Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Hillbilly in Brazil Edition 

    In happier news I had two teeth removed from my head Monday night after about 30 shots of Novocain and several reassurances that it would be OK that she wasn't going to hurt me. The She in that sentence is my dentist Thais assisted by sister Adriana, also a dentist, as they pulled and yanked out the previously mentioned teeth. Seems like if you have an infected tooth you probably shouldn't let it run ramped for 6 to 7 years. 
Marathon Man School of Dentistry

     My dad was alive when this tooth started hurting so that must have been in 2004 because I think I was also working at Thrifty Nickel at the time. I remember the pain was so bad at one point I was tempted to go to the dentist office next door and beg for them to rip the god damned thing out with an old rusty monkey wrench. Then I would think how much the monkey wrench option would cost me and that I was only working part time and had student loans, a car loan and a huge credit card debt that I was trying to pay off with my little income.
     Everyone who has ever talked to me about teeth have screwed their eyes up to the air and complained about the costs. I well knew, even when I had dental insurance it seemed to cost more than I was willing to part with but being surrounded by examples of those unwilling to pay made me always fork over the cash. Working in a factory can be an eye opener to many things. I used to work with a guy named "Donk" who had one brown tooth on the bottom gum and two on the top and was still somehow managed to chew tobacco. If you don't think that will make you brush often then you are sadly mistaken. Especially night after night of seeing Donks brown grin after making some stuttering half intelligible joke about either your sexuality or how you should go out with some 45 year old woman named Mary Beth.
     My infected tooth pain would come and go until one day I finally went to a Dentist who might have been drunk and convinced him that I had pain and could he do something about it. So he drilled a hole in the side of my molar, charged me some money and sent me on my merry way. When the pain killers from the drilling wore off my pain had doubled and I spent about 2 weeks without sleep due to the throbbing in my jaw that seemed to get worse when I was either trying to sleep or trying to be awake. I went back to the same dentist but his secretary wouldn't even tell him that I was there to see him much less give me an appointment even after I explained pain to her. I was probably to tired from sleep dep to get my point across on reflection maybe if I had thrown something at her head she would have allowed me through the doors.
     Luckily me regular dentist gave me a prescription for some painkillers and antibiotics. You might ask the question why didn't I go see him in the first place but he is almost always solidly booked for 6 months at a time. Getting in to see him unless your teeth are exploding is an impossibility and sometimes I am grateful that his building was condemned.
     Anyway, after getting 312 shots of Novocain injected into my gums, lips, hair, mouth and eyes they extracted two teeth from my lower jaw. What is more disturbing, the sensation of tugging or the sounds of the teeth moving around, I really don't know. I think it helped having two attractive dentist hovering over me even if they were wearing masks, hairnets and bickering at each other in Portuguese. I might not yet have a full grasp of the language but I do know body-language and intonation.  Thais and Adriana are professionals but still, they are sisters first. First came the molar with its silver filling in the side and which was less infected than the premolar in front of it. The fun part was getting the premolar out which had broken down to the gumline, I won't go into detail other than to say it hurt like hell. Then she had to clean out the infected parts which was by far the grossest part, especially when she drug out strips of bright red infected parts with scissor clamps saying "Look at the lesion, how it is infected" almost as casually as Jacques Cousteau would describe a passing Sea Turtle.
     After seeing bit by bit of my jaw being removed a gloved hand with gauze went into my mouth to soak up blood and the remaining infection. It is truly odd to have someones hand in your mouth while they are turned around talking to your girlfriend who calmly and slightly grossed out sits in the corner of the room, legs crossed, hands on her knee. Deep inside she is ready to bolt out the door and feverishly punch the buttons to call the elevator up because she hates the Dentist. Which is odd seeing that her best friend is in fact in that profession.
     Thais then proceeded to sow up the huge gap in my gumline where my once infected and broken teeth had set for almost 6 years. Second odd feeling of the night is seeing someone hold what looks like a piece of yarn with a fishing hook on the end tying your mouth together. Tugging, knotting, repeat until everything is neatly tied together. I was starting to wonder if she was placing a button on my lip when she said that we were done. She placed a new gauze in my mouth and told me to chomp down on it for 30 minutes and to lay back in the chair for a little while longer. Imagines of me jumping up and immediately passing out ran through my mind, I doubt if the three of them could have gotten my big fat American ass back in the chair.
     I was finally allowed to stand and we talked about what I could and couldn't do over the next few days. I was expected to lay on my ass, not drink anything hot, no solids for at least three days, no grains, no beer, and don't brush the part of my mouth with stitches while brushing my teeth. So now I get to eat all the milkshakes, pudding and yogurt that I want while watching Ana and family eat all these great smelling dishes in front of me. I would force a smile but it hurts.

Next Issue: How I met Matthew Shirts or more about Justin Bieber...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

There Is Just Something About Sao Paulo (Part Dois)

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition

      The thing about waking up in a Formula 1 Hotel is that you really can't jump out of bed and sprint around the room because you are going to hit all the walls. Also they offer a breakfast in the morning if you purchase this little red card in the morning from while checking in. The problem is they don't print the times of breakfast on the cards that you buy, you just have to know that it will start at 7 and end at 10:30. Now that makes sense to normal people but when you live with someone suffering from Brazilian Sleeping Sickness then you have to rethink things like normal breakfast hours and when to wake up in the mornings, especially weekend mornings. Somehow she convinced me that they served breakfast till 11:00 on Sundays, so while I sat in bed from 8 to 11 waiting for her to wake up so I could go to breakfast they were handing out the last of the stale toast and watery coffee. I wanted some of that watery coffee because it reminded me of home.
     Foiled again by The Brazilian Sleeping Sickness aka "The Sleeps" as they are commonly referred to around these parts and by these parts I mean this blog. So after her the rationalization that no one in Brazil wakes up early on a Sunday morning to eat breakfast because that would just be wrong we went off to find our noon breakfast. I wasn't even hungry due to still being full from the gorging myself the previous night.
     We went to the oldest of all Malls in Sao Paulo for an photo exhibit in the upstairs gallery but that didn't start until 2 pm so we had a few hours to kill. We ate lunch/breakfast (I guess that is brunch) and walked around looking into the stores that were still closed. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and other retail stores just like home in the Owensboro Mall. Swatch has it's own store, how cool is that. I mean I can't afford anything in this place but I can still look and appreciate and possibly buy a knock off from ebay for 1/6 the price.

      I have to say that I loved the Photo Exhibit not only were they serving free champagne (damn it feels good to be a gangsta) and the photos were simply amazing for the most part. I wrote down a few names while there so I could look up some work (poor, can't afford the photo books) on the interweb. Just fabulous, makes me want to get a camera and start taking pictures... oh yea I can do all that. Anyway, here is a video that someone made while there, please check it out. See if you can spot the photos from the Magnum Photographer.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just Something About Sao Paulo (Part Um)

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition

      Ana and I went to Sao Paulo Saturday and after several failed attempts we finally broke free of Santo's gravitational pull. We tried to leave, honest we did by some secret shortcut near the port that is now under heavy road construction. So that super secret fast route was closed to us and we had to turn backtrack. About that time Ana realized that she had left her cell phone plugged up in my room. It was supposed to be my job to remind her to bring it that morning but in all the excitement of waking up early and brushing my teeth I forgot.
      So we drove all the way back home to get the cellphone and Ana a change of shoes because the weather was much hotter than we had originally thought it was going to be (wrong again weather guys/gals). Another universal experience, the weathermen the world over can't take a guess for shit. For some reason it was even hotter in Sao Paulo than in Santos, I would think the beach would be warmer but it is the opposite. There I go thinking again, maybe things are reversed down here in the southern hemisphere. I don't know because they stuck me in dummy science classes in High School which is really strange cause I always made great marks in science when I was in Grade School.
     Sao Paulo either means Giant City or Saint Paul I'm not really sure yet, even when you think you are in the middle of it you really aren't in the middle of it. Huge I tells you. We drove to a place Ana had read about in a magazine called The Bagel Factory. You might not realize this from the name but they serve Bagels. I can't remember the name of the neighborhood that we parked in, I think it was either called "No Parking Anywhere" or "Park Here Only After You Purchase A Blue Card" the blue card being their version of a parking meter minus the hassle of just walking out of your car and placing change in a box and turning a knob. You have to search for someone to purchase the card from, then fill it out and place it on your dash so you don't get a ticket. Much more efficient than you know, that whole nasty change thing.

      It was worth it, not only were the Bagels pretty damn good but the Cappuccino was excellent. I have never been a big fan of cappuccino mostly because I have never really had a good one. I mean I hate going to Starbucks because I feel like an idiot saying "tall" or "grande" and still somehow manage to get a small cup and when Brandon Ralph used to make them they tasted like shit. Probably because he is a caffeine junkie who injects double shots of espresso between his toes! Instead of getting a nice tasty beverage you are stuck drinking Nitro Glycerin with a touch of sugar that burns your stomach and turns your mouth black as if you drank ink. 

      After we checked into a chain hotel called Formula 1 which is like Motel 6 without the thrills or unwrapped condoms on the floor (happened in Chicago) we caught the subway to get closer to the street fair in some neighborhood which again I can't remember the name. All I remember is that it was filled with music stores and Ana's friend Cris lives there. By music stores I mean places selling instruments not CDs and boy are there tons of them. I don't even think Nashville (Music City USA) has that many opposing  music stores facing each other on the same strip but I could be wrong. After walking downhill several blocks we reached the Street Fair, I bought Steph a Frida T-shirt for her birthday which is next month. I can say this on here because she never reads my blogs. I also got myself a Rolleiflex T-shirt from a vendor, it was between that and a Leica camera t-shirt but seeing that I will never be able to afford either I went ahead with the Rolli. That and some other joker was already walking around wearing the Leica and that would have just been awkward. What if we were invited to the same party or Flickr Meet wearing identical shirts. Catfight! 
      We bumped into Ana's friend Cris while snooping around the stalls of the street fair which is held every Saturday in the same place. She was looking for some cool eyeglass frames, I tried to talk her into some kickass sixties Cat-eye vintage frames but she respectfully disagreed. Women, huh.
       Later that night we were picked up by Cris and her room mate Andresa for what can only be described as total glutton abandon at a fresh sushi buffet in Liberdade. While you might know it, Brazil has the second largest population of Japanese outside of Japan which means super awesome sushi. Especially when you only live about 2 hours from the coast, so even more super awesomeness is packed into those little pieces of fish and rice than say Evansville, Indiana or Bowling Green, Kentucky.

      The Sushi was fabulous, I wish I could say that I have never ate so much sushi in my life but that would be a lie. I ate more last time I was here in Santos, a few blocks from Ana's house. What can I say, I love a sushi restaurant that owns their own boat. Now that is fresh fish dude. 

Continued later but so shots from Formula 1 before we go.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to the Books

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition

     Today I went back to class, I haven't had to go to school since last Friday because of Brazilian Holidays. Woke up ready to go but then I realized I could sleep for another 15 minutes so opted for that route. I stayed up way too late reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest which is the last in the Millennium Trilogy.
     I have to say that I really enjoyed all three of the books but I think old Stieg Larsson could have used more editing. Some things in the books just seem to be thrown in for the hell of it. I am used to this in mystery novels because they are supposed to take you on misleading tangents but just throwing random bullshit in for filler that if removed would have no impact on the novel is masturbation. The corresponding films for the Millennium books have cut a lot of fat from the novels and the pace doesn't suffer for it in the least.

     Wait... I was talking about going back to school. The worst part of the day was that I didn't get any coffee this morning. To me that is just tragic, you wouldn't send a runner out without his running shoes or a stripper out to the pole without something to hang her money off of why would you send a 35 (trinta e cinco) year old male out into the world without coffee. Sure, you can do it but it is just going to be an awful fucking mess in the end.
     Friday morning is Kindergarten class first which is always fun because the kids are usually nice and really small so you can push them around easier. We learned about parts of the house today which is always a good thing to know. I don't want to mistakenly tell someone I am taking my lunch in the banheiro (bathroom) when I mean that is where I will be leaving my lunch.
     We looked in on another class of kids, I think they were 5yo or maybe younger and they were already doing cursive writing. I remember when I was in Kindergarten I was doing print with a pencil that looked like a tree and here these kids were doing cursive. The Kindergarten class is already learning Portuguese, Spanish and English. I wonder when they start teaching Algebra, 3rd grade?

'No Child Left Behind! No Child Left Behind!' 'Oh really, well it wasn't long ago you  were talking about giving kids a Head Start! Head Start, Left Behind, someone's losing fucking ground here!' - George Carlin

        I don't know what is being taught in our schools back in the States and granted the school I am attending is a private school but still I can't think that there are many private schools teaching three languages at once in Kindergarten or cursive handwriting at that age either. I could be wrong like I said I don't have kids. You might be saying to yourself 'Shawn why should I care about Brazil, it is still considered a third world country and I'm an American so what if those kids down there have more knowledge and skills'. Well all I can say to that you can't be Number One forever if you don't work at it constantly. Ali didn't win his first fight and then sit on his ass and eat donuts. Michael Jordan didn't get his first slam dunk in High School and then say, nailed it now to go home and watch Fat Albert. Marilyn Chambers didn't... well you get the point. 
        Secondly next time you go to Burger King and then swing by Iron Horse Liquors to get a case of Budweisers in Owensboro remember this, Brazil owns both those all American things now. (technically it is a Belgian and Brazilian joint things but still)
        Lastly, Knowledge is Power. If you have ever had to talk to someone that didn't know shit about shit for more than 20 minutes you know that in your heart. 
        Don't worry your pretty little head over any of this because as I was walking home from the bus stop, I saw a woman wearing a Twilight T-Shirt with Edward all over it. I stopped and saluted her in the middle of the street because God Bless America and it's spread of the pop culture virus like a sailor with the clap. If only we made more than just the movies, if we only made the merchandise that everyone buys that comes along with it maybe unemployment would be back to 8.5%.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Kinder, Gentler, Kindergarten or It's Not a Tumor!

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition

     So following my Billy Madison-esque path through the Brazilian School system my first class on Friday was Kindergarten. Claudinei showed me the booklet we would be going over in the little people class which included todays lesson of body parts and a song titled Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. I told Claudinei that Kindergarten in America they pretty much just teach letters and numbers and then release us into the wild after half a day.
Stop Staring At Me Swan!!!

    Brazil is teaching the little munchkins English and Spanish at 5 years of age. I didn't tell him that in America we have a debate about having any other language taught let alone spoke in schools and when we do try and teach kids a language it is in High School and is French. Makes sense seeing that France borders the US and is one of our major trading partners in the world. I can't wait to get home, turn on my French Computer Le PC and watch things on my big screen LCD Monsieur Sony. Not to mention that most of the immigrants, legal and illegal come from France to escape persecution from Napoleon. I don't mean to go on about America but I think we are doing a disservice to ourselves by sticking our fingers in our ears and trying not to believe that other people speak different languages.
   I told the kids my name and how are you in Portuguese which never works. I think I say it right but no one sticks to the script. I say Oi and the kids always reply Hi in English and that fucks up the screenplay in my head but I think they are just excited to talk to someone who speaks English regularly. I sat in the back of the class feeling like a Giant in the little chair, I wonder if this is how a fat person thinks about movie theater seats or compact cars. We did the song, learned about body parts and then came time to color the picture of a boy we had used for the body part lesson. A few kids came back and asked me to say the colors in English and then tried to teach me the word in Portuguese until Claudinei shooed them back to their seats. The kids kept calling me Tio Shawn when they wanted my attention which sounds like Chill Shawn to my hearing impaired ears. Tio means uncle and is used as a term of endearment or so Ana and Claudinei tells me. The street urchins in Sao Paulo call the same thing when they see my camera wanting me to give them money or take pictures of their dead fish in a bag they are trying to sell. Good times.

    The next class was loaded with 5th graders and I had no Justin Bieber questions with this group as they were more interested in dressing up as figures from Brazil Independence from Portugal which happens to be September 7th. The class was learning how to say times in English and somehow I got roped into this activity with Claudinei writing my times on the board next to what the kids had answered. I got some mumblings from them when I said that I usually get up at 10am and go to sleep at 1 in the morning. Perks of being an adult I guess and living abroad. 
    Luckily my last class of the day was filled with 6th graders, Justin Beiber cards and questions so I didn't completely escape without a justinbieber, justinbieber, justinbieber. I tried to explain that in 4 years even they wouldn't care about Justin Bieber anymore and probably will have totally lost interest in carrying a stack of overpriced playing cards of his face everywhere they went. The kids need backpacks just to carry their Justin Bieber trading cards alone which is probably true for American kids as well. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Day of School

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition:

     Yesterday was my first day in school which meant that I had to set my first alarm to 6am to make sure that I was up at 6:30am (somehow that makes sense to me). Ana, still decked out in PJ's and eyes still half closed gave me a ride to school which is more or less in the middle of the Santos I think. Look I can't find shit when awake in Santos much less half asleep with no coffee.

The drive made me realize there are two kinds of "not morning people" in this world:
A: Grouchy and not really firing on all cylinders or
B: Zombies

     I am A Type, wake me up too early and I want to punch a kitten in the face and set an orphanage on fire. Ana is more B Type I realized as we floated down streets in bumper car traffic as if in some kind of trance. Her silver Peugeot getting close to the other silver and black cars but never touching them which is a testament to her driving skill. Ana decked out in sunglasses, uncombed hair and near conscious like state. Thinking back on it, all that was missing was a long thin cigarette thrust between her lips and an empty martini glass clutched in one hand and it would have been picture perfect.
     My arrival was well timed I got there with plenty of time to spare before the classes started to hook up with my connection Claudinei. Claudinei teaches grade school English which is a requirement at this Private School that I am attending. When I say "Private School" I don't mean something that requires ties and blazers so get that Ivy League motif out of your head. Think more along the lines of when Beaver Dam Baptist Church decided to started an educational program for kids K-8. Take that idea and squeeze all the Jesus Juice and Hellfire Sauce out of it and bump it up to K-Graduation and there you have it. Ana even told me that one private school was created by just a bunch of teachers that wanted to set there own rules and curriculum that is kind of neat, never happen in the States though without Jesus.
     So I was lead to the teachers lounge which just looked like a place that screamed for cigarette smoke even though it was proibido. I guess I was having a flashback to when I was a kid and walked past the lounge to see huge plumes of smoke coming up from teachers. Strange memories of Southern Elementary, all the Brazilian Teacher's Lounge needed was a an old green couch and a wall stocked full of Red Puke Sawdust and I would have felt right at home.
      Claudinei lead me to our first class which was a 6th grade class. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be maybe due to being so early in the morning or because it was something I really wanted to do. I remember the first time I walked into Sumitomo in 1994 and the only thought in my head was "GET OUT, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE" which was also what my brain was telling me the first time I walked into DIACEL 14 years later. Don't get me wrong, I was nervous but not balls in stomach flat out run nervous.
     I was introduced to the first set of kids who were 6th graders. I sat down with a few kids that knew some English and so started the theme of the rest of my school day. Justin Beiber. It started out slow, just a trickle of  "Do you like Justin Beiber?" but this was only the first class and still early in the morning. The little girl next to me had a stack of playing cards that had photos of Pop Stars, mostly Justin Beiber but also Lady Gaga and more Justin Beiber.
     The second set of kids were definitely more awake and interested in my opinions of all things "Justin Beiber" and "Hannah Montana" related. Actually it would start out with "What's your name?" being asked about five or six times even though Claudinei just told them five minutes ago but Shawn for some reason isn't an easy name to say in Brazil and it usually turns into John. Ana's mom Mara called me Johnny for the longest time. The name and where I from questions wouldn't last long and it would all fall apart into "justinbeiber, justinbeiber, justinbeiber,justinbeiber...." until Claudinei would break it up.
     I should point out that in Brazil that English class is a little looser and freer than any classes in the States, the kids are always jumping up and wondering around the room. Constantly sharpening pencils and throwing something away, way different than the US. The work load seemed to be about the same but I haven't been in grade school for years. I was thinking back to all the mean spirited teachers from my elementary school and thought half these kids would have been flogged to death by now for half of what they were doing.
     The kids were doing a lesson with words that were positive, neutral or negative such as Super, Awful, Rubbish, Cool and OK. Then there was a lesson afterwards where you had to make a sentence with a list of actors and musicians using the words from the previous exercise. Claudinei made the mistake of saying you can work in groups or with a partner, guessed what happened. If you said 25 kids rushed over to my corner to be my partner in this assignment you would be right. I was also asked about Justin Beiber during this mad rush to my corner of the room a few times plus which was my favorite soccer team.
     Let's just get that straight now, the girls would all ask about justinbeiber and the boys would as about soccer. Santos, great soccer team or the greatest. I know about as much about soccer as I do about the stock market or poker. I know some of the rules and what is involved but I am lost when it comes down to the fine details.
     This went on until the last class which was a 4th grade class when I basically made the statement at the beginning that no I didn't like Justin Beiber. Then some little girl looked at me from her seat with big eyes behind glasses and asked what I thought about Hannah Montana....like the fate of her enitre life depended on my correct answer to this most important of all questions. I said "no, not really" and failed the test crushing her hopes and dreams of finding an American that liked Hannah Montana. So you would have thought from the reaction I got but it did stop the questions. I might add that all the boys in the class whooped in approval when I said no which scares me to think that somehow I am still an 8 year old boy. It isn't that I don't like these corporate made musicians it is just that I have seen them before, I remember when Justin Beiber was an entire band called "New Kids on The Block" and Hannah Montana was called "Tiffany" or "Debbie Gibson". Sorry kids, been there done that way before you were even an itch in your parents genitals.

     Left at 12 with all the kids, kids go to school from 7:30 to 12 here and that is there day and yet they still cram everything in somehow. I saw one kids report card and it was loaded just like ours are, but they get it all done in 4 and a half hours. History, Math, Portuguese, English, Spanish, Geography, Art and Computers and these kids are already learning about finding percentages and Pi in math class. I think we were still counting in 6th grade when I left.
     Ana was late picking me up but she was awake and made up, no cigarette or martini glass in this part of the day nothing but sun, beauty and smiles. Went to lunch, said the word "Chaka*" about a million times to annoy Ana mostly for being late and also because it amused me to no end. We went to a cake place so she could decide on a birthday cake for Friday night then back to school for my one on one lessons with Claudinei. Learned numbers and days of the week and the months and wouldn't you know it on the elevator down I got a homework assignment. I have to write all the numbers up to 100 on paper in Portuguese that is what I get for annoying Ana.

     Other good news is for Sam, I finally found a group of girls that is interested in Pop culture as much as you are maybe even more so. Bad news is they are all under 12.

*watch Land of the Lost and it will make more sense