First day in Lisbon

I have a confession to make. I am way behind in my writings. In fact I am 3 countries behind. But yesterday was so fun, I have to write it all down before I forget it. 2 counties ago, I had a bit of indecision episode. Prague or Lisbon. Prague or Lisbon. Prague or Lisbon. Or Prague and Lisbon? You see there were some people I wanted to see and wanted HY to see there, and she had never been there, but I had………..You see what I mean? I got seriously wrapped up. And like it always seems to go, I felt like I made the wrong decision by going to Prague; there were too many tourists, the food was bad, my friends had to go away after 2 days, it was raining…….You see what I mean. After or 5 days were up in the airbnb, I suddenly decided we should go to Lisbon for a week. After, it might be my only chance in life, I was sick of German/ Slavik culture, I had dreamed of Lisbon for many years…….You see what I mean. So I went way over budget, I splurged, I spent my plastic surgery money….you see what I mean. As soon as we arrived I was glad I did.
It’s a totally different feeling here. It’s laid back. It’s relaxed. It’s very multi- racial, I love the sound of Portuguese (that “ao” sound is like an itch I can’t scratch, certainly can’t say either…sounds like a cat yowl). We arrived at the airport, didnt have to show our passports or have our bags checked, got on the mero right there and found our room easily. We laughed at our typically sour pus Russian landlady who interpreted every question as an attack. we started our first full day in Lisbon, the last day of July 2014 with a walk around the park at Alameda Metro. It’s a strange park laid out like a long wide ribbon 300 meters long and 50 meters wide with a funny short grass that looks like a golf course green. We were greatly amused by a dog that kept drinking from the high speed water sprinklers by grabbing the stream close in and getting everything wet then running back away from the sprinkler and biting down on the stream as he went. It was hilarious and went on and on.
Then we went for a typical breakfast at a corner not fancy diner. That included coffees and pastries including something i later found out is a speciality of Portugal. There were so many pastries though that we made a solemn promise to try a different one each day. Then we went back, got our instruments and gear and went to the Metro. I asked the attendant, “Do you speak English?” “A little,” he replied. He then proceeded to explain how to put money on my ticket in perfect English. As I left, I thanked him and said, “By the way, you are a liar.” he looked shocked and upset. “you don’t speak English a little. You speak a lot”. He laughed relieved. How often can you call someone a liar and get a smile in response? I couldn’t pass that chance up. Arriving at Baixo- Chiado station and the first thing we saw was this very handsome young man playing the Cello beautifully. We had just watched the video of the experiment done by the Washington Post of Joshua Bell. If you don’t know it, they put a very great concert violinist in the subway with his Stradivarius violin and had him play for 3 hours. In that time more than 5000 people phased by, and 7 stopped to listen for more than a minute. Well here was the same situation. This kid was great and we were the only ones listening. At the end we talked with him. His name was Christian and he was from Latvia. He told us he often makes up to 350 Euros a day. He invited me to play a song together but actually it didn’t work out well. He couldn’t play with some chord structure freely and he could feel it wasn’t working (to his credit, as could I ) we parted in a friendly way. Walking around the unfamiliar streets we sighted the water down the street on the right side, so we walked down that way. We came to an immense square Teatro do Paco. It was huge, many 200 meters by 200 meters. It was so huge, that the hundreds and hundreds of people milling around seemed to be very few so the place seemed empty. In the middle was a colossal statue showing God’s angels trampling His enemies with horses and elephants. It was so cool. At the head of the square was a colossal arch, and at the bottom, the water. Lisbon you see is built near the end of the Tagus river, and the beach doesn’t start for another few kilometers. Across the river they have a stunning ripoff of the Golden Gate Bridge, right down to the color, and a poor copy of the big statue of Jesus they have in Rio. This one is only a cross though on a body like cylinder. Around the square were nice outdoor restaurants, with waitresses with pasted on smiles waving at you like you were long lost friends to come and sit at their place. We avoided one then went into the tourist office and asked a million questions till they were glad to see us go. Then we went out and I challenged HY to go ask one of the restaurant waitresses to see if we could play there. The woman was so excited when we actually came up, that she forgot her fake smile. “we want to play music here”, we stated. “you have to talk to the manager over there.” then she went over and interrupted him from his conversation and he came over. His name was Joaon (theres that funny sound again. He was immaculately dressed in nice jeans a a beautiful cotton shirt. and he had a goofy friendly face. We explained that we wanted to play. He was very friendly and interested but explained that he had no money to give us. HY made a great move by saying we didn’t have to be paid at all. Joaon got excited and said we could play for an hour for a free meal if we liked, and we did like that deal. It was just 200 pm the last hour of siesta so we started right in. Right away we could tell it was a good move. People adjusted their chairs and started listening and nodding. Joan stood the whole time listening intently and smiling and giving us thumbs up. People started coming over and putting money in our (ever-ready) hat. New people walking in, choosing our place over the others. One beautiful woman came over and then dropped in some money and sat alone and listened to us sadly but happily. There was something different about her. Near the end of our set, we looked over and she was holding the pigeons in her hand. It was amazing and so unusual, that i took pictures (while playing). We played an hour and a little more, then Joaon motioned for us to sit down and brought us a most wonderful meal. An arugula salad, a kind of cucumber pasta with a lovely red sauce, wonderful bread with olive oil and fancy mustard and for drinks 2 large glasses of red sangria. The sangria was so strong though that we both got drunk. Sitting next to us was the woman. It turned out she was a prima ballerina from Paris here for a few days for a friends party. We asked about the birds. “I used to study birds, swans in particular as part of my dance training. They are so graceful. I would watch them for hours, and try to feel what it was in them that made them so graceful. I have a great sympathy for all birds now and I let them know I don’t want to hurt them, and they come to me when I want. It was amazing. We finally left the restaurant around 4 with Joaon telling us to come back anytime we wanted. I’m sure we will.
HY wanted to be alone and write for awhile so we looked around for a coffee shop that she felt comfortable with. It turned out to be a chocolate shop called cacao (that sound again) just like in her favorite movie “Chocolate” the people were extremely nice to her and she had a great time writing, drinking coffee and eating great things. I walked around the streets of Chiado still quite drunk. Around 7 we met again. She wasn’t quite ready but I arranged for her to come around the corner on the steps near where we had first met the Latvian cellist. I was a little disappointed when there were some others musicians there, but not to worry, I just asked if I could play with them, and they heartily agreed. There were 3 of them and actually they looked a little drugged out and ragged. They seemed serious about making some money so they could buy a bed for the night, but what could I do, it was there spot and I needed to stay there. Ones name was Tech and he was from Wales. Another was from France and he played a nice box and did some amazing thing just by laying the cymbal on the ground. Finally there was Killian from France but living in Portugal. Tech played some pretty nice Django Reinhardt style guitar. We had a good time playing a few swing songs. The guys said that they had to go though to make some money playing at outdoor cafes. They wanted me to come along but i really didn’t like that. Too much like begging. But where was HY? Just when they were about to leave she came sauntering up, so we did a few more with her, then they left, except Killain, he stayed with us. That was fine, we had the spot to ourselves, by now it was 830 pm and the place was clearly dying, not many people were around anymore. We played a few songs and met some pretty cool people. One was wearing a beautiful shirt and called himself a citizen of the world. I tried to get him to exchange shorts with me and he almost did it, but instead said he would give it to me next time we met, which he seemed to program into the universe right then and there. Another was an artist who drew a nice drawing of our band. She was waiting for a student photographer and they were going around photographing homeless people and asking them what their childhood dreams had been. They had this amazingly bright compact LED light to get interestingly lit night shots.mi got him to take my picture too as part of the series too. Finally they all left. It was just the 3 of us, Killian, HY, and I. Killian didn’t want to seem to leave. He was like our loyalty dog now. He kept rolling homemade cigarettes and sprinkling hash into them. Probably that was why he was smiling constantly. He said he lived up on the hill and would show us some places where they had live Fado music. We went with him and the hill was very very steep. We labored up for about 15 minutes and came to 3 places where there was music. The owner was standing outside the first place. His skin was as read as a cooked lobster. We heard some music coming from inside but it wasn’t live. That’s coming on in 15 minutes and she is much better than that. We said we would come back later. In the second place there was a very nice singer and guitar player. He was finishing at 10 so we said we would come back another night. The third place was finished some went back to the first place. It was a rather elegant looking place so my rip-off sensors went up on alert. Instill remembered the restaurant in brixton that charger us $5 for a regular bottle of water. It was a scam many places we’re running, charging for regular water. Even though it was embarrassing, we started asking, is there a charge for water. Usually the answer was yes. I don’t like to be scammed so I started bring a bottle of water with me. If they don’t like it, too bad. A man came up to the table and told us about some breads and cheeses, asking which we liked.mi had to ask, is there an extra charge for this. He nodded sheepishly, yes. By that time the much heralded singer was due to come out. The 2 musicians playing some mandolin looking instruments played a warmup song. Then a man came up and told everyone to be quiet. We were about to hear Fado and it was a sacred music and everyone had to be absolutely quiet. He even hushed one table of tourists. When everyone one was quiet, they started playing dramatic music. The curtain behind the stage started rustling. There was a lot of tension. The rustling continued a long time. What was going on? Couldn’t she find her way out? The tension was killing me. Finally she stepped out. She looked like a witch or a very bad female impersonator. Remember Tiny Tim. Then she started singing, and it was angry and ugly and rude music. It was like she was vomiting on the audience. The other people in the audience , tourists mostly were sucking it up. They wanted to be exposed to and understand Fado. It was a culturally experience for them. But I had heard a recording of Mariza singing Fado and it wasn’t like this. The waiter came by and wanted to know what we wanted. The menu was expensive with 12-20 Euro entrees and drinks etc. I felt like we were trapped. Then I realized , no we were not. It was just a time to be honest. No we don’t like this music and we are going. Tiny Tim was busy emoting vomit all over the stage and seemed shocked that we would dare to get up during her amazing performance, but that’s what we did. We just walked right out. in fact we had to walk in front of TT and she said some nasty things about us as we walked out, but we didn’t care. We escaped. By now HY was hungry. we went back to the center and found a restaurant with tables set up in the street. HY had some steak, I just sat with her.,I was still a little hung over from that sangria. The waiter was from Bangladesh. I asked him about the George Harrison song “Bangladesh” which was kind of a national song there. Of course he knew it. So I played it and all the staff, who were also from Bangladesh, we’re smiling broadly. I played another George Harrison and then transitioned to some Beatles, and then before I knew it I was a DJ. It was the to my first official Day in Portugal. It had been an amazing day. We had had an amazing string of good luck. Friday wouldn’t be nearly as good. How could it be? And anyway you shouldn’t compare days. They are what they are. And we are…….. changing all the time.


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