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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday afternoon, a young colleague of mine asked if I had any plans for the weekend.

“Well,” I said, “I’m getting a haircut this evening, and tomorrow I’m mowing the yard for the first time this season.”

“Wow,” she answered, “That sounds real exciting.”

“Hey,” I said, “I’m a middle-aged suburbanite.  These things are important to me.”

They are, too.

So I hauled out the old mower this morning, and despite the fact that it’s sat idle and neglected since some time last November, it started right up on the first pull.  Always a good sign at the start of the season.  (Maybe it means the Nats will win a division series this year?)

As I tooled about the yard, it seemed to me that I was running over an usually large number of twigs and sticks.  Then I remembered that somebody on the radio yesterday reported that this has been the windiest March and April in these parts for many years.  I can well believe it.

I also planted some jasmine today. I’d tried this three or four years ago, but put them in spots where they simply didn’t get enough light to thrive.  This time around I’m adhering better to the laws of nature.  Ol’ Robbo really wants himself some lovely, sweet-scented jasmine about the place.

Speaking of nature, a thought occurred to me today:  As often as not, Ol’ Robbo is awake in the pre-dawn when the birds first begin singing.  Almost invariably it seems that the robins start up before any other species.  Is this the basis of the line about the early bird getting the worm?  Perhaps.  (Incidentally, I don’t care if the notion that robins cock their heads like that to listen for worms is wrong – I’m going to keep believing it anyway, dammit.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo realizes that he double-posted this week about rather morbid topics, so how about something a bit more light-hearted?

Yesterday, as it turns out, was National Bat Appreciation Day.  According to the linked site, a few fun facts:

  • Some species of bats can live up to 40 years.
  • There are over 1,200 known species of bats.
  • The United States is home to an estimated 48 species of bats.
  • North America’s largest urban bat colony is found on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. It is home to an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This colony of bats eats approximately 10,000 to 30,000 lbs of insects each night.  It is estimated 100,000 tourists visit the bridge annually to watch the bats leave the roost at twilight.
  • Three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma have named the Mexican Free-Tailed bat their state bat, and Virginia has dubbed the Virginia Big-Eared bat their state bat.

I actually knew about the famous Congress Avenue Bridge colony because it occasionally made the papers in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I did not know that the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has a designated state bat. Go figure.

Ol’ Robbo actually is quite fond of bats. Once, in said misspent yoot, I recall going along with my high school girlfriend and her parents on a Sierra Club outing to some caves out in the desert southwest of San Antonio.  As evening began to gather, bats (I have no idea what sort, but prob’ly Mexican Free-Tails) started to emerge.  Quickly, a long, black ribbon formed up and gradually snaked its way to the horizon.  I forget how many jillion bats were supposed to live in this colony, but it was a very large number.  They took at least an hour or more to empty themselves out of the cave.  Most impressive.  (As was the stench of guano coming up out of the cave’s mouth.)

I’m also reminded of the time my family and I went to see a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the concert hall downtown.  That same evening, Ozzie Osborne was playing the arena next door.  (And by the way, there was common parking for both events.  I leave the compare and contrast audience spectacle to your imagination.)  At some point during the graveyard scene in Act 2 of Don G, a bat started flying about the concert hall stage.  Not only did it heighten the creepy effect of the Statue of the Commendatore accepting the Don’s invitation to dinner, there were also muted whispers about the one that got away from Ozzie.

More recently, Ol’ Robbo loves to sit out on the Port Swiller Manor porch in the evening and watch the local bats flittering around the yard, presumably eating lots of nasty bugs.  (I haven’t seen one yet this year due to the very late arrival of spring, but expect to very soon.  Again, I’ve no idea what species they are. Perhaps Big-Ears?)  Indeed, I’ve toyed off and on for some time with the idea of putting up a bat house – perhaps under the porch – just to encourage more of them to flitter round here for my enjoyment.

In fact, the only thing that gives me pause is the fact that Mrs. Robbo hates bats, apparently as the result of an invasion by them of her home in Connecticut when she was a little gel.  In any event, she can’t stand ’em, and hates it even when I point them out on the other side of the porch screen.  (I’m not saying I won’t eventually put up a bat house, but I sure as heck won’t tell the Missus about it…..)

One time, many years ago now, a bat somehow got into our bedroom. (I believe it must have come down the chimney and then made its way upstairs.)  You can imagine what Mrs. R’s reaction was to that.  Me? I simply closed the bedroom door to box it in, opened all the windows, and with the aid of a tennis racquet eventually, ah, persuaded it to leave.  Easy-peasy, and Ol’ Robbo was the Hero of the Day.

(I don’t say this to brag.  If it had been a snake, I’d have been the one freaking out.)

Anyhoo, here’s a glass to our flying mammalian friends!

UPDATE:  Nope, whatever I’m looking at is not a Virginia Big-Eared bat.  According to Wiki, they’re very rare and live way down in the southwestern part of the Commonwealth, as well as in West Virginia and Kentucky.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news today about Queen Elizabeth’s loss over the weekend:

The Queen has reportedly been hit “extremely hard” by the loss of her Royal corgi Willow who died on Sunday – ending Her Majesty’s close association with the breed dating back eight decades.

The dog, which was 14th generation and descended from the Queen’s first dog Susan, was suffering from a cancer-related illness.

Any pet owner knows what it’s like to grieve over the loss of one (yes, even a cat).  In fact, who among you can claim with a straight face that there aren’t relatives you’d sooner lose than pets?  But this seems triply-worse, insofar as Willow’s pedigree is so closely-linked with Her Majesty’s reign, and also because Her Majesty herself is so old and therefore more vulnerable under such circumstances.  (Hit “extremely hard”, indeed.  I remember a few years back when the Mothe had to put down her beloved fox-terrier because she was getting too frail to deal with him and couldn’t find another home.  I don’t think she ever quite recovered from that.)

Anyway, I hope this doesn’t turn out to be some kind of eerie foreshadowing.  Apart from my dread of the utter be-clowning of the Throne that a newly-installed Charles III would entail, I’m really quite fond of Her Majesty.  As they say at in the Philosophy Department of the University of Willamalane, “She’s a good Sheila, Bruce, and not a-tall stuck up!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I sat down to the ol’ laptop just now, I saw the breaking news that Former First Lady Barbara Bush has died at age 92.

I’m not going to get into the weeds of Bush family politicks here, a subject of some vitriolic debate among people to whom I pay attention, and about which my own opinion has shifted considerably over time.  Instead, I’ll relate a very fond memory about Mrs. Bush.

This memory involves watching NBC’s coverage of the Inaugural Parade after Bush ’41 won the election in 1988.  As I recall, George H.W. and Babs had got out of their car and were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.  Willard Scott was doing the on-the-route coverage, and as the First Couple passed him, he yelled something across the street like “We love you, Babs!”

Well, ol’ Barbara heard Willard, even from the far side of the street.  And what did she do? She came straight over and planted a kiss on his cheek before striding off.   And Willard could do absolutely nothing but turn to the camera and giggle helplessly.

The feed then turned back to the in-studio panel – Bryant Gumbel and whoever the hell else.  They, too, for a minute or so, could do nothing but sit and stare.

Good times.

(Obligatory.  Incidentally, this is my very favorite album of theirs.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo spent a goodish bit of time today dealing with CPA’s to get the various Port Swiller tax returns filed.  (In addition to the ones for Self and Mrs. R, I also had to deal with both the Eldest Gel’s and the Mothe’s estate this year.)

I won’t go into detail, of course, but what with one thing and another I got reamed pretty hard when all was said and done.  Indeed, this evening I feel rayther like Rob Lowe’s Benjamin Oliver character after his encounter with Officer Koharski at the end of “Wayne’s World”.   How odd it was, then, that after a long, gratuitous tirade about what a horrible, bad, idiotic old meany Trump is, my regular CPA then immediately turned around and said, “Oh, by the way, under the new tax rules, you’ll do a lot better next year.”

Do these people even listen to themselves anymore?  Or is all this venom-spitting totally reflexive?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt you’ve seen by now that The New Yorker has decided to take a slap at Chick-Fil-A for daring to expand its footprint in the City and further spreading its Christian cooties all over the place?   “Creepy infiltration” the author calls it.  Why?

And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

You know, it’s a damned shame what happened to The New Yorker.  My parents subscribed for years and years, and when I went off to college I took out my own subscription as well.  There was always that insular, Manhattanite, soft-liberal air about it, but this very rarely interfered with the high-quality writing, as it was still then somewhat tied to Reality.  And in those days, the magazine was still capable of laughing at itself over this attitude. (I have a framed print of a New Yorker cartoon from the 70’s in the downstairs loo.  A long-haired yoot is speeding away from a grand country house in a sports car.  His mother and grandmother are sitting out on the terrace watching him go.  The mother is saying to the grandmother, “It’s all right, Mother.  When the boy says society is rotten, he doesn’t mean Southampton.”)

But Tina Brown took over in the early 90’s and immediately turned the magazine politickal (I recall her slobbering all over the Clintons) and “edgy”, and it’s been veering harder left ever since.  (Or so I gather.  I let my subscription run out after putting up with her for a year or two. I did see the cover art featuring “Sesame Street’s” Ernie and Bert cuddling after the Supremes handed down their gay marriage decision.)  And here we are.

As I say, a damned shame.

As for CFA, the article admits that it’s selling sammiches like gang-busters in the City, so evidently not all Noo Yawkers are bothered by its –eek!– “pervasive Christian traditionalism”.

Closer to home, CFA has been the Port Swiller go-to fast food place for years and years.  The food is consistently yummy, the service consistently efficient and pleasant, even under trying circumstances.  (We once stopped at one in Charlottesville the day of the UVA/Virginia Tech game.  It was a sea of people, but it was the most patient, good-natured, and tolerant sea of people I’ve ever seen, and the staff were absolute heroes.)  And nobody has ever quizzed me on my sexual politicks or demanded to share their personal witness before handing over my order.  (Compare that with Starbucks’ short-lived attempt to have their baristas mix it up with customers over racial politicks. Feh!)

After the SJW sturmtruppen tried to organize a boycott of CFA over its owners’ Christianity a few years back, a boycott that blew up in their faces bigly, we took to calling the place “Hate-Fil-A” in mockery (of the SJW’s, that is).  We still refer to “Hate-sammiches”, “Hate-shakes”, and “Fries of Intolerance”.  Eldest Gel and I also have a long-standing joke:  Whenever she comes home from picking up a meal there, she says, “Do you know what those intolerant bastards did? They told me to have a nice day!  Who the hell do they think they are?”

And now, darn it, Ol’ Robbo is hungry for a Hate-sammich, but it’s Sunday and CFA isn’t open.  Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What a lovely day here at Port Swiller Manor!  After many weeks of lingering Winter, my porch thermometer reports we made it all the way up to 85 degrees this afternoon.  I opened all the windows in the Manor to air out the accumulated fug of the last six months, and we had dinner out on the porch this evening for the first time this season.  Lovely.  Lovely.

There’s a dark side to all this, of course.

Early this afternoon, a large rig from Home Despot pulled up on the street in front of the house (much to the extreme annoyance of other drivers who had to get round it as best they could), there to drop on our driveway 216 bags of mulch.  Something over half of them are designated for a large, shady patch under the maples at the back of our yard, under which nothing (except onion grass) actually grows.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t happen to possess a wheelbarrow at the moment, nor could he expect any help from his women-folk (who all go remarkably delicate when there’s heavy lifting to do), so his only real choice was to hoist each individual bag on to one or the other of his shoulders and trudge down the hill to dump it on said patch.

“Don’t over-do it, now!” said Mrs. R.

“I won’t,” I replied breezily.

Reader, I over-did it.

This evening, even after a glass or two of (purely-medicinal) vino, Ol’ Robbo is a solid mass of aches and pains (to say nothing of the lungs-full of pollen I inhaled that make me sound like a three-pack-a-day man when I try to speak).  I shudder to think of how I’m going to feel in the morning.

The punch line is that the rest of the bags have to be moved out tomorrow to the holly hedge and maple trees along our frontage.  Mrs. R says she will do that, but I know perfectly well that it’s going to be up to me in the end to deal with most of them.  Why? Because that’s what I do.

If any friends of the decanter are looking for a good stock tip, I’d suggest investing in aspirin futures immediately.

UPDATE: Whelp, Ol’ Robbo got up early this morning and moved all the rest of the bags himself in order to spare Mrs. R the burden of having to do it.  Then I went out back to spread about the bags I had hauled out there yesterday.

By the time I was done, I was a mass of sores and aches even worse than yesterday.  To quote Dr. Smith, “Oh, William! The pain! The pain!”

Ol’ Robbo ain’t 33 any more, I guess.

By the bye, did you know that there’s an industry Mulch and Soil Council? I didn’t until I saw its certificate of approval on the side of all those bags.  According to the blurb, the MSC’s purpose is to make sure you get only the highest-quality mulch in the bags you purchase, free of rusty nails, cat poop, human remains, and other contaminants.  And anybody who suggests that it’s nothing more than another example of a cabal of Big Industry colluding with Big Government to keep out – via extremely expensive regulation – any upstart competition can shut their whore mouths.

(That last part isn’t actually printed on the bags.  It’s just Ol’ Robbo’s hunch.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel is taking a 300-level seminar on Medieval Law this semester.  The other day, she called me up cackling with glee over a research paper she’s going to be doing to basically finish out the next couple weeks.  I’m not altogether completely clear on what the general parameters of the paper are supposed to be, but they have something to do with selecting and examining an instance of the treatment of women under one or more legal codes of the period.

Why was the gel so gleeful?  Well, apparently all the other students in her class immediately zoomed in on examples of Muh Oppression.  The Gel can’t stand this sort of thing, so she decided to spike the lot of them by exploring a period of Papal Succession (previously unknown to me) in the middle of the 10th Century known as the Saeculum Obscurumor the “Rule of the Harlots”.  Per Wiki:

The saeculum obscurum was first named and identified as a period of papal immorality by the Italian cardinal and historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici in the sixteenth century.  Baronius’ primary source for his history of this period was a contemporary writer, Bishop Liutprand of Cremona. Baronius himself was writing during the Counter-Reformation, a period of heightened sensitivity to clerical corruption. His characterisation of the early 10th-century papacy was perpetuated by Protestant authors. The terms Pornocracy (German: Pornokratie, from Greek pornokratiā, “rule of prostitutes”), Hetaerocracy (“government of mistresses”) and the Rule of the Harlots (German: Hurenregiment) were coined by Protestant German theologians in the nineteenth century.

What it amounted to, so I gather, was that several extremely powerful women of the Theophylacti family of Rome used a combination of, eh, feminine wiles and legal arcanae to appoint and control a number of 10th Century Popes.

I should make clear that the Gel’s delight does not arise from the light in which it places Holy Mother Church during that period, but rayther because this is an example of actual history that goes against the Current Narrative.  She’s just like that.  (Can’t imagine where she got it.)

Speaking of which, I suppose I can announce here that the Gel is actually transferring schools at the end of this semester.  As much as she found Sweet Briar to be an excellent incubator as she got her academic feet under her, she decided that it is just too small, socially speaking, and that she wanted someplace bigger and (so I gather) with boys.  So she’s moving over to High Point University this fall as a Junior.

I must say that I’m extremely proud of the Gel.  She told me a couple months ago that she wanted a change and I didn’t fight her on it. “However,” I said, “This is your pigeon.  You’re 20 years old.  You want it to happen? You make it happen.  You deal with the consequences.”  And she did.  She did all the application essays and paperwork herself, looked up an old high school friend of hers who goes to HPU to get the lay of the land and insider-baseball tips, and then arranged and drove down on her own to do an on-campus interview and tour.  She’s also done all the subsequent stuff regarding acceptance, housing, and so-forth.

And what of High Point?  Whelp, it’s a private school of about 5000 kids, located half an hour from my brother’s house.  The President is a self-made immigrant gazillionaire who seems bent on combining a traditional liberal arts curriculum with courses on character and dealing with the Real World.   I’ve done a good bit of poking around on-line about the place, and there seems to be a definite split in opinion – people either love it or hate it, although the “hate” seems to center mainly around the unorthodox methods in which the President manages to raise and pour money into the place.  Curiously, we’ve come across one stat that suggests the place is attractive to kids who also look at CNU, where Middle Gel starts in the fall.  Of those who get into both, there seems to be about a 50-50 split.  They both, from what I can tell, seem to be part of the up-and-coming wave of schools snapping up good kids put off by the outrageous expense and Cultural Marxism offered by the so-called elite academies these days.

We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t usually double-post these days, but just as an administrative note, Ol’ Robbo would direct your attention to the Port Swiller blogroll on your left.  As you can see if you’re a regular friend of the decanter, it’s a bit different this evening, as Ol’ Robbo finally got around to cleaning it up.

Basically, I deleted several links to sites (mostly MSM) that I simply don’t read anymore, (And with some of which I’ve come to be in violent disagreement recently.  Yeah, Bill Kristol and Jonah Goldberg, I’m looking at you!)  The vast majority of changes, however, involve my finally consigning a bunch of links to long-dormant fellow blogs to “Under the Table” status.  I really mean this as a mark of respect.  Even though a lot of these blogs have been dead three, four, five years or more, and some of them have even been deleted completely from their hosts, I like to keep their memories alive because of the impact they’ve had on me.  Bumpers all round, Ladies and Gentlemen, and no heel taps!

Of course, Robbo is well aware of his propensity, when he finally gets up the energy to clean things out, for going a bit overboard.  (Not half as much as Mrs. Robbo, but that’s a story for a different post.)  So if I’ve deleted or reassigned a linky in error, please let me know.  (And, as always, if any friend of the decanter has suggestions for blogs I ought to be reading but am not, please send those in as well.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This weekend, Mrs. Robbo and I drove down to the Tidewater to take Middle Gel to an accepted applicants to-do at her new school.  Part of the festivities involved a big BBQ lunch yesterday (given in the school’s gym instead of on the UVA-inspired lawn due to the craptacular weather).  We sat down at random with another kid and his parents, and damme if after five minutes of conversation it didn’t turn out that not only do these people live just a couple blocks away from Mrs. R’s Montessori school, but that the Dad also works for the same employer as I do (for about the same amount of time) and was two years ahead of me at The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown and knew a couple of the same people I did there. UPDATE: Oh, this fellah and I also both went to law school in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny, (although he was a Groovy U-V and I was not).  And not only do I know personally the managing partner of the firm he used to work for, but that same managing partner’s daughters used to babysit the Gels back in the day.

Eyebrow status? Raised to eleven.




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