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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As I see from a quick dekko at sitemeter, it seems the demand for the return of Robbo from his summah hols has been astronomical. Well, my friends, your wait is over, as I am most definitely back.
As I mentioned, the Family Robbo met up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his brood at a lakeside retreat this year. More specifically, it was Lake Anna, nestled in the heart of the Great Commonwealth of Virginny and also sporting its own nuke plant a couple miles up the shore from us, the wastewater discharge from which kept our part of the lake at a temperature somewhere in the mid-80’s. Indeed, splashing about in it was not unlike taking a bath and, frankly, wasn’t all that refreshing.
As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo spent very little time actually swimming and much of his time kayaking. I would roll out of bed earlyish in the morning and put in an hour and a half to two hours of industrious paddling about, then go for another round later in the afternoon. It was most soothing. As it happens, I have the kind of body that, with any kind of regular exercise, buffs up quite quickly, so I am also feeling quite fit at the moment, although my arms are still killing me.
In between bouts of rowing, I found time to get in a goodish bit of reading, too. My list included the following:
A Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith by Frank Sheed. This book is not an argument but rayther, as its title implies, a simple statement of the Faith. Here is what we believe. Here is why we believe it. Here is what we do and don’t do as a result of these beliefs. Here are what we think are the consequences of following and not following them. Easy, logical, lucid prose without all that heavy breathing you get from somebody like Scott Hahn.
Frémont’s First Impressions: The Original Report of His Exploring Expeditions of 1842-1844. I picked this up because of my recent visit to Wyoming and views of the Oregon Trail Fremont’s first expedition in 1842 was to map said Trail as far as South Pass. I was delighted to recognize the area he describes in and around Ft. Laramie. The second took him all the way to near what is now Portland, down across the Sierra Nevadas (in the dead of winter) into the Sacramento River valley, around the souther Sierras through Arizona and New Mexico, back up into Colorado and then hey for home. The book is very well written and “The Pathfinder” obviously knew what he was about: exact scientific measurements and observations; good judgment of terrain; (mostly) careful travel with the occasional calculated risk; an instant grasp of the strategic importance of the Columbia River and San Francisco Bay to the rapidly expanding United States; and genuine curiosity about that area of the Intermountain West known as “The Great Basin”. Unfortunately, for some reason this edition does not contain any of the maps, drawings or appendices attached to the original reports. Also, it is fronted by a somewhat condescending introduction by some modern academic who is quick to point out what a racist/imperialist/white male aggressor Fremont was, and that, of course, we aren’t like that now. Sheesh.
The End of the Battle by Evelyn Waugh. I won’t say anything about it here. Waugh is one of my very favorite authors and the Sword of Honor trilogy (of which this is the third book) is probably my very favorite Waugh. I’ve read this book many, many times. One question that occurs to me, though: Why do references to J.H. Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish keep popping up in Waugh’s novels? It is usually found in officers’ messes, masters’ common rooms and elsewhere and I can’t help thinking that Mr. Wu is getting in a little dig for his own amusement although I don’t quite get the joke.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. A swashbuckler set in the reign of Charles II featuring a dashing privateer taking a whack at the Dons in the Caribbean. I’ve never read any Crichton before although I’ve heard of his good reputation. Frankly, I don’t understand it, if this book is any example of his writing. It might have made a good screenplay, but the prose and characters have a Tom Clancy-like cardboard quality about them. Also, Crichton doesn’t seem to grasp some basics of nautical terminology. He uses “ground” when he means “deck” and he persistently refers to ships (including a galleon) as “boats”. He also describes a gunnery trick used by the hero to elude his pursuing enemies that is patently absurd. (I also started out on Crichton’s Sphere but ran out of time and only got about a quarter of the way in – the book belonged to teh rental house. Just as well, really, because the prose was as bad as in P.L and was beginning to irk me.
And why was I able to get so much reading done? Because the house turned out to be quite big and roomy enough for the ten of us not to suffer that ghastly feeling of being on top of each other all the time and I was quite able during the mid-day hours to snuggle into a corner relatively undisturbed, apart from some bouts of door-slamming and children running about that reminded me of something out of “Arsenic and Old Lace”.
All in all, a good week, leaving ol’ Robbo tanned, ready and rested.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, ol’ Robbo’s summah hols officially began. (I say “officially” because at least in spirit I had already left the office at the beginning of the week, doing nothing much more than sorting things between that which I could ignore until I get back and that which I could ignore full stop.) Tomorrow we go to meet up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family at a lake house on which we’re going snacks, there to loaf about, perhaps kayak a bit, play some croquet and badminton, and drink large quantities of adult beverages.
We tried this a couple years ago down in the Outer Banks and I can’t say I enjoyed it very much. The “house” there was actually a condo built right smack in the middle of a zillion other condos. It was too small for the ten of us and the whole area was far, far too crowded for Robbo’s taste. This year we’ve got a real house, set on its own on a little point of land with a dock and a small beach, so I’m hoping it will be genuinely relaxing.
“Say, Robbo, don’t you usually go up tah Maine and stare at the bay?” I hear some of you asking. Well, yes, we did for many years, but I’m afraid that’s about over. The cottage is crumbling and, not being very efficient slumlords or investment wizards, we just don’t generate the kind of dosh necessary to really fix it up or, better yet, knock it down and start over. So it’s on the market. (If any of you are interested, ignore that part about crumbling.) Also, I just don’t think Mrs. R and the gels really liked it very much – they are of the school of holiday-making that requires stimulation and entertainment, two things you’re just not going to find in Midcoast Maine. I’m sure gonna miss it, though.
Anyhoo, I probably won’t be around here very much for the next week, so for your consideration I present some few thoughts still idling round my otherwise rapidly stagnating braim:
♦ I must say that I continue to delight in watching
Gozer the Gozarian Teh Donald flip the bird at the MSM (or, as the Puppy-Blender likes to call them, “Democratic operatives with bylines”) and cause the GOP Establishment to soil its collective undies. The GOPe has absolutely nobody to blame for all this than themselves. While the Donks have gone national socialist, the GOP has gone Vichy despite being elected specifically to stop the drift lurch left. Teh Donald is simply filling the void where we fools thought the Establishment would stand and fight. To hell with them. (Oh, and here’s a pro tip, GOPe: Don’t call us stupid.)
♦ Speaking of such things, I see where Berke Breathed has resurrected Bloom County. Good on him and I hope he keeps it up. I’m curious to see how well he gets on. Although he’s something of a lefty, B.C. was never of the same self-rightious un-funny smarminess as Doonesbury and Breathed wasn’t afraid to go after twits on his side of the fence from time to time. However, that was back in the 80’s and 90’s, before the advent of the Social Justice Warrior cadre. Wonder what will happen the first time he takes a swipe at one of their sacred cows. (Small point of trivia: Breathed went to college with my high school Latin teacher.)
♦ What can ol’ Robbo say of his beloved Nationals except thank God the rest of the N.L. East is so awful this year. In case you haven’t been following things, our trouble is injuries: better than half of our starters are out at the moment. And while the bench guys have been doing as well as anyone could possibly hope, there’s a reason they’re bench guys after all. During the game last evening, F.P. Santangelo (the Nats’ teevee color guy) said the team reminded him of the Memphis Belle – banged up, shot up, but still leading. I chuckled appreciatively at that little bit of historickal allusion.
♦ Following up on our bear-sighting of this week, I was out mowing in the little clearing behind the back fence this morning (keeping an eye peeled over my shoulder, you may be sure) when I suddenly stepped in the answer to the rhetorical question about bears and woods. Yes. Yes, they do.
♦ The Family Robbo has been obsessed over the past couple weeks with playing a board game called Colorku, which seems to be Sudoku involving colored balls instead of numbers. Being a crossword snob, I never got into sudoku myself so have no real interest in this game either, but anything that gets the gels off their damned iThingies is just fine with me.
Whelp, I suppose I had ought to go and see about packing. Or at least thinking about packing. Or possibly thinking about when it will be time to start thinking about packing. Or something. Meanwhile, you all know the drill: Decanter and walnuts are on the table and the Stilton is on the sideboard. Swill till your eyes bubble and I’ll be back later.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention that no, Daisy dog does not accompany us. Instead, she’s off this afternoon to a sort of free-range kennel we found. It’s a big farm of so many acres and they basically just let the dogs run around all day and bring ’em inside at night. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ever have one of those strange, strange days?
This morning teh Eldest called me at work and informed me that a black bear was wandering around outside our back fence. There have been increasing reports of them in our neck of the woods over the past couple years but this is the first time I’d heard of one in our immediate vicinity.
I called up the County Animal Control people to report the sighting, since ours is a residential area and a lot of people like to walk their dogs in the woods behind us. “Oh,” said the dispatcher, “We don’t respond to that sort of thing.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah,” he replied, “Just a wild animal being part of nature, that’s all.”
This must be a new policy. I know for a fact that when a bear popped up a mile or two away from us last summah the County police tracked him down and carted him off.
This afternoon I told the Eldest what they’d said. Now she worries the bear will come back. “Dad,” she said, “Do you think the bear could climb the fence, come up to the basement and get in and get me?”
“Sure,” I replied, “All bears carry skeleton keys and glass-cutters for that very purpose.”
She was not amused.
Meanwhile, when I went to start up La Wrangler yesterday afternoon after work, she wouldn’t fire. So I left her at my work garage and metro’d home. Today I spent rayther a lot of time dealing with Triple-A, as first they sent a battery guy and then later a tow-truck (driven by the tightest-mouthed badasss I’ve ever met, who also happened to be a wizard at navigating extremely tight spaces with his truck). I just got home a while ago from dropping her off at the dealer and am in dread: The last time they got their hooks on her, they found about a zillion different things that needed “immediate attention”. Although I think in this case the alternator just went out, I bet they’ll do so again. Must. Be. Firm.
In the meantime, my loaner is a Nisan Versa “Note”, a vehicle I’d never heard of before that looks not unlike a shuttlecraft from Star Trek: TNG. Driving it, I feel like a complete hipster doofus. You might as well slap “Co-exist” and “Draft Lizzie!” stickers, together with a rainbow flag, on the back and have done with it.
What makes this week a bit more tolerable? The fact that I go on summah hols Friday and have slipped into that pre-vacation who-really-gives-a-damn mindset.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! A rainy Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor allows me to duck mowing the lawn and instead bore those two or three who still gather over the decanter with my first impressions of the great state of Wyoming, or at least of its south-easternmost parts. (Ol’ Robbo was taken camping in Yellowstone as a toddler, but that hardly counts.)
This area is pure High Prairie, the westernmost part of teh Great Plains lapping up against the Rockies, and resembles, in large part, nothing so much as the Ocean. George Armstrong Custer puts it rayther well in the early part of his “My Life on the Plains”:
Starting from almost any point near the central portion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encounter a series of undulations at a more or less remote distance from each other, but constantly in view. Comparing the surface of the country to that of the ocean, a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not require a very great stretch of the imagination, when viewing this boundless ocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as gigantic waves, not wildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standing silent and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the impressive grandeur of the scene. These undulations, varying in height from fifty to five hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light, sandy soil, but often of different varieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect.
The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puzzling to the inexperienced plainsman. He imagines, and very naturally, too, judging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlook the surrounding country. After a weary walk or ride of perhaps several miles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds himself at the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond in the direction he desires to go rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far as the eye can reach. Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from five to ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting, he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the “divide”, but again only to discover that another and apparently higher divide rises in his front, and at about the same distance. Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles may be journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours.
In fact, thanks to modern speed (80 mph speed limit, baybee!), these “gigantic waves” do seem to chase each other wildly. I’ve been on the Plains before, mostly in Illinois and Iowa. I’ve driven between Omaha and Lincoln. Because I flew in and out of Denver on this trip, I got a chunk of Northern Colorado, too. But it was only once I got into Wyoming, especially north of Cheyenne, that I really got the full effect, most of these other areas being either urbanized or else thoroughly tamed farmland. It was absolutely humbling – wave after wave after wave of land, all under an enormous sky. However, it was not all plain sailing, because these hills are also broken up by a succession of creeks and rivers.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
For those two or three of you who still gather over the decanter on a regular basis, I just wanted to let you know that I will be away on biznay travel this coming week, arriving back at Port Swiller Manor some time Friday afternoon. (Eastern Wyoming this time, in case you’re interested, an area I’ve never visited. My plan is to fly into Denver and drive up so that I can see a bit of the country.)
A few months back, Ol’ Robbo’s employer took away his Blackberry and wished on him an iPhone. Although I generally hate change, and although I particularly hate the zombie-like stare that seems to come over so many iPhone users, it occurs to me that at least said iPhone has a camera, and that there’s really no good reason I perhaps can’t take some snaps on it and post them here. (Teh Middle Gel promised to show me how.)
So start looking out next weekend for some pics. I ‘ll see what I can do.
In the meantime, as always the port stands before you along with the walnuts and, as always, the Stilton is on the sideboard. Feel free to tuck in.
UPDATE: Wake the kids and phone the neighbors, ol’ Robbo has arrived home safe and sound. And yes, I did take some pics and yes, I will put up a post this weekend incorporating them. (Not that I’ve been exactly inundated with requests, but I put nearly 700 miles on the rental car this week traveling about terra incognita, so you’ll get Uncle Robbo’s slideshow, and you’ll like it!)
In the meantime, a couple travel notes: I find that my irrational fear of flying grows steadily weaker for some reason. Alas, all that brain capacity freed up now finds itself contemplating the more mundane hardships of commercial aviation, the crowds, the petty indignities, the endless blaring of CNN. I’m not sure if the trade-off is worth it.
Coming back this afternoon, the fellah sitting next to me – who I gathered was from abroad – tried to give the stewardess his cup and napkin, inadvertently putting them in the wrong bag. “We recycle,” she snapped. “Some people don’t….but we do.”
After she passed, I let out a snort. The fellah turned to me and shrugged.
“Let that be a lesson to you, young man,” I said, waiving my pen ponderously.
He shrugged again and muttered, “Nobody has ever been that rude to me here.”
Friendly Skies, indeed.
Oh, and on a more serious note, because I avoid CNN and USEless Today, I only got some of the details of the Marine massacre in Tennessee this afternoon. God help the victims and their families. One question: Has anyone checked to see if the shooter had a Confederate flag?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers! A few odds and ends on this stormy, Nats rained out, evening, for your consideration:
♦ Ol’ Robbo continues to believe that Social Media is the new young god on the political scene these days: swaying Low Information Voters, stampeding Big Biznay and scaring the absolute shite out of the politicos. Unfortunately, it’s also a petulant, spoiled, adolescent god with a massive Narcissist complex, an absentee father, a mother driven to bribe it for faux-affection, and an agenda that amounts to showing them all how wrong they were.
God (the real one) help us all.
♦ On these lines, I recently looked into purchasing a complete DVD set of The Dukes of Hazzard in protest of the sudden urge to airbrush the Confederate Battle Flag off the top of the General Lee. 250 to 300 bucks? Not bloody likely!
♦ An completely gratuitous note: John Schneider, who played Bo Duke in TDoH:TOS, bought a house in San Antonio originally built by ol’ Robbo’s parents. Yeah, buddy, I and my brother were the guys who first cleared that 2.5 acres of brush and scrub and established the lawn and gardens. You’re welcome.
♦ Also, perhaps more importantly, on these general pre-totalitarian lines, I absolutely love this bumper sticker.
♦ Speaking of new things, are other friends of teh decanter slightly creepified by the new Kentucky Fried Chicken ad campaign featuring a zombie Colonel Sanders? I’m old enough to remember ol’ Harland himself doing said spots. He was gracious and dignified. This new fellah? Snarky, flippant, and, for lack of a better term, icky. Not a good thing. Is there no one in the Sanders family who could step up and do a legacy thing the way Dave Thomas’s daughter did for Wendy’s? (Okay, I confess that I thought the “Wendy” Thomas ad campaign was rayther lame and much prefer the current hot ginger, neo-Dana Delany thing, but that’s a different matter.)
♦ Dana Delany. Be right back.
♦ Modern Times. I was 13 before I took my first commercial jet flight – a fly-fishing trip to Alaska, accompanied by much ballyhoo and bedlam- and also accompanied and heavily monitored by the Old Gentleman. This evening I finally caved in to teh youngest gel’s request to hop a flight some time soon with her best friend to Chicago to visit said friend’s father.
♦ Okay, to finish up, I still love this.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Because his beloved Nationals were early on obviously on the way to defeat this evening, ol’ Robbo popped in his latest Netflix serving, the movie version of The A-Team.
I used to enjoy the original series very much in my misspent yoot. And as much as I hate reboots as a general rule, I also like the more recent movie enough to have seen it multiple times.
As I was watching said movie, teh Eldest wandered into the room. In answer to her questions, I said more or less what I have just written. However, I also pointed out that I’ve never quite got used to the idea of Liam Neeson as Hannibal Smith.
“Wait, what? Why?” she said.
“Well, I don’t know,” I answered, “He just doesn’t seem…tough enough to me.”
“Liam Neeson?” she said, “Are you crazy? Why not?”
“Oh, I dunno, ” I said, “He just seems too…Sensative-Irish to me and only fake-tough, if you know what I mean.”
“No,” she replied, “I don’t. I think Liam is teh awesome.”
“Fine,” I said, “But let me tell you two things. First, Liam Neeson is no Aslan. Second, George Peppard could have beaten the living bayjaysus out of Neeson without even putting out his cigar. So there.”
She walked off, shaking her head and muttering.
I don’t care. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo’s “Independence Day” weekend this year was capped off by an impromptu BBQ at Port Swiller Manor yesterday afternoon. As I laid out the ingredients of said BBQ – which consisted of dogs and burgers – teh Eldest Gel ( a confirmed carnivore, much to my satisfaction) asked, “Dad! Why can’t you cook a hotdog wrapped in bacon?”
Why, indeed. This wants looking into….
More generally, said Gel is passionately fond of ribs. I often have thought of doing some up for her (the raw materials can be obtained easily enough from teh butcher shop at the local Gourmet Giant – pronounced “Ger-may Gee-yaunt”), but I am mostly a steak and burger guy and don’t know jack about smoking, much less baby-back sauce prep. Any suggestions/comments/pointers would be accepted most gratefully.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo will be away tomorrow retrieving the younger gels from camp and probably will not have much time for posting over the holiday weekend, so let me go ahead and wish you all a happy 4th of July here and now.
Unfortunately, I must say that I cannot recall another 4th in my half century on this earth when I did not feel more anger, disgust, and fear about the state and direction of our country than I do now. We’re despised by our allies and laughed at by our enemies. At home, we’ve slipped into what amounts to soft fascism and rampant social libertinism, all the while floating our “lifestyle” with money that doesn’t actually exist. 21st Century bread and circuses, indeed.
Of course it can’t go on because both math and the gods of teh copybook headings are hard. My only hope is that when the crisis comes on (and it will), we remember what we came from and will rebuild accordingly.
In the meantime, fire up your grills, grab your favorite adult beverages, pop a few (real) fireworks, and salute the flag, not for what it represents now but for what it has stood for and can stand for again.
UPDATE: Sorry to be such a grump, especially after I had counseled my own brother (a Ditto-Head of long standing) against despair.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I mentioned the monsoon that struck the Port Swiller Manor neighborhood the other day? Well, turns out it flooded Eldest Gel’s room down the basement fairly thoroughly. It also got into the main room of the basement, buckling a section of floor near the teevee.
Sigh. Regular friends of the decanter may recall that exactly the same damned thing happened last summah, and that ol’ Robbo spent considerable time and money getting the basement redone, including what was supposed to be a thorough waterproofing of the walls. (Pro tip: Do not put in Pergo where there is any danger of water seepage. Once the moisture gets under it, you’re doomed. I should have considered this, but I was so confidently informed by the contractor that the basement had been completely sealed that I ignored the danger.)
Well, as Ray Davies sang, here we go round again. The contractors were back out today ripping up the ruined Pergo and starting to dig holes in the walls to find the leaks.
This time we’re looking at putting in wood-like porcelain tile (something I did not even know existed) on the theory that even if it does get wet, it doesn’t matter very much. I believe this stuff is somewhat more expensive than Pergo, which leads to a delicate point: Clearly the latest damage was caused by the contractor not doing a proper job last summah, and I don’t think they’re going to squawk too much about covering the repairs. However, if we are effectively upgrading, who covers that additional cost?
It is here that I shamelessly turn the whole thing over to Mrs. R. Despite the fact that I’m a lawyer, I really hate to dicker about personal matters. Mrs. R, on the other hand, seems to enjoy it. That’s why I have come to leave all such matters – buying cars, negotiating home projects, etc. – in her capable hands.
UPDATE: Good news, every Juan! Turns out that the gel’s bedroom leak was the result of an overlooked pipe and easily fixable. The other leak was caused by a genuine new crack, but is fixable by a little judicious landscaping and drainage modification. Given this, we’ve decided to stick with the Pergo. Whole biznay much cheaper than I first feared.