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August 2006

Cod, Jesus Boxes and Super Bock.
i'm an uncultured idiot | Monday, 08.28.06
See, you can tell I was trying to be artistic with this picture because I turned the camera sideways.
I just got back from Portugal, and I'm having a hard time readjusting to the American way of life. Just being there for a week was enough to make me forget how we do things over here. My friend's wife is Portuguese, and after getting married in the US in July, they decided to do it all over again in Portugal for the thousands of cousins, uncles and townsfolk that couldn't make it to the states. My friend (let's call him Joe because that's his name) half-jokingly asked if I'd like to tag along, and I replied by swiping my credit card across his face in an attempt to purchase plane tickets as quickly as possible.

Knowing nothing about the country aside from their love of cod and my love of those little custard pastry cups that I shove down my throat whenever I visit the Portuguese section of Newark, I decided to do some research. Unfortunately my thirst for knowledge lasted about thirty seconds because I realized that researching a foreign country involved multiple google searches, reading, and wearing fancy hats (of which I had none). So, I rationalized my laziness by turning it into a positive vacation characteristic: Knowing nothing about the country will make it more fun! said my brain. I'm much too busy to -- It's like this, that and this and uh / It's like that and like this and like that and uh / It's like this -- much too busy to look up... uh, whatever I was going to look up before. Ooh, porn! Stupid piece of shit brain.

Regardless of how many wikipedia articles I didn't read, nothing could have prepared me for the laid back, chillaxed, "let's eat dinner for the next five hours" attitude of Portugal. It was awesome. Joe's wife's family lives in a very small town, complete with dirt roads, tiny cafes and friendly old folks that do nothing besides pray all day long and kiss the strange Americans that were vacationing in their town. We spent a lot of time at the cafe, ordering rounds of Panaché, Super Bock and espresso. See, you can't order a cup of coffee in Portugal, they only serve espresso. You think Americans drink a lot of coffee? We've got nothing on the Portuguese and their love of espresso. I think my American friends and I held up pretty well, but I won't be passing anything even remotely solid from my ass for the next three to four months.

Here are some random observations because I don't feel like writing cohesive segues.

Driving. You're a big American badass on the road, right? You've got your truck nuts and your Yosemite Sam mud flaps and you laugh at the sight of tiny Volkswagen Gulfs and Ford Focuses. That's cool. You will die a thousand times on the streets of Portugal. They will swarm around your car like espresso-filled locusts, forcing you into roundabouts and up mountains and down flights of stairs in tiny back alleys until you're left a quivering, twitchy mess of a human being. And that's just the local roads; highways are similarly insane. Yielding for oncoming traffic at a highway entrance? What are you, gay? Just go go go get the fuck out of the way I must get to the cafe and church obrigadro ciao! Thankfully I can't drive stick, so I was excused from vehicular duties on this trip, which was good for all of us. I want my friends to leave Portugal sitting comfortably on a plane, watching PG-rated in-flight movies. Not stuffed in drippy pine boxes in the overhead.

Give us this day our heavenly box.
Jesus Boxes. I'm sure this happens to you a lot - you're maneuvering your manure cart down a cobblestone road when all of a sudden you realize that you've gone thirty minutes without praying. Now what? Unfortunately, it's too late for you, and your soul will burn in the fires of hell for the rest of your eternally damned afterlife. But, you should still stop by one of the local Jesus Boxes just to show your face. The little villages in Portugal are filled with Jesus Boxes, which are, as the name implies, large stone boxes filled to the brim with Jesus. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of them, and chances are you'll be struck dead by holy lightning if one of the creepy Jesus mannequins catches you swinging dead cats on a day of worship. We had one right in front of the house we were staying at, which I guess was there to protect us from evil spirits, but I'm sure we sullied the sanctity of the Jesus Box just by calling it a Jesus Box. Anyway, my American counterparts and I came up with a moneymaking scheme involving Jesus Boxes that will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams... I'm not at liberty to go into details at the moment, but let's just say it involves inflatable Jesus Boxes. Well, ok, that's pretty much it, the details are built into the name itself. It's a Jesus Box that you can inflate during those unexpected unholy moments, like that time you forgot to hail Mary before vacating your bowels or that time you sodomized and killed that child model in Colorado a few years back. Just whip out your deflated Jesus Box, blow that sucker up and -POOF- sins are forgiven. We will rule Portugal with an iron fist.

Nightlife and other stuff. Not surprisingly, nightlife in Portugal is similar to nightlife in the states. You go out to a bar with your friends, check out the scene, drink an unidentifiable liquid from a giant trophy, attempt to order drinks in another language, accept drinks from a stranger who only knows four words of English ("Gin and Coke" and "Hooray" when you shake your head in approval), stagger down a ramp while loudly berating disabled Portuguese veterans, and then go to a gas station afterwards for hamburgers. Maybe one of the best hamburgers you've ever eaten. With the slice of ham and the fried egg and all the fixin's. And it's not the best hamburger you've ever eaten because you're drunk and you're eating at a gas station at 4 o'clock in the morning -- it's good on its own. Oh, and don't worry about the extremely flammable liquids that one usually finds at a gas station... feel free to light up a cigarette or twelve after you've finished your hamburger. It's considered rude if you don't. Portugal is awesome like that. We went to place called Cabo da Roca, which is the westernmost point of the European mainland. If you accidentally tripped off the edge of the cliff, you'd drop 460 feet and your body would turn to pudding upon impact with the Atlantic. No guardrail, no park ranger, not even a sign with a picture of stick figure plummeting to its death. That's the way they found it, and it's too bad if your child or 157-year-old grandma accidentally dies during your vacation. Portugal keeps it real as fuck.

So, all in all, it was a successful vacation, and here's why: I saw real stuff. Sure we did the tourist thing, but most of our time was spent in the cafe with the locals, or dinner with friends and family, or just sitting around doing nothing in a strange place.



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