Adios amigo gringo!

sábado, 18 de julho de 2009

Há algum tempo estamos acalentando o sonho de ter nas páginas de VidaBrasil um texto que possa nos trazer o leitor de língua inglesa. Para isso escolhemos o Dr. Dean Weston, um americano de alma brasileira radicado na Pensilvânia. Ele estreou neste espaço em 28 de janeiro e escreveu seis crônicas declarando seu amor ao Brasil. Vencido pelo câncer, Ele nos deixou esta manhã. “Dean passed away today from complications relating to cancer. He will be missed. Dale Keenhold, brother”.Descanse em paz!

Adios amigo gringo!

Enjoy it!“Learning Portuguese the Hard Way” Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home, boys and girls! Everything you learn about from this point on has been done by a professional and could be hazardous . . . even life threatening, if attempted by an amateur.

Here I am . . . 6 years old  . . . on a non-air-conditioned summer’s day in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I’m, sitting in the one car garage my father had framed and built earlier in the spring of this year and the gravel floor is excellent for making highways and ramps for my toy cars and trucks. One of the side windows is opened to allow the occasional breeze to refresh my otherwise stagnant environment and to allow me to hear the beckoning voice of my mother checking up on me.

My imagination is extremely fertile. If I can imagine something, that “something” becomes real . . . that is until I am disillusioned by grownup reality, which never seems to damper that same imagination when I use it again later.

I am positive that the voices of the grownups in the distance as they hover around the charcoal barbeque with beers in hand, are speaking some strange language when I am not present. I think they are plotting and scheming aliens from an enemy planet and when I get closer they change back to English so that I will not discover their secret. Someday I’ll learn their strange lingo. That is my reality for this moment on this day in June. It is just as real as the smell of the musky earth in that new garage or the vapors of turpentine lingering from the paint stained bucket where dad has placed his sable paint brushes to help keep them clean. “Don’t touch my brushes!!!”

OK. Back to the present.

That’s where it all began. My desire to break the code to that strange language everybody else knew and I had to learn! My father taught me how to play the trumpet the year before and a year later I performed a theme and variations with our county orchestra which was quite excellent as I recall. Little did I know that that one skill would be opening doors for me for the rest of my life.

It was my enlistment in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era when I became part of the then famous U.S. Navy Show Band, under the capable hands of Maestro Frank Forgione. We were the best part of an alleged peace-time activity called “Operation Unitas.” This operation took me to 13 different Latin American nations over a period of 4 months and one of those months was full of concerts and television shows in Brazil. Oh, no! I had just started to learn Spanish when suddenly another language was violently thrust upon my feeble mind. Most of my Spanish had been of the “whore house” variety and so was limited to a potpourri of English, Spanish and the minimal French I had studied for 4 years in High School. I recall being slightly less than a “C” student, but it’s amazing how much you can retain when it is needed. Necessity really is the “mother of invention.”

On that first tour of three to South America/Brazil, I met my first wife, Valquiria, of whom I thought as being the most interesting and entertaining individual God ever placed on this planet. I didn’t really love her, but I loved being around her. It wasn’t until 15 years later that I discovered that she was neither of this world nor any other for that matter. That’s another story and you’re not going to get three articles worth in one writing.

When we were married in December of the following year, 1968, I had come to speak barely passable conversational Portuguese with the most limited of vocabularies. I was still more knowledgeable of Portuguese than she was of English and so Portuguese became the dominant idiom of choice. Val’ had read every Agatha Christie novel ever written and translated into Portuguese and upon her rereading them (in English this time) she had a basis from which she could learn the English language. She was an artist . . . a thespian . . . and this ability gave her language a great depth that I admire to this day. She had vast knowledge of Brazilian history, music, artists, lyrics, etc. She mastered speaking and reading English (Note: She couldn’t write it. There was a mental block for some unknown reason.) to a great extent and for this reason I had a very good instructor living with me at home, yet her experience (as vast as it was) lacked the business vocabulary and the color I needed. I could get things. I could parrot things. I could ask for things and I could put words together, but I could not enter into an argument or discourse about any abstract topic such as religion or politics at all. I could barely teach music for Valquiria knew nothing of these matters.

After an extremely successful early career in the Life Insurance Industry I had the means to an early retirement and my desire to learn Portuguese (and more so) to become a real Brazilian, as I am one in my heart.

How does one become a Brazilian in his or her heart? You must be extremely Bohemian in your lifestyle. This means you never criticize another lifestyle and you are ever ready for a close personal experience of almost any type without fear. This is where that six year old comes handily into play. A child will always learn language faster than an adult, because the child has no fear of making a mistake and if a mistake is made, you take your knocks on the head and learn from it. It didn’t kill you, so it must have made you stronger.

You must know how to drink and should you become drunk, you must learn how to be a good drunk. You must have a working knowledge of all abuse, even if you do not indulge, the last thing you ever do is judge others for their choices when they too are six years old and are still taking their knocks on the head.

 I am a jazz musician and an extremely good one. I play trumpet, upright/electric bass and guitar. There are other instruments I play, but these three instruments are the main ones. I write, compose, arrange and orchestrate and if you don’t know the difference, learn. I don’t have time to teach you now.

Brazilians love jazz and I love Brazilian music. I didn’t know that the language was called “Portuguese” when I started to learn it at the age of 15 by listening to Dizzy Gillespie on his first samba LP called “The New Wave” and I didn’t know that more people in South America speak Portuguese than Spanish. (Memorize that fact, because it’ great trivia stuff for parties.)

I had always admired the immigrants who came to North America’s shores and who took potluck with unforgiving Anglo-Saxon hypocritical origins. What courage it must take to leave all that you know and take on all that you don’t know. Ignorance breeds fear and contempt and these human frailties have plagued the United States from slavery to Obama. Thank God that we have and had a free press to allow us to launder our dirty laundry as we hung it out to dry in front of the entire world. Change had to happen. Whoops! That was a tangent wasn’t it?

Anyway, I, being the coward that I am, waited until I had the financial means with which to risk my move to Brazil in May of 1985. I had established many new friends prior to my move and had gigs already set up upon my immigrant’s arrival to Brazil and Vitoria, Espirito Santo. I spend the first year being totally frustrated with my lack of dominance of Brazilian Portuguese. Sure I spoke it, but poorly and with a tremendous accent (more Italian than North American). I couldn’t discuss abstract topics, but I had time to establish myself in that area and in less than a year I had more dominance than any North American in Brazil, including the CIA spooks and U.S. State Department flunkies.

I made tons of friends during that first year as I drank and talked my way into lasting relationships with journalist, restaurateurs, advertising people, other musicians and students of music, interior decorators, cooks, barmen and I met am and proud to call the publisher of this online magazine, Celso Mathias, friend and brother.

The foregoing was a result of a chain of events. The jazz group with which I had been performing was headed up by my dearest friend to this day, Afonso Abreu. Everybody knows Afonso and he is the word “Bohemian” personified. An employee of the State of Espirito Santo and a well know promoter and poet, Afonso was the best thing that ever happened to my Portuguese. Sense Afonso was my Brazilian brother, his widowed mother, Dona Graça de Braga Abreu, became my Brazilian mother. I refer to her as that and she refers to me in a like manner. I love her dearly and she turned out an impressive brood of offspring’s that would make any mother proud. Afonso is the freest thinking of them all, but I have been noting a slight change as he gets older. (Pity, we have to grow old.) Right now I am 21 years old with 40 years of experience.

In my quest to dominate the Portuguese language, I went to an English school in Vitoria which generally teaches Brazilians to speak English. I figured that they could also do the converse and teach me to speak and dominate Portuguese. Upon interviewing with the director in Portuguese, he informed me that I was already beyond the scope of their ability to teach me further, however, he did give me a book of chronicles written by a man named Rubem Braga saying, “Read this and more of this author and you will speak more Portuguese than most Brazilians.”

 I must tell you that this author was like no one person I have ever read in any language. It was his ability to color concepts and to make you feel as if the words coming off the page were your own thoughts being left there by some dreamlike . . . yet to be discovered . . . transferal system. What ability. Braga had been a war correspondent and had not only embraced, but actually took the chronicle style to a new Brazilian art form.

He was the “Hemingway” in “every way” of Brazil. He was a man’s man yet wrote with the sensitivity that generally comes from our feminine side.

The style he embraced is written in the first person as the echoes of his thoughts are left reverberating in your head. Leaving some exact moments of acute clarity peppered with ramblings of abstract colors and embellishments.

I learned my Portuguese from a master of whom I had yet to meet. Afonso told me that Rubem Braga was his uncle, yet that fact somehow didn’t make knowing him personally any more accessible nor was it required in order for me to be his biggest “gringo” fan.

One balmy tropical Brazilian evening our group, Quarteto JB with Dean Weston (that’s me), was performing at a nightclub called “The Deck,” managed by another personal friend, Wellington Pino. I notice that Dna. Graça (Remember? My Brazilian mom?) was in the audience. Obviously her son, Afonso, was leading the evening’s festivities, but her presence was not common ever. Next to mom was a rather large man accompanying a liter of Johnny Walker Red Label. I paid no attention to the man as it was the Scotch that interested me.

During the first break following her arrival, I went over to give her the obligatory compliment and kiss when these words emanated from her mouth. “Dean, my son, I would like introduce you to your Uncle Rubem.”

My heart is thumping even now as I recant that evening for I believe that meeting Ernest Hemmingway would have been much further down the list from finally meeting the man who helped me to dominate the Portuguese language. My first words were, “Uncle Rubem, I am your biggest fan anywhere.” To which he replied instantly and without dropping a beat, “And now I am yours.”

Following that I went to Rio de Janeiro, while living in a mansion in Petropoulos, where I was as equally well known and started to work for a Norwegian company selling aboard-ship services, food stores, deck and engine supplies to foreign ships in port. In other words I was fighting for the sale against experienced Brazilian suppliers and outselling them on their own turf. It was then that I knew I had arrived and that I had finally become a Brazilian in word and deed.


Autor: Dean Weston
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