Saturday, January 21, 2012

Curso e Tal

Here I am, home again on a Saturday night once again. It's my own fault - I left a party as soon as I could this evening. I just wasn't feeling it - I wasn't drinking, so the drunk people were starting to really annoy me, I hardly knew anyone, and I couldn't stop ogling this lovely college student which made me feel aged and lecherous. I fled the scene.

Dejected I may be, a tad, but I've had a busy day. It started early, as I signed myself up for a free art course that is offered at the MAM - the modern art museum that is just down the hill from our house. Silly me - I've lived in this house seven years now and I only just discovered that they offer free courses there. Well, actually, I've known they have courses there for a long time, but I only found out they were free and became interested a couple months ago. As luck would have it, this was right after I opened my store, which had been opening on Saturday mornings but now will *not* at least until June. I didn't bother to ask my lovely wife if she'd open the store for me on Saturdays - she's made it pretty clear just how interested she is in participating with the business enterprise and I've decided not to push it. If I miss any sales, so be it. I really wanted to take a class.

As luck would also have it, the only course available on Saturdays was gravura em metal, or etching, which was exactly the course I wanted to take. I've done a bit of etching- my dad had a fully equipped print shop in his studio. In fact, he had a beautiful brand new etching press that would have been the envy of most college printmaking programs. He did some beautiful etchings and taught us how it was doLinkne. He liked the little etchings I did quite a bit, always being very supportive of my artistic endeavors. And now I'm going to do some more. It's going to be fun. We're going to do a couple months of monoprinting, and then get into the acid and do the real deal etchings. I only have to pay for a few materials - a liter of kerosene, some paper, some disposable gloves, and all the rest is taken care of. Pretty good deal if you ask me.

The instructor, who is named Evandro, seems like a very nice and mellow guy. The first two classes have dragged a bit, mostly watching videos and listening to lectures. Today's lecture was particularly agonizing as I had a snot snorter sitting next to me and honking away every minute or two for an hour and a half. Never should have written that post- it's made me hyper-sensitive to the phenomenon and I'm just gonna have to deal with it.

I did get to do a couple monoprints at the end of the time today, and I would have done more if I hadn't received a call from a distraught customer with a clogged paint can- I left early to set him straight.

So looks to be fun and I'll post some pics of my work at some point, also of the space - it's right on the water and a pretty cool spot for an art class. And I'm up past my bedtime and must be sleeping now, goodnight!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Busy busy

Man, if I had one day a week like the day I had today at the store the business would be doing great. If every day were like today, I'd need employees and would be thinking about finding a new location already.

Leaving the house, I got a call from a customer asking if I was already at the store, then assuring me he would drop by shortly. Then, I had people waiting for me when I got to the store. I had about half an hour to myself after they left, but not enough time to complete, or even start, my typical morning routine.

Then the day started in earnest.

I had one customer after another, all day long. I didn't even get a decent meal in, just a couple bread/cheese rolls and an orange juice. I sold a lot of paint. Finally there was a lull and I went to the bank to pay some bills, hanging up my 'back in ten minutes' sign. Unfortunately, there were about fifteen people in line at the bank, which generally means a twenty minute wait or longer. When I got back to the store, I had two customers waiting for me, who proceeded to buy even more paint. Two more customers came in at about 4:30, and spent well over an hour picking out two dozen cans of paint. I've discovered some customers can be excruciatingly slow, which I guess makes sense- there are a lot of options and the material is relatively expensive so they don't want to get the wrong paint and end up regretting it.

Next thing I knew it was 6:00 and I was exhausted. A couple American friends who are visiting showed up so we could walk down to this little neighborhood and see some of the paint I sold that day getting applied to a wall. That's another story, one of several I must needs recount, if I ever find the time.

Monday, January 16, 2012


This is a complaining post, and kinda gross, so if you're not in the mood please skip to the next item in your reader. And my apologies in advance to my Brazilian readers (all one of you) for making broad generalizations.

I was leaving an event on Saturday, and noticing the girl seated at the door was kinda cute, when suddenly she said "Snort." She didn't look quite so cute after that.

Actually she didn't say snort, as that implies the use of vocal cords, rather, she was actually making the sound via her nasal passages - presumably snorting mucus back up them.

I've started to notice that this is extremely common here, and apparently not a social faux pas. I've had people, presumably moneyed, educated people, on airplanes snorting away repeatedly, and on my street snorting and hawking is nearly constant. Lucas had a classmate whose mother must have some kind of allergies or something, as she is constantly snorting as she converses with me. Use a kleenex, I think, please.

It's not universal, however, I've discussed it with my wife and she thinks it's as gross as I do. I do wonder what's going on - I know Americans (um, 'Unitedstatesians') are considered crass, so we must do things that other people find offensive and are completely oblivious... is that what's happening here as well?

As I write this the woman who works in the store next to mine has snorted at least three times. That's what got me thinking about it.

The worst thing about this, much like with littering, is trying to get Lucas not to do it. He sees everyone else snorting away, without shame or repercussions, so he doesn't see a problem with himself doing it as well. I am trying to disabuse him of this, with very little effect. So far.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Race

Welp, I did it. I ran the Corrida Sagrada- all 6.8 kilometers or 4.2 miles of it, and it took me just under 36 minutes to do so. This was actually faster than I expected, so that was a pleasant surprise. I got myself a medal for participating, plus a bag with a banana, an apple, and an energy bar in it.

What I didn't get was any photos of my moment of glory, although I've heard reports that I was sighted on television- not sure I believe them. The race was a trip, but more about that in a minute. First I'd like to reflect upon the time I walked to Bonfim in 2009, with dubious results. I developed a severe cramp and in my post about it I whined about my impending old age. Well I'll tell you friend, you can be old and you can run fast- there were folks 10 or 20 years older than me running today who came in with better times than my own.

This post isn't turning out the way I had anticipated. I'm tired and should just go to bed. But let me choke out a couple more paragraphs before I do.

The race was strange for a lot of reasons. First and most obviously because I'd never participated in anything like that before, and had no idea what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, that's when I was apparently caught on camera, when I was standing around like a dork with no clue. As I looked around, everyone looked in better shape than me, so I opted to start at the back of the pack. Once we started running things improved. I quickly discovered I was in better shape than many of the participants, so I got to pass a whole bunch of people which is always fun. I hit my stride and enjoyed having the road, normally a nightmare of traffic and pedestrians, pretty much all to ourselves.

Probably the weirdest thing about the race is that we were not the main attraction - we were barely an appetizer. All around us, for the entire distance, people were setting up coolers and stocking them with beer - preparing for the crush of thousands that were to come several hours later. Many people looked surprised to see us, and there was a fair bit of half-teasing, half-mocking encouragement shouted at us. "Vai Coroa!" was quite popular, a coroa being someone getting on into middle age (it also means 'crown'), but whether this was being shouted at me or another coroa I couldn't say.

Starting the race at 7:30, I arrived at the finish line at a little past eight, which is insanely early for me to be out of the house, let alone finished with my main task for the day. It was extremely pleasant to be at the Igreja de Bonfim so early, as it was mellow and not crowded - I was able to catch my breath, eat my fruit, and tie some ribbons onto the gates of the church before I started back. One of the only things I brought with me was a little bag filled with suntan lotion that I pinned into my waistband, so I slathered up and started for home. It took me over two hours to get there. I got to see the whole procession in reverse, and it devolved from anticipation to debauchery in a hurry. I ran into several people I knew, including my wife. I was back home at just after noon.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about the whole day is that I didn't have so much as a sip of beer. Better yet- I didn't miss it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Store

I'm going to make good on my one New Year's resolution and write a post about my store, Mil Muros Graffiti. Not because I'm feeling particularly virtuous (I'm drowning in virtue after signing up for the road race), but because I got an email from a family member curious to know more about the shop I'd been scheming to put together for months and is now finally a reality. So as promised, here we go!

I've been planning this opening for some time:

My life is very different from what it was a few months ago.

No more going to bed at 3 AM, no more starting work at 10 PM, no more getting up at 12 or 1. I wouldn't say I get up early, but I open the store at 10 AM every day and I'm there until 6, which means I can get things done- I'm trapped there for the most part, which is a good thing. I'm usually a yawning shambles by about 11 PM, which for me is ridiculously early. I am also out of the house for most of the day for the first time in a couple years, which feels great. The store is only a couple minutes walk from the house (which is also good), but that quarter mile or so makes a huge difference. The store is generally much quieter than our street.

I've started to establish a routine, which is still in need of refinement. The most rewarding bit for me has been the daily drawing: every day I spend about 15 minutes drawing something from life, something I haven't done for years. I really wanted to get my drawing chops back together, and although the results are still pretty middling at this point, I figure I'll get there eventually. I've also discovered you really can't draw much in fifteen minutes, but that's what I've allotted myself for now.

As for customers, they are sporadic at best. I sometimes get only one a day, occasionally none. Sometimes a customer shows up and buys 300 reais worth of paint, sometimes more. There have been a couple days where I've made several of these sales. But that's okay - eventually I want to focus more on the advertising and building up the customer base, but one of my main objectives was to have big blocks of uninterrupted time to work on the computer, and I am getting those.

There has been a large amount of set-up involved, from building counters and shelving to purchasing inventory. This is winding down now. I actually enjoy the building part immensely, I don't consider myself a carpenter by any means but I like cutting wood and nailing it together, particularly if I can wrangle square corners and level surfaces.

But enough boring text, let's look at some pictures!

This is pretty much what you see when you walk in to the store. The paint rack on the left holds about 700 cans of paint when full. The table with the computer is generally where you'll find me, although I plan to build a nicer work station which will be at the far right of this image. The big green painting was done by my friend Sins, who was the owner of the Salvador graffiti shop Bomb Bahia back in the day. All the boxes are from a big order of fancy Spanish paint that just arrived on Saturday. The guy with the crazy tie in the back is actually a vinyl sticker, done by Naara Nascimento.

The store is split in two by this counter, which separates the customers from the merchandise, very much intentionally. I built the counter around the glass display case that I bought from a store that was going out of business in our neighborhood. A fresh coat of paint and it's like new! The counter tops are also re-purposed - they are the doors to a wardrobe that had been tossed out on my street.

The same counter, from the merchandise side. I ended up with lots of shelves, but wish more of them were glass fronted for display purposes.

Possibly my greatest triumph in building the counter, that the two halves are flush with each other, and level! Customers are welcome to doodle or write their tags on the counter top - I figure I'll re-paint it from time to time.

Here's a better view of my work station and the paint rack. As much paint as the dern thing will hold, I needed more space for this latest shipment of paint, so I had to build some more shelving. Actually, if I had all the paint available from the three brands I am stocking, I would need probably three of these paint racks!

Here's the new shelving I built this past week. Plywood and ripão, which is a standard measurement of wood here - no 2 x 4's in Salvador. Very sturdy providing no termites get at it. The stencil in the back is of some famous TV personality from back in the 90's. I was sorry to cover him up, but I'm afraid I'll need to cover up more paintings if the store continues to grow.

I bought this magazine rack from the same store as the display case. Magazine sales are sluggish at best, but without them I wouldn't look like a very serious graffiti shop. I also hope to have more books available eventually.

I invited some of my graffiteiro friends to paint up the store. These were done by Core and his girlfriend Rebeca Silva.

Painting on the left by Dimak and on the right by Marcos Costa. Hey, almost all of these guys have blogs! Dimak is actually co-owner of one of my competitors, but we get along well. I used to sell their paint on my website back when I was just starting out. The site, by the way, is generating almost zero sales these days.

Finally, I have a whole other back room that is almost empty at this point. It does have these lovely shelves for my back-stock. The view out the window is of some air conditioners- worse than the view from my house.

Well, there you have it. Mission accomplished - I can now say I fulfilled all my New Year's resolutions. And for all of you clamoring for news of the store, you are now informed!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Corrida Sagrada

Hmm - looks like my first race might happen sooner than I thought. As soon as I finished my post last night, I got curious and googled 'race salvador 2012' (in Portuguese of course, which means only one word was different from the English, but I digress) and lo and behold, I found a site called 'Portal Bahia Run,' which sounded promising.

And it was. The site informed me that there is a race next Thursday, which is a city holiday here called the Lavagem do Bonfim (about a 3rd of the way down this page), and better yet, it's shorter than what I ran yesterday. I don't need to train for it- I'm already trained. It's only 6.8 kilometers, or about five miles.

There are 600 spots for runners in the race, and the site warned me that they would probably go quickly. I called this morning, and the guy I talked to confirmed that. He said I'd better get down there as soon as possible, so I did. I waited until 5:00 and then closed the store to walk down and sign up, which was easy, painless, and quick.

I'm kind of surprised how excited I am about this, but I think it will be very fun, and veeeery different from the other times I've walked this route. The most memorable of those was seven years ago, when I walked it with my father and my brothers, along with a sizable group of Brazilians. I got quite wasted that time, this time I'll be riding a natural high.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Here it is- another New Year's day, and I wanted to write a short post before I go down and watch the rest of the Transformers movie that I have to return tomorrow.

Rather than summing things up or making resolutions, I just wanted to mark some milestones in my life. Any resolutions I might have come up with (I was never big on resolutions anyways) I enacted a couple months ago when I opened my store. Which reminds me - I resolve to write about my store! In the next year!

So - I like doing a New Year's day post mostly because I started this silly blog on a New Year's day, four years ago. Kinda hard to believe, but then again, it's been a sporadic endeavor at best so it's not like I spend a chunk of time working on it every day.

Another big milestone: it has now been ten years since my first trip to Brazil. If I'd had any idea how much that trip would change my life, would I have made the trip? I don't honestly know, but looking back at the 10-years-ago me, I think I was pretty ready to do something crazy, which I did.

Other milestones: seven years in our house, seven years of marriage (feeling itchy?), my kid is coming up on his seventh birthday. I was pretty busy seven years ago. Wouldn't have planned to do all three of those at the same time, but that's how it worked out. It has also been thirteen years since I stopped visiting a certain sticky green friend, and I really don't miss him very much.

Oh yeah - this too: Christmas day is my half birthday, so now I'm 42.5.

And finally, a new personal record, set this evening: I ran three times around the Dique de Tororó (btw if you visit the page I linked to, I saw the boat in the picture today- half sunk at its mooring). There are nice brass plaques every 100 meters around the Dique, so I can tell you that I ran precisely 7.8 kilometers, and it took me almost exactly 45 minutes. I think I'm ready for a 10K race.

Happy New Year's everyone, and all the best from Bahia.