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Greetings, fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been out of town the past couple Sundays, so hadn’t been to his home parish for a few weeks.  Thus, I was greatly surprised yesterday when I pulled up to discover the vestibule all boarded over and fenced off.

It seems the Powers have decided to modify and expand the vestibule.  On the one hand, this is very welcome, as the current one can be a real log-jam.  On the other, it also signals that Ol’ Robbo’s fond dream that they knock the whole building down and start over is even less likely to happen now than before.

Robbo’s church is truly ugly, I’m afraid, and there’s no getting around it.  For one thing, it’s in the style of what might be called ’50’s Modernsky, – all inward-leaning columns, exposed brick and tacky stained glass, and a weird wrought-iron steeple- the kind of thing that James Lileks likes to ape in his Bad Nostalgia books.  For another, it’s in the round, a thing I loathe.  There’s a cupola set dead-center in the ceiling (which rises from all around the walls).  It used to have a sort of spider-web fretwork at its base.  They got rid of that a few years back, opening up the inside.  This was painted deep blue with stars and a dove at the very top.  It’s nice to gaze at, but doesn’t save the rest of the building.

A third thing which irks me is that the altar is oriented not east but south-southeast.  So Mass is celebrated Ad Orientem sort of.  I don’t know why this is.  The old church, which is now the parish office, is both solidly four-square and properly aligned.

You’ll tell me that what goes on inside is far more important than the physical setting and of course you’ll be correct.  And in fact, I’ve got so used to things that I don’t pay any attention to my surroundings while worshipping.  I bring up my old grumble here simply because the new development reminds me of it and because it is (after all) useful blog material.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A delightful evening here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, especially considering that we’re sitting dead red in the center of August.  Loafing out on the porch, Ol’ Robbo thought he might provide you a few dainties on which to nibble as the sun goes down:

♦  Today was Ol’ Robbo’s second telework day of the new regime.  I think I can get used to this.  And yes, I’m finding it to actually be quite productive.  The question no doubt flies around the decanter, “So, was he wearing pants?”  Well, if you ask the Magic 8-Ball, you’ll only get the answer, “Reply hazy, ask again later“.

♦  I’m sorry, but as dearly as I love both Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, “Bringing Up Baby” is just not a funny movie.  “Holiday” is funny.  “Adam’s Rib” is funny.  But “Baby”? Just too manic and cutesy.  I don’t care what anybody else says. (I tried to re-watch it the other evening and couldn’t stick more than about half an hour.)

♦  Ol’ Robbo was excited to try out his brand new pair of running shoes this afternoon.  My previous pair was so old that I can’t even remember when I bought them.  They were so worn out that the heels were literally crumbling, causing my ankles and knees to corkscrew when I walked on the treadmill in them.  Not good.  I try not to fling my gold about more than necessary on personal items, but this purchase seemed to me quite justified.

♦  The consolation of having to go back to the Metro to commute to my new office is that I get a little extra reading time in.  Obviously, in such conditions one can’t get into anything too heavy or profound, so I’ve circled back round to my shelf of adventure stories.  At the moment, I’m revisiting H. Rider Haggard, specifically King Solomon’s Mines.  (I plan to read the rest of the Quartermain stories in turn.)  I half-hope that some SJW witnit will spot it and give me grief for my un-wokeness, but I’m not terribly optimistic.  These people are just too pathetically ignorant.

♦  Some fascinating conversations with Eldest Gel this week.  The other day we discussed God’s omniscience and existence outside of Time as it relates to Fatalism and Free Will. “Look,” she said in her direct way, “God knows what you’re going to do, of course.  But you’re still the one who makes up your mind to do it! Otherwise, you’re just a slave or a robot!”  Today, it was Schrödinger’s Cat.  I tried to suggest this was just a thought experiment, but she was having none of it. “The damned cat is either alive or it isn’t!” she said.  “It doesn’t matter at all whether you know it or not!  It’s like that tree in the forest – of course it makes a noise when it falls!”  It seems to me that a Gel who can avoid both the Scylla of Calvinism (and Islam) and the Charybdis of hipster quantum-theory navel gazing ought to go far.  Heh.

And yet this same Gel can’t seem to put her blasted dishes in the gorram dishwasher, no matter how much I rant.  Go figure.

Whelp, that’s about enough “filling up the corners” for now.***  Think I’ll toddle downstairs and see how my Beloved Nationals are doing.

See you in the Gardening Thread tomorrow.


***Spot the quote.  This ought to be an easy one.

UPDATE:  Ugh. Blown save.  Ol’ Robbo hates blown saves.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s mother passed away two years ago this week.  (August 5, to be precise.)

In what was actually a completely random coincidence, Ol’ Robbo found himself stopping by his local Wells Fargo branch today to finally close out the estate checking account he had set up as executor a couple months after her death.

The sensation was….strange.

I don’t think I’ve written a whole lot about it here (correct me if I’m wrong), but the Mothe’s demise hit me very, very hard, she being just about my closest friend in this world and my never  getting the chance to properly say goodbye, a long story with which I will not bore you.  As far as I can recollect now, after an initial period of shocked numbness, I spent the better part of a year plunged in grief and mourning and functioning, at best, robotically.  After that, while starting to get better generally, I still suffered occasional attacks of the blue devils, usually around holidays or significant anniversaries.

The real “coming out from under” moment occurred earlier this year, when Uncle had temporarily thrown all of us bureaucratic wage-slaves on the beach.  Having time on my hands, I went round to Father M’s parish.  Father M is good people.  He used to be a regular contributor at Mrs. P’s now-defunct Patem Peperium blog and a fairly frequent commenter here, although he now spends most of his social media time over on the FacePlant.  Anyhoo, he sat me down, shoved a cuppa kawfee in my hands, and invited me to open up.  Which I did.  I probably gassed and vented at him for a couple hours, while he very patiently sat by, dropping the occasional word of consolation and encouragement.   I left that day feeling infinitely better.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had bouts of grief since then.  But they’ve been shorter and shallower.  And I stopped being a mere robot.

Anyhoo, recently Ol’ Robbo has been feeling pretty durn good about things in general.  The office move has proved surprisingly refreshing, I’ve got back into regular exercise with gusto, and there are no major fires to put out on the home front at the moment.  (**Touches wood**)  Nonetheless, as I sallied forth today to do my bit of banking, I could feel again the tug of those same blue devils.  Pretty weak it was, but a tug nonetheless.

I know for a fact that the Mothe’s passing has forever changed me and that these occasional tugs will never go away completely.  But it’s got to the point where they surprise me when they happen.  And also where they have no real power over me.  Well, at least more than temporarily.  (There’s a passage in a book I’ve read about this phenomenon that I just can’t recall, unfortunately.  It’s going to drive me nuts now.)

Incidentally, being the good steward that I am, having cleared all the estate debts and distributed the bulk of the residue equitably among brother, sister, and Self, the princely sum that remained in the account today was a whopping $73 and change.  I pocketed that by way of an administrative fee (totally appropriate) and used it to buy a new pair of day-to-day shoes, my old ones having become noticeably ratty.  Call them the Mothe Memorial Top-Siders.

I think she’d probably like that.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Mrs. Robbo and I spent the better part of the day today running Youngest back out to summah camp for another two weeks, this time to serve a term on the kitchen crew.  I must admit that although I didn’t much care for having to leave so early this morning, the fog across the Potomac River Valley was very, very pretty.

The Gel and her fellows will spend the term waiting and bussing the tables full of ravenous campers.  Each of them is assigned a single cabin’s table, so sees the same dozen campers at each meal.  It appears that a certain bond grows up between them – certainly when the crew are named in recognition at the end-of-term ceremony, the responses from some of the cabins can be quite loud – which seems to be based at least in part on the server’s enthusiasm and theatricality.

To get into the spirit of the thing, Youngest went to some novelty shop this week and bought herself a Krusty Krab baseball hat, which she plans to wear on duty.  (That’s pretty typical of her brand of humor.)  I’ve an idea her table is going to be in for quite a ride.

Middle Gel did a turn on the kitchen crew a couple years ago.  She says it’s one of the hardest things she’s had to do but also one of the more rewarding.  (It doesn’t hurt that they get 80 hours of community service credit for it with their high school, too.)

We’ll see what Youngest thinks when we go to fetch her.

Oh, and speaking of running the Gel out to camp, just yesterday we received a polite notice from the Maryland State Police (complete with photograph) to the effect that they had clocked us going 76 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-270 the day we brought her back from her first term, and would we kindly cough up forty bucks.

I say “we”.  The truth of the matter is that I drove the Gel back alone myself that day, as Mrs. R was four states away visiting her parents.  However, since the title and registration for our Honda Juggernaut (which I was driving) are in her name, well, so far as the long arm of the law is concerned, she was the culprit.   Mrs. R is, as you might imagine, none to pleased with me about that.  (For the record, there is no loss of points or insurance fallout involved with this ticket.  They just want the money.  Had a more sinister penalty been involved, of course I would have taken the rap.  Eldest Gel, who is the closest thing there is to a Cromwellian Libertarian, demanded to know why I’m not facing jail time.)

I recognized the spot as soon as I came across it today – a work zone with a prominent warning of photo-enforcement.  They got me last time because I was out in the open, but this time I was able to wedge myself in beside a couple of semis and skootch through under cover.  (I didn’t slow down.  Only a suicidal lunatic would try to stick to 55 on I-270 when the traffic flow is going faster.  It’s one of the most beastly stretches of highway in the country, filled as it is with bat-shite crazy Murrland drivers.)

UPDATE:  I see where Professor Mondo, bringing his daughter up to UMD for grad school, has now seen first-hand why Ol’ Robbo applies the nearly-Homeric tag of “bat-shite crazy” to Murrland drivers every time he has occasion to comment upon them.

Friends, Ol’ Robbo confirmed this afternoon that long-time friend of the decanter Diane, aka Quilt Babe, posting her own material over at Ginosko, passed away some time toward the end of May.

She’d been posting fairly sparingly on her own blog for a while, but commenting here now and again and was pretty active over on FB.  A few weeks back, noticing that she seemed to have vanished there, too, I sent her a message, but never heard back.  Today I hunted up her home FB page and learned the news via comments posted by other friends.  So far as I can gather, there were no warning signs.  She last reported going into hospital for some surgery and then…..nothing.

I’m late coming to this news simply because one somehow never actually expects this sort of thing to happen.


Diane and I became blog friends way back in the Llama days, as I recall, and she was one of the stalwarts who stuck with Ol’ Robbo when he set up on his own here.  Her online comments were always wise and entertaining, and she and I had a number of behind the scenes discussions which brought me great comfort with their compassion and insight, she being a religious lady of some considerable depth.  I never got the chance to meet her in person, and I regret it all the more now.

Diane lived alone, having neither husband nor children, but I know she had a very close network of family and friends who loved her dearly.  She will be missed by many, including me.

Requiescat in pace.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is out on the back porch with a hot cuppa kawfee this early Sunday morning, watching the butterflies out in the buddleia.  We seem to have quite a few of the flittery little critters this year, mostly of the tiger swallowtail variety.

Watching them fool about, I’m reminded of a theory that was fashionable some years ago (string theory, maybe? chaos theory?) concerning the interconnectedness of all things.  It posited something to the effect that the beat of a butterfly’s wings in Africa could affect the course of a typhoon in the Pacific.  If I recall correctly, whoever it was who was pushing this theory (somebody on a book tour, I think) was using it to argue, in the end, that Mankind is a cancer on Mother Gaia.  (Environmentalist Gnostics are, to me, both the most annoying and the most dangerous variety of that cult.)

Of course, the observation of cause and effect and the ultimate interrelationship of all things goes straight back to Aquinas’s Five Proofs.  But this biznay about the African butterfly flattening Hong Kong always struck me as absurdist wanking.  I’m an organic being, just like the world at large, with a similar interrelationship among all my parts.  But a blister on my heel isn’t going to give me prostate cancer.  It seems to me that most localized phenomena are just that.  Besides, there isn’t just one butterfly, there are billions of them.  Surely all those minute impacts together make up a sort of white noise which, somehow, the world manages to muddle through.

Same with Mankind, I’m inclined to believe.

Anyhoo, it’s a lovely Sunday morning, I’m watching the butterflies in appreciation of God’s Creation, and I’m happy.  Hong Kong will just have to take care of itself.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth, and that you didn’t have to pay for it too badly when you woke up yesterday morning.

For myself, Ol’ Robbo had to roll out of bed at Oh-dark-thirty in order to get on the road first thing to fetch Youngest Gel from Summah Camp. (It’s about a three hour drive from Port Swiller Manor and I have always had a morbid fear and hatred of possibly being late for all the closing awards ceremonies and whatnot.  Punctuality is one of my neurotic obsessions.)  What with very light traffic yesterday, however, I wound up getting there wicked early, but there’s no harm in that.

As regular friends of the decanter know, this camp has been an annual ritual for the Family Robbo for quite a long time.  This was Youngest’s tenth year as a camper and our twelfth year there overall.  It occurred to me that for all I’ve talked about it here, I don’t believe I’ve ever employed visual aids before.  Since I happened to have my phone with me, a couple of illustrations.

First the lake.  (Clicky to enlarge.)

This is Lake Quemahoning (sensibly shortened to “the Que”)  up in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Pennsylvania. The camp is on a little promontory on the northwest side, and the lake curves on out of view to the right.  Back to the left, it goes on for quite a way.  

Then the cabins.

Two-story wooden affairs with indoor plumbing and electricity but only screen windows.  (Frankly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in one of those things when one of the many, many thunderstorms that seem to cook up right over the lake itself strikes.)  This is the girls’ side.  The boys’ cabins are on the other side of camp and don’t have as nice a view of the lake, I believe.

For the rest of it, there’s a big, screened dining hall, a covered basketball court cum assembly area with rafters full of barn swallows, a few admin buildings, and a campus covered with sports fields, a pool, zip-lines and ropes courses, and such.  The lake is heavily employed for various water sports, and the kids also do field trips out into the surrounding countryside for rock-climbing, caving, white-water rafting, and the like.

Three things about the place make it almost unique these days.  First, it is unabashedly Christian in every single aspect of its program. Second, no electronics – the only communication with the outside world is through cards and letters.  Third, it takes campers all the way up through the summer after their high school graduation.

As a rising senior, Youngest technically could camp for one more year.  But as we drove away yesterday, she said, “I’m done.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because we had such a good time this term and so many of my cabin mates aren’t coming back that I don’t want to ruin the memory.  I’d feel too old and out of place if I got put in a cabin with younger girls next year.  It just wouldn’t be the same.”

I had sensed something like this was coming.  It had been pretty obvious to me, when we went to their final cabin meeting, that a lot of the girls (including the two counselors) had been crying, and the whole atmosphere was heavy with a distinct end-of-an-era feel.  It’s terribly bittersweet, and given the intimacy of the group (a dozen gels who’d all been together last year and most of whom had been there for many years previously as well), as intense or even more so in its way than, say, leaving high school.  Ol’ Robbo found himself getting a bit misty-eyed in sympathy.

For all that, I’m pretty sure she made the right call.

The good news is that we may not be campers there anymore, we haven’t yet severed our connections with the place.  Ol’ Robbo will be driving Youngest back in August when she will be doing a term on the kitchen crew.  (No way am I going to let her drive up into the Alleghanies all by herself.  No. Way.)  Further, she and some of her cabin mates are talking about coordinating a term on the crew next summah.  Indeed, she’s even begun talking again about possibly returning as a counselor (as has Middle Gel).

So I certainly haven’t seen the last of the place yet, which is fine by me since, despite my gentle ragging over the years, I really, really like it.  And is it too early to start daydreaming about some day down the road maybe seeing grandchildren there?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Robbo Family tradition played out today, as Mrs. R and I carted Youngest Gel off to two weeks at Bible-Thumper Camp.  This is the Gel’s tenth year there as a camper and she’ll go back for another two week stint in August as a member of the kitchen crew.  (She also intends to set the Port Swiller Family record by going back next year for her eleventh, possibly as a team captain, thus doing down Middle Gel, who chose to spend the summah of her senior year in high school at the Young Life camp up to Upstate New York.)

I use the “Bible-Thumper” moniker here in completely good-natured jest.  The camp is unabashedly Christian in its mission and activities, is run by Evangelicals and is staffed by college kids from places like Liberty University and Grove City College.  As what’s left of our so-called culture hurtles ever more swiftly into the abyss, Ol’ Robbo isn’t going to let a few theological disputes between them and the Old Religion prevent him from welcoming these folks as allies. (The camp motto is: God First, Others Second, I’m Third.)  Plus, after all these years, not one of the Gels has reported any snake-handling sessions there….

I keed.  I keed!

On the other hand, as always, a stream of “Christian Rock” was blaring over the loudspeakers over to the main assembly area.   Theology aside, from a purely aesthetic point of view, Ol’ Robbo has always found this particular musickal genre pretty vile.  What I say is, if Gregorian Chant is good enough for me, it’s good enough for these young whipper-snappers!

Lawn.  Off.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Trinity Sunday!

Ol’ Robbo was quite pleased this week to see Notre Dame Cathedral celebrate its first Mass since the fire back in April.  I was particularly delighted, in a way, to see everybody wearing hard hats.  Perseverance in the face of calamity.  The words “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” immediately flashed across my braims.

(I’m also pleased to see that all the “let’s rebuild the Cathedral as an eco-friendly multi-purpose center with lots of glass and light and a minaret” clickbait claptrap has vanished from the innertoobs ever since the French Senate said “Non!”  I have one friend on FacePlant in particular who was practically on the verge of self-immolation, she was so upset at the prospect.)

So Vacation Bible School starts this week over to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church.  Eldest Gel, who has been involved in the hospitality side of the program for some time, is in charge of the whole thing this year, and has been industriously counting hotdogs and juice boxes to make sure the little darlins’ are adequately fed.  I don’t know why, but she’s always delighted in this sort of thing.  Perhaps a career in culinary or hospitality management is in order?

Looking over, by the bye, I see the theme of VBS this year is “One Family, One Race, One Savior”.  Well, it ain’t exactly the Little Maoist Antifa Boot-Camp, but coupled with the fact that the RFEC  seems to have dubbed next Sunday as “Refugee Sunday”, I’m not sure it’s really all that far off, either.

UPDATE: Oh, and of course Happy Fathers Day to all of you!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Pentecost!

I saw an article this afternoon penned by Missourah Senator Josh Hawley and concerned with what he sees as a manifestation of heretical Pelagianism in our modern society.

Ol’ Robbo isn’t especially up on the particular shades of historickal heresies (I know just a wee bit about the various false arguments regarding the nature of Christ such as Arianism and Nestorianism), so I can’t vouch one way or the other for Sen. Hawley’s take, but this is about the first time I can recall a politician even trying to make this kind of argument.  It’s refreshing and intriguing.

But whether it’s Pelagianism, Neo-Paganism, something else, or a mix thereof, I think it pretty much reduces to the expression “Non serviam!”

They can count me out.

A glass of wine with Ed Driscoll over at the Puppy-Blender’s place.



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