Our Store

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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My Favorite Day

It’s a bit pathetic, yesterday was my most favorite holiday EVER, and I didn’t even notice. I didn’t flip open the Portuguese newspaper, I didn’t reflect or write, I didn’t salute a beautiful event in the history of the world. I just kept repeating the date to myself like an old man losing his mind: 25 of April. 25th…. April… 2o plus 5. And only now, after receiving an email from my father, do I realize why the date echoed in my head. It’s the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal. April 25th 1974… 31 years ago.

31 years ago a country that had lived under decades of dictatorship, torture, and lies, awoke from a long slumber. Led by the armed forces, who were tired of fighting brutal colonial wars, people took to the streets. The tanks rolled down the streets of Lisbon, but not with the intention of killing. In the barrels of their weapons, carnations, what would become the symbol of the revolution and later, the socialist party. A symbol that stood for peace, democracy and human rights.

People tend to say that it was one of the few bloodless coups in the history of the world. Though that’s somewhat true, people did actually die on that day, when the murderous secret police opened fire from their headquarters, on the singing masses outside. But beyond that, the revolutionaries successfully booted out the dictator and the fascists behind them. They demanded socialism (their form of it) and a society opened to the world.

Of course, 31 years later, it’s pretty telling that even a fairly intellegent boy like myself forgets to celebrate. My generation doesn’t really notice or remember. They see Portugal and it’s many problems, and don’t feel much like cheering. The reality of the situation is that the global economy hasn’t worked to well for the average citizen. Quality of life is good for some, but everyone knows it’s far below what it could and should be. The ideals of the revolution were discarded along the way, the political class has firmly implanted itself, complete with the same ol rhetoric of empty promises and populist ideals.

Still, as is clear from my post last year, I love allowing myself to get caught up in the romance. Because it must have been an amazingly romantic time. Everything I read and watch about that time oozes hope and passion about the future. Who doesn’t like feeling that?

Feliz 25 de Abril Portugal. O povo é quem mais ordena.

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Low Budget Blows

Remind me to tell you my plan for getting together a bunch of young kick-ass laywers to take all these low budget airlines like RyanAir and Transavia to the European Court of Justice and sueing them for violations of my traveler rights and fraud. It doesn’t count as Brussels, Stockholm, or Rome if the airport is 2 HOURS away from the actual city! Yet they advertize cheap ass flights as if it were true. If you come to Europa, stick with the quality airlines or else Easyjet – cause they still do it with real airports.

Here I sit in Umea, which is a one hour flight north of Stockholm. I saw piles of snow, but the weather is spring-like for Scandinavian standards. So far so good. Stockholm was city-ish yet small, but I’ll really get to know that place on thursday. For now I’m here amongst the academics and enjoying all the loving care I get as a gust in this particular house. There was a bit of a party here tonight and I met lots of cool Swedes, but also a great Iraqi couple and a fantastic Brazilian with whom I had crazy insane discussions with. We’ve concluded the answer to life might lie in Portugal, eventually. Write that down somewhere. He also gave me this quote which I find bloggable:

“Sweden is the best place in the world to raise children! But I’m not a child! (So get me out of here)”

So maybe, just maybe, you want to see me live streamed on the internets, as I give my talk about podcasting! Exciting says you? Well, you can find out, 7:15am EST / 13h15 CET, it’s available via the HUMlab blog, I hope.

Oh, and lucky me to have the German Phrase of the Week, the new pope guy is German!

My own photos tomorrow, I promise… i think.

Today’s Sounds: Swedish countryside?

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Throw Up

Sometimes on saturday I like blogging a family story. Tell you bout my parents and life in Newark when I was a kid. Or maybe bout a journey I took in Portugal, Spain, or whatever. I’ve got lots of those. I know not everyone gets that chance, I know I’m lucky. But actually I lost the train of thought, for one reason tonight:

I’m watching this We Were Soldiers movie. Did you see it? Maybe not. It’s got me close to throwing up. The part where a bunch of the soldiers are caught in the bombing line and they’re all charred and burning alive, and then the journalist tries to lift one of them by his legs. The guys legs are all black, like bar-B-Q, and when he goes to grip the tar colored ankles, the flesh falls right off. You see the muscle tissue and the bone, and the journalist has fists full of flesh… I’m on the couch clutching my stomach, and you tell me what the fuck was it for? War is the stupidest ritual the earth has ever known. Maybe dumber then all the mass murders, rapes, environmental dumpings, political scandals, money laundering, child abusing…

I don’t know if you can make a scale like that, but if you could, war would be on top. The worst of the worst. The most inhuman and pointless. TAKE THAT HILL. CONTROL THAT RIDGE. FLANK THAT FLANK THIS. WIN THE BATTLE. DIE FOR YOUR COUNTRY. What the fuck for?

I got an idea. Don’t do it. When you get the order. don’t. If you’re the “enemy” disobey. If you care about FREEDOM or SAFETY… Walk away. Go to jail. Suffer the punishment. Cause there cannot be anything worse then killing or being killed on the so-called battlefield.

The pope is dead. Whooptey do. They pray in Saint Peters and everwhere. The cameras are there. Yet all over the world there are wars… little.. big.. war. Skip the praying… everybody go there and stand in the fucking way! Hold hands like its a hippy event and stand there unarmed.

Stupid idea? Well… can’t be any dumber then the idea that carrying weapons and shooting other humans is important for your future. If that’s the future, count me out. I’ll go hang with the Pope and Joe Strummer, cause you know those two are gonna hang.

Today’s Sounds: Faudel – Sumra

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