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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, the title does not refer to this week’s bookend snowfalls in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Rayther, this has just turned out to be one of those Saturdays where the big tasks seemed to keep hatching baby tasklettes which kept me going sideways.

First came the take-down of the Robbo Family Christmas Tree. It did well up through Epiphany but had already started taking on that droop indicating that the end was near no matter how much water I gave it. I do believe that, for once, we got all the way through the season without a single ornament going for a burton, and I managed to box up and store the lot without any sneaky stowaways remaining in the branches. The tree itself has now joined the remains of its predecessors in the woods out back. I notice that it seems to take two to three years for them to decompose. Last year’s is still a skeleton, the prior year’s a crumpled heap, the rest a mere handful of dust.

Speaking of seasonal decorations, longtime friends of the decanter will know of Ol’ Robbo’s austerity when it comes to same: Wreaths on the front door, a wreath on the dining room table, a tree, a creche, plus a few doodads put out by Mrs. R. That’s it. This has always been the source of some grumbling among the family, but I have my limits.

Well, on Christmas Day, family and friends were gathered together in revelry when Middle Gel suddenly fixed Ol’ Robbo with a gimlet eye and said, “You know, Dad, when I have my own house, I’m going to go completely nuts with Christmas decorations: Blow-up yard balloons, outside lights on everything, garland everywhere, the works! And I’m going to do it just to spike you!”

She will, too. At least once, before she realizes how much bother it all actually is. The Gel is really sweet-natured but when she decides something is going to happen, it’s pretty much going to happen. Iron fist in the velvet glove, that one.

Next was the new teevee. Yes, Mrs. R had saved up her Amex points and got a 55-inch flatscreen for the living room. Here, I’m the victim of my own good idea. Back in the earlies I’d envisioned the living room as somewhat formal, a place to entertain bosses and muckety-mucks and the like, so we furnished it accordingly. Such entertainment never actually came to pass, and we wound up not using the room for much of anything. Then one day, about a year and a half ago, I got it in my head that maybe we should forget the formality and just make it comfortable. So, we I repainted it, while Mrs. R found a large, leather sectional sofa cheap on Craig’s List and a big coffee table from what I now believe was a fence for stolen property. Thus, we made the change. The result is that almost every moment it’s too cold to live on the porch is now spent here.

Almost immediately after we made this change, Mrs. R started advocating for the teevee. “For family movie nights and watching tennis tournaments and such,” she said. I’d stuck in my heels because the older I get, the more I crave peace and quiet, and abhor chatter coming out of electronic devices. I feared that once we put it in, there’d be no escape for Ol’ Robbo from all that racket, no matter where he fled in the house. Besides, Mrs. R already has a small teevee in our bedroom, and there’s a perfectly good big one down in the basement. (Don’t ask me to explain why Mrs. R won’t go down in the basement.)

And yet….here we are. We had a fellah come out and mount the thing professionally yesterday, but I don’t need to tell you who had to spend the morning rearranging the furniture to make optimal use of it. Mrs. R swears she won’t watch the thing when I’m around or trying to read, and evidently there’s some arrangement by which she can use headphones connected to her phone, but we’ll see how that all works out.

Running my weekly errands in town, I noticed mask mania has come back with a vengeance. Freakin’ sheep. I also noticed numerous bare shelves at the store, and overheard at least three distinct conversations along these lines:

Customer: Is it because of all the snow?

Clerk: Nope, supply-chain problems. We just can’t get replacement stock here fast enough to keep up.

But My Betters assure me that all is well.

And speaking of which, Virginia has just started assessing a five-cent tax on plastic grocery bags, a measure Ol’ Robbo didn’t even know was being considered, much less passed. In the checkout line, the cashier explained the charge and asked if I still wanted the bags.

“Yeah, let’s go Northam,” I said.

The fellah behind me in line (who was also maskless) looked guardedly amused. The cashier laughed outright.


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January 2022