Flash Fiction #70

Tuba

PHOTO PROMPT – © Dale Rogerson

FACE THE MUSIC

Ever since I first saw Wynton Marsalis, I’ve wanted to play the trumpet. Man, that guy can blow.

I asked my Dad, but he said we can’t afford to buy one. I should learn to play Granddad’s Euphonium instead.

Euphonium??! Not even a real tuba? They don’t get money, fame and girls.  What does he think, I want to join the USC Marching Band?  Name me one famous Euphonium player.

“I was crossing the park bridge, going to the instructor’s. A guy on a bicycle bumped into me, and it bounced off the bridge – twice – and landed in the creek.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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The Red Phone

Red Phone

Once upon a time, there was a simple and little Hindu priest who lived in Mathura, India. One time he had the chance to go visit the Pope at the Vatican in Italy. After traveling to the Vatican, he walked up the steps and through the halls of the opulent building where the Pope stayed. He looked in awe at the beautiful marble floors and majestic columns.

Then he came into the Pope’s office and greeted the Pope who was seated behind his desk. The little Hindu priest sat nearby and they exchanged pleasantries. Then he noticed a red phone sitting at the end of the desk, so he asked what it was.

“Oh, that’s my hotline to God,” replied the Pope. “Whenever things get too difficult and I need to have a personal talk with God, I give Him a call.” “Oh,” said the priest. “Would you mind if I tried it?” “No, not at all,” the Pope responded.

So the little Hindu priest picked up the phone, dialed the number, and sure enough, he got through to God. He offered his respects and prayers, said he was very happy to talk to Him, and then hung up the phone after only five minutes.

He was a simple priest and did not have much more to say to God. He then thanked the Pope for the privilege of using the special red phone. The Pope replied, “Oh that is quite all right. By the way, that will be €75.”

“Seventy-five Euros?” inquired the Hindu priest. “Oh yes,” said the Pope. “For long distance charges. It’s a long way from here to God, you know.” So the priest pulled out his wallet and gave the Pope the seventy-five Euros.

Several months later, the Pope had the opportunity to visit India, and it was arranged for him to come to Mathura and visit the little Hindu priest. So the Pope approached the little hut of the Hindu priest, ducking his head as he walked through the door. He sat in a chair in front of the little table where the Hindu priest was pleased to again meet the Pope.

They exchanged greetings, when the Pope noticed the same kind of red phone on the priest’s table as he had at the Vatican. So the Pope asked what that was. “Why, I also have a hotline to God,” replied the Hindu priest. “Do you mind if I use it?” asked the Pope. “I really have a lot on my mind.” “Please do,” responded the priest.

So the Pope got on the phone and got a good connection and managed to get through to God. He offered his prayers, but then had many things to discuss. He talked about the trouble in the Vatican, the difficulties with the priests and legal charges in the United States, the changing attitudes of the congregation in England and Europe, and so on. Fifteen minutes went by, then a half-hour, then finally, after nearly an hour, he was able to put the phone down.

Then he said, “Thank you very much. I feel a lot better now. I had so much to talk about. By the way, how much will that be?” The Hindu priest thought a moment and then said, “Two rupees.” “What,” the Pope replied, surprised at how inexpensive it was. “Why so cheap?” “Why don’t you know?” asked the little Hindu priest. “Here it is a local call.”

 

 

You Get The Picture

004

While fairly small, Batavia, NY, which we recently visited, has been historically important. It is a relatively old city.  While Kitchener has a pioneer tower at the outskirts, celebrating the arrival of the first settlers in 1820, the oldest cornerstone I saw in Batavia was 1804, with many others in the 1860s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

SDC10907

Batavia is celebrating 100 years of being a city.  They have a new(ish) no-nonsense, get-the-job-done City Hall, so much nicer looking than Kitchener’s pretentious, architectural Frankenstein’s monster.

City Hall

Towers, and roof-top cupolas seemed common in Batavia.

SDC10905 Used to be a Farmers’ Insurance company, now a Charity’s headquarters

SDC10906 The back of the county courthouse, from about 1900.

SDC10894 Front/side view of cupola.  I believe the building’s style is ‘Federalist’, solid, trustworthy, about as exciting as mashed potatoes.  This is the first indication of the move forward from the uselessly ornate Victorian Era architecture.

SDC10896 1890 Police station.  The turrets and towers continue down the side street, until it merges with a utilitarian 1980s jail.

SDC10903 When the Cold War warmed up in the mid-’60s, the basement was designated a fallout shelter.

SDC10899 What was once a County Court judge’s magnificent home, half a block from the cop-shop, is now carved up into tiny apartments.  The shingles on the Russian Orthodox Church-style end tower need some uniform replacement.

SDC10900 The side shot shows a front chimney which disappears after it becomes a second-storey fireplace.

SDC10895 A side-street view of the original municipal Fire Department building.  The section on the left c/w alarm bell on the roof, was the Chief’s apartment/home.  Now it houses a crafts and memorabilia store.

SDC10904 The main-street angle shows the round tower on the left, which the firemen climbed to get to the dormitory, with a brass strippers’ fire pole down the center for fast response.  The square tower on the right end was for hanging hoses to dry so they didn’t rot.

SDC10901 There’s a lovely little downtown park, just up from the old firehall, along the edge of Tonawanda Creek, which ambles through town.  Perhaps they celebrate Disney princesses there, or maybe that’s where gay weddings are held.  The park is named Peace Park.  There are memorials to several pioneers and politicians, as well as veterans.  There was a display of about 20 little American flags around the Veterans’ stone.  The son commented that approximately 1 of every 10 houses also flew a flag.

SDC10898 A little wooden footbridge across the creek into a residential neighborhood.  A close look at the middle right shows a Federal Government authorized and registered sewage outflow.  Imagine how bad it might be if the Government didn’t have it under control.

SDC10897 An upstream view, back toward the park.

SDC10902 The old Sherriff’s office, just downstream from the park.  Ironically, it’s now used as a water-quality monitoring station.

SDC10893 A Catholic Church – every city’s got one (or more).  With the afternoon sun directly behind, the best shot was from the shadow of the tower, in the left-turn lane in the middle of an almost-deserted Sunday street.  The son didn’t trust me to warn him of impending traffic, instead, taking a higher-angle shot from the safety of the sidewalk.

SDC10912 From a candy store at the other end of the main street, a present for the warden wife, as thanks for allowing us an unescorted jail day-pass.  With a flurry of intellect and originality, Batavia calls their main street, Main Street.  My little British-styled home town called ours, High Street.

Quit Your Witchin We didn’t know that while we were gone, one of the daughter’s cats had broken her favorite glass, but we used some of grandson WillowThorn’s kind donation, to purchase her another.  The Wiccan Witch of the West loves it.

These were the photo chronicles of a lovely, sunny, warm, Sunday stroll through an historically interesting little village which grew up into a productive city, without losing too much of its heritage.  Next week I tell the tale of our welcome(?) return to Bureaucratopia Canada.

Flash Fiction #69

Disney Dumb

PHOTO PROMPT © Ron Pruitt

UPS AND DOWNS

This was Bernie’s first day of driving tourists to Disney World. They were slow boarding, and wanted him to hurry so they’d have a whole day there, but Bernie kept to the speed limit.

What’s that guy in the aisle seat doing?…..
What Epcot turnoff?
Damn!
How far to the next interchange?

There’s a turnaround spot.
Police and emergency vehicles only.
This is an emergency.
Nobody coming?….
Slow down.
Turn into the depression.
Front wheels down – now rear wheels dipping.
Front wheels rising…..

Crunch!  All wheels off the ground??!  Stuck!  😯

They’re going to miss the Mouse. Is Wal-Mart hiring?

***

The above ‘Fiction’ is based on a real-life situation I observed some years ago, while driving toward Orlando. I cannot begin to guess how a trained bus driver could miss something as large and well marked as Disney World, or what would lead him to attempt a U-turn through an unpaved median on a divided highway.  Aside from the stranded bus, and 50 angry, disappointed tourists, I could see a career change.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

More Thoughts On Gun Control

Colt 1911

GUN CONTROL?? WHAT ABOUT ABSENT FATHERS?

Do we want to solve gun violence, or do we just want to engage in useless bluster?

Whenever a terrible shooting takes place, in Toronto, or an American city, the gun control enthusiasts rush to the podium to bang their fist and display their anger.

Recently, US President, Barack Obama reacting to the mass shooting in Oregon that left nine people dead, said: “I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.

He meant gun laws.

But another display of emotion won’t make gun control work.

The guns are not the problem, but they are an easy target, and politicians, like water, seek the easy course.

If gun control worked, Chicago would not experience the violence that it does. If gun control worked, the Toronto Sun would not have reported, in mid-July, that “The 227 shooting victims so far this year are 31 more than the total for all of 2014.””

Toronto and Chicago have gun control. Murder is also ‘controlled’.  It is illegal!  The problem is deeper and more complicated than the tool that is used.  But it is politically correct to blame the gun.  It is less so, and therefore fraught with political danger, to talk about family breakdown.

An article in The Federalist by Peter Hasson notes: “Violence?  There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence.  Suicide?  Fatherless children are more than twice as likely to commit suicide.  Dropping out of school?  71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless families.  Drug use?  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse.”

How about guns? Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are, growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which is itself directly related to lack of an active or present father.

So what can we do to encourage young people to avoid single parenthood and to encourage responsible fatherhood? How do we keep young men from having to search for belonging and acceptance from other young men in a gang?

We should be as critical of the choices that lead to kids having babies as we are of guns, but politicians mostly recoil in horror when anyone suggests that they try this approach.

What about mental health? Are we willing to address that issue?  In theory the people are, but are politicians willing to make the necessary choices in priorities, and are we willing to stop putting money into parties like the Pan Am Games, and instead, adequately fund mental health programs?

Apparently not!

Too many things have already gone wrong before a young man picks up a gun and attacks his fellow human beings with the intent to kill. It’s a good thing to talk about fathers, mental health, conflict resolution, employment, mentoring, or whatever anyone can come up with towards achieving the common goal of ending gun violence.

The people whose first, and often only ‘solution’, is more gun control, when it clearly doesn’t work, are not to be taken seriously. Murder is illegal, and most guns used in shootings are illegally held under present gun laws.  We want young people to grow up, so let’s be grown-up about real solutions.

***

With many thanks to Gerry Agar, a Toronto Sun columnist and radio talk-show host, for some interesting and lucid thoughts about guns and social violence.

Big Adventures In A Small Town

Red Roof  Standard Red Roof

We can always see the ‘same-old’ at home. When most of us go on a trip, we hope to see and experience something new.  The city of Batavia, NY did not disappoint! CHINESE KARAOKE!  Did that catch your attention?  It caught mine.  I’ll explain below.

First of all, there are two Batavias.  The City of Batavia is completely encircled by the Town of Batavia.   On the western edge sits Batavia Downs, a well-known, completely-enclosed, indoor harness racing venue.  Three hotels sit nearby, just past the tollbooths off I-90.

Rich Red Roof  My Red Roof

Justifying my claim that hotels are forever changing names, my Red Roof Inn has had five names. Until two years ago, it was a Travelodge.  Unlike most ‘standard’ Red Roofs, its room doors didn’t empty out into the parking lot and the weather.  Instead, it had a central hall, interior doors, and quieter rooms.  It also had a small bar, and a dining room that was used as a karaoke club.

About five years ago, a developer bought up and paved over acres and acres of property surrounding the race track. Soon, businesses like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Applebee’s, Tops and Target popped up, giving the race fans (or their wives) someplace else leave their money.  Three new hotels went up just north of the Interstate.

Many of the people who work at these new businesses came from somewhere else. Five years ago, the City of Batavia had about 9000 residents.  Nowadays the population is pushing 16,000.  The night clerk, a 22-year resident, is outraged.  There are now two McDonalds, and two Tim Horton’s in her town.

Tim Horton's  Tim Horton’s c/w drive-through

I don’t think she quite believed me when I told her that in Southern Ontario, I could pass two Tim Horton’s on the way to pick up my mail. The son uses a four-lane regional road to drive 9 Kilometers (5+ miles) across town to go to work, and passes 4 Timmies along the way. There are probably another dozen scattered around town.

Back to the Karaoke…. Through the summer and fall, groups of Chinese couples arrive in the USA, possibly landing in LA, or San Francisco.  They are flown to Las Vegas for a couple of days, then flown on up to a regional airport just north of Batavia.  A Chinese driver picks them up with a Mercedes Sprinter van, and installs them at the Red Roof.  The next day they are driven 60 miles to Niagara Falls.

There are always two groups, one a day ahead of the other, filling 10 to 15 rooms. A local DJ offers Chinese Karaoke on Saturday night, in the dining room.  First they belt out the lyrics to Chinese songs, but quickly change over to modern North American pop songs, which they attempt to sing phonetically.  It’s amusing.  Most of them can’t speak a word of English.

On Sunday morning, the drunk who couldn’t speak English, is hung-over, but loudly spewing O Solé Mio phonetically in Italian into the parking lot at 6 AM. I knew that Japanese are renowned for taking lots of pictures.  These people took photos and videos of everything, including two crab-apple trees, and the crab-apples on the ground by the entrance.

Because regional airports are favored by folks like smugglers and terrorists, there was a significant Homeland Security building right across the street, and the county sheriff’s office was just beyond the neighboring hotel. Unlike our trip two years ago, to the ‘hood’ in Detroit, this time there was no need for armed security patrols.

The telephone booking clerk told me that I was getting ‘just a plain room’, so we took along the Koolatron – only to find a refrigerator in the room. We took food for breakfasts – to be told that the hotel provided a hot breakfast – eggs, sausage, cereal, bagels, bread, juice and fruit.

One of the non-Chinese diners stopped the night-clerk and asked her if she remembered a Sorel Boot plant out where new plaza now sits. I cut parts for Sorel Boots for the hometown Kaufman Footwear, until they went bankrupt, and I had to find a new job in ’85.  I didn’t know they had a plant in Batavia.  I guess it got torn down and paved over.

The City of Batavia has some old and interesting buildings, which I took photos of. (So there, you Chinese tourists!)  If you’d like to come back in about a week, I’m going to post a mostly photo-blog.

This trip was enjoyable, entertaining and educational for me. I hope you got a little from it also.

Flash Fiction #68

Chivalry

CHIVALRY

It was a dark and stormy night when Sir Lilliput, King Arthur’s smallest knight requested shelter at the country inn, though he admitted “I fear I have no coin to pay.”

Being a dwarf, he’d had the blacksmith forge a child-sized suit of armor, but was too small for a charger. Instead, he saddled and rode a huge Flemish Mastiff.

A regular customer asked why the innkeeper fed him and his mount, and complained that he always demanded cash on the barrelhead of them.

“Look at the weather outside. I wouldn’t send a Knight out on a dog like that.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.