Within the expatriate scene there were all kinds of people and cross currents. It was a moveable feast, in Hemingway’s words, a congregation, always changing but balanced and constant in its character because it had a center, La Plaza de Santa Ana, and because everyone was transient to one degree or another.
The memory of the Spanish Civil War was still painful and World War II was not far in the past. I had a German friend, Hans, who was my age. He lived around the plaza too. His father had sent him to Spain to learn the language for business reasons. We traveled together to Segovia outside of Madrid on my motorcycle to see the Roman aqueduct. We visited Avila, the home of Saint Teresa, one of the “doctors of the church,” one of the greatest saints.
Hans told me how to say not guilty, “un shuldige” in German, and orders are orders, “befehlt est befehlt”. We laughed like hell nervously about that, acknowledging the horrors of the holocaust and trying to get past it, which is not possible. He was there in Madrid with an older German friend who was studying at the University. That guy would not even meet me to shake my hand because I was an American. These young men had grown up in a Germany flattened by American bombing. They were the sons of Nazis.
I had another friend, Reynold Eston, who was Jewish from the Bronx and had some mysterious purpose in Madrid. He had graduated from college in the states and hung out with the FBI guy who claimed to be a writer but was actually some kind of a spy. They would occasionally “get lucky” with some middle-aged schoolteachers from the states eager to bone up on their Spanish skills.
Reynold was a good guy with red hair like me. We saw each other back in New York for a while but my goyisha, non-Jewish, identity made the friendship impossible there. He lived in a big apartment building with his grandparents and they wouldn’t even let me in the house. I tried to fix him up with my sister and he introduced me to a real smart and interesting Jewish girl at a concert in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. We hit it off well. I asked her out but when I showed up at her apartment she came to the door and said her father wouldn’t let her go out with me. The Germans didn’t like me because I was American and the Jews had a problem because I wasn’t Jewish. Oy vey!