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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Nope, nothing going on in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor at the moment, but there is a storm rolling into the Ohio Valley, so Ol’ Robbo is fussing from afar on behalf of his progeny in Ohio and Indiana. As I tell the Gels, Midwestern snowstorms deserve a good deal more respect than the usual piffling stuff in our part of Virginny.

I can hear them rolling their collective eyeballs even from here.

Should Listen To Your Old Dad UPDATE: HA! On the phone this afternoon untangling Middle Gel’s travel plans, now impacted by the storm. She was supposed to fly back to Indiana from Texas this evening but her connecting flight got postponed till tomorrow. But tomorrow is going to be pretty awful so I convinced her to stay over another night and get back Thursday. (I hadn’t even known she was in Texas this weekend visiting her Young Man, but that’s a different story.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel returned to school over the weekend and Ol’ Robbo was pleased and proud at how organized she was in getting herself away.

First, she prepositioned all her loot by the Port Swiller Manor front door well in advance, so that when she got home from work Friday night she could immediately load her car for Saturday morning departure. (She’s got an off-campus studio apartment in the High Street which she needed to furnish herself.) I offered to help, but she said it wasn’t necessary.

“Are you all gassed up?”


“And where will you pick up your key if the rental office is closed on a Saturday afternoon?”

“Key’s already in a lockbox hanging on my door.”

“Know the combination?”

“Last four digits of my phone.”

Well, okaaaay, then!

She duly got herself out the door Saturday at Zero-dark-thirty and had an uneventful drive back to Ahia. When she got there, she still had the energy to unload her car and then go off to pick up a new mattress. (Ah, to be young and energetic.)

She even managed to beat a snowstorm which arrived in her neighborhood yesterday, thus causing all the freshmen and sophomores (who were not allowed into the dorms any earlier) much grief.

So, a hitchless return, yes?

Well, almost but not quite.

This morning she called to say she had forgot she needed a residential parking permit and that because her car is registered in my name, I had to send a notarized statement to the town Police Department confirming my ownership and giving the Gel explicit permission to drive and park in the town.


If I’d just taken this in stride, it would have been several days before we could get the thing to her, as I am still very busy. However, since I didn’t want her dinged by continuous tickets in the interim (college-town parking cops are all the same in feasting on students), we instead made a mild scramble to assemble the necessary information, run a notary to earth, and get a presentable form of the doc to her this afternoon.

If this is the worst I ever have to be entangled in sorting out her living arrangements going forward, I will not complain. But still – It’s always something.

UPDATE D’OH!: Got another call from Youngest today. When she went to the Police Department, they told her she didn’t need a permit for her street after all. The requirement is only pertinent to a set of specifically-named streets.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(First, my apologies for the rayther intemperate choice of words in the post below. Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo doesn’t usually use such language here, but sometimes there’s no other way to express scorn and contempt.)

Anyhoo, on to more pleasant subjects.

January is a big birthday month here at Port Swiller Manor, with no fewer than three fifths of the Family Robbo starting yet another orbit round the Sun.

This year is of particular note because Youngest – youngest – Gel is turning 21 this coming week. It’s funny how when the two Elder hit a given milestone I think of it in terms of their advancement in life, while when Youngest brings up the rear I also see it in terms my own self getting older and older. Heigh-ho.

As she is clearing out to head back to school next weekend, we are celebrating this marker this weekend. The lovely and talented bride and daughters of the Former Llama Military Correspondent are coming in to town and I gather there is an agenda for a Girls’ Day Out tomorrow. (The elder LMC daughter may very well be at the same school as Youngest next year, by the bye.)

All in all, Ol’ Robbo is well pleased with Youngest: Her academic performance is steadily improving, her devotion to her job over this break has been impressive, and she’s finally realizing that it’s going to be up to her to make her own nest, as it were, without somebody else handing it to her prefabricated.

My only slight concern at the moment is some of the politickal arguments she’s been bringing up at the dinner table recently. I hardly expect her to be as cranky and skeptical as I am at her stage of life, but I detect in at least a few of her statements the evil influence of the mainstream media, which in my humble opinion is pure poison. I suppose it can’t be helped, and can only hope that I’ve brought her up sufficiently well not to be taken in and stop thinking for herself. On the other hand, she has a reputation as the family practical joker and she may very well just be trolling me in order to get a rise.

At any rate, here’s to Twenty-One: The next great step for the Gel, and the end of an era for her parents! Huzzay, Huzzah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t have much to say about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s trial-balloon concerning the banning of gas stove-tops except to invite the CPSC to sod off.

In the meanwhile, as a Christmas present to ourselves, Mrs. R and I recently chucked our rackety old toaster/oven and replaced it with a NuWave Bravo XL Air Fryer Oven. It’s rapidly proving to be da bomb. Big and versatile enough that it will be a real aid to me when cooking larger, more complicated dinners. Plus, the “air fry” option makes things like frozen fries and chicken nuggets wonderfully crisper and more tasty.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the two Elder Gels went back to school over the weekend. (Youngest goes at the end of next week.)

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my mention prior to the hols that Middle Gel was bringing her cat home with her. At the time, Ol’ Robbo was quite apprehensive about the impact this would have on our own menagerie, envisioning three-cornered fights with Decanter Cat and Decanter Kitten, or outright attack by Decanter Dog.

Surprisingly, in the end it all worked out a lot more smoothly than I’d anticipated. Granted, at my insistence Guest Cat spent most of her time locked in Middle Gel’s room, but in the end we found that she could be let out from time to time under supervision, primarily on the porch when the weather was nice. Our own felines were curious without being overtly hostile, while the dog simply ignored her. I do not complain.

In fact, the only trouble Guest Cat inflicted was on Middle Gel herself when the cat soiled her travel carrier an hour into the Gel’s return trip to school. The Gel said the smell was so bad she nearly passed out. And with the delay caused by the need to stop and clean the carrier out (and to do so where the Gel could find the necessary cleaning supplies), what is ordinarily a nine and a half hour drive spooled out to something closer to eleven.

The Gel’s already got an internship lined up for the summah but the question of housing, and more specifically whether she can have her cat in it, appears still up in the air. I’ve already got a dark foreboding that I will have to resist efforts to plant Guest Cat on us for a much longer visit.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, Mrs. R said, “Well, it’s Epiphany so I suppose we’ll need to take down the Christmas Tree this weekend.”

I replied, “And who is this ‘we’ of whom you speak?”

She just laughed.

As a matter of fact, this is one of those jobs Ol’ Robbo prefers to do himself. Especially after its branches have started drying out, picking the ornaments off the Tree is a little bit like bomb-disposal. Conversely, packing and arranging all of their boxes in my old foot-locker in a way that ensures they remain secure but don’t squash each other requires skills not unlike those of an Air Force load-master. Both jobs require a delicate touch and an eye for proper planning and balance.

At any rate, I’m happy to report no casualties this year, while one potential stow-away, a delicate balsa hummingbird, was spotted and removed before it could become one.

Speaking of which, when I hauled the tree out to the brush pile out back, I could find no trace of last year’s. I can only surmise that all the rain we got this year sped up the decomposition process.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter rbj1 reports that Turner Classic Movies is running a “Thin Man” marathon New Year’s Eve.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo will be unable to tune in. I learn this morning that what I’d thought was going to be a quite evening’s celebration with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family has suddenly strengthened into a Cat 3 shindig with the addition of several other guests, so I will now be spending it “entertaining”. (Mrs. R denies this, but I know perfectly well how it will play out. The good news is that it might actually be warm enough this year for the thing to spill out onto the porch.)

Don’t worry: I only say “alas” in the sense that figuring out food and drink suddenly becomes more complicated. As a matter of fact, all of the additional guests are good friends, not quite such crusty reactionaries as I am (and as is the FLMC), but within a few standard deviations thereof. Furthermore, they know me thoroughly and know to ignore most of my blather, so I needn’t worry about holding my tongue as I had to at Christmas dins.

Anyhoo, a thing about “Thin Man”. The original novel on which the films were based was of course written by Dashiell Hammett, who for many years was the slave of playwright Lilliam Hellman. (He dedicated the novel to her, and indeed Nora Charles is supposed to be a tribute.) This didn’t matter much to Ol’ Robbo until I read up on Hellman. John Zmirak, in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, uses her to illustrate Envy. (He also refers to her as “Stalin’s Trollop”.) A thoroughly horrible woman. I’m not saying I’ve stopped watching these movies as a result of this knowledge, but it now lurks around the edge of them for me, emitting a faint but foul odor.

Just an observation. I suppose if one goes digging far enough one can find many, many instances of this sort of thing but this one in particular sticks in Ol’ Robbo’s braims.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sometimes the sight of Ol’ Robbo lounging in his comfy-chair with his nose contentedly stuck in a book seems to give Mrs. R the heebie-jeebies. At any rate, she interrupted me in my worming this morning to make me go drop something off to Youngest Gel at work.

It was very strange. The Gel works at the same animal hospital we took our first three cats to between twenty-five and thirty years ago – their files are still in the system – and yet I have no recollection whatsoever of having set foot in the place before. None.

I mentioned this to Mrs. R when I got home. “Oh,” she said, “They’ve remodeled the building since then.”

That might well be true, but not only did I not recall the building itself, I also did not recall having been in that specific location, either. (And, as I say, we’ve lived in the area and haunted the biznays round there for thirty years.)

I’m one who prides myself on my geographical memory: Once I’ve been to a place, it generally remains tattooed on my brain and I can recall how to get back to it without having to look up the directions again. So it’s a bit disconcerting that I couldn’t pull this one up out of the depths.

Oh, well, one of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

(Back to book-worming….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with no particular place to go and nothing in particular to do today, everything being already teed up for the celebrations. Indeed, I could have spent the whole day loafing in robe and jammies. However, I’ve never been able to stand that: At a certain point I must get showered and dressed. Otherwise, I start to get the heebie-jeebies.


The Storm of the Century of the Week blew through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this morning, dropping heavy, non-sticking snow for about twenty minutes. The skies are clearing out now but the wind continues to howl and the temperature plummet. It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that he needs to up the birds’ rations today – they look like they could use them.

Middle Gel remarked that she’s happy she’s not out in Indiana today, as the low in Bloomington was -7. Oh, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience the joys of a Midwest Wintah soon enough. My personal record low was -17, together with a screaming wind, experienced one morning in Cheyenne. That was the first time I ever felt the cold as an entity that would actually kill me if I gave it half the chance.


Speaking of which, this is the first vacation in which it feels like the Elder Gels are visiting rayther than coming home. Most interesting. As I recall, I felt the same sort of dynamic from the other side, as it were, my first year of grad school. (The first time I felt that the change was coming was Christmas my junior year in college. It hit me one day while I was sitting and talking with the Mothe. I admit I burst into tears.)


Tonight, in the spirit of things, I gather we’re all going to watch “Home Alone” together. Ol’ Robbo confesses he hasn’t actually seen this film since it was in the theatres however many years ago. (Don’t tell me.) Another time maybe I can get them all to watch “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, an inexplicably under-rated movie in my humble opinion. (I mean, it’s got John Houseman, Robert Mitchem, and Bobcat Goldthwaite in it. What more could one ask?)

Also in the spirit, it would seem Mrs. R found a little indoor mini-s’mores making device. Hard pass on that for Ol’ Robbo, who has never liked sweets and grows more and more intolerant of them as the years go by. (Perhaps I’ll break into the Laphroigh instead.)


Speaking of the spirit, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to come through without getting thoroughly browned off by premature Christmas musick this year. Don’t ask me how, but there it is. (I thought hearing Willie Nelson sing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” right after Thanksgiving was going to get me, but I managed to weather it.)


“I Read the News Today, Oh Boy” Dept. Why has it suddenly become double-plus ungood wrong think to raise questions about Ukrainian President Zelensky, or indeed to treat him as anything other than a Hero?*** Hard pass on that, as well. I know a gal who declared the other day “Zelensky Day” on FacePlant after he spoke to Congress. Of course, this is the same gal who on the day of the January 6th protests felt compelled to inform her FacePlant audience that she and her family were “all safe home and sound”. She lives twenty miles from downtown Dee Cee. Wanker. Do you wonder why Ol’ Robbo grows daily more skeptical of and disgusted with the current state of things?

***Rhetorical question. Ol’ Robbo knows perfectly well why.


“And Robbo Wept, For There Were No More Wu’s to Conquer” Dept. Speaking of such things, I’ve just about finished my latest cycle through the complete works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh, having only his collected correspondence with Nancy Mitford left to go. Each time I read him, I become more firmly convinced that he really is my favorite author of all time.


Well, that should be enough for those two or three of you who gather together here. (I truly hope you enjoy these musings – just as I went to hit “post” the first time I discovered my wifi had cut out on me and only my first sentence had been saved, so I had to retype the whole dang post from memory. D’oh!) I will duly put up a Christmas Card tomorrow here as I decorate the rest of Port Swiller Manor, too.


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January 2023