If Only I Could Switch Shoes with Astrud Gilberto to Be Around the Bossa Nova’s Godfathers

Astrud Gilberto 102° degrees out today. Damn. It’s enough to melt your eyes down to its sockets. Global warming has already set its pendulums on the swings. This has got to be one of the hottest summers, yet. Yesterday, it was so blooming hot, (quente como o inferno) felt like the sun was going to roast the skin off my body. With my dark hair, the sun just beamed on it, as though it were a black car sitting in a Wal-mart parking lot for hours on the hottest day in August.

Last week, the news reported that the temperature had gone up an extra 40 degrees overnight. Everybody is walking around in a triple digit haze. However, today, I awoke to a strong summer breeze. Its so nice to watch the way the wind whispers into the trees. branches swaying in a crazy way.

Fortunate enough, I learned a lesson about perfume years ago. Sporting the Carolina Herrera signature scent, a huge hornet must have thought I was a tuberose garden and stung the heck out of me. Allow me to describe what this felt like. Take the well lit end of a fat cigar… and have it pressed unto your skin. That, is exactly what it felt like. So, never, do I wear floral scented perfumes of any brand during the spring and summer months.

As I continued to watch the trees sway this morning, my thoughts relaxed a bit and gave into the emotion of romance. Not mushy love, but romance, that emotion that should never go away no matter how old or grumpy you get.. Or you may get rusty on top of that. It’s so important to the blood pressure of mankind, just as the elements of water, fire, air and earth. Romance is a blue rose, a red rose, a pleasing breeze, something pleasant to the eye. A concept, especially that is charming in its own way.

Over In Saudi Arabia, a new invention of flirtation of the 21st century is known as “numbering.” Here, the girls will jot their cell numbers down on a small piece of paper, roll it up into a wad and toss it at the boy in another vehicle on the hectic streets of Jeddah. The girl, well cloaked in abaya then waits for the boy to call. That is inventive, and quite romantic.

It is this subject that brings me back to my very earliest roots of a romantic encounter with a young man from my childhood.

We were at a wedding, or anniversary celebration, my sister and I. The one who tried to sing like Astrud Gilberto when we were awkward, silly kids. Well, this is the first time, I began to take notice of boys, or at least this guy. Well, he looked like a young version of Antonio Jobim with eyes of Sajid Kahn. He seemed like someone who would match with the name Robert.

Unfortunately, after an entire evening of secret exchanges of tender glances, I never did get his name.

He was chasing a group of girls, as I proceeded to ascend up the steps to the main reception hall. A ball rolled over to where I stood, and he came to fetch it. That, is when we gazed into each others face for a brief moment. Although, I thought he was kind of cute, I would never let him know that. So, I walked proudly into the reception hall and found a seat beside my grandmother and sister. Donna, just kept whispering to me how this boy likes me because he kept looking over at me. She nudged me a good one in the arm to let me know that he was looking over at me again. Donna would not quit.

“Why can he not just chase those girls outside, like he was doing earlier?” I asked myself. My heart was beating faster than usual, and my eyes began to dart over at him a couple of times, whenever he was looking the other way. Then Donna tells me, “You will never get to meet him if you keep playing hard-to-get. All the other girls like him, and he keeps looking over at you, hoping to get your attention.”

The truth is, I did find myself attracted to him. He was the first boy, I really liked. I hated admitting that to myself. I was taking Cupid’s arrows and bending them. Donna could not understand the reasons for my reserved way of acting. I would never see this boy again, so why fall in love?

What I had a difficult time understanding at that age is that, love doesn’t ask your permission. There are no scripts and rehearsals. Love is something that just happens. In romantic terms, “love is a surprise.” …and I was not good at this because I don’t like surprises.

So, I guess it was love at first sight, and although I appeared brave I was feeling rather nervous and a little weak inside, but I would never let him detect that. My sister describes those nervous feelings as ” butterflies in your tummy.” The unwanted fluttering could be juxtaposed to the feeling of being suspended at the very top of a Ferris wheel, being rocked. As, I sat there uncomfortable and bored to death, watching the fancy footwork of mature people gaily dancing across the floor to the sound of tango music, followed by La Paloma, our glances almost met and I felt so relieved that it didn’t.

I sat there bored to death, along with feeling bad about not having the chance of meeting this boy who sat just across the room from me. When he wasn’t looking, I would look indirectly over at him. By this time, my sister nudged me so hard, I nearly fell out of my seat. “There is not enough time. Grandma said that we’re leaving soon. You’ll never see him again. At least get his first name.”

I just sat there with all the courage I could muster up to leave that place and just wished my sister would just shut-up about it. I just wanted to go on home and listen to my Sajid Kahn songs, or see my friends. However, I must admit. For the first time, at the tender age of eight, I felt a strong emotion toward that boy, supposedly my prince (o meu amor de infância).

As we stood up to leave, and headed to the gold Valiant, I pulled myself together as my grandfather reversed out of the parking space and proceeded to head down the hill. Just at that time, Donna spotted the boy coming down the steps. He looked to the left and then to the right. The car took two curbs before it ascended down the hill. By this time, Donna was ecstatic. “Look Debbie!

He’s following the car!” I looked out from the back window, and sure enough he was chasing after our car, until he could no longer keep up with it, as it made its final curb to the bottom of the hill.  

For a good week, I could never forget the look on his face, out of breath from trying to keep up with the car. It played out like a movie. I guess. Donna was right, he had the look of love on his face.

Chasing gold Valiant’s in the dark, tossing waded-up paper balls into other cars in traffic are all romantic slide shows that make life rosier, and interesting. Romance is always beautiful and intriguing in the beginning, and then like the beautiful rose, it withers and dies. It lives out the moment, and leaves with no note, just a memory.
Romance in my book, is about feeling a lovely atmosphere with the world around you. Something almost magical and so wonderful that you are able to spread this creamy butter to the next table. Or, for that matter the romantic way Gal Costa sumptuously slips those Portuguese lyrics out of her mouth in the song, “Desafinado.”

Romântico is also being in a lovely room full of lovely people, mingling with others who share similar thoughts. They spill a little about life in segments and the light that fills your glass of wine and the divine way they look while they are telling it. Romântico is a world all its own, brimming with surprises, free of anger and bitterness.

It is, when a guy suddenly stops in his macho tracks of life, acting out of the man’s world and decides to give his thoughts a vacation. Perhaps, then he can gaze into the finer things in life that is made up of natural surroundings, what turns out to be a gentler side of life. It is an ethnic language being spoken romantically, and most of all a lit candle, whose flame registers all these charming gestures and much more in the name of love.

In a room, romance can hold a certain ambiance. This summer, as miserable as the heat has been, has brought about some romantic interior decorating. White chiffon curtains, and a random scattering red butterfly clips. A couple of canary yellow butterflies between the sparkling red ones. I’ve decided, the red butterfly will symbolize this summer of 2011 at my home. And flowers should be everywhere, from the point that you first enter the door of your home.

Man in his elaborate thinking can unfold some of the most fantastic sights that you could ever imagine. And just love and adore to see this universal craziness in the area of the contemporary art scene.

An American contemporary artist, born in Cuba by the name of Felix Gonzalez-Torres made such a grand display of his obsession with light bulbs. I mean he had these strands of light bulbs hanging everywhere. From the top of a 45 foot ceiling to the bottom, spilling light everywhere in the most wonderful way. His work with lights and bushels of candy is fantástico.

It is refreshing to experience and behold Torres works because it is totally different in perspective of how we usually see things. During his exhibits, he would change the light bulbs when they needed to be replaced, and also restock the huge piles of candy that was to be consumed by patrons of the museum. His generosity glowed like his profusion of lights oeuvres. Torres embraced the element of light with sheer romance.

So.. romance, can be many things. In certain forms, it can be a certain time period that you always dreamed of. For each one had its own special touch of romance. In such terms, if I had to do it all over again, I would have liked to switch shoes with Astrud Gilberto. I see her 1960’s life as a glamorous one, collaborating with the best of the best, during the Bossa Nova Explosion.

That is the lucky girl with the raspberry candy flavored voice of some of the most beautiful songs ever written. For, it was right here, that some of the coolest people that ever lived were making things happen in the world of Bossa Nova. Watching it all happen and just being around the Godfathers of Bossa Nova was this girl’s dream.

In other terms of romance, it’s when you become so totally bored with things around you, that you hope to be lightened up by the element of romance. Sometimes the city has nothing to offer me. It loses its appeal, and I just rather be slipping into a peasant-like sundress and sit in the shade right across the fence where cows are grazing.

Although bossa nova is my beloved music, sometimes, I like to hear something in the high vibrato of Jarabe de Palo singing, “El Lado Oscuro.” Or, the happy-go-lucky sounds of “Mi Ultima Voluntad” (Tonite) by Sergent Garcia. But, the haunting Spanish vocals of Frederico Aubele singing, “Postales” is a Latin American Goddess warm breeze on a hot summer’s day. The strum of Spanish guitars seems to empathize with the weather beaten grass and agricultural land.

I now look at all these acres of land that reminds me of how thankful I should be, that I am not the only one suffering from the heat. We are all thirsting for rain. This co-existence is what makes the world one. I was simply trying to beat the heat by embracing something beautiful about verão (summer).

With one’s romantic thoughts, there is always room for a touch of creativity. Thank God, we don’t all have to think like men. Guys do a lot of great things in this world. They do a heck of a lot of thinking. Half of what exists would not be here without their elaborate engineering and hard work, that is just a natural function of the male brain.

Although, sometimes I think some of them tend to turn a blind cheek to the true needs of humankind. Perhaps, the strong tendency of man just does what he thinks needs to be done. Therefore, assuming a mentality of what has to be done. After all, they are the ones left holding both ends of the brunt. The ones, who walk seven steps in front of us in this jungle of life. So, don’t even try to assume what they are trying to figure out, or for that matter exactly how they are going to fix the problem.

Man is ignorant when he becomes insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. In the event, giving into seven different types of insensitivity. Greed, being the main course, among egocentricity and nonchalant attitudes. To look into the egos of some of these powerful men is enough to make a volcano erupt. I wish they would all go back to being little boys, playing with their toy guns and destroying ant homes instead of the lives of others. Or, to be reincarnated into a life uncustomary of what they are used to, that of the poverty strickened.

If man can understand the true needs of humankind, then he will profit profusely and reap profound respect by every sense of the word. If he chooses to make his mark by not benefiting mankind, than it is not a good wealth. Just, political power and unjustified greed. How can man in powerful positions put normal men in such tangled situations?

Another insensitivity, is that of mercilessness. How can mankind put the average ones into chaos and anticipate the collapse of an economy of the Middle class? To me stripping the pride of man down to its last shred of hope is a great injustice. Every man should be able to make a life for his family without all that anguish.

How insensitive of these hungry men to insult the intelligence of simple men. I would not care to sit at the same table with this type of men, even if my life depended upon it. These uncompromising attitudes will be served it’s cake someday, and hopefully replaced by better men. “seu bolo sera servido a eles um dia”  

While browsing through the archives of Brazzil early this month, I was just glad to read something that this fine gentleman wrote. Although, I am not familiar with the particular illness that brought him to his death at the age of 87 in October 26, 2007. It would be fascinating to read about his life story.

However brief, it was the words of the visionary icon, Brazilian gemstone tycoon Mr. H. Stern. To the magazine, he entered a line or, two about how he remembers picking up rocks in Brazil, when he first arrived as a Jewish immigrant. On occasion referred to as “King of colored gemstones.” (archive 2003)

I thought he was truly brilliant in his endeavors to take the Brazilian gemstones, and turn into a commercially successful eye candy business. His destiny lay definitely with the world of Brazilian gemstones, what with a 160 stores, not to mention 150 shops franchised worldwide.

What a genius! In the article he mentions briefly his memories of looking for precious stones. By doing this, he created jobs for the struggling parts of this country, and boosting tourism, and improved domestic export business for Brazil. This young Jewish man, at the fairly young age of 17, emigrated to Brazil and shortly found work at Cristab’s, a gemstone dealer. Immediately, he could see the potential for success in the gemstone business. What he imagined for Brazil was more than the eye could see.

Stern was also quite an eloquent philosopher. He once quoted in an interview, “There is no semi-precious stone, as there is no semi-pregnant woman, or semi-honest man.” He also picked up other languages in order to communicate well in the international gem trade.

What inspired this man to go all the way with his vision of big-time gemstone business, is when a Nicaraguan dictator by the name of Anastasio Somoza entered his shop in Rio and purchased a gorgeous aquamarine necklace for US$ 22,000. What a sale! That was enough to close the shop for a month, and still be riding high. Among Anastasio, he also gained respective clientele of such figures as Henry Kissinger, John F. Kennedy, the Shah of Iran, and many celebrities.

This young man who sought refuge in Brazil from Nazi oppression is one of the best stories I have ever known of among the many entrepreneurs that I have ever read about. It is fascinating to read of their beginnings. When huge business gets handed down. It’s not quite as impressive, as the one who drove that first nail through the wood and then concrete.

To my understanding, he was very creative, when it came to customer relations. For instance, his concept of brochures and tours he would offer by limo and the little charms that Stern would leave in your mailbox at your 5-star hotel. In his 15 minute tour, tourists have the opportunity to learn about the gem world by journey into how rough gemstones are turned into beautiful pieces of jewelry.

This was just the tip of the iceberg for the clever mind of Stern behind gem politics. Sterns company began in 1946, and is still going strong because that name will always be respected for years to come. Their competitor, Amsterdam Sauer has a shop in the heart of the Amazon. I read that monkeys will enter the shop and look at the jewelry through the showcase. To my understanding, gem trade has decreased because of rising crime.

Among the tons of articles I come across in my readings each week these were the two topics of particular interest to me. Stern and Torres. One went to the US to escape communism, and the other fled to Brazil to escape the evil inferno of Nazi Germany. Both fled their country in aspirations of a better life. Although, both are no longer in this world, they have left the legacy of their elaborate works and brilliant thinking.

The sparkling thoughts of my childhood memory has to do with a heart shaped necklace, presented to me by my dad at the age of four. I was in my grandmother’s orchid garden. When he came to me with a little box. He opened it and produced a little trinket. He squatted down to my size and said, “hold the gem up to the light, and see all the colors put on a show.”

The heart shaped pendant was pave’ in multi-colored stone. I looked inside the stone and watched it scintillate. “Don’t lose it.” Dad said. “That was very expensive.”

My father was the one to point out to my very first twinkling star of the heavens at night,  the first to introduce me to sparkling sands, my first glance at sea creatures, the sounds of Brazilian jazz and how could I forget his little bedtime stories of folklore. Such stories, as the Lady in White, and the barbaric folklore of “Give Me Back My Liver.”

I have to stop and say with great veracity that, I am grateful for his guiding me into this world as a little child. He parted the curtain of nature, so that I could embrace this world one day with great compassion. I mean the life that my dad brought me into was a very simple one, comprised of seashells, the stunning ocean, how it magnificently goes out in gradations of blue, the scent of trees and stars of the heavens. So, I can sense and don’t like when anything tries to interfere with that calmness. I reject it.

Now, that I’m years passed all that, since that child, I am studying this same sand for all it means, this sand, that used to once sparkle in the sun. and it may still have that luster, but I am looking at it today as salt through an hourglass, as it sifts through my fingers.

Hmmm, either I have made mistakes in my calculations of how man should use more stride in efforts to reach out and help his species, or I have simply dreamed all this up, this present state of the world is in this current condition.

I always thought life was about sharing and caring. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Took me a good while to realize that the concept of sharing is vitally important to this world for it is so easy to get wrapped up into superficial behavior in this world. It’s nice to be doing well, but not when the other half of mankind is not. The average man and his family is not demanding to live in a mansion, and drive a Bentley. He just wants to know that he can go to work and support his family. Fair enough?

Between the heart of man and the closed-minded, shallowness of self-gratified men by whatever means, places a huge border that stands between man and man.

You know..this is actually a very beautiful world that we live in, it being the 8th wonder of the universe. Yet, in all its vastness and glory, it can also be one of the most shallowest of places to be when it is not guided in the right direction.

One great aspect of life that can never be bought. For, it is something more precious than diamonds, that which holds a man upright, and that is his family. That, which he inherits the distinguishing silver and grays within the strands of his beard and moustache from. A family that loves and cares for you like no one can. When man finds someone to truthfully love and respect him in his way, (unconditionally) then he has found gold.

Debbie J. Beauchamp is a writer and observer of the Latin American arts. A poet, philanthropist, and artist of the Contemporary arts. Her passion lies in Brazilian music, writing, and linguistics. Born and raised on the island of Oahu, the author currently resides in North Texas.


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