Americans came last week, they came in pairs and threes. It is refreshing, having people from the Real Outside World come here, people who are not hikers, not breathing the rarified, self-absorbed air of Planet Pilgrim.
You can tell American guests from everyone else. They always bring a gift, or some kind of food to share. They have good teeth, and sporty shoes, and nice hair. They usually offer to help cook, or clean up. They want to see the place, even the pepper plants out back, the woodpile, the shocking old sofa in the barn where the galgos sleep.
The first to arrive were Maddy and her two girls, from Massachusetts. All three were attractive in an apple-cheek, healthy, tanned way. They were polite and funny and vegetarian. Paddy made tortilla for them. (I made gazpacho, but we had to throw it away. The missing transparent plastic knob that fits on top the blender, a useless doodad, was found suspended in the soup, ground to pellets. Damn. Never store transparent things inside the blender jar, unless you want to eat them later.)
Maddy and I talked about the Massachusetts Bar examination, a test my son Philip will undergo within the next few months. Maddy is a lawyer. She knows all about lawyering in Massachusetts. She and Philip will Be In Touch.
The lasses brought us flowers – a great bouquet of lilies that lit up the room all week on the end of the kitchen table. They make us sneeze, but we do not care, they are beautiful.
In the evening I talked on the telephone to Khalida, the woman who will, as of December, become my son’s mother in law. We have never met. She lives in Toledo Ohio, but was born and raised in Pakistan. She is planning a huge blowout Pakistani wedding for her daughter and my son – even as her daughter and my son are planning a small, simple ceremony. A clash of expectations looms on the horizon. I am happy I now live half a world away from Toledo.
(I have never before been Mother of the Groom, and I haven’t a thing to wear! I look at beautiful embroidered silk formal Pakistani dresses on internet sites. At first I thought I would represent the Western aspect of this marriage alliance by wearing something sensible, but it seems American Mothers of Grooms are expected to dress like Easter Eggs. Here is an opportunity to wear a beautiful, princess-worthy gown, the kind of dresses worn by women called Khalida. I almost never let my Inner Princess out of her jeans and t-shirt prison. Here is her opportunity.)
I took our Moorish fiesta costumes back to dear Lucia in Carrion. I was supposed to meet an American lady who lives in Extremadura and rescues riding horses from the butcher’s van, but she did not show up. I take that as a sign: it is still not time for me to get a horse. (It may never be time for me to get a horse.) Paddy and I went in the evening to Fromista, where a Dutch and Turkish guitar duo played a world premiere duet called “Recuerdos del Camino” to a packed house. Afterward, a deluxe dinner with the artists and Fred, the pride of Green Bay, Wisconsin. We ate gazpacho ice cream. No plastic pellets.
The following day we had church duty. California arrived on the 11:45 from Madrid. Grant Spangler, an old Camino head from Ojai, arrived with Rosalie, his lady friend from L.A. They brought us a fully-loaded, rebuilt and fab laptop computer (Grant’s hobby is rebuilding computers and writing code), as well as cheese and wine, bread and fruit, and assorted packets of organic vitamins and minerals. We visited for two days, they saw the Roman villa. We drove at sundown to Palencia for another guitar concert, this one in the patio of the bishop’s palace. Enno the Dutchman brought down the house again, there was a magnificent flyover by a dozen storks, and afterward we all repaired to Bar Javi for braised octopus and calimari. In an overlit formica bar in the heart of Castile, we chattered into the night.
Summer nights are wonderful here, out on the perimeter.
The same night Laurie, my friend and co-author from Illinois, sent the manuscript for the updated Camino San Salvador guide. I kicked it into shape and shipped it off to London to be published. (They will duly remove any American-isms.)
And on Sunday afternoon, two more Americans rolled up from Madrid in a tiny SmartCar. Gil is a reporter for Radio Nacional Espana, and head of Democrats Abroad Spain. She is a retired ABC news Spain correspondent. They both are hardcore expats, they’ve lived in Spain since the 1970s, so where they’re from in America doesn’t really count for much any more. They said they’d heard enough about us to want to see the Peaceable for themselves. They’ve never spent much time up here (nobody has!) but I think they liked it.
There was money left over from last weekend’s fiesta, so the Neighborhood Association threw one last big feast at the bodega restaurant. Gil and Martha arrived just in time for the prawns. We toured the town, sat in the patio and took in the cool breeze, and spoke fluent Media.
(In the middle of it all, Portuguese Antonio, the wheedling drifter, made his semi-annual appearance. He gave me a fridge magnet with “Rebeca” on it. We gave him a glass of wine and some cheese, and slices from tomatoes plucked from the flowerbed. While he caught us up on his adventures of the past months, Harry Dog stole two loaves of bread from his backpack.)
The American guests brought gifts, too: Everything needed to make a fine sangria punch. Shandy and beer.. and a beautiful antique inkwell for my desk! It was great fun “talking shop” and politics, religion, news and architecture. No one misbehaved or over-indulged, and all the dishes were done-up before we went to bed. I gave them a copy of the novel, and a breakfast of eggs from our chicks. And so we have two new friends in Madrid!
No Americans arrived today. Nobody came at all. Using American recipes, I pickled cucumbers and baked brown bread. The house smells wonderful. All is well.
We both got naps. Spanish naps. Siestas.