domingo, 12 de julho de 2020

Version 2.069

Today, I laughed so much at one of my jokes that I cried. I was talking to one of my girlfriends who is very much into mystical things and talks about EFT and ho'oponopono. It sounds tropical, but I had never heard of it. Well, EFT reminds me of ETFs and I know what those are, but EFT not anything financial, so I'm not even going to bother looking it up.

Anyway, there she was telling me about cleansing the energies and our thoughts and using japamala for ho'oponopono--I have no ideas what that means--, so I just replied that I was so happy that it had worked out for her. And I added that I just used a vibrator or a finger. What else can one say? Plus, I try to never miss an opportunity to crack a joke and laugh.

This weekend so far, I have managed to read quite a bit: I started a book and even finished one of Miguel Torga's diary volumes. I can honestly say that I am not a very good fiction reader and I much rather prefer essays, biography, journals. One of the books that I most enjoyed reading was "Dangerous Liaisons, and I suppose that part of it was the fact that it was written as a chain of letters. It is one of my most cherished books and I have the copy that I originally read, almost 30 years ago.

My small air-conditioner is not working properly, so the technician is coming over tomorrow. I know, it's a Sunday, but I did tell him that it was not urgent. We shall see if it needs to be replaced I am not feeling it, although it would be nice to have a unit that was a bit quieter.

sábado, 11 de julho de 2020

Version 2.068

Today was report day and I did get stressed out enough about it that I got the beginning of an anxiety attack. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and feel very small. It's part of the thrill, I supposed, plus I do not get nervous over anything else hardly.

When I was a child, I lived in constant social anxiety mode. I could not talk to people, I could not ask for directions or greet people, I could not call a stranger on the phone. Every time I needed to do anything like that, I would hold my breath and count to three, then count a second time, until finally doing it. This whole ritual of dealing with anxiety seems so foreign now, like it was not even me. It dissipated after I moved to the U.S.

Today's anxiety is slightly different. I revisit everything in my head wondering what I may have missed, looking for systematic errors in the analysis. It is similar to what I did after exams, when I would go over the exam after taking it and correct it in my head. I would know exactly which questions I got wrong. How can one know, somewhere inside of us, that it is the wrong answer and still make the mistake? That is why I obsess over it again and again, overanalyze, and overthink everything. That is the only way that you can get better, but it does make you look like you lack in spontaneity.

We had over 65 thousand cases of coronavirus today in the U.S. The economy continues to open, but people are being more careful because the numbers are so grim. I spoke to one of my friends and she nows wears a mask all the time while at work. In May when I spoke to her as e were coming out of lockdown she said she wore it sometimes only, when she interacted with people. I have not seen her since before Christmas and I was not with her on her birthday, so I still have her presents from both occasions. She asked me if I had sewn a mask for her as a present, but I have been too lazy to sew.

Julian wanted to ride in the car today, so we went for a very long drive. I stopped by my hold house to check on the hostas that I planted years ago. They are big now and look pretty. The garden does not look well kept and the neighborhood has lost trees, which is not surprising considering that some of the trees were very large and looked old. We have had some powerful storms recently.

I loved the garden in that house. It was shaped as a triangle and around the fence, which formed a long V, there was a strip of overgrown vegetation and small trees that covered the fence itself. When you walked outside, you felt like you were on the edge of a forest. The window on the breakfast nook fced east and occupied the whole wall. I could sit at the table with a cup of tea or coffee and just stare outside for hours. I do like my current house better, but I miss the other garden.

After stalking the house, we went to Shelby Farms and strolled along Hyde Lake just for a bit. It was very hot and there were so many people out, many of them scattered on the grass in chairs and on picnic blankets. We are very lucky here in Memphis because we have lots of public parks full of lush vegetation and bodies of water.

On our drive, we took Massey Rd, which is one of my favorites in East Memphis, between Poplar Pike and Quince Rd. That neighborhood is just stunning. There are coves along Massey full of mature trees that perfectly frame the houses. The effects of light and shade, the different tones of green, everything feels quite magical.

sexta-feira, 10 de julho de 2020

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My nephew finished 12th grade today. So happy for him. This week we decided that he would get his driver's license this summer, so I committed myself to paying for driving school. I asked for the bank account number to transfer the money and someone from the school sent a text message with an account number, which my nephew forwarded to me. It did not look proper and professional, so I made him ask the school to send an email with the number and the letterhead from the school. Then I told him "Tens de exigir que as pessoas sejam professionals. Portugal tem de ser um país a sério."

I relay this because I am profoundly disgusted with the character of a lot of people in Portugal. I'm not even talking about the driving school personnel. I am talking about politicians and other people in high positions who display no sense of decorum. This week, the newspapers decided that they were going to publish stories about corruption and favoritism. One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, when such stories are based on public records of more than a year ago, but there are more recent, too.

It is hard to not smell the distinct rottenness that has taken over the Portuguese Republic. Even the President gives speeches that are similar to those of the dictatorship and the Prime Minister's Twitter account makes patriotic exhortations that would have made post-25/4 society cringe, but that now are ignored because -- it appears -- no harm, no foul.

But, of course, I live in the United States, as my Portuguese friends remind me, and the measure of rottenness here is the American people having elected Donald Trump. My friends conveniently forget that the more than half of the electorate that did not vote for him has spent the better part of over three years trying to get rid of Trump and trying to hold him accountable.

I am beginning to have a particular fondness for people like Trump--all they care about is money and themselves; it may not be noble, but it is logical. The ones I don't get are the leaders who remain poor, while covering illicit enrichment around them. That to me makes no sense, especially in country that loses its standing in the world and actively participates in a process of impoverishment.

quinta-feira, 9 de julho de 2020

Version 2.066

Today was so intense at work, that I sometimes forget what's left and what's right. I have to double check things all the time when I get that tired. But I am not complaining. I enjoy what I do so much, even the challenges are good. It is a great privilege to be paid for being curious and willing to experiment. I do not take it for granted at all. The last time I was unemployed, I got really depressed. I don't know why that happened because I had prepared so well for that possibility.
I reduced my expenses to the bare minimum, liquidated assets, and saved as much money as I could.

My unemployment insurance paid $496 per week, which was the maximum allowed in TX and enough to pay the rent, but I assume most people would make much less than that. The rest of my expenses, including my health insurance, I could cover with my savings and I still had plenty of money left when I found a job three months later. I have always understood that the United States has a lot more risk, but that is why we can make more money and pay fewer taxes. Nothing is a given here. If you plan things, you can get ahead most of the time. But you have to be methodic and there is a fair amount of luck involved.

With this pandemic, Congress is supplementing health insurance with $600 a week. Many states pay less than half that in unemployment insurance, so it's like tripling your benefits and Congress is considering whether to extend support longer. One must admit that for a country with a weaker social net than most, the U.S. has been rather generous and supportive of those that got affected. But there are still others that fall through the cracks and will need to be helped in some other way.

Over the last year, I visited the Crystal Bridges Museum several times. There is a sculpture that I particularly like and that I photographed in one of my visits. It's a life size rendition of men waiting in line for bread during the Great Depression. It is from 1991, but it could have been contemporaneous. At the American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C., there is a whole section on paintings that were done when the Federal Government commissioned artists to document the struggle of the American people during the Depression.

That is one of the things that I like about the U.S.: they show themselves and the world the less presentable side. No miracles here, just people starving and needing a loaf of bread.

quarta-feira, 8 de julho de 2020

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My housekeepers, two very nice nice ladies from El Salvador, came by today and having the house clean and slightly more organized makes me feel better. Julian was so happy to see them and they just think he is a great dog, my little charmer. When they were leaving, one of the ladies told me that she always talks about Julian at home. And to think that someone abandoned this dog...

I received a most unexpected message from a British man. Over 25 years ago, while in high school, he had done an exchange program in Portugal and I got to meet the group of students, since they became friends with my sister. At the time, I was already in college and, for some reason, he liked me and was very charming, so much so that when we said goodbye he kissed me. Although that was not my first kiss, it was very likely my best. Not only was it unexpected, but it had such tenderness that I still remember it fondly.

After he went back to England, we wrote a couple of letters, but then lost touch. I don't know if I had forgotten his name because I had not thought about him in such a long time, but I recognized his name when I saw it on the message. He remembered my name, obviously, as he found me on Facebook.

This is all the more strange considering the way the Portuguese authorities have been speaking about the British. On Twitter, the Portuguese Prime-Minister presented a chart comparing the safety of the UK with the Algarve. Not only is it childish and completely small-minded, it is also nonsensical. The UK is one of the most dynamic regions in the world; the Algarve would be severely underdeveloped were it not for British tourists. And you cannot insult people and expect them to come back to patronize your services.

As an emigrant who left Portugal, but tries to keep some ties and also to project a good image of Portugal to everyone I meet, regardless of origin, I am offended by the Portuguese authorities' lack of tact and even negligence in portraying the country in a better light on the international arena. If we wanted to live proudly alone, we wouldn't have had a Revolution in 1974. Furthermore, how does it make sense for these people to want to celebrate the Revolution one day of the year and then spend the rest of it not living up to its spirit? It is sheer hypocrisy.

terça-feira, 7 de julho de 2020

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I woke up and had a message from my new Portuguese-American friend regarding some negative remarks about Portuguese slave trade, so he is afraid that Portuguese people might be a target in the U.S. Although I think it unlikely, I do not think it can be ruled out because we are in a period of confrontation and it still has a while to go and it will escalate until it diffuses. If I were the Portuguese authorities, I would take this opportunity to revise the education of Portuguese history. We must be more balanced in the way we portray ourselves and I would like to see more information about the African countries where we were.

There is a paradox in the teaching of Portuguese history as we spend quite a bit learning about Brazil and how it came about its independence, but almost no time on the history of the other nations that were colonized by Portugal. It is odd because, if anything, we held on to Brazil less time than the countries in Africa. I think it would be interesting to learn about the local history and culture of these nations even before we came along. And it would be a good opportunity to ask the African nations to collaborate in the drafting of a new curriculum. Have them teach us what they believe we should know about their history and that would give us a balanced point of view.

I am saddened that some of the historic streets in Lisbon are going to be painted bright blue. There have to be some very fucked up people that work in City Hall. I just cannot grasp how such a stupid thing came about. Did they have a meeting in which they were brainstorming about the priorities for the city and bright blue streets popped into their heads? Just imagine an aerial view of downtown with streaks of bright blue scattered in a city that is known for its light and traditional pavement.

At least, they made sure to scare off the tourists before implementing such idiocy. Over the last few months, we have been more than embarrassed by the Portuguese authorities for all other countries to see -- there is no need to add insult to injury. Nevertheless, it is all going to hell in a hand basket, for sure.

segunda-feira, 6 de julho de 2020

Version 2.063

My neighbor gave me a photography book by Annie Leibovitz. In it, there are some photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was young and still doing body-building. I find his body ugly, muscular bodies are ugly. My favorite photos in the book are the nudes for the Pirelli calendar. They are body parts of dancers, but they are not muscular, just defined.

Photography of body parts always reminds me of landscapes. In fact, a few years ago, there was a series of photographies where naked bodies were piled on top of one another, such that the whole would be evocative of a landscape. I always forget who did it, even though I love that work so much. I looked it up, it's Carl Warner's series Bodyscapes.

I sometimes wonder if being a strong person mentally isn't as ugly as the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. People say that they admire strength, but I don't think they realize that being strong means being able to overcome things that many people cannot. It means that you have a greater level of indifference, that you do not feel as much pain over something that is painful.

But it is not beautiful to feel nothing or very little and indifference is not worthy of paintings or photographs. Maybe someone who feels, but is able to control their emotions is more beautiful. Maybe that's like the body of the dancers.

domingo, 5 de julho de 2020

Version 2.062

Happy 244th Birthday, USA! I invited some friends over for dinner and stopped by the grocery store earlier to buy some filet mignon and some chicken. I wanted to cook something Portuguese, but could not decide. Then I thought that it would be silly to have Portuguese food on America's birthday, so I ended up bastardizing dinner: I cooked the filet mignon Portuguese style (I really like a recipe from the book "Tesouro da Cozinha Regional Portuguesa") and served it with a baked potato and roasted asparagus, which is as American as you can get. For dessert, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, which is as american as you can get, but I did add a bit of lemon juice and zest to the peaches before adding them to the baking pan, which is super-Portuguese. The food was good.

After dinner, we chatted and then went upstairs to the balcony and watched, well, mostly listened, the fireworks around Memphis. It's illegal to have fireworks within the city limits, but people still do it anyway. Plus, this year, those that have jobs have been so limited in terms of how they can spend their money (no travel, no parties, no restaurants, no shopping for weeks on end), that there were lots of savings accumulated to spend on fireworks. And they must have been spent...

I have been a bit out of touch with Portugal, so I don't even know if there were fireworks in Coimbra, as this was the year to celebrate Rainha Santa Isabel. I always thought it was neat that my new country and the city where I came from were linked by the 4th of July. Anyway, it's another birthday. Hopefully, next year, we will have even more reason to celebrate.

sábado, 4 de julho de 2020

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I ended up not working today, even though we have the day off, since tomorrow is Independence Day. I guess it makes more sense to do things on Sunday, so that the email will be on top of the inbox when people return to work on Monday. Nevertheless, I kept myself busy and I even cleaned some weeds in the patio, even though it should have been done by the person that usually mows the lawn. It doesn't matter; I felt like doing it.

During my morning walk, I spoke to my British neighbor whose dog has a hot spot and needs to wear a cone. I offered my neighbor a medium-sized pro-collar that I had purchased for Julian, but that ended up being too big on him. I had been wondering what to do with it and was thankful to get rid of one more thing in the house. Hopefully, it will work out.

In the evening, I went over to my neighbor's house to give moral support to her Mom and also to meet her sister, who has just arrived from California. The airplane was packed, but 1/4 of people were not wearing mask or had their mask not covering their nose.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I researched the 1918 pandemic and, according to information I gathered, the second wave was a lot more deadly that the first. Back then, we could claim that information travelled more slowly, but this time around that is not a luxury at our disposal. We know what it at sake, and yet some people don't want to protect themselves. We're screwed; this fall will be terrible.

sexta-feira, 3 de julho de 2020

Version 2.060

Viola Liuzzo. Remember that name.

I started work at 7:30 AM with a conference call. Thursdays are usually intense because that's when the weekly export report comes out and I have to check a lot of things and also present the results of the analysis. I enjoy my work a lot, it does not feel like work, but it is difficult to stay very focused for hours on end. It drains you after a few hours. So toward the end of the day I was totally worn out and instead of working late, I organized my thoughts and planned to doing some things tomorrow morning. Since the 4th of July falls on Saturday, we have tomorrow off, but I think that will allow me to get things done more quickly and still enjoy an extended weekend.

After I sent a message to my neighbor to ask if it was Friday yet and announce that I was about to have a glass of white wine, I took the glass and the bottle and crossed the alley to her place, just in time for a couple of neighbors to seem me. They probably think I'm a lush. Oh well, I have earned my pleasures. At my neighbors', we chatted with her Mom, who seemed to be doing well, having even gotten out of bed and put on clothes.

Then another neighbor swung by. He is just too hilarious and works as a nurse at a psychiatric ward in a nearby city. Sometimes, one can tell that the people who crack jokes and make you laugh all the time have a certain kind of sadness that surrounds them and I suppose I see that in him. He and his partner were the first people that I met when I moved to the neighborhood and they have always spoken to me as if we were long lost friends. Most Americans are very genuine people. You kind of have to be in this country because you never know when a natural disaster might hit and your survival depends on your neighbor.

We ended up talking about many things. It is hard to think about the trail of the conversation and what led into what, but at some point we talked about the Civil Rights Movement and how the death of a white woman had made a difference. I did not recall that story and even though I have been to the Civil Rights Museum, I don't remember having learned about it and then having forgotten it; however, there is so much information to take in, that visiting the Lorraine Motel is a bit overwhelming. Plus, we tend to remember the names of the people that we hear mentioned the most, and for me that's Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, MLK...

Viola Liuzzo, 39 years old, mother of five children, was the white woman that the Ku Klux Klan shot dead, while she was giving rides in Alabama to people who were participating in the demonstrations to protest for equal rights. When she got killed, she had a 19-year old black man in her car who was also a volunteer. He survived by pretending to be dead, covered in blood from her wounds. It was his testimony against the attackers that earned a conviction of three of them to 10 years in prison.

I did not know anything about her before today, but I researched the story after he mentioned that she had been the only white woman killed and that her death had been the tipping point of the Civil Rights Movement. Three years ago, Donna Britt, a black woman, wrote about Viola for the Washington Post. Viola Liuzzo was from Tennessee, even though she had been living in Detroit, IL, from where she had driven to Alabama a week later to have a date with history on March 26, 1965.

There is a certain proximity to the world of the dead here in Memphis. Every once in a while, their stories come to you for no particular reason. But that is not surprising: the United States is a country of story tellers. Names are important, people's lives are important. Even during the pandemic lockdown in New York, there were people collecting the oral history of everyday citizens of what it is like to live through a pandemic. Knowing the struggles of the past is an important way in which we try to build a future.

quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2020

Version 2.059

After work, I went to the pharmacy to get a prescription for vitamin D. I still don't understand if I am supposed to take it all the time or if it's a temporary treatment, so I need to email the doctor. Anyway, I'm not quite sure why I have a vitamin D deficiency, since I walk outside twice a day and my diet is pretty diverse, especially after I stopped eating rice and gluten. I don't like this aging business and I am afraid that I shall evolve into a nagging little old lady.

Since I used the pharmacy drive-through, I took Julian with me, since he does not comprehend why I would ride in the car without him. We stopped by Shelby Farms and walked for not even 10 minutes when the storm that had been announced earlier arrived. The wind gusts were so strong that Hyde Lake had large waves with white crests, just like the ocean. I had never seen it like this. Usually, it is always very calm. I have not seen the ocean this year, so I'll take what I can get.

The storm lasted less than an hour and later Julian and I walked again. Near my favorite park in the neighborhood, the one that has a small collection of trees with a blanket of moss on the ground, I saw a shiny silver thing on the street. I took a photo and sent it to a friend to ask if that was a bullet. Well, I knew it wasn't a bullet; it was just the remnants, but I did not think of the word shell or even casing.

Sure enough, it was a 9 mm shell casing of a defense load, meaning not the kind you shoot for practice at the range. I suppose that calling this a defense load is a bit of a misnomer, since it is quite offensive, but it's illegal to hurt people with a gun, unless you need to defend yourself, so I suppose that's how it got baptized.

I touched it when I was trying to figure out what it was, so my prints got on it. Then Julian and I continued with our walk and I let it be. Once I got home, I decided to go back and retrieve it. Why would I leave my fingerprints on a shell casing in Memphis? The U.S. government has my fingerprints on file, so that's a bad idea. Anyway, I went back with an empty compote jar and put it in it. Now I need to figure out what to do with it. I will probably tell my HOA about it, but I will not post a wacky message on NextDoor insulting the person that was playing with it. Don't need to tempt destiny...

quarta-feira, 1 de julho de 2020

Version 2.058

Today was my nephew's 19th birthday. I tried to be focused on him all day. I have loved this baby since before he was born and I have so many mixed feelings about all the pain that exists in the world. I understand that one cannot grow as a person without experiencing pain and adversity, but the thought of a child having to grow up in our world completely creates a feeling of deep revulsion in me. Perhaps that is why I failed at becoming a mother.

But, as an aunt, I try to convey all the love and admiration I have for my nephew, while not being overly condescending. I do not believe that someone will be happy with themselves without cultivating high expectations and superb ethics. I suppose, I am expecting my nephew to be an emigrant as myself. We shall see. I have never spoken to him about it.

Mike, the lawn guy, swung by today. He strikes me as as much socially dysfunctional as myself. Since I was cooking dinner, I sent him home with some of the food I cooked, plus a bottle of white wine. A few months ago, he had told me that he had started to drink white wine and he had been enjoying it. I suggested some vinho verde, but I'm not sure if he followed through.

Sometime this afternoon, I started to feel ill. I think it is allergies because I feel tired and have a bit of a sore throat. I is nothing that I haven't felt before, but one wonders if our memory serves us well. A few days ago, I brought an Asian lily into the house and its scent has been overwhelming, to say the least. So maybe that is the cause of my discomfort. I took it to the garage and turned on an air purifier. I do feel a lot better now.

Once I realized that I was not feeling well, I emailed my boss and a coworker because I was afraid that I would not perform well in tomorrow's meeting. I warned that I might not be as perky as usual, but, a few minutes later, my coworker assuaged my fears: he let me know that I am never perky. I suppose one cannot fail at something in which one does not succeed, so tomorrow should be a great day.

terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2020

Version 2.057

The number of coronavirus cases are increasing in Houston. I still receive emails from Bellaire and, today, the Mayor's office announced that public services will be limited. The Mayor of Houston has decided to publicly identify businesses that fail to observe the directions of Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas.

I read an article about who had been getting sick in Houston and it is just so random, like one woman who had been socially distancing, but suspects she got ill at a family dinner. Several of the adults and children who attended became ill. The good thing is that Houston has the largest medical center in the world, so it can accommodate many people, but the metro area is nearly six million people and many of these people are not very obedient, so one can expect the medical resources to get very taxed.

I worry about my friends. Most of them are still self-isolating, so they should be OK; but some of them are really old and I wonder if I will see my nonagenarian friends alive. But the younger ones also worry me: I just saw a Facebook post of one who threw a birthday party for her son who turned 23 years old, inviting some of his friends. It's hard not to think if everyone will be OK.

We are at our most vulnerable now. Too many people are becoming defiant.

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2020

Version 2.056

I went grocery shopping today. It had been a few weeks since I last went to Kroger and one can tell that the overall demeanor of the people has changed yet again. There are more people wearing masks and there is a palpable heaviness, as if our spirit is slowly being broken. It is quite the opposite with myself: I tend to be more optimistic and upbeat when everyone else is down.

This morning, I spent some time reading my diary, in particular some entries from 2016 and 2017. In between my need to rationalize everything and to carve out potential outcomes, I see some traces of depression. In particular, I had written about my keepers, the females in my head that act as my warning system when things are not well. They have not visited me in a long time.

One of them swims in a river and sometimes the river is calm, others turbulent. When I sense danger is when I imagine that she is drowning; she is always keeping an eye on the shore. Another one stands on a cliff and looks out toward the ocean. She represents my need for stability and equilibrium. Desperation comes to me as a broken down woman who screams and rolls herself on the floor, as if she is trying to escape her body. There is also a happy child, who is about 5 years old and when I see her, I feel the need to keep her safe. I suppose that all of this is the way that I have found to watch myself and make sure that my emotions are in check and do not threaten me. It is all part of my need to control everything.

Reading my journal I realized how good I am at sensing change and threats to the status quo. It is not exactly something that endears you to others, as one is perceived as overly pessimistic, but change is the only constant. You can fight it, but the energy you spend is wasted because you cannot avoid it. It is better to learn to adjust and try to eliminate the worst possible outcomes.

domingo, 28 de junho de 2020

Version 2.055

I finished my taxes today. I am super-happy to finally get it done, although every year I promise myself that I will not procrastinate next time. Yet, I always do. I did a few simulations and it seems like I should receive quite a nice refund from federal, about $5000, which would be a really nice vacation, were it not for the fact that we should just stay put for a while.

Other than that, not much is going on. I still have some peaches from Georgia that I need to cook. I think I will try to make a gluten-free cobbler, but I need to go and buy some eggs. Maybe it would be a good idea to also get some ice-cream to go with the peaches.