Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Lost Samba – Chapter 15/02 – The Crazy Carnival of Recife


The Galo da Madrugada “bloco” in Recife.

Our hopes were only half-fulfilled: the only girls who gave us any attention were the good ones from good families who were committed to post-marital sex. They gave dirty looks and we got into a lot of snogging, but the advances always ended short of the last stop. Kissing a stranger from the South was audacious enough and, if that alone required effort and patience, the rest was unthinkable.

There was one exception: a fake blond wearing no bra who we chatted up on the seaside promenade while a pre-carnival parade was passing by. We did the usual thing, flattering her as she walked by and waiting for the reaction. Unlike the others who smiled or frowned but continued on their way, she stopped to talk to us. Despite her being alone, she accepted coming behind a construction site and sitting between us. Her tight jeans revealed a slim and well-shaped body, and her perfume and her varnished toenails were a complete turn on. There was a lot of excitement in the air, but neither Edu nor I wanted to leave the other with the prize. She showed no preference and ended up not being able to cope with the attack of four adolescent hands, and got up and left.

Despite these frustrations, Recife’s carnival was fantastic. In Rio, the middle class ran away from the partying to relax, but there everyone made a point of taking part in the revelry. At night, there was the Mela-Mela (“smear-smear”) tradition where people went around the streets spreading a homemade paste of water, eggs and flour on everyone while groups paraded the emptied streets making music and dancing. Our hosts made a few bags of it for us, but it was predictable that two guys with out of town looks would be on the receiving end. We did respond but, when our ammunition finished, we had to go back home looking like two unbaked loaves of bread, happy to be exhausted from the fun.

During the day, people drove around in cars with no doors and in hired trucks throwing buckets of water on passersbys. On the pavement, the victims stood prepared to respond with three foot long wooden water jets defending themselves from onslaughts while attacking every car that passed by, with or without doors. The clashes happened with a lot of shouting and laughing. Edu’s aunt warned us to be careful with the things people could put in the water but we were never left with a strange smell.

The first proper carnival of that summer was in the rundown part of town by the old port. The area looked like the background of an old black and white film in the Middle East but with European looking buildings and populated by a Caribbean people.

Recife’s rhythm was not the samba but the frevo, a fast military-like beat with an African twist, performed by brass sections sounding intricate arrangements accompanied by a sizeable rhythm section. The traditional way to dance to it was to kneel up and down to the rhythm waving an umbrella, but the rabble at Praça do Marco Zero square was too drunk for acrobatics and the experience was closer to a punk rock concert, where no one was sure if they were in a fight or if they were having fun. The energy was intense and we had to hold our elbows high in that flood of musical insanity. At one point the organizers stopped the music and held up a bottle of Brazilian whiskey, announcing that was the prize for the best dancer. The band resumed and the crowd went even more berserk.


picture from http://eyesonrecife.wordpress.com/

A couple of weeks later the Carnival officially started and we had two options: the first one was going to Olinda, a historic town where the authorities barred cars from circulating during the entire four days. On its streets and squares, there would be four or five big bands playing in different locations at any time. We could switch from one carnival to another and join crowds never smaller than a thousand people.

The other option was to go to the carnival balls in Recife. The biggest venues in town hired sizable frevo orchestras that made people dance wherever they could – on the dance floor, on the tables and on the chairs. On the first day we went to Olinda but as we were not successful with the girls we kept our energy for the bailes de Carnaval, where there seemed to be more feminine receptivity. The way to pull girls was to grab them by the waist, dance a bit around the rink and then take them to a corner outside and try to get as far as one could. After weeks of frustration, and a lot of beer, the qualifying standards fell and we were quite successful.

Edu stayed on with some other friends who had come up to Recife, and I went back on my own, in the dawn after the carnival ended. By coincidence, some of the members of the band that had played at the Spot Club Recife, where we had spent our carnival, took the same bus and the partying continued for the next forty something hours with a lot of booze, frevo and samba going on until we arrived in Rio.

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Lost Samba – Chapter 15/01 – Carnival in Recife part 01

Part21The holidays in my new Brazilian School, the Colégio Andrews on Botafogo Beach, were enormous: if you achieved good grades, the holidays began in early December and only ended in mid-March. However, the classes were in Portuguese, and on top of this I had subjects such as Chemistry and Physics which were new to me; the result was that these shortcomings made me stay back in December and January while most of my friends were travelling and enjoying their vacations. Anyway, body surfing the entire morning and then going to school for an hour or two was not a torture.
When the support classes finished, I passed my exams and there were still almost two months of holiday ahead. Out of the blue, Edu asked me if I wanted to go with him to Recife and spend a month with his relatives, carnival included. He was one year older than me, had just passed the college entry exams and was from a respectable Jewish family so my parents had no problem in giving me approval.

For us, the Brazilian Northeast, or the Nordeste, was like an exotic country within Brazil lagging five to ten years behind Rio and São Paulo. Going there would be like revisiting the city that we had grown up in but as pre-adults. What also made the trip exciting was a new wave of artists from that region – Alceu Valença, Fagner, Zé Ramalho, Geraldo Azevedo, Robertinho do Recife – making the head lights, and transforming the Nordeste into a trendy destination. Also, everyone said that Recife’s carnival was superb. The draw back were the 2,300 kilometers between Rio de Janeiro and Recife; aeroplanes were for the very rich and the only way to go there was a 48 hour bus trip.

On a hot January night, we went with our parents to the interstate bus terminal. It was packed with people of all classes, colours and walks of life wandering by ticket counters, cheap food booths, newsstands and souvenir stores. The hustle bustle made the place exciting and familiar for us but the excess of humble people made the experience uncomfortable for my parents. The information system was confusing and we took some time to find the terminal for the Nordeste. When we finally found it and went down the steep metal stairs that took us to the busses, we encountered the aisles full of rural folk loading their old suitcases and gigantic bags onto the luggage compartments. Among them was also a small number of youngsters with long hair in colourful T-shirts together with girls in flowery dresses, wearing handmade bracelets and bead necklaces who were also preparing to get on to the buses.

After hearing our parents’ embarrassing recommendations, we went in, found our seats and waved goodbye as the bus left. We had a chat, managed to sleep and when the day broke, we were already far away in, what was for us, unchartered territory. As the bus passed through the first small villages, we looked out of the window and began to see people riding donkeys on earthen roads, semi-naked children running around, old cars and mud huts with straw roofs. The complexion of the population had changed: there were fewer Europeans, and more descendants of natives and of slaves.


Forest devastation on BR-101

As we continued up the BR-101 and progressed into the remote countryside, the extent of the forest devastation was striking. At school, we had learned that the Atlantic forest covered this area and we were expecting the bus to pass under trees with monkeys jumping from one side of the motorway to the other. Instead, on both sides of the road, there was a melancholic landscape of endless empty fields. The only trees still standing were the ones made of a wood too strong for the motorized saws.

After close to an entire day in the bus, things began to change; the further north we went, the more it felt as if a weight was leaving the other passengers who now could be themselves. They started talking louder and lost the shame of their accent. The roadside restaurants also began to change and went from bad to worse: the food became cheaper, harder to accept as eatable and the quantity of flies around our plates and glasses began to bother us. The radio DJs began sounding northeastern and playing the local rhythms that our favourite artists had stylized.

After they opened up, our fellow travellers treated us well, offering food, drinks and starting up conversations. They knew who we were but for them, we were nice boys from the educated elite, the pride of the nation, and there was a lot of respect. I was not sure if they could differentiate us from the majority of the youngsters of our age and social bearing: we respected them and we were interested in what they had to say, something that was not common.

Anyway, the trip was not a political exercise and our intentions were not noble at all – as every teen male on the planet, we had only one objective in mind: to score. We were off to Recife’s carnival to have unpaid and hands-free sex. Our expectations were high: coming from Rio gave us an edge as cariocas had the reputation of being street wise, trend setters and sexy.

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Boa Viagem beach – Recife

FOTOS DO INSTITUTO MOREIRA SALLES. (Photos of slavery in Brazil.)

The Father of Brazilian Football

Great article about Brazilian football.

The Footballer Magazine


Brazil. Home of the most famous international shirt in World football. The birthplace of some of the games greatest ever players. A country whose inclusion in World football remains as important now as it was more than seven decades ago. The home of football as it is, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Sculpted in cast iron and erected in Bangu, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro is the statue of Thomas Donohoe, a Scottish born man, who travelled to Brasil in search of work. But despite Donohoe influence in Brasil, he is overlooked as the original founder of football in Brasil, with many believing Charles Miller to be the father of football.

Born in Sao Paulo in 1874, Miller, the son of a Scottish railway engineer and Brazilian-born mother, he was sent to school in Southampton, where at the age of 10 was picked for the first team…

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Lost Samba – Chapter 14 – Binge gone bad in Teresópolis

Part20Teresópolis was an hour and a half away from Rio in the mountains and many of my parents’ friends had country houses there. When I was a toddler, we used to spend the summer in those hills and during one of our stays, an opportunity to buy an affordable plot of land in a remote place called Jardim Salaco came up. We went to see the empty empty terrain in a horse-driven chariot that took at least two hours to get there on dirt tracks. The trip was picturesque, we passed by farms and fields and went up hills covered with trees feeling the fresh country breeze under their shade and the hot sun while in the open. Meanwhile the driver kept whipping the poor smelly horse, which had vents on its eyes and sweat all over its body.

Dad could not resist the bargain and bought the land with a friend, a short, bald, lanky and slightly aggressive French ex-freedom fighter. After that, it took him more than a decade to decide what to do with that white elephant. However, in the meantime, his friend built a house there and, perhaps expecting that Dad would sell him his part, he invaded our side. By the time we woke up to what was going on, his family was using the entire plot as their own and this drew Dad’s attention to the situation.

We went up to evaluate how much the plot could sell for, but the result was the opposite. Despite the neighbour’s ugly house and his psychopathic German Shepard, Dayan, the beauty of the place convinced them to build a house and, who knew, retire there someday.

Sarah and I did not welcome that surprise decision, for us Teresópolis was a boring weekend destination where many Jewish people had houses. To make things worse the few houses that some friends had were miles away. To attract us, our parents went as far as putting in a pool, but we were past the stage of being content with splashing around in the water. In fact, things turned out quite differently: I was 14 and Sarah was 19, and when my parents went up on weekends, we would stay back at home unsupervised, with the dangerous freedom to do anything we chose.


The country house in Teresopolis

Sarah and I did not welcome that surprise decision, for us Teresópolis was a boring weekend destination where many Jewish people had houses. To make things worse the few houses that some friends had were miles away. To attract us, our parents went as far as putting in a pool, but we were past the stage of being content with splashing around in the water. In fact, things turned out quite differently: I was 14 and Sarah was 19, and when my parents went up on weekends, we would stay back at home unsupervised, with the dangerous freedom to do anything we chose.

Bizarrely, it turned out that Fred, the leader of my pot-smoking ring at the Escola Americana, had a country house close by. My parents were terrified of his folks after they said that they themselves supplied him with weed in order to avoid his contacting drug dealers. Nevertheless, they tolerated the friendship, as he was a neighbour who could make me decide to go up to Teresópolis more often. Also as his dad was a famous architect, the boy may come to grow out of his habits and become a valuable contact for my future.

One weekend, I went up knowing that he and the rest of the gang would be there. On the Saturday afternoon, I visited them and ended up getting so drunk that they had to call my parents. Drinking was something unseen in the family and they had taken a lot of care not to expose us to this vice, to the extent that, in my entire life, I never saw Dad even slightly drunk. When they saw me there, 15 or 16 years old, absolutely paralytic, they were shocked. The blame fell on Fred, with the suspicion that he had put something in my drink.

For them, this was a serious incident that affected profoundly the image that they had of me. My parents were not only immigrants to a new country they were also foreign to modern life, especially Dad. The contrast between that incident and the stoic 19th century-like atmosphere at home could not have been greater.

Dinners, for example, seemed to jump out of a Bela Lugosi film. When we sat down in the large dining room, at its centre was a big, dark, handmade, wooden table where there was always a Chinese bowl waiting for us filled with, sometimes not so fresh, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes and mangoes. This was because we began meals with fruit, as it was healthier to fill oneself up with them before moving on to the heavier food. Right above that still life scene, was a macabre chandelier lighting the room while we ate on the uncomfortable, posh looking chairs. The dining cupboards around us were also made of dark wood and the free parts of the walls held large classical paintings of Biblical scenes, with heavy, fake antique, golden frames around them.

Once everyone had finished with the fruit, they would ask me to step on the buzzer under my foot that made an annoying and loud noise in the kitchen. Dona Isabel would then come in with her awkward walk carrying a tray to clear the table and would then return with the main course. While we were eating, nothing was supposed to disturb the pomp: there was no television, no radio and no answering of the phone. When we were finished, there would be another foot buzz for the desert. After that, Sarah and I returned to Planet Earth while Mum and Dad would go to the living room to spend the rest of the evening in silence reading and listening to classical music.

It was during one of these dinners that they told me that a cinema college in the US or in the UK would be unaffordable. Despite the disappointment, the news was predictable. There were questions about the seriousness of my career choice: the ideas of advertising and of cinema were too alien for them, and my attitude at large did not help much. Maybe it would be better if I chose a proper profession such as engineering, law or medicine. My sister had chosen dentistry and was doing well at her university course, so why shouldn’t I do the same, seeing that I was effortlessly a good student?

Who needed an expensive American School with drunk pot smoking punks if I was not going to study cinema anyway? They put me back in the Brazilian system, the fifth school change in my short academic career. They had to do this as soon as possible because in order to get into a good Brazilian university, I had to pass a tough entry examination, the vestibular, for which the EA did not prepare.

The outcome wasn’t that bad: I could subvert their plans and study cinema in São Paulo later on. Of course, the Brazilian film industry did not come close to the British and the American ones but the subjects were the same and, with some talent and some effort, I could make everything work out.

Their approach to the new situation differed: the sermons about the importance of financial success became more and more pressurized. The conversations were conflictual and came down to two mature people with an agenda against one who was struggling to structure his own. They were trying to convince me about things that they did not understand but, the more I tried to explain my views, the worse the situation got. They were right to be worried – after all, that’s what parents do – but were wrong in their assumptions, at least with relation to advertising: this was a booming profession that paid very well.

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Cool article about Brazil

Cool article about Brazil

Brazilian History in 100 photos

Brazilian History in 100 photos


Lost Samba – Chapter 13 – A short history of Brazilian modern music


Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes in the 1967 music festival.

Célia was the pretty and skinny girl from the eleventh floor when we lived in Copacabana. She was friends with Sarah and one day she rushed in very excitedly to say that her Mum had given her two tickets for the International Song Festival for her birthday and, to my desperate envy, she invited my sister to come. The mega-event was in the Maracanãzinho, the Maracanã’s smaller brother, set up right next to it to host non-football related events.  This was a unique opportunity to watch the best artists in the country and other big international attractions live. This was something that went beyond what Eurovision is nowadays, the regime hoped to unite the nation around them and the artists that the organizers chose with the backing of record labels represented all segments of Brazilian society. The intellectual left would have Chico Buarque, the bossa nova purists would have Tom Jobim and Nara Leão, the rockers and psychedelics would have Os Mutantes; the black people would have Toni Tornado, the militant university students would have Geraldo Vandre, the tropicalistas would have Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso; the samba lovers would have Jair Rodrigues and Paulinho da Viola; and then there was Jorge Ben who pleased everyone.

These contests grabbed Brazil’s attention and the relatively recent TV stations transmitted them to the millions of televisions recently bought to watch the World Cup in Mexico.  The military felt proud to demonstrate that, although they did not allow their people to choose their administration, they had nothing against freedom of expression. This was only half-true, with the press closely watched and limited in its freedom, the festivals assumed the status of perhaps the only forum where the debate about the country’s reality could flourish. Although there was also an undeniable commercial aspect them; they represented a break with the Bossa Nova and with the old generations of radio stars and starlets. Most of the successful artists would end up filling the coffers of the record labels and father everything that came after them.

Many songs were indeed political, while others were about the catching up with the hippy revolution that was going on outside the country, and competed side by side with pretty love songs and happy sambas. However, the political controversy of the two main trends would end up in the inevitable clash between the hard-core Bolschevic revolutionaries and the flower power crowd, which caused strange events such as a rally against the electric guitar with the presence of eminent journalists and Gilberto Gil.

The effervescence of the repressed youth, tired of the solutions presented by the traditional left and by the traditional right, would make the festivals the stage of a cultural debate, perhaps too important to the liking of their sponsors. Parallel to this there were other important cultural expressions appearing in the art world, in cinema, in the theatre and in literature. On the other hand, there was a lot happening in terms of political and cultural uprising outside Brazil. Altogether, the nation hungered for expressions that mirrored their life experiences and expectations in times of deep changes. The tropicália movement would emerge from this moment. Although it is currently associated with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes the movement was much wider in its proposal and almost amorphous in its positioning. Under its big umbrella, there was nationalism, folklore, pop, sympathy for the Cuban revolution, love for the Beatles, Samba, and search for the roots of Brazil. Before going commercial and dissipating, the tropicália encompassed graphic artists, such as Hélio Oiticica, avant-garde musicians such as Tom Zé, journalists, writers, philosophers, intellectuals and a plethora of crazies and geniuses that still influence the current days.

What kept all those tendencies together was the opposition to the regime and to Brazil’s enormous social disparities that its rulers were unwilling to deal with. As the political grip tightened, the military realized that echoes of a creative explosion landing inside the nation’s living rooms was complicated.  Many of these festivals winning artists, and definitely the most popular ones, exhibited too much creativity for the ideologues of the coup and, worse, many openly voiced their opposition to the state of things.  For the military, stopping the party or excluding the stars would send out the wrong message, the way out was censorship.

After the AI-5 decrees, that took away all basic civil liberties from Brazilians, things turned to the worse. With no judicial system to answer to, the country’s rulers resorted to exiling and jailing artists, and the festivals died out.

A few years later, the military allowed the artists back as a gesture of reconciliation.  More than their music, their fans missed the political and the libertarian overtones in their songs.  They returned as heroes but had matured abroad and now they had even more professional agendas.  Their concerts acquired a special quality, mixing an authentic resistance pedigree, celebrity status and world-class musicianship.  When Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque played, the world seemed to come back to normal.

This was the time when I began going to shows. They were huge events, closer to football matches and political rallies than to musical concerts. When the doors opened the audience rushed in like cattle, and when everyone had taken their places, there was a similar atmosphere to being in the Maracanã.  It was a lot of fun; the several sections of the theater booed and cheered each other as if they were supporting different teams. They also sang choruses with related and unrelated themes some of them political, some of them related to drugs and some of them just plain funny.

When the lights went down, the room fell silent and the magic began.  In the best concerts, one felt as being in the artists’ lounge. The calmer songs provided a communal atmosphere that I have never experienced anywhere else and the more rhythmic ones, always saved for the end, resulted in out of season carnivals with the entire theater dancing on the chairs, in the corridors and on the stage.

Parallel to these concert-parties with political innuendos, there was something new creeping in. Rock bands were the expression of the new generation and were the underground of the underground. Their public was frightening: they looked dirty, had much longer hair than the average and took drugs that most people did not even know existed. One of the main expressions was Raul Seixas, his lyricist, Paulo Coelho touched on mystical and sex related subjects close to what bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were doing in the international Rock scene. There was also the Secos e Molhados who adopted and androgynous style and make up that the American band Kiss would copy, and that surpassed many international bands in terms gay openness as early as 1972. These artists, although popular with the youth, shocked everyone and in intellectual terms, no one liked them, not even the Lefties.

As far as behaviour is concerned, they pioneered everything that most people would consider banal in the following decades, drugs, vegetarianism, and interest in mysticism and in oriental philosophies and the following of a sort of zen-individualist outlook of life. As Ipanema’s surfers, the rockers did not have any agenda other than living their lives intensely and ignored both the political dictatorship of the right and the intellectual dictatorship of the left. When disco kicked in, they discovered that looking good and shaking their moneymaker on the dance floor brought in more sex. This, and the large amount of drug casualties made that generation of pioneers mutate and vanish quickly.

With the gradual interchange of these two generations, the concerts slowly ceased to be about resistance to become simply a breath of fresh air from the claustrophobia of both the regime and of the audience’s homes. It also became more and more obvious that this was a rich kids’ club: in order to forget the military for a couple of hours, hang out with the cool crowd, buy the right records, go to concerts, and travel to alternative destinations, you had to have money and it was not everyone who had access to those luxuries.

There were never any representatives of the working class in the room. The masses weren’t hip: they were still the maids who had prepared our dinner, the bus drivers who had taken us there, the guys in the street who asked to look after our cars or and the policemen outside hungry to extort our money. The rebels from the less privileged classes listened to funk and went to their own parties, as portrayed in the film “City of God”, a true story of this period of Rio’s history.

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Scene from “City of God”

Lost Samba – Chapter 12 – The American School of Rio: privilege and weed in the 70’s

Part18After my fiasco at the British School, the Escola Americana, or E.A., was the only alternative left in which to continue an international education in Rio de Janeiro. That surreal institution had everything one could expect from an American High School: blond and ginger boys and girls speaking English with a nasal accent, a baseball field, an American football team, and the social competition inherent to such an institution. The Rocinha favela, the biggest slum in the world, located on the hill right in front of the school, was a reminder that those massive grounds and those futuristic buildings were a hub for a foreign virus in a foreign land.

The EA’s educational structure was as advanced as its architecture: we built our own curriculum, the courses were with different students in different classrooms, we had a smoking area, the teachers had long hair and we didn’t need to wear a uniform. In a town influenced by the American culture, in terms of coolness, this school was the Olympus of Rio’s youth. The kids who had set the trends for how the middle class was behaving; the ones who had introduced surfing and weed to Ipanema, had studied or were studying at that very school.  My classmates were the children of the powerful gringos sent over to overlook the making of “New Brazil” and to make sure that the branch followed the headquarters. This feeling was pretty much internalized in most students and I had to be careful not to absorb their sense of superiority and look down on regular Brazilians.

Most of them weren’t saints and were having the time of their life. They did all the wrong things that the other kids did, but had the added advantage of relying on IBM, or Merck or Shell to intervene on their behalf when things went wrong. This sense of impunity was usually reserved only to the highest ranking families of the land. The school’s elite knew each other well from their parents social circles and excluded those who didn’t belong. With the status of a non-surfer, Brazilian born, and non-muscular son of an elderly Jewish small business owner, I was barred from the ‘“in’” crowd.  These were guys with an unblemished American or European pedigree who irradiated self-confidence. Many had long hair, were athletic, and seemed to rock in any physical activity they got into, except for football (for them soccer).

Those kids had a lifestyle that is hard to imagine. To begin with, most of them belonged to the Yacht Club and had boats waiting for them at the marina. They lived in houses, a rarity in Rio even in those days, the ones who lived in flats stayed in the best addresses in town such as the beach front avenues of Ipanema and Leblon,  Avenida  Vieira Souto and  Avenida  Delfim Moreira. Whenever I was invited to parties or to hang out after school with any of them, I would think to myself, “So these are people who live here”. My schoolmates had access to gadgets that were science fiction in common households: video games (something that hardly anyone had in those days), imported surf and skateboards, records from any band one could imagine, the best stereo equipment available in the American (not the Brazilian) stores and dreamlike weekend houses in dreamlike locations where they could use their toys.

To add insult to injury, their monthly, dollar-based pocket moneys were probably more than what I received in an entire year, which in its turn was more than the minimum salary. Dad had made a lot of extra money with his stock market move, but next to these people we were poor.

The few friends I made there came with a novelty: they smoked weed.  After talking about my tastes and interests it didn’t take long for them to welcome me into their circle and help me discover what the fuss was all about. The first couple of tries were disappointing, but on the third or fourth session, the penny dropped and I realized I was very stoned.  The experience was not what I expected, there were no unicorns galloping in front of me nor did everything change into psychedelic colours, it was all about laughing with no apparent reason, and about appreciation of rock music. There was no doubt that the high gave a different dimension to everyday activities; every song we listened to sounded marvellous and had details that I had never noticed before. Perhaps because I was learning how to play the guitar, the state that the smoke induced me into allowed me to identify the different layers of the music and to understand what was in the mind of the musicians when they wrote those parts and performed them.  The simplest things: LP and book covers, paintings on the wall, decorative statues and plants, acquired a beauty that I could never have grasped in a normal state.  I was soon to discover that maconha was a repellent for girls, but, hey, the chicks at the American School were unobtainable anyway.

From that point onwards, at school, at the beach, at the club and at home, I had an edge: I was doing something illegal.  Things and people I had never understood before began to make sense, and belonging to that new club felt great, almost like the conquest of an identity.  In my mind, the peers in my other circles were dying to do the same but did not have the “cojones”.

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