Monday, June 05, 2006

Don Pepe’s Pescadito Fresco



I spent the past few days in Mallorca, a.k.a. “the island that’s not Ibiza.” While it technically belongs to Spain (and is part of the Baleares, where I worked many years ago), it is an island wholly populated by pasty Englishmen and Germans with short shorts and hiking boots, with just a handful of Spaniards thrown in to keep everyone supplied with paella and ensaimadas.

On Saturday, we caught a taxi in the German colony of Soller and asked our toothless driver to take us to the British art colony of Deia. The man (one of those imported, “native” Mallorquins) grunted his assent, then made an attempt to do a U-turn. But the passing cars would not stop for him.

“It’s neofeudalism, I tell you!” He yelled out the window. “Neofedualism!”

Now, I’ve had taxi drivers espouse their philosophy on a number of things, including nougat (Morrocco), cheating ex-husbands (New Jersey), and think tanks (Tokyo), but never neofeudalism. So I bit: “Cómo?”

“For me, no one stops. But if I was Don Pepé, you can bet they’d stop. ‘Oh, Don Pepe, do you want to turn around? Please turn! Here, we will turn your car for you! Do you want some fresh fish, Don Pepe? Have some fresh fish while we let your car pass! We will open the restaurant just for you, Don Pepe!’”

During our twenty minute drive to Deia, I learned that Don Pepe could also pick up passengers in any Mallorcan city he wished and never got ticketed by the police.

“So Don Pepé is also a taxista?” I asked.

“Oh no. He thinks he is too good to drive a taxi.”

Unlike our driver, Don Pepe also did not have liver problems, and got to the front of the line any time he had to go to the hospital. Nor had he ever been told by his psychiatrist to leave his hotel work and take up a job that would be “less strenuous psychologically.”

As important a figure as Don Pepe seemed to be, no one else brought him up the rest of the weekend. The people at the beach had never given up their towels for Don Pepe; the divemaster had never seen Don Pepe nick someone else’s oxygen tank; and the woman who drove us to the airport seemed far more concerned about what was going on with some guy named Paco than with the famous Don Pepe.

But last night, heading back into London via skuzzy Holloway Road, we spotted him. There, wedged between the Funky Chicken Village and Happy Chinese restaurants was El Rincon de Don Pepe, inside of which an old man sat before a plate of fresh fish, rubbing his palms together as he plotted the course of England and Mallorca.

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4 comments:

el p said...

hey, don pepe's empire extends to my neighborhood too! he has a bodega that has stale candy and rats in it just a block from my house.

Moko said...

but have you ever spotted don pepe? is he a fat man who wears a bowtie even in the summer months?

Anonymous said...

did he have a moustache?

Anonymous said...

I think that was Don Pepe sitting/sleeping in the window in that restaurant in Brussels. We photographed him for posterity!