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Thursday, September 30, 2004


Cachaca Fodder

Rio works a little like this. From Centro, you go uptown to Lapa/ Cinelandia, then Botafogo (apparently the gay district), then Urca (just under Sugarloaf Mountain), then you go through a tunnel to Copacabana, then Ipanema, then Leblon. In my time in Rio I stayed in both Copacabana and Ipanema. Ipanema is upscale, the rich neighbourhood. Copacabana has a definitely downtown feel to it. Nossa Senhora, the main drag, is a Manhattan-style canyon.

Lapa is an area of bars near to the old aqueduct. Bars is not strictly accurate. There are a couple of traditional-style bars, which charge about BRL5 for entry. (BTW BRL5 = USD 1.7 = GBP 1, more or less). However, most of the places at Lapa are more like sandwich places that serve beer and caipirinhas. They have plastic chairs and tables out on the street, and music blaring out of boom boxes. There are street vendors who will sell you drinks, or sausages on sticks, or hippy tchotchkes. There are also some more informal street vendors who come down from the favela and sell you... other stuff. (Every so often the police will drive through Lapa in a convoy with their weapons pointing out of the windows of their cars. It doesn't seem to bother the drug dealers, and anyone who happens to have a joint in his mouth carries on as before. Hey, this is the Brazilian police force we're talking about. They were probably coming to get their cut). All in all, Lapa has a great vibe to it, a little like Long Street in Cape Town.

I went there a few times when I was in Rio, but the most memorable evening was the one before I went hang-gliding.

I got up to Lapa around 10pm and there were a bunch of people in a circle, some playing drums and one or two dancing in the middle of the circle. For a moment I thought it was some kind of candomble ceremony, but as far as I can work out it was just a bunch of people who fancied a bit of a boogie. Very African, at any rate. A Swedish girl I'd met the previous week came up to me and said hello. She told me how a few kids had tried to jack her the previous day, on the road up to the favela. She said I must never use the road, because it was dangerous; I must use the stairs instead. (The whole time I was in Brazil I never felt unsafe, unless you count the sphincter-twitching fifteen seconds of hang-glider launch. But those stairs to the favela are quite a sight: they lead up to a shanty town but they are tiled). Just then the Swedish girl's boyfriend showed up so I went up to the back street where I got a beer from one of the street bars and sat at a table outside. There was a girl a couple of tables away, kinda cute. She made eye contact with me, held it. Well, it would be rude not to. I went over and asked "Fala ingles?" She did speak English. Quite well. Game on. I'll call her Surfchick.

Surfchick was, frankly, a crazed party reptile. She was knocking back the beer and the cachaca shots (the cachaca shots in Lapa come wrapped in transparent plastic, like 80-proof ice poles) and later on she pulled out a spliff and passed it round.

So we talked. She was fascinated by my blond hair: I think there are no blond Brazilian men. When I told her my name, Richard, she went "Oh, like Leo de Caprio in the movie!" [The Beach] So I told her how I had been to Thailand and we talked about travelling for a while. She told me her dream was to go to LA and I told her that was my dream as well, although I suspect we were attracted by different things (she: surfing; xj: actresses). For some reason I mentioned that I speak German (up to a point) and we agreed that she would teach me to surf and I would teach her to speak German. She had been to Berlin once, and she liked it. (She told me that she had shot up heroin, once, when she was there. "Of course you did," I told her. "You were in Berlin...")

This was no more than an hour into the conversation and she was making this confession to me. I've noticed that Brazilians are quite open and, how can I put this, quite fast. She told me, not long after this, that she wanted to fuck me. The only problem was the Other Guy. He had been sitting with us the whole time, saying nothing in English (which he did not speak, at all) and very little in Portuguese. I'm not sure whether he was Surfchick's boyfriend or her date for the evening, and Surfchick did not seem exactly sure herself, but she did make it clear that he was a coworker. So she wasn't prepared to go off with me that evening: it would have trashed her reputation. (Actually, there was one moment where she said she would come with me to a motel and the hell with the OG, but I told her "let's share another beer and then go". I thought it would be better not to seem needy. Fuckup #1).

A few times, she dragged me into the toilets to make out. (Her idea. I knew it wouldn't work. This was Lapa, so the toilets were not exactly sanitary. Plus, there was one toilet for the entire bar, so we didn't get much beyond first base before people started kicking the door). She kissed like a vampire, sucking my lips into her mouth and biting them. Quite hard. And she bit me on the shoulder once or twice. God knows what she would have been like if I'd actually fucked her.

Eventually she and the OG went off to Circo do Voador. (This is a live music venue a few streets away. I went there on my last night in Rio. It's okay if you like concerts). She asked me to give her my email and kept promising to mail me the next day. Like a fool I believed her and didn't ask her for her email (Fuckup #2, and there is no excuse for this one because I know better. Anyway, I didn't have a pen or paper with me. Moron. "Failing to plan is planning to fail", like the man said). She didn't email me, of course. I was so distraught that I threw myself off a cliff (see previous post).

Big deal, you may say: xj misses out on an ONS with a drunk slut. Well, I live in London, so I know drunk sluts when I see them, and Surfchick was better than that. She had a great personality; there was a light that got into her eyes when she spoke about surfing that was glorious to see. And she had taste (she was into me, which is pretty much the definition of taste). Surfchick was great for my morale in many ways. It's too bad we never got it on, but if you're reading this, Surfchick querida, just remember: Cachaca foda!

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