The Edge of Europe


The view from the balcony of a flat I may soon be renting in Tavira

Amanhã is a Portuguese word that means tomorrow.

It’s also a culture, a way of life.

I have always lived my life as if it will truly start amanhã, which is analogous to the Egyptian time concept of boukra, but of course it never does: amanhã never comes: instead, my life is a succession of yesterdays, endured in the now.

Despite these infelicities, I have suddenly become serious about moving to the Algarve — or least, going there for a looksee in mid September, for a month, with an eye to return for half a year in season in 2019.

But the smart thing to do, they say, if you don’t have much by way of money, is play it safe.  Keep your powder dry.  Don’t risk the little you have.  Not much is always better than nothing at all.

But that is assuming things stand still.  That nothing changes, as if. for example, there is no such thing as opportunity cost.

I am on the edge of that now.

I am on the edge of the world, and am about to slip over into the void of nothingness.

The late and much derided (by far lesser writers) and at some level insufferable V. S. Naipul wrote once about being in a Free State, by which he meant, in part, being unencumbered by others.

In effect becoming an immigrant is to be in a perpetual free state; what your life was like before is not something that matters any more.

I have carried the burden all my life of having enjoyed an elite childhood with flashes of exciting promise.

And I spent much of my adulthood thinking that, amanhã, I will write that novel that will bring together all the disparate strands of my dissolute life and turn it into art.

But that never happened.

Instead, I lived in sardine cans in Manhattan, then in a modest 2,600 ft house on an acre of exquisite land that I cultivated in Greenwich, CT, then in a little concrete bunker in Florida, with no land to speak of, this a 16-year stay that was periodically punctuated by aimless treks into distant deserts, unsuccessful temporary returns to Manhattan, and vainglorious escapades in the South of France and Egypt, where I tried at some level to relive my misspent youth.

Some people regret at some arbitrary demark that they have not made their mark, so to speak.

There is tremendous freedom in not having to live up to your own hype.

The freedom to do as you choose, unecumbered by past glories, where even the smallest win appears massive, since not much is expected of you any more, and in old age you begin to find that much of what you do matter little to others, except of course to you.

If in the end your only real responsibility is to yourself, then one can imagine worst fates than moving to the Algarve.

One can picture retiring in solitude to a white-walled delightfully ramshackle villa, with a red-tiled roof, a view of an ocean within reasonable walking distance, and wild hills in the hinterlands beckoning.

Perhaps in solitary yet semi penurious luxury one may be tempted to brood over some Moorish-themed novel that one will never write, that will never quite crystallize into some coherent artistic vision.

In such a forgiving setting, perhaps the guilt of such semi planned indolence can be reasonably assuaged by the comforting fortifications of Medronho, which is uniquely native to the Algarve, and the occasional partaking of salubrious kif.

One can easily see the attractions of a stoner life of charred sardines and meditative walks along the burning hills on the edge of Europe.

Ah the tremendous possibility of freedom of such an idealized life, far away from the disappointments of the past, far away from America and her problems, an America that, after half century, ended up as little more than a footnote of a missed opportunity, filled, or not, with regret.

Imagine no longer caring about any of that any more, and living on less than two thousand euros a month — in effect becoming a sort of pseudo literary vagabond in the Algarve, without the paralyzing burden of having to “start over,” as if there is still some crucial yet inherently ridiculous goal that one must still achieve, a goal that will finally make one’s life bearable, as the flesh continue to self-crapify, and the mind’s conversation, your internal voice, in effect, you, softens into a patter of senilic palaver that no one listens to anymore.

Who doesn’t wish to be happy, at last; or, at least, not be so unhappy, so much of the time?

In a small place on the edge of Europe, where the pace of life is still enough for one to notice things again, a life in which amanhã never needs to be awaited, or, rather, having arrived, is neither spurned as a juvenile act of unyielding rebellion, nor accepted with resigned equanimity.


leaving america