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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A bit too soggy in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor to do anything useful in the yard this Saturday, so Ol’ Robbo won’t even bother.  Instead, how about a little of this and that?

♦  Middle Gel (and Mrs. R) went to an overnight freshman orientation program this week.  I believe it was when she returned armed with her first semester schedule that I finally realized yes, she’s a college kid now.  Most….discombobulating.  It’s a very different feel from when Eldest went off, perhaps because then one was so caught up in the groundbreaking aspect but now the tempus fugit theme seems more present.  God know what it will be like when Youngest goes……

♦  While Mrs. Robbo and Self were away on holiday, I of course paid no attention whatsoever to any form of “news”.  Catching up upon my return, I was both interested and delighted to see the “OhMuhGawdTrumpHitlerIsTearingInnocentMigrantBabiesFromTheirMothersArms!!” meme launch, soar, and crash in flames, all in about 72 hours or so.  Surely there is doctoral thesis-level material there regarding the insanity of the modern nooz propaganda cycle.

♦ Oh, and if you’re interested, Ol’ Robbo is of the opinion that any “blame” that attaches in this matter lies squarely on the parents who drag their children into such a horrible situation in the first place.  Regardless of what Nancy Pelosi or the USCCB may say to the contrary, it is not a sin to refuse to aid, abet, or encourage this kind of child abuse.  So there.

♦ And one other politickal observation?  There will be no “Blue Wave” this fall.

♦ Ol’ Robbo saw quite a bit of “ink” on the beach this week.  I don’t mean a discreet little doo-dah on an ankle here or there, I mean elaborate designs all up and down legs, arms, and backs.  Call me what you will, but I simply fail to see what somebody could possibly be thinking in going for such a look.  Especially (yes, I’ll say it) a woman.

♦ Has any friend of the decanter seen the new Incredibles movie? Frankly, I’m afraid to.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Fingers crossed that thunderstorms don’t thwart my grilling plans later: what with various comings and goings (Eldest gets home from visiting grandparents this afternoon and both the younger gels are away tomorrow to separate summah camps/retreats), this evening is the only time in the next couple weeks when all five of us will actually be home together for dinner.

UPDATE:  Long-time friend of the decanter Sleepy Beth has a review of The Incredibles 2 which gives Ol’ Robbo much hope.  Go check it out.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo and the Missus just got home from celebrating our 25th anniversary in Bermuda.  My friends, all I can say is that it is a delightful, delightful place.

Friends of the decanter will remember that Ol’ Robbo asked some time last week about things to do and see in the place.  In the end, however, by enthusiastic mutual consent, we wound up simply loafing about for three days.  Uncle Robbo did remember to bring back a few snaps for your entertainment, however.  On reviewing them, I believe you will concur that our decision was a wise one.

We stayed at a private club at Coral Beach, located on the south side of the island at roughly the midpoint.  Here is the view from our balcony:

Room With A View

We ate breakfast here each morning, and by the time we left had collected quite the following of sparrows and kiskadees (a bird Ol’ Robbo had not seen before) through tossing breadcrumbs out on to the floor.  With a full pot of java and that kind of view, why wouldn’t I linger over it?

At night, we left the double-doors open (but not the screens) so as to catch the sound of the waves crashing and the wind rustling in the palms.  The other thing we heard all night was about a bajillion tree frogs, many of which had a call that sounded like a high-pitched sonar “ping”.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo slept very badly all three nights, but that’s because I always do so when away from home.  I could have taped this particular cacophony and made bank selling it as a soporific.

Eventually, though, we’d toddle down to the beach.  The first thing I must say is that I have never seen sea water quite like this – so clear and so luminously blue.  The second is that for all the talk of “pink” Bermudian sand (and our beach is supposed to be one of the pinkest), you’ve really got to catch it at the right time of day and without a lot of footprints and tiretracks churning it up in order to get this notion.

Life’s A Beach

Anyhoo, as I say, we’d toddle down to the beach after brekkers.  Each day, we’d set up shop under an umbrella and alternate between reading, dozing, plunging into the water (where we saw numerous schools of young Jack Permit fish fooling about), walking laps (the entire beach is about half a mile or so from end to end), and getting the nice man at the bar to bring us G&T’s and Pimm’s Cup.  Tough life.  Tough life.  (Yes, we talked about marriage stuff, too, but I won’t bore you with what is, after all, confidential.)

Actually, it was truly tough in one respect:  Ol’ Robbo, even as he types, is suffering from being thoroughly cooked by the sun.  I tried spraying on sunblock, but evidently my skills are suboptimal, because I’ve come out looking piebald, like Ransom in Perelandra.

By the bye, and still keeping on the topic of the beach, the whole time we were there, we got to watch pairs and groups of the iconic Bermuda Longtail fly up and down the shore.  An intensely beautiful tropicbird that I, of course, have not seen before. I can well see why so much of the local artwork incorporates images of this bird.

The place we were staying is set at the top of a forty foot cliff overlooking the ocean.  (Right at the top are the restored remains of an English gun emplacement from the earliest colonial times.  Idiot Robbo had forgot all about the fact that Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by Jamestown colonists under George Somers after their ship was driven ashore during a hurricane.)  During the day, as I say, we were able to get refreshments down on the beach.  In the evenings, we dined up at the top of the escarpment.

All in all, as I say, delightful.

A few random additional thoughts and observations:

♦  The Bermudians, as a rule, at least so far as I observed, seem to be friendly without fawning.  They were all of them cordial, but one was always aware of a polite but firm barrier.  I’ve no problem with that.

♦  The place is very cramped, and space is at a premium.  The roads are narrow, shoulderless, and wound about, and it’s small wonder that the island-wide speed limit is only 25 mph.  Between that and driving on the left side, Ol’ Robbo would have quickly gone insane behind the wheel had he attempted it.

♦  The place also is as expensive as hell, largely because everything has to be imported.  I’m still gulping a bit about the total damage done from our trip (not that it wasn’t completely worth it).

♦ I had not realized that the only substantial water supply on the island is rainfall, so that each resident is responsible for catching and storing as much said rain as possible via roofs and tanks.

♦  Somebody remarked here previously that landing at Bermuda was like landing on an aircraft carrier.  I dunno about that, since I don’t look out the window until the rubber meets the tarmac, but I can tell you that because of that comment, and because the flight out was rather bumpy, Ol’ Robbo found himself repeatedly muttering under his breath, “Next time, Jack, write a goddam memo!” **

** A nifty-gifty of a spotable quote.

Anyhoo, long story short, we had a lovely time and will definitely go back if and when we can.

UPDATE: My apologies if any friend of the decanter feels this post is a bit too Robin Leach-ish.  Ol’ Robbo did not in any way wish to appear as if sticking on dog about “Champaign wishes and caviar dreams” here.  This was the first vacay Mrs. R and I spent together alone and in some style in God-knows how many years and we worked like dammit to plan, save, and wangle so that we could enjoy it without worry.

By the bye and speaking of which, my favorite Robin Leach quote? “There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.  It was….the garage.”  Anybody spot the quote?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Perhaps due to all the rain we’ve got round here this spring, Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the Virginia Creeper which festoons several of the walls of Port Swiller Manor is growing in leaps and bounds.

There are people who don’t like VC and treat it as a weed, but I’m not one of them.  (I prefer the term “native species”.) It has big, beautiful bunches of leaves that turn flaming red in the fall, it takes no maintenance whatsoever, and it doesn’t dig into masonry the way ivy does.  (True, if let out of hand it’ll gum up your gutters, cover windows, or smother other plants, but that’s true with any vine.)

So I’m happy to let it alone.

On the other hand, I was out in the garden this morning after a long absence and noted that the morning-glory was in the act of committing its annual bust out.  Again, Ol’ Robbo likes morning glory (it grew all over our neighbor’s fence when I was a kid in Texas and I sometimes think about keeping some in a pot on the patio), but this stuff I treat like a weed.  Once it gets itself enmeshed in the butterfly bush and raspberry canes, you can forget about keeping any control over the garden until the first frost hits. Fortunately, I spotted it early enough that I was able to do a major Round Up nuking of it. (It’s the only way to be sure.)

I mentioned last week that I thought this would be crisis time, the point where how things are going to look for the rest of the summah is decided.  I think, I think, that I’m doing pretty well this year, and that the jungle is going to be held more or less at bay going forward.  Of course, we shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

We’ve had boat-loads of rain over the past few weeks in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, and the vegetable division of Ma Nature’s army is responding with a whoop and a holler.  Ol’ Robbo senses that the next ten days to two week will be the crisis point of the year: Can I stay on top of all the weeds?  Or does the jungle once more take over?  (Once we get into the boiling heat of High Summah, Robbo’s will to fight crumbles considerably.)

Alas, the next few weeks are also chock-a-block with other Family Robbo activities, about which more anon, and will leave me little time for machete patrol out in the yard.

We shall see what happens.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days (and maybe the next few, too).  It’s High School Graduation Week here at Port Swiller Manor and unlike her elder sister, who shunned as much of the hoopla as possible, Middle Gel is intent on taking in as many of the activities as she can.  So we had an academic achievement awards ceremony yesterday, I think there’s a parents’ breakfast tomorrow (which I am missing because work), the Big Shoo is Thursday, the school choir has its own awards picnic Friday, and Mrs. R and I are co-hosting the Gel’s  graduation party with another couple on Saturday (not at our house, thank God).

Plus, the Port Swiller In-Laws rolled into town Sunday and are staying for the week.  So there’s that.

Busy times.

Anyhoo, all that aside, I just wanted to note that I saw my first firefly of the season last evening.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here more than once how fond I am of fireflies and of watching them fool about on the edge of the woods on these warm and humid spring evenings.    Sometimes, when it’s very still, I even fancy I can hear a faint *phah* every time one of them lights off.

Always makes me happy.

Ace was talking about “news fatigue” this afternoon, the 24/7 bombardment of outraged shrieking by politickal pundits and talking heads and how so many people are increasingly sick and tired of it all.  He asks the Moron Horde how they cope with it in their various ways.

Me? Well, one method is to sit on the porch in the evening and look for the fireflies.  Another is to watch the clouds (we may get a thundershower this evening).  A third is to contemplate the trees in their yearly cycles.  A fourth is to read a piece of fiction or listen to some musick.  And of course, all of these involve not watching or listening to the MSM.

See how easy that is?  And I haven’t even got to God or Family yet.

One specific act of defiance:  The local classickal station runs three-minute NPR nooz updates at the top of the hour.  Although I listen to the station all day down the office, I’ve got into the habit of shutting it off for those three minutes, just to preserve my blood-pressure.

That, too, is pretty easy.

Really, they can only get you in the end if you let them.

Or perhaps I should say, “[They] can’t take the sky from me.” **


** I hope footnotes are not required for the references.



The Port Swiller Porch, Clean and Reassembled

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After much procrastination, Ol’ Robbo finally propelled himself to get up early this hot Saturday morning and power-wash the back porch and stairs.  (We built the porch four or five years ago and this is, in fact, the first time I’ve done it.)

You may label me as hopelessly bourgeois for it, but I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the job.  Moving all the furniture and brick-a-brack back and forth was something of a nuisance, but how many other maintenance tasks are there that produce such immediate, gratifying results for such comparatively little labor? (And for that matter, how many other places are there in one’s house in which one can spray water all over the place?)

The bad news is that I may have inadvertently killed the washer.  About three quarters of the way down the stairs, I swung the wand around and sprayed the outlet into which it was plugged.  There was a pop and the motor went dead. I don’t know if I tripped the power cord, the circuit-breaker or both.  I’ll look into that later.  For the time being, I just detached the hose, got a bucket of Mr. Clean and a sponge, and did the rest by hand.  (Don’t tell Mrs. Robbo.)

My next trick will be to take on the garage floor.

UPDATE: To quote Professor Farnsworth, “Good news, everyone!”  After hitting the reset on the washer plug, I went and tried it on another outlet and it’s fine.  (It’s almost as if the designers anticipated morons like me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo currently is enjoying a lovely Monday evening on the Port Swiller back porch.  The air is still and heady with the fragrance of the wisteria that opened this week (and Ol’ Robbo has a lot of wisteria in his back yard).  The temperature is just right in the mid-70’s. The catbird is riffing away in the nearby branches.  Ol’ Robbo has a nice glass of wine at his elbow.  And since I haven’t yet toddled off to the basement to turn on the Nats game, I have no knowledge of whether or not they’re winning or losing yet, so anything is still possible.  (I call this period of uncertainty before I pick up the game – typically in about the 5th inning – “Schrödinger’s Box-Score”.)

So what better time to set down my thoughts about some of the movies that have recently come through my Netflix queue, right?  Here we go:

Shane“(1953) – Ol’ Robbo has seen this before several times, but each time I seem to have forgotten what a God-Almighty annoying film it is.  “Shane? What are you going to do, Shane? Shane? Can I come with you, Shane? Oh, Shane, do be careful….Shane!”  There are the seeds of an extremely lethal drinking game there.

Also, as much a fan as I am of Jean Arthur, she was a bit too long in the tooth by then to be making goo-goo eyes at Alan Ladd.

Still, it does have Jack Palance as the psychotic gun-slick.  Ol’ Robbo’s first experience of Palance was his guest appearance in one of the very first episodes of “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century” in 1979, in which he played some sort of Messianic villain.  I recall asking the Mothe about him then and her giving me a rayther dismissive reply, but since then I’ve come to enjoy what I can only call his exuberant eeevil on screen.

Nonetheless, I have made a mental note that I really, really don’t need to see “Shane” again.

One Million Years, B.C.” (1966) – I’ve seen clips of it before, but never the whole thing at once. Yes, I watched it primarily because it features Rachel Welch in a fur bikini.  Shut up.  For what it’s worth, Ol’ Robbo thinks Ms. Welch was one of the single loveliest beauties ever to grace the screen.

Funnily, as I was watching, I couldn’t help recalling the Mothe’s summation of the book Clan of the Cave Bear, which she somehow got roped into reading for one of her book clubs one time: “Woman tames fire, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman domesticates horse, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman discovers principles of agriculture, Woman has roll in the hay. Woman founds civilization, Woman has roll in the hay.”

The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) – See below.  And especially see ODT’s link in the comments. “Here’s to Puh-resident Taft” is another standard line of Ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

The Prince and the Pauper” (1937) – Just exactly how many movies are there altogether in which Errol Flynn goes toe to toe with Claude Rains? (Not that I’m complaining, you understand.)  This one – based on the Sam Clemens story – was okay, I suppose, except that I found the twin boys who played the young Edward VI and the street rat to be rayther annoying.  And damme if that wasn’t Alan Hale, Sr., as the captain of the palace guard.  Have you ever stopped to consider just how much he and his son look alike?  Every time I watch one of these Flynn films (and Hale, Sr. seems to be in just about all of them), I keep expecting to hear the interjection, “GILLIGAN!”

Scaramouche” (1952) – (“Will you do the fandango?” Heh.)  Love and revenge shortly before the French Revolution, a very formulaic (and ultimately dull) swashbuckler.  I’m sorry, but as the Mothe would have said, I just don’t have the genes to think much of Stewart Granger.  Also, I didn’t care for the way the film portrayed Marie Antoinette as a debased social schemer.  And no, the presence of Janet Leigh was not enough to save it for me.  It contains a famous six minute-long swordfight, which I’m glad I saw, but I don’t think I’d bother again.

And sitting in the bowl on the kitchen counter? “The Seven Samurai” (1954). Ol’ Robbo has seen this once before and really enjoyed it, but it’s three and a half freakin’ hours long.  Last time I watched it was on an afternoon back in the earlies before we had kids when I’d pulled an all-nighter at work the day before, it was raining out, and Mrs. R was out of town.  I don’t want to try again unless and until I can block out a similar un-mortgaged period of time (and also one in which I’m not likely to doze off), so I’ve a sneaking feeling already that I’m eventually going to return it without watching.

Whelp, speaking of which, I suppose it’s time to go collapse those uncertainty waves and see how the Nats are actually doing this evening……


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s finally done: After what Ol’ Robbo considered to be far too much fuss and bother (and in my books, any fuss and bother is far too much), and a mere two months along, the Port Swiller Manor generator is all hooked up and good to go.

Yes, once we finally coordinated with Washington Gas about getting somebody out to install a “bigger” meter out front and inspect the hookup out back, the generator-wallah was out yesterday to test-fire our newest home-improvement gadget.  Sounded just like a lawnmower.  Musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.*

So now, knowing what resources I’ve got as my back, I feel completely confident that the next time the Storm of the Century of the Week bears down on Port Swiller Manor, I can stand outside in my robe, shake my fists at the heavens, and cry, “BLOW, winds, and ker-ACK thy cheeks!”**

I may even stick straws in my hair.  You know – just to get in the proper mood.

On second thought…..better not, what with daughters and all.  Wouldn’t want any would-be Gonerils and Regans to get any funny ideas.

Anyhoo, we’re in the midst of quite the stormy spell, so perhaps we’ll get to put the thing to use rather sooner than later.


* Ol’ Robbo loves the sound of a mower in the distance, especially when I can smell the new-cut grass.  Conversely, back in college I often heard the sound of the leaf-vacuums during fall classes.  To this day, whenever I hear one I start to doze off.

** Did I ever relate this story before?  Sophomore year in college, I was dating a fellow Brit-Lit shark.  For Thanksgiving, I and a couple other fellahs were invited by another classmate down to their home in Darien, CT for dinner.  On the way back to the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, up I-95 to I-91, it poured buckets the whole way.  Pitch black, zero visibility, construction all over the place, and ill-tempered 18-wheeler drivers.  Ol’ Robbo was quite frightened, perhaps more-so because I was a passenger and not the driver.  In any event, I arrived back on campus thoroughly exhausted, only to discover that my G.F. had left a message to go see her as soon as possible.

Alarmed, I raced over to her room and found her surrounded by candles and in tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh,” she replied.  “I’m re-reading King Lear.  And it’s all so…...tragic!”

“Good night,” I said coldly.

It was right about then that I realized that Diane Chambers, although theoretically good, was in practical life disastrous.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A quiet Saturday morning here at Port Swiller Manor, as I am giving mowing the yard a miss this week so to encourage it to seed itself.  (If I have to suffer from all this grass pollen, I may as well take the benefits, too.) So a few things:

♦  Robbo was made to be social last evening, as we attended a drinks and dinner thing for one of Mrs. R’s ladies’ clubs.   One of the things I hate about parties is the fact that all the ambient music and babble makes it very difficult for me to follow what people are saying to me, thus making conversation extremely hard work.  I think there’s a term for this kind of deafness – something like aural overload – and for the first time I found myself seriously thinking I really ought to look into hearing aid options.  (My lawn:  You may get off it immediately.)

I also dislike intensely people my age who act like they’re about 21.  Then again, when Ol’ Robbo was 21, he got criticized for acting like he was in his 50’s, so I suppose there’s some kind of cosmic harmony there.

♦  Speaking of the Young People and pop culchah, regular friends of the decanter will not be a-tall surprised that Mr. Kanye West, as an entertainer, means little or nothing to Ol’ Robbo, even though I have a general idea of how big an influence he has on others.  But I am appalled at the level of venom and the nakedness of the “Get your ass back on the plantation, boy!” response to his daring to say positive things about The Donald.  I hope that’s an eye-opener for other people, too.

♦  And speaking of such things, good on that girl who wore the Chinese prom dress for (politely) telling her on-line cry-bully cultural-appropriation critics to stuff it.

♦  And speaking of The Donald, I do not give a single, solitary damn about Stormy Daniels.

♦  So what do we make of the sudden thaw in Korean relations?  I believe the Norks are suddenly feeling very vulnerable what with the (I believe confirmed) literal collapse of the mountain that was holding their nuclear testing facilities, but I’ve also an idea that we have been leaning on the Chinese to real in Lil’ Kim and make him play nice.  Will something come of it?  Who knows, but when I was growing up I assumed that East and West Germany would be forever separated, so there’s that.

♦  And speaking of international relations, did you see where Saudi Arabia and the Vatican struck a deal about building Christian churches in the KSA?  Pretty cool.  I think Prince Whatshisname is sincere about his push for reform, even if it’s only to maintain his own head.  (I also think he and the Israelis are deep in a scheme to wipe out the mutual threat from Iran, but that’s a different matter.)

The times.  They be interesting.

♦  Those of you who feared Ol’ Robbo was going to self-immolate in panic over his beloved Nats may stand down for now, as the team has won 6 straight, is back over .500 and is within striking distance of 1st place in the NL East.  More importantly, from what I’ve seen, they’re really beginning to mesh and hum, and it’s becoming an actual pleasure to watch them again.  GO NATS!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it took until the tail end of April, but it looks as if Spring has finally arrived in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. Robbo and I finished putting out the porch and planter plants yesterday and then spent a companionable morning today weeding in the garden.

I should note that after many years of leaving all the outdoor work on poor Ol’ Robbo’s shoulders, Mrs. R all of a sudden seems to have been bitten good and hard by the Gardening Bug, and is determined to pitch in.  Personally, I’m delighted: Not only is it nice for us to be able to share an activity, the extra set of hands is of genuine practical help and gives me a fighting chance at keeping the jungle in check.

Meanwhile, Eldest Gel is home for the weekend.  Next week is her last week of school, so she decided to load up her car with as much of her junk as she could and make a preliminary drop.  Anything else she can’t squeeze in when she’s done with exams gets chucked.  The Gel is in something of a rage because she’s found herself carrying a big group project in her musickal theatre class practically single-handedly because her two group mates refuse to do any real work.  “And when I have to become the leader of a group,” she said, “you know it’s in trouble.” She has been meticulously documenting exactly which bits of the project she’s done and which bits the others have as well as all her efforts to chivvy them into activity, and has been in close contact with her prof to explain the situation.  Fortunately, the prof likes her and knows she’s a good student, and has assured her that she won’t get dinged for her classmates’ slackness.

Youngest’s latest barracks-lawyer rhetorical trick has been to lavishly employ the phrase, “I’m just being honest.”  Thus, the following typical exchange:

Self:  “Stop mouthing off at your mother!”

YG:  “I’m just being honest.”

Self:  “I don’t want you to be honest, I want you to be quiet!”


Finally, I’m beginning to get reports that Middle Gel is planning to go whole-hog with prom and graduation celebrations, including various parties and a trip to the beach.  I don’t begrudge her any of this simply because, as tempted as I know she is to give in to the charms of senioritis, she’s still dutifully plugging away at her final semester’s work.  (And I’m telling you here and now that it’s going to be mighty, mighty strange when she takes off for school this fall.)

Oh, circling back to Spring, I just saw a hummingbird.  Better go see if I have any food left for their feeder……..

UPDATE:  No, I didn’t have any, but I picked some up at the hardware store this afternoon.  The hummer came into the feeder 15 minutes after I put it up.  She must be a returning customer.

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