What NOT to Order for Lunch in Sevilla

OR ANYWHERE ELSE

We´ve been in the beautiful, amazing, friendly, historic, energetic city of Sevilla for nearly three full days and it has been full of surprises.  One thing that is not a surprise is that my Spanish language skills are weak.  Added to my poor Spanish is my lack of self-confidence when speaking it.  But, it has only been a few days, so it will get better.

In my defense, I do have to tell you that on our second night here, I was able to go into a Vodaphone store (think Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and — entirely in Spanish — purchase an inexpensive phone and a short-term contract.  The salesperson was a real sweetheart and when I thanked her for her patience at the end she told me that my pronunciation was perfect! Now I just need to improve my vocabulary… and my grammar!  I decided this morning to stop trying to speak in the proper tense (hopeless, anyway).  It´s much easier to make myself understand in the present tense (I usually know those verb forms).

I am sitting in an internet cafe right now.  The modem jack for our apartment is not Mac-compatible.  The owner of the apartment is trying to get what we need this week.

Friday morning we stumbled upon a great place for breakfast.  Great because they had a signboard that read “Desayuno Especial” (Breakfast Special) €4, which made it easy to order.  “Dos especiales por favor.”  Two specials, please.  Well, we didn’t know our little breakfast place isn’t open Sundays.  So, this morning, we had to find someplace else and I actually had to say more than “dos especiales por favor.”  To my surprise, it was a breeze.  Jerry found us a table on the street.  I walked up to the counter and ordered our breakfast sandwiches (thin-sliced Iberian ham and mashed-up tomato that looks and tastes like jam), coffee, orange juice, PLUS two chocolate “napolitanos,” for here… with some other conversation added.  I was relaxed and all went well.  And instead of paying €8 for the two of us, I paid €4.95 total!  And the juices were large instead of small.  Chocolate napolitanos, which we didn’t “need” by the way, don’t come with our breakfast special.  What a deal.

The First Mistake
We have had one major restaurant disaster.  Yesterday afternoon, Saturday, we walked a few blocks in our neighborhood to find a place for lunch.  Now, there are dozens of options, but we have no idea what to look for.  Obviously, if a place is mobbed, we figure it’s a good place to eat. However, if a place is mobbed, we feel a bit overwhelmed and out of our element.  We stopped at one place that wasn’t mobbed hoping to be able to order a couple of simple sandwiches.  They didn’t have sandwiches (bocadillos) and we couldn’t understand all but two items on the menu.  Besides, the place felt a bit seedy (which may have been nothing more than our ignorance at work).

We left and continued on to a beautiful place with lots of tables outside in the sun… and lots of people (but not mobbed).  We sat down at a table, ordered drinks, and then picked up the menu in complete confusion.  My Spanish vocabulary is especially limited in the “food” category.  I recognized the words for chicken, lasagna, shrimp, vegetarian, and salad (maybe a couple of others but not in connection with the rest of the words in their descriptions).  Jerry and I had both read about Ensaladia Rusa, although neither of us could remember what it was.  I recognized vegetarian lasagna.  So, we ordered an Ensaladia Rusa to share and two vegetarian lasagnas.  The waiter was very nice, but spoke not a word of English.  He looked at us oddly and I was feeling too insecure/embarrassed to ask for help (last time that’s going to happen), so the order was placed.  The Ensaladia Rusa came out a short time later.  A huge HUGE — have I mentioned it was HUGE — bowl of what turned out to be a potato salad with peas, carrots and some other things, smothered (as in choking to death) in mayo and cheese.  Rich does not begin to describe the sweet, heavy, density of this potato salad.  Jerry ate some but held back (not something Jerry usually does).  I felt obligated to eat as much as I could, so finished the bowl, which really was enough for four people.

NOT NEARLY AS WHITE AND CHEESY AS OUR OWN ENSALADIA RUSA
NOT NEARLY AS WHITE AND CHEESY AS OUR OWN LASAGNA

Then came the first plate of lasagna.  We had confirmed with the waiter as part of our order that we wanted full plates and not tapas.  We were wrong!  Another waiter who brought out the first plate of lasagna gave us a chance to retract our order for the second, but we were too dense to pick up on it.  So out came PLATTER number 2.  So on top of our sweet, heavy, dense, creamy salad, we now had not one but two platters of sweet, heavy, dense, creamy vegetarian lasagna.  It was smothered in the same cheese sauce as the salad.  Oddly, Jerry continued to be more rational than I, only eating a little.  I ate about half of one platter before I could barely stand myself anymore.  We paid and hobbled home.  I´m sure the wait staff and chef are still talking about us.  I´m still feeling the effects of that lunch more than 24 hours later.  Two teensy little plates at a tapas bar along with a glass of wine each was all we could manage for dinner last night.

Tomorrow we head to Jerez de la Frontera for a couple of nights.  Sevilla is an absolutely amazing city, but we’re pretty sure it’s larger than we’re looking for.  Jerez is about one-fourth the size.  We’ll see how it feels.  More walking tonight.  Sevilla comes alive around 10 p.m.  We’ve been sleeping in and then wandering the town until the wee hours.  Just like grown-ups.  Entire families are out in the public squares at night.  It’s warm, exciting, and spectacular.  We have felt safe and comfortable no matter where we’ve been and no matter the time of day. 

And the history is amazing.  Our first day here, we looked out our apartment window to discover a gigantic ancient ruin next door — a huge empty courtyard surrounded by a spectacular, arched Roman ruin.  It’s not visible from the outside being behind the street-side building (the entrance is on the back street).  We had tapas with our host our second night here and asked about the building.  He told us it’s the oldest convent in Sevilla.  It’s going to be preserved and then condos are being added.  Work was about to begin, but the recession hit, so it’s been on hold and will soon start.  He matter-of-factly mentioned that it hasn’t been occupied for a little while… two centuries!  I’ll post a picture soon.

Although I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at times and ashamed of my poor language skills, I have to remember we’ve only been here a few days.  Sevilla is even more beautiful and welcoming than I expected.  I can’t wait to tell you about Jerez.

Gay People Live There and Other Inanities… Plus More Progress & Possibilities

You may remember that our original plan (decided about a year ago and shared with you in November) had been to move to Spain after Jerry retired in four or five years… two years… one year… six months.  Well, we’re sticking to our original (sixth or seventh) plan.   We still expect to move in the spring (we’re hoping to have our visas in May).  However, Jerry has decided to call it quits another month sooner.

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA — BACK ON THE MAP

We head to Spain this week for our three-week “have some fun while we find an apartment” trip.  When we get back in early February, Jerry will have only 15 days of work remaining.  Not bad.

CÁDIZ — SOUNDS KIND OF LIKE KÁH-DEETH — AND KIND OF DIFFICULT TO RETHITHT.

Jerez de la Frontera is back in the running as a possible place to live.  We’ve made some nice connections there as well as in Sevilla and, being smaller than Sevilla and closer to the ocean, it offers some different options.  And the city gets points for flying the rainbow flag from City Hall every year for Gay Pride.

The plan is to train the 60 minutes down to Jerez in the first few days to check things out before we start focusing on specific neighborhoods in Sevilla.  Cadiz is only about 10 minutes south of Jerez, so maybe another side (south) trip.  And, on the way, we pass right through El Puerto de Santa Maria.  Who knows what we’ll discover.

WHO’S DECISION IS THIS?
CHARMING.  COLD.  NOT WHERE WE CHOOSE TO LIVE.

So, watch for that change-of-address announcement in the spring.  You never know (nor do we) where we might end up.  I can assure you, however, that despite some backroom plotting by a few members of my extended family, we will not move instead to a mountain town in Upstate New York.  I don’t care if it’s near where my extended family have their vacation homes.  And I don’t care that “there are a lot of gay people there.”  And I’ve decided to not defend or justify our choices.  HowEVER (yes another however), Spain is not a “conservative Catholic backwater”; we’ve done our homework.  And, when we choose where to live, it is not for us simply a matter of “there are a lot of gay people there.”  Unlike the USA, Spain legalized gay marriage years ago. We, as a couple, are legally recognized and protected in Spain.  We are not legally recognized and protected in the USA.

So, OK, I obviously do feel the need to defend our choices; old family habits die hard.  We have done our homework.  The country of Spain is not perfect (nowhere is), but it is a wonderful country and has done a good job of separating church from state… better I might add than the USA (another imperfect and wonderful place).  By living in Spain, we will be able to travel cheaply and easily around Europe — something we definitely want to do.  Upstate New York is not “us” and it’s cold in winter.  Spain, for us, is an adventure.  Upstate New York is not.  So, thanks, extended family, for your concern.  But we will continue to make our own choices and we will continue to own responsibility for their outcome.  And I promise myself, and you kind readers, to not in the future try and justify or defend our decisions.

SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET… WITH HEALTHY BONES

We head to the Irvine Police Department tomorrow to get fingerprint cards that we’ll then send to the FBI.  Once the FBI returns reports of no criminal records for either of us (Jerry?  Is there anything you need to tell me about?), we will send the reports to the State Department for the apostille.  That will cover the visa requirement for a “certification of absence of police records.”

CHOLERA IN LOVELY VIOLET HUES

We’ve made our appointments to see our doctor in February.  We need letters stating that we don’t “… suffer from any illness that would pose a threat to public health according to the International Health Regulations of 2005,” (i.e., we don’t have cholera, plague, or yellow fever.) We’ll send those right away to the State Department for the apostille and will have more items to check off our list.

THE TRIP

The next time I post it will be from Spain.  Hasta luego!

We’re Very Close

We left off “Visiting the Family,” with Jerry and his four passengers about to exit Beth David Cemetery in search of Aunt Matilda.

“Which way do I go?” Jerry asked.

“This much I know, Jerry,” I proudly replied. “Just go left out of the cemetery and cross under the parkway.”
About a mile later, Jerry noticed that we were approaching a fork in the road.

“Which way do I go? Saw Mill Road or Hawthorne?”

“I’m not sure,” I hesitantly responded.

“Aaron, which way do we go here?” Lilly called out.
“Where are we going?” Aaron called back.
“Matilda’s!”
“Matilda?” he thought for a moment and then, “We’re very close.”
“Oy, Aaron. We know we’re close.  How do we get there?”
And after another thoughtful pause he responded, “I don’t know.”
“Oh, it’s very close,” offered my mother.
And Jerry half-sang his response, “We have to make a decision.”
I decided to take control even though I had no idea which road to take. “Just bear right onto Hawthorn.”
As Jerry followed my instructions and headed off to the right on Hawthorn, Aaron quietly sang from the back seat, “You should have taken Sawmill.”
“Now he tells us. Oy, Aaron,” moaned Lilly.
We all just laughed and continued on Hawthorn. After all, we were very close.

We headed down tree-lined streets, through the little towns of old Long Island. The gnarled old trees formed a canopy above the road, shading the stone and brick Tudor-style, storefronts as we passed through each consecutive village.
“Am I supposed to be turning soon?” Jerry asked.
“I think you just stay on this road. God, this is very familiar.” I was lost and was beginning to feel defeated, “We’re so close.”
Lilly agreed, “We’re very close.”
And my mother contributed, “It’s right near here.”
Jerry had lost all hope, “Well, I have no idea where I’m going. So, I need a bit more help.”
Lilly soothed, “We’re so close. Mimi, look at all the stores along here. It’s so built up.”
Immediately, my optimism returned. Kennedy Airport was fast approaching on our right. Years before, my brother Chucky, my parents, and I all visited Dale and her family, who were living in Germany at the time. We drove to Matilda’s house to leave my father’s car while we were gone. Uncle Paul then gave us a lift to the airport, which was only minutes away. He had taken a shortcut from their house and had come up this exact road.
“There’s the airport on the right,” I almost squealed with excitement, “They’re less than 10 minutes from the airport.”
GOING LEFT SOMEWHERE UP HERE
“No they’re not,” my mother argued.
“Sure they are. Remember when Paul drove us to the airport?”
“Paul never drove us to the airport.”
“Sure he did. When we flew to Amsterdam.”
“No he didn’t.”
“He did, Ma.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. And he came in from this side, went in the back way. Remember? The traffic was a mess in the airport and Paul refused to let us off early. Dad kept telling him to let us off and we’d walk, but he insisted on doing the complete circle. Then he rear-ended Barry Manilow’s limo. He got us to the terminal so late that we couldn’t do any duty-free shopping.”
“Oh, that’s right! I had forgotten about that. I was so upset because I couldn’t buy duty-free! And Dale wanted her Chanel Number 5.  She was so disappointed.  What a memory you have. How many years ago was that?”
“I think around 17,” I answered.
“LOOKS LIKE WE MADE IT…”
My mother continued, “We never did get to see Barry Manilow, though. Anyway, I’m not so sure that was really his limo.”
Lilly laughed, “Mimi, you never told me you ran into Barry Manilow.”
“Literally,” I commented.
“Well, we never saw inside the limo, but the driver said it was him.”
Poor Jerry was exasperated. “I need directions,” he begged.
To our right, and as far as the eye could see, was a chain link fence separating our road from the back of the airport. There were rows of hangars and small buildings containing administrative offices. To our left, street after residential street.
I could confidently say, “You go left somewhere up here,” although I could not confidently say exactly where.
“You know,” admitted Lilly, “I get so fartshadet around here.”
“Here! Go left here,” my mother excitedly commanded. But, when Jerry did as he was told, she was deflated, “Oh, now this doesn’t look right.”
Aaron, who had been silent since our first wrong turn, looked around and agreed, “This isn’t their street.”
To which, Lilly replied, “No, but we’re very close.”
“Here. Turn left here, Jerry,” I ordered.
Jerry turned onto a large tree-lined boulevard.
And my mother agreed, “Oh, this is right. Now we just have to look for those big pillars that lead into their street.”
“Pillars?” I disagreed, “There are no pillars.”
“They’re stone,” she replied. “Or brick. White. Or gray. There! No, that’s not it.”
“Well, I don’t remember pillars. But, we’re definitely close,” I admitted.
“Here! Turn left here.” My mother was once again certain.
“I can’t turn left.” Jerry was becoming resigned to driving until we ran out of gas. “That’s a one-way street.”
“That’s not it anyway, Ma,” I argued. “Every street along here has pillars at its entrance.”
“Here try this one!” My mother was determined to try them all.
“Shouldn’t we ask directions?” Jerry pleaded.
My mother scoffed, “We don’t need directions. We’re very close.”

We approached a small shopping center on the right. There was a pizza place, a dry cleaner, a video store. And a pay phone! “There’s a phone, Jerry. Turn right here and pull over. I’ll call Matilda.”

“Here’s a quarter.” My mother began to rummage through her purse.
“I’ve got one,” I replied. “What’s Matilda’s number?”
“Ooh, what is it again?” Lilly began, “5-1-6 . . .”
“I don’t need the area code,” I rolled my eyes.
“Here. It’s in here,” my mother said as she handed over her miniature, 25-year-old, complimentary NY Telephone Company address book.
I left them all at the curb and trotted the 20 feet to the phone booth. I dropped in my quarter and quickly dialed Matilda’s number.
She answered on the first ring.
“Hi, Aunt Matilda. It’s Mitchell. Jerry and I took Lilly, Aaron, and my mother to the cemetery and we thought we’d stop by for a visit. But we got lost. We’re at a little shopping center. There’s a pizza place.”

When I told her the name of the pizza place, she laughed and said, “Oh, you’re very close.”

I groaned to myself.
“Just go west on Rosedale. When you pass the Jewish Center, turn left. Oliver is the second street on the right. You’re about three minutes away.”
“OK. See you in three minutes,” I hung up and returned to the car.
“You won’t believe how close we are,” I beamed — ignoring Jerry’s eye roll. “We’re only three minutes away. Just head west about a minute.”
“West? Who knows from west?” Lilly teased. “California is west.”
“California?” laughed Aaron, “Hoo boy, are you lost.”
“Just turn around and head the other way,” I told Jerry.
Jerry made a U-turn and, almost immediately, we spotted the Jewish Center.
“There’s where Michael was bar mitzvahed. We go left there,” my mother exclaimed.
Jerry looked toward me for confirmation. I nodded my head and he did as my mother instructed.
“Then it’s your second right, Jerry,” I said.
There were no pillars at the corner of Matilda’s street.
“This isn’t it,” my mother snapped.
“Yes, it is, Ma.”
“There are no brick pillars,” she insisted.
“Ma, look at the sign. It’s Oliver Avenue. That’s Matilda’s street. And, anyway, these are the directions she gave me. There’s a white brick house on the corner. Is that what you were thinking of? Turn right, Jerry.”
“What’s their house number?” Jerry asked.
“I don’t remember,” was my unfortunate reply, “But, it’s on the left. I’ll recognize it.” And then I spotted it, a tired, but still elegant, gray-shingled, ’50s-era, split-level, “There it is.”
Jerry made a U-turn and parked in front of the house.
“This isn’t their house,” insisted my mother.
“Sure it is.” I had already jumped out of the car and was getting the step stool in place for Lilly’s regal exit.
“They don’t have a sidewalk leading to the door. They have flagstones,” my mother argued.
“The flagstones go from the driveway, Ma.  This is the house.”
“No, no, no, this is not it.”

“Where are we going?” asked Aaron.

“Matilda’s!” roared Lilly.

“Is this the right house or not?” Jerry pleaded.

“It’s not the house,” my mother was certain.

“Well,” I snorted, “If it’s not, then why is Matilda standing at the door?”

Lilly imperiously took my hand and said, “Of course, it’s the right house. Didn’t we tell you we were close?”
And my mother followed with the refrain, “Very close.”

Visiting the Family

Uncle Aaron’s brain was no longer much for details.  As he approached 80, his once-sharp memory had begun to come and go, He was constantly getting confused — missing connections — much like the electric trolley cars he used to drive through Brooklyn to Prospect Park. Clanging merrily down the street one moment, and stopped on the tracks, the overhead wire disconnected from the power source, the next.

So, each year in the five years since my father’s death, Jerry and I would head down from Connecticut during the Jewish New Year to drive my mother, and my Aunt Lilly and Uncle Aaron, to the cemetery on Long Island for their annual family visit. My father was there, buried next to my mother’s parents, who were just a few steps away from my grandmother’s parents, Bubbie and Zadie. Not far from Bubbie and Zadie were some of their brothers and sisters. Relatives I only knew from their headstones, their passing recorded long before my birth.
My large extended family had surprised me by readily accepting the fact that I was gay. Perhaps it was because my sister Dale, the center of my universe for so many years, had just died of cancer at the time that I came out.  Perhaps, my relationship with Jerry, the Midwestern mensch with the Yankee blue-blood pedigree, made it easier to accept. They had immediately welcomed Jerry into the family — my gentile lover who thanked my family members for their kindnesses by bestowing mitzvahs upon them. To Jerry, a mitzvah was not simply a good deed. To Jerry, when you did a good deed you earned multiple mitzvahs. To Jerry, mitzvahs were collected much like green stamps.
In these five years, Jerry could have filled a dozen ‘mitzvah books’ just by driving to this aging cemetery, which also contained my Uncle Aaron’s parents and grandmother. Each year, we would follow Uncle Aaron’s directions down cemetery lanes named Judah and Ezrah, Monroe and Lincoln, and we would visit our families. Jerry and I would pull weeds and pluck dead leaves from the yews planted over the graves, which were designated — by round, day-glo orange stickers placed haphazardly on the expensive marble and granite gravestones — to receive “perpetual care.”
We left my mother’s apartment in Brooklyn at ten o’clock Friday morning to pick up Aunt Lilly and Uncle Aaron who lived just a few minutes away. They were waiting for us at the side entrance to their building, another 25-story brick tower bearing a strong resemblance to my mother’s 25-story brick tower.
Although Aunt Lilly’s spirit hadn’t weakened as she settled solidly into her seventies, her knees had. This year, Jerry had the inspiration to bring along a step stool to make it easier for Lilly to heft her bulk into and out of our butch SUV.
I’LL ONLY HAVE A SLIVER.
Since giving birth to her first child some 50 years earlier and her second four years later, Aunt Lilly had never been able to reclaim the slender and shapely figure of her youth. She had always made attempts. At all family gatherings, instead of having an entire piece of cake with her coffee, she would only take a sliver. But then, another sliver. And still another sliver.
“It’s only a sliver,” she would say.
We all knew if Lilly could reassemble all those slivers, she would have discovered that, more often than not, she had consumed half a cake.
I would never have described Aunt Lilly as fat, though. No, never fat. More like comfortable. And Uncle Aaron was always comfortable, as well. They were both exactly as they were supposed to be.
Before their 50th wedding anniversary, Aunt Lilly finally stopped dying her hair shoe-polish black. It was now snow-white, just as her mother’s had been, and her eyes were a silvery gray, just like her father’s. Uncle Aaron’s hair had changed only slightly in my 38 years. The golden brown horse shoe that ringed his shining pate when he taught me, 31 years earlier, to ride a two-wheeler was now a brown and white horse shoe. And he still had the pencil-thin, carefully trimmed, movie star mustache he had adopted in the 1940s.
After setting out the green enameled step stool, to which Lilly laughingly exclaimed, “Oy, Jerry. A gezunt dir in pupik!,” and helping Aunt Lilly up into the front seat of the Trooper (if she sat in back she got car sick), I climbed in back with my mother and Uncle Aaron, and we were happily on our way.
“Hadayadoodle, boys?” piped Aaron. “Where are we going?” 
           
“To the cemetery,” Lilly responded with a sigh. “Oy, Aaron.”
And to us, she explained, “I must have told him a thousand times this morning where we’re going. He’s becoming such a farshtopterkop.
“It means his head’s stopped up, Jerry,” my mother explained and then asked, “Do you know what Lilly said to you before, Jerry? It meant, “Good health, to your belly button.”
“Oh, Mimi. Don’t be so literal. I just said, ‘thank you.’
“Very dramatically,” my mother added.
Lilly, being the eldest of the seven siblings in my mother’s family, did not learn English until the age of five, when she started school on the Lower East Side. She was shocked when she discovered that the language her parents and the neighbors spoke, Yiddish, was not the language everyone else in New York spoke. She returned from her first day at school furious with my grandparents and told my grandmother that they were no longer allowed to speak Yiddish at home. They were in America and they needed to be American. Lilly grew to speak beautiful, extravagant, elegant, and sophisticated English. But, as she grew older, she seemed to revert more and more to her Yiddish roots.
“So, how are you doing, Aunt Lilly?” I asked.
“How am I doing? Vos zolikh makhen? How should I be doing? I’ve become an old lady with bad knees. And your Uncle Aaron is a little meshugener. But, we’re doing OK.”
There was surprisingly little traffic on the Belt Parkway that perfect spring morning and in less than 20 minutes we had crossed into Long Island.
“Here’s your exit, Jerry,” I directed, knowing what would ensue.
“This isn’t the exit,” chimed my mother.
“Yes, it is,” I insisted, as Jerry signaled and exited the Belt Parkway. “Go left at the stop sign.”
“Don’t you go right here?” she chimed again.
“I thought this wasn’t the exit.” I muttered. And then added, attempting to be more kind, “I’m sure it’s left.”
“Aaron, do we go left or right here?” asked Lilly.
“Where are we going?”
“Oy, Aaron. Where are we going. To the cemetery!” she wailed.
“This is how you get to the cemetery?”
Jerry turned left.
A few minutes later we approached the ornate, iron gates of the Beth David Cemetery. I breathed a sigh of relief; my directions had been correct. Lilly pulled the carefully folded, black yarmulkes out of her purse for the three men to wear. Jerry expertly placed the skullcap on his goyische head. In our years together, Jerry had become more comfortable with Jewish customs than I, the supposedly nice Jewish boy.
We drove onto the grounds of the Orthodox cemetery and made our first stop at my grandparents and my father. While my mother and Lilly read the prayers, Jerry and I collected small stones for everyone to leave on the graves. For my father, I found a small gray stone from me and a beautiful smooth white one from Dale, since she would never be able to leave a stone herself. Although I missed her, I was glad she was buried on a beautiful hill in Sheffield, England, and not in this crowded, neglected, old cemetery on Long Island. Someday, I would get back to Sheffield and leave a stone on her grave.
After making the usual rounds, we ended with Uncle Aaron’s parents. He could no longer remember where they were buried, so Jerry and I reviewed Aaron’s map of the cemetery (a map on which he had carefully marked the location of each new resident over the years) to determine the section to search. We then walked the tightly packed rows of new and old marble gravestones until we found who we were looking for.
Aaron opened the prayer book and read aloud. Jerry and I stood respectfully nearby, while my mother and Aunt Lilly stood on his other side about 20 feet away.
“Extolled and hallowed be the name of God …” began Aaron.
“Mimi, did I tell you I went to Top Tomato yesterday?”
“No. Oh, Lilly, I wish I had known. I need cucumbers.”
“… and which He governs according to His righteous will …”
“You should have called me. I got the most gorgeous strawberries. Ay-yay-yay. From heaven.”
“… come, and His will be done in all …”
A BIALY.  NOT A BAGEL.  NOT AN ONION ROLL.
“Did you notice if they had cucumbers? Oh, Lilly, the bialys! I could kick myself.”
“What?” Lilly asked.

“What a memory I have. Schlucker’s was having a sale on bagels and bialys. I know how much Aaron loves bialys, so I bought you a dozen and put them in the freezer. I was going to bring them upstairs when we picked you up today.”
“… May they find grace and mercy before the Lord …”
“All right. So they’ll stay in your freezer another day. We’re not going anywhere.”
“I’m getting so forgetful in my old age.”
“… and the rest of the righteous males and females that are in Paradise; and let us say, …”
“You? When were you not forgetful? And don’t talk to me about old. Oy, Aaron. What is he reading?”
“… and grandmothers, my uncles and aunts, my …”
“Gotenyou,” laughed Lilly. “Now he’s giving regards to everyone in the old country.”
The two sisters laughed together.
“… whether paternal or maternal, who …”
“Oy oy oy, Aaron,” Lilly moaned, mostly to us. And then finally commanded, “OK, Aaron. Genug iz ge’nug. Enough is enough. I want to visit Matilda sometime this century.”
“… Amen.”
As she climbed back into the car, Lilly asked, “You don’t mind driving to Matilda’s, do you, Jerry?  She’s just home from her surgery. And we’re so close. But, I don’t want to call her first. That Matilda. She’s such a balaboste. Even sick, she’ll want to serve us lunch.”
“It’s fine with me,” said Jerry, but then added knowingly, “As long as someone can tell me how to get there.”
“Sure, we can get there,” my mother insisted. “We’re very close.”
“Aaron. Do you remember how to get to Matilda’s from here?” asked Lilly.
“Where are we going?”
“Matilda’s!”
“Matilda? You know, she lives close to here.” he commented.
“Oy, Aaron. We know. Do you know how to get there?”
He thought for a moment and then said, “No.”
“We are really close,” I offered. “I’m sure, among the four of us, we’ll be able to figure it out.”
THE WILDS OF SUBURBIA
Jerry sighed as we headed for the gates.
“What are we going to do with all those plots?” asked my mother.
“Poppa bought 16, didn’t he?” commented Lilly. “Let’s see, there’s Mama and Poppa. And Davie. Aaron and I have our own through the Jewish Center. Mimi, you’ll use the one next to Davie.”
“That’s four,” I offered.
“Silvie has four,” continued Lilly.
“That’s eight,” I added.
“I think Sam and Iris have their own. I don’t know what Matilda’s doing. Maybe she and Paul will use two. Gloria and Conrad?” my mother wondered.
“Gloria and Conrad. Ikh zol azoy visn fun tsores!” proclaimed Lilly.
Jerry looked to me for a translation. I had no idea.
So, I said so. “I have no idea.”
“You understood that?” beamed my proud mother.
“Understood what?”
“What Lilly said. It means, ‘I have no idea.’ Or, literally, it means, ‘I should know as little about trouble’ — as I know about what Gloria and Conrad will do.”
My response, “No, I really had no idea.”
Lilly was still pondering the problem of the excess plots. “Wait!” she boomed. “Mitchell and Jerry can use two!”
There was a stunned silence in the car. We certainly had come a long way. But, what would it say on Jerry’s gravestone, I wondered.  Beloved Lover?  Gay & Goy?
I finally responded to Lilly’s pronouncement, “Well, I don’t know about that, Aunt Lilly. Do you think the cemetery management would allow it?”
“What’s to allow?” she demanded.
“Well,” I looked at Jerry, who was trying not to laugh. “I mean … for one thing …  well … Jerry’s not Jewish.”
To which Lilly haughtily proclaimed, “Who’s going to tell? I’m certainly not going to tell!”
And we headed back through the gates and out into the wilds of suburbia. In search of Aunt Matilda.

Still to Come:  
How we survived our suburban sojourn without a map (and with hardly a clue).

We Left Las Vegas with a Small Fortune

TOO BAD WE HAD ARRIVED THERE WITH A LARGE ONE.

WRAPPED AND PADDED

Actually, neither of the preceding statements is true.  But at least we have, finally and permanently, left Las Vegas.  It wasn’t the happiest chapter in our lives, and that chapter is now very happily closed.  We made our final trip back Tuesday and drove home Saturday in a rented cargo van carrying the few antiques and family heirlooms that we had in storage.  The drive from Irvine to Vegas on Tuesday in the empty van was noisy and bouncy.  Jerry took three Dramamine along the way and still felt the need to do all the driving.  The return trip in a van lightly filled with furniture heavily wrapped in moving blankets was much less noisy and a bit less bouncy.  Jerry took only two Dramamine but still left me to ride shotgun.

We thought driving back from Vegas on New Year’s Day would be a good idea.  Most people would be too hung over to be making the trip home.  We were right.  We passed just a few die-hards heaving on the tumbleweeds at the side of the road.

Instead of taking some random photos along the way, I should have been taking shots of those poor unfortunates as well as the drivers I saw texting with one hand and holding a cup of coffee in the other as they passed us as if we were standing still.  They were easy to spot because they were veering wildly and not holding to their lanes.

JUST AFTER PASSING THE WOMAN PRAYING FOR FORGIVENESS

The highlight for me, however, was the woman driving the red Dodge Caliber.  She was driving slightly slower than our 70 mph, but was still having a very difficult time staying in her lane.  As we approached, I noticed she had a silver metal Jesus fish on the back of her car right next to a large “Support Our Troops” ribbon decal.  Opposite those were a sticker that read, “Christians aren’t perfect.  Just saved.” and another that read simply “JESUS.”  Well, when I peered down into her car from my birds-eye view as we drove by, I saw that she was reading a bible — holding it with both hands atop the steering wheel so that she could glance at the road every now and again.  I can only imagine the recent sins for which she needed forgiveness.  But I hope the imperfect-but-saved idiot was also praying for the safe transit of the drivers around her.

A COUPLE OF FRUITS… NO VEGETABLES.

We and our load of antiques were easily cleared through the California Agricultural Inspection station (four lanes, no waiting) and arrived home safely despite the crazies on the road.

A Few More Steps Closer to Spain

Our first apostille-stamped document welcomed us home.  So this was a another week of progress toward our move to Spain.

— Furniture out of Vegas: Check.

— Apostille of Marriage Certificate: Check.

— Large donation of ToldemArt stock and supplies to Goodwill:  Check.

— Enjoying a performance of “Jersey Boys”:  Check.
Well, that wasn’t on the list, but we finally saw it and the show lived up to the hype.  We loved it.

We will be in Sevilla to find an apartment in less than two weeks.  And I got a new pair of traveling shoes today!

VELCRO FOR EASY OFF AND ON THROUGH SECURITY (and to drive Jerry nuts with the sound)