Places and Travel

Only a dream in Rio

As James Taylor sings it:

More than a distant land
Over a shining sea
More than the steaming green
More than the shining eyes

Back from a week in Rio de Janeiro, which I thought before going would be too long and when the time came to leave was too short. Rio is a magical city.

I have a European soul, and have little interest in most other places, whether in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa. Before ever traveling south of Texas in the Americas, I knew there were only two cities on the whole continent that could compel me to endure the long ride inside an airplane, the debilitating and brutal travail through airports: Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. I have spent three years in Buenos Aires, and now have seen Rio. I am finished with South America.

There is only one aspect of life that prevents Rio from being one of the finest, most compelling places, on earth: crime. If not for that, Rio would easily rival, maybe surpass, other of the world’s classiest European places — Madrid, Paris, Rome, Berlin … . But there is crime, it is a dangerous place, beyond the usual petty thieving and disturbing muggings. Crime turns quickly brutal, murder for a few coins, a wristwatch, shoes.

So we were told. Our week in Rio was crime-free and lovely.

Maybe because we live in a city with some of the blandest, most unimaginative cuisine on earth, we spent most of our time in Rio eating. We did not have a bad meal, in fact, even the occasional mediocre would best the finest meal we have had in three years in Buenos Aires. We each gained two pounds and feel fortunate it was pounds and not kilos, because we feared the latter.

As you can see above, even Jesus (not on my friends list) loves me in Rio, notice the glint of his smile.

Here are a few more photos. Eventually I’ll get many more up on Flickr and will post a note here when that happens. These photos will become larger by clicking on them.

Tall and tan and young and lovely

One of the infamous Rio "favelas" rising up the mountainside behind the high-rise condos and hotels of Copacabana beach.

Yes, this is really what it looks like. This is not a postcard.

This is not as flattering as she wants it to be.

Here is an observational aside of the sexist variety. I have noticed a difference in what young women emphasize in the attraction business between Buenos Aires and Rio. In the former, breasts and hair are the focal points. In Rio, it is butts and legs. I find myself to be more universal in this regard.

This one's for you, John boy

The day I sunburned the fuck out of the top of my head.

There are, to my thinking, a dozen cities in the world a person ought to spend time in before returning to whatever that pre-conception place is. It is a personal list and appeals to my personal proclivities: London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Honolulu, Saigon, Athens, San Francisco, New York, Rio de Janeiro, St. Petersburg, and  Buenos Aires. I am missing only one (St. Petersburg) from this list.


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      • I’m firmly engaged with the new novel at the moment. It took a long time to settle into a story line, but I’m discovering that almost everything I’ve written over the past year has burrowed into the rather ambitious conception of this book. I suppose this past year wasn’t time wasted as much as time spent foraging. At any rate, I’m pleased to be working in the wide vista of a novel again. It’s good to stretch the throat and swing the arms wide.

        But late last night I received the agent’s notes back on the first manuscript. I haven’t had a chance to go through her edits entirely, but what I’ve seen looks very routine. She requested some changes here and there to the manuscript that certainly make a lot of sense. Most of those changes deal with pacing, fleshing this or that out. None of her comments seemed strange at all. In fact, they make a lot of sense and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read her email. So, back to the grindstone on the first novel for another edit, but it won’t be in depth and all-consuming. I expect to continue work on the second again within a couple of weeks.

        I’m also realizing that this period between books is a moment of timid exploration. I’ve not been in this state before. It’s all fresh terrain for me, so hopefully the lull between the second and third will be less fumbling and more quiet confidence while I wait for the next story to percolate out of the noise.

        • Sounds like you may have found yourself a good agent. The best ones do that, because they know what they can sell.

          I am worse than a fish out of water between books; I flounder and gasp and flop around, ever hopeful that the next day something will pick me up and toss me back into the literary sea. So far, I’m still flopping.

          You can bring an autographed copy of your first novel when you and Court mosey down to Mexico City next year.