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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!

For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on  biznay for Vegas.  (Vegas, beyotches!)

Actually, there’s a certain irony in this.  Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance.  Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.

Tricky thing, Christian morality.  If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.

Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first.  That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster:  I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport.  He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times.  (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet.  So there’s that.)

I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command.  To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.

So.  Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months.  Two things to note off the bat:  First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do.  Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet.  So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.

So, with that, first I give you the “main”  room:

Basement 1

This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio.  The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right.  I don’t  have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.

Second, I give you  the “addition”:

Basement 2

This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder.  All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams.  (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom.  The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty.  The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.

Third, I give you the “study”:

Basement 3

In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave.  It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left.  The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic.  The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.

Oh, you will note the funky ceiling.  Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it.  Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above.   When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could.  The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.

Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:

Basement 4

Main room from the doors to the study.  That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.

So there you are.

I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween.  In the meantime, help yourselves to the port.  The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.

 

*  Spot the reference.  And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Returning home in the quiet e’en-fall to Port Swiller Manor yesterday, ol’ Robbo was gratified to observe that the port-o-potty that has resided on the driveway lo! these many weeks had been removed, thus indicating that the contractor is of the opinion that all there is left to do in the Great Basement Restoration that has dominated our domestic economy since August are a few minor odds and ends.

(Allow me to take a breath after that sentence.)

So this morning, after doing my first round of leaf removal of the year, Mrs. R, the Eldest Gel and I lugged all the sofas, chairs and bookcases back into their usual spots, and since then I have started excavating the piles of books, pictures, doo-dads and electronic devices and removing them by armfuls from the living room and library to their proper homes.

It’s all remarkably like moving.  And just so you know, ol’ Robbo hates moving.

One thing that gives me more and more of a case of the heebie-jeebies as the years go by is all the cords and wires that are involved with things like stereos, teevee accessories and computers.  It’s not that I can’t eventually figure out which plug goes in which port and things like that, it’s just that they seem to go out of their way to get tangled up, to get snagged on things and just generally to add to teh chaos.

Speaking of which, when I went to reassemble the stereo components, I discovered that one of my Bose cube speakers seems to have gone missing.  I dimly remember that it didn’t come upstairs with the other cube and the big bass, but I cannot recall exactly what I did with it.  My fear is that I left it on a shelf in the basement and that it might have got swept up with the general refuse.  (These guys aren’t always exact in their cleanup.  When they were rebuilding our porch last summah, they threw away a perfectly good outdoor thermometer and a brass ship’s bell.)

Actually, it turns out not to matter very much at the moment, because I discovered that half the outlets in the study don’t seem to be carrying any current, so I can’t use the stereo anyway.  (Add that to the final punch list.)

Anyhoo, I’d say we’re about 95% of the way there now.

I’m going to be out of town on biznay most of this coming week (Vegas, baybee!), so I’ll try to get the Middle Gel to help me post some pics tomorrow afternoon or evening in order to keep you amused in my absence.

 

*Verified by the Royal Society For Putting One Thing On Top Of Another And Ebola Evaluation

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is pleased as punch this afternoon because the Port Swiller Manor dining room has finally been restored to active service after having spent the last two months seconded as an emergency storage shed for the basement furniture.

Yesterday afternoon, a couple of the contractor guys came out and man-handled the stuff (mostly sofas and comfy chairs) back down stairs, and I’ve just finished putting back the table and rugs, and generally giving the room a dust and a sweep.  Yes, there are still minor odds and ends shoved into corners and all over the sideboard, but we can definitely take meals there again.

In celebration, I plan to whip up a batch of my highly popular popovers as part of the re-inaugural dins tonight, thus assuring that teh gels spend a little extra time at table.

Bumpers all around, if you please!

 

*Verified by Ed’s Ebola Verification Service.  “If we’re wrong, your funeral is comped!”

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.

The contractors are at Port Swiller Manor this afternoon messing around with the basement stairs.  The door at the top is closed, but there are some serious fumes coming from under it of a sort that take me back to my teenaged model-making days.   Whoa.

They must be permeating the whole house, too, because the Eldest Gel is up in her room belting out “Yesterday” at the top of her lungs, which is a bit weird.

Mrs. R had me pick up the Middle Gel at school this afternoon with the plan to take her to the doctor for a follow up from her appendectomy of a couple weeks ago.  What I didn’t discover until too late was that she scheduled the appointment for half an hour after the pick up.  Jeesh.  In Friday afternoon traffic in these parts it takes at the least an hour to get from her school to the doctor’s office.   I can’t bear being late to things, especially appointments.  So when I realized the situation, I had the gel ring up the office to cancel and reschedule.  Next time, I’ll work out the logistics.

Speaking of teh Middle Gel, allow me to test out a .gif I stole from Groovy Vic:

anew

Over/under says she’ll spend a good twenty minutes staring at it when she next comes nosing around here. (Enjoy!  But get your homework done, too.)

So here’s a science-y question for you:  Is it possible for the same mug with the same beverage zapped for the same length of time in the same microwave to come out with its handle at different temperatures?  Made myself the usual cuppa tea just now and the handle was so hot I couldn’t hold it.   This doesn’t usually happen, or else I haven’t been paying sufficient attention.

Oh, speaking of the basement, the plan is to start moving furniture back in this weekend.  Hopefully, they’ll also finish hooking up the lights and the sink.  So pics will come hopefully in a few days.

* Verified by the new Ebola Czar©

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry to leave you lot hanging about with what I will admit you probably thought a dreadfully obscure and boring post for a couple days, but the box which brings Verizon’s bundle of communication services into Port Swiller Manor decided to commit suicide Tuesday evening and we only just now got it replaced.

For me this was just a minor annoyance, but for others in the family it had a much greater impact.  More and more these days, teh gels are being given web-based school assignments and requirements to file things with their teachers electronically.  So when the system goes down, you can imagine the consternation.

We managed to limit the disruption somewhat thanks to our neighbor who graciously allowed us to borrow his Wi-Fi signal, but it was still pretty chaotic for a while.

Old and Busted:  “The dog ate my homework.”

The New Hotness:  “The server crashed my homework.”

Anyhoo, back to biznay now.

(BTW, as I was typing this post teh Middle Gel came wandering in to crow a bit about her new, autographed, Piano Guys CD and, being incurably nosy, started reading it over my shoulder.  She attests to the troof of my observation.)

 

Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

I ain’t HEARD no Fat Lady!” **

The Gels and I caught the last half of the game via the Middle Gel’s laptop while sitting around the kitchen table.  A good time was had by all even though I’m still dubious about this .eu website streaming the feed and half expected the NSA to knock at the front door.

Anyhoo, what a great (and to me surprising) move by Matt Williams to put Drew Storen in to close!  After Saturday night’s blown save, I worried that poor Drew’s confidence might be completely shattered.  Good on Matt to get him right back on the horse.  (I was also impressed  in general that Williams didn’t panic and start tinkering with the line-up.)

So.  We live another day.  Deep breath and on to tomorrow.  What else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!

 

**Spot the quote.

UPDATE:  Maxy got it:

I will confess that I don’t plan to stay up this evening to watch Game 4 but will wait until the morning to find out whether my beloved Nats are bringing the series back home.   Fact of the matter is that during the week I get up at 4:45 ack emma, as I am point man for the whole Port Swiller Family morning routine, and I simply can’t deal with West Coast games and expect to function.

I will say that no matter what happens tonight (and without any intent to cause affront to the baseball gods I will say that I am not entirely un-optimistic), I am damn proud of the boys for not rolling over yesterday as they so easily could have done.   That’s what makes champions.  So, what else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!!

 

Well, my fellow port swillers, it’s been an interesting 24 hours here at Port Swiller Manor, to say the least.

Flipping through the archives, I can’t see that I posted about it at the time (because HIPAA or sumpin), but last fall teh Middle Gel lost a lot of school time due to a malaise that manifested itself in fatigue, frequent intestinal discomfort, acid reflux and general blah.

Over the course of a couple months, we made frequent trips to our local GP.  Then we started seeing specialists and counselors.  Finally, she had an endoscopy and a CAT scan done.  Nobody could find any definitive physical cause of these symptoms.

We went through a whole punch list of theories:  Maybe it was Mono.  Maybe it was an ulcer.  Maybe it was stress over her demanding schedule.  Maybe she was just a hypochondriac and there really wasn’t really anything wrong with her.  We tried all kinds of therapies and drugs, but none seemed to make much difference.  Eventually, after about 8 weeks or so, the symptoms seemed to die down on their own.  We finally reached the conclusion that she must have been whanged by an especially bad stomach flu, and that it simply took her a longer time than usual to get back on her feet.

I may say that I was never really satisfied with this explanation – not that I’m a doctor or that I play one on teevee – but I had to accept it because no better ones had been offered by anybody.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon.  In the middle of working out with her teammates at school, teh Gel was suddenly stricken with pain in her lower right abdomen.  The trainer took her in hand, noted that her BP was all a-hooey, and recommended that we get her to the ER, which we did.

Well, I won’t detail all the diagnostic steps taken last evening and this morning, but bottom line:  Acute appendicitis.

The Doc went in and took out teh Gel’s appendix this afternoon.  In doing so, he also noted that there was considerable scarring, as if the thing had enbiggened itself previously and been beaten back by teh Gel’s system.

Conundrum solved.

Now Mrs. R and I had always supposed that once the appendix goes dicky, it commits itself to an automated buildup to detonation like the Genesis Device and it’s only a matter of days or maybe weeks before the thing ruptures.  Not necessarily so, said the Doc this time (who seemed a heck of a lot more competent than the G/E doc we consulted last time around).¹   The body sometimes can, in fact, fight it off.  At a price, of course.

Now naturally we had considered the Gel’s appendix as a possible villain last year and had sonogrammed it then, but had found nothing.  Turns out that it’s a difficult organ at which to get a good dekko, and the Doc’s theory is that last year’s flare up probably was just not quite severe enough to be spotted, even if it was the culprit which spawned all the Gel’s reactions.

So there we are.

The Gel is resting at the moment, worn but in good spirits.  She may come home from teh hospital this evening, but more likely tomorrow morning.  Of course I’m happy that the operation was a success (which, it being routine, I didn’t seriously doubt), but I think I’m even happier that we hopefully seem to have put this whole biznay to bed once and for all.

I hate the word “closure” but, well, you know…..

So speaking of medical mysteries, did I ever tell you about my college roommate my last two years at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT?  We couldn’t have been more different had the matter been designed by a committee.  I was a hidebound conservative from South Texas and, by then, a varsity oarsman.  He was a skinny little pot-smoking, left-wing Jewish kid from New Jersey.   We disagreed with each other in almost everything.  Except perhaps the most important thing:  We had nearly identical senses of humor.

One of the ways in which this sense of humor manifested itself was in our practice of watching Quincy, M.E. reruns on weekday afternoons.  We quickly got into the habit, when finding fault in something around the dorm room, of falling into our best Jack Klugman impersonations and yelling, “What kind of a CRUMMY doctor would let this happen??”  Good times.  Good times.

I mention this memory because it was just about the first thing that flashed across my mind today when considering all the song and dance we went through a year ago while failing to spot the Gel’s problem then.

 

¹  Now no gratuitous swipes at doctors as a class in the comments, please.  The Old Gentleman was one (a pathologist) and my brother is another (an internist), so I know a goodish bit about the profession from the inside, as it were.   Of course they’re not infallible, but, as in all fields, some are better than others.

Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

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