When people think of middle-aged Americans or seniors retiring someplace overseas, it comes up looking something like this.
This picture, used most recently by the New York Post, is the go-to postcard snap of geezers gazing contentedly at some European vista before being shipped home in a box.
Now I look nothing like that.
Not yet, anyway.
In a solipsistic fantasy, I imagine my face still glowers with vaguely antifaish defiance that suggests I have not yet resigned myself to doting on small yappy animals or having vague conversations with casual strangers about the weather.
While there are lots of sites, such as Unsettle Down that feature uplifting stories about attractive young familes who go off on endless treks around the world as so-called “digital nomads,” somehow there is something not quite believable or real about such people.
More authentic to me are articles such as this one, by Rebecca Mead.
She worked for many years as an editor at the New Yorker, an elitist publication that has turned down many drunken stories I wrote in the 80s and sent to their slush pile — long after the late Brendan Gill intimidatingly asked me, as a 16 year old, to show him 10 or so stories that might prove my seriousness as a young writer.
I passed on that golden opportunity, and stopped dating his daughter not long after, though I did win the Creative Writing award in High School upon graduation.
I particularly liked this passage from Mead’s article:
Although I did not initially seek permanent residence, I didn’t think of myself as belonging to that other, unappealing category of resident foreigner: the expat. I wasn’t here to socialize with other Brits, to regard the locals with amused disdain, then scram when it suited me.
This captures perfectly how the British expat “community” (if a transient group of people who are here today, and gone tomorrow, can be described as such) in El Gouna, Egypt, where I spent seven months until April of 2018.
My going to Portugal has nothing to do with wanting to hide in some expat cocoon.
It has more to do with the fact that the time has come for a settling of accounts, in a manner of speaking.
I have lived a long time, and seen many things, in many places.
Some of the things I have seen and experienced have been very ugly.
Some have held out a glimmer of hope that all is not always as Nietzche and Camus and Naipul described it.
I feel it is time to come to some conclusions of my own.
I do not know exactly what form these conclusions will take, but this feels like a moment for taking stock, and not just taking pretty pictures of pink flamingoes at the Ria Formosa in the Algarve.
It’s time to build a permanent new sort of life for myself away from the United States that is not ruled by tin-pot dictators or proto-fascists.
I hope the generation coming up will elbow aside all the old stodgy Dem pols that have sat for decades in the corridors of power, making compromises and deals with a vicious cabal of retrograde snakes. For them, the era of backroom deals and sketchy compromises is over.
Yet I wish to be far away from the coming war, and live somewhere in Europe, and not some mosquito-infested humid South American expat colony.
I no longer choose to live on the edge of the Bitter Lakes, among the grotesque racists who support the vile, fat pig currently in the White House.
If you are somehow still unfamiliar with such people, who tend to congregate in places like Florida, take a look at this vid.
A pathetic old man, trying to intimidate a pregnant black Floridian, until he has to deal with a brother who puts him in his place and shows him a thing or two about intimidation. This country will be a better place when these racist geezers all die off, and that time can’t come soon enough — for the good of America.
Meanwhile, I want to look out my window, and see things that please my soul, instead of things that make me want to, every hour of every day, get as far away as quickly as possible.
Portugal seems as good a place as any, at this stage.
It’s funny, but children instinctively know when something is poisonous or evil.
It is when you become an adult that you tell yourself that you have to compromise and put up with the intolerable.
Nine times out of ten that’ll start to eat you alive, until eventually, you’re left with a discarded shell of what you once were, sitting alone on some park bench, thinking about all those promising yesterdays.
Wish me luck.
If you have read this deep into this post, I know you probably have thought of doing exactly the same thing.