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(part nine of Thirty Days in Brazil: Fiber in a Faraway Place)

And now I face the sound... and all around me is burning...

Friday afternoon. "We're going to Rio de Janeiro. Be packed and ready to go after the meeting at 7 o'clock."

"What about the Mormon kid?"

"Tell him we're going to Campinas to drink and whore all weekend. Let's go."

One Chevy car. One manager. One coworker. One Brazilian rocker girl. One sleep-deprived goth girl.

Two twelve-packs of native beer, a bottle of Hennessy, and five hours to Rio de Janeiro. We threw our shit in the back and peeled out of Alphaville, giddy like little kids, already cracking cans. The driver was grumpy about no Hennessy - briefly. But it was a roadtrip, and all of us were excited to get out of Sao Paulo.

"Pass the bottle!"

Frango Assado is a rest stop/gas station/restaurant/small grocery. Most have buffets. All have amazing sandwiches and a mind-bogglingly large selection of foods, souvenirs, and rough-looking truckers who do not give five damns for your tiny efficiency car. We rolled in. Manager-critter picked up the Brazilian edition of Maxim. We picked up chicken. We talked about tattoos (he's covered), we talked about all kinds of things.

All of us blitzed but the driver, we peeled back out. It was 1AM somewhere between Sao Paulo and Rio. The driver hadn't slept in two weeks. All of us were hungover from sangria save the rocker girl, who seemed to be the sole voice of reason in the car.

Outside, sub-tropical forest and hills went by in the dark.

Second stop. 02:00? 02:30? Somewhere after transferring from one highway to another. The driver is drinking Red Bull like it's communion wine. We've given up on not talking about work. We're trading stories about times in the past. The guy who brought a server down on someone elses head. The time I opened the tape library. The massive mistakes everyone eventually makes. Stories of drinking with other coworkers. Bitching about the Mormon kid and his general uselessness.

This stop is an open-fronted chain of convenience store, oil change stall, bathrooms with showers, and a sandwich counter. It's a niche against a hill, against the jungle. Semi trucks pulled over, and a few locals - maybe - roll up in their cars, yelling cheerfully in Portugeuse. We load up on Red Bulls. We void our intake of beer. We rearrange the front seat and trunk.

Truckers peer at us as our driver attempts a burnout in the efficiency Chevy, flush with caffeine and guarana.

03:00. Lost in a favela after taking the wrong exit in Rio.

Our driver stops at the red light... for forty seconds before we start screaming at him to blow through it.

You never stop at red lights in the favelas.


We got lost in Ipanema, and later Copacabana, that weird little tourist beach stretch. I passed out in the backseat of the car in a parking lot in the strip, doors locked, knife in hand as my coworkers went off to drink more.

I woke up to five transsexual hookers bouncing up and down on the hood. When they noticed I was awake, they started hurling rapid-fire Portuguese insults at me. I rolled my eyes and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, I sat up, arms around my knees, and watched the sun rise behind the clouds, behind Asucar, the mound of mountain against the beach, over the sea. It was red and pink fire. My coworkers returned with what they claimed was coffee.

It was cachaca.

I declined their "coffee".

The hotel wouldn't be ready till 10:00 without a massive $400 charge. Fuck that.

As the sun tried weakly to break through the clouds, we laid down on the beach and slept on towels, our heads pillowed on piled sand. The waves roared up and down, over and over again. It was cold, and the sand was warm.

All around us, the Atlantic roared and the sun rose over Rio de Janeiro. And we slept.