Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Carnaval Rio

Birds Do It.
It’s 6:29 am and now the mental countdown begins. I mean the countdown to the despised noise of the alarm clock. The sound that rudely makes you realize your vacation is over. The scratching of nails on a blackboard, a jackhammer that pummels the concrete at daybreak, even an old chainsaw cutting through steel - none of these sounds makes me tremble with a simultaneous rage and depression like the dreaded alarm clock.

The alarm is a not-so-subtle reminder that the party is officially over. A kick between the legs to knock you back into reality. I was 60 seconds away from starting my first day back to work after a weekend getaway. Any second I thought. And there it was - the high pitched beeping that can make your ears bleed and shatter all of the happiness remaining from the previous day. All gone now. The day has actually started.

I slowly climb out of bed as if wounded in battle. Scratch my head, wipe my eyes, and offer a few expletives aloud to welcome the day. A shower, a shave, and a good shit slowly bring the morning to whatever normalcy there will be on such a day. All packed now and ready to head out to the train station. The abominable subway station.

Bees Do It.
As a New Yorker, mass transit is the best option when traveling around the city. It’s also one of the greatest nightmares during hot summers and cold winters. The forecast for today was in the upper 90s, which means about 120 degrees underground. I wait as patiently as a child waiting for candy. Pacing back and forth, praying for a train to rescue me from the heat and humidity contained within these tunnel walls. Sweat dripping from my head and trickling down over my face. My shirt sticking to my back like a second layer of skin. Please God! That’s when I hear it. No, not the sound of a train approaching the Manhattan-bound express track. What I hear is a soothing reminder: a sound that has not left my soul since 2002: the sound of drums.

My eyes roll back into my head in a deep trance-like state. My mind carries me back a few years to when I visited Rio de Janiero for Carnival. The drums. The relentless pounding of the skins, guiding me into a frenzy, inspiring my spirit to fly from my body, and allowing my mind to keep step with my feet. I'm dancing to the beat of the drums and have absolutely no say in the matter. I'm nearly possessed. I'm completely caught up in celebration. I'm in Rio for Carnaval.

Brazilians Do It!
As the train nears the platform, I can only smile and think back to the moment I first heard the drums play. Looking over on the other side of the tracks, I see two men banging the drums faster while the train approaches. I make eye contact with one drummer who sees me smile. He gives a quick nod to confirm what I am thinking: life ain’t so bad after all.

After eight long hours in the office, the work day is officially over. Time to head back home. Despite my wide open ears, the only sounds I hear in the subway station are trains rolling over the tracks. No drums to be found. The ride back home is silent and I'm somewhat depressed. I get home, take a shower, and settle onto my couch. Light a few candles and immediately feel the breeze from the ocean. I close my eyes and press rewind on my mental videocam. Slowly but surely, the mental image takes shape. Masses of people dancing and chanting in the streets to the sound of the drums. Mind, body, and soul free to take flight. Not a bad day at all.

Louis Skip Gonzalez is a travel writer and drunken gypsy. (Is that phrase redundant? I'm just asking.) He grew up in Brooklyn and now works for Sony Music in New York City. His friends call him Hopeless Sinner Skip, but that isn't true, since his heart is always filled with the hope of finding new ways to sin. As we romantics know, hope springs eternal in the human breast - and for the human breast.


  1. That's quite the mental image to take us out of life's regular bothers! Good post!

  2. I think you're right, the clock alarm is the most disgusting sound in all earth... (the drums ... I only can imagine the drums in a rock band...)

    Diana Isis González Miranda [D2]