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July 28, 2002
Sympathy for the little guy

By Alex Dominguez
from the truth, justice and the Gallego way dept.
MERA (Oleiros, La Coruña) España (JNS) _ On the radio, the socialists in Congress urge conservative president Jose Maria Aznar to return relations with Morocco to normal as soon as possible following that morning’s retaking of an island the size of two football fields. Spain has much invested in the advancement of Morocco, they warn.

In the fashionable beach town of Sta. Cristina ``Palestina Vencera!’’ (Palestine will win!) and ``Galiza Nova’’ screams out from a 6-foot by 2-foot stencil on the temporary masonry block wall of an unoccupied bajo _ the term for a commercial space in the bottom of a condominium building.

Nationalism pervades, but so does a sense of fairness and sympathy for the little guy in the region which has seen waves of emigrants, and now immigrants. A nearby park has a monument to Jose Marti, the national hero of Cuba, with phrases in Gallego etched on the sides of the monument.

_ ``Nada fatiga como repouso,’’ ``Nothing tires like rest.’’

_ ``Trincheira de ideas vale mais que trincheiras de pedras,’’ ``Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone.’’

_ ``Patria e humanidade – e preferable o ben de moitos a opulencia de poucos,’’ ``Homeland and Humanity _ the good of many is preferable to the opulence of the few.’’

A columnist tells in the morning paper how his father, as a student, tried to hide in the hills during the Civil War. Franco was from Galicia, but there was also sympathy for the plight of those tied to the land. The war dragged on, and he was captured and sent to dig trenches on the front. He was wounded working for an army whose cause he didn’t support and still blames himself for not fighting for the democratic Republicans, the columnist says.

The man who lived across from Rosario, growing potatoes until he died last year, also harbored regrets.

``El plan de Marshall, el plan de Marshall,’’ he could be heard saying derisively.

Spain did not receive any Marshall Plan funding after World War II _ Germany started the war, and received aid, but Spain was still under fascist rule. The WWII years were filled with hunger for many as the country recovered from the Civil War of the late 30s, and many were bitter when aid did not arrive when the war in the rest of Europe ended.

Rosario’s mother never spoke of politics. It has been more than a year since Feliza died at age 97, and the memories are still fresh for Rosario of those last few months _ the end of 24 years taking care of her.

She still had a good appetite until she died in her chair by the stove and the window on an April day.

Feliza asked for everyone, alive and dead, at times, even though the two had lived by themselves for years.

``Grito un noite pa a dua de la madruga. `Sto moriendo do fame, fai me un par de huevos,’ ’’ Rosario remembers.

(She cried out one night, about two in the morning. `I’m dying of hunger, make me a pair of eggs.’)

``Ti vais a despertir a todos,’’ (you’re going to wake everyone up) she told her mother.

``Ben, fai me un par de huevos.’’

Posted by Alex at 11:52 PM
July 26, 2002
I see myself eating quail at high altitude one day

By Alex Dominguez
from the hold the cream sauce, please dept.
NISERIAS (Peñamellera Alta, Asturias), España (JNS) _ No, dear reader, El Conde hasn’t forgotten your epicurean needs _ here’s a rundown of the best of this year.
While inspecting trout streams in the Picos de Europa, we stopped for a mid-morning snack, hoping to avoid the disaster of the day before, when we stopped at a roadside bar on the way to Cabrales.

We had slices of morcon (a large paprika sausage), queso de cabrales (a strong blue) and a bottle of sidra _ all fine by themselves, but poorly matched.

Casa Julian, el ``solera del Salmon’’ looked more promising _ a two-story stone building in a ravine overlooking the upper reaches of the Cares River.

The small dining room and bar is decorated with memorabilia from the area, old photos, fishing poles, nets, reels, maps, all made more appealing by classical music playing quietly in the background.

After deciding against caviar ericio because the sea urchin eggs were bottled and not fresh (obviously for those who want to say they had something exotic), I ordered pimientos piquin and codornice escabeche (7.50 euros). The quail are cooked in oil, vinegar, onion, pepper, carrots and bayleaf, and then left to soak in the sauce. The cooking left the birds tender and the meat easy to remove from the bone.

The escabeche was mildly acidic, excellent for dipping bread into. The two birds were served on a bed of lettuce along with a few of the carrots with which they were cooked. Even the local bib lettuce was delicious in that sauce.

``An ancient method of food conservation, more frequently served in areas where hunting is common, such as Castilla,’’ the owner said. The night before we had the regional favorite _ fabada (6 euros) in the mountain-top town of Sotres. Big white beans are boiled until tender along with chorizo, morcilla (a blood sausage), and chunks of tocino (a type of bacon).

The French visitors at the next table also had fabada as well as guiso de cerdo a la Gallega, stewed pork with saffron, red pimientos and potatoes, a Galician staple. Finding a Gallega cooking in such a remote location was not surprising because the cuisine is popular throughout Spain.

Back in Galicia, we had tender clams in the tiny port village of Lorbe near Sada, great gambas a la plancha and a mountain of navajas (razor clams). The count, however, was disappointed to see the creeping influence of cream sauces in some restaurants, although not at the stately parador in Tui where two vieiras (whole scallops in the shell) were broiled under a saffron-laced sauteed onions, very traditional. The scallops were preceded by rape soup, fish chunks in a slightly thickened saffron broth, under a pastry cap.

The biggest surprise of all came when I relented and agreed to stay the last night of our trip a stone’s throw from the airport in Porto.

Taking a walk away from the airport, we discovered a mixed neighborhood of poorly maintained streets, and old ramshackle homes mixed in among beautiful small houses and manicured gardens behind high walls.

Among them was O Carlos, a massive long hall with stone walls and a timbered roof where they serve perfectly done suckling pig, which they call leitao, a derivation of the Portuguese word for milk, leite.

Trying to keep us from spending any money on food, meanwhile, are people such as Rosario and my late uncle Leonardo’s brother Juan and his wife.

Whatever we bought in Mera, Rosario would fry, boil or barbecue over wood coals. Two bottles of cider, crab claws and salad for lunch, followed by ribs, chorizo and gambas over a wood fire for dinner.

At Juan’s house near Cangas de Onis, it was fried chorizo, pork tenderloin and potatoes, all served with sidra (bubbly, alcoholic apple cider) _ all made from pigs, potatoes and apples grown on their property.

Posted by Alex at 06:54 AM
July 25, 2002
Escape from La Facha

By Alex Dominguez
from the any way you can dept.

TELLADO, Ourense (JNS) _ ``This is where Don Pepe´s parents had a panaderia,´´ O Conde Pai says, mentioning the well-known New Jersey restaurateur as we roll through the small town near Celanova.
“And this is where the fereiro (blacksmith) made me a foscino (sickle). The ones in the store were only for the right hand,´´ he says.

We pull into La Facha, a collection of stone homes set among winding, steep, now paved, paths just big enough for our car to get through. Papa asks for Felicindo, a friend he grew up with.

``Si, esta adentro,´´ the young, burly man says, opening a gate in the wall revealing a tiny courtyard filled with various yard and farm equipment.

Felicindo walks out and I immediately notice he also once used a left-handed sickle because he is missing his right hand, the result of a childhood accident playing with an explosive called formanito.

``Fuhn a dia San Xose, a dia San Xose. Ainda, non se como chego na casa,’’ he said.

(``It was St. Joseph’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day. I still don’t know how I got home.’’)

They took him to Cerdal, where someone with a truck took him to a hospital in Ourense after unloading its cargo of bricks to make the trip faster.

My father says Felicindo learned to work well with the one hand, adding he had never seen anyone stronger using just one hand.

They talk over old times a little while longer, and we head off to seek out Jaime, who chased girls with my dad. We park our car at the end of a thin path, and walk under his grapevines to the house where we are greeted by three German shepherds, two of which are loose and one which is tied to the front door.

We shout for a while for him to come out, to no avail, and tramp off to a relative’s house nearby and ask her to call him on the telephone to get him to go outside.

For our trouble, we find Jaime doesn’t remember my father, or the girl chasing, until we jog his memory a little.

We drive off to visit Elias, and O Conde Pai tells me of the truck driver who once helped him. Even though my father was born in West Virginia, and thus an American citizen, Franco was not keen on letting men who could serve in the military out of the country. The truck driver took my father to the U.S. consulate in Vigo, where it was suggested he escape to Portugal.

That decided, he later went by horse to Tui, across the Rio Mino from Portugal, where he met a man who knew a priest who could get him to Lisboa for 7,000 pesetas. I ask how much that could have bought in those years.

``A cow? Ehhhh! That was enough to buy 100 cows…you could get a cow for 500 pesetas,’’ he says, not bothering to do the math.

A date was set, and in Tui, he met the priest.

``He said he was a priest,'' my father said.

At the border, the driver showed the guard some papers and they drove into Portugal, where they had lechon (suckling pig, leitao in Portugues) near Coimbra.

``Oh, was that good. I was starving,'' my father says.

Before Lisbon, the priest told the driver to pull over and made sure my father paid him.

Then, it was off by boat to America, where his sisters had already gone, and where he received the U.S. passport that allowed him to return once he was married.

Posted by Alex at 12:52 PM
July 24, 2002

By Alex Dominguez
from the you knew it couldn't last dept.

SADA, (Oleiros, La Coruña) _ It seems like it was only yesterday. Who could ever forget Eulalio _ or Eugenio, or whatever was his name _ rolling a barrel of wine down the street and into Casa Nosa, the place that couldn’t decide whether it was a bar, a restaurant or a garage.

And now it’s gone, to make way for more pisos, the name for condominiums in Spain.

We got in the car on a rainy night, hoping to get some pimientos de Padron, jamon Serrano, maybe some pig’s ear or blood sausage, and a jarra de ribeiro from the barrel. And if we were lucky, all while 70- and 80-year-old men in sweaters and caps sang folk songs whose age made them seem like infants in comparison.

Instead, we were greeted by scaffolding and trudged off to eat in a ``real’’ restaurant while remembering Casa Nosa. It seemed born of the post Civil War desperation I had sensed in my father and others who left Spain in the years he did _ a kind of ``we better get something going here, or elsewhere, because noone is going to help us’’ mentality.

The bar was painted battleship grey, the wood barrels rested behind the bar on cross beams fashioned roughly from tree limbs. An aluminum ladder often rested across the top. Hams and sausages hung drying from the rafters, occasionally dripping grease on the smooth concrete floor, refreshingly cool in the summer.

The barrels were tapped with a large wood mallet, which was used to push in the bung and drive in the tap, wrapped in newspaper to keep it from leaking.

The owner’s son often could be seen drinking red wine and Coca Cola while eating, which seemed particulary suited to the basement decor. So now, there’s one less place where you can find old men who know how to grow, raise or make almost everything they needed to survive.

Posted by Alex at 10:10 AM
July 12, 2002
O Conde Pai´s Jubilee Preparations Begin

By Alex Dominguez
from the history of the empire dept.

CELANOVA, Ourense, España (JNS) _ Driving past the new housing project on the way to Newark airport, my father points to the grassy area under the power lines.

``Oughff, I can´t tell you how many rabbits we got there.´´

``Do you use a dog to hunt rabbits?,´´ his xinro, or son-in-law, Robin asks.

``Oh yeah, you have to use a dog. Chispa, she was a good dog. One time, she followed a rabbit for 2 ½ hours.´´

``Did you get the rabbit,´´ Robin asks.


So begins the preparatory tour of Galicia for O Conde Pai´s Jubilee Tour (if England can have a Queen Mum, El Conde can have a Count Pop).

In 1956, my father took his new bride and his new Ford on a honeymoon tour of Portugal and northern Spain, where he had spent most of his life.

Born in West Virginia in 1931 to a coalminer from Andalucia, the family moved back to Spain the next year, first to Andalucia and then to Asturias, where O Conde Pai´s mother was from and then to La Facha, a small collection of homes near Celanova in rainy Galicia.

Almost 70 years later, we arrive in Porto late after a 12-hour delay in Paris – they tempted us with salmon over a saffron sauce at an airport restaurant to make up for the delay, but we were not to be diverted from our mission.

We stay the night in Porto, look at the kooky, curved prow, lapstrake planked river boats that used to bring barrels of wine down the Doure (River of Gold?) and drive the next morning to Celanova.

Our mission is to plan the recreation of that post-nuptial journey a half century earlier, when flush with the wealth from his newfound career as a mason-carpenter-dockhand, my father and mother took their honeymoon in that new, $3,000 Ford they had shipped to Lisboa ($350 round trip).

The stories are now legendary, how he invented free rock climbing on the cliffs near the Faros de Mera (the Mera lighthouses), working his way down to the pounding surf and back up to the thatch and flower covered moors above.

``I shot a bird and it fell down there. They said no one else had ever done that before,´´ O Conde Pai remembers.

``I was crazy about hunting then, so I borrowed a shotgun from a neighbor and drove out there. They said those birds were good to eat, but it was kind of dry.´´

No one in Mera had ever had a car before, either.

In La Facha, then an all day trip to the south, he was the first to have his car pulled from a rutted path by an ox (boi) after discovering the path wasn´t quite wide enough. Then he got four flats from the tacks used to reinforce the soles of the wooden field shoes used at the time (chancas in Ourense, thocas in Coruna).

As we motor through the rolling rocky hills, I think about how to describe the countryside and decide it helps if you hum the theme to the ``Andy Griffith Show´´ with a Spanish-Portuguese accent – small town Spain among the pines and under the cool blue skies.

Posted by Alex at 01:54 PM
July 04, 2002
Arafat allowing Israelis to store nukes on W. Bank

By Alex Dominguez
from the It's not just the settlers dept.

GAZA CITY, Gaza (JNS) _ Yasser Arafat has secretly worked behind the scenes for years to scuttle a Palestinian state while accepting payments to store Israel’s growing nuclear arsenal on the West Bank, a political rival charged Thursday.

Palestinian police chief Ghazi al-Jabali dropped the political H-Bomb Thursday while announcing he would resign his post and run for president against Arafat.

Jabali's announcement came after Arafat tried to oust Jabali and Colonel Jibril Rajoub, the head of the West Bank preventive security service.

The former police chief said he made the discovery after learning of a United States Air Force report that says Israel’s nuclear arsenal has grown from an estimated 13 nuclear bombs in 1967 to 400, including a hydrogen bomb _ the first admission ever by the U.S. military that its Mideast ally has such a weapon.

``Did you ever notice how after all these years we still don’t have a state? Well, I did, and I finally put two and two together,’’ Jabali said. ``Where do you think they’re storing all these weapons. Tel Aviv?…’’

Jabali, who does not have any relation to the Jabali News Service, its affiliates or employees, said he planned to call for an immediate removal of the weapons if elected.

Jabali _ who also said he would convert the country to Catholicism, promote the production of pork, and seek to increase cultural and economic ties with Spain _ said he could no longer ignore the clues that Arafat was merely a puppet under the control of others.

``The Israelis bomb his headquarters, but never kill him. And Arafat just sits there, he could walk out and defy them, become a martyr, lead a non-violent march across the West Bank, even here to Gaza. But he never does,’’ Jabali said.

Israel's nuclear arsenal is being increased to respond to any nuclear strike by such countries as Iran or Iraq, according to the report by the U.S. Air Force’s Counterproliferation Center, based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

In the report, entitled "The Third Temple's Holy of Holies: Israel's Nuclear Weapons," U.S. Army Col. Warner Farr said Israel's navy could deploy nuclear weapons on the fleet of three German-built Dolphin-class diesel submarines.

Israeli also exhibited intercontinental missile capability in May when it launched its Ofeq-5 satellite into orbit aboard a Shavit-class booster.

Posted by Alex at 10:02 AM