Monday, June 28, 2021


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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