Thursday, May 24, 2012
I´m spilling blood. Its falling, unbidden from me and soaking into the ground, the wide red soil paths, the mixed gravel, dust, the loam around the water where the fountains also drip their own crystiline blood. Everywhere, my blood is falling out of me, running down the feldspar outcroppings, getting hung up on blades of grass and tinting the papyrus-like dried palm fronds that stick out from ornimental beds of jasmine--now red jasmine. This began to happen after about 4 minutes inside the Rio de Janiero Bontanical Gardin. I was one a lunch break from work. I had been working at a theater inside a mall performing the usual children´s plays, setting up the stage, taking it down and juggling sweaty costumes between shows. I had been up occupied in these tasks since 5:30. Everything was taken out from the hostel and boarded onto a van. Outside, the streets of Rio had been brushed with silence, like each skidding, screaching car that had passed through its streets had burnished all the sound from them. The air was dark, still and warm. There was no sense of expectency. We drove across the city, passing countless street lamps, many of them disigned with some kind of filagree work, and dark buildings. There was a cinnamon-like tang in the air, and the coffee perculating in the twilit kitchens could almost be heard in the quiet radio and engine of the van. The mall is frozen. The escalators are off, the display televisions in the windows that seem like they never go off are progammed to oblivion. They look almost incapacited on display but refusing to yeild even the hint of an image, save a reflection. The suitcases, loaded with equipment purr their hard wheels over the linoleum floor and clack up the dead escalators. Everything is set up. Because its becoming habit, it goes a lot faster. I don´t worry about it any more, but the impression the short amount of work makes in the fully set look of a stage still impresses me. All our scenery consists of fold-out cages and frames that pack down much smaller than the visual area that they serve when on stage. Its a false front with a view of the ocean or of a laboratory and it carries enough color to impress the younger audiences. The first show goes well enough. The audience was a little too old, but that happens when you are doing English plays for students of English. Many of them may be older but at a lower level of comprehension, in this case the selection of a play becomes difficult, do you give the 13 year-olds something more in their age range or do you give them the play for kindergarteners that they´ll have an easier time understanding? Luckily, heretofore, we haven´t had much problem with this. Ususally, if teachers are going to ask students´ parents to pay for a play they (the teachers) are willing to preteach the matieral so that students can understand it. There´s the surprising burst of applause that comes at the end of an unusually quiet show. One can never tell if they clapping because they liked the show, because they hated the show and it´s finally over, or if they are simply still young enough to find the experience of making a lot of noise in a group enjoyable in and of itself. I walk out into the sunlight. Its not as surprising as it usually is after going to work in the dark and coming out into the sun. Rio had a look to it like it was all constructed under a bright mid-day sky. Where I usually prefer cities at night after things have quieted down, I find that Rio is as peaceful during the day as it is at night, perhaps more so, as it almost seems more in its element; somehow the city smells like night durning the day, cool and floral. I stop in a park and look up to the hills that surround the city. The statue of Christ is up on one of them, arms outspread. Its a good place for it, its as if he´s trying to recreate Eden. I walk to the entrance for the botanical garden. I´ve got two hours off, nearly, and I go inside. I see there is an entry fee, but it looks like its a well-established garden and not some rip off cluster of palms and cheap landscaping. Outside the entrance there´s a turtle pond, the turtles langourously swimming or craning their necks out into the sun are some of the largest I´ve seen. The shells flecked with crayon-color red and yellow in the sun. Inside the entrance, I´m not immediately overwhlemed. It smells, looks and sounds very nice, but there is nothing overwhleming. I´ve stepped into something narcotic and quiet, sad, like I think what attracts a lot of people to indigenous art work. I appreciate the feeling that I´m going to be able to spend my lunch break in such a rare and radient place, but it doesn´t occur to me to be overwhelmed by anything. I didn´t think I would be sitting in an internet cafe for, 50 minutes now, trying to write about it, circling around the inevitable and impossible task. The first path is secluded and preliminary. There´s a channel of water tumbling alongside it in a concrete cannel. The sand that has run off a little with the water coming downfrom the mountains stirs a little under the limpid stream in lazy arcs. The smell is now cashew, now clove, now water and chili powder. I smelled a mulch that I remember from some forgotten place that smells of wintergreen. There is cocoa, coffee, vanilla, sandlewood and these all fold into each other. A fruit stall at the farmers market, the wood of the stall all saturated in strawberry juice, a yellow paperback with brittle pages, the smell of a new casette, paper booklet, plastic case, celopane and the magnetic smell of the leaden tape itself--all these familiar smells were there, but with suitable images to accompany them. The marble youth tiptoed on doric colomns, held lyres over mercury ponds and succombed to their Attic destinies under the penumbra of the roots of a ficus tree strangling itself. Marmosets, ear tufted marmosets, played in a bamboo grove near a statue of Echo, decapitated Diana her hands lifted upward in supplication to her own face in the moon garded an opening in the stone wall where the Atlanic forest began, its fan palms going all the way up to the top of the hill-she appeared like a pagan virgen of Gaudalupe. A terrace, a window, faded marble, orchids troop like a line of stag beetles through a green house or hang deflated and tabacco brown like old men´s ears. Willow, fern and Madacascar palms clot the shadow above a culvert. Lilies, a smell like lace curtains, the vaporous wet straw smell coming out of the back of a laundermat... It wasn´t just that it was a garden, but that it called back memories and created new impressions at once. It took your existing impressions and recalled them in slightly different ways. Somehow, my childhood got into that garden, vacations, March in Michgan, the Richmond district when the sun is setting into the pacific, snow falling on red brick facades...It was all there, it took so many memories out of me that I must´ve somehow gotten wrapped up in the garden itself. The thoughts, the feelings the smells, they bled, they bled all over the damn place in there.