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Who Was This Guy, Really?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A couple days ago, Ol’ Robbo found himself watching “Tombstone” on one of the cable channels. It’s one of those movies that I’ll always watch if I stumble across it, and even toss into the Netflix queue from time to time, because I like both the story and the cast.  (Kurt Russell and Sam Elliot, for Pete’s sake, along with Stephen Lang and the fellah who played Col. Gamble in “Gettysburg“.  And Robbo can haz moar Dana Delaney, pleez?)

Then, by chance, last evening I watched “My Darling Clementine“, John Ford’s 1946 version of the famous showdown with Henry Fonda in the part of Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature as Doc Holliday.  (I forgot I had seen it before.  Frankly, it’s okay but nothing to write home about.  And Monument Valley looks nothing like southern Arizona.)

And as I watched “Clementine”, I found myself musing on other screen treatments of Earp.  Jimmy Stewart plays him as a comic fraud in a completely unnecessary side-story in an otherwise serious and compassionate “Cheyenne Autumn“.  Will Geer plays him as genial and competent in his Dodge City days in “Winchester ’73“.  And I even recall an episode of Star Trek TOS where Kirk and his team get transported by aliens to a Tombstone mock-up with Earp as something of a Terminator.

And as all this flashed through my alleged mind, it occurred to me that I really haven’t the faintest idea who the real Wyatt Earp actually was.  How many brothers did he have and who died where and why?  Was he married or not?  What was he doing in Tombstone to begin with? Why did he get tangled up with the Clantons?  Who actually got kilt at the O-K Corral and did the fight even actually take place there?  What really happened after that?  (In a special feature that accompanied the “Clementine” movie, a history prof suggested that a lot of this ambiguity was the result of Earp’s own efforts to cash in on celebrity self-promotion.)

It’s an interesting crossroads where popular myth and reality clash.  Other obvious Old West examples that spring to mind are Davy Crockett, Billy the Kid and Custer.  (Kit Carson, too, although his mythification occurred during his own lifetime and he’s long forgotten by all but serious students of the period these days.) I find it to be a satisfying intellectual exercise to try and read up on the actual biographical facts (so far as we know them) and plot them against the various fictional portrayals that have come down the line.  In the case of Earp, as I say, I just don’t have a baseline against which to work.  Any friends of the decanter know of a solid biography into which I could dip?

Speaking of which, I suppose it’s appropriate here to mention something that has long bugged Ol’ Robbo:  Recently, I’ve been making my way again through the HBO series “Band of Brothers“.  As fans of that series know, the early episodes have much to do with the incompetent martinetism and eventual humiliation of Easy Company’s first commander, Captain Sobel.  My problem?  He wasn’t a fictional character, but a real man.  And if you read the Stephen Ambrose book on which the series is based, you’ll learn that he led a miserable life, botched a suicide attempt, and died alienated from his entire family.  It just makes me uncomfortable that such a wretched individual – who could have lived to within just a few years ago – should be depicted this way in popular entertainment.  Yes, it was all true,  but still……..

Oh, one other thing:  Ol’ Robbo is becoming increasingly convinced that Netflix is not trying very hard to keep current its DVD library.  The number of films in my “saved” queue marked “Delivery Date Unknown” has got pretty significant over the past year or two, and I’m not talking about obscure titles, but about films that are part of the general canon.  “Sleeper”? “Tora! Tora! Tora!”? “The Man Who Would Be King”, “A Fish Called Wanda” for Heaven’s sake?  If you don’t want to carry such titles anymore, Netflix, for Pete’s sake just say so and drop them from your offerings!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Speaking of the national suicide of Great Britain that Ol’ Robbo mentioned the other day, here’s a perfect example: Can somebody justify this Alfie Evans horror show to me?

No, not “justify”.  I actually don’t want it justified.  But I would like it explained.

I mean, it’s awful enough that the National Health doesn’t consider it worth the money to prolong the poor kid’s life, but for the love of God what possible legitimate reason could HM Government have for not allowing his parents to carry him off someplace else where others are willing to do so?

Socialism.  In the eyes of the all-powerful State, ou, as an individual, are worth exactly nothing.

UPDATE:  I see that the poor boy died yesterday.  Rest in peace.

And I’m sure the doctors and judges directly responsible are taking consolation in the idea that it was for Alfie’s own good as well as everyone else’s.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it took until the tail end of April, but it looks as if Spring has finally arrived in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. Robbo and I finished putting out the porch and planter plants yesterday and then spent a companionable morning today weeding in the garden.

I should note that after many years of leaving all the outdoor work on poor Ol’ Robbo’s shoulders, Mrs. R all of a sudden seems to have been bitten good and hard by the Gardening Bug, and is determined to pitch in.  Personally, I’m delighted: Not only is it nice for us to be able to share an activity, the extra set of hands is of genuine practical help and gives me a fighting chance at keeping the jungle in check.

Meanwhile, Eldest Gel is home for the weekend.  Next week is her last week of school, so she decided to load up her car with as much of her junk as she could and make a preliminary drop.  Anything else she can’t squeeze in when she’s done with exams gets chucked.  The Gel is in something of a rage because she’s found herself carrying a big group project in her musickal theatre class practically single-handedly because her two group mates refuse to do any real work.  “And when I have to become the leader of a group,” she said, “you know it’s in trouble.” She has been meticulously documenting exactly which bits of the project she’s done and which bits the others have as well as all her efforts to chivvy them into activity, and has been in close contact with her prof to explain the situation.  Fortunately, the prof likes her and knows she’s a good student, and has assured her that she won’t get dinged for her classmates’ slackness.

Youngest’s latest barracks-lawyer rhetorical trick has been to lavishly employ the phrase, “I’m just being honest.”  Thus, the following typical exchange:

Self:  “Stop mouthing off at your mother!”

YG:  “I’m just being honest.”

Self:  “I don’t want you to be honest, I want you to be quiet!”


Finally, I’m beginning to get reports that Middle Gel is planning to go whole-hog with prom and graduation celebrations, including various parties and a trip to the beach.  I don’t begrudge her any of this simply because, as tempted as I know she is to give in to the charms of senioritis, she’s still dutifully plugging away at her final semester’s work.  (And I’m telling you here and now that it’s going to be mighty, mighty strange when she takes off for school this fall.)

Oh, circling back to Spring, I just saw a hummingbird.  Better go see if I have any food left for their feeder……..

UPDATE:  No, I didn’t have any, but I picked some up at the hardware store this afternoon.  The hummer came into the feeder 15 minutes after I put it up.  She must be a returning customer.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo certainly didn’t expect his beloved Nationals to be in this position at the end of April.  Half our starting line-up are out with injuries, as are half the bench players substituting for them.  We still aren’t getting runs consistently, our bullpen is suspect, and I still just don’t see the spark yet.

Result? We’re in another four-game (to date) losing streak, we’re 10-14 on the year and only the miserable Marlins are behind us in the NL East.

Is it time for Robbo to set fire to his hair and run screaming in circles?  Because it’s beginning to feel as if it’s time for Robbo to set fire to his hair and run screaming in circles.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was out for his daily lunchtime constitutional in the heart of Your Nation’s Capitol yesterday when he was accosted by a nicely-dressed, rayther pretty young lady with a vaguely Caribbean accent.

“Excuse me,” she said, “Can you please tell me the way to the National Mall?”

“The National Mall?” I asked, somewhat startled.

“Yes,” she said, “The National Mall.”

“Um,” I replied, “Well, this is the National Mall, all up and down along here.”  I waived my hand about, indicating the space between the Grant Memorial just behind us and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials off in the distance.

“Oooooh,” she said, a distinct look of bewilderment crossing her face.

“Errr,” I said, trying to be helpful, “Were you looking for a particular building?”

“Oh, no,” she replied, “But I just don’t see any stores around here, that’s all.”

I blinked, aghast at what I’d got myself into.  How the hell to let her down gently?

M’yes,” I said in my most diplomatic voice, “No.  It’s all museums and galleries and memorials, I’m afraid.  No shopping here.”

“Oooooh,” she said again.

At that point, feeling I had nothing more to offer beyond a wild idea of giving her Metro directions to Tyson’s Corner, I legged it.  I mean, honestly, what else do you do?

Ol’ Robbo has been hoofing it about the Mall on a regular basis for something like four or five years now and been approached by visitors with many different questions and/or requests, but I have to say that this one was a first.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy St. George’s Day!

(And happy….eh…454th – if my math is correct – birthday of Will Shakespeare, too!)

Of course, Ol’ Robbo is neither blind nor a fool, and knows that the Britain of which he has always been such a fan has virtually ceased to exist, overwhelmed by foreign invasion and suicidal self-doubt.  Similarly, he knows that Shakespeare’s genius is practically an alien language to the Young People these days.

Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo prefers to light single candles rayther than to curse the darkness.  So I will put aside my gloom and ask you all to charge your glasses, gunn’ls under, and raise them to St. George and the Bard with three times three and no heel taps!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Earff Day!

It may just be Ol’ Robbo’s imagination, but the ED celebration seems somewhat…muted this year.  Oh, sure, Gurgle is doing their obligatory doodle and Face Plant has a post up, but I just don’t see much attention being paid to it otherwise.

I suppose this is in part because of the pretty thorough discrediting of the whole Globull Enwarmening biznay. (The very late spring doesn’t help, either.)

It may also be in part because people can only hold so many fashionable lefty causes in their skull cavities at the same time, and between gun confiscation and overturning a legitimate presidential election, there just isn’t room this year.

In any event, if you want to take off all your clothes, go outside, lie down, and give Mama Gaia a big ol’ hug, don’t let Ol’ Robbo stop you.

UPDATE:  Ol’ Robbo was sitting outside this morning before Mass, staring up at the sky.  It was one of those profoundly deep ones which make you feel as if you’re at the bottom of a very clear pool of water looking up, and triggered a dormant thought.

Ol’ Robbo has always been a worrier.  (When people ask, I tell them it’s the reason I’ve stayed so thin all these years.)  Nowadays, of course, I’ve plenty of grown up stuff about which to worry, but back in my misspent yoot, my braims had a bad habit of inventing things about which to fret.  (Just to give themselves something to do, I expect.)

One of the inventions that could cause me to break into a sweat in the middle of the night was the notion that the sky might someday simply….vanish, that it would all of a sudden disperse into outer space, leaving the planet airless.  Who knew when or why this might happen? And if it did, then what would I do? Huh? Huh?

I’ll say in my own defense that the fact that gases are just as subject to the laws of gravity as are liquids and solids is not immediately obvious, especially to a young mind.  Indeed, even these days, although I accept it intellectually, there are still times when I’m not altogether sure I believe it, if you know what I mean.

By the bye, I’ve read here and there that somebody is forecasting that the Rapture is going to set in tomorrow.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll find out if there’s something to Robbo’s doubt after all!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday afternoon, a young colleague of mine asked if I had any plans for the weekend.

“Well,” I said, “I’m getting a haircut this evening, and tomorrow I’m mowing the yard for the first time this season.”

“Wow,” she answered, “That sounds real exciting.”

“Hey,” I said, “I’m a middle-aged suburbanite.  These things are important to me.”

They are, too.

So I hauled out the old mower this morning, and despite the fact that it’s sat idle and neglected since some time last November, it started right up on the first pull.  Always a good sign at the start of the season.  (Maybe it means the Nats will win a division series this year?)

As I tooled about the yard, it seemed to me that I was running over an usually large number of twigs and sticks.  Then I remembered that somebody on the radio yesterday reported that this has been the windiest March and April in these parts for many years.  I can well believe it.

I also planted some jasmine today. I’d tried this three or four years ago, but put them in spots where they simply didn’t get enough light to thrive.  This time around I’m adhering better to the laws of nature.  Ol’ Robbo really wants himself some lovely, sweet-scented jasmine about the place.

Speaking of nature, a thought occurred to me today:  As often as not, Ol’ Robbo is awake in the pre-dawn when the birds first begin singing.  Almost invariably it seems that the robins start up before any other species.  Is this the basis of the line about the early bird getting the worm?  Perhaps.  (Incidentally, I don’t care if the notion that robins cock their heads like that to listen for worms is wrong – I’m going to keep believing it anyway, dammit.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did you see this article about the “student protest” at a Duke alumni event that went (if you’ll pardon the expression) radically wrong?

I won’t quote from it because there are articles within the article, but the basic gist is this:

  1. Student “activists” hijack an alum gathering.
  2. The alums, rather than kowtowing, respond by turning their backs, booing, and heckling.
  3. The “activists” are surprised at the alums’ reaction and “disappointed” that the administration doesn’t step in on the students’ side.
  4. The “activists” are now concerned that any punishment they receive for their stunt will upset their “mental health”.

This story illustrates nicely a fatal flaw in the Left’s plan to raise up a new Red Guard to implement its authoritarian regime: The kidz their indoctrination factories are turning out are insane, stupid, barely-functioning snowflakes who collapse at the first sign of actual pushback.  You’re going to send these people to break down my door in the middle of the night, confiscate my guns, and haul me off to the camps?  As Ferris Bueller said of the snooty maitre’d,  “If I’m going to get busted, it’s not going to be by a guy like that!”

I’m reminded of an incident during the dear old days at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  A group of students blocked a CIA recruiting event.  The administration, after whatever disciplinary hearing was held, sentenced them collectively to something like 400 hours of community service for violating school policies.  The campus went ballistic and the protesters quickly became martyrs.

At one point, I remember somebody saying to me, “400 hours! Can you believe it? That’s totally outrageous!”

“Yeah, I agree,” I replied.  “If it were up to me, the whole lot of them would have been expelled immediately!”

I think the administration eventually blinked, alas.

By the bye, Ol’ Robbo’s customary lunchtime walk took him near the local high school kiddies out protesting the Columbine school shooting which took place before most of them were even born and also skipping school on a beautiful day, but mostly skipping school on a beautiful day.   For what it’s worth, at least when I passed by there were not really very many of them, and the conversations I overheard seemed to have little to do with guns and much to do with the usual stupid teenager drama (which, I admit, is a redundancy).

Oh, but for some good news?  Middle Gel received her voter registration card this week.  It would be…..unwise for any candidate on the Left to count on her (or her elder sister’s) support come the midterms this fall.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo realizes that he double-posted this week about rather morbid topics, so how about something a bit more light-hearted?

Yesterday, as it turns out, was National Bat Appreciation Day.  According to the linked site, a few fun facts:

  • Some species of bats can live up to 40 years.
  • There are over 1,200 known species of bats.
  • The United States is home to an estimated 48 species of bats.
  • North America’s largest urban bat colony is found on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. It is home to an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This colony of bats eats approximately 10,000 to 30,000 lbs of insects each night.  It is estimated 100,000 tourists visit the bridge annually to watch the bats leave the roost at twilight.
  • Three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma have named the Mexican Free-Tailed bat their state bat, and Virginia has dubbed the Virginia Big-Eared bat their state bat.

I actually knew about the famous Congress Avenue Bridge colony because it occasionally made the papers in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I did not know that the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has a designated state bat. Go figure.

Ol’ Robbo actually is quite fond of bats. Once, in said misspent yoot, I recall going along with my high school girlfriend and her parents on a Sierra Club outing to some caves out in the desert southwest of San Antonio.  As evening began to gather, bats (I have no idea what sort, but prob’ly Mexican Free-Tails) started to emerge.  Quickly, a long, black ribbon formed up and gradually snaked its way to the horizon.  I forget how many jillion bats were supposed to live in this colony, but it was a very large number.  They took at least an hour or more to empty themselves out of the cave.  Most impressive.  (As was the stench of guano coming up out of the cave’s mouth.)

I’m also reminded of the time my family and I went to see a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the concert hall downtown.  That same evening, Ozzie Osborne was playing the arena next door.  (And by the way, there was common parking for both events.  I leave the compare and contrast audience spectacle to your imagination.)  At some point during the graveyard scene in Act 2 of Don G, a bat started flying about the concert hall stage.  Not only did it heighten the creepy effect of the Statue of the Commendatore accepting the Don’s invitation to dinner, there were also muted whispers about the one that got away from Ozzie.

More recently, Ol’ Robbo loves to sit out on the Port Swiller Manor porch in the evening and watch the local bats flittering around the yard, presumably eating lots of nasty bugs.  (I haven’t seen one yet this year due to the very late arrival of spring, but expect to very soon.  Again, I’ve no idea what species they are. Perhaps Big-Ears?)  Indeed, I’ve toyed off and on for some time with the idea of putting up a bat house – perhaps under the porch – just to encourage more of them to flitter round here for my enjoyment.

In fact, the only thing that gives me pause is the fact that Mrs. Robbo hates bats, apparently as the result of an invasion by them of her home in Connecticut when she was a little gel.  In any event, she can’t stand ’em, and hates it even when I point them out on the other side of the porch screen.  (I’m not saying I won’t eventually put up a bat house, but I sure as heck won’t tell the Missus about it…..)

One time, many years ago now, a bat somehow got into our bedroom. (I believe it must have come down the chimney and then made its way upstairs.)  You can imagine what Mrs. R’s reaction was to that.  Me? I simply closed the bedroom door to box it in, opened all the windows, and with the aid of a tennis racquet eventually, ah, persuaded it to leave.  Easy-peasy, and Ol’ Robbo was the Hero of the Day.

(I don’t say this to brag.  If it had been a snake, I’d have been the one freaking out.)

Anyhoo, here’s a glass to our flying mammalian friends!

UPDATE:  Nope, whatever I’m looking at is not a Virginia Big-Eared bat.  According to Wiki, they’re very rare and live way down in the southwestern part of the Commonwealth, as well as in West Virginia and Kentucky.



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April 2018