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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy MLK Day.  (Or, as a smart-assed friend of mine used to insist on calling it: SlainCivilRightsLeaderTheReverendDr.MartinLutherKingJunior Day.)

Thankee for your kind wishes viz Ol’ Robbo’s bout with the flu.  While I’m still feeling rayther weak and am coughing a bit, I am confident that I’m on the mend.   On the other hand, it seems just about everyone else in the family has now picked it up to one degree or another.  The knowledge that at least some of them got flu shots gives ol’ Robbo a certain amount of subversive pleasure.

So a few post-plague odds and ends for you:

♦  Ol’ Robbo finally took down the Christmas decorations today, including the tree.  As always and despite my vigorous plying of broom and vacuum, I expect to keep finding fir needles about the front room and hall well into July.  Eh.

 I always chuck the tree onto the brush pile out in the woods past the back gate.  In case you’re interested, I have observed that it takes two to three years for these trees to finally crumble into their primordial components:  Next year, this one will be a skeleton.  The year after, it will be a crumpled skeleton.  The year after that, dust.  (Thinking of the brush pile and the seventeen years I’ve been contributing to it, I just now remembered a book I read as a child.  It had something to do with a tornado hitting a Kansas farm and scooping out and dumping some incredibly fertile soil in such a way that all kinds of strange things began growing on the heap of dirt that the twister left behind.)

♦  Speaking of years, this past week saw the seventeenth and fifteenth birthdays of the two younger Gels.  Tempus bloody fugit, indeed.  They celebrated said B-days with back-to-back sleepover parties Friday and Saturday nights.   You may judge for yourselves what ol’ Robbo thought of having Port Swiller Manor loaded to the gunn’ls with teenaged girls for 48 hours straight.  (No, it isn’t anywhere near the thrill you might think.)

♦  Speaking of the Gels, Eldest heads back to school tomorrow.  Aside from French, she finished with a solid A-/B+ GPA her first semester, of which I am quite proud.  (Don’t tell her I said so, but she did a hell of a lot better her first semester in college than did ol’ Robbo.  Also, from what she let fall in conversation, I think she learned some valuable lessons in what college-level studying actually entails.)   As of now, the plan is that she’s going to major in history and minor in theatre, and also pick up an Arts Management certificate.   And speaking of theatrics, the Gel has been cast as the Wicked Witch in the school’s spring production of Shrek The Musical.  She says herself that this is one of the most idiotic and useless musickals ever produced, but that she is nonetheless looking forward to having a good time participating.  I know exactly what she means.

♦  Also speaking of theatrics, Ol’ Robbo is now half way through watching the 2012-ish Beeb production of The Hollow Crown (comprising Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.)  I think, I think that I like the series.  The acting is uniformly great and, at least for the most part, the production plays Will’s history straight down the middle.  I guess my main criticisms are that it seems some dialogue has been cut in favor of prolonged visuals (yes, I get that these are movies instead of plays on film), and also that the who thing is saturated with that sort of vaguely Celtish World Musick which I really dislike.

One thing that actually made me laugh:  In Richard II, Bolingbroke is well played by Rory Kinnear.  I’ve never seen him before, but his old dad, Roy Kinnear, is well-known to ol’ Robbo as a minor comedic actor with bit parts in films such as The Three Musketeers and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.  Ol’ Robbo loves these Thespian family links.  Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when I popped in H-IVp1 to discover that the role of Bolingbroke had been taken over by none other than Jeremy Irons!  The man, although talented, whistled his lines over a set of obviously false teeth.  Ol’ Robbo enjoyed that yugely.

♦  Finally, speaking of the Bard, Ol’ Robbo has decided that it is high time he reorganized the Port Swiller library.  (I’ve never done an actual count, but I reckon we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 volumes, all told.)  It’s been a mess for some years but I have been content with that because I at least knew where everything was, more or less.  Recently, however, I discovered that Mrs. R was taking things in her own hands.  I do not wish to disparage Mrs. R’s learning in any way, but her approach to organization is based on neatness rayther than content.  She can’t abide books stacked up on tables or in corners or on top of other books:  Those she can’t jam in somewhere on the shelves anyhoo, she simply squirrels away elsewhere in the house.  Indeed, I didn’t even realize the gravity of the situation until I discovered a book I had been looking for – along with multiple other missing volumes – packed into an old bookcase in the Eldest Gel’s bedroom closet.

I mean, I say!

mcbroom_UPDATE:  To satisfy my own curiosity and to prove to you lot that I’m not completely insane, I did a bit of digging to try and find that children’s book I referred to above:  It’s McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman.  (I didn’t realize until I did this research that this was one of a whole series of McBroom books, all of which seem to center on Tall Tales.)

Interestingly, another of my very favorite books as a kid was Fleischman’s By The Great Horn Spoon!, the story of a small boy who runs away from well-to-do Boston to the California Gold Rush, and who’s aunt’s butler goes along to keep an eye on him.  I probably read that book a hundred times in grade school.

I knew that Disney had made a moovie version of the book called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin“, which I longed to see for what seemed like ages.  Eventually, they ran it one Sunday evening on tee vee.  I recall being very, very excited.  However, despite the very not bad presence of Suzanne Pleshette in it, the movie made such a pig’s breakfast of the novel that I was seriously traumatized.  And that is the origin of my life-long hatred of moovie treatments of favorite books.

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Nilus and Friends: Courtesy of the Vatican Museum

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was making his way through his morning tasks down the office early yesterday when the phone rang.  It was the Eldest, still at home for a couple more weeks from college (and kicking her heels because for some reason she’s not getting the hours at her job she had been anticipating).

Daaaad,” she said, ” Our potty [meaning the Gels’ collective loo upstairs] is overflowing!  There’s water all over teh floor and it’s starting to stain the ceiling in the breakfast room below!”

I closed my eyes wearily.

Why is it overflowing?  Have you tried plunging it?”

“I don’t know why! And yes, I tried.  It’s no good!”

I heaved a sigh wearily.  (I may say that I’ve been dealing with a tummy bug off and on the past couple days and don’t have much extra energy.)

Fine….I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I said.

“But it’s all over the place!” she exclaimed.

“I said I’ll deal with it when I get home,” I replied.

Well.

The good news?  The Gel her own self had “dealt with it” long before I actually got home.  She bailed out the bowl.  She plunged the potty vigorously until the obstruction finally cleared itself.  She threw towels down all over the place.  She put pots and bowls down in the brekkers room to catch le deluge.  (After she had called me, the water broke through the ceiling and started pouring down.)  She even commandeered every fan in the house in order to help dry things out.

By the time I actually got home, no more immediate work was necessary.

I must say that I am quite proud of the Eldest for stepping up and dealing with things on her own.

I must also say that I am disappointed, although not really surprised, that nobody has owned up to their complicity in causing the crisis in the first place.  Oh, I know perfectly well what happened:  In two words?  Teenaged.  Gels.  Let us just say that somebody tried to flush something that had no biznay being flushed despite my repeated warnings and leave it at that.

Of course, I asked each of them individually what they knew of the facts.  Of course, I also got three individual variations on the theme of “I dindu nuthin”.

The breakfast room ceiling is now a yuge mess.  All the paint and drywall has fallen away along a large seam and brownish water stains spread out along both sides.  “You see that?” I pointed out to them all, “That’s the result of your collective having not done anything.  And that is going to cost us a boatlad of money to fix!  You’ll just have to look at it until we can budget away the dosh.  I hope you’re happy.”

I often think of W.S. Gilbert’s lines from The Pirates of Penzance about  “the felicity of unbounded domesticity”.   If he was being sarcastic, I’d be happy to pour him a bumper of port.  If he was being serious, I’d happily kick him in the Ball’s Pond Road.  Yes I would.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a happy and festive New Year celebration?  Good!

Ol’ Robbo’s was, alas, defined by the fact that at about fifteen seconds to midnight I was hurrying down the basement stairs to see the “ball drop” in Times Square on teevee.  Everyone else, including several friends of the Gels, were already there.

As I scuttled down, my foot hit a patch of wet (I strongly suspect one of the kids splashed some soda).  The result? My leg shot out from under me and I tumbled the rest of the way down.

As I happened to be carrying a glass of wine at the time – most of which splashed all over me – and as I ended up at the bottom somewhat wide-eyed and discombobulated, let us say that appearances were …… against me.

In my defense, I pointed out to anyone who would listen for two seconds that a) I managed to control my fall so that I landed on my backside, and b) I didn’t drop my glass.  Unfortunately, I fear that such exculpatory evidence didn’t cut much ice, and that the collective opinion was that ol’ Robbo was one over the eight.

Ah, well.

 

 

Not Robbo's Usual Christmas Eve View

Not Robbo’s Usual Christmas Eve View

Greetings, my fellow Port Swillers!

Yes, it can be revealed now that ol’ Robbo is safe and sound back at Port Swiller Manor:  We drove to Florida (pronounced “Flahr-duh” by the snowbird transplants) for Christmas this year, chiefly to spend time with Mrs. R’s grandmother, who is confined to a rehab facility with health issues.  We arrived there just before lunch time on Christmas Eve and just in time to listen to a gaggle of kids come in and serenade the inmates with appropriate holiday songs.  Seeing said grandmother surrounded by great-grand-daughters and listening with evident delight was quite touching.

And yes, ol’ Robbo got himself to Mass on Christmas morning.  The padre had such a thick Brooklyn accent, I couldn’t understand him at first.  Alas, I was able to pick up on it in time for his homily, which (despite its perfectly orthodox message about God’s presence) was mostly one-liners and Oprah-like Inspirational Stories.  The congregation applauded.  I glared.

All in all, however, a nice trip.

Except for this driving biznay.  Two thousand miles there and back exactly, according to my odometer.  And yesterday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of another night mewed up in a hotel room with the gels, we decided to make the return home non-stop.  (We had split the down-trip over three days, in part so the gels could have an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios as a present from the grandparents.)  Fourteen and a half hours (or near enough) on the road – a personal record for me – nearly all of it on I-95 which, south of Dee Cee, is at once both terrifying and grindingly dull.  (And yes, I did all the driving.)

This morning, I still can’t feel my left thumb or forefinger for all that compulsive clutching at the wheel.

This was our third road trip to Flahrduh in about ten years.  Mrs. R and I decided that it was also our last:  Next time, we fly.

 

"The Nativity" - Botticelli

“The Nativity” – Botticelli

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, what with commitments too complicated to get into here, it looks as if Ol’ Robbo will not be able to find the time to get at the Port Swiller keyboard again soon.  So let me go ahead and wish you all here and now a very, very Merry Christmas!  (And yes, I’ve been saying that instead of “Happy Holidays” all over the place the past couple days.  Snooks to them!)

Through prayer and concentration over the last few years, I am happy to say that I believe I have just about battle-proofed myself against the pernicious effects of the modern, secular X-mas spirit, and can instead focus on the True Meaning relatively (albeit not completely) free of such distractions.

And in that vein, let us again savor Luke’s description (and yes, even though I’m now a Catholic, I can’t let go of the beauty of the King James Version):

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

– Luke 2: 1-20

I don’t know why it is, but every time I read or hear this passage – particular verses 13 and 14 – I get the chills.  (Well, I guess I do know why, actually.  Alas, I’d love to be able to convey the feeling – in word, paint, or note – but unfortunately haven’t anything like the skill to do so.)

Anyhoo, as I say, have a merry, joyous Christmas for all the right reasons!  (And try to behave yourselves.)  I’ll see you all on the other side and, having topped off my glass of port and heaved an enormous sigh, may perhaps give you some highlights of my own.  (As I say, it’s all going to be very complicated.)

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent some time this evening overseeing Eldest Gel as she filled out her very first W-4 form.  She’s got a gig with a local smoothie shop and will be putting in some hours over Christmas break mostly with an eye to cementing the position for this summah.

On the Stern Old Dad side, I must say that I think this kind of lower-tier service job is absolutely crucial to the development of the young people, especially those, like mine, who have lead relatively comfortable (dare I say spoiled?) lives heretofore.  Show ’em a thing or two about the Real World and give ’em some appreciation and respect for those who have to do such dog work.  (Ol’ Robbo himself spent time working as a bag boy at a golf club and as a counter guy in a supermarket deli back in the day.  My habit of over-tipping in restaurants and hotels is a direct result.)

On the Cynic side, I was amused at the Gel’s reaction to dealing with the paperwork: “They want my address AGAIN? I just wrote it on the other sheet!  How many times do I have to repeat it?”

My reply: “At least once more than you think necessary.  Because that’s what gubmint does.”

Heh.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday or the day before, the Moron Horde over at Ace’s place were grumbling about teh various “holiday” concerts their publick skewls were putting on this week and said concerts’ near total lack of anything approach, you know, Christmas pieces.

Oddly, enough, Middle Gel’s concert happened to be this week.  And even more oddly, it was very much chock-a-block with genuine seasonal musick – both religious and secular carols, and a great big Vivaldi setting of the “Gloria” which, thanks to YooToob, I can actually post here:

Middle Gel is second from the left on the top riser.  (Go ahead and tell me why a girl no taller than 5’3” gets put back there.)  And – starting at around the 8:00 mark – she’s the one on the right for the “Laudamus Te” duet.  (The sound quality isn’t the greatest, but I know the Mothe will like to see this.)

Looking over the programme, I also noticed a curious little disclaimer:

The County Public Schools Music Program of Studies requires the performance of literature that is both sacred and secular.  A balance of music selected and performed from among historical and contemporary composers, genres, and periods is achieved through the course of a year’s instruction and not within any individual concert.

I believe that’s the system’s polite way of telling potential lawsuit-happy trouble-makers to go pound sand.  Good on them, says I!

600full-richard-iii-screenshotGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel arrived home this morning from college for winter break toting a draft of a 20 page paper* she needs to hand in by the end of the week for her history class.

The subject? Richard III in fact and legend.

Her conclusion?  I’m sorry to have to say this in front of our Maximum Leader, but the Gel came to the conclusion that Richard probably was about as rotten as history made him out to be, and it wasn’t all just pro-Tudor propaganda pushed by Shakespeare and St. Thomas More.  She seems especially keyed up about the deaths of the Young Princes.

“Ask yourself,” she said.  “Who else had the motive to kill them? Who else had the means? What other logical possibility is there?”

I asked her if she’d checked out the Richard III Society and their efforts to rehabilitate the man.

“Are you kidding me?” she responded, “Go over there are read their arguments! They’re all conjecture! When you have facts and sources, come back and talk to me!  In the meantime, shut up!”

Yikes.

I haven’t actually read the paper yet (she’s asked me to proof the next-to-last draft), and frankly, I don’t really even know enough myself to offer an opinion on her conclusions, but I will say that I’ve never known her to put this much effort into research and organization.

(And regardless of your opinion of this controversy, you will note, I hope, that the Gel is expending her energies on it rayther than on femynist underwater basket-weaving.  I call that a win.)

 

* The assignment only called for 10 to 12 pages.  The Gel’s opus blossomed because she found herself so engrossed in the subject.

UPDATE:  Heh. Read the draft.  Her rhetorical style needs some work (she tends to get the bit between her teeth and become rayther….overheated) and I found some silly grammar mistakes, but her organization is pretty solid, and I actually learned a thing or two about the Yorks and Lancasters that I hadn’t known before.  Oh, and Maxy, you actually get a passing mention (as “a friend of my father’s”) as an example of someone keenly interested on the pro-Richard side.

Speaking of Shakespeare and posting Larry’s picture above also reminds me that I watched the 1980 Beeb production of “Hamlet” the other day, with Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart (with hair!), Claire Bloom, and Lalla “Romana” Ward as Ophelia.  That was the Golden Age of Beeb TeeVee:  Simple sets, cheesy effects, throw-away musick, but rock-solid RSC acting.  I highly recommend it.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of heads up before hand, but Ol’ Robbo has been away from Port Swiller Manor on biznay since last Sunday afternoon.  I’m writing out a draft of this post in longhand as I wing my way home Thursday morning, and (God willing) will have got back safe and sound and able to read my own scrawlings by the time it appears in pixel form here. (UPDATE:  I did, as you probably have figured out already.)

A beastly-rotten flight to Denver last Sunday – very late, over-booked, and horrid headwinds and cross-currents the entire way as that Arctic storm came sweeping into the west.  My two colleagues – seasoned fliers and not white-knuckled cowards like Ol’ Robbo – both said it was the worst flight they’d ever been on.  I came through surprisingly well, however, in part because I had reached a point of nervous exhaustion where I simply didn’t give a damn anymore, in part because I was highly amused by the early-middle-aged gal in the seat in front of me who got quite flown in drink and spent most of the flight hitting on the hunky young guy next to her.  (I noticed other people around us also rolling their eyes at each other and smiling.)

In contrast, this flight is shaping up to be fast, smooth, and uneventful.  So far, the only entertainment has been the big, snoring fellah next to me getting knee-capped by the hipster-doofus steward with the drinks cart.  The H-D didn’t even apologize.  (UPDATE:  Later on, the older woman sitting next to me invited me to look out the window at something or other on the ground as we came across the Appalachians.  I shamefully had to decline because of my fear of hights.  She seemed quite surprised.) Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a joyful and stuff-a-licious Thanksgiving holiday! Certainly the Family Robbo did: As per usual, we went down to visit my brother’s family in North Carolina.  (He and his wife have a son and two daughters, all of whom are roughly of age with Robbo’s three gels.  The Boy, for example, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, while Brother’s gels are in high school.)  Much merriment was had by all.  The cousins get on very well among themselves, Bro and I found much reason to stand guard over the outdoor grill while the turkey was cooking (constant monitoring of the thermometer is crucial, you understand, and adult beverages only aid in concentration), the wimmynfolk confab’d to their hearts’ desires up in the kitchen,  and all in all, everything was hunky-dory.

Robbo’s older cousin was there as well.  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, said cousin has a passion for genealogy.  This time, she trapped ol’ Robbo in an extended monologue on our ancestors of seven or eight generations back – Scots-Irish Presbyterian stock with names such as Gilmore and Paxton – who had settled the upper Shenandoah Valley in the 1730’s.  Curiously, given that I went to law school at Dubyanell, several of my ancestors of those generations were killed, kidnapped and/or enslaved in Indian raids in 1759 and 1763 during the French and Indian War not more than a couple miles from where I lived and studied.  Small world, ain’t it?

On the one hand, the inner history geek in me loves this sort of thing.  On the other? Well, is Thanksgiving Dinner really the time to spread out reproductions of 1734 land-grant maps and superimpose current Rand-McNally counterparts in order to assess streambed shifts in the Maury River and Kerr’s Creek for purposes of locating precise boundary lines?

We Didn't Go There

We Didn’t Go There

And speaking of my cousin, it has become her custom to challenge us to bring Virginia wines to each of our regular meet-ups (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter), there to compare and contrast the many labels available (all of which are complete dreck, if you ask me).  This year, the Devil whispered into ol’ Robbo’s ear that Trump Wine might be appropriate, both since it is bottled at Monticello and also since said Cousin is a proud Lefty.

I showed my brother said bottle ahead of time and asked his advice.  His opinion? Nyet!

On reflection, I concluded he was right and hid the bottle until our cousin left.   (We drank it later.  Truth be told, it wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t buy it again.)

The only other things to say about the holiday are travel-related:

Downbound, Ol’ Robbo found himself in the lee of the smoke of several forest fires blowing across Nelson and Amherst Counties.  It’s corny to say, but it really did feel like twilight at noon as we made our way through, thus seriously messing about with Ol’ Robbo’s internal clock.  Coming home, everything seemed to have cleared up to a great extent, thank goodness.

Upbound, just south of Altavista, Virginia on Highway 29, Ol’ Robbo suddenly spotted a dog on the median: It was a young bloodhound (or some sort of hound, anyway) lying curled up in the grass and looking around in a confused way.  There was no place to stop just there, the formulation of what I had seen took a couple minutes to congeal in my braims, and what the hell could we have done with another dog anyway?  Anyhoo, after a couple minutes, I told Mrs. R what I had seen.  Being the far more practical and hands-on of us, she immediately called teh local animal control dispatcher and related to them what I had spotted.

I dunno if there was any follow-up.

One thing Mrs. R and I agree on: People who dump dogs (or other animals) at the side of the road ought to be shot.

UPDATE:  Ol’ Robbo completely forgot to relate an aspect of this trip that is sure to add many, many demerits to his Man Card.  You see, barring unforeseen complications, it is no more than a 5 1/2 to 5 3/4 hours’ journey from Port Swiller Manor to my brother’s house.  Not exactly a short hop, but hardly an all day excursion either.

Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo allowed himself to be cajoled into stopping on this trip no fewer than three times – in each direction!  The most infuriating stop was the last one: 45 minutes out from home, the Youngest – who had been sleeping most of the way – woke up and announced that she needed a pit stop.   And like the sap that I am, rayther than telling her to cross her legs and suck it up, I shamefully pulled over at the next convenience store/gas station.

What can I say?  Mea culpa.

Man Rules, of course, clearly dictate that stops on long drives are determined solely by fuel needs.  Everything else – water, snacks, meals, potty breaks – are supposed to key on that determination, and that determination alone.  You know you’re not stopping again for another three or four hours? Plan accordingly!

Deviate from this plan and you’ll be stopping every freakin’ 20 minutes for one reason or another.

The Family Robbo may need to take a very considerably longer ride some time in the next few months, and I have already made clear to Mrs. R (and directed that she inform our offspring) that I will not display such weakness again.

 

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