Lisbon...A City Of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa in the Streets of Lisbon

Streets that never change?

Living History

Some writers, Like Kaka with Prague, become inseparable from their cities. Their words are pulled from the smells, sounds, and forgotten backstreets of their surroundings. 50 cents, a cup of coffee and a supercharged imagination can transform even the most mundane city happenings and its inhabitants into fantastical works of literature. Literature where reality and fiction combine on paper to form an identity or soul of "place." In Lisbon, there is one writer that immediately comes to mind...Fernando Pessoa. Living in more than 15 places all over Lisbon, due to financial constraints or just the instability that comes with a young Republic, Pessoa barely left his beloved city, capturing a photograph in his tome of poetry "Lisbon Revisted." He spent his days wandering from cafe to cafe gathering material from all that passed before him. I found myself thinking of Pessoa today as I was on my way to work and caught a glimpse of an old barber shop, a throw back to another era where getting a hair cut was more a consultation about life and less a consultation about which conditioner to use. A place where razors are sharp and the smell of "aftershave" hangs in in the air like thick water soaked balls of cotton. Lisbon is chalk full of places like this, from shoe repair shops that have shoelace stocks that could be archived for historical record to specialty button stores. Lisbon is unique in that it´s past can be seen on display in a sort of living museum. While at the same time Lisbon is teeming with modern design culture and is constantly on the border of becoming too "hip" without knowing it. From sleek new cocktail bars to concept sneaker stores, there is no lack of creative energy here. It´s the fact that these two distinct eras can co-exist which makes this city the place I love. As I watch the constant stream of new construction of designer hotels and luxury apartments I find myself wondering how long this will last. As a city moves forward a part of the past has to make way for the future. But, somewhere along that line of development there is a perfect moment when the two worlds, past and future, stand side by side and in unison tell their story.