A humorous look at travel, family, relationships… And all kinds of other shit.

Muggers, drugs and hookers in Lisbon

Cindy and I once rolled into Lisbon after a four-day bender in Barcelona, followed by a two-day recovery at a beautiful house on the Portugal coast.

It was our first time in the city, and Cindy had found what was listed as a “charming” B&B in Lisbon for us to stay in. The owner told us via e-mail that it was “within walking distance” of the train station. He was right. It was within walking distance of the train station . . . if you happened to be a fucking mountain goat.

See, Lisbon is a very hilly city. And maps are of no use, because they will show two streets running parallel, but they don’t show that one street is 50 feet higher than the other.

So we spent an hour hauling our luggage all over Lisbon, up and down hills, trying to find the charming fucking B&B. We finally found it, at the tippy top of one of the biggest god damned hills in the entire city.

And after we hauled our luggage up the charming fucking hill and got to the charming fucking B&B, we found out that our charming fucking room was on the charming fucking 3rd floor.

I came very close to having a charming fucking heart attack.

But, once we were settled in and I could breathe again, we were ready to explore. Cindy and I have a routine we follow in new cities. We explore and sightsee in the morning. Then we have lunch in a café with lots of white wine or beer, while we play cards and people watch and soak up the culture. (We operate under the theory that drinking white wine or beer is not really “drinking,” and as such we can do it as much as we want during the day; it’s straight out of the “Hemingway School of Drinking”). Then we sightsee some more. Then we nap. Then we go out to dinner and try to find live music.

It’s a good formula, and it was working perfectly in Lisbon, until the first of two “Incidents” happened.

We were sitting at a great outdoor café, drinking that good, ice-cold European beer, and playing cards. I had paid cash for the beer, and left my change—a stack of coins—on the table, since I planned on buying lots more beer.

Well, all of a sudden the unthinkable happened: Cindy looked behind me, and her eyes got real wide . . . and all of a sudden an old, gnarly hand, almost a claw, reached over my shoulder and grabbed my stack of coins! Without even thinking, I started slapping at his hand, then I turned around to confront this vicious street thug.

And here is what I saw:

old man

Yes, that’s right. My assailant had to be at least 90 years old. And he was “running” away from me. Only he was crippled, and could only go about 1 mile an hour. So he was actually hobbling away from me with his cane. And as he hobbled, he was glaring back at me, as if daring me to try and catch him.

Now, what are you supposed to do in this situation? I don’t want to be an ugly American. I would have given the old crook my coins if he had asked for them. But I was damned if I was going to let him steal them.

So I started to go after him when Cindy, always the Voice of Reason, said:

“Steve!! What the hell are you going to do? Fight him? Have him arrested? Take away his cane?”

So I slunk back to my chair, sat down, and had a long pull of beer. And slowly, I started to accept the fact that I had been mugged, in broad daylight, by the oldest man in Portugal. Maybe in all of Europe.

And to make matters worse, the geriatric thug was moving so slowly that I had to sit there and watch him for another 15 minutes, as he made his getaway.

Then, when he got about a block away, which took forever, he turned and looked at me, held up my coins and gave me a wicked, toothless grin. The motherfucker was mocking me!

Well, eventually I had enough beer to get over it, and we went about our day exploring Lisbon (which is a real hidden gem of a city in Europe).

After a nap in our charming fucking B&B, we were ready for a night out. We decided to head to the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Here’s what our guidebook said about it:

“The Bairro is a very old residential area, with tiny cobbled streets laid out in a grid. It has many small restaurants, ranging from the pricey to local holes-in-the wall. Somehow the Bairro also manages to pack in dozens of tiny bars and clubs.”

Bingo!! Local restaurants, tons of bars and nightlife? That has Crescenzos written all over it.

The only problem was, this was the tail end of the trip, and we were running low on cash. So we had to find a restaurant that would take American Express, which is easier said than done. Unlike the U.S., a lot of places in Europe don’t take it.

So we found ourselves walking along those cobblestone streets, lost in Old Europe, looking for a local restaurant that would take AMEX. Most of the restaurants had greeters—men who would approach you to try and draw you into their place.

We found three places that looked great, but the greeters all said no to the AMEX question. Cindy, who gets slightly crabby when she’s hungry (the same way Mike Tyson used to get a slightly mean when he got in the ring), was starting to get frustrated.

And when she gets crabby, she walks faster, so she was about five yards ahead of me when we passed a really nice-looking, local restaurant. And of course a man came up to me as I paused to look at the menu.

I waited for the pitch, but he didn’t work for the restaurant. Far from it.

First, he tried to sell me cocaine. I declined. Then, he tried to sell me some kind of pills. I declined. Then, he tried to sell me a woman.

“You want a woman?” he said, with a leer. “A woman for you and your wife? For threesome? You want beautiful woman for threesome?”

At that point, Cindy came walking back and said:

“Does he take American Express?”

“No, no, let’s go,” I said.

But Cindy was oblivious, and the restaurant looked nice and non-touristy. Still thinking the man was from the restaurant, she ignored me and turned to him:

“Do you take American Express? Please tell me you take American Express.”

The man, thinking Cindy had heard the offer of a hooker for a threesome, said, “Cash only, but will be worth it.”

Cindy: “We don’t have any cash. Why doesn’t anyone here take American Express?”

The man shrugged, leered at me, raised his eyebrows, and said: “Maybe you get some cash, no? Lady wants this. Lady would like this very much.”

And Cindy said : “Lady would like this very much. But Lady needs you to take American Express.”

Well, I finally got Cindy out of there, and when we finished laughing so hard I almost broke a rib, we found a great, local place to eat. It didn’t have drugs or hookers, but it did take American Express.

When we got back to the room, I dug out the guidebook and read the part about the Bairro Alto that I didn’t read before:

“The Bairro also has a lot of drug dealers, who are friendly enough, and will leave you alone if you offer a polite “Não, obrigado.”

Apparently, you’re supposed to say “No, thank you,” in Portugese. Not, “Do you take American Express?” in English.

Live and learn.

And to this day, I’ll always wonder if that night would have turned out differently if we did have cash . . .

20 Responses to “Muggers, drugs and hookers in Lisbon”

    • Steve Crescenzo

      LOL . . . you’re right. We probably would have woken up after being drugged, naked and tied to the bed, all of our belongings gone!

  1. Dan

    this story just made my Friday…the Crescenzos should be a sitcom.

    • Steve Crescenzo

      That’s not a bad idea, Dan. We certainly seem to bring a lot of weird shit down upon ourselves!!! We’d be funnier than Mike and Molly, that’s for sure!

      • Dan

        I thought Mike and Molly was based on your lives! By the way, I attended the Ragans Corp Comm Summit last year in Chicago and listened to you and your wife speak…by the way, your wife looks nothing like Melissa McCarthy. Keep up the blogs, my colleagues are rolling on the floor laughing at the article I shared

        • Steve Crescenzo

          Cindy will appreciate that, Dan!! Thanks for sharing the blog around! Tell your friends to join the Bald Truth Community and get the e-mail update when there’s new content. And thanks for reading! And when are you going to say that I don’t look like whatever actor plays, MIKE??????

  2. Sharla

    your articles are quickly becoming part of my ‘can’t miss’ content on social media- too funny!

    • Steve Crescenzo

      Thank you so much, Sharla!! Glad you’re liking The Bald Truth. Please spread the word . . . we’re trying to build a community of people out here with good senses of humor!!

  3. Mike Klein

    Charming fucking story. All the most threadbare cliches about Americanos and Yurpeens in one place. But it brought back memories of the Bairro Alto. 😉

    • Steve Crescenzo

      Yurpeens . . . I love it. And that is one great neighborhood, isn’t it? People just standing around outside, drinking. What could be better than that?

  4. Kristen

    I think my favourite part is that “B&B” is always preceded by “charming fucking”. That made me laugh each time it was mentioned, probably because I can hear you snarling it.

    I love you and the blog you rode in on, you are the most entertaining crazy person ever!!! 🙂

  5. Steve Crescenzo

    Thanks Kristen! It’s fun to be blogging again . . . I missed it. And it’s nice to not have to even try and pretend to tie it to communications!

  6. Donna Papacosta

    Not fair! I just put on some f***ing mascara to go out tonight and now it’s running down my f***ing face. Love love love the old thief and the AmEx offer.

    • Steve Crescenzo

      Please, Donna . . . try and watch your language. This is a family site.

      But thanks for reading!!!!

  7. Graham Coady

    Read this while in Lisbon. Fantastic!

  8. Steve

    What a way to complain.. I almost died reading this.. Welcome to the world outside your world (America)

Comments are closed.