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.

 I was staying in the coolest neighborhood in Rio called 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 drums. 

 '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 to.


Moving on.


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 before.



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 leaves.  

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 door.

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 the taxi.  

(For the record:  Hugo and his girl reconciled and were officially dating again by Tuesday. All is well. )

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