Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Flaring of the Nostrils

Back when I was a journo, one of my assets was a "nose for news." That means strange and violent and newsworthy things just seemed to break out when I was around, and I had the sense to grab a notebook and pay attention as things unfolded. It explained how I got the big scoop on the gruesome Amish murder (I could speak German back then); Midwestern transsexual priest ordinations (I could speak liberal Protestant); a homeless WW2 bomber pilot living rough in a hangar at a rural airstrip (I grew up on US Air Force bases); a beautiful woman who made a living skinning muskrats and tanning their hides (even though my personal experience included neither beauty pageants nor large rodents); lovers suing one another after their SuperGlue sex experiment went terribly wrong (I happened to pick up a police report featuring a "man out on Route 983 without no clothes and in considrable anxiety over his intimate well-being." I asked the cop what that means exactly). It got to where I thought the county should pay me to NOT live there, so the weirdness level would drop a bit -- or at least a lot less of the homegrown crime and passion wouldn´t make The News At Six.

As time went on, the News Nose devoloped a confessional bent. Criminals and other characters would, for some reason, sit down on the chair beside mine and just tell me all about the Evil they´d done. As Paddy will attest, it makes for interesting evenings in local bars. ("I killed a guy, you know? In the men´s room, there. Did seven years´ time. He deserved it.") This peculiarity occasionally landed me in the District Attorney´s office, or on the witness stand.

Now that I´ve chosen a more Peaceable path, there´s not much call for these "skills." I thought maybe that sword had been pounded into a plowshare: Pilgrims these days often open up and spill out their stories to me. (I do not think this is a special ability. When a person has just  walked alone all day through a severe landscape, and hasn´t spoken English for a while, they´ll tell anyone all kinds of amazing things.) Most are pretty anodyne, and only a couple have turned out to be real convicted criminals. Or international fugitives. (I still know how to track down criminal court records, y´know.)

Still. I say all that to say this. For purposes of this particular story, the old News Nose still flares its ugly nostrils.

Long story short: I was subpeonaed to testify yesterday in a local court case, having witnessed, back in October, a couple of goons doing a spot of neighborhood menacing. I gave a statement back then to the Guardia Civil, which was not so hard one-on-one. But yesterday, standing up in court in front of a microphone and lawyers and all the neighbors and a judge who fired-off questions really really fast?  No problem, in English. Done that plenty of times.

But in Spanish, with a Judicial accent? It was way too much for me.

Usually I can duck and dive around my Spanish-language shortcomings, but there in Carrion de los Condes my incompetance was on public display. There was no place to hide. The questions were incomprehensible. My head swam. I stammered and mis-conjugated and answered one question with the statement I should have made for the other. I saw the frustration and confusion registering on peoples´ faces, the eyes rolling heavenward and the brows knitting in consternation at this foreign buffoon. I made a fool of myself, then fled before I had to face any outcomes or neighbors´ reviews of my performance. I hope to God I didn´t hurt anyone´s case.

I made it to the sidewalk before I burst into tears. I cried for a good half-hour, freaked out Patrick, and gave myself a headache and all the guys in the Carrion Café & Confectionary a story to take home to the wife.

It was depressing, I´m telling you. It ruined my day. And then the rain started. Nabi hurt her foot. (what is it about this place, where half of all the creatures living here walk with a limp? It´s like living on a pirate ship). The faucet in the little kitchen that I so cleverly fixed a few weeks ago came undone and flooded straight through the adobe walls and down the freakin´ driveway.

I decided to go to bed early. I told myself that today would be better.

And it was. Me and Kim dug up some trees and replanted them in a better place. She took our pictures. (here´s one of them. She is good.)

We walked the dogs, then took them to the vet. The diesel man came and filled up the heating-oil tank, and I noticed the price has gone down. One of the neighbors found the walking stick Paddy lost the day we met the Galgo Girls. They gave it back. (What they were doing in the median between two highways remains as much a mystery as how they knew it belonged to Paddy. We think every Spaniard is issued a walking stick on his 65th birthday.)

Nabi is back on four paws again. I am back on my two, too, I think.

And the Nose for News is hereby retired. From now on, even when menacing things are going on, I will mind my own business, butt out, and keep a low profile... choose your cliché.

Unless, of course, it´s someone cool. Or something wonderfully Spanish. Or newsworthy. Or something really interesting...


Libby said...

I love you, mommy, even though you gave me a version of that nose of yours.

オテモヤン said...


Anonymous said...

Ugly nostrils.....

Now that's an image to haunt me all day, for you see, I am in the witness box tomorrow !


PS, the bishop is sending us to Carrion de las Condes...

claire said...

One of those days. It's over now. My Spanish is pretty much at your level. The judge in Carrion possibly never thought of talking more slowly or repeat the question. I don't believe one moment it's all your fault.

At any rate, great post. Entertaining and inviting :-)

The Solitary Walker said...

Meant to say earlier, but when I stayed in the Salamanca albergue a few days (weeks?) ago the hospitalero Felipe was enquiring after you.

Minnie said...

Greetings from France, Rebekah. 'Chapeau' for your 'civisme.'I'd guess the tears were as much of relief as of frustration - getting through the court appearance must have taken as much courage as getting involved in the case the first place.

amancio said...

I can perfectly understand how you feel, I was interpreting in a trial against an English citizen who, in full right, refused to pay Telefonica for services he had not contracted. The judge in Granada was ruthless and used a terrible barroque Spanish against this poor English man. A terrible time, indeed, it was so unfair, I would have punched him, what a miserable sod he was.
I have also been an eyewitness in an aggravated assault (basically, somebody came to my neighbour's house waving a big knife and screaming he was going to kill him). I was the only one who had the balls to go the Guardia Civil to report what I had seen, while everybody else recommended me not to get involved.

Being a good citizen is a nuisance, but I would do it again.