Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lunch with Eneida

Both Eneida and me had tried to make plans together almost from the moment we had arrived. She is one of the dearest friend of my mentor Danny. Unfortunately, often our schedules and our minor personal health issues got in the way. When I called her to apologize for missing the opening at Goethe House she revealed that she had had to cancel as well. Instead, she suggested that we come for lunch on Friday. Danny had raved about her home in a way that portended envy at our getting a taste of his favorite spot in town. His home away from home. Eneida is an architect, so it sounded like a good treat. That morning we bought some flowers. Curiously, I quickly found the flower shop-fine home entertaining accessories store near our apartment yet most of the flowers were silk. One small vase held lilies, a few roses and African daisies.
Observing habits, I always notice that even if there is a cash register and a sale is rung through it, the cashier writes the sale items and description in a ledger. As I paid for the flowers I saw that the store manager, nattily dressed, who was writing us up was the first woman I had seen with real Bling. A fat pave continuous diamond ring half as wide as one of her ring finger joints, gold bangles plain, plaited and bejeweled. What appeared to be a first quality watch. Everywhere else I had spotted a classic wedding band, occasionally a small stone, crucifixes round the neck; albeit the young studly men had their Bling crosses in what appeared to be plate or hollow chain-link big like the Hip Hop crews I knew from NYC. But, real jewelry; too easily taken-better not to risk it. Everyone had advised this strategy. This manager was the first person who asked for I.D. for credit card sales. It all runs together. Your focus becomes your life. Zeno had related how Danny had questioned him years before in Sao Paulo, "Is working only to pay your rent a justified existence?" my paraphrase. Pleasantly, the flowers came to us nicely wrapped with a raffia bow. We took them and were off to find Eneida's house.
She had suggested that we take a taxi. The driver needed to know which hill to enter to find her home. I had notes. So many of the districts are built into the hillsides that I imagine that unless you enter in the right spot on the hill you could circle through too many back streets and cul de sacs before you found your way. With a few questions to passersby, we found our way, and proceeded down a quite steep hill, her home sat in the belly of the hill. We paid, got out and approached two doors. One I could see overtop, it led down a long stair towards a lower floor in shadow. Thus, I chose to ring the bell of the door to its right. She came to greet us a moment later with a smirk and a curious laugh. Before I could assess her mood we were struck by the room, the light and the jungle outside. She was enraptured by the flowers. We all got fed. The main floor was shaped like a T with one flank extending into the kitchen and the other to a terrace overlooking a river with overgrown tropical plants and trees along either bank. The stone floors, wood and plaster walls gave way to a deep tropical forest, enlivened by many birds singing to each other. We both took a perch on the terrace that was bathed in light, (warm, yet northern?). I got up after a time to admire the artwork, collection of multinational percussion instruments and sculpture.All the while Eneida had been reflecting on her days since our last meeting, life, work, family. She went to the kitchen to fetch us some water. She turned to me, handing me my glass and I saw that smirk again. Hmm, before I could break it down she began an apology. On the phone I had asked if we could bring something with us for the luncheon. She had insisted that the house had a wonderful cook and that she could barely enter the kitchen to boil water. Immediately it came out that the cook had needed to go to the doctor and had let her know shortly before our arrival. With a little resignation, she said that If we were willing to try, she had several things to combine into a pleasant meal. Fine to me, Michele agreed.
With that settled we got the nickel tour. Three floors all magical. The middle floor had two bedrooms whose windows were framed by the soft mossy green reflected light of all those plants and trees. I saw that she needed mosquito netting for her bed, so I guess that is the price paid for this lush aura. A lovely intimate dressing area was on the far wall. Hinged antique wooden window shutters added character to the second bedroom; she had found them for $10 reals. There was a smart bathroom with muted tile and stone fixtures. We exited to the external stair that I had seen when we arrived so that we could reach the bottom floor. Here below the sleeping and bathing areas was a wonderful studio with two large bay windows that looked out at the base of the trees and showed the river too. The windows had no glass or screen. Something I began to notice as I was invited into other homes. The windows were framed by beams 24 inches wide. I realized then that this was not a place of serious storms. When I asked Eneida, she laughed, "Honey you are in the Tropics!" We met one of her partners, who was busy working on their current building project. We shared some cashews while Eneida pulled out some of her etchings. It was heavenly. Would I love this spot...hmmm. She needed to move, it could be arranged. Yowie. If only.
We returned to the main floor and ate some freshly made Bolinhos de Bacalhau that her buddy Roberto had fixed earlier. Then we delved into all of the little dishes she had discussed earlier. Macarao, unctous stewed eggplant and squash, a little salad, fejiao, farofa, some chicken, and rice with pumpkin. She offered shoyu and pepper vinegar and we had at it. We laughed and talked for nearly an hour looking at more art work, and getting to meet Roberto as he came and left. As we were leaving I asked her for the name of an acupuncturist since I still felt poorly and by now allergies caused Michele's nose to become a river and her sneezes like gale force winds. We left soon afterwards, she had arranged for a taxi to come get us. We went back to Barra to get monies and sought out the acupuncturist to cure our ills.

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