December 1, 2009 by  
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What is one to do with all the parts of one’s life?

I’ve been here in Rio de Janeiro, my birth town, for five weeks producing a film.  As I speak my native language and see the places of my childhood, those memories come back to me and with them a certain sadness, as they remind me of times gone by and people who no longer hold space in my present life.

I have lived in 3 cities: Rio de Janeiro, New York and Los Angeles.  Each physical place holds a period of my life.  Of course my present life is the result of all of my experiences but it is clear how many of these experiences have stopped exciting and are now just memories.

Memories are someone’s history but somehow just the word is enough to make me melancholic.  Maybe it’s the conscience of time passing, maybe it’s the knowledge that life has taken many different turns or maybe it is just the thought that it could all have been very different.

I never thought I would leave my family at eighteen years of age and go live in another country.  I never thought at twenty, I would marry a man who would bring me to standing in front of a subway train and wonder if being under its wheel would actually be a better memory.  I never thought I would hold in my arms the person I have loved the most in my life while he took his last breath.  But so it was and so it is.

Memories, all memories.

So as I sit here in a shanty town filming a hip-hop film, I ponder about all the different parts of my life, and wonder which new parts will come to belong to my bag of memories.



November 8, 2009 by  
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In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil people always refer to each other as sir and ma’am and somehow it doesn’t feel stuffy but it feels respectful.  People often also say: “Stay with God” – literal translation – and as I’ve shared before my views on the existence of God veer more to human and scientific, but I still like to hear “stay with God”, because it means that person is wishing me well in the most profound way that he or she can.

Some other nice things in Rio: clapping when the sun sets on the beach, and when the moon comes up. Massage on the beach, fresh coconuts, and lots of friendly faces.

One of the bad things that I’m reminded when I’m here is the entitlement of the wealthy.  Words like thank you are seldom used when the rich deals with the poor.  The “you work for me or I’m paying you” thinking precludes people from thanking others.   The centuries of a non-existing middle class also contributes to that type of behavior.  But things are changing in the socio-economic make up of Brazil.

I spend a lot of time observing my behavior and of others.  Maybe because I write so much, but observing teaches me a lot about humanity and if I’m diligent with taking steps I can affect changes in my own behavior and life.

Lately, I have really been thinking how often we misconstrue what other people mean and think.  I’ve learned that what is important is our own intention and goal.  What do I want to accomplish?  And then follow through with that without wondering why others are doing and thinking certain things and getting stuck in that.  It isn’t because we shouldn’t be concerned about others but because it is too hard to know the intentions of every person we have to interact with on a daily basis.  We also can’t please everyone, so if our intentions are good and we are clear we should aim for our goal.

I’ve also realized how fighting to feed and support my ego can really get in my way.  So much energy can be wasted by trying to prove that I know more, that I’m better than or any other thing like that.  What a waste.  Instead of being side tracked by proving something to someone, if I use that same energy to succeed and accomplish the result, that will be proof enough and without any stress.

This stay here in Rio, while I work on the production of a feature film, will be an interesting time for me to observe how much I actually have or not changed.  Anytime we go back to the place we were born and grew up in, it becomes clearer how much or little we have actually changed.  And I’ll be certainly sharing it all here.  Looking forward.


Flying Down To Rio

November 3, 2009 by  
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I am on a plane on my way down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I was born in Rio.  It was there that I was first kissed and it was there that I first made love.   But I’m not going to Rio to kiss or to make love; I’m going to Rio for my father’s eighty fifth birthday and to work.  My father’s birthday is self explanatory my work isn’t, so let me spend a couple of seconds here.  I’m going to Rio to produce a segment of a film that has already shot in Toronto, Tokyo, and Berlin.  The last leg of this film – a dance film – is Rio and I’m producing it.

Going to Rio is always complicated for me; I have too much history there but at this point of my life I consider myself more American than Brazilian. 

Travelling really brings to a head the concept of living in the moment.  Travelling takes you out of your day to day environment and plops you into a different existence.   I won’t be back to my “regular” life for another five weeks.  Not a very long time but not a short time as well.

When I got to the airport I started to catch up on the phone calls I had not returned for the last couple of days.  One of them was to a Brazilian friend, actually a childhood friend, who now lives in Miami.  He said: “relax, you’ll be swimming in the ocean in a couple of days.”  I told him: “What do you mean? Like when I’m wearing my bikini and my skin is dropping everywhere?  How can I go to the beach with all the gorgeous women there wearing their bikinis?  If you were walking down the beach and you saw me and a twenty year old, who would you want?” To that my friend answered “ I would have sex with the twenty year old and then I would talk to you.”  “But what about me having sex?”  Now I was insulted.  Wasn’t I worthy of sex?  Mind you I haven’t had any in a year and a half.”  So he said the most amazing thing: “While we were talking you would say that you were interested in sex and I would by then be captivated by your intelligence, life experience besides your physical beauty – which attracted me to you to begin with – that I would consider myself a very lucky man.” 

As we go through life we are constantly thrown into life; new people, experiences and challenges.  Being in the moment, letting the past be the past and the future be affected by the present is the secret to going through it all.  It is hard and it is scary but the truth is, there is no other way. 


Girl From Ipanema; A Lesson In Happiness

October 5, 2009 by  
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On September 2nd 2009, Rio de Janeiro, the city I was born and raised in, was chosen by Simon Anholt, an author and policy adviser, as the happiest city in the world.  You can read the whole article in Forbes Magazine at
I have had the luck of living in three cities, Rio de Janeiro, New York City and Los Angeles, which gives me an insider’s perspective plus enough experience to understand what makes a city, or country tick.

Let me just start by saying hands down Rio de Janeiro is a happier city than NYC or LA and I say that not because I read it in Forbes. Why?  Rio de Janeiro had a different focus, a different take on life.

In Rio de Janeiro, actually in the entirety of Brazil, people work so they can have fun and have the life style they want.  Brazilians or Cariocas (as people from Rio de Janeiro are called) love to dance, sing and get together with friends and family. Fun is the focus and everything is done in big groups; from going to the beach to dinners, parties and lunches. 

A typical Sunday is: wake up late, go to the beach, get together for a feijoada (a black bean dish with all kinds of strange meats – which used to be left over meats the slaves would get a hold of and stir in the pot – purchased at the butcher shops such as; pig’s feet (you get the drift) all accompanied by guitars, singing and Caipirinha (Brazilian’s official drink). 

I have made documentaries in Brazil that involved spending time with very poor people leaving in shacks with electricity rerouted from street poles but I must tell you that most of them knew how to push their troubles aside and have a respite from difficulty by laughing with friends and singing their hearts out.

In contrast people in NYC and in LA seem to keep score on who puts more hours of work in a week.  The forty hour week is a thing of the past not only in these two cities but in the US as a whole.  We eat on the run and at night we are so tired that most of us end up throwing a frozen dinner in the oven or microwave. 

Families are so spread apart that one is lucky if they have one member of their family living near by.  And who has time on a weekend to sing, dance, eat, and drink?  We have places to go and things to do.  The emphasis in work for the sake of work is a cultural trait in the US and creates a lot of stress in our lives plus most of us can never achieve enough financial success to have the big house, car, appliances that the get bombarded into our lives on a daily basis, and so we end up thinking of ourselves as losers.

I have chosen to live in the US.  I love this country and its people.  I’m a doer.  I get excited by ideas and the opportunity this country gives me to fulfill them, but I do wish we would start paying more attention to quality time.  And that means hanging out with friends and family, relaxing and mostly having a good time, whatever that means to each one of us.

I for some time had forgotten of this beautiful quality of enjoying life and oneself and am now on my path back to recoup this outlook I once had because believe me, no amount of money or accomplishments can compete with laughing and loving with abandonment.

And that is the reason Rio de Janeiro is the happiest city in the world.  It is the city of carnival, samba, and the girl from Ipanema.  We certainly can’t have the girl from Ipanema in Los Angeles or any other US city but we can have her American cousin and we too can learn to laugh and love with abandonment.


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