Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

It's over. Carnaval 2009 is officially finished, although there is still some residual excitement going on in Barra. Not for me though, I'm done. I had a good time this year- I didn't get robbed, or beaten, or sick and as far as I know none of our guests or friends did either. Well, a couple of them got sick. We'll see how they made out on their last night out when they get their sorry hung-over asses out of bed. Also I only saw half a fight.

Yesterday I went out with Lucas again, he was dressed as a 'Filho de Ghandy.' This a very popular group that get dressed in white and blue with turbans and sandals and celebrate peace. They also spray a perfume called alfazema on everyone and try to kiss as many passing women as possible. It's quite impressive to see thousands of them go by. We made Lucas a little turban out of a hand towel and improvised a Ghandy outfit for him for his last day of school, and yesterday he wore it again to go out on the street. It was very cute. Shortly after we set out, we encountered one of Lucas' classmates on the street. He was dressed as an indian. He was with his father, who I had never met, who was also decked out in the full Ghandy regalia. I didn't know him, but I know his mother from the school. We didn't have much to say to each other after the initial pleasantries, and it didn't look like the kids were paying much attention to each other either, so we all just stood around waiting for something to happen. There were no trios passing yet, so most folks on the street were doing the same thing. I tried to coax Lucas away, but he didn't want to leave his friend.

After a while, the kid's father, who started calling me 'Sã,' told us he was going to bring his kid upstairs so he could meet up with his bloco. He invited us up as well, told us that his sister and mother were up there.

Then we had this little exchange:

"Mais lá tem negros"

"O que?"

"Negro. Black. Tem problema?"

"Voçe conhece a mãe de Lucas?"

For all you English speakers, what he did was warn me that there were blacks upstairs, and asked if I had a problem with this. I asked him if he knew Lucas' mother, and told him that she was also black.

I have never had anything like this happen to me in my life, not here, not in the United States. Let me set the stage visually a bit, because this guy was by no means white himself. Add to that that if you look at Lucas with more than a passing glance, he is clearly not of pure European heritage either. Race famously exists on more of a continuum here than in places like the United States, so it's very possible that this guy considers himself to be white, or at least whiter than the blacks to whom he was referring. But what was offensive about the exchange was the assumption that I, as a white guy, would take issue with (i.e. be racist enough to object to) spending Carnaval in the company of some black folks. Why would he say that? I suspect it was not simply because I was white, I think it was because I was a white American (we'd just been discussing my nationality). Considering that Salvador is at least 80 percent black, this seems like a pretty ridiculous assumption to make. Why would I choose to live here if I didn't like black people? Is this guy just ignorant about Americans (hey- we just elected a Black president, you might have heard that on the news) or has he had past experiences with racist Americans?

Anyhow, after I told him that Evani was Bem Negona (quite dark) herself he had a laugh and I hope realized his mistake. He certainly didn't apologize for it. I, for my part, did not storm off in a rage of righteous indignation, but took him up on his offer and went up to the apartment.

The apartment was ideal for watching Carnaval. It was on the first floor, with a window directly overlooking the main parade route, and all the passing Trios. People pay big bucks to rent apartments like this. Salvador is the only city I know of that has rental agreements with special clauses for one week out of the year. An apartment might cost 600 reis a month, but you might be asked to vacate the place for the week of Carnaval, or else pay 2000 reis or more for that week alone. In this case, the aforementioned bozo was the owner, and he takes the apartment for his family to use during Carnaval.

It was great to hang out there. We had a fantastic view of some of the most famous artists here in Salvador, including Ivete Sangalo and Chiclete Com Banana. We also had the luxury of not having to stand on the street with the many thousands of people out on this last day of Carnaval, generally the most chaotic and dangerous day. The kid's mother showed up a little later, and she treated us extremely well, giving me beers and 'finger food,' giving Lucas yogurt and juice. After a couple hours I felt like we'd worn out our welcome, and tried to get Lucas to leave, which led to several fits of tears and protests. Finally I was able to convince him it was time to go home. It was after nine- we'd been there for at least four hours.

When we got home I got my second surprise of the day- Ruan informed me that Beto had been there. It took a second for this to register- Beto is Ruan's father. His is not a name that comes up much in conversation at our house. I've only met the guy once, at a wedding. He lives here in Salvador, but doesn't call on Ruan's birthday or Christmas, or participate in any way in Ruan's life. Needless to say I don't think much of him.

I'm not sure why, or why now, but a couple of months ago we got word that Beto wanted to get to know Ruan. So does Ruan's half-sister, who he's never met. Beto got another woman pregnant at the same time as Evani, although she didn't know that at the time. She has grown up with him, while Ruan has not. My guess is that she is the one agitating to get to know her brother.

Ruan, for his part, has been completely disinterested in knowing them, or at least that's what he says. He flatly refused Beto's offer to go to the beach a month or so ago and didn't want to meet his sister. This is despite our encouragement that he at least meet them and get to know them a little. I can understand why he doesn't, but it could turn out to be a nice thing for him. So I was not only surprised to hear that the guy had shown up at our door, but even more so that Ruan had accepted his offer to spend some time with him this weekend. The dude offered him money, he has every of the maybe five times he's seen Ruan in the last six years, and Ruan refused. He did accept five reis from Beto's wife.

I told Ruan, in my mildly slurred state, that whatever he wants to do is cool with me. That he should make up his own mind if he wants to hang out with his dad, and if he doesn't want to that's fine. I didn't make any nasty comments about the guy. We'll see how it goes.

Me, Lucas, and Nelson before heading out (this is not the guy I mentioned above!)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Carnaval 2009

It's a cloudy, muggy Monday morning, smack in the middle of Carnaval 2009 in the city that boasts the largest street party in the world every year.

So far, so good. This Carnaval has been worlds better than the last one, but then again odds were that it would be. We are putting up eight people this year- a group of six Israeli women and a couple from England. The atmosphere in the house has been somewhat different, as in the past all our guests have mingled and gotten along famously but the group of women has proven to be considerably more insular- they are all very pleasant, but they are keeping to themselves.

For the first year I have followed through on my promise to give all the proceeds for our renting out of rooms to Evani, instead of using it to pay bills and such. She does all the work (except for actually getting the people, and translating for them, and allaying their fears about the vicious thieving monster that is Carnaval Salvador) so she deserves it. She keeps the house spotless and generally keeps the wheels greased in the temporary hostel machine that we run once a year. She is also treating herself to the kind of Carnaval she has always wanted- lots of blocos, lots of friends, lots of fun. She's bought an abada for several days during the Carnaval, and even bought one for me so we could enjoy a bloco together (I'm not going to explain all this stuff here, if you want to learn more about how Carnaval works, read this).

One day in a bloco, per Carnaval, is really enough for me. That, and a couple hours on each of the other days watching the craziness in front of the house, and one day I like to take Lucas to Pelourinho. That day will be today, if he'll let me. Pelourinho is much more low-key than the rest of Carnaval and they apparently have a stage set up with events for kids. Yesterday he flatly refused to go, not wanting to go anywhere his big brother wasn't headed. Today Evani is trying to take Ruan and his cousin Gel out in one of the more popular pagode blocos (music I can't stand, neither can she for that matter) so I might have better luck getting Lucas out of the house with me. Then I'm done. I'm really ready for it to be over already, I guess like Lucas I'm suffering from the breakdown of my normal daily routine, just that I don't have screaming fits as a result. At least not yet.

But as I said, so far so good. Bizarrely, I haven't seen a single fight out in the street, and only once did someone try to pick my pocket. I prepared my BattleShorts™ again this year, a special pair with the pockets all sewn shut. Makes for a much more relaxed Carnaval experience, especially if your skin tone cries GRINGO to all the passing scoundrels. One really cool thing that happened was during our bloco, when I managed to get permission to go up on top of the support truck. The big blocos have one truck, with the talent on top and all the speakers, and a second truck with bathrooms and a bar. Assorted people hang out on top of this truck looking alternately ecstatic and glazed. When I went up, I was surprised at just how few people there were up there. It was really cool- a view out over the ocean, you could see people swimming, and lots of people trying to catch the 'brindes' being tossed off our truck. In this case, it was bandana-sized cloths with the logo for a popular beer on them.

In other news, I went out and painted some graffiti on the plywood that covers anything breakable along the parade route. They were basically just sketches in spray paint of people and creatures having a good time. Unfortunately, much of this artistry got covered up by the ubiquitous Schincariol advertisements (another beer) that now cover almost everything.

Evani and friends ready to enjoy Bloco Bancoma

Evani, Spiderman, and friends ready for Bloco Q Delicia

Me, Evani, and friends about to go out for Tatau's Bloco

This is how most of my wall doodles ended up

Two wall dogs, still mostly visible

Monday, February 16, 2009

Traffic = Hell On Earth

Editor's note: I wrote this post in a bad mental state yesterday after nearly four hours of agony in my car. I wasn't sure if I should even publish it, because it's angry and rambling and kinda unpleasant. But I am going to publish it, and I'm not even going to edit it- partly because I don't have time, partly because I'm not sure it's worth it. If you're intrigued and have nothing better to do, read on. If not, go here.

What a shitty day I have had. Here's hoping it turns around as the sun goes down.

I knew I was in for trouble yesterday when I realized I had three errands to run during the day today. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but I live in Brazil, and a couple of them were errands on the other side of town.

I've gotten so that I congratulate myself if I manage to do four things in a day, providing those things involve getting out into the city, particularly in my car. This bothers me, especially since some of my most time consuming tasks are things that used to take me absolutely no time at all in the US, things like getting money out of a cash machine or paying my bills. These are now two of the most loathed and horrific things I have to confront in my daily life.

So here's what I had to do:
  1. Bring Ruan to his first day of school because he was feeling jittery
  2. Present my paid bills and pay my rent for my office, something I do every three or four months
  3. Buy some grommets or washers or whatever the hell they are to keep our faucets from drip drip dripping
This, believe it or not, was a challenging list and would have been quite impossible if I'd had to do any of this stuff during rush hour, which extends from about four until about eight o'clock in the evening. I'm guessing there's a morning counterpart, but I sleep late so who knows.

So imagine my sinking feeling when two new items were added to the list:
  1. Take other tantrum-throwing son to his school
  2. Accompany jittery pre-teen to renew his discount fare bus card.
So here's how it went. The last item, the bus fare card, went first, as it was within walking distance. It involved descending into the heart of the Lapa bus station, a place that I detest. You literally descend, down many flights of stairs, crowded with thousands of people and hundreds of street vendors taking up most of the sidewalk with their filthy illegal DVD's and other assorted dubious crap. I have no quibble with most of these people, they work very hard for very little money. I don't have much patience with the DVD sellers though, probably because I live next door to about a dozen of them and I find them to be rather unpleasant people.

Anyhow, we went down there to renew his card and hey, wouldn't you know it? We can't, because he doesn't have a certain stamp and a signature. Typical. So check off task one, failed.

Then there was some stress back at the house as Lucas pitched a fit when he discovered that I was driving Ruan to his school and wouldn't be taking him to his school as is our usual routine. So I capitulated and threw him in the car too.

This was the part of the day I was dreading the most. Ruan's school is not that far away, as the crow flies. I actually walked there once, and it took me about forty minutes. Why did I walk there? Because the route between here and there is absolutely miserable torture to drive. It's always clogged, all day long. It's only bearable on evenings and weekends. I once looked at a house that I liked very much, but the main problem was the only access by car was via this road.

I have long believed that driving in stop and go traffic, especially in a hot car, is one of the most unpleasant things our modern world has to offer us. I have always hated it, everywhere I live. Driving through twenty stop lights on some 'rural' commercial development like every fair-sized community has these days is horrible. It's hideous, the grass is dirty and/or dead, there's phone lines and hot cement everywhere, big box stores and hot pavement, and then of course the hundreds of cars hunching along from light to light if they are moving at all. I suppose it's better if you have a nice air conditioned car, a sweet sound system, and tinted windows. A DVD player to keep the kids quiet. I don't have any of those things anymore. I do have the five inch speakers in the doors, which coupled with Evani's iPod and my roster of podcasts makes any time spent in the car moderately bearable. Usually.

So that's bad. Driving in Salvador is worse, because it was built long before automobiles were a glimmer in any idiot's eye, it's full of one-way streets and shitty drivers and idiot busdrivers. I had a near road-rage incident with one on the way to bring Ruan to school today, he cut me off and I laid on the horn and then I tried to get ahead of him and he laid on the horn and then he gave me the finger and I reciprocated- he stopped his bus directly in front of me to piss me off further but I decided to take a stab at serenity- the kids were in the car after all and I really didn't want any trouble. I remember reading in the paper once about a similar incident a guy had with a bus driver, both of them cutting one another off for several miles before the driver of the car, who had been up all night drinking btw, stopped his car and walked into the middle of the road. "What are you going to do?" he is reputed to have said, "Run me over?"

Which is exactly what he did. He didn't stop the bus though, because he was worried he would be lynched, or stoned, or otherwise put to death by an angry mob.

I've got to watch this road rage thing. I get furious driving, people are such idiots, and there is so much drunk and aggressive and cell-phone driving here it's insane. It's part of my utter frustration with the world in general and Bahia in particular for not being 'fair' and 'orderly,' not to mention 'safe' and 'respectful.' We saw a guy getting a pistol whipping by the side of the road one night (not by a cop) and there are stories about flung tire irons and actual shootings on the news. I've been in the car with close relatives as they have done very dubious things in anger while driving, and I know I have the same tendency.

So take a deep breath, and let... the bus... win.

Finally we get to Ruan's school. How long did it take? Forty minutes. Wait a sec- didn't I say I walked there in forty minutes one time? Yes, I did. This is why I chose to live here in the center, where I don't have to get in the car every day to do anything at all. It's probably the only reason I'm still sane.

Hold on here- Ruan's school looks pretty quiet. Way too quiet. It did seem like a dubious decision to start school for only three days before Carnaval, but what the hell- that's what they told me. What they didn't tell me? They changed their minds. No school until after Carnaval. See? It's written on the paper on the wall. Well too bad I had to drive forty fucking miserable minutes to see the paper, isn't it? But it was on TV the other day. Well I fucking hate TV too, so I guess I missed it.

As you can see I was getting kinda testy at this point. The only good thing? I got the stamp I needed for Ruan's bus pass.

So now it's off to Lucas' school, for which he is already a half hour late. I took a different, much more roundabout route to get there and it took about half as long. See ya Lucas. Have a nice day.

Next stop? Pituba. On the other side of the city. Pituba is one of the 'nicest' parts of Salvador, with some of the wealthiest residents and fanciest shopping malls. It has some bigger roads as it was developed post-automobile, but it probably has the highest per-capita car ownership in the city so all the routes there tend to get quite clogged. At least the roads are prettier to look at as you sit trapped in your car at every blasted stop light.

I went and paid my rent which I found out has gone up. Since I didn't have anyone to co-sign my rental contract, I have to go there every few months to prove I have paid all my bills. I asked to see my contract so she could show me where it said that my rent would be going up, and she asked me if I'd read the contract. I don't know if she realized just how close I was to cracking when she said that, despite my sweat-sodden and wrinkled shirt, my rosy complexion and my air of seething rage. I was prepared to tell her right there that I didn't used to be this way, that her fucking city, her goddammed fucking country made me this way, but I didn't. I thought it though. And plus, it would only be half true. I used to get into seething rages back in the states too, although they were generally related to the lack of certain substances I couldn't get my hands on at the time.

Rent paid, I went away. Now for the last, and most important, item on the list. The grommets or washers or whatever the fuck they are to keep our faucets from dripping.

Hardware stores here are... inexplicable. Probably only because we've perfected the art in the USA. The pathetic little hardware stores here by my house often don't have nails, or screws, or other staples of the hardware trade. The big box Home Depot analogs don't have things like routers, or sheetrock, or cinderblocks. One thing they do have are Deca faucets, the only faucets worth buying according to the guy who installed all our plumbing. So I bought a bunch of them. In fact, all the faucets in the house are Deca. And they've been great, except that they have started to drip. Which is fine, you just need to take the faucet apart and replace the plastic grommet/washer thingie and all is well.

Only problem?







In a city of nearly three million people, I found out the hard, roundabout, ask everyone way that there is exactly one store here that sells these one dollar anti-drip plastic donuts. Since I was in the neighborhood, paying my stupid rent, I took advantage and went to this store and bought twenty of the blessed thingies. The first thing the woman said me when I showed her the old worn out grommet thingie was that she didn't think it was a Deca product. No, I assured her, it is a Deca product. I would not be denied. The closest thing I had to a moment of pure joy today was when I walked out of that store with my twenty grommets in my pocket. They were months overdue.

Now I headed home, the hour hovering dangerously close to four P.M. and nightmare congestion. The traffic moved along relatively smoothly, until I tried driving up into the largo where I live. Then it just... stopped. Inexplicably. I sat there for about ten minutes. This happens from time to time because there is so much commercial activity in the largo, and not much room for cars and trucks to move around. If a truck needs to park or back up for some reason, it can tie up traffic for ten or fifteen minutes. Plus, it's almost Carnaval, which means lots of other stuff is getting moved around and precious parking spaces are disappearing beneath temporary police and fire stations. I, thoroughly at the end of my rope, parked the car and walked home.

I did have one peaceful interlude in the middle of all this. Trying to get to the Deca supplier, I was not able to get to my turnoff and was headed back in the wrong direction. My car was extra hot because I'd had to park it in direct sunlight. I hadn't had lunch. I pulled into the McDonald's (yes I did) where they had parking spots in the shade and comfort grease inside. I bought a Coke and an order of fries, and carried them to the upper level. The restaurant was almost entirely empty, and it was pleasantly cool, and there were trees to look at through the windows. The bathroom was spotless, and I washed the traffic off my hands. I sat and relaxed and read my placemat and drank my Coke. I was reminded of the Buddhist temple I used to go into to hear the monks chant in the middle of Bangkok, an island of peace in the middle of pandemonium. Except that it was a McDonald's, and the food cost 10 Reis, as much as two heaping plates of food at a noisier, hotter, dirtier restaurant.

It took me three and a half hours in the car to do practically nothing. I had a couple other things I wanted to do today as well, but you know, I didn't get to them. Maybe tomorrow, if I think I can stand it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Multirão in Mata Escura

Yesterday I went to a Multirão - an open graffiti event where anyone can show up and paint. Walls are authorized for painting and they set up a sound system and play dub reggae and make a big feijoada for everyone to eat. They used to happen regularly when I first started painting, but then they stopped for a long time, now they've started up again- here's hoping they keep happening.

These events are always in obscure neighborhoods and often happen at the fin de linha (end of the bus line). This one was in a place called Mata Escura (dark forest) and it took forever to get there. I brought my cans, but wasn't sure if I'd actually be able to paint because I also brought Lucas. I figured if there was nobody there to hang out with him while I painted, I'd just have a look and take some photos.

When we got there it was pretty late- about 3 PM. The wall we had to paint was a big 15 foot monster around a school, and it was nice. Most people were either done painting or finishing up, but there was still some big blank spaces around the side and the back of the building. I didn't find anyone to hang out with Lucas, but the street around the side was quite mellow so I decided to give it a shot. I picked the corner where the side joined the back, as it was the highest visibility spot still available.

Lucas was awesome. He busied himself with my cans and ate some crackers that someone gave us and took photos with my (I really should call it "our") camera and generally kept quiet while I painted. He started to wander off a couple times but I called him back and everything was cool. He wanted to play with some guy's skateboard but I told him it wasn't going to happen. He even painted some spots on the wall when I wasn't looking. I didn't end up being thrilled with my painting, but it came out okay and it was fun so that's what's important. Besides, I'll probably never be back to the fin de linha in Mata Escura so at least I don't have to look at it anymore.

Here's some of my pictures of the other pieces and also some of Lucas' pictures, I leave you to figure out which is which. (Hint: he did not take the images he appears in.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Infantil 4

Lucas goes back to school tomorrow.

That's right, it's the end of summer vacation here in Brazil, at least for the private school kids. Lucas gets to go back for just over a week of school before he gets a week's vacation for Carnaval. Ruan, who will be going back to public school, gets only two or three days of classes before his first break.

I'm quite happy about classes starting up again, even if it is only for four hours a day (a normal school day for both private and public students here). Both of the kids have been bouncing off the walls here at the house. Lucas has been breaking up what little schedule I manage to maintain, as I try to make up for his lack of peers to play with and yards to play in by getting on the floor and helping Batman beat up Superman or whatever else he feels like doing. Starting tomorrow, not only will he get time to interact with kids his own age, he'll also go back to a more sane sleeping schedule, and we can all try to catch a ride on that train and be slightly more normal people once again.

Yesterday I went out and bought Lucas a new backpack, with wheels, and a nice shiny panel on the front with three of his best friends on it: the aforementioned Batman and Superman, and the eternal runner-up (popularity-wise that is) Flash. He got very excited about that, and about his new yellow school shorts (last year they were red, the year before orange). But the truth is he's more apprehensive about starting classes than I had expected.

Yesterday we walked by his school after playing at the playground and I pointed it out to him and said "What's that?" and he said "My school," but then quickly followed that up with "But that's not my school anymore."


"You said that Pro(fessora) Paula won't be my teacher anymore, so that won't be my school anymore."

"No, Lucas, I said that she won't be your teacher anymore, and that you are going to a new classroom, but not a different school."

This has apparently caused some turmoil for him. This is the second year he is going back to school, so he has some experience with the changing of classrooms and the continuation of friendships. He also has experience with the disappearance of old friends, and old teachers that he was fond of. The number of kids who disappeared from his class last year surprised me quite a bit too. When I was growing up there was always a new kid or two, and one or two who moved away, but it was largely the same group year after year.

Tonight he surprised me by interrupting a reading of his current favorite book in order to tell me that he didn't want to go back to that school. He told me he wanted to go to a different school, with Pepeu, who was one of the kids who changed schools last year. Lucas hasn't seen Pepeu for over a year, and I didn't think they were that close. It sounds like he's pretty upset that Pro Paula won't be teaching him anymore- all the kids love Pro Paula. Lucas is getting old enough to understand that things won't be like they were before, and he's not sure what they will be like, and he's not happy about it. I told him most of his old friends would be back again but some of them might not be, and he informed me that none of them would be there. They had all changed schools.

It broke my heart. I'm enormously relieved that he is going to continue at this school, and I'm sure that these pre-school, preschool jitters he is experiencing would pale in comparison to what he would be going through if he did in fact have to change schools. Apparently Pepeu hated his new school- I still see his parents around. If (and/or when) the global economic crisis washes over me I may be forced to withdraw him and find a cheaper place for him to study. But I'm going to do everything I can to keep him there as long as possible.

I think he'll be fine again five minutes into his school day tomorrow.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cold (But It's Not Cold Here)

I have a bad cold.

And I'm not getting a lot of sympathy around here in spite of it.

One time a couple years ago I was complaining about a cold that I had to a taxi driver friend of mine, and he said, (in Portuguese,) "Eh, that's a rich man's disease."

Perhaps it is. People working minimum wage jobs, or taxi drivers who have to drive every day just to pay the rent on their taxis, don't get a lot of sick days here in Brazil. But whether it's a rich man's disease or not doesn't make it any more pleasant to deal with.

The thing is, when I lived in New England, I hardly ever got colds- I hardly ever got sick. Since I moved here, I get at least three colds a year. It used to be worse, when it seemed like a new cold would ride in on the tails of the last one. Now I only get a few colds a year and they don't linger for a month like the old ones did.

Tourists get blamed for a lot of colds that come around. Every year after Carnaval, the cold that makes the rounds gets named after the big musical hit of that year- the "Bororó" and the "Toda Boa" were a couple recent ones. Could be that the cold I have is a Carnaval precursor, brought down from the frozen north by the starry eyed gringos that seem to keep showing up despite the economic crisis?

I had been suffering from a nasty cough for most of a week, which was mostly just an annoyance except when I was trying to read books to Lucas, when it became truly unpleasant as my voice gradually dried to a croak. Toward the end of the week it became much more annoying because whenever I coughed I would get a sharp stab of pain in my head. The thing took a drastic turn for the worse yesterday when I woke up and couldn't exactly get out of bed. I was weak and my head was killing me and my body was aching and I just wanted to... stay in bed all day. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Have you also suffered from the Rich Man's Disease?

I have a feeling I know what caused the drastic turn for the worse- it was my carpentry project. Not actually the project itself, but the time constraints placed on me to complete the sawing phase and the meteorological conditions I was subjected to as a result.

Let me explain. Restrictions have been placed on my indulgence of certain pastimes here at the house. These include: 1. using spray paint, and 2. creating sawdust. This is presumably because the kids have allergies and Evani worries that they will suffer undue consequences from my polluting the air that they breathe. Reasonable, at least as far as the spray paint goes. The problem is that our house has no yard, no truly open-air space; even though the back 10 yards are open to the air, it's really only open to the sky. There are walls on all sides so dust and fumes don't have anywhere to go except up, and truth is it doesn't all want to go up. So I'm not allowed to paint or pull out the circular saw unless the kids aren't here. Evani went out to Paripe this week to spend the night and get her hair in order. She took the kids with her. I was instructed to complete my sawing before they returned.

Which I did.

Only thing was, in order to complete it, I had to spend about two hours under the blazing midday tropical sun.

Which was cool, I handled it pretty well at the time, hacking my terrible hack and coughing my terrible cough, drinking glass after glass of water to compensate for the river of sweat that was pouring off me, a perfect glue for the shower of sawdust that poured from the blade of my magnificent saw.

I finished the project, and my wife fixed her hair, and the kid's lungs were spared, and I thought everything was okay- until I woke up yesterday morning.

BTW as I was writing this I started to get some attention from my wife, so I guess I can stop feeling sorry for myself.