Living the new life

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In this 5th instalment of an occasional series local legend and man-about-town Ric Polansky recalls life in Mojacar in the late 60s-early 70s.

IN ’69 Spain still had a dictator. Therefore, only the brave and adventurous visited Mojacar.

I remember a few crazy Italians, the very infrequent and odd German but mostly French.

Our very best friends were French and had a small boutique on the beach near what is now the Flamenco.

We got together almost all weekends speaking Spanish to each other which was crude and rudimentary with lots of arm waving—we communicated.

Naturally we drank lots of wine, gestured wildly and laughed unabashedly.

They taught us the fine art of “gossip” and we showed that supposedly loud

Americans could be listeners.

They ripped and squerwed everyone in the area while we sat open mouth and astounded.

It was a fun pastime, as in our little world we were the only sane ones.

Both expatriates looking for something new and different and weren’t sure what it was or would be—even if we found it.

Life was entirely seasonal. You made your profit during the one week of Easter and during the precious month of August.

Too hot to even speak about in other seasons of the year August is when the tourists came; even from far away Madrid.

In any other month you could walk naked down the main road or anywhere and no one would see you.

I got bored and looked for something to do.

I admired my elderly Spanish friends as each night at eight they would sit in the shade of the buildings and play dominoes. You didn’t want to bet with them.

I’ve seen games in which just four chips were played and someone knew where they all were.

They soon taught me there was no greater pleasure in life than to slam down your domino connecting off of your neighbours last played and declare yourself the winner as you gave rude gestures to all about connoting your brilliance, dominance and distain.

A pleasure that had escaped me. And the ones that did it to me were as triumphant as if they had just beaten a goat. But, the brandy was plentiful if not good.

We laughed a lot. I can’t remember why because this crowd didn’t ever tell a joke or acclaim an unusual happening.

It was pretty much serious stuff building to the crescendo of slamming down the last chip and declaring invincibility.

My playing partners seem to read each other’s minds. Why shouldn’t they?

They were all the same Flores family.

Pedro of the Virgin, brother in law Martin of the Puntazo, Luis of the El Africano and Frasquito of the Flamenco all direct descendant or married into the same family.

None of them wanted to partner me. In that respect they demonstrated they knew the game.

The good that came of it all was Luis, who became my inseparable companion.

He worked as gardener at my brother’s big house. Twenty-six weekends in a row we drove off to see bullfights, football or some spectacular.

Luis was a patient and wonderful instructor.

I later found out that he could barely read, wasn’t Spanish but rather a Moroccan and probably knew less Spanish than I did.

But he was always ready to travel, anytime of the day or night.

The high light of his year was the mantanza, in which he killed a pig and prepared sausages for the year.

By custom he did this in November which coincided with the American Thanksgiving. He lived in a 400-year-old Cortijo between the beach and the Parata.

We would hike up to his home. Entering you were greeted by the surrealistic scene of a freshly killed pig splayed open and dripping blood into buckets below him.

The fiesta was to bring your own eating utensils, especially a good knife wherein you could cut off a hunk of what you wanted. Then stick your knife into the fire and char your food.

I greatly miss those days.

Everyone was poor, but no one knew it. Sharing the slightest comfort or delicacy with another was a gift well received and never forgotten.

I had one of the few early cars in Mojacar.

It was an American thing to do.

It allowed Luis and I to escape, to get away from our limited worlds and visit those far away places with strange sounding names: Campo Hermosa, Nijar, Aguilas, Lorca and Albox. Being Davy Crockette was still in the vogue.

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