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a hearty serving of burnt pita and pasta sauce

2 May

Last night I came home and almost caused a fire. I didn’t know that until I woke up this morning and found a kitchen turned upside down, with scattered burnt crisps of pita and a pan full of pasta sauce.  Apparently I had tried to cook pita bread directly on my stove and intended to spread it with tomato sauce, but never got that far. I don’t remember any of it.

Just that the night started in a bar named Mud Bug. In true South American fashion, there was less standing and more sitting, which suited me fine since I was meeting a group of people.  We had a few beers and I poked a pregnant woman’s stomach.  She was at the table too, with a beer, and a cigarette, and she assured everyone she was fine.  Her friends didn’t protest and I wondered whether should I.

We went on, to a nightclub in Gavea.  We were lured by the promise of a cheap cover and all-you-can drink booze, but found something much more pricey and set within a strip-club type of a decor.  We had fun just the same- It just cost a lot more than we wanted.

Several caprivodkas later and I was happily dancing to some techno.  Everyone expects me to be an amazing dancer because of my videos.  I had the same coversation I always have when it comes up, that I was just the producer, not the instructor.  Most people don’t understand. I made a mental note to take dance lessons when I come home.

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The rest gets pretty hazy. I time travelled back to my apartment and awoke to the disaster that is my kitchen today.

It wasn’t the first time I tried cooking while black-out drunk.  There was that time in Geneseo when I left a piece of meat in the Geroge Foreman grill all night to the dismay of my housemates.   I’t happened several times on this trip as well, once with Danny in Buenos Aires when I left a pot of boiling water and went to sleep and once in El Calafate, which I don’t remember at all.  Hey, there’s worse things to be done while black-out than get a little food in your belly.

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rio’s subway system, how cool

1 May

I took Rio’s subway once before, with a beer in hand on the way to a soccer match, and I rode it again yesterday with no beer, but with Fernanda instead.  We headed downtown to Rio’s biggest bootleg market.  It looked like a chinese container ship had been robbed and transplanted to Brazil.  Fernanda spotted a tee shirt with a condom enclosed by a square window of plastic. The slogan advised to break it only in case of emergencies.  I bought fake headphones and we left almost as quickly as we came.  It was crowded, cheap, and rowdy, and there wasn’t much really to buy.

We headed back the way we came.  Fernanda seemed annoyed at all of the people, I don’t think she was used to riding the metro on a regular basis.  She was an upperclass girl with an upperclass mentality, and I took pleasure in showing her the other side of the tracks.  The platform was crowded and we jostled for space.  She pointed out a vending machine that sold books instead of candy, including a Portuguese-English dictionary.

We looked for the yellow markings that indicated where the subway doors would stop and Fernanda showed me an area where the markings were pink, not yellow.  Apparently Rio had set aside a few train cars just for women.  It protected them from wandering hands, made anonymous by the packed cars.  I tried to board the pink cars, but a security guard was posted at it’s entrance.  I wondered what the feminists back home would think of it all.

Rio’s subway was fast. It was efficient and air conditioned and it looked very new.  Compliments to the engineer.  Some of the larger stops featured two platforms, one side for boarding the train and the other for leaving.  The actual cars, wider than ours back home had bilingual robotic voices that announced each stop.

Rio’s pink and yellow platforms were not the only things color coded that day; each car had a row of brown seats that were reserved for the elderly. Beware of deadly looks if you choose to ride into town in a brown seat without passing it up to someone older, or more pregnant than you.  You won’t get fined but you’ll be the disdain of everyone on the train!

We grabbed dinner when we got back into Copacabana.  Rio’s subway system is a straight line with less than a dozen stops, and to get further to Ipaname, which is where I live, we needed to transfer to a shuttle bus for the rest of the way.  It reminded me of late night subway transfers in New York, riding the metro home drunk and dreamy, forced to wake up to transfer on chambers street.  Rio’s subway system might change soon enough though. The city is trying hard to court the 2016 Olympic bid and is in the midst of several construction projects already.

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There’s a dark grey gloom around Rio

28 Apr

There’s a dark grey gloom around Rio.  And it’s not in my heart.  It’s all around me in the air, around buildings, behind buses; enshrouding the city with a veil of secrecy, distorting it’s otherwise heavenly glow. Beautiful landscapes lie dull, beaches and sunsets seem distant.  Strange for a city with no permeating smoke stack factories.  And yet it’s there, and it sits like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.  Perfect really for the city that has much to hide.

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Protected: Carnaval’s Most Memorable Song

27 Apr

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taxi cab confessions

24 Apr

A working glass dish.  That’s what Fernanda called the massive portion of beans, rice, chicken, and cornmeal I’ve been having on a regular basis.  She almost seemed embarrassed for me.

A month ago I was pointed onto a local restaurant serving up hearty meals for about 4 dollars.  I headed over and discovered an intimate looking eatery sitting on a corner a few blocks from the heart of Ipanema.

A line of taxis on the street revealed the small restaurant to be quiet popular with cabbies, a good sign considering taxi drivers know the city better than anyone else.

A small barricade separated two sections of the restaurant, the tablecloths from the bare wooden tables, the expensive dining room from the row of tables on the street, the expensive menus from the ones the cabbies coveted.

It turns out,the Prato Faito, the meal I’ve come to love, can only be had sitting at the bareback tables on the street.  It doesn’t come served with a smile at Paz y Amor, but its hearty portions will keep you stuffed and satisfied.  Trying their homemade hotsacuce, a chilli paste of sorts,  is also a must.

I didn’t realize how class conscious Rio de Janeiro is, but I suppose the signs are everywhere: the upper-class guy from Ipanema afraid to be seen on the streets of Lapa, Sticky and Mick’s response to the favela, the way Dee gave money to the jugglers.  The less than modest doctor in Salvador who made sure we knew his house was the most expensive in all the city.  There was that furtitive glance of Sarah’s, when she thought I wasn’t looking and she checked out my watch’s brand.  The long lines to get into the right nightclub.  Golf clubs.  County clubs.  Five start Hotels.  Sounds like a divided Rio.  Sounds like it rivals any other cosmopolitan city.

I’ll keep on vising my boys on the corner of blank and blank.  Of course, it’s easier playing the righteous role when you’re out traveling. But just how immaterial have I become?  Brief bouts of inspiration to lead an ascetic life, especially after watching movies like Into The Wild, usually fade as quickly as they come.  I miss my car.  I need the luxury of an apartment to myself.  I look on enviously when I see a shirt I can’t afford to buy in a nice shop.  I’d like incredibly loud ipod speakers and maybe a new watch too.

But I will return a different person, I know that much.  I won’t be pursuing the kind of life I thought I’d have just a few short years ago.  Money is not a priority.  Not right now.  I know that physical possessions will not make me any happier.  Now I just have to implement those ideas in a society that will surely pull me in the other direction.

three blocks from the beach, two blocks from the bar, and one from the favela

21 Apr

I’ve been bouncing around hostels since my trek on Ilha Grande, taking my time to decide where to go next, or whether to go anywhere at all.  And I’ve decided to stay!

I moved into a small studio yesterday, feeling what it’s like to live alone for the first time in ages.  I realized this morning, when I was in the bathroom with the door wide open, that I haven’t lived alone since the summer of 06′, when I rented an apartment in Geneseo for the summer.

It’s completly relaxing and I haven’t been able to pull myself away for long so far.  It’s located in Ipanema, by General Osario Square.  It’s a sweet location and the price couldn’t have been better!

Anyone need a place to crash while they’re in town?

P.S.

It gives New York’s small apartments a run for their money.

6 photos and a long way home

19 Apr

God created the world in 6 days. Stuart and I trekked Ilha Grande instead.  Day 6 of our hike around both hell and paradise..

we woke up to the sight of this!

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We were well on our way, enthusiastic as ever to finally get back to civilization.  On the way was an old prison, imploded in 1985. cIt housed the state’s most dangerous criminals and left the island mostly uninhabited as a result.  It was only when the prison was shut down, that the island experienced a huge tourism boom.

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We munched on some cookies sitting across the eerie prison.  I thought about how things change…,what was once the scene of unspeakable violence was now no more.  img_2781

We went on, feel blistered and hurting.  We had a long way to go, but somehow it felt easier, and Stuart and I talked more that day than we did all week.  I found out he was a media studies major though he dreams of opening up his own restaurant. He’s been working to that goal for his entire life, learning the tools of the trade inside and out.

On we went in that way, through talk of media theory and life’s plan for us all, our goals and our dreams and soon enough we were on a perch overlooking town.  The weather was tuning on us fast and we struggled to get back into town before another downpour.

We passed an old couple. They had been walking the other way but the weather and steep slope must have dissuaded them, and they turned back towards town.

We saw them again when we stopped for a break and more cookies.  We knew the going had been slow but we were determined not to lose out to a couple of old people, so we chased them down the mountain and when we finally caught up, we back into civilization, with people, and stores, visa machines and hot girls, and we darted for the nearest supermarket to pick up some water and acai.

Somehow the town seemed more vibrant.  Stores that seemed closed only a week before now brimmed with tourists.  We soaked in every detail as we walked.

Back at the hostel, we felt glorious and triumphant.  The girls at reception said they could smell us for miles.  They seemed glad to have us back.  After recycling through tourists on a regular basis, it must have been nice to see back some old friends.

But it was a holiday weekend and the hostel was all booked up. It explained why we thought the town was bustling with energy we hadn’t noticed before.  They made a few calls on our behalf and we crashed at a dingier locale not too far away.

We had ambitious plans to celebrate our homecoming with a nice meal and a bottle of vodka we had trudged all the way around the island.  But truthfully, all I wanted to do was sleep and I after a delicious meal, I passed right out and got the first good night’s sleep in a week.

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6 Days of Trekking…and rest on the 7th! My rabbi would have been proud.