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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ugh. Ol’ Robbo suddenly found himself grieving over his parents this morning. After I had got through last Christmas in good spirits, I had hoped that I was over the return of the blue devils at holiday time. I guess not. (The 14th anniversary of the Old Gentleman’s handing in his dinner pail was last week, so perhaps that proximity had something to do with it, too.)

Anyhow, the option of dialing into Mass online actually proved something of a blessing today. If I don’t shake this mood, I might have to employ it the rest of the week as well.

In the meantime, I will be signing off here until after Easter Sunday. May all of you have a blessed Holy Week and I’ll see you on the other side.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo idly flipped over to the Smithsonian Channel on the teevee this evening and took in a program centered on an “aerial view” of Greece and the Aegean Sea.

You can’t go far wrong with drone footage of basic geography, but by the time the show worked its way down to Crete, some questions, niggling or otherwise, were forming in what I perhaps foolishly call my mind.

Not unsurprisingly, when it got to said island the program swooped in on the ancient ruins and modern restoration of the Minoan capital of Knossos. What got Ol’ Robbo’s attention was the American narrator’s insistence on pronouncing the “K” in Knossos. My long understanding – and I fully admit without looking it up that I could be flat wrong about this – was that the “K” is silent.

What further tickled my suspicion was that, in discussing the legend of the Minotaur, the narrator pronounced that beast’s name “MY-no-taur” instead of “MI-no-taur”. Ol’ Robbo is on far firmer ground on this one and will not brook any dissent.

(And lest you suspect Ol’ Robbo is engaging here in some kind of anti-American snobbery, I will reiterate my objection to a Brit narrator I heard on a teevee show some years ago referring to the “Bye-ZAN-teen Empire” when the correct pronunciation, of course, is “BIZ-an-teen”.


Anyhoo, the visuals, as I say, were very good. And with regard to Crete, they largely confirmed and, as they say, contexualized the descriptions of Crete given by Mr. Evelyn Waugh in his novel Officers And Gentlemen, in which his character Guy Crouchback takes part in the disastrous Brit retreat from Crete in the face of the Nazi onslaught in 1941, in which Mr. Woo himself was personally involved.

Pity the program didn’t stop with the physical descriptions of Crete. (This is the “otherwise” part of Ol’ Robbo’s criticism.) It had, instead, to delve into some kind of modern worship of the Triple Goddess (about whom Robert Graves became so infatuated). It also paid homage to native Nikos Karsantzakis, who wrote the novel The Last Temptation of Christ on which the much-ballyhooed Scorsese film was based. The program admitted that the Greek Orthodox Church had excommunicated Nikos over this book. Based on what I know of it and the epitaph on his grave***, I’d say good job, too.

** Oh, you know!

*** “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” Shorter version? Non serviam. If you’re not familiar, Bing it to see how that worked out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo had been looking forward eagerly to grilling out this evening thanks to the extra hour of sunlight brought by DST. This anticipation was dampened somewhat earlier today when our Padre reminded us that a real traditionalist Lent involved abstaining from meat the entire forty days, not excluding Sundays and Solemnities. He suggested we keep this in mind and maybe even adopt it.

I had my steak for dins anyway. And frankly? It was delicious.

I’m sorry. It might be different if, say, one were on a retreat of some sort and surrounded by constant encouragement, but on his own Ol’ Robbo just doesn’t have the willpower to pull off such a level of continual denial: The matter would only fester in my mind, distracting me from everything else, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. The inevitable fall would be all the worse for the shame and guilt.

As Ol’ Robbo goes meatless on Fridays all year round anyway, my practice is to slap an extra day on throughout Lent and then to try and go cold turkey for Holy Week. That’s about as much as I can manage for the foreseeable future. (The other day Mrs. R said, “So, Wednesdays are going to be pasta night even after Easter?” I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not leap to conclusions here!”)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are.

Ol’ Robbo found himself reviewing a rental contract this morning for the off-campus house Middle Gel is going to share with a couple of her sorority sisters next year. (Hard to believe she’ll be a senior already!) Not that my legal analysis is worth all that much: The last time I paid any attention to landlord/tenant law was when I was swotting for the bar thirty years ago, and I forgot most of it immediately after the exam. But nothing outrageous caught my eye and one of the roommates is already living there this year and knows the practical ropes, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. So I’ll only charge her a couple hundred bucks for my time and effort. (I keed! I keed!!)

With the advent of the season’s first push of really warm weather, I took Decanter Dog for a long walkies this afternoon that eventually brought us down to the neighborhood pond. We flushed out the local great blue heron, which I hadn’t seen in a while, but I also noticed, of all fool things, a solitary bat twittering about over the water. In broad daylight. And well before it could expect much by way of flying insect life. Go figure.

Speaking of bats, I’m hesitant even to mention it here and perhaps it’s nothing more than a residual tremor from what I posted about yesterday, but this morning I had a dream about the angel of death. I was in that half-asleep/half-awake state when I suddenly felt a breeze in my ear. I immediately “knew” it was caused by the tip of a wing passing near, knew exactly whose wing it was, and sat up in bed with a gasp at the thought. Of course, a few minutes later the cats started pestering me to get up and feed them so my alarum quickly turned to irritation, but that memento mori feel has been about me all day.


On a much less serious front, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about the “travails” of Meghan Sparkle-Markle. She’s simply Hollywood grifter trash. That is all.

Oh, and on an even more ridiculous front, somebody needs it ‘splained to them that Pepe Le Pew is not supposed to be a role-model but instead was always understood as an object of scorn and mockery. Even as a very small kid I found him icky.

Turning back to Robbo’s home world, granted we’ve still got most of the week ahead to go but Ol’ Robbo actually finds himself keenly anticipating next Saturday night’s jump forward to, well, whichever “time” it is that one jumps forward to in the spring. (I can never keep them straight.) And why? Because the extra hour of light starting Sunday evening means Ol’ Robbo can return in comfort to his outdoor grilling! WOO HOO!! I’m already anticipating the thick-cut steak I’m going to pick up and slap on the grill. In Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion the sure and certain Truth of the Divine Will, the only way to properly cook a rib-eye or strip steak is to get the thickest one you can, get the charcoal as hot and concentrated as possible, and sear the thing about two minutes tops each side. The only steak worth eating is one that is charred up nicely on its outside, but still believes it has a fighting chance of escaping from one’s plate.

Finally, and also on the food front, although we’re still four weeks out from Easter, it’s never too early to start thinking out one’s Easter Dinner menu. And on this planning, Ol’ Robbo has some very exciting news: The entire strength of the Port Swiller Manor establishment will be home for the holiday. A recent survey reveals that not one, but all three of the Gels would be perfectly happy with Ol’ Robbo serving up rack of lamb! (Apparently it was a bigger hit when I tried it a couple years ago than I had realized.) And not only that, Middle Gel is bringing her Young Man to dins and he said he’d love it, too. (I have not yet met said Young Man but hear good reports of him. This positive response, of course, brings nothing but additional credit.) I now need to start limning out some nice side dishes……

Tuesday UPDATE: Speaking of the warm weather Ol’ Robbo mentioned above, we were able to have dinner out on the Port Swiller Manor porch this evening for the first time this season. (Since rebuilding it six or seven years ago, we eat outside as much as possible.) Very, very nice. And on that subject, I noticed today an early hatch of some sort of insect flying about, so I suppose I should withdraw my comments about that bat I saw yesterday. It’s almost as if Ma Nature knows what she’s doing…..

Meanwhile, our old pal Sleepy Beth remarks on my mention of Middle Gel’s Young Gentleman:

I am wondering, does the prospect of significant others get easier to stomach as the gels have aged themselves?

I’d say yes, yes it does.

Partly this is due to the fact that the unknown and unknowable abstract future is almost always scarier than the concrete reality of actual events. (Even when said actual events are bad, one is usually too busy dealing with them to waste energy on being scared.)

Partly this is due to recognition that the Gels are at that stage of life (23, 21, and 19 years, respectively – in other words, thank God they’re not adolescents anymore!), where it is right and proper that they be looking to start building their own nests. (Indeed, I have noticed that the word “grandchildren” is starting to creep into Mrs. R’s speech.)

But these are general considerations.

From my own specific experience and perspective, I also am very much blessed by the fact that I can trust the Gels to make good, solid decisions. Without getting into too much personal detail, all three are grounded, old-fashioned, and, yes, religious-minded creatures, largely immune to the mores of the tempora about which Ol’ Robbo routinely rants here, and I’ve not much worry that in the end they will all find the right fellahs for the right reasons. Of course they might will make some mistakes along the way (Lawd knows Ol’ Robbo did himself back in the day), and of course they’re as subject to random outside forces as anyone else, but that’s a part of living that can’t be avoided and so about which I don’t worry too much.

That said, I still claim the right, should Middle Gel’s Young Gentleman or anyone else treat one of the Gels badly, to hunt him down and explain to him the errors of his ways with a tire-iron.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s always a bit startling when you realize that your Padre is going to take as the topic of his homily an issue that’s already preying on your mind. Spooky, on the one hand, because you start to wonder just what kind of thought-reading capacity actually does come with his job. Comforting, on the other, when you realize he really wouldn’t be bringing it up if it wasn’t a pretty common issue.

Father was talking today about the journey toward holiness and chose to use the metaphor of driving on snow. To do so successfully, he said, first you have to put away the cellphone and stop yelling at the kids in the back seat. Then you have to remember to be always applying gentle pressure to the gas pedal, keeping up momentum. In this way, the force of acceleration causes the tire to control its interaction with the road. If you just coast, taking away that force, then the road will start dictating the manner in which it interacts with the tire and, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself going where you don’t want to go. And finally, of course, you have to avoid all violent, sudden motions of either gas, brake, or steering wheel. Calm and cool but always gently pushing does it.

Ol’ Robbo almost inevitably falls into most of these snow-driving traps in his Lenten observations. Usually feeling rayther shabby and dissolute rolling into the season, I make big plans for all the things I’m going to give up cold-turkey as well as the strict regimen of prayer and reading to which I’m going to subject myself. It is, in fact, the equivalent of jamming on both gas and break pedal at the same time and cranking the wheel hard over. And almost invariably after my first week or so, I’m in the ditch. It usually takes me another week to, as it were, pull myself out and, at about the third Sunday, to set out anew.

Whelp, here we are again. I’m just hoping that I will keep Father’s metaphor tucked away somewhere in my braims and maybe finally learn something about driving this time and going forward.

UPDATE: Yes, the Carrie Underwood reference in the title. I was a bit dubious about its tastefulness but it was too good to resist, given the subject matter.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt most of my fellow mackerel snappers out there have heard of Bishop Robert Barron. I sometimes think he fancies himself as a sort of latter-day Abp. Fulton Sheen, in that he’s keenly aware of the current state of communications technology and seems to do everything in his power to take advantage of it to spread the Word. Certainly, after Ol’ Robbo signed up for his daily Lenten reflection emails and bought a set of DVD’s a few years ago, he hasn’t let go of me at all, at all.

But I just noticed something odd: Recently, Bp. Barron started advertising a new book on the Rosary on FacePlant. A couple days in a row now, I’ve seen it very early in the morning and thought to myself, “Self, you really need to pick that up.” But when I went back a little later to follow the link, the FB post had disappeared. (I just did order the book, but had to hunt it down via another innertoob outlet to do so.)

Is this a thing? Ol’ Robbo knows little or nothing about advertising, much less the ins and outs of putting plugs on social media. Perhaps there is some reason for running ads of limited time duration on FB, although if there is I can’t really see the advantage. Why is it, then, that other posts stay in my feed forever while these vanish so quickly?


**adjusts tinfoil hat**

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

When Ol’ Robbo mentioned to Mrs. R yesterday that he was planning on giving up wine for Lent, she burst out in incredulous laughter.


By a delightful coincidence, however, I later yesterday happened to come across this passage in a letter from Evelyn Waugh to Nancy Mitford dated March 2, 1950:

“I went to Mells. Ronnie Knox has given up crossword puzzles for Lent. It only took him five minutes anyway. I have given up cigars and wine. Nothing to look forward to now in the day. But Sundays are jolly. I wait till it strikes 12 Sat night with cigar & brandy bottle ready.”

I didn’t exactly burst out laughing, but I chuckled appreciatively.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, once more on the brink of Lent. Personally, Ol’ Robbo prefers the years when the Easter cycle starts early. Here in the mid-Atlantic, a few weeks one way or the other this time of year can make all the difference weather-wise and I’ve always found it far more suitable to start in on Lenten reflections and exercises when it’s cold and nasty outside than when Spring is about to pounce.

And speaking of which, I don’t plan on standing away completely from the blogs this year, although I probably won’t post as much and I haven’t decided just yet the sort of material with which to bore you. We shall just have to wait and see.

On a different note, Ol’ Robbo fixed himself*** a baked BBQ bacon and chicken dins last evening. This would be otherwise unremarkable except for the fact that I tried a homemade BBQ sauce for the very first time. I pulled the recipe at random off the Innerwebz and am here to tell you that just because something has a lot of stars next to it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all that good. This was far too sweet and had a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste that is still lurking at the back of my mouth this morning. Still, it was fun to make and arguably much healthier than the stuff you get in a bottle, and Ol’ Robbo gives himself some credit for at least trying.

That said, if any friend of the decanter can point me to a better recipe, I’d appreciate it.

***Just for himself. Mrs. R is a veggie and Eldest has a strict policy of not sharing in my first attempts at new dishes.

Speaking of Eldest, she got into a mind-scrambling rant last evening about time-travel in films. Specifically, she insisted that there is no logical way Kyle Reece could have been John Connor’s original father. She was also on about the problematic relationship of the 1985 Doc Brown to the 1955 Doc Brown, and furthermore was highly critical of a story arc that starts with the Doc lecturing Marty McFly about the dangers of mucking around with the timeline, yet ends with the Doc sporting all over the place in a flying train time machine. And people accuse me of being a nerd? Don’t ask me to explain all her arguments. And apparently, “Well, it’s only a movie” is not a sufficient rebuttal. Also, when I tagged her with the notion of Philip J. Fry becoming his own grandfather she refused to see a problem, so I think there are some biases at work here.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Firsto, happy Candlemas Day to those of you what observe it! While Ol’ Robbo puts away most of his Christmas deccos after Epiphany, I do make a point of keeping out my creche until now.

Segundo, anybody who tells you Puxawhatevers Phil saw his shadow today is lying through his teeth, as the snowstorm that parked itself over the mid-Atlantic on Saturday is still here. The neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor wound up on the south side of the thing, so while it’s been snowing pretty steadily, it hasn’t been doing so very hard. (That said, it’s snowing more heavily this morning than ever, as the thing starts to make its way up north.) Still, I’d guess between three and four inches here, all told. Certainly enough that I’ll have to go out and shovel the driveway later today so people can get out tomorrow.

Finally, a piece of otherwise useless trivia to mark the day: Although I’ve seen it a number of times, I have never managed to make it all the way through the movie “Groundhog Day”. It’s not that I don’t like it, but rayther that the circumstances always seem to lead to me dozing off just after Bill Murray starts getting used to his situation. So after all these years, I’ve still no idea how he finally breaks the cycle (and, I presume, gets Andi McDowell). Some day, I will obtain this knowledge.

UPDATE: I see where the press is reporting Phil did see his shadow this morning. Lies, I tells ya! All lies!!

UPDATE DEUX: Just got done clearing off the drive and sidewalks. After all that shoveling, Ol’ Robbo feels no guilt whatsoever about skipping his workout today.

Isn’t it amazing how lovely fresh snow looks when it first falls and how very quickly it turns fugly once one starts flinging it about and getting mud, gravel, and whatnot mixed in with it?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Father went on a tear in his homily today about Certain Persons (he named no names, but said he was thinking of more than one individual) who felt they could cry up their Catholic backgrounds as credible cover for engaging in very non-Catholic behavior on the politickal stage. He also railed against priests and bishops who encouraged such two-facedness. In the end, though, he warned that most of us can only pray such Certain Persons realized the error of their ways and repent. We must not descend into hatred ourselves.

And on that note, he also went into the broader subject of the simple, awful, unavoidable, eternal choice each of us faces: Heaven or hell. And what exactly were each of us doing in our own lives to work toward the former and avoid the latter? Huh? Huh?

Scared the willies out of Ol’ Robbo, I can tellz ya.

I suppose he was starting the gear-up towards Ash Wednesday. Not until I looked it up yesterday did I realize Lent starts so early this year. St. Augustine’s Confessions and St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life in depth for me this time. That message came through loud and clear today.


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September 2021