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Stomping my own new post below, but I just wanted to say good for Betsy DeVos for advising college conservatives this week, “Don’t shut up.”
I sent the article to Eldest Gel (sorry, don’t know how to link on my iPhone) and she really appreciated it. Currently, she’s locked in battle with her Econ prof: the prof sets up a political/economic question based in certain given (and slanted) assumptions, and the Gel immediately starts challenging said assumptions. Rancor ensues.
The other thing that irritates the hell out of her is the expectation that she conform to certain beliefs and attitudes based on her sex. Apparently she was arguing about this with someone the other day and said, “I’m a woman. So, what? I think for myself, thank you.” Much fainting ensued.
That’s my Gel!
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, when the Eldest Gel, on her drive back to college, calls Port Swiller Manor an hour or so before she’s due to arrive at school but doesn’t leave a message when Ol’ Robbo can’t make it to the phone in time, I get somewhat agitated and am a wee bit snappish when I finally DO make contact with her and learn that there was never actually a problem.
Is this wrong of me?
Back in the day when I protested the Mothe’s seeming over protectiveness, she’d put on her best Jewish matron voice and say, “Just wait! Someday you’ll have children of your own!”
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo is enjoying a much-appreciated Friday off today. My sole achievement so far has been to refill the bird feeders off the porch, and even then I didn’t bother to change out of my robe and jammers. Hey, I like to watch the birds with my morning coffee. Got a problem with that?
On the whole home computer thing, I’m beginning to lean towards a Laptop of Robbo’s Own. (Everyone else at home has one, so why not?) Any suggestions? I really only would use it for on-line shopping/research and blogging, so I don’t need anything fancy-shmancy (or pricey). Mrs. R wants me to take the desktop into the Apple store to see if they can fix it, but it strikes me that would probably wind up costing just as much.
Eldest Gel is home for the weekend. She asked me last evening what I thought of Bitch McConnell telling Liawatha to sit down and shut up in the Senate. I replied that he also should have told her to go make him a sammich. The Gel laughed heartily. That’s my gel!
Well, I suppose I should shift myself soon, as my non-paying job never ends: tax docs to prepare, lightbulbs to replace, and a run to the Bost Office today. But first? Maybe one more cup o’ Joe.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo is back from his week of biznay travel safe and sound. The trip itself was extremely productive and, apart from the fact that we had to return to the gate in Denver yesterday morning because a passenger suddenly felt sick as we were taxiing out to the runway and were therefore very late, it went remarkably smoothly. (The fellah in the seat next to me was quite irate. I pointed out to him that it was just as well the sickie piped up when he did and that it was a hell of a lot better than having to make an emergency landing in someplace like Kansas City.)
As I say, a good week.
Well, except for the rental car, that is.
I may have mentioned after my last trip on this same biznay early in December that these excursions involve driving hundreds of miles in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rockies. After having been stuck with a small econo-car rental the last time we went out and getting caught in several snow storms, my colleagues and I demanded that the bean-counters let us have an SUV this time. (Our foresight proved justified, because we got caught in snow storms yet again.) Surprisingly, they agreed. To this end, when we got into Denver Sunday evening, we found ourselves presented with a brand new, tricked out, 2017 Ford Explorer.
Ol’ Robbo was pretty pleased with the thing at first, but our relationship almost immediately soured when I realized at oh-dark-thirty Monday morning that I hadn’t the faintest idea how to actually start it up. (The rental-wallah had started it himself Sunday evening when he was showing me all the whistles and bells and I hadn’t been paying attention because I was so tired.)
To me, starting a car is supposed to be a straight-forward process:
1.) Insert key.
2.) Turn key.
Even with past rentals that featured the option of keyless ignition, I have always ignored such option and stuck with this tried-and-true system. And so I wished to this time around. However, after spending about ten minutes that morning trying to figure out where the hell to stick the key in, I suddenly made an alarming discovery:
Keyless ignition in THIS car was mandatory.
It was also ridiculously complicated. First, you had to hit the “lock” button on the remote. Then, you had to hit the “start engine” button on the remote twice. Then you had to stomp on the brake and hit the other “start engine” button on the dashboard. All that just to turn the stupid thing on? How is this supposed to be an asset to me?
And of course, because it was usually dark when we were heading out in the morning or coming back in the evening and I was completely unfamiliar with the button layout on the remote, even after I figured out the magic sequence all kinds of hilarity resulted. Sometimes I wound up opening the back hatch. Sometimes I wound up setting off the alarm. One morning when I had the remote in my pocket as I was leaning over the hood to scrape off the ice and snow, I managed to do both at the same time.
And of course, since the key wasn’t conveniently stuck in the side of the steering column, I was forever scrambling to find the damned thing amidst all the flotsam and jetsam of the center console whenever we got out of the car.
This Explorer also featured side mirrors that automatically folded back against the body of the car like a bird’s wings when you shut off the engine. Unfortunately, while trying to adjust the mirrors, through some combination of buttons on the door I managed to disconnect them from the servo-motor. The result was that the things blew back against the side of the car all by themselves when I got anywhere above 40 mph or so, a situation that certainly didn’t make highway cruising any easier. It took about two days for me to figure out how to reconnect them.
Finally, I have never driven a car that was so much of a confounded busy-bodying scold before.
For one thing, it was forever beeping at me in alarum about something or other and displaying all kinds of mysterious visual warnings on the dashboard. We never figured out what these visuals were supposed to mean (although I suspect at least one of them had something to do with snow covering a headlight) because we couldn’t find the owner’s manual to look up the code. (We learned later that the manual wasn’t in the glove compartment because it was stored with the spare tire instead. It was explained that without the manual, changing tires on the thing would be virtually impossible, so the rental people thought it better to do so.)
Also, said Explorer had a hyper-active proximity warning: One evening, as I was trying to parallel park in a fairly tight spot, the thing started clicking at me. The nearer I got to the car behind me, the faster the clicking. I can tell you that this does absolutely nothing for one’s concentration, especially when one is trying to get out of the way of the traffic coming up behind. (Indeed, I found myself feeling like the guy attempting to disarm the nuke with ten seconds to go until detonation and feverishly trying to decide whether to cut the red wire or the blue.)
Ol’ Robbo can’t stand being nagged. It’s bad enough when the nagger is one of the Port Swiller wimminz, but a stupid machine? Even worse. Over the course of the week, I found myself talking back to the thing in ever-increasing irritation. “Shut up!” “Mind your own bloody biznay!” “Who the hell asked you?” “Which I’m doing it, ain’t I!”
My two companions (both wimminz themselves) thought this was hilarious, but after a while I wasn’t joking anymore.
Anyhoo, it’s just as well that this was only a week’s rental, because there’s just no way that Ol’ Robbo could see a long-term relationship with this car working out at all.
(By the bye, last time out we rented our econo-junker from some down-market outfit where the counter-guy didn’t appear to give much of a damn at all. This time, we used Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I dunno what it’s like in their other offices because it’s been years since the last time I dealt with them, but I can tell you that their people at the Denver airport are friendly and helpful almost to the point of ferocity.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yeah, about those Million Wimminz Marches today. Frankly, Ol’ Robbo hasn’t really paid any attention to them himself because so far as I can make out it’s all really nothing more than an organized temper tantrum.
Eldest Gel got an email from her school the other day announcing that it would be sending a bus to the one in DeeCee if any of the students cared to participate. The Gel told me she was within about half an inch of sending an email back asking, if that were the case, would the school also be sending a bus to the March for Life next Friday?
Prudence stopped her, but still: Heh.
She also keeps getting emails from the Dean of Students forwarding “information and resources” for dealing with the “trauma and stress” of the election. She actually wrote back to the Dean on this, asking her to please stop sending these missives a) because the Gel was tired of getting them and b) because not everyone was actually upset by the election results.
The Dean replied that they couldn’t start mucking about with the general campus email list just to accommodate individual student requests and that if the Gel didn’t like them, she should just delete without reading.
I kind of figured that would be the response, but I was glad the Gel made the point anyway.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)