Jane Weber (1927-2016)

Today, 2 April 2017, is the one-year anniversary of my grandmother, Laura Jane Boyle Weber’s death.  She died surrounded by family shortly after her favorite show, Lawrence Welk, ended.  As my Grandpa liked to say, “Why…Lawrence Welk went off at 7:00, and Jane went off at 7:01.”  (I realize that reads a bit callous, but it was really loving and endearing when he would say it.)

She was tapping her fingers to music she loved as she died.  May we all be so lucky.

Here is the eulogy I read at her funeral service.  Hard to believe she’s been gone a year already.

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My grandma with her cousin, circa 1938

Good morning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the time I got to spend with Grandma and the important ways in which she helped to shape my life.  I’d like to share some of my memories, offer a bit of reflection on them and, I hope, honor her by expressing what she means to me.

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Grandma and I, 2014-ish

At family gatherings, like Grandma and Grandpa’s anniversary party, people often compliment me for coming all the way from New York City to be with everyone on these occasions.  But I’m not a New Yorker by birth.  When I was a boy I lived right down the street at 1922 Madison Avenue right here in Mt. Healthy until the age of five, in a house which Grandma’s mother owned before my dad bought it.  While my mom and dad were at work, Grandma would watch me and Greg.  I enjoyed it when she would come over – we’d watch the Price is Right and we’d both be excited when that alpine game with the yodeler came on (we, of course, would yodel ridiculously along with the TV).  As we ate our lunch we’d watch her soaps – All My Children is the one I remember most – and I remember asking her questions about the characters and the sordid details of their lives.  To her credit, I don’t think she fully explained the ins and outs of the adult world to me, but she let me ask the questions and we’d talk about the characters – she liked to gossip.  Truth be told, so do I.  But that sounds negative, doesn’t it?  Let me rephrase that: we both love stories, and discussing the lives of others is a kind of storytelling.  Through this storytelling she developed my love for the drama of daily life which would find its way into my love of writing and theater, subjects which I currently teach.

Despite the fun we had, there came a point in the afternoon when I sensed that it was almost time for my mom to get home from work, and, like most kids, once I suspected she was close I would get agitated and want her to be there right away.

“Where is she?” I’d ask, impatiently.

Grandma would reply, “Let me look…” and then she’d go to the window, look down the street, and tell me, “She’s about fifteen blocks away.”

“How do you know that?” I’d ask.

“I have magic glasses.”  That answer was reasonable enough to me, and I accepted it.

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Looking effortlessly relaxed in the early-mid-1940s.

I remember one particular time when I was maybe three or four years old going to get a zweibach from Schultz’s Bakery on Pleasant Avenue – which I have always referred to as Grandma’s Bakery – then driving to Harbin Park – a place I loved because, at the time, it was where we held the Weber family reunion where I’d get to see, Aunt Alma and Uncle Al, Uncle Barney & Boomer (that’s what I called Aunt Bert for some odd reason), Aunt Gert, Eugene and Betty, all my dad’s cousins and all their kids.  Anyway, on the hill at Harbin Park, Grandma and I parked while I had my snack and looked out at the clouds in the distance.  They were choppy and extended for miles.  Grandma said they looked just like waves on the ocean.  I had never seen the ocean, but I had seen the grand prizes on the Price is Right that featured fabulous vacations to Hawaii and Acapulco.  I didn’t quite see the parallel, but she said the clouds were like the whitecaps on the waves, and that if I used my imagination I’d be able to see them.  And then, all of a sudden, I did see it.  It made perfect sense.  I looked at the sky and saw the ocean; it was my first poetic thought.  I don’t know that grandma was a big fan of poetry, but by making metaphors with the sky and seeing the world through her magic glasses, she helped shape my imagination and my inner world in ways that would give – and continue to give — a lot of color to my life.

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Whatever happened to baby Jane?  (You knew that was coming…)  Early 1930s.

Many years later, when I was in 7th grade, Grandma and Grandpa were living in Florida.  I flew down to see them on my very first flight all by myself, which probably planted the seeds of my love of travel and my strong sense of independence.  Anyway, they took me to Daytona Beach; I’d visited the Gulf of Mexico before, but this was my first time seeing the Atlantic.  Whereas the Gulf was usually brown and looked like a big lake to me, the Atlantic looked like the ocean of the Price is Right – cerulean blue and crested with white.  “Don’t you remember?” she said, “I told you they looked like clouds.”  All those years later, she remembered that conversation.

For those of us in her immediate family, there’s a very special place about an hour east from here called Lake Lorelei.  For a period of time in the 80s we would spend every weekend there together, boating, swimming, cooking out – just being together as a family.  Some of my favorite memories from my childhood were the Saturday nights at the clubhouse at Lake Lorelei where there would be a band playing jazz standards and big band swing tunes that we all associate with grandma and grandpa.  In fact, the moment I hear the opening notes of “All of me…. Why not take all of me?” I immediately think of the two of them.  I loved watching everyone dance; I loved sitting with my family, drinking my ginger ale and eating pretzels while singing along with the band.  These experiences made me want to study music and perform, which I’ve done for my entire life.  I’ve even made it to Carnegie Hall – a few times – but I can tell you that singing there, as special as that is, is not as dear to me as singing along with grandma and grandpa and the band at Lake Lorelei.

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Grandma and Grandpa — Jane and Norb — late 1940s-ish

Before Lake Lorelei was a part of our lives, I would stay with her and Grandpa – and a teenage Kimmy, and their dog, Buffy – at their house on Evalie.  If the weather was nice we would walk across the street to visit Bob Kay and swim in his pool. We’d do word searches together and other puzzles — she loved a game, and she saw that I did too (still do!).  I remember her telling me when I was very small that one day I would be big enough to go to bingo with her.  After years of waiting – which only made it seem that much more glamorous – that day finally came.  I remember entering the bingo hall and being amazed as I watched Grandma in her natural habitat.  She greeted all the other ladies – her friends and adversaries – with pleasant hellos (then told me who to watch out for because they win too often).  She bought 30 bingo cards for herself and one for me.  “How come I only get one?” I’d ask. “Let’s see if you can keep up with one before we add to it.”  I quickly graduated to three cards, but never made it past six. She had a bag filled with metallic chips and magnetic wands to remove them quickly; dabbers of ink for the single card rounds.  And good luck charms: trinkets and trolls that she would set up like guardians of her cards.  “Do they work?”  “They do.  They’re magic.”  Again, this seemed reasonable to me because she did win the money.  Sometimes quite a bit.

She was a winner.  And a wit.  The life of the party.  She had a wonderful laugh and smile, and I know we would all love it if she could walk through the door right now and tell us that she was fine.

Well…

Grandma left me her magic glasses, and in case anyone here is worried about her, I want you to know that I can see her.  Shortly after the moment of her death, she thought, “I went peacefully…surrounded by loved ones…I even made it through tonight’s episode of Lawrence Welk…and I’m ready.”  So her spirit, with all her might, yelled out, “BINGO!” to that great Bingo Caller in the Sky, St. Peter.  He called her name and she approached, thinking to herself as she rose through the clouds that they still look like the ocean. She’s

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Jane and Nancy

young again, and beautiful.  Her hair is long, her lipstick is very red.  “Laura Jane Boyle Weber,” he commanded, and she said to him, “Who wants to know?” She was a bit surprised because her voice was healed and wasn’t shaking.  St. Peter wasn’t in a joking mood, so he just looked at her sternly, and she decided to behave.  He looked over her bingo card and said, “Laura Jane,” (she looked a bit nervous) “it appears that your time on earth was fun.  You made people smile.  You made people laugh.  On the whole, the world was a merrier, wittier, richer place because you were in it.  You are welcome into heaven.”  When the gates opened and she walked inside, her mother, Iva Pohlar Backus, gave her an entire chocolate cake.  “Is this whole thing for me?” she asked.  “Of course,” Grandma Backus said, “and don’t worry – there’s no diabetes in heaven.”  Laura Jane replied to her mother, “Doesn’t matter, I was going to eat it anyway.”  Her Grandpa Pohlar, a bar owner here on Earth, poured her a beer knowing that she hadn’t had a drink in many years.  She smiled, and as she took her first, glorious bite and her first delicious sip, Lawrence Welk struck up the angelic band – “A one, a two, a three!” – and she sang along with them and all her relations in heaven: “You took the best, so why not take the rest?  Why not take all of me?

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Jane through time. 

 

 

Mahler for Vision

Funny how certain pieces of music have a way of appearing in our lives just when we need them.

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Emil Orlik’s etching of Mahler (1902)

After my grandmother died last year and her funeral was over, I was eager to get back to normal life.  At that time MasterVoices was hard at work rehearsing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony — the “Resurrection” symphony, written in honor of a friend of his who died unexpectedly.  We’d started the season with it, performing with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and we ended the season with the same piece, then with the New York Youth Orchestra — just a week or two after her funeral.  The piece was a vessel for my grief, exactly what I needed to sing at that moment.

Well.  As I noted in my previous post, my grandfather died last month.  Just a few days before it happened I got an email from MasterVoices saying that we’d been asked to participate in another performance of Mahler’s 2nd, this time under the baton of George Mathew as a benefit for HelpMeSee, an organization that is fighting to end cataract blindness.  I wasn’t going to sing it — we just finished Bach’s St. John Passion, this concert will take place four days later.  I figured I might need a break (and, more importantly, I need to finish my novel draft by the end of the month to submit it to Jersey City Writers to be workshopped in March!).

But then my grandfather died.  I remembered how much the piece helped me after grandma’s death, it seemed wrong to turn down the opportunity perform it once more — and coming so soon after my grandpa’s death, it just felt like more than a coincidence.  Like they say, you can ‘call it odd, or call it God,’ but coincidences like this can’t be purely accidental.

So I said yes.  The performance will take place this Monday at Carnegie Hall (click here for tickets).  It is truly one of the most glorious pieces of music to sing.  When we sang it with the IPO I didn’t have the loss of loved ones weighing on me, and even then I couldn’t sing it without tearing up by the end.  I’ll probably look a mess after the concert this Monday, tear-filled as I’ll surely be, but I’m looking forward to it.

Please attend and support a wonderful cause!

(Somewhat semi-unrelated, but a few years ago I wrote a piece on Verdi’s Requiem and how it has had a similar way of calling me to it under interesting circumstances.  I looked it up just now and saw that it was written on 11 February 2015 — two years ago to the day!  Call it odd, or call it God.)

Here’s a link to a video of the final movement of the symphony, the part that features the chorus.  (WordPress has changed its structure and won’t allow me to insert the video into the post as I used to do without buying an upgrade package.  Grrrrr!!)

 

Norbert Weber, 1925-2017

My Grandfather’s 92nd birthday is today, and he almost lived to see it.  He was famous for calling everyone in the family on our birthdays to sing to us, and I think I speak for most of the family when I say my own birthday this year will be bittersweet without having him here to mark the occasion.

However, the fact that he’s no longer with us seems a poor reason not to honor his day. Below is the eulogy I read at his visitation along with a few pictures.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

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Grandpa was one of the few people to be the Commander of the American Legion post 513 twice — with an almost 50 year gap between his years of service!

 

Grandpa’s priorities in life were simple: to serve God, country & family.  And I would say that these were the secret to his longevity; his dedication to service and living a life of purpose helped him to survive all kinds of health issues that would have taken down a weaker man. 

So I would like to reflect on these a bit. 

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Grandpa with my brother, Greg (left) and I.  From their house in Fairfield, OH.     (ca. 1982)

Grandpa was, above all, a family man.  My earliest memories are of family gatherings downstairs at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Evalie in Fairfield, not just for holidays, but because it was…Saturday.  These were not quiet, tea-sipping affairs.  First thing you would see at the bottom of the steps was a bar that sat four or five at least, a pool table to the right, and a living room to the left where everyone could gather comfortably.  Grandpa might be drinking one of his beloved Manhattans, or he might have filled his glass from the keg refrigerator. Their house was fun; full of laughter and argument — everyone had an opinion, and everyone was free to share it. 

 

As I’ve sorted through my memories of Grandpa these past few weeks, It surprised me to realize how many of them are of him — and all of us — by water.  When I was very young we spent many weekends of the year at Lake Lorelei on the pontoon boat or grilling out in the yard along the water.  If we were staying local on summer weekends, then it was a sure bet that we’d be swimming in Grandma and Grandpa’s neighbor, Bob Kay’s pool — a privilege we all enjoyed because Grandpa was Bob’s pool man, more or less. 

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Grandpa with my cousin, “Baby” Ryan — and Grandma swimming in the background.  

When they moved south to landlocked Ocala, Florida, even there the majority of our activities were near the water — renting cabins along or boating on the Rainbow River where we saw all sorts of wildlife I’d only seen on TV.  The first time I saw the Atlantic was at Daytona Beach with them, and we even made a stop at Weeki Watchee where they had live mermaid shows.  Grandpa insisted I should get my picture with a mermaid…and then Grandpa insisted he and I should both get our picture…(…and then he got one with just him and the mermaid.  He was always a charmer.) 

 

In his later years, however, he traded mermaids and pool equipment, lakes, rivers and oceans for the small pond behind their apartment at Regency Run.  Whenever I visited, if the weather was nice, I’d see Grandpa as we pulled in from John Gray Road, sitting quietly, watching the fountain and the ducks and the traffic with a statue of St. Francis next to him as his only companion (Grandma was more likely to be found inside playing online poker with college kids from across the country).  He was still the life of the party, but it became clear that he had a quieter, contemplative side.

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The complete caption reads: Norbert and a glass of beer.  Aug. 1944

I got to experience this side of him up close shortly after Grandma’s funeral.  My cousin, Nikki arranged for him to meet with Father Tharp, and I tagged along just because.  I got to hear Grandpa tell Father in his own words just how much his long life, long marriage, and all the blessings that sprang from them meant to him.  He spoke, too, of his military service, which I believe was an extension of his love for his family.  Mark Twain said, “Love the country always; love the government when it deserves it.”  Today too many people see country and government as being one and the same thing, which makes one very cynical, but grandpa didn’t: he could be very critical of the government, but he loved the people.  He treated people with kindness and he served in the military on behalf of the people.  Nikki, has described Grandpa as having a servant’s heart, and I think this is an apt description, because he never seemed to demand anything in return. 

 

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Grandpa saluting the flag, 2015

Case in point: On our way out from that meeting with Father Tharp, a young man in his twenties was walking towards us.  He saw Grandpa walking with a cane, saw his WWII Veteran hat, and promptly took a few steps back to open the door for Grandpa, and said nothing more than, “Thank you for your service.”  To this Grandpa replied, “No, why…thank you!”  And then he continued on — no further conversation, no smug, self-satisfaction.  Something about that exchange was deeply moving, and it was connected to the fact that, while he was able, he would raise and salute the flag on his flagpole every morning when he woke up, and salute it again before he took it down in the evening.  When he saluted the flag, he saluted the people.  He didn’t force others to do the same, and he didn’t care if anyone judged him: he did it because honoring and respecting people is what you do.  It’s why he participated in more than a thousand military funerals; it’s why he called you every year, without fail, to sing “happy birthday” to you.  Because honoring and respecting people is what you do.

 

I can’t say if Grandpa was always this kind of exemplar of grace — I only knew him for the last forty years of his very long life — but I think he was an excellent model to the rest of us of the things that really matter. 

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He had the heartiest laugh.  

It has been said that living with the knowledge that you’re dying is like leaving a party early when you’re having fun and really don’t want to go.  There has to be some truth to this, and Grandpa, as stated earlier, was the life of the party, but he was also a devout Catholic who firmly believed in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  For him, we hope and believe, the party has not ended, that it’s only just getting started because now he’s there.  He’s left us here to mourn him, but he’s joined Grandma and loved ones he hasn’t seen in many years: his brother Bernard and Aunt Bert; his sister Alma & Uncle Al, their parents, Rose and Clarence.  After catching up with all of them, laughing and probably having a bit too much to drink, he’ll step outside to look at the shimmering expanse of heaven as he looked at his pond here on Earth, and he’ll see us in the distance on the other side.  Grandma will join him, and so will St. Francis — not the statue, but the man himself — and they’ll raise their glasses in a toast to us, as we raise our glasses in a toast to them, and they’ll continue to watch over all of us in the days, months, years and decades ahead, until we’re all reunited in that celestial home where water is turned to wine — or beer if that’s your preference — where our tears are turned to laughter, and where Grandpa — or Dad, or Uncle Norb, or just plain Norb — will turn to us with that gigantic smile of his, letting us know how honored he feels that we found our way back to him. 

 

Grandpa, we salute you, we love you, and we thank you for your service in all the ways you served this world.  We miss you, but we take comfort in the knowledge that we’ll meet again one day.

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Christmas 2016

Given Grandpa’s fondness for St. Francis, I would like to end today by reciting the St. Francis prayer.  If you know the prayer, please feel free to recite it along with me. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled
As to console.
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen. 

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“Bach’s Holy Dread”

mv-sjp_horizontal-1If it’s a coincidence, it’s a rather remarkable one.

The New Yorker published Alex Ross’s fantastic piece on J. S. Bach’s religious beliefs — with a heavy focus on the St. John Passion — barely more than a month before our (MasterVoices‘) presentation of this incredible work at Carnegie Hall (Feb. 9).  Whether you intend to come to our concert or not, you should really check out this article.

(And you should come to the concert…I mean really, why wouldn’t you?  It’s so easy: You can buy tickets right here.)

The Sun Also Rises, Books 2 & 3 — In Pictures

Be sure to read/look at the previous entry if you haven’t already.  It explains my purpose with this post.  As before, page numbers refer to the First Scribner trade paperback edition, 2003.  All photos, unless they are mine, were pulled from the internet, so if one belongs to you and you would prefer that I remove it, just let me know and I will.

BOOK 2

Paris & Other Parts of France (& Europe)

[Bill] wrote that Vienna was wonderful.  Then a card from Budapest: “Jake, Budapest is wonderful.” (76)

Vienna.  Wonderful.

Vienna, Austria.   In German it’s called Wien, and sausages (and people, and anything really…) from Wien are called Wieners — which is where we get the word.   Wonderful!

budapest

Budapest, Hungary. Incidentally, the first city outside the US that I ever traveled to. Wonderful!

At the juncture of the Rue Denfert-Rochereau with the Boulevard is a statue of two men in flowing robes.  (78)

One of these robed gents is an architect.  Not the father of pharmacy as

One of these robed gents is an architect. Not the father of pharmacy as Bill says.

“Is she really Lady something or other?” Bill asked in the taxi on our way down to the Ile Saint Louis.  (82)

There are two very important islands in the River Seine in Paris.  The first is the Ile de la Cité, upon which sits Notre Dame cathedral along with the marker that is the cartographic center of Paris (ie. all distances from Paris are measured from that exact point) and many other important buildings.  Behind Ile de la Cité is the Ile St. Louis, which is somewhat more residential and is, in fact, one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in in Europe.  It is in the foreground of this picture.

There are two very important islands in the River Seine in Paris. The first is the Ile de la Cité, upon which sits Notre Dame cathedral along with the marker that is the cartographic center of Paris (ie. all distances from Paris are measured from that exact point) and many other important buildings. Behind Ile de la Cité is the Ile St. Louis, which is somewhat more residential and is, in fact, one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in in Europe. It is in the foreground of this picture.

We walked along under the trees that grew out over the river on the Quai d’Orléans side of the island.  (82)

The Quai d'Orleans side of the Ile St. Louis.  (I think...this is from our school trip in April 2015)

The Quai d’Orleans side of the Ile St. Louis. (I think…this is from our school trip in April 2015)

We walked on and circled the island.  The river was dark and a bateau mouche went by, all bright with lights, going fast and quiet up and out of sight under the bridge.  Down the river was Notre Dame, squatting against the night sky.  We crossed to the left bank of the Seine by the wooden foot-bridge from the Quai de Bethune, and stopped on the bridge and looked down the river at Notre Dame.  Standing on the bridge the island looked dark, the houses were high against the sky and the trees were shadows.  (83)

This is a view from a bateau  mouche on the Seine.  The building in the back to the right is the Musée d'Orsay, an art museum dedicated to Impressionist art (and one of my most favorite museums in the world).

This is a view from a bateau mouche on the Seine (bateau is French for boat). The building in the back to the right is the Musée d’Orsay, an art museum dedicated to Impressionist art (and one of my most favorite museums in the world).

“Say, there’s plenty of Americans on this train,” the husband said.  “They’ve got seven cars of them from Dayton, Ohio.  They’ve been on a pilgrimage to Rome, and now they’re going down to Biarritz and Lourdes.”  (91)

Rome, Italy.  "The Eternal City." All roads lead here, and it wasn't built in a day.

Rome, Italy. “The Eternal City.” All roads lead here, and it wasn’t built in a day.

Biarritz.  Swanky French beach town.

Biarritz. Swanky French beach town.

Lourdes, France.  in 1858 a peasant girl had visions of the Virgin Mary here, and the place subsequently became an important site of pilgrimage, in particular for those suffering from diseases that have no cure, for Lourdes is most famous for its number of miraculous healings (thousands of them).

Lourdes, France. In 1858 a peasant girl had visions of the Virgin Mary here, and the place subsequently became an important site of pilgrimage, in particular for those suffering from diseases that have no cure, for Lourdes is most famous for its number of miraculous healings (thousands of them).

The train stopped for half an hour at Bordeaux and we went out through the station for a little walk.  (94)

Bordeaux is a charming small city on France's southern Atlantic coast.  It's one of the most important wine-growing regions in France, which is probably the most important wine-growing country in the world.  Which would make Bordeaux the most important wine region in the world.

Bordeaux is a charming small city on France’s southern Atlantic coast. It’s one of the most important wine-growing regions in France, which is probably the most important wine-growing country in the world.  Which would make Bordeaux the most important wine region in the world.

Bayonne is a nice town.  It is like a very clean Spanish town and it is on a big river…We went out into the street and took a look at the cathedral.  (96)

Bayonne, France.  Note the cathedral in the background.

Bayonne, France. Note the cathedral in the background.

Spain

We past lots of Basques with oxen, or cattle, hauling carts alnog the road, and nice farmhouses, low roofs, and all white-plastered.  In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean.  Every village had a pelota court and on some of them kids were playing in the hot sun.  There were signs on the walls of the churches saying it was forbidden to play pelota against them, and the houses in the villages had red tiled roofs… (97)

The Basque people, by some estimates, are part of the oldest culture in Europe.  Their language, Euskara (or Basque), is unrelated to all other languages in Europe; that is, it's not an offshoot of Latin (like Spanish, French and Italian) or German (like English and Dutch).  Some believe it goes back as far as the stone age, but it's origins are unknown.  it tells us that the Basque have been in the area for a very, very long time.

The Basque people, by some estimates, are part of the oldest culture in Europe. Their language, Euskara (or Basque), is unrelated to all other languages in Europe; that is, it’s not an offshoot of Latin (like Spanish, French and Italian) or German (like English and Dutch).  Some believe it goes back as far as the stone age, but its origins are unknown. it tells us that the Basque have been in the area for a very, very long time.

Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches.  In back of the plateau were the mountains, and every way you looked there were other mountains, and ahead the road stretched out white across the plain going toward Pamplona.  (99)

Is that not gorgeous?

Is that not gorgeous?

At the end of the street I saw the cathedral [of Pamplona] and walked up toward it.  The first time I ever saw it I thought the facade was ugly but I liked it now.  (102)

Fachada_catedral_de_pamplona

We sat in the Iruña [cafe] for a while and had coffee and then took a little walk out to the bull-ring… (105)

cafe Iruna

The Cafe Iruña, interior

Hemingway-Camino

If you have your meal or your drink at the bar of the Iruña, you can drink with Hemingway’s statue!

 

We’re going trout fishing in the Irati River… (108)

The Irati River

The Irati River.  Dramatic.

As we came to the edge of the rise we saw the red roofs and white houses of Burguete ahead strong out on the plain, and away off on the shoulder of the first dark mountain was the gray metal-sheathed roof of the monastery of Roncesvalles.  (114)

Burguete

Burguete.  Red roofs and white houses, just as Hemingway described.

Roncesvalles monastery.

Roncesvalles monastery.

This isn't related to Hemingway, but one of the most important stories from the Middle Ages, "The Song of Roland", tells of the Battle of Roncesvalles.  In the story, Charlemagne's army is facing the Saracens and suffers its only major loss, one that would have been worse had Roland (Orlando in Spanish/Italian) not blown his horn and warned his fellow knights.  This story laid the framework for the concept of chivalry and knighthood in Europe.  This picture shows Roland/Orlando's death.

This isn’t related to Hemingway, but one of the most important stories from the Middle Ages, “The Song of Roland”, tells of the Battle of Roncesvalles. In the story, Charlemagne’s army is facing the Saracens and suffers its only major loss, one that would have been worse had Roland (Orlando in Spanish/Italian) not blown his horn and warned his fellow knights. This story laid the framework for the concept of chivalry and knighthood in Europe. This picture shows Roland/Orlando’s death at Roncesvalles.

In the evenings we played three-handed bridge with an Englishman named Harris, who had walked over from Saint Jean Pied de Port and was stopping at the inn for the fishing.  (130)

St. Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

Most of the places mentioned in the Spanish section of the book are part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  This is an ancient pilgrimage route from the Pyrenees at the border of France and Spain to the Atlantic Coast.  Originally those who walked the Camino did so for religious or spiritual purposes, and many still do, but many others hike or bike the roughly 500 miles because it's a stunningly gorgeous walk!  Because people have been doing this for centuries, there are many hostels and places to stay along the way for pilgrims.  When Hemingway mentions that Harris walked over from St. Jean Pied de Port, he's implying that Harris was probably walking the Camino.

Most of the places mentioned in the Spanish section of the book are part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This is an ancient pilgrimage route from the Pyrenees at the border of France and Spain to the Atlantic Coast. Originally those who walked the Camino did so for religious or spiritual purposes, and many still do, but many others hike or bike the roughly 500 miles because it’s a stunningly gorgeous walk! Because people have been doing this for centuries, there are many hostels and places to stay along the way for pilgrims. When Hemingway mentions that Harris walked over from St. Jean Pied de Port, he’s implying that Harris was probably walking the Camino.

They’ve never seen a desencajonada. (136)

For the following quotations, see the videos below:

At noon of Sunday, the 6th of July, the fiesta [of San Fermin] exploded.  (156)

Before the waiter brought the sherry the rocket that announced the fiesta went up in the square.  It burst and there was a gray ball of smoke high up above the Theatre Gayarre.  (157)

People were coming into the square from all sides, and down the street we heard the pipes and the fifes and the drums coming.  They were playing the riau-riau music, the pipes shrill and the drums pounding, and behind them came the men and boys dancing.  (157)

The afternoon was a big religious procession.  San Fermin was translated from one church to another.  In the procession were all the dignitaries, civil and religious.  (158-9)

[Pedro Romero, the matador] was the best-looking boy I’ve ever seen.  (167)

Hemingway based the character of Pedro Romero on the young Toreador, .  He was right; he wasn't bad looking.

Hemingway based the character of Pedro Romero on the young toreador, Cayetano Ordoñez. He was right; he wasn’t bad looking.

 

Book 3

“No.  I can stay another week.  I think I’ll go to San Sebastian.”  (232)

San Sebastian.  Looks like a good vacation spot, no?

San Sebastian. Looks like a good vacation spot, no?