Sunday, March 27, 2011

Street Beauty

I am still chillaxing on the beach. In the meantime, enjoy this post courtesy of my efficient planning skills.

In September 2006, São Paulo passed an innovative law against "visual pollution," virtually eliminating outdoor advertising.

It's fantastic.

They have also made an effort to turn would-be graffiti artists into artists of a different sort. I commented on it in 2009, and here are some more lovely things I pass by routinely. Living in a megalopolis, I can tell you, it makes a big difference. I notice these pieces, and adore them.

"The Winter never fails to turn into Spring."

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Leap and the net will appear"

I love that quote. It has heavily guided my choices over the last five years.

Today marks the third anniversary of my biggest leap. As luck would have it, I have landed on a beach in the gorgeous Ilha Grande, to mark the day as memorably as it deserves to be.

More stories on the horizon...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Euro Oscar

This post has been a long time coming and, surely, it will be one of my fondest when I inevitably re-read these adventures years from now.

I met Euro Oscar in April 2009 during my first stay at Casa Club. He came in with a two-foot stack of magazines and started hawking them tableside. I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction was dismissive. Despite nobler intentions, frequently, I don't pay much heed to homeless persons or street vendors.

Oscar quickly changed tactic to get my attention. He started speaking in nearly perfect English. (He also speaks Spanish, French, and some German, I learned.) Now he had my attention.

I inquired about the magazines he was selling, OCAS" (similar to Chicago's StreetWise). He knew his product and a fascinating array of other things. He asked about my interests and then went digging through back issues, pointing out some articles I might enjoy.

I gave him a few reais and stashed the mag in my baggage.

I didn't revisit that magazine until I was cleaning off a bookshelf several months later. I thumbed through it. I rather enjoyed it--it was a high quality mag. Tucked inside, I found a little slip of paper Euro Oscar had included with his website address.

Euro Oscar, I learned from his site, is witty, curious, and highly educated, albeit in a nontraditional way. He writes poetry and creates word games and puzzles. I was so delighted by the optimism and content diversity of his site that I thanked him for creating it, belatedly, by email. His response was, of course, timely and gracious.

I revisited the site occasionally over the next year, perhaps in moments when I needed a spiritual lift. His greeting--"smile and feel happy now"--frequently served as a simple reminder about positivity being a choice we make.

Last October, after moving to Sampa, I was browsing the site and discovered (humbly located way down at the bottom of the navigation bar) an article about him that had run in a popular national magazine, Revista Época. I was, frankly, shocked and inspired by what I read. Euro Oscar (and yes, that is his real first name), has a wonderful sense of humor and speaks poignantly.

Here are some excerpts from the article, “O olha da rua” (The look from the street) in Revista Época [by Eliane Brum, published August 2, 2004, page 1, page 2].

"Não espere um Alain Delon," avisa o vendedor da OCAS, por telefone. "Sabe como é, estou mal-dormido, vou estar abatido nas fotos."
Euro tem 51 anos, diz que envelheceu uns 20 anos depois que ficou em "situação de rua por cause de traições familiares." Perdeu os dentes da frente, tem cicatrizes nos braços e muda de assunto sempre que indagado sobre os descaminhos que o levaram ao relento.
Euro é, como ele mesmo define, um "viciado em sobrevivência". Para gente como ele, a revista foi criada.
Fala um português não só impecável, mas com vasto vocabulário. Conta que chegou a cursar a universidade de Administração antes da queda.
Lá põe de tudo, de dicas de saúde a músicas da velha-guarda da Albânia. Ele, que aprendeu ingles ouvindo as músicas da Elton John, já conseguiu passar de excluído a incluído digital. "Como autodidata," explica.
O que ainda não reconquistou foram os dentes. Por isso, ajuda a filha de 13 anos, que vive com a ex-mulher, a se preparar para as provas, mas não a visita na escola. "Ela já é teen e hoje tudo é grife. Se eu for à escola, os colegas vão dizer que ela tem pai banguela." Euro divide um quarto alugado na Vila Madalena. "Na rua mesmo nunca dormi. Fiquei acordado. Já vi caminhão de lixo passar por cima de mendigo e sempre tive medo dos psicopatas de classe media." Seu sonho é encontrar um empresário que aposte não em diploma, mas em criatividade. "Como o Bill Gates faz. Porque eu tenho idéias. Se fosse me definir, diria que sou um buscador."

"Don’t expect an Alain Delon," warns the OCAS vendor by telephone. "You know, I slept poorly, I’ll look downcast in the pictures.”
Euro is 51 years old, he says he has aged about 20 years after he became "'on the streets' because of family betrayals." He lost his front teeth, has scars on his arms, and changes the subject when asked about the errant path that led him outdoors.
Euro is, as he defines himself, a "survival addict." It is for people like him that the magazine was created.
He speaks not just impeccable Portuguese, but with a vast vocabulary. He recounts how he began to study Business at university before the fall.
[On his website] he puts everything from health tips to music from the Albanian Old Guard. He, who learned English by listening to Elton John songs, has managed to pass from the realm of the digitally-exluded, to the included. “Self-taught,” he explains.
What he still hasn’t managed to regain are his teeth. That’s why he helps his 13-year-old daughter, who lives with his ex-wife, to prepare for exams, but he doesn’t visit her at school. "She is already a teen and nowadays everything is labels. If I go to the school, her classmates will say she has a toothless father." Euro shares a rented room in [the neighborhood] Vila Madalena. "When I was on the street I never slept. I stayed awake. I've seen a garbage truck run over a beggar, and I was always afraid of middle class psychopaths." His dream is to find a businessman who bets not on diplomas, but on creativity. "As Bill Gates does. Because I have ideas. If I were to define myself, I would say that I am a seeker."

I had sent Euro an email last October, asking him to honor me with a short interview. He accepted but he's hard to pin down, given the nature of his work. Then I left for Chicago and the idea was shelved.

I was delighted when, seated at a streetside table sipping a beer with Victoria, a man approached and distributed some booklets, collections of humorous quotes. Looking down at the material before up at the man, I saw "Euro Oscar" at the foot of the cover page and immediately introduced myself, again. He remembered me and my emails and sat to chat with us for a while, cracking many jokes about language and culture.

I was thrilled to see my handsome friend Euro Oscar again--and his ever-inimitable, now-toothy, smile.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slainté! St. Paddy's in São Paulo

I have a book called Fique Zen em São Paulo, that is, Stay Zen in São Paulo. Victoria succeeded, even in the midst of the weekday bustle on Avenida Paulista. It quite suited her, I think.

There are several charming restaurants and bars in my neighborhood, but surely one of the best is São Cristovão. The place is absolutely plastered in futebol memorabilia.

Victoria and I had a great time searching for Internacional relics. We spotted about seven, compared to the one Grêmio plaque we saw--ha! Here, Victoria points out an old vinyl bicycle seat bearing the Inter logo while an onlooker gets in on the fun.

Topping off Victoria's São Paulo Sessions, we landed a good corner table for the St. Paddy's festivities at Finnegan's Pub.

Nika, Fernando, Victoria and I with our gross-but-free, first (and last) green beer of the evening. Slainté!

Later, another Porto Alegre visitor arrived--the luminous Juliana!

For the wee small hours we headed off to another bar where several of Juliana's friends had gathered.

Even the dog had fun.

Good times.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mortadella Munchin' at Mercado Municipal

I was a total recluse at the beginning of March. I blame the incessant rain.

Besides, I was storing up zeal for Victoria's visit from the 13th-18th. We had five days to reconnect and paint the town: thanks to a reprieve from the rain, I feel we succeeded on both counts.

We averaged about 15km per day on foot, with the exception of the last day (which I spent whining about the blisters my new shoes were causing) when we still clocked 8km on the pedometer. We explored the Asian bairro Liberdade and shopping mecca Bom Retiro, compared the business district on Avenida Paulista to Brigadeiro Faria Lima. We wandered Jardins for an hour looking for that same darn Starbucks that I always lose. [For the record, it is on Santos and Campinas!] We dined on Chilean, Moroccan, and Chinese, as well as some uncommon pasta delights and homemade Brazilian classics. And of course there was an assortment of beer, wine, cocktails, and the occasional water to wash it all down.

And, óbvio, I took her to the marvelous Mercado Municipal for the famed Mortadella sandwich.

This is not the one we ate. We inhaled ours before remembering to take a photo. Ack, close enough.

That Victoria...she's nuts.

Hot Stuff is a big fan of the hot stuff.

I once learned the expression tipo exportação, which signifies a higher quality product that is produced for export rather than local consumption. Interestingly, these massive, robust strawberries--better than any I've ever seen--were imported from the U.S.!

Still, the cashews, pictured here in fruit form, are clearly Brazilian.

Leaving Mercado, we stumbled upon a new (to me) treasure, AndinaSP. Our salesman, my new friend Elson, gave us a tour of the tasting facility, the kitchen, and the wine cellar. They have great prices and an amazing selection. Score! I picked up a pair of these lovely, proper wine glasses. Any betters on how long it will take me to break them?

More on Victoria's visit in the next post.

Man, I am so Paulista! Visitors: seja bem-vindo!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


My recent-roommates Carolina and Mariana stopped by on Friday night to have a few drinks and see my new place. They reminded me of my obligation to attend a carnavelesco bloquinho with them--the only good part about Carnaval, they said. Carnavalesco is "pre-carnaval"--an esquenta, a warm-up.

Let me explain. Carnaval is this coming weekend, but in the weeks leading up to it, there are a series of blocos, or the diminuitive, bloquinhos. Essentially, a bloco is a street party. Each one (and there are many, all over the city) has a band and a sambinha, a little theme song with an easy-to-learn refrain, written for the year. The party, at least the one I went to, is free. You just show up (costumed, if you like), grab a beer, learn the chorus, and dance in the street. Eventually, the sound truck departs the staging area and weaves its way through the neighborhood with hundreds of happy partygoers chanting, dancing and, of course, drinking, in tow.

I had never been to a bloco, but if Carol and Mari insisted, what other excuse did I need to get silly on a Sunday afternoon?

I had received an email from French Henri, a newcomer to São Paulo, who found a social group I started on Facebook and emailed me: he needed a break from his temporary hotel digs and a little socialization. I invited him to join us. I met Henri in front of Carol and Mari's place about 11:30 and we did a quick get-to-know-you before Neida and the others showed up. It was sunny and we were off to festejar!

The bloco we went to was called Cordão Carnavalesco Confraria do Pasmado (CCCP). I won't translate the sambinha lyrics, posted at the end, because you'd really have to know the culture and some current politics to appreciate it fully, but suffice it to say it was, in part, a playful homage to the election of Tiririca and it was hilarious!

Yara, Neida e Carol

We arrive at the meeting spot and crack the first Skol. The sun is shining and heaps of people, in the party mood, are arriving. I learn the words to the sambinha. I loosen up an shake it a little. Tudo tá ótimo.

Two beers later it starts to rain, like every Sampa afternoon of late. No worries.

The rain stops, the party continues.

The rain returns in force.

Mari, Henri, Carol, Neida e eu


I find Waldo. Again.

Eventually, giving up on the party, I said tchau to my friends and made my way home. I slipped and fell twice on the way--the bruises from which will, no doubt, make my swim coach, Evaldo, raise one eyebrow tomorrow.

Even better, while crossing an intersection, I lost one havaiana in a curbside river suitable for whitewater rafting, and walked the rest of the way with one flip-flop.

Ahhh, My Life In, umm, Havaiana --still good.

(Totally) Paulistinha

P.S. I must include this shot of Morumbi Stadium (with photo credit to Folha de São Paulo--check out that photo gallery, it's worth it), where the rain wreaked havoc and delayed the crosstown classic game São Paulo vs. Palmeiras.

(For the benefit of my Portuguese-speaking friends, as letras da sambinha CCCP 2011:)
Confraria e o abestado: dois injustiçados

Vai rolar a baixaria
Ao estilo confraria
Não tem propina
Nem cueca com dinheiro
Agora é lei
É Carnaval o ano inteiro

Já tivemos coronel
Anão, mensaleiro e bacharel
Finalmente o povo está representado
A confraria elegeu um deputado

O povo sabe
O povo grita
Pior que tá não fica
O povo sabe
O povo grita
Pior que tá não fica