Dec. 3, 2006: Bye Bye Brazil
suitcase is packed. I’m carrying Knife Man in his plastic
store bag, along with the inflatable neck cushion I bought seven days
ago at the Dallas airport.
The suitcase has sat all week on the bed closest to the window. I sleep on the bed next to the bathroom door.
Before I go, let’s talk about this bathroom. This has to be the nicest hotel bathroom I’ve seen. The door is frosted glass. The walls end about 18 inches from the ceiling, topped with more frosted glass. The room is about 18 feet long with four windows. The fixtures are marble. The square shower is about five feet wide, maybe six. You could have a party in there.
The bathtub has whirlpool jets. I tried using it last night, even though there is a sign on the wall warning me not to. At least I think it’s a warning. I can’t read it. In hindsight, it must be a warning. Why? Because after I turned on the jets, I couldn’t switch them off. I kept pressing the button, but they kept roaring like an outboard motor. It finally stopped after I kept my thumb on the button for about 20 seconds. Despite the malfunctioning tub, this is a pretty decent banheiro. I always measure the quality of a hotel by its bathrooms. Yes, I will miss this bathroom.
Not really. But I’m definitely going to miss Brazil and the people I’ve met here.
One more trip to Bella Paulista to have a glass of watermelon juice (one for the road), then it’s time to gather my belongings.
The film company sends a taxi to pick me up at 9 a.m. I need to get to Guarulhos airport by 10 a.m. My flight leaves at noon.
As we drive through Sao Paulo, I remember how I felt when I arrived, seeing these buildings for the first time, knowing that an adventure lay ahead, that a mysterious man in black was waiting somewhere in the middle of all that concrete and bustle.
It takes 90 minutes to check in and go through airport security. I miraculously make it to the terminal in time.
On the plane, I have a window seat next to a staggeringly beautiful 20-year-old Brazilada named Livia Furlan. She looks like a more fragile, raven-haired version of Sarah Michelle Gellar.
She says she was crying as the plane took off because she was leaving her mother and father.
This is her first plane trip and her first time setting foot outside Brazil. She is going to Nevada. I think she is going there to study English. She says she is studying law in Sao Paulo, but in America she is going to wait tables. It is hard to imagine this princess waiting tables in Nevada. The more Livia talks, the less I’m convinced that she knows what she is getting herself into.
She strains to look out the window, her eyes wide with amazement. I trade seats with her so she can watch the clouds more comfortably. My adventure is ending, but hers is just beginning.
We start talking about what I did during my trip. I decide it would be easier to just show her, so I break out the camera and let her scroll through the images on the rear monitor. When Mojica appears, she almost has a heart attack.
“Do you know who he is?” I ask.
“Yes, he is famous,” Livia says. “I have seen him on TV many times. Do you know him?”
I explain about the movie. She says she saw Mojica in a recent TV interview, talking about making a new movie. I tell her that is the movie I worked on.
“When it comes out, I will see it and tell everyone that my friend is in it,” Livia says.
I ask her if she has seen Mojica’s films. “No, they were made before I was born,” she says.
It is a long trip, so we have many hours to talk. I do my Mojica “Atencao!” impersonation and she thinks it’s funny. Livia teaches me the proper way to pronounce several Portuguese words that I’ve been mangling all week.
We nap for a couple hours. Then I show her music videos on my iPod. She gets her first look at Rob Zombie. She isn’t too crazy about him. But then I play her Johnny Cash singing “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Amazingly, it is the first time she has heard Johnny Cash’s voice. She has no idea who he is. She has no idea what he is saying. But she likes it. She likes it a lot.
Our first sight of land excites her. It turns out to be an island. More water. Then we fly over Miami. She sees lakes and buildings pass below. Her first look at America! The plane lands. Livia is now officially in the United States. It is a big moment.
We stick together as we walk through the airport. Her next flight does not leave until tomorrow morning, so she needs to find a cheap hotel. I tell her the people at the information desks should know all the nearby hotels. A husky Brazilado hears this and tries to show me up by suggesting a particular chain – Motel 6. Are my eyes becoming bloodshot? I arch my eyebrow and consider thrusting my fingernails into his pupils, but then I remember I don’t really have long talons. Glancing around, I don’t see any instruments of torture handy. I guess I’ll let him live – this time.
Livia and I continue through the winding corridors until we come to the passport control area. Two big, rude signs instruct non-U.S. citizens to go left and U.S. citizens to go right. I tell Livia I’m sorry, but it looks like we must part. She says good-bye, it was nice meeting me. We go our separate ways.
I zip through customs in a matter of seconds. In no time, I am sitting at Gate 45, Terminal D of Miami International Airport, waiting for Flight 1841 to St. Louis.
Now I’m sitting on the plane. In a couple of hours, I will be in St. Louis. Bye-bye Brazil, hello Bible Belt.
Most of the people on this plane seem to be from St. Louis. I can tell because they have “the stare.” Out-of-state friends who visit St. Louis tell me they notice “the stare.” I guess I started noticing it about 10 years ago. It’s a look of suspicion and warning, like gunslingers waiting for someone to pull their pistol.
Chill out, folks. Loosen up. Geez.
Everyone in Sao Paulo seemed warm and friendly, even strangers walking down the street. No stares. No sizing you up to determine what threat level you posed. A week without “the stare.” I had almost forgotten it existed. Until now.
St. Louis may never change, but I’ve changed. Henceforth, when someone gives me that xenophobic stare, they won’t just be looking at little old Raymond Castile. I will take delight in knowing that, now and forever, they are staring eye to eye with ZE DO CAIXAO.