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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This being All Saints Sunday in the Palie Church, I absolutely knew what I was in store for when I tagged along with the Family Robbo this morning: Hymn No. 293, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God“.  At Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, they sing this every All Saints Sunday.  And I cringe every time I hear it.

The words, by Lesbia Scott, are downright gooshy. (“You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea….”).  The setting, Grand Isle by John Henry Hopkins, starts out curiously similar to Arthur Sullivan’s “A British Tar is a soaring soul” before going off on its own gee-whiz, happy-clappy way.

One of the poorer choices for inclusion in the 1982 Palie Hymnal, in my humble opinion, but then Modernism (it was published in 1929) will let you down every time.

As a matter of fact, the Mothe and I used to mock this particular hymn back in the day by feigning over-enthusiasm when we sang it.  We’d sway and stick out our elbows and roll our eyes at each other.  And for the line “And I’m going to be one, too”, we always deliberately changed “going to” to “gonna”.

It’s just that kind of piece.

(Don’t judge us too harshly:  William Byrd, J.S. Bach, and Samuel Wesley, to name just a few, would have reacted exactly the same way!)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy All Saints Day!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo’s post the other day about the domestic crisis which had reared its ugly head at Port Swiller Manor over my disinclination to get a flu shot?

Well, after going to Mass at lunchtime today to mark the Solemnity and pondering the gentle Irish padre’s homily on the mosaic of little acts of love that make up the collage of saintliness in the ordinary person, I resolved to turn the other cheek, to render unto Mrs. Caesar that which is Mrs. Caesar’s, to Offer It Up in the cause of the sacramental bond of marriage.

In other words, to cave and get the damn shot.

This was my very first flu shot, by the bye, and I sheepishly confess that I may have been making much ado about nothing.  I had got it in my head that the vaccine was something akin to a tetanus booster, which hurts like the blazes, so you may imagine my surprise at what a trifling little prick it actually was.

Mrs. R was delighted when I showed her the band-aid this evening, but I fear we’re still at a rolling stalemate, much like Grant and Lee in the 1864 campaign.

“Don’t ever hector me like that again,” I said.

“Fine,” she replied, “Just get the shot in the first place next time.”

“No,” I said, “I mean don’t do that.”

“I won’t,” she replied, “If you just get the shot in the first place next time.”


At least I have the comfort of knowing that if I do come down with something this year, her “I told you so!” has been nullified.




Jack-O, the semi-inebriated, good-enough-for-gub’mint-work Official Port Swiller Lantern for 2016

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By the time when, well, anybody reads this post, it will probably already be October 31st, so let me go ahead an wish you all a happy Halloween!

Ol’ Robbo carved this year’s Jack-O on Sunday afternoon since I won’t get home till after dark tomorrow.  I didn’t bother to take a picture of it and simply repost this one from two years ago….because they look pretty much the same.  As I have stated before, Ol’ Robbo is a positive reactionary when it comes to jack-o-lanterns.  If it ain’t triangles, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t want to see it.  And I consider “pumpkin art” to be ridiculous.

In the meantime, I’ve seen several articles this year, some in jest and some in earnest, about the pitfalls of any kind of costume that at all appropriates “somebody else’s culture” or otherwise allegedly maligns some interest group or other.  Perhaps the most goofy kerfluffle I’ve seen has to do with the Sexy Handmaid’s Tale costume.  Funny how the SJW mob has no apparent problem with long-standing Sexy Nun costumes.  That’s different.  Because reasons.  Shut up, haters!

(Speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo is reminded of a Catholic children’s costume he saw years ago depicting the early Jesuit missionaries to Canada.  Some wag had written as a caption to the photo, “Just add Hurons!”  Ol’ Robbo still laughs and laughs at that.)

Of course, the costume flaps have nothing to do with offended sensibilities or respect for other cultures, and everything to do with bullying and control of us kulaks.  (But I suspect friends of the decanter know that already.)  I shudder to think what would be made of some of the costumes I donned over the years in this Neo-Jacobin atmosphere.  Thank Heaven I feel no desire whatever to suit up these days!  (If I did have to dress up, I think I’d go as Count Floyd. Surely they couldn’t get me for that, probably because they’d have no idea who he was. Really scary, huh, keeds? Awoooooooo!!)

Speaking of which, I learn that Eldest went Halloween Frat-Party hopping this past weekend dressed as Rosie the Riveter.  She told me she did this not to make any kind of Grrrrl-power statement, but largely because it allowed her to keep warm (overalls, denim shirt, and a head-scarf, you know) and that she laughed quietly to herself when her friends dressed in much skimpier outfits complained of being cold.  Heh.

I don’t know if Middle Gel is dressing up, but I learned of a neat thing they do at her school: All the freshman dorms have a hall-decorating contest, the winning hall being treated to pizza.  Then, faculty and staff bring their kiddies ’round to trick-or-treat in the halls, where the freshmen hand out goodies.  As I say, I think this is really neat.

As to Youngest, she’s not trick-or-treating at all this year, but is instead going to a Twenty One Pilots concert and dragging Mrs. Robbo along with her.  You will pardon me for taking a certain malign pleasure in the fact that Mrs. R has to go and I get to stay home.

As for myself, Ol’ Robbo plans, as per usual, to set out a bowl of candy on the front steps, light up Jack-O, and then go and hide in the basement to watch “Young Frankenstein“, easily the best Mel Brooks-produced movie evah because it was written by Gene Wilder and not by Mel himself.   No offense to Mr. Brooks, but while he can put together individual gags superbly, I never felt he could as successfully string them together to produce a satisfying movie-length narrative.

At any rate, Ol’ Robbo will see you on the other side on All Saints Day, probably my very favorite Feast of the entire liturgical year.  I like to think that on November 1st, the adults are back in charge.

UPDATE: To my knowledge, we had exactly two parties of trick-or-treaters, the kidz from next door and a younger bunch from down the street.  (Anybody want a Kit-Kat bar? We’ve got something of a surplus.)  We’re on the outer edge of our neighborhood – or the wrong side of the tracks as I sometimes say – and there’s no natural loop to get to our house.

Youngest found a friend to go to the concert with her, so for Mrs. R it was strictly Click and Clack’s Russian chauffer, Pickup Andropov. I am happy to say that even though the Gel got back extremely late, she went to school without a fuss this morning and got an A on a history test.

Oh, and the other thing? You realize Society has problems when you encounter people downtown and at the office on Halloween and you can’t be sure whether they are in costume or not.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Prayers up to the people of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Ol’ Robbo has actually, from time to time, thought about what he would do if some animal broke into his church during Mass and started shooting or assaulted the priest or tried to desecrate the Host.  Since I’m one of the more able-bodied men and don’t have anyone with me who would need shielding, my general thought is that it would be my obligation to at least try to do Something.

What that Something would be, I don’t really know.  Our church is (sadly) of in-the-round construction and has six different entrances spread around its circumference, so there are a great many possible scenarios.  Although I don’t let it distract me, I do generally try to keep aware of people moving in and out (which they tend to do throughout the service).

One thing I’ve thought of, at least.  The St. Michael Hymnal that we use is hardbacked.  If I ever found myself in a position in which I had to rush an attacker, I’d certainly grab a few of them for throwing on my way in. I’m perfectly serious about this:  At the very least, they’d provide a useful distraction.

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is off from work tomorrow, so tonight is my early Friday Night.  What say you to opening the sluice-gates of my alleged mind and see what comes pouring out?

♦   How about just a little politicks first? Robbo’s prediction: The ‘Pubs hold the House and gain in the Senate. (And yes, both the Elder Gels have mailed in their absentee ballots.) Blue Wave? Naw.  Red Tsunami.

♦  Related, today was “Patriotism Day” at Youngest’s high school. (It’s “Theme Week” leading up to Homecoming this weekend.  Teh kidz were supposed to dress up appropriately.  Youngest wore Stars & Stripes pants and a “Trump 2020” shirt.  Heh, indeed.

♦  Okay, how about we turn to the Arts? Yesterday evening on the drive home, Ol’ Robbo heard the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony on the local classickal station.  The DJ started off by reading some wankstein’s musings about how this piece was ol’ Pyotr Ilyich’s musickal musing on the subject of Destiny, and the ambiguity of whether the final movement represented a Triumph over Fate or a resigned acceptance of it.

Cor lumme, stone the crows.  This is exactly why I loathe Romanticism in all its manifestation.  I don’t give a damn about Tchaikovsky’s views on predestination, I only care about whether the musick is well-crafted or not.  (Duke Ellington: “If it sounds good, it is good.”)

♦  Oh, and I hadn’t realized it until I researched this a bit, but Cole Porter stole the main theme from this movement for his song “Farewell, Amanda” from the Spencer Tracy/Kate Hepburn move “Adam’s Rib”, one of my old favorites.  Been a while since I’ve seen it…..Must look to Netflix queue…….

♦  By the bye, I  despise the whole concept of predestination and fatalism, too.  Ol’ Robbo would not have made a good Calvinist.

♦  Any Charles Portis fans among you?

♦  Today is the Feast of St. Chrysanthus, an early martyr. I had hoped that there might be some association with chrysanthemums, since they are so closely associated with this season and many flower names do, in fact, have Christian origins, but apparently not.  (I don’t really care much for mums anyway.  Too garish for me.)

♦  I suppose I had ought to say something about the World Series here, but really, Ol’ Robbo has no dog in this fight.  I’m pretty sure the Sawx are going to win it all.  I am absolutely sure there’s nothing quite so obnoxious as a triumphant Bahston sports fan.

♦  Speaking of athletics, Ol’ Robbo has got back into working out on his rowing erg.  I realized recently that I had made a big mistake last year (when I first bought it) of trying to do long, steady, power rows (30 minutes, for instance) right off the bat.  I quickly got discouraged with that (being not a 19 y.o. varsity athlete but a 53 y.o. desk-jockey), and so stopped using the thing.  But recently it occurred to me to do some research on recommended workouts and I came across a whole packet of programs of interval training.  Makes all the difference in teh world.  I’ve been at it now for about two weeks and haven’t felt this good in a long time.

♦  By the bye, when I was rowing crew in college back in the day, I had a t-shirt that read “Put an erg on the water and it sinks…”  I still think that’s the right attitude.  (Who knows? Perhaps one day Ol’ Robbo will invest in a scull and take up plashing about on the Potomac.)

Well, enough.  Tomorrow morning, Ol’ Robbo probably will try to get out and give the yard one final mow for the year, ahead of the nor’easter which is supposed to blow in later in the day.  Porch plants probably come inside this weekend, too, and I’m getting ready to slap the rear side-panels back on La Wrangler in anticipation of the colder weather.  (And wetter.  I understand we may get an El Nino this year, which means much precipitation on the East Coast.)







Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that the cooler weather has settled in firmly, Ol’ Robbo can return to his practice of reusing the shirt he wears to Mass Sunday afternoon for the office on Monday.  I enjoy this because I can still smell the incense the next day.

There are a number of different incensings during the course of the Traditional Latin Mass:  The incensing of the altar before the Introit; the incensing of the Missal before the reading of the Gospel; the incensing of the Offerings, the priest, the other servers and the congregation; and at the Consecration itself.  Given a good-sized thurible and some snappy wrist action,  the atmosphere can get pretty saturated by the time things are done.

Good old smells and bells.  Gotta love ’em.

UPDATE: Speaking of things Traddie, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught a week or two ago by a small item (at the Puppy-blender’s, I think) concerning one Brian M. McCall, an Associate Dean and Professor at Oklahoma Law.  In 2014, Dr. McCall published To Build The City of God:  Living as Catholics in a Secular Age. It is, so I gather, a Rad-Trad guide to navigating our current, ghastly, so-called “culture”.  Apparently, it includes some rayther stark assessments and opinions.  (For example, it condemns “same-sex marriage” and states that women shouldn’t wear pants out of modesty.)

Evidently, somebody recently read this book and Was Not Amused.  A campaign was started against Dr. McCall, not because he’d every been found to have discriminated against, harassed, or even treated anybody without respect, but simply because he had committed wrongthink in putting these ideas to paper.  The nooz item I saw was the reported that he’s now been hounded out of his administrative position with the school because of it.

I went ahead and bought the book.  Even though Ol’ Robbo is a Traddie of sorts himself, I’ll wager there are some things in it with which I will disagree.  Fine.  But I felt it my obligation to make at least some small protest against this kind of Orwellian bullying.  (Show of hands, by the bye, for those who believe McCall would have received the same treatment had he reached these conclusions from the perspective of Islamic fundamentalism.  Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)

I’ll let you know what I think of it. (The book itself, that is. You can gather what I think of the situation already.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself doing double-duty this morning, first going along with the family for the first time in several years to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, and then later toddling off to Mass on his own.

I used to do this pretty consistently after I first went to Rome until Mrs. Robbo told me to stop it.  She didn’t like it when, while everyone else was going up to the altar rail for communion, I remained in the pew and stared at the ceiling.  On the other hand, she began to miss worshipping together, plus there’s the whole pour encourager les autres thing as far as Youngest’s spiritual development goes.  (Plus, to be honest, I still do loves me some Anglican hymnody.)

So today, I in fact got up and went to the altar rail myself.  However, I didn’t take communion, but simply crossed my hands and bowed my head.  The rector gave me a blessing instead.

I’m sure nobody on either side of the Tiber could have any strong objections to that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got back late this afternoon from Middle Gel’s Parents’ Weekend festivities.  (The Gel looks splendid, by the bye, and a good time was had by all.)  So it behooved me to find myself a local parish at which to attend Mass this morning and, having found one, actually to get my person up and out to do so.  (When away from my home parish over a weekend, my research is always thorough, my execution sometimes faulty.)

Happily, Ol’ Robbo made the grade today.  A glass of wine with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News, Virginny! The padre who presided was of Southeast Asian origin and I couldn’t understand half of what he said, but the Mass was reasonably dignified and the congregation one of the more enthusiastic body of hymn-singers Ol’ Robbo has encountered since swimming the Tiber.  (Most Catholics seem to do no more than mumble, which is hard cheese for a person brought up in the Anglican tradition.)  I’ve no qualms at all about revisiting this parish whenever we go down to see Middle Gel in future.  (And it’s only about ten or fifteen minutes from the hotel where we stay!)

A mere half hour after we returned to Port Swiller Manor this afternoon, we scooped in Daisy the Special-Needs Dog and repaired to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, there to take part in the annual “Blessing of the Animals” in honor of the Feast of St. Francis (which was actually last Thursday, October 4).

Ol’ Robbo has never been particularly fond of this notion of St. Francis as “Friend of the Animals”.  It always conjures up in my mind an image of the Saint as a kumbaya hippie with a couple of Disney bluebirds flying about his head smiling and trilling, while Thumper the Rabbit sits nearby, rolling up his eyes in adoration.  Not that I’m a real Franciscan to begin with (I’m more Benedictine in temperament), but if we’re to have him, I’d much rather go with the rich-kid-who-throws-all-his-clothes-away-for-Lady-Poverty, lives-in-filth, tries-to-sell-himself-to-Muslim-slavers-to-redeem-someone-else guy.   I still think it a bit extreme (as did the Muslim slavers), but at least it isn’t sentimental and Hallmark-ish.  Besides, I think this animal-blessing biznay – which my own parish does, too – is just a gimmick to try and keep people “engaged”.

Anyhoo, I went.  Mrs. Robbo wanted me too, and Youngest gave the Old Testament reading.  (She did very well, too, keeping her head despite several outbursts of conflict among some of the pooches present.)  It was an all-dog “congregation” this year (every now and again in the past somebody has brought a cat and I heard one year somebody brought a horse), and it was amusing to see the various reactions to getting sprinkled with water.  Some of them evidently loved it and wanted to go round again.  Others, not so much.  Our own dear dog, already out of her depth, seemed mostly confused, and after a short time started pulling me towards a car, any car, if it meant taking her home.

But I confess I’m glad we did it.

All in all, a good day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo did his time in the box yesterday afternoon.  These days, I go to confession on average about once a month or so.  (Unless, of course, I’ve been unusually naughty.  You know what a wild child Ol’ Robbo can be!  Whoa, Nellie!)

Kidding aside, I often feel a bit sheepish going in, because I usually don’t have all that much to say.  (I think my record penance – apart from my first confession when I swam the Tiber – is something like three Hail Marys and two Our Fathers.)  But I always end with a plea for forgiveness of all of my past sins, especially those that I don’t remember.

This is critical to me:  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t hold grudges or let the sun go down on his wrath.  This is a good thing, but the flip side is that I also tend to forget if I’ve done wrong by somebody else.  Even if I try to examine my conscience at the end of the day, I know that I’ll miss some of my own sinfulness.  After a while, I can feel these things building up, almost like mold or rust on my soul.  So the two alternatives are either carrying a notepad around and scribbling down all my bads in real time, which is insane, or else counting on God’s omniscience and mercy and my own sincerity when I add the catch-all.

I suspect that if I put all this to my Padre, he’d only laugh. But he’s the one who beats the drum so often about the importance of regular confession, so here I am, Father, with my sense of guilt present and ready for inspection!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This week Youngest Gel started evening swim practices in anticipation of her high school team getting under way in about a month or so.  (This will be her third year on the varsity, he mentioned gratuitously.)

As we drove home after I picked her up, she began talking about how lovely the moon was up in the sky in front of us.  This led to a discussion about sunlight and starlight, and eventually about how light travels.  (What was it Douglas Adams said? It travels so fast that it takes most civilizations thousands of years to realize that it travels at all?)

Eventually, I got round to reeling off what I remember of the speed of light: 12 million miles a minute; it takes about six minutes or so to travel from the Sun to Earth; measuring distances in space by light-years; etc.

“What is a light-year, anyway?” the Gel asked.

“Well,” I said, “It’s the distance light travels in one year.  Remember how I said 12 million miles a minute?  So multiply that by sixty to get miles per hour, then multiply that by twenty-four to get miles per day, and multiply that by three hundred sixty-five to get an approximation of the distance of a light year.  I don’t know the exact number, but I do know it’s awfully big.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her lips moving as she did a quick and dirty calculation in her head, her eyes steadily widening.

“Well, okay.  How far away are the stars, then?” she asked.

“That varies, of course, ” I replied.  “Alpha Centauri is our nearest neighbor at about two light-years’ distance.  On the other hand, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation of Orion, is 500 light years off.  Others are at different distances, some very much farther than that.”

“Five hundred!” she exclaimed.  “Are you telling me that the light I see on Orion’s shoulder left it 500 years ago? Like when Columbus had just arrived in the Americas?”

“Yippers,” I said. “And for all we know, it could have gone supernova or even disappeared altogether any time between then and now and we wouldn’t even know it until the effects got here.”

The Gel huddled herself together, an awe-struck look on her face.

“This is seriously freaking me out,” she said.

Ol’ Robbo, for one, is glad that the Gel had this reaction.  Not only am I pleased at her grasp of the physical concepts (and math) involved, I also believe it demonstrates a proper sense of humility.

It’s also one that I happen to share.  When looking about God’s Creation, I can’t think of anything more humbling than contemplating interstellar distances (unless it’s geological time, another of my favorite things to noodle).

Oh, and obligatory (not because I like the movie – I don’t much – but because I often sing it in the shower and it’s also my chief reference for quick and dirty facts of this sort):



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