Friday, May 20, 2011

The Sporting Life

Mr. Hall poured a cup of black adrenalin and wandered over to Mrs. Hall as she read in front of the fireplace. "What have you got there?"
"It's a biography of Winston Churchill. Ever since our little Miata revealed to me that his name was 'Winston', I've had an insatiable desire to know more about the man. A cursory glance in the Hall library divulged this tidy little specimen and I've been hacking my way through it over the morning brew for some time now."
"Bored with the financial section, ay?" He lifted the squat volume and heaved it back and forth a few times. "Not exactly a light-hearted romp."
"It does seem to be of the cinder block family, doesn't it? You'd think the man was clearly getting paid by the word, and yet, unbelievably enough, Pelling turns out to be a master of understatement. How can a man compose a tome of this weight, coming in at 800 plus pages of 12 point type and still leave out so many juicy details? In his foreword, his thanks are so comprehensive, he even includes a few bystanders that were on the pavement in front of his publishers; yet when it comes to his secretarial staff, he expresses his gratitude with a line that amounts to 'No thanks necessary here- you know who you are.' He slyly implies that the main subject's mum brought him into the world seven months into the marriage and that his father died of syphillis, but without any further revelation or source. Oh, Dr. Pelling, despite the fact that your book was published in 1974, you have deftly managed to remain the stalwart Victorian prude that you are, well into the latter half of the 20th century."
"That's it. I'm cutting off your coffee," said Mr. Hall. He gathered up her cup. "Reading makes you moody. Let's go into work and get you away from all that nasty thinking." He handed her her coat.
While Mrs. Hall's appointment had been taking up most of their weekends, work had been moving steadily along. One particular errand had taken them out to Auburn, and Mr. Hall had suggested they stop in at the Bass Pro Shop and see what was new in the sporting world. Realizing that Mrs. Hall's idea of sport was trying to decide which of the longshots she was going to bet, Mr. Hall bribed her with the promise of some good ole' cowboy barbecue. It was sufficient lure; Mrs. Hall took the bait and they went in. "Think fast!!" piped up Mr. H., and before she could blink, Mrs. Hall found herself the recipient of a six foot novelty pillow. "Now you can genuinely say you caught a big one!" he laughed.
Hijinks were all well and good, but unless Mrs. H. could talk him into purchasing one of those wall mounted rubber fish that wiggle on their own and unexpectedly burst into song, she was ready to head back home.
Wiping the remains of the campfire beans off their hands (and being careful not to get any on the car!) they dropped the top on Winston and started back through town. They hadn't gotten very far when the traffic slowed to a crawl and the police funnelled the crowd down to one lane. "What's going on?" asked Mrs. Hall. "Just one of the more pleasant American pastimes! Com'n, let's pull over and watch." And he pulled over the little green car onto a side road and parked.
Coming down the hill in front of them, at a breakneck speed of 5mph, were two homemade racers, their drivers huddled low in the frames, hellbent for glory and a standing on the handwritten leader board posted in the park. Having apparently wandered into the Soapbox derby finals taking place right in the heart of town, the Halls took up viewing from the coveted finish line seats. As Mr. Hall noticed Mrs. H. getting out her purse, he gently reminded her that despite what she might have heard or seen, betting on the pint size drivers was widely frowned upon by local law enforcement. She pouted briefly, but continued to cheer for the underdogs.
After a fashion, the traffic cleared and the Halls were able to move on. Later on that evening, over an aperitif before dinner, Mr. Hall asked her how the book turned out. "Well, it was pretty slow going there for a while, but I think now I can honestly say I found it most useful and enlightening." Mr. Hall nodded with approval. And later on that evening, when Mr. H. went upstairs to bed, he was hardly surprised when he found it propping open the bathroom door, enlightening most of the upstairs hallway as well.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

If this is Saturday, then it must be Olean

For the last two months, the Halls had been New York nomads. Weekends were no longer marked by numbers, but by district names. The endless merry-go-round that is the official visit season for the Grand Matron carries on until the middle of June, and the Halls were only slightly past the half way point.
"I don't think I can face another dinner with the only choices being 'chicken marsala' or 'yankee pot roast'. Let's find some place in town to eat." said Mrs. Hall. Mr. Hall looked down at the small dot in a vast field of nothingness that represented their destination on the GPS, and doubted the likelihood of finding a decent meal or even a nearby town. Long since used to being seen around town in a tuxedo and formal attire, they ventured into a pleasant burg and found a charming restaurant that time had apparently passed by. Big band music played in the background. The waitstaff was nimble and unobtrusive. "I fully expect that we will try to come back here next month and find that this place closed fifty years ago and all we will be left with is the haunting vision of shuttered windows, a lingering taste of this delicious entree and those creepy strains of the 'Twilight Zone' running through our heads" remarked Mr. Hall between bites of his shrimp. Though they were loathe to leave, they thanked their hosts and wandered on back to yet another meeting.

Occasionally the monotony was broken; one Sunday, a youth group held a pancake breakfast in the fire station. The Grand Patron John, and his lovely wife Gail, invited the Halls to join them at their table and regaled them with tales of their farm. John had turned out to be probably the biggest and most pleasant surprize of the whole long journey- he seemed to be, if not an actual distant relative of Will Rogers, then most certainly cut from the same cloth. His provincial tales of life in the country had left the Halls reduced to tears of laughter more times than they could count.
Saturday there was a walkathon in a recession oppressed mall in Olean. Mrs. Hall surveyed the situation; it was very likely the pledged-to-walk little group of 50 or so ladies and gentlemen that had shown up that morning were the most traffic that place had seen since the previous year's walkathon. "You cut a very handsome figure, my dear- I noticed you're the only one walking in a sport coat and oxford shirt." "Standards, my love-" he said, "You have to maintain standards." They walked the requisite 12 laps, equalling approximately four miles and on the last lap, Mr. Hall twirled Mrs. Hall around twice and they tango-ed across the finish line. The press was on hand to take pictures of the Grand Matron with her entourage and Mayor Linda Witte presented the GM and GP with keys to the city of Olean.
"Only 15 or so more visits to go!" sighed Mrs. H. as they packed up another hotel room and prepared to hit the road. "We seen iron dinosaurs selling used cars and recovered helicopters adorning rooftops. There was a rather dandy-fied squirrel in front of a leading local business last night. I'd like to say I think I've seen it all, but I have a feeling that would just put the 'whammy' on us- who knows what we'd run into then?"
"As long as you pack up the travel bar, my dear, I'm sure we'll be able to handle it" soothed Mr. Hall, and he handed her a brace of freshly washed martini glasses to pack.

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