Vacation from Sorrow

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July 17th 2010
Published: July 17th 2010
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 Video Playlist:

1: Boo-Bar-Ish 60 secs
Airport MadridAirport MadridAirport Madrid

Like traveling into the future.
If my father was alive, he would be sitting at his table right now, studying the tattered world map pinned to the wall. My habit of travel caused him worry as he got older. Ironically, his Mayan journeys were my inspiration. Still, he eagerly read my dispatches. If stylistic flaws follow, it's because my writing coach is no longer looking over my shoulder.

Lisbon has a tropical feel that reminds me of Colombo, capital of a former colony. There are palm trees and cooling breezes from the ocean. Men in suits wear no socks. Africans from Angola and Mozambique hawk beaded necklaces. The tiled sidewalks undulate sensuously calling to mind gently rolling seas.

The truth is, I hate being a tourist. Three hours is my limit for monuments and museums. I prefer sitting in a cafe, worrying my coffee with a spoon, watching the distracted faces around me. They belong to people preoccupied by their duties, while my own are half a world away.

In my disengaged state I can see the invisible world in front of their eyes. I can see the messages left by taggers, the accidental geometry in a pile of rubble, the
tropical feeltropical feeltropical feel

Palm trees lent a tropical feel to Lisbon
colorful laundry hanging from a window. I can follow a pigeon, sit on a park bench, hop on a trolley without knowing where it goes. For a few days I get to see the world the way an artist must see it, as if for the first time.

I went to a restaurant tonight to hear Portuguese Fado music. I made a reservation for 15 minutes before the show started so I would have enough time to order dinner. A Japanese couple at the table next to mine was sound asleep. I couldn't decide between sympathy and scorn. Jet-lag is a strange affliction. The night before, I went into a trance while sitting in a restaurant watching a soccer game on TV. A fantasy I was having about single-handedly defeating the Spanish World Cup team effortlessly slipped into a dream.

Fado is very sentimental music sung by people with strong operatic voices. Even though I couldn't understand the lyrics, images of my father kept popping into my head. By midnight I had heard enough. I paid my bill and stepped into the street. To my surprise it was crowded with cocktail wielding people and pulsing with
Fado LoversFado LoversFado Lovers

I took a series of photos of this jet-lagged couple sitting next to me in a restaurant.
techno music. Before I could decide which way to turn a Moroccan was offering to sell me cocaine. "You like cocaine, no?" I quickly lost him in the crowd.

Sing in front of an ESL school around the corner from my hotel:

Camone in and learn English

Years ago, when I first heard about Portuguese bull fighting—grupo de forcados—I vowed that one day I would go to Lisbon to see it with my own eyes. Unlike Spanish bull fighting, there are no capes and swords. Instead, an eight-man team lines up in front of the bull. The bull charges and plows into the lead man's gut. The first guy slams into the second and so forth, like human dominoes. If the team manages to stop the bull's charge, one man slips around the back and grabs the bull's tail. The other men let the bull go and the first man "water skis" around the ring holding the bull's tail.

The main bull ring in Portugal is Campo Pequeno. Last spring I spent hours researching the schedule on their poorly designed, Portuguese-only web site. I deduced that there might be a grupo de forcado on Thursday, July
rolling sidewalksrolling sidewalksrolling sidewalks

The undulating sidewalks reminded me of a gently rolling sea.
15 and planned my itinerary around the date.

I was excited as I came up the stairs from the Campo Pequeno metro stop. I could hear horns and whistles blowing, drums beating, and people chanting. When I emerged I realized that the noise was coming from a group of animal rights activists. They were in a fenced area surrounded by police. Meanwhile, well heeled crowds waited under the gaudy spires of Campo Pequeno for the gates to open. I realized that I was there to feed some half-baked Picasso/Hemingway fantasy about myth, death, and courage. I thought of my daughter and Debra's daughter, both animal rights activists. I decided to abandon the bull fights and join the protesters. I slipped inside their enclosure and joined them chanting "Boor-Bar-Ish! Boor-Bar-Ish!"

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Bellem TowerBellem Tower
Bellem Tower

The last sight seen by Portuguese sailors as they left Lisbon.

Messages left by elves hide in front of our faces, only visible to the aimless.

I wonder if the tourism board pays people to hhang colorful laundry out their windows.
Medieval graffittiMedieval graffitti
Medieval graffitti

Very trippy little tile works hiding in little alcoves.

17th July 2010

nice to see you back on the beat
17th July 2010

Thank you John. Fado is the ultimate music for deliverance through grief.
17th July 2010

Jon, Knowing you are without a physical presence of your father's eyes meandering over a map--opened my heart and flooded my eyes, with tears. I can only imagine how you feel. I am so sorry for the loss of your father, your mentor, your friend. I imagine it's very different trip this time. Explore as you do, love as you are and keep our hearts open with magic of your words. Love, Kimmi
17th July 2010

thinking of you
Hi Jon, Thanks for including me on your travel blog. I'm glad to see that you still have that travel bug, and you still continue to share wonderful photos and writing. I am mainly writing because I wanted to tell you how very sorry I was to hear about your father. I hope that you are able to soon find a sense of peace and calm around his passing. My condolences to your mother, sibling, and Laura and Ben. Take care, and maybe we'll run into each other one of these days. xxoo Diane
18th July 2010

thanks, i needed that
i am in WI and loving it! Hope you are well.
18th July 2010

wish I was there
Dad, It's great to have a little window into your adventures. Makes me feel less like I'm wasting my summer away in foggy San Francisco. Very glad you are getting the time u need away from all the stress and obligations at home. I agree with limiting the touristy things, the best way to take in Europe is discovering cool little cafe's, people watching and losing yourself in the streets. (I hear they are also supposed to have some great beaches in Portugal.) A lot of this stuff reminds me of Spain, I remember the same thing happening in Madrid, waking up at 2 in the morning to a parade of drunks outside my window. Fun stuff. That video above must be from the bullfight right? I recognize the word "BASTA" on the signs, if it's the same in Portuguese as it is in Spanish, it means "enough". From the way you describe it it sounds like cruelty to animals and humans. Keep up the great work! Love, Laura
19th July 2010

missing you
Hi Jon, Reading this entry, as they all do, just made me miss you. I am glad you are on this trip, as I know that travel is an elemental part of you and will help you on many levels. It was wonderful to see you and Ben and Laura at your Dad's memorial. I am so, so glad I made it, late or not. It was cathartic for me, being there again, seeing your mom and saying goodbye to your dad. I hope we can get together, all of us again, under happier skies when you get home. Love you, M
20th July 2010

Didn't know of your'e plans.
Jon/Deb: Shucks didn't know yer plans. We loved Portugal. Three weeks there in '95. Sorry about your'e father. Really. Are you going to madiera? Went marlin fishing there/struck out. loved Porto, Sintra, and Quimbra and esp. Evora with it's Roman...well, you know. We love you Jon/Deb so keep the linear comin' Erika and your'e Dick
11th August 2010

Thank you, Dr. Jon, f. sharing your
experiences in Portugal. I also like Fado music and places v. much. Right now I am w. husband Bob at Bear Valley Music Festival where we spend a week every year bef. going two days to Mammoth f. old memories sake and then a week camping in Tuolumne Meadows, including the Poetry Festival there on the third Aug. weekend w. open house on Sat. night where Bob presents 5 new jokes. Sep 1st we fly f. 3 weeks to Germany. Friends want to take us to the most beautiful place in the world: Santa Maddalena in the Villnoes Valley the Dolmites . When Bob was there one night 12 yrs ago he said he'd rather be in the Sierras. There is beauty everywhere. All the best, fondly, Charlotte.

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