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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Where has the week flown, Ol’ Robbo wonders.

I’m so out of it that it was only yesterday I learned that the hazy skies (and pretty sunsets) we’ve been having in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor were the result of smoke drifting down from wildfires in Canada. Being a nerd, I’m usually right up on that sort of thing. Take off, ya hosers.

I’m afraid dear Decanter Dog is beginning to show her age (whatever that actually is). I notice that one of her eyes is starting to cloud up. Also, she won’t go down the stairs anymore unless all the lights are on. Both of these things make me think her sight is starting to go.

Well, all the Gels have now lined up gainful employment for the summah, a thing that makes Ol’ Robbo happy. Speaking of which, Youngest heads off to her counseling gig at Bible-Thumper camp this afternoon. I swear that even having gone there a dozen years, she still doesn’t actually know how to get to the place. (GPS won’t work because of some quirk or other.) Five will get you ten that I’ll have to write out directions for her before she leaves.

Another thing that makes me happy is that my beloved Nationals continue to play with spunk and spark. Sure, they’re seven games under .500 and in the basement, but that’s a lot better than I or (I believe) anybody else thought they were going to be this year. Increasingly, Ol’ Robbo sees what might be a very good team in another year or two, and in the meantime, it’s fun again (although I’m not yet sold on the Home Run Wig thing). What else is there to say except GO, NATS!

UPDATE UNO: Perusing the links over at AoSHQ, Ol’ Robbo spotted this: Techno-Hell: New App Harangues Men For Not Doing Enough Domestic Chores. As apparently the only member of the Port Swiller Manor household who knows how to properly load the dishwasher and balance the clothes in the washing machine, I just laughed grimly.

UPDATE DEUX: I learn from multiple sources that today is National Wine Day. Allow Ol’ Robbo to make the obligatory point that every day is Wine Day. And a glass of one with you!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, school is out for all three Gels as of today, the great summah changeover is in progress, and it’s remarkable how little Ol’ Robbo has to do with it.

True, Eldest is home, but she’s always been pretty self-contained. She wasn’t able to get a masters-related gig (although she’s got an internship lined up for this fall) so she’s looking for something seasonal to make a bit of coin.

Youngest, or at least so I understand it, is due to turn up here tomorrow, but is on a flight next morning at oh-dark thirty to visit a friend and knock about in the Rockies for a bit (one of her life goals being to visit every national park she possibly can) before she takes up her job as a counselor at Bible-Thumper Camp, something she’s long wanted to do. In addition to being a cabin counselor, I understand she’s also been appointed admiral in charge of sailing lessons.

Meanwhile, Middle Gel blew through here last night literally just long enough to change flights on her way to Germany. She’s doing a three-week mini-semester in Augsburg and Bergamo, Italy. I’ve read the syllabus, or tried to anyway, but still couldn’t really tell you what it’s all about – something to do with international governmental co-operation. “Gawd,” I said to her the other day, “Please tell me you’re not turning into one of those WEF/Soros zombie-bots!” She just laughed.

So there you have it. Ol’ Robbo just sits here in his chair while the Gels go whooshing about under their own power. (I’ll be humming “Cat’s in the Cradle” next thing you know.)

Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out To Get You UPDATE: Yikes. I post a snide comment about globalist oligarchy and ten minutes later my PC sua sponte starts three hours of downloading “upgrades”. Coincidence? I think not! (Heaven knows what’s in this thing now!)

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers and Happy Hump Day.

Yes, the Lenten grind goes on and is becoming more and more of a grind. Fortunate, Friday, March 25, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and therefore qualifies for what’s known round here as “Bacon Friday”.

Endeavor to persevere.

So what’s going on? Lessee….

Ol’ Robbo is happy to report that Middle Gel will not be taking that summah job at Nationals Park I mentioned the other week, because she’s been offered the one she really wanted with the Virginny Parks Department, where she’ll spend six weeks overseeing yoot conservationists cleaning and refurbishing various state park facilities at sites TBD. It’s the sort of thing out of which she wants to make a career and why she’s headed off for her master’s this fall. I tease her about becoming a Green Nazi but she insists she’s much more interested in practical issues like cleaning up the Chesapeake than she is in a Brave New World powered by rainbows and unicorn farts. We shall see.

Speaking of the Nats, Ol’ Robbo, in his (guarded and provisional) return to MLB was looking over their spring-training roster and likely position players. I haven’t the faintest idea who most of these guys are anymore, other than a handful of vets and one or two names I recognize from the minors. I must admit, I never saw the logic of putting together a World Series-winning team in 2019 and then immediately gutting it, but then again I don’t own a ball club. On the other hand, if you are going to spend time in the cellar “rebuilding”, 2020 and 2021 certainly were likely years to do so. Is it possible the Lerners knew what was coming? (Okay, even Ol’ Robbo doesn’t possess enough tinfoil to cover that theory!)

Speaking of entertainment, for some reason Eldest has had a long-standing grudge over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has never seen “The Lion King”. “I’ve studied Hamlet,” I say, “Bill had a way with words and action, ya know? Why should I watch a cartoon version with a singing warthog?” Finally, in a moment of weakness, I gave in recently. (She pulled the “I’m-leaving-home-soon-and-then-you’ll-be-sorry!” card.) But I insisted that in exchange she has to watch a Duke Wayne picture with me. She immediately suggested “Liberty Valance” but I know she’s seen that one already. I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to either “Hondo” or “The Cowboys” now because of their heavy paternal themes.

Speaking of which, thank Heaven I have no small kids at the moment. The monsters aren’t even pretending anymore. That is all.

On the “They’ll Do It Every Time” front, it’s been a while since we’ve had any major appliance trouble, so the oven has decided to mix things up a bit by causing its own “off” button to break. Jab at it all you want and nothing happens now. Indeed, the only way to turn the damn thing off is to go down in the basement and throw the circuit-breaker for 10 seconds or so. (That was a trick an electrician taught us some years ago to combat the entire panel freezing up when the stove-top gas burners flare in a particular way on being lit. He didn’t even charge us for the advice. We liked that guy.) We’ll see how long I can tolerate this before biting the bullet and calling somebody to fix it.

And on that front, Ol’ Robbo has been noticing a quiet drip sounding in the wall nowhere near any pipes. I suppose this means I’m going to have to take a flashlight and go look at the roof in the attic. I really don’t want to see what I fully expect to see. (Damned squirrels!)

Finally, in the Weirdo Dreams Dept., I swear that last night in the midst of other highly strange sights and sounds I became aware of a string band performing a Baroque setting of Olivia Newton-John’s “Please, Mister, Please”. But then a trumpet broke in doing a jazz riff and the whole thing ground to a halt. (Heck, I don’t know!)

Time for more kawfee.

Greetings, my fellow coffee-chuggers!

Ol’ Robbo sees this morning that the MLB negotiations have hit another snag and that Opening Day is once more postponed. The Commissioner’s statement this morning is of the “look, we’ve tried and we can only hope the players see sense” variety. Name-calling comes next, I think. The season looks increasingly doomed.

Relatedly, I learned yesterday that Middle Gel is interviewing for a part-time summah job working the team store at Nats Park. (I was somewhat surprised they are even hiring, but I suppose they need to be ready for all contingencies.) At first, along with her, I thought the idea was pretty neat in itself, getting to hang around the stadium and all, to say nothing of the possibilities of employee discounts on merchandise or maybe even tickets.

But as I thought about it later, a vision flashed into my head of teh Gel leaving the stadium way late one night after closing down the store and I shuddered. The area around Nats Park has changed a good bit since it first opened, but it hasn’t changed that much, and the idea of teh Gel trying to get to her car and then navigate out in the wee hours summoned all the Dad Instinct in me front and center. I intend to use what little residual authority and whatever persuasive powers I have to convince her this is probably a bad idea after all.

UPDATE: Well, no doubt due to Ol’ Robbo’s magic-touch predictions, the Season is on. (This is why I never became a bookie.)

Meanwhile, Gel had an interview and reports the job is hers if she wants it. She’s waiting to hear from her main preference, a sweet gig with the Virginia Parks Department, so we’ll see what happens.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo’s vacation is about over and done and tomorrow I put back on the ol’ harness. On the whole, it was quite restful and I’m ready to get back to work. A few observations to wrap it up:

As promised earlier, I did clean out the garage yesterday, at least as far as I could. I duly emptied it out, swept, blowered and mopped, threw a bunch of junk away, and reorganized the remains. So it’s definitely cleaner. (I did not make any friends among the many spiders who live there.) However, a really thorough job would have involved a good power-washing of the floor (my washer is hors de combat) and repainting the walls (don’t tell Mrs. R I said that). Maybe next year.

Another result is that I may, at last, have finally found the crack whereby the water gets down into my basement study from the garage every time it floods. (It happened again last week and there’s mud all over my study floor. Another job for another day.) Fortunately, I had some quikrete left over from another of this week’s projects with which I won’t bore you, so I duly filled it in. I guess we’ll get to test it soon, as I understand what’s left of Hurricane Ida after it makes landfall is supposed to come through here mid-week, and I’m sure lots of water will get into the garage.

Eldest Gel and I watched “Around The World In 80 Days” (2004) last evening because we both like goofy Jackie Chan action movies, but really, this was ridiculous. (And Jim Broadbent ought to be ashamed of himself.) I’ve never actually read any Verne, but the knowledge of what violence this film must do to his novel has motivated both the Gel and me to pick it up in order to, so to speak, get the bad taste out of our mouths. One of the arguments made for film adaptations of liddashur is that they’re supposed to encourage viewers (especially the young people) to read the source material. Personally, I’ve never believed that happens very much. True, it’s happening here, but we’re both cranks and I doubt if many others would share our motivation.

On that note, I’ve also got “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” (1954) in my queue, this time on the Gel’s recommendation. Again, I don’t know how closely the film follows the book, but the Gel enthuses over it because it actually tells a story without relying on explosions every five seconds, and also because she’s discovered what a good actor James Mason was. (And now she gets a real kick out of my Peter Lorre impersonations, too.) I may have seen this film when I was a small boy but I remember nothing about it, except maybe a giant squid.

Oh, speaking of books, those of you who recall that Ol’ Robbo started his vacation binge-reading the works of George MacDonald Fraser may be interested to know that I made it through virtually his entire canon, fiction and non-fiction, except Black Ajax (which I don’t own), Mr. American (which is too long), and The Steel Bonnets (his history of the Anglo-Scots border reivers which, frankly, puts me to sleep.) That should hold me on GMF for a while.

Mrs. Robbo returns home today from playing in a regional USTA tournament, her first I believe. (She also got to visit with Middle Gel because the tourney was in her neighborhood.) I’m happy that she has her tennis even though I’ve never had any interest in the sport myself. While her team didn’t advance, I gather they nonetheless put up a respectable showing. (Mrs. R has played since she was a little girl and was captain of her college team. She’s never been a power hitter, but has always relied on control and finesse. Recently, so I understand, she has developed a wicked slice that has placed her much in demand as a doubles partner.)

To celebrate her return and as a send-off before we all – Mrs. R, Eldest, and I – go back to work tomorrow, I’m doing a bit of a slap up dins tonight. Mrs. R doesn’t eat meat, so I am doing her some fish. Fortunately, she recently discovered a taste for tilapia. I say fortunately because a) the thing is so mild that you can go to town with sauces and marinades, and b) no more salmon stinking up the kitchen. I’m trying a cilantro-lime marinade recipe this time. Eldest and I are quite content with steak on the bar-b. Add some popovers and artichoke and we’re all good to go.

Well, that’s that. Time, almost, to re-enter the (un)real world of madness that I have been trying to ignore mostly while on vacay. Ol’ Robbo avoids politickal commentary here as a rule, but God help us all.

UPDATE: What better way to wind up your vacation than to set your hair on fire! Ol’ Robbo has a small firepit near his grill in which he’s accustomed to burning empty charcoal bags. I must have got a bit cavalier about it this evening because tossing the screen on top I managed to create a fireball that wooshed past my head. A little later, I noticed that it had singed a goodish part of the hair above my left ear. Distinctive smell, too. Fortunately, I am approaching what Mrs. R calls the “Mountain-Man” look, so even though the ends withered, there was no permanent effect.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are again.

Over the weekend we got word that a couple cases of everybody’s favorite plague have broken out at Youngest’s summah camp, including one case in the cabin of 9-year-olds she’s counseling. Fortunately, the camp’s response wasn’t to disburse all the campers into the hills and burn the place to the ground, as it might have been last year. Instead, they sent home the sickies and have stepped up testing on anyone likely to have been exposed to them. But the notice we got also contains the following:

“Because the remaining campers in [the affected cabins] were exposed, we have created an even-more-separated camp experience for those cabins moving forward. Meals for these cabins are being served in the barn, and all activities will take place at an even-greater distance from the rest of camp.”

In other words, they’ve been banished to Siberia.

Youngest felt so bad for her little flock that she went to the nearest Party Barn on her day off and seemingly bought the place out. (Good on her.)

Meanwhile, Ol’ Robbo received a poll in the mail from some outfit called the “Institute on Voter Attitudes & Public Policy”. Ha, ha, ha. As I’ve explained to countless hipster-doofuses with clipboards who have accosted me on the streets of Your Nation’s Capital over the years, the three things Ol’ Robbo does NOT give to strangers are his name, his money, and his opinions.

Nonetheless, I glanced over the survey. It’s the usual stuff – presidential approval, immigration, guns, abortion, public education, etc. But one question stood out:

“There is considerable debate in Congress over various plans to balance the budget. What do you believe is the best way to balance the budget?”

This actually made Ol’ Robbo laugh. The 1990’s called and want their debate back. When was the last time anybody in Congress seriously talked of “balancing” the budget? Heck, when was the last time we even had a budget, much less a balanced one? Get real. (The responses offered were the usual raise taxes, lower spending, or both. If I were to return the survey, I’d have scribbled in “In this bizarro world into which we’ve descended, what difference does it make now?”)

**Goes back to assembling his James Bond Sooper-Villain Hideout Lego kit**

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth with plenty of grilled meats, adult beverages, and things that go BOOM! in the night.

Ol’ Robbo’s day was taken up with the Big Drive with Youngest about which I posted the other day.

Things started ill-omened enough. For one thing, I screwed up my alarm clock so that when I jerked awake at oh-dark-thirty, it was to the panicky realization that I was running late. Then when we got in the car I found that the Gel’s tank was practically empty, so we had a bit of a scramble to find a gas station open that early. Finally, when we’d picked up our coffee just before hitting the highway, the Gel announced that we needed to return home because she’d forgot “something”. (That “something” turned out to be her wallet.)

Oh, Lord, I said to myself, it’s not going to be one of those trips, is it?

Well, it wasn’t.

In fact, the Gel did just fine. Granted, there wasn’t much traffic, but she still had to pick her way around some tractor-trailer rigs and it was evident she knew what she was doing. For the rest, she was calm and focused, and set a good pace without being a maniac like Middle Gel, who channels Richard Petty every time she gets behind the wheel.

Indeed, I was able to unclench pretty early on, and we wound up having a nice chat about Life, the Universe, and Everything. The drive went quite quickly.

I learned earlier that Mrs. R had approached Youngest and asked her if she really felt she needed me to go along. “Oh, definitely,” she replied. “I don’t know how to get there!” (I should note that because of the tricky backroads at the end, GPS is useless.)

I put this to the Gel on the drive. “This is, what, your eleventh or twelfth summer at this camp. How on earth can you not know the way yet?”

“I always slept in the car, remember? I’d close my eyes and the next thing we were there!”

I suppose she has a point, but being such a geography nerd myself from a very young age, I find this attitude alien.

Anyhoo, we got there in plenty of time and the Gel was delighted to be back. I duly humped her gear up to her cabin and then drove back to Port Swiller Manor.

It’s our turn to host a barbeque in a small circle of friends and Mrs. R had at first toyed with the idea of having it on the Fourth. She reconsidered, however, when she thought about how tired I would be when I got back from dropping off Youngest. In this, I applaud her good wifely sense and consideration, because I was indeed pretty beat by the time I got home. In fact, I dozed off in the hammock, waking up just in time to cook our own modest dins and then to listen to the fireworks going off in the neighborhood. (There seemed to be a lot of them this year.)

I have to go retrieve the Gel in two weeks. Because of the camp schedule, we’ll be starting back on a Friday afternoon, not a Sunday morning, so the traffic more than likely will be pretty nasty. I’m sure the Gel will be quite worn out from counseling a gaggle of nine-year-olds for all that time, so I think I’ll just let her sleep on the drive home. So far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need to prove anything more to me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How the heck did it get to be the latter half of 2021 already? (Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The sooner this garbage year is over, the better.)

At any rate, this weekend Youngest starts a two-week counselor-in-training gig at the gels’ long-time summah camp. (The CIT position is only for a single, two-week term. She plans to return as a counselor for the entire summah next year.)

Ol’ Robbo has written here many times over the years about the drive out to southwestern PA to drop off the gels at camp. The question came up this year: Do we just let her go by herself?

After not too long a period of consideration, I came to the conclusion no, not all by herself. I-270/I-70 up into the Appalachians can be a tricky, taxing drive, and the Gel doesn’t have any experience of that kind of terrain or traffic. Plus, even after all these years, I’m not at all sure she even knows exactly how to get to the place. (She seems to have inherited Mrs. R’s lack of geographic awareness.)

So the plan is that the Gel will, indeed, do the drive, but that Ol’ Robbo will ride shotgun and bring her car home himself. We’ll do the reverse two weeks later. I just want to see how she does before turning her completely loose.

When I was bringing Mrs. R and her friends home from the airport the other day I mentioned all this, only to find myself the subject of some vague disapproval and a slew of anecdotes about how “when MY son first got his license, he drove halfway to California all by himself”, etc., etc. Well, that may be, and I don’t deny that kids have to learn and parents have to let go sooner or later. But I know this kid and this drive in particular and don’t believe I’m being overly-protective in riding along on her first trip out there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter (but I repeat myself) will no doubt be not the slightest bit surprised that Ol’ Robbo’s entire Saturday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of the big maple brought down by storm this week. (I had mentioned its termite infestation before but closer study of the spot where the trunk actually snapped sure doesn’t reveal any compromised wood to Ol’ Robbo. We did have a storm come through Monday night, and as the tree is both big and top-heavy, I think this is what must have got it after all.)

The thing must have been 60 or 70 feet tall. Two of its three main trunks snapped, bringing down a plethora of lesser sub-trunks, boughs, limbs, and branches. That’s a lot of tree.

Ol’ Robbo made it his task to saw off and remove all the lessor branches, so that when his handyman and crew appear (on Wednesday I now hear), they can cut up all the main parts for firewood (of which I will not lack this winter). Ol’ Robbo doesn’t own a chainsaw but has a nifty little hand-saw that is good for anything up to a three or four inch diameter, so I set that as my benchmark.

As I worked away this morning (fortunately a cool one) I thought about all sorts of things I might write here about how it’s good to take on this kind of job oneself: the exercise is a plus, of course, but there’s something else about getting one’s own hands dirty and not being too proud or spoiled to do it. Besides, whenever I have my handyman do a job like this, he never throws the branches where I want him to, stacking them next to the brush pile instead of on top of it. (That’s why I don’t have him do the leaves in the fall anymore, too.)

By this afternoon, I was ready to pay just about anyone any amount to take the damn job off my hands and finish it.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t Robbo have at least two young, healthy, and strong daughters home at the moment? Why didn’t he get them to help?” To which I reply, “Yeah, right.” For better or for worse, Mrs. R has inculcated the Gels with the idea that there are certain jobs that are simply left to the menfolk (meaning me). Yardwork is definitely one of them. (This brings to mind a memory of my brother and myself slaving away for the Old Gentleman in the hot Texas sun of my misspent yoot while our sister skulked in her room listening to her Adam Ant records. Some things don’t change.)

Anyhoo, at last the thing is done, and I’m sunburned, worn out, and too tired to go to the store for dinner supplies. (Well, Eldest volunteered to do that, so at least that’s something.)

Oh, the other bit of excitement: I was coming up the hill from the back gate after a brush pile trip when I looked up and suddenly saw on the lawn ahead of me…….a snake! I hate snakes! Why did it have to be a snake? No step on snek!

It was a big thing, at least four feet long, glossy black with a white underside, a thick torso and a small head. The innerwebz tell me this was an Eastern ratsnake. I’d never seen one before. (You can tell me all about how harmless and beneficial they are, but I don’t care. Did I mention I hate snakes?)

The thing was gliding slowly toward the house. Ol’ Robbo did not wish it to proceed in that direction any farther, so after my initial interjection of something like “Ergblethrubububah!!!“, I tried to get its attention with word and gesture (which it ignored) and eventually by judiciously-aimed sticks (which it did not). Finally, I headed the thing and persuaded it to go back down the hill. It disappeared in the ivy patch in front of my garden fence. I’ll never set foot in that patch ever again.

At first I couldn’t figure out what on earth the thing was doing right out in the open on short grass. It later occurred to me that it probably lives in the brush pile and that my constant throwing of debris on the pile flushed it out.

All in all, a very full day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo may or may not have mentioned here before that Youngest Gel had joined her school’s sailing club this past year. She’s enjoyed it immensely. For one thing, she has a bit of experience already, having sailed Sunfish at her summah camp for years and years, so she’s quickly picked up on the skills and technique. For another, it seems to be quite the genial and lively group, and exactly the sort of people she was hoping to meet by getting off the East Coast. They even have a club softball team on which teh Gel plays.

Anyhoo, it’s a legit group. Not only do they sail out of their own boathouse, they also go round the regional regatta circuit. Yesterday, the Gel received the schedule for September and October and I found myself glancing idly at the various named meets. Most of them were pretty bland: Ohio State has the “Buckeye Invite” while Illinois has the “U of I Regatta”. However, looking down the list, I saw that Indiana University will be proudly hosting the “Hoosier Mama”.

That joke and its variants are probably as old as the State itself but I’d not been expecting it and laughed heartily.

By the bye, from what the Gel tells me, these meets seem pretty true to the tradition of Jack Tar ashore. Apparently, the form is for all the teams to get together the night before and party like maniacs, sailing the next day in, shall we say, a somewhat subdued condition. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me but then again it’s been a looooong time since I was a kollege kid myself. (In fact, rowing crew we weren’t allowed to drink at all during race season but I couldn’t imagine even wanting to the night before a regatta. We had plenty of reasons to lose our lunches already.) Nonetheless, a good time seems to be had by all.


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June 2023