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.

Sigh.

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.

Narp.

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….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

Ol’ Robbo was struck by a line in the Sequence of today’s Mass. Speaking of the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Host, it says:

Vetustatem novitas, * Umbram fugat veritas, * Noctem lux eliminat.

Which translates:

“Here, for empty shadows fled, * Is reality instead; * Here, instead of darkness, light.”

While not pretending to be any kind of theologian nor having stayed recently in a Holiday Inn Express, Ol’ Robbo nonetheless believes this “light” to be the same one spoken of in the preface to the Gospel of St. John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made: in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men: and the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

(More knowledgeable friends of the decanter may feel free to either backstop me on this or else correct my interpretation.)

But the reason the line caught my attention in particular is that I happen to have been thinking recently about that darkness and light, about that empty shadow and reality. Seems to me there are lots and lots of folks chasing the empty shadows these days and most such shadows seem built around such people making themselves into their own little gods presiding over their own little universes centered around their own little “truths”.*** And they all seem to be so very angry and miserable about it, too. Perhaps this has always been the case but I’m inclined to believe that social media has amplified and encouraged such things, and furthermore given such people, who used to sit alone muttering to themselves, the power now to actively go after anyone who dares express a different view.

It’s really very sad. And even if they drag me off to the camps or put me against the wall because of my own “incorrect” belief in the Light and God’s reality, well, I would still feel rayther sorry for them.

***You’ll no doubt tell Ol’ Robbo that he’s just recycling that old Chestertonian chestnut about how when people stop believing in God, the trouble is not that they believe nothing, but that they’ll believe anything. My answer is that a classic is, by definition, timeless and there’s nothing wrong with applying the old formulae to new situations. So there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo just spent about the last six hours or so cleaning the porch (and the back stairs) in the manner mentioned in the post below.

A hose, a mop, and a bucket of suds are never going to give the same deep cleaning as a power washer would, but at least I can say truthfully that I can no longer tell the area where the rug goes from the area where it doesn’t.

The screens turned out to be even dirtier than I realized. I’m happy about their markedly better appearance now, but I’m also a bit appalled at how cloudy they got without my noticing. And now the window screen beside which I’m sitting is saying, “Hey! What about the rest of us, huh?” I suppose that’s another job for sometime soon.

It never ends.

Nor has this job yet, for that matter. I’m just taking a break while waiting for the floor to finish drying so I can start moving things back. And of course all the little whatnots and doodads still need to be wiped off.

It really never ends.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy early weekend!

We’re forecast to have a sunny and hot one here, which is why Ol’ Robbo resolved last evening that it’s time for the annual porch cleaning. The only way to do a really thorough job is to shove everything to one side, scrub the other, let it dry, move everything over again (pausing first to scrub down the furniture), and repeat. And I don’t have a power-washer available so have to rely on hose, mop, and a bucket of suds. It’s a tedious job but very satisfying. (I’ve actually been having dreams about finally getting all the caked up pollen off the screens.)

Suds in the Bucket” is a great Sara Evans song, by the bye. And along those lines, I understand that this weekend is the six-month “anniversary”*** of Middle Gel’s walking out with her Young Man. (All together now: “Aaaw…….”) She asked me not long ago why I don’t post more about them here. The fact is that I really don’t know the boyfriend that well, having only met him the once when they were here for Easter Dinner. Also, as I told her, it’s one thing to write about the adorable episodes of one’s small children, but it’s something altogether different to write about the private biznay of a grown woman and I’m not really comfortable with it. That said, the fellah seems grounded, intelligent, and respectful of the Gel and doesn’t appear to be a politickal loon, plus it’s evident that the two are coo-coo-for-coco-puffs fond of each other, so at this point that’s good enough for me.

*** The pedantic fiend rises within Ol’ Robbo when the word “anniversary” is so casually applied to a period of months.

Speaking of politicks, the last time my Establishment Lib cousin visited us, she couldn’t resist signaling her virtue by proclaiming loudly that there was “nobody in the world” she trusted more than Dr. Fauci. Now that the depths of his perfidy in the whole Wuhan Lab fiasco are starting to leak out even in the Mainstream Media, I am sorely tempted to ask her innocently if she’d care to modify that position. (I know what she’d say: “Oh, I knew it all along!”) Aggshully, Ol’ Robbo did know it all along, the bio-weapon nature of the research, the backdoor U.S. funding, the cover-up, all of it. (And for what it’s worth, while I still believe the release from the lab was an accident, I also believe that its potential usefulness by the Powers was quickly recognized and seized upon. What was it ol’ Rahm Emmanuel once said about never letting a crisis go to waste?) But when the information first became available (well over a year ago), it was dismissed by my Betters as the stuff of tinfoil-hat right-wing fantasy. Mmmm-hmmm….

Skepticism of worldly things is merely experience put into practice. I don’t understand why so many people have such a problem grasping this.

Well, enough of all that. Ol’ Robbo is pleased that his new copy of John Wayne’s “The Cowboys” (1972) has arrived and he plans to watch it this evening. I honestly don’t care that much for most of the Duke’s later movies, as they tend to suffer from the same trends that were contaminating the movie industry as a whole in the later Sixties and early Seventies, but this one manages largely to get around all that and is a solid and satisfying adventure story. (And it always amuses me to think that Robert Carradine, who plays the oldest of the “cowboys” eventually wound up becoming Lewis. “NERDS!!“)

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