05 October 2015

On NOT Going to the Beach

Which way do I go?
There are a number of people who seem to be a bit puzzled, and somewhat skeptical, if not out and out suspicious of the fact that Mark and I live at the beach and yet don't go to the beach. The conversations on this subject always take the same form. People start by remarking on how very white we are, and how we must have to take some strong protective measures against the sun when we go to the beach.  Oh, but we don't go to the beach, we say. You don't go to the beach? they ask, aghast. No, we say, We don't. In fact, it was at that point in such a conversation that a fairly aggressive interlocutor said, If you don't go to the beach, you should move to the mountains!

What is going to the beach, anyway? In some ways it could be said that Mark and I go to the beach all the time. After all, we live right on the beach. Our veranda and our terrace look out at the beach, and down in our little park we sit just above beach level. We walk down the beach to go to the various stores and restaurants in the neighborhood. We pick shells off the beach to use in various landscaping projects. And it's not as if the entire town of Búzios is at the beach every single day. Most of the year-round residents are busy working, and are hardly ever seen at the beach (except for those early-morning/late-evening joggers and walkers).

So why do we live here? It's not so hard to fathom. There is something profoundly peaceful in gazing out at the water every day. There is something deeply primal as we listen to and even move with the back and forth of the waves. Come on down, join us in our park, and you'll figure it out in a nanosecond.

Dear readers: I know I've only barely returned to blogging, but after this post I'll be taking another hiatus. We've spent four years together, and I've enjoyed your comments and your loyalty. As we say here in town, See You in Búzios!

28 September 2015

Bring on the Olympic Sailing Events!

The excitement that all of Búzios felt at the possibility that the Olympic sailing events would be torn from Rio's grasp and staged out here in our clean, unpolluted waters was contagious. After all, we were told that even the great and powerful United States Olympic Committee had requested the change of venue! Wow, now that's support a little town can get behind. Even Mark and I felt the buzz, since our terrace sits smack dab in what would be the front row. We began to draw up lists of people to invite, and in what order: family first, friends next, acquaintances last.

Windsurf event in front of our house
Sailing event in front of our house

But the momentary excitement was just that — momentary. It's taken a while for the penny to drop, but we're all pretty sure that it ain't gonna happen. Rio will never allow the recently-documented problems of pollution, bacteria, viruses and e-coli to come between it and the stupendous opportunity it has to strut its stuff on the world stage. There is not a chance in hell that Rio will let itself be robbed of images like these:


So was the idea of bringing the sailing events to Búzios just a publicity stunt? Is the hashtag #velaemBuzios a wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke? It does look that way. Búzios has the clean waters, but it doesn't have the infrastructure needed to accommodate all the sailing vessels with their attendant equipment, or house the athletes, the coaches, the technical support staffs, the medical staffs, the press corps, the spectators, etc. The idea was floated, everyone got into a tizzy, stickums were slapped on surfaces all over town — and the idea has fizzled.

But don't you think that a few new Olympic events will have to be  developed with host city Rio de Janeiro in mind? Put Jérôme Valcke in charge of it, he's not doing anything, and he can even steal my ideas: Sailing in Sewage, Canoeing through Corpses, and Rowing in Rubbish. Triathlon Trash has a certain ring to it as well. Oh, well, I guess Mark and I can throw out those guest lists we were drawing up!

21 September 2015

Ode to Brazil

It's hard to sit down and explain,
What to 'zilians has caused so much pain,
Because like it or not,
This country was Hot!
But is now just the butt of disdain.

We are having enormous disruption,
Due to various schemes of corruption,
There are kickbacks like crazy,
On details I'm hazy,
But we're pelted with no interruption.

It all started with President Lula,
Who behaved like a helluva rulah,
He started the graft,
And his cronies all laughed,
And now he is rolling in moolah.

He passed it all on to Miss Dilma,
Who has not yet been caught on a filma,
But she's fast losing ground,
Her speeches confound,
Some say, Give her the axe!
And she says, Raise the tax!
Pretty soon it'll be, "Good-bye, Dilma!"

'Cause the schemes in once-proud Petrobras,
Have been one solid kick in the ass,
From kickbacks to bribes,
It's too much to describe,
We are in a depression, en masse.

Oh, my wonderful, dear, sweet Brazil,
We are all still so full of goodwill,
You've got Judge Moro's squad,
So go squash all that fraud!
Understanding the battle's uphill.

Judge Sérgio Moro — hated by some, feared by many, beloved by the rest of us!

14 September 2015

More Blog Updates

Time to satisfy the curiosity of those readers who are wondering what's been happening with some of the ongoing dramas — or even just the day-to-day changes — that make up our life in Búzios. So here are a few blog updates:

The Vacant Lot's Not Vacant Anymore
(First posted on 9/16/13, updated on 6/23/14)

Two years ago the beautiful forest next door to our house was uprooted, sections of the steep, sloping hillside were removed, and construction began on the foundation of a house. But just a few months after it started, the work stopped. Whether it was stopped by the authorities or the owner simply abandoned it because he ran out of money has never been quite clear. All we know is that people carted off the tools and the porta-potty, and Mark and I have since been watching nature return in all its exuberance. Here's how the lot was left when it was abandoned:

And here's what it looks like now:

Hah! Now it's for sale!

For us it's just a matter of waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Bakery 1 and Bakery 2
(First posted on 5/6/13)

The bakery at the corner of our street, the one I referred to as Bakery 1 in the May 2013 post, is now being run by the owner's son, and is being slowly dragged into the 21st century. The old TV with bad reception has been replaced by a snazzy flat screen model, products are being upgraded, but the place still thankfully retains its seedy, neighborhood-y feel. Bakery 2, otherwise known as Golden Bread, is no longer the only place to meet and greet, and not because the quality has gone downhill, but rather because the formula has changed. They've gone the way of self-service. As someone who hails from the land of self-service, all I can say is that the place has lost some of its original luster.

Bakery 3
But more to the point here, Búzios has now been blessed with yet another bakery, Bakery 3, and what a place this is! Run by the elegant, French-born Valérie and her equally elegant, German-born baker-husband, this newest hot spot of European-quality breads and rolls and pastries and other baked goodies has some of our friends touting it as the only bakery in town. But Mark and I frequent them all, of course, 'cause you never know which side your croissant is buttered on.

Dining Areas
(First posted on 8/18/14)

A year ago I was thrilling to the plethora of dining areas we have at home — five, count them, five, quite separate and distinct, each one of them used depending on the meal, the weather, and the number of people we need to seat. Well, could it be that five wasn't enough? We have added a sixth dining area to the mix. Outside the living room, and at the top of the stairs which lead to the beach, our new favorite dining area is intimate, cozy, protected from the glare of the setting sun, and it reminds us of Provence:

Girl's Night Out  
(First posted on 11/10/11, updated on 5/13/13)

The institution of Girls' Night Out that my friend Cristina and I began some 12 years ago is still going strong. We still meet once a week (barring illness, travel, etc.), we still alternate languages, and — believe me — neither one of us has aged one iota. Really.

Watchin' Movies
(First posted on 5/7/12, updated on 5/13/13)

In the two years since our update on how many movies Mark and I have watched since moving to Brazil, the number has risen to 2,088. Hey, it's our main source of entertainment . . .

Man in Water
(First posted 11/19/14, updated on 8/10/15)

This man fascinates me. He is still there, almost every day, standing in the water in front of our house, quiet, contemplative, pensive. Yesterday Mark and I passed him on the beach (he was on his way into the water), and we all nodded a hello. The man will never know what a world-renowned celebrity he's become.

07 September 2015

A Couple of Little Bones to Pick with the USA

No aspirin is going to help this headache!
Before I embark on a series of diatribes in upcoming months about everything that's gone dreadfully wrong in Brazil in the last year or so, a series of political, economic, and social events that have driven nearly every single person who lives here into the deepest of depressions, I'd like to pick a few little bones with the good old USA, where Mark and I recently spent some quality time. And I'm not talking about the ongoing political campaign nonsense, plenty of people are already analyzing that to death. Nor am I talking about the many social ills still plaguing the US, that's for deeper thinkers than I am to work through. No, I'm talking about the little details of life there, as seen by a couple of visiting citizens just passing through.

My idea of fine dining!
I believe deep in my heart that when Americans travel to Europe or South America they truly enjoy the restaurant experience, it's one of the highlights of any trip abroad. Spending lots of time around a table full of excellent food, staying for as long as you wish, maybe indulging in another drink to enjoy the sunset . . . it's divine, and unforgettable. So why on earth do Americans IN America allow the restaurant experience to, well, to go to pot? The pacing! It's too damn fast! I mean, come on, we're just beginning our meal and the waitress comes up to the table to ask, "Will you be wanting dessert?" And since we just look at her in utter amazement, she takes that for a "no" and plops the bill on the table, "I'll just leave this here." For Mark and me, this table-turnover-gotta- move-it-fast-faster culture was SHOCKING! And not good for digestion.

Let's stay in restaurants for a moment. Restaurant food in the States is waaay too sugared. Everything has sugar in it. Everything. We couldn't believe it. And the portion size? Waaay too big. The food flops over the edge of the plate. So, let's see . . . all that sugar in those enormous portions leads to . . .

Hi! Hello! Hi!

Everyone we met (but for one very prickly, very feisty, cowboy-lovin', New York-hatin' shopowner in Scottsdale, Arizona) was incredibly friendly. And I would like to take that friendliness in the spirit in which it was given, but — how can I say this? People were soooo friendly, and soooo perky, that I began to wonder (worry?) whether they were on something.

I would say that in my experience throughout Brazil, 88% of the public bathrooms are impeccably clean. That goes for the bathrooms in malls, in theaters, in restaurants and yes, even in gas stations! But oh, dear, I sure didn't expect this: in my recent trek through the U.S., I'm sorry to report that 88% of the public bathrooms were f.i.l.t.h.y. Hey, get a broom! And some disinfectant! It's not rocket science — if we can do it in an emerging country, so can you!

Okay, I'm done now.

31 August 2015

Brazilians and Argentines

Hello everyone! I have a guest blogger sitting in for me this morning, a guy called Mark Something-or-other. Hope you enjoy his take on life in Búzios. (Why, he's lived here as long as I have!) 

You don't have to listen to a lot of the jokes that Brazilians tell about their neighbors the Argentines to figure out what it is that ticks Brazil off about the Argentines so much. "What's the definition of ego? It's the little piece of Argentina that we all carry within us." "What's the world's best business deal? Buy an Argentine for his real value and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." And then, the jokes aside, there's that relentless Argentine needling about how (their) Maradona is greater than (our) Pelé, (their) Messi is greater than (our) Neymar.

No war is brewing between the two countries, and no local Donaldo dreams about putting a fence up at the border. Brazilians will often in fact generously refer to the Argentines, in their own language, as the hermanos—not that there aren't some undercurrents of irony there along with the fraternal feeling. But Argentines are, unquestionably, a thorn in the Brazilian side, and all the more so here in Búzios, where many Argentines are long-time residents (and continue, most of them, to speak with heavy accents), many young Argentines come for a season or two and work in restaurants (and continue, irritatingly, to greet their customers in Spanish, as if we were still in Recoleta) and thousands of Argentines pass through every year on brief sun-and-sand vacations and go about their admittedly completely intelligible gracias-ing when they could just as easily make the simple effort to express their thanks for this and that with an obrigado — and seduce.


In Búzios, the situation is particularly complicada, since, though the Brazilians don't like to acknowledge it, Búzios to a large extent has come to depend on a collaboration between Brazilians and Argentines. Our one movie theater, where the bill of fare is more likely to be an Iranian film festival contender than a Hollywood blockbuster, was founded, and for decades has been overseen by, the Argentine cinephile Mario Paz.


Of our many restaurants, the one that most resembles an old-line European establishment, by name Cigalon, was created by, and continues to be lovingly fine-tuned by, the Argentine lawyer and foodie Sonia Persiani.

Of our hundreds of pousadas, the one that has been noticed most in the international travel press, and most recommended to upscale travelers, is the Casas Brancas; Casas Brancas was created by the Argentine Amalia de la Maria and for many decades it was she who obsessively kept CB standards way up in the stratosphere.


Our great satiric newspaper, the Perú Molhado, was published and edited for many decades, with insouciant genius, by the Argentine photographer-writer Marcelo Lartigue.


I have inevitably been thinking about the Argentine contribution to Búzios because Amalia of Casas Brancas died just a couple of weeks ago. She had been sick. She decided to go off to Croatia with her husband, José, also an Argentine, for a last fling. She flung. She expired there. In other days, there would have been pages and pages about her in Perú Molhado—biography, celebration, irreverent nonsense. But Marcelo, the careless genius of the Perú, himself died about a year ago. Underlying cause of death: too much high living. In Marcelo's absence, the Perú has gone to pot and, when Amalia died, the new management published a small picture and a graceless caption. Some day Barbara or I — one of us — should write a memoir of our dear, dear Búzios-residing Argentine friend Hugo Oks. It is painful for Barbara and me to think how many years it has been since Hugo passed on.
Mark and Barbara to Buenos Aires: Send reinforcements! Send reinforcements urgently! Please!

24 August 2015


Nowadays you can Google anything and everything, but I grew up pre- Google, so everything I ever learned about cactus came from watching old Westerns (which means I don't know a whole hell of a lot about cactus, other than that they're native to the Americas). What I know for sure is that if you were prostrate with thirst and near death, you had best crawl to a cactus, quick. If you were lucky, and crawled fast, you might reach one and find a drop of water inside. If not, that was the end of that, pardner!

Here in Búzios we have a variety of cactus growing all over the place —

. . . on the shore

. . . in a garden

. . . and at the beach

— as well as inside and outside of our house —

Affectionately called our "broccoli monster"

Stand back! This is our sharp "needle monster"!
A nice, gentle guy on the veranda

Planted at 5", now stands tall and proud

Part of our recent trip to the States included a drive around the Southwest, which brought us face to face with the famous movie cactus —

Classic saguaro in Paradise Valley, Arizona
From somewhere to somewhere, New Mexico

Also in New Mexico

But here's my all-time favorite cactus, which we scared off in São Paulo during the 2014 Bienale Art Show!

Get me outta here!