November 12th, 2007


Back from Lisbon

Well. That was a very nice weekend. I'm sitting around sharing the glory of custard tarts from Casa Brasiliera with everyone and they're enjoying it. My boss's boss got port and Piri Piri sauce, so he's very happy.

Impressions: sunny and warm, more conservative than Italy and Spain, sort of a halfway point between Madrid and Tunisia. Too much meat on the menu, a horrible place to be a non-seafood eater (nearly had a comical incident when I thought I was going to order chicken and rice, not knowing "polvo" was octopus), great desserts. Coffee on patios (tea for me), cherry brandy sipped out of plastic cups on the plaza, five million kinds of port, all affordable. Hills, water, mist, tiles, balconies, ceramic cobblestones, songs coming through shuttered windows, hippies, ham sandwiches, hot soup, the flustered hostess at the fado restaurant, music floating across the water at the marina from the Cuban bar as we left to catch our plane.

We didn't actually do much touristy stuff, opting for relaxation and following impulses. This meant Friday evening we were lounging in the Port Wine Institute at 11 PM (after a rather heavy dinner of steak and lamb), trying not to make fools of ourself given that many, many options were available for one Euro a pop. Saturday we slept in as late as we felt like it, hit the Confeitaria Nacional for caffeinated beverages and pastry, then went to the Saturday market in the Alfama. Three hours, one lunch, and a few Christmas presents later, we were finally at the Castle, where we poked around and imagined and I spent rather a long time in the courtyard listening to a lovely guitar player.

That night was our Fado excursion, which I think was less successful than I might have hoped for; we happened upon some sort of ill organized amateur night, which meant I paid too much for a dinner I didn't really enjoy and had very little music to keep me engaged. Every other club seemed to be having the good party, and I was left jealous and frustrated (with the faint bitter flavor of "ripped off" in my mouth). Oh well, at least the company was good and pleasant to be around, and I guess my biggest regret was that nearly every place we walked by was shuttered at midnight. The Alfama just doesn't seem to stay open as late as I might have thought.

Sunday ... gosh, the weather was nice. All I wanted to do was laze around in the sun all day. After we took the Santa Justa elevator (and had a nice cup of tea at the top), we walked around the Barrio Alto, which was shut tight as a drum on a Sunday - no Cervejeria da Trindade, no viewing the ruins of the Carmelite Convent, no visiting any ceramics or book shops. This meant we had a free ticket to say, "Fuggedaboutit!" and run off to the aquarium. (Yay shadowdaddy and his enthusiasm for seizing the day.) We had a pleasant slacker lunch next to the River Tejo in some kind of cafeteria (they said) where he had a nice Portuguese beer and we split an order of soup and Argentinian steak (with rice, beans, and mango). Then we strolled on to the aquarium, where we watched penguins, a giant, scary sun fish (seriously, it was the size of a rowboat), a sea dragon, glow in the dark somethings, Pacific sea otters (aw! homesick!), cuttlefish, little owie jellyfish, a presentation of "behind the scenes" (with fish surgery - not much difference between being valued surgery-worthy citizen and frozen shark dinner as near as I could tell), and piles of other critters doing their thing, including piles of small children sitting in front of the gigantic tank and being very amusing. We finally gave up and headed back to the hotel and then the airport, sorry to leave, but well-relaxed and psyched about having nice 20 year old Tawny and yummy cherry brandy (and cheese! cheese! cheese!) when we got back to London.

Speaking of which, I only got about 7 hours of sleep last night due to the trains not running between Clapham and Putney (huzzah), so I may be staying in tonight and breaking into my treats rather than going to my movie ... or maybe I'll go out anyway!

PS: Nearly finished Connie Willis' Light Raid this weekend - ace!
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Say it again: Being thin really isn’t about health, anyway, but about social class and control.

Wow. Someone has finally printed the liberating editorial I've been waiting (weighting?) for. Let me quote this:

Being thin really isn’t about health, anyway, but about social class and control.

Social class and control, my lovely friends of many sizes. Look at the chubby little face in this user icon. This is the face of someone who is healthy and, if I read the rest of the article right, someone who is likely to live longer than someone who is my height but thin.

Weight has thus become a moral issue couched in health concerns. Got that?

I will quote a bit more:

"Two years ago, federal researchers found that overweight people had the lowest mortality rate of any weight group. Investigating further, they were able to link causes of death to specific weights. Obese people had more deaths from heart disease, they reported last week. And thin people? They had more deaths from everything but cancer and heart disease.

But there were 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight than would have been expected if those people had been of normal weight. This is what might politely be called the chubby category, with body mass indexes (a measure of weight for height) of 25 to 30. A woman, for instance, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs between 146 and 175 pounds."

Mind you, this is not obese (the weight when your joints start failing you, you know what I mean), and we've still got heart disease and cancer, but it's time to start looking in the mirrors and saying, "I look normal and healthy" and stop letting this freaking class/fashion/ CONTROL thing take our brains over. I have two friends in particular I'm aiming this thing for and I want you BOTH to look at yourselves and say, "I'm gorgeous just the weight I am."
Sea dragon

Don't think twice. Jacques Demi.

shadowdaddy and I went to the BFI to catch Jacques Demi's Pied Piper tonight. (I really liked the part where I could leave work in time to catch a 6 PM movie, an impossibility at $howboat, and it was also cool that we got served wine when we got there - whatever the reception was for, I was in support.) I'd read that the movie was in English and that it starred Donovan, but I didn't realize that he'd written all the songs.

Capsule review? MTV: The Lost Years. (The scene: Donovan, curly locks peeking out from a pointy leather hats, begins to sing as he strums his gaudily painted guitar. "You're sad, so sad. And that's kind of bad. But really, it's all so silly, because someone somewhere else, is even much more sad ..." Pan to 10 year old boy in crutches and Prince Valiant wig, looking thoughtful. Return to Donovan. Repeat.)

Anyway, while the acting may or may not have been bad, the dialogue certainly was, and we had no layer of French to protect us from its badness. The costuming was fun, the 12 year old bride was creepy, and the rats were very well trained.

In other news I've got a song on my mind that my friend Mary taught to me way back in the day. I think we might have sung it on the streets of New Orleans when we were busking for money.

And the muscles on both side of my right knee are sore from this weekend and all the climbing I did in Portugal. We'll see if it levels out. I figure either they're going to get really better or much worse, but at least it doesn't feel like someone is stabbing me in the kneecap with an icepick, so it COULD be worse.

Now J and I are sitting on the couch drinking the Port we bought this weekend (the 20 year old stuff) and he's watching Bob Dylan videos on YouTube, and it seems like it's been a very nice evening. He asked which Port he should pour, and before I could answer, he said, "Any port in a storm ..." Silly boy!