The late cultural chef, Anthony Bourdain, would’ve surely love this: my wife and I are seated at a cozy family restaurant… recommended for its seafood and service.
The first thing that happens is our elderly waiter frowns and motions for me to sit directly across from my wife, instead of “kitty-cornered” … probably thinking it’s more romantic. But, the irony is, after many years, we love giving each other their personal space. Next, we ask for white wine with our fish dinner: our waiter brings us red. Great service? It’s okay. We’re bilingual about wines!
Now, before I go ahead, I must give you some crucial information: we’re in Lisbon, Portugal; the staff speak mainly Portuguese; and, salted cod and grilled sardines are national dishes. So, they know a thing or two about preparing and serving fish. To our waiter, we’re his special guests; he’s doing what he thought best for us.
“A proud man still can tell stories his own way” – Saturday in the Park by Chicago
The meal was delicious; but our waiter wasn’t done… just yet. Noticing we’d finished our meal, he came back to top up our glasses with more red wine, along with another plate of cheese and bread – no charge.
Obviously, he felt we should sit back and enjoy our dinner a bit longer; and, since we’d been in such good hands all night, why fight it? As Bourdain, advised, “Don’t be afraid of random acts of hospitality… be open, without judgement or fear. Walk in their shoes, or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
“Listen children all is not lost… oh no, no!”
Even though we had some fantastic outings – including breathtaking mountaintop winery tours and scenic riverboat cruises – I’ll fondly remember the Portuguese people. Despite being economically depressed – like much of Europe – people care and work hard. They epitomize workers, everywhere, who get things done despite inadequate support. In fact, our critique on ‘TripAdvisor’ indicated the pros: (the staff); and the cons: (the hotel). We think twice before complaining, as it could cost someone their job through no fault of their own.
“Before traveling”, Bourdain said, “I thought the human race, as a whole, could and would turn on itself at any moment. But, I’ve met mostly very nice people doing the best they can under very difficult conditions.”
We’ve witness the growing polarization, fear and intolerance – worldwide, within all economies – fueled by sensationalist media outlets and opportunistic politicians – all vying for either our dollar or our vote. Like, CBS Chairman Les Moonves admitted, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
But, I’ve been encouraged by apolitical acts of kindness and generosity: a Croatian Canadian stonemason, working on our century farmhouse, who added free brick window basement casements, because he shared our love for the old place. Or, like Tony: building worldwide understanding and relationships – so desperately needed, today. His light may have gone out; but, his vision shines on!
“And I’ve been waiting such a long time /
For the day…”