Wednesday, June 30, 2021

TAI NAN STREET

What originally caught my eye was the toko (on the right, near distance). For a dislocated Dutchman, a toko (Indonesian grocery store or general store) is a magnet. Because, of course, if nothing else, there are sambals, spekkoek, and neon-coloured sodas on the premises.

Also very likely speakers of Bahasa Indonesia, but that spans a vast gamut of peoples and differences. There are tokos all over the Netherlands; there were at least three of them in Valkenswaard when I returned to the United States, and when I visited my father in Eindhoven before he passed away, I found one in the nearby winkelcentrum, where I purchased several sambals. Despite having lived for several years in the tropics, my father's wife had not been bitten by the sambal bug. Food at their house lacked a certain oomph.

Whenever I travel to Europe, I bring along sambal.
English food is milder than Dutch food.
And sambal aids digestion.
In Hong Kong, a toko does not really cater to the exiled 'Ollander, but to the Indonesian and Indonesian Chinese individual, resettled, sometimes permanently. Many Hokkiens left the Indies during various waves of anti-Chinese agitation and discrimination.
Some have lived in HK for generations.

Still, a toko also indicates that guleh, kurma, satay, and soto can probably be found not too far off. Ayam kuning, babi panggang, and various spicy salty sour sweet noodle dishes.
And a strong cup of coffee afterwards.

Probably not the typical Dutch cigar; that taste is not universal.
Genever? Maybe not. Not likely in any case.


I'm rather obsessive. I got so absorbed in adding to this painting that I smoked three pipes without even thinking. Missed out on serious enjoyment because of it.
I think it was Astleys 109 for two of those bowls.



Anyhow, it's later than I expected now. I should shower and get dressed, there's stuff I need to buy in Chinatown, and I need something to eat. I'll smoke another pipe afterwards.



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IT'S LIKE MEDICATION; LUNCH IN CHINATOWN

They're still around, and now that things are normalizing, they're open for business again. And it looks like things will straighten out over the next few months. They look a little worn by the past year, but it was exceptionally good to see them again. It's not quite "social life", but it's community. I'm not a social life type of guy. But I like the people at my favourite places.
And it's good to see that they've survived.

The windows are boarded up -- because of loonies and vandals -- but the interior is brightly lit and clean, and there is a range of fresh baked goods in the cases. I ended up sitting at one of the tables and having tomato porkchop over rice (蕃茄豬扒飯 'faan ke chü paa faan'), plus a hot cup of HK milk tea (港式奶茶 'gong sik naai chaai').

Baked goods. Hot chops and rice. Milk tea.
It's like the old days.
Afterwards I made sure to leave a decent tip. That's all I could do. I hope the place continues to survive, and thrives again. It will take a while for all the regulars to return, we haven't had an easy sixteen months financially. The neighborhood is on thinner ground.


Headed down Becket afterwards with a pipe in my mouth. Two nuts. Crossed Jackson Street. One more nut. At the eyeglasses place on the corner of Washington and Wentworth, another one. Stayed on the edge of Portsmouth Square while smoking. Old people playing cards. One gentleman playing a bamboo flute near the playground. Several men playing Chinese chess. Nearly half a dozen raggedy fellows, obviously homeless. And, over half an hour, over a dozen mentally unstable individuals, mostly Caucasian. Two of whom had noisy and spectacular fits. With large amounts of flying garbage. Strolling through the square afterwards I passed the psycho team trying to talk an unshaven very white businessman back into his clothes.
A black mental case walked by totally unaware of the outreach workers.
Elderly men continued with their chess games.


I feel sorry for the old guy whose pack of cigarettes was stolen by one of the crazy people, who after scattering the contents to the four winds picked one off the pavement and lit it.
Some of these white people need the crap smacked out of them.
Either that, or serious medical attention.
A course of pills.



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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

WHERE EYES ARE NOT THE THING

In Manila they look at your clothes, never your eyes. The clothes betray what kind of man you are, as well as the standards you assume. It's superficial, but somewhat accurate. The tourist wearing a tie-dyed tee-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops has perhaps unwittingly dressed like a labourer or a juvenile thug, and will not be treated very well in direct consequence.
Crisp slacks and a clean collared shirt are better than a passport.
Being white alone just doesn't cut it.

Out in the provinces it's a different storey. First because your average mukang puti ("kano") rarely travels away from air-con, secondly because you are an interesting man. Yes you are. What is the weather like where you are from? What is your religion? How much money do you make? And where are you going?

Can you sing?

[It's perfectly all right to NOT hear the questions you do not want to answer. It's warmish at times, cold at other times, not so much rain. Some form of Christianity (or maybe not), heading toward Cebu, and I cannot sing because I'm from Mars.]



I have never been an example of bespoke tailoring. More of a rumpled man. Loose clothing, unfashionable shoes, and non-designer shirts. Clean, neatish, with a faint odour of tobacco and caffeinated hot beverages, rather like your bachelor uncle who is still at Trinity after all these years, working on the phd he will never finish. His ties are soup and spaghetti practical (they won't show the occasional dining mishap unless you really examine them). I rarely wear ties.


I doubt that I could feel comfortable in Central, or Tsimshatsui (Canton Road before Yau Ma Tei). Which isn't were I would want to be anyhow. At expensive shops they look at your clothes; eye contact is far more likely at a bustling grocery store catering to the people who live in the sixteen stories above it and around the corner. Kennedy Town (堅尼地城). Kwun Tong (觀塘). Absolutely NOT Mong Kok (旺角), though that is a fascinating area.


This came to mind because I was outside smoking a rather nice Comoy sandblast, after dark, and I noticed that several people were still dressed as if it had been a warm summer day. This is San Francisco. Tee-shirts, shorts, and sandals are not seasonally appropriate right now, never socially appropriate. And rather silly.

But we're not snobs about it.



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TRUMP RALLY CANCELLED

Trump's planned big fat hate fest on Independence Day in Mobile's USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park has been cancelled, reputedly by the public officials in Mobile, Alabama, over the blatant partisan tenor of the event. Naturally Republicans are outraged. Outraged.

According to rumours, all the usual potentially violent groups are planning to be there anyway to stamp their little hooded feet.

Quite possibly, it was cancelled by mutual agreement. The Trump organization likely couldn't pay the fees up front, and it wouldn't make any money for them. The Republican Party weren't going to foot the bill, no angry fundamentalist preacher could be found as the opening number, and local dignitaries weren't going to cancel their barbecue plans for the weekend.

Maybe the busloads of screaming supportive savages from Texas couldn't read the map?

Hell, any number of possible reasons can be posited.

Including space aliens.

Lizard people.



Besides, flag waving with the confederate banner is just horrendous optics on July the Fourth. Everybody except Trump probably realized that. And there is no local Four Seasons Gardening Supply branch for Rudy Giuliani to prance at, so it was going to be a mostly pointless pit stop anyway. The weather for the fourth in Mobile is predicted to be mid-eighties and humid (bad for suits) with a chance of light rain (someone might melt).



I suggest that Donald Trump spend the hours before his planned orgy in Sarasota that evening overseeing a paintball battle between camouflage garbed True Patriots and Rinos in a cool airconditioned indoor arcade. Red paint versus ... red paint? I'm sure there are luxury boxes at some of those venues in the south supported by strong and sturdy steel frames and bullet proof glass for local officials officiating gladiatorial combat or the hunger games.

Meanwhile, fans planning to be in Mobile can trash the place.
While not wearing masks.
Mah freedums!

Huzzah.




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HE'S ACTUALLY VERY SENSITIVE!

The apartment mate called in sick today. Which meant that I was contemplatively scratching the area of my left kidney when she was on the phone with an office answering machine. Then another one. And then voicing for the turkey vulture (who wants to eat the little girl hamster). Who, I think, will be in trouble most of the day because he's incorrigible and will push envelopes that should not be pushed. Ever.

She's presently asleep in her room hugging an octopus.
Otto

Otto is a remarkably decent fellow, as well as often a voice of reason when things might get out of hand. He lends his moral support to the saner creatures whenever the turkey vulture or the unstable elements on my side try to pull some evil shiznit. No, I cannot figure out why the beasts who live in my quarters seem to be, mostly, insane little anarchists.


Fortunately, very few of them are effective criminals or delinquents.

Which means that I can safely leave during the day without fear that they will burn the building down while I'm away. As indeed I must often be, when the apartment mate is not at work (her and my schedules do not overlap in that regard), as my apartment mate's crucial flaw is that she is a non-smoker, who has allergies worsened by tobacco. Of course when she's away during the day I close her door, open all the windows, and light up. Three or four hours of ventilation plus a pot of muck on the stove chase out all traces of it, and with the kitchen window open at all times, I am reasonably safe.
A pipe smoker

The fuzzy roommates largely support me in this. They figure that if they cover for me, I'll do the same for them, and won't rat them out when they ponce around in her pearls or pajama top.
So today they are a little disappointed. No scope for revelry and out-of-hand behaviours.


Everyone except the turkey vulture, that is.
He'll keep trying to get away with stuff.
He's quite brazen about it too.
Political dissident

The turkey vulture intensely dislikes the octopus. As, naturally, anarchists and rebels always oppose the side of common sense and stability, or rowdy kids feel an urge to trash the classroom when the teacher steps out for a brief mental breakdown.


I shall be stepping out a third time for a stroll soon, with a pipe filled with Cornell & Diehl's 'Red Carpet'. The weather is pleasant, and I should head down to Chinatown for groceries later, before the afternoon wind picks up.

[RED CARPET: an enjoyable broken flake of Red Virginia and a little Perique, of medium strength and pleasing complexity. Earthy, tangy, slightly spicy. It's something that will age very well.  I would recommend it to the nephrologist who was totally heartbroken when McClelland closed down, but I haven't seen him in ages, and I don't like him very much in any case, so it's fine if he remains frustrated and bent out for a few more years.]

Tomorrow I'll reward Otto (the cephalopod) with a cigar for keeping an eye on the unstable elements. Eight dextrous arms covered with suckers are perfect for restraining them when absolutely necessary, but most of the time they are hoisted by their own petards.



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THEIR WOOLY WEATHER

Yesterday morning it rained heavily in Hong Kong. Which, to a Californian, sounds rather nice. We don't get much rain, and the state is tinder-dry. Fire season has started earlier this year, and there have been a few dangerous hot spells. Summer rain in Hong Kong is skirts and windbreaker weather, not cold, and not always gentle. Landslides, mud floods, traffic disasters, and closing of schools, some government buildings, and the stock market.
In contrast, here in San Francisco we've had pleasantly cool fog in the morning and evening, with some remarkably hot weather inland where people are crazy.

It gets greyish. Perhaps the pavement darkens.


Then we read about people in Portland and Texas pulling berserk stuff because of the heat.
Or fireworks accidentally causing grass fires and burning down a house.


Casually we scrape the mildew out of our ears with cunning little scoops, as we are wont to do, and consider that the rest of the country is unbearable, and often insane.

How do people even live there?




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Monday, June 28, 2021

BAMI

Lunch today was something most urban Netherlanders would vaguely recognize, as would also many Indonesians, and none of them would prepare it the same way: Bami (肉麵). Which is not a dish but an ingredient, thick wheat noodles made with egg, often panfried. The most common Dutch version has them panfried with chilipaste, sweet soy sauce, meat scraps, minced onions or scallions, and a fried egg on top. There are many Indonesian versions, often boiled, garnished different ways, cooked by street vendors. It isn't haute cuisine.

In this case it was lamb and fuzzy melon green curry with fresh chilies (in lieu of sambal) over the noodles. With a little garlic and ginger. There should have been a wedge of lime to squeeze over (kasturi or kalamunting, calamansi in Tagalog), but regular Yanqui limes for tequila would have done quite well. There was no lime. Nor lemon. Didn't fruss over it. It tasted fine.

Bami variously flavoured is something I associate with students at the technical university in Eindhoven as well as Dutch Marxists, though I wouldn't eat with the latter group nowadays.


For true blue Americans, it would probably be fine without strong spices or flavours, but instead bacon and ranch dressing added, or, in the Midwest, tomato ketchup. Maybe frank and beans. But I shan't speculate, because my exposure to American food preferences is limited, and broadest where it concerns Chinese restaurant white customers, or Taco Bell.

That said, I miss the hotdog and hamburger places that used to be everywhere in San Francisco, especially during the overlap in eras between unhealthy eating and Sriracha becoming popular. Obviously spiritual people do not eat sausages or ground beef, because of the bad karma involved, and I doubt that they ever touch Sriracha either.

There may be yoga-practitioners dining thoughtfully on kale and tofu all over the city now, getting nutrified in between chakra realignments and chiropractic sessions to cure their childhood traumas brought on by a bourgeois upbringing.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Om baby.
For some reason I cannot fathom, Dutch people like a fried egg on top of many things.
That may be why my apartment mate liked the place the times she's been there.


I didn't have a fried egg on top.
It was just me eating.
As usual.



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HOW CAN THEY EAT THAT? SO UN-AMERICAN!

Several of the most offensive videos on Youtube are foreigners reacting to the concept of eating herring like the Dutch. Not the taste -- they don't actually eat the thing until the end of the clips -- but the idea. Ooh, ick, revolting, weapon of mass destruction, how degenerate.

Once they get over their very Anglo Yank revulsion and try it, most of them like it.

Several of the videos show pickle chips as well as the herring.

I've never had it with pickle chips.

That's rather new.
Dutch "raw" herring is, by Japanese standards, not raw, but a little bit too post-raw. It's cured by shortly after catch being gutted except for the pancreas, which is left in for the enzymes, then dumped in a vat to cure with salt, after which it must be frozen for twenty four hours at least to remove the very minor danger of nematodes. Thus pre-prepped, it can be kept year round, thawed when needed, trimmed, served as pristine virginal fillets, with some chopped onion.

The Japanese cure it less for herring sushi, and don't really like herring sashimi because of the high fat content of a first-year herring.

People raised on American junkfood are intellectually opposed to eat fish because they want everything to have the texture and taste of a bacon cheese burger. Not a good bacon cheese burger, but crap from a five dollar meal place with a clown.

As an innovation, I'll suggest having "raw" herring with a little kimchi, which I think would be a great combo.


Oh wait. You people don't eat that either. Edible vegetables come out of a can and are grey and mushy. Sorry, I forgot.


You can't get Nederlandsche Groene Haring in the United States anyway, because Americans eat everything with cheese, bacon, and limp greasy fries. Or soaked in sugar.



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PAUSEFUL TIMES

Because I am a bachelor whose job is not full-time, my sleep-patterns are a little loose. Last night I left the building for a walk with a pipe long after dark, and returned past midnight. It was foggy, not cold, but quite temperate. Even before Covid there would not have been a place for a cup of HK milk tea open at that hour, but it would have been nice if there were. Interrupting a smoke for a sit down in a well lit establishment, then going out again, relighting, and continuing one's journey in a quiet night? What could be dreamier? It's probably what those two people in the Edward Hopper painting (Nighthawks, 1942) were planning to do.

Actually, in that day and age they could smoke inside.
But there are no ashtrays in the painting.
Seems a dreadful oversight.
A favourite briar

A hot cup of tea might have kept me up all night. Despite having a nap after coffee on coming home from work earlier. Coffee, when it works, is more jolty, with a shorter effective duration. Tea is slower, but works for several hours. What keeps me going at work is tea, but what got me there in the first place was coffee.

Coffee probably had scant effect on the people in the painting I mentioned, because back then coffee in the United States was watery brownish slop, as was common up till the mid-nineties, with many people still prefering that stuff. American tea, of course, is still horrid. For a good strong cup of Heung Kong naai cha, it is necessary to head to a Chinatown bakery or chachanteng. None of which are open past eight or nine in the evening.
But it would be wonderful if they were.

A whole generation of college kids would be able to swot the books in relative peace and quiet, without parents or younger siblings bothering them. "Ms. Lee, how did you end up graduating top of your class?" "I owe it all to caffeine. And beef chow fun, but mostly caffeine."

It's no mistake that coffeeshops and bookstores on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley are open in the evening till ten o'clock or so.

[The year that I read 'Remembrance Of Things Past', 'War And Peace', and Joyce's 'Ulysses' I often smoked my corncob pipes at the Caffè Mediterraneum, rather than my briars, showing that I was by no means an intellectual.]



By the way, what's frequently sold as "masala chai" to yuppie-hipster white people by many chain coffee places in the United States is far too often weak nearly flavourless sweet milky slop that no self-respecting Punjabi taxi-driver or police wallah would touch.
Unless they wanted a brew that might help them sleep.



Never the less, a very pleasant night time jaunt. Stillness. Fog. The Air velvety against the face. And a pipe tobacco with a spicy old-fashioned fragrance (from a natural process, not artificial spritzed-on flavouring). It felt almost English outside.


It's still foggy this morning. I am looking forward to heading out for my first smoke. At this hour there is almost no one out there.



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Sunday, June 27, 2021

THE GIBBONS AND THEIR REWARDS

Everybody has at least one coworker or associate who is a complete idiot, bless them. My apartment mate has several, because she works in the local bureaucracy, but fortunately, and in all honesty, I myself only have one and a quarter. That's an aggragate figure. One whole one, and several tiny fractions of one distributed unevenly all around. But I make up for it by babysitting rightwing morons who occasionally pooh their pants (rhetorically speaking).

The one whole complete idiot refuses to get vaccinated. Almost all of the hospitalizations for Covid now are unvaccinated people, vaccine refusers. But that, apparently, is a conspiracy. He watches youtube videos, he knows. He's a walking duck.

I'm surprised that the rightwing morons haven't talked sense into him.


I largely stayed out of the discussion, because peer-sneer doesn't work at all and he knows all about everything, what with having been part of the original crew of the Ark when Noah sailed down from Outer Space to teach mankind how to build pyramids.


"Humans, build huge symbolic breasts with straight lines out in the dessert. They will serve no actual useful purpose, and suck up your resources for years, besides looking only debatably decorative!"

"Okay..."



In return for doing that, the space aliens taught us about beer and pizza. China didn't get beer and pizza, proving that they have no pyramids and had no space aliens.
That's why you can't trust China. Quod erat demonstrandum.

As is well known. On youtube.



The rightwing moron who is about to retire also believes in space aliens, but his are different from the idiot's aliens. His are scientific and military in nature. Not anal-retentive architects.
I envy my apartment mate; her idiots and morons have little individual cubicles, and can be managed with crime-scene tape and strategically placed donuts. Mine are free range, and donuts would only encourage them.
Seemingly their only constraints are benignly enlarged prostates, weak bladders, and football television. Reality and common sense aren't even in the running.
For crapsakes, no donuts! They don't need sugar!
Please don't feed the monkeys!



One of the bald ones keeps talking about his penis, which the others seemingly enjoy.

These people are good examples of what not to be when I get older.



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LETS DO SOCIAL MEDIA!

This blogger is not the most social animal out there, by a wide margin, but he nevertheless relies on Facebook to keep track of the people he likes, and to find out whether they're still kicking and stirring up sh*t. Because it's good to know.

To that end, I will press 'like' or 'love' under their posts, and I am gratified if they do the same under my occasional statements of truth and beauty. In some ways that's good conversation.
I believe the correct terms for some of my social media activities are "edge lordism", "sh*tposting", and "dank memes".


Recent actual home-made texts (truth and beauty department):

"Feasting on krekers sandwic mentega kacang."

"Free Brittany, one with every purchase, limited time offer, collect the set!"

"I shall henceforth occasionally self-identify as a vampire unicorn. With sparkles".

"Among some octopus species the male achieves "mating" by ripping its reproductive organ off, flinging it at the female, and then swimming away to die. A novel tactic which I recommend for (other) humans. It will require more public swimming pools, however."

"What does FB bring to my attention this morning? Killer Haemorrhoids? The algorithm seems berserk. Unless FB is recommending I research the matter."



As you can see, a feast for the intellect.
There were also plenty of pictures.
So the eyes too.



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Saturday, June 26, 2021

THE BEAST OF DISDAIN

Once they've reached a certain age, cats no longer want any of your tuna, or that slice of pizza you left unattended. They want to discuss Hegelian dialectics, and they'll stare at you angrily, disappointed. They are sad because you sold the two volumes of Hegel you had in your bookcase since the Berkeley years.

What, they seem to say, is ontology meaningless?
Does idealism mean nothing to you?
Have you no soul?
Hast du keinen Geist?


Truth be told, you got the cat because you wanted a companion. Not an intellectual superior who would make you question your existence. The furball is exactly like a highschool smarty-pants you sought to avoid during those final years, and sneers at your lack of a brain.
He knows what you've been hiding from everybody.
You have never read Klopstock!
Pretendeur!

He lies upon the couch looking at you with loathing.


Both my cat and the couch are perfectly imaginary. I have not had either since my time at college. Nor have I delved deeply into Hegel, having discovered that he was too theologically minded early on. Philosophy and religion -- any kind of belief system, really --seem to be at permanent odds; ideology and reality do not mesh. They are mutally ambivalent.


Both the imaginary cat and the fantasy couch are tools.


I actually like cats.



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Friday, June 25, 2021

LUNCH IN GOOD COMPANY: ALONE

They've survived these sixteen months of lockdown, which is good. They're decent people, and the past year has not been the easiest for any Chinatown business. The green grocers have survived, because people need to eat. The dry goods places also. And most of the bakeries. Plus many restaurants, though I fear not all. The place where I had lunch yesterday is a favourite of mine, and for the first time since March of last year I had a meal there.
Only five other tables were occupied; eleven other people.

I've rather missed eating at a chachanteng.

Inside dining is slowly coming back. It looks like not everyone is ready for it yet; there's a marked hesitancy about letting folks let down their masks. Which is understandable, because in a neighborhood with a lot of children not everyone will have been vaccinated, and so far the under twelve contingent is still vulnerable, as are the extremely old and rickety (compromised immune systems).

Plus the Delta variant appears to be more dangerous than previous iterations of Covid, but the white people surrounding the Chinese neighborhood and walking through seem to be blithely unaware of that, believing themselves bulletproof ..... much like Florida, Texas, or Arkansas, where the vaccine-refusing masses are still dropping like flies.
All places with enterprise and confidence.
They're positive! Much winning!
All-American!


Let's revisit the thinking in those very confident states:

"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.
"


"This is a very brilliant enemy. You know, it’s a brilliant enemy. They develop drugs like the antibiotics. You see it. Antibiotics used to solve every problem. Now one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten so brilliant that the antibiotic can’t keep up with it. And they’re constantly trying to come up with a new — people go to a hospital and they catch — they go for a heart operation — that’s no problem, but they end up dying from — from problems. You know the problems I’m talking about. There’s a whole genius to it."


Yeah, I'm not sure what all that actually means. Probably because I don't speak English, what with living in San Francisco and being an atheist liberal and all. But it seems to work for them, and I applaud their fierce rebellion against masks, social distancing, and vaccines.

They're good Christians in the heartland, and Jesus himself will fight the virus for them. They just need to have faith. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

I wish they'd wear their masks.




Lunch was a bitter melon omelette and rice (涼瓜煎蛋飯 'leung gwaa jin daan faan'), with a hot cup of milk tea, followed by a bowlful of C&D's Red Carpet and a stroll to the Embarcadero. The great thing about a chachanteng is that tourists don't understand the food or the concept, and fear being kidnapped for shady purposes, so they seldom enter.
There were none there yesterday.

I fear I am not a pleasant person, and I don't like people much.
Gaggles of tourists particularly not.



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Thursday, June 24, 2021

HABITS OF A REWARDING LIFE

Last night I did what I would advise my apartment mate not to do. In fact, I recommend that no woman of Asian ancestry and ethnicity do it. At least until sanity returns to society. After a brief nap I had a shot of coffee and went out for a long walk through dark streets with my pipe and stout walking stick.
The walking stick is to ensure social distancing. Being white, I do not need to worry that some racist droodge from Antioch or Piedmont will surprise-clobber me, but there's still the nutballs out there. Hence the stick.

The pipe is to lure healthcare professionals desperate for human interaction.
Statements like "you really should quit smoking" are, in a manner of speaking, conversation starters. And most doctors and nurses I know are fascinating intelligent people who would benefit from a random discussion that defensively segued off the subject of tobacco .....

The pipe is an ice-breaker. I fondly imagine that I'll be happily puffing and out of nowhere a doctor or nurse will utter the words "you really should stop smoking, do you know what it does to your arteries", and within moments we will be discussing Indian and Indonesian cuisine, Chinese chachanteng specials, and how the Italians, as well as making fabulous (and healthy) pasta dishes, are the only Westerners besides the Dutch and the Belgians whom I would trust to cook seafood. Whitebread Anglos, not so much. Or at all.


Truth be told, that is much more likely to happen in daylight than darkest night. Which is also when small-boned Asian women should be out strolling with their pipes, rather than on lower Nob Hill after twilight when the only other people out seem to be loud drunken Caucasians.
And why are they all so noisy?!?.


The apartment mate does not smoke. Sadly, she is defective in that regard.


Avoid intoxicated Caucasians; their presence is not rewarding.
Always carry a big stick for adequate social distancing.

Smoke clean tobacco made by a reputable company.
And talk to your doctor. Regularly.


"You really should stop smoking!"


Got back after twelve. It was a full moon last night, and away from Polk Street it was pleasantly quiet. Balmy air, not cold or breezy. Extremely enjoyable. Surprisingly, there were no conversational opportuninies. Why is that?



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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NOODLES, TOMATOES, AND A PORK CHOP

Once you descend the narrow street, the smells of toast, and tomato stews hit you. And you understand why this ramshackle cafe on Mei Lun Street is popular among the neighborhood people. Underneath the tomato scent, beef brisket soup. But you decide that it is too warm to eat hot food, and you amble on, to avoid temptation. Two blocks further something else.
Dried fish. Not strong. Delicate almost. And then, faintly, a ghostly hint of durian.
Maybe you should have stopped for someting stewy with tomatoes?
Perhaps you will. Next time.
Years ago I smelled durian while descending Sacramento Street at two thirty in the morning. So I followed my nose (always a bad idea) to the intersection of Valejo and Stockton, where a small lump of rotten fruit flesh peered up at me from the gutter. Six blocks.
It had sent its sirene aroma quite a distance.


Beef noodle soup with tomatoes is actually delicious on a warm day. So perhaps you should have stopped for a bite. Yes, they use instant noodles -- many restaurants do, it's an accepted local taste -- but made with fresh tomatoes, the result is stellar at a low price.

And, if an insane fit hit you, you might have durian afterwards.
I am intellectually more fond of durian than in reality.
It's one of those things stuck in the mind.
Or, quite often, the nose.


Like stinky tofu, Hong Kong people have a berserk love affair with it which is entirely baffling. Durian is quite delicious if you stop breathing for five minutes to enjoy the suggestion of vanilla pudding or custard, but once it's entered you nostrils it lingers, and hours later might come back to haunt you. So I can't say I enjoy it any more.

But I like introducing innocent people to its charms.

Beef noodle soup with tomatoes is much easier to like, and quite delicious. Nowadays most of my meals involve noodles, sometimes with fresh vegetables including tomatoes, sometimes with a curry broth. Nothing involving long simmered stocks or tamarind, because I'm lazy.
Just stuff thrown together with a careful plan. And chili paste, of course.


Sing Heung Yuen (勝香園) in Sheung Wan is a famous dai pai dong that has a reputation for pretty darn good tomato stew noodle dishes. Typical Hong Kong style, and your choices of meats include everything that you might add at home; luncheon meat, sausages, egg, odd meats, pork chops, chicken wings. And bacon.


"Please allow some time as all food are prepared fresh to order. Apologies for any inconvenience caused."


They also have toast with condensed milk, butter, and kaya.
And hot Coca Cola with lemon and ginger.




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NASTY SPACE HOBBIT

In a development that can only ire sensible people, the animatronic midget from last year will return for another season of Sci-Fi cutesy-poo. I know my friend John O. in Georgia had hoped we saw the last of him last year, along with the orange troll and the evil witch, but nope, sorry, we're doomed. The last two mentioned aren't in the news anymore, which leaves the stage entirely free for Disneyesque overload.
It's like a cat crossed with a teenage juvenile delinquent. Except instead of huffing marijuana and magic mushrooms, this one snarfs the eggs of endangered species, single-handedly setting back interplanetary environmental protection by half a century.

Game of Thrones was bad enough. Though it ended well. I never watched it.
This space toddler saga, through the horrid memes, was a nightmare.
The internet was awash with his infantile smarm.


I would probably have been scarred for life, if I watched the show.


He eats too much, dresses funny, and smells bad.
Probably smokes Captain Black Grape.
The precious, the precious.



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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

DON'T LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT

When I left the house they were hurling deadly insults at each other. When I returned three hours later they were plotting together. The crime they will commit is as yet unknown, but neither one of them is good at keeping their mouth shut. I suspect it's nothing more serious than clopping me over the head and stealing my wallet when I'm asleep.
Reprobates and recidivsts, the both of them.
Heathens, locomoting amuck.
Whatever it is, if these two rapscallions, who are usually mortal enemies, are head in glove with one another, it can only mean trouble.

I had better lock the filing cabinet and hide the gold bullion.

Evi is afoot. Apaw. Aclaw.



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THERE IS NO BAG LIMIT

Breakfast is nicotine, caffeine, and highly refined white sugar. My doctor disrecommends the first and last. Given what the majority of his patients are, that is understandable. It's a client demographic composed, more than half, of elderly Cantonese who smoke like chimneys and congregate in bakeries noshing, as well as swilling several hours old coffee. If they just didn't smoke so much and eat so many pastries they'd probably be twice as old, tall and blonde, and twenty years younger. At least. Coffee is okay. Filled with antioxidants. Healthy.

Of course, they wouldn't swear in Toishanese or play mahjong, so they wouldn't be nearly as loveable, but that's a small price to pay for vibrant good health, such as is exemplified by the joggers who come perilously close when one is out enjoying one's pipe in the morning. Either they're going to knock me over, or I'm going to hit them savagely with a blunt object.

Jogging may be bad for your health. I'm just saying.


I am exactly like that demographic. Except that I'm several years younger, smoke a pipe, prefer milk tea over stale coffee, and am both Caucasian and not Toishanese. I like baked goods.

Oh, and the last time I played mahjong was with a bunch of Filipinas during a three day weekend in Southern California, all day and all night, in between snacking on lumpia and pancit, and getting the very minimum amount of sleep.


"Why do they call it tourist season if you can't shoot them?"
------Comment by a reader of this blog several months ago.


The problem with Chinese bakeries and restaurants is that tourists walk in, don't recognize a single thing, and plaintively ask whether there are Coca Colas and pork buns on the premises. They'll look at stuff, not recognizing very obvious cakes and cookies as, in fact, actual cakes and cookies, and wail about soft drinks and pork buns before leaving disconsolately and heading to the place next door for a repeat performance.

So, to save everyone time and aggravation, I shall propose that every food related business in Chinatown have a refrigeration unit right next to the front door with carbonated beverages and pork buns. As well as egg rolls, pot stickers, and almond cookies. Clearly marked as containing carbonated beverages, pork buns, egg rolls, pot stickers, and almond cookies. Along with signs in Chinesey script stating the prices. Or whether it contains gluten, non-gmo substances, or ethically sourced ingredients.

Soda. Pork bun. Egg roll. Pot sticker. Almond cookie.

That way the tourists won't get in the way, won't bother any of us noshing on our unidentifiable good lord what is that is it even edible we're from Mars (Wisconsin) and our eyes glow in the dark I'm lost pastries (and hours old coffee), and won't clusterfudge in front of the counters, bathrooms, and garbage units, pay up and leave.


Everybody happy, yes?




AFTERWORD

Later today I'm heading over to Chinatown.
Bank. Groceries. Bakery. Milk tea. Pipe.
The tourists are back in town.



TOBACCO INDEX


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MAY CAUSE DIZZINESS!

One of my medications warns that dizziness may ensue, and I should neither stand up too quickly nor operate heavy machinery. Nor, presumably, pilot aircraft. That last was already a given. On the other hand, daily life causes dizziness; just look around you.

Too much caffeine causes dizziness. And getting up to pee when one is asleep should never be done quickly, but calmly, resolutely, and with much rational consideration beforehand.

The older one gets, the more micturation demands thought.

A bathroom is not something to rush into.
Things may cause dizziness, or impair the ability to operate a vehicle, a vessel, or machinery.
Reading specs serve to keep one from smacking oneself in the face with a coffee cup.
Looking through those specs toward walls and floors may cause dizziness.


Both reality and irreality may cause dizziness.

I shall continue to take it every day.

I sneer at your dizziness.



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Monday, June 21, 2021

NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH: HAUNTED BOOKSHOP

Earlier today I fussed with some old corncob pipes. Burley blends sing in cobs. Normally Burley blends, while intellectually delightful, tend to wallop me out of my socks, so I seldom smoke them. They were more popular earlier, up untill the World War. The reason was that Burley was cheap and plentiful, and Virginias were a valuable export crop, or used in the finest cigarettes.
Burley probably kept weights down and waists slim.

Since then I found a tin of Haunted Bookshop I had never finished.
So after lunch (a thick cut chop, which I cooked perfectly), I went outside to shoot varmints and skin confederates, so to speak. Yeehaw, podner, yeehaw.
I was still smacking from the chop.


HAUNTED BOOKSHOP
Blend by Bob Runowski, produced by Cornell & Diehl.
Burley, Kentucky, Perique, and Virginia.

Very earthy, and robust, with minor spice. A strong blend, clean burning. Pungent. Powerful. Peppery and full. Like somebody's root-cellar going up in flames. Spicy, edges of sweetness and late season fruit, slightly bitter.
Smells musty in the tin. Smokes on the heavy side.


My apartment mate, who came home while I was out, was audible in her room after I returned, and said something to the effect of "I'm a squeamish extra small". The strong tobacco affected my hearing. Turns out it wasn't 'squeamish', but 'Swedish'. Clothing related.

Well, she is 'small'. Particularly if you're a Swede.
Scandinavian people tend to be larger.
Why did I hear 'squeamish'?

The nicotine must have whomped me.
Haunted Bookshop is rather good.
Perfect for a corncob.


I have no idea why she's ordering Swedish clothing.
Petite women have wider garb-sourcing.
Good stuff is hard to find.



TOBACCO INDEX


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MENTAL BREAKDOWNS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, AND RUSTY FARM EQUIPMENT; BURLEY

This morning I discovered that I have over twenty corncob pipes and not a single container of sh*tty drugstore tobacco to smoke in them. Nor do I own bib-overalls or a tractor. So I shan't be spending the day "gardening" in the south forty. I've cleaned up all these pipes except for the freehand from decades ago. I might open a tin of something blended by Bob Runowski.
I shall happily suffer the kick in the jaw that Burley blends provide.
Might even indulge in some sweet ice-tea, country style.
While listening to imaginary trains.
There is no banjo.


If the particles are fine enough they'll float in the suspension.


No American whiskey, chicken-fried steak, or pumpkin pie with cool-whip. Nor any country music about Jesus, my pick-up truck, or the jail house. There are no hounds.

I don't think I could pull off "rural American" if you paid me.
But I might wrench myself if I tried.



There are no cicadas on the West Coast. It's the edge of the planet. We are out of tune with the rest of the country. We have murder hornets and tarantula hawks instead. This, truly, is the end of the river, the water all flows backward here. Never get out of the boat.



TOBACCO INDEX


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COOL, DUDE

Last night a friend kvelled about his and his wife's first social event since the pandemic lockdown. Cite: "Vaccinations: Check. Booze: Check. Cool people: Check."
It sounded wonderful, and the photos he posted are lovely.
Of course I wasn't there, because I am not cool.
I take peevish pride in that.


That is to say, I'm on the spectrum, and consequently rather socially uncomfortable, so it's not surprising that I'm rarely invited to events of any kind, and I tend to feel out of my element in such situations. I need to mention this because my birthday is coming up (in roughly four months), and it's totally okay if no one invites me to the party.

Go ahead without me.
I'm cool.




Actually, I've only had birthday parties twice in my life, as a young adult. I was not involved in the planning, they were surprises, which though enjoyable, were not what I intended to do that day. One of them involved lots of chocolate.
I like chocolate.

Thank you, Pauline, Rhonda, and Cara.




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IT'S NOT THE HEAT, IT'S THE MOIST FESTERING ITCH IN FOLDS OF SKIN

A friend in Indonesia reports that it is summer. Specifically: Stockholm: 21°C (70°F). Jakarta: 24°C (75°F). Surakarta: 23°C (73°F), Bandung: 18°C (65°F). He mentioned those four places (one of them is not like the others).

For comparison, I looked at our own weather: Sacramento California: 30°C (86°F). Modesto California 34°C (93°F). Oakland 21°C (70°F). San Francisco 24°C (75°).

Then Europe: Amsterdam: 16°C (61°F). London: 12°C (54°F). Saint Petersburg: 28°C (82°F). Aberdeen: 13°C (56°F).

He also writes: "Tapi ini Korona membara dan hujan kembali turun, apakah Musim Panas? (but Corona is smoldering and it's raining again, what is summer?)"

So maybe it's not the heat. Because if it were, by his standards Sacramento would be Neraka, Modesto Jahanam. Maybe it's the humidity? Here in the Bay Area, humidity is low, and there is no rain. But comparable to the little black bugs that seasonally make life in Jakarta miserable, and the unpleasant mildew, we have tourists. Eighty percent of the passengers on the bus home this evening were out-of-towners, whose chatter in foreignese accents scared the nice Utarakandis or whatever they were behind me into quietness. Pleasant chit chat when there are Brazilians and Euries on the bus is not so easily possible. And they might make your clothes smell.

Yes, that is a value judgement, and I do tend to be an **xhat in that regard.


Other than the raging Corona, humidity, rain, mildew, and little black flying bugs, Jakarta sounds rather nice right now. I imagine there are no tourists.



The other thing that this highlights is that temperature-wise, my comfort zone has gone into left field. Summer weather in Amstedam, London, or Aberdeen used to be ideal. Now it's borderline uncomfortable, runny nose and blue fingers weather.




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