In my last post, after talking about all the mildew and rust in Rio de Janeiro, I wrote: “And best of all, I’m in Rio de Janeiro—what more could I ask for?” Well, a bit more than mildew and rust, I guess!
One of the commenters wrote this: “This post left me wanting more…why you couldn’t want more for instance. People who are new to your posts/book/blogs won’t know why you love Rio so much.”
Good point. So I thought I’d start out by answering this question with a passage from my book, Getting Down to Brass Tacks – My adventures in the world of jazz, Rio and beyond.
One thing I had to get used to when I first moved here was the carioca [Rio native] conception of time. Time in Rio is not time as I had been accustomed to it all my life. You can’t pin it down here. It floats. It sashays. “Come by my place tonight—the party starts at 8 p.m.” 10 p.m., 10:30 p.m., people start to show up. Or you’re on your way to meet someone and you run into a guy you know on the way. So you stop and have a beer with him. Then someone else crosses your path, and you get into a long, involved conversation. Eventually you end up at your destination—maybe. This nonchalant relationship with time can be frustrating for a punctual, organized New Yorker, but I’ve found that over the years it has actually had a calming effect on me. I’ve learned to roll with it and work around it, like everyone else does here. And then there’s the beach, of course. The beach right in the city, where you can go any time you want, stroll along the water’s edge and enjoy a view of Sugar Loaf mountain and surfers during the day, and friends sipping coconut water at the kiosks under the moonlight at night. You feel at home. You look around and see that’s it’s not just eye-popping young women in bikinis on the beach. It’s also old, fat, skinny, black, brown, tan, white, men, women, kids—people of every age, size and shape, most of them in bikinis, including the men. You relax. You already feel less self-conscious about your thighs. You watch the teenage girls and young mothers step down to the water, but rarely go all the way in. They carry a plastic container that they dip into the ocean and pour over their heads. Then they go back and sit under their beach umbrellas. The younger men sit right on the sand, or play paddle ball. Or they surf.
Sun-darkened men, boys and women parade up and down the beach selling things—suntan lotion, hats, sunglasses, bikinis, pieces of pineapple, popsicles, water, beer and soda, sandwiches and airy manioc biscuits (called biscoitos de vento—wind biscuits) that cariocas adore—they’re a must at the beach. The vendors never give you the hard sell unless you’re obviously a tourist. Usually they just call out whatever it is they’re selling and you gesture them over if you want something.
You head back home. The streets are lined with lush green trees. People stand at little bars sipping cafezinho (demitasse cups of very strong coffee) or drinking beer. Some of the men are wearing only their Speedo-style briefs, and the women miniscule bikinis with a sarong around the hips. There is chatter and laughter all around. Rio is warm, warm, and just oozes love and joy. The air of Rio is a like a caress, and there’s almost always a gentle breeze blowing, even on the hottest days…
OK, that’s just a taste…more to come.
The paperback and Kindle versions of Getting Down to Brass Tacks are available on Amazon, and the e-book is also available at iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and various other online e-book stores.