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???

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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?

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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!

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I wanna go home!

The first hint was the oat bran. OK, let me explain…

After living in Rio de Janeiro for eight years or so, I decided to try going back to the land of my birth, the United States of America. Leaving Rio in November probably wasn’t such a great idea, since I was blasted with blood-congealing, knee-rattling snowy weather when I arrived in New York, but I was still determined to give it a try.

I went to Connecticut for awhile and stayed with my sister and brother-in-law out in the country. That’s when the oat bran thing happened. In Rio we have yummy Quaker oat bran, nice and finely ground and slightly toasty. I ate it every morning for breakfast. When I went to buy some oat bran at the supermarket where my sister shopped, they didn’t have Quaker’s. I thought, oh well, how different could it be? It’s just oat bran.

When I opened the box I was suspicious right away. The grains were too coarse. It was too white. I had a bad feeling. I cooked it and it tasted nothing like my beloved Rio Quaker oat bran. I tried putting it in the blender. It was useless.

OK, big deal, you say…it’s just cereal for God’s sake.

But then I moved into my own apartment in Boston. Right away I felt something “off” in the streets. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was, but then I realized that nobody was speaking Portuguese…they were all speaking English! It was really jarring. I found myself missing that soothing, slightly nasal sound of cariocas (Rio natives) chatting at the corner juice bar in Copacabana.

Not only that, I missed speaking Portuguese, too. One day I had a grocery delivery and I knew right away that the delivery guy was Brazilian and I was really excited. I struck up a conversation with him in Portuguese and I just couldn’t make myself shut up. He kept edging toward the door as I rattled on and on…I think the poor guy was afraid he was going to get fired for being late on his route!

Then I caught myself reading the Brazilian newspapers every time I went online, and listening to João Gilberto and Caetano Veloso on iTunes every chance I got.

Most of all, though, I missed people sticking their heads out of their windows and yelling “GOALLLLLLLL!!!!” at the top of their lungs during the soccer games. Sigh. I knew this was never going to work. I wanted to go home. And that’s exactly what I did after being back in the USA for only one year.

When I stepped out of the plane at the Tom Jobim international airport in Rio, I sure was one happy camper. Home at last!

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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

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