Tuesday, March 31, 2020

WARM WEATHER BRINGS THEM OUT

Boy, it was the ferocious albino dog-pig, escaped from a New York asylum, with the assistance of a gangly frizzy-haired eccentric. Which spoke to me, because that was a sub-plot in a teevee show about nothing. But no. She disappointed me. This was no cross-over between Southern Degeneracy Literature and pre-twentieth century semi-documentary humour, but a cute video of a fox-pup smiling. What a huge amount of pinkness!
Quite deceptive in it's pork-like qualities.

For many people, now is the time to circulate cute clips.
Animals, and people drinking wine for breakfast.
Idiocy and traffic accidents.


One person alerted me to something else.

"It's National Book Week. The rules are: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 56, and post the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the title. Copy the rules as part of your status."

"Her Adrianus papa -- Offa cyning forðferdon; Æðelred Norðan hymbra cyning was of slægen from his agenre ðeode, Ceolwulf bisč Eadbald bisč of ðæm londe aforon; Ecgferð feng to Miercna rice."

From which we deduce that Aethelred (king of Northumbria) was wacked by his own courtiers, and two bishops saw fit to flee the country. Shortly after that, Egferd started ruling Mercia, and Eadbryht, whose nickname was "Prawn", took over Kent. Dark doings in Anglo-Saxon Britain.
The year was 794.

Rice in the scrap above does NOT mean what I had for lunch, but is the same word more or less as Dutch "rijk" and German "reich". What I had for lunch was fried rice. With meaty bits, veggie bits, curry spices, tomato, fish sauce, and sambal. The key to making good fried rice is to undercook the rice slightly, and let it rest. So after putting the water-cooked rice to air, I loaded up a pipe and wandered around the neighborhood a bit. Most of the people outside were street people. I think the nuts are losing their minds; one of them was hollering indistinctly at the bus stop in front of the donut place, two of the others were shouting at each other at the bus stop around the corner. I recognized all of them.



One of these days I shall start speaking Old English at them. While telling them in detail how sad it was that the Anglo Saxons had no rice, no curry, no chilies, tomatoes or cucumbers, and consequently fressed mediocre dinners, everything fried or boiled, and had indigestion afterwards.
Anglo Saxon cuisine must have been miserable.
Truly it was the dark ages.


Nor did the Anglo Saxons have tea or tobacco. In fact, while Tolkien enjoyed the latter, he did not invent a plausible back-story for the cultivation of the tobacco plant in Middle Earth, or ascribe it to Prydainic origins, so whatever pipe weed hobbits puffed was probably pot. Nasty hairy-footed hippies.
This is important because I just rubbed out enough Samuel Gawith's Saint James Flake to fill my pipe for nearly two months.
My hands smell, but NOT like hobbit.


What could be more English than Lord Of The Rings? Or tea and tobacco?
Tolkien smoked Gold Block and Capstan Navy Cut.
His hands smelled like pubes.


Yeah, you're right. I am not fond of Lord Of The Rings. At all. And "Elven Languages" are, by and large, heaps of festering bollocks. But we could've shared our tobacco pouches for a change of pace occasionally.


I think I'll head out for another smoke before tea time. This time I'll avoid the crazies down on Polk Street, and stroll along Larkin.
It's better for the digestion that way.
Fewer crazed hobbits.



Update, 5:25 PM: There is extremely loud shouting from over a block away. Audible, but not intelligible in the teevee room. Probably would not be intelligible even from closer-by. The hobbits are revolting.



TOBACCO INDEX


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LETTER FROM THE WILDERNESS

You've probably realized that in some ways I am an opportunist. Just doing my bit to uphold a fine American tradition, but not as bad as the robber barons OR the religious right-wing and their realization that suckers are born every minute, and must be fleeced.

Never-the-less, I do take advantage of things.
Such as letters from friends.
Which could be posts.
On a blog.


CITE

I finally finished cleaning the Custombilt pipes. Pipedia has a review of the book written by William Unger from Richard Esserman and Tony Soderman,

It's a good read, but you probably already know that. It's no longer available, and the ones that come up on eBay are stupid expensive.

Turns out I have three different iterations of said pipe beginning with a real Tracy Mincer version with the hyphenated Custom-Bilt script. One is probably from the Eugene Rich era , and one apparently from the Wally Frank company.

They all cleaned up very well and are in excellent shape.

I just smoked the Wally Frank version while cat-sitting in the back yard. They all have voluminous tobacco chambers, much like a Barling POT. It took a lot of matches to get it going (I think there is a learning curve involved with smoking these things) but when I got it going it was a great smoke. I don't think these will over-heat too easily.

The cat enjoyed looking longingly at the birds, and chewing on the fresh grasses growing everywhere.

END CITE.


He smokes his pipe in a garden in Marin, near two small cars, a creek, a local coyote, and a woman who is married to him. And he's a good cook. Quiche, corn chowder, short bread. Under current circumstances it is unlikely I'll see him for at least a month, but sometime in summer we may have a beer together.

A Corona .......



Custombilts are an American brand of briar pipes that had a brief hey day decades ago. There was a brief collectible flurry at the end of the seventies, then they went back into hiding. They've resurfaced occasionally since then.
Like him, I have three of them.

They're kind of ugly. That's their charm.



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Monday, March 30, 2020

SOCIAL ISOLATION MEMES

While eating a grilled cheese sandwich I discovered that a friend of mine all the way across the country has gone further than any goth chick before. She's wandering around dressed like a plague doctor with a beak mask, torturing her husband, and watching all kinds of weird southern degeneracy on television. This according to her social media memes.

Plus she's imitating her cats.

She's also fallen prey to Tiger King or sumpin', which is basically a tattooed white trash version of Siegfried & Roy with slags. I don't know, I've seen a couple of still photos, and do not wish to know more.


The sandwich contained some truly terrific cheddar, in between slices of sourdough bread, with slivers of tomato and squeezes of Sriracha.
The cast-iron skillet had been smeared with olive oil.

It was delicious.


Personally, I don't think I could put up with someone in a plague doctor's mask and dark robes stalking the hallways mewling plaintively, I don't need to be reminded of my mediaeval past in Brabant, where Brueghel was from.
And while I like cats, I won't take them as examples to follow.
I shall not lick myself.


The crow-beaked mask is a particular problem.
Especially if you also lick yourself.
Or wear lipstick.


I had some cookies afterwards. They were yummy.


You folks in the Red States ... y'all okay?



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FUNDAMENTAL COMFORT CONDIMENT

If you've ever cooked Indonesian food, you've noticed that the proportion of ground coriander (ketoembar) seed to turmeric (koenjit) powder is often the same (2:1), irrespective of the dish. Other ingredients that occur regularly, in standard measures, are galangal (lengkoeas), lemon grass (sereh), Chinese keys (temo koentji), plus tamarind (asem) and shrimp paste (trassi).
And, of course, the standards: garlic, ginger, chilies.
Onions or shallots.

Frequently the cooking progression is fry whatever till fragrant, add a splash of whatever or the main ingredient. Then add another splash, or cover and bring up to a boil, turn low, simmer till the oil comes out.

So all things considered, the main differences between various dishes is the amount of acid, the intensity of coconut, the chili content, and the textures.
Or whether one or more of these factors is missing.

Garnishes (crumbled peanuts, chives, fried onions or crusty bits, or fragmentive things of some sort) further differentiate dishes.


Lunch was curry soup with small bits of meat, plenty green stuff, dashes of fish sauce and a squeeze of citrus, sliced green chili, over rice stick noodles. No garnish, because I didn't think of anything in time.
There was, of course, sambal.


Sambal is fundamental.


Sambal (chili paste) is the great be-all and end-all of condiments. It's Dutch, Indonesian, Malay, Surinamese, and Antilenyo. Slighty differently spelled, it's also Ceylonese, and with entirely different names, the Burmese, Thais, Laotians, Cambodians, and Viets are also familiar with it. The name quite probably derives from Sinhala, and spread with Indonesian merchants as well as the V.O.C. imperialists throughout the archipelago, later also showing up in the Dutch West Indies, Anglo Indian kitchens, and grocery stores, supermarkets, and restaurants, all over the Netherlands.

What is added to the chili paste, and whether it is cooked in any way, determines what kind of sambal it is, but even if the sambal on the table is highly complicated, it frequently has sambal oelek right next to it. Sambal oelek is plain ground chili paste with a little salt added, and sometimes a little lime juice. It can be found at grocery stores in the civilized world.

Sriracha Sauce, in case you were wondering, is a more liquid form of sambal, which makes life or work in the suburbs (Marin, San Mateo) bearable.


If you ain't got sambal, you ain't got nuttin'.

Just saying.




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GOOD EGG!

It has been brought to my attention that NORMAL people start the day with eggs. Rather than a cup of coffee and a pipe. Normal people. Eggs.
What a baffling thought.

Hardboil some eggs, dump into a bowl of cold water and peel. Drain and pat dry. Heat up oil in a skillet and roll-fry the eggs for about two or three minutes. Take them out, set them aside.

Fry a chopped onion and some slivered garlic in the oil till fragrant, add two big tablespoons of sambal oelek (red chili paste), stir well, then dump in a tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a tablespoon of sugar.
Add the whole eggs, cook a bit, and slop into a serving bowl.

Garnish with plenty of thin-sliced Jalapeños.

Dash fish sauce, squeeze lime.

Great with rice.



Followed by coffee and a pipe.




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Sunday, March 29, 2020

THE ACTIVE OUTDOOR LIFE

Other than shopping and unwise congregating, you anti-smokers have no reason to leave the house. And it is good that you stay inside. Eventually we'll discover your dessicated corpses surrounded by empty vegan cookie boxes, your French Bulldog will have nibbled at your toes and fastidiously decided "Bleagh! Tasteless!". He's whimpering near the rusty exercise equipment.

[You bought it years ago, to be 'healthy'. But then you decided to have macrobiotic high-fibre gluten-free crackers instead, and surely that was good enough? Plus you rubbed your adipose areas with 'healing crystals', and meditated. Good lord, you were saintly!]

We smokers, however, live with other people. Real human beings. In decent consideration for whom we thoughtfully step outside for up to an hour at a time, so that we may smoke in all kinds of weather without bothering the individuals to whom we are close.

[Fresh air! Just begging for a bit of pollution. Isn't there a school nearby? Those kids should smell what the world was like decades ago. It will give them much needed perspective.]

We would bother you folks. But since you ate your entire quarantine stockpile of cookies in the first three days, you felt fat, and didn't leave the house.

[Oh hey. We bought bacon. Tofu goes great with bacon. And hot sauce. Plus chives and a little shrimp paste. Maybe we should sprinkle some cheese from happy cows on top for good karma?]


We've satisfied our oral cravings differently.



It rained a lot today. Evenso, I went out to "enjoy" the very European weather we're having. After each pipeful a warm beverage was required.
Coffee. Tea. Tea. Tea. Coffee.

My apartment mate spent all day inside watching Bat Masterson (tv series, 1958 to 1961) and drinking hot chocolate while plonking on her computer and talking to the stuffed turkey vulture. Who is anxious to consume some cadavers.

When all of you blistery anti-smokers have croaked, all alone in your bleak little health-freaky apartments, the turkey vulture will be useful in sniffing out your corpses. But he'd rather eat pizza than spongy tasteless dead vegans.


The reason why you don't see many turkey vultures in San Francisco is all the vegans, anti-smokers, and exercise nuts. It's very sad.
Bring back the wild life.



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STICK TO THE SHADOWS

A long walk in the rain. Drapes are drawn on many windows, perhaps the hermits inside do not want to see the street outside, which is empty and wet. Except for dogs and their pick-up afterers. And that group of people clusterfustering together on one corner, touching distance from each other, because they are young and immortal, and do not worry about respirators becoming a much-desired thing in their lives.

All that was missing was a joint, a six pack, and a boom box.

The boom box was the speaker system on a Harley that zoomed by; the hairy viking driving it kept to the middle of the road and did not stop.

Good man.

I suppose I should look up all the types of dogs I've seen in the past few days. Most of these breeds I cannot identify. The only two beasts I know personally -- and I haven't actually seen them in days -- are a Pekingese owned by a friend a few blocks over, and a dachshund of advanced years opposite, which lives with Mr. Siu and his wife.


The liquor store is open, which is good; intoxication must take place.
The grub-pub is also open; burgers, fries, and nibbly things.
Thai restaurant too. Coconut milk curry and rice.
Plus chili peppers.


Having got up at around seven o'clock, I was shaved and dressed by eight thirty, with nowhere to go. Outside with a pipe before nine. Crows on roof edges, parrots flying high above that, and a marked absence of pigeons(*).
One wonders what happened to the pigeons.
What do pigeons eat?


咖哩油菜炒蝦味麵小肉丸

Breakfast at around one thirty was delicious! Very easy to prepare, and clean-up was a cinch while the plated food cooled to eatable temperature. Curry mustard vegetable with shrimp-flavour wheat noodles and little meat balls. But perhaps I didn't add enough sambal. Washed down with a two-bagger. In lieu of milk tea. There is no place nearby that does naai-cha.


Gaa-lei yau-choi chaau haa-mei-min siu yiuk-yuen.



* Update at 3:45 PM.: Saw pigeons while outside. Four and two.
A total of six. Six pigeons.



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ONE OF THE GREAT JOBS

This blogger has always enjoyed reading Lewiss Caroll and watching Monty Python. The combination of off-kilter statements and situations, coupled with brilliant writing, leads to some great entertainment.

I do not enjoy reading Donald Trump.

He's never been funny.


Quote:
'Now the Democrats are politicizing the corona virus. You know that, right? Corona virus . They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, "How’s President Trump doing?", ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ They have no clue, they don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa, they can’t even count. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, "Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia." That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since he got in. It’s all turning, they lost. It’s all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax.'
------Donald Trump


The president of the United States is a charlatan and a con-man. Many parts of the country still worship him and act like he was divinely ordained. They and him need to be quarantined. Along with his slave-labour garment factory daughter and sleazy slum-landlord son-in-law.


When Donald Trump said that nonsense above at the end of February, there were less than one hundred confirmed cases in the United States, and one known death from Covid 19.

One month later, there are over 125 thousand cases, and over 2000 deaths.


"We've done a hell of a job"
------Donald Trump


Uh-huh.



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Saturday, March 28, 2020

THE HIDDEN BELFRY

After it rained I went outside to the front steps with my pipe and a cup of coffee. Nice, quiet, the occasional bus rolling past. Once or twice a dog-walker heading up the street with their pooch. In this neighborhood there aren't many large hounds, mostly pint-sized beasts of the terrier or squatty space-alien variety. Over at the nearby intersection old people with shopping bags ambulating slowly, not together, not in groups. Alone, in the peacefulness of the morning, getting their shopping done early.
It is not as cold as it was yesterday.
And the winds are gone.

My apartment mate went to the Chinese graveyard for early observance of Ching Ming (清明節), tomb sweeping day. Which is actually next Saturday (April 4), but who knows what life will be like in a week? Some foods for offerings, plus sticks of incense and candles. And a bottle Remy. Not being a Christian, she can throw the believers' fearful disdain for so-called heathen practices right out the window; she won't go to hell for this.
But she doesn't want her forebears to wonder where the current generation is this year, why have they not come?

Even the dead get lonely at times.


I wonder how the ladies at the pharmacy are holding up. As well as the staff at the clinic. The neighborhood they serve has a lot of old people.
Things will change.


Today was a perfect day to sit home all day reading books. An occasional venture outside for a pipe smoke, pensively and slowly wandering around a bit, digesting the recently read texts, calmly avoiding any and all human contact, sometimes nodding a greeting from several body lengths away. As a pipe smoker in San Francisco I am used to people treating me like a plague carrier, but this is less than normal. Even factoring in the shelter-in-place orders, and the six feet or more guideline. No anti-tobacco nuts.
So in one sense, it is very enjoyable.



Unlike the chap with the cats pictured above, I do not have an Ottoman or comfy over-stuffed green armchair. My book shelves don't go up as high either. I have no cats. And that moustache is far too old school.
It looks stupid and unwieldy.


CURRENT REREADS:

Indian Food: A Historical Companion, by K. T. Achaya
An in-depth and fascinating detailing of sub-continental cuisine, eating habits, and social attitudes towards food by chemist Kollegal Thammu Achaya. From Kashmiri cooking customs, through the mediaeval courts and ancient religious practices down to to the Mughals and modern sub-cultures, as well as a grand overview of Bengali fish and mithai.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, translated by G. N. Garmonsway
An official history of Britain copied, distributed, and augmented during the life of Alfred the Great.
"In the year of Christ's nativity 494, Cerdic and Cynric his son landed at Cerdicesora with five ships. That Cerdic was the son of Elesa, the son of Esla, the son of Gewis, the son of Wig, the son of Freawine, the son of Frithugar, the sone of Brand, the son of Bældæg, the son of Woden."
And:
"The Island of Britain is eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles broad; and here in this island are five languages: English, British or Welsh, Irish, Pictish, and Latin."

De Atjeh Oorlog, deel 1, door E. S. DeKlerck
"The Aceh War, Part 1." Bluntly put, we Dutch were not as civilized then as we pretend now to be.

The Road to Khartoum -- A Life of General Charles Gordon, by Charles Chenevix Trench
Chain smoking alcoholic heads into a dark place, doesn't make it out alive. England worships at his altar. Derring-do, gung-ho, rah rah the empire!

Faded Portraits ('Vergeelde portretten uit een Indisch familiealbum'), by E. Breton De Nijs.
Probably one of the greatest post-colonial works in Dutch East Indies literature, definitely worth re-reading.


Plus, of course, frequent ventures into volumes of Sherman's Lagoon, Pearls Before Swine, and The Piranha Club (Ernie). All of which are instructional for modern times.





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Friday, March 27, 2020

GREASY SCRAPS OF KINDNESS

While having my first smoke of the day out on the front steps, a crow unhappily hopped down the center of the street cawing. There was no stale pizza anywhere! What was this world coming to?!? Because, of course, the primary function of the twenty somethings is to leave evidence of late night partying on the pavement, so that Corvid Americans may have breakfast.

That crow was the only sign of life.
And he or she was sad.
Despondent.

That's something with which I can sympathize, because I too miss pizza. Admittedly I have not had any since just before Christmas.
I'm not much of a pizza aficionado.
But it's the concept.


At the time I wished that I had thought to put some bread and meat into my bathrobe pocket for the animal. Surely he or she intellectually relished the idea of dissolute behaviour and camaraderie that stale pizza represented, the wicked hints of possible licentiousness, mediocre cheese, and the aura of great good cheer that several hours later would still adhere, faint ghosts of booze-sodden intemperance, as well as the sheer nutritional mayhem. The bread and meat would partly satisfy his or her physical needs, and the friendly grey-robed human nearby making bird-like encouraging sounds while puffing out smoke should impart a veneer of normalcy.


Normally I might worry about other people seeing me hopping in a crouch while making cawing sounds.

Normally.



In these times we must show compassion. Please seed the public spaces with scraps of pizza. They like sausage and cheese. And pepperoni.
Ham and pineapple not so much.



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THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

In good news for animal lovers all over the city, the plague of chihuahuas may finally come to an end. Coyotes have been sighted in several locations. And, when road-runners aren't about, coyotes necessarily must feast on the pan-sized rat-dogs beloved by dumb blonde chicki-boom-boom.
Life just can't get any better.


What we've seen speaks for itself. There is no stopping them.


I, for one, welcome our new canine overlords.


I've run out of ginger snaps!




If you see someone carrying a chihuahua, demand that they sacrifice it for all our sakes. We must assuage, bribe if you will, our new neighbors. And what's one chihuahua in the grand scheme of things? A bagatelle!

Never did like chihuahuas.
But they're useful.




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Thursday, March 26, 2020

THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD SPEAKS

When the leader of the Free World speaks, it is good to listen. Unless, of course, you are Glenn Beck, who is certifiably a vindictive bitch ideologue. For whom clear language of any type is incomprehensible.

For some of you, it is time to learn German.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

[SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=298&v=F9ei40nxKDc&feature=emb_logo.]


Sie können "farvergnügen" vergessen: notwendigkeit ist ein besseres wort.

Das war eine sehr gute tzusprache.



I'm fairly certain that Anthony Fauci and Andrew Cuomo listened, and paid attention. Glenn Beck, probably not.




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WE ARE 'INTROSPECTING' YOU

Two of my friends, whose lives I often spy on Facebook, are taking the opportunity to cook fabulous feasts. Another friend has for several weeks now been experimenting with methods of food preservation that lead to wonderful results. The feasters are Filipino American, and what they are cooking is not in any way native to their grandparents' culture. The pickler and fermenter is Ashkenazic, rabbinicly inclined, and somewhere on the spectrum. Pickling and fermentation IS native to his grandparents culture, but he's approaching it more from an intellectual food maven perspective, deeply fascinated by the process and the eventual results. In between other posts that in their profound humanity and insight show why I FB friended him in the first place.

When this is all over, the people I know will probably be eating better.
Some of them might be little thicker around the middle.

Myself? Well, if I survive I'll be much the same. Perhaps a little thinner, because everytime I get ill, weight evaporates, AND my habits have had to change. I haven't had a pastry OR a cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea in ten days.
Plus, the weather has been cold, and I wish to belly-ache about that.
And the polar bears roaming these arctic wastes.
Who head to the beaches.

In all the years that I've lived in San Francisco, I've visited the seashore less than a dozen times (twice to burn things). That is still more than while I lived in Holland -- there are some beaches there too -- but honestly, the idea of running around nearly naked in the surf is not one that appeals to me. Sunbathing also has zero attraction. Zero.
And I do not have a sun hat.

GESHMAK!
On the other hand, if there were a restaurant out near Seal Rock, with two Filippino food mavens and a pickler, which also had an extensive selection of delicious Chinese Pastries and Hong Kong Milk Tea, I'd brave the arctic winds out near the ocean on a daily basis. Yes, hullo, me again!
Just let me look at your delicious menu for a while.
No, I don't need a window seat.
I have electronics!


It may be a long time before I have pulpo en su tinta or clams Madrileño again. Or grass carp steamed with pickled vegetables. But the first sign of normalcy will be pastries and milk tea.
That someone else prepared.



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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE PRECISELY RIGHT

This morning when I went out to the front steps for a smoke, there were crows overhead. The poor birds are not taking this social isolation thing too well. Normally they feast on slices of stale pizza and bits of discarded fast food left on the street overnight by the drunken twenty-somethings from Polk Street, these days they must forage, which depresses them.

So to every one working at restaurants that are still open, please consider leaving your garbage bins unlocked; the crows will thank you. As will the coyotes which are finally returning to urban environments at night.
And the raccoons.

Things aren't normal anymore.

"Gram'pa Thingpuckey", kids will say to me, "how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?" And the short answer to that question is that I don't. When you have a certain level of OCD, aren't really social, and because you're somewhere on the spectrum there are counting routines, mental lists, things that cannot be done until other things are done, and urges to straighten corners, place stuff at precise ninety degree angles, and sometimes make sounds that originated in Bloom County ("oop ack"), as well as talk back to stuffed creatures, sanity is a very malleable concept even at the best of times.




By the time I've finished saying that, the little blighters will have run off. They don't have much of an attention span, darn it, and there was something blinky over there.

Maybe they weren't even anywhere near me.

There are daily routines that must be done precisely right.


1. Two cups of coffee, several cups of tea.
2. Deal with the garbage before the first pipe.
3. Argue with a stuffed animal.
4. Select a pipe, fill it properly, light it.
5. Read the news and the covid count.
6. Think bad thoughts about politicians.
7. Consider cheese.

8. Attend to reading material: this includes texts that work the mind, as well as stuff that inspires a mood.
9. The necessary actions in 'that' room: shave and shower so that I look decent. This is a matter of self-respect.
10. Walkies. Keeps the joints limber and the circulation going.
11. Clean something. Not everything.
12. Interact with a few people (nowadays via the internet).
13. Fill a saucepan with water, add half a dozen dried zizphus (棗 'jou') and some slices of ginger. I use both red ziziphus (紅棗,雞心棗 'hong jou','gai sam jou') and black ziziphus (黑棗 'hak jou'). This simmering concoction will disguise the fact that I have been smoking my pipes inside, so that when my apartment mate returns at the end of the day I can act totally innocent. Which is very important! It tastes good, as well as being mildly healthy.

14. Tea. Either Pu Er ( 普洱茶 'pou nei chaa') or black tea. Strong.
Add milk and sugar as required.
15. Cook something with curry and chilies. Same functions as the ziziphus and ginger decoction.
16. Do mathematics in my head.
17. Practice or study calligraphy; like the math, it's mental exercise.
18. More reading material.
19. More pipe smoking.
20. Consider cheese.

21. Make lists.
22. Straighten out and unfold corners of paper things.
23. Inspect right angles.

24. Carefully attend to the rims of pipes with a slightly damp tissue, and, if they have a smooth finish, touch them up very lightly with micro-fibre pads. Whoever gets my briars when I die will have clean pipes with crisp lines!


"Gram'pa Thingpuckey, how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?"


I don't. There was no sanity to begin with.
Don't let it worry you, kid.
Count stuf.













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SUBSTITUTE GRAMPS!

It's so nice that Glenn Beck and Texas Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick want me to die. Both gentlemen are now on record as saying people like me should go back to work to keep the country going. By which they mean that their stock portfolios are tanking, and their supporters are getting riled up at the prospect of having to live like regular folks.


"I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working. Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country."
------Glenn Beck


That's mighty white of you, podner.

You know, I don't think I'm ready for that. Sure, I want all the little children, butterflies, happy kittens, and dancing marigolds to survive. But working for an extra five or six days, then catching Corona, and dying of lung-eating pneumonia by the side of a deserted freeway in golforsaken buggery Marin County doesn't appeal to me. I figure I'd rather kick the bucket in the foyer of a crowded local hospital surrounded by San Franciscans.
If and when it comes.

You know, Glenn, regular people don't have stock portfolios. Or any interest in keeping Republican Party members in East Buggery Texas from going financially under.

The people I want to survive this are my apartment mate, my landlady and her husband, several good people with whom I come in contact when at work, the kiddiewinkies at the childcare centre near the bus stop, the ladies who work at the bakeries and chachantengs where I've spent so many hours, the women who have rung up my regular food purchases on Stockton Street, the staff at the clinic, hospital, and pharmacy (who have all treated me very well), and the regular folks who form their clientele, customer bases, and extended social circles. My friends. My customers.
People I see regularly.

Especially the crusty old geezers at the back tables of those bakeries.

They deserve to enjoy their retirements.

Very decent people.



After this is all over, there will be holes. Several people will be missing.
I hope Glenn Buggery Beck and Dan Patrick are among them.
At the moment, they're breathing our air.



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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

HI DOCTOR NICK!

Got back in after a satisfying smoke, just before the rain. With a nice new supply of snackies. Hot cup of tea, and relaxing in front of a television that isn't on, because I do not watch it. Teevee is like marijuana for the mind; it leads to stupidity and impulse buying.

Mmm, chocolate! Or a double bacon cheeseburger!
With our signature rancho-sauce!
And grease.


Good example of stupidity: the idea that America will re-open in time for Easter, because otherwise thousands of people will commit suicide. A grand "resurrection", in a manner of speaking.
Another good example of stupidity: the Corona Virus is no worse than the flu, but there's a conspiracy orchestrated by a pro-vaccination Jewish mafia who are planning to gain totalitarian governmental control and link our social security numbers with our vaccination records.

Only one of those is on Fox News.


Guess which.



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THE TIME FOR GOO IS UPON US!

Per SFGate, parks and beaches in Northern California were crowded this weekend. Many people do not understand what the heck social distancing means. What it means is that if you come close enough, I'll take a swing at your head with my blackthorn stick which I will now carry around to damned well guarantee distance. Please understand that there are so few witnesses on the street that I could easily crack your head open and feast on the goo inside for ten minutes before anyone notices.


Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each others heads open and feast on the goo inside?

Professor: Yes I would, Kent.


No high fives. No fist bumps. No elbow to elbow. Stay away.
Apparently there was gridlock in some places.
And overflowing parking lots.


Normally I would not carry the blackthorn stick with me except late at night.
Now, if more than ten feet from my front door, it will be at the ready.
Because I don't trust my fellow human beings.
There are FOUR people in my apartment building who are older than me.
At least one of whom is probably in her last year among us.
And, of course, I know that I might not make it.
Pre-existing conditions and all that.


In the past I may have suggested that when I am outside smoking my pipe some company would be nice, and it still would. Now more than ever, though, any company should be as anti-social as I myself am. Eight to ten feet away, and fairly untalkative. While remaining on the look-out for people who need their heads cracked.

My apartment mate could inadvertently infect me, there is that possibility; she still goes to work. But I am more worried about something happening to her while she's out of the apartment, because, as I previously mentioned, there are fewer witnesses on the street now, and I don't trust my fellow human beings. I care about her. A lot.


The cigar smokers in the backroom won't infect me. Haven't seen any of them in over a week. My fellow pipe smokers won't either, as most of us have severely attenuated social urges. At best.

But normal people are a threat.

Delicious grey goo.




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THIS. IS. UN. ACCEPTABLE.

It turns out that underneath a very thick veneer of decent behaviour and very good social norms, as evinced by the immense good spirits and humour on the internet, somewhere out there is a vein of complete ass-hole. Racism against Asian Americans in the wake of the corona virus has increased enormously. Also here in SF, where one third of the population, more or less, is Asian American. Most of whom have lived here their entire lives.


CITE:
Yuanyuan Zhu was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater.
END CITE

Source: Spit on, yelled at, attacked: Chinese Americans fear for their safety

This hits too damned close to home, even though I am not Asian American. My landlady is of Chinese ancestry. The two women in the apartment next to the front door are too. So is the tenant who lives above them. The guy behind the counter at the nearest store. The people from whom I buy vegetables. The owners of bakeries I patronize. Grocers. My doctor, his stand-ins when he is off, my cardiologist, the nurses, clerical staff, and pharmacy ladies who together form the support staff I see when I'm down at the clinic .....

My apartment mate, a splendid person who puts up with me.

People I know, individuals I like, and friends.



Folks, if you're going to be assholes, could you at least have the goddamned decency to move back to Dumbfuckistan? We'll give you directions, we know where that is. Y'all voted for Trump last time.




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Monday, March 23, 2020

THING OF BEAUTY

A conversation with the apartment mate regarding the wooden statue of a sea captain from some island in the pacific which is behind her chair. He's wearing a lau lau and cowrie shells, and has a captain's hat. And a glued on-animal hair beard (so you know he's Caucasian). Dignified yet disquieting of appearance. She thought he was a witchdoctor, evil booga booga, and if we weren't careful we'd run out of goats. We have no goats. I explained that he was the nearest thing to a Barbie doll we had here, and that someday, after this is all over, I would show a little girl the statue and tell her that he was just as good as Barbie. Honest.

She looked at me, and blinked.


"You guys are really culturally impoverished, aint'cha?"


"You've got that crazed old coot look in your eyes. Stand back, I have a tazer in my Hello kitty purse!"


My apartment mate is used to my collecting odd things at this point. A few years ago I gave her two 'daemonic' ceramic chickens. Plus, of course, we have several stuffed creatures in both bedrooms. Some of whom are, when they speak, clearly not in touch with reality.

She's also the person who came up with the concept that "butter is truth". Mantequilla es verdad! Which is more 'zen' in Spanish than in English.


Butter is beautiful.




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AND THERE WAS PIE!

As a man of regular habits (firm, unchangeable, and cemented in place by stubbornness) this blogger has gotten through an entire week of the social distancing imposed by the City of San Francisco and the State of California in their justifiable abundance of caution. Because even though they realize that a percentage of us will snuff it, they don't want it to happen all at once. Naturally, given my age (60) and underlying conditions, I am sanguine about my own chances, but that ain't going to change my views or bad habits. It would be rather pointless, don't you think? Croak, croak, croakitty croak.
At least I won't need to worry about my next haircut.


My only "bad" habit is smoking.


Which, given that the other person in this apartment is a non-smoker, necessitates frequent walks. And that's altogether a good thing, because otherwise my circulation would sluggify like topsy, and my right leg would stiffen to the point of painful uselessness. My doctors have kind of agreed to scan the damned limb sometime this summer -- circulatory issues and arthritis combined seem to be the issue, as well as long time damage to the knee and hip, basically old geezer leg -- but that was, of course, before Covid 19. If we're all still alive after this is over, I'll bring it up again.

Meantime, I'll just carry on, carrying on.

Pipes smoked this weekend: An Ehrlich straight bulldog. A John's (Los Angeles) Silver Mount straight billiard, older than myself. A sandblasted pot shape, Italian, the brand of which is not worth mentioning. A silver-banded bent bulldog, Peterson. Comoy Tradition shape 331, straight squat bulldog. Peterson Kapet Made in the Republic of Ireland shape 420F, oval shank. Dudley tanblast panel. Sunrise Apple. Comoy off-brand Canadian.
Another Peterson silver-banded bent bulldog, pre-war.

Several cups of coffee (mornings).

Plus cups of milk-tea (afternoon).

And pie, cheese, noodles, vegetable curry, fatty treats.



I'm sure my primary care physician would only have a problem with the pipes. He's rather opposed to tobacco, probably because of traumas suffered while he was a mere child in med school, and I know that the pharmacists are also against it; every time I go in for refills, they holler at me that I really must quit smoking (嘜先生,戒煙,吸煙好危害健康吖 ('mak sin saang, kaai yin, gap yin hou ngai hoi kin hong aaah')!

唔好意思,有的痼習戒唔甩嘅。

M-hou yi si, yau di gu-jaap gaai m-laat-ge. That isn't going to happen. Sorry.


But if you see me again, feel free to tell me how bad it is.




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THE ESSENTIAL THINGS

Under normal circumstances one would like to head over to Chinatown on days when not at work, enjoy a late lunch and a cup of tea, then have a long stroll through familiar streets and alleys while smoking one's pipe.
These are not normal circumstances.
It may last a bit.

Watching baby otter videos on the internet is one possible substitute. The Oregon Zoo has two adorable otter pups. Look 'em up. You can also find the formative influences of your young adulthood there, that being, I hope, the Muppets. Particularly Kermit the Frog and Pepe the King Prawn.

You probably cannot smoke a pipe while watching those. Reason being that you live with someone. Who would probably object, vociferously.
Video tape that person please, and put it on the internet.
I promise I'll watch, with avid interest.

Especially if they curse in tongues.



I will never-the-less be heading over to C'town later today. Need to stock up on tea bags (two kinds), jars of sambal, cough drops, and more coffee.
Some fresh veggies, and perhaps a lovely dried fish.

One can never have enough dried fish.


My apartment mate scheduled a 'mental health day' today and is having breakfast as we speak, while conversing with the stuffed creatures. Who are worried about the state of the universe, and possibly being eaten. I am not very good at putting their minds at rest, as I tend toward monosyllabic grunting at this early hour.


I'll probably be out on the front steps in a while. Dirty grey bathrobe, baggy plaid pajama pants, and a red tee-shirt, reading specs, coffee, and a pipe filled half-full. Crows overhead, maybe seagulls. Pigeons.
Is there perhaps any stale pizza anywhere?
It would be a perfect breakfast.




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Sunday, March 22, 2020

THE MAN WHO COUNTS

As a matter of both deep-seated neurosis and habitually thinking in terms of lists and numbers, this blogger is keeping abreast of the toll. On two blog posts you will find the figures for confirmed cases of Corona (covid 19) as well as number of fatalities, updated daily.

The first one: Perspective

The second one: Contradicting El Trumpo


Think of it as a mental bend I cannot shake.
Possibly cultural or hereditary.
Or just Aspergers.



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SOCIAL DISTANCING PERFECTED

My apartment mate's work is public-health related. Which means that during the current lock-down she is considered essential. But, fortunately, not front-line, and no contact with the public required. What that also means is that as some of her co-workers are working from home, she is getting a lot more done, and rather enjoying the quiet at the office.
She is not particularly social.
"On the spectrum".

On the spectrum means somewhere between "neurotypical" and full-blown autism. What is often called Asperger. Which also describes me, and I have been told to stay home, whereas normally on a Saturday and Sunday I would be at work.

You can see the problem here, can't you?

Like her, I am not that social.

And I'm a smoker.


What this means is that this weekend I have been out of the house a lot, so as to lessen friction (mostly my problem) as well as enjoy my pipes in peace and quiet. A briar pipe benefits from a certain degree of solitude, or the company of phlegmatic other smokers.

Hypothetical conversation between two pipe smokers:

Nice pipe.
Thanks. Comoy.
Mmm.

[Very long pause]

Weather.
Yes.

[Very long pause]

What (are you) smoking?
Balkan.

[Very long pause]

Mmm. 

[Very long pause]

Tea?
Mmm?

[Very long pause]

Matches?
Mmm!

[Very long pause]

Time?
Eh?

[Very long pause]

Vladimir Nabokov?
Yes.

[Very long pause]

Crumhorn music.
Oh?

[Very long pause]

Sriracha.
Yep.

[Very long pause]

Thanks..., conversation.

[Very long pause]

Sure.


It will not surprise you that Albert Einstein was a pipe smoker.
A full bowl lasts forty five minutes or more.
Plenty of time to talk.



GLOSSARY

BRIAR: the mediterranean heath tree (erica arborea), the burl of which is commonly used to manufacture smoking equipment. A porous not richly resinous wood which imparts only a faint hint of its own flavour, most modern day pipe mixtures are blended based on the wood's inherent characteristics and interaction with the tobacco. COMOY: a brand of briar pipe established in St. Claude (France) in 1825, when the Comoy brothers began making clay and boxwood pipes. By the middle of that century the family had switched to briar, and in 1879 a member moved to London and set up shop. H.Comoy & Co. Ltd. was incorporated in 1914. From then until the fifties or sixties of the last century their top-end pipes were second to none (and I own several from that period), and they also made pipes for stores up and down the West Coast. Since then, the brand has had some ups and downs.
BALKAN (TOBACCO): not, as you might think, tobacco from that region. Rather, the nomen refers to a type of mixture with a fair amount of Latakia tobacco (originally from Syria, nowadays Cyprus) complimented by a proportion of Turkish, and a 'base' of Virginias (also known as 'flue cured'). Think in terms of 35+ to 50 percent Latakia, one sixth to one quarter Turkish, and the rest a blend of Virginia flake and Virginia ribbon. The most famous exemplar of the type was 50% Latakia, 22½% Turkish, 27½% Virginias. A lot has been written about it, and it became more popular after it went out of production. There are now far more Balkans available than there ever were. Possibly in imitation.
MATCHES: implements made by little orphan girls freezing in the snow, which because they give a soft flame are ideal for lighting your pipe.
CRUMHORN: a medieaval precursor to the kazoo much loved in Germany. Also given as 'cremorne'. NABOKOV: a prolific Russian literary genius. SRIRACHA: the condiment which makes all civilized life possible. GLOSSARY: a list of words sometimes imperfectly explained.



TOBACCO INDEX


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COOK FOR THE MASSES

A gentleman in Australia craved Bombay Duck, so a friend sent him some. Then he realized there might be a slight problem. "Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fry it cause of the smell. My Aussie neighbors would think there’s a dead body here. Any recipes as a curry alternative I can use?" The obvious solution is to sing loudly while frying, so they won't think you're dead yet.
Besides, getting out of the apartment building and going for a long walk might be just what they need. Exercise! It keeps arthritic joints from stiffening up because of inaction, and improves circulation.
And muscle tone, if they run.

You're doing it for them.

Altruism!


Okay then. Having solved an Australian problem, let us return to the non-kangaroo infested part of the world. Particularly San Francisco. Where I live. We don't have Bombay Duck. And instead of Aussies, we have pavement dwelling psychopaths and dysfunctionals. About whom I am rather worried. Because, in all honesty, they weren't coping under normal conditions.
Then weren't friends before this, and I kept my distance.
But I'll be glad to see them back.

The streets are cleaner and emptier than they've ever been.

The apartment mate has been binge watching old teevee series, as well as clips from The Muppet Show. Sofar, I have heard Sam The Eagle ranting about nudity -- we're all NAKED under our clothes -- as well as the theme song from Bat Masterson (several times). She is in her pajamas, with a stuffed animal next to her while she plonks on her computer.


It's been a little surreal going for a stroll around the neighborhood recently.
Strangers wish each other a good morning or good evening from six to twenty feet distance (or more), shops are closed, one or two planked-up, non-smokers walk their dogs, joggers occasionally go by, and, thank heavens, the local liquor store is open.

The smell of Bombay Duck would be immensely positive at this point.
Evidence of intelligent life on this planet.


So far my landlords have not spoken to me about the dried fish, shrimp paste, and fish sauce I use. That, too, is evidence of intelligent life.


As long as at least one shop in Chinatown is still open, I'll be able to find more, if needed. It's an essential supply.

As you probably know.



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