Notes on attending Carnaval in Rio

Some notes for folks who may attend Carnaval in Rio in the future. Most are observations based on Phil, Elijah, and my experience in Rio. We were given some misinformation by various people during our trip (lots of good information, too). In no particular order:
  • If you attend the Samba Parade in the Sambadrome (and you should for at least one night), try heading out the first night and scalping tickets near the entrance of whichever section you'd like to be seated in. We were told it was very difficult to scalp tickets, that it couldn't be done. Well, if you buy tickets from the hotel, expect to pay a huge markup. If you scalp tickets near the entrance, just first make sure you've seen a legitimate ticket before scalping so you know what you're looking for. Tickets have a magnetic strip that needs to be scanned by machines like those you find in your typical urban subway. Most scalpers with tickets from a certain section hover just outside the entrance to that section, and you can only enter a section through a specific gate. We scalped a ticket for Elijah at half the price we paid the hotel (Elijah's tickets was pickpocketed), and that was with minimal negotiation. Anyhow, if you can't scalp a ticket the first night, go ahead and buy one from the hotel the next night if you want to guarantee yourself a spot.

  • Order only 1 entree per two people while at restaurants. The portions are humongous in Brazil, and the three of us refused to believe and continually ended up with copious leftovers that went to waste. In fact, if you wanted a real live case study for the Atkins Diet, few subjects would be more suitable than the citizens of Rio.
  • If you're traveling to Rio on short notice, don't try and pick up Portuguese if you already know some Spanish. Brush up on the Spanish. Portuguese is difficult to learn, and it is most similar to Spanish which should help to get you around. We all found Portuguese extremely obtuse.

  • Check with your bank to ensure your ATM card will work down there. Mine, from Bank of America, didn't. To make matters worse, almost none of the ATMs down there accept American debit cards. We had to hike some two miles to a Citibank ATM and the line was long with everyone else in the same boat. It was the only sure thing.
  • At that time of year, if you want to see the sights and get good photographs, go in the morning for front-lit shots. In the afternoon the sun is at the wrong angle for popular sights like Corcovado.

  • Find the Banda de Ipanema and march with them in the late afternoon on Fat Tuesday. They'll be somewhere near the street running along Ipanema beach. Once you're in the jetstream, other bodies will propel you along. You'll sweat, be sweated on, sing and dance, get covered in foam which people will spray on you from all directions, kiss and be kissed by strangers ranging from beautiful Brazilian men and women to drag queens, and have an incredible time.

  • Carnaval goes from the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday so the dates vary each year. Use this rule of thumb to get your tickets ahead of time. Plan on arriving in time for festivities on Friday, perhaps after a night of rest, and stay through at least Wednesday morning. If you can come earlier or stay later, do so and take a side trip to Buzios.
  • If you're coming from anywhere in the U.S., you never have to change time zones. U.S. time zones will put you slightly behind Brazilian time, and that's okay, because your schedule during Carnaval will consist of waking up at around noon or just after, rolling out to the beach, and having your first meal around 2pm. And, if all goes well, you won't get to bed until just after sunrise, around 7am or so. Thus the U.S. time zones actually put you on Rio Carnaval party standard time right from the time you set foot on Brazilian soil.

  • If you have to choose between staying just off of Ipanema beach or just off of Copacabana beach, I recommend the former. It's a slightly nicer beach and has better views of the sunrise.
  • No need for lots of dress clothes unless you plan on attending hte Copacabana Palace Ball or some other fancy affair. A pair of light fabric long pants of some sort and a collared shirt is all you need to look and stay cool and look cool in most clubs in Rio, and we all got into all the clubs in our sandals, though I recommend close-toed shoes for busting your best dance moves.
  • Street food is really safe in Brazil. We all had plenty, and we weren't sprinting for the toilet in our hotel room. If anything, our problem was getting enough fiber in the meat-rich Brazilian diet.

  • Stay hydrated. It's hot, it's humid, you're sweating like beer can banished from the fridge into the direct glare of the summer sun. You're always in a state of becoming dehydrated. Remember, cervejas contain water, too.

  • To avoid spending your evening in the company of prostitutes, frequent clubs where the local young crowds congregate. A taxi driver will be happy to help.
  • Think twice before setting foot in any bar where they give you a paper bar tab when you enter. Waitresses are bartenders mark your drinks on that piece of paper, and before you can leave the bar you'll have to wait in a long line to pay the cashier. Inevitably, the line will move glacially, and you'll be hot, sweaty, and anxious to move on to the next place. We spent about half an hour, on average, waiting in these ridiculous lines, and at the end you'll be greeted by some snippy, stone-faced cashier who barks at you in incomprehensible Portuguese instead of simply writing the total on the paper for you to read.
  • This note may not be relevant in a few years, but it bears stating. This is a great time to travel to Rio from the U.S. The U.S. dollar is incredibly strong, and the exchange rate from Brazilian Real$ (pronounced "hey-Al") to U.S. dollars was 3.8 to 1. Without inflation. We were eating and drinking like kings at very low prices.

Show us the money

Hey, it looks like that lawsuit against the studios will pay out $12.60 to each claimant. I hope you went here to sign up back when I posted about this, sometime in January, because the deadline for submitting a claim has passed.
The sad thing is that $12.60 still falls just shy of the price, tax and/or shipping included, of a new CD. Also, I want to know who will compensate me for that Ace of Base album I bought in college.

Michael Lewis on the A's

According to Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, Michael Lewis, author of Liar's Poker and The New New Thing, spent much of 2002 with the Oakland A's, trying to understand how Billy Beane and company manage to stay competitive despite their meager budget of $45 million. The book is tentatively titled Money Ball.
Statheads have been worshipping Beane for years. His secrets aren't so secret, but other teams just are too conservative or close-minded to accept his ideas. They make the tough decisions, like realizing they can't resign last year's MVP Miguel Tejada to a long-term contract because it would blow their budget. They made the same decision with Jason Giambi and they were fine. A small but merry band of like-Beane-minded general managers is taking control of teams around the League. Epstein in Boston, Ricciardi in Toronto. The Yankees are going to be in trouble in a few years, or maybe even this year, because the Red Sox and Blue Jays are moving in the right direction.
This new breed of GMs subscribes to unconventional ideas which will give them several years of advantage, at a minimum, while the rest of the league sleeps. Sports Illustrated dedicated an entire article to the odd idea that the Red Sox would go with a closer by committee, an idea which statheads have been pushing for years. You have Cubs manager Dusty Baker saying things like this: "[Mark Bellhorn] was programmed by the (Oakland) A's before we got him (in 2001)," Baker said. "Their philosophy is to take a lot of pitches and to get deep in the count. We're trying to get him to be more aggressive. But it's going to take time to change your mindset. We also have to let him be himself."
Hmm, Dusty. Here's a guy who hit 27 home runs as a utility infielder last year, at a position where the Cubs haven't had a decent player since Ron Santo. If he's got some Oakland discipline in him, leave it alone.
Still, Dusty Baker has been a huge improvement over Don Baylor. Baker proves to be a good modern manager. Handles the press well, doesn't abuse his players through the press like Baylor loved to do. Hey, if Baker gets the Cubs to the World Series, he'll be the second most powerful man in Chicago, behind Mayor Daley.