Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Today was one of the best days of my entire life.

Bridget (pictured below) brought me to work with her in Maré, a huge favela here in Rio that I learned today is actually made up of seventeen smaller communities. For the last two months here Bridget and her partner Carlos have been teaching the kids here to use video cameras to document their daily lives.

They have obviously picked up on it, and are tremendously talented. Most of the shots (including the one above) in this entry were taken by the kids, not me.

Here is the galera (crew) checking out some of last week's edits with Carlos before we hit the streets this afternoon.

Leandro, below, took a handful of the photos with this entry. He's only fifteen, but that didn't keep him from getting my number after he interviewed me extensively on film.

He's clearly really talented, and also pretty opinionated. He was against keeping the bike in this shot, but I like it. When I translated the passage below, he said, "see, now you understand our rappers."

It says:
The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of those who do wrong, but because of those who observe and allow the wrongdoing to occur.

Here is someone who is the absolute antithesis of that statement.
Bira, pictured above, is a leader in the community and a huge advocate for the kids as well as the program that brings people like Bridget and Carlos to work in Maré. The feeling I got today was that Bira's blessing (and heeded advice) made it safe for us to be out with the kids and the cameras. I'm hoping to spend some more time with him tomorrow, and will be able to report more on the specifics then. For now, what I can tell you is how inspired I feel by my day with people like Bira,




Joao, Alessandro

and Leandro.

After a long day of cruising and shooting we got a couple packages of cookies, stopped to watch some futebol and the winter sun turned golden.

Someone's car rigged with speakers on top played music while the kids played,

these girls mugged for the camera,

these guys got their kite out of the power lines,

and all seemed right with the world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

bolo de banana

Here is a picture of my first meal on Brazilian soil: Bolo de Banana, which is to say, banana cake.

It was homemade, given to me by the man sitting next to me on the plane, who just happened to be...
Crizam César de Oliveira Filho, better known as Zinho (pronounced Zeen-yo). That´s him on the right, in 1994 when he helped lead the Brazilian World Cup Team to their fourth championship.

Footballers are huge stars in Brazil, so this was a real honor, not just because he was a totally pleasant person to be sequestered next to for eight hours.

Besides sitting next to one of the biggest "craques" (stars) of soccer, the trip down was largely uneventful. I took a bus to Copacabana and found Bridget´s apartment building, where she had only gone to sleep a few hours before after a night out at the Baile Funk. I dragged her out for a long-awaited açai, pictured here:

And we walked along the Copacabana Beach to the Feira Hippie in Ipanema. One way to know you´re in Copacabana, other than getting mugged by a drag queen on (just kidding, kind of) is seeing this particular pattern of black and white tiles on the sidewalk:

Bridget slept on the beach and left me to shop at the Feira Hippie, where things were largely the way I left them six years ago, aside from being much more expensive, thanks to the falling dollar.

Bridget and I were exhausted from our respective Bailes and flights, so after an early dinner and sorvete at one of my favorie places in the old neighborhood we hit the sack early to get ready for what is already proving to be a fantastic week.

Rio is one of those places that tends to live up to both memories and postcards.

Friday, July 18, 2008

time to fly

It is so hot in New York that they dressed the Empire State Building up as a giant bomb pop to remind us all to eat ice cream. (Though you couldn't forget in my apartment, with the truck chiming outside throughout the entire day.)

If you want to fall in love with this kick-ass city all over again, or you're simply melting in the grimy heat, skipping town is a good idea. I'm just going to go ahead and skip the whole hemisphere, and head to where it's winter. Nope, not snowy New skis for this beach bunny.

I'm off to Brazil.

I'll be there for the next month. Stay tuned for adventures and misadventures from Rio, Bahia and the Amazon...

Monday, July 14, 2008

summer reading: recognize this person?

Once in a while a story comes along and it's like a song that you can't get enough of. It's stuck in your head and seems constantly relevant. For me, right now, it is "This Person" by Miranda July. It is pasted below for you, taken from the Simon and Schuster site. I suggest picking up her book No One Belongs Here More Than You, which is offered in four perfect flourescent shades (mine is pink) and re-reading this story, preferably on the beach.

Speaking of the beach, here's a photo taken by a new friend while I was out on the waves on the longboard he loaned me: the lifeguards packing up at the end of a misty day in Saltaire, Fire Island.

Anyway, I was just about to suggest that you check out Miranda July's site in addition to the story below and something amazing happened. I went to the site myself, just to make doubly-sure it was worth your while (it is), and there was my old friend Francis Raven.

Raven, as he was known at Clayton High School was finishing his last credits in my Spanish class when I was only a freshman. I really adored him and was totally intrigued by him. He didn't wear shoes then and was way wilder (like in a feral way) and smarter than most people in my freshman Spanish class. I even wondered aloud about him quite recently.

Anyway, I randomly clicked on assignment #64 on the "Learning to Love You More" site, and there was Raven, sharing his new swimming stroke and a lovely quotation regarding the swimmer's "lonely meditative state of mind...a continuous dream world under water."

Tomorrow, at the Metropolitan Pool, I will totally try out Raven's new stroke, the D'Orange:

In the meantime, here's my new very favorite story:

This Person

by Miranda July

Someone is getting excited. Somebody somewhere is shaking with excitement because something tremendous is about to happen to this person. This person has dressed for the occasion. This person has hoped and dreamed and now it is really happening and this person can hardly believe it. But believing is not an issue here, the time for faith and fantasy is over, it is really really happening. It involves stepping forward and bowing. Possibly there is some kneeling, such as when one is knighted. One is almost never knighted. But this person may kneel and receive a tap on each shoulder with a sword. Or, more likely, this person will be in a car or a store or under a vinyl canopy when it happens. Or online or on the phone. It could be an e-mail re: your knighthood. Or a long, laughing, rambling phone message in which every person this person has ever known is talking on a speakerphone and they are all saying,You have passed the test, it was all just a test, we were only kidding, real life is so much better than that. This person is laughing out loud with relief and playing the message back to get the address of the place where every person this person has ever known is waiting to hug this person and bring her into the fold of life. It is really exciting, and it's not just a dream, it's real.

They are all waiting by a picnic table in a park this person has driven past many times before. There they are, it's everyone. There are balloons taped to the benches, and the girl this person used to stand next to at the bus stop is waving a streamer. Everyone is smiling. For a moment this person is almost creeped out by the scene, but it would be so like this person to become depressed on the happiest day ever, and so this person bucks up and joins the crowd.

Teachers of subjects that this person wasn't even good at are kissing this person and renouncing the very subjects they taught. Math teachers are saying that math was just a funny way of saying "I love you." But now they are simply saying it, I love you, and the chemistry and PE teachers are also saying it and this person can tell they really mean it. It's totally amazing. Certain jerks and idiots and assholes appear from time to time, and it is as if they have had plastic surgery, their faces are disfigured with love. The handsome assholes are plain and kind, and the ugly jerks are sweet, and they are folding this person's sweater and putting it somewhere where it won't get dirty. Best of all, every person this person has ever loved is there. Even the ones who got away. They hold this person's hand and tell this person how hard it was to pretend to get mad and drive off and never come back. This person almost can't believe it, it seemed so real, this person's heart was broken and has healed and now this person hardly knows what to think. This person is almost mad. But everyone soothes this person. Everyone explains that it was absolutely necessary to know how strong this person was. Oh, look, there's the doctor who prescribed the medicine that made this person temporarily blind. And the man who paid this person two thousand dollars to have sex with him three times when this person was very broke. Both of these men are in attendance, they seem to know each other. They both have little medals that they are pinning on this person; they are badges of great honor and strength. The badges sparkle in the sunlight, and everyone cheers.

This person suddenly feels the need to check her post office box. It is an old habit, and even if everything is going to be terrific from now on, this person still wants mail. This person says she will be right back and everyone this person has ever known says, Fine, take your time. This person gets in her car and drives to the post office and opens the box and there is nothing. Even though it is a Tuesday, which is famously a good day for mail. This person is so disappointed, this person gets back in the car and, having completely forgotten about the picnic, drives home and checks the voice mail and there are no new messages, just the old one about "passing the test" and "life being better." There are no e-mails, either, probably because everyone is at the picnic. This person can't seem to go back to the picnic. This person realizes that staying home means blowing off everyone this person has ever known. But the desire to stay in is very strong. This person wants to run a bath and then read in bed.

In the bathtub this person pushes the bubbles around and listens to the sound of millions of them popping at once. It almost makes one smooth sound instead of many tiny sounds. This person's breasts barely jut out of the water. This person pushes the bubbles onto the breasts and makes weird shapes with the foam. By now everyone must have realized that this person is not coming back to the picnic. Everyone was wrong; this person is not who they thought this person was. This person plunges underwater and moves her hair around like a sea anemone. This person can stay underwater for an impressively long time but only in a bathtub. This person wonders if there will ever be an Olympic contest for holding your breath under bathwater. If there were such a contest, this person would surely win it. An Olympic medal might redeem this person in the eyes of everyone this person has ever known. But no such contest exists, so there will be no redeeming. This person mourns the fact that she has ruined her one chance to be loved by everyone; as this person climbs into bed, the weight of this tragedy seems to bear down upon this person's chest. And it is a comforting weight, almost human in heft. This person sighs. This person's eyes begin to close, this person sleeps.

Copyright © 2007 by Miranda July

Thursday, July 3, 2008

que maravilha

Os Gemeos' exhibit, "Too Far Too Close" at Deitch Projects on Wooster.
The colors, music, light and energy in the gallery made me so excited for my own return to Brazil, just a little over two weeks from now.
Stay tuned...and visit this exhibit if you haven't already. I wish it were staying forever.