Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Stifler: As Brazilian as American Pie

At Copacabana beach yesterday, while walking home in the late afternoon, I spied a man sipping a beer. Casual he was, this man, as he stood at a refreshment kiosk with a group of friends, clearly the epicenter of their activities, so popular he seemed. Shirtless, and across his shoulder blades the tattoo read “Stiffler”, duly in honor of the American Pie movie series personage of ill repute, but ’twas incorrectly written with one “f” too few, thus reading “S-T-I-F-L-E-R”. So now he was The STIFLER. The neon-green sunga adorning his sunblock-girded bunda, and gold neck chain plus imitation Aviator sunglasses, deterred me from asking The Stifler if he realized he had forever emblazed his body with an orthographically inaccurate tattoo. Curiosity began me to overtake, and I wished to inquire of The Stifler what, precisely, doth thou stifle? Life? Hopes and ambitions? Spelling bees? And why couldst thou not stifle Metallica post-1994? ‘Twere it happily so, it would have been less a stifling, more a mercy killing, a “tiro de gracia” to save real metal from the farce Metallica has become, a band a shadow of its former self and covering even its own songs poorly. But dare ask I did not, and continued my saunter back to Leblon… Stopping only for ice cream on the way…

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When Knocking Opportunity Meets Lamentable Professional Reality

I am not at liberty to disclose the pertinent details. However, please get out your jazz fingers and position them above your head, joining me in celebration of The Singular Wondrous Accomplishment of My Life: I just interviewed a Brazilian Playboy model. As part of my job. For which I receive a salary, to engage in activities this cool. But that in itself was hardly the cause celebre; indeed, something even more wondrous occurred immediately after, when for motives utterly unbeknownst to me she offered me her phone number, suggesting I consider calling her over the weekend. Yet I was compelled to refuse this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, for would not such a vulgar mixture of the personal and professional entail a textbook conflict of interest? And would it not have been professionally suicidal succumbing to this gapingly obvious pitfall, when literally every single person around me – guards, applicants, colleagues – was rapturously drawn into the observing the spectacle, positioning them all as malignant witnesses were I to accept her digits and the jefes caught wind? And so was I required to politely decline, rendering me both the first person in my family to be offered a Playboy model’s phone number, but more importantly, according me dubious renown as the first man on planet earth to turn one down. Regardless, this is a moment to be feted, for if nothing else my ego’s thirst has been sated. Even triumphing at the Philadelphia Wing Bowl or whipping Tokeru Kobayashi at annual Nathan’s frankfurter finals would not still pale in comparison. I’m hanging up the jersey now, so to speak.

O Cristo Redentor: Oitava Maravilha do Mundo Moderno

I finally made it to Christ the Redeemer, or Cristo Redentor as it’s known to Portuguese-speaking people the world over. Designated by UNESCO as the 8th Wonder of the Modern World, I found myself in tears on two separate occasions at His feet. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but the sheer scale of the monument is overwhelming. I do not use that word lightly, either, for to stand in the shadow cast by Rio’s towering Jesus is to linger at the feet of a greatness where spirituality and architecture intersect. And by the outlandishly packed crowds surrounding it (literally thousands at the park already when I was there at 10 AM), you sense how important it is to not just Brazil, but the world community, Catholic and otherwise. It’s massive in person; but you can’t discern the scale in photos alone. To discern the gargantuan nature of Rio’s stone-cast Cristo, check out this excerpt from a Wikipedia article: “…considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. It is 30 metres (98 ft) tall, not including its 8 metres (26 ft) pedestal, and its arms stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide. It weighs 635 tonnes (625 long, 700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931.”

Aesthetic Deities Perched Atop FIFA-Emblazoned Thrones Grant My Petition

Last night, I hastily commented to a friend that my judges had returned with a firm verdict and ’twas this: the myth of beautiful women on Rio’s beaches was scantly more than windblown urban legend. So assured was I, indeed, that ’twas all a product of American TV shows and Brazilian tourism propaganda that, in my hubris, I threw down the gauntlet and dared Rio show me just ONE hottie, for I’ve been here two whole weeks and find this place wanting. Then I slumbered, sleeping the sleep of the rudely self-righteous, certain I had pulled back to the curtain to unveil the wizard and he was, after all, but a tiny and balding man.

Then I awoke this morning. I sensed no change in barometric pressure, no distinctly new caliber to the sunlight as it gradually crept into my bedroom, making my thermal blanket seem as pointless as a wool serape in Cancun. I mused unto myself that, indeed, nothing about today seemed distinct from all the days that came before it. Yet lo, when at 10 AM I sallied forth to the beach to exercise, Slayer’s “Payback” and Exodus’ “War Is My Shepherd” pounding into my earbuds, my eyes were greeted by a series of sights one could only aptly describe as a kind of promised land.

Therefore, allow me to amend my comments of yesterday; for I have climbed to the mountaintop and my eyes have now seen clearly, so exceedingly clearly. And ’tis good, amigos. As though the Brazilian aesthetic deities perched atop their FIFA-emblazoned thrones in serteneja heaven considered with pity my longing petition and delivered unto Ipanema beach in the wee hours a panoply of be-thonged women, cavorting on make-shift volleyball courts in the sand, sipping drinks through straws from all manner of bizarre-tinged fruity gourds, even pushing grammas in wheelchairs down the walk, all making looking this damn good a mere casual affair.

I’m Just Trying to Go Home: Enter the Palhaso

I went to get a coffee and read a book, something simple to give impetus to what I sensed was an otherwise pointless day, in which work-related administrate tasks loomed large and precious little headway seemed actually to be achieved. And yet I fatigued early and decided the hour was upon me for dinner, shower, and telenovelas, so commenced the short trek back to my casa. ‘Twas but 3 blocks; how much can happen in a space so constrained? I always must this casual query, and am routinely stupefied when events conspire to contradict my every expectation. And thus it was with a conspicuous wiff of “AGAIN, Bullwinkle?” that whilst sauntering back home in the early evening humidity along the Ataulfa de Paiva, I was stopped by a woman dressed as a clown. She stammered to me but I did not comprehend: so thick her carioca accent, so bulbous the red felt nose adorning her proboscis, which probably interrupted her nasal articulation and in short order rendered her to difficult to understand. Any linguistics prof will tell you nasal sounds are the key to us really understanding each other, and I sense this is especially true in Brazilian Portuguese, where they seem to speak in alternating currents of left-and-right nostril. I could see she was hocking something, and wanted none of it, particularly in the event this was commercial clown sex, which I’m told is a real STD risk here and, at any rate, not something I would normally procure on the street. So I donned my lame gringo cap, the one I wear so well these 14 years of travel in Latin American when trying to avoid a potentially compromising scenario. “Nao… Faaaaaaalooo… Por-chooo-gues.” But this clown was not to be deterred. She stripped off the nose, revealing a late-twenties face so soft, imbued of features so fine and a dermis so perfectly brown that for a nanosecond I was paralyzed. Suddenly the content of her speech was clearer, and not because her beauty was clarification in itself: she started yammering in English, telling me she knew me, I was the gringo she met last week, the one who spoke better Portuguese than he was leading on, and would I buy her clown music CD? This is not a joke; she was shilling Brazilian palhaso tuneage that she apparently composed herself. The only thought that really stood out to me was this: have I already canvassed this city so thin speaking to Brazilian women that now I can’t recall this clown?

Of Morning Coffee and Brazilian Fascination with Unlawful Carnal Matters

Today, I descended the bus on the way to the office, entering the coffee shop where I’m gradually becoming a “regular” on the way. Patrons galore gathered ’round the diner TV, staring bedazzled at the screen. My bus had passed a police raid in progress 15 minutes prior, so I thought assuredly that I’d chanced upon major BOPE action that was now making its rounds on the local news channels. I was prepared to offer my “there I was when BOPE brought the thunder!” stories to anyone willing to listen, but the amassed cariocas were concerned with more carnal matters. For the TV screen displayed an story, one of the flesh, which in no small measure enraptured and titillated all present: a teacher in Florida was fired due to posting sexy photos of herself online. And by sexy, I wish to communicate to thee that, indeed, ’twas a nipply day when her random friend brought forth a CoolPix digi-cam and began snapping away. By the splendor of the photos rendered in the newscast, I can only assume the camera in question was a special CoolPix with at least 20 megapixel resolution, for the level of detail captured of her every corporeal delight was nothing short of stunning. And the news program made sure to provide zooming close-ups, ostensibly for those visually-impaired persons that they, too, might lay lusty eyes upon her sagacity. Rio-based reporters, after wiping their collective drool, took to the streets interviewing Brazilians for their thoughts on the issue. Now who wants to guess what the local consensus was on these outrageous pictures? Hint: it was not unlike Italians’ opinion of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Don’t believe me? Try this: http://site.orocofm.com/noticias/mundo/3303