From Roslindale to the Alfama

Maybe the only time the Parent Imperfect will pay attention is when he off of his home court. This week he’s in Lisbon, spending too much time in one of Portugal’s premier business hotels.

The timing was perfect, even if the parent was not. Vincent received his first report card from the nation’s oldest public school at almost the precise moment that the PI was leaving for the airport. As a result, the PI got the news via e-mail, which was probably the best way to get it. He knows all the stuff about how so many other things are more important than the report card, but he still would have been hyperventilating.

Now it will be a full week before he needs to have that conversation, and maybe the PI will have something a bit more creative to say about those little letters. It will take something different than the default of threatened privileges and  frustrations expressed to bring V to the point that he really wants it to be different. That is the only change that really matters.

The PI lives for skype conversation on these trips. Ms. Connie reports today that she has found her long lost watch and went to see the new Michael Jackson movie with a friend Veteran’s Day. The Michael Jackson movie??? Wait until the PI finds the mother responsible for that one. You know who you are!  The PI didn’t get the full review, but C was quite critical in the capsule version.

After speaking to each child for a few minutes, the PI yearned for moments of soothing conversation with his wife, who would, depending on her mood, sympathize with the tribulations of the PI, alone in a nice hotel in Lisbon. But, alas, there was to be not even feigned sympathy. The little dears immediately underwent the predictable transformation into vile heathens that occurs the minute that the single parent begins speaking into the phone. For werewolves, it is the moon. For children–at least these children–it is the single parent on the phone.  Before the transformation resulted in bodily harm, Liz calmly excused herself from the call and turned to restoring order.

Lisbon is a delight, a city worth visiting and revisiting (he says, after 36 hours here). November is apparently the worst weather month of the year, but the PI has had two very pleasant days here. Yesterday, after shaking off jetlag with a little nap, he went into his “wander and discover” mode, having left his travel book at home. W & D usually brings dismal results, but this time he stumbled on the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. The PI found it by wandering into what looked like a cute little park in the middle of lots of busy streets. A fan of the Public Garden back home, he couldn’t resist it, especially after emerging from Lisbon’s banking district.

museum groundsIt turns out that it was a park, owned and maintained by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which lives off the money of an Armenian oil magnate who was one of the richest men of the 20th century…anywhere. This intriguing character was one of the first people to see the potential of Middle Eastern oil.

 

In any case, the PI didn’t see his collection…yet. He got only as far as the little cafe next to the Bibiloteca de Arte, where he had a very pleasant lunch on a terrace overlooking the gorgeous grounds. All this right in the middle of the city! It has very much of that Public Garden feeling of a small piece of protected ground in the middle of the encroaching buildings. The PI claims that he didn’t go into the museum because he feared that the jetlag would not let him concentrate on this amazing private collection of art and artifacts, but we know that, in truth, not knowing that he was in the most loved of Lisbon’s dozens of museums, he was too cheap to pay the 6 euros or something to get it.

The AlfamaToday, the PI spent much time in meetings about THE JAMBOREE, but he did put off a meeting with the Serbian delegation to take a walking tour of The Alfama, the oldest part of the city and the emotional heart of  fado, the unique combination of strings and lilting voices for which so many no Portugal and the Portuguese.This was definitely Tourism 101 for the PI, but he still managed to get lost at least 10 times during the 2 hour walk. No matter, it was worth the trip. Steep cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, old and new and  fabulous views of much of Lisbon and the Tagus, the massive river that marks the city’s spot in the world.

The knees protested much more vigorously than the U.S. public has protested the last round of banking bonuses, but the PI eventually made it to the Castelo San Jorge . This is the sort of tourist place where the PI could have brought a good book and spent the afternoon. Can it be that the main wall was built by the Visigoths in the 13th century? The place doesn’t look a day over 500 years old!

The PI is going to feel that old, and more, if he doesn’t get to bed. The JAMBOREE starts, in earnest, tomorrow.

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