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“I’m Your Huckleberry…”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Have you slapped an Arian yet today?  No? Well there’s still plenty of time.

Actually, if the good Bishop of Myra were here today, he’d have so many different slap-worthy heretical targets, his arm probably would fall off.  Indeed, I’d pay good money to see what he would have made of the first hipster-doofus he came across who said, “Well, like, Jesus was just this really enlightened guy, you know? And I’m sure he’d be a Democratic Socialist now….”

Might be easier of course, just to release the Krampus.

Actually, Ol’ Robbo saw a very nice thing in keeping with St. Nicholas’s more charitable side today:  I was standing in line at my usual sammich shop when I noticed a decrepit old woman, who had been loitering around out front, slowly make her way in the door.  (She was hunched over, had a cast on one leg and a cane, and was mumbling to herself continually.)  In so doing, she hung up a young fellah who was coming in behind her.  Rayther than going around her and pretending she wasn’t there, he very patiently waited until she was through the door.  Then he sat her down at the nearest table, explained the menu to her (which I’m sure she could neither see nor read up on the wall), and then went and bought her some lunch.

Bless you, dude.  You did good.

UPDATE:  Same sammich shop today, different decrepit old man, and I was the one coming up to the door behind him.  Since he asked me to help him to a meal and not for money, I took him in and set him up with a sammich and chips.

Ol’ Robbo is not very good at this kind of face-to-face thing.  I do most of my charity through donations to food banks, Goodwill, and the like.  Some years ago I tried to make an effort on the more personal lines, and was amazed at how many times I got snarled at for offering food or drink but not money.  So I don’t do it any more.

So today, another customer in line offered me five bucks to, as he put it, “help defray” this guy’s meal.  I politely turned him down and he seemed surprised and even a little offended.  Was this wrong of me?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with a nice, tall stack of new-to-me books with which to wile away his moments of leisure.  Let’s have a look at ’em:

First, I mentioned borrowing Monty Python Speaks from my brother in a post below.  However, he also pressed upon me another book about which he has been raving for some time:  Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.  It tells of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 through the lens of the story of one Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist with the Gubmint Weather Bureau, apparently by means of lots of original documentation and testimony.

Ol’ Robbo has had pretty good success with what might be called forensic natural history books.  (See, e.g., Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm and Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa.)  So I’m looking forward to this one.

Next, a large bumper of wine with Our Maximum Leader for his recent recommendation of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat!  The book, which relates a two-week jaunt upon the Thames by three boon companions plus the dog Montmorency, is an absolute hoot (apart from a few Gawd Help Us passages in which the author waxes lyrical about Truth, Beauty, and Nature), combining Edwardian middle-brow smart-assery with Shaggy Dog stories in a most delightful and jaunty style.

Jerome was a generation or two older than Plum Wodehouse, but I believe I see a definite gunnegshun between the two in terms of background, light presentation, and tongue-in-cheek sensibilities.  (Also, Jerome was pals with W.S. Gilbert, who Plum knew and admired as a young man, so there’s that, too.)

(By the bye, I picked up the Penguin Classics edition of this book which also contains its sequel, Three Men on the Bummel, in which the same trio of friends takes a bicycling tour in Germany.)

Also, another bumper of wine with long time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, who recently sent Ol’ Robbo a package containing three historickal novels about Colonial America by Allan W. Eckert: The Conquerors, The Wilderness Wars, and Wilderness Empire.  Ol’ Robbo has no objections whatsoever to history set in novel form, so long as it is accurate and well done, of course, and greatly looks forward to trying these books out.  ODT also sent The Old Dominion At War:  Society, Politics, and Warfare in Late Colonial Virginia, by James Titus.  This is a straight academic study, but is of particular interest to Ol’ Robbo because of my own family connections to the Virginny Frontier in the 1750’s and ’60’s.

I should also here mention ODT’s previous gift of David Preston’s Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution.  Immensely informative, particularly about the shear logistical problems faced by both the British and the French in trying to put forces into southwestern Pennsylvania in the 1750’s (and to get them out again).  I will admit, however, that there is something about Preston’s prose style that is very slightly off-putting to me.  (I confirmed this when I also bought and read his The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but as a chronicler of the great struggle between France and Britain for control of North America and the rise of the New American Republic, I don’t think he’s quite as clear as his modern contemporary Fred Anderson, nor is he anywhere near as dramatic as the great Francis Parkman.  But never mind.

Oh, and I don’t want to get in copyright trouble here, but I do encourage you all to go look up the painting Washington at the Battle of Monongahela by Emmanuel Leutze, which is used to illustrate the cover of Preston’s book.  It’s part of a series Leutze did on Washington which also includes the famous Crossing of the Delaware.  A thoroughly, thoroughly beautiful piece of art.  (I must go see the original some time, which I believe is in a local museum dedicated to the Battle.)

And finally, speaking of books and art and historickal matters, let me circle back round to something I mentioned here a few days ago, namely that I was planning to watch the 1954 Kirk Douglas movie, “Ulysses“.

Whelp, all I can say is that if any friend of the decanter was considering following my lead, I can strongly advise not to bother.  The film is pretty hum-drum, contains very cheesy special effects, and is mostly in Italian with badly-dubbed English superimposed.  (And I never liked Kirk Douglas, anyway.)  In fact, the movie even screwed up Ulysses’ famous encounter with the Sirens, in that it didn’t even show them! You only get Douglas being lashed to the mast (I’ll be he enjoyed it, too, IYKWIMAITYD), and then some ethereal voices cooing about Home and Penelope.  Yeesh!

You want Ulysses and the Sirens? This is how you Ulysses and the Sirens!

“Ulysses and the Sirens” by Herbert James Draper (1864-1920)


Anyhoo, what I really wanted to say relating back to historickal fiction was this:  Most people these days, if they’ve heard of Robert Graves at all, associate him only with either Goodbye To All That, his WWI autobiography, or his I, Claudius historickal novels.  The fact of the matter is that Graves wrote around ten such novels, some set in Classickal Times, some set in other eras.

Among the Classicks novels is one called Homer’s Daughter.

You see, there is a theory (generally accepted, I believe), that The Iliad and The Odyssey were not composed by the same author (and that there may not, in fact, have been a historickal “Homer” at all).  There is another theory (perhaps less accepted) that The Odyssey was actually composed by a woman (based largely on the fact that so much more attention is paid in it to domestic themes).  Graves took this idea and composed a novel in which a young princess named Nausicaa tells the story of how her father’s kingdom on a little island off Sicily came under peril from bumptious and ambitious noblemen who sought to loot her father’s house, marry her, and depose him, and how a mysterious royal castaway appeared and helped her, her mother, and her little brother defeat these nobles in the absence of her father, the King, and her elder brother.  At the end (and I don’t think I’m giving any spoilers here), Nausicaa allows one of the suitors, a member of the Poets’ Guild, to live in exchange for his promise to take her story, transpose it into verse, and insert it into the Homeric Cycle.

It’s nicely done, pays keen attention to the sensibilities of the period, and is a fun afternoon’s read.

So that’s that.

And for those of you who may be thinking, “But Robbo, you do know it’s Advent, don’t you?”  I say yes, yes, I am planning to put in time on that reading front, too.  I believe my author of choice this season is going to be Frank J. Sheed, who I find has a singular talent for clear, crisp theological discussion nicely calculated to penetrate the brains and souls of even such shallow, debauched, and ungrateful louts as Ol’ Robbo.

UPDATE: Middle Gel is reading “Hamlet” in school.  This evening, she approached me seeking advice on a question she has to answer about the play: What do the characters of Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia “symbolize” to Hamlet?

“Whaddaya mean by ‘symbolize‘?” I asked.

I don’t know,” the Gel said, “That’s just the question.  My teacher said something about ‘Oedipal complexes’.”

Cor lumme, stone the crows. Freudian freakin’ analysis.  The Gel came to me because I was an English major back in the day, but unfortunately for her, I managed to get a degree that concentrated on things like the Bard’s linguistic beauty, his dramatic deftness, and his keen insights into all (emphasis, all) aspects of human nature, not just those associated with funny feelings in his characters’ pants or the dark sides of their brains.

God forgive me, but my advice to the Gel?  Make up some psycho-babble answer.  They can’t get her for that, after all….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Owing to the road closures associated with today’s lighting of the White House Christmas Tree, ol’ Robbo had to take the metro in for the first time in quite a while.


In the end it didn’t prove to be too bad an ordeal, actually, but it got me thinking again about a looming future conundrum:  My office is moving to a new building some time in 2019.  It’s about two miles farther away from home than my present digs, and in a less-desirable section of Your Nation’s Capital.  At this point, I’ve no idea what I’m going to do about the new commute.  Assuming I’ll even have access to a decent parking lot, the extra travel along DC’s downtown streets is going to be a major pain.  On the other hand, getting there by metro would involve changing trains in addition to all the other drawbacks to mass transit, and will be of an equally major pain.

(Well, I do know one thing: When we make the big jump I’m finally going to sign up for our telework option, which would allow me to go in only three days a week instead of five.  I’ve avoided it so far because of all the bureaucratic hoops one has to jump through in terms of set up and terms of use, but I think the move will finally make such jumping worthwhile.)

Speaking of the Metro, I see where the Archdiocese of Washington is taking a slap at it over Metro’s refusal to carry their holiday-season ad campaign.  Apparently, Metro now has guidelines rejecting “advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief”.  This is sort of funny, because Ol’ Robbo recalls that in the not-too-distant past, the Militant Atheists would run their own yearly ad campaign in the system round about now.  I expect the current policy is the WMATA’s way of saying “leave us the hell out of all this”.  (I also assume that the Atheists would get turned down if they tried to place such ads this year, too.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I would imagine that some friends of the decanter (especially those who are still here from the old “meaty, woolly, snippy” Llama Days), particularly after reading a goofy, aimless post like the one immediately below, sometimes ask themselves, “Self? Whatever happened to the old Robbo who was so caustic about the continual cultural and politickal slide into the slime?”

(And as an aside, how was that for a Hardyesque cracker of a sentence?)

Well, I suppose there are a couple of reasons for my steering away from that sort of thing these days.

The first is prudential.  As you know I work in The Swamp.  My first obligation is to support the Port Swiller Family, and it doesn’t seem particularly responsible to endanger my career and their livelihood so that I can indulge in unfettered gratuitous ranting here.  (Not that I would expect a genuine friend of the decanter to rat me out, but what happens if some random Socialist Juicebox Wanker stumbles in here and decides to come after me?  Better wait until I’m retired to say what I really think.)

The second is simple time and energy.  While I keep up with the individual waypoints of this slide – the current Hollywood unmaskings, the NFL debacle, the Roy Moore witch-hunt, etc., – very keenly, frankly, by the end of the day (when I have time to post), there’s nothing much left to say that somebody like Ace or Insty hasn’t already said.  Plus, to be honest, I’m bloody sick and tired of it.  It’s only where I think I have some specific, first-hand knowledge or insight that I feel the urge to put in my two cents.  But then,  see point one.

Most importantly, although, as I say, I keep up with it all, I find myself increasingly detached from the whole awful biznay because I recognize its ultimate meaninglessness in relation to, ah, Higher Priorities.   So you can imagine with what resonance and empathy Ol’ Robbo savored part of yesterday’s reading at Mass from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

– Philippians 3:17-21  (Yes, I quote the KJV here.  Got a problem with that?)

I can’t think of a plainer or more accurate description of the people who dominate the headlines these days than those “whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”

And I want nothing to do with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Halloween is upon us.

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo is not at all fond of this “holiday”.

Indeed, this year, I didn’t even bother to carve a jack-o-lantern, even though this is one of the very few aspects of the day that I’ve always really rather enjoyed, as I see it as a vestige of the original spirit of the day and not the product of the nasty modern secular/commercial virus which has infected this and just about every other holiday (with the possible exceptions of the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving) in this wretched day and age.  (So long as we’re talking three triangles and a toothy grin, and none of this fancy-shmancy “pumpkin art” stuff, mind you).   We have a pumpkin, but it remains un-lobotomized and faceless on the front porch, and will stay there in such condition probably until the beginning of Advent.

Not that it matters much.  What with where Port Swiller Manor lies in relation to the rest of the neighborhood, we get very, very little traffic here.  Even our next door neighbors, who have three small kids, general go off to the trick or trunk at the local church.  UPDATE: Of course as I typed this, some kiddies showed up at the door!

Also, of course, the Gels have outgrown the day, so there’s nothing much in it for us now.  Indeed, the only nod paid was by Youngest Gel, who went to school in a home-made Waluigi costume that consisted of nothing more than a long-sleeved purple shirt and a set of “overalls” jury-rigged from her jeans and a pair of suspenders she borrowed from me.  Truth be told, she looked rather fetching.

Fortunately, tomorrow is All Saints Day, one of Ol’ Robbo’s very favorites in the entire calendar.  So I will spend the balance of this evening hiding, and looking forward to a better day in the morning.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely Saturday at Port Swiller Manor today.  The weather’s supposed to break tomorrow, but for now porch-sitting and dinner grilling is the order of things.

The leaves are starting to come down, but fortunately not in such numbers that I can’t simply run them over and mulch them in as I mow the lawn.  That’s an image that has always given Ol’ Robbo an immense amount of satisfaction, by the bye; the clean, green swath through the dapple of oranges and browns.  I also love the smell when leaf mulch gets up on to the mower chassis and starts to smoke.

So on the one hand, Mrs. Robbo went down to Flahrduh to visit her parents and grandmother (who just turned 94) this weekend, while on the other the Eldest Gel came home from school for a little R&R after finishing up her midterms.  She and I and the Youngest sat around for about an hour this morning, companionably trading observations and anecdotes about the insanity of the world around us.

Ol’ Robbo was pleased that the Gels were so chummy with each other:  For a long time, the Eldest thought the Youngest so social, flighty and frivolous that it was only a matter of time before she turned up one day with a pierced nose, tats all over, a biker boyfriend, and/or a head full of SJW Cultural Marxist propaganda.  And out of a spirit of what can only be called divilment, the Youngest loved to jerk on the Eldest’s very short chain.  As a result, there was a period of almost continual feuding between them.  Fortunately, while the Youngest remains extremely social, and does in fact have a Young Man (a very good kid, by the bye, who is causing ol’ Robbo little or no anxiety),  she is increasingly showing the skepticism and common sense with which Mrs. R and I have spent all this time trying to equip her for dealing with Life.

Skepticism (about worldly things) and common sense.  To that, I’d also add Faith (in Godly things), although we’re still working on that one.  (Middle Gel is the only one of the three who I would describe as explicitly Christian, in that I know she spends a lot of time thinking about it.   The other two have the Spirit in them as well, not very far down below the surface, but still not as consciously developed.)  And what is both remarkable and gratifying is how strong an armor this combination is proving to be as they navigate the pitfalls of this wretched world, whether it be peer-pressure, academic brainwashing, or media assault.  There are still many things on my Dad Card for me to worry about, but that any of them will turn out dupes, snowflakes,  or wrong ‘uns is not one of them.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just done mowing the yard here at Port Swiller Manor and wondering how many more times this year I’ll need to do so.  Twice at the most, I reckon.  At the moment, there’s a large flock of robins out back going over the trimmings.  We generally have a few hanging around all year, but I think this is probably a migratory bunch on their way from hither to yon.  Certainly the hummingbirds seem to have packed up and left.

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo’s lawn-mowing turned out to be a Sunday chore this week because we spent most of yesterday visiting my godparents, who live about an hour away from us.  Uncle and I had a long talk about the Mothe – he’d known her nearly 60 years – and I’ve been feeling a good deal better since.

Meanwhile, on a completely random note, for some mysterious reason the shopping cart I was pushing around the store today in search of this evening’s din-din components kept building up a static charge:  I could feel my hair pringling and got my fingers zapped every time they moved off the plastic bar onto the bare metal.  Very strange.  Perhaps Black Lectroids were trying to contact me?  That would explain the voice in my head that keeps saying, “Hallo! Mah nem is Jon Pahrker!”

In the World of Baseball, congratulations to the Astros for holding off the Yankees in the ALCS.  I don’t think a Yankees/Dodgers series would have appealed to many folks outside their respective markets, but I imagine now the ‘Stros will be the favorites of the rest of the country.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Five o’clock and time for a glass of sherry!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, what can I say?  Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals went to Game 5 of the NLDS, and all I got was this lousy hangover!

It was a truly weird and unfortunate season-ender.  Weird because of such things as Mad Max melting down and Wieters getting a catcher interference call and a bat to the head on the same swing.  Unfortunate because, given a whole bunch of different factors, this was probably our best shot for a while.  Also because of all the “Nats still aren’t ready for Prime Time” tisk-tisking out in Baseball Pundit Land which I’m sure we will have to endure.


As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo hadn’t much confidence going into this series in the first place, simply because I didn’t really think the Baseball Gods would allow us to beat both the Odd-Year Curse and the Post-Season Oh-fer at the same time.  What the BG’s giveth, the BG’s taketh away.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo of an anecdote I may have told here before.  As long-time friends of the decanter may recall, Eldest Gel spent 7th and 8th grades in parochial school.  One time while we were chatting with the padre, she decided, in typical 8th Grader fashion, to try and spike Ol’ Robbo.

Father,” she suddenly exclaimed, “My dad says there are Baseball Gods!”

The padre, who is an avid fan himself and also knew exactly what the Gel was trying to do, without batting an eye said, “Of course there are Baseball Gods.”

The look on Eldest’s face at that response?  Priceless.

Anyhoo, there we are.

Going forward? Well, Ol’ Robbo is probably inclined to back the Astros, who I’ve had a feeling for quite some time are likely going to win it all anyway. On the other hand, I’ve no real animus toward either the Cubbies or the Dodgers. (Of course, my loathing of the Yankees goes without saying.)

Double sigh.

What else is there to say, now, except:

Pitchers and catchers report in four months! 




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is reminded again this evening of his love/hate relationship with October Baseball, as his beloved Nationals, behind the dominant pitching of Strasburg and the very first franchise post-season grand slam courtesy of Michael A. Tater, crush the Cubbies 5-0 at Wrigley, avoid ignominious elimination,  and send the division playoffs to Game 5 tomorrow night back home at Nats Park.

I say “love/hate” because the emotional tides are so damn strong that they leave me, literally, physically exhausted after each game.  When we lose, I find myself in a thoroughly filthy temper (indeed, enough to send me to the confessional Saturday).  When we win? Euphoria.

Does that seem right to you?

Anyhoo, we play for all the marbles tomorrow night.  What else is there to say, except:



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had to spend some time this morning dealing with Amex’s customer service.  The first part was fighting my way past the automated “Alex” (or whatever her name is) customer service drone in order to hook up with a real person.  The second part included, among other things, arguing to someone in India that, yes, Mrs. Robbo was supposed to have full administrative rights and privileges to Ol’ Robbo’s little green card, thank you very much.


Thinking about it, though, the positive side occurred to me:  How blessed am I that have a wife in whom I can so completely and confidently trust with such powers.  That she is the CFO of the Port Swiller Family is a comfort to me, not a concern.

Just saying.  From what I gather, this is not the case with many other couples in these wretched times.

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