Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being Visited By The Ghost of Xmas Future

And now, to finish the holy trinity.

I look out the window: it's freaking cold out there - snowing, actually - and I dress in a thousand layers before I dare face the White Christmas outside my door. My first White Christmas.
No family around, so I doubt there'll be turkey. That's fine, there are more important things after alll, as amazing as that sounds, even to myself.
I mean, I'm in a completely strange place - nay, country - with new people around me, and I have no idea what I'm gonna do tonight. All I know is I'm gonna meet my new friends and see what's in store for us this Christmas night. As long as no one gets drunk and starts yelling "Holly Night", it's all good!

At least, that's how I envisage my next Christmas. Somewhere far, far away - let's see how 2011 goes. I don't know what the future brings, but I know it's gonna be great.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Being Visited By The Ghost of Xmas Present

And a Merry Christmas to you all!

It's past noon now here in Brazil, and we're about to feast upon the leftovers from last night. Don't know about you guys and your countries, but here people usually make TONS of food, and then spend the next 2 days trying to finish it.

And speaking of food... there was no turkey. That's right, you heard me. No turkey.
I'll give you a few seconds to let it sink in.

Am I the only one who sees it as a humongous tragedy?...
As I wrote on my last post, eating turkey is one of the things I look forward to the most, all year round. Turkey and French toast, our Christmas desert.
And then, on the 24th, I entered the kitchen, where my uncle (the chéf of the family) was cooking a thousand things at the same time. I looked, and I looked... then finally:
"Uncle F.... where's the turkey?"
"Oh, no turkey this year. Only chicken and codfish."
"No! That's... that's... a joke, right?"
"No kiddo, sorry, no turkey this year. The children don't like it, and your grandma eats very little anyway."
"I see..."

Later that day, at the supermarket:
"Grandma, will there be French toast tonight?"
''Oh. No, I forgot to buy the special bread to make it! Sorry!'
"Oh, I... I see... that's... that's okay..."
In my head, I was like "NOOOOOOOO!!!!"
I spent the rest of the day pretty much like that boy, David after the dentist: "Is this real life? Why is this happening to me?!"
In case you haven't noticed, food is a very serious deal with me. Wanna make me happy? Give me some food. As long as it's not seafood.
And in the place of my precious turkey ("my precioussss"), codfish. EEEWWW.

Where's our turkey? Give it to us!

I must say, I behaved extremely well. I did not complain or anything. And when they started thanking God for the food, I joined them in prayer. Hey, it doesn't hurt, and it's not like I'm gonna burst into sulfur-smelling flames or anything.

After dinner, presents time! I got lots of stuff! Then I spent the rest of the night telling my cousin all about the Anglo-Saxons, how they invaded England and how they lost it to the Normans. That's... that's what my Master's thesis is about... I can go on and on for HOURS... In my defense, my cousin seemed interested, and he kept asking me questions, and laughing at fun facts! I'm not boring, alright?!

But in the end of the night, my family promised me to have both turkey AND French toast for New Year's Eve. Yay!!!
Yes, Linus, I do know that's not what Christmas is all about. But I can get extremely grumpy when there's seafood around.
So now, looking forward to New Year's!!!

And in the words of Tiny Tim, the most annoying literary character to have ever been written: "God bless us everyone!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Being Visited By The Ghost of Xmas Past

“Humbug!” I said. I’d never really believed in this “celebrating Christmas” thing. For starters, I’m an atheist – Jesus (and his birth) have no place whatsoever in my life. Besides, it’s always bothered me to no end this “be good to thy neighbor” vibe in the air. Such hypocrisy. No one seems to remember this in the other 11 months. Thus, I refuse to act like I care all of a sudden. So no, I shall not allow my employees to take the 24th off, nor shall I give them any kind of Christmas bonus. They get their wages, I have no other obligations towards them. So when my nephew knocked on my door shouting “Merry Christmas, aunt RML!”, that’s what I replied. Humbug.

I jest, of course, I love Christmas! Great food, lots of presents, my family and general merriment, what’s not to like?! But even though I’m actually very fond of Christmas, and do not go around humbuging, I couldn’t help being visited by Christmas Past.

My parents and I would always spend the holidays with my dad’s family in the capital (Rio de Janeiro); our family had this small silver tree, which I used to find very non-Christmas-y. (I still do, actually. Good thing they got rid of it.) But it didn’t really matter, because EVERYTHING else was VERY Christmas-y in the house! Everywhere you looked, there would be red and white flowers, and golden and green decorations; small Santas and snowmen, and reindeers and gingerbread men and candy canes. Even the napkins and glasses we used were Christmas-themed! Under the tree, piles and piles of beautifully gift-wrapped presents! And 80% of all those presents were for me: the only daughter, granddaughter, niece and godchild. And the youngest of both families. It was Heaven.
And The Food. The food we ONLY eat at Christmas. I mean, of course one can buy turkey any time of the year. But for some reason, people simply don’t do it, I don’t know why! There’s a certain “turkey is only for Christmas” mentality here in Brazil... So this is one of the things I look forward to the most: eating turkey.
I’d get all my presents around midnight, and I knew whom all of them were from. “From Grandma”, “From Mom and Dad”, “from Aunt L.”, etc. But every Christmas morning, I’d find “my special present” under the tree - the present from Santa, the one I’d “earned” for being a good girl. It was under the now empty tree, lonely, waiting for me, and it’d always be the toy I wanted the most.
So this has always been Christmas for me. A huge tree, presents all around, great food, my grandma’s place.

Worst Christmas Memory: 2005. I’d planned on visiting my family, and spending the holidays with them. I was looking forward to it, since they’d moved to another state – but I couldn’t buy the ticket in time. And I was having fight after fight with my then boyfriend. Hence, I ended up staying in the bedroom I rented at a boardinghouse, eating chocolate ice-cream and watching the new DVD I’d bought, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, the one with Johnny Depp. The very epitome of depressing, I’ll tell you that.

Best Christmas Memory: if I recall correctly, it was 98. Me and my parents decided to stay home for Christmas, for a change, and not go to my grandma’s. Me and my mom picked out a huge tree and lots of beautiful decoration. She was also a great cook, so the great food was a no-brainer. I thought I knew everything they’d bought for me, since they’d ASKED me what I wanted, but I was wrong: they got me my very first karate kimono. I’d spent the entire year asking them to enroll me at karate classes, and they’d said they’d think about it. I wasn’t at all sure whether they’d let me – but there it was. The kimono, the consent and a huge smile on their faces.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Answering 8 Questions: Episode II

I feel that naming this post "Episode II" is a bad omen. I mean, we're all aware that Star Wars: Episode II was epic. Epicly shitty.
So anyway, I tagged both Bella and Lupe, and I got tagged back. As I said, there are always different questions to be answered, so let's go! (But I shan't be tagging anyone this time.)

First, Bella's:

1. What movies would you recommend watching around Xmas?
An extremely old one: Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. I must admit: it's not a good movie. It just... really reminds me of Xmas. I'd see it every year between 89 and 94... it tastes like Xmas. If you know what I mean.

2. Suggest me a good book....a comedy!
David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day - awesome! But I'm stating the obvious, it's David Sedaris.

3. What are your plans for Xmas & New Year?
Family. Which is a big deal, considering I don't see them all year long. And for 1 month, I get to lie down on the sofa with my feet up, and not do a single thing except read and wait for the meals. Boy, that's the life.

4. Resolutions for the coming year.
Travel, learn another language and start my doctorate.

5. What gifts are you giving your loved ones for this Xmas?
A book for my dad, sandals for my grandma, a blouse for my aunt, the last Harry Potter book in Portuguese for my 12-year-old cousin, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book in English for my 16-year-old cousin, same thing for one of my best friends, one of the Percy Jackson books for another friend, chocolate for another, and... can't say the last one, cause she reads the blog! =P

6. What's your wish list for Santa?
Books, books, books.

7. Which is your fav Christmas carol?
The only one I actually know: "Holly Night". I can even play it on the piano!

8. Post a pic of yours(if you don't mind!), or your Christmas tree, church, sweets...anything but it should be something related to your real life:) 

This one was taken in 2007, right after we'd finished decorating the tree, and goes to show just how much I love Christmas! =P (Kids, don't try this at home: hugging a Christmas tree looks better than it actually feels.)

And this was the very same Christmas, but during the party itself; I was at my then-bofriend's house - and  due to some weird coincidence, both of us AND his brother were wearing red. We couldn't have looked any more Christmas-y! (I think, btw, that this is the first time you guys can actually see my face.)

And now Lupe's questions!

1. Suggest me a good book..(kept this one b/c I am trying to find something new to read)

2. What is your favorite song right now?
"Tonight, tonight", by The Smashing Pumpkins. Epicly awesome.

3. How and Who do you usually spent Christmas with?
With family - see previous #3!

4. How big or small is your family? (siblings)
Oh, just me and my dad.

5. Apart from English, do you speak another language? (if not, what language would you like to learn?)
I also speak Japanese and a little German. I wanna continue studying German and learn French and Italian - possibly Russian as well.

6.  What is your favorite past-time?
Reading and writing.

7. Is there anything special you hope to get for Christmas?
Peace. That's all I want after such a tiring year.

8. What is your favorite Christmas Cartoon? (For instace, I like Charlie Brown).
Disney's Mickey's Christmas Carol. So cute! And it made me wanna read Dickens!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Answering 8 Questions

The lovely ssdawna tagged me last month, and though I've answered some tags like these in the past, it's always fun to do it again! First because the questions vary; second because, even if the questions were the same, it doesn't follow I'd answer them the exact same way I did, say, 6 months ago. After all, we're never the same person from yesterday, right? 

I quote Plato: You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.  
AND Pocahontas, of course: You can't step in the same river twice; the water is always changing, always flowing.
(I have the feeling that quoting Plato makes me sound way more intelligent than quoting Pocahontas. Oh well.)

Anyway, I digress. Point is: here are my answers.

1. What book would you recommend we read ASAP?
Oh gods, there are just so many... I'll list a few: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger), 1984 (George Orwell), Demian (Hermann Hesse), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury). I recommend these because they make you think. I also recomment The Three Musketeers because it's my favorite book of all time! And I recommend any Jane Austen at any time of the day - I'm an incorrigible romantic - as well as any Charles Dickens.

2. When is your favorite time of day on a typical Wednesday?
Bed time. My Wednesdays are more tiring than any other day of the week.

3. How do you feel about getting/being married?
I think it must be awesome, provided you marry the right person. Looking forward to it (though I have nobody at the moment)!

4. Who knows more of your secrets than anyone else?
My friends Nicolas and Mariana.

5. Where do you go to unwind?
I go to my bedroom and grab a book. I'm nobody without a book. =P

6. Why do you get up every morning?
Sometimes I wake up simply because I've got work. Sometimes, because I'm tired of being in bed (that only happens on Sundays). Sometimes because I remember I have dreams, ambitions and passions, and I won't accomplish anything if I don't get up. But mostly, I get up every day in the hope that I'll find something worth getting up for out there.

7. What are your plans for Thanksgiving (or November 25th if you don't celebrate)?
(This question was obviously asked before Thanksgiving, and I answered it back then, though I'm only publishing it now. But it still stands.)
Well, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Brazil, so I guess it's gonna be a day just like any other. It's gonna be a Thursday, so I'll get up early, teach from 7 to 10am, go back home, have lunch, read and/or write, then go back to work at 5pm and teach till 9pm.
OK, that's boring.
(And that's EXACTLY what I did. The very definition of boring, huh?)

8. Whose face would you like to spit in tomorrow if you could without any bad consequences? :]
Hehe. Nice. Weeeeell... I'd spit on many people's faces! A co-worker of mine who's simply despicable and sneaky; another co-worker who's SO shallow and futile it makes me angry; my friend's Asian girlfriend - she's a bitch (pardon my French).
But then again, I usually just ignore those people's existence, so why would I spit on their faces anyway?...
Oh! I'd spit on all the drug dealers'faces. Bastards. Go wreak havoc in Hell.

And now I tag:

I tag some of them because I'd like to know more about them; others because I already know and like them, and would like to see their answers to my questions. Which are:

1. What movies would you recommend watching around Xmas? It's a nostalgic, sentimental time of the year, after all! 

2. And speaking of which, what are your plans for the holidays - both Xmas and New Year's Eve?

3.  How do you feel about Xmas? Are you actually celebrating the birth of Christ, or are you just in it for the food and presents? =P

4. Enough of Xmas. What do you think about right before sleeping, with your head lying on the pillow?

5. And what's your first thought when you wake up?

6. If you killed somebody, where would you bury the body? =P

7.What song do you avoid listening to, and why? (If I'm not prying, of course)

8. Is there any song that inspires you to be a better person? To dare, go places, do things? Go the distance? (Mine is "Go the Distance", from the Disney movie Hercules, LOL! I always feel like I can do ANYTHING when I listen to it!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bursting into song

"I hate it."
I looked at him, utterly shocked. "You... WHAT?"
"I hate movies where people burst into song, can't stand them."
"What's wrong with you?"
My friend M.H. is crazy, pft. I LOVE musicals. Can't get enough of them. And today, after I got back home from work, I decided to watch one of my fave movies ever: The Sound of Music.
It was the first musical I ever watched - well, not counting Disney classics. My parents loved to try and make me love the same movies they did - sometimes it worked, at other times not so much. But one fine night dad came home with The Sound of Music for me to watch, and I was immediately fascinated by all those people singing right and left. Not to mention the story's pretty enticing in itself, and they got some great dialogs, very witty. And I remember wanting to be like Liesl, Captain Von Trapp's eldest daughter, when I grew up.
Needless to say, I look NOTHING like a 16-year-old Austrian Girl from the 30's - with my being Brazilian and all, with native Brazilians as grandparents.
Point is: I love those singing Austrians, I really really do. And the speed at which the Von Trapp children learn how to sing never ceases to amaze me. I mean, seriously? They go up to Maria and say: "we don't know any songs, we don't even know how to sing"; then she sings the magic "Do-Re-Mi" song, and all of a sudden, they're a singing phenomenon?! Dude!!
And Rolfe, the telegram boy - could he be ANY gayer?! Nothing against it, far from it, but Liesl should've realized that guy was really not into it. The Nazi thing was just an excuse to get out of it. There's the girl, throwing herself at him, wanting to kiss him... and he pushes her aside and goes "Your life, little girl, is an empty stage...". C'mon Liesl, wake up and smell the flowers.
I love all the songs, even though the whole thing is extremely farfetched. Really: Maria and the Captain finally admit their love for each other, they kiss - it's most likely Maria's first kiss ever, and what does she do? Does she take the time to enjoy it? Nooooo, she bursts into song about her wicked childhood. I'm like "Sister, zip it! Really not the time!"
I caught myself wondering whether she sings in bed too. You know, while AT IT. I wouldn't be surprised! That must be such a turn off for the poor Cap.

But that's the thing about musicals: the burst-into-song thing rarely makes any kind of sense. I mean, no one in real life - at least no one I know - is capable of coming up with wonderful songs out of the blue, not even people who deal with music in some way or another for a living. And when the characters start DANCING together in a perfect coreography?! My eyes sparkle and all! I mean, take Grease for instance.
"What did you do over the summer?" Cue song about summer love - and in no time they're all dancing on the benches.
"Let's pimp this ride!" Cue song about the Grease Lightning, and John Travolta dancing around said car.
"I turned into a jock for you!" "And I turned into some kind of slut for you!" Cue "You're the one that I want", and they all start dancing to it.

I dare anyone to say Singing in the Rain is a bad movie. Whenever I'm really happy, I look up at the sky in the hope I'll see some drops of rain, so that I'll be able to sing and frolic in it! And whenever someones mentions anything about diction, I just wanna sing "Moses Supposes".

Do these things happen in real life? No, they do not! And that's the beauty of it! Wanna see reality? Tune to CNN then. Rio de Janeiro was all caught up in a kind of civil war last week, and things got real tense around here. We have our daily share of reality everyday - there's no harm in seeing people singing and dancing about, I don't know, getting someone else a glass of water! If everybody burst into song and danced more often, the world would be such a better place to live in. According to Fraulein Maria, all you gotta do is know the notes: "When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!"

Saturday, November 20, 2010


And speaking of prejudice...

I read something this week that almost made me cry. Carrie Goldman is a blogger for Chicago Now, and she posted this about her daughter Katie (the insanely adorable girl in the pic):

"At summer's end, Katie and I went to Target to pick out her backpack, lunchbox and water bottle for the new school year.
After great deliberation, she chose a Star Wars water bottle to match her Star Wars backpack. 
Katie loves Star Wars, and she was very excited about her new items.  For the first few months of school, she proudly filled her water bottle herself and helped me pack her lunch each morning.
But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, "My Star Wars water bottle is too small.  It doesn't hold enough water.  Can I take a different one?"  

She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, "I'll bring this."
I was perplexed.  "Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one.  I think it is actually smaller."
"It's fine, I'll just take it," she insisted. 
I kept pushing the issue, because it didn't make sense to me.  Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it's only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."

In case you're wondering, that sound was my heart being shattered in a thousand little pieces.

I remember being a 3rd grader, and liking Japanese cartoons. Many of my classmates (boys, of course) would taunt me, saying I was a boy because I liked boyish TV shows. More often than not, I'd go back home crying.
Sure, I usually beat the living crap out of them. But I'd still cry on the way home.

Some people say it's normal. "Oh well, children are like that, what are you gonna do? They'll grow out of it eventually!" True enough; however, there's something worrying here. Many of those who mock you and ostracize you when you're all children, simply because you like to watch this show or wear that cap, may turn into bigots who'll shun you from their society because you're gay, or black, or Catholic, or overwheight, or because you suck at football but is quite good at Math. The seed is there, in primary school.

When we're kids, we don't know a lot of things, so we act on sheer instinct. A 4-year-old girl, when at the beach, will take off the top part of her bikini, because it annoys her; a little boy doesn't know it's wrong to wet his bed at night, and if his dad hadn't forbidden it, he'd wear pink clothes just like any other color. 
And when in a large group, those children's instinct tells them to shun anyone who's slightly different from them. Ostracizing those who are different from ourselves is nothing more than human instinct. People don't like what they can't understand and/or relate to; "different" equals "threat". So we do what we can to eliminate that threat. It's not that we're naturally bad - it's just that we have a strong survival instinct. Say what you will, but moral and ethics are artificial concepts; stripped down of all of this, man is neither good nor bad: he simply looks for survival. He looks for those similar to himself, so that they can make a united front against the unknown. And regardless of evolution, one still has to conform if one wants to be accepted. Individuality is a threat to the collective.

And that is why being good demands strength; one should wake up everyday determined to be good. Because when we fail, when we slip, other people get hurt. And that is also why one should never stop thinking, digging deeper, looking further - we shouldn't look at the forest, we should be able to appreciate each tree, separately, and recognize their worth.

Carrie Goldman finishes her post by saying:

"I would love to be able to show Katie that she is not alone, that other females appreciate Star Wars.  If there are any female Star Wars fans reading this, please feel free to show your support for Katie. (...)  And if you have a little boy out there who wants to carry a pink water bottle, tell him about Katie and reassure him that if she can carry a "boy" water bottle, he can carry a "girl" water bottle.  Let's help all our kids grow into confident adults who can appreciate being different."

I hope we can all grow into confident kind adults, and you know what else? I'd love it if my daughter had a Star Wars water bottle, and my son a pink one.

And if you like Star Wars, maybe you could drop by Carrie's post and show Katie your support! Tell her that being different is more than ok: it's awesome.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reading To Kill A Mockingbird

I happened to stumble upon a paperback of To Kill a Mockingbird at the beginning of the year; I'd heard of the book many times before, but had not read it. So, I decided to buy it.
Having focused my studies on Medieval English Lit., I'd never paid due attention to American Lit. You see, Am. Lit. studies are introduced, in my college, with the Puritans and Mrs. Rowlandson. If those are not enough to discourage any living thing on God's green Earth from studying American Lit, hell, I don't know what is, truly! I decided that if there was anything worth reading in their corpus, I'd eventually find it - or rather, it would find me. Good books have a way of finding you.
This vaguely pointless preamble is me trying to justify myself as to why I hadn't read such a basic book before. I just learnt the other day that any American teenager reads it in high-school. Not to mention it won Harper Lee a Pulitzer Prize. #bookwormmajorfail

This week I finally grabbed the book; I read it in a day. I just couldn't stop reading it.
I spent an entire day with my eyes glued to those pages; I laughed at the children, got mad at Maycomb County and the Ewells (and even cursed out loud), and found myself in love with Atticus Finch. And I cried - at "Jean Louise stand up, your father's passing", and when Boo petted Jem on the head. I cried my eyes off when Scout walked up to her father and said she understood: telling on Boo Radley would be like killing a mockingbird. I couldn't even go on with the reading after that.
But the whole Tom Robinson arc killed me.

Back in 2005, another teacher and I decided to show a movie to our students, since the topic of discussion that week was racism: A Time to Kill. I'd never watched it, but my colleague assured me it was really good.
The hell it was. When it was over, I was surrounded by my students, some of them offering me tissues, others petting me on the head and the shoulders; one of them brought me a glass of water. While I was still weeping like a baby, they gently led me back to our classroom. Damned movie.

Same thing happened when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck was torn between helping his friend Jim or saving his own soul by denouncing the runaway Jim to the authorities. He'd even written a note to Jim's old owner.

I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 
"All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up.
A freaking river.

It always happens with The Hunchback of Notre-Dame as well ("Who is the monster and who is the man?"). And it happened again with The Diary of a Young Girl and The Pianist. And when I overheard our neighbor Gunther's father talking about the Nazi concentration camps.
Gunther's dad, a German Jew, had been in Auschwitz. It wasn't until then that I realized why he had only one leg, and why he had those numbers tatooed on his forearm. Later dad asked me if I had paid attention to the story, telling me to never forget it. I just nodded, wondering how the hell he'd known I was behind the door, eavesdropping and sobbing in silence.

And yes, I'm a major weeper. Let's move on.

(Recently added: I just remembered one of my favorite quotes ever - and I'm shocked it didn't occur to me while I was writing this post, since I've always prided myself in being a Shakespeare geek. Anyway: call me crazy, but I've always kinda sympathized with Shylock in The Merchant of Venice:

"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt by the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?")

When I was about 6, I asked my mom why one of our neighbors had called Sol, our maid's daughter (who would become my nanny a few years later), "a black girl" with such contempt. Yeah, she was black, so? Mom explained it to me very carefully - not in a too complicated way, but not dumbing it down either. For the first time in my life I heard the word "prejudice"; in a nutshell, her message was: "Dumb people think black people are inferior to white people." Was there any reason for that kind of thinking? She told me there were historical reasons and even biological theories as to that - but all of those reasons were, for her, rather random, and I was not to buy any of that. I nodded, but then shrugged, saying that luckily that was not our problem. 
She looked at me, very serious. And asked me what color my friend Luciana's hair was. Baffled, I answered "blond". "Ok. Imagine a world dominated by blonde people, a world where blondes think brunettes like you and me are inferior to them. We'd be their maids, or slaves." I startled. "Why, that's ridiculous!" "Why so?" "Because... we're not inferior! We just have... a different hair color, what a stupid idea that would be!" "Agreed. Who's the tallest girl in your class?" "Luciana, or maybe Mariana S." "Who's the shortest?" "Me..." "What if all the tall people in the world woke up one day and thought short people were like animals?" I just looked at her, confusely glimpsing into what she meant. She continued, always gently: "Then, it would be your problem. And some tall girl like Sol would be saying 'that's her problem, not mine.' You see? Think from her point of view, and just how hurt she must've been when our neighbor offended her. You wouldn't like it if it happened to you. Your hair or your height do not make you inferior to anyone, just like Sol's skin doesn't make her your inferior. Only dumb people think so. And you're extremely intelligent, so you know better. And intelligent people don't ignore something like prejudice - they fight it, so that other people won't get hurt. Do you understand?" "I think so." "Good. Now let's watch the soap opera." 
Sometimes I think this was a silly way to put it - but at other times I think it was brilliant, given her audience was a 6-year-old girl. But regardless of the silliness or brilliancy of her words, they hit home. The gods know my mother was flawed to no end, but she was thoroughly good.
And as I recall her speech to mind I hear an ever so slight echo of Atticus Finch in it.

If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 

If only more people.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

(Not) Standing Up For Others...

I was at the bus stop this morning, and a mother and her daughter passed by. I looked at them briefly, just like I'd look at any other passerby. Excpet that they were not like any other person. The daughter was mentally impaired, and the sight of it pained my heart.
And then I suddenly thought of Darana, a girl I hadn't thought of for many many years.

When I moved to Rio de Janeiro, I started going to this school where my aunt was the headmistress. It's a school for the  upper-middle class children, and there was a building just for high-school. Which means that said building was crawling with rich kids at the height of teenagehood. Or asshole-hood, that works too. Most of them were HUGE assholes.
And there was this girl one year behind us, Darana. Whenever she passed by, my classmates would make endless fun of her. As I wasn't actually paying much attention, I just shrugged. Not my problem - I already had my own stuff to worry about, being the plain, silent new girl and the headmistress' niece. Until one day in the bathroom, where there was only me and Darana. As we both washed our hands, I looked up at the big mirror in front of us, and realized Darana had Down Syndrome. I quickly looked back to my hands.
During the break I heard the mocking starting anew. I stopped reading and listened carefully. And to my surprise, they were not mocking Darana for having flunked, as I had vaguely supposed before: they were mocking her for having Down Syndrome. I was shocked. I sat there in silence as they went on and on about her being ugly, talking in a funny way and doing god knows what else.

At home, during dinner, I asked my aunt about Darana; she sighed and told me: it was... complicated. Darana was raised by her grandma, and she wanted the granddaughter to have a "normal" life, so, the girl was enrolled at a "normal" school. However, no kid at school had ever seen Darana as "normal". Apparently, there had always been the problem of mocking, which no amount of arguments and threats on my aunt's part had been able to solve.

I just watched the next few days, saying nothing. Then one day, during lunch time, I saw Darana sitting in a corner all by herself, drawing. I was pretty lonely myself, so I walked up to her.
"Hi. You're Lucia's niece."
"Yep, that's me. Hey, you're drawing Mew!"
Mew was this character in the first Pokémon movie; I had taken my little cousin to see it a few days before, and Mew was this adorable little thing. And when I recognized it, her face lit up.
"You like Pokemon too?"
Well, I had to admit: after having spent endless afternoons with my cousin and watching so many episodes of the damn cartoon, I had kinda warmed up to it.
"Yeah, I do. I watch it quite often. And... your drawing is amazing! It's exactly the same!" It really, really was.
"Thank you! Lucia's son likes it too, right?"
"He adores it." Hearing that, she carefully ripped the page from the notebook.
"Take it to him!"
"I sure will, thanks!"

The days went by, and with them an entire year. I had my first boyfriend in 2001, and my first heartbreak. I made a couple of friends, whose friendship I did not care to pursue after graduation - and I made other friends whom I still make a point of keeping around. And with all of that, plus wrestling with Math and Physics, and trying not to be TOO MUCH of a letdown to my aunt, I barely had time to talk to Darana, except when she showed up in my house for her private classes.
But at the end of the year there was this festival at school, where the musically gifted students would make a presentation. People sang, played and danced, and the whole things was was loads of fun.
And then, at the very end, Darana stepped up on the stage, in a white laced dress. I had no idea she was gonna be a part of it, and was rather puzzled. 
And then, they brought a harp.
She sat down and played it. Perfectly, flawlessly. Every single one watching was in awe, and nothing but the utmost silence reigned in the audience. The damn girl played the harp better than a whole legion of freaking angels.
When she finished, the crowd went wild, and all of us stood up and applauded like crazy. I remember crying, and my friend Rebecca comforting me. What can I say? I'm a softy. I also remember wondering how anyone could actually mock that girl, or wish her less than all the best in the world. So what if she wasn't exactly a looker? What if she wasn't funny or good at sports? She could play the harp like an angel, and draw like a consumate artist. (Err... I'm not saying that based solely on her Pokemon drawing, just so you know. I saw many other drawings, of landscapes, people and god knows what else. All of them flawless, I tell you.)

The next day, my aunt told me Darana was going to a school for gifted people (ok, that kinda sounds like the X-Men). I was happy for her - and that was the last I ever thought of her. Until today.
Thinking of that now, I regret the way I handled myself in the situation. True, I never mocked her, nor did I ever laugh at one of the jokes made at her expense. But I did nothing to stop it. I could've stood up to those jerks, couldn't I? I could've told them how fucked up that was, or maybe spent some time with her, been her friend... I don't know, I could've done SOMETHING. Instead, I decided simply not to interfere. That was sheer cowardice. Or perhaps selfishness. Either way, that's so not what I'd like to teach my kids. To avoid trouble or any kind of unpleasantness... that's not what life's about. Life is, or should be, about fighting. For those who cannot stand up for themselves, for what's right. My only defense is: I was 15. What 15-year-old kid is actually able to see beyond their own belly buttom, right? Precious few. I just hope that now, 10 years later, I'm slightly better than that. In the end, that's all you can ask for.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Taking Sweet, Sweet Revenge - Part II

Mrs. Magdalen and her husband were retired, and lived in a really nice house, with a really nice income. Nevertheless, perhaps just to remain a productive member of society, the evil lady used to make potato chips to sell. She used to make them chips in a tiny room on the second floor; from my balcony, I could see her sometimes, through her open window. The only thing separating our houses was a wall, on top of which they'd put some barbed wire.

My house - and the party wall with the barbed wire.

One day, I saw them going out in their car. That meant: visiting their children and grandchildren. And that meant: out all day.
I got 2 boys for the job: T., aka Chuck, (the first boy to have ever wooed me and taken me out on a date) and J., whom I had known all my life. I had a love/hate relationship with him.
And both boys were always up to any kind of mischief.
J. stood guard outside. Chuck and I walked on the parapet of the balcony, then went over to the party wall; the barbed wire was not a problem; then, he grabbed the window sill and pulled himself into the room. I followed his example (he helped me, for I was considerably weaker). We looked around.
There were piles and piles of potatoes, and several big boxes filled with bags of potato chips, ready for sale. A lot of newspapers - she used to dry the chips in those - and a machine, that I assumed had a vital role in the making of the aforementioned snack. I find myself nowadays utterly incapable of describing said machine - I just remember thinking it resembled my mom's sewing machine enormously.

Huh. Perhaps it WAS a sewing machine, now that I think of it. But what would it be doing in the Potato Room?!
I shall never be able to understand Mrs. Magdalen's Evil Ways.

Chuck dismantled some parts of the machine and hid them around, while I scattered kilos and kilos of potatoes all over the stairs - they rolled pretty nicely, thudding all the way down. We tore all the newspapers into little pieces, throwing them all around and out the window.
Finally, the potato chips. After some quick debate, we settled on taking them all with us.
We called J., and told him to go back to my balcony. Then, we spent at least half an hour just handing ALL the bags of chips over to him.
Chuck and I got out of the House of Evil the same way we'd gotten in. From the balcony, we could see hundreds of potatoes that had rolled their way into the yard. We took the booty to my bedroom, and split it three ways.
A while later, we went to the living room and watched a couple of movies, while eating an awful lot of chips.
We were still there when we heard Mrs. Magdalen's car pulling into the garage. In no time she rang our bell. I answered the door, polite as all hell:
"Oh, hi Mrs. Magdalen, how are you?"
"Oh child, I'm a mess! Could I talk to your mother?"
"Sure, hold on a sec! Moooooooom!"
My mom: "Oh, hi Mrs. Magdalen, how are you?". (I'm very much like my mother.)
Mrs. Magdalen: "My house! It's a mess! Somebody was in there!"
My mom: "What do you mean? Did they steal anything?"
Mrs. Magdalen: "No, I don't think so! Have you seen anyone around here today? One of those awful kids, maybe?"
My mom: "I'm so sorry, I haven't! Let me ask R. Honey," she turned to me, still on the sofa with J. and Chuck "have you guys seen anyone entering Mrs. Magdalen's?"
I shook my head. "We were upstairs, sorry..."
We resumed our movie - none of us laughed or even smiled for even a second. We were the perfect image of innocence. Eventually, she went back home, and we heard a good deal of sweeping. I also noticed she didn't sell a lot of potato chips for a couple of weeks.
And it never occurred to her to suspect R., the kid next door. I just happened to be the most well-behaved kid in the goodamn neighborhood. Who wished everyone a good morning and a good evening, said "please" and "thank you" and inquired after their family's well-being. The one with her nose stuck in a book at all times. The mere idea of THAT kid doing something like that was ridiculous.

I spent the entire following month eating chips at school. And then, it took me a year to eat any kind of chips again. At least I saved up lunch money, and bought the new Backstreet Boys CD with my savings, plus many second-hand Agatha Christie books. Double victory! *thumbs up*
I moved to another city at the end of that year, and never saw her again - even though I still go back there every now and then, to see the friends I left behind. They tell me she's terribly sick, possibly dying. My reaction? Honestly?? I shrugged. We all did. I don't revel in her current condition, but I don't care either.

As for my revenge... it was childish and petty. Measly. I did not get Rolf back, nor Victor Hugo. She'd lost no one dear to her (well, what was I to do, feed lead to her grandchildren?!).
Nonetheless, I'd done SOMETHING. That was all I could ask for.

                                Rolf and I.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taking Sweet, Sweet Revenge - Part I

I was going through some old pics the other day, and bumped into an album full of me and Rolf, my old Labrador. I couldn't stop staring at all those images: I felt nostalgic (the beer I was having after a long stressful day possibly helped).
I got Rolf when I was 6, and he was the size of my hand. By the time I was 7, he was the size of a pony.
Not that I've ever seen a pony. My parents wouldn't give me one; according to them, it was expensive and we lived nowhere near a farm. Pft. Lame excuses.
He grew up really fast, and I couldn't play with him anymore - not without getting hurt. Like all Labradors, he was as goofy as he was huge, and completely unaware of how strong he was.
When I was 12 we'd established a routine: when I left for school, at noon, he would come running from the back of the house and jump all over me - guess it was his way of saying goodbye! And his way of saying hello, too, for he greeted me the exact same way when I arrived at 6pm.
One day, I was leaving in a hurry - mom had taken longer than usual making lunch, and so I was slightly late. In order not to miss the bus, I ran - but in the back of my mind, the feeling of something missing. What, I could not pinpoint.
I got back home at the usual time, took a shower, and went up to my bedroom to read and wait for dinner - as usual. Then, much to my astonishment, my mom comes in, sits in my chair and stares at me with red eyes. I waited.
I have to say: mom was pretty dramatic. She used to make endless storms in teeny tiny puddles; so I simply assumed she had come for another "much ado about nothing" session.
She hadn't, though.
"Rolf died this morning."
I stared at her, speechless.
She went on: she'd found him that morning, and didn't wanna say anything to me before school. As soon as I was gone, she called the vet, and he took Rolf away.
I realised, then, what had been missing that morning. And also why it had taken her so long to make me lunch.
I don't recall having cried so much in any other point of my childhood.
As I've had the opportunity to mention in another post, my dad rented "Dr. Dolittle" that night, in an attempt to make me forget Rolf. The only thing he accomplished with that was a double trauma.
The vet told us Rolf had died due to lead poisoning. He'd eaten it.
And we all instantly knew who'd done it: Mrs. Magdalen. The evil lady next door.
(P.S.: in Brazil, we refer to other people by their first names, and not their last names. Hence, Mrs. Magdalen.)
She hated all kinds of pets, and had already killed my friend's dog, and blinded that same friend's turtle. She was pure evil, and I swore she'd pay for that. Some day.
Yes, I was a dramatic teenager.

Fast forward 3 years. I had this gorgeous Balinese cat named Victor Hugo (me and my dad are Literature nerds), and he had the most beautiful blue eyes in cat history. He was also very poised and disdainful, like all cats. But I loved him, and always let him sleep in my bed, despite my high allergy to cat fur!
Suddenly, he disappeared for many a day, and I cried again.
One fine morning, I was in our terrace, from where I could see Mrs. Magdalen's roof; and what do you think I saw?
Yep, that's right. Victor Hugo's little body, clearly inanimate, and surrounded by raw meat. And it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was in that meat. And there was only one person who could've put the meat there.
My friend - the one who'd had her dog killed the same way as mine and her turtle blinded - told me her two cats had also met their fate on Mrs. Magdalen's roof.
I knew, then, the time had come for me to avenge Rolf and all his kindred.
I was 15, and thus did my life of misdemeanours start.

Ok, maybe I'm still a little overdramatic.

(To be continued...)

The House of Evil

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rewinding: August, 2009

"He's gonna move out of the country."
Me: "Yes, I know."
"In, like, less than 2 months!"
"I'm well aware."
"And you'll stay here!"
"You do realize I was the one who told you that, right? Why are you repeating it all back to me now?"
"To try and talk some sense into your head!"
"It's not that stupid an idea, you know."
"No, it's brilliant. I, too, only start dating guys when they're about to move to the other side of the world."
"Bite me."
"You can't possibly think this is gonna work out, with you guys being half a globe apart."
I stared.
"Um, actually... once he leaves, it's over. We've already talked about it."
"Let me get this straight: he's gonna leave, start building a new life, meet new people, have new experiences... and you'll be left behind, leading the exact same life, working and looking at the exact same chair he used to sit on every morning, and sleeping in the exact same bed you guys are now sharing. That's healthy."
"You know, there are only so many times I can tell you to bite me. It gets old fast."
She shrugged.
"You'll be mopey when he leaves, that's all."
"Well, lucky me you'll still be here to lend me your shoulder and tell me 'I told you so'. Boy, am I looking forward to it."

Snarkiness aside, she did get me to wonder what the hell I was doing. What was the point?


I was already half asleep in his arms when I heard him:
"I was wondering... what do you think of this?"
Me: "'This' being...?"
"Us. What do you think we're doing?"
Good question.
"Well. The way I see it is: we're... going out. You're leaving in some weeks, so there couldn't possibly be any strings attached - never mind whether we'd want it or not."
"So, yeah, we're not exclusive, if that's what you're asking. Nothing's been said about it, so I regard it as a personal choice. I, personally, choose not to see other people - but that's me. What you do... that's completely up to you."
He pulled me closer.
"Good. Cause I chose that too. As if I could even look at anyone else with you around. Beach tomorrow?"
We went back to sleep.

That was the point.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Being 25 Years Old

Huh. Funny you should mention me - I was just thinking about you the other day!
I woke up on Thursday, and it was that day we both look forward to the entire year; we were no longer 24, but 25. And I instantly knew that whatever was coming was gonna be great.
I thought of you as I left my house. I thought of you because, on my way to work, there was this beautiful sunrise, with these golden clouds tearing an outrageously blue sky, and casting golden shadows on the ocean. And (for the first time in a while) I thought to myself how breathtakingly gorgeous Rio can be. And I remembered you - you, who used to say that you'd never want to live in Rio; you, who hated big towns.
I know you don't like being told that (even nowadays, you still kind of don't, unfortunately), but you were wrong.
This may sound like crazy talk to you, but you actually enjoy living in a big city now; you enjoy the feeling of walking amidst the crowd, and yet, being alone with your thoughts. And just like a cheap profile on a dating website, you enjoy long walks on the beach and feeling small when you stand beside the ocean.
Don't get me wrong: you still love your hometown, and you hope to raise your chidren there. Just... not yet.
And speaking of children, I'm sorry: you're not getting married at 25. You seem to be quite far from it, actually! But it matters not, trust me. I know that's what every adult says, but I do know better.
By the age of 25 you'll have done things you never thought you would - good things and bad things. But all of them added something to you, and you'll find you can be a pretty fast learner, when you set your mind to it.  You'll know things you never thought you would. However, you won't have gone to Greece at 18. But you will go someday, I'll make sure of that.
And I'm sorry sweetie, but you'll no longer have a mother when you get to my age. But your dad's still here, and he loves you above everything else. Just like he's always done; it doesn't really matter to him whether you get Math or not.
That school you're still slightly scared of, that's where you're gonna have some of the best time of your life! A piece of advice? Go to the library. I know, you're enormously afraid of talking to strangers, specially adults, they intimidate you. Well... cut it out. That library's gonna be one of your best friends, and your world will get much bigger in there. I know you want to. Don't be afraid; besides, the librarian Gisele is quite the nice lady!
Don't you worry about your friend M. She'll remain your best friend for the years to come. She'll continue being the best friend one could ever hope for. In fact, she's just left your place, after having spent this Sunday afternoon with you, over pizza and movies.
And I really do wish you'd ignore that Carol girl. Yes, she's already got boobs at 11, but in a few years she'll be dieting maniacally to be as thin as you. Also, you're gonna speak English reasonably well in a near future; you'll even make a living out of it. By the way, have I mentioned that, yes, you ARE a teacher?
More advice for you: being intelligent is important, you're right; but being kind is essential, don't you forget that. And try to work on that bad temper of yours, will ya? Those things don't work out magically by themselves just because you're an adult. Gotta work for it.
Go to school now, stop neglecting your Math homework (yes, I know, it sucks) and rest assured that everything's gonna be alright - just not the way you thought it would.
I'll be waiting for you here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Being 11 Years Old

Ok. This new school can be really scary sometimes... It's way way bigger than my old one... wish M. was here with me. She's my best friend. Wonder if we'll still be friends now that I changed schools...
I have Geometry this year. Ew. I can barely do subtraction exercises... I better get this thing down, otherwise dad will be disappointed. If he weren't an engineer, he might not mind it so much. Mom doesn't. But then again, she's soooo young...she's what, 32? Yeah, almost... apparently, that's young - you know, for a mother.
I don't think I'd like to have an 11-year-old daughter when I'm 32... well, I won't anyway, cause I'll only have children when I'm 29, so that settles it. I'll go to college, get a job, be successful, then get married - probably between 25 and 27 - and then have a baby when I'm 29.
I'll have to have a maid, obviously, to do the cleaning. After all, I can't clean anything: I'm allergic to a bunch of stuff and I'm clumsy. So there you have it, I'll need a maid.
But that's okay, cause I'll be loaded. I mean, I'll either be an archeologist or a teacher. I'd love to go around traveling and digging up stuff - in Greece, preferably. I'll go to Troy, I'm sure there's tons of things from the Trojan War for me to find out!
But being a teacher would also be really cool: a teacher gets to be around books all the time! And they can buy them with huge discounts! I'll have shelves and shelves of books covering the walls of the house!
Oh, there's Carol. She's rather unpleasant - she gossips all the time! Why doesn't she go read a book or something?! She should, she's not very smart... And she's mean, too; saying I'm stupid just cause I don't speak English... so what? I'm still smarter than her! And it's none of her business whether I like comic books or not. All full of herself cause she's got boobs already... yeah, I'm skinny, so? I'm not in a hurry!
I'll be rid of people like her when I get to University - hopefully. I'll have to go to college in Rio, obviously, the only college here sucks. Or so I've heard. Small town colleges are bound to suck, I guess. But as soon as I graduate there, I'll come back. This is where I wanna settle. I don't wanna live in a big city. I'll come back to mom and dad's, and live with them till I get married.
I'm not in hurry to grow up, though. Actually, kinda wish I didn't have to - being a grown-up seems to suck big time. They don't watch cartoons, how come?!
But at the same time... it would be kinda cool if I were an adult already. Like, 25. Sounds like a good age. I'll have already gone to Greece (I'll go on my 18th birthday, evidently), fnished college and I'll have a great job. I'll probably be getting married.
This man will have to be really patient, by the way. Mom's right, I AM hot-tempered... but I do believe it gets better with time.
Hope I'll have worked on that by the time I'm 25.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Rambling

There were so many things that crossed my mind this week, and I resolved quite a few times: "Ok, now that's what I shall post on!". Unfortunately, the moment always faded away, and I didn't feel like writing about that anymore - sometimes I even forgot what I'd decided to write about.
So instead, I'm trying a miscellaneous today. Shall we?

This week I went to a store to have some texts I needed printed. I was wearing a cleavage.
The guy gave me a huge discount, and instead of paying R$48, I paid R$22. 
No one ever gives me discounts when I'm wearing overalls, my Kurt Cobain-y flannel shirt or my baggy pants. Huh.
I should rethink my dressing code.

Does anyone here remember, perhaps, the Matthew Shepard's funeral incident in 98? Well, just a reminder: the 21-year-old student was tortured and beaten up to death due to his being gay. Then, the hideous Westboro Baptist Church showed up in order to picket at his funeral,  saying the boy was burning in Hell, and carrying signs that said "God Hates Fags". Smooth. 
These guys are known for protesting against gay people, Jews (they went as far as saying Jews are the real Nazis. Nice.), any other religion, Chinese, black people, American soldiers, amongst many other things.
They're basically Mel Gibson.
I think I read somewhere that KKK has denied any kind of connection with them. Not sure if it's true, but if it is... that's rock bottom for ya.
Well, didn't I read this week they'll be picketing in front of San Diego Comic Con this year! They already have signs saying "God Hates Nerds". Apparently, us nerds worship comic book characters as if they were idols. Ha! 
Have you guys ever heard of a more non-threatening people than nerds?? A fountain pen could probably do, single-handedly, way more harm than five scores of us together, seriously. All you gotta do is wave a Darth Vader action figure in front of us. Mint condition, still in the box.
Besides, I do not worship comic book characters as if they were gods. Pff, I know they don't exist, hello! 
I worship Neil Gaiman. His existence's already been proved beyond doubt, I believe.

Speaking of Darth Vader: here's a list that goes to show how badly most of us nerds are in dire need of a social life, and how much we dearly dearly love Star Wars.
We should totally get a life. Or laid.

Who here's into soccer?
One of Brazil's biggest soccer teams is Flamengo - which I hate, btw, for me and my entire family support Flamengo's historical adversary, Fluminense. A much much classier team, that has seen better times, I must confess.
Aaaaanyway, the country's been in an uproar this past month over Flamengo's goalie, Bruno: his ex-lover Eliza, mother of his youngest child (and ugly as all hell), misteriously disappeared along with her child, and the police were looking into it. The girl had demanded a DNA test, in order to prove Bruno was indeed the child's father.
Bruno made a statement to some papers (brown press, I should add) saying the girl was no saint, and that they'd met during an orgy. Hey, don't judge him! According to him, every footballer has orgies galore!
The baby was eventually found, but still no sign of Eliza.
Suddenly, they discovered why: she'd been chopped into pieces and fed to Bruno's dogs. Rotwaillers, if I'm not mistaken. Classy. Bruno and his accomplices have been arrested for the murder.

Now he worries that this might affect his chances of playing for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.
A guy who sees the big picture, no doubt.

Such a scandal has never occurred to any Fluminense player. Just saying.

Have a nice Sunday folks!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Defining Home

You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. (...) You feel like you can never get it back. It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist.
(Zach Braff as Andrew Largeman in Garden State)

When I was a kid my parents moved around a lot. When I was born they lived in a certain neighborhood, but I took my first steps in a completely different location; I remember a Christmas party when I was 4, in a third place, and watching the Muppets when I was 5 in another.
When I was 6, we moved to a smaller town, Petrópolis. And though we lived in three different houses, they were all on the same street. And we stayed there for almost 10 years.
First we lived in this cute small house, with a front yard, and windows only one meter away from the floor - I spent a lot of time jumping in and out of them, pretending I was living big adventures! For one who had been raised in apartments, a house was a world full of wonders. And one fine day, grandma arrived with this tiny labrador puppy, white as snow and with a red ribbon around his neck. He had come inside a carton box, and he could barely poke his head out to look at me. I named him Rolf - because of Rolf of the Muppets.
Also, there was this really tall boldo stalk in the garden, with leaves that felt like velvet. I decided it was a she, and called her Gertrudes. And on my bed was Pimpa, the stuffed Panda bear my grandma had brought me from one of her trips.
A couple of years later we moved to a second house. It was huge, and it had the cutest porch ever! In the back, stairs that led to a terrace - Rolf's realm. I took Gertrudes in a vase with me, and she lived in my window. And though by that time there were shitloads of stuffed animals on my bed, Pimpa was still in the centre.
When I was 11, we moved to a third house. It was gorgeous, all in white and salmon. There was this huge yard around the whole house, with Rolf running everywhere; a garden, where Gertrudes could live, and a beautiful stained glass covering one of the living room walls. On the second floor, my bedroom with Pimpa on the bed, and my bathroom; there was an attic and two terraces with a pool.
There I discovered my dad's Beatles collection, and some of the best books I'll ever read. I learned how to do the dishes (well, kinda) and how to peel potatoes (and almost my hands); I almost peed in my pants out of terror, while watching I Know What You Did Last Summer with my friends in that living room; and when my first crush ever took me home after our first date, we spent hours talking on those front steps - with Rolf looking from afar, afraid of the stranger that engaged my attention so, and ready to have at him if he tried to do anything! Guess that boy was Rolf-approved.

It was also where Rolf died - the evil next door neighbor gave him lead to eat. I cried my head off, and my dad, in an attempt to cheer me up, rented Dr. Dolittle for us to watch.
What a doubly horrible night.
I moved to my grandma's, in Rio de Janeiro, when I was almost 16. And though I was leaving a lot of things behind (including Gertrudes), it was kinda fine: I was going to live in the house where my dad had been brought up, and where I had spent my every summer vacation, and most of my Christmas parties. It was, I guess, still home.
In 2004, however, she decided to sell the place, and move to the south of Brazil. She asked me to come along, and I said no. Instead, I went to a boardinghouse, where I lived for 4 years.
I hated everything about that place.
There was nobody there waiting for me, to hear about my day; I couldn't have a dog nor a plant. Just me and my stuffed Panda. It was just a place for me to crash at night. And I did whatever I could to spend the day out.
In the middle of 2008 I finally moved to where I live now, with Roomie. And it's a great place, I have no problems whatsoever with staying in - it's my house, it's where I feel comfortable.
But is it a home? I don't know. What makes a home after all? (And please don't say "A home is where your heart is", that's just cheesy). Is it the presence of your family? Maybe - maybe not.
When I think "home", I sometimes think of either my grandma's old place, or my white and salmon house, where Gertrudes might still be. Every now and then, I visualize my old college which felt like home to me for good 4 years - specially the library, and most specially the German Literature section.
And someday I'll probably think of a house where people wait for me - a man who wears a ring just like mine, a couple of children who will have my hair and his eyes, and this huge white labrador running everywhere.
But most of the time, the word "home" makes me think simply of a stuffed Panda bear called Pimpa, that still lies on my bed.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Talking About the Princess

Did you know, still I miss you somehow? We could have worked things out, taking time is what love's all about.

Nope, I'm not heartbroken, thank you; in case you haven't recognized them, the opening lines of this post belong to Britney Spears' From the Bottom of My Broken Heart.
Yep. Britney.
The girl needs no introduction, methinks, other than simply her name.
The other day I had my iPod on shuffle mode, and it went something like Thru The Eyes Of Ruby (The Smashing Pumpkins), Gallows Pole (Led Zeppelin), Hallelujah (k.d. Lang) - so far, so good. Then all of a sudden my iPod started letting me down: Mmmbop (Hanson), which I skipped before I could be seen muttering the lyrics; but when it got to I Need You Tonight (Backstreet Boys) I was seriously disturbed.
I know, I know, it's my own fault. He (it's green-ish blue, therefore, my iPod is a he) wouldn't have given me those songs hadn't I fed him with stuff like that (there. I have this one too).
Anyway, after giving me Heartbreaker (Pat Benatar) - talk about the 80's, huh? - I could hear the first words of Overprotected, by Britney. One of my guilty pleasures.
Following the inevitable scent of nostalgia, I took him off the shuffle mode, and started listening to all Britney's songs I have in there. And boy was it a trip down Memory Lane!

I saw the Sometimes video on MTV for the very first time when I was 14, and I fell in love with it. Yes, I've always been a softie! I asked my parents for her cd; my dad wanted to die: his only daugher was not asking for The Nutcracker or The Four Seasons anymore, but for some "American pop crap", as he called it. But mom laughed it off, and I got the cd as a junior-high graduation gift.
My first high-school year started in March, 2000, and I could sing all the songs in the goddamn cd. 
(I owe a lot to Britney, by the way: Britney and all those boy bands taught me a lot of my English!)
My first broken heart came a couple of months after that, and the soundtrack of the whole process was, of course, Born to Make You Happy, and the whole thing couldn't possibly get any cornier! Why do teenagers have to be so so damn dramatic? My world was falling apart.
Then, Brazilian Valentine's Day came (on June 12th), and MTV Brasil had a special, showing only videos of cheesy romantic songs. And, obviously, it included From the Bottom of My Broken Heart
I started crying. 
The guy I liked wouldn't have anything to do with me anymore, and because it was my own fault - I'd toyed with his feeligs, and gotten a deserved reward for that. 
We ended up being friends again, and we're still in very nice speaking terms. All the uncalled-for drama!
That same year I'd buy, as a Christmas gift for myself, her second cd, Oops!... I Did It Again

With her third cd, I confess, my 16-year-old prudish mind was shocked: what was she doing, with that I'm a Slave 4 U thing? Oh god! (I was an extremely well-behaved 16-year-old.) I liked the song nonetheless - but I simply loved Overprotected. And I wouldn't stop listening to it for a very long time.
By that time, however, I was already growing out of pop music; my journey towars rock had already begun, and I was starting to despise all things Britney and 'NSync-like.
Because, of course, teenagers usually know no middle-ground. You either hate or love something. It doesn't occur to you, when you're 16 going on 17, that two completely different music genres can be good.
But no matter how much I worshipped Foo Fighter's Times Like These, I still loved Britney's Toxic.
The years passed, and while I was saving money to buy Green Day's American Idiot and chasing down Jewel cds in every single store (Jewel is hard to find around here), I heard everywhere about her first marriage, the annulment, and her second marriage. And all the time there was this thought in some corner of my mind "Why did she break up with Justin in the first place? He's way hotter than any of these guys!"
I still have a crush on Justin Timberlake.
I also have a crush on Paul Bettany - you can't help those things.
But a crush on Justin is way more understandable than on Bettany.
It's just that Bettany got the accent, you know.
Jennifer Connelly is one lucky woman.
Moving on: as the scandals involving the pop princess kept on coming, I got more and more disappointed - where was that cute little girl from Sometimes? And I guess I can say her personal life and the all problems that followed tainted the whole pop thing for me for good back then.  
Yeah, cause rock stars do it all right, and never ever screw up. No scandals in the rock world.

Nowadays I'm ok with Britney, and I'm slightly curious to listen to her new songs. But I still have no idea what 3 and Womanizer sound like - as I said, I'm only slightly curious.
I've been looking more and more towards the past to find music I really like - there are few artists still recording I'm actually a fan of. Most of my favorites are now either dead, retired or disbanded.
And while I have dismissed ...Baby One More Time and Oops!... I Did It Again entirely, while some of my favorite cds are Nevermind (Nirvana), Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (The Smashing Pumpkins) and Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin), I still can't stop listening to Overprotected. Because the song and the girl are just that good.
My friend Massimo has also talked about this song - brilliantly, I should add - in his great blog (albeit kinda on a break, it's still great), and you can both listen to the song and read his smart and enticing post here.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll wrap this up and download Womanizer, to see what the fuss is all about.