February 29, 2016 by genelup
Today is Feb. 29, 2016 — or Leap Year. Forty-eight years ago (1968) was also Leap Year, and my life was a mess. I dropped out of society, took my life’s savings and decided to bum around Europe and Morocco for nearly a year. After couple months in Portugal, I finally arrived in Seville, Spain. Here’s what I did on Feb. 29, 1968:
“Today I bought a red and black rucksack, or backpack, for $12. If I’m going to hitch from now on, I’m not going to carry a suitcase — it’s murder. I moved to Hotel Francis for $3.75 a night, which also includes breakfast and either lunch or dinner. Lunch is the big meal here that usually consists of hors d’oeuvres, a fish dish, a meat dish, potatoes, salad and dessert. One dish I have become quite fond of is French-fried squid. Prices for gifts and clothing are a lot cheaper in Spain than in Portugal, but dinners here are more expensive.
“My first impression arriving in Spain is all the beautiful women everywhere. It is quite a contrast with the average-looking women in Portugal. In all my travels, Seville has the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen — maybe Atlanta, Georgia, is on the same par. I remember when I was in the army travelling from Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, to my permanent post at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, I stayed overnight in Atlanta. I stood on Peachtree Street when the offices closed and just watched all the beautiful women walking by.
“There are other differences between Spain and Portugal; in some ways the two countries almost are in different worlds. Most people think since Portugal and Spain are next door to each other, and they have the same Roman and other ancestry backgrounds, they are similar. The Portuguese are extremely friendly to foreigners; the Spanish are not.
“The way they prepare the same kind of food is even different. I’ not sure which I like better, neither country compares to good ol’ American meals. But the bread and soup in Portugal are the best I’ve ever had anywhere. The bead is lousy in Spain. The Portuguese drive like maniacs; the Spanish people drive much slower.
“I spent most of the day walking around downtown Seville. It is an interesting place — but it is also frustrating. I see so many things, and I have so many questions about the places I see and the people I pass — but I can’t get my questions answered. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t do too well when I took Spanish in high school and college. I have an English/Spanish dictionary that I’m sure I will use quite a bit now. Everyone here speaks too fast, and I can’t pick up the gist of what they are saying.
“I walked to American Express to pick up my mail. Larry (my friend in Chicago) sent me a literary care package. One article about newspapermen turning into public relations slaves was dynamite. It hit home — especially when I read the part about “losing the nose for news.” I swore out loud, and I don’t know if anyone in the cafe heard me. I don’t care, because I’m afraid that what’s happened to me. I was a newspaper reporter in Arizona and Wisconsin before I sunk so low to accept more money for a job in corporate public relations. Then I got laid off, my girl friend told me “no” when I asked her to marry me, and my life shattered and now I’m just a heavy-drinking slug in Spain.
“I can remember the times when stories were all around me, and I came up with some good stuff for my newspapers. Now, when I’m in Europe and obviously there’s a gold mine of stuff here, I have trouble seeing them. I don’t know how many times I’ve missed good story possibilities because I didn’t observe a scene close enough, or ask an extra question about something when I met a native who spoke English. If this trip does nothing more to me than to put me in the same frame of mind as when I was a reporter at newspapers, then every minute and every penny spent will be well spent.
“Tonight it rained — almost daily for me for the last three weeks.” — (This excerpt is from my book, “My Life Shattered then it got worst…until”