Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hall-ing Ian around

Mrs. H. likes to watch something lighthearted while she works on the treadmill to keep from brooding, but a random thought caused her brow to furrow, and she sought solace in a question.
“Dear, what about Ian? What do you see in his future?” she said above the din.
“The Marines are calling him,” was Mr. H’s reply.
“I suppose you’re right. He seems hell-bent on that. Studying war heroes here, memorizing weaponry stats there; it does fill his hours….”
“No, I mean right now. Sergeant Bull is on the phone. The Marines are calling for Ian.”
“Oh!” She pressed the stop button and slid into the back wall.
“He’ll be there,” said Mr. H. and hung up. “The sergeant is giving Ian a chance to work out with the new recruits this evening. This should be quite informative for him.” And so it was decided they would take Ian out that evening.

At five-twenty, the big black car scooped up the young lad and headed west. Master Ian had been unusually quiet the ride out to Auburn, and viewed the entire event with dark suspicion. When they arrived, Mrs. H. steered him into a waiting room with several other youths and a burly man in athletic clothes and a buzz cut. Ian’s reluctance was tangible, but the buzz cut grabbed his arm and said, “You can have him back at 7:30!” Mrs. H. knew a cue when she heard one, beat a hasty retreat, exited stage left, and hopped into the waiting vehicle.
“What could we possibly do for an hour and a half in Auburn?” She had no sooner gotten the words out of his mouth, when they chimed out in tandem: “Swaby’s!”

On the days that Tony, the burial vault salesman, came in, after the business talk was over, the conversation would turn to lighter subjects; and it was at such a time that Tony had let drop that not only was he a salesman, but he was also an entrepreneur, and the proud owner of a little establishment known as Swaby’s Kangaroo Court. The name of SWABY had been chiseled deeply into the stone edifice more than a hundred long years before Tony came on the scene, but he had purchased the building and the museum of relics and oddities that came with it, and made it his own. Tony, it seems, had taken to heart the principle of hometown boosterism; a fine principle in theory, except that the only thing Auburn is noted for is the nearby penitentiary. Swaby’s is a veritable treasure trove of Auburn’s prison memorabilia, from the countless mug shots of feckless felons (some who were captured and many who flew the coop) to an actual electric chair that was used at the prison. A fair amount of celebrities graced the area back in the theatre district’s heyday, and there are plenty of letters from show people and politicians as well. Mrs. Hall’s favorite perch is located directly under the signed portrait of Ronald Colman, and she has often remarked should the picture come up missing, the first place they should suspect is her handbag. An hour and a half was just enough time to eat, drink and read some of the walls.

At 7:30 promptly, the big black car rolled around the corner, and Master Ian hopped in. “We had a great time! We ran to cadences, but I can’t tell you most of them, Mom. Then the sergeant ripped on this guy who had gotten some tattoos, but I can’t really tell you what he said, or what the tattoo was…but, after that, we all worked out some more and then, it was time to go home!” Master Ian fell into the back seat of the car exhausted and happy, while Mr. H. just shook his head, set her on auto-pilot and headed home.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Save Doc's!

“Doctor, doctor, give me the news-
I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you!”*

Who doesn’t love Doc’s?? Great food, great company, great hours. Where else can all those Syracuse insomniacs go for a cuppa joe when the mood hits them? But now- Doc needs our help! As Dick Case reported in the March 15, 2009 Sunday edition of the Syracuse Post Standard, Doc (as in Doc Good, the owner) is having some serious financial troubles, and may be considering the unthinkable: shutting his doors for not-so-good.
Long time readers of the Monitor know Doc’s has been a refuge and lunchtime haven of the Halls for some time now, and they, along with scores of other central New Yorkers, would be loath to lose their favorite haunt. Here’s the plan:

Send money to Doc! He needs to pay off the taxes, or they will shut him down.
You can send any donation to Penguin Hall, Marcellus, New York 13108 and we’ll get to Doc- or send it directly to him at:

Doc Good
c/o Doc’s Little Gem Diner
832 Spencer St.
Syracuse, NY 13204
(315) 422-1686

Be sure to include the words SAVE DOC'S! on any contribution.

Want to know more about Doc’s? Check out his website,
Or visit this profile.
Doc's is also listed here.

*(“Bad Case Of Loving You” was originally written by Moon Martin for his 1978 album, "Shots From a Cold Nightmare".)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Southern Tears

The church was full. Waverly is such a small close-knit town, it was unlikely the passing of the patriarch of such a well-loved family would go unattended. The pews were packed all the way to the back.

The house was full. Friends and family and food appeared magically from all doors, and kept on coming, wave after wave, throughout the day. Children swam effortlessly through a sea of adults, stopping only to hug newcomers or wave obediently goodbye.

Full drinks, full plates, full sinks. All necessary elements to help distract us from the emptiness left by our loss. And the one thing we remember the most: arms full of the hugs and warm wishes of all those whom he held near and dear. To John W. "Jack" Kingston- farewell; and may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

(Contributions in Jack's memory may be directed to St. Jude Children's Reseach Hospital, Attention Tribute Department, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38015. Jack's account No. is 23545696, or a donation may be made by phone: 1-800-822-6344)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What do the Irish have in common with vampires?

This isn’t one of those annoying absurdist riddles that have no real answer; like Why is a raven like a writing desk?* But it appears that both the daughters of Dracula and the sons of the auld sod have one thing in common: an affinity for retiring in the actual terra of their homeland. To this end, capitalism has given full sway to its potent ability to serve whatever strange whims society can muster. Myriads of websites have sprung up catering to those who yearn to be buried in, or at least sprinkled with, a bagful or two of the Emerald Isle.
The Auld Sod Export Company is one of the many who have come to the rescue of these forlorn souls, and promises to provide for those who cannot make the long journey home. Mr. Burke, one of the co-founders of the company, was quoted, “There’s a saying that when the Irish came to America, they brought their churches, schools and music, but the one thing they couldn't bring was the soil. Now we can send it over to them at an affordable price.” Apparently, they managed to find room to pack their business savvy. According to their website “now you can add that magical ingredient to all the important occasions!” It used to be folks just worried about their caterers; now the socially ambitious have something truly inspiring to obsess about.
*For those of you asking yourselves (as so many have in the past), "So why is a raven like a writing desk?!?"- here is the answer:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

(H)all hats off to Chris!

Training Squadron 320, Flights 189 and 190 snapped to attention. Orders were barked and the five American flags in front and all others bearing the insignias of the US states, lined up and fluttered softly in the early morning breeze. Airman Christopher and his flight had been honored by being chosen to lead in the other flights in the graduation parade, Friday morning at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX.
It was cool and perfect outside, with just a light broken overcast and about 65 degrees. Despite the fact that it had gone to 80 yesterday and the forecast was for 91 on Friday, the residents of that fair southern state continued to complain of the cold, content to console each other that spring was just around the corner. The marching band began to play and for the better part of an hour parents, spouses and extended family members alike, held hands, smiled and beamed with pride for all the fine young men and women graduating that day.
Graduates were granted base liberty til 1400 (2:00 pm), then town pass til 1930 (7:30 pm). Plenty of time for Mr. and Mrs. Hall to tour the static displays of planes on the parade grounds, snap photos and visit the various museums on the base. Then, it was off to San Antonio downtown, where the happy party indulged in the famous Riverwalk water taxi tour and checked out the Alamo. As evening fell, sunburnt and exhausted and full of barbeque, soda and Cinnabons, they delivered Airman Christopher back to his dorm in time to hook up with a wingman and check in on base. Next stop for Chris- departing Monday morning 0100 for a 16 hour bus trip to Kiessler AFB, MS. Good luck and God speed!

Tell your friends!