god took the pot called the iberian peninsula and stirred muslim austerity into all that catholic decadence. fish scales and sand were sprinkled over it all before it was baked in the sun and served back to the people on smooth tiles and rusted hulls.

it's hard to tell the difference between lived and visited. some people say "I lived there for 6 months" but i dont often hear people say "I lived there until I saw someone born," or "I stayed there until I got sad." maybe you live in a place only once you've had sex as the sun rises, or eaten the best fish in your life, or skinned your knees on the beach climbing over rocks, or watched the full moon rise, or walked in the rain in the morning. or maybe you don't really live in a place until you're determined not to go back to wherever it was you came from. or maybe you've lived in a place once you can speak the local language well enough to tell a joke or insult a fellow driver.

my little life in portugal started in lisbon. i wandered around on the tiled shiny streets for three days, sort of aimless and lost among the vowels of the language. after eating fish soup for three days i rented a car with what money i had left and put my old surfboard on the roof. i drove up the coast to a small town set on a cliff named Ericiera. i found a cheap place to stay and returned the car that afternoon. i took the bus back with my final 2. that was the last of my money. after that i really lived in portugal, even though it was only for three weeks.

i am, once again, poor and so i have to invent more these days (money robs me of necessity, and imagination).

a beautiful woman and i shoplifted 'maracuja' tang mix (i think that's pineapple), chocolate candy bars, and lemon dish soap. the next day we stayed in bed until the sun was high, and played dungeons and dragons (V3.5) on the computer until 3am.

once i got some money we drank in an irish pub with friends until dawn.

we watched the sun set over the ocean and i played my concertina to the waves while all of portugal sighed, listless, and impoverished upon the beach. she is so old and so deeply beautiful that you feel like you might split in half under the glorious weight of it all. it's that same pain that you get in your face when you've smiled too much, but through your whole body and soul.

as i said; i am, again, poor. but portugal is rich and so things like money and time - anything that involves numbers, really - doesn't matter; this is how one can become rich by association. this kind of wealth has nothing to do with things that matter.

first there was lisbon.

lisbon is marked by statues and monuments everywhere. after all, it was one of the centers of imperialism for many centuries. this means that the city is proud and beyond its time, like an old soldier that still wears his medals even though he's retired.

the portuguese are sad and determined. they work more hours than any other european country, but they don't make a lot of money.

second there was Ericeira.
i've been in this apartment for three weeks.

the other day i found some fishing line and old hooks and a bobber tangled up on the beach and so i took it back to my apartment and pulled out my pocketknife and untangled it all. i cut it up into a new fishing contraption and went back to the beach and fished for "sardinia." i think these are sardines, but they are bigger and tastier than the sardines i've eaten before.

this morning an old man showed me how to fish with a rock and some cheese. one method was to wait until you see the fish, toss sprinkles of cheese in and hit the fish nearest the surface with the rock. i feel like a 12 year old, doing this. it's like killing birds with a slingshot. fortunately, this fishing technique didn't work well; my first throw missed and i just alerted the school of silvers to my evil intent and they never gave me a second chance.

i learned to properly pray.

we visited a small plaza where thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of sparrows gather each night and put up such a ruckus that you can't hear your lover suck on your ear. you have to shout over the bird.party. all these birds screaming and chattering. it even smells like birds there, during sunset. i don't know what they have to talk about, like this. they're just screaming and shouting, just like people in a noisy restaurant.

i have found six kittens on a cliff above the beach. they are learning to climb out of the box someone left for them. i haven't seen their mother for two days.

third was Sintra. this was where the kings of portugal would travel for their summer vacations.

i saw it only for an afternoon of tourism. it is an exquisite combination of halloween and LSD; gargoyles, arrow slits, and peepholes stare at you, secret passages wind around you, and there are small courtyards of unexplainable architecture, as if it is a kind of maze, but one that was designed not to confuse, but to calm. it is made of bright colors that are drenched in deep, medieval mist.

it would be perfect for doing long-term psychological damage to small children that were at least topically familiar with king arthur, hansel, gretel, and disney.

not having children around to abuse i instead harass four women and a group of school kids and manage to get them to smile. cameras are handy that way. since i don't speak portuguese i just shout crappy spanish.

then again, maybe they are laughing at me because i am saying things like, "thank you stand here now for picture!"

i have no idea who these people are.

then again to Lisbon.

two days later i left for Amsterdam.