You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2014.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I’m sure you all know, that massive storm system which has been pounding the Mississippi Valley and the Southeast the last few days finally reached the East Coast today.

Indeed, it arrived at Port Swiller Manor with unusual authoritah.  At about 3:30 ack emma this morning, I suddenly realized that I was awake and that things were unusually hushed.  A split-second later, an all-mighty KA-BOOOOOOOOM!!!! broke out, apparently directly overhead, shaking the house pretty hard.  My theory is that there must have been one or more set-up crashes that yanked me far enough out of the dreamless to appreciate the master-stroke.  Ma Nature.  What a bitch.

It would seem, upon review, that the Port Swiller Ladies all experienced very much the same thing.   (It certainly explained why teh youngest gel was crashed on the sofa in Mr. and Mrs. Robbo’s bedroom when I got up a couple hours later.)

Anyhoo, as Dave Letterman used to say back in the days when he was actually funny (I’m talking circa 1983-84 here), it pretty much rained canned hams all day today.  For whatever reason, this particular “meteorological event” – as they like to call it – seems to have produced more concentrated, weapons-grade stoopid than ol’ Robbo has seen in a long, long time.

First, let me backtrack just a bit.  The Weather Channel (“TWC”) has been milking this storm system for all its worth.  Yesterday, while dialing through on their website to get to the national radar, I couldn’t help noticing that their homepage headline was blaring out, “75 Million In Potential Danger From Storm Moving East!”

All I can say is, thanks a lot, TWC.   Teh eldest gel spotted that headline and has been in borderline panic mode since.  She called me half a dozen times today.  “Is there going to be a tornado?”  “Is our house in danger from flooding?”  “Are we going to lose power?”  (My answers were no, no and how the hell should I know but what difference does it make?)  Fear-mongering may generate ratings, but it also has real-world consequences.

Second, while I often mock the driver idiocy that Storm of teh Century of the Week snow brings out around these parts, at least it’s pokey idiocy for the most part.  Bucketing rain seems to spawn its own particular and distinctly different class of Darwin Awards candidates.  To wit:

–  There seems to be some kind of correlation between car color and driver cluelessness.   With visibility down to just a few yards, I couldn’t help noticing again on my drive home this evening that every single car running without headlights was some shade of  nearly-invisible gray, brown or blue.  Message to drivers:  Turn on your freakin’ lights!  It’s not so you can see, but so that we can see you!

– Locals around here typically approach ice or snow on the roads as if they are trying to tiptoe through minefields.  Annoying, but arguably prudent.  Give them standing water on the road, however, and they charge through it like a squad of cavalry pursuing broken infantry.  Ugliness ensues.

– No, Virginia, heavy rain does not mean you can ignore basic traffic regulations such as four-way stops and yield signs.

– Finally, a driver coming down a residential street opposite me this evening at the rate of knots absolutely soaked some poor fellah out walking his dog by plowing through the ponding water next the curb.  To me, this is one of those particularly nasty little examples of civic boorishness:   Not obviously physically harmful, but so evident of lack of regard for one’s fellows as to cause the head to shake.    Yeah, whoever that driver was, you got to where you were going a few minutes earlier.  As Jesus said,  you’ve had your reward.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What’s the use of having a blog if I can’t use it to brag just a bit from time to time?

Earlier this evening, we learned that teh youngest gel has been accepted into the county’s Advanced Academic Program (what they used to call Gifted & Talented) for 7th grade next year.  This is something that she has been pining for mightily and the nooz has made her pleased as punch.

Of course, she has no real idea what she’s in for.  Although teh gel consistently tests at the near-brilliant level cognitively, she also has the attention span of a butterfly.  Always helpful, her immediate elder sister pointed out that such a 7th grade regime after so many years at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method was going to be “like a punch in the mouth”.

Eh, I think teh gel, after the inevitable initial shock, will find her feet.   And be all that much stronger when she gets to high school.

Nonetheless, what with all the academic hoo-ha flying about Port Swiller Manor this evening, I couldn’t help thinking of an old favorite:


This evening, ol’ Robbo attended Evensong down the Cathedral, in part because teh Middle Gel was singing, in part because my godparents were coming up for the service and we were all to go out to dinner afterwards.  Because teh gel had mentioned that the service was going to involve “some Scottish stuff – men in kilts”, I was inspired to wear my (perfectly legitimate) clan tartan tie.

Just as well, because what the gel called “some Scottish stuff” turned out, in fact, to be the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington’s annual National Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan.  (“Kirkin'” in this instance essentially means “blessing”.)  The ceremony involved many, many men tricked out in full highland fig (including former Senator John Warner, which really rayther surprised me since I had thought he was dead), together with a Highland color guard and all the fixin’s.

It also involved a dozen massed pipers supported by bass and snare drummers.  They appeared several times, including the initial procession, the ceremony of Kirkin’ itself and the recessional.

I must confess that I am of two very different minds about the bagpipes.  On the one hand, I fully appreciate the criticism that their wailings sound like the anguished cries of some soul in torment or some wounded beast.  I myself love to tell the old chestnut about how the Irish actually invented the pipes in the 11th Century and gave them to the Scots, and the Scots still haven’t caught on to the joke.

On the other hand…weeeeell….perhaps it’s something in the blood, because I have to admit that for all their aesthetic awfulness, I really rayther enjoy them myself.

Of course, the bagpipe – especially when massed – is best suited for the open air, not for an enclosed space, even as spacious as that of the interior of a cathedral.  Fortunately, I only got the full blast when they passed me by.  Teh gel had them practically on top of her for the entire service.  When it was over, she wanted nothing more than quiet…..quiet.

The other thing that occurred to me as I watched this body make its way up the central aisle to the Great Choir was to agree with George MacDonald Fraser’s assessment that the smartest move the British government ever made regarding the Highlanders was to enlist them into HM’s Army as quickly as possible.

And speaking of which, how about a genuine Scots Highland fighting tune?  I give you “Cock O’ The North”.  Enjoy!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has a few minutes before getting ready for Mass so I thought I would post one of my favorite paintings in honor of what is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday because of the Gospel passage for the day:

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of St. Thomas

Caravaggio – The Incredulity of St. Thomas

And here’s the text, (John 20:24-29):

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Now, I could be completely mistaken in my interpretation, but it’s always struck me that amidst all the marvel and meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, in this particular passage He’s actually…. teasing poor old Thomas just a bit.    Somehow, that touch of humor makes the whole thing that much more wonderful to me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that ol’ Robbo has from time to time posted here about the Honda Odyssey (known as the Juggernaut®) which for the last three years has transported the Port Swiller family hither and yon.  Well, as of yesterday said Juggernaut® has returned to her Maker, the lease having run out, and no doubt even now is being prepared to reappear on some used car lot somewhere.  (Although I dunno, come to think of it.  Mrs. R ran up about 75K miles altogether.  At what point do they just scrap a returned leaser for parts or send it to some third world country?)

I must say that she was a good ride – roomy, practical and didn’t give us the slightest bit of mechanical trouble in all the time we had her.  (Of course, I say this as a nearly middle-aged father of teenagers.  Fifteen or twenty years ago, the mere idea of a minivan would have set me retching.)  The only problem we had – and it was a big one – is that she handled like damn-all in slick conditions (rain, ice, snow, etc.).  All that weight sitting behind the front-wheel drive acted like a ginormous pendulum, and especially this last winter Mrs. R got downright jittery about trying to venture out it her.

So, what to do.  We felt that, in order to prevent sororicide, it was critical to keep that third row.  OTOH, we also felt it was important to go back to an optional 4WD.  Our solution?  Yesterday, Mrs. Robbo bought a brand new Honda Pilot, which I will here and now dub the Juggernaut® – Mark II.

If my memory is right, this is the seventh addition to the Port Swiller Family fleet over the last twenty years.  It was also, at least from my perspective, the easiest. I loathe shopping in general and car shopping in particular and I was dreading being summoned to go sit around the dealership listening to a lot of sales gibberish and then signing a bunch of documents I only half-understand.  However, for whatever reason they didn’t require my co-signature on anything and Mrs. Robbo (who, like most wimminz, enjoys buying things) was able to deal with it on her own.   So she got her car and I got spared a lot of bother.  Everybody wins.


*Spot the allusion.

colonnadeUPDATE:  I put this at the top because once I’ve got to a certain post length my Mac won’t let me get at the toolbar in order to hit the linky button.  Anyhoo, Ace posted a very good essay on this same issue – the loss of cultural plurality now that the Progressivistas feel they’ve gained the whip-hand – in connection with gun rights and the NRA convention this week.  (I assume most friends of the decanter are also members of the Moron Horde over at AoSHQ, but I flag the piece here for those who might not be.  I also urge any such persons to start going over there regularly.  Just remember to keep your vaccines updated.)  Mark my words, the next couple years are going to be a damned near run thing.  On the other hand, I’ve a sneaking feeling that Hubris-fueled overreach eventually is going to provoke a serious backlash.  One way or the other, it’s ugly and it’s only going to get uglier.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall that ol’ Robbo picked up his legal education at Dubyanell University.

For those of you unfamiliar with W&L’s history, the place was founded in 1748 as Augusta Academy.  (It is, I believe, the 6th oldest school in the country.)  During the Revolution, it changed its name to Liberty Hall Academy.  After the Revolutionary War, ol’ George donated some stock (in the James River Canal Company, if I recall correctly) to the school, which promptly changed its name to Washington College in gratitude.

In 1865, the school was on the verge of bankruptcy.  It had five professors and three students.  In a Hail Mary move, it sent a representative to Robert E. Lee to see if he would be interested in taking on the presidency.  The thinking was that his name recognition would generate some monies to keep the place afloat.

Lee, who really only wanted to retire into obscurity, nonetheless agreed to come aboard.  But he was no figurehead or mere money-magnet.  He reformed and restructured the place, insisting on high moral and academic standards.  He established the Honor Code still in use today.  He grafted on the law school from which I graduated.   Under his spirit and guidance, not only was Washington College saved, it began to thrive.  A grateful Board changed the name to Washington & Lee in honor of the man’s achievements shortly after his death.

When I was there in the late 80’s/early 90’s, Lee’s spirit of Christian Gentlemanliness (because that’s what it was) still almost tangibly walked the grounds.  The fact that he’s buried in the chapel and his horse Traveler is buried just outside certainly helped foster that sense, but it wasn’t the real reason.  Rayther, it was the man’s awesome moral force.  One could leave valuables in one’s study-cubby without fear of theft.  Strangers regularly greeted each other in passing along the Colonnade.  The Honor Code – wholly student run – was taken very, very seriously when it came to academic matters.  Guys wore ties and girls wore dresses to football games.  It was that sort of place.

Mind you, I had been an undergrad at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  I don’t call it that for nothing.  Wes-U in the mid-80’s was a hotbed of Radical Progressivism.  Although the place prided itself (and still does) on its “Diversity”, I wasn’t on campus more than ten minutes or so before I realized that what it really fostered was a lockstep Leftist orthodoxy.  “Politically Correct” was a term I first heard used without irony in August, 1983.  It meant that opposing views, opinions and tastes – most of them conventional and/or traditionalist – were not argued with or challenged on their merits.  Rayther, they were vilified, delegitimized, ostracized and stamped out.

Being the stubborn idjet that I am, rayther than immediately transferring to a more hospitable environment, I stuck it out and waged a very lonely counter-revolution.   I won’t go into all the detail, but suffice to say that one of the high points of my time there was receiving an after-the-fact report that on the night of Reagan’s reelection landslide over Mondale, one of the fellow-travelers in my dorm had vowed to find me and break my nose, but had collapsed in an alcoholic stupor before he could put his plan into effect.

(I’m actually thankful for the experience I had as an undergrad:  The constant hostility taught me to be a better debater by forcing me to pick apart and examine my views that much more carefully.  It also taught me what a fraud Progressivism is as a whole in terms of its professed concern with general well-being and the common good.  When “The People” are more important than just plain people, and especially when God is taken out of the equation, somebody’s going to get hurt.)

Nonetheless, by the time it came to looking at law schools, I had had about enough.  I wanted a campus much more given to academic and intellectual rigor, as well as to the honoring of traditions.  Hence, Dubyanell was a gloriously perfect fit for me.

So it is with particular, ah, emotion that I read where the Shadow has advanced even as far as Metro-Lex:  Students threaten disobedience if school doesn’t denounce Robert E. Lee:

Black students at Virginia’s Washington and Lee University have issued an ultimatum: Denounce Robert E. Lee, one of the school’s two namesakes, or face civil disobedience, the National Review Online reported Monday.

 Students also want the school to apologize for what they call Lee’s “racist and dishonorable conduct,” remove Confederate battle flags from the chapel and ban    Confederate reenactors from the campus on Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday. They also want the university’s undergraduate school to cancel all classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


I’m not even going to get into the merits of Lee’s conduct, its historickal context or the substantive pros and cons of continuing to honor his legacy, because although I would grant that there is room for such debate, that’s not really what this is all about.  (I would only point out the obvious in noting that there would’t even be a school against which such protest could be launched BUT FOR the efforts of Lee to save the place to begin with.)  These people (I believe they call themselves “The Committee” and initial reports suggested they were a multiracial group) don’t want an honest assessment of the school’s history, legacy and modern face.  Instead, they simply want to disappear a major part of it – using guilt, but also force if necessary – in part because it offends their sensibilities, but more because causing such a disappearance proves that they can.  (Another W&L alum, Tom Wolfe, summarized  this thinking nicely in his essay “Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers”.)

In other words, this has nothing to do with comity and everything to do with control.  In fact, it’s war to the knife.  Back when I was an undergrad in the heyday of Reaganism, this sort of thing was relegated to a few outlier college campuses like mine.  Now?  It’s spread to all aspects of the so-called Cultchah and can no longer be indulged or shrugged off.

Co-incidentally, the school was blasting a massive fundraising drive all across various social media today.  Not that I give all that much anyway, but given this nooz I think I’m just going to sit on my hands until I see how Dubyanell handles these demands.  If they tell the Committee to go stick its collective head in a pig, I intend to react generously.  If they cave?  Well, upon graduation I was presented a lovely wooden walking-stick with a brass knob and inscription.  It has sat for years in the umbrella stand by the front door of Port Swiller Manor.  Should the school cave to these bullies, I will break it in half and burn the bits.  See if I don’t.

Easter Monday afternoon found ol’ Robbo ensconced in the hammock on his back porch, reading Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of teh World.  (About which I shall certainly post when I am done.)

Suddenly, a literal cat-fight broke out to my left.  I have posted here before about our two young kittehs Ginger and Fiona, now around  a year old, and their elder cohabiter Bella who hates them both.  Well, old Bella had managed to corner young Ginger under a chair and was going at her with tooth and nail.

Wishing to break things up quam celerrime,  I went to hurl my book (a paperback, rest assured) in the general direction of the melee.  Unfortunately, as I brought my right arm over and across my body, I also managed to upset the equilibrium of the hammock so that the beastly thing pitched me out good and proper.  I landed rayther heavily on my knees.

The book itself hit in the general vicinity in which I’d aimed it, but I think it was the surprise at seeing Robbo flip over and go down hard that actually broke up the fight.

My knees have hurt ever since.  I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the fact that Bella and Ginger had another dust-up this evening and there is much fur to clean up.

Have I mentioned the fact that although I have myself owned cats since shortly after Mrs. R and I got married (21 years ago this June) and grew up with them , I have never really liked them?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other day, Ol’ Robbo and the Youngest Gel were going somewhere or other together in La Wrangler.   As I drove along, teh gel became absorbed in fiddling with her hair, trying it out in various styles.  The conversation went something like:

Gel:  Do you like it this way?

Self:  It’s fine.

Gel:  How about like this?

Self:  It’s fine.

Gel:  Well, maybe this way?

Self: Fine.

Gel:  You’re just being sarcastic!

Self:  No, I think they all look good.  (Which was true, btw, even if I was trying to get her to stop.)

Gel:  Ha! You’re just saying that! Oh, boo, hoo, hoo…….

Self:  Oh, for Heaven’s sake.  Look, you’re just being female.  I don’t know if you people can’t make up your own minds or choose not to, all I know is that you don’t and won’t.  Jeesh!

Gel:  Daaaa-aaad!  That’s sexist!

Self:  Hey, I call ’em like I see ’em.

It occurs to me that I no longer live with a wife and three daughters.  More accurately, I live with four wimminz.  And I stick to my empirical observation that wimminz will never settle for a single, uncomplicated resolution where there are myriad ambiguities with which to play.  It seems to be a kind of catnip to them.

Sigh.  And then they wonder why I watch so many John Wayne movies……

Incidentally, this trait may also explain their inability either to properly load the dishwasher, to follow geographic directions or to pay attention to the clock.   Again, in each instance there are simple, rational solutions which apparently are of no concern to teh female psyche.

Again, I just call ’em like I see ’em.

And yes, I denounce myself.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Easter! Yes, He is risen indeed!

Ol’ Robbo hopes that all of you who are of the Faith had a reflective and rewarding Holy Week and a truly joyful Easter Sunday.  He would also remind you that Easter is, in fact, an Octave, meaning an eight day Feast, so the celebration is far from over.

I. myself, had a good week overall.  Although I wasn’t able to get to the Tenebrae or Maundy Thursday services I had hoped for, I did get to a noon Mass downtown every day of the week and the big Good Friday service at my home parish.

Sunday itself turned out to be, well, chock-a-block.  Because the Middle Gel decided to free-lance with the RFEC choir this year, she wound up singing both the end of the 7:30 and the entire 9:00 a.m. service Sunday morning.  As her driver, I sat through the first, then was joined by the rest of the Port Swiller Family for the second.  Once that was done, I zipped off to the noon TLM at my own church.  And once that was done, I toddled down the National Cathedral to hear the same gel sing Evensong with her own choir.

I find that my progress in Faith does not proceed smoothly but comes in fits, jerks and starts, sometimes interspersed with periods of stagnation.  I don’t believe this is uncommon at all.   All I can say is that this week has felt like a definite leap forward, and for that I am most grateful (although still a bit tired).

Anyhoo, the decanter is back on the table and the Stilton and walnuts are at hand’s reach.  Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, pray once more fill your glasses, bumpers all around and no heel-taps!  Happy Easter to each and every one of you and God bless!






Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday!  Yes, today we join the jubilant crowd who thinks the long-awaited Massias has finally returned in triumph to turn the Roman garrison into pumpkins, clean house in the Sanhedrin, restore Israel to her former glory and take the hammer to all her enemies, knowing full well that this same crowd, in just a few days, will come to see Jesus as a complete dud and start howling for his blood.   It’s a complicated moment.

Owing to unexpected circumstances too tedious to relate, ol’ Robbo wound up going to early Mass this morning and so missed the procession of palms at his usual noon Traditional Latin Mass.  In years past this likely would have prompted a fair bit of grumping and grumbling on my part, but I’ve been working hard on improving my patience and charity and find that this kybosh only produces a passing wistfulness in me this year.  Is it possible that ol’ Robbo is actually growing in teh Spirit?

Maybe, but it’s equally possible that something else will reduce me to the gnashing of teeth at some point in the not too distant future, so I’m not going to get cocky.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to note for the two or three who gather here together that I am putting the stopper on the decanter and sticking the Stilton in the fridge for Holy Week but will be breaking  forth again after Easter.  I hope those of you who celebrate will have a truly holy week and I’ll see all of you on the other side.


Blog Stats

  • 501,219 hits
April 2014