I may be the last writer I know to finally break down and start a blog. With all the pieces we could be working on, or should be working on, what are we doing giving it away for free? And yet… One by one, for a variety of reasons as rich and diverse as writers themselves, our tribe has backed into blogging. And so here I am, blogging in Brazil. And I will use that as the title because I am old enough to know I owe everything to beginnings.
I am not from here. Not that I am accustomed to being from where I live, not for a long, long time. Following a series of moves east and west, north and south, The Pacific Northwest is what I now call home. Beyond that, home is wherever I travel with paper and pen or laptop, wherever I can find a little elbow room…
My husband and I frequent theatre in Seattle and prefer going into productions “blind, deaf, and dumb,” meaning not having read a single review. This frequently finds us there for pre-production or opening night and the experience is as in a dream: you know not where it’s going; you just go. It works for theatre, and I would love to be able to travel that way too. Sometimes we can, but often the place is preceded with reputation, rumor, expectation. Such was the case with Rio de Janeiro. Boy, was it ever.
I have to say, remember everything you ever heard about the beautiful beaches, stretching Cococabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, the most magnificent shoreline that ever pulled right up to a city. And floating offshore and rising beyond the city, mountains of a lava lamp shape, looking liquid, poured… Add to that the mosaic sidewalks patterned in a black and white abstraction and red umbrellas dotting the beach—all this winding down the coastline like an immense cobra snake, and if I were transported there in the night I would wake knowing exactly where I was. Not every place can say that. Now imagine women in heels, stiletto and wedge, somehow walking over those mosaic stones, more off-shouldered tops and animal prints than anywhere on earth, men in flip flops and bathing suits, and you’ve got it, Rio. Where the beach meets the city, or the city meets the beach.
Now step with me onto the beach, for that is what it is, just a step away. Now imagine a nation of women, all shapes and sizes and ages, entirely unselfconscious about their bathing suits riding up in the back. Here the exposed buttocks is as natural as cleavage at the breasts. Not every woman in Rio is a hard body, and if that is what I expected, I was wrong about that. But I must say, every Brazilian woman is more comfortable with the body she has, and that is enviable indeed. Now picture me clad in a one-piece bathing suit, the only one to be found in Rio. Later, in Florianopolis, I spotted a couple others: a solid navy suit and a solid purple–mine was black. Looking back, I should have said hello as they must have been English.
So now you know, I was feeling Victorian in Rio. Nevertheless I hugged the shoreline by day; anyone would. The interior of the city struck me as cautious. Lopa is a quarter of old abandoned buildings in which the samba and jazz clubs have sprung up and go all night long. “I wouldn’t send you there by day,” our concierge confided, “but at night, plenty of police protection!” Nevertheless our taxi driver let us off a safe distance, and so we hiked. Indeed, a flashing police car keeping the peace on each block. All that for good music. The young take their life in their hands every night to be where everyone around will get up and dance, whereas I am thinking I can take the best of Rio home with me in CD’s.
We are leaving Rio and morning fog is rolling back for our flight. A man in a suit carrying a briefcase walks across the grassy field by the runway as we wait for clearance. I am curious where we are going as we fly over Sao Paulo to the island of Florianopolis, near the Argentinian border. Slipping into a world I never knew existed. A string of islands, tropical, verdant, and all that ocean, the Atlantic from here to Africa. This moment is the one I’m after, the discovery of another world, as in a dream or a darkened theatre, entering a world away from anything I ever thought I knew.