Regrets? Well, Yes and No–2/2


The Road to Barcelona

We did actually make a couple of sales, one to the Spanish stock market (by inviting their tech director down from Madrid and getting him drunk) and the other to the Catalan health service, which took an excruciating year to pay. That was the high point of what turned out to be a long slippery slope. From there I resorted to a strategy that the Spanish refer to as la huida hacía adelante, fleeing forward. Since my team understood computers, sound cards and telephone lines I decided to try selling audiotext, a system that permited users in those days to phone a number and, for a fee, hear the latest news straight from the source. It was a natural ap for a bigtime football (soccer) team and I contacted the Barcelona Fútbol Club. They expressed interest and we spent the next year pursuing that terrific lead, nearly wearing out my car zooming back and forth over the thousand-kilometer distance between Granada and Barcelona. I got it down to six hours and three quarters.
In one meeting with the club’s communications director we actually closed a deal. But the agreement had a hook in it. We had to pay them a million pesetas up front for the privilege of mounting and running the system for them. That was the log that broke the elephant’s back. It was a shame because the Barcelona team had (and still has) tremendous draw and the deal would have been a life saver for us. Then, of course, along came Internet and changed the whole ball game. Today they’ve got an online TV channel.
There were more projects on that slope, including a telephone-wine-sales business in which 13 young women offered fine wines to Spanish gentlemen who liked wine and talking to girls. Nor were my shrewd girls about to miss a lucrative business opportunity themselves. Towards the end of the fiasco I discovered that few of them were also selling their own services. Now when I see a beautiful girl walking her dog I look at the dog. Then there was the communications agency, which was a modest success. In that business I learned to make websites.

Sometimes The Pearl Is Right Under Your Nose

Meanwhile, during all the years that I was losing money hand over fist careening around Spain in a suit, my sweet wife–who had told me when we met that she wanted to be a painter–continued unobtrusively to paint and sell her work. At the end of the 70´s she was admittted to study printmaking in the the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation under  José García Lomas, a wonderful maestro who was formed in print studios in Rome and Paris. The foundation studio closed in 1980 and Maureen bought one of the big etching presses, the tables, the tools and the inks and installed everything her own studio on the hillside below our house. From then on she was on her own and with time and hard work she became one of Spain’s best fine-art printmakers and and graphic art educators.

Spain dedicates itself intensely to all of its fiestas and Christmas celebrations are extravagant. They last for 14 days, from December 24 (Christmas dinner) till January 6, the Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings, when children receive their Christmas presents. During these joyous holidays normal business slows to a halt, so there’s some free time available. On one of those occasiones at the end of the 90’s I asked Maureen if she would like me to make her a website. “Me, a website? What do I want a website for? I’m an artist!” So I made her five, one for her, another for her artists’ apartment, and three more on printmaking themes where she was featured heavily.
So my sweet wife, who had only modest business ambitions, started to lift off as an international fine-art printmaker with exhibits in Spain, the US and various European countries. Besides that she began to receive commissions to do editions for companies in Europe and the US. When she got her first big commission she hired an assistant. When he returned to Argentina she found a friend from a nearby village, trained her, and has worked with her ever since. Everyone who works with Maureen remains devoted to her for life.

When Crisis Hits

When the economic crisis hit the whole world in 2008 art sales suffered mucho, and she asked me one day how much trouble it would be to convert our renovated henhouse into an apartment. “What for?” was my naive reply. She had a plan. We revamped the chicken coop/tech lab again and called it El Gallinero (“The Henhouse” in Spanish). Since then it’s been a creative refuge for artists from around the world who come to Granada to study printmaking techniques with Maureen. I’m her dog’s body. And her first admirer. I’m so proud of her. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. Now our grandchildren are having children. Time flies.

Another Look at the Scoreboard

Remember the scoreboard? Let’s have another look at it. Yes, my failings were great and my regrets are sincere. But on balance my mistakes and missteps took me to a far, far better  place. Ironically, my time spent in the military was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That sounds insane but the army for me was both bitter and enlightening. I discovered that life in the USA was turning into a nightmare. When I was discharged from the army after almost two years I left convinced that I had to leave the country. And I did in November of 1968. All of the misery and frustration I thus evaded during the Nixon, Clinton, Bush/Cheney, Obama and Trump years; as well as all of the richness and wonder that I experienced in Spain, I owe ultimately to Uncle Sam because he was the one who convinced me I had to leave. I owe him for a wonderful new country with enchanting people and gentle customs. I owe him for a perfect English wife whom I found on a Mediterranean beach, for an old stone house on a sunny hillside and a flock of kids and animals. I owe him for encouraging me to find an unexpected space where we could create our own homemade lifestyle. So thank you, Sam, I wish you well and I’m trying to help you out, though it may not always seem so.

A Little Bit of Satisfaction

My most recent contribtion to human life on this planet is a modest one but it makes me feel good every day. For the past few years I’ve been publishing a photo blog site of events in our pueblo. (This morning it was the hatching of eight goslings on the river’s edge beneath the village square.) It began with black and white pictures of our early days in the village at the end of the 60’s and continues with color photos of current events here. The site has been a surprising success. In its fourth day online it received 18,000 hits and has been going strong ever since, this in a village of 1,200 people. So our neighbors get to see how their pueblo has evolved over the past half century. There’s a bundle of nostalgia in those pictures.
As for me, I would love to continue documenting our village for a few more years before I’m relegated to that great darkroom in the ground.
Back to Part 1


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What I Remember from the States 2/2

This is Part 2 of Mike Booth’s rapid account of his own “short pants, romance” story.

Quiet Places for Reflection and Regrouping

New Aspen library
The new, enlarged Aspen library. The old one was more “Aspen.”

I always loved American libraries, first the one in my hometown, even though the 175-year-old spinster librarian prohibited high-school kids from reading Hemingway or Steinbeck or Faulkner. The ones she should have censored were Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, America’s most surgical truth seers and tellers. In that same town I lent my girlfriend my prized collection of books by contemporary American authors and later found that her mother had burned them all because they were “paperbacks.” Continue reading “What I Remember from the States 2/2”