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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The appearance of buses doing dummy runs on the streets round Port Swiller Manor, coupled with the rash of “Let Me Show Off My Kids” posts on Face Book and elsewhere, reminds ol’ Robbo that the balloon is just about to go up for yet another school year. That being the case, kindly indulge me in my own LMSOMK post here.
This year the gels will be in 11th, 9th and 7th grades. Yes, I now O-fficially have two high schoolers and a middle schooler. (Funny, because it seems like just yesterday that I was posting about diapers and Wiggles concerts.) And not just high and middle schoolers, but female high and middle schoolers. As I remarked to Mrs. Robbo the other day after breaking up yet another cat fight, “You know, boys just punch each other and have it done with.”
Anyhoo, the breakdown:
Along about the last quarter of last year, the Eldest Gel decided that for college she’d really like to attend Mrs. Robbo’s alma mater. At the same time, the penny dropped that if she actually wanted to get in, she’d better start doing something about it academically and extra-curricularly.¹ As a result, she started exerting some effort, and her grades began to climb. She goes into this year knowing exactly what she needs to do, and I think having a concrete goal will help her achieve it.
The Middle Gel moves to the Upper School on her campus and also is now a Senior Chorister down the Cathedral. Between the additional school work at the former and the many more practices and performances at the latter than she had in middle school, her life basically won’t be her own until next June. (For example, she’ll be singing “The Messiah” at Christmas. They’re also scheduled to perform during the year at Strathmore and Carnegie Hall.) Perhaps that’s why she’s been cramming in as many reruns of “
Dr. Dok-Tor Who” as possible these last few weeks.
The Youngest Gel is bouncing off the ceiling with excitement to begin middle school. She tested into the local G/T program and also is planning to take up both the cello and cross-country running (moving on to crew in high school). Recently she’s been consumed with getting herself organized to take it all on. She and the Eldest Gel have a bad case of Sibling J. Rivalry, and her chief motivation to excel seems to be an overwhelming desire to wipe the Eldest’s eye. Hey, whatever works, right?
So, as the late, great Johnny Olson used to say on “The Price Is Right”, “Heeeeeere we goooooooo…….”
¹Legacies ain’t what they used to be. However, it certainly can’t hurt that not only is Mrs. R a Vixen, so are Robbo’s Sistah, Robbo’s Sistah’s Mother-in-Law, the Eldest Gel’s godmother and the Middle Gel’s godmother. And ol’ Robbo himself is an honorary member of the school’s theatrical tap club, Paint & Patches. So we got that going for us.
Earlier today ol’ Robbo found himself hobnobbing with the youngest gel (who starts middle school in a week) about seasonal preferences. It turns out that we agree, ranking them from best to worst thusly: Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer.
We seem to have arrived at several of our preferences based on very different criteria (for instance, questions of wardrobe possibilities heavily influence teh gel’s thinking while mine not so much), but we agree about summer. It’s too darn hot.
Now long time friends of the decanter will recall that one of Robbo’s stock summah memes involves bitching about the iron fist of Heat Miser and all the misery it causes round here. However, as I reminded the gel, you certainly couldn’t level such criticism at the Summah of 2014, at least as experienced in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Indeed, it’s been almost ridiculously pleasant, with relatively few 90+ degree days and, so far as I can recollect, absolutely no triple-digit heat. And at the moment, we are experiencing weather more typical of the second half of September than August.
Indeed, if summah were always so pleasant round here, I would have no cause to complain whatsoever.
Of course, I know that hasn’t been and isn’t going to be the case, and that my tradition of griping posts will resume at some point in the future. Indeed, we are being told these days by Top Men that all that Global Warming hasn’t gone away, but instead is just hiding at the moment – somewhere in the Marianas Trench or under Mt. Everest or in Birnam Wood or the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51 or something, I don’t quite recall – and is only waiting the psychological moment to burst forth again, shouting, “Boo! Ha, ha,ha! Should have listened to Al Gore and Michael Mann, you selfish, ignorant wing-nuts! You are so toast now!”
Eh, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying the moment.
Speaking of which, here’s a question for you Tolkien sharks out there. There are several instances in the Lord of the Rings (I refer to the books, of course) in which it is suggested that Sauron at least influences, if not specifically directs, the weather. The snow storm at the Red Horn Gate comes to mind, as does the big thunderstorm at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. But I’ve always wondered about the extremely pleasant summer in the Shire in the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring that contributes to Frodo’s stalling around before he finally sets out on his initial journey. Just coincidence? Or is some malevolent force at work? And if so, why? Keep Frodo at home long enough for the Nazgul to get there? Is the Ring doing it? Can Sauron influence the weather that far away and does he have sufficient information (from Gollum’s torture) to make such specific arrangements? And can he create conditions that seem fair without feeling foul? There’s no hint of anything evil about that summer in the Shire. Then again, perhaps nobody was looking for it.
I throw all this out just by way of musing. And speaking of which, if you are both a Tolkien Geek and a Weather Nerd like ol’ Robbo, you’ll probably want to read this article.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Rain and fog all day today allowed ol’ Robbo to duck his usual Saturday task of laboring in the demesne with a clear conscience, that and the detritus of basement reconstruction scattered over so much of it. So instead, I spent the day lounging in the hammock and rereading a couple of old favorites.
One was P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred In The Springtime, which I believe to be the first full-length novel (although he had appeared in at least one earlier short story) concerning the exploits of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham who, although mature in years, continues to maintain the outlook “of a slightly inebriate undergraduate”. The book was published in 1938 and I have often argued that Plum was at the very top of his form in the 30’s and early 40’s. Not only is this one from that period, but so are such standouts as Hot Water, Heavy Weather, The Code of teh Woosters (the best Bertie and Jeeves story, IMHO) and Money In The Bank.
The other was Robert Graves’ Count Belisarius, which tells the story of the famous Byzantine general who won back great chunks of the Roman Empire under Justinian the Great, only to be blinded and beggared at the end of his life. It’s very well written and the campaigns are quite exciting, but the court intrigue gets to be a bit much and Graves also seems to take a grim pleasure in sneering at Christianity as it struggles to sort out orthodoxy from the various heresies that plagued the age, suggesting that most of the True Believers involved were either hypocrites or lunatics or both. (Graves, in many of his writings, was very keen on the notion that Christianity stole many of its elements and symbols from older and somehow more “authentic” pagan worship, particularly that of an all-encompassing three-in-one White Goddess native to the Eastern Mediterranean.)
So there was that.
On a different note, because our basement is still all ahoo, we still don’t have cable in the house. This has been causing some consternation on the part of the Middle Gel because this evening is the premiere episode of the newest incarnation of the Doctor and the gel has this year become an almost rabid Whovian. However, being the resourceful type that she is, she solved this problem by diplomatically getting herself and Mrs. Robbo invited to a friend’s house for pizza and the big screening. (It was diplomatic because, prior to the gel working her Big Magic, I don’t believe the friend was even aware of being a Dr. Who fan. On the other hand, teh gel has been showing Mrs. R reruns in an effort to, ah, indoctrinate her. I don’t know how successful this effort has been.)
Me, since I’ve been being cultured and stuff all day, I think I’m just going to hold the fort here at Port Swiller Manor and probably indulge in some “Arrested Development” reruns.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, the renovation of the flooded basement at Port Swiller Manor has now achieved official “Port-o-John on the Driveway” status, which in an odd way makes ol’ Robbo feel like a grown-up.
They’ve taken out all the flooring and drywall now, plus clipped off the bottom part of the framing (which, we found, was built with non-pressure treated wood by our old handyman) and dug a hole in teh floor for the sump pump. They’ve also dug a trench outside parts of the house to come at the non-exposed exterior walls in order to repair them. With a certain amount of imagination, it looks something like a moat. At least it would work as a serviceable defense against the Underpants Gnomes.
Hopefully, they’ll be ready to start actually building things shortly.
And speaking of medieval military practices, I note that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, fought this day in 1485. I must say that for all I know of the battle’s political importance, I am almost completely ignorant of its actual tactical unfolding. If memory serves, the recent exhumation and autopsy of Richard III revealed that he had died of blunt trauma to the skull and also suffered several other wounds, suggesting that he was in the thick of the fighting as a good king ought to have been in those days. (C.S. Lewis, in The Horse and His Boy, has one of his characters remark that the King should be first in the charge and last in the retreat.) Anybody know any good sources on this battle in particular and/or on 15th Century warfare in general?
By the way, the word “medieval” nowadays of course has negative connotations, suggesting that which is ignorant, crude, superstitious and cruel. I’m increasingly of the opinion championed by Lewis and others that the High Middle Ages were far, far better times than now commonly supposed in terms of sophistication of thought, richness of life and spiritual balance and health, and that the negative slur comes from those Enlightenment Humanists and their modern spawn who thought and think they could build an earthly Paradise based on Reason only.
Take a good, hard, honest look at the state of Western Civilization and tell me there’s not something to this.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
In teh past few weeks, ol’ Robbo can’t help but have noticed seeing a number of videos on the Innertoobs of various people – not just celebs, pols, athletes and whatnot, but real people he actually knows – having buckets of ice water poured on their heads.
Yesterday, teh youngest gel came home from her friend’s house, grinning ear to ear and carrying on her iWhateveritis a film of her friend pouring a bucket of ice water over her head.
“Okay, look,” I said, “Just what the heck is all this about anyway?”
“Um,” she said, “Well, there’s like this guuuy? And he’s really rich? And he, like, is challenging people to film themselves, like, pouring iced water on their heads? And, like, if you post the video and he, like, sees it? He’ll give $100 to study some disease nobody’s ever heard of!”
(On further review, I see she got it about half right.)
“Well,” I said, “If he wants to give a lot of money to some worthy charity, why doesn’t he just do it instead of asking people to make fools of themselves in public?”
“DAAAA-aaad!” she replied, “That’s not the way it works these days!”
Now there she was spot on. (I couldn’t help thinking of an old Bill Cosby bit in which he said, “Can you BELIEVE ‘Let’s Make A Deal?’ And that the people on that program are AMERICANS?” Yes, yes I can.)
Iced water on the head is just the latest notch up, but in fact I’ve never been much of a fan of what one might call “public displays of charity” – the ribbons and the t-shirts and the this and that showing one’s concern for some cause or other. Indeed, I seem to recall that a Certain Somebody didn’t think much of such displays either.
I know my viewpoint is in the minority these days, but I’m certainly not alone:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Please pardon the post-hols silence from your humble host, but we’ve been having another outbreak of the Joys of Home-Ownership here at Port Swiller Manor this week. Would you like to hear about it? Super! Thanks for asking!
Whelp, ol’ Robbo had gone down the office Tuesday as per usual, leaving teh gels home to squander some of their last remaining summah vacation time. (Mrs. R had stayed up in Connecticut for a couple extra days to visit with her parents and grandmother.)
If you will recall, Tuesday was a day of torrential rains throughout much of the South-East and Mid-Atlantic. The area immediately around the port swiller demesne was no exception.
About midday, I got a call from the Middle Gel.
“Daaaaaad, there’s a puddle in the [basement] study!” she said.
“Well,” I replied, thinking it was just some wet coming through a window frame,”just drop a towel on it for now.”
“Okay,” she said.
A bit later, she called back.
“Um, Dad, the puddle is getting bigger.”
“Well, put down some more towels.”
This back and forth went on for a while. Finally, I suggested she call Mrs. X, a friend of ours who was on stand-bye babysitting duty in case the gels needed immediate assistance while I was off at work.
A short while later I learned that what had originally been described to me as a mere “puddle” was, in fact, a couple inches of water spreading rapidly across the entire basement floor. At this point, I did what any sensible husband would do and called Mrs. Robbo.
“Mooommy!” I said.
Mrs. R then leapt into action from afar, getting hold of our contractor, who in turn immediately sent a crew along to start damage control.
It was only when I got home that evening that I learned of the full scope of the thing: Carpet ruined. Pergo in my study ruined. Baseboards gone. Bottom of drywall saturated. In addition, I found that the Internet servy-routy-thingamajig was dead (as was the printer), which is why I have not had access to the Webz until this evening.
Oh, and a consultation with our soon-to-be-former homeowner’s insurance revealed their attitude that once rain hit the ground, it was our problem, not theirs. (I picked a hell of a week to quit moonlighting as a drug mule.)
It was also only when I got home that I learned the youngest gel had been trying to unplug things while standing in the flood. I believe I aged several years right about then.
So what was the cause, you ask? The rain was coming down so heavily that it overwhelmed all the drainage measures out front and ponded up against the house directly above the basement wall. It then found its way down between the cinderblocks (which have been showing signs of age, wear and tear for some time) and bled out into the basement at a rate far, far greater than anything I’ve ever seen in 14+ years of residence here. I blame Manbearpig.
So you lot know what all this means, of course? That’s right, MOAR RENOVATIONS!
For one thing, they’re going to have to excavate at the side of the house to come at the leaky basement wall and repair it. They”re also going to put in new floors in the basement (Pergo all the way this time), replace the two feet of drywall they had to cut out all the way around and install a sump pump. Mrs. R, seeing an opportunity, has also declared that what was once nominally my workshop is going to be converted into another bathroom for the use of houseguests who stay at the Manor. (The study doubles as a guest room, you see, and to date lodgers have been forced to endure the horrors of the gels’ bathroom upstairs if they wanted to shower up.)
In the meantime, of course, we’ve had to move all the furniture and things out of the basement and are presently working out places in which to stuff them for the duration of the project. Also, although I got Verizon to run a cable up to a new router in the living room, we won’t have access to the teevee downstairs until it’s all put back together again.
As you can imagine, everything is all ahoo at the moment and probably will be for some time.
At any rate, there you have it. Seeing as I will not be able to watch my beloved Nationals on the teevee or listen to my stereo in the evening for the foreseeable future, I imagine I may spend rayther more time hanging around here than usual.
UPDATE: Spent much of the morning moving things out of the basement and trying to jury-rig something close to normalcy. Not much hope of that, but at the least I managed to set up my stereo and CD player in a corner of the living room so I can listen to musick (with headphones, of course). I also found a place for the little teevee and DVD player, so I can carry on Netflixing. So I’ve got that going for me.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, Daddy is home from Peru. (Spot the riff, if you can. I’m actually back from Maine, of course.)
All in all, a fairly relaxing week staring at the bay, marred only by the fact that ol’ Robbo neglected to pack his tummy medicine before setting out, in part out of 4 ack emma sloth, in part because he figured that the absence of the usual workaday stresses would render said meds unnecessary.
Well, I was wrong about that. After the last dosage had cleared the ol’ system, the Port-Swiller tummy began to do a thoroughly unpleasant buck-and-wing, in turn rendering your host somewhat, shall we say, dyspeptic to those around him. After a few days, Mrs. R got so tired of it that she went into town herself, found some more meds, returned to teh cottage and shoved them at me with a curt, “Take them, dammit!”
Ah, middle age……
Anyhoo, a few odds and ends:
♦ Made the run from Westport, CT to Port Swiller Manor in the wilds of NoVA in 4 1/2 hours yesterday morning, including two Indy-like pit stops. Not that I’ve ever kept a log or anything, but I believe this to be a personal medal run. I’m not a reckless driver, but I’ve always been somewhat lead-footed, especially when traffic is relatively light, as it was Sunday morning. (Note, however, to that red van with Indiana plates: If you insist on doing 65 mph on the south end of the Jersey Turnpike, do it in the right-hand lane, for Heaven’s sake! You’ve no idea how many near-accidents I saw involving hot-heads trying to get around you.)
♦ We had a friend come in and house-sit for us while we were away. I was delighted to see that all the porch plants survived and thrived in our absence and that none of the cats was killed by the others. Oddly, it seemed to me that the two kittens (a little over a year old now) appear to have grown in our absence. I always thought cats reached full stature in about a year, but teh gels insist that their growth cycle is longer than that. Any of you know?
♦ Speaking of growth, I also was delighted to note that the jasmine I planted earlier this year – about which friends of the decanter may recall my blathering at length – all have new leaves on them, a sign that they like where they have been put. And while we’re on the subject of gardening, I would also note that I have a climbing rose out front, an Improved Blaze. For some years I have not touched the thing, and it gradually got so tall as to start getting tangled in the second-story gutter. This would be fine, except that every year after its glorious bloom and when the weather started hotting up, it would promptly shed all its leaves, rendering me open to snide remarks from teh Middle Gel about putting out the Halloween decorations too early. Well, this year I decided on radical action: After it was done blooming, I cut the thing way, way back (to about four feet high, in fact). For a number of weeks I had nothing but a handful of canes left and thought I might have killed it, but this morning I noticed new shoots on each and every one of them. Yay.
♦ I read four books while loafing about the Port-Swiller summah cottage:
- Hercules, My Shipmate by Robert Graves, a rendering of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts in the form of an historickal novel. I’ve read this book many times before. Once you get past Graves’ paganism (I think he really believed his carryings-on about an ancient, all-encompassing Mother Goddess usurped by the followers of more recent fraudulent religions – including Christianity), it’s a jolly fun and rayther lusty adventure story.
- Haydn’s Visits to England by Christopher Hogwood, a delightful little book (an extended essay, really) giving a day-to-day overview of Papa’s doings in Blighty. One thing I learned (this was my first time reading it) was that the Prince Regent was very, very attentive to Haydn during his visits. Good. I think very little of George IV in the main, but credit where it is due.
- Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Just to keep my ire up against that rat-bastard Jean-Jacques Rousseau and all of his ideological spawn who have dedicated themselves to establishing Heaven on Earth, even at the need of putting millions of said Earth’s inhabitants to fire and sword for their own good. The book came out in January 2008 but seems all the more timely now. (Incidentally, I’ve decided to devote a deal of time this fall to rereading Locke, Smith and Burke and to finally introducing myself directly to Hayek.)
- The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. I’ve long been a fan of the movie (which I’ll probably pop in when I’m done with this post), but this was my first time reading the novel, which Mrs. R picked up for me somewhere for a dollar. What a lot of fun! And how refreshing to find a young author (he was about 29 when he wrote it) who isn’t a first-class, self-absorbed, whiney wanker. I’m curious about how those more Doyle-conscious than me think about the differences between book and movie: The latter, while, I think, adhering nicely to the tone of the book, did turn Joey The Lips inside out as a character, and its soundtrack had very, very little overlap with that of the former, but most of the differences strike me as de minims. Was Doyle involved in teh movie?
♦ Didn’t look at the Innertoobs a single time while on hols, so I’ve much on which to catch up. What did I miss? (I see this evening that Robin Williams killed himself. Depression, apparently. I despised much about him during his career, but you hate to see something like this happen to anybody.)
♦ To be honest, however, I did ask teh gels to keep me posted on my beloved Nats’ doings while we were away. From what I see at this point, I am (touching wood) pretty confident that we are going to win the NL East. On the other hand, I also think the Dodgers are going to win the NL pennant and that the A’s will beat them in the Series.
♦ Whelp, now that the summah hols are over and ol’ Robbo turns his attention to the impending start of school and other fall activities, I have to ask: Just where the hell did this year get to?
Whelp, it’s the end of July/beginning of August, so regular friends of the decanter know what that means ’round here…..
Yes, ol’ Robbo is packing up the Port Swiller Family and heading for Maine, there to recharge his depleted batteries by loafing for a week out on the deck, filling his lungs with clean sea-air, spending the days in idle contemplation of the bay and the nights in more concentrated contemplation of adult beverages…..
In short, by not doing a damned thing. I simply cannot understand people who feel that a vacation must entail the constant scrambling from one place to another – attractions, amusement parks, landmarks – and the pursuit (he closes his eyes as he types this) of experiences.
Feh, just thinking about such a programme makes ol’ Robbo tarred. No, thankee.
Anyhoo, be back later…..
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.