I´ve arrived in Sintra. It´s 2 in the afternoon. I apparently only bought a transportation pass for the area of downtown Lisbon and Dog House On Wheels Man informs me so, from behind the electric guard. Thus, he is in the process of meandering through the boarding electric guard with his two story dog house on wheels to get to me, all the way 2 meters away standing at the EXIT electric guard. He draws near, and out pops the head of a miniature white poodle. Toting an eccentric cotton candy-like hairdo, the old man cautiously tows his pride and joy along side and has draped a jacket on top of the two level mobile doggie condominium. He appears to be a wacky sage or modern shaman accompanied by his Tortoise bodied, Poodle headed Chimera of a Familiar. He´s showing a strange passcard to the electric guard, and he chaufeurs me through the emotionless chrome faces. I feel like Atreyu, tempting the scorning heat of the ever unwanted ocular attention of the gaurdian statues. The peculiar poodle chaufeur fares me on, and I am now stepping out onto the street in Sintra. Between this lovely quixotic old man, and myself narrating these events to my cell phone in his presence, something of comradery hangs in the damp sea breeze.”
I step into town and to my surprise there are small castles everywhere. Beautiful houses line the weaving hills and the historic old center looks freshly printed out of a fantasy book for an innocent time yet known to man. Truly, this is where tourists go to die. Even though Sintra is obviously a place where only the rich could live, it charms me to no end and yep, another one. Yep, every corner in this town is a little turret top castle that just charms the buttons off your mustard green cardigan. When I become an old man in two years, I want to have the pleasure of dreaming about talking pointless walks through the compactly arranged comfort of the dense nonchalant magic this town will forever symbolize.
Walking down the main street leading “downvillage”, I stop to admire the wonderful art sculptures that recount herstories of Portugal throughout the ages and the voyages. The articulate pathway leads to an open square with a white, twin peaked castle hanging out with a bunch of photo-goers. Behind the plaza, it looks like the wooded hill is about to overcome the town, if it hasn´t already taken over half of it so far. All barriers are overflowing with life, cascades of vining synthesizers awaiting the rain that comes. Like a danish royalty back in the day, this place has the luxury of letting it alllll hang out, and it hangs over the valley beneath the even more austerely luxurious castles and mansions atop the mountain. Diane, the gorgeous buildings cresting the hill above me have taken my breath away, and I´m going to retrieve it.”
I scale the back and forths of Sintras neighborly alleys and a wall printed incantation reminds me that “no one can dream for you”. Agreed, companion. Agreed. Diane, much of the graffiti around the greater Tagus river estuary seems to deal with dreams, aspirations, facing the unkown with relentless and obsessive zeal, and slyly confident anti-authoritarian inspirationals. Some independent folk round here, my friend. A sign to the left says, “moorish castle” and an old lady walks up the signless road on the right leading into the green. I guess, it´s obvious which way I should go now. The only difficult thing will be sneaking past the old lady into the apparently one way road into the who-knows.”
“Walking up the steep folded spiral ascent water streams down the side of the broken edged road feeding juicy mineral morsels to the vegetation slurping and lapping unhindered. The nature´s ambiance is strictly lascivious, and I´m not quite sure if its intents for me are altogether innocent. Even the road, the driveway gates, and the protective walls harbor seductive greens. None the matter, I´m on my way up to the top, making good time and making good appreciation of the chateaus and neatly nested fancy fantasias of hill houses that seem to anchor the lofty sky road on this couldn´t be happier hike.”
“It looks like it´s gonna rain, Diane, and a lovely young couple just informed me that its another half hour at least to the top. Rain brushes against my face and moistens my now sweaty sweatershirt as I hike up through timid clouds. Indeed, being in rain, is not the same as being rained on. Rain is not the same as raining. Rain…that beady phenomenon of balled humidity coalescing and birthing into a drop. Here, at this medium hieght, there is rain, but it´s not raining. Perhaps it´s waiting for me to finish.”
“I´ve made it, finally, to the castle up top. They´ve just closed everything up, and i´ve barely missed getting a chance to see inside the castles and mansions on the hill that I have come so far so quickly to see. I really don´t care about those things, really. Diane, I´m just happy to be random and on the go at the moment. I´ve also caught my breath back, for which I started this mounting after all”
“Wandering about the lushness, I´ve encountered a spirited girl with upward bundled thick dark hair revealing a lovely freckled smile. Jumping down from an Escher-esque stairwell she asked me where I was going. I told her I was going.
She looked down the hill and pointed to a path, “that´s ways downtown, ok? Bye!” Then she hopped away, the contents of her backpack chiming in with a jangly goodbye as well. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Diane, and today I´m beholding just about everything.”
“After getting back from Hucklberry in Wonderland, I found myself entirely worn out and decided to save the rest of Sintra for an entirely different trip. I´ll be coming back, some magical day. Now, I´m headed back into town – Lisbon – to check things out by night fall. Being friday night, tons of youth are boarding the train from the suburbs heading into the time of their lives.”
“It´s now nightime and I´m stereotypically having a pour of Port wine in a plaza, people watching. The table near me is a mustachioed man with circular black framed glasses writing on a piece of napkin from the kiosk, but clearly staring out into the stagnant and muddy oblivion and infinite restriction of his future. He just looked up at me, I think it´s best I narrate the rest of this, later.”
A street performer rattled awkwardly through the plaza after which the mustache master and I exchanged banalities. Then, I asked him,
–Who are you, again?”
“I´m just a nobody. A bookeeper, really. Just as well anyone other nameless soul, but you can call me Bernando Soares. And, what´s your name?”, he replied with the truth singular to heteronyms, or polytruths.
–“Huckleberry. Andrew John Huckleberry Grimm”, I told him. Afterall, that´s in a manner the most honest way I could reply his reply.–I worked hard past his peculiarly bleak exterior silence that reeked of rancid and rotting thoughts at the cusp of being exposed to the efficient recycling compost of expression ..and continued our conversation–
–What are you writing?–
“At this moment, when I almost overflow with feeling, I would like to have the wit simply to speak out and have as my destiny the capricious freedom of a style. But no, there is only the vast, remote sky slowly cancelling itself, and the emotion I feel – a mixture of many confused emotions – is nothing but the reflection of that empty sky in a lake within myself, silent as a dead man´s gaze, a hidden lake amidst tall rocks, in which the oblivious sky contemplates itself.”
–And, who are you, again?–
“I am the outskirts of some non-existent town, the long-winded prologue to an unwritten book. I´m nobody, nobody. I don´t know how to feel or think or love. I´m a character in a novel yet unnwritten, hovering in the air and undone before I´ve even existed, amongst the dreams of someone who never quite managed to breathe life into me.”
–In all my travels, I´ve not quite met someone who dialogues like you.–
“You want to travel? To travel you simply need to exist. …I find the idea of travelling only vicariously seductive as if it were an idea more likely to seduce someone other than myself.”
–You seem taken ill by the blithe languidness of truly strange content.–
“From the terrace of this café, I look tremulously out at life. i can´t see much of it, just the bustle of people concentrated in this small bright square of mine. Like the beginnings of drunkeness, a profound weariness illuminates the souls of things. Life, obvious and unanimous, flows past outside me in the footsteps of the passers-by. In this moment my feelings all stagnate and everything seems other than it is, my feelings a confused yet lucid mistake. like an imaginary condor, I spread my wings but do not fly. As a man of ideals, perhaps my greatests aspiration really does not go beyond occupying this chair at this table in this café.”
“I really need very little to feel content: the rain having stopped, the good sun of the happy South, some yellow bananas, all the yellower for having black spots, the people who chatter as the sell them, the pavements of the Rua da Prata, the blue touched with green and gold, of the Tagus beyond this domestic corner of the Universe.”
-Here, Diane, I realized he wasn´t talking with me, but merely speaking aloud as he wrote his thoughts down, look what comes–
“A day will come when I no longer see this, when the bananas by the side of the pavement will continue to exist without me, as will th voices of their canny sellers and the daily newspapers that the young lad has laid out side by side on the corner of the pavement opposite. I know they will not be the same bananas, nor the same sellers; and, for the person bending to look at them, the newspapers will bear a different day from today´s. Because they are inanimate, they remain the same even though their form may change; on the other hand, because I live, I will pass on yet remain the same.
I could easily consecrate this moment by buying some bananas!,
for it seems to me that the natural floodlight of the day´s sun has poured all of itself into them. But I feel ashamed of rituals and symbols, of buying things in the street. They might not wrap the bananas properly, they might not sell them to me as they should be bought. My voice might sound odd when I ask the price. Far better to write than dare to live, even if living means no more than buying bananas in the sunshine, as long as the sun lasts and there are bananas to sell. Later, perhaps…yes, later…another, perhaps…I don´t know…”
I´ve silently left the man to his business, but I feel terribly influenced by his character in the most delightful way. Sometimes people can mark and define a city. This man is one of those that changes landscapes. Well, I´m at the hostal, ready to get a good night sleep after an illuminating half moon day. It´s the usual here: international students preparing to party, random wayfarers taking an organized pause, mildly sociopathic german man talking to everybody, and a nice stranger joining me in the common room. We occupy linked couches forming an L shaped miracle: two energy spent youngins drinking herbal infusions while reading. I looked up once or twice while reading, “The Book of Disquiet” publishd posthumously by the spectacularly modernist Lisbon native and cosmically humorous writer by the name of Fernando Pessoa. Somehow I knew striking up a conversation with this lady would be much easier than with the mustachioed and bifocaled maestro I met in the kiosk-café terrace.”
Click here for Chapter 6: Dear Diane, Part 3..the last part..