An Afternoon in Torrox

After a much too short visit to the Mediterranean coast, Jerry, Jorunn, and I arrived back in Sevilla Wednesday afternoon.  It is much easier obtaining a seat facing forward on the train when you travel in a party of three.  We had a set of facing seats with a table between us.  Jerry was looking in the right direction from the start and didn’t have to spend the trip standing in the hall by the vending machine.  The table provided lots of room for our books, for Jerry’s laptop, and for our “treats.”  Jorunn rolled out a box of Norwegian chocolates for the ride home.  Total bliss!

 THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA AS WE APPROACHED THE TOWN OF NERJA,
WHICH WAS RIGHT AFTER WE MISSED OUR TURN NORTH TO TORROX.

As planned, we rented a car Tuesday morning and drove east along the coast from Málaga and then inland a few kilometers to the town of Torrox.  There are three versions of Torrox — the original town a little away from the water, Punta de Torrox (the point that dips into the Mediterranean Sea), and Torrox-Costa (unsurprisingly, the town on the coast).

THE MAIN PLAZA AFTER LUNCH.  TIME FOR SIESTA.

The “towns” on the coast are contemporary and have no charm whatsoever, just an enviable location on the water.  The original town — our destination — is situated high above.  It is historic, picturesque, and has beautiful views.  It is the first “pueblo blanco” (white village) Jerry and I have had an opportunity to visit in Southern Spain.  You’ll see from the photos why these villages are known by the name.

VAARIN, JERRY, AND JORUNN JUST BEGINNING THE CLIMB FROM THE PLAZA.
WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE IN FOR.

Torrox was settled in the time of the Phoenecians and Greeks who traded in olives, figs, and wine.  The Romans increased the town’s stature by producing a type of anchovy paste (no thank you).  The Moors arrived in the 7th century and brought new agriculture, terracing, and irrigation that is still in existence.

NEVER LOOK BACK.

We parked the car and began a brief, steep climb to the main plaza, where we had a very pleasant lunch with Jerry’s first cousin once removed, Vaarin.  We heard no Spanish being spoken in the plaza.  Vaarin spoke Norwegian with the staff and with Jorunn, and some English with us.  The tables surrounding us were filled with Brits.  The waitress was a young blond who spoke English with a Norwegian accent.  Jerry and Vaarin shared stories and family photos.

STILL CLIMBING.

After lunch, we hiked up the surprisingly charming and exceedingly steep streets of Torrox to see where Vaarin is spending her annual 5-week escape from Norway (which is already cold and, as usual, rainy).  The climb was daunting, but the views were stunning.

THE VIEW NORTH FROM THE ROOF TERRACE.  SO WORTH THE CLIMB.

Once we arrived at Vaarin’s house, we then climbed three flights of stairs to the roof terrace.  Breathtaking (both the views and the climb… especially the climb).  We sat and visited for a while and, once Jerry’s sweat-soaked shirt had dried a bit, we began our descent to the car.

THE VIEW EAST FROM THE ROOF TERRACE.

Vaarin insisted on taking us the scenic way down, showing us her favorite streets and views.  It is like walking the hills of San Francisco, only smaller, quainter, steeper, sunnier, and hotter.  Vaarin’s stamina is awe-inspiring.  It must be that Viking stock (Jerry’s stock was watered down by his father’s side of the family).

ON THE WAY BACK DOWN.  VAARIN’S FAVORITE VIEW SOUTH TO THE MEDITERRANEAN.

The First Few Hours in Málaga

The train ride down to Málaga was a pleasure.  Sevilla’s train station has a sweets shop.  Jerry ate a bag of chocolate-covered raisins.  We shared a package (of two) chocolate-dipped Oreo cookies.  When those were very quickly gone, we shared a package (of six) traditional Oreo cookies.  Maybe we should stop at a market and pick up some healthy snacks for the ride home on Wednesday.

THE VIEW NORTH

Our assigned seats did not face forward (remember the January train rides?) but we didn’t even bother asking. Once onboard, we simply changed our seats to ones that faced the right direction.  Jorunn arrived at the hotel just a few minutes before us.  Jerry charmed his way into the hearts of the front desk staff, and we ended up with a deluxe room with a beautiful view.  Jorunn is just a few doors down (well, she’s at least got a really nice big bathroom).

THE VIEW EAST.

We all unpacked, called Jerry’s cousin in Torrox to make plans for tomorrow, and then headed up to the sixth floor roof terrace for mojitos and peanuts.  I was too lazy to head back down one flight of stairs to retrieve my camera, so smart phone photos will have to do (yet again).  A rental car will be delivered to the hotel in the morning and we’ll drive the 46km to Torrox.  Dinner in an hour — more or less.  SO relaxing.

I Need A Vacation Like Nobody’s Business

It’s hard work not working.  Well, it’s hard work moving to another country, finding a new home, trying to get utilities connected, learning one’s way around, assembling furniture, learning where to shop, trying to get utilities connected, buying and repotting house plants, missing family and friends, trying to get utilities connected, hanging pictures, trying to get utilities connected, and doing it all in another language.

A LITTLE BIT OF GREEN INSIDE TO GO WITH THE GREEN OUTSIDE.

Did I mention trying to get utilities connected?

It’s also a complete joy to do all of the above (except trying to get utilities connected, although that was a complete joy when finally accomplished).  And I am grateful for every minute (well, ALMOST every minute, since sometimes I am an ingrate) of this great adventure we have created for ourselves.



MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY

In any case, we are now a bit run down.  We also haven’t transitioned from attempting to create a new life here to actually living one.  So, we are very excited to have the opportunity to get out of town for a few days and to then actually come home.

SOME MORE GREEN.  WE STILL NEED MORE… AND LAMPS.

We have a dear friend, Jorunn, from Oslo, Norway (met through our wonderful cousin Inger) who will be in Málaga. Coincidentally, Jerry’s first cousin once removed (his mother’s cousin, his grandfather’s niece…) — from the other side of the Norwegian family — is on holiday in Torrox, which is about a half hour further along the coast from Málaga.

Jerry only discovered this first cousin once removed (and other extended family from his grandfather’s line) about 10 years ago and they’ve been in email correspondence ever since.  We had great plans in 2001 to go up above the Arctic Circle to meet this branch of the family, but hard times hit at the hotel and we couldn’t get away.  We hope to be able to make that trip in the near future.

THE TWO OF US.  NOW SURROUNDED BY FAMILY.  (HAD WE KNOWN HOW MANY WALLS
WE’D HAVE, WE WOULD HAVE SHIPPED MORE OF THE FAMILY PHOTOS.)

So, we’re taking the train down to Málaga Monday to meet up with Jorunn.  We’ll spend Monday night in Málaga and then we three will head up the coast (either in a rental car or by bus) to Torrox to have lunch with First Cousin Once Removed and her nephew (Jerry’s second cousin). We’ll then head back to Málaga for another night and we three will then train back up to Sevilla.  Can’t wait to be relaxed tourists in Málaga.  Can’t wait to see Torrox.  But, I especially can’t wait to see Jorunn again and to meet more of Jerry’s Norwegian family.

I wonder if I should start practicing my Norwegian again.  No I don’t wonder.  That’s just too much for my already addled brain to contemplate.  Uff dah!

Progress at Home and in My Head

I guess I’ll survive the week.  Sleep has been elusive, but the daylight hours have been OK.  “Vale,” as they say in Spain.  (OK, Cool, Fine, Great.)

Monday night — Dale’s birthday — Jerry and I went to Carmela for dinner.  The service was, as always, warm and friendly.  The mojitos were not, as they usually are, delicious.  Remember “Carmela” who walked around like she owned the place?  Well, her name’s not Carmela.  It’s Mai.  Her son manages things, and he is extremely nice.  He asked how things were and I told him the mojitos were kind of odd and not as good as usual.  He had them made again, but they still were disappointing.  Apparently, they had different brown sugar and it completely changed the consistency.  Oh well.  I drank mine anyway and Jerry and I toasted to Dale’s memory.

THE ANTIQUES MARKET TODAY AT CALLE FERIA.

On the walk over, I noticed that Jerry appeared to be a bit down.  He told me during dinner that his mood had crashed.  I told him simply and directly that it wasn’t his turn.  We have an unwritten rule that we can’t both be totally out of sorts at the same time.  It was my turn.  He laughed, said I was right, and saved it for another day.  What a trooper.

JESUS AND MANY VIRGINS STANDING GUARD OUTSIDE A GRAND OLD BAR.

Tuesday afternoon, I met Albert and Co. for a quick beer.  Always a pleasure.  Jerry and I then had a delightful dinner out with Margarita, who saw our apartment for the first time and gave it a rave review and her Sevillana Seal of Approval.

A LITTLE BIT OF THIS.  A LITTLE BIT OF THAT.

Tuesday evening, Jerry said he would give the English-language customer service line at Vodafone one more try to see if we could make any progress with our home phone.  Our assumption was that he would again be unsuccessful and I would then walk over to the Vodafone store and put up a bit of a stink.  He phoned.  He got a wonderful rep, who had him explain everything and then repeated it back to him to make sure he clearly understood.  He then got the technical department on the line and worked with them while translating to Jerry.  He would instruct Jerry to do something and ask for the results.  He’d then relay the info to the techies for more input.  He finally asked how the phone was plugged into the router — in line 1 or line 2.  The Telefonica installer had it plugged into line 2.  The rep told Jerry to change it to line 1.  Jerry did so and the problem was solved.  We had service.  Jerry, in his exuberance, offered the rep 28 gold stars.  The rep was very excited to have them.  So, we are grateful to an individual at Vodafone who was smart, helpful, diligent, and successful.  We are not grateful to the other six phone reps at Vodafone who lied to us for three weeks.  The rep gets 28 gold stars.  Vodafone gets a thumbs down.

THERE ACTUALLY WERE SOME TREASURES AMONG THE RUINS.

This morning we met Albert for breakfast at Casa Santos.  We hope he appreciates how special he is to see us cleaned up and out of the house for a 9:20 breakfast.  Lola joined us.  She and I are going to start getting together twice a week for an hour at Santos.  Tuesdays we’ll speak only English and Thursdays we’ll speak only Spanish.  Margarita happened to drop by while we were there and we all had a great time together.  Jerry and I then joined Margarita for a walk over to Calle Feria.  Every Thursday morning, there is an antiques and second-hand market in the neighborhood.  Lots of people.  Lots of wonderful finds.  Lots of junk.  Margarita found some great old books.  Jerry and I, the former conspicuous consumers, saw loads of things our old selves would have snapped up.  We resisted.  We were seriously tempted by a spectacular ceramic pot in an elegant wrought iron stand. It would be great in the living room for a large plant.  I asked the price and was told it was from Triana (well, no surprise that ceramic work in Sevilla would come from across the river in Triana where most of the ceramics were made) and it was 400 euros ($600).  We passed.  Instead we bought three beautiful, intricate, antique brass handles that we needed for our dining room cabinet and a cabinet in my bedroom.  Total cost: 12 euros.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

HIS MARKETING STRATEGY DIDN’T APPEAR TO DO HIM ANY GOOD.

Remembering a Big Sister

My sister Dale would be 60 years old today.  It’s hard to imagine.  She died of cancer at the age of 29 after a 3-1/2-year battle, which means she’s been gone more years than she lived. She died five months before I met Jerry.  Her death eased my way out of the closet.  Something that had been causing me so much grief didn’t seem to be such a big deal anymore.  So, in addition to everything else I owe her, maybe I owe her that, too.

She is always in my thoughts and I just want you to know her a little bit on her birthday.  She was 2 years and 9 months my senior and she was my idol.  I doubt she ever realized that.  I was the one who was good in school and made no effort.  I may not have lived up to expectations for my father who wanted a macho, star-athlete for a son, but I was a good kid who didn’t get into trouble. I went to college and made my father proud on at least that level.  He wanted me to continue to grad school, but I really wanted to be an artist and didn’t see the point.  He was obviously pleased I had gone that far.

Dale barely squeaked her way out of high school.  And trouble tended to find her.  She was never in any major, serious trouble, but she was always aggravating and worrying our parents.  Whenever they would have to deal with another situation with Dale, my mother would turn to me and say, “You’ll never do anything like this to me.”

Honestly, I did a lot more seriously bad things than Dale did.  A lot more!  I just never got caught.  Dale knew and never once gave me away.  And it never ever crossed my mind that she might.  She was loyal.

Dale loved and needed to be needed.  If there was anyone in need, she was the first one there.  I was a sickly kid until I had my tonsils out at the age of 12.  I would regularly run high fevers and become delirious.  In my night terrors, if Dale hadn’t already come into my room to soothe me, I would go into hers.  Never to my parents.  When I was 8 and a neighbor kid, Vinnie Mancuso, hit me in the eye with a baseball bat (accidentally), another neighbor rushed my mother and me to the hospital.  Dale, who had been playing ball with us at the time, went back outside and punched Vinnie.  Poor Vinnie.  I knew from my experience as her bossed-around little brother that Dale’s punch packed quite a wallop.

Dale and I fought plenty when we were kids. But, we never held a grudge.  And we were very quickly out shopping, going to the beach, or doing something else together.  She had expensive taste, loved to shop, and helped me develop some bad (but fun) spending habits.  I was still pretty tight with my money, though, and managed to save quite a bit.  I never spent like Dale.  She got married and moved to England when she was 21, having worked for  three years after high school as a clerk for the New York Police Department.  While she worked, she continued to live with my parents, so had plenty of money for trips to Europe and for clothing.  I worked summers for very little money and I worked Saturdays the rest of the year for even less (I had a friend who called them “rich kid’s jobs”; I wasn’t a rich kid, but I liked to pretend I was). My parents gave me a little bit of spending money.  Dale got paid every Thursday.  On her way home from work, she would go shopping in the city. Bloomingdale’s was her favorite.  Every Friday, Dale would “borrow” money from me to make it to her next paycheck.  I never saw any of that money again.

Dale also taught me to dance.  Days before every formal affair, she would drag me into her room to teach me some new steps so I wouldn’t “embarrass her.” What she taught me were the moves of the Dave Clark 5, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and every other group she liked.  To this day, I dance like I’m a back-up singer.

My sister was a beauty.  She was statuesque and athletic — standing over 5’10” (180cm), with almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, thick and wavy chestnut hair.  When I was in my teens and we would be out together, I would imagine that strangers thought we were a couple. “Look at him with that beauty,” I figured they were thinking.  Idiotic, since although I was no beauty, it was very obvious we were sister and brother.

These all seem like such unimportant things.  But these are the things on my mind today.

By the time Dale died, she spoke with an English accent and inflections.  A far cry from the way she spoke when she left Brooklyn less than nine years earlier. When she was 16, she began corresponding with a pen pal in Japan.  Fumiko was 17.  They became the best of friends and remained so until Dale died 13 years later.  Fumiko got married and moved to the United States for a time, right before Dale got married and moved to England.  They never had a chance to meet in person.

About a year after Dale died, Fumiko sent my mother a cassette tape of a phone conversation they had during their first year of friendship.  At that time, Fumiko’s English was poor and Dale’s Japanese was non-existent.  My mother and I decided to listen to the tape even though we knew we would probably cry the entire time.  My father said he couldn’t do it and stayed away.  Jerry stood outside the closed bedroom door.  We held our breath and turned on the tape.  First we heard Fumiko’s voice.  Then, we heard a squeaky, little-girl voice with a powerful New York City accent.  We had forgotten what Dale could sound like.  It was her polite, telephone voice.  We looked at each other and started to laugh.  And, by the end of the tape, we were laughing so hard tears were streaming down our cheeks.  Jerry came in, the picture of concern.  Through my laughter, I said, “You have to hear this.” And I rewound the tape.

Fumiko was telling Dale that she had just won a beauty contest and, as a result, had received a scholarship to college.  She was trying to explain to Dale in very fractured English that it was a music scholarship sponsored by a company that specialized in that. Dale was not “getting it” and was responding in what is best described as Brooklynese.

“In-stru-ments,” Fumi carefully said.

“IN-stru-MENTS?” Dale sang back.

“Moo-zee-kull in-stru-ments,” explained Fumi.

“MEW-zi-CUL instruments?” questioned Dale.

“Yamaha,” said Fumi.

“Yamaha?” Dale repeated.  “Well, we got a Yamaha here.  But they make motorcycles.”