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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of Ol’ Robbo’s greatest domestic pet peeves is the Gels’ collective cavalier attitude toward cleaning up their damned dishes.  Time after time I seem to come home to a sink full of plates, bowls, cutlery, and glassware, much of it still caked with the remains of whatever meal it had held.  (This is when the dishes actually make it to the sink.  Eldest, in particular, has a horrid habit of collecting them in her room.)  And when they do manage to put their things in the dishwasher, they rarely rinse them off and, further, seem to pay no attention whatever to arranging them properly, instead tossing them in any old way. (And yes, there is a science to proper dishwasher loading, dammit.)  Sometimes I stamp and curse and call them out to clean up their mess.  Sometimes, out of pure moral exhaustion, I just do the bloody things myself.

Similarly, the two Elder Gels, when it comes to maintaining their rooms, are, to put it clinically, complete slobs.  (Youngest, curiously, always keeps hers in a state of Spartan neatness that would pass any inspection.  I’ve no idea why, but I’m not complaining.)

I was thinking about this in light of the fact that the two Elder Gels are off to college this weekend.  The Mothe used to say that the best cure for the slovenly habits of one’s misspent yoot was the ire of one’s college roommates, and I’m inclined to agree.**

Eldest will be in a four-girl suite.  As befits her upper-classman status, she’ll have her own bedroom, but will share a kitchen and living room with the other three.

Middle, as a fresher, will be packed into a five-gel double.  She and her roommate will share one bedroom, while three other gels will share the other.  All five will share a common bathroom.

In both cases, there will be very little room for domestic slothiness.  My hope is that where paternal authority has come up short, peer-pressure will do the trick.  Indeed, I wish I could be a fly on the wall – just as a matter of schadenfreude – when one of them gets called out by her roommates, as I’m sure will happen at some point.

Serves ’em right, too.


**I first experienced this myself when I sublet a room in an apartment with some friends the summah of my junior year at The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  Words…were spoken about certain of Ol’ Robbo’s then kitchen and bathroom usages.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Not directly related to gardening, but Ol’ Robbo spotted the hen hummingbird at the feeder today for the first time since much earlier in the summah, when I had seen quite a bit of her.  This makes me wonder if Port Swiller Manor is possibly just a way-station for her on her migrations there and back again.  (I am assuming here that this is the same bird, which I’m pretty sure it is. I’m also assuming that if she were around more often, I’d have spotted her, of which I’m also pretty sure.)

And speaking of birds, I was over to the local hardware store this afternoon picking up more seed for my local flock.  I buy it in twenty-pound bags.  When I got up to pay, the young thing behind the register asked me if I needed any help getting it out to my car.


I haven’t shaved this week and it’s true that my beard comes in mostly white, but I don’t think I look quite that feeble.

(The owner of this store hires only pretty young gels to work the registers, by the bye, the perv. A couple weeks ago, one of them recognized my name from my credit card – it turns out she and Youngest Gel had gone to middle school together.)

UPDATE: Turns out there are two hummers – I saw them squabbling with each other at the feeder this morning.  Doesn’t necessarily invalidate my assumptions, but makes the question a bit more interesting.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I suppose this is the last day of Ol’ Robbo’s bachelor stay-at-home week, as the ladies of the house start returning to Port Swiller Manor tomorrow.  Some odds and ends, then:

♦  I really wanted to devote this week to getting back into some serious exercise, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been good about it. I’ve been alternating daily between an hour’s routine on the treadmill that involves hand-weights as well, and a half-hour on the rowing machine.  Not only have I felt an immediate effect in muscle-tone, I’m also rediscovering the sweet, sweet rush known to endorphin junkies.  The big challenge will be maintaining this once I go back to work. (It’s tough to keep motivated after an hour’s hot commute home in the evening.)

♦  Related, I suppose, I finally broke down and bought some new khakis and dress shirts for the office.  I really dislike clothes-shopping for some reason and generally wear my old things until they disintegrate or else Mrs. R gets disgusted and throws them away behind my back.  (This what I might call “disgust event horizon” has been a topic of some occasional controversy between us over the years.)

♦  I’ve also spent a good bit of time this week reading.  Currently I am a little over half way through Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire by Hugh Thomas, kindly sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  It goes far deeper into the Spanish conquests in the Americas (and elsewhere) than Ol’ Robbo has previously studied, discussing in considerable (I should at times say too much) detail not just the voyages of people like Columbus and Magellan, and the routes of the conquistadores such as Balboa, Ponce de Leon, and Cortez, but also the treatment of the natives, the bureaucracy of Caribbean colonization, its relationship to Old Spain, and the historickal context of the whole shebang.  (Fun fact: Mrs. Robbo’s father’s family were Sephardic Jews who were chucked out of Spain during the Inquisition.) And much to his credit, although Thomas is a modern author, he lays it all out pretty objectively: There is very, very little 21st Century virtue-signaling.

And that’s about it for this week, apart from watching movies and ballgames (and, of course, ministering to attention-craving cats and dog).  Next weekend the Elder Gels are off to college, so Ol’ Robbo really wanted nothing more than to relax and take a deep, long breath, so to speak, before that happens.

Oh, I should add that I have paid almost no attention to the nooz this week, not even to most of my go-to blogs like Ace and Insty. It’s been mighty refreshing!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, Ol’ Robbo watched an early ’80’s Beeb production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

This particular version – and I’ve never seen a good one on screen although I’ve seen several good stage productions – is pretty meh.   The Beeb’s attempts at Ye Faerie Lande sound and light effects are distracting without being effective, and there’s a wee bit too much grabby-hands going on between Oberon and Puck.  On the other hand, the Rude Mechanicals are pretty amusing, and it does feature the shmokin’ young Helen Mirren as Titania, so by law cannot be a complete loss.

Anyhoo, I found myself chuckling with delight over a passage I had not fully appreciated before.   As you recall, Helena, in the story, is besotted with Demetrius, who himself doesn’t care much for her one way or the other.  In throwing herself at him as he tries to elude her, at one point she pleads:

And even for that [Demetrius’s scorn] do I love you the more. I am your spaniel. And, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel—spurn me, strike me, Neglect me, lose me. Only give me leave, Unworthy as I am, to follow you. What worser place can I beg in your love—

As it happened, the Port Swiller family spaniel was right beside me on the sofa when Helena spoke this line, even then eagerly seeking attention at any price her own self.

Hence my amusement.

Ours is the first spaniel I’ve ever really known.  Her passive-aggressive fawning is a standing family joke.  (As is her limited intelligence – the cats are far smarter than she is.) Evidently she’s not unique to her breed in this, or Ol’ Will never would have gone with the metaphor.  I appreciate it all the more now from my own experiences.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This past Sunday marked the first anniversary of the death of my mother.

As regular friends of the decanter might have noticed, losing the Mothe hit Ol’ Robbo very hard indeed, as we were extremely close.  (It was nothing like this when the Old Gentleman shuffled off eleven years ago, as we were more distant.)  Also, the circumstances were such that I didn’t get a chance to have that last talk with her that I’d been counting on.  As a result, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last year in a state of grief bordering, I suppose, on clinical depression – withdrawn, disinterested, physically exhausted, all that sort of thing.  It was more or less constant at first, and although by this spring it became a more occasional thing, when the blue devils hit, they still hit hard.

Mrs. R suggested a few times that I ought to go “see somebody”, but I always resisted.  In the first place, I already knew perfectly well what the trouble was.  In the second, I knew that any trick-cyclist I consulted would probably try to put me on happy pills, and Ol’ Robbo wants none of that, thank you very much.  (I prefer to deal with my sorrows the old-fashioned way – by drowning them.)

No, instead I relied on what both my godfather (who deals with geriatric issues in his medical practice) and my priest (who lost his mother two or three years ago) said: Grief is perfectly natural, the first year is the hardest, and things will get better. “Time, the Great Healer” and all that.

Nonetheless, I felt a distinct dread as the anniversary approached that I’d be wracked by a fresh outburst.

But you know what?  As the day progressed, I instead started getting the unexpected feeling that a corner had finally been turned. I hate the expression “move on”, but I could really feel something inside saying that I had mourned long enough and that it was now okay to allow myself to get back into the swing of things.  And I did just that: I prayed harder at Mass than I have in a long time; I spent the afternoon terrifying myself by reading Karl Keating; I had a really good workout on the treadmill; and then in the evening I watched an opera on DVD (Mozart’s “Abduction” – a Covent Gardens performance with Solti conducting and Kurt Moll thoroughly chewing up the part of Osmin) for the first time in I don’t know how long.

Does this mean the blue devils are gone for good? Probably not.  But I really do feel that the worst of it is finally over.

It’s a good thing, too, not just for me but for the Family Robbo as well.  It certainly hasn’t been easy for Mrs. R and the Gels to have me moping about all this time, and they’ve certainly had their work cut out for them by trying to be supportive while keeping their distance (I am a querulous patient when ill and generally wish to be left alone).  Hopefully, they can now put aside their worrying about me.

Anyhoo, here we are.  (Sorry to spout.  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t generally like to use this place to spill his guts but I just felt I had to get this one out there.)

“Haaaappy BLOG-day! Missster….Robbo…(tee-hee, *hic*)”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I would invite all of you to fill your glasses, gunn’ls under, and raise a toast with three times three and no heeltaps, because today is the tenth anniversary of Ol’ Robbo’s pulling of the cork here at The Port Stands At Your Elbow.  Huzzay! Huzzay! Huzzah!!

As a matter of fact, I can’t really believe it myself.  On the one hand, it seems I’ve been slogging along forever.  On the other, seems like just yesterday that I decided I needed my very own bloggy platform away from the Llamabutchers.

I was musing on this blog-framed decade last evening.  What’s the same now? Well, Mrs. R and I are, of course, still manacled together. (A joke, people.  A joke!)  I swam the Tiber the Easter before I started here, and still consider that to be one of the best decisions I ever made.  I still live at Port Swiller Manor, although we’ve done a lot to it in that time.  I still have the same job, which I really enjoy, and which would be a positive gold mine for posting material if I didn’t care about losing it.  (Oh, the ridiculous stories I could tell.  Think John Mortimer.  Perhaps if I’m still blogging when I retire……)

What’s changed? Well, the Gels are pretty much all grown up now.  We’ve had various family losses. Friends have come and gone, both on the Innertoobs and in Meatspace.  Society has become downright psychotic.

In other words, Life has gone on….

So, what about this place?

First, I know perfectly well that there aren’t all that many of you ’round the table, but I truly appreciate those of you who drop in for a dram, either regularly or even only now and again.  You have all certainly had an impact over the years on me, and I like to think that I have had at least some small impact on some of you.  Cheers!

Second, I feel I should apologize again for the feebleness of my posting, especially lately.  As I said in the gardening post below, it’s been a rough year for me, and sometimes I have slapped things up here knowing perfectly well I was only phoning it in.  Also, I have been loathe to get too deep into some subjects near and dear to my heart due to the toxic politickal climate that has existed for some time now.  Curiously, even as it seems to be reaching a point of frenzy, I actually feel less concerned about the consequences of saying exactly what I think.  Perhaps I’m finding a second wind to get back into the Culchah Wars.  Perhaps I’m just getting too old to care much anymore about potential fallout.

Which leads me to Thirdly.  It’s my hope to start putting out better quality posts going into this second decade – more in depth, more substantive, more thought-out ahead of time instead of served on the half-volley, more topical.  And more organized.  Alert friends of the decanter may have noted that Ol’ Robbo recently has got into the habit of throwing up a regular Saturday Gardening Post.  I find this regimen really helps me focus and concentrate, and very shortly I hope to start doing the same thing on Sundays with regular posts on Matters Religious.  On the other hand, I’m not yet at the point of trying to assign out specific themes for other days of the week since I don’t want to give up spontaneity completely and I also find that the traffic rate really doesn’t warrant more than one post a day.

Finally, who knows what we’re going to see going forward in terms of the future of blogging in general.  I doubt that we’ll ever quite get back to the Golden Age of the early 2000’s in terms of ubiquity and interconnectivity, but I do like to think that the general disillusion with other social media platforms like FacePlant and Twooter (I almost never post on the former anymore, and have never had an account on the latter) might push people back towards the good ol’ Blogsphere, at least enough folks so as to re-establish some of those nifty little circles that were such a joy back in the day.  Whether this pans out or not, I plan to be around at any rate.

So once again, pray raise your glasses!  Here’s to the next ten years!  Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzay!!


(**NOTE: About the pic, just in case you were wondering, Ol’ Robbo wouldn’t have had anything to do with Marilyn if you’d served her up to him on a plate with watercress round her.  Never, ever understood the appeal.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday Mrs. Robbo took the two Younger Gels to San Francisco for a couple nights sight-seeing, leaving Ol’ Robbo home with Eldest.

A day or two earlier, we had noticed that the eldest of our three cats (she’s about 13 or so) was suddenly, ah, spewing rather copiously from, ah, both ends.  So Mrs. R decided to take her to the vet.

After trying to fleece us**, the vet decided he didn’t really know what was wrong with her other than some kind of bowel irritation.  He nonetheless prescribed some meds that he hoped would clear things up.

Just before she left yesterday, Mrs. R said to me, “Oh, you’ll have to give the cat her meds while I’m gone.  She gets a squirt of this liquid twice a day, and this pill once a day. You’ll have to force the pill down because if I put it in a pill-pouch, she just nibbles around it.”

Well, Ol’ Robbo tried to implement this regime.  Once.  In case you were unclear, I’m here to tell you that a cat does not take kindly to having a syringe stuck in its mouth and squirted.  I didn’t even bother trying with the pill.

“Damn this,” I said. “The cat’s probably fine, anyway.” ***

“You’re not going to give her the meds?” asked Eldest.


“But Mom said you have to.”

“Look, it probably won’t matter, anyway.  Why don’t we just not say anything about it.”

“But Mom said.”

This is a girl, you have to understand, who for most of her life completely ignored the very existence of our cats.  In fact, for a long time she didn’t even bother to remember their names.  Now suddenly she’s Florence Nightengale of the Animal Kingdom. Oy, vey!

“Well, you saw what happened just now.  Do you think I want to go through that same song and dance and risk getting my wrists torn open twice a day? No bloody thank you!”

Then, the Gel suddenly had an inspiration.

“Why don’t you just mix it into her food instead?  She gobbles that down so fast, I’m sure she won’t even notice.”

Brill. Yant.

And it works!

So now Robbo’s happy, Eldest is happy, Mrs. R will be happy, and the cat doesn’t even have to care one way or another (which should make her happy, not that she’d ever let on of course).

** We have some kind of pet-care health plan.  It covers check-ups, teeth-cleaning, and basic diagnostic stuff.  But when Mrs. Robbo got to the vet, he started carrying on about x-rays, ultrasounds, and other non-covered procedures that quickly would have added up.  To her credit, Mrs. R was very firm: the cat is already middle-aged, and although we like her, she’s not so central to our lives that we’re going to shovel out large amounts of coin on her for extraordinary vet care.  (Mrs. R did say, however, that if it were the case of our dog…….)

*** I really do believe this, by the bye. She’s got a thick brindle coat and I think the heat just gets to her from time to time. (She insists on spending long periods of time out on the porch even when it’s very hot.)  She’s been fine with the cooler, drier weather this weekend.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ma Nature decided to cut us a break from the cycle of storms and high heat n’ humidity we’ve been enduring for the past two weeks or so.  It’s a sunny, cool, dry day at Port Swiller Manor, so Ol’ Robbo was up early mowing, trimming, weeding, and taking down some nasty chicken-wire from the top of the garden fence that I don’t feel the need to endure anymore because the deer seem to have stopped coming into the yard since we got the dog. (I’m still keeping my rose bushes penned, though. Rabbits and groundhogs, y’know.)  And to top it all off, I even took the time to whack back the forsythia hedge.  (Which, true to form, although it grows like a weed, had a thoroughly anemic bloom this spring.  I’m finally going to try experimenting with plant food to see if I can get any more lead into its pencil for next year.)

When Ol’ Robbo is that far along his list of priorities this far into the summah, you know it’s going to be a winning year in the garden.

It’s a curious thing, too.  If you’ll pardon my going all Internal Robbo on you for a moment, I should note that it’s been a very rough time for me since the Mothe died.  (It’ll be a year ago a week from tomorrow.) Although I only now and again still get those fits of the blue devils that absolutely sandbagged me for months, I still feel like I haven’t completely reconnected with the world – family, friends, church, work – and I also haven’t yet much picked up on those things that I really enjoy in life – like music and so forth.  I say all this not out of self-pity, but just because it seems (as I say) curious that I have done so well in the garden while still feeling relatively removed from everything else.  Perhaps zer ist zum gunnegshun in zee mind, ja?

Anyhoo, enough of that.  The garden itself is really coming into its prime, with the Buddleia and Joe-Pye in full bloom and absolutely covered in bees and butterflies as I had intended.**  Also going great guns is Ol’ Robbo’s Prairie Cup Plant.  Its history is rather interesting, and if I have told this story before, which I don’t recall, it was so long ago that I feel at liberty to tell it again.

As you might gather from its name, the Cup Plant is primarily a denizen of the high prairie.  (Now that I type this, I do remember telling this story before, because I recall a commenter tsk-tsking at me about the eeeeevils of introducing non-native species into one’s home environment.  I can assure whoever that was that the local ecosystem remains intact, and my garden visitors really seem to appreciate its presence.  Also, at least according to Wiki, it is native to the Great Commonwealth of Virginny, so there.)

This particular sample, however, had quite the strange odyssey, because it (or its parent) originally was discovered by Mrs. Robbo’s brother-in-law in a roadside ditch in the Boston suburbs.  (God alone knows how it wound up there.) Being a gardener himself, he stopped, dug it up, and took it home, where it thrived so well that he divided it up and spread it all along various back borders around his yard.  I noticed it when we visited and complimented him on it.  He immediately separated out a couple offshoots, wrapped them up, and presented them to me. I, in turn, brought them home and planted them here.

This must have been eight or nine years ago.  For the rest of that summah and on into the following year, they did very well.  But then they went into a decline and died away, and I saw nothing more of them for some time.

Then, about four years ago, I suddenly noticed that a cup plant was coming up again.  (Their square stalks and cup-like leaf base are easily recognizable.)  Since then, it’s got bigger and stronger each year. (About seven feet tall and six wide, now.)   And as I say, it’s going great guns this year.

The one thing it hasn’t done yet is self-seed, which is too bad, because I’d really rather like to have some more of it. Indeed, I am now toying with the idea of simply going out and buying some companion plants to put in other corners, even if they wouldn’t have the same family connection.  Perhaps I’ll wait one more year for any seedlings before I do this, though.

In the meantime, I think I’ll have another glass of iced coffee and sit on the porch watching the butterflies…..

**”Prime” is a relative term, here. My plot is still largely scraggly and under-developed, but when it comes into bloom it takes on a certain dryad loveliness, especially when, like this year, I am able to keep the morning glory and other weeds relatively at bay.  For years I have fought off successfully Mrs. R’s desire to level it and install a tennis court instead.  (No, my garden is not the size of a tennis court.) Since she has recently taken to gardening herself, however, we are now talking about plans for raised beds, balanced soils, proper groupings of seasonal plants, a formalized path, and, of course, the latest defenses against the beasties.  (And yes, I plan to save some of its current occupants, too.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The household inventory of Port Swiller Manor, at least on paper, contains about a dozen bath towels.  A spot audit this evening, however, produced no more than one of them present and accounted for, and that one already damp when Robbo jumped in the shower.

Of course I questioned the Gels afterwards as to whether they were possibly taking multiple towels and squirreling them away in obscure corners of their closets rather than hanging them up and reusing them until they needed to be washed.  And of course I was met with stout denials and even incredulity that the question should have been posed in the first place.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of our towels remain MIA.  So, where are they?

I have a couple of working theories:

♦  A wormhole in space.  Somewhere in our galaxy, there is a planet devoted totally to the comfort and maintenance of towels, reachable via tiny and secret interstellar portals.  From time to time, towels from our world and others simply slip quietly away to enjoy this happy Towel Eden. (A glass of wine with Douglas Adams.)

♦  The Underpants Gnomes have decided to diversify. (Step 1: Take towels. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit!)

♦  Big Cotton has finally come up with a biochemical agent that causes their fibers to disintegrate after a short period of time, reducing a towel to nothing more than a small pile of dust and forcing their customers to buy more.  (I believe Big Cutlery has made a similar breakthrough since our forks and spoons disappear on a regular basis as well.)

Well, if the Gels profess their innocence in the matter, it has to be one of these alternatives, right?  What was it Sherlock Holmes said?  Once you eliminate the impossible, the improbable, however unlikely, must be the answer.


**  Yes, I’ll bet that was an easy one.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The Ewok (PBUH) had a post this afternoon about a new NBC poll that, among other things, puts PDT’s approval rating at 45%. The poll purports to survey the feelings of registered voters.  Ol’ Robbo would suggest that no, it in fact only surveys the feelings of registered voters who choose to participate in the poll.   I’d be willing to bet several dozens of port that there are a whole lot more such voters out there who actually prefer to keep their cards close to their vests and their heads down, especially given how polarized and poisonous the times are.  I’d also speculate that a substantial percentage of that silent faction probably have the same general opinion.  So while comparing these polls against themselves over a period of time may illustrate upward or downward trends in opinions, I doubt seriously if any one given set of numbers means very much in and of itself.

I bring this up because Ol’ Robbo is often accosted by hipsters with clipboards during his lunchtime walkabouts, eager and bright-eyed young things who can’t wait to “engage” me on behalf of their favorite causes.  Usually I just keep walking, perhaps giving a brief shake of my head, a disarming wave of my hand, and a murmured “sorry, not today” as I pass.  But every now and again, especially when I’m dealing with one of the more determined and aggressive members of this band, I’ll stop, look him or her (or “xer”) in the eye, and say:

“All right, I’ll hear what you have to say.  But before you start, know that the three things you absolutely will not get out of me are my name, my opinions, and my money.  Okay? Now…fire away.”

They usually don’t bother.  (I suppose that’s part of street-corner clipboard solicitation training 101.)  However, once in a way, some intrepid spirit will soldier on, thinking they can talk me round to coughing up said responses.  Those who do get nothing more for their pains than the famous Robbo scowl squint.**

Stupid hipster-doofuses.

**Just trying to enjoy myself.  (Spot the quote.)


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