Monday, March 22, 2010


Mrs. Hall pulled the last little bit of malted waffle out of the iron. Most of the inhabitants of Penguin Hall lay about the place, sated and sticky from breakfast and lapsing into that happy coma that comes from warm, fattening comfort food. "Who wants the last piece?'' she offered, but as there came no answer (at least, nothing intelligible), she ate it herself. Weekend mornings relaxing around the house have been few and far between recently; winter having taken an ugly turn as of late, the last four weekends the Halls have had to work straight through at the funeral home. So it was a pleasure to sit around and get caught up with each other again.
Ian managed to rouse himself sufficiently to string together a sentence or two. "They had a ceremony for me at the meeting last Wednesday. My sergeant gave a little speech and presented me with a certificate announcing my promotion and then told everyone to be sure and do whatever I told them to do. Then he pulled me aside and told me he could bust me out of Squad Leader just as quickly, and that I had better stay on my toes. It was great!" Ian has been working out vigorously with all his friends and has taken lately to showing off his ability to do Marine style pull-ups and bragging about being "totally ripped." "Look, Mom- I've got a 'six-pack' now!" he has been known to proclaim, usually accompanied with the gesture of lifting up his tee shirt to reveal his form; a motion absolutely guaranteed to make Mrs. Hall squirm. "You're not really buff," she'll tease; "Those are just drawn on." "That's the truth," said Colleen. "His 'Ab Master 2000' is really just a Sharpie."
Mistress Colleen can afford to be flip. Last week, while checking her mail, she received notice that she had been accepted into the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Thrilled to have her plans for moving to California in place, she has been dancing around the Hall (on those happy occasions when she comes home to check her mail, do her laundry, sponge a meal or two, etc...) and generally walking on air. Her goal is to hopefully secure an internship with the animation studio Pixar, and she has heard they pull a number of them from this school.
Worried about driving her little black car all the way across the country, Colleen asked Mr. Hall for some help planning her trip. There is not a lot that will stir Mr. H. on a lazy weekend morning, but like the smell of smoke to an old fire horse, the very mention of travel re-ignites his pilot spirit. Mr. H. jumped out of his recliner and pulling out his constant companion, the dog-eared giant Rand McNally, immediately set about penning a flight plan for her. Thus engaged, the two poured over the mileage charts and service directories happily, for the better part of the next few hours. Long enough at least, for Mrs. H. to clean the kitchen and set up a fresh pot of coffee. As she brought out a cup to Mr. H. she laid a plate of small butter cookies next to it. "I'm fairly certain Proust didn't write "À la recherche du temps perdu" sitting at his local Walmart, yet yesterday, I bought madeleines there. Proust must be whirling dervishly in his grave." Colleen rolled her eyes. "No one cares about that old stuff any more, Mom", she said between cookie bites. "You really have to get with the times."

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Concerned by the lack of updates coming out of Penguin Hall lately, the editors quickly dispatched a furtive note to Mrs. Hall. She declared not only had she been posting regularly, but in fact, vigorously; and saving them to what she thought was the appropriate drive. Alas; her posts and ripostes were waylaid on their path- there was no connection to that aptly named terminal; all the wonderful stories conjured that month: her treatise revealing an enlightened approach to cold fusion, an elegant but simple solution to the Unified Theory, and several enticing new martini recipes, all written coincidentally during the Halls’ annual dedication to the Olympics “A Cocktail Tribute to the Winning Nations”, had gone, not to the Ethernet, but merely into the ether.
As Mrs. Hall noted with a sigh, this was not the first time her faculties had failed to meet her at the keyboard. Still, like other authors, she remains buoyed by words of inspiration she received early on in her career. It was perhaps a turning point when, she recalled the most sincere form of praise and commentary she’d ever heard. A three year old, after listening to Mrs. H. deliver a nearly twenty minute rant regarding a series of frustrating experiences with an inept and bumbling bank teller, looked up at her earnestly, and with clear, steady eyes declared, “You talk funny.”
Ever after, in those dark moments, when her literary muse had lost its way and remained under the sheets for days on end, those poignant stirring words poured the caffeine of confidence back into her soul and charging her onto action, helped her to carry on.
Photographic documentation allows us to bring you, Gentle Reader, up to speed on what has transpired only incidentally at the Hall, during that otherwise uneventful period.

Digger’s Superbowl Party: In what has become an annual pilgrimage, the Halls once again attended the stellar Superbowl party at Digger’s home and bar. While winter snows may have kept the attendance down a bit this year, the food was as always extraordinary. Shown below, hostess Karen Hajski with guests Katie, Henry “Shanghai” Sienkiewicz, and his daughter Sandy; all enjoying the homemade Manhattan clam chowder and good company. Master Ian came along for the ride this year; he got a kick out of the boards plastering the walls and cheered the winners (including Mrs. Hall, to the tune of twenty five simollians) on heartily.

Oh look, Honey; it’s snowing again. What Central New York lacked in snow earlier, they made up for in February. Coming down in bucketloads over the last few weeks, Syracuse in general and Penguin Hall in particular, have been inundated with several feet of the wet white stuff. A number of heavy downfalls made carrying on work through the downtown area much more time consuming than usual. The piles took a toll on parking lots everywhere, including the funeral home, where the square footage of actual parking space was down by as much as a third for a couple of weeks. Poor Wookie had to blaze a trail to the backyard for her daily constitutional; the snow blower shown here earning its keep and more, carving a path through the backyard, and a driveway out of the snow drifts.

It was officially announced just this week that Ian had been promoted from Squad Leader to Squad Guide by his sergeant. He had been previously just in charge of the poolies from his district; this promotion placed him in charge of all the poolies from several regions at his headquarters. This last vote of confidence just continues to make Ian ever more driven to pursue his career in the Marine Corps; he is so anxious to start he can barely contain himself! Shown at left: Cody and Jared, two young fellows whom Ian has been ferrying to PT with him, ready to begin their calisthenics.

Valentine’s Day at the Scotch and Sirloin. Low light photography more closely approximates the view after a couple of cocktails, shrimp or otherwise, or two! And of course, the steaks were amazing.

Penguin Hall has frequently been taken over by LAN parties, and Master Ian continues to keep the tradition alive. More than once last month, the entire family room floor was covered with wires, powerstrips and the perennial paraphernalia associated with and generally accompanying a gathering of geeks. Mrs. Hall is grateful that they are a thoughtful, neat and relatively clean (if not always quiet) group; the only residue remaining about the Hall after a get-together such as this are the sleeping dead, strewn about the floor of the Hall the next morning, looking a lot like that famous wounded crowd scene in Savannah from “Gone With The Wind”.

Saddest sight around town this month: “Doc” Good, owner of the Little Gem Diner, decides to throw in the towel and call it a day. To quote him directly: “All Good things must come to an end.” The Gentle Reader can only hope someone steps up to the plate and saves the diner from the scrap yard.

2010 Syracuse Auto Show: While it was slightly better than last year’s dreadful offering, the 2010 Auto Show was still a disappointment. No concept cars, only one Miata and a few token Porsches thrown in for the luxury cars. Still, it didn’t stop Master Ian from sliding up behind the wheel of every muscle car in the show. Mrs. Hall did manage to sit in the 2010 Miata, but remarked it was a horrible color. Mr. Hall remained unmoved by the auto industry’s showing, but perked up when he ran into some of his cronies from the Marcellus “Board of Directors”. Shown at left, undoubtedly up to no good: Bon vivant and man about town, Hugh Norris and his lovely wife Joyce, and Dr. Drew Merritt with Mr. Hall, planning all sorts of mischief.

Tell your friends!