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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, the big nooz around Port Swiller Manor this week is that the Eldest Gel is coming home tomorrow for the first time since we dropped her off at college almost six weeks ago. (It’s end of quarter reading days, which she’s been planning to make an extended at-home weekend from the very beginning.)
It will be fascinating to see what effect a month and a half of having been booted out of the nest will have had on her. Certainly I’ve noticed a change in her tone over the phone, especially since she got some pretty good grades on her first essays in English and history. More mature, more task-oriented. Also, she seems to want to go and visit with all the adults round here who helped her make the transition, and is insistent that we have Family Dinners during her stay (something she always hated while in previous residence here).
Yep, I think teh Gel is growing up. And while it worried ol’ Robbo somewhat early on, at least now I’m satisfied that we won’t have any trouble about her going back to school come Sunday.
(Incidentally, ol’ Robbo was never all that happy about the idea of the Gel driving three hours each way through the Virginny countryside all by herself. As it turns out, however, she discovered a classmate the other day who lives the next town over and who was looking to bum a ride home. So it’s all good.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and, although I’m a day or two late about it, Happy Autumn!
As ol’ Robbo has said probably every year since he first started blogging (well, and before that, too), this is truly my very favorite season. (Spring is a close but distinct second. While I like the start of winter, the novelty seems to wear off earlier every year. I have always despised summah, a loathing picked up during my misspent yoot in South Texas.)
Ma Nature, getting into the swing of things, has seen fit to dish up a series of highs in the low 70’s in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the next week or so, allowing ol’ Robbo to spend about four hours this morning giving the grounds a good Monty without suffering from heat stroke. (What is a “Monty” you ask? In this context it means mowing and trimming the entire yard, plus the ditch between the sidewalk and street and the little meadow between the back gate and the creek. I also sprayed weeds, watered whiskey barrels, and cleaned the accumulated ashes out of the grill.)
While this is pleasant enough, ol’ Robbo’s ideal fall weather conditions – which won’t arrive for at least another four weeks or so – involve a temperature of about 45 degrees with a steady rain and fog. There’s something about tramping around in it, smelling the mixture of dank, rotting leaves and chimney smoke, hearing the crows cawing off in the distance, that gives ol’ Robbo a delicious feeling of memento mori. I’m not being morbid in this, because it also seems to focus and increase my sense of (or at least desire for) piety. I sometimes wonder if the Church Fathers had this psychological phenomenon in mind when they set the liturgical calendar to restart in late fall. (Of course, there’s also something delicious about coming in out of it, pouring a large glass of Lafroaig, and flopping down in front of the fire which is also highly satisfying, if perhaps for not such high-falootin’ reasons.)
Anyhoo, working around the house today brought two other things to mind. First, this year ol’ Robbo put a couple of large urns on the patio out back, in which he planted dwarf boxwoods and surrounded them with trailing annuals. (They really look quite nice.) I have begun to wonder what I ought to do about them over the winter. Boxwood is really too pricey to be treated as an annual and, for practical purposes, I really can’t move them. It occurs to me that maybe I can somehow insulate them – you know, wrapping some kind of material around them to keep the shrubs’ roots from freezing. Anyone have any ideas or experiences along these lines?
Second, I am resolved this year to finally start using the fire pit that also sits on the patio. I bought it about three years ago, and for some reason have never done much more with it than use it to burn empty charcoal bags. Why this is, I just don’t know.
(Speaking of fall, a colleague of mine at work was telling me all about the trip she and her new fiancee plan to take up to Maine in about three weeks. She’s never been before and one of the things she said she was looking forward to was seeing all the foliage. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the leaves will be more or less down already by the time she gets up there.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Second and final day of ol’ Robbo’s employment “retreat” and it was about what I had expected, maybe even worse. (I won’t go into details, lest I find myself posted to the happy fun reeducation camps quam celereme. Let’s just say that, according to several speakers at least, I am a very, very bad person.)
Anyhoo, what else is there to do but come home and flush it all out with some serious sound:
I’ve read various bits and pieces on the Great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the upshot of which is that by the time they got to this song, Benny and the Boys were in the Zone and just going flat out. Certainly, none of the studio versions of it I’ve heard are quite the same.
By the bye, no offense to drummer Gene Krupa, but I like to imagine Animal on the skins here. I may have mentioned it here before, but Mrs. R and I got married at Sweet Briar College, the service being in the school chapel and the reception in the campus center. For the reception, we hired out a 13 piece big band run by one of the Science Department professors of the day, and the place absolutely jumped. I ardently tried to get them to finish up with “Sing, Sing, Sing”, but they wouldn’t do it. Possibly this was because they didn’t know the song. Alternatively, it might have been because I kept requesting it in Animal Voice.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Has ol’ Robbo mentioned here before his firmly-held belief that Tuesday is the worst day of the week? Well it is, simply due to the fact that it has absolutely nothing going for it. Monday, for all its awfulness, is at least a bridgehead. Wednesday is, of course, Hump…DAAAAAAY. Thursday is down hill and Friday speaks for itself. Tuesday is nothing more than a freakin’ hole in the week.
Anyhoo, to fill that hole, a few stray thoughts:
♦ Before I forget it, and in connection with the Wednesday link above, I have to say that ol’ Robbo is continually impressed with the consistent brilliance of Geico’s teevee advertising (which I see through watching my beloved Nats play on MASN). Campaign after campaign after campaign – from cavemen to geckos to bad ideas – whoever comes up with this stuff is truly gifted. It’s one thing to get an occasional home run, but these people hit for the freakin’ cycle. And speaking of which, for some reason ol’ Robbo finds their latest amusing enough to repost here:
(Full disclosure, by the bye, ol’ Robbo is not a Geico customer or paid shill. We’re USAA through the Old Gentleman’s military stint and quite content with it.)
♦ And speaking of ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats, they just dropped their fourth straight to an out-of-it NL East team playing for nothing but pride tonight. I know the odds of us not clinching the pennant at this point are in the SMOD 2016 range, but come on, guys!
♦ Speaking of sports, last Sunday ol’ Robbo was asked by one of his Mass buddies who doesn’t pay much attention to the current so-called “culture” to explain the whole NFL national anthem kerfluffle. Whelp, I was able to give her a brief description just based on what I see on the Innertoobs, but the fact of the matter is that ol’ Robbo really hasn’t watched pro football at all since Dan Marino retired in 1999. This was partly because the ‘Fins were the only team I ever followed and they have gone to hell since then, and partly because NFL Sunday afternoon advertising is raunchy enough that I didn’t want the gels seeing it. Overall, I don’t think I’ve really missed very much.
♦ It would be extremely foolish of ol’ Robbo to comment on the state of the Presidential race at this point, at least so far as endorsements go. But one thing strikes me as peculiar: Normally, my corner of NoVA and my commuter route into the Imperial City are, by this point, wall-to-wall with yard signs and bumper stickers. This year? Almost nada. Just about the only signs I see in the immediate neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor are for the local incumbent House member. Make of that what you will.
♦ Good thoughts would be appreciated: The next two days ol’ Robbo is being forced to go on “retreat” with his office colleagues. Usually, I’m pretty good at being able to dodge work-related functions, but I gather there’s no getting out of this one barring accidental amputation of a limb or kidnapping by Boko Haram. Sigh. In my experience, “retreats” are both boring and dangerous, and the only thing to do is to keep one’s head down, one’s mouth shut, and one’s most political smile firmly nailed to one’s face.
♦ Speaking of face, ol’ Robbo is trying out a new prescription set of gas-permiable hard contact lenses this week. (My venture into disposable soft lenses proved an abject failure.) They seem to work reasonably well for my near-sightedness. The trouble is that they also bring my far-sightedness into, er, very sharp focus: wearing them, I can’t make out much within a four or five foot radius without a pair of store-bought 2X reading glasses. I’m having trouble here understanding why I go to the bother of contacts in the first place.
♦ Relatedly, while getting fitted for the new contacts, I also got a prescription for a new pair of glasses. My current pair is about four years old and I’ve had nothing but grief about them (in terms of aesthetics) from Mrs. R. This time, I got the Missus to come down to the Hour-Eyes with me. “Here,” I said, “You pick out the frames!” And she did. Despicable pre-emptive surrender? Or ingenious seizure of the high ground? Your answer may very well depend on your marital status. (Hint: “Yes, dear” can be a double-edged weapon.)
Whelp, I suppose that’s enough hole-in-the-week plugging for now. Pass the port to the left as you take it in, if you please.
UPDATE: Day One of Robbo’s retreat featured the predictable “team-building challenges” and a lot of middle-management level blether from an HR consultant (what a racket that is!) about effective communications with different personality types. Forehead? Meet table! As a colleague of mine put it sotto voce, “Here’s an idea: You’re all grownups…Act like it.”
UPDATE DEUX: Nats’ Magic Number now down to, er, deux.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Next month marks the sixteenth anniversary of the Family Robbo’s setting up shop here at Port Swiller Manor. With each passing year, as is inevitable, major appliances and fixtures have come to the end of their useful lives and have had to be replaced – the furnace, the water heater, the InSinkErator, the oven (well, that was more of an upgrade than a needed replacement), all of the potties, and so on. In fact, the only three such items which I can recall being part of the original equipment we bought with the place are the Kenmore washer/dryer combination, the garage door opener, and the Maytag dishwasher.**
The first two items are still going strong, but the dishwasher is beginning to show its age. One sign of this is that, recently, the lower dish rack has started rusting in spots. (When that rust gets on the rims of the plates during a wash cycle, it’s a major pain to get the stains off again.) So ol’ Robbo began to noodle around in his braims about what he could do short of replacing the whole thing (which seems absurd since it still runs perfectly well).
My first idea was to look for a replacement part. As I say, it’s an old Maytag but I can’t seem to find any model number or other identification on it. Nonetheless, at first I figured I could do a little measuring and a little eye-balling and a little detail comparison, and come up with something that would fit. I found such parts readily available on-line, but also found that they’re a lot more expensive than I had imagined – a couple hundred bucks in some places. That’s a bit too steep a gamble for me.
But as I hunted around, I also noticed another option in the form of some goop that you can put on the rust spots to seal them over. Six bucks a bottle. It has the consistency of liquid paper and you apply it by slapping on multiple layers every half hour or so and then letting the patches dry overnight. (It also has some right powerful fumes that take me back to the hours and hours I spent in my misspent yoot putting together and painting model airplanes. Duuuuuude...)
Anyhoo, that’s what I’m amusing myself with this afternoon and I must say that it’s giving me no end of enjoyment. I guess it says something about ol’ Robbo’s station in life that such a homeowner’s short-cut can give so much satisfaction. Unless, of course, it’s just the fumes. (Duuuuuuude….)
By the bye, I’ve no doubt that there are many friends of the decanter saying to yourselves “Self, I wonder how ol’ Robbo’s Eldest Gel is taking to college life?” Well, the short answer is that, despite the predictable bounces and shakes, overall tolerable well, tolerable well. I put together a post this week listing all the activities and whatnot she’s got herself involved in, but it wound up reading like one of those awful family “news letters” that go out with the Christmas cards, so I chucked it. Instead, I’m reviewing my more general thoughts about the overall shift in family dynamics caused by her absence and may have something to say about that. Also, she’s coming home for the weekend in a couple weeks and it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes the first six weeks of school have made in her.
** Mrs. Robbo says that we put the dishwasher in our first year here, but I have no recollection of that.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, now that we are well on into September and sunrise and sunset are more exactly correlating with ol’ Robbo’s commute-time, a perennial phenomenon which drives me absolutely batty is once again raising its ugly head.
I’m talking about people who, driving directly into the sun, suddenly notice that their windshields are dirty and, without thinking about it, hit the cleaner spray.
What said people never seem to realize is that doing this while they’re still driving straight into the light has the effect of rendering them absolutely blind to what’s in front of them for several seconds, what with all the fluid splattered and smeared all over their windshields and being back-lit by sun rays coming in horizontally. They also don’t seem to give a hoot that their own spray inevitably spews backwards and hits the windshield of the car immediately behind them. That would be me, by the bye.)
Is it so difficult to wait until one hits a shady patch? That’s what ol’ Robbo does. (Much of my commute is along a parkway with ample tree-cover in spots. It’s not like we’re out on the Overseas Highway.)
It may not seem like a big point, but when you’re stuck in 70 mph bumper-to-bumper gridlock, those several seconds can make all the difference in the world.
Ah, well. Give it a couple months and ol’ Robbo will be having to deal with those people (probably the same ones) who don’t clear all the snow off the tops of their cars before setting out.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo may be in for a baaaaad day today if his attempt to grind up his coffee beans a while ago is any indication of things to come:
Yes, my at least 17 y.o. Krups simply blew up on me. As you can see (and which I hadn’t noticed), the wires had become frayed where they pass into the base and I guess it was finally just a cut too far. I plugged in, there was a resounding POP!, sparks flew everywhere, and now…..Die Krups ist kaput!
Guess it’s off to the devil’s website to see about getting a replacement. I hope I can refrain from slaughtering my family in the meantime. Twitch! Twitch!
Speaking of coffee, it has long been my policy to refuse to order for Mrs. Robbo when we hit a Starbucks on one of our road trips because she’s the sort who pimps her cup with all those extra frills and special instructions. I do so partly because I think this is heresy, partly because I can never remember all the things she wants, and partly because I feel embarrassed reeling off such a litany to some snot-nosed barista.
Well last evening I mentioned that I was going to stop at Chopt on the way home from work to pick up a salad for dinner and did Mrs. R want anything? “Oh, yes,” she replied, “I’ll text you my order.” A few moments later, ol’ Robbo’s iPhone (yes, I was finally forced to get one) received the single-most complicated salad order I’ve ever seen – a dozen different ingredients (one or two of which I couldn’t even pronounce properly), instructions on how chopped up she wanted it, and three different dressings. I actually had to read it all off my phone to the counter guy after making abundantly clear that this was the missus’ idea and that all I wanted was a plain Caesar myself.
Won’t be doing that again any time soon, I can tell you.
I suppose I had better clean up and nip on over to the local not-Starbucks coffee shop and get an emergency fix before the withdrawal sets in and I begin slitting throats……
UPDATE: Done and done (the new grinder, I mean, not the slaying). I’m going with the fancier-shmantzier “burr” grinder, which I’m told gives a better quality than the old rotor-blade model.
I know the bloggy follies of double-posting on the same day, especially with such feeble traffic as I enjoy, but I spoke with the Eldest Gel earlier this evening and in the course of our conversation she remarked that today is the birthday of Freddy Mercury, whom the Gel thinks is the greatest musickal genius in the history of the world.
(Lest friends of the decanter get the wrong idea, the Gel also thinks that Freddy’s personal life was tragically confused and idiotic. Go figure. It’s sort of like Oliver Cromwell saying that Nell Gwynn was a fine actress despite her off-stage activities. Personally, I can’t quite do the math but I let it roll.)
Anyhoo, I asked what I should listen to in order to mark the occasion. The result should have been obvious:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Labor Day! (Ol’ Robbo celebrated in his traditional manner by spending the day in the ol’ hammock. Marxist/Collectivist class-warfare “holidays” give me the pip. Besides, today was the last day of my summah hols.)
Anyhoo, this morning I learned that the Middle Gel had got a gig with a friend of hers today helping out as chaperones/baby-sitters at a 6 y.o.’s birthday party here in our part of the suburbs of Your Imperial City.
She got back four hours later to announce that not only had the family brought in a giant water slide (which caused several injuries, apparently), but that they had also hired out a petting zoo for the celebration.
A petting zoo. Hired out. At your own home.
Any friends of the decanter hear of this sort of kiddy birthday entertainment before?
I just googled “petting zoo parties at home” and got something north of 2 million hits so it must be a thing, but such an entertainment option is certainly news to me. Back in the day we had a few magicians and one-man-bands drop by Port Swiller Manor for various Gel birthdays, but it simply never occurred to me to put a couple cages of rabbits and chickens, plus a staked goat and sheep or two, out on the grounds.
I’m reminded by all this of a friend of my misspent yoot back in South Texas. His father was a veterinarian and he was big in 4-H. Their suburban lot was basically a farm yard, with flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and hutches full of rabbits. (I think he even had a calf at one point.) My friend would often come to school with long, hideous scratches down his forearms from where the rabbits had got him and big, ugly bruises on his legs from kicks and butts by the goats. I know he’d been hard at work tending these various beasts since he was a small lad and, although he appreciated them from an animal husbandry standpoint, had no illusions whatsoever about their cuteness or cuddliness.
Wonder what my old friend would make of this kind of entertainment?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Eldest Gel called to chat with ol’ Robbo yesterday. She’s taking a medieval history course called something like “Myths and Legends” in which the class compares the popular notions of various historickal figures with what is actually known about them. Among said figures, I believe the Gel mentioned Charlemagne, St. Joan of Arc, El Cid, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Genghis Khan and Saladin. The prof, apparently, has already made clear that the last of this group is her favorite, so I warned the Gel to stand by for mischief. (I also already know exactly what is going to be said about El Cid – that he was nothing more than a blood-thirsty hooligan terrorizing Spain while the Moors studied the higher philosophies and maths in their lovely civilization at Cordoba. Bank on it.)
Anyhoo, they’re apparently starting out with King Arthur and what the Gel wanted to know is if I thought he was a real person. I told her that I like to believe he did indeed exist. Not the Grail Quest or the knights-errant-slaying-ogres Arthur, which was obviously a Middle Ages invention, but something more like a 5th or 6th Century warlord, probably Romanized, possibly Christian, who united the Britons and drove back the Saxon invasion for a brief period. I’ve no idea what the Scholarship says these days, but I’ve always loved this notion of the last brief holdout of Civilization before the Dark Ages set in. I also have a very hard time believing that with all the myths and legends that were piled on him over the centuries, there wasn’t actually a historickal Arthur underneath.
I’ll be interested to hear the class’s take on this.