Monday, October 28, 2013


His glasses are like the bottoms of coke bottles. The old kind. The ones you can only get outside of USA. The ones with real sugar. None-regulated and highly caffeinated.

"Que hace este pendejo en bicicleta en medio de la pinche calle en la noche?" He thinks as he yells at the Gringo to get into his pickup and toss his bike into the back.
Gringo from the central cold steppes of the Ukrainian planes does as told.
"Quieres una cerveza?" the weirdly physically oxymoronic 50something yells.
"Si Compadre, Si" says Cantador, polite international traveler that he is, and grabs the two beers offered.
"Quieres fumar mota?" and offers the joint he just dragged on. Cantador wonders if the dark pinche calle might not be the safer place to be right now. But then again, this is his only way to reach our campsite, another incredible natural wonder along the Bahia de Conception on the Sea of Cortez.

We all start checking the broken down Pickup truck as it approaches. Then Cantador, two beers, one case of beers, a reefer and four delicious fish that Cantador organized for all the B2B Riders emerge. He must have forgotten his wife Diana somewhere along the way. Before we start grilling we need firewood. U-Turn offers his, way too many (all) of us jump into the back of his tailgate-less truck. Maybe looking for U-turn making adventures. Would you rather be Sean Penn or Jennifer Lopez? Billy-Bob Thornton is taken.

U-Turn jabbers a million miles an hour as we rock past the beach and the gringo trailers at the end of it. I know that kind of jibber-jabber. The Shabu does the talking. Embracing the world and everyone in it, for days on end. The paranoia comes later.

perfect pix thx Balao

Stops at a gate to open it, drives on his on personal beach to his trailer. The stars stream their light in perfect silence. Geese and Chicken chill on the beach. Unbeknownst to us hordes of bloodsucker lick their chops at the fresh white meat. We help him unload his truck after he turns on his generator and Christmas lights, offers two joints, drives us to his firewood, yells at us about the pinche corrupt Mexican government, drops us off to our campsite and disappears into the night after he invites us out to his place for whenever.

We need to be friends with U-Turn.

B2B grills with the help of Diana and Cantador. Little do we know how good they are at Seafood. He trains with Mestre Mariano in Santa Barbara and moonlights as Evolutionary Biology and spear fisher. Yes, Cantador is a badass. We all pass out with food coma. Arroz con Leche over Campfire with Cinnamon lastet shorter than U-Turn's supply to build a Palapa.

The next day most of the crew rolls to catch up with Mestra and Mestre after a good Capoeira session on the beach. Mariano, Bebum, Cantador, Diana, Pirata as well as Yola ride out to U-Turn' s beach.

We ride to his RV. Shockingly his coke bottle bottom glasses are gone. What? He doesn't look like he will shoot and feed us to his pigs anymore (not out of malice, but pure sense of economy, you understand).

We want U-turn back.

He lets us have one of the Palapas and goes back to leveling half his ground BY HAND! En el medio pinche dias caloroso. Which he was also doing last night after he dropped us back. Soon he will have the flattest flat on the block.

We set up and Mariano and Cantador head over to pay him a visit and invite him to lunch. They return with a full set of spear fishing gear.

And "Man, his name is Marco  He used to be the Chief of Staff for the President. For 17 years. Then they framed him for murder, threw him in jail and the key away. He just got out last year after 10 years. And bought this place to get away."

The level of crazy in this desert is quite outstanding, even by desert standards.


"And, he said all of that after he invites me into his funky Tarantino like trailer - light streaming through fucked up blinds 'n shit - then tells me to find his spear fishing gear somewhere in one of the closets and proceeds to smoke crack out of a light bulb right in front of me and Cantador while we go through all his shit."

Two hours later
Exhibit 1 for Badass (Cantador)

Life is like Capoeira.

We go back to borrow a grill for the two Halibut etc that Herr Badass acquired in the bay, and come back with a grill and lemons. U-Turn is still leveling. And he won't be eating any time soon. We settle in to sleep after a righteous meal and our host swings by to drop of some mosquito coils. He was taking a break from leveling. But not for long. Two of his friends show up and they go to twork until sunup. At which point the spread is flat. And so is U-Turn's earth. Or so we think.

Despite his tweaking days and yelling ways, he is another example in a long list of voluntary local Mexican hospitality that we are forced to compare with the local gringo kind, which usually goes down like this:

"Hey, that's great you guys. What a journey, to Brazil, huh? Is there anything you all need? Can I help with anything?"
"Hmmm, no we are fine... Well, maybe some eggs?"
"Oh... how many are you thinking?"
"Up to you."
"We juuust came back from the store, well, we have some, but..."
"You guys look like survivors, you'll get on. Yeah, sorry, no can do."

No matter how poor, no matter how deported, no matter the motives of the locals for helping us consistently it seems that Mexican hospitality is rather outstandingly great. The B2B crew has an ongoing discussion about this, trying to figure out if its us, our story, the locals, the gringos or any combination thereof. What do you think?

Finally, U-Turn is apparently not another crazy Mexican dude mad at the govern'mint. We googled him - and the interwebs never lie. His name is Marco Antonio Daccarett Habib. He did get thrown into jail for murder and seems to have been involved in a murky real estate transaction back in the day with government officials. Far be it from us to know who is guilty of what, but in prison everyone is innocent. You would be too.

Should we be glad we had the spear in our campsite over night? Hindsight is like wearing glasses the size of coke bottle bottoms. The old kind.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

application letters are not easy

- Shifted -

Today is Monday after Mestre Curisco's event, one month to the start of the B2B journey. I need to write this application letter to Mestre. I am about to faint. I have written a few application letters. To universities. To Microsoft and Google. To girls. My first one to a construction company in Vienna. I once wrote an open letter to the Austrian Foreign Ministress asking her if she is crazy for sending Austrian Elite Mountain Troops to train the Chinese military to better hunt down Tibetan refugees, and maybe defend all the water they are about to take from India.

But I am completely intimidated thinking about what to write to this Capoeira legend so that I may join this journey that I have been dreaming of unknowingly. I start and stop many times. I call my friends, the few that I am willing to tell about this insane idea. I listen to Reise nach Afrika over and over. This is too  hard, my mind wanders and I start thinking about what I need to do to get on this train. And suddenly the letter seems easier

  • Quit job gracefully right before shipping (Microsoft speak for finishing a product).
  • Tell parents that you won't be around for the 4 week vacation that they had planned for a year 
  • Get rid of apartment
  • Sell Bronco 
  • Manage Finances for none presence 
  • Shut down a bunch of services 
  • Extend my Greencard for a one year trip - I now LOL at this 
  • Triage possessions, dump most of them, keep two bags. What you arrived with 12 years ago. 
  • Pack a 200 item deep list for living on a bike for 2 years

Wait. I can't do any of these things. Mestre said "if you would like to join for a little bit". But in my heart I know that if I am going for 2 weeks, I am going all the way. My head tells me I am totally loco. Hah! So how do I do all that shutting down of life and packing for a trip without really knowing if its for two weeks or two years? Let's hope that Mestre will answer me one way or another pretty quickly, so I start again.
I talk to my roomie. He tells me that the shitstorm I am about to enter reminds him of Basketball Playoffs. Sellers is always so helpful. But this does help me because "One game at a time!" makes me stay in the moment.

I draft many versions. I find help. I pray to all your supreme beings of choice. And I hit send after a sleepless night. Mestre answers fairly immediately - one hour later I am surprised to find his reply. He is not saying no. I bounce around the room for a minute. That's so awesome. I can't believe my luck!

Hold on. He is not saying yes either. This will remain so.

Ask me why Capoeira is like life.

Friday, October 25, 2013

i saw a Mestre cry today

I saw a Mestre cry today. A man who has taken life’s full measure and came away humbled yet spirited. Mestre Acorden, more symbol than man, who tries desperately to remove himself from people’s greedy eyes and the emotions they attach to their idea of him. So desperate that he will sit his weary ass on a bike for one year. To get away. To find himself once more. And to connect to a past he may have lost long ago.

Mestre Acordeon shed tears of regret and missed opportunities, reading "The Making of a Mestre" to a bunch of kids. We can not adequately describe what it feels like to witness this openness of spirit, this living with your arms stretched to the horizons. Sucking the marrow out of each moment given. Each moment of truth, of sadness and happiness, of failure and accomplishment.

What was this story? This power? This allegory and evaluation of one person’s life? What moved Mestre so much that he spent an evening exercising his human right and duty to simply feel? No matter what the circumstance. No matter who the audience. No matter how much water had flown under the bridge of Mestre Bimba’s life and death.

Do we attach undue greatness to a moment of public introspection because to us Capoeiristas it is as if the President spoke of meeting the Pope - and regretted not having washed his feet towards the end? Maybe the greatness of the moment is a natural result of the greatness of the man living that moment? Or is there really nothing special about this at all - just an old man considering the pages of his book?

For us B2B Riders many questions remain in our overcycled and dehydrated minds about this moment. Questions that Capoeiristas and others may be able to answer one day in a far away and hopefully wiser future. For our pasts recede from all of us.

The Making of a Mestre” pg. 131 in Mestre Acordeon’s book “Capoeira, a Brazilian Art Form”.

Monday, October 21, 2013

one month before B2B starts

Mestre Curisco's Batizado is on in Seattle. Grupo Candeias led by Professor Fenix participates. It's wonderful to see the cooperation between different Capoeira schools. M. Curisco has been a strong supporter of Professor Fenix for a long time. From my first days training and at my first Batizado I noticed this incredibly hard working, funny and all-around good human. I also noticed him doing headspins on people's back after a rastera (pulling your legs out from under you). Needless to say that even though he was slowed down somewhat by a nail that he wanted to remove from a piece of wood with his foot he was still faster than everyone else, other than Mestre Acordeon of course.

We are at the old Rainier Brewery every day all day, training, stretching, BBQing and learning about Capoeira. (fact: 99% of Capoeiristas stop trainiqng before they reach 5 years). Its the usual heady mix of martial art, rodas that last for hours, excitement and learning. Always learning. The remodel of the Brewery is originally Papagaio's idea. He convinced the powers that be that it would be better to put a bunch of artists, artisans and straight up hippies in the place instead of condos. And a capoeira school. The structure is a labyrinth of color, box like structures, amazing views of the Seattle skyline and of the harbor cranes marching into the foggy distance. Or did they escape from Starwars?

    old Rainier Brewery and Seattle


Eric Pixador's work at Seattle Males Capoeira

The days start early. Stretching out the kinks from the previous day like one day old fresh laundry. Everyone is in tight white pants and shirts. OII BELEZA!!! You can take the Capoeira out of Brazil, but you can't take the Brazilian tight white pants out of Capoeira. Flat stomachs bend backwards to open up for ponchos. Long, sinewy legs spend time suspended in splits. European closet-sized shoulders push their owners up and down, our slow minds think of our own feeble bodies and that pure will alone suspends them. But if you spend half your days doing handstands and one handed, two handed, no handed variations thereof your shoulders would be fairly door frame busting as well. After the stretches we start on kicks, 50 legs knife-cutting the dense, hot air in precise choreography, at least in the first two rows. Sequences, take-downs, escapes, backflips and triple Axels follow.

Mestre Mindinho's workshop presents Capoeira fighting techniques in a theoretical framework that even my slow academia-overloaded brain can digest. The plateau I have been stuck on for six month dissolves in my mind when he tells us to watch the opponent instead of thinking of our next move. This is so important for my self confidence in the roda. I stop thinking about my game and just play - only what Professor Fenix has been telling us for two years. Sometimes you don't hear what your parents tell you. I also get smacked in the face a bunch of times. Parabens!

Then Mestre Acordeon makes an appearance and I take my first workshop with the man. He seems exhausted but keeps on moving. Only after having gone through preparing for the B2B trip does it become clear how important M. Curisco's event must be to M. Acordeon, because Mestre's preparations must have been 100 times as difficult as mine. Yet he still came out. Life was KA-RAZY and Karate would not have helped! After the workshop M. Acordeon gives a little talk about his upcoming trip. And he drops a bombshell that may have been meant for my ears only "If you want to join us for some time, just come along".

- Shift -

Saturday, October 19, 2013

six month before B2B

Six months ago my Capoeira was plateauing. What does that mean? It means blood, tears and sweat without any discernible improvement in skill or knowledge. You keep training, you keep playing in the Roda and you keep making the same mistakes, the same foolish seeming moves and you hear the same instructions from your teacher (Arms up Pirata!!!), over and over again. This is not like computer programming or Basketball, where any skill that you acquire will translate to improved performance pretty much immediately. It may be part of the reason why Capoeira drops 99.99% of all people who start. That, and the Cirque du Soleil moves, the music and the weird sexy language that you pretty much have to learn to function in this world. Moving beyond a plateau gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. As with all things life, the longer, harder and flatter the plateau is, the more rewarding it will be to surmount it. However, if you are not used to this, or willing to put up with it, your clock is already ticking at your first Batizado.

Around this time I found out that the letter that Bebum had written Mestre Acordeon was well received and that he was definitely joining the trip to Brazil. It sounded amazing, a little bit like your distant cousin winning the lottery. Just distant enough for you not to get a single penny of the winnings. There is another Capoeirista in Utah, Beleza, who is very important to my Capoeira because he is the one who introduced me to it. I took my first intro class with Volta Miuda because I was work-visiting Salt Lake City, staying with Beleza instead of the local Courtyard Marriott (Oh, I hope you didn't think that Microsofties stay at the real Marriott, did you?). From this intro session I took with me blisters on both my feet because I jinga'd for an hour on carpet in the corner of Mestre Jamaica's old studio - and a vague sense of being cheated out of something for the past 20 years of my life.

The first thing I did back in Seattle was go online and look for Capoeira in Seattle, found Grupo Candeias and started training that week. A couple of months later I thought I should call Beleza and ask him to check with Mestre Jamaica to suggest a group I should train with. He told me I should definitely train with Professor Fenix. Capoeira is like that. I met Beleza in Maui on the back-end of my around the world trip in 2008, bumming around the island in a Ford Van with my Kite-surfing brother, while he was on a 420 sabbatical from University. The many little coinkidinks that life threw my way to get me into Capoeira are slightly startling. But wait till you hear the road to join Mestre Accordeon's B2B journey laid open to me in rather celestine ways. I swear none of this is based on superior selective recognition ability.

This is where it starts. Beleza knew my traveling soul and when we randomly chatted about B2B he suggested that I write a letter to Mestre, just like Bebum. I thought he was out of his mind, since I had no intention at all to embarrass myself or Professor Fenix with that sort of over-confident and silly action. He may have agreed since he didn't raise the topic again.

The next time I would see Bebum and Beleza would be at Mestre Jamaika's Formatura in Los Angeles at Mestre Amen's event. All of Volta Miuda came to LA in Bebum's travelling capoeira circus RV. I also met Mestre Acordeon for the first time there. I took this picture there. Yes, it was a big event, lots of Mestres. I thought it was huge. Until I went to a UCA event.

Still not thinking that I could ever partake in the adventure I didn't even ask him about it. And thought "Well, at least I shook his hand one time. That dude isn't coming back! He's just gonna go ride his bike."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

one year before B2B

One year ago I barely grasped that Capoeira might not be just another martial art. Mestres keep talking about how Capoeira is like life, life is like Capoeira. But when I tried to esquiva (a dodging maneuver in Capoeira) my next deliverable at work my boss just laughed at me. Right now I try to remember every day that I know nothing. Which is probably a good starting point for any human endeavor. 

Saying that Capoeira is like life and that life is like Capoeira draws two kinds of responses from an audience. Head-nodding agreement and blank stares of incomprehension. Now I know that this will happen most times when Capoeiristas and none-Capoeiristas discuss Capoeira. But The Now is not the topic of this topic Herr Tolle. Instead you should know that back then I did not think that I could just join a journey such as Mestre Acordeon's. You would be justified to expect Mestres, Contra Mestres and players with their books written full of stories about life and Capoeira to be polishing their bikes, packing their survival gear and reading up on how exactly Montezuma's revenge affects the digestive tract of white people.

So I looked on in envy how Mestre and his group started to prepare. I even knew one Capoeirista out of Salt Lake City who was going to try go on the trip. Bebum, who trains with Mestre Jamaika at Volta Miuda. Every day I trained my butt off with Professor Fenix's Grupo Candeias in Seattle's International district to become better in all aspects of this complex art form. Every day I went to a job that had become stale, not because the work or the group I was in was bad, but rather because I seem to require constant fresh and interesting input. Most jobs don't provide that. Once you figure them out, you go on auto pilot.

I had moved to Seattle on another Software Localization Contract, my 5th,  in 2009 right after a six month trip around the world. I was hoping to go to Marocco for at least as long afterwards. I thought I was going stay 8-12 month before going to Africa but then the pesky world economic crises made me face reality for once and I decided to take the full time job that Microsoft generously offered while Paulson called the Hammer down on 99% of us. You want to know about the fulltime job? Mom was happy. I was feeling old. I did love the challenges of working in that Type A personality zoo called Microsoft. And settling into Seattle was like traveling to a new country for me because growing roots was definitely a new experience.

Seattle grew on me like moss on a rock. Tim Robbins, a native, provides ecclectic if slightly whack imagery if you'd like some nice descriptions of that rather moist part of the world. I liked it. It seemed, for a short while at least, that it could break a certain rythm that constant moving had established. After I went to Australia from my homeland Austria in 1995 to attend University for three years I flew to Tokyo on a one-way ticket with 50 bucks in my pocket and ended up staying for two years. Met a girl there and moved to Hawaii in 2000 before finally arriving on the West Coast and living all up and down that amazing part of the world. I had been a waiter, a barrista, a night club party organizer, a bar tender, a florist, an event planner, a stage builder, an orchid small business owner, a translator, a computer localization tester, engineer, project manager and finally in my last job a Release Manager on the Windows Phone Team. Only in America is it possible to move from working a 4AM to noon minimum wage job in the Downtown Los Angeles wholesale flower market to working a badass job in one of the most successful companies in the world. The USA, like most countries, has many good and bad sides. But it is uniquely great in that sense. 

Yet still, it is not enough. I really wanted to go ride bike.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

when leaving your cushy job at Microsoft

... you usually write a farewell note to all the people who contributed to your success or misfortune, have become friends and the ones whose face you just need to rub in the dirt one more time. Mine looked like this: 

Dear Mircrosofties,

My time with you has come to an unexpected and early end. Its not you. Its me. I have received an offer that I cant refuse. No, I am not going to the competition. I am going to ride my bike to Brazil. Check Mestre Acordeon's journey and project out at and also on FB B2B Joga Capoeira - A  Project of Mestre Accordeon. Riding with this legendary Capoeira Master is like hanging out with Bruce Lee for a year. Please donate a little something to the good cause that drives this project.

<leaving out the thanking and face-rubbing>

 I wrote this email a little late by MS standards. 5 days after I was supposed to return from a 4 week vacation. Circumstances to be explored later prevented better actions. Nevertheless it seems that the vibe in the office about me leaving my job this way is rather good, if a little envious of my utter disregard of financial and career consequence. Both rather not so admirable motivators for any decision making process. But maybe its just a clear manifestation of the common midlife crises, my Mom's preferred interpretation of these events.

So, how did it happen? How did I toss my job, my phat apartment right on Puget Sound and the life I built in Seattle. A city that I called my favorite in the world.