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I can smell the stench of old beer and urine already, it is Queen’s Night here in Amsterdam, the eve of one of the messiest, nuttiest, look-i’m-wearing-my-orange-shirt days of the year. But let’s leave that for tomorrow, today I’m telling a story from my childhood:

Growing up in Newark, my parents had a store in the Ironbound (Portuguese section). As far as I can remember, this store sold – generally speaking- Portuguese things. I remember records, shirts, table cloths, and oddly enough- large virgin mary statues. The store was called Voz de Portugal (voice of portugal) and everyday afterschool that’s where I would be, in the back room watching cartoons and building McGuyver like objects out of the spare radio parts I found. Oh yeah, we had a homemade recording studio in the back where we would record a weekly radio show for the Portuguese Community.

The one thing I remember about this store, was that it really wasn’t about selling things. It was a front. Not for drug running or money laundering – oh no… it was a community center. I remember everyday the same old men and women would come in looking for my mom or dad, always toting letters in English that they just couldn’t understand. Tax forms, green card renewals, letters from that dam phone company – they brought them all for my parents to transcribe. Often times the regulars wouldn’t bring any letters at all, they would simply bring the problems of the day. Or maybe some gossip from the neighborhood.

While at the time I didn’t think anything of it, and just kept doing my McGuyver thing, looking back, I still carry the lessons I learned then. Like my parents, I too specialize in helping random fish at the fishtank with their life problems. Even if I’ve got tons of things to do, I still put it aside, and help the frustrated international student understand the letter from Canal+ or the foreign police. Only one difference of course, after they leave, in my mind, I’m completely fed up with this inability to say NO.

I digress, the Voice of Portugal was an amazing place to grow up.

Oh and rumor has it BlondeButBright‘s blog is all the talk in Minnesota.

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