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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t know about you, but Ol’ Robbo is still trying to shake off the effects of Thanksgiving Weekend, about which I updated below. So just a few things:

Regarding our travels, I don’t know if it was just a function of our departure times, but there was virtually no traffic on the roads either down-bound to North Carolina Thursday morning, nor on the return Saturday. Has anybody put out any figgahs on holiday traffic this year as compared to others? Not that I’m complaining, mind. It was pure bliss to sail through so quietly and I believe I beat my own best time going both ways.

Similarly, Mrs. R and teh Gels, gluttons for punishment, sallied forth to the local malls on “Black Friday” and report the crowds were very small, indeed.


And now here we are in Advent. I discovered yesterday, much to my surprise, that I had no candles for my table wreath (I thought I had) so had to make a hasty order. I’m also in a quandary about the greens with which to decorate it. The one fir tree in my yard is now devoid of needled branches within reach from the top of my ladder and I’m getting too old to climb up higher. On the other hand, it’s ridiculous to buy yards of garland or an extra door wreath just to pirate the doings. I’m considering just using laurel and holly cuttings this year, although those dry out pretty fast and have to be replaced continually. Heigh-ho.


On a completely different note, Ol’ Robbo has been watching a teevee program recently called “Pivotal Battles of American History” (or something like that), hosted by Kelsey Grammer, of all people. I’ve seen episodes about Brooklyn, Bunker Hill, and Yorktown, and also most recently one about First Bull Run. Generally, although overly-condensed in some places, I find the history to be reasonably good. However, I see that there’s going to be one about Little Big Horn. Ol’ Robbo won’t watch this one on the grounds that it was not a “pivotal battle” and is only in the series to get eyeballs. Little Big Horn was, at best, a heavy skirmish. And although it was very important to the men actually involved and to their families, it played no significant part in the overall course of events, either in the Sioux Campaign specifically or in western history in general. So there. (One of these days I’m going to post on the uncanny similarities between that battle and the British disaster at Isandlwana in 1879.)


Well, that’s enough to go on for now. I suppose I’d better get on with digging out all the bumf that stacked up on my desk during my absense.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In the Ordinary of the Mass, immediately after the “Our Father” comes this prayer:

“Deliver us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all evils, past, present, and to come; and by the intersession of the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and of Andrew, and of all the Saints, mercifully grant peace in our days, that through the assistance of Thy mercy we may be always free from sin, and secure from all disturbance.”

Somewhere or other – actually, I’m almost positive my Padre related this during one of his homilies – it was suggested that the name of Andrew was not originally included in this prayer, but was inserted later at the behest of his champions who felt he was getting short shrift in the Liturgy, being overshadowed by Peter, Paul, and John the Beloved, which said champions considered to be hard cheese, given that Andrew was the very first of the Apostles.

I’ve no idea whether this is true or not, but the effect the story has on me is that every time I read this prayer, “and of Andrew!” sounds in my head in a high-pitched voice from off-stage.

I’m probably not doing myself any favors Judgement-wise, but I can’t help the earworm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Trafalgar Day! Ol’ Robbo was trying to imagine how Lord Nelson’s “England expects” signal would go over nowadays, even translated into authentic post-modernist gibberish, but couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t have landed him in the HR office before he could say, “Kiss me, Hardy!”

I realize that I’ve tailed off on my historickal posting here a great deal since the old days. I’m not sure why, except that coming up with original insights for annual celebrations of births, battles, and deaths gradually changed from pure pleasure to something closer to work. I keep waiting for it to feel fresh again. We’re not quite there, yet.

Anyhoo, speaking of fresh, my eye was caught this morning by a side note by Professor Mondo, who writes:

[Side note: I occasionally encounter people who are puzzled by my habit of re-reading books — particularly fiction. “You know what happens; you know how the story turns out, who lives and who dies. Why do you read them again?”

I often ask in return, “Do you only talk to your friends once in your lives?” End of side note.]

Robbo approves of this sentiment. Indeed, I wish I could borrow it and the Way-Back Machine to revisit the partner at the law firm for which I worked twenty-five years ago who was astonished that I had read some fictional piece or other more than once.

As it happens, I also possess a curious quirk in that no matter how many times I’ve read a given story, there’s always a tiny part of my brain that thinks things might turn out different this time. For example, what if the Black Riders actually capture Frodo in the Eastfarthing? What if the Waakzaamheid doesn’t broach to, but instead sinks Jack Aubrey’s horrible old Leopard? What if Dr. Messenger doesn’t go and get himself drowned, leaving poor Tony Last alone and delirious with fever? I actually find myself feeling a sense of relief when things turn out the way the rest of my mind knew perfectly well they would.

Perhaps this makes me a bit of a nut, but I knew that anyway. It also lets me read a book twenty or thirty times, taking some new insight away each time without getting bogged down by boredom.

Now pardon Ol’ Robbo – he needs to go make sure that the Brits still won this time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had an enjoyable Columbus Day weekend.

For Ol’ Robbo’s part, I have little to report. Per my post below about Mrs. R’s nesting activities, I spent a goodish bit of time moving some furniture out and other furniture in, thoroughly whacking my shins in the process.

I over-seeded the yard. Whether this has any effect is up to Ma Nature now. I’ve done my part.

The Former Llama Military Correspondent (remember him, anybody?) was in town for the annual Army Ten-Miler on Sunday, so of course we put him up at Port Swiller Manor. It’s probably not the best race prep to stay up way late the night before jawing, but the LMC was a good sport about it.

It’s also not the best thing when one has to haul oneself out of bed for early Mass, but Robbo’s in-laws are in town on their annual snowbird migration to Flariduh and that meant Sunday Brunch, so there it was. As it happened, the padre’s homily focused on an issue that has been much on my mind recently, so it all worked out. (I love when that happens.)

And that’s about it other than the fact that I spent every spare moment I could with Parkman’s epic account of North American colonial history. Frontenac has faced down the Iroquois. Queen Anne’s War has passed, as has the War of the Austrian Succession. It’s now 1754 and France and England are about to square off for the final showdown. Stay tuned.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo unexpectedly finds himself at the front end of a four day weekend, having forgot all about Columbus Day until late yesterday afternoon. I do not complain.


It’s just as well because in the “slowly then all at once” category we’re now informed that all the permits have been granted and the engineers can start in on our basement next week. This will involve Ol’ Robbo moving a bunch of furniture out of the way and also disconnecting the sink and potty in the downstairs loo. (And me with my back still hurting from hauling Eldest’s dresser down the stairs earlier this week.)


Did you see where the USDA is launching a “People’s Garden” initiative? At present, participation is voluntary. At the next stage, it doubtless will be mandatory. Know what the term “People’s” always reminds Ol’ Robbo of? I’ve only sat all the way through “Dr. Zhivago” the one time because after the seven hundredth reprise of “Lara’s Theme”, my ears started to bleed. But I still recall the scene where the Doctor finds his house has been commandeered by the Bolshies in the name of the “People”. “But I am the People, too!” he exclaims.

Pro-tip: Wherever Collectivism rears its head, no you’re not.


And speaking of the Russians, they told me that if I voted for the Bad Orange Man we would find ourselves on the brink of nuclear war – and they were right!


Well, on a much more mundane note, Ol’ Robbo strung a new set of bistro lights around the Port Swiller Manor back porch this week, replacing the old strings of Christmas tree mini-lights which were aging and darkening in batches. With this move I am much pleased – not only are they neater looking, they throw just enough light for me to read by when it’s dark out. And as the days draw ever more in, this becomes all the more important. (And by the bye, yes, we are still “falling back” to Standard Time this year – on November 6. Bleh. I tried to do a bit of research on where the move to finally kill clock-changing stands, but as with most things gubmint-related, it seems to have become something of a muddle.)


And just what is Ol’ Robbo reading at the moment, you ask? Well, he’s deep into his Francis Parkman. It’s 1689, the Iroquois are posed to wipe New France off the map, and Count Frontenac is on his way back to Quebec to save its bacon. Exciting “skin of their teeth” stuff. Ol’ Robbo is reminded again of an old blog post somewhere touting Catholic halloween costumes, one of which was a Jesuit Missionary. “Just add Hurons!” read the caption. I larfed and larfed (and still do).


Well, with that I suppose I should be about things. Although, as I say, I have a long weekend, that’s only from my paying job.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Attentive friends of the decanter will have heeded Ol’ Robbo’s warning of just a few days ago that he was planning to reread his Francis Parkman, starting with the author’s tale of personal adventure, The Oregon Trail, and that I’d be indulging on some gratuitous historickal posting going forward.

Well, here we are.

For those of you who might wish a gentle refresher, said work is an account of Parkman’s travels as a young man in 1846 across the newly-opened western frontier. He and another well-healed Bostonian set out from Independence, MO, up the Oregon Trail to Fort Laramie in southeastern Wyoming. From there Parkman travelled for several weeks with an Oglala Sioux village, studying its ways of life. Arriving back at Ft. Laramie, the party headed south to Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River in southern Colorado, and then back east along Santa Fe Trail until they reached their starting point. The bulk of the journal is about chumming with some Indians, hiding from others, getting periodically drenched or baked by Ma Nature, and killing far more buffalo than really seems necessary.

The last time Ol’ Robbo read this book, the geography meant relatively little to me. A few years back, however, work took me several times to the southeastern part of Wyoming, visiting the area around Forts Laramie (there’s more than one site), and viewing the remains of the Trail itself a few miles up the North Platte at the little town of Guernsey. It is most pleasant to read of place names such as Laramie Peak and Chugwater Creek, having since seen them and the surrounding country myself and now able to follow a map in my mind.

However, now that I know something of the landscape, there’s a problem with Parkman’s account that I just can’t work out. (And this, boys and girls, is why we have blogs.) When he joins the Oglala, they’re on their way west from the Laramie River to replenish their supply of buffalo hides and possibly to take a slap at a rival tribe located somewhere in the Medicine Bow Range. Of this journey, Parkman keeps speaking of their travels through the Wyoming “Black Hills”. The trouble is that the Wyoming Black Hills, an extension of the South Dakota range, are in the far northeastern corner of the state, hundreds of miles away. Furthermore, Parkman states that the party came back down out of the hills two days’ ride from Ft. Laramie. This is a physical impossibility. I b’lieve what he actually means throughout is the Laramie Mountains, the front range of the Rockies. If so, the times and distances line up very nicely.

Either that or the party did veer sharply northeast and Ol’ Robbo just missed it. Parkman’s travelogue gets pretty tedious from time to time and my braim might have drifted elsewhere. To be perfectly honest, dating from my own travels I know it’s been better than seven years since the last time I read The Oregon Trail and I can tell you now that it will be at least that long before I feel any real inclination to read it again.

*** Spot the reference. Does anybody actually still air the old Bugs Bunny/Looney Toons? Or are they now considered wrongthink?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Fall! Ol’ Robbo got to indulge himself last night by leaving all the Port Swiller Manor windows wide open and the heat turned off, waking under warm blankets to a cool, crisp, refreshing dawn. In this, I suppose I’ll be cut off soon enough, as Mrs. R and I do not see eye to eye on this sort of thing. I’ll enjoy it while I can, however.

In the meantime, the same cool, crisp, refreshing dawn put me in mind of the fact that it’s been several years now since I last reread my Francis Parkman and that it’s just about time to do so again. I don’t know why I necessarily associate the two ideas with each other, but this is always the time of the year when I get the urge to dip back into my French and British colonial history. (Actually, I think I’ll start with his Oregon Trail, as I’m just finishing up a slew of mid-18th Century American Frontier accounts, before jumping back to the 1500’s.) Those of you who drop by regularly may expect more gratuitous historickal posting on this subject in the coming weeks.

Which reminds me that I wonder what I did with my Hannah Duston bobblehead? It sat on a shelf in my office for years but I brought it and all my other bric-a-brac home when we shifted to new digs because there wasn’t any place to put things. Given the politicks of my workplace I was always surprised nobody ever gave me grief over it, until I reminded myself of the general historickal ignorance of this day and age and then wasn’t surprised anymore. Heh.

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo forgot to mention another pleasure of the changing season – all the doors and windows of Port Swiller Manor that stick during the warmer, sultrier times are suddenly moving freely again.

On the other hand, I was watching the Hokies/Mountaineers game on teevee last evening when I beheld…….my first fake Christmas tree ad of the season. I suppose one has to take the rough with the smooth.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of the cable channels on our local system was doing a marathon of Alan Ladd westerns this weekend. Other than “Shane”, Ol’ Robbo does not remember having seen an Alan Ladd western before. (Not saying I haven’t – I just don’t remember.) Turns out they’re not too bad, but they’re about on par with Audie Murphy films in that Ladd seems to play the same guy in every one of them.

Aaaanyhoo, one of the films I caught was “Drum Beat“, about the Modoc War of 1873 and featuring a very muscular Charles Bronson as “Captain Jack”, leader of the rebellious band of Modocs.

As fond as Ol’ Robbo is of history, I didn’t really know anything about the Modoc War except the name, that it was an Indian uprising, and something about Pacific Northwest lava beds. So imagine my surprise when poor old Gen. Edward Canby shows up in the film. Imagine my even greater surprise when Canby is murdered by Captain Jack at a peace conference. I had to look that one up. Turns out that it’s true.

I did know a bit about Canby’s service in the Civil War. He sparred a bit in Texas and New Mexico with Confederate General Henry Sibley, a fight that makes up part of the story in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, and eventually went on to capture Mobile, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama, albeit only after it didn’t really matter anymore. (Sam Grant didn’t think much of his field service.) But I couldn’t have told you what happened to him afterwards.

Poor fellah.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is as neurotic in his reading habits as he is in most things. When starting afresh, as it were, I might select a book from my shelves purely at random. However, over the years I find I’ve developed any number of absolutely compulsory trains: If I read A, then I must read B next, then C, then…..

Well, you get the idea.

So a few weeks ago, my hand fell again on Bruce Catton’s Grant Goes South and Grant Takes Command. This meant that of course I next had to reread Grant’s own Memoirs. Then, of course, I had to reread William T. Sherman’s Memoirs. Now, of course, I’m rereading Phillip H. Sheridan’s Memoirs.

Last evening I reached the point where Little Phil is recounting his experience in the Indian Wars of the late 1860’s when it occurred to me that next I’m going to have to reread George A. Custer’s My Life on the Plains. Not because I necessarily want to, you understand, but I simply have to get it out of my system.

Ah, well.

Curiously, when I hit this particular Civil War autobiography line, I can easily ignore the one other big name title in my collection, James Longstreet’s From Manassas to Appomattox, simply because it’s one of the most excruciatingly dull volumes I’ve ever plowed. I suppose even my nuttiness has its limits.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Has Ol’ Robbo mentioned recently how much he dislikes Tuesdays? Because I dislike Tuesdays. They’re the veritable hole in the week.

That said, why not make this one a little better with some light nonsense.

Ol’ Robbo is here to tell you that the Bloomington, Indiana housing market is insane. It isn’t even mid-September yet and already the elder Gels have got their “sign your lease for next year RIGHT NOW or you’re out because we’ve got a waiting list of 2000 kids” notices. It’s a wonder they ever got their digs in the first place. College towns.

Speaking of waiting, we’re still on stand-bye for the big Port Swiller Manor basement renovation. The job itself will only take about two weeks, so I am told. The big drag is jumping through all the obligatory bureaucratic hoops to get the necessary county permits before they can start. (Does this surprise anybody?) The project manager is trying to accelerate the process by alleging Mrs. R’s intense dislike of mold constitutes a medical priority, but so far it doesn’t seem to be cutting much ice.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes a bit leery about returning to old pleasures for fear they might not be quite what he remembers, so I was particularly pleased when Mrs. R and I sat down to watch the first half dozen episodes of “Cheers” the other evening. Although a yuge fan back in the day, I hadn’t seen it in Heaven-knows how many years, and yet it is as fresh and funny now as it ever was.

Finally, Ol’ Robbo is pleased to say that he has found a kind of inner peace with his beloved Washington Nationals. Yes, we’re within eight games of a triple-digit loss record this year, but now all the dust has settled and the team is basically a bunch of kids coming up out of the minors, and I’m looking on it as a sort of early spring training and can enjoy watching again. What else is there to say except,



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December 2022