UNITED STATES—A tinge of sadness colored the first steps into the narrow plaza and byways of Segovia after our magnificant roast suckling pig at El Meson de Cándido. There was the hint that this journey was coming to an end. Like when the air turns one day in August and signals the end of summer. We walked up the cobbled street of the close mazy city that rises and falls. Segovia is a little bit like Venice, sleepy and mysterious.

The cobbled street took us to a café, La colonial, in a plaza on one of Segovia’s most commercial streets. Our ships were readying to go in different directions, but we could all agree on a spot at an outdoor café table, where this photo of the four musketeers was taken. It was taken by a couple who looks American, they turned out to be British. “You look like Tom Petty,” said the congenial man, obviously a fan of American rock. It cheered me up, and it is a feeling I wanted to prolong, but couldn’t prolong. To many unpleasant yet insignificant details were dwelled on to mask the impending sadness of saying goodbye to Madrid, its camaraderie and cuisine.

The day before, we ate at a Chinese buffet in Heron (a.k.a. Heroin) City. For a few days now, we had had an itch to try some ethnic cuisine in Madrid, an itch that also responded to the urge to eat something other than ham. There was the Chinese restaurant in Las Rozas, libeled by a rampant rumor that the splendid Peking duck with glase was supplied by ducks poached from the local estuary. Yes, there are Chinese and Chinese restaurants in Madrid, there was this buffet, and I encountered a Chinese youth selling in Burberry.

He told me he had lived in Baja California before coming to Spain, and the food for him in Mexico was too spicy. In addition to being the setting for a monumental symposium on the future of male-female relations, the buffet had a dizzying and decadent array of seafood and vegetables. Along the way there was egg soup, shrimp, lobster and fried rice. That afternoon was a dream haunted by impending departures. At the end there was fudge, and dessert, with a hot caramel machine nearby. It would be unfair to describe to reveal the contents of the discourse on women.

Suffice to say, men complain about women and women, depending on character, complain fiercely about women and less so about men. God has a sense of humor: He created man and woman. It left no residue on my notebooks. Except a fragment, “I still feel for that gold wedding band with my fingertip. The line took years to vanish the edge.” My friends are wise in these matters and I can attest that they did not say anything foolish or preface it with “They expect us to…”

There are gaps in the record. There are gaps in life and travels and I confront them here. Faces that don’t register because they vary from our default nationality, or have bland names, words that go unheard because they are in a strange language. I vaguely remember that one of our party was making a phone call, another looking for a souvenir.

At the café in the plaza there was a misunderstanding. Thank heaven for this bit of drama that stands out again the cognitive gap that came on. The cafes of Madrid wanted to serve café con leche in glass cups. And in my case that is what got ordered without really wanting it. I rectified this and told the waitress, who had gained my admiration by asking, “Where are you from, Colombia?” But the café man went right ahead and prepared a café con leche.

“Why do you ask?”

“You have an accent.”

There had already been a lack of communication. It all turned into caffeine bounty for the accidental tourist. I enjoyed both café con leche and espresso on the house. Below is the picture taken by the British couple. It is a good picture. Dave didn’t turn out so well. Still, his askew head belies his feeling as a misfit after three months of studies in the U.S. and Hollywood. He was now a misfit in Madrid and didn’t know what to do himself. Dave America was a little too restless for Spain.

To be continued

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)