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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just done mowing the yard here at Port Swiller Manor and wondering how many more times this year I’ll need to do so.  Twice at the most, I reckon.  At the moment, there’s a large flock of robins out back going over the trimmings.  We generally have a few hanging around all year, but I think this is probably a migratory bunch on their way from hither to yon.  Certainly the hummingbirds seem to have packed up and left.

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo’s lawn-mowing turned out to be a Sunday chore this week because we spent most of yesterday visiting my godparents, who live about an hour away from us.  Uncle and I had a long talk about the Mothe – he’d known her nearly 60 years – and I’ve been feeling a good deal better since.

Meanwhile, on a completely random note, for some mysterious reason the shopping cart I was pushing around the store today in search of this evening’s din-din components kept building up a static charge:  I could feel my hair pringling and got my fingers zapped every time they moved off the plastic bar onto the bare metal.  Very strange.  Perhaps Black Lectroids were trying to contact me?  That would explain the voice in my head that keeps saying, “Hallo! Mah nem is Jon Pahrker!”

In the World of Baseball, congratulations to the Astros for holding off the Yankees in the ALCS.  I don’t think a Yankees/Dodgers series would have appealed to many folks outside their respective markets, but I imagine now the ‘Stros will be the favorites of the rest of the country.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Five o’clock and time for a glass of sherry!

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope friends of the decanter will indulge Ol’ Robbo in a little bit of Proud Dad bragging?  You will? A glass of wine with you!

Well, the big news is that Middle Gel this weekend successfully auditioned for the All-State Senior Honors Choir, a pretty durn big deal in high school choral circles, and well worth the “Honors” part of its title.  Competition for membership, as I understand it, is quite fierce.

The Gel hadn’t been overly happy with her audition, and really wasn’t expecting to get in.  When she found out the results this morning and called me, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sound so surprised by joy.

Well done, indeed!

On the other hand, Youngest fanned on her second attempt to get her learner’s permit this afternoon.  About this I am again really rayther relieved, especially after an incident Saturday morning when we were at the store.

As we went in, the Gel walked straight into the path of an old duffer coming the opposite direction, apparently without even noticing him.  The fellah had to quickly side-step, and moved off with a black look on his face.  When I chided the Gel about paying attention to where she was going, she said, “Oh, I have issues with situational awareness”.

I gawped.

“And you expect us to let you get behind the wheel of a car?  Do you realize that “situational awareness” is more critical to safe driving than all the DMV rules and regulations ever spawned?  You’d better get over those “issues” P.D.Q., missy.”

She promised to do so, but I could tell she was already thinking about something else.

So now you see why I choose the word “relieved” at learning the news of her swinging strike two.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere a month or two back, Ol’ Robbo noted here his disappointment over the movie King Solomon’s Mines (in which Stewart Granger spent most of the film imitating Marlin Perkins while Deborah Kerr kept losing bits of her costume), but he also noted that said disappointment had decided him to read the original book by H. Rider Haggard.

Well, let’s just say that good can come of bad, because I just got done with the book and I’m here to tell you that it was a thoroughly enjoyable story: exciting, exotic, at times bordering on the absurd, and occasionally quite creepy and gory.  (I’m recalling a reference to Gagool the Witch that I had seen somewhere else.  I hadn’t known till now that this is where she came from.)  And our friend Allan Quatermain turns out to be the sort of phlegmatic, professional, ambivalent pukka sahib who seems to be at the center of nearly all the stories I’ve read by British Empire writers who have spent any real time on the frontiers (think Kipling, for example).

Incidentally, I’ve also been reading a book the Mothe sent on to me some time this past summah called The Zulu At War: The History, Rise, and Fall of the Tribe that Washed Its Spears by Adrian Greaves and Xolani Mkhize.  It’s a real trainwreck of a composition, but from the tangled prose, it’s still pretty clear that Haggard’s mythical tribe of Kukuanaland is based pretty faithfully on the Zulus, with whom he had extensive personal experience when he was Out East himself.

By the bye, I link specifically to the new edition of KSM put out by the Oxford University Press for two reasons.  First, it comes with very informative textual and explanatory notes, although I think you can probably skip the introduction which seems to be about the psychology behind romance writing.  (Who knew Freud and Jung were both HRH fans?) Second, the cover art by A.C. Michael reminds me very much of the work of the great N.C. Wyeth.

So Ol’ Robbo is definitely going to delve further into Haggard’s writing.  (I believe there are numerous Quatermain adventures as well as others.)  I’m also circling back round to Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but NOT Catriona since I learned my lesson about that one last time; some of the other historickal adventures).  I’ve dipped into Conan-Doyle (The White Company, Brigadier Gerard) but I know there’s lots more left unexplored.  I have all of P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion stories but need to explore further there as well.  Kipling, of course.  Finally, yes, dammit, I need to get into John Buchan.  Any suggestions on where to start with him?

UPDATE: Well, I say I’m going to circle back round to RLS, but that’s only if I can find the #@*^&# fellah!  One of Mrs. R’s least endearing practices is her periodic “tidying up” of the Port Swiller Library, usually when she decides I’ve left too many books stacked up on tables or else when she wants to put a new framed photo or whatnot up somewhere.   The trouble is that, in so doing, she’s in the habit of putting books back on the shelves hugger-mugger and all ahoo, with no respect whatsoever for Ol’ Robbo’s careful organization.  (Mr. Dewey ain’t in it, and I don’t need no stinking decimals, neither!)  Result?  Well, at the moment Jim Hawkins and David Balfour have up and disappeared.

I suppose eventually, after much searching, I’ll find one or both of them wedged between Augustine’s Confessions, a Plum Wodehouse novel,  and Atlantic Salmon Fly-Tying Patterns, but I’d just as soon the Missus didn’t mess about with them in the first place.  Grrr…..



Catriona

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, what can I say?  Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals went to Game 5 of the NLDS, and all I got was this lousy hangover!

It was a truly weird and unfortunate season-ender.  Weird because of such things as Mad Max melting down and Wieters getting a catcher interference call and a bat to the head on the same swing.  Unfortunate because, given a whole bunch of different factors, this was probably our best shot for a while.  Also because of all the “Nats still aren’t ready for Prime Time” tisk-tisking out in Baseball Pundit Land which I’m sure we will have to endure.

Sigh.

As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo hadn’t much confidence going into this series in the first place, simply because I didn’t really think the Baseball Gods would allow us to beat both the Odd-Year Curse and the Post-Season Oh-fer at the same time.  What the BG’s giveth, the BG’s taketh away.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo of an anecdote I may have told here before.  As long-time friends of the decanter may recall, Eldest Gel spent 7th and 8th grades in parochial school.  One time while we were chatting with the padre, she decided, in typical 8th Grader fashion, to try and spike Ol’ Robbo.

Father,” she suddenly exclaimed, “My dad says there are Baseball Gods!”

The padre, who is an avid fan himself and also knew exactly what the Gel was trying to do, without batting an eye said, “Of course there are Baseball Gods.”

The look on Eldest’s face at that response?  Priceless.

Anyhoo, there we are.

Going forward? Well, Ol’ Robbo is probably inclined to back the Astros, who I’ve had a feeling for quite some time are likely going to win it all anyway. On the other hand, I’ve no real animus toward either the Cubbies or the Dodgers. (Of course, my loathing of the Yankees goes without saying.)

Double sigh.

What else is there to say, now, except:

Pitchers and catchers report in four months! 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fortunately for Ol’ Robbo’s blood pressure, Game Four of the Nats/Cubs series (with the latter up 2-1) was postponed this evening due to rain.  I didn’t think I could stand to watch had the game gone forward.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes haunted by apprehensions that he isn’t really a very good father, but this postponement gave him some cause for reassurance in at least one respect:  Both of the Younger Gels independently came to him this evening to argue about the merits of sticking with the planned fourth arm in our rotation versus bringing back our ace.  Surely that counts for something, am I right?

Anyhoo, and violently switching subjects:

Ol’ Robbo, as regular friends of the decanter know, is an enormous fan of the author George Macdonald Fraser.  One of Fraser’s books, written in the late 80’s, is The Hollywood History of The World, in which he compares historickal costume dramas with the “reality” of the periods they purport to represent.  The book is split up into seven sections:  The Ancient World; Knights and Barbarians; Tudors and Sea Dogs; Romance and Royalty; Rule Britannia; New World, Old West; and The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo has been re-reading it this week.

I don’t think this is one of GMF’s best works, as it covers an awful lot of ground at what I think is a pretty superficial pace, but it does throw out a delightful lot of references.  So, given an evening’s reprieve from the tortures of October Ball, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of opening up this book to its index and dialing up Netflix in order to toss as many of GMF’s references into his queue as possible.  I’m at 90+ films in reserve now, and am pretty sure this is a record.  (Whoever at the NSA has Ol’ Robbo’s file no doubt will have kittens tomorrow morning as a result.)

You know what? GMF’s movie list stretches back to the early 30’s, but a surprising number of his cites are still available, even if some of them are only in the “save” category, which means that the odds of my seeing them are pretty slim.

On the other hand, some of them, as you might imagine, Ol’ Robbo has seen already, some many times.  But others will be new to me and I will post about them here.

Curiously enough, when I got this idea, I was already working through a patch of WWII historickal films, all of which get a nod from GMF.  Here, then, are some very brief reviews:

Sahara” (1943) – I’ve seen it before, but it stands up very well as a nice, tight, film.  An American tank is cut off from the retreat from Tobruk in 1942 and has to make it’s way across the North African desert alone.  Humphrey Bogart is the tank commander, aided by a young Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, the fellah who played Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester ’73 and who, once, you’ve seen him, you’ll never fail to recognize.  Along the way, they pick up an RAMC medico and a couple of tommies, a Sudanese scout and his Italian prisoner, and a Luftwaffe pilot.  Together, they have to navigate between water holes, and also fend off the German unit coming after them.   Good stuff.

A Walk In The Sun (1945) – I cannot recommend.  It tells the story of an American platoon going ashore in Italy.  Unlike in Sahara, I found the characters to be wooden and clichéd.  The pace may very well have matched actual combat conditions, but it didn’t translate well to the screen.  Oh, and there’s a ballad.  Ol’ Robbo hates ballads.

The Desert Fox” (1951) – I also can’t recommend.  Although James Mason is rightly cast as Erwin Rommel (whom I respect as a principled warrior, by the bye), I think the movie tries to do too much in too little time, short-changing Rommel’s skillfulness in fighting in North Africa, his frustration in trying to hold the Atlantic Wall, and his (questionable) complicity in the attempted assassination of Hitler.

Well, there we are.  Game Four? (Sigh.) Bring it on.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had to spend some time this morning dealing with Amex’s customer service.  The first part was fighting my way past the automated “Alex” (or whatever her name is) customer service drone in order to hook up with a real person.  The second part included, among other things, arguing to someone in India that, yes, Mrs. Robbo was supposed to have full administrative rights and privileges to Ol’ Robbo’s little green card, thank you very much.

Grrrrr…..

Thinking about it, though, the positive side occurred to me:  How blessed am I that have a wife in whom I can so completely and confidently trust with such powers.  That she is the CFO of the Port Swiller Family is a comfort to me, not a concern.

Just saying.  From what I gather, this is not the case with many other couples in these wretched times.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Youngest Gel (yes, Youngest) foozled her first try at getting a learner’s permit this morning.  Apparently, as she had feared, she started over-thinking the questions on the test, changed at least one right answer to a wrong one, and thus failed.

She’s pretty upset, as you might imagine.  But after all, disappointment is character-building.  So she’s got that going for her.

As for me? Well, don’t tell her I said so (yes, I’m looking at you, Middle Gel), but I’m actually rather relieved.  For some reason, Ol’ Robbo is somewhat antsier at the idea of Youngest behind the wheel than he was with her elder sisters, most likely because it still seems to me only yesterday that she was sitting in her high-chair with spaghetti sauce all over her face.

Thinking about that, I was once again reminded of the classic Basil Fawlty self-dialogue:  “Zhoom!  What was that? That was your life, mate.  Oh, that’s nice…do I get another? Sorry, mate.”

Anyhoo, I gather she’ll be eligible to take another crack at it in two weeks.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy autumnal equinox!

Ironically, while the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor received its first blast of fall coolness in mid-August (three or four weeks early, in fact), we’re back up to more summah-like temperatures this weekend.

Go figure.

Speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo was intensely amused this week to see, via Ace, an article from Pravda on the Potomac admitting that the “science” behind Glowball Enwarmening is, well, maybe not quite so “settled” after all:

The new research, thus, seems to potentially empower a critique of climate science that has often been leveled by skeptics, doubters and “lukewarmers” who argue that warming is shaping up to be less than climate models have predicted…
Overall, the dispute raises questions about how widely the carbon-budget concept has proliferated — and just how much we actually understand it.
“It goes to show, this carbon-budget approach is still much more, let’s say, immature scientifically than what we often assume,” [Center for International Climate Research’s Glen] Peters said.

“Immature”?  You misspelled “fraudulent”.  This has never been about science, but always, always, about politics and inventing justifications for centralizing authoritarian power.

The back of my hand to it.

Anyhoo, Mrs. Robbo bought me a power washer this week and I intend to take advantage of the balmy weather tomorrow to use it on, well, anything that comes within range, I suppose.

Including Mrs. Robbo.

[Insert malevolent cackling here]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Remember that scene in Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks takes a near-miss shell hit on the beach on D-Day?  He looks around for a bit, stunned and detached, while everything seems distorted and slowed down.  Then the camera starts jiggling around, there’s an aural sensation of revving up, and suddenly he’s back in the here and now.

I just realized that I have been going through something of the same thing since the Mothe died, carrying on in a state of shock for several weeks and only coming back into the here and now within the past couple days.  (Propelled, I don’t doubt, in part by the medical adventure described below.  Let that one sink in.)  I’m still sad, of course, but now I feel it’s all under control and I can function normally again.

Is this how it’s supposed to work?

Anyhoo, I think I can now say that I’m back.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo posting a couple months ago about going in for an initial consultation for his first colonoscopy?  Whelp, yesterday I actually went through with it.

As Mal Reynolds would say, “Huh.”

As far as the prep work went, it really must have been a lot more awful back in the day because, despite the traditional hype, to me the whole biznay turned out to be a big nothing-burger.  I was expecting vile-tasting concoctions, nausea, cramps, and the like.  But the “EZ-2-GO” kit (no, I’m not making that up) was nothing but tasteless powders easily masked by Gator-Aid.  And while they certainly threw the bilge pumps into overdrive, which after all was the whole point, I suffered no other adverse symptoms.  And on the bright side, confined to the throne most of the afternoon and evening, I got a lot of reading done.

No, the really awful part of the prep to me was the fasting.  Ol’ Robbo found himself starving by mid-afternoon, and so hungry the night before that I could hardly sleep.  And as for the lack of coffee and wine? Just don’t even ask.

(By the bye, I understand that this kind of purging is a Thing among Left Coast and Hollywood types, as they think it provides some kind of physical and spiritual health benefit.  My G/I guy openly sneered at the idea.)

As far as the actual dance went, Ol’ Robbo’s greatest concern going into it, believe it or not, was having to put on the Gown of Shame.  A few years back, I had an endoscopy done at one of the local hospitals.  The ward was something like a stockyard, with G/I patients all over the place and bad moons rising all around.  Being a very modest fellah, I really didn’t want that.

Fortunately, this time I went to a practice that does all its procedures in-house.  They were more than respectful, and had a carefully-choreographed system whereby patients were moved about one at a time and strategic blankets were provided to keep one covered up until the moment the fun began.

And then there was the Nap.  Mmmmmm……the Nap.  Now that’s something that lives up to its hype.  “We go night-night now?” I asked the gas-passer.  “We go night-night now,” she said.  Deep, deep down in an instant, gradually rising to some pleasant but unrecoverable dream and then suddenly finding myself somewhat bewildered in a recovery bay with the G/I guy and gas-passer smiling down at me.

As for the recovery itself, reverting back to my prior hospital experience, I was expecting the “what’s your hurry/here’s your hat” treatment, but again I was pleasantly surprised.  In fact, I snapped out of it pretty quickly, but when I said I was good to go, they actually held me back a bit to be doubly sure.

Oh, and I’m fine.  They snipped out two or three baby polyps that they’re going to check, of course, but the doc seems quite unconcerned.  He says I don’t need to go back for another five years.

And about that gnawing hunger? I demanded that Mrs. R immediately take me to the nearest Chick-Fil-A, where I snarfed down a Hate Sammich, Hate Shake, and large order of Fries of Intolerance in nothing flat.  Mmmmm…..

The one last thing is that the post-recovery instructions said no alcohol for the rest of the day.  “Be damned to that,” I said to myself. “After what you just did, if you’re not going to buy me dinner, at least I’m going to buy myself a drink!”

** Obligatory title.

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