This just happened and I had to commit it to memory . . .
We have a window in the living room that's right next to the front door, and my husband's reading chair is right next to it. Our cats, especially Manxie, know that Chas will be sitting there in the evening, so when Manxie wishes to come in he sits on the little brick retaining wall which forms our front porch, and stretches out to reach the window screen. Once he's hooked the screen in his claws he can make enough noise to make one of us bolt up and let him in, which is what he wanted in the first place. We go through more window screens that way, and nothing has curbed his misbehavior.
Chas has had some success by putting a giant empty flower pot on the wall, right where Manxie would sit to do the nefarious deed. Manxie eventually figured out that he could balance on the flower pot, carefully, carefully, steady, steady . . . and still just barely reach the screen. We usually hear the rocking of the pot on the slightly uneven brick surface BEFORE we hear the screen-shredding claws, so this has been a somewhat successful deterrent.
The familiar flower pot noise pulled my attention away from something Chas was saying, and I looked out of the window into the gathering dusk to watch Manxie riding that flower pot DOWN. It happened so fast, and I let out such a bray of riotous donkey laughter that I almost didn't hear the shattering of my flower pot, sounding not unlike a Carol Burnett Show sound effect, it was that perfect.
The cat slunk in like a cuckolded husband while I staggered outside, laughing like a drunkard, to survey the remains of my flower pot. It was a goner. The 3 1/2-foot drop to Orland baked clay dirt was too much for that pot. No wonder the cat looked embarrassed; he was an unwitting test pilot on a doomed flight.
Some Sparkyisms from this weekend:
Sparky was talking about something I couldn't quite decipher, except for the word "Pirates." It was followed by something . . .
"Honey, say it slowly, okay? I don't understand."
"NO! I CAN'T SAY IT RIGHT!" says Sparky, in a typical fit of frustration and embarrassment. Near as I can tell, Sparky is calling "Pirates of the Caribbean" "Pirates of the Can of Beans" or sometimes "Can of Bees."
* * * * *
Sparky, to Chas, who was wearing a new Ralph Lauren polo shirt [points to Polo logo]: "What's that?"
Chas: "That's a man on a horse."
Sparky: "Oh, I thought it was jelly from your lunch."
(The funniest part is that, on any other day, she'd have been right.)
My Mothers' Day didn't end until last night, so I've put off writing about it until now.
The remainder of our trip was not logged into my trip diary, other than the smart-aleck quips, and there were many. We crossed into France, to Paris for two nights, and then through the French countryside to northern Italy and Switzerland for one day apiece, before turning back toward Spain.
Crammed into a tiny car for over a week, you resort to your most base personality traits. In my family, that’s saying something. Bocci and I were punch-drunk 90% of the time. We were amazed by the great number of people apparently eager to own, even wear, red pants, of all things, so we started counting them. I think the total was 67. Kenny and Dad carried their deadpan humor to new heights (or depths), and Mom . . . well, Mom just collected everything she thought we might need in her So Large Carry-on Bag.
The following random quotes are all that remains of our great 1992 Europe trip.
“Is there anything edible in this car?”
“Put it in Mom’s purse with the prosciutto and cheese.”
“I refuse to eat another thing with heads, legs, bones, or in its own skin.”
Ken: “Oh, Jimmy Buffett is okay, but I wouldn’t waste any of my money buying his albums.”
Mom: “I have everything except that stupid itinerary.”
Dad: “You can say that again.”
Dad: “That was the best shower I had on the whole trip.”
Bocci: “Dad, when referring to two things you say ‘better shower.’”
“El burro es un animal muy importante.”
“She looked just like Radar O’Reilly.”
“Those weren’t red pants, but they were so bad they deserve an honorable mention.”
“We can make faces at the people across the tracks, and there’s not a THING they can do about it.”
“Kenny ate sweetbreads, ha ha ha-ha ha.”
“K-K-K-Ken is c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me!”
“We had all of the four major food groups today: fat, sugar, butter and alcohol.”
Bocci: “I told you, Dad, NO BUENO.”
“I have many friends at CalTrans.”
“Look in Mom’s suitcase. The aspirin is under the Cuisinart and next to the logsplitter.”
“I was confused. I peed in the bidet.”
Bocci: “I don’t want to eat another thing that ends in i-l-l-o or
Dad: “Are any of the desserts any good?”
Waiter: “No, there are no good ones.”
Ken: “Those Downs Syndrome people are such happy people. They’ll laugh for hours at the stupidest things.”
Laurie: “We were laughing at your haircut.”
“I’d lak a shoe with cheese on it.”
Mom: “There’s a world-famous school of navigation in Portugal.”
Ken: “But nobody can find it.”
Bocci: “Ooooh, boy! Are we going to get a deep cavity search at the border? I’ve got the PVC pipe!”
Ken: “Where are zee milkmaids wis zee large jugs?”
Dad: “Bocci, I have a new system. I wash out my underwear in the sink at night and they dry by morning. I could have made the whole trip with one pair of underwear.”
“Look at all the muebles! Those Spanish must really like to shop around.” (Paris)
Dad: “They should cut all these trees down so you could see the view.”
“It’s almost time for our early mid-morning snack. We don’t eat until we’re full, we eat until we’re tired.”
“I feel so superior all of a sudden.”
“They’ll never believe Bocci’s a chef when they see him in his short pants.”
“Our calorie intake is dropping at an alarming rate. We should pace ourselves with confectionery between meals.”
“I want to live in Blois.”
“You just drive. I’ll do the eating.”
“Ah lak zee eight-foot trees wis zee four-foot trunks.”
Dad: “Modesto is a lot more crowded than I thought.” (Paris)
Dad: “Where’d you get such a skinny butt, Bocci?”
Mom: “We should try to get rid of all of our French money before we get to Spain so we don’t have to change it.”
Bocci: “Oh, yeah -- let’s move to Canada but spend all of our money first and show up naked . . . make a fresh start.”
“You’d think they could keep the snails off of the food.”
“I’m going to buy neuf neu pneus [nine new tires].”
“I’m going to have a green salad with lukewarm gizzards.”
“Ah would lak to go to zee hotelle.”
Mom: “’Blood in the Snow’ by Ivan Torrer Titzoff.”
“I’m not Philippino -- it’s a lie.”
“Ah would lak zee codfish pleez.”
“You didn’t understand that? Oh, YOU’RE not French.” (Les Port Mahon)
“If you were closer to the kitchen you could meet the chef, but you’re too far away.” (Aux Petits Oignon)
“I feel myself getting narrower.”
Dad: “Ah wuv Pawis in zee spwingtahm . . .”
Bocci: “How do you say ‘blow me’ in French?”
Bocci: “Is this coconut on my croque monsieur?”
Mom: “Well, I think it’s probably melted cheese . . .”
“They give us too many plates for dinner and none for breakfast.”
Bocci: “So far, I’ve had my spleen removed, my colon shortened, a vasectomy, and chewed my own foot off twice, and I STILL don’t want to be in any of your pictures.”
“If Jim were here he’d get off the subway on the OTHER side.”
Bocci: “I couldn’t open the refrigerator, so I just kicked the glass in.”
“There were Mexicans all over this beach yesterday.”
“Orland could beat the crap out of Spain in a war.”
We drove toward Barcelona, but we decided to stay pretty far away from it. The closer we got to it, the more expensive the road tolls became. The Olympics is having a great effect on this country; probably has had for a couple of years, with all the construction and planning.
There are more castles in northern Spain, it seems, or maybe they’re just not surrounded by cities like castles are in the south. Also, the language is really affected by the area’s proximity to France. The signs had both French and Spanish on them, or else they were a strange combination of the two. At one toll booth we were given a pamphlet about protecting the forests from fire and litter. I looked up every word in my Spanish and French dictionaries, but couldn’t find any definitions. Someone thought it could be Basque, but we weren’t in the Pyrenees, so we weren’t sure.
Ken: “We’re coming to the town of Logronos. It means ‘Nerdville’ in Spanish.”
We got a good start -- out of the condo and on the road by 8:45, our personal best for the trip. We briefly got caught in Málaga trying to figure out their freeway system. Up to Grenada, so Dad got to see the Alhambra from a distance. The climb up the hill was steep, on a narrow two-lane road. Seemed like everyone in Spain was behind us, in a terrible hurry to get to Murcia, for no reason I could see.
The trip was dull, but we did see some beautiful agricultural land. Lots of olives again, and almonds growing in gravel.
We stopped about lunch time to use a bathroom in a tiny little farm town. We found a local bar/cafe, which was mostly a bar, and used their servicios. We felt like we should buy something, of course, so we got ice cream bars. The locals weren’t hostile, but they sure weren’t friendly.
Back in the car again. Pretty soon we hit the pay-toll freeways. It was extremely expensive. At almost random intervals -- sometimes five minutes, sometimes 45 -- we had to stop at a toll crossing to pay, once nearly $20.00. Mom figured at one point we’d spent $80.00 on toll, but it got worse than that. We were on the high inland road; if we’d taken the coastal road it would have been free, but very slow.
I took a turn driving at about Valencia, and drove until we stopped for the night. The town was a summer tourist area on the water, called -- no kidding -- Peñíscola. The jokes were flying.
Photo stolen from this nice person
“I’ll have a frosty glass of Peñíscola.”
We drove all the way down the strip -- hotel after hotel. They started getting seedier, so we turned around and found a nice one, Hotel Hey International. Let this be a warning.
Photo stolen from these guys
It looked fine from the outside and very nice in the lobby. They put us on the sixth floor, although it was numbered in the 400s. (They don’t count common area floors in their numbering of floors.)
The rooms were okay and the views were terrific. We went downstairs for dinner, and that’s when the fun started. Even though we were in Spain, where people start eating dinner at 9:00 p.m., these guys closed at 10:00. We got in just in time. They seated us, brought us bread, but no menus. When we asked for menudos ál día, they looked stricken. When we asked to se la carta, they looked as if we were speaking Serbo-Croatian to them. They left, and came back with five huge plates of green beans. Bocci was ticked off, Kenny was annoyed, but the rest of us were starved, so we didn’t argue.
Apparently we had walked into a fixed-plate restaurant, with no posted menu or price list. They offered wine; we asked for tinto (red), and it was so bad we sent it back. The possibilities were looking grim.
The rest of the food was edible, but not good. We weren’t sure if we had to pay for it or if we had already gotten it free with the room. We found out in the morning that the meal cost $10.00 apiece -- what a rip-off. But it was perhaps the most memorable meal of the whole vacation (unfortunately), and it has already become the butt of all of our jokes.
“Do we get beans for breakfast, too?”
We walked down the beach walk in front of all the hotels. They were mostly empty, and some were closed entirely. Partly due to the weather, partly because the season hasn’t quite started yet, and partly because of the world-wide recession, according to Guillermo and Javier.
We had a drink in the bar downstairs. Friday night, and we were the only ones in a bar that could hold 150 people. They must really be hurting.
“I hope we can get a nice big plate of green beans.”
Sleeping is great in Peñíscola because the sound of the water is so soothing. Just about the nicest thing about the area, unless you really really love green beans.
For the record: LaDonna’s 18th birthday was yesterday and she graduated from high school today.
Our last beach day in southern Spain. We went to Cabopino, just down the highway toward Marbella. Dad suggested it because there’s a nude beach right next to it.
“I’m going to need specific directions to the nudie beach so I don’t accidentally go there. You’d better write it down.”
So he and Kenny hiked over there to check out the booty, and Mom, Bocci and I walked down the hill through the construction site to the lounge chairs. It wasn’t long before someone came along to collect rent -- $3.00 apiece. The sun was strong; just about the first day without storm clouds. But it was extremely windy and I had goosebumps the whole time.
The hotel (or someone) was busy dredging out the little harbor right in front of us, and a full dumptruck would rumble across the sand every five minutes. Made for interesting ambiance (and treacherous sand castle building for the little British kids).
We had leftovers for lunch, then cleaned up and went for a relatively early dinner. First we went to Fuengirola to get a picture of Guillermo’s building and the restaurant. Then we stopped at Habitat to say goodbye to Javier.
We drove up the hill to Mijas, a small village on the cliffs above the lower coastal cities. It’s kind of the American quarter, but the town proper is as old-time Spain as we saw.
Ken took us on a “tour” of the town -- meaning we retraced the route they had taken Tuesday, only this time they knew what they were getting into. The streets were so narrow and the turns so sharp that you expected to be entirely walled in at any moment.
We parked near a large town square and walked arund the touristy shops for half an hour. A very unoccupied waiter coaxed us into his patio cafe, where we had a nice dinner. We apparently took too long for his liking, though, an even though we were his only customers all night, he got pretty impatient. The food was okay, and the prices were great.
Home to pack and off to bed early because tomorrow we’re heading north toward Barcelona.
Dad opted for the beach again, and Mom, Bocci, Kenny and I went to Córdoba to see the Mezquita, an old Moorish-Christian temple/cathedral. The drive was the best yet: rolling hills of wheat and olives, little villages clinging to the crests of the hills, grapes, and acres and acres of sunflowers.
They were retarded sunflowers, though -- they insisted on facing away from the sun. That area may be the best of Spain.
Mom: “This is beautiful. It looks a lot like the area south of Sacramento.”
Bocci: “Oh yeah, like Lodi. Lodi is famous for its beauty.”
Córdoba was disappointing. The temple was interesting, but not worth a 2 1/2 hour drive. We were inside for about half an hour.
The Mezquita was a strange mixture of red and white plaster columns, tile floors, Arabic inscriptions, and garish Catholic altars. One room was particularly interesting, though. It was like a choir loft on either side, facing each other, and the back wall was like a pulpit and altar. The entire room, except for the floor, was intricately carved dark mahoghany. Each chair of the would-be choir lofts was like a throne, and every square inch except the seat itself was carved into bas relief pictures, each one different. Thousands and thousands of hours of work.
We walked through the old Jewish sector of Córdoba, which skirted the cathedral. It’s pretty much goofy tourist crap now.
We stopped at a helados shop and bought the Spanish equivalent of Gardiner’s Lemon Ice, then back to the car and home. The drive back was just as pretty, especially because the clouds were so varied and colorful.
We had a lot of food to use up, so we made spaghetti at home for dinner. Bocci and I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. watching a particularly dull Robert de Niro movie, “Once Upon a Time in America.” We got started watching it, and it was strange, but we both felt like we had invested so much time into it that it would be stupid to quit. (We didn’t know it was a 3-hour movie.)
Another beach day. This time we went to Fuengirola because it was so pleasant there Monday. There were soft-cushioned lounges and palapas -- no charge this time.
Lunch at a beach bar. I had my usual: bocadillos de queso y una cervesa (a french roll with white cheese and a beer. Awesome. I could live on it.
I got pretty sunburned, so when Mom, Dad and Kenny wanted to go to Mijas (a village up the mountain from us), I opted to stay home, and so did Bocci. We took long hot showers -- a real luxury after sponge baths. I got some sun on my legs on the patio, and generally kicked back.
When they got back we drove to Fuengirola to meet Javier. He was still at work at 9:00 p.m., typical for Spain because they take a 2-3 hour lunch. He -- in silk clothes -- led us on his motorcycle down the street to a building his family owns, also right across the street from the beach. The bottom floor is a seafood restaurant they rent out. Guillermo designed the interior of the restaurant.
Guillermo joined us and we ate on the patio. We were almost the only customers, plus we were V.I.P.s because we were with the building owners.
The service was excellent, and the food was, too. Guillermo ordered for all of us -- lots of fried hot appetizers, all typical dishes of southern Spain. The main course consisted of two whole dorado fish baked in salt. They totally bury the fish in salt, then when they bring it to the table in a shallow wooden box, the waiter scrapes the salt off, skins the fish, and lifts the meat off the bones. The salt helps the fish retain its moisture, but the meat doesn’t taste salty at all. We drizzled a garlic-infused olive oil over the fish. The dorado alone was about $150.00 for seven people; the whole meal came to about $280.00.
Javier kept the wine coming. We must have killed four bottles of white wine. We all had postre, of course, though I’m not sure how we found the room. I had arroz con leche (very sweet rice pudding).
The waiter brought out three bottles of aperitif; one was anise-flavored, one cinnamon, one manzana (apple). Very good.
The conversation was lively the whole evening. Javier is very funny and enjoyed joking with Ken a lot. I was surprised to find out he’s only 25. Guillermo is a little more quiet but also fun. He’s also very successful for his age (probably close to 30). Not only is he an architect, but he’s also an elected city planner, which draws a good salary. Two young guys at the tops of their games.
After dinner they took us on a tour of the restaurant, then up to the top floor of the building (the Portonovo) to see Guillermo’s apartment. He designed it himself -- fantastic views of the city out the kitchen windows; views of the harbor out the living room window, and the patio in the back has a panoramic view of the mountains. But from the patio an iron spiral staircase leads to the roof, where you can get a 360-degree view of all of it. I was so jealous. I could live there, I think.
We got the car stuck when we parked; one wheel went into a “hole” that turned out to be the edge of a cliff. We pushed it out okay (thank heavens for front wheel drive). I’m glad we were staying at Club Riviera; anyone who saw us pushing the car at 1:30 a.m. thought we were Brits and not Americans.