Hello from Portugal!

By: Aidan Bradley

Greetings from the sun-baked Algarve! What a difference a country makes. I am happily more interested in what time the sun rises and sets than the tee times at the British Open. No point watching it any way, it's a foregone conclusion . . . Harrington is going to win (Editor's Note: Which in fact Padraig did - oh, the luck of the Irish).

It's such a joy to wake up in the morning, look out the window and know you can work. Knowing that there is a good chance that the mortgage payment will be mailed on time is such a stress reliever that I don't get upset when I forget to take my blood pressure pills. However, I get really pissed off when I can't remember where I left them. I think there is a pill to help your memory, but I've forgotten.

When I come to Europe, what do you think I do more than anything else? Hint: it begins with "D." No Carlos, it's not drinking. Jeeeeezzzzzz, it's driving you fuddy duddy. Other than the motorways, the secondary roads are so much fun. They are up and down, over and under, bank left, swerve right, oh s***, there's a cow in the road. Driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is about as much fun as arriving at a bar after last call. It's one endlessly straight road to nowhere that goes on forever.

These roads have more curves than Penelope Cruz and, boy, do I like to hug the corners and caress the bends. Driving here is a sport. It's exciting, exhilarating, and extreme. How about that for alliteration?

Your heart pounds as you accelerate into a corner with no idea what's on the other side. Hopefully a double-bank left, right and then accelerate up a hill where the wheels leave the ground if only for a second as you crest the peak. Gravity then sucks you back down the hill as you glide over a little bridge, and take a slight left turn into a short stretch of 200 meters. Just enough time to catch your breath before it all starts again. As you glance out from under your Rayban's at the pretty girl standing roadside with her hair billowing in your after-draft, you think . . . life is good!

Ok, so I took a little poetic license, but it really is a blast. It's almost as much fun as sitting in a cabana on one of these beautiful Portuguese beaches, listening to the Village People's "YMCA" on your I-Pod and watching all the guys go by in their multicolored Speedos. Oh come on, where's your sense of humor. I heard your ears perk Carlos when I mentioned "YMCA." I hear you're a good dancer.

There's another side to driving in Portugal. I call it the "where the f**k did he come from" epidemic, also known as the "dark side" of driving in this country. Everyone drives really fast over here. I'm afraid to drive under 95 in case they deport me. You're driving along and the sun is shining and bopping around in your seat to the beat of the "Macarena" when all of a sudden you spot an object in your rear-view mirror approaching at warp speed. Then you glance again and it is climbing up your butt. A third peek confirms it's a large black bull snorting fire out its pulsating nostrils with a BMW emblem between its oversized eye balls. A quick yank of the steering wheel to the right and the road runner is out of sight.

The first time that happened to me I almost soiled my pants. Now I am an expert. I wait until the last possible second to turn to avoid the paint being sucked of my little Peugeot, forcing Mr. Speedy to brake, which really gets his knickers in a twist. As he strives to get back up to speed and slowly passes, I mouth "have a nice day" and give him the peace sign . . . a**hole! Forgive me, I shouldn't be so caustic, especially since I figured out why everyone is in such a hurry in this country.

Did you ever notice what everyone drinks over here? Little cups of coffee. I mean tiny utensils, like egg cups. About the same amount for a standard Irish whiskey order . . . a thimble full.

The first time I worked in this country I stopped off at a little sidewalk cafe en route to the golf course. I decided to embrace the local culture and have a little coffee just like everyone else. Holy Schweppes, it was the vilest thing I ever put in my body. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest and everything else in my system that was not tied down was looking for the nearest exit. "Man overboard, abort, abort!" it screamed.

A quart of ice scream, two cheese balls, and a package of Imodium and I was back close to my fighting weight. So now you understand the problem. The roadside bathrooms on the motorways are spaced too far apart. Hence, everyone is always dying to go. So that's why you have all these speedy little s**ts on the road. They should take a lesson from Americans, if you drink, don't drive . . . or wear a Depends. (Sorry for being gross.)

In closing, I recently switched to a digital camera system, but that's another story. However, I found that shooting digitally is very labor-intensive on the back end. I now find myself spending a couple hours processing, saving, and backing up my files after the shoot, which greatly encroaches on my recovery therapy. The hotel where I am staying is mysteriously devoid of patrons, which has allowed me to become very intimate (not in the biblical sense) with the staff. I am on a first-name basis with everyone, so I felt very comfortable when I decided to do my computer work at the bar.

To spice things up a little, I decided to play some songs from my iTunes, which the bartender welcomed. After a while I noticed the receptionist had popped her head into the bar checking the source of "Me and Mrs Jones." A little while later she ambled in to talk to the bartender. As the sound and energy of my personalized music selection picked up, she looked like she had volunteered to dry some glasses. A Black Eyed Peas' number really got her moving.

Feeling like I could improve Irish-Portuguese relations, I asked if she would like to dance. She spun around in her best Linda Blair imitation and barked jure loco and stormed out of the room with an indignant look on her face. I must have lost my touch. I felt bad, and didn't mean to offend her.

I looked at the bartender in the hope that he might understand and assure me no harm was done, but instead I got a big smile and an "I'd like to dance" look.

I guess I still got it! Check please!

God Bless, Good Night . . .

P.S. You should know that Carlos is a happily married man.

Aidan Bradley is regarded as among the best at his trade and is widely recognized for his ability to capture the excitement and mood of a golf course.

Over the years, Aidan's images have graced the pages of all the national golf publications and he is a regular contributor to golf coffeetable books such as "Nicklaus by Design," Golf Digest's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play," "Golf, The Women's Game," and many others. Titleist, Spalding Worldwide, Taylor Made, and Top Flight are but a few of the clients who have used Aidan's images in their ad campaigns.

Aidan was born in Cork, Ireland, where he lived for 21 years. He now resides in Santa Barbara, Calif., from where his work takes him to places that the most passionate golfer dreams of: St. Andrews in Scotland, Augusta National in Georgia, Ballybunion in Ireland, and The Challenge on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. Whatever the assignment, Aidan's focus on light and the surrounding natural environment consistently produces images that evoke a mood that even non-golfers find attractive and compelling.

For samples of Aidan Bradley's work, and more about this outstanding golf photographer, visit http://golfcoursephotography.com/home.asp.

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