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Martin Foreman

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2.5c = 1e

Rio de Janeiro, February 2009: Ecstasy, according to the International Herald Tribune, has become the drug of choice for young, upper class Brazilians, at least a decade after it swept through Europe. This is obviously good news for fashionable cariocas and paulistas who like to dance through the night. It is also good news for the Brazilian police, customs officers and others involved in law enforcement, since the offspring of the rich and influential offer opportunities for more fat bribes and high profile convictions than the average ill-educated drug dealer from the favelas.They are also much less likely to be packing guns.

I came across the article on an Air France airbus from Paris to Rio de Janeiro as I fled snow-bound Europe for Carnival in the sun. It was after ten in the evening when I arrived in Nilson's apartment, more than half a day later than scheduled, but that was no reason to stay at home. We talked, showered and headed out for nearby Lapa, where hundred year old shophouses have reinvented themselves as trendy bars and every weekend the streets heave with the mostly young and frequently beautiful of both sexes. But after one beer swaying to the live samba in Carioca da Gema beautipre-Carnival crowds, our hormones kicked in and we grabbed a taxi for Le Boy, once the city's best-known and most popular gay nightclub.

You know the kind of place - large dancefloor, beefy go-go boys, balconies from where you can look down on the crowd. Mirrors. Dark enough so that everyone is good looking and light enough so that you can see who is looking at you. Not as crowded as the most popular danceclubs of London or New York. And unlike those meccas of masculinity, most men keep their shirts on. Which is attractive, because it maintains a little mystery...

I ordered a caipirinha, took one sip and was pulled back almost thirty years to late afternoons in Maxim's bar on Avenida Atlântica where the gay crowd retired at the end of a busy Saturday on the beach in front of the
Copacabana Palace Hotel. The combination of cachaça(the local rum), sugar, ice and slices of lime is an instant and powerful mood-lifter. One glass puts the world to rights, restores one's energy and makes one handsome, generous and wise. The second glass confers omnipotence and the third glass, which should only be imbibed by experts, allows you to transcend existence and glimpse eternity.

So why, I wondered, as the beat surged and my body responded, as the dark, handsome men around me danced with the same art and energy, as our glances crossed, held, turned away, returned, as our bodies moved closer and around each other, as the thrill of the dance held us as strongly and seductive as the promise of sex, why, I wondered, do Brazilians bother with the hassle of ecstasy, when the same effect can be achieved, legally at a similar price and without the risk of arrest and imprisonment?

There were offers that night, which I refused, become picky in my old age. When young it is important to consummate the desire; when old, it is enough to recognise that the desire exists. There comes a point when the effort of conversation becomes stronger than the rewards of physical pleasure. And, given the reputation of Le Boy, the offers may have expected payment. Whatever... At four in the morning, after a 30 hour journey, it was time to go home.

But I repeated the experiment the following night, with the same results. Two and a half glasses, I concluded, was the equivalent of the best ecstasy pill. Take over the course of an hour and let the effect percolate for twice that time before starting again. True, the dose can be expensive - Le Boy charges R$11 (about £3.50 / €4.00 / $5.00) per glass but it is worth every centavo. Even better, with a glass of water by your bedside, I woke up both mornings tired but with no hangover. Post-E life can seem pointless and the only remedy is to bury oneself under blankets with mind-numbing music for twenty four hours.

So remember that formula - 2.5c = 1 e - the next time you visit Brazil. It will serve you well and save you from any legal inconvenience...

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