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I Remember Ibiza
by Harold Liebow

Part Nineteen
On The Way To Casa Paput



 
I Remember Ibiza

It happened the next day, after the party at La Parra. I met Jutta, at last, when I came down for my breakfast in the all-green bar/dining room of the Delfín Verde. I was rather later than usual, and a bit unsteady still, with a slight hangover. She was sitting at my customary table, waiting for me. With her was Chinese Rita who was quietly nursing her brandy bottle, but whose eyes were bright, and whose voice was animated. Her graceful hands were butterfly-active, as usual. Dundee Doreen came gliding over to us from behind the bar as I sat down. She was carrying my usual, a large plate loaded with bacon and two fried eggs.

“Adam and Eve on a raft!” she sang out, “for the Thumper!” Her eyes danced into mine and I knew intuitively that in her mind she was going back in her young life to a time she must have spent in the States. Because “Adam and Eve on a raft,” was short-order cook language, which could only have come from there.

“And you can burn one with hot buns, wet!” I answered with a smile. Doreen laughed out loud. I had asked for coffee and toasted buttered buns, as well. And she knew for what I had asked! The Irish, it seemed, absorbed American pop culture as plants absorb the dew.

“You got it,” she answered, with an exaggerated Yankee accent. And piping hot coffee was almost instantly in front of me.

“It’s time we had a talk”, interjected Jutta, Her voice had a unique, somewhat coarse, somewhat grating quality. It was both authoritative and personal at the same time. There was that in her, perhaps her manner, something indefinable, which put me on my guard.

“This is our Jutta,” Chinese Rita said, almost singing the words as she introduced us, both with her voice and with her hands. “She has the most wonderful house on Ibiza.” I was to learn, eventually, that Rita habitually spoke in superlatives. (But this time my own experience proved her about right.) “Jutta, say hello to the Thumper!” And she added, triumphantly, “He put Unwanted Tom right through that!” And she pointed to the main door. Then she made a sweeping arm gesture, and said, “Whoosh!” at the same time, with closed eyes. It was intended to indicate the speed with which Tom had exited the premises. Rita somehow knew I had become guarded and was letting me know that Jutta was one of ‘us’, that she was an accepted member of the expatriate ‘family’. That she was O.K. How she knew I was on my guard, I still have no idea. She was a very sensitive receiver, was Rita, drinking or not drinking.

“Are you always ‘thumping’?” Jutta asked, with a special downward tonal twist to the way she said the word ‘thumping’. “Or was this exceptional?” Her English, spoken through thin lips which accurately articulated each word, was precise in such a way as to inform that she had been carefully schooled in the language. The question itself betrayed intelligence quietly at work.

“Well, there were extenuating circumstances,” I said carefully, wondering who she really was while I remembered with revived anger the way Tom had kicked my little dog. The smile on my face did not disarm her. She knew I was being cautious.

“Another coffee?” she asked, proving that she was as observant as she was evasive. I had finished my cuppa.

“Carajillo,” I replied. It was one of the first Spanish words I had learned. Yutta took the manner in which I had pronounced the word - correctly - to indicate I was a Spanish speaker.

“The gentleman will have a carajillo,” she called out in Spanish to Dundee Doreen, once again behind the bar. I noted that she spoke at least three languages; German, her mother tongue, English and Spanish. While I, poor, insular American, spoke only one.

“Don’t be fooled,” I said, “no hablo español, please stick to English…I’m more at home in English.” Superficially it put me at a disadvantage to say so, because it implied inferiority, but it also sent a signal to Jutta. The signal said ‘I will only deal with you on a level field, and on one of my own making’. But I was still ignorant of what we were to deal about. Unless it was her guest house, Casa Paput. I remembered that Big Mimi had told me positive things about it.

And that was the way of it. Jutta, who was almost what is called statuesque, and had the curly blonde hair, blue eyes and the ample body-lines of a German house wife, soon explained who she really was. She was no housewife. Capitulating to my defensiveness, she told me that she had only two or three years ago arrived in Ibiza…from Colombia. She had lived there for years, like so many other Germans who had immigrated there after the war. She did not elaborate on that peculiar movement-of-population phenomenon nor did I. But we both knew it had been seriously noted. You must remember that this was only about twenty years after World War II. Racial, religious and political issues among the informed nationals of the previously warring parties were still quite fresh in those days. Some would say they still are. She had started a small business in Ibiza, she went on, importing high quality artisan objects from Colombia. And she was sure I would like some of the things she had to show from Colombia. Colombia, it seemed, had figured largely in her post-war life.

She was also, she said, as if it was of only secondary interest to her…or to me, the wife of Emilio Schillinger, dueño of the Delfín Verde and former manager of El Corsario, a well known hotel in the Old Town. You will remember that I had met Emilio in Ernesto’s quarters. When I had queried him about his obsession with the colour green, he had explained it by recounting a chilling childhood nightmare that had thereafter permeated his life. I had had political reservations about him at first, but in the end had come to think there was no evil in the man. And now, it would appear, the plot was to thicken. I was again having political reservations, this time about his wife. It appeared that, like Ernesto, I too, might become an unexpected tenant of his, because Jutta was offering me the rental of Casa Paput, her guest house on the property of what Chinese Rita had called “the most wonderful house on Ibiza!”

Dundee Doreen had been serving me super-strong coffee, super-laced with brandy. It seemed quite natural that the first carajillo should be followed by another…and another. And before I knew it, I was feeling quite warm, quite social, quite obliging. Especially endearing was the comradeship of Chinese Rita, whose own brandy intake was nothing if not negligible. So the conversation progressed without strain. Chinese Rita and Dundee Doreen kept up a flow of assurances, in my direction, about Casa Paput, and I knew that they genuinely had my welfare at heart. Surely they were helping me to cut through a search for a place in which to live, a search which might otherwise take me weeks. They knew the island. I was ignorant of the island. They confirmed and even elaborated on the wonders of the location and of the comforts of the guest house called Paput. So when Jutta suggested we go off and look at it, I was quick to agree, forgetting that I had planned to look in on Flipper at Vicente’s, the vet, after breakfast.

We drove out on the road to San Antonio Abad, all four of us jammed into the little Renault along with the bulk of my things which were still being stored in the boot and the back seat. Just before I turned left at C’an Negre, Chinese Rita and Dundee Doreen began singing as they sat crammed together. I can’t remember the song, but I do remember that Jutta and I both applauded them when it was over. Then we swung into the dirt track leading towards Big Mimi’s place and Jutta’s casa payesa.

It was the first time I had driven that road in daylight and I was surprised to see that it was thickly covered with a blanket of grey, gravel-like material. Suddenly it dawned on me. I realized we were driving on rock dust. Now what was rock dust doing on a country lane? To where did this track lead? Rock dust could only mean one thing. In my experience it meant a quarry was at the end of this country lane. And what did that mean? It meant that large trucks with giant loads of crushed rock in several grades of fineness would be constantly passing to and fro in front of the “most wonderful house in Ibiza”. The realization immediately placed me in the middle of a quandary. If I felt I couldn’t live with large trucks passing to and fro in front of me, then I would be unable to become the next tenant in Casa Paput. And if that was true, then I would have to disappoint many of my new friends who actively wanted me to become its next tenant. There was the further question of why they actively wanted me to become its next tenant. A question the answer to which was slowly percolating into my consciousness.

Suppressing my initial urge to immediately withdraw from further exploration into the possibility of renting Jutta’s guest house, was the sudden, unbidden recollection of advice once given me by my father. That advice had been in connection with the limited subject of mailing angry letters, but its principle was and is, universal. He had urged me not to mail such letters immediately they had been written, but to wait at least a day or two after the fact, before doing so. If I still felt they should be mailed then, they probably should be mailed. But, he suggested, very few would be the times when I would feel that way. And so it followed that very few would be the times when I would mail the letter. I knew from much personal experience with that advice that its principle was not to be violated if remorse was not to follow impulsiveness. And so I decided not to foreclose Casa Paput right then and there, and certainly not before I had had a chance to see it. The affectionate remembrance of my father took me to see quite clearly in my mind’s eye, as it always did, a group picture he had once shown me of his family in Lithuania. There had been 32 of them. The Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators, and even some of the German Army, had murdered each and every one of them.

I drove on toward “the most wonderful house in Ibiza” without comment.

Harold Liebow

haroldliebow@liveibiza.com