The party goes on
So this is what it felt like to live in the Rio away from the Olympic Village.
After buying a round of Heinekens off a guy with a cooler on a cart, we flowed further up the street, past the halted truck. Velvet ropes and Incredible Hulk bouncers directed club-goers toward their destinations, while Carioca funk and popular dance music leaked out every time a door opened. Cariocas tossed cash to vendors for cigarettes, lighting them as they bumped through the crowd. The occasional whiff of marijuana hit me. Beautiful women pulled by muscular boyfriends, bearded metalheads, and tank top-wearing teenagers wriggled in every direction.
We came to a stop in a triangular plaza where three roads crossed, with a churrasco grill spitting in front and a lady rummaging through cooler ice for beers behind us. The Australian journalists and I chatted about our work, I bought a round of beers, and we all took note when two Brazilian women approached and asked, as an opener, "How do you like Brazil?"
The Aussies chatted the girls up. The prettier one flirted intermittently, but it appeared to be going nowhere. I bought a cigarette and chatted up a new Australian.
"I'm Scott," he said. "That's my girlfriend over there. The tall one over there's my sister, and the tan one's her partner."
Turns out Scott's sister was an Olympic beach volleyball player, built like the gazelles I'd seen on TV, spiking balls into sandy oblivion. Her partner was decidedly more squat, likely a defensive specialist at some university. The partner flirted with a Brazilian built like a loveseat with a head. Scott's sister flirted with another guy. Tom, it turned out his name was. His grip was firm, and his shirt unbuttoned one hole below business-casual. He was decidedly more handsome than the rest of us slugs, and he needed to be -- he was on-air talent for one of Australia's biggest morning shows.
I walked into the middle of the street to snap a few photos and videos of the luminescent bars built into Art Deco buildings. Scott came along and mused about his trip. "You know, I've heard so much about all the condoms they have here for athletes," Scott told me, "but I can't find one anywhere. I've gone into five pharmacies, but I've had to sneak off because I'm with my parents."
"Really?" I asked. "I guess it is a heavily Catholic country, so that makes some sense. Have you tried a grocery store?"
"I've tried that, too, but I can't just ask anyone when I'm with my parents. I have to sneak off. I don't have any fucking idea where they sell condoms. And all I wanna do is fuck my girlfriend. We've been here for two weeks."
"Well," I said, "you're in luck."
I slid my worn, camouflage backpack off my shoulder and unzipped it to fish out a quart-sized plastic bag. It contained BAND-AIDs, butt wipes, and Scott's Holy Grail.
"No fucking way, mate," he said.
Scott shook my hand like a guy who was gonna get laid for the first time in two weeks.
Our conversation drifted off. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Scott nudging his girlfriend. He flashed the condom at her, and she smiled.
I joked and drank more with Henri and Paul, with whom I'd established the most rapport. Henri gave me his card, and we agreed to exchange trade secrets when we had big successes at work. We ordered churrasco skewers off the street grill, watching as they were dipped in chimichurri, grilled, then rolled in breadcrumbs.
"You dropped something," Henri said.
I turned around. The lady who'd sold me beers was pointing to the ground.
"Your ID, mate," he said. Indeed, they'd found a strange ID.
"That's not me," I said.
"You," the beer lady said.
I looked at it. He was like a handsomer, younger, German-er version of me. It turns out I have German doppelgänger. And dude's full government name is, hand on a Bible, freakin' Max Hog.