You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 15, 2012.

On this day in 1806, a young Army Lieutenant named Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Jr., in the process of hiking around the southwestern portion of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in order to ascertain what exactly it was we had bought from Napoleon, first clapped eyes on the seriously large pile of rock that now carries his name.

Regular friends of the decanter will know that one of ol’ Robbo’s interests is early exploration.  Inspired by photos taken from the summit of Pike’s Peak that made my palms sweat, I nipped over to the devil’s website and discovered that the journal Pike kept of his expedition is in print.   (It will sit very nicely on the shelf next to my Lewis & Clark journal.)  After trekking from St. Louis across to the Front Range, Pike’s party tried and failed to climb the mountain and later got picked up by the Spanish wandering about in southwestern Colorado.  After a brief detention, most of them were sent home.  Pike took notes.

To be honest, I knew virtually nothing about Pike, other than the fact that he was the discoverer of the Peak and that he got lost.  But a brief wiki search produces a couple of cool facts:  First, his father served under Washington during the Revolution.  Second, he had a daughter who married one of the sons of William Henry Harrison.  Third, during the War of 1812 he was made a general and was killed leading the (successful) assault on Toronto in 1813, apparently being fatally hit by flying rock shards when the retreating Brits blew up their magazine.

I see that nowadays there is a tram of some sort that goes up to the top of Pike’s Peak, in addition to a road.  I’d have a mighty hard time driving on that road, I think.  The tram ride would probably be fatal.  14,000 feet and change is a bit to high for my poor head.

I see that today is the anniversary of the burning of Atlanta and the start of Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864.

I may have know I have mentioned here before that my great-great-grandfather was a Union artillery officer who fought in the Atlanta Campaign (including Kennesaw Mountain and Nickajack Creek in June and July 1864).  His unit didn’t make the Savannah Campaign, but instead was garrisoned at Marietta after the Nickajack fighting.  They were also in reserve at the Battle of Nashville in December.

The Savannah Campaign, of course, inspired the song “Marching Through Georgia”, written by Henry Clay Work.  Work was from Middletown, CT where I went to school – there’s a bust of him in a little downtown park which I used to run past on my way back and forth from campus to the boathouse every day.  I used to know a couple of the verses of MTG, and recall that it was really the first martial song that felt genuinely, well, concrete to me.  “Georgia” wasn’t some abstract concept shrouded in the mists of time – it was just over yonder, a living political geography.   (For what it’s worth, Sherman himself despised the song.)

Thinking of the date reminds me of a brunch Mrs. R and I went to in Atlanta years and years ago with a college classmate of hers and the classmate’s grandmother (or perhaps it was her great-grandmother) at the Piedmont Driving Club.  (Weren’t we just the nibs?)  The grandmother, who had known Margaret Mitchell in her younger days and remembered the Atlanta premiere of Gone With The Wind, was a formidable old gal, frail-looking but ramrod straight and with a gimlet eye.   When we were introduced, she looked us up and down and said, “Whey-ah ah you from?”

“Oh, we live just outside of Dee Cee,” I said.

“No, no,” she replied, “Whey-ah ah yo-ah people from?”

“Um,” I said, knowing exactly where this was going, “Well, Connecticut and New York.”

She fixed me with the eye and simply said, “Oh.”

But I could tell what she was thinking.  Dayum Yahnkees!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of ol’ Robbo’s colleagues brought his small kid -about 5 or 6 years old or so – into the office yesterday afternoon.  As they made their way slowly down the hall, I could hear the colleague introducing the kid to various other colleagues.  “This is Brunhilde…….This is Ghengis…..This is Ichabod……” and so forth.

As he got closer and closer to my office, my toes began to curl involuntarily.   This first-names-only routine, especially when it involves children, drives me batty.  Some people say that our current politickal mess is closely interlinked with our advanced state of cultural rot, and that the former will never be resolved unless and until there is a massive reform of the latter.   I agree with the general sentiment, although I believe that arguing about which one – politicks or culchah – pushes the other is an exercise in chicken-and-egg futility and that what is needed is an “all of the above” approach.

Anyhoo, in this microcosmic instance, it seems to me that a return of decorum and deference to age through the elimination of this kind of casualness would be a positive step toward that end.

Also, it’s one thing when it’s somebody else’s kid and, arguably, none of my biznay.  What drives me especially batty is when my efforts to instill said values in my own progeny are thwarted.  When one of the gels accompanies me, I always introduce colleagues with, “This is Mr. Dewey….This is Ms. Cheatham…..You remember Mr. Andowe, of course?”  and so on.   Nine times out of ten, the response is, “Oh, call me Bill…..”


Fortunately, the colleague never quite made it to my office, so I was spared “This is Robbo”  and the unpleasant decision of whether to say, “I prefer Mr. Port-Swiller” or else just fixing the fellah with an icy stare.

(My apologies for my curmudgeonly tone here.  The port-swiller tum is acting up again, despite the medicinal and dietary steps I’ve been taking.  I notice from the archives that it seemed to flare up about this time last year, too.  Could acidity actually have a seasonal aspect?)

**Extra credit: Spot the quote.



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November 2012