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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Suspecting, not without reason, that if left to himself Ol’ Robbo would never get round to it, Mrs. R signed me up for my annual (well, it’s probably now triennial or quadrennial) checkup the other day.

As you might gather, I’m not fond of my current doctor. She’s a scold. Coffee? Bad. Meat? Bad. Wine? Baaaaaad. At my last visit, about the only vice she couldn’t find in me was free-basing heroin. Also, she both over-diagnoses and over-prescribes. Pills, pills, and even more pills. This is contrary to my personal philosophy that the taking of medicine should be restricted to the absolute minimum necessary. (The Old Gentleman was a doctor and so is my brother, so I grew up with no illusions about what it can and cannot do.)

So why do I stay with her? Shear inertia. Plus, I admit I’m getting to the age where building up a baseline relationship makes more and more sense, and I shouldn’t be hopping about. (Alas, my previous doc, with whom I’d been a long time and did like, switched to a concierge practice and relocated to extremely inconvenient new digs.)

The good news is that the checkup couldn’t be scheduled any earlier than the end of April, so I’ve got that long to get into some serious training. At least I’ve got a good motivator.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you keeping track of such things will be pleased to learn that Youngest Gel successfully drove herself back to Ohio yesterday, even dealing calmly with a snowstorm that caught her between Morgantown, WV and Columbus. She checked in with us at various breaks and, I suppose fortunately, in that it spared me additional worry, didn’t mention the snow until after she’d cleared it. I may say that I’m rayther proud of her.

The Gel stalled around quite a bit about heading back to school. First it was going to be Thursday. Then Friday. Then 5 ack emma Sunday. Then 8 am, when she finally left. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be at school and wouldn’t enjoy it once she was back, just that she felt it took so much more energy to motivate herself to start the journey than it did when she came home before Christmas. I guess she just hasn’t broken away quite yet.

Ol’ Robbo still distinctly remembers his own “break point”, if you will. It was Christmas vacation my junior year. One afternoon a couple of days before I flew back to school, I suddenly had the oddest sensation. Looking about the house, I realized, “This is all ending. In a very short time, I’m not going to live here anymore. Life as I’ve known it up till now is going to change. Forever.” The shock of it all made me sit down hard, and I’m not sure there weren’t a few tears, too. From that point forward, even when I came home for the summah, I always felt more like a visitor than an inmate.

As I say, Youngest isn’t there yet. (Middle Gel is, I believe. Eldest is working from home at the moment, but there may be some news about that in the near future.)

By the bye, Youngest was teasing me about the drive. She’s already picked up the sensible habit of stopping at familiar waypoints for gas and food, but she stops three different times on the eight-hour trip. And not only that, but she actually goes in and sits down for ten or fifteen minutes to rest, fiddle with her phone, and whatnot. “That would drive you nuts, wouldn’t it,” she laughed. You’re durn right it would.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Isn’t it funny how one can get idea associations so firmly locked into one’s head.

Youngest, who doesn’t go back to school for another week or so, went out with a friend to a fondue restaurant last evening.

Ol’ Robbo has never actually been to this place, but in my mind it has orange shag carpet, a hot tub over in the corner, and ABBA playing on the sound system. This image is so firmly stamped on my braim that I believe it wouldn’t change even if I actually went over and eyeballed the premises myself.

I can’t think why the association is so strong. True, the only time I’ve ever actually had fondue myself was at a friend’s house during my misspent yoot in those benighted times (when it first really got popular in the States), but my friend’s parents did not choose to decorate this way. Perhaps something out of pop culture? Despite the title of this post, I never actually watched that series. But perhaps there was a very special episode of the Brady Bunch where Peter and Jan got into a squabble and wound up spilling melty cheese all over Marsha’s dress right before her big date? (If there wasn’t, there ought to have been.)

Anyhoo, there it is. Fondue and the 70’s. Inseparable to me.

UPDATE: There! Since posting this, I’ve had “Take A Chance On Me” running on a loop in my head. (Share and enjoy!) Not only that, it’s the Muppet Show cover featuring the weird, long-legged birds hopping up and down on power lines. I worry me sometimes.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening – I suppose it was while I was watching the college championship game – I caught the Kentucky Fried Chicken teevee ad flogging its new plant-based fake chicken.

Not that I patronize KFC anyway, but if the Colonel believes I would ever eat that stuff, he’s vastly, vastly mistaken. I’m almost tempted to swing by and get an order of the real deal just to make the point.

Ol’ Robbo hopes this ersatz offering goes the same way as New Coke.

UPDATE: Know what puzzles Ol’ Robbo? I’ve been taking a lunchtime walk round the neighborhood most days since house arrest began, yet even now I still get the side-eye from time to time. Am I really all that seedy and scruffy looking? Does my perpetual squinting trigger them? What do they think I’m going to do, mug them on a quiet, suburban street in broad daylight? (Yes, my presence would be more explicable and perhaps acceptable if I had Decanter Dog along with me, but she’s starting to age a bit and is no longer enthusiastic about walkies the way she used to be.) Yeesh.

UPDATE DEUX: I just now remembered what I wanted to mention: Some weeks back the Heroes and Icons Network (H&I) bumped “Star Trek: TOS” from prime time to the middle of the night, replacing it with the third hour of “Walker: Texas Ranger”.

Their ratings must really have taken a hit or else they’ve received a lot of blowback, because last evening I saw an ad announcing Captain Kirk and Company are returning to their original slot. I laughed. It was a stupid move in the first place.

(No, Ol’ Robbo is not a “Trekkie” in the pejorative sense. But I like to have the option to flip on favorite episodes when they appear.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, the title does not refer to this week’s bookend snowfalls in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Rayther, this has just turned out to be one of those Saturdays where the big tasks seemed to keep hatching baby tasklettes which kept me going sideways.

First came the take-down of the Robbo Family Christmas Tree. It did well up through Epiphany but had already started taking on that droop indicating that the end was near no matter how much water I gave it. I do believe that, for once, we got all the way through the season without a single ornament going for a burton, and I managed to box up and store the lot without any sneaky stowaways remaining in the branches. The tree itself has now joined the remains of its predecessors in the woods out back. I notice that it seems to take two to three years for them to decompose. Last year’s is still a skeleton, the prior year’s a crumpled heap, the rest a mere handful of dust.

Speaking of seasonal decorations, longtime friends of the decanter will know of Ol’ Robbo’s austerity when it comes to same: Wreaths on the front door, a wreath on the dining room table, a tree, a creche, plus a few doodads put out by Mrs. R. That’s it. This has always been the source of some grumbling among the family, but I have my limits.

Well, on Christmas Day, family and friends were gathered together in revelry when Middle Gel suddenly fixed Ol’ Robbo with a gimlet eye and said, “You know, Dad, when I have my own house, I’m going to go completely nuts with Christmas decorations: Blow-up yard balloons, outside lights on everything, garland everywhere, the works! And I’m going to do it just to spike you!”

She will, too. At least once, before she realizes how much bother it all actually is. The Gel is really sweet-natured but when she decides something is going to happen, it’s pretty much going to happen. Iron fist in the velvet glove, that one.

Next was the new teevee. Yes, Mrs. R had saved up her Amex points and got a 55-inch flatscreen for the living room. Here, I’m the victim of my own good idea. Back in the earlies I’d envisioned the living room as somewhat formal, a place to entertain bosses and muckety-mucks and the like, so we furnished it accordingly. Such entertainment never actually came to pass, and we wound up not using the room for much of anything. Then one day, about a year and a half ago, I got it in my head that maybe we should forget the formality and just make it comfortable. So, we I repainted it, while Mrs. R found a large, leather sectional sofa cheap on Craig’s List and a big coffee table from what I now believe was a fence for stolen property. Thus, we made the change. The result is that almost every moment it’s too cold to live on the porch is now spent here.

Almost immediately after we made this change, Mrs. R started advocating for the teevee. “For family movie nights and watching tennis tournaments and such,” she said. I’d stuck in my heels because the older I get, the more I crave peace and quiet, and abhor chatter coming out of electronic devices. I feared that once we put it in, there’d be no escape for Ol’ Robbo from all that racket, no matter where he fled in the house. Besides, Mrs. R already has a small teevee in our bedroom, and there’s a perfectly good big one down in the basement. (Don’t ask me to explain why Mrs. R won’t go down in the basement.)

And yet….here we are. We had a fellah come out and mount the thing professionally yesterday, but I don’t need to tell you who had to spend the morning rearranging the furniture to make optimal use of it. Mrs. R swears she won’t watch the thing when I’m around or trying to read, and evidently there’s some arrangement by which she can use headphones connected to her phone, but we’ll see how that all works out.

Running my weekly errands in town, I noticed mask mania has come back with a vengeance. Freakin’ sheep. I also noticed numerous bare shelves at the store, and overheard at least three distinct conversations along these lines:

Customer: Is it because of all the snow?

Clerk: Nope, supply-chain problems. We just can’t get replacement stock here fast enough to keep up.

But My Betters assure me that all is well.

And speaking of which, Virginia has just started assessing a five-cent tax on plastic grocery bags, a measure Ol’ Robbo didn’t even know was being considered, much less passed. In the checkout line, the cashier explained the charge and asked if I still wanted the bags.

“Yeah, let’s go Northam,” I said.

The fellah behind me in line (who was also maskless) looked guardedly amused. The cashier laughed outright.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Once again, Ol’ Robbo finds himself with a handful of ungerminated post idea beans which, like Jack, he will fling into the ether and see if any sprout into stalks.

First, happy Feast of the Epiphany! Ol’ Robbo means to get out and chalk the Port Swiller Manor front door a little later, but only when Mrs. R isn’t looking. To her, this sort of thing is a little too close to hocus pocus, and when she notices what I’ve done she always wipes it off. UPDATED: Mission accomplished. Alas, my handwriting is so bad these days that I could plausibly explain the chalking as owl scratches.

The post-Christmas diaspora begins today with Middle Gel heading back to kollij. Alas, in an attack of foolishness her school just announced that the first two weeks of classes are going to be on-line. We’ll see if it’s only two weeks. (Magic 8-Ball says “Don’t bet the farm on it.”) The Gel’s birthday is coming up shortly and she had arranged with some of her classmates to do one of those “Escape Room” outings. That, it seems, also has been scrubbed because some of her friends won’t be back in time now. UPDATED: Youngest doesn’t go back until toward the end of the month. Her school just put out an update that they are still anticipating regular operations. Magic 8-Ball is still giving me the same reply.

Speaking of travel, it looks as if we’re gearing up for another possible Storm of the Century of the Week tonight in these parts. (The Gel will be well south of it before it hits.) Given the complete balls-up on I-95 due to the storm last Sunday (which my soon-to-be ex-governor is now saying was us rubes’ fault), you can expect the panic over this one to be that much sillier. UPDATE: I meant to mention that our last snowfall was really quite lovely; wet and heavy snow that stuck to all the trees. It’s all blotchy and uneven now, so a couple more inches would be a welcome restorative. UPDATE DEUX: HA! Ya got that? HA! HA!

Speaking of silly panics, yeah, I know what we’re all supposed to be mourning today. I still recall the breathless post an acquaintance put up on FacePlant that evening: “Just wanted to let everyone know that we’re home, 15 miles from downtown, and that we’re SAFE!” Gawd.

Bearded Spock Universe Alert: I found out this morning that Eldest Gel watched “Rebecca” (1940) last evening, the one with Olivier and Fontaine, and really enjoyed it. What was Ol’ Robbo watching at the same time? “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004). Before you ask me to hand over my agonizer, I will say in my defense that I was tired. Also, it really is a funny movie.

Well, that ought to be enough for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers.

Yes, I already updated the post below today, but decided to put up a new one just to report that Ol’ Robbo has become the latest victim of the doubtless “climate change” -induced storm that just came through.

Yes, I managed to fall on the ice while hacking it off the Port Swiller Manor driveway a while ago.

I’m happy to report that I don’t seem to have injured anything, except, perhaps, my pride. And even that wasn’t so bad, since I managed to scramble back to my feet before anybody saw me.

But still….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the joke last year was “Just wait until 2020 turns ’21 and starts drinking!”

I think that one turned out to be pretty prophetic, don’t you?

The one going around now is “2022 is just 2020 – too.”

Let’s hope that one won’t come true.

Anyhoo, the Family Robbo made a whirlwind visit to the vast, yet secure holdings of Fort LMC yesterday, there to bring in the New Year with the Former Llama Military Correspondent, his lovely bride, and their fine children, a practice we started nearly 30 years ago, now. As usual, it snowed food and rained drink, as Prof. Tolkien put it, and the LMC and I sat about making crotchety pronouncements about the state of the world, and occasionally checking up on the bowl game scores. I am ashamed to say that beforehand I had actually bought into the hype that Cincinatti might have a hope in hell of beating Alabama.

Somehow or other we all made it until midnight more or less upright. And for some reason or other, we turned on the Times Square ball-drop. I was amused to see that many of the revelers on the tee-vee seemed to be ignoring the masking requirement that now-Ex Mayor DeBlasio had commanded and began mocking things in a strong German accent. “Achtung! You vill obey zee orders at once! Und you! Und you, too! Shultz! Call out the guard!!”

My capacity for self-entertainment is pretty large.

We woke up none the worse for wear (more or less) this morning and duly returned to Port Swiller Manor. (Fortunately, I-95 didn’t get bad until we were north of Fredericksburg.) It still hasn’t sunk in on me that this is New Year’s Day for some reason. While getting used to the new year itself usually takes a while, forgetting the day itself seems a bit strange.

At any rate, here’s hoping you all had a happy holiday, too, and best of luck to us all in the coming year. I think we’re going to need it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got taken to lunch today by Middle Gel. Yes, the Gel treated me, not the other way round. Pretty sure this was a first.

It was rayther a strange sensation, particularly as we went to the same family restaurant we always stopped at after little league soccer and softball games back in the day, and especially as she had the same thing she always did back then (hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream and an extra-cheesy omelet). Indeed, thinking on this nostalgically, I almost forgot she’s all grown up now (which I think was part of the reason she wanted to treat), and had to physically stop myself from automatically grabbing the check.

The times, they are a ‘changing.

(Speaking of the times, I noticed that the prices were considerably higher than they had been. I also noticed that seemingly every single store in the strip mall (including the restaurant itself) had a “help wanted” sign in the window. #LGB!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter may recall an old Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs is being hunted by Elmer Fudd when a truck full of hats loses its load high above them in the hills. Various hats (a bonnet, military headgear, etc.) successively land on their heads, causing a series of changes in their personalities.** (I’m sure the cartoon has long since been banned from teevee for whatever sins against modern sensibilities. Although I recall that Fudd winds up in a bridal veil, so you’d think the scolds would be all for it.)

Anyhoo, I mention it because I always feel something of this change when I get a haircut, and it just so happens that I did that very thing yesterday.

Yes, this doesn’t seem much meat to post about, but it is for me (else I wouldn’t be writing this) for a couple reasons.

First off, this was the first time I’d actually gone out and got a real, professional haircut in nearly two years. All this time during the plandemical house arrest I’ve been hacking at it myself with an occasional assist around back by Mrs. R. I just finally decided I was tired of looking like……I’d cut it myself.

Second, prior to the shutdown I’d been going to the same gal to clip the thatch for something close to twenty years. However, when it hit, her salon went under and I believe she moved away. At any rate, I don’t know where to reach her now, so decided just to try my luck with the hole-in-the-wall barber shop near my grocery store. This is more significant than friends of the decanter may think, because Ol’ Robbo is of such a habitual nature that it takes me an enormous amount of what the physicists call “energy of activation” to deviate from my normal routines.

Well, I’m happy to say that it worked out just fine.

When I sat down, the cute little barberess said, “How you want cut?”

“Oh,” I said, “Short in back and on the sides. But leave the top long because I have to cover my bald spot.”

She giggled.

The whole operation took ten, maybe fifteen minutes tops. And this was the first time I’ve ever had anyone use a straight-razor on the back of my neck. An interesting sensation, indeed.

When it came time to pay (a fraction of what I used to spend at the fru-fru salon), I discovered that we had a miscommunication when I first came in and that this was a cash-only establishment. Of course I didn’t have any. (I’ve a wife and three college-age daughters. How much cash do you suppose Ol’ Robbo ever actually sees?***) After I fumbled about for a minute or two, the gal said, “How about you just pay next time you come in?”

That is the sort of small-town hospitality (and clever client development) I would never, ever imagine receiving round here, and I was quite delightfully surprised.

You may be sure that, in fact, I dashed home, tracked down Mrs. R, wrestled the ATM card from her, hit the bank, and dashed back to the shop. You may also be sure that I tipped the gal heartily.

I think I now have a new routine. And I feel an awful lot less shabby than I did.

** Because Ol’ Robbo’s braim works the way it does, I still remember Bug’s line when the sergeant’s helmet lands on his head and he starts dressing down Fudd: “Awright, dog face! How come every other soldier in this man’s army has got a RIFLE, but YOU’VE got a GUN??!!”

*** I sometimes make this remark to the more professional panhandlers I encounter on the street. I’ve never not had one of them laugh.


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January 2022