Dropped into the world of Spanish…

November 21, 2015
Near the language school I attended in Madrid.

Near the language school I attended in Madrid.

I have found myself explaining why I went all the way to Spain to study Spanish.

One heck of a lot of people are speaking Spanish right here in the USA.

And I come from California with a rich Spanish history, once being part of Spain and then part of Mexico before we fulfilled our manifest destiny. And today in many areas of the state or in many environments — such as the trucking/warehouse industry, of which I have taken part in for two decades — you will hear more Spanish than English. Now let’s get over the hey-this-is-the-U.S.-speak-English thing. Hey, basically I feel that way too, at least to a point. English by virtue of our history is our official/unofficial language and certainly one needs to know it here and should know it, but reality also says it is handy to know another language, especially if it is used in one’s environment, and besides it makes for a fuller life (it does not have to be Spanish, but that is the one I chose).

I studied Spanish for a mere three semesters in college, and off and on through the years I have tried to get into it.

While I still have a long ways to go before I could even imagine calling myself fluent (and at 66 time is dwindling perhaps), I feel I did get a major boost in language classes I took in Spain. Like I tell people:

Aprendì mucho, sin embargo, acabo de empezar.

And if my Spanish is correct, I said I learned a lot but I have just begun.

Where did I get this idea of taking Spanish lessons in Spain? Well blame it on my dentist. Actually I should thank him (although all the money I have paid him ought to suffice, but he is a great dentist I must say).

I had mentioned to him that I vacationed in Spain the previous year and really enjoyed it but the only downside was that my Spanish was not up to par. I couldn’t seem to get much past mucho gusto (pleased to meet you) and ordering drinks or food. Well I did seem to have my spiel about where I was from and what I did for a living down pat, except once when I was trying to give a little bit of personal history, that is that I had been to Europe way back when I was in the army. I used the wrong word (equipo instead of ejèrcito, the former can mean team and the latter means army) and I think they thought I meant a soccer team (they call it fùtbol, of course). I got some raised eyebrows (what I don’t look like a fùtbol player?).

My dentist said he had attended a language course in Spain and suggested I might try that, since I was planning to go back anyway.

But all that is so last year.

I went solo this year, while last year I was with an Hispanic couple and their son, and the father is actually from Spain.

It’s a long flight, 13 hours from San Francisco. I arrived in the predictable jet-lag daze.

I dropped out of the sky and landed on Spanish soil and all but said goodbye to the English language for one month.

I was picked up by a driver who spoke little to no English. I was relieved that the school’s name was on the van but to be honest up until this point I was not totally sure this was all on the up and up — I had already paid the money. But if that school’s name had not been on the door I would have been awful dubious. It seemed the driver was going around in circles. If it had been a taxi I would have suspected that the driver was trying to run up the meter. But actually he was forced to go around in circles because streets were blocked off all over the place. They were having a bicycle event. He kept muttering some word I could not make out. He was either talking about the streets being blocked off or some off-color anatomical description, I never was able to translate it for sure.

Even with my previous Spanish language experiences I was somewhat timid is using the language, especially at first.

But I recall waltzing into a bank and thinking I would just exchange some of my dollars for Euros.

¿Tiene usted una cuenta señor? a man behind a desk asked me. I should add that I had to push a security button just to get into the bank. Banks in Europe are not as open as they are in the USA.

I quickly realized he was asking if I had an account there. “No”. I answered.

Lo siento (I’m sorry) señor.

Well anyway, I already knew that I could use the outside teller machines because I had used them last year but I have this phobia you might call it about machines that swallow your card — I’m afraid they won’t spit it back out. Without that card I would have been in big trouble. But the need for money helped me overcome my fear.

I went to a drug store, la farmacia, and bought some necessary items. The gal gave me a free bottle of mouthwash — was she trying to tell me something? What she did advise about the mouthwash in her limited English was that I had to “throw it out”. Well why did she give it to me then? Actually she hesitated when she used that phrase. And I quickly recalled that in Spanish that is probably what you could literally say, using the verb echar which has several meanings and uses but one might be understood to throw something.

I stayed in the residence of a woman who hosts school students and who as far as I could ever tell spoke only a little English, but then again I think part of the agreement she has with the school is to speak Spanish at all times. So I went a month at the residence using only Spanish (carefully, if hurriedly forming my sentences in my mind). We did not have long discussions for the most part  but a few times I began conversations and then took on almost more than I could handle, at times only understanding the theme of what she was saying.

And into my fourth week when I was all in a bother about getting my stuff together for the plane ride home in desperation I blurted out something about if she has seen something and did not realize that I was speaking English. That was the only time she ever gave me what appeared almost to be as a scowl.

She said something like:

Si te me pregunta en español voy a contester (If you ask me in Spanish I will answer).

Lo siento, lo siento (I’m sorry, I’m sorry), I apologized.

I had signed up for a super-intensive course, so for five days a week for four weeks (save one holiday) I was in classes from 9 a.m. till at least 3:30 p.m. and sometimes 4:30 p.m. with only a 20-minute break or pausa as they called it. No siesta.

And by the by (a propòsito) I never have got the full low-down on how the traditional Spanish siesta is observed. Stores and other businesses are often closed a couple or so hours in the afternoon and people tend to have to work later because of that I think).

During the school, which was primarily lecture and class participation, with light homework, the profesors and profesoras spoke virtually always in Spanish even if you desperately asked a question in English (I quit trying to use English early on, like the first day). If you did not understand then they tried to explain in another way and used gestures (polite ones).

Now I and the other students at my level came in with some knowledge of Spanish but not much. And you know? the system works. I think as long as you use your mother tongue as a crutch, you will have a hard time mastering another language.

It is interesting though that English does seem to be a universal language. I noticed most of the students, who came from China, Japan, Germany, Holland, Brazil, and other places, all spoke English, and some of them quite well. Yes, I did hear some English there, but primarily among my fellow students (I mean I speak no Chinese), but only a small amount from the faculty.

Most of my classes had less than a dozen students and for at least an hour each day I worked one-on-one with a professor.

I was by myself, like I said, and I am a fairly solitary person, but I did manage to get out besides going to school, but I’m running long here and will continue this in another post.


I did not identify the school out of respect for it. I mean I don’t want to tarnish its image by anything I might write such as incorrect language usage (I’m still learning) or my own peculiar way of describing things perhaps. I was quite pleased with the school. The faculty seemed top rate.









Coming full circle in the Middle East, go effective or not at all…

November 17, 2015

Should I say I have come full circle or should I say I am going around in circles? I am referring to my position or feelings on what the USA should do in the Middle East or more specifically in the war on terror.

While in general I would prefer we do not meddle in the affairs of other nations, at least not any more than we have to, when they can’t keep their own affairs straight and it impacts us, well then…

I mean because of the instability in the Middle East the terrorist groups formed. The terrorist groups were not only against the existing governments but outside forces they felt caused or at least they could blame for the problems in their respective nations. So they struck out against those other nations, to include the U.S., with the most notable attack on 9/11.

And now to make matters worse, things are so bad in this war-torn part of the world, the Middle East, Syria in particular at this time, that millions of refugees have flooded Europe and and want to enter the US. too. But along with the flood of the desperate, it appears some terrorists entered, using the wave of humanity for cover. Certainly that had to be expected. And the wave of millions of refugees is taxing the resources of the people whose nations they wind up in.

Well, as to the argument that the West, the U.S. in particular, has been the major factor in causing the instability, it does have some truth to it, but that argument can only go so far. I mean international trade is what makes the world go around. From the beginning this nation (the U.S.) has depended upon trade. Our founding fathers I believe wanted us to mind our own business but we soon found out that we had to get involved somewhat overseas just to protect our trade. We sent the Marines after the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa in the early part of the 19th Century.

And I’m not going to go further and try to cite a bunch of U.S. history, but the facts of life are that in this modern world (and even in the old) we are interdependent upon each other. But when you have nations that are wracked by instability, often or always due to an unfair distribution of resources, the whole world economic system and world security itself is threatened.

And now it appears that the terrorist group ISIS has demonstrated a capability and willingness to commit savage mass murders against Western targets, going after France primarily at the moment, but even threatening to strike Washington D.C. (and I suppose other parts of America too). The group is suspected to have brought down a Russian jet liner, as well.

So, what to do.

Well I certainly don’t know, but I doubt pin prick attacks the U.S. has carried out so far are effective enough. At the same time, it is a sad fact that a horrendous attack like that in Paris last week where more than a 100 people were slaughtered and as many or more injured could conceivably happen no matter how hard we attacked the terrorists because when you have people crazy enough to commit suicide and you have freedom of movement in a free society it can and apparently will happen. France was actually on stepped-up security due to attacks earlier in the year.

However, I am not one to simply be content with the throwing up of hands and saying “well there is nothing we can do”.

It seems apparent that we must do something. And while I would never ever, ever, want to see Donald Trump as president or in any position of public authority, even he gets things right or close to it sometimes:

He was saying something about going after the oil fields that the terrorists use to help fund their activities. He also questioned why the French (and I suppose the U.S. too) waits until after the latest terrorist strike to go after ISIS training camps.

Well I do not know who has done what and when, but if we have any military activity at all against ISIS one has to wonder why we might be holding back. One person suggested to me it may be because we are concerned about civilian casualties, so-called collateral damage.

While that always has to be a top concern in civilized society, war by definition is not civilized. Remember? We fire-bombed Tokyo and Dresden and dropped a couple of nukes on Japan, and of course engaged in collateral damage all over the place as well.

And that general way back when said: “war is hell”. But having to live under the threat of terrorism is not all that nice either. And the real nightmare is that ISIS or anyone else might get a hold of some of the stray nuclear bomb material that is said to have been floating around since the fall of the Soviet empire. Not only would the detonation of so-called dirty nukes inflict immediate but possibly limited physical damage, it would likely set off a panic that would be nearly impossible to control.

Maybe we can’t just send in the troops like it was D-Day. And remember, we didn’t get to D-Day for four years.

And sending in the troops like we did in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, did not get us the result we intended.

Even so, we may need to send in the troops in some form and namby-pamby only gets troops killed. It would be wiser to skip the whole thing than to fight with one hand tied behind our backs.

I would think we have to identify where the terrorists hang out and take the fight to them. In some instances it might take no more than drones or fighter jets, in some instances much more. And again, we can’t be afraid to do much more.

We also need to go after their sources of supply – and whoops, we will likely find that is it our own arms suppliers (money is money) – and their source of finance (whoops again to some extent probably). But one source I have read is Middle East oil fields, either through direct control or theft.

So we can’t secure the oil fields or secure shipments? What’s up with that?

Now if we go over there big time we are going to hurt some peoples’ feelings. Sorry, but we don’t need to apologize for fighting to protect ourselves.

Sadly, I am not sure the American electorate as a whole is willing to sacrifice – not yet anyway – but our survival may well depend upon it.

(Implicit in all of this is the help of our allies, and maybe even some new allies, but we can’t depend upon them and we must take a leadership role, or what kind of superpower are we?)

In summary, I am not saying go to all-out war, WW-II style. I mean I don’t have the information or the expertise. But it seems the powers that be think we have to use military action. But I think it needs to be done on a larger scale to be effective and both the government and the people need to be prepared to fight to win.

The French president has already proclaimed war.

Oh, and why is it we went to war in the Middle East in the first place because oil was so important and then we failed to secure the oil? And please don’t give me that poppycock that oil had nothing, or little to do with it – I do know better than that.


And I always forget something. News to me, but today I heard that our own Silicon Valley markets encryption devices that terrorists are using, but the devices are so good that once sold even the producers can’t decode them. First Amendment and other rights notwithstanding, especially in a national security/war situation, we are going to have to get some cooperation from the high-tech people. Their own way of life depends upon it just as much as ours does.

Is ISIS realy all that sophisticated? Maybe, but we’ve been here before and survived…

November 15, 2015

In my last post, although I opined that if ISIS indeed is a threat to the USA, then we need to act on our own and do what we can to defeat it (with any help welcome, of course). But I also wondered just how sophisticated the terrorists have to be to do the things they are doing.

Then I ran across this, which I have lifted from the site The Daily Kos:

By Mark Sumner

On June 2, eight large bombs detonated simultaneously in eight US cities. The bombs contained sizable amounts of high explosives and were jacketed with shrapnel intended to increase the number of victims. The bombs were accompanied by flyers that said “There will have to be murder: we will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions.” Just a month earlier, 36 bombs were sent by mail to congressmen, judges, members of the cabinet, and state officials.  A year later, a large bomb went off outside a Wall Street bank, killing 38 and wounding over 140.

How can these things have happened without dominating our headlines? They happened in 1919 and 1920.

The culprits in the US bombing were “Galleanists,” a small group of anarchists—perhaps no more than a few dozen in total, perhaps even less—who followed Italian activist, Luigi Galleani. How could a small group, with extremely limited funding, launch simultaneous attacks on multiple targets in different cities? Answer: they had watches.

Attacks like those that happened in 1919—or this week in Paris—don’t require extensive planning, deep pockets, or a dark genius worthy of a James Bond film. They just require a small number of pissed off young men who want to hurt people. Even the watches are optional.

Am I saying “don’t bomb ISIS?” Nope. They’re awful people doing awful things. Bomb away. Just don’t get it in your head that it either takes some massive organization to plan this sort of assault, or that going after guys who control a few towns along a stretch of road on the border of Syria and Iraq, will resolve a problem among disaffected and unemployed young men half a world away.


And back to my own words: I in no way underestimate the threat of ISIS and other associated or like groups, and I do believe we have to step up to the plate now and do whatever needs to be done and quit drawing lines in the sand and then stepping back, but at the same time, the material from the Daily Kos is food for thought.

It will take cooler heads and people with a stronger reasoning power than the bellicose Donald Trump, who by the by, was not available when his country called for military service. The Chicken hawks strike again.


My quick check on the web indicated that Mr. Trump avoided the Vietnam draft by both college deferments and possibly a medical condition at one point. That would not necessarily make him a draft dodger (if all was on the up and up). I myself served in the U.S. Army, active duty, 1968 to 1971, but I went to Germany not Vietnam. And I have no beef with people just because they avoided Vietnam (a foreign policy and human disaster for the U.S.). My beef is with those who did not serve but are quick to flex military muscle and let others do the job. Prior military service of course is not a prerequisite to be president, nor should it be, and the framers of the Constitution wisely provided that the military be under civilian control. Even, so, I’m just saying…

Hillary seems the winner of the debate to me, but we need to stand up to ISIS on our own, I think…

November 14, 2015

Since Hillary Clinton is the front-runner in polling, albeit with Bernie Sanders close behind, I would give the win to her in tonight’s Democratic Party presidential election debate in Des Moines, Iowa, since she held her own and then some. But if so, Sanders was an awful close second, jabbing at Clinton continuously (with a few kind words here and there), but would enough Americans vote for an avowed socialist? Probably not. So Hillary wins.

Former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley — pretty much an unheard of person on a national scale — was reported to have caused a spike in twitter chatter, but I’m not sure what that amounts to. But he was strident, claiming to have already done big and bold things the other two were only talking about, such as raising the minimum wage. But he seems too late in the game to be just getting noticed now. And on a discussion on race relations he got a jab from Sanders, who said he would not want to live in Baltimore (or something to that effect; I didn’t take notes and am not going to replay the tape, so to speak).

While all were for raising the minimum wage, Hillary thought it better to hold any raise to $12, while Sanders called for $15, and O’Malley claimed to have been in the lead on the issue way back when.

For my part I am not excited about the minimum wage, except I think it may be needed to set some kind of floor, because believe you me, some employers (not all thankfully) will pay the very least they can and still complain like Scrooge that they are being robbed. But no one should look at the minimum wage as the answer. The answer is on an individual level to get beyond it. Also it seems it has to be somewhat inflationary and self-defeating. If suddenly everyone gets at least $15 then the prices for goods and services go up accordingly and suddenly $15 is not what it just was. A vicious circle indeed. And I always figure that in order for there to be rich people or well-to-do people there has to be poor people. The idea that everyone makes the same and we are all rich is a fantasy. But we don’t let the less fortunate starve, or should not. We provide either through a cooperative effort in our taxes or charity or, realistically, both, and we always must know, there but for the Grace of God (and our own efforts) we would be.

The Paris attacks, ISIS: a little bit at the beginning about that with all three suggesting that we can only fight ISIS in a cooperative effort with those in the Middle East and Europe doing the heavy lifting.

Personally, I don’t know. We have to do what we have to do to defend ourselves. If ISIS really does threaten us, then the USA as the strongest nation on Earth, and the only hope for freedom, must act boldly on its own (and help welcome too) to defend itself and apologize to no one. While misguided foreign policy through the years might have contributed to our present predicament, there is no excuse for the barbarism inflicted by the terrorists.

As bad as it is, I don’t know yet how powerful ISIS is. I mean how sophisticated do you have to be to commit suicide attacks in nations that have freedom of movement?

And yes, they apparently did bring down that Russian airliner, but you or I could carry a bomb onto an airplane, especially if we came in the back door of an airport where security is not as tough as through the front, or is not at all (or course neither you nor I would do such a thing, just an example).

Nonetheless it may well be that ISIS has become extremely sophisticated and powerful.

If the next president is confronted with her or his own 9/11, he or she will have to take bold action but not blind action. But like I always write in this space, we have to fight to win. Winning is everything here.

And any country that knowingly harbors, aids or abets ISIS is our enemy.

But back to the debate. Unlike the Republican circus it was substantive, so much so I fell asleep in the middle for a bit, but that was because I was tired not necessarily bored.

But the contrast between the Democratic discussion and the Republican show was almost scary. I mean to think any one of the front-runners on the GOP side could be president with the nonsense and hate and surprising ignorance they spew is depressing at the very least. Voices of moderation or reason do not get much support in the GOP these days.

Maybe they do need to draft Mitt Romney.

World War III may already be in progress…

November 13, 2015

I don’t want to overstate the case, but when I was advised to check my computer for the news that as many as a 100 or more people were killed in a terrorist attack in Paris I thought really this is the beginning of World War III. Actually we may already be in it. It does seem to be the extremists in the Middle East vs. Western civilization.


UPDATE, 11-14- 15, Saturday morning: And now the day after, the death toll is put at 128, at the time of this writing, and more than that wounded, some gravely, in six attacks across Paris, the heaviest toll being at a concert hall.

With ISIS claiming responsibility for the Paris atrocities, and with it also claiming responsibility for downing a Russian airliner, and what with China coming out against the terrorists, and Great Britain promising solidarity with France and others targeted by ISIS, and of course the USA pledging continued support in the ongoing war on ISIS, could this be a coalition of both the East and West against ISIS?


Don’t have much time to type here; I have an appointment to have my laptop checked out, for something minor I hope.

We really have not had any major terrorist attacks — well there was Ft. Hood, and am I forgetting any? — here in the U.S. since the biggie, 9/11. Strangely our mass murders have been inflicted by our home-grown crazies and are not political.

There may be something geographical — distance from Middle Eastern staging grounds — that makes Europe more vulnerable but I feel certain it is only a matter of time until it comes here or returns here.

So for what it is worth, no matter what your feelings about war, we are really already in a war.

And for at least the second time in this space, I ponder, was George W. right about the war on terrrrr, or however he pronounced it? If so, he did not seem to conduct it well, but then again he had poor advisors and no real military experience himself. Bush declared the war and suggested it had no end. I would say he did not need to actually declare it, it just is……….

More later, perhaps, I have to go to the computer store. Wish me luck please, I’ll need it….

And now back from the computer store. The good news is that I have a warranty but the not as good news is that I’ll have to leave the laptop with them for maybe two weeks (they have to send it out). My h key sticks. I’m getting a new keyboard. I have not turned it in yet but will soon. I’ll have to find another way to post or hold off for a while, we’ll see.

But of course my problem is minor. The terrorist problem threatens our very existence as a civilization.

A new president of the United States cannot solve it but must be up to dealing with it. The person will have to be someone who understands world affairs. But we actually have people in the race who have no clue. Strange, and somewhat terrifying in and of itself.

And to think this morning I paused like I always do when I notice it is Friday the 13th. And then thought of how many I have been through and nothing happened.



I think Kasich wins debate but can’t get nominated, too reasonable

November 11, 2015

The Fox Business News/Wall Street Republican Presidential Debate:

As my headline says, I give the win in the main event (as opposed to the earlier undercard) to Ohio Governor John Kasich, even though he has like no chance of coming close to the nomination, judging from polls and coverage so far.

Not sure anyone lost, but Jeb Bush failed to excite, so since he was supposed to have been the leader way back when, but failed to show up in previous debates, so to speak, maybe he was the loser, or maybe Rand Paul who at one point got carried away with economics and seemed to suggest we cannot afford to defend ourselves (although I know that is not what he meant).

And Donald Trump might win the skin-head or reactionary vote by pledging to ship millions of south-of-the-border (undocumented) immigrants, little children and all, back over the border, even though families may be working and paying taxes and have been here for years. Others said that would be impractical and cruel, suggesting a fine and a path to citizenship.

Carly Fiorina seemed prepared with fiery or impassioned answers, retorts, or observations when she got a chance. I thought Donald Trump showed how shallow he really is, maybe even embarrassing some of his staunch supporters, whomever they might be.

And why does Marco Rubio always sound as if he just came back from the dentist? And he never seems to display much substance or supply evidence that he is up to the job of president, just that he is eager to get it. And he seems way too young. I know JFK was young. But he brought more with him — a war record, a prominent family name and a charisma. And no stigma of personal financial troubles.

I temporarily forgot Dr. Ben Carson, surgeon turned politician wannabe, and am adding a comment now after already posting this:

Carson has become more polished and I think he performed better than Trump, but I would not trust this man and think he is just winging it, but getting better at playing the part.  It seems his second career is selling his life story, rags to riches and all, with maybe a little embellishing here and there (but he would not be the first). I fail to see how being a surgeon qualifies one to be president.

I began this post after possibly tuning in late to the undercard debate, the loser show. I refer to that below:

Okay, the joke is probably on me. It looks as if I tuned in late to the undercard debate and wondered what happened. Even so, the 15 minutes I did see was not too enlightening, so some of my comments (from my original draft) still stand. I am in the process of watching the main event now and it is more lively and much more enlightening. I think Donald Trump is not doing well (but I liked his comment that we should have taken the oil in Iraq), but then what do I know? I also think Ted Cruz comes across as a little shallow (all rhetorical show), Rand Paul as not realistic, and John Kasich is the best but with little to no chance of winning — he’s just too realistic and reasonable. Have not seen much from Jeb Bush yet, a little and it was fairly good, but still not much. Marco Rubio is all platitude, no substance. But whatever, they are being flushed out of the brush here…

Hey, I watched (and sometimes just listened because I was fixing my dinner) the Fox Business News/ Wall Street Journal so-called undercard Republican presidential debate.

The Republicans claimed, in both debates, that they will help the veterans (just in time for Veterans Day I suppose).

But the Republicans have been in control of congress, so they have had all the time in the world to take care of veterans.


You might notice I barely mention any actual issues here. Well, really for now I am just interested in who might face Hillary Clinton (assuming as most do that she will be the Democratic Party nominee). I want to see if I will be presented with a reasonable choice. One thing, we can neither afford to have a hot head nor a too soft-hearted person as commander in chief. On domestic issues, it usually boils down to philosophy on the role of government and whether one simply goes by the adage that what is good for business is good for everyone (but of course business is not a single entity).

Life as a photographer is not always easy, or, I survived my Spain trip (and want to go back)

November 4, 2015
In the Cuatro Caminos neighborhood, Madrid, Spain

In the Cuatro Caminos neighborhood, Madrid, Spain

Okay, right off the bat I want to set the record straight or admit my naiveté or poor judgment or bad luck and say that I have to update my last post of about a month ago. At that time I had just arrived in Spain and had settled into a room in the Cuatro Caminos neighborhood of Madrid. I was there to take a one-month long super-intensive Spanish language course. The school was in an adjacent neighborhood (good school, but I can get to that either later in this post or a future one).

But anyway, in that previous post I registered my awe at how friendly and peaceful everything was in this big-city environment with families with little kids in strollers and in the arms of their parents or tagging along out on the street late at night — the Spanish like to walk (the pasearse they call it).

All true.

But in the not-so-early morning in broad daylight, on a lonely back street not far from the above photo, I got a rude awakening and was jolted back to reality. I was innocently taking photos when I heard someone yell. Without going into too many details and wasting space, suffice to say that one man seemed to claim in broken English (and I don’t think he was Hispanic, but that has nothing to do with this really) that I had taken his photo and had no right and that I had to hand over my camera. We struggled. I was not hurt but my camera, which I was able to retrieve, was because the man threw it to the pavement. The camera would not work after that. Fortunately I was able to save the photos already made — they were on a card inside. And here’s the crazy, maddening part of the whole ordeal. I know what this guy looked like. He was not in any of the photos.

It’s entirely possible he was simply mentally unbalanced, on something, or just a bully.

But it’s a lesson for picture takers. I mean I had always heard that in some foreign countries people either don’t want their photos taken or want money for them. But I had actually thought I was being careful and not being in anyone’s face and not being too obvious.

And here’s something weird. I had what turned out to be an unheeded warning before I left the states. I was taking a photo at a bus stop in my hometown — where I began my journey —  and a homeless woman got mad and threatened me. She was not in any photo I took either. It’s not easy being a photographer.

The irony continues: I have taken hundreds (thousands?) of photos for newspapers in my so-called career in journalism, and only recall one negative incident. I was taking a totally useless photo of a single-vehicle car wreck, fender bender, no one hurt. But the teenage-girl driver’s father was upset with the whole incident. She was not even in the photo. He grabbed the strap of the camera that was around my neck and I thought he was going to choke me with it. He demanded that I give him the film. Well, my concern, besides being strangled, was that I had some more important photos on the roll — I mean there goes all my work. I somehow managed to convince him that I would not use the photo of the car wreck but I needed to keep the film. He relented.

Well, I thought this post was going to be about my trip to Spain but I just had to get that out of the way, a catharsis of sorts, and maybe a helpful travel advisory.

So my unfortunate incident with the camera at first cast a pall on my trip, but I got over it rather quickly. I thought of buying a new camera, but instead fell back to my cell phone camera, in my ancient flip phone (I mean I only saw one other flip phone on the whole trip and everyone everywhere in the world it seems carries a cell and is staring at it or madly doing the two-finger text thing). But the above photo was taken on my poor old now broken camera. The photo was taken on a side street. After my incident, I tended to stay on the main drags of that particular neighborhood. But I did wander farther in other neighborhoods — but tried to be super aware of my surroundings, polite and unobtrusive — and I missed out on countless good photos because of it. My dad, a professional journalist, taught me that most photos (not all) are better with people in them.

Bottom line: stuff happens or can anywhere you are in the world — even right at home.

Well like I said, I meant this post to be more about my Spain trip in total. I’ll have to do that in my next post possibly. But I can say it was well worth it and I love Madrid. I love Spain. This was my second trip to that country. I hope to return some time.

Oh, so did I learn how to speak Spanish?

I learned a lot. I had taken courses years ago and I had used the language in the real world, as much as I knew, in my most current work as an over-the-road truck driver.

To really know any language, you have to use it in the real world. I’m working on that.


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