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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes that all friends of the decanter had a very good Thanksgiving, that you continue to enjoy your revels over the weekend and that your favorite teams are all winning.  (My nephew tried to explain to me the intricacies of the new college football playoff scheme, but I couldn’t quite take them in.  IMHO, it seems a bad idea.)

The Port Swiller Brother and I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday tramping about North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park.  The park is named for this particular height:

(Pic thanks to of TripAdvisor

It’s a 600 foot granite eminence, the result of a huge subterranean outburst of magma eventually cooling and being exposed through millennia of erosion.  You can get to the top either via a very steep ascent on the left or via a more leisurely path snaking up on the right and behind.  After doing a circuit of lookouts on a lesser hill across the way, we hiked up Stone Mountain by the former and went down by the latter, pausing at the top for a rest, a view and the best apple I’ve ever eaten.

You can see that the top is rayther rounded and curves down a fair bit before finally dropping off sheer.  Because the curve itself is steep (along the lines of a roof-top), the effect of looking down on somebody below you is that they appear far closer to the drop than they actually are.

As we sat admiring the view and catching our breath, some people came out of the trees in front of the more leisurely path, a couple and their teenaged daughter.  The first I was aware of them was when I heard the fellah say, “Don’t go any farther than that bush, now.”  (The bush was about 20 yards down from where we were sitting.)

While the daughter held back, the woman completely ignored him and started walking down the slope.

Don’t go any farther than that bush, I said,” he said.

She kept walking.

The more he told her to hold up, the farther she kept going.

Finally, when she was about 30 yards past the bush and looked from where we sat like she was standing on the very brink, she turned about and started dancing and laughing and taunting him.

The fellah had reluctantly kept moving down himself, finally stopping about 10 yards short.  I didn’t get all they said to each other, except that she kept laughing and at one point I heard him say, “I am, too, adventurous!”

All this time I had been getting rayther nervous myself, especially as it was all I could do to keep my own acrophobia in check.   When I realized what she was playing at, I found myself sympathetically angry on the part of her husband and thought to myself, “Self, if that was my wife playing the fool like that and making me look foolish in public, I’d take her home, put her over my knee and giver her a right good spanking!”

A few seconds later, I suddenly thought, “Oooohhhhhh…….”


happy t-dayGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo is out for the next few days in order to revel with those members of his family who are within reasonable reach.

In the meantime, a glass of wine with those regular friends of the decanter (and with those who only drop in now and again):  A very happy Thanksgiving to you all!

See you on the other side…..


Stumbled across “His Girl Friday” this evening after I grew bored with the football game.  Rosalind Russell….mmmmmmmm.

And not just because of her looks (which, on the surface, were okay but nothing to write home about, strictly speaking).  No, Russell projected an intelligence and a style and a sense of humor which were every bit as attractive, if not more so, than any of her physical attributes.  (In this, she was much like Jean Arthur, another of ol’ Robbo’s favorites.)

Sigh.  They just don’t make ’em like that in Hollywood these days.  Yo fazizzle?

Speaking of which, who knew that Bill Murray, one of my very favorite modern actors, is not only Catholic, but is also a proponent of the Traditional Latin Mass and dignified musick?  Money quote:

One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). “I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. I tend to disagree with what they call the new mass. I think we lost something by losing the Latin. Now if you go to a Catholic mass even just in Harlem it can be in Spanish, it can be in Ethiopian, it can be in any number of languages. The shape of it, the pictures, are the same but the words aren’t the same.”

Isn’t it good for people to understand it? “I guess,” he says, shaking his head. “But there’s a vibration to those words. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know what they mean anyway. And I really miss the music – the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.” Instead, he says, we get “folk songs … top 40 stuff … oh, brother….”


Despite the fact that he made his name doing screwball comedy, I have long thought that Murray has incredible depths of subtlety and I simply love most of his more recent, nuanced stuff.  To find out that he shares ol’ Robbo’s views re the Mass is, well, not so much icing on the cake as breaking out in a new dimension of bonding.

(And lest you thing that I’m indulging in sloppy, blanket praise,  I will confess again here that I have never made it all the way through “Groundhog Day” without dozing off, although I think that’s more me than the movie itself.    Also, I think “Caddyshack” is immensely overrated. )


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo always has been appalled at the concept of “Black Friday”, the notion that on the day after Thanksgiving  we should “cry ‘Havoc!’ and release the dogs of X-mas shopping!!”

This year, however, it seems to him that things are much worse, in that major chains are advertising that their “Black Friday” sales are going to start on Thanksgiving Day itself.  Is this a thing that’s been going on for a while, or is it new?  (I watch very little commercial teevee so don’t often come in contact with this sort of thing, but I happen to be watching the Ravens/Saints game this evening.  Also saw an Obamacare ad for the first time.  J’eh, right!)

Apart from anything else, do any of these outfits pause to consider what kind of impact such ploys have on their own employees?  Do they stop to consider the poor shlubs  who will have to give up their Thanksgivings in order to go pull a shift?  Do they care?  (Okay, I know the answer to that last one….)


But then again, that word seems to apply to so much of what passes for the culture these days.

As for myself, I can assure friends of the decanter that I will spend Thanksgiving itself in pure family revelry and  “Black Friday” loafing about in post-revely recovery.  No. Shopping.


Well, per my post immediately below, that’s done for today.  About a six hour job altogether.

Mrs. R asks why I don’t just hire somebody to clean up the leaves.  No doubt I will someday when I’m old and feeble, but while I still have my strength I believe this to be one of those things I ought to do myself.  For one thing, there’s the exercise.  For another, there’s the satisfaction of comparing before and after and knowing that I was personally responsible for causing the change.

Besides, today was bright and cool but not cold, the leaves were dry and easy to move, and it was nice to have an excuse to be outside pottering about.  My attitude admittedly might be somewhat different were the weather soggy and frigid, as happens from time to time.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned it before but we had a pretty “meh” foliage season this year.

By the way, as I shlepped up and down the hill with my tarp full of leaves, I found myself continuously mulling over this article I picked up over at the Puppy-Blender’s this morning:  Colleges struggle with protecting students without being accused of victim-blaming.   All I can say is that if we have slid so far into the pit of cultural infantilism that simple common sense is not only abandoned but is considered outright evil, then we’re in a whooooooole heap of trouble.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is loitering around this Saturday morning, drinking coffee and waiting for the temperature to get up over the freezing mark before he goes out and deals with the leaves.  As regular friends of the decanter may have read here previously, there are three big silver maples and an oak between the street and the sidewalk in front of Port Swiller Manor.  I have found over the years that it’s best to clean up under them in four stages – a preliminary sweep after the initial drop, usually at the end of October/beginning of November; a second sweep the week before Thanksgiving; a third sweep either  Thanksgiving weekend or the next one following; and a final sweep once the oak finishes shedding (it’s always last).

In the meantime, since I’ve been on my anti-“holiday” hype jag recently, I thought I would share one thing I do enjoy about this time of year, and that is hearing the Salvation Army bells ringing at the local groc store.  Especially after dark, for some reason.  I don’t really have an articulate explanation for this, but that tinkling presses a certain button of satisfaction somewhere within ol’ Robbo’s soul.

So there you are.  Regular ranting will resume almost immediately.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There has been an usual amount of lobbying this year among teh Gels to decorate the exterior of Port Swiller Manor with lights and whatnot apropos of the Season (which, this year, seems to have started a couple days after July the 4th)

Fact of the matter is that, as I explained to them yet again,  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do exterior lights or other fancies.  As far as he’s concerned, when the purple Advent ribbons are switched out on the front door wreaths for the red Christmas ones on Christmas Eve, his outward celebratory sign work is done.

This did not go over well.  Indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To which I replied, “Look, when you are all grown up and have your own homes, you can decorate it for the holidays (or for any other reason) however you wish.  Until then?  Shut it.”

Hey, that’s me – Mr. Sensitivity.

Mrs. Robbo wants to string up some lights around the back porch ceiling this year.  As to that, I’m less inclined to kick, largely because – even though we plan to host one or more holiday shindigs this year, I doubt fairly seriously whether anyone is going to want to venture out there, what with ManBearPig bringing the freeze and all.

Stephen_Hawking_SimpsonsGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whilst watching “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel this evening (okay, while generally decrying teevee I admit that I’m a sucker for this show), ol’ Robbo saw an ad for the upcoming movie The Theory of Everything, which purports to look at “the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.”  The clips shown were from the early days before Hawking was confined to his signature wheelchair and electronic voice-box and seemed to be of the usual infatuation/disillusionment/hate/love cycle variety, with a heavy side of Scientist-Geek thrown in.

“Hmmmm,” I said to myself.  “Without looking it up, didn’t Mr. Hawking, within the past few years, chuck the Missus in favor of his nurse?  That would rayther put a damper on any ‘message’ about his earlier courtship of Mrs. H, wouldn’t it?  Plus, from all that I’ve gleaned, the fellah is something of a first-class shite to deal with.”

Well, I still haven’t looked it up.  Maybe (indeed, hopefully) I’m wrong in my recollection.  If so, apologies all around.

Nonetheless, I am no fan of Mr. Hawking and have no intention of seeing this flick.  Why?  Because he has fallen into the trap of believing that because he has (very real) insights into the physical mechanics of the Universe, he is thereby qualified to make theological pronouncements about it (to wit, essentially, asserting that there is no such thing as an originating God), and has made something of a media whore out of himself doing so.

The publicity game aside, let me put it in simple terms:  Science, meaning the quantifiable observations of the physical world around us, can at best answer questions associated with the What and the How of our Universe.    It cannot answer questions regarding the Why of said Universe, nor can it answer any question regarding either that which is beyond it or the relationship between it and that which is beyond.

One of the many myths about Holy Mother Church is that she hates and condemns Science.  This is wrong.  (Indeed, the oldest functioning astronomical telescope in the world is, I believe, owned by the Vatican.)  What she actually condemns is scientists who use their observations/discoveries of the physical world as a basis for their own amateur theological pronouncements.   And if there is one thing ol’ Robbo has come to despise in his religious pilgrimage over the years, it’s amateur theology.

Anyhoo, as much as I might admire Mr. Hawking for overcoming the tremendous physical hurdles thrown in his path and for his contributions to actual science, I am very, very leery of this latest effort to bolster his pop icon status.

UPDATE:  Okay, I peeked into Mr. H’s bio.  It’s more screwed up than I recalled.   Message stands.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, no storm here as such, but we are seeing our first really significant cold snap of the season – the high tomorrow in the Port Swiller neighborhood isn’t supposed to get very much north of the freezing mark.

I will say this in Cold Miser’s favor:  His advent has the same effect on both the mosquitoes and the tourons, in that it causes them to vanish.  That’s good for a fifteen to twenty minute savings on my evening commute time.  (Yes, they – the tourons – reappear briefly in a Christmas-time hatch, but vanish again right after New Year’s.)  I’ll take it.

UPDATE: Speaking of Cold Miser, ol’ Robbo spent this evening watching Into the White, a recent flick recommended to him by somebody or other – either here or over on FB.  It tells the story of two crews of airmen – one of them Luftwaffe, the other RAF – shot down over the wilds of Norway in 1940 and, by a trick of fate, forced to come together in order to survive.

Weeeeel…..I hate to say it, but the movie rayther disappointed me.  The set up, especially teh visuals, was superb even though I kept expecting Han Solo to ride up on a tauntaun.  But as the plot developed, my Hallmark Moment “bonding” sensors started buzzing something fierce, and I’m afraid I lost sympathy with the flick, as the characters settled into the same ol’ same ‘ol – They fought, they laughed, they cried, they bonded.

UPDATE DEUX:  I should have mentioned that this flick was a Norwegian production, so the credits were in (what?) Norse with English subtitles.  I half-expected said subtitles to suddenly start talking about visiting the lovely fjords and how their sister was bitten by a moose.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been down the past couple days with a bout of the ‘flu.  This has become a sort of annual drama here at Port Swiller Manor.  First, Mrs. R badgers me about getting a flu shot.  I resist because I don’t like shots.  Then, when I get the ‘flu, instead of nursing me back to health she badgers me even more about why I didn’t listen to her in the first place.


Well, it may or may not be because of the ‘flu, but ol’ Robbo had one of his extremely rare dream-within-a-dream specials last night.  (I can only recall having maybe two or three of these before.)  In the first part, I dreamt we had some additions built on to Port Swiller Manor.  When we came to view the work, we discovered that the contractor had gone far, far beyond what we were expecting.  I found myself standing in a vast room of cherry wood floors, enormous bookcases, a ceiling far overheard, deep windows and a marble fireplace at one end.  Mrs. R and I were both pleased and puzzled and took the attitude that, so long as we weren’t actually paying more money than we had agreed to, then we wouldn’t complain about the result.

Then I “woke up” and found myself in what I thought was my real house.  It was cramped and low and made of plywood and bare sheetrock.  As I looked about, I saw the shoddiness of the “real” job the contractors did:  Everything out of plumb, cracks and crevasses everywhere and an ominous bowing in the floor.  Indeed, even as I watched, a sofa suddenly collapsed down through said floor, punching another hole in the floor immediately beneath and eventually crashing into the basement.

And with that, I finally really woke up.

Then I dreamt that I found out the Middle Gel was dating a 20 y.o. guy.  When I confronted her about it, she tried to talk me round, showing me a picture of him on her cell phone.  He looked a total brute.  I told her to break it off immediately and she went away in tears.  Somehow or other, I then became aware that she had snuck off with said fellah to some kind of SciFy convention.  I hurried there and found myself running in endless circles between a large auditorium and a foyer crammed with people in weird costumes milling about, standing in long lines and interviewing each other, but I couldn’t find her anywhere.

What do you think?  Too much Nyquil?


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November 2014