Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the tag “Saturday”

Lost Samba – Chapter 17/02 – Posto Nove, Ipanema

Image

Ipanema beach in the 1970’s

The Hotel Sol de Ipanema faced the beach almost on the corner of Rua Montenegro (which has since been renamed Rua Vinicius de Moraes), and it was a convenient landmark where my friends and I could all meet up at the beach. One Saturday morning, Edu and I were sitting by the sea in front of the hotel when we saw a lanky but toned guy in his forties wearing a crochet thong and playing beach tennis. His presence and his scandalously minuscule bathing attire drew our attention and, after looking at him for some time, Edu turned to me and asked, “Hey, isn’t that Gabeira?”

Edu was referring to Fernando Gabeira, one of the former exiles who had been involved in the 1969 kidnapping in Rio of the American ambassador, Charles Elbrick. In his best-selling autobiography, O que é Isto, Companheiro?  (“What is this, Comrade?”), in addition to the insider’s revelations of the mythical world of a so-called “terrorist” organization, Gabeira declared in his book that during those “heroic” days he was actively bisexual, something scandalous for the left and for the right alike. Riding a wave of fame, Gabeira launched an alternative path for opposing the system that he termed the “politics of the body”. What he really meant by this is still debated, but a political statement that seemed to prescribe being true to yourself and engaging in a lot of sex as a path to revolution went down well in Ipanema.

Image

Fernando Gabeira in his thong.

Rio’s beaches had, and still have, an unofficial schedule and a territorial partition that allowed one to say, “Tell me when and where you sun bathe and I will tell you who you are.” At dawn, the fishermen from Copacabana now shared the coast with surfers, yoga and Tai Chi aficionados, while joggers and cyclists paraded on the promenade. Later in the morning, as when I was a child, the ownership of the beach shifted to families, encompassing children, mums, grandmas, nannies, dogs and all other sectors of Brazilian domestic life. Around midday, they went home and from then on the more interesting people who stayed on gave Rio’s beaches sub-divisions further definition.

In Ipanema, there were unofficial spots for bodybuilders, Jiu-Jitsu fighters and yuppies. Other stretches became known as an extension of the gay scene, there was a surfers’ point, an area for the favelados, one for white-collar workers, another for sex professionals (not coincidentally the same as that for tourists), and an area reserved for football players and their groupies. Then there was Posto Nove, the beach outpost attracting followers of 1960s and 70s lifestyles and ideologies.

After the Pier, the surfers point in the early 1970s, had lost its usefullness, trawlers and cranes had done the job of demolishing the structure. From then on the Nove inherited the status of being the beach’s permanent Woodstock, the prime meeting place for artists, musicians, actors and intellectuals – both those already established and also those who never would. With the recent political freedom, came the flags of the newly legalized leftist parties flapping above the beautiful people. Meanwhile the boys from Batista’s improvised bar ran back and forth to serve beer, snacks and the tastiest caiprinhas found on any of Rio’s beaches.

There was a tacit understanding between the police and the beach-goers that they didn’t trouble us as long as we didn’t create trouble for them elsewhere on the beach. However, during election campaigns things sometimes changed when traditionalist candidates would push the police to clampdown on pot smokers, but when raids occurred, the crowd would boo them away and arrests were rare.

A typical day at Posto Nove was like being at a club or at a laid-back rock concert. Whether or not we had met before, we would chat between us about women, football and politics, and when the sun grew too hot or if the conversation became boring there was always the sea enticing us. As the day wore on, we took long swims, did some body surfing and played beach tennis. When the sun started to go down people began leaving the beach. By five in the afternoon the oceanfront was much emptier and the atmosphere became more intimate and serene. The milder sun, the afternoon breeze, the peace that came after a day spent in the open air and the beauty of the place and of the people made the Nove a magical spot.

The beach sessions would end with everyone giving the sun a standing ovation as it slowly disappeared over the horizon. After that, we all went our separate ways, normally going home for a nap before heading out to one of the parties or gigs that we had talked about on the beach earlier in the day where our free-spirited, suntanned and youthful carioca tribe would reconvene.

back to first chapter                                          next

Image

Cariocas thanking the Sun for another great beach day.

Lost Samba _ Ch10/02_Sexual initiation at the Pink House.

programa

Mangue, by Lasar Segal

When boys of my generation reached puberty, after undergoing the domestic audio-visual introduction, moved on to the age-old Brazilian tradition of being initiated in sex either by a maid or by a professional.  From one moment to another, it seemed that everyone except for me and my immediate circle of friends had already done it. As none of us had hot and available domésticas, the only way out were the pros. Given our budgetary limitations, all fingers pointed in the same direction: the infamous Casa Rosa, or the Pink House.

Many fathers took their sons to the important event or at least they sponsored the excursion. This was certainly not to be my case. With Dad in his mid-1970s, sex was not on the cards and it wasn’t a subject of discussion, not even in passing conversation. As far as he was concerned, licentiousness was the preserve of maids and other promiscuous favelados. I never accepted this, but I couldn’t help but inherit something of the idea that sex was intrinsically dirty and that it should be hidden away from polite society. Nevertheless, I was dying to be initiated and saved up for months, scraping together whatever I could for the big day.

Finally we thought that the day had arrived. One Saturday afternoon, my friends and I arranged to meet after lunch, but at the very last moment our trusted guide chickened out. Not only were we all pissed off, but so too was his dad. A few weeks later, we set off alone to the Casa Rosa.  We did not know how to get there but when the taxi driver heard “Rua Alice”, he knew exactly the purpose of our excursion.  On our way, we discussed whether we should lie and say we were seventeen instead of telling our true age: fourteen. Some of us thought this would bring more respect and would keep us from being thrown out. I was in favour of telling the truth because the lie would make us look even more retarded.

The Casa Rosa was big and seemed to have a faded grandeur. As we approached the house, we noticed a police car parked immediately outside, causing one of the guys want to give up. As we got out of the taxi and entered the building, several policemen were on their way out and greeted us with a reassuring smile. Inside, we sat around a wooden table by the improvised dance floor and waited, the silence only broken by the afternoon samba show coming out of the black and white television under the staircase.  Next to the flickering set, there was a counter with two price lists: one for the drinks and another one for the “programs”.

One-by-one, the girls came down for their matinée session.  They looked nowhere close to the unobtainable beauties who watered mouths on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana but at least they were younger and better looking than our maids. The madam pointed to us and said:

”It’s time for the children to have milk.”

They selected us, not the other way around, and took us to their rooms.  When the action was about to begin, one of the guys knocked his knee against the bed, and from his reaction, we knew it had hurt: we could hear Mauricio jumping around in pain through the thin wooden walls. Meanwhile, the rest of us slipped into a silent and nervous mood without knowing what to do.

My girl was prettier, whiter, thinner and younger than the others. As she took off her clothes and lay next to me, I remembered the porn films.  She talked to me and calmed me down, and I began to explore her body. Her naked flesh felt warm, tender and good. The act was as quick as it was disappointing, but I could at least count it as my initiation as a Latin Lover.  I was not the first one to appear downstairs, which was a relief. After everyone had paid, we went down the hill making fun of Mauricio’s sore knee and his wounded pride.

back to chapter 01                                                                  next chapter

CasaRosa

The Pink House

 

Post Navigation