My Stepfather, Our Complicated Relationship and the Impact it Had on My Life

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This is my mother Lulu and my stepfather Frank, just a few years before they passed away. My mom died first and then my stepfather died about 18 months later.  Lots of irony because she took care of him for years after a stroke and then he outlived her. He actually came on to a mourner at her funeral. They had one of those on again, off again, mostly on again, relationships; it lasted over 40 years. I didn’t much care for Frank. He was an alcoholic who stopped drinking at a certain point, I don’t recall when. He married my mother with seven children, but he was selfish, crass and a racist. The conflict between us began the day they returned from their quickie marriage in Mexico. She divorced my father and married Frank on the same day. I still don’t know if that’s even possible; they might have been lying to me. Truthfully, I didn’t care.

I was eight years old when they married and my mother walked through the door first. She was in a festive mood and introduced her new husband; my stepfather.

Mom said, “Kids, this is your new father Frank,”

and he said, “You kids can call me dad.”

I thought to myself, “I don’t want to call this man dad, I have a dad,” but he insisted.

I knew of course that my mother had been sleeping with this cretin for a while; a long while. I knew that my father found out about their affair and threw my mother out on the street. She took us all to a Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, hotel that night and none of us got any sleep or at least I didn’t. Frank (not yet my stepfather) picked us up the next morning and I stared him down in the hotel elevator and point-blank asked him,

“Are you sleeping with my mother?”

I already knew the answer, but of course he denied it. One of the many reasons I hated the pig. It wasn’t long after this incident that they were married or at least said they were married. I admit I was a precocious child. I was super observant (still am) and I didn’t like what I saw. I felt that I was being forced into a situation I didn’t want to be in and I felt shame. Lots happened that seems almost fictional when I think about it today. Like the time we were camping in the woods and my mother pulled a rifle on Frank and we, my brothers and sisters, were certain she was going to kill him. I would have preferred to have Frank out of our lives, but I didn’t want to see my mother in prison. There were always lots of rifles around, Frank was a deer and rabbit hunter. He went hunting one time and my mother was in a panic because she hadn’t heard from him for days. I secretly wished him dead. A couple of days later he brought home a buck and we had to eat venison for a month. He often boasted about his kill and the number rifles he owned.

His rifles didn’t scare me, he scared me. There was a time when they were having a huge brawl in their locked bedroom. My mother was screaming my name and begging for help, but I couldn’t open their locked door. I called 911. When the police arrived they asked if there were any weapons in the room and I replied,

“No, just my stepfather’s hunting rifles.”

I remember the look the two police officers gave me. This was the chaos I lived in; sad to say, it all seemed very normal to me. I learned to be independent and resilient. I stayed away from home a lot and never told my mother where I was  and she didn’t ask. When it was just my mom and I, she would discuss her marriage with me. I liked being her confidant. I didn’t offer much in the way of advice; I hardly knew what to say. I  hoped she should leave him and she did leave him several times. Each time she’d call my father or her first husband Joe and allow them back into her life for a brief moment. Frank was always who she wanted to be with and she’d take him back in short order. As a child I believed that all marriages worked this way.

I viewed my own marriage as inevitable; everyone married didn’t they? My father had a gay son from a previous marriage and when I would ask why he wasn’t married, my father would say,

“He’s different.”

I certainly did not want to be different; therefore, despite my orientation, I started thinking about a wife and family. When I was nineteen years old and a college student in North Carolina, I was set up on a blind date with Lisa (not her name). Lisa was beautiful, smart, funny and perfect in just about every way and I knew almost instantly that I wanted her to be the mother of my children. Did I know I was gay? I knew that I had an attraction to men, but it was very easy to tuck that away into the far corners of my troubled mind. What I wanted more than anything else was a “normal” life. Of course I regret having pulled Lisa into this dishonest vortex, but that story is for another time.

Lisa and I were engaged about a year after we met and decided to marry after completing our undergraduate degrees. I can only tell you how it was for me; I was excited to have found someone exceptional to spend my life with. We spent all of our time away from university, together. My mother was thrilled to have a family Thanksgiving dinner that included Lisa and her twin sister. We were all excited about the day as we awaited its arrival. However, as with my holidays in our house, this one too would be filled with drama — I should have known better.

On Thanksgiving eve, 1979, my mother and stepfather had a big argument. My mother called me when I was in my dorm room preparing to return home for the holiday (I was about 35 minutes from home and I had a car). My mom asked me to come home right away. She said that my stepfather had “come after her” while they were arguing and that she was hemorrhaging badly. I said,

“Mom, shouldn’t you call 911?” and she replied,

“I’d rather wait for you to get here.”

I was home in 30 minutes, having gone way over the speed limit, to once again, rescue my mother. We sat in the emergency room for four hours until she was finally admitted. She kept repeating,

“I feel so badly that Thanksgiving is ruined.”

I, of course, assured her that we would find a way to make it happen and we did. My mother was released Thanksgiving morning and I agreed to do all of the cooking. The only dish I was unsure of was her stuffing recipe and my mom said she’d walk me through it. The whole time I was cooking, I was concerned that my stepfather would return home. At one point I heard him enter his camper in the backyard. My mother assured me that we didn’t have to worry about him. She said that he’d just stay in his camper and get drunk. She also shared that he was very angry that I brought her to the hospital. He felt that even though he had argued with her, it was his place, as her husband, to care for her. This was the mother/son, husband/wife, tug of war we battled throughout their entire marriage. What happened that Thanksgiving day is forever etched in my mind.

I cooked all day preparing for a 4:00 p.m. dinner. Lisa and her sister arrived at around 3:00 p.m. They sat with my mom and I was happy to hear laughter coming from the living room. I began thinking that I might be able to pull this off. My younger sister set the table and we called everyone to dinner; there were seven or eight of us. We were in middle of expressing our gratitude, about what I’m not sure, and my stepfather walked into the dining room, obviously intoxicated. He had come into the house to get a jug of wine. I couldn’t even look at him. Odd that this is almost 40 years ago, but I can see and hear it as it were yesterday. Frank glanced around the table, showed his teeth and said,

“I hope you all choke on your food.”

I admittedly have never been able to remain quiet and so I spoke up,

“Maybe you’ll choke on that wine.”

Then, all hell broke loose. He lunged for my throat and most of what was on the table ended up on the floor. There was lots of screaming and Frank’s hands were squeezing harder. I could not breathe. My younger brother grabbed him from behind, but Frank threw him off; my mother pleaded with him to let me go. I don’t actually remember what I was feeling while he was choking me. I do remember thinking that this was the way I was going to die. Frank must have had a moment of clarity and he finally let me go. I gasped for air and surveyed the dining room. Dishes, glass and food were everywhere; not a morsel was edible. Lisa and her sister were holding each other and crying. My brother Leo was talking Frank down and my mother was weeping in the corner of the room. The turkey was upside down on the floor next to the table.

I walked over to Lisa and her sister and said,

“Come on, we’re getting the hell out of here.”

We went to Lisa’s house so that we could calm down and process what had happened. My neck had huge welts and two large handprints. My mother called me and begged me not to involve the police. I told her that I wouldn’t call the police and that I never wanted to see or speak to my stepfather again. She said she understood and that she would be throwing him out and divorcing him.

Lisa’s family prayed and asked me to join them; I pretended to talk to God. What I did instead, was to tell myself that I would never again subject myself or anyone else I loved, to such abhorrent abuse.

I did eventually forgive my stepfather. I also stopped calling him dad.

 

 

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My intention is not to hurt anyone by dredging up the past. My parents (all of them) are deceased and my siblings have moved on. It’s more about sorting it out in my own mind; giving myself permission to be truthful with myself and others. I believe it helps for friends and family to know why I married and why I often react the way I do, in certain situations. Why I often seem insecure and why I fight certain causes; why honesty in relationships is so important to me.

 

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This is me with friends on our 66th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. I’m the kid on the top far left. I always hid behind others; I lacked confidence. I didn’t like to be in photos then and I don’t like it now. The kid with the bat was my best friend Joey. He had enough confidence for all of us. I followed him everywhere and kept my mouth shut. Joey’s parents were my self-appointed God parents and they knew all about what was happening at home. It was so bad for me at one point, they crossed the street and calmly spoke to my mother. They asked her if it might be easier on her if I lived with them for a while. They told her I’d be close by and could see her everyday. My mother threw them out and I was grounded for a week. Myrna and Joe were the best kind of people. They raised me up and empowered me. The two of them and Myrna’s mother Anne, taught me the power of education and hope. We all have a story and our stories sum up who we are.

 

'I was 17 years old'
Dad and I at one of our weekly dinners @1976. Notice how I was hunched over and looking away from the camera.

More Money on Experiences and Less Money on Stuff

 

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The 34 footer I spent the weekend on in Portimão

 

Since giving up my consulting business in Maine and moving to Faro, I’m finding I have more time to think about how I want to spend my time . . .  and money. I have also been noticing that more is being written on how to spend your money — probably because I’m living on a set budget.

Note:  Good piece by Travis Bradberry in Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/08/09/why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences-not-things/#2a7c4fd76520

Also see several good Ted Talks on Money & Happiness (Ted Talks does not allow me to copy link; Google it) — love Ted Talks.

What I am hearing and reading is that it is wiser to spend less on things and more on life experiences. You can read (see above) what the experts are saying so I won’t go into the “why.” Having just shed 98% of my material things to move overseas, I have to say, I like that advice. I’m also at an age where I believe I have lived over half my life. I’m 59 years old and I like red meat, alcohol and ice cream —  you do the math.

I learned in marketing seminars, that people will spend more money on experiences that they cannot create for themselves. For example, when I worked at the French Culinary Institute, I learned that people were willing to spend a boat load of money to cook with Jacques Pépin or other celebrity chefs. I get it, it would be a difficult experience to arrange on your own. I’ve decided to create more experiences based on what I have desired, dreamed or thought about in the past.

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Me with Jacques Pépin and Julia Child about 20 years ago. We were honoring Jacques and Julia and I had the good fortune to host the event.

 

Portimão Sailboat Experience:  My Big Adventure

I know this will sound crazy, but I love sleeping on boats and I don’t mind if they’re not moving. I know that unless boats are dry docked, they’re always moving; but you know what I mean. One of my favorite vacations was a tall ship cruise off of the coast of Maine. We stayed anchored near to the coast in the evening and that slow and steady rocking would put me to sleep. We sailed and docked at different towns during the day. So I planned a big adventure aboard a 34 foot, classic Swedish yacht, docked in the marina in Portimão, Portugal.

Yes, that’s my Macbook baking in the sun. And that’s the bed I had to crawl in and out of.

I visited Portimão briefly a few months ago. It is in the Algarve; therefore, very easily accessible by train or bus, there are many restaurants, beautiful beaches, and they have a casino. I figured now that I have a wonderful woman named Sandra to take care of Giorgio, I could enjoy a few of days of sun and fun; doing something I’ve never done before.

Day One

I’m still having trouble managing the train and bus schedules here. I waited on the train platform for an hour and realized my train schedule was outdated. I walked home — it was 100 degrees; by far the warmest day since I arrived in Portugal. I thought if I could sit in my cool apartment, I’d come up with an alternative plan. The next train was a few hours away, so I looked at the bus schedule. Great, a bus in 90 minutes that would get be there by 4:15 p.m. I lost a big part of the day, but my host was willing to pick me up at the bus stop. Honestly, the heat was extremely oppressive and I never drink enough water, therefore, my brain was fuzzy. I arrived at the bus terminal at about 4:30 p.m.

I settled onto my yacht (I like the sound of that), showered and headed for a nearby watering hole. I had a frozen daiquiri because I was very thirsty and I have to say, it was probably the best daiquiri I’ve ever had — fresh strawberries and as I said, it was extremely hot outside. When I finished my cocktail, the sun had gone down and the heat was more bearable. I walked to the casino (everything was in walking distance from the marina), and discovered the blackjack table wouldn’t open until 8:30 p.m. I played some slots (hate slots) and of course, regretted it immediately. By this time I was hungry and I thought that 7:30 p.m. was a safe bet for getting a table at a restaurant. The great thing about eating early in Portugal, is that you almost always get a table. Avoiding the smokers wasn’t easy; however, I managed to get a corner table at a nice tapas wine bar with a great view of the ocean and lots of people watching. I had a nice dinner and I’ll leave it at that.

After dinner it was time for some blackjack at the Casino. I’m not a big gambler; but I do enjoy an hour or two of gaming. There was only one blackjack table, so I had no choice concerning where to play. I observed the table for a bit before diving in. There was a crazy Frenchman chastising this poor newcomer to the world of gambling at the table. The bewildered chap had no idea what he was being yelled at for and I could tell he wouldn’t last. In blackjack, the last seat at the table leaves one open to the scrutiny of the other players. Making the wrong decision could prevent the dealer from busting and nobody at the table likes that. The chap left shortly after my arrival. Anyway, I wasn’t there very long and a woman visiting from China sat down beside me. We were both enjoying the crazy Frenchman’s antics and started chatting it up. Well Frenchie didn’t appreciate that we were talking and started giving me a hard time. Had he known I was from Brooklyn he might have thought twice about confronting me. Long story short, I gave him a piece of my mind and the pit boss came over to tell him that if he didn’t behave he’d be thrown out. That made him even angrier and he lost his concentration, made some stupid moves (like sitting on 12 when the dealer had a jack showing) and started losing big money. I admit I was secretly pleased. After awhile I got bored watching my Chinese friend rake it in while I lost almost every hand and I left. I did put 20 Euros into a slot machine because I’m a glutton for punishment.

Time to go back to the boat to enjoy the “experience” I paid for. Here’s are some thoughts before you run to purchase a boat:

  1. Buy or rent a sailboat that is large enough or fancy enough to have air conditioning.
  2. If you have to pump the toilet and sink to get water, wear shoes. I wasn’t permitted to (boat rules).
  3. People who sleep on boats like to party, so if you’re docked in a marina, you’re probably not going to get any sleep.
  4. Showering on a 34 foot sailboat is not really feasible.
  5. Getting up to use the bathroom is not an easy task. By the time you shimmy your way out of bed, you’re wide awake.
  6. The bathroom is sort of stinky and there is no way around that.
  7. If you have a glamorous notion of what it’s like to sleep on a sailboat, don’t do it. Doing it will destroy that notion forever.
  8. Always rent first.

Day 2

Exhausted from no sleep, I made myself some breakfast. The owners left me some delicious oranges to squeeze and some other healthy breakfast treats. I ate on the deck and watched the sunrise. I decided that it would be nice to spend the day at a pool club on the ocean. I had no interest in doing any group tours and I have a cave trip coming up in Lagos in a few weeks. Don’t worry, these are shallow caves.

When I got to club, the receptionist politely asked if I had a reservation and of course, I did not. She looked down at this massive chart and every beach chair had an X over it. I spotted one that was sort of half rubbed out and asked her about that one. She said, “Um, I don’t know,” and called over a colleague. Her colleague informed us that the party who had that pair of chairs had just cancelled. Well, there you go then, one of those two chairs was meant to be mine. I was fortunate that they didn’t have a “you had to rent two” policy. The beach club wasn’t cheap, but I honestly loved the people watching and the club was beautiful. I decided that they were probably not well-known for their food, so I decided to eat at an authentic Portuguese restaurant right next door. I made the correct choice, the food and the view were the highlight of my weekend (I’m not endorsing any businesses in this particular blog). A beautiful green-eyed black cat joined me for lunch. He was affectionate, sweet and very hungry. This always seems to happen when I’m missing Giorgio — animals sense everything.

I was pretty certain I’d have lunch and then nap all afternoon, but for some reason, sleep was elusive. Instead I drank frozen daiquiri and ogled the pretty people by the pool. I was struck by how many lovers there were enjoying a day at the club; lots of PDA (public display of affection for my older readers).

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Daiquiri
Cocktail
Daiquiri is a family of cocktails whose main ingredients are rum, citrus juice, and sugar or other sweetener. Wikipedia
Ingredients1 1/2 oz White rum, 1/2 oz Simple syrup, 1 oz Lime juice
PreparationPour all ingredients into shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain in chilled cocktail glass.
ServedStraight up; without ice
DrinkwareCocktail glass

At about 6:00 p.m., I headed back to the sail boat. I thought I’d have a gin & tonic (like the Brits) and read Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes — the perfect novel for this occasion. I took a sponge bath and it didn’t help, it was too darned hot. There was smoke in the distance and you could feel the intense heat from the fires in the hills. Soon after I cracked my book open, the wind started howling and the boat starting rocking fiercely. Not long after, it started raining. It’s been weeks and weeks since I felt a rain drop and this made me happy. You would think wind and rain would bring relief, fat chance.

Day 3

I slept a little better, but there was a massive “Back to the 90s” concert in the distance and falling asleep to Cher is like sleeping while standing; it ain’t gonna happen.

Again I watched the sunrise and had a healthy breakfast. The oranges in the Algarve are unbelievably sweet and tart and even a little salty; I had fresh squeezed juice again. My dad squeezed fresh oranges every morning when he retired in Florida.

I knew the heat was coming and I wanted off that freakin’ boat before it arrived. Now that I had learned to read the bus schedule, I knew when and were to catch the one that would drop me off a few feet away from my apartment. I was home by 11:00 a.m. and Giorgio was back in my arms by 12:30 p.m.

 

 

Looking back on my adventure, it’s safe to say I have no regrets. If I had known what I was in for, I would have chosen to book it in September or October. But honestly, life doesn’t happen unless we make it happen. This past weekend, life happened.

 

Other Adventures

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I paid to fly a plane; an experience I’ll never forget. I paid to jump out of one too (another one)!
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In Mexico. It was really hot and sticky and I was thinking, “Why did I do this?”
The day I learned how to butcher a hog
My friend MJ and I tooled around Sintra in this three-wheeled sardine can

I Couldn’t Save My Mother

But I Can Share My Story . . .

 

It was the middle of the night and a timid five-year old boy lied awake listening to his parents argue. They’d argued before; many times before. Their voices were raised and his six brothers and sisters who were all sleeping nearby, didn’t seem to hear them. Conflicted, he loved his parents, but he wished they’d stop. His mother seemed to be making his father angry and he didn’t understand why she was doing it; why she was cursing at him; why she was being so mean. In his head he just kept repeating,

“Mom, why don’t you just leave Daddy alone.”

But his mother was his entire world and he couldn’t be angry with her. And if his mother was his world, his father was his universe.

Scared and afraid to wake his siblings, he crawled out of bed to a dark corner of the bedroom he shared with his younger brother. It was a safe corner where he could become invisible. Nobody ever noticed him there. And there he sat, curled up in a blanket, listening and wondering what he had done this time; was he the cause of their argument? He didn’t know or understand that things happen in the world that he had nothing to do with. He was never told that he was not to blame. And so he sat in the corner and cried and wished it would stop. It never stopped and it wasn’t going to stop on that scarring night.

Just when he’d thought his parents might have gone to bed, he heard his mother scream. He was frightened, but his mother needed his help. He ran to the kitchen where the voices were loud and the language biting. As he entered the hallway facing the kitchen he could see his mother yelling at his father and then suddenly a coffee cup hit her head and blood spattered on the wall behind her. His mother slid down the wall and her tears fell to the cold tile floor. The boy ran to console her, but she was inconsolable.

His father ordered him to go back to bed; instead, he crawled under the kitchen table. Then his father grabbed his sobbing mother’s arms and began to throw her against the wall. The boy dared not leave his hiding place. He’d never seen his father this angry; he feared for his mother’s life; he didn’t know what to do. If he ran to try to find help, his father might  beat him as well. He waited, shivering and watching for his father’s next move.

His father raised his fist and was about to strike his mother again; she begged him to stop and he hesitated. He mumbled something about how she drove him to this point — she would never leave him alone. He turned and walked out of the kitchen. His mother spotted him under the table and placed her finger up to her mouth. The boy dared not move. The front doors slammed and they waited in silence. It seemed like hours before his mother pushed herself up off of the floor and grabbed a rag from the sink. She placed the rag up to her head to stop the bleeding and silently wept.

The boy tentatively moved toward his mother and she opened her arms to embrace him. He told himself to be strong for her, but he wanted to cry and knew he could not. He kept hearing voices from everywhere telling him that boys didn’t cry. He didn’t cry, he whispered,

“Mom, I won’t let him hurt you.”

The boy’s mother appeared broken and exhausted. She slowly retreated to her bedroom and collapsed onto her bed. He followed her and listened for the front door. She motioned for him to sit on the edge of the bed. Her movements were slow and she seemed to be in a great deal of pain. He didn’t know what to do; how to help her. He watched her eyes flutter as she fought sleep. She reached over, grabbed his forearm and said,

“Watch for daddy, if he comes home wake me,” and then she slept.

The boy knew that if his father returned home, it would be bad. His thoughts went from terror to relief; relieved that his mother was still alive, but terrified his father would soon come home. He knew that if his father came home, he wouldn’t be able to protect his mother. All he could do was wait and warn her.

The boy stared into the darkness and listened for any sound. The boy was me.

Postscript:

Friends and relatives called me after reading my story. Most were supportive and wanted to show their love and support and some asked me why I wrote this now.

There are many reasons I wanted to put my experience out there, but I’ll share just a couple. First and foremost, the constant emotional abuse I experienced throughout my childhood followed me into adulthood and created problems for me in almost every relationship. Therapy and a good deal of soul-searching has been helpful. I want parents to be aware that exposure to domestic upheaval will cause a lifetime of pain for a child; their innocence and naiveté prevent them from understanding their role in the anger and pain around them. I believe one of the reasons I never had children, was the fear of putting a child through what I went through.

I also told my story because of my present life journey. To be blunt, I’ve had enough of carrying this shit around and it is time to shed it; writing about it is one way to accomplish that goal.

Coming soon:

Portimão, Portugal next weekend:  I’ll be sleeping on a sailboat and documenting the whole thing . . . well, almost the whole thing.

Catania, Sicily, October 1 to 8

 

 

 

 

Why Portugal, Why the Algarve, & Why Faro

 

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Magnificent architecture in Faro:  Moorish, Roman & Gothic throughout the city.

When you make a big and unexpected decision in your life, people are curious about why you went in a particular direction; it’s a reasonable curiosity. I’ve spent a bit of time on why I moved to Portugal in previous blogs; however, I thought since I am frequently asked this question, I would answer it thoroughly.

One of the most important things I learned throughout my career is to question “why” before you do anything. You want to start a business? Why? You want to get married? Why? You want to move overseas? Why? Asking this important question and answering it thoroughly and honestly, will help to insure that you are doing whatever you are doing for the right reasons — well most of the time.

So when I started to feel that U.S. politics were the cause of a good deal of my anxiety, I asked myself why I was wallowing in pity rather than working to change my situation. I had done some letter writing and personal campaigning for Hilary and then of course, I blamed myself for not doing enough. After a lot of soul-searching, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just that Hilary lost the election, it is the direction politics in general is going in, in the States. I’m not going to do a deep dive into politics; however, the big issues for me are gun control, healthcare, taxation, greed in Washington, and the negative perception Americans have of democratic socialism, www.dsausa.org/what_is_democratic_socialism. The conclusion that I came to was that I had to move to a country where the values of the government and the people more closely matched my own. In other words, why stay in a country where values will not be changing anytime soon.

Some “Why” Questions:

  1. Why am I leaning in this direction?
  2. Why is now the right time?
  3. Why is my heart telling me to do this?
  4. Why am I struggling with this decision?
  5. Why not?
  6. Why am I questioning the status quo?

 

Why Overseas?

Politics in the U.S. has become more conservative over the past few years. Some say it happens whenever you have a power base in office that leans in a particular direction (surprise, I lean left), the majority will tend to swing in the opposite direction the next election — that certainly is what happened in November 2016. This is likely to occur in any democratic society; however, in many European countries liberal policies and attitudes have a strong foundation, therefore, the bar is set higher.

The other reason I decided to move overseas is that I have never resided outside of the United States. I tend to agree with those who believe that life is not a dress rehearsal; this was an opportunity I may not have had again.

 

Why Portugal?

I have considered many other countries over the past few years. At one point I was certain I’d end up in Concon, Chile. I had been there a couple of times and fell in love with the coast and the lifestyle. Well then they had a big earthquake and read that there would be others. Sure enough, a short time later they were hit with a second large earthquake. I thought I had tempted fate far too many times to buy a condo in a high-rise there. I’ve thought about Italy because it is my father’s birthplace. I love visiting Italy; however, the instability of Italy’s government and economy concerns me. The Caribbean is too humid and has those pesky, life-threatening hurricanes; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark make it very difficult to reside there; and frankly other places were too expensive or too risky.

I had read a good deal about Portugal and decided to check it out. I’ve been told that it is dangerous to decide on relocating to a place having only visited once. Knowing that some advice is sound advice, I decided to do my homework. I read articles about retiring in Portugal, I joined a couple of expat groups on Facebook, I had several conversations with individuals who have made the move, and I returned to spend more time here.

 

Why Faro?

Most expats who decide to live in the Algarve DO NOT choose Faro. I discovered on several trips prior to moving to Faro that there are expat communities in many towns all along the coast; however, most people see Faro as a place to land or switch trains. I do not mean this in a disparaging way, so I hope no one takes it that way:  I did not want to be in the center of a tourist destination. Don’t get me wrong, tourists visit Faro; however, compared to other towns in the Algarve, Faro is not overrun. In fact, there are very few Americans in Faro.

The following are some of the wonderful things that drew me to this beautiful city:

Culture — music (Fado), theatre, festivals, food, ceramic tiles, history and art.

Portuguese — A majority of the people living in Faro are Portuguese or immigrants from struggling countries. I recently learned that when the European Union decided how many migrants each country should take based on their population, Portugal said, “We’ll take double that number.”

Faro is not as much a tourist city as say Lisbon, Porto or other parts of the Algarve. I’m happy about that.

Restaurants — I can find traditional Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and several other ethnic foods and the quality and value is outstanding.

The Market (Mercado Municipal) — in a huge open space (indoor) close to my apartment, it is probably the gift I will never take for granted.

Walking city — I can walk to just about every place I need to go.

Access to everywhere else — Faro is the capital of the Algarve; therefore, the airport, trains, buses, and highways, can get you just about everywhere and quickly.

Architecture — Preserved, historic, eclectic, and beautiful. Everything is understated.

Government offices — all of the Portuguese government offices I need to deal with are here in Faro.

What more can I ask of a city?

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Catholic Cathedral in Old Town — a short walk from my apartment and where the outdoor market is on Sundays (stock photo)

 

I took these photos when I was walking to the ferry yesterday — beside Faro Castle. This is Old Town, Faro and it dates back centuries. It’s a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I come here often to read, walk and eat. Some of the remains are from the 9th century.

And by the way . . . that blue sky is real (no touching up or color added). There is no smog to speak of here.

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There are several islands off the coast of Faro that offer spectacular beaches.
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Farol Island’s lighthouse is just a ferry ride through the Ria Formosa. A 5 Euro round trip ferry ride is a great way to go to the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Next?

For the first time in my life, I am not thinking about what’s next. I’m going to enjoy the here and now and see where it takes me.

Às vezes não consigo deixar de pensar se escolhi Portugal ou Portugal me escolheu.

Translation:  Sometimes I can’t help wondering if I chose Portugal or Portugal chose me.

 

Coming to Terms With Aging

 

 

*See note below

 

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

When I made the decision to leave the States:  my friends, my family, and my home; I also made the decision to leave some baggage behind as well. I’m not ashamed to say I have baggage; I’m fairly certain that all adults have baggage and lots of it. Coming to terms with getting older and losing my youth, has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. As with so many other things I write about, I know others, many others, share my angst.

I decided awhile back, that rather than ignore the inner turmoil about aging, I would face those feelings head on. I challenged myself to look in the mirror when I didn’t want to, to tug on that sagging skin under my chin, to grab and hold onto my growing love handles; by doing this, I am fully embracing every imperfection. In truth, they are only imperfections because I identify them as such. I am learning that it is much healthier to just accept my aging body. To admire every line and to see the aches and brown spots as a reminder that I am alive. Not so easy this. Often I take two steps forward and three steps back. I know that it’s a process and I am determined to conquer this challenge. I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

 

Men are from Mars . . .

I don’t think it is sexist or stereotyping to state that this aging gracefully challenge is greater for women and gay men. Western society places a great deal of pressure on these two groups to stay young; the goal is to remain desirable. You have an inner desire to walk into a room and be noticed. When this stops happening, and it stopped for me over 20 years ago, you begin to feel less than.

There are things I have done to convince myself that I am still young and vital. One of them is something many men do, gay or straight, and that is to buy a shiny new sports car. I’ve done this more than once and although it does actually help make you believe you are young and fetching, trust me, it doesn’t last. Another thing I have done is to shop and purchase clothing that is suited for a younger customer. I actually wore skinny jeans for a few months last year, a truth I am not proud to admit. Thank goodness I came to my senses by summer. Why didn’t anyone tell me that it was very wrong. I know that my friends and family members are reluctant to share their thoughts in fear of hurting my feelings or facing a defensive me — I assure you that I’d rather be gently slapped into a more appropriate conscious state.

 

When I Started Feeling the Effects of Aging

I’m getting very close to being 60, so it may be difficult to recall when I started to feel the effects of aging. I remember when my hair started thinning and receding in college, I became very concerned about baldness. Although, embracing baldness seems to more prevalent these days, clearly society and the media place a huge emphasis on a full head of hair. When a person is described as someone who is getting older and letting themselves go, “fat and bald” are usually adjectives used in that description. If you yourself are bald, that seems somewhat derogatory. Now I know there are women out there that will say that they find baldness in men attractive. I believe that to be true because woman are much less concerned with physical attractiveness and more concerned with character and other attributes — sorry for the generalization, but that’s been my experience (it’s what women tell me). And you gay men know what I’m talking about. Just go to a gay resort and you’ll see what I mean. Many men cover up their bald heads in shame or surround themselves with eye candy in order to feel better.

Then there is the “fat” part of that “fat and bald” description. We all know that it is more difficult to keep weight off when you’re older. You reach a point in your life when you could afford a nicer bottle of wine and a thick steak and then you find yourself having to cut back on these foods because they negatively affect your health; not just your appearance, but your overall health. I don’t have to tell you about heart attacks rates, stroke, diabetes and other weight related illnesses. At a certain age you begin to think about the future and your quality of life.

 

 

*See note below

 

Dating Sites

I hate dating sites and I refuse to revisit this painful way of meeting people. Not all, but many people on dating sites have no regard whatsoever for your feelings. They send you flattering emails and attractive photos with promises of meeting up for a cocktail and then, poof, they’re gone! You haven’t said or done anything at all to warrant such rude behavior and you’re left wondering if it was you. Why put yourself through that kind of torture. For those of you out there who have been successful . . . good on you!

Of course there is always the meeting someone at a club option; however, in my world, you have to stay awake until 1:00 a.m. and that is no longer even a possibility.

 

Slowing Down or Halting the Process

There are a number of people in my life who believe they have discovered the formula for keeping aging at bay. They take 23 supplements at various times of the day, they eat only fresh vegetables they themselves witnessed being plucked from the ground, no bread, no carbs, no meat, no alcohol, no life! And then of course it is essential that they share their secret with you and convince you that they know better . . . well the experts said so. I have always said that if I learned today that I would live five years longer if I never ate bread again, I would eat bread and die a happier fella. True, I am only 59 years old, if you share the same truth when I’m 80, my answer may be different.

 

Golden Hawn said it best:

“What helps with aging is serious cognition – thinking and understanding. You have to truly grasp that everybody ages. Everybody dies. There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you’re here?”

 

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Pria de Faro this week. I wouldn’t use this photo for a dating site (if I were to ever go on one again). My big nose, double chin, big bald head; show prominently.
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But I might use this one. The graininess makes it even artsier (like a Renoir).

*stock photos

Loulé and Sol e Serra Restaurant

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The fountain in the center of Loulé. When I’m there, I feel like I can easily be in Paris or Madrid.

I’m smitten with Loulé and for good reason. It’s an easy bus ride away and the town has a great vibe. It feels young, relevant, artsy and the food has been outstanding — clearly why I keep going back. Although I’m not familiar with the history of Loulé (click here), I’m certain that it has been an important cultural and political hub in southern Portugal for centuries.

I have had several good meals in Loulé; however, Sol e Serra Restaurant in Corte Garcia (north of Loulé) was exceptional. It was a great day for dining al fresco and I was famished. We started with a delicious warm goat cheese salad and then neither my dining partner nor I could resist the dish of the day (prato do dia), duck confit over pureed sweet potato (orange-colored, not the pale yellow variety more often found in the Algarve). I don’t care how full I am, when the food is memorable, I must have dessert. Sol e Serra offers homemade gelato. When I asked the owner what flavors he had I closed my eyes and wished for pistachio and don’t you know the first word that came out of his mouth was pistachio! Pistachio nuts have been very expensive in the U.S. and so you rarely find real, homemade pistachio ice cream on the menu these days. It’s been four days since I had this gelato and I have not been able to stop thinking about how creamy and delicious this gelato was.

Sol e Serra is a family owned and operated restaurant and I had the great privilege and pleasure to meet several family members. The matriarch of the family (I wish I had thought to photograph her) greeted us at the gate to her home next door to the restaurant. I also met Chef Alex (the son), who just returned from training in restaurants is France.

Note:  In Portugal the “prato do dia” is not the food the chef is hoping to get rid of. Often it is an inspired dish and worth ordering. The inspiration can come from many different sources.

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Duck confit over pureed sweet potato (prato do dia) 10 Euro, salad included.

 

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Homemade pistachio gelado (Gelato in Italian). Honestly it’s worth the trip just for dessert.

 

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It was a bit overcast Monday; however, Parque Municipal de Loulé, is a beautiful public park with a magnificent monument. A newish friend, Nora, was happy to show off the park and Loulé. It was one of those days when you’re content to stroll without the sun beating down on you. Nora told me that any respectable town in Portugal has a public park with an outdoor swimming pool, a good theatre and a football (soccer) stadium; Loulé has all of this and a lot more. Nora told me other things, but in order to be in the moment, I avoid taking notes.

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Brooklyn in Loulé

I’m proud of my birthplace and I know the other millions born in Brooklyn feel the same way. Having said this, the Brooklyn-mania thing is out of control. Brooklyn as a brand is sizzling hot and it has been for quite some time. Everywhere I go I see “Brooklyn.” Shows you what a good marketing campaign can do. I recall the beginnings of this campaign 20 years ago when Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, would rave about Brooklyn to anyone who would listen.

I must admit, when young Portuguese people ask me where I’m from and I say Brooklyn, they are very impressed — I use it to my advantage. But alas, this fad will fade, as most fads do. In the meantime, I’m going to milk this craze in any way I can. Somehow, I don’t think the Portuguese immigration folks will be impressed.

 

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For my friends who live here and perhaps even those who visit. This amazing linen and lamp (yes they go together) shop in Loulé, Maquedones Decor is a FIND.

Thanks to my friend Pedro, I have visited Maquedones Decor in Loulé several times. The Portuguese cotton sheets are like butter on your skin. I have honestly never experienced such fine cotton in my life and it washes beautifully. Above is a duvet cover and pillow shams I am considering purchasing. The sizes are not perfect for American comforters, so I have to see. The sheet sets come in many different sizes.  I also bought a ceramic lamp here and I’m wild about that as well. Pricing is very fair for what you’re buying.

Loulé is also where the big mall and IKEA are located; I’m about 25 minutes door-to-door.

Prologue:

Zara Home is having a 50% off sale and I got a beautiful cotton (all white) duvet cover; therefore, I am not purchasing the one above. The white will go better with my clean, minimal decor and I love a good bargain.

Finding the Right Balance/When Loneliness Strikes/An Act of Kindness

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Photo by Chinmay Singh on Pexels.com

 

 

Hard to imagine doing anything these days without feeling some guilt. An overwhelming number of articles, television shows, religious authorities, relatives and so on, telling us what’s good for us; who knows what’s best anymore. Truth be known, most of us know what’s good for us. We don’t need a know-it-all “expert” to share their opinion on how to live. Lately, I find myself almost offended by every Tom, Dick or Harry who tries to influence my next thought.

And it’s not just experts weighing-in. Social media are awash with opinionated people who get angry when you challenge their opinion; I’m not making this about politics mind you; I’m talking about every day thoughts, opinions or advice. It’s terrific that people are willing to share their good fortune or experiences, but one needs to accept that not everyone cares or wants to know. As a blogger, I think about this every day. I’m fully aware that a reader can skip over a line, disagree with a thought, or challenge an opinion. In fact, I welcome it. Like anything else, there are appropriate boundaries and we’re all guilty of occasionally crossing them. The art of discourse is a lost art and I for one would like to champion its return.

You have to find a balance between what you listen to, who you listen to, and listening to the voice within.

 

Loneliness

As trite as it sounds, I enjoy my own company. I’ve always secretly been critical of people who claim to be lonely — I just didn’t relate. Truth is, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. this morning feeling very much alone. The difference is that the Atlantic Ocean lies between me and all the people I love. I didn’t imagine this move would be any different than any I have made in the past, but yes, it is far from the same. When you can’t just jump in your car and see someone in a few short hours, that’s a huge difference. The feeling didn’t last long mind you. I thought about a number of friends and family members who will be visiting soon and I felt better. I also thought about how I take those I care about for granted and of course, I now have a better understanding of what it’s like to be alone.

Lots of lessons here and many ways to cope. Revealing these thoughts to you is a first step. When friends and family told me that I was brave to make a move like this, I shrugged it off. I still don’t consider it brave, but now I know what they meant. So the next step is to search for meaning. I have been trying to protect myself from feeling love, empathy and sorrow. If I live in the moment and fully experience these feelings, what will they teach me and am I ready to learn?

Here’s what I know:

  1. Loneliness is temporary.
  2. There is truth and meaning in the exploration of our feelings.
  3. Strangers can help fill a void.
  4. Memories are powerful.
  5. Loss of any kind hurts.
  6. Accepting your truth is to be fully aware of who you are.
  7. You may not always like what you learn, but you have to forgive and embrace.
  8. You have to put yourself out there.
  9. Be prepared for change.
  10. Books can be delicious company.

Prologue:

I wrote this piece a few hours ago and decided that a cloudy, muggy day is a great day for the mercado (market). I walked in and the first face I saw was Myriam’s. I met Myriam my first week in Faro. She was born in Venuzuala, but she has lived in the States and still has family there. In fact, she just returned from visiting her daughter in Miami. Myriam lives about 30 miles away in Tavira and she has not been in Portugal very long. She manages a Brazilian owned coffee shop in the Mercado — great coffee by the way. Her warmth and smile were what I needed today, but what she shared with me, I needed even more:

Myriam asked me how I am adjusting to life here in Portugal and I told her what I was feeling this morning. She said, “I want you to read what I posted on Facebook this morning.” Reception is bad at the mercado and we both just about gave up on logging onto to Facebook and then this appeared on her home page:

La soledad espeligrosa y muy adictiva. Una vez que te das cuenta de cuánta paz hay en ella, no querrás lidiar con las personas.

– – Paulo Coelho (click for wikipedia biography)

 

Translation:

Lonliness is very addictive. Once you realize how much peace there is in it, you will not want to deal with people.

Me:  Enough said.

 

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Friday on the beach with a good book and the sound of the ocean.

 

When you’re looking for reasons to be grateful and there it is, staring you right in the face:

As is to be expected . . . I’ve been second guessing my move to Portugal. I don’t mean that I lie awake at night regretting my move or wondering, “What did I do?” What I mean is that this is still very new (10 weeks) and I sometimes ponder if this huge change was the right thing to do. I think it’s perfectly natural to wonder and then this happened:

I bought a piece of artwork that needs framing and I asked a friend here if he knew of a frame shop. Funny thing here in the Algarve, when you type “frame shop nearby” into Google, it only lists a select few options. I’m not sure I understand why, but perhaps that will be another blog. Of course Pedro knew of a place, Pedro always knows. He didn’t know the name of the shop, but he pulled out a map and pointed to where it was. The smart thing to do would have been to take a picture of the map; however, I am not a Millennial (not by a long stretch) and so I often forget that I have that option — there is a probably an app that will link the map location with the type of shop and tell you the name of the shop, but alas, I wouldn’t know how to find that app.

I did, however, set out to find the frame shop. I got the general vicinity right (I could feel it) but after 15 minutes of going back and forth on the same three streets I finally gave up and went into a hair salon to ask for directions. The owner knew instantly that I was not a customer (stop laughing, it’s not that funny). I asked her if she spoke English and like most Portuguese people, she responded, “A little.” I joke about this because most people hear will respond that way and then speak beautiful English. I’m not yet at a place in my studies where I can even attempt to have a conversation in Portuguese. I asked her if she knew where the frame shop was and she seemed disappointed. Then she shouted to someone in the back room of the shop. A young woman stepped out and asked me what I was looking for. I told her and she said, “Come with me.” At this point I thought we’d step outside and she would point toward the shop. That is not what happened, instead, she crossed the street (I followed close behind sort of amazed) and then she crossed a second street (I was baffled), then she turned left and then right and there we stood in front of the frame shop.

As I said, earlier, I have been daydreaming about life back in the States; however, today I realized that I am home. I’m not sure I could be living in a friendlier, more welcoming place. A small act of kindness was all I needed for a lot of reassurance.

As my friend John always tells me, “Palms up to the universe.”

Dreaming Sweet Dreams

I am a dreamer. I don’t mean:  that I dream about being rich, that I dream about being a movie star, that I dream about having my own island, or that I dream about world peace; although it would be nice to have. What I mean is that lately, I dream colorful, wild, and memorable dreams. I cannot recall another time in my life when this was true. However, admittedly, when you get older, most of it becomes a blur.

When things change in your life, hopefully for the better, it’s difficult not to theorize about the cause of those changes. In some ways, that’s the fun part. It keeps things in perspective and helps one to feel more grateful for the good things. As I get older, appreciating the truly good things in life, has taken on new meaning.

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Photo by Gladson Xavier on Pexels.com

 

My theory is that this move overseas has been a fairly significant factor in the many changes I am experiencing; dreaming more is obviously just one change. It is my understanding that there are many factors that affect our sleep patterns. When we have things weighing on our minds, this will impact our dreams; your sleep will be fitful and not as deep. The other factor I am aware of is alcohol. When you drink heavily, the alcohol will affect your sleep and you will not dream as much. Therefore, these three factors:  the move, less drinking, and less on my mind; have contributed to more frequent dreams and better sleep overall. I like this Huffington Post piece on dreaming and sleep quality, www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/11/30/dreams-sleep-quality_n_8513908.html?guccounter=1.

I’ve been fortunate when it comes to the quality of my dreams. I’ve only had three or four nightmares throughout my entire life. They were bad dreams and I’m pleased that there have only been a few. My dreams tend to be very pleasant and they often offer little life lessons — that’s if I pay attention. I frequently play out conversations, that for some reason, I cannot have in my waking life. I tell people what is on my mind and wake up feeling better; lighter. It doesn’t always work; however, it is more often than not, a better way to deal with conflict. I’ve discovered that most people prefer to avoid conflict. I worked for a woman in New York that I could not share my concerns with. Conflict avoidance was her MO and I learned other ways to survive. I would often have a dream where I got my point across and then realized later, that all I really needed was to vent — dreaming provided a means to that end. We drag our baggage through life; dreams can be a positive way of getting rid of baggage.

When I can, I write down my dream and then use a dream interpretation (this one can be useful) app or website to figure out what the dream might have meant. Through my dreams, I have learned a great deal about the kinds of things my mind is processing. I recently had a dream where I was free-falling and learned that it probably had a lot to do with my move overseas and letting go of negative aspects of the past. When life is happening all around you, you’re not always in touch with your feelings or why you’re responding to people and things a certain way; your dreams can help you to better understand your moods.

A piece on dream interpretation from Very Well Mind might enjoy. Have a great week.

 

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A gin tasting at Cafe del Arte in Vilamoura on Monday.  Five excellent and very different gins to taste. Pacing myself was a challenge. An Uber home was a good plan.
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These are not the little necks I have eaten my whole life. They are smaller clams and are full of flavor. Chef Carla at Carla’s Curve in Mexilhoeria Grande serves them up with a big small and the most distinctive laugh in the Algarve.
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From my B&B (Casa Risa) window in Mexilhoeria Grande. A relaxing weekend by the pool with a good book and excellent eats.

 

If you’re looking for a good film on Netflix, Sunday’s Illness is outstanding.  In Spanish and French with English subtitles, it is cinema at its best:  great acting, beautiful cinematography, haunting music, and poignant themes. I cannot get several of the scenes out of my head and that’s a good thing.

The Air Travel Battle Within

 

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Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

I have been struggling with something for years and I’m afraid a recent situation has caused my concern to come to a head. My issue is air travel. No doubt many share my uneasiness and much has been written on the topic. Here’s my take:

Air travel sucks big time! Unless of course you have a private jet and “people” to handle the details of your travel. I’m not in that category of flyers and I doubt I will ever be. I had an incident a few days ago at Edinburgh airport that still has me in cold sweats. A flight delay of over an hour led to an unfortunate domino effect with my connecting flight and had I not advocated for myself, I would have either had to spend the night in either Cardiff or Lisbon. Eight hours sitting at the airport was gruesome and disturbing, but an overnight at some airport hotel would have been more than I could bear on Sunday. It’s happened before and it’s never a pleasant experience.  What troubled me most was the airline’s handling of the problem. Their first solution was to put me on three flights which would get me home sometime after midnight — this was being negotiated at 1:00 p.m. I was fairly certain that with three flights pending, a delay or cancellation was almost a guarantee.

I asked about a direct flight I knew was scheduled later Sunday afternoon. “Oh no, that’s not possible,” I was told. When I questioned the denial of my request, I was told that the airline going direct was, “not a partner airline.” The one great thing about being a New Yorker is that you are taught to never accept an initial “no” response. I gently pressed and was told that I had a good case because my handler was having some trouble getting me on the Lisbon to Faro leg. A tiny corner of my brain was hopeful. There were at least 10 people behind me on the customer service line. Several of these troubled individuals even made their way to the counter to beg for assistance. When I heard some of the issues being presented I thought that my own issue was rather insignificant. I even allowed one woman to remain at the counter so that her problem could be resolved before mine (I knew I was not going anywhere, anytime soon). She was traveling to Australia; she somehow misplaced her boarding pass, and was being sent to several different help desks for a new one. This particular help desk did not have a printer and sadly, this distraught and panicked air traveler missed her flight. She had a family of four waiting for her arrival and I could not shake her justifiable despair.

I forgot to mention that my help desk person was mild-mannered and persistent. She asked me to stand in front of her so that no one else would interrupt. She was put on hold with my airline (I won’t mention the name until this is resolved) for a very long 10 minutes. She was able to get the airline to “sort of” commit to a refund of my ticket. She went ahead and booked me on the Ryanair direct flight. Some of you may read this and wonder if Ryanair got me home. To be fair, Ryanair has become a more efficient, friendlier (I may be pushing it) airline. I was grateful despite the fact that my flight was seven hours away. It was direct and there were five or six nice bars at the airport. I knew that I was about to have a real martini in a real martini glass — still haven’t found one in Faro.

A really great thing happened at the bar I chose to visit. I had been having major iPhone issues over the past week and I asked my neighbor if he knew how to force close an app. My Waze app was doing flips on me and I couldn’t erase it. He tried to help and we both failed; however, he asked me if my screen had been replaced recently. I said that I had replaced it a few weeks back. He asked me if I had gone to an iphone store and I laughed because that store doesn’t exist in Faro. I told him about this Chinese repair shop near my apartment and he said, “I hate to tell you this but you got a bad screen.” If I’m going to be truthful, I thought his diagnosis was wrong. Turns out he was right. They replaced my screen with a new and improved screen and all is well in iphoneland . . . for now. My airport angel strikes again! Kenneth took my mind off of the delay for 90 minutes and now I have a London acquaintance.

Anyway, I digress. This kind of delay can cause more anxiety than a fourth cup of coffee and I am once again questioning air travel. After all, I can take a train or drive to several other countries and I can walk to my own local paradise. There are obvious advantages to remaining closer to home:  save money, eat healthier, less stressful, do not have to leave Giorgio with a dog sitter, explore local sights you may not see otherwise, and countless others. Still, my hunger to see and experience as much of the world as possible while I have the energy and the means, is not an easy urge to resist.

Prior to opening my laptop to write, I researched the airfare for Sicily. I also have not been able to shake the idea of an African Safari. That should tell you the should tell you the clear winner of this battle.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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Last night’s sunset from the back patio of my apartment. I should probably have opened the window before I took the shot. Two glasses of Sangria in, I really wasn’t thinking straight.

Exploring Edinburgh and Other Random Bits

One of the many reasons I moved to Portugal was to be closer to the rest of Europe so that I could travel more easily from country to country; and that includes countries on the African continent. I will get to Edinburgh in this piece, I promise.

My first country outside of Portugal to visit was Scotland. It’s was only a three-day trip because Giorgio is still getting acquainted with his new home and I don’t want him traumatized further by not having me around.

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Perhaps I’m over thinking Giorgio’s state-of-mind

The great thing about living in Faro is that you have easy access to every form of transportation and getting around is inexpensive. I had to drop Giorgio off by his sitter and I was cutting it close for time, so I took an Uber to the airport — less than ten Euros. I’m here on a temporary residence visa until my SEF (the immigration office) appointment in August, so of I was somewhat unsure of the complexities of travel from one Euro country to another. The border patrol asked questions about my visa status; however when I shared that I had an August appointment they believed me. When I arrived home last night when I told the border patrol officer I had moved to Faro, he actually said, “Good that you got away from Mr. Trump; smart fella.” It was almost midnight and I was spent from a day of travel, but I said to him, “How could you have known that one was of my reasons for leaving the States?” It was a wonderful welcome home.

I am not going to make this a travelogue about Edinburgh, but I have included a few photograhs and I will say this:  if you’re looking to travel to a city filled with history, incredible architecture, welcoming people, great restaurants, fantastic museums (mostly free), great transportation, many Airbnb options, and the desire to have hassle-free fun, Edinburgh is the place to go. Old Town, where I stayed, reminded me of the East Village in New York; filled with ethnic restaurants, young people and grit. I cannot say a negative thing about this Scottish treasure. If you would like more details about anything I am sharing, please write.

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This was a Japanese restaurant in the Edinburgh airport where your food passes by you on a conveyor belt. I had never seen anything like it. The dishes were  color coded according to the price. It was fast, delicious and what I thought was a brilliant concept (especially in an airport).
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This not-so-attractive bridge in the city centre was a good spot for a photo. The wall was a bit high for good pictures of the city, but if you leaned over, you got to see some great sights. I got the hat for four pounds at a thrift shop; it still at the original price tag on it.
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The Scotland Royal Museum is always free, open seven days a week and had some beautiful exhibits. This was a fashion exhibit — loved it.
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I walked into this sweet little coffee shop and the owner was being very playful bantering back and forth me with about what I’d been up to the night before. I didn’t expect it t all and really enjoyed his company. It truly felt like you were visiting an old friends home and his latte was perfection. If I lived in Edinburgh I’d return to The Coffee Mill.
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I discovered this grave on a guided tour. If you ever want a quick overview of a city, do a guided tour as soon after you arrive as possible, then you get to see where you want to spend your time. This is the grave of Grayfriar’s dog Bobby. When Grayfriar died in 1872, Bobby went to where he was buried and refused to leave his grave site. Although stray dogs without a license were normally put down, Bobby was so loved by the locals, a license was purchased for him and a dog house was constructed so that he could remain near the grave. He lived to be 16 years old and was loved by all in the neighborhood. Today there is a statue of Bobby and a pub named after him next to the cemetery. I’m hoping that all of this story is true. A tombstone erected where Bobby was buried and visitors lay fetching sticks at his grave.  If you don’t love this story, we are no longer friends.
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The Edinburgh Castle (click for more info), dates back to the 1100s and has so much fascinating history, I could not pretend to do it justice — go see it.
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These little stairways and courtyards exist everywhere and one is more interesting than the other. You just have to walk and discover.
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The Royal Mile is commercial, but closed to traffic, filled with happy people and historical sights. It takes you right to the base of the castle.

 

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I climbed “close” to the top of Arthur’s Seat for a truly magnificent view of Edinburgh. Admittedly, it wa quite the workout, but I’ll bever regret the sweat and time it took it do it. I also got to meet a lost jugger. I helped her find her way and she was great company climbing down. Random strangers can make your day. This video may give you a glimpse of this spectacular vista.
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The view of Arthur’s Seat from my Airbnb. I had no intention of climbing to the top, but it beckoned me and I could not refuse the invitation.

I’ll wrap up by telling you that choosing Edinburgh was not a long, thought out decision. I knew that a getaway would be good for me and it was just that. I came back with a true appreciation of the new home I have chosen. As I passed my new neighborhoods in Faro, I marveled at its history and beauty. Edinburgh and Faro look and feel nothing alike, but isn’t that the beauty of the planet we inhabit.

On another note:

The piece below was purchased quite a few weeks ago. I haven’t mentioned it because I was waiting for it to be hung in my bedroom and then I was going to snap a shot of it and show it off. I’ve been searching for a tile tradesperson willing to hang it on my wall (the way I want it to be hung). I’m closer to finding “that” person. What I love about this piece is that the original artist made one of the figures ambiguous. When I first looked at it I thought for certain it was two women. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter and that is preciously what I love about it. I love the posters from the early 20th century; I especially love this one. I probably should have made sure the tiles were straight before I photographed it — you can see why I love it.

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16 Tiles, painted and then fired; original poster circa 1920. I met the artist and was thrilled to discuss where and I how I intended to hang the tiles. From a ceramic shop in Olhão. I promised her I’d send a photo of where it will live. Artists care a great deal about how their work is displayed and why shouldn’t they.

Lastly, we lost one of my favorite celebrity food personalities this week. Anthony Bourdain was a complicated person; he was candid, intelligent, creative and paved the way for so many. I had the good fortune to meet him and work with him at The French Culinary Institute. He was a gentlemen and truly enjoyed mentoring students. He will be missed by many.