Trip to Brazil - 6

12 December - Ipanema
Got up early Sunday, showered-- hot water working this morning-- had breakfast. still not many customers, just an American couple, who were no doubt Harriet & Arnold Greenburg.

The flight was at 10.45, so at 9 I figured I had time for a little nap. Big mistake. I got up at 9.45, but went to the bathroom, etc., so by the time I was downstairs it was after 10. I settled my bill, paying somewhere between official and parallel rates-- somehow nearly $80 vanished this way. The hotel desk called a taxi for me-- another mistake, since taxis congregate outside anyway.

The cab finally came, around 10.30, and we zipped over to the Aeroporto Tancredo Neves, which is about 25 km from town, somewhere in the outback. We arrived, and I'd missed the plane, and a quick scan of the Domestic Departures showed no VASP flights to Rio this week.

Well, as it turned out-- no problem; I simply took the next flight, at 11.30, which happened to be a Varig/Cruzeiro flight. I figured all these companies-- VASP, Varig, Cruzeiro, TransBrasil-- are all part of a global conspiracy. In Rio, however, another theory presented itself. The baggage area was labelled Ponte Aerea-- Air Shuttle. Belô to Rio is evidently cooperatively run.

I wasn't feeling very well-- evidently I'd been too free with the food or drink somewhere-- but I had managed to eat something on the plane, and to struggle through the Sunday Jornal do Brasil, or possibly O Globo. It had Calvin & Hobbies, which has become Calvin e Haroldo here. The mind reels.

I missed the regular airport announcer-- it must be her day off. My friend Tina had mentioned her, and I definitely noticed her the first time I landed in Rio. This woman has the sexiest, sultriest voice you can imagine-- it's almost a joke that she really is the announcer in Rio. "Flight... six, six, three to... Floriapolis... now boarding." She has a way of saying Florianópolis which makes it sound the earthly seat of exotic mystery-- a universe away from (say) Minneapolis. (There's an Indianópolis in São Paulo, by the way.)

After a bit of struggle with the phones, and an unsatisfactory talk with a secretary, I succeeded in reaching Roberto de B-- P--, Lica's friend, my host in Rio. I waited for him in Terminal B, hardly knowing what to expect; and then there he was. He's young (Lica's age), preposterously handsome, and was dressed all in white, as if he'd just got in from the club.

We talked awhile in the Medical Department, a part of the Rio airport you don't normally see unless you're having a massive coronary, and if you are and it's Sunday, Roberto is the doctor who's going to see you. He's been out of school about 2 years. In Brazil med school takes 6 years, but you don't go to a 4-year school first. Makes sense, but there's a glut of doctors now in Brazil-- and they all want to practice in Rio or São Paulo. Roberto works a 24-hour shift at the airport on Sundays, works Saturday somewhere else, and has a regular hospital job all week. It sounds tiring, and it is. Sometimes he shows up at his apartment, in Ipanema, which he shares with another doctor.

He called a cab, and I was driven to Roberto's place, a longish ride. I presented a little note from Roberto to the doorman, and went up to the 13th floor to Roberto's apartment.

It's nice. 2 bedrooms, living room, tiny kitchen and utility room, bath. TV, many American records, beautiful view of Ipanema and the ocean on one side, nice vista of a favela on the other. A favela, Pavão, literally rises right out of Ipanema. One could probably throw something from Roberto's window into the back yards of the favelados, not that this would be a good idea.

After looking around, I took a walk around Ipanema-- down to the beach, naturally. It's a beach-- a very nice beach. It is not a topless beach. Your reporter had to walk all the way to Copacabana to verify this, but so it is. The bikinis are very small, so one may well ask, "Why bother?" Cette haut-dessus de bikini est faible, as M. Mitterand might say, mais elle existe. I did see two girls, out of hundreds, reclining topless-- probably Germans.

After a long walk I came back to Roberto's place, and was about to crash when Adriana came by. Adriana is Roberto's girlfriend, and they had evidently arranged for her to entertain me tonight. She asked if I wanted to go out for drinks with some friends.

We drove down to the beach-- she has a Ford Corcel too, this one beige-- and went to a beachfront bar and restaurant called, I think, Alberigo's. (The 's ending doesn't exist in Portuguese, of course, but English is chic.) Her friends were still at the beach.

We went upstairs, where it was air-conditioned, ordered chopps (a sort of light beer), and talked-- at first a bit haltingly, but we picked up speed. She's a medical student, and has 1 year left. She and Roberto met hitchhiking-- I didn't get more of the story than that, except it was 5 years ago. She lives with her parents. She studied awhile in Oregon, and she was in the U.S. last year, visiting her brother in New Orleans. (She liked Mardi Gras; she says it's different from Carnaval.) She has brown hair, is fairly short, and looks somehow American. Her full name is Adriana da C-- de M-- A--.

We talked a bit about accents. The letter R is pronounced Midwestern-style in Piracicaba, trilled in São Paulo, and in Rio, like h initially or doubled (rápido, carro, Barra), like an uvular French r elsewhere (caro, direito). We tried speaking Portuguese; she was quite easy to understand-- either I'm getting better, or the Carioca accent is what I learned.

I asked Adriana about o fenômeno da Xuxa. Xuxa (shoo-sha) is a girl who could teach Douglas Adams a thing or two about multi-media. She's in a comic book, on the radio, on TV; she was the star attraction of the festival at Maracanha to welcome Papai Noel (who arrived in Rio by helicopter). I wasn't sure if she was an actress who'd got a comic book, or a comic character who'd got an actress. It turns out she has a children's show, from 8 to 12.30 every day, called Xou da Xuxa (Xuxa's Show), which is her general HQ. She's blonde, and cute, and she's got a good agent-- there's even a Xuxa doll. The newspaper calls her A rainha dos baixinhos (the queen of the little kids). A headline (referring to the new, leftist mayor of São Paulo, Luiza Erendira) says ERENDIRA GANHA A PREFEITURA MAS QUERIA MESMO UMA BONECA DA XUXA-- "Erendira wins the mayoralty, but would prefer a Xuxa doll." Adriana says she used to be Pelé's girlfriend.

We went out to eat-- Adriana and I, not Xuxa and I-- at Via Ferme, an Italian restaurant. I had fish in a cheese sauce-- absolutely delicious-- and she had nothing; wasn't hungry. Afterward she dropped me off at Roberto's.

It was 9 or so, and I was in Ipanema, so I decided to go out. I saw Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold-- a French-Italian co-production, in English, set in Colombia, with Portuguese subtitles. What could be better to see in Latin America than a García Márquez story? -- but of course the urban sophisticates of Rio are as far from tales of the interior 50 years ago as I am from Willa Cather.

The movie is well done, but I can't get into stories of Latin revenge: we must kill this man who has taken our sister's virginity! They do, and it can't be said to make anyone happy.

Learned something useful from the cinema's bathroom door: puxe, pronounced pushee, means pull. Of course.

Monday, not much to tell. Got up late, went out to do laundry. After a long search, halfway to São Paulo, found a laundromat. Bought a short-sleeve shirt-- I am seriously overdressed for Rio, which (unlike everywhere else so far) is seriously hot. Ate lunch at another Italian restaurant, Il Capo, where the hostess chatted with me a bit. She's been learning English-- very well-- if she still has a Brazilian accent, it's fine with me. She says she loves the sound of English. Odd but true.

Went out again, after a short, hot nap, to pick up the laundry. Stared awhile at the passersby on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The statue of Christ atop Corcovado is visible from here, and well represented my spiritual condition: he was small, far away, and his arms were open, but not toward me.

Back at Roberto's, a quiet evening. TV: saw The Jewel of the Nile dubbed into Portuguese, which didn't improve it. Roberto's roommate Paulo, also a doctor, made himself supper and invited me to share it-- bread, frankfurters, homemade French fries.

13 December - Ipanema

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