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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at the Puppy-Blender’s place, Stephen Green quotes at length an article by Arthur Chrenkoff that is well worth cut-and-paste emphasis here:

The Millennials can’t remember very much – and they don’t learn very much either. It’s easy being hot for socialism or communism when you actually have a very little idea of what it is and what it did throughout the 20th century. And the Ys have that ignorance in spades; one third of them think that George W Bush killed more people than Stalin and 42 per cent have never heard of Mao – but over 70 per cent agree with Bernie Sanders. Some research suggests that only 15 per cent actually have a correct understanding of socialism. It’s not just politics; the Millennials are the most woefully undereducated and miseducated generation in a very long time. To be fair, that’s not strictly their fault; that attaches itself again to their Boomer grandparents who have been in charge of our failing education systems during this time. Combine the modern indoctrination-cum-dumbification taking place in schools and universities with the attention span-killing impact of information technology and social media, and you have a barely literate cohort, which is simply not equipped with the necessary mental tools to learn about the real world even if they wanted to.

Yep.  Ol’ Robbo would only add that this is no accident, but a deliberate campaign by Leftists in Academia to turn the next generation into mindless, easily-manipulated zombies.  And no, I don’t need any tinfoil, thank you.  I know all about the Frankfurt School and the Gramscian Long March through the Institutions.

To think that I was naïve enough at one point to believe that when the Soviet Union collapsed, our troubles would be over.

It has been my number one mission in life to save my own children from this brainwashing, and I like to think I have been somewhat successful at ensuring they are both analytically sound thinkers as well as knowledgeable about actual history.  To give an example, they’ve all got the figures of the slaughters caused by the “great” 20th Century despots – Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. – at their fingertips.  And they all recognize that Bernie Sanders (or Wilson or FDR, for that matter) – style “Progressivism” is just another variant of collectivist authoritarianism sprung from the same root as the “-Isms” championed by these monsters.

Indeed, Ol’ Robbo is chuckling to himself because Eldest told me yesterday that she got into a dust-up with her religion professor over whether the Nazis were socialists. “What part of ‘National Socialist Workers’ Party’ did she not understand?” the Gel exclaimed indignantly.  She gets that there are subtle variations among the different collectivist creeds, but she also gets the modern meme of Hitler = Fascist = Right-Wing = Republican, and rejects it whole-heartedly.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took advantage of his day off today to get the ol’ garden cleaned up and ready to go for the new year (read: raze everything to stumps and clear out all the deadwood).  I’m sure Mr. Washington will understand, given that he was a man of the soil, too.

As I went out this morning, I heard Mrs. Robbo grumbling under her breath.  Mrs. R has never liked Robbo’s garden, occasionally suggesting we should sod it over or even install a tennis court.  Even though I vehemently protest against these ideas every time she floats them, I can’t say that I don’t understand her attitude:  In all the years we’ve lived at Port Swiller Manor, I’ve never yet worked it up to anything near what I want it to be.  At its best in high summah, with all the butterfly bushes in full bloom and the place covered with tiger swallowtails, a few monarchs, various bees, and the odd hummingbird, it has a definite sort of shabby, dryad loveliness.  The rest of the year?  Not so much.

Robbo’s Ideal

In fact, I know exactly what I want to do with the thing. I want to re-survey the central path and put a border of side-by-side bricks around it.  I want to pull out most of what’s in it right now and put in a series of raised beds, although I plan to leave butterfly bushes interspersed between them.  Then I want to build up the soil in each bed to specific levels of acidity or alkalinity to correspond with whatever flowers I decide to put in.  Then the whole thing has to be heavily critter-proofed. (The deer don’t come in the yard anymore because of the dog, but Mr. Bunny Foo-Foo sometimes does and the groundhogs are a real menace.)  This will involve a lot of fencing that I might even electrify. (Sistah does this to keep the foxes out of her chicken yard.)



Something Closer to Robbo’s Reality

All this, of course, will involve both time and money.  I don’t mind about the time so much, since I’d hire somebody to do the basics for me.  (One of the benefits of having reached my mid-50’s is not feeling I have to prove anything by trying to do it all myself.) The money, on the other hand?  Well, what with the kids still on our coattails for at least the next few years (even as I type this, Mrs. R is on the phone haggling with a dealer over a possible car for Youngest), it’s just too much of a stretch.  Just for laughs, a year or two ago I got an estimate on just some of the more basic first steps.  Even that I found to be unconscionable.

Ah, well.  I’m perfectly content to wait, even if Mrs. R isn’t.  In the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin novel The Ionian Mission, the British Admiral commanding the blockade of Toulon, who is very old and sick, longs for nothing more than for the French to come out and fight before he dies or is sent home.  He refers to the waters between the inner and outer squadrons of the British Fleet as the “Sea of Hopes Deferred”.   I’m beginning to think of my garden as a “Hope Deferred”, too, but with any luck I won’t have to wait quite so long for its realization.

Incidentally, that “Ideal” photo comes from this site, which looks to have some pretty good ideas….

UPDATE:  You may be asking yourself, “Self? Why doesn’t Ol’ Robbo go for a gradual transformation….like, say, one new bed per season?”  Well, that idea has been slowly creeping into my braims, too.  There may well be much in it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Middle Gel came home from college this weekend, ostensibly because this was her last opportunity to see us until we ourselves travel down for her spring concert some time in April.

It seems to Ol’ Robbo that college life agrees with the gel, as she looked terrific.

Oddly enough, though, I didn’t wind up seeing all that much of her, as she spent a great deal of time in her room.

When I asked Mrs. R why this was, she just laughed.

“Well you ought to know, Mr. Introvert, since she gets it from you,” she said. “She’s just got through a month of having to be intensely social with rushing Delta Gamma.  Are you actually surprised that she really just wants to be alone for a while?”

Put it like that, no, I can’t really say that I am.


Greatings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, for those of you interested, Ol’ Robbo made it back to Port Swiller Manor from his latest biznay jaunt safe and sound.  A few observations:

Yesterday morning featured about three hours of driving in a subcompact rental through a 30+ mph crosswind.  By the time I was done, my forearms felt like Popeye’s.

DFW is just about the least user-friendly airport I’ve ever encountered.  (Yes, even worse than Dulles.)  Huge, labyrinth-like, poorly-signed, and full of people who don’t really seem to give a damn.  No greenhorn at dealing with new airports, I even managed to get lost trying to find the south gate from the rental-car place and driving along the perimeter road a while before realizing my mistake.  And just getting back in to the terminals was difficult because you can only do it by elevator because of some huge construction project.  Love Field for me next time.

The first leg of Robbo’s trip home last evening was aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  I believe this was my first time.  What a beast.  I like all the high-tech, coo-el, futuristic-looking internal gewgaws, and I’m sure the premium seating is pretty sweet, but for us folks in the back?  It’s just another cattle-car.  The good news is that although it was another choppy flight, the thing is so big that I barely had any sensation of being off the ground.

Oh, and the woman with the infant/toddler combination who sat next to me outbound the other day?  There was another one on the way back.  She was far enough away, however, that the squalling proved only a minor nuisance, unlike the metallic voice of one of the stewardesses, who spent seemingly the entire flight in the rear galley haranguing a co-worker about some crisis or other.  Sheesh.

I flew American this time.  Every single flight was overbooked and every single boarding process was fraught with high drama.  What’s up with that (as the kids say)?

Ol’ Robbo contrived once again to leave his sunglasses in the rental car.  It got me wondering how much money those sunglasses huts in the terminals make off just such morons like myself.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo must hit the road bright and early tomorrow morning for a quick biznay trip that will get him back to Port Swiller Manor very late Thursday evening.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will bother bringing along my personal laptop.  If I don’t, this post is meant to explain my silence for the next few days.

Here’s something to ponder in the meanwhile:  Friends of the decanter may have come to sense over the years that Ol’ Robbo is something of a nut about planning and punctuality.  True enough.  (In this, I highly approved of Middle Gel’s former high school choir director’s iron rule that if you’re early, you’re on time; If you’re on time, you’re late; If you’re late, don’t bother showing up.  My college crew coach held the identical view.)

Yet for all that, I have never been able to bring myself to pack for an early morning trip the evening before, but instead typically fill up the ol’ suitcase in a fog and haze at Oh Dark Thirty.  I almost always find myself scrambling to beat the clock in my packing so that I can make it to the airport the obligatory two hours before my flight leaves.

I suppose part of this is sheer laziness, part evidence of a reluctance to leave.  Also, I admit getting a certain kick, after all the kerfluffle, of sitting about in the departure lounge and kicking my heals because I’m always way early.

Yes, I’m weird.

Anyhoo, back later.  Unless I check in sooner.  We’ll see.

FLYING THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES UPDATE:  Brought the laptop after all.  Which is just as well because Ol’ Robbo can now kvetch about his flight out this morning.

Not only did it prove to be one of the most beastly, choppy, turbulent flights of my experience.  (Three hours, about two thirds of it with the seatbelt sign lit and the stewardesses sitting down.  At one point, I swear the pilot rammed the throttle wide open just to try and get through the next patch of very bad sky as quickly as possible.)

Not only was I worried that the very large man in the seat in front of me was going to cause it to collapse into my lap by all his heaving around in it.

No, the cherry on top of the ice cream was that I was seated next to a young mother who had both an infant who couldn’t have been more than a month or two old and a toddler somewhere in the 2 y.o. range.  When the infant wasn’t being nursed (at least the mother brought along a covering for that), he screamed his bloody head off.  When the toddler didn’t feel she was getting all the attention she deserved, she screamed her bloody head off.

Part of me thought the mother quite brave for juggling this pair and all their accoutrements all by herself in a (for the most part) calm manner.  The other part of me heartily wished she were being brave somewhere else.

Of course, listening to all this rather took my mind off the plane being tossed about so much, but in the end, even when two such irritants cancel each other out to some extent, it’s still a mighty exhausting time.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo didn’t watch the SOTU this evening: I’ll leave it to my trusted politickal sources to suss that one out.

Instead, I relate a conversation:

Youngest: Dad, when do I get a car?

Self: We don’t “get” cars, my dear, we “buy” them. That costs money. And you have to earn it.

Youngest: Okay, when do we “buy” me a car?

Self: How’s your GPA? And I see that summah camp work crew application still not filled out….

Youngest: Oh, funny thing! I was going to do that this evening. (Grabs pen, proceeds to write….) So, about that car?

Self: So, about that GPA?

My friends, I can’t help but say that for once Ol’ Robbo is feeling the power.

For some reason, the scene put me in mind of what I had thought was another Geico commercial, but on review turns out to be a State Farm wannabe. Still funny and apropos.  (Imagine me as the guy in the waders, and a set of keys on the end of the line.):


MADMEN UPDATE:  I got thinking (again) about the broader subject of insurance company advertising.  (Don’t ask me why, it’s just something I think about from time to time.) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another sector that consistently generates such clever and funny ads.  I suppose when you haven’t got an eye-grabbing product to flaunt in and of itself, you need to rely much more heavily on the sales pitch to sell it.

I mean, think about it:  This whole State Farm series including the one above was generally pretty funny, as was their middle-of-the-night-phone-call one (“She sounds hideous”).  Geico routinely hits it out of the park with their gecko, their cavemen, their rhetorical “Could switching to Geico…” series.  Farmers struck gold when they got veteran (and very good) actor J.K. Simmons to do the “seen a thing or two” line.   Allstate’s Mayhem series is darkly amusing, too.  (On the other hand, I find their “Are you in good hands?” series with Dennis Haysbert a bit flat.  They could score bigly on this if they could manage to insert one “Jobu” reference.)  Heck, even though I don’t care for “Flo” all that much and I despise her soyboy sidekick Jimmy, I still find the Progressive commercials mildly amusing.  (Granted, the one where she visits her deadbeat twin sister is outright funny.)

On the other hand, I find the Liberty Mutual series unappealing.  It started with the weird millennial gal who named her car “Brad” and goes on with various people whining about how some other insurance company are being big, fat meanies about making them whole, even when the accident is their fault.  In this, I think Liberty is unique.  Probably with good reason:  I don’t believe disgruntled spite is really a winning marketing plan.  (Unless, of course, you’re going for that slice of the demographic whose whole world view is based on disgruntled spite against their parents, their employers, the “System”, the “Man”.  But how many Bernie-bot Starbucks baristas can afford a car?)

Anyhoo, I think it’s all both interesting and (mostly) entertaining.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today is the Feast of St. Blaise, so after Mass today we stayed late for the Blessing of the Throats.  Ol’ Robbo just loves these little grace notes of the Church.

On a different note, I begin to suspect that my Padre is a secret friend of the decanter because his homily today was mighty close to what I’ve been saying about the New York and Virginia infanticide laws.

FINISHING THE THOUGHT UPDATE:  I was under a time constraint earlier, imposed by the doggeh who wanted to go walkies.

I mentioned the Blessing to Mrs. R this afternoon when I got home.  She said, “Whatever makes you happy” but her eyes said “Popery!”  She seems to have no problem with the Blessing of the Animals (which is a logistical nightmare to me) so I fail to see why she should stick on side over this one.

On that front, Ol’ Robbo has started accompanying the family again on Sunday mornings to his Former Episcopal Church, mostly to ride herd and make sure that they actually go. (The timing is such that I can loiter around at coffee hour after the Palie service and then make my way over to my parish for Mass.)  Mrs. R and I had previously had a difference of opinion about my sitting and staring at the ceiling as she and the Gels made their way forward to the altar rail for the “Great Thanksgiving”.  Now, I go up with them, but simply cross my arms and quietly refuse the bread and wine.  The clergyperson gives me a blessing instead and all is well.

I ran this programme by my spiritual advisor to make sure I wasn’t doing anything bad.  He didn’t object, but instead noted the rather Herculean task I’d set for myself.  But I’m the husband and father here: What else is there that I could do?


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Want to know how to get the weekend off to a really terrific start? Burst water pipe for the win!

Ol’ Robbo was drowsily reading his Anthony Powell in front of the fire late this afternoon after having taken the puppeh for her walk in the snow when I realized that I was hearing water running somewhere.  At first I thought it was the dishwasher or maybe Youngest running a load of laundry (she’s very good about this), but quickly ascertained this wasn’t the case.

Suddenly I had a horrid suspicion, subsequently confirmed when I went down the basement and discovered my study an inch deep in the stuff.

I don’t know yet because the plumber hasn’t got here (and may not until tomorrow), but I’m pretty sure from both signs and location that it’s the pipe that runs out to the external faucet under the back porch.  It runs down from the floor above behind a wall exposed to the north.  Don’t tell Ol’ Robbo he should have drained and shut off that pipe before winter hit, because there is no separate shut off for it.  We’ve had various plumbing issues over time to be sure, but in 18+ years of residence at Port Swiller Manor, this is our first weather-related rupture.

Damn you, Polar Vortex! Damn you to heeeeelllllll………

So now we don’t have any water since I cut off the main as soon as I realized what was going on, and may not until the plumber finally shows up (perhaps tonight, more probably some time tomorrow).  It’s just as well Ol’ Robbo drinks port instead of the stuff. OTOH, the potty situation may get…tricky.  Thank Heaven there are only three of us in residence at the moment instead of five.

HOWARD DEAN-LIKE “YEEEARGH!!!” INDUCING UPDATE:  Whelp, the plumber did get here this evening.   (My Plumber, by the bye.  We’ve used them before and they seem to be good people.)  I explained the situation, showed him the clues, and let him at it.  After he’d cut into the drywall for a bit, I suddenly heard him start to laugh.  You know that shut off valve I said didn’t exist?  Oh, it existed, all right, although cleverly walled up by the fellahs who redid the basement for us many years ago.  Not only that, there was no burst pipe.  Instead, the pipe had simply broken away from the valve.  Yeeeeeaargh!!!

So the plumber put in a new ball valve and recommended (needlessly, I may say) that when we close up the drywall, we put an access panel over it.  Ya think?

The good news is that although the repair was pricey enough, it wasn’t half as bad as it might have been.  (Plus, Mrs. R’s snow-out (see post below) proved beneficial because she found we could get a 10% teacher’s discount.  I’d never have thought of that had I been left on my own.)  Nonetheless, even though our water has been restored and the damn dog has stopped barking, I think I’ll stick with port tonight.  I feel that I’ve earned it.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As a bounce-back from this week’s Virginia infanticide Debacle, which is now in the rake-handle-to-the-face-of-the-Left stage, how about a little of this and that?

♦  It’s snowing around Port Swiller Manor at the moment, and Youngest is out running errands in it.  (Needless to say, school is cancelled today per the county’s “one flake” policy.)  When I expressed some misgivings about this, she said, “But Dad, I need the experience, right?”  Yes, yes she does.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t worry.

♦  Ol’ Robbo recently had a birthday.  I’m now 54.  That puts me in my “mid-50’s” now, right? And have I officially hit middle age?  Red Ferrari and leggy young blonds, here I come! (Not.) Reminds me again of a favorite Basil Fawlty internal dialogue:


What was that?

That was your life, mate.

Oh, that’s nice.  Do I get another?

Sorry, mate.

♦  How about some micro-movie reviews?

The Big Country (1958) – I first saw this on teevee when I was about 12 or so.  It was the movie that made me first fall in love with westerns, mostly because of the beautiful scenery.  The story itself is about Easterner Gregory Peck finding himself in the middle of a bitter fight over water rights.  I never understood the appeal of Peck, who to me always seemed so wooden.  Whenever I put this to the Mothe, who thought he was yummy, she’d always say, “You haven’t the genes, dear boy.  You haven’t the genes.”  It also stars the equally unappealing to me Jean Simmons, who always seemed like such a rabbit.  Charlton Heston struts his stuff and Burl Ives is a thoroughly creepy contender in the fight.

Gung Ho! (1943) – Pure WWII propaganda based on a 1942 Marine raid on the Japanese-held island of Makin in the Gilberts.  There’s not much to say about it, except that it stars Randolph Scott and a young Robert Mitchum, who is one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorite actors.

In Which We Serve (1942) – Another WWII film, written and directed by, and starring Noel Coward.  Survivors of a Brit destroyer sunk by the Luftwaffe off Crete think on their past lives as they cling to a life raft.  It’s actually pretty well done.  I wrote the other day about my misgivings over John Wayne’s decision to stick to his acting instead of signing up for the war.  Coward tried to sign on, but was specifically told by Churchill that he’d do more good sticking to entertainment.  The Nazis wanted to kill him at any rate.

♦ Is the Super Bowl this weekend?  I doubt I’ll watch.  OTOH, pitchers and catchers report in two weeks, so it isn’t that long until the real sports season begins! (UPDATE UNO:  Let me make clear that I’m not “boycotting” in support of Colin Kaepernick or anything.  I just don’t give much of a damn.  And the Pats are more or less a lock anyway since Belicheck signed his soul away to Satan.)

♦  Oh, and tomorrow is Candlemas, but it’s also Groundhog Day.  A fun fact about Robbo: I have never made it through the Bill Murray movie of that name without dozing off.  I don’t know why – time and place, possibly – but it’s true.  I’ve absolutely nothing against it, you understand, but to this day I don’t know how it actually ends.

UPDATE DEUX:  Well, we actually got a couple inches of snow after all.  Perfect for taking the puppeh on a long walk round the neighborhood.  On the other hand, Mrs. Robbo’s overnight school outing to the Murrland Science Center got cancelled, so now she’s more or less kicking her heals.  When Mrs. R has a lot of energy and nothing in particular upon which to focus it, it’s best to slide quietly out of the way and hide.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been having a series of his world-famous bizarre dreams of late.  I haven’t mentioned this before because almost all of them, although extremely vivid at the time, have evaporated immediately as I emerged from my slumbers.  Last night’s stuck, however.

In it, I found myself in the Foreign Legion.  Moreover, I found myself a prisoner of the Russians (Tsarist Russians, not the modern variety) along with a number of others, in a large, open-air, sandstone fort.  I didn’t know, but had the sense that we were somewhere in the Crimea, but at any rate very, very far away from anyone else.

Cary Grant was the senior prisoner among us.  He wasn’t dressed as a Legionnaire, but instead was in his British Army rig from the movie “Gunga Din”.  The Russians apparently were holding us until Grant coughed up some crucial piece of intelligence, but were perfectly willing to let us all rot if he didn’t cooperate.  Meanwhile, we all knew that Grant would not crack, but was busy putting together a scheme to break us out, although we didn’t know anything of the plan yet.

At one point, the Russians opened the big gate to let somebody through.  I glanced out on the sly and saw a low, cultivated river valley.  Away beyond it were steep bluffs backed by a tall mountain range in the far distance.  The view reinforced the sense of remoteness and isolation that I’d felt, but at the same time was both beautiful and somehow comforting.  At no point do I recall feeling any kind of fear or hopelessness.

I turned to somebody and said, “Yes, definitely Russia.”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

Feel free to make of this what you will.  If it helps, I had coffee with a priest friend of mine yesterday and a very good perspective-adjusting talk about several things which have been much on my mind of late.



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