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The Sidewalks in Lisbon

The sidewalks in Lisbon are a mosiacwork of white and black stones, forming stars, waves, or flowers, or some mixture of the three. They are highly polished by the passage of feet, cars (people there seem to have no qualms about hopping there car right up over the curb to park), carts, dogshit, vomit, and other less pleasant leavings, so that, on certain moments during the day the sun reflects back in your face blindingly. Our last day there, it was unbearably hot.

But the city is also quite beautiful, in a gritty manner; something like the way the scurrying of ants around their mound can be beautiful, if you´re in the right mood or drinking the right liquor. Lisbon´s inhabitants are probably the nicest Europeans that I´ve encountered yet (out of rude London, snobby Paris, and hospitable Madrid — where I am again, for the time-being), though I had some rather interesting run-ins with a few of them:

When we first arrived in Lisbon, after getting off the bus from the train station, this woman approached us, in a realm of near panic. “You are lost?” she asked, “You must get off the street with your bags; Lisbon is very bad now, I mean, worse than you think…” This whole exchange took place in English; hers was an educated and measured foreigner´s, ours the tired and confused language of tourists: yes, yes, yes, thank you very much. Her message was simple: get off the street, or you will get mugged. This struck me as odd then; now it seems even stranger. Lisbon seemed no different than any other metropolitan area. Perhaps her vision of America is one where crime is a plaything of scriptwriters toying with exotic locals (like Portugal).

The second odd meeting (eerily similar to the first) took place on the train back from Sintra ((A most beautiful little city, which has preserved it´s medieval heart in the form of meandering, cobblestone alley-streets; and has also preserved the mountain stronghold of Portugal´s Moors, from around the 5th century. One is free to meander the tangle of the former and the parapets of the latter. I did both, and the view from the watchtower of the castle was amazing. I pity any army that tried to take the hill.)). He was a rather burly looking fellow who must have locked onto us because we were speaking English. He looked at us, and said, “You are crazy. Portugal is a dangerous place. There are men with guns here. Men with guns. Understand. You mean no one harm, I can tell: your eyes are innocent. Understand? Innocent eyes.” Then he got off the train. This was our last night in Lisbon.

So I spent the last day on a fine edge.

The only problem we had with Portugal was, actually, quite beyond human control. The locomotive on our train seized up, so we had to catch buses for the last leg of the journey between Lisbon and Madrid. This caused us to miss our connecting train; we had to buy new tickets for tonight, at our loss. Remember this: Grandes Linías Renfe fucks you on refunds.

Categories: Postcards.

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2 Responses

  1. But hey - know that you’ve made a little over a hundred bucks on your beloved books thus far - plus, I’ve even mailed the smaller of the two packages to Cali as well and deducted that sum already…hopefully that covers some of that train ticket money. And even more of a plus, I didn’t have to pay it as ransom to get you and Alissa back from the “scary” streets of Portugal.

  2. Already a hundred? Well, I’d ask which ones have sold, but I am sure that hearing a catalogue of those of my babies already cast to the wind would make me weep. I suppose that Chicago has begun to swelter; it certainly is hot here in Florence.

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