sábado, setembro 09, 2017

"My little paradise"

As I sit on my porch enjoying what is, probably, the last warm sun of this year, I remember the very first one. A Spring afternoon, after the kids got home from the bus stop, my dear friend and I sat on this very same spot to watch them play and could for the first time wear shorts. The following morning we bragged about red shoulders, the very first sign of the Summer that was to come.
Today I feel a need to say goodbye to Summer. It's gone... Living in Virginia for these two years I appreciate so much the four seasons, that this last warm touch on my skin takes an emotional meaning I could never understand when living in tropical Brazil.
As I write, my husband plays soccer with our neighbor on the cul de sac. Romeo starts his car wash business with his best buddy and I can hear the sound of the vacuum and their cheerful chatting about prices and how much they should give to charity.
"Mom, you have a family's discount whenever you want us to wash your car"
A neighbor family packs for their new home, just as a new family moves in to another house, and I can't help feeling the power of cicles that come with this simple moment of sitting outside.
Irma is headed to Florida, and it amazes me how the country braces as a whole to an event that will take place in a tiny portion of the land. The "United" states are actually pretty good at feeling unity and compassion. And even better at helping and making room for opportunities...
Maybe it's the warmth of this last Fall sunset, maybe it's the sad antecipation for our people in harms way, (yes, our people. Patriotism lies in more places than just a citizenship paper...) but my heart is full of gratitude... I'm happy for the awesome friends we have made on this journey, for the amazing friends we have kept, for the feeling of unity that this major storm is bringing on a 9/11 weekend, and for the sense of utterly belonging. I feel the gratitude of knowing my kids will grow up being sure that if they work hard good things can happen to them, and that from their hard work comes amazing chances of helping others. Giving 2 dollars from a car wash is just the beginning... It's the opening your house for those who ran out of gas, it's sheltering and rescuing lost pets, it's taking care of people in need and reaching out for those close to us who need a smile or a hug.
And more than all of that, I feel immense gratitude for the last warm sunset of the year. It tells me Fall is coming, pumpkin latte is on Starbucks, orange and red will be the colors on our way, boots and jackets will be out of the closet, and more than anything, it shows me that I will be longing for the first  warm Spring sun, sitting on my porch with my loving friend, watching our kids working and our husbands playing...
And we'll do that again, and again, and again....

"This is my little paradise"
Frank "Duck" Wright, Myrtle Beach, Summer of 2017

quinta-feira, julho 06, 2017

The dancer

(Soundtrack: Dj Mentos )

She wore red lycra shorts and a blue sequined top that ended right beneath her breast line. She left the white leather boots in the car, and stepped in the club as tall as the security guard in her vinyl heels. The boots made a better way out the house, passed her grandpa sitting on his rocking chair at the wooden porch, but there was no way she would scroll down the dancing floor with those. Vinyl heels it was.

The red rope opened up for her, as she winked to Big John at the door.

"It's 11 pm, loose the shades, dude"

"You're trouble, girl, I'd better keep my shades on."

They laughed, a contained laugh that fits the beginning of the night. She was there early, for she was not on until 1, but it was Friday, she also deserved some anonymous fun. At the bar, Angelo grabbed vodka to start her favorite, but she screamed to be heard "Not tonight, babe, I wanna feel fancy, I'll have a Manhattan. I’ll pay on the 1st”.

Angelo hesitated, knowing that Chaco was not happy to put drinks on the tab for his dancers, but she convinced him scraping his wrist with the tip of her acrylic nail, "C'mon, Angelito, it's just a drink, Chaco won't even notice it.."

She turned her back to the bar balancing her purse and the fancy Manhattan in a perfect walk, showing enough breast line to have some heads turned but not enough to spoil her act on stage. She waved to a couple of regular clients, tossed kisses to one of the big tippers and joined her friends at a high table.

"Are you having a Martini, loca? You'll be wasted with two of those! I don't wanna cover for you tonight, bitch, I have to leave at 12, my babysitter can't make the long hours anymore"

"Martinis have a cherry in a toothpick, you're so tacky, learn your drinks, hija! When you get as sophisticated as I am, you can afford to drink a Manhattan with my elegance!"

The other girls laughed, but Sonia just nodded... All of them though, headed to the floor, for some hours of unpracticed dance, some free choreography away from the cold floodlight. The beat made her close her eyes, empty glass on hand, as the shadows of the red and green strobe lights touched her skin. A good touch, a welcome touch, a touch that embraced her for who she thought she could be, alone at the dance floor, moving her hips to the sound only she could hear…

Angelo tapped her shoulder.

“No empty glasses, gorgeous, here, your Sex on the Beach.  On me…”

With a slow turn she grabbed him by the neck, brought him close to her and teased him with a butterfly kiss, feeling his minty breath stir a twirl in her chest.

It had been a long time since her last real flirt, the kind that doesn’t end with a couple of bills on her pocket, and the sight of a man in a hurry to dress up.

“I assume the money for the cab is included, right?”

The beat was loud, the strobe was fast and her drink was over. Sonia’s face spun in front of her, so she just closed her eyes and kept on dancing, moving, hips and shoulders in a wave that followed some flames she once had inside.

“Angelito, Angelito, cariño, no empty glasses…”

She felt a warm breath on her left ear, something about a fixed price, some date and place she couldn’t remember, yet she agreed, turned her hair sensually and aimed for the bar.

Someone might have touched her waist, but Sonia grabbed her by the hand first… Sweet Sonia, always so on top of everything, Sonia would go places, would see better nights and sunnier days. She felt stuck, addicted to the rhythm of that sound that made her feel special. Her fingers touched the sequins on her top, and she looked down, moving her shoulders, admiring her own curves, tones and flesh. “I’m prettier than Sonia. I dance way better.”
She smiled, before Chaco’s image appeared on the left corner of the stage.
“Come over”, his head meant in a side nod.
She tried to dance around the bodies, mixed with the red and green, when the black light started to flash her eyes. White stood out, shirts started to scream at her, people looked green, smiling bright teeth and looking at her with weird bright eyes. She stumbled. Chaco. Angelito, papi, another glass. Her heels couldn’t hold a Manhattan anymore. She was dark in a confused dance floor, heading backstage and not moving an inch.
“Te dice hija! Que cosa, porque no me escucha?? Vámonos, te voy a ayudar. Vámonos.”
She was ready on stage, she didn’t know how. All she felt was the cold steel of the pole between her legs, and the light on her back. She moved. She moved and tried not to think. She heard the sound, her legs took over. Her hips shushed her brain, and the drinks told her “you’re good, girl. Do your thing”
Cold between her thighs, against her hand, paper on her waist, fingers on her bikini line, some warm breaths, more fingers, more paper.
“Angelito, I’ll pay you on the first, drive me home, papi, will you?”
The warm pole and the freezing fingers made her head spin. Some paper fell, her grandpa was still on their porch. Or wasn’t he?
“Chaco, hijo de puta, tone down this fucking floodlight, I can’t see a fucking thing, carajo…”
Her song was over. Her heels knew the way, had her back.
She was out, lycra shorts on, purse full of papers, the kind of paper that pays for expensive Manhattans and cabs.
Sonia had long left, cuddling with her baby girl who, por Dios, will go to College one day, and she was safe and comfy in a cab, headed to her wooden porch in the North side. White boots stayed in the parking lot.
The lights went by fast, a string of endless amber, mixed with some yellow souls trying to exist on the sidewalks.

“We’re all bitches, bitch.”

“What was that? Are you ok? You didn’t give me your address yet.”

“The beach, that’s what I said. Just take me to the beach.”

They moved from her bikini line, to her purse, to his hand. As she stood there, humid sea breeze tangling her hair, she slowly reached for her heels. At the sidewalk, where they belonged, united with the orange lost souls she was definitely not…
Sand touched her bare feet, as her now heavy purse fell to the ground. No more floodlights disguising drooling mouths and lusty eyes, only the sea breeze. No red and green, no Manhattan, no Sex on the Beach. No sex.
She stopped, closed her eyes and thought of Sonia. She wanted her hand again, but they were full, taking better care of another innocent girl, who deserved better. So she took of her lycra shorts and her blue top, and became only her. Between the sand and the waves, she was only her. Nameless. Her feet felt the water, but she was not feeling anything, anymore. She just walked, and walked, until the warm water made her dance again…
Angelito, cariño, drive me home, papi, will you?....


terça-feira, fevereiro 21, 2017

The immigrant heart...

It's the kind of subject that everyone has an opinion on, nowadays. Tip of the tongue, pro or con, Immigration is great, or Immigration sucks. Bring them in, or send them home....


What I don't seem to hear, though, is what people consider to be home... Or what is "being a true American" or a "true Brazilian" means... (lots of "..." on this post, lots of thoughts, inconclusive thoughts, sighs, "saudades", nostalgia, fear, sadness, hope.... All of them demand "...")

Let me start by what I know best. Let me tell you what being a "true Brazilian" means: My father was born in Rio, and was on a ship to his mom's Portugal when he was 2 months old. At 6, he was in a plot to kill Dictator Salazar, and at 21 he was listening to cannibal tribes in Congo, right before he hopped on a ship to Brazil. Back in Rio, he was asked: "What ID do you want? Portuguese or Brazilian?"

He said "hé, since I'm here, let's go with the Brazilian one."

He always considered himself Portuguese, as other people around him did. As I do. His accent was the most charming thing about him, and the stories he told us at dinner made me love a country I am yet to visit. Now, more than EVER, I understand how he felt when he listened to fado, sitting on our couch, eyes distant and a wistful smile to Amalia Rodrigues' voice. (he wouldn't weep, as I do when I listen to "O Bêbado e o Equilibrista", but I am pretty sure he felt the yearning those melodies brought...) He sought the smells he left behind, and brought them to our kitchen, the flavors to our table and the culture to our hearts.

Yet, he couldn't have been more Brazilian.  Especially when he bragged about his ancestors, "We descend from the moors and the jews" (note: AND... Apparently there are both Muslim and Jewish bloods running somewhere in my highly mixed veins) Dad adored this melting pot he said he descended from. It was his pride and joy, to belong to many places, and to no place at all...

Shifting to the other side of my family, we call ourselves "Italians". Yes, my mom is "nonna" to my kids, as her mom was to me. Even though my "nonna" descended from native brazilians (you mix that with the moorish genes my dad brought to the cake, and you understand my sister's amazing olive skin tone...) My great grandfather (my nonno's dad) came to Brazil on the huge Italian immigration wave (would we have called them "hunger refugees?...) and here I am, his great grand daughter pride of her "Italian side". We are loud, love pasta, place our "mammas" in the very center of the family, and all of that, because we still think WE were the ones sailing the ocean a hundred years ago. Basically, the same yearning my dad had, we feel for a culture we NEVER experienced as our own.

No one in Brazil will contest that: being a true Brazilian is being from everywhere, a mixture of a bit of every corner in the world.

I married a mixed Italian/ Spanish guy, have blond frackled kids who I placed on a ship to a different country I now call home.

I cannot conceive a world without Immigration. At least, not my world. We are ALL immigrants.

And here is where I finish my first thought... What does "home" mean to me?

An Immigrant has a split heart, has eyes always teared up and feels that something is always missing. But at the same time, the first step of becoming an immigrant is filling your heart with hope an joy. You do not throw your soul to the sea if you are not expecting to float, to lie on your back and contemplate the blue skies. You know you will swallow some water on a storm eventually, but you long for the warmth of the sun.

An immigrant cries in the shower because one picture she saw reminded her of a friend, or of the smell of a place. An immigrant smiles when she sees the flag of her country and weeps when she listens to the National Anthem. An immigrant, knows different literatures, languages, songs, foods, beliefs, Histories, and should be seen as an addition to every nation. You don't make foundue with one good cheese.

Nevertheless, embracing a new country brings new loves, new ways to see the world, new friends and a new National Anthem. After a while, becoming an Immigrant gives you a new home. So, at the end, there is nowhere to run... Your heart will ALWAYS be split, you will forever be missing someone, some place, some taste, some sound... You will forever be crying in the shower.

I wouldn't change not even one step of my History... If I stay in the US forever or for one more day, this will always feel like home to me. And I love it. Loving the US doesn't make me love Brazil less. People shouldn't make that assumption, for an immigrant's heart is filled with nuances that allow us to understand love as a whole.

Love is one, and this is what I believe home is...

For the curious ones:

Amalia Rodrigues, Queen of Portuguese Fado:

"O Bêbado e o Equilibrista", the song that brings me to my knees, for mannnnnyyyy reasons, but mostly because my sister sings it beautifully....