Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fading Memories and Oil Pastel Overdrive

I've noticed a lot of bloggers... well, some bloggers, because I don't really follow that many blogs, often start off a post after a long break by saying "I'm a bad blogger." Well, my refrain is going to be "I really shouldn't be writing this," because I usually have something else I should be doing, and that something else usually involves generating income.

That being said, I'm writing this anyways. I like writing. I like it more than generating income, generally speaking. But I will try to keep this brief...

It's been two weeks since I came back to Brazil. As it is with all vacations, it might as well have happened last year. I did want to write some more things about the trip, but I think I've forgotten them. Well, most of them anyways. I wanted to talk about what I think Lucas might have taken away from having so much fun with my half of his family, and I think that can be pretty well summed up by a conversation I had with my cunhada, or sister-in-law. We were talking about Lucas, and how he was surrounded by relatives, everyone with lots of time to play with him, everyone together, relaxed, having fun, and we realized that this wasn't at all what his life would be like if we were actually living there. If we get together as a group once a year, that's a lot. Generally everyone is spread out over several states (small northeastern ones, but still) and is very busy and one thing he didn't get a taste of at all was solitude. Solitude was a central part of my childhood, being able to wander off and be completely alone for hours at a time and even enjoy it. I don't know how much Lucas would like that side of life in the US.

In a lot of ways, his experience with his North American family was a lot like how his Brazilian family works. That's why Lucas likes going out to Paripe all the time, because that's where his whole family is, together, all the time. There's always someone to play with and fun to be had. Our life at the house is a little too North American for the Brazilians who live in it, because there aren't more people to talk to. Me personally, that's what keeps me sane, and if I hadn't created this place of relative peace and quiet I'm sure I would have fled this country screaming long ago.

Another thing I wanted to mention was my money making scheme: lots of expats invest in something when they go back home in order to re-sell it when they return to Brazil. You can do pretty well with this, since there are so many things that are either not available here or cost two to four times as much as they would in the States. Cameras, iPods, and computers are good; a friend of mine said if he came back he'd invest in surfing gear. My friend Pedra used to sell Victoria's Secret body lotion. I thought about all of those, and also of buying flash memory or PSIII games or whatever. Finally I decided that all of these were too much of a pain, because if you have to spend a lot of time running around trying to sell the stuff then ultimately you aren't making much money.

- break time -

I'm back. And you'll never guess what I took a break for: my birthday cake. Now I know I'm an ungrateful SOB, but that was a truly pathetic experience. For one thing, my birthday was over a month ago, and in case you're new to this blog, it was a big one- the big Four-Oh. My cake was a single-layer round thing with brown frosting and no other decoration, looking like a frisbee covered in mud. Evani dug up a used candle so I'd have something to blow out, this was in the shape of the number '1,' which obviously doesn't have a '4' or a '0' in it. As we were waiting for Lucas to take a picture of Evani and I, this candle started to gutter and by the time we were halfway through the rather long Brazilian version of 'Happy Birthday' it went out. It was replaced by a candle in the shape of the number '2,' which I did manage to blow out. Ruan wandered downstairs somewhere in the middle of the Happy Birthday song, actively disinterested. The cake was actually quite tasty, and Evani had gone to the trouble of cutting the single layer in half and making a filling to go in there, but as soon as the cake was cut I found myself sitting alone at the table while Evani, Lucas, and Ruan clambered and argued over her new camera. Ah, my family.

I know, I'm an ungrateful bastard. I told Evani months ago I didn't want any party at all.

So where was I? I was talking about selling stuff. Finally what I decided to do was rather than buy something to sell down here, I'd bring something I already owned and sell that instead. So I bought what at one time was my most precious possession: my Fender Stratocaster. This is a guitar I bought new in the store over twenty years ago, and has been sitting unused in it's case for almost half that time. It's time to let it go. When I bought myself my iPod, the deal I made with myself was that I would sell the guitar to help pay for it. The morning I was leaving my father's house, I cut off all the strings and unscrewed the neck from the body. Packing my suitcases to leave, I stuck the body in one and the neck in another. Apparently it looked weird going through the x-ray machine, because when I unpacked my bag, I found a note from the TSA in there advising me that they'd opened it up and had a look. If what I'm reading on the Brazilian version of Ebay is to be believed, this guitar could fetch a pretty penny- indeed, more than I spent on it which would probably make it the only good investment I've ever made in my life. We'll see how easy it is for me to unload it.

Last thing about the trip: the homecoming. I don't usually write about my stepson or even much about my wife, because I don't think it's particularly fair to them, but this one I'm gonna spill. As I was finally getting home after twenty four hours of travel and still taking the bags out of the taxi, the phone rang. It was Ruan's school- apparently they hadn't seen him for a whole week and they wanted to know what was going on. Evani had no idea. This is a twelve year old kid we're talking about, not a sixteen or seventeen year old. Apparently he'd gotten into some trouble at school and had been informed that he couldn't come back until he showed up there with his parents. Rather than fessing up and facing the music, he opted to say nothing and pretend he was still attending class. For an entire week.

Welcome back to Brazil.

I'm not going to tell you what he did to get into trouble, just that although it wasn't good, it paled in comparison to playing hooky for an entire week to avoid the consequences. My primary reaction, besides being angry, was utter disbelief that he would be so foolish and compound his error tenfold. When we want to punish Ruan we don't let him watch TV, and if you knew Ruan, you'd realize this is a serious punishment. He is still not allowed to watch TV, not until next week.

I'm keeping this short, right?

So now to the relative present. Now for a bit of the old Street Art. I've always been a sucker for new and different media, it's something I learned from my dad. Although he is primarily a painter, I grew up with all kinds of stuff that he used to work with, including etchings, linoleum cuts, mobiles, even handmade ashtrays and a big bowlful of carved pipes. I studied photography in school, but I never really wanted to be a photographer- at least not for very long. I also wanted to draw, and paint, and draw cartoons and maybe even sculpt and who knows what else. So as I've started to do this street art thing, I've been fooling around with all the different forms and media, from the stickers to the stencils to the wheatpaste to the spray paint to the sharpies and now- paint sticks.

Paint sticks are something I found out about on Flickr- which is where I found out about most of this stuff. They're labeled as 'industrial markers' and they look like big honkin' crayons and they smell like oil paint. They're big, permanent, high-temperature resistant oil-based solid paint markers and I bought a few of them online before I went home last time. Unlike spray paint, they have the advantage that I can bring them back with me on the plane.

The thing that's really neat for me about these markers is that they are taking me full circle in my own personal wall-painting journey. Back when I was fifteen and my dad gave me the OK to paint graffiti on the walls of my room, rather than getting spray paint (which was the original idea) I used what was already available to me- a dozen or so boxes of cray-pas and oil pastels my dad had sitting around. Some of these drawings still exist. These paint sticks, also known as 'streaks,' are like oil pastels turned up to eleven.

This is probably the oldest of my surviving oil pastel murals:

Another thing that is really cool? These things are completely unheard of here in Salvador. At least, nobody's out making art with them. As far as I can tell, they are pretty much impossible to get here, at least not at a dollar a pop which is the best price I could find on them back home.

And the other thing that is really cool? I really enjoy working with them. On Sunday I took Lucas out to a park and was looking for a spot to do a drawing- these things lend themselves to making medium size stuff- bigger than what I'd draw on paper, but obviously smaller than what I'd paint with spray cans. As we were walking along this pedestrian path, I realized that on either side of us were these concrete rectangular panels about a meter (that's approximately a yard for you Luddites) square, almostly completely untouched by graffiteiros and pichadores and the like. I drew the following on one of them:

and this is what Lucas drew:

Aww poor little thing! The letters 'FOB' in this photo were the only other marks I saw on these concrete canvases, that is, until we came along.

S0 now I want to do lots more of these drawings, and I'd love to turn the above spot into a private little Kuza gallery. My only regret is that now I think I've opened the floodgates, and those panels will soon be covered with tags and other scribbles, which I personally think makes them look worse than just the plain, mossy concrete. I gotta draw as many creatures down there as I can before that happens.

And I leave you with just one more of my new streaks drawings.


Stephanie said...

You had me a little worried for a minute. I thought it was going to be something about how white trash it is to gripe about familial problems or how stupid people are for treating their animals like children (neither of which I would have taken offense to either, I just didnt know what was coming!). Don't worry I to paused before I wrote the bad blogger bit, but then I took that well traveled road anyway..I needed sympathy, immeadiate love, comments, because it's the only way I feel connected to the world. But now that I have justified myself to you, I take no offense, in fact Im slightly amused...

Anywho, where did a 12 y/o get the idea to ditch school?

And where do people get all the money to bring back all these expensive electronics is my question? I did have luck selling one of my digital cameras for far more than I paid for it. But here not many people have the money for it. Installments are necessary. Luckily we sold it to a friend that I can trust for the money.

markuza said...

Good good- glad you were amused, I was hoping you might be. I heard somewhere that for some reason complaining on your blog increases your readership... or something similarly counterintuitive...

re: the 12 year old, he adopted an adolescent mentality starting at about 8. Or maybe 6.

And I'll tell you- the people who have money here? They have LOTS of money. I've only had minor brushes with the Brazilian upper classes but it's a totally different world.