At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

BANANAS FROM MARIN

Dinner tonight consisted of a slice of apple pie, weirdly flavoured biscuits and wine-country chicken salad, and, finally, a grilled Andouille Sausage with Sriracha hot sauce. Not French Andouille, which smells like crap, but good American Andouille from Louisiana, double smoked.
The piece of apple pie was an hors d'oeuvre.
Can't get more American than that.

Shan't mention what I had for lunch while in Marin, but to my surprise it contained American cheese. Not real cheese, factory processed cheese. There ought to be a brand of lunchables called 'Microwave Abortion'.
It might not sell, but it would at least be honest.
Truth in advertising and all that jazz.


The Andouille was delicious.


Life is too short to eat processed cheese except accidentally. I am actually surprised that there is processed cheese anywhere in Marin, which is the wine and cheese asshole capital of the universe, but they have a love-hate relationship with the poor there, and probably don't want those folks to develop a taste for the good stuff, as it might make it hard to find.


There is always some decent real cheese in this household. My Chinese American apartment mate loves the stuff, couldn't live without it, and makes sure there is at least one hunk in the refrigerator.


Part of the lunch I bought in Marin is still in my backpack. It is the banana, for which I had no appetite after encountering that processed crap. Even with the hot sauce I keep at work, the chemical glue taste came through.
No wonder American kids are so twisted.
Milk protein concentrates.
Extruded.




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TOLERANCE COMES FROM THE BARREL OF A GUN

Our president appears to believe that America's schoolteachers need firearms training and bulletproof vests. And that putting them in harm's way is the best way to preserve peace and order in the classroom.
Bulletproof glass is probably also recommended.
So that snipers will have no effect.
When students attack.


To quote from our commander in chief:

"If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly."

"Where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them, they would go for special training and they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."


In all fairness, students should be given the same shot at ultra-violence as their teachers, in order to keep America's wayward docentry in check.
I cannot wait for the day when everybody in school is armed to the teeth, from kindergarten all the way through adult education.


This prospect opens up a exciting new field of enterprise.
I've always thought of school as an armed camp.
Primarily because of those Catholics.
They outnumbered us hugely.
Which we resented.

A sandbagged machine gun position would have levelled the playing field, so to speak, and under the leadership of our capable brainiacs and teachers, we could have forced the bestial Monkish brood into retreat.
All it would have needed is a few bullets.
A well-trained sniper could have taken them all out.
Every single cassocked brute.

Hollow points.

Huzzah.



AFTERWORD

Our grammar school consisted of less than a hundred Protestants, heretics, free thinkers, Jews, and atheists in the making. We were outnumbered over twelve-fold by the Catholics next door, who made our lives a living hell.
It would have been bloody divine to "correct" that.

I'm surprised they weren't ever fire-bombed.

Children need guns around them.
Else they never grow up.




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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NEARLY NINE THOUSAND MILES TO SINGAPORE

An article on the BBC website about Singapore mentioned 'fried bee hoon'. Which is a relatively simple hawker dish cocked-up to a fare-thee-well in the United States, with significant omissions and additions, and sold to the public as 'Singapore Noodles'. In which guise it should really be called "Half-assed Hong Kong Chachanteng Reinterpretation of a Popular Dish with Curry Powder Added", and further qualified as "we sell a lot of this to folks in a hurry and white people". Many, many white people.

White people such as me. I'm very white.

But I have my own version.


星洲炒米,炒米粉
FRIED BEE HOON

Bee hoon are rice stick noodles (米粉), pronounced 'mai fan' in Cantonese, or 'mai foon' in Toisanwa. They are very easy to prepare, requiring only a soak before adding to soups, or a blanch in boiling water and immediate rinse with cold before stirfrying. The hawker or street stall version makes a good breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack.

Gild sliced shallots or onion, garlic, and perhaps ginger and chilies, in a little hot oil or bacon grease. Then dump in some shrimp or squid, pork (charsiu) or chicken if you feel like it, and stir briefly. Add vegetables of any type that have been parboiled or cut appropriately for very short cooking, plus the reserved noodles shortly thereafter. Toss it all together over high heat with dashes of condiments: sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis*), oyster sauce (蠔油 'ho yau'), cooking sherry (or rice wine), and a few drops of sesame oil.
Garnish with crispy fried onion and chopped green chili.
And (essential!) ribbons of sliced omelette.
There is NO curry powder in this.
But sambal is okay.


That basically describes my dinner or late evening snack, most of the time.
My vegetables of choice are chopped Jalapeño chilies and stalky mustard (芥菜 'gai choi'), sometimes little bokchoi (白菜 'siu bak choi'), the meat is frequently chopped bacon or whatever. Even smoked sausage. Along with a hefty squirt of Sriracha during cooking, and I'm happy.
If there are shrimp, I add shrimp.
Oysters also can.


Sometimes I do use curry powder.
For a typical American touch.


Noodles and crunchy vegetables in equal measure, meat less than. Enough soy sauce or oyster sauce for savouriness, and feel free to not add the fried onion on top. If you briefly blanch the noodles beforehand they will clump far less than they would if merely soaked to soften.

A person from Singapore would argue that bawang goreng (the fried onion mentioned above) is essential, it's what makes it truly authentic. And they might add ketchup and Worcestershire to the dish while cooking. There would be less vegetable in their version, perhaps more shrimp, and squid. Also carrot (!), and bell peppers (?), celery, and even frozen peas!
Plus fresh crunchy bean sprouts.

Keep it simple and be careful what you add.
It can grow enormously otherwise.
Keep sambal handy.



NOTE: because ketjap manis is not locally produced and consequently unreasonably expensive for mediocre imported stock, I make my own.

Half cup each: cane sugar, Kikkoman soy sauce.
Two TBS each: sherry, dark vinegar.
One Tsp. salt.
A whole star-anise (kembang lawang, 八角 'baat gok'), optionally a clove (bunga tjengkeh, 丁香 'ding heung'), and a piece of dried Chinese orange peel (陳皮 'chan pei').

Simmer sherry with the salt and solids. Add sugar and half the soy sauce. Heat, gently stirring, till the sugar is dissolved, the liquid becomes syrupy, and starts foaming up. Add the rest of the soy sauce, stir to mix the two liquids, and turn off heat. Cool, strain, and pour into a bottle.
Use the dark vinegar to swirl the pan and take up the last of the soy syrup, add this to the bottle and shake. The acid prevents crystallization.
Refrigerated, it will keep a very long time.
It's good for many things.



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SHARP FOCUS ON FOOTWEAR

As many of my nearest and dearest know, my weekends are on Tuesday and Wednesday. And as they probably also understand what I like to do on those days is smoke a pipe while being a vegetable in front of my computer in the morning. To which end I shall shut my apartment mate's door after she leaves for work, open all the windows, prepare myself a hot beverage, and light up. Usually I can do two pipe-fulls before my bath.
After which I leave for lunch in Chinatown.
Or an early dinner.

During cold weather that is ill-advised.


"Dammit, Old Toad, have you been entertaining the ice zombies again?!?"


Not opening the windows to air the place out will ALSO present problems.
No, I haven't been burning incriminating correspondence, and there wasn't a trash can fire. Non-smokers have sensitive noses.


IPSD

Yesterday was International Pipe Smoking Day. But my apartment mate, Savage Kitten, was only going to work for a few hours, because she wasn't feeling well. Combine that with the cold spell we are currently having, and you can see a difficulty. A goodle on the horizon, as it were.
Fly, and ointment.

Turn on the heat in the bathroom, open the window a bit, run hot water for a long soak, and light up a Nicaraguan cigar. Lay back, and occasionally flick the ash into the crapper.

That only goes so far.

[Less than 2 hours.]


I was out of the house before two o'clock. Two pipes in my pocket, a pouch filled with Best Bayou Slice, and planning to have some plum vegetable fatty pork (梅菜扣肉 'mui choi kau yiuk') over rice for lunch.

While eating I was acutely aware of the Chinese loony behind me.
And grateful that she didn't recognize me at all.
I know her. She's a fruitcake.

First bowl, in a Dunhill Liverpool I've owned since I worked at Drucquers.
It was an exquisite smoke, but even with a stop indoors to pick up tea and Yunnan white medicine (雲南白藥 'wan naam paak yeuk'), my fingers were turning blue from the cold. Raynaud's phenomenon in action.
Combined with muscular aches and stiffness.

Bright spot: Three Chinese girls are now freaked out, because I spoke Cantonese in response to their Mandarin, and indicated that I could also understand them when they spoke Toisan.
I am a potent kwailo.
似殭屍。


港式奶茶、蛋撻、紙包蛋糕、老婆餅 。

Once I finished that bowl I ended up at a bakery warming my paws for forty five minutes with a hot cup of milk tea while observing the old crotchets who hang out there. All of whom are filled with beans, oh boy! Must be the sugar in the egg tarts and the paper-wrapped cup cakes. After an old wife biscuit
I filled another pipe. My hands had recovered.
I lit up again as soon as I was outside.
A sandblast bent bulldog.
Hardcastle.


Four blocks later I was wondering if I was an idiot. It is very hard to tamp your pipe with your hands in your coat pockets. Damned well impossible. On the other hand, a bristly pipe cleaner doesn't prick at all. Maybe gloves are a good idea? Perhaps when I get home I should cut thumbholes in two old socks. Yeah, I got those, and I might as well re-purpose them. Maybe four old socks. Two for each hand. The holes go where the heels are.

Long slog to the end of bus line, while thinking about socks. Holed socks. Mis-matched socks. Ill-used socks that could have a new lease on life.
Many old socks. Ratty but warm and colourful socks
Maybe wash 'em, just to be safe.

Ooh, comfy.


Got home by five thirty. Took until seven before my hands had recovered. By which time I felt like having another cup of tea and going out onto the front steps. With a Wilke squat bulldog. Saddle stem.
Filled with Greg Pease's Fillmore mixture.

Bitches, it's permafrostic!
Canadian!

Next year, let's make International Pipe Smoking Day better.
By celebrating it during the warm season.
April or May, I should think.
I hate cold.


All three pipe fulls were delicious, and perfect for IPSD.


I have an entire box of warm footy rags I should look at.
Some of them are in decent condition.
Just need a rinse.



AFTERWORD

The rodents are thriving in Spofford Alley. After eleven PM, while enjoying a cigarillo, dozens of them traversed the area between where I was standing (near the overflowing garbage) and the lit doorways of mahjong parlours halfway down, just beyond the barber shop. Twenty minutes. Plus.



My friends the feral white rats are still there. At least one of them is male.
They are all charming, with lively personalities.
Two of them don't mind my feet.
If I stand still.




TOBACCO INDEX


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

SOAKING THE GRUMPUS

There are three places in the Bay Area where a man can smoke. All three of them are cigar environments. The Occidental, on Pine Street just down from Belden, between Montgomery and Kearny. Great selection of Scotch and Bourbon. Telfords, in Marin, just off the highway heading to hell but south of Strawberry Village. Fabulous selection of stogies. A slice of heaven for all people who abjure pot, non-smokers, and the easily triggered gnomes who have taken over California. And my bathroom. Cigars are recommended, because you wouldn't want to drop a fine pipe in the water.

Often I will have a cigar in there. The last time I smoked a pipe while shaving was barely above disaster, and I got a thick smear of soap mixed with very short hair fragments on the bowl. And some of it, in.

I'm somewhat neurotic; you can imagine my anguish.


Seeing as we are going through a cold spell at the moment, I am seeing advantages to pristine cleanliness I had heretofore not imagined.
There is a heater in the bathroom, you see. It is warm there.
And with ventilation, the smoke does not enter the rest of the apartment.
My apartment mate is a non-smoker.

I'm not sure if she likes me clean, as we don't get that close, but she probably doesn't mind. As long as the rest of our digs do not smell funky, and the odours of neither pipe nor cigar enter her room.


Warm bath. Strong coffee. Nicaraguan cigar.
Life seldom gets better than that.




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BUT I WOULD DO IT DIFFERENTLY

The boss is heading to the Netherlands for a week. No, I have not advised him or his wife on what to do, eat, see, or experience. He already knows about Hajenius (the world's best cigar store), and I'm fairly certain that neither books at Atheneum nor coffee served by apathetic waitstaff at the Cafe Luxembourg are anywhere on his bucket list.

He'll probably go to a museum or two, and walk around Amsterdam enjoying the quaintness. And have a drink in a cafe of an evening.

I am curious what his impressions of a country where I spent sixteen years (age two till eighteen) will be.


The food may startle him.


Fried objects of uncertain provenance. Semi-raw fish, heavily smoked fish. Cheese. Fries with peanut sauce. Frikandel with the works (mayo, ketchup, sambal, onions). Pastries. Indonesian food.

Some of the Indonesian food is rather spicy (like 'rendang', for instance, if properly made), some of it is richly sauced (kalio and korma), and a lot of it combines a textural excitement with medium spiciness and an undertone of savoury-sour-sweet. It reflects three plus centuries of the Dutch colonial enterprise on Java, and barely a century in Bali, on the Borneo coast, and slaughtering friends and allies in Sumatra.
There are consequently more influences from places like Semarang and Surabaya than anywhere else. Palm sugar, peanuts, fish paste, and tamarind, plus a wealth of sambals, of all different kinds.
Filtered through Dutch sensitivities.

Nothing says "party!" like shrimp chips. Because it tells you that someone has a deep-fryer. Which, in the Netherlands, makes them almost a god.

Peanut sauce can be used on absolutely everything.

When in doubt, add sambal.


And wash everything down with coffee or gin.

It's probably a jolly good thing that I have not advised them. Better that they discover peculiarities and interesting things there on their own, rather than feeling like they had to do something, secondhandedly re-living my trips, and thinking that I must have been a blinkered weirdo as a youngster.

It's the vacation of a life time.

Have fun.




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Monday, February 19, 2018

A FIRE IN THE DARKNESS

Mr. Badger is sitting in his easy chair with his laptop nearby, wondering whether he should risk lighting up a bowl of tobacco inside. Instead of going out to the sidewalk for a smoke and freezing his furry tuchus off. On the one hand, Savage Kitten in her room would no doubt come bounding out to kvetch and scratch..... On the other hand, glutei maximi turning blue, uncontrollable shivering, and screaming randomly at passers-by.
Which of these?

Mr. Badger is a coward. Savage Kitten is someone whom he trusts around his stuff, has never rifled my files looking for the discharge from the special forces or the loony bin, and will chew the leg off of anyone who tries to break and enter. Then club them with the bloody stump.

So outside it will have to be.



I'll probably wear the heavy overcoat I got for the last time I was in Canada. There has not been an occasion to take it out of the closet since then. It kept me warm sitting on benches smoking my pipe during freezing weather.
Yeah, it makes me look like a tree stump, but the alternative is going out to the steps with a blanket and looking like a street person camping out.
An extremely bad tempered street person.
Possibly rabid.


The neighbors would likely call the cops.


I do NOT wish to start my weekend with mixed nuts under 72 hour observation. Forcibly washed and shaved, too.




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THINGS ARE NOT AS THEY SEEM

So it turns out that last nights frigid temperature is what we can expect all week. When I went outside to smoke a pipe I was wearing a coat, two sweaters, a shirt, and an undershirt. And I was miserable. If you, dear reader, had been a very cute woman holding on to me lustfully, you would have had a most boring time.

I would have informed you that I wasn't taking a damned thing off. No, not interested in naughty business. We can cuddle under the covers wearing multiple layers of clothing, no need to get naked.

[To the tune of 'Badger, Badger, Badger': "Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble; puff puff, puff puff; grumble grumble, grumble ...."]


Pipe not quite enjoyable, under those conditions.

The pleasure of a bad habit is considerably diminished when there are no easily triggered people around to hideously offend, and your hot beverage and a shot of Scotch whisky are INSIDE, on the kitchen counter.

The next seven days are going to be like this.

With a distinct possibility of rain.




Didn't finish the bowl.

Too damned cold.


If I have to suffer, all of you non-smokers should too.
Kindly slap yourselves.




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Sunday, February 18, 2018

THE GREAT RED CAKE PANIC!

And yes, you should run for the hills, taking your kids and dogs with you. Forget the wife, it probably means nothing to her, and she'll object to being ten thousand miles away from a nail salon and hand baggery anyway.
If she's anything like most American women.
Of whom, largely, I disapprove.

My ex, while not being like that, and quite a bit more sensible (say, why did she break off the relationship anyway?), would none the less be unaffected, and just shake her head, saying, "poor Toad, you'll just have to do without your red cake". And I would indeed, except that isn't much of a problem.
My friend Nick, however, will be utterly heartbroken.

It made the Upper Peninsula bearable.

That, and killing ducks.


MCCLELLAND NO. 5100 RED CAKE

A fully-rubbed Virginia. Soft and smooth, exceptionally nice. Bready, yeasty, creamy. Very many people huff this straight, for other pipe smokers this is the go-to blending Virginia they rely on for beloved private mixtures.
Several tobacconists have this as a house Virginia offering.
As well as an important recipe component.

Probably the best bulk Virginia available.

Which it soon won't be anymore.

No longer made.


Apparently one of the key ingredients is not to be found. Mike McNeil will not make it without that. And the VaPer crowd is in an uproar, calling up brick and mortars far and wide to buy all of it.
Nick bought it by the shitload whenever he headed into the upper Peninsula to massacre ducks, then would re-appear months later smelling of bird guts, watery foulness, gunpowder, and Red Virginia fumes, happily burbling something unintelligible, before switching to Fribourg and Treyer.

It was good stuff. But I never stockpiled it. There are several other tobaccos that I will happily smoke, including Sam Gawith's flakes, and many blends from Greg Pease -- enjoying Fillmore presently, from the very last tin that was at the store -- and there are numerous tobaccos with which I need to re-acquaint myself in any case. VaPers as well as Orientals.

Martin opened a tin of McClellands No. 12 today.

Last time I smoked that was years ago.

Very. Many. Years. Ago.

Shan't mention how many, because on the off-chance a sweet young thing is reading this looking for a mature pipe-smoker with a very neat beard and a civilized way of speaking, who bathes regularly, I don't want her to think that I'm older than Jayzus and skip me.
I am not an antique!

On the other hand, if you are a male pipe smoker who found this essay while looking for Red Cake, I am very sorry. You should investigate other products. Both Best Brown Flake and Golden Glow (Sam Gawith) are very good, and Greg's pressed stuff is exceptional. You're probably already familiar with Union Square, but you should try Fillmore (flake; red Virginia and Perique), Stonehenge Flake (Virginias and smidges of Burley and Perique), and Regents Flake (Virginias and a touch of the Turk).
In fact, most of the Fog City Selection is your cup of tea.
Truly lovely tobaccos, and very easy to smoke.


AFTERWORD

Dinner, upon returning home, consisted of a rubbed-rind Belgian-style cheese, crispy dry bread, very strong tea, and a wee nip of Scotch. Brother, it is colder than a witches tit outside. I've got a sweater over a sweater. What happened to our fine spring-like weather? I hate the cold!

This frigid wind is beastly, positively Canadian.

I am a tropical hot house flower.
Coddle me with warmth.




TOBACCO INDEX


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BABY RED BEARDIE

Scrolling through other people elsewhere can be rewarding. Sometimes you see things that spark the imagination. Quote: "that looks like some bougie mac&cheese... I'm gonna hafta make some of that, 'cause I'm bougie". It turns out that he wasn't 'bougie' enough, seeing as he objected to the Brussels sprouts being added. Sprouts. In mac&cheese.
I'm afraid I'm not bougie enough either.
Y'all some evil white folks.
That's just nasty.

Kalen reacted. We sympathized.

Mordechai used aged Cheddar and Gruyère for his version. But he probably didn't add sprouts, yams, or corn bread. He doesn't strike me as bougie at all. And I subtly suggested that he do a Boeuf Bourguignonne sometime, but adapt the recipe to make it more Judaically acceptable.

Do NOT add Brussels sprouts.


Shortly thereafter a friend in South Carolina posted a charming photo of domestic happiness. Featuring an adorable presence in her life.

NIGEL


[Photo credit: Mary Walters]


That is a seriously blissed-out lizard sleeping on a sandblasted quarter bent pipe. Thus preventing its owner (Mary) from filling it with tobacco and smoking it. She probably chose another briar instead.



It's the sweetest thing I've seen all week.




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Saturday, February 17, 2018

A DAY FOR NOODLES

One thought that came unbidden yesterday was "why are all these little Chinese girls wearing pretty new clothes, while I'm still trudging around in these sorry old rags?" The answer, of course, is that I am not a little Chinese girl, and prefer to gradually break in new clothes, so that they fit me like an old shoe eventually. This coat is a good example: yes, it's starting to look disreputable, but I've got a tube with tamper and pipe cleaners in one breast pocket, my lottery tickets in the other, some paper napkins for wiping my spectacles plus matches and an extra tamper in the pocket underneath it, and on the other side under the cleaners there are pipes and tobacco.
I can guarantee you not a single one of the tykes have that.
Except for the coat, though, it was all clean.

Okay, the coat was, erm, grotty.
Perhaps old and smelly.
But stylish!


It is customary to wear new clothes on the first day of New Year, which was Friday, February sixteenth. And children especially, because of course they look neat, and outgrow everything. More than us crusty old farts they need new garb regularly. Plus, cute. Major motive.
One marked individualist had a nice BLUE coat, instead of the red all of her peers wore. Sweetheart, you are outstanding!
Kudos on pushing the envelope.


After dropping by my bank I went in search of a place to have lunch. Many of my favourite haunts were closed for the first day of New Year but I did find a place for garlic noodles and grilled pork (燒豬肉蒜麵).
Afterwards a pipe while wandering around. Happy kiddies, the sounds of firecrackers, a lion dance at the intersection of Grant and Pacific, drums, scraps of red on the sidewalk, and enormously loud firecrackers outside Red's Place on Jackson Street.

No one except the tourists looking askance at my smoke.
They do that because they lead such clean lives.
Our healthy "big boned" visitors.


The perfect end to the first day: a cup of very strong black tea with milk and sugar, and a glass of Scotch, after the last pipefull, a Virginia and Perique flake smoked outside among the bums and drunken millennials, because my apartment mate said something about the smell of tobacco .....

[If you smell marijuana on Polk Street, that ain't me. I'm old school, and my second hand smoke will traumatize you, unlike the recreational stuff, which is grown by little green men deep in the Amazon, who recycle and hug dolphins on a daily basis.]


Man, I can still taste that siu yiuk with garlicky noodles!
Laai min (瀨麵), often served with 肉碎。
It was absolutely delicious!



I'm having more noodles today.
Home-cooked this time.




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Friday, February 16, 2018

WHERE ARE THE CHINS?

It is very disturbing that so many people like me look like me. I would like to think that I am unique, but apparently I am not. Most other pipe smokers in the white man's world have beards too. There are only so many selfies of very likable chaps with beards and pipes that the mind can process before it starts running down the street in its undies screaming.
Well, that's the mind, in the minds eye.
A purely mental street.

When did every other pipe smoker out there decide to stop shaving? I'm not asking about the smokers of aromatic pipe tobaccos, because they're young with crappy tastes and multiple piercings, who only puff that shite because they have a Gandalf fetish or wish to be vikings, but civilized well-adapted people with sound judgment, for whom a pipe is not an expression of their personal sense of adventure and their bold and sometimes quite reckless defiance against bourgeois social norms.
No existenzangst in their equation.
You know, normal people.

Vaper and Balkan aficionados.



Well, one of the brilliant minds with pipes pictured above may have had a Gandalf fetish, but he dabbled in aromatics only occasionally -- probably when he was wearing a leather diaper and metal studs, trolling for dissolute Cambridge students in the seamy underbelly of British academia -- but to the best of my knowledge, most of the time he and the other three were stable sane individuals, who enjoyed pipes along with much else.
Please note that they do NOT have beards.
Not a wizard or viking there.

Nor a bear.


My beard is neatly trimmed, and if it expresses anything at all, it's not my unique individuality or my daring attitude toward life, but merely the fact that hair grows out of my chin in a neatly demarcated zone, and only with civilized restraint, to a certain length and no further.
Oh, and velcro as an aesthetic.
Plus soup. Trapped soup.


Nowadays nearly every pipe smoker has a beard.
The avuncular look is in.
Goats.


Some of you, shave.




TOBACCO INDEX


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Thursday, February 15, 2018

BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR!

Okay then. I've had my dumplings (symbolically, gold ingots OR money purses) and a green vegetable (good luck and profits), as well as an exceptionally sweet orange. And I've got a day off tomorrow.
Now it's time to go outside for a while, so as to make sure that I am the first one to enter in the new year. Thus precluding any thing bad coming in, as well as unpleasantness. As an auspicious bare minimum.
And that is the extent of my observance.

It should work.


春節

There's a whole lot more I could do to properly welcome the New Year, but seeing as I am not Chinese nor married to one, making a huge opera out of it would be more than a little ridiculous, and as I am a bachelor and not parent to any offspring, the didactic aspect of setting a good example AND passing out tonnes of leisi ( 利是 / 紅包) to little tykes is not required.
In fact, being a Caucasian, it wouldn't be expected either.

But just in case, I've got some red envelopes.

I'll have them with me tomorrow.


Happy New Year, y'all.
年年有餘,一本萬利!
大家新年快樂。




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FILIPINO BOSS AVOIDANCE STRATEGIES

A friend is bellyaching about his boss, who is a Filipino woman. Which is a Filipina. As a general rule, one should avoid having a Filipina boss, because once they're in a position of power, they become precious little egomaniacs. They dispense favouritism and throw their pudgy weight around.
And they're dangerous.

Yeah, I know that sounds bigoted as all heck.
And frankly, I don't give a damn.
I've worked with them.


Bear in mind that I've had wonderful times in the Philippines. The food was great, the people were terrific, and despite the fact that as a white person I smell bad they treated me with warmth and courtesy.
Exactly as if I were a real human.

I can understand why people love the place and its people.

But I've been a little too close for comfort.

Filipinas resemble sharks.



On the other hand, if you have Filipina "aunties", you are in luck. That is immense good fortune, and you should understand how blessed you are.



No, I have no strategy for avoiding a Filipino/a boss. Other than not taking a job if there are Filipinas working there. To that end, don't work in any of the city government departments, and don't apply at clothing stores. Also stay away from the Walgreens in my neighborhood, as well as any of the big Anglo banks in San Francisco.


And remember, the ONLY reason to visit Daly City is for the food. Lumpia, embutido, morcon, kare kare, pansit, lechon kawali, brazo de Mercedes, ensemada, avocado shakes ..... And some places even have sisig!
Precisely like at night along the estero.




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COLD FINGERS OVER RICE

I've eaten there often enough, I should have remembered that they talk funny. The waitress came out of the kitchen to clarify whether it was pork or fish. And no, you cannot say it was because my pronunciation was bad. They speak differently there. String beans and pork slices over rice (四季豆肉片飯 'sei gwai dau yiuk pin faan'), versus fish slices (魚片 'yü pin').

The owners little daughter once said that she found it hard to understand me whenever I spoke Cantonese. When they speak Toishanese I have difficulty understanding them. Sometimes context is everything.
But my Cantonese is far better than her mom's English.
Her parents prefer it when I talk Chinese.
I become more intelligible.

The auntie who works there understood me perfectly when I asked for the hot sauce. That right there is a life-saver, as I eat everything with sambal.


String beans and sliced pork over rice is simple and extremely satisfying.
If you're Chinese, the only way you can actually bugger it up is by being from Szechuan, Hunan, or the far north. Peking, for instance.
Or by cooking it like the Anglos in this country, who have thus far given little indication of culinary inclinations.


Sorry, that was an opportunistic slag at the dominant culture here. It was undeserved, and I apologize. And you all make marvelous cold cereal with milk, as well as lovely grilled cheese sandwiches! Kraft singles!


Again, I'm sorry. There was no call for me to be sarcastic.


If it wasn't for the Cantonese and Mexicans here, some people might starve.
And I appreciate your table utensils, because my fingers were that cold and bloodless yesterday afternoon, and turning blue (because of Rainaud's Syndrome) that I couldn't hold chopsticks.

It took an hour after I got home for full feeling to return.

四季豆肉片飯 made it worthwhile.




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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ROMANCE IS UNNATURAL

It's Valentine's Day today. Which means that if you are like me, you are in a gently sneering mood, quite un-Christian, and resolved to let chili peppers, caffeine, and cigars stand in for a woman or man of your dreams.

I've made a start on two of those already.

Nothing says Valentine's Day like a cigar.

I'm sure that your significant other will agree. And you'll have to admit that it would be a bold statement, especially in a place like San Francisco where tobacco triggers so many little wheat germ heads.
Do it. Go on.


See, that's one of the reasons I like Chinatown. The local people aren't easily offended, and everybody has lovable relatives who smoke. And there are no glandered Protestants to whine about hot sauce being a sign of the devil, non-nutritional, an effete affectation, and indicative of Catholicism and a seedy Latin temperament. Or to start weeping when I light up a pipe, because it just smells so strong and hurts their pure little feelings.

Some Chinese do celebrate Valentine's Day.
Hip, modern, young people, mostly.
The plastic urbanites.
Hallmarkians.


NOSHING ON DAINTIES

One truly great thing about Valentine's Day is that I don't need to worry about it being a thing in any of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown, because I favour cheap eaties for us common folk: hearty rice plates, chachanteng specials, dumplings, noodle soup, and pork chops. Late yesterday afternoon I had eggplant and fish over rice, with hot sauce.
Last Friday it was steamed dumplings and chili oil. A charsiu pastry on Wednesday, pork chops on Tuesday. Both of those places also have hot sauce. The week before that at some point mui choi kau yiuk (and hot sauce), plus baked Portuguese chicken rice (and hot sauce).
To me this is all glorious, and very romantic.
梅菜扣肉,焗葡國雞飯 。
And 热奶茶!


I dream of taking someone to these places.





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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

YOUR PRECIOUS TIME

Somebody on the Facebook page for pipe smokers today whined that there were too many selfies, pictures of pipes, and mentions of recent tobacco purchases. What he wanted was information! Nothing but good solid knowledge and data, soberly presented, and nothing else at all.
He wished to have the admins see to that.

Dude .....

Just scroll right on past it. There is both everything and nothing to see here. The drama is in your own head. There is very much on the internet that I do not wish to read, but I neither expect nor demand that it not be posted.
The internet is a grand garbage dump, and attentive reading means that sometimes you must NOT read. Or watch.


For instance, I always deliberately ignore videos of Trump, rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, Rachael Ray, and Vani Hari. There's a word for shite like that.

I do watch kitten videos. But I don't expect everyone to do so.



He mentioned "the last six tobaccos purchased".
As a subject of particular irritation.
Why did people do that?!?

So I posted a little something there.

"Please list the last six pipe tobaccos you bought. I'll start: Pease's Stonehenge Flake, Montgomery, Laurel Heights; Dunhill's Dark Flake, Ready Rubbed. Gawith's Golden Glow."

It caught on.

Tim: C&D Bayou Morning Flake, Five Brothers, C&D Crooner (2oz out of curiosity,) C&D Bayou Morning (one pound in bulk,) Sutliff Balkan II (my mainstay at the local head shop which serves as the closest thing to an actual tobacconist,) Samuel Gawith Kendal Cream (I have discovered that I like Lakelands.)

Silvestre: Pease SixPence,and JackKnife Plug, Dunhill 3 Year Mature Virginia, Gawith and Hogarth Black Irish X, Daughters and Ryan AP and AB.

Markus: I'll try a list in reverse chronological order: Mac Baren Mixture Flake, some local blend by Thomas Holzkunst Darasz, C&D Constellation, C&D Star of the east gold, Capstan blue, DTM's The Mellow Mallard.

Adam: Wessex Brown Virginia, Dunhill Dark Flake, McClelland St. James Woods, Butera Royal Vintage Mature Ribbon, McClelland 2025, and Fribourg and Treyer Cut Virginia Plug. Haha, a bit of a trend there I guess.

Gunnar: Mac Baren Golden Extra, C&D Crooner, Mac Baren Vintage Syrian, McConnel Honey Dew, Paul Olsen Pure Burley, Samuel Gawith Black Forest.

Jared: Father Dempsey, Old Dog, Key Largo, Dominican Glory, Stokkebye Black Coffee and HH Dark Fired I think.

Rob: Pure Semois (green), C&D Tuggle Hall, C&D Bow Legged Bear, GLP Gaslight, C&D Captain Earlie's 10 Russians.

Chris: Reverse order (trying think☺): And So To Bed, Vintage Syrian, Gawith's Balkan Flake, Quiet Nights, Triple Play.

Maybe. I don't buy that often so it's over nearly six months I'd say.

Tony: Scottish Cake, Scottish Flake, 40th Anniversary, St. James Woods, Virginia Woods and Dunbar.

Steve: Quiet Nights, Jack Knife Ready Rubbed, HH Bold Kentucky, Pirate Kake, Night Train, and Billy Budd.

Al: Old Joe Krantz, Black Twist Sliced, Brown Twist Sliced, Irish Flake, Peretti Dundee, Billy Budd.

Andrew: Local B&m blend Riegels Baker Street, another Rielgels Danish Heather, Drew estate Gatsby Luxury Flake, Peter Stokkebye 3 Cherry Blend, Frog Morton. Oh and Riegels Thee blend!


That's twelve respondents, six tobaccos each. I am still waiting for Mary, Kaz, Adrian, Jerome, Mason, and others, to chip in, which I hope they will. Seeing what all these people are smoking is fascinating.
Gage and Oullette will be particularly interesting.


By the way: a selfie below.






Lagniappe: Here's a tobacco review of by Justin at 'The Tobacco Diaries':
Samuel Gawith Skiff Mixture



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A PIPE SMOKER WITH CIGARS: THE FOUR PART PROJECT

This post will be updated as things progress. At nine thirty A. M. on Tuesday morning, February thirteenth, I'm only twenty five percent through the process. So the rest of it will come over the next day or two.
And I've got a cup of strong coffee.
Which is a good start.


"Ah, that first cigar of the day. Smells like low tide and discarded mattresses in the salt marsh. Good thing I've opened the windows; she'll never notice."


A few days ago a sales rep came bounding in, all bright-eyed and cleanly pressed. He wished to introduce three new products, and they were glorious! Three!

Some sales reps are charming when they've had caffeine.

I certainly warmed to him.


The net result was that I ended up with a total of four cigars to try. One of which I had already smoked twice, but I did not tell him that. They're good products, made in Nicaragua. Many of the finest stogies come from there nowadays, and they blow the mediocre shite from Cuba right out of the water. Fortunately Europeans, Arabs, and Chinese don't know it.
They're still smoking that crap from Havana.
And paying for the "privilege".

Here's some news, guys. The United States lights up over twenty percent of Cuban production. Yet of the top twenty five cigars for 2017, only four were actually Cubanos. Just four. Only four. Nebbech.
Probably a mistake. I've smoked 'em.
They are really not very good.
Nicaraguans are better.
And Hondurans.


CORNELIUS & ANTHONY

The brand was reborn two years ago, and the backstory is a little too fey and pretentious for my taste, but the cigar industry has always been more than a little goofy in it's marketing anyway -- "nothing says Valentine's day like a cigar" -- and many of the younger set who smoke cigars are tattooed monsters and junior lawyers, so you have to make allowances for that.
Thank heavens they broke away from Jägermeister and craft beer.
Now if we could only get them to vote rationally.

In any case, damned fine cigars.


FIRST REVIEW: VENGANZA ROBUSTO
8:40 AM to past 10:15 AM. Feb. 13, 2018.

Presently down to the last inch. It burned a little irregular ten minutes in, and I had to retouch it with the flame twice. But it has a very uniform and even burning zone right now, and I'm not putting it down. It's satisfying and earthy. As well as presenting some spicy woodsy notes. Quite enjoyable. The day looks very promising at this point.
Wrapper: Ecuadorean Habano of a warm silky umber hue.
Binder and filler: Nicaraguan.



UP NEXT (AS I GET TO THEM): SEÑOR ESUGARS, MERIDIAN, AND THE DADDY MAC.
Expect changes to this post.

All of them are robustos, of a very appetizing appearance.
I think I may go downtown and trigger some office workers by smoking in front of their building. But first I must bathe and do laundry. My clothes smell all fusty after a week among the cigar aficionados.

I might have curry for breakfast.



RE: "nothing says Valentine's day like a cigar"

Actually, what a cigar very probably says is that you're a crusty old dingus anywhere between twenty and one hundred years of age, without romance in your life, and probably Latin or Dutch. And that Tuesday and Wednesday are your weekend, your tolerant apartment mate has a poor sense of smell and wishes some woman would civilize your stinky ass ("it's been years, fercrapsakes!"), and you eat by yourself most of the time.

Yeah, Kipling said something about that.
A very Victorian sentiment.
Dry old bean.


Update no. 1

SECOND REVIEW: DADDY MAC ROBUSTO
11:30 AM to 12:59 PM. Feb. 13, 2018.

Started this one just before eleven thirty. It is rich and satisfying, but not blow-your-head-off full. More of a solid medium. A nice morning smoke. The wrapper appears to be a corojo, possibly even somewhat rosado. Not as uniform in appearance as the Venganza, variegated and a little shiny, but this cigar is a much more well-behaved smoke. The ash tends toward darker on the outside, fine and white within. It is utterly delicious.
Hands down a top notch cigar. Creamy, faint chocolate, a whisp of fruit.
Did not need any touch-up with the flame at all.
Great with another cup of coffee.
Wrapper: Brazilian.
Binder: Ecuadorian.
Filler: Nicaraguan.

I still need to head out and do laundry.
But this cigar isn't finished yet.
May have to pong a bit.



Update No. 2

THIRD REVIEW: SEÑOR ESUGARS ROBUSTO
9:54 PM to 11:12 PM. Feb. 13, 2018.

On Tuesday nights I often head over to Chinatown to meet the bookseller for drinks and madness at a dive we've been going to for years. It's a tradition. So I left the house an hour and a half earlier, intent on smoking the cigar before his bus landed at Grant Avenue at eleven thirty. I spent over an hour watching the rats in Spofford Alley. The city announced a scheme to improve and beautify the place over a year and a half ago, with great fanfare, and it was supposed to be done this past Autumn. With typical efficiency it isn't even approaching the finished stage. But, as a direct consequence of their labours, it now supports a vast population of rats.
Who traverse the various levels of unfinished pavement and ditch like familiar and beloved village streets, sometimes speeding down the entire length of the alley from point A to point B, singlemindedly heading for the garbage dump where it intersects at Clay Street. They are charming, lively, and bold. At least three out of more than two dozen are a whitish-tan.
They are elegant and lovely creatures.
This blogger loves animals.


The cigar is quite nice. Dark and spicy. Not quite as good as the previous one (Daddy Mac), but nevertheless the perfect cigar for watching wildlife. Medium body, earthy and peppery. It has a sweetness.
It is nevertheless packed with flavour.
Stephen Bailey, the owner of Cornelius & Anthony, named it after his dog.
Wrapper: Mexican, dark (San Andres).
Binder: American (what ?).
Filler: Nicaraguan.

This review was written after three in the morning.
It was a very good evening, by the way.



Update No. 3

FOURTH REVIEW: MERIDIAN ROBUSTO
10:13 AM to 11:48 AM. Feb. 14, 2018.

Having been a pipe smoker since my teenage years, I don't often go through so many cigars. It's enjoyable, but weird and intoxicating.
The apartment building is quiet, but from the nearby intersection I hear the noise of earth moving equipment. Rarely any other sounds.

The Meridian Robusto, by Cornelius and Anthony is an enjoyable mildly resinous product, that while it does not make any brash statements does hold your attention and gild the time you spend with it. The last two inches are contemplative. A classic and very lovely wrapper leaf, with a slight sheen. The cigar is semi firm, soundly constructed, no touch-up required. Woodsy notes with spice. Easy draw, regular burn, and a hint of oak.
I enjoyed our time together, and wish there were more.
For the first smoke of the day this is truly top notch.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian.
Binder: Nicaraguan.
Filler: Nicaraguan & Dominican.

The only problem was that during the final inch the flaky white ash kept depositing on my keyboard as I typed. I need to vacuum.

Best weekend in a long time.

It was fun.




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Monday, February 12, 2018

I CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!

A passerby recently told me that my pipe smoke was objectionable.
Seeing as I was standing outside the building where I live, at ten thirty in the evening, on a nearly empty sidewalk on a deserted street, my response was probably not conducive to his mental health. And it was not meant to be a positive experience for him in any case.

If, well after dark, I am standing in front of an apartment building, please assume that I've had a long day, I am out here as a politeness to at least one person inside, I do not care for your opinion, and I would far rather be inside with the wife, kids, and precisely two and a half gold fish that make the ideal family, watching Mash or the Bionic Woman on the telly.

Do not bother me. This tobacco is more important.
And I have pissed-off tunnel vision.


Still, I shouldn't have fat-shamed him for the shape and size of his head. That was ungentlemanly. Instead, I could have sincerely offered to correct that for him pronto. Surgery, not diet, might have cured him.
A blubberectomy right about where his ears were.

I am truly sorry he's such a fathead.
But it can be helped.





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Sunday, February 11, 2018

WHERE THE BAD FOR YOU FOOD IS ORGANIC

As Sunday outfits go, it made a statement. Raincoat. Thigh-highs. Speedo. Net tank top and a dark-side of the moon tee-shirt. No idea what the statement was, but a good guess would be "hi, I'm batshit, ya wanna partay?"

Still not as quite as bold as the gentleman who comes in regularly, but this time called instead to blame the government for tracking him through his cell-phone. Who, because of our patience and tolerant "uh-huh"ing, now thinks that we are in cahoots with the dark state.

That was a conversation I wish to forget.


One the way back from Marin several passengers on the bus demonstrated what an entitled part of the universe the county to the north of SF is.

I am really not a nice person; I want to slap them.



There's a sign on our garbage bins that says "please, no wet garbage".

Many people in Marin ARE wet garbage.




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FLAKES OF ASH ON MY KEYBOARD

Occasionally I joke about certain cigars that one really needs a white linen suit, Panama hat, and a hacienda with a deep veranda, to fully enjoy them. These are usually the afternoon-long smokes. Please imagine sugar fields, palm trees, and bare tanned backs sweating as they labour. The impeccably dressed colonial imperialist, exploiter of the third world, relaxing in a cane chair and enjoying the fruits of his tyranny.
With an iced beverage.

[Cue the salsa music.]


Some cigars, however, call a different ambiance to mind.


GLORIA CUBANA WAVELL MADURO
[Hecho por El Credito, República Dominicana]

A very charming robusto, consisting of a dark Connecticut broadleaf over a Nicaraguan binder and a lovely sensible blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican leaf. Complex, with a broad spectrum of flavour, mild spice.
It has oomph, but is not so bold as to floor you before breakfast.
Exceptional with the first, second, and third cup of coffee.
Tempered incense and a mild florality.

The mental scene playing in my mind is of a cavernous warehouse space, cool and dark, with light coming from the office area. Nearly empty, almost no one around; the end of the season, all the bales have been shipped, every one has been paid, all that needs to be done is filing bills of lading and counting the last facturas. There is music from far away.

I highly recommend this satisfying cigar.



A box of these would make a lovely birthday present to me. My birthday is coming up in October, nine months hence. But there is no reason to wait, feel free to jump the gun.




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Saturday, February 10, 2018

BLACK VEGETABLE, DRIED OYSTERS, GOOD LUCK, AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Nearly a fortnight ago a friend in Singapore remarked that there was New Year's music everywhere. Because Chinese New Year is coming up. Well, in Singapore they started early. Here in San Francisco I didn't hear any till a few days ago. Okay then. Tinkly children's voices chanting 'gong-si gong-si gong-si ni' and similar cheerful stuff.

Stockton Street has a number of stalls selling new clothing, flowers, New Year's cake, and various ingredients you will need for Dried Oysters And Black Moss (好事發財 'ho si fat choi') or Vegetarian Feast / Buddha's Delight (羅漢齋 'lo hon choi') and similar good luck dishes.


Of course, all I really care about is lei si.
I'm unmarried, a bachelor.
Single.

Please ignore the fact that I am older than you, with grey in my beard. As an unmarried person, I deserve tonnes of little red envelopes!

I'm also so Caucasian that I glow in the dark.
So a lot of lei si is unlikely.


Still, I wish you and yours a prosperous and happy new year, with good health and sweet things. Here are two festive recipes, the materials for which are available all along Stockton Street.


好事發財 (prosperous affairs and strike it rich)

海參燜豬手 (sea cucumber and pork knuckle)


The Spring Festival (春節 'cheun jit') starts on Friday February 16 this year.
The parade will take place a week later, Saturday February 24.

Just like every year I shall not watch it.
I am not fond of crowds.


新年快樂 'San nin faai lok'.
萬事如意 'Maan si yü yi'.
身體健康 'San tai gin hong'.
五福臨門 'Ng fuk lin mun'.
舉家歡樂 'Geui gaa fun lok'.




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WHEN THE WEATHER REFLECTS YOUR SOUL

Like many of you I have friends who live in different places, so just for the hell of it I looked up what the weather is like there during the day. Here in San Francisco, of course, everything is hunky dory. At the moment this is the best part of the universe, and most conducive to human comfort.

Please don't move here.


COMPARISON

SF: Balmy mid sixties (63°F). No precipitation. Zephyrs.
New York: Freezing (0°C). Wet.
Chicago: Bloody cold. And wet.
Vancouver, BC: Miserable, but not wet.
Hong Kong: Warmer (66°F) and wetter than SF.
Singapore: Considerably warmer (84°F) than HK, not as wet.
Hamburg: Like Chicago, not as wet by half.
Amsterdam: Warmer than the Germans (36°F). Wetter too.
Antwerp: Meh, nothing to recommend it.
Zurich: Like a'dam, but less rain.
Conway, SC: Very much like SF right now, but wetter.
Fujian: Will be as warm as us in a few days.
Shanghai: Not as warm.
Beijing: Kind of unpleasant.

Florida, where the window frogs are, is a dozen degrees warmer than here.

In Ireland, Reykjavik, Novgorod, and Stavanger, it is absolutely beastly.
No wonder those people are crazy and smell mildewed.
They might as well shift to Glasgow.
The food is better.


You can tell from these results that the Bay Area and the South China Coast are very nice places to be right now. Here in the city we have more bars and coffeeshops per capita than anywhere else. We're drunk, and we read a lot.
Tobacco is severely restricted, but potent strains of marijuana are widely and legally available. Many of us are out of our minds.
And we might be naked.

Bangalore (Karnataka), where Sunny V. C. represents the fraternity, is a lot like Singapore this time of year, but there is some rain, and the authorities are not nearly as stiff-arsed about smoking and spitting.

In Bombay and Poona it is too hot.
And the middle of the day.
Ice cream time.



AFTERWORD FOR TOBACCO MAVENS

As a side note to Joe F., I have finished the sample of Yorktown that you sent me. It was delicious. Whether or not I can get Brian to order it, I will acquire more. The first bowl was unexceptional, but after a little drying it became stellar. For a straight Virginia product it was a wonderful smoke, as a blending component I might experiment by adding up to four or five percent Perique or Firecured. Or both, in different proportions.
I think Adrian in Hong Kong would like it.
As a change from Elizabethan.

It is similar to Virginia Woods.
But much better.

JimInks on Tobacco Reviews hit it right on the head.
So did SteelCowboy.

And like BrittPark wrote, smoke slow.
Which is always good advice.




TOBACCO INDEX


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