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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been suffering from a case of the woozles the past couple days after his lengthy Saturday lumberjacking efforts and has not felt much inspiration to post, but I’m feeling better now. (Mrs. R duly chided me about “over-doing it” but if I don’t take care of these things, who will?)

Eldest Gel has decided that because Ol’ Robbo is interested in early English history he needs to read the collected works of George R.R. Martin.*** This comes up every time we discuss said history, which is rayther a lot since we’re both, in fact, interested in it. (And let me say here how grateful I am to have a kid with such interest in this wretched day and age.)

The argument usually goes like this:

We start with some specific topic. Hadrian’s Wall, Hengist and Horsa, the Battle of Baden Mount, the Conquest, Richard II and Bolingbroke, Richard III, etc.

At some point, Eldest interjects, “Dad! You’ve just got to read George R.R. Martin!”

“But why?” I say.

“Because he draws so much of his ‘Game of Thrones’ material from this same stuff!”

“But it’s fantasy. I don’t like fantasy. I’d rather read the history itself or else reality-based historical fiction. If I want to read dramatic treatments of, say, the War of the Roses, I’m pretty sure Shakespeare did a better job. And have you read Rosemary Sutcliff?”

“Whaddaya mean you don’t like fantasy? You read Tolkien and Lewis, don’t you? You’re a Star Trek nerd, aren’t you?”

“Tolkien and Lewis are the exceptions to the rule – I don’t read anybody else. And no, dammit, I’m not a nerd!”

Mmmmm, hmmmm…...Anyway, you need to read George R.R. Martin.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Ol’ Robbo has no plans to read George R.R. Martin.

***Oddly enough, she agrees with me that the tee-vee series appears to be basically Dungeons & Dragons with bits of gratuitous porn thrown in and is not worth watching.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter (but I repeat myself) will no doubt be not the slightest bit surprised that Ol’ Robbo’s entire Saturday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of the big maple brought down by storm this week. (I had mentioned its termite infestation before but closer study of the spot where the trunk actually snapped sure doesn’t reveal any compromised wood to Ol’ Robbo. We did have a storm come through Monday night, and as the tree is both big and top-heavy, I think this is what must have got it after all.)

The thing must have been 60 or 70 feet tall. Two of its three main trunks snapped, bringing down a plethora of lesser sub-trunks, boughs, limbs, and branches. That’s a lot of tree.

Ol’ Robbo made it his task to saw off and remove all the lessor branches, so that when his handyman and crew appear (on Wednesday I now hear), they can cut up all the main parts for firewood (of which I will not lack this winter). Ol’ Robbo doesn’t own a chainsaw but has a nifty little hand-saw that is good for anything up to a three or four inch diameter, so I set that as my benchmark.

As I worked away this morning (fortunately a cool one) I thought about all sorts of things I might write here about how it’s good to take on this kind of job oneself: the exercise is a plus, of course, but there’s something else about getting one’s own hands dirty and not being too proud or spoiled to do it. Besides, whenever I have my handyman do a job like this, he never throws the branches where I want him to, stacking them next to the brush pile instead of on top of it. (That’s why I don’t have him do the leaves in the fall anymore, too.)

By this afternoon, I was ready to pay just about anyone any amount to take the damn job off my hands and finish it.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t Robbo have at least two young, healthy, and strong daughters home at the moment? Why didn’t he get them to help?” To which I reply, “Yeah, right.” For better or for worse, Mrs. R has inculcated the Gels with the idea that there are certain jobs that are simply left to the menfolk (meaning me). Yardwork is definitely one of them. (This brings to mind a memory of my brother and myself slaving away for the Old Gentleman in the hot Texas sun of my misspent yoot while our sister skulked in her room listening to her Adam Ant records. Some things don’t change.)

Anyhoo, at last the thing is done, and I’m sunburned, worn out, and too tired to go to the store for dinner supplies. (Well, Eldest volunteered to do that, so at least that’s something.)

Oh, the other bit of excitement: I was coming up the hill from the back gate after a brush pile trip when I looked up and suddenly saw on the lawn ahead of me…….a snake! I hate snakes! Why did it have to be a snake? No step on snek!

It was a big thing, at least four feet long, glossy black with a white underside, a thick torso and a small head. The innerwebz tell me this was an Eastern ratsnake. I’d never seen one before. (You can tell me all about how harmless and beneficial they are, but I don’t care. Did I mention I hate snakes?)

The thing was gliding slowly toward the house. Ol’ Robbo did not wish it to proceed in that direction any farther, so after my initial interjection of something like “Ergblethrubububah!!!“, I tried to get its attention with word and gesture (which it ignored) and eventually by judiciously-aimed sticks (which it did not). Finally, I headed the thing and persuaded it to go back down the hill. It disappeared in the ivy patch in front of my garden fence. I’ll never set foot in that patch ever again.

At first I couldn’t figure out what on earth the thing was doing right out in the open on short grass. It later occurred to me that it probably lives in the brush pile and that my constant throwing of debris on the pile flushed it out.

All in all, a very full day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, Mrs. R approached me at my desk and asked if I could drop her and her friends off at the airport this morning.

“Airport?” I said, “Er, are you going somewhere?”

“Yes, the Cape. Remember?”

“I thought I remembered you decided not to go.”

“Well, I changed my mind again.”


So I duly donned my chauffer cap, collected the henfest, and ran them out. Mrs. R’s suitcase was twice as big and heavy as the other two’s were. Only the fact that Decanter Dog is, in fact, asleep on the sofa near me allays my suspicion that Mrs. R was trying to smuggle her on to the trip. Lawd knows what she’s actually got in there – you wouldn’t think four or five days’ worth of clothes would weigh that much.

I’m not sure what the policy is now for air travel but there were still plenty of sheeple masked up at the drop-off. My theory that mask-wearing cuts off oxygen to the brain and makes people stupider was buttressed by the unusually idiotic behavior of the traffic pulling up to and away from the curb. I know this is a pretty high bar anyway, but it suddenly seemed as if everybody there was a Murrland driver.

We took Mrs. R’s Honda Juggernaut. The Sirius happened to be tuned to the 80’s channel. On the way home, I heard “Rock Me, Amadeus” for the first time in I don’t know how long. Gawd.

So here we are. I’m still adjusting my braim to this unforeseen change in circumstance, although the reality is that it probably won’t have that much impact on my plans: That fallen tree in the yard (which see below) isn’t going to trim itself up, and most evenings I just read or watch old movies anyway.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel had to get herself fingerprinted for a summah camp counseling gig she has coming up. After a couple weeks fussing about the importance that the the prints be electronic and the printer be “FBI-approved”, she announced that she’d found a place downtown and would I please go with her to get them.

I looked the place up, realized just where downtown it was, and said, “We’re not going there.” (Just think about the sort of neighborhood where you’d expect to find a biznay that specializes in fingerprinting and drug testing. Yup.)

After a little more research, I found that she could get them done at a much closer county sheriff’s office (and at a lot lower cost, I might add). So she went over yesterday.

I am very happy to say that my children have virtually no knowledge of the world of law enforcement in any of its manifestations. Indeed, the only time any of them has set foot in a court complex has been to pick up their driver’s license. So this was a very new experience for Youngest.

She came back slightly shaken.

“It was so weird,” she said, “I felt like everybody was eyeing me and wondering what I was in for. I wanted to yell ‘It’s just for a JOB!!'”


This brought back to mind a dim recollection of being taken on a tour of the county lockup when I was a kid, perhaps on a school field trip, but more likely with my cub scout troop. (I couldn’t have been older than maybe 5th grade?) I remember them putting us in a cell for a few minutes and I remember the general tone of the tour being, “If you don’t want to end up here, you do what your momma and daddy tell you to do!” Not that I needed the advice myself but yes, it left an impression.

I wonder if anyone does that anymore? Different times. Different times.

(I also remember a deathtrap of an elevator that jerked and swayed and even free-fell down a floor while we were in it. Gave me a phobia it took me a long time to get over.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo has written a couple times over the past few days about the status of the timber on the Port Swiller Manor demesne.

Whelp, Ma Nature must have been reading here too, because Ol’ Robbo, in letting Decanter Dog out this morning after a dark and stormy night, discovered this:

I’ve posted about this tree before. It’s the one in which I discovered a good bit of termite damage last year, and I’ve been more or less expecting it to come down sooner or later, so while I was startled, I wasn’t surprised.

The good news is that it missed the house and porch altogether and seems to have done only minor damage to the fence. Also, it doesn’t seem that our neighbor’s shrubs were affected much. However, it hit the patio fair and square. The birdbath looks trashed and I can’t see some of the flowerpots for all the debris yet, but they might have got whacked.

All in all, though, a lucky break and also a relief. As I say, I’ve been expecting the thing to come down, and all this winter and spring it’s haunted the fringes of my conscience as a sort of Maple of Damocles. It’s also a bit sad, though, because this was the tree from which the Gels’ swing was hung. Eldest, in particular, spent many hours meditatively pushing herself off against the trunk and thinking about whatever it is teenaged gels think of. I’d even from time to time fancied the idea of grandchildren getting to use it.

Anyhoo, our handyman is coming out this afternoon to give me a quote for cutting up the larger bits, chainsaw use being beyond my skillset.


**Spot the reference.

UPDATE: Spoke to the handyman. Youch! I’m not a lumber-jack and that’s okay, but maybe I oughta be one!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and “happy” summah!

Yes, far and away Ol’ Robbo’s least favorite season. I suppose the best that can be said is that the days are now going to start getting shorter so there’s hope for the future.

I’ve mentioned here previously how counterintuitive it always seems to me that the hottest part of the year occurs after the solstice rayther than at the solstice. (Yes, yes, I know the meteorological explanation. I’m just saying it doesn’t seem right.)

Another seasonal mind hurdle for me is the fact that cold air is actually denser and heavier than warm air. Again, I get the science, but it just seems wrong. I always think of this while watching jet traffic approaching the local airport. When it’s cold out, they seem to zip right through the air almost as if it doesn’t exist. But when it’s really hot and humid? I sometimes swear they could just turn the engines off and float along in the soup. (Not that I would recommend this.)

Well, here we are.

On a completely different note, I woke myself up laughing from a dream this morning. This happens to me not often, but every now and again. It’s a truly delightful feeling.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Fathers’ Day!

This weekend saw the return of a full house at Port Swiller Manor for the first time since January. And yet Ol’ Robbo finds himself facing dinner alone this evening. How do I come to be doing a Gratuitous Bachelor Post(TM) today of all days?

Well, let me explain……No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

The two major factors are the advent of Ol’ Robbo’s in-laws and Middle Gel’s latest sports wound.

First, the in-laws. They’re doing their snowbird summah migration back up north and are stopping over in town for a few days. Not altogether without reason, they went to the extremes of precaution during the recent medical unpleasantness, and had not been out of their house for about fourteen months. But while they now feel comfortable enough to get out and about again, they still refuse to have any close contact with anybody they know has not had the jab.

That would be me.

It’s useless to argue rationally about this, nor do I wish to upset them, so I’ve simply gone along with things and am keeping my distance while they visit with Mrs. R and those granddaughters who also are medically cleared.

Last evening, I had dinner with Eldest alone, who’s also been banished. I would have done so again this evening, but this is where Middle Gel comes in. Since her grandparents were coming through and she hasn’t seen them in over a year and a half, she naturally took advantage of their stopover here to come up herself and visit. But a week or two ago she managed to get body checked by some dude whilst frolicking on the lawn down at her school, resulting in a crocked right knee which doesn’t allow her to drive at the moment.

Mrs. R went down to fetch Middle Gel on Friday, but we decided that it would be nice for Eldest to drive her back, her teaching job having ended last week for the summah. Thus, she’s going to spend this coming week knocking about with her sister down in the Tidewater. Surely a Good Thing. They just left a while ago, as Eldest wanted to be there before dark. So no dinner with her.

What about Youngest, you might ask? Well, she’s dog-sitting for the grandparents while they go out to dinner with Mrs. R, the in-laws absolutely refusing to let their pooch sit alone and unattended in their hotel room for an hour or two.

So there you have it.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t begrudge any of this himself, really, although he thinks the ban pretty hard cheese on Eldest Gel. Mrs. R has me around every day but only sees her ‘rents once in a way, so why would I object to her spending time with them? Besides, these little get-togethers invariably get complicated, aggravating, and sometimes tempestuous. Far simpler for me simply to turn my bow into the wind and heave-to until it’s all over.

Besides, this is a good opportunity for me to indulge in a little veal scaloppini, which I avoid when Mrs. R is around in order not to offend her sensibilities. Fried up in a coating of breadcrumbs, put together with some potato pancakes, some fresh peas, and a bot of Beaujolais, and Ol’ Robbo is good to go!

And speaking of which, time for me to go start getting things ready…….

***Not really, except that when I got to church today I noticed a black Chevy Suburban with gub’mint plates waiting to pick up somebody coming out of the Mass ahead of ours. I never saw who it was but chuckled to myself at the idea that if it was Creepy Uncle Joe hoping to sneak in Communion at our parish, he would surely be deeply disappointed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo posted below about what to do with the County’s maple trees on the Port Swiller Manor street front.

And what shows up in his mailbox yesterday? A flyer from the County’s Land Development Services Department warning that Port Swiller Manor may sit on or near a Resource Protection Area.

Coincidence? I think not!

The RPAs are regulated areas stretching out 100 feet from streams, rivers, and shorelines within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. You’re not supposed to remove any growth, even dead growth, within them, nor are you supposed to clearcut to create lawn. (It’s actually a sensible conservation measure of which Ol’ Robbo approves.)

I’ve often mentioned here the little creek that runs past the Port Swiller Manor back fence. It’s a very small tributary of a moderately larger run that eventually dumps into the Potomac. The RPA comes close to our property line but doesn’t actually cross it. (Would that it covered the trees out front!) Over the years, I have maintained the ground closer to the creek, but only to the extent of cutting the grass in what is already open area and gathering downed deadwood into neat piles. Well, and I also dump all the various waste from the yard back under the trees. Hopefully, they can’t get me for that. (Honest, officer, I was composting!)

The other side of the creek is a big chunk of woodland within our neighborhood which was originally zoned for a school. Due to one thing and another, the school never got built (and never will). Every now and again, a developer tries to get the plot rezoned in order to build moar McMansions and the neighborhood organizes to fight it, so far successfully. We knew the risk of this when we moved in but we also figured the creek and its RPA would save us from having to look at the back of some hideous new pile were a zoning decision ever to go the other way.

So the flyer really didn’t tell me anything I don’t know already. But it did come with a link to a neat-o interactive County map laying out elevations, watersheds, RPAs, and property lines. I’ve been playing happily with it this morning. (I did not know there is a “Pope’s Head Creek” in the County. I’ll have to look a bit further for the origins of that one, as a 5-minute Bing search provides no enlightenment.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t got round to mentioning it yet, but the fireflies (or lightning bugs, if you prefer***) have been back out at Port Swiller Manor for about a week or ten days now.

Lightning bugs (or fireflies, if you prefer) are definitely Ol’ Robbo’s favorite insects.

I understand that this isn’t exactly a competitive bracket, most bugs being either annoying, disgusting,**** or (in the case of yellow-jackets, paper hornets, and scorpions which with I’ve had encounters) painful. But whereas I casually like, say, butterflies, crickets, and certain of the less-scary spiders, I really like fireflies, and their reappearance in early to mid-June in these parts always makes me very happy. Which is why I make a point of adding this same post year after year even when I’ve got nothing original to say about the matter.

I recall somebody here years ago, when Ol’ Robbo had a wider readership, saying there were no lightning bugs in their neck of the woods, somewhere in the Great Plains, I b’lieve. I still remember thinking what a shame that was. Subsequent poking about on the innerwebz suggests that they aren’t altogether unknown west of the Mississippi, but that they are much rarer there, particularly in the Upper Midwest. We certainly had them in the South Texas of my misspent yoot (I used to catch them and release them in my bedroom) and I positively saw some a few years back along the banks of the North Platte in Casper, Wyoming. But I gather there just aren’t the galaxy-like swarms we can get here in the East.

As I say, that’s a shame, because on a warm, still, summah evening, still dripping from the thunderstorms that rolled through earlier, when the little beasties fill the trees in their hundreds and thousands, flickering away in miniature answer to the real lightning still visible off to the south and east? Well, regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo doesn’t go in for the schmaltz much here, but that’s magic, that is.

*** I’ve no idea what the breakout is between people who say “firefly” and people who say “lightning bug”. Are they regionalisms? I grew up hearing both, but even though I lived in the South, my family were Yankees.

****Speaking of disgusting bugs, the Brood X cicada swarm is definitely winding down its appearance. Good riddance, says I.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor earlier this morning got to see an interesting sight: Ol’ Robbo, in robe and jammies, helping Eldest Gel to haul a large, fallen branch to the side of the driveway so she could get to work. (I’ll have to haul it and the others that came down with it out back later on.)

I hope the scene was good for a chuckle or two for those passing by.

Ol’ Robbo has written numerous times before of the three large maples and the oak which line the ditch between the sidewalk and the street in front of his house., pointing out time and again that this is county property, not mine.

Of course, in the spirit of good neighborliness, we’ve always cared for the area ourselves. We clean up all the leaves each fall as well as sticks and branches whenever they come down. We’ve put in low retaining walls to channel rain run-off and beds of shade-loving plants because grass won’t grow in the space. We’ve done so out of pocket and knowing that these could all be dug up without question were the County to need to get at, say, a buried utility line.

But this is all fairly nickel and dime compared to what it would cost to prune or take out one or more of the trees. And after all these years, we’re now approaching the time when somebody is going to have to do something, as they (especially the one on the weather end of the line) are definitely showing their age. And, to be blunt, I’m not paying for it. I already get skinned to the bone for property taxes – let some of that come back my way.

I’ve tried from time to time to penetrate the bureaucracy (both County and State) to see exactly who is in charge. I assume this matter would come under the heading of “road maintenance”, but I’ve never yet found even a contact point. (Big surprise.) Even if I did, I’d bet each would only tell me that it’s the other one’s problem.

In the end, I suppose that nothing will be done until, on the squeaky-wheel principle, a large bough or maybe the whole shooting-match comes down on the street during a storm some night.

*** A lot of these old nursery rhymes have their origins in long-faded politickal disputes. I’ve sometimes wondered what this rayther lurid cradle-toppling scenario was about originally. Same with, say, “Humpty-Dumpty”. I’ve always believed that “Georgy-Porgy” was a dig at George IV during his Regency but couldn’t cite you the basis for my belief.


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June 2021