It´s a warm day and Huckleberry has returned from his paseo tracing the circumference that limits the city of Cáceres. Except for las Minas, of course. The museum of the House of Guayasamin has cherry trees already blossoming outside. Pretty soon, the long awaited trip to honor Polly could finally be checked off that Spain-To-Do list before he sets foot back in the homeland. The old jewish quarter of La Parte Antigua in Cáceres is looking all plump with pots of spring loving flowers and tenacious succulents trying not to offend the prickly cacti who don´t need to be touched, thank you very much. Barrio San Antonio (The Jewish Quarter) has some of the best angles, staircases, slim corners, tiered housing and kittens the old town has to offer and today everything there was looking pretty sharp.
At the height of heat the city reached about 19 degrees celcius. Not bad for a time of year when he would normally be shedding off cabin fever. The absence of rainy weather has made today a day to search for one thing: the ripest mango in the city.
Huck´s grand mango tour of the city brought new bars, restaurants, shops and stores into his catalog. By time he leaves this place, he very well may know it better than the back of his handy dandy town map.
After picking up the cod he would need for dinner, the clouds opened and God spoke: ARTHUR…
Huck told him that he had the wrong guy, but maybe while he was in town he could lend little Huckleberry a hand on his quest for the ripest mango. Then there shone a light over la Ruta de la Plata, shining down upon the grocers laying in abundant wait. Huck thanked Don Bigote in the sky and made way towards his sugary, fleshy, sweet, and undeniably juicy future.
There it was, in his hands, checking out at the register.
There it was, in his hands, easily giving in to the bladed persuasion of his hunger.
There it was, in his hands, a complete mess of delicious mango flesh.
How ever would he practice guitar with these mango juice covered fingers? In about two weeks he would be participating in a day festival put on by the school. Sing some Gillian Welch, sing some CCR, sing some Wood Brothers. Just a lil´singing. But, the mango conquest put practice on hold. The rest of the year is pretty much booked up, like his sticky hands, and cleaning up after it all will likely be an awkward experience.
For example, getting used to politically correct language. That could get dicey. Meanwhile, getting used to not being talked to like an illiterate and undereducated swine will probably feel like the limit of a bungie cord before it retreats back towards the bridge whence he came, having jumped straight into the heartland of Spain.
There will be many, many positively and negatively perceived changes, but today
today there would be no change like that, just a gin martini and the quiet night hushing up the traffic of scooters, motorcycles, and parked in neighbors honking in hopes that someone – somewhere – is listening to their prayers. Worry not, young one, they have not fallen on deaf ears. But you´ll have to lay off the horn if you want me to have any ears left to hear you with the next time you forget your keys and I have to let you in, or to hear you speak when I go door to door in the apartment building to return said pair of keys to whomever left them in the lock outside. Yes, these ears, these lovely ears my friend.
The ability to have a beer midday during siesta and not been seen as an alcoholic has come easy but it could go hard; and the expectation of having coffee at six at night hits all the right addiction buttons even though its not necessarily a past time with its finger on the pulse.
What were the hard things this fall? Spanish. Spanish was hard. How was it now? While he certainly wasn´t bilingual, there was definitely some improvement. What was hard about winter? Rain. It was pretty much gone now, leaving him no reason to complain on that front. What would be hard about spring? Spring was pretty much booked up until the end. A trip to France, a trip to la Valle de Jerte, a trip to the boonies to see where his friends grew up, a trip to Sevilla for the Fair of April. A world music festival. A patron saint day. A city fair. A monastery to witness at the wee hours of the morning under the stars. A bunch of stuff to get from point A to point thousands of miles away. A ribbon wrapped package of sweet farewells and packing price tag removed hellos. Ceremony music to learn for an important wedding. One giant and difficult masterpiece to finish reading before hitting up the next volume. Songs to sing. Letters to write. Words to forget and a return to Art in all of its glorious manifestations.
That would be, perhaps, the hardest thing about Spring as nearly everything that has happened here has ocurred in an artless void. But, we´ll see. One never knows what curve balls will come their way.
So, decisions decisions.
For examplettes, two things: a grouping of things Huck feels For and Against Spain when its at its best and worst…starting with the worst, and ending with the best.
First, things that Spain and Huck don´t have in common, a short letter:
Hey, we should probably talk. If you let me get through the difficult things to say there will be plenty of ice cream and cake later. Sound good?
Spain, you and I don´t got a common tongue.
I´m a morning person, you in no way have anything whatsoever to do with the morning.
I like flamenco, you don´t. You have, in fact, disowned flamenco a long time ago.
I´m generally politically correct and actually enjoy not being an asshole even when it seems like someone deserves a kick in the groin. Here, I´ve had to settle with the fact that blatant barbarism is a norm, and you simply don´t care. I don´t give into calling you classist, fascist, racist, or sexist – so please don´t ask me, “but, I can say Ni%$·r, right?” No, no you can´t. Go sit in the corner and think about your megolomania.
You really like your daily dose of penis and vagina jokes. I haven´t not laughed so hard since elementary school when I first started looking around in bewilderment, wondering if I was missing an extra chromosome.
I generally prefer quality above quantity. If you want foreigners to stop abusing your undeniably beautiful country as a tourist-party/let´s-get-wasteland, the onus is on you to get your shit together and earn respect. A little self respect will help that, too.
I like to eat delicious things. You are infatuated with french fries.
You like to drink beer. Me too! Wait, what? So we just pound these? Ah, I see. By the way what are we talking about? I got so distracted I almost got bored.
You talk about someone as “liking to be different” as if individuality was a vice. I talk about people as being different.
I grew up in a house where my parents shared equal power. I remember them yelling at each other in the house ONCE in my 25 years of blessed life. My role models didn´t constantly compete to be the alpha dog, cat, teddy bear, or perhaps sunbathing penguin. With you Spain, too often I grow weary of conversations with both men and women trying to prove (to themselves mostly) that they are the top dog and by doing so merely proving how much more of a dick they really are. Sorry, I don´t give a hooten holler.
Also, you and I don´t really speak the same language of coffee – my holy ambrosia, the orpheus bowl elixir, the miraculous wine of the last supper.
Now, for the best parts, the things that make me feel high with puppy love in this great country.
On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, I have met some excellent people who I gladly treat as a top dog, cat, or what have you for the following reasons: they have high standards, they do rather than complain, they aren´t complete dicks, they´re inquisitive, they have passion about at least something other than their ego, and last but not least they consistently show respect for others. These individuals, I treasure. Some of them are acquaintances, some are friends off the street, some are friends from the program, some are students, and some are friends that are colleagues. Now, What do these criteria have to do with Spain? Don´t they apply Everywhere? Most absolutely, Dear Reader, and they are currently relevent to Spain because it is not exempt from being a part of Everywhere.
Spain, something that I´ve realllllly dug about you is that people have often reached out to help. In both big and small ways, you keep coming around to lend a hand. Yeah, it´s kinda weird that everyone knows everyone meaning erbody know whatcha been up to but you´ve been supportive in times of need. That my friend, Spain, is one of your best qualities. On the twisted, distorted flip side of quantitiy over quality, I must say there are definitely times when your Generosity goes noticed. I can dig that.
Let´s get down to brass tax, and cut to the chase or perhaps cut open the oven baked liquidy cheese to spread the wealth around with your bluntness. Spain, the only place more rudely-bluntly-friendly to strangers is NYC. On one hand, it took me quite some time to readjust to the seeming lack of formality(politeness), but at this point I just don´t care, and neither do you. It´s kinda nice. Yeah, its a new version of an old Niceness that doesn´t take long to appreciate. Now, nothing personal, but get outta the way, I´m walkin´ here.
Maybe we don´t have a common tongue, but I think we´ve had some fun in this language exchange. In some ways my spanish isn´t nearly what it was four years ago – in other ways its a lot better. Further, I´ve highly enjoyed helping out some of your citizens in their quest to learn the English language. It´s a difficult process for you, but the actual conversation-auxiliar work that I have done so far will definitely be one of my best memories from this year.
Spain, you´ve taught me some things. Yeah, quite a few. But don´t get cocky, you´ve got a lot more work to go. Understood? But, really, I´m quite appreciative of what I´ve learned here thus far.
Have I mentioned, Spain, that I´ve met amazing people here? Yeah, there have been some D-Bags of grotesque proportions, but some of my favorite people in the world I´ve met right here.
Might I add that this year has offered me the ability to reunite with friends I made long ago – for which I will forever be thankful, and from which I have grown immensely.
Lastly, this year this spring within this month pretty soon you will offer me the chance to try on a new and strange role. I´ve been a student, a mentor, a cook, a server, a snooty barista, an extremely bored yet eccentricly costumed partygoer, a dreadlocked eagle eyed Granaíno, a master of haphazard paintings, a half-baked scholar (I always wished that role was more thoroughly baked), an asshole nephew, a not appreciative enough grandson, a play-for-free musician, a paid artist, a tuxedo chap, a would you like paper or plastic?, a Lake Mendota bum, a capitol-protest-rotunda-overnighter, a liar, a lose-controler, an auxiliar, and now I have this new hat to try on.
From now on, I´m sure having to work with grief for various people dying at various stages of life for various reasons will only become more common. Last year, I promised you, upon her suicide, that we´re gonna have a moment with the cherry blossoms of Jerte. Yes, in many ways its an event for me to check up on how things are progressing, and in other ways a moment to allow myself to just let tears fall in the presence of that ultimate symbol of intensely colorful but ephemeral beauty. It will be a moment to reflect on her death and reflect on my life of which I plan to have so much more. Life is funny, and now that I´ve gotten this far I just can´t seem to get enough of it!
So, Spain, we´ve had our ups and downs – our resonant harmonies and (as Prof. Hyer would say) austere dischords – but I have a feeling that in the future what will soon come to pass between us will be one of those milestones, those peaks, from which you can see the curved horizon of your making far far away beneath icy clouds just tantalizing the Swiss mountains at your feet. This brief and third Intermission is definitely the beginning of the end of this particular trip, I´m sorry to say, but I trust that we won´t waste what´s left. Time to realize all those plans, make all those decisions.
Your very sincere jerk of a friend,