Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s always a bit startling when you realize that your Padre is going to take as the topic of his homily an issue that’s already preying on your mind. Spooky, on the one hand, because you start to wonder just what kind of thought-reading capacity actually does come with his job. Comforting, on the other, when you realize he really wouldn’t be bringing it up if it wasn’t a pretty common issue.

Father was talking today about the journey toward holiness and chose to use the metaphor of driving on snow. To do so successfully, he said, first you have to put away the cellphone and stop yelling at the kids in the back seat. Then you have to remember to be always applying gentle pressure to the gas pedal, keeping up momentum. In this way, the force of acceleration causes the tire to control its interaction with the road. If you just coast, taking away that force, then the road will start dictating the manner in which it interacts with the tire and, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself going where you don’t want to go. And finally, of course, you have to avoid all violent, sudden motions of either gas, brake, or steering wheel. Calm and cool but always gently pushing does it.

Ol’ Robbo almost inevitably falls into most of these snow-driving traps in his Lenten observations. Usually feeling rayther shabby and dissolute rolling into the season, I make big plans for all the things I’m going to give up cold-turkey as well as the strict regimen of prayer and reading to which I’m going to subject myself. It is, in fact, the equivalent of jamming on both gas and break pedal at the same time and cranking the wheel hard over. And almost invariably after my first week or so, I’m in the ditch. It usually takes me another week to, as it were, pull myself out and, at about the third Sunday, to set out anew.

Whelp, here we are again. I’m just hoping that I will keep Father’s metaphor tucked away somewhere in my braims and maybe finally learn something about driving this time and going forward.

UPDATE: Yes, the Carrie Underwood reference in the title. I was a bit dubious about its tastefulness but it was too good to resist, given the subject matter.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After years of hemming and hawing over the idea, Ol’ Robbo signed up this week with a lawn maintenance outfit to do the weed and feed routine at Port Swiller Manor, my own recent ineffective efforts convincing me it was finally time to call in the pros. What actually put me over the top? Well, outfits like TruGreen and ChemLawn have forever sent me flyers full of overviews and ending in “give us a call to schedule an appointment for a free estimate”. I don’t like that. On the other hand, the people whom I am trying sent me a proposal that said this is what we’d do, this is when we’d do it, and this is what it would cost you. I like that a whole lot better. (I signed on for a course of six treatments – at a deep first timer discount – running from early spring through late fall.)

Marketers, take note. (Relatedly, out of curiosity Ol’ Robbo went to the CarShield site to see what extended warranty protection on La Wrangler might cost him. I was hoping it would be a simple, anonymous “enter your make, model, and mileage and here’s your estimate.” Nope. They wanted a whole bunch of personal information and promised an agent would be in touch to discuss “options”. Fook off.)

Anyhoo, we shall see what happens. My fear is that once the weeding is done there’ll be nothing left to feed. Fortunately, this outfit can also do aeration and over-seeding, which I am sure they would be eager to sell me and, in all honesty, the yard really needs after my twenty years of not as who should say neglect, but more general feebleness. I know a goodish amount about properly growing and maintaining some things but grass ain’t one of ’em.

Back in the Before Times, Ol’ Robbo used to take a daily lunchtime walk round the National Mall. I used to love watching the grounds crew doing their seasonal work on the lawns and daydream about lifting the keys to their tractors with all the various nifty attachments and sneaking them out to Port Swiller Manor. “Honest,” I would imagine myself explaining if caught, “It’ll only take a few minutes to do my yard. I promise I’ll bring it right back!” Heh. (Perhaps since the place is currently fortified and crawling with troops to guard against the phantom bogeyman “insurgents”, maybe I could borrow their stuff.) This won’t be quite like that, of course, but then again I’m not aiming for the same results. But with moss all over the front yard and clover and whatnot all over the back, it’s time to take steps.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been watching the partial disappearing of Dr. Seuss with grim amusement.

In part, this is because I’m old enough to remember when “Read Banned Books!” was a favorite slogan on bumper stickers and backpack pins among the Left. Of course, that was back in the day when the aim was to twit uptight middlebrow librarians and Church Ladies. I am well aware that this is different because Reasons and because Shut Up!

Also in part, though, it’s because of stirred memories that, in hindsight, now seem almost prophetic. Junior year of high school, my honors English class was assigned a big paper in which we were supposed to do an in-depth analysis of the book of our choice. (I recall that I picked The Great Gatsby but I couldn’t tell you a single thing now about what I wrote.) A buddy and I, being the smartasses that we were, decided to also submit an anonymous paper. It was titled something like “Theodore Geisel and the Will To Power: A Marxist Interpretation of Green Eggs and Ham” and was all about the authoritarianism of Sam I Am and the overcoming of bourgeois resistance to inevitable social and economic change (i.e., the said unorthodox ham and eggs).

Our teacher was a good sport about it. In fact, she laughed and laughed. My friend and I never did own up to authorship even when Mrs. Andrews begged the entire class to come clean, but I think she had her suspicions. (As a matter of fact, it might have been what saved me from GPA disaster later when I point-blank refused to read the fourth bloody Steinbeck book in a row, but that’s a different story.)

Good times. Good times.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently, finally, Ol’ Robbo broke down and ordered up the necessary equipment to transmogrify his work laptop (with which he has been shlepping along for almost a year now) into something closer to a home office computer. This included a docking station, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a large monitor, together with all the bits necessary to put them all together.

It took me a few false starts (like getting the wrong monitor cable) and a bit of puzzling things out, but today I finally got the whole thing up and running. My last hurdle was the keyboard, which came with a whole booklet of safety and environmental warnings but no actual setup instructions beyond three crude hieroglyphs on the box. It took me a loooong time to finally deduce that the third one was meant to represent pulling the lithium battery out, flipping it over, and reinserting it.

I was really quite pleased with myself. While I’m mechanically inclined, computer technology is way out of my wheelhouse, and this kind of set-up represented just about the limits of my ability. But when I showed my work to Eldest Gel, what was her response? “Awww, Da-DEE! I’m so pwoud of you! Plugging in those mean ol’ cables all by your widdle self!”

(I tell ya, I don’t get no respect!)

Anyhoo, it’s nice to be able to finally getting back to working on documents without having to squint so bloody much.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt most of my fellow mackerel snappers out there have heard of Bishop Robert Barron. I sometimes think he fancies himself as a sort of latter-day Abp. Fulton Sheen, in that he’s keenly aware of the current state of communications technology and seems to do everything in his power to take advantage of it to spread the Word. Certainly, after Ol’ Robbo signed up for his daily Lenten reflection emails and bought a set of DVD’s a few years ago, he hasn’t let go of me at all, at all.

But I just noticed something odd: Recently, Bp. Barron started advertising a new book on the Rosary on FacePlant. A couple days in a row now, I’ve seen it very early in the morning and thought to myself, “Self, you really need to pick that up.” But when I went back a little later to follow the link, the FB post had disappeared. (I just did order the book, but had to hunt it down via another innertoob outlet to do so.)

Is this a thing? Ol’ Robbo knows little or nothing about advertising, much less the ins and outs of putting plugs on social media. Perhaps there is some reason for running ads of limited time duration on FB, although if there is I can’t really see the advantage. Why is it, then, that other posts stay in my feed forever while these vanish so quickly?


**adjusts tinfoil hat**

** (A glass of wine with That Guy Who Always Thinks It’s Beginning)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo was able to put in a couple hours this morning doing his first bit of gardening of the season, hogging back the butterfly bush and generally clearing out his garden of last year’s detritus. How nice it was to be back outdoors again!

It’s going to be another strictly maintenance-only year, at least for the garden itself. As ambitious as I am to really spiff my plot up, I’m still determined not to start until I have the time and money to do it right. So once again, I’ll let said butterfly bush, along with the foxglove, joe-pye and prairie cup-flower run semi-riot. (And no doubt at the height of summah, when it is absolutely full of butterflies, ask myself again why I would do it any other way.) On the other hand, I was seized with the idea while working that I really ought to see about expanding the collections of annuals on the porch and patio.

In the meantime, now that I have the chance to really examine things, it’s evident that early signs of spring are all around. The daffodils have broken ground and are about four inches up; my peonies are just starting to show red tips above ground; and the roses are starting to show signs of activity. (I’ll prolly cut them back in the next week or two.) I suppose we didn’t have all that severe a winter, because the boxwoods I have in urns on the patio came through just fine as did my sole surviving confederate jasmine. (In fact, it seems to have grown some, if that’s possible. Heck, maybe it’ll even flower this year!)

Anyhoo, as I say, it was most pleasant to be out and about again, getting wet and muddy and letting my mind drift over how the season is going to pan out and what I need to do when. Alas, though, for all my pleasant anticipation, I suddenly received a cold, shocking reminder: This is the year of the Brood X cicada invasion. And Port Swiller Manor is right in the crosshairs. Fun, fun, fun.

(But at least it’ll give me something to gripe-post about when the time comes, so I got that going for me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(No, this isn’t the one about the prostitute in the leper colony.)

Ol’ Robbo found himself watching “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)** last evening. It’s a screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McRae in which, as IMDB succinctly puts it, “an inventor needs cash to develop his big idea, so his adoring wife decides to raise it by divorcing him and marrying a millionaire.”

The millionaire involved (played by Rudy Vallee) is a thinly-disguised Rockefeller type whom Colbert meets on a train from New York to Florida.*** For reasons too complicated to explain, she’s on the train penniless and without any luggage. When he discovers this, Vallee’s character proceeds to spray money all over teh place, loading Colbert up with veritably two of everything.

And yet, when they get off the train in Flahrduh, Vallee’s character essentially stiffs the porter. When Colbert asks him about this, he says flatly, “Tipping is Un-American”.

This tripped a ganglion in Ol’ Robbo’s braim, because it brought to my mind a former work colleague. She was as hard-Left as you like, holding all the most radical views on economics, family, society, etc., etc. Nonetheless, we were great pals, primarily because she had a fantastic sense of humor, and couldn’t quite take anything too seriously. (Curiously enough, she also abominated abstract art, another thing we, surprisingly, had in common.)

Aaaaanyway, I recall my friend once going off on the inequities of tipping. In her view, the practice ought to be outlawed, not because it is “Un-American” but because it violates some precept of Marxist economic evolution theory or other. (Perhaps having to do with the false coddling of the proletariat. Or something. I confess that once she got going, I pretty much tuned her out.)

It amused me to think of this sentiment coming from both ends, as it were, of the economic spectrum. But it also appalled me. To Ol’ Robbo (having been both tipper and tippee), a tip, when voluntarily given ****, is a simple and sweet little act of charity, a token of appreciation of time and effort and, as experience shows, a real economic benefit for the recipient. Fake Rockefeller and my former colleague can spout all the theory they want to, but in the end, when the train porter is disgusted that he only got a nickel for 500 miles of attention and service, I’m with him.

** There is a link embedded in the title. I’ve started fiddling with the color settings here to make the posts more readable but when I overcoat the text the linkees disappear. Yay, WordPress.

*** Colbert slips on to the train with the assistance of a travelling gun club. Later, they get drunk and start shooting up a saloon car, before taking their dogs on a hunt throughout the train. I absolutely swear I’ve seen this sequence before but I have no memory whatsoever of the rest of the film. Strange.

**** Emphasis on “voluntarily”. I hate it when a restaurant, for example, arbitrarily includes one in the bill.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is amazed at how much “information” he is expected to swallow these days which is simply not true. I feel I could shake hands with Winston Smith, Jean-Luc “There Are Four Lights!” Picard, and Puddleglum and be right in among the boys.

I’m also amazed at the increasing demand by Our Betters that they take outright control of the flow and suppress all “disinformation” that does not comport with The Narrative. (All for our own good, they assure me.)

Remember the marketplace of ideas?

Remember the good old days of “Question Authority”?

Recall the time when “Dissent [Was] The Highest Form Of Patriotism”?

Yeah, me too.

Now Ol’ Robbo didn’t fall off the back of the turnip truck just yesterday. When I say I’m amazed, it’s not really at the fact of all this but rayther at the sudden accelerated level of shrillness and brazenness which it has achieved. That I haven’t seen before, at least not in this country. I begin to wonder whether this is an attempt at some sort of end game motivated either by triumphalism or desperation. Everything for the Narrative. Nothing against the Narrative. Nothing outside the Narrative. Two plus two equals five. There are five lights. Aslan does not exists. Hater!

What allows me to sleep at nights is that I’m not getting a sense of confidence among those trying to do the controlling. Whether they ultimately succeed or fail will be a damn near run thing, though.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A gergious early spring day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with temperatures expected to be near 60 this afternoon.

Of course this means that all the snow and ice we’ve recently got is melting rapidly and the demesne of Port Swiller Manor is quickly achieving bog status.

It also means that the floors are become covered with paw prints courtesy of Decanter Dog. Mrs. R tries to keep up with cleaning them but I point out that since DD goes out on average five or six times per day, this is something like trying to dig a hole in the ocean. In the absence of any scheduled visits by anybody in the foreseeable future, far better just to make a habit of mopping up every couple days and simply ignoring them in between.

Oh, the other drawback to this weather? More people out for walks = More opportunities for DD to go into conniptions as they pass by.

Yes, this is a pretty weak-tea post, but with all the current madness out there I thought it would make a nice rest. I know I can use it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After a period of apparent indifference if not actual acceptance, Mrs. Robbo recently has started in on me again about my Happy Fun Plague Tyme facial hair, specifically about my moustarsh. She began with sotto voce comments, escalated to squiggly looks, and has now arrived at the stage where she won’t kiss me but instead makes elaborate, sarcastic “air kisses” at me.

The truth is that I’ve rayther come to like my beard. (You might say it’s grown on me, nyuck-nyuck.) Far from just letting it run riot, I keep it neat and trim at about three quarters of an inch round about my chin (just the right length for tugging at when I’m thinking about things) and tapering off a bit up my jaw line. In my opinion, at least, the thing looks quite well.

As to the moustarsh, again it’s no wayward weed, but simply grown out a bit to keep in proportion with everything else. Mrs. R wants me to whack it back to stubble, but in my opinion this would simply look silly. Unless I cut everything else back, too. Ah-HA.

So what’s a Robbo to do?

Part of me says succumbing to Mrs. R’s wishes on this is a small price to pay to make her happy. Another part of me says, “My Body, My Choice”. An even other part of me says, “Let’s just mess with the old girl for a while and see where this goes.”

Ah, as W.S. Gilbert put it, “to indulge in the felicity of unbridled domesticity.”

Or as Basil Fawlty said more succinctly, “Just trying to enjoy myself.”


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March 2021