colorido, brz #8

Sa, 2.11.17
Pelourinho, Salvador

The taxi dropped us off at the civic center which sits on a hill overlooking the sea. We snapped some photos near the Elevador Lacerda, an elevator moving people from the old town’s precipice down to the docks and markets and the sea below.
Cidade Alta.

The old town, Pelourinho, dates back to the 17th century. It’s colorful, colonial, loud, lonely, cunning, creative. These traits have helped it survive.

A large peach-colored building anchored a plaza—the first medical school in Brazil.
“Eu trabalho em escola de médico.”
I work for a medical school.

A Baiana woman in her traditional garments came up wanting me to photograph her.  João stepped in and shooed her away. Later, he said, she pulled him aside and scolded him, showing her certificate and asking why he wouldn’t let her do her fucking job.

Steel drums bang.
Groups come together.
People dance.

The cobblestones are rough, jagged, thrown together haphazardly, and yet they make up the street. Neither is the plaza square and tidy. It’s sloping, strangely angled, multi-dimensional. The cotton candy buildings go with it, figure it out, adapt.

Four-hundred years of atrocities, love, violence, samba, slavery, souvenirs, minutiae.
Their pastel hues betray their truth: they are sturdy, resilient, timeless.

So, too, is the Baiana. She is all of these things and more as she struts down the hill and then out of sight. 


caseira, brz #7

Sa, 2.11.17
Jardim Apipema, Salvador 

“O café e bom?” she asked.
“Sim, muito bom. Obrigado!”
“Açúcar é naturale,” she said, opening the sugar so I could have some.
“Ah, obrigado! Eu nao gosto de açúcar branco.”
“Nao acucar branco…

It makes sense that my first, authentic conversation in Portuguese with J’s mother is about coffee.
A simple one, sure, but one I am happy about.
Like the sugar…




Why is the food here so different?
Rose-colored taste buds?
Every morning a lovely spread.

Coffee (with no white sugar to be found, of course).
Plantains, potatoes, pineapples, bananas. Stacks of tropical fruit.
Fresh mango juice.
Something that reminds me of the outside of an English muffin. I make a note that I need to learn how to make this.

Maybe one day.

acarajé, brz #6

Fr, 2.10.17
Rio Vermelho, Salvador


We parked on a back black cobblestone alley.
The streetlights above cast everything in an intense orange,
          rather than the standard yellow.

A plaza of dancing Soteropolitanos enjoying the late evening.
We line up for acarajé at this shack along the promenade.
A Salvador staple.
A sort of falafel made of beans with tomatoes, shrimp, and a paste of flour and some yellow sauce. Deconstructed or sandwiched.

I’ll try some new juices, I said.
Suco24. J ordered me a caju. The fruit of the cashew. Sort of mango, sort of orange.
He chose correctly.
I snuck some of Danuza’s, graviola (which translates to soursop.) Though I’m not sure what that is, either. It sounds more like an insult than a fruit.
(Crisp and refreshing.)

We sat and ate along the promenade, the black crashing sea at our backs. Bia and Danuza, nervous every time I took out my phone. But am I going to pass up the chance to photograph the punk rock club my fiancé pointed out? One he went to as a surly youth?


gamboa, brz #5

Fr, 2.10.17
Solar do Unhão, Salvador

It’s impossible to keep any sense of direction around here. The streets wind up hills and then back down. Everything is gated and guarded.

After lunch we drove to Solar do Unhão — a cluster of buildings built into the mountain next to the sea. It’s an old sugar mill dating back to the 18th century. There’s a chapel and an art museum, but the place was deserted. A security guard told us it was closed.
No further explanation provided.

We poked around, took some photos, walked down to the docks. They overlook a favela— Gamboa—which is wedged between the highway and the water. It’s impoverished but colorful and sits right on top of the ocean facing the setting sun. 

There is a tiny cove carved out underneath the road above.
Their own private beach.
Small mercies.


gata, brz #4

Fr, 2.10.17
Lafayette, Bahia Marina, Salvador

I befriended a stray cat who rubbed against my leg during lunch.
She didn’t care that I couldn’t speak Portuguese — she just wanted my salmon.
“Salmão,” she meowed. (miau)
“Você pode ficar com os vegetais.”

(You can keep the vegetables.)

tourismo, brz #3

Fr, 2.10.17


Okay, phew, we’re starting off right.

This was quickly followed, however, by a string of Portuguese I couldn’t understand.
(I tried.)

“Ahhh… ingles?” I put on smiling, defeated look.
Everyone thinks Americans smile too much anyway.

“Yes, yes. My English is not so good.”
“Eu falo portugues so um pouco.” I speak Portuguese but only just a little.

She laughed — “Here for tourismo? Ah, vacation?”

She smiled.

Stamp, stamp.

o til, brz #2

Mo, 2.13.17

Sao Paulo without the tilde is unfamiliar, flat,
          not the São Paulo I came to know and like.

It needs the tilde… o til.
          A little less exotic without.
                    Don’t you think?

Worth the extra effort, I’d say.

São Paulo is kind,
          that bustle, the drive, the ambition.

People are too busy to bother much with you, though, like in New York
          so you can

                    explore freely.

bambu, brz #1

Fr, 2.10.17

And so this is my first foray into Brazil,
          away from the airport,
          where the bamboo leans over into the road.

João’s mother is elegant and kind,
          and is about to veer into one car
          as she flips off another.

And there’s sunlight dappling through the trees.
And the soil is red.
And even though there are dunes in the distance,
it’s unfamiliar and

tiny empire, tc #10

Friday, June 16, 2017
Empire, Michigan

I slammed on my brakes just before the second bend in M22, south of Empire, startling my fiance. But his eyes were lit up.

“Did you see?!” he asked.

I drew a really dramatic breath and nodded. I pulled a u-turn—dangerous, probably, but worth the risk.

We backtracked and pulled into the neighborhood along Erie Street — a collection of funky, tiny houses cutely arranged around a village green. This is what excites us.

We’re both 32 years old.

The first tiny house was sort of cabin-esque. Situated a little further off the road and behind a modest podium of shrubbery. He’s a little shy. And definitely a he. Dark, but bright-eyed and welcoming.

And then the blue one — a little reminiscent of the A-frame wanna-be where I grew up, over on Long Lake (the one downstate, in Kalamazoo, not the one up here). It’s a bit of a stretch but I’m an inconvenient combination of nostalgic, romantic, and unapologetic.
All the Icks.

It’s sort of tropical, the blue house. But that’s the trick of Northern Michigan, isn’t it? One year we stayed on Old Mission Peninsula shortly after spending some time in Ibiza and swam out to the raft at Haserot Beach. We laid on our bellies, backs to the sun, and watched the fish swim in the clear blue water below.

“Kind of like the Mediterranean,” I said.
“My love,” J snapped, tutting at me with disgust. “Much colder.”
Again, a stretch.
What can I say?

A diminutive red Victorian. Elegant and established. Regal. Monarchical. This one. This could be a place to display our tchotchkes in heavy mahogany cabinets and re-watch episodes of the Great British Bake Off into the wee hours of the night.
But is that us, really?

One of us, maybe.

The best for last, of course. My favorite — the white one. It’s the first one you see if you enter from M22 on Ontario Street. Simple. Symmetrical. Minimal. Modern and traditional at the same time.  A fusion of our two opposing styles. It seems like it’d be light and airy inside. Perhaps with wide-planked wooden flooring. A neatly designed kitchen that spilled into the living area. Plenty of comfortable seating for friends to kick up their feet after hiking the dunes.

It wouldn’t be  suitable for our tchotchkes—all the little knick knacks we’ve collected throughout the years. I’d have to throw them out.

Or tuck them in a box in the attic because I’m sentimental


And maybe that’s okay.


pine cone, tc #9

Friday, June 16, 2017
Traverse City, Michigan
Leelanau County

I wasn’t ready to go yet, but that’s always the case when check out time rolls around.

“Let’s do something around town,” I said to J.
“My love, I have to work.”

A compromise. I dropped him off at this minimalistic hipster coffee shop on the edge of town in between a terrarium store and a place that sells furniture for the 1%. Cute watering can, though. $50 dollars? I can water two plants with this. 

I walked back downtown by myself. A brief foray into Cherry Republic and then into Brilliant Books because we had been to Horizon earlier. I like Brilliant better — it’s cozier and organized in a way that prevents me from leaving without spending at least twenty dollars.

I browsed a bit and then moseyed over toward one of the booksellers.

“So, here’s the thing. I’m not from here and we’re leaving today and I’m hoping—”
“Oh, where you from?”
“Downstate originally… Kalamazoo. But I’ve—”
“Ah! Kalamazoo! I lived down there for a few years for—”
“Oh, nice! Where?”

We interrupted each other for ten minutes talking about Kalamazoo. The conversation eventually lulled. I lingered, dumb and staring.
“Soooo, what brings you in today?” People in the midwest are socially generous.

“Right. We have to leave today and I don’t want to go.” I left it there because it was already awkward and I wanted to test this socially gracious person because I have a black and rotting soul.

A quizzical look.

“You’ve gotta have something in here about Michigan, right? Michigan stories?”

He wrinkled his nose.

“You like Jim Harrison?”
“The Legends of the Fall guy?”
“He was from up here?” I vaguely knew he was from Michigan, but didn’t realize he had lived so close. Leelanau County, it turns out.

The bookseller walked me over to a section with only his books, handing me a copy of True North.

“Trust me,” he said.


A lucky encounter in Suttons Bay.

A high school friend who I haven’t seen in a few years. His wife, on whom I have a schoolboy crush. The first day of their Up North vacation was the last day of ours. We had some beers at Hop Lot. They have two cool kids, but seemed happy to have time away.

“We’re having some other friends join us, another couple.”
“They just moved from Ann Arbor to Holland.”
“Oh, god!” I cried.


A few beers. Slightly drunk.

We still had to fit in our usual standbys: Glen Arbor, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Road construction; stopped in the middle of nowhere. Inappropriate advances from my fiance.

There’s a woman—a construction worker—holding a stop sign ten feet away from us. She looks like a Gerry. Well, Gerry with the guys, her crew. Geraldine, perhaps, when she gets gussied up.

What if she sees?

“My love, you can have a hot dog at the Pine Cone.”