Saturday, November 30, 2019

THE UNSURPRISING LIFE

In a previous post, while disparaging cell-phones and the younger-than-the-stereotypical-boomer-generation, I spoke of fried liver and onions, bus rides, and, in passing, mentioned that I was single, and do not foresee that changing.
In San Francisco any one of those three are fraught subjects. Many people absolutely HATE liver and onions, and almost nobody is fond of the other two. Bus rides and singularity cause more traffic accidents than almost anything else. Along with cell-phones.

Except for rabid non-smokers running out into traffic to get away from that horrible smell.


THE FULL NEEDS OF HYPOTHETICAL PEOPLE

Regarding the need for a cell-phone, I postulated that it would serve two possible purposes, the second being to arrange trysts or assignations, about which I wrote: "[] that just ain't happening, hasn't happened in aeons, and is just not likely to happen till I'm the last man on earth.

Pursuant which I received this comment under that post: "Hmmm, dunno! I'm not a womanizer, but I am sure, like me, every sane man can get a woman that fits his needs. The only thing he (you) has to do to get there is fulfilling her needs. So, Aboth, it's all up to your priorities!....I guess!"

Number one: that presumes that there is a woman, in actual presence or in prospect. There isn't. No needs to fulfill.
Number two: It also presumes that I'm a sane man. Which I can't be, because I am counter-arguing someone who wants me to fulfill the hypothetical needs of someone I have yet to meet.

Do women really exist? Maybe they are just figments of my imagination.

Actually, like most people, I know plenty of women, but not in such a way that they might welcome expressions of interest. Nor would I ever wish to sabotage the very good relationships that I currently have with them. "Hello miss Blutig, I wish to reschedule my medical appointment, and also ask you out for a tasty meal at this charming little place I know." " Miss Plorn, please give me your number before you drop me off at my stop." "Miss Pondorosa, I shall have the steak, now please run off with me."

On second thought, miss Pondorosa is out of the question.
Too much familiarity with very sharp meat knives.


"Thanks for the flu shot. Let's do coffee sometime."


While I like the concept that there's a woman for every man, I find it hard to accept. If it were so, there would not be so many folks on dating sites, or so many single older people taking dancing lessons. And the yoga studios would have to close down.

Yeah, no, NOT going to take yoga classes. Or cruise in the vegetable section of the Marina Safeway (is that still a thing?). If I don't meet a like-minded person during my normal routine, it just isn't going to happen. And unlike the bird of paradise, I shan't do a little attention-getting dance at regular intervals.

On a daily basis I must see hundreds of people.
I'm probably not "magnetic" enough.
And not very outgoing.


CLARIFICATION

The terms 'daily basis' and 'normal routine' include but are not limited to going to chachantengs and bakeries, having snacks or actual meals, wandering through alleys while smoking my pipe, shopping, occasionally visiting the clinic in the hospital to make sure my refills will be ready at the pharmacy, browsing for books, and being in transit to work, present at work, or returning from work. Plus writing essays for this blog, and corresponding with other people (other pipe smokers, relatives, old friends, newer friends).

Also included in the terms above are porkchops, cups of Hong Kong milk tea, home cooked curry dishes, and occasional pastries.

Even though steak is mentioned, it's not a regular part of the programme.
I'd much rather have fried rice stick noodles.
Or dumplings.


You wouldn't mind me dating your sister. But I think your sister probably wouldn't want to date me in any case.



AFTER THOUGHT

Since I brought them forth out of my imagination, I feel great responsibility for misses Eustance Blutig, Annie Plorn, amd Irmgard Pondorosa. As well as their equally fanciful friend Elegansie Tampulo, who graduated (cum laude) from the finest girl's finishing school in Quezon City.
I'm almost avuncular that way.

Eustance Blutig avowedly hates cuisines with terms she can't pronounce (but she can pronounce everything, just ask her), Annie Plorn is desperate to keep her looks and her finely drawn eyebrows for as long as possible, Irmgard Pondorosa is steadily amassing a fortune in real-estate deals, and Elegansie ("Dolly") Tampulo doesn't date boring white men. All of them love karaoke, and do it every week. They sing very well, and appreciate the appreciation of their colleagues and friends.

I think they may like long walks on the beach by moonlight while a guitar softly plays in the background, with their golden retrievers,

While by themselves.


They are all talented women, and have great senses of humour.
As their relatives know.


This may not be the only time they appear.



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Friday, November 29, 2019

IT'S OVER, AND IT BEGINS!

The lump of blueish clothing and a blanket under the tree near the bus stop is NOT a dead street person; I went and checked, because it had been there for a day. And it was cold. The right weather for sick homeless people to expire. But there was no corpse there, and I was immensely relieved.


LAST SMOKE OF THE DAY

Other than Cantonese being spoken at either end of the street, there were almost no people about. Occasionally someone would wander past, with a dog, with a companion, or with what was left of a festive pie. The wisps of smoke curled over the edge of my pipe, hung there, dissipated. No wind.
Two layers of undershirt. Overshirt. Sweater. Another overshirt. Padded long coat. Little black granny gloves. Underneath all that I felt pleasantly toasty. Possibly the medication makes me more sensitive to cold. When I was in Vancouver years ago, in the middle of winter, it did not feel as frigid.
And there was snow on the ground then.

Gonna have to read up on that.

Medication. Not snow.

Snow I know.


FIRST SMOKE OF THE DAY

A crisp winter morning, with shivering people at the bus stop. Not many, because of a long weekend. But to get to the shopping district today it is better to take public transportation. I'm heading off to work in a few hours, myself. There will be plenty of boys in the backroom most of the day, enjoying collegial company, smack-talking, huffing cheroots, and avoiding their wives. I intend to remain aloof from it all, with my pipes.


I am frequently surprised nowadays by the extreme and inhuman tolerance for temperatures displayed by the very young. Little girl in a tee-shirt yesterday, a hyper-active little boy running in circles for all the world as if he were simple minded, a pudgy millennial in sports shorts on the phone.

I did mention the multiple layers of clothing, did I not?

Clearly they're from a different planet.
We have been invaded.


Perhaps I should rub myself all over with bear fat after my shower. No one would notice, and I would smell appropriate for the weather. Smoky, and a bit greasy. A very winter-time odeur. Un bon parfum pour les vieux gentilhommes. C'est très chic.


The busdriver yesterday said she doesn't trust PG&E, what with their frequent power outages. She feels they're planning something, she doesn't know what, but in this weather that would be irresponsible in the extreme, possibly murderous. There are old people out there!

She's right, but we can always burn energy company executives for warmth.
Stack 'em like cordwood. They're fatty and combustible.



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Thursday, November 28, 2019

THE CLEANEST KITCHEN IN SF

There was no turkey, but it was a relatively good day. When I got back from my jaunt I prepared some hot milk tea and had cake and cookies.
The Season of Shortbread is upon us.

At the restaurant in Chinatown to which I went there is a new waitress with a gentle face. Not so much eye-candy, as warm milk for the eyeballs. Because of the cold weather she was dressed all frumpy in thick sweats, and looked comfy and warm in that get-up. I cannot blame her. My fingers have been reacting (very badly) to the cold all day.
At times blue, at times white.

Personally, I blame the millennials and Trump for this icy cold wave, because before them it was always warm and sunny. Thanksgiving Day might as well also be designated "Blame Apportioning Day".
The Indians gave us Turkey and Lima Beans.
We burned down their villages.
Seems fair.


For the Ukranian and Russian agents following this blog as a means of understanding American Culture and influencing our next election, let me explain what normal people, such as seen on teevee, do on this day.


THANKSGIVING

Americans get up, lounge about the house all morning, while mom and their aunt are already busy preparing a big inedible bird for consumption. Which also necessitates big inedible side dishes, like stove-top stuffing, gravy, string bean casserole, boiled or baked lima beans, boiled butternut squash, boiled sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, grits, canned cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate and peanut butter pie.

It's a lot of work.

After a light breakfast -- a stack of pancakes, bacon, and syrup -- the men go into the living room and watch two mediocre football teams duke it out all damn' afternoon in a snowstorm somewhere, while the women continue constructing the feast. Then everyone goes into the dining room, a pretend-religion-theme speech is made by the oldest Republican present, one of the young people says something about meat being murder, and everybody devours two or three heaping platefulls, while arguing politics or religion.
Then male Americans head back to the game. Some with plates.
The food is left out in case anybody gets hungry.
Women of the family drive to the mall.
Family pets climb on the table.

When the women return from shopping, the men are fast asleep on the couch, the dog and the cat have thrown up, and there's a trailer-load of dishes to be done, which will take up the remaining three hours before bedtime. The left-overs will feed everyone for a week.
Until someone orders pizza.

But that's normal Americans. People who wear bald eagle feathers, and bleed red, white, and blue. Not us Californians, who never support the President, Jesus, or Republicans, and will vote for the black guy or the angry woman in every election, and instead of going to church become homeless drug addicts or crazy.


What I did was today was have bitter melon omelette over rice, with Sriracha hotsauce, and a hot cup of HK Milk Tea. Then I went out and froze my ass off while enjoying some fine aged flake in a no-name briar.

I'm a raging socialist, with black granny gloves.

It was delicious.

Presently I'm preparing to enjoy another pipe full of the three decade old Virginia. Short smoke, in a pot shape French pipe older than myself.
Then another cup of tea.
And a cookie.



TOBACCO INDEX


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THE FOSSIL

One good reason not to talk to yourself is because you sound exactly like a cell-phone conversation on the bus. "Oh yeah, heading home, surrounded by uglies. Gonna have fried liver and onions for dinner. You?" As a boomer, I'm not into the cell-phone gestalt. The only reason I can see for having a cell-phone would be to inform work that the bus (Golden Gate Transit) had messed up again, or to arrange trysts or assignations. The first situation can be avoided by catching an earlier bus, which I do nowadays, and the second is something that just ain't happening, hasn't happened in aeons, and is just not likely to happen till I'm the last man on earth.

At which point there will be this exchange: "Hey Atboth ("At the Back of the Hill"), are you gonna be free for freakiness this Thursday evening?"

"Mmmm, let me think."

[Pregnant pause for several seconds.]

"Can I smoke my pipe?"


Please note that 'Boomer' in this context does not mean someone born within a decade of the war (WWII), but anyone between their mid-thirties and Methuselah. Anyone with more than a single strand of grey hair. Grandpa Simpson to the Millenials. Anyone who voted for Clinton.

Boomer complaints: It's too cold! I gotta pee. I hate rap. Why do I have to scroll down? Why are your jeans full of holes? Why Kanye, dammit?
Millenial complaints: It's not green. It's not sustainable. It's got chemicals. It's got meat.


There is more substance to Boomer complaints. It IS cold. Forty six degrees Fahrenheit. Which may be as warm as it's going to get today. But, fortunately, little likelihood of rain. When all of us moved here after Winning The War, it was to get away from temperatures like that, to a warm sub-tropical climate with perpetual sunshine, free booze, and LSD.
You millenials have ruined that by hating meat.
And wearing stressed blue jeans.
You socialists!

We "Boomers" are more likely to kill ourselves from accidentally setting fire to our urine stained mattresses while drunkenly lighting a cigarette in the middle of the night; you "Millenials" will probably die of lung damage caused by THC vaping binges with your friends. Or brain and organ failure from malnourishment because you're all Vegans, and avoid GMO's.
Like, for instance, tomatoes.



今日無火雞

Anyhow, as previously mentioned, no damned Turkey today, because there are no kids, and no relatives within a hundred miles, and as usual I didn't make any plans and would be horrid company on Thanksgiving.

Something "over-rice" in Chinatown, with a cup of Hong Kong milk-tea, then a slow amble with a pipe in my mouth, followed perhaps by another cup of milk-tea. Depends on my mood, and which places are open.

Don't really like turkey anyway.

Perhaps a flaky pastry.




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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

AND BAD SMELLING TOO

Tomorrow: wake up at a reasonable hour. Coffee, shave, shower, then after a suitable interval, out of the house for a while. Because my apartment mate will be monopolizing the kitchen, I expect, for the annual potluck at one of her siblings' houses. To which I am not invited. Not because they dislike me or something stupid like that, they barely know I exist. Insofar as they can think of me, I am the "old college classmate", and the same gender.
And racial heritage.

Little do they know I am NOT female and Cantonese American, but male and Dutch American. They've never met me. These are people who are adept at keeping their lives rather private from each other, and they don't ask prying questions about each other's business.

And I am not the pushy interjecting type.
I do not insist on inclusion.


I am used to being alone. Not okay with it, but quite used to it.


What that means is that tomorrow I shall have a nice hot lunch by myself in Chinatown, then wander around for a while smoking a pipe, before coming back home at early evening, twilight, perhaps to doze. One of my favourite chachantengs will be closed, because since the daughters took over they are no longer open on Thursdays. Which tomorrow is.
Don't know which eateries are open.

Honestly, I have no clue where I'll eat. I don't know who is going to be open on Thanksgiving and who isn't. It's a total crapshoot. The tobacco is more certain than the food, the only thing definite is that there won't be turkey.


3¼ OZ. 92 g NET WEIGHT
47° FAHRENHEIT.
感恩節


Rummaging through my cabinets, I found a 92 Gramme tin of Capstan Navy Cut (a medium Virginia flake) from the nineties. The tin says "W.D. & H.O. WILLS, BRISTOL AND LONDON". And "MADE IN ENGLAND".
It smells rich and winey. Dark flakes, mahogany hued.
Age has benefitted it. This will be fun.
A nice quiet hour.

Perhaps another round of milk tea before heading home.

It will be cold. And possibly wet.
Thick coat and gloves.
Umbrella.


I'm really not into cold weather and no turkey and no celebration, but there will be a decent meal, lovely tobacco, and milk tea. In a neighborhood that feels bustling and home-like. And some cake later.



TOBACCO INDEX


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RUSTY SPRINKLES

Today we find out if Rusty Sprinkles survived the cloudburst. Yesterday evening, at approximately quarter to seven, it came bucketing down. The street in front of my apartment building was white with the rebound, the rain resembled shiny steel poles. My neighbor came running in from the car that had dropped him right in front, and was drenched by the time he got to the portico. Fortunately I had dressed warm and thick, and had a big umbrella with me. So inside my cocoon of clothing I was dry and warm.
Gloves too. My fingers had not turned blue.
That's a victory of sorts.

Not a fit night for man nor beast.



Well except for some. Rusty Sparkles is not the name of a porn starlet, as some readers might suppose, but my fond nickname for the tinsely reindeer on the lawn at work. Which Hecky absolutely hates, because the glittery stuff gets all over him, and consequently would rather not put out every day. I've told him that if Rusty isn't out on the lawn by ten AM, Santa won't come this year. Forget about the likelihood of infected cuts and tetanus! It's over.

Usually I'm still the one who puts the thing out.

Hecky is a coward.


During the cold wind and steady rain around tea-time, I made my way to a chachanteng with my groceries. A cup of hot Hong Kong Milk Tea and a club sandwich (港式奶茶: 'gong-sik naai-cha', 公司三文治 'gong-si saam-man-ji'). One of the regulars asked me how I was, saying I looked worse than before. That's just the weather, and I lost a bit of weight.
I positively abound with energy, and feel more vibrant.

Also, I do not know what the equivalent of "full of piss and vinegar" is in Cantonese. Possibly 生龍活虎,興致勃勃,動動活力 ('sang lung wut fu, hing ji put put, dong dong wut lik'). Or words to that effect. Lively dragon live tiger, flourishing zest quick quick, move move vital forces.

Spent about an hour there before heading back to my street.

Actually, I'm hoping my appearance will prompt some nice lady to exclaim "why you poor thing, you must be freezing, let me take you home and give you some nice warm wonton soup, and yes you may smoke inside!"

Because I really don't like cold wet weather.
As a pipe smoker, I know it too well.
I'd far rather be inside.



Anyhow, I will be at work today, contrary to my normal schedule. Off on Thursday, back on Friday. So I will be able to smoke inside. After I put Rusty Sprinkles out on the lawn. I'm hoping that the fact that she is electrified will not endanger me as I fumble with her wires. It's alive, it's alive!

It's an angry rabid reindeer with a horrid attitude.
Nothing says "holidays" like an evil cyborg.
Kill all the humans. Ho ho ho.
Merry thing-much.



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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

INDIAN FOOD IS TERRIBLE!

A tweet about food has sparked the usual triggered outrage. In particular, the top one percent of sub-continentals and sensitive folks takes issue with American academic Tom Nichols, who said that "Indian food is terrible".
Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a valid opinion.


"I think people often pretend to like non-American cuisines as a way of showing sophistication. I'm honest enough to say that my mostly Irish taste buds can't handle whatever it is that is called "Indian" in the US and UK.
You may all continue with your outrage now. /3x"

-----Tom Nichols.


Quote: "Mr Nichols - who teaches at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island - posted his opinion after another Twitter user had asked for "controversial food opinions". " End quote.

[Source: 'Indian food is terrible' tweet sparks hot debate about racism.]


He may have had considerable exposure to Indian cuisine, in India, and perhaps by comparison he slags the muck commonly served to drunken louts in Britain and America. Or he may have eaten Sulaiman's cooking.
In which case I sympathize.

Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch; Lentils, chappatis, raita, hari mirch.
Achaaaa, bhai!

Having worked at an Indian restaurant for significantly over a decade years ago, my opinion would be more nuanced. But not much different.
I sometimes ate at our competitors.

There is hardly any demand for better Indian food.
Dabba-style sludge is perfectly acceptable.


The customers would mostly prefer pizza in any case, but Gauras will go to Indian restaurants for atmosphere and a change of pace, preferably at a low price, and Desis go so they can talk Hinglish, eat with their fingers, and have some fresh naan.

Each table gets four katoris: tamarind sauce, hari chatni, kachumbar, and chili paste. That last one is for the Gaura-log, who don't know that you can eat chilies raw. Plus a bowl of chopped vegetables in yoghurt.
Pretty standard, for the demographic.

Over the years I heard enough high-fallutin' nonsense from both Caucasians and Indians about Indian art, music, literature, spirituality, Ayurveda, yoga, poetry, vegetarianism, dharma, mysticism, ashrams, Sanskrit, slokas, The Himalayas, Kashmir, the magic cleansing properties of Ganga jal, cuisine, computer skills, honesty, brains, cleanliness, philosophy, pickles, ghee, history, and the great purity and sanctity of everything Indian that I can parrot that crap in my sleep. Om santi santi santi, bitches.

Most of my "teachers" on those subjects were pig-ignorant, and I knew far more in any case. I'm just polite.


Indian food can be many things.
Terrible is one of them.




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THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT STEPPED OUT FOR A WHILE, CALL BACK LATER

Perhaps as a result of my posting images of various pipes on my facebook page, I have seen the famous painting by Magritte of a pipe more often recently than before, as well as the comment "this is not a pipe".

The painting shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte wrote: "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", "This is not a pipe" in French.


Magritte's "La Trahison des Images" ("The Treachery of Images") (1928-9) or "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe"). Sometimes translated as "The Betrayal of Images" By René Magritte, 1898-1967. The work is now owned by and exhibited at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).


A.Y.W. posted the painting above, commenting: "I'm gonna tell my kids this was a pipe".
To which G.C.R. answered "I forget how this one works."
A.Y.W.: "you put tobacco in it and light it on fire, I think."

Indeed. That is the basic principle.

Advice for first-time pipe smokers: Pack lightly on the bottom, a bit tighter on top, creating a relatively smooth surface for the first light. Tamp down, relight. As you progress down the bowl, tamp occasionally to compress the burning area; this helps keep it lit, and will ensure a smooth burn. Do try to smoke it all the way to the bottom, but if it causes discomfort, put it down; you don't get Brownie Points for making yourself suffer. Pipe smoking is the perfect "hobby" for OCD's, and if you weren't neurotic before, if you stick with it you soon will be.

[Note: this is the condensed version, it can be a lot more wordy, and usually is. Exactly like Lord of the Rings.]

This would be a good moment for a review of Cornell & Diehl's Red Stag smoking mixture, a medium strength English blend (Latakia, red and blonde Virginias, Turkish) which is good, but better a few weeks after opening the tin, and rather perfect for crisp Autumn mornings such as today (54°). Note that I am enjoying a bowl of it right now -- very much enjoying -- but that might bore some readers .....
Yes, this is quite exceptional Like many such products, where the Latakia and Turkish balance each other nicely, providing a resinous old fashioned perfume, it reminds me of my well-spent youth, which was altogether a soggy period; what I remember best is rain. It rained (a lot) in Holland, when I bicycled to school, when I left in the afternoon, in between, and afterwards. The joy of finding a shelter somewhere to light up and have a cup of coffee was indescribable. When I finally returned to the United States, I remember Berkeley as being rain-drenched and soggy, wet with a fecund almost rotten reek. Moldy, moist, mildewy, and woodsmokey from people using their fireplaces a lot. I learned to drive a car in torrential downpours.
At that time I smoked several Latakia and Turkish compounds, not only from Drucquer's, but also by Sobranie, Dunhill, McConnell, and Rattray.
In homage to which this delightful tobacco mixture was composed.

Warning: According to the State of California, this
product does "things" to you. Which are also
known to the State of California.

Slightly tangy, slightly tarry. Velvety on the tongue. If you have nought to distract you overmuch, the Red Virginia becomes quite noticeable.
My apartment mate would disapprove.

But I must resist the urge.
This is not a review.


It looks like the first rain of the season will be blowing in this afternoon, with the possibility of a downpour right around lunch time. As presaged by the windy conditions yesterday evening. I am not fond of inclement weather, what with a tropic sort who much prefers high sixties to low seventies and sunny or only mildly overcast skies. At tea time today it may be really coming down, and lamentably there are fewer places to find succour from the weather in Chinatown than there used to be. So very likely under the awning of an abandoned storefront, where I shall fumble with my pipe and tobacco, and curse the modern age, which is intolerant of matured men.
And especially their habits.

You know, bubble tea places are not a suitable environment for adults.

Statler and Waldorf. Copyright: Disney. 
From USA Today.

Too cold, too young, too filled with giddy people hepped on sugar.

The one good thing is that rain will chase away the tourists. So there will be less of the sneering staring crowd and their odious little kids, and far fewer people doing that disgusted wave whenever they see someone smoking.

Finished the tin of Red Stag. That was the last bowl. I shall have to acquire more. It's perfect for an hour in pleasant company, with a warm beverage and a blanket. A wintry kind of smoke.



TOBACCO INDEX


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Monday, November 25, 2019

SPREADING CIVILIZATION!

As part of my attempt to bring all of you non-Dutch Americans to culture and happiness, I've been telling people all weekend about the Dutch December Holiday tradition -- so much better than the fat pervert in the stained red bathrobe -- from which you get part of yours.
Saint Nicholas arrives in mid-November with his servants, who are six to eight angry black men. On Saint Nicholas Day (December sixth), if you've been a good little boy or girl, you awake to find candies and presents.

If you've been bad, the six to eight angry black men will whale the crap out of you, stuff you in a gunny sack, and take you back to Spain where they'll sell you to the Arabs. And we'll never see you again. You little sh*t.



As part of the festivities leading up to whichever result is most likely, the Saint rides around on his horse, accompanied by his servants. Six to eight angry black men. Usually played by teenage girls in blackface.

Now, you might think that in the present age that is politically incorrect, racially insensitive.

But what's really amazing is that parents will gladly let six to eight angry black men into their house to beat up their kids and kidnap them. It shows that even a century ago, before most Americans would've even think of showing racial tolerance in the bosoms of their family, the Dutch were warmly accepting of the invaluable contributions that angry black men could make to their society, maintaining the peaceful functioning of families and removing problems and pests. Unlike in the English-world, where bad little boys and girls were tolerated, and grew up to become horrible adults, who eventually would have to be deported to Australia for violence, buggery, and sheep-stealing.

Holland is, in consequence, a better run country than England.
Australia, as you will understand, is totally hosed.



Of course, you can really play with Johnny's mind on December sixth by telling him Saint Nicholas made a mistake, he didn't have time to read all those files yet, because there are more people on the planet than there used to be.
But he will, he'll catch up, maybe even this year.
And he'll back, Johnny, he'll be back.
With six to eight black men.

Magic black men, who float through walls.

The United States needs this. Badly.

It maintains social harmony.



The Christmas decorations are already up at work. That's why.




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UBER. BOOMER.

Signs of life outside the building this A.M.: Seagulls overhead (diamond formation). Crows cawing. Alcoholic shrine under the tree at the bus stop.
A jogger. An Asian girl with very long hair crossing the street. Sleeping streetperson across the intersection, with a box fortress.
Uber driver in car.

Uber driver looking at me expectantly, as if asking: "are you the fare for which I wait?"

Dude, does a rumpled middle-aged man with a cigarillo, in a bathrobe and slippers, look like he's going anywhere soon? "Hello, office, this is your chief-executive speaking. I seem to have forgotten to dress this morning. Is there any coffee in the company kitchen, and can I borrow someone's healthclub card so I can take a shower?"

It's precisely that thought that tells me that I am chief executive material, interested readers please contact me.

I'll be a very twenty-first century boss.

There will be yoga breaks.

Mandatory.


The street outside is a mess. Pizza crusts. Torn papers. There are abandoned undies near the front door. In my day, undies were not so casually discarded. No. If we had undies, we treasured them!
Your parents slaved for years to afford casual undies!


Maybe the Uber driver wants them.



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Sunday, November 24, 2019

BEWARE THEIR CHEERFULNESS

When I left work the boys in the back were screaming. They were watching the ballgame. Green Bay versus Santa Clara. Naturally I paid no attention. They had pulled the bottles out of their lockers, and I fully expect some of them to embarrass themselves before the evening is over.

I am, as you have guessed, too damned faux an intellectual to pay attention to so jejune an entertainment.

Here it is, more than an hour after I got home, and I've just finished a slice of pumpkin pie. A cup of coffee is to my left. A pipe which I want to load with tobacco is nearby, the teevee is off, and my apartment mate is in her room talking to the stuffed critters.
I think she's reading to them from a book about bad cops.
The State of New Mexico features prominently.

When Green Bay wins this evening, the neighborhood will go wild.
There are likely to be scenes of mass jubilation.
It will be epic.


Cheerful drinking and chocolate chip cookies.
Strangers kissing each other.


Can't smoke indoors. With rampant jollification in the streets, can't smoke outdoors either. Perhaps I should just have another slice of pie.



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HE HAS OPINIONS

Dinner: home made sarson da saag, toasted focaccia, and grilled sausage. Because vegetables are important. They vote.

Little White Nipple Guy has one cigar for the trip north. Everyone is hoping it will last him a while. I know I am, I still remember the time I told him about the leaves of the gympie gympie tree and the English officer ignorant of their disadvisability as bathroom tissues in a pinch.

Make no mistake, I actually like Little white Nipple Guy, but much more for his affect on the cigar smokers than any real human quality. And I do not want to socialize with him. I am not self-abusive that way.


Many of the people I know because of work are queer as blazes, but he takes the cake, and heads into uncharted territory with it.


He was in again recently.
I am not a Christian.




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FRENCH PIGS!

So it turns out that the French are finally wising up. As an article on the Politico website indicates: "it takes a lot to get thousands of Parisian women to take to the streets on a cold November day. But a women's march against sexual and gender-based violence is expected to gather large crowds in the French capital and other cities on Saturday, two years after the #MeToo movement swept the world." End quote.

Source: France shaken up by #MeToo wave amid new Polanski scandal.

Yeah, I kind of like the French. But they are pigs.

And I still haven't forgiven them for protecting Roman Polanski.

[It wasn't likely that I would forgive the French or other Europeans, as I am very good at holding grudges. Many of us American Boomers are. Back in 2011 and 2009 I wrote a few words exploring their pig issue: Dominique Strauss Kahn and Roman Polanski.]


In many ways I am a puritan. Especially when it comes to these things.

I'm sorry, this is one element of modern culture that repels me.

And it's not just the Europeans who do it.



Please feel free to leave your opinion in the comments field, In English, German, French, or Dutch. If it's the wrong opinion I may just ream you another, be prepared for that, or ignore you entirely.



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Saturday, November 23, 2019

A DINNER FOR SMELLY OLD BACHELORS

As a single man I get to cook whatever I like. Which is good, because even though cooking for other people, and having someone to eat with, is nice, what other folks eat isn't always what I like.

Tonight's dinner was pan-fried rice stick noodles (沙河粉) with mustard greens (油菜), egg (蛋), potato (薯仔), preserved pressed vegetable (榨菜), and sambal (辣椒醬).


煎咖哩榨菜河粉


A suitable quantity of boiled broad rice stick noodles added to leafy mustard stalks cooked with shredded Szechuan hot pickled mustard root (for salt), minced garlic and ginger, some chunks of cooked potato already fried golden, everything briefly pan-fried with curry paste, and an egg added at one end of the pan to set, then the whole tossed together with a splash of stock, a sploodge of chili paste (sambal), and a squeeze of orange.

When I decanted everything to my plate I looked up and realized how hazy the kitchen had become.

I am beginning to understand why this apartment has a slight curry aroma.

Ginger, garlic, coriander seed, mustard, turmeric.

Chilies, fish sauce, lemon grass.



沙河粉 'saa ho fan'. 油菜 'yau choi'. 蛋 'daan'. 薯仔 'syu jai'. 榨菜 'jaa choi'. 辣椒醬 'laat jiu cheung'. 煎咖哩榨菜河粉 'jin gaa lei jaa choi ho fan'. It is taken for granted that there will be a main food, like vegetables and egg, in the dish. So the unique flavourings like curry and preserved turnip (pickled mustard root) are listed in the dish name.

You can also take the chili paste for granted




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YOUNG MAN!

It happened a number of times yesterday, and it's not unusual anymore. Disturbing, even irritating, but frightfully common. Somebody offered me a seat on the bus. They see a gammele oude kakker, but when I look in the mirror, what stares back at me is a trim middle-aged dude, who is remarkably young and feisty looking. The acme of spry and wiry.
I'm guessing that "fit" and "fat" are equivalents.
As far as millenials are concerned.
It's a matter of perception.

[Gammele: rickety, breakable; unsteady. Oude kakker: old kacker. An old tiresome relic. The antique old fart. Any man after thirty. well, perhaps 35.]

I am not Gandalf.

Okay?!?!?


On a crowded bus, sitting down puts you on eye-level with someone else's crotch. Unless you invited them into your home for that express purpose, that may not be the best vista you'll see that day.

Usually on the bus I am quite capable of standing, full of beans, piss and vinegar, and hot tea, as I am returning from Chinatown where I had a snack and warm beverage. And I smoked a pipe filled with a tobacco that would probably trigger y'all. I am not a fragile old git, despite being a little silver around the edges, and not looking like a wrestler or quarterback.
I haven't even hit retirement age yet!

Besides, women should sit. That's what is proper. This damned bus shouldn't move until every sheila is sitting down.

Sorry ladies, I'll hold my groceries in front of my crotch.



Milk tea and a pastry, then Hang Ah alley or Spofford for a smoke. It's time for quietness and enjoying the moment, observing little children walking with their elderly relatives homeward after school, women buying vegetables, old gentlemen popping out of the residential buildings for a quick cigarette, or folks who were at the same bakery just minutes ago smiling in recognition. Perhaps a few words. "Nei fan ok kei ge mah?" "Hai ah, hui sik faan, nei ne?" "Mei, gap yin sin...." Because of course it is still too early to sik faan.
There is so much day light left in the day.
It's still tea time!

[Fan ok kei: returning home. Sik faan: to have a meal. At that time of day, one's supper. Nei ne: and what about you? Mei: not yet. Gap yin sin: having a smoke first.]

Note: this shape has an oval shank.

The briar I brought with me for my tea-time jaunt was a shape that doesn't appeal to me much; far too young a shape! Probably more suited to some young sprout in his early twenties! But it's aged nicely, and the briar has an ancient glow to it. It's perfect for Latakia blends, but does very well with matured Virginias, if smoked slow, and away from the wind.
The weather is right for nice dark flue-cured leaf.
Autumnal, but not frigid yet.



Recent smokes: Russ Ollette's 'Black House', and Dunhill's 'Dark Flake'. The first is a full Latakia mixture that smells rich and lively in the tin, the second is an ethereal aged flake extremely similar to Petersen & Sorensen's 'Tradition'.

[Black House: fifty percent or more Latakia, something black Virginia-like to carry the excess creosote, Turkish, plus what I presume to be Red Virginia, and allegedly a smidge of Perique. It is very nice, and you'll need to air your living quarters out for two or three hours before the other occupant returns in the evening, which I did, because she is a delightful roommate, pays her share without squabbling, and puts up with me, my eccentricities, and my stuffed creatures. Although not my smoking. 
She has a poor sense of smell, boruch Hashem. 
Dunhill Dark Flake: this bears NO resemblance to the original dark flake, OR the regular flake. What probably happened is that Kohlhase & Kopp said "hey guys, we got the license for this, let's produce something and see if it sells". Orlik didn't have a recipe for the old stuff, so they recycled one of the recipes they did have for something else, and voilà. The result is a superlative incense-like indulgence for when you won't be distracted, and you can even get away smoking it in the teevee room late at night when she is asleep in her room. It will not wake her. Whereas Russ Oullette's fine mixture would have her beetling up and out furiously, and accusing you of being a depraved Dutchman (which I am, please stop shouting), and demanding that you go smoke it with the drunks down at the bus shelter. Which I don't like to do. I respect their dislike of the finer things.]


Both are delightful. Russ Oullette's mixture has been described as "reminiscent of camel dung; the spousal element objected rather fiercely", whereas the flake is "pleasant to tolerable".



TOBACCO INDEX


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Friday, November 22, 2019

THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

A quick glance at the Facebook group for old fogeys indicates that many of the people there start their day with coffee and a pipe full of tobacco. Only a few actually eat breakfast. Understandable! Morning food is boring! In the Anglo-Saxon part of the world it's all fried crap and cereal. Whereas tobacco recalls the Levant, Asia, Africa, and getting into your Spitfire at the crack of dawn to fight a wave of Europeans -- scratch that, Huns -- or adventurously hauling in a load of savage codfish from the frigid Northsea.
Messerschmidts, trawlers, herring!

This blogger's breakfast, on his day off, is strong coffee and a cigarillo out on the front steps. In San Francisco that counts as antisocial behaviour. Because smoking kills children, is totally boomerish, and ruins the environment.

At the crack of dawn, this blogger kind of approves of that.
Anyone rational would, at that hour.


The Anglo-Saxon breakfast is ghastly. Except for the coffee. And you people indulging in it are reprehensible. The correct food for that hour is NOT simplistic fried or boiled muck, which reminds you of the severe Protestants in your family trees, but nicely steamed savoury items that should include pork, crustaceans, chives or scallions, vast fields of snow with bodies under it (which is exactly what cheung fun looks like, especially haa mei cheung fun or cheung fun with little bits of meat), plus hot noodles, soup, and perhaps a nice chop. Washed down with buckets of tea.

In theory, of course.

I've never been able to comfortably put that into practice. Even though I live reasonably close to the Chinese part of the world.


The folks at the nearest teahouse or chachanteng would look most askance if someone came wandering in looking all rumpled in jammies and a grungy bathrobe, with or without a lit pipe. How anybody can be awake enough to shave, shower, and get dressed at that hour, BEFORE their first smoke and two cups of coffee, is beyond me. It's scarcely an hour since my apartment mate left for work, and I'm still in my bathrobe. I'm off work today, and solid food is only an intellectual concept at present.

This boomer smells more bad before he's fully woke up.

I'm wondering which pipe first, what tobacco, and how many children that will traumatize or permanently damage. Should I stumble over to the kitchen for that second cup of coffee, how come the Dutch eat cheese and smoked fish at six A.M., and what the weather is like over there now. A nice stinky Latakia tobacco blended by Russ Oullette is nearby, staring right at me, as well as an old Comoy squat bulldog pipe. Such as I would've smoked in the upstairs living room of our house in Valkenswaard after school, if I had owned it then. Bought it from Mary Pulvers nearly twenty years ago.


Sunlight is streaming in. The apartment building is silent. Crisp weather, not too cold. The prospect of heading over to the Chinese part of the world, Stockton and Jackson Streets, is appealing, but still a few hours off.
I'll save the Comoy squat bulldog for after lunch.


I am not a social man yet. Give me a few hours.
This boomer gotta shave and shower first.

The luftwaffe will have to wait.


Start with a Peterson.
And Latakia.



TOBACCO INDEX


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Thursday, November 21, 2019

LITTLE YELLOW PEOPLE

One of the themes to which my apartment mate occasionally returns is that martial arts are not for everybody. She's been doing wu-shu for years, and she's got belts in aikido. So she's more of an expert in this field than I am.


"We never shouldha' taught you guys kungfu, now you're all making movies in which great white master goes around beating up little yellow people!"


Mm, okay? As the only white person in this household she can't be referring to me. My cousin's brilliant kid makes movies, I don't. I have nothing to do with the movie industry. Zero.

And I'm fairly certain Sammo Hung has never played a little yellow person.

Are there many movies in which big white men go around terrorizing little old Cantonese ladies?


But I know what she means. White dudes have rather fallen for the magic and mysterioso elements, and Caucasian martial artist movies make some of them feel much less like putzes. Grashopper.
Gandalf with lightening moves.

Besides, she's a little yellow person.

As white people go, I am not a giant, and it turns out I am only three or four inches taller than her. I not sure exactly how much, because miss Mak over at the hospital measured me recently and stated confidently that I am five seven -- until then I had always thought that I was five nine, so I argued with her, and we compromised on five eight -- and my apartment mate's height is slightly taller than the average Cantonese woman. But she weighs about one hundred and five pounds, which is only forty pounds less than me.
And some of that is because I have a thick head, I'm sure.
She's fine boned, I'm not.


On the other hand, I've seen several white women recently who make me feel shrimpy. Which is a good reason to never visit the Midwest.
Or the South. Texas especially.


What we really need, cinematically-speaking, is a movie in which a normal size man such as myself beats the living snot out of a football player.
After already trouncing him or her at chess.



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SOMETHING ISN'T RIGHT!

Well shucks! The baker at one of my regular places for Hong Kong style milk tea is on vacation till the second week of December. No baked goods! No lo po bing (老婆餠). No dau saa bing (豆沙餠). No ji baau dan gou (紙包蛋糕). No cha siu sou (叉燒酥). No daan taat (蛋撻). No po lo baau (菠蘿包). No naai yau baau (奶油包). No hap tou sou (合桃酥).
Mat dou mow laaa! 乜都冇啦!!!!

How about a sandwich? Mm, no. Don't want it. I may be so white I glow in the dark, but I really was looking forward to a wintermelon pastry with my milk tea. So I'm devastated. Bereft. Deprived. Forlorn. In deep sadness.
Despondent. Feeling a lack unto the very fibre of my being.

I'm sorry, but your sandwich does not inspire me.


No wonder the place was so quiet.

The waitress had noted my deep longing for a lo po bing from a mile away, and had approached trepidatiously. Her hesitation was understandable.
She knew she had nothing that would satisfy.

While enjoying my cup of milk tea, I observed the middle-aged couple along the opposite wall eating noodle soup. The woman, with her fingers clenched firmly and precisely around the chopsticks, fished morsels from her bowl, the man let his soup cool so he could dig in without discomfort. They seemed delighted in each other's company, and obviously had similar tastes and a shared sense of humour. Two people growing old, comfortably together.

Tea-pot Uncle was also there. Near the front, but not in his favourite seat; that table was occupied by a young white couple.

Some of the usual old ladies were at a back table facing the entirely empty baked goods counter.

Other than that, no one.


Perhaps I should have had some noodle soup. Tea with nothing to eat with it is dry and uninspiring.



Now I know how Washington felt when he couldn't get any lo po bing.




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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

DON'T KISS ME, MY MUSTACHE IS FULL OF HOT SAUCE!

The problem with foccacia is that it is too tall. Once you add extra cheese, an anchovy, and Sriracha hot sauce, and toast it gently so that the cheese melts, you end up with the perfect delivery system for hot sauce to your mustache. Just did so. Delicious. Savoring the afterglow here for a while, but I'll wash my face and brush my teeth before I go out. Just in case.

Earlier today I wondered "what if there were giant spiders, carnivorous, who came from space? And decided that we made good eating? And what if shortly thereafter they discovered that bacon was even better? Would they then cherish us as the species that knew how to cultivate bacon?"


"Sorry! Mistakes were made. We love you!"


Because, of course, the pigs would take one look at those giant spiders and totally freak-out. Unlike most humans, who would see a stupendous crab feast, or wonder whether their medication was playing tricks on them. The pigs would run off in porcine panic, and mankind would start heating butter, building larger cauldrons, and sharpening knives.

For the first several months it would be brutal culinary warfare.

Perhaps that is why the aliens haven't contacted us.

We know too much about chili-crab.
And crab with garlic.


Crab-flavour foccacia. Now there's a thought.



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BUT OF COURSE, IT'S COLD

It never snows in San Francisco. Which you know. And it isn't often that one actually misses snow, but the visuals of a snowed-under urban environment are evocative, if you come from a place where it did snow occasionally. The audibles evoke too. Palloof, palloof, palloof; your footsteps in the fresh layer, compacting it toward the pavement. The soft wiri-wiri of bicycle wheels.
The "otherwise" silence.

North Brabant in the snow at night has beautiful villages. Dusk comes early in winter, and the sparse streetlights illuminate eery vistas of otherworldly white down fading streets to the next light. Market squares are quiet, still, peaceful. Because no one really wants to go outside. The churches on those squares are more spare, more elegant, more sharply shaded.

Karel and I were in the same class, and we had gravitated toward each other because of shared languages and preferences for tobacco. Quite unlike many pipe-smoking Dutch teenagers back then, he much preferred non-aromatics -- Baai tabak (Maryland ribbon blends) when there wasn't enough money at the end of the week for a tin of Dunhill 965 -- and he spoke English and Indonesian as well. My English was naturally better than his, his Indonesian was more fluent. But we both usually spoke Dutch together, though speckled with foreign terms.
Many of those terms were German.
It was an affectation.

He and I were the star students for that language at school.

[For me it was a tin of Balkan Sobranie, on the first day of the week, when money was hot in my pocket; I would happily toddle off to the tobacconist for that fresh tin. But of course Baai tabak if I needed extra money for books. English tobaccos were more than twice the price of Dutch products. That tobacconist is mentioned HERE, by the way. There was a very limited spectrum of English tobaccos in Holland at that time: Dunhill, Capstan, Balmoral, Balkan Sobranie white. Rarely Astley and Rattray.]


I cannot remember the name of the village where he lived. It was on the train-line between Tilburg and Breda, and he stayed with an aunt in Eindhoven during the week for school. One weekend I went to visit him there, and in early afternoon it started snowing. By twilight everything was blanketed, and because his parents had gone to Utrecht for the weekend, and neither one of us were brilliant cooks, we ate out. A small comfy restaurant owned by an Indies couple on the market square, distant kin of his. It was nearly empty, and very quiet. We got a table at the window looking out on the square, where the only patches not covered by snow were dark circles under the row of pine trees in front of the restaurant.

[Unlike many Indonesian eateries, which had cheesy design schemes with wayang puppets and batik patterns in simplistic woodwork, browns, golds, pale ivory, and black, Uncle had chosen greens and yellows, large leafy patterned screens, and white walls, above the wainscotting which ended four feet from the floor. With the high ceiling, the place was different. Calm. It felt spacious despite being small. None of the usual paintings of palm trees, paddies, and volcanoes. Nice.]

Soto ayam: yellow curry chicken soup with noodles, chicken chunks, tauge, and a few large slices of fried potato, plus a halved hardboiled egg in each bowl. Comforting. Especially given how cold it was outside.
Turmeric, ginger, lemon grass, temu kuntji.
Crisp fried shallot shreds on top.
Sambal on the side.
And krupuk.


After we had finished eating, we had coffee. Uncle (the owner) asked "koud hari ini, ja, willen de heren een jenevertje mischien?" ('cold, eh, do the gents want some genever?). Nou, ja. Well, yes. Coffee and genever are a nice combination. But that does rather invite smoking. Is that okay? And of course it was. Uncle sat nearby with his coffee and a small cigar, Karel and I filled our pipes, and the three of us puffed in near-silence while looking out over the wintry scene. Once in a while a pedestrian would pass -- palloof, palloof, palloof -- but otherwise there were no signs of local life.

There was a small bowl of Droste dark chocolate pastilles on the table.
I've always liked dark pure chocolate, it's such a clean taste.

Dunhill Mixture 965 & Balkan Sobranie Standard Mixture.

A VERY ENGLISH PIPE SHAPE

I had a black purplish straight bulldog pipe in those days.
It was left in behind when I came back to the U.S.

Shortly after six-thirty we paid and departed.
Te'ima kasi, s'lamat pak, s'lamat, s'lamat.

Karel walked with me to the station.

At Eindhoven station I had some coffee in the upstairs restaurant, before catching the bus back to Valkenswaard. By ten fifteen I was having the last pipe of the day at the Bellevue doors down from our house near the church.
I could've gone to the Auberge Central, but the boss there had told me in no uncertain terms that my preference for Balkan Sobranie standard mixture was not winning me any friends, and I should smoke something "nice".
Like Clan, or Amphora.

Dark white winters should always smell like Levantine tobaccos.
And Indonesian spices.
Perfume.



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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

LIKE INCENSE AT TWILIGHT

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

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

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


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

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

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


THEN LATER

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

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

Benton Pipe, Select grade. Early two thousands.

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

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

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

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

Solid quality.



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DELAWARE, A FINE STATE

There are times I'm glad that I don't live in Delaware. In fact, whenever I think of Delaware, which isn't often, I am mighty gl...