© Text and photographs copyright Wayne Miller

While his wife was shooting pool he sat at the bar, nursing a beer and getting advice about the neighborhood. “This is the best little city in the world, don’t get me wrong,” the bartender said, “But it has its problems. One of them is language.” Another patron chipped in with advice: ”When you call somebody it doesn’t matter whether the family is Cuban, Dominican, Mexican or Peruvian, the first person to answer the phone will be the grandmother, and she won’t speak a word of English.” Everyone at the bar laughed. “It’s a good idea to get a yellow pad and write down everything you want to say in Spanish before you even pick up the phone. Keep it simple, and remember to repeat the date and time.”

Neither he nor his wife spoke Spanish, so she signed them up for classes at the escuela nocturna --- they went to night school. The routine was simple. In the evening when they got home from work they would eat, shower and go to class.

The weather was warm so the meals were light and often included fruit. Each evening steam from the shower created a different pattern on the bathroom mirror.

The wrought-iron railings of the row houses repeated their patterns on the walks across town, and each lesson taught a new word or phrase. The routine of meal, mirror, lesson; meal, mirror lesson; meal mirror, lesson is how the summer went by.

Spanish on the street was different from Spanish in the classroom, but they did OK with the language, and for six years they had more fun in their neighborhood than in any place they had ever lived.

The best way to get there from here is to walk past the Santaria shop on 14th Street and turn left onto the 1300 block of Garden Street. You can’t miss it, there are lights still strung in the trees from Saturday’s block party. Turn right on 13th Street and walk two blocks west until you hit Willow Avenue. The pool room is on your right, next to the gas station.

The Spanish Mirror
Uno verano en una ciudad pequena

For information on Willow Billiards go to the Links page.