The Trouble With Trouble … Is That It Always Starts Off As Fun

By August 23rd, 2012

Earlier this Summer I returned to Europe after far too long. It was not a business trip, and it was for only a few weeks. I didn’t go looking for my next chapter or searching for some new inspiration. Instead, it was a family trip. We went on the occasion of my wife’s birthday.

We visited (and loved) Paris as always, However, Spain was the real target. And Spain has always been trouble for me.

Despite the somber headlines about the poor state of its economy, Spain remains a glorious country — almost a stubbornly glorious country. For decades, it was beset by Franco. More recently and like many other countries in the EC, it has been beset largely by troubles caused by its own poor self-governance. But perspective is always important — and the poor state of Spain’s economy did nothing to diminish the taste of the paella or the flow of the wine.

The first time I visited Spain, I was a young man. After nearly 10 weeks of our post-graduation, Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium trip across Scandinavia and Western Europe, the three of us found ourselves on the Costa Brava. We hadn’t planned this part of our journey, but we were lucky. Shortly after crossing the border from France, we  stumbled upon the string of beaches and then-small villages that dot the Costa Brava — just north of Barcelona. Thank heavens.

We partied for days. Mostly it was beach and babble. Wine was selling for 11 cents a liter, and by closing time each of us seemed to find ourselves fluent in German, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Gaelic, Pig-Latin, Esperanto, and, of course, Spanish. There may have been a group of young ladies from San Diego involved as well, but I can’t clearly recall.

We knew that this was going to have to last; that this was our last hurrah. We knew that the college life days of tolerated irresponsibility were coming to an end. I knew that the sobriety of both law school and military service were ahead. But, as I mentioned above, Spain has always been trouble for me. I arrived at law school two weeks late. Spain won.

A number of years later, I returned to Spain to live for nearly a year. I had graduated from law school. I had served my time in the military. I wanted to try to get serious about writing. But once again the beaches were open. Once again new memories and new friendships were quickly made. Worst of all, I knew that even this stay was only temporary. I knew that I could (and would) only stay — as a visitor — until I came to my senses or until I ran out of money. Almost fortunately, both occurred at about the same time. I returned home humbled, broke, and ready to work. Spain won. Again.

I had no idea that it would be many years until I got back to Spain. But I did. This time with my small family.

Many parts of  Spain have changed. Barcelona is crowded now, and it,  like Paris, has seen fit to deface itself with graffiti — called political “art” by some. But I love Barcelona — the City from which Columbus left more than 500 years ago, but it has changed. Las Ramblas and the old City, even though crowded,  remain wonderful. Its zoo is world-class. Gaudix’s cathedral remains, almost as it should be, far from being done.

The 2-lane roads north to the Costa Brava have long been replaced with high-tech toll roads. Lloret del Mar and many of the other cities along the coast are now packed and stacked with condominiums. But Tossa survived. Bounded on 3 sides by a small, tightly- shaped bay, Tossa del Mar survived. Intact. Wonderfully.

We spent some days swimming in the Mediterranean. My wife and I watched our son as he listened curiously to the speaking of the new Russian and Ukrainian tourists. We watched him wander down the street to buy a few Toledo swords (just like I did). It was easy for both of us, even if briefly, to recall all that was good in the world.

On the last day, my son, knowing that I had lived in Spain, mentioned that someday he, too, wanted to come and live in Spain. I didn’t know what to say. There will come a time, of course, when it will be solely his decision, and so I only cautioned him with what I had learned from Spain — that “the trouble with trouble  …. is that it starts out as fun.”

 

Personal Note to My Readers: Starting next week, I will be posting at least weekly a start of America: By the Numbers — a series of lesser-known facts about America. Such facts will relate to business and the economy, to education, to government and governance, to politics and elections, to society and culture, or to technology and science. For example: Politics and Elections – How many times in American history has there been an election in which neither of the nominees have served in the military? None. This year’s 2012 Presidential election will be the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

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