Monday, September 10, 2007

Flying North

I'm flying back to the U.S. tomorrow and will be away from Rio until mid-October.

So, I will be out of the country this Wednesday for what Brazilians hope will be the final chapter in the latest political scandal here, involving the President pro tempore of the Senate, a lobbyist, and child support payments made to a young lover of said politician. Do you want to read about grossly improper behavior by public officials? Buy a Brazilian newspaper any day of the week for the latest corruption and abuse of the public trust stories. They go on for months and the details are lurid and revolting.

But I want to leave you on a cheerier note, so here's a photograph I took in the lovely colonial town of Paraty a couple of weeks ago. If you'd like to come down for a visit, perhaps the place to start is here at the Academy of Cooking & Other Pleasures, owned by chef Yara Roberts of PBS fame. A few years back, Yara and her husband Richard left Boston and the rat race to open a cooking school in this old house they had bought two decades before. They couldn't be happier!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Hug for my Birthday

Every time I see a mention of Rio in an American newspaper I cringe. I know it's going to be bad news and, I must admit, there's plenty of that down here, what with the drug traffickers terrorizing the poor areas, police corruption and...and...The list goes on and on.

So, I've decided that I will post here stories about ordinary people that touch my life in a very different way. Like, for instance, the woman who owns the newsstand across the street. I've known her for almost three years now. I buy the papers every weekend (for the entertainment guide, fashion supplement, things like that) and, occasionally, a magazine. Not what you'd call one of her best customers. But I do stop by and chat every day on my way to the market. Last week I was walking back with my shopping bags loaded with papayas and other goodies when she stopped me. "It's my birthday," she said with a huge smile. And went on: "I want you to give me a hug for my birthday. I want some of your positive energy on my birthday." So we hugged and kissed and laughed together in what I know was an actual exchange of good vibes.

And then there's the guy who delivers bottled water. He's a short mulatto transvestite who straightens his hair and sports long, fake nails painted white. The other day when he came I was puzzling over my tabletop dispenser. I had opened it up to clean it inside and wasn't sure if I had put it back together correctly. He checked it out patiently and concluded that it was all right. And added: "If anything leaks, call us back immediately and I'll come and fix it for you."

In spite of what the newspapers want you to believe, acts of random kindness abound here. And before you ask, I do wonder about his nails, too. How does he manage to keep them so perfect?