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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had good Thanksgiving Day celebrations and are now loafing about, recovering from the after-effects.

As usual, the Family Robbo packed up and went to see my brother and his down in North Carolina.  Brother managed to crock his back a few days ago, which meant that we didn’t go for our usual “Black Friday” hike and also that Ol’ Robbo found himself the Official Lifter Of The Heavy Things as far as dinner preparation went, but a good time was had by all.  Just a few observations:

♦  There really not being enough room at my brother’s house for ten adults and a small boy, we stayed at a hotel while down there. It’s a brand-new place, having still been under construction when we went last year.  It is astonishing to observe that, nearly one-fifth of the way through the 21st Century, there are still interior decorators who believe avocado green is a good idea.

♦  What with not hiking yesterday, we instead flopped in front of college football all afternoon.  I really thought Virginia Tech was going to beat the gentlemen of T.J. State, but the Hokies fell apart in the last ten minutes or so and blew it.  Too bad.  (My nephew attends Tech, so the whole family was rooting for them.  Clemson and South Carolina play today and I’ve a niece at each.  The family dynamic over that one is….somewhat more complicated.)

♦  Ol’ Robbo really dislikes those X-mas car commercials in which one spouse surprises the other with a new car with a big bow on top or, even worse, with a his n’ hers matching pair.  I could never, ever contemplate making that kind of financial commitment without consulting Mrs. R first.  (There is also a smarmy-elite feel to those things – $50 grand? Walking around money! – which I would think more likely to generate seething envy in the mind of the average teevee viewer than anything else, but what does Ol’ Robbo know.)

♦  I was cajoled into reading The Monster At The End Of This Book (starring lovable, furry, old Grover) to our youngest guest, my 4 y.o. great-nephew.  It’s been quite some time since I used to read this to the Gels, and I’m not sure the boy is totally clear on who Grover actually is.  But I was pleased to find that I can still do the shrill, hysterical voice, wave my hands around in panic, and generally behave quite silly, and whatever the boy’s Sesame Street-foo, he enjoyed the performance.

♦  Ol’ Robbo wanted to get an early jump on the longish drive back to Port Swiller Manor today, so last evening he said to all the Gels, “Be ready to go by 5:45 AM.”  This morning they were……ready to go by 5:45 AM.  Amazing what a smooth start will do for a trip.  And fortunately, the traffic was really not bad at all, so we got home in very good time.

Well, that was Thanksgiving 2019, that was.  Advent starts tomorrow and once again Ol’ Robbo finds himself having left it late to see whether he has a sufficient supply of purple ribbon and candles.  Better go check on that…..

UPDATE:  Huzzay, huzzah, my fellow port swillers! We found out last night that Youngest has been accepted early decision by Miami of Ohio!!  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, she went out to tour the place last summah and fell in love on first sight, so she put in her E.D. application this fall.  We’ve been on pins and needles ever since.  (She wrote an amazingly quirky and clever personal essay about her education to date which I’m pretty sure is what got her in.)

So far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned, Miami is a perfectly decent school full of perfectly decent people in an absolutely beautiful spot.  (Distinguished alums include Peej O’Rourke, World Champion Nationals’ right-fielder Adam “Mighty Mouse” Eaton, and a cousin of mine from my great-grandmother’s family.)  Ironically, it’s greatest rival is Ohio University, where Robbo’s parents met as undergrads.

So go…..a, lessee…..REDHAWKS!!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo probably won’t be able to get at his keyboard for the next few days, so I’ll go ahead and wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving now.

Remember,  It is not, as the SJW mob would have it, about celebrating Indian exploitation, nor is it a platform for hectoring your troglodyte relatives about impeaching Trump.  Further, it isn’t simply a marker for the start of the shopping season as Big Retail would like you to believe.

Images courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art

No, cheesy pin-up art aside,  Thanksgiving is first, last, and always about gratitude, something not very fashionable these days, but absolutely vital to a healthy soul.  Make sure to take the time to meditate on this and to be truly thankful for who and what you have, and not to stew in envy over what you don’t have.

See you on the other side!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got an especially heartfelt chuckle from this article:  Scholars Now Believe Saul Threw Spear At David For Playing Christmas Music Well Before Thanksgiving.

It’s from the Bee so it’s satire, of course.  Or is it?

I haven’t heard any X-mas tunes yet (nor have I seen, for example, reindeer antlers or Rudolph noses on any cars) but they’re coming.  Oh, yes, they’re certainly coming.


As I’ve mentioned here before, the local classickal station starts inserting “holiday” musick into its rotation right after Thanksgiving.  At first, these insertions are fairly sporatic, and I always fall into the trap of thinking maybe it won’t be so bad this year.  But they inevitably crank it up to eleven, and by the time Christmas Eve actually rolls around and the stuff is nonstop, the only feeling the umpteenth airing of “O Holy Night” or “The Holly and the Ivy” raises in my soul is the urge to grab a machete and run amok.  (On the other hand, it takes but a single airing of “If Bach Had Written Jingle-Bells” to make me start smashing the furniture.)

As a matter of fact, I’m considering some Advent abstinences this year.  I usually give up musick for Lent, so perhaps I’ll do the same thing.  As well as being a good spiritual exercise, it might help the ol’ blood pressure, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’m sure most friends of the decanter have already seen the “holiday” teevee ads bursting forth?  Earlier. Every. Year.  Within my lifetime, I will not be surprised to see said ads appearing the day after July Fourth.  You can bank it.

Oh, and apparently one of the hip new “gifts” being pushed is a “cheat pass” for wives.  (Note to the UK Telegraph: Any couple thinking that way isn’t actually married. Which I suppose is actually the object of this exercise.)

Basta!  Ol’ Robbo has given up railing against all this and instead is leaning toward detachment.  Single candle versus cursing the Darkness and all that.*  Stranger in a Strange Land, perhaps, although I don’t know that reference well enough.  Or, to turn another reference on its head, they can’t take the sky from me.**

I aim to misbehave.  Single candle style, of course. ( **Shifty eyes** )

* I reserve my right, however, to put up snarky posts about hideous neighborhood decorations.

**Spot the slight misquote.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo won’t bore you with his usual Sunday religious rants.  In his homily today, my pastor came about as close to accusing Papa Frankie of idolatry over this whole pachamama  thing as he could without actually crossing the line.  Afterward, I finished George Wiegel’s latest, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How The Church Rediscovered Itself & Challenged The Modern World To Reform.  Depressing as hell.  His history of the past 150 years of HMC’s relationship to modernism is quite informative, but if he seriously thinks the current postmodern “culture” has any interest whatever in being evangelized, he’s fooling himself.  No, the whole thing has to collapse good and hard, and it’ll be a few isolated Christians who pick up the pieces and start over.

Instead, I’ll take advantage of the extra hour to plug a movie I re-watched the other evening but which doesn’t seem to get much notice these days:  “The Train” (1964).  With the Allies closing in on Paris in 1944, Nazi Paul Scofield attempts to smuggle a train-load of masterpiece paintings to Germany.  Burt Lancaster’s Parisian station master, together with the remnants of his Resistance band, seek to thwart the attempt.  Lots of suspense, action sequences, intrigue, subterfuge, and railway technicalities, it’s a very exciting and entertaining movie.  Lancaster seems to me a rougher and more Byron-esque version of Charlton Heston, and is particularly gripping here.  Highly recommended, and available in DVD from Netflix.  (Unless I’ve got the only copy – I haven’t mailed it back yet.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fans of the great James Thurber may remember the Get-Ready Man from his comic story “The Car We Had To Push”:

The Get-Ready Man was a lank unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world.  ‘GET READY! GET READ-Y!” he would bellow.  “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!”  His startling exhortations would come up like summer thunder, at the most unexpected times and in the most surprising places.  I remember once during Mantell’s production of “King Lear” at the Colonial Theatre, that the Get-Ready Man added his bawlings to the squealing of Edgar and the ranting of the King and the mouthing of the Fool, rising from somewhere in the balcony to join in.  The theatre was in absolute darkness and there were rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning offstage.  Neither father nor I, who were there, ever completely got over the scene.

(As an aside, Ol’ Robbo has been rereading this and Thurber’s other stories for about forty years now and they still make me laugh every time.)

I bring this up because the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor seems to have produced its own version of the Get-Ready Man, although one quite at odds with Thurber’s in many details.  She’s a youngish middle-aged woman who lives round the block from us and is, I believe, married to a doctor.   Her eyes are slightly otherworldly rather than wild, and her voice melodious rather than bellow-y.  She also dresses quite smartly.  On the surface, she looks like a typical NoVA suburban tennis-playing, Benz-driving, wine mom.

Twice now, however, she has appeared, as suddenly as summer thunder, to tell us that “with all the awful things happening these days” (she doesn’t specify and I didn’t ask), she feels that Something Terrible is about to happen.  She then urges that we pray to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

The first time she actually got into the house before we realized what she was about.  (We initially thought she might be looking for a lost pet, or else was just new to the neighborhood and saying “hi”.)  The second time, a week or two ago, she glided up behind me while I was coiling up a garden hose in the front yard and started talking before I even realized she was there.  (Curiously, when I assured her of my Faith and my daily prayer, she seemed less than pleased.  I wondered if “Whore of Babylon” might have been lurking at the back of her mind.)

Ol’ Robbo has long thought that trying to predict the End Times is a mug’s game, so I don’t really give it much thought, and instead just do my best to shlemp along day in and day out.  It’s still a bit creepy, however, to get accosted by somebody who seems so absolutely convinced that they’re right round the corner.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is concerned that this Amazon Synod is bringing out a serious case of Francis Derangement Syndrome in some of his acquaintances, characterized by the swallowing of tongues and the screaming from rooftops at each new story of what Frankie allegedly said or did this time.  I don’t find this kind of thing to be particularly healthy for said swallowers and screamers.

Me? I’m largely giving it a pass.  Or at least invoking the 72 hour rule after each sensationalist headline hits the ether.  As far as I’m concerned, Fake Vatican News can be even worse than Fake Regular News, with agendas pushed harder and axes ground sharper, not to mention the perennial translation barriers, the haplessness of Vatican P.R., and the pig-ignorance and outright malice of so many of the so-called “experts”.  (The story I saw the other day was that Francis had denied the divinity of Christ.  Well, no he didn’t.)  I don’t doubt that Francis could get into some mischief, but I’m not going to blow a gasket falling for things like this.

Instead, I’m doing what our local Padre asked us to do, namely praying the Litany of St. Joseph, as well as a “Litany of Patron Saints for Family Life and Authentic Reform of the Clergy” which I think he might have put together himself.  The latter is especially interesting, in that it has introduced me to Saints I’ve never heard of before.  (Who were Ss. Louis and Zelie Martin, for example? Answer: The parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.)

And while we’re on the subject of Saints, St. John Henry Newman, ora pro nobis!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Michaelmas!

It’s quite disconcerting, especially on a beautiful morning like this one, to contemplate the fact of the endless war on the spiritual plane between St. Michael and all the hosts of the heavenly army on one side, and Satan and his evil minions on the other, with you and me and everyone else caught right in the middle.  But there it is.  Whether we like it or even acknowledge it or not.

By the bye, October 11, which was the old Michaelmas until the calendar got switched around, is also known as the Devil Spits Day and, according to folklore, one shouldn’t pick blackberries after this day.  (Yes, I’m writing about it two weeks early.)   The story is that the devil got kicked out of heaven on October 11 and landed in a blackberry bush, on which he vented his spleen, ruining the berries.

There’s a patch of wild blackberries out the back gate of Port Swiller Manor but you need not fear for Ol’ Robbo on this front because the things didn’t really give any fruit this year.  (Blackberries only fruit on mature stalks, not new growth.  Any winter we get any kind of reasonable snowfall usually breaks the stalks down, so the new ones coming up the following summah don’t produce.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent about half an hour walking around in circles at the grocery store on the way home from Mass today looking for the “Uncrustables” Youngest Gel requested for her school lunches this week.  I’m here to tell you that, as much as I like my store as a rule, they have no notion of where to put these things.  One might expect them to be in the frozen breakfast food section.  Or perhaps with the frozen desserts.  Or maybe even in the freezer directly across the aisle from the peanut butter and associated jellies.

But in between the frozen burritos and mini-pizzas?  Where the heck is the logic or reason to that?  Even after I finally broke down and asked somebody which aisle they were in (much to my personal pain), I still didn’t notice them until I went back to the staffer and he personally walked me over and pointed them out.


Oh, and the punchline?  I noticed an unopened box of the things in the freezer when I got home and put the grocs away.  D’OH!

(Ol’ Robbo is being crankypants about this because the delay means it was too late for me to have a snack when I got home as I usually do (I don’t eat beforehand), and now I have to tough it out until dinner.  And get in a work-out.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Looks like Ol’ Robbo is going back to the Sunday double-knock, accompanying Mrs. R and Youngest to services at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church before sliding on off to Mass on his own.  (They’ve both recently decided to make more of an effort at regular attendance and my coming along gives that extra boost on mornings when resolve is a bit questionable. I’d certainly rather they went there than nowhere at all.)

RFEP has a brand-new rector, the one serving my entire time there having left recently, more or less of his own volition depending on which version of the story one hears.  The congregation is pretty split between those clinging to some rags of traditional faith and those who wish to go full Unitarian, with big money boys on both sides.  The former rector had a talent for playing things more or less in the middle so as not to alienate either group (although his leanings were definitely with the latter).  We’ll see what the new guy does.  (Nothing in his sermon today tripped the alarums in Robbo’s head, so at least there’s that.)






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