You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 5, 2011.

Late Saturday afternoon, I took the youngest gel along with me to pick up the port swiller family Christmas tree at my church parking lot.  (I timed the trip so that I could go to Confession, too.  Clever, what?)

At any rate, as the fellah methodically tied the tree to the top of ol’ Robbo’s Wrangler, the gel eyed it dubiously.

“You know, Dad,” she said, “I’m not sure the tree is going to stay on the soft top very well at all.  Maybe I should climb up and sit on it for the ride home.  Just in case.”

I glanced up.

“Yes.  Yes, I think you might be right.  Go ahead and climb on top when the man is finished.  Be sure to hang on tight, though.”

The gel’s eyes went as big as soup plates.  For one brief, shining moment, I could see a look of astonished joy in them that translated into “Best.  Daddy.  EVAH!!”

The fellah tying up the tree began to laugh.

Then the gel did a double take, her eyes narrowing incredulously.

Really?” she said, plain doubt creeping into her voice.

I merely looked at her slantendicular.

After a minute or two, fully to her credit, the gel burst out laughing.

Good times.

Oh, and of course the tree made it home perfectly safe, with no thrills or spills.

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An interesting piece over at Slate on great artists’ reactions to the sense that the Grip Reaper is at the top of his back-swing.¹  It’s worth a read, but I wanted to quote the first two paragraphs in particular:

The last thing anyone does or says has an inevitable fascination, poignancy, and poetry. The fascination only intensifies when that person is an artist, in the profession of doing and saying memorable things. “There is a mirror that has seen me for the last time,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote. “There is a door I have closed until the end of the world.” The old Joseph Haydn, who invented what we think of as a string quartet, must have wondered after his dozens of quartets which would be his last. It was the one he could not find the strength to finish.

Last words are pithier than last pieces of music, and the world remembers the apropos or the funny ones. Enlightenment genius Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “More light!” Gen. Robert E. Lee: “Strike the tents.” Gustav Mahler: “Mozart …” Richard Wagner, in the truest and most lucid words he ever spoke: “I feel lousy.” Oscar Wilde, contemplating the garish wallpaper in his hotel room: “One of us has to go.” Eugene O’ Neill, son of an itinerant actor, who was similarly unhappy about his last residence: “Born in a hotel room, died in a goddam hotel room!” Salvador Dali: “Where is my clock?” Steve Jobs: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

These paragraphs struck me because of the mention of Papa Haydn in the first but not the second. (His late musick is cited later in the article.)  This is, perhaps, because Papa’s final words were not, in fact, about Himself, his Art or his Muse, but instead, typically, reflected concern for those around him.

Haydn died on May 31, 1809 in Vienna, just as Napoleon’s army was invading the city.  Cannon shells had been landing in the neighborhood of his house and his servants were terrified.  Papa, even though he was only semi-conscious and almost entirely spent, was heard to say in the end, “My children, have no fear, for where Haydn is, no harm can fall.”

This was characteristic of Papa, who had a history of looking out for those for whom he felt responsible.  (One cites the famous “Farewell” Symphony No. 45 of 1772, which was a pointed dig at Haydn’s patron Prince Esterhazy about letting the musicians of his private orchestra get home from an extended stay at another palace so as to be able to see their families.   The Prince took the hint.)  I bring it up simply because it illustrates again one of the things I find so admirable about the man.  Self-centeredness simply was not a part of his nature.  So unlike the image of the “artiste” that comes to mind these days.

¹An expression used by a Cornell law prof in the Bar-Bri bar review course in discussing the “dying declaration” (or “statement under belief of impending death” if you want to be pedantic) exception to the hearsay rule.  It’s always stuck with me.

“Good morning, Lawyer and Lawyer.”

“Good morning.  Is Mr. Lawyer available?”

“Uh, uh.”

[Crickets]

“Um…..well, could I please leave a message?”

“Uh, huh.”

[More crickets]

“Um, well could you have him give Robbo the port swiller a call when he has the chance?”

“Uh, huh.”

[Large number of crickets]

“Um, would you like my contact information or anything?”

“Oh.  Uh, huh.”

[Comic cross-talk ensues]

“Right. Um, would you like to note what I’m calling about?”

“Oh.  Okay.”

[More comic cross-talk ensues]

[Inaudible sigh] “Right.  Thank you.  Goodbye.”

Emphatic *Click.*

Was it something I said?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  The name of this post? Oh, what the heck – let Nordlinger sue!  Shoe fits foot and that’s all there is to it.

♦  First, I was able to snag Mrs. R’s laptop over the weekend, so as my weekend traffic is usually terrible, you might want to review the posts below to better understand what I’m talking about here.

♦  Oh, and let me just say that I hate Macs!  Infernal thing kept trying to tell me where to go and what to do.  Bloody impudence.  Give me a PC any time.  And if that makes me a dinosaur, so be it!

♦  As promised in the post on the great chimney fiasco below, Mrs. R and I did indeed sneak off to a downtown hotel Saturday night.  All in all, a relaxing and pleasant time, although once again ol’ Robbo’s inability to get in a good sleep away from home manifested itself.  Whenever I stay in a hotel, I tend to drift back and forth between semi-consciousness and dream time without ever getting to the deeper part of the sleep cycle.  And each of the dreams builds on the last, usually pursuing a theme of something starting out relatively simple, but getting progressively more complicated as the dreams wear on, and often incorporating what I half hear or see when in that dozy state between them.  This time, I recall that my first dream involved the simple proposition of trying to cross a softball field to get to where my team was warming up.  I don’t recall all the permutations of the thing as it progressed through the night, but certainly at one point later on I was being chased by Confederate cavalry.

♦  We decorated the port-swiller Christmas tree yesterday.  A decorated tree on December 4.  It just ain’t right.  I derived some grim satisfaction by pointing out that the thing would be dead long before Twelfth Night.

♦  This morning I heard something odd, speaking of Christmas:  In roughly the 43rd rendition of “The First Noel” I’ve endured since the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I couldn’t help noticing that in the refrain, “Born is the king of Israel,” the choir were pronouncing Israel as “I-Is-REE-el” instead of “I-Is-RYE-el,” which is the way I’ve always heard it sung.   As the kids like to say (or do they still?), what’s up with that?

♦  Yes, I say “endured”.  And the punch line is that, come December 26, which is actually in the Christmas Feast, all such musick will positively vanish from the airwaves.  Fitting for the by-then withering tree.  Time and place.  I rave about everything having its proper time and place, and yet nobody listens.  Feh.

♦  Or should that be humbug?

♦  May I finish up with a little bragging?  I may? Thank you!  Well, yesterday saw the eldest gel play her first CYO basketball game of the season.  I’ll spare you any triumphalism about the game: We got crushed by St. Theresa’s, 33-9.  In defense of our team, I will say that we only had seven players to their fifteen, which means we could only swap out two at a time while they had three functioning squads through which they could rotate.  And they had some giantesses on their crew.  Also, we’d only had our first practice on Friday and the ref had a real down on us for some reason.   No, what I really wanted to praise was the gel’s attitude:  I have never in all her years seen her so full of hustle and aggressiveness as she was at that game, flying up and down the court, going after the ball, taking her licks, cheering on her mates and…….not complaining at all.   She tells me that she’s really not all that especially interested in basketball, but is doing this instead in order to become more socially active and to help out the school as best she can.  That, my friends, shows that we are making progress.

A happy day to you all!

UPDATE: Oh, I should have noted that “CYO” stands for Catholic Youth Organization.  From what I gather, it is a sort of diocesan club league, different from the regular parochial school league, in which the gel is also playing.

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