After 13 years, Lorrie returned to Portugal for her final visit in the fall of 1982.
September 12, 1982, Lisbon
Dearest Joe – My fourth day here. I feel as if I’ve entered another dimension of life—if not another planet. In a way, its as if I had left one self here and have rejoined or reentered it, but with an important exception—somewhere I’ve lost the burden of pains and joys I formerly carried on my shoulders. I come much lighter than before. If I am freer, I have also lost much of myself. Its strange—contrary to what I thought, life peels away layers instead of adding them. Or maybe this is so only later in life.
I feel more natural here than anywhere. Therefore I feel very involved with Portugal. I can feel the tangible and intangible signs of its decline. I go around touching the tiles on the buildings, the marble—-now defaced and partially destroyed—and these priceless material things, so painstakingly planned and shaped—such a precious heritage, now defaced and devalued—cast shadows over this landscape while less tangible things leave areas of void.
I bought two books: one, The Diary of Mario Sacramento (remember, he was the doctor-writer friend of mine who first arranged to have my articles published? He died almost three years ago). Also, a book of poems by the father of my friend Antonio Quadros.. His father was a major figure here—writer, ambassador and creator of museums, etc. I haven’t yet got in touch with Antonio. I just want to be alone for awhile. But the amazing thing is that everyone remembers me after thirteen years! Everywhere I go, someone remembers—even though I never spoke to them before.
Joe, the Portuguese know how to live much better than we do. Why can’t we have such good food, such a way of life? Even with all the problems of the retornados—displaced returnees from Africa—there is practically no crime. Purse snatchings occasionally—not much else. The Portuguese love their children and old folks and are tolerant of the blacks—in fact, as before in another generation or so the blacks will disappear, so quickly are they absorbed. Also, it is easy to take on Portuguese culture. Superficially certain class distinctions are disappearing—servants, waiters, etc, are less humble—but the economic distinctions are the same.
I know the language better than when I left—but people recognize that I have an accent. Also, as usual here, everyone thinks I’m Spanish.
My ankle hurts a little and my eyes a lot. I’ve been straining them too much.
Everyone smokes like a chimney. Its like an absurd comedy, although there are certain zones for non-smokers.
The weather is lovely! Very warm. At the beach its heavenly. I swam yesterday at Cascais. Many things are the same (most things). Still pot-bellied men strolling along the water with their hands behind their backs. A lot of M. Hulot scenes. When I went to swim some better swimmers (men) followed me in and then tried to copy my special back stroke. Only a few people dare to venture into the water. Most prance and splash on the edge.
Political slogans are all over everything—like screams in red and black paint. Who reads? I feel that they are frozen echoes from the past—revolutionary days. They changed nothing and now they hang unheeded in space.
I’m sitting at an outdoor café—Pilar Snack Bar. Its nearly 10 o’clock at night and its very balmy. People leisurely eating and drinking around me. Shortly I’ll walk back to my residencia.
I’m sitting in a sidewalk café outside of my residencia. The weather has been very warm, but its nicer here than Berkeley. I know you’re interested in food. My appetite has been ravenous. For lunch today—pizza with fresh whole anchovies and green olives—delicious crust—a salad of tomatoes and onions—a fruit drink and fresh melon. Yesterday—Fresh grilled fish with lemon, parsley and butter with small whole potatoes. Why can’t we eat like this? Everything here is so fresh and delicious. It’s going to be hard to lose weight. My health is excellent. I have a problem adjusting to sleeping hours. I feel sleepy in the afternoon and wide awake around 1-2 in the morning.
Its amazing to me how everyone remembers me.
I dreamed about little Ruthie the other night. I know that she’s wondering where I am. I’m glad that she loves you too and that you’re so good to the two girls. I’m also very happy that you now realize, more or less, that all living things are brothers on this planet.
Last night I was thinking of you—hoping that you’re writing. Life is so short—don’t count on having time to spend. I wish you wouldn’t throw away your mind.
I’m grateful to have had one great love affair. It was easy for you to go from one woman to another and I remember that you derided me because I am not like that. I am sorry that I was such a difficult woman for you. But I feel a little better knowing that those other women did not bring out the best in you .I wonder if the Joe who “thought” (?) he loved me was “the real Joe.” The young girl who loved you was the real Lorrie. Life defeats most of us.
Back to food—we are a very poor culinary country. The only thing I remember that was good was my bread and the cheeses (most foreign except for the Jack). The simplest restaurant here is better than Narsai’s. My appetite has picked up—therefore I still haven’t lost. Last night’s dinner: pork chops—grilled with lemon and butter; tomatoes; a small mound of rice; French fries; radish; roll and butter=$2.25.
The food is so fresh and tasty. I bought some tomatoes, pears and grapes to eat in my room. They have taste. So now I know I’m not losing my taste buds.
One bad thing here: every street is literally a freeway. When the signals change, the cars take off like the proverbial Hadean bats.
I’d better mail this letter. Love to you—from your wife who still loves you.
September 24, 1982, Lisbon
I received your funny little letter yesterday and read it over and over. I was so glad to hear from you!
Its drizzling here this morning. I had to buy an umbrella—but it was cheaper than in Berkeley.
Yesterday Eduardo saw me in the street. He had just returned from his vacation. He and his wife took me out for a dinner at a very charming little restaurant—we had osso buco. I’m going to see them Thursday night also when we get together with some other old friends. Eduardo asked about you. He’s got gout also—but I think he’s on the wrong diet. I’m so glad you’re eating lots of fruit.
You ask if I found Lisbon as I remember it. Yes, I certainly do, but also many changes.
The Portuguese are trying to copy the USA—but in their own inimitable way. Everyone tries to know some English. I’ve asked a lot of questions of different people. Eduardo gave me lots of information.
Tomorrow morning Antonio Quadros (remember my friend Antonio?) is going to pick me up and take me for a ride in the country
I am planning to leave Sunday. I still haven’t decided about going to Spain—I would like to go and I think its OK to leave for Greece from there—but after that Iberia accident I’m not enthusiastic about that airline. It might be my last chance though…