Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mauro Tambeiro

I promised I’d introduce some of my favorite artists here, so here is my first choice: Mauro Tambeiro.

I ran into his work one evening when I was strolling through our outdoor “beach gallery” here in Copacabana one Sunday evening several years ago. This is a long strip of mosaic sidewalk that passes through the middle of the avenue that runs along the beach, where local artists display and sell their works every weekend.

Mauro’s paintings caught my eye right away. Everything about them shouted “JAZZ”…at least to me.

His pieces are quite large, and as you can see here, are mainly scenes of nightclubs and bars — the nightlife of Rio de Janeiro — depicted in strong colors and exuding a great deal of expressionistic energy and movement. He’s been referred to as the tropical Toulouse Lautrec, but his work is reaching far beyond Brazil. Just last year he had an impressive one-man exhibition in Greece, and his works have been on display in Russia.

I’m no art critic, but to me they have character. I was deeply impressed and knew I had to have one. It took me ages to pick one out, but I finally did, and Mauro himself, who was presiding over his art show on the beach, kindly carried it to my apartment a block away.

Below are a few samples of Mauro Tambeiro’s work.

This is the painting I bought, in my living room


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“Will she ever finish that darned book?”

I’ve been working on my book for a long time.

Well, I can’t say I’ve been working continuously…

To tell the truth, there have been some gaps…

To be perfectly honest, YEARS have gone by and I’m still working on it. And there have been some HUGE gaps. But a few months ago I finally got the fire in my belly and went through everything I’d written in my infrequent moments of lucidity and engagement.

And then I finally attacked the really tough part: the final chapter.

What final chapter? I’m still here on earth and there’s no final chapter in sight. What do you do to bring the story of your life to a close when it’s still going on full tilt and there are so many things to be resolved and lived?

This is a question no one can answer for me.

Anyway, here’s the deal. I’ve now written a major part of the last chapter of my book, but I’m just waiting for a few little (or maybe not so little) things in my life to reach some kind of closure before I can actually say, “OK, it’s DONE!!”

I hope you’ll all hang in there with me. I’ve given myself a vague “by-the-end-of-the-year” deadline. Of course I didn’t say which year, but I’m hoping it’ll be 2012.

And even if everything isn’t all wrapped up and all the dots connected by then, I could always write a sequel later on, right? Right? RIGHT???


Filed under the book

Let’s hear it for comic books!

I will never cease to be grateful to my mother for letting me and my sister Bertie read comic books when we were kids.

I knew that some of my friends at school weren’t allowed to read them, although I had no idea why. Bertie and I had a huge stack of comics on the bottom shelf of our bedroom bookcase, and we were in love with Archie, Betty and Veronica, Nancy and Sluggo, Felix the Cat, Wonder Woman, Little Lulu and of course Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny and never got tired of reading about all their adventures over and over.

We learned lots of things from comics, including big words that we sometimes had to look up in the dictionary. I was always a good reader in school and looking back on those years, I really think that comics helped me with my reading. Especially Classics Comics — comic book versions of literary classics — which both Bertie and I eagerly devoured. They not only improved our vocabularies, but got us interested in the “real” literature we’d encounter later on in high school and college. They had a certain engrossing flavor about them that I remember even today.

What I didn’t know then was that for many years, even before Bertie and I started reading comics in the 50s, some grown-ups were campaigning against them and saying they were bad for kids.

1948, Wertham published an article in Collier’s entitled “Horror in the Nursery”

and then in 1954 we wrote a book called “Seduction of the Innocent.

In his book, Wertham said that comic books give kids wrong ideas about reality (flying superheroes, for instance), advocate homosexuality (Batman and Robin), and give girls twisted notions about women’s roles in society (Wonder Woman).

Who knew? Bertie and I were having a blast with our comics, and they never hurt us one little bit. I can’t even imagine my childhood without Uncle Scrooge, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Huey, Dewey and Louie and the rest of the comic book gang. Scary to think that the PC police were around even way back then. I shudder to think how they’d react to the TV shows, video games, social media, etc., that kids are into nowadays!

How about you? Do/did you have a favorite comic book?


Filed under my history

Bom apetite!

Even though I’m madly in love with Rio de Janeiro and want to stay here forever, I have to get down on my gringo knees and admit there are still some things I miss about the USA. Or maybe “thing.” OK, I admit it, there are certain kinds of food that I really miss.

Peanut butter used to be one, and I had to beg friends visiting from the USA to bring me a JUMBO jar, but now we have yummy p.b. in the supermarket, so I can freely indulge in my p.b and j. and fried p.b. sandwiches. Yup, you heard it right: FRIED peanut butter sandwiches.

I used to miss grapefruit, too, but lo and behold, we now have scrumptious, big ruby red grapefruits at the super. I’m really surprised, because I don’t know anyone here who likes them. One of my Brazilian friends refers to a grapefruit as “an orange gone wrong.”

More and more international foods are arriving here, but there are still some of my favorites that I haven’t been able to find: Ethiopian food, especially injera bread, GOOD Chinese food and GOOD Mexican food (trust me, they’re both really BAD here). The Chinese food here is beyond awful: picture a plate of yakisoba (which I thought was Japanese…isn’t it?) made with overcooked noodles, undercooked unidentified veggies and a couple of rubbery chunks of chicken. Maybe it’s because the cooks in Chinese restaurants here have names like João and Gustavo instead of Zhang or Wei, I don’t know. I’ve noticed an influx of Chinese into Rio in the past few years, though, so maybe there’s hope. Don’t make me talk about the Mexican food. I’ve had Mexican food in Mexico and it pains me to talk about the sad stuff that passes for enchiladas and chiles rellenos here.

But I have to confess that what I really miss the most are Mallomars, Pop Tarts, York Peppermint Patties, Mounds bars, Triscuits, bagels, pickled herring, cocoa with marshmallows in little envelopes, sour cream, and sweet corn. That’s right, no sweet corn. The corn here is the field variety, usually used for cattle feed in the USA. It’s flavorful, but tough and chewy and nothing like those sweet, juicy summer ears of corn I used to love when I was a kid. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, the bread. The bread here just isn’t very good. There are a kazillion varieties of whole-grain sliced bread that all taste alike and have hard little seeds in them that break your teeth. And lots of plain boring white sliced bread. Brazilians like big white rolls that they call “French bread” for breakfast with their coffee, but what I miss is my New York light deli rye with caraway seeds. Oh how it miss it.

But don’t get me wrong — Brazilian food is very good, and often wonderful. I love beans and rice and all the rest of it. There are some wonderful fish dishes here, and of course the fruit is to die for. We have some great gourmet ice cream, too, so most of the time I don’t sit around pining over the things I can’t get any more…I pull up a chair and enjoy myself. Bom apetite, as we say down here!


Filed under food

Moon madness

I’ve always been a little mad for the moon.

As a child growing up in Connecticut, I liked to lie on my favorite rock in our yard and night and stare up at the moon, fascinated by all its phases.

When the moon was full, I’d lie there until I was sure I could make out its face.

The kids at school liked to say that the moon was made of green cheese, but I knew that was silly because the moon wasn’t green. Anybody could see that. Yellow cheese, maybe.

Now I live near Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, and it’s always a thrill to watch the full moon rise up over the ocean. Sometimes it’s so big and orange it takes my breath away.

Once, late at night, I stood on the beach with some other people from the neighborhood and watched a lunar eclipse. I stood there, still as can be, until the last tiny sliver faded away into the darkness.

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Burning question for Sunday


Filed under burning question

Tom Jobim and the transcendent

I know quite a bit about Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, Brazil’s best-known composer (Girl From Ipanema, Desafinado, Wave, Waters of March, etc.), having listened to and played a lot of his music over the years and having read two biographies about him. What I never knew, though, at least until I read the biography Antonio Carlos Jobim, an Illuminated Man, written by his sister Helena Jobim, was that Jobim had had a “mystical” experience that changed him forever.

Tom was going on a hunting trip with his friend Mario, sometime around 1959, when it happened. Helena tells the story (free translation from the Portuguese by me):

It was a long trip over a dirt road, with the forest nearly blocking their way. Mario, who was driving the car, started to speed. Tom, sitting next to him, started feeling more and more tense. Suddenly, something happened. He felt everything relaxing inside of him. He looked at the headlights shining on the reddish banks, a tree bending over the road, the shining stars frozen in the dark blue sky. Suddenly there was no longer any separation between him and everything around him. He was everything — the light from the headlights, the illuminated banks, the tree, the distant stars — and everything was him. At that moment his fear stopped. Any and all fear ceased in his body and in his mind. There was no more fear of death, because there was no death. He was in everything — more than that — he was everything. And would continue to be forever. Tom said this experience was so intense that it was hard to put into words. It was untellable. He felt changed after it. He had experienced another dimension.

I can’t help wondering how such an experience might have changed him as a composer and musician. The only hint I could find in the book was when he remarked to Helena, when she said she felt the source of her inspiration as a writer had dried up,

“The source never dries up.” Then he pointed off into space and said, “It’s all there, you just have to go and get it.”


Filed under music, spiritual

How I discovered art

crayons1My introduction to the world of art wasn’t exactly the most auspicious.

When my sister Bertie and I had reached the age of reason (sort of), we discovered that Ma and Pop had quite an interesting collection of art books in the bookcase behind Ma’s chair…what they call “coffee table” books today, with lots of colored pictures in them.

Bertie and I loved them, especially because of the “dirty” pictures. We’d ooh and aah over Renoir’s ample nudes and stare in fascination at Modigliani’s skinny ones, looking over our shoulders every few minutes to make sure Ma hadn’t sneaked into the room and caught us.

Well, with all that probing around in those art books, even though our motives weren’t exactly pure, both Bertie and I both developed a love for drawing and painting. Nothing was more exciting that getting one of those super gigantic boxes of Crayolas with every color on earth in it. And then there were the beautiful little metal boxes of watercolors with their tiny oval trays filled with bright blues, vibrant reds, glorious yellows and shimmering greens.

Later on, when we outgrew Crayolas, we started drawing with charcoal and pastels that Pop bought us. Not soon after, we were gifted with oil painting sets, complete with palettes, brushes, and turpentine. Oh, how we loved that! My thing was mostly painting flowers, and Bertie liked to paint boats. When we couldn’t think of what to paint, we resorted to paint-by-numbers, which we were too young to know we were supposed to ridicule. To us, it was all fun, why not?

I didn’t grow up to be an artist, although I sometimes think it would be fun to buy some paints and pastels ad give it a try again. Who knows? Maybe I will…


Filed under art, my history

A scrawny tree’s spring surprise

It’s fall here in Rio de Janeiro, but since my friends in the USA are now enjoying spring, I thought I’d share this article I wrote a few years back:


I RENTED THE APARTMENT sight unseen, through an ad on craigslist. It had a DECK — what else did I need to know?

What I didn’t know, though, was that the scraggly tree hanging over the deck that I’d seen in the online photos was to provide me with endless fascination during the six months I ended up living in that apartment.

I arrived the beginning of April, and the tree was bare and not very impressive looking, with its scrawny, elbowy branches. But, I thought, in summer there would be leaves, and that would be….well….green. And nice.

What I didn’t know was that in early spring the tree would sprout dark red little buds that would suddenly burst into a symphony of tiny pink-magenta flowers, dazzling the eye and turning my deck into a splash of madcap cotton candy. Too bad it was still too chilly to actually sit out there and bask in its royal rosiness. But I would open the window every day instead, stick my head out, and as the temperature gradually warmed up I took pictures of it — lots and lots of pictures.

I knew it wasn’t a cherry tree or a magnolia or a dogwood — my scanty knowledge of dendrology (the study of trees) told me that much. But what was it? By the time I got around to Googling it, I had more information — breathtaking, weird, wonderful information.

Just as my pink tree was at its fullest and most magnificent, it wowed me with yet another miracle. From one day to the next, it suddenly sprouted little bunches of pink flowers all over its trunk and biggest branches! They looked like decorations on a wedding cake. I had never, ever — even after living in Brazil for nearly a decade and seeing some super exotic flora — seen flowers growing out of a tree trunk, and I was flabbergasted. Out came the camera again, and I shot the amazing and freaky phenomenon from every angle.

Now I had some ammo for my Google search. I typed in “pink tree flowers trunk” and up came the name of my tree: Redbud. Wikipedia told me that the Eastern Redbud is Oklahoma’s state tree and can be found on the east coast from Canada to northern Florida (mine was a Bostonian). It said that not all Redbuds have flower clusters growing from the trunk, which I decided made mine special. I also learned that the green twigs from the tree were once used in southern Appalachia for seasoning wild game and this is why it was known as the “spicewood” tree — and sometimes still is. Not being much of a wild game eater, I never tried the twigs.

Eventually the pink flowers dropped off, making a sticky mess on my deck. The trunk clusters were the last to go, but by that time little green leaves had started to appear at the tips of the branches, and by June the tree was completely covered with flat, dark green papery leaves, providing welcome shade for the humid Boston summer. I wouldn’t stay long enough to see them turn color and drop off so I could witness this amazing cycle again, but I’m glad I captured the whole thing with my digital camera. Now I carry my special Redbud with me wherever I go…in my laptop.

(From The Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum Page, March 5, 2009)


Filed under writing

Haiku for Wednesday

The stars look so close
You feel like you could reach up
And stir them around

Line from Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”

Painting: “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

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Filed under poetry