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Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and welcome to Day One of Ol’ Robbo’s Chuckie Schumer Shutdown Staycation!

Kind of a pity it’s Saturday and all.

Well, we shall see what happens.

Aaaaanyway, I have increasing reason to believe that Daisy, the Port Swiller special-needs pooch, is in love.

With a fox.

There’s a big fellow who’s been hanging about the neighborhood for the past couple weeks.  I’ve seen him gliding around from time to time, including several trips through the Port Swiller back yard.  Indeed, the other day I watched him for a good ten minutes as he tracked back and forth across the lawn, obviously sniffing along Daisy’s scent.

She, meanwhile, every time she goes out now – and she’s always wanting to go out, tracks his scent up, down, and around, as well.  Furthermore, she’s taken to sitting herself down in the middle of the yard, looking about expectantly, and barking.  And although I don’t necessarily speak fluent dog language, I’ve been around them long enough to know the difference between, “Hey, get out of here!” and “Hell-O, Sailor!”

Are these things even possible?  I know that coyotes sometimes mate with domestic dogs, but do foxes as well?  And would a middle-aged lady who was fixed eons ago still feel her heart start to go pitter-patter at the scent of a hunky male in her territory?  Science might say no, but I see what I see.

Ol’ Robbo always assumed he’d have the Gels’ boy troubles to deal with, but I must admit I never imagined something like this.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo drove Mrs. R to the airport in his pajamas this morning.  (How she got in my pajamas, I….oh, never mind.)

No, really. She had a very early flight and I didn’t feel like getting dressed, so I just threw on my robe and a coat over it.  It was only after we were under way that I realized just how ridiculous a position I’d be in if I got pulled over or in a fender-bender.  (Ol’ Robbo’s 11th Commandment is “Thou shalt not make a fool of thyself in public.”)

Of course, I say this now.  Give it another couple years I’ll probably be turning up at the supermarket in such a rig. (Not that I haven’t done so before, but it’s different when it’s 3 ack emma and you’re only there because the baby needs some Pedialyte.)

Once the rush hour traffic dies down, I have to go over to the DMV and get my license renewed.  For some reason, I’m just a bit spooked about the eye exam.  I dunno why they ever bother, since paying attention to what’s going on around you on the road seems to be strictly optional these days.  Still, it would be mighty embarrassing to get dinged for that.  (Which see 11th Commandment above.)

And speaking of getting older (which is really what the eye biznay is about, I suppose), here’s a jaw-dropper for you:  It just occurred to me this week that Eldest Gel is now the same age Mrs. Robbo was when she and I met. (January 27, 1990, as a matter of fact.) Gah!  (The Gel landed a gig as assistant stage manager for her school spring theatre production this week, by the bye. They’re doing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. She wasn’t too interested in getting a part this time and decided to concentrate on the tech side.  The production is being directed by the head of the Theatre Department, who just so happened to be Mrs. R’s major advisor 25 years ago.  (Her spring show her sophomore year was The Dining Room.) Double Gah!

UPDATE:  Three hours of mostly sitting about and twiddling my thumbs later, renewal successfully completed. Eye exam turned out not to be a problem a tall.  I’m almost fifty-three years young, dammit!

I have other day-off things too do – haircut, oil change, etc., but I’ve had about enough for now.  Anyway, as things look at the moment, I may have some unexpected free time on my hands next week, so I can take care of that sort of stuff then.  (Although how anyone could possibly imagine “We care more about illegals than about you pond scum” constitutes a winning political message is quite beyond me.)

Going to go walk the dog instead.  (It’s the first really nice day around her in the last week and a half.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Eldest Gel went back to Sweet Briar yesterday.  It rather boggles the mind that she’s a second semester sophomore already, and that in just a few short months she’ll be…halfway done with college!

She made Dean’s List again last semester (my apologies if I’ve already mentioned this) and has officially declared as a history major with a concentration in Early Modern Europe.  (We happened to be watching the Monty Python episode with the sketch in which Cardinal Richelieu is called as a character witness in a parking offense trial, and I noticed that she was chuckling deeply at the actual historickal facts about the man woven into the script.)  She’s also considering a theatre minor or possibly even a musickal theatre minor.

There’s a big change at SBC this semester, by the bye, in that they’ve taken on a new food services contractor.  This really is a big deal.  I tried never to agree with the Gel that the old service was no better than “prison food” because I don’t like to encourage complaining but, yeah, it really was pretty awful.  The few times I’d eaten on campus in the past year and a half, the food was typically ill-prepared, of scanty variety, and usually stone-cold when served.  In fact it was so bad that the Gel almost never ate in the dining hall, but instead bought instant mac-n-cheese in bulk,** and, when she wanted some variety, headed out to Sheetz or Hate-Fil-A.***  Not only did this involve extra money and travel, it also meant that she ate in her room a lot instead of socializing over to the dining hall.

Mrs. Robbo and other alums had been banging on this issue ever since they organized up to save the school a couple years ago.  How was SBC supposed to recruit students if it offered such a poor service?  Again, I didn’t want to agree publicly because this sort of thing can quickly deteriorate into what I think of as competitive pampering, but they did have a point.  As for the new Administration, they acknowledged that they were running with a cut-rate caterer and that the results showed, but they said they had more important priorities to nail down first, and counseled patience.

Well, it now seems the patience is paying off.  If you click on the linky, there’s lots of blather about the new caterer being grrrrl-powered and eco-friendly and whatnot, but the bottom line is that everyone I know of who has had any experience of them raves about the actual food quality.  When I asked the Gel about her first dinner under the new regime, her one word reply was “fantastic”.

So this is a Good Thing. Hopefully, not only will she get a better diet, she’ll also hob-knob during meals instead of skulking in the dorm.

** She’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that once she’s out of school and struggling.

*** A running joke in the Port Swiller household.  We’ve been calling Chick-Fil-A (which we love) by this name ever since the Socialist Juicebox Wankers tried to mau-mau it a couple years back because of the owners’ unabashed Christianity.  We always speak of “hate sammiches”, “hate shakes”, and “fries of intolerance”, and it’s a running gag that every time the Gel comes home from there, she says, “You know what those intolerant bastards did?  They told me to have a nice day! Who the hell do they think they are!!”  I, personally, never get tired of this joke.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got detoured by the po-po as he made his way home this evening and had to navigate through several neighborhoods to get back to a main artery.

I may be completely delusional in this, but it seems to me that many more people are keeping their outdoor Christmas (excuse me, Holiday) light displays out later this year.  I’d like to think it has something to do with a heightened spirit of the season, but the skeptic in me suggests that it probably has more to do with the deep freeze that blanketed the area for the past couple weeks keeping folks indoors.

Heigh ho.

Speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo took down the Port Swiller Christmas tree last weekend after Epiphany.  I’m happy to report that there were no successful ornament suicides this year, although I caught several of them lurking deep within the bows round back, just waiting for the opportunity to hurl themselves to the floor.

As is my wont, once I had stripped it, I hauled the tree round back and tossed it on the brush heap within the verges of the wood outside my back gate.  Interesting observation: It seems to take a fir about two years to fully decompose.  I tossed this one next to the brown and needleless hulk from last year.  The one from the year prior to that has completely vanished.

So long as it doesn’t go up too early, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t really care that much when the Christmas tree comes down.  On the other hand, I am delighted that this year Mrs. Robbo has agreed to let me keep my wreaths (front door and dining room table) and my new crèche out until Candlemas, (February 2nd).

(Also, although she doesn’t know it, I chalked the front door of Port Swiller Manor with Epiphany chalk this year.  20 + C + M + B + 18.  One of Ol’ Robbo’s goals this year is to quietly insert more and more of these little sacramentals into the daily routine of Port Swiller Manor.  I figure it will soften the blow when I eventually pull down on Mrs. R and start advocating for a Crucifix in the front hall.)

Oh, and continuing with this general line of thought, a glass of wine with staunch friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, who recently sent Ol’ Robbo a couple of CD’s of Medieval Christmas Musick.  Since I’m going hard-core this year, they’re still perfectly seasonal and appropriate for the next few weeks!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel was telling me choice anecdotes about some of her classmates’ little crises this afternoon when she suddenly burst out:  “Why the hell do women have to be so passive-aggressive? If you’ve got a problem, either come right out and say so, or else drop it.  I hate it when these girls get in a snit about something, but just stew and sulk over it.”

Why, indeed?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that Ol’ Robbo has written numerous times here regarding his beloved 2003 Jeep Wrangler rag-top.

La Wrangler and I have been through a few things together.  Some years ago, on New Year’s Day, perhaps still suffering the effects of New Year’s Eve, I backed her straight into the front end of the Former Llama Military Correspondent’s ride, thereby putting an almighty ding in her rear bumper.

At some other point, just after I had replaced her original canvas covering with a new set, somebody knifed through the driver’s-side window panel when I left her parked at the metro and looted what little I had left in her glove compartment. (Which is to say, practically nothing.  Ol’ Robbo is no fool, and my only actual mistake there was locking the door in the first place.)   That gash is still covered with duct-tape inside and out, by the bye, which I have to change about every six months or so, and which I believe gives her a rayther attractive raffish air.

More recently, she developed a case of the dreaded Jeep Death-Wobble which I had to have fixed, and almost immediately thereafter shredded her own rear-differential, which I had to have completely rebuilt.

Nonetheless, although I am hardly the orthodox off-road type, I love my Wrangler.  She’s intensely fun to drive, she’s only got about 90K on her, and she’s long-since paid for.  Plus, if I get rid of her now, I’ll have a very, very difficult time convincing Mrs. R to consent to my buying another such Wrangler (perhaps a four-door?) as a replacement.  (Mrs. R despises La Wrangler.  To her, a car should block out the surrounding environment, while anybody who drives a Jeep knows that it’s purpose is to bring one in closer contact with same.  Even in the harsh, bomb-cyclone conditions we’re currently experiencing, I’ve still got the rear window panel rolled up and intend to keep it that way.)

I mention all this by way of prologue to my latest small adventure: Earlier this week, whilst driving along in the dark of my evening commute, I suddenly noticed that I couldn’t see my speedometer because the light had gone out behind it.  Lord knows how long this had been going on, since I’m so used to the route I drive that I rarely bother to look at it, but there it was.

I’ve replaced numerous brake lights and both headlights over the years, but I’ve never had to tackle the interior components before.

Whelp, as friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo is, as a general matter, deeply suspicious of searching for information on the Innertoobs, and also thinks that Jeff Bezos is preparing to take over the World.  Nonetheless, a quick Google search of “replace instrument cluster lightbulb 2003 Jeep Wrangler” coupled with an appropriate stop over to the devil’s website has set Ol’ Robbo up to rectify this dashboard deficiency his own self with every confidence.  (How did our former, disastrous President put it? “Yes we can!”)  Indeed, I even went so far as to order some fancy-shmancy blue LED replacement bulbs, just to give the thing a kind of updated look.

Yes, this is pretty small cheese, I suppose.  But Ol’ Robbo has never made claim to box above his weight, and I’m looking forward to doing the switch-out.

Aaaaaand, maybe apropos of all of this, maybe just because I served up a dose of Henry Purcell in the post below, and maybe because I’m a hopeless weirdo, Ol’ Robbo’s musickal thoughts are now swirling around one of his favorite country songs.  Enjoy:

Oh, one more thing:  The elder gels used to pester me to teach them how to drive a stick.  Dreading the burning out of La Wrangler’s clutch, I fobbed them off, saying I thought it more important that they get a couple years experience on the roads under their belts on an automatic before they started trying to deal with the additional distractions of shift and clutch.  I knew all along that this was, at least in part, something of a dodge to protect La Wrangler.

Well, that was then, and this is now.  Recently it has come to me that my own conditions have been met, both gels being excellent drivers, and that I now need to man up and let them have a go.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was under the impression that a January nor’easter was on its way up the coast, and that after clipping Port Swiller Manor tonight and tomorrow morning, is going to move on and cause the usual mid-winter headaches in New York and New England.

Apparently, thought, this is no ordinary storm, but is instead a dreaded BOMB CYCLONE!!!

(CNN)A massive “bombogenesis” — an area of rapidly declining low pressure — will wreak havoc on the Northeast this week, threatening hurricane-force winter wind gusts in a region already crippled by deadly cold.

The bombogenesis will result in what’s known as a “bomb cyclone.” And the bomb cyclone, expected to strike Thursday, will likely dump 6 to 12 inches of snow in New England.

By the end of this week, parts of the Northeast will be colder than Mars.

Six inches to a foot of snow?  Gusty winds?  And a really scary name to go with it all?  Mother of God, we’re doooooooomed!!!

Even the nice deejay at the local classickal station this evening was gently mocking the, er, bombast of calling the storm a “bomb cyclone”.  And “colder than Mars”? What part of Mars are we talking about? The polar caps? The equator?  Summertime? Winter?

Actually, I think there’s room for expansion of this kind of hyperbole, the better to scare the bejabbers out of us rubes who remained skeptical even during the full brunt of the whole Global Enwarmening scam.  The Weather Channel and its cohorts could make great play with such expressions as “military-style assault hail”, “thunderstorms of mass destruction”, “shock and awe storm surge”, “humanitarian catastrophe heat-index”, and, of course, “Trumpnado!”


Anyhoo, as for the immediate local impact, I gather that the storm will stay largely east of us and that we’ll get less than an inch of snow tonight and tomorrow morning, which will probably be just enough to make my morning commute tomorrow really rotten.  As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once observed, getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.  On the other hand, it is going to get fairly cold for the next couple days for these parts, and rumor (or perhaps wish-casting) says the schools will be closed Friday so the liddle widdums don’t get all uncomfortable.

For the Children, how about a little musickal tribute to the next couple days?


What Power art thou,
Who from below,
Hast made me rise,
Unwillingly and slow,
From beds of everlasting snow!
See’st thou not how stiff,
And wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold.

I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath,
I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath.

Let me, let me,
Let me, let me,
Freeze again…
Let me, let me,
Freeze again to death!

This aria used to creep the hell out of a girlfriend of mine in college (this and the flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz”).  Of course, I had another girlfriend in college who used to burst into tears when reading the final scene in King Lear where Lear is standing there with the body of Cordelia in his arms and ruminating on what a pig’s breakfast he’s made of everything.

(Yep – Ol’ Robbo seems to have a talent for attracting crazy people.  And cats.  Dunno why.)

UPDATE:  All is proceeding as I have foreseen.  We got about an inch this morning – dry stuff easily pushed off the driveway.  The roads proved remarkably dry and firm.  (Whatever the stuff the Virginny DOT lays down to prep them is really very, very good.)  Nonetheless, schools were closed today.  And will be so tomorrow because of the low temperatures and high winds expected.  Meanwhile, up the coast it appears that this is turning out to be a typical January nor’easter, yet the MSM is still in full “Omigod, you guyz, BOMB Cyclone!” mode.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy new year!

In what was perhaps a fitting tribute to 2017, New Year’s Eve at Port Swiller Manor proved completely and utterly random this year.  First, Mrs. Robbo had to catch a red-eye flight to Flarduh Saturday night because her grandmother has taken a turn for the worst, thereby breaking up our planned festivities.  (UPDATE:  Good nooz – things seem to have stabled up for now. )  Subsequently, both the younger gels got invited to New Year’s Eve parties at friends’ houses, where they slept over.  That left Eldest and me.  Eldest, who has a nasty cold, went to bed around 8:00 pm, so I simply read some Charles Portis,* listened to some Dvorak,** and went to bed myself a couple hours later.

Oh, and it was 8 degrees above this morning.

Anyhoo, thank Heaven 2017 is over and done with.  What a year.  I am, of course, speaking on a personal level, what with losing the Mothe and the impending loss of Mrs. R’s grandmother (which, for psychological accounting purposes, I’m including in the 2017 column).  In terms of the broader state of things, frankly Ol’ Robbo has been stuffing his face with popcorn and laughing his posterior off.  (If you haven’t read it yet, by the bye, I heartily recommend Dave Barry’s Year In Review column.)  The joke I’ve heard from at least three or four different people, responding to the insanity of the year that just was, is “2018: Hold My Beer And Watch This!

Back on the personal side, 2018 is going to be a Milestone Year at Port Swiller Manor:  My marriage to Mrs. Robbo will turn 25 in June.  The Gels will turn, respectively, 20, 18, and 16 in the next few weeks and months.  Middle Gel will start college this fall.  That’s all pretty impressive, if I may say so without sounding the braggart, and worthy of celebration.

So, let’s all take a deep breath and get on with it……

* His Masters of Atlantis.  It’s always been my least-favorite of his five novels but it grows on me with each re-reading.

** His Slavonic Dances cycle.  Just for fun.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope each of you had a very merry Christmas Day?  I am grateful to say that we did, too, at Port Swiller Manor.  My only regrets were that I couldn’t summon the energy to stay up for Midnight Mass this year (I went to the first post-dawn one instead), and that owing to a miscommunication with the woman at my meat counter who, although very nice, is not very proficient at English, I wound up with a rib-roast with the bone still in.  It came out very nicely and was (and will be for several days) quite tasty, but I made rayther a hash of carving it because I’ve only ever dealt with boneless before.

Anyhoo, we had some good news on the higher education front this past week, in that Middle Gel got accepted into Roanoke College.  She’s currently waiting for a definite yes or no from Christopher Newport University and won’t make a decision until she knows her options, but as she’d be perfectly happy at either one, we really can’t lose now.  I still cannot believe she’s already a high school senior and that she’ll be gone next year.

Meanwhile, Eldest made the Dean’s List at Sweet Briar for the second time this fall.  I may or may not have mentioned it before, but she’s formally declared as a History Major and will probably concentrate on Early Modern Y’erp.  In fact, she’s already mulling an idea for her Senior Project.  You see, Robbo’s father-in-law’s family are Sephardic Jews.  Somewhere a few generations back, one of them put together a family biography.  It traces them right back to 1492 when they got booted out of Spain during the Inquisition and migrated to various other countries – Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland.  The Gel has this book in her mitts and is thinking of doing something along the lines of historickal analysis of this expulsion and diaspora.  I think that’s pretty neat.

And on the subject of the Eldest, last week she gave Ol’ Robbo a valuable lesson in being careful about what one says.

You see, having got home from school on break, she suddenly decided that she’d really like to go down to Flar’duh to visit her grandparents and especially her great-grandmother, who is 94 and in a bad way.  The Gel won’t get on a plane, and nobody was available to drive down with her, so she asked, “What if I just drive down by myself?”

“Absolutely not!” I said.  “Are you crazy? That’s a drive I wouldn’t want to do alone, and I’m a lot older and more experienced than you.  The idea of a teenaged gel out on the highway all by herself so far from home…..”  I stumped off muttering to myself, but thinking that I had put the matter to rest.


Later in the day, the Gel came at me again, this time armed with Mrs. Robbo for moral support.   She made all the same arguments again – about how she didn’t know whether she’d be able to see great-gramma ever again, about how there wasn’t really any other way to get there, about what a good driver she is, etc.  I, in turn, again said that I understood all that, but that my first, last, and only consideration was the Gel’s safety.

Then she threw down her ace.

“Well, aren’t you the one who’s always lecturing about how we shouldn’t be snowflakes?  That we should branch out and be independent-minded?  That we should grow up? And are you forgetting that I’m nearly 20?”


I had to admit that, yeah, she’d got me there.

Long and the short of it was that she went.  She split the drive over two days each way, stopping for the night in Savannah while down-bound and in Rocky Mount, NC on the way back.  Checked in with us every time she stopped for food or gas or got to her hotel.  Made sure she was inside before it got dark out.

And that was that.  In the end, no problems whatever, and the aged relatives were more than delighted to see her.  Nonetheless, I was absolutely on pins and needles until the moment she walked back through the Port Swiller front door.

The Mothe used to say that parents never stop worrying about their children, only that the specific things about which they worry change over time.  “Just wait!” she used to say in a Yiddish accent, “Some day you’ll have children of your own and you’ll understand!”

I understand.



**Strike that; reverse it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today starts the beginning of Ol’ Robbo’s holiday mini-vacation, but with all the running in circles with my hair on fire that I’m going to be doing over the next few days, I already feel like I’m going to need another one in order to recover from this one.  But I at least have a couple minutes in order to jot down a few odds and ends here:

♦  Our deeply-neurotic and mentally negligible spaniel has been going absolutely to pieces, what with the constant stream of holiday visitors and deliveries.  (It’s been feeling as if UPS stops by approximately every five minutes.)  She’s become such a nut that she’s taken to cooking off when the mailman stops at our neighbors’ houses.  I am thoroughly sick of her conniptions, as is everyone else here.  (UPDATE: She must have read my mind because she upchucked while I was in the middle of typing this.)

♦  I have to cut some fresh greens tomorrow with which to spruce up the wreath on the dining room table.  Since the one in our yard more or less gave up the ghost, the only pines from which I can get boughs in the neighborhood are those which stand at the main entrance into it.  I maintain to myself that I only prune them a very little bit, and that I always make sure to do so on the sides nobody sees, but I still feel very slightly like I’m doing something I ought not to do.

♦ Alas, I’ve received a couple of Christmas cards addressed to the Mothe from friends who evidently did not get the news of her passing.  I’ve felt obligated to write back to them and explain things.  It’s not at all a pleasant thing to have to do, and I feel bad for them.

♦  Speaking of which, I also keep getting surveys and questionnaires addressed to her from Medicare.  (In fact, I got one yesterday that referred to her primary doctor by name and invited her to rat him out if she believed he wasn’t giving her good service.)  Wasn’t it the Gipper who said something to the effect that government-run medicine would combine the efficiency of the post office with the compassion of the IRS?

♦  In case you’re wondering, no, Ol’ Robbo did not participate in his office “holiday” party this year.  I did, however, make a point of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as I went out the door yesterday.  (Let them make of that what they will.)

♦  Also in case you’re wondering, Christmas Dinner at Port Swiller Manor will feature roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and two veg as always.  Why? Because that’s The Way Things Ought To Be.

Whelp, I had better clean up the dog’s mess and get on with my other tasks, too.  I’ll not wish you all a Merry Christmas just yet because I think I’ll have time and opportunity to do so more fully later.

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