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As I was over at the devil’s website picking up a copy of True Grit by Charles Portis on the recommendation of the Mothe, I noticed the image to the left on my “recommendations” page.  For one wild instant I thought it must be some sanitized, nannified reprint of O’Rourke’s excellent Holidays in Hell.

No, it turns out the Peej is issuing a new collection merely referential to the earlier one.  Here is what the advertising copy has to say about Holidays in Heck:

P.J. O’Rourke is one of today’s most celebrated political humorists, and has been hailed as “the funniest writer in America” by both Time and The Wall Street Journal. Two decades ago he published the classic travelogue Holidays in Hell, in which he traversed the globe on a fun-finding mission to what were then some of the most desperate places on the planet, including Warsaw, Managua, and Belfast.

In Holidays in Heck, P.J. embarks on supposedly more comfortable and allegedly less dangerous travels–often with family in tow–which mostly leave him wishing he were under artillery fire again. The essays take O’Rourke on a whirlwind of adventures, beginning at the National Mall in Washington, which he describes as having been designed with the same amazing “greatest generation” aesthetic sensibility that informed his parents’ living room. We follow him as he takes his family on a ski vacation (to the Aspen of the Midwest–Ohio–where the highest point of elevation is the six-food ski instructor that his wife thinks is cute). And later he experiences a harrowing horseback ride across the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

The result is a hilarious and often moving portrait of life in the fast lane–only this time as a husband and father.


Regular port-swillers will know that Ol’ Robbo has opined more than once that All The Trouble In The World was probably Peej’s finest book evah, and that the quality of his writing has, alas,  gone downhill ever since.

But I bought the new one nonetheless.  Of course I bought it.

First, because it’s Peej.  I mean, c’mon!

Second, because although I think Peej heretofore (“heretofore, mark you!”) has failed to successfully make the transition from smart-assed, disillusioned ex-hippie to hy-larious, cranky old grouch, you just can never tell when he might not turn it around.  And who wouldn’t want to be there for that?

I’ll let you know.

I’m not sure if Mr. FLG considers Vikings to fall into the official “pirate” category which he enjoys so much, but I find this to be pretty cool:

Bad weather can have its comforts. “Bitter is the wind tonight, / It tosses the sea’s white tresses,” wrote an Irish monk more than 1,000 years ago, “I do not fear the fierce warriors of Norway, / Who only travel the quiet seas.”

A warrior of the sort he feared found his last resting place on the peninsula of Ardnamurchan, north of Mull and south of Skye. His newly discovered grave has astonished archaeologists, for it is the first Viking boat burial found on mainland Britain. There he lies with axe, sword and spear. He must have been a leader among Norsemen to gain this noble grave.

Not all of Viking life was pillage and rape. [Robbo – They had Spam, too.]  They ruled half of England, as well as the Western Isles, and the Northmen who became Normans conquered all.

How would one say “N’yar!” in Norse?

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Here’s a question you might consider as you pass the decanter to the left:  My cats are extremely habitual in their behavior.  Indeed, the intersection of their daily routines and mine could almost be said to be choreographed.

Given this, I ask myself whether it is because cats are naturally habitual, or is it because they are naturally adaptable and mine have learned to exploit the fact that I’m such a habitual person?  (To give an example, the younger of the two always knows which chair I’m headed for, and will race ahead and jump up on the arm in anticipation.)

Or is it a combination of the two?  Or maybe neither? How do cats behave in a more random environment?

I bring this up now because this morning, during  her traditional, mandated, scratching and rubbing session as I tried to get dressed, the elder of the two happened to be standing on my big toe and one of her claws was dug right into the quick of the nail.   Because she’s an old lady and was so obviously enjoying herself, I didn’t want to disturb her.  Instead, I channeled the discomfort into the above speculation.

UPDATE:  Then, of course, one must always keep in mind what cats are capable of getting up to if they think nobody’s watching:

For anybody interested in following up on the post below, here is a little summary comparison between the Wife of Bath’s Tale and the “Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.”

I’m delighted that Prof. Mondo got me to get off my mental duff and confirm my source.  I must also admit a certain sense of relief that I did not actually mix things up in my memory when telling the tale, but you can also see how easily such a mistake could be made.

I took a course on Chaucer way back when and absolutely adored it.  (It was in this course that I also read “Wedding” by way of comparison.)  Unfortunately, the class was held immediately after lunch for ninety minutes twice a week.  During the first half of the class I had no trouble at all staying awake and engaged.  However, by about half way through, the sun would have swung round so that it was shining directly on me through the window.  Especially on cold, clear, snow-covered days, this would almost inevitably prove deadly.  At that point, my notes would start to become disjointed and then to deteriorate from already pretty awful handwriting to mere random scratches.  They would then peter out altogether.

So I suppose one might say that I am actually half-educated on the subject of Chaucer.

Indeed, I’ve always had problems with postprandial sleepiness.  For instance, I recall that my tenth grade English teacher got so frustrated when I would doze off during free reading time that she took to pouring cold water on the back of my neck, much to the delight of my classmates.

Then there was the time at Dubyanell when I got caught drifting off in an evidence class.  We were discussing some case or other when the Sandman snuck up on me.  Suddenly, I was aware of an expectant silence and a feeling that my name had been called.  I looked up with a start to see the prof’s eyes fastened on me.  Now, this was not the sort of prof to whom one admittedly inattention lightly.  (She was strict, but the truth of the matter is that she was also a hottie and most of the male part of the student body had crushes on her to one extent or another.)  So, not wishing to look foolish, I glanced down at my open textbook and quickly began to summarize and analyze the first highlighted passage in the holding on which my eyes fell.  I may say that, no doubt bolstered by a healthy rush of adrenaline,  I spoke succinctly, accurately and comprehensively.

When I was done, the prof smiled somewhat icily and said, “Well, Mr. Robbo, what you say is quite true and quite well put.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t in any way answer the question I actually asked you.”

“Um,” I admitted, “Well, I’m afraid I didn’t actually hear the question.”

So much for not looking foolish.


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October 2011