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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth, and that you didn’t have to pay for it too badly when you woke up yesterday morning.

For myself, Ol’ Robbo had to roll out of bed at Oh-dark-thirty in order to get on the road first thing to fetch Youngest Gel from Summah Camp. (It’s about a three hour drive from Port Swiller Manor and I have always had a morbid fear and hatred of possibly being late for all the closing awards ceremonies and whatnot.  Punctuality is one of my neurotic obsessions.)  What with very light traffic yesterday, however, I wound up getting there wicked early, but there’s no harm in that.

As regular friends of the decanter know, this camp has been an annual ritual for the Family Robbo for quite a long time.  This was Youngest’s tenth year as a camper and our twelfth year there overall.  It occurred to me that for all I’ve talked about it here, I don’t believe I’ve ever employed visual aids before.  Since I happened to have my phone with me, a couple of illustrations.

First the lake.  (Clicky to enlarge.)

This is Lake Quemahoning (sensibly shortened to “the Que”)  up in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Pennsylvania. The camp is on a little promontory on the northwest side, and the lake curves on out of view to the right.  Back to the left, it goes on for quite a way.  

Then the cabins.

Two-story wooden affairs with indoor plumbing and electricity but only screen windows.  (Frankly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in one of those things when one of the many, many thunderstorms that seem to cook up right over the lake itself strikes.)  This is the girls’ side.  The boys’ cabins are on the other side of camp and don’t have as nice a view of the lake, I believe.

For the rest of it, there’s a big, screened dining hall, a covered basketball court cum assembly area with rafters full of barn swallows, a few admin buildings, and a campus covered with sports fields, a pool, zip-lines and ropes courses, and such.  The lake is heavily employed for various water sports, and the kids also do field trips out into the surrounding countryside for rock-climbing, caving, white-water rafting, and the like.

Three things about the place make it almost unique these days.  First, it is unabashedly Christian in every single aspect of its program. Second, no electronics – the only communication with the outside world is through cards and letters.  Third, it takes campers all the way up through the summer after their high school graduation.

As a rising senior, Youngest technically could camp for one more year.  But as we drove away yesterday, she said, “I’m done.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because we had such a good time this term and so many of my cabin mates aren’t coming back that I don’t want to ruin the memory.  I’d feel too old and out of place if I got put in a cabin with younger girls next year.  It just wouldn’t be the same.”

I had sensed something like this was coming.  It had been pretty obvious to me, when we went to their final cabin meeting, that a lot of the girls (including the two counselors) had been crying, and the whole atmosphere was heavy with a distinct end-of-an-era feel.  It’s terribly bittersweet, and given the intimacy of the group (a dozen gels who’d all been together last year and most of whom had been there for many years previously as well), as intense or even more so in its way than, say, leaving high school.  Ol’ Robbo found himself getting a bit misty-eyed in sympathy.

For all that, I’m pretty sure she made the right call.

The good news is that we may not be campers there anymore, we haven’t yet severed our connections with the place.  Ol’ Robbo will be driving Youngest back in August when she will be doing a term on the kitchen crew.  (No way am I going to let her drive up into the Alleghanies all by herself.  No. Way.)  Further, she and some of her cabin mates are talking about coordinating a term on the crew next summah.  Indeed, she’s even begun talking again about possibly returning as a counselor (as has Middle Gel).

So I certainly haven’t seen the last of the place yet, which is fine by me since, despite my gentle ragging over the years, I really, really like it.  And is it too early to start daydreaming about some day down the road maybe seeing grandchildren there?

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo woke up this morning and said to himself the devil with the yard this week.  Apart from a little watering, there’s nothing that absolutely demands my immediate attention, the lawn will do for now, and the weeds in the garden remain reasonably at bay.

Furthermore, next weekend the annual Port Swiller Family summah cycle kicks in with the transportation of Youngest Gel to Bible-thumper camp.  For the six weeks following that there will be various comings, goings, and projects (including this year a life-altering office move, about which more later), and then hey, presto! suddenly it’ll be time to start getting Gels off to school again.

I reckon a Saturday in the hammock with a tall, cold glass and a good book before taking the plunge is worthwhile.  Even Mrs. R said it was a good idea.

UPDATE:  The cry goes ’round the decanter, “What book, Tom?”

Well, it’s Flash For Freedom today.  Yes, Ol’ Robbo is indulging himself again in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers for about the eleventy-billionth time.  I never seem to get tired of them.

Over the years I’ve become convinced that GMF appropriated Flashy from Tom Brown’s School Days and gave him a long career of lying, cheating, stealing, womanizing, and putting a bluff front on his inner cowardice so that he, the author, could indulge himself in Victorian history, particularly Imperial military history.  Flash’s antics are the hook that sells the books, but I think GMF’s real pleasure was indulging in all the research and sneaking history lessons into his stories.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s ambitions is to eventually collect all the original sources cited in the Flashman Papers.  (I’ve already got some of them, including materials on James Brooke’s campaigns against Borneo pirates, and early explorations of the American Southwest.)  Another is to piece together a satisfying story of Flashy’s involvement in the American Civil War: the Papers are strewn with hints and asides about it, but GMF never, alas, put them all together.  (Ol’ Robbo is in a Flashy appreciation group on FacePlant and we like to spit-ball about this every now and again.)

Anyway, ho for the hammock!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo tried to start several different posts on various topics this evening and couldn’t seem to get any of them to fire.   One was about how staggeringly beautiful Melania Trump is, one was about a kerfluffle at a local mega-church, and one was about the dynamics of having all three Gels home for a few days, a thing that has become something of a rarity now that the older two are off at school.  All interesting topics, I should think, but the words just wouldn’t come.

Hrrrrmmm……

Ol’ Robbo is quite used to sailing into the compositional doldrums come summah, but none of the usual factors seems to be at play here.  The weather has been pretty cool and I’m not yet suffering my chronic heat exhaustion brought on by commuting in a jeep with no A/C.  I’ve no major distractions or troubles at the moment.  I’m perhaps more aware than usual of the dangers relevant to my professional standing from hitting the wrong hot-button topics, but while I often have to bite my tongue about those, this doesn’t usually prevent me from blathering about other things.   No, it seems I’ve just got the Block.

Heigh-ho.  It happens.

Whelp, Time the Great Healer, and all that.  Rayther than waste any more of your valuable time on it, I’m instead going to go watch “Lost Horizon” (1937) which turned up in my Netflix queue today.  I first saw this film some time in my early teens, and I think it was the first Civilized Westerner meets Exotic East adventure tale to really fire up my imagination, and to eventually lead me to authors such as Rider Haggard, P.C. Wren, Anthony Hope, R.L. Stevenson, C.S. Forester, and, of course, Kipling.  And yes, I read the James Hilton novel on which the movie is based not all that long ago and enjoyed it, too.

Maybe a little escapism will do the trick, eh?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How about a quarter of unconnected thoughts to start the week?

Firstest:  Despite the fact that it was cold and rainy in Your Nation’s Capital today, Ol’ Robbo went out for his usual lunchtime walk round the National Mall.  And as I trudged along, I was accosted by a nice-looking young woman -evidently from her accent a tourist from either the Caribbean or Africa – who wanted to know where the “Mall” was.  When I swept my arms around and said, “This is it”, she got a dumbfounded look on her face which I immediately knew meant she had been expecting a shopping mall.  This very same thing happened to me a year or two ago and at that time I was too surprised to respond tactfully.  This time, however, I kept my wits and said, “No, there aren’t any regular stores, but all the museums have nice gift shops.”  She seemed pleased.

Also, as I rounded the reflecting pool in front of the Grant Memorial, I noticed the air was full of swallows buzzing back and forth over the water in search of flying yummies.  I always love seeing this, as I also do the new hatches of Mallard chicks paddling to and fro across the pool’s surface.  Alas, this is my last spring to indulge this before my office moves away.  Gonna miss it.

Segundo:  Ol’ Robbo is very pleased that the two Elder Gels have gainful and interesting employment this summah.  Eldest started today working at Wolf Trap – she’s helping with set-up at first and will work concessions once the season starts –  and seems quite excited.  This sort of thing is right up her alley, combining the Arts with Hospitality (to which she’s always been drawn), and the more I ponder it, the more I wonder if this summah might not lay the ground-work for a future employment track.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, MIddle Gel is in the midst of an intense May-mester stats course, but when she’s done she intends to stay down in the Tidewater working for a dive-outfitter.  (She fell in love with scuba this year.  Also, boyfriend is down there.)  She’ll get paid to work in the store, but she also has a three-year internship for which she doesn’t get paid, but gets her dive-certification fees (which are hefty, so I gather) waived.  (As part of this, she’ll be going down to the Keys at some point this summah to help the outfitter conduct a dive for some clients.)  When she’s done, as I understand it, she will have gained her professional dive certificate, which she plans to parlay into graduate work and an eventual career possibly in marine biology.  (This is not a far-fetched idea at all.  Sistah’s hubby is in the field and is very enthusiastic about the opportunities for bright young ladies coming up.)

We’re not requiring Youngest to get a steady job this year, as she’s got a month’s worth of Bible Thumper Camp plus the college tour.  She herself said just yesterday, however, that she really needs to earn some money.  Musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.  I suggested she go with babysitting: Not only is it flexible, a responsible kid in these parts can make a killing in sweet, sweet, non-reportable cash payments.

Trois:  Regular Friends of the Decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo’s mention of his genealogy-obsessed cousin who regularly offers up new and intriguing bits of family lore?  (I believe the last time I mentioned her here was in connection with her news that one branch of the Family had been present on the Virginny Frontier in Colonial times and had suffered losses in Shawnee attacks on Kerr’s Creek in 1759 and 1763.)  Well, she’s at it again.  While in town this past weekend to go out with Mrs. Robbo, she informed me that she had definitely established our direct family tree in the neighborhood of Carlisle, PA, then very much the frontier, in 1763.  “Gawd,” I said, “I hope they weren’t mixed up with the Paxton Boys!” She’s enough of a history nerd that she laughed at the reference.  But I’m not so sure it wasn’t a possibility.

The Fourth Thing:  Well, Ol’ Robbo is off to watch “Bend of the River” which turned up today in his Netflix queue.  It’s not the best of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart westerns:  “Winchester ’73” takes that honor.  And why?  Because in the latter, Jimmah is driven by righteous anger to hunt down the no-good brother who murdered their father.  That I can accept completely.  But in the former, Jimmah plays an ex-Border Raider under Quantrill seeking redemption for his past wickedness by doing right.  Jimmah? A cut-throat hooligan? G’wan with ya!  I just don’t buy it.  But I like the film anyway.

Oh, and a Bonus:  At least Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats can’t lose today, seeing as they aren’t playing.  Sheesh. 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry, but my Muse is absolutely, stonily silent this evening.  Several ideas have popped into the Robbo braims, including thoughts on radical environmentalist headlines this week and their relationship to Gnosticism; the end last evening of Youngest’s school softball season; and today’s birthday anniversary of Johannes Brahms.  Try as I might to woo her assistance, however, she’s just not having anything to do with translating them into coherent posts.  (Hell, it’s taken me twenty minutes to suss out just this paragraph!)

Blame pollen, I guess.

I suppose I’ll go and see what new ways my beloved Nationals can find to lose ball games.  That’ll free up my tongue, probably, although not in ways suitable to a family blog.

Later.

 

 

 

 

I

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A long slog home this evening, probably due to all the Cherry Blossom tourism this week (which I believe is peak week here).  So as my rice and shrimp are getting ready to be cooked, how ’bout a quick odd or end?

♦  I never go see the Cherry Blossoms myself, although I can, of course, see them from a distance.  I avoid the scene for the same reason I avoid the Capitol Fourth down the Mall:  too damn many people clogged together.  I’m not so much misanthropic in this as claustrophobic.

♦  There are now plenty of ordinary tourists on the Mall even without special events.  As I go for my lunchtime walk, I have to dodge and weave among the various groups plunging in random directions.  I usually find myself with the theme from Han Solo piloting the Falcon through the asteroid field.  “Never tell me the odds!”

♦   As Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats managed to eek out a walk-off walk to beat the Phils this afternoon, I am putting on hold my call for the head of Dave Martinez.  But only temporarily.  Ol’ Robbo’s suddenly got a baaaaad feeling about this season so far.  UPDATE: A pretty solid win against the Mets this afternoon makes me feel a bit better about things.

♦   Speaking of bad feelings, the past few nights I’ve found myself going through cycles of sweats and chills.  I looked up the symptoms on line today and evidently I might either be experiencing menopause or else have developed thyroid cancer.  (It’s on the innerwebz so it has to be true, right?)

♦   I watched “The Thin Man” recently after a very, very long hiatus.  Maybe I was just in a cranky mood, but I found myself put off by the debauched character of the film.  Probably didn’t help that I recently learned the character of Nora Charles was Dashiell Hammett’s besotted tribute to Lillian Hellman, who was a thoroughly nasty piece of work.  Feh.

Well, the rice is now thoroughly soaked and the shrimp thawed, so I better get to them.  Later, gators!

UPDATE DEUX:  Yes, Ol’ Robbo knows these updated posts are the equivalent of reheated leftovers as opposed to freshly made new content.  I can only plead that we’ve had a heavy softball schedule for Youngest Gel’s team this week and it’s fouled up my usual evening routine.  I am, in fact, eating literal reheated leftovers even as I type this, as these games involve getting home rather latish from the ballpark and not only do I feel no inclination to cook, I also don’t want to fill up on a real meal this close to beddy-bye times.  (Which see nighttime complaints mentioned above.)

 

 

Mrs. Robbo, Youngest, and I toddled on over to school this morning to help out in the annual spring cleaning of the softball field.  Mrs. R and the Gel busied themselves with cleaning up the dugouts, the snack bar and the press box, while Ol’ Robbo got platooned with the other dads to go do the heavy lifting.

My experience of these parent-participation events in the past has been one of an awful lot of standing around rather aimlessly, but we did good work today.  I was part of the squad refurbishing the bullpen, which in this case meant shoveling gravel out from around the plates, installing a wood frame to set them off from the rest of the cage, and shoveling in topsoil.  (Some of the boys from the baseball team were tasked with prepping the pitching rubbers at the other end.  Very polite kids.)  I say “topsoil” but in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny that usually means hard, red clay, so there was much breaking up and tamping down of very stubborn clods.

We were at it a couple of hours.  I feel absolutely no need for any other physical exertion today.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Mrs. Robbo, Eldest (who’s home on spring break), and Self went over to school to watch Youngest play her first softball game since 6th grade.  It was a non-score, four inning, pre-season scrimmage, and the Gel played half the game.

All in all, I was most pleased.  She batted twice and put the bat firmly on the ball both times.  One of them found a gap for an easy single.  The other was right at a fielder, but the Gel legged it out very nicely and made the play at 1st pretty close.  Playing 2nd base, she booted a hard grounder but kept her head, squared up, and made the out at 1st.  I also noticed that she was playing proper coverages, moving around on each play.  Not at all bad for a walk-on.

It was also fun just to be back at a ballpark again.  There’s just a certain feel and rhythm around the diamond that resonates somewhere deep inside Ol’ Robbo’s being, whether it be little league, high school, college, or professional. I look forward to the rest of the season quite keenly.

The only downside to the evening was the fact that the temperature was rapidly dropping into the upper 30’s (the ball was carrying like a piece of granite) and Ol’ Robbo was sitting on a metal bleacher, which is, of course, a natural heat sink.  I’d been idiot enough not to think of putting on boots or even changing to thicker socks, and after a while I realized that my feet had gone completely numb.  Heading back to the car after the game, I hobbled the whole way, and once in the car (Mrs. R’s, fortunately) I broke out in an attack of the shivers so violent that I could not have driven it myself.

I comforted myself with the notion that in about another couple weeks we’ll be sitting on the same bleachers bathed in sweat and cooking our backsides.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself unexpectedly released from having to go to a “Meet the Coaches” evening at Youngest’s high school this evening in connection with softball.  (The season starts Thursday if we don’t get snowed out.  May as well be playing at Progressive Field, amirite?) So with a bit of unmortgaged time on my hands, why not a little this and that?

♦  Despite the cold weather, Spring Break is actually upon us.  Middle Gel’s started this weekend.  Although she had no prior experience, she joined a scuba club at her school this past fall.  A group of them (including herself) drove down to the Florida Keys last night to do some diving this week.  Ol’ Robbo is envious.  Meanwhile, Eldest comes home Friday and basically plans to chill for a week.  That’s not so bad, either.

♦  When Ol’ Robbo was in college, Spring Break meant Spring Training for the rowing teams.  Somehow or other, the women’s crew always went to Florida, but the men’s stayed on campus at The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  Connecticut.  In March.  The ice hadn’t finished coming down the river at that point, so the town had not yet put in the floating docks off which we launched.  This meant that we had to wade out into the water to put the boats in and take them back out.  And, of course, we had to take off our shoes and socks, and roll up our tights/sweats above our knees to do so.  I like to think it was character-building.  (And truth be told, I preferred rowing in the cold to rowing in the heat and humidity.)

♦  It’s also tax-prep time.  For the last few years, this has meant for us gathering up all the statements, receipts, and the like we could find and shoving them off on our accountant.  Somehow, this makes Ol’ Robbo feel almost like an adult.

♦  And, of course, we have Ash Wednesday this week. Ol’ Robbo likes to go to early morning Mass, receive the ashes, and then breeze about his office all day as if everything is perfectly normal.  Drives my lefty colleagues batty, especially as they don’t dare say or do anything.  Jesus railed against the hypocrites who stood on the street corners and proclaimed their piousness, but I’ll bet He gets a kick out of my modest subversiveness.

♦  And speaking of All Things Spring, let me say again that, the more I contemplate my beloved 2019 Nationals, the happier I get.

♦  Today, by the bye, is the birthday of Antonio Vivaldi, born this day in 1678.  He’s credited with composing some 500 concerti.  There’s an old musicians’ joke that he really only wrote two, but wrote each one 250 times.  Nyuck, nyuck.  As with all jokes, there’s a certain grain of truth here.  Vivaldi was the musick director for a convent school, and a lot of the concerti he wrote were for its students.  He fooled about with various orchestrations, no doubt influenced in part by the ever-changing talent pool available to him, but is it small wonder that he repeatedly borrowed from himself to generate fresh renditions?

♦ Finally, and to lurch violently in a completely different direction, Ol’ Robbo found himself watching “Quest for Fire” last evening.  Heaven alone knows what possessed me to toss it in the Netflix queue back when, but I’ve developed a rule that once I order a DVD, like Angel Eyes, I always see the job through.**  Let’s just say that, as far as cave-man movies go, this is no “1 Million Years B.C.” and that Rae Dawn Chong, nekked in blue-grey body paint, has nothing, nothing, on Raquel Welch in a leather bikini.

So there you are.

 

**If you don’t get this reference………

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel was successful in her tryouts this week for the JV softball team.  She essentially hadn’t picked up a glove since little league, but she did a camp earlier this year and found that she still has her skilz. I don’t see any good reason why she shouldn’t make varsity next year if she sticks to it.  Not a bad way to finish high school, I think.

Ol’ Robbo is going to enjoy going to the games and doing the whole “team parent” thing again.  Every time I drive past the gels’ old little league field, I always get a little wistful for the days when I was coaching them myself.

Truth be told, I’m also rather glad she got tired of swimming, as swim meets are deadly dull affairs if you’re not actually competing yourself.  (You sit for what seems like hours on end between heats that last just a few seconds.  And half the time you can’t even recognize your own kid because they’re all capped and goggled up.)

Play ball!

 

 

 

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