was fine. Cigars, pipes, bitter melon and short ribs with fermented black bean sauce over rice (涼瓜排骨飯), and hot Hong Kong milk tea (香港奶茶). Lerng gwaa paai kwat faan, gong sik naai chaa.
Indistinct Cantonese-y mumbling: 十粉之十秀秀好好吓喇,都唔錯!

I had to clarify that when I said 'paai gwat', I meant 'pai kut'.
Something about my accent versus Toishanese ears.

Being unfortunately a solitary eater nowadays, I tend to listen in on other diners. The three elderly ladies at the next table over were enthusiastically discussing the two sons and one daughter of one of them. The daughter is not yet married (single, even resolutely so, in a Chinese context ALWAYS means "not yet married"), and when asked how old the girl in question was, she did not answer but veered into a different track. Which may mean that the child is a lesbian, or has bad body odour, or is living with a boyfriend (who might even be white!), or seeing a gentleman, or just too darn busy in her extremely successful career to want that distraction any time soon.
The sons are married, in case you were wondering.
We shan't discuss daughters-in-law.

Because they were having so much fun, the neglected their shared platter of pan-fried noodles with mixed oddments, and barely finished the soup.
Tea has a remarkable effect on old folks, perhaps they need more of it.

Other tables were not nearly so interesting. The European tourists with the remains of unimaginatively chosen dishes in front of them, beefy and big. Three Canto juveniles watching stuff on their cellphones while snacking after school; no conversation there. A single diner enjoying fried tofu with crispy stuff, the weary middle-aged businessman having cherng fan (腸粉), and the two ladies shouting in the corner.

Today, after visiting my bank, I shall have a bite to eat at a restaurant where grandma-auntie watches emotionally overloaded soap operas in Mandarin on a small teevee set during the afternoon. Nothing much happens, there is melodrama and despair, and the main characters flounce, wail, screech.
She can hardly understand me when I speak Cantonese.
But Toishanese and Mandarin, no problem.
Perhaps I need to weep.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018


The two most interesting and non-depressing news items this morning are that Parisians are outraged at the new eco-friendly public urinals, and the Indian Patent Office has decided that sex toys are immoral and therefore not patentable or to be patented. This blogger supports all of them. Those new pissoirs make it look like a man is leaking into a streetcorner trash receptacle, and sex toys are the right of everybody.

Of course, further facts are relevant. Short men, little boys, and very tall men could have a problem with the pissoirs, as well as gentlemen whose urethra may take a while to relax, or who have enlarged prostates .....
Think about it, but please don't think about it.

Women, however, are S.O.L.

The new sex toy for which a patent was sought was invented by a Canadian company. Indians buy a huge number of sex toys. Which are far too often blatant rip-offs of other people's cunning inspirations.
And use sub-standard soft plastics.
Or shoddy construction.

My sympathies are quite frankly with all the short Parisian men.

My neighborhood positively abounds with sex toys.
There are also quite a few Indians.
Probably no connection.

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The bar was nearly empty when I arrived, most people had already seen the baseball games (no, I do not know the teams or how they scored), and Eric was subbing for Chels who was in Reno with the other girls celebrating a bachelorette party. I can only imagine their drunkenness, though when "Jolene" arrived, she was clearly very koosh, despite having been left behind, and Eric was only drinking non-alcohol beer.

Whisky and water, and a quesadilla. I explained to a visiting Australian that 'quesadilla' was Meskin for "not a real pickle": quasi-dill. He believed me.
Very trusting people, those Aussies.

Because Jolene was so "happy", and heading to Nawlins tomorrow, we all got to hear about her new bra which she had just bought. Sorry, I cannot remember the details. After my dinner I smoked a full bowl of my three percent Perique red Virginia mixture outside.
I am not unfamiliar with bras.
Most men aren't.

Briefly came back in when the sound of retching close by became to much. Yes, I smelled the marijuana, but it sure sounded like the dude was coughing up a lung. Well, also, it was cold. Bitterly cold. Not yet foggy, but moist and windy. And sometimes I can be quite the old man.
When I was out there two people asked me for a cigarette.
While puffing on my pipe I explained to one of them that I did not smoke, it was a nasty filthy habit and would kill you, and to the second, who was flapping his oversize empty shopping bags, I responded in German.

"Es tut mir sehr leid, aber ich habe keine zigaretten; das huhn ist ein schmutziges und bedrückendes tier, und wenn du tief in seine augen gukt, wirst du voller depressie und existentiëller traurigkeit sein."

It's a very useful language. Learn it, and you will sound thoughtful and intelligent. And there were no cigarettes. He understood that.
It may have been my regretful air.

After a second whisky, I filled a Peterson, and went out into the night. It had become foggy. Street people and random drunks were far fewer on the way home than before I arrived. I felt queasy, but that was because I had seen Jolene devour two plates of bacon and honey, not the quesadilla.

Tomorrow I shall have a haircut and buy some more 丹參片。
Low dosages of the latter work wonders.
An excellent medicine.

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