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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo walked into the mawster bedroom of Port Swiller Manor last evening only to discover a couple of yellow-jackets alighting on one of the windows.  Quickly I slipped off the ol’ top-sider and began industriously squishing, but  couldn’t help noticing that, Hydra-like, for every ‘jacket I squished, two more seemed to appear in its place.  It was only after a minute or two of this and having got nailed on the back of my hand that I spotted the small hole immediately under the window sill from which the little bastards were pouring forth.

Realizing that I was in an untenable tactical position, I beat a hasty retreat, closing the door and jamming a towel underneath it for good measure.

Well, we couldn’t find anyone to come out and deal with the nest so late on a Saturday night, so it was beddy-bye on the basement sofas for Mr. and Mrs. R last night, with Self having numerous nightmares involving hornets in unlikely locations.

Fortunately, we were able to find an exterminator willing to come out on a Sunday morning (albeit, charging us through the nose for it).  The fellah who appeared turned out to be ex-Marine Corp, ex-FBI and a regular at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and also of the firm opinion that there’s no such thing as over-kill when eradicating hornets.

We got on very well indeed.

Pretty sure the fellah smited that nest good and proper and that nothing got out alive.

On a side note, not being able to get at the mawster bawth because we’re keeping the bedroom bottled up for another few hours just in case, I was finally forced just now to borrow the gels’ bathroom in order to shower up.  I never, ever want to hear it said that boys are piggier than girls.

UPDATE:  Well, the fellah seemed to be as good as his word.  I went in this afternoon with the vacuum a couple times to clean up the remains and check for survivors.  There must have been something close to 50 bogies scattered around the hole.  The fellah had said that they’d likely go for him when he started probing, and he was damned right.  My only fear was of some lone survivor suddenly popping up from behind a crevice, screaming “BANZAAAIIII!!!” and going for me.  Fortunately, no such thing.

UPDATE DEUX:  The Update above and our Maximum Leader’s comment below resurrected in ol’ Robbo’s brain a very, very distant and vague memory that I now offer you friends of the decanter for identification and commentary:   At some point back in the day, I should say perhaps the latter half of the 70’s, I recall a Saturday morning teevee show centered around the adventures of a fellah and his two offspring, one a teenaged boy and the other a pre-teen girl.  (And no, it wasn’t “Land of the Lost”.)  I think the fellah might have been a marine biologist or something of the sort and dimly recall that the show involved this family knocking about the Pacific in a sailboat and getting into various adventures.  The reason I bring it up is that the only episode of which I have any detailed memory whatsoever involved their alighting on what was thought to be a deserted island, only to have the kids stumble across an old Japanese soldier who wouldn’t or couldn’t believe that WWII was over.  (This was a not completely absurd scenario at the time.  If memory serves, they were coming across such soldiers hiding out in the jungle as late as the early 80’s.)  I think that the son had to dive to avoid a grenade and the climax involved the soldier holding the daughter at bayonet-point.  Or something.  The only other thing I remember is that at the end of the episode, after the soldier had been convinced that the War was, indeed, over, he smiled and said something to the effect that he was very happy Our Two Countries were at peace again.

Does this ring a bell with anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the last couple weeks, teh gels have been descending on teh local malls, ammo’d up with their baby-sitting earnings, allowances and birthday monies, to seek new fall school clothes.  Because they are all their mother’s daughters, Ol’ Robbo has found himself treated to numerous narrations of the details, one might say the painful details, of many of their purchases.

On the one hand, I’m delighted that they seem to be internalizing the basic concepts of math and self interest:   “Dad! This sweater from Macy’s was originally $100! But there was a 70% standing discount, plus a 10% special discount, plus another  get-it-the-hell-out-of-here discount.  I only paid ten bucks for it!”

On the other, I’m rayther appalled at the evident desperation among the retailers on which teh gels are feasting.   How can such things be when Our Betters assure us that the economy is doing just fine and dandy?

The world wonders.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere or other today, ol’ Robbo came across a reference on the innertoobs to going for a car ride just for its own sake.

Does anybody really do that anymore, what with gas nudging four bucks a gallon?

Anyhoo, the reference triggered my own memories of the very few times my family just “went for a ride” in my misspent yoot.

I hated them.

Even then, and much more so these days, the idea of getting into a car for any other purpose than to get from Point A to Point B  in the minimum possible time absolutely appalled me.

(Shudder.)

I got thinking about this because we are now within two weeks of the annual Port Swiller Family trek up tah Maine.  According to Mapquest, the drive is 592 miles door-to-door, which sounds about right, and 9 hours, 31 minutes, which is absolute baloney.  (We’ve only made the trip in one fell swoop once.  It took us 13 hours.)

I don’t mind the distance so much, because I know I’m aiming for a specific target.  If somebody told me I had to sit in a car for that length of time (or any length of time) just to wander aimlessly about?  I’d slit my wrists without hesitation.

UPDATE:  When I mentioned the 13-hour trip to Maine to Mrs. R, she reminded me that we got caught up in several terrible accident-related snarls that day and that this blew our schedule all to hell.  She’s right, of course, now that I think on it more.  Given the right traffic conditions, I can hit Bahston in something just over seven and a half from the gates of Port Swiller Manor, and it isn’t much above two hours more to our little piece o’ Paradise from there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my chronicling here the renovations at Port Swiller Manor last summah?  For those of you who may have forgotten the details, part of the project was the renovation of the upstairs bathrooms (which had not been touched in about twenty years).  Amongst the changes to the Mawster Bawth was the removal of the ratty old hardwood from the little dressing area and closet and the grubby tile from around the bath, and their replacement with 12×24 slabs of slate.

The effect was very nice and all seemed well for quite some time.  However, a few months ago, ol’ Robbo began to sense what seemed like a couple of faint “soft” spots in this new floor, places that felt relatively spongy compared to the rest of the surface.  At first I dismissed these sensations as nothing but neurotic fancy.  But as time went on, they seemed to become more pronounced.

By a few weeks ago, I could definitely sense a shifting in the tile under my feet, especially right around the entrance to the closet.  Shortly thereafter, in approved plate-tectonic fashion, the tiles in the area began to spit up the grout between them.   It was at that point that we called the contractor (who we had doing some other things anyway) to revisit this project and view the evidence.  He took a look, agreed that there was a problem, insisted that it was covered under our warrantee and arranged to send his flooring guy back to do a more thorough diagnostic examination.

Well, the floor guy was out this morning.  After prying up the tile and poking around beneath, he affirmed the contractor’s initial impression that the problem lay in the sub-flooring, which was not sufficiently strong enough to keep the tile and its substrata firmly in place, but was instead bouncing off the joists.   He first suggested that the plywood might not be of industry-standard thickness and then that it was not screwed down firmly enough or in enough places on the joists to hold the new, heavier floor securely.

Having said this, he called up the contractor to make his report.  I could hear both of them.  My Spanish studies only went as far as 9th grade, but age and experience allowed me to generally piece together what was being said:  After reporting his findings, the floor guy suggested that these problems – plywood thickness and screw-spacing, were “preexisting conditions” and therefore ought not to fall under warrantee.

Our contractor, bless him, went ballistic.

Amongst a stream of other verbiage, I caught a good deal about “my name” and “reputation” and “bad for business” and, in essence, “you should have got it right the first time, now fix the damned problem!

The flooring guy seemed quite chastised when he got off the phone.  Whether he knew that I understood what had happened, I couldn’t say, but he was all friendliness and helpfulness.

So they’re going to pull up the tile, double or treble the screws on the sub-flooring and try it again.  (The plywood thickness is industry standard, btw, and the joists are not too far apart.)  And yes, it’s covered under the warrantee.

Not that I blame the floor guy for floating the suggestion – I don’t know what the margin is on this kind of work, but even if maintenance/repairs is factored into the original bid I would think somebody is still going to eat some costs – but it was heartening to hear our guy arguing on principles of integrity and Good Business.

Of course, he also knows that we’re thinking of building an in-law suite over the garage a few years down the road and that we’re pleased enough with his prior work to consider him first in the running for the job, but still…..

seven elevenGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  And happy Feast of the Overpriced Convenience Store!

Sorry about the dearth of posties this week – it may be that ol’ Robbo’s brain has passed into the doldrums as it so often does this time of year.  At any rate, here are a few odds and ends to make up for it.

♦  I took advantage of a day off from work today to get an early start on my weekend yard work, my main task being to slap a coat of wood sealant on the inside surfaces of the porch posts.  (The outer surfaces are faced by some kind of weatherproof poly stuff but the other three are bare PTL.  They’ve been up for almost a year now and are nice and seasoned.)  For about 30 seconds or so I flirted with the idea of maybe staining them, but at the last regained my sanity and went with a clear sealant with a light gloss instead.   It turned out to be a much easier and faster job than I had originally feared, as I found I could easily get around the railing and other edges without all that tedious taping up biznay.

♦   While I was going about my task, I noticed something I had not known before:  A woodchuck will climb a chicken wire fence if it’s feeling greedy enough.

♦  The middle gel sang at a funeral down the Cathedral this morning for a woman whose son had himself been a chorister there many years ago and thought it would be a fitting thing for her, if any of the current crop were available and interested.  About a week ago, therefore, a request for volunteers went out and the gel, being the kind of gel she is, stepped up along with two or three others.  They sang Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire.  I thought the gesture was really very, very sweet.

♦  One of Mrs. Robbo’s nieces is flying down from Baahston on Monday to spend a week with us and see the sights.  Yesterday, Mrs. R’s sistah sent her a copy of the gel’s plane ticket, on which Mrs. R noticed that her sistah had paid for two checked bags.  Mrs. R immediately got on the phone and said, “Look, I don’t do checked bags.  We’ve got a washing machine and, in an emergency, the gel can borrow whatever she might need from my lot.  Carry-on only.”  I thought that very amusing.

♦  Speaking of gels, within the past month or two, I have heard several very different women in very different geographical locations using the phrase, “get her big girl pants on” or “get her big girl britches on”.  Is this a thing?  It must have some common source, but I work so hard to disassociate myself from pop “culchah” that I just don’t know what this might be.

♦  And speaking of hearing things, one of the most chilling things I’ve heard in recent memory was a colleague of mine down the office this week using the expression “Brave New World” without irony.   Telephone call for Gods of the Copybook Headings.  Will the Gods of the Copybook Headings please pick up the white courtesy phone.  Thank you.

♦  Finally, speaking of Kipling, I am deep into P.C. Wren’s Beau Geste for the very first time.  I won’t review it here since I’m not done but I will say that I’m enjoying it very, very much.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

Ol’ Robbo has so far celebrated the country’s birthday today by getting up at the crack of dawn to nip out to southwestern Pennsylvania to retrieve the younger gels from their summah camp.

On the way home this afternoon, cresting the various heights of the Allegheny, Blue Ridge and Catoctin ranges, we could actually see Hurricane Arthur on the far eastern horizon, a solid bank of cloud with smaller, darker strata scudding around its edges and that incredibly vibrant blue sky above which, I read somewhere, has something to do with the enormous amounts of ozone that a hurricane flings into the upper atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the wind has been whipping out of the northwest all day – straight toward the thing.  One could almost see the air being dragged in by that enormous low pressure vacuum.  These macro moments always give ol’ Robbo a bit of a shiver.

Just thought I’d share.

Anyhoo, I am now taking a break with the help of Dr. Pimm before I set about getting ready to grill burgers and dogs for a few friends we’re having over to Port Swiller Manor.  I gather the idea is for some of us to go on over to the local high school to see our municipal fireworks display afterward.   I hope all y’all have an equally festive day today!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the spotty posting over the past few days.  Port Swiller Manor currently is undergoing the traditional transformation from School Year to Summah Break with all the attendant activities and commitments.  Indeed, Ol’ Robbo spent the majority of the day today transporting teh younger gels to camp at Summer’s Best Two Weeks (about which I have written before) and only returned home a little while ago.  Give it another day or two and the more relaxed summah schedule may allow me more quality posting opportunities.

 

 

charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, teh youngest gel’s softball team survived a scary-close, extra-innings semi-final game this evening to advance to the City Series Championship game on Wednesday.

(And as an aside, as I walked in from the parking lot, I spotted Adam LaRoche and his family.  He has a couple of kids in our league.  Rather than accosting him, I simply made eye-contact, smiled and went on about my biznay.)

Anyhoo, the team finished their regular season at 10-2, one game back of the division winners (who were eliminated this evening on an adjacent field).   The gel has made something of a name for herself as a solid glove at 1st, although her chief delight is playing 3rd and gunning down runners.  (The other day, with bases loaded, she fielded a grounder hit to her there.  Everyone in the park thought she was going to step on the bag for the easy out, but she instead fired the ball to the catcher for the force at home.  The run she saved proved important.)

As for ol’ Robbo, I’ve been acting this season as a sort of deputy assistant coach, helping out with practices, pre-game BP and warm-ups as I’m available, and sometimes coaching 1st.  It’s a level of service with which I’m quite happy, as it allows me to be involved without saddling me with responsibilities I probably could not handle, given everything else going on.

Our record this season against the team we’re facing for the championship is 1-1, so I’ve an idea this is going to be an exciting game.  Wish us luck!

UPDATE:  Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!  I’m happy to report that not only did our team win this evening, the gel proved to be one of the heroes of the game.  Oh, you’d like details? Super, thanks for asking!  Well, it was the bottom of the 3rd and we were up 6-4 with bases loaded.  (The other team had scored all four of its runs in the top of the 3rd and looked like they were getting their mojo.)  The gel came up to the plate and hit a screaming daisy-cutter right over the bag at third.  All the base-runners came home and she boogied into second for a stand-up double, scoring herself a few minutes later.  This effectively took the mickey out of the other team and we eventually finished them off 11-4.   Ol’ Robbo is mighty proud tonight.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took advantage of today’s gorgeous weather to finally get out and clean up the raspberry canes, which, after suffering a fair bit from the cold and snow this past winter, are having what in sports would be called a rebuilding year.

As I pulled out dead canes and uprooted weeds, I found myself thinking about a remark the M-i-L made to Mrs. Robbo last week when the in-laws came to visit Port Swiller Manor on their annual spring migration north.  Apparently, she took a look at the front of the house and said, “Has Robbo given up on landscaping, then?”

Well.

As a matter of fact, there was some justification for such a remark.  As it happens, this year’s project will be to replace the front sidewalk and to put in a new planting bed along the front of the house, while at the same time putting in some new drains to help stem the flash floods we get from the downpours around here which have played merry hell with the current bed.  Given that most of the current bushes (a set of ancient, declining azaleas) and flowers are going to be torn out within the next week or two, I don’t see any real point in wasting any energy on trying to keep up with it all.

But still, this is something of a tender subject to me.

Having occupied Port Swiller Manor for nearly 14 years now, I’ve come to recognize that my efforts at gardening really constitute more of a rear-guard delaying action against the encroaching jungle than anything else.   But then again, there’s only me to do it, and given the lack of time, money and professional reinforcements (unlike some people – which see above, I don’t happen to have the luxury of a truck full of Salvadorans showing up twice a week to help me out), I think I do a tolerable job at least keeping things neat.

Plus, when I do manage to pull something off –  a good blooming on the climbing rose or the peonies, a garden absolutely full of butterflies flittering around the Buddleia at midsummer, a successful installation of trellis and jasmine – I have the satisfaction of knowing it was the result of my own effort, and not of some hired pros.

I’d much rather engage in honest, if humble and only modestly successful cultivation than live in a showplace and pay off somebody else to look after it.

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Arriving home at Port Swiller Manor in the gentle e’en yesterday, ol’ Robbo noticed a large sign taped to the mailbox that read, simply, “Bad Wolf”.

I’d seen teh middle gel making this sign the day before.  When I tasked her with what, exactly, it was supposed to mean, she started in on a long and convoluted story-plot surrounding The Doctor. 

Sic transit nerdii, I suppose.   I tuned out of her explanation after about the first twenty seconds or so, since I pretty much lost interest in that particular series after Tom Baker left.

I can’t complain much, however, considering I wasn’t much older than her when I had a tee-shirt custom made which read, “Nowhere Else But Minas Tirith”.

Anyhoo, in teh spirit of such things, I can’t help reposting this:

Yep.  Welcome to your future, young padawan.

Oh, and by the way?  Teh principle nerd in the black glasses in ROTN is an actor named Robert Carradine.  Back in ’72, he played Slim Honeycutt in The Dook’s second-to-last movie, “The Cowboys”.

Think about that for a minute:  Working with Wayne as an up-and-coming young cattle driver, and then later playing a four-eyed geek.

But then, isn’t that where we are as a culture?

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