Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Penguin Hall-day Classic

The week before Christmas was just a blur around the Hall. Mr. and Mrs. Hall spent most of their time at the airport, ferrying in the kids as they arrived, amidst warnings of more snow and storms. The weather gods, in a uncharacteristically merciful act of benevolence, spared upstate New York from its fury and planes flying to and from Syracuse Hancock International proceeded unimpeded.

Some of the younger set had spent most of their day in transport, so that upon arrival at the Hall, they were so exhausted that even relaxing in front of a video game was too taxing for their little systems and they succumbed to Morpheus in sito. Mistress Colleen hit the social ground running, and between catching an Eastern Star meeting or two with Mrs. Hall, and sledding down the Westvale reservoir with her friends, she managed to make good use of the holiday time.

Mr. and Mrs. Hall continued the usual string of Christmas parties at this time; work had prevented them from attending the Batesville Casket Company's shindig at the old IBM country club down in Endwell this year, but they managed to find time for the holiday blowout at John's Auto Care in Solvay. Once again nestled cozily under the car parts and the hoists, John along with his lovely wife Betty, invited family and friends to raise a glass and toast the new year. Brake fluid and barbecue sauce shared workbench space together and the bar held court under the ceramirub and the WD-40; good times and fellowship flourished everywhere and the Halls were only too happy to be included in their feast.

Because they had come in so late, there was a lot of last minute scrabbling for presents. Colleen displayed a remarkable talent for wrapping, wowing the crowds with her show-stopping bow made entirely of duct tape, for one of Ian's friends. Finally, after all the hurry and scurry was done, the clan sat down for a peaceful Christmas eve dinner. With the carols playing in the background and the video fireplace on the large flat screen TV, the Halls were able to bask in the joy of family fun and camaraderie. They descended on the presents under the tree, pausing only make notes for future thank yous and to take turns shooting each other with nerf guns.
The snow had stopped blowing and the night was bright and clear. Masters Chris and Ian dutifully pressed their uniforms and dressed for midnight mass. The sight of the two young men holding the huge doors of the Basilica open for their sister was more than Mrs. Hall could bear, and she wiped a tear. Choir and carols, trumpets and the Hallelujah Chorus; the Knights of Columbus ushered in the monseigneur and the nativity and for a few hours in December it seemed like it was heaven on earth.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Random Thoughts and Tangential Connections

Separated at Birth?
The artists at Universal apparently grew up (like so many of us) watching Saturday morning cartoons; the crew of Minions working for Gru in the movie “Despicable Me” seem to be directly related to the Binomes that used to populate the computer graphic world of Bob the Guardian and Dot Matrix, in Reboot.

Not so True (Ma)Gritte
Apologies to M. Rene aside, the Monitor ran across this interesting website the other day. It may not be us, but it does look rather intriguing….

Remarks in passing, on the passing of greatness
Overheard on Facebook (of all things!) – but too good to let go without repeating:
Tracy Mohr "In my perfect fantasy world, Santo will be elected [to the Baseball Hall of Fame] by the Veterans Committee in a shameless act of contrition, and Santo's family will tell them to go to hell in a hurry. "
December 3 at 12:14pm

Merry Tweetmas from @Bluphoenix
If the Monitor tweets alone in the forest, does anyone RT? Yes, Virginia, they do, and with consistently interesting and sometime touching responses. Here's a hearty Happy Holidays from Penguin Hall to all the diligent posters in the Twittersphere out there and a thank you as well, for all the delightful hours spent following your lively exploits and explanations. Merry Christmas to all and may whatever celebration brings you and yours together, be a happy one.

Zero to Christmas in 36 hours

December 1st had seen 62 degree temperatures and even though the high winds and heavy rains were enough to prompt the locals to jokingly remark that the “monsoon season” was upon them, the weather was still so mild, it made getting into the spirit of Christmas shopping seem like a bit of a stretch. Inevitably, though, the weather gods roused themselves, checked the calendar and realized that whomever was supposed to be in charge of snow in the region had been seriously slacking. In his haste to make up the difference, the new guy apparently (isn’t always him?) simply pushed the “heavy precip” button a couple of extra times and went back to partying with Thor. The winter weather mechanisms thus set in place, it began to storm and blow like there was no tomorrow. It was precisely during this time that Mr. Hall had brilliantly scheduled the upstairs windows to be replaced.
As Mrs. Hall worked on cookies downstairs in the warm kitchen, she could hear a series of hard poundings on the east wall, and a string of several unprintable expressions. Looking out, a frigid workman could be seen, poking his head through the hole in the wall beneath a disturbingly menacing cage of icicles. In an effort to soothe, Mrs. Hall had brought him up a plate of fresh baked and a hot cup o’ joe, and casually remarked on how brave she thought he was. The only reply this managed to elicit was a gruff “I hope yer happy; there’s a snow drift in yer room now.”
Two days and forty three inches of snow later, the inhabitants of Penguin Hall looked out of their new sparkling, double hung windows, at a sea of white. Perusing the canyons that were now their streets, Mr. Hall wondered if it was worth it at all to hazard the city thoroughfares. “But we have to-” gasped Mrs. H. “Jimmie from the Mazda dealership just called!” She was already pulling on her heavy coat and boots. “He finally found me one!”
Regular readers of the Monitor might recall that Mrs. Hall had frequently and ardently professed in the past, a certain weakness for small shiny overpowered sports cars. Mr. Hall always told her that when the children had moved on and the need for that ever popular Conestoga Of The Suburbs, the Dodge Caravan, had passed, he would indulge her passion. That time had finally come. The gentleman from the dealership admitted he had been unable to track down her first choice of a Galaxy Grey convertible; but if she was agreeable, perhaps Mrs. H. would be interested in checking out what he had been able to procure. Agreeable was hardly the word for it; when Mrs. Hall laid eyes on the rich bottle-green color of the power retractable hardtop and the tan English saddle leather seats inside, she emitted a such a sigh of complete and succulent rapture, she could have been mistaken for Mr. Toad. The salesman fairly purred at Mr. Hall and asked him to his office to work out the details of the sale. How Mr. H. managed to finagle a bargain out of him after that, remains a mystery, but the Gentle Reader can rest assured, that both Mr. and Mrs. Hall left the dealership that afternoon, pleased with their purchase. They drove it gingerly home, placed it in the garage, covered it with a soft cloth and Mrs. Hall was last seen telling it a bedtime story lovingly before shutting off the lights.

The jazz music played softly in the background. Mr. and Mrs. Hall sidled up to the bar at Daniels Friday as Stefanie brought over his usual Manhattan. “Something light today, Stef,” remarked Mrs. H. “We just came from the cocktail party over at the Crematory and with all the festivities going on this week, I don’t want to fill up.” Stefanie understood and brought her an inoffensive little red wine. Dan’s wife, the lovely Deana, came over and wished them both a happy holidays. “Is that all you’re going to do to decorate the bar?” she turned and admonished Stefanie. (They had had words before.) “A few silver snowflakes? I can hardly see them.” Stefanie was adamant. “It’s supposed to be elegant and subtle- you don’t want Christmas to throw up all over you.” The holiday season having truly begun, Mrs. Hall turned to Mr. Hall and, clinking her glass against his, said she believed she was ready to order now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanks(giving) for the memories

Mrs. Hall looked out the window- there was a fresh dusting of snow outside. The purr of the big black car warming up in the hanger could be heard downstairs, so she jumped out of bed. "Breakfast at Wegmans?" she smiled, as she pulled on her gloves; and Mr. Hall nodded. "Let's go!"
In the upstairs dining room, Mr. Hall had positioned himself almost directly under the discreet router hidden off the conduit above. A fellow pilot friend of his was fond of sending him lengthy videos of vintage airplanes and he was happily downloading to his heart's delight. As they sat enjoying their muffins and coffee, Mrs. Hall leaned back and reflected on the weekend.

Thanksgiving had been quiet at the Hall. Mistress Katie had come in for the holiday from Washington but other than that, there was not a lot going on; as far as Mr. Hall was concerned, that made it a holiday indeed. The dinner yielded plenty of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables galore in the freezer, and because it was a little too chilly for putting up decorations, Mrs. Hall had busied herself making turkey soup from the remaining carcass of the holiday bird. While it may appear to many that Syracuse's only claim to fame is its consistent and inevitable winning of the Golden Snowball award for most snowfall in a winter season, its real passion is basketball and Mr. Hall, and Katie as well, could be counted amongst the Orange's most ardent fans. (Mrs. Hall, while professing a cursory knowledge of the game, humors Mr. Hall in his zeal and joins along with them in the fun.)
Last weekend, after a particularly long-winded evening at a reception, Mr. Hall veered off the registered flightplan and ended up at the Turning Stone Casino. As they whiled away a few hours at the roulette tables, one of the more casual youths at the table looked over, removed his cigarette and complimented Mr. Hall on his attire. ("Very classy, dude" or words to that effect- the reporter for the Monitor was perhaps more interested in the outcome of the wheel than in recording the exact exchange.) But now there was a lull in their schedule and the tuxedos and formals had been duly dispatched to the cleaners for a well-earned dusting. " You can finally give those pearls a break- we're heading for Daniel's at five," said Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall breathed a sigh of relief. Getting to the bar at five generally guaranteed them a seat; weekends around Marcellus, sooner or later, nearly everyone came to the same conclusion: a hectic week at work was somehow always more tolerable when it ended at Daniel's.
Master Chris had called earlier and informed them that he had just been named Airman Honor Guard Member of the Quarter for his base. While he was appropriately honored and humbled to accept, he was also pragmatic enough to acknowledge it came with little financial gain. There was a gift certificate good for one entrée at the Officer's Club (one entrée being valued at about seven dollars) but since he was still enlisted, that benefit was unfortunately moot. The biggest bonus appeared to be a free oil change at a local establishment, so he was out to knock himself out and blow a whole Friday evening on the event. E-mailing them a picture of the statuette from his phone, he admitted he didn't want the award to go to his head and he was holding off building a trophy cabinet until his career was somewhat further on. The Halls agreed that was sound thinking and toasted, long distance over the phone, his good fortune.

As her rising pulse reminded her she had probably had more of Wegmans strong black coffee than was advisable, Mrs. Hall shook off the mist of reverie and pulled herself back into the moment. "Done looking at your mail?" she asked and they gathered up the laptop into the cart. Seven or eight run-ins with acquaintances later, they were back in the big black car and heading home.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flying by the seat of our (tuxedo) pants

Mrs. Hall arranged the penguin embroidered cocktail napkins on the bar. "Did you chill the champagne?" she asked Mr. Hall. He nodded from behind his paper. It was not out of line for Mrs. H. to be concerned; Penguin Hall was the site for the matron's appreciation brunch last Sunday and she wanted everything to be perfect for all the ladies and gentlemen. It had been the custom to hold these brunches at a nearby restaurant, but on a whim, the Halls had offered to have it at Penguin Hall this year and the matron was only too happy to agree. As Mrs. H. pointed out, it's always nicer to sit in front of the fire and not have to worry about waiters and servers shooing you out the door, and besides, Mr. Hall makes a fierce mimosa. The precedent for having the ladies over had been set a few years ago when, as matron and patron themselves, the Halls had hosted a holiday fête at the home. The upshot had been that they unleased their giddy guests into the village after imbibing a heady five pitchers of Mr. Hall's infamous mimosas, and those of whom could recall anything at all after that, swore they had enjoyed themselves immensely.
Several waffles, muffins and sausages and later, as the dishes were swept off and the embers smoldered away, the few remaining stalwarts wiped the residual maple syrup off their lips and eyed the swiss chocolates near the coffee. "I don't think I can move," slurred the matron. "That's quite alright," soothed Mrs. H. "You sit right there. I have no intention of doing anything in the realm of straightening up anyway, for another day or two ."

Mrs. Hall looked down the long row of stately buildings and apartments. James Street in Syracuse was probably the most historic and lovely of all the patrician boulevards left in the old town. As she sat waiting for the light to change, she remembered what Mr. Hall had said earlier, when she inquired where the Century Club was located; “Oh, you can’t miss it. It’s on the corner and it’s really old.” Looking forward, there didn’t appear to be any building under the age of a hundred on the entire block. She thought to herself, I’ll have to remember to tell him what a funny guy he is after lunch, if I ever get to it.
Rosie Taravella, one of the VPs over at WCNY, had invited several folks, along with the Halls, to brainstorm over lunch about their upcoming new event for New Year's eve. Mr. Burns was the chairman and he had kindly offered to host the luncheon at his club. Mr. Hall had an earlier funeral to cover but was able to join them just as the menus were being passed. While the sun was shining brightly and the air was an unseasonably warm 58 degrees, it was generally agreed that you can never start planning for the holidays too soon. The fresh popovers arrived and the ox-tail soup was delightful; they kicked around some advertising tie-ins and promotional strategies for the event and then the little band called it a day. "All in all, a lovely way to run a meeting," said Mrs. Hall, and Mr. Hall had to agree. "Now, all I have to do is find a dress for New Year's eve!" and Mr. Hall shook his head, as they slid back into the big black car.

"Do you think they will ask me to speak?" worried Mrs. Hall aloud, as she nervously snuck a fry out of its holder. "Oh, I'd lay fairly long odds on that," replied Mr. H. "Judging by the size of the field at the last event, you're relatively safe. It'll only be when we get down to some of the local official visits, that you'll have to worry about folks nodding off when you approach the podium." Braced up a bit by that little review, Mrs. Hall finished her salad. The big black car had scarcely had time for a quick checklist and a wash between flights; no sooner had they slid into the hanger, than they were programming in another destination into the GPS. Because of their hectic schedule, they were frequently observed shopping or dining, especially in fast food joints, in their formals. "Remember the pizza place in Jordan?" giggled Mrs. H. over her soda. "The policemen who walked in were placing bets on how long it would take me to spill something on my white dress." "You beat them all, too- I remember," said Mr. H. "Though how you managed to slurp that blue Icee down I'll never know! Finish your coffee- there's a car dealership along this route I want to check out- they were advertising some new Cadillacs and I think we could slip in a drive-through without being noticed, before the meeting." Mrs. Hall jotted down some ideas on the paper napkin and popped it in her purse. She pulled on the long black gloves and wrapped her stole around her shoulders. "Just think, dear- in just ten short months or so, this will all be over!" Mr. Hall, duly noting that she probably wasn't safe to be out alone, confined his comments to himself and started up the engine.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Eating Star Ladies

When Mrs. Hall listened to a message left for her on her answering machine last spring from a Ms. Fletcher, former Grand Matron of the State of New York, OES, she assumed it was another request for some artwork for her, and she hardly gave it another thought. The Gentle Reader can well surmize her befuddlement then, when she found out that she had been recommended for appointment to a state office in that order, and a somewhat high one at that. The unfortunate part of it all was that her formal official installation, attended by most of the prominent members of the state, would take place the same week as Master Ian's graduation from boot camp. Much as she would have liked to have been present for that event, especially in light of the fact that this year it was being held in her home town of Binghamton, NY, she had made a promise to her son and would not waver. The past grand matron understood and said she could be sworn in at a later date.
That later date turned out to be last week. Onondaga District's reception for its grand officers was held last Wednesday in North Syracuse, and it played to a full house. Mrs. Hall's installation was the first order of business at this open meeting and she was thrilled to be introduced by not only Mr. Hall, but also by Ian, sporting his full dress blues and looking as seriously military as the young fellow could muster.
As a grand officer, Mrs. Hall was asked to speak, and was cheered to see that when she introduced her son, the entire room rose to applaud the young graduate. The Monitor will not go into any of the boring details of her speech except to mention that it was mercifully brief and managed to elicit a few chuckles along the way. The business of the meeting having been concluded, the whole of the room exited to the dining room where they got down to the real reason of the meeting; that of free food and drink. Kudos to Mrs. Hall- the Monitor shall be following her progress and travels, throughout her 2010-2011 term.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall at the Hall

Autumn had been taking it's time getting around to upstate New York and the weather had been balmy and bright. The Hall was decorated with the usual mumkins and pumpkins, and since Master Ian was home, the front door was open more often than it was closed. Hoards of young boys dropped by at all hours to check on the new Marine and see how he fared at boot camp. On several mornings, a drowsy Mrs. H. would slide into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of joe, only to find half the parties still focused on their flatscreens with bags under their blurry eyes and the other half asleep, spread out all over the family room floor. "Just make sure you put the dog outside, and the dishes in the sink- and don't get those two mixed up!" advised Mr. Hall, as they left for work. The Halls were lucky to have Ian for an extra week; he managed to get assigned to Recruiters' Assistance for part of his leave, allowing him to stay on a little while longer. Along with visiting the local schools to talk about the Marines, he got to lead some of their physical training sessions as well.

Back in June of 2009, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began its anniversary celebration of the 10th year of it having been elevated to status of "basilica". Monsignor Gleba had expected the bishop to come and had printed celebratory cards and programs advertising same, at some expense. So it was understandable when the party began and the bishop backed out, that he might be slightly miffed. However, one does not get to be Monsignor by sitting idly by; the good father waved off the slight undaunted, and vowed the bishop would visit the basilica to celebrate its good fortune yet. Sixteen months later, as the "10th anniversary" season began to get a little long in the tooth, the bishop's office bowed to the pressure and promised an appearance. The parishioners breathed a sigh of relief at a chance of closure and welcomed, at last, the pontiff's representative in grand style. Every priest in the county had an opportunity for a cameo, and the bishop presented an elaborate papal blessing (or possibly a cease and desist order; it was all in Latin so one couldn't really be sure) and beat a hasty retreat.

Tell your friends!