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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As if this year hasn’t been interesting enough, Sunday afternoon found Mrs. Robbo backing out of the Port Swiller Manor driveway in the Honda Juggernaut® just in time to T-bone some kid bombing up the street in her Mercedes C-Class.   I’m not exactly sure what happened – Mrs. R swears she never saw anyone coming and the kid swears she honked and swerved – but the result is a slightly battered right-rear panel on our car and a stove in right-rear passenger door on the other car.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt.

Mrs. R has specialized over the past few years in backing into or brushing against various stationary objects with said Juggernaut®.  This was the first time she managed to wing a moving target.

I happened to be on the phone jawing with teh Mothe when Mrs. R reappeared in teh house with breaking news of the calamity.   I went outside to discover my own younger gels (who had been with Mrs. R) buzzing about the driveway, while the kid was still sitting in the middle of the road in her car, bottling up traffic.   (We live on a relatively busy street.)  I quickly strode up in my most Charlton Heston/Moses-like manner and, after enquiring if the kid was okay, instructed her to pull into the next driveway up.   Which she did.  I even got the opportunity to move said bottled-up traffic along, acknowledging my own achievement in clearing their path with a gentle wave.  I love it when a plan works out.

Anyhoo, a few minutes later, this kid’s mother appeared (having been called).  Said mother was driving one of those sooper-sleek, James Bond-type, Beemer sports coups and – while her daughter was in a t-shirt and ragged jeans – was, herself, dressed to the nines.

“Aw, Jeez,” I thought to myself, “The Beautiful People.  Here we go…”

Well.  As it turned out, the mother really was not a-tall bad.  Her first concern was that nobody was hurt.   Satisfied with this, she calmly took down our insurance information.  And when the kid, who herself was evidently a first-class spoiled brat,  started in on the mother about how she (the kid) couldn’t drive that car anymore and had to have a new one, the mother fixed her with a fish-eye and said they would sort all that out later on, emphasizing again that the important thing was nobody got hurt.

I got the overall impression that these people could buy this kid a dozen cars if they felt like it.  Alas, I also eventually got the impression from the body language between mother and daughter that they probably will.


As for the crash itself, I immediately phoned USAA (who accept our custom thanks to the Old Gentleman’s stint in the Army Medical Corps).   Despite the fact that the fellah I spoke with sounded like he was auditioning for the part of the village idiot, within twenty-four hours we seem to have got everything squared away.  Adjusters appeared, garages were opened, rentals were engaged:  Baddah-bing, baddah-boom, it was done.    This is the first claim we’ve ever made in twenty-plus years of coverage.  I’ve nothing against which to compare our service of course, but I will say it’s nice to see all those premiums are going to a good cause.

But the thing that made me chuckle – and made the episode blog-worthy at least pursuant to port-swiller standards – was a very small incident:  When the dressed-to-the-nines mom went to copy down our contact information, she first started to lay her pad down on the hood of her own car.   After a second or two, she evidently began to fret that writing with a ball-point on her hood might somehow….leave a mark on it!

Horribile dictu!  Realizing what she was about, she suddenly squatted down in our driveway and instead wrote it all out on her knee.   My fellow port swillers, I tell you truly that for an instant the idea flashed through my mind to get down on all fours and offer her my back as a suitable writing desk, but wiser council prevailed.   Instead, I simply turned away and had a quiet laugh.

Sophisticated? Gawd!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening, ol’ Robbo toddled down to the former Port Swiller Manor Fortress of Solitude in order to listen to un po di Papa (his Missa in Tempore Belli, in case you’re interested, one of my favorites).

As I fiddled with the CD player, which is one of those six-disc-tray affairs, I noticed a CD in one of teh trays that I know for a fact I had not put there myself.  It was the second act of a production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte by John Eliot Full-of-Himself Gardiner, The English Baroque Soloists, the Monteverdi Choir and various top-name soloists including one of my favorite bass-baritones, Rodney Gilfry.

In general, Robbo does not like other people fiddling with his personal things.  In this case, however, I couldn’t help but chuckle, in part because I immediately knew it was teh Middle Gel’s doing (nobody else in my immediate family having the faintest interest in such things), and in part because of what I had observed earlier in the day.

You see, during the summah, Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church employs a volunteer choir for its services, open to anybody who feels disposed to show up.

Prior to her joining teh choir down the Nat’nal Cathedral last year, the Middle Gel was a mainstay of RFEC’s yoot choir.  Because she is very fond of teh RFEC choir director, and because she just plain likes singing, teh gel was determined -when she got the chance – to join in with teh summah choir this year.  Busman’s holiday, indeed.

I should clarify here that at teh RFEC, the yoot choir wear red robes under white, whaddayacallum, surplices or whatever, while teh elders wear black robes under same white top hamper.

Well, this morning, I ran teh gel up to RFEC for choir practice, an hour before the service.  She scuttled into the  changing room to robe up while I loitered about in the hall.

Eventually, I heard the changing room door open.  I wheeled around just in time to notice a certain young lady scuttling across to the choir room…..distinctly clad in black.

Talk about your quiet statements.

I could hear the choir director joshing her about her wardrobe, but I also found myself swelling with pride.  How typical of this gel to set what she wants in her sites and then just……do it.  No fuss, no bother, no hysterics.  Just, at least in this case, L’Robe, se moi.

Oh, and the actual singing?  It was a duet, an Andrew Lloyd-Gawd-Help-Us-Webber Pie Jesu, one of teh gel’s favorites.  She nailed it.

I know all this sounds like boasting, but it really isn’t.  I offer it, instead, in awe and gratitude for having been blessed with such a splendid daughter.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Thank Heaven it’s Friday.  And even better, I just realized that it’s now only two weeks until ol’ Robbo gets his badly-needed summah vac.  Whoo-Hoo!

♦   I mentioned in the post below the ongoing renovations at Port Swiller Manor.  In response to several inquiries, I am happy to report that the mawstah bawth is now more or less done and is fully functional.  Mrs. Robbo got to try out her new soaker tub last evening and all was well.  The inside crew has now shifted their focus to teh gels’ bathroom.  Since the job there involves nothing more than replacing fixtures, some new tile around the tub and a lick o’ paint, I’m hoping they will be done within the next week.

As for the porch out back, after endless rain delays they’ve got the thing more or less framed, but I’d guess another two or three weeks until the thing is finally finished.  I don’t know whether I mentioned that it’s going to be roofed, screened and ceiling-fanned?  I’ve an idea it’s going to shift the entire pattern of life for the Family Robbo.

The contractor estimated, btw, that the entire job inside and out would take about six weeks.  Feh.  We’re now two months in already and, as I say, still have a couple weeks to go.

Which might have been problematic, given, as I say, that the hols start in two weeks.   After all, we can’t very well all disappear up ta Maine when finishing touches are being put on.  I hinted around about this to Mrs. R this morning and she said, “Oh, you’re going one way or another.   If the gels and I can come, then fine, but we’ve already had some trips this summah and you haven’t had anything.  So.  You’re.  Going.”

I love my wife.

Although there are times when I’d like to wring her neck.   To wit:  Long time friends of the decanter – and this might actually stretch back to the old Llama Days – may remember that Robbo became interested in model ship building some years ago.  To this end, be bought himself a kit of an 1848 Baltimore Clipper named the “Harvey” and set about it.  I’d got as far as putting the hull together and planking the deck, and was set to add the bulwarks and finish the sides when life, i.e., child-rearing, suddenly imposed itself.   Realizing that my time was not really my own anymore, I reckoned that I could simply put the ship aside and return to it later on at my leisure.  So I collected up all the materials, including the hull, and shoved them onto a top shelf in our closet, where they sat undisturbed.

Well, come the renovations, Mrs. R had to empty the closet in a hurry, essentially dumping everything in a huge jumble on our bed and sofa and throwing a couple dust sheets over it.   This past week, we finally got to put everything back.  Mysteriously, while I found the box containing all the spars, rigging and top-hamper for the Harvey, the hull itself had vanished.   Now I’m not saying that Mrs. R scuttled it intentionally, but she was never much of a fan and she does have a bad habit of sometimes throwing things out without paying too close attention.

Oh, well.

♦   On a completely different note, I gather that a new Percy Jackson movie is set for release some time in the next few weeks.   The gels are all big Percy Jackson book series fans and were bitterly disappointed with the first PJ movie and the liberties it took with said books.  (Sound familiar?  Apples and trees, my dear friends, apples and trees.)  They’re now psyching themselves up to go see this one with the specific intent of damning it for its own inevitable inaccuracies.

♦    And speaking of truly bad films,  I notice that ScyFy is rerunning “Sharknado” tomorrow night.  As it happens, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family will be dropping in on Port Swiller Manor for a visit.  I can’t think of a more pleasant activity than adult beverages and watching this dawg all together.  (The middle gel tells me, btw, that a “Sharknado 2” is in the works – this one sending the flying chompers to Noo Yawk City.   Bring.  It.  On.)

♦    Oh, and speaking of just truly bad, I can’t help commenting on all those fembot efforts to cover for the sleazy sex scandals breaking out recently, due to the fact that the slimeball politickal perps at the centers of them are big-time “reproductive rights” champeens.  That’s weapons-grade evil, that is.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A few observations:

Observation the First:  Robbo’s beloved Nats are now 0-6 since the all-star break and dismal RISP stats are to be blamed in almost every single loss.   I tried early on to guard against the hyped up expectations of the 162-0 bandwagon crowd, but I must confess that this season’s outright mediocrity is becoming painful.

Observation the Second:  Next time I get the idea to undertake renovations to Port Swiller Manor, I’m instead simply going to burn the place to the ground and move elsewhere.   Less hassle.

Observation the Third:   Energetic and exploratory young kittehs and fireplace mantles are a bad combination.

Observation the Fourth:  The allure of teh nose-piercing continues to elude me.

Observation the Fifth:  Re the observation above, no I am not speaking of any of teh gels.  The youngest was chatting with Mrs. R recently about such things.  When she asked teh Missus what would happen if she (the youngest) dyed her hair, Mrs. R replied, “Daddy probably would shave it all off.”  When teh youngest asked what would happen if she got a tattoo, Mrs. R said, “We probably would strip the affected skin off with a blunt knife.”

So, there.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because this is my blog, which is mine and which belongs to me, I take this opportunity, which also is mine, to lay down the law.

To wit, when I become Emperor of the World, failure to click closed a ball-point pen will constitute a flogging offense.

I mean, how hard is it to apply a single digit’s worth of pressure for an instant in order to ensure that said pen is secure and the ink on the tip isn’t left to dry out?

At Port Swiller Manor, evidently, camels and eyes of needles ain’t in it, because I cannot recall a single instance in the last twenty years when I have found a pen in said secured status.


Friends of the decanter may have noticed the appearance of Kiki’s Place in the port-swiller blogroll?  Well, that’s the Middle Gel’s doing.  You might want to go over and have a look.

For one thing, I can’t help noticing a certain similarity in writing style.  And you know what they say the sincerest form of flattery is.

For another, she’s got some pics up of teh new kittens at Port Swiller Manor, so if I start on about them here you’ll have a handy-dandy reference guide.

I didn’t want to clog up teh random below with an extended screed, but this week’s travels brought to mind again a favorite target of ol’ Robbo’s ire.

Friends of the decanter have long known of Robbo’a dislike of flying, not because of teh inconvenience and petty indignities and hassles and other things that most people gripe about, but because of his irrational fear of heights and complete lack of control of his fate when strapped in.

For the most part, I’m happy to say, I believe I am getting much better about this, finally reaching the point where I acknowledge, even when we hit turbulence, that there is absolutely no connection between the force with which I clutch the arm rest and tighten my stomach muscles, and the issue of whether or not the wings are going to fall off.

However, while I have more or less conquered my fears when flying in larger planes, I am still having a bit of trouble when it comes to the smaller, regional jets.

Which brings me to my gripe.

The small jet market is dominated by two rival manufacturers: Embraer,  a Brazilian company, and Bombardier, a Canadian outfit.

Embraer produces a family of regional jets – the ERJ series – that, although small, are really quite comfortable.  The interiors, even the ones with only three seats across – one on one side of the aisle and two on the other – seem roomy even when actually cramped, at least once you sit down.  The planes give a generally good ride, even in fairly nasty weather, and have take-off and landing characteristics quite similar to the larger, more civilized, long-haul fleet.   A couple years back I spent a great deal of time flying back and forth to Cleveland in all weathers – from December through August – in Continental ERJ’s and don’t remember more than a few really objectionable experiences.

Bombardier, on the other hand, is peopled by a gang of hoser sadists.   The interiors of their jets – the CRJ series, even the larger ones, feel like cattle cars designed for hobbits, cramped and dingy.  Even the portals, not that I care to look out, are only about chest-high when one is seated.   And the flight characteristics are a cast-iron beyotch.  I dunno whether it’s because they are stockier than their Embraer counterparts, but the damned things seem to pitch about regardless of what’s going on outside.  Contra my experience with the ERJ’s, I cannot recall a single pleasant flight in their CRJ counterparts.

But what I really can’t stick about the CRJ’s is the way they land.  When beginning their descent, they don’t start to waft gently down.  Instead, they imitate the hawk poised against the sun that has just spotted a dove below, and positively drop.  The approach itself is invariably rough-and-tumble.  And rayther than designing hydrolic technology to lower the landing gear, Bombardier instead appears satisfied to rely on shear gravity to do the job.  So instead of the reassuring whine of the gear going down, one’s already jangled nerves are suddenly assaulted by an almighty double ka-CHUNK!   But the worst part is the final approach, which is a nose-down, kamikaze-like dive at the runway.   Usually in the last couple hundred feet of altitude, ol’ Robbo is feeling pretty good about things, sometimes even looking out the window with real pleasure.  In these things, I find myself invariably muttering, “Pull up, ya eeedjit! Pull UP!”

We hates it.  We haaaaates it!

Anyway, ERJ or CRJ.  It makes all the difference.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies for the lack of posting the past few days.  In fact, I was on traveling on biznay this week and forgot to mention it beforehand.   Now that I’m back, how about a little wander-random?

***  Robbo’s biznay took him to the great state of Louisiana this time, a place I’ve never visited before.  I know that my sample size was very small, but everyone I talked to there eventually got round to a little lecture on the fact that Louisiana is really three states in one:  the northern part (north of I-10), which is essentially an extension of the Deep South, the Creole culchah of Noo Awlins and surrounding environment, and the Cajun rest-of-the-south-that-ain’t-Noo Awlins.  In fact, I’ve heard and read this a number of times before, including in the writings of my favorite modern Catholic Apologist, John Zmirak.  I won’t say that I picked up any actual animosity from the champeens of each region toward the others, but there was some pretty healthy jockying for pride of place.

***Curious, that.  As regular friends of the decanter will know, ol’ Robbo grew up in Texas, a state that can easily be split into five distinct regions.  Folks all knew about this, but I don’t recall people carrying on about it so much.  Perhaps it’s because Looziana is so much smaller that people there feel the need to elbow more.

***One fellah went a step further, noting that northwestern Looziana was part of an even more particular sub-culchah, the so-called Ark-La-Tex socio-economic region.  “Oh, yes,” I replied brightly, “I’m a big fan of Charles Portis – the fellah who wrote True Grit?  He’s a native, you know, and incorporates the Ark-La-Tex history and ethos into much of his writing.”  At this, the fellah’s eyes took on a wary, hunted look.  I get that a lot.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention, for those Portis sharks out there, that teh Mothe tipped me off to a book she just discovered: Rooster: The Life and Time of the Real Rooster Cogburn, the Man Who Inspired True Grit by Brett Cogburn.  She reports that this book, if nothing else, uncovers the enormous depth of research that Portis did in order to get T.G. absolutely bang right.

***Anyhoo, I flew in and out of Shreveport.  From what I saw of it from the highway, it seems to consist primarily of casinos.  Sigh.  To me, that’s a mark of economic desperation, as well as being the municipal equivalent of selling one’s soul to the devil.  I’ve no problem with gambling per se (although I’ve no interest in it either), but on an industrial basis, I consider it to be very, very wicked.

*** Oh, and speaking of flying,  I’ve spent a goodish bit of time in recent years in and out of various regional airports – Shreveport, Mobile, Montgomery, even Des Moines for that matter – and I can’t help noticing that they all look very, very much alike.   (Not that this is a phenom confined to smaller cities.  A few years back, I had to fly in and out of Tampa repeatedly.  In the midst of these journeys, I also had to fly once to Orlando.  The airport there looks so much like the one in Tampa that for one hideous moment I thought I’d got on the wrong flight by accident.)

***Also speaking of flying, may I just point out to the editors of the ‘Murican Airlines in-flight magazine crossword that on a sailing vessel, a mast is not a beam, dammit.

***And on the subject of crosswords, has anyone else noticed how the books of said puzzles are rapidly vanishing from airport bookstores?  I had to hunt through half a dozen such stores in three different airports before I finally found a decent one.  (Note to self:  Order some from the devil’s website ahead of time next trip.)   It was lucky that I did, too.  Because of the nasty weather across the Mississippi and Ohio valleys last evening, my flight home from Dallas got vectored along teh Gulf Coast, not hooking north until we got to Florida, so what is normally a flying time of two hours and change turned into three plus.   I managed to snag what turned out to be the last mini-bottle of merlot and buried myself in my crosswords for the duration.  What I would have  done otherwise, I can’t imagine.

*** I stayed in a Holiday Inn-Express that was clean, quiet and quite comfy, although they seemed to think that one had absolutely no business being in one’s room during the middle of the day.  Anyhoo, I don’t know if this is the case elsewhere, but I couldn’t help noticing that the pillowcases on my bed were embroidered, embroidered mind you! with the words “soft” and “firm”.   Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you!  Have we really reached the point of infantilization in this country where somebody feels the pillows need to be labeled in order for us to figure them out?  (Years ago, Letterman had a top ten list that included a joke about socks coming with instructions.  It was funny.  Then.)

***And speaking of infantilization, I once again couldn’t help reflecting that if people who consider themselves to be “informed” get their news from CNN and USELESS Today, no wonder we’re in the state we are.

***Finally, a curious and amusing pair of incidents.   Wednesday lunchtime found me standing in line at a Wendy’s, gawping myopically at the menu and trying to decide whether the ol’ tummy could handle teh spicy chicken sammich.   Realizing I was in the way, I waved the people behind me – a woman and her teenaged daughter – ahead.  A few minutes later, as I was waiting for my order, the woman leaned over and said, “My daughter thinks you look like a professor.”  It was a college town.  And I was dressed in khakis and a button-down Oxford with rolled up sleeves.  And my hair does need cutting.  And I was wearing my fish-bowl glasses.  So I suppose the mistake was natural.  Nonetheless, as I always had daydreams about going into academics¹, I could have shaken the kid’s hand if I didn’t think it would cause alarum and confusion.  Instead, I smiled and said, “Oh! Well, actually not.  But thank you!”

Next day, as I was coming down the elevator at the hotel to leave, I got passing the time of day with a lanky, craggy old man who let on that he was a soon-to-be-retired mashed potato salesman.  (I kid you not.)  I was again dressed in Oxford shirt and khakis, with blazer over arm and bags hung about me.  The fellah eyed me and said, “By the look of ye, I’d reckon you’re in a similar business yourself.”   This time, I simply chuckled to myself and said, “Oh…..something like that.”


¹ Not that I would consider it now.  For one thing, I’ve long known that I have almost no talent for teaching whatsoever.  (It’s a gift.  You’re either born with it or not.  Mrs. R has it in spades.)  For another, the transmogrification of the Liberal Arts from the study and appreciation of the canon of Western Civilization to balkanized grievance-mongering is almost complete.  For a third, there is no more vicious a shark tank than that of academic politics – and I say this as a lawyer of many years’ experience.

french flag



Vive le Roi!

That is all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening found ol’ Robbo listlessly surfing cable channels because he simply couldn’t bear watching his beloved Nats floundering against the bottom-dwelling Fish.  What a season.

The result of said surfing was a stop at Beeb-USA, which was running old Star Trek-TNG reruns.  The one I watched in particular involved the return of a holodeck-generated Professor Moriarty and his effort to hocus the crew of the Enterprise into granting him his freedom.

(Yes, it’s that Moriarty created by Conan Doyle as Holmes’ arch-nemisis.)

Anyhoo, the reason I find this post-worthy is that at the point where the computer-generated Moriarty is debating the concept of “existence” with members of the Enterprise crew, he lets off Descartes’ famous yet flawed point of departure, “Cogito, ergo sum.”  (“I think, therefore I am.”)

Friends of the decanter, I am not here to debate the wisdom of said principle, which, although profound, is beyond the scope of my capacity at the moment.   Instead, I raise a point of pronunciation.

In his rendition,  Daniel Davis (the actor portraying Moriarty) says, “KHAH-ji-toh, ergo sum.”

In my own humble understanding of Latin pronunciation, the phrase ought to sound, “Ko-GEE-toh, ergo sum.”

Sure, it’s a small thing in the greater scheme.  But it’s important to me.

UPDATE: Speaking of important, the Zimmerman jury just came in as I was typing.   Greater scheme, indeed. In. Deed.


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July 2013