Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Fathers’ Day!

This weekend saw the return of a full house at Port Swiller Manor for the first time since January. And yet Ol’ Robbo finds himself facing dinner alone this evening. How do I come to be doing a Gratuitous Bachelor Post(TM) today of all days?

Well, let me explain……No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

The two major factors are the advent of Ol’ Robbo’s in-laws and Middle Gel’s latest sports wound.

First, the in-laws. They’re doing their snowbird summah migration back up north and are stopping over in town for a few days. Not altogether without reason, they went to the extremes of precaution during the recent medical unpleasantness, and had not been out of their house for about fourteen months. But while they now feel comfortable enough to get out and about again, they still refuse to have any close contact with anybody they know has not had the jab.

That would be me.

It’s useless to argue rationally about this, nor do I wish to upset them, so I’ve simply gone along with things and am keeping my distance while they visit with Mrs. R and those granddaughters who also are medically cleared.

Last evening, I had dinner with Eldest alone, who’s also been banished. I would have done so again this evening, but this is where Middle Gel comes in. Since her grandparents were coming through and she hasn’t seen them in over a year and a half, she naturally took advantage of their stopover here to come up herself and visit. But a week or two ago she managed to get body checked by some dude whilst frolicking on the lawn down at her school, resulting in a crocked right knee which doesn’t allow her to drive at the moment.

Mrs. R went down to fetch Middle Gel on Friday, but we decided that it would be nice for Eldest to drive her back, her teaching job having ended last week for the summah. Thus, she’s going to spend this coming week knocking about with her sister down in the Tidewater. Surely a Good Thing. They just left a while ago, as Eldest wanted to be there before dark. So no dinner with her.

What about Youngest, you might ask? Well, she’s dog-sitting for the grandparents while they go out to dinner with Mrs. R, the in-laws absolutely refusing to let their pooch sit alone and unattended in their hotel room for an hour or two.

So there you have it.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t begrudge any of this himself, really, although he thinks the ban pretty hard cheese on Eldest Gel. Mrs. R has me around every day but only sees her ‘rents once in a way, so why would I object to her spending time with them? Besides, these little get-togethers invariably get complicated, aggravating, and sometimes tempestuous. Far simpler for me simply to turn my bow into the wind and heave-to until it’s all over.

Besides, this is a good opportunity for me to indulge in a little veal scaloppini, which I avoid when Mrs. R is around in order not to offend her sensibilities. Fried up in a coating of breadcrumbs, put together with some potato pancakes, some fresh peas, and a bot of Beaujolais, and Ol’ Robbo is good to go!

And speaking of which, time for me to go start getting things ready…….

***Not really, except that when I got to church today I noticed a black Chevy Suburban with gub’mint plates waiting to pick up somebody coming out of the Mass ahead of ours. I never saw who it was but chuckled to myself at the idea that if it was Creepy Uncle Joe hoping to sneak in Communion at our parish, he would surely be deeply disappointed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo posted below about what to do with the County’s maple trees on the Port Swiller Manor street front.

And what shows up in his mailbox yesterday? A flyer from the County’s Land Development Services Department warning that Port Swiller Manor may sit on or near a Resource Protection Area.

Coincidence? I think not!

The RPAs are regulated areas stretching out 100 feet from streams, rivers, and shorelines within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. You’re not supposed to remove any growth, even dead growth, within them, nor are you supposed to clearcut to create lawn. (It’s actually a sensible conservation measure of which Ol’ Robbo approves.)

I’ve often mentioned here the little creek that runs past the Port Swiller Manor back fence. It’s a very small tributary of a moderately larger run that eventually dumps into the Potomac. The RPA comes close to our property line but doesn’t actually cross it. (Would that it covered the trees out front!) Over the years, I have maintained the ground closer to the creek, but only to the extent of cutting the grass in what is already open area and gathering downed deadwood into neat piles. Well, and I also dump all the various waste from the yard back under the trees. Hopefully, they can’t get me for that. (Honest, officer, I was composting!)

The other side of the creek is a big chunk of woodland within our neighborhood which was originally zoned for a school. Due to one thing and another, the school never got built (and never will). Every now and again, a developer tries to get the plot rezoned in order to build moar McMansions and the neighborhood organizes to fight it, so far successfully. We knew the risk of this when we moved in but we also figured the creek and its RPA would save us from having to look at the back of some hideous new pile were a zoning decision ever to go the other way.

So the flyer really didn’t tell me anything I don’t know already. But it did come with a link to a neat-o interactive County map laying out elevations, watersheds, RPAs, and property lines. I’ve been playing happily with it this morning. (I did not know there is a “Pope’s Head Creek” in the County. I’ll have to look a bit further for the origins of that one, as a 5-minute Bing search provides no enlightenment.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t got round to mentioning it yet, but the fireflies (or lightning bugs, if you prefer***) have been back out at Port Swiller Manor for about a week or ten days now.

Lightning bugs (or fireflies, if you prefer) are definitely Ol’ Robbo’s favorite insects.

I understand that this isn’t exactly a competitive bracket, most bugs being either annoying, disgusting,**** or (in the case of yellow-jackets, paper hornets, and scorpions which with I’ve had encounters) painful. But whereas I casually like, say, butterflies, crickets, and certain of the less-scary spiders, I really like fireflies, and their reappearance in early to mid-June in these parts always makes me very happy. Which is why I make a point of adding this same post year after year even when I’ve got nothing original to say about the matter.

I recall somebody here years ago, when Ol’ Robbo had a wider readership, saying there were no lightning bugs in their neck of the woods, somewhere in the Great Plains, I b’lieve. I still remember thinking what a shame that was. Subsequent poking about on the innerwebz suggests that they aren’t altogether unknown west of the Mississippi, but that they are much rarer there, particularly in the Upper Midwest. We certainly had them in the South Texas of my misspent yoot (I used to catch them and release them in my bedroom) and I positively saw some a few years back along the banks of the North Platte in Casper, Wyoming. But I gather there just aren’t the galaxy-like swarms we can get here in the East.

As I say, that’s a shame, because on a warm, still, summah evening, still dripping from the thunderstorms that rolled through earlier, when the little beasties fill the trees in their hundreds and thousands, flickering away in miniature answer to the real lightning still visible off to the south and east? Well, regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo doesn’t go in for the schmaltz much here, but that’s magic, that is.

*** I’ve no idea what the breakout is between people who say “firefly” and people who say “lightning bug”. Are they regionalisms? I grew up hearing both, but even though I lived in the South, my family were Yankees.

****Speaking of disgusting bugs, the Brood X cicada swarm is definitely winding down its appearance. Good riddance, says I.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor earlier this morning got to see an interesting sight: Ol’ Robbo, in robe and jammies, helping Eldest Gel to haul a large, fallen branch to the side of the driveway so she could get to work. (I’ll have to haul it and the others that came down with it out back later on.)

I hope the scene was good for a chuckle or two for those passing by.

Ol’ Robbo has written numerous times before of the three large maples and the oak which line the ditch between the sidewalk and the street in front of his house., pointing out time and again that this is county property, not mine.

Of course, in the spirit of good neighborliness, we’ve always cared for the area ourselves. We clean up all the leaves each fall as well as sticks and branches whenever they come down. We’ve put in low retaining walls to channel rain run-off and beds of shade-loving plants because grass won’t grow in the space. We’ve done so out of pocket and knowing that these could all be dug up without question were the County to need to get at, say, a buried utility line.

But this is all fairly nickel and dime compared to what it would cost to prune or take out one or more of the trees. And after all these years, we’re now approaching the time when somebody is going to have to do something, as they (especially the one on the weather end of the line) are definitely showing their age. And, to be blunt, I’m not paying for it. I already get skinned to the bone for property taxes – let some of that come back my way.

I’ve tried from time to time to penetrate the bureaucracy (both County and State) to see exactly who is in charge. I assume this matter would come under the heading of “road maintenance”, but I’ve never yet found even a contact point. (Big surprise.) Even if I did, I’d bet each would only tell me that it’s the other one’s problem.

In the end, I suppose that nothing will be done until, on the squeaky-wheel principle, a large bough or maybe the whole shooting-match comes down on the street during a storm some night.

*** A lot of these old nursery rhymes have their origins in long-faded politickal disputes. I’ve sometimes wondered what this rayther lurid cradle-toppling scenario was about originally. Same with, say, “Humpty-Dumpty”. I’ve always believed that “Georgy-Porgy” was a dig at George IV during his Regency but couldn’t cite you the basis for my belief.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo received an early Father’s Day present this past weekend in the form of a new phone.

For some years now I’d been using Mrs. R’s old hand-me-down.** The actual phone part of it had conked out a while back, but the text and email worked perfectly fine and that was good enough for me. The family finally decided that enough was enough and I am going to start answering phone calls whether I like it or not.


I see their point, of course, especially as the Young ‘Uns are flying the nest. But I also hate feeling like a slave to the phone. What with everything being so portable, there’s an implied expectation these days that one have the thing at hand 24/7/365. More than once, when answering a query about why I didn’t pick up with the reply that I just didn’t have my phone on me, I’ve been met with looks of stark incredulity.

I don’t see that as convenience of communication so much as an invasion of privacy. (I won’t even put on my tinfoil hat here and rant about domestic espionage, but there’s that, too.)

All this got me thinking about the days of my misspent yoot when it was all landline limited by the length of the phone cord and it didn’t matter anyway because my sistah was always hogging the thing yapping with her friends.

Good times.

** May I just say here also that the system of “plans” and equipment swaps and upgrades courtesy of Apple and Verizon is now completely beyond my comprehension.

UPDATE: I meant to raise a glass to Youngest Gel. When I got the phone, I stared at it blankly and said, “Well, what about all the stuff on my old phone?”

“Give it to me,” she said, and in about five minutes had transferred everything over to the new one. She even made me my own “contact page” because I admitted I didn’t actually remember what my phone number is.

It’s good to have somebody around who understands all the doohickies and gizmodoes, ‘cos I sure as heck don’t.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just thought I’d say it.

I’ve flown our flag at Port Swiller Manor 24/7 ever since the 9/11 attacks. There have been times since during the gathering storm of existential crisis in the Country when I’ve been tempted to take it down again in protest, anger, or disgust. But each time I remind myself of what it truly stands for, no matter what, and reaffirm my determination to keep it flying.

God bless Old Glory!

UPDATE: Well, if you’re feeling inclined to raise a glass to the Stars & Stripes, apparently you’re in real luck, as my spies inform me that today is also National Bourbon Day.

Ol’ Robbo knows little or nothing about bourbon. I drank Beam now and again in school but that was just because school, and I honestly wouldn’t know good quality from bad if I tripped over it. Still, Slainté!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Virginny!

Just two posts ago Ol’ Robbo was grumbling about failed storm promises. Now Port Swiller Manor is in the midst of a genuine soaker which started yesterday evening and is forecast to go through tomorrow afternoon.

(You just need to know the right people, I guess. Heh.)

It’s said of many places that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it’ll change. That’s certainly been my experience here.

Of course, it works the other way round, too. Our wedding anniversary is coming up in a week or two. Twenty-eight years ago at about this time, Ol’ Robbo recalls it being, like today, quite cool. (It was a late spring that year.) And I also recall very distinctly hoping that the run would hold out until the Big Day.


Even as the shackles were being applied, the temperature in Central Virginny was cranking up to near triple digits. Fortunately, we had scotched the idea of an outdoor reception way early in the planning. However, I still retain a grudge against the photographer for making us stand around outside far too long, boiling to death, for the formal group pics. (I still think he did so out of spite because I earlier point-blank refused to do some goofy posed shots that he wanted.)

But there it is. As P.G. Wodehouse’s French chef Anatole put it, I can take a few smooths with a rough.

In the meantime, I’ll just open the windows and enjoy this soggy Friday. (Better start thinking about an anniversary present, too.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt many friends of the decanter have lost a good deal of sleep wondering to themselves, “Self, what’s going on with Ol’ Robbo’s plague-beard?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

A couple weeks back, owing to a combination of spontaneity and heightened nagging by Mrs. R but mostly heightened nagging by Mrs. R, I hacked back what had come to be a substantial growth to mere stubble.

Looking into the mirror afterwards, I was a bit startled by what I saw.

Maybe I’m just puffed up by the pollen. Maybe the fact that I badly need a haircut throws off all the proportions. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed before. Whatever the reason, suddenly my jaw looked a lot smaller in comparison to the rest of my face than I remember it used to. And there, right at the end of it was my father’s chin, small, round, unmistakable. Again, I’d never noticed the resemblance before.

Frankly, I liked the bearded look better. Not only does the jungle growth fill things out, the fact that it’s grizzled gives me a certain confidence. (I’ve always looked much younger than I actually am and have always been self-conscious about it.)

Eldest Gel always had liked the beard, too, and protested my hack job heartily.

Mrs. R must have found herself leaning the same way, because when I immediately announced I was going to grow it back again she didn’t protest but only asked that I keep it reasonably trim. That’s something I can live with since I have no plans to join Z.Z. Topp.

So there we are. It’s coming back in nicely now and so far I’ve received no fresh complaints.

Now go catch up on all that sleep!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Uh, oh! Looks like the summah doldrums might be setting in around Port Swiller Manor, once again causing Ol’ Robbo’s bloggy muse to take a powder and dry up.

Know what Ol’ Robbo hates? Seeing a forecast for a week of afternoon thunderstorms and then each day watching teh chance dwindle down to zero with nothing happening at all.

Cicada-palooza continues. About the only difference is that the stench of the piling up dead ones becomes more noticeable. How long have we got to go on this?

[Insert your own follow-on bugs = politicians joke here.]

Speaking of such things, I see where today is the anniversary of the Emperor Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D. My favorite story about him is still the one in which he had a boat designed to come apart, sink, and thereby drown his mother, Agrippina the Younger. The boat duly broke up with her on board (in the Bay of Naples, I believe) but the old girl simply swam ashore.

Speaking of history, those of you tracking Ol’ Robbo’s progress through the Memoirs of William T. Sherman will be interested to know I’ve just reached the point where he’s negotiating surrender terms with Joe Johnston, so I’m almost done. This go-round has confirmed my opinion that Cump wasn’t anywhere near as talented a writer as Grant (although he was better than Longstreet, who is an astonishingly crashing bore). On to Little Phil Sheridan next just to round out the trilogy and then I think I’ll give the Civil War a rest for a bit and move on to something else.

UPDATE: UPS guy pounded on the front door a bit ago, thereby sending Decanter Dog into a tizzy. The funny thing is that she’s now asleep but she’s still barking. My world and welcome to it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but here in the Mid-Atlantic we’ve suddenly hit full summah full-tilt.

Ol’ Robbo woke up yesterday morning feeling especially stiff and groggy. At first I couldn’t think why and it was only much later that it dawned on me that this might have had something to do with working out on the porch in the heat and humidity for six or seven hours straight the day before. (**Whaps self over back of the head.**) I guess I’m not 29 anymore.

It may be my addled imagination, but the heat seems to be having an effect on our local cicada plague as well in that they suddenly seem to have become more aggressive and strident. There is a passage in one of H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain novels in which the hero and his companions are drifting down a mysterious river in a deep and gloomy valley. Here they come across colonies of giant land crabs which, when agitated, start screaming at each other. The cicadas are now screaming at each other here. It’s weird.

But of course it wouldn’t be true summah without one or more of the Gels making plans to hit the amusement parks. Youngest was going to go down to King’s Dominion with a friend yesterday, but also woke up feeling groggy and ill so decided to cancel. I must say that I was not displeased. She’s nineteen and all and needs the experience but I’m not crazy about the idea of her jaunting up and down I-95. (I’m going to let her drive when I run her out to summah camp next month and also when I take her back to school in August. The run across the Alleghenies on I-70 will be plenty harrowing enough, but at least I’ll be in the car with her.)

Anyhoo, there’s not much to be done except drink gallons of iced kawfee and start thinking longingly of late September….


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June 2021