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Rock Tales #714-Jay Vaquer

In my lifetime, the closest personal experience involving a supernatural / paranormal / spiritual / inexplicable by scientific method event, occurred in the mid nineteen-seventies in Rio de Janeiro. I was busy working with my then brother-in-law, Raul Seixas, being rock and roll stars in Brazil required constant tedious preparation. Raul had just moved to a new apartment in Rio. It was on the big lake, Lagoa Rodrigo Freitas, which has a mountainous backside with the lake stretching to a big sandbar that is heavily populated by the cities of Ipanema and Leblon which form a barrier separating the lake front from the Atlantic Ocean. The brand new 3 apartment high rises were sitting at the back of the lake in a carved out mountain base. From Raul, wife Gloria, and newest daughter Scarlet’s 10th floor apartment window, the view was beautifully awe-inspiring. With the reflections off the lake, Rio De Janeiro’s tall black rocks shooting out of the white beaches against the blue ocean and sky, and civilization packed in, a view of man’s role in nature becomes quite evident.

The first weekend in the apartment, Raul was booked to play a live show in the suburbs on a Saturday night. He asked me to come over for lunch and afterwards go over the songs we would play that night. The rest of the band would show up at Raul’s around six, then, as music director, I would go over the charts with them. Afterward, we would leave directly to play the show, which was scheduled to begin at 10 PM.

I arrived around noon, tediously prepared for the gig. Raul’s maid had prepared an excellent meal- more like a dinner than a lunch. Afterwards I went to the bathroom and while looking out its rear view window was surprised that all I could see was rock. I went around back to the maids’ quarters and could see where the mountain was solid rock from the ground up to around 150 meters above the building and then I couldn’t see anymore. It was not unusual for Raul and me to embark on a spontaneous adventure, so I asked Raul to climb the rocks with me before we got started on the music, to work off that lunch and just check it out. We took the back elevator down to the ground level and began looking for a way up. Raul led me over to another building’s back parking lot and we began our assent. Raul eyeballed a trail for us to follow, which took us up above the rooftops of the 20 story buildings where we encountered a different type of rock formation. Since I was taller than Raul, and had more reach, I began choosing the way up. I had us over one hundred feet above the tops of the apartments now out of our view when I decided to get on a ledge leading to a boulder which I thought would take us higher. After climbing onto the ledge and checking it out, I then pulled Raul up to the narrow ledge with me. The ledge was against the solid rock face and about a foot and a half wide. It led a few feet over to a protruding boulder, which measured about 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter and stuck out a couple of feet beyond the ledge. I envisioned a trajectory, which, if I got up about a foot and then slid around to the front a couple feet, would enable me to grab a notch near the top and pull myself up. So I went for it, in one swift move I committed myself a foot above the ledge while making a two foot slide to the right, and after securing my precarious position, discovered I had miscalculated and was short of the notch by about one foot. As a result, I was spread out wide, both my arms were stretched clinging to the sides of the boulder. My feet were suspended and it seemed that only the friction of my body was holding me to the rounded rock surface and preventing me from falling a couple hundred of feet to solid rock and certain death.   I could not return to the ledge since I was to the front of the boulder and gravity would take me if I tried to lower myself and move to the left. I could not reach up or I would lose my grip and fall. Raul could not help me either since he was to my side. Raul and I spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out a way to get me off that rock. Then we realized that not only was I stuck, but so was Raul. Since I had pulled him up the ledge, he could not go back down for help since he could not reach the places to stand. He also could not sit down or go up since I was blocking the only other apparent way off the ledge.  We spent the next hour hoping a helicopter would fly over or somebody would see us and rescue us by repelling from the other side of the mountain. However, unfortunately, we had not told anyone we were going up there and we were so high above the ground that we would only appear as specks if someone did see us from the ground. After we had said everything we could think of, the silence came. Every once in a while bird would fly by and squawk as if laughing at us as all I could think of was my impending death. If I got a muscle cramp… I was dead. I didn’t know at the time there were no earthquakes in Brazil so I had also entertained that possibility, or high winds. I was thinking about God, humanity, my family, my life, and preparing myself to die with no regrets and no fear. The sun began to set as Raul and I seemed to accept our fate. In an instant, my body became extremely light, and it seemed to lift its self slightly above the boulder while simultaneously my stomach and chest seemed to undulate like a snake and lift me to the notch in the rock where I grabbed it and pulled myself to the top. It happened so fast, without any conscious effort on my part, that I was startled that I was safe and life was mine once again. Raul asked me how I did it and to this day I have no idea how that happened. It was an intervention by something beyond my cognitive abilities of recognition. I reached down and pulled Raul off the ledge to the top of the boulder. We sat there, looking out over that majestic view, amazed that we had met and cheated death.  Raul led the way from there to get us back down. We ended up in a different part of town called Gavea and we took a taxi back to Raul’s apartment. When we got there the band members had already arrived. Raul said he was emotionally wasted and sent his driver, Antonio, to the slums (Favela) to buy him some cocaine and Raul began to drink heavily as he told the guys about our afternoon adventure. When Antonio returned Raul began snorting these big lines and he became very serious. Soon the agent who had booked the show for that night showed up to take us to the club for dinner before the show. Whenever someone new came into the apartment, Raul would tell the story all over again, and each time it became more serious. Raul had managed to work himself into a paranoid state and retreated to his bedroom supposedly to get ready to leave. I went over a generic show with the band, selecting Raul’s hits and our regular Rock and Roll tunes. It was nearly show time and Raul would not come out of his room. He said he could not deal with the public and wanted the manager to cancel the show and pay the fine. Raul would not come out of his room and everyone took a turn going to his door to try and convince him to come out and do the show for us since we needed the cash. Finally, around midnight, Raul emerged from his room. He had consumed nearly an entire bottle of Scotch by himself, but he was not drunk. He was dwelling on the importance of staring death in the face that afternoon and he could not stop thinking about it. When Raul ran out of the cocaine the manager finally convinced him to go do the show promising to get him more cocaine after the show.  We arrived at a large gymnasium in the suburbs about an hour later. It was nearly 2AM and the crowd, of around 2000 people, was hostile since they had been waiting nearly 4 hours for Raul. We walked onstage to a mixture of applause and boo’s. We started off with one of Raul’s hit songs called Al Capone and people began to throw things at us. A glass full of beer suddenly bounced off of my guitar, soaking me and my new Gibson. The overhead stage lights were blinding so I quit playing and moved to the front of the stage to try and see who threw it because I was enraged and going to go kick somebody’s ass. Then the whole band quit playing and Raul started screaming on the microphone. He told them that Brazil was a backward third world country because of idiots like those throwing things at us. Raul was so emotional and inspired that the audience could sense how powerful his words became as he bitched them all out. He told them the Alternative Society was for the enlightened people of the world who were not afraid to make changes in their lives and stand up against their parents or their government for the benefit of all humans to live life to its fullest extent. After an exhilarating 15 to 20 minute monologue, Raul started off his anthem “Viva Sociedade Alternativa” and the entire crowd enthusiastically sang with him. That emotional burst from Raul seemed to charge the atmosphere with positive energy and gave everybody more than their money’s worth as they got to really hear what Raul was all about. The show went on for another hour and a half with everyone delightfully cheering their newest rock idol, Raul Seixas.

Rock Lesson # 714 : Sometimes a glimpse of death can give you a surge of life.






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