Rio Sweet Rio / September 2016
Yours Truly in a Swamp
~ hell, his hometown is Springfield,
"Land of Lincoln" Illinois ~
and handsome as a speckled pup, Ryan Held
left the 2016 Rio Olympics wearing Gold.
Three years aboard a U.S. flagged ship
and in a little apartment on Rua Peru,
a few blocks off Copacabana Beach.
* * *
I stayed glued to the tv during the Olympics,
as cyclists careened down mountains and cameras panned the statue of
Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado,
where often in yesteryear we tippled with friends at the bar under the big toe of Jesus.
Ah sigh ~ to be again in that beautiful city,
spirited and broken so like New Orleans.
It was there I met Chilean dictator and torturer-n-chief, Augusto Pinochet
~ more about that in a minute.
They made us one with them.
Gotts off Mount Olympus who healed our old worn heart.
with Caeleb Dressel, Nathan Adrian, and Michael Phelps, most decorated Olympian ever!
Standing on the Medals Podium they looked sculpted,
with lines graceful as sailing ships.
of joy and tears.
Humans touching The Mountain,
as we watched.
Rio sweet Rio,
thank you for the political boondoggle and shameful profiteering
that was the Olympic Games of 2016.
Maybe the Games have always been organized
by corrupted men ~ feigning greatness but with hearts beating
far, far below Olympus.
while our hearts hang-glided with true Gotts in Ipanema, and on the Mount Olympus of the mind.
Back to Earthly profiteering and boondoggling.
I had arrived at Hotel Sol Ipanema two weeks earlier, with a belly full of whisky and a bleary eye.
Our plane came down through the clouds over the city of Brasília ~ Viewed from above the new capital city resembles a butterfly, some say. Others say it looks more like an air-craft carrier.
L. A. Norma says, "One might deduce your political inclinations from which you see."
Brasília is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Planned and developed in 1956. Lúcio Costa was principal urban planner; Roberto Burle Marx landscape designer, and the great Oscar Niemeyer the principal architect.
Oscar Niemeyer was one of the 20th Century's soaring young architects. Brasília gave him wings. He died in 2012, at 104. He had been blocked from entering the United States to teach at Harvard because of Communist Party membership. (After fighting World War Two to save the U. S. S. R., the U. S. A.'s state religion became anti-Communism, and its zealots greatly feared Commies going to Harvard).
Greeting me at Rio's Aeroporto Galeao was an aide to the United States Cultural Attache. He carried a small, white box with a red silk ribbon that I presumed was for me. But let us face it, I was drunk. He placed me and the box in the rear seat of a large, white Chevrolet, where the box remained when he departed.
It was early morning when my plane reached Rio. The Ambassador and the rest of his staff still slept in their jungle apartments in Brasília. The Cultural Attache was doing likewise somewhere in giant Rio. I stood beside his aide, with my eyes twirling before the front desk of the Sol Ipanema.
The aide explained to the desk clerk, "Mr. Johnson is more important than he looks."
|Casa de Cultura Laura Alvim, on the beach at Impanema|
The exhibition was titled "Bourbon Street and The Sea." It was inspired by New Orleans photographer, John Ernest Joseph Bellocq (1873 ~ 1949), who immortalized the ladies of Storyville. My exhibition consisted of portraits of male street hustlers in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and merchant sailors around the world.
"America's foreign policy is a baffling beast," Norma says giggling, when this story comes up in conversation.
The exhibition went well, and at the reception afterwards I asked American Airlines' South American Manager if he might bump me up to first class on my return flight.
The aide to the cultural attache said later, "They don't even do that for us."
The South American manager suggested I come see him the next week at his downtown offices near the Old Opera House.
I had already asked the embassy for an advance on my State Department stipend. With it I paid for an extended stay at the Sol.
|View from the Sol|
Next morning, Ipanema's beaches drew the song-praised "young and sweet / pure and gentle," dressed so revealingly! As young and sweet should.
Me? I was amply hungover and of a girth not given to bodily revelations. Like the song says, I walked on with a sigh. Cloaked in what Brazilians would see as more like a burka on the beach than proper Seaside attire. I was at ground zero for
Bossa Nova and the Girl from Ipanema, the Veloso Bar. Sipping Wild Turkey, while wearing snowflake-looking, tie-dyed navy and gray boxer-baggy trunks with a matching hip length beach jacket. This outfit had been sewn for me especially for the trip by Shirley Jensen, a late New Orleans matron with needlework famous in her day.
On the day I met Pinochet I was so dressed.
I had walked from my hotel along the beach to a large neighboring resort, the Caesar Park, to take coffee and the afternoon newspapers from Miami.
In front of Caesar Park this afternoon were several large German cars and one large, lone, white Chevrolet. I glanced in the Chevrolet half expecting to see my lost red-ribboned white box, and met the glare of several large men wearing dark suits and glasses. No white box was seen.
Inside the hotel,
the lobby rumbled with similarly dark suited men, assorted reporters, and cameras with portable lights. I caught the eye of a woman who had interviewed me for Brazil's O Globo TV.
I wore that beach coat for her interview, over a white shirt and tie. It looked rather like an Armani design, I thought. My coat looked "terrific," she had told me. Head swelling, I agreed telling her I had bought it in Lisbon (always a good lily-gilder in Brazil).
I asked, "What is going on?"
"We are following Augusto Pinochet on a jewelry buying stopover before flying off to South Africa for arms shopping."
Lights and cameras came alive in front of me and by my side stood Augusto Pinochet wearing a double-breasted pin striped suit. He looked neither large nor menacing. He looked like any Latin businessman. He looked at me, and neither smiled nor spoke.
Generalissimo, spoken by itself being known throughout the post World War Two worlds of that day as the title for Spain's famed military dictator, Francisco Franco. I had read it was a comparison Pinochet liked.
He smiled and moved on. The crowed followed him.
A waiter in starched whites brought over a cup of black coffee and the Miami Herald.
Late the next morning I went to see the manager of American Airlines' South American interests. His secretary led me in and brought us black coffee and a bottle of Wild Turkey.
On a large Amazon-mahogany desk sat a small television with a built-in Video Cassette Recorder. On the screen was Pinochet looking at me in the lobby of the Caesar Park. A voice-over, roughly translated, was saying, "Pinochet in civilian clothing and visiting North American photographer, Leonardo Arl Johnson, wearing a 'Lisbon coat,' meet in the lobby of ..."
On the flight home I sat in first class flanked by deluxe food carts, wine, whiskey and a white box wrapped in a red silk ribbon. Inside were expensive chocolates molded like propellers and other airplane parts.
Hang Gliding, Rio
Leonard Earl Johnson
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