Monday, February 21, 2011

The Last World's Fair--Lisbon ((1998)(revised, 2-2011))

The Last World’s Fair—Lisbon (1998)

Last of the 20th Century's World Fair's/ and those books

I said to myself, Dennis, you love to travel. You got a little business, and a professional job, and your fifty-one years old. The time is right. This is the last of the World’s Fair, for this century. I sat on that thought for a week or so. Then I said, ‘Let’s do it…’ meaning for me to get moving on it. And so I took a flight to Lisbon, picked up a few books prior to my departure, one on traveling within Lisbon, and around it, and a book called: "The Night in Lisbon" by Erich Maria Ramarque; very interesting; about WWII. Not that it would have a lot to do with my trip, but it was inspiring, such things get me into the mood. And such things help me set the anxiousness for my adventure: there seems to be magic in preparation then ending up where you planned.
This was not the first time I used books to enhance my excitement, and great authors to pave my way mentally to visit a once in a life time geographic location in world, such as Lisbon, and a once in a century World's Fair. I guess if the World’s Fair wasn't going to be there, my interest would not have been as passionate as it was, but being in Seattle Washington in 1967, and going out to the Space Needle, helped me make up my mind, knowing that five years prior there was a Worlds Fair, 1962. Plus, Elvis Presley made the move: "It Happened at the World's Fair" in 1963, going up into the restaurant in the Space Needle, consequently, I did the same. Put that all together, and along with the thinking period, the ingredients were just right.
Back to the books though, books with such great authors like Hemmingway, who loved Paris, and Mary Renault who loved Greece, I read most all of their books from cover to cover, and Faulkner who loved the south, I also read all his books. And Ramarque, who loved to write about Europe and WWII, all inspire me to travel; some to their personal locations. The places they write about in their novels. Their books helped me make up my mind. And everyone needs a little help in such conspiring. And these people I mentioned, when I visited their locations where they had been and I had now gone I could almost feel their pulse, it was in the stones of the cities I visited; I always feel a little more at home, welcome when I arrive because of this. As if I know—someone there. I never feel the stranger. If I look up, it is because of something new, not because I feel like a tourist.
The fuel for Lisbon was the World's Fair. The passion was set probably a long time ago by Elvis, and his movie, in 1963, “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” and Ramarque refueled it in 1996, with his book “A Night in Lisbon”. And the passion too, was refueled. And when I heard about the Fair, the stage was set. I had the money. Passion is a most interesting thing sometimes. If the passion is there, we allow things to influence us. But you really need the package. And don't expect someone to make the party for you. You make your own happiness.
I'm not sure what I would call my city, besides St. Paul, Minnesota; and although I was born there, and have a home their, so did F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great author who wrote: "The Great Gatsby" I went to his apartment once, on Summit Ave, about two miles from a building I once owned. I didn’t have to travel all that far, that time.
Lisbon is among several cities in the world I could live in, to name them, in no specific order: St. Paul, Seville, Paris, Lisbon, Kyoto, San Francisco, Huancayo, Peru (or Lima), and Augsburg, Germany: I like places by the mountains, oceans, rivers. Maybe even the city Cuzco, in the Andes, like Huancayo (which is in the Montero Valley nestled within the Andes). But I’ve been to 61-countries, and pert near, every big city in the world, so the few we’ve picked out, is really to me, quality cities. I’ve got 747,000-air miles thus far; but no need to get into all that.
Going to the edge of the docks in Lisbon looking out into the ocean and wondering about the great earthquake that took place there a few hundred years back, devastating Lisbon, is by itself, a historical moment as you look around the plaza area—the fair grounds not far away. Here you can hear the romantic and tragic voices of the past. That made the trip even more interesting.

When I arrived in Lisbon, I went as usual, to my hotel first. And as usual, I could not really sleep. I figured out my system for jet-leg, or so I thought I had. I usually try to adjust either by taking a 30-minute nap after arrival at my destination, or look at the clock, and adjust to the time of the location, tired or not, go about my day as I’d normally would: but make sure you don’t sleep the day away. Another example would be: if it is 9 P.M. then I get ready for bed. If it is 3: 00 P.M., I go get a cup of coffee. If it is 6 A.M., I get another cup of coffee, and if it is 10 A.M., I look for a nice location to have brunch. In thirty-six hours my body will start to shut down; shortly after that, I may sleep thirteen-hours straight readjusting. In essence, everybody needs to know how their body operates.
After I had arrived to the Hotel, I did have a cup of coffee, a little brunch, and thereafter—it being around 2.00 P.M., I went sightseeing, to the Tower of Belem, in Lisbon. It was a reminder for me that this area of the world was once a world power. It was built around AD 1515.
I think what I liked about Lisbon the most, was that it had a little of everything, at a decent price; that is to say, a little of San Francisco, some of Rio, and a lot of those old winding streets like in Paris, and Malta, cobblestone streets; and a number of grand churches. But this is not why I came of course, even though it was one of the best hidden secrets in Europe.
Yes, it was the last World's Fair of the 20th century that is what brought me there. About a year after I had attended the Fair, I heard that only about 100,000 Americans had went to visit the fair. Most were Europeans, to my understanding. I am not sure why, but they did very little advertisements on it. I had found two articles on Lisbon's World Fair to be, about six-months prior to it, in some newspaper, and one magazine in St. Paul, Minnesota. And the second magazine I found, just three-months prior to going there.
They did a marvelous job in cultivating the landscape for the project. It's clowns, and monitorial, space tower, along with its grand aqueous, many foods made it a success, but not in the advertising department, or in the number of American people that attended. I had heard not too long after the Fair, it fell quite short of a profitable attendance mark.
Although I liked the World’s Fair, what I guess I felt was lacking was a little more entertainment, especially for kids, or families. Not much of a Midway area, any candy frost, hotdogs, peanuts, and very little circus type atmosphere, although it did fulfill its obligation with the international displays; with some real nice looking restaurants.
That day at the fair, I had lost my travelers checks, which were replaced the next day; either someone picked my pocket, or I simply dropped them when leaned over here or there—not sure when and where, I had a spots coat on, so I suppose it was easy if indeed I was robbed, or they simply fell out, loose from my pocket.
And I did get to see all I wanted to see, for the most part, and I was glad to go back to the hotel that evening. The fair was just something I had to do, like when I went to Japan, I had to go see an International Sumo Wrestling Tournament. It was costly, but it was great. But after a while it got boring. As in Maui, Alaska, and Iceland, I had to go to such things as whale watching, submarine diving, and exploring a glacier.
But Lisbon would remain one of the great cities I would tell myself I could live in if necessary. And to this writing there are only those locations in the world I’ve already mentioned, I could live in, or would prefer to live in.
Along with Lisbon's great scenery, and foods, it has a marvelous history. Portugal's Temple of Diana located in the town of Evora, about 100 + miles from Lisbon, it was grand, a site to marvel at.
One of the other great features of Lisbon, especially by night is St George’s Castle [Costello de Sao Jorge] which I could see each evening and morning out of my hotel window, it was a nice reminder of their beautiful stone work.
One of the things I loved most in Lisbon was the "Elevator de Santa Justas". I must have gone up its elevator five times or more, going to the top of this cast-iron tower having brunch. I loved the view, and the uniqueness of it. I doubt there is another like it in the world.
Maybe that was my Lisbon. I always seem to find something I like a little more then anything else. It reminds me of going to San Antonio, in Texas, and going to the Alamo five times. I just never got tired of it. Or in Paris, which I've been to four times, and each time I seem to end up at Notre Dame Cathedral, a half dozen times, walking along the river front.
There was no real suspense’s on this trip [which I am happy for], to make it stand out, other than the World's Fair itself, although the huge aquarium, at the fair is notable.

No: 253/June 15, 2004 (reedited, 2-2011 to a shorter version)