Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I’m not talking about that wretched post-WWII generation who currently are raping the Republic of all the wealth on which they can lay their mitts before they die off and who are, also, directly responsible for the rise of a generation of Millennials who are in the process of establishing a reign of Precious Snowflake Fascist Terror that will eventually come to a painful, violent end when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.*

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

Instead, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned, thunderstorms, some of which came a-calling in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this evening.  First time this season.

Ol’ Robbo used to be quite frightened of thunder and lightning.  I recall distinctly an incident in my misspent yoot in San Antonio.  My bedroom window looked out on a hackberry tree in our back yard, maybe 50 yards or so from the house.  One evening during a storm (I think when I was in high school), I walked in and looked out just in time to see the poor tree hit by a lightning bolt.  (You can always tell that you’re close to a strike because you can hear a distinct vzzzzzt!! before you hear the thunder.)  I hit the deck completely by instinct, all my fears of my earlier yoot very much reenforced.  (I believe that same poor tree got knocked down by either a microburst or an F0 tornado a few years later when I was away at college.)

Anyhoo, I gradually overcame said fear, to the point where I now quite enjoy watching a storm in all its fury.  To sit out on the deck this evening and watch the cell scud past us to the east while the bats flitted about overhead was very delightful.

A little game I like to play in this season is Beat The Storm.  My office is about 14 miles southeast of Port Swiller Manor.  When conditions are stormy, I take a good, hard look at the radar just before I leave work.  If there are storms about, the game is to decide whether to slap the sides up on La Wrangler or to see if I can just beat them home bare-sided.  In some cases, I have cut this close enough that the deluge has hit literally between the time I got into my garage and the time I tried to go back out to the mailbox to retrieve the evening bills.   Very gratifying when I get it right.

And lest you think Ol’ Robbo is delusional on this point, let me just note that others play the same game.  A couple years back, I was on a late-afternoon flight from Dee Cee to Cleveland when the captain announced we were going to take off a couple minutes ahead of schedule.  I didn’t think much of it until, during our descent, the sky suddenly got awfully dark (and the plane suddenly got awfully quiet).  We came down smoothly enough, but by the time we were taxiing to the gate, the heavens had opened up and the tempest was crashing down all round us.  That sum’bitch pilot had beat it in with seconds to spare.

Once I retrieved my jangled nerves, I tipped my metaphorical hat to the fellah.

 

*No, but it felt damned good to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Spring!  Season of swings and roundabouts!

On the one hand,  ol’ Robbo learned yesterday that the Port Swiller Manor air-conditioner, which I hadn’t realized was eleven years old, has given up the ghost – rusted coil, leaking freon like a sieve, electrical contacts burning out.  Well, what else can one say except ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching? UPDATE:  The hot water heater decided to get in on the game by leaking while the HVAC guys were putting in the new A/C unit.  This came as no surprise, as I’d been warned two years ago that the thing was nearing the end of its life and had been wondering idly since then when it would go, but still……”When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”

On the other hand, I discovered this morning that both the lawnmower and the weed-whacker are in fine working condition despite my very minimal (which is to say, non-existent) winterization efforts.

On the third hand, I’ve killed about seven wasps on the porch over the past few days.  (Red wasps – fortunately not especially aggressive.)  They must have a nest very near at hand and also must have found a way to get through the screen.  I haven’t found it yet and I’m probably giving myself cancer with all the spray I’ve inhaled while shooting at them.  UPDATE:  A couple yellow-jackets, too.  However, I found the breach – a corner of wood where the roof meets the house that has warped up, leaving a gap.  I think I can block it with a simple can of sealant.

On the fourth hand…….Iced Coffee.  Nectar of the Gods.

(*traditional law school humor name for wills and estates class)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Got a rayther bizarre letter last evening announcing that our estate lawyer had died recently and, in its deftly understated phrase, “will no longer be able to be responsible for your estate planning matters”.

Well……..no.  I can see that.

I only met the woman once or twice, but as I recall she wasn’t any older than I am.   Evidently, she knew this was coming, as she had made advance arrangements for the transfer of her book o’ biznay to a couple other firms.  (The letter asks us where we want her copies of all our estate papers to be sent.)

Rest in peace.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had to drive up to Bal’mur, Murrland yesterday on bizney.

I’ve long ranted here about the bat-shite craziness of Murrland drivers.  Increasingly, I believe that Bal’mur is the epicenter of this cray-cray, the veritable Mos Eisley of the scum and villainy that pollute the local highways and byways.  The place gives me the creeps.

Golden moment: A delivery truck double-parked on Calvert Street blocking an SUV in front of me sporting a “Wag more, bark less” decal on its rear window.  The driver of said SUV was telling off the delivery guy in no uncertain terms with both word and gesture.

Irony status? Prime.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Got our tax docs back from the accountant wallahs this evening.  For the past umpteen years, we’ve always expected a modest refund.  This year, it would seem we actually owe a not-inconsiderable wodge of dosh.  Grrrrrrr…….

This is the thing.  It’s not so much the amount of the check itself, it’s the perception of value for money.  I could write a whole damn book on this subject, but in short, I don’t think we’re getting all that much.  Double grrrrrr……

Speaking of owing reminds me of an episode back in the early days of married life, 20-odd years ago.  What with one thing and another, I had been slow about putting together our returns, and the upshot was that Mrs. R and I had to make a run for the closest open Postal Service facility on the evening of April 15th in order to get our return properly post-marked.

There was a blazing thunderstorm and torrential rain that evening.  Nonetheless, the anti-tax protesters were out in force at the mail center and I tooted my horn in solidarity with them most enthusiastically.  (I love the idea, by the way, of scheduling elections round about the same time as taxes are due.  Goes right to the whole value-for-money thing.)

Anyhoo, we got the forms into the mail well before midnight, with much grumbling, and started on our way back to our apartment.  Coming up on an important intersection, we found that there had been an accident and that the cops were on the scene to direct traffic around the mess.

I will never forget this.  Having just had Uncle take a big bite out of my not-very-considerable income, I was sitting in a downpour, lightning all over the place, when I suddenly became aware of a County policeman knocking on my windshield with his flashlight and pointing at my inspection sticker.  It had expired the month before.

Ol’ Robbo is not and has never been an Ayn Rand libertarian type.  But at that moment, I wanted to cold-cock the cop, strip him of his weapons and equipment, and light out for the hills.

Youngest gel is taking what amounts to a home-ec class in 7th grade this year.  (Robbo heartily approves of this.  It beats the hell out of sexual identity politicks brainwashing, although I’m sure that’s coming, too.)  Yesterday she said, “Wow.  Mortgages and taxes and utility bills and all that…..you guys sure pay a lot of money!”

Mrs. Robbo is in Flahridah this weekend for her mother’s 70th, so Oldest Gel is driving her sistahs to their various parties and activities today.  A short while ago, after rehearsing her list of pick ups and drop offs, she said, “It’s like I’m spending the entire day in the car running around in circles!”

Bwaaaaahahahaha!!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Spring is finally getting her act together in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.

Late last evening, ol’ Robbo found himself loitering around the parking lot of the St. Albans School waiting around for Middle Gel to come out of the school play she’d gone to see. (A steampunk version of The Tempest, in case you’re interested.  With this particular play, given its majickal character, I’d argue that one can get away with this sort of thing so long as it doesn’t swamp the rest of the production values.)  The school is sited on a hill (Mount St. Albans, in fact) that affords a fine view southeast across downtown Dee Cee.  As I sat there, I got to watch lightning for the first time this year – a small storm way off on the horizon.  Very pretty.  (As a boy, I was terrified of thunderstorms.  Now I love them.)

A few weeks ago, perhaps a bit prematurely, I posted here about some of the signs of spring in the Port Swiller garden.  Well, I’m afraid I have to revise my earlier optimism just a bit:  The knockout rose on the porch stairs did not, in fact, make it, but appears to be dead, dead, dead.  Oh, well.  If we get another, we’ll bring it inside for the winters from now on.

In addition, I am now about 85% sure that my poor jasmine didn’t survive.  (One has what might be a single new stem coming up from the roots.  The others, nothing.)  So much for AlGore’s Globull Warminj.  I’m going to give them a couple more weeks to produce new shoots, then fall back to Plan B and replace them with wisteria which, once established, is practically indestructible.

Now for some genuine good news:  Long time friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo has been griping about the poor flowering of his forsythias for years and years now.  Well, last spring, after an especially anemic showing, I went out and razed those baddies to a height of no more than twelve to fifteen inches.  This spring?  A pleasantly respectable flowering!  The one mistake I made was not doing a secondary cut in August or September to even out some of the longer and stringier branches, but I will remember to do that this summah.

And if you’ve read this far, you may be amused to know that last year I also put in a couple of new clematis by the patio.  (A variety with lovely indigo leaves and a golden center.)  Unfortunately, they’re very near the bird feeder, and in their bottom-feeding activities, the damned squirrels exposed the roots of both plants. I thought they were gonners, but each one has got new growth on it this spring.  (Tough plant, the clem.)  I’ve since put chicken wire around each one, so hopefully the tree-rat problem has been solved.  (You might wonder why I don’t just move the feeder.  Well, it is just where I can watch it from my library comfy chair.)

 

 

appomattox-surrenderGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

For all of Ol’ Robbo’s interest in historickal matters, I readily admit that I have been woefully remiss about tracking the last year and a half or so of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  My apologies.  However, I certainly am not going to allow the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House to go by without some mention here.

Chiefly, I like to think that the surrender showed the best of both men.  Grant’s relentless pursuit finally won him the complete victory he deserved, and yet with his enemy completely at his mercy he was more than generous and humane in his conquest.  Lee, recognizing check-mate, conceded like a true gentleman.  One wonders what would have happened had Lee been able to make it to Danville or Lynchburg, resupply and slip away down the rail line to join up with Joe Johnson somewhere in North Carolina.  Of course, Grant and Sherman eventually would have caught and crushed their combined force, but it would have meant more time and more blood and one wonders how much patience the North would have had with such an additional price.

Oh, speaking of which, I saw a number of posters on Facebook and elsewhere calling this day the “end of the war”.  Not true.   Lee only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.  Joe Johnson didn’t surrender to Sherman in North Carolina until a couple weeks later.  The last official battle of the war, at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, wasn’t fought until May 12.  Various units of the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi didn’t surrender until late June, at which time the northern naval blockade of southern ports was finally lifted.  President Johnson didn’t declare the complete official end of the “insurrection” until August, 1866.

So I reckon I’ve actually got another year and a half or so of being able to use the word “sesquicentennial” about the Civil War.

Anyhoo, what I really wanted to talk about was this:  Ol’ Robbo began taking daily lunchtime walks last fall because his doc kept yelling at him about his lack of exercise.  Generally, I have been doing a loop on the National Mall from about the height of the Air & Space Museum west to 14th Street (just short of the Washington Monument).  Coupled with the distance from my office to the Mall, it’s two miles and change – a nice little circuit if walked briskly enough.

Well, that section of the Mall is now being dug up as part of a general refurbishing of pipes and drainage and things and is really not that pleasant a jaunt anymore. So last week, I turned the other way and started a loop from 7th Street east down to the Grant Memorial.

300px-Monument_to_GrantAlmost twenty-five years of lurking around Your Nation’s Capital and I’d never even seen said memorial before.  Perhaps this was just as well, because having spent the last ten or fifteen years reading and rereading Grant’s Memoirs and Bruce Catton’s definitive studies of the man’s campaigns, I was all the more delighted with Henry Shrady’s statue of the man.  (All images from here on down stolen from Wiki.)

You can get it somewhat from this pic, that sense of Grant’s solid, stolid, unflappable calm, coupled with his near self-depricating modesty and reserve.  The slouched hat, the lowered chin and the raised collar and cape make him look almost like a turtle snugging down in its shell.  Even from a long way up the Mall, if you know anything about the man, you look at that statue and say, “Yup, that’s Sam Grant all right.”

This is a wintery depiction, what with the bundling up and the wind at his back, so it makes me think of both the Battle of Fort Donelson and the relief of Chattanooga.   The former was Grant’s first really serious taste of big time battle.  The latter was a brilliant (but largely unsung) piece of tactical and logistical generalship which, I would argue, rivaled anything done by Bobby Lee.  In these fights, as in all his others, Grant’s key to success was the same as that popular expression flying about the innertoobs these days:  He kept calm and he carried on.

By the way, some people like to dismiss Grant by arguing that he had the North’s huge advantage in manpower and material at his back, so of course he was going to win.  Yeah, ask George McClellan how that worked out for him.

As you can tell, I am an enormous admirer of Grant, not just for his prowess in battle, but also for his character as a whole.  In addition to the books I mention above, another good one is H.W. Brands’ The Man Who Saved The Union:  Ulysses Grant In War And Peace.   If you read Grant himself and Catton, you probably can skip the first part of this book because it’s just a condensed version of them.  The second part, though, is an informative study of Grant’s presidency and his efforts to impose Reconstruction on the South.  Grant is maligned for the corruption that characterized his administration but this is really unfair.  He did his best to fight it, but he simply wasn’t a politician.  As for Reconstruction,  considering the bad blood and teh forces (cough, Southern Democrats, cough) fighting against it, he really did about as good a job as one could hope for.

Grant_Memorial - cavalrygrant memorial - artilleryOh, back to the Memorial.  As I say, I love the statue of Grant.  I also love the contrasting, highly dramatic statues of the cavalry charge and the artillery team that flank it.   However, I think I don’t especially care for the overall effect.  The flanking groups are done on a smaller scale.  Also, I think they’re spaced too far apart from Grant’s statue.  The overall effect is to make the thing too wide and, in my opinion, disjointed, the whole idea of Grant’s calm above the chaos being lost a bit through distillation.

Of course, what the heck do I know about sculpture.  Also, most days when I walk by, I’m busy trying to navigate shoals of high school tourons, so perhaps this causes me to become a tad jaundiced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James-BestGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  A toast, if you please, to the memory of actor James Best, whose death at the age of 88 was announced today.  Requiescat in pace.

Best is, ah, best known for his portrayal of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in the teevee series The Dukes of Hazzard, but anyone who spends any time at all watching old westerns will also remember that back in the day he seemed to have had an awful lot of minor parts in them, always playing one of the bad guy’s henchmen or a member of the posse or a ranch hand.  From what I know, Best never had much by way of dialogue, but he was a predictable part of the ensemble.   Frankly, I admire workaday actors of that sort much more than I do the sooperstar snowflake types.

As a matter of fact, I never much bought Best as one of the baddies.  He always came across as so…..nice.  Which is why I think he worked so well as Sheriff Roscoe, who was bumbling and corrupted,  but ultimately good-hearted.

And yes, I watched them Duke boys loyally  in my misspent yoot.  And no, I didn’t just watch so to see Daisy sporting cut-offs.  (That was a mere bonus.) Got a problem with that?  Remember:  For all ol’ Robbo’s crankiness about matters of High Art, he also has an earthier side free of condescension and snobbery.  After all, for all I am on about Bach and Handel, Mozart and Haydn, I also derive great pleasure singing along to Joe Diffie’s “Pickup Man”.

Eh.  As Popeye says, I ams what I ams, and that’s what I ams.

Speaking of Sheriff Roscoe, a bit of Duke Boy trivia for you:  John “Bo Duke” Schneider bought the house my parents built in the (then) exurbs of San Antonio.  Not from them, but (I think) from the people who bought it from the ‘rents when the Old Gentleman retired and they moved away.

 

* Those who know will know.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers! And a blessed Easter to you all – He has risen, indeed!

I would wax more about the Resurrection here, except that it is late and I would not do it justice.  Suffice to say for the moment that ol’ Robbo had a very…substantive Lent and a pretty, well,  satisfying Triduum.  Also, the God-awful nooz of the last few weeks reminds me again of a famous quote from Francis, Cardinal George a couple years ago that has been partially reposted much lately:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

Indeed, it certainly seems more and more likely, given the temporary power surge of what I have come to call the Hipster Brownshirts.  But mark the rest of the quote:

His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history.”

Yeppers.  In hoc signo vinces!

Anyhoo, more on all that later.  In the meantime, even though Robbo’s beloved Nats dropped their season opener this afternoon, I can’t help but celebrating Opening Day of the single most perfect game in the history of the world with what is now a classic tribute:

Enjoy!  And play ball!

 

 

 

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