Simplicity vs. Excess

No Judgment, But Why All The Bling?

I’d like to discuss this photograph: Is it minimalism? Is it staged? Is it attractive? Does it matter? But first . . .

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

This is one of those blogs where what I have to say is purely a matter of taste and opinion. In fact, aren’t they all? The word excess in the title certainly has a negative connotation. You have your taste, I have my taste, and my taste is the right taste — I kid.

I Will Get to That Photo in a Moment

Let me be clear that this is coming from an average Joe. I do not have a design degree, I do not get paid to do design work, and I do not know very much about design. Now some would say that gays have a design gene; I’d like to think that was true, however, we know it’s false. There is one small thing that leads me to believe that I have a good sense of color, light, and “tasteful” design. I worked for Dorothy Hamilton who owned The French Culinary Institute in New York City. My job description did not include interior design, but . . . I was in fact the lead person on several expansion projects. In that role I got to choose furnishings, wall color, and finishes. I would have to run my ideas by Dorothy, but I would say 90% of the time she liked what I showed her. After a number of years of successful project management, Dorothy told her staff that I was to be the “go to” person for the look and feel of the facilities (70,000 sq. ft.) and a campus in California (don’t recall, but at least 30,000 sq. ft.). I do not like to toot my own horn, ergo, I have to say, this particular distinction made me very proud. Obviously, I do not need to justify having an opinion, but there you go. Also, see link to profile article on me at the end of this piece.

The Photograph: In my humble opinion the only reason what you see in the above photograph could be considered minimalism, is all of the blank space around the window. It draws your eyes to the center of the photograph — the focal point. It makes you feel good. It’s pretty and takes you to Europe. Not a lot of clutter or color. It transports you back to simpler times. The building might be old and possibly historical or it might be a fairly new building made to look older. I like the shutters and I love the flower boxes. My criticism is that it looks a bit staged and a bit too feminine. But all that empty space around the windows, the muted colors, and the rust streaks in a couple of places, make it a very attractive photograph; a place I’d like to be.

Minimalism

Definition of minimalism: a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses. … For many minimalists, the philosophy is about getting rid of excess stuff and living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions.

I hate clutter, I hate dust, I hate waste, I hate having “things” in drawers and closets that I will never use, I hate thinking about all this stuff; too much stuff jams up your brain. This hatred does not drive my stylistic preferences. If you normally have a maximum of three people sitting in and using a living room, why do you need two big sofas? If once a month or twice a year you have eight people sitting in the living room, add chairs when you need them. Excess furniture makes a space feel smaller and more cramped. This has an impact on how you feel in the space; meaning that you consciously or unconsciously feel that the world is closing in on you — you feel anxious.I’m not fond of feeling anxious.

The same is true for knick-knacks, small objects that have no real functional use. These items tend to collect dust and take up space. When I look at the photograph below, this is what comes to mind: open, clean, fresh, stunning, inviting, and peaceful.

Photo by Patryk Kamenczak on Pexels.com

Some of you may look at the same photograph and think: bare, empty, sparse, over-designed and cold. Admittedly, I would add a couple of nightstands, some books, and a simple side chair. I especially love the wood floor and the floor to ceiling windows. It feels like there is no barrier between the inside and outside, making the room seem even larger than it actually is. You are made to feel as if you are living in nature; magnificent and powerful.

Advantages to minimal design:

  • fewer objects to clean
  • you can budget less for furniture
  • option to add chairs for seating if you need to
  • easier to make changes
  • a splash of color can brighten things up (pop)

Whatever Makes You Comfortable

One thing that that I find troubling about design is how snooty the industry can be. Interior design professionals are for the most part well paid, and they should be. To be a good designer you have to know your stuff and it’s obviously hard work. I had clients in my consulting business who were: indecisive, picky, entitled, angry, know-it-alls — and this is when they were being cooperative. Having stated this, when it comes to designers, I still believe there is an air of they know better than you. I would argue that no one knows better than you. You know what you like, you know what makes you comfortable, and you know what you want. You are the boss in this scenario.

If you’re like me, you prefer certain colors to others. You might like big and bold furniture or you might want to go in the opposite direction. You might prefer your walls to be bright and filled with artwork from top to bottom. I love white walls in an open space; it provides a blank canvas. Sometimes people go overboard with accent colors and they end up dominating a space. Again, it should be whatever you like.

I find that keeping my bedroom simple and uncluttered, helps me sleep better. White, crisp cotton sheets, a subtle color on the walls, clean lines, and a minimal amount of furniture (I like built-ins); these things make me happy. I don’t spend much time in my bedroom, but the time I spend there should be restful. I no longer sleep like I slept when I was a teenager.

Excess

Fifteen years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase a little country house in Pennsylvania (PA). I was thinking about how I might furnish the house and equip the kitchen. I pondered: before I go out and buy more “stuff,” let me see what I have in my apartment that I could take to PA. Three car loads later, my kitchen was completely outfitted; no lie I had two of everything in Brooklyn, and all I had to purchase was a couple of beds and a few other pieces of furniture to make the house in PA comfortable and functional. You might ask what I was doing with all of that excess stuff in Brooklyn? Darned if I know. I learned a great lesson about accumulating things and why it would be prudent to try and avoid that in the future . . . and for the most part, I have.

I find that friends are great for helping you edit. I have a number of friends who have no problem telling me what they think.

I will not be writing about hoarding, that’s a whole other issue. All I can say is I feel sorry for people who cannot part with things. I find tossing out or giving away stuff I don’t need, to be cleansing and gratifying.

Minimalism when dressing and wearing jewelry is usually also more attractive. Sometimes people wear six bracelets, three wrist watches, five necklaces, and nine lapel pins; what am I supposed to look at? Several belts, t-shirts over t-shirts, and so on, make up your mind. Edit yourself people. Simplicity and restraint will win the day. Again, just my opinion.

The House Special: Christopher Papagni Elevates Portland’s Restaurant Scene

Click on title above and it will take you to a profile piece about me done in Old Port Magazine, Portland, Maine.

Minimalist Typography Poster - FREE DOWNLOAD | Frases minimalistas ...

To Thy Known [sic] Self Be True and/or Big Fat Lies

Be the real you | Quotes & Writings by porijai pakhi | YourQuote

Disclaimer: I want to start by stating that my blog is not meant to be the answer to all of your problems or the world’s problems for that matter. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned some things and accumulated a few stories. Sharing with my readers is my way of letting you in and hopefully, allowing for some thoughtful contemplation. Needless to say, if you do not agree with my point of view, it might be better just to click delete or move on.

This Week

I’m on retreat in Estoi, Portugal for a few days. Estoi is a beautiful, historically rich town in the hills not far from my home. My stomach has been a bit jittery because of COVID-19, uncertain times, economic upheaval, to name a few things, and I thought it would do Paco and I some good to spend time in the country where there is little distraction. I’m surrounded by orchards, beautiful hills, and the Algarve sun. It’s a time for reflection and calming the nerves.

I can’t get my arms around this virus. Hearing about death and the destruction of lives on a daily basis is a lot to take in. I don’t want to turn it off and become detached — I don’t want to plunge into a deep depression either. Again, it’s about balance. Balance seems to be the most important lesson I have learned as I get older. Empathy is an essential part of being human; however, too much empathy for me, means anxiety. Like everyone else, I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus. They say this is the new normal. Well I say, I don’t care for it.

What You See

A recent photograph of Paco & me

Posting this photograph of myself is a bold move. When my friend Patricia took it a few weeks ago, I recoiled with disgust. She liked it, so she sent it to me even though I didn’t. I don’t like what I see at all. I know that I am 61 years old and no longer in shape, but honestly, I’d rather not look at it. I see someone who ate too much during quarantine and whose face is revealing far too much of just about everything I’m not too fond of. In my delusional mind, I’m young and still fetching. So here’s the dilemma: do I embrace the man you see in the photograph or do I continue to go along with what’s inside my head?

The answer for me is a little bit of both. I need to be grounded and aware of aging and be confident enough in my physical appearance to be comfortable presenting myself to the world. I certainly don’t want to look at a photograph of myself and give up. The good news is that after seeing this picture I decided to get rid of most of the sugar (the true killer) around my house and spend more time on the elliptical machine; fortunately, the pounds are starting to slowly disappear. There are so many things you can do to make yourself more attractive:

  • smile
  • dress well (even if you’re just going to the market)
  • go to the gym, walk, swim, run, hike, bike . . .
  • get a facial, haircut, massage — for yourself
  • have work done if it makes you feel better, but don’t over do it. Have you been to the upper east side in Manhattan lately? It’s a shit show of plastic surgery gone wild.
  • get a tan. Believe it or not, you can get a great tan with SPF 30
  • eat healthy foods
  • be with people who appreciate you for who you are
  • be around people who let you know when you are at your best
  • pay attention to your posture
  • remind yourself that earned every line on your face
  • take stock of the simple things
  • meditate
  • sleep and take an afternoon nap if you can
Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Okay enough of this bullshit about me and my body. The bottom line is honesty with yourself and acceptance. Funny how those two things can change sometimes after a good night’s sleep or even better, after someone flirts with you a bit.

Please do not send me comments about how I look good in the above photograph. I hate the picture and no matter what you say, I will believe you are just trying to make me feel better. Either that or you love me so much when you look at me you only see a handsome guy. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe to be true at the moment. Don’t worry, this too shall pass. Everyone gets a free pass on self-pity right now.

Being Less Than Honest With Myself and Others

Some would say that it’s healthy or natural to tell yourself little white lies — self-preservation. Like when you look in the mirror and you think, “You look good in these jeans.” That’s not a bad thing is it? I think it’s only bad if your lie hurts someone else. For example, a friend asks you what you think of her make-up after she does her face. You know in your heart she has put on too much and she looks like a clown and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you say, “You look perfect.” She walks around the entire day with people staring at her and even sometimes laughing under their breath. She might even do it the same way the next day thinking it looks good. In this case I believe gentle truth is the way to go.

“A little less eyeliner and not-so-much foundation might highlight your beautiful features.” Or

“Take a look in the mirror and tell me what you really think of your make-up?”

Let them see where they might have gone wrong. They might not always thank you at the moment, but that’s not what friendship is about.

On the other hand, if a friend says, “Do I look fat?”

No matter what you think, the answer is, “No, you look great.”

Two very different situations; one can be fixed, the other is much more complicated. There are nice/delicate ways to let someone know that they have put on a few pounds.

“Hey Sue, I have these COVID-19 pounds I need to shed and I was thinking of doing a long in the morning, want to join me? It would do us both some good.”

“Roger, if I recall your heart has been giving you some trouble lately; remember the slimmer you are, the better it is for your heart.”

“Hey sis, mom struggled with her weight once she hit 50; we have to be careful in our family.”

It’s all about a healthy balance, good mental and emotional health, and living with yourself.

The Problem with Denial

I know a lot of people who lie to themselves by denying the truth. The shaking your head constantly does make non-truth true, it only gives you a headache. I have found that facing the truth is often difficult for a short while, however, in the long run, you save a lot of worry and angst. For example, a few years ago I had a spot of my face that looked like a pimple, but it wouldn’t heal. I looked for pictures of it on the internet and what I saw and read frightened me. Pictures showed something similar to what I had on my face and the prognosis might be skin cancer. I put the thought out of my head immediately. Not possible with the type of skin I have, Mediterranean complexion after all.

When I was willing to look closely at the growth, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The spot was getting larger and darker and it was way too close to my right eye. After more than a year, I had it checked. Sure enough it was skin cancer. Fortunately it was basal cell carcinoma, easier to treat and less dangerous than melanoma. I had surgery to cut it; scarring was minimal and it hasn’t returned. Not taking care of it for so long made me anxious. I was worrying far too much about what it could be instead of just taking care of it. A situation where being honest with myself and having it checked right away would have saved me a whole lot of worry. I learned a big life lesson from this.

Human beings are very good about lying to themselves. We do it with big things and little things. Sometimes admitting the truth, although better in the long run, can happen too late. I don’t need to outline here what I mean. Let’s just say, be honest with yourself right from the start and you’ll be a great deal better off in the short and long run.

Quotes about Denying oneself (16 quotes)

What We Often Lie to Ourselves About

  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
  • Health
  • Extra weight
  • A relationship(s) that is unhealthy
  • Hating our jobs
  • Hating where we live
  • Our disposition
  • The company we keep
  • Finances

Is There a Solution?

I think there is: it’s called a tool box. We all need one at the ready; to tweak, fix, and overhaul. You need to yank it out whenever you start to doubt yourself or feel weak. Being human means being imperfect (sorry) and making mistakes. Knowing you have the ability to make an adjustment and move on, helps you to know things can and will improve. So if you begin to notice that you are having one or two more cocktails than you probably should, there are a few

tools you can use to get you to a better place (you can apply this tactic to many issues in your life):

  1. Admission is essential. You need to say out loud, “My drinking is a problem.”
  2. Come up with a plan to deal with the problem.
  3. Get some sort of help to insure that you stay on track.
  4. Monitor your progress daily.
  5. Enlist the help of a friend or expert.
  6. Take inventory of how addressing the problem has had a positive impact on your life.

The great thing about telling yourself the truth, is that you will begin to trust yourself. As in all relationships, trust is essential and necessary for success. If you want to love yourself, be true to yourself, and believe in yourself, you have to trust yourself; telling yourself lies will only lead to self-loathing and a downward spiral. Unfortunately, the further down that rabbit hole you fall, the more difficult it will be climb out and recover.

Living Life Without A User Manual : Be Honest With Yourself

A Blind Date I’d Rather Forget

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

There were so many things that drove me crazy about my mother; wanting me to be partnered was one of the big ones. She would constantly nag me about finding the “right guy.” One day, some thirty odd years ago, I gave in to her constant badgering.

Blind dates

I was in my late 20s, visiting my family in Salisbury, North Carolina. If you have never been to Salisbury, you’ve no reason to go. I lived there in my late teens for a couple of years, and visited family after I’d moved away. I have blocked most of my time there from my memory. This memory I cannot shake.

I was sitting at the kitchen table with my relocated northern momma. It was 110 degrees with 100% humidity and my guard was down. Mom was describing her gay hairdresser and insisted that he would show me a good time. Mind you this is before camera phones; actually most telephones had a 30 foot stretchable cord. She didn’t have a photo and I had an idea that Lou (mom) was overselling. I was beaten down by the heat and mom’s insistence and finally agreed to a blind date with Beau, the hairdresser. His name made him sound sexy. Careful not to fall into that trap.

Mom made all of the arrangements . . . I dreaded night fall. She assured me that Beau had fun plans and that I was in good hands. I couldn’t imagine which Waffle House he would choose or if the local drive-in allowed Yankees in — oh yes, in the south, in the 80s, I was a Yankee. I’m cynical now, but in my 20s I was much more so and a bit rebellious.

If you know anything about my mother, you will know that she always had an ulterior motive. Sure she wanted me to be happy, but she also knew that if this set-up worked out, she’d have free dye jobs for life. Mom had four daughters who went to beauty school (that’s what they called them back then); at the time one lived in New York, another lived in Tennessee, one was estranged, and the last didn’t do the kind of dye job my mother appreciated; I’m being kind. I was fairly outspoken back then and I almost shared my suspicions about her motives. She would have just laughed and said I was right.

Beau showed up right on time. You would have thought he was my mother’s long lost son the way they gushed over one another. I won’t lie, he was handsome. He was also smelled of cigarette smoke and if I’m going to be honest, that just didn’t sit well with me. Admittedly, I came really close to claiming to have suddenly fallen ill. I even thought about sending my mother in my place.

We said our goodbyes to mom. She insisted we drive carefully and she even said, “Y’all don’t run off and get married.”

I almost had to remind her that she was born in Brooklyn, not the deep south. Why couldn’t I have had a mother who rejected my homosexuality. But seriously, I jest. I was tickled that she cared enough to set me up with her favorite gay in Salisbury. Beau hugged and kissed her and promised to get me home safely. All the while I’m thinking, two hours tops.

Beau was peppier and more southern than I would have liked. By “more southern,” I mean that he truly worked his drawl. He told me that we were going to a barbeque and that I was going to meet some of his redneck friends; he didn’t actually say “redneck.” I didn’t get the sense that he was interested in me; however, he was friendly and seemed harmless. I looked forward to meeting other gay people — Salisbury is a small town and the gay boys had been elusive.

For me, a barbeque means hot dogs, hamburgers and outdoor picnic tables; this barbeque, not-so-much. We got to this double-wide mobile home and there were three guys slouched on a torn-up sofa. They were either high or drunk and hardly noticed that people had joined them; southern hospitality my ass. I waited to be introduced, but clearly I could tell Beau’s manners were nowhere to be found. I walked over to the sofa and extended a hand. Only one of the three acknowledged my introduction; the other two were indifferent. Beau left the room to put the beer he’d brought into the refrigerator.

Have you ever been somewhere where you wanted to leave the moment you arrived? I was uncomfortable and uneasy. This wasn’t New York City where I could just make excuses and hop on the subway. I was in the middle of nowhere, before cell phones and Uber. I looked for a clean spot to sit down and I tried my best to blend in with the furniture. Beau had either forgotten that he brought me to the party or he had begun partying without me. He finally did walk into the living room with two beers. He offered me one and made no apologies for his rude friends.

I stayed seated hoping that people would arrive and liven up the party. At one point, I leaned over to ask Tim, the one who had spoken to me when I introduced myself, if he was from Salisbury.

“Yes, we’re all from here; we went to high school together.”

I wondered if he was going to inquire about where I was from, but he didn’t. In fact, the conversation ended there. I patiently sat on that disgusting sofa waiting for the party to get started . . . it never did. At one point it became clear that Beau wanted nothing to do with me and his friends were indifferent. I stopped wondering about their sexuality two minutes after arriving; there was nothing appealing about this crew. The anger I felt toward my mother for putting me in this situation still resonates. Someone had to take the blame for this.

An hour in, I decided enough was enough. I had not seen so much as a potato chip, the music was a cross between heavy metal and pots and pans clanging, and the smell had me gasping for fresh air. I walked around the house searching for Beau. I finally found him outside smoking. I approached him with a smile, hoping to disarm any resentment he may have felt for having had to drag me along.

“Would you mind taking me home?” I asked.

“What? We just got here. Relax man.”

To be honest, I didn’t expect him to instantly agree to cart me back from wherever the hell I was. I asked if there was any food and he said another friend would be there with pizza soon. Although by this point I was starving, pizza in Salisbury was inedible and there was no way I’d eat it. I started feeling anxious and self-conscious. Perhaps I was the problem; entitled, stuck-up snob that I was. I decided to try to make the best of it and use my Sociology degree to study this group of four southern men — I just observed.

It was oppressively hot and humid outside, so I decided to go back into the house where it wasn’t much better; a little less buggy if I recall. I negotiated a time limit in my head. Another hour and I was calling a taxi; that’s if I could get one to pick me up in bum-fuck nowheresville. I considered calling mom, but that would have been way too comical for this party crowd and my brother worked the night shift at the cotton mill,so he was unavailable. Perhaps Beau would start to feel sorry for me as the night wore on. I sat with a second beer and prayed for a reprieve. A reprieve never came.

I can’t say if it was close to midnight or after midnight when I had finally had enough. Food never arrived, Beau’s friends never warmed up to me, and the party goers were all baked and enjoying a different stratosphere. I asked Beau about a taxi, but he shrugged me off. It was clear he was not going to take me home or help me get home. I saw a phone on the wall, however, the address where we were was still unknown to me. I approached Tim, the one guy who would speak to me, and asked if he knew the address. He told me we were on Deer Run Road, but he didn’t know the house number. I walked outside and saw the number on the house and decided to call a taxi. I dialed information (remember when that was a thing) and got the telephone for the only cab company in town. I had to memorize the number because there were no pencils or paper, within plain view.

I miraculously got the taxi company on the phone. The dispatcher was nice enough, but he said he only had one driver that night and that he was on his way to Charlotte airport and it would be an hour or more before he could get to me. It was one of those this can’t be happening to me moments. I again thought about calling mom, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew Deer Run Road led into town and I knew we couldn’t be more than a couple of miles outside of town because of how long it took us to get there. I decided to walk; a decision I will always regret.

I left without saying a word to anyone. They didn’t deserve a goodbye and I knew a confrontation would be fruitless. I began walking in what I thought was the right direction. I walked for a long time without a single car passing me. After a while, I knew that I was headed in the wrong direction. I looked at my watch and it was after 2:00 a.m. I turned around and headed the other way. The road was dark, but the stars offered enough light so that I could see a few feet ahead . I stayed close to the edge just in case a car were to come by. I feared a car might plow me down, but I also hoped one would come and stop for me. It was hot and sticky and I walked for hours until I reached town. Downtown Salisbury is not that big and I knew where the taxi office would probably be.

First a stop at the Waffle House for a cold drink. I was hungry, but food would not have stayed down. By this point I was beyond exhausted and sort of in a state of disbelief; relieved to be out of that horrible situation and knowing I would soon be in my bed. After rehydrating and a few minutes of rest, I found the taxi companies base and had their lone driver take me to my mother’s house.

She wasn’t waiting up and I wasn’t surprised. I showered and crawled into bed. As I pulled the sheet up to cover my head, dawn was breaking. Fortunately, my mother had a loud window unit in the spare bedroom and I knew it would drown out any noise my mom would make. For a brief moment I wondered if the rednecks I left, had noticed I was gone. I vowed to myself that I would never again go on a blind date and that I would take note of where I was going when headed to a new location. This was never going to happen to me again, but cell phones have taken care of that.

I walked into Lou’s kitchen sometime after noon; she had that Cheshire cat smile she often wore. I’m not sure why I had made this decision, but I told myself that nothing good would come from telling her my date story. I waited until she was in her early 70s to share what happened. By then we had dealt with any issues that came between us throughout our lives. She was of course shocked and angry with me for not telling her back then. She told me that she would have given Beau what for.

I said, “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you.”

We laughed and she actually asked me if I’d been attracted to him. I guess if I’m going to be honest, it was one of the things I loved about Lou; she genuinely would have been happy if it had worked out. My sexuality was not a problem for her, but being alone was.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
Mom (Lou) with my stepfather Frank, about a year before she passed

Paco Update:

My adopted pooch has been with me for six months now. He is healthy and happy, save for a strange skin issue. As you know, I have no idea how long he lived in the woods before he was found. I know that he had numerous bug bites that pestered him long after he was rescued. I think that even though these bites have healed and he no longer has any skin issues that I can detect, he still believes something is there or biting him. He doesn’t casually itch a spot, he jumps up and attacks the area. It seems to be getting a little better as time goes by. When I see him irritated this way, I usually rub the area and reassure him that there’s nothing there. The vet tells me that Yorkie’s are prone to phantom skin irritations. Our bond is strong and the love we feel for one another is deep. I am grateful to have had a quarantine companion and a furry friend for life.

Paco the hipster

Karma is a Bitch and Other Pleasant Thoughts

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

Most people would agree that anger and rage are not the best emotions to hang onto. Laughter, joy, pleasure, empathy, peace, and appreciation are much healthier and will make you happier in the short and long run. How do we get there? What do you do when those dark, negative feelings begin to surface?

Your Belief System

I’m fairly cynical about just about everything. I was taught that it is important to be a critical thinker at all times. However, there is one thing that I truly believe in and there is no proof that it really exists and that thing is:

kar‧ma noun   1 the belief that all the good and bad things that you do in this life affect how good or bad your future lives will be, according to the Hindu and Buddhist religions

2 informal the feeling that you get from a person, place, or action good/bad karma

Yes, I am a true believer. I have this gut feeling that the universe offers us complete balance: the yin and the yang, the peaks and the valleys, positive and negative energy; you get the picture. Realistically, I am aware that some people get away with all sorts of things without ever being held accountable. Perhaps I am wrong about that; perhaps they are somehow at some time, held accountable and we’re just not aware of it.

Belief in karma helps me sleep at night. When I think of politicians committing horrible atrocities, or people physically abusing or killing other people, or stealing, being emotionally harmful, rapists, I usually turn to karma for comfort.

42 Best Karma quotes - Quotes and Hacks

Trusting Your Truth

Whatever you believe is your truth; your truth is your integrity and where your strength comes from. If you waiver from that belief system or cave to someone else’s truth, you lose faith in yourself and your world becomes unsteady.

Distancing Yourself

I have found that confrontation can be unfruitful and/or personally damaging. Unfortunately, there are some people you cannot talk to. They are either so righteous they cannot be objective or they do not have the capacity to listen. The art of listening is lost on so many these days. The ability to clear your brain of all static and just hear another person’s words is extremely rewarding. Try just staying quiet and listening to another person, it truly is amazing.

[Disclaimer: Not true for everyone. Some people just go on and on and say nothing; others only speak to hear themselves speak, and still others speak only to offend others. These individuals should be avoided and shut down.]

Manifesting Positivity

Some ways to remain positive:

  1. When your thoughts begin to turn negative or move in a dark direction, stop whatever you’re doing and focus on a new thought. Not so easy to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Come up with some sort of code/buzzword that triggers a new thought. It can also be an action (e.g., going into a different room, cook, make the bed). This is a way to distract your mind from negative thought(s).
  2. Exercise. Releasing endorphins and doing something good for yourself usually helps initiate positive thoughts.
  3. If you can, travel. Getting away from your everyday environment helps put you in a different headspace.
  4. Do good deeds and make big deposits in your karma bank. I don’t mean just monetary donations (these are good too), I mean get out there and do something good.
  5. Meditation is a true gift anytime, but especially times like this. If you have Alexa (Echo) in your home or a similar device, you can just ask her to play meditation music. You can meditate for hours or minutes — your choice. The benefits are difficult to quantify, but trust me, it will help.
  6. Self-help books or articles may often seem trite and a waste of time; however, there are many good ones out there that will offer some good tips. I also find Ted Talks (Youtube) to be informative.
  7. Talk to a good friend or family member. People who care about you want to help, but be careful not to abuse their good naturedness.
  8. Cooking keeps me positive and upbeat; as does a good meal out. I turn on music, pour a glass of wine, set out some fresh ingredients, and create something delicious and healthy. This does wonders for my piece of mind. And . . . I do it for me. You don’t need an excuse to be good to yourself.
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Your “Go to” Responses

We are creatures of habit and some of our habits are not-so-good for our health and well-being. For example, when I see people do something really stupid, my go-to response is to tell them what I think. A recent thought: Put on your face mask you fucking idiot. The outcome if I follow through: I have found one of two things might happen:

  1. People who do stupid things, usually have a stupid/unreasonable reaction to criticism or feedback.
  2. You often end-up more frustrated and full of rage.

Look the other way or keep your mouth shut. Trust me, you’ll forget all about it in a few minutes and you won’t be taking years off of your life. Ignorant, despicable, horrible people, will not suddenly become educated or wiser because of your words or action. Allow karma to take care of the situation. Another alternative is to do the right thing for yourself and stay away from people or situations that might create problems for you. For example: I’m not sure going to a political rally will yield a positive outcome right now. There will be lots of time for that sort of thing sometime in the future. Staying away from crowds is a better bet.

Recruiting Others to Help

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I have been know to recruit friends and family to help me react in a more positive way or to assist me in letting go. People who love you and want to see you happy will gladly put a hand over your mouth to muzzle you or handcuff you to a coffee table to keep you from overreacting. A good friend will keep you out of jail or the doghouse.

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Resources:

Karma: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

7 Tips for Staying Positive: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wise-mind-living/201501/7-tips-staying-positive

Stay Positive: https://www.mhanational.org/stay-positive

Thank you karma.

The Pros & Cons of COVID-19 Travel

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I’m feeling a bit anxious about writing this piece. Whether or not to travel at this time is a highly subjective decision. Most governments are imposing COVID-19 travel restrictions that are somewhat ambiguous and I believe that is intentional. Human lives versus economic collapse: this is an impossible conundrum. Add to that the “Unknown” factor around COVID-19 and you’re left with a whole lot of speculation.

Personal Choices

When Portugal eased lockdown restrictions, I decided to take a train trip north to Cascais. I felt train travel would be safer for a number of reasons. I knew the Portuguese government was requiring masks be worn throughout the trip and I also knew that few people would venture out. I have mixed feelings about having taken the trip. Not seeing other tourists in an otherwise tourism driven town, was somewhat depressing. Strangely, I came home wanting more.

I’m not going to site articles about the safety of travel because there are as many telling you it’s safe as there are advising you to stay home. This is a very personal decision, however, there are many people out there who believe that when you travel you are endangering lives. Yes, they believe you are risking catching the virus outside of your community and taking it back to where you live. It would be wrong and dishonest to say that there isn’t some truth to those sentiments.

My argument is that life is full of risk at every turn. You get behind the wheel and there is a risk you could accidently kill someone else on the road; do you stop driving? You light up a cigarette outdoors knowing you are exposing people to carcinogens, do you only smoke in your own home? You consider sending your children to school knowing that there is a possibility that another student might open fire on school grounds, do you keep your kids home where it’s safer? You know where I’m going with these questions. One can rarely be 100% safe.

As you sit in judgment against others who exercise their personal freedoms, it doesn’t hurt to consider your own decisions and personal habits. Does anything you do endanger the lives of others in any way? Do you take every precaution to keep others safe? Doesn’t just being alive carry risk and uncertainty?

I realize that many will argue that travel is putting others at risk — if you were to contract the virus, you could potentially be exposing others. This argument also has validity; however, it takes us back to risk. If you are a responsible person who takes every precaution, are you not minimizing the risk for everyone else? I would use the analogy of driving: cautious drivers are doing everything possible to minimize the risk of an accident that might harm or even kill someone else on the road. Do not forget, driving is a choice.

Why You Might Want to Stay Home

  • There are few places safer than your own immediate environment. There you have almost complete control.
  • If you are in a high risk group (underlying medical conditions, age)
  • If you will have anxiety while you’re traveling, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  • You can wait it out
  • When flight circumstances change, you may not get a refund from your airline. Some are only offering future travel vouchers.
  • The numbers of confirmed cases and deaths around the world is staggering. This might be your barometer.
  • Your value system does not allow you to put others at risk.

The Upside of Travel

  • Some people are in serious danger of losing control of their lives and possibly losing their lives. The psychological and emotional impact of this virus is difficult to measure. Travel to be with a loved one or being outside of their isolated environment, could be a life saver.
  • If you can be disciplined and super careful, it could be fun.
  • This virus could be with us for a long time. Some of us feel that we need to adapt and adjust our lifestyles to cope with this new normal.
  • My flight was only 5% full going to England and 30% on the return. It was easy enough to social distance — something to consider.
  • You could also consider going to a place where they have controlled the virus.
  • For some people, it is important to exercise their personal freedoms.
  • There are lots of deals out there right now.
  • If you feel less safe or exposed on an airplane, you might consider staying local. I recently took the train to a resort town and truly enjoyed the quick and easy getaway.

There are more reasons to stay home and many more reasons to travel. Feel free to share them in the comments section.

From the UK since I was in Manchester (from the NHS) when writing this piece:

The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.


The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normalTo protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you have any of these symptoms. Stay at home (self-isolate) and get a test.

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Life Without A Car — reblog

Also: Traveling to Manchester, England during COVID-19 Lockdown

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My love affair with the bicycle goes back to my paper boy days in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. I was ten years old and I went to my dad and asked him for a bicycle. My dad had nine children and he was a blue-collar worker, so asking for anything made me feel guilty and ungrateful. This was different, I told him that I had applied for a paper route and I needed a bike to deliver newspapers in South Brooklyn. My dad had a very surprised look on his face; wondering if I could rise before the sun and handle the elements. Looking back I realize just how much faith he had in me.

I got a shiny new red bike with a big basket in the front for my papers and I started earning my own allowance. I held onto that bike for a few years, but clearly it was worse for the ware and by the time I was a teenager, it was time for a new bicycle. My sister Debbie and I ended up at a bingo hall one Saturday night. I can’t tell you how we were allowed to gamble at ages 14 and 15, but we were and we did. I managed to win the big jackpot of the evening: a whopping $75 and with my winnings, I bought my sister and I used bikes. Mine was a yellow Schwinn with a white seat and my sisters; well I don’t recall. That Schwinn took me to Coney Island, our neighborhood bowling ally, the community pool, and on really hot days, for a bag lunch under the Verrazzano Bridge — that had to be the coolest spot (windy and 15 degrees cooler) in all of Brooklyn.

That bike was stolen a couple of years later and I was so angry about the theft I refused to purchase another bike. I realized that this personal protest was not hurting anyone but myself, so I decided to upgrade to a really nice blue ten speed. I don’t recall much about this bike except that my tire got caught in a trolley track and I went down hard. In fact, looking back I have had three or four bad bicycle accidents throughout my life. Still, bicycles have been a means for me to do great things and see so many interesting places. I may need to admit to myself that I might be accident prone. Still, I ride.

I did the Boston to New York AIDS Ride three years in a row and was able to help a great cause and meet new friends. I completed a week-long bike ride through Provence I will never forget. Biking through Tuscany was fantastic and the list of places goes on. Despite the aforementioned serious accidents, I am committed to riding for as long as I possibly can. In order to stay healthy in the Algarve and reduce my carbon footprint, I have decided not to get a car and to do more cycling and walking. Buying a used bicycle has not been easy in Faro. I ended up buying a mountain bike last week, only to hear from the owner of a bicycle I really wanted the next day. A bike rental shop in Tavira was selling 10 gently used bikes and the style and price were exactly what I wanted. I decided to buy one of these used bikes and sell the one I had just purchased. I must have had good karma last week because the owner of the bike agreed to deliver the bike to my apartment and when he arrived he said, “I brought you a new one.” Honestly, brand spankin’ new, right out of the box, and I got myself quite a deal (see photo below).

I’ve learned my lesson, albeit the hard way, and I have purchased a good helmet. I’m excited to see Faro and the Algarve by bicycle. I’ve already mapped out a route to the beach and the cinema, and I’m certain I’ll be using it for trips to the mercado (market).

Not having a vehicle is sometimes frustrating:  waiting for trains, complicated transfers, the loss of spontaneity, the freedom of mobility and the joy of a stick shift. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I love having a car and I love driving a car. However, this is a time in my life where being practical and smart takes precedence over convenience. Truthfully, I can and will survive without a car. Waiting for the train will teach me patience; I can plan trips to IKEA and the mall; walking and riding has far greater health benefits; and the money I save on gas, insurance, and maintenance will help take me to places far more exotic than the grocery store — a short walk or ride from my apartment.

Riding in a foreign country is a bit scary, but fear can get in the way of true adventure and I won’t allow this to happen.

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The mountain bike I purchased for 70 euros and then sold two days later for sixty euros — not a very lucrative proposition.
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My new Orbit. The right price, the right height, the right color, perfect handlebars for an old guy, fenders, kickstand, a light in the front, a cool bell, and a rack above the back tire. I’m good to go!

Update (July 5, 2020): I gave up the Orbit because it was difficult getting it in and out of the elevator. I purchased a smaller folding bike (pic unavailable) and it fits perfectly. Sometimes I find myself making several attempts before I get it right. Hopefully, I learn something in the process and I congratulate myself on being diligent.

When things are easier, you tend to do/use them more often. Easier isn’t always better for you.

I am reblogging from Manchester, England. I’ve been here since Thursday and happily returning home tomorrow. I had no problem getting here, only to learn they are doing “Track & Trace.” I can’t go into pubs because Big Brother is tracking my whereabouts. Portugal was not on the UK’s list of safe countries. I know it’s political and I’m caught up in the middle of it. The good news is that I have a beautiful one bedroom on the 19th floor right in the center of town. I have floor to ceiling windows and the sun is shining as I type this. Today I am going out with a tour guide to visit little known treasures. I’m hoping the sun stays out because it’s been mostly dreary since I arrived. I have reservations for dinner at Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar, an upscale Italian restaurant, this evening — a good way to say goodbye to Manchester.

It should be noted that RyanAir would not issue me a refund or a travel voucher; COVID-19 did not exist when I did my initial booking. Needless to say, I would have come at a better time had I known. I did not want to lose my ticket, and so I made the trip. I’ve been known to be fairly stubborn and righteous. No regrets, but I wish things were different. I also miss Paco. I wish that I could always have him with me. Patricia took this photo of him sunning on my terrace yesterday. I’m sure he’s wondering where I am and why I left him.

Never Settle

A Look Beyond the Tough Questions

Quotes About Settling In Love

Our Current State

Being isolated has had different effects on different people. Some of the people I have a good deal of contact with have spent the last three months taking inventory of their lives — easier to do when you’re alone. We rarely have this many consecutive hours to just sit and think. Contemplating the decisions you’ve made and where you are in your life can we frightening and sometimes easier to avoid. Do you ever look at your friends and/or family members and think, so and so has settled?

Over the past few months I’ve had several people in my life say, “I don’t want to settle.”

It seems to be a common theme of late and I think it has a lot to do with control or a lack thereof. I’m certainly feeling it. Can’t control the virus, the economy, the media, big business, family situations and so forth. When this happens, you look for aspects of your life you can control. I’ve always been super neat and clean going way back to my childhood. When crazy things were happening all around me, I realized the one thing I could do was create an orderly physical environment. I noticed that people all around me noticed.

I liked when people said, “Christopher, you’re so neat.” I still do; it’s one thing I know to be true.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything.” I know I can take that cliché to the extreme, but I enjoy order.

I have to be careful not to be that way with my dog Paco. I know that over-grooming him will make him very uncomfortable. I have to remind myself that he is a dog and dog’s seem to like being a little unkempt sometimes. I can keep up with his teeth and shots and Frontline and allow his hair be a bit messy. I know, very devil may care of me.

Settle for What?

You have to ask yourself why you are settling. I have actually heard people say (out loud): “I cannot imagine finding anyone better.” No wonder divorce rates are so high. Here’s another one I’ve heard: “I’m not worthy of better.” I’m not sure which thought is more damaging to the ego.

Many people hate their living situation. They piss and moan about the location or their rent or the size of their place, but they stay right where they are and settle. You’ve heard all of the excuses: too busy to move, can’t afford to pay more, the schools are good here, my parents live nearby, I’m close to my favorite shops, I have a lot of closets, and so on.

What about those who settle for less from themselves?

“I’m not going to quit this job, I’ll never find another.”

“College is too expensive and I don’t have the time anyway.”

“I have to put my kids first.”

“I’ll never be good enough.”

The Life You Choose

The reality is that we are the rulers of our own universe. Excluding those who live under lock and key and have no choice in matters. You get to choose how you live and who you live with.

You get to decide if your good enough, old enough, smart enough, worthy enough, healthy enough. All you. Shit or get off the pot for gosh sakes.

Regrets

Regrets are such a waste of time. We can’t change the past; however, we can learn from it. Repeating the same mistakes over and over are nobody’s fault but your own.

Some Words to Live By

  • Always listen to your own inner voice.
  • Never blame anyone else for your mistakes.
  • Set goals for yourself and assess those goals on a regular basis.
  • Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.
  • Don’t pay attention to what others think about you.
  • Money does matter; however, it is not your only consideration.
  • When someone tells you that they no longer want to be with you, they are probably telling you the truth — let them go.
  • You will never know unless you try.
  • Nobody is born great, greatness is achieved.
  • Kindness and gratitude will come back to you.
  • Give yourself a day off now and then.
  • Travel the world.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Be spontaneous.
  • Dream big!
  • Be bold!

“There’s a problem with wounded birds . . . either they fly away from you one day, or else they never get better. They stay hurt no matter what you do.”

Excerpt from Jodi Picoults, Picture Perfect

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World Youth Alliance | Man's Search for Meaning, a Review

My niece sent this to me this week and it spoke to me. I would replace “a man” with “an individual.”

The Tough Questions

It’s so easy to push those negative thoughts down or out or cover them up with pretty frilly things; things that distract, hide, conceal. The hard questions are just that, hard.

About eight years ago my doctor and good friend, sat me down and laid it out for me . . . if I continued living the life I was living, I would die sooner than later. He prescribed Xanax and gave me very clear instructions on how much to take and when to take it. I’ve always hated taking any kind of medication; therefore, I found this to be extremely upsetting and unsettling; I argued and resisted and refused them at first; eventually caving.

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The thing is, I was exercising almost daily, eating healthy foods, seeing a therapist, and talking to close friends. So why was I still so stressed.

“You can play it safe, and I wouldn’t blame you for it. You can continue as you’ve been doing, and you’ll survive, but is that what you want? Is that enough?”
― J.M. Darhower, Sempre

Because I had been in therapy for years and did not feel my life was changing (the way I’d hoped it would), I hired a life coach. Therapy was helping me figure things out and cope with my past, but it wasn’t helping me to see how I might change my current situation.

My life coach helped me to ask the big questions concerning what I wanted in my life and how to get from A to B. She didn’t just ask questions; Betsy was engaging. It was less about figuring out why I am the way I am and more about what I did and did not want out of my life. She was extremely supportive and non-judgmental. Perhaps I could have pulled myself up and out on my own, but the investment in my own wellbeing, paid off.

Questions We Need to Ask Ourselves

  • Am I happy?
  • Am I where I want to be?
  • Are people treating me the way I want to be treated?
  • Are people treating me with respect?
  • Am I being true to myself?
  • Is _____________ good for me?
  • Can I change the things I’m unhappy about?
  • What is stopping me from being my authentic self?
  • Is it worth whatever discomfort __________ causes?
  • Does it matter? Does he/she matter?
  • Is there something troubling me?
  • Is it time for change?

Quick Story

I was involved in a toxic relationship about 20 years ago. It was on and off, more off than on. I kept telling myself that he would change — the lies we tell ourselves. I’m sure you’ve been there. One day I was struggling with the stupid little shiny objects that distract us from the truth. I was sitting in a Starbucks hating my burnt coffee, my stale lemon pound cake, my life. A stranger sat next to me and started up a conversation. She was young and pretty and way too happy.

I kept thinking she would go away and let me get back to my misery, but alas, she was determined. I realized after a few minutes that she was a student at the school where I was the Dean of Students.

At one point while engaging in the usual social niceties, she saw someone walk in and she said,”I thought I just saw your wife.”

I was sort of stunned and bewildered. I questioned her about this and she responded, “Doesn’t your wife work at the school.”

After revealing my sexuality, the two of us had a good laugh. I had no idea that the students thought I was married to a staff member. It got me thinking about perception and forced me to ask myself:

How do you want to be perceived? The truthful answer I gave myself changed my life. I wanted to be perceived as an openly gay and confident man. I had a lot to work on and the questions I had to ask myself to get the work done, were challenging.

I committed to doing the work and although I admit to sometimes going backward before going forward, for the most part, I have been doing the heavy lifting for awhile now. It has been worth the effort, because although life is not perfect, I am where I want to be and I am in a good place emotionally. One can only get there by asking the tough questions.

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Questions I’d Like to Ask You

Many of you contact me privately, which is fine; whatever makes you comfortable. I would like to pose a couple of questions — please answer any or all of them. I ask that you comment on my site so that others can see your response. Many will relate I’m sure. Of course I understand if that makes you uncomfortable and you choose not to. Nothing worse than feeling coerced.

  1. Does fear get in the way of making life changes?
  2. Am I putting off life goals for another time?
  3. Are these issues that worry me life and death matters?
  4. Do you feel empowered to make major changes in your life?
  5. Do you feel that you know yourself?
  6. Are you too comfortable to make a change?
  7. Is looking in the mirror just too painful?
  8. Are you making excuses?

And then there is the question I didn’t ask . . .

Cascais, Portugal and BelPonto Sushi

It’s been so long since I last traveled, I completely forgot that if you want an easier experience, you must pay attention to details before you leave. I’m not sure I was psychologically ready for this trip. I knew that I had to be careful because there were a lot more COVID-19 cases in the north of Portugal than there were in the Algarve where I live. After being confined to a square mile radius for three months, I thought a trip would do me good.

Fortunately, traveling is a lot like riding a bike: once you get going, your muscle memory takes over. In my case, my brain needed a bit of a kick start. I got on the train from Faro okay, but did not realize there was more than one first class car. A little bit of shuffling and I found my seat. I was on the right train and that’s all I cared about. Thinking that all trains to other places left from Oriente in Lisbon, I overshot my stop and lost about an hour. I found my way to the station where I needed to be to get to Cascais and ended up having a delightful lunch on the waterfront while I waited for my train. I had good grilled pork ribs, but not good enough for a mention.

That’s a statue of Jesus with his arms spread out in the distance (off-center left).

The train to Cascais runs every 20 minutes and my timing was fortuitous, so I only had to wait on the platform for a minute. I remembered to validate my ticket on the platform; something you do not have to do in the Algarve. Oddly, I did not have to wear a mask on the Faro to Lisbon train, but I did have to wear one on the train to Cascais; some authorities seem more relaxed than others. I immediately noticed that people in Lisbon and Cascais were taking the virus more seriously and that’s a good thing.

I stayed in a beautiful apartment with a view of the sea and an outdoor swimming pool. It was very windy and that made it a bit chilly when you were not in the sun; I swam anyway. I was told that one of the reasons the wealthy built holiday homes in Cascais after WWII, was the magnificent weather and beautiful sandy beaches. The breeze provides a respite from the brutal heat present in other parts of Portugal in the summer.

One of the reasons I traveled to Cascais was to visit a restaurant I had heard about in Faro. The owner, Mr. Thomas Schurig, owns Shiraz in the Old Town (marina) and I was anxious to try his restaurant in Cascais (see blog table of contents for more about Shiraz). I needed an excuse to see Cascais and to travel. I had very few options outside of Portugal, so why not. I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous anyway.

Spending time with Mr. Thomas was quite special for me. He was born in Iran and left for Germany when he was 14 years old. With $500 in his pocket, he set out to begin a new life. Mr. Thomas studied and practiced law in Germany. He met his wife there and then moved to Portugal in 2008. I didn’t want to pry, however, he shared that he had several careers before he opened his first restaurant; he has three restaurants, one in Cascais, one in Lisbon (Shiraz), and another Shiraz in Faro; I love this restaurant. Anyone who knows the restaurant business can attest to the challenges, financial and personnel, that keep one up at night. I listen to people in this business talk about feeding people and hospitality and get a glimpse into what drives their passion.

Mr. Thomas knows almost everyone who walks into Belponto. He thanks his staff often and smiles no matter what issue he might be dealing with. His menu at Belponto is mainly sushi and Persian cuisine. He told me that sometimes he does special German dishes for his regulars. He has a relaxed easy way about him, but getting him to stay with one topic is nearly impossible. It’s obvious that he has many things going on at the same time; he manages them all with charm and a cool demeanor. I was also taken by how sweet and reverential he was whenever his wife entered the room.

The food at Belponto is beautiful, fresh and delicious. Prepared by Mr. Thomas, Helena, Mr. Prem (sushi master) and Arjun (sushi chef) with love and expertise. The sushi was creative and melt in your mouth good. They also do several special curry dishes and a homemade Naan bread that blew me away. It is baked in an authentic tandoori clay oven. Paired with good Portuguese wine and excellent service, I was bowled over. The restaurant is also stunning; minimal in decor and tastefully done.

Mr. Thomas lit-up when talking about a fish tank that was to be built for the center of the restaurant before COVID-19 struck — COVID-19 has spoiled so many things. It is obvious that the virus has, like so many others around the world, taken its toll on Mr. Thomas. However, he remains optimistic and positive.

If you are a sushi lover, and who isn’t these days, Belponto’s is the place to eat in Cascais.

I had a delightful lunch on the ocean at Restaurante Mar do Inferno. It’s a family run business that has been successful for many years. The place was full to capacity (50% permitted); apparently always the case. It’s located in the Boca do Inferno part of Cascais — a must see if you’re visiting. The waves are usually big and spectacular; not so much for my visit.

Boca do Inferno without the big waves crashing on the rocks. Apparently, after they crash water flows out of the holes in the rocks making it look like a waterfall. Next time.
The fish is fresh and prepared to perfection

I don’t think it would be fair to comment on the quality of a Cascais visit during this time of COVID-19. It’s a beautiful part of Portugal. A walkable town with beautiful homes and a magnificent coastline. I felt badly for restaurant and shop owners. They have worked hard to create a gorgeous tourist destination and people are staying home. It’s understandable; however, I hope this changes soon or so many will completely lose their livelihood. My recommendation is to go and take precautions.

A Night in Lisbon

I left Cascais for a night in Lisbon before heading back to Faro. There was a lot more activity in Lisbon, but many hotels were still not open. I stayed on a beautiful two bedroom houseboat on the Tagus River. I booked it through hotels.com for 75 euros (breakfast delivered to your door for an additional 8.50 euros). Book directly using http://www.tagusmarina.com. You can book a one or two bedroom houseboat. It was a fantastic experience. The houseboats are only a 12 minute walk to Oriente train station. I highly recommend this accomodation. The Tivoli in Lisbon cancelled the reservation I had made the day before. I’ll make a point not to stay there in the future. I’ve had other bad experiences with this chain.

A room with a view

Filtering Yourself

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Keeping your mouth shut these days is harder than shoving a passel of hogs into a tiny hog pen . . . at feeding time. I’ve been around for quite some time and I’ve never experienced anything like what we’re seeing today. Division, unrest, widespread racism, anger, pandemics, extreme climate change, and the list goes on. Every generation speaks of times in their lives when major changes caused emotional disruption; however, I would argue that what is happening now, has to be up there in the top five.

Regardless of the rank and strength of the impact, these are challenging times. If you have a heart and an opinion, you are feeling it with an intensity that can cause quite the verbal eruption. Some would say that speaking your truth is healthy and necessary and others regard it as dangerous. People in both camps exist in my world and will continue to be a part of my life. I have been notoriously vocal my entire life, except when I’m quiet. So why the contradiction?

What it Feels Like

When I have something to say, it feels like fire in my belly and a vice squeezing my skull. It’s not pleasant and there are very few ways to release the pressure.

Having opinions is a good thing. Speaking your mind is a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. It allows others to get to know you better. It’s also a way to remain free, free of thoughts weighing you down. Keeping it all bottled up can destroy your already compromised organs.

The conversation I have with myself about whether or not to speak-up is getting easier as I mature. There was a time when remaining quiet was not even an option; today, I employ this method of self-preservation, more often than not.

The Process of Deciding When to Share

Yesterday, I reposted a blog I wrote on Racism last year. I know it will anger some of the people in my life who will disagree. In the blog I call myself a passive racist; I believe it to be true. I’m ashamed of the number of times I have stood by and listened to people disparage black or brown people and said nothing. At the time I disagreed, but I didn’t want to rock the boat or cause a scene. I was dead wrong. I cannot turn back the clock, however, I can behave differently and call people out when I see and hear racial bias.

Sharing my political point of view has been difficult because of the current climate. These days it’s difficult to have a civilized conversation about politics. I’ve been told I have no right to share my opinion because I no longer live in the States or that the only reason I’m a left leaning liberal is because I’m gay — both rediculous.

What to Share

Choose wisely. Carefully consider what to share with others and when to share it. The last thing I want is for people to say, “There he goes again, mouthing off about something.” That can happen easily if you’re not careful.

Lately, I wait until I’m truly passionate about something before I put it out there. This seems to be more effective. The response I get on social media can be very telling and I’ve been paying attention. People are tired of politics. Those that feel very strongly, on either side, are not giving up, nor should they. I’m certainly not giving up. What I am doing is being more deliberate about when and how I state my opinion.

There are many people out there who do not want to hear it. They are in denial about the existence of problems in and with society. To those people I say, turn off your social media news feeds and television. You you don’t want to hear it, telling me or anyone else to shut up is not going to be effective. If you want to bury your head in the sand, then refrain from coming to the surface.

Some of us feel, me included, that in order for positive change to happen, we must have the converstaion.

Reactions and Responses

When you share in a public forum, you must be prepared for backlash. For me, having people agree with me is not necessarily what I am hoping for. I enjoy a good debate or argument. Tell me why you feel or think the way you do and back it up with facts, I promise to do the same. I have admitted to being wrong on more than one occasion and I have also been known to change my point of view. In addition to learning something in the process, a good argument can be a lot of fun; stimulating and enlightening. So why are so many adverse to partaking in a good debate? These days it seems that some would prefer to walk away from a relationship, than engage in a discussion. I think that’s sad.

Losing Friends & Family

Losing people in your life may be the most difficult outcome of being honest with your thoughts and feelings. Before you speak or write or video what’s on your mind, you should consider the toll it may take. Are you willing to alienate people in your life that have meant something to you for a long time?

I recently had this situation tested in my personal life. My politics have pissed people off for a long time; however, because of where the nation is politically today, people are more wedded to their point of view than ever before. It’s unwise and wrong for me to fault anyone for their beliefs, whether I think those beliefs are based on truth or not. My choice is to find middle ground and recall what made that person special to me.

Going Forward

I have learned that that staying silent is impossible. Repressed thoughts or feelings eventually surface; when they do, the longer I allowed them to fester, the more toxic and harder they are to rein in.

The bottom line is comfort. For me, if I’m not strong in my convictions and resolute about where I stand, I cannot speak out. There are moments when I feel that my time is better spent working on my own self-worth; exercising my ego and feeding my brain. I have to be certain I know what I am talking about before I spout off. I have to fact check myself and do my homework. Then and only then, can I speak my mind.This is the way for me to defend myself, debate and walk away with pride. Self-empowerment is mighty strong and an effective tool for healthy living.

I Am Strong | Sick and Sick of It

Traveling to Cascais, Portugal tomorrow; see next week’s blog. First trip since lockdown.