I landed at dawn in Rio and my mind exploded in a
kaleidoscope of green and yellow. It was
oppressively hot, extremely bright, and overflowing with beautiful people, not a
single one looking like another. I immediately
felt more alive and energized than I had my entire trip and I knew Rio would be
my favorite city of all time. I felt
like I belonged.
Santa Tereza; Combine New Orleans and San Francisco and drop it in the middle
of Rio De Janeiro and you have Santa Tereza.
The streets are steep and cobblestoned, every vertical surface is
adorned with beautiful street art, and most of the homes have the New Orleans
style architecture. There are only two places for visitors to stay in Santa
Tereza, and the rest of the neighborhood is artists, new families, and young
beautiful people that fill every adorable bar and cafe. I was staying at a Bed and Breakfast called
Casa Cool Beans (CCB): a three story, open air, colorful home run by Lance, an insanely
vibrant guy from San Diego, and his manager, Sergio. Lance worked for The Four Seasons most of his
life and he brings incredible service to a super chill spot. Lance and I hit it off immediately and I was
inspired and enraptured by 7am.
After a napped in the shade, swam in the rooftop pool, and
then got a Brazilian wax. When In Rome!
Marco, the airport driver/tour guide extraordinaire arrived
at CCB at 3pm to take me on a half-day tour of Rio, and thanks to Marco I am
now a historical and ethnographic expert on Brazil. I saw every corner of the city, quickly had my
favorite neighborhoods, and had my face pressed against the car window for five
hours. Just as the sun was setting and
turning Rio into pink majesty, we arrived at the famous Christ Redeemer statue
that overlooks the city. I looked down over Rio with it’s staggering mountains
bursting out of the endless ocean and I was overwhelmed with the beauty in front
of me. Tears fell in spite of my effort
to hold them back.
Marco dropped me off at CCB and as I was changing into the
prettiest dress I own, I heard what sounded like the first 20 seconds of The
Obvious Child by Paul Simon right outside my window
It was time to head out.
I walked around the corner into the heart of an enormous
block party with hundreds of people dancing to a 20-piece band banging on
‘This is so fucking
awesome!!!!’ I yelled to no one.
Everybody was either dancing, singing, drinking, laughing, talking,
playing an instrument, or selling something.
I approached a guy making caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail, on a makeshift bar made of milk
crates and ordered ‘one, please’ in Spanish. The guy standing next to me saw that I was an
English speaker trying to speak Spanish to a Portuguese guy and asked me in
perfect English, ‘You want a drink?’. His
name is Thiago and our friendship was instant, he immediately asked if I wanted
to hang out with him and his two brothers. He reminded me so much of my friend, Brian
Edson, and I loved him instantly. He was
hilariously funny, really enthusiastic, his English was perfect, and he was
effusive with his friendship toward me. I
felt really lucky to have met him.
Thiago’s younger brother was sweet, but his older brother, Bruno, melted me. Bruno is 34, attentive and kind, funny and
cool, deep, generous, and gorgeous. We did
not leave each other’s side or stop talking for five hours. We talked about Rio, being business owners, California
(he lived in San Diego for three years), and how we both had been to Burning
Man. We talked about having children and
what it feels like to watch our parents age.
He bought us beers and street food and we made plans for the next
day. He was so excited to show me his
Rio, starting the day with his favorite hike to a waterfall, then to a market
where he buys all his fresh fish, and then to the beach near his house. We
talked extensively about our love of outdoor showers, and he insisted his was
the best. He asked for my number, and
instead I gave him CCB’s business card.
We decided that 11am was a perfect starting time for our big day, and we
had a great kiss and an easy goodbye. I walked back to my hotel with stars in
my eyes. I begged myself to fall asleep
but couldn’t wipe my smile off my face.
God, I love Rio.
The next morning I was giddy. I was
on the sidewalk at 11:05 like a kid on Christmas day.
I waited until noon.
He never showed up.
I went upstairs and changed and asked Lance and Sergio to help me plan my
day. I was crushed.
All day I wondered why I didn’t get his number or what could have
happened. I tried fruitlessly to shake
the gnawing feeling in my heart. I begged myself not to cry.
I spent the afternoon on a tour of enormous favelas, the Brazilian shanty
towns made famous in the movie City of God.
It was an incredibly interesting tour and the favelas were fascinating
and nothing like I imagined. I loved
every second, and for the gagillionth time during my trip I was overwhelmed by
the beauty of life.
I spent the rest of the day semi-catatonic in disappointment. I ate
dinner alone and watched the sun set over an incredible city from a glass cable
car. There is a big difference between
being alone and being lonely.
I got home to CCB and walked directly into the shower. There are six rooms in the inn and not a soul
was there. Lance and Sergio leave at 2pm
every day and a code is needed to get in the front gate. While I was in the shower the bell rang three
times. No one who normally does business with this inn was ringing the bell;
they know better, and no one else was there. When I finally got to the window I watched two
people in a black car drive away. I still
wonder if it was Bruno ringing the bell.
I also still wonder why we didn’t exchange information when he asked me
It was Saturday night and high time I changed the channel. I walked down
to the very same corner bar as I did the night before hoping for the best.
When I asked the bartender for a caipirinha he asked me something back in
Portuguese and I’m sure I looked stunned.
Again, the guy next to me saved the day, ‘He wants to know if you want
something to eat.” he chimed in. I
didn’t, but I immediately wanted to talk with this guy who is the Brazilian
version of my dear friend, Dod. I hadn’t spoken more then ten words in English
all day and I was hungry for conversation. Hugo and I were friends immediately and bonded
and laughed over every single thing we said. We talked about love and life and
Rio and politics and heartbreak, and his three year old son, Teo. We ventured outside of the bar and further
explored Santa Tereza. Hugo was trying
to get over a recent breakup with his girlfriend and he needed the company as
much as I did.
We went to a neighborhood samba party and ended the night at a little bar
listening to five talented guys play instruments I’ve never heard of (though
Hugo swears one of them was the flute. J)
Hugo walked me to my door, gave me a great kiss, and said he’d pick me up
at 10am the next morning for breakfast.
He gave me his business card and friended me on facebook. I hadn’t told him anything about the night
It was 10:01am on Sunday morning when I heard Hugo honk his horn lightly
outside CCB to let me know he was there.
I smiled and ran downstairs.
Hugo is a funny, smart, cool, generous, sexy, laidback guy full of very
kind and generous things to say to me. We endured Rio’s record-breaking heat
over breakfast, fresh juice, crepes, air conditioning, waterfalls, traffic
jams, inside jokes, city views, botanical gardens, and hilarious laughter. Our chemistry built over the day, and our
friendship was obvious and very special.
He was, and is, a friend I want to be around all the time. He’s the guy you miss five minutes after he
He asked me what Americans call the male Brazilian bathing suits and I told
him ball huggers. He laughed so hard he
almost drove off the road.
We played in the crowded waters of Impanema beach at sunset and he kissed
me on my neck. Over sushi, with the reality of our day coming to a close, we
thanked each other profusely for a beautiful day. Our absolutely perfect day ended in a steamy
goodbye outside of CCB, and we promised to see each other again one day. His ex was calling him as I opened the car
Leaving Rio the next morning felt like torture and I could barely get the
words out to thank Lance and Sergio for all they had done for me.
I promised I’d be back. I cried in
(For the record: Hugo and his girl reconciled and were officially dating again by Tuesday. All is well. )