Thought #1: We greatly underestimate the role of chance and luck in our lives. Those of us born into middle class families in the United States in the twentieth century take the circumstances of our birth for granted without realizing how remarkably lucky we are to begin life in such a privileged position. (Imagine, for a moment, starting off as a peasant in rural India, say, or being the child of an addled meth addict living out of her car.) Every day, year after year, countless little happenstances beyond your control affect the direction of your life. While I'm happy to take credit for whatever good I have done and try to accept responsibility for my failures, I know that blind fate has played a major role, for both good and ill, in determining much of what I have and what I don't have, how I ended up where I am.
Thought #2: Even more than we underestimate the role of luck, we completely overlook the fact that half of the population is, by definition, below average. Whatever you'd like to measure -- intelligence, skill, hand/eye coordination, height, common sense, shoe size, geniality, literacy, courage -- half of the people are going to be less than average. Remember, too, that all these qualities are relative: if you consider yourself smart or sensible or wise, your superiority is only possible because a significant number of your fellow humans are dim-witted, scatter-brained, or foolish. No matter how much we, as a species, improve ourselves by raising the average of intelligence and dexterity and overall ability, half of us will never measure up.
And now for the update. You may have noticed that my last blog post, Porto and Beyond, was back in March, after we had visited northern Portugal. That was not our last trip, however.
In April we spent a few days in Boston. We walked around, went to museums, and I ate a lot of Boston Cream Pie, but the highlight was catching a comedy show, Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy, that included our friend and favorite funny guy, Brad Morris. As always, snaps from the trip are on Flickr.
Click on the image for a larger view on Flickr and more details.
Then, in May, we went back to Portugal, the third trip there this year. (Have I mentioned that we like Portugal?) We spent two weeks in Lisbon, which we know fairly well by now, but this time we rented an apartment in a different part of town, the São Paulo bairro. As much as we enjoy Portugal, I think we went too late this time. It was quite warm, even hot at times, crowds of people were all over town, and because everything was blooming in the beautiful Portuguese spring, I was sniffling and weeping and sneezing every day and night -- I was allergic to something or everything.
Even with the heat and the crowds and the allergies, Portugal is lovely. Our favorite place for Sunday morning coffee was at the Arte Antiga museum, which has a beautiful terrace overlooking the Rio Tejo.
We went back to some of our favorite places and got together with friends we've made on earlier trips. We had a delicious lunch with Ana and Manuel at Granja Velha, took the tram to Graça to say hello to Antonio at A Cabreira, and stopped in to see Werner and Mario for great pasta at Gato Pardo. We also visited a couple of palaces we had never seen before, and had fun at the puppet museum. More than once we had a tasty meal at the little tasquinha on the ground floor of our apartment building, run by our neighbor Angelina. We ate grilled fresh fish or roasted chicken almost every day, and I had way too many -- or not enough? -- pasteis de nata. On our last day we went to the opening of the fancy new food court at the Mercado da Ribeira.
Since our return we do what off-season travelers do during high season: not much. While the rest of the world is rushing about we're at home, my lethargy increasing as each Texas summer day grows hotter than the one before.