Sunday, June 27, 2010

Facing the future

Master Ian had a full day ahead of him and to make sure he was well-prepared to face it, Mr. and Mrs. Hall fired up the big black car and set a flightplan to the famous Borodino Pancake Breakfast. It's always nice to see all the usual suspects flipping and dishing up flapjacks and the weather was so cooperative, they decided to take the long way home along Skaneateles lake. Twitching with anticipation and loaded up with syrup and starch, Ian somehow managed to stand still long enough for Mrs. Hall to take advantage of the glorious morning light and snap some pictures of him in his gown. And it was a good thing that they did, too; June has been particularly rainy this year and by 1:00 pm the clouds were gathering precipitously. Rain came down in buckets for 15 minutes or so, but afterwards, the sky opened up and by the time the graduates had moved their tassels from left to right, the sun was shining on Marcellus again. There were several moving moments during the ceremony but the loudest cheering and clapping was when the principal gave recognition of the new air conditioning unit installed in the auditorium. ("If only they had had it for the first two children!" commented Mrs. Hall.)
Marcellus High School recognized three students for joining the military; and the principal also announced that Ian had been awarded the Iwo Jima Award from his recruiter for being in top physical condition and for his work as squad guide. The entire auditorium stood to recognize the three soldiers to be.
Afterwards, they laughed and cried, found their friends in the parking lot and said good-bye and headed home. A quick bbq dinner at the club later that evening, where they were joined at their table by Admiral John Paddock, (ret.) of the US Navy for a pep talk, rounded out the graduation celebration. Kudos to Master Ian for a job well done!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hair today, gone tomorrow

The Halls had been working long hours last week and for the most part, it was at least small relief from the heavy heat and humidity that had predominated over the area. When they arrived back home at the Hall, however, they were puzzled to find several stuffed grocery bags all lined up next to the garbage pail.
“What is this?” remarked Mrs. H. Cursory inspection revealed the bags were full of stiff, matted hair. “This can’t be good…” warned Mr. Hall.
Just then, Colleen bounded down the stairs. Usually, right behind her is her constant shadow, Wookie, but today, such was not the case. Suddenly, a slight motion caught Mrs. Ha ll’s eye by the back door and she turned to look. The words “Who’s dog is that?” were just forming in her mouth, when she realized with horror whose dog it was.
“What have you done to Wookie?!?” she gasped.
Wookie, who appeared to be trying to avoid eye contact, was shrinking into the corner by the back door, hoping to escape outdoors before being noticed. Except for her head, she was a completely different color than she was when the Halls left for work that morning, and probably eight or ten pounds lighter. In some spots, the tipped remains of her beautiful coat were still visible; in others, patches of skin could be seen showing through.
Mrs. Hall was stupefied. “A blind woodsman with an ax could have done better. She looks like a sheep with a bad case of the mange.” Colleen pouted,” I was only trying to help. She looked like she was overheating.”
“Relax,” soothed Mr. Hall, “she’ll be fine and eventually, it will all grow back. I expect we should be grateful she didn’t try to give her pierced ears.” A moment of fear shot through Mrs. Hall when it appeared Colleen might be actually considering the suggestion.

Remembrances of music past

Mr. Hall taxied the big black car out of the garage and set a flight plan for work.
“How about some music?” he said, and pointed to the mp3 player in Mrs. Hall’s hand. Mrs. H. sports a Samsung K-5, an unassuming little black box that currently is holding almost two full days of non-stop music, mostly handpicked for car rides.
Sliding through her options, she lighted on a folder. “How do you feel about Mancini?” and soon the cabin was filled with the strains of “The Pink Panther”.
“It’s funny how music can take you back,” said Mrs. H. “ … just now, as I listened to that song, I could almost believe it was 1967.” (Cue flashback fadeout here….)
“For just a few moments there, I was riding in the back of my folks’ old Chevrolet Caprice station wagon with my brother Rick. I don’t remember if that model came with seat belts, but one thing it did come with was an 8-track player, mounted in the dash. Flashy new technology for the 60s, and it even came with a promotional tape (which, of course, is still rattling around in the box of old 8-track tapes Mrs. Hall is keeping for some reason, in the catacombs of the Hall), filled with what would have been considered “traveling music” at that time. Narrated by Lorne Greene (see sidebar for more trivia on this), one of the songs on it was Mancini’s Pink Panther. Those wonderfully evocative chords from that era took me back to a time of riding backwards in the last row of seats in the station wagon, making faces at the other drivers and participating in that yearly pilgrimage our family made from Chicago to Binghamton, NY and then back again, oftentimes with all the grim seriousness and determination of a Bataan death march. Dad’s plan was to make the full 800+ miles in 12 hours or less and to that end, brooked no countenance to any request to stop or even slow down. We usually came in around 12 and a half or 13 hours, though one horrible winter we followed a snow storm that had lambasted Chicago to the tune of 18 inches of the wet stuff, all the way across the country for 18 straight hours in that tank. My dad’s eyes were like red holes burned in a white sheet and even though we watched five or six cars go off the road directly in front of us along the way, he never once considered stopping or postponing the trip. When we arrived in Binghamton and finally settled at our destination in Johnson City, there was a canyon of a driveway waiting for us, carved out between the 1920s style houses that lined Bernice Street. Somehow they had managed to excavate a path through the three and a half feet of snow that lay on the ground and made way for us. I can remember jumping off the back porch into the snow banks that were level with the porch railings.”
"We probably played that tape four or five times over, at least, on that trip. When we got home, I don't recall ever hearing it played in the car again.
"Well, you have one consolation," said Mr. Hall, as they pulled into the parking lot at work. "You'll never have to worry about the kids having terrible travel memories. All they ever do is complain we never take them anywhere!"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's hard to put some spring in your steps when we keep on slipping in the snow.

The weather was particularly whimsical this spring. Despite a few late April snows, May had opened nicely with some pleasant warm days, but just when the general populace thought it was safe to put the sweaters back in moth balls and bring out the window screens, those wacky weather gods pulled a fast one. A series of heavy thunderstorms rocked the first week, and while it's always a delight to see double rainbows in May, the residents of Penguin Hall will tell you that the following Mother's Day snowstorms were anything but fun.
"There's only one thing to do," piped up Mistress Colleen. "Time to head to that new all-you-can-eat Sushi restaurant and sports bar!" "Now that is a Mom Day gift I can get behind!" laughed Mrs. Hall. Mr. Hall opted out of the fun- while he admitted there is little that can compete with an afternoon of slurping down raw shellfish and marinated octopus, eel and squid, he thought he might be more of a help to the operation by maintaining his position in front of the TV, cheering on his beloved beleaguered Detroit Tigers.
Saying a short prayer, Mrs. H. let Colleen drive and they were across town in less time than it takes for Mrs. Hall's life to flash before her eyes. Walking in the tiny restaurant, they gazed over four long islands of sloppy Asian goodness. "We have to have a plan...", started Mrs. Hall slowly, in a dreamlike state. "Stay away from the starches, hit the fish plates first, don't fill up on soup or tea..." but Colleen was filling a second plate already. Two hours later, they rolled out the door and attempted to stuff their overstuffed selves into Colleen's Honda Civic. "That was amazing!" said Colleen. "Give me two or three weeks to digest all that," replied Mrs. Hall, "and we'll go back again."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rib Sticklers

(Ed. note: The editors of the PHM would like to apologize for the notable absence of blogs. Writers are notoriously distractable and while cleaning out the voluminous caverns in the basement of the Hall, some of them encountered a few old versions of Zork. Thanks to modern intervention techniques, along with a simulated power blackout, the staff has been able to resume their work. Given the vast collection of games and toys currently archived in the basements, however, constant vigilance will be required to prevent another relapse.)

Mrs. Hall didn’t recognize the number on her phone but she answered it anyway. The Halls were just on their way home in the big black car from work; it turned out to be Stephanie, the bartender from Daniel’s, on the other end. Mrs. Hall fairly jumped up in the car seat, and then slamming the phone down, yelled, “Dan’s got ribs!” Lucky regulars and the occasional high tipping customer know that if they are nice to Stephanie, she will reward them with early notice that Daniel is smoking those delectable ribs outside his namesake restaurant. The ribs are never listed on menu, and there are rarely enough to make it past eight o’clock; word of mouth usually spreads like wildfire once they are seen in the bar. Frantic patrons have practically come to blows over the last rack in the house. The Halls had just pulled the big black car out of a parking lot on the far east side; Daniel’s was 15 miles in the opposite direction. “Tell her we’ll be there in 20 minutes”, he replied; then looking at her blank expression, he sighed, “That is, if you haven’t already hung up.” He shook his head. “Ring up Ian and tell him to run down and get us a table in the bar and order up two full racks. And a Manhattan.”
Forty-five minutes later, while wiping the sticky residue of dinner off everything in close proximity to the table, Mrs. Hall was finally able to come up for air. “Thanks for letting me use the air card so much lately,” Ian mumbled thickly, through some cornbread. “You haven’t been online very much, I noticed.” Mrs. Hall explained she had been working on a slideshow movie for the Eastern Star ladies, and what had started out as a lark, had grown into a huge monster of a project. One of those things intended to take a weekend at most was running into its second month and still consuming most of Mrs. Hall’s downtime.
That, and the usual day to day activities of trying to get a house in shape for summer, seemed to be taking up all of her time. The children were left to communicate primarily through the happy advances in technology, primarily phoning at all hours for advice or tele-conferencing over the laptops with their webcams. Mrs. H. had received a call just last week from young Master Chris; he was all excited. “Hey Mom, guess where I am!” Unable to guess, Mrs. Hall just shrugged. “I’m at Talladega! The Air Force is helping crowd control and I’m at the finish line watching the race!” “Where’s Talladega?” asked Mrs. Hall. “I don’t know!” Chris replied. “They got us up at 3:00 am and put us on a bus. I have no idea where we are. Isn’t that cool?!?”

Let your child take the reins at work day

A cursory glance at the papers the other day made Mrs. Hall wince. News sources revealed that an overzealous parent allowed his young charge to take the microphone at a major airport and ferry in a few flights. What thoughts were going through his head at that time have not been reported; it is supposed that he envisioned the scenario going something like, “What ho! This is a Small Child broadcasting transmissions from your tower!” and the pilots would all chuckle and return, “Very funny this; someone check his math and make sure we’re not in for it!” and the usual hilarity would ensue. Maybe he felt the entries in the tot’s baby book were a little light this year or perhaps it was on a dare; whatever the case, the general consensus in the press was that it was rather ill-advised. The well-intentioned but clueless parent was indefinitely suspended. No reports on what, if any, punitive measures were imposed on the infant.
Mrs. Hall shuddered. The original designers of this madcap venture, of inviting young minds with fresh imaginations and very little in the way of inhibitive nature, were probably operating under the delusion that it would be a good thing to involve the little troublemakers in the process, though history has long shown this to be a bad idea of the first magnitude.
“I actually thought it was pretty funny and no big deal,” said Mr. Hall, barely looking up from his papers. Noting the look of skepticism on Mrs. Hall’s face, he sheepishly admitted to clearing an American Airlines DC-10 for landing himself one time as a brass young thing. “I wasn’t even in the tower, just in the radar room listening to the radio transmissions. It was, um… a learning experience,” he explained. Mrs. H. just shook her head.

Tell your friends!