September 2007


The Good Life

When I was a kid, many summers I went with my father from Denver, across the country to New York

These trips were by car: Up Interstate 76 to Nebraska, where we joined I-80 going east through Lincoln, Omaha, Des Moines, the southern edge of Chicago, across northern Indiana and Ohio until Cleveland where we switched to I-90 going to Buffalo and then across to some small city where we got off the highway and took back roads to his parent’s summer house near Lake George.

We usually left the house long before sunrise: 3:30a was not all that unusual; and we would often make the journey spending only two nights on the road. If there were two people of driving age in the car, it could be made with only one night on the road.

At my tender age of… well, whatever it was, I would usually be excited for the first hour of the drive and then I would doze until a more reasonable waking hour, coinciding with Nebraska.

Nebraska’s tourism motto at that time declared it was “The Good Life.”

I can still remember the signs scattered across the state, pointing out possible stops/tourist attractions—things like “Chimney Rock,” “Lincoln: State Capitol,” or “Farmer Bob Plowing His Corn.” We never stopped at any of these attractions heading east; on the way back home, father would time the trips so that we would spend the night in Grand Island, Nebraska, so that he could go to a dynamite steak house, quite possible the only legitimate attraction in the state.

Now there is a reason for this reflection: I spent today at the Praia de Bella Vista, the same beach I visited earlier this year.

For those of your concerned with my skin’s health, you’ll be happy to know that Coppertone SPF 15 worked, excepted in the places where I forgot to apply it. Happily that was only two spots on both of my upper arms. My back remained its pale self and I thoroughly enjoyed myself basking in the warm sunlight on the Atlantic Ocean.

I left the beach well before the end of the day, a trade off on the fact that I got to the beach at 9:30 this morning; so my 3:30 departure was not all that unreasonable.

It was as I was watching the ocean, on one side, and men cruising, on the other, that I realized that Portugal has The Good Life. They have beautiful beaches, a fantastic capital city, a booming economy, and a correspondingly nice and relaxed lifestyle.

After a spell of self-basting, I wandered down the beach, and despite not having a swimming suit, I hopped into the ocean, surrounded by lots of other people in similar clothing. The relaxed lifestyle doesn’t object to men and women mixing on a clothing optional beach; and even children in some cases. I couldn’t imagine this kind of place in the States, without a massive brick wall surrounding it and a membership fee that would discourage all but the hardiest and richest in society.

Meanwhile, I’m back at my hotel. I’ve grabbed a quick shower and ate my dinner—something I bought at the grocery store a short walk from the hotel.

I’m not quite sure what is next.

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