jesus christ! a garden!

I did some more sightseeing in Rio — went and saw the big statue of Jesus Christ in at the Corcovado, which overlooks the city. He was big, and art déco. Enough said. I also went to the botanical garden, which was huge and trpoical. I saw many lizards and weird birds, but no monkeys. In fact, there has been a distinct lack of primate participation in my tropical adventures. I am going to have to write someone about this. Maybe the Brazilian Tourism Board.

I think I inadvertently walked through the background of several photos over the last few days, simply because at touristy places you can’t avoid being in someone’s picture. Perhaps years from now, when I am rich and famous, these people will look back though their photo albums and say “oh my god! There’s Anand Sarwate in my photo! I was so close to meeting him!” This brings up an interesting point about biography. In this age where we have so much documentation of things, will writing biography still be a form of detective work?

I read a biography of Jean-Paul Marat last week, and came across the odd phenomenon in which the biographer could not account for some two months of Marat’s life, during his revolutionary phase. Perhaps he went to England, perhaps not. But it is impossible to say for certain. The novel Possession, by A.S. Byatt, revolves around the filling in of this kind of historical hole, using lost correspondence. The students of literature and biography are detectives unraveling a mystery. In Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series, we are only given the correspondence between two people, and we get to unravel the mystery ourselves, and generate our own stories for these two people.

But in the future, a biographer could reconstruct my trajectory using credit card histories — I bought my ticket to Rio using a Citibank card, I made ATM withdrawals at certain times. A biography made up of merchantile activities would be mundane indeed, but then there will be hundreds of tourist photos, correspondence (email of course, who writes letters these days?), home videos. Will there be real mysteries left? Or will the nature of the mystery just change from being “what happened on the night of…?”

I also saw Return of the King, subtitled in Portuguese. There was lots of chatting towards the end of the movie in the crowd, obnoxious guys insinuating that Frodo and Sam were gay lovers, giggling, etc. Homophobia knows no language barrier. But the medium popcorn/soda combo was R$6.50, which is about US$2.50. Hell, a can of lager here is less than a dollar, as was the caipirinha I had on the beach at 1 AM.

One thing that separates the US from all other countries that I’ve been to is that in the US they rarely name streets after a musicians/artists/authors/architects. And when they do, it’s always some tiny street like Mies Van Der Rohe in Chicago. When Antonio Carlos Jobim died, the city of Rio renamed various streets after him, eventually settling on a park. I’m still waiting for Jimi Hendrix Boulevard…