Topic: idiosyncratic egotism
Over this last weekend, thanks to Google Maps, I was able to demythologize an address in Rio de Janeiro that had possessed an almost other-worldly aura for me for more than 20 years.
In September of 1984, at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas, USA, I made the acquaintance of Regina Oliveira, an exchange student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who was also a coworker of mine at the University Library. Over the next ten months, Regina befriended my wife and I. Indeed, we became close friends. Regina's friendship drastically changed my perspective on the world and my view of my own faith, though the full effect took many years to work itself out. But, over the much shorter term, during a personal crisis in the late Spring and early Summer of 1991, Regina remained in Lawrence for approximately 2 months after her graduation, when she really wanted to go home to Rio, because we needed her. Her kindness and true friendship played a large part in saving my life (I was suicidal for awhile) and our marriage. Then she went home.
Regina returned to the U.S. for about a year later in the Fall. She lived with relatives in New Jersey and worked an internship in her field. Then she returned to Brazil for good. We remained in correspondence until 1991, when she suddenly disappeared completely, without a trace. All attempts to locate her after 1991 (and, believe me, I made some!) returned no indication that she had ever existed--though I can still prove her existence from 1985 to 1991 by showing letters she wrote and by pointing to her name in the published May 1985 University of Kansas graduation announcement (which is still publicly archived in the campus newspaper and the Lawrence Journal-World). Her role in changing my life and my attitude was pretty well complete, so it was as if she no longer existed. I came to regard her as a spiritual figure sent to me for a time, an angel. (A longer version of the story is found in Suspect Angel, a web page I first published in 1995 as a part of my effort to locate her).
This is the point in the story where my searches in Google Maps--which I just learned to use this weekend--came in. After her return to Brazil, according to her letters, Regina lived with her parents at a house on Rua da Bondade (Virtue Street!!!), Curicica, Jacarepagua, R.J., Brazil. She lived there until shortly before she disappeared in 1990, when she moved to an address on Jardim Botanico in central Rio--an address that, unfortunately, burned in a fire at our house before I could memorize it.
Before this weekend, I knew that Jardim Botanico was a major thorougfare in central Rio that ran by a large park, the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico). However, after the street number of the Jardim Botanico address burned, I obviously couldn't use it. On the other hand, I remembered by heart Regina's parents' address on Rua da Bondade, and had, back in the early '90's, tried sending two letters to Regina at that address via FedEx. Neither the letters nor the receipts ever returned, and FedEx was not able to trace them--it was as if the letters disappeared into the great void. This made me wonder whether the location existed. Perhaps Rua da Bondade itself was an address in the spirit realm?
So, I asked some e-mail correspondents I had developed in Rio de Janeiro what they knew about the Rua da Bondade address. All but one had never even heard of the street and did not know how to find it. The one correspondent who said he had heard of it also said it was in a part of town that I would definitely NOT want to visit, though he didn't elaborate on exactly where it was or why I wouldn't want to go there. The mystery, and the myth, deepened.
Well, this weekend, I found it. Jacarepagua is a borough on the west side of Rio. Curicica is a neighborhood on the southwest corner of the borough of Jacarepagua, generally north of the old Autodromo of Jacarepagua, which used to be an important auto racing track but is now in disuse and likely to be removed to buiild an Olympic villlage, if Rio wins its bid to host the summer games. Curicica is also directly west of, and borders on, the Cidade de Deus (City of God!!!) neighborhood, w 1960's planned community social experiment which was the subject of a famous movie. Rua da Bondade is a short, two block long street which has a traffic circle as its northern terminus. It is located almost directly north of the autodrome, approximately a mile (if I'm reading the map correctly).
So now the address on Virtue Street has been demythologized. I can prove it exists, and point to its location on a physical map. It is not entirely in the spiritual realm, or in my imagination. Many questions remain, but the location of Rua da Bondade in Curicica isn't one of them.