Friday, February 15, 2008


This title refers to the way people in São Paulo respond to your "thank you!" As you may well have guessed, it's the Portuguese equivalent of "imagine!" It's accompanied by smiles and very strong body language that tells you that "there's absolutely no need to thank me, I'm here to be helpful to you, and I enjoy doing it." This pretty much defines the megalopolis in my opinion. Spending a few days wandering around a few neighborhoods doesn't make me an expert, but I got a general feeling that the city is considerably better managed than Rio and that people are better educated and have a more professional attitude, from the Japanese ladies at the Saturday market to museum guards and uniformed (and polite) taxi drivers. Their cars, by the way, don't seem to be falling apart, and neither do police vehicles. This makes you feel like you can ALMOST trust the officers driving them...

São Paulo also managed to eliminate outdoors and other obnoxious visual pollution and this made such a huge difference. I sampled Middle-Eastern food at Arabia in Jardins and had a grilled salmon at Sushi Lika in Liberdade, the Japanese neighborhood. Both were excellent and I'm told there are countless such great places to eat in this tropical New York City. I also found some heavenly shops in Vila Madalena and Liberdade...Next time, it's on to the Italian and Jewish neighborhoods and on and on...

If you look carefully, you will, for sure, realize that you are still in Brazil, but it's one that we wish was more the norm than the exception.

The first photo was taken outside the Pinacoteca, which has a magnificent Tarsila do Amaral show on right now. Question for you: Why is all this great art practically unknown north of the Equator?

The second is a picture I took of Melona popsicles from Korea, which are all the rage in the Japanese neighborhood. I chose melon, which seemed (and tasted) delish, but had I been a bit more adventurous, corn, rice, and even fish were among the available flavors that afternoon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

And Carnaval Came to Me...

Night is falling, the rain has finally stopped, and a bloco is going by...impossible to resist! As they don't move very fast, I've been downstairs dancing a couple of times already. I also called my daughter in Miami a few minutes ago, so she could hear the singing outside my windows.

This is one of dozens, perhaps hundreds of groups that form spontaneously all over Rio. I can't find it listed anywhere in the so-called official lists...If you can't go out in search of carnaval, it'll come to your doorstep. So, you just step outside and follow them for however long, singing all the great marchinhas of old. Life is good!

I took these few shots about an hour ago as they were approaching the square where I live. This little girl's grandfather kindly let me take her picture. A lot more people were willing to pose, but there was too much going on!

The other wonderful detail about this bloco: a lot of women percussionists! Actually, they have slowly and quietly taken their long overdue place in drumming sections everywhere, even in the large samba schools. More power to them!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

See You on Ash Wednesday!

Carnaval is in full swing. So, we're allowed to forget what ails this beautiful least, til Ash Wednesday! The streets have been taken by clowns, ballerinas, hula dancers, pirates, and lovely butterflies. Drums, assorted percussion, bands...leis, masks, hair adornments, and confetti for sale everywhere. Mercifully, someone thought of prohibiting those awful cans of white foam. But, since there aren't any chemical bathrooms for the thousands of men drinking beer on the know what's going on behind every tree, bush, and on car tires...Women manage, of course, somehow...

I've been going out and checking a few blocos, the neighborhood street dancing groups. They all have hilarious names that reference a landmark, like Sovaco do Cristo (Christ's Armpit, because the statue is right up there from us); a profession, as in Imprensa Que Eu Gamo (Squeeze Me And I'll Fall in Love With You, because imprensa happens to be also the word for "press" and the group was founded by journalists); or a favorite bar. Some are now so gigantic, it's become impossible to join them. Others are still more or less limited to people in the general area and I tend to favor these.

One of my favorite carnaval songs is called "See You on Ash Wednesday." It's about a couple that last year didn't go out dancing in the streets, and their costumes, which were left hanging, unworn, in the closet. This year, though, they're taking a different approach: each one is going his or her separate way and they'll be back together on Ash Wednesday, no harm done. The last verses go something like this:

If my bloco runs into yours, by chance
No harm done, no one has died...
There are three days of fun
You there, me somewhere else
See you on Ash Wednesday!

Well, that's it, then: See You All on Ash Wednesday! Have a great Carnaval everyone!

PS - That's my Simpatia É Quase Amor t-shirt from 2005, maybe, and my necklaces from Mardi Gras in New Orleans...quite a few years ago, for sure!

PPS - I found out to my dismay that women don't manage, actually. Thanks to a young lady with her panties down, crouching next to my building, peeing behind a parked car.