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The First Date at Princesa do Castelo (It Happened Like This…)

The streets layer themselves; they collide; they diverge; they wrap around and meet; they hover over each other. They are multi-textured and multi-colored: slate, white, marble, cobbled, asphalt, rose. They know the beginning of tales: Senhora Fernanda is reading a book; Senhor Joao is smoking a cigar; Joana is cuddling her cat; Pedro is smoking a joint with his girlfriend; Mateus is drinking coffee at a round table; Carla and her lover are caressing. The street conceals and binds.

There’s a vegetarian café on the street, Princesa do Castelo, inviting pedestrians to enter. The walls are alternately orange and yellow; the tables and benches, wood; a giant red and white mushroom protrudes from a wall; Bob Marley issues from the speakers, “If you know what life is worth, you’ll look for yours on earth.” The menu: salads, soup of the day, nachos, hummus, noodles, quiche, desserts, fresh juices, alcohol.

From the heaving street, a couple enter, order two pots of tea, and settle into the banquette. They are new to each other.

“Where are you from?”

“XYZ. You?

“ABC. Have you been there?

The same small talk being practiced in cafés worldwide: ‘What’s your…do you like…where do you…when did you…?” The questions and responses fall and connect like stones in a wide river. There are some that will be needed to get to the other side. Some will pile into boulders– insurmountable and difficult to process; some will be held onto for safety.

He orders more tea; the laughter grows; the volume of the whispers increases; the energy of new attraction/lust/flirtation palpitates.

“That was good.”

“Yes, it really was.”

They rise– together– and step onto the wreathlike street. With them: white petals racing, a dog running (with its owner trailing), four men playing dominoes, all connecting.

If you know what life is worth, you’ll look for yours on earth.

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From The Snapshots in Your Mind (You Need to Remember)

You need that summer, that early summer, of which you’ll recall you lived your life as a dream. You found that “impossible” was a myth– a foolish construct you made.

On a cool day, when the seagulls swoop in easily, and pedestrians pull their cardigans closer, you’ll think of the moment when it struck you that you were smack dab between youth and old age. The young will seem more precious. The old will seem more precious.

The substance of years will captivate you. Your empty hand will remember the grasp of an old woman who held onto it all the way up a hill. She taught you seasons– she was winter. Her laugh will echo in your mind; how heartily she bellowed when she called herself a “mentirosa (liar).” She lied to you about having six husbands, but she had only had one, a “very impatient one.”

Maria Idalina. If said slowly, her name evokes a darkening sea, music created with strings, a flock of silver in flight. Her size and stature belies her strength. Walking sticks attached to her hands, she stops, and teaches you how to say, “I have plans today, I’ll meet you tomorrow,” in Portuguese. What phrase could be more handy?

You must remember that summer where red blossoms fell off trees like bees fleeing hives. Rapid and straight. Remember: the air was clear; the gold orb, hiding; that flirtatious look you received; passersby gliding down sidewalks; how quick you were to say, “Teach me.”

You need to remember how lifting your foot in step sometimes felt like ballet; how you skipped, unable to contain yourself; how smooth, condensed milk, rice and cinammon slid down your throat; how you thought a coin could bring you luck. Remember: the uneven pavement, the clock striking, the shaking umbrella, the light rain. Remember how each departure brought new beginnings.

Remember the one who said, “You’ve traveled a lot, met many more people than me, so you must know that sometimes when people say, “I was just joking,” it’s only because you didn’t laugh.” How much younger and wiser he was.

Once upon a future in your life, years from now, you will remember that summer. When the clock strikes then, you’ll need, need, need to draw the marrow of that summer from your bones.

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Maria Idalina

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Cascais, Cascais, Cascais!

Dear Friends,

Forty minutes, and ninenteen miles from the center of Lisbon, awaits an idyllic town– Cascais. The coastal town Cascais has streets lined with palm trees, designer stores, restaurants, smaller boutiques and pocket-friendly shops, gelaterias, bookshops, a yoga studio, bicycle shops, rows of pink, white and eggshell houses, bars, pubs and tea houses. A few days after my arrival in Lisbon, I attempted to visit Cascais, but the train strike made it impossible. Thus, after two failed attempts, today was the day.

Upon exiting the train, I was thrown into a delicious state of confusion: Should I walk down the cobbled streets of the town? Should I get a hazelnut ice-cream cone and lick it slowly like those savoring their cones and basking in the sunlight at the sidewalk gelateria? Should I make my way directly to the beach without looking back? Gelato, shops, and cobbled streets are in Lisbon, so I decided to go straight, without stopping, to the beach. Less than five minutes later, an orchestra of waves washed over me.

To the left, and the right: paddle boarders, cyclists, topless sunbathers, sailboats, fishing boats, children skirting the waves, crests of white, a sandcastle being built, guys playing frisbee with their dogs, runners, and young and old stradding the wall that separates the square from the beach. English, Portuguese, Spanish and French rising and falling.

I want to be where the sun warms the sky
When it’s time for siesta you can watch them go by
Beautiful faces, no cares in this world
Where a girl loves a boy, and a boy loves a girl (La Isla BonitaMadonna)

Many years ago, Belinda Carlisle sang “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” and though it was never a favorite of mine, the song kept playing in my mind while observing the surroundings. The town is perfect— the comforts and conveniences of city living, the tranquility of the country, the closeness to the city of the suburbs, and the sea! Oh, Portugal. You were exactly what I was looking for– I adore you.

All we really want is some fun… Some guys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. I want to be the one to walk in the sun….(Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper)

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(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A)

Love,

Val

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The Load Grows Lighter: A Day at Gulbenkian

On a Sunday afternoon, when the sun is streaming through raised shutters, and nature is beckoning, “Come to me,” get up, and go. Give yourself to trees, to art, to birds, to lakes, to wind, to the sound of twigs snapping beneath your feet. Go to Gulbenkian park in the middle of Lisbon.

Take the Red Line to São Sebastião and within the concrete walls, you will find an oasis. Vamos passear! Walk around the lake; throw a volcanic rock in a pool; see the ducks spreading their wings; notice people sitting under the open sky eating juicy plums, reading, plucking their guitars, practicing their love. Practice your love.

Peer at hearts carved into ancient trees; wonder at the impermanence of romantic love; wonder if the Marie that wrote, “Marie loves Rik 2006,” still loves him in 2015? Observe the peace. Listen to the story of another:

In the past, I had one heart. I gave it to my lover– the whole heart. “Here, take it,” I said. I didn’t learn from a previous heartbreak. When she left, the heart was gone. I suffered. All that was left was air, but I couldn’t lift my head to get some. It’s not the way to do things.

A day in Gulbenkian isn’t enough. There are museums, gardens, terraces, an ampitheater, films being shown, photography exhibitions, musical performances, an art library, a cafeteria. There are tapestries handwoven in wool, silk, gold and silver threads to gaze at; intricate ivory carvings to wonder at; and all of nature giving itself to you on a warm, spring day.

I had one heart, and then it was gone. I trudged up and down the hill to my house with a heavy load on my back. I thought, “Why is this my life? It’s so hard.” Then, one day, the load became lighter. I was becoming free. I don’t have one heart, but many. I have no lover, but I have love– strangers, friends, family. 

Nature gives; nature heals; nature teaches– Gulbenkian is a large classroom– the grace, the birdsongs, the fresh air, the new buds, the towering trees, the silence. Everything rests– even the quivering, ungraspable ripples in the pool.

An elderly couple exits the park dressed in their Sunday best. When she opened her eyes this morning to face another day, she possibly said, “How marvelous! Here we are again. What shall we do?”  “Let’s stroll around the gardens of Gulbenkian,” he responded. “Let’s stand for a moment near the lake, close our eyes and feel the breeze that will kiss our lids. Let’s practice our love.”

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Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt inder The Willows - Sargent, John Singer
Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt under The Willows
– Sargent, John Singer
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Flora –Carpeaux, Jean-Baptiste
The Dance, (*Tapestry from the set "Children Playing)
The Dance, (*Tapestry from the set “Children Playing)

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Sleepwalking Down Rua Da Graça

If one were to stand in the middle of the side of the sidewalk, while listening to music seeping through the walls of a high school, that would make no sense to observers. Yet, if one were to smoke a cigarette, while idling and listening, that would make sense.

If one were to look at the clothes of others, while they drifted in the breeze on a clothesline, that would make no sense to some. The clothes are colorful, varied, intimate and hint at the life inside: within lives a man and woman; there’s no child; they wash clothes often or they have few clothes, because so few pieces are on the line; the woman is petite; the man has a simple job that requires brown pants. A simple line, a simple life.

If one were to ponder the fairness of things, that would make no sense. Why was Walter Scott shot in the back eight times? Why would there be a campaign to raise money for the man who shot him? Who was wronged? Why do people starve to death everyday in a world of plenty? Why do we voraciously read horrific news everyday and dismiss goodness?

Some say, “The world’s a terrible place.”  That makes no sense. Wonderful people do small and grandiose acts of kindness everyday with no recognition. Videos of us helping and loving each other rarely go viral.

If one were to criticize you everyday, and the loudest in the pack were you, that would make no sense. “You’re old, you’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re too dark, you’re too pale, your hair’s too coarse, your hair’s too fine, you’re weak, you’re too short, you’re too tall. ” Stop the nonsense. You’re nothing but beautiful. (Ask yourself, “How could I have failed to recognize the wonder of me?”)

If one were to fail to recognize the excellence of this day, that would make no sense. A breath ago, someone lost this: the smell of orange and jasmine, the pulsating sun, the falling of the last cherry blossom for this season, the tenderness of a hand on a shoulder, the satisfaction of a meal, the smile of a stranger, the sounds of glee from the depths of a child, a song bleeding in the air. All happening without rhyme or “sense.” It makes no sense that sensitivity makes no sense to so many.

With the realization that the “me” that was the time considering itself a separate entity is only a dreamed character, a manifestation of Consciousness, the mind turns away from objects and gets focused on the “I AM.” That is the true vision of Reality.Sri Ramana Maharshi

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Roberto and Fernando
Roberto and Fernando
at Rendezvous Vintage
at RendezVous Vintage– Rua Sao de Vicente, no.16
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This Is How It Starts– The Falling in Love

This is how it starts– the falling in love with a city. It descends and envelops you. There’s nothing you can do, it happens all at once. In mid-step, between your exhale and inhale, you realize it.

You find yourself doing things you’d never do anywhere else; like, leaving the house in the pouring rain to listen to live jazz and blues. You adore music, of course you do, but in another city, one you’re not enamored with, you’d say, “There’s music on YouTube, why would I go out in weather like this?”

You want to hold your excitement in, but can’t help sharing every photo, every realization, even when you may be the only one who can feel the thrill of it all.

Like the “Come to Jesus” posters at Arroios station say, “Every day’s a revelation.” You take the advice of a wise five-year old and taste raindrops on your tongue. You’ve eaten codfish before, but never steamed and served with potatoes. Oh boy, that doughnut filled with custard and the churro with creme, you’ve eaten those before, but heaven hadn’t opened its gates in your mouth then. Floods of flavor. Wow.

You do things you know you may regret, but then you think, “Those five minutes were worth it”– like, the mango margarita at The George on Rua Crucifixo. Tequila, aka “Ta kill ya,” you promised never to imbibe after the 2002 Festivale Mexicano fiasco, but here you are with a mango margarita– mango, tequila, salt, and– is that black pepper on top?

You fell in love before, of course you did, but this time, this time is different. You’re different. This city brings out the best in you; it makes you write everyday; it makes you smile inside and out, to which strangers will respond, stop you on the street and say, “You’re wonderful;” it makes things seem new, and since you know everything ends, your heart constricts a little.

Wait!

The novelty may fade, but the feeling could deepen. It doesn’t have to end. It doesn’t have to end.

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(Check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCM_VWzSiMo)

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O Guitarrista Alma na Augusto Lisboa (The Soul Guitarist at Augusto Lisboa)

As one rounds the corner of Rua Santa Marinha, it soon becomes apparent that the music permeating the street is coming from Augusto Lisboa. On a plush ottoman, sits a tanned guitarist, seamlessly segueing from song to song: Autumn Leaves, Is This Love, Isn’t She Lovely, I’ll Be Watching You, and Brazilian classics like Chega de Saudade. It’s the music that causes passersby to peer in the window and step in. If the menu were excellent or terrible, it wouldn’t matter.

There are six tables, one of which is flanked by a patterned sofa and two leather armchairs. The armchairs are the kind you’d settle into in your grandfather’s study– if you knew your grandfather, and if he had a study. (He would sit there, smoke a cigaro and drink a small glass of whiskey, while music rounded out on an antique gramophone in the corner.) Four gilded chandeliers drop from the ceiling casting a warm glow on the cozy space. Graphic, contemporary art covers all the walls. Augusto Lisboa also poses as an art gallery, and the artwork, by featured Sandra Remili, is on sale. The prices range from 25 to 300 euros.  A different artist is featured every month, so Remili’s work can be viewed from now until May 7. (To see more of her work, click here: http://www.sandraremili.com)

The menu doesn’t disappoint. It starts with a list of home-made ice-creams, of which there are five flavors, including Black Vanilla Madagascar. If there was any doubt that a meal should begin with dessert, Augusto Lisboa dispels it. After the ice-creams, the menu lists, in this order: feshly-squeezed juices, pastries, wines, ports, champagne, small bites, coffees, teas, cold drinks, beers, and hard alcohol. There’s something for every taste, and the prices range from low to moderate.

Today, there’s a chill in the air; the buildings on Rua Sanata Marinha are rose, as is the light straining through the clouds; the streets are cobbled and glistening. There is an open door, and a guitarist on a raised platform plucking every soul– in and out of the cafe– with the softest sound.

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A Felicidade (song)

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a gota
De orvalho numa pétala de flor
Brilha tranquila
Depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lágrima de amor

A felicidade do pobre parece
A grande ilusão do carnaval
A gente trabalha o ano inteiro
Por um momento de sonho
Pra fazer a fantasia
De rei ou de pirata ou jardineira
Pra tudo se acabar na quarta feira

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve
Mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar

A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos da minha namorada
É como esta noite
Passando, passando
Em busca da madrugada
Falem baixo, por favor
Prá que ela acorde alegre como o dia
Oferecendo beijos de amor

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim.

Happiness

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower petal
Shines quietly
After light oscillates
And falls like a tear of love

Happiness of the poor seems
The great illusion of Carnival
We work all year
For a dream moment
To make the fantasy
Of king or pirate or gardener
For everything was finished in Wednesday

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a feather
That the wind lifts into the air
Flying so light
But life is short
It needs to have the wind without stopping

My happiness is dreaming
In the eyes of my lover
It’s like tonight
Passing, passing
In search of the dawn
Keep it down, please
For her to wake up happy as the day
Offering kisses of love

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

*lyrics: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/felicidade-happiness.html

(Click this link for song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHlKjeHKIYI)