Enid Writer’s Club April Roll Call. Must be 150 words or less. The prompt: “Jumping from a plane.”
The engine coughed, then died. No option. Quickly shouldering on the parachute, I made ready.
God knows how I would miss this plane. She had been good to me through so many dog fights, even having survived the Red Barron, but not today. Nothing more than a faulty engine and a soon-to-be-fired mechanic.
Racing to the rear of the plane and sliding open the door, I gently kissed the fuselage. “I’ll never forget you,” I said and jumped.
When I landed, my disapproving wife was standing there.
“Harold! You’re an embarrassment,” she said, hands on hips.
“That may be,” I responded, whisking my white silk scarf over my shoulder, “but I’ve got three more quarters.”
The kids standing outside the Piggly Wiggly waiting their turn on the kiddie plane groaned as I inserted my coin and waited for those magical words.
“Barron Killer Nine, you are cleared for takeoff….”
I believe I played until about 1 a.m. this morning and did not take the time to write, although there are some jottings in my notebook that I may share here.
On this fine New Year’s Day, it is pouring rain, washing the air and the streets, so it has been officially decided by the powers that be that today will be a true Sabbath rest day. Still, yesterday… 18,000 steps took me many places, the first of which was across town to the Cais do Sodré train station, where I boarded the train to Cascais, but got off on the third stop, Belém. (FYI: it is really cheap to take the trains, ferry, buses, etc. I think yesterday’s ride was 1,35€.)
From the station, I walked to my first destination, The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, The Monument to the Discoveries. As with all such sites, it was crowded, but I can only imagine what it would be like during the high tourist season.
The monument (170 feet tall) was originally only a temporary structure with a minimum of material for the 1940 World’s Fair, but twenty years later was reconstructed for permanence. It is Henry the Navigator (Dom Henrique of Portugal, his statue is 26 feet tall) at the front who was responsible for choreographing much of the early Portuguese maritime expansion. Other figures represent princesses, cartographers, clerics, etc., who participated in the expansion work. I took a moment to be in Oklahoma on the map in front of the monument.
A half mile further up the street is the Belém Castle, the Tower of Saint Vincent, built in the 16th century. Its location was originally an island, guarding the entrance of the Tagus River, but the river did what rivers do—changed course—and the castle is now quite near the shore.
I then made my way across the main road/train tracks to see the Imperial Gardens (closed for remodeling) and St. Jeronimos (Jerome) Monastery (closed for the holiday), which was built in 1502. It is epic in size. To be able to walk through those doors would make it all worthwhile.
Then for lunch at Queijadas de Belém where I had a pretty good steak cooked in olive oil and garlic. And, yes, that was an exceptionally generous pour of wine. The espresso following the meal helped me to recover.
From lunch, I found a nearby park and just sat and enjoyed while looking up at this handsome fella. Researching it back at the apartment, I discovered that he is Afonso de Albuquerque, 1st Duke of Goa and Viceroy of Portuguese India. To demonstrate the power he commanded, one hand rests on the hilt of his sword while, with the other hand, he points at the guns under his feet (under his command).
This is where I chose to sit and write for a bit. Choose for yourself…
I’m sitting here thinking about how much/far Christianity has reached and helped the world to discover itself, and now that we have, we turn our backs on this faith. You cannot escape the symbols of Christianity, but like so much of the past—the world has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It is sinful, but sin is no longer relevant in a world that chooses its own relevancy. It is out of fashion and has been discarded like last season’s dernier cri. We are dying, and we believe we are living.
Who is this man atop this pedestal—a pedestal supported by angels and the waves of the sea? Does his sword save him now, or has he become like us? Dead in shoes, going from place to place with no home or friend beside us. Ah! Now a seagull sits on his head and shits upon it! HA!
Children running in circles in play—aren’t we all.
I don’t know if those are good thoughts, odd thoughts, or no thoughts at all, but having spent my time out and about in this city without access to the internet, voicemail, email, text messages, Facebook, you name it, I have found myself once again thinking on my own and chasing ideas that have no bearing on the grand schemes of the world, but are enjoyable to let bounce inside my head. Enough of that…
The train took me back to my apartment and to the grocery store, which was jammed with holdiday shoppers and included a fight between a customer and store manager (when I say fight, it was more than words!) It was then that I decided to stay home for the rest of the evening. I’ve never been much on participating in these kind of holidays, but then I got hungry. I went in search of sushi (closed) so walked into the nearest restaurant, Taberna Da Baixa… my goodness! Delicious.
For starters, I ordered Bacalao (I didn’t know what it was) and it was… amazing. Bacalao is actually dried and salted codfish which is then rehydrated and combined in other dishes. For the maincourse, I had the Sea Bass. Also amazing, especially when paired with a good wine, which the waitress was kind enough to do for me, because the only thing I really know about wine is whether or not I like it (oh, and how to make it.)
The restaurant would only hold about about 30 people and I was the only single person there (New Year’s Eve and all). I must have been an oddity (or made one particular couple nervous) because she took a picture of me and then held it over for her husband(?) to see. He then kept taking these hard glances over his shoulder and staring at me. I have decided to immortalize their odd behavior in a short story. They will not like it if they read it.
I returned home after my meal and then at about ten minutes to midnight said to myself, “Self, you are in Lisbon, Portugal and it is New Year’s Eve. They’re about to shoot off fireworks and celebrate. What are you doing sitting here? Get yo bee-hind moving!” I listened and I cheered with the crowds.
Feliz Ano Novo, meus queridos amigos.
FYI: I had checked schedules for when sites would be open, but they did not account for the holiday. My plan is to return later this week in hopes of getting in.
I left you last night anticipating the outcome of my adventures in laundry. I must report a slight failure in this endeavor. It turns out that hanging clothes on a rack in an apartment that dips to the high 50s at night and in a damp climate is not conducive to the drying of clothes. (My Dear Mr. Watson, Is this why we’ve seen peoples’ clothes hanging out for several days? Sherlock, your mind never ceases to amaze me!) So, this morning, I woke up to cold, wet clothes, which left me with a number of options 1) go out in the shirt I slept in and hear my grandmother’s voice all day, “You look like you slept in that shirt.” 2) go out in a wet shirt and hear my grandmother’s voice all day, “You’ll catch your death of cold running around in that wet shirt!” Or 3) find a way to dry the shirt. Option number 3) was the clear winner, but how?
I first hauled out the trusty space heater and had plans to lay the shirt across it and was, in fact, doing so (Sherlock was screaming in the back of my head the entire time) when I read the small print on top of said heater, “NĀO COBRIR.” I’m not sure if that is Portuguese or not, but Google Translate kicked that back as “Not Cover.” Plan B…
Rooting through a bathroom cabinet, I found an industrial hairdryer, so for the last fifteen minutes—had you been looking for me—you would have found me in the bathroom with a hairdryer in one hand and an espresso in the other, patiently drying my clothes. I, at first, felt somewhat guilty about using the electricity in such a way. Still, seeing as I’ve had no use whatsoever for a hairdryer in the last fifteen years… yeah, my carbon footprint in the hairdryer department remains small.
For the record, there was one other point when my grandmother spoke inside my head; it was when I set the hairdryer down in the wet sink (please remember that I’ve been lacking in the hairdryer do’s/don’ts for several years). My grandmother said, “Who are you? Thomas Merton!” I don’t actually know whether my grandmother knew who Thomas Merton was nor the suspicious circumstances of his untimely death, but I got the point and quickly removed the hairdryer from the sink.
My dear friends, I am caffeinated, have dry clothes, am eating a tasty breakfast, drinking one more espresso, and am about to head out on today’s grand adventure. I’ll be back unless I run into that bear…. hmmmm…. maybe the hairdryer in the sink was today’s bear? Sneaky bear.
Things I want to remember: my dream from last night.
I started early today in search of a church, but they were all closed (I started too early, or they pray later in the day in Lisbon), so I made my way to the ferry that crosses the River Tagus to Cacilhas. It took less than ten minutes to cross.
Initially, I thought I would walk up to the Santuário de Cristo Rei, but when I could not spot it, I opted for a taxi. That was a smart move. It is much further than it looks. When you come out from behind the buildings that line the streets, the statue suddenly looms in front of you.
My first reaction was, “Wow!” My first thought was, ‘I hope there’s an elevator! (There is, except for the last four flights.)
I spent an hour wandering around the grounds, looking up, and seeing the various other works of art, then went for a café and a pastel de nata—a small custard pie—before heading to the top.
It took about an hour in line, but I enjoyed the bronze art (The Ten Commandments on either side of the door) and the main doors (St. John the Baptist holding the lamb, which I had to touch on my way in.) Eu sou a porta is printed above the door—“I am the Door.” Several other pieces of art adorned the walls on the inside, and one, in particular, caught my eye when I realized it was Pope John Paul II.
Up we went in the elevator, the short climb, and… the first thing you’ll notice is the wind! It blows quite strong at the top. Then, you look up. From the ground, the statue appears large, and standing on the platform at the base is not disappointing. The platform is 269 feet, and the figure of Christ is an additional 92 feet.
Images painted on the ceramic tiles at the base of the statue…
And the view…
Just below the statue, a few flights down, is a gift shop and the Chapel of those who trusted in the Heart of Jesus. I stopped for a few minutes to pray before taking the elevator back down.
Pope Benedict XVI offered a Perpetual Plenary Indulgence to all who visited, and I can use all the help I can get!
The Pilgrim’s Prayer:
After another taxi and ferry ride, I was back on the north side of the river. A bit of research last night told me that if I walked a few blocks north, I would come to the Rua Nova do Carvalho (The Pink Street!) Voila! Found it. (This is a complete 180° turn from the Cristo Rei, as this area of town was formally the red light district.) The street will definitely put a smile on your face, as will all the silly, wannabe social influencers (?) posing for pictures.
It was close to 3 p.m., and I had not eaten since an early breakfast, which led to a minor mistake: eating at a restaurant on The Pink Street. I won’t name them (if you don’t have something nice to say…), but don’t make the mistake. So many people are going through that it is impossible to maintain good quality, although, at the end of the meal, the waiter provided me with a glass of a 10-year-old port wine that made me forget about the rest of the meal.
As I was making my way back to the apartment, I saw everyone facing me and taking pictures, so I turned, and there was one of the iconic Lisbon buildings: Elevador de Santa Justa. Too many things I read said, ‘Don’t waste your time or money riding the elevator to the top,’ but it was still fun to see.
I’m back at the apartment, and this evening’s festivities are a bit more domestic: laundry.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. During the day, I plan to take a train to Belém, about 30 minutes west, and tomorrow night—if I’m up for the crowds—fireworks on the river. Keep you posted.
This devotional was for The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection’s annual Advent Devotional series.
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
-Luke 22:1-13 (ESV)
The Passover that Jesus asked John and Peter to prepare for is the greatest of festivals during the Jewish year. It is a memorial of the night when the tenth plague swept through Egypt, killing all the firstborn of the Egyptians but “passing over” the Jews. In the process of establishing the festival (Exodus 12), God gave the Jews several laws on how to prepare for and celebrate the festival in the subsequent years. For example, one of these laws prescribed the removal of all leaven from the home. Over the centuries, these laws became more strict and codified, leaving no room for error. Not all are as fastidious as others in adhering to the requirements, yet one author reports, “We have a pious friend in Israel who airs out every book in her home in case there should be any bread crumbs in them.” (Source)
Although not prescribed by Holy Scripture, the Church has established two seasons of preparation: Advent and Lent. In Advent, we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and to prepare for his second coming, and in Lent, we prepare to celebrate Christ’s victory over death. With regard to Advent, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “There are only two places where the powerful and great in this world lose their courage, tremble in the depths of their souls, and become truly afraid. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.” (God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, p.26) If that be the case—which it should be!—then we should not enter lightly into our encounter with him in the manger, but instead, we should seek out the “old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil” (1 Corinthians 5:8) and prepare our hearts so that we might humbly kneel before our Lord and King.
In 2008, during his general audience, John Paul II said,
The liturgy of Advent, filled with constant allusions to the joyful expectation of the Messiah, helps us to understand the fullness of the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, we must understand that our whole life should be an “advent”, in vigilant expectation of Christ’s final coming. To prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, will come one day to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize his presence in the events of daily life. Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes. (Source)
As we “prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord, let us heed the words of St. Paul: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” ( 2 Corinthians 13:5a), and cleanse yourself of the “old leaven.”
Jesus said to Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” In like manner, go and prepare yourselves so that “at his coming, [he] may find in us—in you—a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent)
The Golden Fistula(new cover art coming soon) is available on Amazon and has had 1,000+ edits to correct the grammar. The Journey is also out there. All this is in preparation for the release of The Marble Finger (the second Father Anthony Savel Mystery). If you are interested in following, connect with one of these social media outlets (FYI: I don’t do much on Twitter) or follow this blog.
Prose Colored Glasses, the anthology from Enid Writers Club celebrating 100 years, is now available for Kindle on Amazon. It will soon be available in paperback as well. My short story, Ciao, is included. Purchase a copy to read short stories and poems from some of Enid’s best authors.