Thursday, April 30, 2020


Our landlady gave us some baked items and dim sum from Chinatown today, remarking apologetically that probably everyone had enough food, but she had been across the hill to the neighborhood, and just couldn't resist buying stuff from some of our favourite places that are still open. Remarkably, I too intended to go to C'town today, to pick up a pill refill at the Chinese Hospital pharmacy.
And I looked forward to it, even though every time since "shelter-in-place" it has left me slightly downcast. So many places I like are closed.

I haven't had pastry and a cup of milk-tea in ages.
Or a restaurant style home cooked meal.

For a not particularly social Caucasian dude like myself, the Chinatown environment is close to ideal. Normally it's busy, bustling, noisy with humans. Yet I do not end up in conversation with crazy people, unlike for instance in North Beach, where talkative nuts are a dime a dozen. Those people who know me say 'hi', we exchange some minor chatter about food and the weather, and that's basically it.
If we haven't seen each other in a while, we say so.
冇見好耐呀 ('mou kin hou noi ah')!

And, of course, it's a good place to smoke. Everyone either has a relative who smokes, or is the relative who does so. Few people act like you've committed an unpardonable breach of protocol. Although it is considered bad form to do so obtrusively. For me, the alleyways are rather perfect.

"New Luzon Street"

A few years ago the city was digging up Spofford as part of a project to prettify it and make it charming for tourists. So they left a block-long hole in the ground for an entire year, with the residents having no recourse but to dump their bags of refuse at either end, because the municipal garbage service would not traverse a hazardous ravine. So given that there was a trench, with fermenting crap at either end, the rat population flourished.
Health-hazardous, yes, but these were only poor people.
Who couldn't speak bureaucratese English.
So it didn't matter.

I very much like rats. Active and determined creatures, and much more fuzzy and lovable than the tech-company droogs who infest this city.

Every Tuesday (for that year) at around eleven in the evening I'd light up a pipe and spend some time "communing" with my friends. They didn't mind me, they didn't object angrily to the tobacco smoke like a Berkeley Earth Mother, and at times they regarded my feet as easily surmountable obstacles, mere blips, as they raided the piled up garbage bags.
Food! Humans are good!

The pit has been filled and paved, but once a week I smoke "The Pipe For Watching Rats in Spofford Alley". In memory of many wonderful hours.
Did so again today. How could I not?

Yeah, that was after picking up the Clopidogrel refill.
Earlier I had smoked in my own neighborhood.

You rarely see rats in Chinatown. Many of the neighborhood stores have cats, and Chinese people usually think of rats as nasty disgusting creatures that must be killed. Besides, they've all heard of the Bubonic Plague (黑死病 'hak sei bing'), and remember what it did to Hong Kong for the first few decades of the twentieth century. But only to poor people who could not speak bureaucratese English, and didn't matter.

There is no place to sit down for a cup of milk tea in Chinatown anymore, there probably won't be for a while. Once I had finished my smoke, and picked up some groceries, I came back home.

There are no rats in this neighborhood. The only pests are meth-heads and Yuppies. Oh, and the dietarily special.


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Because people are getting desperate, and looking for activities for the whole family during quarantine, may I suggest olive oil? It's good for what ails you, and can benefit any number of projects, organs, and surfaces.

As I suggested in an essay from six years ago:


Well, I actually suggested any number of things there, but self-anointing was one of them. If the apartment is empty, just ponce around bare after covering yourself yelling "I am the messiah!" It feels good!
Better yet if you have an entire farm to yourself.
Best: the campus of Liberty University.

In any case, give it a go. Your skin will feel better, and many of us will love to see the pictures you incautiously spread all over the interwebs in a frantic plea for attention in this cold heartless world where feelings of existential dread and anomie have proliferated. It's what we need right now.
We'll treasure them, and feel connected.
Also a little greasy and unclean.
A small price to pay.

I cannot believe that I've had middle-aged dry skin for so long. Six years already. At least.

Just don't do this in public. Protestants will shy away from you, and the police may wish to cover you with a handy tarp.

I really need to stress that.
This is San Francisco.
A family city.

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Nightmares. The Feds were trying to find the evidence for something that if it had happened in the waking world would send me upriver for a very long time, but in the dreamworld it was too well hidden. And, in the dream, it was raining. Which complicated the search. So honestly, I am damned glad I had nothing to do with it.

One of the effects of medication.
Extremely vivid "dreams".

Yesterday evening someone two streets over became violent and attacked the police with his bare hands. It was a very sudden trip off the deep end. We're speculating that a dosage of methamphetamine may have done more for him than he bargained for. Coupled with the skeevy gentlemen engaged in a transaction in the side entrance to a local drinking establishment which is closed for the duration at that same time, it shows that once the day is over, the surrealism rises.

Which, of course, explains why I carry a blackthorn with me when out smoking my pipe.

I'm sure police work has changed a bit in the city since the shelter-in-place order went into effect. Fewer street deaths, fewer residential break-ins.
More general weirdness and domestic violence.

More unstable house-bound creativity.

We have artistic people.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020


It is a keen disappointment to realize that I am an unpleasant man. On my first walk this morning I was almost constantly swearing and cursing under my breath at inconsiderate joggers, dimwits blithely staggering down the middle of the sidewalk necessitating my veering into the automobile lanes to maintain sufficient distance, idiots peering at their cellphone screen while ditheringly wavering from side to side, and folks barging out of doorways straight into oncoming foot traffic. What is it with you people?
And why are you still alive?

All of that, naturally, was on Polk Street.
Which I'll avoid the rest of the day.

Waved in recognition to pistachio-hue hat auntie while she was doing her ambulatory up-and-down on my own block, gave some money to the old black bald fellow at the corner, exchanged friendly greetings and remarks about the weather with an elderly woman I've never seen before, and wished two hispanic ladies a cheery good morning. Well, good day. Buenas dias! Can't remember if there is a Spanish equivalent of "good morning".

So I've been social enough. The rest of the day I can be a blister.

Other than calling up the pharmacy at Chinese Hospital to have one of my medications renewed before the weekend. I'll remember to be friendly, and because they are not going to be physically anywhere near me when I call, there is no reason to be otherwise.

On the other hand, before I stepped out of the house with my pipe I reported an advertisement for a conservative religious College as hate speech. Just because I have several Bible dorks as FB friends does NOT mean I'll give any credence to your offensively heretical belief system. We might if we met share pipe tobacco, but I'll remember that my ancestors fought for survival against all the rest of you.

Though I am an atheist, I still bear grudges.

By the way: we rebuilt Naarden since then.
And the "pilgrims" finally left.
They were unbearable.

A little bit more Perique than usual, counteracting the black Virginia. The bulk of this blend is reds and browns, some blonde for colour and a brighter taste. But each component is several years matured. So it presents a nice balance between savoury, tangy, and sweet.

The pipe is one I restored a few years ago. I had a longer stem put on when I sent it out, because I like to be able to see the bowl at the end of my face, and longer pipes look jaunty and young. Perky almost.

It's a Savinelli DeLuxe billiard, trimmer and more elegant than their most popular pipe (shape 101), but I cannot read the number, and I think they've retired that designation anyway. The wood has the glow of ancientness, there are no fills.

I think I look dashing and jaunty with it sticking out of my beak.
And seeing as nobody likes smokers, I haven't asked.
A trim old grumpus, ready for adventure!

Now get away from me, all of you Typhoid Marys!


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Apparently the only thing of note our president did yesterday was protect the hamberders. The precious, precious hamberders. For the 1st. time since the death of Christ, the only Trump news on BBC was an order declaring Hamberders a protected species, instead of the regular tantrum.
NO, I shan't head into Twitter.

Hamberder used to roam the American outback, in numbers unimaginable. Hugely. And bugger the optics, the industry of Texas must be saved.

Yeah, bad publ. rels, given that so much is going to the dogs in so many places in this country, and shipments of PPEs are still being seized by the Feds because Jared Kushner wants to make sure that Washington DC has enough, but at least America's dog and catfood manufacturers as well as the thousands of poor ignorant Texans will be safe. And able to vote for Donald Trump in November.

Plus the pet owners in my neighborhood will continue picking up after their hounds. Instead of having to kill them and grill them.
Even Vegans and Pescatarians.

Honestly, my piles would have bled for the Hamberder industry.
Now I can rest calm at night again.

Jimmy Dean Breakfast sausage, BTW, makes a fine patty.
Goes great with grits.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020


The wonderful thing about nineteen fifties television shows is how obvious the difference between good women and bad women is. The good women speak with well-modulated voices, and look so ... 'decent'. The bad women all have hairdos, make-up, racy clothing, and drink cocktails while smoking cigarettes. Many years ago I was at a Chinese banquet and the daughters of the family after dinner cadged cigarettes while we walked back to the parked cars. Their parents, up ahead, had no idea. And these were all three good girls. Obviously the smoky smell adhering faintly to them when we got back to the house was from the white women and the pipe smoker.

No, they weren't into cocktails.
They were allergic to alcohol.

Nowadays it's difficult to tell, unless they're the Real Housewives™. In which case it's obvious that they are sex-crazed drunks, of course.

Well brought up women occasionally have wine, or Scotch and water.

I've spent the last two hours reading Ranma½ in which the good girls are all violent. The apartment mate in her room is reading Cromartie High, another manga, which is about very innocent male high school thugs. I would describe my apartment mate as the quintessential good girl, because she doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, does not go out partying or slutting around, and doesn't have tattoos. She does swear like a sailor at times.
She's Cantonese, and one kind of has to expect that.

The worst girls in Ranma½ are all violent chicks who want to beat him up. Yes, they are well endowed, but that isn't the point. There is no sex in the manga, nor even a suggestion. Unless you take Shampoo (an ultra violent AND curvaceous non-Japanese character) and her guile in trying to get Ranma to love her or involve him in compromising scenes as 'sexual'.
There are also a martial arts pig, a panda, and a bespectacled duck.
They too are violent.

It is, if you look at it the right way, about the ideal of Japanese womanhood.
High-school age, insane, and psycho-homicidal.
These are all good girls.

I visited Japan once. I did not know that at the time.
Good thing I went nowhere near them.

My two other favourite manga, which I still reread, are about a defective young female vampire and the creepy neighbor boy, and an insanely violent cat girl bounty hunter in a future dystopia who likes to snack on dried sardines. The closest anybody comes to sex is garlic potstickers.
Perhaps the Japanese have goofy ideas about women.

I only have sane ideas about women, myself.
And they can be very interesting.

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Because of Covid 19, wild life is returning to its old haunts in urban areas, and in some cases taking over. There are no humans to frighten the beasts away. Soon we'll see whales in the streets of San Francisco, paddling uphill on their stubby little pink flippers, ineffective because they're holding on to family size bags of cheese and chili barbecue chips. It's for energy.
The giant box of barbecue chicken nuggets was not enough.
They must have more meat!

If we're not careful, they will eat us. We look just like cheese burgers.

I advocate harpooning them and harvesting their blubber.

It is too late to force them to diet.

Save humanity.

The gymns and yoga studios have been closed for six weeks, but food delivery services are booming. Exercise equipement lies idle, gathering cobwebs, little poisonous creatures nesting in the ergonomic angled metal structures. Fleas, ticks, brown recluse spiders, leeches, and possibly elk.

Cleanse these places with fire.

Pass the ranch dressing.

Praise the load.

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Monday, April 27, 2020


One of the vegetables I've loved as long as I can remember is bitter melon (also known as melón amargo, sopropo, or karela), which outside of Asian neighborhoods one will not often find in the United States. Many Caucasoid people and little children find it distasteful, too bitter. There's a reason it's called bitter melon, of course, and by now you will have wigged on to that.
It's great with fatty pork, or fish, or fish paste. Plus minced garlic ginger fermented black beans (豆豉 'dau si') and chili paste.

Supposedly it's very good for you.

苦瓜 、涼瓜

I haven't had any in weeks. One of these days I'll head over to Chinatown early in the day to see if any of the markets have it.
Seriously, I'm Jonesing here.

[It doesn't keep very well, and the last few times I did not see any.]

Years ago on a Dutch website it was described as delicious stuffed with meat, Surinamese style (?), but the author of that article had no clue what it was called in English. Sorry. So I spent several hours looking for it on the internet with no luck. It wasn't until the third day that I remembered I had purchased a Surinamese Dutch reference dictionary in Amsterdam a few years before, and that fortune smiled: momordica charantia. Which I already knew all about, darn it, I had even had it for dinner that same evening. The problem was that he had NOT mentioned the salient characteristic.
It is remarkably bitter.

To his Dutch culinary mind that wasn't important.
The description "delicious" is useless.
There were no photos.

Before corona, I would have it two or three times a month at least, but those restaurants are all closed for the duration. Years ago I often enjoyed it with fatty pork over rice at a Vietnamese Chinese restaurant on the corner of one of my favourite alleyways (they used to be on Stockton Street, before that area got dug up for the Central Subway). At one point I chose to break in a pipe I had bought several years previously and was saving for a rainy day, which it was. But first, lunch! Bittermelon, meat, rice, hotsauce, pickling juice from the chilies in vinegar and fish dew. Delicious.

Filled the pipe halfway, finished my Vietnamese coffee, paid, left.
Went into the alley with my umbrella and lit up.
And promptly kicked myself.


Why on earth had I waited all those years! This pipe was wonderful. Actually, I knew exactly why I had delayed so long, the poker shape is one of my least favourite designs. I had purchased the pipe because another Hardcastle pipe acquired previously had turned out to be a splendid smoke.
Plus the stem looked kind of ugly. Which also made me put it on the back burner so to speak.

All through that Autumn and Winter the pipe simply got better and better. Bowl after bowl of Esoterica Dunbar or Dorchester. It sings with mixtures like that. The Fog City Collection tobaccos by GLP are remarkable in it.
And obviously I remember wonderful times.
Chinatown lunch.

涼瓜燒肉 ('leung gwaa siu yiuk'), 炒臘腸涼瓜 ('chaau laap mei leung gwaa'), 涼瓜煎蛋 ('leung gwaa jin daan'), 海南雞飯('Hoi-naam kai fan') , 涼瓜斑球 ('leung gwaa pan kau'), 黄毛雞湯圓 ('wong mou kai tong yuen'), 豆豉龍脷魚 ('dau si lung lei yü'), 燒猪肉河粉 ('siu chü yiuk ho fan'), 南乳烤雞 ('naam yu haau kai'), 釀豆腐 ('yong tau fu'), etc.

Smoked it earlier today while walking.
It continues to sing with Virginias.
Now I want bitter melon.


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There are three possibilities. 1) Cantonese women think of garlic and meat upon waking up. 2) Single women think of garlic and meat upon waking up. 3) All women think of garlic and meat upon waking up.

Clearly it cannot be ALL women, because some of them think of kittens or little butterflies. The precious.

Having left just before eight o'clock, when my apartment mate was still asleep in her bed, I was somewhat disconcerted to find raw chicken pieces marinating in garlic, soy, and black beans sitting on the kitchen counter when I went in there forty five minutes later for my second cup of coffee after smoking my pipe while taking a walk. It's a beautiful morning out there, y'all should go out and enjoy it.

Stay away from the pipe smokers, darlings, they don't want to die from whatever infection you are carrying.

The Canto auntie with the pistachio-hued hat was on the other side of the street, walking up and down the slope for exercise. Once she had finished, she undoubtedly went home to consider garlic and meat.
Such comforting thoughts.

It may be just a Cantonese women thing. When you grow up in a household that thinks of sticky rice chicken, pork siu mai, wu gok, and hargow, as the breakfast of champions, at least once a week, with a crowd of noisy kinfolk getting all hepped on tea, then garlic and meat in the morning easily come to mind. These women are mostly descended from grave robbers, salt smugglers, and congenital gangsters, who fled south during Tang and Sung times to escape the tax man and civilized authority. Live life with zest, or whine operatically at great length with theatrical gestures and anger.

Or it could be single women. No kids and no lumpen-male with a beer belly to consider. Children and men are sensitive and delicate creatures, who will easily turn green in the morning. Unless someone offers them leftover pizza.

And I doubt that it's all women or even a close approximate of that number.
In Africa, they would think of fufu, piri piri, and bush meat.
Southerners, on the other hand.....

Fried doughy crap, syrup, eggs, and a sludge-puddle of grits. The English equivalent is fried tomato slices, cold toast, and gluggy oatmeal, sometimes with a kidney plopped on top.
So by no means "all women".

Perhaps just 'all Cantonese women'. I can definitely imagine the ladies at the pharmacy and the nurses I've met at clinic, in Chinese Hospital reacting with considerable joy to garlic and meat at the crack of dawn. As well as the frail old auntie at the bakery whom I've known for years, her former employers who have retired, and the slim young thing at my favourite chachanteng which is presently closed.

It does not extend to men. What we think of in the morning is stale pizza, coffee, and the New York Times (nicely ironed for that knife edge crease). There has been no stale pizza in this household in many years (which is my fault, I suppose), and I do not subscribe to any newspapers because the street people would make off with it before I have a chance to pick it up from the front steps. Some men simply think of beer.

I suspect that my apartment mate is simply thinking ahead to lunch. There's an awful lot of raw chicken there, but despite being smaller than me and thinnish besides, she can manage.

I'll probably prepare a sausage and some greens for lunch.
Good with toasted cheesy bread and hot sauce.
I'm a fastidious eater.

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Even though the Trump administration wishes to bankrupt the United States Postal Service (Republicans forced through a pension-funding requirement more onerous, nay punitive, to which no other businesses OR branches of government must adhere) in order to force privatization and do harm to small business which relies on the Post Office, they are hiring. Which is quite remarkable. That shows faith that despite Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and other gangsters, society will not fall apart.

Personally I do not have quite that level of faith.

I noticed this morning that two of the boxes for this building got broken into overnight. Mail strewed helter-skelter, oolta-poolta, every which way.
For which I will also blame republicans.
Crime is utterly all-American.
Very 'free enterprise'.

Fortunately, the entrepreneur who did it raided the boxes for two of the vacant units. On a Sunday night during shelter-in-place.

The rest of us check our boxes shortly after mid-day, because we're waiting for our stimulus checks or tax refunds, long delayed, probably due to government inefficiency or bureaucratic torpor.
Nothing in those boxes to steal.

That stupidity (Sunday night, fergadsakes!) is also all-American.

It's what Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham would do.

If they weren't Republican Politicians.

There were notices that the Post Office is hiring.
I might just apply for one of those jobs.
It's a commendable outfit.
All American.

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Sunday, April 26, 2020


It was somewhat foggy this morning, and a little bit colder than I expected when I left the house for a walk. My apartment mate was still asleep in her room but had woken up when I returned. Honestly, I do not understand women and their metabolism, or Chinese people and their breakfast preferences. Ice cream? Is a monthly event coming soon?
It's probably quite normal. One of my friends who lives in the Berkeley area eats ice cream at three in the morning, which I've never quite understood, and she's not Chinese by any standard. Must be something about the female of the species and ice cream. Nesting behaviour.
Igloos. They long for igloos.

Maybe women remember the last ice age, and subconsciously are avoiding rancid burnt mammoth. This is just a theory. Precisely like the theory about combining Bactine, strong light, and warm weather to fight disease.
Injected, gargled, or otherwise.

The first food I had today was a grilled sausage and toasted cheesy bread, with a liberal amount of hot sauce. Which would also be great for a middle of the night snack, or breakfast with that first cup of coffee.
But it was a late lunch.

My breakfast was strong coffee, followed by a smoke. Which works for me. Both were after taking my pills. Which I keep in a green Peterson pipe box (Standard System smooth, shape 307, P-lip) in the teevee room near the rickety rattan chair.

Early in the day the only people outside are one or two joggers, one or two dog people, and a few elderly Chinese taking a morning constitutional. Obviously I am the only pipe smoker in this neighborhood.

By late morning the street people had arrived. Two regulars, and a meth-freak trying to jimmy-open the parking meters. Plus over a dozen people cluster fudging over at the intersection of Polk Street.

Here it is, tea-time, and I'm wondering which pipe to load up for my next walk around the block. The tobacco is certain, the briar is a question.
Tea afterwards is a guarantee.

The apartment mate has retired to her room with a stuffed animal. Nap time.

I suspect that she will have ice cream later.


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My apartment mate had a brilliant idea: light emitting vibrators. This before she went on a prolonged squawk about the need for someone in that room to say "Mr. president, shut the f**k up!" The sad thing is that most Trump supporters believe that something intelligent came out of his mouth.

How long before the first hard-core Trumper dies of ingestion?
Not soon enough. Not nearly soon enough.

Saturday, April 24, 9:49 PM
939,053 confirmed cases in the US.  53,789 deaths.

Earlier today, before the milk of human kindness started flowing through my veins again, my contribution to a discussion in various languages was this: "vele delen van de VS zijn best wel redelijk. Er zijn natuurlijk ook delen waar de stupiditeit van afdruipt... ik denk met name aan vrijwel alles tussen New York en San Francisco."

Don't worry, dear Trump supporters. It was, on the whole, a positive comment. Overwhelmingly.

Continue adulating.

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Saturday, April 25, 2020


The way to keep ones sanity in these times is judiciously doing the following as alternating "therapies": make curry, study a foreign language, drink tea, take a walk, have a nap, read a reputable news site (BBC or Reuters), smoke a pipe. At least, that's my recipe. My apartment mate binge watches Crone Wars (the 'Real Housewives' of various places), Bat Masterson (old TV series), and Perry Mason. When she isn't working.
She often prefers going to the empty office instead.

Curry, study, tea, walks, naps, news, pipe.
Yep. Works for me.

Oh, and informing the stuffed animals that Trader Joe's does not sell squid bread, and carrion buns are entirely unavailable in this neighborhood. Do-it-yourself is ill-advised; raiding a graveyard is frowned upon. And think of all those chemicals! Perhaps order a cadaver from Amazon?
It's organic, and non-GMO.

The other thing is Facebook. Where you can post not only pictures of your cat, but drawings of some of your favourite pipes to a FB groupd dedicated to pipe-smoking.


Fifth and maybe final smoke of the day. Two neighbors across the way each on their side of the common fire escape having a long discussion. Few pedestrians. Other side of the block three bros blocking the sidewalk having beers (it IS friday evening...), so I walked around them in the car lane. When I got back to my street, Mr. Siu was returning home with his doggie. We waved. Finished smoking on the front steps. A good smoke. Calmness. Peace.


Out of the house before eight, after the breakfast of champion: a series of necessary pills and strong coffee. Small sandblast Canadian I restored over two years ago filled with Virginias. Said good-morning to the Canto auntie doing her walkies on the way up the hill. She's shorter and older, but her legs work better. After five or six blocks walking it's hard not to snarl at other pedestrians. So far this morning I've done twelve blocks. Presently in the teevee room while the apartment mate is watching Crone Wars (one of the Real Housewives episodes) with half an eye while plonking on her computer.

Both of briars pictured above belong together: same previous smoker, whom I never met. His eldery sister-in-law wanted to get all those icky things out of the house once his widow moved to smaller digs, 15 years after he died.
With a bit of skilled effort, they have returned to a rewarding life.
New stems, of course. Some men bite like sharks.

Now, what would you rather have? An object of sensual beauty clenched between your teeth, or cretinous bitches ("Real Housewives") on the television?

The stuffed turkey vulture was both bereft and aghast when I told him that crusty carrion baguette was unavailable. What IS this world coming to? To console him, I offered him some "tubular cadaver" (Italian sausage) with curry-fried Kwan Miao noodles (關廟麵), yau choi (油菜), and egg.
Chili paste (sambal) liberally daubed over.


As far as the penguins, who wanted squid bread, are concerned, sorry. There is no substitute. Y'all squid out of luck. The apartment mate prepared herself some tater tots and breakfast sausages for lunch. She's Chinese American, so you'd think that if anybody had a handle on fresh squid in this neighborhood, she would, and she offered them some of her food, but they claimed they weren't that hungry. They graciously nibbled a bit.
Just to be polite.

They did like the ice cream she had later.
Every one likes ice cream.


Early evening, after fixing myself a hot cup, I went out for smoke. My dad, a man of civilized and stable habits, would have a pot of tea on most weekend afternoons, and might occasionally take a pipe full from my tin of Balkan Sobranie. After asking, of course. At those times we'd sit together in the quiet, both of us reading and smoking. In the other room my brother would study chess (one of the top fast chess champs in the country), and the cats would occasionally wander in for some human contact.

Cats do not need much human contact.

Luckily there weren't many people about. I likewise do not require much human contact. My apartment mate, with her rather severe Asperger's Syndrome and shy distaste for people, requires seemingly less than I do.
This morning she had a full load of it: volunteer work on Saturday morning's at the charity project organized by one of the local churches (she is a sneering skeptic, total unbeliever, and heretic) was more than enough.
Because during the current crisis the older volunteers have been told to stay home, she's one of the few there who can speak Cantonese (sort of), and given that most of the clientele are elderly local Cantos .........

It's almost, she indicated, like herding cats.
I got an earful. She vented.
Good for her.


It is curry if it contains ground coriander seed, turmeric, galangal, lemon grass, garlic, ginger. Adding fish sauce and chilipaste makes it more so.


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Friday, April 24, 2020


The apartment mate was up well before me, stumbling about making coffee. She was planning to work from home today, so I knew I would have to stay out of the television room most of the time. Seeing as that's where all the computers are. But a connectivity problem with the work server nixed that (and she hates working from home), which meant that shortly after I had my first smoke of the day all bleary eyed and in my bathrobe on the front steps she beetled out and down to the office.

As I may have previously mentioned, with only the IT department there and everything thoroughly sterilized, it's not a hazard.

That left me a nearly full pot of coffee.
Babies, I'm wired to the eyebrows!

First pipe today was the bent bulldog Peterson from years ago. Second pipe, several hours later, was the no-name pot mentioned here at the beginning of this week. Damned fine smoke. Third was an old sandblast taper-stemmed apple .

There are too many people on Polk Street to really enjoy the walk, so the fourth time I go out I'm bringing a cudgel. Human beings, as everybody knows, are infectious, diseased, unclean, and generally inedible.

A reasonably man would have thought that a pipe filled with tobacco might keep other people away from one on the sidewalk in San Francisco.
Apparently not. The bastards seem to think it's their pavement.

A mask, as is required, when slung under the beard, makes one's silhouette look double-chinned in plate glass shop windows. Not a flattering look. But you cannot puff your briar with the damned thing over your mouth, so just in case anybody asks I'll tell them not to French kiss me.

Still enjoying my own mixture of Virginias with minor condimentals.
My tongue tastes like smoke, ladies.
It's second hand nicotine.


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Let's let a very stable genius speak for a moment, shall we?
It's all very high concept.

Trump: "What it is estimated, it might not come back at all, Jeff. It may not come back at all. He is talking about our worst case scenario where you have a big flu and you have some, and if it does come back, it’s not going to come back. And I’ve spoken to ten different people. Not going to be like it was. Also, we have much better containment now. Before, nobody knew about it. Nobody knew anything about it. We understand it. Now, if we have pockets, a little pocket here, that we’re to have it put out. It goes out and it’s going to go out fast. We’re going to be watching for it. But it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all."

Question: 'I understand the containment, but I don’t understand how you know it won’t come back on a big scale?'

Trump: "I didn’t say it’s not. I said if it does, it’s not going come back on anything near what we went through. But you could have a mess where they come at the same time, and if they come at the same time, the flu is not the greatest thing in the world, Jeff. It’s not the greatest thing either. If they come at the same time, you have them both. But if we have embers of Corona coupled with the flu, that’s not going to be pleasant. But it’s not going to be what we’ve gone through, in any way, shape or form."

Trump: "Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous ultra violet, or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you are going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light INSIDE the body, which you could do either through the skin, or in some other way. I think you said that you are going to test that, too. And then I saw the disinfectant, where knocks it out in ONE minute, and is there a way we could do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning. As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. Are you ready? It is just a suggestion, from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man, talking about the sun. He’s talking about heat, and you see the numbers. I’m just here to present talent. I am here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. So if heat is good, if sunlight is good, that is a great thing, as far as I am concerned."

Ivanka, you're dad is gibbering again.
He's off his friggin' rocker.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020


It should come as no surprise to my readers that I am a mean-spirited libtard. And that, in consequence, I am rather enjoying that the Trump administration is completely hecking-up on coronavirus, or that the Republicans massively have egg all over their faces on this.

Here are some recent headlines that give me joy:

Study: Elderly Trump voters dying of coronavirus could cost him in November

Good. Those people gave us Trump as well as being in charge of much of this country, mismanaging and sneering at everyone on the lower rungs.
Arrogant old white men. The heck with them.

Layoffs wreck the states that lifted Trump to the White House.

Perfect. I hope they all sink.

Cuomo: McConnell's bankruptcy idea 'really dumb'

McConnell pushes 'bankruptcy route' as local governments struggle

McConnell slams brakes on next round of coronavirus aid

An elderly political profiteer and ethical cripple who became rich while in Washington, and is married to a Kuomintang gangster bitch. Why anyone thought this man had a heart, or cared about the dingos who kept voting for him, or even any part of the country at all, is a complete mystery.
Kentucky is the arse-end of America, screw them.

Ousted vaccine expert battles with Trump team over his abrupt dismissal

This should continue to blow up in Trump's face.

Poll: Large majority of Americans think it’s more important to stay home than return to work

A large number of inbred gunnuts and yokels disagree.

Inside America’s unending testing snafu

"Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right?"

‘A crippling blow to America’s prestige:’ The government struggles to meet the moment

The Republicans own this situation. Totally.

Indeed, I should lament on America's behalf. But this country has under the leadership and connivance of Republicans, and with the encouragement of right wing wind bags, retrogrades, and religious nuts, become a shithole state. We've failed. The dream is dead. And the sooner the red states descend into anarchy and start eating their young, the better.

So I am, of course, fully in favour of Georgia re-opening and becoming the next death pit. As well as Florida. Especially Florida. And Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont.
If Las Vegas also reopens, that too is excellent.

I care about California, Washington (state), and New York.
The rest of the country can go screw itself.
We're better than the rest of you.

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My apartment mate has on occasion eaten fried chicken for breakfast, as well as, when she's in the mood, juicy grilled chops. Normally these days it seems to be a toasted bagel with cream cheese and jam, or something equally based on wheat. Plus strong tea. Sometimes fresh coffee.
Myself, I am not a breakfaster. On working days I'd get up around six, have coffee, and then around ten o'clock scarf down a pastry purchased from Messrs. Singh, Singh, and Singh. Alas, not one that they prepared, all nice and flaky greasy spicy rich, but something that Anglo Americans eat.
Samosas in the middle of the morning sound fine to me.
Or a butter-laden chili cheese kulcha.
Alu or keema paratha.

Still. Not really breakfast.
Arguably "elevenses."

Not being a hobbit, the idea of second breakfast (zweites frühstück) appalls me. The full English grease-on-a-plate twice? In one day?!? No wonder hobbits are fat little turdlings hunted down by orcs!
Hobbits probably taste like possum.

A friend who is a fellow-pipesmoker every week posts pictures of the regular weekend pancake breakfast, and that being a social occasion for him, I can sort of approve. Another pipe smoker posted a picture of chicken biriani with lentils and potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs, along with wishes for a ramadan karim, of which I wholeheartedly approve -- he planned to follow it all up with a bowl loaded with McClelland's Red Cake (a fine standard Virginia tobacco which is no longer in production) -- and biriani would be a splendid way to start the day right, except making it takes effort and talent, and the local restaurant world does not make biriani, especially not for breakfast.
Which is very sad.

[Biriani: a mixed rice dish associated with Mughal influences on Indian cuisine, consisting of meats braised with milder spices plus fat (ghee, rogan, or oil) and yakhni (stock), often with yoghurt added to the cooking process, layered on rice well flavoured with saffron. Because of the presence of saffron, in my opinion one should go easy on stronger spices like cumin, black cardamom, and cloves; reason being that when layering the rice and meat one does not want the saffron to be overwhelmed. Green cardamom and ground coriander seed, along with touches of cinnamon and nutmeg are good. In lieu of yoghurt, a bit of tomato sauce in the manner of Hyderabad is not a bad idea (and a stick of cinnamon will accentuate the tomato nicely. Additionally, a squeeze of lemon juice and perhaps a dash of orange blossom water (mayet-e zahr) can be added before sealing the lid and letting the dish steam to perfection on very low heat. Toasted cashews may be added before serving, as well as sliced hardboiled egg. Raisins are not traditional, nor advised. If you use onion when pre-cooking the meat, cook it so softly that it caramelizes (takes up to an hour), so that it has a delicate and complex flavour, rather than frying.]

Truth be told, the only decent biriani I've had in the Bay Area is what I've cooked myself. Indian and Pakistani restaurants make fried rice.

What I've had to eat today was two cups of coffee, two pipefulls of tobacco, a Happy Moment Choco Pie™, and some cheese. It was a long extended breakfast, dragged out since five in the morning when I got up. After lunch (the meal between noon and tea time), I shall smoke another pipe.

Paya nahari would also be an excellent "breakfast". Sheeps trotter stew. Simmered with spices overnight, served with flaky kulchas. When I think of Muslim food, I also remember crows and lines of Chinese poetry.
An almost hardwired series of mental linkages.
It would take too long to explain.

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Yesterday evening the apartment mate asked me how to pronounce a certain French word, then spent nearly ten minutes ranting about the pronunciation of French and how the French must be sick of people buggering up their language, saying stuff any which way, and generally making a petit déjeuner du cochon out of it. Which probably irritates le crache absolu out of them.
French is too bloody hard! How can anyone speak it?!?
It was a very amusing bit of insanity.

My input was quite minor. But I remembered her problems with Dutch (my language), and the reaction of every single person who learned Toishanese from their parents (like she did) but thought in English when I opened my mouth in Chinese. Good gorp, what is that crazy Caucasian trying to say?
It sounds vaguely "tonal", is that Mandarin? Thai? Insanity?

No, it wasn't 'Camus' (kah moo) or 'beaujolais' (bow joe lay), but something else. Can't remember what. I got distracted by the stuffed turkey vulture and his plan to eat the imaginary little girl hamster, tempting her with une belle fraise fraîche, because little girl hamsters just LOVE strawberries!

At one point she was speculating that French is basically like Cockney.
Which would probably upset both the French and the Cockneys.
Both of whom speak funny and are unintelligible.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020


One thing I've noticed on my forays out of the house to smoke is that the street people by and large do not have masks. And because masks are now strongly recommended -- many stores will not let you in without one, public transit might not let you board, and people in elevators justifiably balk at the non-masked -- you can see the problem immediately. So when I left the house for the second pipe of the day I had a packet of masks in my coat pocket. Three pavement Americans, six masks, in addition to whatever else. Can't buy booze, ciggies, or food without one. Besides, you're less likely to frighten the transplantees from other states if you wear it.

Mind you, I like the concept of Americans from elsewhere kacking their pants on the streets of San Francisco. It's because of them driving up the rent and reducing housing stock that we have so many street people.
But that won't help the indigents in question.

Fittingly, the pipe I was smoking was what I fondly call my starvation pipe. Took three months of eating 25¢ packs of noodles to pay for it. As at that time, I was not fully employed, or employable.
But it was worth it.

It was nearly a decade before I started eating any noodles regularly again. As I did for lunch today: soupy noodles with grilled sausage and leafy greens, curry paste, chili sauce, and a squeeze of citrus.

At the time I purchased this Dunhill, I still smoked Balkan blends. The most famous exemplars of Balkans then were Balkan Sobranie (hence the name for the type), Dunhill (various fine mixtures), plus Rattray's, McConnell's, McClelland, and Drucquer tobaccos. It was before the internet, so nobody had even heard of Presbyterian, and several other products were equally unknown. About ten years ago I switched to Virginia & Perique blends, flakes, and nice compounds of various flue-cured leaves.

Nowadays I eat noodles fairly often. Easier than rice, and with the right meats and vegetables, very convenient. Plus I like my own cooking.

What I smoked in the Dunhill this morning was something I had mixed about eight years ago. Nicely aged at this point, mellow, complex. Guaranteed to offend fastidious people. Whom I do not know.


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One must find inspiration in minor things, and I'll frankly admit that it gives me cheer and energy to see her marching down the street, turning around lower down each day, and marching up the hill again, to turn and repeat the process four or five times. The first time I saw her was a few weeks ago, and initially I thought she had forgotten something on the way to the store. No. Once the pattern became clear, it was obviously her form of morning exercise. In lieu of physical jerks for the elderly in the park. Staying limber when sheltering in place. Olive windbreaker, and a pistachio-hued boonie hat, baggy pants, gloves, and a shopping bag.

Tromp, tromp, tromp.

A short Canto granny, with a perky-jerky stride. Clearly some arthritis, some stiffening of the joints, but full of piss and vinegar. Events may combat perfect eventualities, but that's no reason to yield. Onward.

Several times I've seen her now. Always at roughly eight A.M. Usually I am on the front steps of my building, opposite side of the street, with bathrobe, coffee, and a cigar. Sometimes I'm already doing my first walk of the day.

The reason I'm certain she's Cantonese, beyond just the recognizable physique and type, is that we've exchanged good mornings in Cantonese. Northerners can't say the words.

Tromp, tromp, tromp.

The purple shopping bag is merely a prop. She isn't going shopping. There's probably something heavy in it and hard, so that if necessary she can clout an assailant or anarchist who might waylay her. Or maybe she does not feel properly dressed for the street without something like a handbag. And I can understand that. For me it's a pipe, and having a pen in the breast pocket of my shirt. Because without writing equipment on him, a man is naked. The hat in that pistachio ice cream colour is simply for happiness.

Se topi berwarna es pistuk, in colonial Malay.

A language that still wakes up faster than proper English. Because it's easier. And goes well with the morning coffee and a smoke, aside from letting me put up a wall between myself and the world at that hour.

I look forward to seeing her in the morning.

Tromp, tromp, tromp.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2020


When street people need money, irrespective of whether you have any to spare or not, you should invest the exchange with a certain amount of dignity and decorum. "Good evening, here you are, be well." Or "so sorry, I'm quite strapped". Because I tend to give out the odd dollar bill here and there, I tend to wander around the neighborhood circuitously so as not to feel too imposed upon. Each pipe smoke means a walk. Head uphill first (good for the damned leg), then go across one or two blocks, back down a few, and over back to my own street.

There are four dysfunctional individuals I tend to encounter regularly, though not necessarily every day. So at two or three dollars per day, it's definitely affordable. Especially because I do not frequent or even patronize most bars, brothels, or Starbucks establishments.

Well, occasionally a bar. There's a bar in Chinatown where my friend the bookseller and myself would head to once a week for cocktails and bad singing (karaoke), though for over a year I've abstained because alcohol interacts badly with the medicine I'm taking. On the whole I approve of daemon rum, though not those other two.

We still go there; I have hot water instead of whiskey.

This evening's final smoke cost me nearly twenty dollars. I'll leave you in the dark as to how much of that was charitable and how much was ice-cream.
Ice-cream, of course, is an essential supply.

Especially good after a pipe.

Smoked the Amphora bulldog, filled with mostly Virginias, touch of Doblone D'Oro rubbed-in. Exquisite. Didn't run into the whacked out dingo who occasionally floats through the neighborhood, or the angry drunk I will not and cannot talk to. The man who looks like a lost Taoist from the movies was in front of the Korean restaurant looking despondent. He's quiet and well-mannered, and I hope they feed him. As far as I know he doesn't smoke or drink, but other than that he's completely loopy.

The old bald black gentleman who never talks had already gotten money earlier. I see him on the intersection very often. He's been here for decades now. He reads a lot, but he's absolutely not a conversationalist, and attempting to engage him in a discussion would be traumatizing.
When I had wished him 'good morning', he smiled a bit.
That was during pipe no. 2.

I smoked four pipes today. Only ran into three street people.
Spent altogether more than eight hours reading.
So it's been a very good day.


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