Hermits Rock

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Apparently, you can’t make innocent comments like “ohhh, spain… how i love spain. well, except for staying with the drug using, liberation theologian who pimped out latin american girls, i loved my time in spain!” on other peoples blogs or the will ask you to “spill the beans.

Parador de los Reyes Católicos It was the summer of 2001. And, it was a good summer, except for the intense missing of my wife and my choice of flats. Part of our PhD program was a summer in Spain where we studied
paleography, at one of the oldest universities in Europe, working with manuscripts from the 13th century; did archival research; and, tutored kids from our school in Spanish. the bath-towels were literally 7 feet long It was a great summer. I was able to stay a night in the Parador de los Reyes Católicos in Santiago de Compostela, a five star hotel that was originally built in the 15th century as a hostel and hospital for the Camino de Santiago pilgrims. The building sits on the Obradeiro square in Santiago de Compostela right next to the Cathedral, which we were able to take a private tour of and climb onto the roof and see most of its secret inner passage-ways.

These are two poems written that summer.

lunch at a café in atocha

dressed in green and black
pants and shirt the plate juggler
brings one glass and wine
six mugs and beer

ceramic and aluminum platters
slide through glass doors
over marble floors
from bar to table
table to bar

food flies in steady hands
that intimately understand
the physics of calamari
and olives on trays

el parque aeolico de galicia

the wind machines spin
silver strands of air
some days they’re tow-ropes
that pull in a heavy load of fog
today they face the sea
and hold the fog at bay.

Upon arrival, we were in charge of finding our own places to live. I spent several days looking and finally found a rather centrally located place. It was on the fifth floor and overlooked one of the parks. Thankfully, it was summer; otherwise, this park would normally be filled every night with Spanish students on bingers. However, this did not stop those few who stayed in town from partying on Thursday nights from 10pm to 4am. This, I got used to.

There were a few nights where street noise woke me. This small park, which on Wednesday mornings served as a produce market, was a notorious hang-out for the drug crowd. Across the park from my little room, was the biker bar of Salamanca and the ETA bar. Peddlers operated out of both places. But, even the sounds of the typical, discrete exchange can be slept through. One night, though, I was awakened by three Unitedstatsians, who had learned that one could buy hash at this park with impunity. Yet, the agreement between the po-po and the pot-heads was a tacit one: they wouldn’t interrupt business so long as the trade wasn’t flaunted. These kids, though, stood at the corner at one in the morning and like queens in oestes called, for a good five minutes: hashish, hashish.

On another evening I woke up to a fight between prostitutes and pimps. One prostitute was mad, raving so; the room was filled with her cursing. Her good friend was in the back of a car with someone and she didn’t like what was going on. She kept saying: I can understand a man and woman fucking in a car… but this!, but this!. I crept to the window and got there just in time to see the two procurers get into a fight. The histerical woman started pounding on her friend’s pimp, at which point her pimp came to break it up. At this, words were exchanged between the two men and out of nowhere one clocked the other on the jaw and he fell straight back. I can still hear the crack of his head on the pavement echoing up to my fifth story window. After dry-heaving, I crawled back into bed, quite light-headed.

But this was the street. I was renting a room from a Colombian who’d been doing PhD work on liberation theology. His bookshelves were filled with the writings of Bonhoeffer, Hugo Assman, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Hans Küng, Jürgen Moltman, and Johan Baptist Metz. He was keen to show me all these volumes when I rented the place from him. Also, the walls of the apartment’s halls were covered with posters of Oscar Romero, Juan Luis Segundo, and Ignacio Martín-Baró. Yet, he never went to class. He was always either sitting around the apartment, or hanging out at the same bar, day after day. Since it was summer and he was supposedly writing his dissertation, I thought little of it.

One evening, soon after I moved in, I was happily eating my meal of cheese, bread, pears, and Tío Pepe Fino sherry in the kitchen, and he decided that that was the precies moment to wash the kitchen walls, large white tiles, down with his mop. As I was trying to eat, he was slopping pinesol all over the kitchen. While engaged in his early summer scowering, he started to tell me of the good-ole days in Salamanca, before they cleaned it and pushed all the whore-houses to the outskirts of town. In, what I thought was a simple display of Latin-Lover bravado (all the more pathetic because he was over 40, single and obviously socially awkward), he proceeded to name all the old dens of pleasure, their proprietors and where they’d moved to. He claimed, as well, that he frequented these places only when a good lawyer friend of his visited town. However, they would then paint it every shade this side of infrared. Still, I gave it little thought, except that so annoyed by his utter lack of tact and penchant for prurient conversation I stopped eating at the apartment.

Then, a little halfway through my stay, I tried to see if he would rent a room out to a prof who would be spending every weekend for a month in town. We went back and forth, him heming and hawing and not telling me anything. Finally he said he didn’t like to rent to profs, just to students, but, that for me, he would make an exception. The day after he tells me this, I knock on the door of his suite around three in the afternoon. He yells out from the back to say he’s coming, but does not answer immediately. When he opened the door, he was zipping up a little medicine pouch with hypodermics and glass vials and just kind of stared at me with a glassy look and a dumb smile. I mumbled something about her having found a place and went back out. That next morning, we had the conversation over again, he said he couldn’t remember what we’d talked about. Sometime immediately before or after this, I came home around three a.m. from having been out with my peers and showered. The following day, over a very groggy breakfast, in a less than polite manner and much more shrill voice than I thought the incident merited, he informed that I was to never shower at three a.m. ever again. I might wake the gossips in the building (the bathrooms all faced the inner courtyard of the apartment and so, everyone, should they be awake knew when anyone was bathing) and then he might loose his apartment!

A week before I was to leave Spain, one morning around 10 a.m., two Latinamerican girls in their mid twenties came knocking at the door. Giddy with excitement, he let them into the kitchen. The door to the aparment opened to a long hallway, to the right was a room, now empty, (he had let out to a Spanish girl for the first month; she was in town for exams); immediately after her door, still to the right, was the eat-in kitchen; at the end of the hall, right after it turned to the right, on the left-hand side was the door to my room that looked out over the front of the building and the park below. His door was adjancent to mine; across the hall from his door, the bathroom; the hall ended in the room I had tried procure for the prof. I was still in my room getting ready, so could hear their arrival and his greeting. I walked down the hall to leave and poked my head in to say hello. The two girls, who, he told me later, were fresh off the trans-hemispheric plane and hoping that he would find cleaning jobs for them, received my greeting very politely. He, on the other hand, sat there glowering. Later that day, I was back at the apartment for a late lunch. My habit of avoiding the apartment for meals had depleted my funds, so I had recently gone back to taking my meals in his cramped kitchen. I could hear their overly-gay laughter coming down the hall. Then, he and an older man walked to the door. This time, in a much more agreeable mood, he introduced me to the man, who happened to be his lawyer friend. As they left, I heard my liberation theologian tell the lawyer that he had arranged things so that they could stay at one of the brothels on the outskirts of town.



Wait. Is it necessarily the fact that two women showed, his friend came to town, and they all went to a brothel that makes him a pimp?

Because I always thought pimping was defined more expressly as a business transaction, as demonstrated by the fight between pimps above. Ostensibly, he provides some protection from johns; she feeds him her profits. There’s many things not great about the situation, but it is what it is.

To me, the liberation theologian sounds more like a generous john who’s also a junky.

right, he’s not really a pimp, in the classic sense of the word… he seemed to be the greeter, the first contact in Salamanca for Latinamerican girls on their way to European brothels. but, that role seemed to make him more than a junked-out john

maybe he was part of a human-trafficking ring—that whole, “yeah, we’ll find you a cleaning job! oops, why don’t you stay in this brothel for a couple of days first!” kinda deal.

let the record state that it should now read “a liberation theologian who was a pimp trafficked humans”

Is it hard in Salamanca for a pimp?

I know it sure is out here…

Don’t you mean, Is it hard in Salamanca for a human trafficker?

A quick apology to J: even though I harrangued him to make this post, I have not participated in commenting. This is only because I did the major part of my move today (I type this on the wireless network at Cam*****.) I read and enjoyed your post J!

i certainly don’t mind your “tardiness” in responding, the web’s ephemerality makes it seem that you have taken longer to respond than you actually have. plus, i assumed you were moving.

however, what does miff me is the way you constantly drop that you are part of the oxbridge loop. actually, that doesn’t bother me, what bothers me is that you adopt a 19th-century-dickensian-realism prudishness or circumspection about how you refer to Cam**** or Ox**** for what is little more than priggishness. :)

then again, you can’t help it… you probably have access to the inner-bowels of the bodelian… and that is what really gets my nipples in a twist!

It pisses off B as well, but as I explained to her last night, it’s only to throw off Google and Googlers.