Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rain, Produce, Victory, and Loss

After suffering five straight months (yet again) in sub-freezing temperatures in Chicago, one month in the sun has turned me into a complete sissy. Fall weather brings wind and rain to Porto Alegre, and the brisk 66 degree average has me clinging to my turtleneck sweaters. I am ashamed of myself.

The rain is phenomenal here, though, absolute downpours. When you go walking in them, life becomes a game of Frogger—dodging puddles, curbside rivers, and the occasional loose sidewalk tile that floats on a secret geyser—one wrong step and water splashes 3 feet up the pant leg. Even when extreme caution allows one to avoid these pitfalls, one still must cross the street. There lies the median of death! You cross a few lanes of traffic and wait on the narrow median to cross the other few lanes, and Blamo, you get the spray from high-speed city buses on both sides. Trying to win this game is futile. Just get home and towel off. And make sure you have plenty of shoes to rotate stock, allowing the wet pair to dry (which, at the moment, I don’t).

I went to see Persepolis this week. Again I felt good that understood roughly half of the dialog in this French animated film about a saucy Iranian girl from the Portuguese subtitles. But I also felt a little dumb for learning a shred of Iranian history from, essentially, an adult cartoon that I probably never would have heard of in the States. If you can find it, it is well worth some time and effort.

My cousin Amy made the most delicious dessert for me during a pre-journey dinner. (Amy, it’s important that I get that recipe from you, even though I don’t know the Portuguese word for mascarpone!) You see, gente, Amy’s dessert was pear-dependent. I have never been crazy about pears. That’s not to say I dislike them, I suppose I just gave up on them. I must have had one too many unripened pear frustrations in my adolescence because I quit them and never looked back. (I’ve come dangerously close to that edge with peaches too, but generally get suckered in about once a year by that one perfectly succulent peach, only to be let down again by the next dozen I try.) Sorry pear, you deserve the limelight. I’m having a pear renaissance y’all! Passed over at first for the more glamorous mangos and pineapple, I bought a few pears a couple weeks ago. You know, they were so delicious—not dry, mealy or boring at all—that suddenly I can’t get enough. Mmmm. The pears are so good that I won’t even ask where the blueberries are for the next few months.

Olha só. I realize that my re-telling of the latest futebol game might not be quite as exciting for you as it is for me, given that I love the game more than most Americans, coupled with the fact that I have the privilege of watching it in arguably the world’s best futebol nation with fans that make paixão (passion) feel palpable. So I have graciously saved my recap for the end of today’s post.

These last few years, I’ve had “virtual thrills” seeing photos on the internet of the madness when Inter won an important game, but this is the first time I’ve been in the city to experience it firsthand. Granted it’s just the state championship—so not as big as, say, the final for the Campeonato Brasileiro or Copa Libertadores. Still, the fireworks and honking cars began Sunday at noon. The kickoff was at four.

Tickets to the state championship final were sold out to socios (club members) before the scheduled time for the public sale. During the week I didn’t bother trying to find a cambista because I learned that the game would, despite aforementioned broadcasting guidelines, be aired on open TV. Normally I would head to my neighborhood lancheria to watch—but being a championship, I chucked my personal preference for intimate surroundings in favor of the high-energy, pseudo-chaotic vicinity of Avenida Goethe. I’m not certain why, but Goethe is the epicenter of Inter fans that don’t have tickets to any given game, and when the team wins something notable, it’s a hotspot of celebration. So my cocktail and I found a table at Tri-Bar on Goethe amidst a sea of red and white.

As I mentioned, to claim their 38th victory in this tournament Inter needed to win by two goals. I should also note for non-followers still reading that any game with a scoring total over 4 goals is fairly unlikely, and one with say, 9 goals (ahem) I’ve never even heard of before. The first half started quietly enough, scoreless until the 25th minute when Morais scored the first for Inter. Good stuff. There’s a certain sense of ease that comes when your team opens the scoring. Plus, statistically, I’ve read that whenever a goal is scored, a second goal by the same side is far more likely within five minutes. And such was the case when team caption (officially) and number one eye-candy player (unofficially) Fernandão scored at 29 minutes and 31 minutes. So Alex’s goal in the 37th minute put the team in a pretty comfortable 4-0 lead at half time. Even if Juventude came back fighting and scored 2, and we didn’t score any more, we’d have won.

Segundo tempo: Fernandão (whom I obviously adore since I named one box of my only earthly possessions after him) scored *again* less than five minutes in, followed by Nilmar in the 9th minute, bringing the score to 6-0. Ufff! Adding insult to injury, Juve’s first goal was actually an accident, when Inter’s Índio tipped in a shot he was trying to block. That’s when Juve’s fans started leaving—just 12 minutes into the second half. Índio redeemed himself in the 32nd minute with a shot on the correct goal—but my favorite moment of the game was the 45th minute, the very end. I’m not sure why Juve fouled Inter in the penalty box long after rebound attempts were clearly futile, but they did. And in a moment that was both just and poetic, the longest-standing player on Inter’s roster—goalkeeper Clemer–ran forward to take the kick. Absolutamente beleeeeeeza! An unbelievable, almost ridiculous, 8-1 victory. I stayed on Goethe a couple hours just to breathe in my first experience celebrating “my team’s” victory where the magic happens.

Nearly one am on Tuesday, and I can still hear the occasional celebratory honk on the street. And that was just the appetizer—the Campeonato Brasileiro begins next week. Bring it on!

I'm off to learn some Inter songs.


(After I wrote that anecdotal piece about the rain, I read about the devastating effects of the recent storms on some of the poorer neighborhoods and I feel like a jerk. I feel a little helpless but I'll look into ways to contribute tomorrow. If nothing else, it deserves mentioning.)