Few people in life have baffled me as much as our Lisbon airbnb host, Maria Teresa.
Upon our arrival the septuagenarian welcomed us into her ornately decorated home and prepared us two cups of tea. As we sipped our tea, we tried to make the usual small talk. How long have you lived here? What do you recommend we see first?
She didn’t answer either question but instead asked Sarah aka Dara* about her MacBook. MT then told us she had a Hewlett Packard and that her previous airbnb guest also had a MacBook and that she thinks MacBooks are great computers.
When we told her we were living in Barcelona, she said, “I was there recently for the Olympics. There were a lot of trees lining the street, but I think they removed most of them? Are there still a lot of trees there?”
Barcelona held the Olympics in 1992 and I’m honestly not sure how the foliage has changed in the city over the past two decades. Because of both of those facts I was unable to answer any of her questions, so I guess we were even in getting to know each other better.
Within my first hour of meeting her I had so many questions.
How did she find airbnb? I theorized that it was perhaps a similar situation to a kid helping their parents get on Facebook, except that instead of gaining digital friend requests, this old lady was set up to have foreign strangers stay in her home.
She didn’t seem to need the money as her place was massive and covered in fancy-looking junk.
Despite the fact that she spoke English fluently, she wasn’t all that conversational, so I don’t think she was doing it for the company.
Unfortunately I’ll never know the answer to any of my questions because when I asked her if the tap water was OK to drink, she walked in the kitchen and began to show me how to use the ironing board.
After a night of bopping around in Lisbon’s buzzing Baixa barrio, I set my alarm for 7:40, because MT told me the parking meters began at 8 am on Saturday.
I woke once in the middle of the night by the blaring of MT’s television. I checked my watch and it was 5 am. Damn you Maria Teresa.
Then I got up at what had become the ungodly hour of 7:40 to roll out of bed and feed the meter. As I walked outside I noticed a lot of cars illegally parked and several others who hadn’t paid their meter. I suspected that MT had given me incorrect information, just before I confirmed that meters were not checked on the weekends. I then shook my head and told the sidewalk that I hated Maria Teresa and hated myself for not double-checking her.
Other anecdotes I want to have written down to frustrate/amuse myself in the future:
• In the center of every doorway hung a windchime that would hit you square in the face if you were over 5 feet tall and weren’t paying attention.
• While her house was old-lady-cluttered, it was noticeably absent of anything resembling a family photo. In her laundry room, above the machine there was a large photo of a 6-year-old girl deadpanning the camera while wearing a 1960s-ish-era dress. Above that photo, hung a framed advertisement for Cool Water Cologne by Davidoff, showing a black-and-white shot of a bare-chested male laying on the beach.
On our third day in the house, I asked MT what was the significance of the photos. And with the first mention of her children, she responded, “That’s my son and that’s my daughter.”
• During a brief moment when MT was giving appropriate responses to my questions, I asked her how she got on airbnb. She told she found it on Google. And that is a prime example of when search engine optimization goes bad.
• We had this conversation:
MT: I’m watching this really funny movie with this hilarious black guy (pointing to The Rock, in Journey to the Center of the Earth II). It’s a very imaginative movie. Americans love using their imagination, don’t they?
Me: (Considers correcting her that The Rock is Samoan**, not black. Decides to let her live in a world where The Rock is black.) I guess we do.
*Sarah introduced herself as Sarah. Maria Teresa said, “I’ve never met someone named Dara.” Sarah said, “Actually, it’s Sarah.” MT said, “That’s great Dara.” And it was Dara the rest of the trip.
**Wikipedia actually tells me: "His father is of Black Nova Scotian (Canadian) origin and his mother is of Samoan heritage." So I guess we're both right.
Therefore, when we realized that one of the two Chili’s in all of Europe was located in Lisbon, we had no choice but to go.
We had our jackets on and were halfway out the door when MT offered to show video of Portuguese bull fighting. We told her we were on our way to dinner. She told us to sit down.
She then cued up a documentary that showed bulls running through a field. She pointed out which bulls were black and which ones were brown. The DVR denoted that the program was an hour long. We were screwed.
We tried to get out of our mandatory Portuguese Bulls 101 class, but the best we could do was skip to the actual bull fighting.
MT actually knew a lot about bull fighting, much more than she let on with her narration of the bulls’ colors in the documentary. However she made us sit through the opening ceremonies and a few minutes of Portuguese color commentary, until I told her that we couldn’t understand a word and that we were really hungry.
Thirty long minutes later we were out of the house and on our way to Chili’s. It looked the exact same inside. The menu was nearly identical, except everything was a lot more expensive. The Pepsi still came in an over-sized mug.
Dammit, all these posts are just about wacky airbnb hosts. Here’s some stuff about the actual city we visited.
If the Lisbon tourism board ever said, “We need someone with one year of copywriting experience and 0 years of tourism industry experience to come up with a new slogan for our city.”
I would be very suited for that loose job description and I’d give them “Lisbon: Just as many iconic landmark replicas as Vegas, but without any of the Vegas shittiness!”
Then I’d present these photos: The Golden Gate Bridge | Ponte 25 de Abril
|The Christ the Redeemer is hiding in the cross-beams|
(Interesting fact: Many people will tell you it’s built by the same company who built San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s actually built by the company who built SF’s Bay Bridge.)
Christ the Redeemer | Cristo-Rei
Ever wondered how Rio de Janiero’s Christ the Redeemer statue would look against a faux Golden Gate Bridge? The answer is not so bad.
Arizona Water Tower | Water Tower behind LX Factory
I’m not sure there is one water tower in Arizona, let alone a famous one that bears the state flag. But still I appreciate these guys’ homage to a landmark that only exists in my head.
|It may appear that I’m standing atop this amphibious Portuguese navy vessel and saluting the nation’s capital, but really I’m gathering intel… just in case Portugal attacks the States.|
Below is their version of DUMBO, which technically is Down Under the Ponte 25 de Abril, except nobody calls it DUP2A.
Hipster cafes, check. Hipster flea market, check. Front Street pinwheels, Dammit.
|I’m still not sure if Lisbon’s street-art asses are the 1% of street-art asses or the 99% of street-art asses. Either way, #Occupy4Life.|
|A cool letter C|
|Ferari & Flowers|
|My cool shirt from the flea market|
|Even when I’m on vacation, I’m thinking, “How can I make Janiga’s timeline cover photo better?” That’s just the kind of guy I am.|