David Arioch – Jornalismo Cultural

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Archive for the ‘Childhood’ tag

Children of the White Gold Cinema

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I saw the tears streaming down his face, wetting his plaid shirt buttoned up at the point of his neck

The White Gold Cinema, one of the great entertainment points of the population of Paranavaí (Archive: Osvaldo Del Grossi)

I am not part of a generation that has the strongest and clearest memories of the White Gold Cinema, one of the great entertainment points of the population of Paranavaí, in the Northwest of Paraná, until 1993. When the cinema was closed, I was still a child. Despite this, I went to the Gold Cinema for a few years of my childhood, and I have fond memories of that time.

My first time at the movies was a session of “The Bumbling Heroes – An Adventure in the Jungle”, on a weekend in 1988. By then, the biggest screen I had seen was the 21-inch TV, covered by a box of varnished wood, which was in the living room. Even so, I was happy watching cartoons on it.

As soon as my brother, my mother and I arrived in front of the White Gold Cinema, in Manoel Ribas Street, in the downtown, I paid attention to the people lined around the box office. Tiny, I watched everything in the proportionality of my stature. I saw more shoes, legs and belts than faces. Except, of course, when people were as little as I was.

Before we got inside the cinema, I walked slowly and backwards along the sidewalk, trying to observe the height of the White Gold’s building, but it was impossible for me. So, I thought that was the biggest movie theater in the world. Who knows, maybe it crossed the skies and had direct contact with the paradise they talked about in school.

The gentle popcorn seller smiled at me, noticing through my large, cylindrical black eyes that it was my movie debut. “Is it your fist time?” You’ll like it and you’ll want to come back many times”, he said, straightening a small amount of sweet pop corn, preventing it from mixing with the salty one.

Warm and smelling, the popcorn popped into the cart. For a moment, I believed, in my boyish illusion, that maybe the popcorn had a life, and wants to go to the movies to watch “The Bumbling Heroes”. By my side, prevailed a sweet aroma that pacified the most bewildering children – yes, it was an effective white-hot soothing odor.

It reminded me of the airy red tabebuia tree, that I saw every day near my house, when I pointed with my finger and shouted: “Look that sweet popcorn tree!” On the other side of the popcorn cart, the smell of popcorn changed, as well as the public. The adults, especially the men, approached and asked: “Give me the salty one, please!”

Skilled, the popcorn seller knew the exact amount of popcorn to fill every bag. I watched his grooved hands glittering in front of the small yellow lamp that glowed and gilded his wrinkled face. It was that way, whenever he leaned in or steeled himself. That was his spectacle, and at the entrance of the White Gold Cinema, nobody was more important than the popcorn seller.

On that day, before we went to the cinema, five shoeshine boys, aged between 6 and 14, approached. They leaned against a wall next to the White Gold Cinema and, as the ragamuffins boys from Buñuel’s “The Young and the Damned”, started smoking, watching families getting out of cars and crossing the sidewalk.

“If I had a father or a mother I would not be in this life, brother! Being poor and alone is not easy. No, sir! Look how much luxury those kids have”, said one of the four boys to his friends. Without a word, they just shook their heads in agreement, crushing little butts with their little feet.

Dirty, with grimy nails and the nauseating smell of cheap cigarettes, a shoeshine boy no more than 12 years old lead a group of kids. As someone hesitant about entering or leaving, he folded his arms and raised his face as one of the entrance lights highlighted his dubious expression of satisfaction

“Guys, listen up! Quickly! This movie ‘Bumbling Heroes’ is very good. There’s only one bad thing. Mussum and Zechariah die at the end. Thanks! Bye! “He shouted and ran laughing, while his dark and curly hair was fluttering. At that moment, he became an antagonist worthy of the villain Scar.

The boy dragged his shabby slippers and, with his companions, went down to Pará Street. Some children did not care about the revelation, but others were so angry that they wanted their parents to call the police or do something about it. For good, no one pursued them.

Inside the Gold White, I was stunned by the out of sight seats. “There are one thousand five hundred seats here. Look up there, it’s like an opera”, my mother told us, watching our reactions. Unhurried, we spun around the mastodontic room, trying to see all the details.

Luckily, there were vacant seats in the front row. Then, we walked there, crossing hallways and listening to the sounds of spectators eating popcorn, talking, making fun of someone and hugging each other. Near us, the usher accompanied everything with its indefectible aura of firefly. He felt like the leader of a coliseum where nothing would happen without his permission, especially when the lights went out.

As soon as I sat down, I observed a boy in mended clothes sitting next to me, accompanied by his mother. His name was Juscelino, and he was a year or two older than me. It was also his first time at the movies. I noticed his anxiety because his small feet kept swinging, as did mine.

His trembling hands sweated so much that every time he wiped them on the sides of his plaid pants. Juscelino was talking to me, keeping his face toward the disproportionate projection screen. I thought he was excited because of the movie, until I noticed something different in his eyes, a crystal clarity like I’ve never seen before. Naturally, the mother revealed that her son was born blind.

Juscelino could not see anything. Still, his excitement at White Gold Cinema surpassed even mine. The sounds and smells that came to him were like immaterial gifts, memorials. With a rare auditory and olfactory acuity, Juscelino could even see what people were doing or eating in the furthest seats- and he liked to discuss everything with me.

Son of peasants from Alto Paraná, he arrived in Paranavaí by bus in the morning, and stayed waiting for hours for the ticket office to open. His father could not participate in the big event, because the savings just barely covered the expenses of his wife and child. “It’s going to start, mom!” Said the little boy seconds before the projector started showing the movie, as if he had a gift for omens.

From beginning to end, Juscelino was completely silent, trying to absorb as much sound information as possible. Occasionally, he moved about the chair without making a sound, worried about bothering people. Juscelino, my brother and I were united by an experience that would never be repeated. Our greatest discoveries were visual, and those of Juscelino were auditory. Perhaps even richer than ours, as he put himself in the position of creator by putting forth to the creativity of everything he heard.

Still in the dark, I saw the tears streaming down his face, wetting his plaid shirt buttoned up at the point of his neck. At the end, with the return of the lights, I asked him what it was like to watch a movie at the cinema without being able to see. My mother scolded me, but Juscelino’s mother did not mind the question.

“I can not explain it right, but I see, yes, I just do not see with my eyes. I see everything I carry inside me”, he justified before taking hold of his mother’s hand and walking in short steps toward the exit. The artificial lighting contrasted and harmonized with the compliant light of the newly arrived portentous moon.

On the corner, at the intersection between Pará and Manoel Ribas Street, the five shoeshine boys, children living as adults, drummed their boxes. They were seated on the curb, immersed in false smiles and sullen stares, trying to exist for a world that scarcely recognized their true intentions.

Returning home on foot, we crossed the street. As we passed them, the same boy, who caused the commotion at the entrance to the cinema, pulled me by the arm and, with an implied look, asked “Hey, my friend. Can you tell us the story of the movie you saw there at the cinema?”


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Written by David Arioch

March 30th, 2017 at 1:28 am

The ephemeral poetry of the Ephemera

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One day, when I was a child, I asked my mother what ephemeral means. She did not answer. Two days later, we went to a stream and in the middle of the grass was a dragonfly-like insect. He moved lightly, and he had the same edacity as the water hitting rocks. His body was yellow, brown, and black, but as he swung his wings, he looked like a gleam of gold.

As it was the weekend, my mother suggested that we spend all the day in that place, watching the routine of that singular insect. Late in the afternoon, after a nap, I woke up and saw him flying toward a small tree. There, he nestled and rested. My mother and I approached a little, and saw that the specimen did not move, it seemed fragile. I thought he was dead.

My mother warned me to be calm. An hour later, the insect deposited a large amount of eggs on one of the most hidden branches, and no longer moved. The flesh simply went away. So I asked what happened. “Why did he die like this, and right now when we came here?” My mother smiled and explained that the insect was actually a female that became an adult in the morning:

Her adult life began shortly before our arrival and ended now. She exists only for others to exist. She barely feeds because time is short, and her children need to be born. That is why her name is Ephemera, and that is what ephemeral means, everything that has a short duration. A word that should always be used in reference to the gifts of communion that we do not have the privilege of enjoying because it is time to go away.

Written by David Arioch

February 7th, 2017 at 11:06 am

The boy who killed pigs

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“I really do!”, confirmed the boy, laughing and listening to my grandfather’s nephew (Photo: Copy)

When I was eight years old, we traveled to Batayporã, in Mato Grosso do Sul. There, I met other relatives of my grandfather. But on that trip, only one person caught my attention – a third cousin. He was seven years old and had reddish eyes.

On the farm, I saw him from afar, expelling some of the animals that circled the main house. They told me that he had killed pigs since he was five years old, and that he liked to eviscerate them with a dagger guarded for generations. “I really do!”, confirmed the boy, laughing and listening to my grandfather’s nephew.

Walking on the farm, I avoided being alone, and always looked around me, trying to find out if the red-eyed boy was around. I had never seen or heard of anyone who had killed a pig.

As the afternoon fell, and the sun rose low and reddish on the horizon, as well as the boy’s eyes, I learned that my parents intended to spend the night at the farm. I approached my mother and questioned her, trying to assure our departure:

“I don’t want to sleep here. If that boy kills pigs, animals that don’t do anything to him, who guarantees that he is not able to do the same with me at dawn?”

Written by David Arioch

December 19th, 2016 at 11:11 am

A deep relationship with cinema

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The Kid, American silent film comedy-drama, released in 1921 (Photo: Copy)

I have had a deep relationship with cinemas since my earliest years. When I was five years old, I was in front of the TV, next to my father. It was one of those TVs with a wooden box. I was mesmerized watching a child running and throwing stones at a windowpane, accompanied by a man with a mustache. “That was The Tramp”, my father said.

Then, I asked him: “Why is he throwing stones at the glass? The woman in the house is going to be sad. Will she have money to buy another glass? “My dad just kept laughing and told me to pay attention to the characters’ motivation and the scenario.

That’s when I understood why silent movies were silent, and why the aesthetics make so much difference, especially in art film. He was not mute only because of technological limitations, but because he instilled in the human being the ability to seek answers that could not be given in words. Children of my age loved kid movies and cartoons, me too. But not only that. I loved the films of Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

In front of them, the absence of dialogues did not exist in my noisy child mind. The sounds swirled inside me. The movies had no color, perhaps, for others, not for me who always saw light in the sky, on the ground, and even in the darkness of the characters. “There’s no color there, let’s watch Dungeons and Dragons,” my friend Fabiano said one day. I answered: “Yes, it does! But it only exists if you want it to exist. “That day we slept after watching “City Lights”, twice.

Written by David Arioch

December 19th, 2016 at 11:08 am

The goat of the mango tree

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It was as if she tried to throw her essence beyond a shaky and noisy abyss

It was as if she tried to throw her essence beyond a shaky and noisy abyss (Photo: Copy)

It was as if she tried to throw her essence beyond a shaky and noisy abyss (Photo: Copy)

I was eight years old. Henry and Rick came to call me on a Saturday to go to their house to play with a “different” animal. My mother allowed me to go, and we went down the street. Arriving there, I saw a goat, and she was so white and portentous that simply the fact that it exists seemed to be enough to convey the most enjoyable serenity.

She remained silent tied to a mango tree in the backyard, and since the first time I saw her, I noticed her melancholic tiny eyes. Some parts of her body had a lot of scars; the goat might have been hurt in escape attempts. While I was drawing my own conclusions, she got tired of standing and sat down on a portion of dried leaves, ignoring the rotting mangos messing up her fur.

Her head was moving slowly from side to side. At the same time, seven or eight people were shouting, laughing and talking. Dogs and cats were running around the yard. It was like a joke without time to finish. For fear of being scolded, I stayed in a corner watching the goat whom I called Angel – without telling anyone.

Henry’s father didn’t take his eyes off her. Between sips of beer, he approached the goat. And she remained indifferent to everything, didn’t react to subtle slaps she received, accompanied by a smile and a cliché phrase: “It’s toooodaay! Yeah!” I didn’t understand what he meant and I kept silent. When I coughed, Angel perceived I was sitting on the floor’s porch, resting my back.

In her eyes, there was an opacity that sometimes turned into a fortuitous shine. It was as if she tried to throw her essence beyond a shaky and noisy abyss. Fifteen minutes later, she closed her eyes, looked at the floor and stayed that way. I got up and walked up to her, then Henry’s father suddenly appeared and suggested that I should depart from the goat. “Go play over there, David! Don’t get near the goat!”

Sulky and startled, I went to my corner. Angel opened her eyes again. Even with dirty paws and its slightly turbid loin, in my ideas she was still the most unpolluted being in that place. I couldn’t associate Angel’s image to dirt. The countenance and everything emanating from her reinforced my opinion.

After a few minutes, a sudden breeze rustled the leaves of the mango tree. Angel rose, lifted her head skyward and felt the whiff of nature stroking her long thin beard. I had the impression of seeing her smiling while her fur swelled in their contemplative simplicity.

Once the zephyr left, the light gradually extinguished. The sun no longer shone on our heads. It was an early afternoon which seemed like an early evening. Worried, I ran to the house to help my mother to take clothes off the clothesline, believing that the rain would come soon, falling and dragging everything with rascality.

Back at Henry’s house, my legs trembled when I looked toward the mango tree. Angel had her throat cut and below it there were two buckets of blood splashing on the ground, painted red the leaves and mangos on the ground. I tried to touch her head with my hand, or at least the threads of her beard, but I was small and only could pet her legs.

I felt chills and cried when I saw her mellifluous rectangular eyes still damp. I knew she had been crying because her beard dripped transparency on my forehead. Angry, I walked to a men’s circle and asked why they killed the goat. “To eat! What a silly question!”, they responded as a chorus, making fun of my exasperation.

At night, before sleep, I knelt beside the bed, I prayed and asked God to put Angel in a good place, and do not let her wander aimlessly, because she died tragically and prematurely. In the morning, some people came to our house to offer goat’s meat, but my mom declined politely. Although angry, I didn’t say anything. Then, I was told that everyone who ate Angel’s flesh became ill.

Furthermore, four men who participated in the goat slaughter died in an accident in the same week, carrying cattle from one state to the other. Superstitious, Henry’s father never killed another animal. And I, over a month, continued with the same prayer: “God, put the friends of Henry’s father in a good place. But give priority to Angel because she died first.”

The Bookseller of Arthur Bernard Street

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From a distance, he looked like a suspicious character out of one of the Charles Dickens stories


The first edition of David Copperfield, the greatest treasure of the John Romani’s family (Foto: Reprodução)

At least once a month, the bookseller John Romani came to our house at Artur Bernard Street, when I was nine years old. Through the branches of tropical almond, I saw him crossing the Silvio Meira Street, carrying the same brown suitcase, adorned with names of dozens of writers.

From a distance, he looked like a suspicious character out of one of the Charles Dickens stories. He was no more than 35 years old, medium build, olive skin, a peculiar walk and dressed as a man of the 1920s, with his fedora hat carefully aligned, and a slim fit coat. Next to the suitcase, he always carried an umbrella, that could be taken apart and used as a walking stick.

When I met him, he was in the house gate talking to my mother, offering a collection of 16 volumes of Barsa Encyclopedia. As the bookseller spoke, in a growing paroxysm, everything came alive and became more important than it really was. He smiled, gestured and moved his feet from one side to the other, making the encyclopedia presentation a theatrically didactic performance.

That was how John Romani persuaded her to buy the collection, in negotiations more motivated by their selling methods than the quality of the product. His power of persuasion only did not surpass his most virtuous human qualities. And that day, he asked permission from my mother to rest for a few minutes on the balcony. She consented without flinching.

Invited in, he sat in a chair with nylon strings and my mother went to the kitchen to bring a cup of coffee while the drizzle shone serene on our garden. Before opening the suitcase, he took off his hat and kept it on the umbrella’s tip, anchored on the window grid. He adjusted his brown wavy hair, and asked my name. I answered and he shouted excitedly:

“Wow! Stupendous! David! Do you know if your parents chose your name because of the young David Copperfield? Do you know his story?” I smiled and enthusiastically with his charisma, I asked if he spoke about the magic or the boy. “That’s right! The boy!”, he said. With the simplicity inherent in children, I told him that he was an orphan, and suffered greatly because he lived alone in the world. Nevertheless, he believed in humans, in a better world.

Very good! You know, David? I’m Romani, I have gypsy origin, and we never believe that names are chosen at random. I’m sure it says a lot about who you are and who you will be. David Copperfield was extremely persevering, a dreamer, and though I have known you today, I believe that you will be like him. Our meeting has a special meaning that one day may make more sense in your life – told the bookseller with an enigmatic expression, which further highlighted his square face and his velvety big eyes like a fruit of the tropical almond.

My mother did not take long to return with the coffee. John Romani thanked her and drank in silence, watching Happy and Chemmy playing in the garden, rolling on the damp grass, with the jasmine scent, and stubbornly jumping on the plant bed. With a curious look, the bookseller smiled at the spectacle of everyday life. He scrutinized so strictly the trivial things that even the most ordinary of scenes seemed to convey something surreal.

When I threatened to take off Happy and Chemmy from the grass, preventing them from becoming even more dirty, I heard a double and synchronized sound. The bookseller was opening the suitcase. At the same moment, I pulled away from the two poodles and approached him, intrigued to know what he was carrying.

“Look, I’ll tell you a secret. I usually do not show anyone the treasure I carry with me, but as I believe you are a genuine David Copperfield, I know that there is no problem”, he said, then asked me to close my eyes and extend my arms. Soon, I felt something plastic between my little fingers.

On my hands was a neat copy of David Copperfield. The cover was green and had provocative illustrations of the adventures of the young orphan. Although I did not understand in depth the importance of that moment, I was very happy to hold the work in my hands. And the countenance of Romani made me realize that I was faced with an invaluable opportunity.

“It’s different from the book of St. Vincent School. It seems that this is older and less colorful. Remember an old magazine, a hornbook”, I commented without hiding innocence. The bookseller gave a short laugh, took the work from a protective packaging and asked me to read what was written on the cover. “You forgive me, I am not good in English”, I justified. Then, he said I did not need to read everything, and showed me the year of the book – 1849.

This was the first edition of David Copperfield, the greatest treasure of the John Romani’s family. His great-grandfather Vladimir received a copy of the hands of Charles Dickens shortly after the release. “He fled to England in 1846, and later he met the author at the corner of the publisher Bradbury and Evans in London. My great-grandfather worked as a shoeshine boy, and one day Charles Dickens talked to him. If it does not fail my memory, he said the following, before handing David Copperfield: “Here’s a seed. Maybe becomes a gift”, recounted the bookseller smiling.

The young gypsy met Dickens three more times. In the last rendezvous, the author made the 15-year-old boy cry when he stated that he might have written a better story if David Copperfield was based on Vladimir’s life. Born in Romania, the great-grandfather of John Romani was a serf, slave of a wallachian boyar – transylvanian aristocrat. He was an orphan, and he spent most of his childhood doing housework and working in mining in exchange for food, until one day Vladimir managed to escape.

Even as a child, I was awestruck with the narrative, and the resourcefulness of the bookseller guaranteed more realism to the story. The copy of David Copperfield, who I held with both my hands, had a dedication, and Vladimir’s name written by Charles Dickens appeared on the protagonist’s name, a simple gesture of affection.

There was a moment that I noticed him with teary eyes, trying hard not to weep. He made so much effort that the veins of his neck stood out, and revealed a discreet and vivid tattoo near his neck. It was based on a combination of colors that I could not identify. There was no design, only two words – Pacha Dron. I discovered a few years ago which means the way of life.

As soon as the mist disappeared, John Romani packed David Copperfield and tucked it inside the suitcase, with the same care that a mother dedicated to her son to put him to sleep in the crib. When the suitcase was closed, I felt a warm and fleeting air caressing my cheeckbones. The bookseller stood up, said goodbye to my mother and I accompanied him to the gate. Outside, he snapped his fingers, pointed at me and said: “Goodbye, David Copperfield!” He gave a wink and went to Arthur Bernard Street as a singular character. If in coming, and by far, he seemed to me a kind of Uriah Heep, in turn, he resembled more a hybrid of Ham Peggotty and Dr. Strong.

John Romani visited me over a year. Regardless of climate and weather, he always returned. One day, when it was raining a lot, the bookseller clapped his hands in front of my house – he was soaked, unprotected by the umbrella which was useless by the violence of the water. “Commitment is commitment!”, he claimed smiling. After hearing a good scolding from my mother, the kind that parents give their rioters children, he watched, hid his laughter and, crestfallen, accepted the reproach, until we started to laugh.

Attached to a profession that came into his family through his great-grandfather Vladimir, his greatest satisfaction was through the streets selling books. And for him, nothing was more important than the pleasure of telling stories and arouse feelings. On one occasion, when he was robbed, he gave all the money and bent over the suitcase in the middle of the asphalt, protecting the books; until the bandits disappeared as if they had never approached him.

At our last meeting, next to Christmas, John Romani left me as guardian of a Fountain pen that his great-grandfather gave to his grandfather hours before he died. “David Copperfield, this pen was used by Charles Dickens in the draft of Great Expectations. And what is the greater example of hope that put in your hands something that exists since 1860 or even earlier? Yeah…”, he said. That was the last time I saw the bookseller to whom I still keep the Fountain pen.

Hopefully, when the reality ceases to exist for me, as the vaporous shadows that my imagination separates voluntarily this time, I can find what is truly most important next to me, with my raised finger pointing to heaven! – wrote Dickens in David Copperfield, in an excerpt modified by me.

Written by David Arioch

November 7th, 2016 at 10:58 pm

When I bought cigarettes for my parents

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I suspected that the inventor of the cigarette was confused when he was choosing the ingredients, and created something unpleasant


Me and my brother Douglas walked 100 meters to get one or two cigarette packs in a bar on Federal District Avenue

In my childhood, I bought cigarettes for my parents. Yes, I and all my friends and colleagues who were born in the 1980s and had smoking parents. My mother abandoned addiction in my teens, but my father, an inveterate smoker, died because of a lung cancer. He started smoking early, when Hollywood stars helped make the cigarette in an obtuse symbol of charm, sensuality and rebellion.

I never asked why he smoked. But one day, when I was a child, I said to my mother that “only the steam train had reason to smoke, because his move depended on burning coal.” Since childhood, I did not undestand the idea of putting something in the mouth just to smoke. I associated that image with the black smoke coming out of the tailpipes of old trucks we saw on the streets. Carbon oxide, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and aromatic hydrocarbon, I learned later.

“Maybe people who smoke are like the exhaust of trucks, the difference is that they produce less smoke because they are smaller. And maybe it is less dirty because it comes straight from the mouth”, I wrote in a notebook when I was seven or eight years old. I never put a cigarette in my mouth. I do not boast about that. No! I am lying! I liked to pretend to smoke with a chocolate cigarette between my lips, like the black boy smiling on the package. After all, the idea of smoking, however bad it was, preserved his romanesque ruse in play.

At ten years old, I suspected that the inventor of the cigarette was confused when he was choosing the ingredients, and created something unpleasant. Perhaps, the original idea was to make something good come out of the mouth of the people, rather than a grizzly smelly smoke. The irony already subsisted in the fact that the smoke alone was suspected in its cloudiness, as a slacker veiling its true intentions.

At seven years old, I started buying cigarettes when we lived on Pernambuco Street. Me and my brother Douglas walked 100 meters to get one or two cigarette packs in a bar on Federal District Avenue. Because of the smoke in there, it was like a stage moments before a show. The difference was that the dry ice was not as dark as cigarette smoke. Nor stank like those bodies macerated by addiction to alcohol and tobacco.

Some men coughed as if they were about to throw or expel pieces of tissue from their bodies. That was the reality of the addicts, and I found myself in front of it in the early years of my life. I liked the place, witnessing the social salad composed of people from different age groups – where rich and poor people, vagrants and workers, mingled informally.

Actions, expressions and reactions of joy, sadness, dissatisfaction, anger, wisdom, ignorance, everything could be found in the Mistress Mary’s bar, mother of my friend Fabiano. However, no feeling seemed more deployable than a hybrid of illusion and disappointment. In that place, taciturn men arrived smiling and went away crying as soon as appearances uncovered their essences.

At the counter, Mistress Mary kept a baseball bat, nicknamed “judgment” to contain the rioters. She chided drunkards, gave advice and sometimes fed the miserables. It was visceral how her face changed from one second to another as if someone did something wrong. Stevedores, street vendors and street artists went there often. One day, I got a wooden frame with my image carved by Maneta, a sculptor who traveled throughout Brazil hitchhiking.

While some people sat on the side tables, others preferred the counter, feeling the smell of food preservation, listening to the sound of the freezer and from the TV with a wooden box. It  was unusual to find someone at the bar who did not smoke. I zigzagged through the spaces, trying to avoid inhaling the smoke that moved through the room like a snake trying to swallow me. Even worse was when my nose clogged because of allergic rhinitis.

At the counter, I sat on a stool, swung my legs, asked for two packs of cigarettes and watched the sweets in the showcase. Once, Mistress Mary gave me two packs. I paid, I kept the packs in the left pocket of my shorts and the change in the right pocket. I went out there away from the smoke and heard laughter and cries of three or four men entertained in a game of cards. “Thief! thief! That’s what you are, you rascal pig!”, yelled a bearded big man with such a deep voice that my eardrums throbbed. I felt like I was close to the devil himself.

He sat on two chairs instead of one, and his hand came to be bigger than the head of his opponents. Startled, I watched the little cards disappearing in his hands. It was as if they were miniatures on paper. Suddenly, the man looked at me and said: “What is it, boy? Did you lose something?” Without opening my mouth, I nodded no and walked away. Before stepping on the sidewalk, I saw him pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He lit one and swallowed so greedily that in a few seconds the cigarette was reduced to ashes, leaving only a tiny filter slipping in a wooden ashtray.

His mouth was also enormous. When he aimed his nose to the ceiling, and exhaled the smoke, it was as if a cloud too heavy to support himself formed over his head, like a glutton riddled fog. That was the Turpentine, a smoker and drinker professional, they said. He worked for the largest companies of tobacco and distillates in Brazil. In the 1980s, it was not difficult to find young people and even older people who dreamed of this life. Drinking, smoking and nothing else, yes, it was the ideal of many people. At home, while my mother was preparing a dough in the kitchen, I told her what happened at the bar. She had fun with my story, although she did not know the evil-looking giant.

At that time, I came to believe that the world was of smokers. Wherever I walked, people talked about cigarettes. TV, radio and billboards were always contributing to the glamorization of smoking. In the downtown, after school, I always saw empty packages and cigarette butts near the curb. They offered up free samples. And of course, some smokers were more educated than others. My mother, for example, avoided smoking near me and my brother. When he noticed that I was watching him, my father copiously passed the cigarette from the right hand to the left, trying to hide the smoke behind a book, and declared: “Do what I say, not as I do.”

In the morning, one time or another, I watched my mother changing the sheets burned by cigarette embers. Perhaps, those holes with black borders meant more than we imagined. After all, they were misshapen and uncertain as small tumors. “Yesterday, I told myself it was the last. I did not imagine that would be the end, I would not smoke more until my death. I preferred to think that if I stopped now, I would be able to smoke from time to time”, wrote Henri-Pierre Jeudy in” The Last Cigarette”.

Written by David Arioch

October 21st, 2016 at 11:17 pm

The tassels and the beanstalk

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Gave me the impression that they wanted to break through the roof and hit the skies


I stopped bothering them until the evening I met the tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, by the english writer Benjamin Tabart (Art: Lindsey Bell)

One day, when I was six years old, me and my brother Douglas were at home, in the living room, flanked by colossal ornamental tassels of my mother. They were stained and so beautiful that we were around them, watching and touching: “It looks like hair corn, but much more colorful!”, I said.

The way they struggled to touch the ceiling, when the breeze invaded the living room, gave me the impression that they wanted to break through the roof and hit the skies. Their slender profiled shapes invited our tiny hands to tickle each other with their fringes. In a short time, and redder than one of the tassels, we rolled on the floor laughing, scratching our heads, faces and arms. The nudges on my ears intensified the guffaws.

The Shambles were so big that the parquet floor, freshly polished by my mother, vibrated and earned fingerprints and marks of elbows and foot soles. The truth is that the tassels served us up to play hide and seek. They suffered in our presence, and sometimes I suspected that they fluttered more by fear than by fortuitous incidence of light air.

“Here come these crazy little boys,” perhaps they thought, twitching timidly. It looked like they cowered with our arrival, as a girl committed to not be noticed. Often, when I came home from school, I threw my backpack on the bed and went to the living room. I ran around the tassels, imitating an indian warrior apprentice. Occasionally, I stuck my head between them, observing the absence of lamp’s light. I closed my eyes and I felt a chimeric and auspicious perfume.

I imagined a raging river, where I could flow like its waters, if I threw myself without fear. With the coloring pens, I made some scratches on my face. I howled with a fake voice and continued to bother the tassels until it was time to go to school. One day, I dragged the tassel to change its position and I felt a force pushing me almost to exhaustion. While people say that the tassels had no life, I was surprised to see a little water on the parquet floor, around and below the tassels.

I thought the tassels had been crying for me and I stopped bothering them until the evening I met the tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, by the english writer Benjamin Tabart. In the evening, at home, I lay down on the bunk with swollen eyes. I digressed by the story told by teacher Agnes, and considered: “If they have no life, why do they look bigger? Strange… very strange… ”

The next day, my doubts increased exponentially when I saw that they were bigger than ever. I told my brother Douglas what happened and he also came to confirm my suspicion. The tassels were pretending they were a beanstalk.

A few minutes before lunch, came the certainty that something needed to be done. There were beans around the tassels. We smiled, we scratch our hands and looked at each other, mechanically moving the head up and down in agreement. “You mean, you can not pretend anymore? Uh-huh …”, I concluded.

The next day, while my mother and my uncle talked on the porch, my brother and I went to the living room. Before that we looked at the surroundings to make sure we would not be surprised by anyone. Douglas took out a lighter and I took another. Face to face, we nodded our heads, and lit the two – touching the tassels that burned like silent giant squib, who could not whistle.

Soon they became an incandescent nothing. The fire went up so fast that I fell back, feeling my body warm and my vision slightly blurred. Tilting my head back, I saw the ceiling glowing. The fire, alive as we had never seen, earned transfigured forms until the moment that Uncle Lu, with the help of my mother, came to prevent it from spreading.

We watched everything in our inertia. The rapid intervention did not prevent the liner from staying black. And so we earned our own mourner sky without moon or stars, just a static darkness that overshadowed the fortuitous glimmer trying to illuminate the tassels remained.

We were grounded for a long time. Nevertheless, we felt like heroes, believing that we avoided the giant people eater to ever come down the beanstalk transformed into tassels. “It would not be long until he comes. We did well”, we agreed. After a beating belt and a week without going out to play, my mother discovered the reason why we put fire in tassels.

On the day of revelation, I learned that before the fire, the vase of the tassels was replaced by another equal, but with shallow background, giving the impression that they were larger. And the water around the tassels was poured in the morning when my mother went to our bedroom with a bucket of water to clean the floor.

“The grain fell to the ground as I ran around the room with an open package of beans to answer the phone”, she told us. We listened in silence, we undersood and we acknowledged our guilt. Back to the bedroom, we smiled at each other. I threw a grain of raw beans at my brother and he did the same. It was not necessary to articulate words. “True innocence is ashamed of nothing”, said Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Written by David Arioch

October 12th, 2016 at 12:46 am

The Clement guard

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I saw his dark mustache, thick and long like the curtains of the sky

Crossing where Clement saved Beto (Photo: David Arioch)

Crossing where Clement saved Beto (Photo: David Arioch)

When I was six year old, every day there was a guard waiting for us down the street to help us cross. Hundreds of children went through there every day. Clement smiled and reached out with such devotion that even the sunlight seemed more intense, illuminating his forehead and highlighting his snowy teeth.

He took the whistle to his mouth and emitted a short, but effective oxytone sound. It was enough for everyone to stay alert. So Clement held my hand firmly and led me to the school sidewalk, protecting me from motorcycles, cars, vans and trucks. Carefully, he always kept his body closest to the vehicles while my body was hidden by him.

The synchrony between the whistle and the instantaneous stop was surreal, as if choreographed. Few drivers dared to even touch a centimeter of the tire on the crosswalk. If anyone did, Clement took a pocket tape measure, crouched on the asphalt per second, walked to the driver and greeted him with a warm handshake.

“How are you? All right? It’s hot today, huh? I suppose you’re in a hurry, of course, who isn’t nowadays, right, my friend? So I understand why you have the two front tires on the track. It happens. The hurrying makes you commit these little slips. Take a look here, you just invaded 25cm. I believe that you, like me, know it will not guarantee that you get anywhere faster. Of course, now we don’t have many children on the street, but there are times when this small space has a lack you can’t imagine. Can I count on your cooperation? “, he said in early afternoon, returning the driver’s compliance with a nod and a frugal smile.

During the crossing with Clement, I raised my head, looking at the sky with his nose, and watched him. Small, I believed he could touch that wild blue yonder with the top of his cap. I saw his dark mustache, thick and long like the curtains of the sky. The clouds moved near his head, reaffirming the idea that at least during the crossing he was the supreme authority, and beyond him there was no one.

After 5.30 pm, when the school bell was triggered, warning that the classes were ending, we did the same path. Hours passed, and Clement kept smiling and extending his hands. He never showed fatigue, irritation or boredom. He was so polite, that sometimes drivers parked their vehicles and walked up to congratulate him for the good work.

That made him one of the most remarkable characters of my childhood, someone who could serve as an inspiration for me to become a worthy human being. It was not uncommon to see people giving gifts to him. Committed to his work ethic, he always thanked with brightened eyes and refused, unless gifts made by hand, a simple food or a homemade sweet.

At that time, I had never heard of racism until I asked my classmate Bob why he and other boys never held Clement’s hand. I remember one day that I saw him taking the guard’s hand over his shoulder. “Why? Because he’s black! My father said that black guards should not exist because these people are not reliable; because the only white part of their body is their palm. Furthermore, they have a bad smell and wiry hair”, he replied spontaneously.

Startled, I was silent. During recess, without knowing what it meant, I sat in a corner of the yard and thought about Bob’s words. I realized that Clement really was a black man, the first I have seen since I was born, but so what? A few days later, Bob gave me an ultimatum, saying that I could not walk anymore with him and three other classmates if I kept holding Clement’s hand. I ignored his advice, and over the next month I was excluded from the games on the playground. When it was time to play indoor football, Bob convinced all the other kids to leave me out.

A month later, I had not seen Clement at the crossing, wich was his workplace. He never returned. In his place, they put a blond and clear-eyed boy, who devoted his attention to teenage girls who circulated the vicinity. Bob’s father had intervened, and Clement was transferred  to another city. They invented an excuse for lack of guards and convinced him to leave.

Later, on saturday, Bob was walking and sucking a popsicle when he was surprised by a runaway car that invaded the sidewalk at the crossing of Pernambuco Avenue and Souza Naves Street. Stunned, he threw the stick, closed his eyes and cringed his body. Bob didn’t see Clement coming out of the market, throwing his bags and jumping with him on the asphalt.

The guard had superficial wounds throughout his body. Seeing Bob unharmed, he smiled, regardless of the torn clothes. Embarrassed and with haggard eyes, the kid remainded in the fetal position. He discovered that the rejected hand is the one that more should have been stroked.

Written by David Arioch

October 2nd, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Dio, the discovery of the little hawk      

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I was surprised to see in the yard a small hawk perched on the branch of a brazilian grape tree


The little one loved living at home, going through every space he pleased or instigated his curiosity

I was eight or nine years old. I got home and I was surprised to see in the yard a small hawk perched on the branch of a brazilian grape tree. He was so young and my mother found him injured near a vacant lot. She took care of him and soon he recovered, but he didn’t want to leave.

The little one loved living at home, going through every space he pleased or instigated his curiosity. His plumbeous feathers contrasted with the clear sky on hot days. I said he was the lord of the rain because his plumes were gray as the misty sky. Whenever someone asked me why Diodon had orange feathers next to the right foot, I repeated the same story I made up:

“In a day of little clarity, he flew so high that the sun got angry and suddenly appeared just burning a small portion of his plumes. The shock was so big that even his blue eyes changed color – an endless memory of his stubbornness.”

Dio was quiet and silent, but he didn’t like to interact with other animals. He only watched them from a distance, as if from the branch where he rested, he observed the vassals of his kingdom. He had an inquiring look and at the same time simple and pure. He couldn’t hunt, so the responsibility fell on us to feed him with ground meat plus calcium carbonate powder.

The first time he went up on my finger, I felt a tickle. When I started to laugh, Dio opened his beak and screeched. I had the impression that he wanted to answer my laughter in his own way. As Diodon grew, my fingers became insufficient to safeguard him, and he decided to nest in my arm and shoulder, especially around the neck, where he learned to poke me subtly with his claws. Over my shoulder, Dio always called the attention of onlookers in the center of the town.

From time to time, he opened his wings like a fan, reaffirming its grandiosity. His popped eyes gave me the impression that his painstaking vision contemplated all around him, like his hearing. Nothing went unnoticed, not even a solitary leaf swept by the breeze into a manhole.

Occasionally, he cowered in the presence of strangers, hiding part of his body behind me. I was tickled and laughed when his grizzly beak poked my head. Then he moved his feet to the left, to touch my deltoid, and watched me carefully, since ignoring the visits that he regarded as intrusion. Despite the estrangement that lasted months, he no longer saw the poodles Happy and Chemmy as threats. By analyzing them, his behavior has changed considerably. I remember when I caught the fond Chemmy licking Diodon’s feathers. Silently, the little hawk was aiming the nozzle towards the indigo sky in contemplation.

At late afternoon, after the restless Happy came to lick his beak, Dio wasn’t positioned to peck the dog’s nose as usual. The truth is that he didn’t care. The little hawk may not have noticed what happened and continued admiring the celestial vastness, abstracted from the earth and released to the heavens where he floated under soft dreams as his feathers.

Happy thought that Diodon’s passivity was strange, and examined with exultant and ensnared expression. The poodles retreated when the little hawk flapped his wings and walked toward the brazilian grape tree in the backyard. Climbing from branch to branch, he reached the top and hesitated for nearly a minute before he jumped with open wings.

During the flight, Dio squealed with excitement that caught the attention of neighbors and strangers who passed through Arthur Bernard Street. He was happy and even the most inattentive person realized it. It was as if the cloudless sky gained a new owner, a young animal which discovered that the breath of life also exists in the concession.

Every day in the afternoon he flew at the same time. I was finding it curious and I started to time the duration of his flights. One, two, three, four hours. Each week that passed I noticed that Diodon spent less time at home. That’s when I realized that his home was no longer a place, but a space where his wings bobbed with the purity of a winged horse.

The last time I met him at home, he gently pecked my head. His feathers were more vibrant as well as their glittering eyes of citrine that conveyed me cunning and conviction. Diodon was no longer the small hawk who came home wounded, malnourished and with few feathers. Although he didn’t like hugs, he allowed me to involve him quickly between my arms, without even pointing his long, sharp claws. I let him, and he played the same way he winched the first time that he came up on my finger. Within minutes, Dio left and never returned.We didn’t try to seek him because there is nothing to find when the departure is motivated by the untimely desire to fly.

Written by David Arioch

September 25th, 2016 at 3:21 pm