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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent some time this afternoon putting together the first of the Port Swiller Manor Advent wreaths. I’ve used the same donut frame of brass ribs for years now. Fill it with fresh-cut fir and holly from the grounds and one can produce quite a nice effect, especially if the hollies are having a good berry years (which ours, for whatever reason, are not) and if you can find some fir branches with nuts on them. Add candles sitting atop a little mirror and hey, presto!
I say the first of the wreaths, because it’s my experience that they last about two weeks before drying out too much.
This year as I stood at the kitchen table cutting and planting, I repeatedly had to shoo away the young kittehs, who took a very lively interest in these strange, new green things. It occurred to me that this will also be their first encounter with a Christmas tree. Given their propensity to get into everything, I must say that I’ve got a baaaaad feeling about this. Indeed, I’m reminded of an old Top Ten list that Letterman did (back when he was nominally funny) of modern Disney movie remakes. One of them, which always makes me chuckle, was entitled “That Effin’ Cat”.
Speaking of such things, regular friends of the decanter may wonder how the relationship is going between the two kittehs (who must be about four or five months old now) and the middle-aged incumbent? Well, the elder still hates the younger two. Early on, we had to spend an awful lot of time and energy keeping them apart. However, now that the younglings have got big enough to defend themselves and clever enough to avoid the matron most of the time, we’re more disposed to let them sort things out for themselves.
I will not dip into the perennial debate over what constituted the “real” first Thanksgiving celebrated in the Americas this year, instead letting the Plymouth dog lie. I can’t help noting my intense amusement, however, in learning that Squanto, savior of the Puritan colonists, was in fact a Catholic.
Anyhoo, no posties for the next few days, as the Family Robbo piles into our Honda Juggernaut® at day-break to go visit my brother and his family (together with the Mothe and my widowed cousin). There will be the usual food and drink, grumbling about the God-forsaken state of the world, perhaps some college fu’ball watching (although watching the Longhorns play Tech will never be the same thing as their rivalry with the Aggies), and maybe even a hike up in the Blue Ridge. Good times, good times.
Oh, by the way, we did indeed get snow at Port Swiller Manor today. Not many flakes and they didn’t stick at all, but it definitely was the white stuff. The last time we got snow at Thanksgiving, I believe we got hammered later on when the right season started. Just saying.
So here’s to a very happy and bounteous Thanksgiving Day to you all, with three times three!
UPDATE: D’OH! A month or two back, Mrs. Robbo (while, I believe, practicing bootlegger turns although she denies it) sideswiped a pole in a parking lot, caving in the rim of the right-rear wheel well. The damage seemed cosmetic only and Mrs. R didn’t report any trouble, so I didn’t give it much thought beyond saying kiss-my-hand to the lease deposit. Well this morning, when all five of us plus our luggage piled in (for the first time since Mrs. R’s ding), I quickly discovered that the extra weight meant every time we went over a bump, the rim would scrape against the tire. I tried redistributing the gels to put less of a load on that corner, but it only helped a little bit.
We started out nonetheless, but by the time we got to Haymarket, my nerves were beginning to frazzle at each new “SCCCRNCHH!!” I pulled off the road and had a dekko. Sure enough, the edge of the tread where the rim had been rubbing it was starting to shred. No way in the world was I going to try taking that on a six hour drive across Virginny and North Carolina, so we turned around and limped home.
I suppose we might have rented something, but the closest place I could even imagine being open would have been Dulles. Maybe. And assuming we could find a suitable substitute, by the time we got there, got it, got home and transferred all our gear, it would be way late to set out. Ol’ Robbo has a very low “Oh, to hell with it!” threshold, and that would have been too much for so short a trip.
My sister-in-law suggested I try banging the rim back out with a hammer. I had actually thought about that and even took a few tentative pokes at it. But I don’t know anything about getting a body panel off a car. And I was afraid that if I tried to lever it in situ, I would only manage to tear it, thus putting a shiv directly over the tire. No, thankee.
So no Port Swiller Family Meet-Up this year.
Fortunately, some friends who found out about it immediately invited us to join them for dins this afternoon. So at least there’s that.
UPDATE DEUX: Yeah, about that. In the midst of our frolic the eldest gel was struck down by sharp abdominal pains and had to be taken to teh ER. Kidney stones, apparently. What a day.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo spent about six hours yesterday dealing with the autumnal leaves around Port Swiller Manor in general and in particular the ones shed by the three maples and one oak that occupy the ground between the sidewalk and the street in front of Robbo’s demesne.
Because of the hedge of hollies that line the sidewalk on the Manor side, effectively blocking all transport of said leaves from any passage other than the narrow channel of the Port Swiller driveway, removing teh leaves from these particular trees is a multi-stage task. First, I have to blow or rake them into piles. (Standing on the road itself with my leaf-blower, one eye continually cast downstream in order to ensure that I don’t receive a Beemer SUV in the small of the back, is always a stimulating experience.) Then, I have to transport said piles, one wheelbarrow-load at a time, up the sidewalk and on to the tarp conveniently laid out on the Port Swiller driveway. When the tarp is sufficiently full, I then have to drag it round the side of the house, down the slope of the back yard and through the back gate, finally dumping its contents in teh little ravine carved by the local stream just inside the wood line.
As they say, lather, rinse and repeat until done.
I have found through trial and error that the best way to attack these trees is a two-stage approach: I make my first sweep when roughly half the leaves are down. The second usually comes a couple weeks later, after most of the trees are pretty much bare. (The oak always hangs on to some of its leaves and sometimes requires a subsequent mopping up.) This has a definite advantage: The first sweep, like this weekend’s, usually takes place in fairly amiable weather -cool but bright. The second is, almost inevitably, much colder and danker. So, although I’m doing a double operation, I’m halving the amount that has to be done when the weather gets nastier.
Strictly speaking, I suppose I could hire a crew to come in and deal with teh leaves. Also, in a less precious-snowflake-coddling environment I could request and require teh gels to take care of it. But this is one of those tasks that, from a psychological point of view, I have always somehow found it important to take care of with my own two hands. It’s a small and perhaps silly thing, but I see it as a symbolic tribute to a more self-sufficient, autonomous way of life, one almost completely wiped from, if not outright despised by, the so-called “cultchah” in which ol’ Robbo finds himself living.
Well, eh. I don’t think the Counter-Revolution is going to be sparked by some rapidly-approaching-middle-aged dweeb who insists on raking his own damn leaves. You guys are going to need a better leader, perhaps one who refuses to separate papers and plastics…… On the other hand, when we right-thinking people have been confined to the FEMA “cultural reeducation” camps, perhaps ol’ Robbo can provide some cover for the tunnel-digging with his scientific approach to leaf-removal…….(Cue theme muskic)
One other thing, though. In teh South Texas of Robbo’s misspent yoot, we never had to deal with teh annual fall foliage drop. The live oaks and mesquite had relatively small leaves and the juniper scrub was evergreen. So I never got to experience teh Good Old Days of leaf clean-up. One thing that I would dearly love to do is to have an old-fashioned leaf-burning. How eagerly I would trundle wheelbarrow-loads of leaves down to teh pile and fling them on. How lovely would be the smell of smoke drifting back up the hill.
Ah, well….perhaps someday, after we bust out……
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
In case you are wondering, as I type the current temperature on the porch at Port Swiller Manor is 41.3 ºF.
I know this because I recently purchased a La Crosse Technology WS-9133U-IT 915 MHz wireless weather station, and since mounting it this weekend I’ve been sort of geeking out over checking the stats whenever I go through the kitchen. I know this model isn’t particularly sophisticated – no actual barometric readings, a very limited forecast function, no wind speed and direction, no relative humidity – but it’s a pleasant gadget nonetheless.
I reckon that in my retirement, I’ll get into something more closely approaching serious weather-watching. Indeed, one of the sure signs that ol’ Robbo is beginning to enter the shoal waters of Mid-Life Crisis is a recent brooding on what on earth I’m going to do with myself when Life throws me on to the beach. In addition to said weather-watching, I’ve come up with some other preliminary ideas, which include:
- Actually reading all those classics I should have done earlier but didn’t get round to (yeah, I’m looking at YOU, War and Peace)
- Various religious devotionals (Eucharistic Adoration in the middle watches, for example)
(This list, so far, does not include travel. Frankly, I’ve no wish to travel. Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, is passionately fond of the idea. This might cause some problems.)
But anyway, back to the weather station. Friends of the decanter may recall from some posties from way back that when ol’ Robbo was but an elementary school tyke, his great passion was to some day become a meteorologist. As Calvin was to dinosaurs, I was to weather. Indeed, I doubt very much there have been many such kiddies who knew as much as I did about high and low pressure, frontal boundaries and cloud types.
I still recall a story I wrote in second or third grade about various manifestations of the weather, from set fair to stormy. Actually, I don’t remember what the story actually was, but I do remember being sent to the principal’s office about it, where I actually was congratulated on my imagination and knowledge.
I also remember being asked by one of my teachers whether a squall line bearing down on the school one afternoon was anything to be worried about in terms of assuming the cover-up position out in the hall. Armed in my self-assurance, I took a look at the sky and assured her that there was nothing to worry about.
I further remember an educational kit (from NOAA, I suppose) offered by one of the local teevee stations during the annual spring storm season for which I wrote away. It consisted of a large chart of the various kinds of weather, together with a phonograph record. (This was, like, 1973. Shut up.) The record was a dramatic rendering of a guided tour of a meteorological station on a stormy day somewhere (I think) near St. Louis. The narrator, a meteorologist, described the various weather phenomena depicted on the chart. (You see, he was supposed to have the same chart in his office.) The climax of the story was a sudden, direct hit of a tornado on the station. Everyone survived, of course, but the Full Fury of Ma Nature meme was expressed with all the subtlety of, oh, a sudden tornado hit on a weather station.
That record scared the beejeezus out of me. Indeed, I brought the kit into class for a presentation one day and literally had to hide when the voice offstage yelled, “TORNADO!!”
The other thing I remember about that record? The musick accompanying the thing was the overture from Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmila:
To this day I get a little sweaty-palmed when I hear it on teh radio.
Yes, I’m a bit odd. I know that. What I’m not sure of is what happened to my interest. Heck, I could be out-mimboing Jim Cantore right this very instant if I had stuck with it.
Oh, well. Maybe when I retire……
*Spot the slightly-mangled quote
I always thought that Mrs. Krabappel, long-suffering teacher of Bart, was one of the funnier side characters on The Simpsons. (I also always wondered how many younger viewers got the riff her name was of the teacher Mrs. Crabtree in the old Our Gang series.)
I also always new that she was voiced by an actress named Marcia Wallace.
What I didn’t realize until I googled up this article just now was that this was the same Marcia Wallace who played secretary Carol on the old Bob Newhart show that I watched in my misspent yoot and which is currently in reruns on one of the cable nets.
Now that I think about it, though, the same voice is immediately recognizable.
By the bye, we have a crab-apple tree behind the back fence of Port Swiller Manor. For years now I have referred to it as the cr’bopple tree in tribute.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, as the title implies, ol’ Robbo took the weed-whacker to Da Beard this morning. I didn’t do so because it looked bad or because Mrs. R made me. (Indeed, when I finally got her to comment, she actually gave it her qualified approval.) In the end I suppose I decided that I just wasn’t really that guy looking back at me in the mirror. Regular friends of the decanter will be well aware of Robbo’s aversion to change and his utter lack of interest in novelty for its own sake. Some people might be apt to label this “boring”. I prefer the term “constant”.
Anyhoo, I got a few compliments and had a bit o’ fun, but it was time to come home.
Speaking of change, our Maximum Leader, commenting t’other day on the upcoming statewide elections here in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny, noted his general dissatisfaction with all the candidates on offer this time around. I must say that I’m getting that same vibe from many, many people including Mrs. R, who I always turn to as my non-politickal weathervane. I won’t go into endorsements here except to remark that, as I’m something more of a cultchah warrior than Maxy, the choices are easier for me. I will say that there is at least one state-wide candidate who, in a healthy republic, wouldn’t even be on the ballot but instead would be in jail.
Also speaking of change, may I remark here how much I hate this bloody Apple i-Whateveritis on which I am currently typing, particularly this goddam wireless mouse? In its apparent quest to anticipate what I want it to do, it’s forever suddenly magnifying the page or flipping it into the trash if I even go so far as to sneeze at the wrong moment. Grrrrr…..
Speaking of manipulative technology, the devil’s website got me again yesterday. On a Columbus Day tip from the Puppy-blender, I had sauntered over to pick up Samuel Eliot Morrisson’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus. While on the page, I heard a small voice whisper, “Psst! Hey! Look down a little….You know you can get a copy of Columbus’s own logs and dispatches from his voyages while you’re at it, don’t you? You know you want to, right? It’s sooooo easy. Go ahead!”
My friends, there are some temptations which I am able to avoid quite easily. There are others to which I fall equally easily. (And lest you think this particular one fairly petty, let me assure you that reading books of this sort will be more than enough justification to send me to the reeducation camps, if not the wall, in the upcoming purges.)
One temptation that I wrestle with more or less constantly is to try living the gels’ lives for them. This is a trap the Old Gentleman fell into in my own misspent yoot, and one that I swore scrupulously to avoid when it became my turn to deal with teenagers. My friends, it’s a whole heck of a lot harder than I ever imagined to stop myself from dashing in and trying to micro-manage, and then losing my temper when my efforts are either ignored or resisted. Saint Joseph, ora pro nobis.
Oh, speaking of age….I saw Lee Majors, of all people, on the teevee last evening hawking a “bionic” hearing-aid. For some reason, this made me feel very old. The Six-Million Dollar Man was a fixture of my misspent yoot – I can’t recall whether I actually had a Col. Steve Austin action figure, but I rayther think I did – and to see him badly reading a cue-card in a mumbly voice really hit me.
Well, enough of that. It’s a beautiful mid-October day and I do believe that this will be the last lawn-mowing of the season. Here’s a question for you: The back yard of Port Swiller Manor is enclosed in a white rail fence that, after twelve years or so, could really do with a new coat of paint. Somebody told Mrs. R that we really ought to power-wash it before painting, given that some of the rails are a bit grungy, but I’m inclined not to a) because of the additional work and expense, and b) because I worry that directing a jet of water at some of the boards will cause them to disintegrate. Is this a short-cut to nowhere?
Ol’ Robbo loves him the smell of Holly-tone. It’s either a good bad smell or else a bad good smell, if you know what I mean: Arguably niffy on an objective basis, but with use and because of the associations surrounding it eventually becoming musick to the nose. Sort of like horse-manure in that respect, the smell of which I got to enjoy through hanging around stables so much in my misspent yoot. (I’m sure friends of the decanter can think of other examples of this phenomenon, not all of them necessarily pastoral or agricultural.)
It’s not like I’d buy a bottle of Eau d’Tone cologne or anything, of course, but when I’m out scattering the stuff about, I enjoy it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, the weather has finally broken in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with heavy rain and much cooler temperatures today. It’s not quite cold enough to justify lighting a fire, but I might do so anyway just so that I can doze off in front of it.¹
This is, and always has been, ol’ Robbo’s very favorite kind of weather, which is why fall is ol’ Robbo’s very favorite season of the year.
For some reason, it’s always about this time of year that I get the urge to reread my Francis Parkman. I don’t quite know why there’s such a strong gunnegshun between North American colonial history and autumn in my so-called braims, but it’s there nonetheless. I believe it’s been two years since my last run through the cycle, so perhaps it’s time to give in to this urge again
Speaking of which, before the current outbreak of right fall weather, we had a week or so of unusually hot and sultry days. At one of the gels’ softball practices, I overheard another coach remark that it must have been Indian Summah. Aside from the political incorrectness of the term, about which I don’t give a wet slap, I think the fellah was mistaken. My understanding has always been that Indian Summah was any period of warmer weather after the first big cool-off of the fall (indeed, some say after the first frost), which we hadn’t then yet had. Somewhere or other, I also got the understanding that this was a colonial expression and had to do with a heightened level of frontier raiding by the natives that occurred during such end of the season warm spells, although I have heard various other explanations as well.
Also, the leaves are just beginning to turn on the maples around here. The Mothe reports that up ta Maine they had one of the loveliest foliage seasons in a long time this year. The displays in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor have been pretty meh over recent years, so here’s hoping we get a good ‘un, too. Just what set of circumstances causes the colors to come out so brightly some years and not others is another one of those autumnal phenomena about which I have heard many different claims and explanations. In this case, I don’t have a particular favorite theory.
Anyhoo, given that Shutdown Theatre continues to leave ol’ Robbo loitering around the house not doing much of anything, at least now I’ve got some seasonal things to think about…..
¹ I’m not kidding about that. Over the past week I’ve found that every time I stretch out and try to read, I almost immediately doze off.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yep, your host finds himself still kicking his heels this Monday morning, waiting for Uncle to unlock the doors and switch the lights back on. I hope things get resolved sooner than later. Among other reasons, Mrs. R is starting to get that honey-do look in her eyes when she catches me lounging in the hammock.
So a few odds and ends to while away the time:
♦ Ol’ Robbo got into an almost-fender-bender this morning coming home from dropping off teh elder gels at school. A doofus (with, naturally, Murr’land plates) stuck in the left lane behind a bus waiting to turn, decided to go around him to the right, cutting over just as I was coming up past him. Fortunately, I spotted him just in time and was able to jam on my brakes and get over toward teh curb. The result was that his front bumper just grazed my driver-side door. I leaned out and inspected the contact, looked up and gave the guy a very poisonous look while mouthing “Thank you, ya jack-wagon”, and drove away. Somebody told me that driving in Dee Cee results in an average of one accident every four years. Perhaps this was mine for the foreseeable future.
♦ I am convinced that my wisteria are related to Tolkien’s Huorns. They have reached out their tendrils and snagged the throttle control on my lawnmower so many times that it must be deliberate. They also delight in tangling my weed-whacker.
♦ Speaking of the garden, every year about midsummer, I say to myself, “Self, you really need to dig up and divide the peonies this fall.” And every year come fall, I say to myself, “Aw, the heck with it. Maybe next year.”
♦ At least this year I have some plausible excuse. What an odd October weather-wise it’s been in the environs of Port Swiller Manor. After a very cool August and September, the temperatures this past week have been right up near 90. It’s all changing today, however, as a front blows through, bringing heavy rain and more seasonal air.
♦ There is still a good deal of enmity between our elder cat and the two new kittehs. In general, they all try to avoid each other, Bella spending most of her days in the basement and the younglings playing about upstairs. When they do meet, they keep a weather eye on each other. We are down to about one or two screeching dustups per day, which usually come when Bella stumbles across one of teh kittehs unexpectedly.
♦ I notice that I have not said anything about my beloved Nationals since their season ended. The bad news, of course, is that we didn’t live up to the pre-season “World Series or Bust” hype (including my own hype) this year. The good news is that, despite all the heartache, we did win only twelve fewer games this year than last. We’ll get ‘em next time.
♦ Speaking of such things, the eldest gel is playing in a senior girl’s softball league this fall and ol’ Robbo is acting again as one of the coaches. The girls in this league range between 13 and 16, and some of the pitchers can deliver the ball very, very hard. T’other day I got tagged to help our ace warm up. Without any kind of padding or protection other than a strategically-placed knee, I found myself catching bullets. It was quite unnerving.
♦ Oh, and today is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, fought in 1571. Make sure and sink one of the Sultan’s galleys today by way of commemoration.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, ol’ Robbo finds himself starting an unscheduled vacation of undetermined length today as Uncle closes up shop. It will be interesting to see what happens. Of course, National Propaganda Radio was screaming this morning for all its worth about Shutdown Dooooom and how it’s all the fault of those loose-cannon Tay Party wacko-birds, but I wonder -especially given how truly porous this temporary stoppage is- whether most people will really give a damn. Remember Sequester-palooza?
So what are those wacko birds about? Well, I won’t get into the details of my theory here. Suffice to say, I believe this will be a tactical loss (and I think the wackos will take a hit and eventually climb down) that may actually help achieve strategic victory. (Whether this is a deliberate ploy or not is another question). This next year of 0-care roll out will represent a serious shift in context. No longer is this a philosophical debate and propaganda battle largely ignored by people who don’t specialize in gubmint wonkery. Now it becomes a tangible force: people being made to actually do things and having things done to them by a bureaucracy that, to borrow the Gipper’s famous line, combines the efficiency of the Post Office with the compassion of the IRS. And I think that the result is going to be ugly, ugly, ugly, to an extent no amount of Official Happy-Talk or media shilling can overcome.
This right before the mid-terms. And who will be in the position to honestly say, “Look, we did everything we could, everything, to try and stop or stall this beast”? And who will be left -as people so unfortunately keep saying these days – “owning” it?
At least that’s my belief. If I’m wrong, then this really is just a suicide charge.
Anyhoo, here I am. My plan for overcoming the psychological trauma of being deemed “non-essential” is to spend most of the day loafing in my hammock.