We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There are many ways to live a life. During my (brief) life thus far, I have seen a lot of lives up close. There is no right way to do it, and the safe bourgeois way is not any ideal.
We hired Ricardo with his new Toyota minivan as a day guide out of Lisbon on the recommendation of our perfect boutique hotel, Palacete Chafariz d'el Rei in the Alfama. (Indeed, Portugal, like Spain, is full of Muslim cultural remnants.) He took us out around the countryside and the ocean shores because we handled the city on our own on foot and on the trolleys.
Ricardo seemed about 35 years old, married to a psychologist from the Azores but no kids yet - "Not until I fulfill my need for adventure." He is tall and devilishly dashing, macho. Makes spare cash on the side as a fashion model and thinks it is hilarious that he can do that. Speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and is teaching himself Arabic for fun. Grew up in rural northern Portugal, family had no money for his college so joined the army which trained him as a sniper and gave him language school, and eventually assigned him to UN duties in Somalia, Bosnia, and Africa. Then the army paid him to go to the University of Lisbon, from which he spent a year at the University of London. Then he taught high school history for a few years but quit in disgust because the kids did not seem to be excited to learn anything.
Thus he began his career as a personal guide/historian. When we hired him, he had just returned from running a 5-day camping trek in Iceland. Showed me his iPhone glacier pics and their tent camps by the hot springs. He loves New England in the autumn, especially Vermont, is planning a trip with his father in law to drive from NYC to LA in a camper. They want to hike the Grand Canyon and the Rockies, and to drive on Route 66. He says that the Portuguese do not aspire to money because life is beautiful, but aspire to live with spirit, joy, friendship, and love. That is our culture, he said. He is an exemplar.
He says the Portuguese must learn languages because nobody speaks theirs.
We quickly tired of the routine tourist places he took us to, so we asked him to take us to his favorite countryside place for a typical lunch. He got on his iPhone, called the simple place in the middle of nowhere to ask them to stay open late for his Americans, and the result with their own farm wines was dazzling. One of maybe two or three high points of the whole trip. We insisted that he dine with us on the octopus, lamb, fish, and that fluffy Portuguese cheesecake with the fruit preserves on top. A feast. We skipped dinner on the boat that night.
How he seems to be pals with every cheery cop in Lisbon is beyond me. They come up to his car and slap hands. The police in my town are grouchy to everybody even though we pay their salaries. Or maybe because we do.
(Portuguese cooking tip from that place: We all hate rubbery octopus and squid. For tender octopus and/or squid, freeze first for 12 hours, then boil - and then sautee or grill. Sweet, succulent, and tender.)