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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A balmy 12 degrees above on the Port Swiller Manor porch thermometer this morning, and not for the first time these past couple weeks. Ol’ Robbo recalls now that the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a chilly winter in the East this year. Evidently, they knew what they were talking about. At least it’s sunny and calm today, as the latest threatened nor’easter decided to move out to sea instead of up the coast. (They’re already talking about the possibility of another one sometime next week.)

Fortunately, there’s really not much that needs doing outside these days, so I need not venture out much except to let Decanter Dog out and in. I’ve noticed that she seems positively indifferent to temperature and, much to my irritation, will sometimes loiter about on the porch even in artic conditions while I try to shoo her back into the house after her biznay is done. This contrasts completely with her attitude toward precipitation: She loathes the rain and sometimes almost literally needs to be kicked down the back stairs in it. (On the other hand, she adores snowfall. Go figure.)

This also contrasts with Decanter Kitten, who always insists on going on the porch when I let DD out. She’s intensely sensitive to the cold. As soon as she realizes how chilly it is, she makes a bee-line back to the door. I don’t much understand this, as she’s a Maine coon and has a long, very thick coat. Nor do I understand why hot weather doesn’t seem to bother her much. But there it is. (Decanter Cat, who is a short-haired tabby, avoids going outside altogether when it’s even a bit chilly but will bask in the heat of summah all day. This, at least, makes some sense to me.)

Anyhoo, here it is near the end of January and Ol’ Robbo is already craving the return of warmer air. This “sick of it” date seems to creep farther forward each year with me.

Ex “Post” Facto UPDATE: Garn, I typed too soon! I’d just settled in with a fresh cuppa kawfee and Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time when I was gently reminded by Mrs. R that she’d made an appointment to take her Honda Juggernaut in for service and I’d promised to tag along and give her a ride home. So much for my hibernal plans.

On the other hand, it got closer to the freezing mark this afternoon than I’d anticipated, so as I was oot and aboot anyway, I harnessed and coated Decanter Dog and took her for a long walk in the woods. It was enjoyable.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, perhaps to spite my noodling on the upcoming baseball season below, once again Port Swiller Manor has been on the receiving end of a visit by Snow Miser. Alas, though, this time the storm was completely useless, leaving an inch or two of snow over a layer of wet slop on my driveway. Not enough to be pretty, but too much for Ol’ Robbo to simply ignore.

I had to laugh. After former (heh) Gov. Northam’s It’s-you-peasants’-own-damn-fault I-95 blizzard debacle a couple weeks ago, new (*chef’s kiss*) Gov. Youngkin was telling everyone in no uncertain terms to stay home this weekend. Plus, VDOT had the pre-treatment down on my street three or four days ago. Overreact we much?

This is actually pretty typical of the behavior that grips this area during the winter months. A lowball miscalculation about one storm has The Authorities in a state of panic over every other storm for the rest of the season. (That’s part of the reason for the label for these posts.) We used to see this all the time when the Gels were in high school. One superintendent in particular was never able to live down the time he refused to clear the schools early and everyone got caught in an ice-storm trying to get home that afternoon. It’s only when we have a truly heavy winter that everyone eventually calms down and just learns to deal with it.

Anyhoo, here we are. We’ve already seen more “snow events” (I hate that term) so far this year than we did for all of the past couple years. They’re already making noise about another one maybe next weekend, a prospect which concerns me simply because that’s when Youngest is supposed to drive back to Ahia for school. We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, the title does not refer to this week’s bookend snowfalls in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Rayther, this has just turned out to be one of those Saturdays where the big tasks seemed to keep hatching baby tasklettes which kept me going sideways.

First came the take-down of the Robbo Family Christmas Tree. It did well up through Epiphany but had already started taking on that droop indicating that the end was near no matter how much water I gave it. I do believe that, for once, we got all the way through the season without a single ornament going for a burton, and I managed to box up and store the lot without any sneaky stowaways remaining in the branches. The tree itself has now joined the remains of its predecessors in the woods out back. I notice that it seems to take two to three years for them to decompose. Last year’s is still a skeleton, the prior year’s a crumpled heap, the rest a mere handful of dust.

Speaking of seasonal decorations, longtime friends of the decanter will know of Ol’ Robbo’s austerity when it comes to same: Wreaths on the front door, a wreath on the dining room table, a tree, a creche, plus a few doodads put out by Mrs. R. That’s it. This has always been the source of some grumbling among the family, but I have my limits.

Well, on Christmas Day, family and friends were gathered together in revelry when Middle Gel suddenly fixed Ol’ Robbo with a gimlet eye and said, “You know, Dad, when I have my own house, I’m going to go completely nuts with Christmas decorations: Blow-up yard balloons, outside lights on everything, garland everywhere, the works! And I’m going to do it just to spike you!”

She will, too. At least once, before she realizes how much bother it all actually is. The Gel is really sweet-natured but when she decides something is going to happen, it’s pretty much going to happen. Iron fist in the velvet glove, that one.

Next was the new teevee. Yes, Mrs. R had saved up her Amex points and got a 55-inch flatscreen for the living room. Here, I’m the victim of my own good idea. Back in the earlies I’d envisioned the living room as somewhat formal, a place to entertain bosses and muckety-mucks and the like, so we furnished it accordingly. Such entertainment never actually came to pass, and we wound up not using the room for much of anything. Then one day, about a year and a half ago, I got it in my head that maybe we should forget the formality and just make it comfortable. So, we I repainted it, while Mrs. R found a large, leather sectional sofa cheap on Craig’s List and a big coffee table from what I now believe was a fence for stolen property. Thus, we made the change. The result is that almost every moment it’s too cold to live on the porch is now spent here.

Almost immediately after we made this change, Mrs. R started advocating for the teevee. “For family movie nights and watching tennis tournaments and such,” she said. I’d stuck in my heels because the older I get, the more I crave peace and quiet, and abhor chatter coming out of electronic devices. I feared that once we put it in, there’d be no escape for Ol’ Robbo from all that racket, no matter where he fled in the house. Besides, Mrs. R already has a small teevee in our bedroom, and there’s a perfectly good big one down in the basement. (Don’t ask me to explain why Mrs. R won’t go down in the basement.)

And yet….here we are. We had a fellah come out and mount the thing professionally yesterday, but I don’t need to tell you who had to spend the morning rearranging the furniture to make optimal use of it. Mrs. R swears she won’t watch the thing when I’m around or trying to read, and evidently there’s some arrangement by which she can use headphones connected to her phone, but we’ll see how that all works out.

Running my weekly errands in town, I noticed mask mania has come back with a vengeance. Freakin’ sheep. I also noticed numerous bare shelves at the store, and overheard at least three distinct conversations along these lines:

Customer: Is it because of all the snow?

Clerk: Nope, supply-chain problems. We just can’t get replacement stock here fast enough to keep up.

But My Betters assure me that all is well.

And speaking of which, Virginia has just started assessing a five-cent tax on plastic grocery bags, a measure Ol’ Robbo didn’t even know was being considered, much less passed. In the checkout line, the cashier explained the charge and asked if I still wanted the bags.

“Yeah, let’s go Northam,” I said.

The fellah behind me in line (who was also maskless) looked guardedly amused. The cashier laughed outright.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Once again, Ol’ Robbo finds himself with a handful of ungerminated post idea beans which, like Jack, he will fling into the ether and see if any sprout into stalks.

First, happy Feast of the Epiphany! Ol’ Robbo means to get out and chalk the Port Swiller Manor front door a little later, but only when Mrs. R isn’t looking. To her, this sort of thing is a little too close to hocus pocus, and when she notices what I’ve done she always wipes it off. UPDATED: Mission accomplished. Alas, my handwriting is so bad these days that I could plausibly explain the chalking as owl scratches.

The post-Christmas diaspora begins today with Middle Gel heading back to kollij. Alas, in an attack of foolishness her school just announced that the first two weeks of classes are going to be on-line. We’ll see if it’s only two weeks. (Magic 8-Ball says “Don’t bet the farm on it.”) The Gel’s birthday is coming up shortly and she had arranged with some of her classmates to do one of those “Escape Room” outings. That, it seems, also has been scrubbed because some of her friends won’t be back in time now. UPDATED: Youngest doesn’t go back until toward the end of the month. Her school just put out an update that they are still anticipating regular operations. Magic 8-Ball is still giving me the same reply.

Speaking of travel, it looks as if we’re gearing up for another possible Storm of the Century of the Week tonight in these parts. (The Gel will be well south of it before it hits.) Given the complete balls-up on I-95 due to the storm last Sunday (which my soon-to-be ex-governor is now saying was us rubes’ fault), you can expect the panic over this one to be that much sillier. UPDATE: I meant to mention that our last snowfall was really quite lovely; wet and heavy snow that stuck to all the trees. It’s all blotchy and uneven now, so a couple more inches would be a welcome restorative. UPDATE DEUX: HA! Ya got that? HA! HA!

Speaking of silly panics, yeah, I know what we’re all supposed to be mourning today. I still recall the breathless post an acquaintance put up on FacePlant that evening: “Just wanted to let everyone know that we’re home, 15 miles from downtown, and that we’re SAFE!” Gawd.

Bearded Spock Universe Alert: I found out this morning that Eldest Gel watched “Rebecca” (1940) last evening, the one with Olivier and Fontaine, and really enjoyed it. What was Ol’ Robbo watching at the same time? “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004). Before you ask me to hand over my agonizer, I will say in my defense that I was tired. Also, it really is a funny movie.

Well, that ought to be enough for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers.

Yes, I already updated the post below today, but decided to put up a new one just to report that Ol’ Robbo has become the latest victim of the doubtless “climate change” -induced storm that just came through.

Yes, I managed to fall on the ice while hacking it off the Port Swiller Manor driveway a while ago.

I’m happy to report that I don’t seem to have injured anything, except, perhaps, my pride. And even that wasn’t so bad, since I managed to scramble back to my feet before anybody saw me.

But still….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy!

2022 isn’t two full days old yet and already we’ve got a snowstorm coming into the Port Swiller Manor neighborhood tonight!

Ol’ Robbo has been watching the forecast evolve all day. Currently they’re calling for 4 to 8 inches and high winds. If it pans out, this would be the “biggest” storm we’ve seen in a couple years now. We haven’t really had the chance to dissolve into our traditional white stuff panic for some time, so this may prove to be an excellent opportunity to let loose. The Weather Gang reporting is beginning to get a bit giddy already. Mrs. R also reports that the store was full this afternoon with people stocking up.

‘Course, it doesn’t mean as much to Ol’ Robbo as it did back when we still had “snow days” down at the office. With everyone teleworking now, that particular bit of fun is long gone. On the other hand, if I have to work, at least I can say to any of the Gels who might want to get out later on and want the driveway cleared, “You know where the shovels are: Do it yourselves. I’m busy.”

Well, we shall see what happens.

UPDATE: Well, it’s certainly coming down hard this morning as advertised. Decanter Dog is delighted. She detests rain and hates going out in it, but snow makes her frolic like a puppy again.

Meanwhile, it’s been a couple years since Ol’ Robbo got to rant about snowplows knocking down his mailbox. Will this prove to be another opportunity? Stand by.

UPDATE DEUX: Maaaybe 4+ inches altogether. And to my surprise, I did get help with the driveway. Mailbox status? Unbashed. And once again, we’re spared the necessity of burning the library and eating the pets.

Apres Le Deluge UPDATE: Well, while Ol’ Robbo gently jests about his experience, looks like things were actually pretty bad south of here. I know that stretch of I-95 very, very well. For whatever reason, drivers always turn especially aggressive between Quantico to the north and about Ladysmith to the south, with the vortex centered at the 17-South exit just below Fredericksburg. Whether the tractor-trailer crash was the fault of lunatic truckers or VDOT’s road prep, or some combination thereof, I dunno, and of course I’m not laughing about that. What does amuse me is that there appear to be those who are blaming Glenn Youngkin for it, even though he won’t be sworn in until January 15th.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, the annual clean up out by the street in front of Port Swiller Manor is now just about complete. Ol’ Robbo spent the morning cutting back the low, grassy plantings in the beds lining the sidewalk and then gathering up all the leaves that had become stuck in them. The maples are completely done, and Old Man Oak only has about a quarter of his leaves remaining, which will continue to drop in small batches until spring, but I won’t really need to deal with them until then. It all almost looks neat for a change.

When I think about all the time, money, and effort I put into keeping up street frontage that isn’t even my property, the more I consider charging the County a maintenance fee to be a good idea. Or maybe I’ll just give myself a credit on my property taxes. What could go wrong?

In the “Watch out, Fred! Here it comes again!” Department, trudging back and forth to the woods to dump leaves, I noticed (now that the magnolia masking it has dropped all its leaves) just how thoroughly the ivy has taken over the end of my garage roof. I’d had no idea it was that thick. I love ivy on brick walls (I know, I know), but on the roof it’s definitely no bueno. Yet another task. Fortunately, I won’t have to try and climb up there, but instead hopefully can undercut it from the ground and let it wither away on its own.

As for the sundry, those of you keeping up with the great lamp rewiring project mentioned below will be interested to learn that Ol’ Robbo took apart the doings and was gratified to see with his own eyes just how easy switching out the sockets will be. Even I can manage screwing in just two wires. Alas, I wasted a perfectly good hour or two yesterday going over to Home Despot, only to find that they didn’t carry the replacement parts I need. Not wishing to chase all over the place looking for other possible sources, I succumbed and ordered them from the devil’s website, and am now sitting about impatiently waiting for them to be delivered so I can finally clean up my temporary workshop on the kitchen table. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Whiskey for My Men and Beer for My Horses UPDATE: Success! The new sockets showed up late this afternoon. Ten minutes later I had all three lamps rewired and working just fine. A minor triumph, to be sure, but there’s a certain satisfaction to any DIY success, however small.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(You may thank Ol’ Robbo for the earworm later.)

Even if I hadn’t read about the big storm making its way across the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, it was perfectly obvious to me as I pottered about the yard this morning that Something is on its way in. The sky is coming in full sail from the southwest, it’s absurdly warm for this time of year (I’m in shorts), and there is that indefinable feel of dropping air pressure that one can develop if one pays attention.

While we’re not supposed to catch it half as badly as others have, the thing may prove problematic. It’s supposed to hit us early this evening, which just so happens to be the first time Ol’ Robbo has been set to go out and be social in I don’t know how long. (A fundraiser for one of Mrs. R’s ladies’ groups. I said I’d go only if I didn’t have to wear a mask.) Also, after all the trouble I went to last weekend getting the basement ready for Middle Gel’s young man to stay in tomorrow night, there’s now a substantial risk that the place will get flooded again, meaning we’d have to put the boy someplace else. Grrr.

Well, we shall see what happens.

Tis The Season UPDATE: The bang that jerked Ol’ Robbo out of his meditations over Peej O’Rourke’s*** Republican Party Animal this afternoon turned out to be Mrs. R trying to pull into the garage having forgotten she had a Christmas tree lashed to the roof of her Honda Juggernaut. D’oh!

Said tree is now duly enstanded and draped with lights, ready to be decorated tomorrow by the Young Persons.

Turns out we were lucky even to get it. Mrs. R had swung by my church first, but they were all out. She went over to Meadow Farms and just managed to grab the last 7 to 8-footer. The fellah told her they were 400 trees short this year. And what cost 80 bucks last year is now a cool 125. The fellah blamed the scarcity and price increase on chain-of-supply issues and inflation.

Lima Golf Bravo!

(Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)

***Yes, I know he’s gone completely off the deep end recently, but I still like to reread his old stuff.

UPDATE DEUX: Nowhere near enough rain to cause flooding and the basement remains dry as a bone. Also, Ol’ Robbo almost enjoyed himself at the party. So a good evening overall.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. Nicholas! (Have you punched a heretic yet today?) UPDATED: As I mentioned elsewhere this morning, there is no documentary evidence that St. Nicholas was heard to mutter “Yippee-kai-ay, pal” before landing one on Bishop Arius at the Council of Nicea, but I nonetheless choose to believe it happened.

Flipping through the headlines, Ol’ Robbo is reminded of the joke from around this time last year: If you thought 2020 was bad, just wait till it turns ’21 and starts drinking. In hindsight, that seems downright prophetic, don’t it? (I had thought that sooner or later common sense would reassert itself, but I believe I saw where it’s just been outlawed.)

Speaking of psychotic, we go from the upper-60’s today to mid-30’s and snow on Wednesday and then back to mid-60’s by Friday. Wheeeee!!! (I pat myself on the back, by the bye, because I actually went out and bought a new snow shovel this weekend.)

On the literary front, a couple weeks back I remarked that Brideshead Revisited was Evelyn Waugh’s only first-person narrative novel. This is incorrect, as I had forgotten about his Work Suspended until I came across it in his short stories. He only completed a couple chapters, though, before the War started and, as it were, broke things up. Just to set the record straight.

And as long as I’m on the arts, I happened to catch “The War Wagon” this weekend, so far as I know the only western John Wayne and Kirk Douglas made together. It’s not a good movie, in part because I sense no chemistry whatever between the Duke and Douglas. The only explanation that comes to mind is that when Douglas and his ego are on screen, there’s just not really any room for anyone else.

So there you are. (Wherever you go.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you who had “November 30” as the date for the first snowflake sighting at Port Swiller Manor this year may collect your winnings at the window. (Granted, it’s just a very few flakes mixed in with some drizzly rain, but I definitely saw white and that’s good enough.)

It reminds me once again that I still need to purchase a new shovel after having broken my old one hammering at a layer of ice last year.

Ol’ Robbo used to get excited at the prospect of snow but now, not so much. For one thing, as regular friends of the decanter will know, the focus of school-related travel amongst the Gels has shifted from the East Coast to the Midwest, where both the younger ones will be driving to and from over the next few weeks. That in itself is enough to induce butterflies in my stomach. That they might try it in icy or snowy conditions? Yes. Quite. (I have been boring the Gels to tears over the past weeks lecturing them about paying attention to the weather and not attempting to move if things look questionable.)

For another, I’ve finally reached the age at which shoveling the stuff has completely lost any sense of novelty or fun, and is now just a damned pain in the neck (or back, to be more accurate).

Locally, we haven’t had a really big snow in about five or six years now. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold but relatively dry winter in these parts, but I can’t help feeling we’re about due for the next Snowpocalypse.

For once, I hope I’m profoundly wrong.

UPDATE – Genuinely coming down now and it looks like it’s sticking on the driveway a bit, so any quibbles about Ol’ Robbo declaring today the winner on a mere technicality can be put to rest.

Side-Rant UPDATE DEUX: When, exactly, did this “Giving Tuesday” thing start? My email in-boxes and even the radio are full of it today. However, the universal message seems to be “Give……to US!”

Ol’ Robbo smells a hustle here.


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January 2022