Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy MLK Day.  (Or, as a smart-assed friend of mine used to insist on calling it: SlainCivilRightsLeaderTheReverendDr.MartinLutherKingJunior Day.)

Thankee for your kind wishes viz Ol’ Robbo’s bout with the flu.  While I’m still feeling rayther weak and am coughing a bit, I am confident that I’m on the mend.   On the other hand, it seems just about everyone else in the family has now picked it up to one degree or another.  The knowledge that at least some of them got flu shots gives ol’ Robbo a certain amount of subversive pleasure.

So a few post-plague odds and ends for you:

♦  Ol’ Robbo finally took down the Christmas decorations today, including the tree.  As always and despite my vigorous plying of broom and vacuum, I expect to keep finding fir needles about the front room and hall well into July.  Eh.

 I always chuck the tree onto the brush pile out in the woods past the back gate.  In case you’re interested, I have observed that it takes two to three years for these trees to finally crumble into their primordial components:  Next year, this one will be a skeleton.  The year after, it will be a crumpled skeleton.  The year after that, dust.  (Thinking of the brush pile and the seventeen years I’ve been contributing to it, I just now remembered a book I read as a child.  It had something to do with a tornado hitting a Kansas farm and scooping out and dumping some incredibly fertile soil in such a way that all kinds of strange things began growing on the heap of dirt that the twister left behind.)

♦  Speaking of years, this past week saw the seventeenth and fifteenth birthdays of the two younger Gels.  Tempus bloody fugit, indeed.  They celebrated said B-days with back-to-back sleepover parties Friday and Saturday nights.   You may judge for yourselves what ol’ Robbo thought of having Port Swiller Manor loaded to the gunn’ls with teenaged girls for 48 hours straight.  (No, it isn’t anywhere near the thrill you might think.)

♦  Speaking of the Gels, Eldest heads back to school tomorrow.  Aside from French, she finished with a solid A-/B+ GPA her first semester, of which I am quite proud.  (Don’t tell her I said so, but she did a hell of a lot better her first semester in college than did ol’ Robbo.  Also, from what she let fall in conversation, I think she learned some valuable lessons in what college-level studying actually entails.)   As of now, the plan is that she’s going to major in history and minor in theatre, and also pick up an Arts Management certificate.   And speaking of theatrics, the Gel has been cast as the Wicked Witch in the school’s spring production of Shrek The Musical.  She says herself that this is one of the most idiotic and useless musickals ever produced, but that she is nonetheless looking forward to having a good time participating.  I know exactly what she means.

♦  Also speaking of theatrics, Ol’ Robbo is now half way through watching the 2012-ish Beeb production of The Hollow Crown (comprising Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.)  I think, I think that I like the series.  The acting is uniformly great and, at least for the most part, the production plays Will’s history straight down the middle.  I guess my main criticisms are that it seems some dialogue has been cut in favor of prolonged visuals (yes, I get that these are movies instead of plays on film), and also that the who thing is saturated with that sort of vaguely Celtish World Musick which I really dislike.

One thing that actually made me laugh:  In Richard II, Bolingbroke is well played by Rory Kinnear.  I’ve never seen him before, but his old dad, Roy Kinnear, is well-known to ol’ Robbo as a minor comedic actor with bit parts in films such as The Three Musketeers and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.  Ol’ Robbo loves these Thespian family links.  Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when I popped in H-IVp1 to discover that the role of Bolingbroke had been taken over by none other than Jeremy Irons!  The man, although talented, whistled his lines over a set of obviously false teeth.  Ol’ Robbo enjoyed that yugely.

♦  Finally, speaking of the Bard, Ol’ Robbo has decided that it is high time he reorganized the Port Swiller library.  (I’ve never done an actual count, but I reckon we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 volumes, all told.)  It’s been a mess for some years but I have been content with that because I at least knew where everything was, more or less.  Recently, however, I discovered that Mrs. R was taking things in her own hands.  I do not wish to disparage Mrs. R’s learning in any way, but her approach to organization is based on neatness rayther than content.  She can’t abide books stacked up on tables or in corners or on top of other books:  Those she can’t jam in somewhere on the shelves anyhoo, she simply squirrels away elsewhere in the house.  Indeed, I didn’t even realize the gravity of the situation until I discovered a book I had been looking for – along with multiple other missing volumes – packed into an old bookcase in the Eldest Gel’s bedroom closet.

I mean, I say!

mcbroom_UPDATE:  To satisfy my own curiosity and to prove to you lot that I’m not completely insane, I did a bit of digging to try and find that children’s book I referred to above:  It’s McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman.  (I didn’t realize until I did this research that this was one of a whole series of McBroom books, all of which seem to center on Tall Tales.)

Interestingly, another of my very favorite books as a kid was Fleischman’s By The Great Horn Spoon!, the story of a small boy who runs away from well-to-do Boston to the California Gold Rush, and who’s aunt’s butler goes along to keep an eye on him.  I probably read that book a hundred times in grade school.

I knew that Disney had made a moovie version of the book called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin“, which I longed to see for what seemed like ages.  Eventually, they ran it one Sunday evening on tee vee.  I recall being very, very excited.  However, despite the very not bad presence of Suzanne Pleshette in it, the movie made such a pig’s breakfast of the novel that I was seriously traumatized.  And that is the origin of my life-long hatred of moovie treatments of favorite books.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posts this week, but Ol’ Robbo seems to have got the flu fairly good and hard this year.  (I will spare you the details.)

For those two or three friends of the decanter who look forward to my usual feeble attempts at wit and wisdom, I say, “I’ll be back.”

For those who want to scold me about not getting my flu shot, I say, “Shut up.”

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Epiphany!

Port Swiller Manor and environs were supposed to be buried under our first measurable snowfall of the season overnight – up to an inch, they predicted – but woke up this morning to what even Jim “Mimbo” Cantore, in his most eye-rolling, chest-thumping, tongue-swallowing passion, probably could just barely bring himself to call a “light dusting”.  Feh.

Personally, I blame ManBearPig.  Serial, you guys!

As a matter of fact, I was genuinely hoping that Ma Nature would perform as advertised, because I reckoned the elder Gels could get in a little useful practice driving in a small amount of the stuff.  This is one of ol’ Robbo’s perennial frets, so I really was rayther disappointed.  I suppose we’ll have to wait for the next one.

Another source of disappointment was the fact that I didn’t get the sense of panic that usually engulfs the Imperial City at the first sign of a snowflake.  Oh, sure, our school district chickened out and cancelled all evening activities yesterday, and I got stuck behind several sand trucks on the way home, but I happened to stop by the store and saw no signs whatever of shortages of t-paper or batteries, or of moms fighting to the death over the last half gallon of 2% milk.

Ol’ Robbo’s a traditionalist and likes to see customs kept, and  I’m not sure why we didn’t have our fun this time.   Who knows?  Perhaps either this place is beginning to wise up to its own foolishness, or else it’s so focused on the approach of Storm Donald that it doesn’t have time for other distractions.

UPDATE: Well, we got our inch or so a day late.  Ol’ Robbo spent about 45 minutes clearing off the driveway and scattering salt.  Teh Gels met it all with a collective “meh”.

 

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was making his way through his morning tasks down the office early yesterday when the phone rang.  It was the Eldest, still at home for a couple more weeks from college (and kicking her heels because for some reason she’s not getting the hours at her job she had been anticipating).

Daaaad,” she said, ” Our potty [meaning the Gels’ collective loo upstairs] is overflowing!  There’s water all over teh floor and it’s starting to stain the ceiling in the breakfast room below!”

I closed my eyes wearily.

Why is it overflowing?  Have you tried plunging it?”

“I don’t know why! And yes, I tried.  It’s no good!”

I heaved a sigh wearily.  (I may say that I’ve been dealing with a tummy bug off and on the past couple days and don’t have much extra energy.)

Fine….I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I said.

“But it’s all over the place!” she exclaimed.

“I said I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I replied.

Well.

The good news?  The Gel her own self had “dealt with it” long before I actually got home.  She bailed out the bowl.  She plunged the potty vigorously until the obstruction finally cleared itself.  She threw towels down all over the place.  She put pots and bowls down in the brekkers room to catch le deluge.  (After she had called me, the water broke through the ceiling and started pouring down.)  She even commandeered every fan in the house in order to help dry things out.

By the time I actually got home, no more immediate work was necessary.

I must say that I am quite proud of the Eldest for stepping up and dealing with things on her own.

I must also say that I am disappointed, although not really surprised, that nobody has owned up to their complicity in causing the crisis in the first place.  Oh, I know perfectly well what happened:  In two words?  Teenaged.  Gels.  Let us just say that somebody tried to flush something that had no biznay being flushed despite my repeated warnings and leave it at that.

Of course, I asked each of them individually what they knew of the facts.  Of course, I also got three individual variations on the theme of “I dindu nuthin”.

The breakfast room ceiling is now a yuge mess.  All the paint and drywall has fallen away along a large seam and brownish water stains spread out along both sides.  “You see that?” I pointed out to them all, “That’s the result of your collective having not done anything.  And that is going to cost us a boatlad of money to fix!  You’ll just have to look at it until we can budget away the dosh.  I hope you’re happy.”

I often think of W.S. Gilbert’s lines from The Pirates of Penzance about  “the felicity of unbounded domesticity”.   If he was being sarcastic, I’d be happy to pour him a bumper of port.  If he was being serious, I’d happily kick him in the Ball’s Pond Road.  Yes I would.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a happy and festive New Year celebration?  Good!

Ol’ Robbo’s was, alas, defined by the fact that at about fifteen seconds to midnight I was hurrying down the basement stairs to see the “ball drop” in Times Square on teevee.  Everyone else, including several friends of the Gels, were already there.

As I scuttled down, my foot hit a patch of wet (I strongly suspect one of the kids splashed some soda).  The result? My leg shot out from under me and I tumbled the rest of the way down.

As I happened to be carrying a glass of wine at the time – most of which splashed all over me – and as I ended up at the bottom somewhat wide-eyed and discombobulated, let us say that appearances were …… against me.

In my defense, I pointed out to anyone who would listen for two seconds that a) I managed to control my fall so that I landed on my backside, and b) I didn’t drop my glass.  Unfortunately, I fear that such exculpatory evidence didn’t cut much ice, and that the collective opinion was that ol’ Robbo was one over the eight.

Ah, well.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and Happy New Year!

Ol’ Robbo writes this a few hours prematurely because I’m about to sign off and go help prepare Port Swiller Manor for the celebratory shindig we’ll be hosting this year.  As per immemorial custom, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family will be joining us, as will my brother and his wife.  (Their teenaged kids will not be coming, however, because they already have “other plans”.  I shudder at the thought.  Not in a jillion years would I travel out of state and leave my own brood free range at home.)  Meanwhile, the Gels all seem to have perpetually-evolving schemes to have over some of their own friends (girls and boys), so ol’ Robbo will be on ceaseless patrol tonight to ensure no funny biznay.

Anyhoo, I’m guessing that more than one friend of the decanter is as eager as I am to see the back of 2016.  What a year.  Not that I can complain on a personal level, you understand, but yeesh.  Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember the malaise at the end of the Carter Era.  You can take it from me:  This is worse.  At least Carter stepped down with some modicum of dignity left.

On the other hand, I’ve pretty much been laughing my backside off since November and my shaden-boner continues to be yuge and spectacular.  I have absolutely no illusions about 2017 and what is coming for our country.  However, I think, I think, that we may be at the point Churchill was talking about when he said it was not the beginning of the end or the middle of the front or the left turn at Albuquerque or whatever it was.  (I think Winston had had a few when he said that.  Gandalf put it much more crisply when he spoke of meeting at the turning of the tide.  “The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned.”)  The progressivists, in their greed and arrogance, have overreached and been checked.  The coming year will see what kind of counterattack can be mustered.  Really, it’s as simple as that.  As I say, I have no illusions.  But I do know it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

In the meantime, enjoy yourselves tonight, stay safe, have another one on me, and I’ll see you on the other side.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo mentioned the grinding dullness of the drive down I-95 south of DeeCee in the post below.  This is due in large part to the fact that there are few natural landmarks or other geographical phenomena to break it up:  The landscape simply turns from endless gentle hills to endless low country swamp to endless sandbar.  The trees simply turn from endless slash pine to endless palmetto and orange groves.

One of the very few exceptions to this monotony is Lake Marion, which one crosses about midway through South Carolina.  (Historickally-minded friends of the decanter will know that it is named after Francis Marion, the Revolutionary War hero known as the “Swamp Fox” for his guerrilla operations in those parts.  They will also know that Marion was the basis for about half of Mel Gibson’s character in the ridiculously inaccurate movie “The Patriot”, the other half being filched from the life of Daniel Morgan.)

Anyhoo, as we crossed over said lake, a thought wandered into ol’ Robbo’s braim:  With respect to just about*  every other kind of body of water, in American English we always put the proper name first:  The Atlantic Ocean; San Francisco Bay; Pearl Harbor; the Mississippi River; Walden Pond; Cedar Creek; Bob’s Run, etc..  However, with lakes we do just the opposite:  Lake Michigan; Lake Marion; Lake Wazzapamani; Lake O’ The Woods, etc.**

Why is this?

I suppose it probably has something to do with early French exploration in North America, with their convention of naming such bodies of water Lac Such-and-Such.  But if this is the case, why didn’t this juxtaposition also carry over to rivers, creaks, and the like?

(No, ol’ Robbo wasn’t going road happy.  I really find this sort of thing quite fascinating.  Apparently nobody else in the family does, however:  When I floated the question in the car it was met with silence.)

Any ideas?

* I’ll give you “bayou” (as in Bayou Lafourche).  “Gulf” (as in Gulf of Mexico or Gulf of Maine) also seems to be an exception, but it’s curious that the name always seems to include that “of”.  And don’t we say “Leyte Gulf”?  Okay, maybe “bight” (as in “Bight of Benin”), too, but then again there’s a Bigelow Bight in Maine.

** I specify American English because the Brits seem to name their lakes the other way ’round.

UPDATE:  Yes, I should have put in a general caveat about exceptions to the rule.  I knew that even as I hit the “post” button.  I also knew that some smart guy would come in and call me out if I didn’t.  Centuwion! Thwow this man to the gwound!  (The welease Wodger…)

Not Robbo's Usual Christmas Eve View

Not Robbo’s Usual Christmas Eve View

Greetings, my fellow Port Swillers!

Yes, it can be revealed now that ol’ Robbo is safe and sound back at Port Swiller Manor:  We drove to Florida (pronounced “Flahr-duh” by the snowbird transplants) for Christmas this year, chiefly to spend time with Mrs. R’s grandmother, who is confined to a rehab facility with health issues.  We arrived there just before lunch time on Christmas Eve and just in time to listen to a gaggle of kids come in and serenade the inmates with appropriate holiday songs.  Seeing said grandmother surrounded by great-grand-daughters and listening with evident delight was quite touching.

And yes, ol’ Robbo got himself to Mass on Christmas morning.  The padre had such a thick Brooklyn accent, I couldn’t understand him at first.  Alas, I was able to pick up on it in time for his homily, which (despite its perfectly orthodox message about God’s presence) was mostly one-liners and Oprah-like Inspirational Stories.  The congregation applauded.  I glared.

All in all, however, a nice trip.

Except for this driving biznay.  Two thousand miles there and back exactly, according to my odometer.  And yesterday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of another night mewed up in a hotel room with the gels, we decided to make the return home non-stop.  (We had split the down-trip over three days, in part so the gels could have an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios as a present from the grandparents.)  Fourteen and a half hours (or near enough) on the road – a personal record for me – nearly all of it on I-95 which, south of Dee Cee, is at once both terrifying and grindingly dull.  (And yes, I did all the driving.)

This morning, I still can’t feel my left thumb or forefinger for all that compulsive clutching at the wheel.

This was our third road trip to Flahrduh in about ten years.  Mrs. R and I decided that it was also our last:  Next time, we fly.

 

"The Nativity" - Botticelli

“The Nativity” – Botticelli

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, what with commitments too complicated to get into here, it looks as if Ol’ Robbo will not be able to find the time to get at the Port Swiller keyboard again soon.  So let me go ahead and wish you all here and now a very, very Merry Christmas!  (And yes, I’ve been saying that instead of “Happy Holidays” all over the place the past couple days.  Snooks to them!)

Through prayer and concentration over the last few years, I am happy to say that I believe I have just about battle-proofed myself against the pernicious effects of the modern, secular X-mas spirit, and can instead focus on the True Meaning relatively (albeit not completely) free of such distractions.

And in that vein, let us again savor Luke’s description (and yes, even though I’m now a Catholic, I can’t let go of the beauty of the King James Version):

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

– Luke 2: 1-20

I don’t know why it is, but every time I read or hear this passage – particular verses 13 and 14 – I get the chills.  (Well, I guess I do know why, actually.  Alas, I’d love to be able to convey the feeling – in word, paint, or note – but unfortunately haven’t anything like the skill to do so.)

Anyhoo, as I say, have a merry, joyous Christmas for all the right reasons!  (And try to behave yourselves.)  I’ll see you all on the other side and, having topped off my glass of port and heaved an enormous sigh, may perhaps give you some highlights of my own.  (As I say, it’s all going to be very complicated.)

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent some time this evening overseeing Eldest Gel as she filled out her very first W-4 form.  She’s got a gig with a local smoothie shop and will be putting in some hours over Christmas break mostly with an eye to cementing the position for this summah.

On the Stern Old Dad side, I must say that I think this kind of lower-tier service job is absolutely crucial to the development of the young people, especially those, like mine, who have lead relatively comfortable (dare I say spoiled?) lives heretofore.  Show ’em a thing or two about the Real World and give ’em some appreciation and respect for those who have to do such dog work.  (Ol’ Robbo himself spent time working as a bag boy at a golf club and as a counter guy in a supermarket deli back in the day.  My habit of over-tipping in restaurants and hotels is a direct result.)

On the Cynic side, I was amused at the Gel’s reaction to dealing with the paperwork: “They want my address AGAIN? I just wrote it on the other sheet!  How many times do I have to repeat it?”

My reply: “At least once more than you think necessary.  Because that’s what gubmint does.”

Heh.

 

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