Amazon Via Acre

I Know Why the
Vultures Laughed

We were all set, strapped onto metal seats when the captain announced: everybody out, we got stuck. After two days flying, and two flawless landings, only the Guajará Mirim ‘runaway’ mud to stop our fearless DC-3 on its tracks. Everyone got dirty pushing the plane.
On the sideways, Native Brazilian Indians laughed out loud. It was not their first time having a blast with visitors, but I never went back for seconds. Once we took off, my mind was racing towards the Acre State, where I’d spend three months with my friend Tonho and his family.
We got to know a stretch of the majestic Amazon Rainforest, three times as big then as it is now. I flew for free as a military officer’s son, aboard a Douglas from the National Air Mail. Tonho left Rio three days later, on a commercial flight, but we got to Rio Branco together.
My place was next to piles of letters and parcels, as DC-3s were still being used on regular post routes within Brazil. No complaints; I didn’t know then, but it turned out to be one of the greatest trips of my life, a real miracle, as I hadn’t a cent to my name but was treated like a king.
On the way, I’ve spent a night in Porto Velho, whose downtown area on that rainy winter of 1973, was occupied by a huge gypsy camp. I had already realized that I was visiting another country, but I felt even more foreigner having a hard time understanding them. Pure prejudice made me wary of the Roma and not to ask for directions.

Brazil’s vast distances and geographical north-south set up has a lot to do with the radical differences among its regions. Getting to the northwest, wild and racially mixed, coming from the south, urban and white European is like a kick in the ass. You get on all your fours and it’s better to take your time getting up again.
Things seemed so odd, that the first thing the two teenagers got was cough medicine, which used to be unwittingly loaded with codeine. We were not into alcohol, and weed was rarer than snow, so pharma high was our tour guide exploring the sights and city blocks.
By far, the two kinds of weather within a single day were our main source of amusement. The whole city life revolved around things happening before and after the rain. Dawn would break already in the 80s and while the thermometer would rise with the sun, sweat would drench us. Suddenly, all would change.
At just a few degrees shy of the 100s, the sky would turn and a monsoon of biblical proportions would come down, all thunder and flood. It’d last less than an hour, though, and then, it’d be gone. Clouds would get quickly driven away and the sun would return to set, at the conclusion of yet another beautiful day.
Many a bottle of syrup we knocked down on our way to the movies – we may have watched the entire Sergio Leone collection, plus every one of the Zapata series – or the ‘boîte,’ where a long-haired crooner singing Roberto Carlos‘ Amada Amante, was a nightly hit. What a life.

When we headed to Xapuri, to try Ayahuasca, we had no idea who Chico Mendes was. Deforestation was all around us, piles of downed trees by the side of the road. At one point, our bus stopped: ahead of us, a tractor-trailer was fully submerged in a small lagoon. Only the top of the cabin was out of the water.
We got to Brasiléia late at night and rented a room in the back of a rest stop. There was no power and we were intrigued when the owner’s son handed us a little fumigator, loaded with kerosene. It didn’t take long to know why: bugs were big as mice and would fly around. We almost suffocated to death, trying to keep them away.
We woke up early, sweaty and nearly deaf. The heat was expected, but what was that loud noise, as if someone was scratching our zinc rooftop with metal nails. Zeeeep, zeeeep, zeeeep, one after another. (more)
Read Also:
* Chico Mendes
* Amazing Zone
* Rainforest Rundown

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Curtain Raiser

This Ship’s About to Sail, Colltalers

‘The U.S. President issued a stern warning to China not to use military force to curb protests in Hong Kong. In other news, the president called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to express worldwide concerns about that country’s nuclear program.’
These headlines, which may have flashed in some alternate universe, are made up, but reports of microplastics raining over the U.S. are scaringly real. What links these issues, however, is authoritarianism as it rises in the U.S. and links us to those regimes.
Holding that thought, let’s scan for other news. Starting by the terrorist attack in Kabul, which killed 63 wedding guests. It’s been claimed by Daesh, a.k.a. Isis, not the Taliban with which the administration expects to draw an Afghanistan withdrawal accord.
The new tragedy poses the disturbing prospect that, after the U.S. supposedly leaves the country, the Taliban will again invite the caliphate to rebuild its pre-2003 ruthless, terrorist-training theocratic regime. This time, with the extra advertising prop of a war-ravaged land. The American legacy won’t be of noble efforts to democratize Afghanistan, just the savagery of a useless conflict.
Also within this cycle, the world saw astonishingly what it’s like for a nation to be ruled by a power-hungry leader, staking his political future in a foreign would-be despot: Israel’s P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu’s abided by the U.S. president’s demand to stop U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both Muslims Democrats, from entering the country to visit the Gaza Strip.
Tlaib wanted to see her 90-year-old Palestinian grandmother but obviously also to be there to express critical views of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. In other words, besides having a potentially final reunion with her relative, she and Omar were going there to do their job, which is expected by their constituencies. Ultimately, the ban was lifted but Tlaib gave up on the trip.
There’s no other way to put it, it was Israel’s lamest hour. It may have also deeply embarrassed Israelis who can’t be Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Lowering World Expectations, Colltalers

Don’t come to America if you don’t want to get shot. That’s what Amnesty International’s travel advisory means by ‘be extra vigilant’ when traveling to the U.S. Given this country’s 250 mass shootings so far in 2019, the human rights group has a point.
The fair warning came out just as an estimated 400 million people marked the historical significance of Aug. 9. Friday was the World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, and also the five years since an unarmed Michael Brown was killed by a cop in Ferguson, MO.
This August, which got off according to the script of being the month of ‘mad dogs,’ has also another landmark to give it some perspective: the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, a moment in cultural time that has proven surprisingly hard to even celebrate.
For those who lived through it, and actually believed that those ‘three days of love and peace’ were the beginning of something new, there’s now the realization that it exists only as a fantasy, a collective memory barely tettered in reality. On the other hand, it was indeed a moment of transcendence, and because it’s been virtually impossible to reenact, it remains unspoiled and fresh.
Many times people have gathered by the thousands since, under the banner of music, love, and peace, or most commonly these days, to rally for rage, hate, and war. No event has reminded anyone, though, that half-century ago it was possible for thousands of strangers to spent time together in the open, through rain, mud, and no basic sanitation, without a single incident of violence.
It was the 1960s ‘dream’ of living in harmony with nature and each other, now dismissed as a vain utopia. World leaders, and people over 30, were not to be trusted, make love not war and all that, plus the sheer belief that human kindness knows no limits.
Regardless of how or why humanity got so helplessly sidetracked, however, that same dream was as far from reality then as it is today. If anything, we’re now forcibly closer to realize it, Continue reading


When the End (of Summer)
Is All But Nigh, Improvise!

The sinking feeling is happening more often now. As soon as August hits, while some press on to finish the prep work for a memorable vacation, the rest of us is left to deal with the possibility, ever more concrete, that we’re not going anywhere. Now, now, cheer up, though.
Think how you’ll be spared of crowded airports, cesspool-suffused hotel rooms, displays of raw rage, from fellow flyers and underpaid airline staff, and those walks by the water’s edge start to feel pretty satisfying. Go ahead, have another sip of your lemon-wedged iced water.
Considering just such a possibility – and we’re not saying that you’re definitely out of luck – we raided our files for some encouraging season-appropriate stories. You know, to go along with the exquisite shots you took at the neighbor’s B-B-Q, or the sunset at the local park.
So here are three posts and a travelogue. They’re chockfull of tips for the weary tripper; unusual (and cheap) destinations; dos and don’ts for a seasonal pro such as yourself; and a few commute shots to help you prove to everyone how overrated vacations really are.
To take time off is a state of mind, a magical space you pry open and occupy free of thoughts, to reach deep relaxation and strength, and renew every fiber of your being. There’s no need to go anywhere. Not really, but we thought it’d be nice to end this post on that kind of note.
* Checking In
* Skim Vacations
* No Way Vacay
* Train of Moths


(*) Originally published on Aug. 2, 2017.

Curtain Raiser

Make America Grieve No More, Colltalers

It’s mourning in America, yet again: two massacres in Texas and Ohio added 30 more to the 979 people already killed this year in mass shootings. Thus we ask again: will Congress break its recess and pass urgent gun control legislation? Unlikely.
Meanwhile, the world pays annually $307 billion subsidies to the coal, oil, and gas industries so they can keep on wrecking the planet. Yet only a fraction of that could fund a global transition to renewables, according to a new report. Bothered? Not them.
We’ll get to those issues in a few, but let’s briefly check on Brazil’s political turmoil, ignited in part by President Bolsonaro’s just over seven months of multiple mishaps. For instance, his indication of son Eduardo to be the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S.
The move, which needs Senate approval, was greeted by almost universal incredulity. Not just for the house representative’s lack of diplomatic skills, but also for him to have become the butt of jokes in Brazil after his Fox News interview. It turns out, the candidate to one of the top diplomatic jobs in the world can barely speak English, and clips from his language lapses went viral.
Daddy easily topped that, however, when he bragged last week that he knew what happened to Fernando Santa Cruz, an activist who disappeared during the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. The cruel remark was directed at his political foe, and Santa Cruz’s son, Felipe, president of Brazil’s Bar Association, who supported Adélio Bispo da Cruz’s acquittal.
Cruz, an acquaintance of the Bolsonaro family, stabbed him during a campaign rally. But his case was riddled with suspicion and as the president insisted on his conviction, Brazilians were reminded that the attack propelled Bolsonaro at the polls, preventing him from potentially damaging debates. As for the Armed Forces, it officially does not know the fate of its political enemies.
But the most deleterious diatribe by far-right Bolsonaro is how he’s fulfilling a sinister campaign promise made to his backers to open up the Amazon Rainforest to the fossil-fuel industry. Continue reading

Invisible Hands

Lives in the Background
Keep The City Lights On

Billions believe and worship a cast of invisible beings. Yet those who can save the day have no prayer of being seen by us. They walk miles collecting empty, 5¢ cans for recycling, while we just walk. Cities can’t live without their hands, and yet cast their humanity aside. 
Can collector is a thankless gig, for sure; yet, it’s among the most valuable. Here are three composites, who do it daily, hell or high water, the closer one may get from their stories short of taking their place. Here’s Shi, 68; Simón, 21; and Bobby, 40-ish. (Not their real data).
Recycling has been a survival tool for many species; to discard, instead, it’s our motto and we flaunt it like a birthright. We’re the toss-away kind until the time will come to get dumped into the pile too. Robots? We’ve already operating under an automated central.
Throwaway gizmos; we’ve created A.I. to skip the reusing stage. But there’s no more room for our rubbish, no matter how delirious is our faith. Some never knew another way but to live for loving others; they’re all in for the greater good. Others, for a bigger temple.
A lifetime of scarcity-turned-into-commodity, free for the taking, poises choices. Living along millions, indulging in what we had no part making it possible, are two. But someone in the background may be busy turning our garbage into something else: the future.

Shi is the member every family should have, a professional tracker of discarded containers. An ancient stand-in for those she’s lost, according to her Chinese name. One may only guess when she’s become our helping hands; her Disco 77 brand sneakers proves nothing.
Simón is a force of nature to his 13 relatives. They all live in a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, and some get up with him every day at 4:15am. His run now includes some 54 blocks lined up with plastic bags and without him, 215 or so daily cans will wind up at a landfill.

Bobby is the silent traveler whose blackness gives itself away on a soul-infused voice; his is a killer version of ‘Get On Up.’ That’s all (more)
Read Also:
* Last Call
* Spoiled Leftovers
* Rubbish Wednesday

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Curtain Raiser

Tears in the Rainforest, Colltalers

A desperate appeal was issued on behalf of the Waiãpi, an indigenous community of Amapá, Brazil. Miners have invaded their land over the weekend and killed two of its chiefs. Jawaruwa Waiãpi blamed President Bolsonaro and promised to retaliate.
‘We know what’s happening and what needs to be done.’ Excerpt from the scientists-penned Letter to the Future at a memorial to Okjökull, a.k.a. Ok, Iceland’s first glacier lost to climate change. Yes, it’s heartbreaking and others may follow it soon if we allow it.
Such an eloquent call for urgent action was in sharp contrast to the U.S. president’s viciously racist attack on Elijah Cummings, a black Representative from Maryland. It was vile, just as his previous public insults directed at The Squad. A new low? Hardly.
Fact is, while campaigning for reelection, Trump is casting the darkest, most intolerant and retrograde forces of society, so more is to be expected. At each new slur, slightly more deleterious than the one before, his racism is being normalized. If we allow it.
For too large a swath of Americans haven’t yet realized what’s coming up, with each new frightening rally of his. The roar of hate chanting and idolatry towards him is the glue that sustains his presidency. Sadly, many in his constituency – which is by far the one that depends the most on the welfare system – will soon pay the price for their support. But we won’t say, ‘I told you so.’
As for news from the border trenches, here’s a quick housekeeping tip: there must be constant reminders that the horror show is still on and each new horrifying development is worth noticing. Every American must be fully aware that what’s being done Continue reading