Bye SP, Hi BA

Last night a bunch of us bought all the makings for a burger feast at a friend’s apartment in Vila Madalena. Upon returning to the apartment from the grocery store, it became apparent that there was no cooking gas (in many apartments here you buy canisters of cooking gas instead of being hooked up to a line). As desperate times call for desperate measures, the burgers were cooked in the toaster. Rest assured they were delicious.

Around 1 am we left the apartment and walked to Matrix Bar. The following five hours were filled with the most remarkable musical selection and hilarious dancing I’ve ever witnessed in one evening. 60’s-70’s pop hits, 90’s britpop, 90’s american hiphop, a bit of typical new indie stuff, 80’s manchester, all seamlessly mixed and perpetually on point. Before last night I didn’t know it was possible to follow cypress hill with iggy pop. At 6:00 am when the lights went on for last call, the crowd was not having is- thus a human ladder was formed and proceeded to unscrew the light fixtures and resume the dance party. Although I’m not exactly the type to wear my sunglasses at night, they sure as shit would have been nice in the morning for the walk home.

This morning I bought a flight on Pluna, the Uruguayan national airline, to Buenos Aires, departing Sao Paulo international at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. I don’t really want to leave Sao Paulo, but I have a meeting Monday morning at 10:00 to acquire the keys for my apartment in Buenos Aires. Hopefully customs isn’t a huge pain in the ass, since I have both my stamped brazilian entry and exit card because apparently the customs agent in Rio neglected to keep their half. I suppose it’s better than having neither.

A bunch of friends are meeting up in Cuzco, Peru in April. Halfway considering ditching my flight out of Santiago in April, getting one out of Bogota for later in the month, and bussing up the Andes.

Although I’m not too keen on leaving Brazil, I must say, I’m pretty excited to speak Spanish.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm, filed under Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

Friday afternoon in SP

So today I went back downtown to Praca de Republica and checked out the Edificio Italia, a forty something story building with a fancy restaurant and free observation deck on the top. Unlike Santander, this one doesn’t check for id.

Looking south. I’m staying somewhere in the mess of buildings beyond the big antennas on the right half of the frame.



Northside. The green area is Praca de Republica.

I walked back to the hostel from downtown instead of taking the subway, which took about an hour and a half. The transition between old downtown, Bela Vista, hipster land on Rue Augusta north of Paulista, Jardins, and Vila Madalena is pretty interesting on foot.

Back in Pinheiros, I saw this outstanding Honda Motorcycle parked in front of this gallery a few blocks from the hostel.

If I spoke Portuguese I’d probably move here for a while.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 27, 2009 at 4:29 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

<3 São Paulo

I love this city.

You can buy popcorn on any street corner, california maki is made with mango and strawberry instead of avocado, and pretty girls look you in the eyes and smile on the subway.

Every day around 4:00 pm a storm comes through and turns the hilly streets into rivers. Most evenings the sky looks to be signaling the end of the world.

Walking back home from the market this evening, the sky looked like this.

Today I moved into a new room at the hostel, since I officially extended my stay until Sunday. Last night we went out as a group of no less than 15, and actually required three taxis even though part of the group walked. We played a bit of pool and I was surprised to find out that in many Brazilian bars there is actually a referee that handles the table order and enforcement of proper etiquette. Just as has been the case every other night this week, it was sunny outside when we got home.

I strolled through Jardins yesterday on my way up to Avenida Paulista. Paulista is the most expensive real estate in Latin America and the most important street in Sao Paulo. It’s the highest point in the city, and because of this most of the skyscrapers are topped with gigantic pointy antennas. Jardins is full of expensive shopping and fancy shit, and is also home to the only American Apparel in Brazil, which here is marketed to the rich and is almost three times as expensive as in the states. A pair of pants goes for 250 Reals.

There is also a place called Galeria Melissa that has a bunch of plastic shoes inside of bubbles and a big elephant emerging from their facade.

I’d have loved to not have this woman in my photo, however after waiting over five minutes while her daughter shot a series of different poses, I realized she may not have been leaving for a while.

On Paulista I stumbled upon a mall, much like the ones found on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, except that it was full of photo galleries, book stores, cafes, and art supply stores. I was told to stop before I even began taking photos.

Four on the dot, the storm came through. The sky turned black, opened up, and everyone ran for shelter. I found myself hanging out in a magazine stand, in which I flipped through a Brazilian photoshop magazine only to find a two page spread with a photo of the CTA Damen stop and my apartment building in Chicago.

Consolacão Metro stop on Paulista

The Avenue

Running to the Magazine Stand for shelter

Trying to stay dry

After the storm

I decided to spend the 8 Real to buy an umbrella, and walked back to the metro to head home.

Today I took all three trains to the Republica stop in the center with the goal of shooting photos from the top of the Edeficio Santander, which is a tall bank building with an observatory and apparently a 360 degree view of skyscrapers as far as one can see. However I soon found out that they scan your passport to allow access to the elevator, and as we all can agree, only a fool would walk around central Sao Paulo with a passport in their pocket.

I did however, enjoy a delightful sandwich and smoothie at a juice bar at praca de sé while observing some first rate derelictism in the adjacent plaza. Though I’d have liked to take more photos, in this part of the center of the city you have to be discreet with your valuables, to say the least.

Walking from republica to praca de sé.

Old buildings downtown

Praca de sé

Praca de sé is a metro hub, connecting two of the busiest subway lines.

Back at Clinicas it’s a five block walk home.

Going out in Vila Madalena again tonight.

Apparently I may not have an apartment to come home to in Chicago? Stay tuned!

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

São Paulo

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Sao Paulo is enormous. Just absurdly huge. With 20 million people, it is the largest metropolitan area in the southern hemisphere. To go from the bus station (upper pin on the map) to my hostel (lower pin) on the very clean and highly efficient metro requires one transfer and about half an hour. The blocks are huge, and what would at appear at first glance at a map to be a ten minute walk can actually turn out to be a few mile journey that can take over an hour.

It also turns out Sao Paulo is hilly. Being from Chicago, I often refer to Manhattan as hilly and San Francisco as mountainous, and while Sao Paulo is not as steep as SF, it’s shockingly hilly. Perhaps I overlooked this because Rio is the postcard city, built into and around the hills and hugging the coast. Sao Paulo simply has paved over the hills, and observing the city from above, as a simple google image search will reveal, one simply sees an endless sea of skyscrapers of varying height. Once on the ground in the city, you realize, much like the shocking hilliness of downtown Los Angeles, that the thick sea of buildings actually blocks out the varying topography.

Sao Paulo is also extremely diverse. People from every culture in the world live in this city. It even has the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan. Anyone can be from Sao Paulo, thus it’s much easier to blend in. On the subway from the bus station to the hostel I talked with a few people (my backpack drew attention and Brazilians are extremely friendly). One kid had just moved here from Belo Hortizonte and was curious where I was going. We could only communicate in Spanish, because I still cannot speak any Portuguese and he knew almost no English. My Spanish and English caught the attention of a girl on the train who was from Manaus, living in Sao Paulo, but had lived in Oregon and spoke perfect English. We talked for a bit and she showed me where to transfer to the next train. The next train was full of hipsters and models and kids with skateboards and could very well have been the L train from Union Square to Williamsburg.

The hostel I’m staying in is amazing. The people who are staying here as well as the locals who run it and hang out here are all really friendly. A group of us went out to a block party last night that actually walks around the city dancing until sunrise. People play music and “bartenders” follow the crowd, pushing wheelbarrows full of beer, cachaca, and mixers. The party wandered through Jardim Paulista and Vila Madalena and ended in a square a few blocks down the hill from the hostel.

There was a crazy thunderstorm today that lasted about an hour. After the storm passed, I wandered the city shooting photos. Although statistically this city is more dangerous then Rio, I don’t feel particularly sketched out walking around with a backpack and taking photos.

The city is just insane. The juxtaposition of new skyscrapers and colorful old houses and storefronts, the hills, the helicopters, the people. I only booked the hostel until Wednesday night, but I’m already thinking about staying through the weekend. If I do, I’ll forgo Florianopolis and fly directly to Montevideo. The flight is actually about the same price as the combination of bus tickets from SP-Floripa and Floripa-Montevideo.

Here are some pictures:

This is the hostel where I am staying.

Down the hill from the hostel towards Jardins.

My corner.

The Brazilians call their payphones “rabbit ears.”

Sometimes an ear is missing…


Lots of bright colors.

The sky here is crazy.

This is a discreet neighborhood entrance to a fancy McDonald’s.

This is the same McDonald’s. I’m not sure why I find this fascinating.

The small streets are buzzing with people, but the big avenues can be strangely deserted.

The garbage is thrown in these cages on the curbside.

Pão de Acúcar (Sugarloaf, like the mountain in Rio) is the largest supermarket chain in Brazil. This one is down the hill from my hostel and reminds me of a Trader Joe’s.

Walking back up the hill towards the hostel.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

Bus Ride

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After a free night at the hostel in Rio, split 50/50 between sleeping sitting up in a chair in the living room and sleeping on a bench on the terrace, I was up at 7:00 in the morning and ready to leave town. A shower and breakfast at the hostel and I found myself walking down the hill from Santa Tereza, bag packed with all my belongings. 7:00-10:00 in the morning seems to be the quietest time in Rio during Carnival, as those who drink all night have just gone to sleep, but those who drink all day have yet to wake up. At the bottom of the hill, I asked a cop which bus to take to the Novo Rio bus station. He gave the bus a firm “two thumbs down” and grabbed me a cab. This set me back 15 Real, but the price was agreed upon beforehand and the station was much farther than I realized.

The bus station in Rio is loaded with derelicts. After surveying the plethora of ticket counters, I found a company that seemed to specialize in Rio-Sao Paulo transit. I pointed my way through the booking computer and ended up with a 10:40 ticket to Sao Paulo on a big yellow bus with huge tinted windows. My time in the Novo Rio station was spent drinking Gatorade and guarding my bag with my life while being glared at by a sketchball that makes East Side Long Beach’s notorious Superthug look like a model citizen.

I snapped this photo while sitting on the floor guarding my bag. Notice the favela in the distance.

The ticket cost 70 Real (about 30 US dollars) for the six hour journey between Brazil’s two largest cities. The bus had more legroom than anyone could possibly need, and the incredibly comfortable seats reclined to an almost completely horizontal position and even had leg rests. Upon boarding, every passenger is giving a pillow, blanket, and a lunch box that includes an assortment of crackers, cookies, fruit snacks, and a juicebox. The ride was smooth, with one short stop for bathroom breaks and snacks. They even showed Naked Gun. Needless to say, this was not the Megabus. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this particular bus ride was more enjoyable than any bus, train, or airplane adventure I’ve had in the United States.

After driving through the industrial north and west side of Rio, along side numerous favelas, we were out in the Brazilian countryside. We gained quite a bit of elevation through a series of switchbacks shortly outside of Rio and drove through the lush Atlantic rainforest. Sao Paulo is one of those cities, much like Houston, where it seems one is greeted by a never ending ring of suburbs and skyscrapers. I packed up my belongings and prepared to arrive, as the view outside my window suggested that I was currently near the center of the city, only to find out we still had over 30 km to go. Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tiete bus station in Sao Paulo is a bit less saturated with derelicts than Novo Rio. It is also connected to the rest of the city by the subway, and a 2.50 Real ticket and a 30 minute ride on two different metro lines brought me to the Clinicas stop, within walking distance of my hostel in the Pinheiros neighborhood on the southwest side of Sao Paulo.

Here are some photos from the drive:

The switchbacks outside of Rio.

Closer to Sao Paulo.

In the Sao Paulo suburbs.

Outskirts of Sao Paulo.

This entry was written by brett, posted on at 4:31 pm, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

More Rio

I went out in Lapa again last night. Went to a bunch of places, the first of which was a samba club meets pool hall. When going out in Rio, after you pass the metal detector and the pat down, you’re given a card that looks quite a bit like a turnpike ticket. If you lose this ticket while you are still inside, you might as well have locked your keys in your apartment because it’s going to be a shitstorm and to get out you’re going to have to pay the lost ticket fee, which could be up to 100 Reals. When ordering food or drinks, you present your ticket to your server, and they mark off what you’ve ordered. To leave, you get in the long cashier line and they figure your cover (if there is one) depending upon the entry time on the ticket, as well as the rest of the bill. You have to show your receipt at the door to be allowed out. Needless to say, when in Rio, you keep track of your shit- after all, this is not Williamsburg.

Later in the evening I found myself in a conversation with a Brazilian man, who must have been no less than 70 years old, concerning old New Order vs. new New Order. This is a conversation that in Chicago would no doubt make me throw up in my mouth a little, as it would most certainly be a recital of some pitchfork tainted nonsense. However in Brazil, it’s quite the opposite. This was just an old guy in Brazil that likes to sit in front of his little restaurant and drink his beer and listen to music from Manchester.

Just as I was beginning to think to myself that the crime problem here is blown out of proportion, we were told this morning by the guy at the hostel that a hostel down in Lapa was stormed by a group of guys with machine guns and handcuffs and robbed of all their electronics and money last night. As I sit on the hillside patio overlooking Lapa and downtown Rio, there are quite a bit of firecrackers going off, some much more powerful than others. One can only wonder how many of these aren’t actually firecrackers.

This is my street in Santa Tereza. The bonde (the cable car that runs up the hill to Santa Tereza from Centro) runs directly in front of the place.

This is the view of Centro from my walk up the hill.

I walk down this hill to a big staircase, which cuts off the switchback in the road and cut directly to the street that takes you into Lapa. The last block, which I refer to as the gauntlet, after the staircase is the sketchiest part of my commute to the bus. At night it would be quite naive to walk up the hill alone, especially considering that a cab would cost no more than three dollars.

I went to the top of Corcovado today, which is the big mountain with the Christ statue. Getting there involves a 30 minute tram ride through the rainforest in Tijuca National Park. It’s actual rainforest, with monkeys and canopy and all that. A group of samba kids jumped on the tram half way up and played music for the rest of the ride. The view from the top is absurd, there is nothing more that can be said.

Looking south at the lagoon and Ipanema/Leblon.

The cluster of buildings to the left is centro. I’m staying on the far side of the hill that separates the two clusters of buildings.

I officially have an address in Buenos Aires for March. I’ll be living in a 10th floor studio a two blocks from the Oblesico on Corrientes Avenue. Still not sure where I’m headed on Saturday when I no longer have a bed here. The guy who runs it mentioned the possibility of sleeping on the couch in the living room, so I suppose if I want to stick around Rio a bit longer I could. Regardless, there is a lot more to see in the south of Brazil and I have to be in BA by March 5th.

Time for food and then off to Lapa.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.


I’ve been in Rio for three days now.

I’m living here, and currently blogging from this porch.

This is the view of centro and the zona norte from the hostel.

This is the view up into Santa Teresa from the front of the hostel.

To get to the beaches of Copacabanna, Ipanema, and Leblon, I walk down the hill into Lapa, one of the sketchier parts of town, but also the center of the pre-carnival street parties (and surprisingly similar to the French Quarter in New Orleans), and catch a city bus for R2.20 (about a dollar). A 20-40 minute ride, depending on traffic, through some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world as well as huge tunnels through rainforested mountains, brings you to the Zona Sul.

Everyone in Rio rides the buses and subway. I’ve honestly never seen so many buses. Yesterday I saw a girl in a dress and heels next, a guy in a full suit, and a kid in shorts with no shoes in the same row of seats. The buses are also stick shift, and the drivers like to imagine they are racing, while conversing with the riders and the cobrador (the guy who takes your money and lets you on and off. People often get into hilarious conversations while stopped at a red light in adjacent buses.

While riding the bus through Botafogo yesterday, I saw this.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the beach in Ipanema, near Post 9.

The food is good and pretty cheap, and since my knowledge of Portuguese is almost non-existent, it’s always somewhat of a surprise what your going to get. Yesterday in Leblon I got a plate with rice, beans, spaghetti, vegetables, and a breaded and fried chicken breast with a mango smoothy for 12 reals, which is less than 6 dollars.

I’ve been enjoying a lot of these as well.

Last night I went with some British guys from the hostel to a street party at an old theater downtown, just outside of Lapa. No pictures though, because unlike cash, you can’t hide a camera in your shoe.

My computer is going to die in 36 minutes, which means I have to find an outlet converter today so I can charge it. I’ve found a small apartment at the Oblesico in Buenos Aires to rent for the month of March, which is actually significantly cheaper than staying in hostels, considering I’ll have guests to split part of the rent for a few weeks. Still don’t know exactly where I’m headed on Saturday when I no longer have a bed in Rio, but obviously it will be southwest. I’m thinking Sao Paulo and Florianopolis before crossing in to Uruguay in catching the ferry from Montevideo to BA, however the British guys have made it very clear that it would be worth skipping Montevideo to see Iguazu Falls, so I guess we’ll see. Overall it’s 40 something hours of land travel to BA from Rio, so broken up over two weeks, I’ll have some time to spread out.

Time for lunch then off to the beach and the electronics store!

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 18, 2009 at 9:52 am, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

So I’m in New York now.

I got into Brooklyn around six yesterday evening.

Ate some delicious pizza with my dad, played some Mario Kart, showered, and made way to the Richardson to meet up with numerous derelicts. Four in the morning came around quick.

Most of this afternoon was spent in Manhattan. The L train, responsible for transporting the residents of north Brooklyn to and from lower Manhattan, was not functioning properly. Needless to say, the Bedford Ave station- always a total shitshow- was over capacity with confounded Williamsburgers just trying to get to Whole Foods at Union Square. Alas, a shuttle arrived and all was well.

After visiting five different AT&T stores, trying to add international data and roaming to my plan, I’m convinced the end of the world is near. Finally a nice lady at a call center did what everyone in Manhattan could not, and now my phone will work in SA. Back in Brooklyn, we ordered in from a Mexican spot on Metropolitan Ave, and it was actually good. The lack of Mexicans and proper Mexican food has, until today, been the single most influential factor in my not residing in New York permanently. Now that I know where to acquire a proper chorizo taco, chicken and mole tamale, and horchata, I have decided that this may infact be an acceptable place to call home.

As for tonight- a Saturday night in north Brooklyn and my last night in the north hemisphere for the next two months- I am at a loss. Perhaps a visit to Barcade, quite possibly the only establishment in the world in which one can enjoy a fine IPA while playing Marble Madness, should be in order. On the slightly less civilized end of the spectrum, perhaps a visit to the fabled McKibben lofts would be more appropriate.

In such uncertain times as tonight, atleast one thing is for certain- dinner at the Sizzler in Queens on the way to my flight out of JFK. As a very wise man once said, “when in Queens, you eat at the Sizzler.” By logical extension of this simple rule, a stop at the Sizzler is now the prerequisite for any arrival or departure in New York, as both airports reside in the great borough of Queens.

Apparently I’m going to Brazil tomorrow. Time for Barcade!

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 14, 2009 at 7:17 pm, filed under New York, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.


I’m leaving for New York in ten hours.

I picked up a derelict iBook G4 yesterday that I’m bringing with me to South America, which solves my photo storage/blogging problem. I’ve spent most of this afternoon cleaning out the hard drive and installing the adobe creative suite, ftp software, and syncing all my important stuff from my desktop. It’s heavy and slow as shit, but should some conniving bastard decide to grab it from under me in Sao Paulo, I won’t miss it like I would my good computer.

I planned on simply using a calling card to occasionally call home from payphones, but am having last minute thoughts about upgrading for two months to the AT&T international plan. Can’t live without twitterfon and text messages. I guess I can always decide in New York.

I still haven’t packed.

Clothes, toiletry bag, camera, laptop, ipod, chargers for the electronics, outlet adapter, passport, international drivers license, portuguese phrase book, notebook/pens, and a novel or two. It must all fit into this.

My life for two months in 4200 cubic inches or less.

This entry has been written from, and the following photo- shot earlier in the week with the leica- was processed by the aforementioned derelict laptop, as a test of sorts. Assuming this is being read online, the test has been a success.

Great success.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

Why is There Still a Christmas Tree in My Living Room Window?

It was 52 degrees and sunny in Chicago today- quite balmy for February. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, I rode my bike downtown to the Brazilian Consulate to pick up my visa, which was actually processed in one business day instead of the advertised five. This came as a relief, as I’d been slightly nervous that my request for a tourist visa would be denied, as I hadn’t actually provided proof of onward travel from Brazil, just a printed out email stating that I have a flight to Miami from Santiago on April 8th.

I stopped at Subway on the ride back home, not because I particularly enjoy stale bread and old lunch meat, but because I had five dollars on an old gift card and a craving for banana peppers. I ate it outside in the sun, on the steps of the Eckhart Park fieldhouse. Rest assured, it’s still not good. However, no matter how bad your lunch, it’s still a win when you’re eating it outside in February.

I’m leaving for New York in the early morning hours Thursday night/ Friday morning. I was planning on driving and leaving my car in Brooklyn in the “care” of Marky S for the time I’d be gone, however this is no longer a necessary risk, as my dad has offered me a ride. What this means, besides the fact that I’ll have to alter my moderately offensive ORD-JFK soundtrack, is that I can stay out late Thursday night and not worry about driving in the morning. I figure he can handle Illinois, Indiana, and most of Ohio, and I’ll take over for the remaining half of the drive after waking up for a delicious lunch at the Chick-fil-a in Youngstown, on the Pennsylvania border. As a “thanks for driving me to New York”, I’ll probably take him out to dinner Friday night somewhere in the city, perhaps my favorite Italian spot ever on West 4th in Greenwich Village, who’s name I can never remember, despite their absolutely delectable lobster risotto.

Tonight I will create a series of lists. I suppose in some ways, writing this is a preliminary survey of said lists. I now have three days before I leave, and many things to accomplish before doing so. Much of this involves backing up my desktop, setting up an old macbook with software for editing photos and working from abroad, figuring out what I’m actually packing, packing, cleaning, and throwing away a bunch of shit. Somewhere in there I also need to be at a meeting downtown at noon on Wednesday, go to dinner at Geja’s and Juan’s party at Crocodile Tuesday night, get a haircut, drop my car off at my dad’s house, and get lunch with my mother and convince her that I’m actually going to come back eventually.

It’s supposed to be 60 and sunny tomorrow, which means that nothing important will get done until the sun goes down.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm, filed under Chicago, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

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