Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

There’s a moment in one of my favorite movie musickals, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, in which the braggart soldier is just about out of patience at the delay in the appearance of the virgin bride for which he’d payed and for whom he’d come to collect, and the slave in chief of the house in which said soldier (wrongly) believes the girl to be is starting to freak out:

Hysterium:  Uh, Whu, Um, Oh…

Pseudolus: Calm…….

Hysteriun: Buh, Whu, Uh…….

Pseudolus: Caaalm……

Hysterium: Buh, Uh, Whu….

Pseudolus: CALM yourself! I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic.

Miles Gloriosus: Bring me that girl at once or you all shall perish!

Pseudolus:  It’s time…..

I find myself fighting mighty hard against going all Hysterium myself as I contemplate the current situation of my beloved Nationals.  Four games back of the Mets and playing, shall we say, distinctly ho-hum ball.  Yeah, I didn’t really expect to win this week against Kershaw and Greinke, but we’ve dropped a bunch of games recently that we should have won, largely due to poor bullpen management and underperforming run production.

I remind myself that we are facing, this week, probably the last really hard series of the season, taking on the Dodgers and teh Giants at their respective parks.  I recently read somewhere or other that our last six weeks’ schedule is, given the records of our opponents, one of the easiest in the league.

I remind myself that we still haven’t played a game this season with our entire starting squad owing to injuries and that, even though Zimmerman, Werth and Rendon have recently returned, it’s going to take them a while to get up to peak form.  (And as I write, I don’t yet know anything about the latest injury to Harper.)

I remind myself that the Mets have a very, very young starting rotation and also that, well, they’re the Mets, and that although they are currently hot, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to fall apart.

Nonetheless, I see where the knives are beginning to come out for Manager Matt Williams and I’m not so sure that I can resist the temptation to take up the call for his scalp myself.

Man, I love this game but I also really hate it.

Well, what else is there to say except

GO, NATS!!!

 

N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

N.C. Wyeth illustration for Westward Ho!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Many, many years ago, ol’ Robbo picked up the collected works of Charles Kingsley at a library sale somewhere in (if I’m not mistaken) the Hamptons.  At the time, I knew he was a Victorian writer of schoolboy adventure stories, but not much more.  However, since the books were very cheap, I bought them anyway with the intention of eventually getting around to reading them.

Whelp, 20-odd years later, prompted by a reference I’ve seen repeatedly somewhere else,*  I finally cracked the cover of what may well be Kingsley’s most remembered novel, Westward Ho!

Good God, Almighty.

The book is a massive, sprawling story of the loyal sons of Devon and Cornwall during the glory days of Good Queen Bess who, under the leadership of such stout figgahs as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, repeatedly biff the Dons along the Spanish Main and in Ireland while, at the same time, foiling the plots of nefarious Jesuits prowling around Merry Old England like the Hosts of Midian, trying to topple the Golden Age of Elizabeth and bring said enlightened paradise back under the foul claw of teh Whore of Babylon, sometimes referred to as the Pope in Rome.   In this, Kingsley drifts mighty close to outright libel.  For example, so far as I know, there is absolutely no credible evidence that St. Edmund Campion was in any way involved in any plot to dethrone Elizabeth, but Kingsley does not seem to concern himself with actual facts in pursuit of his theme.

If you’re sensing my bias here, you’re not wrong.  The book was published in the early 1850’s** and here and there Kingsley breaks out of the past tense to take jabs at those then-current Papists who wished for the reconversion of Britain to Holy Mother Church.   As I remarked to the Mothe this past Sunday in our weekly telephone chat, it sounded to me like Kingsley was taking a whack at the Oxford Movement.  And damme if I wasn’t right.  Upon a bit of further research, I found that Kingsley, who was himself an Anglican clergyman, was virulently anti-Catholic and got into a printed dispute with the Blessed John Henry, Cardinal Newman, in which the former accused the latter of being a liar and a fraud.  It was as a result of this spat that Newman penned his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

Since several of ol’ Robbo’s guiding figgahs for his own swim across the Tiber came from the Oxford Movement (including not only Cardinal Newman but also Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson and Msgr. Ronald Knox), you can understand why I might be a wee bit touchy about this.  I wonder what I would have thought about it when I first bought the books twenty-odd years ago.

Anyhoo, despite all these defects, Westward Ho! is a right ripping yarn in parts, with some terrific descriptive imagery and an action-packed plot.  Also, I’ve got little problem with his bashing of the Dons over their treatment of their New World conquests, which amounted to not much more than rape in the classical meaning of stealing anything and everything that wasn’t positively nailed down.

Besides, I’m almost 400 pages into it and am not going to quit now.  So, there.

 

* I simply can’t remember where, now.  However, I also know that Evelyn Waugh, himself a Catholic convert, has his title character in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold attempt to slog through Westward Ho! in order to drown out the possibly psychotic voices in his head.  Heh.

** Of interest, the book was dedicated to the “White Rajah” Sir James Brooke, for no other reason than that Kingsley thought Brooke a hell of a fellah.  George MacDonald Fraser sharks will, of course, recall Brooke from Flashman’s Lady.

See? Hang around long enough and it all ties together…..

Daisy At Her Post

Daisy At Her Post

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself overwhelmed by the number of inquiries from friends of the decanter about the status of Daisy, the Port Swiller Manor canem of which all villains should cave.

Whelp, I’ll tell you this:  We’ve had the old girl for about three months now.  She’s a sweetie.  She’s loyal and protective.  Ut-bay, e-shay’s ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, if you get my drift.  At least, I think she isn’t.

For one thing, teh dog is obsessed with the Jacobin Groundhog Menace.  Said groundhogs had a burrow in front of teh garden gate when Daisy arrived on the scene and we had a bit of a kerfluffle blocking off exit points around the perimeter fence to keep her from chasing them out of the yard.  Eventually this was done and I’m sure the groundhogs have long since shifted their base of operations, but Daisy is still convinced they haven’t abandoned their original post.  Every time we let her out, she makes a bee-line for the spot, and when she’s out on the porch she spend all her time watching it (which see).  Indeed, recently she’s taken to stalking the hole and to spending considerable time parked in front of it…..just in case.

Daft animal.

Another thing is her attitude to doors.  If a door (specifically, the one out on to the porch) is open by so much as a crack, teh kittehs will pull or push on it in order to get through.  Indeed, if it’s closed, they’ll hurl themselves against it until somebody comes along to let them through.  Not so, Daisy.  Unless the door is open sufficiently wide to let her pass through completely unhindered, she’ll sit and stare at it in consternation.

Daft, daft animal.

The other thing is her evident fondness for a tennis ball with a squeaker in it (again, which see).  We’ve taken to calling said ball her “binky” and she hates, hates to be parted from it.

As I say, I think she’s not that bright, but I’m not completely convinced.  When confronted with Alpha-male authori-tah, teh dog has a passive-passive-aggressive approach that would cause Alexander to start pulling his hair out in frustration.  Trying to discipline her is equivalent to trying to discipline Jello, and about as effective.  This may just be what it is, but part of me can’t help thinking it’s by design.

Were Daisy a cat, I’d have no doubt whatsoever that I was being pawned.  It’s only the fact that she’s a dog which gives me doubt.

Anyhoo, that’s where we are.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo hit his half-century on this earth earlier this year.  Thus, I wasn’t altogether surprised when this memento mori turned up in the mail today:

memento

At first glance, I merely shook my head and sighed.  However, taking a closer look, I discovered something:  The membership was actually made out in Mrs. Robbo’s name.  I immediately started to laugh.

Why?  Because Mrs. R is actually about five and a half years younger than I am.  In the state of glee I usually reserve for telling her I’ve been carded yet again, I hastened to bring this discovery to her attention.

Mrs. Robbo was not quite so amused as I was.

However, as it happens, Port Swiller Manor is full of electricians, painters and handymen doing a variety of unforeseen maintenance and repair projects today.  (Ah, the manifest joys of home ownership!)  After stewing for a moment, Mrs. R visibly softened and said, “Hmm…I wonder if I could start using their discounts.”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening found ol’ Robbo attending a concert of the Piano Guys over at Wolf Trap, in company with Mrs. R and the Middle Gel, who is a certified hyper-fan of the group.  Because the gel is such a nut, we splurged to let her sit right down in the pit about three rows back from the stage.  Meanwhile, Mrs. R and I found ourselves a spot out on the lawn and, amidst intermittent showers and drizzle, hunkered down to wait out the gel’s little self-indulgence.

This lawn-seating biznay is rayther interesting.  Over the years, I don’t think I’ve done it more than five or six times, but you can easily spot the regulars by all their paraphernalia – blankets, coolers, wet-weather gear, folding seats and so-forth.  What I like about it is that, if you find the time weighing a bit heavy on your hands during the performance, you can simply wander off and buy yourself a glass of wine.  (Ask the Beautiful People down in the amphitheater if they can do that! I don’t think so!)

The last time we were there was to see Huey Lewis a few years ago.  We found ourselves seated immediately in front of a bunch of very drunk college kids who kept cat-calling all evening.  I reckoned that the crown for the Piano Guys would be somewhat different, and for the most part they were:  Lots of younger kids (which was great), families and older couples.  I didn’t see a single member of the rowdier element in attendance.

Nonetheless, there was a couple behind us who were probably in their late 30’s or early 40’s.  They had the complete lawn encampment going, right down to china plates, silverware, real wine glasses and corkscrew.  Throughout the entire performance, though, they never stopped talking.  Two more candidates for teh Special Hell, I found myself thinking.

The funniest thing to happen was that as I sat there I suddenly noticed a woman a few spaces over who looked exactly like the gal I’d grown up across the street from back in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to her since leaving high school over 30 years ago, although I’d had a vague report that she lived somewhere in our neck of the woods.

When I mentioned all this to Mrs. R, she said, “Well, why don’t you go over and talk to her?”

“What?” I replied in horror.  “I couldn’t! If I turned out to be wrong, she’d think I was some kind of psychopath and I’d have no choice but to take my own life in shame!”

“What stuff,” Mrs. R said, and went over to find out for herself.  Turns out I had been right after all and that this was my old neighbor.  We chatted with her and her husband for a couple minutes and then went back to our spot much gratified.

Small world, ain’t it.

Oh, as to the actual musick.  If you aren’t familiar with them, the Piano Guys’ (they’re actually a piano/cello duo) basic shtick is to take classical themes and interweave them with pop favorites, then doll it all up with a lot of fancy electronic effects and dramatic audio/visual presentation.  As I say, teh Gel is mad about them.  For myself, I will certainly acknowledge that they’re a hell of a lot better to listen to than some of the stuff that could have seized her imagination, and for that I am grateful.

One thing that struck me as amusing:  The cellist, in talking about their musickal influences, mentioned Victor Borge a couple of times.  Only he kept pronouncing the name “Borg” instead of “Borzha“.  I couldn’t help thinking that if ol’ Victor were still around, he could have incorporated this into his “Phonetic Punctuation” routine.  “You vill be azzimilated! Shwoop! POP!”

All in all, a good time was had by all.

 

Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo just watched his beloved Nats snap a four game losing streak in a riveting performance against the D-backs of Arizona.

Let me be clear about something here: Anyone who thinks our great National Pastime is “boring” is, how shall I put it, a complete idiot.

Indeed, my liver and my vocabulary would be in considerably better shape if baseball was, in fact, as boring as said idiots claim, so I make this charge completely free of bias.

That is all.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know what a Luddite ol’ Robbo is as a general rule, so I warn you now that you may be in for a bit of a shock.  Yes, I now seem to own an iPhone.

You see, for years and years now, to the extent I have used a cell phone at all, I have relied on an old Motorola flip-phone.  Why? Because it was the one given to me when we first got cell service and I’ve never bothered to upgrade, largely because I avoid the phone whenever possible and it always seemed adequate for the few times I’ve been forced to use it.  (In fact, I still don’t even know my own cell number.)

But if you’ll scroll down a bit, you’ll see some pics I took on my recent trip out West.  There, I was using a work-issued iPhone and decided to try out the camera function.  I have to admit that I rayther enjoyed it, although I realized that with a work phone, I was very, very limited in the sorts of things I could photograph and transmit.

I mentioned this casually to Mrs. R this weekend and it proved to be all the encouragement she needed to go and raid the Apple store.   There, she got an upgrade for herself, and arranged for me to take her old iPhone as a hand-me-down.

Chillin'

Chillin’

So I’ve been fiddling with the thing off and on today.  All I really wanted above and beyond basic cell service was the ability to take pictures and post them.  And does it work?  Well, here is the scene from this evening (and, indeed, most early evenings here at Port Swiller Manor) that I took while playing with it a while ago:

I hope you like it, as I would like to make my own pics a more regular part of my blogging.  (But this is absolutely as far as I go, technologically speaking!)

By the bye, how on earth do these calling plans work?  From what Mrs. R tried to tell me, it sounded as if Verizon paid her to do this double-switch.  Either she’s pulling my leg, or there are some strange, strange metrics that go into the pricing.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I see from a quick dekko at sitemeter, it seems the demand for the return of Robbo from his summah hols has been astronomical.  Well, my friends, your wait is over, as I am most definitely back.

As I mentioned, the Family Robbo met up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his brood at a lakeside retreat this year.  More specifically, it was Lake Anna, nestled in the heart of the Great Commonwealth of Virginny and also sporting its own nuke plant a couple miles up the shore from us, the wastewater discharge from which kept our part of the lake at a temperature somewhere in the mid-80’s.  Indeed, splashing about in it was not unlike taking a bath and, frankly, wasn’t all that refreshing.

As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo spent very little time actually swimming and much of his time kayaking.  I would roll out of bed earlyish in the morning and put in an hour and a half to two hours of industrious paddling about, then go for another round later in the afternoon.  It was most soothing.  As it happens, I have the kind of body that, with any kind of regular exercise, buffs up quite quickly, so I am also feeling quite fit at the moment, although my arms are still killing me.

In between bouts of rowing, I found time to get in a goodish bit of reading, too.  My list included the following:

sheed mapA Map of Life: A Simple Study of the Catholic Faith by Frank Sheed.  This book is not an argument but rayther, as its title implies, a simple statement of the Faith.  Here is what we believe.  Here is why we believe it.  Here is what we do and don’t do as a result of these beliefs.  Here are what we think are the consequences of following and not following them.  Easy, logical, lucid prose without all that heavy breathing you get from somebody like Scott Hahn.

fremont first impressionsFrémont’s First Impressions: The Original Report of His Exploring Expeditions of 1842-1844.  I picked this up because of my recent visit to Wyoming and views of the Oregon Trail  Fremont’s first expedition in 1842 was to map said Trail as far as South Pass.  I was delighted to recognize the area he describes in and around Ft. Laramie.   The second took him all the way to near what is now Portland, down across the Sierra Nevadas (in the dead of winter) into the Sacramento River valley, around the souther Sierras through Arizona and New Mexico, back up into Colorado and then hey for home.  The book is very well written and “The Pathfinder” obviously knew what he was about: exact scientific measurements and observations; good judgment of terrain; (mostly) careful travel with the occasional calculated risk; an instant grasp of the strategic importance of the Columbia River and San Francisco Bay to the rapidly expanding United States; and genuine curiosity about that area of the Intermountain West known as “The Great Basin”.  Unfortunately, for some reason this edition does not contain any of the maps, drawings or appendices attached to the original reports.  Also, it is fronted by a somewhat condescending introduction by some modern academic who is quick to point out what a racist/imperialist/white male aggressor Fremont was, and that, of course, we aren’t like that now.  Sheesh.

waugh battleThe End of the Battle by Evelyn Waugh.  I won’t say anything about it here.  Waugh is one of my very favorite authors and the Sword of Honor trilogy (of which this is the third book) is probably my very favorite Waugh.  I’ve read this book many, many times.  One question that occurs to me, though:  Why do references to J.H. Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish keep popping up in Waugh’s novels?  It is usually found in officers’ messes, masters’ common rooms and elsewhere and I can’t help thinking that Mr. Wu is getting in a little dig for his own amusement although I don’t quite get the joke.

chricton pirate latitudesPirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  A swashbuckler set in the reign of Charles II featuring a dashing privateer taking a whack at the Dons in the Caribbean.  I’ve never read any Crichton before although I’ve heard of his good reputation.  Frankly, I don’t understand it, if this book is any example of his writing.  It might have made a good screenplay, but the prose and characters have a Tom Clancy-like cardboard quality about them.  Also, Crichton doesn’t seem to grasp some basics of nautical terminology.  He uses “ground” when he means “deck” and he persistently refers to ships (including a galleon) as “boats”.  He also describes a gunnery trick used by the hero to elude his pursuing enemies that is patently absurd.  (I also started out on Crichton’s Sphere but ran out of time and only got about a quarter of the way in – the book belonged to teh rental house.  Just as well, really, because the prose was as bad as in P.L and was beginning to irk me.

And why was I able to get so much reading done? Because the house turned out to be quite big and roomy enough for the ten of us not to suffer that ghastly feeling of being on top of each other all the time and I was quite able during the mid-day hours to snuggle into a corner relatively undisturbed, apart from some bouts of door-slamming and children running about that reminded me of something out of “Arsenic and Old Lace”.

All in all, a good week, leaving ol’ Robbo tanned, ready and rested.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, ol’ Robbo’s summah hols officially began.  (I say “officially” because at least in spirit I had already left the office at the beginning of the week, doing nothing much more than sorting things between that which I could ignore until I get back and that which I could ignore full stop.)  Tomorrow we go to meet up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family at a lake house on which we’re going snacks, there to loaf about, perhaps kayak a bit, play some croquet and badminton, and drink large quantities of adult beverages.

We tried this a couple years ago down in the Outer Banks and I can’t say I enjoyed it very much.  The “house” there was actually a condo built right smack in the middle of a zillion other condos.  It was too small for the ten of us and the whole area was far, far too crowded for Robbo’s taste.  This year we’ve got a real house, set on its own on a little point of land with a dock and a small beach, so I’m hoping it will be genuinely relaxing.

“Say, Robbo, don’t you usually go up tah Maine and stare at the bay?” I hear some of you asking.  Well, yes, we did for many years, but I’m afraid that’s about over.  The cottage is crumbling and, not being very efficient slumlords or investment wizards, we just don’t generate the kind of dosh necessary to really fix it up or, better yet, knock it down and start over.  So it’s on the market.  (If any of you are interested, ignore that part about crumbling.)  Also, I just don’t think Mrs. R and the gels really liked it very much – they are of the school of holiday-making that requires stimulation and entertainment, two things you’re just not going to find in Midcoast Maine.  I’m sure gonna miss it, though.

Anyhoo, I probably won’t be around here very much for the next week, so for your consideration I present some few thoughts still idling round my otherwise rapidly stagnating braim:

♦   I must say that I continue to delight in watching Gozer the Gozarian Teh Donald flip the bird at the MSM (or, as the Puppy-Blender likes to call them, “Democratic operatives with bylines”) and cause the GOP Establishment to soil its collective undies.  The GOPe has absolutely nobody to blame for all this than themselves.  While the Donks have gone national socialist, the GOP has gone Vichy despite being elected specifically to stop the drift lurch left.  Teh Donald is simply filling the void where we fools thought the Establishment would stand and fight.  To hell with them.  (Oh, and here’s a pro tip, GOPe:  Don’t call us stupid.)

♦  Speaking of such things, I see where Berke Breathed has resurrected Bloom County.  Good on him and I hope he keeps it up.  I’m curious to see how well he gets on.  Although he’s something of a lefty, B.C. was never of the same self-rightious un-funny smarminess as Doonesbury and Breathed wasn’t afraid to go after twits on his side of the fence from time to time.   However, that was back in the 80’s and 90’s, before the advent of the Social Justice Warrior cadre.  Wonder what will happen the first time he takes a swipe at one of their sacred cows.  (Small point of trivia: Breathed went to college with my high school Latin teacher.)

♦  What can ol’ Robbo say of his beloved Nationals except thank God the rest of the N.L. East is so awful this year.   In case you haven’t been following things, our trouble is injuries: better than half of our starters are out at the moment.  And while the bench guys have been doing as well as anyone could possibly hope, there’s a reason they’re bench guys after all.   During the game last evening, F.P. Santangelo (the Nats’ teevee color guy) said the team reminded him of the Memphis Belle – banged up, shot up, but still leading.  I chuckled appreciatively at that little bit of historickal allusion.

♦  Following up on our bear-sighting of this week, I was out mowing in the little clearing behind the back fence this morning (keeping an eye peeled over my shoulder, you may be sure) when I suddenly stepped in the answer to the rhetorical question about bears and woods.  Yes.  Yes, they do.

♦  The Family Robbo has been obsessed over the past couple weeks with playing a board game called Colorku, which seems to be Sudoku involving colored balls instead of numbers.  Being a crossword snob, I never got into sudoku myself so have no real interest in this game either, but anything that gets the gels off their damned iThingies is just fine with me.

Whelp, I suppose I had ought to go and see about packing.  Or at least thinking about packing.  Or possibly thinking about when it will be time to start thinking about packing.  Or something.   Meanwhile, you all know the drill:  Decanter and walnuts are on the table and the Stilton is on the sideboard.  Swill till your eyes bubble and I’ll be back later.

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention that no, Daisy dog does not accompany us.  Instead, she’s off this afternoon to a sort of free-range kennel we found.  It’s a big farm of so many acres and they basically just let the dogs run around all day and bring ’em inside at night.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ever have one of those strange, strange days?

This morning teh Eldest called me at work and informed me that a black bear was wandering around outside our back fence.  There have been increasing reports of them in our neck of the woods over the past couple years but this is the first time I’d heard of one in our immediate vicinity.

I called up the County Animal Control people to report the sighting, since ours is a residential area and a lot of people like to walk their dogs in the woods behind us.  “Oh,” said the dispatcher, “We don’t respond to that sort of thing.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied, “Just a wild animal being part of nature, that’s all.”

This must be a new policy.  I know for a fact that when a bear popped up a mile or two away from us last summah the County police tracked him down and carted him off.

This afternoon I told the Eldest what they’d said.  Now she worries the bear will come back.  “Dad,” she said, “Do you think the bear could climb the fence, come up to the basement and get in and get me?”

“Sure,” I replied, “All bears carry skeleton keys and glass-cutters for that very purpose.”

She was not amused.

Meanwhile, when I went to start up La Wrangler yesterday afternoon after work, she wouldn’t fire.  So I left her at my work garage and metro’d home.  Today I spent rayther a lot of time dealing with Triple-A, as first they sent a battery guy and then later a tow-truck (driven by the tightest-mouthed badasss I’ve ever met, who also happened to be a wizard at navigating extremely tight spaces with his truck).  I just got home a while ago from dropping her off at the dealer and am in dread:  The last time they got their hooks on her, they found about a zillion different things that needed “immediate attention”.  Although I think in this case the alternator just went out, I bet they’ll do so again.  Must. Be. Firm.

In the meantime, my loaner is a Nisan Versa “Note”, a vehicle I’d never heard of before that looks not unlike a shuttlecraft from Star Trek: TNG.  Driving it, I feel like a complete hipster doofus.  You might as well slap “Co-exist” and “Draft Lizzie!” stickers, together with a rainbow flag, on the back and have done with it.

What makes this week a bit more tolerable?  The fact that I go on summah hols Friday and have slipped into that pre-vacation who-really-gives-a-damn mindset.

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