Tags Posts tagged with "São Paulo"

São Paulo

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Renato Lombardero/Flickr

São Paulo and I were together for two years. She was high-maintenance from the start; this, I knew going in. She would order the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes flirt with other guys, and make me pay dearly whenever I didn’t call at the exact time I said I would. She knew her worth and she played with my heart, but I knew deep down, she loved me: when we were in sync, when our energies mixed and we danced and played and reveled in each others’ company, we knew we had a good thing going. I won’t lie; the sex was volcanic. And be it in her brand new Mustang or her little red Corvette, we rode fast and wild, and I would always end up broke, spent, and sprung – she was The One.

But I couldn’t afford her and, one day, she let me go. And I was bitter for a while, heartbroken and rejected.

The next time we saw each other, a few weeks later, she welcomed me back to dance and play and revel. Over a cafezinho at Bella Paulista one Sunday morning, she looked at me and admitted that every once in a while, she envied what Berlin and I have because we were marrying for love. But in the very next moment, when I asked her to marry me, she just stared out the window and said nothing.

I paid for our coffees and we walked out into the bright sun, our feet hurting from the previous night’s debauchery and still a little lightheaded from the party favors. She kissed me deeply and passionately before getting into her car with a tchau, disconnecting and leaving me with only three reais to catch the bus home.

I see her less frequently these days, though our rendezvous are no less intense. Neither one of us has brought up the m-word again, especially since we’re each married to someone else.

But what if…?


My friend and São Paulo-native Rodrigo Pitta loves that damn place so much, he’s filmed three music videos in his hometown. Here’s the newest. I’m already booking my flight back down to see her.

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Shot in and around the vast, gritty warrens of downtown São Paulo—also known as Sampa—the short but thrilling Samparkour takes viewers through the heart of one of the world’s largest cities by way of parkour, an extreme sport that is at turns skillful acrobatics and dumb luck. Much of the action takes place in my old neck of the woods, reminding me of how much I actually love this grimy, exhilarating concrete jungle. Make sure your shoes are laced up tight before trying this at home:

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Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

Most major news outlets report about Brazil’s economic growth, income disparities, racial issues, beaches, soccer stars, and World Cup preparations in random, infrequent bursts. Now, two journalists with feet on the ground and caipirinhas on the brain are weighing in on the economic growth, income disparities, etc., etc., on their own blogs.

Yes, everybody and their mama who ever spent a week on the beach in Rio or ever took a guided favela tour has a blog about Brazil. But these guys are oftentimes the go-to sources for reliable facts and insight that those major news outlets rely on when reporting on the country. So, for the most part, dear reader, you can turn to this pair of muckrakers for consistent, insightful commentary—in English—on that enigmatic, entrancing South American powerhouse in the tutti-frutti hat.

Sir Andrew Downie (he’s not really a knight, but he’s got a courtly disposition and “Sir” just sounds cool in front of his name) has been writing his eponymous blog for a while now, having moved to Brazil last century, I think. Originally from Scotland, Downie has worked as foreign correspondent in Haiti, Mexico, and now Brazil for the New York Times and Time magazine, among other outlets whose names do not necessarily incorporate the word “time”. Read his blog for World Cup drama and rants about Brazilian customer service.

Sir Vincent Bevins (why not?) just recently started writing the English-language blog for Brazil’s largest daily Folha de S.Paulo: the succinctly-named From Brazil. The native of La-la Land has lived in London, Berlin, and São Paulo and writes for the Financial Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other Times. He also hangs out with models in Rio and Reykjavik. No lie. Read his blog for reports on gender equality and humorous English gaffes.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Well, from Brazil—in English—anyway.

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Entrance to the Non-Revenue Containment Area at São Paulo's international airport

4:15pm– Arrive at São Paulo’s international airport for your 11:55pm flight to Miami. The standby list opens four hours before departure time and you get there seven hours early so you can be #1, having learned the hard way. It’s a Thursday and you’ve left work early, hoping to beat the weekend rush. And you are #1 for your departure time – theoretically – , but you’re really #6, behind five people who didn’t make the morning flight.

4:20pm – Easy conversation starts to flow between you and your fellow non-revs (i.e. relatives and friends of airline employees who’ve paid a ridiculously reduced fare in order to fly on a space-available basis and are therefore “non-revenue” passengers), and you find out where they’re from (Cuiabá, Goiânia, Fortaleza) and how long they’ve been waiting for a seat (48 hours, 24 hours, 16 hours).

4:25pm – A rowdy bunch from tropical beach town Recife pulls up six-deep, excited and, well, loud. Bless ’em, you all think. They’re insane if they think they’ll all get on the flight together. Everyone signs The List, securing their place according to arrival time, which will be used as a quasi-legally-binding document (because if you disrespect The List, thas yo ass) once the standby list officially opens.

4:30pm – The Non-Rev Containment Area on the ground level of the airport quickly descends into chaos as flights from other parts of Brazil arrive, depositing eager, already-tired folks into the confined space with the low ceiling and the soul-sucking fluorescent lighting. The horror stories start to circulate: a woman and her son have been trying since Sunday to get to Paris. 25 seats were available on the last flight to Milan but no non-revs were boarded. “Usually, it’s the Orlando flights that are booked solid; this is the worst I’ve ever seen for Miami.” Aw shit.

4:31pm – Light-hearted, enjoyable conversations ensue about culture, prices, shopping (EVERYone was flying with an empty suitcase and one clean pair of draws), and “seu português é ôtimo, cara.” Brazilians are hard-wired for unfailing affability and you’ll have 18 Facebook friend invites before you get outta there.

6:53pm – Word works its way through the Miami folks that the ominous-looking redhead who just arrived is an employee – The Employee – who will automatically have priority over everyone else, no matter how long they’ve waited. Word is, she’s also traveling with husband and teenager. She can smell the ire.

6:55pm – Haunches up, everyone queues (love that word) hastily next to their luggage, which has already been queuing silently for a few hours, and the Miami flight opens; 21 non-revs list for a flight with zero seats un-purchased, but that also isn’t overbooked, so there’s hope for a few. Hunger descends like a sledgehammer.

7:25pm – You follow #s 2 and 3 through the labyrinth of hallways in the “employees only” area of the airport to the Employees Only Snack Bar, which has a limited selection of eats priced at near-real world levels (though still one or two reals more than what you’d pay at the corner snack stand). You flirt with a couple of the check-in agents who ask where you work. You laugh nervously, then walk away before they call sekurrity.

9:05pm – Laughs and jokes all around as you get to know your listmates a bit better…the cool-ass couple from Cuiabá who had Sawgrass on the brain, the husband-and-wife jokesters from Belém who could do every regional dance that exists in Brazil, the thick-accented gaúcho businessman who’s skin was turning green because he hadn’t eaten meat all week due to a diet imposed on him by his wife. Mad coolness. Mad Brazilianness.

9:25pm – No non-revs make the Madrid flight. People are not liking that.

9:40pm – Two non-revs make the New York flight, from a list of 15. Campers not happy.

10:15pm – Milan, none.

10:50pm – Miami? None. Not even The Employee, who almost made it.

10:51pm – Furniture moving.

10:52pm – You purchase an over-priced bottle of water at the coffee shop near where you were sitting (you thought somebody had a chair thrown at them, didn’t you?).

10:53pm – The group is advised to try again in the morning at 6:30 for the 10:30am flight. A list is organized by the passengers, as it’s not the airline’s responsibility, to keep things as civilized as possible; you’re still #6. You’re also the only person among the group – besides The Employee – who lives in the city, but if you expect to be #6 in the morning, you better put in the time.

10:55pm – The Orlando people get told there aren’t any seats on the plane.

11:00pm – Nobody gets to Paris, either. Not even the lady and her son. All the people waiting for flights to Europe have another 23 hours to go.

11:05pm – The captain of the Orlando flight comes down to the Non-Rev Containment Area and snags, oh, about 12 people and takes them on his flight. Campers damn shole ain’t happy, now.

11:43pm – You drop into a fitful sleep under the now-very-bright fluorescent lights, supported by your suitcase and a luggage rack. The temperature drops into the upper 40s.

11:53pm – You wake up and squirm around a bit.

12:03am – You wake up and squirm around a bit.

12:13am – You wake up and squirm around a bit.

3:53am – You wake up and squirm around a bit.

4:03am – Fuck it. You get up and start doing some of the work you should have been doing since 4:15pm yesterday.

6:10am – Everyone’s up and the list has grown. There’s anxiety as everyone wonders if someone’s going to try and jump the line (and receive the subsequent beat-down).

6:31am – Listed!

10:29am – The Employee shows up.

10:31am – Zero go Miami way (Nelson-from-TheSimpsons-style “ha-ha” to The Employee & Fam).

10:50am – Numbers 1, 2 and 3 drop out and decide to either stay in São Paulo for a few days or go back to their hometowns. You, the couple from Cuiabá, and the Recife crew say screw dat…we gettin’ to Miami!

12:03pm – Can…barely…keep…eyes…open.

2:03pm – Can…barely…keep…eyes…open.

4:03pm – Your Portuguese is getting good as hell, since you’re getting more practice in one day than you’ve gotten since moving to Brazil.

4:15pm – You’ve hit the 24-hour mark. There’s a gang of people on the list behind you (ha-ha) and the Europe flight wannabes are getting restless in their blazers and skinny jeans.

4:50pm – Shift #3 takes over and the manager gets yelled at by the disgruntled non-revs regarding last night’s Orlando debacle. He tells some kind of lie about jumpseats and whatnot, but he says it so commandingly, people believe him. You, of course, don’t and yell “I’m somebody’s son, too!”

6:20pm – Almost that time…natives, restlessness and whatnot.

6:32pm – Listed #3. No sign of The Employee, though two random old ladies try to Bogart their way up to the front, talkin’ bout they “stayed at the airport for the last three days.” Yet no one from the last day seems to remember these people, lyin’-ass old ladies.

7:20pm – You and the thick-accented gaúcho businessman go for some McDonald’s: you’re craving meat and it’s the cheapest thing in the airport, after the Employees Only Snack Bar. You bond over crazy regional accents in Brazil and the States, him teaching you a few gauchisms and you teaching him how to say “Pahk yo kah aht in na yahd” the way you say it in Nawf Flah-da.

8:20pm – Tired, exhausted, fatigued, and worn out, everybody waits, trying to avoid even having to consider a Plan B, but considering one anyway. The fourteen possible seats have been whittled down by half.

9:25pm – A few people make the Milan flight, but there’s shade because the dancing couple from Belém don’t make it, though they were slated to. Something about people in the line behind them knowing someone who knows the captain’s cousin’s sister’s best friend’s former roommate. Frowns all around.

9:28pm – In a somewhat botched attempt to quell the swelling angst among the masses, one of the ground staff members says, basically, if a captain comes down and chooses his cousin’s sister’s best friend’s former roommate over the 15 people ahead of her in line, she will indeed get to board and there is nothing you can do about it, bwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

10:40pm – The gaúcho makes Frankfurt and the lady and her son get Paris. Everybody cheers.

10:55pm – Success! You, the couple from Cuiabá, and one of the Recife 6 make the cut! But weren’t there supposed to be seven spaces on the list?

10:56pm – Saying goodbye to six or seven of your newly-minted friends does indeed suck, but all good things must come to an end; onward and upward, literally.

11:02pm – The Employee and Family are spotted passing through exit immigration. They didn’t even bother to come downstairs, the sneaky fiends! It’s all good, though…you’re finally off to Miami.

Epilogue – You help the cool-ass couple from Cuiabá change their rental car plans upon arrival at MIA, switching from Portuguese to English to Spanish and screwing it all up. They give you a ride to meet your peeps up in Fort Lauderdale. That’s what friends are for!

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The Wind Done Gone, but not everywhere.

I have help; I’ve had it since moving to South America six years ago. There’s a saying round these parts: “You either have a maid or you are a maid.” In my case, it’d be a doorman or handyman or whatnot. Either way, with the daily rate for a housekeeper being an exploitative R$60 (US$37), having help isn’t really seen as a luxury down here. I think of it as job creation. I don’t even want to know how much – or little – the nannies make.

I’ve always paid the help as far above the going rate as I could, considering a) just because I can exploit a segment of the population doesn’t mean I should, and b) most of the help in general consists of black/brown women with kids struggling to pay tuition at a private school so that their kids don’t end up as maids or servicemen themselves, ergo I empathize with the help. As I’ve said on this blog before, had it not been for an Anglo-American slaver bringing my ancestors this side of the Pond, the help could easily have been my mother, sister, aunt, grandma, etc. People here insist that I pay too much, that I “spoil” the help. Yet these same people don’t think twice about requesting raises from their bosses.

My help have always, always been honest, intelligent ladies who have left 100-real bank notes they found balled up in my shirt pocket flattened and pressed on the kitchen table in plain view. They’ve been meticulous housekeepers, and sometimes, expert cooks. My help has better budgeting skills than I do, never complaining even once when I’ve had to miss payment one week because of my own foolishness. The help doesn’t really get a lot of respect, either: “A smart maid is a secretary.” God bless my help.

Hats off to Señora Gladys, Teresa, Diva, and Rosa. Unfortunately, you’ll never know just how much your help means to any country’s “economic miracle.”

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First, I’d like to offer an apology to my readers for not keeping to the content schedule outlined on my “About” page. This week has been a harrowing return to work after an adventurous ten days off, and balancing competing interests is never an easy task. So, dear readers, I’ll try to not let this scheduling burp happen again. I’ll make a seriously-focused effort. I’ll work my hardest. For real. I’m serious. 😉

Back to the show…

A year ago last weekend, a lovely and technologically-talented French couple, Claire and Max, stopped through São Paulo for a short 48 hours. They put together this humorous film, soundtracked by Sergio Mendes and featuring some of my favorite spots in the city – Ibirapuera Park, Avenida Paulista, Vale do Anhangabaú – as well as my own street corner (see if you can guess). The video description says it was a balmy 30˚C (86˚F) and obviously sunny on that mid-winter weekend. Well, right now, it’s 31˚C (89˚F) and sunny, so I’m posting this for you to get a glimpse of the city I’m ’bout to go enjoy on this sun-filled Saturday afternoon.

Thanks Claire and Max!

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Andre Kenji/Flickr

It’s 2AM on Saturday morning and you leave the club early because you’ve had a long-ass week at work and you’re tired and you just want everybody to shut the hell up already and go to sleep. You work your way past the line of partiers, in various states of inebriation, waiting to go in while you’re going out. Your ears thump with the muffled beat of the pop and house music playing upstairs as you break through the sweaty brightness of the club entrance and into the smoky chill of the dark, damp downtown streets.

A haggard-looking woman sells packets of gum and the Halls throat lozenges popped like candy in Brazil and a bus passes by, the tires making a splashing sound on the pavement as it moves, all lights and noise and a pair of dozing passengers. You could use some IHOP right about now.

You head towards home, a twenty-minute walk away, down almost-empty streets that yawn emptily into the speckled darkness ahead. Six hours before, the streets buzzed with couriers and executives and touts and vagrants. Now, only the vagrants remain, bedded down under lumps of cardboard and rags, steeling themselves against the chill of night. One or two other tired souls pass by, staggering home like you, from work and/or play. The streetlights glow weakly against the black on smoke on slate on charcoal on gray tones of night, the cracked sidewalks undulating with the almost-imperceptible breath of the city and endless rows of towers standing sentry with thousands of dark, mute windows. It takes a few seconds before you realize that you’re holding your own breath.

Up ahead, laughs and music from the corner lanchonete pierce the solitude as weekday working stiffs treat their ladyfriends to pre- or post-club golden fried goodness. You inhale, then consider stopping for a quick coxinha and a Coke. But you keep walking instead, warmed by the thought of just how much you love this goddamned city.

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São Paulo presents ample opportunities to sate every human desire, from food to finance to fornication, and I love her for that. The videos below offer up images of the world’s biggest underrated city, from its adolescent growth spurt to its mammoth adulthood and accompanying developmental issues. Don’t sleep:

São Paulo, 1943: This propaganda-soaked documentary, produced by the US government in 1943 (when Sampa’s population was a mere 1.3 million), highlights the seeds of industrial development that have served as a blessing and a curse for São Paulo. Despite the film being skewed towards an upper-class, light-skinned Brazil, it’s still fun to see images of the bustling old downtown districts (my favorite parts of the city) in their heyday.

São Paulo 1954: This short film, with unfortunate sound editing (the rockem-sockem instrumental score should have been used to punctuate the footage of traffic and movement, not static skyscrapers), conveys the sense of emerging power and importance of the nascent metropolis.

São Paulo 2008: Featuring the modern metropole of 20 million that I know and love, this short film captures the vibrant realities of SP, good, bad, and ugly. Chaotic, inspirational, tough, profound, crowded, progressive, imposing, impressive, endless.

São Paulo 2009: Part of a National Geographic multi-part series on megacities, this 45-minute documentary features the green revolution taking place in São Paulo and the aspirations to sustainability as good business for Brazil’s financial capital.