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Well, per my post immediately below, that’s done for today.  About a six hour job altogether.

Mrs. R asks why I don’t just hire somebody to clean up the leaves.  No doubt I will someday when I’m old and feeble, but while I still have my strength I believe this to be one of those things I ought to do myself.  For one thing, there’s the exercise.  For another, there’s the satisfaction of comparing before and after and knowing that I was personally responsible for causing the change.

Besides, today was bright and cool but not cold, the leaves were dry and easy to move, and it was nice to have an excuse to be outside pottering about.  My attitude admittedly might be somewhat different were the weather soggy and frigid, as happens from time to time.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned it before but we had a pretty “meh” foliage season this year.

By the way, as I shlepped up and down the hill with my tarp full of leaves, I found myself continuously mulling over this article I picked up over at the Puppy-Blender’s this morning:  Colleges struggle with protecting students without being accused of victim-blaming.   All I can say is that if we have slid so far into the pit of cultural infantilism that simple common sense is not only abandoned but is considered outright evil, then we’re in a whooooooole heap of trouble.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is loitering around this Saturday morning, drinking coffee and waiting for the temperature to get up over the freezing mark before he goes out and deals with the leaves.  As regular friends of the decanter may have read here previously, there are three big silver maples and an oak between the street and the sidewalk in front of Port Swiller Manor.  I have found over the years that it’s best to clean up under them in four stages – a preliminary sweep after the initial drop, usually at the end of October/beginning of November; a second sweep the week before Thanksgiving; a third sweep either  Thanksgiving weekend or the next one following; and a final sweep once the oak finishes shedding (it’s always last).

In the meantime, since I’ve been on my anti-“holiday” hype jag recently, I thought I would share one thing I do enjoy about this time of year, and that is hearing the Salvation Army bells ringing at the local groc store.  Especially after dark, for some reason.  I don’t really have an articulate explanation for this, but that tinkling presses a certain button of satisfaction somewhere within ol’ Robbo’s soul.

So there you are.  Regular ranting will resume almost immediately.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There has been an usual amount of lobbying this year among teh Gels to decorate the exterior of Port Swiller Manor with lights and whatnot apropos of the Season (which, this year, seems to have started a couple days after July the 4th)

Fact of the matter is that, as I explained to them yet again,  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do exterior lights or other fancies.  As far as he’s concerned, when the purple Advent ribbons are switched out on the front door wreaths for the red Christmas ones on Christmas Eve, his outward celebratory sign work is done.

This did not go over well.  Indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To which I replied, “Look, when you are all grown up and have your own homes, you can decorate it for the holidays (or for any other reason) however you wish.  Until then?  Shut it.”

Hey, that’s me – Mr. Sensitivity.

Mrs. Robbo wants to string up some lights around the back porch ceiling this year.  As to that, I’m less inclined to kick, largely because – even though we plan to host one or more holiday shindigs this year, I doubt fairly seriously whether anyone is going to want to venture out there, what with ManBearPig bringing the freeze and all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo informed me this morning that I’m not allowed to do yard work today since I’ve been down this week with the stomach bug, so I’m just having a cup o’ joe and noodling around here.

♦   As a matter of fact, I feel considerably better.  Yesterday I had a massive headache all day, which was actually good news because that always seems to be one of the last stages of these things for me.  Indeed, I like to imagine them in terms of  nor’easters that first form off Cape Hatteras (my stomach) and then roll up the East Coast (shoulders, neck, head) before heading on out to sea.

Yes, I’m a weirdo.

♦   Speaking of nor’easters, hello Polar Vortex!  (The Port Swiller thermometer hit 32 degrees for the first time this morning, but the kerpow is scheduled for later next week here.)  AlGore could not be reached for comment – I understand he has a hot new lead on the whereabouts of ManBearPig.

♦   Speaking of seasonal changes, we got all the ferns and potted palms moved in off the porch last week.  They look so nice inside I think we’re going to keep them here and just get new ones for outdoors next spring.

♦   RIP Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s “Car Talk”.  I used to listen to him and his brother Ray every Saturday morning, especially back in school, and regularly found myself rolling on the floor in laughter.   Indeed, his stock “Aww, Jeez” has become a staple of the Port Swiller lexicon.   (As a matter of fact, I stopped listening to Click and Clack out of protest when they got on the “SUV’s are Global Warminz!! Eleventy!!!” bandwagon, but I still remember the old days fondly.)

♦   Speaking of people in the nooz, just who the hell is this Lena Dunham person?  (I’ll take pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists for a thousand, Alex.)  As the father of three daughters, I simply cannot conceive how any one of them would wish to grow up emulating that.

♦  Speaking of pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists, it may just be my imagination coupled with wishful thinking, but I’m beginning to get the impression that people have had just about enough of that sort of thing and that the tide may be beginning to turn.  I hope so.  I hope so.

♦   Somewhat related, Scott Hahn, the popular Catholic convert and apologist, writes very insightfully and I’ve learned a great deal from him, but the fact of the matter is that his over-use of exclamation points and catch-phrases puts me off his books.

♦   Finally, speaking of books, I’ve started through the Charles Portis cycle for the umpteenth time.  (If you don’t read Portis, you’re really, really missing out.)  Allow me to quote a small piece from the beginning of his first novel, Norwood:

Norwood and Vernell did not live right in Ralph but just the other side of Ralph.  Mr. Pratt had always enjoyed living on the edge of places or between places, even when he had a choice.  He was an alcoholic auto mechanic.  Before his death they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas.  There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved about that section of interstate concrete.  They clung to its banks like river rats.  Once, near Stamps, they lived in a house between a Tastee-Freez stand and a cinder-block holiness church.  There had been a colorful poster on one side of the house that said ROYAL AMERICAN SHOWS OCT. 6-12 ARKANSAS LIVESTOCK EXPOSITION LITTLE ROCK.  On the other side of the house somebody with a big brush and a can of Sherwin-Williams flat white had painted ACTS 2:38.

I just love that.  Love the style, love the substance, love the little quirks.  Portis is from the Ark-La-Tex area and captures its details lovingly, not snarkily.

There really is a Hooks, Texas and a Stamps, Arkansas – they’re a few miles the opposite sides of Texarkana.  And U.S. 82 really does run through them.  Alas, I cannot find a Ralph, Texas.  I think it must be a stand-in for either Leary or Nash, both of which are between Hooks and Texarkana.  (If you’re into this sort of geekery, you can read Portis’s True Grit with google-map open at your side and very easily trace Mattie Ross’s journey from Yell County, Arkansas into the Eastern Oklahoma badlands, and in fact to the mountain hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, which I believe is a state park now.)

Acts 2:38, by the way, reads: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Good advice for anyone.

UPDATE:  Well, I got one home-improvement project done anyway, namely running the cables behind the basement wall between the teevee and the Verizon box.  I used a fish tape to bull up through the insulation between the two holes, then ran a loop of line through, splicing the heads of the various cables to it and pulling them through more or less on the capstan principle.  Turned out to be rayther more difficult than I had anticipated, at least so far as getting at the tape head the first time.  Luckily, I have small hands so was eventually able to grapple it and get it out.  I even had the sense to leave the line in place (the end discretely coiled behind the teevee) in case the gels need another one of their infernal video contraptions hooked up.

A small matter, but nonetheless something from which I can draw satisfaction.

Robbo Incognito

Robbo Incognito

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo flew home from Vegas late last night and BOY are his arms tired! (Ba-dump-da!)  Somehow or other he thought he was going to get today to rest and recover from what really was a pretty grueling week, but instead has spent the bulk of the morning and early afternoon attending to all matter of tasks about Port Swiller Manor that seem to have stood still since his departure.  Heigh-ho.

Anyhoo, a few minutes off allows me to jot down some notes from my latest excursion:

*  I don’t have much to say about Vegas itself.  As regular friends of the decanter will hardly be surprised to read, that sort of thing simply isn’t ol’ Robbo’s speed.  We stayed at one of the older hotel/casinos downtown because it was within walking distance of where we needed to go.  It was clean enough and all, and the food was actually quite decent, but it had a definite air of the second-string compared to the flashier places down on the Strip.  The clientele seemed to match:  A mixed bag of the elderly, foreigners and families (who the hell brings an infant, or any child for that matter, to a casino?), most of whom looked decidedly working-class.   (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  My point is simply that they didn’t exactly look like high-rollers.)

My first morning, just after my flight had got in, I found myself in the elevator with a young sportsman – tatted to the nines and already well advanced in some sort of intoxication despite the earliness of the hour- who decided he was going to show his doormat of a girlfriend what a wag he was by embarrassing her in front of the stuck-up square from Back East.   He started by pressing all the floor buttons and then relapsed into literal “potty” talk, adopting the manner of a four-year-old.

I was so tired that I simply ignored him.  As for teh girlfriend, she was quite embarrassed.  I hope she kicked him in the nuts and left him forever after that.

* Oh, the one other thing.  The city was pretty disgusting, but the desert surrounding it was truly beautiful in its particular, harsh way.  (I felt the same thing a couple years ago when I had to travel to Phoenix and Tucson.)

*  As for the traveling bit, I can honestly say that I am getting better and better about dealing with flying.  I’ll never actually enjoy it, of course, but I no longer feel that the only thing keeping the plane aloft is my clenched stomach muscles.

*  Speaking of the flights, this was the first time I can remember for years and years that the pilots felt compelled to act as tour guides.   Back in the day, they were always noting waypoints and interesting landmarks, but then they seemed to stop some time in the 80’s.  (Which was just as well to me because my reaction whenever they started nattering was, “Shut up and fly the damned plane!”)  On both legs this time, however, there they were on the intercom pointing out Grand Canyons, Castle Rocks and the like.

*  Also speaking of the flight, thank YOU, US Air!  When I asked for some wine on the way home last evening, the steward Johnny pulled out a genuine half-bot of Pinot Noir, something else I hadn’t seen on a plane for years and years.  Yeah, I had to pay 15 bucks for it, but on a 4 hour flight? Totally worth it.

*  Robbo’s usual method of whiling away the time on a flight is to do crosswords.  This time around, I couldn’t help noticing some truly ridiculous clues/entries.  For example, lib politicks had to rear its ugly head in the form of a 3-letter word for “Pro assault weapons org.”  (NRA, of course, being the correct, albeit false, answer.)  For another, the same “B” was used for “Ba’al” going down and “Bar Mitzvah”  going across.  (Did the author have any idea how grotesquely tacky this is?  The clue for Ba’al was “Semitic nature god”.  Never mind that he was actually a devil who demanded child-sacrifice.)  A third clue employed the word “Gringolandia”, which I’d never seen before, to describe the United States.   Racist we much?

Mind you, this wasn’t Pravda on the Hudson, this was a simple Kollector’s Krosswords magazine.  Is there no escape?

* Speaking of escapes, Robbo was delighted to escape the ubiquitous blarings of Airport CNN this time around.  The tee-vees weren’t working when he left National on Monday morning and the Las Vegas airport doesn’t seem to have them at all (most likely because they want you to pay attention to their slot machines instead).

*Finally, speaking of tee vee, ol’ Robbo was able to catch Game 7 of the World Series and stuck it out to the end.  Robbo was rayther disappointed that the Giants won, given that they had offed his beloved Nats in teh first round of the playoffs.   However, he did get a small piece of consolation in the fact that the series-winning RBI came off the (broken) bat of none other than Mike “Beast-mode” Morse, who played for the Nats a couple years ago and was (and is) immensely popular here.  You’re not going to get as much attention as you deserve in the shadow of all the hype over Bumgardner’s pitching, but Well done, Mikey!

Whelp, there you have it for now.  Back to the salt mines!

** A double reference.   I never did get the Bugs Bunny joke, which is the first.  The second will be instantly obvious to fellow Morons and meaningless to anyone else.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Welp, two hallmarks of autumn’s arrival are here:  The start of the slow bleed of leaves off the maples in front of Port Swiller Manor, and the local classickal station’s annual fall pledge drive.

I’m not sure which is more irritating.

Oh, and teh Eldest Gel is out getting her first taste of driving on I-95 this morning.  Your prayers would be appreciated.

*Verified by the Comité de salut public.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that this is also the time of year when the ground (at least in these parts) never completely dries out, so every time you go to mow the lawn you also trench it.  Plus, it’s when bees and wasps start going after you for no reason other than pure, fin de siecle cussidness.  Youch.

UPDATE DEUX:  First flight on the Beltway/I-95 was a success.  (She drove down to Fredericksburg for a pumpkin festival and back.)  No problems, although she was eager to recite the litany of driving sins she observed in those traveling around her when she got back.

Relatedly, when the gel started out and was still rayther unsure of herself, she said several times that she had no interest in a car.  Now that she’s gained confidence, it’s remarkable how radically that position has changed.   Indeed, she’s recently started lobbying for one as a birthday present.   Funny, that.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor found ol’ Robbo up early to go labor in the fields.  Mow, trim, spray and in before the thunderstorms!

As I marched back and forth behind the ol’ mower across the collection of weeds and native grasses that I jokingly refer to as the “lawn”,  the steady, gentle breeze that played o’r my sit-upon suggested to me that yes, perhaps it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans.

Ol’ Robbo is really a khakis and cords sort of fellah, so over the years I have developed the habit of only owning one pair of jeans at a time.  I have also developed a little game I play with myself of seeing just how long I can wear them before they (sometimes literally) fall to pieces on me.  I’ve even worked out a kind of scoresheet that runs from “suitable for public view” through “suitable for home view” to “suitable for yard work if nobody gets too close” to “get the gasoline and a match”.  The current pair is well on into the third phase now and approaching the hazy boundary with the fourth, with completely frayed leg seams, permanent grass stains, holes opening under both back pockets and fly coming apart.  The third phase is always my favorite simply because it is always the most comfortable.  This fact, together with my dislike of having to start again with something new, has several times caused me to refuse to believe it was over, much to the distress of my nearest and dearest.  (I recall Mrs. R finally threw away one pair when I wasn’t looking)

One thing I haven’t done is kept track of how long each pair has lasted.  (I’ve no recollection whatever of where or when I bought the current incumbents, except that it’s been a number of years anyway.)  Nor have I tracked the differences in the way each has worn out, although they have varied greatly.  I’ll bet a chart containing those pieces of information would show something about ol’ Robbo’s changes in physical activities as he has begun to age a bit.

One thing I have kept track of is the fact that, despite my impending 50th birthday, my waist has not changed one jot or tittle since I was 19.  Still size 33, thankee.  Granted, I’m rayther flabbier now than I used to be, but not expansive.  I don’t claim any particular virtue in this, by the way.  I’m simply built like the Mothe’s father.  Nonetheless, it pleases me.

So that’s that.  On reflection, I think I’ll toss this pair into the washing machine one more time…..just to see if we can keep going a bit further.

 

For your Labor Day viewing pleasure, the birth of a thunderstorm:

I never, ever get tired of this sort of thing.

Actually, we had a hell of a storm come over Port Swiller Manor last evening, right about the time I would otherwise have been grilling out.  I anticipated the weather and instead went with a lemon-and-garlic shimp pasta dish.  As I stood in self-satisfaction chopping up garlic in the kitchen at about sixish, the sky went absolutely pitch-black, and for about twenty minutes or so the house was shaken by a series of ffzzzt-BOOOM!!! lightning strikes in the immediate neighborhood, the rain meanwhile coming down in torrents.   Fortunately, no basement flooding this time around.

Curiously, we didn’t get that nice sense of refreshment after the storm had rolled away.  The temperature did drop about ten degrees, but the atmosphere remained water-logged and unsettled.  It still feels pretty nasty today and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if we got another dose this evening.  That said, I’m still planning to grill, because ol’ Robbo has himself a big ol’ strip steak sitting in the fridge that’s just begging me to eat it.  Begging, I tell you!   UPDATE:  Well, we did get another round, but it looks like Ma Nature shot her bolt too early to affect dinner plans.

A glass of wine with the Capital Weather Gang for the video.  Go on over there to see more coo-el T-storm shots.

 

** Spot the quote.

UPDATE:  No guesses? Geez, what’s wrong with you guys?  That was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty in “Twister“.

 

(Yes, I was a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman before it was cool.  Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself contemplating what a hopeless dinosaur ol’ Robbo is.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just off to do yard work.

As part of the basement repair at Port Swiller Manor, the workmen had to tear out all the foundation plantings along the front of the house.  Among the victims were a couple of azaleas, which they dug out whole and left sitting on modestly substantial root balls.

Well, it seems after a week or more that these azaleas are no worse for their experience, but continue happy.  So one of the things I’m doing today is wrapping their roots up in trash bags, watering them and moving them around to another location, to be replanted once external construction is over and done with.

Thus, I have learned something about transplanting azaleas.

Labor Day weekend is also the traditional start date for my annual resolve to finally dig up and separate the peonies out back.  Every year I tell myself that this is the year I will do it.  And every year, I reach a point after a few weeks of thinking, eh, maybe next year.  It’s just a thing.

HobbitonGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

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.

 

 

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