Monday, January 23, 2006

In my mind, I am in Brazil...

Oh, how magnificent it is to be laying here on the soft sands
of Copacabana! What a pleasure to watch the gentle waves
lap up against the Sugarloaf Mountain beneath a pristine, azure
sky! Behind me towers mighty Corcovado, with the monumental
Cristo Rendentor astride it, his arms thrown wide to embrace
all of us, Cariocas and tourists alike, the millionaire and the
favela-dweller! My soul soars just to think of it, just to know
that I can merely turn my head a few degrees and drink in
the glory of this world-famous sight instead of having to lay
eyes upon yet another snow-dusted, desolate Minnesota

And the people! So friendly, so genuine, so happy just to be
basking in the sun’s sweet rays! Oh, my goodness! Who is
that? Oh, it is an itinerant bossa nova singer who has come
to serenade us all with the lilting melodies of Antonio Carlos
Jobim! May I request “Insensatez”? Or perhaps “Desafin-
ado”? How about “Chega de Saudade”? That’s a good one,
isn’t it? What’s that you say? You’ll play them all? Capital!
Here, take these reals for your trouble. No, no: I insist! You
are an artist, sir! And to think, that instead of closing my
eyes and hearing you croon all these beautiful songs I could
be at work, staring at a computer screen and watching the
clock like it’s my worst enemy. Shit! I shiver just to imagine

Maybe later, when I tire of this beach and its hordes of thong-
clad Amazons, I will take a peaceful walk in the Jardim
Botanico, or–if there’s a game on–I could make the trek to
the Estadio Mario Filho, the largest soccer stadium in the
world. And of course I simply must visit the Parque Nacional
da Tijuca, which my tour book says is the largest urban
rainforest park in South America. But, to be honest, I feel no
need to do anything besides lie here, in perfect harmony with
my surroundings, until night comes and the charming child
muggers come out in force. That’s my uptight mind speaking:
do something, do something, do something. Well, I am doing
something, I’m laying on Copacabana beach. I’m working on
my tan. I don’t even hear one of my aggressively-dull co-
workers babbling on and on and on about the new addition
they’re putting on their bleak suburban ranch house and
about the adorable way their baby daughter “takes poops”.
I don’t hear them because they’re up in Minnesota, a place
they’re proud of never leaving, while I’m down here in Rio
de Janeiro, thousands of miles away from their silly fix-
ations and their passive-aggressive complaints.

How sweet it is! How lucky I am to have cast off my bulky
coat for this lemon-yellow speedo! What’s that I feel? Well,
goodness, I do believe it’s a clear sinus passage! This is
paradise! I wish I never had to leave! Oh, Brazil, I know
that you’re not just a tourist paradise, I’ve heard of your
many problems and struggles. But let me dream, won’t
you? Let my fantasy of you rise up and blot out my
country, land of bulky, broken people shuffling stiffly be-
tween office park and McDonald’s; land of untrammeled
Republicans shrieking like victims whenever someone
says something intelligent; land of a million motivational
speakers and million television channels and a million
Home Depots, but less and less choice every single second.
I’ve had my fill of that place for awhile. I’m happy just to
be here in the Zona Sud, just taking in the vibe.

Every so often the urge hits me to sit up and crane my
neck a ways so that I can see the Avenida Atlantico. The
bustling promenade, the towering hotels and condominiums,
the luxury shops all glisten in the tropical light. It’s a post-
card for my memory, but if I tilt my head and squint for
awhile, I can make out other shapes, dumpier shapes,
moving among the lithe women and their smooth men.
These forms are human too, but it’s impossible make out
what sex they are under their puffy ski-jackets and their
baggy pants. They look so pink, so frozen, like giant ham-
burger patties with runny noses. Where are they hurrying
to? Why are their faces so pinched and miserable-looking?
How come their gait is so stiff? Do they have flagpoles shov-
ed up their assholes? Are they being chased by imaginary
enemies? Are they running just to be first to suffer?

I don’t ponder these questions too deeply. I have a tan to
attain, after all. Besides, the itinerant singer has retuned
his guitar and has started in on a new tune. I turn away
and listen as he sings, “En não sou audiência para a solidão...”.

That, for me, sums it up perfectly.