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Fado Nights

7:30 pm

Coimbra, Portugal

This morning I ambled through streets with melodic names like Sa Da Bandeira and Rua de Tomar. Avenues that may mean little to you and perhaps by tomorrow, me as well. Though somehow I doubt the latter.

If yesterday, I walked through the heart of the city's university today I walked into its soul. For the first time in a long time I longed for my own school days as cafes brimmed with young people casually smoking cigarettes, while nursing espressos. Many animatedly moved their hands around over topics that looked and felt as serious as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I suppose one day they may or may not laugh at how trivial it all really was. Life seems to repeat itself in that sense.

After my trip down memory lane I made a promise to myself I'd check out the fado performance I pretended to not be interested in the evening before. At 5:34 pm I raced from my apartment to buy a ticket. I ran into the concert hall as if I'd been chased by a pack of crazed wolves. "Are there still tickets available for tonight?" I asked like a school boy. "Yes," the young woman smiled, perhaps a little more than surprised by my earnestness; something that too often fades with time.

I sat in the back row as four musicians rotated on stage. For the next hour they serenaded us with music dating back to the 1860s. College students would use their musical chops to court the young women they were in love with just below their living quarters. If she was moved by the music and hopefully the suitor, she'd flip her lights off and on 3 times. I wondered briefly if such an act of earnest romance could be done today without a girl erupting in laughter or opting to swipe left.

The performance itself was quite beautiful. It was a perfect end to my stay in Coimbra; a city whose name I realized I've been butchering for 3 days. (pronounced Queem-bra) The audience also seemed to approve as the constant photo-snapping and prohibited video recording provided testament.

I would certainly be a hypocrite for commenting on the former but the latter has always confounded me. I almost feel compelled to strip the iPad from the person who'd rather watch the event through a monitor and scream, "But you're here!" I just don't understand the appeal of recording an event you may or may not view later on a tiny screen, only to remind yourself you were on the premises of the event itself but failed to enjoy because you cared more about posterity than the moment. But what do I know?

A video played throughout the performance with black and white footage of college students singing in what must have been the 1960s. Giant crowds of people would gather on the steps of 800-year old basilicas and pack town squares to listen, undistracted, to the words of these beautiful crooners. For a moment I felt envious and even longed for a past that wasn't my own.

I also admired how the music was used as an effective tool for speaking out against the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Music, like all art at its best, has the power to stir, shape, and lead movements. And though it didn't start that way, it ultimately became why acting was so important to me. I believed in my heart of hearts I could change the world with a monologue, a great performance, and a lifelong commitment to my craft. I suppose I still believe as much but have swapped the stage for a pen.

That's it for now. Tomorrow I return to Lisbon.

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