The Expat’s Bill of Particulars



“The most important thing we do is not doing.”
Justice Louis Brandeis

In a few weeks, I shall be in Tavira.

Aside from ruthless commercial developers, there are four kinds of people who are attracted to places like the South of Portugal:

  • retired couples seeking a cheap(er) place to live, but who don’t yet grasp that the Portuguese government will give their combined Social Security income a 30% haircut and that gas costs 7 to 8 escudos a gallon;
  • short-stay drunks of all ages out to party and leave condoms, cigarette butts and beers cans on the beach wherever they go;
  • young families with children whose vacations abroad would not be possible without notorious Unwashed Masses enablers such as Ryanair;
  • gated community retirees with plump bank accounts and plenty of idle time to enjoy a feathered nest holiday home-away-from-home; and,
  • slithery individuals from Russia and China and the UAE, with complicated financial backgrounds, who view the corruptible Algarve (and places like El Gouna) as an ideal place to wash money.

Then there’s ordinary Joes like me, who have gone from Can Do to Canned Do, the shame of which they mitigated by turning themselves into dour expats professing serious, high-flown disagreements with the policies of their country.

You do not want to try to sell such folks — who are known worldwide as the Order of True Internationals (or, OTIs) — a bag of happy-talk bullshit, for they invariably take themselves very seriously, while participating in various off-the-wall activities, which become increasingly strange with advancing age.

For them, the motivation for upping sticks to a place like Tavira is not the opportunity to lead a fabulously airhead Instagram life, or go for condescending Gwyneth Paltrowesque walkabouts in Portugal’s arrièrepays.

Rather, it is an agonizingly self-important yet miserabilist decision, based on a perceived iron-clad will to resist — which they would trade in for a healthy investment portfolio faster than you can say Bill Gates — and end their unwilling participation in the tragic farce, as they usually characterize it, that has unfolded in their home country.

If you ever feel like trolling these would-be Maoist guerrilla fighters with prostate problems, just say the US government should:

— Restrict access to abortion services
— Limit the use of race and ethnicity-based decisions in gatekeeper domains such as college admissions
— Uphold voting restrictions and gerrymandering though a tilted judiciary
— Expand paranoid gun “rights,” irrespective of the human toll
— Strike down all remaining campaign finance regulations
— Give religion in general, and messianic Judeo-CristĂŁo belief systems in particular, a central role in public life
— Continue to destabilize the Arab / Muslim world via policies that support dictators and endless wars
— Provide political, financial and military cover for the world’s only remaining apartheid colonial project
— Shred the social safety network in the US for the old, poor, and sick
— Destroy the environment
— Look the other way while foreign powers interfere with our election process
— Ensure that medical care in the US continues to be the most expensive in the world
— Saddle recent university graduates with crippling student debt
— Manufacture a contrived two-Americas narrative that serves the underlying financial interests of an undemocratic plutocracy
— Attack the First Amendment relentlessly, whenever graft by the party currently in power is exposed
— Continue to rabidly support an unnecessarily bloated military, at the expense of needed social and infrastructure programs that balance the overall needs of the country
— Abet Big Data information gathering, which in effect is a license for private companies to spy on American citizenry and ensure that any meaningful privacy acts never become law
— Fight to protect draconian drug related-laws that remain on the books, while continuing to bolster a privately held incarceration industry that imprisons an increasingly large segment of America’s underprivileged
— Harass, intimidate and attempt to expel any immigrants who are deemed not to be “white enough”
— Continue to legislate an ill-conceived federal tax system as well as budgeting national/state spending priorities that favor the already wealthy.

Given the current political environment in the US, it is unlikely the needle will move much on ANY of these issues in the next few election cycles.

Given, too, that life is but a finite and often unfair proposition, OTIs reason that it makes eminent sense to become a political expat. They view themselves as compelled by noble conviction and tragic circumstances to become refugees on the golden sands and verdant golf courses of the Algarve, providing of course that they happen to be among those lucky enough to afford such a fate.

Allow me to elaborate.

Generally speaking, hard work and thrift went the way of the dodo bird long ago: just ask anyone today who was middle-aged or on the cusp of retirement in 2001 or 2008, but with not enough time, or worse, too much elapsed time in the salt mines, to get back on the hamster wheel and attempt to reconstitute his or her life savings, after one of the decimating financial collapses that occur with regularity in America’s unbridled form of Capitalism.


Like a Hurricane Gordon approaching this Labor Day weekend (see above), there is always some financial calamity over which you have no control that can suddenly shred your well-laid retirement plans, the ones you made when you still had your morning eggs sunny side up.

Everyone knows that in America you can work hard all your life and then be kneecapped at age 50 into long term joblessness and eating out of dumpsters while sleeping under a bridge.

Perhaps worse, you can be trapped in a (usually Southern) state you abhor, where you may find yourself having to decide from time to time between buying medicine or food.

Despite all these risks, the economically un-battered lucky few can and do elect to move where the stench of the rotting cadaver of democracy, American-style, does not appear to pervade a bigoted, insular body politic hurling towards cultural oblivion and political irrelevance.

Such a place is Portugal; it says so right here.

These are the soul-nourishing rewards of being a true-blue OTI believer, that is to say, a person who might bore you to tears in some Iberian cafe one afternoon, should you inadvertently strike up a conversation with one sitting at an adjacent table.

The sad thing about all this is that many OTIs secretly view themselves as a quasi revolutionary group that is composed of the elite of American society.

They may not be obvious about it, but deep inside OTIs hold ordinary tourists with utmost contempt.

Their blood pressure goes up at least 50 points if they see Birkenstock sandals (add another 20 if these are being worn with woolen socks).

They get all snooty if they see groups of old Germans or young Brits descend on their favorite hangout.

They have to stifle the urge to gag when seeing geezers with fanny packs amble by in contented pairs.

They think, no more, no more, don’t let any more in:  they should be the last to enjoy Paradise.

With an unforgiving view of the rabble of humanity, they reject the notion that to change the rigged game, you have to stick around, which they insist is pointless.

If truth be told, my view is accepting the notion that most every one of us is just like everyone else, no better or worse, and that all that separates any one of us from the typical Wal-Mart tub of lard or the bum in the gutter are our lucky stars and maybe an aptitude for doing one thing a little better than most.

Felicidades, yo.

Like it or not, you’re still one of us — expat jive aside, you will always bleed American!

leaving america