To hear it from my family, Pego is it. The Paella and wine flow freely in Pego. Nobody works. People wake up. Go to their places of business for a few hours. Come home, eat some paella and drink some wine. Nap. Go back to their place of business for a few hours. And then they rock til the wee hours.
Then they get up and do it all over again.
The Dream, at least the way my grandparents always made it sound, was to get back to Pego.
There are no worries in Pego. Everything is taken care of. The beach is close by. The air is always warm, and the water just as.
Want The City? Barcelona's only forty-five minutes by train.
Want the shore? Same thing, other direction.
Want neither, but comfy people in comfy places who don't speak your language? Just stay here in Pego. Where the Paella's always made with real Saffron and the Spanish Reds are made right next door.
Don't worry ‘bout gettin' up for work tomorrow. Get up when you get up. It don't matter. Shit gets done when it gets done.
The Paella is way more important than showin' up for anything. So drink up, eat up, and give everyone some love. They'll give it right back to you whether you want it or not.
This is the story I always got.
From the sounds of things, Pego was this Shangri-la of, well, Shangri-la-ness.
Yet right around the turn of the last century, all sets of my great-grandparents left it in search of a better life in the good ol' US of A.
Papa Joe's family bought a piece of land on Homestead Avenue, USA and made a farm out of it. This proved to be very valuable during the Great Depression, as the family farm provided everyone with the chickens and goats they would need for meat, and the corn and beans and tomatoes they would need for vegetation.
They would build a little house in a little corner of this farmland, and it would keep them warm in the winter when the crops had dried up and the livestock would live in the basement.
In the winter of Nineteen-hundred-and-twenty-two, a boy was born amongst the chickens and goats in the house. He would grow up to serve his country as a ship-repairman (I'm sure there's a better, more appropriate title for him, but I don't know what it is) in the Pacific Theater of Dubya-Dubya-Aye-Aye.
But before he left, Papa Joe met a little young lady whose parents were from the very same place that his were from. Her name was Grammie Rosalie, and she adored his sailor suit.
What a fucking stud Papa Joe was.
She would wait for him. And he would do what he had to do. Fix the boats. Avoid shrapnel. Don't get killed.
Don't get killed, cuz you get to go home to the girl you love if you don't.
That got the guy through, and Papa Joe got to go home soon after we dropped The Bomb.
Papa Joe married Grammie Rosalie as soon as he got home. And they moved into that little farmhouse on Homestead Avenue, where all the Spanish people lived. They would have three children together, Joe and Rosalie would. My aunt, my mother, and my uncle. They would all live together under one roof, one farm. They would feed each other with their own chickens and their own grains.
Papa Joe's dad, Jose, would die before any of the children were old enough to remember much about him. Whenever I ask my aunt, or my mother, or my uncle about him, the conversation sounds very much like that scene from Return of the Jedi when Luke asks Leia if she remembers her mother. Her real mother.
"He was strong. He was old, but looked so strong. Stringy. And quiet. But he smiled at me. Of course he would. What else would he do? I was a baby."
And so they grew up in that farmhouse together. A widowed grandmother. A war veteran father. His wife. And their three kids.
Papa Joe would get a job in a foundry, and Grammie Rosalie would cook lunches in the high school cafeteria. Hey, you got three kids, you gotta pay the bills. You gotta do whatcha gotta do.
Growing up, Papa Joe and Grammie Rosalie would talk about Pego like it was some sort of Shanrgi-la. Like it was my responsibility, my duty – no, my pleasure, to go back there. They never made it themselves. My grandfather died because he worked for 30 years in a foundry that was full of asbestos. (when he was done with that, he carried the US Mail for another 27.)
I am the Last of that Line. My aunt went her own way. My uncle married a woman with two kids of her own, and he would never sire as son of his own creation.
My mom, well, she married my dad, and they had me.
And now I watch, as we pay our rent, our landlords go on trips and buy cars and always seem to be around during the day... When is it going to be OUR time? What do I have to do to make it OUR time?
For years I lived as though it all was all about me.
It's not that way anymore. I've moved on and moved in with somebody that I wanna build a farmhouse with.
Next weekend, we celebrate Grammie Rosalie's 80th birthday. We will go to a restaurant. And then we will go to that very same farmhouse on Homestead Avenue.
She still lives there. On her own and kickin' ass.