Sunday, August 24, 2008

An anthem for change in the US

Here's a revised version of the song "American Prayer" just released by Dave Stewart to inspire folks around the Obama campaign. Check it out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I’m reminded I’m living in Brazil when…

For all the warnings and feigned extensions of “good luck” (read: “be careful what you wish for”) offered by family and friends prior to our move, it has not been all that difficult an adjustment switching from living in the US to living here in Brazil. As I was quick to remind folks – we were moving to suburban Rio de Janeiro, not a small village in the sertão or somewhere lost in the jungle.

Still – we ain’t in San Francisco any more!

Here are a few observations, good and bad. I’m reminded I’m living in Brazil when:

- The beer is so deliciously cold it nearly turns to slush in my glass.
- Paper hand towels in the restroom turn to mulch instantly when touched by a wet hand.
- The first twenty minutes with the TV repair person are spent chatting about life and current events, then on to the problem with the TV.
- The washing machine has no hot water option.
- Convincing the cop to not issue you a ticket for driving without a license costs only R$30.

- The tin foil is just about as thin as the plastic film wrap.
- A perfect stranger on the bus (seated) will offer to hold your bag if you are standing.
- The line at the bank consumes nearly two hours of your time.
- Bikinis at the beach are not just for the young and super skinny. Get used to it!

- You have to make your own peanut butter because no such food is available (except a sickly sweet, oily, whipped product made for children.)
- Parties have no end time… no matter how late.
- Traffic jams are made more tolerable by the dozens of young vendors walking between the creeping vehicles selling snacks, candies and iced beverages (including beer.)
- Entering and exiting a room of friends includes kissing or hugging every person present, no matter how many.
- Looking out the bus window in downtown Niterói it's not out of the question to spot a huge black hog lying in the shade on the side of the road with 5 piglets suckling from its underside.

Life is definitely different. I’m not complaining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lunar flower installations at the MAC

Some of you have been asking to see the flowers Luiz did for the "Moon" all-night party at the Bistro under the Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói. I've included them here.

The party was a great success, nearly selling out the 350 tickets available. It started a little late in the evening for the likes of me -- like midnight, and not really kicking into gear until after 1:00 a.m. There were a few guest DJs, a lights and visual effects man, tasty finger foods (salgadinhos) and accent flower arrangements by Flor de Luiz.

This is the featured installation.

Small arrangement at the front bar.

Arrangement at the back bar.

Very fun martini glass arrangement on the table in the lounge.

Not pictured are the arrangements in the entryway and restrooms. My photographic skills are not all they could be.

It was lots of fun and the Bistro benefited from the flowers for the following week. More good relationships were established that may bring further opportunities.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brazilian Waxing: Let ‘Er Rip

Being the rather pedestrian guy that I am, I have not had to wrestle with the decision to get a Brazilian bikini wax, unlike some of my female friends. (Actually, some guys ARE going this way, but I missed that boat and don't find myself contemplating this for any reason.)

Still, the famous "Brazilian" is something others have mentioned and wish to be a fly on the wall while someone else gives it a go. So guess what I found? Check this out.

"Summoning my courage, I decided that it was time to shed light on the truth behind the Brazilian. If I was scared to do it, there were bound to be other curious, scaredy cats out there too. I powered on."

Read the full (graphic) personal report here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where is Brazil's Barack Obama?

"It has taken a long time for a black presidential candidate to appear in the US. In Brazil, which is said to have the largest number of people of African descent outside Nigeria, there are no black or mixed-race political leaders with any chance of standing as presidential candidates in the foreseeable future."

Read the full story by John Fitzpatrick, a regular contributor at

In spite of the oft-repeated assertion here (by white folks, generally) that there is no racism in Brazil, at least not to the degree there is in the United States, it only takes a mildly conscious eye to see the racial stratification and subsequent consequences - all around. The legacy of slavery/racism is tough to work through - in the US as well as Brazil.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Luiz Health Update

We’ve initiated a public-private partnership in Luiz’s care. By bringing together the private healthcare system (read: faster, more convenient, less upsetting) with the foundation-supported public resources to fight cancer (read: high end research and treatment facility where everything is free) we’re planning to reap the best of both worlds.

Luiz is now a patient at the National Cancer Institute in Rio de Janeiro (INCA). INCA is a technical branch of the federal government and administered by the Ministry of Health. It is THE place for cancer care in Brazil – and just happens to be a 40 minute drive from our apartment. According to their website “INCA’s outcomes are comparable to the best oncology centers in the world.”

We did not fire our oncologist, Dr. Roberto. He is a perfectly nice man. Super polite and engaging, enthusiastic, bilingual, and very easy on the eyes. But he is not a specialist in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. That’s the only shortcoming. No offense meant or taken, but we had to expand the team to get more expertise on the case.

We are delighted to have made this transition. Our friend Ana Cristina went with Luiz to help walk him through the enrollment process at INCA. (Her mother is a recent colon cancer survivor and was treated at this facility.) They arrived at the center at 6:30 a.m. and snaked their way through the bureaucracy, including three levels of admissions assessment and finally a medical history and physical exam by two separate oncologists, the latter of which eventually assigned Luiz to a lead doctor. They left the center at 5:00 p.m.

Luiz was given another long list of blood tests to be taken. We have some recent results, but the folks at INCA want their lab to provide results. OK by us. More info is better. Oh, and did I mention that EVERYTHING is free? Plus, Luiz qualifies for a free bus/transit pass to enable him to get to and from appointments (and anywhere else he wants to go!)

Dr. Roberto, whom we saw today, is sending Luiz out for another CT scan to get new pictures of his lymph nodes. Comparing the scan from December in San Francisco with the new scan will help gauge any growth, clues toward assessing the onset of treatment.

As is always the instruction at the end of our visit – we are to “watch and wait.” Luiz is not yet to the point where any treatment is indicated, but we can hear the clock ticking.

Do keep Luiz in your thoughts. This is not fun.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Flor de Luiz at the MAC takes Luiz to the Flower Mart

Luiz shines with a special light when he is arranging flowers. If you’ve seen him in this endeavor you know he gets lost in thought, floats slightly above the ground and quietly whistles to himself as he works. I love to watch.

Next week there’s an all-night event at the Contemporary Art Museum of Niterói (MAC) featuring flowers by Luiz's own Flor de Luiz. The space is super cool, indeed designed to be out-of-this-world by the world famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. Below are pictures of the museum. Follow this link to see the super chic bistro space being used for the event (once there click closed [fechar] the yellow pop-up featured info to see a panaramic view outside the museum). More event info here.

So on Thursday we went to the flower market in Rio de Janeiro to scope out the possibilities. In San Francisco we were spoiled to have one of the largest flower markets in the United States. It is a huge complex taking up nearly an entire city block in an industrial area of town. Stall after stall of flower vendors selling their wares: spectacular flowers from all over the world.

Here in Brazil it’s done in a similar, but simpler fashion. Envision a large parking lot with a tin roof some three stories above your head. Instead of stalls there are parking spaces. Large trucks line up one beside the other and spill their cargo out the back into rows of buckets.

Some folks present a scandal of tropical flowers; others sell every imaginable leafy green or branch. Among the flowers are vendors presenting all manner of containers, ribbons, floral foam and armatures. It’s pretty much a parallel universe to the San Francisco market, just a bit more narrow in selection, and probably a third the number of vendors.

Still – lots to play with. Luiz found his way to just what he was looking for.