Monday, August 31, 2009

Our Fair Lady

Arriving early enough to beat the fray at the parking lot, Mrs. Hall, along with Master Ian and Mistress Colleen, dashed across the footbridge and joined the merry throng coursing through the entrance to the Great New York State Fair. Having done it before and a glutton still for more punishment, Mrs. Hall had volunteered to work with the Masons and the Eastern Star Ladies at the Child ID booth in the Pepsi-Cola Pavillion that morning. Checking in early, they dashed off to the Chevrolet Court, to be just in time for Sunday services, al fresco, with the fair workers. Then Mrs. H, handy around computers, went to work fingerprinting, taking pictures and burning dvds of countless toddlers and their mums; all for free, as a service of the Masons. Ian had dashed off to see the Marine booth- he had been working out for several weeks and had set his sights on 1) impressing the sergeants (and possibly, as a side benefit, some young ladies) and 2) earning a free Marine teeshirt. Score 100% on all accounts: Ian was a hit with the recruiters and stayed the entire afternoon, despite an afternoon shower, encouraging all who came by, to try and beat their personal best.
Of course, as everyone knows, the fair is the one time of the year when folks are encouraged to not only to view, but knowingly consume, the most objectionable and unhealthy foods on the planet. To this end, the Halls, no pikers when it comes to eating anyway, have risen to the challenge once again. This year, it was Shark on a Stick, prepared fresh for them on site, washed down with Hawaiian Shaved Ice, in three of the most improbable flavors, all chosen by Colleen. Not exactly the Atkins Diet, remarked Mrs. H., but yummy nonetheless. She passed on the shaved ice, but the aroma of the sugar waffles was too much for her. Driven by the same Proustian desires that fill our hearts when confronted with scents from our past, Mrs. H. drew a beeline directly to the booth, and, save emitting a few satisfied sighs, was silent amidst the din of the fair while she happily devoured the fried feast. Wiping powdered sugar from her face, her clothes and a few unlucky bystanders, she tried to explain the connection between her memories of summer, Eldridge Park, and that enchanted confection, but she knew, that to one of Colleen's tender years, it would be impossible.
Mr. Hall had had his fill of Fair fun last Thursday, and had opted to join his flying buddies on the golf course that morning, so he missed out on seeing the marmosets, pythons, killer rats, racing pigs and miniature horses, all vying for attention. It's just as well, Mrs. H. said. If the scary advertising around here doesn't keep me up all night, then my indigestion will surely finish the task. Exhausted from dodging raindrops and massively overstuffed strollers, the little clan made their way back to the family flivver and headed home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From wooden wheels to neon and steel

Nothing could be finer than to luncheon at an upstate diner; at least that's the opinion of Michael Engle, author of Diners of New York. Amid a small crowd of diner devotees and the merely curious at Doc's Little Gem Diner Monday evening, Mr. Engle hawked his books and spoke on the diversity of pre-fab and manufactured dining facilities in the state of New York.
Mr. Engle is still a youth, and it was heartening to the editors of the Monitor to see the younger generation taking an interest in one of dining's more charming historical eddies. When asked how long he had worked on this opus, Mr. Engle replied that it had taken eight years, but it becomes apparent when reading his little tome that his love of compact eateries probably has been going on much longer. In his book, he explains that contrary to popular opinion, the diners we have grown to love were not really converted railroad cars, but actually evolved from the lunch wagons of the 1800s. Enlivened with old photographs and personal stories, Mr. Engle brings the history of the original fast food purveyors to life.
Doc and Sherri Good, always eager to promote that Syracuse jewel, "The Little Gem" (mentioned prominently in Mr. Engle's book) had arranged for him to come and speak. The Monitor has been a avid fan of the diner for several years, as it is one of the Halls' favorite hangouts, and the Gentle Reader may remember it being written of here and here.
Mr. Engle may be enjoying some success with his book on New York, but he has set his sights to the west and his next project, he tells us, will be focused on diners around the Great Lakes. As he relates the story of following a diner from Decatur, IL to Michigan and then finally to Albany, NY, it's clear he relishes tracking these occasionally movable feasts. The Monitor wishes him well, and will no doubt be reporting on the Halls quest to eat in as many of them as possible, as they check them off Mr. Engle's very good and useful index! (Those wishing to follow Mr. Engle in his pursuit may visit his website here and are encouraged to write and tell him their favorites, too.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

(H)all that glitters...

The Halls arrived at work a little sleepy Friday morning; they had been the happy recipients of some free tickets to the Syracuse Chiefs game at Alliance Stadium the night before and were recovering from a late and boisterous evening. The Chiefs had come back from behind against rivals the Toledo Mudhens, and the game had gone down to the wire. Happily, the good guys prevailed, for, as Mr. Hall says, there are no sweeter words to hear than "We Win!!" As a Cub fan, Mrs. Hall can honestly attest she hears that less frequently than she would like.
So it was a pleasant surprize when Fr. Branko strolled into the office of the funeral home, beaming brightly. "The vestments have arrived!" he pronounced, and he produced a garment bag. Wysocki's had helped sponsor the good pastor's mission to procure a special holy day vestment and Father Branko was eager to show how far those funds had gone. Sparkling in the soft light of Mr. Hall's office, the fine embroidery and gold braid set off a magnificent chasuble, alb and stole. "We thank you very much and now, these are for you," and out came a lovely gilded icon and two bottles of Macedonian wine. "I know just the place for this," said Mr. H. and he hung it directly opposite his desk. "And I know just the place for these," added Mrs. H.- "Right next to a nice roasted leg of lamb!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Macedonian merriment

Father Branko of St. George’s Macedonian Church was beaming last Sunday. “I could not be happier,” he told Mr. Hall. “The weather’s perfect, the crowds are better this year and Congressman Dan Maffei is scheduled to make an appearance at 6:00 pm this evening. Enjoy the kabobs and the Macedonian wine, but please leave room for dessert- it is on me! I insist!” The Halls always enjoy coming to the Macedonian festival each summer; the funeral home is a proud sponsor and had, in fact, donated a substantial amount towards the good father’s new vestments. The lamb and the beef kabobs were particularly good this year, though the main draw for Mrs. H. was the completion of the beautiful frescos inside the church itself. Handpainted by an artisan imported from the old country and finished in gold gilt, they were the church’s pride and joy. Each generation continues teaching the next and it was a delight to see the teenagers in present day garb, demonstrating traditional dances to the youngsters in ethnic customs. Music swelled and the party warmed up; Fr. Branko’s lovely wife Lijana brought over some crepes made with bananas and nutella paste- (“They’re not really authentic, but I love to make them!” she explained.) and they were truly wonderful. After strolling about and indulging in some of the games of chance, Mr. Hall signaled Mrs. Hall, in her newly won prize novelty hat, that it was time to go. “Looks like another week of double time on the treadmill,” sighed Mrs. Hall, and they rearranged themselves in the car seats and headed home.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's all the cat's fault

The weather has been particularly wet for the last week and the editors at the Penguin Hall Monitor have been forced to work under conditions of extreme duress; i.e. all the animals residing at the Hall are left milling about, stepping on keyboards and presenting themselves in a manner so unabashedly winsome that all work ceases until they finish their act - at which point it’s usually the cocktail hour and another day’s work is shot. The Monitor would like to apologize for its laxity in this matter and promises to do better in the future.

Tell your friends!