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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are off this evening,  so it looks like I’ll be dipping back into the Netflix queue.  Next up is “Bridge on the River Kwai”.  Heck of a long film, but I find that if you fast-forward through the bits where William Holden is standing around looking moody, the thing is more manageable.

In the meantime, I see that there has been some crowing and gnashing of teeth (depending on your point of view) over a Gallup poll out this week that purports to show that the country is shifting left on many moral issues.  The poll has been being conducted annually since 1999 and claims that this year, for the first time, social liberals and social conservatives are “at parity”.

Frankly, I don’t think I buy this.  On the one hand, I believe there’s no question that what I might call Left-libertinism has become more and more fashionable in recent years thanks to the cheerleading from the gub’mint, the academy, the MSM and Hollywood.  On the other, though, I can’t help wondering if the supposed decline in the number of people holding conservative social values isn’t really a decline in willingness to answer pollster questions about such values.  In an interview this week, Marco Rubio said that mainstream Christianity is on the verge of being tagged as “hate speech”.  Whether this is a correct assessment or not (and, FWIW, I think it is), my observation suggests that a good many people believe it and are simply clamming up.

Personally, I never answer polls or surveys, nor do I discuss moral or politickal issues with anyone outside my family or close, trusted friends.  Long-time friends of the decanter will know that, even in more-or-less bloggy anonymity, I have cut back steadily on commentary about such matters here since 2008, and that this place is nothing like the flesh-flying-out-the-windows-inconveniencing-the-passers-by air of the ol’ Llama Central before that.   That’s no accident.  Prudence, i.e., the protection of my family from harassment, calls for it.   On the other hand, I, of course, strive to keep the candle lit and on a candlestick to give light to all within Port Swiller Manor.  Eh, what can you do?

The punch line, to which I turn for comfort repeatedly, is that Truth is Truth no matter what fashion or the law says, and that it will prevail in the end.  You can’t take the sky from me.

Now, off to the movies….


DaisyGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Meet Daisy*.  Daisy is seven years old, purported to be a mix of golden retriever and spaniel.  You can see from this pic why this claim has some merit.  She’s about the size of a spaniel and has the ears.  At the same time, she also plainly has many golden qualities.  What you can’t see is that she has the big, feathery, golden paws and almost no tail to speak of, but both of these elements further affirming the proposition.

Now ol’ Robbo grew up with dogs and loves them, and it has been an ongoing lament of his that he has not had one as a pet since he left home for college some 32 years ago.  Of course, during school the idea was out of the question for fairly obvious reasons.  Post-educational acquisition was long out of the question too, however, in that Mrs. R had no doggie background and was little interested.  After long argument, I at last recently got her to agree, in principle, to maybe have a go at what we came to call a “starter” dog, i.e., one that was older, broken in, disciplined in all the necessities, and not in need of hands-on training.**

Our soft target for said starter dog was when teh Eldest Gel went away to college (or elsewhere), a year and a half from now.  What I did not expect was said starter showing up at Port Swiller Manor this weekend.

Suffice to say, whatever the cause, ol’ Robbo generally hates surprises.

After I had finished heaving the crockery, however, I began to see our acquisition of Daisy as an act of mercy.  It seems that Mrs. R picked her up from the pound.  She had been the pet of another family who were switching apartments, and, apparently, the new digs did not accept pets.  Hence, the heave-ho.  How anyone can do that to a dog is beyond me, but of course I know nothing of all the circs.  Suffice to say, it was not a good thing for Daisy.

Anyhoo, I’m happy to report that Daisy seems to be fitting in just fine.  She’s a gentle, genial thing and, discounting the trauma of landing in a completely new environment,  pretty laid back.  Indeed, she has glommed on hard to teh younger gels, especially teh middle one, going so far as to sneak the latter’s dinner this evening when unobserved.  Better yet to me, she and the kittehs have no problem with each other.  My only regret so far is that she seems to be afraid of me.  I’m guessing this has something to do with her former environment and reckon it won’t take very long for her to come around.

So, welcome aboard, Daisy!  A glass of, er, water with you!

I would only point out one thing:  As of now,  Port Swiller Manor contains Self, Mrs. R, three teenaged daughters, three female cats and one female dog.  That’s 8 to 1.  Anybody who thinks they can somehow make a profit on ol’ Robbo’s liver once he shuffles off this mortal coil can forget it.  It simply ain’t happening.


* Apparently, her original name was “Precious”.  Ain’t no way I would have a pet of that name.  We haaaates it!  Also, so I gather, her prior owners were Spanish-speaking only.  Thus, we’ve got a whole lot of re-edumacation on our hands here.  UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that Mrs. R chose “Daisy” in honor of Daisy Williams.  Who? Why, the guiding spirit of Sweet Briar College.  (Literally – her ghost still walks the campus.)  Yes, we’re still in the thick of that fight.

**  One of my ultimate life goals is that, if and when I retire (Oh, hohohohoh!!!!), I can have a man’s dog of my own.  I don’t mind a golden or a lab, but I’ve nothing against the terriers, particularly Scotties and fox terriers, either.  Indeed, I want something that challenges me, making a few bloody knuckles worth it.

UPDATE:  A glass of wine with all of you for your kind comments!  I walked out on to the porch this evening and teh place smelled…..doggeh.  Mmmmmmm.  A good, good smell.   So far as Daisy goes, all remains well.  She’s got into the family routine very quickly, has not made any messes, continues to get along perfectly well with teh kittehs and is firmly attached to teh younger gels, especially the Middle Gel, with whom she sacks out.  She’s still a bit skittish around me, which makes me wonder what things were like in her former family, but I am enough of an old hand with dogs to know that, with patience, she will come around.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo had been gassing all winter about some jasmine he put in last summah and whether it would survive AlGore’s Global Freezing.  Said friends will further recall that ol’ Robbo pronounced said jasmine dead and, a couple weeks ago, pulled it out and replaced it with wisteria (which is now sprouting like weeds, BTB).

Well, friends, I must here own up that I was not completely forthright about all this.  You see,  although it was quite clear that from the ground up said jasmine were completely dead, when I actually went to pull up the first of them I was disturbed to see that its roots, which were longer and deeper than I’d imagined, didn’t really seem so.  They weren’t dried.  They weren’t withered.  In fact, they seemed rayther supple.

Truth be told, I was strongly tempted to put the thing back where I had found it.

However, the wisteria had already been bought.  Further, I didn’t want to spend another month agonizing over probably-dead plants.  So gritting my teeth, I yanked out the jasmine.

All except one, that is, because I wanted to see what would happen and whether I was right or wrong in my initial diagnosis.

Well, you can see where this is going.  Yesterday, I noticed a pair of new leaves on the thing.  D’OH!

I generally dislike the idiot savant character in book and film, but Chauncey Gardner is right.  “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

I was clever in one respect, however.  The plant that I saved was one of two on a double-wide section of lattice.  So it will grow up next to (and perhaps tangled with) one of the wisteria.  I’ve no problem with that.



Yesterday afternoon, as we sat in traffic together, the Eldest Gel started contemplating the Fort McHenry commemorative license plate on the car from Murrland in front of us.

“Why doesn’t D.C. have a War of 1812 license plate?” she suddenly asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “What would they put on it? A burning White House?”

“Sure, why not?”

I snorted.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took the Eldest Gel down to the County’s Juvenile Court this afternoon – and don’t think I didn’t milk that statement for all it was worth – in order to formally receive her driver’s license at the hands of one of the judges there.  (She’s had a temporary license for about three months now since completing her driver’s ed course, but this is the real deal.)

It was a reasonably nice and apropos little ceremony designed to hammer into the little bastids’ collective (there were about fifty kids) braims the fact that driving is both a privilege and a responsibility and that, broadly speaking, they don’t know jack about it yet.

First, we got shown a musick video of some kid consumed in grief because he’d just killed another young driver through his  own negligence.  “Why did this happen to me?” he kept lamenting through the rain, to which the obvious answers were a) um, because you go drunk and got behind the wheel? and b) you just killed an innocent girl and all you can think of is yourself?  The gel informed me that she’d already seen this video about a dozen times, so I’m thinking it had probably reached saturation point with most of the rest of the audience as well.  As for myself, I kept half-expecting the singer to suddenly look up and ask, “What does the fox say?”

Next, we had a little lecture from a gruff old Sarge’, in which he imparted a lot of stern words of what amounted to basic common sense.  There’s been a lot of ballyhoo recently about militarized thug cops, but this fellah was obviously one of the Good Guys.  My impression was that his wisdom was well-received.  (I learned a new term from him, by the way – “steaking”.  It seems certain kids in our area like to skip school, drive to Philadelphia, eat a cheesesteak for lunch, scootch home before school’s out and show the receipt for the sammich to their little friends to prove their roguishness.   The fact that they would voluntarily go anywhere within 100 miles of Philly to me shows their obvious immaturity.)

Then the judge gave us a little anecdote about the niece of a friend of hers who had been killed on the road the night before she was to go off to college.  Her point to the Li’l Darlins was that their decisions on the road impacted not just their own precious snowflake selves, but also everyone around them – family, friends, community, etc.   She also mentioned the fact that under Virginny law, Mom and Dad have the power to yank the youngling’s license at any point they feel it is necessary, and the Commonwealth will back them to the hilt.   I liked that last part especially.

After this, there was a bit of an anticlimax.  The judge said ‘bye and vanished, and the clerks started dealing out licenses and, well, that was pretty much it.

So here we are.  One down, two to go.  The Middle Gel can get her learner’s permit some time this summah, I believe, and seems hell-bent on doing so.


Sat out on the porch this evening to watch the lightning flicker around the northern horizon and to listen to the frogs.  I hadn’t been there more than a few moments when I spotted my first couple fireflies of the season noodling about against the tree line.  It’ll be another week or two before they’re going all out, but as I say, shiny!

O’ Robbo loves fireflies, especially when associated with summah lightning.  Indeed, one of my fondest memories is of an evening back in the summah of 1989.  It was after my first year of law school and I was working on the Hill and staying with my godparents outside of Fredericksburg, Virginny.  Now, Fred-Vegas (as we insiders call it) gets hammered something fierce by thunderstorms during the warmer months, and is particularly susceptible to lightning ground-strikes.  Somebody once told me this has something to do with the high iron content of the soil in the immediate area.  I don’t know if I believe this, but I do know from years of observation that they catch it pretty hard there.

Anyhoo, one evening in this summah of ’89, we had a typical Fred-Vegas pounding – 45 minutes or so of the Apocalypse followed by a sudden hush as the storm rolled east.  For some reason, I had to go outside just after it had passed.  The air was still very warm and soggy, there was an absolute hush all around, lightning still flickered in the distance….and the hedge that bordered the back driveway was absolutely covered in fireflies.   I’m talking Christmas tree light concentration.

I just stood there for a few moments, taking it all in.  In my fancy, I almost thought I could hear a faint pah! pah! as the fireflies did their stuff.

Shiny, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because I motivated myself to mow and trim the lawn of Port Swiller Manor yesterday evening, I had the time today to really get a twist on trying to clean up the garden.

The main villain I have to contend with at this time of year is the jewelweed, a kind of impatiens that, if left to itself, would blanket the entire area in stalks five or six feet high.   It’s easy enough to pluck out when small because it has shallow roots, but there are just so damn many of them that I confess to spraying large chunks of them in otherwise open patches and only pulling the ones immediately around other plants that I wish to preserve.

Hey, there’s only one of me.

When the butterfly bush is in full swing at high summah and surrounded with various nectar-loving bugs and birds, my garden has what I have seen written somewhere as “a certain dryad loveliness”.  Otherwise, I admit that it is semi-cultivated at best.   As I say, there’s just one of me and I don’t have the time, energy or dosh to really do the thing justice.

Some day when if I retire, if I don’t get sent to the camps first, my plan is to bring in a pro, clean the place out, build proper beds, critter-proof them, and then start again with some serious horticulture.

In the meantime, I’ll just muddle on.

UPDATE:  Mrs. R and the gels went to the local community festival this afternoon, something I’ve been able to avoid successfully for fifteen years.  Having finished my chores, I climbed into the hammock with my book.  It was mid-80’s, very humid and sunny.  Soon, I was lost in La La Land.  Woke up a while ago to find a darkening sky and thunder in the distance.  Must now go check out the radar to see what I’m having for dins – steak on the BBQ or a burger grilled inside.  All will depend on how fast the system goes through.

UPDATE DEUX:  Burger it was.  I went out after the deluge had eased off and looked around.  Remember that scene in “The Perfect Storm” when Clooney looks out the porthole and sees a dim gleam of dawn after getting battered all night?  And how just as you’re thinking he’s got a shot to get out the sky suddenly goes all dark again?  It was something like that.  Ultimately, it didn’t actually rain during the window in which I would have been grilling, but this is a thick-cut steak from the deli at 13 bucks per pound and I’m not going to play silly buggers with something that pricey.

We’ll try again tomorrow.  Forecast says it’s another crap-shoot.

Teh Youngest upon arriving home today.

Teh Youngest upon arriving home today.

This afternoon, ol’ Robbo went to pick up teh Youngest Gel from school.  It’s a lovely day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, so I put the top down on La Wrangler to enjoy the drive over.

Teh Gel has very long and thick hair and had neglected to bring anything with which to tie it back today.  As a result, a few minutes into the home leg, her tressed had blown all over her face.

“You look like Cousin It,” I said.

“Who?” she replied.

“You know – Cousin It.  Addams Family.”

“Oh,” she responded.  “Wait, was he the one with the bald head?”

“No, that’s Uncle Fester.”

“Um, wait.  Was he the really tall, Frankenstein-y one?”

“No, that’s Lurch.  Cousin It was the short one who was nothing but hair.  Now do you see?”

“Oooh, ha, ha, ha!  Um, wait, no.  I don’t remember him.”

It’s like I can’t even talk to these people anymore.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Late this afternoon, teh Youngest (now 13) decided to amuse herself by tie-dying a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, she “forgot” to don gloves before getting down to biznay.  The result, even after multiple washings with various soaps and alcohol-based cleansers, is that her hands look like they were worked over with a crowbar.

If you don’t hear from ol’ Robbo for a while, it’ll be because the gel’s school will have flipped out tomorrow morning when she shows up, and sicced Child Protective Services on me.

Honest, officer, I didn’t do nufkink.


(Actually, this tune is not quite apropos, because she’s really quite smart.  Indeed, I’m reasonably sure she pulls this sort of stunt just for the attention.  But it’s close enough and I happen to like it.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This evening, teh Eldest Gel informed me that her latest English assignment is to read Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.

Gel: What’s it about?

Self: No offense, but it’s all about a teenaged hipster-doofus whining over his disillusioning encounters with the so-called Real World, which he discovers to be largely fake.  Your classmates are going to love it.

Gel: Really?

Self: Yes, really.

Gel: But…. we go through this all the time ourselves and I hate it!  I  already know we’re self-absorbed and ignorant!  I already know that eventually I’ll grow up and get a better perspective!  I already know that Christianity says all these earthly things are irrelevant! Why would I want to read some guy’s self-absorbed ranting about it?

Self: Because that’s the assignment.

Gel: Yeah.  But what a loser.



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