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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, the weekend is just about upon us, as is October. (How did that happen so fast?)

Ol’ Robbo is patting himself on the back with some complacence this morning over persuading Mrs. R not to go to South Carolina. The resort where she and her tennis chums were to stay shut down yesterday, having suddenly become the bulls-eye for Hurricane Ian. Those chums who did go and thought they could just ride things out were forced to drive home in a rental car because there were no flights available. Heh. Can I call ’em or what?

Speaking of “calling” them, once again the Pravda of the Potomac is pushing Climate Doom for all its worth, today gassing about the rising number of “Super Storms” and everybody’s favorite culprit behind them. Why “Super Storm”? They’ll give you a lot of song and dance by way of explanation, but it boils down to this: It sounds scarier.


Several times this week Ol’ Robbo has become aware that the teevee in the living room was on. On checking, I’ve discovered Decanter Dog on the sofa with the remote under her paw. You may say this was just an accident resulting from Mrs. R leaving the remote there, but I’m going to take a hard look at the cable bill anyway just to make sure the dog hasn’t been ordering things she shouldn’t.


I can tell you truthfully that I had nothing to do with blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines. (It seems everybody else on the planet is suspected by at least somebody so I thought I would try to reduce the confusion at least a little bit.)


Those of you keeping track of the McMansion being built across the street from Port Swiller Manor will be interested to know that the builders are now crowning the place with a cupola. And not just a simple octagonal protuberance, either. It’s got a sort of ridge running from its base to the front edge of the roof. Because why not. So far as Ol’ Robbo can tell, the place is being built on spec and hasn’t even got a buyer yet. On the other hand, what lunatic would gamble on sticking that thing up there if not specifically asked to?

By the bye, this term “McMansion” came up on a comment thread I was reading the other day. Some of the commenters took its use to mean a sneering derision on the part of la-di-da blue-bloods towards what they consider their inferiors trying to climb into affluence. That’s not what Ol’ Robbo means at all. To me it simply signifies a shoddily-built, ugly, and monstrously expensive house usually far too big for the plot of land on which it’s set, that’s all. The house would be the same no matter who moved into it.


UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo forgot to mention that the Port Swiller email was full of queries overnight as to why I didn’t mention the fact that yesterday was National Coffee Day. Heck, every day is Coffee Day. I see no reason to distinguish any one date in particular.

Whelp, on toward the weekend. Endeavor to persevere.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Enough early leaves and acorns fell this week at Port Swiller Manor to warrant cleaning them off the driveway this morning. I also notice that some of the maples in our area are just starting to turn around the edges.

Ol’ Robbo can’t recall the last year we had a really vibrant foliage season in the yard. All the ones in recent memory seemed rayther dull and washed out, and also patchy. Must be glowbull enwarmening or sumpin’. I’ve a vague recollection that the intensity of the colors is some function of proper rainfall and quick temperature drop. Well, we’ve had a pretty wet summah here this year (not once have I had to drag the soaker hose out to the pachysandra bed by the road), so perhaps things will be different this time.

Either way, you can expect Ol’ Robbo to start his annual griping about picking the durn things up here in just another couple weeks.

I know it’s not really the time of year to do so, but I also pruned back the climbing tea-rose by the front door. It was getting overly-spindly, and the pests did rayther a number on its leaves this year. If I leave it in such condition, Middle Gel will inevitably start making snide remarks about do-it-yourself Halloween decorations.

No real fall planting this year. Sometimes Mrs. R likes to put mums in the half-whiskey barrels out front, but to tell you the truth, Ol’ Robbo has never much cared for them.

Finally, not exactly garden-related but speaking of the seasonal advance, the shortening of the days has brought to the fore another issue which I’ve been ignoring heretofore. Maybe a month or six weeks ago, the overhead lights in La Wrangler started staying on while I drive, and for something like half an hour after I turn off the engine. It didn’t bother me much when I was out and about during the day, but now that my commute is starting to take place in the dusk, it’s become highly annoying. I haven’t the faintest idea why this is happening all of a sudden, but at least I know a quick fix: Today I just removed the bulbs. That’ll learn ’em!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Fall! Ol’ Robbo got to indulge himself last night by leaving all the Port Swiller Manor windows wide open and the heat turned off, waking under warm blankets to a cool, crisp, refreshing dawn. In this, I suppose I’ll be cut off soon enough, as Mrs. R and I do not see eye to eye on this sort of thing. I’ll enjoy it while I can, however.

In the meantime, the same cool, crisp, refreshing dawn put me in mind of the fact that it’s been several years now since I last reread my Francis Parkman and that it’s just about time to do so again. I don’t know why I necessarily associate the two ideas with each other, but this is always the time of the year when I get the urge to dip back into my French and British colonial history. (Actually, I think I’ll start with his Oregon Trail, as I’m just finishing up a slew of mid-18th Century American Frontier accounts, before jumping back to the 1500’s.) Those of you who drop by regularly may expect more gratuitous historickal posting on this subject in the coming weeks.

Which reminds me that I wonder what I did with my Hannah Duston bobblehead? It sat on a shelf in my office for years but I brought it and all my other bric-a-brac home when we shifted to new digs because there wasn’t any place to put things. Given the politicks of my workplace I was always surprised nobody ever gave me grief over it, until I reminded myself of the general historickal ignorance of this day and age and then wasn’t surprised anymore. Heh.

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo forgot to mention another pleasure of the changing season – all the doors and windows of Port Swiller Manor that stick during the warmer, sultrier times are suddenly moving freely again.

On the other hand, I was watching the Hokies/Mountaineers game on teevee last evening when I beheld…….my first fake Christmas tree ad of the season. I suppose one has to take the rough with the smooth.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Ma Nature is doing her duty to mark the change in seasons with a notable drop in temperatures on its way into the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with lows starting to dip down into the upper 40’s this weekend. Bring it, says Ol’ Robbo.

Funny enough,** today marks the beginning of Youngest Gel’s Spring Break Down Under. In the spirit of getting everything she can out of her semester abroad, she and a couple classmates are headed for New Zealand today to knock about for a week or so. (So long as she’s in the neighborhood, after all.) I just hope that super-volcano suddenly in the news there behaves itself while she’s about. Ol’ Robbo did not even realize there is a giant caldera in New Zealand, and apparently a nasty, active one, until this story popped up. ***

Evidently, one of the Gel’s friends is an organization-freak and has got this trip taped out to the last minute and penny. I understand they’ll be staying in a series of hostels and visiting various venues of entertainment. I may have heard the words “sky-diving” in passing, but at this point I’m choosing to believe this was just a misunderstanding. Gawd help us.

** Well, not so funny, I guess, since it’s perfectly logical and natural. But funny to think about.

*** I believe a lot of these World Economic Forum-types have compounds established in NZ. I’ll bet Klaus Schwab has got a secret lair under the volcano.

UPDATE: Youngest arrived safe and sound in Auckland this morning. Meanwhile, the first big cool/cold front arrived here this afternoon. The wind is up and the temperature and humidity are dropping. As former sportscaster Marv Albert used to say, “YUSS!!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There are times when Ol’ Robbo looks at his homeowner’s insurance policy and says, “What would you say you do here?”***

Regular friends of the decanter will recall the massive repair and re-enforcement project designed to stop, once and for all, the chronic basement flooding here at Port Swiller Manor. Well, a week or two ago somebody suggested to Mrs. R that maybe our insurance might cover at least some of the costs. We’re dealing, after all, with major structural failure that isn’t in any way our fault.

So Mrs. R got on the phone and spoke with a very sympathetic agent who, while promising nothing, assured that our claim would be looked into quickly and diligently.

Now Ol’ Robbo’s been around the block a few times and has developed a pretty thick hide of skepticism. Nonetheless, after that call, I found a small part of myself thinking we might just have a chance.

Then I got a call from the adjuster assigned to the case. While he, too, had a sympathetic tone, the more I explained the issue to him, the more his responses filled up with weasel-words. (I’m a lawyer and know of what I speak.) “Policy concerns” quickly became his favorite phrase.

We got a follow-up letter from him yesterday quoting lavishly from the policy. In effect, if the claim involves water in any way, shape, or form, they aren’t touching it.

Hence my question at the top.

They’re still sending an engineer out to inspect the damage but, honestly, I don’t see why they’re bothering now.

***Spot the quote

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo loves the sensation in the morning of coming muzzily to semi-awareness, beginning to groan at the thought of another day in the salt mines, and then suddenly realizing, “Oh, yeah – it’s Saturday.”

Friends of the decanter will recall the appallingly expensive and heretofore largely useless generator which I mentioned last week having shut itself down? Turns out it was simply a case of ants building a nest on the circuit board, thereby confusing it. The tech called them “crazy ants”. The innertoobs calls them “Raspberry ants“. For reasons known only to themselves, they seem to be attracted by electronics. Go figure. Anyhoo, it was simply a matter of cleaning the rubble off the board (the ants were gone) and Bob’s your uncle.

Ol’ Robbo notices that yet again he needs to get out and cut back the ivy that threatens to get up under the roof on one of the corners of Port Swiller Manor. In order to do so, I have to shimmy out the side window in Youngest Gel’s bedroom onto the roof of teh garage. Ol’ Robbo does not enjoy this. Apart from the question of height, it’s an awkward squeeze out the window and my first attempt at it about a year ago was largely responsible for bringing on the sciatica that’s been plaguing me off and on ever since.

I’m not sure because I haven’t been especially looking out for them, but I suspect the hummingbirds might have decided it’s time to pack up and head south. I would think that if they drink nothing but nectar, they simply can’t afford to loiter about until the last minute. Ol’ Robbo likes to ponder on how far my particular birds actually go. All the way across the Gulf to Mexico? Or do they just get some friends to buy a lot of postcards for them and pretend?

Whelp, all that said and a cuppa kawfee down the hatch, the lawn isn’t going to mow itself….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is as neurotic in his reading habits as he is in most things. When starting afresh, as it were, I might select a book from my shelves purely at random. However, over the years I find I’ve developed any number of absolutely compulsory trains: If I read A, then I must read B next, then C, then…..

Well, you get the idea.

So a few weeks ago, my hand fell again on Bruce Catton’s Grant Goes South and Grant Takes Command. This meant that of course I next had to reread Grant’s own Memoirs. Then, of course, I had to reread William T. Sherman’s Memoirs. Now, of course, I’m rereading Phillip H. Sheridan’s Memoirs.

Last evening I reached the point where Little Phil is recounting his experience in the Indian Wars of the late 1860’s when it occurred to me that next I’m going to have to reread George A. Custer’s My Life on the Plains. Not because I necessarily want to, you understand, but I simply have to get it out of my system.

Ah, well.

Curiously, when I hit this particular Civil War autobiography line, I can easily ignore the one other big name title in my collection, James Longstreet’s From Manassas to Appomattox, simply because it’s one of the most excruciatingly dull volumes I’ve ever plowed. I suppose even my nuttiness has its limits.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Has Ol’ Robbo mentioned recently how much he dislikes Tuesdays? Because I dislike Tuesdays. They’re the veritable hole in the week.

That said, why not make this one a little better with some light nonsense.

Ol’ Robbo is here to tell you that the Bloomington, Indiana housing market is insane. It isn’t even mid-September yet and already the elder Gels have got their “sign your lease for next year RIGHT NOW or you’re out because we’ve got a waiting list of 2000 kids” notices. It’s a wonder they ever got their digs in the first place. College towns.

Speaking of waiting, we’re still on stand-bye for the big Port Swiller Manor basement renovation. The job itself will only take about two weeks, so I am told. The big drag is jumping through all the obligatory bureaucratic hoops to get the necessary county permits before they can start. (Does this surprise anybody?) The project manager is trying to accelerate the process by alleging Mrs. R’s intense dislike of mold constitutes a medical priority, but so far it doesn’t seem to be cutting much ice.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes a bit leery about returning to old pleasures for fear they might not be quite what he remembers, so I was particularly pleased when Mrs. R and I sat down to watch the first half dozen episodes of “Cheers” the other evening. Although a yuge fan back in the day, I hadn’t seen it in Heaven-knows how many years, and yet it is as fresh and funny now as it ever was.

Finally, Ol’ Robbo is pleased to say that he has found a kind of inner peace with his beloved Washington Nationals. Yes, we’re within eight games of a triple-digit loss record this year, but now all the dust has settled and the team is basically a bunch of kids coming up out of the minors, and I’m looking on it as a sort of early spring training and can enjoy watching again. What else is there to say except,


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it doesn’t become o-fficial for another eleven days, but the lowering temperature trend, the heavy dews, and the preliminary scatter of dead leaves on the Port Swiller Manor driveway all signal that the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” is at hand.

Huzzay, huzzah!

As he resolved to do some time ago, Ol’ Robbo will be whacking back the forsythia in his garden this morning. Some of the stalks are better than ten feet tall now – I propose to raze the whole hedge back to about four feet. That’ll leave it a couple more months to put on some new growth. If it’s going to flower feebly in the spring, I’d much rather it did so compactly rayther than gangly. And as to the flowering, I’m going to start liming it and see if anything happens.

Indeed, speaking of which, my other task today is to put down the first of three fall lime coatings on the lawn. East of the Blue Ridge here in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny, the soil is wicked acidic, and as Ol’ Robbo is finally beginning to appreciate, this has consequences. I had my lawn service lime the yard last fall with admittedly notable results, but as I looked at the sign-up form this year I thought to myself, “Self, why can’t you do that? It’d certainly be cheaper.” So here we are. (Don’t tell my service, but I’m also beginning to think that I can do the weed and feed myself, too, and maybe even more effectively.)

Oh, and to finish, a small note which I am sure will amuse friends of the decanter. Ol’ Robbo noticed recently that his appallingly expensive and heretofore largely useless generator was not cooking off on its usual Saturday morning five-minute test run. When I lifted the lid yesterday to investigate, I found that the thing had, indeed, shut itself off. The computer display was flashing, “Overcrank warning”.

My immediate thought was, “Say, I resemble that remark!”

Post-Jungle Excursion UPDATE: Done and done. I had to hack a path through the butterfly bush just to get at the forsythia in the first place. Kept expecting Johnny Weissmuller to suddenly tap me on the shoulder and say, “How Tarzan help you?” We’ll see if this actually does any good. In any event, I didn’t cut them back after they flowered this spring like I should have, and I certainly couldn’t leave them elongated over the winter.

Since I was venturing deep into tiger country and had no idea what beasties might be lurking under the flora, I donned my LL Bean boots. Ol’ Robbo has had the same pair for forty years now. They’ve held up splendidly all this time not because I don’t use them (I do), but because they’re just that well made.

As for the yard, $60 worth of lime and 20 minutes of my time pushing around the spreader versus better than a hundred bucks’ charge by my service. Contrary to what Barbie once said, math isn’t really all that hard sometimes. As noted above, I’ll do two more treatments this fall.

By the bye, Ol’ Robbo can hear the collective voice of all you friends of the decanter saying, “Tom, weren’t you planning to start putting some raised beds in your garden this fall?” Yeah, that’s not going to happen, at least not this year. As regular readers will know, Port Swiller Manor itself has decided to go into one of its periodic fits of “Money Pit” mode and Ol’ Robbo feels compelled to shelve some of his other projects for another day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest sent me this during the middle of one of her classes yesterday, which seems to be not so much the Dewey Decimal System, but rayther a group hug in which the social warriors share their vision of the Brave New World:


Yes, I raised her to be profoundly skeptical, but I also taught her to laugh about it.

I suppose it was because of this that I had a dream last evening that I was back at school. It wasn’t one of those it’s-the-end-of-the-semester-and-I-never-studied ones (which, of course, I’ve had), but instead a beginning of the semester chaos scenario. I found myself in a student apartment full of people going in and out. I didn’t know where my keys were, I didn’t know where my mailbox was, in fact I didn’t know anything, and I was getting agitated about it. And when I went outside, I ran straight into a student marching band, getting my hand up just in time to avoid being swatted in the face by a slide-trombone. (The player gave me a look and moved on.)

I’ve a vague idea Eldest was actually in the dream at some point. Which is odd, because I very rarely dream about people I actually know, instead populating them with made-up figures.

(Later, I had a dream I was marching through the Carolina Pine-Barrens with General Sherman, but that one was easily explained by the fact that I’m re-reading his Memoirs.)

No wonder Ol’ Robbo wakes up tired all the time.


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October 2022