Rainy-day Rio from above
  • Rainy-day Rio from above

I picked the wrong year to stop sniffing glue – but of that, later.

The following post makes me vulnerable A) because I'm not given to beauty salons anywhere, and B) you'd never find it in the rough and ruddy corners of a tattered OTGT (Off the Gringo Trail) travel guide:

Early this month we found ourselves on a rainy, beach-mud day in Ipanema (yes, rainy days happen everywhere). The view of the Corcavado and the mist pouring over the Two Brothers into the coastal favelas was haunting, but we were looking for diversion indoors. My sister-in-law (Ali) decided she'd get a Brazilian blow-out, and we offered to find some low-cost beauty parlor.

Rio salon

My brother Jeffrey and I got haircuts to sweeten up the hairdressers; my wife and sister-in-law got manicures/pedicures. The lady before us was getting a hair treatment, a manicure and a pedicure, hemmed in by a pit crew of beauty technicians.

While we were waiting for the progressivo (blow-out) to begin, I went to the local market and bought pizza, sodas, chips and chocolate. The owner of the coiffeure gave us forks, knives, plates and we feasted in a formaldahyde-accented chemical swirl, on chairs with tables outfitted for manicures.

Yes, I felt a little high. But I think part of the pure joy that followed was doing something so counterintuitive. What business did I, a gringo tourist, have doing in a ladies salon in the back alleys of Ipanema. I began trying to tell jokes in stutter-stuck Portuguese.

Suddenly the atmosphere changed, and we were having a urban crosscultural alchemy of half-meanings, loud laughs, and lots of chemicals. We were all elevated in a moment of collective consciousness. We left, drenched in acetone, happy as hippie-clams, even though I'd already broken my first New Year's resolution (see first sentence).

My sister-in-law had long, sun-kissed and perfectly straight hair. We all had goofy smiles, and went to Ipanema and slept on the beach.

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