Saturday, December 31, 2022


To everyone reading this on New Years Eve: I encourage everyone who has a car to go out and drive tonight. Drive like you've never driven before. Because if you don't, it will be nothing but drunkards out there. And you can't let the drunks win. Drive!

As for my own plans this evening, 5mg of Amlodipine Besylate at aroud eight, then Latanoprost in my left eye before midnight. Exciting! Whee!

Earlier I was outside having a smoke when a young woman mooned me with her breasts. Which was interesting and educational. I wish I had been closer so that I could have seen what the effect the cold and moisture in the night time air might have had. But on the other hand I'm glad it was from across the street. Seeing as I don't actually want such a person closer to me than that. I'm sure she's a very nice person when she's sober.
Honestly, that's the first time my pipe has had that effect.
I've been smoking since my teens.
Random illustration from nearly two years ago, selected because it's appropriate. Downpour today. Flood warnings all over the place. I don't have to worry, the water can't rise that high, seeing as I'm uphill from the intersection. Where weirdness is taking place.

Quandary: My apartment mate, a non-smoker, has tomorrow and Monday off.
I would like to indulge in my nasty vice inside.
That will not be possible.

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Friday, December 30, 2022


Yesterday was grey and rainy most of the day. Off and on. After preparing myself some river noodles with duck for lunch I wandered up near the top of Nob Hill, looking down towards Fisherman's Wharf. Sheltered by both an umbrella and an abandoned portico I smoked the Parker I bought from Marty years ago. Grey, silver, pale blue-green, and the faded gold of gingko leaves, many still on the trees. Peaceful.

After finishing I headed over to C'town for an egg tart and a cup of tea. All three of the regular Thursday crew were there, 'R' indicated that my timing was perfect; ten minutes earlier it had been packed. Well, I knew that. Rather, I suspected that that would have been the case. That's actually why teatime there is after four o'clock, to give them their time.
And because getting a seat then is pretty much impossible.

It was still raining, so all three gentlemen dawdled.
Discussion of dental coverage from the VA.
Not relevant to me, but I listened.
They left, and shortly afterwards I departed too. It was, for some reason, becoming crowded again. Tourists. Northerners, Indians, HongKongers. And some larger young white women who were overjoyed to find a welcoming port in a storm, with lovely pastries!

Afterwards I ended up puffing an Ehrlich Canadian which was also one of the briars acquired from Marty. When I asked Calvin about him a few weeks ago, I was told that he was fine, and still enjoying life. He's been retired for over a decade and a half now, so he must be getting on a bit. Still hale, though, from what I hear.

The awning of Foo Wah around the corner is a splendid place to hide out from the rain while smoking my pipe. Jackson Street is brighly lit, Kam Lok nearby bustles, the grocery store further up the street still has late customers, and the people-watching is excellent.

Foo Wah Jewelry is no longer in business. I think they retired.
Many shopkeepers have decided to do that recently.
Some new businesses have opened up.
Favourable rents.

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Thursday, December 29, 2022


One of the stranger things I've discovered on the internet is songs of reprehensible origin translated into Japanese and sung by cute non-existent girlish entities. North Korean propaganda, Russian military, Confederate or Nazi anthems. No, I have no idea whether the translations are accurate, or smooth out the murderousness behind the lyrics. For all I know a paean to the Antebellum South could, in its Japanese version, simply express a deep and heartfelt yearning to add chocolate and raisins to my bowl of spicy pork-flavoured ramen.

[Might actually taste good, but I shan't look for a recipe. It's probably already been done and tiktokked by an influencer whom I do not wish to know more about. She's probably a right freak from Texas with a million followers.]

Same goes for the songdroid singing 'Rule Britania' in Japanese.

It's Teddy Bear flavour ramen. Marshmallows!

The Japanese are ... odd.

I've learned that darn well anything can be HelloKittified. This is the future, and strangely it does not frighten me. I think the character in the corner of this illustration is a mini fox spirit ('kitsune'), but I do not know why she's singing 'Dixie'. Possibly she supports the University of Alabama team, or voted for Santis. It's within the realm of Japanese possibilities.
Chibi Kitsuneko-chan magaite scum.
Kawaii des'ka.

The "British Subjugation Song" (英国討伐歌) sounds "cute" in Japanese. Especially with a tinkly-poo orchestral accompaniment.

"All your base are belong to us, crimson tide, chocolate ramen!"

I'm sure there's something I'm missing here, but I don't knowing what it is would add value to my life or allow for more freedom. My disposition is sunny enough already.
I am positively filled with team spirit.

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The warehouse was next to the old port, and the owner had conceived no problem renting it out, no questions asked, seeing as no freighters stopped there anymore. The copra harvest had lessened every year, and the channel had not been maintained since the war.
And, allegedly, it was a dangerous place. Things had gone to seed.
Not at all like the old days, sir!

Many of the outsiders had returned to the mainland and the original inhabitants who had never left had gradually retaken most of the coastal area. They no longer wore kumelau, prefering store-bought garb, and tattooing was largely a thing of the past, though the concentric swirl patterns were now a favourite decorative painting motif.
Their diet had, allegedly, improved. Spam was on the menu.
The Chinese shopkeepers had mostly remained.

It rained a lot there. From June through the end of the year, drizzle, downpour, showers, squalls. Very green. Lots of insects. Little brown bugs everywhere.
Ulan-maulan mapabangak lah.

Not cold, though. Ninety plus everyday. Thirty degrees Celsius.
Very very humid. Like wearing a wet towel all the time.

We put the crates in one part of the warehouse, and made the other part as comfortable as possible. Tables, chairs, frames for the netting. Drying racks. It would be quite a stay. Bought plates, cups, bowls, and cooking equipment from Mr. Liong, and except for occasional trips to the airfield stayed at the docks. When you have to wash your clothes every day they never really dry, and become hospitable environments for many things besides mildew. Strong soaps, and hang them near a fire. They end up smelling like petrol and chemicals.
And so do you.

Pesticide exposure remains a possible issue in places like that.

Fortunately, you can smoke inside. Nobody minds.
Yesterday evening Tim mentioned Tungsten Carbide, and it rained off and on throughout the night. All of that, and the pipe I had smoked earlier in Chinatown, which I've owned for a very long time -- acquired it when I still lived in Berkeley, that long ago -- brought back memories of the warehouse. Spam is actually quite edible, but don't use soysauce when cooking, it's salty enough already. Plenty of chilies, and some shredded ginger.

The other two gentlemen smoked horrible local Marlboros. Having a pipe set me apart, and my consumption of tobacco was also far, far less. By the way, did you know that the metal wires of pipe cleaners rust in a rotten climate? Eventually the damned things are useless.

[In many parts of the world famous cigarette brands are made under license using near-approximate tobacco, or whatever the market will accept. They taste quite different. Sometimes they're very nasty. Like floor sweepings.]

We shall have some tea from the thermos on the table which Ah-Kian put there this morning. Kindly pass me your lighter.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022


Sometimes your comfort zone doesn't fit as well as it should, or normally does. My usual Wednesday lunch spot was fine, I enjoyed my food and a little bit of conversation. At the herbalist where I sometimes buy stomach calmative pills (平胃片) everything was fine too, and I chitted minor chat in Malay with a lady there from Kuala Lumpur -- she commented that my accent was 'Indonesian'; well duh. Saya orang Belanda, tentulah aksen-saya seperti dari Indonesia! -- and both at the grocery store where I get many supplies and Walgreens I was still nestled well within my comfort zone.

Then two other groecery stores, both run by Toishanese speakers. My comfort zone loosens, like old trousers developing a tear. To a bakery, for tea and a biscuit. Where there were four Singaporeans, with whom I ended up in conversation. Where the comfort zone becomes as ill-fitting as an elephant suit. They were nice people, but I must conclude that I am less socially smooth than is necessary at such times.

This is usually how I feel when the caffeine wears off.

Too much stimulation, and not enough.

My equilibrium wasn't restored until I had an argument with an old lady on the bus. "Have a seat." "No, you sit." "I won't sit, you sit." "You have a cane, you should sit." "Truly I have no need to sit, you sit." "I refuse to sit." "But I will not sit, so you sit." Etcetera.


Well, she was older than me, clearly. And frail looking. So she should've sat. But old-country Chinese often assume that us white people are older than we actually are, especially when we're past forty, because apparently we wear hoary antiquity all over our faces, good lord we look rickety as all git out, and I did have a cane with me. The end result was that we both ended up standing till we got to our stops.

Tomorrow is a non-fixed restaurant day. Thursdays I have no errands, usually, and no set place to go eat. What I may end up doing is fixing myself something at home during the day, before heading out to Chinatown for tea and a smoke later.
Teatime Thursdays often finds me at a customery haunt, enjoying a charsiu sou when all the Toishanese have cleared out and there are plenty of places to sit. Sometimes a few of the older gentlemen I know are there -- their age and breadth of experience make me feel quite the youngster again, it's very refreshing -- and we may end up talking.

Lou yiuk faan (Fujianese: "lo bak png") with THREE soy eggs.
Comfort food oh boy, especially on rainy days.

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No, I didn't go out on the usual weekly tea-totaling pub crawl last night. The bookseller had something to attend to, so we agreed that next week next year was best. Instead I slept. And dreamed of food, particularly a meal several years in a hot place, and dishes that I have not seen together on the same table in a long time. Nowadays I seldom prepare complete meals. Instead I do quick and convenient foods, sometimes with complex spices, much more often very simple dishes. The addition of ginger and fermented fish products, plus sambal and a squeeze of lime or lemon are usually sufficient.

Cilantro or chopped scallion.

The hot places often have bugs and smells. The bugs were inevitable, the smells are echoed at times here in SF. Seafood was a constant. Plus lots of very weak tea to hydrate, and because water must be boiled.

The entire day is spent tensely limp from the heat, mildly and ineffectively hepped from the caffeine. Remarkably, or perhaps quite logically, one does not have to micturate very often. The skin evaporates much of the excess liquid. A beverage is ever-present.
Returning to the temperate zone requires adjustment.

Steamed fish with chives or scallions, a few pieces of ginger, and chilies. Perhaps some very thinly sliced black mushroom. Drizzles of soy and sesame oil. Easy to do.

Woke up after midnight, and drew it.
Yes, there would be sambal there. Fish pairs naturally with sambal. Plus a vegetable, nothing complex. Strong coffee, and a small cigar or cheroot, before returning to the office.

Mornings were much more productive than the afternoons would be.
Not very much gets accomplished in the middle of the day.

I don't miss the heat. But I miss the food and the company.

Sometime soon I'll do a steamed fish, with what I mentioned above, as well as peanuts and slivered fatty pork to add flavour. Plus a little ricewine or sherry.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022


On SF Gate there's a list of eight restaurants that are SF classics, and the writer takes pains to mention that you probably have a few others you would add to the list -- sorry -- but well whatever. These are the places, they say, that you would take an out of town friend to so that they can grasp the einzigartiges konzept of the city. In order: John’s Grill, Trattoria Contadina, Red's Java House, Caffe Trieste, Beach Chalet, Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, Old Clam House, and Tosca Cafe.

I've been to three of them. In forty years.

The Caffe Trieste was a daily dose for nearly a decade, till I moved out of the neighborhood and discovered that the lattes at every other place are crap and there was no place within easy dawn walking distance for a decent cup of joe.

Tosca's was on the regular weekly pubcrawl schedule for my friend the bookseller and myself till they changed hands and became too upscale for schlubs like us.

There are places I would add, but I don't want tourists to ruin them, so I won't.

A number of good places are on my own list, where Cantonese is often the common tongue (Mandarin and English also can) but that tells you more about my out of town friends than about the city, and I'm sure the beatniks and beautiful people never went there. Some of them didn't even exist yet when there were beatniks and beautiful people.
What's sad is that most of the classic old lunch counters in Chinatown no longer actually have lunch counters, and some of them aren't even food places anymore. Where one of them once was you can now get your feet twiddled. Hardly worth visiting the city for.

Another one has changed hands several times in the last twenty years, and currently serves "Chungking" cuisine in a stylish and hip atmosphere, and lord knows yep that's why you visit any town, so that you can have the food that does not reflect where you are in any way at all but instead could just as well be dished up in New York, Moscow, or Budapest.

Indeed, that picture above shows a Chinese dish. Not one that many Chinese eat, a favourite of Doctor Henry Kissinger, and consequently available everywhere in America. It's not bad.

And totally safe. Nothing dubious in it at all.

It's whatever you want it to be.

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The rain is not quite of bibilical proportions. They said "a wall of rain". As well as a mighty wind. Yes, no, this isn't that. But it is wet. Perfect day to stay indoors, and delay the first smoke until the apartment mate has left the building, so that I can close her door firmly, and open all the windows to air the place out. Which necessarily presents me with a question: "how much water do I want inside?" Maybe only two windows, and a pot of muck on the stove so that the fragrant steam circulating through the apartment will disguise whatever smell remains. Then leave for lunch early, allowing more time for odour erasure.

"Oh, it's freezing outside, my family won't allow me to smoke indoors, the heater on the porch is busted, I'm cold, even after setting fire to the stack of Christmas trees leaning against the garage I'm chilled and numb, my nose just fell off, the roof is smoldering, there are sirens in the distance, they've barred the door and are waving pitchforks, someone just threw garlic at me, how do you pipe smokers in the rest of the country deal with it?"

Well okay, compared to Bubba in Buffalo, and his trouble having a bowl in the winter of his immense discontent, I'm doing considerably better. I am mentally listing up the awnings in front of out-of-business businesses in Chinatown for my after lunch indulgence.
And I have an umbrella.
There's a very nice sturdy awning opposite the hospital. A broad and deep one in front of a jewelry store that's been closed for ages. Plus one in front of the radio store, and another good one at the herbalist who retired during the height of the pandemic.
I'm not completely at the mercy of the weather.

And it's rather unlikely that the tourists will come out and seek shelter there.

Heck, I can even smoke in front of the schools.

It's winter break, so no kids.

Hot beverages within two blocks of all of those.
Which means another pipe afterwards.

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Monday, December 26, 2022


During cold wet weather, it is comforting to have 菜脯蛋 ('choi pou daan'; pickled radish omelette). But it isn't on the menu of the restaurant where I went for a late lunch, and I wasn't going to go to any effort to find it today, given that most restaurants won't have it on the menu. It's almost entirely home food. Pickled radish (菜脯 'choi pou') can be easily found in C'town, so I'll look for it tomorrow when grocery shopping. Adding it to steamed fish is good, and it has plenty of other uses. It can be added to pork dishes for a textural effect.
If using the salty kind, rinse it to remove excess salt.
If the sweet kind, that's still a good idea.

For each egg, one heaping tablespoon (or more) choi pou, one scallion finely chopped, a fine grind of pepper. Beat with a splash of water, omelettify in a pan. Do not overcook, you don't want tough eggs. Serve with congee or over plain rice.

What I had for lunch instead was 菜脯魚香茄子米 ('choi pou yü heung ke ji mai'; pickled radish and fish sauce eggplant rice noodles). Also comfort food, very home town.

Plus plenty of sambal, and a hot cup of milk tea.
Given that I was born in a hospital that no longer exists in Southern California and we moved overseas when I was two, and my parents were also overseas Americans, I don't really have a home town. While I was a child I lived in Blaricum, Naarden, and Valkenswaard. I've been in San Francisco, where my mother lived during her teenage years and twenties and where her dad was an officer on the base, for over three decades, all that time in the vicinity of Chinatown. Which is, in a large part, what I think of as my hometown.

My "hometown" has good food and good people.

Pipe afterward, as you would expect. A mixture of blonde Virginia and aged red flake, rubbed out, with small percentages of firecured and Perique.
After I returned home it started raining. Which will probably continue till late in the morning tomorrow. I look forward to going out again. Real food, no tourists, milk tea, smoke.

First smoke of the day might be a bit of a problem.
Probably still raining when I get up.

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As is typical for this time of year, parts of this great country are, because of extreme winter weather, absolute disaster zones; Wyoming, Montana, both of the Dakotas, Chicago, Buffalo, Oakland, my feet (especially the one on the right), and the bathroom. Oakland is eternally a disaster zone, the right foot has buckets wrong with it and a bad attitude, and before I switch on the heater the bathroom is freezing. The news broadcasts have mentioned all the others.
And Texas, where they can't seem to organize a decent electricity grid.
Their traditional way of dealing with it is Cancun.
Just a first class ticket away.

Last week several people mentioned to me that they were motoring up to Tahoe for a few days. This evening a wall of rain will move into Northern California, turning into a wall of snow at higher elevations. Tahoe will get covered, and the roads become impassable.
I'm envisioning Donner Party conditions up there.
Skiing and dead bodies.

You know, that sounds like a blast. Good luck to you guys. Have fun. We'll read about it down here in the city when it's all over, while feasting on everything you gave up for your wonderful winter horror show. Ducks, turkeys, racks of beef. Fully stocked liquor cabinets, hot beverages, and fancy desserts.
Per the weather reports, the storm will blow in by dinner time, and continue for nearly a day. Then a brief respite, followed by several more days of nastiness.

For those of us not driving up to Tahoe to get snowed in and forced to consume kinfolk to survive, or burn their fatty corpses in a corner of the ski lodge, it will be umbrella weather (described as a solid wall of rain, like what is pictured above) and an opportunity to enjoy several invigorating cups of tea inside, in the warmth and comfort of our homes.
Occasionally venturing out for the purchase of foodstuffs and pastries.

Oh it will be lovely!

I myself do not have to return to work until Friday. So I'm thinking a lot of time twiddling my toes under a warm blanket, in between trips outside for pipeful, or jaunts to Chinatown for snackiepoos, lunch, groceries, and hot milk tea.

Every year at this time there are people on the internet pipe forums complaining that smoking outside is impossible, it's too cold, the wife and kids won't let them smoke indoors, the porch heater is busted, they have to hose off naked in the yard to get rid of the smell, it's horrible, how do the rest of you do it, and I can't feel my fingers or nose I think they froze off.

Living in San Francisco, where we never get snow, I feel for them.
We spend all of our time eating croissants and caviar.
When we're not outside with an umbrella.
Oh, the humanity!


Life is tough here in San Francisco, where we don't have decent cheesecake or bagels or pizza or barbecue, and no grits or baked beans or chowder! Crikey!

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Maybe if Greg Abbott raked the forest floors, his energy grid would work better and he wouldn't have to bus all those heat-sucking Spanish speakers to Washington DC, mmm? It's just a thought. And by the way, Jesus was not a long-haired white hippy surfer dude, but an angry Middle Easterner with an accent and possibly a leaf blower. May have had physical issues. He did NOT look like Barbie. Or Barbie's cute tanned younger brother.
Please stop imagining him as your secret ideal gay lover.
Most descriptions include lank hair.
No shampoo then.

My apartment mate had way too much fun reading about Jesus yesterday evening. The descriptions are quite varied, and obviously the church fathers were simply describing that nice attendant down at the baths whom they would have bought or banged if they could've afforded it. If you're landlord class, he looks like a perfect tenant. Which in San Francisco, usually means 'employed, sane acting, clean'. And rational. Except for 'employed', that doesn't describe anyone in the entire Levant. Or, probably, Texas.

Jesus has NO relevance for Texans.

They aren't Christian.

The founders of Globe were Globulus and Gleebus.
This information is safe for students.
At Christian schools.

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Sunday, December 25, 2022


As a few of my friends know, I've been experimenting with a tin of Samuel Gawith rope tobacco which was opened up a decade ago, and rehydrated recently. Brown No. 4. Which convinces me, if I partake excessively, that you are all eggplants and eat too much. Reason being that it's the kind of tobacco which puts crinkles on your chest.
Or makes you crave tuna fish sandwiches.

The rope is composed of firecured, aircured, and some Virginia.

An old fashioned taste. Not mild, but quite decent. A rich full tobacco. Makes life among the vegetable Americans tolerable. Especially on a day off. Christmas is a valid day off, but I will not go down to Chinatown for a hot cup of milk tea and a pastry as I often like to do on such days, because I do not wish the people who know me there to know that I have nothing to do on a holiday, no relatives to visit, and no actual festive activities planned or even distantly on the horizon. That I am, in fact, a defective person.
Not socially adept.

Not as bad as the street person the other day, screaming that it was all turnip, everything was turnip, very very turnip, dammit, because he was wrong about that (eggplants, perhaps, but turnip, no). And I should point out that everyone for at least a block around heard it he was that loud. It's a novel theory. But I am not audible for even a quarter that distance.
Largely because I do not proclaim my vegetable theories even audibly.

No, I do not lurk on buses mumbling under my breath that you are all eggplants.
Not even my apartment mate has ever heard it.
My apartment mate was napping in her room when I loaded up a pipe and left the building for a stroll around the neighborhood. Which seems rather empty, with several parking spaces vacant. More so than yesterday when it was evident that some people had left town.
High fifties, no wind.

It is important to get outside during the day. Good for circulation, digestion, the entire renal system, and the mood. It clears the mind. And prevents one from turning into a vegetable.
After a few blocks I was in a better temper than before.

Returned for tea and a cookie after the pipe was finished. My apartment mate was sitting up in bed reading, several of the fuzzy critters clustered around her. Including the small red panda, who does NOT want to be the turkey vulture's boyfriend, and the turkey vulture himself, who tends to be on better behaviour in her quarters than in mine.
There is also a stern teddy bear there, you see.
She disapproves of him.

If I were to smoke inside on a day when Savage Kitten is around, the teddy bear would be most upset. I would hear about it. Severely. So I wonder how soon I'll have scoot on out for a good smoke tomorrow.

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Well, glad that's over with. Several stressful days leading up to the holiday, too much social contact and stimulation (which left me all jangly by the time I went to bed last night), serious over-reliance on caffeine and forcing myself to be seasonally cheerful and good natured, an excess of people and noise, and calling up my kinfolk in Calgary.
But it's done. I can be myself again.


On Christmas night all the bloodthirsty old maids of the city gather to hunt down the Coyote King. The baying mob takes to the wild forests of Nob and Russian Hill, sowing mayhem in their savage pursuit, till at last the Coyote King is cornered. After allowing him to mate and fertilize one of them ("the virgin sacrifice"), they slaughter him, ending the grip of winter. The new coyote king is born in spring, and the cycle repeats. Carols are loudly sung to drown out the sounds of anguish, despair, and slaughter. A corpulent eunuch priest wearing red robes distributes gifts. You didn't see anything, kid, do you understand? Red hides the bloodstains. Many innocent animals are killed and eaten; lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large ch ...
A primitive primal psycho scene, saturated with significance.

But if you are a vegan, you will probably have tofu.

As of now, Christmas trees are discounted.

Soon chocolate too, till February.

As I said, I'm glad that's over. I'm not a social person. One on one I'm fine. Person to person. Person to people, far less so.

In another seven weeks it will be Carneval (Mardi Gras). Five days of riotous behaviour, the focus of which for the young men will be capturing and burning two large effigies of the earth mother and father of the community, which the police have pre-emptively seized and parked in the walled compound behind the station. Much beer and genever will be consumed to steel their nerves for the task. Maybe petrol will be used; if it rained recently the papier mâché needs help catching fire. The cop station also.

Like Christmas, Fat Tuesday and the weeks leading up are filled with drunkenness, ritualistic nonsense, vandalism, and very extroverted excess.


My uncle and aunt in Calgary are well. So is my cousin, I believe, who lives nearby. The kid of another cousin has a new movie out, and recently became a father. Another cousin is, for some reason which I didn't quite understand, in the vicinity of Tierra Del Fuego where his daughter has some kind of assignment. Further updates next winter.

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Saturday, December 24, 2022


For your consideration I wish to suggest Apocalypse Now as a Christmas movie. Reason being one of the old folgers in the backroom, who is having a dispute with his lovely wife over plans for Christmas eve dinner. She's East Asian, and though I don't know the dear woman, she's undoubtedly always right. Because I know him.

So, imagine the ship of their domestic harmony sailing up the Nùng River deep into hostile territory. Santa gonna be terminated. With extreme prejudice. The poor innocent goober and his delightful esposa, both of the age when people are retired, are on board. And he, being no longer as mentally acute as he was when still working (scarcely a year ago), is unaware of the icebergs and pink whales up ahead.

It's a second marriage for both of them. Decided upon after mature consideration and careful weighing of the pros and cons. Both of them have grown children.

He didn't know!! It was just hormones, an old goat in lust!

Sorry, that was the voice of reason interrupting. It shan't happen again.

What with being essentially a mean-spirited old crust, especially when it pertains to the old folgers in the backroom, you must assume that this situation puts a smile on my face.
Gets me in the proper christmas spirit. Fills my withered heart with joy.
It's been an exceptionally busy week. So I look forward to the coming few days when I shall not have to listen to the backroom spewing their meanspirited conspiracy theory b.s. and being utter pustules. That a few of them will not have optimum holiday celebrations, inebratory excess, or even their usual inane hi-jinx, is fine by me.

It will be peaceful and quiet in my life.

Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 23, 2022


It's cold outside. Not as cold as Wyoming or Canada, but sufficiently chilly that those of us accustomed to gaily skipping about in our grungy cargo pants, bare chested, here in SF, have to wear coats. In other parts of the country they're having a once-in-a-generation event; flannel shirts and long pants are sold out at Walmarts all over The South, there are lines to stock up outside of Waffle House, and Piggly Wiggly is running short of grits.

I am thrilled by the seasonal bitching on pipe smokers forums.

"How do you guys stand it?!? I'm not allowed to smoke inside the house, but have to go out to the porch, the space heater there has been busted since the flood, there are ice crystals forming in my pouch of Captain Black Grape, and I've lost two toes this year! It's beastly! Waaah!"

In previous years I commiserated with utmost sympathy, telling the poor suffering gentleman in Kansas or North Dakota to just suck it up candy ass it builds character, why I had to decide that day whether I should wear shortsleeves or just roll up my long sleeves all manly like a butch woodcutting person or something. So I could understand his pain.

Flannel shirts do not pair well with cargo shorts.
Sadly, there are no long-sleeved Hawaiian shirts to be had. Those frigid folks in Mississippi and Georgia must have snagged all of them. Because of the icenadopalypse. And the solid half inch of snow blanketing the parking lot down at the shopping center. Which will perhaps still be there in one or two hours! That's utterly unheard of. Damned Yankees.

"Dang Maw, the trailer park is cut off from the world, there's this weird wet white stuff laying all over the ground!"

Whatever shall we do, whatever shall we do?

What you should do, Gompert, is adopt a poor torpid iguana and bring it inside to get nice and warm. They're practically falling out of trees, and they're free!
They're good around children. Honest!

Yeah, I too hate the cold.
Damned Yankees.

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Thursday, December 22, 2022


You may have overlooked National Short Girl Appreciation Day, which was yesterday, the shortest day of the year. I certainly did, and I didn't see it coming is why. I spent yesterday proximal to elderly men of normal size who smelled bad. I did my best to alleviate that by smoking my pipe. Besides commiserating with one or two of the old reptiles over their horrible cigar reek, tight-fitting yet leaky diapers, and recent election losses.

As a pipe smoker naturally I vote Democrat.
And fervently dislike football.
Bah humbug.

Many of the non-short girl demographic at work cheered for Herschell Walker and wet their old geezer knickers over football. There will be a football game on the telly during my next work day, so it should be a madhouse. And probably be no short girls on site at all, all day.

Truth be told, I think I would prefer the presence of short girls during a football game. They would be considerably more interesting than antiquated lizards screaming at big hulking glandular freaks wearing shiny fabric pounding each other into the astroturf.
Heck, man, I know I would! I am keenly disappointed that I missed the grand parade down Market Street, with the colourful floats and all the short girls demonstrating their stature pride, plus balloons and dancing. Social and cultural organizations represented by contingents of short girls. Politicians and beauty queens. Celebrities.

I'm still waiting for a 'National Grumpy Middle-Aged Dutch American Day'. Even though none of us would sign up for a marching contingent or any of the cultural activities. We sit at home revelling in our day, smoking our pipes, and lighting votive candles in front of portraits of Presidents Roosevelt and Van Buren.

Imagine oompah bands.

FYI: grumpy middle aged Dutch Americans like short girls.

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Work rips me down from the ivory tower and reminds me that I'm human. Despite my almost divine urge to clobber him with facts (or, sometimes, a spiked baseball bat), I patiently let him chatter on about how 9-11 was a gubmint conspiracy. Not because I'm a good Christian (not even close; judging by Christian behaviour that would mean 'murderously inclined') but because I really don't give a damn that he's batshit and quite stupid in several ways.
He's also an anti-vaxxer, and believes in ten-thousand year-old aliens.
Besides having goofy ideas about food.
And microchips.

Bless his heart.

I no longer argue with people like that. I just make sure they don't infringe on my off-work life. And I am extremely selective about whom I Facebook-friend. Relatively quick on the silently de-friend trigger. I am not the kind of person who lectures someone on precisely how they failed or disappointed before 'de-friending'.
And I already checked out their posts, their 'likes', and their comments, books, reviews, and whatever else I could find before even responding to their FB friend requests, so any transgender gun-nuts on my feed aren't fundies or neurotic gluten-phobes.

What that means is that I haven't had to 'houseclean' in several years. The batshit anti-vax dude is not on my Facebook. Never was, never will be. And I limit conversation with him.

Crazy, I'm not.

Well, you know what I mean.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022


Suppose the aliens landed and visited a karaoke bar. Would we ever hear from them again? Or would they send a final snarky put-down as their last communication while high-tailing it the heck away from this planet? This is something that came to mind after the last two songs last night. My friend and I still heard the lowing of cows across the blasted wasteland for at least half a block after we left. We are masochistic.

Fortunately the stupidest waiter in Chinatown wasn't as lit as he had been last week, when he was positivily twirling. Possibly because none of the girlies sat next to him.

None of the girlies sat near us either, but for us that's a good thing. The elderly drunken girlie who likes my friend has not been around in ages, the weepy Mandarin-speaking girl stopped coming maybe four years ago, and the blonde slags, who are an ever-changing selection, were not in evidence. Were there even any girlies? I can't remember.
That isn't why we go there.

We are two men with gravitas having a nightcap on our weekends.
Well, it should be my weekend, but I work today.
Normally I'm off on Wednesday.
Both yesterday and Monday, in bah-humbug revolt against the season and the traditional social fustercludging with very white foods, I ate what can only be described as Canto home-style. Unassuming, not much ordered by outsiders. 支竹牛腩 ('ji juk ngau naam') and 鹹魚炒茄子 ('haam yü chaau ke ji'); beef stew with tofu skin, salt fish stirfry eggplant.
Both dishes are immensely comforting in cold weather.

I find myself more than ever disliking my fellow human beings around this time of year. I hope the space aliens don't give up on us, but in all fairness I could see why they would.
We sing badly, dress funny, and eat too much.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022


Over on a pipe forum readers took issue with product reviews that included descriptives like popcorn, a specific type of jelly bean, plus espresso bean, vanilla, earth, black pepper, and leather. Some products taste like barnyard, hay, grass, and horseshit.
Their irritation is understandable.

I myself describe a few of my favourite tobaccos as having a marked reek of Limburger. Solid Limburger. And prunes, because Virginia equals carotenoids. So, in short, much like elderly retiree. Though for the record I have never actually tasted elderly retiree.

This is relevant because I am reminded of when I offered Savage Kitten, who was still my girlfriend at the time, a puff off my pipe, which was an absolutely heavenly smoke, loaded with Syrian 'Three Oaks'.

[Syrian Three Oaks: a perfumy almost frankencensian mustiness, combined with a bready note, and hints of coffee bean, chocolate, and saddle leather. Very reminiscent of a fine chardonnay. J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay, 2008.]

Shortly afterwards she committed violence upon me. Because it was quite the nastiest thing she had ever experienced, worse than the durian that convinced her I was secretely performing space alien autopsies.
She still shares the apartment with me, though we have not been a couple in very many years. The tobacco had nothing to do with why we stopped being lovers, though she does consider it a nasty habit, more so than then. Her stuffed creatures also object, so I firmly shut her door when she is at work and I want to light up. The windows are all open for several hours before she returns, and I have a pot on the stove to further chase out the smell.

[BTW: we both use shrimp paste in our cooking on occasion, and she has grown more tolerant of the smell of durian. Which throws her dislike of tobacco into perspective.]

Syrian Three Oaks, compounded by Tad Gage, which used real Syrian leaf, was one of the finest English/Balkan blends available at that time, or ever. It would be a dessert island tobacco, along with Greg Pease's Westminster and Craig Tarler's Red Odessa. The amount of time one can spend hiding out on a dessert island must necessarily be finite, limited by the amount of pipe tobacco in the crate that also floated ashore because one wisely tethered it to the raft after sinking the ship. Except that my tastes changed over a decade ago and I now smoke mostly Virginias, Flakes, and Virginia Perique mixtures.

Which is where the limburger and prunes come in.

The pipe of which she took a puff was the one in the painting below.
It's one of my favourite pipes, and I still have it.
I have over a dozen tins of STO stashed.
It hasn't been made in six years.

It has been my intent that my next girlfriend should like the smell of pipe tobacco, whether or not she actually indulges. As well as enjoy cups of tea, quiet time with books and stuffed animals. And she should sensibly tolerate that there's another eccentric in the other room, because Savage Kitten is someone I trust, and when Asperger types live alone they ferment and turn queerish; both of us are somewhere on the spectrum. Sofar I have not found such a person, but I doubt that the pipe tobacco has anything to do with that. And I note in relation thereto that many women think they can change a man, and that a number of friends halfwittedly suggested years ago that if I stopped smoking I'd have better luck.
That is not a realistic suggestion by any means.

It would be impossible to think of Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Clark Gable, William Faulkner, Georges Simenon, Gerald Ford, and Jean Paul Sartre without their pipes.

There were women in all of their lives. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Of course, all of them were social butterflies.
They knew how to date.

Anyway, one of the forum members reacting to fancy review terminology probably said it best: "All I want is tobacco flavour". This is, I suspect, why Starbucks does not appeal to pipesmokers. The reek of raspberries, pumpkin spice, hazelnuts, vanilla, and candied unicorn, interferes with everything else and bollixes up one's tastebuds.
Except Ennerdale Flake. Decadence and depravity. The good old times.

"This pipe tobacco reminds me strongely of the time we crashed the Westland at Lung Kang Tao. The crates spilled open and the odour of protective oil was everywhere. And because it had rained the upturned earth stank of rotting vegetation. At the end of the field the perfume of brine and seaweed gently drifted in on the breeze ..... "

Okay, grampa, let's put you to bed now.


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When I left the house for the last smoke of the day, there was a spider on the white wall of the portico. A big spider, very visible. And, because it was cold, I puffed at it to see if it was still alive. It twitched. When I returned an hour later it was still there. It was probably freezing its fuzzy buns off, and will likely not survive. I haven't gone out with a pipe yet, so I don't know if it's still there.

One naturally sympathizes with small cold animals. But unlike a chilled sparrow, for instance, or a random prairie dog -- rare in urban San Francisco -- one cannot scoop up a shivering spider to warm him or her up against one's chest safely nestled in the folds of one's coat. They are too fragile, and when warm again likely to panic, or opportunistically burrow further into the warm places. Worst case scenario: armpit. Dammit, my armpit itches, but I cannot scratch, because Marianna is there. I might hurt her, she might hurt me. And now I don't know how to get her to scoot into the nice warm cotton-lined matchbox on the radiator, because from her perspective I am just an ambulant part of the environment.

So of course I left Marianna, as I had named her, where she was.
If she hasn't survived the night I shall mourn her.
I could have done something.
The other thing with spiders -- all bugs, really -- is that one cannot read the expressions on their faces and modify one's behaviour accordingly. "Oh, she's looking fearful and rather panicked, I should step back", for instance. Or conversely, that the piece of cheese one is holding out tempts her, but she has doubts about coming closer, best leave it nearby and retreat. Nor do they smile as we know it, or furrow their brows in apprehension.

I am worried for Marianna.

Going outside soon.

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Monday, December 19, 2022


Years ago a larger woman informed me that Grand Marnier made women drop their pants. It may have been a hint. I did not act upon it. But it does make me speculate about the effects of other liquors. And I have long believed that Scotch improves the mood, Bourbon makes men vicious, Tequila leads to bad craziness, wine sozzles, and gin bares breasts and loosens inhibitions for all genders.

Sherry, as is well-known, makes librarians take off their spectacles.
As well as loosen their hair, then modestly smile.

"Why, Miss Pendergast, you look beautiful!"

In all honesty, the imaginary Miss Pendergast would look totally fine with her hair in a pony tail and her glasses on. If she had worn a bit of ruby lipstick grown men would have melted while checking out the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Which is why they brought a supermarket shopping cart to the fifth floor.

We can't have that. There aren't enough copies of that encyclopedia for all the men passed out from the exertion. Besides, I have not liberated a cart from Safeway, so I'm at a bit of a disadvantage myself.
At this time of year many libraries tend to be cold, so Miss Pendergast would probably prefer a nice cup of hot cocoa instead of the sherry. She probably has an electric teakettle hidden in her credenza, so that when no one is looking she can fortify the woman within. And maybe no lipstick, because those ruby smears are hard to remove from the porcelain rim.

It's been ages since I had sherry in the house, as I do not drink anymore; it might interact with my medication. There is a bottle of excellent Scotch on the floor next to my chair, unopened. But a small jigger of brandy might be better in the cocoa.
Sadly, there is none of that.

Intellectually, I am vested in sherry.
Shopping carts not so much.

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