One Giraffe and a Movie, Rota, Spain, 1972 USE FOR EBOOK

You never know how an evening will turn out. You can start off alone watching a movie, then all of a sudden, boom, things change. It happened a lot in Rota. Things simply evolved, right before your very eyes.

If you lived in Rota long enough you soon learned that an evening wasn't complete without a visit to the outdoor movie theater. It was a popular place for teenagers, children, grannies, old aunties, for anyone just wanting something different to do rather than sit on their balcony or patio. It was always hot at night. Even with all the windows opened in your apartment, the heat never really dissipated. You might as well be out and about for it was difficult to sleep what with mosquitoes biting you just when you would be about to doze off, and the blaring of 
"Baby, don't get hooked on me" emanating from nearby bars. The American sailors frequented these bars. You could see them strolling along, tossing their Vantage or Winston cigarette butts onto the dirt road. Some of them could be models for the Malboro Man, wide as their shoulders were.

It's was such a foreign experience meeting military personnel, hearing about people being killed in Vietnam. Since I never drank beer for breakfast, and I wasn't counting the days to when I went it seemed to me that I didn't have much in common with the Americans at all. Well, maybe I did have one thing in common with the Americans. We both liked to discover new places to get cheap wine. In fact, I used to know a place where you could get a litre of wine for 25 pesetas.  I'll drink to that!

Any time I turned up  at the local outdoor theater the place would be teeming with excited teenagers and children all yelling and giggling. The small boys' short trousers were so long that they met their knees, and their shirts looked like girls' blouses. The girls wore these really long dresses that ended around their ankles. Their dainty crocheted socks seemed to cry out "I'm loved!  Everyone loves me!" The adults sat patiently on uncomfortable, wobbly seats, smoking Ducados, chattering loudly all at the same time as they waited for the movie to begin.  Americans didn't generally go to the local outdoor movie theater. They had their own movie theater on the Naval Base where they had the luxury of watching films in English, and where they would eat huge amounts of buttered popcorn, or so I'm told.

It just so happened that the place where I was staying was located adjacent to the outdoor movie theater.  Now, I didn't object at all to paying my entry fee, buying bags of cacahuetes and pipas, and sitting on a hard metal chair. I didn't even mind when people stared at me. They could never figure me out, that's why. I wasn't American, nor Spanish, nor, by the way, in case you're wondering, was I a whore. Not that I mind whores. I just never wanted to ever be considered one.

What I've always liked to do is multi-task. I like to watch a movie and do other things at the same time, something you can't really do if you're sitting in the middle of a crowd of people all staring with big eyes at the large screen. I was fair chuffed when I discovered that if I climbed up on the tiny kitchen counter and carefully positioned a nice comfortable wee stool, and if I sat up as straight as straight can be on the wee stool, lengthened my neck like a giraffe and peeked out the top of the window, I was able to see the movie! Ha ha. "Fiddler on the Roof" was a great movie to watch when multi-tasking.  Topol, who played the main character, was constantly bursting into song and dancing around as if he had something stuck up his rear end. So, when I got fed -up with him I clambered down off the kitchen counter to check the toilet.  Yes, it was important to see how much water was in the cistern. Many times the water just simply stopped running for no reason, so you had to be careful when considering  all things plumbing. If there was actually water, then it was best to avail yourself of the toilet whether you needed to or not.

I usually checked the taps as well. It was always a delight to turn on a tap and see water trickling. It was a constant surprise. I splashed my face and neck, trying to cool down. Whilst Topol was singing "If I were a Rich Man" with all his little hear, a tape of "Everybody Plays the Fool" cheered up the rowdy crowd in the bar across the road and echoed in the hot evening air.

Midst the rabble and cacophony of loud voices singing at the top of their lungs I figured I had time to make myself a bocadillo before Topol's next scene. I always liked doing several things at the same time. Busy hands are happy hands, or something like that. Then I climbed back on the kitchen counter, plonked myself down on the wee stool and peered out the window at "Fiddler on the Roof".  As I steadied myself by placing one foot in the sink, I felt as if I was on the brink of a new adventure. Somehow my crunchy bocadillo de jamón york tasted even better than normal. It was like being on a picnic in some exotic location. Maybe I was a giraffe in a former life? That's why I was so good at stretching my neck to peer out the window at the movie. Gosh, then who knew what awaited behind the next palm tree, or even the next sand dune?!

Bang, bang, bang!

Someone was at the door?  Just when I was all comfy and enjoying myself I had to jump down off the kitchen counter and answered the door. Who could it be?


He had to be an American. Short blond hair, large white teeth and chewing gum, he was certainly not Spanish.

"Do I know you?"  If I did, I didn't remember him.

"Yeah. We met at a party last week-end."

"Okay."  I met loads of people at the party last week-end. Hmm.

"You said you lived next to the outdoor movie theater. And, well, here I am."

"Here you are."  I took another bite of my delicious bocadillo and chewed it rapidly.

"Are you ready?  For the movies? I got a pass for you to go on the Base."

Oops. Now I remembered. His namewas John, or Jim, or James, something like that. And he had talked about how he could get me a pass to go to the movies on the Base. A movie in English! Not bad. I must have sounded really enthusiastic, for here he was, complete with pass. Not only that, his face was so shiny clean, and it looked as if he was wearing a brand new shirt.

"I'll be ready in a tick." I figured I ought to pay a visit to the toilet to check if there was still water. Force of habit. There again, maybe there wasn't a problem with water on the Base. That would be great to use the bathroom whenever, to turn on a tap and have constant running water. I had even heard that there was air conditioning on the Base. I bet you people didn't have to sleep at night with their windows wide open, with mosquitoes zooming around.

"What movie?"

“They’re showing “Fiddler on the Roof”."

I tried not to choke. "Em. I was just watching it when you came. It's almost finished."

"You've seen it then?"

Oh, John, Jim, or James, or whatever you name is...sorry.

He looked disappointed, shuffled his feet and played with the long lapel of his shirt.

"But only in Spanish. It will be lovely to watch it in English." I reassured him.

Constant running water, cisterns that flush, air conditioning, things were looking good. Plus, he did seem a really nice person.

"My name is Shawn, by the way, in case you don’t remember."  He stretched out his hand as if to shake mine.  "We can go bowling after the movie, if you'd like, then get a bite to eat."

"I've never bowled before."

"It's easy. You won't have any problem."  It was his turn to reassure me.

As I said, you never know what's going to happen next, how an evening will turn out. I wonder what else might evolve? Ha ha. Stay tuned!

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