São Paulo

Demonstrators Stage Largest Street Protests In Two Decades
      This ain’t no Carnival. People pissed! Image source: AP

Right now, Brazil convulses with the heady combination of indignation and optimism that characterizes popular movements. The People – that vast and oft-evoked abstraction made up of millions of students and truck drivers and dental hygienists and single mothers and retirees and first graders – have gotten so fed up with the economic and political oppression that has always plagued Brazil, Latin America as a whole, and, at many times in its history, the United States, that they’ve taken to the streets to voice their exasperation with the greed, corruption, official acts of violence, and woefully poor quality-of-life that have hampered the upward mobility of most Brazilians in the face of unprecedented “national prosperity” and vanity projects like the World Cup and the Olympics.

What that means, exactly, remains to be seen. Moneyed and political interests are too entrenched in the business of making money at all costs to really engage in the necessary paradigm shift even if they wanted to. And I’m just cynical enough to believe that nothing lasting is going to happen; after all, a columnist from Brazil’s largest daily reflected the general cluelessness of those in power: “From paradise, we have slipped…into limbo.”

Paradise for whom?

No, there will be no New Deal-style governmental investment in infrastructure, no nationwide jobs program, no major overhaul of the educational and health care systems. There’s too much unfettered greed infecting the country’s economical and political elite for that to ever happen. It’s a refrain in heavy rotation: “Brazil never moved away from the slave plantation.”

I have friends who were injured by police during last week’s protest in my beloved São Paulo. I have friends who live in the areas most heavily affected by teargas and rubber bullets in the center of the city. Some of the clashes between protesters and the police occurred on the street where I last lived not a full two years ago, where I last walked not a full two months ago, and where I spent several years becoming part of the city’s social fabric, another brown face popping in and out of lunch counters and convenience stores, hopping the bus to work during the week or home from the club on the weekend. That was my street and my neighborhood and my people and my city. It’s unnerving to know that I could just as easily have been shot with a rubber bullet outside my door or teargassed on my way home from work as any of my friends, neighbors, or coworkers.

It’s easy to change the channel when you have no direct connection to the events on the screen, but it’s something else when you are linked to the places and people being affected by strife. When the air clears, I’m still not sure what will have changed in terms of corruption, accountability, state-sanctioned violence, or quality-of-life. But I know that neither the powers that be, the media, nor Brazilians themselves will continue to blindly brush off indignities and injustices with a tudo bom (It’s all good) and an evocation of Brazil’s trademark deflectors: sun, sex, and soccer.

Maybe that refusal to accept indignities and injustices is the necessary spark. Hell, it only took 9 cents to finally piss enough people off. And that’s just my 2 cents.


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All around the world, same song...

It’s time for a bit of airline geekery! I keep track of all my flights via the Flight Memory database system. I enter the details of my trip, including times, aircraft type, and seat number, then watch as the system tallies up trivia like my top ten air routes (Bogotá-Barranquilla is still #1), how many times I could have circumnavigated the globe via air (13.87 times), most used airports (ATL, BOG, JAX, GRU, BAQ), etc. It also renders the fly-ass map above that shows all the non-US routes I’ve flown. With this week’s Swiss flight from São Paulo to Zurich, I finally closed the transatlantic gap between Europe and South America! Yeh, yeh…well, it’s exciting to me.

That's my plane!

Anyway, impeccable service aside, Swiss International Air Lines (the descendant of Swissair, which folded in 2002) developed a funky-fresh inflight mapping system called the Airshow, that keeps track of your plane’s progress and throws up fact boxes about key destinations en route. There’s a stat ticker at the bottom of the screen and cool swoop-around graphics of the plane and the earth. I snapped a few shots (and some video) during the flight – in the dark, so as not to look like some star-struck kid – but it’s the very idea of hurtling across the equator on a Swiss jetliner to Zurich that just says fly.



Next up: Notes on Zurich

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It's big, y'all. Real big.

Posting this from Hart-Jack (that’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the newbies), on my way home to the ‘ville for the weekend. Sorry for the delay, readers; I’ll have a couple of posts in the bag beforehand from now on. So…

São Paulo in numbers* (versus unofficial rival New York):

588 – area of São Paulo in square miles
469 – area of New York City in square miles

11,324,100 – population of the City of São Paulo
8,175,100 – population of the City of New York

20,309,700 – population of the Greater São Paulo Metropolitan Area
18,897,100 – population of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area

41,638,800 – population of the State of São Paulo
19,378,100 – population of the State of New York

7,000,000 – number of vehicles in the Greater São Paulo Metropolitan Area
a crapload, but not as many as SP – number of vehicles in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area

17,000 – number of buses in São Paulo
5,900 – number of buses in New York City

44 – miles of subway lines in São Paulo
656 – miles of subway lines in New York City

62 – number of subway stations in São Paulo
468 – number of subway stations in New York City

3,600,000 – average daily subway riders (2010) in São Paulo
5,200,000 – average daily subway riders (2010) in New York City

1 – Fly Brother in São Paulo

0 – Fly Brothers in New York 😉

*Statistics from Wikipedia (yeh, yeh, yeh).

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I’m participating in Vai Via’s 15 Day International Travel Challenge, but doubling-up, as I’m not a daily blog poster. Challenge!

Day 11 – Did you have any milestones or “firsts” while traveling or living abroad?
First doctor visit, unemployment insurance claim, and sexual encounter in a language that wasn’t English.

Day 12 – Someone who influenced you to travel abroad.

The preacher’s wife at my church, who got me on my way with a book called Free Stuff for Kids, full of ways to get free travel info. Innumerable teachers. My grandparents.

Day 13 – A favorite travel quote.
“Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.” -Walt Whitman

Avenida São João – aka Saint Johns Ave, baby – in the ‘new’ half of ‘old’ downtown São Paulo. For a few decades, The Ave was the place to see and be seen, with the sidewalk cafés, movie houses, bijou apartment blocks (like mine – the Palacete Ibis, built in the 30s), and an efficient trolley whisking the aspiring elite and their maids and doormen to and fro. Now, there are crackheads, sex workers, retirees, Bolivians, Nigerians, bohemian artists, foreign pseudo-intellectuals, surprised out-of-towners staying at one of the many faded business-oriented hotels, all buzzing on the streets and in-and-out of bedraggled and salacious commercial businesses all hours of the day and night, anchored by the 35-floor, Empire State Building-inspired Banespão. Damn, I love this street!

The famous street corner from Caetano Veloso's urban hymn, "Sampa."
At the turn of the 20th Century.
1929
1949 (Credit: Carlheinz Hahmann)
1940s
1950s
1960s
Bem Nova Iorque, hein? 1960s
1970
2008 (Credit: Paulino Tarraf)
2009
Dayum! Oh, and that's my building; the cream-colored one in the middle. (Credit: José Patrício/Agência Estado)
Avenida São João from the Banespão, 1986 (Credit: Cristiano Mascaro)


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Fly Brother Service Update: This weekend, subscribers will continue to see older posts in RSS feeds due to blog platform conversion. We apologize for any inconvenience, but hope that you enjoy some of the older quality content here at Fly Brother. Thank you.

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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This is for all my HBCUans in the house, and all lovers of Southern black college and high school marching bands: tell me, tell me this does not channel halftime at the Florida Classic, Bayou Classic, Atlanta Classic, Circle City Classic (lots of classics), Raines v. Ribault, Norland v. Carol City, Southwest DeKalb or Washington High Homecoming, or Dave Chappelle’s Block Party!

If you haven’t the foggiest idea of what the hell I’m talkin’ bout, please see the 2002 feature film, Drumline, starring Mariah’s current, Nick Cannon.

This is footage from São Paulo’s Vai-Vai samba school practicing for that city’s Carnival competition at the end of this month. I’m telling you folks, you can call it whatever you want, in whatever language you want, but the rhythm within us remains unchanged.

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