Saturday, October 30, 2004

M11 Her Name Is Rio

A Report from Rio...

I arrived in Rio on a Friday night after a week trapped in meetings in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was thrilled to be going to Brazil for work but SP reminded me more of a Mexico City-sized Arlington, Virginia than the Brazil of my imagination.

The closest I ever got to Brazil before last night was the Grille From Impanema Restaurant on Columbia Road NW in Washington, DC. I was so excited on the 12-hour overnight flight from Mexico City down here I couldn’t sleep until I got to my meetings.

When I arrived, I decided to take a stroll along the beach in the Copacabana section of Rio. When I was a kid, I thought Copacabana was “Cocacabana” (for the coconuts) and that it was in Havana, not Rio. I expected Lola, beauty and glamour.

On the beach, the sounds of the waves are drowned out by sounds of automobile traffic. As I made my way down the boardwalk, I decided to stop at a club, “Help” which was listed in my Lonely Planet Guide as the largest discothèque in Latin America. Cool.

Any time I see or hear that word by itself, I automatically think of the following lines in the Beatles song “…I need somebody”.

Just outside it was teaming with beautiful women outnumbering men 7 to 1. The club appeared to be a factory for couples: only singles went in and only couples came out.

I decided to go in to help myself to the music. If you believe that you believe I read playboy for its literary value. I was curious in a prurient kind of way.

Inside, the women all seemed to be checking me out. Now, I’d like to say that I can’t blame them, but there was something strange about this particular sort of attention. Inside, most of the men were dead-ringers for my mind’s image of sex tourists; north of middle aged, fat, gray and balding. The kind of dudes that would be roaming about in trench coats and shorts if we weren’t in the tropics.

Then, I had a sudden realization; these were not ordinary everyday club going Brazilian women and men.

I was surrounded by a club-full of hookers and their prospective Johns. Blonde hookers. Brunette hookers. Redheaded hookers. Slutty looking hookers. Innocent looking hookers. Fat hookers. Thin hookers. Black hookers. White hookers. Beautiful hookers. Ugly hookers. Hooker-looking hookers. Non-hooker looking hookers.

Truth be told, they were probably not all hookers. Or maybe there were. It was hard to tell. The club artfully blurred that line. What a concept. Instead baring the stigma of going to a brothel or strip bar, a John simply goes to this “disco” where it just so happens that there are 7 women for every man. Then a he “meets” a woman and takes it from there. I decided to leave and steer clear of discothèques.

“Help” is a place where you need no help if you need somebody.

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