Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Another Tale From My Past
This one involves Ernest Hemingway, Spain, bullfights and a wonderful man named Albert. We met through his sister who was living in Europe at the time. He gave me that come hither look and I nodded and went hither.
We both loved Hemingway and were reading "Death in the Afternoon," which was written in 1932 about bullfighting in Spain. I cringe when I think about what we witnessed, but at the time my PETA consciousness was not very high.
With little money, we decided to take the train to Barcelona. This involved getting off the train at the French/Spanish border because in 1969 most of the trains in Spain ran on a gauge that was incompatible with the rest of Europe. So we got off, walk a short distance and got on a Spanish train. Barcelona was my introduction to cheap red wine, cheap hotels, cheap food, and lots of fun wandering Las Ramblas at night. Albert always attracted a party.
From there we mapped out lots of little towns that had bullrings. Most of the time we hitchhiked but occasionally we rode a local train. Nearly every afternoon was spent in the bleachers at a bullring. As I look back now I realize how brutal and macho a sport this is, which is probably why it appealed to Hemingway.
We had finally had enough of bullfights and decided to head down the coast to Alicante where a friend's retired parents lived. We hitchhiked for a while and slept on the beach. Finally we opted an open air train that stopped everywhere and was filled with locals and occasional poor tourists like us. Albert brought along a lot of beer. At this point I can't remember how much but it made him very popular with the passengers with whom he shared the local cerveza. He even bought more at one stop.
As you can imagine he was getting very drunk. The train went very slowly around a curve and he fell off the train. Everyone yelled to the engineer to stop the train because Sr. Alberto and his cervezas had fallen off the train. The engineer stopped; Alberto and his cerveza were rescued by his adoring fans. We finally made it to Alicante where we stayed with my friend's parents.
We looked pretty bedraggled when we arrived on their doorstep so they suggested a bit of a clean up. I told Albert, who again had been drinking for most of the day, to go first. We heard the water running in the shower and then this horrible crash. I raced for the bathroom to find him lying on the floor grinning from ear to ear. He looked at me and said, "I thought was leaning on the wall." Wrong. So I got him and the bathroom cleaned up.
Everyday Buffy's mother would make us these wonderful thick sandwiches of fried green peppers and onions with lots of olive oil to take on our tour of the town. We always started our daily tour with Spanish donuts, then thick, black coffee, lottery tickets and finally the farmer's market.
It's either old age or how much I drank back then, but I don't remember how we got back to Frankfurt; I just know we did.
Kerry and I visited Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida several years ago. The photo of him was taken in the house. The cat on the table is probably one of his six-toed cats. When you visit the house you can still see many of them. They have finally spayed and neutered most of them but still allow some breeding to go on. He lived close to downtown so he could get drunk and still walk home. Quite the guy. And then he killed himself.