Monday, January 31, 2022


Got to wish someone a happy new year (新年快樂 'san nin faai lok') pre-emptively. Also exchanged: Maan si yü yi (萬事如意) as well as, for this coming year especially appropriate, robust good health (身體健康 'san tai gin hong'). Normally she has a hard time understanding what I often speak (she's Toishanese born here), but standard Canto and Toisaan are close in enough ways, and the situational context was abundantly clarifying, that "communication" was achieved. She had started by uttering a phrase in Mandarin, which I don't speak worth diddly.
But I mentioned situational context, did I not?

Had to go out and buy soap, having used the last scrap earlier today. All weekend long I had been careful not to be too slapdash and spendthrifty with the remains of that bar, intending to buy more at Walgreens every evening upon returning to the city, but it had escaped my mind when the bus landed in my neighborhood. Today I remembered.

In the evening, while wandering around the block.
My apartment mate (who has her own soap, in case you were wondering) does not appreciate me smoking indoors. So the final one or two puffs of the day necessarily must be on the street outside, which gives me as good an excuse for a leg stretch and some exercise as anything. It is also good for circulation and digestion, and changes the body chemistry, so the mood is improved, and the pipe man in question is far less of a blister, almost tolerable, in fact.

It is good to be clean and equitably tempered.
As I am sure my apartment mate agrees.
As well as the neighbors.

新年快樂,y'all, and 萬事如意,as well as 身體健康!
And look, I'm really sorry about your team losing.
I know how much the game means to you.
Your lives have no meaning, eh?

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It's probably perfect that I have a horrid cold during Chinese New Year Week. Each one of my favourite restaurants and bakeries will be closed anyway, and Chinatown will be awash with tourists spreading disease. So I have no pressing urge to go out. Instead, I'll stay at home most of the time sneezing, wheezing, and dripping. It is the tiger of colds. My nose leaks. Fought the damned thing all weekend at work. Now, other than swilling hot caffeinated beverages, there is not much to do to alleviate things. My tastebuds, however, are entirely unaffected, and there is neither fever nor body ache. So it's not the flu, nor Covid.

It is never-the-less making me a worse person than I already was.
I am filled with savage joy that the Niners lost.
Because of who cheered them on.
Damned dingos.

I feel like I should be doing something constructive.

Other than sitting at home smoking.
And acting like an angry vegetable.

The next time I see Jeff and Dan I will be sure to tell them their teams sucks, worst possible team in the history of football, which is a ridiculous game played by sissies who should all be sent to mine salt in the wilds of Florida. While fighting losing battles with a plague of frogs for food. Along with their howling yutz fanboys.

Everything itches.

More caffeinated beverages and old school tobacco. Perhaps a porkchop around tea-time, if the place I might head to for that and a cup of milk tea doesn't close early for necessary last minute preparations before the New Year Starts. The sun is shining, it's not beastly cold outside, and I should probably shave and shower before I go out.
So I don't smell like a dog.


Or I might just not go out at all. Shave and shower, yes.
Because of standards, even when by oneself.
And feeling slovenly.

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In some ways I am overjoyed that there are three counties in California determined to free up cheap real estate for the rest of us: Butte, Placer, and Shasta. Predominantly red, absolutely sodden with conspiracy theorists, and people who are least likely to vaccinate or mask up. Mostly rural, as you would expect. When the pandemic really starts ripping through their communities, we'll send them horse de-wormer, urine, plus thoughts and prayers.

In sham solidarity, I am smoking a corncob.
No, I'm not wearing bib overalls; I'm a snob, and it's too cold for that anyway.
Nor am I wipping a burro to make it pull my cart filled with gold ore faster.

I'm relaxing in my designer hot tub with a Cosmopolitan Cocktail.

I am a mean-spirited urban liberal and wouldn't be caught dead up in the hinterlands. Life is too short to eat tater tots and turkey franks cooked up on a hot plate in a trailer. Besides, there's no hot sauce or even Grey Poupon at the general store, and nothing but American cheese.

Certain blends that wallop me in the jaw when smoked in a briar just sing in a corncob. Old style Burley blends like Haunted Bookshop and Bailey's Front Porch or a classic like Haddo's Delight by Greg Pease, which in a civilized piece of smoking equipment make my mouth feel like it's had a workout, are lovely in a Missouri Meerschaum. Perfect with a cup of tea, and they'd probably be stellar with a raspberry hazelnut frappucino from Starbucks.
So best enjoyed here, not there.

People like me don't thrive in places where you have to order electricity and running water from Amazon. There's no place to re-charge my vehicle, and no pilates machines!

I've heard they have sulfa and quinine now.
Plus tools! They now use tools!

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Sunday, January 30, 2022


Came home to a turkey vulture sitting on my bed with two tubs of curry paste (green and red, Thai) looking for all the world like a beatnik playing the bongos. He said I should use the curry pastes to cook something delicious -- he suggested little orphaned hamsters -- and wondered if the fat-bottomed party-slags often lively and loud across the street were looking for a finely feathered boyfriend. One who was musically inclined.
I pointed out that if those (I do not refer to them as "fat-bottomed party-slags") are actually in the market for an avian paramour, a beaky fellow who is scarcely a foot tall might not quite fit the bill. Cute yes, but, erm, too small.

Plus he needs to work out. He's getting a little plump.

"I am NOT plump!!!!!!!"

Cut down on the chocolates, little fellow. He also insists he isn't little, but a big bird now.
Far be it from me to point out other obvious fallings.
I am, above all, diplomatic.

Which is why I also didn't yell "hey, watch your language you foul-mouthed elderly drunken syphilitics back there" at the old boys in the back room cheering on the Forty Niners. It is unkind to be too truthful to senile old halfwits with low morals and medical issues.

The retired member of the judicial branch was wearing red. Let's assume that he was also wearing his unwashed lucky boxers, because when I left they were winning and he smelled bad. The latter effect may have also been due to the Venezualan rum and the cigars.
But I'll blame the unwashed lucky boxers.

Other than having to baby-sit senescent delinquents occasionally, I like my job.
I get to smoke while there. And they can still change their own diapers.
Today I enjoyed a bowlful of Red Virginia with a touch of Perique in a fine Charatan Canadian sandblast, and swilled numerous cups of hot tea. It was a very good day.
Especially if one ignored the ball game.



The numerics lost. Good. There is despondency in the mudflats, which I will be sure to reawaken repeatedly the next time I see those sportsfans.A splendid team boys, such sportsmanship. Much better than that bunch of wankers with golden spandex pants!
Obvious winners. Now let us ALL wholeheartedly support them two weeks hence.
They are representing the state. Deservedly.

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As now happens every year, the people on the East Coast have invented a new special ops superlative term for their winter weather, which is the worst ever, snowmygerd, and how can you not feel for people being miserable in the most important part of the entire country! Some of us are over that. Y'all got snow, we get it. You've never had so much snow, we get that too. Your vodka martinis are frozen, the bagels are like rocks, the Hamptons are cut off.
Long Island is gone, and the greasy pizza y'all love is soggy and cold.
Will the suffering never stop?
Never has the world seen such a snow. That is to say: "the civilized world".
Maybe Africa has, who knows, nobody we know goes there.
Why doesn't somebody do something?
This is intolerable!

And in Florida, school has been cancelled because of falling iguanas. Your back porch is covered with them, we saw the pictures you posted on Facebook. They've wrecked your pipes and your car port. You had to scrape them off your windshield. Poor babies!

Just call an Uber, ya bunch of sissies.

Y'all got snow. We get it.

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Saturday, January 29, 2022


Did I already mention that I have superhuman tolerance and am saintly and calm? At all times? So you will understand that instead of beating the mask-idiot with his nose exposed on the bus to death, I sat as far away from him as I could. As well as the moron with a cold drink.
Some people just aren't ready for adulthood.

At least Stumblety Bumblety wears his mask at all times. He may be scared that if anyone catches his eye they'll keep it, or that he'll be overwhelmed by all the stimuli that the world above ground is generously abundant with. But he's masked. Always. Full face.

Likewise the woman with the crocheted mask.

I believe Florida has more idiots than Marin County, but it's hard to be sure.

If I were a drinking man, I'd go for something strong and perverse right now. A grasshopper. Equal parts Crème de Menthe, clear Crème de Cacao, and half & half. Shaken over ice and poured into a large cocktail glass. Garnished with a cherry.
Maybe if I blow my nose real hard it will convince some of these dingoes to mask properly?
Except then the Golden Gate Transit pot funk becomes more noticeable.
It's altogether a bit of a crapshoot.

The reason why Marin has gated communities must be to keep people in.

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Friday, January 28, 2022


Whatever you do, stay out of fast food places. Many workers do not have access to paid sick leave, and from various sources (including articles on SF Gate), it's clear that people are being pressured to show up for work ill. Which means, given the transmittability of Omicron, that their colleagues will also get sick..... and show up to work nevertheless.....
And their customers will catch it too.

Do you want fries with that?

Late stage American capitalism is not conducive to public health.
Possibly it's too early for the torches and pitchforks.

I have, for a long time, avoided popular chains like McDonalds, Burger King, Jack In The Box, Starbucks, Wendy's, and Smithfield Pork. As well as Chipotle, because they're sh*t.

You always knew that junkfood was bad for you.
Turns out it's bad for everyone.
Blame corporate.

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Thursday, January 27, 2022


One should always tip well in Cantonese eating establishments to make up for the fact that Mandarin speakers tip like crap. The staff worked hard, the northerners and mainlanders left a mess and nothing or next to nothing for the effort. Their illustrious presence did not make up for that. They are pikers. Another reason to tip well is so that they will remember you favourably, and be happy to see you again.
At least, as a white guy that's always been my attitude. I've worked in restaurants, and I want my favourite places to continue to thrive, and the staff to remember me.

I mention this because there were TWO tables with mainlanders where I ate lunch.

And I overheard the comments after they left.

So messy!

Yeah, I have no idea how other Caucasians tip there. I haven't ever seen any. The waitresses bring my milk tea, soup, and the bottle of hot sauce automatically, and the place is, once a week, home.
It's a chachanteng, and I ordered one of the sets (set lunches), the one with the sautéed almond sole (香煎杏仁龍脷香煎飯 'heung chin hang yan lung lei faan'), with rice, chowder, cup of milk tea.
The other two sets today were porkchops, and roast chicken. Choice of rice or spaghetti, coffee or milk tea. These are all things that white people would eat, but again, never seen any there.
I'm fine with that. I mostly avoid my own kind these days.
They spread disease.

[Gratuitous dig at Karens and their bitchy attitude about masks in public.]

The chachanteng is a Cantonese speaking environment, tea-time found me at a Toishanese speaking place. Well yes, they do understand Cantonese. And English, and Mandarin. But the other three tables were Toishanese, which I don't understand as well, and would have a hard time communication in. In a way it's kind of like listening to German; far away from Amsterdam and The Hague, and consequently not like the civilized Netherlandish of the urbane and cosmopolitan coastal zone. Almost as dense as some versions of Flemish.
Or Schweizerisch Deutsch.

[That too was a gratuitous dig, but this time at a sentient target.]

They have 年糕 ('nin gou'; new year cake) there, at being that time again. It's a celebratory confection made from glutinous rice flour, wich is soft, chewy and sweet, with a consistency that verges on stiff jelly. The nearest thing I can compare it too would be 'dudol', often made with the same ingredients, and also common as a festive item.
椰汁粘糕 ["Dodol Tahun Baharu"]

My landlady, who is Canto-American, seldom gets down to Chinatown. So I bought her one cake, and one for my apartment mate and myself. Coconut flavour.

As it turns out, it has been ages since my apartment mate had this. Same for me, but I did not grow up with this as an annual treat. So it reverberates less for me.

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Late at night, back in the day when people still went out and drank far too much, a suitable late night snack and 'sponge for booze' would be driving over to the Doggy Diner for a chili dog with thousands of other hipsters and cool cats. Then one would lean on the car and light up a camel non-filter, while adjusting the slick shiny forehead curl looking in the mirror. One's leather jacket looked just right, the jeans were perfectly hip hugging, and Johnny Cash was on the radio.

Well, I may be conflating different eras and several other people's lives there.
That was before gentlemen sold grilled bacon dogs on Mission Street.
The last late night dog I ate was a few years ago.
They are coming back.

One could make it with vegetarian ingredients, I suppose -- tofudog, mixed vegetable muck chili sauce, gluten-free macrobiotic bun, non-allergenic condiments -- or upscale it to the finest beef frank and artisanal sauces. but just as with the bacon dog the point is cheap ingredients late at night after a spot of dissipation. The heck with your diet and yoga plans for tomorrow.
Imagine eating two of those puppies dripping over the kitchen sink.
Harsh kitchen lighting, last cup of coffee before bed.
Meeting with Sales early in the morning.

The last time I did yoga was before I graduated from high school. I took pride in folding myself and holding. That was long before I discovered Mission Street, Market Street, or North Beach where a late night burger can still be had. I'm not likely to be out past twelve nowadays -- too many skeevy jeevies at that hour -- but sometimes, just before bed, I can still taste the salt, richness, grease, cheap meat, condiments, and jalapeños en escabeche.

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There are tunes stuck in your head that, despite all efforts, refuse to leave. Submerged, beyond conscious thought, resurfacing when you least expect or want it. There you are, hiding from the flying saucer people behind the refrigerator, when without warning you start belting out "Little Drummer Boy". Because after several Christmas seasons it's so firmly planted that you cannot help yourself. Your friends who are hiding there with you look askance. What the heck, they seem to think, has Dingo Carruthers really lost it? What was he thinking?!?

The flying saucer people feel welcomed by all of you singing "Little Drummer Boy" at the top of your lungs. It's touching. Parrumpapa pum.

Better remember the lyrics, son, they may save your life.

There are some tunes you know.

One of them is this old classic, familiar to millions of people, which sounds bizarre yet homey recontextualized for military purposes. If you are Chinese, click 'play'. You'll be glad you did.



You are now mentally voicing "gongsi, gongsi, gongsi, gongsi" right now. You can't help it.

And your colleagues at Amalgamated Saltmines are looking at you funny. They are unfamiliar with new years music. They've never even seen those engagingly silly comedies that the HK movie industry puts out every year.

Post Scriptum: Dingo Carruthers is what the hippo with the walking stick calls me. He misremembers us robbing banks together and getting away at high speed on the motorbike and sidecar. I keep telling me he's got me mistaken for someone else.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022


When the lady at the bakery asked if a lo po beng was enough to eat, I assured her that indeed it was, just a (tea time) snack, I had already eaten earlier. But I lied. I hadn't even felt a twinge of hunger. Breakfast, which was drawn out over a four hour period, consisted of two pipes after two cups of coffee, plus walks to smoke said briars and then doing an illustration for a previous post. Imperceptibly it slid into lunch -- news and reading several articles on history and antique shiznit on Wikipedia -- after which I realized that I needed to buy groceries in Chinatown.

Vegetable shop, general food store, then bakery for tea shortly after four.
And one must have a nible with one's cup of hot milk tea.
A lo po beng (老婆餠) is just the ticket.

Long chat with a friend.

Followed by a smoke while wandering the alleys and Grant Avenue after dark. The pipe was a jaunty looking item from the day and age when there were still Latin tutors and non-business majors in college towns, and football was not considered a scholarly activity but an energetic past-time for over-excited hormonally charged young fellows without girl friends or chess to keep them occupied.

Back when graduates could still spell 'Nietsche' and 'Kierkegaard'.

Before my time, in other words.


Dinner, when I finally cooked some, contained linguiça, mustard cabbage, yellow curry paste, dried flounder for a bit of salty savoury fishy flavour, chili paste, and stock. Served over boiled Shantung style wheat noodles. With some mango pickle and sliced salted squeezed blanched bittermelon (凉瓜 'leung gwaa'; sopropo) on the side.

[Linguica: 葡國式辛辣香腸 'pou gwok sik san laat heung cheung'; suillam-fumus sanavit farciminis. Mustard cabbage: 芥菜 ('gaai choi'); brassica juncea. Yellow curry paste: 黃咖哩醬 ('wong kaa lei jeung'); pulmentum conditorum flavo colore. Dried flounder: 左口魚 ('jo hau yü'); exaruit paralichthys. Chili paste: 辣椒醬 ('laat chiu jeung'); condimentum piper rubra. Stock: 高湯 ('kou tong'): juscullum. Mango pickle: 芒果泡菜 ('mong gwo pou choi'); mango muria. Sopropo: 凉瓜 ('leung gwaa'), 苦瓜 ('fu gwaa'); handalum.]

A man on a college football scholarship wouldn't have recognized any of it -- football players are a rather "innocent" bunch -- but sadly, his Latin tutor (assuming that business or basket weaving requires any Latin credits at all) might have a hard time identifying all the parts too.

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Some readers may have gotten the impression, from one or two previous essays here (about haggis and Bobby Burns), that I bear ill-will toward the people of Scotland and their marvelous culinary achievements. A general distaste for things Scottish. Not so! Scotland is a great and wonderful country, far better than Northern Ireland or Wales, and much more interesting too! Well, except for Edinburgh, where some distant kin folks live, who were ungracious to my grandfather when he visited the uncouth sods after World War One. The less said about a place where crotch mildew, if left unchecked, eventually attacks the brain, the better.

And their food, while sometimes oddly named (almost unpronouncable), is delicious and unique. Cockaleekee. Haggis. Partan Bree. And killer rabbit.

Scotland is a place well worth visiting, assuming that you have no relatives there.

"A spectacularly beautiful land; brutal, like her people and their food."
-----Sir Arthur Grimbottam, upon visiting his in-laws during his only sojourn in Scotland.

I bear the robust and gallant people of Scotland no ill will.
Some of my best friends are from there.
As well as "kinfolk".
Of course, the next time I make haggis, which might be never, I shall probably experiment with a filling composed of glutinous rice and chopped pork belly meat, pinch of five spice, instead of the customary boiled sheep innards and oatmeal. It's easier to get those ingredients near where I live, whereas mutton offal and that oatmeal stuff sadly not so much.

Quite likely not any lapcheung, because while one or two pieces in lomaikai or joong are nice, it would take about a dozen whole sausages for haggis, and that would be boring amidst the fatty pork and rice. Soaked black mushroom and perhaps some water chestnut, as well as a splash of rice wine.

In fact, a Burns Supper with the haggis described above, plus stirfried oyster sauce mustard cabbage, several cups of hot strong milk tea, and a slice of Dundee Cake to follow, before going to the single malt, and omitting all recitation of "verse", would be lovely.

Robert Burns would approve.

I love Scotland.

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There were more skeevy types out last night than I expected, and at one point the burger joint was slightly crowded. My friend shot down my lovely theory with a cold dose of reality. I had speculated that these were all men celebrating Burn's Night; they had enjoyed the whisky, and tolerated the doggerel -- whisky makes even crappy poetry overlookable -- but had drawn the line at haggis, and said "stuff this garbage, we're going out for something actually edible". On this hand I have haggis, and on this one a burger. The choice is easy. He remarked that we were probably the only two men there who know who Robert Burns was.

What is peculiar is that, seeing as haggis is the most famous specialty of Caledonian cuisine, there is not a single restaurant in San Francisco which offers it as a regular menu item.

The special tonight is haggis? Okay, we're leaving.

There are TWO terms for haggis in Chinese: 羊肚雜碎布丁 ('yeung tou jaap seui pou ding') and 肉餡羊肚 ('yiuk haam yeung tou'). And while the Chinese are infinitely curious, gustatorily, haggis is not on the menu of any of the restaurants in Chinatown. Which isn't odd.
They are curious, but not self-destructively so.

You can indeed make a vegetarian version of haggis. Easier to digest, and a more pleasing mouthfeel. But if it tastes the same, why would you want to?
Tofaggis? Hagofu? Dear lord no.

I've read Beowolf in the original, and in translation, as well as several Icelandic sagas ditto.
All read better in tranlation. It's the same with Bobby Burns poetry.

There are reasons why you seldom see an obese Scotsman.
If you do, he was probably raised on English food.

The singing at the karaoke place was, appropriate for the evening, perfectly horrid. But the hot water (my friend had Irish whiskey) was good, and we had cigarillos on the way to the bus stop. Earlier I had smoked the last pipe of the evening.


Several of my friends say that haggis rocks, it's the bomb, nothing like a good haggis, why it's wonderful, celebratory, an event, memorable. In fact, they fondly eat haggis, or happily remember the last few times they ate haggis. I am baffled.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Turns out I need not have worried. The new doctor is a very engaging lady, who didn't even mention smoking once! And I had already prepared a speech: "Do you see this pipe? It used to belong to my commanding officer, it was all that was left of him plus the hand clutching it after that accident with the exploding frogs! I have to keep it! If I don't smoke it, bad things happen! The Loma Prieta earthquake, iguanas falling from trees, and presidential elections!" Instead, we talked about the yearly round of bloodtests, and a possible peripheral angioplasty of the lower extremities.

And I should mention that I like going to the hospital where the doctor is; I'm surrounded by intelligent and competent people there who are all wearing masks. And not a single damn' crazy ass screaming that they want ivermectin (those might be down at General, not sure).

Several languages were utilized today. Cantonese for most of the staff I came in contact with (they're used to me now), English for talking with the doctor (naturally, my Cantonese is not good enough for a medical discussion), Mandarin (listening in while office manager discussed sending a patient to a specialist while keeping the regular care physician the same on the phone), Dutch and German (swearing at maskless cretins on the street under my breath), and Indonesian (discussing the 'bersiap' period with someone who knows meatball congee).
Bakso bubur. Congee with meatballs, minced scallion, and fried shallots.
With a nice crispy fresh fried yautiu.

An old time taste, almost antique, very home town.


The linguistic failure was lunch. Given the word for the cooking technique used (炒 'chaau'; to sauté or stir-fry), what I expected was shrimp and pumpkin strips stir fried and sauced. Perhaps with some scallion strewn over, and a whiff of sesame oil. What I got was whole shrimp and pumpkin chunks battered and deep-fried (炸 'jaa'). It was very good, with rice and a hefty sploodge of Sriracha.
Gam chaau naam gwaa haa kau (金炒南瓜蝦球) is, to my mind, a misnomer. It is not chaaued, but jaaed. Chaau does not come into play. Even if garnished, like in the painting above, with chopped hot chili and scallion (both missing), as if it were salt and pepper chicken wings, the added stuffs are not chaaued, but fresh and raw on top of the succulent shrimp.

In Florida, when the temperature sinks too low, the iguanas become torpid.
And their grasp on the branches of the trees relaxes.
Falling comatose lizards.

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Today, as you know, is Burn's Night, when people all over the world gather in scratchy woollen skirts to recite doggerel and eat the inedible. Except for the skirts, it's like a celebration of the culture and speech habits of Yorkshire. Everyone's spiritual home. The bag of offal in this post refers to a "haggis", that being a football shaped comestible composed of chopped innards and oatmeal inside a cleaned sheep's stomach which is steamed for hours, then ceremoniously carried around the room and venerated with loud noises.
After which sooty firewater is drunk.
Much of it.

I have made haggis. I have eaten haggis.
And participated in the jollification.

Because I am a Dutchman, and therefore naturally a sneering and sarcastic blighter, people never invite me to Burn's Night anymore. They are afraid of what I'll do.
The haggis is Burn's writing made flesh.
It cries out for Sriracha.
It is sad.

Also, all you men in plaid skirts with socks to match look bloody ridiculous.
Drunken refugees from a Catholic girls school. Or reformatory.

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Shortly after the middle of the day I have another medical appointment. With a new doctor this time -- my previous regular care physician has gone back to school -- whom I haven't met before. After which, a tasty lunch, a cup of Hong Kong milk tea, and a smoke.
Don't know what I'll have to eat yet, but I'm certain about the pipe.

This new doctor will probably give me the lecture about how tobacco is bad for me, and I don't as yet know how to distract her from that. Chinese American women hate smoking, and though her patients must include a fair number of stubborn old coots who cuss in a foreign tongue and disobey at least that one bit of medical advice -- frequently lighting up the moment the hospital door has shut behind them -- it's almost a guarantee that she'll be opposed to a bad habit which keeps me sane and forces me to take long walks.

But doctor, if I didn't smoke, I'd never get any exercise!

I'll try to focus her mind on the peripheral angioplasty of the lower extremities which is a distinct possibility that I've discussed with my cardiologist. It's a fascinating process, which doesn't take very long, and will improve circulation and comfort levels. Let's talk about that, shall we?

The pipe for later will be in my coat pocket.
It's an item which I think is older than I am, probably by two decades or more. It has the look of something that may have been made between the early thirties and the mid-fifties at the latest. The brandname (Westgate) is unknown to me, and I'm guessing that it was the housebrand of a tobacco shop which closed a long time ago. Probably in a college town.

Imagine a young fellow at university, supplementing his income tutoring Latin.
Unlike me, he probably liked jazz. And had a collection of records.
As well as lots of sheet music.

He probably graduated from med school just in time for the war, and by the time he rejoined civilian life and had established a reasonably flourishing practice, he smoked cigarettes.

This is a fairy tale I will not share with my new doctor.
She doesn't need to know that doctors smoked.
Or at least not be reminded of it.

I actually enjoy medical appointments nowadays. It's human contact, with a whole bunch of people whose conversation is to the point, and who always wear masks.
And football is never mentioned.

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Monday, January 24, 2022


Plans for heading over the hill for a late lunch or tea were scotched by the lateness, as well as the sheer number of maskless people on the streets during an earlier walk around my own neighborhood while smoking a pipe. Which takes, on average, half an hour or so. Over one hundred and thirty people without masks in those twenty side street blocks. Ninety percent of whom were Caucasian -- my people, the idiots -- but one of whom was a Sikh with his beaky nose exposed. How do I know he was a Sikh? Body language, sloppy wattan wali pag, kara. He was getting on the bus with his big schnozzle sticking out.

Sat sri akal, ji. Tum baifkuf hai?

So I stayed home and fixed myself something homestyle: 菜泡飯 ('choi pou faan'). Soupy rice with veggies and a little meat. Which is harder to describe succinctly than to make, and yields comfort food for in front of the computer reading the news.


Take a small wine bowl with small dice fatty pork (blanched and rinsed before chopping), a somewhat larger quantity of chopped yau choi (stalky mustard cabbage), and a larger quantity than that of cooked rice. Plus thick slivered ginger, and a bit of rice wine or sherry. Salt, pepper.
Melt a little lard in the skillet, add the pork bits, let colour a little. Dash in some rice wine. Add the yau choi, stir to incorporate. Add the rice, plus boiling water. Cook for few minutes. A little salt and pepper and a few drops of sesame oil, and it's done.
It's basically left-over rice dolled up a bit.

Meat from that streaky cut used for mui choi kau yiuk (梅菜扣肉) is perfect, or simply have some siu yiuk (燒肉) from the siu mei dim on hand. But a strip or two of bacon can also be used, just cook it more toward crispy, (drain off some of the grease) and omit salt.

Yes of course I added some sliced chili.
You had to ask?

Me and the stuffed animals had a very nice tea time.
Them I tolerate not wearing masks.

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Left the house at an ungodly hour this morning for my eye-doctor's appointment. The good news is that regular latanoprost eye-drops have helped reduce the pressure inside the left orb, and the situation has stablized at a safer level. Seeing as glaucoma is slow, very slow, I was worried about being blind on one side eventually, and now it looks like I'll be able see out of both eyes when I finally kick the bucket when I'm past a hundred.

Please note that use of verbs such as "seeing", "looks", and "see" was deliberate.
I have an ill sense of humour. I should see someone about that.

Naturally I filled up the appropriate pipe afterwards.
An apple. The roundness. I would've smoked it anyway.
Did I already mention my sense of humour?

Surely you can see how appropriate a round pipe is for a visit to the eye doctor?
The utter suitability is practically staring you in the face.
Fercrapssakes, just look at it!

Okay, I'll stop now.

A pipesmoker on the internet posted a photograph of a recent mail-call. Which included a one-pound can of Captain Black Grape. He shamefacedly wrote that he may have been intoxicated when he placed the order. And I suspect it may have been late in the night, because bad decisions are more common when you can't see far ahead. Perspectives get skewed.

John with a last name that indicates he may be a relative of mine nine generations ago wondered how it tastes.

[Captain Black Grape. No, not a captain named Black Grape, but the brand of Captain Black flavoured cavendish pipe tobacco, in particular a version that came out several years ago, which has taken the old codger and grammar school delinquent demographics by storm. Apparently Midwestern wives and mothers love the smell. They have to cope with lutefisk and cabbage, so who can blame them?]

It tastes like grape soda. There is NO discernible tobacco flavour at all. None. I smoked several bowls of two test batches when it was still in the pre-finalization phase. The good thing is that it doesn't bite. The bad thing is that several people have doubted my sanity ever since.

Fortunately there is no pipe tobacco that smells of lutefisk. If there were, there would also be a collection of crusty old farts, probably with unkempt beards and collections of empty beer cans, who would become a cult following for it. "This tobacco", they would say, "exemplifies all that was good about the old days, sweetness and light". Those wonderful local tobacconist's blends of the past, when serious professionals ran a pipe shop, and briars were more common.
Søren Svenson's Fishy Flake: A real man's smoke.

I must point out that I have heard ALL the condimental tobaccos used in blends (Latakia, Perique, fired Kentucky, Turkish, and cigar leaf) described as reeking like sweat socks.

In order: terpeneols (Latakia), tangy salty sweet (Perique), charred oak and old dust (fired Kentucky), resinous and clayish (Turkish), wood shavings and cow dung (cigar leaf).
Sweat socks. All of it.


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Sunday, January 23, 2022


Sadly, one of my favourite joints for rice porridge will be closed soon. From the first of February through the third, re-opening on the fourth. Because of Chinese New Year. They're in Hong Kong, which is where I am not, so it shouldn't affect me in the slightest. Unfortunately, it is quite likely that one or two of my other favourite jook joints will also be closed. For the same reason.
Tuesday through Thursday.
My weekend.

Anybody want to invite me over for jook?
Its not that I have to have jook on my weekend, but given the constraints of working in the suburbs, where edible foods are few and far between, and the selection is severely limited, my off-work days are the only time I can. And even if I brought a thermostatic lunch pail to work, there is no way I can snag a yautiu to go with the congee.

A hot cup of milk tea and a pastry are probably also out of the question.

At least caffeinated beverages and a pipe or two are still in the cards.

Pork chunks, dried oysters, and hair vegetable is less likely.

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Many years ago I would finish the day with three or four newspapers, a slice of pie, and several cups of coffee at a place on Jackson Street which no longer exists, then afterwards head out into the night high as a kite on caffeine, with a pipe in my mouth.
I would still like to do that, but the local newsrags are no longer readable.
No, I haven't changed. I remain a vibrant young man.
Times have changed.
The only places open past normal bedtimes are bars, Starbucks, and a few donut shops.
Pie, sadly, is not as good as it was, and far too stodgy for most people.
I lament pie.

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Saturday, January 22, 2022


The local football team has won, so that tells me what almost all conversations will be about tomorrow. And given that I wish to remain steadfastly beyond apathetic about both the local team and the sport itself, I dread this. But I shall be polite. Courteous even. A veritable bloody charm school graduate. The alternative being coming across as a communist.

I'll probably have to feign an interest.

Which means to say that I wish to be accepted as a human, instead of the outer space lizard alien in the pay of Moscow that I really am.

By the way, life is too short to swill shitty beer like Budweiser, Coors, Michelob, or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or Heineken. Which many people do during the game.

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Friday, January 21, 2022


For people on the spectrum, neurotic habits add stability to life. Consequently they may have considerably more of such than most people. It's like the argument about how the toilet paper goes. Sometimes the answer may have extraordinary importance. There will be death by the sword and mass rebellion if it is done incorrectly.

My apartment mate and I have never considered the issue. The toilet paper stands upright on a little side table to the left of the crapper. I cannot speak for her on this matter, but I have certain very very firm habits when using it which you do not need to know, and were I to omit them the fires might rain down and the world shake on its foundations.

Rather a lot of pipe smokers are quite as nuts.
The enjoyable past-time inculcates regularity.

Asperger syndrome people are, and this should NOT surprise you, often good at grammar, and sometimes afflicted with Tourettes. Likely to speak with concise clarity, though formulaically repetitious, and sometimes staggeringly beside the point.

Favourite themes will get repeated.
A huge number of times.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022


Perhaps grumpy old dingos like myself should avoid public places until this whole thing is over. I find myself, on a regular basis, cursing the people who don't mask OR cover their noses on the bus, or on the public street within ten feet of me. Given that there are now well over two thousand fresh deaths and nearly a million new cases everyday, one would think that out of sheer desperation -- forget consideration or a sense of shared social responsiblity -- these schmucks would do the right thing. For once.

Yes, no, ain't gonna happen.

The cursing, you understand, is not out loud. Because I do not want to get arrested for assault and battery, nor get into a close-proximity altercation with a random vector of filth and disease.

In comparison with Caucasians, the Chinese American population of San Francisco comes off much better, especially in Chinatown, where if you see a person without a mask covering their mouth and nose in public it's almost certainly a white person, from a place where masks are imperfectly understood, like Twin Peaks, Cow Hollow, Noe Valley, Vallejo, or Mississippi.
I hate tourists especially during this pandemic.

Okay, now that the griping is out of the way, I had a splendid afternoon. Fish and rice for lunch, with milk tea and hot sauce, followed by a pipe around the corner where the white folks rarely go. From one side I could hear 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' playing in a shop -- which is probably the whitest song there is, other than the Little Drummer Boy -- and from another side the dulcet tones of a crazy street person ranting angrily in an alleyway. Up ahead, a delightful munchkin skipped along, her pearlescent neon backpack bouncing.
The bum was indistinguishable from a tourist; no mask.
The moppet wore her mask. Properly.
Preschool age.

Christmas songs are ghastly after the twenty fourth, besides often being schmaltzy and evocative of heartbroken tears and snot.

The Venn diagram of Caucasian, health-careless, and crazy guy in Kerouac Alley has enormous overlap.

Grocery shopped, upped transit card, dodged my fellow whities.
Afternoon tea at a local bakery.
Followed by another smoke.
On the whole, I would far rather smoke my pipe near adorable little Chinese kids than white tourists from the rest of the country. Given a choice. And if I have to be near humans at all. One group is well behaved and considerate, and wear their masks. The other smells bad, dresses funny, eats too much, is loud and obnoxious, and can't figure out how to wear a mask.
It's a question of manners and mores.
Common sense.

Did I say I had stopped griping?
I lied.

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Europe discovered caffeine five centuries ago, which spurred the greatest psychosis in history. Colonialism and conquest, the industrial age, mass literacy and education, modern science and medicine, both world wars, and, inevitably, rock and roll. About that last subject the far less said the better. I discovered caffeine when I was twelve or thirteen (I was already familiar with highly refined white sugar; nicotine came later), which let me stay up past nine, graduate from high school, and lubricate my social life.

The Western World could not have done all those things if they had still been fuelling the day with diluted beer or wine, as they would have been quite insensate by the afternoon, like they were during the Dark Ages.

One of the great advantages of caffeinated beverages was boiling (thus disinfecting) the water.
So in addition to wiring the average European to the gills, there was a better chance of survival into a ripe old age, which at that time would have been his or her mid-forties.
The world has never been the same.

Johnson wrote his famous dictionary hepped on twenty cups of tea a day.

Freud would never have come up with psychoanalyses without the coffeeshops of Vienna, and wouldn't have said anything of note about cigars.

And instead of making illustrations on my computer, I would probably be painting timorous Virgin Marys for the local monastery somewhere in Brabant or Flanders, while scratching at fleas and lice. Altenating between belching, and falling asleep at the easel.
We are all probably a lot better off without me painting the Virgin Mary.

Contrary to what many of us think, we do much of our best thinking after coffee or tea, not when we're drunk or stoned.

How sad that modern romance seems impossible without alcohol or marijuana.

My longest intimate relationship, which lasted far longer than most marriages, was with a woman who neither drank nor toked. She was perfectly happy without booze and weed.

For some reason many of my recent illustrations have been hot cups.
None have been of timorous virgins in cow stalls.
Which is remarkable.

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