Monday, January 12, 2009


I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed when the weekend’s “heavy snow,” instead of piling up, as predicted, in soft pillows on the roofs and sidewalks of the city as we slept on Saturday night, turned into a steady rain that pocked and battered the thin layer of snow, and then froze it into something like lace candy, which would take hours to chip off a car come Monday morning. I clipped my toenails for this?

The good news, according to today’s Times (just seven more days till Bush’s helicopter departs Washington!), is that the City Council has introduced a bill to give parkers a “grace period.” “’When people park, they shouldn’t have to feel that there are vultures, certain agents, waiting to give them a ticket the moment they are in violation,’ said Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who sponsored the legislation” (“Seeking Grace Period for Parking Violations”). Another councilman, John C. Liu, of Queens, said that the bill was “an understandable reaction from New Yorkers who too often feel they’re being squeezed as cash cows for the city.”

Last week, on payday, this cash cow gave in and paid the reduced fee on the ticket my mechanic got. I also cashed my $400 property-tax rebate from Mayor Bloomberg, apportioning $90 for the ticket (easy come, easy go); $175 for a month’s stabling fee for the Éclair; and $135 as a gift to the Istituto de Cultura Brasilia Italia Europa, or ICBIE. I thought of applying $80 to my cleaning fee: with the cleaning lady in Peru (perhaps forever), I hired myself to clean, and started out willingly enough. On Saturday, I put on my new bedroom slippers, which have detachable dust-mop soles, and stomped out dust bunnies and swirled away cat hair. But I fell down on the job when it came time to haul out the vacuum cleaner and the wet mop. Sunday, I was inspired to damp-mop the bedroom floor, and leaning over the far side of the bed, to give the floor a preliminary swipe of the dust-mop slippers (now employed as mittens), I caught sight of my disused luggage under the bed and was blindsided by wanderlust.

Three years ago, I took a trip to Bahia in late January, early February, which, in the Southern Hemisphere, is the height of summer. I had been to Salvador at Christmas a year earlier, and my host, Pietro, had taken me into the Ciudad Alta, or high city. My first impression of Salvador was that it looked as if a bomb had hit it: there are ruins of seventeenth-century buildings surrounding a few beautifully restored pastel churches lined with gold. The rich part of the city is literally built on the backs of the poor: the Ciudad Baixa, or lower city, on the hillside below, is heaped with the huts of the poor.

I stayed in Ribeira, in the low city, on the Bay of All Saints, where the water is so shallow at low tide that you can walk out a quarter mile and still be in only up to your ankles. Beachgoing in Bahia is different from Rockaway: instead of trying to find a spot to yourself and hiding your beer from the police, you get a table at one of the many barracas that line the beach and order a big bottle of beer, which comes in a colorful beer-bottle-shaped cooler. My favorite brand was Antarctica, because it reminded me that south, here, means cold. Then you watch the parade of vendors, selling purple peanuts and cartons of hard-boiled quail eggs (considered an aphrodisiac) and queijo, or cheese-on-a-stick. Queijo vendors ignite charcoal in a homemade brazier that dangles from a set of wires, like a tea tray in Turkey, and melt cheese bars, which look like creamsicles, over the coals. Remembering this made me hungry as well as nostalgic

Somehow I got the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen clean, but the closest I got to the vacuum cleaner was when I tied a glittery Mexican Christmas-tree ornament, with an image of Frida Kahlo, to the pull chain on the closet light. The vacuum cleaner seems to belong to the cleaning lady now. I will keep it in the closet and guard it for her until her return. Meanwhile, I watched this video of Frida Kahlo by Victoria Roberts on YouTube.


erieblue said...

That was a wonderfully evocative scene of southern beaches especially since we anticipate more billows and drifts of snow here today. (I gave my extra calendar to Charles!!)

bluenose belle said...

what a voyage you take us on. there is no frigate like a blog

MJN/NYC said...

Thank you, Bluenose. I am hoping to satisfy my wanderlust this winter by writing about Bahia.