She has no idea what will befall her tomorrow. I will have to stuff her in the carrier and haul it, her litter box, and a carton of new litter to Lake Park, my new home. Her new home too, two rooms from a four-bedroom house. The bathroom is too tight to place the litter box there; there is a balcony, but I would have to keep the door ajar day and night.
It all feels so strange, as it is wont to be after 36 years in this house. I think at least 30 boxes were taken away to be discarded or donated. The doers of this deed is an outfit dedicated to senior relocations and by golly I couldn’t have done it without them.
Our little villa in Rio de Janeiro had a large wooden siding atop the front porch shaped like a crocodile — known to the neighborhood as “Casa de jacaré” — and I have no idea whose idea it was to put it up. But Renato and I enjoyed the semi-fame it brought us. But it is gone now, gone with the rest of the building and reduced to flinders. In its place is a multistory apartment building.
There was a marble staircase with a long, slithery carving of a python which served as the bannister. Brazil has a lot of wood, yes indeed. And overhanging the divide between living room and dining room was an intricate carving featuring more snakes. Snake-y theme, but home to us.
The parquet floor was exquisite, laid out in a fancy pattern in different shades of wood.
All of it gone.
My 14 year-old orange tabby, Loaner, is all discombobulated. She hates the changes in her home. The bed in her private bedroom, where she lolled at certain hours of the day, is gone. And my bed is higher and impossible for her to climb. I put a footstool at the side for her but she doesn’t, won’t, use it. Whenever I give her a boost up she lingers for only 30 seconds before jumping off.
What to do? How will she take to the new place, an apartment unit? The answer, of course, is that she will have to take to it, but I am worried.
The poor boobie doesn’t know what she is facing next month. Right now she is dozing on the rug near me. As far as she knows, nothing has changed here.
I joined The Little Theater of Rio de Janeiro while I, the American overseas wife, searched for something to do and found the roll at TLT was made up of other American overseas wives. Our director was Ruth Stanton, a tough lady who put us to work in different ways. I became props coordinator, a job that entailed scouring for pieces of this and that around the expatriate community. Which was why Renato came home one evening and found our dining table gone as well as sundry other objects.
Ruth cast me in small roles where I never had a chance to speak. There were backstage dramas among us. Lupe was having an affair with Tom, and an American man asked his wife for a divorce because he had fallen in love with a Carioca who had a part as a waitress. Each night, after rehearsals, I came home to Renato and fell into bed knowing I was wound up and wouldn’t sleep for hours.
I auditioned for the role of Kate in “Kiss Me Kate” with the song “So in Love” and received plaudits. But reading for the part did me in. “So cute!” said the director of my 12-year-old speaking voice. I think I have two sets of vocal chords, one for singing (I’m a lyric soprano and quite powerful) and the other for speech. So that was that for the part of Kate, the shrew.
Ruth assigned color combinations for our costumes. My Brazilian tailor was intrigued by the headgear, a tall cone with a veil. Wondering, he fabricated it, but I don’t remember how I got it to stay on my head.
“Kiss Me Kate” was the crowning opus of Ruth Stanton. It was too bad, after all the work that went into it, it ran only two nights. Two nights were all Renato could take, as a matter of fact, as he broke into a sweat every time I appeared on stage. I’m the one in the mustard-colored outfit, far left.
Those were the days…..
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Manhattan-like city with not a beach in sight, sits inland from Rio de Janeiro and presents a cool ear to the samba. They have their hotel towers and sport sober types of inhabitants unlike those flamboyant Cariocas in Rio.
But they have the famous Butantan Snake Institute, which Renato and I visited.
On entering, we faced a low-walled enclosure dotted with concrete igloos and here and there a snake. As we stood there, other snakes poked their heads out of the igloos, tongues flickering. Fascinating, though the walls were too low, I thought. We then entered the building where a a display of venom gathering was to start.
And this is where I describe the process in The Snake Woman of Ipanema,only slightly embellished for dramatic effect.
A white-coated man came out on the platform with a snake coiled about his arm; an assistant, carrying a glass container covered with a membrane, positioned it under the snake’s mouth and pressed the animal’s head down onto the membrane, through which we saw drops of venom fall into the container.
Ho hum. This was nothing special spectator wise but there was a second act. The assistant walked off with the container and returned carrying a long tube that looked like a bicycle pump. She grabbed the snake’s head, inserted the tube and forced it down into its body which straightened alarmingly. The man holding the snake offered an explanation that they were feeding it. I’m not clear on why they couldn’t just let it feed on its own. Perhaps they had run short of rats or some such animal.
Renato and I didn’t want to see the next exhibit, which involved injecting snake venom into old horses in order to harvest the antivenin therefrom. I wish they were, instead, injecting it into the assistant. I’m sure she would have produced some very useful antivenin.
I used to take a stroll to Ipanema beach three blocks away from our home and check out two fixtures on the scene: the girl, of course, who sashayed along the sand in her bikini, and Tom Jobim, the composer of that song, having his morning coffee at a sidewalk cafe. The lyricist, Vinicius Moraes, evidently preferred to sleep late, although I did spot him at a restaurant. I have loved that song for years for its elegance and stately rhythms.
And as usual the beach would be crowded with girls in their string bikinis, which the locals had dubbed “dental floss.” The men did not harass them, showing also grace and elegance. One did not act the fool with Brazil’s female assets, rather taking them in stride and with pride.
This was not true in Italy, where men pounced on any girl in the streets. And the girls were fully dressed.
My novel “A Rare Passion” set in Brazil brings on those girls during their rip-roaring Carnaval. Renato and I spent a night at the Municipal building watching the parade of near naked bodies in such proximity that we could count the beads of sweat.
I have been away, hospitalized with gastroenteritis and back with some horror stories of my roommate. She was something else, this woman, who would let out a yell in the middle of the night and wake me up to accuse me of stealing her pen, or her book, or her shoes. I walked softly around her, trying my best to become invisible but she hated that, too.
The hospital staff was sometimes curt with her but it seemed that treatment made no difference.
Home, home again. It’s good to be here.