"Argentina 2002-03" story # 18

Fortaleza, Brazil           April 26, 2003

Hey, everybody. What´s going on? Hope you´re all having crazy times.
     I just got done visiting some good friends for three weeks in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. To give you some idea of how nice it was to see these people after two years, just take note of this telling I gave of what it was like when I ran into an old pal named Ricardo.
     "Voce teria chorrado para ver. Nos abraçamos ... falamos sobre os nossos sonhos ..." (You would´ve cried to have seen my and Ricardo´s encounter. We hugged. At first! I wasn´t sure it was him. But when I realized, I passed from a moment of incertainty ... to total happiness. He introduced me to his girlfriend. We talked aobut our dreams ...)
     Someone who was hearing this interrupted rudely, and accused me of bull-shitting the part about our dreams.
     We indeed talked about our dreams! I yelled. "Ricardo quer ir á Russia!" (Ricardo wants to go to Russia!) You see? I´m from Michigan. We Michiganders don´t bull-shit.
     Yes, it was a dreamy Fortaleza return. And Ricardo was just some bozo I barely even knew! You can only imagine what it was like to see again: JoAnna, a thin fashion student, in whose apartment I stayed; Bruno, JoAnna´s loveable boyfriend who likes aliens and sometimes talks and acts about like one; Ana Carla, Asian-skinned and exotic-looking; and Carol, who has black-and-pink Charlie Brown braids extensions and talks as relaxed as if her words were resting on psychedelic beds.
     My friends´ city, Fortaleza, has about two million people in it. The city´s architectural highlight is a colossal, gothic, bat-gray cathedral that was built huge and dark and scary with rectangular shapes and squares and diagonal braces stacked sixty feet in the air like blocks. Changing topics from religion to sin, the local liquor is cachaça, which is made from sugar cane I think, and tastes like the worst parts of vodka, whiskey, and tequila all together and is barely drinkable.
     The city´s nightlife nowadays seems to be made up principally of two things: smoking pot and going out to drink a few beers and be seen. Neither of which I really like, which made the three weeks seem a little long.
     A key element to the Fortaleza "scene," are the many guys who have earned the name "playboys." They spend their parents´ money, work out and become muscular, and show off their money. Kind of the "anti-Modern Oddyseus." They´ve given inspiration to this catchy song, popular now in Brazil:
     "Sou playboy, filho do papae. Tenho pitebul, imito o que ele faz." (I´m playboy, son of dad. I have a pitbull, I imitate what he does.)
     My friends chanted this song, as we went out to the bars, mainly found on or around the soft beaches of Fortaleza, on Brazil´s tomb-suffocatingly hot, humid northern coast.
     We went to Hey-Ho! Rock Bar, a site with packed punk-rock shows, the only bar I know of that was opened by the hard work of a friend of mine: the lanky, crazy rocker Bebeco. Way to go, buddy! NICE PLACE!!! Keep them playboys away! (Or ... bring ´em and their money in, if you know anything about business.)
     We also went to a beach reggae and rock show. This was the queasy night in which I downed three shots of cachaça in four seconds, because I was concerned that Ana Carla had surpassed my level of inebriation when she slipped away for a second. I spent the rest of the night concerned about the level of my supper, which seemed to be eagerly climbing to empty itself through my mouth. Ohh-ohh, cachaça.
     The music sometimes eased my woes, though. Especially when the band playing good Brazilian and foreign rock excited me and Carol into singing along to the song popular last year in the States by "The Strokes."

"LAAAST night!!! ... she said, ... 'Oh, baby, I feel so down.' ... and it turned me oooff ... when I feel left out ... so III, I turned around ... said, 'I really don´t care no more, I´m walking out that door ... again!" - The Strokes

Carol also gave me two interesting "The Strokes" facts. Firstly, that the band´s lead singer is Brazilian. And secondly, he´s gay.
     For what that´s worth. After a while, we took off from Fortaleza. We went to Carol´s family´s beach-house where we could "be seen" during the "Semana Santa" (Easter week break) and eat barbecued meat, such as chicken hearts. I felt a little inhumane eating the tiny, rubbery hearts of poor chickens. A chicken never ate my heart.
     The highlight for me of the Semana Santa was playing futebol (soccer) with Carol´s cousins and the guys. I, being American, and JoAnna´s brother, Emilio, being scrawny and sixteen, were considered together in the category of "non-threats." In the first game, I was shut out from scoring. Some of those Brazilians could really play tricks on you with their feet and the ball.
     But! in the second game - woohoo! - I scored my first two Brazilian-competition goals. On the first one, I ran downfield and awaited the assist from a skilled player. With Pele-like precision, I slotted the ball past goalee Emilio and right between the coconuts.
     The second time, I inherited the ball and an open field ahead of me. I ran, dribbling. My heart was a little wounded to overhear Ana Carla, spectating on the sidelines, comment "Galinha" (chicken) as I ran. She was probably referring to how I looked in my tight bathing suit, with long legs and hair waving behind me. Oh, my poor heart. My poor chicken heart.
     Unfazed, I dribbled goal-wards. A defending Emilio ran to intercept me, followed by his skilled Brazilian teammate. They came on strong, and so I lunged, pushing the ball with my foot and falling on the ground. And, with Ronaldo-like riflery, it went in! Goooooooooooooooooooal!!! Goal-goal-goal-goal-goal!
     Even Emilio got into the act. He dribbled the ball around near me and kicked past where I was playing goalee. He celebrated. Yay for the scrawny guys!
     And, on that note, I have to admit that I did perhaps have a little romantic interest for the Ana Carla. But, in the end, she ended up going for a guy who probably worked out.
     Hmmm, maybe I should start re-thinking my image. Maybe I should get a pit-bull?
     Well, really, in this heat, he would probably forget about writing, go find a cool place, and lay down. Sounds good to this playboy!
     Ciao, Fortaleza friends!

Yeah. Modern Oddyseus (not a playboy, I swear!)

Much thanks to JoAnna´s mom, JoAnna, and Emilio; JoAnna´s dad´s girlfriend; and Carol´s dad; for the places to crash!

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