30 September 2013

Brazilians Separated at Birth

People have always said that I look like Amy Irving, or she like me. Okay, mostly it's in the hair, but there was indeed a resemblance years ago, especially during her Crossing Delancey days. (In fact, I admit to having signed a few autographs on her behalf when that movie was playing in New York, if only to get some very persistent old women off my back!) Interestingly enough, Amy and I share an even stronger connection than a passing resemblance. While she was married to Bruno Barreto, the Brazilian director, they had a beach house not far down the beach from where Mark and I live now. Pretty eery, huh?

Well, people are forever mistaking one person for another, or noting some uncanny resemblance between so-and-so and that actor, what’s-his-name. Just to have a bit of fun, here are a few separated-at-birth Brazilians:

Nalbert, former Brazilian volleyball star
Yul Brynner, eternal Russian-born King of Siam

Tarcísio Meira, Brazilian actor
Howard Keel, American actor and singer

Pedrinho Mattar, Brazilian pianist
John Wallowitch, American pianist

Tony Bellotto, Brazilian musician, author

Paul Reiser, American actor, musician, author

Renata Vasconcellos, Brazilian TV news anchorwoman
Julia Roberts, American actress

Glória Pires, Brazilian actress
Carmen Maura, Spanish actress

Reynaldo Gianecchini, Brazilian actor
Matthew Fox, American actor

Gisele Bundchen, Brazilian model
Gwyneth Paltrow, American actress

Luiz Guilherme, Brazilian actor
Patrick Stewart, British actor

23 September 2013

Glorious Technicolor

For as long as Mark and I were card-carrying New Yorkers, black was the only color we wore. Black jeans, black tops, black skirts, black boots, black coats, black gloves, black scarves. If it had been in fashion back then I’d have used black nail polish. It was all very chic, very Big City. Our apartment was equally monochrome, furnished mostly in blacks and whites; it was the quintessential New York loft. But one day under the influence of a certain Gregory, owner/designer of a store called Shabby Chic in Soho, we threw caution to the wind and bought two plush, red velvet chairs to brighten our living room. Gregory was on to something. The added color was terrific, and a seed was planted.

Then we moved to Brazil and it was clear that our black-and-white design sensibilities were wrong here in the tropics. We remembered those red chairs, and the success we had had with them. It was time to go crazy, time to put color everywhere. And whenever I thought we’d thrown too much color into a room I turned out to be wrong. Color absorbs color. There’s always room for more.

We turned eight white chairs into a color wheel around the dining table.

We wanted lots of big pillows to make our living room banquettes more comfortable. Let’s see, what color should we choose?

We had lots of empty wall space to fill up, so I decided to try my hand at painting, something I’d always wanted to do. It wasn’t Robert Motherwell who inspired me —

— but the world I saw right out my window. We turned one of our bedrooms into a studio, bought me an easel, and I began to splash colors onto canvas, lots of colors onto lots of canvases, all the colors that were available in the art supply stores.

And as for our clothes, well, almost everything black ended up in storage (except what might be needed for trips to New York and Paris). It wasn’t long before our closets were bursting with lilacs, greens, yellows, oranges, and purples . . .


. . . and blues . . .


                            . . . and golds . . .

    . . . and roses . . .      

Like Dorothy crash-landing in Oz, Mark and I had stepped into a world of glorious technicolor. And we are surely not in Kansas anymore!

16 September 2013

The Vacant Lot's Not Vacant Anymore

Ours is the last house on a narrow, hilly street. To one side of us stands the house that recently became famous (or infamous) in the neighborhood and in this blog (see my April 22, 2013 blogpost, and its update on May 13th). Things have quieted down considerably on that side. They now leave us in peace, so I will do the same with them and say no more here. On the other side of our house was a vacant lot or, more specifically, a forest, teeming with life. Over the years large families of kingfishers and doves flew to and from their nests every day. Occasionally horses could be seen grazing, and possums would slink by, intent on their prey. There were also plenty of large termite nests and snakes (nothing’s perfect). Every day we would look over at the forest — "our forest" as we had come to think of it — and see something new and interesting. Eleven glorious years of peace, privacy and greenery.

We knew it might end one day, and so it has. The vacant lot had an owner, Octávio Raja Gabaglia, an architect, a former city councilman, and the man singlehandedly responsible for the distinct, low-rise profile Búzios enjoys to this day. While serving in the city council back in the ’70s, Octávio, or Otavinho as he’s called, introduced a law that prohibited construction above two stories, with the second story occupying only 50% of the area of the first story. The result? There are absolutely no highrises in Búzios, period. City governments have come and city governments have gone, but this law remains untouched and unchallenged (except by scofflaws, but that’s another story). Without this law Búzios would look — well, just like any other beach resort around the world.

It would look like Miami,

like Punta del Este,

like Cancún,

like Marbella,

like Rio de Janeiro,

or even like Cabo Frio, a mere half hour by car from Búzios.

Got the idea? Instead, Búzios looks like this —

But back to our lot, where Otavinho is eager finally to build the house he projected many years ago. In a spirit of good neighborliness he has made several visits to our house, blueprints in hand, both to enlist our cooperation and calm our worst fears. We’re not going to enjoy the year of construction that’s ahead of us, the noise and the dirt and all, but we will find it fascinating to watch a house — particularly an Otavinho-designed house — go up before our very eyes.

It used to look like this from the beach —                      


But now it looks like this —

Where horses once grazed and roamed free —

We now have machines —

And where I used to gaze at the ever-changing scene —

This is what we see now —

. . . to be continued.