Greetings, my fellow port swillers and stand back – I don’t want to infect you.

Yes, ol’ Robbo spent most of the day today in bed, down with a stomach flu which seems to have come a’calling at Port Swiller Manor.   And in that time he had a couple of his patented bizarro dreams, which frankly seem to have been on sabbatical for a while.  I can’t remember the one, but the other is very clear still in my mind.  Would you like to hear about it?  Oh, good….

Well, it seems that I was on an airliner, a wide-body, flying to some resort destination or other.  It was a long flight and people around me seemed resigned just to hunker down and tough it out, when all of a sudden the stewardess appeared at the front of the cabin, determined to turn the situation into a flying party.

I recognized the woman:  About four or five years ago I found myself making numerous trips back and forth to Cleveland on biznay.  At one point, we were flying out every week, sometimes twice a week, and it got to where we knew the flight crews pretty well.   (It was a Continental regional jet and there was only the one attendant  each time.)  This woman was one of them, and the reason I remembered her was that she started her pre-flight safety routine every time with a lame joke about us being en route to Honolulu.  (Nobody ever laughed.)

Anyhoo, in my dream she got up and announced that she and a golf pro who was onboard were going to have a driving contest, hitting from tees just behind the cockpit and aiming at targets on the aft bulkhead.  Once again, nobody laughed.  Indeed, they didn’t even seem to react.

I happened to be sitting right up front and to one side, so I knew the stunt wouldn’t affect me directly, but I thought it pretty hard cheese on the people sitting in the potential flight paths.

Go figure what all that might have been about.

Oh, the other thing I recall is that the flight was a bit bumpy, but it didn’t bother me.

From time to time, the Port Swiller family has looked to Craigslist to purchase various items for the ol’ homestead, generally with very satisfactory results.

This week we happened to be looking for a small rug for the basement and came across a photo of one that was reasonably priced and would do very nicely.

Now the photo was of a rug in what looked like somebody’s living room, so we assumed that somebody was just letting it go for whatever reason.  So why, then, were we presented with an absolutely new one, still in its original wrapping, by a rayther shifty-looking fellah who kept on saying how much cheaper it was than the same thing at Macy’s?

I couldn’t help wondering if said rug hadn’t, in fact, been appropriated off of the back of a truck somewhere.

We went ahead and paid for it (in cash) anyway, idle speculation on my part not being enough grounds to sour the deal.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo, despite the fact that he finds himself fighting a stomach bug, is still reveling this evening after yesterday’s slayfest.  As Mr. Rogers would put it, “Can you say “repudiation”? Sure, I knew you could!”

Perhaps apropos, this evening I was flipping idly through one of the Dee Cee glossies that periodically show up in the Port Swiller mailbox (totally unbidden, I may say) when I came across a bit about a new art exhibit down the National Mall entitled “Out of Many, One”.  Allow The Smithsonian to explain:

Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is a big artist with big ideas. Standing a wiry 6-foot-5, he is rethinking the concept of portraiture: Instead of capturing an individual on canvas, he portrays universal man in giant “face-scapes” tilled into the ground.

“I want to expand the idea of what a portrait is,” says Kim Sajet, the director of the Portrait Gallery, who sought out the artist after seeing his earth portrait of a girl in Belfast. “The Portrait Gallery commissions paintings, video, photography and drawings all the time. This is about pushing the boundaries of portraiture outside the walls of the museum.”

In late summer, Rodríguez-Gerada was preparing to construct his portrait of an anonymous male on five acres of prime parkland between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Titled Out of Many, One, it presents a single face that is a composite of 50 men between the ages of 18 and 24, both Anglo and African-American. The artist picked them pretty much at random in Washington, D.C., photographed them and selected elements of each face—“the glint of an eye, edge of a mouth, someone’s lip texture”—for an image he created using Photoshop. Then he turned that image into a line drawing.

The rest of the article discusses the technical aspects of transposing such a line drawing into a massive, multi-acre, artistic tilling.  As a matter of fact, I find the process to be rayther impressive, at least from a mechanical point of view.  (On the other hand, I have very little time for anything that smells of a “stunt”, so there’s that. Christo, anyone?)

However, let’s have a look at the actual product, shall we?  You tell me whether this actually is an “anonymous male” created out of random photographs, or else is yet one more example of an all-too-familiar image:


Granted, ol’ Robbo may be being a bit paranoid here, but if so, I have good reason.  There is no place, NO place, for a cult of personality in a healthy, functioning Republic founded on the Rule of Law.

Going back again to yesterday, I’m hoping that people are finally waking up to this.

voteGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  Oh, hellz yeah, ol’ Robbo voted today:  The fear and loathing meters are pegging pretty damn high this year.

We shall see what happens.

An interesting anecdote that may or may not be of any particular significance:  The Repubby seeking to fill our House seat (upon the incumbent’s retirement) happens to be a member of my parish – I see her at Mass from time to time – and is well known for her social conservatism.   So the Donk challenger decided to run with a full-bore War on Wimminz campaign against her this fall, stuffing the port swiller mailbox with daily fliers about how she wants to return to the bad old days when all wimminz were forced to barefooted pregnancy.

Of course, ol’ Robbo himself is immune to this sort of thing.  What was interesting was Mrs. R’s reaction.  She’s not anywhere near as orthodox in her views on social issues as is ol’ Robbo, nor does she pay anywhere near as much attention to politicks.  Yet every time she saw one of these screeds, she would shake her head and say, “With all the terrible things going on these days, why is he picking a fight about that?”

Why, indeed.

Of the senate race in Our Fair Commonwealth, I have no idea what to say, as both campaigns have been virtually invisible to me.

There were a couple of other issues on the ballot.  One involved an exemption from state property taxes for the surviving spouses of military KIA’s.  Ol’ Robbo is always glad to do what he can for those who serve in uniform.  There was also a bond issue that involved a dollar amount with a whooooole lot of zeros.   Ol’ Robbo almost invariably votes against bond proposals on the principle that one does not give more whiskey to an alcoholic just because he wants it.

As I say, we shall see what happens.  Every time I promise myself that I am not going to spend the evening obsessing over returns, and every time I wind up breaking that promise.  I may not even bother making it today.

Oh, and here’s a scary thought:  The next time we go through this?  The Eldest Gel will be old enough to vote.  Yikes!

UPDATE:  Just a reminder – If your shadenboner lasts more than four hours, contact a physician.   I believe “self-loathing electorate” is the funniest post-mortem spin I’ve seen so far this morning.


I can’t help noticing the rise of what I can only characterize as sass among teh gels as they get older.  Recently, it seems to have focused around commentary about the content of Port Swiller Manor itself:

Daaa’aad, I don’t like the tile in the front hall….”

Daaa’aad, you should paint the basement a different color…..”

Daaa’aad, that table you got to put between the sofas in front of the teevee is really lame…”

Ungrateful whippersnappers!

I have no problem at all answering all these criticisms in the same way:  “When you have worked long and hard enough to be able to afford your own home, you can decorate it however you wish.  In the meantime, shut up and be grateful for what you have.”

Kids today: They’re young.




November 1 is mighty close to being ol’ Robbo’s very favorite day of the year.  Some of this is liturgical, some of it seasonal.  Indeed, there’s some sort of interrelation between the two, perhaps that they both remind us of our mortality.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of the traditional ceremonies of All Saints’ Day here at Port Swiller Manor is the disposal of the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern.

We do this by taking it out the back gate and to the edge of what is identified on local topographical maps as “an unnamed tributary of Bull Neck Run” but which we simply call “the creek”.   It’s a good twelve feet from the top of the bank down to the water, very steep on our side but of a somewhat softer slope on the other.

Anyhoo, at the edge of the creek, after thanking him for his services of the night before we give ol’ Jack a mighty heave-ho.

Depending on various factors such as size, weight, slipperiness and the like,  Jack might do just about anything on landing.  Sometimes he will hit a rock or a log and blow apart like a bomb.  Sometimes he will just catch the lip of the bank and then roll back down the slope.  One year, he made it all the way across and wound up in a bush on the far side, facing back across the defile and looking positively indignant.  As fall went on and he kept sitting there glaring, it got rather creepy.

Speaking of which, yes, ol’ Robbo once again did the traditional triangular eyes and nose and toothy grin.  In the matter of pumpkin carving, I am the oldest of old-school, and I positively loathe all this fancy-pants “sculpturing” tommyrot.

UPDATE:  Well, Jack didn’t quite make it all the way across this year.  He face-planted at the top of the bank and rolled back down into the streamed, losing his crown in the process.  He’s sitting there now, moodily looking downstream.

Trick or treat?  Why not both?
Halloween Delight


Hey, I’m a giver.  And who really wants candy anyway.  (Unless, of course, her name is Candy.)

Now go read my travel post directly below that I stomped just to give this to you early.

Robbo Incognito

Robbo Incognito

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo flew home from Vegas late last night and BOY are his arms tired! (Ba-dump-da!)  Somehow or other he thought he was going to get today to rest and recover from what really was a pretty grueling week, but instead has spent the bulk of the morning and early afternoon attending to all matter of tasks about Port Swiller Manor that seem to have stood still since his departure.  Heigh-ho.

Anyhoo, a few minutes off allows me to jot down some notes from my latest excursion:

*  I don’t have much to say about Vegas itself.  As regular friends of the decanter will hardly be surprised to read, that sort of thing simply isn’t ol’ Robbo’s speed.  We stayed at one of the older hotel/casinos downtown because it was within walking distance of where we needed to go.  It was clean enough and all, and the food was actually quite decent, but it had a definite air of the second-string compared to the flashier places down on the Strip.  The clientele seemed to match:  A mixed bag of the elderly, foreigners and families (who the hell brings an infant, or any child for that matter, to a casino?), most of whom looked decidedly working-class.   (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  My point is simply that they didn’t exactly look like high-rollers.)

My first morning, just after my flight had got in, I found myself in the elevator with a young sportsman – tatted to the nines and already well advanced in some sort of intoxication despite the earliness of the hour- who decided he was going to show his doormat of a girlfriend what a wag he was by embarrassing her in front of the stuck-up square from Back East.   He started by pressing all the floor buttons and then relapsed into literal “potty” talk, adopting the manner of a four-year-old.

I was so tired that I simply ignored him.  As for teh girlfriend, she was quite embarrassed.  I hope she kicked him in the nuts and left him forever after that.

* Oh, the one other thing.  The city was pretty disgusting, but the desert surrounding it was truly beautiful in its particular, harsh way.  (I felt the same thing a couple years ago when I had to travel to Phoenix and Tucson.)

*  As for the traveling bit, I can honestly say that I am getting better and better about dealing with flying.  I’ll never actually enjoy it, of course, but I no longer feel that the only thing keeping the plane aloft is my clenched stomach muscles.

*  Speaking of the flights, this was the first time I can remember for years and years that the pilots felt compelled to act as tour guides.   Back in the day, they were always noting waypoints and interesting landmarks, but then they seemed to stop some time in the 80′s.  (Which was just as well to me because my reaction whenever they started nattering was, “Shut up and fly the damned plane!”)  On both legs this time, however, there they were on the intercom pointing out Grand Canyons, Castle Rocks and the like.

*  Also speaking of the flight, thank YOU, US Air!  When I asked for some wine on the way home last evening, the steward Johnny pulled out a genuine half-bot of Pinot Noir, something else I hadn’t seen on a plane for years and years.  Yeah, I had to pay 15 bucks for it, but on a 4 hour flight? Totally worth it.

*  Robbo’s usual method of whiling away the time on a flight is to do crosswords.  This time around, I couldn’t help noticing some truly ridiculous clues/entries.  For example, lib politicks had to rear its ugly head in the form of a 3-letter word for “Pro assault weapons org.”  (NRA, of course, being the correct, albeit false, answer.)  For another, the same “B” was used for “Ba’al” going down and “Bar Mitzvah”  going across.  (Did the author have any idea how grotesquely tacky this is?  The clue for Ba’al was “Semitic nature god”.  Never mind that he was actually a devil who demanded child-sacrifice.)  A third clue employed the word “Gringolandia”, which I’d never seen before, to describe the United States.   Racist we much?

Mind you, this wasn’t Pravda on the Hudson, this was a simple Kollector’s Krosswords magazine.  Is there no escape?

* Speaking of escapes, Robbo was delighted to escape the ubiquitous blarings of Airport CNN this time around.  The tee-vees weren’t working when he left National on Monday morning and the Las Vegas airport doesn’t seem to have them at all (most likely because they want you to pay attention to their slot machines instead).

*Finally, speaking of tee vee, ol’ Robbo was able to catch Game 7 of the World Series and stuck it out to the end.  Robbo was rayther disappointed that the Giants won, given that they had offed his beloved Nats in teh first round of the playoffs.   However, he did get a small piece of consolation in the fact that the series-winning RBI came off the (broken) bat of none other than Mike “Beast-mode” Morse, who played for the Nats a couple years ago and was (and is) immensely popular here.  You’re not going to get as much attention as you deserve in the shadow of all the hype over Bumgardner’s pitching, but Well done, Mikey!

Whelp, there you have it for now.  Back to the salt mines!

** A double reference.   I never did get the Bugs Bunny joke, which is the first.  The second will be instantly obvious to fellow Morons and meaningless to anyone else.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on  biznay for Vegas.  (Vegas, beyotches!)

Actually, there’s a certain irony in this.  Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance.  Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.

Tricky thing, Christian morality.  If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.

Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first.  That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster:  I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport.  He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times.  (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet.  So there’s that.)

I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command.  To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.

So.  Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months.  Two things to note off the bat:  First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do.  Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet.  So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.

So, with that, first I give you the “main”  room:

Basement 1

This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio.  The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right.  I don’t  have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.

Second, I give you  the “addition”:

Basement 2

This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder.  All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams.  (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom.  The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty.  The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.

Third, I give you the “study”:

Basement 3

In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave.  It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left.  The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic.  The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.

Oh, you will note the funky ceiling.  Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it.  Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above.   When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could.  The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.

Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:

Basement 4

Main room from the doors to the study.  That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.

So there you are.

I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween.  In the meantime, help yourselves to the port.  The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.


*  Spot the reference.  And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.


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