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Garlic and Olive Oil

My goal is to paint a picture of life in Spain during the seventies and eighties, albeit from a foreigner's point of view. Excerpts are in no particular chronological order.

Curious Questions and the Magical Magic - Talavera de la Reina, Spain,1981
01 April 2014 @ 03:10

It's 1981 and I'm living in an apartment on the Calle del Prado, Talavera de la Reina.

 

Based on what I can understand of discussions on the transistor radio about the assassination attempt on President Reagan, it sounds as if a Mr. Brady has a serious brain injury. I wonder who Mr. Brady is?  I get busy with tidying up and washing dishes, all the time wondering about the significance of the shootings. Why would anyone be shooting at the President and this Mr. Brady? I don't have an answer. If the people on the radio do, then they're talking just too rapidly for me to comprehend. Might as well get on with my day.

 

I plan on going to my exercise class, something I really look forward to. In fact, I just bought a new leotard and tights and can't wait to wear them. On the way to the gym I always stop off for a few minutes at my Cuban friend's apartment located close by. She's a poet who smokes endlessly. Any time you see her she's puffing dramatically and seductively on her cigarette holder that she grasps as if it were a pipe.

 

"Here comes the little girl." That's how she always greets me.

 

She looks at me over her shoulder and marches down the hallway, all the time inhaling her cigarette. She takes for ever to exhale, and I'm amazed that she doesn't choke in the interim.

 

"Want some brandy?" It's become a habit of hers to ask this same question.

 

I don't even drink brandy, ever. Well, maybe once in a while, but only in the evening. And she knows it.

 

She sits down on the leather sofa and tops up her brandy glass.

 

"Are you coming with me to the gym today?" I think carefully before I speak, making sure my Spanish is perfect.

 

She rarely accompanies me to the gym. We just somehow have got into this routine of me always ringing her doorbell as I make my way to exercise class, of her offering me a brandy, and of me inviting her to join me.

 

"Come by on your way back and tell me all about it." She laughs hollowly. "Anyhow, I need to figure out this new washing machine. It's supposed to be automatic. How about that?"  She tips her cigarette ash into the tall ashtray standing next to the sofa.

 

"Did you hear the news about Reagan? I wonder why someone would try to kill him?"

 

"The United States is a fucked-up country, that's why. We were screwed in Cuba, then we were screwed in Miami. We thought we would have a wonderful, magical life in the United States."  She gulps down the brandy and pours herself another. "It sure as hell wasn't. Have I ever told you about the time I spent in Miami?"

 

I forgot that she can talk for hours about Castro and Cuba, so I hate to get her started on Reagan and her 'magical' life in the United States.

 

"Better go, or I'll be late for my class. I always look forward to it."

 

I walk quickly down the road and notice a group of three women standing next to one of those photo booths that you sit inside to get your photos taken. The women stick their fingers in the slot where the photos come out. They even crouch down and try to peek up inside the slot.

 

"How does the machine work?!"

 

"It's magic."

 

They stand up and stare at me.


"Do you want to use the machine?" One of them asks me rather curtly.


"No. No, I don't"


"Thank goodness," she replies. "Our photos are being developed. And if you get your photos taken at the same time, the machine may not work properly."

 

Why on earth would she think that? I'm so surprised at her logic.

 

Their photos appear and they rush like crazy folk to grab them. They almost tear the photos yanking them out of the slot.


"They really look just like us!"

 

They seem so totally amazed that I almost say to them, "Who else would the photos look like?"  Gosh, surely it's not the first time they've used a photo booth?!  No wonder they thought it was magic!

 

At the gym the owner turns up the volume on his radio. His small black and white television is already blaring forth as well. Through the cacophony of raised voices I try to understand what he's saying to me.

 

What?  My exercise class has been cancelled?  How could that be?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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2 Comments


eggcup said:
05 April 2014 @ 10:34

I enjoyed reading this little segment of life from 1981. It's a little snapshot of your routine, the Cuban poet's and I also remember thinking like the three women that the photos might get spoiled if someone else went in before they were developed. But I've never seen that written about before; and to me that's one of the most interesting things about writing - putting down something that others have thought, but no-one has thought to write about. And also, isn't it funny how we all slip into little routines - you with your washing up and going to the gym... and over time the routines change. I wonder with the rural Spanish how often their routines change. Probably more often than we'd think, as they fall out with one neighbour or other and take up with a new one. Of course, you're also writing about women's lives and making them count and creating a public record, which shows women's private lives are as important as men's public ones and it is the latter which dominate the newspapers, all kinds of books, but notably history books. So I think these writings can be part of a record of women's social history. All the best.


timmytoo said:
05 April 2014 @ 20:03

Thank you for taking the time to write your comment. Very encouraging! I appreciate it.



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