Last train to Albufeira
I was holed up in a villa in the province of Algarve, about 300 km south of Lisbon, really hopping to stay away from the world for a bit. I was sitting in my room watching the movie “Frantic” by Roman Polanski, which is a story of a troubled man in the heart of Paris with nobody willing to help him, or even to take seriously.
He just flew in with his wife from San Francisco and she disappeared as he was taking a shower, but police and the US embassy think that she is just having an affair in Paris.
They’re giving him dirty jokes. Finally he says to the diplomat: “you’re talking about my wife here, but it sounds like you’re thinking about yours!”
And then he is on his own in the foreign city.
The story is fascinating, and notice this – Polanski is the master of close ups and the use of light which make the message remarkable.
I’m convinced that this movie is Harrison Ford’s life performance.
Also - the music selection: from Ennio Morricone to Grace Jones, with Paris in the background, is intoxicating.
There are some Polish people who can really tell a story, no?
Polanski has these boyish looks, to the point that back in the day they wouldn’t let him into theaters to watch his own movies.
Just see him in “The Tenant” with Isabelle Adjani, it will rock your world.
On that note, it is the importance of individual performance that makes me distrust the “teamwork” buzzword.
For me, the idea of “teamwork” is not right, for it translates into “joint effort”.
A great movie or a brilliant painting is not a joint effort, a great company isn’t either.
Back to Algarve - it is important to note that Portugal is the world’s former capital. This is the nation that first unlocked the secrets of deep-water navigation. It was Portugal that figured out how to master ship and wind and wave to make landfall anywhere in the known world. From that access, the Portuguese were able to trade anything they wanted.
Shipyards on the River Duoro built the fleets that dominated global trade, with the commercial traffic ultimately flowing to Lisbon. More than any other location in the world, Portugal is a monument about how a change in technology can change everything.
Now the Portuguese economy is booming again, in part because of its aggressive attraction of courting foreign investors. Portuguese citizenship is available after six years of residence, or three years if claiming citizenship by marriage.
There was a massive expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15thand 16thcentury, and an interesting initiative was announced just a few years ago. The Spanish and Portuguese governments said that they want to make amends for their past sins, and they’re also in need of productive people to restore their economies. They now offer citizenship – full passports – to the descendants of families expelled from their countries. The governments regard the expulsion as tragedy, or – in the words of Spain’s justice minister – “a historical error”. I guess what goes around, comes around.
Now the Jewish descendants of those expelled can claim a passport, which would allow them to travel freely in 28 EU countries.
I was sitting on the Saturday evening at a small train station under sapphire tinted skies typing this essay and waiting on the last train to Albufeira, where my villa was.
I was thinking how I got where I am in my life, and then it occurred to me: we have two lives, and the second one starts when we realize that we only have one.
I am with Confucius on this one.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler