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Regular friends of the decanter may recall that I recently noted the apparent descent of the port-swiller garage door opener into some kind of nervous breakdown.  Well, as of yesterday, I can report that the thing has gone utterly off the deep end and that it’s time to summon the men in the white coats.  While the engine hums along merrily enough, it no longer moves the chain one way or the other, suggesting that the little plastic cog-wheel in the bowels of the thing has finally stripped itself.

Oh, well.

I started noodling over whether it made sense to get the unit fixed or to replace it altogether.  (It’s at least twelve years old, but most of the bits are still in good working order.)  To this end, I wandered over to the LiftMaster website, where I stumbled across this little ditty:

Position on Garage Door Openers Manufactured Prior to 1993
We are committed to the highest standards of product safety. Over the years, the LiftMaster® brand has led the industry in introducing innovative product safety features. As a company, we have manufactured garage door openers for 50 years with a safety record that ranks as one of the best in the industry.In the early 1990s, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) enacted into law new rules ensuring that all garage door openers manufactured after 1992 had external entrapment protection devices, such as infrared sensors or sensing edges, in addition to the internal contact reverse mechanism. Garage door openers made prior to 1993 are safe and reliable if installed, tested, and maintained properly. However, the vast majority of these older units are not equipped with infrared sensors or other external entrapment protection devices, and thus do not meet today’s standards for garage door opener safety. To insure the highest degree of safety and customer satisfaction, we believe it is important that pre-1993 garage door openers are replaced, as opposed to being repaired.

Ah, this takes me back.  Indeed, I’m old enough to remember when garage door openers first hit the market, some time in the early to mid-70’s.  We moved to a new house in ’74.  I do not believe that the house from which we moved had an opener.  The new one certainly did at some point, but I don’t recall whether it was part of the original equipment.

And we certainly didn’t have infrared sensors, sensing edges or contact reverse mechanisms.  Instead, we developed the custom of the last kid out hitting the button by the workroom door and then running for it.  You could make it comfortably at about a half-height crouch.  A drop and roll would have been more dramatic, but with that concrete floor it would also have been more painful.

I believe we also went through a phase of experimental crushing of various objects (and no, this did not include my little sister, as much as I was sometimes tempted).

Good times.  Good times.

Of course, things have changed, and were I to let the gels do half the things that I did as a matter of routine in my own misspent yoot, CPS would swoop in and cart them off quicker than one could say “knife”.  I am not necessarily convinced that such change has been for the better.

Regular friends of the decanter will be aware of the on-going saga of the damaged chimney at the port swiller residence.  (No word yet as to whether the insurance people will pony up for the cost of the repairs.)

This weekend found the chimney people playing a return date after their initial inspection a few weeks ago.  The very first thing they said to me when they arrived was……that they couldn’t fix the chimney.  Yet.  You see (so they explained), now that the weather has got cold and there’s a nightly danger of frost, trying to set new mortar is not a really good idea.

This made sense to me, but I couldn’t help wondering why they didn’t say something like that a few weeks ago when it was still comparatively mild?


On the other hand, they were more than prepared to take down the top section of the chimney, lest Mother Nature step in and finish the job herself.  Duly inviting them to have at it, I went back inside and resumed my reading.  I happened to be sitting next to the fireplace, and after some initial bangs and thumps as they clamored up to the roof, I heard the guys set to their task.  Soon, a veritable shower of bricks, tiles and chunks of mortar came raining down into the side yard, accompanied by a pair of ghostly voices echoing down the chimney.  The fellahs were having an absolute ball, hurling the pieces overboard with humorous commentary and taking especial delight when a given piece burst on impact.  It was like listening to a couple of little boys and, indeed, I could feel the distinct urge within myself to go up and throw things off the roof, too.

Of course, then they had to pick up all the bits.  That part didn’t look nearly so enjoyable.

Anyhoo, the upshot is that we will be without a working fireplace this winter.  Here’s (probably foolishly) hoping that the weather will be relatively calm and that power outages will be few, far between and of minimal duration.

The whole thing reminds me a good bit of one of the Irish R.M. stories of Somerville and Ross, the one entitled “Major Apollo” I think, in which one of the chimneys at Shreelane House is brought down and “repaired” at the behest of an interfering R.E. cousin, forcing Major Yates and family to endure a very cold and uncomfortable winter.  The episode ends in predictable farcical tragedy when the new chimney, finally completed, chooses an inopportune moment to tumble over itself.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen to us.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

Do you know this man?  His name was Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych (1877-1921).  He was a Ukrainian composer, choral conductor and priest.  His best-known work today (at least in the West) is his “Carol of the Bells”, a piece which I have noticed tends to have a polarizing effect – people seem either to really like it or really hate it.  Personally, although I have family members who would  disagree violently, I happen to enjoy it.  I especially enjoyed the rendition put on last Thursday evening by the eldest gel’s 8th grade class at her school pageant, where I first heard of Leontovych.  (Up till then I hadn’t the faintest idea where “Carol of the Bells” originated.)

Here’s something else I learned:  The man is a martyr of the Eastern Orthodox Ukrainian Church, where he is remembered for, among other religious works, composing the first liturgy in the modern Ukrainian language.  Soviet goons murdered him in 1921.  Hearing these facts about him at the pageant added a certain something to the performance, at least in my mind, giving it a sense of defiance against the forces of darkness.  That’s probably how I’ll think of it from now on.

And speaking of performances, might I beg my fellow port-swillers to indulge me in just a bit of parental boasting?  I may? Thank you!  Regular friends of the decanter will know that I have often spoken of the middle gel’s angelic singing and her regular wowing of the congregations at RFEC.  Well, I am pleased (and still a bit gob-smacked) to announce that, following an audition a few weeks ago, she has been accepted into the Novice Choristers Program at the National Cathedral.  Mind you, this is only a first step – the Novice Program is a sort of choral boot-camp to see whether the little darlings “fit” into the overall scheme of things.  After that, she still has to be accepted at the Cathedral School for seventh grade, and, not being of the Beautiful People, we still have to figure out how on earth to pay for it.  And, if she does make it into the Cathedral Choir, that’s essentially her life (and ours) for the next few years.  However, seeing that she is both so talented and such a hard worker, we decided to swing for the fences on this one.  If we can somehow get over and around all the ifs and buts, the opportunity is simply too good to pass up.  And even if it doesn’t work out, I consider the fact that she’s been invited to participate to be a signal honor in and of itself.

Ol’ Robbo couldn’t be prouder.


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December 2011