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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got taken to lunch today by Middle Gel. Yes, the Gel treated me, not the other way round. Pretty sure this was a first.

It was rayther a strange sensation, particularly as we went to the same family restaurant we always stopped at after little league soccer and softball games back in the day, and especially as she had the same thing she always did back then (hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream and an extra-cheesy omelet). Indeed, thinking on this nostalgically, I almost forgot she’s all grown up now (which I think was part of the reason she wanted to treat), and had to physically stop myself from automatically grabbing the check.

The times, they are a ‘changing.

(Speaking of the times, I noticed that the prices were considerably higher than they had been. I also noticed that seemingly every single store in the strip mall (including the restaurant itself) had a “help wanted” sign in the window. #LGB!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter may recall an old Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs is being hunted by Elmer Fudd when a truck full of hats loses its load high above them in the hills. Various hats (a bonnet, military headgear, etc.) successively land on their heads, causing a series of changes in their personalities.** (I’m sure the cartoon has long since been banned from teevee for whatever sins against modern sensibilities. Although I recall that Fudd winds up in a bridal veil, so you’d think the scolds would be all for it.)

Anyhoo, I mention it because I always feel something of this change when I get a haircut, and it just so happens that I did that very thing yesterday.

Yes, this doesn’t seem much meat to post about, but it is for me (else I wouldn’t be writing this) for a couple reasons.

First off, this was the first time I’d actually gone out and got a real, professional haircut in nearly two years. All this time during the plandemical house arrest I’ve been hacking at it myself with an occasional assist around back by Mrs. R. I just finally decided I was tired of looking like……I’d cut it myself.

Second, prior to the shutdown I’d been going to the same gal to clip the thatch for something close to twenty years. However, when it hit, her salon went under and I believe she moved away. At any rate, I don’t know where to reach her now, so decided just to try my luck with the hole-in-the-wall barber shop near my grocery store. This is more significant than friends of the decanter may think, because Ol’ Robbo is of such a habitual nature that it takes me an enormous amount of what the physicists call “energy of activation” to deviate from my normal routines.

Well, I’m happy to say that it worked out just fine.

When I sat down, the cute little barberess said, “How you want cut?”

“Oh,” I said, “Short in back and on the sides. But leave the top long because I have to cover my bald spot.”

She giggled.

The whole operation took ten, maybe fifteen minutes tops. And this was the first time I’ve ever had anyone use a straight-razor on the back of my neck. An interesting sensation, indeed.

When it came time to pay (a fraction of what I used to spend at the fru-fru salon), I discovered that we had a miscommunication when I first came in and that this was a cash-only establishment. Of course I didn’t have any. (I’ve a wife and three college-age daughters. How much cash do you suppose Ol’ Robbo ever actually sees?***) After I fumbled about for a minute or two, the gal said, “How about you just pay next time you come in?”

That is the sort of small-town hospitality (and clever client development) I would never, ever imagine receiving round here, and I was quite delightfully surprised.

You may be sure that, in fact, I dashed home, tracked down Mrs. R, wrestled the ATM card from her, hit the bank, and dashed back to the shop. You may also be sure that I tipped the gal heartily.

I think I now have a new routine. And I feel an awful lot less shabby than I did.

** Because Ol’ Robbo’s braim works the way it does, I still remember Bug’s line when the sergeant’s helmet lands on his head and he starts dressing down Fudd: “Awright, dog face! How come every other soldier in this man’s army has got a RIFLE, but YOU’VE got a GUN??!!”

*** I sometimes make this remark to the more professional panhandlers I encounter on the street. I’ve never not had one of them laugh.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope all of you friends of the decanter are having/have had a joyous Christmas. For those of you agog to learn how Ol’ Robbo’s planning panned out, a brief summary:

Contrary to my goal, I didn’t wind up making it to Midnight Mass this year. When you’re the only one in your household interested, it’s extra tough to keep focused and stay up, particularly when you know what a job you’re going to have on your hands the next day. Plus, I made the mistake of eating cheese pizza for dinner that evening, which always plays havoc with my tummy.

However, because I was so far out ahead of the game with my organization and prep, I realized that I’d be able to make the noon Mass on Christmas Day and get home just in time to start the hors d’oeuvres going in the oven. I understand that our dear Pope had some particularly barbed words for us Latin Mass traddies in his Christmas address. Bless his heart. By a singular coincidence, our Padre brought up in his homily the plight of Eomer of Rohan seeking to love and remain loyal to King Theoden even while Theoden was under the evil spells of Grima the Wormtongue.*** Singular. Coincidence. (Father counsels patience and clear-sightedness.)

As for dinner itself, with all due modesty I will say that I knocked it clear over the upper deck in left-center. The roast was absolutely, perfectly, pink inside, none of the popovers stuck to the tins, and for once I didn’t over-zap the asparagus. The only glitch came when, in my zeal to clean cooking utensils as soon as I was done using them, I inadvertently got dish detergent in the pan drippings, so couldn’t make gravy. However, I made lots of Hollandaise sauce by way of compensation.

And as for its reception by my family and guests? Suffice to say that there were very, very few leftovers.

The company all behaved themselves, too. My cousin refrained from trying to spike anybody with her “superior” expertise on anything, and our friends – who it was truly great to see again – didn’t come close to starting a politickal spat. Indeed, the only trouble we had was provided by Decanter Dog, who probably due to stress at all the stranger-danger, dropped a deuce in the dining room which was only discovered when Mrs. Friend inadvertently stepped in it. Fortunately, all of us are dog people, so while it was of course an unpleasant episode, it didn’t put a damper on the evening.

So there you have it, a joyous and festive day very much like in the Before Times, and an enormous weight off of Ol’ Robbo’s shoulders once it was over and done with. I am now lolly-gagging for a few days before revving up again for New Year’s. (At least I’m not hosting that one.)

*** I’m going to guess that just about anyone who spends any amount of time here over the port and Stilton will be enough of a Tolkien Geek to get the allusion without me needing to add footnotes.

Adoration of the Shepherds” – Caravaggio (1609)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

  • Luke 2: 1-14 (KJV)

Ol’ Robbo may say that he never reads this passage without feeling a shudder up and down his spine, particularly at Verse 13. And by that, I mean a good shudder, one of both awe and joy. And this, as much as anything else, is why I know it is real.

May all of you friends of the decanter have a most blessed and happy Christmas!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So….is everybody ready? I’m not sure, but I think – I think – I’m ready. Well, about ready. Call it sort of ready.

In any event, I’ve at least got all the foodstuffs and gargle in. There will be nine of us altogether at the Port Swiller Manor Christmas dins, to whom I will be serving up the traditional roast beef with popovers** and two veg, preceded by bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (plus whatever other munchies the guests bring) and followed by some lemon/raspberry thing picked up by Mrs. R.***

I was clever enough to pick up the roast last weekend but didn’t get the asparagus and sundries until this afternoon. For some reason or other, I didn’t expect crowding at the store. Pretty sure I’m not in danger of having my idiot card revoked any time soon.

So, Christmas Eve day will consist mostly of cleaning the halls, setting the table with the linens and the good silver, switching purple candles and bows for red ones, and other decking operations.

Mrs. R wants to attend the way early Christmas Eve service at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church even though it’s mostly meant for families with smaller children, so as to avoid too much crowding. Frankly, I’m somewhat surprised the parish decided to go ahead with in-person services at all, given the latest hair-on-fire “variant” panic. Good on them for deciding not to get buffaloed. (And yes, I’ll be going along, too.)

Ol’ Robbo is also determined to make Midnight Mass this year. Since I go by myself and everyone else is fast asleep by the time I get home (past 2 ack emma), I always pre-arrange my jammies and toothbrush and whatnot downstairs beforehand so as not to wake them up. But I also reward myself with a nice Early Christmas Day brandy before turning in.

Then it’s up just a few hours later, blurry-eyed and non-bushy-tailed, to feebly clutch my cuppa kawfee while the Gels open presents. And then to set to work on the dinner described above. (I wish there was more I could do to prep ahead of time, but there really isn’t: I suppose I could do up the bacon/chestnuts tomorrow, but I just don’t have any place to store them overnight.)

And then to entertain. In addition to my inevitable cousin, we’re also having some friends over whom I haven’t seen in a couple years now. Fingers crossed that he (in particular) doesn’t start off on some politickal rant and accuse me of being a Nazi. He does such things from time to time, but I gather she has given him about eleventy-thousand talkings-to about behaving himself, so we shall see.

Ol’ Robbo will admit that by the time Christmas Night rolls around, he’ll be pretty tuckered out. But ne’er mind, it’s worth it.

(Oh, and I’ll also put up my usual Christmas Card to all of you friends of the decanter tomorrow.)

**Of course, a Yorkshire pudding would be even more old-school, but I don’t have a souffle dish. It’s all the same thing, anyway.

***I have no sweet-tooth whatsoever and therefore no interest in desserts, as a rule, so I’m perfectly happy to delegate this to Mrs. R.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy first day of winter!

It’s as unscientific and irrational as you like, but every single year when we hit the solstice, a little voice at the back of my braims says, “Alright, that’s behind us. Time to start warming up again.”

Ma Nature, of course, has very different plans.

The funny thing is that I never feel this way at the opposite end of the year. June 21st? Oh, Gawd. Here comes summah!

Why part of my mind thinks this might be the last day of winter instead of the first, I couldn’t tell you. Wish-casting, I suppose.

Ah, well. For once I’m pretty well stocked in driveway melt and I just bought a new, sturdy snow-shovel, so bring it on, Ma.

UPDATE: For those wondering, yes, I did consider a snow-blower this year but decided against it. As much as I may grumble at the time, I prefer getting the exercise in while I am still able. When I start getting too feeble to wield the shovel, then I’ll take the s-b option more seriously.

UPDATE DEUX: I haven’t enough inspiration for a fresh post so will mention a fun fact I forgot to include re the solstice: Port Swiller Manor is so oriented that for about a month either side of December 21, the garage door sensor is blinded by the sun on clear days and won’t allow the door to come down. The time frame for this temporary blinding shifts: Right now, it happens around mid-morning, but it happens earlier at the beginning and end of the period. So, one must pay attention, especially if departure leaves the house empty.

One of the nerdier joys of home-ownership, but I take my amusement where I find it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was oot and aboot last evening (as our Canadian friends would say) and had himself a pleasant time despite his apprehensions to the contrary.

It all stemmed from an invitation from my cousin way back in October to go see a Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center. Through a game of “telephone” I got it in my head that she was inviting us to see her sing. I also assumed, not unreasonably, that the concert was to be on a weekend. Without bothering to nail down the details, I said of course we would come.

Well, with a little more due diligence, I’m not sure I’d have been so quick to accept. Ol’ Robbo has his little foibles, and one of them is a distinct dislike of going out on a work night, especially downtown, and especially when it means I won’t get to eat dinner until way late. But by the time I realized what I was in for, it was far too late to back out.

As I say, however, things worked out just fine. Without the Before Times rush hour traffic, getting into the Kennedy from Port Swiller Manor is easy-peasy, and we arrived in plenty of time to be screened by the Health Stasi. This was the first time I’ve been anywhere that’s demanded to see my vax papers, and they were dead serious about it. No perfunctory glance here – the flunky gave me, my driver’s license, and my vax card quite the careful look before handing me my yellow star red wristband. (Masks, of course, were also required, but I slid mine down to my chin during the performance. Nobody said anything, and I don’t believe I was alone in this.)

Anyhoo, as I said, it wasn’t my cousin’s group singing, but instead the Choral Arts Society. It was the usual mix of ancient and modern carols, hymns, and whatnot, plus the obligatory “Hallelujah Chorus”. The old standards were the old standards. The more modern stuff, while not actually unharmonious, was (at least to me) not all that terribly interesting. But the selections could have been far, far worse than they actually were. (Fortunately, “O Holy Night” was not included in the program, so I was able to avoid the temptation to, as Mencken put it, spit on my hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.)

That said, there was some John Rutter, because of course there had to be some John Rutter. They gave us “What Sweeter Music”, which happens to be Middle Gel’s favorite, I believe. (Middle Gel and I have long agreed to disagree about Mr. Rutter and his works.) UPDATE: My mistake, the Gel says it’s pretty and she likes it but it’s not one of her favorites. Our disagreement remains, though.

They also gave us, perhaps to make a point, the Gloria from Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (Mass for Troubled Times, aka the Nelson Mass). I don’t know this one very well at all, but I did notice that it contained an awful lot of elements very similar to Papa’s Missa in Tempore Belli (Mass in Time of War) which I do know very well. It isn’t all that often one catches Haydn pinching his own material. For all I know he may have done so intentionally, given the common theme, but I was amused, nonetheless.

Towards the end they trotted out their yoot choir to sing some medleys. We hates medleys. They always put in my mind a vision of Bill Murray doing his lounge singer act. The temptation to go over the top in transitioning from one part to the next always seems irresistible to the arranger. In Ol’ Robbo’s opinion, it’s high time we had common-sense medley control. Sign my petition to Congress today!

But ne’er mind. The yoots did just fine, as did the main group. The conductor was very engaging and the crowd was obviously in a very good humor. I think people are relieved just to be out again and doing things, even if they’re still a bit hesitant. (The concert was sold out. However, there were still some empty seats, most probably because another wave of panic is descending on Dee Cee.) And, as I say, none of my apprehensions about the mechanics of the evening came to pass.

As they say, a good time was had by all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where some colleges and universities have already announced they’re going back to on-line teaching after the break, in panicky response to the latest covid variant boogeyman.

I just can’t even.

For a moment over the weekend, I thought I’d heard Mrs. R say that Youngest’s school was considering the same thing. However, on closer questioning, it appears that the only noise so far is parents clambering on some chat page against the idea. We’ve already decided that if they do go “virtual” we’ll let the Gel take a sabbatical. She does not do well with on-line instruction and we’re paying entirely too much jack to throw her education away like that.

Meanwhile, Mrs. R and Eldest are done for the semester at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, and the kids at least have a couple weeks off from the insane regime of masks, vax-pushing, distancing, constant testing, and contact-based temporary bannings. I like to believe the school carries on this way just to protect itself from liability, but I’m not completely sure. Certainly my opinion that what the kiddies are being subjected to amounts to child-abuse is a minority one.

When are we finally going to reach a critical mass of people so sick and tired of all of this nonsense sufficient to get back to some level of normalcy?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now you may be aware that the other day (just in time for Christmas!) Rome released a “Questions & Answers” document about its ongoing effort to clamp down on obliterate celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. I’ve not read the document myself yet, but Father Z is on it here and here.

We got a somewhat oblique earful about how to respond in today’s homily, consisting of two parts. The first was something of a course in Canonical Law on Papal authority and respectful communication: It’s okay for me to speak in good faith about my genuine needs and concerns to my Priest or Bishop, but I should refrain from acting on the urge to go on social media and call the Pope a poopy-head. The second was about the importance of keeping our eyes on the long prize, i.e., salvation, and not letting the worldly bastards get us down.

I don’t know what’s actually going to happen. Our parish has had a rayther unique role in the TLM movement since the beginning. Our Bishop has always been sympathetic and is certainly not itching for an excuse to put the kybosh on us, but at the same time I just don’t know how strongly he’s willing to try and protect us.

Frankly, I still don’t even know why this fight was picked in the first place. (Well, I kinda do, actually. What I mean is why would anyone of good faith within the Church do so. This all just seems like plain spite to me.)

Funny, today I was looking about and it really struck home how young the TLM crowd are at my church. Lots of families with small children, young singletons and couples, and new faces all the time. Heck, there was a teenaged girl there all by herself today who evidently had bicycled over for the thing. (She nearly ran me down on the sidewalk afterward.)

Well, we shall see what happens.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, the annual clean up out by the street in front of Port Swiller Manor is now just about complete. Ol’ Robbo spent the morning cutting back the low, grassy plantings in the beds lining the sidewalk and then gathering up all the leaves that had become stuck in them. The maples are completely done, and Old Man Oak only has about a quarter of his leaves remaining, which will continue to drop in small batches until spring, but I won’t really need to deal with them until then. It all almost looks neat for a change.

When I think about all the time, money, and effort I put into keeping up street frontage that isn’t even my property, the more I consider charging the County a maintenance fee to be a good idea. Or maybe I’ll just give myself a credit on my property taxes. What could go wrong?

In the “Watch out, Fred! Here it comes again!” Department, trudging back and forth to the woods to dump leaves, I noticed (now that the magnolia masking it has dropped all its leaves) just how thoroughly the ivy has taken over the end of my garage roof. I’d had no idea it was that thick. I love ivy on brick walls (I know, I know), but on the roof it’s definitely no bueno. Yet another task. Fortunately, I won’t have to try and climb up there, but instead hopefully can undercut it from the ground and let it wither away on its own.

As for the sundry, those of you keeping up with the great lamp rewiring project mentioned below will be interested to learn that Ol’ Robbo took apart the doings and was gratified to see with his own eyes just how easy switching out the sockets will be. Even I can manage screwing in just two wires. Alas, I wasted a perfectly good hour or two yesterday going over to Home Despot, only to find that they didn’t carry the replacement parts I need. Not wishing to chase all over the place looking for other possible sources, I succumbed and ordered them from the devil’s website, and am now sitting about impatiently waiting for them to be delivered so I can finally clean up my temporary workshop on the kitchen table. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Whiskey for My Men and Beer for My Horses UPDATE: Success! The new sockets showed up late this afternoon. Ten minutes later I had all three lamps rewired and working just fine. A minor triumph, to be sure, but there’s a certain satisfaction to any DIY success, however small.

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