Archive for March, 2008
It’s just like the real one. Except it’s outside a mall. And it’s shit.
Florianópolis, then. Again, Juliana had put me in contact with a friend whom I could meet up with. I completely didn’t expect that I’d end up staying at her place. I arrive on Tuesday evening and gave Renata a call because she knew of some nicer places to stay that were away from the fairly generic-looking downtown area. We checked out a couple of them, and despite the high tourist season finishing a few weeks ago, they were both fully booked. So she offered me her sofa.
She lives in a lovely part of Florianópolis that has a feeling like a little seaside village, but near a lagoon not the sea. Here she lives with her adorable three-year-old son Nikolas, the nanny Silvia, and Silvia’s ten-year-old daughter, Jennifer. (I guess I should explain here that having a nanny seems to be a lot more normal here than it would be in the UK. What isn’t so normal, though, is Renata’s decision to allow the nanny’s daughter to live here too. I’ve heard heart-breaking tales of nannies living with a family, and not getting to see their own children very often. Here, though, I’m staying with two single mothers and their lovely, smiling children.)
It’s been kind of a blur so far. No big “tourist” moments, no capital-letters seeing of sights; just being here. And it’s fun. I’ve eaten lovely Italian, Thai, and vegetarian food; I’ve played ball with Nikolas a lot; I’ve put my baseball cap on his head and watched him walk around with it over his face pretending to be a monster (Red Sox fans: insert your own joke here, if you must); I’ve seen oyster farms in the sea, I’ve seen the beautiful villages around the lagoon on (in?) the island; Renata and I have spent a lot of time talking; and last night, your atheist Flip Flop Flyin’ blogger joined Renata at her Buddhist temple thingy for the wotsit that they do there.
I went along, not even considering that I’d have to take my shoes off, I just didn’t think about it. If I had, I’d have made sure I put clean socks on. When we were stood by the door and Renata took off her shoes, I felt a clunk in head: you’re wearing the trainers you’ve worn every single day for the past two months, Craig, your socks are bound to be stinky. Thankfully, they weren’t as bad as they could’ve been. We go inside, and I immediately feel like I’m an intruder. This isn’t my place. I’m not religious. Why am I here? Not “why am I here?” in a spiritual, soul-searching sense; but “why am I here?” in a “I could be watching that ‘The Hunt For Red October’ DVD back at Renata’s apartment” sense.
I followed Renata’s lead; grabbed a cushion and sat down. I kinda crossed my legs like a kid in junior school assembly. No lotus position for me. It was so quiet. Apart from the cat that was walking around and occasionally miaowing because, I think, he had already sussed me out as an unbeliever. I wasn’t obliged to do anything in particular. I figured that smoking a cig wouldn’t go down well, though, so kept my Luckies in my pocket. I was a guest, and the woman who was leading things welcomed me, told me I could meditate with them. Err, thanks. The closest I’ve ever previously got to meditating was sitting in a cinema in Derby watching the amazingly boring film “The Age of Innocence” when I was feeling really hungry: please let it end, please let it end, please let it end…
A few folks arrived, then they all started doing their sing-songy prayer stuff in Portuguese and whatever-language-it-is-that-they-speak-in-Tibet. People had their hands together, and their eyes closed. It all sounded quite nice, though. But I had pins and needles. And the bloody cat kept trying to walk all over me… And my back was aching a bit… I wish that mosquito would bugger off… Oooh, I wonder what Torres’ goal against Inter Milan was like… Must watch that on YouTube when I get the chance… I wonder who we’ll get in the quarter finals… I hope it’s Schalke 04… When is the draw anyway? Friday, I think…
All the praying came to an end, and I uncrossed my legs, put the cushion back, nodded goodbye to the women leading the thing, and went and grabbed my shoes. I was unenlightened. But I had a lighter. So I had a smoke. And then we went for pizza. Four cheeses. Damn good it was, too.
I arrived in Curitiba, the Paraná state capital, on Sunday afternoon. I left at virtually the same time on Tuesday afternoon. Curitiba isn’t as exciting or vibrant as São Paulo; it’s not as architecturally stunning as Brasilia; but it’s still pretty good. There’s none of that slightly annoying paranoia that goes with being a gringo in São Paulo. I stayed at the Ibis hotel on Rua Mateus Leme, and from now on, I’m gonna take the hotel price guide in the Rough Guide to South America with a pinch of salt. The Ibis was about double the price they suggested it was. And never again will I stay in a no smoking hotel. It’s just tedious to have to put your shoes and traipse all the way to the street just for a smoke. Still, minor quibbles.
I dropped my stuff on the bed, had a quick shower and dashed out to try and see a little bit of the local area before it got dark. Very pretty it seems too. The old part of the city is lovely. Lots of pastel coloured buildings. Some nice bars. Plenty of things to look at as you sit and neck a Skol. Including, sat at the table in front of me, a couple with a big age difference. She was, I’m guessing, in her fifties. He must’ve been half her age. She wasn’t particularly attractive. He could’ve probably got any girl he wanted. It’s a wonderful thing, love. Makes me happy to see things like that.
Further walking around revealed a decent-sized bland mall just around the corner. Sunday evening, the place was rammed with teenagers. Thousands of them. I began to wonder where all the adults were in this town. I’d hardly seen any at all. They’d all been eradicated by the hordes of teens in their perfectly turned-out, a bit too clean and nice, Avril Lavigne-style “punk” look.
Monday I was up and at ‘em, ready for some sight-seeing. There’s a pedestrianised precincty area called Rua das Flores which is kinda nice. Some pretty and simple churches, but on the whole, I got the feeling I was visiting a Brazilian version of Nottingham. Except with better looking women. (Not that there’s owt wrong with Nottingham women, but, y’know, this is Brazil not the East Midlands, duck.)
But, they do have wonderful bus shelters here. Elevated tinted-glass tubes with automatic doors that seem to work in a similar way to the doors on those modern Jubilee Line platforms in London. And the buses themselves are pretty cool for an arty tit like me: very simple; either red, yellow, or grey (each colour had a meaning: red for express buses, yellow or grey for something else); no superfluous logos, stripes, or graphics; no adverts; just “cidade de curitiba” on the side in black.
I spent a good deal of time walking, getting hot and sweaty, trying to find the Museo Oscar Niemeyer. I had no map, and was trying to somehow convince myself that I could remember what I’d seen on a map in the hotel. Eventually, I found it. Of course, being a fool, I’d forgotten it was Monday, the day all museums seem to be closed. But, I’d walked all the way to find it, so I got my fix of Oscar. I think I’ve got a bit of a crush on his work. It makes me so happy to be stood near one of his buildings.
One well-needed shower later, and I’m waiting outside the hotel to meet Ozorio. Juliana, my friend in São Paulo, had introduced us via email, and he graciously offered to meet me for a drink and show me a bit of the nightlife. And what a lovely guy he was. Very laid-back, laughs a lot, completely enjoyable company. Hurrah. After a couple of beers and some food in the nicey-nice Batel neighbourhood, and we move on to somewhere a bit more down-to-earth back kinda in the centre of town; a bar called called Otorto.
This place was perfect. Really simple. A bar with lots and lots of bottles. A pool table. Queasy lighting. Hundreds of pictures of the Brazilian footballer Garrincha on the wall, rolled-up metal shutters where doors or windows would be, and a nice mix of people. Mostly young-ish folks in their twenties and thirties, a few old geezers too. We drank a cachaça (kind of in the same ballpark as a whiskey, but bear in mind, I don’t drink much liquor, so it all kinda tastes like whiskey to me) and Skol. A couple beers down the line, and Ozorio’s pal Paulo turns up. A very outgoing, lively, guy; full of the joys of life. As we slowly worked up to heading somewhere else, we chatted outside under an awning, and a girl asked, in English, where I was from. Aaah, the joys of being a gringo: you can suddenly find yourself talking to Ana, Juliana, Leila, and Vanessa: a bunch of pretty, intelligent, young women. Someone said it before I came here, and it’s true: Brazilians are so very very friendly.
After a long time spent laughing and getting drunker, goodbyes were said, and Ozorio and I went off in search of somewhere else to keep drinking. Eventually we found a club where a distinctly average rock band were playing. We drank more, and I eventually got back to the hotel, stumbling into the elevator, and then into bed like a cartoon drunk.
The kindly woman at the reception allowed me to check out two hours late, giving me time to get a cab to Museo Oscar Neimeyer and have an hour or so inside. There’s a few different exhibitions in there. Two artists who’s names I couldn’t be bothered to write down, ’cause I sped around glancing at their stuff, knowing it wasn’t my cup of tea, but feeling I should at least give it a go. There was a great exhibit of the woodcutting work of a Brazilian artist called J. Borges. Really enjoyed that. Especially the big collection of the cut wood that they had, not just the prints. And then it was on to the th
ing I really wanted to see: an exhibition celebrating Niemeyer’s 100th year. Lots of large photographs, nine or ten architectural models of his buildings and some of his drawings. I couldn’t have been happier.
48 hours. In and out. Back to the bus station, and back on the road through the rain and the hills and disappearing light; heading south along the coast to Florianópolis.
Before I arrived, Florianópolis was – in my imagination – a city full of Being John Malkovich-style replicas of one the members of Kraftwerk, all singing “Radioaktivität” over and over again. Of course, it’s not like that; it’s a beautiful place on an island where I can dip my toes in the South Atlantic Ocean.
The light fitting in my hotel room reminds me a bit of Krusty the Clown.
Taking the bus is the right way to do this. For one thing, it was more comfortable and had more leg-room than a flight. It cost about a third of the price, too. It’s not taking off your shoes and going through a metal detector and being treated like a terrorist until you can prove you’re not; it’s buying a ticket a 9.09am, and being on the bus at 9.10am, and being on the road at 9.15am. Took about five times longer, but that kind of enjoyable. And the distance seems more real. You are going through it, not flying over it. There were moments on the bus when I really knew how lucky I am to be here doing this. Looking out as the bus wound along hillsides, passed tiny villages, listening to the iPod: there was as prolonged a moment of contentment as I’ve felt in many, many years.
It made me titter anyway.
I suppose evenings like this are what visits to foreign lands are all about. You meet friends of a friend. Your friend, tired, leaves you with the other people. You communicate via broken English and awful Portuguese. And you end up relying on doodles drawn on napkins to clarify things. That was a couple of nights ago. Last night, Flavia – one of those friends – and I went out again. This time we ate pizza. Very good pizza, as it happens. Very good wine, too. And, helpfully, it was a place with those big paper table cloths that children and people with language differences can draw on.
After pizza, we walked around the corner to a cinema, where there was a premiere of a Brazilian short film going on. We went into the foyer and met up with her boss, a splendidly friendly fellow (and Oscar nominee) called Daniel. The place was full of TV cameras, spotlights, photographers, people who looked like they were famous, people who looked like they wanted to be famous, and a slightly mind-bendingly large amount of silicone.
I wasn’t drunk, but I was merry. And I had the smile of someone doing something so utterly unexpected. We went into the cinema. It slowly filled up. Then Sérgio Mallandro, the star of the film, appeared and spoke for a few minutes. People laughed at the things he said. I, of course, didn’t understand a word of it. He is/was a children’s TV presenter back, apparently, in the 1980s. He seemed, on the briefest of first-impressions, to be quite sleazy; the sort of guy you imagine probably snorts cocaine off the breasts of 16-year-old girls. But, maybe he’s a lovely guy. I don’t know.
The film, Opera do Mallandro was pretty odd. There’s this kid in a Twisted Sister t-shirt. Then there’s a Michael Jackson impersonator. Then something that looks like “Flashdance.” And then a Twisted Sister impersonation group. It made very little sense. I was told it made little sense in Portuguese either.
Flavia and I left in search of another bar. It’s very cool to find yourself on the back of a girl’s motorcycle, being driven around São Paulo in the early hours of the morning. Pelting down empty avenues, a blur of traffic lights, road markings, and the odd taxi. Slowing down to take corners, things falling into focus, and you see people sleeping on the floor and women stood around working, checking out every vehicle that goes by.
Life feels like you’re in your own movie now and again. Last night was one of those nights. I’m planning to leave São Paulo tomorrow; heading south to Curitiba on the midnight bus. Every day I love this adventure more and more.
It’s been a while since I thought about the ordinary things that swim around like bored fish in my brain. But for the last few days I’ve wound down a touch and mostly confined myself to the hotel room, just kinda letting things sink in a bit. But last night, as I watched Fluminese thrash Arsenal 6-0 in a Copa Libertadores game on telly, I got to thinking about how many Brazilian players in the last World Cup actually played for clubs in Brazil at the time. So I did some more research and made a graph. Mmmm, graphs.
Of those who played outside of Brazil, 26 played in Italy, 15 in Spain, 10 in Germany, 8 in France, 7 in Portugal, 4 in Japan, 2 in Uruguay, and one apiece in the Netherlands and England.
Back in September when I was visiting friends in New York, I went to a shop to buy some new glasses. Just the frames. I have these old-style specs that are a bit 1950s-style, like those that Malcolm X wore. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is not because I am a black Muslim minister. It’s mainly because I like to kid myself that I’m adorning my myopia with a classic, timeless style, surfing against the relentless tide of modern, rimless monstrosities worn by the likes of Franz Beckenbauer or Sven-Göran Eriksson. They are tough to find. Not many places sell them.
Just before I left Berlin, I had a bit of an eruption of my old iritis problem. This meant using eye drops. This also meant not being able to get an eye test ’cause the results would be a bit skewed and I’d have ended up with lenses like the Hubble telescope. So I had my old prescription with me, and went into several spectacle shops in London. None of whom would make up spare glasses for me with an old prescription. Something about it being “the law.” Pah. Squares. I did have quite a row with one guy in a shop that I think was called Optical Express. I told him that I needed spare glasses ’cause I’d be canoeing down the Amazon (okay, so I exaggerated a bit), and that if I lost my glasses, I hope he’d be happy that he hadn’t supplied me with spare ones ’cause of his dumb rules; that I’d be wandering around the jungle half-blind. He shrugged the shrug of a man who very very literally could not give a fuck.
I get to Mexico City in January, and take my four-year-old prescription into a shop there and they make them up, nay bother. Cheap, too. But they weren’t right. There was something about them that was wrong. I wasn’t there long enough to get them fixed, so muttering a long distance apology under my breath to the Optical Express guy, I accepted that I’d been an arse and really should’ve just got my eyes tested not used the old prescription, and figured that I’d be able to get some made up a few weeks later in São Paulo.
Little did I know that the simple act of cleaning my glasses with the hem of my t-shirt would be the thing that made the frames on my regular specs break. I glued them back together. Good job. I went to Belize, and just after I’d finished cave-swimming, the glasses broke again. Lucky I wasn’t in the cave, of course. More glue applied and they were gonna be fine. And they were for a week or so. Then came the kinkajou attack. This time they were broken. Properly. I had to wear my new spare pair with the freaky lenses. For the last three weeks I’ve been wearing them, and it’s been quite weird. Certain things were tough to see clearly. Up close and in low lighting, things got a bit blurry.
Last week in Brasilia, I went for an eye exam. I was bored bored bored in the waiting room, but had been assured that the doctor spoke English, so I was just grateful for getting the test done. The doctor was the kind of doctor you see in saucy British comedies from the Seventies. She was F.O.X.Y. And when I had my eyes against the big grey machine where she stood on the other side making small changes and asking if that was better or worse; every time she stood right in front of the machine, I had no choice – ’cause of the limited field of vision supplied by the machine – but to look straight at her chest, with that one button saucily-undone to reveal a delicious hint of cleavage.
Yesterday, I got my new lenses put into my New York specs by a nice man dressed in white who looked a bit like Uri Geller. And it’s such a joy to be able to see properly again. One of the things that Dr. Luscious told me was that my eye sight was getting better. And I can’t help but think that the kinkajou, that annoying nocturnal beast; well, perhaps it’s like the spider that bit Peter Parker. Perhaps I am actually Kinkajouman. Perhaps my ocular powers will continue to increase. Perhaps, too, I will gain unprecedented powers to sleep during the day, eat bananas, and bite people’s faces. Watch out, Brazil. Watch out.
As my great great great great great great grandfather once said, “Craig, you can never have enough photos of clouds on your blog.”
As Michael noted in the comments of a post yesterday, it’s possible to see a drawing of a penis on the page below the one I wanted to show you. So, I suppose it’s only fair to show you the penis. (Mum, turn off your computer now, and go and watch “Emmerdale” will you?)
A little explanation: my friend Juliana and I had been to see the most recent Gus Van Sant film “Paranoid Park,” and had been discussing how his films seem to have one defining characteristic. So, in my notebook, we combined to write the script to his next film. This is it:
I’m quite quite drunk right now. Why do I feel the need to type these words into Blogger? I don’t know. But, I will say one thing: if you’ve ever had a caipirinha anywhere other than Brazil, you need to get your ass on a plane down here, ’cause they’re so much better here. Now I will try and fall asleep without a cigarette in my hand so I don’t go the same way as Steve Marriott. (And I’ll wake up regretting this stupid post, I suspect.)
… and it’ll be lost on you if you’ve not seen “There Will Be Blood.”
I saw the film on Saturday in Brasila, then again yesterday here in São Paulo. It’s just so damn good. And I still want to see it again. Dunno why, but it just feels like it needs seeing again and again to get it all.
An old man with a walking stick, stood outside a closed shop. Just as I passed him, he spat into the street. If he’d have done it half a second later he’d have spat in my face. He put his hand up immediately to apologise. I turned, raised my hand, and smiled to indicate that it was okay; that I know he hadn’t done it on purpose. And he smiled the embarrassed smile of child caught doing something naughty.
The people that walked past the window of a coffee shop called Suplicy over the course of one minute.
It’s all terrible clichéd to do this when one is travelling, but I have found myself thinking a lot. Thinking about how I live my life, the good things, the bad things. And a lot of stuff is like having colonic irrigation of the brain. Remembering things one has forgotten; things I have tried to forget, that were actually just stuck like a bit of meat between the teeth. The things I find myself writing in my notebook are pretty self-absorbed. I just hope that by the end of this trip, whenever it does end, I will have a different title in mind for the sure-to-be-nonexistent autobiography.
I hope his right leg isn’t a badly-fitted prosthesis.
It’s a fairly child-like observation, but it still really amazes and thrills me that, at sunset, you can look in one direction and see one thing and look in another direction and see different light altogether. First picture is the view west from my hotel room, then the view north.