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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Things I Learned in the Tomato War

Yes, I am now a lived, tried, and tomato-initiated survivor of the world’s largest food fight. My war stories are numerous; my scars though few. This is how it all goes down.

If you can get to the little village of Bunol, Spain the 3rd Wednesday of August then you can contribute to the tomato-shed. Whoever thought the idea, to throw tomatoes at one another for a festival was a genius. Now, these brilliant war hawks of the produce section have caused this little town outside of Valencia to swell with tourists at the end of August every year. Thus boosting tourism in an unlikely place, and giving a tiny dot, a place and an identity on a world map. I think that I shall do the same for my hometown of Dothan and introduce to them the idea of throwing their claim to fame, peanuts at one another. And maybe the same thing will happen.

But no, the history of this tradition in Bunol goes back only 50 or 60 years ago. When it was believed some politician was coming through town and the village people (the locals; not the band, though that would make an even more interesting story) didn’t like him, or his speech, so they began to throw tomatoes at the poor fellow. (At least it was tomatoes thrown back then and not BS about fictitious “death panels”.) Well, the next year came up and I could see the locals collaborating and thinking, “Gee, that was so much fun last year. Why don’t we do it again this year? What politician is coming through town this time?” But after being told that no politician was coming through town. (I could see why most politicians would omit it from their circuits.) they decided to just throw tomatoes anyway. I guess they figured that while, yes, smiting politicians with tomatoes may have been the most possible fun a person could have. That flinging tomatoes at one another is only a step down. -Seeing how it is usually each other who is behind the politician, and you may be able to pelt so-and-so, who voted for that particular politician. (I know a good many of people who’d like to throw tomatoes at the people who voted for Obama; but I also know some people who’d like to hurl pineapples at the people who voted for Bush.) Ah, the wonders of democracy. But truth be told, I don’t think that politics had anything to do with the tomato-tossing. Judging even the constant political mud-slinging that goes back and forth in our country, I think that bottom line, humanity has a innate proclivity to indulge in flinging crap at one another. And politics is usually just the excuse to do so. We either haven’t evolved very far or biblically our own best interests are pooey to the other guy. Probably both.

Now, the tomato festival has evolved into one of the biggest festivals in Spain. With tens of thousands of people flocking every year to this small town with a population of 10,000 people. There is much waiting and eager anticipation for the rocket to go off when it will be the first time in one’s life where it is perfectly alright and legal to pelt random strangers out in the streets with food. There seems to be only one rule and that is you must squish the tomato before you toss it. Although, during the whole fight, you were lucky to get your hands on a tomato that even remotely resembled its authentic shape. Half the thing you are throwing are fragments of tomatoes.

There are other things going on during this waiting period. Like for instance, in the city center this is this pole that is greased down and a large ham is tied to the top of it. Participants make a usually sloppy attempt at retrieving this ham by climbing up the greased pole, most of the time falling off or sliding back down. Then there was a space in the middle of the crowds where an opening occurred. Here, a group of guys waited for any unfortunate people to cross, if it was a guy than their shirt was usually ripped from them. Many of the guys at La Tomatina go shirtless. So this group found their kicks by seizing any guys with a shirt that crossed through their territory and just tearing their shirts off them. I watched from a distance with my shirt still on me. Mainly because I heard that the train back to Valencia doesn’t allow you to board without a shirt. And this was the only shirt I brought with me to Bunol. So, I was going to hold onto my shirt. But this spectacle with the shirt-ripping was entertaining to watch. Oftentimes, the guy was aware of what was going on until he was ganged up on and his shirt was in rags being thrown from the circle. Many times, I felt like if you descended into this circle then you deserved to have a good shirt torn from you, just because of not being observant. But many of the people who did walk into this circle did so with the full intention of going shirtless. Though, there was this one guy who strutted into the circle and when the shirt ripping committee advanced, he seemed outright ticked, and bowed up as though no one was going to rip his shirt from him without a fight. This insolence was repaid with a slap in the face from one of the shirtless group. And of course, the usual tax was seized with a rip. This about ignited a riot. Except, this alone guy was the one about to take on 4 or 5. He tried kicking and punching, but the shirt-ripping guys were all, fortunately, in a fun-loving mood, and only pushed him out of the circle to say that they didn’t care to fight it being tomato-throwing time.
When the rocket goes off, locals on the rooftops appear and begin to toss tomatoes on the people. It is only a handful tomatoes at a time. And it is pretty slow coming, and you think that it will be awhile until they have the streets awashed in tomato juice like in the pictures. But eventually, the tomato trucks arrive with people sitting in the back of the them flinging tomatoes every which way. Truck after truck roar in and begin to dump the tomatoes into the streets. The streets become saturated in ketchup.

I was not situated in the very heart, the very thick of it. And I really believed that I was missing out of the most intense experience of the fray. But as I found out later, I was possibly in the best position to be. Mainly, because when I ventured up to the heart of it. I found it impossible to move I was so surrounded by people. And I mean, move at all. Even when a tomato slapped my upper chest and fell to the ground at my feet, I couldn’t bend down to pick it up because I was jammed, people’s elbows on all sides. This lead me to believe that people in the very thick of it just stand around getting pummeled by tomatoes without being able to throw anything back. Not a whole lot of fun. Unless they catch one flying. Which I was able to do once. No, the most throwing I did was back a few yards away on a sort of raised patio area. This allowed me to see and take aim at more people. And it also allowed me to scurry about the place grabbing tomatoes. And I was pretty dexterous at it. There was only one time that my quick reflexes caused me some trouble. And that was when I stooped down to pick up a tomato that was just thrown and this girl wanting the tomato also, stepped on my hand. It didn’t hurt. But I aptly repaid her the gesture by giving her this tomato…that is my rubbing it all in her hair. Then, she retaliated by rubbing the fragments of the tomato on my lips when I wasn’t looking. But I seemed to take most of my targeting at people unawares back away from the main skirmish who were on the outskirts of it all. I was really doing these people a great favor because they had every intention of engaging in the melee, but few tomatoes found their way back that far.

As for military equipment, I was only armed with a pair of goggles, which I hardly used. For they fogged up real bad and it was always a difficult thing for me to see out of them. So I just situated them on my head. And I never suffered a tomato in the eye.

The only casualty to the war, well, the only one I heard about, were my flip-flops. I had heard that if you wore flip-flops in the fray you were sure to lose them because of stepping around in tomato paste. So, to avoid the prospect of going shoe-less on my journey back to Valencia, I slipped them off in a corner of this patio area. I did the fight barefoot. When, the battle was over, my flip-flops were gone. And I had to go barefoot the rest of the day. They were probably hurled out as ammunition. As tons of articles of clothing and other debris were also. In the aftermath of the war, the streets were strewn with this stuff, but I never found my flip-flops among the piles of rubbish steeped in tomato stew. As I walked about the main street after the fight, I walked to where the tomato juice lay like entire bodies of water, flooding whole portions of the street. People were skidding face first into the streams of marinara sauce. And if you weren’t dirty enough, they yelled. “Limpio! Limpio!” and splattered you with the tomato juice. This happened to me and there was not sense in fighting it. The locals, meanwhile, were trying to clean people off by dangling water hoses from their balconies. After that one hour of tomato-chaos warfare, everyone began to go home in droves. Having not slept the night before, I waited awhile, even tried sleeping in the hot Spanish afternoon. But eventually, hopped on the train headed back towards Valencia.
Thus ends my foray into La Tomatina.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Long Night Before the Big Tomato Fight

There comes a time when traveling that one is sprawled out in a flea-infested bed, sweating from the sultry climate, wondering about the price of the place, whether he is getting gyped or not, contemplating this or that, perhaps in a state of loneliness, or at least heightened irritability, when he or she poses the question to him or herself, “What exactly am I doing here? Why am I here?” And this question cuts deeper than the usual existential ramifications that such questions have that we are all plagued with from time to time. But very poignantly, this question arises from the practical aspect of all the money that you are spending and all the miles that you have chalked up, to be in the strange, bizarre location that you find yourself, usually with discomfort, maybe with anxiety, and often times in isolation. “Goodness. So why did I come all this way? For this?” And the answer is usually never found in the quiet solitude, whether in your hostel room, out amongst the bustling faceless crowd, or even in the midst of tranquil nature, if I dare admit this last one which I esteem so much. No, the answer of what traveling is all about, is found elsewhere. For traveling isn’t about this mountain or that sea, or this castle or that relic or masterpiece. No, traveling is always when you get right down to it, about the people you meet. And the very fun thing about this is they tend to be traveling too. Whether it be just down the street or around the globe. And yes, given existentially, everyone’s on some type of journey whether they think they are or not. We usually think that we are stuck, or perhaps worse, think we have arrived, until we meet someone else traveling. And from their worn-down soles, their footsteps whether jingling or thudding, we become aware of our own path and our voyage of all sorts. Not only of what rivers we have crossed or hills traversed, but what ice caverns and deserts lay before us. I may camp on the side of a star one day, though I may now tread the trench of an ocean floor. All these intersecting paths gives us perspective, but always something more complex that can only be seen in a multitude of nuances. There is perhaps only one geographical rule; there seems to be no terrain that is just strictly black and white.

How it was that we all assembled in one place was to be the fault of the famous Tomato Festival, at the end of August every year. 40, 000 meet in a small little town to throw tomatoes at one another. This is Spain. This is small town, festival life. This is La Tomatina. You may have seen videos on it. The people drenched in tomato paste, seeming to be swimming in river’s of blood. But having copious amounts of fun.
What a brilliant idea! The world’s largest food fight! And thousands of people flock to it every year.
The first character I met, was this fellow from London, though, his accent was purely American. He being born in NYC, and then carted off to the UK where he became a Londoner. As we waited on the train that would take us from Valencia to the little Spanish town of Bunol, where the notorious tomato festival takes place, he talked about being a sort of musician, writer, and film-maker in London. Which translated for him, a person who could barely afford to get to southwest Spain for this festival. He had hitchhiked all the way from Paris. And had arrived just in time to make it to Bunol the night before. Our strategies were similar. Take the 40 minute train ride the night before, get there for whatever festivities takes place early, (in Spain you can’t go wrong here.) and maybe either camp out or not sleep and the next day be early and ready for the tomato fight to commence. Though, I think he was really planning on sleeping that night, and I was going to once again forego it. Which I seem to do so well.

While we boarded the train. And yes, I did pay this time. Another chap comes up with his backpack, A guitar strapped to it. A patch of the Yellow Submarine cartoon Beatles stitched onto this guitar, and wearing a Bob Dylan T-shirt, (I knew I was going to like this guy.) sits down across from me. He had tufts of blonde curly hair issuing from underneath his cap. He was tall and lanky. Looked very lean, and was caring all types of sacks with him, what he lived off of mostly dried biscuits. We all fell into talking with one another. This guy’s name was Toby. He was Australian. And had been backpacking the past year around Europe. And never really wanted to go back home. Mainly because he thought how weird it would be to go sit on his friend’s couch and ponder things. How surreal it would be to have gone through so much that he has in the past year and go back home and realize that nothing has changed. He feared this feeling and so wanted to keep his foot on the road, or tracks, or whatever means of transportation in Europe. And I understood his feeling exactly, having many of those surreal “couch” experiences myself. Though, I don’t find them as dreadful. It would seem I’m addicted to them.

So the 3 of us sat on this train, conversing with one another as though we had known each other for a long time. Travelers are always this way. When Mike, the Londoner, began to tell us his long eventful story about hitch hiking from Paris and he being stuck in the very hot, and dead city of Zaragoza with no luck, and sweating madly.
He was a skilled story-teller. The kind that draws you in, focusing on the details and making you give your utmost attention. And just before he finishes, these 3 cute girls come and sit down near us. And just as the story is ended, we learn that they are all 3 students in Valencia. One is from the Czech Republic. And the two others are from Lisbon, Portugal. The Czech girl, with short blonde hair, is the most dominant one. And talkative. These two lovely dark Portuguese were much more quiet. Well, they issue into the conversation as well. Pretty soon, Mike is telling another story about some other festival he went to in Serbia. And everyone is listening to him. Mike is an expert talker. Highly extroverted. Got to have an audience. Probably a closet thespian.

We get to Bunol and the 6 of us, have already formed a sort of group. And we begin to march downtown. Where the action is to be the next morning. Both Mike and Toby brought all their luggage with them and wanted to stash it somewhere. But this turned out being much more difficult than we could imagine. We begin to make our descent downwards towards the city center. I walked beside the cutest Portuguese girl. Her name was Katerina. And we talked about Journalism, what she is studying in Valencia. The other Portuguese girl was much too quiet for me. While the Czech girl was too loud and bossy. Somewhere along the way, a group of German guys sort of attached to us. I think some of them were just after the 3 girls, though some were being cool and handing us free beer because we didn’t bring any with us. We get to the main area of the Tomato Festival and lots of dining tables are pulled out into the middle of the street. And families sharing and eating nice, fine-dining before the streets are to be caked in tomato debris. We sit down in the city center, when this group of another ragtag bunch of travelers next to us, start talking. I come to find out that they are couch-surfers. An online organization that I am apart of. Which I’ve only recently used, while in Ireland, me and some friends stayed at this man’s house, (surfed on his couch, so to speak) way out in the middle of nowhere.
What seemed to be the leader of this group was a Polish guy. Who was very social and nice. Right beside me, I noticed this other tall, lanky fellow, with a dark beard. He was carrying a hiking stick. And I saw etched on the stick, “Camina de Santiago”. And I grew excited. For this was the same pilgrimage up in Northern Spain that I had wanted to go on, but couldn’t because I had to catch a flight back to the States only a few weeks before. We began talking. I knew from his lilt, he was from Ireland. He was from Galway, Ireland. Where I had been earlier that summer. So we began chatting about this and that. And had I gone on that month long pilgrimage like I had intended I probably would have met him then and traveled with him for a number of days. But now, having missed the opportunity for the Way of St. James, I happen to meet this character just before La Tomatina. So interesting.

Well, all of us, begin to get antsy. We notice music being blasted nearby. And dancing people out in the street. So we rushed right over and began to join in. Now, it was actually some sort of wedding party, maybe a rehearsal dinner/ party for this local couple. But because it was La Tomatina and because they were Spanish and therefore festive, they didn’t mind the other throngs of people coming and joining in. So we all began to hit the dance floor. While still talking to one another. I met these two American guys who were from Jacksonville, FL. They had travelled on a yacht across the Atlantic to get here to Spain. By far, the most impressive way of getting to a place. Everyone must’ve danced what seemed to be hours, and as the Spanish goes, it was not winding down. I began to disperse, mainly because I had heard about other areas of town that were equally as festive, and I wanted to go explore. So I began walking. And somehow winded up getting far away from a lot of things. And found myself, trying to find a place, if not to sleep, to at least get some alone time. Yes, even in the midst of a thriving fiesta, I can be that guy, that needs to be alone. On occasion that is. So I climb the hill of the town. I find all types of little neat places to sleep. But as usual, sleep comes difficult in such circumstances, so I just lay there.

Eventually, even laying there gets me a second-wind. Sleep can be overrated. So, I desire to be around people again. So, I make a rush to find some of my compadres. It’s after 3 and the streets are thinning. I find a group of ours left. The 3 girls were among them and Toby. Mike had earlier gone off to find a patch of ground to try to sleep on.
These girls looked as though they were desiring sleep. So I told them that I knew of a place. Quieter and out of the way of everything. Toby started digging through some trash, finding old cardboard boxes to make sleeping mats out for us, and the 5 of us went trudging up this hill. I felt sort of bad for leading up a great distance for a nap when climbing up hill was so tiresome for them. But oh well. I showed them this place underneath the stars, that I had previously found before. And we had just laid our mats down, when the notion that I wanted some water crossed my mind. And I asked, “Does anyone else want any water?” At which Toby, chimed, “Yeah, I’ll go with you.” And all the girls wanted water. So it turned out to be this quest for a very chivalric thing of getting water for these ladies. Toby asked if they would like some teddy bears for the night also. At which they said they did. So I and this Australian went in search of some waters, with an eye out for any teddy bears that we may run across. I figured that we could just make a short trip down the hill to fetch the water and we’d be back in no time. But Toby didn’t like the idea of having to hike up that steep hill again, so we figured that the train station was not too far away. We just had to find it through some of these weaving streets. So we began walking this way and that talking. When we came out and noticed the train station off in the distance. And the quickest way to get to it was by walking on the railroad tracks. So about 4 or so in the morning, here we were scooting down railroad tracks and nearby it seemed some late night club was going on, playing very loud and horrible techno music. Toby began to complain. And I consented and we both began to talk about Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, how what we both were doing, walking on a train line would both be sung about in their songs. We finally got the water, and then turned around and came back. Toby was intent on finding a teddy bear, to the point that he wanted to make one. So he was looking around at discarded pieces of trash. I tried telling him that no matter how cute and creative you make it, most girls aren’t too fond of things that have been in a dumpster. We were in the process of coming back while looking around for something to make teddy bears out of, when , in one of the alleyways, there was these two other blonde fellows walking. And we ended up talking with them for awhile. One was also from Australia, the other from Ireland. And they kept rambling on about this backpacker’s paradise in Portugal, where the women are easy and everything is dead cheap. Toby and I had a hard time ending the conversation to let them know that we had 3 girls waiting on us for their water. Meanwhile, the Australian began to show Toby these pictures of these English girls back at this place in Portugal where they mud-wrestle. Until Toby, exclaimed to him that he really didn’t care. Well, we told them that we would see them the next day and we split. And by the time we got back to the spot where the girls were at, they were gone. Long gone. Not even their cardboard pallets were there. Toby throws down his water in frustration. And I just laugh. Knowing that the night had probably gotten too cold for them. And so what, we may have missed out on some cuddling but that was okay.

We went down the hill, half in search of the girls, half not really caring. We met this Spanish family, this one Spaniard named Albert who had been to America before gave me a free drink while I told Toby and him stories about the time that I decided to get a night shift job at Waffle House for a week or two. We split from him and managed to find a nice little courtyard where various people were sleeping. Toby fell right to sleep. He is one of those fortunate people that can turn it off at any moment. I just lay there. While the sky began to turn lighter shades of blue.

Eventually, I get bored and I begin to walk around, as the dawn arrived. When the morning is clearly present. I run into the 3 girls. And as I had guessed it, they had gotten too cold that night, and decided to find some more clubs to go dancing in. Well, on the Czech girl’s prompting, of course. So they had not been to sleep at all that night either. We bought are morning caffeine from a vendor and sat on the town square and waited for the Festivities to be kicked off and some Tomatoes to be thrown.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Getting Kicked Off A Train in Spain

It all started innocent enough. I absolutely had no intentions of being a stowaway this time. Oh no, I looked upon those days of hapless train hopping, as a pastime of unmistakable immaturity. Yes, a sign of true juvenilia. That belonged to my youthful days….way back…in a spruce-like, bygone era…way back…in last November. While I was in Italy. It was so easy then. But now, I had grown up into respectful adulthood. Had hatched out of that spring egg of delinquency and tomfoolery , so no more dodging train conductors in order for a free ride on a locomotive.

I was in a rush, I was going to take the night train to Granada, where the famous Alhambra lies, polished like a dazzling gem in the south Spanish sun. As it was, the ticket booths at the train station in Valencia were all closed. And I was told by one of the workers to just get on the train, and purchase my ticket from the conductor. I consented towards the idea and went towards the train to board that great steel beast that was going to whisk me away to southern, Moorish Spain.

But as I boarded, a shadow of my old self flashed before me. Why, I could actually try to see how long I could go without paying. If I was extremely dexterous at it, I might get a free lift to Granada. If I didn’t succeed, all I had to do was just pay the conductor the amount. Seeing how I was told to pay this way to begin with.

It was to be an 8 hour long trip. So any success with this attempt would be quite the feat. I had to be like a cat. Ever watchful, ever present, and so very fast. My senses pricked up to their utmost ability to apprehend any type of encounter with a worker. I had one advantage. I looked the part of a normal back-packer from somewhere in northern Europe who probably would’ve paid. And pretending ignorance of any language they threw at me would be believable.

I headed for the sleeper cars to blend in with the congestion that had formed there because somehow the train company had booked too many passengers for the sleeper cars. (or maybe there were more scoundrels like me.) But I met a Canadian couple from Toronto, who were waiting for another sleeper car to come out. I was chatting a little bit with them. And when one of the conductors would approach, I’d sort of disappear.
A lot of the time, for the very beginning of the trip, while the train was just getting its engine warmed up, I hid in water closets. In Italy, if you hid in one without shutting the lock sign, it gave no indication that anyone was in there. Therefore hiding in one, without locking the door made the conductors think that well, obviously, no one was hiding in there. Reverse psychology, so to speak. In Spain, as I learned, they little regarded this nuance, and just opened the door. At one point, I was just standing there, looking at myself in the mirror, when the lead conductor opened the door, saw that someone was in there, and then shut it back. I thought that I was safe, that I had passed the first examination. That the game was in my favor. Brian Harrison =1. Train Conductor =0.
Usually the train conductor goes through the train from the beginning and punches everyone tickets. If you slip past this inspection time, then the odds are definitely in your favor. This is where I believed myself to be.

I continued to rummage about the train, I hid my bag on a luggage rack. Met 2 other stowaways, who were playing the same game I was. And explored the train almost from top to bottom. And as the time commenced, and the train dashed off into the inky blackness of this Spanish night, I counted myself as victorious. And wound up in the “seats only” section of the train, (where I was going to buy a ticket for from the first place.) I ended up in the door section talking to the 2 other stowaways who seemed to be rather certain that the chief inspection time had passed and it was okay to relax. They both were Italians, from Rome. And they both couldn’t speak hardly any Spanish (which is funny to me seeing how close their language is to Spanish) and they knew a little English. We conversed with each other in broken Italian, English, and Spanish. Somehow we could understand each other to some degree. We were talking about all sorts of things. They offered me a beer. And we were quite relaxed and at ease, when the lead conductor pops out of no where. He was this middle-aged man, who had this bristly moustache, for bristly moustaches seem to be all the rage for train conductors around the world. And he immediately started talking to the Italian gents. He knew from the get go that these Italians had not paid. They had some sort of ticket that they had purchased in Italy. But for some strange reason it was not valid in Spain. The conversation mostly took place in bad English, for neither could speak the others language. So it was apparent to me that no consolation was to be found and the train conductor was pretty firm in his deliberation to throw them off the train. Seeing all this before my eyes, I really wondered if he included me with them. And that maybe, I could just play it off as though, I was just in the entry way stretching my legs, peering out the window, out at the opaque darkness. Maybe he would pass over me.
But this didn’t occur. This particular train conductor was incredibly sharp and from his very brief glimpse of me half an hour before, in the water closet, when he opened the door on me, he knew that I was a non-paying passenger. So he definitely included me in his speech about getting thrown off the train. He was not mad. He seemed to thrive in the amusement of us being ousted off his vehicle. It was though, he knew the game all the while, was undisputed master at it, and was merely gloating at his vanquished opponents. He would say things like, “You guys will be sleeping…peering, looking up at the stars. It shall be a fabulous night for you guys freezing in the desert air looking up at the moon and stars.” And then he would laugh to himself. Even in the midst of this situation, I couldn’t help but like the guy. I tried to pay the fee then. But he would have none of it. He said that I had had my chance and that I was to be off the train at the next stop.

The next stop was this place called “Almansa”. A little town about an hour or so outside of Valencia. The door opened and the three of us with our luggage were very ceremoniously shown the door. And as the train sat there, for it seemed a long time, all the conductors came to the doorway and peered out at us, while a multitude of the passengers flocked to the windows and the doorways, to gawk at the spectacle. Meanwhile, the lead conductor with his bristly mustaches proceeded to crack jokes about the ordeal, saying things like “I hope you like your stay at this great touristy city of Almansa. People flock from all the world to come to the place where you are spending the night.” I even chimed in, and asked if they had post cards of Almansa at the train station. The Italians were getting a big kick out of everything, talking incessantly in Italian at the train conductor. Until the train door shut, the train started its engine again, and it was whisked off away into the darkness of this strange night.

Then we were left to ourselves. We walked to the deserted train station of this tiny town and asked the awake security patrolman, what time does the next train come by going to Granada. He said the next night at this time. In fact, that was the last train for the night. So, any train coming or going wouldn’t be until the sun was up the next day. So the idea was then hatched, to go hitch-hiking. But the impossibility of this was beyond belief. Because, we were 3 guys and in the middle of the night. What moron would pick us up? But one of the Italians, wanted to try it seeing how there was nothing else to do.

So we found this little roundabout where 2 roads intersected, and began to put our thumbs out anytime any midnight rambling vehicle approached. And of course, with no big surprise to myself the car would just pass right on by. The two Italians were an interesting lot. I only caught one of their names. The lighter skinned one with the long hair was named Stefano. He was a pianist back home in Rome. He would play occasionally for low-scale performances and would play the keys for classic rock covers, but mostly he was a piano tutor. His friend, was clean-shaven, darker, and with an ear ring, and what seemed to me shifty, envious eyes was a student studying geology. Though, he didn’t strike me as the scientist type. He seemed to be more domineering than Stefano and to make most of the decisions. Stefano sort of fit the bill for the musician type, laid back for the most part, and the two of them would argue like Italians always do with arms flailing every which way until it seemed that the student of geology had won. And of course, I was out of the entire argument, my Italian, barely able to ascertain what they were even talking about.

The morale of the situation was not low. Yes, we had just been kicked off a train and stranded in a little Spanish town until the next day, but I looked on it all, as a sort of adventure I was enjoying, though me losing this one train ride to Granada, meant that I would not be going to Granada at all, and that I would have visited Spain twice without seeing the Alhambra. But oh well, I’ve got to save something for old age. Yes, I had to get back to Barcelona to catch my flight out of here again.
My two newly found amicis were not worried about time at all. And they seemed to have a substitute for any feelings of loss that they may have encountered through the series of misfortunes. They had brought with them enough beer and booze to last them through the night, which they aptly insisted that I take some. I only had another of their beers. Meanwhile they drank on. As you can see, spirits were actually soaring considering the circumstance.

But this formed a huge problem. For the roundabout that we seemed to have somewhat encamped ourselves around, was right under some apartments. It wouldn’t have been a problem had it just been me. I mean eventually, I got so exhausted that I leaned back and was on the verge of sleeping rather peacefully. But these two Italians, decided that beer was not enough and they began to mix Pepsi with Rum. Both of which they brought with them for this sole purpose. And as they were a bit extroverted with the beer when I first met them, they now began to go overboard. They grew louder and louder. But not so much in their frolicsome air of playfulness as before, but they began to grow angry with one another. One of them threw a pepsi bottle cap at me while I lay there about to fall asleep. Then, a huge argument took place. They were yelling and carrying on, getting in each other’s face. The dominant one kept throwing his face into the other’s, telling him to hit him if he wanted. Until the chance was not taken and this dominant, shifty eyed one reached back and slapped the pianist in the face. I guess to show him how it is done. This set off Stefano, and he began to yell, almost scream in the face of the other. While, the other who seemed to have more control squinted his envious eyes in contempt at the other. Their yelling at one another, I knew that the neighbors heard. I just sat there. Knowing that the result was not going to be good. I considered it unwise to step in the middle of a drunken fight. Let the two of them duke it out, if they must. When they come to their senses, they’ll realize how stupid the ordeal was. And I also knew that the police would probably show up pretty soon, but I didn’t really care. Because, I wasn’t drunk. And I thought that if worse came to worse, it would probably be easier and warmer to sleep in a jail cell for the night than here.

It wasn’t too long before their hollering and ranting did attract the flashing lights, and 4 vehicles surrounded us. And about 8 personnel, mostly male, with some females got out of their vehicles and strutted towards us commandingly. Some of these where in normal police uniforms, others seemed to be deck out in some type of military operative uniforms. The leader happened to be another middle-aged man with a bristly-moustache. (I don’t know what it is about these moustaches; it must be the power they exude.)
He meticulously slipped on his leather gloves and proceeded to look at our documents. Like the train conductor, this guy seemed to be rather relaxed about the whole deal. In fact, broken conversation between the Spanish police and the two Italians about Italian police ensued. Everyone seemed to be shooting bull back and forth. There was no solemnity. Only a casual warning. I remained quiet and very alert and sober. It wasn’t long before the Spanish police realized that the two Italians were completely hammered. They seemed to smirk at this. They only warned us to keep quiet. Told us to throw away our trash and that we should try sleeping not at this spot. The policemen in Spain, from my experience are the most amiable in the world. I’ve had two run-ins with them thus far, and they are the best to work with. (except for the obvious language barrier). If this took place here in the US, then my experience would expect, a whole lot of BS power-tripping. Cops in America, are really big on inducing fear into anyone. And had this been anywhere in Eastern Europe, we would’ve been paying rubles or zloty or what every source of money they required. Officers in Eastern Europe are all about the bribes and money they get from you.
But in Spain, only a pinch of a warning. And some jovial camaraderie to boot.
Wanting to pay these policemen respect, I compliantly fetched the beer cans. While the majority of the officers of Almansa got in their cars. But the two Italians like a bunch of drunken ignoramuses hugged each other and began yelling again. I think they were making up with one another. The police approached them again, warning them to be quiet. I could see that no good was going to come about hanging around with these morons. So I immediately stole away up the hill, to get away from their loud stupidity. I found a nice little park and there tried to crash on a park bench. I do not know what happened to my compadres. Sometime in the early morning, I heard them talking loudly approaching. But they passed right by this ideal park and walked on up the hill to goodness knows where. I resisted any urge to call out to them, seeing how I just wanted to spend the rest of the night in peace and to myself. The next morning I caught a train back to Valencia.