Prior to meeting John Troike, I thought Fadista meant trendsetter. Prior to visiting Lisbon, I thought Caesaria Evora was Portuguese. And prior to both, I thought Fado was Morna and I was just the bomb at musical genres. But Ceasaria is long gone and John–the last email I got from him was when he decided to permanently live in Poland more than a decade ago. When email was a thing.
Hence Lisbon, and panicking at not being able to capture every last bit of accuracy required to know her:
Lisbon is a nightmare to skateboarders but a dream to dreamers, I think to myself as I cattle climb up a hill through the cobblestone alleys to São Jorge Castle. The cobblestones are romantic but walking on them needs an apres-ski at Dr. Scholl’s cafe. Ily is shooting away at one beautiful angle after another because he is talented like that. I, on the other hand, clumsily shoot at rooftops, cloudy horizons and car-filled avenues, robotically rotating three hundred sixty degrees in the hopes of capturing a city central to my native country’s colonial history. Magellan worked here as a royal page sometime in the 1400s. And that is as much history as I can remember without Spain in it.
We decide to forego the legendary Tram 28 up the hill because commuters look like they are falling off the rafters, which affords us a lot of time to hang around and enjoy the tiny pockets of plazas, cathedrals and gardens exploding with bougainvillea and azulejos clinging onto walls, benches, ceilings and floors. We pop into a gift shop where I wince at the price of a tile fridge magnet, while Ily buys a messenger bag made entirely of cork.
Between the parapets, I watch the sunset make love to a beautiful city. Her colors changing from beige to clementine to flamingo to mango tango (thank you, Crayola). In the distance is 25 de Abril Bridge, looking like the Golden Gate, unapologetically scarring an otherwise peaceful Tejo river, because yes, it connects people and should not be held responsible.
We walk around the Baixa and blacken our teeth with squid ink from the seafood paella, enjoying the hustle and bustle of beautiful people pretending to hustle and bustle.
The next day, we hook up with Tim and try to make sense of Santiago Calatrava’s Gare do Oriente–the mix mode transportation hub by the Parque das Nações. I am not a good judge of architecture and I’ve heard both good and bad things about Calatrava, but I can’t help but appreciate the way in which his works create discussion. Like the City of Arts and
Sciences in Valencia, one wonders how he manages to sleep at night plopping a modern architectural counterpoint right smack in the middle of antiquity. And because the only architectural words I know are lanai and buttress (for obvious reasons), I keep my mouth shut and let Tim do all the talking. Yes, he is right. Calatrava is surprisingly functional. And the lines and angles invade into every POV. And the bareness of his space evokes a Zen-like atmosphere, and by extension, peace. Yes, yes, and yes. And like the typical Pavlovian reaction I allude to when I hear words I don’t understand, I start looking for ice cream.