Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Some pics from Porto . . .

Stacey (cousin S) did not suddenly become a giant in Porto. This is a toilet in one of the local malls, for kids 8 and under. So cute!

And this one, I think, is actually in London . . .

Monday, February 27, 2006

Amigas no Porto (Girlfriends in Porto)

Today was a beautiful sunny day, complete with shopping (for sunglasses first off), walking in this fabulous city, coffee, grilled fish by the river, 30-year-old port to celebrate AC's 30th birthday (the port is an average age, blended from several harvests, her 30th birthdate is likewise kind of an average, since the actual day is Feb 29 and won't occur for another 2 years . . . ), good cheese and bread and bread baked with chori├žo, beer, crazy ornate coffee shops and close curved-ceilinged granite bars, and now coin-op internet, counting down inexorably.

Tomorrow AC heads home, her first European tour as a singer over. S and I move on to Lisbon, where we'll stay with friends and discover the charms of the Portuguese capital. I only stayed there one day years ago, and so I don't really have a good foundation to stand on when I say I didn't like it as much as Porto, so I'm going with an open mind and new eyes (S's) this time around.

I can't say I'm sorry that our travel will be by train.

*Update* I need to add that we also purchased a pitch pipe--the two things AC lost in her 10-day, 7 concert, 4 city, 3 country, 2 continent tour were the sunglasses and the pitch pipe. I will say this about instrument stores the world over: They're full of electric guitars, drums, and rock-and-roll nerds. These, a short-haired guitar-player type and a long haired head-banger type were flustered to be serving three hot American chicks, particularly when their machine wouldn't take AC's card and she had to pay cash instead, and then they didn't have change and had to run out and get some, and then they dropped it on the floor. We found the entire episode entertaining, however, and the pitch pipe was cheaper than in the US.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Whirlwind Vacation

I'm in Porto, Portugal right now, home to port, the lovely, generally deep red, fortified wine, and a former residence of mine. You see, several years ago (like 9? Maybe only 8 . . . I can't be bothered to really figure out since I've had 1/2 a bottle of wine plus a glass of port already . . . only been here about 6 hours but it's great . . . anyway, where was I? Oh yes) I spent about 3 months living here, taking intensive language classes and meandering around the city in my spare time. You'd think I would remember some of the streets, some of the intersections, the general lay of the land . . . but it doesn't seem that I do. Cousin S and I (S is the daughter of intrepid Aunt L of the Bangkok Oasis . . . which I would Hyperlink but this old version of IE doesn't seem to support such flights of fancy) wandered long and hard . . . and wetly, after awhile, when rain and hail poured briefly onto our heads, but I will say that we eventually found the Ribeiro district, down along the Douro, and had an excellent dinner of fish and soup and "couver", which is the non-negotiable charge for bread (that you may as well cheerfully eat because it's really good and you haven't had anything for hours), and a dessert with almonds and an eggy custard, then we also made our way back home and while it mayn't have been direct, it was in fact accomplished. Now how's that for a Henry Jamesesque sentence.
Our flight to here was relatively uneventful, particularly for the hour and a half that we were sitting, beyond departure time, either in the terminal or on the runway while I had to pee increasingly badly, so that was good. Minus the having to pee.

Anyway, the whirlwind is that S and I had two nights in London, one of which included an amazing, enlightening performance (hyperlink to come someday), now we're in Porto for three nights, then Lisbon for three, then S leaves and I have Porto for 2 and London for 2 and home.

And now my coin-op computer time is about to run out (coin-op! Who knew!), so off I go to bed.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Free Falling Anxiety

So it turns out my fear of flying, which came to full hyperventilating flower very recently, has really been messing me up. You see, I only returned from Thailand and the barely mentioned flight from hell across the Pacific in mid-December. It’s been just over two months, which seems to be enough time to get totally ramped up on adrenaline and whatever other chemicals go into fear, and not nearly enough time to get over said fear.

I’m starting to get over the fear—I don’t know if my body’s just used up all its chemicals or what, but in the last couple days I’ve actually found the fear response to be a little tedious. I mean, there’s evidently been so much fear in my heart that it’s turned into a sort of free-floating anxiety that, for the last couple weeks, had tinted every thing I do. For example, my new credit card came in the mail, with the sticker on it listing the 1-800 number you need to call to activate your card. “But what if somehow this letter has been sabotaged, and the number is for a crook and not the credit card company???” With considerable trepidation, I beeped in the number and activated my card. So far, so good. There have been others, though—What if I break my leg skiing? What if someone drives into me at 70 mph on I-5? What if the cleaners messes up my sequined dress? What if I’m five minutes late to my appointment for checking my contacts? All of these thoughts, and countless others from which I will spare you, have been racing through my mind with increasing density as I approached today, the day of my next intercontinental flight. You can probably see why I’m beginning to find the whole fear thing tedious, boring even. In fact, I slept better last night than a couple previous nights, and this morning I woke up feeling pretty normal. Really, if I were leaving in a week, I’d probably be fine.

I do have a sizeable arsenal to help me through the flight, however. I recently acquired an iPod nano, and boy does it rock. I have 24 hours of story, read by the deep, musically soothing voice of Frank McCourt, and about 3 days of music in genres including classical, jazz, Dave Matthews, Sting, accordion (in case I miss Ian too much), and general rock, as well as 20 pictures of friends, relatives, dogs, friends dogs, and horses. I also, thanks to my dear sweet brother, am the proud owner of a pair of noise-reducing headphones. So far I’ve only tried them with Ian’s car on a wet day (boy is that a noisy ride) and the vacuum. They’re pretty darn cool. My mother-in-law slipped me four of the anti-anxiety pills she uses when she flies; my own mother recommended Vitamin C (she’s right though, it is a cure-all) and gave me a book her entire book group pronounced profoundly terrifying and riveting. Heck, if I can be scared of something other than the turbulence . . .

With the cheapness of my ticket, I fear I’m going to be in one of the middle seats in steerage on the British Airways 747, but my grandmother pointed out that at least I would have two hands within easy reach if I got scared and needed to squeeze the life out of someone. “You tell them Grandma said you could,” she told me.

Regardless, I’m very much looking forward to the trip, which encompasses London, Porto, and Lisbon, all places I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my past. I’ll be traveling for the first week or so with my cousin, and we’ll get to visit friends. The real reason I’m going now, though, in February, is the international singing debut of Anne-Carolyn, who’s been singing the socks off audiences in Atlanta and New York, as well as rubbing shoulders with only slightly more famous musicians (it’s only a matter of time, AC).