The Attitude of Eachother

Barra da Tijuca: where was I?

Posted in Uncategorized by Michael Atallah on February 27, 2011

Game day. And I’m not talking about this Sunday’s super bowl. Far from it, but not that far when you consider hyperrealism as our agenda for the evening.

It’s a Wednesday night in Rio and we’re heading southwest to the glass
elephant: Barra da Tijuca. In English it translates to Swamp Sandbank. Back
before the 20th century the coast line that made up Barra was one long
sandbank gobbled by inland swampland. The land is locked around intense
mountain ranges. Once Remedial Territorial Agricultural and a group of other
cronies bought up the land from Jardim Oceanico all the way down to Recreio
dos Bandeirantes, the bastards took 70 years to finally build the lagoa-barra
highway plugging in new inhabitants trying to flock out of a crowding southzone
Rio de Janeiro. This was 1969. It plays like an Orange County model
housing the wealthiest of the wealthy in business, entertainment and sports. A
new breed of Brazilian was taking shape and the area was designed in the
same appeal as how Brasilia and new-Miami were built up. Space was
peculiarly used by etching out wide boulevards and parkways: typical north
American urban planning. They even named the main drag Avenida das
Americas. It’s a bright contrast to the rest of Capital City. Almost too bright,
and that is exactly why we crossed the line of society to go a bit deeper in how
ridiculous the turnout of this development became. Who does this on a
Wednesday night? Go out with a Hasselblad and a note-pad to write a story
about hyperrealism within a context people commit their lives to live around,
normally. Yeah, you could call it social anthropology but it doesn’t cover it all.
We were on an urban Safari pointing out how horrific growth can amass to.
João said “the world is ending” while standing before the giant upside down
triangle that made up the logo for Guanabara: an ultra Costco like grocery store
that towers over Avenida das Americas parkway. Along the center divider,
where the camera was positioned, a scant row of baby trees stood like starving
refugees in a complicated situation.

Our night went something like this:

On our way out of Zona Sul we made a stop off in Gavea to untangle from a web
of domestic confusion. It was a drop off and I had to make myself unknown to
the situation so I hopped out of the car before the drop point. I’d like to go deeper
into it but it’s just not my business. Let’s just leave it as a task that just had to be
done. I hung around the strand of bars and restaurants waiting for the matter to
be dealt with. I bought a pack of Marlboros at a bar/restaurant called Garota da
Gavea. There was a waiter standing on the edge of the sidewalk next to the
outdoor seating. I unwrapped my pack, not wanting to litter I looked around for a
trash can. Nothing. I was tense with the cellophane in my hand. I almost
wanted to stuff it into the pocket of the waiter and pat him on the shoulder. I
didn’t, but it was a funny thought. I hung around watching the people eat and
smoke cigarettes: mostly couples, young, good-looking resembling a cigarette
ad. There was a woman in her late 40s sitting silently sipping a beer. Pack a
cigarettes with a lighter neurotically placed aside. She looked blank into the
distance. I wonder what she was thinking about. There wasn’t time to mix with
this scene, so I looked across toward the car to see the drop was in the middle of
activity. A blond girl in her early 20s was nearly in tears leaning into the driver
side of our car. I waited for the signal. No time to figure things out. I was on my
own trip. We were headed to Barra and I had my own female issues buzzing in
my head. I just wanted to get to Barra and see what happens. I circled the
perimeter chain smoking and pressing messages off to Los Angeles on my
iphone. I was also pressing off some words to a cold bitch of a journalist up in
Nova Friburgo up in the sierras of Rio de Janeiro. Entertaining, at the least.
Walking down the row people stood around drinking in groups along the
sidewalk. It wasn’t that busy but still enough to bring out someone from idle
depression. I got a closer look of the car and passed it. She was still there,
somber. I walked a few meters away from it and then cut across the street to sit
on the curb. I was 2 O’clock from the car, in clear site yet distracted by my
bullshit correspondence. No big deal. I smelt french fries in the air and
remembered I hadn’t eaten a meal all day. Just a ham and cheese calzone
called Juelho (knee). Don’t ask. Twenty minutes rolled by and my playtime on
the mojo phone was cut off. The drop led our car to make a drive around the
block so I had to bear the wait a little longer. Waiting is my specialty. I’m good at
it. I took one more walk around the strip and was about to lose morale until I
see our car pull right up in front of me, as if I had called for a radio taxi. The drop
was made and my seat was vacant. We got the fuck out of there without a
second to spare. We didn’t talk for the fist 10 minutes as we sped up estrada
Lagoa Barra through the Zuzu Angel tunnel right into the Rochinha. Oscar
Neimeires futuristic walkway carring pedestrians across never looked uglier.
Was it a foreshadow to the world we were about to enter? It looked like the
frontal view of a viking helmet futurized in a poorly written science fiction what
have you. It was behind us, Joao was driving at top speed taking advantage of a
wednesday night in Rio. Sadly the burn only lasted a few kilometers until we
were re-directed up the Joá canyon pass. The second tunnel was closed for
matinence. No problem. We popped Andrew Bird on the CD player and
smashed through the curvy two-lane estrada de Joá right into Barra Antiga – the
first neighborhood of Barra. Historically speaking it was a little refuge for Zona
Sul dwellers to escape the city and fall into a bar called Oswalds, which opened
back in 1946. They serve this mean drink called Batida, which I don’t want to get
into right now. We sped through the neighborhood onto Av. Armando Lombardi
and eventually merged onto the first indication that we were certainly not in Zona
Sul: Avenida Das Americas. The wide bastard just got wider and before you
know it a Miami beach style parkway divider pumps out of the asphalt. The zoning
got serious, buildings got boxy and greedy with the space around them. Even
the fucking typography in strip-mall storefronts had an attitude. My mind was
given a new picture to look at as if it was a pre fabricated piece of corporate art. I
would call it a piece of shit but that’s where João steps in to translate back to the
world. The ridicule was running high each meter we drove and somehow our
twisted minds believe this to be art. Not some pussy genre like Urban Art, but
something along the lines of “hey, the world is going to shit and for some reason
if you look hard enough you can see how insecure human beings actually are.”
BMW, RANGE ROVER MERCEDES showrooms gleamed out like some drunk
yuppie in an expensive nightclub who knows absolutely nothing about LSD. We
were in Barra, and the 2 am air was thick. Like any new reality no matter how
absurd it is, human beings adapt, and we took that sensation into the parking lot
of an old Carrefour supermarket where a mustard yellow protrusion of perfection
seemed like it was placed there by a giant baby arranging this god-awful city. It
was a BOB’s hamburger joint: clean, evenly lit and most certainly Americana. It
was Hopper in reverse – Marc Trujillo came to mind. All the realities mixed up in a
confused Bladrunner dimension. It seemed as if someone took the wrong portal
and arrived to the wrong 2011. The local GDP stunk through the pearl white
plastic chairs neatly set around the stand under a pre fabricated corporate BOBS
LIVERY lined canopy. We sat in the Fiat inside the empty parking lot watching
the place as if a fucking Lion was going to rustle out of the bushes and eat a
Zebra. Instead of Binoculars João took out his Hassleblad to survey the scene. I
got out before him to walk around and finally sat under the canopy. I popped a
smoke in my mouth and considered the logo of the pack. My thoughts were clear
as the sweet warm summer air blew through; I looked behind me onto Avenida
das Americas across the wide parkway.
Was I in LA?
There stood the closest replica of upper Wilshire blvd. I have ever seen outside
of Los Angeles. I stood up and tossed my cigarette away, slowly walking
backward to get a wider view. It was an intimate affair. The coffee stained-white
Los Angeles postmodern Bauhaus structure tangled with the reaching palm trees
along the parkway. I held a stare until I hear “hey man, can you get out of the
way?” João was lining up a shot and I remembered that scene in Bob Zemeckis’
Back to the Future: Doc Brown and Marty in the JCPenny parking lot late at night
freaking out with a JVC camcorder and a hard case of shit. The stand was
closing up for the night and a group of three that seemed like a kid and his Uncle
and Father were sitting around talking. There was also a random guy leaning on
the counter, waiting for his meal. I couldn’t make out what they were saying – it
was all mumbles and slow lethargic movements. They were part of the safari
and all had round bellies. At that moment the night took that turn for the strange.
Nothing felt real, or in reach. I felt like I had been up for 4 days straight and had
no business interacting with other people’s’ micro destinies. The wind blew
gently. It felt like Miami, but it looked like LA and I thought about Orange County.
A 747 could have rolled across the parkway and some sell out director could
have shouted CUT!!!!! What was going on? We were taking a picture of a
Burger stand. I felt the fabric of loose, small currency in my pocket while my
eyes glazed at the bombardment of two tones of yellow with red details and blue
finish. I was hungry but stayed put. The resistance wasn’t hard either; I just let
the mirage subside. We had water crackers and a liter of Red Label in the car.
No need for that garbage.
I wandered around while João snapped a couple more shots. There was an
older stand just next to the Bob’s beacon. It was closed and dark. It felt like a
themed restaurant in the Wild West sector of an amusement park afterhours. I
sat down and not a second goes by when I notice a security guard harassing
João. I went for a deeper reading and sure enough the motherfucker was kicking
us out. But Why? We’re just two morons taking a picture of a burger stand. In a
calm yet breathless voice he tells us that we very well might be potential crooks
sizing the place up to rob later on down the line. Are you kidding me? Was this
really happening? We didn’t hold an argument and like a couple of French
fuckers in Cairo got back into our rental car and played dumb.
To be continued…

By Michael Atallah

photo: João Atala


One Response

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  1. joao atala said, on February 28, 2011 at 7:05 am

    It was an intimate affair.

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