February 29, 2004
Fun With Foam
DAY 128: "Fat Tuesday" -- known by the French as "mardi gras" -- is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the Christian season of Lent where you are to chill out with all your comforts in preparation of Easter. Therefore, Fat Tuesday is the one last chance to party before the forty days and forty nights of "suffering," so you'd better make it good. Little did I know on Fat Tuesday morning that in Rio de Janiero, "Fat Tuesday" should actually be called "Foam Tuesday."
CALL ME A TECHNOPHILE, but I can't conceive of life without the internet and mobile phones. Well, that's not completely true; to get away from it for a while is refreshing, but not when you're trying to contact your brother on the other side of town. I knew his apartment had a phone, but I didn't have one in mine, nor a number to call him anyway. Mark did however have a mobile phone that accept text messages, so I woke up early -- way too early after the night of parading in the Sambadrome -- to send him a message from the internet cafe two blocks down. He eventually got it and we planned to meet at two in the afternoon at our usual beachfront restaurant, La Maison.
Meanwhile, Lara had also waken up at an ungodly time in the morning, after only about three and a half hours of sleep. On the bright side, she was up just in time for our daily viewing of morning cheese, Gilmore Girls and her favorite, Touched By An Angel. After chuckling at the glowing Della Reese, Lara joined me to meet the crew from Santa Teresa. We had lunch together -- for Sharon, it was the last time. With her duffel bag in hand, she left after eating for the airport. A rookie backpacker on a first big trip, she was off to Cairo to explore Egypt and Turkey for a couple of months.
"Where do we go?" Terence asked me.
"We'll just walk and run into something," I answered. In a city of seemingly spontaneous samba street parades, we were bound to encounter one.
The sky was grey, but everyone in town was out and about on the closed side of the two-partition Avenida Atlantica along the beach -- even the dogs were dress up festively. In less than five minutes, we did run into a samba street parade en route to Ipanema -- in fact, there was one about every four blocks or so. Although each had its own unique group and song melodies, one common thread betwen all the samba parades was foam.
By foam I don't mean the saliva coming out of a rabid dog's mouth, I'm talking about party foam that sprays out of a can like shaving cream. I wasn't sure exactly what the party foam was made out of -- I'd rather not know -- but I do know that it was a blast having a can of it. People sprayed foam into the air to have it rain down on others, whether they liked it or not. Some put loads on their heads to make puffy white hairdos. Street kids that would normally beg for food or money begged for a handful of foam instead -- I was happy to furnish some.
Just like the kids playing with foam amongst themselves, Terence, Paul, Mark and I walked down to Ipanema, foam fighting, spraying foam on each other in different ways (other picture above). Walking through the quiet commercial block in between Copacabana and Ipanema, all we got was stares and weird looks from passers-by.
Food and drink vendors profitted more than the souvenir vendors, selling hot dogs, churros, grilled cheese skewers and of course, alcohol, to the thousands of people in the streets. Everywhere we turned, we heard at least one vendor selling Brazil's Skol beer by yelling "Skol, Skol, Skol!" The more we drank it, the more we loudly immediated the vendors like fools.
Beer wasn't the only drink being consumed; we also had big bottles of sangria and cocktails with Red Bull and Johnnie Walker Red. Unknowingly for some, the combination didn't bode well in the stomach; for others (namely me and Paul), it just made them pee on the beach.
The 2004 Camisinha parade came around, a predominantly gay parade that promoted safe sex. Drag queens and gay men dressed in sailor hats marched through a packed crowd of parade-goers. We followed the parade spraying foam in the air, until some thief who was eyeing us made a grab for Paul's necklace. Fortunately, it was just broken, not stolen.
We head back the other way and saw that car traffic started coming through one of the open lanes -- each vehicle had no escape from the revelers and their cans of spray foam. As each one came by, we'd spray the windshield all up -- despite the fact that there was no rain, wipers were a must.
"We need to get in there," Paul suggested. The four of us entered the crowd of happy dancing people and shook our booties as the Cariocas did.
"Cancel my order."
At the table next to us was an old man who came in with two obvious-looking hookers. By the time his meal was over, there were five working girls there, hoping to get a little piece of the action -- and by action I mean the kind that folds and buys you candy. The sextet entertained me, Terence and Paul as we ate our food. Mark just had his head down on the table until he got up to go to the bathroom again. I went to tend to him -- the way he or Terence had done for me many times in New York -- and found out he was fine; he just needed some rest.
With the garbage bin a little sloppier than when Mark entered the bathroom, the two of us left for the apartment in Copacabana. Although walkable, we took a taxi. Mark passed out on the sofa.
Lara was still out, so I left her a note to excuse my brother's state -- also so she wouldn't mistake him for me -- and went out to meet Terence and Paul. They had already walked bck toward my apartment with a doggie bag of food, so we went up to put it in the fridge. I was all set to go out again, but then Terence passed out, leaving Paul and myself to just lounge around the living room to watch television and sing the theme song of The O.C.
Soon Lara came home from hanging out with her Guernsey crew and joined Paul and I in marveling at the state of Mark and Terence. Eventually I got the two guys up and we hopped in a cab to their apartment in the quieter residential neighborhood of Santa Teresa, away from the samba, the booze, and above all, the spray party foam.
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