Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Last night on the mezzanine we looked across the intersection and noticed that the neon light is broken again; the sign says "NG 20'S', precisely as it had for many months a few years ago. And we came to the conclusion, based on that, that what this town needs, desperately needs, is a theme nightclub celebrating Saigon in the nineteen twenties. It should be a place where drunken Frenchmen can be insulted by slim angry Asian women. Actually I'm the one thinking about the abusive Asian women and repulsive frogs, my friend was just focusing on colonial officials slowly devolving into drug addicts like the gentlemen in the alleyway with the guitar, bad grunge rock, and dreams of moderate acceptance by a cynical music industry.
The usual Tuesday night jaunt, but in a quieter city.

[Tuesday night jaunt: It's our tradition. We meet once a week in Chinatown when he gets off work at the bookstore. I will have spent half an hour before then wandering around the quiet neighborhood smoking 'The Pipe for watching rats in Spofford Alley'. First a burger joint, then a bar, lastly the karaoke dive for "entertainment". Neither of us sing.]

He drinks whiskey, I have since February avoided alcohol except as a solvent for tar, carbon, and nasty encrustations in briar pipes smoked by men who like aromatic tobaccos (1Q, RLP 6, Captain Black, Cherry blend), never clean their equipment, and have degenerate personal habits.
Nowadays I drink tea at bars, but tip as if I'm a real person.

A nightclub with noodle soup (phở bò or phở gà) and French pastries.
Strong coffee, salt plum soda, and grilled fatty pork.
Sounds like a little slice of all-right.

As long as the music is NOT French, but perhaps jazz or tangos. Those classic French chansons would drive everyone to suicide.
We can't have that, it's bad for business.

It even sounds like a good place for breakfast. What I'm having now is hardly a healthful replacement -- instead of chilled coffee and hot noodle soup with basil, rau răm, galangal, and lemon grass, it's strong hot coffee and the first pipe of the day -- but still a great way to start a morning.

[The first pipe: Today it's Doblone D'Oro fulled rubbed out, in the pipe a co-worker once described as "an ugly brown H", which description still amuses me because it is actually a handsome straight billiard, shallow blast, with "Hardcastle" clearly stamped into the bottom of the shank. A very nice smoking briar.]

That nightclub should be a noisy bustling place. Especially in the morning. One of these days I should make it a point to head over to the eatery in Chinatown which does fish cutlets, pork chops, and steamed dumplings for breakfast. Not that I am a hearty eater so early in the day, but just because. Fish cutlet and a fried egg. Dumplings. Noodles. Hong Kong Style Milk Tea.

[Hong Kong Style Milk Tea: Strong black tea made good by the addition of condensed milk, served boiling hot. Stir it to dissolve the excess gloop at the bottom of the cup. If you plan to go up twenty stories of bamboo scaffolding in the middle of a typhoon, this will prepare you for that. The restaurant also does Hong Kong French toast.]

No, degenerate Frenchmen with suicidal habits do not go there.
Neither do alcoholic retired British rubber planters.
Except for colour they are unnecessary.


There is a slightly spicy taste to this pipe tobacco. When I got up I had considered opening a tin of Samuel Gawith's Golden Glow (a beautiful carotenoid-rich blonde broken flake) or Dunhill's Dark Flake (perfumy, ethereal, subtle, and soft), but instead I'll save those for when the rains come. I fondly remember smoking both of those under a metal awning of an abandoned storefront near Chinese Hospital, or down on Washington Street across from the herbalist where I used to go. Near where I've often had rice stick noodles in clear broth with juicy grilled pork and beansprouts (燒猪肉河粉 'siu chü yiuk ho fan') or 涼瓜豬肉飯 ('leung gwaa chü yiuk faan'; bitter melon and pork over rice).

They've got excellent Vietnamese coffee.

NOTE: when single men get older, they sometimes do weird things. Like eating an entire quiche lorraine in the middle of the day, as a conflation of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Extra cheese on top. And hot sauce. It was a good quiche, but it was not a good idea. It influenced the entire rest of the day, and sleep after returning home.


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