Archive for the ‘June’ Category
Home again, and despite all the travails it’s good to be here. I’ve landed in the middle of full-blown summer, hot and humid, and I’m leaving again soon for cool & rainy Maine to give my annual workshop up north. So it feels in a way like I’m just touching down. Mostly it’s laundry, bills, rehearsals, but it’s also friends, who ground me and put my recent Brazil adventures and current IRS travails into perspective. Friends and home define us in so many ways. We might feel “free” when we are away, but we are also uprooted, lacking the stability of people and places who embrace us no matter what. It’s good to sleep in my own nest for awhile.
Well, I was going to move my photos away from Rio today, but I just downloaded this last one from my beloved barrio of Urca. Bad news from the IRS arrives by mail, as I finally get to the 3 weeks worth waiting for me. They need documentation for 3 years of deductions– the amount of paperwork looming to justify my costs is depressing, although it looks like they are wrong in every challenge. But the IRS is practically a sovereign nation, so you don’t mess with their summons. I am up late locating corroborating documents, but finally can sleep with a sense of relief that all is as it should be, and it is just the pointless work of locating documents, copying them, and convincing those in charge that remains.
This is not an easy day to get through, neither here nor there, not yet or still in one place functioning smoothly. I work in fits and starts, easily led astray by the butterfly of distraction. Luckily I have appointments to focus me, but then a flat tire to confound me, an eye infection to annoy me, and a swarm of questioning emails to confuse me. The mind travels at its own speed and will not be rushed into admitting that it has arrived at the same moment as the body. I have learned patience with this process of re-entry, and I pull it out now to remind me not to push too hard or allow frustration to turn this into something more than just, as I used to write in my elementary school diary, a “dumb day”.
like a bee sting reality
comes as a shock to the system
releasing endorphins rhythm
of life slows down intensity
of perception sharpens you see
in a flash what shouldn’t be there
but paralyzed you can just stare
down pain as it hits homecoming
turbulence it’s a rough landing
when you fall dirt replacing air
There is joy and bounty at either end of this trip, but still I am sad, and in my sleep-deprived daze I can’t figure out how to get around it. I jump back into this life surrounded by friends and plans, but part of my heart hasn’t returned yet, and I’m not even sure I remembered to pack it. Already expectations crowd out dreams and there are things to manage and decide about and fix. Responsibilities order my brain back on its feet when it simply wants to rest and remember fresh papaya and the sound of ocean waves, and melodies that fly in on the wings of joy. There is so much to consider, so much to reflect on and stow in the right spots to bring the true picture of my life into focus. A quote from the end of Zora Neale Hurston’s great book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” lingers on the edge of my mind. “She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”
There is one more surprise left on my trip. My friend Henrique is down from Petropolis and when we meet for coffee and a chat he brings along his tandem bike. He and his wife Patricia have ridden all over Scotland on it, and we take it for a spin on Avenida Atlantica from Copacabana to Ipanema. Too much fun! Notice the rear-view mirror attached to his glasses– an amazing inventive mind as well as a great cellist. I bid him goodbye when the bikepath ends and wander through the weekly fruit market, making the unhealthy but delicious lunch choice of a fried cheese pastel and a glass of fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice. Well, it’s my last day. And the last day is always hard, to say good-bye for who knows how long to this exotic place of music and creativity for me, a place I have come to love over the past 5+ years. I usually come walk in Ipanema on the last day if I can, because it’s beautiful, and soothing, being less loaded with personal “saudade” points. Back home, suitcases packed, my longtime friend TaxiPaulo answers my call for a ride to the airport and I am off for home.
I leave tomorrow, so today I pack, walk, drop my amp etc. at Romulo’s, have my last sanduiche & acai at the Laguna, and watch my last “Avenida Brasil” with Sergio and Miriam. This has been such a good trip, so many things accomplished, so many unexpected delights. Part of me wishes it could last longer, but all has been so perfect that I am content. The last thing I do tonight is plan the lesson schedule for my mandolin course in Lubec, Maine in a couple of weeks. Clearly my mind is already winging its way north. And it will be good to see my friends back home.
And today I depart from SP– sleep-deprived but so happy to have come. I would be sadder to leave this wonderful family, but I know I will see them at my house in a couple of months. “Tudo o mundo,” (all the world) as Lia puts it, drive me to the airport, including their grandmother who loves an outing, and for some reason we spend the 1 1/2-hour drive discussing the correct use of prepositions, both English and Portuguese. As I leave I try to take a moment to let each of them know how special they are. Corina plays the flute so romantically, Lia goes toe-to-toe with the older men on her 7-string, Elisa is an extraordinary virtuoso on bandolim, Dudu shepherds his flock lovingly, and Chris is “super-mai” making sure everyone is fed and on schedule. Corina sweetly tells me that I played very well in the last roda, when I was more relaxed, and she knows I will be a great Charona (woman who plays choro) one day soon. The plane to Rio is on time and the flight is 45 minutes, and they still serve us a sandwich and a drink! I am beyond tired, Corina tells me the phrase in portugues is that we are all dust, which sounds about right. Tonight I play a party-roda with my friends from the Forte Copacabana roda, my last music-making of this trip, and then I sleep soundly for ~12 hours.
We are back on the road after only a few hours sleep. “As meninas” don’t always go to Sao Paulo on Friday, just every month or so, but do always go on Saturday when they are at home. Corina, who has become my guardian, says I will sit with “as meninas” and play with them, to protect me from the “velhos choroes,” who can be grumpy and call people out if they don’t play well. And she says I can read my leadsheets, a great relief. I should mention at this point that I am wearing Lia’s All-Stars with my leggings and dress, because it is far too cold for my sandals and they aren’t going to let me say I’ll be fine. I feel a bit like a Brazilian teen, but grow to enjoy it. Our first stop is Contemporaneo, a music store with a famous roda– photos of all the great players line the walls. We miraculously find seats and in a couple of songs Corina suggests we play “Gadu Namorando,” as she knows I know it. It goes well and when asked, I suggest “Gostozinho” to follow, as I know guitarists like to play it. The 7-string sitting next to me, who seems like the leader of the roda, listens to my first section and loudly pronounces me “bom” and I play the whole thing. So I relax and play when I can, and afterwards we go out to eat at a little bar across the street. “As meninas” have to go play a gig now, a couple of hours out of the city, so Corina suggests I stay in town with her namorado, Rafa, far left in the photo, a musician and composer. He takes me to a music store where I buy books and CDs, and we walk on Avenida Paulista and talk of many things, and have a traditional Brazilian meal, “escondidinho,” a sort of shepherd’s pie. We then go to the weekly sarau (an event with music and poetry) at the luthier Manuel Andrade’s studio. And, a lovely thing, I am greeted fondly by all the players from the rodas of the last few days. The girls arrive close to midnight and we end the session with a roda. And bedtime today is 3:30 AM. I set an alarm as I have to be at the airport back in SP by noon tomorrow. Truly an extraordinary day.
I wake up early and catch a taxi to the airport while the Christo is still wrapped in his early morning blanket of clouds. But my flight is delayed for hours, and the gate changes so often I am dizzy. At last I arrive in Sao Paulo and am met by my new friends of the music group, Choro das 3. Father, Eduardo, who plays pandeiro, drives, and I chat in portugues with Corina, flute, and Elisa, bandolim. At their home in Porto Feliz I meet the rest of the family, Lia, 7-string guitar, and mom/producer Christina, who has prepared a delicious lasagne for lunch. The girls are 18, 21, and 23, and have been playing in Sao Paulo rodas for over 10 years. They are talented, accomplished, self-possessed young women with a mission to transmit their love of this traditional Brazilian music to a contemporary audience. So we have that in common. It would be impossible to write every detail of the trip because it seems each minute is packed full. The family is close-knit in a way virtually unheard-of in the US, and are together constantly, playing, driving the 1 1/2 hours to and from Sao Paulo, creating promo, recording music in their home studio. Their family ties give them an unparalleled ensemble, and all 4 are also brilliant on their own. Highlights of the trip back to SP include meeting Isaias, one of the old generation of great bandolimists, pictured here playing with his brother Israel. This is at an art studio owned by a choro lover, a place I would have never discovered on my own. Later, in a bar owned by a family friend and guitarist, I hear a true Sao Paulo roda, and see the girls, called “as meninas” (the girls) by all, in action with their dad. At one point Elisa hands me her bandolim and I kindof play 2 choro with the group, but don’t have my music and forget the tunes part way through so I improv sketchily. Disappointing, but it’s who I am– a music-reader from the classical tradition– so I have to be content. The music continues until 4:00 AM and then we drive the 1 1/2 hours back to their home, and finally sleep after 5:30 AM, in the “madrugada,” a lovely Portuguese and Spanish word for the hours between midnight and sunrise. Tomorrow, well, later today, we will be on the road back to SP for 2 more rodas. Amazing day.