Brazil: March 2005
I was in Rio de Janeiro with my then-fiancee, Fernanda. She also has the distinction of being my ex-wife, btw. But I digress. I can distinctly recall the moment I started getting heavy about the inscrutable cruelty of life as we know it and the vicissitudes of economic collapse. Yeah, I was a fucking hoot! We were on Copacabana, Leblon or Ipanema beach sometime before Carnaval. We were engaged but still getting to know one another [see: divorce] and I had traveled around South America with the intention of settling somewhere, at least temporarily.
Brazil was first on my last as I had visited the previous year on some quickie package deal that included Rio and Buenos Aires and absolutely fell in love with Brazil, particularly Florianopolis. I attempted to buy a property there but the proceedings were so complicated and opaque as to engender sufficient distrust to scrap the idea altogether. I loved it dearly and had I elected to run the Brazilian residential housing gauntlet, I would have come out like a BOSS. The area appreciated rapidly as Brazil’s economy exploded, logging anywhere from 5-7% growth over a fairly lengthy period (but peaking in the mostly post-crisis year of 2010). It was a beach community located at the accessible but rarely accessed lower peninsula stretching down the coast of Santa Catarina state. Pantano do Sul was everything I had searched for: semi-deserted but with access to an urban center of about 500K. It was relatively safe when measured against crime rates in Rio or Sao Paolo (some would argue that tho) and was located on a relatively unknown and infrequently visited stretch of beach with water that was a little rougher than the usual sheltered harbors. And did I mention fewer people, right? Yes, sparsely populated above all else. Give me solitude I always say. Needless to say, I was upset that I had not summoned forth enough grit and determination to successfully navigate a half dozen corrupt Brazilian bureaucracies and purchase the residence of my dreams. Admittedly, these bureaucracies I speak of were impressive in their ability to assess “Gringo Taxes” whenever it suited them, which was pretty much at every turn in the home buying process. I ended up buying a place in Buenos Aires in case you, the reader, were curious. I don’t regret that purchase but there’s still something about Brazil. Talk about digressing; don’t think I needed to go that deep in terms of character building.
Point is, I can recall the moment I began to decry the general decline of society at large [said in my angry, fist-shaking old man voice]. I mean, why should I deprive my fiancee of the full arsenal of topics sure to render her incapacitated and woozy. I glazed her eyes over in one fell swoop when I began stammering about CDOs and too much damn leverage in the system. I can only imagine what was going through her mind as she listened to me pontificate about how difficult things were about to get. As it turns out, my fears at that time were not entirely unwarranted, and in fact, confirmed shortly after we moved back to the US in 2007. Housing took a dive just as I told her it would. That feeling that everyone thinks someone else is driving the bus as we barrel toward the precipice? Yeah, that one where everyone is panicked but no one knows what to do? That’s the global economy summed up.