Monthly Archives: November 2010

Vai-Vai was my first. In January of 2006, during my first trip to São Paulo, I became washed in the downpour of sound and energy that is the open-air rehearsal of the Vai-Vai Samba School.  I fell in love with Brazil that night.  With the cadences that were only two or three beats away from the black high school and college drumlines I grew up with.  With the beautiful people – women and men – who sang and danced and invited anyone and everyone into their tight-knit community with a wink and a smile.  With those same beautiful people who represented every age and color, trending heavily, of course, to the profound darker hues of the spectrum: black people from coal to cream, rehearsing for a Brazilian cultural institution as steeped in African ritual and interaction, maybe even more so, as any other in the Diaspora.  Vai-Vai was my first, which is why you’ll find me carousing with her every Sunday from now til Carnival.  She’s what brought me to Brazil.

“Meu Povo.  Minha Gente.  Minha Raça.  Minha Escola.”

Video from this Sunday’s practice:

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8:00am  Wake up after having gone to bed at, oh, 3:30am.

8:15am  Run out the door of your friend’s apartment, down five flights of stairs with two large carry-ons and a briefcase, and down three blocks to the U-Bahn station.

8:24am  Board the subway at Hermannplatz, pushing your way through the morning commuters to grab a bit of hand-space to hold onto while balancing your bags precariously over the head of a commuting toddler.

8:50am  Exit eighteen stops later at Jungfernheide Station (wha?), then stand freezing and coughing in a 50-degree Fahrenheit cloud of second-hand smoke at the bus stop.

8:59am  Board the TXL Express bus for Tegel Airport.  The bus name makes me want to throw up a three-finger gangsta sign and bark “Tee-Ex-Ell!”

9:15am  Arrive at the airport, the excitement of flying back to the States tempered by the sorrow you feel at leaving one of the most interesting, avant-garde cultural centers on the planet, and notice that your 11:30am departure has been pushed back to 1:30pm.  WTF?

9:35am  Go to Burger King and have a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant.

9:50am  Walk around the airport.  It’s small.

9:55am  Score in-flight magazines from Air Berlin and Brussels Airlines.  Air France is nice and at least checks to see if there are any mags available in the back of the office.  Lufthansa looks at you like, “moron, you get them ON the plane.”  Iran Air says they don’t even fly to Berlin and looks at you like, “I’m just ready for it to be five o’clock.”

10:30am  Sit down and start to read the in-flight magazines.

11:55am  Go to Burger King and get a couple of cheeseburgers, no fries.

12:30pm  Go through security and wait for boarding.

12:50pm  Board.  Bored.

1:40pm  The captain explains that there had been a technical problem in New York which forced a departure delay for the in-coming flight.  In addition, because of the strike in France, no planes could fly over French airspace (which I never knew lay between New York and Berlin along the Great Circle Route), so the plane had to fly further north and would have to do the same on the return, adding an hour of flight time.  Wup, bye-bye connection to see yo mama-nem in Jacksonville.

1:43pm  Take-off.  Somewhere over the North Atlantic, watch the Wanda Sykes comedy special (that shit was funny) and an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (the one where Vivica Fox breaks up with Larry David).  The rest of the movie options are crap, so try and watch Death at a Funeral, but turn that foolishness off ten minutes in; it’s ridiculous.

5:00pm  Arrive at JFK.  Sit on the ramp for 20 minutes waiting for a gate.  Be indignant that no one at the JFK branch of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had the foresight to ensure a free gate for a two-and-a-half-hour late flight.

6:00pm  Get re-booked on the 8:30am nonstop from LaGuardia to Jacksonville.

6:30pm  Get on Skype and try to find someone who lives near LGA to crash with.  One friend has her couch occupied by a bed-bug victim.  Another friend lives in a matchbox with a too-short loveseat and the ugly prospect of having to take the M60.  The friend you end up staying with won’t be home from work in New Jersey until 1am.  Remember, you have three bags with you.

6:50pm  Bullshit around Queens for a few hours before settling in at Sanfords in Astoria.  At this point, it’s already past midnight in Germany, where your body still thinks you are.

12:35am  Put toothpicks in your eyelids to keep from falling off the barstool at Sanford’s.

1:40am  Your friend shows up a bit late because of single-tracking underneath the Hudson River and New Jersey Transit has lowest priority.  Walk the few blocks to her house and catch up for a bit.

2:45am  Finish catching up and fall unconscious onto the futon.  Sleep lightly, though, because of the big-ass cat she has that likes to climb onto people’s heads.

6:00am  Wake up, wash up, and check email for any flight delays.

6:15am  Run outside to catch the black luxury sedan your ordered from Pedro’s or Pepe’s or somebody to take you to the airport.

6:30am  Shake your head at the traffic already clotting on the Grand Central Parkway.

6:45am  Get to LGA, but run through the terminal looking for an ATM since the luxury sedan driver doesn’t take credit cards – it’s not an NYC taxi, after all.

6:59am  Check into the flight, standby of course.  Cross your fingers and hope you can snag one of the two open seats on the regional jet flying down to Florida.

7:20am  Be indignant that the Burger King in the Delta terminal has been replaced by some other bullshit you never heard of.

8:25am  Thank Jesus and four more white people that you made the flight.

11:15am  Have some sweet tea and Cocoa Pebbles cereal at yo mama house.

11:30am-until  Do random family things for two days and have a pre-birthday dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack where you’re forced to do a chicken dance on camera.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Two Days Later~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:00am  Arrive in Atlanta, see friends (including Jay Travels), and do a bit of shopping for things you know you can’t get cheaply in Brazil.

8:30pm  Arrive at the airport for your 9:15 flight to Brasilia because you thought it left at 9:35.  Take an extra-long time at security.  Run to the train that takes you to the various concourses in the airport.

8:45pm  Because of Murphy’s Law, the train gets stuck at Concourse C.  Run the two miles to Concourse E, then the other half-mile to the very farthest gate in the goddamned terminal.

8:55pm  Thank Jesus and the other white folk again for having made it to the gate just as the standbys were being called.

9:45pm  The captain announces that there is a technical problem with the wing and that they have to switch aircraft.  New departure time: 12:30am.

12:30am  On a larger aircraft, the captain announces that you’re Number One for take-off.  Really?  Could we not have guessed by the absence of other moving aircraft on the ramp and taxiways?

11:20am  Arrive in Brasilia waaaaay later than the scheduled 8:15 arrival time.

11:55am  Retrieve your bags when the conveyor finally gets fixed.

12:00pm  Get to your old apartment, load the car, take a shower, get lunch.

2:00pm  Hit the highway for São Paulo.  Total distance: 716 miles, half of which is on a two-lane road.  Do the trip in 9 hours.  Find a Burger King.