Wednesday, September 30, 2020


On the way back from Marin three years ago, in Autumn, I realized that it had been too long since I prepared a casserole with typical Canto cured meats. And I remembered a business that has been in operation in Chinatown since Noah landed the ark. Which was in 1856.
Mow Lee. They cure meat. Chicken, duck, pork. Solid products.

774 Commercial Street,
San Francisco, CA 94108

Lap cheung, Chinese bacon, and interesting cuts of meat. Good winter food, traditional around New Year, as well as at the beginning of Fall. These things add flavour and substance to stews, clay pot dishes, and slow steamed dishes for over rice.

Commercial Street 襟美慎街

Meats cured in soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, star anise, and Prague powder. The easiest intro to such products is 蒸臘肉飯 ('jing laap yiuk faan'); steamed pork belly meat. Rinse the pork belly and steam for about twenty minutes with a little sliced ginger, then add it to the rice during the final fifteen minutes or so to lend fragrance. Simple. Good.

Cured pork belly is available at nearly every general grocery store along Stockton Street, as is its sister product Chinese Sausage. But why not buy a locally produced home-town version? Choose the strip that looks shiny and plump, nicely streaked. If you can, sniff it.
When buying Chinese sausage (臘腸 'laap cheung'), be aware that many brands nowadays use artificial casings, which are better stripped off prior to cooking, much like the casings on many Western sausages.

Vegetables can be also jazzed up with cured pork belly or laap cheung, or any of the other meats, especially duck thigh. Preserved chicken really should be steamed a little bit longer in my experience.

Mow Lee (the green shop front) is around the corner from the Eastern Bakery (東亞餅家 'tung ngaa bing kaa'), which is on Grant Avenue. Also a good place to shop. Famous for their mooncakes (now is the season!), pineapple buns, and the best coffee crunch cake.
Plus a full array of the usual Chinese filled biscuits.

Yes, this is an unabashed plug for two of the business which I really want to survive into the post-pandemic future. I rely on such places, and they do good stuff.

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As I thought it would be, that wasn't a debate, that was two old men having a screaming match over a tuna salad sandwich. During which one of them vommitted non-stop.

The international press and the world were disgusted.
Transfixed, yes, but repulsed.

The clear winners were the proud boys and Putin.

No, I didn't watch. Whenever I hear Trump speak it sickens me. Which is pretty much the same reaction I have nowadays whenever the loathsome cretins who support him speak. What would really benefit my equilibrium would be if Trump, McConnell, Graham, all of Donald Trump's loathsome offspring including the illegitimate ones, every Republican senator and governor, and all of America's fundamentalist Christian preachers, were to stroke out, shit themselves, convulse, and die, in public.

One of my Facebook buddies cogently remarked: "Debating Donald Trump is like playing chess with a Pigeon. He just knocks down all the pieces and then shits all over the board."
[William P.F. Sr.]

If you support Trump, you probably kick puppies and think tuna salad on wonder bread is the acme of man's achievement. Plus you voluntarily live in an all-white community, where even the token Jews are Uncle Toms, and the Chinese Restaurant serves multiple variations on Sweet'n Sour Pork, General Joe's Chicken, and Tuna Casserole with canned fruits.

America, that was goddamned effing disgraceful.
Please be ashamed of yourself.

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Went over the hill to Chinatown for no reason yesterday, just to wander around. It's so quiet now. Of course it didn't used to be like that. My barber is closed, Doctor Tsang's dispensary too. On Waverly a few restaurants have outdoor seating, six feet apart. And they were relatively busy. In the past I would have gone to a particular one at least twice a month. The food is good, it's very clean, nice. The woman who works there understands my Cantonese, and is friendly-distant. Doesn't ask prying questions. I like her, and I like the fact that she accepts me on my own terms, recognizing that while I am not socially sparkling, I do have civilized qualities.
As I said, good food. And Hong Kong milk tea.
A bottle of Sriracha on every table.
Looking uphill from Clay and Grant.

This time I didn't go. It's not the same. I want to sit inside, dawdle over my beverage, fill my pipe while waiting for the food, and head out afterwards to light up. It would seem strange to have a smoke on Waverly now, with no clear division between "dining room" and the outside smoking environment. It seems "wrong', somehow.

Hurriedly downing a meal outdoors, while too far away to casually listen to other people, and too socially "distanted" to even observe the interactions between folks eating together, seems a recipe for disappointment. It decontextualizes the restaurant experience. It's not just about food. But I have no one to eat with, so it would necessarily become only about food.

Animals eat by themselves in the outdoors.
Humans need a pretense of society.

Besides, there is no point in choosing to be by oneself if it isn't really a choice.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Pursuant the recent heat wave here in SF, a reader reacted to my angry squawk on this blog by commenting: "Heading into a cool spell in Boston at the moment. Doesn't matter, I'm an old spinster and I couldn't give a good goddamn what these nasty self-described "Massholes" get up to down in the streets of Somerville. I'm perfectly content to sit at my computer, type up submissions to The Sewanee Review, admonish my cats, chain-smoke Marlboro Lights, and sip on a pitcher of French 75."

Which paints a mental picture.

Please note that I have substituted a typewriter for the computer in the illustration above. It is what came to mind. Many years ago when I lived in Oakland my downstairs neighbor remarked that my typing late at night made the entire building shake. My strongly worded letters to the editor were keeping him awake. Which was their only effect.
So I modified my habits.

The Sewanee Review is one of America's longest published journals, coming out quarterly, containing fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. Founded in 1892, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Remarkably, it does not endorse a pitcher of French 75 as creative juice.
Which is probably just an oversight.

Le "Soixante Quinze"

Six parts Champagne
two parts gin
One part fresh lemon juice
One part simple syrup

Garnish with a lemon twist

An old friend lives in the same part of the country as the spinster identifying herself as 'Lady Ignatia J. Reilly'.

He spends his days in his jumbled library cum study at the top of an old building, under the rickety ramshackle roof, which gave way because of the snow a few years ago and needed to be tarped off, smoking his pipes and playing with numbers, while his lady companion utilizes the rest of the house and occasionally makes social appearances. To the best of my knowledge he may never have tried the French 75 cocktail, being in the main a spartan tee-totaller when he isn't swilling Scotch.

I myself have never had it either.
But now I'm curious.

It shows up in the movie 'Casablanca', and seems to be associated primarily with cigarette smokers. John Wayne (Camels), Humphrey Bogart (Chesterfield), and Tenneseee Williams (probably Lucky Strike).

"Heading into a cool spell in Boston at the moment. Doesn't matter, I'm an old spinster and I couldn't give a good goddamn what these nasty self-described "Massholes" get up to down in the streets of Somerville. I'm perfectly content to sit at my computer, type up submissions to The Sewanee Review, admonish my cats, chain-smoke Marlboro Lights, and sip on a pitcher of French 75."

A while back, as an exercise in off the wall humour, I persuaded several bartenders to learn how to mix up a cocktail I had invented, the Henry Darger: Two ounces Bourbon, a Maraschino cherry or a lemon twist, and a dash of grenadine for colour. Over icecubes in a highball glass. Squirt of ginger ale. Two or three drops of bitters optional. It's very refreshing on a hot day. 
A few of them may remember the recipe.

I do not have cats.
But I could.

If you're going to drink cocktails instead of a shot and a splash, you cannot smoke a pipe. Unless you are taking the drink outside, and even then it's unhandy. My preferred smoke is a pipe, usually filled with Virginia mixtures or medium flakes, sometimes when I'm feeling ornery a bowlful of Carter Hall, which is an old codger blend of venerable antecedents.

I'll need to buy some more.
The jar is empty.


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By eight o'Clock yesterday evening the temperature had dropped nearly thirty degrees to below seventy Fahrenheit in San Francisco. In consequence of which, normal life was again possible. Indeed, my legs still hurt like you wouldn't believe, but a walk with a pipe while growling at night-time kiddiewinkies had become a very real prospect.

[As mentioned in a previous post, the combination of heat and medications prescribed by my doctor is not good; severe oedema in the lower extremities, even swelling in my arms, and something that everyone taking Amlodipine Besylate is probably familiar with, crippling pain in the upper back right near the shoulder blades, shooting into every part of the shoulder. Which made this past weekend at work totally excrutiating. The boss is a young vibrant gentleman of mid seventies, who seriously believes that because he can do it, everyone can.
Those who can't are malingering and lazy.]

After a cup of strong tea I headed out to swear at people with dogs.
There's poo everywhere. Dammit! Pick up after Fido!
And wear your damned masks.

A pipe for growling.

There are times when I feel as young as my apartment mate, who still looks like she's in her early thirties (unless you are good at gauging Cantonese people's ages, in which case maybe mid-forties), and seems to be always full of vim and vigour, except if she hasn't eaten in more than four hours and her blood-sugar is low. For a Caucasian man in middle age (myself) the equivalent of vim and vigour is piss and vinegar, and I do not need to eat breakfast or lunch till eight hours after I get up, what with having a weird metabolism, as do many bachelors.

I am, often, flabberghasted that she puts up with me.

One factor which probably contributes to that is my stuffed animals, as well as my extreme patience with the stuffed animals that live on her side of the apartment, many of which do not always treat me with the respect I deserve. But the main factor is that she's so Asperger that many of my more irritating quirks, and episodes of bad temper, go right past her. What would make other people ask "hey, is something bothering you?", is something she never even notices. Which is quite as it should be. I am frequently grouchy and irritable.
But I do not want people whom I care about to be worried by that.
And if I'm in pain, I am less likely to want any sympathy.

So I am damned well ecstatic that she was completely oblivious to my being in agony because of the hot weather. Well, nearly oblivious. She knew something was not right. But wasn't aware of what, or how bad it was.

When she came home she brought food to share.
Which was extemely kind of her.

[Left to my own devices it would have been just Cheezits and icecream.
Cooking means exertion and heat.]

In that regard she is blessed. Not picking up on clues makes dealing with others' unhappiness easier. The idea of anyone else hurting or in deprivation is heartbreaking to her, but she does not know exactly how close it comes, all around her, every day.
There are many silent people in this city.

[She volunteers at charitable organizations that provide food for the elderly and people who are invalids. Because she is a thoughtful and caring person. But she is shy and unfriendly, and finds dealing with people hard.]

My Aspergers is far milder, I can be more aware.
Day dreams and denialism are my strategies.
Oh, and grouchy social distancing.


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Monday, September 28, 2020


It is presently ninety five, ninety six degrees Fahrenheit outside. Warmer than yesterday. And where I work (today I'm off) is apparently the same. So I'm fervently hoping heat prostration strikes some of the people in that neighborhood. Seeing as I am a mean person, whose discomfort because of heat while taking medications prescribed to keep me alive is extreme to the point of constant agony at these temperatures. And they're Trumpites.

Beta blockers, heart medications, blood pressure pills.
My legs feel swollen and dropsical.

North Beach, San Francisco, in early July.

While out having a short smoke a fellow I knew passed by. Slowly, almost collapsing.

"Terlalu panas hari ini."

"Panas sekali."

[Amsterdam Dutch for "lovely weather we're having, isn't it?" "Indeed, California has a splendid climate, so much better than New Hampshire or Connecticut." "Verily."]

"Oh lihat, ada selelaki yang telanjang."

My body temperature ranges between 96.5 and 97.2. Amsterdam at this time is high fifties to low sixties. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Perfect for a walk with a pipe.

This is a pipe.

Both of us are used to colder climes.
As is the lelaki yang telanjang.

Can't run around in my underwear, because in this heat I damned well can't run, barely even stumble, and I live with someone. My apartment mate would be shocked.
I feel like crap, but I look decent.


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As an equitable and tolerant sort, strong in my conviction that what's good for the goose is good for the gander, this blogger firmly believes that during hot weather especially women should feel free to wear comfortably baggy boxer shorts and wife beaters (A-shirts) as both inner and, if necessary, outer, wear.
I know that they don't have dangly bits.
But everybody needs ventilation.

Tidy whities, OR form fitting cotton panties, fail in that regard. I myself have avoided such garments for decades now, and am a better man for it. You will be too. Woman.
A better woman.

Tidy whities and the female equivalent lead to fungus, itch, and discomfort. Especially during hot weather. Such as we're having now.

Fortunately many brands of boxers come with a button halfway down the gap, so that you can be modest and not flash, although when you're in a hurry finding that button may prove frustrating. Which teaches you not to rush things. Jolly good advice in any case.
Take your time, plan ahead, make sure someone is covering your shift or the front desk, and excuse yourself.

Boxers, unfortunately, are lousy for keeping in the baby powder or talcum. It will sort of trickle down your legs. But you can live with that. The trails may help you find your way back home, just a thought, or let a search party locate you in the wilderness. Look on the bright side.

And don't forget to hydrate properly.

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Sunday, September 27, 2020


When I was younger, like many people I thought that the worst possible Republican president was Richard Milhouse Nixon. I may have been way off mark there, but Tricky Dick was what made me distrust, and rightfully, the Republicans even before I could vote. He was the kind of "leader" no country should be "blessed" with, a thoroughly despicable piece of work, and we should piss on his grave.

I may have overestimated the Republican appetite for evil.
By an enormous margin.
Dick Pic

The intervening years have abundantly shown that we can do worse. Much, much worse.

Even Nixon would find the current incumbent repulsive. Yet, surprisingly, there are people who will happily vote for him, NOT because he is capable, NOT because he has principles they admire, but strictly because he represents the absolute worst in human nature, and they can identify with precisely that. It speaks to them. Their fears, pettiness, greed, mean-spirited racism and hatred for everyone and everything different, and small-minded values.

They and their incumbent are a disease.
We're in the middle of a pandemic.

Many graves to piss on.

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This blogger is not a fan of Marketing Departments, having listened to overmuch "we saved the world (and magically blessed this thing)" poofle from college graduates earning a lot of money and valuing themselves highly, as well as having seen once proud products brought low, and virtually destroyed, by getting a 'make-over' to modernize and streamline them and their brand, so that it is suitable for a younger hipper audience.

Please imagine this product with the old fashioned art-nouveau package it once had.
Khirurg Filters

At this point their market share is virtually nil.
It's a miserable state of affairs indeed.
They aren't even exported!

Rare Mahorka and Crimean Gavniyok, king size.
But please, call it 'comrade length'.
Excellent quality.

Ask for them by name.

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Saturday, September 26, 2020


On my way back from the bus the other day a near-naked person crossed my path. Pants nearly falling off, underpants very low slung, no shoes, no upper body garments. But the first thing I noticed was no mask. And that, of course, bothered me. Stroling around (stumbling around) in a raggedy bare-ass state is one thing, but not having a mask on is irresponsible.
And it shows a flaw in one's self respect.

Good muscles, though. Not scrawny. So probably on drugs.

On a warm evening, there's nothing like the smell of fresh asfalt, car exhaust, and sweaty man back to make one feel riotously alive.

Not me, of course. I'm more refined. But I'd smoke the cigarettes, or cary a pack on me at all times. As a reflection of my bad boy self-image.

This cigarette was inspired by the movie Valley Of The Dolls, which entirely unwillingly I've now seen nearly ten times -- my apartment mate keeps playing it, she's backslid something fierce, it's an addiction, I thought she was over that garbage -- as well as the bars where some of my friends would hang out before Covid 19. Two of which had smoking patios out back.
With ashtrays. And gay banter.

Sometimes I wish she was still hanging out with Wheelie Boy. I get to hear about her job and watch Valley Of The Dolls. Someone else needs to enjoy that.

If I ever start dating again, the woman in question will need to be warned about the apartment mate. Which could prove interesting. She would probably get along quite well with the stuffed critters, who are on the whole very accepting.

But the turkey vulture's favourite movie is also Valley Of The Dolls.
And he's gender-ambivalent. Rather confused.
"Motherly", with no morals.


There's an education here. Free for the taking.
And a grilled cheese sandwich.

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Friday, September 25, 2020


The raccoons in Golden Gate Park have eaten the hobos, and are now importuning upstanding folk for handouts. And to this blogger it very much seems advisable to give them that. They're clean, can't do drugs, and are possibly future upstanding citizens in this great metropolis.

Photo by Marc Estoque
Article: Hello, human!

Kid, do you have a bag of crispy nibbles? Go ahead, share it! It's the good Christian thing to do.

You should probably blow your entire paycheck on raccoon treats, young man, because making friends with our less blessed furry and rabid fellow Americans will broaden your perspective and teach you about reality. Brutal, harsh reality, that has these sweet criminal looking furbabies desperate for Ripple or Lancers to soften the blows of urban life.
They've got hands, soon they'll have tools and utensils.
And, dare we hope, responsible jobs.
Self respect.

Raccoons are often unobtrusive and responsible fellow citizens, as is made clear in the following examples:

Independent minded
Midnight snack
Something familiar
The noodly yumminess
Going downtown

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Thursday, September 24, 2020


For some reason we have four nearly full buckets of icecream in the refrigerator. FOUR! This isn't a sanitarium for insulin deniers, fercrapsakes! It is possible that my apartment mate may be either substituting icecream for the bacon she does not much eat -- easier and spoonable, no hot spitting fat or greasy kitchen tissues required -- or she's trying to kill me.
As per the doctor last year I am "borderline diabetic" and should watch it.
But the cardialogist said that was an exageration.

Both men are Chinese Americans.

But one of them is only a few feet away from the diabetes department (糖尿病科 'tong niu peng fo') at CHSF. It may skew his perspective a bit. Many folks in C'town end up with diabetes.
And it must be mentioned that everybody there loves pastries.
Over half a dozen bakeries within three blocks.
An easy walk from his office.

Unfortunately, there is almost nowhere to enjoy a pipe indoors. After a delicious pastry. While still dawdling over one's hot cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea (港式奶茶 'gong sik naai cha').

Generally speaking, the laws against indoor smoking in places catering to the public probably please the distaff side AND my primary care physician to an unseemly degree. "No matter", they probably think, "that all the 'uncles' are outside freezing their 'donkeys' off and catching pneumonia, typhus, and the common cold; the air in here smells CLEAN!"

Meanwhile, Ah Sook (阿叔) is outside coughing his lungs out. Sucked down his Marlboro too fast, because he just stepped out and left his coat over the back of the chair, it's raining, there's a bitter wind, and night is falling. And he's just wearing a damned tee-shirt and flip-flops!

That seldom happens to me. Even in summer, when it's cold in SF. Seeing as I perforce must dress for the outdoors; it's a frigid wilderness out there.
A pipe takes a lot longer.

During Covid times I make my own strong milk tea, under the influence of which I recently paid off a frightening amount of my remaining hospital bill from last year when my apendix exploded and needed excision, suctioning, and massive medications to keep infection at bay. Which was an exciting adventure, oh boy, and I felt no need to smoke until several days later.
A complete waste, because the warm weather had started.

Often I can tell that other members of the Ah Sook fraternity envy me my warm clothing, my equitable temper, my William Faulkneresque image (福克納式嘅風格 'fuk haak naap sik ge fung gaak'), and my plurality of handsome briar pipes.
I'm swilling more milk tea than ever.
But consuming far less sugar.
Except for ice cream.


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Chance research on the internet ("Is Mitch McConnell a degenerate"? "How damn' stupid is our president?") brought me to a youtube music video which I forwarded to a coworker a long time ago, which, to my mind, exemplifies what this modern age is all about. and I should mention that since my apartment mate received her new DVD of Valley Of The Dolls, I have suffered through multiple renditions of the worst lyrics ever. So I know music.

This video is "better":



My coworker was not ecstatic. As has often been the case when my sense of humour and his did not coincide. He is Venn-diagramatically impaired.

My apartment mate loves the over-the-top acting and rock-bottom writing of Valley Of The Dolls. In which she betrays a great similarity to some of the bitchy queens I know. It is NOT a great movie. And not intentionally campy, which makes it a classic of the queen gentre.
She knows it by heart. All the damned lyrics.


Long ago, before Covid, a good friend and I would meet every Tuesday night after he got off work for drinks at three different venues, the last one being a karaoke joint where a majority of the regulars were Cantonese gentlemen. Given that I am somewhat conversationally able in Cantonese, I enjoyed it immensely, despite neither singing nor imbibing (no alcohol). He would grow despondent over the fate of the world with so much horrid taste abounding. As you would expect. Especially when young intoxicated Caucasians got up to attempt their favourite rap ballad, Elton John classic, or even heaven-forefend and gottenyu, The Eagles.
Not the Eagles, man, I've had a long day and I hate the Eagles!

I think he'd loathe Bunga Bunga.

As a demonstration of spoken Cantonese, and because it's such a useful sentence, herewith the translation of "my hovercraft is full of eels". Memorize it, it may save your life.


我嘅隻氣墊船裝滿晒鱔 ('ngo ge jek hei din suen jong mun sai sin'). 我 ('ngo') means 'I' or 'me'. 嘅 ('ge') is used as the possessive in Cantonese, but is not really necessary in this sentence. 隻 ('jek') is a classifier (counting word) for animals, utentsils, and vessels. 氣墊船 ('hei din suen') means hovercraft. 裝 ('jong') is the verb to wear, put on, or fill, or contextually 'filled', 'has been filled'. 滿晒 ('mun sai') is 'full entirely', and note that 晒 ('sai') is, again, strictly Cantonese usage (completely, all, very much, extremely). 鱔 ('sin') are eels; usually the Asian Swamp Eel (Monopterus albus), often reared in rice paddies, and absolutely delicious with garlic, ginger, rice wine, and black bean sauce, or cooked with Thai curry pastes.

炒鳝糊 ('chaau sin wu'): sautéed eel in sauce.
蒜頭豆豉蒸鱔 ('suen tau dau-si jing sin'): garlic and black bean sauce steamed eel.
干煸鳝魚 ('gon pin sin yü'): dry-braised eel with peppers.
氣炸脆鱔 ('hei jaa cheui sin'): crispy batter-fried eel.
花錦鱔稿 ('faa gam sin gou'): braised eel chunks with sauce.
韭黃炒鱔糊 ('gaau wong chaau sin wu'): Stir-fried eel with chives.
豉汁鱔 ('si jap sin'): black-bean sauce eel.

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It should not surprise anyone that I am fond of the streets in my neighborhood, including the one that runs past the apartment building where I live. and though the neighborhood has changed over time, I am still here after more than two decades. For the mobile types in San Francisco, that would seem an awful long time. And many of them have moved out in the past half year.

The city is currently not what they were promised.
For long time residents it's just fine.
Getting better, in fact.
Auntie With The Pistachio Ice Cream Hued Hat lives one block away, Grouchy Uncle With The Sun Glasses is way beyond Pacific Street I think. Secret Cigarette Smoking Auntie is also a block away. Two of them I see on a daily basis when having my first pipe of the day, the third sometimes in the afternoon around tea time, at least half a block from her front door. I don't actually know them -- in fact I only know the name of one of them -- but they are familiar faces, and we say "hi" to each other. Shades Uncle does not say anything, maybe he doesn't speak Cantonese or is painfully shy (that would explain the glasses).

It's much the same for my non-Canto neighbors. Bad Haircut Dude is at the end of the block, Fertile Couple are two buildings over, Beer Drinking Yutz is across the street and further uphill. Again, mostly names unknown.

A quiet neighborhood. The bars down on Polk Street nearby are also mostly quiet now.

The perfect area for a walk with a pipe.
After that first cup of coffee.
When I got home, the contractors working on the building next door were playing mariachi music.
Softly. The only sign of life.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2020


A gentleman on Facebook posted a picture of his evening's planned entertainment in a severe Scandinavian environment. Spare rectangular furniture arrangement, cold northern late afternoon sunlight. Along with tools for tobacco usage and an alcoholic beverage.Which is a bottle of an akvavit (Markens Grøde) distilled from potatoes, caraway, fennel, leeks, rowanberries and Oloroso sherry by De Lysholmske Brenneri & Destillasjonsfabrikker.

So far, so good. This blogger himself indulges in both of those fine virtues for which the tools of proper enjoyment are shown. Tobacco usage fairly regularly, alcoholic libations now only in the mind, seeing as they might interact badly with some medications. Alas.

Markens Grøde was ALSO the name of an unbearably depressing novel by Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun, about subsistence farming, rural conditions, infanticide, and hypocrisy.
It is stark and meaningful.

But the liquor is pictured, not the book.

The tobacco is one of which I approve. As is the pipe. It is a Stanwell, but not the shape shown above, that being a Stanwell I myself own.

What role does brennevin play in all this? Painkiller? Dissolver of an overhelming feeling of weltschmerz, existenzangst, identitätskrise, gicht, and zweifelhaft?

I am curious about the booze. To my knowledge, it is not available locally, although I haven't visited the Jug Shop a few blocks away since pre-Christmas season a while ago.

There's something about the light and climate in Northern Europe that leads to anomie and social distancing, a cold silvery light. If that weren't enough, all those countries have also developed fish products to ensure that people stay apart.
Tobacco, of course, is also perfect for that purpose.
And the flake in question is splendid.
It's light and sprightly.


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When I was a child we moved to the Netherlands, and I lived there till my very late teens, returning to the United States for college. Which is where I've been ever since, except for trips elsewhere. The town where we lived was Valkenswaard, a pleasant municipality near the Belgian border, surrounded by fields, forests, and peat. Potato country. Vincent Van Gogh is from that same area.

Valkenswaard had two decent tobacconists. A pretentious place next to Boekhandel Priem, the local bookstore. And a more friendly place run by an older man with gravitas and good taste.

Which is where I bought the pipe below.

It's one of the few tangible things I brought with me from that place and that time.
My tobacco of preference has changed considerably since high school, but I still enjoy smoking a pipe because it reminds me of so much, much of which is Valkenswaardian in tone.

Many of my tastes, attitudes, and ideas are in some ways formed by that pleasant environment, augmented by the library my parents brought with them from the States. Underneath the modern semi-sophisticated urbanite veneer, I am still a small-town raging liberal who reads too much.

Though I sometimes miss Valkenswaard, I do not think I could go back and live there again. There is too much here in America, where my kin had stronger roots, than there. And I would miss Chinatown, where I like to hang out, which has much the same small town feel to it. Plus Hong Kong Milk Tea, grocery stores with all the right things, restaurants where they know me, and many people who recognize me and say 'hi'.

At some point I'll take a trip back to the towns of North Brabant (and Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Naarden) and Flanders, as I've done in the past. Which is always enjoyable, but about three or four weeks is all I can bear of the Dutch. Among the things I usually do when there is purchase Dutch cigars, second hand books -- because Dutch language literature is hard to find here -- and eat lots of Indonesian and Chinese food. Indonesian because the Netherlands has a splendid sampling of that. Chinese because it's fun to staggeringly surprise restaurant staff by speaking Cantonese AND have something that isn't deep-fried.

Under present circumstances (Covid), sitting on a cafe terrace with a hot cup (coffee or tea), a cheroot (Glorie van Java OR Sumatra tuitknak), and a copy of the Den Haag or Amsterdam newspapers isn't doable. and Americans aren't welcome in most of the world, because of our ridiculous and infantile approach to facemasks, infection, and pandemics.

But eventually we'll be allowed there again.
Not all of us are dangerous.
Or mad.

Had some Astleys No. 109 Medium Flake while walking in the pipe pictured above. In case you were wondering. It's an "Autumnal" pipe tobacco.
Very reverie inducing.


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Tuesday, September 22, 2020


At the restaurant where I worked years ago I was often asked to explain things to Japanese customers. In their language. Because I spoke Cantonese.
Which is obviously the same. Dammit.

So I'd explain everything in English.

Which worked. Of course.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this to the Chinese I know.
There has never been a context in which it could come up.

Yes, we do talk about food.

Food is the common denominator.

Other things discussed:
Movies. Are you married? Hong Kong. Whiskey or Brandy. Medical issues. The weather. The movie "Valley Of The Dolls" (just one person). Caligraphy. Schools. The neighborhood.
Milk tea. Herbal medicines. Bakeries. Work. Where are you going now?
Making deposits (at my bank), and "is the bus finally coming?"

Sex, religion, and politics do not get mentioned.

It's all rather mundane. Normal life.

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A number of people I know are celebrating Hobbits AND the beginnging of a Jewish new year (Rosh Hashana was last week, Yom Kippur is five days hence), as well as finally putting their summer whites (socks, gloves) and straw boaters in the closet for the rest of the year. As well as the beginning of Autumn, and the advent of "damned well everything pumpkin spice or else".
I am not in a tizzy over any of that.

In three weeks it will be my birthday. And I do not intend to get much worked-up about that either.

Right at this moment I'm having my afternoon tea. Strong, with milk and sugar. In a short while there will be a walk, with a pipe, along quiet streets.
That is all the giddiness I need.
Tea and a late afternoon smoke are far more important than many other things. They are a way of maintaining the social order and showing that one has standards. Quite unlike that horrid music coming from an apartment two buildings over, which demonstrates more than anything else that the occupant there is a low-browed deviant with coarse tastes and no moral fibre whatsoever.
Distinctly audible are verbs of intercourse.

My father's side of the family often made a pot at tea-time, and naturally I fell into the habit also. Though years ago I discovered that there was more to tea than just common black tea. There is an enormous range of semi-fermented teas, green tea, and even white tea (so-called because it has been delicately handled after plucking, and the leaf fuzz still adheres). All of these are all-day beverages, but mid to late afternoon is more suited to a strong British style cup.

A snack or cookie is desirable.
Not essential.

I feel absolutely certain that if the person two buildings over is having refreshments at the moment, they are NOT tea and a baked item, but watery American beer and perhaps something crispy salty greasy from a bag.

He really has horrible taste in music.
And probably much else.


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In yet one more exercise in pointlessness, the interweb has decided that today is "Hobbit Day". It being Bilbo Baggins birthday or some such idiocy. So pipesmokers on various forums are posting selfies with their long-stemmed Hobbit-like pipes. 
As a celebration of fictional cutesy-poo, this is irritating but harmless.

[In further reference to which, please see: Curiosity]

I tried reading Lord Of The Rings. Failed. Got through the first volume, found it pointless, got most of the way through the second, same result, did not assay the third. Had lost interest. Yeah, okay, I suppose Tolkien was a ruddy genius, fine.

Tolkien himself also smoked a pipe. Many men did at that time. I am not vested in Hobbits, Wizards, or Orcs. Visually the movies are stunning. Precious, but stunning. Best watched with the sound off and heavy metal on the turn table.

There is no indication that Hobbits in his books smoked decent tobacco, and on the whole they seem simple-minded and rather coarse, probably much like he imagined the common people to be. So they probably smoked Saint Bruno Flake.
It's just like them.

Additionally, they seem to have had eating disorders, horrible dress sense, and were borderline alcoholics.

Tolkien probably wanted to be like that, but just couldn't make himself do it.

What Tolkien smoked was Capstan Navy Cut, a medium Virginia flake of hallowed reputation, which during his day was commonly available and often considered somewhat pedestrian. Sometimes he switched to Fribourg & Treyer Gold, and during periodic fits indulged in Gold Block (perfectly horrid) or Erinmore Flake (bizarre, but strangely appealing). I also like Capstan Navy Cut.
It's really a rather decent pipe tobacco.

Sometimes Erinmore.

I have never tried Herzegovina Flor.
A large leafed Oriental tobacco.
Beloved of brutal pederasts.
And probably Hobbits.
Also Gandalf.


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Yesterday to a group of dear friends I made suggestions of a dubious nature. Because they live far elsewhere, they cannot strike me for it. It may have ended their youthful innocence. About time, seeing as they are my years or older. Of an age to lose the dewy freshness of youth for a sadder and more leathery maturity. Speaking of which, I use a soothing lotion on my chin and cheeks when shaving nowadays. And it's amazing how young and springy that skin there looks.
I'm thinking of applying it elsewhere too.


The suggestion was pipe tobacco related, by the way. Some products out there are depravity in the shred. Often undeservedly popular. Degistibus non est disputandem.

The man who smokes the pipe above really needs tweeds and a gun for shooting ptarmigan. Of which there are few or none in this neighborhood at present, but if more young urban techies leave the city, we should import a flock. Or quail.

I'll learn how to cook the beasts.

My apartment mate's response to any new type of animal is often "is it edible?" Which is a potent reflection of her Toishanese heritage. She's also touched with a gentler brush, being exceptionally fond of small creatures as little interactive personalities, with the exception of chihuahuas and tea-cup pets, which she loathes. And I find that admirable. I too wish an end of chihuahuas.
Of which there is a mighty infestation locally.
Quite the nastiest pet there is.
They spread disease.

Spotted four of the little turd-factories on my post coffee walk this morning. If their horrid owner frau had not been keeping an eye on them, I would've dropkicked them into space. Dumped them in the fiery maw of Mount Doom, like Gollum and The Ring. The precious, the precious. Look into the eyes of a chihuahua and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.
They are the only mammal with the soul of a fish.

Personally, I very much prefer dogs.
They're more engaging.

Smoked more of the Doblone D'Oro on my walk. It's a lovely way to start the day. So old-fashioned. Not too spicy, comforting. A good tobacco for in-between cups of coffee, or while contemplating the decimation of plague-carrying mutant newts.

Red Virginias for the next smoke, plus shave and soothing lotion, and another cup of coffee.


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Monday, September 21, 2020


Conversation during the second walk of the day:

"Why did you give that street person money?!? He should clean himself up and get a job!"

Because if he starves to death while cleaning himself up and finding employment, nobody is one step further ahead.

"But he's probably just going to spend it on booze or drugs!"

Listen, if he can get drunk on two bucks, that's a goldarn victory.
And it might be the best decision he makes today.
BTW, your coffee there cost six bucks.
You could've made it at home.

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At six twenty in the morning one is cognizant of one's limitations. Having woken up an hour earlier, because one needed to pee -- strictly a problem of mature people, because the youthful don't need to do that, one has heard -- and one could not fall asleep again afterwards. It is not the same for the young. They can sleep anywhere, any time. They do some of their best sleeping on the job or in classrooms. Anywhere there are comfortable chair and desks. Plastic body form seating, such as public transit. Hard wooden benches. Literally, anywhere.
One is profoundly jealous.

When one pees, one is usually wide awake. It requires awareness, and one's full conscious attention. Something of which the young may sometimes be incapable.

A meme current on the internet, especially relevant for Miss Mary in Carolina, advises: "Stop buying plastic skeletons for Halloween; they're terrible for the environment. Locally sourced natural skeletons are much better."

And one expects stores to take heed. Trader Joe's? Small enterprises, maybe! 
Take the unvaccinated; they're "clean".

It's barely light out. There are no people. From a block away in either direction one can hear the thump of car doors, folks  going off to work.
As I light my pipe, I see the old lady who lives in the downstairs apartment across the street come out and head down to the corner. 
Perhaps she needed to pee.

Or maybe she's getting her Halloween shopping done early.

Several doors up, there is a vagrant with luggage sleeping in a portico. One thinks briefly of alerting early Halloween shoppers "here's one, fresh!" but one's better instincts kick in. Let him lie.

Over on the next block, another sleeping street person.
This one has fewer belongings. Older.

After several blocks, one has made a full circle and returns to one's own front steps. Five motorized meter maids are honking, then writing tickets for vehicles that do not leave. On Monday mornings, there is no parking between seven and nine.

Final puffs. DeBrus Construction is already on site. There will be noise next door, earthquake retro-fitting, an ongoing process all over the city since Loma Prieta two decades ago. Our building didn't need much done and was finished a year ago.
My apartment mate is already up and about.
She too needed to pee.


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