Monday, December 15, 2014

The Monogram Murders

  By the time Agatha Christie passed away in 1976, I had read pretty much everything she had written. I enjoyed all the Hercule Poirot books and the Miss Marple mysteries and had a special fondness for Tommy and Tuppence. With no new books available, I moved on to other authors, expecting that I would someday reread some of the Christie classics.
  Though that time for rereading hasn't yet arrived, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a new Poirot mystery, The Monogram Murders, written by Sophie Hannah, had been published.

 Set in the late 1920s, the novel fits nicely among those by Ms. Christie, and presents Hercule Poirot in all his glory. Ms. Hannah has created a new character, Detective Catchpool, as the narrator, giving her the opportunity to explore Poirot's eccentricities through a fresh set of eyes. Catchpool experiences the same frustrations of Christie's own Colonel Hastings and others as Poirot teases the answers to him (and the reader).
  As for the mystery itself, three bodies are found in a posh London hotel, each carefully posed with a monogrammed cuff link in his or her mouth. Catchpool, the detective in charge of the case, recruits Poirot to help him make sense of the case. As with the best Christie books, not everything is what it seems, though the answers are right there in front of you if you (like Poirot) know what to look for.
  All in all, a quite satisfying read. I hope Ms. Hannah gets the opportunity to continue the series.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Back to DC

  It has been almost fifteen years since I was last in the DC Comics offices at 1700 Broadway. Back then, the company spanned five floors, but over the years that has been whittled down to three. Come April, it will be none, as the company moves its operations out to California.
  As this will be their last holiday season in New York, Manufacturing VP Alison Gill decided invite some "alumni" to her department's annual party. That list of folks included yours truly and since there are still a few people there who I know from the old days, I decided to accept the invitation.

  I arrived a bit early and Alison graciously guided me through all three floors. Turned out there were more than a few people that I knew and I was greeted numerous times with smiles of delight and surprise. The most-often-made comments were along the lines of "I remember you with glasses and/or a mustache and/or hair!"
  Virtually all the production work done on comics is electronic these days, so the folks in my former department sit at desks with computers rather than at art tables. In fact, there was not a page of original art in sight anywhere I went.
  Gone as well was the stat room, which was a mainstay back when we had to rearrange art manually. And the film library -- all the negatives used to make printing plates for the comics dating back to the 1950s -- had long ago been shipped to a facility were it is midway through a five-year project of digitizing everything.

  When we completed my tour, Alison and I sat and chatted for a few minutes and then headed over to a nearby pub for the party. I spent some time chatting with more familiar folks there, but then said my goodbyes in order to meet Chuck and Rebecca at Penn Station.
  And there, just in case I hadn't had enough reminders of the twenty-five years I'd worked at DC, the Long Island Railroad was delaying and cancelling trains due to police activity. As it had on a number of past occasions, the commute home, which should have taken an hour, took two and a half.

BobRo in the 1990s

The Answer Man, late 1970s

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

  As has been the tradition for many years, we hosted Thanksgiving dinner.
  Also as usual, Laurie spent much of the previous week prepping, cooking and baking. And our 23-pound bird went into the oven Wednesday afternoon, as I always like to have it carved and ready well before the guests arrive on Thursday.
  The holiday began with Sammi's arrival on Wednesday evening. As is the case every time she flies home, we were constantly monitoring the status of her flight from Norfolk to BWI and the connection to Islip. Despite the weather forecasters proclaiming doom and gloom for travelers, the delays were relatively minor.
  The full contingent of guests arrived on Thursday morning and early afternoon: Chuck, Rebecca and Alex; Rebecca's parents Jim and Debbie and grandmother Avis; my brother Rich, sister-in-law Felice and nephew Adam; and Chuck's long-time friend Dave.
The guests gathered around the Thanksgiving Day parade broadcast.
 Not surprisingly, Alex was the center of attention, though he insisted on sharing the turkey hat that Aunt Sammi brought him.

  As always, though the turkey itself was not stuffed, all of the guests were and the few remaining leftovers will be lunch on Monday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another Visit from Alex

  We offered Chuck and Rebecca another chance for a staycation, which they happily accepted, and so Alex came to spend the weekend with Gamma and Gappa. Unlike his stay last month, when the weather was great for outdoor play, this visit was much more an indoor one.
   That did not deter the little dynamo in the least, as he read books, sang songs, made things with playdough, drew pictures, played with puzzles, watched Elmo's World and Truck Tunes videos and generally kept us on our toes from 6 in the morning till 7:30 at night. (Thank goodness he takes a nap!)

   Saturday's adventures included a visit to the Long Island Children's Museum, which he thoroughly enjoyed, especially the big wooden backhoe that he could sit in. That was followed by continuing a tradition his father and Aunt Sammi enjoyed for many years -- a trip to McDonalds for a Happy Meal.
   Alex also enjoys a wide variety of foods, many of which Gamma makes special for him. (Her pancakes were the big hit this time.)  Foods are especially delicious if Gamma or Gappa is eating them. Any time I have a banana, he will ask "Bite?" and happily chomp on it. And on Sunday morning, he ate as much of my bowl of oatmeal as I did.

   He and I were sitting at the computer Saturday morning, and my desktop photos cycled to one of the two of us with one of his wooden puzzles. He immediately recognized the puzzle and insisted we get it so he could imitate the picture.

  Alex will be back with us for another weekend in January (as well as visits with his parents for Thanksgiving and a weekend in December). In the meantime, Gamma and Gappa will catch up on some sleep.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Was Everything?

  We went out for dinner with friends on Saturday night to a restaurant that we've eaten in for years. The food is consistently good and, though a bit noisy, the dining area is comfortable.

  Things were going along fine at first. We placed our orders and our pre-main-course salads arrived quickly. Moments after our salads arrived, a woman we presumed was the manager or assistant manager asked us how everything was. We responded positively; she smiled and went on to the next table. A few moments later, our waitress asked how everything was. Again, we responded positively. Shortly thereafter another waitress along with a woman who actually was the manager (though you would not have guessed it based on the very casual clothing she was wearing) both stopped to ask us if everything was okay.

  When our waitress cleared away the salad plates, she again asked how everything was. By this point, it was becoming amusing and Laurie started to count how many times we were asked. Our main courses arrived soon thereafter, along with another round of "How is everything" questioning by the variety of staff members, as well as someone who may have just been wandering by.

  When the manager stopped by for the third time, just after we'd ordered coffee and dessert, Laurie pointed out to her that this was the twelfth time someone had asked us the same question. The woman seemed nonplussed when Laurie asked why we were being bombarded with concern about how our dining experience was going.

  That was also about the time things started going south. We were given our bill, but it did not reflect the 20% off coupon our dining companions had presented via smartphone when they arrived. The coupon had disappeared into the ether and, as luck would have it, said smartphone's battery had run out in the interim. As a result, it would take a few minutes to have the discount applied to our bill by the manager.

  No problem, as we were not in a rush. While we waited, Laurie asked if she get some more hot water for her tea. Coming right up! (Well, not really, because it never did arrive.)

   We continued to chat, during which time the assistant manager again stopped by to ask how everything was. I was about to say that we were just waiting for the manager to adjust our bill, when I noticed that she was just a couple of tables away, no doubt asking other patrons how everything was. In fact, it was another fifteen minutes before we actually got the corrected bill.

  One other thing I noticed was that, despite having a large number of people whose main concern seemed to be asking patrons how everything was, the restaurant was suffering a severe lack of staff to bus the dirty dishes. Three tables around us were left uncleared long after the diners had finished and departed.

   We paid the bill and headed out, our path to the exit leading us right past the manager and assistant manager. I have to say we were all somewhat disappointed that neither of them asked us "How was everything?" as we went out the door.