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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope that you all are adjusting to your seasonal fasts. Ol’ Robbo is almost there himself, although the giving up of the grape is always something of a wrench. This year I have found real solice in repeating to myself “Offer it up!”

Somewhat relatedly, the signs have all pointed me to really concentrate my readings and meditations this year on the subject of love, particularly love as selflessness. I’ve long known that if one is asking the question “What’s in it for me?”, one is doing it wrong, but some recent epiphanies and observations have convinced me to try and probe much deeper into the matter.

After all, all you need is love.

(“John Lennon. Smart man! Shot in the back. Very sad.”)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is hugely enjoying his last evening before Lent with a large glass of wine and watching his beloved Nats in a spring training game against the Astros.

I will be giving up the grape for Lent, but not baseball.

Pity tonight’s broadcast is a rerun of this afternoon and I already know how it ends, but ST is more about studying the talent, right? Just damned good to be back. (I used to get the same feeling in spring training when I coached the Gels in softball.)

BTW, not to invoke the wrath of the Baseball Gods, but Ol’ Robbo’s got a goooooood feeling about his beloved Nats this year.

You read it here first.

GO, NATS!!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself on the back porch of Port Swiller Manor this morning, drinking a cup o’ Joe and continuing to enjoy the ridiculously lovely weather we’ve been having in these parts of late.  Alas, it’s all supposed to end later today, with showers/storms this afternoon and plunging temperatures tonight.

Heigh, ho.  At least one advantage is that a more seasonal late winter will help Ol’ Robbo get his head straight for Lent, which starts Wednesday.  Awfully hard to get into the spirit of the season when it’s so damn nice out.

Anyhoo, last weekend I spent some time hauling sticks and branches and generally cleaning up the yard.  In the process, I seem to have pulled something in my back, and it’s still bugging me.  Have I really reached the point where I’m going to have to so stretches and put on a protective brace before doing yard work?

That’s sobering prospect.

Not Robbo's Usual Christmas Eve View

Not Robbo’s Usual Christmas Eve View

Greetings, my fellow Port Swillers!

Yes, it can be revealed now that ol’ Robbo is safe and sound back at Port Swiller Manor:  We drove to Florida (pronounced “Flahr-duh” by the snowbird transplants) for Christmas this year, chiefly to spend time with Mrs. R’s grandmother, who is confined to a rehab facility with health issues.  We arrived there just before lunch time on Christmas Eve and just in time to listen to a gaggle of kids come in and serenade the inmates with appropriate holiday songs.  Seeing said grandmother surrounded by great-grand-daughters and listening with evident delight was quite touching.

And yes, ol’ Robbo got himself to Mass on Christmas morning.  The padre had such a thick Brooklyn accent, I couldn’t understand him at first.  Alas, I was able to pick up on it in time for his homily, which (despite its perfectly orthodox message about God’s presence) was mostly one-liners and Oprah-like Inspirational Stories.  The congregation applauded.  I glared.

All in all, however, a nice trip.

Except for this driving biznay.  Two thousand miles there and back exactly, according to my odometer.  And yesterday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of another night mewed up in a hotel room with the gels, we decided to make the return home non-stop.  (We had split the down-trip over three days, in part so the gels could have an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios as a present from the grandparents.)  Fourteen and a half hours (or near enough) on the road – a personal record for me – nearly all of it on I-95 which, south of Dee Cee, is at once both terrifying and grindingly dull.  (And yes, I did all the driving.)

This morning, I still can’t feel my left thumb or forefinger for all that compulsive clutching at the wheel.

This was our third road trip to Flahrduh in about ten years.  Mrs. R and I decided that it was also our last:  Next time, we fly.

 

"The Nativity" - Botticelli

“The Nativity” – Botticelli

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, what with commitments too complicated to get into here, it looks as if Ol’ Robbo will not be able to find the time to get at the Port Swiller keyboard again soon.  So let me go ahead and wish you all here and now a very, very Merry Christmas!  (And yes, I’ve been saying that instead of “Happy Holidays” all over the place the past couple days.  Snooks to them!)

Through prayer and concentration over the last few years, I am happy to say that I believe I have just about battle-proofed myself against the pernicious effects of the modern, secular X-mas spirit, and can instead focus on the True Meaning relatively (albeit not completely) free of such distractions.

And in that vein, let us again savor Luke’s description (and yes, even though I’m now a Catholic, I can’t let go of the beauty of the King James Version):

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

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

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

4 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:)

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

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

7 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.

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

9 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 Saviour, 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.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

– Luke 2: 1-20

I don’t know why it is, but every time I read or hear this passage – particular verses 13 and 14 – I get the chills.  (Well, I guess I do know why, actually.  Alas, I’d love to be able to convey the feeling – in word, paint, or note – but unfortunately haven’t anything like the skill to do so.)

Anyhoo, as I say, have a merry, joyous Christmas for all the right reasons!  (And try to behave yourselves.)  I’ll see you all on the other side and, having topped off my glass of port and heaved an enormous sigh, may perhaps give you some highlights of my own.  (As I say, it’s all going to be very complicated.)

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s office “holiday” party was held today.  Ol’ Robbo  cut it completely dead.

Honestly, I can think of very few things more boring, yet at the same time more dangerous, than one of these office shindigs.  Boring because, in my misanthropic opinion, all parties are boring.  (Karaoke? Seriously? How old are you?) Dangerous because, well…., let’s just say that Ol’ Robbo’s general world-view is not exactly aligned with the majority sentiment in his place of employment.  And one would not want the odd casual observation to cry Hater! and let slip the dogs of politickal correctness against oneself, now, would one?

So I quietly stuck to my desk.  Call it a Bartleby-style revolt against the Modern Age and all it stands for.

Of course, this was hardly spontaneous.  Not that anyone asked yet, but I was completely teed up with both the “I had some kind of stomach thing the other day and I don’t want to infect anyone” and the “Gosh, I’d love to come, but I’ve got to read through this depo transcript” excuses.  (Both true, as a matter of fact.)  Then there’s the “quiet, keeps to himself” persona I’ve been nurturing for many years.  They want to roll their eyes and shake their heads?  Let ’em!

At any event,  I think I’m covered.

Bah, humbug indeed.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of heads up before hand, but Ol’ Robbo has been away from Port Swiller Manor on biznay since last Sunday afternoon.  I’m writing out a draft of this post in longhand as I wing my way home Thursday morning, and (God willing) will have got back safe and sound and able to read my own scrawlings by the time it appears in pixel form here. (UPDATE:  I did, as you probably have figured out already.)

A beastly-rotten flight to Denver last Sunday – very late, over-booked, and horrid headwinds and cross-currents the entire way as that Arctic storm came sweeping into the west.  My two colleagues – seasoned fliers and not white-knuckled cowards like Ol’ Robbo – both said it was the worst flight they’d ever been on.  I came through surprisingly well, however, in part because I had reached a point of nervous exhaustion where I simply didn’t give a damn anymore, in part because I was highly amused by the early-middle-aged gal in the seat in front of me who got quite flown in drink and spent most of the flight hitting on the hunky young guy next to her.  (I noticed other people around us also rolling their eyes at each other and smiling.)

In contrast, this flight is shaping up to be fast, smooth, and uneventful.  So far, the only entertainment has been the big, snoring fellah next to me getting knee-capped by the hipster-doofus steward with the drinks cart.  The H-D didn’t even apologize.  (UPDATE:  Later on, the older woman sitting next to me invited me to look out the window at something or other on the ground as we came across the Appalachians.  I shamefully had to decline because of my fear of hights.  She seemed quite surprised.) Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has seen a great many tee-vee commercials recently for the 23 and Me DNA genetic testing outfit.  You know, the people who, if you send them some of your spit, can peg your historickal tribal roots.  I’ve also seen a running ad for Ancestry.Com in which people are invited to plug their names (and, presumedly, other personal info) into a data port sit up in some random public place, to be regaled by revelations of the existence and achievements of their immediate ancestors.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about all this.  On the one hand, the history geek within me applauds such research.  On the other, the innertoobs Luddite in me warns that, as with things like GPS and EZ-Pass technology, if you know this data, somebody else does, too.  Big Brother, anyone?

And that, frankly, makes me jumpy.

Speaking of ancestral research (here, the old-fashioned kind), I mentioned in my post-Thanksgiving post below the fact that my indefatigable elder cousin had established Robbo Family gunnegshuns to what is now western Virginia during colonial times.  Whelp, the woman actually did a road trip detour on her way home from the turkey feast and sent me the following on-the-ground report [interpolations in brackets are mine]:

I found several family sites in Rockbridge Co., VA, on 11/25/16.

1) The Kerr’s Creek Massacres are commemorated by a State Highway Historical Marker (title: Kerr’s Creek) about five miles west of the Washington & Lee Law School on Route 60, where there is an entrance to I-64. [Ol Robbo went to Dubyanell for law school and first met Mrs. R in an apartment complex on Route 60 just west of town.]

Kerr’s Creek was the southern border of the 1748 Borden grants of John and James Gilmore. Rt. 60 runs parallel to Kerr’s Creek, on the north side of the creek.  I must have been traveling across 18th century Gilmore property. It is pretty creek bottom land.

Our direct ancestors, John and Agnes Gilmore, Sr., were killed there in the First Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1759. Their son Thomas was killed in the Second Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1763, with the family kidnapped. [According to another of my cousin’s emails, Thomas’s wife and son were eventually repatriated by the French, who had bought them from the Shawnees.  The two daughters of the family were never heard of again.  In 1818, surviving members of the family [led, I recall, by Thomas’s brother James] joined a migration to Ohio, in large part over the question of slavery.  Another branch of my family ran a station on the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ohio and, as I’ve mentioned before, my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the 10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War who saw action in the Atlanta Campaign.]

2) The site of the 1746 New Monmouth Presbyterian Church, where the Gilmores attended, is marked at Whistle Creek on Rt. 60. The newer building of New Monmouth, still operating, is three miles further west.  [As I have mentioned before, the Old Gentleman’s family were just about pure-bred Scots Presbyterians.  Ol’ Robbo’s great-grandfather was a minister, in fact.  I chuckle at the idea that they are all turning in their graves over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has gone back to the Old Religion.]

3) High Bridge Presbyterian Church, where our direct ancestors Thomas and Agnes (Leech) Lackey are buried, is still operating on High Bridge Road (county route 693, at an overpass of I-81) off Rt. 11, just south of Natural Bridge, VA.  [This is another family branch. Without the chart in front of me, I can’t recall where they fit in, but I think it’s the next generation after the Gilmores mentioned above.]

4) The ruins of our direct ancestor James Gilmore’s 18th century mill can be seen by following Gilmore’s Mill Road off Rt. 130, at Natural Bridge Station. Gilmore’s Mill Road (Rt. 708) descends to and parallels the west bank of the James River. The ruins are where Cedar Creek runs into the James at the intersection of county routes 708 and 608.

5) James Gilmore’s c. 1780 brick two- story house View Mont, now Sydney Vale, is across the James from the Mill but is on private property and inaccessible.

I’ll give her credit: It’s all cool stuff, all the more so because my cousin does these things the old-fashioned way – through pouring over archives and getting out into the field.

On the other hand, her level of energy curiously exhausts me, especially when she hunts me down at family gatherings (armed with maps, genealogy tables and local historickal pamphlets) and proceeds to drill me in her most recent finds.  I mean, Ol’ Robbo is a history geek, but not that much of one. (The Gels, by the bye, have learned to flee my cousin’s very presence for fear of getting quizzed on family history.)

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t know why, since they do it every year, but ol’ Robbo was surprised and shocked this morning at hearing the first bits of Christmas musick being played on the local classickal station.

Indeed, my exact words were, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no!!”

As I say, it’s the same pattern: They start by doing a little “Christmas” fill-in at the top or bottom of the hour the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Gradually, they add more and more such musick to the playlist.  By the week of Christmas itself, the stuff is wall-to-wall and one is heartily, thoroughly, totally sick of it.

And on December 26?  Zilch. Nothing. Nada.  Back to regular programming as if nothing had ever happened.

Feh.

As I grow older and crankier, I resist this whole biznay more and more.  As of yesterday, it’s Advent, dammit, ADVENT!  (Happy Liturgical New Year, by the way!)  Christmas does not start until the evening of December 24th.  Furthermore, it doesn’t end until January 6 (or February 2, if you really want to kick it).

As a matter of fact, Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year, combining as it does a certain Lent-like repentance with an excitement over the impending arrival on earth of our Lord.  Thus, yesterday ol’ Robbo duly put up wreaths on the front doors of Port Swiller Manor swathed in purple ribbon and also built an appropriate Advent table wreath.

Sigh.  I know, I know.  The whole modern “Christmas Season” is just a secular, commercial-driven co-opting of the Christian tradition (well, at least of its more surface-y traits).  And every year, it’s more about the co-opting and less about the tradition.  (See, for example, the gradual displacement of the greeting “Merry Christmas!” with the much more anodyne and meaningless “Happy Holidays!”  Try the former at work and you’ll find yourself hauled up in front of HR for hate speech.)

Need I point out that Scrooge did have at least something of a point?  Bah, humbug!

The good news is that the Gels get this as well.  Indeed, Eldest has taken to spending the period between Thanksgiving and the Real Christmas saying to everyone, “Merry Xmas!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are in Thanksgiving Week.  What with all the to-do coming over the next few days, Ol’ Robbo probably won’t get back to the blog much before Saturday.  I know this is hardly crushing nooz to the three or four of you who actually read this thing, but I thought I at least ought to let you know.

So, exit question:  Which was really the “First” Thanksgiving?

Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Fall, 1621, which some argue was arbitrarily imposed on the Country because the Yankees won the Civil War and got to re-write the history books;

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, December 4, 1619, which doesn’t look so good a) because of the above-referenced Yankee bias, and b) because the colony got wiped out three years later by the Powhatans;

St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565, which..I mean….Spanish and Catholic?  Can’t have that as the standard; or

Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and his expedition, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, April 30, 1598.  (See immediately above.)

(And, of course, there may be other claimants.)

Have at it, if you like.  But I also will leave you with something on which I’m sure we all can agree:

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends of the decanter, and I’ll see you on the other side!

 

 

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