It’s Just The Place We Bathe!


Yesterday, because it was the only chance for exercise, and we’re being fed like geese headed to foi gras, we took the morning to go to the beach and walk around a bit.

The beach — praia de Matosinhos, the only name I remembered because we used to go there for a month sometimes two every summer — has come on a bit.

First it’s only 15 minutes or so away.  I always tell everyone we didn’t grow up near the sea and going to the beach was a treat.  This is not precisely true, so much as it’s hard to get there via the ancient medieval network of roads, on buses that belched smoke but moved only a few inches per minute.  It took us two hours, with a change of buses, and we carried picnic baskets, so that we wouldn’t starve on the way.

Anyway, the sea was just the place we bathed, though very cold and known for very big waves, which I was terrified of having been rolled once or twice.

Now it’s all tourists in wet suits and surfing boards.

This is a little a bit like the theme of this trip.  The place I used to go and get drunk with college friends has been cleaned up and smartened up and is now the center of tourism in Porto and very historic, every house a plaque saying it’s from the 14th or the 11th century.  The place I used to go to tea with grandad — the one that’s not a MacDonald’s — is now expensive and we had to stand in line to go there and have tea in style like I used to (I suspect J. K. Rowling flapped her lips about it. It’s a beautiful belle epoque cafe, but nothing explains the line of people from all over the world.)

I live in fear of some day coming back and finding that someone has taken mom’s washing tank, because it’s very important and a rare jewel of washing tank design.

We walked on the beach and wet our feet — it was very weird for two seabirds to move to Colorado — but I kept telling Dan “But it’s just the place we used to sea-bathe.

Brewing somewhere in the back of my head is a story that for full justice should be set in Terry Pratchett’s Lancre, with tourists coming in and removing the gazunders and Nanny Ogg’s pipe because they’re rare examples of blah blah blah.  I’ll have to file serial numbers.

I’m still working on Grant in Portugal, but with us leaving Tuesday, we’re being besieged by visitors come by to either say goodbye, or get to see us while we’re here.

Meanwhile weird insight into young Sarah.  I met a young man (eh, my age) I hadn’t seen since we were both 18. We met at a conference right after I came back from the US from my exchange year.  I have no memory of him, but he remembers me.  I asked why.  He said “Because you came in, and you took charge.”

Eh. I remember myself as mouse timid.  This might not have been true.

78 thoughts on “It’s Just The Place We Bathe!

  1. But Sarah? The stories you’ve told of your life in Porto, and growing up, all seemed to indicate that you were a bit of a take charge type as a young teen. And after living for a year in the US? Americans tend toward assertiveness, and I can see you gravitating to that trait as it reinforces your own.

    1. Being scared is what brings on the assertiveness, for some of us. If I am freaking terrified but there is someone who needs taking care of, I suddenly become very bossy.

      What this says about my bossy relatives and mom, I think can be taken as a corollary. We kids did some scary stuff, back when.

    2. I never thought of myself as assertive. I guess because Portuguese are loud and fractious and I tended not to be (by comparison.) Interesting.

      1. You don’t particularly have to be. I had an office “secretary” once – very young (compared to anyone else) four foot something, effacing attitude to the max.

        When she left (not mad, the local university didn’t have a good grad program after she finished her BA) – total chaos. She was the linchpin of the office, coordinating all of us, and nobody realized it until it was yanked out.

        1. I ran into that myself. My first major job programming I was one person. When the shutdown occurred, all my work went to two companies (assets sold but division was shutdown.) Bosses and managers tried to get each of the companies to hire me to continue working on the multitude of programs I had worked on, from base maintenance, major rewrites, and from scratch, integrated systems; multiple of them. One or two page documentation (max) and documented (ish) code (hey, I hated trying to figure out what I’d done a year or two later, so it wasn’t “horrible”. I mean “Why the heck did I do that?” is a real thing coupled with “Oh, yea, that’s why.”) Both companies declined. I, after all was only “one” person. Each company had a staff of a half dozen programmers each and could take over what I’d done.

          Ten months later, got a call about two of the major projects to see if I’d be willing to spend ONE day (8 hours) reviewing the projects with their programming staff … I said, “No. Thank you.” Why? One day was not near enough time. Besides, their programmers should have been able to do what I did … it is called trace, debug, work it through, and one other thing … Oh, yes, discuss the program with the target users, who were NOT going to be there; ever. Also, was about 5 months into my new job. I was done with the old stuff (besides, it’d been 10 months, come on already.) Yes. Might have been just a little miffed that I had been deemed unneeded. Hey, I said no thanks politely.

    3. From the inside, you can see how unpleasant it is, and know that you’re doing the needed work because SOMEONE has to do it and it’s such a problem if nobody does. It’s a gut wrenching thing to try to figure out things that you can’t do, but someone else both can and will.

      Outside, folks see someone just start Doing Things and nobody stops them, some folks listen when asked to do a thing, so they must be in charge, right?

      1. Exactly. I inadvertently ended up leading a building evacuation and then keeping everyone else calm because the person supposed to be in charge had to clear the building. I later learned that several other people managed to keep themselves together until we got the signal that the emergency wasn’t as bad as feared, simply because I seemed comfortable and in-charge, if a touch annoyed by having my work interrupted.

        You never know.

  2. It’s interesting how our perceptions of ourselves differ from the way others see us.

    1. Had that thought my very own self. The men I looked up to growing up, the most of them thought they were nothing much special. One friend of mine who faced down a drunk brandishing a loaded pistol, thinks of himself a coward to this day (although if you’re too afraid *not* to do, does that count I wonder?). Female friend of mine who makes her living talking to strangers is terrified of crowds. You never can tell.

      Just goes to show. When you act the part, most folks will accept what they see. I’m still surprised to this day that there are those who think I’m competent and have all my ducks in a row. From this side of the eyeballs they’re not ducks but cats and I’m all out of tuna… *chuckle*

      1. Husband doing mother’s day calls today– happy mothers day to all here– and one asserted confidence that we were all well organized by now, because (Foxfier) is just so well organized and we’ve been here since Tuesday.

        …I am not well organized. I’m decently competent at figuring out where things that someone was holding would’ve been placed, I am fairly good at stacking things so they won’t fall, and I prepare for stuff like crazy, but NOT ORGANIZED.

        1. Often it requires being considerably well-organized to realize how organized you are not.

          There’s a cartoon somewhere about a duck sitting serenely on the pond, with its little feet paddling madly underneath the surface.

          1. ….telepathy is NOT ALLOWED, RES.

            I was picturing that when I hit ‘post comment.’

            Not helped by my running joke being to call the kids my little ducklings when I’m trying to herd them around, mostly because it makes even sour-pusses smile, and because my mom tried to help my over-sensitivity by teaching me a chant that’s meant to be whispered: “Quack quack quack quack, like water off a duck’s back.”

            It’s a variation on “not my monkeys.”

            1. Heh. Reminds me of an old McDonald’s commercial. Bunch of small kids dressed in yellow stickers marching in a line in the rain chanting “Quack quack waddle waddle”.

            2. Could be worse. Mine and my friend’s are collectively known as the wolverines, for very good reason.

              Of course, when it started they were all kindergartners and thought “wolverine” meant “delicate princesslike wolf”, which opened up a whole ‘nother can of worms…

            3. One of the more interesting sights around here was when I was driving and a momma quail crossed the road, followed by about 2 dozen chicks, all in line.

              1. Nothing cuter than a mama quail with her chicks lined up behind her. Especially when they stay that way as she turns and weaves through the landscape.

      2. Female friend of mine who makes her living talking to strangers is terrified of crowds. You never can tell.

        Yea… but that is often situational. I’m an avowed Introvert. So much so that I’ve stopped buying something (or went looking for another source) on a couple occasions, just because the store I usually get it from put it behind a counter rather than out on the floor so now I have to TALK to someone in order to get it. HOWEVER, When there is an event and I’m expected to talk or answer questions, it’s perfectly natural for me to do so. Yes, it’s draining and I often need some time alone to decompress afterwards, but people have commented about how good I am at it.

        1. I hated speaking in public, especially as a kid with a stutter. (Seems like it was stress related, go figure.) As an adult, I’ll occasionally stop dead while talking because I’ll lose words, but the stutter is long gone.

          I cauterized the fear of speaking in public when the president of an engine builder’s club (name redacted to protect the innocent and guilty) quit in a huff, and *somebody* had to sit up front and be the MC. It was easier than the secretary role I had to abandon (carpal tunnel). The key for me was that I knew I was NOT the reason why people were there. I just did my job and got out of the way. Usually. I did take the opportunity to launch the occasional bad joke; perks of the podium.

          1. I despise speaking in public. Don’t mind it one on one or two. But not even a small group, let alone an audience of any size. Participated in Toastmasters, completing the program and a few of the extra options. I can do it, if dragged kicking and screaming. But I absolutely fear and loath it.

            1. Early on – I didn’t like it much, either, I only got through broadcast training through not thinking about people listening. Just focusing on that one person – usually my baby brother – imagining that I was talking to him, and him alone.
              Later on – it was all about being in the radio studio, all alone with the mike. All those listeners out there – they were there, but to me, they weren’t really there. I know – weird, but that is radio for you. Sometimes, you just don’t want to think about all those people listening. Just focus on that one person, like the little brother.
              And later on – doing a talk in front of a real-time crowd of people? God – all those eyes, like a box of fish, staring back at you! It’s an adjustment, for sure!

              1. Luckily, well passed having to deal with that. Retired. Fully expect to not put myself into a position where that is going to happen.

                OTOH. Couple of times have gotten caught where that wasn’t the intent. Along the lines of talking with one or two kids, and then you have an audience beyond the kids and kids parents. Once was describing and naming some of the plants around us, beyond the marked trees. Another was explaining why we had our dog with us well past the “Pets not allowed sign.” Latter parents sent the kid over to do the dirty work. To be fair, her tag that day wasn’t very readable although it was clearly visible on her harness.

    2. Sometimes I wonder what people from previous stages of my life think of me, and I usually decide I probably don’t want to know.

      1. Yeah. When my best friend from school graduated HS in ’70, he moved to San Diego from the Midwest. After college, I moved to Silicon Valley(tm).

        He got married in the 90s, and our elementary school teacher was there, having retired to SD some years ago. She remembered me as “that fat whiny kid”. Hey, at least I was memorable. 🙂

        1. I found out that one of my classmates remembered how I “always” had candy and would “sneak” it during class.

          …when I was 14, I read a study that a sugar boost was associated with better performance on tests, so I did something I never did and bought candy during the finals for that year. Sixlets. It seemed to work, so I used it every year after that.

          That’s the only time I BOUGHT candy, much less ate it at school– I didn’t have the money for it before I got a job, and I was always dieting.

            1. I remember when an article on how our memories were connected to our sense of smell prompted me to concoct a scheme of studying while eating certain flavors of Life Savers — Pep-o-mint for one subject, Spear-o-mint for another, Wint-o-green for a third, Cherry for yet another — and then taking the linked flavor during the exam … but I had already passed the last of the CPA exams, so I never put it into practice.

              1. I’ve noticed that the odor from burning pine needles reminds me of when I had to strip a bunch of paint from a plastered room with a heat gun. I’m guessing it was one of the components in the paint.

              2. That’s pretty much my plan for when I go to law school. Will probably be lemon drops or peppermints. Memorable scents, and both also have a “Wake-up/concentration” effect associated as well.

      2. Yeah, I don’t want to know, either.
        I know that certain people in my military field thought that I was a bitter, harsh-spoken b*tch. Not the ones who had actually worked with me, first hand, though.
        I had a commander and a couple of direct supervisors a bit baffled over how on earth I had gotten that rep, though. Water under the bridge,

          1. I don’t know why anyone would remember me, or who know I am, ever.

            But I know some do or must. Pretty sure one of the positives on a job I got in 1990 was because someone on the interview committee remembered me from college (over 10 years after I graduated), and not only was he in a class behind me, I didn’t have the same last name when I interviewed (from when I was in school); did not put my maiden name on my resume. Then that field had a small percentage of women enrolled in classes. Not so few that I knew all the other women, but still not very many.

            Do not know why he remembered me, that never came up. He didn’t mention it directly to me, just it came up in discussions in the committee. I never asked how. Another member of the committee mentioned it in passing as (just) one of the reasons I got the job.

  3. Regarding that story; I bet that after half a day, Nanny Ogg’s front lawn would boast a sign reading “No Trespassing. Violators will be toad”. And the tourists think that ‘toad’ is a misspelling…

    1. and, given intelligence distribution of tourists, would provide an adequate supply for her to have her “Boof!” on the day.

    1. I wonder if perhaps Perspective is conserved quantity and the result is… well, horrifying, really. Or at the very least, quite bewildering.

  4. The timid mouse that leaped at the lion up front so there wouldn’t be any trouble down the line…

  5. Ah, the things we’ve seen to never see again. San Diego’s motto used to be “A city in motion.” If you didn’t visit some place for 6 months, when you went back, everything had moved/been rebuilt. Causes this to play in my head,

    On the other hand, I was talking just Friday to a colleague about a local strip club. It has been in the same location with the same name for at least 60 years. He had no idea, We mused that it should qualify as a historical building.

    1. The owner of an (in)famous local wateringhole/road-house/adult lead poisoning/bar establishment tried to do that in order to get funds to rebuild after a fire. Apparently local infamy is not sufficient grounds for historic preservation grants.

      1. Yesterday I discovered that Indiana’s oldest bar started as an inn for railroad travelers in 1850, was a brothel for decades until a brutal murder in 1953, and reopened in 1963 as its current incarnation, the Slippery Noodle Inn, a restaurant, bar, and blues place.

    2. a local strip club [that] has been in the same location with the same name for at least 60 years.

      Absolutely worth memorializing, if only in order to pin a commemorative sign to it proclaiming “First erected in 1959.”

    3. Puts me in mind of driving by a farm with a sign “est. 1982”. I chuckle, as I was in college…then realize that was over 35 years ago. Frightening.

      1. The most optimistic sign I ever saw was a solid plaque on the outer wall of a small restaurant that read, “Established 1985”. It was in 1985 that I saw the sign. I wonder if it’s still there?

  6. When we lived in the Bay Area we weren’t “near” the sea and only went once or twice a year, and some years not at all. Even if the beaches were just “over there” we had to drive around the Bay marshes and through some little mountains. It took at least two hours in a car.

    1. This midwestern boy was fascinated by the ocean* when I moved to the South SF bay area. For a fair number of years, I’d spend the odd Saturday going over the Santa Cruz mountains to some beach or another. Got to know the really-back roads in that area quite well.

      I never tired of doing that, unlike visits to Frisco and (Godhelpme) Fisherman’s Wharf. If I wanted to look at spendy do-dads and street performers, I’d go to the Cooper’s Union (RIP) in Santa Cruz. (It was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.)

      (*) In my youth, I figured the big body of water was the one east of me–Lake Michigan. Thus East was where the water was. The Pacific ocean threw that rule of thumb off, and I’d screw up East vs West. Took several years for my sense of direction to remap that. At least I had North/South right. Must be Orvan’s Saltwater Derangement Syndrome. 🙂 And no, the Bay didn’t count to my sense of direction.

      1. SIND: Saltwater-Induced Neurological Damage.
        I suppose you could claim “peccavi” if afflicted… and cared to.
        Of course if you prefer ‘syndrome” what’s an ox to say?
        And naming it for me might an honor, or a dishonor, let it be know the historical medical texts (or medical historical texts) already have the great Dr. Orvan Hess (no relation – he wasn’t slow).

  7. Agree with the others, it’s ALL about perspectives… And the way ‘we’ perceive ourselves at (insert age here), compared to the way others see us.

    1. You should — seriously — ask Amanda Green and Pat Richardson. When I first started speaking out I lived in terror of offending ANYONE or appearing too mean. It took them reading and approving my posts first.

  8. Time, perspectives, vantage points, etc. We all know it will happen, sooner or later, but we all find ourselves wondering where the time went and how things changed almost without our noticing.

    And this year, Mrs. Hoyt, you know that maybe better than any of us, so Happy Mother’s Day to you, and all the moms out there!

  9. Being an Odd, I have long understood that how I see myself and how I am seen by others are often WILdly DIFFerent. I’ve also learned that trying to explain is usually so much blah-blah-blah. People have a tendency to believe what they want to believe, because it satisfies some need of their own. But if I listen and watch instead of trying to explain ..somehow that seems to wind up making me even Odder.

    Oh, and since I haven’t said it before, Happy Mother’s Day and congratulations on a successful launch of a son into his own family. May it be a successful one.

  10. Sad news. Uncle Timmy of LibertyCon has passed on. 😦

  11. How do you live such an interesting life? I’m glad I don’t; I’d crack under it!

    Get your tip jar button back, will ya!

  12. Make it Porto-Lancre with your gran as one of the Nannys and I’ll be standing in line waving a fist of cashy-money.

    When my mom after many long years went back to Rio with my Dad on a business trip (She paid for her ticket) my Dad’s local cohort showed up with his wife.. My mom lived in Rio all of one year…. But she went to school with the lady’s brother… And he remembered her.

  13. Eh. I remember myself as mouse timid. This might not have been true.

    Having learned a (very) little bit about human nature and how people see themselves, I wonder if any of us were really the people we remember that we were.

    1. I have a pretty good remembery, so I know there have been changes in how I thought, felt, and acted. Since I am Odd, people tend to concoct fantasies to explain my quirks, and then try vigorously to convert me to those fantasies. I was more susceptible to this when I was younger. As a battle-scarred veteran of defensive interpersonal wars, I’ve become more curmudgeonly about it.

      1. I think that’s why I fell in love with science– the system taught me how to double-check things so I didn’t have to DEPEND on other folks’ memories and interpretations.

    2. There be good reason why Burns’ best known verse is

      “O, wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion.”

  14. Now *THIS* I find very easy to believe 😉

    => met a young man (eh, my age) I hadn’t seen since we were both 18. We met at a conference right after I came back from the US from my exchange year. I have no memory of him, but he remembers me. I asked why. He said “Because you came in, and you took charge.”

    Eh. I remember myself as mouse timid. This might not have been true.

    1. When I was sorting out the garage, I found a bundle of letters that I wrote on my first computer to my then-teen-age daughter when I was in Korea at AFKN-Youngsan for a year. Gah. Some of the stuff I wrote about, I just don’t remember.
      Evidence of another me, I suppose.

  15. Great post!

    It’s interesting how places are turning into tourist places now. I guess people travel more. There’s a city near where I live where they’re debating building a whole resort since it’s by the water, but it’s an inconvenient place to attract tourists too. We already have hours of traffic on that high way to cross the city; we don’t need more. But more and more, cities are looking to find ways to be more attractive I suppose.

    It was also interesting to see how you viewed yourself vs how he remembered you. I think lasting impressions are always different than how we are because that’s not how we are 24/7. It’s only a glimpse of us. So, perhaps he saw you on a strong day.

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