You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Home Fires’ category.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday afternoon, a young colleague of mine asked if I had any plans for the weekend.

“Well,” I said, “I’m getting a haircut this evening, and tomorrow I’m mowing the yard for the first time this season.”

“Wow,” she answered, “That sounds real exciting.”

“Hey,” I said, “I’m a middle-aged suburbanite.  These things are important to me.”

They are, too.

So I hauled out the old mower this morning, and despite the fact that it’s sat idle and neglected since some time last November, it started right up on the first pull.  Always a good sign at the start of the season.  (Maybe it means the Nats will win a division series this year?)

As I tooled about the yard, it seemed to me that I was running over an usually large number of twigs and sticks.  Then I remembered that somebody on the radio yesterday reported that this has been the windiest March and April in these parts for many years.  I can well believe it.

I also planted some jasmine today. I’d tried this three or four years ago, but put them in spots where they simply didn’t get enough light to thrive.  This time around I’m adhering better to the laws of nature.  Ol’ Robbo really wants himself some lovely, sweet-scented jasmine about the place.

Speaking of nature, a thought occurred to me today:  As often as not, Ol’ Robbo is awake in the pre-dawn when the birds first begin singing.  Almost invariably it seems that the robins start up before any other species.  Is this the basis of the line about the early bird getting the worm?  Perhaps.  (Incidentally, I don’t care if the notion that robins cock their heads like that to listen for worms is wrong – I’m going to keep believing it anyway, dammit.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did you see this article about the “student protest” at a Duke alumni event that went (if you’ll pardon the expression) radically wrong?

I won’t quote from it because there are articles within the article, but the basic gist is this:

  1. Student “activists” hijack an alum gathering.
  2. The alums, rather than kowtowing, respond by turning their backs, booing, and heckling.
  3. The “activists” are surprised at the alums’ reaction and “disappointed” that the administration doesn’t step in on the students’ side.
  4. The “activists” are now concerned that any punishment they receive for their stunt will upset their “mental health”.

This story illustrates nicely a fatal flaw in the Left’s plan to raise up a new Red Guard to implement its authoritarian regime: The kidz their indoctrination factories are turning out are insane, stupid, barely-functioning snowflakes who collapse at the first sign of actual pushback.  You’re going to send these people to break down my door in the middle of the night, confiscate my guns, and haul me off to the camps?  As Ferris Bueller said of the snooty maitre’d,  “If I’m going to get busted, it’s not going to be by a guy like that!”

I’m reminded of an incident during the dear old days at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  A group of students blocked a CIA recruiting event.  The administration, after whatever disciplinary hearing was held, sentenced them collectively to something like 400 hours of community service for violating school policies.  The campus went ballistic and the protesters quickly became martyrs.

At one point, I remember somebody saying to me, “400 hours! Can you believe it? That’s totally outrageous!”

“Yeah, I agree,” I replied.  “If it were up to me, the whole lot of them would have been expelled immediately!”

I think the administration eventually blinked, alas.

By the bye, Ol’ Robbo’s customary lunchtime walk took him near the local high school kiddies out protesting the Columbine school shooting which took place before most of them were even born and also skipping school on a beautiful day, but mostly skipping school on a beautiful day.   For what it’s worth, at least when I passed by there were not really very many of them, and the conversations I overheard seemed to have little to do with guns and much to do with the usual stupid teenager drama (which, I admit, is a redundancy).

Oh, but for some good news?  Middle Gel received her voter registration card this week.  It would be…..unwise for any candidate on the Left to count on her (or her elder sister’s) support come the midterms this fall.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo realizes that he double-posted this week about rather morbid topics, so how about something a bit more light-hearted?

Yesterday, as it turns out, was National Bat Appreciation Day.  According to the linked site, a few fun facts:

  • Some species of bats can live up to 40 years.
  • There are over 1,200 known species of bats.
  • The United States is home to an estimated 48 species of bats.
  • North America’s largest urban bat colony is found on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. It is home to an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This colony of bats eats approximately 10,000 to 30,000 lbs of insects each night.  It is estimated 100,000 tourists visit the bridge annually to watch the bats leave the roost at twilight.
  • Three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma have named the Mexican Free-Tailed bat their state bat, and Virginia has dubbed the Virginia Big-Eared bat their state bat.

I actually knew about the famous Congress Avenue Bridge colony because it occasionally made the papers in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I did not know that the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has a designated state bat. Go figure.

Ol’ Robbo actually is quite fond of bats. Once, in said misspent yoot, I recall going along with my high school girlfriend and her parents on a Sierra Club outing to some caves out in the desert southwest of San Antonio.  As evening began to gather, bats (I have no idea what sort, but prob’ly Mexican Free-Tails) started to emerge.  Quickly, a long, black ribbon formed up and gradually snaked its way to the horizon.  I forget how many jillion bats were supposed to live in this colony, but it was a very large number.  They took at least an hour or more to empty themselves out of the cave.  Most impressive.  (As was the stench of guano coming up out of the cave’s mouth.)

I’m also reminded of the time my family and I went to see a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the concert hall downtown.  That same evening, Ozzie Osborne was playing the arena next door.  (And by the way, there was common parking for both events.  I leave the compare and contrast audience spectacle to your imagination.)  At some point during the graveyard scene in Act 2 of Don G, a bat started flying about the concert hall stage.  Not only did it heighten the creepy effect of the Statue of the Commendatore accepting the Don’s invitation to dinner, there were also muted whispers about the one that got away from Ozzie.

More recently, Ol’ Robbo loves to sit out on the Port Swiller Manor porch in the evening and watch the local bats flittering around the yard, presumably eating lots of nasty bugs.  (I haven’t seen one yet this year due to the very late arrival of spring, but expect to very soon.  Again, I’ve no idea what species they are. Perhaps Big-Ears?)  Indeed, I’ve toyed off and on for some time with the idea of putting up a bat house – perhaps under the porch – just to encourage more of them to flitter round here for my enjoyment.

In fact, the only thing that gives me pause is the fact that Mrs. Robbo hates bats, apparently as the result of an invasion by them of her home in Connecticut when she was a little gel.  In any event, she can’t stand ’em, and hates it even when I point them out on the other side of the porch screen.  (I’m not saying I won’t eventually put up a bat house, but I sure as heck won’t tell the Missus about it…..)

One time, many years ago now, a bat somehow got into our bedroom. (I believe it must have come down the chimney and then made its way upstairs.)  You can imagine what Mrs. R’s reaction was to that.  Me? I simply closed the bedroom door to box it in, opened all the windows, and with the aid of a tennis racquet eventually, ah, persuaded it to leave.  Easy-peasy, and Ol’ Robbo was the Hero of the Day.

(I don’t say this to brag.  If it had been a snake, I’d have been the one freaking out.)

Anyhoo, here’s a glass to our flying mammalian friends!

UPDATE:  Nope, whatever I’m looking at is not a Virginia Big-Eared bat.  According to Wiki, they’re very rare and live way down in the southwestern part of the Commonwealth, as well as in West Virginia and Kentucky.


(Obligatory.  Incidentally, this is my very favorite album of theirs.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo spent a goodish bit of time today dealing with CPA’s to get the various Port Swiller tax returns filed.  (In addition to the ones for Self and Mrs. R, I also had to deal with both the Eldest Gel’s and the Mothe’s estate this year.)

I won’t go into detail, of course, but what with one thing and another I got reamed pretty hard when all was said and done.  Indeed, this evening I feel rayther like Rob Lowe’s Benjamin Oliver character after his encounter with Officer Koharski at the end of “Wayne’s World”.   How odd it was, then, that after a long, gratuitous tirade about what a horrible, bad, idiotic old meany Trump is, my regular CPA then immediately turned around and said, “Oh, by the way, under the new tax rules, you’ll do a lot better next year.”

Do these people even listen to themselves anymore?  Or is all this venom-spitting totally reflexive?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What a lovely day here at Port Swiller Manor!  After many weeks of lingering Winter, my porch thermometer reports we made it all the way up to 85 degrees this afternoon.  I opened all the windows in the Manor to air out the accumulated fug of the last six months, and we had dinner out on the porch this evening for the first time this season.  Lovely.  Lovely.

There’s a dark side to all this, of course.

Early this afternoon, a large rig from Home Despot pulled up on the street in front of the house (much to the extreme annoyance of other drivers who had to get round it as best they could), there to drop on our driveway 216 bags of mulch.  Something over half of them are designated for a large, shady patch under the maples at the back of our yard, under which nothing (except onion grass) actually grows.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t happen to possess a wheelbarrow at the moment, nor could he expect any help from his women-folk (who all go remarkably delicate when there’s heavy lifting to do), so his only real choice was to hoist each individual bag on to one or the other of his shoulders and trudge down the hill to dump it on said patch.

“Don’t over-do it, now!” said Mrs. R.

“I won’t,” I replied breezily.

Reader, I over-did it.

This evening, even after a glass or two of (purely-medicinal) vino, Ol’ Robbo is a solid mass of aches and pains (to say nothing of the lungs-full of pollen I inhaled that make me sound like a three-pack-a-day man when I try to speak).  I shudder to think of how I’m going to feel in the morning.

The punch line is that the rest of the bags have to be moved out tomorrow to the holly hedge and maple trees along our frontage.  Mrs. R says she will do that, but I know perfectly well that it’s going to be up to me in the end to deal with most of them.  Why? Because that’s what I do.

If any friends of the decanter are looking for a good stock tip, I’d suggest investing in aspirin futures immediately.

UPDATE: Whelp, Ol’ Robbo got up early this morning and moved all the rest of the bags himself in order to spare Mrs. R the burden of having to do it.  Then I went out back to spread about the bags I had hauled out there yesterday.

By the time I was done, I was a mass of sores and aches even worse than yesterday.  To quote Dr. Smith, “Oh, William! The pain! The pain!”

Ol’ Robbo ain’t 33 any more, I guess.

By the bye, did you know that there’s an industry Mulch and Soil Council? I didn’t until I saw its certificate of approval on the side of all those bags.  According to the blurb, the MSC’s purpose is to make sure you get only the highest-quality mulch in the bags you purchase, free of rusty nails, cat poop, human remains, and other contaminants.  And anybody who suggests that it’s nothing more than another example of a cabal of Big Industry colluding with Big Government to keep out – via extremely expensive regulation – any upstart competition can shut their whore mouths.

(That last part isn’t actually printed on the bags.  It’s just Ol’ Robbo’s hunch.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel is taking a 300-level seminar on Medieval Law this semester.  The other day, she called me up cackling with glee over a research paper she’s going to be doing to basically finish out the next couple weeks.  I’m not altogether completely clear on what the general parameters of the paper are supposed to be, but they have something to do with selecting and examining an instance of the treatment of women under one or more legal codes of the period.

Why was the gel so gleeful?  Well, apparently all the other students in her class immediately zoomed in on examples of Muh Oppression.  The Gel can’t stand this sort of thing, so she decided to spike the lot of them by exploring a period of Papal Succession (previously unknown to me) in the middle of the 10th Century known as the Saeculum Obscurumor the “Rule of the Harlots”.  Per Wiki:

The saeculum obscurum was first named and identified as a period of papal immorality by the Italian cardinal and historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici in the sixteenth century.  Baronius’ primary source for his history of this period was a contemporary writer, Bishop Liutprand of Cremona. Baronius himself was writing during the Counter-Reformation, a period of heightened sensitivity to clerical corruption. His characterisation of the early 10th-century papacy was perpetuated by Protestant authors. The terms Pornocracy (German: Pornokratie, from Greek pornokratiā, “rule of prostitutes”), Hetaerocracy (“government of mistresses”) and the Rule of the Harlots (German: Hurenregiment) were coined by Protestant German theologians in the nineteenth century.

What it amounted to, so I gather, was that several extremely powerful women of the Theophylacti family of Rome used a combination of, eh, feminine wiles and legal arcanae to appoint and control a number of 10th Century Popes.

I should make clear that the Gel’s delight does not arise from the light in which it places Holy Mother Church during that period, but rayther because this is an example of actual history that goes against the Current Narrative.  She’s just like that.  (Can’t imagine where she got it.)

Speaking of which, I suppose I can announce here that the Gel is actually transferring schools at the end of this semester.  As much as she found Sweet Briar to be an excellent incubator as she got her academic feet under her, she decided that it is just too small, socially speaking, and that she wanted someplace bigger and (so I gather) with boys.  So she’s moving over to High Point University this fall as a Junior.

I must say that I’m extremely proud of the Gel.  She told me a couple months ago that she wanted a change and I didn’t fight her on it. “However,” I said, “This is your pigeon.  You’re 20 years old.  You want it to happen? You make it happen.  You deal with the consequences.”  And she did.  She did all the application essays and paperwork herself, looked up an old high school friend of hers who goes to HPU to get the lay of the land and insider-baseball tips, and then arranged and drove down on her own to do an on-campus interview and tour.  She’s also done all the subsequent stuff regarding acceptance, housing, and so-forth.

And what of High Point?  Whelp, it’s a private school of about 5000 kids, located half an hour from my brother’s house.  The President is a self-made immigrant gazillionaire who seems bent on combining a traditional liberal arts curriculum with courses on character and dealing with the Real World.   I’ve done a good bit of poking around on-line about the place, and there seems to be a definite split in opinion – people either love it or hate it, although the “hate” seems to center mainly around the unorthodox methods in which the President manages to raise and pour money into the place.  Curiously, we’ve come across one stat that suggests the place is attractive to kids who also look at CNU, where Middle Gel starts in the fall.  Of those who get into both, there seems to be about a 50-50 split.  They both, from what I can tell, seem to be part of the up-and-coming wave of schools snapping up good kids put off by the outrageous expense and Cultural Marxism offered by the so-called elite academies these days.

We shall see.

Raphael – Resurrection of Christ

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is going to be busy for the next few days and unlikely to get time for gratuitous dallying over the decanter, so I thought I would go ahead and wish you all a very happy Easter now.  Yes, it’s Holy Thursday as I type this, but transporting forward, He is risen, indeed!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Frankly, however, Holy Week has turned out to be something of a dud for Ol’ Robbo.  I’d had all sorts of plans to really go in for the Triduum, especially as Mrs. R and the Gels are in Flariduh for spring break, but when push came to shove, I found I only really have the energy to manage purely obligatory church attendance this year.  (I’m not even planning to go to the Vigil Mass Saturday night, which I’ve always done in memory of the fact that I was received into HMC at that Mass ten years ago.)

Similarly, we are hosting Easter Dinner, which will involve my brother and his family plus my elderly cousin.  Originally, I was looking forward to concocting a combination of rack of lamb and interesting accompaniments (which I still haven’t nailed down, apart from grilled asparagus).  Now, I’m rayther dreading it all.

Why is this, you may ask?  Well, I think it all goes back to still grieving over the loss of the Mothe in August.   The same dragging enervation, which had gradually dried up last fall, suddenly reappeared around Christmas and flattened me.  (I couldn’t manage Midnight Mass, as much as I adore it.)  It wore away again as the new year progressed, but caught me again a couple weeks ago when I was reflecting on the 11th anniversary of the Old Gentleman’s death.  Now, seemingly, here we are again.

When the blue devils got to me at Christmas, I consulted my parish Padre about them.  He basically said yeah, the first year after you lose Mom is rough; that the feeling will bubble up again on holidays and important dates like birthdays; and that it’s all perfectly natural so don’t worry about it.

I’m telling myself that again now.

Basta!  The melancholy may drain me at the more surface-y levels, but I’m also grateful for the profound strength of Faith that is buoying me deeper down.  So I say again to all of you:  Happy Easter!  He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!




“Affability” – James Gillray, 1795

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent a pleasant Saturday morning trimming up the wisteria which abounds at Port Swiller Manor and otherwise cleaning up round the yard in impatient anticipation that warmer weather may finally arrive here soon.  Looking about me, I sense that the local flora and fauna share my impatience and at the first sign that Spring actually is here to stay will take off with a whoop and a holler.

It’s too bad that the cold is hanging around so long this year.  We’re hosting Easter Dinner next Sunday and will have about a dozen people for it.  I can’t fit that many into my dining room comfortably, but I could have had us all out on the porch together if only it were warm enough.  Barring something unforeseen this week, doesn’t look like we’re going to quite make it, so the kids will have to be banished to their own table in the kitchen.  (Which is a real pity, because they’re all old enough to be enjoyable table companions now.)

Oh, and on the subject of yard work, it looks like Ol’ Robbo finally is going to have to swallow his pride and invest in one of those abdomen braces.  I’ve noticed recently that my lower back gets awfully sore when I drag or carry heavy things about in the yard.  My old neighbor wore one habitually, even for the lightest gardening tasks.  In my youthful arrogance, I used to chuckle about it, but now it looks like the laugh is on me.  (And yes, you can get off my lawn.)

UPDATE:  For Tubbs.  I couldn’t find a fellah in a truss, but how about Farmer George?  (History of the cartoon, including the caption, here.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hadn’t realized until today that this weekend is the big “Tide-Pod Kidz Against Icky Guns” rally in Your Nation’s Capital.  And it only hit me personally when I left the office this afternoon and discovered that crews were out and about setting up crowd-control barriers and whatnot and, in the process, blocking several intersections key to my commute.

Rush hour traffick in the Swamp is bad enough, especially when the crowds of tourons reappear in the spring.  When this sort of thing happens, however, one finds oneself feeling like Frodo and his friends trying to get out of the Old Forest but being dragged back in by Old Man Willow.  (At one point, I started to make an illegal left turn to get clear, but there happened to be a cop sitting on my right rear bumper.  He started blatting his horn at me menacingly, so I quickly abandoned my escape attempt.)  It is extremely wearing and grrrrr-making.

So perhaps I’m even more prejudiced against this stunt than I might otherwise have been, but I don’t really think so.  I’m disgusted with the Kidz, of course – snot-nosed little narcissists who think virtue-signaling about their feelz trumps Reality.  But I’m actually enraged by the Authoritarian Left machine that’s exploiting these idiots to push disarmament of law-abiding citizens and strip me of my right to defend myself and my family.  (And no, I don’t think Ol’ Robbo is wandering into tinfoil-hat territory here.  There’s Soros Money in them thar protests.)

Anyhoo, all this kerfluffle has been having the opposite of its intended effect – at least with me – in that I’m motivated to finally get off the Port Swiller backside and start doing some serious research and pricing, especially now that Mrs. R has given me the green light.  I may have mentioned here before that I’ve never actually fired a handgun, so I know very little about them and will need to get proper training, advice, practice, and so on.  However, I used to do a good bit of bird and skeet shooting as a teenager, using, among others, a Remington Model 1100 12-guage.  It seems to me that one of these would be a good first step since I’m already familiar with it.  (And, after all, isn’t this what Joey the Plugs “Choo-Choo” Biden recommended?)

In the meantime, these Kidz can get the hell off my lawn and go back to their Tide-Pod eating.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Middle Gel is the usual babysitter for Mrs. Robbo’s 5 y.o. God-son.  However, because the Gel and her school choir left this morning on a spring break trip to Noo Yawk City and therefor was unavailable, Mrs. R stepped up to take care of the boy in her place so that his parents could go out and catch a concert this evening.

Although Ol’ Robbo was generally successful in avoiding having to join in on such caretaking, he did manage to stumble into the library just as Mrs. R was pulling out one of the books the boy had brought along with him, The Monster At The End Of This Book It features the lovably cowardly Grover from Sesame Street, who becomes increasingly frantic at the turn of every page as he contemplates having to face said Monster.  Only at the end does he realize that it is, in fact, his own self.  Har, har.

Ol’ Robbo read this book many, many times to the Gels back in the day.  One of my (alas, unprofitable) talents is the ability to mimic voices.  And if I may say so, I do a pretty durn good Grover.  Unfortunately, however, it involves a kind of shrieking trill high up in the throat that, after a bit, gets pretty painful.   For a while there, I came to positively dread having to do it, especially when all of them were young enough that I would sometimes have to read it three times in one evening.

“Oh,” said Mrs. R tonight,  “Let’s get Uncle Robbo to read this to you.  He does it so very well!”

Well, what could I do but dust off the vocal chords and have at it.  This is what happens when you get a reputation.

Frankly, I think the boy was a bit alarumed by my histrionic shrieking at first, but after a few minutes he began to enjoy himself, and toward the end of the book was positively demanding that I “turn the page” just to see Grover’s next level of panic.

So I suppose I’ve still got it.

Nice to know, since I realize that the prospect of reading this same damned book to grandchildren is, if not immanent (God forbid),  at least on the  horizon.

On the other hand, my throat distinctly hurts again.  Nothing for it but an extra (purely medicinal, of course) glass of wine, eh?






Blog Stats

  • 445,055 hits
April 2018
« Mar