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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:

I Don't Like This Guy

I Don’t Like This Guy

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?

coveGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

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.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

I hated them.

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

(Shudder.)

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

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

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

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

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

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

Our contractor, bless him, went ballistic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

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

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

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

Just thought I’d share.

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

 

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