Tuesday, 2 October 2007

El Dia de los Milagros

Nothing miraculous happened that I know of, but this was The Day of Milagros.

It started with a trip to Sahagún to look at an apartment on the Plaza Mayor. Our neighbors, known collectively as Los Milagros, offered to rent it to us through the winter. We really need someplace else to sleep and stash our valuables, as the Peaceable Kingdom is as porous as it is peaceful.

The Milagros (Spanish for ´miracles´) are heroes of the the day. They have been key players in our experience here. The dad of the bunch is Esteban, a rather mercurial and self-made man. (That´s him in the pic. with Paddy, at the church/bar at this year´s Fiesta.) The eponymous mom is Milagros, a woman with a piercing voice and a powerful presence. She Gets Things Done. (She´s the sad-looking woman in the other pic.) Their elder son is Estabanito, now mayor of Moratinos and a bit of a melancholic intellectual; an attractive man in a very Spanish way. His brother José is the family clown, one of the mojos who rousted Paddy out of bed during the fiesta to come out drinking and dancing. (The brothers are shown serving snacks in the plaza, after carrying the St. Isidore statue around town in May.)

All of them are very hard-working and moody, characters much too complicated to be spending their days driving tractors...which they do anyway. In addition to acres of grain they have corrals and chicken houses and fields and barns scattered all over Moratinos, and a little house on the edge of town on the Calle San Martin from which they run a farm-equipment repair and combine-rental business. (The guard dogs Roldan and Toby are marvellously fierce.) All four shuttle between Moratinos and Sahagún, the big market town 9km. west of here, where they own a big feed and seed business, a house, and bits of real estate. Milagros´mom is 90-something, and still lives in Moratinos. The children take turns caring for her -- another reason why they´re so tied to this town.

Anyway, the Milagros know everyone and own the rest. They are good people to know, even though some of the other folks in town hate their guts. (We try to track the middle path... so far, so good.) They have been very kind to us ever since we came to town. Our freezer is full of green beans from their garden.

Today, Esteban I and II took us to see their little rental apartment in Sahagún. For 220€ per month we can have a tiny kitchen, two little bedrooms, a salon with tired circa-1972 furnishings, and a fabulous second-story view of the Plaza Mayor from up above Teri´s Butcher Shop. We´d have to carry very heavy propane canisters up dozens of steps to heat the place, which may be our excuse for not taking it. (The location really is prime, though. We´d never miss a thing, right there on the corner!)

Afterward Estebanito drove us out to Población de Campos, a village to the east of us, to meet with Manolo, the Castilla-Leon District Secretary who will introduce us to his lawyer friend in Palencia on Monday. It´s not like we can´t just call the guy up and get an appointment, but this running-around, face-to-face, introduction biz is how things get done here. VERY time-consuming, but civilized. If anybody can nail Mario & Co., this guy can, Manolo sez... we may not get our money back, but somebody will GO DOWN. Hmmm. It makes me wonder. I´ll pay money to get my house finished, but I´d rather the state pay to put people away. Vamos a ver.

While we were in Población (an adobe village used as a set for a film in 1998), Libby phoned. She´s feeling much better, and walked a good 16K. today to Navarrette, and thinks she´s going to keep going! Yay Libby! I knew she could do it!

We scaled the roof again and put plastic sheeting on the worst part of the Chik-N-Hut. We´ve gotta get a roofer in here, no matter what the dollar is doing. Maybe with the stock market booming I should sell out my little portfolio, which is up by 66%... maybe I´ll break even when I exchange the currency! Expat America Thanks You, Mr. Bush!

And in the evening we went back to Sahagún to talk with Paca Luna, the little old lady who runs the Libreria. (stationers.) She is a friend of Elyn Aviva, an American anthropologist friend of mine who did the Camino and lived in Sahagún and studied its memories back in the 80s...another pioneer. Paca´s a real entree to Sahagún society, and invites us to all kinds of things related to The Virgin de La Puente, a local apparition and shrine. (the dancing lady is Paca, at this year´s Fiesta de la Virgen de la Puente). We take turns giving her fresh Gladys eggs when the Benedictine Sisters have had their share. Paca today said she knows a perfect piso, also on the Plaza, with lots of light, good-size bedrooms, and a good price, too. She´ll find it all out and tell us tomorrow. Woo-hoo! The Bozos may have ripped us off, but Paca´s watching our dimes.

At the end of our busy day we went to the Bar Deportivo and had a copa and read the papers, with excruciating Flamenco blasting in the background. It is a quintessential Sahagún bar, with homemade vermouth, bullfights and soccer games on the big-screen TV, decor from 1955, deviled-egg tapas, and the tiniest, elf-scale ladies´ room ever seen. It is usually too smoky for my taste, but it is unusually well-lit and suitable for newspaper scanning. And it´s just across the street from the supermarket and the Chainsaw Boutique and the veterinarian. Pad loves the place. We ate vegetable sandwiches and watched Barcelona beat Stuttgart.

Life is tough, but it is still good. Chin up and all that. Circumstances still suck hugely, but I am feeling much more energized and much more like myself now. I have to credit Pure Land Buddhism for that... nothing like serious meditation to make you get a grip on What Is Real. That, and the sun came out today. I talked in the morning with Jeanne, my best bud in Paris.

One of the very strangest things about hard times is how they switch on my creative energy. In the past week I´ve been struck with a new story to write and a really quite do-able entrepreneurial idea. Not to mention several murderous plots involving amoral Spanish builders.

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