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Easter Monday afternoon found ol’ Robbo ensconced in the hammock on his back porch, reading Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of teh World.  (About which I shall certainly post when I am done.)

Suddenly, a literal cat-fight broke out to my left.  I have posted here before about our two young kittehs Ginger and Fiona, now around  a year old, and their elder cohabiter Bella who hates them both.  Well, old Bella had managed to corner young Ginger under a chair and was going at her with tooth and nail.

Wishing to break things up quam celerrime,  I went to hurl my book (a paperback, rest assured) in the general direction of the melee.  Unfortunately, as I brought my right arm over and across my body, I also managed to upset the equilibrium of the hammock so that the beastly thing pitched me out good and proper.  I landed rayther heavily on my knees.

The book itself hit in the general vicinity in which I’d aimed it, but I think it was the surprise at seeing Robbo flip over and go down hard that actually broke up the fight.

My knees have hurt ever since.  I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the fact that Bella and Ginger had another dust-up this evening and there is much fur to clean up.

Have I mentioned the fact that although I have myself owned cats since shortly after Mrs. R and I got married (21 years ago this June) and grew up with them , I have never really liked them?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other day, Ol’ Robbo and the Youngest Gel were going somewhere or other together in La Wrangler.   As I drove along, teh gel became absorbed in fiddling with her hair, trying it out in various styles.  The conversation went something like:

Gel:  Do you like it this way?

Self:  It’s fine.

Gel:  How about like this?

Self:  It’s fine.

Gel:  Well, maybe this way?

Self: Fine.

Gel:  You’re just being sarcastic!

Self:  No, I think they all look good.  (Which was true, btw, even if I was trying to get her to stop.)

Gel:  Ha! You’re just saying that! Oh, boo, hoo, hoo…….

Self:  Oh, for Heaven’s sake.  Look, you’re just being female.  I don’t know if you people can’t make up your own minds or choose not to, all I know is that you don’t and won’t.  Jeesh!

Gel:  Daaaa-aaad!  That’s sexist!

Self:  Hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

It occurs to me that I no longer live with a wife and three daughters.  More accurately, I live with four wimminz.  And I stick to my empirical observation that wimminz will never settle for a single, uncomplicated resolution where there are myriad ambiguities with which to play.  It seems to be a kind of catnip to them.

Sigh.  And then they wonder why I watch so many John Wayne movies……

Incidentally, this trait may also explain their inability either to properly load the dishwasher, to follow geographic directions or to pay attention to the clock.   Again, in each instance there are simple, rational solutions which apparently are of no concern to teh female psyche.

Again, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.

And yes, I denounce myself.

 

 

Ol’ Robbo is enjoying the game this evening between his beloved Nationals and the Feesh of Miami.  I don’t want to comment on the game itself while it’s still in progress.  Rayther, I have two more general things on what passes for my mind re the glorious Game of Baseball.

First, Memo to Major League Baseball re this year’s innovation of challenged calls and instant replay:  Kill it.  Kill it dead.  Kill it completely dead.  Now.  Beat it about the head with a tire-iron.  Drown it.  Drive a stake through its heart.  Put several bullets into its brainpan.  Toss it into an industrial turbine.  Let the dingo eat it.  Draw and quarter it.  Chop it up into very small bits and  jump up and down on them with hobnailed boots.  Burn the bits, toss the ashes into acid and then scatter what’s left to the four corners of the Earth.   Do you see where I’m going with this?  Stopping play for review goes against every single particle of Baseball’s DNA.  It’s wrong.  It’s baaaaaad.  It’s eviiiil.

Second, my children have noted that my habit of yelling “SQUIRREL!” at the teevee just before a pop fly lands in an opposing player’s glove has yet to save a Nats batter over all these years.  I simply reply that teh Baseball Gods reward loyalty and consistency and that somehow, some day, my efforts will be answered. Oh, yes.  Yes, they will.

This latter observation reminds me of an incident a couple years ago where my eldest, then in parochial middle school, tried to get me in trouble.  “Hey, Father S,” she said, “My dad believes in Baseball Gods! What do you think of that?”

“Well, of course there are Baseball Gods,” replied the good Father, a well-known Sawx fan.

Update:  Naw, I appreciate the pro-review comments but my objection stands, especially after having sat through another round of it last evening.  Having Big Brother looking over your shoulder changes the whole dynamic of the game, making it more litigious and less personal, and also disrupting the traditional flow of things.  No, thankee.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Ol’ Robbo is once again playing semi-bachelor, as Mrs. R and the Youngest Gel departed Port Swiller Manor for Noo Yawk City this morning, along with the rest of the gel’s class at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, to participate in the annual Model U.N. session held at their H.Q.  This sounds fun and exciting and all that, but as a matter of fact it is an extreme pain in the backside in terms of covering logistics (not to mention costs) and the Missus and I are both heartily glad that this will be the last year we have to deal with it.

Teh gel is representing Australia this time around.  I’ve been trying to teach her the proper inflection while saying, “G’day, mate” but she still comes out sounding Cockney. Oh, well.

Her issue this year seems to have something to do with banning child labor in the Third World.  In connection with this, we were discussing recently some proposal or other floating about in the real U.N. that had to do with amending its declaration of “universal rights”.  She couldn’t understand why so much of the World seemed to be in favor of this proposal while the United States, Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth nations oppose it.

“Ah,” I said, “Well, you see, that’s because our understanding of the relationship between the governing and the governed is (or at least used to be) based primarily on what are called Negative Rights.  That means rights that are not given by the government but endowed in us by God and with which the government is not allowed to interfere.  Our right to free speech and assembly, for instance.  Our right to practice our religion.  Our right to defend ourselves.  Our right to be secure in our property.  Our right to due process at law.  And so on.  The message there is that these are ours and the government cannot take them away from us or unduly limit them.  Most of the time, we ask nothing more of Uncle Sam than that he just bug off.”

“On the other hand, the sort of rights bandied about at the U.N. - like a right to education or housing or water or a job at a decent wage – are called Positive Rights.  That means they require somebody, usually a government, to do something positive on its citizens’ behalf.  Now, the Third World likes this sort of thing in part because a Positive Rights philosophy makes a people that much more beholden to its government’s largesse and thus much more subject to its power and control.  If Dear Leader “gives” you a house, Dear Leader is going to tell you exactly what you can and can’t do with it.   (And who to “vote” for if you know what’s good for you.)   Also, since you can’t just “get” tangible things like water, education, houses, wireless networks or wage-paying jobs from the Magical Land of the Rainbow Skittles-Shyting Unicorn, but have to, you know, actually buy them, they can hit up countries like the United States and the Commonwealth Nations for mucho moolah.  Of course, most of this is pocketed by the governments themselves and very, very rarely actually produces any benefit for their people.”

Thus ended the lesson.

I’m fairly sure only a little of it sank in, but I believe mustard seeds are very small, too.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention a semantic problem baked into this debate.  “Negative” Rights sounds, well, negative.  On the other hand, “Positive” rights sounds, well, you know.  How do you suppose the average LIV-type is going to respond?   Somehow or other, we need to get back to the rhetoric of Magna Carta and Wicked King John if we, that is the Negative Rights side, hope to sway the general publick.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you keeping track of Robbo’s latest home improvement project will be interested to know that I spent the better part of the day today cutting, fitting and screwing in lattice panels. A glass of wine with those of you who gave advice – I used two inch wood screws spaced about a foot or so apart and pre-drilled the lattice.  The end result looks and feels quite solid, even with the strong winds we had today.   I’m not actually done yet, as the charge in my drill ran down and I had to come to a stopping point in time to get to the store for dins food, but I’m a good two-thirds/three-quarters of the way through, and as far as the construction goes I feel I could plant my jasmine tomorrow if I really wanted to.  (I can’t, as a matter of fact, because as soon as I’m done with noon Mass I have to take teh youngest gel off to a make-up softball game.  I’m also not yet convinced we’re completely out of the frost zone.  But never mind.)

I should note that I was aided and abetted by teh Middle Gel, whose primary task was to “hold things”.  This is an old joke in my family.  When my brother and I were lads, the Old Gentleman used to put us to work in the yard practically every weekend.  Somehow the meme developed that he only really wanted the company and that our tasks actually consisted of nothing more than “holding things”.  The phrase eventually entered the family lexicon.

As a matter of fact, he worked us like serfs: clearing rocks; digging flower beds; filling flower beds; hauling brush, firewood, stones and railroad ties; laying sod; weeding; mowing; planting; watering – you name it.   We hated every minute of it, in part because the work was often back-breaking, the weather beastly hot and the menace perpetual that the next thing we picked up would have either a snake or a scorpion lurking under it, but mostly because we felt it monstrously unfair that Sistah somehow always got away with not having to contribute to the cause.  (She was nominally supposed to help teh Mothe with indoor tasks, but we knew perfectly well that she in fact spent most of the time skulking in her room listening to Adam Ant records – and let her try denying it.)

Anyhoo, teh Gel was, in fact, immensely useful in her task of, er, holding things – the panels, to be specific.  It is physically impossible to brace a 4×8 panel up against beams and at the same time screw it in, so I literally could not have done the job without her.  My plan, in all fairness, is to draft teh Youngest Gel to help me with the rest.

There were no real mishaps today, either in terms of mistakes or accidents.  The closest I came was when I nicked the end of my thumb with my handsaw.  Anyone who has ever met teh Gel will readily assert that she is one of the sweetest and most sympathetic of souls.  What those who don’t live with her everyday may miss is that she can be startlingly phlegmatic and deadpan at times.  So when she noticed that I had cut myself, she simply said, “I see you’re getting blood all over everything.”

What could I do but reply equally coolly, “Yeah, I know.”

Anyhoo, a good day.  I’ve been feeling a bit in the dumps the last few weeks and this was just the tonic – fresh air and exercise and a plan working out- that I think I needed.  Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to grill a large steak on the bar-b and to get ready for an evening of watching my beloved Nats (hopefully) taking their first win off the Braves.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but ol’ Robbo has been dealing with a sinus infection off and on for the past few weeks, something that always seems to happen round about this time of year.  I say “off and on” because the symptoms have waxed and wained, sometimes getting to the point where I think that yes, I probably ought to go see the doc, but then moderating again so as to encourage just toughing the thing out.  (One of ol’ Robbo’s medical maxims is the avoidance of antibiotics unless and until they’re absolutely necessary, lest trivial dosings render them ineffective when they’re truly needed.)

The past couple days, the symptoms seem to be getting worse again.  My sinus cavity feels as if it’s lined with several inches of lead, there’s a constant irritation at the back of my throat and I’ve been feeling generally run down, dizzy and beat.

I report all this not in an attempt to to garner cheap sympathy or to worry teh Mothe, but to lay the foundation so that friends of the decanter will understand the dread with which I faced the prospect of attending teh youngest gel’s recorder and choral concert at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method this evening.   Nineteen 4th, 5th and 6th graders, of (shall we say) varying degrees of talent,  playing about fifteen different tunes, from “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple” through some Mozart, some Stravinsky and a couple of Irish jigs to “Amazing Grace”, all tutti ensemble and maybe 20 feet from where I was sitting would have been a tall order even were I in perfect health.

So, pardon me a second while I close my weary eyes just remembering it.

Anyhoo, I did a bit o’ research this evening to try and discover who had the bright idea of championing the modern, plastic recorder as the grade-school musickal instrument of choice but, after a whole five minutes on the Innertoobs, drew a blank.  The closest relevant information I could find came from the ‘recorder’ entry at “Simple English Wikipedia”, which seems to be a dumbed down version of Wiki prime.  The relevant paragraphs:

Plastic recorders were invented in the 20th century. They are cheap and vary greatly in quality (that is often not related to the price) depending on the manufacturer. They are easy instruments to play simple music. Many elementary schools use plastic recorders to teach music to children.

The head joint of the recorder is used as a noise, rhythm and effect instrument, and as a toy musical instrument with children. Because the recorder head works like a whistle, it can be used as such. With a bit practice, it is easy to play all kind of rhythms. Effects are made by opening and covering the lower end of the head joint with the hand while blowing. Many players blow harder like “normal” recorder playing (like with a pea whistle), to get a very shrill and loud sound. Professor Agnes Dorwarth of the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg argues this is an attractive way to get children to play with part of the instrument, which can make playing the entire instrument more inviting.

Yeah.  Whenever I’m subjected to this particular “shrill and loud sound”, I renew my resolve to track down the originator of the bright idea of mixing school kids with recorders and doing something to him or her with one or more of the latter quite unprintable on a family blog.  If nobody else comes forward, Professor Dorwarth better not let me catch her alone in a dark alley.

At any rate, I survived.  So I got that going for me.

Still, it’s slowly sinking in that after fourteen years (if my math is right) of having one or more of the gels at St. Marie, we are down to our final semester of student participation there (although Mrs. R will continue to teach and I’ve a feeling they won’t let me resign from the Board no matter how much I want to).  Somehow, that makes these little events – however teeth-gritting they may be in themselves – all the more important in a symbolic sense, the back markers (as it were) of a particular stage of the life of the Family Robbo.  Next year, teh youngest will go off to middle school, while her elder sisters will both be in high school with the eldest eyeing her collegiate options (prayers, please).    This nostalgic reflection provides at least a bit of  armor and is allowing ol’ Robbo to treat these things with something approaching good will.  Why, I might even go so far as to attend the annual spring fair without becoming enraged by the inevitable clown’s refusal to confess, confess!, that wearing thick face paint, a heavy wig and a polyester suit while making balloon animals under a bright sun and in humid, 90 degree heat makes her happy-go-lucky air a complete put-on.

Lousy, rotten clowns…..

But that’s a topic for another post.  In the meantime, as I say, as much discomfort as this evening’s concert caused on one level, on another I’m glad I went.

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, for those of you keeping score, Mrs. R and the younger gels arrived home earlier this evening safe and sound – and looking indecently tanned – from their Spring Break jaunt down to Flahrduh with no casualties suffered either among them or, it should be noted, between those of us left here to man the fort.  Indeed, it seems a pretty good time was had all round.

Of course, regularly-scheduled mayhem will recommence tomorrow morning at 6 ack emma, sharp.

Oh, and what the hey, enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had another of his trademark bizzaro dreams last night.  I record these here not only for your amusement but also a) as source material in case I ever decide to start writing fantasy fiction, and b) as diagnostic aides when the nice men in white coats come to put me in a padded cell.

Anyhoo, in this one I found myself serving as an acolyte to a royal coronation/wedding.  The first thing I remember is bustling about a cathedral making sure things were in their proper places.  Among other people doing the same thing, I spotted the rector from my old Palie church.  Somehow I knew that I was attached to his “squad”, which was one among several.

However, as I acolyted about, the place began filling up with guests and on-lookers.  The former were what you would expect at such an event and were dressed to the nines in various uniforms and formal kit.  The latter, however, were ordinary busloads of tourons.   It got so crowded that I could barely move, and I became increasingly worried that the proceedings were going to start before I could get in my proper place.

Eventually, I managed to push my way out a side door.  By this time I had gathered that my job in the doings was to attend to the queen-consort/bride, along with the rest of my squad.  However, I could see no sign of any of them.   I began running about the grounds, looking high and low.  At one point, a jogger passed me.  I yelled, “Have you seen the Queen?”  He laughed as he ran by and answered something I couldn’t understand.

I was pushing through a thick belt of trees and brush when I found myself at the top of a long slope.  Looking down, I spotted a procession coming along a road which I recognized as the queen and my squad.  (And to anyone who claims people can’t dream in color, I say bosh.  Our uniform was a green vestment with a blue and red device on it.)   Brushing off all the pine needles and leaves that had collected on my person, I scuttled down the slope and went to meet them.  I recall that the bride herself was a middle-aged woman with a rather hard look about her riding in an open carriage.  There didn’t seem to be anything in particular for me to do, so I slid in at the back of the line and tried to look pious.  One of the other acolytes winked at me.

Eventually we came to a footbridge over a small stream.  On the other side of it were boxes of presents laid out in a line, which I understood to be thank you gifts from the queen to our squad.   I found mine, addressed to both Mrs. R and me but with both names dreadfully misspelled.   (I actually felt relieved by this gift, as it dispelled a sneaking doubt about whether I was really supposed to be there at all.)  Inside the box were a large check and several novelties including, so far as I remember, a bizarrely-shaped pair of sunglasses, a joke book titled, “How To Insult Every Virginia Hometown” and a jack-ass alarm clock that was supposed to bray when it went off.   I gathered that the gifts to the other members of her train were of a similar nature.

The next thing I knew, we were all in a house, apparently waiting for the first part of the ceremony to finish before moving on to teh cathedral.  As we waited and waited, vague reports of cock-ups and missteps kept floating in.  I also got the feeling that the prospective queen/bride was not especially popular and that her family were somehow involved in manufacturing.  As the time spun out, I put on my weird sunglasses and tried to get the jack-ass alarm clock to work.  It didn’t.  Eventually, I found myself wandering into the kitchen looking for something to drink and feeling that the whole thing had been a gigantic letdown.

And then, as they say, I woke up.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo and the younger gels flew down to Flahr’duh to visit grandparents this morning, leaving Self and the eldest to bach it for a few days here at Port Swiller Manor.  So eldest and I headed over to the local diner to grab some breakfast.

I recall that whenever I used to take one of the gels out to eat when they were younger, I would often intercept looks from people that in effect said, “Oh, must be his visiting weekend.  Mmmm, hmmm.  Wonder where he’s stashed the home-wrecker honey while seeing his kids, the sum’bitch.”

For some reason, I didn’t get that vibe this morning.  Is there less of a psychological instinct to pigeonhole ol’ Dad when he’s out with an older kid?  Have we become that much more permissive in the last ten years that nobody gives a damn anymore?  Is it possible some people might have thought the gel was the home-wrecker honey?  I don’t know.

Anyhoo, we talked mostly about politicks and current events, in which the gel is starting to take more and more interest.  (She’ll be able to vote in the next Presidential, which is a scary thought.)  Suffice to say, I don’t think the gel is going to join the Army of Julias any time soon.  Her summary comment was, “Gee, Dad, I wish I had grown up in the 80′s like you.”

Yeah, so do I.

UPDATE:  Despite the fact that there’s still talk of snow next Tuesday, it’s a very nice day here today and I was able to get out and continue with some of my early-early-spring cleanup, this time pruning the climbing rose by the front door.   Over the years, the thing has got to be very tall, now reaching up two stories and overtopping the gutters.  I really ought to whack it back by about a third or so but decided to let it go one more season, just lopping off the visibly dead canes (of which there were surprisingly few).

This rose, which is on a southwest-facing wall, always does spectacularly well in the spring, erupting in mounds and mounds of dark red flowers.  Alas, by mid-summah, it almost always gets sulky because of the heat and starts shedding leaves.  By Halloween, it invariably provokes snarky comments from the gels about haunted house decorations.

Ancient Roman Fresco Painting of Flora Picking FlowersGreetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Spring!

Regular friends of the decanter and former camelidophiles will know that ol’ Robbo is in the habit of regularly posting this ancient Roman fresco of Flora picking flowers on the first official day of Spring.   I have always found it to be a particularly delightful work of art, the Goddess lovingly portrayed in a graceful, dignified and yet uplifting manner, and a source of hope and inspiration.

Well, I wish that this year ol’ Flora would drop the bouquet and devote her divine powers to putting her knee to Snow Miser’s groin, as he’s  really outstayed his welcome.  We already had a mid-March snowstorm this week and now the weather-wallahs are making noise about the possibility of another one next week.  This week’s seems to have been dubbed Snow Patrick’s.  Will next Tuesday’s predicted event be dubbed the Snownunciation?   (Somehow, I doubt it, but a Catholic geek can always hope.)

Anyhoo, I know that friends of the decanter in more northerly climbs than mine will only chuckle at my frustration, but of course these things are all a matter of scale and expectation.   (Remember, I grew up in South Texas.  By this time of year down there, I’d already be sweating.)  And frankly, the mid-Atlantic in mid-March should not be experiencing the same kind of weather as teh Mothe normally gets at this time of year in Mid-Coast Maine.    It just ain’t right!

Damn you, Algore! Damn you to heeeelllll!!!!!!

-Pause-

On a somewhat related note, teh Middle Gel has bagged herself a ticket to go see a concert next week by an outfit I’d never heard of called  The Piano Guys.  This evening, as an example of their output, she showed me their mash-up of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with “Let It Go” from the recent Disney movie “Frozen”:

Weyeell,  I frankly think that the crossover from the one work to the other is a bit, erm, jarring.  And I, personally, would  have preferred  to take the Vivaldi neat.  On the other hand, who am I to criticize at 14 year old these days whose tastes aren’t of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo-dawgz n’ beyotches variety?

However, while watching the video together, I was reminded suddenly of a yootoob I had seen several times of the third movement of ol’ Antonio’s flute concerto “The Goldfinch”, RV 428*.  I could not immediately find it but promised teh gel that I would do so this evening and post it here for her pleasure.  And here it is:

I hope teh gel takes me up on this and actually watches the durn thing.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo is something  of a purist himself when it comes to art musick, disdaining “multi-media” stunts to get people interested in it, but I can’t deny that this is an excellent performance.

* There’s an old joke about Vivaldi in musick geek circles.  We have a catalogue of approximately 500 concerti credited to him.  The joke goes that he really only wrote two but that he wrote each one 250 times.  N’yuk, n’yuk.n’yuk.

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