Archive for July 2010

27 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: photosource


27 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: photosource

July 29th 2010

27 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: bswenson

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My Story

# 28

Madrid -- 5K
The sign said.

We had almost arrived back in civilization!

“Feels different, doesn’t it?” I yelled to Rudi as we drove through what might be called the suburbs.
He nodded and managed a smile. I sensed through his goggles he was worried that we might run out of gas. At least now there were human beings around. Even a truck or two, some bicycles and a motor scooter or two.
The Vespa sputtered, faltered, and lost power. I let it coast onto a grassy plot along the street.

“What happened?” I said.

“Nothing a good drink of gasoline won’t fix,” he said, as he peered seriously into the empty tank. It was bone dry as the saying goes.

Rudi continued, “I was hoping we would be able to fill it before this happened. There’s always some sediment in the tank from the dust and grit from the roads here in Spain that can get sucked through the gas line into the carburetor. Then we’d have trouble.
He took hold of the handlebars and steered it back onto the street and started pushing. “What’re you doing?” I asked.

“Which way is Madrid?” He asked.

“That way” I pointed.
“Let’s go, then, start pushing.”

He was right. We couldn’t just sit there and wait for something to happen. We had to attract attention and something would happen.

Trucks and buses and cars and people on bicycles and motor scooters were passing us. Bystanders on the street would stop and watch us pass by. One yelled, “Guitar!” when he spotted the guitar strapped on my sweating back.
After about a mile of this, a Vespa motor scooter swerved in front of us and stopped our progress. Other vehicles swerved around it, honking as they passed. Two girls were on the Vespa. The driver yelled in the traffic, “I saw your American flag on your suitcase. Are you Americans,?”
I pulled over to the side. “Pull up to that parking place and we’ll tell you all about us.”

It turned out the driver, Rosa, and her rider, Consuela, lived nearby. Rosa was a former foreign exchange student (1955) in Milwukee and spoke good English. Both were good-looking Spanish girls in their early twenties.
“Touring the world?” Rosa asked.
Rudi became his charming self again. It always happened when girls were involved.
“And you’re pushing the Vespa around the world,?” Consuela joined in smiling.
“Only to the next gas station.” Rudi said.
“We can help with that!” Consuela said. “My brother works at a gas station down about a kilometer. “We’ll get some for you.”
“Thanks!.” I said.
“Here, take this gas can,” Rudi said.
Rosa drove off with Consuela holding the gas can.
“Hope we didn’t just lose a gas can,” Rudi snickered.
But the girls were back in a few minutes.
We filled the tank with the mixture of gas and oil that our two-cycle motor needed.
“How much do we owe you?” I asked.
“Nothing, nothing, de nada, Rosa said.”
Jeeze, that was close, because we didn’t have one peseta, nothing, to give her.
“I’m just repaying you for all the help you Americans gave me when I was a high school student in Milwaukee, ” Rosa said.
Rudi asked her, “Where’s the camping place in Madrid for tourists? We heard there was a good one on the west side of town.”
“Come!” We’ll show you,” Rosa said. She was a very friendly girl. You ride with me, Rudi, and Consuela can ride with you, Rohn.”
We switched passengers. It was a new world suddenly. Only an hour ago we were out on the arid wastelands of Spain, fighting grit and gravel, trying to protect ourselves from the tortuous Spanish sun, hoping our gasoline would hold out.

Now we were driving down the wide boulevards of Madrid, the regal capital of Spain, past its massive neo-classic administrative buildings, baroque monuments, and spacious gardens. Wow! And as co-travelers we had two lovely senoritas.
I think Rosa was taking the long route to the camping grounds, just to show off her beautiful city to these foreign boys.

There’s something about entering a new town or city on a trip like this world trip. I don’t know about Rudi, but for me, there’s always a feeling of loneliness that comes over me whenever we entered any new town. It’s the unfamiliar faces and strange street names and signs and buildings. So much to learn! But today, with Consuela hugging my waist and other places as we drove along, I felt comfortable, and in good hands, especially her hands.

“Is that the Madrid main Post Office?” I shouted back to Consuela, pointing to a large white granite building.
“Yes,” she said and I rode ahead to Rosa and shouted that I wanted to stop at the Post Office.

“O.K.” she said, as we turned back around.
I was anxious to learn if my articles about our trip had pleased the editors of the Baltimore Sun. If they had, maybe the newspaper had sent a check! And we would be able to eat again! And maybe even take the girls out to lunch!
Rudi entertained the girls on the Post Office steps and I went inside.
Sure enough, a banner of Franco was hanging on the wall behind the clerk, watching his every operation. It must’ve been two yards long. The clerk was issuing a customer a stamp with Franco’s picture on it. It was 2” long.
“Yes, we have one letter for you, young man. That will be a charge of one peseta please.” the clerk said.
“One peseta?” I pleaded. “I don’t even have one centime.” I looked at the return address of the letter; it was from the Sun. A cent and a half, and I didn’t have it to pay for a general delivery letter that might contain a check for twenty-five dollars!
I went over to a group of middle-aged men and asked the first man I saw for the peseta. Maybe it was my expression, or maybe my intensity. He could see I looked like an American and by my faulty Spanish accent was sure. American tourists are always rich, he probably thought. “What’s this all about?” Some kind of trick?? He thought. He looked at his friends, reached in his pocket and parceled out in his hand the equivalent of a peseta in coins and dumped them into my cupped hands.

“Thank you, sir, if you wait right there I’ll pay you back ten-fold!” and I went over and waited in line at the window again. I got the letter. I nervously tore open the thick envelope. My five installments that I had written for them fell to the floor along with a letter that ended, “- - and furthermore, Mr. Engh, our office does not feel at present that your trip has taken on the flavor of a travelogue necessary to please our readers. We welcome correspondence from you at such time that you feel your trip has progressed to a point where it will appeal to our reader interest.”
There are no back doors to Post Offices worldwide; otherwise I sure would’ve taken one that day. The man from whom I had borrowed the peseta was still waiting for me with his friends.
“I’m sorry, mister; I made a mistake.” I felt like giving him the letter; it was of no more use to me - - besides, he had paid for it. He just looked at me as if I had played a good joke on him. He and his friends turned and walked off without saying a thing, just shaking their heads.

I went outside and took Rudi aside and whispered, “It’s no go, Rudi, they don’t want to buy anything right now. I guess you and I haven’t seen enough of the world.”
“Did they say they like your work?”
“They said it would do.”
“Well, keep trying. ”
“Ah, the hell with it! I’m not going to write for anybody anymore. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to wire home and tell my folks to send me some emergency money. I’ll stay right here in Madrid at the American Express office and wait for it. This is no way to live. I feel like a dog. And besides, we’re not having the good time like we used to have back in France when everything was going our way.”
“Well, what the hell did you bargain for when you started out on this trip?” Rudi challenged me.
“I didn’t think it was going to end up anything like this!” I said.
“That’s the easy way out, Engh! You’re just yielding to the temptation of writing home for money. Even if it’s your own money. Anybody could do that!”

But I was hoping we could take the girls out to dinner.” Rudi shouted, “No! Engh! We don’t take anyone out to dinner. We’d never survive taking people out to dinner. In a couple of days, you’ll think of something. You always have. Now turn around and smile at the girls. We don’t want to let them know the predicament we’re in.
He slapped his hand on my drooped shoulder. “Let’s see what happens. We’ve got a good thing going here. Two nice girls to show us around the city. What could be better?
My stomach started to growl. I was hungry!
“I feel lucky,” Rudi said.

“O.K.” I said. “There you go! If Rudi feels lucky, everything’s going to go our way!”
I think Rudi was trying to pep me up. I followed his decree. It made me feel good again. I waved at the girls, smiling. They probably thought we were cooking up something to do with then, like a movie or something. With no money, we couldn’t do anything. It was hard to smile.
I felt a little ashamed that I had to show Rudi I was unconfident, even frightened, but hunger does strange things to men, and the thought that I could have the money just for the asking had weakened me. I thought over his proposition, and decided he was right. “You’re right, pal. Let’s try it and see what comes up. I’ll think of something!”
The girls were relieved when I told them everything was fine and tucking the letter into my saddlebag, I told them I received a contract from a travel promotion syndicate in the USA and they were going to publish my travel story when I got back home, even make a movie out of it.
“Do they have a television station here in Madrid?” I asked Rosa.
She shrugged her shoulders
“I know what it is, TV they call it.” Consuela said. “No we don’t have TV. But they have it in France and broadcast it from the Eiffel Tower. But no one has the TV sets here in Spain. They’re expensive. But it’s coming to Portugal. They’re getting it before us!”
Now there was an idea. Maybe they’ll have it set up before we get to Portugal.
We arrived at the Casa de Campo, a large park at the west end of Madrid. “Can we help you set up your tent?” Rosa asked.
“Sure,” I said. “Help us set up our beds.”

We had learned to always accept help from people. It made them feel good that they were part of what we were doing. Their help usually resulted in taking twice as much time to do it. But it was always worth it. Especially if they were two nice girls like Rosa and Consuela. Gosh! It was fun being with them. They were always smiling. They really brightened up our spirits. Especially since they were making our beds for us,- so to speak.

“Gotta go!” Rosa smiled. Consuela agreed.
“When will we see you again?” I asked.
“We know where you live,” Rosa laughed. “Here’s our phone number. We both live together in our own apartment. How long will you be in Madrid.?”

“Don’t know,” Rudi said. “Depends on if we like Madrid.”
“We like it,” I said, looking over at Consuela. “We’ll be here for awhile.
We waved goodbye to the girls and set about finalizing our space at the camping site registration office. We still didn’t have any money. Luckily, you were allowed to leave your passports if you didn’t immediately have the money or didn’t know how long you would be staying. We learned later on the trip that’s not a good idea. The thieves like passports, especially American passports.

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21 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes


21 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

July 22nd 2010

21 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: bswenson

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My Story

# 27

It was hot the whole time we were at the Padre’s. Hot, I mean really hot.
No one seemed to have a thermometer in Spain so I really don’t know how hot it was. Maybe 110. At the Padre’s it was a dry hot when we came but when we left, it was a sticky hot. I guess the barometer dropped. I really don’t know what that means. I used to hear my father say that. “It’s going to be hot today,” he would say. “The barometer must’ve dropped.” We didn’t have any air conditioning at our house. In fact, I don’t think any of our neighbors did either, so you just accepted a hot summer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in those days during the war in the 1940’s.

The windows were all open at the Padre’s to catch any breeze that came through. Every now and then a quiet breeze would cross through where we were sitting. It was such a friendly feeling. You sat there all hot and sweaty and then this breeze would waft across the table and move a piece of paper or a feather sitting there. It’s a really fine natural pleasure to have a breeze like that cool you off momentarily. It didn’t last long. Only a second or two. But you knew there was always going to be another coming through again soon. A friendly breeze. Next to an ice cream cone on a summer day, I think a momentary breeze like that on a hot summer day is one of my finest pleasures.

In Spain, they have that long break at midday they call siesta time. It’s just too hot to work, even to think. The heat of the day in Spain calms down after sundown and the countryside cools off. Even the tiny little bugs that are always flying around getting in your eyes sometimes disappear. Then in the morning, it’s refreshing. Nice and cool.

In other parts of the world, just before the dawn and light blue sky arrive the birds begin to chirp and announce that a hot dusty day is coming again. But you know what? In this part of Spain, up on the plains, there are no songbirds. I guess because there are no trees and bushes or any kind of vegetation where they can live. It’s just a silent early morning except for the clomp, clomp, clomp of a horse-drawn wagon off in the distance.

Shortly after leaving the Padre’s, a wind came up and we were heading into it. . Low rumbling clouds were waiting for us up ahead to the west. We didn’t have goggles so we just squinted our eyes as we moved into it.
”Oh Jeeze!” I thought. We’ve never really had any really big storm on this trip. We’ve been lucky. Please, let’s not have it now. We’re out of money. We’re nearly out of gas. We’re in a part of Spain out here on the plains where hardly anyone lives. This is like traveling from Yuma, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I don’t know if there’s a road between those two, but it sounds awfully barren travel.

Anyway, the storm started out with small gusts of wind that every now and then picked up the gravel from the road shoulders and hit us square in the face. It wasn’t the kind of steady wind that blows sheets off a clothesline or women’s hats off into the street. But I wouldn’t want to fly a kite in it.
It was a summer storm. Just like the kind that always brews up anywhere on the planet on a hot summer day, from USA to USSR. One of those hot July dog-day tempests that drops the temperature 10-15 degrees very quickly. It’s the kind that if you’re in your car, riding along on a summer day, windows open and rolled down all the way, your elbow hanging out the side, and then you hear the sound of water pellets splatting the dusty metal roof of your car, making a rifle range sound on top. You quickly roll up your windows.

Out on the plains, tumble-weed-looking things, the kind you see in the Cowboys & Indians movies were flying eastward and low over the fields. If there were trees out there, (but there weren’t any except the new saplings that had been planted for miles along the highway by the Franco people,) they’re be bending in the wind, losing leaves and branches. This was not the kind of storm where you hear the thunder way up high where the eagles fly, it was more the kind where the crackling comes shooting along the low ceiling of clouds, down where the crows fly.
Sometimes this kind of rainstorm passes overtop as though it only wanted to let off a little steam. Other times you unfortunately are in the place where it makes its decision to crank up its ferocity and dump a ton of rain on you or sometimes-even hail.
Well this day, it started with those thick, fat, pellets of rain, threatening to let the dam burst if it wanted to. The dark clouds of this storm were low and moving with gusto overhead. You could almost reach up and touch them. They’re always accompanied by cracks of thunder atop them, as though the lightning man is riding herd right along with them, looking down to see which iron fence post or cow it wants to zap with its blitz of lightning. It’s the kind of storm you want to run for cover.
But where? The horizon was bare. No grove of trees. Nothing.
In the driving wind and rain we came upon a cross roads with a small sign we could see that pointed to Tajuna to the left. “Let’s try down this way!” I yelled to Rudi behind me and turned to drive south. The clouds began breaking up here to the south. Soaking wet, we could see a small town down in a valley and came upon some buildings on the outskirts. It turned out to be a pub/grocery store, a kinda watering hole for local farmers. We went in and several local farmers gave us a stare as we entered the dark place. And then one of them shouted, “Guitar!”
I think if I hadn’t been toting my guitar strapped on my back and we would’ve walked into that place without it, we would’ve been stared at the whole time until we left. That’s the kind of feeling I got in this part of Spain. We didn’t look “normal” to them and immediately they would have been suspicious of us, especially since we didn’t have black hair like typical Spaniards.
To me, it was a shame to see a country with a population that was so suspicious of each other and especially strangers. We didn’t find anything like this in France. Maybe we would’ve if we had been in France ten years earlier when you never knew if your neighbor was a French Resistance fighter, or a secret spy for the Vichy government. As I said before, it’s an ugly feeling to be in a society where neighbor report on neighbor, where friendships can turn into a bad blood. I didn’t know I had it so good back in the ol’ USA. And as I said before, Rudi didn’t seem to notice this feeling of distrust because he had grown up in the Nazi era.

For myself, there’s nothing more terrifying than to be in a room with people and notice that a person thirty feet away is looking at you while writing in a small notebook

“Is it raining outside? You’re all wet!” The store owner greeted us with an amiable smile.
“No, but it his over the hill to the north.” I managed to let him know.
One of the fellows in the corner yelled “Guitar!” again.
“Another asked, “Are you professionals?”
That gave me an idea. I took off my cap, and held it out, and said “Si, senor!”

Rudi winced. I guess he thought I was stepping too low and he didn’t want to be associated with me.
“I returned a glance that said, ”Hey! They sell food here. We can make some money and buy ourselves some lunch.”

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14 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: photosource


14 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: photosource

July 15th 2010

14 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: photosource

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My Story

# 26

The Padre’s house was next to a thick adobe wall that surrounded an old Dominican Church in the center of the village. The little kid ran up to the wrought iron entrance gate and started ringing a small bell that hung from a post. “Hey, that’s enough!” I told the kid, but he kept on, enjoying the license to ring a church bell.

Out of a side door of the church an elderly woman in a shawl and dangling some long prayer beads came up to us on the inside of the gate., “Yes?” she said.

We said we needed to talk to the Padre. With an expression that said, ‘Doesn’t everybody’?, she asked what our purpose was.

Rudi clapped his hands together (in prayer fashion) , raised them to his face and closed his eyes to show that we were looking for a place to sleep. She understood that part of his Spanish and got over to us that the Padre was teaching a class of catechism and wouldn’t be available for another hour or so.

“Should we wait?” we asked ourselves, thinking maybe there was another place in the village where we could find a bed before it got dark.

In time like these, when it came to finding a place to stay for the night, we never flipped a coin; we always relied on Rudi’s instinct. He claimed to have an intuition that could predict the nature of our luck before we set upon a venture. It was really not much more than guessing but I would humor Rudi with letting him have a go at it. Someone had to do the job. When he made a wrong guess, we’d forget about it. It made his percentage of correct answers look better.
“My gut feeling tells me we’ll have luck,” He answered, taking a seat on a wooden bench by the gate. Notice he didn’t say if it was going to be good luck or bad luck.
“I sure hope you’re right this time!” I said, “I’m so hungry I cold eat a horse.”
“Just hold on a little longer, and you’ll reach that middle stage of hunger where you’re not hungry for a while!”
I sat down on the bench by the gate with him and bent into a position that made my stomach smaller. “Ah! There I feel much better,” I groaned.
Rudi laughed, “You Americans just can’t take it!” He said. “You shield yourselves from real things until you’re like machines.”
Well, if he wanted an argument at this time, I was ready for him. “And why not?” I snapped back. “Why be uncomfortable when you already have the means to be comfortable?” I felt some new pains shoot through my abdomen as my stomach shrank smaller.

Rudi was ready to shoot back. “Because when you’re faced with a situation like you’re faced with right now, you cringe and become cowards. You look for some pill to solve the problem. Just like in the war; without all your money and supplies, you would’ve never been able to stand up against us, the Germans, or the Russians for that matter.”

I think Rudi was getting hungry too and wanted to take it out on somebody. He seldom brought up the war.
“What’d you expect us to use? Bows and arrows?” I said. “Who gives a damn how you win a war, just so you win it?”
And then I thought how we won the war against Japan. And then
I felt like shutting up.
“If you’re going to do a thing, do it right.” Rudi said.
“What’s that got do with war? Life isn’t a war!” I returned.
“It isn’t?” he asked.
And then a small middle-aged man in a long black cassock came walking up from the church side door.
We both stood up as he greeted us, “Good evening Padre,” I said. “My friend and I are touring the world on our motor scooter and we’re interested in meeting with a Spanish Padre and thought we’d stop in to see you. I hope you will excuse us if we’ve interrupted your catechism class.”
He understood my primitive Spanish.
“No, that’s quite all right, boys, I have one of my better students taking over the lesson. Won’t you come in for a while?”
We passed through a barren courtyard that looked like it could’ve used some flowers or grass or something. Come to realize it, all of Spain looked like that so far. It was so different from France and the other countries where you had flowers growing everywhere, and hedges and things.

We followed him to a one-story room in the corner of the walled courtyard. “Sit down, please,” he said, pointing to a small wooden table in the center of what appeared to be a dining room. My stomach made a revealing growling noise just as I sat down. I don’t think he heard it, what with the shuffling chairs and all.
“Do you like Spanish wine?” he brought out a large quart jug of church wine from a closet.
“Gracias,” we answered as he poured us each a half a glass of red wine. That was all I needed - - an appetizer!
He spoke some French, a little German, and naturally Spanish, and with that combination supplemented with scribbling pictures, we were able to talk with each other.
The customary poster of Franco was on one of the walls. On other walls were Jesus-pictures and bishop-looking people. And there was a depiction of Mary-mother-of Jesus on the front wall. We sat and talked about our trip; he was interested in learning how other people were living in other places. He was puzzled at first at the idea of an American and a German traveling the world together on a motor scooter. Often we had met people who had never seen nor talked with an American or a German before, but had formed opinions of them through hearsay. Generally these opinions were uncomplimentary, but once we had talked with people they saw for themselves that we had neither horns nor long red forked tails. We didn’t pose as ambassadors or anything like that, but we always left the family or village with a much better impression of Americans and Germans, usually, in most cases, I think.
He told us he had been born in Riaza, a small town to the north of Madrid, and had attended the seminary in Madrid for twelve years. He had come to the little village of Cogolludo and its eight hundred parishioners six years ago, and planned to remain there, the bishop willing, for the rest of his life. I guess he was about 50 years old. His mother, and also his sister and her husband and one daughter lived there with him also at the church in the rooms that bordered the wall of the courtyard. He called them out to meet us.

That was strange, but I guess it was the custom in that part of Spain, bringing your family along with you to live with you at the church. I can see why mothers would encourage a son to become a priest. She would always have the security of knowing she would have a place to live when she got old. She looked about 70. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any homeless women or men lying around the streets in any of the big cities in Spain. I guess Franco had a building somewhere for them or just ‘eliminated’ them like he did his political opponents.
“You play songs on those guitars?” The Padre asked.
“Sure, wanna hear a song?” Rudi asked.
While we were tuning our guitars, a long file of young children passed the front gate, and we figured the catechism class was over. He invited them to listen in.
When we finished the three Spanish folksongs we knew, he had the children sing one of their school songs. It’s always fun to hear little children, boy and girls, sing a song together. It’s like listening to the fresh sound of a mountain stream flowing over some rocks through the woods. It doesn’t matter the language.
Rudi and I clapped and they smiled at our approval. He dismissed them; his mother and the family slipped away in the adjoining doors of the courtyard and we were left alone to talk with the Padre.
“Call me, Padre Juan,” he said, and I’ll call you Rohn and Rudi.
There was no post office in the village, and twice we were interrupted during our conversation while the Padre gave out mail to parishioners. He was the post office. Also, at one point he was called upon to administer first aid to a small child who had taken a fall in the street. The child’s mother had come to the Padre with her boy with a bruised and bleeding elbow. The nearest doctor was twenty-five miles away, and the villagers always turned to the Padre for medical help like this. I wonder what she would’ve done during the civil war going on twenty years ago. Even though times were tough for this village today, under Franco it must’ve really been miserable twenty years ago during the fighting. We often saw decaying wooden homemade crosses sticking in the ground along the highway commemorating somebody who lost their life at that spot.

The local community aided the Padre, too, by giving him a percentage of their grain crop each harvest, which he in turn sold to the merchants of the village or gave to the poor.
Anything that he mentioned that sounded like food made my mouth water. I was distraught with curiosity to know if he was going to invite us to stay for dinner. I tried to make our conversations as interesting as possible. This way he wouldn’t excuse himself to go to dinner. I was desperate for a meal. I think Rudi was too. I had never before seen Rudi make himself so charming. If the Padre wasn’t going to ask us for dinner, I had a plan. I was simply going to tell him we were poor, and ask him if he please would give us some of the grain that he gave away to the poor of his parish. I would eat it raw. Then I thought how silly that would be. It was only one day that I hadn’t had a meal. I had heard of people who had gone two weeks without eating and they lived. Certainly I could last longer than a day. Besides, I didn’t want to show Rudi I was a weakling.
I heard the rustling of pots and pans from somewhere. But I also heard gurgling from my stomach. I’ve got an unusually boisterous stomach when it comes to needing some attention. When I sensed its complaints coming on, I managed to clear my throat or cough a little.

“You have an allergy?” The Padre asked me.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s just that we’ve been sleeping in hay lofts at night time.” I answered. It didn’t hurt anything to give him a hint that we needed a place to sleep for the night.

Wonderful aromas from the kitchen seeped into the courtyard like a lovely woman. It gave me new vigor. I cranked up my conversation with Padre Juan, even more captivating and descriptive about our travels. The aroma from the other room was like receiving a second wind. I imagined the wonderful taste of chicken drumsticks cooked in olive oil and garlic; chopped up onions sprinkled with salt and a little white Spanish wine poured in and a touch of diced green peppers.

I couldn’t speak. I let Rudi do the talking. I sat back and in my head ran a flick of the best Spanish meal we had back when we left Barcelona on our way to Zaragoza and the mayor of the little village had invited us for lunch when we inquired for the road west at his house just before siesta time as his wife was about to put the main meal of the day on the table. He called it ‘arroz con pollo’. The senora served it on top of long grain rice and some diced tomatoes with chopped fresh parsley. We each had a wedge of lemon and were told to squeeze a little on top. “We don’t eat those,” the mayor said as I landed with a bay leaf under my tongue and tried to get it out. I set it on the plate. Rudi somehow found that hilarious.
Then at the tinkling sound of a little bell, the Padre stood up and said, “Won’t you boys join me in a meal?”
Rudi, in his most blasé manner, I mean really, really blasé manner uttered a quiet “Thank you.” It sounded like he almost didn’t want the meal. Like a starving cat that seems to retain its dignity all the way ‘till death, all he said was that “Thank you.”

I could see the Padre wasn’t sure what Rudi meant by his “Thank you.”

Padre Juan even made a gesture that I interpreted momentarily in a panic, to mean, “Well If you don’t want to eat - - wait here; I’ll be back in a half-hour.”
The Padre’s gesture might have been “Fine. Let’s all wash our hands before dinner.” I didn’t know for sure, but I didn’t want him to misinterpret Rudi at such a desperate time. I felt like I was at a poker table. This was no time for reading wrong intentions.
I interrupted him in a loud voice that surprised me, “Oh! Thank you, Padre Juan! That would be wonderful!”

Rudi gave me a wincing stare. I guess I shouldn’t have shown the Padre how much I really wanted something to eat. It was undignified, at least in Rudi’s way of thinking. He was a stickler sometimes, for that sort of decorum things. Once in France I had wanted to change my stained shirt for a clean one. We were in a town square, and he almost flew into a rage when I changed it out on the main street. He wanted me to hide behind a tree or go behind a building or somewhere.

But Rudi’s expression changed quickly. The knowledge of food on the table makes an irritable man human again. We followed Padre Juan to a white-washed kitchen, where his housekeeper, a woman named Silvia, the one who had come out to greet our bell ringing the first time, had prepared a setting for three on an oil-cloth-covered table.

Well, it wasn’t chicken but it was even better! She served huge portions of beef in a broth that had chickpeas, leeks, carrots and bubbles of olive oil floating around the top. It was scalding hot but I dipped chunks of the hard crusted bread into it and it cooled right down. I thought I heard my stomach say, “Thank you! Thank you!” When she offered me another helping, I held up my bowl without trying to look eager and let it linger as long as possible under her big ladle spoon. This strategy turned out to be not necessary at all, because after the stew, there came another course! She brought out a big pot and served us chicken and boiled potatoes covered with a steamy tomato sauce. The Padre poured us each a glass of white wine, and after two helpings of her “cocido,” announced the meal was over by offering us peasant cheese and fruit. Jeeze, was I full!. The skin over my belly was really stretched! I guess I was having a natural reaction. My body was telling me “Go ahead, eat a lot. You might not have another meal in weeks.”
I had never eaten so much in my life. I felt bloated. We sat and talked about our trip and our future plans. It was getting dark, and the Padre found our conversation interesting and lit an oil lamp. “Did you find the people of France much different than the people of Spain?” He asked.

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