It was raining ice when i arrive on a bus in the electric stone bled city of Madrid who’s people look like bulls with horned and hooved handsome faces.
My heart had told me from day one to avoid Madrid, and I was on edge from the moment I arrived. Everyone wants something from you in Madrid, whether its the multinational charities, the world famous clothing brands, the homeless, the buildings, the smokers (No problem with that one), the high prices or the tragically crippled.
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
It felt just like the screaming naked cherubs who look down at you from the rooftops, cast in the guilty stone of catholic oppression either side of a Coka Cola, Nike, Beer or Bank advertisement campaign slogan.
I’m sure there are many reason to love Madrid, but I don’t, fair enough that I was there for only one day,
but I’m a pretty open minded fellow who lets a few punches strike me before I judge the mind they swing from.
Ya feel me?
So I’m sitting by myself out the front of an alleyway cafe, dipping a warm maple flavoured croissant into a strong sweet coffee and taking advantage of the cafe wi-fi and power supply on a very cold Autumn day in Madrid.
Two men approach me from the alleyway to me left, one branches off and sits down on a chair to my right and the other one walks right up to me on my left, wide enough from each other so that I couldn’t look at both of them at the same time.
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
The guy who’s on my left asks me something in another language and points out my pouch of tobacco.
“What? You wanna smoke?” I ask picking up the pouch and offering to him.
Everyone in this city wants something from you.
He shakes his head, repeats the same word again and again.
“No Espanol Bro, do you speak Ingles?” I ask him.
“Ah Engles!” he says and sits down next to me. Instead of speaking Ingles he spoke in Arabic and pointed at his friend who’s staring at me with cold, dead, unhappy eyes.
“What ?” I ask, “Nah bro that’s not Ingles. This, is Ingles”
He smiles at me, his gold tooth flashes in the sun and the slime of evil runs over my skeleton.
“Me no Inglese.” He finally concedes. After I shake his hand both of them stand up and walk away.
It took me over an hour to realise that they had robbed me…… magicians, they knew my psychology better than me….. creepy.
Two weeks later I learnt that a gold tooth is the common trademark of a Gipsy.
I felt terrible explaining to the owner of the café who didn’t speak a word of English that I couldn’t pay her for my coffee.
This was the cherry on top of the bitter cold baking soda tasting chocolate cake that is Madrid for me.
“Puta Madrid! Puta! Puta ! Puta ! Tu es muchas Puta Madrid! Just roll over and die you stupid city! Collapse! Collapse! Collapse!” I spat down the streets, processing my situation and taking it all in.
Uncaring as to where I was walking, but I was vaguely making my way home – luckily I was staying with an angel by the name of Luzia Vegas – I found myself on the main metropolitan drag of Madrid that served as more fuel on the fire that was already raging in my heart.
Sad tired people bumped shoulder to shoulder with never enough time to speak a word to anyone that they didn’t know, moody like a speared bull.
Advertisements of designer underwear, fast food, sugared drinks, and multinational banks adorn every surface and crevice that a money making eye could find, venerated as the most high… the new GOD.
The people on the streets, with shopping hand on shopping bag, with one eye on the bright lights and the other on their watch, are fuelling this dream, gazing like stunned Kangaroos into shop windows at diamonds and shoes, staring as if they are gazing into the eyes of the mother Mary.
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
All of this merchandise has come at the cost of someone Else’s freedom and is owned by people who are far richer then we can comprehend and do business together in closed circles that neither you or me will know about unless one of us becomes a Billionaire.
We have evolved over millions of years to the top of the food chain and now we are killing the food chain in the pursuit of material wealth for spiritual medicine which is like trying to put a square through a circular hole, or pouring a bucket of water on a candle to make it burn brighter.
I just got robbed, and the thing that hurts me most is a don’t have a spare euro to help those who are more in need than me.
For those who I might well be one day and my life would be hanging by the thread of every act of generosity, empathy and kindness that came my way.
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
To those of us who want to see a big change in the world that benefits us all, it seems like the odds are stacked against us.
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
And they are…
But maybe those timeless stories we know where the power of the human heart prevails over evil on account of it being the greatest of all forces in the universe, are actually true, maybe there is a message in there, a truth that we resonate with and enjoy reading, watching, and listening about time and time again for a reason.
As in all of the storyies, the Hero comes to a forked road and makes the decision that determines the fate for the rest of humanity.
You are a fork in the road of humanity, and the path that you choose determines our collective destiny for ourselves for generations to come.
(When you reach a fork in the road, take it!)
Artwork by Luzia Vegas
Thankfully I was in Madrid for only one day, and the next morning after staying the night at the airport sleeping on concrete, I caught a plane and flew to Lisbon, Portugal.
From the moment that I stepped off the plane and into the blue and white Portuguese sun.
I was met with nothing but kindness, warmth and poverty that was all openly displayed by the city.
I had only flown for one hour and again i was propelled into a new world where the people, culture, and language are strikingly different.
It took two days for my feet to touch the ground, the city of sea trade, music around every corner, and God, that floats in the clouds and is lit by the orgasma of the blue and white sun.
Music dangles from the fingertips of every street corner.
Grandiose statues of monarchs, warlords, and sea monsters lean out from pedistals and building tops of embroilded white flaking tapestries.
House music and Portuguese opera play through the subway tunnels.
Broken abandoned buildings stand arm in arm with elite retail stores that glitter with gold and diamonds.
Everything is a little bit shit but cheap and relaxing.
The Portuguese language sounds like the love child of Spanish and Russian.
If for one second you look like you are unsure of where your’re going someone will speak with you in their excellent english and lead you to your destination or find you someone who can help you out better, and then that person leads you to your destination or finds you someone else who can help you out better.
All of this is done with a smile and a gentle humour that feels akin to a bear.
The conversation they have with you like smoking a pipe with a wizard and then going for a walk to the cloud castle.
It’s a striking contrast to what i experience in Madrid.
The difference between heaven and hell perhaps.
No one here has much money, and yet there seems to be a lot more genuinity and kindness…
Chaos theory perhaps?
Of course there are some darker sides to Lisbon, I see more and more of this the longer I stay here, which has been almost two weeks now, but truly these grungier aspects are the symptoms of the intense pretty fucked up economical situation that Europe is in right now,
a lot of people here, have grown up inside a pressure cooker.
Lisboa has brought me to tears on three occasions now, the energy of this city is unspeakable, it eminates this feeling of potential, and despite its state of degredation it sings to you a lullaby of love that lets you know that its ok to just be.
Behind this lullaby too, is an almighty orchestra that belts out an almighty tune that speaks of a country that is progressing towards a better future.
Interestingly Portugal is ranked as the 4th safest place to live in the world, and at the same time it is considered a ‘developing country’, and at the same time is considered to have the best pick pockets in the world, but unlike Brazil, the pick pockets wont shoot you dead, they’ll make you laugh instead, a much kinder way of bleeding you of your wealth.
I get the feeling that Portugal is going to do well in the future as a developing country.
The countries who are currently considered “Developed” are clearly showing signs of breaking all over the world, and its countries like Portugal, who are not strangers to rolling up the sleeves and getting the ye ol’ hands dirty,
The vibe of Lisboa is like a shivering rocket ship
Ready for Blast off.
For instance, I was hanging out with a Portuguese poet named Pedro – who I will talk a little bit more about later – who as we were walking through the streets talked to me about the way in which the roads and streets of Lisbon are built.
Rather then being made from Bitumen, they are made from fist sized pieces of stone that are placed in by hand much in the same way that you lay tiles, and are then filled in with what looks like a bit of cement and mostly sand.
This way of making footpaths and roads is the same way that the Romans built their roads back in the day
the exact same way.
Why is such an old system of road building still being used in the modern age?
“Well.” Said Pedro.
“For one they can be repaired by hand, piece by piece, with minimal machines required.”
“It is like this…” He says as we share a joint and navigate the wobbly roads together, “Lets say you have a nice carpet in your house and you spill some wine on it… if its one big piece of carpet then you have to replace the whole thing for just one small stain … which is insane…. but if the carpet is made of much smaller pieces that you fit all together, then all you have to do is replace the one small piece where the stain is… this is the mentality of Portugal my friend, we do what makes sense.”
So if one section of the road or the footpath is damaged, rather then just patching up the pothole and then eventually redoing the whole thing….
you simply relay the stones by hand….
Portugal is on the rise my friends, don’t overlook this quiet country, once upon a time it was one of the most powerful nations in the world, to rebuild after the devastation of a tsunami, to free itself from Spanish rule, and it has the backbone to do the same again,
a bit wiser this time.
Lisbon is a city,
Where the graffiti generally ranges from average to slightly shitty (Raw, Orginal)
… and then you walk around a corner and are stopped dead by an enormous gorgeous mural that feeds your eyes a sweet custard tart that tastes like the sex of your beloved.
Where couples walk side by side, hand in hand.
One after the other.
More couples pass you and your lover as you walk through a colourful street lined with resteraunts that fill senseswith the smell of seafood cooked in hot spiced olive oil.
Where undiscovered world class musicians pour prana into you around every corner.
Where you are inspired to sing your favourite songs as you walk around.
Your voice has never sounded so smooth and its melody folds back over your from the cute houses of flaking pink, yellow, and blue.
Where you buy a beer to take home with you from a shopkeeper at 11:00 pm under a full moon on a weekday night, and he’s so drunk and too busy flirting with two Swedish backpackers that he charges you 1 euro, you hand him 2 euro, he pulls out a bottle opener and cracks open your beer without asking, and gives you 21.50 euros change.
Where you are the only customer in the restaurant and you order a meal and a beer, the meal takes 40 minutes to arrive and the beer doesn’t show up at all because the wait staff have better things to do, like gossip theatrically behind the counter.
Where the seagulls are the size of small dogs and black cats stalk the tiled rooftops.
Where if someone at the table next to you catches an interest in your conversation, they lean in and throw in their two cents too.
Sometimes at night the cold ocean wind blows in like a tsunami through the quiet dizzy night, and you can hear the strong triumphant song of the royal statues that watch over the city.
A huge migration of Angolan pack out illegal shanty cafes and warm up the scene with djembes, reggae, and white smiles that often exude marijuana.
I have fallen in love with a woman here in Lisboa.
A most beautiful woman whos eyes I look into and watch my destiny unfold down a road of holding hands bone to bone, travelling the world, making too much love, and being the proud parents of our children.
But I had to let her go, because it scares the shit out of me and I am stil debating over wether or not I am another coward who is cradling a broken heart too scared to take the leap that will change my life forever.
I will never unsee the stars in her eyes, the eyes the look over the Sahara and see an ocean. Never will I unsee the life of love that I could of lived with her, that was all mine but I did not take it.
Never before have i stood at a fork in the road of my destiny, and so clearly seen the two futures that I have every right to choose before me.
Already I can feel the old man in me who is lying on his deathbed, cluthich his heart and wondering about her, wanting nothing more but to have her by my side during my last breath… fuck.
So I went for a long walk through Lisboa in the hopes to find someone who knew where I could go and dance away my sorrow that night.
I found him, his name was Pedro and he was a poet like me.
We jammed out together for hours, going back and forward with words, wisdoms and long winded story telling.
Pedro the ex millionaire with the big brown swirling eyes who lives on the streets with nothing but his fathers wrist watch in his pocket, and his notepad from which he reads you story after story that swindles you into a dream state, and you shout him beer after beer, and food and tobacco, because to be in the company of this man is to dance with a faun in the forest.
He opened my eyes to the power of story telling… just tell your stories, weave your spells, and the rest will sort itself out.
I had one of the most spiritual experiences with the man.
I sort out his advice time again on the choice to not be with this most beautiful woman, I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
Pick your star
Throw your feather
“its like when your driving a car” he says. “Everyone who drives knows that at some point they have to get gas. When they drive past a gas station, there are those who will stop, and there are those who assume that there will be another gas station down the road…. but maybe there wont. Everyone has the right to make that choice of waiting for the next gas station… but its not too late for you to turn around and fill up where you know you can.”
Why is it that metaphors based on cars and machinery work so well?
They’d have to be the most unromantic way to explain something,
but they make so much sense.
So that poses the ultimate in philosophical questions….
What came first?
The car or the metaphor?
It was all cool between Pedro and I until he lead me down an alleyway where I was the only tourist and everyone was looking at me with dollar signs in their eyes.
My instincts flared up, and although I saw sparkles of magic teasing me down the alleyway and asking for me to trust… instead I stopped him and asked that we walk a different way.
Europe has picked from the purse of my ignorance too many times, and sadly I developed a mistrust In Pedro that I couldn’t quite shake, it felt like I was taking a big ca ca in a crystal lake… its unbelievable where fear will take you.
If you write
then you understand
that talent is required
Fuck you Europe for showing me the limitless efforts that a person will go to bleed me of my welath.
Fuck you for showing me the eyes that look right into my soul and lie to me unflinching.
Now I look into the eyes of an honest person and can’t tell the difference.
But thank you,
for showing me a world that is reality,
that has smashed my ignorance with a sledgehammer and made me that little bit stronger, smarter, filthier and kinder.
And for showing me the magic.
Thank you Pedro,
for the medicine of your poetry.
I said goodbye to Pedro who promised to meet me at 8 pm and show me the real nightlife of Lisboa,
I couldn’t tell anymore if he’d lead me into a meadow or a rabbit trap.
10 minutes later I receive a message from that most beautiful woman asking me to meet her at 8 pm too, and I couldn’t tell if that a meadow or a rabbit trap either.
The mind can be a cruel thing.
Here again, physically now, my destiny opens up down two paths in a fork in the road.
Do I go and meet Pedro, the middle aged poet with swirling brown eyes who will guide me into the gorgeous underworld and the freedom of a homeless poet.
Or do I choose to walk into the arms of a beautiful women who loves me and who I love,
Who’s eyes I stare into and see a destiny so intense that it scares the shit out of me.
“What would be ideal, is to have both.” Says Pedro.
Only Lisboa will tell.
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