It is anachronistic in the best and worst ways, this city. The stores that my grandfather could have walked out of 70 years ago, the old women clipping laundry to lines above the tourists’ heads, the whole fish served with its eyes staring your way. Though they still walk down the street carrying cell phones, little is fresh and new. Narrow walkways, cobblestones slick in the rain.
At A Baiuca they sing fado as if they really are sad women mourning their men gone to sea. Hands to heart, mouths open to plaintive o’s. All night one singer after another stepped in from the narrow lane to stand before us. The old man in a suit and tie, grandmother in a worn sweater, short skirted 20-something. They meant it, those songs, they meant every note. Even the large restaurant manager who bumped our table each time he passed. And especially Elvira, hair net and apron, plopping fresh decanters of wine on the table. She could barely keep from dancing all night. When she stepped to the front she crooned, then she led us in song. Maybe we weren’t tourists in 2015. Maybe we understood the words that she sang.
October 3, 2015