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!

17 August 2015

A March Here, A Protest There

I came of age in the '60s and '70s, and as some of you might remember, those were some serious protest years. There was the student movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, there were anti-Vietnam marches — remember "Make Love, Not War?" I did my part. And I burned a few bras for the women's movement, too. But I'm terribly averse to large crowds (hey, I saw the last 20 minutes of The Day of the Locust!) and so I admit to having avoided much of the hard core protesting of those years.

Amazing, then, that on my very first trip to Rio de Janeiro in August of 1992 I found myself in the middle of a protest march in favor of the impeachment of Brazil's then-President, Fernando Collor de Mello, who had been accused of influence peddling*. As you can see from the pictures, at first I stayed across the street, ever crowd-averse, but soon I gingerly edged my way deeper in. Hey, this was a Brazilian protest march, much lighter in tone and more fun than the marches I avoided in NYC!

Copacabana Beach, 1992

Even more amazing, though, is that yesterday, some 23 years after participating in that march against Collor, Mark and I were in Rio (this time quite deliberately) to join what was being billed as "the largest protest in the history of Brazil," a protest against every single thing that has fallen off the rotten tree of the current government: against President Dilma, against her political party (the Workers Party), against former President Lula (currently called Luladrão, ladrão meaning thief), and against the ever-growing and mutating Petrobras scandal.**

This protest was a coordinated effort that took place all over Brazil and in various world cities such as Paris, London, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. It was, as we expected it would be, a very Brazilian event: all singing, all dancing, and lots of paz e amor. Did it accomplish what it set out to accomplish? Too early to tell, that will be for all the talking heads to opine about in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I may very well have personally brought down yet one more Brazilian government!

Okay, I was a little leery at first . . .

. . . but then I saw the security . . . 

. . . and made my way into the crowd . . .

It wasn't too hard to mingle!

I even made some new friends!

It was quite a turnout on Copacabana Beach

*Collor ended up resigning in an attempt to stop an impeachment trial, but the trial went forward, he was found guilty, and was disqualified from elective office from 1992 to 2000. Unfortunately, you can take the boy out of politics, but you can't take politics out of the boy, and since 2007 Collor has been serving as Senator from the state of Alagoas. No surprise here, he is currently under investigation in the ongoing Petrobras scandal, and back in July, the federal police impounded a Porsche, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini from Collor's residence. Dirty then, dirty now.

Collor or Dracula — who's scarier?

**The Petrobras Scandal — where to start? Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly complex scheme of kickbacks, bribes, frauds and graft involving employees of Petrobras (Brazil's own once-highly-regarded oil company), presidents of construction companies, high-level government employees, mid-level pigeons, politicians of all stripes, and the always-present string of in-laws and other family members. This scandal is as dirty as a scandal can get, and yet every day we learn it's even dirtier than we thought.

10 August 2015

Búzios 2016?

Back in December of 2014 I said that due to force majeure I was suspending my blog and going to the States for a while, and that I'd see you all next year. And then — nothing but silence. I turned my back, dropped you all like hot potatoes, left you in the lurch, walked off into the sunset without a fair-thee-well. I know, I'm so sorry. If I told you all that I had good reasons, would you believe me? Would it make things right?

I've been back in Búzios for a few months now, but I returned feeling pretty cranky. I didn't think anyone would still be interested in what an American transplant thought about her adopted home in Brazil, nor did I feel I had it in me anymore to write. So I stopped blogging, just like that. But then, one day recently, I looked out at our bay and there he was, Man in Water, standing out there as still and pensive as when I first wrote about him last November. I felt the itch to sit down and tell my readers that, by golly, he's still there!

There's really so much to talk about these days, how can I remain silent? The Brazilian economy is on the skids, corruption is pervasive, crime is rampant, and in one of those you-are-what-you-eat moments, President Dilma is losing weight at about the same dizzying speed with which her popularity has taken a tumble . . . but what really got me back in the saddle was when I learned that Búzios — known in Brazil as the Capital da Vela, the Sailing Capital — is aggressively campaigning to have the 2016 Olympic sailing events moved out here! How wonderful is that! While the Rio authorities are tripping over themselves trying to disprove the recent findings of horrendous pollution in Guanabara Bay, we here in Búzios are sitting on beaches and waters that are clear and limpid and waiting to be of service. And Mark and I are sitting on what would be front-row seats if this comes to pass. I'm up and blogging, because the stories are too good to pass up.

08 December 2014


Well, I wanted to write about our banana tree, which has us so excited. It's bearing fruit!

And then I thought about writing more about our Man in Water, who is STILL there . . .

But instead I`m afraid I have to suspend the blog for a while, due to force majeure. Tropical Girl has to go up to the United States for a while. But for sure, see you all next year!

01 December 2014

Feliz Dia de Ação de Graças!

Ask ten Americans what their favorite holiday is and it’s possible that you will come up with ten different answers. Then again, it’s also possible that at least half of them will say that Thanksgiving is their favorite. It sure was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. Thanksgiving food may not be the healthiest you can eat, but I like it! I like a moist, roast turkey, I like stuffing and I like gravy (both of which my mother made from scratch). I like candied yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie. Sometimes, when I was a kid, we’d go to a relative’s house, sometimes we’d do the hosting, but even when it was just the immediate family, we’d open the table in the dining room up to its full size and, what was really rare for us, we'd even lay on a tablecloth. There were, of course, a lot more dishes to wash, but the promise of no school and a few days off made up for the extra work.

Mark and I don’t have much of a Thanksgiving tradition together, mostly because Mark fairly hates Thanksgiving. But Mark is also an accommodating guy, and, even if he weren’t, he knows force majeure when he sees it. One occasion on which the force majeure was too strong to tangle with, we were in Buenos Aires. Americans we knew there were going to go and have their Thanksgiving turkey in an American-style restaurant called Kansas Grill in the suburb of San Isidro, where the Presidential residence is also located. These friends courted us energetically. There was nothing else we had to do that particular Thursday. Not even Mark was able to think of a convincing excuse, and we joined them and we had a good time. The Kansas Grill was kind of like the biggest and glitziest diner in any American suburb in which a stack of pancakes are called for on a Sunday morning. As I remember, we all got to sit in a huge booth, and that’s something that doesn’t happen every day in South America. Good turkey and good trimmings, too.

Sam Flowers
Last week, after several years of abstinence, I finally got my turkey-with-all-the-trimmings again. We had to be in Rio for most of the week, so we did the appropriate Googling and we discovered that we had two options. But it was easy to rule out Thanksgiving at the Marriott Hotel. Too Republican, and we'd have had to dress for the occasion to boot. So we reserved for three in the afternoon at the Gringo Café in Ipanema, more down-home and much more us. The place is real '50s-style, right down to the turquoise-colored chairs. It's run by Sam Flowers, an American from — well, I’m not sure, but I’d guess California, only because he sounded like my brother-in-law who is Californian. Sam is a good-looking guy and a great host, and he sure knows how to pile up a plate with turkey and trimmings. 

Just one thing that was a little odd. Thanksgiving is not a Brazilian holiday. Could be that other Americans were planning to stop by the Gringo Café for their turkey later. But, at the seemingly traditional Thanksgiving hour at which we turned up, the Americans were few and far between, and the Brazilians who stopped in would order a burger or a piece of cake and then go on about their everyday business.

Here was our menu (or rather, my menu). Scrooge ordered meatloaf.

Um um good!

 Now you see my pumpkin pie . . .

           . . . and now you don't!

So thanks, Sam, for my little taste of home! Same time next year?

A brief footnote to this. Brazilians may not give a hoot about Thanksgiving. But they sure seem to give a bunch of hoots about Black Friday, plus they give it a colorful Brazilian touch: