Friday, March 21, 2014

Where Am I?

All signs point to me being in Rio de Janeiro, a city I’ve dreamed of visiting ever since I first saw the movie Black Orpheus in college. I did actually visit several years back with my wife and younger daughter, but I only had two days before I had to teach in Sao Paolo and there was an uncharacteristic fog that obscured the telltale sights of Sugarloaf and Corcovado. I did get to eat in the “Girl from Ipanema” café and walk along Copacabana Beach back then, but it all felt like a practice visit.

Now I’m here again and yesterday I played tourist and did get up Sugarloaf to enjoy the spectacular view. One marquee marked the temperature at 42 Celsius, which translates to around 108 degrees Fahrenheit by my math. Which it probably was in the direct sunlight. A blessed afternoon nap and then out to a shopping mall to hear the sax player I jammed with yesterday play with a guitarist (alas! no piano available) in a wine bar at a shopping mall. Then back to the apartment to sit with my host’s nephew and watch the TV series “Breaking Bad”—filmed in Arizona, streamed on Netflix, with Portuguese subtitles. Then to my bed with my book that takes place in Washington DC and the Brazilian Amazon. Where exactly am I again?

This morning, knocked my e-mails down like obedient toy soldiers all the way to zero, wrote a bit more on my emerging book, went down to the subway to downtown to check out my room in the Conservatory where I’ll be teaching. Lunched at a vegetarian restaurant and hopped on a bus zooming along the coast with its green strips along the road with palm trees. Suddenly, I’m five years old again on my first vacation with beaches and palm trees in Miami, the first sense that there was more to the world than the few mile radius I had known in Roselle, New Jersey. Now there is thunder out the window as I sit and write and it could be summertime in Michigan.

How many worlds we carry with us! In any one moment, we can enter a multitude of universes through books, through recorded music, through day dreaming, through thinking or writing or singing or playing an instrument. Wi fi everywhere ups the ante, as does Skype and Netflix and Pandora. Be anywhere anytime in a quick click. That’s the world— or rather worlds— we inhabit and it’s at once glorious and maddening. By being everywhere, it makes it hard to be wholly anywhere.

But I’m about to re-enter my own portable temple that I carry in my hands, feet, voice and mind, the Orff workshop with a group of new folks in a circle. It’s the same wherever I am and yet also distinct. Three days of that and then a promise to myself to shut off the damn computer and get myself out to Copacabana Beach and up to Corcovado and maybe to a samba school or candomble service or choro concert. To be here. Now. To make Baba Ram Dass proud. Let’s hope.


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