It was Easter Sunday in Lisbon, Portugal, and I was caught in a downpour. Seeking shelter, I ducked into a café near Marquês de Pombal Square. The kindly proprietor brought me coffee and a steaming bowl of soup. I was the only patron, and I sat quietly at my tiny window table for a long time, watching the rain as daylight began to wane.
Finally, the rain began to let up, and I ventured back outside. I didn’t realize at first that the rain had completely disoriented me. With my head under both a hood and an umbrella, I’d lost my bearings.
It didn’t help that Marquês de Pombal Square isn’t really a square at all. It’s a roundabout. At least five major thoroughfares converge there, and only one of them led back to my hotel.
I was checking my map when I first heard cars honking in the distance. I figured that traffic was just snarled due to the weather. But the honking kept getting closer, and louder. Then I noticed groups of people walking toward the Square. People emerged from cars, from busses, from subway tunnels and from alleyways. In a matter of minutes the sidewalks were overflowing with a steady stream of people coming toward the Square. Searching for my hotel, I was going against the current.
Soon thousands of people had filled the streets. I heard a series of bangs and pops, and the noise was overwhelming. I was bumped and jostled in the crowd. People were chanting and shouting, but I couldn’t understand them, and I couldn’t translate the banners they carried. Had I stumbled into an Easter celebration? a political demonstration? a protest of some sort? I couldn’t tell. I gulped down my rising panic and finally found my hotel.
Safely inside my room, I turned on the television and discovered live news coverage from the streets outside. To my relief, I learned that the pandemonium was simply a victory celebration for the Lisbon soccer club, who had just won a national championship game. “Festa Benfica! Benfica Campeão Nacional!”
The blasts and explosions outside were only fireworks. And the screaming and shouting was only part of the street party. I had never been in any real danger, but I was still rattled.
Weary of the commotion and trying to settle myself down, I put on my headphones and selected my most tried-and-true playlist. I wanted something calming and familiar. I needed to hear the sounds of home.
Luckily, I was traveling with a lot of Lyle.
Lyle Lovett and I sat in my hotel window for hours while the pandemonium raged outside. He sang to me about his truck, his hat and penguins. He let me cry and he made me laugh, and I felt better.
Thank you, Lyle.