Tag Archives: portugal

To My Unborn Child…

“…’til that day, lil’ homie.”

Friends,

For the last few years my grandparents have been pestering me about when I’m gonna settle down and have a family and kids. Usually I’m evasive and don’t get drawn into the conversation, laughing it off. Or sometimes if I’m in a sassy mood, I’ll threaten to go out that minute and get some random chick pregnant. This often earns me an unamused look from my grandmother. But more and more I do try and dig deep I tell them about how there are plans I have and things I want to do that don’t involve looking after someone else -at least for the time being.

Now this last approach is typically my attempt to be honest and open up, but it is usually met with disapproval and conjecture, and what I realize now is that I wasn’t being completely honest with them.

So over the last two weekends while visiting both sets of grandparents* I decided to really open up about my train of thought, my reasoning, my loneliness and my profound regret so that they would understand it was more than a simple matter of not having my shit together at 30.

I started in both situations by referencing how they had expressed numerous times their sincerest hopes that I would thrive in the entertainment industry. They want me to get the proverbial “big break” and see me on TV. I confirmed that this was in fact what they wanted for me. They said “yes.” From there I pointed out that shoots often require me to travel for extended periods of time and leave behind loved ones. I expressed how not only would this be hard for a romantic partner but especially hard for a parent, the typically low pay of a non-union actor notwithstanding.

A contemplative “Hmmmmm…” was all I got.

I was making headway. It was time to unleash the big guns.

“You see how happy and energetic and carefree I am now?” I said, “Well that’s because I live a relatively carefree existence. I don’t have to work a lot and I can devote a lot of my time to my passions, my craft and my health. Well, if I had someone else to look out for I would have to devote a third or (more likely) more of my time to a job I don’t love just so I could provide for them. Not only would this take up valuable time I should be spending with that little human being, but it would make me grumpy, tired, miserable and unappreciative during my hours with them. I might snap at them in anger or frustration, yell at them or worse.”

With both sets of grandparents, both sides European immigrants who had to work their asses off when they came to Canada, this sentiment really struck a chord. Especially in the case of my maternal grandfather who came over from Italy. He opened up about how hard it was for him working shifts and only seeing my mother and uncles occasionally during the week. It was upsetting to hear, but worse to see the sadness on his face.

I went on.

“I also don’t want to raise my child in a culture where fear is the norm and people turn their back on you; it’s unnatural. I like the idea of a strong community or village where everyone is extended family whether blood or not. A place where my kid will be loved and protected by the whole community, not isolated from his neighbours and taught to be fearful of other people.”

This notion got mostly contemplative silence, but in both cases I think I saw my grandparents thinking back to their early lives in Italy and Portugal respectively, when they lived in small villages where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everyone else’s business. Times were hard but they suffered together. And when their was bread to break, they broke it together. Contrast that to our current culture of individuation, celebrity and isolation, where people walk by a guy on the street as if he is a poor decorating choice on the part of city planners. That simply will not do. My child will endure hardship, we all will**, but I don’t want to bring him into a culture where he will endure it alone or have to step on others to win.

And I think this is where my profound regret comes from: I know what a kickass dad I could be right now, as I am now, full of life, love and energy. Part of me really wants to realize that, but I also know that in this world, in this culture, I would have to give up the things that make me good father material in order to provide for my child.

It’s disgusting and I am offended that its gone on this long, but the same exploitative socio-economic system we live in that forces recent mothers back to work when they should be bonding with their child during the crucial early years is the same system that makes it imprudent and irresponsible of me to engage in the divine act of creation. This is an affront to my very existence on this planet and just one reason why I have broken faith with their current establishment, only engaging with it as much as necessary.

So, will my grandparents bother me about having kids again? Who knows? Maybe. Probably. But I’m glad I gave them insight into where I was coming from and helped them see that I was at least looking at their regrets and trying to learn from them.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*I actually have four sets of grandparents, because my parents divorced and remarried when I was young so I got four sides to my family….#swag. But in this case I visited my dad’s parents last weekend and my mom’s parents this weekend.

**The next fifty years and beyond are gonna be a very interesting and unprecedented time in human history. There is a will be lots of shifts happening. I’m cautiously optimistic.

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Baby Steps

Friends,

As someone who tries to look at the big picture and find the root causal mechanisms which give rise to the problems in the world, I try not to get (too) embroiled in issues-based discussions or put too much stock into piecemeal (attempts at) solutions.  For example, I have discussed in the past that fighting for* black rights, or women’s rights or gay rights is a doomed endeavor on two counts: 1) It promotes division by advocating for one group at the expense of others, inevitably creating resentment, and 2) It hacks at the branches of evil, rather than striking the root, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau.
However, I have come to realize that round dismissal of furtive steps toward a better world is no way to proceed either.  Rather there is a way in which admirable but mistaken good intentions can be channeled in the right directions.  More importantly, a surfeit of of proposed solutions, even those which only marginally improve on established methodologies, while still retaining many of their drawbacks, are perhaps a mandatory first step in a paradigm shift.
If this is sounding a little abstract to you, well you’re in good company, cause I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about either.
Let’s make things a little more concrete with a tangible example, shall we?

Money
A while back my friend Kelton and I were talking about the problems with our monetary system and how best to make the transition to a resource-based economy.  Acknowledging the difficulties with challenging people’s unwavering faith in the dollar, Kelton brought up the examples of alternative currencies which were being used in other parts o the world, specifically the WIR.  I remember at the time I was pretty dismissive of the WIR and other forms of alternative currency because by operating through the mechanism of scarcity, sooner or later they would all be plagued by the same problems our current monetary system faces (i.e. usury, money supply expansion/inflation through credit, hoarding, etc).  But as I thought about it more, I saw the merit of this first step in a new direction.  Perhaps by creating new currencies and backing them with something tangible like our future labour,** we could break the stranglehold of established national currencies and by doing so create openness to the possibility of a world without currency.
You see, I likened it to religion…

Religion
More specifically Christianity.  Religious freedom is taken for granted in most parts of the world.  True, in certain countries, communities and families it is taboo to question the accepted faith but as the descendant of two families from two of the most Catholic countries in the world (Italy and Portugal) I never felt afraid of being burned for heresy by becoming agnostic, then an atheist and then evolving from there into whatever I am now.  To what do I owe such freedom and latitude on the part of my family and community?  Well there’s no one answer, but I suspect Martin Luther and Henry VIII had a little something to do with it.  You see by openly addressing problems with the church establishment Luther emboldened others to be more vocal about their grievances.  On the other hand, by forming his own church, Henry VIII, for better or worse, broke the stranglehold monopoly of Catholicism in Europe.    I’m not gonna say these developments came with no costs or violent schisms, not am I foolish enough to believe they addressed the root causal mechanism which makes people indoctrinate others into ideologies in the first place.  But what I am saying is that if these first few furtive footsteps were not taken, I might not be able to write so cavalierly about my own lack of faith without you reporting me to an inquisitor.
Still I can’t help but think that if I were  contemporary of Martin Luther watching him nail his 95 theses to the door of the church I would be that guy discouraging him by yelling, “Hey Martin, you’re not digging deep enough! Have you ever asked why we have religion in the first place?!”  People were ready to bring grievances to the church but they weren’t quite ready to abandon it altogether.  Martin Luther knew this on some level and appealed to his audience.

Baby Steps!

So going forward I will endeavour to be a little more patient with ideas that seek to break established power structures even if they don’t address causal mechanisms.  Certainly I will try and reason with my well-intentioned comrades and try and help them see a broader picture, but its not for me to pooh-pooh good ideas that I deem too narrow in scope.  For even if they are only interim fixes, anything would be an improvement at this point.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Even rhetoric like “fighting” demonstrates an immaturity about how to deal with problems we face effectively.  We frame everything as an epic battle against good and evil rather than understanding the mechanisms which give rise to such problems and ameliorating them.

**It could be argued that are current dollar, being a fiat currency is already backed by our labour (or at least the public’s faith in it) since we are no longer on a gold standard.  In fact some go further and state that the U.S. went bankrupt in the early 1930s.  However, the problem with such arguments is that people who advocate a gold standard don’t realize that the value of gold is all arbitrary speculation rather than empirical and absolute.  Indeed, outside of its technological applications gold has necessity for our survival.

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Big Shot in Portugal

My Friends,
   I am in a shitty little internets cafe in Lisbon right now.  I have been in Portugal for just under 48 hours but it seems like longer.  Certainly the tempo of my trip has been high and I have covered a lot of ground.  I started in Porto in the NW of the country.  After my couchsurfing contact failed to meet me at the designated spot I figured I was on my own and walked through the city, eventually working my way south of the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia, the location of all of Porto´s Port Wine cellars.  Crossing the bridge into that land of milk and honey, I truly felt as if I had reached the promised land.

All of those warehouses stacked haphazardly in the mountain are dispensaries of fine Port wine…fucks yeah
I went to the Quinta de Noval cellar, purchased a bottle and crushed about half of it on the patio whils leisurely watching the day pass by.  But as nightfall approached I realized that facedown drunk in a gutter was not how I wanted to spend my evening.  So I hopped a bus to Valadares (sic) beach thinking Id camp in some dunes but on the bus a girl overheard my difficulty talking to the bus driver and started asking me about my travels.  I was pretty silly of the wine so I dont remember how the convo went but I was invited to meet with her and her boyfriend for coffee.  They were an interesting and well-travelled couple and gave me lots of advice on places to go but unfortunately they couldnºt offer me a couch to crash on to replace the one I had missed out on.  When we parted ways it was dark and though I had intended to go to the beach and sleep I had inexplicable energy and decided to wak along the beach to the lights in the distance, which it turned out, were the lights of Espinho.
   I dont know exactly how far I walked; about as far as you can walk in three hours I guess. When I finally got to the Espinho promenade it was around midnight and there were still some people out. But as I continued it didnt occur to me that the areas was getting less tourism friendly and more ghetto every block.  Around the same time I thought to myself  “hey this kind of looks like a low-income area where violent crimes would be wont to take place,” I rounded a corner and came into view of a group of ruffians smoking some shit.  They started advancing toward me tentatively and asking me to come over and smoke some hash with them.  I politely refused their offer while walking as fast as my fucking legs could take me.  Luckily trhey relented.  But it occurred to me that the knife I had strapped to my leg would avail me little in a altercation with six dudes when I was encumbered by a pack.  In fact, I was lucky they hadnt seen it or else they might have been provoked.  I resolved that from then on I wouldn´t wear it anymore at night to deter potential accosters, as it would likely bring more attention and therefore more menace.
   I ended up backtracking to the casino after some Portuguese Bag Lady gave me directions to the main road to Lisbon but decided that the day had been long enough.  I got back to the sand dunes I had traversed earlier and set up camp 4am … about an hour later it started raining.
   I spent my second day walking the long road from Espinho to Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal).  My attempts at hitchiking had been abortive and with a blister developing on my right heel after walking the better part of two days I was starting to despair.  But I kept my thumb out whilst hobbling forward and hoped for the best.  After three hours people driving by me (its funny when you hitchhike, , some people look away from you, some veer away from you, some veer toward you as a joke and others just throw up their hands as if to say “I wish I could help my dude, but go fuck yourself instead”) I was fionally picked up by Wilson, a student on his way to class and coincidentally a Portuguese counterpart in the army reserves.  Originally he said he would take me a couple of miles further south cause he had to get to class.but as we got to talking he he realized that he´d rather bang wit a real OG such as myself than spend a friday afternoon in a classroom.  So he drove me all the way to Aveiro, stopped at the now-abandoned soccer futebol stadium built for the Euro Cup a few years back
It could be yours for only 16,000,000 Euros
bought me dinner, showed me around the city, found me some internets, tried to hook me up with friends in Lisbon, bought me a bottle of wine and was generally a standup guy. 
Me and Wilson with my regimental flag with Aveiro canals and gondolas in the background
I am ashamed to admit that the whole time I was thinking this guy is trying to hustle me somehow, but he said only that its how he would want to be treated if he was a “walker” (hitchhiker) and that to pay him back I could return the favour when he visits Canada. He was a good dude and when he drove me to train station later so I could catch the train to Lisbon my biggest problem was bewing further encumbered by a map of Portugal he gave me and a second bottle of wine (I still had the Port from the previous night).  But don´t worry, I solved the problem of these two bottles on the train ride to Lisbon. 
  I am in Lisbon now, it s a beatiful city with crazy architecture and narrow, curvy alleys.  It is a relic of a time before zoning laws, when immediate necessity was the dominant guideline fo what was built and how it was built.  I wandered around the better part of the night, talking to people, meeting people in bars, looking for a place to camp out and generally getting over the fear I had had about the criminal element in the city (Wilson had warned me it was dangerous).  The problem of sleeping was a difficlut one and it made me acutely aware one of the trials of being homeless: you want to camp out of sight of police so they cant wake you up and tell you to move on, but also within earshot so that they can hear you if you get attacked.  After searching in vain for most of the night I settled on an alley with parked cars blocking me from view.  I think I may have slept an hour on the hard ground at most but with no foam mat (I left most of my gear at the locker in the station and only had a blanket and pillow in my napsack) I woke up shivering at 7am and figured “fuck it, might as well see the city in the daytime.  So I think I am at a grand total of three hours of sleep for the past three days: couldnt sleep on the plane the first night, got rained on the second night and woke up freezing last night.  Surprisingly I am wide awake though (the espresso here is killer).  My plan for today is to head to the airport in a few hours and haggle a cheap flight to Madeira where it should be a little more rural and therefore a little more conducive to camping.  Thanks if you read this far and next time I will endeavcour to be a little less verbose.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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