15 Jul Moema


“Moments of Insanity: Part 1″ was written by Ithaka, and published in Water magazine for his column “Fishdaddy Chronicles”.


I’d rented out

my cell-sized

apartment in Rio

to a lesbian couple,

both students

of philosophy at a

local university.

I’d had a good

stay in California;

visited bros and

family, and had

my ears drilled

for the third time

But now, fully

recovered, I

was anxious to

get back into the

warm water

tubes within


from my front door.

Forget summer


winter is by far

the best time to

be in Brazil.

Great weather

and a lot of waves,

without too many

people around.

My flight from

the U.S. arrived

in Rio at 6am,

the early morning

sunlight welcoming

me back with

open arms.

I breezed thru

customs. There

wasn’t even

a line for taxis.

I’d really

missed this place.

And especially

couldn’t wait to pull

into a five-foot, mini

Puerto Escondido

barrel at Joao Lira


I didn’t knock

on the door.

Why would I ?

I’d told Renata

and Joana by

email I’d be

arriving June 1st,

asking them to

please straighten

up before


Today was

actually the 2nd

but evidently

they’d been too

busy to notice

because SHIT were

they surprised to

see me and not

in a good way.



they chimed

hearing my keys

in the lock.

I’d walked into a

bizarre spectacle

involving cat and

mouse costumes

and a variety

of electronic

home appliances

not being applied

for their intended

uses. And

the room was


littered with

open books.


they’d been on

a weeklong


and were

merely taking

a break

from scholastic



What the fuck ?….

I said,

I told you girls

I was coming

on the First !


the prettier-faced

but burlier of the two,

said aggressively,

Your email

said the 11th !!!!

We have finals

on the 8th..


I sent you

an email back !

If she did…

I didn’t get it.

But on the

kitchen wall


I could clearly

see the 11th

circled like


in thick red pen.

Had I really

written 11 not 1?

Or had they

read it wrong?

Or were they

just bullshitting me ?

Hard to say,

but I was back

and needed

my place.


I walked down

to the corner


for an espresso

and internet.

No emails.

I entered


I don’t like


much and

limit my usage

to talk to a

couple of

close friends,

mostly to


a funny,

intelligent, artistic,

cute surfer-girl

I’d met online

the year before.

Since then,

we’d talk (via web)

at least a couple

of times a week.

We’d become

electronic confidants,

but had never

actually met in

person and

had no definite plans

to get together.

She lived in

Sao Paulo City

where she

studied journalism

at night, and

worked as a

secretary at a

software firm.

Most weekends

she went down

to the coast,

a couple of hours’

transit from town.

Although only

an afternoon’s

bus ride from Rio,

during the entire

two years I’d

lived in Brazil

I’d never even

been to Sao Paulo,

the city or the


Moema logged

in just a few

minutes after

I’d begun to

wonder where

she was.

Hey Ith…

she wrote,

How was

your flight ?

I explained my

present dilemma.

She seemed

amused, suggesting

I try to help my new

roommates study.

Moema had

more complicated

problems. Her boss,

who’d verbally

harassed her

since starting the

job, hadn’t paid

her salary for

the last two pay

periods. And

yesterday she’d

walked out-

never to return.

The good news is,

she said,

I’m going surfing.

Her journalism course

had just finished

for winter holiday

and that afternoon

she was headed down

to The Treehouse.

The Treehouse

was her family’s

ancestral home,

located on a small

Guarani Indian

aldeia somewhere

along the State

of Sao Paulo’s

lush coastline.

Although the

majority of her

immediate relatives

spent most of their

time in the city,

Moema’s aunt,

uncle, grandmother

and great, great

grandmother lived

at the aldeia

year round.

Moema herself

had spent long

blocks of time there

throughout her life,

and had been surfing

the nearby beaches

since she was ten.

Why don’t you

come down ?,

she said (digitally).

What do

you mean ?

Come down

with me.

Really? I said

Yes. Just take

the bus from

Rio to Santos.

It’s about

seven hours.

TEXT me when

you’re supposed

to arrive and

I’ll meet you

at the station.

From there

we’ll go to

the reservation.

Trust me,

you’ll be

glad you did.

You sure

about this?

YES !!!!

I promise

I won’t

murder you!

Come Down.


of talking

to you online.

Thrilled that

I’d be leaving

again, my


showed their

gratitude by

offering me

a chocolate


and a single can

of Schol beer,

both of which

I consumed

on the cab ride

to the station.

Less than

an hour later

I was on a

my way.


As I stepped

off the bus

in the port city

of Santos,

there she was

waiting for me.


Even prettier

in real life.

Nice teeth.


Slightly Asiatic eyes.

Modern, shortish haircut.

Stylishly dressed

in all-black, wearing

several pieces

of silver jewelry.

A well-done floral

tattoo covered the

length of her

right arm. And

she wore a small,


Hello Kitty backpack

(her only baggage

except for a brown

paper lunch sack).

She was definitely

a city girl…….

at least visually.

She waved a

silent –Hey-

of recognition.

And when I

got within

a few feet of her,

Moema’s arms

were around me

like tentacles,

her mouth on mine.

It was like downing

a six-pack of Sparks

through a beer bong…

an instantaneous

infusion of

electro-love energy,

leaving me

momentarily dizzy.

Woooow !!!, I said,

What was that for?

She laughed …

Don’t be so

naive, Gringo.

We walked

out of the station

to catch a

rickety local bus,

exiting a bumpy


later at a small

beach town.

We walked


inland down

a sandy road

then detoured

up a red dirt trail

entering dense

Atlantic Rainforest.

DARK and humid

with literally clouds

of mosquitoes,

the volume of

bird noises


It was only

about 5pm,

but fireflies

were already

beginning to


There was a lot

of movement

in the trees

and bushes,

but we didn’t

see anything


just a few groups

of nervous


We climbed

up a steeper

part of trail,

thru even thicker

growth, when

finally the jungle

opened up onto

an exposed

granite dome.

We were on

a lower foothill

of a long, seaside

mountain range.

From this spot, at least ten miles

of coastal area

could be seen. The town we’d

arrived in was

hidden from

this angle

and the beach

highway had

turned inland

behind the

entire elevation.

Not a single

cement building

was visible,

not a single


a road or

even a


Because of

the tree height

you couldn’t

see the waves


(except the closeout

near the river mouth).

But Moema said

that THIS was the

best vantage point;

At least you

know what

you’re dealing

with swell and


not much

going on

right now, but

who knows?…



This trail up

the back hills

we’d just hiked

was the single


to the aldeia,

the only other

access being

the river estuary

we were

seeing below.

On our right side,

a stream cascaded

down into the first

of twin waterfalls,

each had level

ground area

and a crystal-clear

pond at its base.

The family aldeia

was built upon

these two distinct

flatland clearings

(divided: upper

and lower).

We descended

fifteen-feet of

bamboo latter

alongside the

first waterfall down

to the top plateau

of the tiny split-level


And finally

there it was-…


I’d been translating

Casa da Arvore

in my head as:


But the house

wasn’t up in a tree,

it was a single-floor,


grass, stick and

mud dwelling

that had been

built around

the trunk of

a mammoth


They affectionately

called the tree,”Ceci”

(Mother Superior

in Guarani)

and believe me,

she was one

Superior Mother.

Over a hundred-feet

high and about

ten-feet thick

at the base.

This tree had

seen the arrival

of the Portuguese

five-hundred years


possibly even

the days of

the man who

inspired the


they were

to force on

the land.

The windows of

the house were

portholes with

pieces of screen

nailed over

the openings.

It looked as if a

muddy, prehistoric

UFO had


on the site and a

tree had grown

up through it.



it was a major

departure, the


material itself

(grass-covered red mud

with sticks for support)

was consistent with

other Guarani dwellings.

For a dirt structure,

the interior was

miraculously clean

and uncluttered.

There were

no actual beds,

but the floor was

covered with several


hand woven mats

and tons of pillows.

Moema was

obviously a

family favorite,

evident by the

shrine-like decor.

The walls

were covered

with dozens

of her drawings

and several

old photographs

of her surfing.

As a teen, she’d

competed regularly

until a horrific car

accident had put

her out of the water

for three years.

She’d said only now

(nearly a decade later)

was she truly finding

her water feet again.

A VERY wrinkly-faced

old woman not more

than four-and-a-half

feet tall, popped to

her feet above the

bamboo ladder

she’d just scaled

from the lower level.

I knew from online

conversation that

this had to

be Moema’s


great, Great



was (supposedly)

a hundred and

seventeen years old.

Her third husband,

I’d been told,

had died the year

before at the age

of seventy-two.

Endira wore

a dirty white

colonial-style dress

and a pair of muddy

lime-green sneakers .

After she double-kissed

us both on the cheeks,

she said something

to Moema in Guarani.

Moema held out the

paper lunch sack

she’d been carrying

delicately since

I’d met up with

her in Santos.

I’d been wondering

what was inside,

but not enough

to ask her about it.

The old woman

laughed excitedly,

kissed her again

on the cheek

then greedily

snatched the bag

out of her hand,

pulling out the

first of several

Twix chocolate bars

(apparently an

exotic commodity

here in the jungle).

She said something

else to Moema

then disappeared

back down the latter.

Granny Endira

said dinner’s


Although there

was no power

on the top

treehouse level,

it’d been a

deliberate choice.

The six rectangular

shacks surrounding

the common eating

area here on the

lower-clearing were

electrically lit.

All from a

single cord

siphoned off

a streetlamp

five miles of

jungle away

where we got

off the bus.

Granny Endira

even had

a cell phone,

which was how

she’d known

to expect us.

Seated around

a thick wooden

table were Moema’s

Aunt Zanza

and Uncle Peri

her Grandmother Jaci

and Granny Endira

(who was Grandmother

Jaci’s own grandmother).


potatoes and

tomatoes baked

with jungle herbs.


delicious !

During the midst

of animated

barbeque talk,

Endira, who spoke

almost no Portuguese,

told me proudly

in Guarani

(thru Moema-

my translator)

that they’d

occasionally trap

and eat anteaters.

Let me guess, I say

they taste just

like chicken…..?


she laughed


(not being familiar

with the expression),

But they do taste

similar wild boar.

Throughout the meal,

I’d casually consumed

cup after cup after cup

of a spicy but sweet

passion-fruit wine

that had almost

no detectable

taste of alcohol.

At some point

I was cautioned to

drink slower,

that the beverage

was in fact

Uncle Peri’s special

homemade mix of

juice, wine, flowers

and firewater.

But too late…

I lost consciousness.

How I’d been

transported back

upstairs to

the treehouse

they never told me,

but it was there

where I was

jolted to


by the squawking

of several Toucans.

I’d been having

a Technicolor dream

of an Eden-like place

with a beautiful

goddess-like girl.

And then,

there I was


in the middle

of that same


except it was

a lot louder

and muddier

than I’d dreamt,

FULL of carnivorous


and the girl

was missing.

Soft green light

filtered down thru

Ceci’s branches,

the shadows swaying

gently along with

my alcohol-induced


Bom Dia,

Moema greeted

walking in.

She’d been up

at the ridge

for a wavecheck.

She said some

swell was showing,

but we needed

to get on it

before the wind

came up.

Just downstream,

Uncle Peri

waited for us in

a fifteen-foot canoe,

its small outboard

motor spewing

plumes of white

smoke into the

pure jungle air.

We piled our boards

onto empty fishing

nets and climbed in

near the bow.

A hundred-yards

downstream this

tributary flowed into

a slow moving

darker-colored river

not more than

thirty-feet wide

with vines and

branches hanging

low touching

the surface.

Twenty minutes later

we came out of the

estuary passing

through three-foot

lines of whitewater.

Peri turned a hard

right, soon slowing

to drop us off

about two-hundred

yards south river,

outside a small cove.

Moema slipped out

of the oversized

sundress she’d been

wearing, revealing a

an elegant black

one-piece swimsuit.

The girl was radiant

from face to foot,

a genetic mutant.

At this point

I wasn’t

even sure she

was a terrestrial

human being.

Chau Tio,

Moema said

as we jumped

off the boat.

Peri u-turned

north in search

of more Tianha,

a seasonal


From there,

we simply

paddled around

the headland into

a cool little left

reef-beach set up.

Transparent water


randomly by

bright-yellow fish.

Although glassy

and kind of tubular,

it wasn’t really

big or hollow

enough to pull into,

but the thin racy lips

gave us enough


to get some

decent speed runs.

And best of all…..

it was all for us.

A talented,

stylish surfer,

Moema’s stance

was reminiscent

of a young

(but goofy footed)

Rell Sun. On one

of her better waves,

she took a high-enough

line that most of her

torso was easily visible

from behind the wave.

Her knees

slightly bent,

her posture


EXTREMELY feminine.

She surfed with velocity

but that whole ride

seemed to take place

in delayed motion,

so beautiful

it was paralyzing.

Toward the end

of the wave,

she looked back

at me for just

a millisecond.

The sun sparkled

off her wet black hair,

her dark eyes revealing

their true amber color.

She dropped

out of sight…


moments later

with a gentle floater,

faded out

of view again,

finally kicking out –

smiling hugely.


Moema, gracefully

gliding down-the-line

on that four-foot left,

is one of my life’s

most euphoric memories.

If I had it on tape,

I’d never tire of seeing it.

If I could’ve captured

it photographically,

it’d be an eight-foot print

on the wall of my room.

The session was

an incredibly

fusing experience.

I felt closer

to Moema

that afternoon

than I had to

any other woman

I’d ever known.

Hard to believe

I’d met her in

person for the

first time less than

twenty hours


And equally

significant to me

that a surfing


like this can

still be found

in the year 2007,

just a hundred

and something

miles from one

of the largest

cities on the



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