Heroes of the Sea

Hmm … couldn’t stop thinking about Portugal, so here’s a bonus memoir:

In Lisbon I met Roman, a German-Algerian music producer. I was doing a makeshift yoga pose, standing on one foot with the other braced against my calf. I was standing in a shoe repair shop getting the heel fixed on my cute-but-utterly-impractical-for-traveling black pumps, and he had come in with some heel issue, too. We started talking and the subject of his work came up. Apparently he had worked with Tangerine Dream … I wasn’t suitably impressed, I’m sure. I didn’t know who they were, and he was so odd I kind of just wanted him to move along.

But then he said he was in town to meet “the biggest rock band in Portugal,” a band called Herois do Mar (Heroes of the Sea) which was going to be performing that night. He asked if I wanted to walk up to the castle — the concert venue — and then meet the band. Now, I might not have been interested in Roman, but lord knows I have some serious groupie tendencies, so of course I said yes.

The castle was interesting enough, complete with peacocks wandering languorously in the glittering almost-Solstice sunlight. Roman and I wandered around kind of languorously ourselves … we had gotten up there only to find that the concert had been postponed for some reason that was never made clear to me. Feh. No Herois. But Roman said he’d take the band out for dinner if there was to be no concert. And he said I should come along. Ah, hanging out with the biggest rock band in Portugal? Yeah, I figured I could squeeze that into my busy, busy, girl-on-holiday schedule.

Dinner in Lisbon, at least for A-listers, was a lot later than I was used to. We were meeting at 11. Not only is an hour to midnight not the norm for me, meeting at that time told me I was in for a late night, so I went back to my hotel and took a nap.

Later, I hired a cab to bring me to the address Roman had given me. The driver had his doubts. We pulled up in front of a building with bricked up windows on the first two floors, and a battered, rusted metal door. The driver raised his eyebrows, asked if I wanted to go back to the hotel. Just as I was ready to say yes, the rusted entrance swung open and a tapered little black pencil of a man stepped out and asked if I needed assistance. I asked the cab driver to tell him that I was supposed to be having dinner with the Herois. “Ah,” the little pencil man said. “You’re the American.” Then the door opened again and Roman stepped out and came to help me out of the cab.

Yes, a secret restaurant. How bizarre. The only time in my life, I am sure, that I will ever gain access to a secret restaurant. Roman paid the cab driver and ushered me inside. The place was beautiful behind its timeworn facade. The second floor had been removed so the ceiling was two stories up, hung with enormous red crystal chandeliers. The walls closer to patron level were lit by thick, dripless candles in ornate sconces. There was a striking, black marble bar along the left hand wall at the front of the room and space for about 50 diners.

Our table was at the back, a spirograph design of five tiny round tables pushed together. I was introduced around. There was Chris, a German music management guy, and there were the band and their girlfriends. I spent the most time talking to Chris and Carlos Maria Trindade, the keyboard player. They were disappointed that the performance hadn’t come off, but they were happy enough to have had time to relax and hang out, too.

(Comically enough, after all the fanfare of a secret restaurant for the ultra-cool … I can’t remember a single thing we ate! I guess the food experience isn’t the part that’s supposed to be memorable.)

Someone suggested that we go dancing after dinner, so we went to (yes, of course) a secret club, this one actually had the stereotypical tiny sliding window in the door so the people inside could decide if we were good enough to get in. I’m still more than a little surprised and amused at the existence of these secret places. I’m not really sure what the point is, exactly. Oh sure, there’s the exclusivity, but it’s pretty silly if you ask me.

Inside the club I danced a little and then started talking with a young English guy who was there. Turns out he was in a band, too. His name was Adrian, and he was amazed to discover that I was there with the Herois, especially because he had been hoping to hear the band play and maybe meet them. So I walked him over to Carlos Maria and Pedro (guitarist) and introduced them.

After dancing, it was something like 3:30 or 4 in the morning and time go home. The band said goodnight and thanked me for coming out with them, Chris left for his hotel, and Roman brought me home.

Adrian’s band was called “The Sound.” When I said I hadn’t heard of them, it didn’t surprise him. He said they hadn’t made much noise yet in the States. When I got back to New York, I went to Tower Records to look for them, and was happy to find a cassette of one of their albums. When I checked online while writing this post to see if I could find a website for them, see whatever happened to them, I had the sad and shocking discovery that Adrian, that nice young man I chatted with and introduced to Pedro and Carlos Maria, killed himself nine years ago, throwing himself in front of a train.

I ran into so much music that day in Lisbon. First there was Tangerine Dream. Not really my thing, I have to say. Sorry, Roman, wherever you are. And, of course, The Sound. These guys were definitely more what I had in mind. You can listen to a few of their songs on MySpace.

And here are Carlos Maria and the Herois (oh, how I love these internets … you really can find anything!). I wouldn’t call them a rock band, but you can judge for yourself:

_____

is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.

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