Dec. 1, 2006: Avenida Paulista
|Whenever I finish a project, I become
depressed. I feel like I need to start
another project right away to keep from falling into the abyss.
If I were in St. Charles, I would be moping around the house, staring
at the walls. Now I am moping around a hotel room, staring out
the window. Gee, there sure is a big city out there.
Huge! Kind of scary, like a Blade Runner metropolis. Well, enough of this. I’m going out there.
Avenida Paulista (Paulista Avenue) is one of the biggest streets in Sao Paulo. It is lined with shops, museums, restaurants, banks and businesses. Luckily, it is about a half-mile from the hotel. My plan is to walk down one side of Paulista for about a mile, then cross the street and walk back up the other side, stopping along the way at any shops that look interesting.
I decide against visiting the museums. I am too cheap to buy a ticket. It is already late in the day and they will be closing soon. Besides, I would rather be out among the populace, observing normal people doing normal things.
I pop into a shopping mall. It looks very similar to an American mall. The clothes are pretty dismal. Lots of Izod, Levis and conservative-looking brands I’ve never heard of. They do seem to like Puma shoes here, so that’s cool. I’m wearing some right now. Hmm. Nah, I can’t say I want any of these clothes. I heard Sao Paulo was something of a fashion center, but I don’t see it here.
(I later learn that I was in the wrong district for the kind of clothes I was looking for. There are areas in Sao Paulo with very upscale clothing stores, but I did not know where to find them. Maybe next time!)
I try at least three other shopping centers. They vary drastically in style. The first two are almost indistinguishable from American malls, but the third and fourth are much more “Third World.” They are like dense beehives filled with hundreds of little square booths, right next to each other with no walls or storefronts. They are more like bazaars than malls. They kind of remind me of a crowded toy show where the dealer tables are separated by wire mesh or glass panels. Speaking of toys, where are they? I want some toys!
The American-style malls have a store similar to Kay-Bee. For all I know, it could be the same company. The toys they sell are the same type of stuff you see in American stores. Nothing special. Lots of superhero action figures and girl dolls.
At the third shopping center, a bazaar-style one, I find a little toy “shop” (not really any walls or doors, but I guess it’s a shop) that sells more esoteric playthings. It is more chaotic, with junk piled on top of junk. Something catches my eye. A Halloween toy. It is a battery-operated gray skull in an open-faced box. I’m not sure what it does. Not too exciting, but at least it tells me I might be getting warm. There has to be a monster toy around here somewhere.
Ah ha! What have we here! “Halloween Knife Man.” Egad, this is hideous. It is an ugly head, about eight inches tall, with rooted hair and rubber skin. The face looks like Temozoc, the monster in Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy. His left eye looks like it rolls around when you activate him. His mouth probably opens and closes as he screams. Why does he scream? Because you are supposed to stick a plastic knife in his bloody right eye! Some kid has done just that. I try jabbing the knife, but the batteries seem to be dead. The box is wrecked. There has to be a better example somewhere.
I spend the next 15 minutes digging around the shop, trying to find another one. My persistence pays off. In another part of the store, under a pile of junk, I find a very crisp, unused specimen. This will be MY Halloween Knife Man! But he’s so big and chunky, how will I get him home? He won’t fit in my suitcase. Oh well, I’ll worry about that later. R$56, on clearance. That’s about $20 U.S. Not exactly cheap. No matter. I’m not leaving without him. But the line at the cash register is so slow and disorganized, I’m tempted to do exactly that. I stand there 15 minutes. But I stick it out, and now I’ve got my Knife Man. His box says, “Try me. Stab on my eye.” Is this an American toy? I’ve never seen it in an American store, but I do have a vague memory of seeing it online, perhaps on a Web site devoted to weird, obscure toys. Regardless of his nationality, he’s cool. “Stab on my eye!”
I don’t know how much I walked, but I think I have pushed my leg muscles to their maximum endurance. And I want to get Knife Man back to the hotel room before he gets banged up. I miss the intersection leading to the hotel and almost get lost, but then I backtrack and find the street.
At the hotel, I ever so carefully open the bottom of Knife Man’s box so I can loosen the fasteners holding his knife in place. No way am I going to try bringing a toy knife on the plane. I free the knife and give him a try, stabbing his eye. “Aaaagghhh!!! Eeee! Oooh!” he shrieks and moans. Abruptly, he stops whining and says, “Scream, scream, happy Halloween!”
For dinner, I try to go to the vegetarian restaurant Dennison recommended. I find that it is open only during the day. I will try again tomorrow. Instead, I go to a very nice restaurant (can’t remember the name) and eat a delicious carrot pie with green salad and Brazilian mustard sauce. I have the same Chilean wine I drank last night at the pizzeria. That wine must be popular here.
In the early a.m. hours, I am getting depressed again. I need something to do. So I walk to Bella Paulista and have an unusual dessert called avocado cream. They throw a sliced avocado into a blender along with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, then whip it to a pudding consistency. This green goo is delicious. I don’t usually eat dessert at home, but with all the walking I’ve done today, this shouldn’t hurt.
Tomorrow I will visit the set one last time. Dennison said, “Don’t you dare leave without coming by Saturday.” So I will. It will be my last chance to be part of the “Strange World of Coffin Joe” before I have to return to the “Mundane World of Average Joe.”