(part three of Thirty Days in Brazil: Fiber in a Faraway Place)

My legal department has advised me to redact certain portions of my ill-considered narrative. Consider that they'll be returned to E2 - or interested individuals in time. For now, I must be concerned simply with harmless anecdotes or amusing jokes, or notations regarding my tourist activities within the land of Sao Paulo and the surrounding environs.

In compensation, I present to you a series of images and moments taken from Sao Paulo while in transit, passing through traffic-choked streets from place to place on my way to work.

Acid-dream graffiti alongside stark, angular gang-signs in black. A girl with trees for hair and sleeping babies in her eyes. A fat pink cat with Cheshire-clock eyes. Batman glaring sternly out at his artist: a woman in a many-color dress of diagonal checks. Dew-eyed children with stars glittering from their garments. Neon green letters over concrete and concertina wire. Stoned, grinning blue mask-faces. Skulls. Thugs. A woman with alphabet hair, with the letters in every shade of the rainbow.

You can see a lot from a Mercedes Benz minibus, winding up and down the hills of the city through residential neighborhoods. Our quadrilingual driver is smiling, inviting us into his home. A glass of water? An easy conversation, an hour spent chattering away? On a narrow street, our new driver is leaning out the window, laughing with a woman next door.

It's spring in Sao Paulo.

A tree with a wide-spreading canopy of brilliant green leaves, pinned and spreading out massive periwinkle blossoms. A fence covered with powdery morning glories.

You can pass ultra-modern apartment towers soaring towards the smoggy sky, and in their shadow, piles of trash and shantytowns partially torn down for the next big build.

A brown-speckled ivory pigeon, roosting serenely on the concrete, cooing softly like a dove.

Circling, circling everywhere and down...

Grey concrete walls crowned with sapphire-colored and emerald broken glass. Below, a single spade-leaved vine climbs the cracks, stretching towards the sun.

Out towards wide Campinas, and the sky is blue and the hills are green and the vineyards and bamboo stands spread out or burn down as the city encroaches outwards in a cacophony of motorbikes and cars and traffic jams with bicycle vendors selling you deep-fried bananas and frozen treats while you wait.

If I give you images, it is because I cannot give you words. My hands, and my tongue are tied. Find me in between the leaves and the concertina wire and the fibers, for a limited time, until October comes and this too shall pass.

I keep thinking about rubbing the folds of fur under my dog's chin yesterday. He was a black and tan coonhound, and he had smooth and oily hair that sometimes took two doses of shampoo to clean. It is hard to write this, but I want to do it before he starts to fade from memory. In some way I will always remember him, but I'm afraid of losing those little pieces. I want to remember how he pressed his forehead against my knee while we waited at the vet's office, and how he looked at me with his big brown eyes. I want to remember how his lip would catch on his underbite and give him the appearance of a fierce snarl, when in fact he was as gentle as a kitten. I want to remember him resting his head on my shoulder from the backseat as we drove to the doctor.

Five years ago when my wife and I first married, we were both adamant about not having kids. But she had moved down to Alabama to be with me, and knew no one in the area. For her birthday I decided to get a puppy, and stopped at the pound on the way home from my construction job. There was only one young puppy, and he was in bad shape, without a doubt destined for a short stay without adoption. Some kind of skin disease had caused a bad rash on his shoulder blades, and much of his hair had already fallen out. And the ears! Two huge flaps of skin that he didn't seem to have learned how to manage yet. I drove home, and brought my wife back to look at him. His pathetic appearance won her over.

All through his first several months we spent tons of money and time treating him for a variety of illnesses. His big ears flopped around the yard trailing us, and as he grew larger it became clear he was undoubtedly a hound dog. He hated thunderstorms, and in the wintertime I would carry him to the bathtub every night and bathe him so that he could lay in the living room with us. This was a real task when he topped out at 60 pounds. We treated him like our own child. We made a stocking for him, and took him for a family Christmas picture.

A lot of people treat their dogs very well. But I grew up in a rural environment where dogs served a purpose, whether for farming or hunting or both, and while I believe in taking care of animals I did not believe in pampering them. Dogs were supposed to live outside, and not be chained. We kept ours inside the fence, but I took him for walks. He loved to sniff for rabbits.

But over time he became a friend, more so than almost any animal I had ever been around. We had named him Raul. My wife referred to him as her Raulito, but sometimes I called him Dildo, after he repeatedly misjudged the height of our porch and would yelp as he caught his penis on the edge. Ultimately we affectionately called him BooBoo, or occasionally BooBear.

Many nights he would sit with me in the dark as I used my telescope. Recently he would lay in the shade and watch my daughter swing on her swing set. Most of my memories involve him lying somewhere. He was a hound dog, after all. There was a stray cat in our old house, left there by the previous occupant, who consistently outsmarted BooBoo. But one time Walter (the name we gave the cat) became too complacent, and as I walked out the door with an armful of laundry, BooBoo sprang from behind me and seized the cat in his jaws. It was a hellish, chaotic flurry of ear and fur and teeth. It seemed as if, after finally succeeding, my dog wasn't sure what to do with the cat. The cat, unfortunately for BooBoo, was very clear on his response. He eviscerated the dogs muzzle and nose. I was finally able to separate them, and while the dog bled from several wounds, he seemed as pleased as he had ever been in his life.

Even though he was technically my wife's puppy, once he became full-grown he was too strong for her to walk. I became the person who took him to the vet, or took him on a walk. Despite his skin problems, he grew into a very handsome well-built dog. In the summertime his hair would sometimes fall out from allergies, but a round of medicine from the vet would usually clear it up. He wasn't the smartest dog, as evidenced by his eating camel crickets in our well house until he mistakenly ate a spider. His face swelled up so that he looked like Snoopy. Another trip to the vet. But he was as loyal and protective as any dog I've had. When my wife and I finally decided to have a child, he was as gentle around the baby as possible, and when our daughter would start crying he would run to us as if to say "Don't you hear that? Aren't you going to get her?".

This past week our roof was replaced from damage that occurred during the tornado of the spring. I had to cable BooBoo to the back of the fence to prevent him from harassing the roofers. When they arrived, his excitement resulted in a cut to his foot. At first it did not seem serious, I took him to the vet immediately the following morning, we boarded him there while the roofers finished. But when we picked him up several spots had been shaved, and his injuries seemed much worse. He was sent home with antibiotics and pain medication, but after a few days my wife called and said I should take him in for a checkup. I left work, thinking he would be cleaned up and given additional medicine, but after seeing him I worried he might be required to stay at the vet longer. The vet was astonished at his condition. She showed me areas under his fur, many of them, that were infected abscesses. It seems that he developed a staph infection from the cut. We had to put him down.

I sat with him while they gave him several shots. The first two relaxed him, and we eased him down onto a towel. The last two put him to sleep. I kept rubbing his jowls under his mouth.  I cried.  I'm still doing so.  I miss him.

Raul, Summer 2006 - September 7, 2011

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