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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, the school year descends upon us once again. No, I don’t mean the Gels, whose migrations I’ve been reporting here for several weeks. Instead, I mean Mrs. R has returned to her classroom at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method in advance of the kiddies starting next week.

She’s not especially happy about having to get up early again. I, on the other hand, smile quietly to myself (when I know she’s not looking).

In all fairness, she’s been at this for nearly thirty years and is definitely showing signs of burning out. (I doubt Ol’ Robbo could stick trying to teach elementary kidz for more than about a week.) Plus, over all that time, the school has changed, the kids have changed, and the parents have changed, none of them for the better. The last couple years, of course, have been absolutely insane. (I forgot to ask what the “mask policy” is this fall. Last spring, when almost everybody else was finally coming out of the ‘fraidy-hole, the school remained positively draconian. And by the bye, Ol’ Robbo notes with sour satisfaction that his railing that the whole Covid panic was absolute bosh and nonsense has proved entirely correct.)

Anyhoo, as Ray Davies famously observed, “Back where we started. Here we go round again.”

*** (Mini-UPDATE) – I just checked and discovered somewhat to my horror that the Staples Office Supply back-to-school commercial to which I’m alluding in the title dates back to 1996!! Yikes!! (The ad is still available on YooToob.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, as Ol’ Robbo types, it is still unclear whether the Artemis I launch is going to come off today. Honestly, I haven’t paid the slightest bit of attention to this project, and actually had to look it up this morning to even understand what it entails.

Funny, that. I’m old enough to remember the last two Apollo missions back in the early 70’s. (I’m told I actually watched Armstrong’s initial landing but don’t recall it.) Those were heady days and I still remember the excitement and optimism that surrounded them, and being glued to the teevee coverage.

And then it all just…..stopped. The life just seemed to go right out of the whole space program. Sure, the shuttle program revived things a bit when it came along, but after a while I realized the thing was nothing but a low Earth-orbit dump truck. Yay? And I suppose the various Mars landers are pretty cool, too, but I tell you that it just isn’t the same thing.

I suppose that part of what I felt back in the day was just the excitement of a little boy, but I’m sure that wasn’t the whole story. NASA was a flagship organization back then, a focus of hope and optimism and adventure. Now? To me it’s just another bloated gubmint bureaucracy. I get the distinct feeling that Artemis is a frantic claim to reaffirm relevancy, what with all the private space projects now gaining steam. Who knows, it could actually be a good thing – a little competition does wonders to focus the collective mind.

I guess we’ll see.

(As I hit the “post” button, still no word.)

UPDATE: Well, so much for that.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pottering around the Port Swill Manor demesne around midday today, Ol’ Robbo definitely noticed the change in the sunlight on the trees promising that summah is getting ready to pack things in and that the year is moving on. (It’s all in the angle of the sun.)

I always find this realization greatly satisfying, perhaps because I dislike hot weather so much, but more because it’s the first clue that autumn is on its way, and as long-time friends of the decanter know, autumn is very much Ol’ Robbo’s favorite season.

Of course, I’ve not much to complain about this year, as our summah has really been quite pleasant. No triple-digit days at all that I can recall, and relatively few even over 90. Ol’ Robbo will take that any time. (Of course, I’m sure Our Betters will tell my my lying eyes are all wrong about this.)

By the bye, another delight this year: The two hummingbirds that have taken up station at my feeder have been at it so much that they actually almost drained it this week. It is not often that Ol’ Robbo has to charge that feeder a second time over the course of the season.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an early welcome to the weekend! It’s about dang time.

Several days down to the office this week. Ol’ Robbo is here to tell you that the Dee Cee Metro, which once prided itself on its cleanliness, has gone completely to pot recently. The cars are downright filthy now, and I come out of the system feeling perfectly contaminated. I can only suppose they don’t have enough folks to keep up with the maintenance anymore.

For those of you following the Port Swiller Manor basement saga, we had the engineer back out the other evening to finalize the bracing and waterproofing project and sign the papers. Gulp. Mrs. R was practically dancing with frustration and had the poor fellah awash in embarrassment and profuse with apologies, and doing his best to reduce the pain as much as possible. But, alas, we have no real choice in this biznay. The one bit of bright side, at least from Ol’ Robbo’s point of view, was Mrs. R’s determination that if we’re paying that kind of jack, they can take out the drywall and framing themselves.

For those of you following the Gels’ Big Adventures, the elder two seem to have settled in quite nicely at school and sound genuinely enthusiastic about their new classes. Eldest had been fretting and fussing all summah about the what, how, and where of life at a new school in a new town, asking a lot of questions which I assured her she would answer for herself within a couple of days of getting there. Which she has. It’s almost as if Ol’ Dad was prophetic. Meanwhile, Middle Gel immediately went out and adopted a kitten. Because she could. I had managed to make her confine herself to a hamster when she was an undergrad, but she’s out of my clutches now. Of course, not a word to our cats at home about this. (What’s going to happen when she comes home on break remains to be seen.) Meanwhile, we hear from Youngest Down Under every now and again. The other day she sent a picture of herself at a Brisbane rugby game. She was wearing a Washington Nationals jersey. Because she’s that kind of nut. “Well, I needed something red for our team!” she said. (Apparently, whatever the club she’s following seem to be about as inept as the Nats this year. They got crushed at the game she attended.)

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo needs to be about what I like to call my non-paying job about the house. We’re actually hosting a small dinner party this weekend (I can’t remember the last time we did this) and there are a thousand and one things to do to tidy the place up.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Although Ol’ Robbo generally shies away from what might be deemed broadly as public display, I will admit that the backside of La Wrangler is festooned with not a few bumper stickers. Call it a weakness.

Among these stickers, I loyally include “University Dad” stickers boosting the Gels’ various schools. I’ve had them so long as almost to forget about them, but it suddenly occurred to me over the weekend that I need to remove those of the Elder Gels’ undergrad alma maters, now that they’ve both graduated and gone on to establish themselves at the next level. (True, Eldest actually graduated two years ago, but I kept hers nonetheless since she has been in a sort of limbo since then.)

It was quite the surprising little shock, a further reminder that things have, indeed, moved on however much some small part of me regrets it.

In fact, I’ve got a “University Dad” sticker for the Elders’ new school, but I find myself hesitant to slap it on La Wrangler’s bumper. Somehow, grad school seems different, farther away, less of my biznay. Such boosterism now seems almost out of place. (Is there a protocol about this? My eldest niece is in law school – I should check with my brother about what he does.) Perhaps leaving the thing taped to the side of the refrigerator would be for the best.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Longtime friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s gripes about the ongoing water problem in the Port Swiller Manor basement, and that I’ve been on about it rayther a lot this summah, what with all the rain we’ve been having.

Well, we finally decided we needed to get a professional opinion. The engineer came out yesterday morning.

Yes, it’s pretty bad. Not as bad as it could be, but still.***

As I may have mentioned before, the basement is a walk-out. Turns out the walls on the two underground sides are both bowing in. Plus, the sump drainage system is shot, and the built-up pressure is causing water to come in at the base of the walls, which apparently are not actually anchored to the slab, but just rest on it. Soooooo, we need to fix the drainage, brace up the walls, and waterproof the whole shebang.

This is all due to the passage of time and home construction methods here in the awful, nasty clay of eastern Virginny. (It’s a fairly common issue, too.) Ol’ Robbo was very careful to question the fellah about this, lest Mrs. R get the idea that it was an issue I should or could have done something about earlier. (In fact, I might have spotted the cracking had I gone looking for it sooner, but we’d just have wound up in the same boat we’re in now.)

So this weekend, it’s more drywall/insulation tear-down for Ol’ Robbo. Oh, joy. We meet with the fellah again next week to get the full butcher’s bill and to sign the papers. (When I relayed the rough estimate to Mrs. R yesterday, she took it fairly stoically, only saying, “Well, so much for the idea of me retiring this year.” And as an aside, just what the hell do I pay homeowner insurance for?)

Incidentally, I don’t often plug things here, but if you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic and have this sort of issue, we’re using JES Foundation Repair. They’re engineers, not building contractors. I spent a couple hours going through things with the fellah, and he was eminently knowledgeable and obviously highly competent. And chatty. His store of anecdotes about the darker side of the home construction world was highly entertaining, if somewhat chilling. Caveat emptor, indeed.

*** There is apparently a 1 to 5 scale to this wall-bowing biznay, with 1 being a few cracks and 5 being the wall caves in. We’re at about 3.5, with horizontal and diagonal cracking, and the bowing itself is just under an inch. The good news is that we need not go quite Full Monty to fix it. Any greater bulge would have required extra steps.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was chatting with Eldest Gel yesterday afternoon. She’d just got out of her class orientation meeting.

“Hooo-boy,” she said. “They’re all a pack of cultural Marxist loonies! English majors who want to ‘fight social injustice’! It’s like Twitter in the flesh!” (I thought that last bit very neatly put.)

I’d rayther hoped she might avoid that sort of thing at a big, midwestern school, but I suppose the rot is just about everywhere now. On the other hand, the Gel is of a temperament that makes Oliver Cromwell look like a debauched anarcho-syndicalist, so perhaps she’s exaggerating just a wee bit in her summation.

One of the subjects touched on was censorship. That one made Ol’ Robbo smile: “Read banned books” bumper-stickers and lapel pins have been around all my life, a stock cudgel to use against the Church Ladies. (Remember those lists of “Top 100 Banned Books” that came out every year? Does anybody still do that? Back when Cultural Conservatives still fought, they’d put out a counter-list usually containing books like Huckleberry Finn. Where does that one stand these days?) I happen to agree with the idea in general, but given the way social media platforms like Twooter and FacePlant are stomping on wrongthink right and left nowadays, you’d think this trope a bit outdated. Heck, when Ol’ Robbo set up his home office, I deliberately avoided doing so in my library lest some delicate flower spotted an objectionable title on my shelves during a Zoom call and started having conniptions. Of course the Will to Power has never actually been much concerned with principles or logical consistency. (The specific topic, by the bye, was eeeeevil moms who dare object to school boards seeking to sexualize their small children. Can’t have that!)

Fortunately, I’ve taught the Gel the sort of detachment necessary to get by these days. Trust God, keep a smile on your face, don’t give away anything, don’t bite when provoked, do good work. And keep your eyes open for those subtle signs that there might just be more on your side than you think. The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache. The languorous Ewok craves Valu-Rite.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t comment much on such things these days but I must confess that when I heard of Liz Cheney’s complete crash and burn in the Wyoming primaries last evening, I pulled out my Assault Rosary, aimed the crucifix at the sky, and let off a feu de joie in a series of decade-long bursts. Bwaaaaaat! Bwaaaat! Bwaaaat!

It felt good.

My, how times have changed.

Middle Gel and one of Liz’s kids were actually baptized in the same ceremony at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church back in the day. Dick was there, too, standing as godfather. This would have been just before he picked himself to be Dubya’s veep. At the time Ol’ Robbo felt pretty pleased to be knocking about on the fringes of the GOP Establishment.

Now? Bwaaaaat! Bwaaaat! Bwaaaaat!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, exciting times here at Port Swiller Manor, as the Elder Gels made the big trip out to Indiana yesterday to get themselves settled in ahead of school. Mrs. R went along to help. I’d have liked to have gone as well, but I have too much work this week. (Mrs. R doesn’t really believe this and thinks I just wanted to weasel out of the drive, but it’s true.)

Eldest called to check in from Morgantown, WV. She’s been everywhere from Maine to Florida but never very far off the coast or beyond the Piedmont. To her, Maryland had always meant Montgomery County or Baltimore, and she was practically giddy with delight over how pretty the western part of the state actually is. (And it is, too.) She checked in later from west of Columbus, also enthusiastic about the openness of the country there.

Heh. When Ol’ Robbo goes on about such things, people’s eyes tend to glaze over. It’s nice that somebody else is actually paying attention now.

As I say, I’d like to be there to see the Gels get settled into their new digs (they’re not going to be roommates – Middle Gel was emphatic about that) and into their new lives. I’ve an idea it’s going to be most eye-opening.

You know what else is eye-opening? The realization that Mrs. R and I are now empty-nesters. (Eldest graduated from college two years ago but has been living and working at home due to the uncertainties generated by the WuFlu panic.) Now what?

I guess we shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A delightful day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. For the middle of August, the weather feels much more appropriate to Maine than to my part of Virginny. Indeed, I was sharply reminded this morning of how much I miss our summah hols up there at this time of year. I haven’t been back since the Mothe died five years ago. (There’s no psychological stumbling block or anything, we just haven’t been able to work out the logistics, what with kids whizzing off to school hither and yon. We did go so far as to reserve a rental a couple years ago but by the time I worked out all the driving math I realized the trip would be more exhausting than not going so we scrubbed it.) I’ll need to get back in that habit.

Aaaaanyway, it was a pleasure to potter around in the yard today.

I’m quite pleased with myself for keeping the garden trim and in order this year and not letting my butterfly bush go full jungle. (Never go full jungle.) I’ve been especially mindful to keep clear the little circle I laid out this spring for the Robbo Family pet memorials stones. I’ve also toyed with the idea of putting in a small St. Francis statue but Mrs. R would have conniptions, not being partial to such displays. (Witness our annual battle over my chalked Epiphany greeting on our front door.) Part of me thinks I could probably sneak one in without her ever noticing it, but that wouldn’t exactly be playing the game.

Meanwhile, I was eyeing the forsythia hedge, which I’ve ignored so far this year. My experimental plan is to hog it back over Labor Day weekend and then lime the devil out of it this fall. Hopefully that will cause a more compact flowering next spring. (When I cut it back too early, it gets overly-rangy the next bloom.) We shall see.

Speaking of liming, of the various fall services my lawn guys offer, I decided that there’s really no good reason I can’t lime and overseed the yard myself. (I’m trying to recall the lime schedule from last fall. It was three treatments, and I think they were at monthly intervals starting in September.) I did wind up signing on for their aeration service after deciding that going through all the bother of renting a machine myself wasn’t worth the effort.

The wild grape and morning glory have now completely overwhelmed my raspberry bed. I concede that fight for this year.

Speaking of fighting, I have seen much of the hummingbirds lately, a pair of females who seem to dogfight constantly. It’s always two females, every year. I sometimes wonder if one or both isn’t a return. Are hummers like salmon, returning to the same haunt each year? Do they even live all that long? I dunno.

Finally, I notice the crabapple tree behind my back fence seems to have shuffled off this mortal coil. It didn’t really fruit at all this year and now its leaves are all turning brown and falling off. I guess these things just happen. (It was fully mature when we moved in over twenty years ago.) I’ll need to have it down, I suppose, since I don’t want to look at a scarecrow leaning over my garden.

Well, on to other matters. The Elder Gels leave for school tomorrow morning and Ol’ Robbo has to go pack their lead ingot collections in their cars.


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August 2022