Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

I was away for two weeks. We went on a road trip in Portugal, driving 1,622km in a temperamental Fiat, which my fearless driver remembered from her childhood as ‘Fix it Again, Tony,’ an obviously derogatory nickname for a car known for frequent breakdowns.

Not to worry, it generally behaved. It refused however to charge our phones, which was the source of much stress, on the road from nothing to nowhere with a dying cell, and no Waze to the rescue. But otherwise, it was a smooth and much enjoyed adventure.

Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, Aveiro, Sintra, Evora, Tavira, Faro, Monsaraz, and Silves, I might have forgotten a few, all UNESCO World Heritage sites, so much culture, history, and esthetics. We loved every minute.

Driving, the roads were empty. There were no cars on the highways. The villages along the way were practically empty and very quiet, just a handful of little old ladies and their cats.

We saw no young people, in the country side.

They think there is nothing here for them, said my taxi driver on the way to the airport, they flock to Lisbon and Porto, or move abroad to other countries. There is no joy in the air.

We thought it was paradise, I said, a fantastic country. They think it has no future, he answered.

True, they were a dictatorship until 1974, and while government improved the mood remains somber, and repressed.

We listened to Fado, the music of Portugal and wanted to throw ourselves off the cliffs. These people have a fondness for sadness.

On the plane to Aruba I sat next to a young Italian, 42. He does something complicated in Milan, something to do with international clients and marketing campaigns. I told him among other things, that I admired the Italian Dolce Far Niente and their Forget Domani attitude when I was growing up, being able to take the afternoon off, watch a sunset, ride a Vespa without a helmet, lavish amazing attention of strange women, and speak the loudest. In general, acting as if Italians were the center of the universe, and God’s gift to humanity.

He looked at me soberly, 10,000 feet in the air, and said: We lost that. We are no longer like that. We are rushed and crazy, and we do not take afternoons off to have ice cream and espresso in the park, we still cook, he added, chase women to a certain extent, we’re still loud, but the essence of the free-spirited Italian has disappeared, we are burdened by the list of things-to-do.

So the Portuguese think they have no tomorrow, and the Italians have become preoccupied and stressed.

Who’s living for the moment, in the present, just for today?


I am grateful for that.

I will resume my “A column a day keeps the doctor away” routine, from today on.

Thank you for reading.


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November 24, 2017
Rona Coster