October Exhibit Tripleheader by Ian Hameroff

October 2019 is turning into quite the action-packed month for Ian Hameroff Photo! Starting next week, I will have three concurrent exhibits across the greater Seattle area. It’s a super awesome, humbling, and crazy time.

In addition to the two displays underway in the PhinneyWood neighborhood of Seattle, I have been selected as the October featured artist at the West Seattle branch of Verity Credit Union.

West Seattle Branch of Verity Credit Union

Kicking off at 5p on Thursday, October 10th—as part of the festivities for the October West Seattle Art Walk—this latest exhibit shall feature a sampling of my work across several mediums: metal, acrylic, and canvas prints, along with traditional framed and matted photographic prints.


I stopped by the West Seattle branch earlier this week to scope out the setup. After my walkthrough, I decided to curate a selection of captured exposures, grouped together into four, themed sets:

  • “Blue Backed” - If I have a “style”, one of them would certainly be my love of capturing common objects and bits of architecture set against the clearest, purest of blue skies. You can see examples of these all across my portfolio site. The Verity CU exhibit will offer attendees the chance to see one of my personal favorites: “The Giant Chance”. This exposure will be on shown as a giant, 36 x 24 inch metal print.

  • ”Monochromes” - Working in black & white, silver tones, sepia, et al could be considered rather pedestrian or predictable creative photography. But, when done well, the contrasts and image depth can be stunning. For this grouping, I’ve pulled a few items from my back catalog—including “A Black Bird” (framed print circa 2014 and previously selected for the Microsoft Employee Art Exhibition)—and a brand new acrylic print of an exposure captured in Hawai’i in 2016.

  • ”Sunsets” - I’ve decided to expand on the “Greenwood Sunset” print I had at my exhibit in July at the Nutty Squirrel Magnolia. I produced a few new framed and matted prints of sunsets, including this all-time favorite of mine, “Sunset Over Pu'u Huluhulu”.

  • “Metal Postcards” - As a special treat for those who will attend the art walk event on October 10th, I am bringing along ten 4 x 6 inch metal prints (or, postcards) of some of my “fan favorites” produced in monochrome and sepia tones. These will only be on display during the hours of the event.

Verity CU is hosting my work (sans the “Metal Postcards”) for the whole month of October, so don’t fret if you can’t make the October 10th event. You may not want to miss it, as Nick (one of the many fantastic West Seattle branch member consultants) reminded me, there will be lots of refreshments and fun. Rain or shine!

Curating a selection of exposures for the Verity CU exhibit

To recap the three Ian Hameroff Photo exhibits on for the month of October:

  • Sky Light 2 (Canvas Print) on exhibit as part of the Phinney Center Art Gallery show “The Healing Power of Art” is on through October 18th. You can read more about my featured photograph here.

  • “Exposed Metal.” - This exhibit features six selections from my metal prints collection captured from around the northwest, and the world. It is on display until the end of October at the Phinney Ridge location of Seattle’s favorite artisanal gelato shop, the Nutty Squirrel.

  • Verity Credit Union West Seattle Branch - Officially kicking off during the October West Seattle Art Walk on October 10th, but continuing to be on display during normal business hours until the end of the month.

Here’s hoping to see you at one (or more!) of these sites.

Behind the Capture: "Sky Light 2" by Ian Hameroff

“Sky Light 2” is one of a series of photographic exposures I captured during a two-week business trip to Melbourne, Australia in April 2017.

"Sky Light 2" Captured By Ian Hameroff

A canvas print of this exposure is on exhibit at the Phinney Center Gallery, part of a new show called “The Healing Power of Art” (on from September 12-October 18, 2019).

“Sky Light 2” among 40+ works on exhibit

It is featured among 40 works of art, across a variety of medium and materials. All of these works are reflections and expressions of how art (either the process of creating or through the enjoyment of the artwork of others) can be extremely therapeutic.

Here’s the artist statement I submitted with “Sky Light 2” to explain how it represented the show’s theme:

Every visual artist constantly struggles with trying to recreate what they see with the naked eye through their medium. When that very moment has been captured, it cements an emotion that has the supernatural power of creating a connection between the artist and their audiences. The idea of the healing power of art speaks directly to these extraordinary, lasting bonds that are formed—in most cases without the artist, subject, or observer ever having met. For this show, I am submitting a photograph I’ve captured that I believe exhibits this incredible power of emotional evocation:

"Sky Light 2" (Canvas Print) - Captured in Melbourne, Australia in 2017, this image creates a strong sense of having a path and a means to reach a better state of mind, body, or soul. Whether you believe this is going up towards the sky, or just straight forward, it is the metaphorical journey to the light at the end of the tunnel.

On Friday, September 13th, the Phinney Center Gallery hosted an opening reception for this show. Art lovers from around the greater Seattle area were able to meet and mingle with many of the featured artists. As one of these artists, I truly enjoyed the chance to interact with the attendees and other artists. It afforded me ample opportunity to tell others the story behind my photograph.

Opening reception brings many attendees interested to see the 40+ works on display in the Phinney Center Gallery

During the evening affair, I not only sold the canvas print (thank you!), I was also asked numerous times, “what is this thing, exactly?”

While I knew all of the details of when, where, and how I captured “Sky Light 2”—and the other three exposures in the series I showed from my hameroff.photo portfolio site from my iPhone—I completely failed on the specifics of the very object at the center of the piece.

Since that night, I’ve been searching about to try and piece together a bit more of the story. I’m happy to share (thanks to Google Maps and an online walking map of public art) I am now able to share the complete story.

The object is called the “Sealight Pavilion”. It is a public art installation in the Docklands of Melbourne, funded by a group led by Monash University. Designed in 2012 by architectural students from the university, and built with reclaimed timber, the work is meant to be “a place to meet, to escape the elements or to simply witness the passage of time.”

The Docklands is an area of fairly recent urban renewal, situated near the central business district of Melbourne city. Like many similar places across the world, the Docklands is a mash-up of modern, contemporary (and expensive) real estate and repurposed buildings from the districts prior life as a transportation hub).

Sealight Pavilion

“Sealight Pavilion” is one of a number public artwork installations you can find as you stroll through the Docklands, and exemplifies this connection between past and present Melbourne.

I happened upon it during a full-day walkabout that took me across nearly the entire city, toting my trusty FUJIFILM X-T2. Not entirely sure what to make of the structure, failed to take any photos from the outside. I immediately felt differently once walking into the “tower”.

One of the first things you’ll notice is this public artwork has long served as a canvas for the “art” of the public.

"Nik Heart Ben" Captured by Ian Hameroff

Nearly the whole of the interior is covered with graffiti. Nothing spectacular; mostly names and snapshots of people’s relationship status sans Facebook.

What really caught my attention was the view whilst looking up and out the opened top of the tower. Thanks to both the time of day, perfect Southern Hemisphere fall weather, and a little bit of luck, the exposures almost began to capture themselves.

"Sky Light 1" "Sky Light 1" Captured by Ian Hameroff

"Sky Light 3" "Sky Light 3" Captured by Ian Hameroff

Each of the series of three may look very similar, but as the person who purchased “Sky Light 2” pointed out to me: “every time you look at it, you find another new thing hidden in the woodwork.”

“Sky Light 2” (and the others) are also a solid reminder to me that, as a photographic/visual artist, the best captured exposures may not be right in front of you. Always look up, look down, look out, and look around (as, the Yes song “It Can Happen” says so well), as you might not realize the best shot is still to be found.

You can see “Sky Light 2” on display until October 18th at the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s “Phinney Center” in the PhinneyWood section of North Seattle. More details on the show and location can be found by visiting: https://www.phinneycenter.org/arts/

Sweet Tooth Show - Select PNW Exposures on Display at the Nutty Squirrel in Magnolia by Ian Hameroff

Starting today, a selection of some of my most popular photographs will have an opportunity to be your proverbial cherry on top of a wonderful, sweet treat sojourn to the PNW’s very own Nutty Squirrel Gelato shop in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle.

This award-winning proprietor of “expertly crafted...local-centric Italian ice cream” also extends their hometown artisanal flavor (see what I did there?) by welcoming in featured local artists to exhibit in their locations. I was fortunate enough—thanks to my long-time friend and fellow visual artist Sydney Davis—to be invited to hang a number of my exposures in one of their four locations for the month of August.

Building off my successful show—“On Black and Blue”—last Fall at Stretch and Staple, but sticking to a more local(ish) theme, I tapped into my catalog to put on offer exposures I’ve captured in the PNW.

All wrapped and stacked for the journey to Magnolia.

As I shared in my “about the artist” placard displayed at the Nutty Squirrel:

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) offers an amazing array of subjects, from natural beauty, to signature architecture, to even the most common place objects. This exhibit features selections from across the PNW, captured during the period of 2009-2017.

PNW exposures hung up around the awesome Magnolia Nutty Squirrel Gelato shop, as known as “Nutty HQ”

I am also using a mixture of media: a number of canvas prints, a few metal prints (which really make things pop!), and a couple of prints I matted and framed.

Canvas prints. Metal prints. Framed prints. And, a bag full of tricks to get them all up on the windowed walls of the gelato shop.

Here’s a sampling of a few of the exposures you’ll see if you swing by:

  • Portico Ceiling (24” x 16” Canvas print) - I captured this exposure while visiting the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, WA in August 2014. I personally love this shot. It’s a great reminder that the best view may not be the most obvious one or right in front of you. In this case, you’d need to look straight up as you stood outside the entrance of our state’s Legislative Building. The depth and detail can really draw you into the photograph.

  • Pike (18” x 12” Metal print) – Capture in 2009 at the Pike Place Market, and is part of a larger series of nighttime neon signs I photographed. On the advice of the guys at Stretch and Staple, I printed this one on metal, and boy does it make it pop! The blues and reds stand out, and the subtle reflection gives it a three-dimensional feel.

  • Greenwood Sunset (10” x 8” Framed print) – A more recent print of an exposure captured whilst looking off the back side of our house in 2013. I printed these on luster photo paper that added a bit of relief to the image. The texture combined with the colors makes it almost appear to be an oil painting. I paired this one with a similar shot from a different time of day to show off the natural beauty of the PNW.

These three along with the rest of my displayed works are available for purchase.

If you find yourself in “the Village”—as Magnolia’s business district is know to the locals—please do swing by and let me know what you think. You can find the Nutty Squirrel at: 2425 33rd Ave W Unit: B, Seattle, WA 98199


"On Black and Blue" - A Photography Exhibition by Ian Hameroff

For weeks, I’ve been preparing for my first significant photography exhibition hosted by Greenwood’s triple threat—print shop, art gallery, and now micro-brewery—Stretch and Staple. This prep included settling on a theme, selecting the right exposures, getting feedback on the set, deciding the materials and dimensions to print said selected photos, and then ultimately pricing the individual pieces.

In parallel, I spun up a variety of marketing and awareness generating efforts with the goal of getting a good-sized crowd to the big event.

Then finally—after initially getting the invite by the Stretch and Staple crew on July 23rd—the big day arrived yesterday (Friday, September 14th). My first major shindig would be featured among other shows and showings of the September edition of Art Up PhinneyWood’s art walk.

I arrived at the shop about 30 minutes before the metaphorical kickoff of the event at 6p. I found Taylor McAtee and Vishal Goklani putting the finishing touches on the seventeen photographs that would comprise my “On Black and Blue” show.

Vishal hangs the last of the photographs

Taylor and Vishal survey the spread

I was awash with a mix of feelings: Amazement and awe upon seeing these pieces printed on the mix of metal and canvas, as well as anxiousness about whether or not these exposures would have the impact I hoped for during the show. It didn’t take long to see my gallery wall complete.

My exhibit ready to rock!

Will all of the pieces hung just right, the crew at Stretch and Staple shifted gears to readying their bar. My show would also serve as a soft-launch of the gallery’s recently launched micro-brew venture: Snapshot Brewing. Having these tasty and super fresh libations made the evening even more fantastic. I’d recommend the Golden Hour Pale Ale and the Low Key Stout.

Now, it’s official!

And, before I knew it, the crowds started to come through. I was both humbled and stoked to see so many of my friends and colleauges make the journey from near and far (in some cases nearly 40 miles!) to see my art.

I was also touched and humbled by the kind words and reviews of the various pieces. It was such a blast and really hope the positive vibes continue as my exhibit remains on display at Stretch and Staple for the next 30 days. Which means if you missed last night’s show, you can still swing by and see the set at time that works best for you.

A great crowd throughout the entire evening. (Photo Credit: Vladimir Petrosyan)

A huge thank you to everyone—those I know and those just passing through as part of the art walk—for taking a few minutes to check out my stuff.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t again thank Taylor and Vishal of Stretch and Staple for the opportunity. Thank you!

I’ll do a separate post soon with a little more detail on each of the exposures that were shown, including some background based on the questions I received by folks during the event. Stay tuned!

Patterns in PDX by Ian Hameroff

The recent Labor Day holiday afforded us an opportunity to sneak south to our Cascadia neighbor for a long weekend. Only a few hours away by car--or a few extra when traveling with a 9-month old--Portland offered an opportunity to take out my trusty FUJIFILM X-T2 and capture a bunch of exposures.

Always looking for ways to catalyze creativity when on a photographic walkabout, I set off looking for "interesting" patterns in the buildings, facades, and environs of the downtown. Like most such endeavors, you start off slow, tentatively releasing the shutter once or twice, but then chimping repeatedly to see if there's anything in what you've shot. Fortunately, between going bananas photographing my daughter and finally getting a chance to air out my FUJINON XF50-140mm F/2.8 lens meant it didn't take long to get going.

Here are a few samples of the exposures captured during this excursion.

"Curtain" - An onimous scene is cast upon the hotel room window by this quasi-transparent cloth.

"Curved" - Downtown PDX buildings can create the illusion that diamonds turn into oblong shapes.
Armor Plates
"Armor Plates" - Places along Willamette River waterfront presents interesting subjects.

In and Out
"In and Out" - Portland parking places presents photographic possibilities.

"Mirrored" - Sometimes the object you seek is hidden in another.

Shadows and Steel
"Shadows and Steel" - Beneath one of the many steel structures that gives Bridgetown its nickname.

"Ruled" - Modern buildings are lined (or ruled) from bottom to top.

You can see the rest of these in a (mostly) black and white series on my portfolio site.



SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming Photography Exhibition on September 14th! by Ian Hameroff

I'm pumped to announce and share details about an upcoming exhibition of my photography on Friday, September 14, 2018.

This exhibition will feature a selection of 15 or so exposures I captured during shoots in Seattle, Vancouver, Hawai'i, San Francisco, Montreal, Florida, Austraila, and Brazil. I've grouped these photographs under the theme "On Black and Blue". More on that in a moment.

This exhibit will take place at Stretch and Staple--an awesome Greenwood neighborhood professional photography gallery and canvas printing company--as part of the September "Art Up PhinneyWood" art walk.


This event marks the first show of my work in more than 2 years. The last one was the 2016 Microsoft Art Collection Employee Art Exhibition where my photograph "Broken" was one of 29 artwork pieces shown out of nearly a 100 submissions from Microsoft employees around the Puget Sound.

With this being my first exhibition of more than just one photograph, I spent a bunch of time trying to think through a theme to help make my "curation" a little easier (or, at least make the exhibit a bit more organized vs. random). Working off a portfolio of more than 2,000 photographs (some okay and some great) it's super important to have some kind of game plan. 

I chose "On Black and Blue" based on two factors.

First, there's been a recent set of black and white (and, sepia) exposures I've assembled that I've really, really love. Not to be narcissistic or anything, it is just that I truly enjoyed looking at these photographs...and I was also fortunate to receive lots of positive feedback from others.

For example, this shot below (titled "A Tavern View") was captured while my oldest friend was visiting us here in Seattle last summer. We happened to stop at a downtown Seattle pub for some lunch while I was taking him around for some sightseeing. I captured this shot with my trusty FUJIFILM X-T2 (did a little work in Adobe Lightroom) from the table while we waited for our burgers and brews:

A Tavern View

Second, I've always had this fascination with taking singular objects or subjects, and capturing them on the deep (and sometimes not so) blue sky. While oft a rare sight here in the PNW, you do get some neat views like this one from 2009 outside of our city's famous Pike Market Place:


So, for this show, I married the two "concepts" and it's hopefully something you'd find engaging, as well.

Here are the specific details of the event:

Add To Your Calendar

And, to stay up-to-date on this event, as well as all things related to my photography, just follow my new @HameroffPhoto Twitter. I'll keep posting updates over the coming weeks as we get closer.

See you on September 14th!

Journey to the Kamokuna Lava Viewing Area by Ian Hameroff

Editor's Note: I fully acknowledge that a long time has passed since my last post. In addition to the normal "excuses" of not having the time (especially after the recent birth of my daughter), I found myself having to resurrect my site and blog from the metaphorical dead. During this excused-laden period in 2017, I failed to properly heed several warning emails from Microsoft that made it very clear that the underlying database flavor I ran my Azure-hosted WordPress site was going to be deprecated. Instead of doing a backup and restore of my site's content to the new recommended database platform, I lost all it all when the MySQL DB was dropped. I was heartbroken. And, it was all my own fault. No one to blame, but myself. Considering one of my past roles at Microsoft was communicating these types of end-of-service events to Office 365 admins, there was a little bit of irony in play. While I did lose a bunch of posts, I luckily did not lose my FIFA World Cup 2014 adventures journal. That would have been way harder to swallow. Fortunately, I had a prior export/backup of all of these World Cup Brazil posts. I just finished spending a month rehydrating the XML transcripts into this new personal website. I'm going to be a little more careful moving forward, for sure! On to the topic.

In August 2017, my wife and I traveled to our most favorite place on earth: the Big Island of Hawai'i.

While we had just visited Hawai'i a few months earlier, this trip had an extra-special meaning for us. It would be our babymoon. Our last hurrah before both the later stages of my wife's pregnancy and then the arrival of our daughter would make such trips difficult.

One of the benefits of having visited the Big Island as often as we have, is we've experienced Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park from several different perspectives. The wife and I have hiked across Kīlauea Iki, made several trips down the Chain of Craters Road by car, marveled at the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater during the day and at night, and even flew over Halema'uma'u and Puʻu ‘Ō‘ō by helicopter.

The only thing left was to witness the amazing--and amazingly destructive--force of nature of the active, flowing lava from Kīlauea as it met the Pacific Ocean. 

To accomplish this "bucket list" entry, we strapped on our hiking boots, grabbed some bottles of water, flashlights, my trusty FUJIFILM X-T2, and did the 8-plus mile roundtrip hike out to the Kamokuna Viewing Area

The trail from the end of Highway 130 to the Kamokuna ocean entry viewing point

The trail from the end of Highway 130 to the Kamokuna ocean entry viewing point

Oh, did I mention my wife was 6 months pregnant?

She was! And, in way better shape than just about anyone on the trail.

After conferring with the fine NPS volunteers on the best route to take, we embarked from the NPS visitor center and made the long drive down Pāhoa-Kalapana Road (Hawai'i Route 130) to its bitter end. We found ourselves at a highway terminus that was one-part parking lot, one-part bazar, and one-part base camp for the adventurous thrill seekers wanting to walk (or bike) 4-plus miles each way to one of Mother Nature's most awesome displays.

At the Start of the Lava Viewing Journey

Maura and I set off with about an hour prior to sunset, with the expressed goal of reaching the end of this trail in time to see the lava fireworks (in all of its glory) in the dark. This also meant that we'd be returning to our quasi-basecamp in the darkness. Luckily, we wouldn't be the only ones. Between those traveling by foot, on bike, and the occasional East Rift Zone local passing by in their dust cloud generating pickup trucks, the hike to the lava ocean entry viewing point was not a lonely one.

About 3.5 Miles to Lava

The trail we followed was nothing more than heavy machinery compacted earth; the byproduct of a fairly recently cleared path after a prior, early 2000s flow wiped out the original, paved roadway.

A quick aside: we were very sad to learn during a prior trip that the relatively famous "Road Closed" sign (shown below from a visit in 2010) was now gone. A victim of the federal government's bulldozers tasked with craving out an escape route in the event Pele (the goddess not the futebol god) decided to unlesh more lava flows. As you've probably noticed, this indeed happened earlier this year.

Road Closed.

While a flat and smooth path, the terrain that bordered each side of our two car lanes wide trail was anything but. In addition to the blackened fossilized lava flows hugging both sides of our route, we passed by the heroic (or insane) homes built by the off the grid citizens of Kalapana Gardens. This "neighborhood" was built atop 40-60 feet of "new earth" that covered the buried remains of the original subdivision that was erased from the map after a series of flows in the 1990s. I didn't take any photos of these homes out of respect for (or fear of) these folks. But, it would be fair to say some of these homes/minor compounds looked more like favelas for ne'er-do-wells than handcrafted outposts for these resilient pioneers.

Reaching the End of the Trail, as the Lava Reaches the Sea

After several miles, we began to see the white, fluffy steam plume created as super hot molten lava crashed into the cool waters of the Pacific. And, with the day retiring well into dusk, we also saw little balls of fire on the hill to the north. This was from the active flow peaking out of lava tubes feed by Puʻu ‘Ō‘ō.

A Safe Distance

A few minutes later, we found ourselves at the end of the path. National Park Service Rangers directed the throngs of visitors to head left, but to watch their step. We were left to negotiate the undulating surface of once flowing lava frozen in time. 

Standing on the East Rift Zone a short ways from where active lava flows into the Pacific Ocean

Standing on the East Rift Zone a short ways from where active lava flows into the Pacific Ocean

It didn't take long for our efforts to be rewarded.

Dusk and Glow

As if controlled by Disney's famous Imagineers, the full power of Pele illuminated the sunsetting sky, But, it was mere tease to what we'd see once the darkness of night enveloped our view.

Volcanic Plume and the Sea

As if it was possible to visualize a verbal argument between two waring parties, the effects of Tūtū Pele venting Puʻu ʻŌʻō into the Pacific Ocean was intense. 





And, at the same time submission.

No matter how powerful, hot, and vicious the lava may have been on the surface, it was ultimately no match for the waters of the ocean. 

It almost gave new meaning to the ocean's name. Pacifying liquid earth and turning this raw material into newborn land.


The hundred or so witnesses that stood with us all remained in the silence awe often invokes. The darker the nighttime sky, the more pronounced the colors. 

Soon, our community began to relax. A pair of French visitors tried in vain to capture an Instagram-ready photo, with one of them attempting to employ forced perspective to create the illusion of her companion's ability to hold the volcanic plume in her arms. After several attempts, they finally resigned to the fact that neither the iPhone's camera nor the lighting conditions would yield the desired result.

Maura and I stood in our euphoric trance for nearly an hour, before deciding to navigate around the French duo, a lady who hiked the same distance with a very long lensed Canon DSLR, a South Asian family that had a disagreement that boiled over to the point of the patriarch leaving his wife and two disobedient sons behind, and gaggle of tourists all attempting to locate a trustworthy patch of ground to stand witness themselves. 


With this literal hellfire in our rearview, we set off to retrace our path back to our rented car at the makeshift basecamp from which we departed hours before. Suddenly the 4-plus miles (all in the dark, sans the occasional passersby on foot or bike with their own flashlights) return felt like 40 miles.

After arriving back at our car, we collapsed into the seats and prepared for the long journey back to our hotel on the other side of the island. Even though I was throughly exhausted from a very full day, the images of what we experience fueled my desire to get back to our so I could immediately examine my exposures in Lightroom, and relive the whole experience again.

São Paulo Street Art: In Batman's Alley by Ian Hameroff

São Paulo, Brazil is a very diverse city offering everything one would expect for a place that's nearly 600 square miles and home to more than 11 million people. Amongst its most interesting features is the "grafites" (or graffiti) that's sprayed on many a building across the city.

Much of this appears to be nothing more than a strange street dialectic that looks almost alien, like an ancient race had landed and scribed their proclamations at across the tops and bottoms of building facades. But the prevalence of "Pixação" shouldn't overshadow the real "street art" you can find almost everywhere--welcomed or otherwise--along the ruas and avenidas of São Paulo.

In fact, there are some places where this artwork can found in an ever evolving "open air gallery" that is like a living organism of aerosol spray, crafty designs and an array of messages--often a mix of political, societal and artist ego. One such place, called Beco do Batman or "Batman Alley", exists in the Vila Madalena neighborhood.

Late Morning Along Beco do Batman

Beco do Batman is a fantastic place to visit.

White Tree House

It is really alive and ever changing, as evidence by the total lack of any trace of the art from the last time I was there in 2008.

As an aside: I had one of my photos from that prior visit featured in a photography show and it still remains one of my most favorite captures I've ever made.

Just like I did in 2008, I took my trusty Nikon and captured about 50 or so exposures. I would have liked to have taken even more shots, but it was a super busy day all along the alley. At least four groups were taking pictures at a various points, including some that look like either a professional shoot or students from the same photography class asked to complete an assignment in this rich location.

Beco do Batman's popularity was further bolstered by all of the "gringos" in town for the World Cup and after it was featured in the in-flight magazine for (at least) TAM Airlines. Just a few moments after we made our way out of the alley, a car stopped us to ask for directions to the site.

Beco do Batman

There is no particular rhyme or reason to the spray painted canvasses that are basically the back walls of the various houses and buildings that line the alleyway. Oh, this is an active thoroughfare, as we had to step aside many times to allow cars to travel through the one-way connector.


A lot of the art here is created by some of the better known graffiti artists, like "Não" (which means "No" in Portuguese). And, it seems like there is a lot of respect for the art of others, as few of the "pieces" are corrupted by over-spray from other works.

The following is a sampling of photos I took during this most recent visit (NOTE: the titles are my own for the pictures and not the original artist's. Hope the original artists don't mind my interpretation of their work.)

"Eye See You"

Eye See You



"Rising Sun"

Rising Sun

"Cow Trance"

Cow Trance

"The Beast"

The Beast



"The Conversation"

The Conversation



As you've likely noted, the diversity of the artwork is incredible. Different styles. Different messages. Different subjects.

You even get the occasional protest or activist tag amongst the other works.

The Best Protest

The loose translation: "Not consuming is the most powerful protest"

And, the street art is not just confined to the alley called Beco do Batman.

Grafites Parking Spot

It can be found all around Rua Gonçalo Afonso, like this driveway less than a hundred yards away from one of the ends of the alley.

I really loved a few bits of graffiti a little further away from Batman Alley, like this fantastic work I've called "Falando":


And this one that looks like the artist's rendering of Q*bert.

Q*bert's Garage

I have a bunch more shots from our trip through Brazil for this year's World Cup Finals. I hope to get through the nearly 1,000 exposures before the next World Cup!

Independence Day by Ian Hameroff

You remember that Will Smith movie from a long time back? You know, the one where he punched an alien and uttered the witty line "Welcome to earth"?


Now, do you remember that scene when those pesky invading aliens floated their giant spacecraft over the US capitol, fired a powerful death ray of some sorts and destroyed the White House?


That's exactly how I felt after the USA lost that heartbreaking match against the Red Devils a few days ago.

If I carry this silly analogy forward, does that mean Tim Howard was playing a version of Will Smith's character, Captain Steven Hiller?

Granted, Timmy wasn't able to "blow up" the Belgium mothership at the end of the match nor did he have the chance to deliver any witty lines. He did, however, keep the USA alive in that unforgiving onslaught of Belgium shots at goals, saving a record 16 in all.

Now, who would be his Jeff Goldblum sidekick?

Would it be Geoff Cameron?

Geoff vs. Jeff: Separated at birth?

Geoff vs. Jeff: Separated at birth?


Okay, never mind.

To make a long story, short: I was really bummed by the exit the US made, especially when we had a few (albeit a small few) chances to score our own goals and we missed the opportunity.

Case in point, Wondo's missed "golden goal" attempt in stoppage time:

Not "Wondo-ful": Biggest miss in USMNT World Cup history?

Not "Wondo-ful": Biggest miss in USMNT World Cup history?

Well, at this point I'm over my mourning period as I need to get ready to support my ass off for my beloved (and MLS table toppers) Seattle Sounders FC, as they attempt to go for the domestic treble of U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup.

Oh, and thanks to my dual-soccer-citizenship, I have the honor and luxury of still having a horse in this race with Brazil.

Well, the horns are a blowing and (I'm sure) the streets will be alive over the next several hours as the city of São Paulo prepares for the big match in a few hours time.

Brasil flag all lit up!

Brasil flag all lit up!

Vai Brasil! And, GO USA (in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup)!

What Does 6,896 Miles Look Like? by Ian Hameroff

Yes, we are just hours away from our first (of many!) elimination round matches.

The start of the #USAvBEL match cannot come any sooner.

I am ready!

I believe!

One Nation. One Team.

And, I have lots of (remote) work to do today and the Argentina vs. Switzerland match to keep me distracted until the 17:00 (or 5:00 pm) local time kick-off of the USA bout.

So, to keep me focused (and before I dive into my next major work item), I thought I share the amount of flying we did to catch all three USA group stage matches these past two weeks.

As many of you have likely read, Team USA endured the worst travel schedule of any of the teams in the World Cup. From their base of operations in São Paulo to the three cities in the north, the USMNT tallied about 8,900 miles. Interestingly, our opponent for the match later today earned the honor of traveling the least amount for the group stage.

Maura and I came fairly close to equaling this long distance achievement (we did not have the "luxury" of flying back to São Paulo after each match, like the USMNT did), racking up nearly 6,900 air miles on our own journey through the first phase of the FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.

Our travels during the Group Stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals

Our travels during the Group Stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals

I can actually feel the physical toll and impact of multi-legged journey to Natal, Manaus and Recife.

Here are our vital stats:

Leg 1
São Paulo to Brasilia - 540 miles
Brasilia to Natal - 1,099 miles

Leg 2
Natal to Manaus - 1,721 miles

Leg 3
Manaus to Brasilia - 1,208 miles
Brasilia to Recife - 1,027 miles

Leg 4
Recife to São Paulo - 1,301 miles

For a grand total of 6,896 miles!

We actually flew more air miles than Team Belgium did to get from their home nation to their camp in São Paulo state (approximately 6,000 miles).

Yeah, it was brutal, but so worth it!

And, I think we would have made the trip up north to Salvador for today's match if we both weren't swamped with work and just completely wiped.

Nevertheless, I'm hopeful our big investment will have more than a little impact on the team's performance later today...where we will make waffles out of them Belgium!


Soaker Bowl (Or, How I Learned to Survive Recife) by Ian Hameroff

Fret not, kind and loyal blog follower.

I have not succumb to an unexpected landslide or samba party.

I am still alive and well, and partaking in the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals here in Brazil.

Oddly, I'm now back at a location with very reliable Internet connectivity (yay São Paulo!), yet I have not used this bandwidth to post a single update. Flashback to just a few days prior--while we were on the road following the US Men's National Team around the group stage leg of the World Cup--and you would have found me trying to fashion a tinfoil rabbit ears aerial to get the equivalent of a 300 baud modem's worth of access to the "tubes".

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Abundance makes you care less, I guess.

Speaking of flashbacks, as I last shared our time in Recife was quite nuts. And, I'm not just referring to the drama we had upon our arrival.

After (re)securing our basic human need for shelter, we turned our attention to getting ready for the third and final match versus Die Mannschaft.

Recife made things way more challenging than the previous two locations. This was mostly due to the fact the stadium (Arena Pernambuco) is located about 20 km from our hotel in Boa Viagem (and pretty much all of Recife). Unlike Natal or Manaus, where the arenas were effectively in the middle of the city, Arena Pernambuco was in the middle of nowhere. It's not even located within the city of Recife, but instead a place called São Lourenço da Mata.

In the end, we didn't feel too troubled by this little quirk of this large host city. Maura had secured us two spots on a hotel shuttle van during the craziness of solving our hotel reservation woes. A side benefit of standing right next to the hotel staff for more than hour while they worked out how to get our reservation resurrected.

What did trouble us was the friggin' monsoon that slammed into this city in the northeast of Brazil.

"Epic" was used to describe the insane amount of rain that was falling overnight and all through the match on June 26th.

All night, the windows in our "semi-classy" hotel rattled from never-ending abuse and torment of wind and rain. It didn't make for a very restful sleep and it was compounded by the fact we needed to get up and at 'em early to ensure we made the shuttle van. They front desk changed our departure time to even earlier to account for the flooding and horrific road conditions this rainstorm was causing to areas in and around Recife.

9:30 am we go; come hell or high water.

A few folks asked me (after they learned we survived the epic journey) if the media was overhyping the situation. As your humble "on the ground" reporter, I can confidently say, "NOOOOO WAY!"

Here's a little video of our time in the van (and not on a boat, mind you) trying to reach the stadium:


This is what we experienced for most of the trip through the metro portions of Recife. Once we hit "the open road", we only had to worry about other cars.

In the van heading to Arena Pernambuco

In the van heading to Arena Pernambuco

A trip that should have taken 45 minutes or so, ended up taking more than double that. At a few points during the ride these guys seated in front of us in the van considered bailing out and trying to catch a train to the stadium. They also believed the match started at 11 am, and not the actual start time of 1p.

On a sad note, we learned while having our post-match meal at Ponteio Grill that many family members of the USMNT were unable to reach the stadium in time to actually watch the game. All of the families happen to be at this very same churrascaria when we arrived and one of the waiters told us about this unfortunate side effect of the terrible storm. I also saw Jozy's brother again, but decided to leave him be considering all the trouble they had just faced earlier in the day.

Back to our van trip to the arena: we were once again lucky enough to see the USA team bus. This time, it was parked in front of the Golden Tulip Hotel in Boa Viagem waiting for the team to board. As we faced these horrible conditions and traffic en route, we started to worry if the teams themselves (who had not yet left for the stadium) would make it in time. Considering there was some chatter about FIFA potentially delaying the match, I'm really surprised they pulled off this game.

Upon arriving at Arena Pernambuco, our driver had to leave us about 1 km from the gates due to security and the need to find a parking spot he could stay for several hours.

Maura and I donned our ponchos (the very ones we searched high and low for in Natal and likely bought the last four in city) and made the hike through the rain, mud and street vendors selling ponchos, beer, water (for some reason) and odd versions of USA and Germany flags. The ponchos mostly did their job, but let's be honest, we were still getting soaked thanks to the intensity of the rain fall. As we rounded the last turn before entering the stadium parking lot, we witnessed the arrival of the USA team bus. I guess they had a lot of help from their police escort to clear a path (at least through the traffic) to make it to the stadium.

Waterlogged and ready to root inside Arena Pernambuco

Waterlogged and ready to root inside Arena Pernambuco

With the rain still falling, and the crowds growing, we cleared security and the gates to happily learn that our seats were 100% covered. Thank the lord!

A few pre-match "double cheeseburgers" (A/K/A meat cooked until hockey puck state) and beers (and a nice chat with some dudes who just made it in from Texas to see this match), we prepared for the 1 pm kickoff.

Arena Pernambuco in all of its glory

Arena Pernambuco in all of its glory

Arena Pernambuco was my least favorite of the three stadiums. Maybe it was the rain or mud caked between my toes, but the place lacked a lot of the character our previous two venues offered. Our seats were similar to the match in Manaus, just a little more centered and a few more rows back. Many of the same characters from the American Outlaws kept us USA supporters singing up a storm (pun not intended). My personal fav was the dude all dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt as a Rough Rider.

The USMNT starters warmed up right by the corner flag close to our seats and I think we did our small part pumping them up with our signing and chanting "I BELIEVE WE WILL WIN!"

Following the team warm ups, which did appear to happen much later than the previous two outings, this solitary FIFA commissioner walked the pitch to see if it was truly ready for 90 minutes of futebol.

FIFA match commissioner surveys the state of the pitch to see if it's green lit for kick-off

FIFA match commissioner surveys the state of the pitch to see if it's green lit for kick-off

Needless to say, he approved the conditions and we had us some football!

It was a fun match, albeit bittersweet that we advanced after the loss.

Look, I'm not complaining.

I would have loved to kept the 0-0 draw to the conclusion of the game. Just wasn't in the cards. Our shooting boots lacked the finishing necessary to do our own damage.

Still a great way to end the group stage by escaping the "GROUP OF DEATH!"

And, we escaped the floods and returned to our hotel in Boa Viagem with little trouble. The rain did finally subside towards the end of the game and amazingly the drainage system cleared most of the streets of Recife by the time we arrived.

The next day was the yang to the Thursday's horrific weather yin. It was sunny and bright, and we used our last day in the city to do a little bit of sightseeing. This included a tour of the nearby historic city of Olinda. This 477 year old city still maintains much of the look and feel of its historic roots...which consists mostly of churches and places that became churches.

One super neat tourist spot we stopped by was the Caixa D'Aqua. It serves a dual purpose of being a water tower for the historic city and 360 degree viewing platform of the beach, churches and surrounding areas (of more churches).

Olinda from Caixa D'Agua

Olinda from Caixa D'Agua

Before heading off to the airport, we took another stroll along Boa Viagem beach.

As you may have read, the northeast of Brazil (Recife in particular) has a lot of sharks in the waters. Therefore, it was none too surprising to see this clear set of warnings about "how not to be eaten by a shark" displayed about ever 100 meters or so:

Shark Warnings in Recife

Shark Warnings in Recife

Maura asked me if I wanted to walk on the sidewalk or the beach. After reading through all of these warnings I elected to stay off the beach. Call me crazy, but I am still alive, ain't I?

We completed our picture perfect post-match day with a smooth trip over to the airport and then back to our base of operations in São Paulo.

We may be out of match tickets, but we are staying put in Brazil through most of what's left of the elimination phase of the tournament. This included watching the nail biting Brazil vs. Chile match, that could have completely broken the spirit of the Brazilian people had neither Júlio César or the crossbar stopped multiple Chilean goals.

As with the opening match, the streets in and around Vila Madalena were filled with revelers celebrating another step closer to returning the FIFA World Cup trophy to Brazil (or it was just a really excuse to go drink in the streets).

Celebrations in the streets throughout Vila Madalena

Celebrations in the streets throughout Vila Madalena

With the group stage now complete, it's back to remote working from our base of operations. It was fun experiencing all of this road tripping, but I'm glad to be back to our little slice of "civilization".

I'll certainly need to do some meeting shuffling to ensure I can watch our next USA match against Belgium for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Luckily, the Brazil vs. Colombia match is on July 4th. It'll be a holiday in two countries that day.

Let's just hope it's one both nations will want to celebrate!

Boy, What a Difference a Month Makes! by Ian Hameroff

No journey or adventure is ever without its drama or headache. I can safely say our final leg of this tour of USA group stage matches has checked all these boxes in less than 24 hours in Recife. 

Where to start?

Our flights met with a little drama, as we left Manaus behind schedule due to a late arriving passenger for this flight to Brasilia. Normally, leaving 20 minutes after the scheduled departure shouldn't create too much heartburn, but when you have less than 60 minutes to make your connection, you count every second. With nearly half our flight filled with red, white and blue clad USA supporters heading to Recife, we had a little bit of comfort knowing we weren't the only ones with this tight squeeze. 

When we finally landed at Brasilia, waited (once again) to exit the plane to take a bus to the terminal to hightail it to our next gate, the only thing that truly worried me was whether or not our bags would make the connection. 

Upon our arrival to the rainy climate of Recife, we found ourselves welcomed with a free Caipirinha (courtesy of Pitu) and both of our suitcases spinning on the baggage carrousel. Wipe that sweet from the brow and take a nice deep breath. 

Not. So. Fast.

Our hotel was close to the airport in the famed Boa Viagem beach neighborhood of Recife. So, we expected a quick taxi trip, fast check-in and then off to a late meal. 


Not. So. Fast.

The taxi line took about 40 minutes to snake around to an available cab. Maura commented how this reminded her of Las Vegas: exit the terminal to meet the jarring weather conditions and wait in a long line taxi queue. 

Our cab driver did make it a quick trip. Almost too quick. 

He drove around Mach 3 and decided all red lights were simply suggestions. At least he beeped his horn as he sped through every intersection. Mighty nice of him, eh?

Speed Racer got us to our latest temporary home on this tour around 11p local time. 

Remember I mentioned some drama?

Guess what we learned when we tried to check-in?

Our prepaid hotel reservation, which was made over a month ago via a Brazilian travel agency, had one small error in its details. It was made for May 24th thru the 27th, instead of June. 


We've just arrived to a city that literally had zero available hotel rooms due to this little event they call the "FIFA World Cup" to discover our room was booked for a month ago and not that night. 


Maura immediately started to drive an intense negotiation in Portuguese with the hotel staff, and I wrestled with the (once more horrific) hotel Wi-Fi in a mad dash to find another hotel room somewhere in Brazil. 

We were able to pay for a new room to have shelter for the night (a real bummer considering we appeared to be throwing away a bunch of money for the prepaid original reservation) and continued our panicked search for anything over crappy hotel hamburgers at 1 am.

I must admit, I never felt so powerless. I wasn't able to complete a web search or a make phone call to get any help in the ways I've always solved problems in the past. And, at this late/early hour we couldn't connect with our Brazilian travel agent. He was offline until 1pm. We just wasted energy trying to find a plan B at 2 am, but with the weight of our situation--having only one night in this hotel due to the fact all rooms were booked in this place--we couldn't think of anything else to do.

Oh, did I mention that the hotel's computers also crashed when we first arrived? We didn't even have a working room key nor could the staff do any search to see if they had a spare room for the other two nights. 

Good grief.

We slept for about 3 hours and arose as the walking dead around 7 am to begin the second wave. We conscripted anyone and everyone, and I made a number of Airbnb inquires. 

Our travel agent reached us early having read our plead over email and (surprisingly for a Brazil business) owned up to his massive mistake. 

He said he'd work with the hotel (who still didn't have a working system until nearly 10 am) to get us sorted. Meanwhile, I lined up an option more than hour away via Airbnb over the crappy Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby while Maura stood post at the reception making sure everyone was working on a solution.

It took about 90 minutes, but I'm happy to report we are staying put and the hotel is honoring our original prepaid reservation. 

Holy crap. 

Deep breath. 

After all of this insanity, we took a nice walk along the Boa Viagem beach, ate some lunch and crashed for a long afternoon nap.

I really hope all of this pain and anxiety was our small part and price to pay to help our boys secure the result necessary against Germany to advance. If not, I think I might bill the German National Team for our pain and suffering. 

Good grief.

The 95th Minute by Ian Hameroff

Fun facts about Manaus, Brazil:

  • Manaus is hot
  • Manaus is incredibly humid
  • The USAvPOR match was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time
  • Manaus is SOOOOOO hot and humid

Bonus fun fact: I don't believe people actually support Portugal. They only appear to support Cristiano Ronaldo, and Portugal only when they score. At least, that's what I experienced at last night's match at Arena Amazonia.

We started our day like most on this trip. Some food, a little group stage match watching on the T.V. (yesterday was Belgium-Russia), some planning on how the heck to get to and from the match, and then (ultimately) leaving for the stadium.

Our journey to Arena Amazonia couldn't be any easier. We caught a ride with a family member of our hosts here in Manaus. He dropped us off just a few blocks from the stadium about 3 hours before first kick.

Arena Amazonia a short, hot and humid walk away

Arena Amazonia a short, hot and humid walk away

While the American Outlaws pre-match-pre-func was about 7 km away, we appeared to stumble upon our own supporters HQ at a watering hole near where we arrived. Thanks to Maura, we scored a table and some ice cold bottles of Skol (the beer) to help take the edge off of the heat and the wait. We had a nice little surprise when a couple from Orcas Island, WA took advantage of the open two chairs at our table to relax and cool down themselves before marching to the match. We've met so many people from the greater Seattle area all the way down here in Brazil. Even more evidence that Seattle is truly Soccer City USA!

Supporters at Bar Near Arena Amazonia

Supporters at Bar Near Arena Amazonia

With the sun still strong and keeping things super hot, we stayed at this place (which charged R$1 to use the bathroom, R$10 for a small basket of french fries and R$10 for a huge plate of mixed meats) until about two hours before the start of the match.

Around 4p, we walked (through the still super hot temperatures) to the gates and our seats. Our luck in timing continues, as seconds after getting our tickets scanned and our persons checked for metal objects, Team USA arrived at the stadium (they must be waiting for us to enter, because we can't be that lucky).

Team USA Arrives at Arena Amazonia

Team USA Arrives at Arena Amazonia

Or, maybe it's a just a little Disney magic. Perhaps they have a Team USA bus drive through every 10 minutes, so we all think our timing is amazing and we get all sorts of pumped up for the match.

Just saying.

Moving on: Arena Amazonia is a stunning venue. Being brand new and blessed with great (albeit it friggin' HOT and HUMID) weather goes a long way to making this place feel special. My father-in-law and I chatted a bunch about the future of this stadium in a city that doesn't have a top-tier team or enough of a need for a 40,000+ seat arena to sustain the high costs of maintaining the site. I think it would be an absolute crime to let this place be turned into rubble after experiencing a match from some great seats.

Walking into the most beautiful of the new World Cup stadiums - Arena Amazonia

Walking into the most beautiful of the new World Cup stadiums - Arena Amazonia

As with my past blog posts, I won't attempt to recap the match. Nonetheless, our seats were AWESOME and on the USA team's side. We had the whole team warming up right in front of us and defended the net on our end in the first half. Three of the four goals took place 30 yards from our section. I very much enjoyed watching two of the three of those aforementioned goals.

I'm ready to support "The Yanks" from our U.S.A. supporters' section in Arena Amazonia

I'm ready to support "The Yanks" from our U.S.A. supporters' section in Arena Amazonia

The viewing angles were fantastic and we really felt like we couldn't be any closer to the action (granted, we were in row L, so I guess we could have been closer).

Pano of Arena Amazonia

Pano of Arena Amazonia

The thrills and (yet again) emotional roller coster witnessed during the match made the costs of getting to the game all the more worth it. The heartbreaking nature of Portugal's game tying in the 95th minute did take a little bit away from moment, but I did go into the match feeling like it would be a draw. Dempsey's go ahead goal in the 81st completely blew my mind with possibilities and shattered my predicted result. I would have been more than happy to be wrong (this time).

Some other fun observations from the game:

  • Ronaldo had a so/so game and every time he failed to do something magical, the USA fans started to chant "MESSI. MESSI. MESSI." I guess this taunt was all about who is "really" the best footballer in the world in 2013
  • It is impossible to actually tell how much time is left in the match since this only clock is on the smallish stadium jumbotrons.  In Natal, we were sat right underneath the one in our section, so we couldn't see anything. While our seats in Manaus offered direct views to both of the screens in the arena, it was still too small.
  • Towards the end of the match, the stadium erupted into a song sang with tremendous pride by the Brazilians - "Eu sou Brasileiro com muito orgulho com muito amor" (I am a Brazilian with a lot of pride and a lot of love).

After the final whistle and after everyone let out a collective sigh in disbelieve of the resulting draw instead of a win, we left the stadium for our own version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" trying to get back to our residence in Ponta Negra.

First, we were led to believe FIFA would be providing buses back to the Fan Fest in Ponta Negra. You only needed to show your match ticket to get a ride.


We walked for about 20 minutes and couldn't find either the buses or anyone who knew anything about these "advertised" buses.

Next, we boarded a city bus heading towards the airport (and points around Ponta Negra), paid our R$2.75 per person and hung on for dear life as this sucker snaked through cars, roads and traffic laws.

We're on the Onibus post-match trying to return to our Manaus base of operations

We're on the Onibus post-match trying to return to our Manaus base of operations

Not feeling confident that this bus would actually stop anywhere near where we needed in the large neighborhood of Ponta Negra, we hopped off at the airport and grabbed a taxi back to our host's home.

We "freshened up" slightly and headed out for a late evening pizza at a place called Splash Pizza (odd name for a pizza place).

Not surprising, there were some differences in the preparation and style of pizza in Brazil vs. the USA. For example, the table includes a very different set of condiments in place of the traditional grated cheese and (maybe) red pepper flakes. Instead, they offered olive oil (which they have that everywhere in Brazil), ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and chili sauce. Yup.

The pizza was good and hit the spot after my workout at the match screaming, chanting and jumping around. But, my night was made when I discovered this neat tabletop tool: a little device that allows you to easily open a packet of ketchup or chili sauce without having to risk life and limb tearing the packet open.

A neat tabletop tool!

A neat tabletop tool!

I think we should important this to the USA!

Today, we head over to our friends pub and night club to watch the Brazil-Cameroon match. Just like the USA, Brazil needs to close things out this afternoon with at least a draw (a win would be way better) to advance to the round of 16. No heartbreakers, okay?

Vai Brasil!

Game Day (and I Still Believe)! by Ian Hameroff

#IBelieveThatWeWillWin has been running through my head, non-stop, since yesterday afternoon.

Maybe it was the result of the Germany-Ghana match. What a stunner, eh?

I was pulling for a big, soul crushing win for Die Mannschaft at the onset of the match. I felt it best to eliminate our pals from Ghana, to make...er...improve our hope for knockout stage glory. I've come to realize that the draw makes things even more freaking interesting for today's bout against CR7 and the Hairdos. If we can pull off the win, we'll own the top spot and qualify for the round of 16.

Holy shit!

Two matches in, and we could be heading to the elimination round.


Deep breath.

Lets not get in front of ourselves.

The German win was a little bittersweet in Brazil, however. With Klose's game tying goal, he tied a very personal record for Brazilians, Ronaldo's (the Brazilian one, not the haircut) record 15 World Cup goals tally. Granted, Klose is like 90 years old and has been in one more Copa do Mundo than Ronaldo. It still stings.

Another reason for my glee and confidence may be the "neat" moment at a Manaus restaurant yesterday evening for dinner. Seated at the table next to ours was famed Brazilian footballer Pedrinho.

Well, I just learned about him yesterday, but all of the people at the place were coming to get his autograph and not mine. Therefore, he is way more famous than I am in Brazil. The nerve!

Perhaps it is just because the game is just a few hours away.

That's most certainly it. Time to gear up and lace up my red, white and blue boots.


Meeting of Waters by Ian Hameroff

Man, it feels like an eternity until our boys in the Stars and Stripes take center pitch to do battle with Cristiano Ronaldo (and the other 10 guys who will not have as nice of a hairdo) here in Manaus. Six days between matches is a blessing and a curse. Yes, this gives our Yanks time to get (mostly) healthy and Jürgen a chance to watch film on both our sides first group stage game.

The downside?

The adrenaline rush has fully worn off from the stunning victory against Ghana. I feel a little bit empty, but the upside is I get to recuperate my poor voice after screaming it off in Natal.

We've done our best to fill the time in Manaus.

It's an amazing place almost literally in the middle of nowhere.

As I learned (again) today from a tour guide during our voyage on the Rio Negro, the only "safe" way in and out is by airplane or a long boat trip down the Amazon. They do have a couple of highways, but these only go so far and offer little in terms of...well...road. For example, BR-319 is only paved for 100 km (or 62 miles) of the 857 km. The rest of it is just dirt and chaos. If your shocks survive the journey, you've only made it to Port Velho.

I digress.

Since arriving here on Wednesday, we've kicked back and watched a lot of group stage matches from the comfort of our hosts amazing home near Ponta Negra beach.


Just realized this is the second Ponta Negra we've stayed in on this trip. The other was in Natal.

Our couch potato'ing was mostly due to the monsoon-like rain we experienced yesterday. Seems like Brazil really wants us to remember our Pacific Northwest roots.

We did steal away yesterday to visit the famous Teatro Amazonas, the city's opera house. It's a pretty neat joint, featuring lots of art and fruits of the Amazon "rubber boom" in the late 1800s.

I took a LOT of pictures of the place, including this one of the theater's painted ceiling:

Teatro Ceiling

See. This guy cares about more than just futebol. Photography is another passion.

Perhaps one of the best benefits of our rainy day visit to the teatro, was seeing this dude playing his accordion as a member of a three-piece band situated just outside of the entrance.

Brasileiro Accordionist

It's the little things in life that make you smile.

Yesterday was just a warm up for what we embarked on today: a trip down the Rio Negro to the Encontro das Águas (or "Meeting of Waters"). This amazing phenomena is where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões combined to form what you and I know as the Amazon River. Due to the nature and chemistry of these two rivers, a fascinating effect is witness. Instead of attempting to describe it in words, here's another picture:

Encontro das Águas

Wow, right?

It was really neat to see this first-hand, even after seeing countless photos across all the tourist sites and agencies in the city. The full day boat tour also included a trip through the flooded forest by smaller craft. This is where you see things like the famous giant lily pads and during the rainy season (like this time of year) experience what a forest looks like when submerged in 15 feet of water.

In the Flooded Forest

We are back to our Manaus base of operations and enjoying some more group stage matches. Man, Switzerland had their bell rung by the French. Dang!

It's Like Christmas in June in Natal (A Recap) by Ian Hameroff

I will be the first to admit, that it's kind of sad that after spending the last several days without a reliable Internets connection, I'm now overdosing on the 'Tubes from the departures area of the São Gonçalo do Amarante–Governador Aluízio Alves International Airport (a/k/a the "New Natal Airport"). That hasn't taken anything away from our first fantastic stop on this tour of the USMNT group stage matches.

The positive side effect of my Internet jones?

I can FINALLY share some of the backlog of images and experiences capture from my trusty Nokia Lumia 925.

Where to start.

Well, remember I mentioned all that rain in Natal?

The morning of the USA vs. Ghana match started to show signs of clearing up (or at least not raining). We took advantage of this break in the chuva to take our own pre-match stroll on the Ponta Negra beach just outside of our hotel.

Ponta Negra Beach in Natal

Ponta Negra Beach in Natal

Along our walk, we watched folks play a little beach soccer, get runs in, and show off lots of USMNT gear. I chatted quickly with a pair from the mid-west of the USA, where I said with confidence we'd win 2-1 and capture the three points. They weren't as convinced and just hoped for a solid draw. I wasn't the only one believing a 2-1 victory was in our future. A very popular shirt sold in the stores around Natal gives you the ability make your own predictions. Kind of cheap and silly, but both the one hanging in the store across from the beach and on a Brazilian spectator seated in front of us at the stadium featured the same prediction.

My prediction matched the t-shirt

My prediction matched the t-shirt

After the walk, we quickly showered up and donned our USA gear to meet with our driver (and our two new American supporter friends) to head off to our first stop: the U.S. Soccer Pre-Match Party at "Peppers Arena".

And, we waited.

Waited some more.

Okay, after a little more than "15 minutes" (or 45 minutes when you convert Natal time to the regular one you and I know so well) our awesome driver arrived and took us to the party.

At the USSF Pre-Match Party

At the USSF Pre-Match Party

I already shared some of the highlights of the party, so let's just skip ahead to the craziness at the American Outlaws gathering near the stadium.

Arena das Dunas in the Distance

Arena das Dunas in the Distance

Our driver left us at a Petrobras station on the opposite side of Av. Senador Salgado Filho and we made the hike over the pedestrian bridge to Rodizio de Pizzas to meet up with safely a "zillion" AO members already in a full lather of chatting, flag waving and other heart pumping pre-game prep. (NOTE: The photo above is from near Shopping Natal. We were MUCH closer to the stadium when dropped off).

Words cannot describe, so here's a video I shot of one of my most favorite USMNT chants:

Our little band of supporters stayed for about 20 (real) minutes before we headed off to the stadium. Our March to the Match was fun and good natured. I had a small surprise when we bumped (almost literally) into former US International and MLSer Jimmy Conrad who was filming for KICKTV just outside of the Arena das Dunas.

Getting through security and having our ticket punched was a heck of lot easier than I'd expected. Not that I was expecting chaos and bedlam, but again this is a place where they haven't finished either the airport or the roads around the stadium.

Ian and Maura at Arena das Dunas

Ian and Maura at Arena das Dunas

But. Once we got to our seats, it really hit home that we were AT A WORLD CUP MATCH AND WATCHING THE US MENS NATIONAL TEAM!!!!!!!!!

We even entered just as the USA team bus arrived to the stadium and we cheered them all the way into the venue.

Arena das Dunas is rocking during USAvGHA

Arena das Dunas is rocking during USAvGHA

The evening was amazing and we still have at least two more of these matches to attend. Holy cow, this was an amazing experience which had its highs (like Deuce's goal) and lows (Jozy's injury), and it did take us more than an hour to get back to the hotel. Some of this was due to Vice President Joe Biden's motorcade shutting down the roads. He and his 35 vehicles (and 2,000 gunners) passed by us as we waited at that very same Petrobras for our driver to navigate us through all this chaos and back to Ponta Negra.

Maura and I grabbed a super late dinner at a nearby hotel as the nightcap to our day full of adventure and thrills. We wanted to rest up a little bit, because the we had to go see the World's Largest Cashew Tree before we headed off to Manaus for round two.

Oh, we did see the tree and it's huge.

Maior cajueiro do mundo

Maior cajueiro do mundo

I Believed We Would Win! by Ian Hameroff

Sadly, the poor Internets has made my attempt to provide a full multi-media recap of our past two days impossible.

Man, I have pictures, videos and more that I'm super anxious to post to show you how awesome (and trying at times) the Natal stop on this World Cup journey has been. 

Where to begin?

After we (with our two new friends from the States) spent hours at Shopping Natal waiting for the stores to open and searching for some foul weather gear, the rain did let up in time for the pre-match festivities and the game itself. Funny how that works. We did find the last four rain ponchos in the city, which is why the rain stopped. 

Thanks to Maura's negotiation skills, we had a driver to take us to the U.S. Soccer pre-match party at "Peppers Arena" (a makeshift and temporary venue sandwiched between car dealerships), to Arena das Dunas for the game and then back to our hotel after an anticipated victory. 

The pre-match party was cool. We had screens everywhere to witness the German thrashing of CR7's Portugal, "enjoyed" some pricey cans of Budweiser beer and a Brazilian version of bad American pizza. Just after the end of the GERvPOR match, family members of the Yanks arrived to have their own pre-match meal and fun before boarding their buses for the stadium. We got to chat with a few of them, including Jozy's older brother (who is a nearly a twin with that same signature smile) and Fabian Johnson's sibling. We saw a quick game of "kick the ball and run around" being played by the future USMNT players made up of the offspring of Dempsey, Jones, Bradley and others. The cherry on top of this awesome sundae was free U.S. Soccer scarves handed out just as we left ourselves. A nice souvenir. 

Our driver took us over to the stadium area where we met up with about a "million" American Outlaws (the famed USA supporters group). I wish I could upload the video of the packed open air pizzeria and the none stop chants. I'll fix that once we get some good wireless again!

We did our own "march to the match", walking the mile from the AO pre-func to our seats in the Arena das Dunas. People were cheering and chanting the whole way and lots of good natured taunting between fans of all the teams, not just the USA and Ghana. 

I won't recap the game, but I will say what an emotional roller coaster of the Emerald City's own Clint Dempsey scoring the opening goal in 32 seconds, followed by the injuries to he and Jozy. Then the nail biting of watching the USA getting pounded by the Ghanian attack with so little possession of their own, the late goal by Ghana and then John Brooks stunning game winning header in the closing minutes that took place in the goal closest to our seats. 


That's all I can say. 

And, the rain returned just as we exited as victors. Funny, eh?

Today is our last full day in Natal, and the rain is back. We'll catch a few quick sights before finding a dry location to watch the Brazil-Mexico match. 

Oh, and I need to rest my voice as I think I lost it somewhere in Section 220 last night. Let me know if you find it!

It's Always Sunny In Natal... by Ian Hameroff

...except when we have the World Cup in town. 

Early morning departure from Congonhas airport en route to Natal

Early morning departure from Congonhas airport en route to Natal

After a long day of travel from São Paulo (via Brasilia), we arrived at the brand spanking new Natal airport...only to spend the next hour getting our rental car. I honestly believe securing our home mortgage was easier and less time consuming than what it took to get this stinkin' Renault. 

Next step: drive to our hotel...through the pouring rain and a GPS free of any of the new built roads. When in Rome...er...the North East of Brazil. 

Sadly, this beautiful beach town is experiencing some of the worst rain in long time. As this ProSoccerTalk article notes, the over 36 hours of rain is really taking its toll on the city and the pitch.

The "not so" blue skies over Natal wouldn't dampen our World Cup spirits

The "not so" blue skies over Natal wouldn't dampen our World Cup spirits

At least we found some cool bars along the beach to watch a few matches, enjoy some local grub and beers, and marvel in the crazy surfers trying to take advantage of the huge waves.

Today, we're sheltering at a Natal shopping mall to get some reliable Wi-Fi, some new foul weather gear and hang with a couple of new friends (USA supporters, of course!) we made at the hotel. 

While the weather conditions haven't lived up to expectations for our first stop, the friendliness of the supporters from all the other teams has been amazing. We met a dude who flew in from Ghana while boarding our connection in Brasilia. We both felt the pressure and importance for our respective nations to beat the other in the match here tomorrow, but left each other with a warm smile and good luck handshake. 

We also hung out with lots of Mexico, Aussies, and even a few local supporters while watching the matches yesterday. Everyone is truly enjoying the games and there is no evidence of issues or politics. While FIFA has its well publicized problems, what these games do for the fans of the World's Game is super positive. 

Time to go buy a better poncho!

The Day After Opening Day by Ian Hameroff

Wow. What a rush it was to experience the kick off of the world's game's biggest event--the FIFA World Cup Finals--in the very city that the opening match took place!

Yesterday was a day filled with anticipation by all involved, especially the fans and teams from Brazil and Croatia. A late morning walk along Avenida Paulo VI (known locally as Sumaré) provided a great view into the pre-match build up of excitement and host nation pride in their Seleção.

This guy was out quite early, armed with Brazil flags and a number of vuvuzela like horns (even though vuvuzelas have been banned for the 2014 tournament).

A Seleção Fan

As the day continued, more flags, horns, firecrackers and fans made their way to the streets. At least 1 out of every 10 cars had some form of the Bandeira do Brasil. It even got challenging to conduct meetings from my remote location, as both the noise from the streets and the flakey Internet connectivity made for some interesting conditions on my Lync calls.

Things hit a crescendo shortly after the mediocre opening ceremonies which took place about 2 hours before the kickoff. No offense to Pitbull or J.Lo, or the lovely representations of the wide cultural diversity from across the beautiful land of Brazil, but folks were more interested in seeing some football! (Queue the association football and non-racist version of Hank Williams, "Are You Ready for Some Football?!?")

We watched the match from the comfort of our São Paulo base of operation, complete with a healthy spread of treats and tasty caipirinhas. The match got off to an inauspicious start thanks to Marcelo's horrid own goal in the 11th minute. I'd be lying if I said spirits weren't low, bordering on worried until Brazil's jewel Neymar netted an equalizer 18 minutes later. I don't need to recap the match's storyline, which included some questionable calls that leaned mostly in the host nation's favor. Instead, here's a peek at what happened in the streets near our viewing party after Brazil's 3-1 victory.

About 15 minutes following the final whistle and a little bit of clean-up, we headed out to experience the celebrations along the bar area of Vila Madalena (a nearby neighborhood). The police had cordoned off several blocks to allow for outdoor viewing of the match and consumption of adult beverages. The party continued until late in the evening.

Everyone was good natured and while it was no small task to navigate through all the masses of humanity gathered, we didn't feel unsafe for one minute. We were even able to score a table at Bar Genésio where we ate some Brazilian pizza and chopp (Brazilian draft beer).

Bar Genesio late evening after Match #1

Bar Genesio late evening after Match #1

After our late snack, we headed back out into the sea of celebrating humanity to make our way back home. The experience was fantastic and has served as a great personal kick off for our own World Cup adventures.

Celebrating Brazil's victory in the streets of Vila Madalena

Celebrating Brazil's victory in the streets of Vila Madalena

Bright and early tomorrow morning, we head out to Natal to start the process of following the USA in the Group Stage. Stay tuned!

World Cup Security and Staging for the "copas das Copas" by Ian Hameroff

Last night before we headed out for a late dinner at a tasty local restaurant, the evening news broadcast showing on the living room T.V. was interrupted for a televised address from Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Thanks to the closed captions, my rudimentary Portuguese and help from my in-laws, it was clear this speech aired the evening two days prior to the opening ceremonies was meant to rally the nation to support the Copa do Mundo with the same passion and gusto Brasileiros have supported their Seleção to a record five World Cup wins over the tournament's 85 year history.

As you've may have noted from the coverage of the ramp up to the World Cup, the host nation has suffered both protests and strikes, raising issue with the level of investment made in building stadiums over investment in the needs of the citizens. Dilma's speech was aimed solely at addressing this criticism and as this post to ProSoccerTalk sums up nicely, "urged [citizens] to support the World Cup."

While I have no designs on commenting on who's right or wrong here, this NBC News Infographic did catch my attention. Sourced from the government's own facts and figures, it details the amount of money being spent on just the security for the 31 visiting national teams and the expected 3.7 million tourists coming to witness the games first-hand (like me).

Infographic: Security for 2014 Brazil World Cup

Infographic: Security for 2014 Brazil World Cup

As a "citizen-in-law" to Brazil, I do hope the growing divide between the rich and poor sees improvement over these coming years. As an outside-ish observer, you hope with both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio bringing the world's attention to Brazil, this will motivate the government to take the right action. Just like Justice Louis Brandeis has been credited to have said, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

Our short discussion on this topic over dinner last night (which included linguiça, bolinho de carne seca com arroz, and carne seca), my wife did comment that the level of excitement was much lower than she's experience with past World Cups. That the streets, while adorn with Brazilian flags, are not as decorated as she expected. Maybe once the games get started, and memories of Brazil's successes in the World Cup warm-up during the 2013 Confederation Cup are rekindled, enthusiasm will be at expected levels in São Paulo and across the nation.

I'll keep you posted, especially as we travel to other host cities.

In the meantime, I think it's time to dip into the leftovers from last night's feast before my Seattle time zone meetings get started for the day.

UPDATE: Just finished watching this "funny as all hell" yet also sad commentary by the "funny as all hell" John Oliver and thought it somewhat apropos to this post: