15 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: photosource

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My Story

# 35

Well, around midnight we bid goodbye to the folks at the The Garden Restaurant, to the Professor and his wife, to the Nunes’. We jumped on our motor scooters and headed back down the twisting road into the shimmering nighttime lights of Lisbon. We passed outdoor cafes bulging with customers, Latin music and exotic aromas wafting out onto the boulevard.

Ah! Nighttime in Lisbon.

This was the life for young people,
and we were there to take it in. It’s funny, how when you’re young like this, you just expect the next moment, the next hour, the next day is going to be one of excitement. One new adventure after another. You just expect it. If it doesn’t happen, well, you didn’t notice it cuz another one just hit you. Another adventurous thought, or scene, or memory. It’s just too exciting -- you’re thinking. And you think it will never stop, and you can’t imagine it stopping because you’ve never known anything different. You’re young!

“Wanna stop for another drink?” Carlos yelled over to me at a stop light.
I looked over my shoulder to Rudi. He said, “Engh, we have to get this scooter looked over tomorrow. We have to practice our songs for the TV show.”
I shouted over to Carlos but I was looking at Lavinia, “Thanks. I wish we could.” And placing my head onto my hands folded in prayer fashion I said. “We’ve got to get some sleep.”

We did. In the morning, Lavinia changed the bandage on my hand, “Boy! My hand is is looking good” I said. It was healing fast.
“You’re a healthy fellow,” Lavinia smiled.
“You’re an expert nurse,” I smiled back.
After breakfast Carlos directed us to the motor scooter agency on his way to work. “It’s only two blocks to the left,” he said, pointing to a side street, and then driving off to be at his job on time.

This was the main headquarters for the Vespa motor scooter in Portugal. “Welcome to Lisbon!’ the manager of the repair unit of the agency greeted us, in a Spanish-French combination.
“Saw your article and photo in the papers, boys. You must be having a fine time!”
“How’s that scooter holding up?” one of his assistants asked.
“Doing a good job,” Rudi answered. “We need a few minor repairs, though.”
“Looks like you took a spill from what I see on this one side,” one of the mechanics that had gathered round remarked.
“We had a little accident in Spain,” I said.
“Is that what happened to your hand?” the manager said, looking at Lavinia’s bandages”.
“Yes,” I answered. “It was pretty bad at the beginning of the week, but now it’s getting a lot better.”
“Let’s take your scooter into the shop, and we’ll give it an inspection!” the manager said.
We wheeled the scooter into the massive repair shop and Rudi helped the mechanics remove the motor to give it an examination.
When I first met Rudi he knew little about motor scooters –only bicycles. People around where he lived in Wuesterheide didn’t have money to buy a motor scooter or a car. As the trip went on, he took a lot of interest in the scooter until he was doing all of our repairs himself. He could see I didn’t have any aptitude for motors or any interest in learning about them expect maybe how to clean a spark plug, or put air in the tires.

For me, this is a crazy mind-set to have for someone like me who has set out to see the world on a motor scooter. I was just lucky to have met Rudi in Rotterdam. I have often wondered if I hadn’t met him, what would’ve happened? Probably one of two things. I would’ve given up, taken a trip over to England and just flown home to the USA from London.
Or, I would’ve found a way to move forward. My desire to make this world trip was so strong, even if I had to leave the motor scooter on the side of the road, all broken down from lack of maintenance and attention to it, and hitch-hiked my way through Africa.
In fact,, I don’t know if I’ve told you, but that’s how I first got the idea to travel to Africa. Back when I was driving my Volkswagen around in my CIC job in the army in ‘56, I picked up a hitch-hiker, a German girl, who told me she and her brother had hitch-hiked to Africa the summer before. They had actually gotten all the way to Johannesburg.
“Jeeze!” I thought to myself, I could do that if a girl could do it.”
So I guess my answer would be I would’ve left that ol’ motor scooter on the side of the road and just bought a knapsack and got on the road and started hitch-hiking the rest of the way. There was no urgency for me to get back to Maryland.
I felt O.K traveling like this on the scooter with Rudi. My homesickness, or loneliness, or whatever you would call it seemed to have gone away. I was learning that the people I was meeting were friendly enough. I think I would’ve stuck it out one way or the other.
But as it turns out, as I said, I’m lucky I met Rudi, cuz having your own wheels on a trip like this can bring ever-so-much more dimension to a trip like this, as you’ll learn later on when I tell you what we did over in North Africa where the Algerians were still fighting for independence and later on down in Africa where Rudi actually used the motor of the Vespa to power a raft we built on the Niger River in Nigeria.

Well, I digress.
Back we go to the Vespa shop.
As the mechanics worked on the engine, Rudi continually asked questions, and sometimes much to their dislike. Usually you’re not allowed to be in the shop whenever someone makes a repair to your car, or truck or motor scooter. But in Africa there would be no one to help us but ourselves, and he was determined to learn about the scooter that he could, and hoped they would consider his curiosity an exception.
In the meantime, I went to the offices of the distributor upstairs in another part of the building, to speak with the director about our upcoming television appearance.

“Yes, I hear you boys are going to be on television Saturday night. We’ll all be watching!” the director said in English, leaning back in his swivel chair and filling the large office room with cigar smoke. He spoke English really well, and I guess you’d have to if you had a job like his, director of the Lisbon office for the country of Portugal and head distributor for Vespa to America.
He was a tubby older guy with gray hair around the temples and a swarthy complexion. He looked more like an Arab than a European. And he probably had some Moor blood. As you probably know, this part of Spain and Portugal was occupied by the Moors from over in North Africa back in the 800’s for several hundred years so there’s a great Arab influence all over Portugal just like there’s a great Spanish influence from the Mexicans all over the southwest in the USA.
“Do many people watch that Saturday evening TV program?” I asked. I already knew the statistics but I wanted him to actually tell me what we both knew.
“You bet they do! That’s about the best program on TV here in Lisbon.”
“Well, that’s good to know. It’s quite a compliment to us that they asked us to appear.”
“What will you do on the program?”
“We’ll mostly sing, I suppose. We have a rehearsal this afternoon, and we’ll find out the details then.”
“Will you include the Vespa on the show, too?” he asked.
“Well,” and then I looked aimlessly out the window, delaying my answer. I had to be cagey here. I needed to delay and pause to give him an opportunity to commit to rewarding us to get his product before thousands of Lisbon TV viewers.
But he didn’t bite. I could see he had the kind of ‘street-smarts’ that got him the kind of job he had. He had a natural talent when it came to discussions like this. This is where you’re actually negotiating. If you purposely make a pause in your conversation, the next person that speaks falls behind. You’ve haven’t really lost, but you’re behind and have to climb back uo.
I’d didn’t want to appear uncooperative, so I had to come up with a response to make our visit here to Lisbon seem useful to him. I broke the silence and said, “I think they’re only interested in having us appear with our guitars and sing some European and songs. Besides, I think there’s some kind of fire regulations about not allowing gasoline motor vehicles in the studio.”
He folded his arms and thought for a while. Then he said, “Well, you can take the gasoline out of the thing, can’t you?”
“I suppose you can,” I said, pondering his question as though with some doubt. TV was brand new in Portugal and they weren’t sure what they were doing.
I could see he saw Rudi and I weren’t a couple of guys born yesterday and that we expected some kind of compensation if we were to go to the effort of getting the motor scooter on Lisbon TV.
He sat back in his office chair, took another puff of his cigar and said,
“Well, look, young man, if you can get that Vespa scooter on the show with you this Saturday night, I’ll make sure that you’re well treated the following day!” He leaned forward and looked me straight in the eye as he flicked a cigar ash into his ashtray. He didn’t say anymore. He just stared at me.
“I’ll do my best, sir,” I said, knowing only too well we would stop at nothing to get the scooter on the show.
“And don’t worry about the cost of the repair of the scooter downstairs,” he said winking at me. I’ll take care of that personally.”
I saluted him and returned to Rudi in the repair shop. Our scooter was all in working order by lunchtime. And at four o’clock we went to the television studio for rehearsal.

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