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Part II - Part IV
Real Cream in Rio - Part Three
In the last episode we were hovering above Rio, ready to land. Rio de Janeiro, River of January as it was discovered on New Year's Day in 1502 by a Portuguese ship, actually by the people in the ship - not for the first time - Indians did that - but before them were countless other beings on various planes. Speaking of planes, no one met me at the airport, not that they were expected. I had an address and found my way there, but not before dropping by the American Express office to tell them I'd left my traveler's checks in Lima. I had the other half of them, the receipts. It's been so long since I've used them. I was impressed. They immediately issued me new traveler's checks.
I'd bought a small Portuguese language book on the way and had been studying it, hoping that my rudimentary Spanish would be a big help. Maybe it would have been, but I never did get into Portuguese. It was just too different and I was almost always with English speakers. I'd tried to use a few phrases to find the home of Paul and my buddy Pat. English worked better. A street was called a rio and pronounced "hio"- that's what was written on the signs for some of the streets anyway. The dictionary said rua - maybe pronounced "hua." Maybe some were rio and some were rua. Can't remember. Nevertheless I found them. Paul's house, his father's house, was near the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain with a view across the bay to the 130 foot robed white statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms spread wide.
Pat and Paul regaled me with tales of their travel from Mexico to Rio. They'd ridden on the crowded top of a train from La Paz to the east coast. They'd hitched a boat from Panama to Columbia. They'd ridden with a guy in a jeep in Guatemala who showed off his automatic weapon by unloading it into the jungle. Paul was a diver, and in a Panama bar he'd won a fifty dollar bet by keeping his head under water for over four minutes - and it wasn't the old glass over the head trick either. We talked of their old times of a month before and our old times of a few months before, remembered, for instance, the two young women we'd met in Acapulco who were joining a man in his sailboat on a trip down the west coast to Panama and maybe beyond. He'd died of a heart attack on the way and they hadn't learned to sail and drifted for nine days. They had wisely agreed on a great inconvenience and kept his decomposing body on the sailboat so that an autopsy would prove they were innocent of any wrongdoing. It was in the papers.
The three of us had met in Acapulco and the previous spring Pat had joined me and two friends from New York City in our Mexico City apartment getting stoned constantly, singing the praises of pot - pot was the good and everything was better with pot, Mexico was good and everything was better in Mexico, Mexicans were so mellow. We went walking the streets, touring the museums, especially the new anthropological museum with deer grazing by the tables where we'd drink coffee outdoors, the giant stone head the army had to take from some natives at gunpoint rolling goodbye on a track built for the occasion. Tracks, yes - riding the roller coaster and getting nervous at the high point because, well, because Mexicans were maintaining it. I remember it was standing in line at a hamburger joint across the street above the beach that I saw Pat and we began to talk. We talked more and didn't stop. Again - so great to make a friend when you're alone in some foreign city. Meeting Pat changed everything. Paul would come to the city and he'd drop by. He and Pat decided to head out. I wanted to go hitching with them to Rio but I had to finish the quarter at the University of the Americas that I was barely hanging on to and three's too many for hitching anyway.
Pat and Paul had brought some Panama Red with them all the way and there was plenty left for us to get high on. It was really strong. Too strong sometimes. Pat and I would get into an act where we'd mimic apes and go bouncing around the house. One day we were doing that and started chasing Paul around. We must have been very good at it, too good. When the too good at it plus the too strong resulted in Paul cornered, reduced to sobbing, begging for mercy, we stopped being apes. He recovered quickly. That reminds me of the time Pat and I got high on some Acapulco Gold high on a rock overlooking Acapulco Beach. He started commenting softly that the rock was tilting forward and we'd fall off it way down to smaller rocks below and be bashed to death. He kept at it trying to spook me but did too good a job. He got caught up in the fear and soon we were crawling desperately into the jungle with snakes and biting insects never to be found, breathing heavily, panicky, until we hit solid ground and walked gasping through the growth to... to... to come into the backyard of some Mexicans barbequing. They welcomed us and all was well.
Copacabana, Barra, and Ipanema beaches were white and hot, strewn with barely covered lovely white hot women - and men too, and tall, gangly, hot black black men selling mate tea. We swam and drank and went to parties of the well-to-do and drank ourselves silly. We met intellectuals and drank mate tea and heard its praises - that whole armies had survived on mate and been victorious. A General's son turned us on to pellets of speed and sailed his record collection across the room one at a time. Paul's father was the head of Rank Films for South America. Deborah Kerr had stayed there, maybe sleeping in the same bed I did. We'd go to his place of work and see movies in a private theater with a projectionist who was on call. Paul had a friend who'd come by zonked on meth and freak us out with incessant psychobabble. He would end his visit by pulling out a tube of a lubricant and saying it was time for his date. Then he'd call out, "Fuck 'em in the butt!" over and over as he walked out. Paul was gone a lot too. He had other friends and would go out on dates but Pat and I were a bit shy and inexperienced and tended to stroll around more and get up earlier. I remember when we first met in Acapulco that a Mexican guy from the school was trying to get me to hook up with one of the thousands of women on the beach. He stopped on and said he'd like to introduce her to his friend. She was cute and looked interested but then she could see I wasn't ready, said I wasn't interested, and walked off. So we smoked more pot till, I recall, Pat stopped smoking the pot but I kept it up till it was gone by the end of the third week which was also the end of our stay in lovely Rio.
I wonder how long we would have stayed had the boys not sent themselves a book from Panama, a book with a carved out core in which they placed another ounce of Panama Red, and if the package that book was in had not been opened by the authorities in Brazil who also opened the book. Paul's father paid a man to go to the police evidence locker and remove that evidence and he took Pat and me to the bus station in the middle of the night and paid for two tickets to Sao Paolo and we were off, leaving behind the "Marvelous City." Didn't even get to say goodbye to Paul.
Five years later I wrote a song about that Rio experience called Real Cream in Rio. I called it that because in the morning Pat and I would sit on the porch, look out on the bay, and a maid would roll a tray out with biscuits, marmalade, and tea with real cream.
Here's a page on my music site with a recording of it made in my room at the SFZC City Center in 1972 on a little office cassette recorder with a guest student named John playing lead guitar. John, where are you? I loved the way you played. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.
And here are the words to Real Cream in Rio
real cream in Rio
Neath Sugarloaf Mountain
Now several years later
Now several years after
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