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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees the news this final day of 2022 that dear Pope Benedict XVI has passed. The warnings of his rapidly declining health started going out a few days ago, so I’m saddened but not shocked.

God bless him. He wasn’t the reason for my own swimming of the Tiber, since any cult of personality is pernicious, but his scholarship and orthodoxy represented exactly what I was looking for, and I can at least say that his example gave me a solid foundation to endure everything that has happened since.

Who can say, in the end, but I like to think that Papa Benny will not have much time in Purgatory.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter rbj1 reports that Turner Classic Movies is running a “Thin Man” marathon New Year’s Eve.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo will be unable to tune in. I learn this morning that what I’d thought was going to be a quite evening’s celebration with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family has suddenly strengthened into a Cat 3 shindig with the addition of several other guests, so I will now be spending it “entertaining”. (Mrs. R denies this, but I know perfectly well how it will play out. The good news is that it might actually be warm enough this year for the thing to spill out onto the porch.)

Don’t worry: I only say “alas” in the sense that figuring out food and drink suddenly becomes more complicated. As a matter of fact, all of the additional guests are good friends, not quite such crusty reactionaries as I am (and as is the FLMC), but within a few standard deviations thereof. Furthermore, they know me thoroughly and know to ignore most of my blather, so I needn’t worry about holding my tongue as I had to at Christmas dins.

Anyhoo, a thing about “Thin Man”. The original novel on which the films were based was of course written by Dashiell Hammett, who for many years was the slave of playwright Lilliam Hellman. (He dedicated the novel to her, and indeed Nora Charles is supposed to be a tribute.) This didn’t matter much to Ol’ Robbo until I read up on Hellman. John Zmirak, in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, uses her to illustrate Envy. (He also refers to her as “Stalin’s Trollop”.) A thoroughly horrible woman. I’m not saying I’ve stopped watching these movies as a result of this knowledge, but it now lurks around the edge of them for me, emitting a faint but foul odor.

Just an observation. I suppose if one goes digging far enough one can find many, many instances of this sort of thing but this one in particular sticks in Ol’ Robbo’s braims.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

— Luke 2: 1-14 (KJV)

very merry Christmas to all friends of the decanter!  God bless you all!  Bumpers all round and gunn’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heel taps!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got to Mass extra early** this morning so I could stroll down to the greenery sale in the lower parking lot and buy a wreath to cannibalize for my dining room table Advent/Christmas centerpiece.*** As I came down the stairs, a couple small kids were hurling masses of waste trimmings into the fire in a 55-gallon drum, causing thick, heavy smoke to billow out on an impressive rate.

The fellah running things looked up as I came over and said, “Ah, you saw our smoke signal, did you?”

“No kidding,” I replied, “A column that thick is going to have every Comanche within a hundred miles down on this place!”

The fellah was good enough to laugh, but not before I caught a split-second of nervousness pass across his face. Perhaps he thought I was a bit nuts?

I do what I can.

** I should say earlier because I’m always one of the first to turn up for any given Church service, a habit hammered into my head by my mother back in the day (along with always, always wearing a tie). In her view, to be early was to be on time, to be on time was to be late, and to be late, well, you may as well not bother because you’re going to the Hot Place anyway. All fooling aside, it’s important to me to have enough time to get settled in and locked before the doings begin.

*** In the end, I decided this was the most sensible way to obtain green stuff for my table wreath after all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sits comfortably in the Port Swiller Manor library this very rainy Saturday morning, sipping his kawfee and smugly patting himself on the back at having got up the latest batch of leaves yesterday afternoon while it was still dry out. Unlike Sir Winston, I’m now far beyond the beginning of the end of the beginning, or whatever it is, but instead am now within sight of getting the whole bloody biznay over with for the year. Huzzay, huzzah!


“Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” as the delightful song from one of my favorite musickals says. We’ve gone back and forth on such service over the years here, alternately indulging it when we can and chopping it when the well begins to run a bit dry. After a long hiatus, we’ve now taken it up again and had a crew in yesterday doing a deep clean for nearly three hours. Just where the heck does all that dust come from?


On the literary front, Ol’ Robbo is once again binge-reading his Evelyn Waugh. Currently, I’m about halfway through Brideshead Revisited and will say this: Although I mostly like this novel, I’m awfully glad it’s the only one Mr. Wu wrote in this fashion. Mawkish melodrama has little appeal for me. Plus, I’ve always thought Charles Ryder something of a shite.


Speaking of such things, although I don’t blog about it these days (a glass of wine with Bob from NSA!), I am pretty deep into the weeds on current events social, politickal, economic, etc., and I can only pray for one of two things: Either things are not actually as awful as I believe they are, or else they’ve always been this awful without most people realizing it and we’ve managed to stagger through anyway. Otherwise, night is coming. (I mention Waugh above. Love Among the Ruins comes to mind.)


Well, who wants to end a post, especially a lazy Saturday one, on a note of doom and gloom? Not Ol’ Robbo. I plan to get the rest of my Advent greenery up today. Yes, I’m a week late but this seems to be a pattern for me over the years, not just in these outer trappings but also on the more theological level. I can only think that the fact we always travel for Thanksgiving and the Sunday after is typically a “crash” day for me is the culprit. I’ve mentioned this a few times in the Box, but Father tends to be understanding, especially given that the reason for my T-Day travels is family. Heigh-ho. (And shoot! I’ve lost the link now but was reading someone’s rant yesterday about the eeeevils of “Christmas” presents. Because yucky Christianist oppression or sumpin’. Without seeming to realize it, Xer was really ranting about “X-mas” and the rampant commercial exploitation of the season, and to that extent Ol’ Robbo found himself agreeing. If, as I fear, the Church is about to be driven back underground, at least it will be a lot purer.


Oops, that one got a bit dark, too. Let’s see…….Speaking of presents, my gift from my family arrived early. It’s a new power-washer. I suppose it says something about my age and station in life that I’m really happy about this, even if I can’t actually use it on the porch and patio for another five or six months.

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!

Ol’ Robbo noticed that Mass was quite a bit fuller today than it has been for a long time. When I swam the Tiber fifteen years ago, my parish was the only one in the diocese (or, indeed, the entire region) that celebrated the Latin Mass regularly. The place was usually mobbed. Since then, the practice had been established in many other parishes, causing our numbers to drop as folks doubtless went closer to home. Now that the practice has been kyboshed in all but (I think) six parishes, I suppose folks are circling back round to us. If they can find us, that is. One of the terms of our continued sufferance is that the Latin Mass time can’t be printed or otherwise distributed. You have to come look it up in the vestibule.

Anyhoo, it’s nice to see so many new faces.

And on a completely different note (hence the post title), Ol’ Robbo would be negligent in his duty as a blogger if I did not pass along this piece of awesome wrapped in awesome and covered with awesome sauce, which a friend noted on FacePlant. Yes, it’s the Nakatomi Hans Gruber Advent Calendar:

After all, “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie!

Order yours today so in time to be ready for the season!

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.


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January 2023