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** (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.”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo awoke this morning to discover the sky-roof gone and a strange, fiery ball looming over the horizon. Fenrir the Wolf seems to be asleep at the wheel.

That said, it’s still in the mid-20’s and the wind is howling. Younger Self might have said, “Self, it’s getting on toward late February so it’s really time to clean up the garden, weather be damned.” Older, wiser Self says, “Naw.”

Watching the bird feeders this morning, I noticed that the maple closest to the back of Port Swiller Manor is beginning to show some red tips. This tree always buds first in the season, which is why I call it my harbinger tree. Alas, it’s also the tree I mentioned some time last summah or fall that has a great termite scar on one side of its trunk. Every time it ices or snows, or even blows hard, I expect half the thing to come down. No doubt some friends of the decanter are thinking, “Tom, why don’t you call in a tree-trimmer to do some preemptive damage control?” Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t trust those fellahs, having been rooked before. I’m sure if given an inch they’d immediately be telling me how many thousands of dollars I need to spend on all sorts of other issues just to avoid catastrophe. Since when the particular part of the trunk of this tree does go it’ll fall on the fence instead of the house, I’m content at this point to let Ma Nature do her thing and just clean up the mess afterwards.

And speaking of such things, while sitting at my desk this week, I noticed a particular sheen of sunlight on the holly hedge out front that I recognized as the same play of light I see round about mid-August when Ma Nature has thrown in the towel on high summah and is getting ready to change gears. Counting on my paws, I said, “Lessee…..We’re now about two months past the Winter Solstice. Mid-August is about two months past the Summah Solstice. Yeppers, sun’s right where she oughta be.” These signs of Nature’s rhythms delight me. Too bad so many people never even notice them.

I guess Ol’ Robbo is especially anxious that the Groundhog be proven flat wrong this year. Soon, my friends, soon.

UPDATE: (Why I update before anyone even reads the original post, I dunno. But there it is.) Unlike my main feeder, which the local flock can clean out completely in 36 hours sometimes, my goldfinch feeder will sometimes go for weeks unexhausted. Early on, I got into the habit after a couple weeks of pouring the seed back into the bag, stirring it about with the fresher stuff, and then refilling the feeder. Not too long ago, my brother told me he’d recently read somewhere that the oils on nyger-seed, which is the G-F’s big favorite, produce a blue sheen to the birds’ eyes that especially attracts them. When seed gets old and the oils start to wear off, it becomes that much less attractive.

I mention this because I hadn’t seen a goldfinch in the feeder in a few days. I turned over the seed just a while ago and now there are half a dozen. (And yes, they are definitely carrying more yellow plumage now. Soon!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo won’t trivialize what’s going on in Texas at the moment by whining over the fact that I broke my snow shovel yesterday and am out of ice melt trying to deal with my frozen driveway.

Instead, I’ll just commiserate a bit.

Back in my own yoot, I was back home in San Antonio on Christmas break from kollej when, on January 12, 1985, it got hit with better than a foot of snow, so far as I know the largest fall for the place on record.

Everything came to a screeching halt because nobody had any equipment for dealing with the stuff. However, there was never any issue about the power staying on. Probably because back then folks were sensible enough to know you can’t keep a grid functioning via pixy dust and unicorn farts.

Good times. Good times.

Prayers for the folks caught in the current madness.

Ice, Ice, Baby UPDATE: Friends of the decanter will be relieved to know that Ol’ Robbo just finished hammering off the Port Swiller Manor driveway (again), thus ensuring that the family won’t become a second Donner Party.

While we haven’t had any major dumps so far this year, we’ve had quite a few what they like to call “snow events” and they’ve all been about the same – a couple inches snow on top of a layer of ice of varying depths. Ol’ Robbo hates cleaning up this kind of mess the worst, but at least the temperature is now above freezing and the sun even came out for a while to help me get the win.

I may have mentioned before that since being placed under house arrest I’ve been exercising quite regularly and achieving some notable results. I have a rule, however, that I invoke today: A bout of snow-shoveling excuses me any other work-out obligations for the day. I’m hardly a geriatric yet, but I’m now officially on the backside of my 50’s, so I’m not exactly in varsity condition, either. Mrs. R has been fussing at me for years about “not overdoing it”, and I feel it’s now time to start listening to her. (At least about that – D’OH!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

When Ol’ Robbo mentioned to Mrs. R yesterday that he was planning on giving up wine for Lent, she burst out in incredulous laughter.


By a delightful coincidence, however, I later yesterday happened to come across this passage in a letter from Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford dated March 2, 1950:

“I went to Mells. Ronnie Knox has given up crossword puzzles for Lent. It only took him five minutes anyway. I have given up cigars and wine. Nothing to look forward to now in the day. But Sundays are jolly. I wait till it strikes 12 Sat night with cigar & brandy bottle ready.”

I didn’t exactly burst out laughing, but I chuckled appreciatively.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, once more on the brink of Lent. Personally, Ol’ Robbo prefers the years when the Easter cycle starts early. Here in the mid-Atlantic, a few weeks one way or the other this time of year can make all the difference weather-wise and I’ve always found it far more suitable to start in on Lenten reflections and exercises when it’s cold and nasty outside than when Spring is about to pounce.

And speaking of which, I don’t plan on standing away completely from the blogs this year, although I probably won’t post as much and I haven’t decided just yet the sort of material with which to bore you. We shall just have to wait and see.

On a different note, Ol’ Robbo fixed himself*** a baked BBQ bacon and chicken dins last evening. This would be otherwise unremarkable except for the fact that I tried a homemade BBQ sauce for the very first time. I pulled the recipe at random off the Innerwebz and am here to tell you that just because something has a lot of stars next to it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all that good. This was far too sweet and had a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste that is still lurking at the back of my mouth this morning. Still, it was fun to make and arguably much healthier than the stuff you get in a bottle, and Ol’ Robbo gives himself some credit for at least trying.

That said, if any friend of the decanter can point me to a better recipe, I’d appreciate it.

***Just for himself. Mrs. R is a veggie and Eldest has a strict policy of not sharing in my first attempts at new dishes.

Speaking of Eldest, she got into a mind-scrambling rant last evening about time-travel in films. Specifically, she insisted that there is no logical way Kyle Reece could have been John Connor’s original father. She was also on about the problematic relationship of the 1985 Doc Brown to the 1955 Doc Brown, and furthermore was highly critical of a story arc that starts with the Doc lecturing Marty McFly about the dangers of mucking around with the timeline, yet ends with the Doc sporting all over the place in a flying train time machine. And people accuse me of being a nerd? Don’t ask me to explain all her arguments. And apparently, “Well, it’s only a movie” is not a sufficient rebuttal. Also, when I tagged her with the notion of Philip J. Fry becoming his own grandfather she refused to see a problem, so I think there are some biases at work here.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A nasty, icy day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Eldest and I got up early to try and run errands before it got too bad, and juuuust beat it out with a few slips and slides along the way. Ol’ Robbo does not like ice on the road, especially when it’s been some time since he last had to deal with it.

Somehow or other, it’s suddenly the middle of February. It occurs to me that I’d better get busy with cutting back the buddleia and getting the garden ready for spring, because it’s going to jump on me before I know it.

Not today, though, I think.

Another thing I have to do is replace the mailbox. Again. Regular friends of the decanter will recall reading Ol’ Robbo’s occasional rantings about the frequency with which his mailbox gets whacked. This time it wasn’t even a snowplow. Instead, in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, in perfectly dry and calm conditions, some yo-yo caught it with their side mirror. I came out to find the box on the driveway, the mirror mounting in several pieces, mirror glass scattered about, and the mail spread over the ditch. And of course whoever it was couldn’t be bothered to stop. Some people.

Again, though, not today. (I put the old one back up yesterday. It’ll do for the moment, but the front end is bashed in and the door won’t close properly now.)

On a completely different note, the Mothe used to sometimes try and get me interested in identifying the different types of sparrow that came into the feeders. I couldn’t see much point to it myself, as they’re all such dumpy, drab little birds. But now I find myself doing it, too. So far, I’ve nailed down House, White-Throated, Harris’, Chipping, and Field varieties. I suppose there’s some small intellectual pleasure to be gleaned from this, but otherwise they’re still just a gang of dumpy, drab little birds to me. (And what’s worse, voracious. I’ve a mixed gang of about a dozen or so and they can hoover out the feeder before one can say snap,)

And finally, speaking of birds, Decanter Kitten has developed an outright passion for going out on the porch so she can spy on the feeder through the screen door. She is constantly demanding quite loudly to be let out. The trouble is that five minutes later she gets cold and wants to come back in. This is getting tedious over the course of the day. (What is the saying about a cat always being on the wrong side of a closed door?) Among the many things Ol’ Robbo is looking forward to with warmer weather is being able to leave the porch door open so the kitteh can go in and out as she pleases.

SUNDAY GO-NOT-TO-MEETING UPDATE: Whelp, the Port Swiller Manor driveway was completely iced over this morning, so after a quick cup of kawfee, Ol’ Robbo went out and duly started hammering at it. Even after I threw down a coat of ice melt, it still took me three hours to clear the stuff, much more time than I had reckoned on. The result was that I was too late to get myself over to Mass so had to watch it on-line, much to my chagrin. (Since that was the whole point of the exercise – I easily could have waited until this afternoon when the stuff started melting on its own.) I am now a mass of achy muscles, too.


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February 2021