Sunday, 19 August 2007

Dance Or Else! Fiesta Part 2

With Paddy snoring and the town all involved in visiting their friends and relations, I tried settling in with a book and updating our hard-copy diary. I took the dog with me downtown, after the sun set, to see what was going on.

It was about 10:30 p.m., and the place was deserted. A couple of people were sweeping up in the plaza, and the Mus tables had been taken back inside. Nothing doing, but a bit of noise coming from inside the houses. I wondered if maybe the band had canceled, and what effect it would have on Estebanito´s mayoral career if the evening´s dance was a bust.

I ran into Anastasio on the way home. It´s still early, he said. The band won´t even start setting up til 11.
Too late for me, I told him. Paddy´s already in bed, asleep.

I went in and joined him. Thank goodness I crawled into bed while still fully dressed.

At 11:30 p.m. the front gate crashed open, the dog leapt up barking, and two voices bellowed out Patrick´s name. I jumped up and hit the outside light, hoping it would actually come on this time. It was Victor the folk singer, and Jose, one of the Milagro boys. They were both staggeringly drunk, smiling, their shirttails hanging out in the front.

Spanish men love drinking. Lots of them start their day with a brandy in the local pub. But they hold their liquor, and pace themselves. Aside from dumb-ass teenagers outside discos, you rarely see Spaniards this far gone. ¨Patrick´s gone to bed! You´d think he was an old man!¨ Jose shouted. ¨It´s time to dance! What´s he doing asleep?¨

"I AM an old man!" Paddy shouted from inside the cave-bedroom. ¨Let me get some pants on!"

Jose and Victor quizzed me on my age, Paddy´s age, their ages, and whether or not the numbers mean anything. One nice thing about speaking Spanish to drunks is they understand me better. Or they think they do. It kinda brings them down to the level of communication I inhabit on a daily basis, but with a lot more laughter woven in.

Paddy emerged in a pair of whitewash-spattered shorts and a dirty old sweatshirt, the nearest items he could find at the bedside. The two amigos took him by the arms and marched him out the door and down the street, chanting some merry tune about being bombed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paddy looked dazed, but what could he do? I grabbed the camera and followed them down the street to the plaza.

Moratinos was awash in swirling disco lights. A three-piece electronic band was playing paso dobles and sentimental Spanish songs, and couples were dancing as well as they could round the uneven concrete and sunken drains that pave the space. Bombs burst in air. The kids at the bar did a land-office business.

And dance we did, for three solid hours. I danced with old Modesto, who deeply enjoyed it and actually thanked Patrick for allowing it; Paddy danced with Julia and Pilar and MariCarmen and all the ladies whose husbands quit dancing soon as they said "I do." Paddy´s a fine dancer, and everyone loves taking a whirl with someone who makes them look like maybe they can dance, too. (he had to run home at one point and change clothes. He´d forgotten his belt, and his shorts were falling down. And his flip-flops left his toes exposed to trampling dancing feet.) There were also jotas, a sort of group circle folk dance, cha-chas, and tangoes. Paddy loves a good tango, and I have trouble with a basic waltz. But toward the evening´s end I did a passing facsimile.

It was the men who really took the cake, dance-wise -- three under-50 guys, all of them truck drivers, got full of orujo and got their grooves on in a big way.

Best of all was Kike, a guy whose hair-raising nickname is just a short form of Enrique. (Pronounce it KEY-Kay and it´s not so bad.) Kike drives the delivery truck for the local construction goods company, and he knows a few gruesome details of our current financial morass with the Bozos. (While in his cups early in the day he offered to pay them a visit. With a pistola. Because he doesn´t care about other people, but people from Moratinos are HIS people, and he can´t stand to see what´s going on. I told him ´thank you, but no thanks, we don´t do violence.´ He told me I must be French then, not American!)

Anyway, Kike got himself a heavy dose of Saturday Night Fever, and as the band played on he danced his heart out there on the pavement. He led line dances, organized a conga line, and spun around on the ground within a circle of his hip-hopping kin. He even had the musicians give the mic for a moment to Fran, the town´s forever-folk-singing mentally handicapped guy, so he could sing one of his old favorites with band backup. Fran got a big thrill and a big ovation. Kike beamed.

When the jota kicked in, Kike kicked off his shoes and really got down, and took the crowd along with him. He´s not a pretty man, but he´s wiry and lithe and full of life -- he looked faun-like, kicking his feet high, turning in the air, yipping and shouting out for sheer happiness. It was a gift, just watching him there, playing off some more hot moves from Javi, a truck driver from San Sebastian whose family inhabits the big green corner house.

Things wound up at almost 3 a.m., and Paddy and I finally headed home to hit the hay for real. When we turned the corner I saw the front gate standing open. Una Dog was gone.

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