And so I arrived in a dazzling bright-but-chilly
Ibiza. It was 23rd December 1964 and the great world was in
an accelerating ferment, politically, socially and otherwise.
But you would never have known it that wonderful morning on
the island. Flipper and I and the Renault were almost mobbed
on the dock by that wonderfully welcoming, boisterous crowd
of island people! They milled around us, they smiled and laughed
at us, they patted Flipper's head, and ooh'd and ah'd about
him, mostly in Spanish, much to his delight. They even, some
of them, offered us cold drinks. In the crowd there were some
people holding signs high above their heads. They were colourful
cardboard display signs, signs which touted hostels, hotels
and eateries. There were signs with the names of people on
them, too, people who were expected, it would seem, people
who would need lodging and a place to eat.
Picture © Harold Liebow
There it was! I was one of those people. I would need a place
to stay until my Paris hostess arrived in another day or two.
And I had not the slightest idea of where that place would
be. So I looked more carefully at the bobbing tout notices
sprinkled around in the crowd and at the people carrying them.
And there was one among those, a tall, lean man who was wearing
a weary, wide-brimmed, once maroon-coloured hat. His shirt
and trousers were as nondescript as his hat. But he had a
face like a tired eagle's, with dark, weather beaten skin,
and with sunken eyes that had seen everything. He was thin
as a scarecrow. His green-lettered sign said simply, The Delfin
Verde. Somehow I knew that it was to that place that I would
go. When I caught his eye, he knew it too.
So how could a man such as this man, I wondered,
with that powerful face, with eyes that had seen everything,
and with the manner of one who knew well who he was, how could
such a man have become content to have become a dockside tout?
He came toward me with a certain low-key, but unmistakable
authority that opened a way for him through the crush on the
dock. Then he was standing directly in front of me. For a
moment I was nonplussed. Those eyes of his bored into mine.
Were they confrontational? Inquiring? Welcoming? What were
they telling me?
"If you don't mind the odd drunk in
the middle of the night," he said, "then Delfin
Verde might be for you." His words were strongly accented
like other middle Europeans I had heard while in France. But
his fluency in English, none the less, was indisputable. This
was a man quite at home with distant relatives to his mother
tongue, whatever that was. "And it has the only telephone
on the port," he added, "when it works!"
It was all such a straightforward statement
of the key facts about the Delfin that I nodded at once. I
would be needing a telephone
when it worked. Moreover,
the name of the place, The Delfin Verde, had a certain ring
to it which suggested that the management might have been
blessed with imagination. The Green Dolphin, indeed.
"Sounds good," I said, "but
how did you know to speak to me in English?"
"Your shoes," he said. "I
can always tell by the shoes. Pointed toes, the Continent.
Square toes, English or American. Besides, your car's matriculation
tells me the same thing." The plates were indeed touristico.
In those days - and perhaps even now - cars bought in France
by foreigners planning to stay in the country for not more
than six months, were sold with special red-coloured matriculation
plates. My little Renault had such plates. I was to learn
later that such plates could become a serious liability in
And so it was that we made our way slowly
down the dock to the Delfin, Flipper yipping excitedly all
the way. Fronting effortlessly for us in my little black car,
Hannibal - for I had learned that was his name - led us safely
through the crowd to what turned out to be both a bar and
a hostel. Somewhat to my surprise it was located right there,
portside, just opposite the Trasmediterranea ferry which had
brought me to the island. The Delfin was as green as Hannibal's
sign advertising it. The whole façade of the building
in which it was located was green. Inside, everything that
could be green, was green. Tablecloths, napkins, lights, tropical
fish tanks, bar top, bar tender's apron, even the precious
part-time telephone was in a green glass cage. As were the
bar tender's eyes which turned out to be green, too. She was
a buxom, active Irish girl, with flashing green eyes and a
"Hello!" she said explosively
and with a cordially inflected brogue. "Glad to meet
you. Name's Doreen. They call me Dundee Doreen. Cause
they think that's from where I come. First drink's on the
house? What'll it be?" The accent was unmistakable. And
indeed, a drink was a welcome idea. But my idea of a drink
at 9:30 in the morning was a cup of coffee.
"Could you do a coffee?" I asked.
"Sorry," she said, "the machine's
not been started up yet. It would take a while" Sadly,
that was a refrain to which I was soon obliged to become accustomed.
"But I can make you tea. How about a nice cuppa?"
It was while the water was heating - slowly
- for my tea, and while Hannibal and I were carrying my few
essentials for a day or two's stay up to my room, that I saw
a very frail looking, middle age woman wearing an artist's
blue smock. She was sitting at a table in the dimly lit dining
area and she seemed to be working her way through a bottle
of brandy. As she sat at her table, she was slowly and rhythmically
moving in her seat like a tipsy mosquito. It was a table with
a green cloth on it, of course. She was looking straight at
or through me, but smiling to herself in a distracted sort
of way. Her hands were lifted to her face and were talking
to each other like a Thai dancer's. Hannibal saw me wince
as I saw her lift a full jigger of the stuff and swallow the
lot in one gulp. What was that all about, I thought?
"That's Chinese Rita," Hannibal
said, answering my unasked question. "She starts early
and she kills a bottle or two a day. There's a Dutch Rita
too, on the island, but she's not a boozer."
"What's this Chinese Rita bit?"
"Almost everybody here's got a name
that tells you something about them. It seems to work. My
name's really Hungry Hannibal, for instance. That's because
I'm nearly always hungry. A long story. They don't use it
to you, only about you. The foreigners go for it. The locals
have triple barrel names that don't tell you anything about
"But Chinese Rita," I insisted,
"She's not Chinese!"
"Well, they say she was born in China,
and her eyes are a bit funny when you look at them up close."
It was just then that Flipper started to
bark. It was his Watch it!' type of bark. He used it
when he came up against big dogs and big men and I knew it
was generally for real. So I looked quickly around and, sure
enough, standing just inside the heavy, spring-hung, two-way
swinging entrance door, was a quite big man. He was a foreigner
and he a bit unsteady on his feet, as if he was walking on
ball bearings. He wore jeans, top and bottom, with a big red
handkerchief around his neck. His wide black belt, his back-tilted
black hat and his great black boots, all made me think he
was a Hell's Angel type. After a moment he began to move cautiously
towards me - and he didn't look friendly. When he was just
a few feet from me he stopped. We stared at each other for
awhile, sizing each other up.
"Who the Hell are you?" he demanded
finally. He spoke clearly but he was almost shouting.
Hungry Hannibal, close behind me, hissed
into my ear; "Watch it! His name's Unwanted Tom! He's
murder when he's boozing and he is drunk now!"
Flipper stopped barking and sat down right
beside me. He had done his job, he said. He had sounded the
alarm. Now it was on me. That's the way it was with Flipper
"Who's asking?" I answered levelly.
Four years in the US Navy during the War long ago, had taught
me that in situations like this it was always better to answer
stronger, rather than weaker.
"Never mind that shit," he growled,
"I asked you, who the Hell you are!"
When I didn't answer, he rushed me. The
fury in his face, his bulging eyes and his giant drunken strides,
all provided me with ample warning of what he had in mind.
Then, unbelievably, Flipper made a serious mistake. It is
the only one he ever made in matters such as this. Instead
of holding down his grand stand seat and watching the show,
he dashed forward as if the whole thing was his business,
and, making like a Great Dane, he tried to grab on to one
of Unwanted Tom's trouser legs. Tom's foot lashed out and
a great black boot caught Flipper squarely in the side. Flipper
yelped piteously as he was flung out of the way. And all I
saw was red. I set myself properly to get my whole weight
behind my punch, and as Unwanted Tom lunged at me, I launched
a massive right hook that screamed home squarely on his chin.
The blow was devastating because it had blazing anger-power
behind it. Unwanted Tom was frozen in his tracks by its force,
and then slowly began collapsing. He instinctively mini-stepped
backwards to save himself from falling, and, doing so, his
back collided explosively with the heavy, swinging, entrance/exit
door. There was only the sound of its coming to rest after
Unwanted Tom's unconventional departure. Except for low whimpering
sounds from Flipper there was complete silence. So much for
kicking small dogs.
When I turned back to the bar I saw Dundee
Doreen and Chinese Rita both sitting on the floor, close together.
They were comforting Flipper, who I am happy to say, was not
seriously hurt and seemed to be greatly enjoying the attention
the ladies were paying to him. Hungry Hannibal was carefully
pouring me a generous shot of Chinese Rita's brandy as he
told me the phone seemed to be working, if I cared to use
it. And in no time the coffee machine was in good working
order. We had scalding hot coffee all around, handsomely laced
with what was left of Chineses Rita's bottle. Then Chinese
Rita herself came over to me and affectionately kissed me
on both cheeks.
"Welcome to Ibiza.'Thumper',"
she said. And 'Thumper' I was, ever after.