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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chapter 01/01 - Waking up in Copacabana, 1962


Early sun rays colored the trees down the street; bird cries echoed in between the buildings, welcoming the orange horizon while waves slid forward and retreated, licking the sand on the beach front. Were it not for the air conditioning on the twelfth floor, the hot morning haze would have embraced us, but we were comfortably tucked in and dreaming away.

After an entire night of tic-tacking, the alarm clock rang and burst the bubble at six thirty am. I tried to resist, but Sarah, my older sister, lit her bedside lamp to get her clothes and went off to take a shower.
As she opened the door, the hot air flooded in and the temperature under the blanket became unbearable. A lazy arm that did not seem to be mine stretched out and switched on the transistor radio lying on the floor. The set was not bigger than a small chocolate box and was made of white plastic and had an aluminum grill covering its weak loudspeaker.

I turned the dial to Radio Globo and, with my eyes half open, I was in synch with the rest of the city. This was the favorite station among maids, porters and other ordinary people. The presenter, Haroldo de Andrade, had the voice of an opera singer and hosted a show with religious overtones and with news, trivia and interviews with football, samba and soap opera stars. It was interactive and listeners from all over town called in to voice their opinions and, during the intervals, he played the latest hits, jingles, and Alziro Zarur's astrological forecasts with mystical oriental music in the background. At home, I was the only one who loved that kind of stuff: no one could understand how or why, but I did.

"That junk", as she referred to my favorite radio program, was on when Sarah came back from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel and irritated by my laziness. She asserted her seniority by changing the station, switching off the air-conditioner and opening the wooden shutters next to her bed. With the strong light invading the room, it was hard to decide what was more annoying: not being the eldest, being woken up in that way or having to get up so early. Anyway, the cruelty of her energy, the humid air and the early blue sky sealed the waking up process and now I had to take my turn to get ready.

There was a hot breeze on the veranda and I went to take a look at the beach. Just being among its plants, its canopies and its hammock hooks, high above the street, was great. Outside there was the open Atlantic Ocean at one end of the street and at the other , was the Morro do Cantagalo (Cockroach Hill), covered with trees that almost hid its favela, or slum.


Like a pet dog, my football had spent the night outside waiting to play with me. My kicking delight was not a leather one, but it was also not a weightless one for babies: the dente de leite was heavy enough to make a bell-like sound when it hit the wall and if you received a strong shot on your skin, that noise came accompanied by a respectful slap. According to the paranoia fed to me at such an early age, if any toy went over the wall and fell down on someone's head down bellow, the knock could break their neck and this would get me in deep trouble.

Sarah reminded me that I could not make myself late: there was a shower to be taken, teeth to be brushed, hair to be combed, a school uniform to be dressed impeccably, and uncomfortable polished shoes to be put on, all of which I hated with a passion.

The maid was already awake and preparing breakfast. She also liked Radio Globo but, in the early morning, she listened to Radio Relogio, the clock station that told the time every second minute after monotonous adverts and useless information such as “Did you know? The African Rhinoceros has two horns; the bigger one is in front and the smaller one is behind. Did you know?.... Beep beep beeeep... Six o'clock, forty two minutes, and zero seconds. Beeeep.”

Morning chores completed, I was ready to join the family under the canopy. They were sitting around the folding table with an elegant table cloth that hid a cheap red plastic top. The maid had set out our tropical morning table of boiled eggs in holders, hot milk, thick brown bread, porridge, jam, bananas, papaya, freshly-squeezed orange juice, honey and butter.