Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes from Portugal: Dallas

It was not entirely unexpected. Last summer I'd come across the Dallas Snack Bar off a little square in downtown Reykjavik, so it was not entirely without precedent when I discovered the Dallas Restaurante on my way to see petroglyphs in Foz Coa. But if it wasn't unexpected, it was still inexplicable. And two days later a Dallas Cafe went whipping past the rental car window. These are not, as a group, inviting establishments. Functional, sure, but past their prime, if indeed they were ever all that charming. My new Portuguese friend, Carlos, says none of this would be possible if not for the TV show, which was terribly popular back in the 1980s. 

It reminds me how the opening salvo of Suzy Banks' 2003 feature article "25 Things I Love About Dallas" is about how well received she was as a Texan while traveling in Europe back during the era of Dallas the show. Which reminds me of how a Zimbabwean friend of mine was well regarded by the folks back home when he moved to California, mostly because they knew the city of Santa Barbara from a soap opera of the same name. So it all seems possible, I guess, but where's the Grey's Anatomy convenience store? The All in the Family Cafe? Why have I never seen another television show memorialized like this, when apparently Dallas is at least a two-country phenomenon?

I believe Carlos when he tells me about the Portuguese king keeping fried chicken in his pockets and the noblewoman catapulting the town's last cow at a besieging army to demonstrate their bounty (and that bluff ending the siege!). I appreciate that when I discover the matchbox museum is defunct that he consoles me with legal history about lighter permits and students wearing pieces of tile on their heads to skirt the law. I admire that Carlos goes home to fact check whether it is Saint Antonio or the Virgin Mary or both that draw a salary on the military payroll. Which is to say, I have pegged Carlos as not just good company but as a reliable source, and so I find I must believe, too, this story about Dallas, though it strikes me as the oddest one of all.


Lina said...

My grandmother watched Dallas! I remember now, I can hear her speaking about "Jota Erre.'

Aaaaw. Dalas.

Carfer said...

Thank you very much for your kind words, Kendra.
Of course I cannot guarantee that the owner of that restaurant didn't ever live or is in no way connected to Dallas. Maybe it's a long shot of mine, but I think that the influence of the Tv serial is a much more probable explanation. You ask why there isn't a Grey's Anatomy convenience store or an All in the Family Cafe. I guess it is because both these serials were on cable and 'Dallas' on the national open signal RTP tv station at a time when RTP two channels were the only tv available in all Portugal. As it was usual in Europe not long ago, tv broadcasting was a state monopoly in Portugal. Private broadcasters and cable tv are quite new here, actually (about 20 years). And not only that. In those days soap operas and serials like 'Dallas' were not as pervasive as they are today, so they had much more impact on people's imagination. You can hardly imagine the frenzy there was in this country when Brazilian soaps started being broadcasted two or three years after 'Dallas'. Even our language was changed (we have now a lot of Brazilian Portuguese expressions currently in use). Quite on the contrary, today we have lots of serials in hundreds of channels. Grey's Anatomy, Six Feet Under (that would be a good name for a restaurant!)and the like are just one in a sea of titles and characters. Besides, J.R. (spelled 'Jota Erre' phonetically, as your friend Lina remembers her grandmother say) was quite a guy, his intrigues and tricks being zillion lightyears away from our traditional and more rustic plots of the time. No wonder he captured the imagination of a couple of restaurant owners in Iceland and Portugal.