Wednesday, September 23, 2020


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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