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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are again and I still haven’t got much. This coming week is crunch time down to the virtual office, after which I hope to ease off a bit and then actually take a much-needed vaycay.

As a matter of fact, we were planning to go on up ta Maine this year. Ol’ Robbo hasn’t been back there in four years now due to one thing and another and thought it would be very relaxing to revisit the old haunts. But you know? The logistics started getting complicated and the expenses started getting more expensive and it suddenly occurred to me that I was just too tired to do that much work in order to relax. So we cancelled. (There were no hard feelings amongst the wimminfolk, since the trip was primarily for my benefit anyway.) I will probably just potter about the house and maybe do a few day trips. Tubing on the Shenandoah has been mentioned already.

Speaking of such things, Mrs. R and the Younger Gels return from Wyoming this evening (which see below). I learned last night that Middle Gel isn’t even staying over, but must immediately hop in her car and head back to school because she has work tomorrow morning. I was a bit staggered by this and had to remind myself that I was 21 once upon a time, too.

It’s just as well that Mrs. R’s coming home because Decanter Dog has been missing her mommy and is on something close to a hunger strike. As much as she likes the rest of us, DD absolutely clings to Mrs. R. I’m told this is often the case with rescue dogs, that they’ll latch on to one person in particular. In Mommy’s absence, DD has spent the last few days doing nothing but sighing heavily and giving me the reproachful stink-eye.

Speaking of hunger, Ol’ Robbo paid a visit to the grocery store yesterday to pick himself up a nice steak for din-dins. Good golly almighty! Inflation? What inflation?

I went for a walk yesterday but hadn’t got far before a pack of wild Delta Variants came boiling around the corner, howling and slavering. I had to turn and run for it, feeling like a serf being pursued across the Russian Steppe by starving wolves. True story.

I keed, of course, but the renewed panic has got us concerned about Youngest. As much as we and she like her school, we’re not paying through the nose for another year of “virtual” learning. If they decide to pull that stunt again, she’ll probably wind up transferring to saner pastures. So far there hasn’t been any noise made, but we’re watching the situation somewhat apprehensively.

Whelp, that’s enough for now, I b’leive. Oh, one other completely unrelated item (because it’s my blog and I’ll bore if I want to). I recently got my Criterion Collection copy of “Red River”, the great John Wayne/Howard Hawks western. It’s always been a favorite of mine, but there’s one thing that bugs me every time I watch it: Montgomery Clift and John Ireland play the two slick, young gunslingers working for the Duke on the great cattle-drive. Toward the beginning of the film it’s foreshadowed (hell, Walter Brennan even says it) that eventually they’ll have to go against each other, just to see who’s the best. But it never happens. There’s even a place for it when the two become interested in the same girl, but it never happens. You just don’t tee up something like this and then not follow through on it – that’s just bad writing. So sayeth Robbo.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo sent this to me last evening, and I thought I would share. She and the younger Gels are visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons this week. (The haziness is due to the fires in California and Nevada.)

Meanwhile, Eldest and a friend did a day trip to Ocean City, Murrland yesterday, there to frolic on sand and in sea.

And here Ol’ Robbo sits, chained to his desk by work deadlines.

Grumble, grumble.

Matter of fact, I’ve been to Yellowstone, but it doesn’t really count. The ‘rents took me camping there but I must of been all of 18 months old. It did leave a mark, however, as the Mothe always ascribed my liking for fried eggs to my getting them for brekkers over the campfire while we were there.

UPDATE: Oh, I should also mention here that I’ve never actually been to OC or any other beach in Murrland (or Delaware or Jersey, for that matter). It’s like they don’t exist in my conscience.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo didn’t put up his usual Saturday Garden Post this weekend because after three hours working in the boiling heat, he staggered back in to Port Swiller Manor with all the traditional symptoms of heat-exhaustion and spent the rest of the day lounging with a damp cloth on his head.

Although still a bit woozy yesterday, after Mass I went out to pick up some branches and limbs that fell out of one of the trees during Saturday night’s non-storm storm. It was somewhat cooler and cloudier so I thought I’d be okay.


Five minutes in, I was literally dripping with sweat (a condition called hyperhidrosis), aching in all my limbs, and dizzy.

I’m still feeling it today and have already cancelled my plans to exercise later.

In my defense, I started early on Saturday specifically to try and dodge the heat but the temperature cranked up much more quickly than I anticipated and I got caught out before I realized it. Maybe saving lawnmowing for the evening now is not such a bad idea after all.

Yes, I can be taught!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo describing his ride out to summah camp with Youngest Gel at the wheel two weeks ago.

Well, today I went to fetch her back.

Owing to the fact that the Gel was there as a rookie counselor instead of a camper this time, she had to stick around for a longish staff debriefing after their charges had all gone away. This left Ol’ Robbo a goodish bit of time on his hands, so I decided just to park myself and contemplate the goodness of God’s creation.

It was wonderfully refreshing.

By the bye, even though the covidz broke out in the Gel’s cabin mid-term and she reports they were treated like a bunch of lepers for the balance, she really, really enjoyed her two weeks as a counselor-in-training and is already eagerly looking forward to doing the entire summah there next year.

And even as I type this, it suddenly occurs to me that today may very well have been my last visit to the place, as the Gel will take herself there next year and who knows if I’ll be around long enough to see grandkids attend. Funny, that. Thirteen or fourteen years of making the drive twice a summah and suddenly zhoom – it’ gone.

Glad I got a good, long opportunity to soak it all up one last time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, the continued string of hot, sticky days here has got Ol’ Robbo firmly in its grip. I recognize the signs.

Mrs. R has gone off up to Connect-ti-cutt to visit her folks for a few days. She messaged me, “Got here safely – only one near-miss in the Bronx!” That’ll wake you up in a hurry.

(We’ve always taken the GW Bridge and teh Cross-Bronx when headed north. The Tappen-Zee may be safer and easer but I just can’t stand the idea of going all the way up and around like that.)

I mentioned cable yesterday. Apart from the odd TCM offering and AccuWeather, the only two channels I watch at all are H&I for “Star Trek” reruns and INSP for old westerns. I noticed that these channels seem to run an inordinate number of commercials for hair-restorers, testosterone boosters, and hearing aids. “Heh,” I said to myself, “Just what sort of person do they imagine is watching…….Hey! Wait a minute!!

Oh, I suppose it’s Bastille Day. Those who wish to wipe out the past and start over at Year One should keep in mind how that little drama eventually played out.

I dunno whether the falling of the big maple in our back yard has anything to do with it, perhaps shifting territories or something, but I now have a problem with pileated woodpeckers attacking the porch supports. I confess I don’t yet know quite what to do about this.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got at the moment.

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo used to be able to put his head down and just power through when he didn’t have time to eat all day. I find I really just can’t do that anymore.

Also, I would like to find the person who invented “Track Changes” and cause them some harm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are again.

Over the weekend we got word that a couple cases of everybody’s favorite plague have broken out at Youngest’s summah camp, including one case in the cabin of 9-year-olds she’s counseling. Fortunately, the camp’s response wasn’t to disburse all the campers into the hills and burn the place to the ground, as it might have been last year. Instead, they sent home the sickies and have stepped up testing on anyone likely to have been exposed to them. But the notice we got also contains the following:

“Because the remaining campers in [the affected cabins] were exposed, we have created an even-more-separated camp experience for those cabins moving forward. Meals for these cabins are being served in the barn, and all activities will take place at an even-greater distance from the rest of camp.”

In other words, they’ve been banished to Siberia.

Youngest felt so bad for her little flock that she went to the nearest Party Barn on her day off and seemingly bought the place out. (Good on her.)

Meanwhile, Ol’ Robbo received a poll in the mail from some outfit called the “Institute on Voter Attitudes & Public Policy”. Ha, ha, ha. As I’ve explained to countless hipster-doofuses with clipboards who have accosted me on the streets of Your Nation’s Capital over the years, the three things Ol’ Robbo does NOT give to strangers are his name, his money, and his opinions.

Nonetheless, I glanced over the survey. It’s the usual stuff – presidential approval, immigration, guns, abortion, public education, etc. But one question stood out:

“There is considerable debate in Congress over various plans to balance the budget. What do you believe is the best way to balance the budget?”

This actually made Ol’ Robbo laugh. The 1990’s called and want their debate back. When was the last time anybody in Congress seriously talked of “balancing” the budget? Heck, when was the last time we even had a budget, much less a balanced one? Get real. (The responses offered were the usual raise taxes, lower spending, or both. If I were to return the survey, I’d have scribbled in “In this bizarro world into which we’ve descended, what difference does it make now?”)

**Goes back to assembling his James Bond Sooper-Villain Hideout Lego kit**

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth with plenty of grilled meats, adult beverages, and things that go BOOM! in the night.

Ol’ Robbo’s day was taken up with the Big Drive with Youngest about which I posted the other day.

Things started ill-omened enough. For one thing, I screwed up my alarm clock so that when I jerked awake at oh-dark-thirty, it was to the panicky realization that I was running late. Then when we got in the car I found that the Gel’s tank was practically empty, so we had a bit of a scramble to find a gas station open that early. Finally, when we’d picked up our coffee just before hitting the highway, the Gel announced that we needed to return home because she’d forgot “something”. (That “something” turned out to be her wallet.)

Oh, Lord, I said to myself, it’s not going to be one of those trips, is it?

Well, it wasn’t.

In fact, the Gel did just fine. Granted, there wasn’t much traffic, but she still had to pick her way around some tractor-trailer rigs and it was evident she knew what she was doing. For the rest, she was calm and focused, and set a good pace without being a maniac like Middle Gel, who channels Richard Petty every time she gets behind the wheel.

Indeed, I was able to unclench pretty early on, and we wound up having a nice chat about Life, the Universe, and Everything. The drive went quite quickly.

I learned earlier that Mrs. R had approached Youngest and asked her if she really felt she needed me to go along. “Oh, definitely,” she replied. “I don’t know how to get there!” (I should note that because of the tricky backroads at the end, GPS is useless.)

I put this to the Gel on the drive. “This is, what, your eleventh or twelfth summer at this camp. How on earth can you not know the way yet?”

“I always slept in the car, remember? I’d close my eyes and the next thing we were there!”

I suppose she has a point, but being such a geography nerd myself from a very young age, I find this attitude alien.

Anyhoo, we got there in plenty of time and the Gel was delighted to be back. I duly humped her gear up to her cabin and then drove back to Port Swiller Manor.

It’s our turn to host a barbeque in a small circle of friends and Mrs. R had at first toyed with the idea of having it on the Fourth. She reconsidered, however, when she thought about how tired I would be when I got back from dropping off Youngest. In this, I applaud her good wifely sense and consideration, because I was indeed pretty beat by the time I got home. In fact, I dozed off in the hammock, waking up just in time to cook our own modest dins and then to listen to the fireworks going off in the neighborhood. (There seemed to be a lot of them this year.)

I have to go retrieve the Gel in two weeks. Because of the camp schedule, we’ll be starting back on a Friday afternoon, not a Sunday morning, so the traffic more than likely will be pretty nasty. I’m sure the Gel will be quite worn out from counseling a gaggle of nine-year-olds for all that time, so I think I’ll just let her sleep on the drive home. So far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need to prove anything more to me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A cool and damp morning gave Ol’ Robbo the opportunity to get out in the garden and do some badly-needed deadheading and weeding. You may be quite certain sure that he had his head on a swivel and both eyes wide open for any sign of the snake he encountered last weekend. Fortunately, I didn’t spot it. Perhaps it went home. I certainly hope so.

Happy Strong Vincent Day! Yes, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Little Round Top, the second day of Gettysburg. When Dan Sickles decided to go walkabouts with his Third Corp, leaving the hill wide open on the Union left flank, it was Vincent who spotted the danger and, off his own bat, pulled his brigade out of line to occupy it. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine get all the glory these days, but they wouldn’t have been there in the first place without Vincent’s foresight.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo that he may well watch “Gettysburg” this weekend, as it’s been a while. Here’s the thing that always bothers me about that film: In his prologue to The Killer Angels, on which the film is based, Michael Shaara said very explicitly that the novel was not the story of Gettysburg, but instead of some of the men who fought there. But with its title, the movie seems to suggest it is about the entire battle, especially to audiences who wouldn’t know any better. So, for example, it depicts the fight at Little Round Top including the 20th’s bayonet charge, but virtually nothing about the desperate fighting that went on all along the line from Cemetery Ridge to Culp’s Hill all the rest of the day and on into the night. You’d think once Jeff Daniels goes hobbling back up the hill it was all over and done until Pickett’s Charge the next day. Irksome.

On the non-irksome front, La Wrangler started showing a check-engine light last Sunday, making Ol’ Robbo apprehensive that he might be about to be bit for some major repair. Fortunately, I know the trick for using the ignition to get the warning code to display on the speedometer: turns out it’s detecting a small leak in the EVAP system, which might be nothing more than a loose gas tank cap (and it does seem a little shaky). But the bottom line is that whatever the issue is, it’s small, I can still drive, and I don’t need to worry about it until inspection time, which isn’t until October.


What else? The first of Ol’ Robbo’s termaters are now nearly ripe. Time for me to start looking around for a home-made salsa recipe. (I can just hear it now: “Says here this salsa was made in Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia??!! Get a rope!)

Whelp, the afternoon is still young and those chores aren’t going to do themselves….P’raps some more nonsense later..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How the heck did it get to be the latter half of 2021 already? (Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The sooner this garbage year is over, the better.)

At any rate, this weekend Youngest starts a two-week counselor-in-training gig at the gels’ long-time summah camp. (The CIT position is only for a single, two-week term. She plans to return as a counselor for the entire summah next year.)

Ol’ Robbo has written here many times over the years about the drive out to southwestern PA to drop off the gels at camp. The question came up this year: Do we just let her go by herself?

After not too long a period of consideration, I came to the conclusion no, not all by herself. I-270/I-70 up into the Appalachians can be a tricky, taxing drive, and the Gel doesn’t have any experience of that kind of terrain or traffic. Plus, even after all these years, I’m not at all sure she even knows exactly how to get to the place. (She seems to have inherited Mrs. R’s lack of geographic awareness.)

So the plan is that the Gel will, indeed, do the drive, but that Ol’ Robbo will ride shotgun and bring her car home himself. We’ll do the reverse two weeks later. I just want to see how she does before turning her completely loose.

When I was bringing Mrs. R and her friends home from the airport the other day I mentioned all this, only to find myself the subject of some vague disapproval and a slew of anecdotes about how “when MY son first got his license, he drove halfway to California all by himself”, etc., etc. Well, that may be, and I don’t deny that kids have to learn and parents have to let go sooner or later. But I know this kid and this drive in particular and don’t believe I’m being overly-protective in riding along on her first trip out there.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter (but I repeat myself) will no doubt be not the slightest bit surprised that Ol’ Robbo’s entire Saturday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of the big maple brought down by storm this week. (I had mentioned its termite infestation before but closer study of the spot where the trunk actually snapped sure doesn’t reveal any compromised wood to Ol’ Robbo. We did have a storm come through Monday night, and as the tree is both big and top-heavy, I think this is what must have got it after all.)

The thing must have been 60 or 70 feet tall. Two of its three main trunks snapped, bringing down a plethora of lesser sub-trunks, boughs, limbs, and branches. That’s a lot of tree.

Ol’ Robbo made it his task to saw off and remove all the lessor branches, so that when his handyman and crew appear (on Wednesday I now hear), they can cut up all the main parts for firewood (of which I will not lack this winter). Ol’ Robbo doesn’t own a chainsaw but has a nifty little hand-saw that is good for anything up to a three or four inch diameter, so I set that as my benchmark.

As I worked away this morning (fortunately a cool one) I thought about all sorts of things I might write here about how it’s good to take on this kind of job oneself: the exercise is a plus, of course, but there’s something else about getting one’s own hands dirty and not being too proud or spoiled to do it. Besides, whenever I have my handyman do a job like this, he never throws the branches where I want him to, stacking them next to the brush pile instead of on top of it. (That’s why I don’t have him do the leaves in the fall anymore, too.)

By this afternoon, I was ready to pay just about anyone any amount to take the damn job off my hands and finish it.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t Robbo have at least two young, healthy, and strong daughters home at the moment? Why didn’t he get them to help?” To which I reply, “Yeah, right.” For better or for worse, Mrs. R has inculcated the Gels with the idea that there are certain jobs that are simply left to the menfolk (meaning me). Yardwork is definitely one of them. (This brings to mind a memory of my brother and myself slaving away for the Old Gentleman in the hot Texas sun of my misspent yoot while our sister skulked in her room listening to her Adam Ant records. Some things don’t change.)

Anyhoo, at last the thing is done, and I’m sunburned, worn out, and too tired to go to the store for dinner supplies. (Well, Eldest volunteered to do that, so at least that’s something.)

Oh, the other bit of excitement: I was coming up the hill from the back gate after a brush pile trip when I looked up and suddenly saw on the lawn ahead of me…….a snake! I hate snakes! Why did it have to be a snake? No step on snek!

It was a big thing, at least four feet long, glossy black with a white underside, a thick torso and a small head. The innerwebz tell me this was an Eastern ratsnake. I’d never seen one before. (You can tell me all about how harmless and beneficial they are, but I don’t care. Did I mention I hate snakes?)

The thing was gliding slowly toward the house. Ol’ Robbo did not wish it to proceed in that direction any farther, so after my initial interjection of something like “Ergblethrubububah!!!“, I tried to get its attention with word and gesture (which it ignored) and eventually by judiciously-aimed sticks (which it did not). Finally, I headed the thing and persuaded it to go back down the hill. It disappeared in the ivy patch in front of my garden fence. I’ll never set foot in that patch ever again.

At first I couldn’t figure out what on earth the thing was doing right out in the open on short grass. It later occurred to me that it probably lives in the brush pile and that my constant throwing of debris on the pile flushed it out.

All in all, a very full day.


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July 2021