Thursday, June 13, 2024

THEY'RE FILLED WITH NUTS!

One of my earliest grammar school memories naturally involves chocolate. Of which I was fonder than many of my classmates, who preferred Dutch licorice and hard sugar candies. Dutch licorice is excellent, American licorice humps bollocks. Dutch chocolate is also quite excellent, but here in San Francisco we know chocolate. As regards hot chocolate I distinctly recall my intense disappointment when faced with American commercial packets, which are weak, flavourless because they use crappy chocolate, and overly sweet because sugar is addictive and manufacturers know that if you feed addiction you win converts.

That addictive bit, by the way, is why people watch Fox News.
It satisfies the addictions of the country's idiots.
Conspiracies, paranoia, xenophobia.

There's no actual content there, just an endless stream of nuts.


Our landlady returned from a trip abroad recently; England and Spain. The latter introduced Europe to cacao, so you'd think they would be absolutely afloat in a sea of chocolate. Yet for historic reasons, they prefer their sweets made with fruit and nuts. Mostly nuts (no idea how they are on newsblathering).

She gifted us with candy (Spain) and soap (England).
For some reason I now have an urge to take a cold shower and eat hard sweets afterward.


Not only do I have a somewhat addictive personality, but I'm also susceptible to suggestion. Which is why I just ate a dozen chocolates (they were in the corner of my right eye), and am determined to smoke a Dunhill Shellbriar, a bent with Canadian Patents 20984 / 21 & 197365 / 209 on the underside of the shank. A pretty old piece. Lovingly restored by yours truly.
It's in the corner of my left eye.

What I'm actually smoking is a 大重九 ('taai jung kau'; "big heavy nine"), a long thin luxury cigarette made in China, from a pack given to me by a friend whose English abilities are sadly severely limited but whose skill at getting tobacco products not allowed for sale in America into the hands of avid consumers is unsurpassed. Good man.

Although the burning season here in California has started, it is considerably cooler in San Francisco than where he is from. Far Northern China. There do not appear to be any luxury chocolate products there, the Chinese have largely not developed a taste for that, but they've gone into cigarettes big time. Possibly they remember that Napoleon funded the conquest of Europe with a monopoly of that. It's also a state-owned branch of commerce in China.

Russia, largely empty though filled with nuts, is the back door to Europe.
That's probably nothing more than a disturbing coincidence.


大重九

Great red nines are made by the Hongyun Honghe Group. 紅雲紅河集團,總部及地址位於雲南省昆明市五華區紅錦路181號,董事長為姚慶艷。Located in at 181 Red Brocade Road, Wuhua District, Kunming, Yunnan. The chairman is Mr. Yao. Excellent cigarette.
All your favourite animal manga characters smoke them.


You know, I've never really developed a taste for chocolate with nuts.
That's probably why I don't touch energy bars. Nasty stuff.
Smooth rich taste is what I crave instead.
Slim Chinese luxury coffin nails.
Fine Virginia flake.
Chocolate.



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BRAIN FOG

Far be it from me to bellyache constantly about the weather, but never-the-less. It seems that another heat wave is going to blister the inland areas. Which San Francisco isn't. We are on the coast and have fog. Jolly good. I hate hot weather. It makes my legs ache and moving about difficult. It forces the active man into inactivity. Hyper-active to hyper-inactive.


By the way, the thing about some detective series is that the one who did the dirty deed often had a damned good reason to do so and the readers, or audience, naturally sympathize with the murderer. If it's a good British series, there must be brassieres.
Just a thought. Never mind.

Yesterday's adventures with stacks of stuff to be burrowed through meant that I didn''t even get out of the house, and left several things undone. Speaking of being an active man.

Brassieres are a metaphor.
Clearly.
Honestly, I do not have brassieres on my mind. It's foggy there. The brassieres in question are still hanging in the bathroom. They may not be quite dry yet, but I am not planning to investigate. It's not my business. When a man has a female apartment mate, there will occasionally be feminine undergarments in the fog.

Their humidity level is not my concern.


Instead, I shall go outside for a walk with my pipe, and they will disappear eventually.


I suppose the benefit of a bra is that it protects tender skin areas when one is wearing a scratchy sweater. Such as might be necessary early in the morning when the temperature is low fifties and it's foggy outside. Which might be why there are no women, not even one, taking a walk with their pipes at this hour. Their brassieres are too moist. It's unhealthy.

That doesn't explain the women dogwalkers, though.
Shan't ask about the state of their bras.
Not a single dang word.



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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

GREAT REPTILE INVESTIGATIONS

When you go through stacks of stuff, and you are a packrat, you end up with dust on your spectacles, happy discoveries of things you didn't even know you had, and a far greater self knowledge than you wished for. I found pipe tobacco in sealed tins that I had totally forgotten about, half a dozen kippot (one of which is pride month suitable), and correspondence which I meant to answer years ago but didn't. I also revisited the stuffed armadillo that stood on my credenza at the toy company. I knew I still had him, and precisely where he was (near the boom box and precisely in the way of my feet when exploring among the tins of Dunhill tobaccos from twenty years ago on my computer desk).

There is now dust everywhere. This will need a damp cloth and ventilation.

And fairly brisk effort re-stacking things and making the place look "undisturbed" by the time my apartment mate returns. She's left two bras hanging to dry in the bathroom, by the way. She had upon leaving for the day expressed the hope that I would not be irked by the immodesty of her doing so.

Good lord, woman, I knew years ago that you had breasts.
It's not a sudden horrible surprise.
There are two.

I also know that you have no tattoos between them.
Or anywhere else.

Don't ask.
A PAUSE FOR CONTEMPLATION AFTER LOOKING FOR SOME MISSING TINS


When she returns this evening I'll just be sitting on my rock soaking up the sunlight, la la la, as if nothing happened today. Think of me as the mysterious monitor lizard of pipe tobacco hoarding, with unknown superpowers. No, I did not find anymore My Mixture 965 from 2004.
A friend wanted some, but it may all be gone by now. Plenty of Durbar and London Mixture, some more Rattrays, McClellands, and some G. L. Pease flakes in nicely bulgy tins.


It has always struck me as a very great pity that there are so few women pipe smokers. The distaff side often likes tea as much as a man, and avidly reads Faulkner, Simenon, and Sir Bertrand Russel too. Curries and delicious pastries by the fire, also. In many ways they have exactly the same tastes as men. And aesthetically they can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and fine grain of a prized old briar.

They just never really developed a taste for blowing fragrant fumes out of their nostrils while swotting Latin and Algebra. Or even once they developed an obsession with applied geology. Such as might stand them in good stead drilling through the piles of books and documents in their digs while looking for missing tins.

Maybe they're just too organized, and don't have piles?
Further investigation is required.



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AND DINGUS, WHOSE NAME I DON'T REMEMBER

There are strange things on the street these days, which is probably because the weather is decent. On one corner a gentleman was seated at the curb looking remarkably dog-like from nearly a block away, which fooled me till I got closer. A few blocks later I saw another man at the corner who turned out to actually be a dog. A large patient beast patiently waiting for his inebriated human to stumble out of the nearby bar, which he did when I was a quarter of a block away.

Having spent most of the day putzing around at home I didn't get over to C'town for a late lunch till around teatime. Before I got to the chachanteng I passed 'Dingus' smoking his pipe (a Savinelli, recognizable shape). After lunch I lit up the pipe I had brought with me (Comoy, Canadian, old piece) and wandered into the bowels of the International settlement / antique district on the outskirts of the Financial District, where I encountered Tat-yee with his pipe (straight corncob). He's gotten older, and seems to be missing a tooth or two.
Nice chap though. I've known him for a long time.
His English has improved remarkably.

There were also a number of loonies in the blocks between then and the bus stop. All except the last were male. And very much out of contact with reality. The San Francisco Financial District is a good place for that.

Out of the house again a number of hours later for the weekly "pub crawl".
Which is always a sane, almost Lutheran, event.
We are sober individuals.
After leaving the burger place the bookseller and I encountered Solomon, who was smoking a beautiful bent Radice (excellent pipe brand) filled with Tree Mixture (by Robert Lewis), which is an extremely old-school English / Balkan / Scottish product. We chatted briefly about pipes and tobaccos, before heading on to the karaoke joint, which was filled with loud young drunks squawling. And we decided to go elsewhere.

My friend the bookseller recounted waking up from a recent dream involving his father and his cousin (?) or uncle (?) in upstate after a ballgame. Which was his alarm clock-radio rousing him in time to think of garbage.


I often think of garbage. That's simply how my mind is.


At the bus stop heading home we were treated to the sight of a crazy person offering a short-skirted restaurant worker food, then slinking away, followed within minutes by a young drunk coming up to assure her that a bus was coming soon, it was just two or three blocks away.

Again, it's probably the pleasant weather bringing them out.
Or the short skirts, but that's the weather too.


On the road home from the bus I encountered a young fellow crouching behind a parking meter who confessed that he was a New Yorker who had sipped too many Tom Collinses earlier. Nice chap. Very civilized. Quite drunk.



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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

A SLICE OF HOT CHEESE

A rabbinic friend has strong feelings about pizza, in which he echoes Jon Stewart. He also mentions Detroit Pizza, and has totally avoided California pizza, which we don't eat here in San Francisco unless we're suburbanites or from the Midwest. Which real people aren't. Pizza is a great and universal good. A sign of civilization.

It is probably not coincidental that there are pizza joints all around Chinatown. Sometimes a man needs a break from steamed pork patty with salt fish or bittermelon and fatty chunks. Pizza, of course, goes great with rice.

Real pizza NEVER comes with ranch dressing. There might be a bottle of Sriracha on the counter, which is our equivalent of ranch dressing.
And far better than.

Shan't mention pineapple here.
That's a secret perversion.
Kind of Oaklandish.

Pizza is chiz.
The best pizza is made in joints owned by Palestinians who employ Mexicans. You buy it late at night after you've sent your out-of-town relatives back to their hotel and can be fully human again. E-commerce yuppies will have a donut instead. Proof that they aren't human.


Pizza is also the breakfast food of choice, and the reason why some of us go jogging at the crack of dawn; it's guilt over that left-over slice we bunged into the oven to reheat just after getting up to pee when it was still dark outside. We woke up the neighbors with our joy.

There's always left-over pizza. No civilized person ever orders "just enough".
You never know when the frat boys might come over.
Gotta be prepared, boyscout.



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THE LEGENDARY HEARTLAND

It's a guarantee that if you're on social media for a few minutes you will see a comment from some slope brow with his pick-up truck on cinders in East Fudgebungus, Iowa, who hates San Francisco and California. Which can be irritating, sure, but just remember that they have no healthcare and are related to the human elephant and the human skunk, inbred kinfolk whom they see every holiday. In East Fudgebungus, Iowa.
Plus they're probably Christians.
That kind of Christian.

On the other hand, if you're reading my blog, you'll encounter nasty remarks about the rest of the country. Much of which is East Fudgebungus, Iowa. They eat grits, cottage cheese, and breaded deep-fried porkloin sandwiches regularly and think that Sriracha is witchcraft.

Plus they've probably got a suspended license and the single lane highway is out for repairs.
Probably a good time to have their pick-up truck on cinders, I guess.

Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo Boo were filmed there.
American cheese country.

I like to think that my social media presence is a welcome breath of fresh air and the best of late twentieth century civilization, after people have been stuck all morning reading the rancid philosophical insights of racist cavemen desperately trying to sell time shares and pyramid schemes in East Fudgebongus, Iowa, which they themselves would escape in a heartbeat, because this year it's their turn to host the family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The human elephant and the human skunk. Aunt Mabel and Cousin Jimbo. The Sears couch is still saggy from the last time. Something broke.
There is no Sears store there anymore. Nor a Mervyn's. The only thing that hearkens back to simpler times when life was good are a Denny's and a Cracker Barrel, where long haul truckers fight with drunken locals at three in the morning.

If you're willing to drive fifty miles there's an Applebees and an Olive Garden, and a twenty four hour convenience store with White Castle Burgers in the freezer.

People only use twenty letters of the alphabet there.
They count up to three fingers.
Life is simpler.



For a taste of exotic food and fancy foreign cooking they add a sprinkle of dried oregano to their grits, cottage cheese, and breaded deep-fried porkloin sandwich.
They ordered that spice from Amazon.
It's kwee-zeen.



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Monday, June 10, 2024

ANATHEMA, HERESY, AND THE REEK OF EVIL

Apparently there IS such a thing as 'Raspberry Cream Pipe Tobacco'. Which aghasts me. It's favourably reviewed by smokers of aromatics, about most of whom I have less than flattering opinions. It would probably go great with a fruity cocktail, and I can just imagine what would happen at the local cigar bar if I lit this up, which might make me want to try it. Kind of like letting a large weasel loose in The Dude's bathtub (movie reference).

You know, eventually the aficionados of fruity boba tea drinks will start adding a jigger of fruit liqueurs to their favourite beverages, and please just imagine hordes of tiddly Hello Kitty freaks and fanboys rioting in your neighborhood after work.

Did someone say "tempting elderly syphilitics"?
If not, they should.


Boswell Pipes & Tobacco
Raspberry Cream
Rich toasted raspberry cavendish with a sprinkle of golden cavendish.
Raspberry with hints of creamy chocolate and vanilla.
A mild sweet blend.


As I said, favourably reviewed.
As an ice cream it would probably be stellar.

This is not something I will recommend to my fellow pipe smokers in this locality, because the natives already look at us as if we were ruddy perverts. There is no need to upset them any further. I have no wish to be beaten to death just as yet.


Instead, I shall mention it on one of the internet pipe forums. Someone will probably have smoked it. Who will unsuspectingly out himself.

Or itself.



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BOATING ACCIDENTS

During his recent campaign speech in Las Vegas, our ex-president and 34-fold felon Donald Trump waffled on about boats sinking, a young lady swimming nearby, and sharks attacking him. Which was delightful. I may be letting my fondness for America's favourite batshit crazy senile uncle gain the upperhand here, but I also think that shark attacks are a crisis. Clearly the sharks are not getting fed enough. Young ladies, no matter how leggy and well-marbled, are not a suitable diet. Why are sharks desperately doing this? And has the United Nations been notified? Look, we just cannot have America's sharks randomly eating people!
It's bad for them. Must be all that electricity in the water.

If we ban the windmills, that will stop.
It's a matter of public health.


It was one hundred and ten degrees in the shade during that rally, and the audience had Taylor Swift on their minds. Over a dozen of them had to be hospitalized. Sharks.

Oh, the humanity!
America's poorly fed selachimorphs are a problem for which there is no easy solution. Clearly junkfood is not going to help. Lean red meat, from the great red heartland -- McAllen, Texas; Jackson, Mississippi; and Shreveport, Louisiana -- might, though. Plus vegetable fibre.
The great state of Iowa comes to mind. That way there's finally a use for it.


This blogger longs for the day when vast herds of great white sharks once again thunder across the prairies, like they did when the United States first rose to greatness and made Western Europe safe for literacy, freedom, and civilization.


We must move forward, not backward. And upward, not forward.
And always twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom.
How wise these words from years ago.
Prescient.



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A GLÆDED AREA

Two dogs on leashes approached, and respectfully smelled at each other. Their humans, sadly, did not do the same. It's rare if people do that. Sunlight drenched the scene. Today is street cleaning on this side of the street, and it was too noisy, so I hurried up the hill to get away from the slow-moving sweep-vehicle, and did not stay to continue observing them.
I don't really like discordant noise, so I tend to evaporate when possible. Which characterizes my interactions with the rancid old fossils in the backroom at work, who take joy in swearing at each other and hurling rhetorical abuse. They particularly dislike where another person's head is at. Whichever other person. Whoever. He's wrong, damned wrong.
And undoubtedly the worst moron to roam the earth.

If it weren't for the calming effect of cigars and liquor, and the snug constraints of their incontinence pants, they'd probably engage in gladitorial combat. They are elderly, disappointed in life, and Republicans. They fling rhetorical pooh.

Quite often I wish I was allowed to use a cattle prod.

Old fascist men need to be medicated.

Or straightjacketed.
Today is a day off, and I was planning to get up later, but at six o'clock I decided to fix myself my first cup of coffee and head on out for a stroll and a pipeful. This neighborhood can be delightful early in the morning when the sun is shining.

I enjoy my days off. At the end of several days at work in Marin I am not quite sane. This may be because I am nearer the age when men sit in corners with their glasses of brandy or port wine and reminisce about their great deeds during the Crimean war, and complaining about this modern generation and their queer fondness for horseless carriages.

Being away from Marin and those old bastards is restorative.

They are too modern for port wine or brandy.

And never did any great deeds.

Which sours them.


Sometimes people should be shouted at or they will never know how stupid they are.


When I returned and fixed my second cup of coffee I noticed that a pair of wood doves have made a home beyond the drain pipe at the far end of the airwell. That corner of the building is unoccupied, and they will not be disturbed. Chirpy tweets and coos whenever one of them arrives with food. At some point, presumably, there will be attempts at flight by the juveniles. Which should be interesting. My landlady, who lives downstairs, directly below me, will probably discover the hapless chick(s) when sweeping there and be distressed.
Probably keen to get them off the ground before the cat gets out.

I like wild doves. They're sort of like city pigeons' more genteel and cultured country squire cousins. Not brash, rude, or likely to sound like a tough guy from the Bronx.
Rather pretty small birds.



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Sunday, June 09, 2024

CIGAR SMOKERS AND THEIR DISEASED MINDS

Cigar smokers, as I heard today, all remember the first time they got a ( -- blank -- ). Pipe smokers remember their first tobacco. Not because they are sexless, but because they are cleaner-minded, nearly saints. My very first pipe tobacco was Niemeijer's Scottish Mixture.
A month or so later I bought a tin of Niemeijer's Irish Mixture. Basically the same variegated blend of light and dark ribbon, with for the first heather honey and Scotch whisky notes, for the second, Irish whiskey with a touch of citrus. I cannot remember which of those two my father handed me back disdainfully when it was discovered that at fourteen years old I had become a pipesmoker.


"Good pipe tobacco does not smell like a Turkish bathhouse; smoke good tobacco."


Having crossed that bridge, and been outed by the cat, who had found my stash and played with the pipes, I was became blatant about it. I asked for a serious increase in my allowance because good pipe tobacco is not cheap, and within a fairly short period discovered Latakia blends. Whereupon well meaning elderly degenerates would take me aside in coffee shops and whisper conspiratorily that I'd have a lot more friends if instead I smoked Clan.

Two things must now be mentioned: 1): I did not smoke to attract friends (or aged dingbats). 2): Latakia blends are splendid and delicious, whereas Clan (by Theodorus Niemeijer) is nasty aromatic shite that will wreck your pipes, tastebuds, and morals.
So, speaking of first times, today a respected member of the pipe club brought a bottle of grappa to the meeting. Naturally I did not have any -- one of us has to remain cold sober to drive them all out into the snow at the appointed time -- but I did thoroughly enjoy the pâté. Sometimes there is nothing finer than duck organ meat made smooth and oleaginous. Neil also brought a big bag of shortbread, because he knows I like his shortbread very much. One of the other members is currently reading about Jan Pieterszoon Coen -- an accomplished man, much admired -- and I was happy to remind him of what happened in Banda, about which we shall not speak, but it does rather illustrate how we Dutch engage in trade.


At one point one of the attendees said something berserk, but his marbles were always on shaky ground anyway, and sometimes I think he lost it. We are all getting on in years, and not everyone has my gravitas and equitable personality.

All in all I had a very good time. The others did as well.
Sex was not mentioned because we are clean-minded.

Unlike the cigar smokers in the back room.
Who are a bunch of filthy hooligans.
Icky and quite cretinous.



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Saturday, June 08, 2024

NO SELFIE STICK

Over the years I have taken numerous selfies. At least THREE of them. And I've had a device for doing that around four years precisely and approximately.That's nearly one a year! Well, okay, I'm a little self-camera shy. I'm just not that fascinating that there need to be many pictures of me beyond the obligatory file photos. Picture of a future pipsemoker in a bath, looking like a goober. Future pipe smoker as a happy little tyke in a garden. Future pipe smoker two year before ever going to grammar school, looking uncertain about something. Let's skip over the grammar and high school years, and, dammit, my college years.
I looked like a goober. Totally.

Somewhere there are bunch of photos of me when I taken visited the Netherlands with my apartment mate. I look reasonably human. I also have a stash of photos of her from that trip. She looks absolutely divine. Daemonic too, because she hates having her photo taken, and can be dangerous to cross. I won't show them to anyone or ask her to show me the photos she took of me. Imagine a petite Chinese woman, very fiercely indignant.

Trip to Holland; "Here's Aunt Edith standing in front of a windmill".
And: "here's Aunt Edith behind the same windmill."
"Here's something we ate".

There actually is no Aunt Edith.
Here I am in a garden, middle distance, center screen. I'm the one with the red shirt.

Right next to the very Belgian person.


Given all that, it probably surprises you that I have no selfie-stick, nor any plans to ever acquire one. In actual fact I consider selfies and sticks for selfies to be one of the most tedious apsects of the modern era.

In addition to people on the bus telling people telephonically that they are on the bus.

Okay. You're on the bus. Have you considered getting off?

More privacy elsewhere.




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Friday, June 07, 2024

TIME TO CELEBRATE

It's National Donut Day! There will be scenes of joyful partying and wild abandon. All over the country, parades will feature little kiddies dressed in donut costumes marching down main street, drum majorettes, and clog dancing. Confetti! Sugar! World War One era nurses. Oompah bands!

No?

What's wrong with you Americans?

Have you no sense of history? No pride in something uniquely American?


No addiction to wholesome deep-fried snacks, highly refined sugar, unsaturated fats, and caffeinated beverages. Or the appropriate seasonal food without which the English would have welcomed us in both world wars to make Europe safe for democracy?

Nothing cheers up the boys at the gym doing the treadmills and weights better than a bag of hot fresh donuts from the place across the street. Their bleary eyes will brighten up, there will be a quickness and a vigour to their heart-pumping actions, leggy joggers from up the hill come flocking ...
Yeah, um. Despite it being darned well the only national holiday celebrating Dutch American achievements, I am myself not really vested. As a Dutch American descended from the first settlers in New York, I suppose I ought to be giddy. But I don't eat breakfast, and this isn't the great depression when everyone was desperate for energy-boosting and upcheering.

When I stepped out of the house I said 'good morning' to a neighbor, waved at the dude across the street, lit my pipe, and headed up the hill to be unsocial and pensive for the first half hour of the day. No donut. Neither intended nor spontaneous. Not a prospect.

Coffee, tobacco, chirping birdies, and solitude.
Breakfast of champions.



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Thursday, June 06, 2024

DUMPLING WORLD

Having spent most of the day restoring some old briars, I headed out for tea in Chinatown at around four o'clock, realizing that I had not really accomplished anything worthwhile, or even done what I intended to do today. It was, however, an extremely enjoyable day. Restful. Without berserk heat.

The previous two days had been rather too warm for comfort.

Fog blanketed the bay by the time I finished.

Fewer underdressed people out.


Temperate weather makes everybody happier. In San Francisco we do not like oppressive summer weather, much preferring a pattern of warmish days and cool evenings, with fewer people mentioning Bay Watch or Hawaii Five O and other depressing tropical teevee shows. The warmest we like is Gilligan's Island, and then only for the nineteen sixties casual wear. And the occasional old-school bikinis.

Did they recycle Kong Island (aka "Skull Island") for the show?
Or were all movie and teevee islands basically the same?
One suspects the set designers didn't travel much.
On the way downhill after leaving the bakery I passed by a restaurant where dumplings were being made at the window work counter. Many old-school Chinese moms pride themselves on the neatly (neurotically) crimped pleats along the edges of dumplings, but actually those do not add anything to the taste. Rather, they indicate care and attention to detail, which may or may not be reflected in the filling. I happen to know that the dumplings at that place are excellent; I've been there numerous times over the last couple of years and eaten their steamed dumplings with great pleasure. They also have stellar HK style milk tea.


While the number of chachanteng has decreased dramatically, there are now more places where I can enjoy dumplings than ever before. So I'm not complaining (too much).

Dumplings, chilipaste, matured vinegar, tea.
Life is good.



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DISTRACTED BY A BEAR

Fully intent on reading the news (a man needs to be prepared for random conversations with crazy people in San Francisco), it was inevitable that I was distracted by an animal. Having seen one (several) further up the hill while smoking my pipe. Dog. Dogs. So how does one draw a bear? Start with a potato, then cover it with shiny velvet, or conceivably chocolate sauce. There are of course no bears in this neighborhood.

Over the years I've seen raccoons, possums, rats, coyotes, a small red-bellied snake, hawks, crows, seagulls, pigeons, and diverse pets including a duck. No bears. They haven't decided to venture into the urban jungle yet.

Also various beings out of the corner of my eye that could have been ghouls, simians, hauntings. Most of those proved to be South Asians on their cell-phones.


No actual bears.
A POTATO SERVED WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE


Perhaps I've never seen a bear. Even though I work at a holding pen for unpleasant senile men in the wilds of Marin far from the nearest settlement, no bears have come down from the hills to investigate. The horrid smell probably keeps them away. Elderly Republican carrion just isn't particularly appealing.


Naturally, when considering bears, one thinks of big hairy gay men with piercings, and porridge. So today might be a good day for a bowl of congee down in Chinatown.


I am not into big hairy gay men. Or small bald straight women.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Congee, yes.



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OVERNIGHT RAIN

It rained during the night somewhere else. I wasn't there, but I could feel it. More so because the skin remembered the warm breeze. The neighborhood sounds during the darkness were conducive to the mind being in that place, at that time. Which is actually over a dozen hours later, and somewhat warmer on average than here.


One very much has the urge to step outside under the overhanging corrugated roofings to enjoy the wetter weather. Even when it's bucketing down. It seems marginally cooler.
A smoke, lukewarm tea in a glass, and the distantly passing pedestrian.


Normally, here, they avoid the rains.
Probably makes their hair frizz.
Plus the scalp itches.

At least, that's my explanation of their rain fear. And the folded newspapers held above the head. As well as when, though no rain is predicted, umbrellas are carried at ready, to be deployed at the merest sprinkle. Even if it looks like it might. Possibly.
Gosh, it gets wet there! Refreshing! Usually this is a welcome change from the somewhat oppressive heat. The buckets of rain flow down the nullah, and though the streets flood, water usually does not get much up from the gutters, seldom clearing the curb.
No problem for everyone who lives on the next floor.

The convenience store on the ground floor keeps everything at least a foot off the ground. Now you know why. If the labels soak off of some bottles there's no clue what's in them. Could be condiment, could be concentrated goo. Maybe it's haggis in a bottle?


I made haggis once, from scratch.
Now I'll never eat it again.



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Wednesday, June 05, 2024

THE LOWER LEVELS

It hovered around eighty in the downtown for part of the day, so I can only imagine what those folks in Delhi must be going through at one hundred and twenty. I spent several hours in relatively low level discomfort. Achy calves, sore hip, mild throbbing. Heat. In Delhi I would probably be dead by now. They're having freak weather over there. Texas had freak weather last week. Also, flooding and exceptional rain in Southern China (Kwan Tung province).

Still, that heat.

Thickened blood, leg pains, the edge of dehydration.

From lunch till getting home was unpleasant, painful, frustrating. It's below seventy right now. Good thing tomorrow should be ten degrees cooler than today. Today every step up a slope felt like I was trekking up a steep mountain side in the mountains, desperate to get away from the tigers and malaria of the plains. Excelsior! Within acceptable limits.

Stick to the lower levels, but avoid the random crazies.
Like the naked man in Portsmouth Square.
Probably a splendid fellow.
Russel, who had pneumonia nearly three months ago, is finally fit enough for teatime. I had kind of avoided the bakery for several weeks, but for some reason I suspected he might be there again, first time in ages. He was. Which is how I got to hear about the disastrous flooding in Tung Kuen (東莞), which lies between Hong Kong and Kwangchow.
Robert went off on a memory tangent related to the place.
Something about midnight snacks.
食宵夜。



Other than feeling wearied by the heat for several hours it was a good and productive afternoon. And I got to see interesting things. I'm fully recovered and rehydrated now.



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HAPPY THOUGHTS

While outside taking a walk, as I am accustomed to do for various reasons early in the day, a passerby saw me scowling. There was a black port-a-potty next to where the municipality is digging up the asfalt, for the convenience of the crew. It's already warm outside, that thing is in direct sunlight. By ten o'clock or so it will have become a death-oven inside. Port-a-potties, for people unfamiliar with the concept, are small toilet hutches, completely enclosed, so that the user may do in there whatever their urinary tract or digestive system demands be done.

Think happy thoughts, she said. As her dog did in the open what a hardhat wearer would later do inside the hutch. Which might be an outpost of hell by then.

Okay, happy thoughts. A river, rushing over rocks in a tropical landscape, with green stuff densely thriving on either bank. Same angle to the slope down which it cascades as the dusty urban street going up Nob Hill on which I trudge with my pipe.

Birds and bugs and crawly things in the undergrowth.
Monkeys, and scaled wrigglesome critters.
Puddles, mosquitoes.


Stick to the darkly shaded area where it's coolest. By doing so you won't attract the pesky attention of government troops either, and will be invisible from the main road.
It is crucial in hot climates to wear stout shoes so that you don't end up with scrapes that might get infected or worms burrowing into your soles. These are happy thoughts.

Always have one or two thermos flasks of tea in the kitchen. That way you will have boiled the water and can stay hydrated. A prolonged stay out in the provinces requires a supply of water purification tablets. In Iowa you will also need salt, pepper, a bottle of Sriracha, and a plane ticket out of there, because the natives are wild, tasteless, and profoundly boring.
Albeit very pleasant people largely without tattoos or piercings.

These are happy thoughts.


There are no monuments to ancient civilizations out in the valley, where in some parts it will get to well-over an hundred degrees Fahrenheit today. One hundred and ten. Almost as bad as New Delhi. Where there have been numerous heat related deaths. But some stores are air-conditioned. Linger near the aisle where cold drinks are sold. Also, buy a bag of ice for your living room later. Unless you're staying in a modern motel with all the conveniences and a back-up generator, where there's an ice machine on every floor at the end of the hallway.


A friend needs to go up to Chico two weeks hence. Which will be a treck. Buses to the trains, trains to the hinterland, camel caravans and a line of porters halfnaked and sweating in the hot sun as they hack their way through jungly scrub. Oh wait, I'm thinking of Stanley and Livingstone or King Solomon's Mines.

Still, rattle snakes in the shade, and meth-crazed rednecks.
I fervently hope he comes out of it unscathed.
And that he takes his pills.
Happy thoughts.



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GREAT IMPROVEMENTS IN THE CONTINUUM

The normal routine is that I smoke my pipe while waiting for the bookseller to get off work, while scoping out the rodent life and dodging crazies. The rats were not about this evening; possibly their mommies kept them indoors because of the heat, like my own mother did the first time the outside temperature hit eighty when we lived in the Netherlands. She didn't want us to get heatstroke. Having spent a significant part of her life in San Francisco, she knew that eighty degrees was dangerous, and that's why civilization ended when you got to San Bruno. Everything further south was a desert inhabited by John Steinbeck characters. How ironic that she married a man from Los Angeles (actually Beverly Hills), and consequently lived down there among the savages for several years before we got out.
And moved to a temperate climate, where it also rained.

So, no rats in evidence. Likely in their bolt holes passing a pale hairless paw over what passes for their forehead, sqeaking languorously about the heat, Mabel, it's just so hot!
Pass me another icecube from that stash of rancid leftovers!


Back when Spofford was being beautified to pristine condition by the city it was a deep trench with plank walkways, and the rats thrived enormously. Once they realized that you meant no harm, you were just standing there at night observing them and smoking, they would pass within inches as they busily cleared up the garbage at either end of the alley, performing their civic duty with brio and enthusiasm, like miners at the rock face.
It was quite fascinating. Enchanting even.

There are far fewer of them now. Very likely the city realized that the very real possibility of bubonic plague would be bad for business. Especially in one of the most densely populated parts of the city. So they baited the area with rat poison, and by doing so quite likely killed everything else too. Cats, dogs, raccoons, pigeons, and anything smaller than a child.

The alley looks much more picturesque now. Very tourist-appropriate.
It's been filled in and repaved, with informative signs.
Occassionally crazies sleep there.
The best pipe tobacco for a night-time jaunt in Chinatown is something with plenty of age. Mature Virginia. It makes the night seem quieter, and the local wildlife doesn't seem to mind. Down on Grant sometimes one of the locals might recognize me and nod a friendly greeting, once or twice a completely insane person will stumble past, perhaps mumbling or waving a little wand like a refugee from Hogwarts.


The heat of the day had lessened considerably by the time the bookseller arrived. The burger joint was fairly crowded, the beer place still had some room, and the Karaoke bar had filled up with yutzes by the time we got there, so we went elsewhere.

A pity. I miss the dulcet tones of marketing department types belting out Hotel California or Sweet Caroline. It confirms my "faith" in human beings. Once I've finished filing my reports, the ship will come to pick me up and we're bombing this planet out of existence to make a hyperspace express route ('intergalactic bypass'). There wil be space-scaping.
So this solar system will look a lot cleaner.
Picturesque. Photogenic.
Colourful.



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Tuesday, June 04, 2024

CONSIDER THE WILDLIFE

Somebody asked me the other day, in all seriousness, to think about the children. I frankly refuse to do so. Children are creatures you cannot reason with, should never trust around dangerous or breakable objects, and who have no modulation or self-restraint. Little psychopaths, often till years after graduating from college. Or charm school.
Do NOT trust the little monsters around weapons or explosives.

Afghanistan and Pakistan show you what happens when you do.
Maybe I should think about the children.
Self-protectively.


You've seen that movie 'The Exorcist'? Yes?
That's what children are like.
The little angels.


I would much rather think about little animals. Not the ones that pooh all over themselves, but the ones who are cleanly and fastidious from the crib up.
I rather like animals.
What a pity that they cannot be taught to use utensils when eating. Chopsticks or cutlery.

If that were possible, it would be great to invite them out to restaurants. Don't look at me, look at my charming companion! Observe how deftly he or she takes little bites!
Such excellent table manners! And no mess!


Another great advantage of small furry creatures is that, what with being usually up to four feet below the pipe, they will probably not complain about the smell of my tobacco.

This is an extremely practical consideration.



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Monday, June 03, 2024

PERFECT CONDITIONS

The wildfire season has already started. A few years ago we had dark orange skies over San Francisco, which the Republicans blamed on Obama, many good Christians ascribed to our lack of faith, total sinfulness, and the absence of prayer from our schools, and a passing street bozo stated was caused by my smoking. "Way to go, ***hole!" The latter was probably true; I am a horrible man, I eat meat and gluten, and tear the wings off baby pit vipers.

Will no one think of the baby pit vipers?!? Oh, the humanity!

It's barely June and a massive conflagration has raged in Northern California, roughly one hundred miles east of here. Probably caused by my smoking.
Baby pit vipers, forever flightless!


You know, I will gladly take credit for that.
It's my godless gayness, no doubt.
And my purple tutu.

I'm just mighty glad that the heatwave this week (predicted to start on Tuesday and continue till maybe Thursday) is inland, away from the coast. Here, we are not under a heat advisory. It will be warm in the city, but not horrid.
GETTING OUR WILDFIRE ON


Please imagine Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn gaily swanning around the Nob Hill area, impeccably dressed, while the rest of the state goes to hell in a handbasket.

Yes, that would be me, by myself, with my pipe. Adam's Rib, but set entirely in the civilized world, instead of out there where the world is on fire.

It kind of makes you overheat in your bluejeans, doesn't it?
Or sweat at least a little between the eyebrows.


Folks dressed better in those days. Sadly, I dress like a slob. Clean, but careless. No long hair, no man bun, no ripped jeans, flip flops, or crocs. But you can tell that I am a bachelor, and not socially involved. The pipe is also a clue to that last, as in the modern world people largely avoid, despise, and excoriate smokers. Of tobacco. Not weed. Weed is therapeutic, grown by little green persons of all genders in the Amazon who hug dolphins and recycle, and it's good for the planet. Gluten free. The turmeric of combustibles.

An unlovable aquaintance was whining the other day about having to take a shower and put on clean clothes after smoking a cigar because his wife of more than half a century hates the ghastly smell. To me that suggests great benefits in their relationship; they spend plenty of time apart, sometimes several hours a day; he's regularly washed and dressed, and they're still together and won't die alone, old and frowsty. The dogs shan't eat the body, it will get a civilized burial. It's quite perfect for the nasty old scunge.

I've never met his wife. I'm sure she's a saint.



On the calendar for the day are a few chores (laundry, correspondence, bank), late lunch at a chachanteng after the midday crowd has thinned, and two or three quiet smokes outside. Among the pipe will be at least one Dunhill older than I am, patent number era.
Don't know yet which particular pipe.

It will be one of the bent shellbriars or the Bruyere Dublin.
They make me feel youthful and soigné.
Very "Way to go".



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HACKED BEEF

A friend posted a picture of comfort food. Specifically, hakkebøf. Which looks easy to pronounce, although putting on a slight Swedish Chef accent from the Muppet Show would undoubtedly sound better. And as a native speaker of Dutch (hairballs), I probably shouldn't say stuff like that. Hakkebøf are Danish minced beef patties, somewhat similar to Salisbury steak. Brown gravy, potatoes, pickled beets, augurks. Garnish with chives or parsley.
It can also be served with broad noodles and a mushroom sauce.

The soft-fried onions on top are perhaps essential: bløde løg.

Another essential element is increasing the frying surface of the thick meat patties by tapping all over each side with a knife edge, indenting them. That way the browned meatiness is greater, and the pan juices better for making a sauce.

In the same way that most Americans would feel that it's incomplete without bacon, cheese, and ranch dressing, and a typical Dutchman would say "that's a platte gehaktbal and sharp mustard would go well with that", I shall strongly suggest adding some minced capers and a squeeze of lemon when preparing the sauce and eating it all with sambal (chilipaste).

The Danes have not discovered sambal yet.
There are good reasons to suspect that if one of my favourite chachantengs had this as a set lunch, it would come with rice and a vegetable, possibly a few stalks of mustard green, a small bowl of soup, plus your choice of coffee or milk tea.

Which would be totally splendid.



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Sunday, June 02, 2024

WIRED TO THE ... EYEBROWS!

Having discovered that my upper-back feels much better if I make the first cup of tea before we open the doors in the morning and let the senile old forkies enter in for the day, it should surprise no one to hear that by early afternoon I was high as a kite on caffeine. Cup and a half of strong coffee in the hours after getting up. Four cups of tea and a cup of coffee during the working day. More coffee when I get home in the evening. Twirling, twirling, twirling, sudden crash.

Remember that line from The Sixth Sense?

"I see dead people."

When I saw that movie I didn't understand that that explained why Cole (Haley Joel Osment) ended up conversing with Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). It was a clue to Malcolm being himself an ex parrot, so to speak.

I see things that twitch out of the corner of my eye. They aren't always senescent old Marinite bastards. They've got brainrot, I'm wired to the eyebrows.

There are shadows there.
It's kind of fuzzy. I do not know if it's a weasel or a baby fox.

On my days off I am not nearly so hepped. Calmer, more rational, and probably much more likable. There are enough insane people in San Francisco that I do not need to add to the number. So those days I do not overdo the stimulating beverages.

I wonder if Rich's dog also saw the little furball. If so, it managed to not react. It's in training to become a guide dog, and they usually pick eventempered soundly balanced beasts for that. Besides, it probably realized that the creature in the corner was figmentary and harmless.


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