i’m back

I wrote some things down on paper at the airport which makes writing things down on the internet feel less important. Woke up needlessly early on Saturday, for the first time awake early enough to make the hotel’s breakfast. There I ran into J.P., Friday’s panel’s moderator, and his girlfriend. His girlfriend lives in Rio, he lives in SP. The cultural institution had put him up in the hotel and he convinced her to stay with him just for fun, even though her apt. is around the corner. He is hysterically funny, a novelist and columnist. She is lovely and a graphic designer. JP loves insulting S.P. at every opportunity, often in contrast to the infinite superiority of Rio. Example, as we’re walking down the sunny street: “What’s the point of a beautiful day in São Paulo?” He elaborated, it was funny, I’m too tired/dumb to effectively reproduce.

So around 1:30 or 2:00 I met J. and JP at Livraria Cultura, “the most important bookstore in SP,” according to C.  JP bought me a copy of his novel in portuguese with I’m going to send to Prof. Cuttlefish Downs for his consideration. When it was revealed that I’d never read Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, JP insisted that I buy both English translations they had there: Dom Casmurro and The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas. I asked which one I should I get and JP said “really, I think you need both of them.” Hey may have literally pressed them into my hands. So he bought me his novel and I bought the two Machados. There was no pricetag and I only half-registered how much I was paying for them until I was signing my credit card receipt and was fairly staggered by how much I was paying for these two Oxford UP paperbacks. But there was no backing out of the transaction by that pt., and in retrospect I spent hardly any money in SP and I’m more than willing to pay a sort of “literary authenticity tax” on these two books, which I will read (started Casmurro on the plane and it more than lives up to its Tristram Shandyish reputation) and keep forever.

Then we went to a restaurant whose name tranlated as “small, filthy woman,” or so he said. We sat on a roofy veranda thing while waiting for a tableand drank the coldest beer of all time. (Many people remarked on how Brazilians love cold beer — we drank Antarctica Original.) Finally moved to a table. The three of us shared two T-bone steaks, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, “salad,” and this crumbly farina-like powdery corny thing. Huge bottles of truly frosty beer arrived at our table without interruption. One of the most chauvinistic conversations I’ve ever been a part of, but in a charming way. I feel relatively confident that If I had grown up in Latin America, the chances are good that I would have had sex with a prostitute by the time I turned 20. I think.  This was also a conversation where it was cemented that I was actually, incontrovertibly making a huge mistake in not staying an extra week and going with J. and JP. to Rio. They were plotting out their time there, getting excited. I would almost certainly lose my job if I’d gone to Rio with them. Among many other fates.

After the restaurant we went to nearby Rua Augusta to an outdoor bar because I had to get to the airport to catch my 10:50 p.m. flight. More athletic and fast-paced drinking of beer. When a bottle was finished, it was placed on a ledge above my head, dead-soldiers style, lining them up. The waiter was happy that I was American and asked if I’d had “rub-steak”. JP proudly answered for me and described or T-bones at length. Things got more and more comradely b/w the three of us, and I was feeling happier, drunker, and less inclined to leave than ever. Talked about Brasilia, Neumeyer, more Rio, etc. Then I got in a cab, got my bags, and went to the airport bus. At that point Traveled for 12 hours, more or less. Slept a few on the plane. At a spicy chicken and egg biscuit from the Popeye’s during my Atlanta layover around 7 a.m. EST. Got home, ate a burrito, rented the first three discs of season 5 of the wire, got some chinese food, ate until I felt like I was going to die. Here I am. Looking forward to sleeping tonight; I hope that happens. Why wouldn’t it? I’m more or less fucked at work, but this trip was a real boon and I feel immensely grateful for the opportunity.

I’m adding this final paragraph only so I can get course credit for this trip (note to people who are reading this blog because you’ve googled “mystery nostalgia titmouse crane of greater peace node, New York heartbreak vegan cyclecoxxxx”: I’m just kidding. I’m not in school, I’m just writing this last paragraph as a memo to myself, cub-scout ben-franklin’s diary-style.) The trip, upon immediate and exhausted reflection, makes me urgently want to study languages. It’s very important for me to begin reading literature not written in English.  Also meeting and speaking with people who are involved in the press and letters in Brazil (and Peru) was inspiring — both in terms of learning about the differences in journalistic culture (more when I’ve slept on the differences between a crónica and a columna), but also and particularly in the “I believe I can fly” sense that the desire to write doesn’t have to be limited to “I’ll never be Charles McGrath so what’s the use in trying” — meeting these editors and writers gave me a broadened sense of… I don’t know, and I’m turning my own stomach with these swelling credit-rolling violins, but something about the diversity of readerly communities. It’s easy to think that U.S. print and even digital media is all you need to read — and, for that matter, it’s likewise just as easy to say “the world of literary discourse is greater than what I generally consume on a weekly basis”, and it’s espeically easy to say that without looking or reading elsewhere.

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