After Germany’s ungentlemanly thrashing of Brazil, 7-1, during the World Cup, I thought I’d share in my adopted homeland’s grief with a little of my favorite melancholy music: seven songs for seven goals. Some of the songs are about love lost and found. One laments accusations of selling out, while another praises the magic of fairies (or lovers). Still others wax melodic about the Marvelous City or the beautiful country in its entirety. All embody, in one way or another, the bittersweet nostalgia Brazilians call saudade, the poignant yearning that comes with losses real, imagined, or inevitable. I mourn this loss with you, meu Brasil, with the intoxicating aural cocktail of happiness within sadness that you mix up so well.
By now, it should be no secret that Fly Brother is an aviation geek, particularly when it comes to airports and airlines. Even as a kid, I collected Wooster snap-fit model airplanes, memorized airport codes, read the OAG, designed my own mega-airport in the mold of Hartsfield-Jackson (only with more runways, more concourses, and serviced by every major airline on the planet), and created my own version of Monopoly in which players snapped up hub airports in lieu of streets.
Now that I actually work out on the ramp, stacking bags and voguing with glowsticks and whatnot, I can’t help but watch these videos and pay attention to the littlest details, like the baggage carts whirling around the planes and the tiny but powerful tractors that push the planes back from the gates. Here are a few of my favorite time lapse airport operations videos (and a stunning computer-generated map of air traffic flow over northwestern Europe). The music on the Paris vid is particularly fly. Enjoy!
In 1956, New York college student Patricia Banks counted herself among the first cadre of young black women to finish flight attendant training school. Sadly, like those other young women, she found it possible to gain employment with any of the major airlines, unlike her white classmates.
“…one of the chief hostesses from Capital [Airlines]…she saw me…she said, ‘Pat, I can’t see you go through this anymore.’ She said, ‘The airline does not hire Negroes.'” “It really never came to me that New York was just as racist as the South. I grew up when the South was having such terrible problems, but I had a thing inside of me…this just can’t be, not in New York!” “It was emotionally upsetting.” “But then I vowed, ok…you’re not gonna do this to us. I’m not gonna let you do this. And I decided that I was going to go with it all the way. I don’t care how long it took. And whether it was me that got hired, or somebody else, somebody was going to get hired.”
Ms. Banks sued, and in 1960, the New York State Commission against Discrimination ordered Capital Airlines (which merged with United a year later) to hire her, two years after Mohawk Airlines hired Ruth Carol Taylor as the first black flight attendant. But she knew that while the legal fight may have been over, the internal struggle was just beginning.
“I was very, very excited, very happy about it, but I also knew that it was going to be a challenge. … Because here I was, this black woman on this magnificent airline traveling all through the South, so I had to be … perfect. … I knew if I made any mistakes, they would be magnified and I would ruin the chance for other black people.”
São Paulo and I were together for two years. She was high-maintenance from the start; this, I knew going in. She would order the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes flirt with other guys, and make me pay dearly whenever I didn’t call at the exact time I said I would. She knew her worth and she played with my heart, but I knew deep down, she loved me: when we were in sync, when our energies mixed and we danced and played and reveled in each others’ company, we knew we had a good thing going. I won’t lie; the sex was volcanic. And be it in her brand new Mustang or her little red Corvette, we rode fast and wild, and I would always end up broke, spent, and sprung – she was The One.
But I couldn’t afford her and, one day, she let me go. And I was bitter for a while, heartbroken and rejected.
The next time we saw each other, a few weeks later, she welcomed me back to dance and play and revel. Over a cafezinho at Bella Paulista one Sunday morning, she looked at me and admitted that every once in a while, she envied what Berlin and I have because we were marrying for love. But in the very next moment, when I asked her to marry me, she just stared out the window and said nothing.
I paid for our coffees and we walked out into the bright sun, our feet hurting from the previous night’s debauchery and still a little lightheaded from the party favors. She kissed me deeply and passionately before getting into her car with a tchau, disconnecting and leaving me with only three reais to catch the bus home.
I see her less frequently these days, though our rendezvous are no less intense. Neither one of us has brought up the m-word again, especially since we’re each married to someone else.
But what if…?
My friend and São Paulo-native Rodrigo Pitta loves that damn place so much, he’s filmed three music videos in his hometown. Here’s the newest. I’m already booking my flight back down to see her.
Sometimes a city, a state, a country just moves you to sing a song in its honor. And some songs – and singers – are better than others. These soulfully chill paeans to places near and far help transport you when you can’t get there quick enough. Enjoy.
Chaka Khan – “A Night in Tunisia”
Fania All Stars – “Isla del Encanto” (That’d be Puerto Rico, Isle of Enchantment.)
Tom Browne – “Funkin’ for Jamaica”
Cesaria Evora – “São Vicente di Longe” (One of the isles of Cape Verde)
In Brazil, “the delineation between black and white is blurred, with the overwhelming majority somewhere in the middle. But white remains the color of aspiration, and black the color of a history that some would prefer to forget.”
In continued recognition of Black Consciousness Month in Brazil, I’d like you to take a quick 45 minutes of your time to watch this eye-opening and well-produced BBC documentary released in 2000 called Brazil: An Inconvenient History. In it, the narrator and featured scholars discuss in painful detail the destruction of the indigenous population, the unmitigated brutality of Portuguese slave owners, the forced concubinage of indigenous and African women, the complicity of the Catholic church, and the reasons why African culture is much more palpable in Brazil than in other New World slave-based societies like the United States.
It’s well-known that Brazil was the last major slave-holding country to officially abolish the institution, granting its remaining slaves freedom in 1888 without any further assistance to become a productive part of society such as the Freedmen’s Bureau in the US. Keep in mind that my mother’s grandmother would have been born a slave in Brazil, and we’re talking a decade after Karl Benz (yes, that Benz) invented the damn modern automobile engine!
What does slavery have to do with modern Brazil, if it ended “so long ago?”
“The legacy of slavery to modern Brazil is huge: the racial inequality, the fact that the majority of blacks are poor, that they are not as well-educated as whites. But you also have positive results as well. Not of slavery itself but of the slaves, in terms of the music, in terms of the religion, made Brazilian culture much richer than it would have been without the presence of Africans in Brazil.”
“The heady mix of music, religion, dance, and sport can sometimes blur the less-appealing legacy of slavery: homelessness, street children, unemployment. A country built on sugar has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many…Brazil still looks like a colonial society…[it’s] the world leader in inequality.”
‘Tis the season for chilly, grey, rainy weather across much of the Northern Hemisphere, and as a Florida boy, I’m ill-equipped to handle too much gloom for the next few months. Music, however, can often make an uncomfortable experience much bearable, and these icy little numbers—at turns melancholy, ethereal, moody, blue—allow me to embrace the cold, where ever I may be (and yes, it can get chilly in Brazil, too). That said, here’s hoping for an early spring!
Shot in and around the vast, gritty warrens of downtown São Paulo—also known as Sampa—the short but thrilling Samparkour takes viewers through the heart of one of the world’s largest cities by way of parkour, an extreme sport that is at turns skillful acrobatics and dumb luck. Much of the action takes place in my old neck of the woods, reminding me of how much I actually love this grimy, exhilarating concrete jungle. Make sure your shoes are laced up tight before trying this at home: