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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!

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!

Eldest sent me this during the middle of one of her classes yesterday, which seems to be not so much the Dewey Decimal System, but rayther a group hug in which the social warriors share their vision of the Brave New World:


Yes, I raised her to be profoundly skeptical, but I also taught her to laugh about it.

I suppose it was because of this that I had a dream last evening that I was back at school. It wasn’t one of those it’s-the-end-of-the-semester-and-I-never-studied ones (which, of course, I’ve had), but instead a beginning of the semester chaos scenario. I found myself in a student apartment full of people going in and out. I didn’t know where my keys were, I didn’t know where my mailbox was, in fact I didn’t know anything, and I was getting agitated about it. And when I went outside, I ran straight into a student marching band, getting my hand up just in time to avoid being swatted in the face by a slide-trombone. (The player gave me a look and moved on.)

I’ve a vague idea Eldest was actually in the dream at some point. Which is odd, because I very rarely dream about people I actually know, instead populating them with made-up figures.

(Later, I had a dream I was marching through the Carolina Pine-Barrens with General Sherman, but that one was easily explained by the fact that I’m re-reading his Memoirs.)

No wonder Ol’ Robbo wakes up tired all the time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was chatting with Eldest Gel yesterday afternoon. She’d just got out of her class orientation meeting.

“Hooo-boy,” she said. “They’re all a pack of cultural Marxist loonies! English majors who want to ‘fight social injustice’! It’s like Twitter in the flesh!” (I thought that last bit very neatly put.)

I’d rayther hoped she might avoid that sort of thing at a big, midwestern school, but I suppose the rot is just about everywhere now. On the other hand, the Gel is of a temperament that makes Oliver Cromwell look like a debauched anarcho-syndicalist, so perhaps she’s exaggerating just a wee bit in her summation.

One of the subjects touched on was censorship. That one made Ol’ Robbo smile: “Read banned books” bumper-stickers and lapel pins have been around all my life, a stock cudgel to use against the Church Ladies. (Remember those lists of “Top 100 Banned Books” that came out every year? Does anybody still do that? Back when Cultural Conservatives still fought, they’d put out a counter-list usually containing books like Huckleberry Finn. Where does that one stand these days?) I happen to agree with the idea in general, but given the way social media platforms like Twooter and FacePlant are stomping on wrongthink right and left nowadays, you’d think this trope a bit outdated. Heck, when Ol’ Robbo set up his home office, I deliberately avoided doing so in my library lest some delicate flower spotted an objectionable title on my shelves during a Zoom call and started having conniptions. Of course the Will to Power has never actually been much concerned with principles or logical consistency. (The specific topic, by the bye, was eeeeevil moms who dare object to school boards seeking to sexualize their small children. Can’t have that!)

Fortunately, I’ve taught the Gel the sort of detachment necessary to get by these days. Trust God, keep a smile on your face, don’t give away anything, don’t bite when provoked, do good work. And keep your eyes open for those subtle signs that there might just be more on your side than you think. The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache. The languorous Ewok craves Valu-Rite.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo caught the original “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932) with Johnny Weissmuller on TCM last evening. I don’t recall that I’d ever seen it before although I’m pretty sure I saw one or more of the sequels during my misspent yoot. Anyhoo, I am now prompted to go look out the novel(s) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whom I’ve never read despite my fondness for adventure stories. I’ve an idea that ERB’s Tarzan is somewhat more articulate and complicated than Johnny One-Grunt’s in the film version.

In other news, I’ve swung back round to the Shaara Boys, pere et fils, rereading The Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure. I don’t believe I’ll read them again, as the style becomes highly irritating after a while and I also now notice a certain amount of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” in their attitudes toward Victorian “naivete” and religiosity. Think I’ll stick to straight histories and source materials from now on when I want my next Civil War fix.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now I’m sure all you informed friends of the decanter have heard about the lightning strike near the White House yesterday that killed an out-of-town couple and injured others.

Of course, Ol’ Robbo feels sorry for these folks. But the truth of the matter is that I’m amazed we don’t hear about this sort of thing more often.

Needless to say, Dee Cee sees quite a few thunderstorms in the summah. And quite a few tourons. And the area from the South Lawn of the White House down to the National Mall and east-west between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial is all wide open. In my years and years of observation, even during the worst of our summah storms there are still people wandering about these places.

As I say, I’m amazed more of them don’t get taken out.

But then again, Ol’ Robbo has a deep-seated fear of respect for Zeus’s pitching arm himself (I skitter for shelter at the first sign), so perhaps I over-inflate the danger in my mind.

UPDATE: Now that Ol’ Robbo noodles on it a bit, it seems to me that most of the local stories of this sort I read take place south of here, down around Spottsylvania County. My godmother, who lives in the region, once told me the high percentage of ground strikes was due to concentrations of iron ore in the vicinity.

I was never sure whether I believed this notion until I came across the same sort of thing in one of Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain stories: Two rival Zulu witch-doctors face off against each other in a field known for its conductivity and summoned thunderstorms to test each other’s “magic”. Allan surmised that iron substrata in the field might be the reason for its characteristic. So even if this is not the specific case with the Fredericksburg region (I’ve never tried to confirm it), it does seem to have a plausible general applicability.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, fourteen years ago today, Ol’ Robbo decanted the port, set out the Stilton, and invited you all to take a pew. Hard to believe it’s been that long. (Those of you who remember my prior gig at the Llama Butchers will know that place only lasted for about five years, yet it still seems like I blogged longer there than here. Go figure.)

Stumping along behind the lawnmower this morning, to keep my mind off the long, wet grass with which I had to deal due to all the rain we’ve had lately, Ol’ Robbo got noodling about the years this place has seen, and what has changed.

Certainly it’s been witness to the Gels growing up. Back in 2008 we were on the leading edge of the terrible early teen years. Somehow or other, as reported here from time to time, we managed to weather them, and now the Gels are all in their 20’s and on the cusp of starting their next chapters.

On this day in 2008, Ol’ Robbo was still a newbie Catholic, too. I haven’t really blogged about that very much in more recent years, prolly because my Convert Derangement Syndrome has been steadily wearing off and I’ve realized what a crashing bore I must have been. But I got a whiff of a rumor this morning about a potentially Very Bad Thing that will directly impact on my worship, so I may start giving vent to such issues again soon. One thing I will say if I have not made it plain before: I do not care for Pope Francis.

Also on this day in 2008, I expect I still believed that the G.O.P. Establishment had my best interests in mind. Ol’ Robbo was a big fan then of writers such as George Will, Peggy Noonan, and the gangs at National Review and The Weekly Standard. Whelp, that’s gone completely out the window: It’s become crystal clear in recent years that the only thing the GOPe cares about is the GOPe. (Ol’ Robbo has a small collection of books by these authors. Just on principle I can’t bear the idea of throwing them (or any other books) away, but I have moved them to the Shelf of Shame in my basement.)

Finally, Ol’ Robbo was in his early 40’s back then, and of course due to math, is now in his later 50’s. I’m happy to report that I’m still in good shape and about the same weight, but I was somewhat surprised when I started my plague-beard last year just how much white there is in it.

So! What do the next fourteen years hold?

Well, on the domestic front my obvious hope is marriages and grandkids.

As far as Holy Mother Church goes, a priest friend of mine likes to quote an Italian proverb that “after a fat Pope comes a thin one”. Things will change again.

And on the politickal front? I begin to see signs that the pendulum has reached the top of its arc and is starting to swing the other way. For all its self-protective fecklessness, I doubt the GOPe remains relevant very much longer.

Anyhoo, thankee to all of you who have dropped in here over the years, whether on a daily basis or just every now and again! Bumpers all round, ladies and gentlemen, gun’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heal taps! Huzzay! Huzzay! Huzzay!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As Ol’ Robbo made his way down to the office yesterday, it suddenly occurred to him that he was the only person on the Metro, as far as he could see, reading a genuine dead-tree book.** Everybody else had their noses stuck in their personal electronic devices.

It made me feel like an outright dinosaur.

I would assume that some given percentage of said devices were running e-books, but a glance around those in my immediate neighborhood took in only games, chat, and videos.

I mention all this not to sound like a thnob, but instead because the paperless phenomenon has never struck me so hard before. (Then again, I haven’t ridden the Metro consistently for years, so there’s likely been a gradual process while I wasn’t paying attention.)

I know I’ve said it here, perhaps many times, but I could never get comfortable with an e-book. I already get more screen time than I should. (My eyes are usually streaming by the end of the day.) And I just can’t stand the idea of being dependent on a bunch of electrons that can be lost, corrupted, deleted, edited, or taken away from me at a whim. (**Gives WordPress the side-eye**) Give me good, solid ink and tree pulp every time.

I’m just waiting for the day when some little kid on the train points at my book and says, “Mommy, what’s that?

** P.G. Wodehouse, Money in the Bank. One of Plum’s best, in my humble opinion.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Scanning the headlines, once again Ol’ Robbo finds himself presented with the choice of saying either too much or too little. Think I’ll go with little.

Happy Bloomsday to any James Joyce fans out there. (Personally, I could never fathom the fellah, but to each his own, I suppose.)

As Ol’ Robbo was listlessly watching his Nats lose yet another one last evening, the announcers got into a discussion of famous side-winder pitchers (because the reliever on the mound at the time is one) and the name of Joel Horlen came up. This made Ol’ Robbo smile because I lived round the corner from him in my misspent yoot and his son was a classmate of mine in school. Small world.

And speaking of throwing arms, I am informed that the vast majority of parrots** are left-handed. Scientists don’t know why.

And speaking of nature, I am now being informed rayther breathlessly by the local park authority to be on the lookout for an invasion of wayleaf basketgrass. Evidently, one of their ecologists was poking about in the parkland behind our fence and discovered some. Fortunately, a glance around the Port Swiller Manor demesne shows we’re still secure from this particular threat. I wish, however, the park authority would do something about the mystery invasive Asian vine I flagged two years ago, because that stuff is all over the place now.

** No word on whether this includes the famous Norwegian Blue.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention before but speaking of watching ball games, I don’t recall when all those sportsbook adverts started running on teevee but I wish they wouldn’t. I can’t really justify it philosophically, I suppose, except that I find gambling pernicious and especially apt to hurt those who can least afford it. (Ditto state lotteries and casinos running ads.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, friends of the decanter need not worry that I’ve been dragged away by persyns in sunglasses and trench coats for the crime of wrongthink. I’ve just been staring at the screen this week with nothing much in particular to say. Well, nothing much that won’t get me dragged away by persyns in sunglasses and trench coats for the crime of wrongthink, anyway. (As to all that, I’ll simply remark that a thing that can’t go on won’t.)

Rayther, there’s a feel around Port Swiller Manor of, if not the calm before the storm, perhaps something more like the hanging suspense just before the rollercoaster plunges down that big slope. Lots of changes are coming up in very short order, so perhaps the Robbo braim is grasping at the last bit of vacant serenity it can before it has to get busy in earnest.

Again, you need not worry. Said changes almost all have to do with the Gels growing up. Middle heads out next week to her summah gig working for the Commonwealth leading gangs of yoots in reclamation/refurbishment projects at a couple of state parks. (No, the yoots are not junior villains working off their community service sentences, but instead eager-beaver high school kids.) Meanwhile, we’re getting ready to ship Youngest overseas for her study abroad semester. And as I’ve mentioned previously here, we’re hammering out the final arrangements for sending the elder two off to grad school this fall (most such arrangements consisting of Ol’ Robbo putting his foot down about what he’s not going to pay for).

Hence the grasping.

That may also have something to do with why Ol’ Robbo has been binge-reading his Edwardian exotic adventure shelves of late. I’ve blown right through all my Rider Haggard and P.C. Wren and am now in the midst of Sabatini’s Captain Blood and rediscovering what a jolly-well written book it really is.

And speaking of escapist fantasy, I’ve been watching a fair bit of Nats baseball, too. What with the season being essentially over for them already, I’m finding much solace in treating the games in my mind as if they were simply extended spring training. Eh. (I don’t mind watching them on teevee but I doubt I will bother to shlep down to the park any time this year as I don’t see it worth the money.)

Anyhoo, there it is and here I am. At least until the persyns in sunglasses and trench coats come to drag me away.


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September 2022