Off to Morocco by Motorcycle Chapter 19

 

One day Sebastiano met me and said, “How about going to Morocco?”

          “In a car?” I said.

          “No, the two of us on the bike.”

          “Really? It’s okay with me,” I said.

          “We can buy pot down there. It’s legal. And we’ll bring it back and sell it to the actors on the movie set. Make some money.”

          “Okay Sebastiano. Sounds good.” That’s how long I took to decide.

          We started thinking about how we were going to make the trip. I was impressed that Sebastiano was willing to ride on the back of the Triumph for a long trip on old winding Spanish roads, without a helmet and with a nineteen-year-old driving. Also, he was a big guy, well over six feet. It was a lot to take on. But we made plans and set a date. Everything was moving toward that time.

          Ruth came by my pension one morning early, very upset, and got me out of bed. She warned me not to go. She felt Sebastiano was taking advantage of me somehow. I didn’t understand that. In any case, I wanted to go. It gave me a focus and a purpose, which, other than Emilia in the bar, I didn’t have. It was obvious to other people that my life was adrift.

          One time I was sitting in the plaza drinking horchata and watching the cockroaches rock and roll in the leaves by the wall. Felipe, the older waiter in the bar, talked to me. As I lit another cigarette he said, “You know I had a friend who only smoked three cigarettes every day, one after every meal, never any more. When you think about it what else does a man have?” I thought about this for a long time. I realized he was trying to help me and teach me something. I took it to heart but it took many years to manifest in my life. I was just entering a phase when I figured that, if a little of something is good, a lot of it must be better.

          Ted, the FBI guy, got wind of the trip and also tried to steer me off without directly letting on that he knew the specifics. To the more responsible people in our crowd, the notion of me riding the motorcycle to Morocco with Sebastiano on the back could not be a good thing. I never had a second thought. I was flattered that Sebastiano thought I was good enough on the motorcycle to put his life in my hands, literally. And the road called to me, an exotic road to the south; Granada, Algeciras, Ceuta, Tetuan, Tangiers, Africa!

 

 

 

Paco, Our Beloved Gangster Chapter 18

          Our expatriate crowd had a local godfather, a non-violent one named Paco. He was Mr. “Sportin’ Life” and a lot of fun. He had more money than the rest of the locals because of scams he controlled and he cultivated the expat crowd because one of the scams involved us. You would see Paco from far away making his way through the narrow streets hunkered down behind the wheel of his nineteen thirties vintage Packard convertible with fenders that stretched out a mile in front. It seemed impossible that car could maneuver through those streets. His waxed moustache stabbed the air; his smiling teeth clamped down on his cigarette holder. A Panama hat completed the look of total gangster chic. Paco had seen all the American movies and saw himself as a mini Al Capone without the violence. I can’t imagine him hurting anyone. He seemed to be having so much fun.

          It didn’t take Paco long to figure that Sebastiano was the leader of the pack and that’s how I got to know him and his friends. The expat group was always hard up for money. We sold blood, taught English, and did whatever we could to maintain our beatnik expat life. In Franco’s Spain there was a shortage of cars because their production wasn’t good at the time. The wealthier people in Spain could afford a good car but they were on a long waiting list. However, a foreigner could buy a car without waiting. Paco would recruit the foreigners to go to the central office and buy a Spanish car called a Seat, which was then turned over to the Spanish customer. Paco had a “soldier” who processed the transactions in the central office, so the whole thing was a walk in the park. We got to know Paco’s friends who were just slightly older than I, all very good-natured guys to be with.

          In addition to the assorted dancers, poets, writers, people studying flamenco and the occasional tourists passing through our scene at the Plaza de Santa Ana, there was a little Englishman named Harold Smith who seemed very proper and very British. He and Ruth afforded a bit of élan to our unwashed group. Harold was another one whose purpose was not clear. He was studying Spanish but was not good at it and I remember something about “difficulties” he had had in England. We never knew the details but suspected he was laying low for a while. In our group nobody pressed for the details.

          Harold was always in a tweed suit even when the streets were sizzling like a frying pan. Madrid is a big dry plateau, a high desert, and from May through September the heat is brutal during the day. But the English are English and never more English than when they are out of their country. In India they built fireplaces in their houses and carried umbrellas to shade them from the sun if not the rain.