It wasn’t all fun and games with me and Nicky, we actually started making money together, but of course any money in our pocket had to immediately be spent – that was my department. It was nearly February and I had heard about Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Nicky and I both had just made some extra money so we decided to go. This time I called my oldest friend Dominic Roggio to join us. Dominic and I grew up together in Ridgewood. He was making money too, so he was in!
The flight down there was horrendous – 8 ½ hours from JFK, you leave at night, sleep on the plane and when you wake up …you’re still not there – YUCK! We flew coach and we were packed into that plane like sardines. For 7 of the 8.5 hours Nicky warned Dominic and me that we didn't know how to travel internationally and so he gave us rules:
1- We don't touch the girls!
2- We ALWAYS stick together!
After grilling us and quizzing us for seven friggin' hours - Nicky immediately forgot both rules himself, the moment we landed!
What I remember first about arriving in Rio was, the moment we stepped out of the door of the plane it was like stepping into a sauna! It was summer in South America in February, so we left in 20-degree weather in New York and walked off the plane in RIO into 86-degrees with 86% humidity! My hair almost instantly curled into an afro and all I remember was Dominic started sweating buckets from his sideburns! Nicky, on the other hand …was home. At least, that’s what he kept telling me and Dominic, “Guys, I’m home!”
We checked into the Intercontinental Hotel at Gavia Beach, all 3 of us in a room with only two beds, which meant that 2 of us were supposed to end up sleeping together – but that never happened – as you will soon learn why. The moment we checked into the room, we opened the blinds and saw that we had a spectacular view of the beach. There was only one peculiar thing – we saw a dark sort of line leading from the city right into the water – we found out later it was SEWER WATER! What the, who the, why the?! These people had no CLUE about hygiene – even worse, the BUBONIC PLAGUE was spreading through the foothills surrounding the city – we could understand why! Seeing sewer water running into the beach water right next to our resort usually would have put a damper on our mood, but that didn’t happen. As soon as we turned on the TV, the three of us became hypnotized by what we saw on the tube – every channel – nudity – partying – and beer commercials for BRAHMAAAAA CHOP!! Brahma Chop was a Portuguese Pilsner beer that was very popular in Rio. They sold it on every beach, ice cold and in quart-sized bottles. Needless to say, Dominic and I bathed ourselves in “The Chop” every day!
As soon as we could tear ourselves away from the nude partying on every TV channel, we made it down to the beach. We had heard stories about the topless bathing and g-string bikinis that were prevalent in Rio but one hears those stories when traveling abroad. This time though, those stories didn’t even “cover” it! The “girls of Ipanema” were beautiful, green eyed, topless, with buttocks that you could bounce coins off of …and the worst dental hygiene any of us had ever seen. The Brazilians made the British look like they had Donnie Osmond teeth! Did I mention bad teeth on the women? I don’t how I know that since I don’t think any heterosexual male noticed if Brazilian women even had teeth!
The three of us settled in to soak in some rays and drink some fine CHOP. Later in the afternoon, our blood-alcohol level was high enough to go parasailing and then we saw people hand-gliding, so we paid a cab driver to take us to the top of some mountain were we could do it too. It was insane, even by our drunken standards! Okay, first of all, we were so high up we were looking DOWN at the clouds. Then we saw how it’s done. There was this Brazilian version of Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed in Speedos that apparently strapped you to him and then you BOTH jumped off the side of the mountain together. Now, I was piped enough to strap myself to a very large man wearing very little and jump off a mountain INTO a cloud, but he lost all 3 of us when Nicky asked him if anyone ever died while doing it and after a moment he held up the number “1.” That was one too many in our books, so we got back in a cab and got ready for a night of P-A-R-T-Y-I-N-G Rio/Carnival style!
After a nice meal in a local place called, “Il Pescatore” where we ate appetizers, a main course, desert, and drank before, during and after each serving - and it only cost like $70 U.S. for the 3 of us – we headed to a place called “HELP” in the famous Copacabana beach area. You know what, coming from Brooklyn and partying in places like Manhattan, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, I thought I had seen it all – until HELP! We knew we were in for it when we walked in and saw a line leading to what we assumed was the coat check. I was curious because it was 85-degrees 24-hours-a-day there, so who would wear a coat? What we found out was that the women (there were all women on the line) weren’t checking their coats – they were checking THEIR DRESSES! Apparently, the local women didn’t want to sweat through their nice dresses, so they’d check them and dance the night away in their underwear! Did I mention that Brazilian women never wear bras! Okay …alright, so this was going to be a touch more …exotic …than say, the Palladium in Manhattan on a Monday night – but we’re from New York, so we can deal with it …right?
Dominic and I hit the dance floor where we found ourselves standing next to 3 guys that looked like they had just stepped out of “Saturday Night Fever,” complete with white suits and enough gold jewelry to make Mr. T proud. We approached them thinking they were from New York too but other than understanding that they were from “South Philly,” we didn’t understand another word these guys said. We were accused of mumbling from where Dom and I grew up in Ridgewood, but these 3 guys turned mumbling into an entirely different language. You know what – the funny thing about guys – when we have a few drinks in us and there are topless women dancing 2 feet away from us – we have no problem NOT understanding what we’re saying to each other. This is what our conversation sounded like:
Me: So you guys are from South Philly?
Them: Yeah, yeah, serious mo biddy Tony ROMEO!
Dominic: We just got here today, when did you guys get here?
Them: Haha! Frankie One-eye diddled P-doody!
What he say?! I dunno!
Okay… alright …no problem-o! While Dominic, me and the 3 Stooges from South Philly took in the sights, Nicky was nowhere to be found… By about 5am, Dominic and I decided we were going to go back to the hotel, but before we did, we looked for Nicky. We found him upstairs with some of the local ladies and surrounded by, it looked like members of at least 3 different navies! He was just hanging, telling stories, laughing… and did I mention completely shot, wrecked, saturated drunk! Now, you may say, you guys were AWEFUL leaving him there – but Dominic and I didn’t just leave him there – we asked him to come with us – then we told him to come with us – then we practically dragged him away from his new friends …but it was too late …Nicky started yelling at us that he was quitting his job and never going back to the States. When I asked him what he was going to do, he told us that he was going to open a BANANA STAND and just live on the beach.
Dom and I were wrecked from our flight, the beach and sun and eight straight hours of samba, so we gave up and just told Nicky to make sure to meet us for breakfast. Well breakfast passed and then lunch passed and no Nicky! Dom and I knew something was wrong!
(Continued… Part V, “RIO for Carnival and the disappearance of Nicky! - Part 2” will appear on Saturdayday, March 1)
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Dean Wesley Smith