tall and tan and young and lovely

by Jean Mahony (United States of America)

The last thing I expected Brazil


My friend, Michael's, first assignment as a diplomat was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His Christmas letter included an invitation to visit his new home. I responded immediately hoping my spring break dates would work with his schedule. They did. His home was right across the street from Leblon Beach, which abuts Ipanema, which borders Copacabana. My mind devised a repeat playlist of "Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand", "At the Copa" and "The Girl from Ipanema". I am tall and planned to become tan and lovely. Each morning I would walk by the beach volleyball and soccer players. Then I would sip on some fresh coconut water before finding my spot on the beach. Then I would let myself be lulled into nirvana by the sounds of the waves. One evening, my friend pointed out the restaurant, "Garota de Ipanema" (Portuguese for Girl from Ipanema) saying that it was where the hit song was written and had pretty good food. I planned to visit it on my last day. Michael suggested that before I go, I walk around the lagoon where the upcoming Olympics would be held. That seemed like a great idea; however, I hadn't factored in the fact that in this location I could no longer see my landmark, Dos Irmåos. Although I do not speak Portuguese, I am not afraid to try to speak Spanish which seemed to work in Rio. I approached several people stating that I was looking for the restaurant called Garota de Ipanema. One man had a large video camera which made him seem like a good choice, but, alas, he was from Sao Paulo; however, he pointed to a man who told me the exact address. Jackpot! He gave clear directions and I was on my way. I found the restaurant, enjoyed a lunch and then my Jackpot man entered. I shook his hand, thanking him for his help in finding it. He smiled and when I returned to my seat, he began moving tables. I decided he was meeting a big group. He walked out. I wondered it this space would too small for his group. I watched him out the window and saw the camera-wielding man. There seemed to be a reporter with long blond hair speaking into the camera. Jackpot man re-entered and when I asked what was happening, he said, "She's coming." I asked who was coming. He said "The girl from Ipanema." As I tried to sputter, "The real one?", she pretty much walked into my arms. She was lovely and engaging, asking where I was from, telling me she'd enjoyed Chicago. It was clear to me that 54 years after the song was written, she could still make people go "ah".