Friday, November 6, 2009

Somehere on the road in Portugal...reflections on Twain-isms vs. Joe-isms

The venerable Mark Twain

"All generalisms are false, including this one."

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education."

"If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot in any other way."

"It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."

The indubitable Joe Arrais

"He who steps off the blanket gets his feet wet." (A caution to Americans.)

"The further you drive, the closer you get." (Helpful advice as to the length of any journey.)

"The rain will be ending soon." (As the rain begins, with gray skies everywhere and no sign of sun.)

"If you step on the wrong rock, you will get a radical feeling." (In other words, "watch where you step.")

"Always stop at the stop sign." (Reflecting upon the importance of traffic safety.)

"Next time you are in Argentina and you see a stop sign, you need to stop." (An observation after a minor auto accident with some Argentinian surfers.)

"It's just a little bit of humidity." (During a rain storm while waiting for the traffic police.)

...So here we the end of Europe...literally...outside of Sagres at the far southwestern corner of Europe where Prince Henry the Navigator (allegedly) trained seamen from throughout the regions...and I am thinking to myself "How would it be to have Mark Twain riding in our rental VW van for a few days"...and then I realized that he was indeed here...just in a Portuguese know, louder, more passionate, articulate, louder...well, you understand...

...So in addition to the wit and wisdom of Joe, he also is quite a driver...and in Portugal that is a big statement...since cab drivers here make NYC drivers look like driver's training school...on a first day lesson...and I have enjoyed Arrais and his driving in the past...getting to Porto from Lisbon faster than a bullet train a few years ago...but you know I am really tired after having driven about 400+ kilometers, so I figure, why not have Joe drive a little bit...right?...and the symbolism is astonishing since in the photo below (with Joe's lovely wife Paula, daughter Debora and our friend Marjorie Ekk)...we are admiring the kilometer zero marker of the famous "cycle across Europe" start that leads one all the way to Russia)....

...I mean, what kind of trouble could we possibly have?... five minutes and one kilometer later here we are in a traffic accident with four young Argentinians who decided it was smart to pull out into don't get me wrong...this collision was not Joe's fault...but I just found it somewhat ironic that it would happen to him just after taking the wheel deep in the Algarve...and fortunately everyone was OK...except for the tie rod and left wheel and tire of the young man's injuries...but I just loved to watch the special language that Joe brought to the scene...

...when we got out of the car Joe greeted the young travelers with a hearty greeting...affirming in them that in no way did he think less of them for their driving problems...and after we all embraced one another and shared pleasantries our young South American folks thought it was a good time to change their tire...move the car...and I am sure they were just going to head to the nearest police station to report their error and damage...which at that point was developing...

...but fortunately just at that moment as they were getting in their car and wishing us all 'bon voyage"...the policia appeared and saved them the effort of seeking them, those Argentinians were so pleased to see them as well!...they said some special things in Spanish that I am certain were a particular form of being especially pleased to see the policia. long story short...the rain was pouring...and pouring...and we worked it all out...and our hapless young friends had to wait for a tow truck (Portuguese law, I understand)...and the important thing is no one was hurt...and I took the keys back from Joe so that he could reflect on his long journey behind the wheel...and share with us those special tender thoughts he had towards our young amigos from down south...

...and it just made me grateful once again for the wonderful surprises that await us around the bend...and how even little accidents can seem funny...and moments to learn from...especially when you are with wonderful friends like Joe and Paula and Debora and Otto and Marjorie...and of course my bride Ruthie!

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