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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. 

 

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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!

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did any of you catch that giant, That’s-No-Moon-It’s-A-Space-Station Super-Dee-Dooper Blood Wolf Moon last evening?  (I know friends of the decanter in New England did not, as I was chatting with Sistah in Maine in the afternoon and she was griping about the blizzard they were dealing with.)

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo did.  Not the eclipse itself, but the moon-rise at sunset, which was so huge and beautiful that it even tore Youngest’s attention away from her iPhone long enough for us to have a discussion about why the moon looks so much larger at the horizon than it does overhead.  (By the time of the actual eclipse, Ol’ Robbo was comatose for reasons which ought to become apparent as you read on.)

We were watching it -fortunately heading in the right direction -as I drove the Gel home from a softball camp for teens being held at one of the local universities.  After swimming varsity her first two years of high school, the Gel has got tired of the water (although she’s still acting as a manager) and decided she wants to go out for JV softball this spring.  As she hasn’t picked up a glove since little league, she figured she’d better do a camp prior to tryouts in order to brush up her skills.

The camp, open to teenaged girls, runs for three Sundays, four hours each time.  Mrs. R dropped the Gel off and I went over after Mass to watch for a while and bring her home.  I found myself pretty impressed:  While the camp is advertised as being open to all skills levels, it seemed to me that almost all of the participants were pretty advanced, the types who played travel and all stars in little league and then “A” team in middle school, and were now gunning for varsity and college scholarships.  (Youngest told me one of the gels was 14 and had travelled for it from Upstate New York.)  Nonetheless, from what I could tell the Gel looked perfectly respectable among them.  I watched her do some batting drills: While her eye was naturally somewhat out, her swings looked quite good.  Afterward, she told me she felt like the old moves really came back to her naturally, and didn’t feel the least awkward about being outclassed.  We shall see how things go.  (The JV program at her school is pretty inclusive, not cut-throat.  Indeed, one of the friends who encouraged her to try out is this year’s varsity captain.)

I was doubly impressed because I was only about fifty-fifty sure the Gel would even go in the first place.  Not only was it going to be a strange, new environment, she’d also been up all hours the night before hosting a birthday party for herself and a mixed group of about ten of her friends.  Needless to say, Mrs. R and I were up all hours as well.  Not only was there incessant “thumpah-thumpah” echoing up from the basement, we also had to take turns attempting (largely unsuccessfully) to calm the outraged outbursts of our highly neurotic dog.  Plus, there were a couple boys at the party and we weren’t going to send them home in the middle of the night in a pouring rain (our part of the Northeastern storm), so we had to do sentry duty as well.  Once everyone called it a night, the boys slept in the basement.  The girls slept upstairs.  We stayed in between them.  (One of the dads had asked – only half-jokingly – when dropping off his kid if we were some of those “cool parents”, the kind who encourage drinking and turn a blind eye to other goings on.  No, we’re not cool parents.)

My godmother says we should “cherish” these events because once we’re empty-nesters, the silence will seem uncanny and disturbing.  She may be right, but as far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned, no more parties at Port Swiller Manor.  From now on, a few friends is just about my limit.  Mrs. R concurs.  As she put it, “If Youngest wants to take a big group out for her 18th next year, fine.  If she wants a graduation party, she’ll need to find a friend who has a pool and throw it there.  We’re done.”

Heigh-ho.

UPDATE:  Took the gel to have her choppers cleaned this morning.  Guess who gets to have their wisdom teeth yanked this summah? (Not me, heh-heh).  When they told me, I made a little joke about how much I had enjoyed the Demerol when they yanked my own set back in the day.  It was as if I’d farted in church.  The dentist gave me a very thin smile and said they were “really trying to keep the kids off that sort of thing”, like I was some kind of dope-peddler.  Is it any wonder I simply avoid talking to people these days?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Looks like three to six inches of winter is on its way to Port Swiller Manor tonight and tomorrow.  We can haz panix now?  Ol’ Robbo is all set to break up the furniture for firewood and skin the cats for food if needs be.  OR we might just get the opportunity to finally get some use out of the incredibly expensive generator we put in last spring which has sat idle ever since (other than its weekly 5 minute exercise on Saturday afternoons).

Actually, up to half a foot is, in Ol’ Robbo’s opinion, a perfect amount of snowfall.  It’s more than enough to look lovely, but it’s also not so much that I have to kill myself digging out. (AND it won’t stop Eldest from heading back to college Monday morning.  It’s been lovely having her home, of course, but she really needs to get back into the campus environment.)

And then there’s the dog.  How is it that a dog can absolutely detest being out in the rain yet absolutely lurves bounding about in the snow?  (Ours isn’t the only one like this, I know.)

I notice that VDOT isn’t taking any chances with this one, not after it failed to treat the streets before the last storm we got in November, leaving them as slick as if smeared with Vaseline.  The anti-ice stuff was already down on our road yesterday morning.

Nonetheless, I expect everything will come to a screeching halt for the next 48 hours or so, including a softball camp Youngest was supposed to start tomorrow over to one of the local universities.  (She’s decided to go out for the JV team this spring, and since she hasn’t played since little league she wants to brush up on her skills.)  I confess that I actually won’t mind this too much, since taking her (the camp lasts for the next three Sundays) means having to go to early Mass and missing my cherished Extraordinary Form.

Speaking of screeching halts, a week or two back I was praising AccuWeather for being what the Weather Channel used to be before it went politickally correct.  Alas, as I was watching last evening, AW ran a filler about how, what with the gubmint shutdown and all, non-inspected foods are starting to invade the grocery shelves, the Hubble Telescope is about to fall out of the sky, and cats and dogs are living together, all because Orange Man Bad.  Sigh….You just can’t get away from this nonsense, can you?

UPDATE:  For those of you keeping score at home, Ol’ Robbo glanced out the window just now and noticed that he’s up to five pairs of cardinals hanging about his feeder (in addition to the various other birds).  I picked up an extra bag of seed yesterday in anticipation that traffic will be pretty heavy over the next few days.

UPDATE DEUX:  Make that seven pairs.  Extraordinary.  I don’t recall ever seeing such a high concentration of cardinals here.  Why, I could practically elect a new Pope! (Hey, a fellah can dream….)

SUNDAY APRES-SNOW UPDATE:  Yes, about six inches altogether, with enough moisture in it that I kept having to bang the accumulated slush off the shovel as I cleared the drive.  Perfectly respectable for these parts and, as I say, quite pretty.  And yes, dog has been frolicking duly on and off today.  UPDATE TO UPDATE:  Whoa, not so fast there, monkey-boy!  It’s coming down heavily again after I thought it was all over and done.  Add another three inches at least to that total and yes, I’m going to have to shovel again, dammit.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely, lovely Saturday morning here at Port Swiller Manor.  Cool, crisp, and the promise of a marvelous Maine-like day.  Fortunately, we’ve had so much heat and so little rain recently that Ol’ Robbo can get away with skipping the lawn this week, although I will have to get out with the hose and water things later on.

Middle Gel and I ran out to the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania yesterday in order to retrieve Youngest from her term at Bible-Thumper camp.**  (We took the Gel’s VW Tiguan, which proved to be a pretty slick little mover out on the highway, btw.)  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, Middle Gel, after a considerable amount of anguish, decided to attend a different camp this summah, and so missed out on her eleventh year at BTC.  It was good for her to get to go up to retrieve her sistah, as she got to see a lot of her old friends.  She now talks about possibly applying to be a counselor there next year.

Youngest, as it turns out, had a very good term.  She took the girls’ swim medal for her age group and was the camp chess champ.  Also, if you go to the linkie, you’ll see that the camp is divided into two teams, Romans and Galatians.  Over the course of the term, the teams compete in a variety of athletic competitions with an intensity that matches many big-time college rivalries.  Youngest is a Roman, and the Romans won this year (an admittedly rare occurrence).  The Gel screamed and shouted so much that her voice is literally gone at the moment. (A very small loss, indeed.)

Aaanyhoo, upon our return to Port Swiller Manor late yesterday afternoon, Ol’ Robbo noticed that the A/C was not working again.  I say “again” because about a month ago it stopped blowing cold air.  (It was still blowing air but just couldn’t keep up with the thermostat.) When the repair fellah came out, he discovered a leak in the coolant line caused by a faulty weld that was gumming up the works. The insides, which he showed me, were a solid block of ice.  So we had to shut the whole thing down, wait for the ice to melt, and then go about fixing it.  Fortunately, since the screw-up was the company’s fault, the repair was free.

This time, the thing was just shut down altogether.  (The outside unit was still working, however.) I flipped the circuit breaker a couple times, fiddled with the thermostat, pounded on the sides.  Then I noticed that the insulation around the coolant line is sodden and dripping.  So here we go again, I think.

Curiously, the A/C is working fine this morning.  My theory is that when it shut itself off, the ice melted all by itself, so the thing could kick back in.  Doesn’t mean the leak isn’t still there, however.

I hope my diagnosis is correct, as it should mean another free repair.

Fortunately, as I said up top, a lovely day today, so having the thing offline for a while will have no real impact.  But still……..Grrrrrrr.

 

**Ol’ Robbo uses this term, and always has, only in the spirit of gentle teasing, not in mockery, of course.  In the battle lines of the current culture wars, I gladly fight alongside the Evangelicals.

UPDATE:  Heh.  HVAC fellah appeared this afternoon.  I rattled off my observations and explained my theory.  He listened patiently, remarked that every observation was helpful in its own way, and then proceeded to diagnose something completely different.  (The system had just shut off because of a slight clog in the drainpipe.  He flushed it out with some water and vinegar just to make sure it was clean.)  He was very polite, but I know what he was thinking because I think the same thing when laymen start arguing legal theories at me.  I suppose I had it coming.

UPDATE DEUX: Came home this Monday evening to discover the thermostat was spiking again.  (Apparently, everyone else at home was too caught up in themselves to notice.)  I went through the flush drill again as the fellah had shown me.  No result.  The inside unit sounds like it’s trying to restart, but just isn’t turning over for whatever reason.  At this point, I don’t think it unreasonable for me to bring my own theory back into play.

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