sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunday Sermonette (more from CH)

An e-mail from CH (by way of advice)

As you know, for years now I have worked long and hard to find the formula for the perfect martini. Goodness only knows what the ultimate result of my research will be. Omnipotence? Eternal youth? Whatever comes will be a major step in the Ascent of Man.

I have found a new and tasty gin. It is Opihr, a London dry gin with a slight Oriental flavor. It is not cheap but it certainly beats all the other Oriental gins like Rangpur. Even so, I still believe Old Raj to be the best gin. It is awfully expensive (over $70 a bottle), extremely potent (110 proof) and wonderfully--even dangerously--smooth and flavorful.

Cork gin is also a super gin, but it is virtually impossible to obtain. 

Well, of course, the bottom line is "each to his own." De gustibus non est disputandum

I have always felt that music must be playing in the background while shaking the perfect martini. Music, as with so many things, is just a matter of preference, it can be used to move a person in one direction of another. And sometimes, it just reflects the person.

For example, two highly accomplished CIA officers that I know, Jack Downing and Alex Goodale, prefer the easy jazz of Acker Bilk, while another CIA officer (who was markedly unsuccessful, so I will not give you my name) prefers soaring Wagnerian music, such as " Das Rhinegold - Entry of the Valkyries into Vallhala" or the more popular "Ride of the Valkyries - This is a Romeo Foxtrot, shall we dance". Another fellow I know just likes comforting Southern porch music, such as "Tara's Theme". 

Note: CH, a Southerner who loved all things Southern, also listened to rebel music while he mixed his martinis. I heard him...and am ratting him out now that he's in the great beyond. In the end, though he died at Walter Reid Military Hospital (in the North) he was buried in Southern Ground in Arlington National Cemetery. RIP.


Better than the Zoo

by CH

Born in Arkansas in 1940, and raised there through the early 1950’s, I never saw an Asian person. When I entered the University of Maryland in 1957, word came through the grapevine that an ethnic Chinese girl by the name of Trudi J. wanted a date with me. I learned that Trudi had just pledged Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and that others considered her quite beautiful, but I declined to contact her. 

The next week, I was again told to give Trudi a call. “She thinks you are good looking. She was Miss Chinatown last year and her family is quite rich.” Still, I declined the offer, explaining that I just wouldn’t feel comfortable around an Asian, what with their single-fold eyelids. Who would have guessed that only a few years later, I would learn the Chinese language and marry an ethnic Chinese girl who had just entered the CIA’s Career Trainee Program. Now, after 42 years of marriage, I don’t think of my wife as Chinese. She doesn’t speak Chinese, and I only think of her as “Boss”. 

And my experience with Trudi J. has something of a parallel with Chinese concern for Caucasians. A comment frequently heard in the United States is that “all Chinese look alike.” It proceeds, of course, from most Americans’ unfamiliarity with Chinese features--and the same is true about Chinese who say the same thing about Westerners. 

Standing in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square one freezing morning in November 1978, I learned just how unusual we Westerners appear to Chinese. Sensing someone looking at me, I glanced to my left and saw at arm’s length a strikingly handsome Chinese girl staring at me with an unblinking expression of wonderment on her face. She was fully six feet tall, with the broad and flat face common among Chinese from the northeast provinces, and dressed in heavily padded peasant clothes and a huge fur hat. 

Speaking in Mandarin, I asked her if I was the first foreigner she had ever seen. Not at all to my surprise, she said I was. In continuing conversation she explained that she had come to Beijing from Heilongjiang Province, for the first time, as a tourist. Her friends had advised her, she said, to go to the Beijing zoo, but she added--with the wonderful candor of a country girl-- “I’ll just stay here. You foreigners are more queer-looking than anything I could see at the zoo.”


10 comments:

  1. Thank you for publishing that.
    Very thoughtful of you to share it.
    And I'm not referring to the martini stuff.
    It was like travelling there and seeing it.

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    1. There's one more CH post coming tomorrow. I think that you may like that as well... and possibly more after that. We'll see. As I mentioned, he was my friend and is missed. This provides a sort of a homage to him.

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  2. Interesting insight into another culture.

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    1. Yes, it's interesting to stand on the other side of the mirror.

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  3. Can I be your guinea pig?

    You can get Ophir gin in the UK for the bargain price of £23. I’m happy to smuggle on the black market for favours.

    As you know, I have done extensive research into drinking and music with my twisted time wasting and wine tasting. The two go well together. You never see Tommy Shelby having a tipple without cranking up the old gramophone!

    Great piece from C.H. “I’ll just stay here. You foreigners are more queer-looking than anything I could see at the zoo.” Fabulous!

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    1. I had a similar experience with CH in a park in Guangzhou circa 1997 or so. We had both been lecturing at a People's Public Security University course that was held in Southern China. There was a family from Western China who traveled to see the sights and, as I said CH and I were in a park down by the original cantonment, viewing history. Both of us were about the same height, both had white hair. Each member of the family wanted to touch our noses. File it under cultural exchange.

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  4. An interesting peek into Asian culture. One of my daughter's close friends is half-Chinese and was learning to speak the language before her planned trip to see her family there. We all had dinner shortly before her big trip and she was very excited. By the third day, she called my daughter and expressed an eagerness to return to the States. There was too much culture shock for her.

    Re: martinis. My recipe is simple. Three ounces of the best vodka you can afford, wave any old bottle of vermouth at it, add ice, shake, and add three olives. Very easy.

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    1. I like China. I enjoy the culture. I've had a lot of fun in China. However being instantly immersed as she was must have been difficult.

      CH and you would have got along just fine. Sometimes he had olives. Sometimes a twist and sometimes cocktail onions. He had different moods and they were reflected in the choice of "vegetables" that he had with his martini. He maintained that the vegetables provided a health dividend.

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  5. Old Raj? Gin of choice at the DLC mess, obviously.

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    1. And drink from the visitor's cup. Down it in one, the mess buys. Can't do it, you owe a bottle to each member of the mess.

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