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Sao Paulo Dreamin’ (in Rio de Janeiro)

April 7, 2012

It’s movie-like.  The view is from 18 floors up through a large, immaculately transparent sliding glass door that leads onto a private balcony.  While two blocks from the beach, there are no buildings between here and there taller than ten stories.  The vast panorama of blue ocean horizon is broken only by volcano peak islands about a mile out.  Leblon beach – just down from more famous Copacabana and Ipanema – is full of sunbathers and beach volleyball and soccer enthusiasts.

Our protagonist sits facing the scene, downing cold liquids on the rocks and pounding out the prose that will later touch readers as if it had somehow cosmically connected with their souls, painting a word picture of their secret hopes, dreams, and despairs.

It’s not a movie though.  Reality mimics the idealized vision but makes minor adjustments.  Added is the musty smell of the US$60 per night, 1970s-style hotel room in which the action takes place.  Also tacked on is a dull headache brought on by lack of sleep, a result of psychosomatic inability to find peace in a first-night hotel bed.  Subtracted is the borderless and all-encompassing image, replaced by the grating light of a laptop screen filled with petulant carping and affected depth.

I’ll always be an outsider in Rio.

Sao Paulo is big, commercial, urban, same – reminiscent of almost any large metropolis.  Surprises are uncommon.  Grasping the flow of life requires no great effort.  Walk the streets, browse the stores, buy some trinkets, relax your brain.  No need to contemplate, no need to reason.  It all makes sense.

Rio is other, the flow is alien.  After facing the sensory blitzkrieg of tanned hardbody impossibabes intermingled with leather-skinned speedo freaks beachside, one is abruptly startled by piss-stink streets and Pythonesque open-wound beggars a few steps from the strand.  You’re Carioca (of Rio) or you’re not.  You fit in sui generis or you accept your manifest role as spectator apart.

Lose yourself, blend in, become gray and small, tune in, turn on, and drop out in Sao Paulo.

Feel its obliviousness to your presence and bear the excruciating knowledge of your own foreignness in Rio.

– Rio de Janeiro, June 2001

From → Ideas

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