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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As if this year hasn’t been interesting enough, Sunday afternoon found Mrs. Robbo backing out of the Port Swiller Manor driveway in the Honda Juggernaut® just in time to T-bone some kid bombing up the street in her Mercedes C-Class.   I’m not exactly sure what happened – Mrs. R swears she never saw anyone coming and the kid swears she honked and swerved – but the result is a slightly battered right-rear panel on our car and a stove in right-rear passenger door on the other car.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt.

Mrs. R has specialized over the past few years in backing into or brushing against various stationary objects with said Juggernaut®.  This was the first time she managed to wing a moving target.

I happened to be on the phone jawing with teh Mothe when Mrs. R reappeared in teh house with breaking news of the calamity.   I went outside to discover my own younger gels (who had been with Mrs. R) buzzing about the driveway, while the kid was still sitting in the middle of the road in her car, bottling up traffic.   (We live on a relatively busy street.)  I quickly strode up in my most Charlton Heston/Moses-like manner and, after enquiring if the kid was okay, instructed her to pull into the next driveway up.   Which she did.  I even got the opportunity to move said bottled-up traffic along, acknowledging my own achievement in clearing their path with a gentle wave.  I love it when a plan works out.

Anyhoo, a few minutes later, this kid’s mother appeared (having been called).  Said mother was driving one of those sooper-sleek, James Bond-type, Beemer sports coups and – while her daughter was in a t-shirt and ragged jeans – was, herself, dressed to the nines.

“Aw, Jeez,” I thought to myself, “The Beautiful People.  Here we go…”

Well.  As it turned out, the mother really was not a-tall bad.  Her first concern was that nobody was hurt.   Satisfied with this, she calmly took down our insurance information.  And when the kid, who herself was evidently a first-class spoiled brat,  started in on the mother about how she (the kid) couldn’t drive that car anymore and had to have a new one, the mother fixed her with a fish-eye and said they would sort all that out later on, emphasizing again that the important thing was nobody got hurt.

I got the overall impression that these people could buy this kid a dozen cars if they felt like it.  Alas, I also eventually got the impression from the body language between mother and daughter that they probably will.


As for the crash itself, I immediately phoned USAA (who accept our custom thanks to the Old Gentleman’s stint in the Army Medical Corps).   Despite the fact that the fellah I spoke with sounded like he was auditioning for the part of the village idiot, within twenty-four hours we seem to have got everything squared away.  Adjusters appeared, garages were opened, rentals were engaged:  Baddah-bing, baddah-boom, it was done.    This is the first claim we’ve ever made in twenty-plus years of coverage.  I’ve nothing against which to compare our service of course, but I will say it’s nice to see all those premiums are going to a good cause.

But the thing that made me chuckle – and made the episode blog-worthy at least pursuant to port-swiller standards – was a very small incident:  When the dressed-to-the-nines mom went to copy down our contact information, she first started to lay her pad down on the hood of her own car.   After a second or two, she evidently began to fret that writing with a ball-point on her hood might somehow….leave a mark on it!

Horribile dictu!  Realizing what she was about, she suddenly squatted down in our driveway and instead wrote it all out on her knee.   My fellow port swillers, I tell you truly that for an instant the idea flashed through my mind to get down on all fours and offer her my back as a suitable writing desk, but wiser council prevailed.   Instead, I simply turned away and had a quiet laugh.

Sophisticated? Gawd!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because this is my blog, which is mine and which belongs to me, I take this opportunity, which also is mine, to lay down the law.

To wit, when I become Emperor of the World, failure to click closed a ball-point pen will constitute a flogging offense.

I mean, how hard is it to apply a single digit’s worth of pressure for an instant in order to ensure that said pen is secure and the ink on the tip isn’t left to dry out?

At Port Swiller Manor, evidently, camels and eyes of needles ain’t in it, because I cannot recall a single instance in the last twenty years when I have found a pen in said secured status.


In the shadow of other momentous headlines this morning, let us not forget that today is the day pitchers and catchers report.  (Robbo’s beloved Nats actually kick off on Wednesday.)

Woo, Hoo!

Yes, the long, off-season drought is coming to an end.

charlie-brownIndeed, yesterday found Self and the youngest gel scrambling between church services to get over to the local gym, wherein were being held the annual spring softball tryouts for our local league.  Despite the fact that, as happens every year, we failed to practice at all over the winter and were reduced to a last-second crash course of reviewing basic positions and technique in the basement Saturday evening, the gel did just fine throwing, catching, running and hitting.

The league is also offering a level of play for 13-16 y.o. girls this year, for which the eldest has signed up.  She’s been out of the game for a few years but has shown some interest in trying out for her high school j.v. team.  She reckons that she probably would not have made the cut this year owing to being so rusty, so thought it would be a good idea to play in this league for a season in order to get back up to speed.

The middle gel has also announced her intention to play softball at school this spring.

Ol’ Robbo’s going to be spending a lot of time hanging around various diamonds, most likely again in some sort of assistant coaching capacity.  I can tell you even now that I’ll enjoy every minute of it.  One of my proudest achievements as Dad has been to inculcate into all three gels a love of the game.  Indeed, I’ve overheard all of them on more than one occasion telling friends with some heat that the reason the friends think baseball is boring is because they don’t understand it.  Always brings a smile to the ol’ face.

Anyway, play ball!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whether it was some kind of unconscious association springing from my reference to the Machine in the post below, or else perhaps because I’ve again picked up my copy of Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Clichés, I couldn’t say, but the fact remains that ol’ Robbo had quite the eeenterestink dream t’other night.

In it (I’m assuming you want to know what happened, if you’ve read this far already), I found myself standing on the street with a group of five or six people.  In fact, I recognized the spot.  For those of you familiar with the Northern Virginny Suburbs, it was Washington Street in Falls Church, between the Leesburg Pike and Great Falls Street.  We had just come out of that little theatre which so often advertises obscure or has-been acts on its marquee.  (The last time I really passed by, I believe Devo was scheduled to play.)

At any rate, we crossed the street to the other side.  Once we got over, however, it occurred to somebody that we had been perfectly safe even though nobody was paying any attention to traffic.   I found myself looking about and noticing a series of blue neon tubes spaced up and down the street every half block or so.  I also noticed that I was wearing some kind of bar-coded bracelet.  From this, we seemed to deduce that there was some kind of intelligent system in place designed specifically for the purpose, in this instance, of making pedestrian crossing safe.  One fellah, I’ll call him Our Hero, decided to test this deduction:  He went back and forth across the street several times.  Even when he deliberately tried to get hit by a car, he couldn’t do so.  They would stop or slow down or swerve.

From this pedestrian crossing safety protocol, I somehow deduced that everything else all around me was being monitored and controlled by the same system.

Suddenly, the scene shifted.  The same group of people were again standing on the side of the road, only now it was a different road, a quieter, more residential one with a large hedge and ditch running along one side.  We had somehow decided that we didn’t like this surveillance/control regime, and were going to “do something” about it.  (What, specifically, I didn’t know.)  To this end, Our Hero and two other men got into the back of a small pickup, which then proceeded to drive up the road and around a bend.  Seemingly an instant later, the pickup came back, rolling to a stop in the ditch next to where we were standing.  The two other passengers appeared to be not only dead, but severely mauled.  Our Hero was alive, but looked as if he’d been roughed up pretty badly.

I started to walk up the road.  Suddenly, a bus came thundering around the bend.  I turned back and called “Bus!”  It went straight to the spot where the pickup was and crashed into it.  A few seconds later, a large tractor came around the bend.  Again, I said, “Tractor!”  It, too, went straight to the pickup.  Only now both the tractor and the bus assumed cartoon form.  They sat back on their rear wheels and began to pummel the pickup with their fist-like front wheels.  However, after a few seconds they seemed to realize that Our Hero was no longer in the pickup.  The tractor and the bus looked at each other with cartoon expressions of puzzlement, and question marks and exclamation points shot from their heads.

After it became clear Our Hero wasn’t there any more, the bus’s doors opened, and a large collection of beings came out.  They were cartoon animals like squirrels and raccoons, together with smiley-faced emoticons.  The group started to fan out and search in a very precise pattern of quartering.

All this time, I’d been kneeling down next to the hedge some yards up the road.  I decided that if this lot was looking for Our Hero, it was most likely looking for all of us associated with him as well, and that it was advisable for me to clear out.  I stood up and started moving away.  And then, as they say, I woke up.

The feeling I came away with was of a feel-good happy werld dystopia that turned absolutely, ruthlessly savage at the slightest dissent or even question.  Why it also morphed into something out of Roger Rabbit, I couldn’t tell you.

Those friends of the decanter who keep up with either Robbo’s beloved Nats or the Tampa Bay Rays will know that they currently are playing a set here in town.  (The rubber game is tonight.)

Because the Rays are an American League team, I naturally do not pay much attention to them.  So last evening as I watched the game, I was surprised, and frankly disgusted, by something I had not noticed before.

You see, I knew that Tampa Bay had dropped their original mascot of “Devil Rays” in favor of just “Rays” at some point.  I thought this a ridiculous thing when I learned of it, figuring it was no doubt demanded by some P.C. Police unit that believed use of the word “devil” in the name would propel hordes of young people toward Satan worship.   But if I understood correctly, the team wasn’t getting rid of the fish mascot itself.   It at least would still be the same genus Mobula, right?  Right?

Well, as I watched the game last evening, something about the Rays’ logo grabbed my attention:

What the heck is that pointy yellow light thingy, I asked myself.  Wait a minute……that’s no stylized depiction of some bat-winged swimmer of the deep, that’s a depiction of a ray of light.

When did this happen?  When did Tampa Bay decide to abandon a mascot that was perfectly suited to its geographical location and overall aura and instead substitute what looks like a car’s turn signal?

To quote Syndrome, “Lame! Lame! Lame!”

Oh, and snooks to you, Joe Maddon!




James Gillray – “Matrimonial Harmonics” (1805). Just as applicable to the office setting.

One of ol’ Robbo’s ironclad rules of office etiquette is never to discuss politics.

Would that everyone in my little professional community felt the same way.  I’ve just had to listen to an excruciatingly enthusiastic and brayingly loud description of the latest presidential candidate kerfluffle report to come out of the pages of Pravda on the Potomac, emanating from a pair of colleagues up the hall.

This time around, I was merely a collateral auditor.  Four years ago, one of these same persons actually tried to rope me into a debate on the comparative worth of the candidates.  I simply fixed her with a frozen stare and a very thin smile.  It shut her up for a while, but I’m not so sure whether the burnt fool’s bandaged finger may not go wabbling back to the fire.

At any rate, I’ve an idea it’s gonna be a looooong summah and fall.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been thinking lately of one of his very favorite lines in literature, that said by Gandalf when he reveals himself resurrected to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in The Two Towers:

“Be merry! We meet again.  At the turn of the tide.  The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned.”

It’s just a feeling, and you can take it for what it’s worth, but……Be merry!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at NPR today we find an article about a new book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  The book appears to be (at least in part) about cultural, economic and technological shifts of the 20th Century that encouraged the rise of extroversion and, as a consequence, have caused the country to become a very noisy place.

I don’t really have an opinion about the sociology of it all, but I was tremendously amused by the following Are You An Introvert Test that accompanies the article.  Talk about memes falling into one’s lap!  Apparently, the more of these that are applicable to you, the more of an introvert you are.  Shall we play?

1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.  True.  At a group table in a restaurant or at a party, half the time I can’t even understand what’s being said.

2.  I often prefer to express myself in writing.  True.  You wouldn’t guess it from the amount of posting I do here, but most people consider Real Life Robbo to be rayther quiet and tight-lipped.

3.  I enjoy solitude.  True.  Not that I get much of it.  It’s an absolutely critical part of my day to stay up late by myself to do a little reading, listening to musick or watching a moovie.

4.  I seem to care about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.  True, ol’ Robbo loathes the cult of celebrity.  On the other hand, I honestly wouldn’t mind if somebody handed me a large wodge of dosh.

5.  I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me.  True, if by “small talk” one means the kind of nattering that goes on at parties, meetings and the like.  On the other hand, people who can only talk “in depth” about topics that matter to them in that breathless, hyper-earnest way give me the willies.  There must be room for fluff and banter as well.

6.  People tell me that I’m a good listener.  True.  In my professional capacity, I do a lot of investigatory interviews and I seem to be pretty good about getting past people’s guard.   It sometimes occurs to me that I might have been a pretty good psychiatrist.

7.  I’m not a big risk-taker.  Well, I suppose that depends.  I’m not one for jumping out of airplanes or off bungee towers, nor do I have any desire to throw everything away in pursuit of some Big Business Idea.   On the other hand, I don’t think it unreasonable to describe my journey to Holy Mother Church as a pretty big leap of faith.

8.  I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.  Interruptions by other people, that is.  On the other hand, I find I can’t function as well without being able to interrupt myself, if that makes sense.

9.  I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.  True, much to the chagrin of the gels.

10. People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.”  Actually, “reserved” and “aloof” are probably closer to the mark.

11.  I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.  True.

12. I dislike conflict.  I’ll certainly stand my ground when needs be, but I’m no “Happy Warrior”.

13.  I do my best work on my own.  See 11 above.

14. I tend to think before I speak.  I actually remember a very distinct point when I was about 14 or 15 when I realized that I was shooting my mouth off without thinking first and, as a result, often hitting myself in the foot.  From that point forward, I went out of my way to engage the braims first.  I don’t think I really perfected this practice until some time in my mid-20’s.

15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.  Heck, I feel drained at the mere thought of going out and about.

16. I often let calls go through to voice mail. Caller ID is one of the most wonderful inventions of the late 20th Century.

17.  If you had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.  True, although again, I often don’t have much choice in the matter.

18.  I don’t enjoy multitasking.  False.  I’ve mentioned here before the fact that I get bored very, very easily.  When I’ve got a job to do that bores me, it’s absolutely critical that I have one or more other tasks at hand in order to provide some distraction.

19.  I can concentrate easily.  False.  See 18 above.   As regular port swillers may know, I have a scatter-shot brain.  I can concentrate easily enough when the subject engages me, but at the slightest whiff of boredom, my mind goes whizzing off in all kinds of directions.

20.  In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.  Well, this one’s a toss-up.  I think that if the class involves something that really interests me, I prefer the seminar setting.  (See #5 above.)  On the other hand, if it’s the sort of dreary training courses that I have to endure from time to time these days, I prefer lectures because at least then one can generally tune out.

So there you go.  Ol’ Robbo scores 17 for 20 on the Introvert Scale, which ought to be of no surprise to those who know him in real life.

So remember if you ever see me that I’m not scowling, I’m introverting.




Well, my fellow port-swillers, in the fairly likely event that ol’ Robbo cannot get his mitts on Mrs. R’s laptop over the weekend, this’ll be it for posties for a bit.  I’ll be on biznay travel all next week out in the Heartland, fetching up in the end, as mentioned below, at Chez Peperium. Fortunately, it looks very much as if I’m not going to get caught in a blizzard this time – my first winter travel out there when that hasn’t been the case in three years.   Thank yew, Global Warming!

Once back, I have the endoscopy the following Monday.  In the meantime, we have a pair of at home birthday parties (the middle and youngest gels turn, respectively, twelve and ten next week), the beginning of the middle gel’s choir boot camp, the SSAT’s, softball registration, swim meets, CYO basketball……and somebody is going to have to get the Christmas Tree down, too.

So there it is.   One-armed paper hangers with the hives ain’t in it.

However, I promise to tell you all about my adventures, including whether Mrs. P tries to make me eat cabbage, when I get back.

In the meantime, as usual, the port stands at your elbow, the walnuts are in the bowl and the Stilton is over on the sideboard.  Feel free to linger over them as much as you like.



Apparently, the Monkees (sans Mike Nesmith) are reuniting.

Lest some regular port-swillers such as Vic might think I don’t know anything about classic rock, I should point out that I was a regular viewer of Teh Monkees tee-vee show on Saturday mornings in my misspent yoot.

Indeed, we even developed a little family game based on the show:  Instead of singing, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees” the idea was to substitute some other species of animal, with style points for funniest-sounding names.

So, we would get endless rounds of “Hey, Hey, we’re the…..

– Gibbons

– Tree-sloths

-Duck-billed platypuses



…and so on.

Good times.


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May 2020