Beauty, Longing, and a Hammock: My trip to Rio, the Land of The Asses

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been lucky enough to visit.  Check that.  The locale is the most beautiful place in the world in which to place a city.  As my plane was landing oh so many years ago, all I could think of was the early explorers discovering this location and saying, “Yeah, THIS is the spot!”  Or the equivalent in Portuguese.

Until my trip to Vancouver last year, I had only visited two cities in the world where I felt at home and not like a tourist.  Cities where I felt comfortable enough to consider living there if I ever won the lottery.  Barcelona is one of them.  Rio de Janeiro is the other.

The circumstances surrounding the trip were…. complicated.  That is not my story to tell, it is my best friend’s, so I’ll avoid talking about that.  Suffice to say that we stayed at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in the Santa Teresa neighborhood.  At the time, it was coming off a reputation for being a rough neighborhood and was becoming a bit of an area for artists.  I won’t call it hipster or gentrified because hipsters wouldn’t want to live there.  Not yet anyway.

The buildings were old and weathered, but brightly painted and beautiful. It felt like we were in another time.  Certainly not the post-9-11 world.  Definitely turn of the century, but the previous century.  The apartment had a big wide window in the living room that opened up towards the mountains, which we were actually on as the Santa Teresa neighborhood sits atop and adjacent to central Rio.  The view was magnificent.  Located directly in front of the window was a large Brazilian style hammock.  It was perfect for sitting/lying down and watching the rain come down on the rainforest.  And when I say rainforest, I mean it.  The Tijuca Forest is pure tropical rainforest, threatening to take over the city at the first opportunity.  I spent quite a lot of time on that hammock.  Lying on the hammock with an open window as the rain fell was how I fell asleep the first night.  I never felt so at peace.

Picture this in a 19th century building with a gigantic window facing the rainforest

To get into town, we took the Santa Teresa tram or Bonde, affectionately called the Bondinho, down the hill across the Lapa Arches and into downtown Rio.

It opened in 1877 and is one of the oldest railways in the world and the oldest electric railway in Latin America.  Riding it was an adventure, but it was awesome.  As you can see in the picture above, there are no doors and the fence preventing anyone from falling over the arches was flimsy at best.  We took it every day we were there.  Some years after we were there, there was an accident that shut down the line.  To this day, full service has not been restored.  Supposedly, they were going to do it for the World Cup in 2014 but…. and then for the Olympics, but….

At least, from what I’ve heard, they’ve painted the arches upon which the train travels as it makes its final descent into downtown (which are the remnants of the Carioca Aqueduct) all white for the Olympics.  That’s…something.  And, if you visit for the Olympics, the train will go across the arches once more.  Maybe not much further, but, again, that’s… something.

Which brings me to why I am writing this post in the first place.  There is a feeling I get sometimes that strikes me to the core.  It’s a sense of knowing that while things are not okay or perfect or good or, many times, quite shitty, there is something important and beautiful and worthwhile to be found in them.  That, to me, is Rio and Brazil in a nutshell.  It might as well be the Olympics, for that matter.

I was born in Mexico City.  I lived there through most of the 70s.  There is an old saying in Mexico that says that when the US sneezes, Mexico gets the flu.  As you may remember, the 70s in the US were not the best of economic times.  You can imagine how it was in Mexico.  As I walked through downtown Rio, it reminded me a lot of 1970s Mexico City.   There is a mix of architecture from colonial times right alongside “modern” buildings.  Modern, of course, being from the 60s and 70s.  It wasn’t just the architecture, though.  It was the sense I got from the people of Rio.  A mix of fatalism, humor, and cautious (VERY cautious) optimism.  Optimism in the sense of “Well, it can’t get much worse!”

I’ve found that the warmest, friendliest,  and most giving people in the world are usually not well off. Neither financially nor physically.   Is it the suffering that makes one that way? Is it the fact that when you have nothing material, you place value on non-physical things? Based on personal experience,  I’d say Yes to both questions. Having bad shit happen to you changes you.  It makes you value the good things more and encourages you to create good times when you can. Which brings me to the spirit and culture of the Cariocas,  the nickname for the citizens of Rio.  They value good times.  Hey,  they built the Sambadromo specifically for Carnaval! Finding happiness despite everything wrong in the world is their specialty.

The people were warm and welcoming and proud of their culture. It helped that I speak Fluent Spanish and could do passable Portuguese. Funny thing,  in México,  they do not translate or subtitle interviews in Portuguese with Brazilian soccer players. They figure you can pick up on your own on what they are saying.  I certainly could even though Carioca Portuguese is almost a language all to itself.  It’s all soft g’s and sh’s and zsh sounds.  It’s the sound of pillow talk.  Anthony Bourdain did a show in Bahia, in the north of Brazil and a place I also visited on this trip, in which he described the people there as “either on their way to or coming back from having sex”.   Rio is more big city, so that doesn’t apply, but it does describe nicely the way they speak.

Listen to some Bossa Nova sometime.  Like now:

Bossa nova was born in Rio as a mix of samba and jazz.  The central themes are usually women, love, longing, homesickness, and nature.  Now, listen to the music.  Doesn’t that put you in a good mood?  The lyrics, however, speak of sadness.  That’s Rio.   That’s Brazil.

Rio has two main airports.  They are both on the water.  The most spectacular one is Santos Dumont.  This is the airport James Bond was monitoring in Moonraker.  The planes landing have an awesome approach

As soon as I saw Moonraker when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to visit Rio and, of course, go here:

That picture doesn’t do the view justice.  It is unbelievable.  All I was thinking when I was up there was “How the fuck did they build this thing?”  Fun fact, on the way down (or up, for that matter) you can take a train that winds its way through the rainforest.  It’s like a Disneyland ride except the shit’s real. Speaking of Disneylandia, did you know there is a famous square in Rio called Cinelandia?

It is basically the transition from downtown buildings to the water.  Which is a perfect segue to talk about the beaches.  There are several famous beaches in Rio.  This map will help explain where they are located in relation to each to each other:

Each neighborhood has its own beach and each beach has its own numbered sections.  Each section has individual characteristics which distinguish it from others.  For example, one section might be famous for futevolei, beach soccer/volleyball,

Another might be famous for the snacks sold along the beach

Or the drinks, mostly caipirinhas or beer

There is a gay section, a family section, a section where young people go to flirt, there is something for everyone. It’s actually pretty well structured.  The one common denominator is one thing:

Yes, the bunda.  We call it the ass.  The thong originated in Brazil and it is common for everyone and I mean EVERYONE to wear bikini bottoms that showcase the buns.  Old, fat, pregnant, it doesn’t matter.  Only foreigners wear bathing suit bottoms that cover their butt. Here is a pretty good rundown of the different styles.  Can you tell me what all of these different styles of brazilian bikini bottom have in common?

Yup, they are meant to showcase the ass.  Oh, and lest you think only women get to have all the fun, men wear a looser version of the speedo.  All men.  Only surfers wear board shorts and they better be carrying a surfboard.

The beauty part is that you would think that everyone would have to work out all the time in order to be able to wear those suits.  NOAP!  They are proud of their bodies, no matter what they look like.  There is a lesson there for the rest of us.

On the cover of Joao Gilberto’s album, you can see the word “saudade”.  It means “longing”.  It can be for lost love, good times or happiness of olden days, or it can even be for a place.  I can say that I have that for Rio.  I wish I could go back to that hammock and let the rain fall and forget about the world and my problems and be happy.  Of course, I can’t.  Even if I were to buy a ticket, that place and time is gone, never to be repeated.  Which is why the lesson, kids, is to savor every moment you have of joy and happiness.  And, no matter how bad things get, remember an old phrase my mom taught me, “Nadie te puede quitar lo bailado.”

Roughly translated, it means that No one can take away the good times you’ve had.

So, as you see report after report of the horrible conditions in Rio, keep in mind that the locals are drinking and playing music and dancing in the middle of it all.  Fuck it, life is short.



International Member of the Geelong Cats and recovering Steelers fan. Likes Butts. And Balls. And Boobs. Pretty much anything that starts with the letter B. Preferably together.
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[…] Wait, didn’t Balls previously say that Bahia was the place where Anthony Bourdain said people seemed like they were “either on […]


This is one of the best pieces we’ve had on DFO. *slaps hard on Balls’ exposed ass*

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Hits testicle.

Bloody Lethal
Bloody Lethal

Well this was quite pleasant.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

I came too.

Doktor Zymm

Fantastic piece 🙂

The Olympics are going to be just fine, there’s always panic before an Olympics and the only reason we see it now is because news outlets need to fill the damn 24 hour news cycle and don’t care who they shit on to do it. Rio, and Brazil generally, is one place I’ve never been that’s very high up on my places to visit list. The city will come out of this looking just fine, just like all the other Olympics people panicked over in the last decade or so. You know what the Olympic Village was in Calgary? A FRICKING MINIMUM SECURITY PRISON THAT WAS UNDER CONSTRUCTION!

It’s not only disrespectful to the city, but all this OMG SCARY RIO OLYMPICS crap is also incredibly disrespectful to the athletes. They trained their butts into primo thong wearing shape for the last four years in a collection of sports, most of which don’t receive lots and lots of funding or pay, and now is supposed to be their moment in the sun. Instead, all anyone can talk about is contaminated water and awful stuff. It’ll all turn out fine, with inspirational backstories and such in the network coverage, everyone will have a good time, go home and forget all the stuff that everyone was scared of.

That said, there are some things that could have been done better,

Bloody Lethal
Bloody Lethal

I think it all has to do with if the Olympics are even relevant anymore. The sports are niche at best and the governing body is about as crooked as a barrel of fish hooks. You can’t honestly say the gold medal winner didn’t cheat somehow.

I used to work for a PR firm in NYC that of course got all stoked up for the Olympics every year. We did work with some big Olympic athletes. Basically, seeing them work in conjunction with media, ad agencies, and the “brands” we worked with to liquify some hard working kid into money as long as they could, was enough to jade me. Sorry for the gratuitous take. Not only that but it’s like a snake eating its own tail. A cycle wherein the people who care most about the Olympics are in some way shape or form tied to its financial outcomes. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all well and fine, but it doesn’t stand up very long. Eventually people lose interest even if the Wheaties box tells you that you should look up to Michael Phelps. You might just not get it. Except Curling. Those oddballs deserve some recognition.

Long story short: The IOC is pure saturated evil, the competitors are competing for a chance to be most exploited and forgotten until they change genders or they’re a topic at bar trivia, and the bitching about the Olympics is all because the shine has faded a little.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

This is a fantastic post; VERY well written and as all good writers your style is improving and crystalizing as you go along. You have a talent and you should push it.

“Having bad shit happen to you changes you.”
I am glad it improves and widens your outlook and you see that in others. Unfortunately I have seen just as much change to bitterness, woe is me, unhealed wounds, anger and deep seated hatred towards perceived enemies, etc. in people as I’ve seen improvement.

Maybe some of the improvement is built into the culture; ‘we are diverse but we are in this together and let’s have a drink and a joke’ rather than defining differences and building walls around those definitions, then reveling in the tribalism that the fences make.

[code name; buttcheeks]


I agree on the bad shit makes you better.

The motto of my family is: “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.” I strive to teach my sons that, because life ain’t a bowl of motherfucking cherries, someday it’s a veritable buffet of shit, misery, and brussel sprouts dipped in arsenic.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

That is what makes you so good at writing the “I’m pissed at everything and everything annoys me” posts. You have the sense that it doesn’t. To bad your attitude is not more widespread.

Don T

“I have seen just as much change to bitterness, woe is me, unhealed wounds, anger and deep seated hatred towards perceived enemies, etc. in people as I’ve seen improvement.”

Damn; that pretty much sums up a lot of the useful stuff from all the History and Social Sci. classes I’ve taken.



Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh


P.S.; they are not dead when I’m still posting.

*posts reaction gif to own reaction gif.


This is awesome.


/owns surfboard
//willing to carry it anywhere to avoid wearing….those


Really well done. Now I want to see a bunch of great butts I mean go to Rio no I really mean the butt thing.

Don T

Balls, this was wonderful. It reminded me of “the USA is the best / greatest country ever” I’ve noticed being bandied about very frequently, and not always tongue-in-cheek.

Sure: crime, education, unemployment, and GDP stats may go to the “best-ness” of a country, but to get the complete picture you have to consider the culture and people, and how foreigners are treated. Poverty and absence of social and health services are a blight everywhere, but empathy, cooperation, and solidarity WITH ACTIONS are virtues everywhere. Being in The Shit collectively moves people to let those virtues show; sadly, mistrust out of pettiness and “what’s in it for me” tends to be prevalent. At least that’s what I’ve seen and lived.

I’m definitely not throwing shade at the US. It’s just that, you know, there are other countries in the planet too, and they are way more than comparison fodder.

tl; dr ¡Viva Latinoamérica cabrones*!

* “Cabrones” in the colloquial friendly sense, of course; not the “You calling me a cuckold? DIE!!! (shots fired)” sense.


Wait, aren’t you Italian?

I keed!

I keed!

Don T

I guess it’s an honest mistake. Boricuas and Italians may as well be considered mutes if our arms are physically restrained.


I would fuckin carve one from the desk in the hotel just to avoid the banana hammock.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

The big downside for me is that the string splits your farts so that it diminishes the full blast when you are crop dusting someone. They are OK for elevator bombs though.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

I guess it is down to which mafia you are in…..


When you’re dealing with Italians, you’ll never hear the shot coming – when you’re dealing with Sicilians you will hear and see them from a mile away, because they’ll be torqued up, carrying sawed off shotguns, and yelling something about their mothers.

/is Italian
/is Sicilian
/family is fucking crazy fun

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Good to know, as I have only been winged by Irish.


“I won’t call it hipster or gentrified because hipsters wouldn’t want to live there.”

Remember when the recession was a couple years deep and there was news that Detroit was working on bringing hipsters to gentrify areas where swaths of homes had been abandoned/foreclosed? They were going to come in, get cheap real estate, and really turn those neighborhoods around with their artisan products and skilled services. What ever happened with all that?


Every 3d/sculpture artist in the world said, “Detroit? Fuck that, all the useful shit has been stolen” and the rest all realized they couldn’t make enough to buy materials for the rest of the arts.

King Hippo

I’m guessing about 15-20 unmarked hipster graves?


I can foresee an upcoming trend towards caipihrinas. Get your cachaca now before it’s too late!

I love those damn things.


/runs to liquor store.


Very well written. No one can take away the good times you’ve had is a great saying/state of mind.


“They are proud of their bodies, no matter what they look like. There is a lesson there for the rest of us.”




Great post, your writing style is enviable.


“Yeah, THIS is the spot!”

comment image

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

“Wish she would have trimmed her nails, but whateryagonnado?”


Great work, Mike. This article reminded me that I should be nicer to Brazil – a nice woman from that county introduced me to the wonderful world of sex and I should show the rest of that country a little more gratitude.


Do you hear that?
We’re using code names!


This was truly beautiful man.