Belem, Thirty Years Later… Feb. 21, 2020
I was 38 when I got off of the Varig airliner from Miami when it
landed in Belem, Brazil in May of 1990. I was with the famous stunt
pilot and aerial coordinator for films; David Jones (“Apocalypse
Now” etc.. We were to work on the film “At Play in the Fields of the
Belem is just 200 miles or so south of the equator at the mouth of
the Amazon River. It was very hot and humid at 2 AM as we walked
down the steps onto the tarmac in the dark.
I’d flown to Miami from my home north of Seattle in Edmonds,
Washington. And I grew up in Nebraska. I wasn’t ready for the
A VW van, combi they call it there, picked us up at the airport and
we drove through the slums of Belem to the Belem Hilton where the
film crew and actors were staying.
I remember looking out the VW van’s windows at the mostly naked
natives as they cooled off in the relative nighttime temperatures.
Dogs were laying in puddles from the daily tropical downpours
coming in off of the Atlantic Ocean.
I gave myself up for dead. I did. Right then and there. And I did
damn near die in those six months in Belem several times. There
were plane crashes and the roads and traffic were dangerous. The
cast iron metal covers on the sewage manholes had been stolen for
scrap. Some were replaced with wood. Some were just plain missing.
But somehow I made it through and came home to the USA. Oh,
Americans have no idea how lucky they are to live here.
Now, I’m 68 and my skin is suffering from that equatorial sun. My
bowels will never be the same after six months of dysentery every
day. I am or was 6’ 1” tall and in Belem I weighed 157 pounds. I’ll
never see that 31” waist again.
I’ve enjoyed my adventures. But they do take a toll. Would it be
better to be that easy living bureaucrat with the stolen tax money,
benefits, and pension living in DC or Sacramento?
I think not.
We only have one life to live and I’ve lived mine to the fullest.