THANK God, it was the last day of the tour.
I had spent two days with a special church friend of my mother’s that had flown over to visit us.
A strict Methodist so there was no stopping at bars and doing the usual (hic). But Helen was special and held a few claims to fame.
Her youngest son was my best friend growing up, until, somebody claimed he was blind and sent him off to a particular school. I never knew he was blind.
It was Helen’s first born son, Bill, that loaded Buddy Holly, Richie Valence and the Big Bopper unto the plane that night ‘the music died.’ Much to the embarrassment of Helen, that same son went on to become the co-pilot on Heffner’s Playboy plane.
On a rare visit back home to see my ailing father, years back, my mother insisted I go along to Helen’s slide show presentation of her last year’s trip to Europe. I would have rather kissed snakes but, mothers can be convincing.
Well, it was the most astounding trip presentation I had ever witnessed. Helen had been in Europe just four days and had visited, Greece, Rome, Berlin, Paris, Norway, London, and Prague. Her slide show presentation was remarkable.
The fotos she had taken best displayed the high cultural monuments of each place. Not just ordinary pics but of top quality taken from just the right angle. I was flabbergasted!
What a photographic talent. Each slide confirmed her prodigious talent. My brain was burning up and I couldn’t wait until the end. I had to learn more.
Well, in essence she had flown into those cities using her son’s special airline passes. In the airport she bought all the photo slides right off the newsstand then, boarded the next flight to the next historical city. Never once leaving the airports to shop or explore.
I remained flabbergasted. So, here was the last stop on my penitence tour, back in 1974, in Mojacar’s main plaza drinking coffee at mid-day. Then, Helen quietly asked me. “Rickey, how much do they pay these people to dress up like that and ride donkeys and carry water all day long?”
Unfortunately I was already bug eyed from the gallons of coffee and probably over reacted by leaping from my chair and screaming “Helen, some people live like that, dress that way for real.”
She didn’t bat an eye and muttered, “well, it all looks like Disneyland to me.” Yup, flabbergasted again.
Now, let’s skip ahead some 43 years and once again I am in the town plaza, just a few days ago in fact. I am astounded by the massive holiday crowds all in a festive mood.
Walls of trinkets surround me, key chains, little dolls, tiny ceramic plates. Not having sat in the plaza for quite a few years I am astounded. The spirit is exuberant.
Happiness abounds. Any moment one expects Cinderella to appear. Everyone is content with the exception of the girls that are attending us, dis-spirited Romanians who are as dour as squeezed lemon juice.
Not good representatives to welcome newcomers to our world of smiles and conviviality.