Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ole ole mi graciosa su querposito baile como una botella de gaseosa

The really happy times don't happen all at once; they accumulate slowly. Little things mount up into a continuous peon of joy.
The rambling spanish house with tiled floors and glass paintings on the wall. Two little rooms lived with books where we sat at night as Gerald read Virgils Georgics with a crib, and the other at tea time in the winter as it had a fireplace - the other rooms were big and airy, large windows looking out onto the truely magical garden where young Jason sat surrounded with white 'palomas'

Rosario and Anthonio - fat cook dragon and garderner, he was like a tree - went to bed for a week when one blew down. Their two daughters Maria and Carmen had to be guarded fiercely from 'novios' who might be lurking - but the arrival of 'el nino' (the boy child) eh que guapo 'how beautiful' etc and he was firmly cosseted by three sets of full spanish womanly bosums. This gave me time to recover and to begin to paint again.

An American artist friend Harold Meeske showed up - he had been working at an American air base in Morocco where he had discovered a fine varnish usually used to spray jat palnes. A couple of tins and the thinner he generously gave me and off I went. It was amazing - totally colourless - built up like a jewel. I found a wonderful old man in Malaga who was a gold leafer - he did all the huge floats they use at Easter. He taught me how to apply the leaf to wood - very tricky - but the combination of the gold filtering through the glaze and the translucence of the glaze itself was beautiful and I painted endlessly. This was a household tuned to work - breakfast over by nine, then paint until lunch at twelve, after which the siesta - then we had tea and time for revision - after all this came time to sit in the flower bedecked courtyard and drink wine with friends - until supper eaten late in Spain. So it was a mixture of Spanish/English timing and eating too - for Gamel had taught Maria many toothsome English and American dishes. Makes my mouth water when I think of them.

One day a friend from London arrived with a young gypsy boy called Chapasitto (meaning he was born in a sack), he was a nephew of Carmen Amaya and could do the sappadijo (tap dancing) on a table. He decided that he and I should dance together - I pointed out that we might look ridiculous - for I was much bigger than he - but I could dance, and so we did dance together.

I met a huge tribe through him all his Vicente cousins and the uncle, he of the animal grace and old world countecy, wearing his grey Cordovese hat at a filt at the world - they lived on the plague pits and curves - 100 years must pass after a plague before building in Spain - so there we danced, bare feet on bare earth under a zillion little morning stars.
Spaniards are obsessed with death, I quickly learned that through going endlessly to the Corrida (bull fight) - yes every sunday all the Noviadas and the big Ferias at Sevilla and Malaga where I saw the great Mano a Manobetween Anthonio and el Nino at the famour ferier in Malaga when I was taken by Don Ernesto (as Ernest Hemingway was known) to sit in 'barrerias' sombra - best seat in the house and I could drape my beste shawl over the barriera and received an ear - what glory. Just the once.
Usually I sat halfway up sol y sombra, but I knew the people who worked there, mostly gypsies as it is one career they can persue - that and entertaining and metalwork. To get to the oldest placadetoros in spain which is in condoba I rode from our village of Churriana via the great grey rocks - pools and egals of Tolox with the mulateers - singing all the way. Ah waht a life I had, and how I loved it. The nearby village of Torre Molinos had long been an artist colony and still was and some young Americans arrived to add to ones already overflowing cup of hapiness. Yes I met Ira Cohen then - fifty five years ago life was easy - dusty maybe, but full of warm wine fuelled laughter and his friends Monroe and Judy - rich young new yorkers and quite a few others, I hitched up with a folk singer Mitch who was the toast of the town - great bass voice and big dark and handsome - in Spain a handsome man on ones arm does nobody any harm as my gypsy maid Maria used to say, for I had a tie dying business going strong called Zarabanda Fabrics - Gamel had showed me how to do it - quite unknown back then in 1958 - I was doing silks for a Madrid designer Elio Berenhauer and Dean Anna de Pombo and Jaime Palade in Marbella which was then a moderately fashionable little town. It meant living in a little shell like house in the bacanndillo (or fishing village) down the cliff from Toree Molinos, visiting Gerald and Gamel all the time but feeling more in control, thanks to them.

Eventually, because a friend had a nightclub called the Lally lally he invited me to hang my paintings on the wall, have an exhibition in fact - good old Tim - he vanished at sea at the time of the great train roobery - I have often wondered - but he had always hankered after tobbing the bank of England just for fun, he did not need the money- urged him not to try - impossible I thought - so - oh well he did vanish and never reappeared which was a terrible shocking blow for me to take. He had been my greatest friend and my life would have been very different if he had not taken off towards the grim castle in Corsia in his air craft - which was little more than a pleasure craft. Before all this happened though there was mucho fun to recall.
Time bought me a share in a shop in Tangier - so I moved there, into a beautiful house in the Rue Amrah just below the gateway into the Caspah. It was old, a Pashas house with two wells - a house on the roof and a steam bath with a domed roof adorned with circles of coloured glass which let light pour through the spruce scented in rainbows. What a way to start the day. All around were wonderful Moroccan friends Abdelkada of the cofe a saint who helped everybody, Abdelkala of the fisherman who lived with his two chubby chuckling wives on the cliff. He was our handyman who loved to sit and cut kiff and flirt with my cook Ayesha.
Those were energetic days, there were so many expats and remitance men - poets, painters, drifters of every kind that every day was a carnival of conviviality. I shared my bed with a red haired painter called Alex who now is a Rabbi in Jerusalem, two young girls Amy and Michelle - their mother Beverly de Vore was unwell so they lived with me which was fine and she lived next door so they hopped over the flat roofs to see her. We had a dog Siddhi Sidney Ben Idni - Mr Sidney from Indi - I picked him up on one of my journeys into the desert - as I stopped at Idni on the Rif Mountains above my destination Tarroudant - a Berber shepherd talked me into it - well I though it would be both good for me and educational for the children to have a dog - and I like them - but oh no -in a Muslem country dogs are 'without' as said in the revelations of dolm the Divine. Quite what that means has always been unclear to me - without what? Or does it mean outside the walls. Life was not the same, he kept being arrested - the anquished call from Amy - 'Sidneys in Jaoool' and he would be bailed out. A friendly, brown, warm hearted animal who still fills my heart - he was so small he went up my sleeve when I first carried him and was swarming with fleas which I released on the balcony of the Cofe hotel overlooking the Djma el Fnaa in Marakesh. Amy and Jason were five going on six and were very successful in their four guife trade - dressed in layers of fluttering silken jellabas shred on shred giving a pantomine effect. Pierrot and Pierrette. I showed them how to strike up a partnership with one or two good shops and only take groups there. Then return and cop the percentage. We knew Barbara Hutton who had a little palace just below us in the Rue Amrah so they knew her doorman and could say 'you want to see house of Barbara Hutton?' Big plus - small glimpse into outer coutryard. Jason used to bring Amy home in a taxi and hand her out - a real gent and fifty dirham everyday for house keeping. How they loved it - after chanting the Koran with the Moccadem as all the children did for disciplin, and going to the market for rabbit food, they could be free all day - but only in the Aeab quarter - no cars, no unfriendly people and home for lunch and tea please. William Burrows used to come by for tea - he walked the kasbah in his raincoat and brown trilby forall the world like an old fashioned postal clerk or the Rillington Place murderer. He did not like kif being smoked in his presence which I found strange - he had such a reputation after all! He also had immence loyalty - I had an exhibition of paintigs in the Parade Bar a chi chi bar/cafe run by Jay Hazelwood who told me he was a Georgoa cracker - what kind of biscuit was that?! My partner had the knack of painting in the style of Delacroix and had decorated it with pearl laden negro boys polling gondolas, but there was room for more, so up went mine. One was of Jason in his arabian garb on a cliff edge holding a bunch of clover. It was called 'I see you in the summer' and was of innocence (Painted on gold leaf as usual - very difficult to photograph.)

One elderly gay - there were quite a few jolly friends among the motley throng - wanted to buy it - he insisted - but I did not fancy my little sons' image adorning the walls of his cas ban palace where orgies took place, so I said 'No.' He screamed and hurled abuse - but Bill stepped up and in his gratey voice told him that he has already bought it - and was at the bar every evening to guard me from further onslaughts - and invited me to eat the delicious food Lilly cooked there with him. Yes, a kind man Mr Burroughs.

My shop which I called Sheik and Tatty was favourably placed next door to the Parade Bar so we got the pre lunch crowd and the after lunch drunks plus the early morning clientelle. All this, plus an interior decoration business did very well. Stewart - my american gay partner who painted old masters, also knew how to harness the local talent - Morrocans cannot pick up a tin can without turning it into a lovely lamp - we had Larbie who painted exotic worms and cut flowers out of metal - these made very servicable door stops in a windy place like Tangieir! Some of our customers were rich because of relative - Eugenia Backhead - sister of Tallulha - daughter of the Colonel Bankhead. She has the voice of a bull frog and resembled one also - but a heart of gold. I caught Amy and Jason in her bathroom once having used every lotion and bath salt and bubble. Oh heavens, all those cut glass bottles, and those twinkling faces peeping over the mound of bubbles. The scent was overpowering - but did Eugenia mind? Not a jot - 'got a cupboard full of those' she croaked as she picked up her shuddering Chiwawas - those hairless shivering creatures were a great source of worry for Amy. Then there was Mary Rodgers - her dad had been a singing cowboy called Will and now she enjoyed his millions - and how! She drank vodka collins all day and changed her bedroom furniture with each lover. Very good for an interior decorator. Spanish antiques were discarded - 'oh you keep those' (receipt signed of course.) Then an English Lord had to be entertained in flowered dimity. She finally decided on a Morocaan policeman so this was easy. To be an interior decorator all you need is a good unholstirer, a good iron man and a carpenter, plus it helps to have a real colour sense. I was painting away in my rooftop studio and people were sent by a lady who made wonderful materials and told them I was 'a geeeenious' this all helped. I made more money there than I have ever before or since!

Oh dear - here came a letter from Tom McGee, now clean and living in a 'finka' (grand farm) in Mexico. In it he avowed his love - all he had - he proclaimed. Hmm, would I come. OH LOR!! I asked two romantics I knew and loved Paul and Janey Bowles - what to do? I asked Gerald and Gamel - they all though I would have to give it a try - for Jason and for me. Yes or no forever? A truely fanstastic piece of financial luck plus a trip to Timbuktoo delayed the departure, but then came telegrammes. So - sadly - Jason and I embarked once again in a boat to cross yet another sea to a for distant land. Luckily Spanish was spoken there. After a heartbreaking farewell to Ayesha - les girls and dear Sidney - they were going to move into the house with their mother, which I hoped would work.
Jason and I boarded the Portugese cango boat and began a mini caribbean cruise. First stop - Venezuela, where a myriad of butterflies met us whilst still out to sea. We had hit the Americas.
Caracas - our first taste of the 'new world' was terrifying smileyjap cans careening down the pavement - guns going off in side streets and a taxi driver who nearly killed us - had a bullet wound in the back of his head - we lunged for the safety of our boat and watched the biggest bird fly overhead - the condor with a wing span of more than even an albatross.
Steaming away the next day, first stop Dominican Republic - old crumbling colonial houses - rusting dry fountain filled with giant crabs - surely there must be something better - there was - a sort of bus ride - getting used again to sharing the ride with the farm - to a superb beach - the travel advertisement come true - the whitest sort of powder sand - the water so clear it seemed invisible and the multitude of coloured fish hung in a crystal void. Palms swung in graceful arches and beneath them the best food eaten - maybe ever - anywhere - served bu gracious - ever smiling, very pretty people. One tiny boy invited me to take a walk with him and off we went and firstly I saw a white butterfly as big as a damask dinner napkin and plants from a Russian painting. He kept ponting to a green mountain and telling me it was very dangerous - Voodoo etc. Well we weren't going that far so I did not worry until suddenly from both sides leapt men with big guns. Ouch. Quick-pull out the precious Brit passport and adopt cut glass lady tourist persona - the tiny boy looked on admiringly and they let us go, grinning at my performance.. We said goodbye to his beautiful, never to be forgotten beach, and Dominican Republic and journeyed on to Puerto Rico. Hey hey - shades of west side story - well - er - yes - but startingly boring - and - excuse us but is this the United States already? Glad to leave and through a flamingo pink sunset with glowing lea dotted with emerald islands toward Mexico. I should say here that my erstwhile lover Alex was journeying with Jason and I. He was on his way to an artschool in San Francisco and Kindhearted as ever he wanted to see us alright.
We left our beloved craft - waving to our flamenco dancing view - with the priests and nuns who had been somewhat of a nuisance during the voyage by constantly trying to convert Jason. We plonked ourselves down at a cafe in abig open square and soon forgot the clurgy as the music burst out - several Mariachi bands walked round and round filling the evening air with such joyful sound that we felt quite abandoned and decided that Mexico was magic.

Leaving this jolly town behind and heaving on and off many and varied forms of vehicular traffic - including one donkey ride - we crossed Mexico. A short stop in Mexico City just to look at de Rivera murals and the remains (few) of Xetxacoatls water city. Then the sparkling Pacific was in front of us - all those ups and downs behind us. Puerto Vallanta - white and pretty provided a market where we bought hammocks, they are a way of life in Mexico. But would we need one at the 'Finca', so now to find El Tuito and Tom.

El Tuito - an old silvermine village turned out to be up some considerable mountains and to get there one could go by mule - three days, or hire an aeroplane - really no question - so - we found a huge black moustache called Macpherson and he flew the bi-plane. Scary. He skimmed the top of one crag by a hairsheath and wobbled down into a vendant green valley where we bumped down in a vast pampas, scared horses running everywhere, no Tom. Macpherson unloaded our bags and bade us 'adios', and waved his way back to Puerto Vallanta. We stood under a tiny shed in this immense emptiness and waited, something had to happen next, it always does - so - well after a while a wavery dot turned into Tom on horseback galloping toward us out of the distance. He always liked to make an entrance.
He was aghast at the wooden box containing all my wordly possessions, including, rather stupidly I will admit - some white staffordshire figurines. Floradora MacDonaled and two surprised looking dogs, and of course Queen Vic and Albert the good. They are probably staring out of some Mexican dwelling now. Ah well. It was the 'Finca' you see - I thought quite rightly that they would look lovely against white adobe. However - white adobe it was not. After a long hot walk with nothing to drink excepting for a quite revoltig local brew out of Toms 'bota.' Turn a croner and a mud shack in the shade of a giant avacado tree stoof in front of us. We could perhaps rest here for a little while. Oh yes we certainly could because this was the 'Finca.' Tom had gone totally native and had a friend, an american jockey called Chaparito staying so we were quite a party made complete to two very tall, totally silent men in white and huge mushroom like hats, yes they crouched against the wall of this tiny mud house surrounded my a veranda. A mud stove stood like a pagan altar with the bean pot bubbling away, this pot was never empty, it just got added to. A wood pile crowded with scorpions finished the kitchen furnishings and the hammocks were the only things to sit in. Alex had to go and it seeme as if chaparito might also - he was fun and taught me to gallop lying glat on the horses back - easy with mexican stirops - they are like metal shoes. Of course I had to buy a horse and Chaparito helped me to choose him. It was very easu - just go to the 'yarno' a grassland where all the horses hung out - if you needed one just go and choose - they sortf of belonged to everyone and no-one - but to buy one? well that made it your responsibility. My choice was a dark velvet brown gelding - about fourteen hands. Small and smiling, with the longest eyelashes fringing his huge Eddie Cantor like eyes. I called him Mr Polly - and I loved him. I also bought 'tack' a comfortable arm chair of saddle and a shaffle bridle. These cots more than Mr Polly. Free now to roam I tackled the village - schoool for Jason? oh yes - in spanish of course and the books illustrated by de Rivera. Jason liked it and soon had a friend who stood in my kitchen and solomly told me his name was Antionogesariochestosevario and on and on/ Such a huge name for such a small boy. He came every morning and they set off for school together. We lodged a lavender donkey Tomk called 'the judge' - he had one eye only but would eat anything if wrapped in cheese paper, a handy garbage disposable unit - so if he was not needed for work they could ride him - otherwise they walked. It was several miles but they did not seem to mind. If he got loose in el Tuito however he made it his duty to visit as many mares as he could - his virility was amazing he made all the mules. So the boys had him secured by La Caroma - one of the twol old ladies who ran the 'fonda' - they had worked as cooks for the minors when there was a silvermine - oh my they were a pain - I could listen to their stories forever and Mexico is like that - take time out - get in the hammock - drink something and chat. Whole days seemed to pass delightfully in this manor, Tom seemed quite happy and was only drinking moderately, he would work around the place - eat the beans at mid-day and into the hammock until the horses let us (for we all did the same) know they were lonely and wanted to run. So up and away either to El Tuito or to the cliff villiages which were somewhere up north maybe - I was never sure of direction up there. These were amazing - smaller than the metropolis caves in Arizona but neat - Tom had repared one house using bits from others and we stayed there a few times in the remnants of the ancient feilds Tom grew a few peppers and so forth. I sprouted some good weed seeds but a cow used the tiny patch to lay a layer of the best fertiliser ever but they were too young to survive and were squashed. So our days passed and Alex left - then it was Chaparitos turn. We three were alone.

This did not work. As we sat one day beside the stream a black watersnake lazed past. Oh - well I knew then that something was about to change and it did. Tom, always blunt even when lying - told me he was sorry but he had come to the conclusion that he could only live with his horse - maybe a dog. Oh Jason could stay. Just you. I went to Guadalahara and a short magical trip down the coast from Tepic to Sam Juan. The magical valley of the wichole. They are tiny and twinkly. They take in the emperors of the plant kingdom and their hearts are pure in consequence. I loved it and the crumbling old stucco houses at the seaside. Oh yes my little 'trial seperation' had been happy. Not so Jason. Landing I grabbed a horse from the yarno and rode to school. Jason jumped up behind me and away we went. There was a big rock about halfway and we stopped for water. He told me that Tom was cruel and if we were not staying together he wanted to come with me. So you shall son. I had paid Toms debts, bought him a silk 'matrimonio' hammock (the best) and I figured I had dome my best. It began to rain and one day on Toms old gelding the chairman (who did not like me) I saw Jason and I riding him alongside - doppelganger or reflexion - that was ot. We went down the river Tuito from source to the sea. Lovely two day ride - full or orchids and rich smells - the river always at our side - bright birds and more of those white napkins butterflies.
Our destination was Yalapa - full of Americans and a major film being shot in the next valley. Toms house had been occupied by two rich americans who had put in bathrooms and patios - here in a way, was the 'finca' so I gave the 'lady of the house' the staffs when I left. They were very social and big time climbers. Toms revenge was to gallop the Chairman round her dinner table scattering floor pebbles everywhere alarming her film star guests. The film the night of the Iguana had R.Burton with E.Taylor queening it in Puerto Vallanta. So you can imagine her conservation as hostess with mostest image floated away. Tom made her give me a house next door which was alright and introduced me to a few of the older inhabitatnts - like old Tom. He had been a rich man in New Orleans who one day just gave the entire business to his wife and took off to Mexico. He was a fine figure of a man who used to dive into the river every morning from a big grey rock which grew out of the sand which the Tuito built up and up until woosh, it all tumbled into the sea. It was a bad place, though but some jolly people came - they worked for a folk singer called Bob Dillon - who I had never heard of. Tom Law was his road manager and there were others plus Peter Yarrow who sang with Paul and Mary. We sang old Appalachian songs that Gamel had taught me and had lots of fun - but long rides were not possible and Mr Polly was getting bored - so was I and the scorpion problem was outrageous. Tom had said he would come down for birthday and Christmas but he missed all three and I found the dry tail of a scorpion in my bed.
Alex arrived carrying a black iron teapot from japan and said he was F.Christmas. Peter kept saying why don't you go back to the states - you will be a wow and Jason a big star. Well why not, and we sent Mr Polly back to El Tuito and got Jason a fresh American passport in Guadalahara and from there - over the tumultious border at Tiuwana - pretty easy then though. Bus to San Diafo where Jason said excitedly 'this is where 'THE TOURISTS' come from' and yes they looked alike. These folk had been his bread and butter in Tangiers so he was happy, always the opportunist then. Another bus and we rode over Los Angeles wondering at the amount of electricity, each little corner like Piccadilly Circus. On and on and then early in the morning we arrived in San Francisco in 1965 and walked uphill to Alamo Park and the Russian Embassy where Alex was waiting for us.