24 October 2011

Hanging Around Lisbon

Hanging around Lisbon are ham legs and trolley lines. Up the steep, narrow, cobbled streets roll the yellow cars packed to the brim and oft decorated with less artistic examples of the city’s ever present graffiti. The restaurant windows are crowded to the gills with fresh fish, skewered squid and tanks of live crustaceans ready to be served, all displayed under a raised curtain of presunto. In some cases, the seafood and ham are almost touching. A string of dried garlic acts as a dividing line.
Hanging around Lisbon are motorcycles and drying laundry. You can get a glimpse at the interior life of a building through its hanging clothing and parked bikes. A family of four lives here, a man lives alone there. Laundry is hanging every. Always well wrung out, there’s never a drip from above.
Hanging out their windows in Lisbon are old women. If you smile or wave, they’ll return the gesture with equal enthusiasm. If they see you from their height. In the Bairro Alto, they watched street cleaners clear away the thick layer of discarded beer bottles from the night before – or the wee hours of the morning. In Belem, they watched the train arrive and the sun set behind the bridge. In Alfama, they took in fresh air – their radio waves emanating from the opened windows.
Hanging around Lisbon are newspapers and the men that buy and carry them. The papers are kept close, always - rolled up under their arms as they light a cigarette, flattened up against the wall as they fork at a sweet in the pasteleria, piled up with the others as a group of men play dominoes or cards. Hung up on the doors of paper shops, they announced Qaddafi’s death. Faded, posting up the windows of long-closed stores, the headlines were far less recent.
Hanging around Lisbon are pigeons – lots and lots of pigeons. Here, they watched a political rally going on in the square. On the ground, they scare, amuse, engage little children. Pigeons are something I remembered from my first trip here, in the winter of 2007. This time of year, domesticated bird friends hung around, too. Parakeets in cages were set outside of balconies to chirp responses to pigeons and radio hosts alike.
Hanging around Lisbon are holdovers from a summer that hasn’t quite ended yet. Outdoor tables are still favored over indoor ones. Along the water, public space is set up for lounging. A café nearby had a pile of multi-colored beanbags ready to be dispersed to the evening crowd.
Hanging around Lisbon are daily menus - whether a chalk or marker board, a print out or a piece of paper with a few words scrawled on it by the chef. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a note reading “Today, we have sardines.” Other times, it’s a long list separated into meat and fish, outlining the contents of the cooler sitting next to the grill. Each day, different restaurants seem to highlight the same things – a common understanding of what was best and freshest at the morning market.
Hanging around Lisbon are a number of these little vehicles. Yeah…. I have no idea, either. I do know that I really like this city and would be more than happy to keep hanging around.

No comments:

Post a Comment