February 26, 2004
Meanwhile, Back at the Airport
DAY 125: Before the 10:30 meeting time with some of my friends from the New York area, I had a couple of errands to run. Despite the round and rounds of beers, cuba libres and caipirinhas with our big group the night before, I was awake early and performed our morning ritual of going out to the supermarket with the in-store bakery for some fresh baguettes. On the way back, I stopped off at a florist to get Lara a yellow rose, simply because I felt like it -- her white one on our dining room table was about halfway dead. The florist heard me stammering in Portuguese and thought I was Japanese until I said "Americano" and eventually "Filipino" to explain my Asian-looking eyes. Hearing the latter, he immediately got excited, trying to explain to me something about volcanos or something. I kept on saying, "Sim, Pinatubo," but he kept on trying to tell me something else -- he even drew out a picture of a volcanic eruption on a piece of paper to explain himself, but I just didn't get it. I smiled and just said, "Sim, Pinatubo, Pinatubo," again and just walked away.
After breakfast I went off to Angramar Turismo to see if they had extra Carioca 2004 final soccer tickets for Lara's friends Kate and Jilly, but there were no more left. It would just have to be the crew we had already bought tickets for: me, Lara, Lara's friends Ester and Pago, and the two friends I was to meet at 10:30 in front of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, Paul and Terence (a.k.a. wheat on The Blog). Waiting in front of the five-star hotel on time, I could not find them.
In a country of soccer fanatics, loyalties roll deep, and not really knowing the history of the team I was supporting, I suddenly became conscious that wearing the red and black shirt would make different people react in different ways. One guy wearing the same jersey cheered me on, crossing his arms above his head to form and "X" to signify victory. Another group of guys wearing the opposing team's green and burgundy jerseys walked by and yelled at me in Portuguese -- one of them, an old man, stopped and gave me the finger. Luckily for me, there were more Flamengo fans than Fluminense ones around town.
After drinking bottles of water and energy juices for close to 90 minutes waiting for Paul and Terence to arrive, my bladder decided tell my brain to walk back to the apartment. On my way back, I heard the call from behind me:
I saw them walking behind me and replied with a familiar saying from The Amazing Race: "Terence and Paul, you are Team Number One."
Paul and Terence had arrived after a long line at customs as I predicted, but were happy to be on the beach and away from the New York winter. My brother, Mark (a.k.a. markyt on The Blog) had to hang back at the airport to meet up with his friend Sharon who was coming in from a later flight from San Francisco since it was one of her clients that was renting all of them an apartment in the working-class, but quaint residential neighborhood Santa Teresa. Unfortunately for Mark, he was missing from the welcome toast of homemade caipirinhas at the apartment.
"Yeah, it's just like being back at my apartment, just with British people," I told him. We joined the Brits and indulged in the gift Lara had received from home via her friends: a jar of Marmite, the quintessential yeast extract spread from the U.K., spread on crackers with some butter.
Yeast extract or no yeast extract, the festivities continued as we made our way to meet the guys from the tour agency, who led us to the beach to wait for our bus. As another seemingly spontaneous samba parade went by, Terence was in just awe of the fact that in Rio you can just drink on the street legally and took advantage by buying cans and cans of Skol from any of the vendors walking by with coolers. The vendors were great because, even when we boarded the bus and drove across town, they'd sell us ice cold beers through the window so we could continue the party on the bus.
"Meanwhile, back at the airport..." I joked with Terence and Paul, thinking my brother Mark was just stuck around doing less exciting things at the airport. Terence and Paul posed like they were bored out of their mind, waiting around for a flight to come in. It became our ongoing joke of the day.
Beer vendors continued to come around to take our business, and when they weren't we'd just go out and just make beer runs at the concession stand. Needless to say, Terence had a bit too much and dozed off for a little bit during all the action. The rest of us enjoyed the match, but more the energy of just being there, and at the end of a close match, Flamengo beat Fluminense 3-2.
The victory called for a celebration and luckily Terence woke up for it. Walking out of the stadium, supporters of Flamengo were cheering, twirling their shirts or crossing their arms in air like an "X" for victory. Walking passed a flag of the opposing team set on fire, Terence, Paul and I celebrated and wondered the doings of my brother yet again: "Meanwhile, back at the airport..." I said, and they'd do the pose.
On the ride home, most of the passengers on the bus rode pretty much the whole way with their upper bodies out the window to cheer along with the fans walking or dancing in the streets. "Gol, gol, GOOOOOOOOL!" I shouted out to the people below. Paul leaned out with his arms in an "X" as people in other cars got out their flags to wave around while stuck in traffic. With an open half-full beer can in my hand, I held my thumb over the top to shake around and make a geyser to a crowd we drove by, not realizing it was a group of Fluminense fans. One of them got really pissed at me, ran to my window, jumped up and slapped my arm really hard -- the impact forced the inside edge of the can to cut into my thumb and I was suddenly bleeding all over my hand from what could be described as a really deep, circular paper cut.
"I'm not taking you to the emergency room again," Lara joked as she continued to wave her soccer shirt out the window to the people and cars passing by. The bleeding stopped anyway after some pressure and I continued with the celebration out my window. As we rode into Copacabana, the party on the bus was brought to an untimely close when someone just grabbed and stole the soccer shirt right out of Lara's hands when we were at a traffic light.
LARA AND I TOOK THE OTHER FOUR TO "OUR PLACE," La Maison, the restaurant a couple of blocks away from our house on the beach where we often ate. After dinner we all split up and so I took Terence and Paul on a stroll along Copacabana Beach to Ipanema. Along the way, we walked through yet another seemingly sponteneous samba street parade (picture above), some of them celebrating the victory of Flamengo as well. It was yet another thing that made us just think, "Meanwhile, back at the airport...."
At eleven, we made our way to the Copacabana Palace Hotel, where hundreds were watching a fancy black-tie Carnaval ball on the mezzanine level, to finally meet up with Mark and Sharon -- and, if he had gotten the email, Tim the Aussie that Lara and I met in La Paz, Bolivia who we told could crash on our floor if he needed a place to stay in Rio. Tim was a no show, as was Sharon who was too tired and just stayed back at the apartment in Santa Teresa. Mark was in good spirits though as we hung around the beach and toasted his arrival with some caipirinhas. He informed us that his day didn't involve waiting around the airport all day like we all had joked about; after settling the apartment rental, he managed to hang out at the beach with Sharon for a while, where they saw a couple having sex.
Who knows what was going on at the airport when that was going on?
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