Saturday, January 28, 2006

smorgasbord of life

28jan 2006

It was either the hot dog, pronounced "awchee dawguee" with a total of 4 syllables or the little quail eggs. You haven´t lived fully until you spend 4 hours in a third world bathroom with alternating vomit and diarrhea, all the while being observed by a 150 (or more) pound Mastiff named Hector. Everytime I came up for air old Hector, with his fur coat about 4 sizes too big was just sitting there looking at me with two little strings of drool coming out of either side of his mouth. Way bummer.

Bamba the beer drinking dog was spotted the other day in Catete. He was hanging around a BBQ pit working the crowd.

Samba has been good and is getting serious. The directors all starting to look stressed. I still greatly prefer the Group A and below schools. The Grupo Especial schools are just a mob scene. In the bateria it's a bunch of the same players anyhow. The same guys I play with in Estacio also play in Salgueiro. I´m meeting new people all the time and it all began with blocos. The blocos are your entry point as a foreigner.

In another little slice of life and death, Hilda was walking along Rua das Larangeiras a couple of days ago when she heard a siren (not uncommon). Suddenly, a police car stopped right beside her and out came a big, big automatic weapon with a policeman attached. He was yelling "lay down!" at some kid with a pair of shorts, no shirt, no shoes. (The kid obviously had a gun hidden somewhere. Maybe in his armpit?) Anyhow, all Brazilians and repeat tourists here know that your chances of getting killed by a policeman shooting into the crowd are much higher than that of getting killed by a bandit. Everyone took off running and trying to get behind whatever. Anyhow, the kid was subdued and dragged off to jail and no one got shot ... yet.

Xuxa got here yesterday and the games have begun. Not to be deterred by a torrential downpour, he somehow talked us into walking over to the praca Sao Salvador to have a beer and a snack. Seemed easy enough until we had to cross the street. As you may remember, I'll had a little trouble with the whole crossing the street thing here. Anyhow, there we were. Not a car in site. We darted across the street in ankle deep water. I was being the rabbit. Clever. Quick. That´s when I saw the bus ... and the water, lots of it. The bus looked like a speed boat and it was headed our way. I yelled "Bus!! Make a run for it!!" and away we went, three wet gringos with umbrellas sprinting along a two foot sidewalk just ahead of a bus wake. Pretty exciting actually.

Anyhow we had some carne seca acebolada, fries and more than a few beers. By this time the rain had let up to the point where you could kind of see across the street and so we decided to head out for Badalo in Santa Teressa. We got to ST and promptly got lost. We wandered around for a few minutes without getting robbed and finally found the quadra. You should visit the Badalo quadra (I think the street is Paraiso and it's on the side of ST that is right next to the sambodromo). Very nice people and a kickass bateria headed up by Folia from Santa Marta. Good player and a good director. You see heavy players all over town with Badalo t-shirts on. Anyhow, we spent some time hanging with the president and decided to move Xuxa's party to the quadra because of the continuing threat of rain forcast for Sunday. It's perfect.

The bateria was cancelled due to the rain but samba broke out anyway. Some kids ranging in age from 13-21 lined up and were running through the breaks with Folia leaading/teaching. Some of those kids could play like crazy and all of them were having a great time. Playing a little samba on Saturday at 1AM. j

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Eminem and sewage

24jan 06

First, a tip: The little "springs" bubbling up out of the sidewalks are not springs. Step over them.

It seems that the sewage situation has gotten bad enough that it has finally made it into the public consciousness. Today in the paper there was a picture of a sewage pipe draining directly into the water on some beach nearby. It came from a condominium across the street. They build these giant buildings here and dump the sewage right into the closest body of water. On the news was a picture of several tons of dead fish killed by algae overgrowth from raw sewage. The good news is that the government has promised to run some tests and do some studies.

Also in today´s paper was an article about the canals of Fundao and Cunha. These are the two beauties seen/smelled by 100% of visitors to Rio as they go into town from the international airport. A study revealed that with $66 million American dollars they could dredge out all the sewer mud and clean the place up. Hell, the USA fired $30 million dollars worth of missles at Bagdad in 30 minutes trying to kill Saddam!! 66 million is nothing. Clean that "sh*t´" up, holmes!!

Eminem made the news today. The article started by quoting Jorge Bush as calling him "the greatest threat to our children since polio." The author of the article argued that that alone was enough to demand respect. Let me see. What do I fear worse; A foul mouthed punk from the streets of Detroit or a not very bright megalomaniac religious fanantic with nuclear weapons?

I guess I´ll take Polio.

Tonight starts the big push to our the last weekend. I know it´s only Tuesday but this is Rio and Carnaval. The Xuxa arrives Friday so it´s unlikely that I´ll have time to write during the weekend. I´ll take notes on his movements and send a report later. j

Sunday, January 22, 2006

psycho killer

22jan 06

I just realized that I don´t know how to spell "psycho". phsyco. pyshco. pschyo. I think I might have dyslexia or something.

Anyhow, there is a bird out back over the fence somewhere who seems to be singing the sound track from the shower scene in "Psycho". I´ve had it with him. He´ll have to be boiled and eaten before Xuxa arrives.

On the creative robbery front, the gangsters here in Rio have placed observers in the airport. They watch for dumb rich people to come out with a gold chain and a Rolex. They follow them and then pull them over and rob them. They just robbed a busload of 33 British horse race fans and made off the $200 K. The Brits descibed them as "truculent". Not to worry. They published a composite drawing in the paper. I think there are at least four guys in the bar next door who look exactly like the robber. I´m gonna just hang around and see which of them acts truculent and then I´ll call the cops.

Through my friend Jorge I found another cool samba hang last night. In the late 70s/early 80s there was a bloco in Catete called Embalo. They apparently got pretty good as they made it up to the Sapucai and were actually involved in it´s inaugeration. There is a move to put the bloco back together and we attended the first rehearsal last night. It was that perfect scene that I love. At the foot of the Santo Amaro morro, the whole neighborhood came out to play some samba, sing some songs and let the kids run wild. It was like a samba playground. The people were soooo nice. At one point I tried to sit down in this plastic chair and one of the locals wouldn´t let me saying that it was too weak and that some folks had fallen in it. He got a stiffer one for me. I´d never seen this guy in my life!! The fun went on till about 1AM when we had to stop so that the neighbors could sleep.

We went to Sapucai on Friday to see the technical rehearsals of Vila Isabel, Viradouro and Salgueiro. Remember what I said about these things getting a little too popular? Well, apparently on this particular night, there must have been a huge moron convention in town. Over to the side in the stands there are the usual little stairs commomly used for going up and down the stands to and from your seat. The moron convention arrived and decided, "Oh look!! There are all these great spots with no one in them. We´ll just stay here." This, of course, trapped about 400,000 people with full bladders in the stands. When you tried to go down the stairs, people got mad because you were bothering them. At that point my usual polite "Da Licenca" stopped being a request and became more of a warning shot. I meant to give them the option of either getting out of the way or being moved along in front of me as I exited. Either way, I was going out. Quite an experience. One I´ll skip in the future.

Aside from the morons in the stands, the rehearsal was really unbelieveable. I really mean that. These once simple run throughs to get used to parading and playing and finishing on time have turned into a competition. Sort of an opening round in the run up to Carnaval. All of the baterias where amazing. Tight and swinging with very cool breaks. All the schools are now developing these long phrases with call and responses from the various sections. This is the new evolution of the vocabulary. I predict that, in two years or so, two or three of the coolest ones will mainstream, that is, they will be known by everyone and can thus become part of the common vocabulary of sambistas everywhere, no matter what school they are from. That's my read on how it works.

In my opinion, Viradouro carried the day by a large margin. That bateria is hot, hot, hot and mestre Cica is the Webster´s Dictionary of the emerging vocabulary of samba. The dude is a heavyweight. Not only was the bateria smokin', they also put on a show with all the alas in colorful shirts, baianas in the big red skirts that twist back and forth, etc. They also had these 5 or 6 mostly nude women up on these 30 foot high quadraped poles riskng their lives and dancing away while swinging sparklers around. Quite a show.

Went to Monobloco the other night just to check it out. It´s different from my other experiece here in Rio. It is egalitarian in that there are people of all colors, sizes and sexes playing whatever instrument they want. Women on caixa for instance. On the other hand, it seems to be more of a school. I think it´s where rich mostly white guys can come and pay to learn how to play samba. You have to arrive in October, pay and attend all the rehearsals (they take role) in order to parade and play the shows. They rehearse in the Fundacao Progresso which is a very cool, old, huge building under the arches in Lapa. The building is so big and industrial looking that it remeinded me of Blade Runner or something. I had a dream about aliens invading in that same building that night in fact. (I still haven´t completely gotten over that octopus thing.) That's the good news. The bad news is that the acoustics in the place are horrid. The only way to hear the bateria is to be in it. Otherwise it´s a huge roar.

Anyhow, the music and breaks of Monobloco are interesting and well-rehearsed but it´s really not my taste. Too western for me.

I got an e-mail about 6 months ago from someone in England where a debate was raging about whether there is "clave" in Brazilain music. Of course there is. When the director looks at you and points his fingers in opposite directions and yells "Cruzou porra!!!" that pretty much means that there is indeed "clave" and that you don´t know where it is. j