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I don’t know how many of my fellow port-swillers may be familiar with the old “Firesign Theatre” hippy stream-of-consciousness drug humor albums?  (They were actually pretty funny.)  One of them, entitled “Eat or Be Eaten”, makes a throwaway reference to a fictitious place called “King’s Nose”.  For some reason, this nugget became permanently lodged in ol’ Robbo’s brain.

I had repeated cause to think of it again Saturday evening as I sat watching “The King’s Speech” in the local moovie theatre.  Owing to our having arrived a bit late, the place was already packed and the only available seats were right down front.  Owing to the extensive number of facial close-ups in the film, it was a relatively short time before I was thoroughly acquainted with the bone structure and pore content of the noses of both Colin Firth and that fellah who played Logue.  Frankly, I began to get very slightly frantic after a bit.

I thought it a pretty good film by the way, despite some historickal nits, and plan to see it again once it comes out on Netflix.  From much further off this time, of course.

Over the phone as I was sitting in O’Hare Thursday evening:

Soon-to-be Thirteen Year Old Gel: Um, Dad…I got my science test back.

Self: Oh? How did it go?

STB13YOG: Well, um, I failed it. I’m so sorry.

Self: WHAT!!?? How could that be after you studied so much?

STB13YOG: HA! Ha! Fooled you! I got a 93!

Self: You stinker.

The good news is that the gel is finaling beginning to see that there is some kind of connection between studying and good grades. A mysterious, indeed almost unfathomable connection, but a connection nonetheless.  She’s also discovering that she likes getting good grades.  I’ll gladly take a little ribbing if it helps reenforce that idea.

When Legolas first sets foot on the grass of Rohan in The Two Towers, he says something like, “Ah! The Green Smell!”  I know exactly what ol’ J.R.R. was talking about, and about this time of year I start to become impatient for my first sniff of it.

I mention this because I spent  my first Saturday morning of the new year pottering about the port-swiller grounds, getting things ready for the onset of spring. [In other words, doing the chores you should have taken care of last fall – Ed.]  Quiet, you.

First task was to clear away some big maple limbs brought down by the mighty wind that swept through yesterday.  After that, it was on to paring the wisteria along the west fence, ripping out the wild grape that had invaded the forsythia hedge and then hacking back Kong the Buddleia and all the Konglings scattered about the place.   I also took out the remaining joe-pye stalks & c. in the garden, which now, instead of looking desolate and shabby, looks desolate and bare.  Finally, I nailed back up a part of the east fence recently taken out by yet more falling limbs.  It’s been a big year for falling limbs.

In all this, I was aided and abetted by the nine year old.  At least, that was her initial intention.  After she’d picked up a few wisteria bits for me, keeping up a running story about how each one was a beloved son or daughter of the main bush and that I was a plant killer, she said, “Daddy? Will you tell Mom that I was a good helper when she gets home?”

“Well,” I replied, “That rather depends on whether you will be, doesn’t it?”

She thought about that for a minute.

“Dad,” she said, “I think I’ll go inside.”


(Later on she came back out and proceeded to hurl herself about on the tree swing, howling at the top of her lungs.  Why someone in the neighborhood didn’t summon a fire truck and ambulance, I don’t know.  Unless, of course, they’ve simply gotten used to her over the years.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  One of my resolutions this year is to stop losing my temper in re the gels and instead enjoying them more for who and what they are, so I just smiled quietly.) 

Next task will be to do something about the climbing rose out front.  I want to spread it out more across the face of the house, but have not yet decided how to go about it.  This will probably involve some hacking, and I notice that the thing is already starting to bud, so perhaps I should wait until after the bloom before messing about with it.

Happy birthday, Dame Emma Kirkby, born this day in 1949!

Kirkby is perhaps my very favorite soprano of all time, with a voice that can only be described as angelic.  (And Evelyn Tubb is no mere shrieker, either.)

This “Venite”, by the way, is from this album of Monteverdi solos and duets, which also happens to be one of my very favorite vocal recordings of all time.  Half the selections are secular, half are sacred.  All are divine.  If you don’t already possess it, I highly recommend that you obtain a copy for yourself and can promise you that you won’t regret it.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!  Ol’ Robbo is back safe and sound from his latest travels.

* For those of you who have followed Robbo’s pteromechanophobia over the years, you may be interested to know that it seems to be changing as time passes.  While the fear certainly is still there, as on last evening’s beastly choppy ride back from O’Hare, these days it seems to provoke a counteracting disgust at the idea of being held hostage to it which allows me to thrust it aside.  Dare I say that ol’ Robbo is feeling….empowered?  (Thank you, Holy Mother and St. Christopher!)

* I have mentioned before my young side-kick on the project with which these little jaunts are associated.  (She’s the one who says “flush out” when she means “flesh out” and thinks that a nursery called “Garden of Gesthemene” is probably named for the family that owns it.)  Not to pick on her, but I am also amused that one who can occassionally spout such politically correct platitudes about How To Fix Society will become such a Hobbesian child of nature when it comes to elbowing her way to the front of the boarding line so that she can snag a spot in the overhead bins and not get her bag green-tagged.  I briefly considered joshing her about it, but somehow felt that a “do as I say, not as I do” joke would either rocket right over her head or else offend her, so I let it go.

* I will say in my colleague’s defense that her attitudes and behavior can be attributed to the fact that she is simply young and silly.  What fills me with horror is that there are folks who never break out of this mindset despite the lessons that age and experience offer.

* Speaking of amusing, my travelling book this time was The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which the said Hero of the piece relates his experiences as a young Hussar in Napoleon’s Grand Armee with Gallic vim, vigor and bravado, combined with a sometimes Bertie Woosterish cluelessness.  The tales are absolutely delightful, and even though Gerard is in every way the antithesis of old Flashy (except in his fancy for the ladies), any fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s works would, I think, consider him well worth a read.  (Yes, Mothe, you may borrow my copy when you come down for Easter.  But I’ve already written my name in it!) 

*In the taxi home from the airport, I found myself riding with a cabbie I recognized.  This is the second or third time this has happened, indicating to me that I am becoming what is known as a “seasoned traveler.” 

*Note to the (apparently) squiffy fellah at the hotel the other evening who decided to try his hand at playing medleys on the lobby piano for his friends:  Dude, you’re terrible.  Take up the kazoo.  And if you’re so desparate for material that you break into “Joy To The World” at the end of February, it’s probably a sign that you should call it a night.

* Speaking of which, I have taken to chatting with a fellah at the RFEC who, like me, enjoys playing Bach at the keyboard.  Apparently, he is part of a little musickal circle that gets together from time to time to hear each other perform.  Recently, he suggested that I ought to come along to one of these evenings, to which I replied (paraphrasing Dear Oscar) that the trouble with playing musick in publick is that when one plays well, nobody listens, and when one plays poorly, nobody talks.

*In other words, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t want somebody else blogging of him, “Dude, you’re terrible. Take up the kazoo.”

*Well, ol’ Robbo is off to get a much-needed haircut today.  I have long noticed that when the thatch gets a bit too thick, it has a corresponding influence on my mood, causing me to feel slovenly and enervated.  Once the weeds have been whacked back a bit, I typically feel much more energetic.  I’ve taken to calling this phenomenon a “reverse Samson” and hope that the term will some day find a permanent home in the family lexicon.

*Hey, other people want to change the world. I only want to influence my little patch of it.  Just imagine.

Spent a large chunk of the day playing Trivia Pursuits (Junior Edition) with the gels.  On the one hand, it was delightful to watch their faces as they worked their way through a question and suddenly alighted on the correct answer.  On the other, this being a somewhat outdated version of the game, it was astounding to realize, at least with respect to popular culchah,  how 21st Century they all are.  Who on earth has never heard of Mr. Rogers, for Pete’s sake? 

I may say that ol’ Robbo’s hoard of knowledge, absolutely useless for most purposes, did him well in beating off the opposition.  At the same time, I was rayther awed by the surprising number of things the gels seemed to know, too.

Oh, I’ll be away on biznay until Friday, but feel free to help yourselves to the decanter again and chat until I return.

What does it say about me that I just ordered a replacement hose and dusting brush attachment for my old vacuum cleaner and that I’m excited about getting them?

I had a dream last night that I was visiting Germany and, while there, was involved in a bad, multi-car, Autobahn accident.  I, myself, was not at fault, nor was I injured.  However, at least one other driver was killed and several more were hurt.

After the accident was over, I was transported to a largish ampitheatre-style room.  There I found the other people involved in the crash, along with their family and friends.  Apparently, it was supposed to be some kind of “support” group, and it seemed that we were all supposed to get up and, as Frodo would put it, “speak a few suitable words”.

I found myself rising and gathering everyone’s attention.  After introducing myself, I recall commiserating with the victims and their families, and roundly damning the person who was responsible for the accident.  (He had caused it through some wild recklessness.)

In the midst of my little speech, I became aware of some bad musick behind me.  Turning about, I saw a large, loutish teenager lounging complacently in his seat with a large boom-box by his side.  As I continued my little oration, I fixed him with a steely glare.  After a few seconds, his own eyes suddenly collapsed in defeat and he shut the box off.  At that point, I recall that the entire room erupted in cheers and applause.

Zo, ve ask, vot dost dis all mean?  Well, in a couple weeks I’m first chair in a jury trial, my first in almost 20 years of practicing law.  I’d say that, at least subconsciously, I’m in pretty good shape for it.

UPDATE: Before you ask: Although I can’t talk about the case (obviously), I can at least assure you that it doesn’t involve ambulance chasing.

 I may have mentioned this before, but increasingly I feel that if I ever have the time and opportunity to write a book, my first effort will be a biography of Col. Henry Bouquet, the Swiss-born professional soldier who became Colonel of the 60th Regiment, the “Royal American” and an expert in bush-fighting, and who played such a prominent part in suppressing Pontiac’s Rebellion.

I get this urge every time I come across Bouquet in my readings in Parkman, because his combination of bravery and competence fascinates me.   Also because, as far as I know, there is no good biography or history of him out there.

Unfortunately, to the extent that anyone remembers him at all, Bouquet is mostly known these days for a series of letters exchanged between himself and Sir Jeffrey Amherst in the summah of 1763, at the start of Pontiac’s Rebellion, in which Amherst wonders whether the Indians couldn’t be wiped out with small-pox through a “gift” of infected blankets and Bouquet says that it sounds like a good idea.  (There’s no evidence that this idea was ever actually implemented.) 

Of course, such biological warfare is repugnant and the mere discussion of it makes one pause.  On the other hand, Amherst was writing just after having received the news of most of the British frontier outposts having been wiped out and their garrisons massacred, often through treachery.  Bouquet, in turn, was in Carlisle, on the Pennsylvania front, and was watching the survivors of the Indian terror war against settler families come streaming in, many wounded, orphaned or widowed, all destitute and panicked.  So perhaps there is a certain heat of passion discount that must be applied to these ventings.

At any rate,  I’ve had this idea for several years now and that’s usually an indication to me that there may be something in it.   Who would buy the movie rights?


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February 2011