Wednesday, January 31, 2024


It's really coming down out there. A stupendous downpour. On the way home I passed a person shivering under a soggy blanket. Naturally I felt sorry for him, her, it. Equally naturally, I didn't do bugger all about it. Christianity only goes so far. There are doorways, dude. And for all I know that person could be a deranged crack addict from somewhere like Texas or Alabama who would rape, murder, and rob whoever extended shelter.

As the collective characterized by being Texan (or Alabaman), crazy as all get out, and addicted to illicit substances are known to do. When they live on the streets.
In San Francisco.

As evidence of their likely derangement: Larkin Street is uphill and away from any foot traffic, whereas Polk Street, downhill, not only provides the safety of passing humans, but has a number of less than inhospitable abandoned shopfronts with overhangs and awnings.

Maybe they are afraid of sharks. Flooded California coastal areas may be subject to elasmobranch infestations.
No need to worry, though. Polk Street (and Larkin, uphill), do not qualify as coastal.

Rain will be frequent, at times quite drenching, through till sometime Saturday.
And it may continue beyond then. Predictions are fluid.

Perfect pipesmoking wheather. Unless you have to do so outside.
There are less than inhospitable storefronts on Polk Street.
As well as several in Chinatown, near hot beverages.
But outdoors remains a second choice.

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Surely you remember the city beautification project that rendered Spofford Alley unpassable for nearly three years? It was supposed to barely go over twelve months, and improve the lives of everyone there. It damn' well didn't. It benefitted the rodent population, which thrived enormously, made it damned well impossible for emergency medical personell to cart a heart attack victim to the ambulance during a rainy winter night, impacted all other emergency services several times, and ruined every single business on that alley.

Spofford: A block-long hole with rats for far too long.
Bravo, you dipwads, bravo. Kudos!

Oh, but the end result is that it looks beautiful (it doesn't), and made that alley nicey-nice for the tourists. Who don't shop there, never shopped there, and generally speaking look down on the residents as colourful misguided natives doing ocassionally photogenic stuff.

The renovation of Portsmouth Square, starting in late 2024 and closing off the square while it's being done, will last two years (realistically more like four or five years). Which means that the entire community for whom that square is a public living room, including very many elderly, will have nowhere to go. You idiots, it does NOT need to be closed down, you do NOT need to disrupt the lives of everyone who relies on that space, and the ONLY public toilets in the area are right there! No one needs tourists peeing in doorways either!
What the living hell is wrong with you people?!?!!
How about instead of your pretty-pretty projects, you work on job creation? I know many local people who are financially suffering, able and willing to work, and in desperate need of a a helping hand.

At the very least, get rid of the damned bums who sleep on the grass there. As well as the crazy people. That by itself would be a vast improvement to both the park AND the lives of everyone who lives and works nearby, and the tourists would love it too. Some benches just outside the perimeter for the elderly smokers, presently forbidden from lighting up while sitting down, would be nice also.

Heck, simply improving the garbage services would be a vast improvement.

By the way: Elderly people need backrest seating.
Anything else is just painful torture.
And roofs for when it rains.

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It is a law of nature that when you need to micturate after a night of swilling hot caffeinated beverages the key will not easily go in when you return home, and then be resistant to removal once you have opened the front door to your building. Fortunately, I have exceptional bladder control. A lesser man would be discomfitted.

I am not easily discomfitted.

Despite an entire Marketing Department doing white boy rap karaoke. One of these days that yowling will open a portal. It may very well be the second coming of Ctulhu.

Preferable to white people doing karaoke.
In any case.
I am an equitable man.

The pipe I smoked while waiting for my friend to get off work was a Dunhill billiard, shape 59, Bruyere, from the seventies. Perfect for poncing around the quad at Oxford. Pip pip old chap and all that. My profs would have approved of the tobacco, seeing as it was a nice restrained Virginia rather than the aromatic dreck which Marketing Boys at a Diploma Mill would puff.

If such vulgarians actually smoked pipes.
Rather than vaping.

I'm getting too old to put up well with loud Marketing dingbats swilling fruity mixed drinks and attempting to sing. And, like the Mormon missionaries I had encountered earlier on the bus, they all seemed to be tall, spongy, and cornfed.

And quite obviously out-of-towners.

We left before they puked.

At the precise hour of this writing, I am having chocolate chip cookies, which my apartment mate bought. She's in her bedroom fast asleep right now. My friend the bookseller is very probably having a second glass of whiskey, with some bread and cheese, while rewatching Withnail and I. In which there are bad actors, but no karaoke or Marketing drooges.
So it is well worth watching. I recommend it.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2024


The overweight out-of-towner was visibly upset at the slow progress of the bus. He had that look on his face like a self-impressed New Yorker, and his mutterings and vocilizations sounded like it. And all of us San Franciscans were to blame for his predicament.

He and his briefcases might not make it to the convention in time.

Which was the only reason he was in this stinking burg.

And there were too many of those people.

Gerdammit, San Francisco!

No, I didn't bother asking him about the pizza. Those people given half a chance won't shut up about the pizza. And the bagels. And the cheesecake. Or pastrami sandwiches.
And as far as I was concerned, traffic was fine.
Besides, I like the pizza here.
New York pizza, if you ask me, could be vastly improved by the addition of pineapple.
So could their cheesecake, pastrami, and bagels. Everything from New York can.

And I've heard enough about New York Chinese food that I never want to try it.
I don't need those little packages of duck sauce either.

Those are probably meant for pizza.
In lieu of pineapple.

I was glad when we finally got to Stockton Street, so that I could leave mister panties-in-a-wad behind. I had things to do, and I had gotten tired of his 'you-guys-suck' attitude.
New York: It's an echte boerenlul of a place.

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The old fellow was seated on the curb, semi-slumped, when I first walked by. There were half a dozen policemen surrounding him, and because there would be no conceivable benefit to my presence there, I kept on walking. When I passed by again after eating, an ambulance and medical personell were involved. I lingered within hearing distance as an interpreter was asked to tell him that it had been low bloodpressure and irregular heartbeat, and he should definitely see his doctor soon. He refused to get into the ambulance and instead got a ride home with the interpreter.

Many elderly Chinese are averse to hospitals. And, given that they often self-medicate using herbs and tonics (sometimes barking entirely up the wrong ailment when they do so), that's understandable. No one actually wants a lecture from a doctor about stupidity.

Sometimes a stern lecture from a doctor is a life-saving event.

If the patient can understand it.

Old gentlemen in Chinatown, while often splendid fellows, are not, usually, anywhere fluent in realistic medical terms in any language. "There is a nefarious a wind affecting my stomach" may very well prove a baffling utterance in an emergency room, whereas telling someone not used to even thinking in certain terms that dietary deficiencies, specifically low calcium, are causing muscular weakness as well as cramps, spasms, brain fog, and sleeping problems, well, all he'll hear is that he isn't eating enough. Perhaps he should have a biscuit!

For your information, there is a tonne of calcium in milk tea.
It's because of the overload of condensed milk.
And it's sweet! Energy!

From which we learn that, because of all the old people in Chinatown, there need to be nurses wandering around with flasks of hot milk tea and trays of toasted piggy buns.

Not being Chinese, OR an elderly crotchett, what I had for lunch was soup with pork and chive dumplings (韭菜湯餃 'gau choi tong gaau') and mustard green stalks (芥菜 'gai choi') added to the bowl, plus an extra cup of tea.
Somewhat pursuant which, I am quite overjoyed that the long empty storefront where there had been a charming short waitress years ago now looks like it will soon offer Northern style dumplings and buns. Specifically 北方餃,菜肉包子 ('pak fong gaau, choi yiuk baau ji').

I keenly look forward to one more way to keep my blood sugar and calcium levels up.
If I don't, I tend to turn grumpy by late afternoon.
You don't want that.

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Monday, January 29, 2024


Over three months ago, South Asian, South East Asian, Latino, and Central American university student groups spewed a whole bunch of anti-Semitic statements. And showed, abundantly, that they cheered on and wholeheartedly approved of the brutal murders of Jews. After the war in the Middle East is over, we need to reasses the admission of those people to the United States, whether as students or immigrants, as well as any or all acceptance for ideological expression by certain ethno-cultural groups.

As you would expect, being white-American of hardcore Protestant descent, I am one hundred percent in favour of sending in the riot squad at the drop of a hat.
Breaking loud brown heads? Let's try it.
Might work.

My tolerance for South Asians, South East Asians, Latinos, and Central Americans is rather remarkably low at this time. That may have something to do with their putrid attitudes and behaviour. Don't know. It's quite likely. Somehow, cheering on Hamas does not sit well.
And as for Houthistan, I'm quite okay with flattening it to a pulp.
It would make a nice parking lot on the road to Mecca.

Politically, I remain steadfastly a liberal.
Just not quite as tolerant anymore.
You can thank yourselves.

Ulieden kunnen alllemaal de pot op.
Moordzinnig tuig.

I also have certain ideas about Berkeley and Oakland.
You probably don't want to hear them.
BTW: Screw Michigan.

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This blogger hates his cell phone. Blame India and the Philippines for that. The first named country because of all the scammers trying to get me to divulge private information, the second for the chirpily blythe and dispassionate assistance from help centres which require me to have three hands and jump between texted links, internet pages, and several electronic devices ..... Did I already mention that I don't text and don't do Apps?

Nevertheless, I like the modern age. In my grandparents day, you had to slog through snow drifts to pay your phone and utility bills with sacks of worthless Reichsmarken while the American and Japanese airforce flew bombing raids overhead.
So things have improved. There has been progress.
You can sip bubble tea while on hold.
That's what life is about.

Oh, let me just mention that I don't do bubble tea either.

Far more than calling up the service centre and dealing with a bubblehead in Manila sipping her refreshing beverage I would have preferred, vastly, settling down with my second cup of coffee and a pipe. Charatan Executive, a Dublin shape, made before the comfort bit got introduced. They were better then. Plus some aged Virginia.
Faugh and fie to Manila. Forsooth!

Nothing will convince me that hard gummy tapioca balls are good for the digestion. Like Apps, they introduce harmfull crap to the system, eventually clogging up all processes and slowing things down. There little miss Macapanggul will be, painfully crawling down Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue, wondering why her progress is so laborious. Little does she realize that with all that gummy crap in her tank it's no wonder she moves and feels like a slug.
Oh, the heat! Naku! Impiyerno nito!

Ach! Und verdamt!

Slowly she feels herself turning into a crab.

There's probably an App for that.
We'll text you a link.

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Sunday, January 28, 2024


Some boys from Texas came to SF to watch the game. I commend them on their risk-taking. Usually folks like that only visit the local media's Facebook pages to tell us we should not have voted for the communists, we're a dictatorship, and affordable medical care is evil. These boys showed up in person. Maybe they'll survive. If they don't meet a childrens' story reading drag queen with pumps, or stumble over a sleeping drug addict taking a crap in a burned-out building.

It's dangerous out there.

Stay safe. Y'all.

By the way, I have no idea who is playing against the Forty Niners today. Must be some team from Texas. At least I guess so.
They've got balls.
I certainly hope their daring fans enjoy the wheatgerm dip and recyclable organic taco chips. Which go well with the vegan gluten-free avocado toast points and the tofu beer. Yay team.

Maybe they can catch a communist workers of the world parade while they're here.

Lots of pink tutus marching down market street.

You know, I seldom talk to people from Texas.
Are there humans there?

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Saturday, January 27, 2024


The other night when I stepped out for a last smoke, a gentleman down at the intersection was losing it. At the top of his lungs. Very angrily. And at great length.

Obviously I did not head toward the noise.

My piles bled for him.
One of the reasons I tend to hide out in Chinatown on my days off is that precisely that kind of behaviour, drug fueled, is rather less likely there. It's a residential neighborhood with ground floor businesses, nowhere near as substance sodden as the rest of the city. Normal people. Substantially normal manners and mores. No pot dispensaries. Yes, near North Beach, which sometimes is zotshead central, but a world away from crazy yuppie crap.

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Friday, January 26, 2024


He produced the most amazing shrill and piercing sounds. His older sister was not nearly so ear-splitting. It's amazing what a difference a year and a half makes. As well as gender. Not that either child acted spoiled. But there was an excess of energy there, which made the otherwise quiet street seem alive.

Little Chinese boys are, usually, not as well modulated as little Chinese girls.
Probably because of different social conditioning.

I had been smoking a pipe after tea at a place which looks clean and new, even though it's been in business for decades, new owners six or seven years ago. Since the proprietor passed away, his widow has revamped it. It's far more modern looking now.
I hope she does well. I want to see good things in her life.

Her HK milk tea is nice and strong, and quite the waker-upper.

During the main part of my weekend I usually end up having lunch and milk tea at the far end of Chinatown, near Broadway. Where it is good to hang out. Neither of those places (seen in the picture below) attract Caucasians particularly, possibly because white Americans are timid folk when they feel outnumbered. And there are no hamburgers.

The place I went to yesterday should do fine once the tourists from the rest of the country are back in droves. It looks so inviting! And rather white folks friendly.

Some of the bakery offerings are not what they are familiar with, but the barbecue pork buns are a popular item that usually sells out by early afternoon.
Maybe the kwailo have discovered it already.

Also no hamburgers. Folks, if you really want to prosper, y'all need to offer hamburgers! Keeps mah and pah Johnson from Poughkeepsie happy. And their voluminous brood.
If you also have thirty two ounce diet sodas, you'll be rich!

Besides, that's sure to keep the Dutch American pipesmokers away.
They don't like it when there are so many Anglos about.
It throws them off their stride.

Perhaps the next time I go there it will be around mid-day.
Try the barbecue pork buns. Before they sell out.

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Thursday, January 25, 2024


Maybe today I'll buy some salt fish. I've had a hankering for salt fish lately. I keep thinking back to that last batch I bought at 景業公司 on Stockton Street. It was very good. There are three stores right there marked with the character 業 right next to each other. They sell a similar range of merchandise. But the centre one has probably the best selection of fermented seafood products. It's worth remembering.

I've seen pressed duck at the one right on the corner. Also worthwhile.

Besides the usual fresh fruit and vegetable markets, that stretch of Stockton Street right near Broadway also has dried foods, salt fish and other sea products, fresh seafood, meat, and bakeries. Plus a take-away joint that does a booming business. There are ocassionally also skeevy non-Chinese from the bozo-infested fleabag hotels in North Beach.
Who are mercifully outnumbered by regular folks.

There are places to sit down and enjoy a hot beverage and pastries within easy walking distance, and Sam's Burgers is only a block away. It's two blocks away from City Lights Bookstore, if you want to ditch your non-food-obsessed friends while you shop.

Pork patty with salt fish (鹹魚蒸肉餅 'haam yü jing yiuk beng'), steamed eggs (蒸水蛋 'jing sui daan'), and Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (蠔油芥蘭 'ho yau gai laan') are three almost iconic Hong Kong dishes which probably everyone remembers. And they are easy to make.

For the pork patty, just moosh some ground pork flattish, put a few slices of rehydrated salt fish on top, add some slivered ginger, and steam for about ten minutes over boiling water. The steamed eggs are a light custard of up to half a cup warm water per egg, something savoury added (for instance rehydrated dried oysters or chopped bacon, or maybe shrimp), the mixture poured into a shallow bowl or pyrex pie plate, and put into the steamer for roughly ten minutes.

And Chinese broccoli first blanched then sauced with a little stock or sherry and oyster sauce while stir-frying should be almost instinctive.

Why is Chinese Broccoli called that? It's not broccoli, but a closer relative of kale. So close, in fact, that one expects health nuts to put it in the blender with spirulina and drink it for breakfast, like a Berkeley wheat germ freak.

By the way: There are vegetarian versions of oyster sauce. They're good with kale.

If you go to Stanley, visit the Tin Hau Temple (赤柱天后廟 chek chyu tin hau miu').

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024


Russell decided he wanted steamed pork patty with salted egg for dinner (鹹蛋蒸肉餅 'haam daan jing yiuk beng'). And those chopped string beans. Although the word he used for string beans really means long beans, more often. 豆角鬆 ('dau gok song'). In any case, he and the other two gentlemen were going to have that at a place I dislike, and I was planning to have a smoke after tea -- the pipe was already filled for that enterprise -- so I didn't angle for an inclusionary statement, and I didn't feel sad at not being part of the plan.

Did I ever mention that I am not particularly social?

But I do like steamed pork patty (蒸肉餅).

Salt egg (鹹蛋), salt fish (鹹魚).

Besides, much of today I have been in a peculiar mood. Maybe the weather is getting to me. When I left the house the internet had lied and told me the rain had ended. So while waiting for the bus I had been irritated -- what is this crap falling from the sky? -- largely because I was short on time and didn't want to go back for my umbrella. After lunch I sought refuge under an awning with my pipe. A good smoke, but I felt constrained.
A picture from a few years ago shows a friend sheltering from the rain in the Central District. One thing that stands out is that judging by his clothing, it was considerably warmer. Wetter too, but definitely pleasant temperature-wise. His last pipe of the day would be outside his residence on The Peak. It's not that much warmer there this time of year, just enough to make a difference. In summer it gets to be twenty degrees more than here.

Of course we don't get typhoons. So we don't have to worry about heavy equipment falling or roofs blowing off. That's rather a plus.

The year after he returned to England they had the mother of all storms.

Wind and a wall of water moving sideways.

Non-smoking weather.

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You don't know how it happened. In the morning you had motored across the hill from the police training grounds and it had been lovely weather. But by late afternoon you were in Yau Tsim Mong, and when it started raining you decided to visit your auntie Poi King, who had in her willowy youth danced with troops at that place that's been closed for ages. A lively old gal, still twinkling eyes. She remembered your mom from the Christian Girls School.
She remembered you from when you were still in diapers.

A record by 張露 (Chang Loo) was on the player. Rain blattered the windows. Too horrid to go out. You would return tomorrow. Chang Loo was still alive at that time (d. 2009), but already in her fifties, and retired. A lovely voice, vibrant songs.

Auntie Poi King prepared dinner; minchi (免治), mustard green with garlic, thick noodles (粗麵). You chatted till late at night. Having listened to the records for an hour or two, you sat a while in silence while the rain came down outside. Both of you smoked. You had the Dunhill Shell Briar from the Prince's Building shop, Central, she puffed Fortunes (發財香煙).
The tea kept you up.
Minchi is more usually thought of as a Maccanese dish, consisting of ground meat ("mince", hence the name) with onions and diced potatoes cooked and sauced. The Hong Kong version is more like a ginger garlic sloppy joe sauce, with dashes of soy and rice wine, usually omitting the onions and potato. Served with a mound of rice, fried egg on top.
Greatly comforting with dollops of chili paste, especially when it's cold outside.
It's what I had for lunch with a cup of milk tea.

Smoked one of my Dunhill Shell Briars after leaving the chachanteng. It looked like rain, but the internet had assured me that it wouldn't come down much before midnight. Before I left the house for the weekly pub crawl that the bookseller and I have engaged upon since Noah landed the ark or the Hindenburg caught fire, I checked the Doppler and decided to bring my umbrella.

It did not rain while we were out and about. One regular stop was too crowded, so we went directly to the other place, where there were less than half a dozen people, all Cantonese. Some nice songs, one thoroughly ghastly one, because the businessman doing karaoke couldn't sing. Nothing in Mandarin. Mandarin oldies from the forties and fifties aren't so popular anymore. A pity.

It will probably rain most of Wednesday morning, lessening by mid-day. So two pipes in Chinatown. One after lunch, the other after shopping and tea with the old gentlemen.
Both briars in my coat pocket will be Dunhills. I shall look very arrogant and perky.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2024


Had an eye-doctor's appointment this morning. My pupils got dilated. For the next three hours I stayed in the shadows with my eyes narrowed. Which did not stop a voluble Filipina from asking me supportive and concerned questions about my walking stick and assuming an arthritic knee. What I did not explain was that the stick is good for two things: 1) It keeps people away from me on the bus and gets me a seat if I need it, and 2) a stick is very useful if you need to beat someone to death. Which is an almost daily concern in a big urban conglomeration with lots of crazy people.

Surely you too can think of occasions, many occasions, when beating someone to death would benefit everyone?

And, pursuant that idea, there are too many whacked-out psychos waking up in Portsmouth Square in the morning. The problem with that is that it's a place for children and old people. Not a padded cell. Not somewhere that berserk nonfunctionals are a comforting presence. This ain't Oakland.

So there I am, eyes down to blinky slits, being wary about unpredictably ambulating weirdoes in the middle distance, vocalizing. They glow, they glow!

Remember, pupils dilated.
When I finished my pipe I went to my bank, and then headed over to a nearby place for milk tea and a pastry, only to discover that they were closed. Another nearby place offers fancy coffee drinks, and regular milk tea at much more than I'm used to paying, and judging by their ambiance and drinks menu anyway, it's probably weak slop for teenagers, with the option of boba and squigglies.

A pissy Dutch American who is forced to be social at far too early an hour for that kind of thing does not need to blow his money on stupid experimentation with badly made neon drinks in an environment which looks far too clean and designer and brightly lit.

Dammit, everything is glowing.
I go home now.

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To be honest, I did not know there was such a thing as Thai style fish fragance eggplant fried rice noodle (泰式魚香茄子炒炆米 'taai sik yü heung ke ji chaau man mai'). Which, judging by the environment in which it was found, and the person preparing it, is actually purely Hong Kong. Just like Singapore noodles (星洲炒米 'sing jau chaau mai'), which is a lovely mix of stir-fry rice vermicelli with curry powder, spring onion, charsiu pork, and scrambled egg.
There is no actual connection with Singapore.

Besides, thin rice noodles are distinctly a Hong Kong preference.
Singaporeans would probably prefer kwee tiau (粿條).
粿條 ('gwo tiu') are broader and flat.

They'd also subtract the curry powder (which is English anyway), up the chili content considerably, and probably add little oysters or mussels.
And maybe ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce).
At one point, while finishing my cups of tea, there was Mandarin being spoken to the left and right of me. Which, in a Hong Kong style chachanteng is not expected. English perhaps yes, because this is San Francisco. Toishan dialect certainly, as many of the local people are Toishanese. And Cantonese is a natural background sound in such an environment.
Plus German, Italian, and Spanish during summer months.


Feeling very much like Xiang Yu (項羽 'hong yiu'), I hurriedly paid and left, lighting my pipe outside. You can probably tell that that is a Dunhill Shell Briar in the picture above. It lends me an air of moral superiority, exactly like one of those bright young scholars wearing dark cheung pou and woolen scarves, as pictured in so many period movies set in Peking and Shanghai. Often they too smoked good briar pipes, eschewing the brass portable water pipes of the landlord class and the ivory cigarette holders of treaty port merchants.

Had a nice quiet smoke down on Commercial Street. Few people about.
We rarely have tourists during the cold season.
It's our time.

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Monday, January 22, 2024


Yesterday evening I lost an umbrella. Being Dutch, I naturally have a peculiar relationship with umbrellas, seeing as the climate in our corner of Europe is quite nasty. Much more so than here in San Francisco, where rain is relatively rare most of the time. In the Netherlands, I would bicycle through rain storms on my way to school, thinking nothing of arriving sopping, and smelling like a wet dog. First period algebra was marked by puddles of water on the clasroom floor, and a row of bored fellow students with their minds off on tangents.

[What goes through a Dutch highschool student's mind at such times? French fries. Shag tobacco. Coffee. Kittens. The rise and fall of Betty's breasts in her soggy sweater in the third row. Hey, there are earthworms floating in the grass on the other side of that window. What if cars were designed by centipedes? Would they have a whole row of wheels on each side instead of just two?]

Here in Northern Colifornia, we're so unused to rain that we tend to forget the good umbrella and leave it at a Burmese restaurant over in Oakland over two decades ago. One of these days, I've been telling myself since then, I will go back to that restaurant and reclaim that umbrella. I'm rather fond of Burmese food.

Might be because of that cute waitress at a local Burmese restaurant.
She had a nice bosom, and it rained a lot that year.
I haven't been back to that one either.
No umbrella was involved.

Come to think of it, I haven't eaten Burmese food since the last century.

It's not that there is a natural linkage between breasts and umbrellas. And while both are a great good, relationships are built on more than just breasts and umbrellas.
Though possibly both are involved.
The most important thing about umbrellas is that they keep the pipe I might be smoking in a rainstorm from getting wet. Rain drops are not good for the polished finish of the briar, and make the carbon rubber stem develop oxidation spots. Which is inconvenient and ugly.
Also, rain tends to extinguish tobacco. That can diminish the pleasure entirely.

[Naturally I have every awning of empty storefronts between here and Kearney Street mentally mapped out. Places to light up my pipe while despondently viewing the nasty weather after a hot cup of milk tea. It's difficult to light a pipe with only one hand. Especially if the other is holding an umbrella, and there might be wind too.]

For some reason I am reminded of a tobacco product called Celtic Talisman, put out by Samuel Gawith. Which is a heavily sauced aromatic that may have started off as a blending blunder. They probably decided to tin it up and ship it off to the colonies with an artsy label, "Oh, the Americans will smoke it", they might have said, "those people have no taste whatsover, and are suckers for Irish themed crap". It is well-made fruity shite.
Precisely like drunks outside bars on Saint Patricks Day will smoke.
I tried it once out of intellectual curiosity.
I did not approve of it.

I really appreciate both umbrellas, and breasts.
They are nicer than aromatic tobaccos!
I've got spare umbrellas.

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Sunday, January 21, 2024


So it rained this weekend. And when it was time to return home, it was downpouring. Which meant that the bus was nearly empty. And there were few pedestrians about when I got off. Except for a running half naked man. Who, evidently, may have had issues. Possibly he was upset that everyone's favourite fascist scumball Ron De Santis had dropped out of the race, possibly his upper garments had borne the logo of a losing team, or maybe he had ingested substances that were ill-advised.

He violently threw a bottle down so it exploded everywhere, then delivered a roundhouse kick that knocked me flat. As I scrabbled back up, he had gotten into a fight with another person who chased him for over a block. They disappeared from sight around a corner.
So I did not follow any further. Can't move that fast.

I'm okay. My umbrella was totally destroyed. The miscreant! That umbrella cost me all of three bucks a few years ago! I was going to leave it to my descendants!

I am aflame with indignation.
Actually, I have several reserves. I keep getting caught in the rain, so I've purchased a number of identical inexpensive brollies over the years. It's just that as a cheapskate Dutchman, I am outraged about the event. And the loss of $2.99
If I remember correctly. Which I'm sure I do.

Let's see , depreciating at 20% a year, four years plus .......
Yep, still had at least half a buck to go.
At least!

Outraged. The nerve!


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On a food page someone asked if you could add only TWO things to a bowl of rice, what would it be? For me that was easy. Salt fish and chili paste. That's gusto right there. The person with whom I share the apartment, being Cantonese American, would probably say Spam and a fried egg. Very Chinatown. And of the question must also be asked whether roast duck qualifies as one thing. If so, the options have increased enormously.

Same goes for potatoes. Which neither of us eat very often.

We both remember that famous painting by Vincent van Gogh entitled 'The Potato Eaters', in which a small group of Brabantish farmer types are at dinner, and nobody looks very excited.
Last night's after-returning-home-snack was fried stuffed rice noodle roll. Kinda like a rice noodle sheet lumpia with interesting Chinese Vietnamese stuffing. I took some of the segments and crisped them in the skillet, and added a sploodge of hot sauce. See, it was cold outside, so a fried snackiepoo was ideal. And life requires hot condiments. That's just the way it is. So there was rice, after a fashion. With porky bits and cilantro, some crunchy salt pickled vegetable I think turnip, and hot sauce.

Technically the rolls were breakfast foods, pobably.
If you don't add hot sauce to your breakfast, you might not be truly alive.
There you are, sculling across the mountain lake, catching trout and salmon and bream, or blackmouth bass, and you head toward the nearest shore. You build a fire, prepare spits for shoving the gutted fish on to and grilling them, and you discover that you forgot to put the jar of chilipaste into the boat. You lose all appetite, what's the buggery point, this isn't a meal at all, you are bereft. It's forty miles to the nearest town. They're all Caucasian Republicans there. There won't be any hot sauce or chili paste there either, because they're all white rednecks and don't touch that kind of stuff. Fercrapsakes, they still go to church! The parking lot outside 'Big Bobs Baptist House O Worships' was packed when you tootled through the setllement. Pick-up trucks, station wagons, and tractors. Conveyance for the whole family.
Like they were having a Sunday morning ho-down or sumpin'.
It's tragedy, is what it is. Heartbreaking.
So sad. So sad.

Okay, I'm resolved to never ever visit the wilderness.
No hotsauce, and only Uncle Ben's.
Bloody primitive!

Their morning coffee is probably black sludge from the night before.
The newspaper is written with words of one syllable or less.
Men and women wear dresses from Sears Roebuck.
Dammit, there is banjo music!

You've seen stuff like this on late night teevee.
Burma Shave and vaseline.

No Jufran Banana Ketchup either! Dang!

They've likely never heard of Trader Joe's.
Or Piggly-Wiggly.

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Saturday, January 20, 2024


Yesterday and today the weather was crappy. Which for some of us was no problem, we were at work all day in a smoky environment happily looking outside occasionally at the beastliness and inclemency, but other people, mostly non-smokers, were housebound. So even though they spent all day indoors too, they were probably in a foul mood. As well as flueish, and constipated. Just guessing here. Didn't meet any of those people all day.
Their absence was not regretted. We need more climactic unpleasantness.

As you would expect, I have a supply of tea bags at work. So I was hepped and cheerful, poncing around with my Dunhill Shell Briar and a cuppa, acting all Oxford Cambridge ish, swilling a hot beverage and puffing an aged Virginia flake. The rest of you were outside harvesting turnips in the downpour freezing your kloten off, wishing you were like me: collegiatic, debonair, hail-fellow-well-met, and chipper as a daisy.

Life is good, it's almost like you hear me say. Chirpily.
As you shiver in your soggy peasant rags.
These turnips are rotten!
So unfair!

My tobacco was extremely enjoyable. Soft, subtle, complex, and fragrant.
From my lofty sanctuary in that smoke-filled workroom I gazed out over the salt flats, where drenched turkey vultures wheeled disconsolately in search of either dead seagulls or the fatty inner thighs of the freshly deceased, and perhaps a turnip -- wilted, overripe, with soft spots, semi-rotten -- to alleviate the dreariness of their miserable diet. Not even a pipefull of aged Virginia flake to benefit their stressed digestive systems! Dunhill Shell Briars, as is well known, do not have mouthpieces fit for a carrion-eater's beak. It is sad. So sad.

Maybe their digestive systems are stressed because they haven't eaten?
Dead seagulls can't be easy. Nor are those mushy turnips.
Their doctors keep telling them to eat healthy.
More veggies, little guys.

Go ahead, visit the old folks home! A veritable smörgåsbord!
An orgasm for the senses if you're a carrion bird.
There are turnips everywhere!
They are fresh!

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Friday, January 19, 2024


It strikes me that one of the phrases that goes through the heads of every single Chinese person out in public in San Francisco must be "good lord what is that crazy/skeevy kwailo going to do next?" Because to be honest, white people are so economically and culturally diverse, and often extraordinarily unbalanced besides, that there is just no predicting us.
This is something that is extremely evident on football game days, after dark near drinking establishments, or just generally whenever mall security or the police aren't around.

Of course I am much more predictable. But you wouldn't know that.
Because I am exactly like so many other white people.
I revel in my appearance of riskiness.

I myself would have previously not thought that we were unpredictable, but that was before Covid, which taught me that many white people consider it an infringement on their liberties and self-expression to wear masks or maintain distance. We are absolutely thrilled by the possibility that we could be one in a long chain of infections, causing the demise of other people or ourselves. Life, we say, was meant to be a game of Russian Roulette!

East Asian folks aren't quite that nuts. I've noticed that when I'm on the bus, most Chinese Americans are wearing masks. Likely there are people among their relatives or in their households that they would rather not infect.

We caucasians, on the other hand, take sheer joy in the chance of killing family members or coworkers. Most of us will refuse to wear masks. Nobody can force us to. It's unAmerican, is what! The good lord did not wipe out the natives with various plagues and give this whole continent to white people for us to live in fear. We are individualists!

Spreading disease AND getting infected is a divine right.
We are white dammit, and have nothing to fear.
Our precious juices are strong.


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Thursday, January 18, 2024


Crowded! Because of the hour. By the time my plate arrived things had started to change.
A young mother and her adorable toddler sat one table over, waiting for her friends. When the child noticed her mother rearranging the packets of cane sugar, pink sweetener, blue sugar substitute, and pale yellow whatever the heck that is sweetness (?) which the infant had strewn about, she helped. Meaning the task took ten times longer.
The tyke smiled at her own accomplishment.
Truly a perfect job. So ... neat.

Yeah, okay, good natured two year old, lovely features, sparkly eyes, willing to chip in and do what the adult at the table seemed to think was necessary and important. Sweet.
I hate it when I react positively to such things. Instinct.
It conflicts with my grumpier nature.

Despite painfully bumping her head when toppling over, the child did not make the usual fuss one expected. It hurt, yes, but she was easily distracted when the two other adults arrived, and that made both the shock and the ache subside. At least, I think so.
After lunch I went out and lit up. While smoking near Portsmouth Square a Caucasian crazy person passed by staring at me intently. So I followed him with my eyes while he walked on, turned the corner, entered the park. Now there were three severely unbalanced individuals there. I was glad for the fence separating us. It discouraged them from invading my peace.

Many of the non-tourist non-Chinese in that area tend to be disturbed individuals with rich inner lives whom one would rather not know very well. Turbulent minds in rapid transit.

I miss the day and age when the price of a cup of coffee kept the other side at arms distance. They seldom entered the bakeries or coffee shops. Now that one must enjoy tobacco outside, it puts one closer to the eyes of the storm, so to speak.

Public spaces are battle arenas.

All my errands are run, and I didn't feel like going somewhere for teatime. My feet felt cold. So I went home and read instead. Merely a two pipe day.
Might go out for a smoke later.

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The station restaurant in Tilburg overlooked a broad wet confluence of streets, and it was good to have another cup of tea while smoking one's pipe. Grim, overcast. At the far edge, it looked like bugs with umbrellas occasionally scuttled past before disappearing from one's field of vision. I've always preferred Tilburg over Breda; more collegiate, less military.

It was near the end of term. For several days I had read colonial era literature in the digs of a friend. His upstairs apartment reeked of dark shag tobacco (his many hand-rolled cigarettes) and strong coffee. So much that one scarcely noticed the staleness or the mildew. I myself stuffed a Balkan blend into my pipes, and when that ran out I switched to Maryland ribbon (Baai Tabak), because I did not know any tobacconists in town with the stuff I preferred.

In the smoke and permanent twilight of the season I dreamed of somewhere warm.

He was studying for his tests, I had finished school already.
Where I stayed I lived on cheese for that week.
I could feel the casein in my veins.
Needing a break from the environment of Rue Vielle De La Vache and the crisp pages of his hardbacks, I walked several streets over to the station and purchased several newspapers.

Indonesian food later -- and I knew of a toko where one could get dodol for after -- but in the meantime, news and the strong unfounded opinions of serious weighty columnists, respected intellectuals, who pontificated in austere prose about the world from within their blinkers and sunglasses. Because Dutch political views then tended towards tunnel vision.

At the edges of my vision there was flickering, and holes in the scene. I became aware of my bladder, and realized that my apartment mate had just shut the door behind her when leaving for the day. Wiping the cobwebs from my mind I went in to the kitchen to put on the water for coffee and the bathroom to take care of business. Washed down the morning pills with coffee, and filled a pipe.

Mild blonde Virginias instead of Balkan or Maryland.
Dutch political thinkers still pontificate.
In print, and on the internet.
Chinese food later.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024


So, having been hung up at the post office beyond the time when I could still go to my usual Wednesday place, and knowing that further time in the afternoon was short -- shopping and a pipe before teatime -- my end-up was at a chachanteng to which I frequently go.

At least I got the pesky task done with. Waited too long, then took too long.
I'll go the regular Wednesday restaurant Thursday.
Nothing else planned.

Ate something off my beaten track today, and I'm very happy that I whimmed upon it. Pork and chive dumplings in broth, no noodles, a few stalks mustard green, and minced scallion to garnish (韭菜湯餃 'gau choi tong gaau'). With generous dollops of sambal on each juicy dumpling as I grasped it with the chopsticks to cool it down enough to eat.
Gosh. Divine inspiration much. Delicious.
Likely dried flounder in the broth.
It had depth.

Nearly two hours later I had tea and a snack, plus a conversation with someone I've known since before I went into the hospital. We touched lightly upon salt fish (鹹魚 'haam yü'). The version I like steamed with ground pork I've run out of, I shall have to purchase more.
Might do that next week.

Went into the hospital five years ago. I'm much better now. Except that my feet get cold and ache in this weather. For which, as it turns out, an excellent albeit temporary cure is getting back inside and having dumplings.

Do your feet hurt? Have some dumplings!

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