Why the old man feeds pigeons

It is  Fête de la Fédération in France, or more commonly know as Bastille Day here. It is much like our Fourth of July. It reminded me of one of my favorite short stories from a few years ago.

Metro

It was a grey and gloomy Paris morning where occasional rain drops did not seem to chase the patrons off the sidewalks and into the many cafés that were sprinkled liberally around the area.  This particularly grimy part of town was liberally spray painted with “street art.”  Teams of youths and an occasional solo artist spent many evenings decorating the buildings, fences and a few trucks with their personal designs.  When we arrived at the nearby train station the afternoon before, we noticed the last few miles before the station contained a nonstop view of this French city artistry.  Back home we would call this graffiti, nothing more.

We approached a corner cafe with no thought of sitting outside.  My travel companions did not want to “take our breakfast in the streets.”  I would have preferred to be outside where I could watch Paris stroll by, but was left with the view from whatever window we could sit near.  My friends never actually took breakfast.  It did not fit their normal routine and they were not about to change for Paris or Strasbourg or any town in between.  One ordered Coke while the other attempted to order “jus d’orange” in his best sounding fake French accent.

“Café américain and croissant,” I ordered without any attempt to sound French.  I figured the waiter knew we were Americans before we sat down.  They always seem to know.  He smiled and wandered off to fix our drinks.  My tired friends stared off aimlessly as if sugared drinks would be required to bring them back to life.  I studied the room as we waited for our order.  Two men were standing at the counter enjoying espresso and talking loudly, as if that was the thing to do at 8 hours 30 minutes on the morning clock.  Paris life does not begin too early, unless you are a baker.

As our drinks were being set down in front of us, I spied a grey little man in a tattered grey coat walking slowly past the window to my left.  He was elderly, I presumed by his grey hair and grey stubble.  His open coat revealed a grey or dirty white shirt and several keys which hung on long strings from around his neck.  He carried a baguette in one hand while using the other hand to pull a cart with a small case attached to it.  I imagined the dirty, beat-up looking case carried his most valued possessions, whatever they may be.  Before too long, he disappeared from view.  My friends had not noticed him at all.

Our bill had come to fifteen euros.  Even at a good exchange rate, this would seem a high price to pay back home.  As it was a Paris cafe, I figured we were paying for the view of dirty streets and the indifferent service of our handsome waiter.  I really did not mind, however.  I was just glad to be anywhere we could take the pace of life as we pleased.  In that regard, we could blend in well for a week.

We left the cafe and were on our way to begin the tour of famous Paris landmarks, monuments and churches.  There is an ample supply of all three in the French capital.  A few days in the city of lights would not be enough to see them all, but one always hopes to return to Paris.  It will not matter how many times you go, there is always the belief deep down that you will return.

We moved up to the corner and waited to cross the boulevard lined with trash from the day before.  Although the city cleaned the streets often, it did not seem to matter as the locals tossed their trash anywhere along their path.  Perhaps they expected trash to be collected by city workers every day.  It is not for lack of trash receptacles that they throw garbage to the ground, as containers are everywhere.  I guess those must be for the tourists.

Down the center of the street was a parkway with a paved center and grassy areas along the sides.  We took the pathway which was lined with park benches.  As we moved toward the sign that said “Metropolitain” at the far end of the parkway, I noticed the little grey man just a short distance ahead of us.  He was standing in front of one of the benches and had the baguette firmly in hand.  As he tore a piece of the bread and put it in his mouth, pigeons flocked to him as if he was their leader and they were his faithful followers.  As a reward for coming to his side, he tore off a chunk of the baguette, then ripped it into small pieces and tossed them all around him.  At this site even more pigeons came to visit and soon the old man stood in a sea of birds, alternately eating some of the baguette and tossing some.  His subjects cooed their approval in a tone that I always found annoying.

As we wandered past the grey patch of ground where the old man stood, many of the birds took flight in order to clear the way before us.  We could not be slowed down on our trip to the stairway that would lead us into the ground and to one of the many subway trains of Paris.  I thought it was a shame all the birds were leaving the old-timer so I turned around to take a look after we had walked on by.  Since the old man had more baguette in hand, the black and white and grey pigeons all returned to continue the feast.  This would be the most attention the man would receive that day.  As a matter of fact, it was the most attention the man received most days.  As long as he returned each morning baguette in hand, his somewhat loyal avian subjects would appear to greet him.  This would bring him his daily moment of joy.

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DISCOVERING HOME – Rich Paschall

Maybe you do not have the time this summer to take a trip across country or across an ocean. Perhaps you will stay close to home. That does not mean there is little to do. Here are some of our stops last summer close to home. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article and more pictures.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Local Culture by Rich Paschall

Whether you live in a large city or a small town, there are likely to be places of cultural interest, historic sites or local festivals nearby.  If you are in Mitchell, South Dakota you can visit the Corn Palace.  Stockbridge, Massachusetts has the renowned Norman Rockwell Museum.  Hannibal, Missouri has the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, along with the white fence that may (or may not) have been the inspiration for the scene of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence.

Tom Sawyer Fence? Hannibal, Missouri

In a big city like Chicago, there are many large cultural attractions.  The Museum of Science and Industry is located in a building erected for the 1893 World’s Colombian Exhibition.  The Art Institute on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago holds many iconic artworks.  The “museum campus” on the lakefront contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium…

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A Reason to Celebrate

Celebrate the true meaning of the day

Once again it is time to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Do you know the origin of the day, or has it become just another holiday?  A video I saw recently showed a young You Tuber asking people about the historical origin of the day.  Can you imagine there are many Americans who can not give a good answer?  Some just see it as a day to have a giant party.

Here in the Midwest, some towns began the party last night with fireworks while others are going for the more traditional 4th of July celebration.  I am all in favor of the traditional celebrations.  To me, moving the special events around is a signal that it is all about the party and I don’t think that should be it.

Assembly Room

Independence Hall, Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux, taken with Pentax K-5

The day is actually about an event that was a long time in the making.  The final draft of the action of the Second Continental Congress was finished on July 2nd 1776 and passed on July 4th.  The famous signing of the document did not take place for a month while waiting for all participants to be assembled.  It did not lead to fireworks although the Revolutionary War had already begun.  The Liberty Bell probably was not rung on the 4th according to historians.  In fact, there likely was no party at all, as the matter was serious business for the delegates of the 13 colonies.

The group had already been meeting for over a year when the Declaration was made.  During the previous July they had adopted The Olive Branch Petition in an attempt to avoid all out war with Great Britain.  The very next day the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was issued.  The Continental Army was formed and strategies were adopted.  The bitter struggle that followed led the colonies to declare independence.

Three committees were formed in June 1776.  One drafted a Model Treaty to establish a way to deal with foreign powers.  Another was to write the Articles of Confederation to put together the model for governance of the colonies.  A third committee of 5 members wrote the Declaration of Independence although it is largely considered the work of Thomas Jefferson.  Some of his language was likely the source of lively debate.  The result proves that difficult work can be done quickly and compromises can be reached across the many members.

When I put out my flag this morning, I noticed only a few others flying on the block.  It made me wonder how many appreciated the events that went into the making of this holiday.  How many really know the history of the Second Continental Congress that forged the nation we have today?  How many think it is just some sort of day we set aside for picnics and fireworks?  Has the meaning of the most important day in our nation’s history been lost?

It’s your party.  That’s for sure.  As a matter of fact, it is the party for everyone who calls these United States of America home.  When you see the red, white and blue, let them have meaning for you today.  If there was no particular meaning to the colors at the time they were adopted, let them be a symbol today.  They stand for the freedom that allows us to live in a country where we can celebrate our freedoms openly.  The people of many other countries can not throw such a party.

Source: National Archives

THE SUMMER OF ’69 – Rich Paschall

The big events of 1969, 50 years on. Read and share. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article, more pics and music.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Golden Anniversary, by Rich Paschall

There is no doubt in my cluttered mind that 1969 was the most memorable year of my life. None. Of all of the events that have happened through the years, I can not say that any other years stands out like this one.

When you are a Senior in high school and people tell you to enjoy it because these late high school, early college (if you go to college) years are the best years of your life, it is hard for you to believe.

Surely better times will come along, you think. You cling to that belief for many years. Then you realize something.

The years around your high school graduation may, in fact, have been the best years of your life. They are the touchstone. They are the yardstick by which all future events are measured. They contain the moments you treasure…

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NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE – Rich Paschall

Jeff, Jason and the short story of pride. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

JJ’s Night Out, by Rich Paschall


Jason was pacing the floor of the living room.  He was excited about his date night.  They were going to a new nightclub.  It had received nice reviews and he thought they could do a lot of dancing and singing.  Jason’s mom watched the pacing with a feeling of indifference, while his dad watched in what could best be described as “disgust.”

Soon Jason’s date would arrive. Jeff was a handsome young man who Jason had met at college.  Jeff fell immediately for the boy with the constant smile, and it did not take long for Jason to agree to a date.  After a short period of dating, they became constant companions.  Their friends began referring to them collectively as “JJ” since they always seemed to be together.

When Jeff arrived in his best preppy, all American look, he stopped in briefly to say hello to Jason’s…

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TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME – Rich Paschall

Here is our review of a few local baseball stadiums. There is always baseball nearby. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article and more baseball photos.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

To The Ball Park We Go, by Rich Paschall

If you live in the continental United States and do not have Major League Baseball in your city, you are probably just a short road trip away from a stadium.  For some you may need one over night stay, for a few locations it may mean longer travel plans.

The thirty MLB ball parks are spread across the country.  If you count the 248 minor league teams, then I guess you can find professional baseball just about everywhere.

Center Field scoreboard from Sheffield Avenue

Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

For our purposes, we will stick with the Major Leagues.  Three cities are lucky enough to have two teams, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Only one has a third team close at hand.  People in and around Chicago can also make the quick trip to Milwaukee to catch a…

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GET A LAWN, MR. WILKINS – Rich Paschall

How is your lawn doing this year? Here is the short story of Mr. Wilkins and his lawn care. Be sure to click on “View original post” below to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Green, Green Grass, by Rich Paschall

Rusty liked to get out and walk around the neighborhood.  It was a pleasant community with quaint old houses.  In fact, some of the houses were over one hundred years old, as were the trees planted in front of them.  Many homes were kept in fine condition by their owners, while others showed the sad effects of the many years they had been standing.  Rusty always spotted something new or different to enjoy during his walks.  One thing he could usually count on, as he strolled down Wallace Street on a weekend, was the presence of one particular old timer tending to his yard.

“Good morning, Mr. Wilkins,” Rusty exclaimed as he came upon the old house with a grand porch and nice lawn.  “The grass is looking very good this Spring.”

“Thanks, my friend,” Mr. Wilkins replied.  Everyone Mr. Wilkins addressed was…

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WHAT WE DON’T UNDERSTAND – Rich Paschall

A few weeks ago we mentioned the great mystery of our nation. We just do not understand why things are this why, but we will drop you a clue at the end. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the discussion.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Our Country’s Mysteries, by Rich Paschall

There are a lot of things in life we do not understand. The concept of Infinity is one of them. We know space does not just end, but how can it go on forever? When considering space, black holes are another mystery. How can there be these areas of nothingness in the universe? If we fly our spaceship into one, will the “gravitational acceleration” pull us through the space/time continuum into another universe? I guess that is a question for Star Trek fans.

Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the spheres of Costa Rica, the stone heads of Easter Island and various other ancient structures have remained a mystery despite extensive study. All we have are theories on how and why they came to be. I visited Stonehenge and the placement of these giants stones was certainly a mystery to me.

Stonehenge

Quantum computing is…

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THE PROMISE OF LOVE

Here is the last of the 4 stories of what may be a South American love story. This time we switch back to Jon’s side of the story. Click on “View original post” at the bottom to go over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the previous stories scroll down the page to “I LOVE YOU” or see the links at the bottom of this story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job…

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A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The South American “love story” continues. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the first two stories, just scroll down the page for them, or hit the links at the bottom of this story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, live in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break…

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