This trip of seven Brothers of Sigma Beta Tau took place in 1973, or at least that is the best guess from those Brothers who went on the trip. Three of the brothers were married, and ergo their wives got to make this epic journey as well.
I happened to hear about “THE TRIP” from JJ Dowling. And, as my wife (at that time Angela) and I had been “looking for” a Don Quixote statue, I quickly asked JJ, “If I give you some money, do you think you could “FIND” a Don Quixote statue for us?”
He quickly replied, “You can find statues, paintings, and all kinds of art work with Don Quixote on every street corner in Spain.”
When I asked him “How do you know this?” He reminded me of his being in the U.S. Navy and having spent much time on the Mediterranean, he had been to Spain “many times”.
He then said, “Instead of giving me money to buy you a statue, why don’t you join us, it only costs $199.99 per person. That includes our airfare to and from Spain, our rooms, and two meals a day for 7 days !!!!! WOW – WHAT A DEAL!
THAT was “too good to be true” and we managed to scrounge up $400 and signed up for what would be the “trip of a lifetime”.
The final group consisted of JJ Dowling and his wife Fran, Bob Maslo and his wife Dee, me and my wife Angela, and Ed Esposito, Bill Hoefling, Bill Loehning, and Tommy O’ Donnell. WHAT A GROUP!
On that “fateful day” when we were to depart, I have “strange remembrances” of lying on the floor at Newark Airport and waiting, and waiting, and WAITING. Finally, it was our turn to BOARD. The plane was full, and all we wanted to do was take off and ORDER A BEER!
Arriving in Spain, there was transportation to take us to our “hotel”! When we get “there”, it turns out we were staying in Condo’s. Each “pair of us” got to have their own CONDO. Living room, kitchen, bedroom and a balcony … WOW!
As soon as we get settled into our rooms, we were told that EVERYONE was invited to some WINE, BEER, and “APPETIZERS”!
As we were guzzling beers or drinking wine, we watched as these BIG TRAYS of “Appetizers” were brought out. As the covers came off, people “charged” the table and began filling their plates with what “they” were describing as SPANISH ONIONS. They were saying YUMMY, but it had a “strange taste”.
JJ nodded at me, and said, “Give them another few bites and then WATCH … when the “time was right” … JJ hollered out … LOOK AT THIS GREAT LOOKING SQUID!
Some people were visibly SICK! 🙂 Others were throwing away their SPANISH ONIONS!
For those of us who like, NO … LOVE … SEAFOOD … the SQUID – or as “we know it” Calamari was wonderful. And, there were some “other delicacies” ! WE loved them ALL!
At some point, during this first “gathering” of our entire busload, with “other people” staying at the CONDOS, JJ, Bill Loehning and Maz started to “spread the word” that they had just been signed to play with the NY JETS! People were asking for their autograph, it was just TOO MUCH for those of us who KNEW THEM … we were laughing our asses off!
After dinner, we started to stroll downtown. Along the way, Maz was “famous” for his YA YA YA YA YA outbursts.
Even when we got separated from “the group” we would pass little kids saying YA YA YA YA YA … EL GRANDE! And we knew that Maz and JJ and other members “of our group” were right around the corner.
At some point, it was decided that EACH NIGHT – a different “couple” was in charge of having PRE-DINNER hors d’oeuvres at “THEIR CONDO”.
That meant walking downstairs, crossing the street, and there we purchased wine! It was called Sangre de Toro! (Translation – Bull’s Blood). For a LARGE bottle of Sangre de Toro it cost $0.50 cents. So we would buy 10 bottles of wine for $5.00, a big chunk of GREAT CHEESE, some GREAT BREAD, which maybe cost another $5.00.
LIFE WAS GOOD … ON THIS TRIP.
After the hors d’oeuvres … we made our way down to partake of DINNER for that night. It was a lot of food, and we left their stuffed and again made our way DOWNTOWN.
YA YA YA YA YA … led the way, and we followed -laughing our asses off as we watched the amazed – open mouthed people that we would pass.
During the daytime, the beach was beautiful, the Mediterranean Sea was inviting, and if you looked straight ahead, you could see a distant “shoreline”. IT WAS AFRICA!
Some of our group, did make the sail over to Marrakesh, Morocco. There was everything you ever wanted to see, and it was for sale. You had to BARGAIN! And then BARGAIN again, and again, until your were satisfied with your price. In the meantime, you probably still paid twice what it was worth.
If memory serves me correctly, JJ had been there before, and warned whoever was going to keep your hands on your wallets, and keep your careful eyes on each other, for there is “danger” there.
Every day there was “somewhere else to EXPLORE. As we were in Spain, there was a weekly bullfight, and we all decided to go. None of us, to the best of my knowledge, had ever seen a bullfight.
On the way to the bullfight, at each and every corner we noticed Machine Gun emplacements, and large military vehicles with all kinds of firepower.
The rumor was that Francsiso Franco was somewhere in the vicinity.
At the Bullfight arena
The horns begin to play, and the door opens up and this HUGE bull comes surging into the ring, to great cheers. I don’t remember the Spanish names, but there are three “participants” to each bullfight.
Each of these participants is introduced with loud horns signaling their entrances.
The highest ranked person is the Matador, and he is the last to enter. Before him, there is a man who sticks these “spears” into each side of the bull’s neck, while he charges the bull on foot. After putting the correct number of “spears” , he departs and the next guy is on horseback, and has a spear, which he digs into the bulls neck. He is showing the Matador, which way the bull likes to turn and various other hints, while weakening the bull’s neck. Lastly, comes the Matador, who enters the ring, dragging his cloak behind him, to the great cheers of the crowd.
When he is ready, he walks towards the bull, ruffling his cloak to get the bull to charge. Each time the bull charges, depending on how close the matador lets the bull get close to him, great cheers come forth, with cries of “Ole”!
Eventually, after many passes, it is time for the Matador to kill the bull. Depending on how “well” he does this, is how loud the cheers will be. IF he’s great, it will only take one thrust of the sword he carries, to go through the back of the bull’s neck directly to the bull’s heart. The bull comes to a HALT, and jut throws up buckets of blood, to the wild cheers of the crowd.
WE, the Brothers of Tau … made MANY enemies that day. BECAUSE we were CHEERING when the bull threw the Matador, or either of the two other guys, and when the killing of the bull was executed we BOOED!
We did NOT make many friends there … that day.
After a few of these – we got up and left.
On one of the days, we had all signed up to go on a Donkey ride. I don’t remember the price we paid, but that it was a “pittance”. The price included, the donkey ride up to this home, where we would EAT, DRINK and be MERRY.
When we were on top of the donkeys, your were sitting on the blanket that covered the donkey’s back, and there was a rope tied around its neck – and you were told to hold onto the rope. They told us the Spanish word for “forward”, and you could kick them in the sides to get them to go.
We quickly saw, that the dirt road we were on, turned into a dirt trail, which got more and more narrow, the higher we went. Pretty soon, we were on about a 2′ – 3′ path, and if you looked left, it went STRAIGHT DOWN! We all learned DO NOT LOOK TO THE LEFT.
Up and up we went until we reached the hacienda, where we were warmly welcomed and they brought us CLAY jars from which we drank the nice cold white wine.
There were all kinds of hors d’oeuvrs – which we devoured, along with JUGS after JUGS of white wine.
A guitar started to play, and we were told to follow the music. We went to this large clearing, and the host, explained that we were going to have a “contest”. We were each told to find a partner, each man had to have a female partner. It you didn’t come with one, FIND ONE.
Then the man explained, in several languages, that when the guitar player started to play, you would DANCE with your partner. HOWEVER, “one” of the MALE visitors of our group was handed a BROOM and told that he had to dance with THE BROOM. As soon as the music started, he would go up to a man, tap him on the shoulder, give him the broom (you were NOT allowed to give the broom back to the man who gave it to you) but you now had to give the broom to another and take his WOMAN partner. When the music stopped, WHOEVER had the broom was OUT!!!!!
The WINNER(S) – the man and the woman would each get a BOTTLE OF WINE!
(An aside to follow what would happen next.
As we seven men were walking, IF we saw something that was “note worthy” – we would FAKE A SNEEZE – and say what we wanted the others to look at.
Typically, it had to do with a lovely looking woman WITHOUT a bra, in a see through blouse, and you would hear this loud SNEEZE, and the word TITS instead of ACHOO!
We quickly picked a NON GROUP member, and if any one of us 7 were given the broom, we already knew that SNEEZE SOUND was BROWN SHIRT and we seven IF we were given the broom made sure that BROWN SHIRT got disqualified.
This went on for quite some time, and I “think” that one or two of us had been eliminated, and in the end it was just the remaining Brothers of Tau and whatever woman we had “picked up” during the contest.
In the end … I WON!
I immediately asked for MY BOTTLE OF WINE.
I was told NOT JUST YET.
There is MORE to this game.
The woman I was with and I were brought off to this open space, and all the other participants gathered around as our host explained what would happen next.
He asked the woman I was with to sit on a tree stump, and I was handed one of THE Clay Jars.
It was explained to everyone, that I was going to pour the wine into her mouth, and everyone else was to count from one to as high as they could while she was STILL DRINKING THE WINE.
She got up to (I can’t really remember) 5 or 6 – and she stopped – to a nice round of applause.
I then took my position on THE TREE STUMP – took the CLAY JAR, and pointing the ”spout” that all of us had been drinking from towards my face and TRIED to hand the jug to my woman partner. The man in charge, shook his head NO, took the bottle from me, and explained that “THE SPOUT” – was made for a “woman” (it did KINDA look like a little penis), and the other side, which was a WIDE HOLE (I thought that was to have an easy way to fill these CLAY JARS), but NOOOOOOO I was told, “THIS SIDE is for THE MAN!!!”
I was bound and determined to do better than “my female partner” who got up to 5 or 6 (from the little spout), and I “think” I got up to the mid TEENS. I had swallowed MOST of what she poured into my mouth, but a lot went up my nose, or over my face, or down my shirt front.
In any event, I “won”! I WAS SERIOUSLY DRUNK!!!
But, I took MY clay jug, and proudly marched off to DINNER.
I can’t REMEMBER what we had for dinner, BUT … my memory says IT WAS GOOD!
Naturally, there was MORE wine to drink and laughs had by all.
THEN … it came TIME TO GET BACK ONTO OUR DONKEYS FOR OUR RIDE TO OUR BUS!
The path was just as steep, and just as narrow, with various places a bit larger, and I fell off my donkey several times. THANK GOD I was always in one of the more “wide spots” and I always threw myself off the donkey onto my back so as NOT TO HURT MY CLAY JUG!
Each time one of the donkey handlers OFFERED to take my jug, I REFUSED the offer and got back on my donkey.
When we got back to the bus, I remember someone started a SONG. A song that was “popular” at that time, and I joined in the first line … AND THEN I PASSED OUT!
I was awakened when we got back to our Condo. As we started up towards our rooms, “someone” saw a sign for HORSE BACK RIDING.
One of the Brothers said. “LETS GO HORSE BACK RIDING, WHO WANTS TO GO????”
I immediately said YES! My wife and the other wives all said “no” … but me and some of the Brothers – I have a limited recollection of who – went horseback riding. I’m not even sure WHO I was “partnered” up with.
But, here we were getting up on our horses, and maybe 50 to 100 feet away was the beach and the water and that looked like a perfectly straight and soft place to ride our horses, so I asked our leader, “Do you speak English?”
To which came “NO” (I understood that) with a lengthy sentence in Spanish (I did not understand a word.)
I then pointed at my horse, and made like I was riding, and I pointed at the beach and asked could we go there.
To which I heard “NO”, then several more sentences in Spanish, ending with Politzei!
I was drunk, but I got the message that the cops would not like us riding on “their beach”.
And so we began slowly “walking our horses” as we made our way on this path that was taking us in the exact opposite direction from the beach, back to “the hills”.
As we “walked our horses”, I was talking with one of my Brothers (to this day I am not sure who that was) and we were at the back of this group of horseback riders, when we crossed a path which lead directly to the beach.
I remember asking my Brother, “Doesn’t that look inviting … let’s go for a ride on the beach” to which he said “OK!”
(I would like to make this one point before going on – when my family moved from Jersey City to Kenilworth, NJ – I quickly made friends, and did whatever “they suggested.” One of our “weekly” adventures, was going to Neville’s Stables, and 3,4 or 5 of us, would get on “our” horse and ride an hour for .25 cents. From the time I was 11 or 12 years of age, I went horseback riding every week for ONE HOUR!)
Back to the story … my Brother said .. “OK” … I pulled the reigns on my horse to the right, and kicked him in the ribs, and hollered “GO!” And it did!
I could hear the guy we rented the horses hollering … “NOOOO! – POLIZEI!”
As me an “my partner” galloped out onto the beach, pretty soon I heard the European sirens, the BEE BOOP…..BEE BOOP as this Polizei car came roaring up the roadway, and two officers jumped out.
They were carrying MACHINE GUNS! … AND THEY WERE POINTING THEM AT US!
The man who was in charge started with “Hable Espanol?” To which I replied … “NO … Do you speak English?”
He then went through Parlez Vos Francais, same reply as above
Then he tried Sprechen Zie Deutch? Same reply as above.
He walked toward me and shoved my leg out of the way, so that he could read the hoses Medallion which told who the owners were.
Mind you, I was STILL very DRUNK!
He pointed, and glared, and we made our way off the beach – he then pointed towards the mountain ahead.
We began to go forward, to the mountain, and when we reached the next intersection, the Polizei (the same two guys) had their cars pointed at us, and just glaring, to which we laughed and waved at them.
With that, a “person” appeared, and spoke English to us. He first of all, said he was an American, and we were disgracefully drunk.
He then went on to say, “You two don’t get it. YOU are in Francisco Franco’s Spain” (in my drunkenness, some of Doc Didsbury’s lectures about Franco came seeping in.)
He then said, “The USA DOES NOT HAVE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH FRANCO’S SPAIN. IF THESE POLICE ARREST YOU, THEY THROW AWAY THE KEY, AND YOU COULD BE THERE FOR YEARS. DO YOU HEAR ME???? I was suddenly SOBER! OH SHIT!
LET’S GET OUT OF HERE AND INTO THE MOUNTAINS. We kicked our horses in the belly, and took off to the mountains and thanked God for getting us out of THAT ONE.
The rest of our time, was spent with every night having wine, cheese and bread at another of our condos, then dinner, then roving, at times with a great crowd of “followers.”
One night, we stopped at a “bar” and were drinking and telling stories, and there was a set of drums on the bandstand.
Someone told me to get up and “play”. THIS TIME I asked “permission”, and he could understand me telling him that I was a “drummer”.
Having done the “right thing”, I got up on stage and wailed away for 5 or t0 minutes, finished with a cymbal “crash”, and the applause of the owner/mgr of the club, and all my Brothers and newly acquired friends.
IT WAS A GREAT TRIP, AND ONE IN WHICH WE WHO WENT OFTEN THINK BACK AND GET A BIG SMILE ON OUR FACES.
$199.99 per person, round trip airfare, a condo for living quarters, breakfast and dinner, included, and together with 7 Brothers of Tau and three of their wives, COULDN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!
Paul Di Corcia, Epsilon Pledge Class