Vignettes from the Cross-Time Bar and Grill
Harry's Place is real. I've been there. Matter of fact, I run it, these days.
It seems that there are places in the Universe, where the fabric of Spacetime is weak, and you can cross into other parts of the Multiverse. It requires some simple techniques, both technological and mental, but it can be done.
One of those places – in our universe, anyway! – is a place called appropriately enough! – "The Place". It's in Western New York, just off Route 20A. Don't confuse it with another Place – Jacob has much to answer for, if he ever shows up here again, and so does Lawrence! – but it's run by a plump and jolly fellow named Mike Jager.
It's one of those bar-and-grill places, where you can get alcohol and food, in varying quantities and proportions, but it's a socializing spot. There is a sizeable clientele from our world, many of whom have never wandered the timelines. Travelers learn of the Place, and come here to find out about this timeline, and to tell us of their own lines and others they have traveled.
The Natural world does not seem to change much along the timelines – or maybe we rarely - or never -get travelers from worlds that different than ours. So – summer is summer, winter is winter, and we rarely get folks from worlds where the weather and geography is much different than our own.
And politics is, in general, much the same. There was the fellow from the North American Union – where George III answered "No taxation without Representation" by enobling several members of the Continental Congress, and seating them in Parliament.
There are worlds where the American Revolution failed, others where there was a American Monarchy. Others where the States became independent nations, some where the West Coast is a Japanese or Chinese colony.
In general, though, the US – or US analog – is a more-or-less democratic nation comprising the same area of North America.
The subject that night, like most nights, was history, and the importance of Presidents.
Sam was a new guy, just in from a timeline we didn't have in the database. But, he was a savvy cuss – had some gold, so we worked things out, no sweat.
Sam was telling us about, what he felt, was the most important President in US history – at least from where he came from.
"Greatest President that ever lived – in ours, or any other timeline." He says. "Led us out of the Great Depression, and when the Darned Fascists decided to make a bid for world domination, he led our country to victory after Pearl Harbor."
He rubbed his mouth. "Nobody, nobody, was ever a better President than Al Capone."
"Huh?" I said. "You gotta be kidding." I goggled. "Really?"
"What'sa matter?" he said belligerently. "You gotta problem?"
"No, no, man. Tell me about Al Capone – in my timeline – uh, he was never President."
"Oh, you poor bastiches." Says Sam. He looked at me. "You guys did win WWII, right? This isn't one of those Nazi America timelines, is it?" he looked around, presumably for Swastikas and Gestapo Agents. "Christ, I almost got caught in one of those. A friend of mine managed to escape a Homeland Security Concentration Camp – he darn near died there –
I wanted to hear about that timeline too, but I wanted to know about President Capone. "So tell me about President Capone – where did he come from, how did he grow up?"
"Everybody knows that." Said Sam. "Oh, right, other timeline." He coughed. "President Al was born in New York City in 1897 – Brooklyn. Parents died in a cholera epidemic in 1905. He was brought up in a Catholic orphanage. Almost – almost! – became a Jesuit Priest. Thing was, in the 1920s, anti-Italian, and anti-Catholic discrimination was getting rampant. And the Italian Mob – La Cosa Nostra, was getting stronger off Prohibition – you guys had Prohibition here, right?" he said. "Stupid idea, but it's almost universal, everywhere I go – worst thing is, the places where it was never repealed."
"Anyway, " he said, waving his finger for a refill, "In the roaring twenties, the Mob was rampant, and Al Capone was a tough minded attorney for the City of New York. He worked for Fiorello LaGuardia, and when corruption became too much, they brought in an FBI guy – Elliot Ness – to take on the Mob. By the time the Depression hit, they had cleaned up New York – no mean feat, that! – and Al was the youngest Governor that New York State had ever elected."
"In 32, he had just turned 35, and the Democratic Party was having one hell of a factional fight. The guy who first nominated him, did it as a joke, but other people took it seriously and it snowballed."
"What about FDR?" I asked. "Franklin Delano Roosevelt?"
"Who?" said Sam. "Who's that?"
"Never mind." I said, waving my hand dismissively, "Tell us about Capone."
"So anyway, Capone campaigned on the "New Deal" – the fair deal for every American. If you worked, was down on your luck, but was willing to try, he was willing to give you the chance, whatever your – "race, creed, color, or place of national origin." People loved that stuff, let me tell you." He laughed, "but it worked."
"Hoover and Coolidge had screwed up things, by the number, let me tell you," he said, "and everybody was ready to try something new." he snapped his fingers. "And New was what they got."
He smiled. "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." He said in his first inaugural address, And "the only true failure is failure to try." – Darn, Al had a way with a phrase. "The only easy day was yesterday." Said Sam, smiling at the memory. "They collected a bunch of those sayings," he said, "I used to carry it with me all the time when I was a kid. It was a little red book, the size of a deck of cards – "The Collected Sayings of President Alphonse Capone."
"But Al was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Never let rhetoric or ideology get in the way of doing what needed to be done. Getting everybody to work. Done." he said, snapping his fingers. "Electricity to everybody in the US, even the rural farmsteads and stuff – done." He smiled. "Science and technology? – oh hell, everybody was talking about German Science, Nazi "super-science" he sneered, "when war was coming."
"But Al – Al was a Flyer – liked all that stuff – barnstorming, acrobatics, parachute jumping, racing." Sam shook his head "Everybody was worried about Nazi Superscience…but while the Germans were building warplanes, we were building skyracers and acrobatic planes…and we built them safe."
"War came, the German and Jap warplanes did well, for about six months. Then, we put guns on our race planes. Made our long-haul luxurious airliners into bombers and started cranking them out by the dozens. Our car factories were making tanks.
"Everybody was afraid of the Nazi Blitzkrieg in 1940. And the Japs took that Blitzkrieg stuff to heart." He smiled grimly. "They was laughing out the other side of their mouth a few years later, when jet airplanes dropped atomic bombs on Berlin and Tokyo…frack invasion." He said with an evil grin. "Al said, "Forget "the glories of war". "The best way to deal with vermin is to burn out the Darn nest"…and he did."
He looked around. "I still have trouble dealing with all that segregation crap and Jim Crow stuff you still find on some timelines." He said. "My dad and grand-dad used to talk about it." He shook his head. "Al wasn't having none of that stuff." He smiled. "KKK motherless bastards tried to stage a power play in the thirties. Al said, "None of that stuff, not on my watch." – first guy to cuss on the radio, in one of his "Fireside chats" – he was pissed, pissed, and everybody in America knew it. Took awhile – few years before folks got used to it, I guess, but Al said – "Everybody to his or her best ability" – and made it stick." That was another one I liked - the KKK talked about "Keeping the nigras in their place." - Al's answer was a classic - "You don't get much altitude when you're spending all your time trying to keep somebody down."
He grinned, grimly. "General Benny Davis, black as the Ace of Spades – hell that was his callsign – flew the "Ace of Spades" over Berlin. I wonder if those fascist Master Race bastiches considered THAT – as they fracking burned. General Mickey Marcus flew "Star of David" over Hamburg – those two nukes and the Krauts threw in the hat."
Colonel "Samuel" Won Chen flew the "Lucky Dragon" over Kokura…and that was that.
"And women." He said. "The Krauts thought women were for "Kirche, Kuchen and Kinder." He chuckled. "General Jackie Cochran, Colonel Amy Earhart and Colonel Bessie Coleman took the 99th Fighter Group from one end of Europe to the other. Knocking the Luftwaffe down ever time the bastards stuck their heads up. "Skywitches were the highest scoring group in the War – more Aces per pilot strength than any other unit."
"And the rest of the forces were no slouch, but "everybody, all together" – that was the thing. "We Pull together, we get this thing over, we all come home, and have a good time." Was what Al said…and that was what happened."
He smiled. "But enough of that." He smiled. "From the shocked looks I'm getting, stuff happened differently here. "Who did you have for Presidents in the Thirties and Forties?"