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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, autumn proceeds apace here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. As I look about me, the trees are increasingly dappled with patches of yellow, orange, and brown, and it’s cool enough to lounge comfortably in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

All the Gels are home now for the long weekend, although I’ve only seen them briefly and not all together at the same time. When the younger two aren’t sleeping, they’ve been visiting with Mrs. R’s parents, who happen to have stopped in this weekend on their migration back to Flardah. (Ol’ Robbo currently is banned from their presence because I’m not fully jabbed yet.) But I get ’em all together for dinner this evening. I b’lieve this is the first time it actually feels out of the ordinary to have a full house again.

I never thought to see an article in praise of Breezewood, PA, but here it is. I get what it says about the place being an important waypoint and praising the folks who have stuck it out there (unlike somebody like Kevin Williamson, I’m really not a snob), but that doesn’t change the fact that the stretch between the traffic light at the end of I-70 and the ramps for the Turnpike is one of the ugliest places I know, both in terms of extended truck-stop architecture and bottleneck traffic. (Is there even a downtown? A community somewhere off the strip? I’ve never looked.) And there is such a sense of relief headed southbound once one gets through it that I’m always overcome by the urge to floor it even though the speed limit is only 55 mph. Many, many other folks feel the same way. (The Pennsylvania State Police have been feasting on them for years and years now.)

Speaking of such, I heard a good one recently: In order to pass the Murrland driver’s license test, you have to cross over into Virginia and cause an accident. (It’s funny because it’s true! And actually, Youngest told it to me. She has learned well.)

On a completely different note, Ol’ Robbo recently got the urge to read Moby Dick. (Technically I should say “reread” because I think I had to do so in high school but don’t remember much.) Specifically, I want to understand why it’s considered a classic of American lit. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised by Melville’s occasional outbursts of very playful language, which make me chuckle, and being such an old paper sea-dog from my many years of reading Patrick O’Brian puts me in good stead to follow the maritime workings easily and enjoyably. But my overarching feeling is that what the fellah really needed was an editor armed with a baseball bat. Jumping about outrageously from first to third-person narrative; inserting almost play-like interludes; impossibly intricate run-on sentences; careering wildly off on tangents; and occasional bouts of existential navel-gazing which I have to admit at least aren’t as bad as Thoreau. As Eldest put it, just tell the damned story! I’ve got the Norton Critical Series edition (hand-annotated at some points by the Mothe for some reason), which is jammed with analyses, criticisms, and commentary (plus some droll footnotes pointing out places where Melville cheated on his research), so I’ll probably plow through all that stuff, too.

And now that I reread that paragraph, I see I’m doing it, too. He tasks me!

Whelp, I suppose that’s enough for now. This is a random, not a rant, so I won’t get into a “Wither History In The Reign Of The Neo-Jacobins” discussion of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea this year.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that what actually put Moby Dick into my tiny little brain was re-watching “Major League” the other evening as a sort of wake for the now-disappeared Cleveland Indians. Those of you familiar with the fillum will recall that Tom Berringer reads a comic-book form of the story in order to try and convince Renee Russo that he’s matured. It was his line, referring to the comic, that “this happen to be a classic of American literature” that got Ol’ Robbo wondering why, exactly, the original is so considered.

I have learned over time to simply run with these free associations when they crop up. Seldom am I disappointed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday I opened a can of Underwood deviled ham for lunch. (I acquired a taste for it from days of my brown bag school lunches and still get a hankering now and again.) Decanter Cat heard me opening up the can and, mistaking it for cat food, started hovering about. When I didn’t give her any and ate it myself, she got quite angry and spent the afternoon giving me the stink-eye.

Was it Robin Williams who joked about the look a cat gets that says “The only thing keeping me from eating you is that you’re bigger than me”? It was that look.

She’s in my lap now, though, even as I type, so I suppose I’m forgiven.

For the moment.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As those of you who keep up with such things are no doubt already aware, Pope Francis, in his infinite wisdom and contra Pope St. John Paul II and dear Papa Bennie, issued a letter Friday severely curtailing the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

So far as Ol’ Robbo can tell, the sole justification for this is that he believes those who love the TLM are seditionist poopy-heads who need to be disbursed and stamped out.

I have largely restrained myself from Frankie-bashing here over the years, trying to remember that one salutes the rank, not the man. But this feels like a personal assault.

When I swam the Tiber nearly fifteen years ago, it was in pursuit of orthodoxy. And the fact that my parish was at the forefront of the TLM movement at the time was a major aid and comfort in my coming across. To my mind, any church that would put that much effort into reverence of form is that much more likely to put such effort into reverence of substance as well. Over the years, I’ve been proven right.***

What I don’t understand is what Frankie thinks he’s going to gain by picking this fight. Are millions of non-believers suddenly going to say, “Fellows! The Pope just put the hurt on the Rad-Trads! Where do I sign up now?” Does he believe Traditionalists are going to simply roll over?

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t consider himself a seditionist. But stunts like this…….well.

Fortunately, I am a member of one of the strongest Diocese in the country. Funny enough, when I started attending all those years ago, my parish was the only one in the entire region to offer the TLM on a regular basis. It was standing-room-only. The congregation has shrunk somewhat since then not due to lack of interest, but because so many other parishes have since started it. My Padre has been hinting around that Frankie was going to do this but, at least for the last few weeks, has been sending the message that we’ll probably be okay. We’ll see if he has any new information today.

(***By the bye, this is not to bash any of my Novus Ordo friends out there. As I say, I’m just responding to what I feel like is an attack on me, not seeking to attack anyone else.)

UPDATE: Well, no O-fficial pronouncement that I can find, but from what Father let fall today, I’d say Bullet Status: Dodged. He reminded us that our Bishop is one of the Good Guys, that he’s already getting trolled for standing pat, and that we shouldn’t be returning troll fire but instead be praying for the more questionable shepherds and their flocks. I suppose this post is kinda, sorta trolling, so I’ll say no more.

By the way, a lot of folks there today and many faces I haven’t seen before. Looks like we’re taking in refugees again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Fathers’ Day!

This weekend saw the return of a full house at Port Swiller Manor for the first time since January. And yet Ol’ Robbo finds himself facing dinner alone this evening. How do I come to be doing a Gratuitous Bachelor Post(TM) today of all days?

Well, let me explain……No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

The two major factors are the advent of Ol’ Robbo’s in-laws and Middle Gel’s latest sports wound.

First, the in-laws. They’re doing their snowbird summah migration back up north and are stopping over in town for a few days. Not altogether without reason, they went to the extremes of precaution during the recent medical unpleasantness, and had not been out of their house for about fourteen months. But while they now feel comfortable enough to get out and about again, they still refuse to have any close contact with anybody they know has not had the jab.

That would be me.

It’s useless to argue rationally about this, nor do I wish to upset them, so I’ve simply gone along with things and am keeping my distance while they visit with Mrs. R and those granddaughters who also are medically cleared.

Last evening, I had dinner with Eldest alone, who’s also been banished. I would have done so again this evening, but this is where Middle Gel comes in. Since her grandparents were coming through and she hasn’t seen them in over a year and a half, she naturally took advantage of their stopover here to come up herself and visit. But a week or two ago she managed to get body checked by some dude whilst frolicking on the lawn down at her school, resulting in a crocked right knee which doesn’t allow her to drive at the moment.

Mrs. R went down to fetch Middle Gel on Friday, but we decided that it would be nice for Eldest to drive her back, her teaching job having ended last week for the summah. Thus, she’s going to spend this coming week knocking about with her sister down in the Tidewater. Surely a Good Thing. They just left a while ago, as Eldest wanted to be there before dark. So no dinner with her.

What about Youngest, you might ask? Well, she’s dog-sitting for the grandparents while they go out to dinner with Mrs. R, the in-laws absolutely refusing to let their pooch sit alone and unattended in their hotel room for an hour or two.

So there you have it.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t begrudge any of this himself, really, although he thinks the ban pretty hard cheese on Eldest Gel. Mrs. R has me around every day but only sees her ‘rents once in a way, so why would I object to her spending time with them? Besides, these little get-togethers invariably get complicated, aggravating, and sometimes tempestuous. Far simpler for me simply to turn my bow into the wind and heave-to until it’s all over.

Besides, this is a good opportunity for me to indulge in a little veal scaloppini, which I avoid when Mrs. R is around in order not to offend her sensibilities. Fried up in a coating of breadcrumbs, put together with some potato pancakes, some fresh peas, and a bot of Beaujolais, and Ol’ Robbo is good to go!

And speaking of which, time for me to go start getting things ready…….

***Not really, except that when I got to church today I noticed a black Chevy Suburban with gub’mint plates waiting to pick up somebody coming out of the Mass ahead of ours. I never saw who it was but chuckled to myself at the idea that if it was Creepy Uncle Joe hoping to sneak in Communion at our parish, he would surely be deeply disappointed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

**Looking out the window, the maple pollen strings are coming down like heavy snow flurries. Ugh. There are times when Ol’ Robbo wishes that he, like the dog in the old joke, had no nose. (Of course, I would smell terrible.)

**But at least I don’t have to pay my taxes today, so I got that going for me. True, the bite is only deferred, not cancelled, but still. Frankly, given that Uncle is printing trillions and trillions in phony Monopoly money anyway these days, I no longer see why I should have to chip in at all.

**Speaking of such, where does one even begin with the headlines these days? When the Babylon Bee has the most honest and level-headed take on things, you know we’re in a world of hurt.

**Of the burgeoning collusion between gubmint and big biznay to bully and hustle people into getting the Vaccine in order to be allowed out and about, we’ve developed a new game here at Port Swiller Manor. Whenever somebody comes into the room, somebody else says, “Your papers, pliz” in a thick German accent.

**And finally circling back to missing body parts, last night’s Star Trek: TOS was “Spock’s Brain”. The iconic line “Brain and brain! What is brain??!” never fails to make Ol’ Robbo chuckle. There are some who argue this was the worst episode of the series but I don’t agree. IMHO, the very worst episode was Season One’s “Shore Leave”.

UPDATE: The local classickal station is doing another one of its pledge-drives this week and Ol’ Robbo was in no mood to listen to solicitations so he took (for him) the unusual step of going out into the innerwebs to see if he could hunt up an alternative. Whelp, with but a few clicks I stumbled across Your Classical. It has not one but fourteen different streams from which to select. I’ve been listening most of the day and so far the selections are pretty well balanced and the commentary not unintelligent. I’ll probably check out the other streams, too. Heck, since I recently cut my sustaining donation to the LCS (I decided the money was better spent on St. Jude’s Research Hospital), I might not even bother going back at all!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are.

Ol’ Robbo found himself reviewing a rental contract this morning for the off-campus house Middle Gel is going to share with a couple of her sorority sisters next year. (Hard to believe she’ll be a senior already!) Not that my legal analysis is worth all that much: The last time I paid any attention to landlord/tenant law was when I was swotting for the bar thirty years ago, and I forgot most of it immediately after the exam. But nothing outrageous caught my eye and one of the roommates is already living there this year and knows the practical ropes, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. So I’ll only charge her a couple hundred bucks for my time and effort. (I keed! I keed!!)

With the advent of the season’s first push of really warm weather, I took Decanter Dog for a long walkies this afternoon that eventually brought us down to the neighborhood pond. We flushed out the local great blue heron, which I hadn’t seen in a while, but I also noticed, of all fool things, a solitary bat twittering about over the water. In broad daylight. And well before it could expect much by way of flying insect life. Go figure.

Speaking of bats, I’m hesitant even to mention it here and perhaps it’s nothing more than a residual tremor from what I posted about yesterday, but this morning I had a dream about the angel of death. I was in that half-asleep/half-awake state when I suddenly felt a breeze in my ear. I immediately “knew” it was caused by the tip of a wing passing near, knew exactly whose wing it was, and sat up in bed with a gasp at the thought. Of course, a few minutes later the cats started pestering me to get up and feed them so my alarum quickly turned to irritation, but that memento mori feel has been about me all day.


On a much less serious front, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about the “travails” of Meghan Sparkle-Markle. She’s simply Hollywood grifter trash. That is all.

Oh, and on an even more ridiculous front, somebody needs it ‘splained to them that Pepe Le Pew is not supposed to be a role-model but instead was always understood as an object of scorn and mockery. Even as a very small kid I found him icky.

Turning back to Robbo’s home world, granted we’ve still got most of the week ahead to go but Ol’ Robbo actually finds himself keenly anticipating next Saturday night’s jump forward to, well, whichever “time” it is that one jumps forward to in the spring. (I can never keep them straight.) And why? Because the extra hour of light starting Sunday evening means Ol’ Robbo can return in comfort to his outdoor grilling! WOO HOO!! I’m already anticipating the thick-cut steak I’m going to pick up and slap on the grill. In Ol’ Robbo’s humble opinion the sure and certain Truth of the Divine Will, the only way to properly cook a rib-eye or strip steak is to get the thickest one you can, get the charcoal as hot and concentrated as possible, and sear the thing about two minutes tops each side. The only steak worth eating is one that is charred up nicely on its outside, but still believes it has a fighting chance of escaping from one’s plate.

Finally, and also on the food front, although we’re still four weeks out from Easter, it’s never too early to start thinking out one’s Easter Dinner menu. And on this planning, Ol’ Robbo has some very exciting news: The entire strength of the Port Swiller Manor establishment will be home for the holiday. A recent survey reveals that not one, but all three of the Gels would be perfectly happy with Ol’ Robbo serving up rack of lamb! (Apparently it was a bigger hit when I tried it a couple years ago than I had realized.) And not only that, Middle Gel is bringing her Young Man to dins and he said he’d love it, too. (I have not yet met said Young Man but hear good reports of him. This positive response, of course, brings nothing but additional credit.) I now need to start limning out some nice side dishes……

Tuesday UPDATE: Speaking of the warm weather Ol’ Robbo mentioned above, we were able to have dinner out on the Port Swiller Manor porch this evening for the first time this season. (Since rebuilding it six or seven years ago, we eat outside as much as possible.) Very, very nice. And on that subject, I noticed today an early hatch of some sort of insect flying about, so I suppose I should withdraw my comments about that bat I saw yesterday. It’s almost as if Ma Nature knows what she’s doing…..

Meanwhile, our old pal Sleepy Beth remarks on my mention of Middle Gel’s Young Gentleman:

I am wondering, does the prospect of significant others get easier to stomach as the gels have aged themselves?

I’d say yes, yes it does.

Partly this is due to the fact that the unknown and unknowable abstract future is almost always scarier than the concrete reality of actual events. (Even when said actual events are bad, one is usually too busy dealing with them to waste energy on being scared.)

Partly this is due to recognition that the Gels are at that stage of life (23, 21, and 19 years, respectively – in other words, thank God they’re not adolescents anymore!), where it is right and proper that they be looking to start building their own nests. (Indeed, I have noticed that the word “grandchildren” is starting to creep into Mrs. R’s speech.)

But these are general considerations.

From my own specific experience and perspective, I also am very much blessed by the fact that I can trust the Gels to make good, solid decisions. Without getting into too much personal detail, all three are grounded, old-fashioned, and, yes, religious-minded creatures, largely immune to the mores of the tempora about which Ol’ Robbo routinely rants here, and I’ve not much worry that in the end they will all find the right fellahs for the right reasons. Of course they might will make some mistakes along the way (Lawd knows Ol’ Robbo did himself back in the day), and of course they’re as subject to random outside forces as anyone else, but that’s a part of living that can’t be avoided and so about which I don’t worry too much.

That said, I still claim the right, should Middle Gel’s Young Gentleman or anyone else treat one of the Gels badly, to hunt him down and explain to him the errors of his ways with a tire-iron.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A gergious early spring day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with temperatures expected to be near 60 this afternoon.

Of course this means that all the snow and ice we’ve recently got is melting rapidly and the demesne of Port Swiller Manor is quickly achieving bog status.

It also means that the floors are become covered with paw prints courtesy of Decanter Dog. Mrs. R tries to keep up with cleaning them but I point out that since DD goes out on average five or six times per day, this is something like trying to dig a hole in the ocean. In the absence of any scheduled visits by anybody in the foreseeable future, far better just to make a habit of mopping up every couple days and simply ignoring them in between.

Oh, the other drawback to this weather? More people out for walks = More opportunities for DD to go into conniptions as they pass by.

Yes, this is a pretty weak-tea post, but with all the current madness out there I thought it would make a nice rest. I know I can use it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where today is the 35th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.

Since the shuttle explosion has become one of those “Where were you?” moments, I’ll go ahead and contribute my two cents: I was a junior in college at the time. As I recall I was walking to class among a stream of other students when rumor started circulating up and down the line that Something Had Happened. I don’t recall that I actually saw any video footage of the thing until some time later. (For you kids out there, media wasn’t anywhere near as ubiquitous back then as it is now. One actually had to seek out a stationary screen rayther than having half a dozen devices about one’s person blaring the news 24/7.)

Like everybody else, I was shocked and saddened at the time and later angered as word got out about the criminal negligence and stupidity that led up to the loss. But I also remember thinking, “Well, there are things that need to be fixed and reformed, but let’s just fix and reform them and get on with it.”

One of the few bright spots in these otherwise wretched times is the recent series of advancements made in private space exploration. Whatever else one might think of Elon Musk, SpaceX has made the field exciting and visionary again. So far, it seems they’ve managed one miracle after another. But sooner or later, something is going to go wrong and people will die. That is just a harsh reality. What I wonder now is whether, having become such a risk-adverse society, we will have enough collective fortitude left to be able to say “Get on with it” again when that happens.

(Full Disclosure: When I say exciting and visionary, I am speaking strictly from an armchair point of view. Ain’t no way Ol’ Robbo would ever go into space himself.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posties this week. Ol’ Robbo has been busy getting back into the swing of things at work after his Christmas week hols languor.

Anyhoo, how about a little domestic this and that?

The big nooz is that Eldest has got herself her first full-time post-graduate job! She’ll be starting shortly as a teacher’s assistant at a Montessori school. (Not Mrs. Robbo’s, but another one aways up the road.) The idea of following Mrs. R as an acolyte of St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method has been bubbling around in her brain for a bit. This job will allow her to get her hands dirty, so to speak, and decide whether she wants to go back and get full certification. (If she does, the school might even help her out financially.)

Middle Gel is back on campus this week. She was home for no more than a flying visit over the hols, then went with her scuba club down to Flariduh on a dive trip. The thought of her driving non-stop from the Virginny Tidewater all the way to the Keys (taking turns at the wheel with others, of course), and then driving back, is both alarming and exhausting. One never stops being a parent no matter how old they get.

And speaking of flying, Youngest has her ticket to go back to school in a couple weeks, Ol’ Robbo having finally and firmly put his foot down that no, she was not going to drive across the Appalachians in the middle of winter, dammit. Here’s hoping she has more actual in-person classes this semester. (She only had one last term, a bio lab.)

Suddenly, the possibility of achieving empty-nest status has reappeared on the horizon.

Meanwhile, today was taking down decorations day here at Port Swiller Manor, although I plan to keep my creche out until February 2nd. I am happy to report that none of the tree ornaments managed to smash themselves this year, even though I detected two stowaways just as I was about to hoik the tree up out of its base. We now commence our annual tradition of continually finding leftover pine needles up through Labor Day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy 20+C+M+B+21!

Ol’ Robbo pocketed his chalk at Mass today and then surreptitiously put up the Epiphany blessing, chalking both sides of the front door of Port Swiller Manor for good measure. The outside of the door is black, and Mrs. R will eventually spot the marks there and quietly erase them. The inside (and its lintel) are white, so………

It can be a true hardship to be the only Catholic in the family when it comes to these lovely little grace notes of the Faith. I give Mrs. R every credit for eventually withdrawing her objections to my swimming the Tiber in the first place, even though for years prior the very idea had horrified her. But manifestations like this one still trigger her revulsion to what she thinks of as hocus-pocus. (Or, as P.G. Wodehouse’s character Dolly Malloy might put it, oompus-boompus.) These things must be handled……delicately.

I’ve found that eventually Mrs. R eventually comes round to a positive view of my beliefs and practices, some quickly, others not so much, but that it’s no good trying to force them. In the long game, I find that the soft touch, the gentle prodding, the leading by example, proves the best approach. (Curiously, I was just reading a sermon by Msgr. Ronald Knox about St. Cecelia in his book Captive Flames which seems to endorse this approach.)

One technique I use is to patiently sit back and wait till Mrs. R asks me about some point of theology or practice. Thank Heaven she hasn’t yet asked me about the Vatican’s recent green-lighting of taking COVID vaccines with cell lines developed from aborted fetal tissue, because Ol’ Robbo would be mighty hard-pressed to come up with an excuse for that call. I get the arguments about degrees of separation from the sin and, to a lesser extent, the ones about the needs outweighing the price in general, but I (armchair religious scholar that I am), think they’re being badly misapplied here.

Abortion is one of the premiere social issues on which Holy Mother Church has taken a very public, bright-line stance. How can a Catholic who knows where the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines come from have anything to do with them?

As for the “Greater Good”, the argument I see is that by taking the vaccine, we will aid in slowing the spread of the virus to others. But vaccines don’t generally do this. They block symptoms from developing in a recipient, but they don’t necessarily stop that recipient from being a carrier capable of transmitting the disease to others. From what I can gather, nobody at this point really knows what effect the COVID vaccines will have in this respect. Surely it would be better to wait until we have some real data before the Vatican puts in an order for a hundred-weight of good intentions pavers. (Of course, it would be best to backtrack even further and take an honest look at just how deadly the virus actually is to the general population, but that’s just me, Mr. Vegas.)

Not that it (the licitness of the vaccines in question) affects me personally. I’ve got about a half-dozen other reasons why I’m not taking the bloody shot before I have to get to this one. But still.


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October 2021