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Monthly Archives: July 2011

RTP Gems: Episode One

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I have to share with you this gem that my mother and I witnessed while flipping channels.  Comcast had not correctly marked the show, as it often fails to do, so I have no way of knowing what it was to look it up or grab a photo or watch it again.

Which definitely pisses me off.

But it’s cool; I still have the story:

The scene is a cheesy “nice” Portuguese city apartment – “grandma” nice, not “on the edge of fashion” nice –  and there’s an old guy and two of his obviously returned-to-the-empty-nest kids.   Seriously.  They are fully middle-aged.  Even so, the fact that the peri-menopausal daughter is wearing pigtails (and not in an ironic Gen-X kind of way, either) does not get so much as a batted eyelash.  No, instead, for some odd reason, all the attention is being exerted on attempting to trick a priest into believing their saint statue is really crying.

Can you imagine this being a plot on “Who’s the Boss?”   This is the very reason why getting RTP is so beyond awesome.  But I digress.

Cut to behind the statue, where one of the (obviously darker skinned….hmmmmm) maids or workmen or whatever is pumping the hell out of some plastic contraption.  And no tears are coming out of the saint.

Back to the priest in front of the statue.  Someone asks why the heck the room has begun to strongly smell….. of ketchup.

Cut back to the pumping.  The guy is pumping HARDER.  Obviously, there is something stuck in the pump.  Uh-oh!

It's a ketchup bottle, plus the lettering saying "I put Ketchup on my Ketchup"

Why do I smell ketchup coming from that church?

Ketchup shoots out the eyes of the holy statue like Our Lady herself was trying to win an olympic archery medal with eye-catapulted condiments instead of well, arrows.

And the priest totally buys it.  As far as he’s concerned, it is holy blood.  He doesn’t even want to wipe it off his toupee, which is by now, crooked.

The last shot is of him in a towel, still stained in the holy sugary tomato-pasty stuff that is making half of America fat.

Maybe you just had to be there.

Inside Poke.

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Poster of HP's Patronus rewritten if JK Rowling was really Portuguese.

Sausage: The non-magical patronus! It has to be better for a dementor attack than mere chocolate. Did the books tell you that? No. Come on, JK, you lived in Portugal. Throw us a bone from your billion dollar Scottish castle!


And how poorer are you who do not understand.  And I mean this both the luso-ignorant and those who don’t read Harry Potter.  I mean, if you’ve never choked on the stench of the neighbors curing the intestines for sausage, you, my friend, have not lived.  And HP speaks for itself.   I love my Harry Potter, but with a half-billion in box office sales, he can afford someone poking fun at him.

Sorry for the terrible graphic.  It wouldn’t let me steal the BIG graphic off Facebook.   But you can see more with the lovely link under the poster.

It’s from The Portuguese Kids, of course, everybody’s favorite Portuguese East Coast comedy troupe.  Oh, when will they yet again come to Cali?  They were in San Jose two days after I had surgery… so that wasn’t going to happen.  It would have been tragic to see a show and not have been physically able to laugh.  They hail from Fall River, Massachusetts, which apparently is teeming with lusophones who never have to go prodigal like Yours Truly here.  They do incredibly funny imitations of their immigrant parents as they were raising children and working in this odd landscape of America.  “What better way to celebrate the Portuguese Culture than to laugh and remember your childhood?”  they ask in their bio.  And yes, what better way?

When I read that, however, a chill comes over me thinking of my mission of  breaking past the guns, germs, and steel about why nobody outside the community understands who we are… No Bombs.  No Fast food.  No Crime families.

Here’s my downer for the day:  this humor is still an inside joke.   It’s Portuguese comedy for other Portuguese people, mostly people who had immigrant parents.   It’s barely even for the immigrants themselves!!

I’m certainly not saying that these guys are not brilliant and can’t go far with their talent.  “The Back to the Festa” YouTube clip had me in stitches.  I just wish we could somehow tweak this and make it for a wider audience.  It would sell us better than anything else I’ve seen to those in America who, when you say you’re eating Portuguese food, make jokes about consuming cork.   They will no longer HAVE to joke, due to the  brand new, clear picture in their head of creamy, lovely cod and potatoes.

This stuff should be just funny anyway; the immigrant-first generation child conflict is centuries old and is always the same, even with the quirk of each culture who dips its collective toe in the American pond.  Come on, out there.  If this was a bunch of Italians doing the same thing, you would laugh.  You wouldn’t be any more or less clued in.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was accepted by an American audience.   But damn it, those Greeks got the fast food down.  So the bastards had SOME name recognition.

Just enjoy and support the Portuguese Kids.  They’re hilarious.  And they are going to be part of the Guns, Germs and Steel of our eventual recognition and takeover of American pop culture.  Okay, really, just recognition.   Without anyone bombing anywhere or being to blame for the obesity crisis.

This poster also reminds me of something that’s been bugging me for a while.  Everybody write a nasty letter  to J.K. Rowling (or don’t since I know personally I’d end up apologizing in it and telling her how much I loved her books) for her making the only reference to Portugal in the entire eight book series was the evil founder of Slytherin House, pureblood aficionado, and eventual ancestor of Voldemort, Salazar Slytherin.  Really?  It goes over 90% of the readers’ heads but for those who it doesn’t, was I just revving myself up this morn for thinking about political oppression?  For the stories my mom would tell of her having to shove towels under the door jamb if her parents were talking about politics so the PIDE wouldn’t hear?   I’m not saying you can’t use Salazar’s name, I’m just saying geez.  You lived there for years.  You had a child there.  And you couldn’t throw in any other more…. positive references?  Why couldn’t Harry find one of the horcruxes with help from the Cock of Barcelos or something?

I guess we should just take what we can get.  She could hardly name it “Hitler” house. Too obvious.   Just go with Hitler’s fascist colleague, I guess.

I leave you with a treat.   The images aren’t stellar, but the line “we can hear you on the other side of the store!!” should ring a few bells for more Euro types than just Luso-types!

And no SPELL CHECK, I did not mean BARCELONA two paragraphs up!!  Ah, the trouble I’ve seen….

Feed the Birds. Till they explode.

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If you have a Portuguese mother, you know food.  I’m not talking about cuisine; that’s an individual endeavor. I’m talking v-o-l-u-m-e.  It doesn’t even matter if your mom likes to cook (mine doesn’t).   But mine sure cares that I never spend one moment hungry.   Even if the only reason I haven’t eaten is that I’m a giant lazy ass who is too comfortable in bed to get up and put a waffle in the toaster.

The Portuguese mother, she will ask you if you have eaten at any time of the day.  It doesn’t matter if you have a bag of half-eaten Carl’s Jr. in your hand.  And the mess all over your shirt.   The first level of business is always going to be the question, “Did you eat?”  And she’s not sure if she didn’t witness it.

A fat brown bird on a wire.

I just ate lunch at my mom's.

She will call your cell phone on the opposite coast or in Europe and make sure that you remembered that you are going to get hungry.  How many years you’ve lived away from home and managed not to waste away have no bearing on this.  Oh, no.  She is terrified that at any given moment, you might be starving and when you surface, she will shove food down your throat like you’re a goose destined to be foie gras, but with the loving touch of a mother bird gently stuffing worms down her baby’s throat.  So the voracity of the foie gras maker, but the love of the mother bird, you ask?  Yeah, that’s about right.

It’s her damned job to worry about these things.   Even if you’re  old enough to have a kid yourself.  Even if you possess an AARP card.  Even if  you are on your way to my Overeater’s Anonymous meeting.

Now let’s be clear about that question you Hollywood types are asking yourself.  The Portuguese Mother does not want you to be fat.  You have no excuses for either skipping her food, nor your backfat.  If you are fat, it’s because you stuffed yourself between meals with cakes and cookies the purchase of which was definitely not pre-authorized.  How dare you!  It is not the Portuguese Mother’s fault that you can’t fit in those skinny jeans that make you look like a puta, anyway.  Eat your rice and peas!

She is not stuffing you in an unhealthy way, at least knowingly.  But she is convinced that whatever you are eating outside her presence is completely devoid of vitamins.  So you’re really malnourished, even if you are a hippy health nut.   Especially if you are a hippy health nut.

And God forbid you ever stop eating meat!  My god, do you want to die of anemia?

So I came back to my apartment from recuperating at her house after surgery, and I unloaded three (count ’em!) THREE modestly-sized coolers of food.   It’s the Berlin Airlift for one.

Of course, my mom isn’t just randomly overstocking me; it’s only been six weeks and I am still too weak to go to the store and get more than five or so pounds of stuff without feeling like I’ve been attacked by a bayonet.    So it’s not like my mother is being ridiculous or anything.  Usually I just come back to Oakland with a bag of canned foods.

The Berlin Airlift for One Includes:

4 kinds of meat all divided into single servings and frozen: chicken, two kinds of fish, enough turkey for six turkey burgers, two tiny steaks

A pound of celery



Both baby carrots and loose (DELICIOUS ONES!!!)

A pound of quinoa



A very large orange juice

One bag of walnuts

Two kinds of whole wheat pasta (though she was suspicious because they were brown)




A bag of brown rice

A near-gallon of cranberry juice for the cat.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  It really does keep him from getting those notorious blockages that male cats get very easily.  But it’s still funny.  Feel free to laugh.

An entire pallet of cat food for the cat, by the way.  That twerp eats better than I do.  He has an allergy, so he eats canned venison.

Three potatoes

Two loaves of bread

Low-fat cheese

Six eggs

Two boxes of cereal bars, AND

Greek yogurt

So my mom is so awesome I have not had to lift anything over five pounds for the entire week I’ve been home.   I’m going to live a long time without having to, too!   It really means something to a girl with a gash in her stomach!

Thank Heaven for Portuguese moms!

“Cidade Despida” Snuck Out The Back, Jack

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Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the end of this, and think you might, go away.  I’m not holding back, folks!

So my mom and her RTP-palooza has broken my heart.  Kind of.  I mean, don’t send flowers or anything, but if there’s one thing my mom and I love, it’s a detective show.  And if there’s another thing she loves, it’s one in Portuguese where for some weird reason, I can understand a large portion of the dialogue and don’t have to ask a million questions.  Why I understand better a show about mayhem and murder rather than shows about say, kids and their grandparents (Pai a Força might as well be in Russian), I have no idea.  My grandparents didn’t bequeath me a huge vocabulary concerning police blotters and arrest warrants.

Cidade Despida  (The Naked City) was the story of a policewoman who is head of a unit in Lisbon.  Apparently (I didn’t see this part) when she is transferred in from Porto as the lead cop, the boys’ club of her police station doesn’t respect her, but she is awesome and prevails over the sexist twats.  And their twattiness begins to melt away.  Kind of like S. Epatha Merkerson as Lt. Van Buren in the original Law and Order with Lenny and Benjamin Bratt.  Except this one looks and dresses like Aeon Flux grew her hair out so much it won’t do the cool flip thing anymore.

Seriously, the whole time I was watching, I wondered, why did it take Van Buren till almost 50 to be sporting lines like “You don’t like me because I’m in a skirt?”  when Ana (Caterina Furtado) is doing it at, say, maybe 30.

Ana has felt for a long time that someone is watching her.  She doesn’t sleep.  She habitually runs- I mean, really RUNS–  in the wee hours of the night in locales so beautiful you will have your fingers on your dial to your travel agent.  If there were affordable flights.  Or still travel agents….

But she can take care of herself.  She packs heat.  I’m not sure what the gun laws are in Portugal, but I’m pretty sure that my mother’s fear of knife-weilding white slave traders says something about the relative rarity of the heat-packing over there….  at least it 50 years ago (laugh at me now…).  Ana’s boyfriend, an arty, sweet, concert pianist, regularly makes her dinner with all the wine and roses fixings a woman could hope for, but she prefers to let work-related stress eat her alive.  In the shower.  Fully clothed.

But this is just the story arc that runs over the whole series – each week has (had) its own separate plot.  Episodes have a beginning, middle, and end and a social message.  For example, “orgies are a complicated emotional minefield that can end in murder after 30 odd years of being forced to partake unwillingly.”   Okay, I’m being a bit flippant about it, but seriously, this isn’t just a junk soap opera where you get a tiny morsel of goodies each time you watch.  This is a whole, juicy sandwich with a pickle spear garnish.  Each episode, the viewer is teased with a haunting detail of the  larger story of who exactly is haunting this woman.  MMMMM!!   Each week, I got ready to order a bigger and bigger sandwich.

She just found out about the boyfriend.

So imagine my surprise when I figured that last week, when it was revealed that (Woah!) it was her BOYFRIEND who was  taking pictures of  women he murdered in puddles and then submitting them to art galleries anonymously.  His ultimate goal was to eventually square the collection off with a picture of her body….  I thought it was just another episode.  I thought that next week, she’d simply show up, just like Lt. Van Buren after she fired on a suspect at an ATM, with her kids on the scene in the family minivan.  She had some ‘splaining to do to the mucky mucks, but Van Buren stayed afloat, even in her skirt.  Ana would hold her head up high and come back to work and just be single now, solving crime. Eating sexism.  That really old guy that didn’t like her, he’d be arguing for her not to get transferred back to her native Porto by the end of August.

No.  Not so.  This week, instead, the same actress was in a period piece about Porto in the 19th Century.  That last shot of Despidea, of her finally getting some sleep in her bed, in the apartment with the amazingly hot, brown, mod (MOD!) wallpaper, that was it!  

Dick Wolf has totally skewed my expectations.

But on the bright side, this series did win “Best Detective Series” at the Moscow TV and Film Festival in April.  I’m glad for them.    And I wish, wish, WISH they were all so easy to understand.  And had fewer women acting like crying fools and more women kicking ass.

Yes, I mean you, lady who looks like Melissa Gilbert on Vingança.

This morning, I had to be content to watch João Baião introduce the Museu do Porco.  Yes, that means “Pig Museum.”  It was reminiscent of a collection of merdinhas collected by a crazy person in an attempt to fill their empty lives with cute, pink animals.  I was crying inside.

Air Fair.

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“Did you know that you can visit PORTUGAL today without having to pay for the air fare? ” asks the “About” statement of Luso Mercado of San Leandro.

This is not a post about Luso Mercado, though they certainly deserve one. It is a whiny post about how I have to fly 6000 miles to see my family, who somehow aren’t for sale on the shelves at Luso Mercado.  They’re glad, I can only assume. But my wallet is not.

Three years ago, a good friend of mine got married and I went to the wedding in Scotland. I paid the most I’ve ever paid in my life for transatlantic service – $1100 for London-SFO.

This year, the cheapest I’ve found is $100 more.

Never mind going to Portugal.

Ah, Grandpa!

A friend of my mother’s who is a travel agent says she’s seen her middle class customers vaporize, and while her bread and butter is now super-wealthy jokers who think nothing of paying $13,000 a person for a week’s vacation.  This friend is completely disgusted.   So is my mom.  So am I.

My parents were teachers, but I went to Europe three times before I ever hit college.  Admittedly, the first time was as a freebie because my mom, a French teacher,  took the French club to Paris, and she was given a bonus ticket for a family member.  But still.  It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t a total fantasy either.  My dad went several times as a Boy Scout and a college student, and finally as a Fullbright Scholar.  His parents were not Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags, either.  But they could afford some travel.  In college, I could pocket some of my earnings from filing medical records during the year, clear off a credit card, and mess around like a low-profile champ for a few in London, no trouble.  Even in the mid 2000’s, I went to London for $200, TWICE.

The internet means the world is smaller, but if we can’t afford to fly, it’s less warm-blooded.  More cheap phone calls and fewer hugs, more screen time and less face time.

a platypus.

No one's Luso-experience should be a platypus. Sorta warm blooded, laying eggs, sporting' a bill. Nah. it should be a big fuzzy bunny.

It means something to put the foot on the dock where my ancestors sailed to lands unknown.  To walk the steps my mother walked when she went to high school every day.   Incidentally, that’s what the banner photo behind the “PL” title of this blog is; it’s a cropped picture of the field in front of her high school, commemorating the day  that we walked across those fields.  She taught me how to see how many boyfriends I’d have in my life by throwing grass seeds at my sweater.  I’m still waiting for the last few seeds to pan out, I guess!

It means something to walk the streets of my grandfather’s Lisbon, to drink bicas in the last place he and I had them together.   To touch the black and white sidewalk stones.  To keep your touchstone somewhere near your grandfather’s haunts.  God, I don’t want my touchstone to be In-N-Out Burger.  Or the strip malls of my youth.  It’s home, but 7-11 isn’t where my soul soars.

Maybe I’m too sentimental.  My bones won’t break if I never shop in the Chiado again.  My heart won’t stop if I never again stroll the beaches of Cascais.

But damned if it’s going to be the choice of the oil companies, airlines, and my lack of a 13,000 dollar cruise ticket!

But it’s not so bad.  Someone my mother knows is flying their mother’s body back to Portugal.  THAT affair costs $11,000.  And she isn’t even going to remember it.  Isn’t that why we don’t travel with babies?

I’d bury her in America and take the cruise.  But that’s the limits of my sentimentality.  Bad, bad A!