It’s December. I love this month.
Filled with holidays and birthdays — mine, my sister Carol, and my granddaughter Aayah. She in fact is yet to be born as of this writing (her mom goes in to be induced on my birthday, December 9. Yes, my #9 dream). Fingers crossed that all goes well. For her birth, but also for everyone, everywhere in these perilous times.
It is also the 37th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, one of the most influential people of the 20th century and one of my personal heroes.
Many people will be singing his idealistic anthem “Imagine” on December 8, and I have always loved it too. But a deep favorite will always be his “#9 Dream.” Spare, elegiac, and spiritually cryptic, the lyrics are a stream of consciousness, born in a moment in time. He sings while the melody drifts. And lingers. And haunts.
Last month Virginia and I took a trip half way across Portugal to the medieval town of Tomar. It’s a place so laden with history, secrets and mysteries it’s impossible to describe without having to refer to volumes of writings about it (Wikipedia’s page here, is a fascinating start). Instead, I took the easy way out and let a few photos and visuals try to give a feeling of what it was like to walk inside the long ago past.
Using John Lennon’s music in a place so Catholic and Christian may seem out of place at first. But if one knows anything of Lennon, he was a seeker and sought out truth and meaning wherever he was.
In this episode Aisha tackles preparing a Portuguese dourada (fresh caught Atlantic golden bream) for dinner, a trip to one of the most important private collections in the world (Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon), lunch in a hidden gem of a local restaurant, and a long, leisurely ride down the three kilometer boardwalk from Cascais to the beach at Praia da Poça, also known as São João do Estoril.
Every day I never tire of saying the same dang thing; “Isn’t this lovely?”
As the days of Aisha’ time with us come to a close, we see many beautiful sites and appreciate every one that passes before us. Doesn’t make knowing she will soon leave any easier. However. Que será, será, baby.
We set out to see the City. Not the pretty postcard shots and iconic landmarks that you can find on virtually every Lisbon photo ever taken. I have plenty of pictures of ancient buildings, grand architecture, plazas and fountains and hillside vistas. We wanted to get closer to the everyday lifeblood of old Lisboa. Since it’s August and the height of tourist season — feels like all of Europe has descended on Portugal — we couldn’t escape all the crowds, but were always on the lookout for the little alleyway, the path of least congestion, or the side track that might lead to a different perspective of this city’s place and time. Although friendly and always welcoming, Lisboa does not reveal all her secrets at once. She wants to get to know you first. This was Aisha’s introduction. They got along just fine.
If you are one of the very, very lucky ones in this unpredictable world, you may get to have someone like Aisha in your life. She exudes a love and appreciation of everything around her and emits a contagious vibration that works on everyone in her immediate vicinity. It’s like some kind of crazy smile virus. But don’t worry, this is something you definitely want to catch.
This place has fired my curiosity ever since we moved here. It’s instantly recognizable looking out from the train to Lisbon. What the hell are they doing in there? Unknown what? Artificial Intelligence? Extra dimensional travel? Galactic Alien Relocation Center? What’s going on? Turns out the Champalimaud Foundation (named after a wealthy Portuguese benefactor) is a world renown cancer research facility. I’m glad they’re doing good work there, but I’m a wee bit disappointed they didn’t quite fan the flame of my wild imaginings.
My curiosity built to the breaking point after I recently wrote a short science fiction play and entered it into a contest (The Future of Art). The intriguing theme of the contest is Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Conflict: How will AI change the nature of human endeavor? Sounded like a challenge to me so I answered it by lobbing a Molotov cocktail into the discussion. Hey, it’s what I do sometimes. A filmmaker pal thinks we should shoot it as a movie here.
Here is the animated view of the facility a full three years before it was built. Looks amazingly like the final product in real life.
Pretty cool, yes? Just another day in one of the world’s oldest cities that also happens to have it’s eyes sharply focused on the future.
If you are interested, let me know and I’ll email you a copy of the play; it’s a pretty quick read. And my take on the theme has to do with AI, self-aware robots and NDE’s (Near Death Experiences). Yeah, it’s that far out there, but as in a lot of sci-fi…is it?
An ancient neighborhood (‘bairro’ in Portuguese) beginning on top of a spectacular hill. The Alfama district winds down to the Rio Tejo in a labyrinthine series of narrow streets, alley ways and storefronts that are the epitome of the word ‘quaint.’ We took some visiting friends there and got a soulful glance into this eternally fascinating city.
A place of dark secrets amid swirling rumors. We snuck inside and roamed through an enchanting nightmare from the not-so-distant past.