There is a city park in Copacabana where, in the balmy and quiet (for Rio!) evenings, the men play cards and dominoes and chess and the women chat, snack, relax and watch their men. And their children or grandchildren. Smaller children are in the sandpit raising hell, practising for later life, older ones idling on the pathways or tucked into shady recesses, angling for a beso or a smoke or an appreciation of their collective hormonal achievements.
Boomboxes, skateboards, ices, sandwichies, vitaminas. Pot smoke, whispers, victory cries and scoffing matrons. Forro, Samba, Rock and Roll.
I was fascinated by the card game the men played, I angled closer to a particular table and watched quietly and respectfully, knowing the seriousness that men "of a certain age" employ when engaging in seemingly insignificant games of chance and skill. I am, I suppose, a man "of a certain age". The concrete table upon which the gentlemen played was spread with a tidy, multi-coloured cloth, subtle geometric patterns denoting the seating of each player. Each corner had precise pockets of green cloth sewn into the ninety-degree edge, apparently to hold the "books" or "runs" won by each player at that respective seat. This showed care and thoughtful concern, and communicated that this was more than a casual meeting and that these old fuckers were indeed serious about the game, and with whom they played. I waited patiently until a fresh shuffle of the cards gave me the opportunity to ask the burning question.
" Senors, con liciensa, que e la nome tu card game?"
It was a four man game. The men seemed worldly and clean, ( God forbid a man or woman from Brazil not have 3 showers/baths a day.....a most estimable convention to my mind!! ), and they took their time responding. Now, I had asked this question in such a way as to make it clear that I was, a) America, b) probably pretty much what they had experienced from contact with Americans beforehand, c) was not conversant in Portugese, and d) was barely conversant in any language they were familiar with. Most of these players ignored me yet one of the fellows half looked up and responded in a single word;
At least I thought that's what he had said and I knew immediately from having just previously watched the play that he meant "Tonk". Uchre. If I am not mistaken it is a rummy type game played throughout America, but most predominately colloquially. A neighborhood game, a kitchen table, aunt and uncle game that you play while drinking cheap wine out of old jelly jars, a game the GI's played in the bush of Southeast Asia while waiting for the shit to start, a game I half-assed watched the Nam vets play in the dope houses of Youngstown while I romanced their girlfriend's younger sisters into a quick fuck on the back yard grass. But I digress, thank God. If there is one.