New Orleans reading list

World that Made New Orleans– Ned Subette    This one gets into the history of the ancestral roots of the people that make up NOLA. Explains Cajun, creole, quadroons and more terms unique to NOLA.

Nine Lives– Dan Baum    9 true stories pre and post Katrina lives.

A Confederacy of Dunces– John Kennedy Toole   The most unlikely story but the author killed himself as this book was rejected by all major book companies. His mom found a copy of the book and pestered a professor at Tulane to read it for over a year! Of course its one of the best and funniest books written during the 20th century and set in New Orleans. Won a Pulitzer for literature too.

Accidental City– Lawrence N Powell      So far the most comprehensive history of the area that is NOLA. It starts out literally a millennia ago as the Mississippi dumps huge amounts of sediments at the gulf end of the river, thus creating bayous to the ocean. It explains natives role in shaping the city, the sad slavery part is covered too.

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children– John Churchill Chase   A wonderful read about street names in NOLA and how they got named. More than 1 plantation estate has been gambled away to become a neighbourhood.

Beautiful Crescent–  Joan B Garvey & MaryLou Widmer    The book is recommended to take the tour guide test. Basic overview of NOLA.

Empire of Sin– Gary Krist    If you’ve seen The Wire Season 3 this spot in NOLA was an inspiration for Hampsterdam. For 40 years in a section of NOLA everything was legal. Prostitution drugs booze you name it Storyville had it. Everyone had to have a permit to live in this part of town, though there was no reason given for said permit. It only verified that person was allowed to live in Storyville.

Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn– former columnist of the Orleans Daily Item, Times-Democrat, Harper’s Weekly, and Scribner’s Magazine, he details New Orleans city life 1877-1887.

Bourbon Street: A History  Richard Campanella- The whole history of likely the most famous street in the US, Bourbon St. Loved and hated by locals and visitors, this book details the history of this street of sin beginning with the French, Spanish, 20’s gangsters, and post- Katrina days.

Bienville’s Dilemma  Richard Campenella- 65 articles about all aspects of New Orleans life and residents from its founding in 1718 to current geography and populations post Katrina.

 

 

 

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Handle it: Becoming a tour guide in New Orleans

About a year ago I made one of the best decisions of my life, I took a test to become a tour guide in New Orleans. I had just ended a seasonal bar-tending job and was listless. A lot of free time on my hands so it felt it best to pursue something. This process is not good and it is not explained at all on the website. My pain your gain. Here is how this process really works.

https://www.nola.gov/onestop/business/taxi/tour-guide-permit/

You’ll want to go to this website 1st as there is an app you must fill out. You also have to obtain a criminal background check! Yes no felon guides need apply. There is also a book they recommend you read. It is an ok read, there are others I’d recommend more than this one but it does the job.

1st trip to city hall you will have to fill out a form, bring ID. You’ll have to see 3 people each will do something different. One gets all your info, hands you info on where to go to get background check done. Then another will take $50, they do take cards but you know they dont tell you that its no cash until you arrive.

You are then given the news that there is a test only offered 2x per month. At least this was the case in Jan 2018. Sign up for the 1st available. The book is easy read and can be perused in a week. You should also study up on column names, like doric ionic and Corinthian. Know house types like creole cottage, camel backshotgun etc. None of this info is contained in the book. I feel it may have been on a paper she gave me. Nonetheless the links to the architectural styles will be most helpful on test day.

When you are at one of the 2 background check companies they work with, ask them to send the info to city hall. They have a system, maybe fax but I dont recall having to get a physical hard copy but get one anyway make them print it out. It costs 30$ I want to say. Not cheap vs time it takes them to obtain the info anyway.

Test day will come and you are back to city hall. Take the test and wait for a call. You must go back to city hall only after receiving confirmation that you passed. A lady will review your file make sure all info is correct and background checks out. They take your pic and print out your official license ! You have made it! Only takes 3 trips to city hall to get everything done. Hooray !

Baseball Stadium trip Game 5- Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs

 It was an afternoon game so we didn’t really have to get there at noon, but we did. We had to walk around, had to take it in for as long as we could. This stadium had had so many great players on its field. They likely walked were we did at some point. We were a part of the history now, we had placed foot to concrete. We took a couple rounds the park walks to take it all in. The smells of grilled onions and brats, the hawkers selling peanuts, the random pre-game announcements. I broke away and called my dad as I was walking around. It was pretty emotional; we had tossed around a ball for years, now I was in one of the places it had all started! It’s a favorite moment to think back on, there were lots of pauses, we both likely teared up a bit. I composed myself enough to get a brat, eat it in the right field bleachers with a beer. That’s all I needed.

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We were front row bleachers that day and as we found out, you really want to be about three people in on the front rows. They have a security guys stand at certain markings so if you are first seat, first row, you have zero view. We found out just in time to get people to move over a bit but the security guy was indeed a dick about it. He wasn’t there to discuss this, you need to move over, my position is here. We felt he could lean on the other rail instead of directly in front of us is all. A call out to the bleachers we found a bit of room, shove down, a bit more, ok! We caught a glimpse of Sammy Sosa who was on a hitting streak but was on the DL today. Toenail thing, a foul off the foot. It was yet another good day for baseball in Chicago.

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When leaving we got a Right Field Bleachers shirts and discovered we had been parked  in. We literally had to wait for someone to leave and even then, it was expert back and forth with some good fellows directing us outside. Surrounded by cars on all sides.

You guys are in the Cubs lot, they stay the whole game and then some! Yup most people may leave their cars overnight, too, yeah. Ha-ha’ he cackled.

We had to thank him profusely as he spent 5 min helping us get out. Back up an inch at a time, a few inches forward, then back… But on the other hand, he wasn’t doing much, that beer in his hand wasn’t going to drink itself, you know. He’s the man for that job.

We arrived in Oklahoma City about 7-8 am the next morning. We pulled into a truck stop for gas and encountered some ladies of the night, they were working the scene. They said hello first and asked where we were coming from, sort of gas filling up small talk that happens in smaller towns. Then one of them came out with it and asked if we are partying, if we want to party with them. Nah, pass on that. I don’t think they were too either way, pretty or ugly. It cannot say I’ve encountered prostitutes who propositioned me in a gas station before or since.

A short time later I was back in Denton’s warm embrace.

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Brazilian Adventure Day 7 Trip to faraway beach, caju fruit, sk8rs, churrasqueria

My friend me woke me up with a plan. Put on your swim trunks and we will swim today and catch some sun! I was all in. Who wouldn’t want to swim in a promised cool beach in Brazil?! We drove probably an hour an a half south of the city. Everything just suddenly ended! The sprawl of building and concrete gave way to sand.

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I decided to let my friends swim first, I would go after they were done. My friend was so nice to let me come down, meet his family and stay at his house. I wanted him to have a lot of fun with his lady. I was the 3rd wheel so the more alone time they had, the more they would think of this as their trip.

I put headphones in and played a Brazilian radio mix on my phone. I had about an hour of chilling alone time on a Brazilian beach, watching fine ladies swim and dudes bobing  in the water. Rough waves. By the time I got in it was a no go. Just huge waves crashed down on me. It was really a game of do not drown in this part of the ocean.

Soon enough we all wound up on our towels, drying off and taking in the sun for about an hour. We hopped into the compact and away we headed towards a new part of town. We met his parents at a roadside bar. They brought cashew fruit! I couldn’t believe it and figured my friend had a hand in their fruit decision. There it was, a red fruit attached to a much larger cashew nut. My friend’s dad explained that you couldn’t eat this cashew nut yet. I paused chewing on the fruit but he said that part was totally safe. The cashew nut we eat is a seed roasted. You have to dry out and evaporate whatever is in the cashew nut that is bad for humans if eaten raw. In the span of 1 day I drank caju fruit juice and ate caju or cashew fruit having never know they existed.

We were heading towards my friends family apartment near a trendy part of town. I was in shock. They had so many houses and places to stay, why we could have easily stayed in a different part of town every night. Amazing. We decided to just park the car and walk the outdoor mall. We had about an hour or 2 before we met our friend for a night of meats.

The outdoor mall was great and pretty much like an American mall. Jewelry stores, a useless bong/weed trinket store, shoe stores, panda express, that sort of things were here, minus the ceiling. It was outside, very cool!

A hasty change in the apartment restrooms and I was ready for a night out! The plan was to drive over to a true Brazilian steakhouse, a churrasqueria. Our friend was all smiles as we walked up. The place was named El Toro and it was full bull. I mean this was truly a house of meats! I’ve never eaten so much meat nor so much quality meats as at this place.

Pork steak chicken bacon organs all were served on long skewers and you had to wave servers off to stop serving you. Hell even when I tried to wave them off they still shaved off some meat onto my plate. I think they didn’t want me to have an empty spot on my plate. The salad bar was a vegetarians dream, the sides could have worked too if you didn’t care about butter. The mashed potatoes were yellow with butter and wonderful. A huge yet delicious and distinctly Brazilian dinner experience. It cost maybe 20$ and my plate was never empty, my glass never dry.

Next to the meat heaven was a skate park. I just walked over there and started watching. I had to see sk8rs. They are good in Rio, great tricks. My friends indicated they wanted to go to another bar a few miles away. We headed out and ran into parking issues again. Once we found a spot we lasted 1 beer before the new friend that joined us got tired. I was ok with this, my belly full of meats.

To my surprise yet delight my friends said they wanted to grab a beach bev. We found a table at a bar on Ipanema Beach. On 1 side of the bar a guy was chopping coconuts by the order. My friends got one and this guy took a round or football shaped coconut down to just white rind and a straw hole in about a minute. Fast chops took off the rough husks, then a well placed strike for the straw hole. I bought a beer because I had the national beverage of Brazil already so I had to drink local brews.

To our left in the distance were the favelas, all lit up on the side of a mountain. Dots of fires flickered in the dark skies. The poorest of the poor had likely the best views of Rio, especially at night. These shanty towns were a huge squatters areas the whole side of a mountain to one side of Rio. Each neighborhood was run by a local leader who made all the deals. Watch City of God to get an idea of what Rio favelas were really like. To my horror there are favela tours one could take. You could tour where people lived in abject deliberate poverty. Rio, Brazil could totally pay for and fix these areas. They could plug them into the existing city services, but they choose not to. No reals, no pipes.

I looked up to the favelas for a long while pondering what made us different, those up there and those down on the beach. What did it all mean? If you don’t have money are you are out of luck? Why can’t we find jobs and houses for everyone? If you live in a neighborhood, why not pay people to keep that part of their town trash free? The city could pay by the pound of trash turned in each day.

Heavy thoughts on our final night in Rio. Behind us were kids and adults playing soccer after midnight. Waves crashing, moon beaming, scaffolding going up. The next weekend was a huge beach concert. Over 1 million people were due to be on the beach for new years. Intense, I thought there were all ready too many on the beach and it was November, non tourist time!

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On the way to the faraway beach we stopped near the favelas to take some pics of the far side of the beach.
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Pretty much the ending shot in Fletch were he walks the beach with his new lady.

Brazilian Adventure Day 5 a dip in the ocean, Ipanema Beach views, gondola ride, caju

It was a cloudy, overcast morning. I woke up and started coffee. A shower was in order in a very small bathroom. The shower was tiny. just enough room to soap up. I had just bought some quick dry boxers so I was able to wash a pair with my daily shower and wear another pair. I draped the damp pair in an inconspicuous location in the restroom. I warned my friends that I had a drying pair but not to worry it had been washed with soap.
The plan was to hit the beach and then check out a nearby rock if the clouds cleared up. We had to wait it out, the forecast wasn’t accurate. I put on my swim trunks, sandals and we headed out. The sand and water were blocks away, a very short walk. I was the only one to swim today, it was a rather overcast and cool, not the ideal conditions to swim. Neither was the water as I found out. The waves in Rio are extreme, you cannot just float or bob in the water as I had been used to swimming in lakes or Gulf of Mexico. Here waves were always rolling in and over your head. You typically just ducked waves and swam around them as they crashed. I soon swam back to shore.

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My friend told me about one of these island only has poisonous snakes on it. There are so many snakes scientist have never bothered to explore it.

After drying we walked over to the end of the beach, where there was a trail over the rocks. People had fishing lines in the water but I am not sure what one could catch here. There was a lot of graffiti on the rocks to my surprise. Kids are dumb all over, just tagging things that are best left untouched.

 

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After a hour on the rocks the clouds cleared up. We walked to the car and piled in. We zipped around a new part of town. When we parked, a guy standing around waved us in. My friend handed him a real note and we walked toward the gondolas. My friend explained that in this neighborhood it was that guy’s job as far as parking cars and ensuring no damage occurs while they are there. The question was is the damage caused by this guys’ neglect or does he bash up cars if you don’t pay him?

Before heading onto the gondolas my friends tell me they are hungry and want a snack. We enter a fruit joint where I see they have acai. This is a fruit I had only heard about due to my job. We had just rolled out an acai slurpee but I knew this wasn’t that fruits real flavor. I ordered a small bowl and was shocked when a huge cup overflowing with a dark purple semi soft mass was handed to me by the girl behind the counter. It was super delicious once I got a spoonful in me. After a few bites my friends told me I should get a caju juice to quench my thirst. After a couple of more spoonfuls of acai I was suddenly very thirsty. I got a caju juice and asked my friend what it was after I nearly sucked down my cup in 1 gulp.

‘Its cashew juice. I grew up drinking it, it is all over Brazil. Haven’t you heard of it,’ my friend asked?

Wait a cashew is a fruit that you can get juice from?! I thought it was just a nut!

After my cashew revelation we boarded the gondola up the mountain which soon afforded us great views.

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I watched a plane land on this runway. I was properly terrified for the passengers and crew.

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After a couple of hours wandering the grounds of the mountain, we had to get back to town. Those parking spots filled up fast! We decided to take a walk down one of the main roads and would pop into a place to eat based on what looked good. We stopped by the apartment for a quick wardrobe change so the compact was navigated through the thick Rio traffic until we found a spot. We walked about a mile before we found yup an all you can eat buffet! The lone difference worth noting was we were soon joined by an American girls basketball team. I knew this because they were all tall and fit ladies. It was so great dining on delicious Brazilian food with a view of pretty ladies. I don’t think my friends girlfriend liked the experience mainly due to the long table full of very fit attractive women. 
Back to the apartment and my friends wanted to stay in. I went out again but this night the whore bar was closed. I guess it wasn’t a 7 days a week spot. A couple of blocks and I found another huge outdoor seating bar. A venture in and I had a Brasilian set up a tiny table: liter of beer in a cooled vessel and a glass cup. I scanned the tables and surrounding businesses. Yup that is a strip club across the street. I was not tempted to enter. Those places are just tourist traps. They are in a tourist area, Ipanema. Everything is in English thus not for people from Rio. Its on a street corner. I figured I would people watch as they spilled out after a frustrating evening.
Litres came my way. I noted more than 1 table was engaged in chess. One guy made a hand signal to an apparent homeless guy who disappeared behind a building. The homeless guy returned with a pack of cigarettes. The chess player then motioned to the bar proprietor and a litre of beer was delivered to the homeless guy. Ah Ha so there were shops open late, you just had to know the person who knew where they were! Across the street groups of guys went inside the strip club in joyous spirits only to exit 1-2 at a time, forlorn and dour. Without fail guys poured out of the club and would be in the midst of a yelling argument with a lady or the bouncer. The club knew what they were doing and would squeeze as much reals as possible from tourists, usually British, before ejecting them for some infraction. No refunds! I enjoyed my light Brazilian beers taking it all in. I got another litre and soon smelled that smell while sitting at my table. I investigated.
Sure enough 2 guys were passing a joint and I joined in. No sooner had I taken a couple of puffs and handed the joint back to one of the guys, an angry man announced himself. We were taken to task for being so brazen with our smoking. Kids may walk by or families! I chuckled due to the time, it was well after midnight, no families out. He was adamant, next time the police! I sauntered back to my litre. It was a great night of drinking and people watching. I nearly stayed up all night! It was around 3am I had a notion of staying up to see the sun rise over the ocean. It was only the realization that the sun would come up away from the ocean that I made my way back to our apartment. Tomorrow the Jesus!

Brazilian Adventure Day 4 Park walk, record store, Ipanema beach apartment, tourist bar

My friend and I decided after waking up we were very hungry so we headed off to a store my friend visited before school when he was growing up. On our drive I became aware that there were no stop signs nor yield signs. It was expected that everyone just slowed down at every intersection so they were slow enough to stop if they encountered another car or hit the gas once they saw it was clear. I didn’t see 1 wreck or damaged car on this entire trip so it seems this way worked.

It was a quick delicious breakfast, coffee and croissant. We were going to eat again soon so no reason to go all out and get some eggs or anything heavy. There were a lot of breads, pastries, cakes and pies in addition to hot savory foods. It wasn’t like any grocery store I’d seen before, it was like how I hoped grocery stores looked like. Why don’t grocery stores cook more fresh foods at cheaper cost than buying things raw or uncooked? I feel we should all shop at grocery stores for hot chickens, meats and basic meals. Why bake a chicken, have the grocery store rotisserie chicken. Doing things this way will lower the cost of meats, well that’s what should happen.

We were en route to a park my friend wanted his girlfriend to see. Sounds romantic so I opt to walk a ways towards a small shopping area and explain to them to just meet me over there whenever they are done. A quick search showed there was a pub, record store so I was set for a couple of hours. My 1st stop wound up being my only stop, at the record store! It was so cool and cozy, by which I mean small but had an excellent selection. It was a well curated shop in the parlance of our times. I soon came to the attention of an attractive lady who soon introduced herself as the owner.

 

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She was actually from Portugal or Spain and had come here chasing a boy and never left. We talked local tunes, what sorts of things should I buy to remind me of my trip. She said to be sure to buy the original version of The Girl from Ipanema by Antonio Jobim. I soon knew I had to get something more substantial than a CD.

 

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I didn’t want to carry around a record for the rest of the trip as well as the long flight home. A t-shirt was the winner. Problem was this was Brazil, they are much smaller, skinnier than those from the US. I was directed towards a nook of the store, a pull on a unnoticed knob and a door opened up to a toilet-room. I mean literally when the door was closed there was enough room to sit at the toilet or look at the mirror. The sink was outside in the store. I pulled the shirt on and despite being at one of the lowest weights of my life a XL just barely fit. Satisfied I bought the shirt and postcard.

Near perfect timing on my part my friends had finished their walk through the park. I fully expected them to be engaged, I really felt like a 3rd wheel. We headed back to our side of town, I had my shirt ready to wear out that night. Tonight would be different, I determined as we passed the favelas. Tonight I would hit up the bigger bar on the beach. The bar in our building was cool but it was full of whores and no one would really talk to me like I had hoped. I wanted to talk to a local about Rio, about Brasil.

My friends turned in and I headed out. I was warned more than once to watch out for travestias, transvestites, men who looked and acted like women. No worries, I saw them before walking around the streets of the city. I wasn’t even thinking about talking to the female prostitutes that were in our very building, the ultimate in convenience. I guess I wanted to land a girl the old-fashioned way, to be interesting enough.

This bar was huge and to my surprise, ladies were on full display out front. I mean a literal line of women all wearing tight or very revealing dresses stood by the entrance. They purred right in your ear,  purred like cat, man! 

“Oh baby I’m so horny, take me home papi!”

My god it was unsettling how obvious it was, just ass on display like a meat market. Oh well, something for everyone, my option this night was inside.

I located a chair near the bar and ordered a caipirinha a beverage my friends said was a local option. It is a fruity drink made with cachaca raw sugar and lime. I would soon adopt this into my evening routine alternating between beer and a caipirinha. To my very fortunate surprise there was a live band playing all the Brazilian hits, bossa nova, reggaton, anything to get the crowd to dance. I spied a very lovely waitress and kept watch as my seat was near the waitresses beverage station. She had long dark hair pulled back into a tight bun, I guess I was intrigued by just how long her hair really was, it was a large hair bun!

Soon the piano player singer made his way next to me. We struck up a conversation after I thanked him for playing, in Portuguese I might add. It took literally, actually a minute to type in ‘how to say thank you for playing good music in Portuguese.’ He smiled broadly and said

Obrigato. Where are you from? What are you drinking?’

‘I’m from Texas and I am having a beer. I do enjoy caipirinha.’ I replied.

‘My friend you do not have to pay for a caipirinha anymore. Hahah, I live in this place, they give me as many as I drink. I drink a lot, lot. Many many cachaca! Let’s drink one now! Haha

This dude laughed at so many things, he had a permanent grin on his face. We sat and drank a shot of cachaca as well as a caipirinha. He had to go back on stage but he returned afterwards. I alternated beer and caipirinha going outside to take in the ocean breeze and people watch. The traviestas were painfully obvious. Like 1 step away from a bearded guy in a dress, just way too manly to be dressed like that. I went back inside once I encountered someone who insisted on trying to get me to go home with them.

I really liked this place, but soon determined the food was way overpriced for locals yet affordable from my perspective. It was a good option so long as you drank there. The food was around 15$ a plate which was expensive for Rio. My caipirinhas were maybe 3$, for sure my tabs here were significantly cheaper than Dallas. Plus I didn’t have to pay whenever my band leader friend was with me. It was a night full of win at the beach bar in Ipanema!

Brazilian Adventure- Day 1 DFW to Rio de Jenerio, Brazil, Ipanema, liters of cerveja

Best day to travel is Thanksgiving Day. Zero traffic (most people are at home or waiting in line at a store) and hardly anyone at the airport either. I learned about this one year when my family went to Bermuda for my mom’s birthday. Sometimes it is hard going without turkey and the usual sides, but that just gives you a reason to make a turkey day spread another time.

I was going on this trip with a work friend who was from Brazil. This was his one trip back home for the year, his parents fly to visit him so they rarely went six months without a week or 2 of family time. Joining him was his girlfriend. This was her first big trip outside the US, as it was my 1st trip to S. America,

My itinerary I soon realized was insanely put together as it involved an airport change in New York City. I had figured out there was a bus twice an hour between these airports, but as I strode outside the door, I saw it pulling away. I had maybe an hour before my international flight and this was NYC, a city known for traffic. Facing the reality of the situation, I hailed what would be a $40 cab ride. I arrived with about 20 minutes to spare. I am not sure if that was any better than my friends 6 hour layover. Why do airlines do this to their customers? These are not cheap tickets either so where is that money going? Could there not be several buses per hour or maybe airlines exclusive transfer buses between airports?  I also foolishly called to see if I could use my air miles to upgrade to business class. To upgrade my coach seat cost full fare, same cost as my seat! Business class is more expensive than a five-star hotel room.

I texted my friends after passing security and met up at a bar near the terminal where we spent a few moments talking. I had a beer and then ordered another when they called for boarding. I chugged my beer in several big gulps and walked to the restroom. Best thing I could tell anyone is to use the restroom before you get on a plane, no matter how long the flight. Sliding by people, bumping people walking the aisle, plus that tiny airplane water closet are all the reasons you need to take a trip the loo before you board.

I got a window seat next to 2 brothers in their early 20’s. They introduced themselves to me via handing me a can of Pringle’s. I happily poured a few into my hand and we began talking. They were with a church group, missionaries in a new land spreading the word. They had also taken trips to the Philippines, but this was their first to Brazil. The family decided to make these mission trips their yearly family vacation. It was a bit cheaper to travel in a group, and they got a place to stay at one of the structures these groups built. They went primarily to rural locations as they were usually a bit safer than big cities. Of course, being eaten by a jaguar or something was a very real possibly in the jungles vs a inner city mugging.

We all settled in and I turned on the TV located in the back headrest in front of me. They have so many movies on planes, it is a great time slayer, new movies too. I was in the middle of a good one when I realized it was lights out and my two seat neighbors were both fast asleep. What to do should I need to pee? Do I elbow them; try to hop over and between them? I asked this question the entire 9 hour flight as I alternated between naps and movies. I think I watched three on the way down. For sure I saw Ant Man. Finally the sun peaked out and they stirred. I faked yawned and tapped the guy next to me on the shoulder. I have to say this was by far the longest I’ve ever gone without peeing. Next time I am elbowing my neighbor, I was likely harming my body.

We walked down a long hall and were separated by those with Brazil or US passports. The Brazilian line had the most people checking passports so it was faster. Once they finished, they cleared through the US line as there were 15 agents. I joined my friends when I realized it didn’t matter which line so long as you went through and learned how to say thank you in Portuguese, ‘Obrigato.’ I tried this out after a brief interaction with the passport official, a very pretty, dark-haired lady. We were in Brasil!

We walked quite a ways before finding his family near a parking garage. We split up into two cars, his parents and girlfriend in one, his brother and I in another. I soon learned his brother was a very smart guy with several degrees. He was working on a law degree and worked at the Brazilian Mint. He was helpful pointing out different areas and scenic vistas. We snaked around the city en route to our apartment near Ipanema, the famous beach and neighborhood.

We had lucked out and a friend lent us her apartment while she was away visiting her family. I learned that owning multiple apartments was very common here, usually one residence was near a beach and was for the weekend trips. They have their main house in town close to work. My friends family had several residences I would discover, a new place each day. I also learned in Brasil they do not use z, it was spelled Brasil everywhere. I was also able to figure out they typically replaced a z with a j, as in cerveja vs. cerveza.

We arrived to our part of town blocks from the beach where I was told that parking is very hard. We drove around and around before locating a spot. His parents had brought groceries and we packed everything into a dorm sized fridge. His mom cut up guava for us to eat. It would turn out that every time I saw his parents, they had a new fruit for us. They are great people, fruit bearers!

We walked out to a mall to do a bit of shopping but mainly eat. Just about everywhere we would eat would be buffet style. Everything was weighed and you paid by the ounce each time, a lady would take your check and add the new weights each trip. These buffets are a great way to try a lot of different foods. Many types of rice and beans, meats, chicken, salads and lots of fruit were at each spot. It all tasted great, but I had no idea what each thing was until I sat down. My friends would fill me in on each item. They all spoke rapidly in Portuguese, catching up, occasionally pointing out someone passing by or the next activity planned. I couldn’t keep up with how fast they talked but it was in a halting, cadence. Very fast clipped words, pause, a word or two, pause, ciao.

We walked around the mall for a bit. It was pretty much like any US mall I’d been to. Clothing stores, shoe stores, food court, music shop. We walked back to the apartment, through a narrow bridge, cars and buses flew by, a bit too close. It was a hot day in the city. I found I usually broke a sweat if I was outdoors. Back at the apartment my friends’ dad showed me a piece of paper and explained the conversion ratio for currencies. He picked the high and low and agreed to give me the middle rate between the two so I wouldn’t have to go to a money changer. I readily agreed and we exchanged dollars for Brasilian reals. The money was very ornate and featured animals found in Brasil’s rain forest such as a sea turtle, monkey and bird. We again had a favorable exchange rate, but not like when we were in Mexico, here 1 real equaled, 25¢. 4-1 conversion in our favor, always a good thing.

My friends’ family left after eating some more fruit at our apartment. We decided to walk the beach, see how the area would look at night. It was about three blocks to the beach; this apartment was close to the action! I spied a large bar that I thought about checking out later that night. The night beach scene was always the same: buskers singing songs, people playing futbol or volleyball, couples making out or holding hands as they walked. Nearly everyone was in a bikini or speedo, no matter their fitness level. Brave people, they let literally everything hang out and it didn’t seem to matter.

We returned from our walk and my friends decided to retire early. The apartment wasn’t large, only one room with a bed and big window. I slept on the pullout sofa in the receiving/living room. In-between the master bedroom was a shelf with a TV that we only occasionally turned on. I didn’t hear anything from my friends the entire trip; I hope I didn’t bother them with my late night comings and goings.

On our way back to the apartment I saw a small bar that previously wasn’t there. On the ground floor of our apartment building, directly below our window was a tire changing place. The spot next to this was closed during the day with metal doors, opened at around ten every night as a bar. A very small bar, maybe six seats at the inside bar, out front were four tables. If you indicated you wanted to sit, a lady brought out a chair. This place was run totally by one pretty lady with long black hair. She retrieved liter bottles of beer, Antarctica, and served them with a small glass cup, holding maybe eight ounces. The tall bottles of beer were nestled within a chilled vessel that perspired, leaving a small pool on the table. Drink pour drink pour until you finished your liter.

There were several couples out front, laughing, smoking, and dancing with each other, by themselves or passersby’s. The music was provided by a nearby video on demand TV. You gave the lady a few real, scrolled through a sizable list of videos and she would play whatever you wanted. I was tired but it was the too tired to sleep excited tired. I wanted, needed to sleep but I knew I would just lay there, thinking about what had just happened, what I was going to do for the week. I had to totally unplug and best way to do that was to sit and have a beer. When you purchased something here they told you the total in Portuguese and showed you a calculator so you always knew how much everything cost.

I returned to my seat and ordered another liter of Antarctica beer. I watched the ladies dance while I drank, pouring cup after cup. I caught the moon in-between buildings and smiled. I’d wanted to visit Rio since seeing Fletch with prime Chevy Chase, specifically the end scene of him walking with his new lady on the very same beach I was now mere blocks from. I finished my liter and paid my tab. I was immediately stopped by one of the pretty ladies who asked me if I spoke American. I did and she took me into her arms.

I have a place nearby, with marijuana and good times, let’s go!’ she purred.

Well damnation I was hanging out at a prostitute bar! The ladies had rooms in the building as they needed a place to take their clients after meeting them. I smiled at her and thanked her for her offer but I had to decline. I would be back I told her, maybe later that week. She hugged me and I walked away. Just about as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was fast asleep.

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