Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloweens Past and Present

  Halloween fell on a weekend twice back in the days when I was a trick-or-treater. On both occasions, 1959 and 1964, it was a Saturday.
  At age 8, I was a bit too young, even by that era's much-relaxed standards, to venture outside our cul-de-sac neighborhood, so it did not matter that I had much more daylight in which to go trick-or-treating. Five years later, as an eighth-grader, I'd pretty much aged out of doing it, though I did escort my two younger brothers and a couple of their friends to other neighborhoods where people were rumored to be giving out full-sized candy bars and other generous treats. At those few houses, I joined my siblings and happily accepted a Hershey bar or a Milky Way.
  The intervening Halloweens, however, were a race to get to as many houses as I could before it got dark. And since that was before the days when Daylight Savings Time ended after Halloween, there wasn't much time between the end of the school day and sundown.
  I do recall 1962 when, as a sixth-grader, I opted out of taking the bus home. Instead, I went up and down as many blocks as I could between school and my house, arriving home at dinner time with a massive assortment of candy, snacks, and an assortment of loose change. If only Halloween had been on the weekend that year; I could have collected enough treats to last me till Easter!

  So, here we are, half a century later and Halloween is again on a Saturday. As we have done every year since we moved in in 1974, we give out comic books. In the '70s and '80s, when DC still published books like Ghosts, The Witching Hour, and House of Mystery, those were the ones we handed out. As those type of books were cancelled, I switched to the super-hero books that tied into cartoon series.  These days, I've got a nice pile of vintage Disney comics for the younger kids and Archie books for the older ones.
  But, unlike the days of my youth, and even those weekend Halloweens when my kids were young, the trick-or-treaters have been few and far between. I was expecting armies of them before I had a chance to finish my morning coffee. Instead, the first one did not arrive until almost 2:00 p.m.
As I write this, almost two hours later, there have been maybe a dozen in all.
  With the exception of one boy, who proclaimed, "No candy? I don't want any books!" those who have knocked on the door have been happy with their treats. (And most of them even recognize what a comic book is, unlike the lad a few years ago who yelled to his parents waiting at the foot of the driveway, "He gave us mail!") Whether there is a herd of them waiting to descend remains to be seen, but right now, with nightfall only a couple of hours away, they don't have much more time than they would have if they'd been in school all day.

Post-Halloween Update: Shortly after I posted this entry, a surge of kids, with a commensurate allotment of parents, arrived. In the space of half an hour, there were about thirty trick-or-treaters at the door. But after that wave, there were three more in the next two hours.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

To B&B or Not to B&B

  Laurie and I took a four-day weekend and made a whirlwind tour around the state of Pennsylvania, logging just over 1,000 miles on the trip.
  We started out by heading to the Lancaster area, where the Green Dragon Market has been on Laurie's list of places to visit for a couple of years now. Because she'd found a Groupon deal, we booked the night at a Bed & Breakfast in Bird in Hand, rather than staying in a hotel or motel.
  We have never stayed in a B&B before, so we were not quite sure what to expect. The owner seemed friendly enough when he checked us in, but he was not very clear in his instructions on where we were supposed to go to get our "free hay ride." As a result, we drove about four miles to the address on the card he gave us and found the place closed for the day. When we returned to see what could be done, he told us we were supposed to go to a spot in front of one of the stores nearby.
  That someone was providing said rides was only evident when the horse and carriage were actually there, which was not the case when we arrived. Said conveyance did eventually return and we got a ride on a road that circled a farm.
  After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we returned to the B&B. The wi-fi only worked on the main level of the building, so we sat in the parlor checking our email and chatting with a woman who was a frequent guest. Not that we needed anything from them, but the owners of the B&B did not make an appearance at any point during the evening.
  Breakfast the next morning was between 8:00 and 9:00, so we set the alarm. Not that we needed it, since we both went to sleep quite early and were up before it went off. The breakfast fare was not unexpected: pancakes and ham, with a variety of breads, cakes and fresh strawberries to choose from, along with coffee, tea and juice. The owners were as much concerned with getting their three kids out the door for the school bus as they were with feeding the dozen or so guests.
  We left shortly thereafter, agreeing that we'd felt that asking for anything would have been putting these people out.

  The Green Dragon market was disappointing, though Laurie did buy the largest head of cauliflower we'd ever seen. Thankfully, she passed on the cabbage that was the size of a basketball.
  From there we set off across the state to Meadville, where my mother and my brother both live. When we were planning the trip, I spoke to my brother about motels in the area and he suggested we stay at the B&B right next door to his house. Laurie called to make the reservation and the owner found it quite amusing when he found out who we were.
  We were greeted warmly by the owners and, after an amusing conversation about their next door neighbors, walked over to my brother's house. My mother, brother and sister-in-law were there to greet us and we had a pleasant dinner, but not long after, their cat was wreaking havoc with Laurie's allergies and we headed back to the B&B. After some TV, we called it a night.
  When we checked in, we were asked what time we wanted breakfast -- a big switch from the first B&B -- and we chose 8:30. Once again, we were up before the alarm went off. Breakfast was french toast and grilled pineapple. Unlike the first B&B where everyone pretty much kept to themselves and ate in silence, there was a lively conversation that included the owners (when they weren't scurrying back to the kitchen to cook up more food).
  Laurie went out for a walk while I continued to chat with the owners and a couple of guests. At 10:00, my brother came over to say that he was going to pick up Mom, so we loaded our stuff into the car, bid our hosts goodbye, and went next door. From there, Laurie and our sister-in-law went on a tour and shopping trip around town, while my brother, mother and I sat talked.
  We all met up for lunch at a nearby restaurant and then Laurie and I started the first half of our journey home.

  Our third night was spent in a Fairfield Inn, which we were quite happy about. Laurie and I agreed that we are hotel / motel folks, preferring the relative anonymity of staying in them, along with the flexibility to change our schedule if we want, and avoiding the feeling of imposing if we want an extra couple of towels or a wake-up call.

  Our Sunday plan had been to stop at the Yogi Berra Museum on the way home. Despite their slogan "We're open 'til we close," they seem to have shortened their hours since I last checked. Rather than sit in their parking lot for 90 minutes, we headed straight to to visit Chuck, Rebecca, and Alex. And after lunch with them, we completed our journey.

  And spent Sunday night in our own bed in our own house... which is the best place of all.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Let's Go, Mets (or, Maybe, Cubbies)

  I became a baseball fan more than half a century ago. The Yankees were and are my team. There are a  number of reasons for this, a major one being that I've lived in New York all my life.
  My uncle's company had a season box at Yankee Stadium and my father would get those tickets once or twice a year and take me to the ball park. In my first, formative years, the Yankees were the only game in town; the Dodgers and the Giants had just quit the city for the west coast. (My best friend, Lenny, was a Dodger fan. His family had come from Brooklyn and remained loyal to "Dem Bums" even after they'd moved to Los Angeles.)
  When the Mets were created in the 1962 league expansion, they were clearly the second bananas to the Yankees, who were regularly dominating the American League with stars like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris. The Mets did have Casey Stengel, the long-time Yankees manager, as their skipper, but he had to be quite frustrated with a team that set a record by losing 120 of the 160 games they played. (Casey's famous quote, "Can't anybody here play this game?" sums up his feelings quite well.)
  If there was a choice between the Yankees and the Mets on TV, I'd always opt for the former -- I still do -- but in 1969, when the Miracle Mets won the NL crown, I, like everyone else in New York, cheered them on.
  Over the ensuing (decades of) seasons, the Yankees and Mets have had their ups and downs. I cheered for the Yanks in the mid-'70s, the Mets in the mid-'80s and the Yankees again through the '90s.  But when the two teams had their only meeting in the 2000 World Series, there was no doubt I'd be rooting for the Bronx Bombers.

  Jump to 2015. The Yankees, with their patchwork line-up of aging stars and unpredictable pitchers, barely made it to the playoffs and exited the post-season by losing the Wild Card game. The Mets, on the other hand, got better and better as the season progressed, handily dispatching the heavily-favored Washington Nationals to win their division. They then battled the Dodgers, winning the best-of-five series to make it to the League Championship Series and the shot at their first World Series since they met the Yankees in Y2K. Got to root for them, right?
  Well, yes, absolutely! I'm a New Yorker! Let's go, Mets!

  But their opponents are the Chicago Cubs, a team that last went to the World Series in 1945 and last won it all in 1908! How can you watch them and not say, "Hey, it's their turn."
  So, don't tell anybody, but I won't be that disappointed if the Cubbies win the NLCS...

Baseball Playoffs

  An article in the paper today reports that the TV audience for the National League games has been much larger than that for the American League games. This should not be much of a surprise.
  The three largest TV markets in the United States are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Those would be the homes of the Mets, the Dodgers and the Cubs. The other two teams to make the NL playoffs -- the Cardinals and the Pirates -- hail from St. Louis (#21) and Pittsburgh (#22). The Pirates were gone after one game and the Cards were dispatched in four more, leaving the three biggest audiences in the nation to root for their home teams.
  On the flip side, you had the Yankees, the Rangers, the Astros, the Royals and the Blue Jays. Sure, they had a New York team, but the Yanks were gone after one game. That left them with Dallas/Fort Worth (#5), Houston (#16), Kansas City (#31) and Toronto ( Canada).

  So, as we move to the next round of playoffs, we have the Mets versus the Cubs on the National League side and the Royals versus the Blue Jays on the American League slate. Want to make any guess about which series is going to have the higher ratings when these two series have ended?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Swimsover 2015

  For some folks, summer ends with the Labor Day weekend. For others, it's the 21st (or so) of September, when autumn officially begins. For us, it's the day we close the pool.
  That said, summer ended today.

  Our tradition has become to wait till after Columbus Day and I try to get in as often as I can up until the end.  The water stayed in the upper 70s through the last week in September and even Laurie, who usually gives up long before I do, got in a few laps. But then we had a couple of days of rain and some chilly overnights and the upper 60s was as warm as the water got.
  Still, it did not deter me from taking a couple of last dips, including yesterday afternoon, Laurie's comments about my being crazy notwithstanding.

  And now it is six months till First Dunk of 2016.