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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see it’s been a few days since my last harrumph here. No need for concern: I simply haven’t had much to say. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Lawd knows there’s more and more insanity out there to talk about every day. Say, rayther, that I’ve simply kept my thoughts to myself.

In any event, I hope all you friends of the decanter had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend? When not laboring in the yard, Ol’ Robbo spent most of his binge-reading Rider Haggard and P.C. Wren. Just because. (BTW, there’s a passage in Beau Geste where John describes a long journey across Saharan Africa. He says he saw many wonderous things, but no, no lost civilizations of Egyptian origin or beautiful, mysterious sorceress. It occurs to me this might have been a bit of a dig at Haggard.)

What with last evening’s blowout, Robbo’s hapless Nats have fallen to 18-32 which, without looking it up, I believe to be the worst record in MLB. (UPDATE UNO: No, not the worst but pretty damn close.) Over the weekend, the broadcasters and social media people were making much of the fact that the team had fallen to 19-31 back in 2019 before igniting and rocketing to the World Series win. I can’t say I blame them for this “Spirit of ’19” effort, but I just don’t see a repeat happening here, not with this crew. (If Ol’ Robbo is wrong, he’ll happily eat his words smothered in humble-sauce.)

We happen to have a full house at Port Swiller Manor, with all the Gels home for the present. (I can always tell Youngest is home even without seeing her because the milk suddenly vanishes.) It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that this has become the exception rayther than the rule and, especially this fall when everybody goes back to school, it will start to become downright rare. Tempus fugit.

Speaking of which, Mrs. R will be out of town this coming weekend for a tennis tournament. Ol’ Robbo was fool enough to casually mention something about how it would be an excellent time for me to repaint our bedroom, as well as paint the upstairs hall (which has never been painted in all the years we’ve lived here). Me and my big mouth.

Well, endeavor to persevere.

UPDATE DEUX: Speaking of home improvement, Ol’ Robbo invested in a bug-zapper for the porch this morning, the screens not holding back as many gnats and flies as one could wish anymore. (Rotten stinker cats and their claws!) First one I’ve ever owned. Is it childish of me to look forward so much to snap, crackle, and pop?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was idly surfing the teevee last evening when he stumbled upon PBS’s “Nova” program. I used to watch this when I was a nerdy kid, but hadn’t seen it for many, many years.

The subject of this particular episode was footprints, both human and animal, that have been discovered in the desert around White Sands, New Mexico. The prints date back to the last Ice Age, 13- to 15,000 years ago when the area held a vast lake with lots of muddy margins, and include mastodon, native camel, and giant sloth. From the very beginning, the program asked why these prehistoric species all vanished and whether Man had anything to do with it.

The first part of the program proved surprisingly informative. Some footprint-archeologist Johnny wandered about, pointing at various different sets of tracks and trying to piece together the movements they might have represented, including an apparent encounter or near-encounter between a human and a sloth.

But then, the program just couldn’t resist. On stage appeared a Pueblo woman and a fellah who claimed to be Choctaw, although I had very deep doubts. (The Choctaw were native to the Southeast anyway.) They started gassing on about their heritage, and the fellah went so far as to say, “These tracks prove that my peoples have been here since time immemorial!”

No, buddy, they prove that humans were at that spot 15,000 years ago. In historickal terms, that’s a blink of an eye. Man simply is not indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.

Then the narrator took up with, “When Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they…..”

That’s when I turned it off. I know a trap when I smell one.

However, I never did learn whether the program would go so far as to link prehistoric animal extinction to human activity, a position which I would think would trip all sorts of outrage alarums these days, or whether it somehow managed to make it all Columbus’s fault after all. (I honestly don’t know if there’s a link, as I’ve never actually studied the matter. From the comfort of my armchair, I’m inclined to think hunting might have been a contributing factor but perhaps not a decisive one.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall that as recently as yesterday Ol’ Robbo was mentioning his suspicion of modern communications technology. Well, damme if another piece of evidence hasn’t fallen into my lap to enforce said suspicion.

The latest exhibit comes in the form of couples’ long distance “touch bracelets”. (Just go to the devil’s website and search for same.) Evidently, when one half presses their bracelet, the other half’s vibrates or glows or otherwise responds. (I gather it works through Bluetooth, which is something else I don’t really understand but believe to have almost infinite range.)

The Young Person who informed Ol’ Robbo of the existence of these gadgets thinks they’re a great idea, being on the cusp of a long distance relationship herself. I suppose that when I was young and gooshy (stop laughing, I was, once upon a time), I’d have thought the same. Now in my wiser years, however, I agree with Admiral Akbar: It’s a trap!

“I touched you but you didn’t respond! What’s wrong?”

“You’re not touching me as much as you did at first! What’s wrong?”

“You keep saying you’re busy with work. You can’t even press a button on your wrist? What’s wrong?”

“You weren’t wearing your bracelet? What’s wrong?”

You get the idea.

The potential capacity of this kind of 24/7 electronic hovering gives Ol’ Robbo a case of the screaming heebee-jeebees, and I know what I’m talking about because Mrs. R is an incessant, compulsive texter herself. At least with that there’s usually some kind of actual content. Usually.

Ah, give me the days when people separated by circumstances wrote letters to each other. The effort of composition, the anticipation of response. Does anybody even do that anymore? (Yes, this is my lawn.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much in him by way of profundity at the moment, but he did get to touch this weekend on two of the little things in life that he thoroughly enjoys: useless movie trivia and the weather.

As to the first, Eldest Gel and I ran off “Land of the Pharaohs**” (1955) Saturday evening, Howard Hawks’ lavish tale of Ye Olde Egypt, with a screenwriting credit to William Faulkner. I’ve seen it a number of times before and already knew that it was, if not the first, at least one of the very first roles of Joan Collins, and also that it holds some kind of record as to numbers of extras involved. What I did not realize before (until Eldest pointed it out) is that the part of the Captain vamped by Collins into betraying Jack Hawkins’ Pharaoh was played by Sydney Chaplin, Charlie’s son. Indeed, Ol’ Robbo knows little to nothing of Charlie Chaplin’s biography and didn’t even know he had children. Once seen, however, the resemblance is obvious. (It’s in the eyes.)

As to the second, regular friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s deep suspicion of modern communications technology, but I must confess that it assisted*** me in defying Ma Nature last evening. Keeping a close watch on the weather “app” on my iPhone thingy, I was able to perfectly time dashing outside to grill din-dins between two thunderstorms, getting the coals going just as the first rolled off (indeed, an afterthought of a lightning bolt came down pretty near me) and scurrying back in with the meats just as the next arrived. HA! (Of course, Bob at the NSA probably noticed, too, and I’m sure the incident will be brought up at my show-trial when the Truth and Reconciliation Board eventually gets its claws on me.)

So there you have it.

**For some mysterious reason, “Pharaoh” is one of those words Ol’ Robbo has the dickens of a time spelling correctly. After swearing at WordPress for repeatedly redlining me, I sheepishly had to go and look it up.

***Emphasis on “assisted” – my own eyes are still my primary information source.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, no doubt about it, we’re getting a preview here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this weekend, with highs in the mid-90’s today and tomorrow, although after Sunday evening boomers it’s supposed to drop off twenty degrees or so to start the week.

Roses, peonies, and wisteria (we have lots of wisteria) have all burst forth, which means that the air in the yard is saturated with fragrance at the moment. Alas, everything’s also still covered with pollen, which has been playing merry hell with my sinuses of late and keeping me from smelling all that much. Giveth and taketh away, as it were.

Contrary to all the hullubaloo a couple months back, Ol’ Robbo has seen no palm-sized parachute spiders around here yet. This is a great pity, as they supposedly will eat stinkbugs where nothing else does, and we’ve got a bumper crop of the latter this year.

Those of you following my bird-watching reports will be disappointed, as I was, that the indigo buntings I spotted a couple weeks back have proved transitory, as after hanging about a few days they seem to have vanished. Too bad. Also, I’ve still yet to see my first hummingbird of the year.

Whelp, it’s Round-Up day here at Port Swiller Manor, as Ol’ Robbo has to tackle the first major outbreak of unwanted grass and weed, particularly along the street front and in some of the beds. I suppose I had better be about it before it gets too darn hot.

UPDATE: Done and done. Ol’ Robbo’s approach to spraying is similar to that of pruning: Reluctant to start, once I’m in I tend to go berserker. The result is that there will be a few friendly-fire casualties plus I always manage to get the stuff on myself, but as far as the latter goes my teevee informs me that I may be entitled to compensation, so there is that.

And now for one of the few things that makes summah marginally tolerable, a tall glass of iced kawfee. Later, Ol’ Robbo is being compelled to travel rayther a distance for a graduation party being thrown by the parents of Middle Gel’s young man, from which we also have to transport home a hamster. (Don’t ask.)

UPDATE DEUX: On reflection, that “compelled” comes off a bit more churlish than I had meant. It was, in fact, thoughtful of them to invite us. As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo just doesn’t much care for parties in general, especially ones where I don’t know anybody.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was somewhat put out this afternoon to find in his mailbox a solicitation from a local memorial park to come in for a “pre-need” planning visit. I wonder how on earth I got on that mailing list? It’s one thing to have AARP constantly pestering, but it’s something else entirely to find the undertakers on your track.


I’m still a couple years short of sixty, so hopefully need not turn my attention to this biznay just yet, but as a matter of fact I can attest from personal experience that the whole thing makes a tremendous amount of sense. Prior to handing in her dinner pail five years ago, the Mothe had taken care of absolutely every item on her own list, from the disposal of her remains right down to which hymns and readings she wanted at her memorial service. With all of us staggering about in shock when the moment came, it was a real blessing not to have to worry about (or pay for) any of that.

I suppose I will just take this as a gentle mememto mori for now. In the meantime, because the Robbo braim works the way it does, I suddenly find myself with an overpowering urge to reread Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One.

**Spot the quote. (Hint: It’s a movie Ol’ Robbo actually doesn’t much like.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo watched his first extra-innings game last evening since returning to MLB and was disgusted to see that they’ve kept that stupid “start the 10th with a runner at second” nonsense.

“Innovation” is bad, m’kay?

The night before last I watched the Nats blow a game on a double throwing error which immediately put me in mind of the “Nat’nals” teams of the late 00’s. We’re going to lose 100+ games this year, aren’t we.

I understood it back then – new team, growing pains, etc., etc. But we won the Series three years ago, for Heaven’s sake! I still do not understand the math of wiping out what it took years to build and starting all over again. (Thank yew, Lerner Family! Who rumor says are looking to sell the team and don’t give a damn anymore.)


**All facts verified by the DHS Department of Truth and Reconciliation

UPDATE: Which reminds me: Why am I seeing the umpires checking the pitchers’ hands after every half-inning now? Is this something I just hadn’t noticed before, or is it new?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees that Congress is holding hearings on UFO’s today.

Your tax money at work. I suppose the bright side is that this silliness keeps them out of other mischief, at least for the moment.

For the record, Ol’ Robbo has no problem whatsoever with the notion that Life might exist on other worlds. But that it’s figured out a way to come here and is busy sneaking about in our atmosphere? Well, no.

UFO’s were a “thing” in my misspent yoot (along with “Nessie” and the New Ice Age) but gradually fizzled out as an item of interest over time. Perhaps they’re being resurrected now in aid of the whole One World global-government movement: I recall the Old Gentleman once arguing that the only thing that would every eliminate nationalism would be alien contact, wherein we would cease to say “I am an American” and instead say “I am an Earthling”. You can see how that would be appealing to the authoritarian collectivist mind.

So maybe this particular bit of mischief is not so benign after all.

UPDATE: I have just been informed by DHS that this post constitutes “mal-information”. Please to disregard.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Would it surprise friends of the decanter to learn that Sean Connery, of all people, was once in a Western? And not only that, but that his co-stars included Brigitte Bardot and veteran Brit character-actor Jack Hawkins? It did Ol’ Robbo. (Although, upon reflection and given “Zardoz”, I’m not really sure why.)

The film is called “Shalako” (1968). A hunting party of 1880’s European aristos inadvertently wanders into Apache territory with predictable results. Connery, a loner scout, stumbles across them and attempts to save their bacon. Considering that the whole genre was pretty much petering out by then, it’s really not all that bad a film, although Ol’ Robbo feels no need to see it again.

The film starts with a long written prologue cataloging examples of real-life Euros who visited the West in the earlies, I suppose by way of explaining why a bunch of thnobs would be wandering around the New Mexican desert. Ol’ Robbo was disappointed to see that Flash Harry was not included in this list, and can only assume that the relevant volume of the Flashman Papers was not yet available at the time the film was made. (One’s mind boggles at the thought of Flashy coming across Bardot.)

And speaking of which, did you know that Audrey Hepburn, of all people, was also in a Western? Yes, with Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, and Lillian Gish! It’s called “The Unforgiven” (1960). A frontier community under attack by the local Kiowas begins to turn ugly when rumor surfaces that Hepburn, one family’s adopted daughter, might actually be an Indian herself. It’s been a bit of time since Ol’ Robbo watched it, but my impression again was that it wasn’t bad. That one I might have to review to confirm my opinion. (I really want to like Lancaster more than I do because I think “The Train” (1964) is one of the Truly Great Films. Alas, I’ve been disappointed with him in pretty much everything else.)

** A glass of wine with Alan Jackson.

Non-Sequitur UPDATE: Not that it has anything to do with movies, but Ol’ Robbo just wanted to mention here that he’s almost positive he spotted a bald eagle yesterday afternoon. High and far off, but too big to be a hawk and definitely not a vulture, and I think I could just make out its head. They’re in the river valley but we’re about a mile off so they almost never get this far out. I think I’ve seen one maybe twice in all our years here. Neat.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, bumpers all round, friends of the decanter, as yesterday the Family Robbo went down to the Virginny Tidewater to attend Middle Gel’s college graduation. Huzzay, Huzzah!

(Absurdly enough, this was the first real graduation ceremony we had been to since this same gel finished high school, what with the lockdowns and all.)

The festivities started with a lunch with the Gel, her Young Man, and his family, as well as the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his elder daughter. This was our first meeting with said Young Man’s family, and I’m not sure I made the best of impressions: As I’ve noted here before, I can’t understand much of what is being said when there are multiple conversations going on at the same time and therefore tend not to participate. No doubt I’m already being summed up once again as “cold and aloof”. Eh, I’m used to it.

Due to the threat of rain, it was decided to hold the graduation itself indoors. And because it was unpossible to squash everybody into the same space at the same time, it was further decided to do the thing on a rolling basis: the kidz signed up for specific time-slots and at such times headed over to the gym to walk across the stage and shake hands with the school president (whose ability to maintain a smile all that time left Ol’ Robbo in something like awe) while we parents looked on from the floor. (And because this is the 21st Century, the Gel’s grandparents were able to watch it livestreamed from Flahrudah.) In the meanwhile, the atmosphere was something more like a giant open house, as we strolled about and visited various places and events of interest. I must confess that I much prefer this approach to the traditional litany of boring speeches, endless lines of faceless grads, and being parboiled under the hot, steamy sun.

The day ended with a bit of practical biznay, as Ol’ Robbo was made to load several of the Gel’s trunks, apparently packed with lead ingots, into the back of the Honda Juggernaut to bring home, thus saving her a bit of space in her own car when she comes home next week.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all.

So here we are. Two down and one to go. And speaking of which, the Good Sport of the day was Youngest Gel. She had her last final Friday morning and, being booted out of her dorm the same day, immediately afterwards undertook the ten hour drive home. Despite that, she gamely got up early yesterday morning and joined us for the trip and the festivities, and furthermore did not complain once. Ol’ Robbo would have lost a lot of money had he betted on the likelihood of all that happening.

** The “theme” of my college crew. We happened to have a 35th reunion zoom meeting this past week at which we surprised our old coach, who had an enormous impact on all of us, with the news that we have kicked in to establish an endowment in his name for supplying the program with new shells. The Bowie song, which was a staple of our team winter workouts, has been floating around in the back of my head for days.


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May 2022