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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since I already lobbed a substantive religious rant at you two days ago, I’ll just remark here that this afternoon – already a week late – I finally put together my Advent table wreath.

The pines at the entrance to our neighborhood which I usually raid for materials got trimmed some time this past fall, so I decided not to cut more off them until they get shaggy again.  Instead, I used some evergreens out of the Port Swiller Manor yard itself, mostly holly and laurel (the hollies have lots of berries this year, no doubt because of all the rain we got).  It looks pretty decent, I suppose, but I doubt it’s going to last all that long since bigger, flatter leaves dry up a lot more quickly than pine needles.  Still, it’ll do until I can go buy a couple feet of roping.

The purple-bowed wreaths went up on the front door in a timely manner, at least.  We got them at Costco this year, by the bye.  Very nicely made and quite inexpensive.  I just hope they’ll make it until Twelfth Night.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, we’ve reached that point in the year where the feeder activity goes into overdrive.  I keep two feeders year round, a main one for the general population and a thistle seed one primarily for the goldfinches.  The local flock can clean out the main one in two days.

This always produces a conundrum for Ol’ Robbo:  Do I stick to my rigid once-a-week ration filling?  Or do I give in and compensate for the increased demand?  If the former, I avoid bankruptcy (seed ain’t cheap).  If the latter, I avoid the feeling that the birds are secretly blaming me for depriving them.

As usual, I probably will wobble back and forth.

Storm of the Century of the Week UPDATE:  Those of you monitoring the big blizzard heading across the Carolinas and Virginny may be amused by this.  As of now, the thing is taunting the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor with maybe a total inch accumulation.  As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once said, “Getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.”

On the other hand, Eldest’s campus down in North Carolina is expected to get anything up to a foot this weekend.  Her last class of the semester was to have been this coming Monday, but the prof cancelled it a couple days ago and so Eldest came home for winter break last evening.  Ol’ Robbo is mighty pleased about that.

Oh, and here is as good a place to mention it as any:  Some months back, Verizon dumped The Weather Channel from its cable line-up, and instead now hosts AccuWeather.  AccuWeather is what TWC used to be back in the day – straight up current conditions, radar, and forecasts, all without Jim “Mimbo” Cantore braving the elements and lecturing us about how Mother Gaia is dying and it’s all our fault!  With this return to the Old School, Ol’ Robbo finds himself becoming a weather nerd once again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Remember that all-important flu shot, the stonewalling of which precipitated such a domestic crisis at Port Swiller Manor a month ago?

Yeah, well after all the sturm und drang THAT magick pinprick really worked out well.  Ol’ Robbo wound up having a pretty decent bout of it this week after all, even missing a couple days of work.

I’m on the back side of it now, thankfully.  The fever and blinding headache are all gone, but I’ve still got the nose of W.C. Fields, the cough of a three-pack-a-day guy, and the voice of Sam Elliot.

Couple that with the fact that it’s a bachelor weekend for me and that it’s supposed to rain all afternoon and I’m sure all you friends of the decanter will agree that there’s nothing for it but to make this a robe and jammies day and say to hell with the yard.

Not that there’s much to do – a little mulching here, a few sticks to pick up there – but that can wait until next weekend.  The bottomless cup of coffee, the large stack of books, and the fireplace are the thing for me today.

(By the bye, I am not going to hesitate for a second faking the flu shot the next time Mrs. R gets after me about it.)

UPDATE:  Since this is basically a content-free post, I invite you all to nip over to this thoughtful article on Science and Religion at Yard Sale of the Mind.  It discusses at length the brainwashing of the yoots these days through crypto-Marxist academic pandering to “Muh Feelz”, a subject of keen interest to Ol’ Robbo.  One line particularly caught my attention on a personal level:

I love adolescence. Having had 4 of our kids pass from childhood to adulthood, and having one 14 year old now, I can say that one of my greatest joys as a dad has been witnessing the intellects of my own children awaken.

Bumpers all around and three times three!  I thank God Almighty that I seem to have been able to steer my own Gels through this passage successfully.  This came to mind yesterday when I was chatting with Eldest.  Apparently she finally got fed up with some snowflake in her history class who was virtue-signaling about Cortez’s treatment of the Aztecs and said loudly and coldly that our own feelings about it didn’t matter a damn and that the only way to interpret the Conquistadores historickally was in the context of late 15th and early 16th Century Spanish politicks, including the Reconquista, the Inquisition, and the developing imperial economy.  “How the hell do you think they’d treat the Aztecs?” she said.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doubts very seriously whether, “Well, I raked some leaves off the driveway this morning” counts as really riveting blog material, but that’s pretty much all I did viz a viz yardwork today.

As a matter of fact, this particular chore is a bit of a fetish for me.  Our driveway goes uphill to what is, especially during rush hour, rayther a busy street.  Leaves, especially wet ones, can be as slippery as ice and the last thing you want to have happen as you’re trying to jackrabbit into an open slot on our road is to have your slicks start to spin, as the Beach Boys might put it.**

(As an aside, the Gargle-Earth street view of Port Swiller Manor was filmed a couple years back during the height of the fall leaf-drop during a time when I was less than diligent about this.  The place looks a mess.  I wish they’d update it.)

Our first freeze warning of the year is up for tonight.  I suppose it’s time to do a little mulching and also to insulate the boxwood planters out on the patio.

** Obligatory (and fun) Beach Boys reference:

A Window On The Past

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Ol’ Robbo got to spend some quality time in front of the firepit.  Youngest Gel and her friend came out for a bit and made a few s’mores, but I mostly had the patio to myself.  (Although I had spoken here on Saturday of breaking into the Laphroaig, since last night was a work night, I contented myself with sticking to the vino.)

Ol’ Robbo simply loves to sit and stare into a fire, particularly when it’s outdoors.  The Mothe used to accuse me of being a pyromaniac.  There’s probably something to this, but the real satisfaction is at a much deeper (and more wholesome) level.

It comes when considering that people have been staring into exactly the same flames practically since the dawn of Mankind.  This link across the complete arc of human history, when one is in the right mood, can produce downright shivers of awe.

Then I begin to muse about random people along that arc and to wonder what went through their minds as they sat there by the fire: Shepherds watching their flocks by night; the Roman garrison at Hadrian’s Wall; John Bates and his friends the night before Agincourt; a Forty-Niner camped along the Arkansas River.  The possibilities are positively endless.

Just lovely.

On the other hand, this evening was the first commute home in darkness.  Not so lovely.  It usually takes the evening rush a week or two to get adjusted to the time change, and it didn’t help that we’ve have a cloudy, foggy, drizzly day here so it was really quite dark.  Many, many unforced errors along the way, like a baseball team early in the season.


Saturday Chillin’

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it has suddenly become that time of year again.  Perhaps because of weather conditions, perhaps it’s just Robbo’s imagination, but the trees seem to be shedding very quickly this year.  As I look about me, the ones I can see all look to be well over half naked, whereas this time just last week there was very little doing.

As to colors? Eh, I’d give them a C+.  A few splashes of red and orange here and there, but mostly brownish yellows.  And this is among the maples, too.  Question: Does the age of a tree have anything to do with the colors it throws?

So Ol’ Robbo spent several hours this morning cleaning up the piles Mrs. R had raked yesterday and mowing over the rest of them.  I think that fresh-cut grass is still my favorite suburban outdoor smell, but damp, rotting leaves hold a special place for me, too.  (I’m just weird that way.)  I also enjoy it when bits of leaf-mulch get on the mower engine and start to smoke and burn.  (It’s too bad traditional leaf-burning is no longer a thing, but I’m sure some knuckle-head would probably reduce our entire neighborhood to ashes if it was.)

Speaking of ashes, because it’s such a pleasantly brisk day, and because Middle Gel is home visiting from school for the weekend, I think we’re going to light up the fire pit after din-dins this evening.  (For some reason, we’ve hardly ever used the thing except for disposing of empty charcoal bags, even though we’ve had it for years.)  The Gels no doubt will want to fool about with marshmallows, but I’m thinking there’s some Laphroaig that’s been sitting on the sideboard for quite some time and it might be a good idea to check and ensure that it’s still in good fighting trim.  (Especially as we get that extra hour tonight!)

And speaking of beverages, I should note that somebody here took me to task for stating that post-yardwork iced coffee with milk is the nectar of the Gods some weeks back.  I should have clarified that this was strictly a summah thing.  (And in that respect, I restate my claim and will gladly give satisfaction to anyone who disputes it.)  At the moment I’m sitting out on the porch with a nice, hot mug of pure black (which see), and it’s definitely the thing for the time and place.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is off from work tomorrow, so tonight is my early Friday Night.  What say you to opening the sluice-gates of my alleged mind and see what comes pouring out?

♦   How about just a little politicks first? Robbo’s prediction: The ‘Pubs hold the House and gain in the Senate. (And yes, both the Elder Gels have mailed in their absentee ballots.) Blue Wave? Naw.  Red Tsunami.

♦  Related, today was “Patriotism Day” at Youngest’s high school. (It’s “Theme Week” leading up to Homecoming this weekend.  Teh kidz were supposed to dress up appropriately.  Youngest wore Stars & Stripes pants and a “Trump 2020” shirt.  Heh, indeed.

♦  Okay, how about we turn to the Arts? Yesterday evening on the drive home, Ol’ Robbo heard the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony on the local classickal station.  The DJ started off by reading some wankstein’s musings about how this piece was ol’ Pyotr Ilyich’s musickal musing on the subject of Destiny, and the ambiguity of whether the final movement represented a Triumph over Fate or a resigned acceptance of it.

Cor lumme, stone the crows.  This is exactly why I loathe Romanticism in all its manifestation.  I don’t give a damn about Tchaikovsky’s views on predestination, I only care about whether the musick is well-crafted or not.  (Duke Ellington: “If it sounds good, it is good.”)

♦  Oh, and I hadn’t realized it until I researched this a bit, but Cole Porter stole the main theme from this movement for his song “Farewell, Amanda” from the Spencer Tracy/Kate Hepburn move “Adam’s Rib”, one of my old favorites.  Been a while since I’ve seen it…..Must look to Netflix queue…….

♦  By the bye, I  despise the whole concept of predestination and fatalism, too.  Ol’ Robbo would not have made a good Calvinist.

♦  Any Charles Portis fans among you?

♦  Today is the Feast of St. Chrysanthus, an early martyr. I had hoped that there might be some association with chrysanthemums, since they are so closely associated with this season and many flower names do, in fact, have Christian origins, but apparently not.  (I don’t really care much for mums anyway.  Too garish for me.)

♦  I suppose I had ought to say something about the World Series here, but really, Ol’ Robbo has no dog in this fight.  I’m pretty sure the Sawx are going to win it all.  I am absolutely sure there’s nothing quite so obnoxious as a triumphant Bahston sports fan.

♦  Speaking of athletics, Ol’ Robbo has got back into working out on his rowing erg.  I realized recently that I had made a big mistake last year (when I first bought it) of trying to do long, steady, power rows (30 minutes, for instance) right off the bat.  I quickly got discouraged with that (being not a 19 y.o. varsity athlete but a 53 y.o. desk-jockey), and so stopped using the thing.  But recently it occurred to me to do some research on recommended workouts and I came across a whole packet of programs of interval training.  Makes all the difference in teh world.  I’ve been at it now for about two weeks and haven’t felt this good in a long time.

♦  By the bye, when I was rowing crew in college back in the day, I had a t-shirt that read “Put an erg on the water and it sinks…”  I still think that’s the right attitude.  (Who knows? Perhaps one day Ol’ Robbo will invest in a scull and take up plashing about on the Potomac.)

Well, enough.  Tomorrow morning, Ol’ Robbo probably will try to get out and give the yard one final mow for the year, ahead of the nor’easter which is supposed to blow in later in the day.  Porch plants probably come inside this weekend, too, and I’m getting ready to slap the rear side-panels back on La Wrangler in anticipation of the colder weather.  (And wetter.  I understand we may get an El Nino this year, which means much precipitation on the East Coast.)







Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, time to cut back the peonies, I guess.  Every single year I tell myself, “Self, we ought to dig these puppies up, divide the root balls, and plant them out.  We could easily have three times as many shrubs as we do now.”

And every year I respond, “Eh…maybe next year.”

I also need to cut back the ferns hanging on the porch in preparation for bringing them inside for the winter.  To actually bring them in today would be to concede a kind of seasonal defeat.

UPDATE:  Done and done. Ol’ Robbo also had to make a hardware store run.  Somehow my reading glasses slipped off my collar without my noticing as I walked out to the mailbox beforehand.  I then squashed them flat while backing out of the garage.  That made me feel old. On the other hand, the gal running the register at the store flirted with me.  That made me feel young.  Until I reflected that she was probably the same age as my own Youngest.  That made me feel old again, plus a little bit creeped out.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!  Did you know that ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize this was a holiday weekend until last Friday?  The relief I felt when I found I had an extra day after all the silly running about behavior I had to do Saturday and Sunday was immense.

So on to this and that:

♦  In the spirit of the day, I recommend to you once again a trilogy of books by Hugh Thomas, sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  They are Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to Magellan, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America, and World Without End: Spain, Phillip II, and the First Global Empire.  What I really like about these books is the way Thomas sets Spain’s American ventures in the context of its home politicks and culture – the Reconquista, the Inquisition, the relations of Castile and Aragon, and the larger Hapsburg connections between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.  It all wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

♦  Speaking of which, Eldest is taking a course this semester on pre-Columbian American empires, specifically the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas.  She’s really enjoying it, in part because her prof refuses to paint them as Rousseauian utopias and is careful to include the uglier aspects as well.  (She recently watched “Apocalypto” in connection with the course.  Her review? “It was weird.”)

♦  And speaking of ugly, is Melania Trump really getting flak for wearing a “colonial” pith helmet on her tour of Africa?  Do these fookin’ people honestly have nothing better to do with themselves?  Or is this just aggression-transfer resulting from last week’s Pickett’s Charge effort to sink Justice Kavanaugh?

♦ On a completely different note, our trip to CNU to visit Middle Gel this weekend was very nice.  We saw her perform in a pan-musick department concert Saturday afternoon, and then went to a BBQ picnic out on the lawn.  While we were eating, the marching band came, well, marching by on their way to the football stadium for the evening’s game.  I understand they are the second largest Division III marching band in the country.  They were really strutting their stuff, too.  I dunno why, but Ol’ Robbo has always been a sucker for school marching bands.  I like both the sound and the razzmatazz.  (And no, I was never a Band Geek myself.)

“Ah, Ha, Ha, Haaa…”

♦  Pulling out of the parking garage at the hotel yesterday morning, Ol’ Robbo was able to make a turn in our Honda Juggernaut that missed a neighboring car’s fender by inches but saved me having to back up again.  As I did so, I laughed in the voice of Snake from “The Simpsons”.  Mrs. R looked at me and said, “You are so strange.”  But I was happy.  Is this just a guy thing?

♦  And speaking of happy and driving, friend of the decanter Tubbs remarks in a comment below on the slog that is I-95 and the Dee Cee Beltway.  In fact, we didn’t do too badly coming up I-64 from the Tidewater and then I-95 from Richmond yesterday.  And I have to confess that ever since they’ve completed the EZ-Pass express lanes on the Beltway and dropped them down to around Stafford on I-95, the last 45 minutes or so of my trips home from south of The Swamp have become downright pleasant.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Ol’ Robbo needs to go mow the lawn now and feel appropriately guilty about historickal European destruction of Indigenous Peoples, but mostly go mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Yardwork status? Done.  I forgot to mention earlier that we took Youngest with us on our visit this weekend.  She got very mad at Ol’ Robbo because I point-blank refused to let her practice driving on the interstates.  I did, in fact, let her drive when we were in Newport News, but even then she almost ran a red light because she got distracted by something.  No way is she ready for bumper-to-bumper at 80 MPH.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, no, not that Swamp.  I’m sure you’re all as exhausted of that wretched biznay as is Ol’ Robbo, and anyway, I try to take weekends off.

Instead, I mean the swamp I discovered the grounds of Port Swiller Manor to be when I went out to mow this morning.  The ground has never really dried out completely all summah, but we had so much rain this past week that it was mostly oozy mud under the grass.  I went ahead and mowed it anyway, even though I probably trenched things up a bit, especially in the shadier areas.  It needed it, and besides I may not have the opportunity next weekend.  Meanwhile, my never-mow neighbor is completely humped.  His lawn is up over a foot and a half now, but he has a riding mower (inherited from the previous occupant) that probably would sink out of sight if he tried to run it today.  (As a matter of fact, I now think the reason he hasn’t mown lately is that he finally managed to break the thing by running over something he shouldn’t have.  He’s pretty reckless when it comes to rocks and sticks.)

Meanwhile, a tad of color here and there in the trees, the first leaves are starting to fall, and the goldfinch are losing their summah coloring.  I also haven’t seen the hummingbirds in a week or two, and wonder if they’ve hightailed it out of Dodge already.

One of the half-whiskey barrels out front has reached the end times: Its metal bands have snapped and the slats are buckled at the breakpoint.  Mrs. R had already planted the fall mums, and we only need the thing to last us a month or two more, so I am thinking that maybe I can just bind it up with something for the time being.

“What will you use,” asked Mrs. R.

“I don’t know yet,” I replied, “But I promise I won’t try to duct-tape it.”

Mrs. R had the goodness to laugh heartily.

UPDATE:  In re the barrel, I went with a couple turns of manila rope.  It doesn’t especially stand out, and lends a subtle, rustic air.  (Mrs. R probably won’t like it, but too bad.)

Also, my neighbor must be a friend of the decanter, because he got out this evening and chopped back the savannah after all.

UPDATE DEUX:  Nope, hummingbird spotted this (Sunday) morning.


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