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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 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!

Re an item in the post immediately below, no fencing for Port Swiller Manor today after all:  It’s been raining steadily since last night, sometimes quite heavily.  (In fact, looking at the radar, it appears the last big burst of the storm is going to hit us in a little while.)

I had been thinking before today’s monsoon struck that this might have been a good weekend to cut back the forsythia.  Some years ago, I would have sallied forth to do so regardless of the weather.  More recently, I would have refrained but fumed about it all day.  Now?  I simply said meh and have spent most of the day reading Evelyn Waugh.

Progress, I like to think.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo left this morning to go visit her parents for a couple days, teh younger gels are off at summah camp and I hardly ever see the eldest anymore, so this weekend is effectively just your host and his menagerie.  Woo Hoo!

♦   Thanks to what was a pretty strong consensus here, I ordered a new set of headphones for my musickal evenings this morning.  Thankee muchly for your recommendations.  It only took me two months to get around to it.  Procrastinate we much?

♦    Speaking of electronics, I find myself hating smartphones more and more.   I especially despise the zombie-like way everyone seems to stare at them, oblivious to their surroundings.

♦    I see where Phil Austin, who played Nick Danger for Firesign Theater, died this week.  My college roommate first put me on to these guys and I wound up buying a couple of their albums.  True, it’s dirty hippy stream-of-consciousness drug humor, but it was still pretty durn funny.  (I say “was” because I had cassette tapes, now long gone, and it must be close to twenty years since I last listened to them.)

♦  I also see where the Vegas odds-makers are betting Robbo’s beloved Nationals are going to win it all this year.   I dunno, but since we just got done sweeping both the Bucs and the Braves, I’m starting to get excited.  [Insert obligatory “Great kid, but don’t get cocky” here.]  We’re supposed to start a series against the despicable Phillies this evening, but I don’t know if the weather is going to cooperate.

♦  Fence guy is coming tomorrow to slap up some wire on the fence in the Port Swiller backyard, thereby allowing us to literally let Daisy off the leash on occasion (under supervision, of course, in case she proves a digger).  We decided against the whole Invisible Fence thing because of the price and the complexity and because I’m unwilling to try training her on it when she’s already so skittish around me.  The squirrels and the woodchucks are in for a nasty surprise.

♦   Speaking of the back yard, ol’ Robbo demonstrated his apparent genius for stumbling across yellow jacket nests yet again the other evening.  I was throwing up a tarp against a corner of the house where we think water is getting into the basement again and thumped down a paving stone literally within two inches of one of their burrows.  Fortunately, a storm was rolling in and it was already quite dark, so even though I disturbed them, they only came out sluggishly and I got away without being stung this time.

Well, also speaking of the back yard, time to go mow it before the rain rolls in.  Whatever terrible nooz comes out today, I’m not going to let it ruin things for me.  Don’t you let it, either.

UPDATE: Done and done.  Everything’s mown, trimmed and blown so it can rain now ’til its eyes bubble for all I care.  And, Eldest Gel, who has been working all week at her church’s vacation bible school, is bringing me home an egg, cheese and bagel sammich.  FTW!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the area around Port Swiller Manor has been under the dreaded “orange” air-quality alert the last few days – highs in the 90’s, heavy humidity, Lady Summah giving of her early best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

♦   Yesterday afternoon, caught up in the ebullience of having got my hair cut and my oil changed (finally), I decided to get a hop on the weekend’s chores by going out and mowing the yard.  Yeah, maybe not such a good idea.  By the time I was done, my muscles were cramping up and I was feeling woozy.  When I woke up this morning, I at first had the odd idea that there was a small bale of hay stuck in my throat.  Evidently, I am not 30 anymore.

♦   We put up a couple of fuchsias in hanging baskets on the porch this year, just by way of variety.  For those of you who have not dealt with them before, I’m here to tell you that they take a whoooole lot of watering.  I’m not so sure I’d bother with them again.

♦    Saw a hummingbird zipping about last evening, so this afternoon I put up a feeder to see if I could get the little blighter to stick around.  Mucking about for something by which to hang it, I came across some chain from an old flower basket that must have been sitting in the back of its cabinet for a good ten years or so.  This reaffirms one of ol’ Robbo’s rules:  Never, ever throw anything away unless you absolutely have to.

♦  We have a lot of goldfinch around here and I have always set out a second feeder full of Wagner’s nyjer seed for them.  At peak times, it’s not at all uncommon to see ten or a dozen goldfinch flitting about the feeder.  However, a few weeks ago I had to substitute a generic thistle seed.  The result was that the birds promptly vanished.  After letting the substitute thistle sit around for a while, I recently went back to the Wagner’s.  The birds were back in within a day or two.  I guess they really like the stuff.

♦  And last, I finally got around to reseeding a bare patch of about 450 square feet in the back yard.  I dutifully spread potting soil, seed and fertilizer and covered it all up with straw (which, by the way, you can actually order from the devil’s website).  Of course, within 48 hours we had a torrential downpour, which carved large channels through the newly-seeded patch (which sits on a gentle slope).  The new grass is actually beginning to spring up (I seeded it a week ago), but the area is taking on the look of an archipelago.  I suppose the only thing to do is to let the surviving patches establish themselves, while having another go at the bare spots as they are defined.  Or just go with sod and be done with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo hasn’t much postie material to work with this evening.  Historickally speaking, particularly for Royal Navy sharks, this is the anniversary both of the Glorious First of June in 1794 and of the celebrated frigate action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon in 1813, but I’ve done those before and am not feeling ready to recycle them.

In re current events, much of today’s nooz cycle was taken up with the Supremes’ decision in the case of the Muslim gel who was denied a job at Abercrombie because of her head-scarf.  Alas, although I have a very deep professional interest in that decision, I can’t possibly talk about it here.  (And my opinion might not be what you think.)

Additionally, the ball game scheduled for this evening between Robbo’s beloved Nats and the Blue Jays of Toronto was postponed due to the monsoon-like conditions that descended on the Dee Cee area this evening and resulted in a right drenching on my commute home.

HOWEVER, for the benefit of those of you stationed about the decanter, now that a dog has joined the strength of the Port Swiller Manor establishment, I have a terrific, automatic fallback whenever I need something about which to write.  I mean, who doesn’t like posts about dogs, amirite?

DaisyAnyhoo, an update about our dear Daisy, who really is a complete sweetheart.

First, she went to the vet this week for a check-up.  The vet thinks she’s actually younger than the seven years we were told by the rescue people.  Perhaps five or six.  Teeth good, ears good, eyes good, heart and lungs good, she’s in fine shape.

Second, she definitely has warmed up to me.  Indeed, I spent much of this evening rereading my McAuslan with Daisy flopped out on my lap.  I don’t know her actual weight but I would guess it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 lbs.  Thus, she’s on the heavy, but still plausible, end of lap-dogdom.  She certainly thinks so at any rate.

Third, from our walks together I have noticed that she has an interest in and  hatred of Jacobin squirrels that would receive the stamp of approval from Jonah Goldberg’s late, lamented Cosmo.  One needs to be careful to keep a firm grip on the leash whenever she gets the idea that these secular-Utopianist tree-rats might be in the immediate area.

Fourth, speaking of walks, in my yoot in the South Texas exurbs, the idea of picking up one’s dog’s, er, output would have been met with howls of derisive laughter.  (Of course, we didn’t really “walk” our dogs.  Our yard was a couple acres and they mostly did their biznay along the tree-line at the edge.  When they dropped closer in, well, you just remembered it and avoided the spot until Ma Nature had disposed of it.)  I have not yet got used to this task.

Fifth, the other morning I had my first dog-walking social encounter, spending ten minute chatting with a complete stranger as our pooches got to know each other.  I can well see why college boys keep dogs when they can.

Sixth, I am delighted at the way Mrs. R and Daisy have come together.  The whole reason I have been without doggy companionship since the early 90’s is that Mrs. Robbo insisted she was not a “dog person”.  Daisy has, I think, been an eye-opener for her.  Granted, starting from scratch with a puppy is a whole different ball-game, but I already can see that this “starter dog” biznay, i.e., dealing with one that has already been broken in, was the right initial step.

Either ol’ Robbo is getting more efficient in his yard work or else I’ve finally moved the goalposts sufficiently, but I find that I’m getting a heck of a lot done out in the grounds of Port Swiller Manor this year.  Here it is the end of May and I’ve got the garden thoroughly under control weed-wise and the lawn up to date, with time left over to get at some other projects that have hung fire for a while.

One of these is the lone pine tree in a yard otherwise given over to a fringe of maple and oak.  It’s something between fifty and sixty feet tall and has been the source of greens for my Advent and Christmas table wreaths for years.

Two or three years back, however, I noticed that the lower limbs of the thing were starting to look aged and worn out, losing their needles and starting to die off.  I don’t know if this is just a thing with pine trees, whether the ivy that was starting to work its way up the trunk was somehow choking them off, or if some other ailment was involved.

This weekend, deciding that the thing was getting decidedly ratty in the knickers, I determined to go out and do something about cleaning it up.  So I pulled out my trusty little hand saw and, starting low, proceeded to start lopping off dead limbs.  (I also yanked the ivy, just in case.)  For each, I left a short stump protruding from the trunk, in part because the diameters were a bit smaller several inches out and I’m not as young as I used to be, and in part because I recognized that they would make an excellent ladder by which to get myself to the ones higher up.  The top dead branches were maybe twelve to fifteen feet above the ground.

Now I must sidestep here for just a second.  For those of you who don’t know, ol’ Robbo’s chief physical defect is his very bad eyesight.  (We’ve no space to go into his mental defects here, which are Legion, and anyway they’re beside the point.)  I’ve worn corrective lenses since third grade.  My sight is so feeble now that my fingers go blurry five inches from my face.   Things farther than a few feet away are mere colored blobs.  It’s that bad.

Normally, I wear contacts.  But on the weekends, unless I’m corralled into some kind of social event or off to Mass, I usually give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses.  Despite all the sooper-modern lens-thinning technology, these are right coke bottle bottoms.  If they’d have been made the old-fashioned way, they’d probably break the bridge of my nose.

So any road, there I was, about fifteen feet up the tree, busily sawing away at a limb with one hand while clinging to another with the other hand, when my glasses, spotting an opportunity, decided to make a bolt for it and fell off my face.

Whoops.

I’ve had them fall off before, of course, but never in a situation quite like this one.  It’s wonderfully humbling, a gentle reminder of how frail and fragile we really are.

As I slowly made my way down, largely by the Braille method, all sorts of thoughts about Ma Nature’s ways of dealing with the old, the hurt and the sick wandered through my brain.  I had visions of being easy meat for a velociraptor or a sabre-toothed tiger, an Iroquois scalp-hunter or a mugger.  And this was just in a suburban yard.  I can’t imagine what it would have felt like had I been in some inner-city hell hole or on a cliff-face or in the middle of the Serengeti or at sea.

Anyhoo, I eventually got myself down in one piece and, after scrabbling about in the undergrowth for a bit, found the damned things.  Slapping them back on, I quickly looked round to make sure there were no inbound red toothes or claws and then got on with the job.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo had been gassing all winter about some jasmine he put in last summah and whether it would survive AlGore’s Global Freezing.  Said friends will further recall that ol’ Robbo pronounced said jasmine dead and, a couple weeks ago, pulled it out and replaced it with wisteria (which is now sprouting like weeds, BTB).

Well, friends, I must here own up that I was not completely forthright about all this.  You see,  although it was quite clear that from the ground up said jasmine were completely dead, when I actually went to pull up the first of them I was disturbed to see that its roots, which were longer and deeper than I’d imagined, didn’t really seem so.  They weren’t dried.  They weren’t withered.  In fact, they seemed rayther supple.

Truth be told, I was strongly tempted to put the thing back where I had found it.

However, the wisteria had already been bought.  Further, I didn’t want to spend another month agonizing over probably-dead plants.  So gritting my teeth, I yanked out the jasmine.

All except one, that is, because I wanted to see what would happen and whether I was right or wrong in my initial diagnosis.

Well, you can see where this is going.  Yesterday, I noticed a pair of new leaves on the thing.  D’OH!

I generally dislike the idiot savant character in book and film, but Chauncey Gardner is right.  “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

I was clever in one respect, however.  The plant that I saved was one of two on a double-wide section of lattice.  So it will grow up next to (and perhaps tangled with) one of the wisteria.  I’ve no problem with that.

 

 

Sat out on the porch this evening to watch the lightning flicker around the northern horizon and to listen to the frogs.  I hadn’t been there more than a few moments when I spotted my first couple fireflies of the season noodling about against the tree line.  It’ll be another week or two before they’re going all out, but as I say, shiny!

O’ Robbo loves fireflies, especially when associated with summah lightning.  Indeed, one of my fondest memories is of an evening back in the summah of 1989.  It was after my first year of law school and I was working on the Hill and staying with my godparents outside of Fredericksburg, Virginny.  Now, Fred-Vegas (as we insiders call it) gets hammered something fierce by thunderstorms during the warmer months, and is particularly susceptible to lightning ground-strikes.  Somebody once told me this has something to do with the high iron content of the soil in the immediate area.  I don’t know if I believe this, but I do know from years of observation that they catch it pretty hard there.

Anyhoo, one evening in this summah of ’89, we had a typical Fred-Vegas pounding – 45 minutes or so of the Apocalypse followed by a sudden hush as the storm rolled east.  For some reason, I had to go outside just after it had passed.  The air was still very warm and soggy, there was an absolute hush all around, lightning still flickered in the distance….and the hedge that bordered the back driveway was absolutely covered in fireflies.   I’m talking Christmas tree light concentration.

I just stood there for a few moments, taking it all in.  In my fancy, I almost thought I could hear a faint pah! pah! as the fireflies did their stuff.

Shiny, indeed.

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