The guy looked like these bodybuilders you see in magazines. No Photoshop job here, though, the muscles were real. He had the ripped body of someone who spends hours at the gym. You could have hired him to help med students memorize all muscles in the human body.
He was in his late twenties and he was neither black nor white, so he was probably Brazilian. He was wearing the tightest, body-hugging swimsuit known to mankind—I’m willing to bet he had borrowed it from a younger brother.
It wasn’t his looks that had caught my eye—I’m not into brawny guys who carry protein shakes everywhere they go—but the fact he was desperately trying to take a full-body selfie with his phone and without the ubiquitous selfie stick. None of the pictures was good enough. He was trying, trying, trying again and getting frustrated.
He looked around and walked up to the nearest person who looked able to take a picture—me.
We went through a quick “oi, tudo bem?” routine, then he handed me his cellphone and struck a pose, flexing as many muscles as possible.
“Just a headshot and the beach in the background, right?” I said in Portuguese just to tease him.
“No, no!” he replied, horrified and maybe slightly hurt. “Don’t worry about the beach, take a full-body shot!”
This scene took place at the Mirante Do Leblon, at the far end of Ipanema, but Copacabana is full of characters like him as well.
It’s probably my favourite place in Rio de Janeiro.
I can’t breathe in Rio. Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana and Rua Barata Ribeiro, the two main avenues running parallel to the beach, are always crowded and there’s too much traffic. Locals look stressed out as well, even though this neighbourhood is much safer and richer than Rio Centro.
But once I’m on Avenida Atlântica, the avenue spanning the entire length of Copacabana and Leme, I relax. I walk slower to observe people. I enjoy the show, the 24/7 human parade of beachgoers, tourists, vendors, buskers and locals on the four-kilometre stretch of the iconic wave-patterned Portuguese pavement.
You can eat, drink, exercise, shower, play, buy and sell stuff and more on Avenida Atlântica and on Copacabana Beach.
I never get sick of it.