Day 2

Friday 30 July, 2010
Early evening, sunny, 30ºC.

My second expedition along the 1.5 km Avenida da Liberdade. This time I start at the bottom (Restauradores) and work my way up the eastern side of the Avenida as far as Marquês de Pombal at the top.

People/ Vignettes
– A Goth girl, with bits of her lacy skirt flowing behind her.
– A vision of loveliness, short white skirt, long brown legs, a model maybe.
– A woman in high heels, struggling along the cobbles.
– A round Moslem man, all in white, eating an ice-cream and carrying a dainty little red carrier bag.
– A car usher with a delicate action, inviting cars into a space and waving at the drivers if they drive by.

– A Brazilian man with earphones walks by. He’s on the phone. “Are you alone?”
– The doorman at a posh hotel stands inside (air-conditioning?) and looks out glumly.

– A couple sit in a badly-parked car, arguing.
– A couple on a bench, the woman sitting astride the man.

– An odd couple of car ushers: a large black man and a blond transsexual, both drinking beer from a litre bottle while they park cars. (S)he’s gaunt, tattooed and wearing a red vest, with his/her blond hair tied back.
– Just about every building has people outside smoking.
– The Sporting FC footballers Vukcevic, Stojkovic and Purovic emerge from the shop The Fashion Clinic, tanned and looking confident.
– In a café, a couple – she a lookalike of a young Greta Scacchi. She looks over, sees me watching and lowers her eyes. They walk off, a metre between them, he with his head down, she rolling her hips.
– A woman passes, cackling into her phone. A man on a phone: “Heeeeey! That’s great!”
– Four Italian women of different ages walk up towards the posh shops, leaving a wave of perfume in their wake.

– Men pass carrying a dozen or so Communist Party flags. Two middle-aged women (wives?) follow up with flags on their shoulders.

– Another car usher, of Asian origin, grey haired, quite well dressed, distinguished-looking, with a knapsack on his back, efficiently parking cars.
– Three women walk by. One of them yawns openly, sees me watching and giggles.
– A man in a suit and tie and carrying a silver carrier bag runs down the central pavement, in a hurry to get somewhere.
– Later, another man in a suit and tie mounts a scrambling motorbike and roars away.
– An older man and a young, blonde man on a bench, drinking cheap wine.
– A man in a green baseball cap with cerebral palsy struggles up the central pavement.
– A disabled man begs.

– A woman on her own in a car, probably on the phone, laughing out loud at something.
– A man in a wheelchair – very agile. He asks a policeman for help in getting across one of the transversal roads, then speeds off down the central pavement.

Sounds
– The excited chatter of children, hand in hand with their parents, crossing the Avenida.
– A skateboarder passes, the wheels of his board rattling on the uneven cobbles.
– The squeaky squelch of a lady in sandals passing by.
– An impatient driver uses his car horn to hurry along a learner driver, slow to go at some lights.
– A man sneezes loudly three times.
– An ambulance rushes down the Avenida; it has three different siren sounds. 

Buildings
Centro Comercial Guerín. Closed up, and with a homeless person lying outside.

– Further up the Avenida: Massimo Dutti, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, Prada: shoes = 430 euros; dress = 880 euros; handbag = 1,150 euros …
Fosforeira Portuguesa (‘Portuguese Match Company’) – a gorgeous building, all closed up.

Details
– A rough tile picture by Teresa Cortez, 1985. A black woman goes past a few metres away, smelling of flowers.

– Sign in the door of a closed shop: “Gone tanning.”
– A cat comes out of the basement of a derelict building, sees me and scurries back inside.

– A bright blue balloon tumbles down the central lanes of the Avenida before getting wedged in some shrubs. 

Scenes
– An African couple, she in full regalia, hail a taxi. They have a short conversation with the driver through the open window, but he drives off. They walk quickly down the street in the direction the taxi had come from.
– A young woman comes up to me with the desperate eyes of a drug addict. “Can you help me?” I automatically say “no” and she moves off down the road.
– A young Asian mother with a pram and a young girl at her side, maybe four years old. They’re about to cross the road at some lights. “Wait, wait, it’s red!” The little girl begins to cross on her own, looks back and smiles at her mother; the man’s turned green.
– A VW van is parked up with two young people on the pavement giving away vitamin drinks. They have a good-humoured argument about what music to put on, which is blaring out of the open side door of the van. They finish off distributing the drinks, pack up, leave the van where it is and part company.

– A blind man crosses the road confidently and turns and strides down the central pavement of the Avenida. But a woman offers him help anyway, and he accepts; they both disappear down some steps into the Metro.
– A short man in a suit and tie and holding a folded document in his hand stands on the central pavement waiting for someone. I stand watching to see who he’s waiting for. I stand for 45 minutes … and so does he … and no one appears. He drifts down the street. From a distance I see him talking to a tall young man, who then walks away. The short man remains, and then I lose sight of him. Later, I see him walking briskly up the Avenida, still with the document in his hand.

– A man on a bench with his dog. The dog is wagging its tail, wanting a morsel of the food the man’s eating. The man wags his finger to say no, the dog can’t have any … then gives him some. Later, the man has disappeared but leaves the dog guarding his bags. I pass, try to befriend the dog, but only get growls.

– A cleaner is dumping rubbish on the street. She brings out some magazines from an office. I go to inspect them, and she comes with a second load … I say good afternoon, and she gives me a dirty look.
– A black car usher throws an insult at someone who drives off without paying. He helps a man with a family to park up, then rushes over to another car – a mother in her forties and two teenage daughters. They give him a coin, and as they walk away, he eyes their behinds and legs and shakes his head in appreciation. He sees the first man going to put a coin in the meter and rushes over: “Not necessary!” The man’s family walks off down the street and he stays with the car, gives the usher a coin and a cigarette, and stands chatting.

(I summon up the courage and go to speak to the usher) 

Interview
Me: “Why don’t the people have to put money in the meter?”
Usher: “The warden went past a short time ago, and he won’t be back again – it’s Friday.”
Me: “Do people normally give you money?”
Usher: “Yeah. They feel safe that the car’s being guarded. In fact it’s the meter company that should be guarding the cars. They normally give me a euro – once I’ve got 10 or 12 euros, I’m off. I’ve got myself a job – window cleaning – starting Monday. I’ve been looking for work since October. I’m a waiter, actually. Sometimes I’ve had to go to bed hungry – it’s either me or my baby who eats.”
Me: “And his mother?”
Usher: “She’s away … psychological problems …”

(He runs off to help another driver to park).

Dialogues
Two women meet in the street. It’s a very effusive meeting, with lots of hugs, kisses and smiling. The husband of one of the women stands back.

Woman 1: “I’m expecting!”
Woman 2: “It’s your second, isn’t it?”
Woman 1: “Yes, it’s a girl.”
Woman 2: “So, one of each, then. It must be four years”
Woman 1: “No, not so long.”
Woman 2: “Well, how old’s your son? … See!? He was a toddler when we last saw each other.”
Woman 1: “Doesn’t time fly!?”

(End of Day 2)

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