When Marcelo dropped us off at the Sambódromo, the deal was for us to call him on his cell phone when we were 30 minutes from ready to be picked up. He was gonna go home and sleep until we needed him. It was the only logistical stumbling block that could possibly mar our Carnaval experience, and it tried to loom in my psyche, but for some reason I wouldn't let it. The spectacle we were witnessing had driven pessimistic thoughts from my mind. There were two more schools left: Grande Rio and Beija-Flor. We decided to watch Grande Rio and call Marcelo when they were past us.
Our little spot with Flávia and Co. already felt like home. We were giddy with overstimulation, and the whole weirdness of it all. Two of her friends had left earlier to be samba-steppers in one of the parades prior, or the beginning of this one, but gol-durnit, I don't have a picture of their group, I don't think. Flávia may have told me when they came by, but I interpreted it as something else entirely. A lot of that goes on in the international party room, because you do a bunch of smiling and enthusiastic nodding, reading faces and intonations like a psychiatrist, but having no idea what is really being said.
Grande Rio (pronounced "Gron-jee Hee-oh") was presenting O gás do Brasil, celebrating the record-breaking natural gas deposit in Coari, part of the Amazon rainforest. They were also balancing this excitement about the energy source with environmental cautions. So we're talking energy with a conscience. It seems that the majority of Brazilians in the Samba line of work are very eco-aware. Portéla, another of the old, revered schools, dedicated their entire theme to nature and the dangers humans present to themselves through our negligence and greed.
Right out of the chute they were scientific looking and primitive at the same time. The first display was an incredible spinning dance performed by Icarus-like characters in and out of geodesic dome frames. Inside, the winged men were whirling like motorcycle hell drivers at the fair. The fluid movement of the guys flying around inside coupled with the outside movement of the bird men was perfectly choreographed, yet as wild and random-looking as nature itself.
Anything on a curvy track has always mesmerized me, and this was like watching a kaleidoscope perform before your eyes without the annoyance of having to turn the tube.
I would imagine that these particular performers didn't do a lot of drinking beforehand.
The flag couple followed. With this shot, who would know there were people inside those fluffy green and black outfits? What happens to all these feathers when it rains? Or when some galoot steps on a hank of them in an exuberant off-sides? And, yes, the first thing I wondered about what how sweat resistant these suits were.
There was a couple sitting in front of us who weren't Brazilians, but weren't Americans, either. The wife had blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a California tennis-bracelet-wearing look about her. The husband was older, balder and goofier looking. The entire time we were enjoying the parades, this woman, wearing a translucent raincoat like a condom, would scowl and jerk her coat and body violently to herself when any slight movement or molecule dared to invade her space. Don't think we all weren't inadvertently guilty at one time or another during the night, and imagine her horror when we descended on the row at the beginning. Jean and I got a charge out of watching her refuse to be bowled over by the excess, and refuse to stand up much of the time. We finally got clued in to the fact that they were on a cruise ship when they pulled out big folders with a picture of a boat on them and left suddenly. But not before the woman flashed all of us the tiniest of smiles. That blew my mind more than anything. Not that she missed Grande Rio's first hottie coming on the scene.
I say "hottie," but Flávia told me she was an older star in Brazil. I'm kind of picturing Ann Miller or Carol Channing here, maybe. She obviously had an inflated sense of self importance, because on our way out, we saw her with bodyguards holding hands in a ring around her, but not an iota of interest from anybody in the vicinity.
In the picture, she almost looks like she's imploring the crowd to love her. Bless her heart.
The gyroscopic orgy was not over yet. The first float was led by a flock of silver Icarus-men and featured more twirling people and enough blinding color and glow to get the point across. With the feathered riders thrown in, it became a fascinating clash of primitive, scientific, and mythical.
Look at old silver boy above, and imagine all of these gyroscopes filled with crazily rotating doppelgängers. Woo! And look who they brought along to keep the science nerds from going completely off the deep end!
Their next solo star was something to see. She looked like a cross between Lola Falana and Whitney Houston, but blew both of them away with what SHE was layin' down out there.
Grande Rio was hitting me from all sides. The behemoth following this lady was chock full of dinosaurs with people hidden all around them. Next to things on tracks, dinosaurs tickle my fancy like nothing else, and have ever since I can remember. It's quite interesting how Carnaval seemed to almost taunt me personally with so many themes of love and loathing from my childhood that have been burned into my psyche.
I'm glad there were no clowns.
Back again to the parade! I guess I don't need to mention the connection between dinosaurs and energy.