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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently, Mrs. Robbo suggested that we should put in a big patch of periwinkle under teh cluster of maple trees that dominate one corner of the Port Swiller Manor back yard. Nothing much grows there now (except some onion grass) and mulching it annually, in addition to being an expensive nuisance, isn’t really all that satisfying.

In fact, it’s a pretty good idea and Mrs. R receives full marks for coming up with it but honestly, you’d think after thirty-plus years together Ol’ Robbo would learn to know what’s coming when she says “we” should do this or that project. D’Oh!

I put in about 30 last weekend and another box of 100 roots arrived yesterday. Guess what Ol’ Robbo gets to spend tomorrow morning doing.

“Blow, winds, and kerrrr-ACK thy cheeks!” UPDATE: It’s turned out to be a very windy day in my neighborhood with gusts cranking up to 50+ mph. I’m hearing a lot cracks and snaps back in the woods, which means I’ll probably have to clear debris under the maples even before I can get started planting.

On top of all the other yardwork on tap, tomorrow is going to be a long, long day. Ah, spring!

UPDATE DEUX: Hokie-Shmokies! That first update was meant to be largely humorous, but in fact a goodly deal of lumber did fall in the neighborhood. (Thank Heaven the trees were dry, or it might have been a lot worse!) Lots of branches down where Ol’ Robbo intends to plug the periwinkle, and a big tree snapped in half along our neighbor’s back line. And for the very first time since we had it installed, Ol’ Robbo admits some benefit from the generator for which he shelled out so many jimmy o’goblins some years ago.

UPDATE TROIS: Whelp, Ol’ Robbo wound up spending something close to seven hours today laboring in the desmaine, and I’m here to tell you I am mighty sore and stiff. As for Mrs. R’s box of periwinkle cuttings, well, I duly put them in. Some might live, some will certainly not. She got them dirt-cheap on ebay from some place in Pennsylvania, but when I opened the box I was not particularly impressed with the roots on some of them. Perhaps better in future to get the potted ones with solid root development and pony up a little extra coin. Still…’s a pretty tough plant, so we shall see.

Anyhoo, the main reason Ol’ Robbo wanted to go for the update hat-trick is simply to note that something today made it abundantly clear that “early” spring is over and done with and that we’re now in full overdrive. All the leaves on the trees are suddenly fully open. All the buds on the spring bloomers are swelling and ready to burst. And the catbirds are back. I can’t really describe it precisely, but I fully sense that a boundary-line has been passed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has a literary observation/question to put to all you friends of the decanter:

In your reading habits, are there situations when, having read Book A, you feel you have no choice but to read Books B, and C, and D, and….well, you get the idea.

I don’t mean obvious, intentional sequels. If you start with The Fellowship of the Ring, of course you’re going to finish the series. Ditto with The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or, say, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, or Out Of The Silent Planet, or Master And Commander, or Flashman, to name a few.

I mean something more of a general, tangential flow.

Here’s my specific example:

At the moment, I’m rereading Bruce Catton’s fantastic studies of Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War record, Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command. Even now, I know this is going to lead to my automatic rereading of Grant’s own Memoirs. Ditto with the memoirs of William T. Sherman and Little Phil Sheridan. I do this because once I’ve tapped into that particular slice of history (the triumvirate who won the War), I need to finish out to my accustomed limits.

Another example:

For my recent metro ride into town about which I posted below, I grabbed at random Norwood by Charles Portis. I know now that I am fated in the near future to reread all the rest of his five novels (which are not a series like those of Tolkien, Adams, Lewis, O’Brian, and Fraser mentioned above). I do this because once I’ve read one Portis book, I have to read all of them for the pure pleasure they bring. (Like all Portis fans, my favorite of his novels is the one I’m reading at the moment. That’s how good he is.)

A third example:

I mention George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman above. That book and its many sequels are heavily footnoted with primary sources from Victorian history and Ol’ Robbo has enriched the coffers of Amazon by purchasing some, yet not enough, of them. Now, whenever I strike out with Flashy again, I feel an automatic compellation to reread all the primary sources I have (plus an almost irresistible urge to snap up even more of them, the Amex bill be damned).

I don’t ask if this is normal or not because I don’t know what “normal” is. Instead, I’m curious if other friends of the decanter indulge in similar inevitable reading patterns (which, I confess, I fine extremely pleasing), or else follow some different regime.

Incidentally, I can’t help here relating an experience of what now probably qualifies as my misspent yoot:

Years ago when I was with a small, congenial law firm as a newbie associate, I found myself in conversation with a smug partner about lidderashur. He mentioned some book or other that he had recently read and which I happened to know. I started to say something like, “Yes, but when I tackled it a second time…..”

To which he replied, dumbfoundedly, “Wait, you read books…..again?”

I immediately realized that the gap between us was just too great and quickly segued into all the billable hours I was bringing into the firm.

I just couldn’t even…..

(By the bye, if any of you are interested in any of the books or authors I mention above, just say so! I’ll bore you to tears so fast that your heads will spin at a rate that said tears will achieve escape velocity!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently the Password Gods, evidently vexed by Ol’ Robbo’s accumulated failed attempts to get the liturgy right, cast him into the outer darkness, where there is wailing, gnashing of teeth, and denial of access to his work computer system. When Ol’ Robbo consulted his Help Desk for the proper remote penance, he was cheerfully informed that They Couldn’t Do That, and that he would have to physically schlepp into the Temple ID Office in order to make the appropriate mea culpas.

Ol’ Robbo had not been into the depths of downtown in nearly fourteen months. I went yesterday.

I wish I had a more lively report to relate of my journey there and back again, but the chief characteristic of said trip was……the emptiness.

First, I metroed in from my usual station. Said Metro has made much noise about the importance of keeping one’s mask on while in the system. But as I stood on the above-ground platform, trying to read my book through the fog on my glasses, I realized the platform was completely empty and asked myself, “Self, what are you doing?” In answer, I pulled it down. I noticed Metro recently has installed a lot of platform security cameras. No doubt one of them spotted me, and with facial recognition technology being the latest vogue in Big Brotheriness, I’m sure I’ll shortly get something in the mail demanding I pony up for my transgression.

Both inbound and outbound, I had Metro cars entirely to myself.

Downtown was outright spooky. I’d had no real idea what to expect. Guard troops all over the place? Barbed wire everywhere? Boarded up biznays? Piles and heaps of garbage? Roving gangs of neo-Marxists?

Well… At least not where I was.

As I looked about me, everything seemed to be open, including some new eateries. The sidewalks and gutters were clean far beyond my past experience. But the thing is……nobody was there. There was a certain minimal amount of car traffic, but the sidewalks? Virtually empty.

The rational part of Ol’ Robbo’s braims can process and understand this. The other parts retain memory of almost 30 years of what late April in Dee Cee usually is like and were appalled. This time of year, especially on a beautiful day, the sidewalks in this particular quarter should be chock-a-block with tourons, shoals of high school kids, shoppers, office folk, and street hucksters and entertainers, and Ol’ Robbo should be starting his traditional grumbling about them.. (I suppose that the shock of it all hit me more so because, apart from the damned masks, things in my part of the ‘burbs have been more or less back to normal for some time now.)

Strange days, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since Ol’ Robbo did what amounts to a gardening post already yesterday, I’ll take on another subject instead today.

It would appear that the formerly great Commonwealth of Virginny has decided in its wisdom to forbid the teaching of any advanced math in high school prior to 11th grade.

Yep, you read that correctly. For the Children. Of course, equality of results means lowest common denominator and the only efficient way to try to do that is not to lift up but to tear down. And even then, it doesn’t work.

Oddly enough, I recall my own high school experimenting back in ’79 with the elimination of advanced history classes in 9th grade. (Ah, the Carter Years!) It was a disaster. A handful of us, bored out of our skulls, took to heckling the teacher over his lefty politicks while the rest of the class just sat there in bewilderment or indifference. The experiment, if I recall correctly, only lasted the one year.

I can only thank Heaven that we got the Gels up and out before the present round of madness descended. And I can only pray, since a thing that cannot go on won’t, that this Brave New World goes ass over teakettle before they have to bring their own kids up in it. As far as education goes, if things continue on the present course they’ll have no real choice but to home-school, and even then it’ll have to be a guerilla-type operation, teaching their kids what they really need to know on the sly while also coaching them to spew out whatever pablum is demanded by their Betters. (In other words, that two plus two really equals four, even if the State demands that the answer is five. Or Tuesday. Or Muh Feelz.) In this, I do not envy them.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo writes about his BBQ grill from time to time. It’s a Weber “Performer” and must be at least ten years old.

During that time, the thing has come in for a lot of wear and tear from the elements and from extensive use, particularly the bowl. In the last couple years, large holes have appeared in its sides where they’ve rusted out and all the brackets holding the grill have fallen off, leaving me to improvise with bent metal coat-hangers. Not only was the thing well into Jeff Foxworthy “You might be a redneck” territory, I knew that as a practical matter it wasn’t even going to be useable that much longer. And yet, I couldn’t quite justify to myself the 600 clams it would cost to get a new one, as we’re right smack dab in the midst of the maximum tuition years and have to be very cautious about luxuries.

I was at the local hardware store last weekend which happens to be a Weber outlet. A friend of mine works there, and as we passed the Weber floor models, I looked at them longingly and mentioned to my friend my predicament.

“Oh,” he said, “Well maybe you can just replace the bowl.”

This idea had floated into my braims a time or two before but I hadn’t seriously followed up on it.

“You think I could buy the bowl separately?” I said.

“I don’t see why not, ” he replied.

Encouraged, I scurried home determined to do some research.

Whelp, first thing Ol’ Robbo did was to go to the Weber replacement parts page. Alas, I couldn’t find a bowl there, only peripheral bits like grates and handles. So then I started hunting about on the innerwebs for alternatives, and eventually stumbled across an outfit called Lo and behold, they did have one, so I quickly ordered it. It arrived yesterday afternoon.

This morning, Ol’ Robbo went out and commenced Operation Switcharoo. I’m happy to report that it was a more or less complete success, marred only by a giant blood blister on the ball of my ring finger that I gave myself trying to work loose an extremely calcitrant screw (the head of which I had already stripped) with a pair of pliers.

The hors de combat veteran and the new recruit.

This satisfies Ol’ Robbo muchly, as I was able to do a fairly simple mechanical fix (which I always enjoy) in addition to extending the life of my grill at only a fraction of the cost to replace the whole thing (which I also always enjoy).

Oh, and while I was at it, I ripped out all the “electric ignition” foofaral, which I never used anyway. Ignition switches and bottles of propane are for sissies. Give me a can of lighter fluid and a match every time.

And while I’m on the subject of propane, I was aghast to learn from my brother a couple weeks ago that he’s started using a gas grill and loves it. Simply put, this is a heresy and you will go to hell when you die if you indulge in it. (You can look this up. First Corinthians, I believe.)

“Wait, it isn’t? Well I wish you guys would make up your minds!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo never gets tired of this pun. (And I hope those of you who get it will enjoy it, too. It took me the dickens of a time this year to dig up this pic. As for those of you who don’t get it, please clap anyway.)

Anyhoo, humorous merits or lack thereof aside, I always drag this particular chestnut out on “Earth Day” in gentle mockery. Said day, it seems to Ol’ Robbo, has nothing to do with responsible stewardship of the environment but, like most fashionable modern causes, is a mere front for the consolidation of raw politickal power. Think Ol’ Robbo is wearing his tinfoil hat? Perhaps. But be sure to note how many “Climate Emergency” pieces run today, most of them demanding the unquestioning surrender of individual liberties into the hands of Our Betters in order to appease Mama Nature.

As they say, like a watermelon: Green on the outside, red on the inside.

(I also like to point out to those who haven’t tuned me out already that today is Lenin’s birthday, which I don’t believe is a mere coincidence.)

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo meant to mention that he happened to watch the movie tied to this pun just the other evening and it’s just as fresh and funny (and, really, subversive in the good way) as ever. It’s also one of those films that I’m “thiiiiiis” close to going ahead and buying for my permanent DVD collection.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo learned only this afternoon that his cousin is proposing to descend upon Port Swiller Manor tomorrow afternoon, after attending some local festivity, for a little family catch-up.

The last communication I had from said cousin was a blazing tribute to Dr. Fauci, in which she proclaimed that she trusted nobody else on this earth more than Him.

I’m sure as I’m sitting here now at my desk that she’s going to quiz me about getting the Vaccine. And I’m also just as sure that she’s going to recoil in horror when I confess that a) I haven’t taken it and, b) I don’t intend to.

I will do no more than shrug (hopefully).

We’ll see what happens.

Stand by for an Act 2 update……

Anticlimactical Act 2 UPDATE: Huh. Not a word. Conversation was limited almost entirely to family gossip, gardening, and a few scattered platitudes about the disruptions the lockdowns have caused.

**Scratches head**

One theory for this surprising behavior is that she was discombobulated by my appearance when she came in. She’s never seen my plague-beard nor do I think anyone had told her about it. Also, owing in part to the fact that somebody has again stolen Ol’ Robbo’s special pair of scissors, the top of my head is shaggier than normal. She didn’t say anything about any of this, either, although she did to a quick take ‘um when she first spotted me.

Another, of course, is that she was simply being polite. But that’s not half as much fun an explanation about which to speculate.

Whatever the reason, I’ll take the win. Sorry it makes this entire post a bit lame. [“Lamer”, you mean – Ed.]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo became aware this week of The Friends of Notre-Dame, Paris, a website devoted to raising funds for the work of restoring the Cathedral from its devastating fire. (Was it really only two years ago?) Apparently, you can either add to the general kitty or else target your donation to specific artifacts, including gargoyles.

This is a neat idea and a clever way to get people to feel a personal connection to the Cathedral’s rebuilding. Just so long as nobody gets any funny ideas about Darth Vader, of course.

In general, Ol’ Robbo is heartened by the progress the French Gub’mint has made so far. I’m old enough to remember the original reports about how the Cathedral was going to be a total loss. Then rumors started flying about plans to “update” it with things like a glass ceiling and rooftop gardens, as well as to turn it into some kind of multi-faith general “worship space”. Since then, the French government said “uh-uh” and is placing it back the way it was, and furthermore seems to be on track to get ‘er done by 2024. Very impressive.

(Thank Heaven Francois Mitterrand isn’t still around. Any bastard who’d allow I.M.Pei to part a glass pyramid smack in front of the Louvre would be capable of turning Notre-Dame into an indoors water park.)

On a completely different note, in the old-style calendar (I dunno about the novus ordo), this is Good Shephard Sunday and the Gospel is John, 10. 11-16. That was the reading the Mothe specifically picked out for her memorial service. “I am the good Shepherd: And I know Mine and Mine know Me.” That’s one of those passages that goes straight to the innermost core of Ol’ Robbo’s soul.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, we are definitely into the thick of spring here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and Ol’ Robbo found all sorts of tasks demanding his attention today:

**The peonies are shooting up and already have buds forming all over, so I put out their support cages this morning. I should say semi-support cages, because all the plants are too big in diameter now to fit altogether within them. Regular friends of the decanter will recall that for some years Ol’ Robbo has made noise annually about digging the peonies up in the fall and separating out their roots for multiple replantings. I mean it this year. Really. Stop laughing.

**I took out the trimmer for the first time today. After I reconnected the popped fuel line and gave it a fresh lot of trimming line, it fired right up. (Winding new line onto the spinner head is an annoying yet somehow very satisfying task once it’s done.) This time I’m trying Gorilla Glue to keep the end of the fuel line firmly in its grommet on the gas tank. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll call Phil Swift.

**We put out the initial round of porch plants today, which include four ferns in hanging baskets and pots of basil, mint, and parsley. (More herbs and flowers will be forthcoming.) Also, remembering my remark that I’d like to take a whack at homemade salsa this summer, Mrs. R brought home a tomahto plant of a variety called “Early Girl”. (I know nothing of tomatoes nor whether this was a good or bad choice.) I put it at the top of the porch steps next to Mrs. R’s new early-Mother’s Day rose in the hope that the beasties will leave it alone there.

**I planted a new Henryi white clematis on the lattice next to the patio. I already have a pair of mature Durandii there which I also spent time tying up today. They represent something of a mistake because they’re not really climbers like the Henryi or a Jackmanni. Instead, they’re long, thin vines that don’t wrap around or cling to anything. I lace them up through the lattice, but I have to keep a sharp eye on them, especially when they’re blooming, because their flowers are so large that when the wind gets up and the vines start rubbing against the edges on the lattice, they often snap due to the weight. (Despite the trouble, they’re worth the effort when they’re in bloom.)

**It also looks like our neighbors are getting into the gardening spirit this year. In recent days they’ve put together a pair of four-foot-per-side raised beds in their backyard. I’ve no idea what they’re fixing to plant but I hope they’re taking into account the local critters. There’s a very active groundhog who lives in a burrow just behind my fence (much to Decanter Dog’s indignation).

Meanwhile, the air continues heavily-saturated with pollen. A while ago, I took Youngest’s car on its weekly exercise run up to the store. It lives under a large holly tree. Ol’ Robbo doesn’t usually pay attention to such things, but I found myself genuinely embarrassed at how filthy it was. (Her car is black, so everything shows up on it.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo dialed in last evening to watch Middle Gel’s school chorale put on their spring concert.

The piece they performed was Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. Honestly, it’s sonorous enough but not really Ol’ Robbo’s cup of tea. The Gel, however, really likes it, and as she is infinitely more schooled in choral musick than Self, I will conceded that I may just be being a knuckle-dragging Philistine here.

I’ll also concede that I really couldn’t give it a fair hearing: Between everyone being masked up and the sound equipment seemingly inadequate to compensate, even with my volume turned all the way up to eleven, I could barely hear it.

Still, the fact that they were even able to perform at all, and even in front of a live audience at that, was gratifying and I was hoping that they’d take the approach of “Keep Calm and Carry On Singing”.

Alas, no such luck.

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! When the director came out, he started in on a little spiel which would have made one think the Black Plague is ravaging the lands and there’s a guy out front with a cart yelling, “Bring out yer dead!” And even worse, between each section of the piece there was imposed on the superscript screen a question like “How did you feel at first?” or “Who did you turn to?” Followed by individual choristers silently putting on masks with answers written on them. I know my skepticism is somewhat out of tune with many people (did you see what I did there?) but I found the display both distracting and irritating and tap-danced with increasing impatience as the piece proceeded. (I don’t remember what the Gel’s question was and couldn’t read the response on her mask anyway.)

Ol’ Robbo finds it deeply depressing and frustrating that so many people have allowed themselves to be hoorawed into cowering in place and giving up their individual liberties without question simply because Our Betters claim it’s for the Greater Good. (Chorus: “The Greater Gooood!“) I could understand it for the first week or two when nobody really knew what was going on, but over a year later? Shouldn’t we be be reassessing what is now obviously our massively unnecessary over-response? Given their track record, shouldn’t we be seriously questioning everything coming out of Our Betters’ mouths now? Shouldn’t we be alarmed (and frankly furious) at the facility and eagerness with which tinpot tyrants have moved to centralize and expand their power under the cover of “Science”?

I bring this up with Mrs. R every now and then. She believes people are sick and tired of it all and also that they won’t be fooled again. I believe the first part but not so much the second. A hundred quatloos says “Climate Emergency” is going to be the next bogus crisis used to justify keeping us sheep under lock and key, and it’s coming sooner rather than later.


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April 2021