Thursday, January 12, 2006

samba is heating up

12jan 06

Things are getting really good here. On the environmental front, the Brazilian Trifid called gigoga continues to wreak havoc. While trying to dodge it on a beach called Quebra Mar, swimmers noted a funny color in the water. There was rumor of toxic algae. The health department encouraged swimmers not to panic and came right out to do some tests. That's where the good news bad news begins. As it turns out, there were no toxic algae. The bad news is that the funny color was from raw sewage.

This whole raw sewage in the water thing kinda gives me the creeps.

Night before last I went to the Estacio technical rehearsal. They've redone their quadra and it's really nice. Also nice are the people in the area. They seem glad to have visitors. I immediately ran into about 6 or 8 guys I've known from other baterias. They took me over to a bar where I was introduced to the mestre and several other folks. I was made to feel completely at home.

The bateria of Estacio absolutely kicks!! The mester is very creative and very clear and the bateria well-rehearsed. The groove was heavy and tight.

Last night was round two at Sao Clemente technical rehearsal. The same group of friends were there and I fell right into it. Played my butt off for 3 hours. I'm guessing the tempo was in the 150 range, maybe a little faster. It was smoking. I can tell you that for sure. The guys in the bateria seemed to accept me without reservation and I had an absolute blast.

After it was over, the guys gave me a ride home. I have to tell you that this is what I have always dreamed of here. It has taken awhile to put together but it's finally happening for me, at least in this part of Rio.

In my opinion, the secret to being able to play and make friends here is in several things:

1. Learn to speak portuguese. Big door opener.

2. Learn to play caixa or maybe repenique. If you're from outside, you probably won't be playing surdo. Too much responsibility to give to an unknown.

3. Frequent blocos in your area. I met 100% of these guys in various blocos. It's much easier to play without pressure in the blocos and they get to see and hear you play. They will then vouch for you at the bigger schools. There is a lot of overlap in the baterias and before you know it, you'll know lots of people.

Anyhow, my right hand is swollen. I'm off to Suzano's class. j

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

animal crackers in my soup

10Jan 06

I somehow got really behind here. Lots of stuff to report.

First of all, I was wrong about Suzano. There is an advanced workshop as well 1100-1300 daily this week. Guess where I´ll be?

Second, we took at little side trip on Saturday to Guaratiba. If you don´t have a car forget it but, if you find yourself with a car a want to go somewhere, this is a pretty cool place. You go south down the beaches from Ipanema to Leblon to Barra, Recreio, etc, Brumari and you get to Guaratiba. Beautiful drive. My friend Noah says that some of the best boogey boarding in South America can be found in Brumari.

Anyhow, there is a restaurant there called Bira, run by an old surfer. First guy to shape boards in Rio. We had the moqueca mixta. When they say ´mixta´ they really mean it around here. They brought out this big pot of boiling stuff that looked like paella with the rice on the side. One of the guys started fishing around in it and that´s when I spotted the octopus. Big juicy pieces of octopus floating around in there. I´m not easily shocked (I was a gynecologist in a previous life after all) but all I could think of was that thing from the movie Alien which wrapped it´s arms around that guy´s face, stuck it´s tongue down his throat and empregnated him with a little beast which later jumped out of his chest. The guy across from me must have mistaken the grimace on my face for one of delight. As he was afraid that he might have to wrestle me for the octupus, he began to bargain with me. I discreetly moved my knife and fork into the sign of the cross and placed it between my face and the octopus. Without insulting him I began to assure him that I would get around to it and that, in the meantime, he should eat as much as he wanted. In fact, I argued, just take all of it to your plate (way over there on your plate) and save some for me.

Anyhow, once I dispatched the octopus, the rest of the moqueca was fantastic. I recommend this place.

Lots of other stuff has happened but I can´t remember much of it. Mangueira was a big flop at their Sambodromo rehearsal. They tried some marching stuff like the college bands do and it turned into a big mess. The once enjoyable sambadrome rehearsals have been discovered and are now packed beyond belief and the source of 2 hour traffic jams.

The Rolling Stones are recording a live DVD on Copacabana beach 18 Feb. Claro or some other big company is building a walkway from the C. Palace over Av. Atlantica to the stage. There are about 12 million people in Rio. I expect about 6 million of them to try to go to Copacabana for this show. I´ll be waiting for the DVD.

Rumor has it that Estacio has redone their quadra. I´ve always loved that bateria and the people. I plan to go over there for a technical rehearsal.

There are several new sambistas around. We went to see one last night at Severyna. Moyses Marques is the same kid who sings forro with Xaxados e Perdidos. He held court in front of an adoring crowd and really put on a good show. You can also catch him at Carioca da Gema na Lapa. Next Monday he´ll be back at Severyna doing forro.

The advanced Suzano course rocks. Lots of cool Suzano only rides.

It´s naptime. j

Monday, January 09, 2006

so far so good

09Jan 06  Rio de Janeiro

Things are good here. We fell right back into the old neighborhood.
Went to have lunch and the waiter said, -Estava viajando, neh?- He
knew that he hadn't seen us so he figured we must have been
traveling. Everyone remembers us, even the newsstand guy. Very cool.

Gigogas are the big news over the last few days. I had to ask a guy
what that was. This of course meant that I was immediate friends
with everyone in the bar. They all began to tell me the story/tale
all at once. It seems that this aquatic plant, found mostly in
lagoons and rivers, has become overgrown due to lots of ´nutrition´,
shall we say, in the water. This over growth has lead to the development
of sort of a Brazilian sea-going Trifid. When it rains, these plants
are washed out into the sea and come ashore on the beaches. The good
news is that it means job security for beach cleaner folks.

Anyhow, leaving the bar, all my new friends I met 5 minutes ago were
wishing me happy trails. Where else in the world can you have a
converation about Trifids with a bunch of perfect strangers and leave
feeling like you just visited your family? I love this place.

Went to Canarios Friday night. They are now at a building down by the
port area. Something about the rent not being paid in Lapa. I had been
to the building before for a Filhos de Ghandi rehearsal. Cool space
but a little iffy out on the street at 3 or 4 AM. The samba is a little
slow getting started after New Years. The blocos are just now forming
up and calling for submissions of sambas from the composers.

The sambadrome rehearsals are in full swing and have become perhaps
a little too popular. My friend Jorge got stuck in the traffic over
there for 2 hours on Friday. It makes sense. Most people cannot afford
the first world price of a ticket to Carnaval. The open (free)
rehearsals in Sapucai are an opportunity for the locals from the areas
of the schools to show up, see the school parade in the sambadrome and
sing slong. It´s a big scene and very well attended. All the alas,
commissao de frente, porta-bandeira, etc, are represented. There are
no big floats. The baterias strut their stuff as this is their opportunity
to march and play and work their show. These rehearsals happen 2 or 3
times per week and are published on various websites and in the paper.

On the samba de mesa front, there are some cool developments in our
area. There is a new dance studio about one block away where they now have
shows on Sat and Sunday. This week it was Forro on Saturday with a roda
de samba with Teresa Cristina on Sunday. This also is published in the
paper. Travessa Euricles de Matos. 1700 hours. $R15. There is also a
roda on Sunday nights at Severina just around the corner.

Marcos Suzano is doing his workshop at Maracatu Brasil again this year.
Poorly advertized but, somehow, well-attended anyhow. If you´re in Rio
this week, check it out. He moves very slowly and is a good teacher.
Great beginner course. Not sure on price.

In my opinion the best places to eat continue to be the Pe Sujos,
little bars your mother told you to stay away from when you were
little. You have to look around for a clean one. These are the primary
lunch places for workers in the area. They have fixed price meals with
more food than you can possibly eat for about $3 American. Since
the value of the dollar has fallen so much during the reign of King
Shrub, it´s more important than ever to find good off-the-beaten path
eateries.

In the beer department, stay away from places which only serve Choppe.
This is the Brazilian version of draught beer. The stuff is OK but,
compared to my beloved SKOL in the 600ml bottle, it´s really expensive.
SkOL is around $R2,80 at the time of this writing. More than last year but
still in the ballpark.

More on Guaratiba and Moqueca tomorrow.

Off to walk the beach. j

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Poets and Brahma

07Jan 06 Rio de Janeiro

"Erections, Ejacualtions, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness" is an American classic. Garrison Keillor and my long time philosophy buddy David Brock seem to feel that, except for being a sex-crazed, alcoholic lunatic with a foul mouth and bad skin, Bukowski is a lot like ee cummings. As such, they argue, he should probably be required reading in publc high schools across the country. Sort of an "I'll see your intelligent design and raise you a Bukowski" deal.

Anyhow, the title of that book pretty much summarizes the situation here in pre-carnaval Rio. One of the really cool things about this country is that it takes about a month to prepare for and a month to recover from big holidays like Cristmas, New Year's and CARNAVAL. This of course means that nothing of any substance gets done between about December 1st and sometime in mid-March. It's summer, the time of year when every Brazilian with any sense of taste and decency has submitted to fatalism and has placed everything in the hands of Brahma..... the beer, not the God.

Of course the big beer God here in Rio continues to be Skol. I'm happy to report that the "beeronomy index" is still within acceptable parameters. You can still get yourself an ice cold delicious 600 mililiters of brewsky for about a buck. Life is good. Life is very good.

Going to lunch at a fishing village outside of town. Luckily I got up just in time for lunch. j