I attended a guitar-cavaquinho-flute-pandeiro concert last week that absolutely charmed me. The guitarist, a Brazilian man, and the other Brazilian on the cavaquinho (a mandolin equivalent), did some fantastic finger work. A pandeiro is a flat percussion instrument that looks like a tambourine. He, too, was extraordinary.
I went afterward to say hello to Alessandro Penezzi, the guitarist. We spoke Portuguese and I nearly cried with nostalgia.
I wish I could revisit Rio de Janeiro.
And this: In the variety of photos of Harvey destruction in Texas, there was this dog carrying his bag of dog food in the streets. Right on!
Gil Brown, former headmaster of the American School of Rio de Janeiro, came to San Francisco as he has done every two years since 1998 to attend the AAIE (American Assoc. of Independent Educators) conference, and I traveled, as I have done since 1998, across the Bay to meet him for lunch.
He’s always been a dynamo and at 86 hasn’t changed much; still spills over with facts, details, plans, stories, jokes, and I always find myself doing the same when in his company. His wife died last year in March and I tried to keep in touch via email out of concern for his welfare.
In June he told me he had started a novel and would be finished in a couple of months between rounds of tennis and golf. The premise of “The Prison Inside Me” is pedophilia, based on a factual case of an overseas educator whom Gil knew. His name is on some website and made international news, although I did not myself read the story. And now on Tuesday, Gil tells me he has the sequel mapped out, plus the story board (a quaint term I hadn’t heard in decades) for another novel, about football. I edit whenever he needs a hand.
As usually the case, conferees wandered the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, and Gil introduced me to several, always saying “Lucille was my secretary in Rio a hundred years ago” and I always adding “And I’m still recovering. I need another hundred years.” We get the usual laughs, and then Gil has to go off to another meeting, and I head for home.
I wrote a blog (www.authorsden.com/lucillebellucci) last year or earlier about Gil and me driving off in my Beetle that had had its front seats stolen. I sat on a kindergarten chair to drive while he sat behind and held the chair from tipping over. We laughed over that on Tuesday.
First of all, my husband Renato as an Italian bore no resemblance in manner or style to the average Italians of my acquaintance while I lived in Italy. It was as though he were raised in Great Britain with Italian parents.
In the years he worked with a half dozen Italian colleagues on the hydro project in Brazil and one, name of Silvano, later read Journey from Shanghai. Silvano wouldn’t speak to me afterward. The depictions in the novel offended him. He didn’t like reading of Italian men in the street grabbing my breast, or catcalling as the protagonist of the novel Rafaella walked past their sidewalk table. He didn’t like knowing what a man on the train tried to do to Rafaella. Being groped by a man isn’t a novelty anywhere in the world, but what Silvano disliked was the depicted reaction of the other passengers. Those Sicilian men and women were outraged that Rafaella had slapped the groper; after all, he was a soldier and could die in battle. It wasn’t relevant to them that he was a UN soldier during peacetime in 1952 but they had a wonderful time denouncing Rafaella for attacking the hero. Bored again with the long night, they went back to sleep, while Rafaella wondered where the hell she had landed in this world. A generous serving of other such incidents woven into Rafaella’s story further outraged Silvano.
Silvano was an educated man, an engineer and quite the gentleman. But he was not a woman, a young Eurasian woman in particular, set adrift in a sea of Latin men in Italy. Silvano preferred to keep his blinkers in place and be offended at having Italian manhood impugned. In 1952 they had not seen many Asian women and they set upon me with gusto. Italian men and women in those years frankly stared, commented in one’s face, touched body parts in public. It was a matter of education, clearly, for I did not encounter that behavior in the office where I worked in ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company).
Silvano has passed on now, as have so many other people I have known. Strange to think about all that behind me. Where IS everybody?
I returned to Rome with Renato in 1989 and was amused to find I was ignored everywhere I went. By then Italians had seen hordes of tourists from Asia and I was just another elderly one.
A Rare Passion, an e-book, is now up on smashwords.com, with a cover I absolutely admire. I can gaze at those horses forever.
“Rare” has Linden Bradley back in her beloved Brazil, where she spent her childhood. Her mission to save thousands of wildlife displaced by a hydro dam going on stream, owes its action to the real flooding of the Itaipu hydroelectric dam. Renato’s own mission in Brazil was to help build it, and I was there with him as he traveled between various field offices and worked long hours and many weekends.
It was up to me to find something to do myself, so I went to work in the headmaster’s office at the American School of Rio de Janeiro. Then I joined the Little Theater, producing a play and singing in recitals. Along with these activities I sold jewelry at home that Renato’s brother brought from Italy. I did, indeed, find things to do.
“A Rare Passion” was fun to write. There are all the outdoors, wildlife, lavish Carnaval spectacles and — oh yes — romance.
After a year in Rio de Janeiro as an overseas corporate wife and mulling over an occupation — not bridge, no — not golf, no — not the beach — I got a job at the American School of Rio de Janeiro and then joined the American troupe, The Little Theater. Our director Ruth Stanton launched a production that had us rushing off to have our costumes made. Mine was a mustard-colored gown (very odd I thought) and a tall dunce headpiece with veil. That item bemused my Brazilian tailor, who proved up to the job of securing it to my head.
I went up there to try out for the lead part as Kate, sang “So In Love” and received enthusiastic applause. But next day as I read from the script, “I hate men!” I looked over at the seats to see everyone falling over with mirth. Ruth said kindly, “It’s just not for your sweet voice, dear.” I knew that but had tried anyway, bringing my meanest vocal up from the guts. At this stage in my life I am still being asked by strange callers to call my mommy to the phone.
Well, Ruth gave me some extra “bits” to do, in one scene retreating backward from the court bully. In the audience, Renato was sending anguished pleas to San Gennaro in case I tripped (I do that a lot, or at least, I did). It is accurate to say that all my theatrical exploits were harder on Renato than on me. I was having fun. He had to bring himself to the performances and have panic attacks. At the performance itself his attempts to photograph me on stage were so erratic that a friend sitting beside him took the camera away from him and did the job herself. The results were far better than portraits of the necks of people sitting in front.
For one gig at the Hotel Intercontinental, I drove myself there, handed my Beetle over to the valet, and found I had locked the door from the inside. The valet looked at me, said he had to break the window, and proceeded to do so. It was Renato’s job to have it fixed, just as he replaced the stolen car seats. Not that he did these things himself. His driver Yusef came to the house and drove the car away sitting on a crate. I believe he found my seats at the flea market and bought them back. The broken car window was easier to fix.
The broken car window blog will be next.