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Tuesday, September 5, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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WE HAD TO KNOW

The elusive Leonardo is the man behind the pillowcase `Spanish Lessons' pillowcase is teacher's do-it-yourself ad

Seattle Times staff reporter

As Seattle institutions go, the "Spanish Lessons" guy at Green Lake is almost approaching Ivar Haglund status.

"Hola!" the jogging, Rollerblading denizens of the lake shout as they see Leonardo, the mustachioed 75-year-old who walks around the lake with the words "Spanish Lessons" emblazoned on a vest made out of a pillowcase.

But for a local institution, not much seems to be known about Leonardo. And he likes it that way.

He's very private, he'll tell you. He'll tell you that - and lots more. About nasty American consumerism, perhaps: "People are afflicted here with a buying disease that cannot be cured." Or about the beauty in ripples of water, texture of bark and women overall: "I am blessed with the ability to see beauty."

What he won't tell you is his last name. He doesn't want to be more famous, he says.

But we had to know more: Why Spanish lessons? Why Green Lake? Why the pillowcase vest?

The Spanish lessons were logical. Leonardo is a Spaniard ("I am not just from Spain," he states emphatically. "I am a Spaniard till the day I die"). He's taught Spanish for various institutions.

A wanderer at heart, Leonardo has lived in countries including Chile, Argentina and Norway. He ended up here after looking at a map and deciding that Seattle, with its varied terrain, "may appeal to me. I like topographical inequality."

The pillowcase vest came from his aversion to that nasty American buying habit. "Damned if I would pay for an ad," he says.

He likes Green Lake for its beauty, its proximity to his Sheridan Heights home, the number of people who'll approach him for Spanish lessons.

He says about 100 people have taken lessons over the eight or so years he's been walking around the lake.

And his rates? They're negotiable. He's taught one student for free. Another, who's supposedly partly tone-deaf, pays $60 an hour.

How much you pay, he teases, "depends on how beautiful you are."

What do you need to know? E-mail: talktous@seattletimes.com. Fax: 206-464-2239. Mail: We Had to Know, c/o Scene, P.O. Box 1845, Seattle, WA, 98111.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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