Friday, October 8, 2010

Intruder

You came into my place at 6am and woke me up. Who do you think you are? I could hear your alarm, I thought you were a car tampered with, but you would not stop. I turned over hoping you weren't real. You ran out of breath and I knew you were living and very near when you started up again. I finally got up and you were scared, you didn't expect me there in my underwear. I have dealt with others just like you with a pillow case and a broom. Turned out, brooms aren't the way for guys like you. Only with the pillow case. You were so scared you shit your pants, but you never had any. I closed the blinds and realized you came in from that far up window I never knew I had. I never saw you, only your shadow and I could feel the vibrations as you moved by the window. I closed all the blinds and the entrances to the rest of the apartment. It was you and I. I was ready for you. I kept closing the other blinds. They would keep you from me. I opened the window you had come in through a little more. The absence of movement and sound told me you were gone and that you would be okay.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Umamimart: Mortadella Sandwich

I have started writing for Umamimart. Please follow their blogs and subscribe, don't forget to tell your friends.

I have been a huge fan of their for quite some time now, and now have the opportunity to write for them. It is a real honor.

http://www.umamimart.com/2010/09/mortadella-mayhem-sao-paulo/

Observations of a city 160 days later

I live in a new part of the city. It's busy, I hear the cars outside, men work on the forest of apartment buildings surrounding. It is home.

The other day I was driving in another part of the city. The part of the city where I make sure to lock the door, and I saw something beautiful. The sun light was horizontal. I drove down the road and there standing on the sidewalk about 20 feet from the car was a large woman peeling her clothes off. Because of the sun's glow she looked like a well endowed golden angel. I was driving too quickly to see anymore, all alone in the car, I had no one to share this with. One of the most amazing sights ever.

A month ago Felipe, my brother in law, and I were searching for a spot to park. São Paulo has a lot of one way streets- so in order to find parking you often have to drive around the block a few times. Well, as we were driving around this block, next to one of the largest boulevards in the city, we drove by the same woman. I have seen her many times before, as many of the homeless her are quite recognizable, but not as much of her as on this day. Each time we drove around the block, she was at the same corner relieving or revealing herself. The first time she wasn't wearing any undergarments, the second she was urinating, and the third, well we stopped looking. The amount of poverty, and untreated mental illness and addiction here is immense. I am hoping that with the coming elections the elected officials use their power to steer through the temptation of corruption and relieve these people of their difficulties and find them proper care.

Sunday morning, I was eating breakfast at a cafe, when I noticed a man pull up to the valet and leave his large SUV there. I made a mental note that the man looked slightly mafioso. Then a few minutes later I see him return to the car, and place a hand gun on the floor of his driver's seat. He notices that I am watching, and I continue to eat my lunch wondering what his line of work was. I look up from my esfiha and our eyes meet again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back at it month #4

So been moving slowly moving into the coolest apartment ever here in São Paulo. It's great, built in the 50's, with high ceilings, enormous windows, an old straight out of I love Lucy kitchen, and near a well known shopping district, close to the park, in a district that is known for good food and the like. I expect to start writing more about food as I find my way, and bring my camera more often to restaurants.

This week is the beginning of São Paulo food week, which lasts two, and is pretty great I hear.

Well back to what I originally intended. Our apartment.

CH has been gone off working in Singapore for the last month, and we secured the apartment just before she took off, while she was gone with the help of my brother and sister in laws, we changed the keys, hired a cleaning crew, and moved all of our stuff that had been stored since last June when it arrived by boat from Japan. Due to certain renting procedures we weren't given the keys until the week she was meant to arrive, so we managed to get it all done in just a week. The movers actually dropped off the 15 boxes just 10 hours before she arrived. I managed and got the place looking like we had been living there for about a month minus the fridge, bed, and couch which we are picking up this week.

It is great to feel like I am building a home again. This time it is with my special one and with lots of help from her family and various furniture donations which include one giant table that looks just like a huge grey wooden surfboard balancing on what looks like the underbelly of a whale. Our table could easily pass for a raft if either of us was adventurous enough. So big, in fact, it could accommodate one of the Easter island statues to surf on. Anyone else feel a Town & Country surf designs theme here?

Either way, it's huge, and we will have to test it out, maybe even take it out- it is a three day weekend after all.

Note: At first reaction, I did flip out over the table. Sorry CH.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Festa Junina

Last Saturday night I was told to get ready for a party. We would be bringing some snacks to share, and "it's a Festa Junina party". I had no idea what they meant, but I liked the fact that we had to wear plaid and the promise of food.

This was far out! We could- one: wear what I normally wear every other day, two: dress like lumber jacks, or three: pretend it was early 1991. Jokes aside. I didn't have a clue what to expect. My expectations changed drastically when my sister in law began applying false freckles with her eyeliner. What the heck was I in for?

When we arrived I thought I heard polka music. I thought, "I know this, this is what it sounds like in California on the Fifth of May, but I'm in São Paulo".

Everyone was wearing plaid, jeans, or handmade dresses, some made of plaid and others flower patterns or patchwork. Men were wearing straw hats and some even had their eyebrows filled in with eyebrow pencil or paint to forge a mono brow. It got stranger. There was a man selling corn on the cob and another selling popcorn. Was this a fair or carnival? Kids were fishing in the fountain, and men singing and dancing their hearts out to yes a country type of polka music. It felt like I was at a hoedown but this was the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere and these people did't have "Say Yes to Prop 8" stickers on their cars.

Well turns out that Festa Junina originated in rural North Eastern Brazil and provides an opportunity to thank St. John for the rain that farmers depend on each year. It is a Catholic festival that happens all over Brazil and is a celebration of rural life where party goers dress in traditional rural clothing, prepare typical food, and participate in quadrilha which is very similar to square dancing.










video

Look for a second Festa Junina video in the following blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brazil Day 60 (seriously)

After spending an hour of every Wednesday night in traffic or on a bus driving far too fast (think the movie Speed); I was determined to use the subway to get to the far side of town brought on by the recently read informative blog by one of the foreigners out here who had ridden this newly opened stretch of underground track. I was excited and was willing to walk the half mile or so total required to get to and from the house and final destinations from the metro. The normal routes on the metro here are convenient, reliable, and fast. They aren't incredibly dirty. A good mix of the population use them who are teaming with personality. The billettes cost about R2.65 which equates to about $1.48. Bargain.

I get going and get off at my first stop and go visit some new friends and future coworkers. Great.

I climb back down to connect to the newest metro stop on the yellow line- Feria Lima which.

But to my surprise and disappointment, the passage way from Consolacion to Paulista metro stations closes everyday at 3pm. At first not understanding, my thought was "Hey there isn't a World Cup game today..this thing should be open". For some reason the yellow, a major subway line, their newest one, is actually closed on a busy weekday. There were not postings, just three metro workers that basically said in a friendly way- "tough luck that's Brazil for ya".

I ate the R2.65 and made my way through the crowd, surface, and seek out the bus another 5 minutes walk away. I waited for the onibus that had my destination written on the side and hopped on. I squeeze onto a bus where patrons are pressed up against one another, probably because the subway is not up after 3, and those entering pay the turn stall guard and move to the back and find a seat or railing to hold on for dear life. People are quiet. Its hot. One woman offered me unsolicited help recommending that I exit the other side of the bus at the next stop, but I wasn't yet getting off. 10 minutes after entering, due to the unique addition of bus lanes here and there- all over the city, I was at my destination and on time. No parking fee. No traffic holding me up. Only slight hassle. This was easy.

On the way home I try to buy gum and all I have is a large bill and no one is accepting it. I was reminded of a commercial I had seen previously where a man is shown time and time again given candy, a pile of coins, or like me, just plain refused when paying with a larger bill. I had not yet experienced this. After three tries I realized it was useless and boarded the onibus. It was a direct route to my closest metro station. Great news. If only the turnstile guard would accept my R50 bill. He didn't. He brushed me off and I took my place next to his booth in a nearly empty front section of the bus while the back was full. I asked a few times in my caveman portuguese "Why can't I pay", knowing the reasons from the comical commericals. The slender young man with nicely combed soft light brown hair looks at me and repeats, "Só cinquenta" or "Only R50". But yet, he wasn't kicking me off. Confused again, I tried to make sense of this, explaining to him that my "Portuguese is few" and he began to warm up, he was no longer this vender of NO's, he told me I "could get off soon", this become more confusing.

I continued to practice the language and we got to talking. He is a 22 year old who lives in the southern part of the city, prefers it to the center because it is a bit slower paced. As the bus stopped intermittently to let passengers on or off, he carried the conversation, never breaking focus. He continued to talk as he collected exact change and passenger's cards were being swiped. This was very much his turf. He continued talking about his trip to London, and sentiments of Brazil, the language, and asked me about LA; we had been talking for 20 minutes. In the end, he signaled to the bus driver, using a screw nut tightly fastened to the railing of the bus by a rubber band, and the bus driver opened the front doors and I exited unquestioned. I tapped on the glass to thank him and he replied with a smile and thumbs up.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pri the wonderdog

I'm totally into my little roommate.
video

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 50: Oldest church in São Paulo mass (flashmob)

Walked out of the mass this morning and found another kind of mass.
video

About 1000 in number skating for 20 minutes then moving on by the sound of an air horn. Brilliant! Look closely for the acid drop off the monument.

Friday, June 18, 2010

São Paulo Gay Pride Parade






São Paulo shut down its main drag Avenida Paulista to celebrate Gay Pride. This annual parade is one of the largest Gay Pride events in the world. Hundreds of thousands swarmed the parade lanes to cheer the parade of sound trucks and celebrate the day.

These dance venue sponsored trucks successfully molded the city center into one massive dance party where the young people came to get their groove on and support the gay community. It seemed straight and gay alike were in attendance to dance and sweat it out with beautiful glittered drag queens and kings peppering the crowd like the royalty they are. Mind you, this wasn't the festival of roses; each themed parade truck was armed to the teeth with the latest mixes, Lady Gaga, and Kylie Minogue types pouring from the 3 meter high wall of speakers.

Paulistanos hugged the corners to get a view, dance away their cares, or find romance or lips to lock up with. Most came for the fun, music, and to support their friends- all celebrating. video

Flowers





Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup: BRASIL vs. NORTH KOREA

In Brasil, soccer is something else. Before the game -pardon me- the match- the streets are packed with cars, people in their yellow, green, and blue jerseys sporting their favorite players but mostly coming together to represent their players, their favorite sport, and their home. Walking down the street on the way to our local bar we could smell and hear the familiarity of a party. The sound of far off explosions of fireworks, people singing Brasilian anthems, those plastic horns, the airhorns too, and the flags of various sizes and shape painted on faces or draped from scattered windows in various buildings and cars greet us as we push through the city. Men pedal these flags at the traffic light. He sells them with honor.

This is not like the super bowl where two cities battle it out and loads of people sit around on a Sunday eating their chips and drinking their beer and cheering a team that doesn't belong to them(hey I'm from Los Angeles) But this is for the entire country. People take the entire day off, leave early, close down their restaurant, which was our case,and host their friends or meet up wearing their Brazil gear, sweater, or colors.

On the way to the restaurant cars were honking with anticipation and cheering our their windows. VAI BRASIL! It's beautiful. People are happy. Together they are all happy.

Arriving at the restaurant we see a group of 15 or so already starting the party. Beers in hands talking about the expectations for the game. My friend Felipe and I make a bet that if Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) or DPRK make a single goal he will never smoke again after today. I hope Brazil wins. I know it will happen, but I don't think DPRK has a chance in hell of scoring on this monolith of a team so he takes the bet.

Comencou: it started. This is exciting. When a team is seen playing together for the first time you can see how timid they are regardless of how professional. These players don't typically play on the same team as each other; as they play in their different leagues throughout the year. How could Brasil be playing both timidly and dare I say, with a bit too much confidence? Well Korea played solid defense at the beginning although I wasn't sure if it was because Brasil was finding their rhythm or if Korea was on it. I soon realized that Korea, though they fight hard, didn't have much for offense and my hopes of Felipe quitting his habit were lost.

Watching fans when their player is preforming poorly is one of those things I just like seeing. Hearing them shout horrible obscenities and insults at somebody that later on could potentially win the game brings a bit of clarity of how brutal fans can be.

The most incredible however, and I wish I had video solely of this, were the fan reactions to the missed opportunities of the players on the screen. The tense shoulders. The clenched fists. The look as if they had eaten a sour lemon express the disdain, disappointment, and loss of the opportunity. The sounds that follow follow like a wave of cresting voices rising "YES! YES! YES!" to the low and baritone AAAHaaaoooo of the missed shot paired with hands covering eyes. slapping their knees, shaking of heads, and in worst cases head in hand, or my personal favorite: Hands pressed into their hair. Incredible. Such drama and such sport.

Well the game was a hard fight all the way. Brazil had to work hard for their win. The first half was scoreless, but in the 10th minute of the second Brazilian Maicon shot from the most ridiculous angle and the ball went straight and curved into the far corner of the goal. A miracle? No. I have seen youtube. These guys do these sort of tricks all the time. I am impressed he could pull it off when the game was on the line-when they were at risk of a draw. Another 8 minutes later Elano doubled the score and Brazil doubled their lead.

But then when I thought my hopes were lost, in the 89th minute, DPR Korea, the boys from the North, got their goal! Ji Yun-Nam scored and single handedly put Felipe to the test. He will be a non-smoker from here on out.

Brazil 2- Korea 1 Felipe + or- 1

Friday, June 11, 2010

Copo do Mundo The World Cup

Today is the first day of the World Cup that supposedly shuts down office buildings, blinds all who see with bright yellows, greens, and blues. Today is the beginning of something new- a global love of soccer, futbol, or here pronounced "footchieball". I wait today with immense anticipation for opportunities to see an entire country's passion for a sport that unifies, loves, and pretty much stops this country flat during game time. I am strangely excited, fearful, and curious as to what will commence. And mostly...I just hope Brazil wins.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Last Fridays on Paulista Blvd.






I had been looking forward to this event for sometime. Each last Friday of the month holds the largest known critical mass bicycle (Huge Bike Parade celebrating Bicycle respect) event in the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. 100's came out supporting bike love in droves. When I met up with my new friends- I thought that we would join in the ride- but instead of joining the masses- I realized the FIXA SAMPA crew had other plans- and that's how I joined my first alleycat race in a city I barely knew.

It was fast and the traffic here doesn't let up. An alleycat is basically a bicycle race where riders, as quickly as possible, pedal to different points within the city, take a photo with your phone, go to the next check point, and try to finish in good time. Think scavenger hunt on bicycles.

The manifest: Go to a certain square in Vila Madelena- take the picture- go to another part of town -Roosevelt square- and locate the "theater"- take a picture- and then find the critical bike mass that is floating around the city- and find Alini- in the middle of all of that and take a photo with her. The first two: CHECK- only with the grace of being able to keep up- but could not for the life of me find where the bike parade had headed. After a few wrong turns on one-way streets, I headed back up to the main drag hoping to find a hint of a parade- I was met with cars and my first flat. Repaired the flat, regrouped, and was greeted with a loud, "Hey the Gringo made it" or something to that affect and a nice glass of cold beer. The night was good and kept going. Pictures will be posted hopefully by tomorrow night. Much love to my family and friends old and new. Video by André Seitsugo

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 27

The city is full of people, full of cars, full of food. After riding the other night we all went to a pizza place. We had about 15 people in tow half in bike cleats and we needed a place to put our bikes, rest our bodies, and get to talking. This was at 11 at night and the restaurant might have well been closed but after a bit of debate as to where to put our bikes; the matre'd pulled five tables together, grabbed our drinks and we toasted. Most of the group I have been riding with for the last three weeks and have slowly grown closer to. Before my arrival I read and heard that Paulistas take a bit of time to warm up to you. At the restaurant, I noticed that the few who had previously kept to themselves were now introducIng themselves, offering advice, and friendship. The pizzas rolled out and the night kept going.

There is a certain part of the city surrounding Pacaembu stadium and hosts the soccer team Corinthians (Inside there is also a nice soccer museum dedicated to the culture of football). Coming down past the stadium on our rides there is a barely lit downhill plunge that curves left and right and back and forth following the natural form of the foothill that supports it. This hill is a dream- ignoring the shared cars, potholes, and bumps as is everyone all the way down. It is dark and fast and another taste of what's good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 22

Like many older folks who had grown up in the Great Depression; she held onto her possessions no matter how trivial for fear that she might lose it all again. I have noticed this with some of my other relatives that many hold onto old blouses, trophies, mugs, or sports equipment justifying it through "having a collection". No one needs 1,753 golf balls but you do if you know how hard you had to work to own them.

Sometimes one needs to get out and stretch, yesterday we could see why. We moved CH's grandma out of the apartment apartment she had been living in for nearly 40 years. Experiences like this are hard to come by. There couldn't have been a better way to learn about the family I am marrying into. We packed up all of her belongings, heirlooms from Korea-before they immigrated to Sao Paulo, and a thousand books or so. Each layer, shelf, drawer, was like an onion, peeling up her past and reminding the family of the beautiful days spent together in this beautiful home they had created.

Each drawer contained a multitude of memories: a pin, a brooch, a handkerchief, cassette tapes holding "their song". Each treasure with a story- Some without- like a receipt that could not be read. One surprise was a box full of letters. This box was busting at the seems as it was too full to hold each individually stamped, addressed, and hand written ink letter. These letters were some of the oldest memories discovered as they were the letters she had received when she first arrived to Brazil. Every I miss you, good luck with your new life, I hope nothing but success for you; is still documented, still saved, kept cherished. Many of the authors of those hand written messages of good will are no longer living. Many of those friends and family were never seen again and came back when found in a box under box of golf balls that hadn't been touched in 40 plus years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Night Ride with the Total Bike crew: fast paced

Our ride was only 26 km but the hill climbs, people, and sights made it worthy of a few hours of riding. Last night's São Paulo bike ride was a breath of fresh air, if not a bit randomly disorganized. We followed the leader Luis who fits the bicycle rider profile: a little crazy.

A tour is what it felt most like as we passed many cozy older neighborhoods with cobble stoned streets that haven't been worked on in decades reminding me of the history the city really holds. We toured mostly "Centro", the center of the city, although I couldn't figure out where we were a quarter of the time.


Halfway through, many were getting frustrated with what felt like a mixed up, mess of an unplanned course- we found our destination- an alleyway that was completely saturated with graffiti art. Up and down the cobblestones it was our very own private museum. Lit by only the white and flashing red lights of our bicycles and the occasional yellow dim glow of the streets surrounding; we saw incredible uncontaminated art by São Paulos street artists. It was a sanctuary that gave us another deeper more personal look into the passion and talent that the Paulistanos hold. One of my new bike friends said, Ï've lived my whole life here and I have never seen this before- it is a very good day". And it was.






New bike update: The new Surly Steamroller is just what it was described as - a no frills workhorse- and I like it that way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 13, 14, or 15


Today was something else. We went to an English speaking mass today and it was tiny with a rag tag group of ex pats and Brazilians held at a local international school's multi purpose room. It was funny to see the various families and think of what brought them all there. It was familiar as I saw the teenagers sit next to their parents with their ipods in their ears and arms crossed wishing they were elsewhere. The priest was from Massachusetts, of all places, and the small group hadn't a clue what he was referring to when he mentioned the ancient greek word for witness; "MAH Dah" or martyr. Turns out he is from a town not too far from where my Mom grew up. I hope I make some contacts from this group to teach, tutor, or find some work. Fingers crossed.

Later on we met the family for Sunday lunch and then headed across the street to a Japanese Feira (street fair) in Liberdade and I got to sample some of CH's "childhood" and it was delicious; eating a shaved iced, currant, condensed milk combination that was so sweet that I considered next Sunday bringing dental floss. We walked on and ate bean paste Japanese pastries and I spoke to one of the cutest and probably the oldest Japanese man living in South America. He was ancient but completely charming and told us in Japanese and perfect Portuguese that he has lived in Sao Paulo for nearly 72 years and that he had been back to Japan just a few times. He was selling bamboo tongue scrapers which I hope helps me battle all of the tasty kimchi I am consuming.

We headed down and we recognized some the work of Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo the twin street artists "Os Gemeos" (The twins). We are huge fans.

Here is a video link for you put up by scribemedia:


photo credit: CH