For the month of February, each writer’s post will begin with the same line, which we’ve borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
To my wife, on six months—plus a few days—of marriage:
(all this happened, more or less).
Portuguesa 8/15/16 00:15:49
Dishes clank in the background as the middle aged bold-voiced woman sings Faro, accompanied by a single fingerpicking guitarist. The words are Portuguese, and if I remember correctly she was wearing a black shawl and came into the dining area with a single accompanist. No conversation was allowed? She had very intense eyes and bright red lipstick. We had a charcuterie board on the table and a bottle of wine. We had gone out early, making our American-ness even more awkward.
The Faro swings between melancholy and upbeat, deeply longing, and in the dark haziness of the evening it was wonderful. It is now too.
Drunken Portuguese Patron 8/15/16 00:02:23
He stepped up to the microphone swaying a bit, with a smattering of applause. Not bad, but certainly not good. Not quite an evening killer, but certainly not an evening enhancer. Anecdotally wonderful, musically mundane.
O Corvo 8/16/16 00:00:36
We open to street noise, and it’s full of sunshine, even in the recording. Twenty seconds in there is a crunching. And you ask how my sandwich is. O Corvo means the blackbird, we translated it, and there was a blackbird drinking a bottle of wine on the hanging wooden sign. Last week I saw that little napkin we saved from it, with our drunken blackbird, and it made me wish for the sunshine and the escape and small Portuguese cafes.
City Walk 8/16/16 00:00:51
Truck noises, or maybe just cars, it’s hard to tell. The brush of fabric and then a whistle, which I think is mine because I can only whistle in one or two tunes, which sometimes I catch you laughing about. I think the trams were yellow and the streets were crowded and we were certainly walking to that overcrowded beach to eat that overpriced gelato, which was wonderful also.
Ocean Music 8/16/16 00:01:04
There was a man playing the electric guitar. Not in the shredding at a heavy metal concert way, but in a stripped down oceanside melody. His slow tunes mingle with the gentle crashing of waves on concrete, briny Atlantic water with both modern city scum and old European beauty mixed together in the frothing tide, so really one was indistinguishable from the other.
New Recording 8/16/16 00:01:11
“Are you recording this?.. You’re recording this! I’m not an idiot.”
Then it sounds like something was thrown at me.
Time out Mercado 8/17/16 00:01:50
Muzak, clanging dishes, our conversation murmured, too far from the microphone to get anything but coughing. I remember you said that you wish you could share this place with all of our friends. I agreed, but I think we both secretly were glad it was just us together. Then I got mad because you stole my soup—which, in fairness I now remember saying we could share.
Oliver Tuk Tuk 8/17/16 00:13:36
I can hear how fast he drove that three-wheeled caravan over the cobbled roads, steeply pitched, brakes squeaking, and shouted, “Oh my God” in a valley girl accent to try to scare us. “Don’t worry! You are in Lisbon, with the best driver here.”
“Holy shit, Oliver is crazy,” we whispered.
He honked at other tuk-tuk drivers (“I know every tuk-tuk driver here”), his random opera singing, and how he proclaimed that his father was from Milano and his mother… from Brazil! All the girls loved him—the smart ones at least. Of course this was all according to him.
Wind and Moped 8/20/16 00:00:50
Fifty seconds of the wind whipping, a few tires screeching, nothing more, nothing more needed. Two days of slipping up the coast, of stinging sand, of white adobe buildings, of roadside pottery and fruit markets and of secret tidal beaches that everyone knows about. Somehow the motion of those two wheels lulled you to sleep and I was terrified you would let go and slip off the back while we were going sixty up a mountain road. I kept checking in the rearview mirror to make sure your eyes were open, and that may have been the most exhilarating wind of my life yet. Hopefully yet, but I wouldn’t mind if it was a while before that memory was replaced. Maybe it’ll speed off into the sunset and get overly expensive mojitos at a beachside bar and watch kite surfers silhouetted against the sun.
The Cork Convent 8/20/16 00:34:33
Some places are sacred and set apart. The Franciscans did that here. All thirty-four minutes are gentle trickles, the wind and the pines and how is it that a recording make me feel the tactile reality of old cork?
This old monastery is holy and even the recording knows that. It has a certain reverence about it in the harshness and the business of the world around it. I remember it felt inappropriate to take a picture, to hit record, to do anything but pray, as if generations of holy men zephyrously whispered for us to slow down. The rocks and the trees blended seamlessly into the mountainside and the overgrown historical fields and rough-hewn sheds spoke of something not simpler in a quaint, fetishized way, but of something simpler in a grander, divine way. Both intricately complicated and inordinately elemental, but mostly raucously divine in their gentleness.
Sun dappled and windswept we climbed to the top of a bouldered cross and lay back to watch the swaying of the trees.
Matt Medendorp (’14) graduated with a writing degree held together by duct tape and a few trips abroad. Currently he lives in Grand Rapids, works for Chaco, and claims to be producing a book of writing and photography from his time in Alaska.