But, to set the stage, two things must be kept in mind: 1) When I first met Alicia she did not use blue language, so I claim to have taught her how to cuss and 2) Ever since the Pablo Romero tienta during one memorable Feria de Sevilla, I had been encouraging Alicia to marry some aging bull breeder and do him in with sexual excess, so she could inherit the ranch and invite us to secret tientas. These two items were a running joke between us.
"Damn, Alicia," I said, "first I had to teach you how to cuss, now I'm having to teach you how to smoke, and I guess if you marry that bull breeder, I'm going to have to teach you how to do that too."
Later, we all drifted down to the Bar Txoko and I encouraged a Navarrese girl with a beautiful voice to sing a jota. Looking at Alicia, the young woman sang a wonderful moving jota that had the line, “Madre mia, madre de Navarra." I looked at Tía Alicia and we both had tears running down our cheeks. It was one of the most magical moments I have ever known in 50 years of running the roads and fiestas of mystical Spain. But when Alicia was around, magic was never that far away.
In 1985, Alicia took her namesake, my daughter, Erica Catherine Alicia, to her first and only bullfight.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.
Alice especially loved to hear me tell my version of the more scandalous ones, like the one I told about the time Diego Puerta agreed to come to a party at the Hotel Eslava, where Alicia always stayed in Pamplona during sanfermines. We all gathered in a room in the basement and began the party, awaiting the arrival of Diego. After awhile, Alicia, who was wearing a slip, decided to remove. Later, I would claim that she took off her slip because she was getting hot and bothered over the imminent arrival of her hero, a notion that was reinforced when Diego did show up, some music was playing and Alicia, by then at least 60 years old, got up and danced on a table.
I vowed after she died that wherever I go in Spain, wherever there is a fiesta and a restaurant where it would have been appropriate for Alicia to have been, there will always be an empty chair and a place setting at my table with a glass of agua del grifo, the tap water, which she always drank for the 40 years she spent in Spain; a vino tinto de la casa (when it was her call, she always asked for the red wine of the house); and a cigarillo de tobaco negro. That is the least I can do in her memory.
There was no one like Alicia. To paraphrase the ditty about brave bullfighters that was written on the banner she always carried when her torero Diego Puerta was fighting, "Alicia, Alicia, . . . Como Alicia no hay ninguna."
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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter.
"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
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