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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posties here. No, the Gestapo did not break down the Port Swiller Manor front door in the middle of the night (at least not yet). Instead, Ol’ Robbo has just been very busy and his Muse seems to have gone AWOL, as she does from time to time.

That being the case, I’ve not much to tell. The Gels are all gainfully employed for the summah, which makes Ol’ Robbo happy. The weather is drying out to the point where I’ll soon have to start watering things, which does not. Western Civilization continues to crumble, but you knew that already.

Speaking of nothing in particular, I ran into my parish priest at Total Bev the other day. It was startling like the first time you met your grade-school teacher at the supermarket when you were a kid – all out of context. I’ve been working up my nerve to get to know him better without seeming to impose, so I said hello and shook hands.

He said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you not wearing a suit.” (I had on a t-shirt and shorts. He, by the way, was in full cassock and biretta. Father rocks it.)

“Well,” I said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you in a wine store.”

We larfed. And he remembered next day when I was leaving Mass. We’re getting there.

On a completely different house-keeping note, Ol’ Robbo has long meant to mention that I have nothing to do with the ads that appear here. I suppose they’re the price I pay for not actually buying my WordPress account. So far they seem to be pretty innocuous, but if you see something you don’t like, just know it’s not my doing.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s church had a new parochial priest assigned to it by the Bishop this week. Today I learned that not only is he an “addition to” instead of a “replacement for”, but that he is also a Latin shark, thereby – as our pastor gleefully noted today – doubling our capacity to practice the Mass That Must Not Be Named. (I suppose this means we’ll also double our number of Eff Bee Eye spies as well.)

On another note, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t spend as long as they like in private devotions after the Mass formally ends. I’m just saying that perhaps they should have a certain situational awareness regarding their neighbors. If you know you’re going long, pick a spot in the middle of a pew, not on one end of it. Ol’ Robbo got himself thoroughly bottled up d by a couple of ladies today, and since it is my policy not to crawl over people to get out of the pew, had to sit patiently until one of them finally got up.

On a completely different note, I just looked up and spotted a hummingbird at the feeder for the first time this year. Boo-yah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know whether goons patrol the church parking lot writing down license plate numbers while he’s attending Mass, but at this point nothing much would really surprise me. I’m sure I’m on plenty of lists already as it is. I was curious about the beefy, young, clean-cut guy in the t-shirt who walked out prior to the homily and never came back. Paranoid? Me? Why do you say that?

On a different (or maybe the same?) note, the setting today was the Missa Era di Maggio by one Johannes de Fossa (ca. 1540-1603), of whom I’d never heard, but apparently was vice-kapellmeister at the Court of Munich under Orlando di Lasso, of whom I have. Lovely late-Renaissance musick.

It was almost, almost, enough to make up for the old duffer sitting in front of me whose iPhone, programmed with a clown-car horn ringtone, cooked off in the middle of the Canon and which it took him a long time to shut down. (Now that oughta be a federal offense!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo learned this afternoon that his nephew has just got engaged. Indeed, the Young Persons called us up a little while ago to announce it. It isn’t really a surprise since we’ve been expecting him to pop the question ever since Thanksgiving, but now that it’s become an actual fact, and he is the first of his generation of the family to get there, I have a feeling of a great circle coming round again. Well, well.

I’ve never met the girl, by the bye, but my nieces both seem to be very fond of her, which is a good thing. And she must be genuine about my nephew because he comes pre-equipped with a seven year old son, the product of a particularly spectacular instance of his high-school years idiocy. (The Boy likes her, too.) I hope they are very happy together.

As for the Gels, no, nothing on the horizon at the moment. Mrs. R and I were discussing this yesterday and she said she’d be perfectly happy with “one in church, one in Vegas, one with a ladder.” I larfed: I’ve made clear that if it’s not in church, and with pre-wedding counseling at that, then I’m not paying for it. I confess there are times when I think of the outlays involved that Mrs. R’s formula appeals mightily to my baser side.

Anyhoo, a toast all round to the happy couple!

** – That Guy Who Always Thinks It’s Beginning

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Easter! He is risen, indeed!

Ol’ Robbo hopes that all friends of the decanter had a joyous holiday. For ourselves, this was the first Easter we didn’t have all the Gels home to Port Swiller Manor since, well, since the Gels came along in the first place. It was, of course, bound to happen, but it was a bit strange nonetheless.

On the other hand, while the elder two couldn’t get away, Youngest more than made up for it by bringing home three of her school chums. Ol’ Robbo will not dissemble: When I first heard news of her plan, I was not altogether happy about it. A lot of strangers in the house, Decanter Dog in a perpetual state of hysterics, routine interrupted, and with kids these days, who knew what I might be accused of at my own table.

Whelp, I am very happy to report that my misgivings were completely unwarranted (except the part about the dog). The Gel’s friends proved to be three of the nicest, most polite kids I’ve met in a very long time. The two young men were both solid mid-westerners. (Mrs. R joked this morning that she had to restrain herself from asking one of them to propose to the Gel already.) The young lady was from Croatia and equipped with that foreign student dynamism, not only doing a double-major, but doing it in three years. Among them, the quartet did a splendid job of not getting under foot (the Gel took them sight-seeing, mostly) and even brought along good clothes for Easter Dinner.

And speaking of said dinner, Ol’ Robbo was very wise in not underestimating what would be required to satisfy four college kids in addition to Self, Mrs. R, and my elderly cousin. I picked up a third rack of lamb, increased my lobster Newburg recipe by 50%, and adjusted the popover, rice, and asparagus helpings accordingly. And all I can say is that wolves ain’t in it. “What to do with the leftovers” turned out to be pretty much a moot question because there were hardly any, the Young Persons returning time and again to the sideboard for extra helpings. (And they still had room to attack the cheesecake for afters.) Most gratifying.

As for table-talk, there wasn’t a hint of the Struggle Session. The kids all gave short, sensible accounts of themselves and asked polite questions about my work plus compliments and thanks for having them here. One of the boys proved to be an avid Cubs fan, so we commiserated about our teams for a while, although we almost got into an argument about the new pitch clock. It also turned out that they all had a surprising knowledge of classic 80’s and 90’s sit-coms, which struck Ol’ Robbo as rayther amusing. About the closest we got to the subject of politicks was their gentle condemnation of the wokesters currently trying to disappear many of these shows due to their alleged offensiveness to “modern” sensibilities. And Ol’ Robbo certainly wasn’t going to argue with that.

It was all enough to give one some hope for the future.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Palm Sunday!

Ol’ Robbo has long pondered the thought that the crowd joyously throwing palms fronds at the feet of Jesus on Sunday would be the same crowd howling for His blood by the following Friday. The day’s ceremony has always had a certain ambivalent quality to it for me.

Anyhoo, one of the benefits of the Easter cycle falling so late in the year as it does this year is the very real chance of having our Palm Sunday processional outside, which we did today. As we walked round the grounds, I looked down the hill to the intersection in front of the church driveway and found myself wondering how many people in the traffic there, looking up, sympathized with or supported us in our faith, how many spit mental poison at us, and how many simply had no idea what we were up to. Of course, we’re not quite at the point of having to sneak about in the catacombs just yet, but it’s rayther chilling how much a simple public procession feels so…frowned upon these days.

And speaking of spitting, Ol’ Robbo is irked that even though his padre is allowed to continue with the Traditional Latin Mass, a new twist is that he is being required to chant the Gospel in English only, a directive which I consider both petty and useless: Both the programme and the missal contain the English translations already, plus, with the way my padre chants, I can’t really understand what he’s saying anyway. (Especially, as was the case today, when he had obvious allergies and there were several screaming toddlers whose parents evidently have never heard of the Cry Room, but that’s a different rant altogether.) Old Father McA, the padre in charge when I first swam the Tiber – and that’s fifteen years ago next Saturday evening! – used to say the Gospel in Latin at the altar but then repeat it in English at the lectern just before his homily. I should think that would be a perfectly acceptable compromise.

I overheard a pair of hyper-sedevacantist types the first Sunday this happened urgently muttering that messing about with any rubric of the Mass was an act of heresy, that this English-only requirement constituted such an act of messing about, and therefore that Father was being forced to sin every time he did it. Well, Ol’ Robbo isn’t quite at that level of tinfoil just yet. While I share their frustration, I also trust my padre’s integrity and am pretty sure he’s done the math on this. It’s obvious he doesn’t like it, but I don’t think he’d risk his immortal soul in order to comply.

Anyhoo, all that aside, what I really wanted to relate here was the fact that after a Lent thoroughly compromised by health and other factors, Ol’ Robbo dutifully reported to the Box yesterday afternoon, thoroughly embraced Palm Sunday in all its meaning today, and now feels very much squared away for Holy Week. Full sail ahead!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those friends of the decanter looking to Ol’ Robbo to comment on some of the appalling headlines that broke this week will be disappointed: I’ve no wish for Bob from the NSA to send a Brute Squad to Port Swiller Manor. But you can probably guess what I am thinking. One can imagine Robert Heinlein scratching his head and muttering, “Man, that’s too crazy even for me!” I will say this of the pending legislation to specifically ban the ChiComs’ Tik-Tok and more generally (the “Respect Act”) to censor online publication: I’m old enough to remember naively thinking the Patriot Act seemed a sensible measure to combat international terrorism. So much for that. It isn’t the Congressional chowder-heads who pass such legislation that one must fear, but the vicious, ideologically-driven, unaccountable bastards who implement and enforce it.

Wait….somebody’s knocking at the door. Is that you, Bob?

Anyhoo, a few gratuitous thoughts for a soggy April 1st.

I suppose a tornado warning in Indiana should be taken somewhat more seriously than one in the Dee Cee region, so I cannot fault the Elder Gels for sheltering in place last evening when one was issued for their area even if a quick look at the radar showed the storm in question was fifteen miles north of them and moving away. Who is Ol’ Robbo not to Trust the Science? Meanwhile, Port Swiller Manor itself was on generator power for a couple hours after a tree was blown down on the nearby power lines. Eh.

Speaking of spring weather, in a mood of wild optimism I put out the hummingbird feeder this morning even if I can’t realistically expect to see one show up in the area for at least another two or three weeks. One just never knows.

And on that subject, Ol’ Robbo would remind anyone putting out a nyjer-seed feeder for the goldfinches that you really should turn over the seed every two or three weeks (dump it back in the bag and swirl it around with the fresher stuff), plus clean the feeder itself, inside and out, when it starts to get grimy. I am told that sunlight reflecting on the oil of the seeds creates a certain visual aura which attracts the birds. While I don’t know if this is true or not, empirically I notice that I get a lot more traffic in my feeder when I take such measures.

And speaking of feeding, I learn this morning that Youngest Gel is bringing not one, but three of her chums home for Easter. Looks like I’m going to need another rack of lamb!

As of this morning, Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals are only a game out of first place! Alas, this is probably the very last time this season I can make such a boast unless today’s game gets scratched due to high winds. I was beginning to tell myself toward the end of spring training that I was starting to see the nucleus of the next competitive squad forming. I suppose I still think so, but am reminded that the process is going to take a long time. If we manage to lose fewer than 100 games this year, I will be happy. (What else is there to say except GO NATS!)

Finally, happy birthday to dear old Franz Joseph Haydn, born this day (maybe) in 1732.

Papa is easily my favorite composer as a person: devout, hard-working, loyal to those he served and those who served him, good-natured and witty, but not to be pushed about. (I probably could not select a favorite composer as a composer, but suppose it would be J.S. Bach if I were pushed.) There is a story (which I probably will relate badly) that Haydn once was criticized by somebody in the Church on the grounds that some of his sacred musick was “too light-hearted”. Haydn was supposed to have responded that he couldn’t help himself: When he sat down and contemplated God, he was so filled with joy that it came out in his composition. Typical Haydn repartee – unanswerable, leaving his opponent looking like a fool, and yet perfectly sincere. Bless him.

And speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo has not yet decided what he is going to do about posting here during Holy Week. I’ve been so distracted and scatter-braimed recently that my Lent has practically been non-existent and I’m rayther dreading my visit to the Box this afternoon. I suppose we will just have to see, but if I do post at all, it won’t be this kind of blithering nonsense.

Saturday Garden Posting UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo spent a lovely morning putting up the new deer netting around the back of his hydrangea hedge. I can think of no nicer weather for pottering about at a job like this than a still warmth with gentle rain falling on and off. Except the last forty-five minutes or so during which the clouds rolled away and the sky was filled with sunshine.

Aesthetics aside, the important practical point is that I got done before the Big Wind gets here. Deer netting is a nuisance to work with as it is, snagging on everything and anything it can reach. Flapping about in a gale would only make it worse.

So the new fencing is up. I admit it’s rayther unsightly, but it’s round the back where nobody will see it, plus it effectively keeps the blighters out, who would otherwise raze my hydrangeas to the ground. They can’t jump over it because they have no place to land, and they generally won’t try to push through it unless they’re really desperately hungry. I suspect that the rents I sometimes find in it in the fall are probably the results of a buck getting his rack tangled up.

Anyhoo, that’s that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s amazing what a difference a week can make at this time of year around these parts, especially when one has been out of town. Spring always seems to approach, as the saying goes, slowly then all at once.

It’s also amazing what a difference 24 hours can make. Yesterday was cold and rainy. Today the sun burst forth in a clear blue sky in such a delightful way as to make one look for any kind of excuse to stay outside pottering in the yard. Even Decanter Dog, who is starting to get on a bit, was seized with a sudden desire to gambol about with a huge grin on her face just because.

As I mentioned needing to do a while back, today I tackled the Euonymus fortunei lurking around the garden fence. As I said then, the stuff sends out horizontal runners that sneak into my roses and, if left undealt with, would cause all kinds of trouble. I don’t think I can ever get rid of the stuff altogether, but cutting off the runners at their base once a year is a pretty effective way of containing it.

I also managed to get my peony cages up in good time for a change. Not that they do that much good, as they’re now really too small and I will still need to re-enforce their support with twine. This year I absolutely, positively need to dig some of the larger peonies up and divide their roots. Friends of the decenter are invited here and now to bookmark this post: If I weasel out of it again come fall, you may then pelt me with the pixel version of rocks and garbage.

What else? I also mentioned a while back looking for a replacement for my birdbath broken when a tree limb fell on it. Well, I couldn’t find one I like, so I turned back to attempting to repair the current one again. I had glued it back together but the bond didn’t last. Now I’m seeing what a big helping of Gorilla Glue epoxy can do.

Oh, and I mentioned a couple weeks ago making a mess of my forsythia? Well, looking at it more closely today I see that my science was, in fact, pretty much right – what new growth there is seems to be flowering much more heavily than it did before I started liming assiduously. It was only the timing of my cutting it back that was the problem. So I will probably hog it all right back in, say, another month or so and then just keep it in reasonable trim going forward.

So that’s that. A lovely afternoon in the sun and I think I actually even got a bit of color for the first time this year. As I say, though, slowly then all at once: The hydrangea are all budding which means I need to put out new deer-netting pronto. There are already patches of grass that could stand a mowing. And it’s really not all that early to get the hummingbird feeder out.

And away we go.

UPDATE: Dinner on the porch for the first time this season. Just because we could.

** Yes, not my usual Sunday offering but nobody seemed much interest in my church gossip and I really don’t have anything to say about it anyway. This, alas, has proved to be one of my feeblest Lents in quite some time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo posting the other day about how bizzy he’s been? Well, all this week I’ve been away on my first extended biznay trip since the Plandemic lockdown. It was also the first time I’ve set foot on a plane in about five years.

Gone Away Central this time was Kansas City, MO. From what I saw, the place strikes me as mostly dumpy but with pockets of urban renewal/expansion. (Granted, nowhere looks its best at the tail end of wintah, so perhaps I am underestimating the place. Kansas City, KS, across the river, on the other hand, is a desolation no matter what the season. It just is.) We stayed on the edge of Country Club Plaza, which is supposed to be the up and coming thing in pedestrian walkabouts. I admit that, despite the weather, it was enjoyable.

What constitutes Good BBQ is one of those third-rail issues one hesitates to bring up, especially if one has only a casual acquaintance, for fear of the passions it unleashes among the cognoscenti. That said, one evening we tried Jack Stack Barbeque and Ol’ Robbo thoroughly enjoyed it. Practically everybody we talked to, from cabbies to hotel receptionist to our local colleague, recommended the place. Admittedly, this gave Ol’ Robbo a bit of pause because I’ve seen this sort of thing before with, for example, Winzell’s Oyster House in Mobile or Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island, ME. Lots of hype followed by flatness (and usually high-priced flatness at that). Granted, I know a lot about seafood, both Gulf and New England, while, as I say, I know much less about BBQ. So those friends of the decanter who do take a deeper interest in the matter may consider my satisfaction here as either my first steps into a wider universe or else as a sign of my hopeless Philistinism.

Another afternoon found us stopping for lunch (also on recommendation) at what purported to be a “Palestinian” deli. Again, there are those in the know who likely can parse out the local subtleties and variations, but in Ol’ Robbo’s mind, cuisine involving lamb, pita, yogurt, garlic sauce, and diced cucumber and onion is simply Eastern Med, stretching from Greece all the way round to Lebanon and points south. And it’s all good, as was this. To me, the name (and the decor) was both politickal and superfluous, and I simply ignored it. (Which reminds Ol’ Robbo again, albeit very laterally, that I donated some coin to get pizzas delivered to IDF troops during the Intifada back in ’04 and have been getting pledge appeals from the local Jewish Federation ever since. I admire their persistence.)

Finally, on the food front, I must share with you friends of the decenter proof of a phenomenon which has not occurred, so far as I can remember, ever before:

Yes, Ol’ Robbo actually ate at the airport yesterday before his flight home! As I say, this is completely unprecedented for me because of my usual anxiety before getting on a plane. But I was so crazed by only one meal and three or four hours’ sleep each day this week (litigation is a bear), that I was able to overcome my inhibitions and dig in. (And yes, it was Friday, and yes, that was a chicken sammich. In all fairness, I asked for fish first but they were out. My understanding of the rules of fasting and abstinence is that they are not to be followed to the point of self-incapacitation and I was pretty close to it. In fact, I had a laugh with the fellah at the next table, who was in the same boat.)

It was also just as well that I fueled up because later I found myself standing in front of the most loud-mouthed, pernicious little twerp in the boarding line. I gather he was some young techie in the Defense-contracting line, returning to Your Nation’s Capitol from some conference, and he was busily buttering up another (black) techie he’d befriended at the conference. First, he loudly announced that anybody who dares criticize the Chinese Communist government is, ipso facto, racist. Then he produced a laundry list of all the advocacy groups, politickal action committees, and other covens to which he devotes his spare time, plus the usual litany of causes: Voting rights for illegals; Basic Income; Equity! (Rant On: Let Ol’ Robbo be clear what he thinks of “equity” here. Whatever gimcrack, Utopian veneer its advocates have built over it from time to time since its ugly emergence in the mid-18th Century, the practical effect of all such sells has been to divide populations into two simple groups: Those who are dead, and those who wish they were. Rant Off.) Needless to say, his Concern had nothing to do with individual well-being, but instead with pitting Group against Group. Then the guy started in on all the places in Africa he wished to visit (“to get to really know the people”), including South Africa. Even this was too much for the other guy, who suggested it might be wiser to avoid SA (at present busy descending into chaos) until things cool down a little. Finally, the snerp said he had recently started helping out a new group of immigrants in Dee Cee. “Where are they from? Is it Morocco? No, wait, Cameroon? No, wait, somewhere in the east? Not Ethiopia, but the other one…..Oh, heck, it’s Africa. Whatever!”)

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

As I say, it’s as well I had eaten something. Otherwise, I likely would have whirled round and throat-punched the little bastard. As it was, I briefly fantasied at the idea. (Ol’ Robbo tries to live and let live and to turn the other cheek, but these people want me dead so it’s hard to avoid such daydreams from time to time.)

The flight back, by the way, was beastly, not only very late but also the sort where even the stewardesses have to remain seated most of the time. Oddly enough, turbulence at night doesn’t bother Ol’ Robbo as much as it does during the day, partly because the darkness creates the illusion that I’m not 37,000 feet up, partly because, as I say, I was exhausted. Nonetheless, I didn’t check the wings for gremlins until we were firmly on the ground back home when I was sure they’d gone elsewhere.

So that’s that.

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo was hoping to get a little time to relax and recover today, but even as I typed this, the new blinds for the Gels’ bedrooms turned up at the door, so I guess I have my afternoon’s work cut out for me now.

UPDATE: Done and done, although the job took longer than I expected. Perhaps out of pique that we didn’t order installation but I said I would do it myself, they didn’t include instructions in the package. That’s okay – instructions are for sissies. Meanwhile, Mrs. R has taken umbrage at the fact that the company seems to take its own name of “3-Day” to mean something more like “3-Week”, and plans to hector them accordingly, especially after what they socked us for the things.

However, they look very nice.

UPDATE DEUX: It occurs to Ol’ Robbo after the fact that he often blogs in the short-hand of the day. So to be clear, please do not confuse “equity” with “equality” (although proponents of the former would wish that you did). Equality is the idea that everyone should get a fair shake, that we’re equal before the law and that we are not denied the opportunity to make something of ourselves based on artificial barriers. Equity, despite the similarity of root, is the antithesis. It demands the same outcomes in life for everybody, robbing the individual of all personal responsibility and abolishing all effort, luck, chance, and circumstance, and, of course, confiscating all wealth for “fair distribution”. Granted, this has a certain appeal about it – if you’re six years old. But what its proponents won’t tell you is that a) such a system can only work through a totalitarianism completely at odds with reality, and b) history shows again and again that such a system can’t work. I mentioned this idea to my old pal Kipling one time and he said he thought there might be a poem in it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry, but Ol’ Robbo has got absolutely nothing for this Mardi Gras, as I’m still feeling flattened from the ‘vidz.

(Needless to say, I also feel completely unprepared to start Lent tomorrow. I hope He won’t mind too much.)

I must say I’ll be mighty happy to finally shake this thing.


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June 2023