Milton Cruz, the Tin Man

This afternoon I went to the Paulista Avenue to meet some friends. On Sundays, this central avenue transforms itself into the stage for virtually dozens of musical bands and it is also a place for sellers of various products…. among them, I met Milton Cruz. I couldn’t resist but stop when I saw this replica of the 14-bis – the airplane with which the brazilian Alberto Santos Dumont flew in Paris in 1906. Cruz was smily and full of jokes. “It’s R$50, but the tank is empty… With gas it’s R$80!”.

He builds car and motorcicle models as well. “If it is not here, bring a picture and Ican build the vehicle for you!”. He told me some jokes, ones hard to translate to English because they use some double senses or sonority of Portuguese words. All the models are build from material that would go to the trash. He uses mostly oil cans and reshapes them into his models.

“Some people ask me why I don’t make modern car models. Well… you can see a modern car right there in the street! I think I can do better by bringing some of the past back into existence.”

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Rodrigues and his accordion

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I had just watched an Almodóvar movie, Julieta. So, I was definetely in a good mood. Not that the movie is in itself happy. But to reflect at the depth of life from the intense upheavals one finds in such movies brings some sort of good feeling. And this is the state of spirit I was in when I heard the unmistakable chords of the Amelie Poulain movie theme. It was still impossible to see anyone ahead but there was, for sure, someone with an accordion there ahead. Live music. Street alive.

Of course I stopped by to listen. And after that usual small tip, there I was taking some pictures. It was cold and already late at night. So after another song, the player stopped to warm his hands against each other and saluted me. We talked and I learned a bit of his story.

He started to play early in life, aging only 6 by then. At that time he lived thousands of miles away from this big metropolis, in the northeastern part of Brazil. It is a poorer region and Rodrigues, like many others, would later migrate to São Paulo city looking for better opportunities of study and work. Which he found, but life wasn’t easy. He was completely away from the accordion for around 25 years. I ask him “how was it to stay away so long from the instrument? Did you miss playing or have you just forgotten the accordion during this time?”

“Oh no… I couldn’t forget it. It was such a pain. When you learn to love something as a child, and then you are away from it… it hits deep in your heart. Hurts. Really hurts. I was aways listening to some music. I always felt my childhood was a happier moment, because I had the music with my by then. Then I finally could play again, but the instrument was angry with me! He wouldn’t let me play the same things I used to play… It took a while for us to become friends again.”

Once again he complains about the cold air against his fingers, making it harder to play naturally. “In this cold air, you want your fingers to do something but they just won’t go.” And from this I start talking about this whole thing of playing in the street. He seem to love it.

“Someday it’s good for the money. But someday, even when you don’t make that much of money, people stop and look happily at you. Admiring. And some talk to me. Look at you here, now. And there are such different people! And they are so nice… It’s like I have never had so much friends. Never thought there could be so many. And they feel happier because of my music and then I feel happier too. I only gets better. And sometime they ask some different song… Usually when it’s from a movie there’s a good chance I didn’t know it before, if I haven’t seen the movie. Then I need to watch the movie. Not only to learn the song… but one needs to know the emotion. If it’s a happy movie, but a sad scene… Or a sad movie, but then the song is from a happy moment. It’s important. And it comes from people in the streets… I learn a good new song. But I discover some very good movies, too! See? It is a lot more than money.”

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The Beast

I was a stranger arriving at that scene. But the Beast was already there. Happy if he knew me for years. He was jumping happy if I was an old friend showing by for a visit. A blanket and two old sweaters. That’s what I had. I gave it to Rafael. And the Beast beside him. jumping as if winning the lottery.

It was a dark corner in front of a commercial building. But no one renting the place. Crisis time. The place was hidden enough so that Rafael and the Beast would not frighten the clients from the nearby drugstore away.

The Beast did not know about any of this. He was jumping, spinning, wagging his tail… all just like any other happy dog would do in some more afortunate reality.

– This is The Beast. He is aways with me, even in such a crazy cold weather!

Rafael folded the sweaters with care. He was the couture tailor himself. And once more he said thanks. And there they were, Rafael and the Beast. Smiling and playing with each other.

I said goodbye and, warmed up, headed my way.

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Classic Flight School – Vale Eldorado, Brazil

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During an unexpected day off from my work as a rain-maker, I decided to take my motorcycle and, instead of heading back to the big São Paulo metropolis, I faced the 15 miles of a dirt road. At every corner, birufcations, I had this question in my mind: right or left? I was driven by instinct the first times. But later it was the sound of the old flying engines calling me. Here, come here!

The Classic Flight School is one of a kind in Brazil. They have the tradicional Cessna 152 for inicial Private Pilot lessons if you want to fly tricicle. But we know that the taildraggers are the ones keeping alive the spirit of aviation.

There I spent the day, watching these old birds still doing what they do best: mastering the skies and recruiting the hearts of all those around to aviation devotion.

One of the flight instructors is approaching his sixties. Another one has barely completed twenty birthdays. In the classroom for briefings, debriefings the theory lessons we find some shelves offering from the Operations Manual of the old Piper to some 737 and 767 POH (but for the older versions, not the NG family…).

It’s a place to smell history, which is the best weay to fuel future.

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Awaken the horses!

It was a tiring weekend but totally worthwhile. It was algo a good idea to forget for a while how exhausted I was and to wake up this morning at 6:30 just to see these birds still asleep inside the hangar:

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How many horsepower on this single picture above? They were waiting for only a few more minutes before their pilots came to do all the before flight preparations and take them back home after the wonderful airshow they did at the Itápolis AirShow 2015.

Below you can see the pilot of the Pitts S-12 rotating the propeller by hand before starting the engine, so as to provide an initial lubrication and to preserve the engine health.

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The pilot of the Pitts S-2B takes a look around before starting his airplane.

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I had the opportunity to listen these two guys sharing some of their stories and views on flying yesterday, after the airshow. They are both captains on international flights. In short they both assured: “never lose touch with these small general aviation airplanes”. Deal!

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Another Sky

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I’m moving to a place where the sun shines differently. Here it is possible to follow the daylight from horizon to horizon. Not all those skyscrapers covering my view. The air brings different smells. Plants, tress, different kinds of grass. Not all that asphalt and dust and gray all over. Here the rythms are different. And I’m already getting used to this, in the best way possible.

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Sunset at Amarais

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I had just arrived from a very short flight. Just 20 minutes between starting and turning off the engine. But after an intensive two weeks studying inside complex flight simulators, being taught by currently flying captains and first officers how much there is to know in the operation of complex jet planes, I really need these few minutes in the air. In the real air outside. I asked a friend to come together, but I was the pilot responsible for the flight.

So, not being a passenger in flight, and with the airplane just to close to the runway in the end of the day (therefore with the risk of meeting many other aircrafts running to land before the official sunset time), the attention was totally devoted objective issues. You just can’t spend too long admiring the colors from one horizon to another. You need to scan the sky around you trying to find that damn small airplane which is arriving without proper lights and communications. This day I found none of these.

Then comes the landing. That very intimate moment with the airplane. All at once everything must be coordinated together. The power setting, wings configuration, your position relative to the runway where you want to land, the rate of descent inside the air, which someplaces is moving up from thermals and just ahead is going down over a colder ground. A complex mixture of instinct and precise calculation.

And after that flight, after leaving the airplane, I look outside and see this beautiful sunset, waiting a few minutes more for my attention. And life feels just perfect.

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