Alexandre Torrano, Torrano or simply Tora, is probably one of my oldest friends. We lost contact for at least 20 years until recently. Torrano was one of those that listened to music in our colleague's house in the early 70's. Besides music we used to have several things in common. One of those things was drawing. We used to draw quite a bit and he was and still is very good on that. Drawing has deeply influenced our both careers. Torrano became a graphical designer and I became a researcher in computer graphics. Torrano used to be a surfer and skateboarder. We used to skateboard together with other friends in the 70's and early 80's. Skateboarding was the only sport I ever did and liked in my whole life. The sensation of floating in the air when one grinds the coping of the bowl used to thrill me and excited me a lot. I have broken my right arm twice, though, and I still have a scar in my face from falling down once when I inadvertently did a 360 high near the bowl's coping in Marinha's skatepark. I fact, I tried a front-side kick-turn but when I realized I was going to go down to the bowl's entry I reversed the kick-turn to a back-side but so strongly that I closed a 360. This meant that I would need to go back reversed which I was not able to do. That scared me and I jumped off, but when I reached the bottom of the bowl the skateboard reached my feet making me fall down very badly.
The photo above shows Torrano (Tora), his mother, his three sisters and his brother. I remembered that I used to talk with Ana, who is an artist, about literature and arts in general. I remember I knew Aldous Huxley and Kafka through her. I remembered I borrowed from her Metamorphosis, which I read in two hours, in a trip me, Tora and his family made to Punta del Este in 1975. I remembered that I was not allowed to enter the cinema with them to see Kubrick's Mechanical Orange because I looked too young, but Torrano managed to enter even though we had the same age...
Torrano, Caca and the Surfers Gang:
The photo above shows Torrano (Tora), Caca, and other guys from their surf gang. Caca is another guy from those that listened to music in our colleague's house in the early 70's. Caca was also a skateboarder. In fact, I knew skateboarding through him in 1974. He came to my house to show the one he had made with a used roller skate nailed in an improvised board he shaped himself. I obviously felt down right after my first try. A sickness started from that point out. It intrigued me how one could maintain the equilibrium on such a thing. I finally managed to learn how to do it some time and the skills improved. My first good skateboard was a Hang-Ten, probably in 1976/77. It had a fiber glass board very narrow trucks, and wide yellow cylindrical urethane wheels. With experience I quickly understood that this skateboard was too heavy and the absence of a kicktail prevented it to be used efficiently in most tricks we used to do, mainly kickturns. I started serious business in skateboarding with Tracker trucks and Sims double conical wheels at about 1978 in Marinha skatepark. Drop-ins, tail-blocks (I have broken twice my arm in this maneuver), slides (lip slide) besides backside and frontside kickturns were my preferred in the "snake" track while "grinds" (taking 3 wheels off the coping) were my preferred in the "bowl". I remember doing sometimes accidental but successful maneuvers like a failed tail-block that I forgot to release the board from my hand and I went down the whole wall on the kicktail with all 4 wheels off without falling. There was only one guy that saw me doing this thing, and he said that he was trying that for months and that it was the first time he saw someone doing it successfully. When I told him that it was accidentally, the guy was quite disgusted. Caca was interested in many other things, including motorcycles. I learned how to drive motorcycles thanks to the free rides in his Yamaha 100. He eventually became a champion in Enduro Trail competition.
The Corner's Gang:
Two more "characters" show up in this photo, Dirceu and Pipo. Together with the Surfer's gang above this is what we can call the "Corner's Gang". This is because Dirceu and Pipo were Torrano's neighbors (just around the corner). I remember that both added a lot of sarcasm in the group. Well, this is the group that used to stay outside Torrano's building complaining that there was nothing to do and ended up hanging on there for the whole afternoon on weekends. Sometimes we went up to watch "Chips" on TV or to listen to some music. I remember an unforgettable New Year evening in Cebola's (another Torrano's neighbor) house where we stayed the whole night and I was the only one that was not able to sleep (everybody else left or slept on the spot). I think that is the night I discovered "Jeff Beck with Jan Hammer Group" and I still remember I liked so much "She's a Woman" that this song did not come out of my mouth for weeks to go, for Cebola's surprise. I have the CD now but it is not mentioned in my Progressive Rock page because Jeff Beck is not considered progressive. I will eventually put other music styles in my site (wait for the photo below Jeff Beck's guitar taken in the Hard Rock Café Bali). There were also girls in the gang that were more or less seen very often with us like Mayumi and Cida and other girls I was not as familiar with. Cida was an ex-girlfriend of mine from 78 to 80-81. The girls are now all married with children as most of the guys in the photo above.
Leonel or Diona (I don't know if it was Torrano or me that gave him this nickname), was a colleague in the university (Computer Science course) and friend of Alexandre Torrano (see above). Leonel used to like progressive rock a lot and used to tease me that I listened to other kinds of music besides progressive rock. He was a surfer but not a skateboarder, like me and Torrano. I remember that we took a trip along Brazil's shore from the south to Rio de Janeiro. In this trip I lost all my money in a cascade in one of those places we have been. I also remember that in São Sebastião/Ilhabela (SP), we set the tent in a camping late in the night when we got there and we were amazed that below that tree there was plenty of room while elsewhere it was almost all taken. For our surprise when we opened the tent the next day there was a huge Jackfruit blocking the entrance. Finding that very curious, we quickly got out the tent to realize that it was under a Jackfruit tree full of rape Jackfruits ready to fall over us! Here it is a lesson. Never put a tent under a tree at night, unless you know the tree!
Leonel was in that memorable day that we started playing concrete music with Milton Doll and Gerdano (see Progressive Music). Milton and Gerdano were also colleagues of ours in the university and worked at Edisa where I also worked in 1980-1981 thanks to Milton. I used to work with Milton in the Support Department programming in Cobol, Assembly language and sometimes Fortran. Gerdano used to work in Z80 Assembly code in another department. I remember that Gerdano liked rock a lot (but I don't remember if he was really in progressive rock) and knew all the lyrics of his records (quite a few!) by heart. I always found that very impressive.
Leonel is currently living in Australia.
Marcus Herbert Jones:
Marcus was a colleague of mine in the technical school. He used to play chess with Renato Petri (another colleague) all the time or read Agata Christie's books while I used to study a lot during that time (1976-1977). From 1975 to 1977 I used to study Physics, Math, Trigonometry and Circuits at home sometimes until 2:00 AM. I did not have the slicest idea how important this would be to my future carrier. I did it because I liked it and because I was afraid to get bad grades. I remember I bought a huge 300W bulb that helped a lot when the night came but not my brother that tried to sleep with that luminosity. On the weekends, though, I had a pretty active "social life", often going to skateboard with Torrano & company at day time and parties at night with them or Cezinha (another colleague of the technical school) and friends. I also used to play War with Cezinha and his friends during long hours sometimes. I think that is the time I started playing this game (in France it is called Risk). I also played chess but not as well as Marcus and Renato Petri. My prefered game was War/Risk at that time.
Marcus found me through the internet when we both were living in United States, me for my Post-doc and he for his PhD in 1997. When he knew I was in United States he came to Durham, NC, where I was living, from Indiana so we could get together. In this opportunity he told me that he used to play in a progressive rock band called Aleph some years before (see him with his violin on the left), which was a complete surprise for me. Also a big surprise was that he had been married with Lucia, the owner of the discs I used to listen to with her sister, Torrano and some other people in the early 70's. He is also a friend of Leonel (see above). The weirdest thing is that I met all these people separately to later know that all of them knew each other.
Pierre has taken his PhD in the same place (IRIT) as me. We quickly realized that both shared the same passion for the same music style, the progressive rock, and we usually exchange long Email messages about it and about audiophile equipments. I often discuss about underground groups from the 70's. I knew many groups I did not know thanks to him. He has an extensive collection of CDs and he once had a program in the radio about progressive rock in his home town. Pierre worked in the same lab as Pierre Gurdjos (see below) and that is how I knew him. As time passed by we also realized that we had the same passion by French cuisine. Through him I knew "Les Six Marmitons" a very good and not expensive restaurant, owned by Michel Bernard. We also tried several other restaurants known to be better than this but we never found any other one with better value for the money spent than at Michel's. This remembers me another passion in common with Pierre that is the French wine. Pierre created me the nickname of "The progressive Ayatolah" for my strong conviction that only the progressive music with the 70's style can be really classified as progressive. I reacted giving him the nickname of "The Canterbury Ayatolah", because of his strong tendency towards the Canterbury branch of progressive rock. His preferred group was once King Crimson, but I am not quite sure if it still is. He used to like a lot a quite an obscure group called "Godley and Cream" (I swear it is classified progressive by the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock). One can find some articles he wrote about it on the web. Throughout all the countries I have lived so far Pierre was one of the few friends that visited me while I was away. He visited me in Long Island while I was taking my Post-Doc at SUNY Stony Brook. I had learned how to do sushi through an ex girl-friend of mine who liked Japanese food a lot thus convincing me on taking a course of sushi after a series of successive experiences doing makis throughout the years. In Long Island we had a really good fresh fish supplier, recommended by the Japonese people that were in the VisLab at that time (Muraki was one of them) and during Pierre's visit I prepared a whole dinner with maki, sashimi and sushi for Christmas evening. Pierre confessed that it was the first time he tried Japonese cuisine but he said that he never found a Maguro (Tuna Sashimi) that good afterwards even if he tried several times, :-). Pierre had also always helped me with documents and many other problems when I was away and I was unable to come to France to solve them.
Pierre Gurdjos and Mimi:
Pierre is an image processing researcher in in the same lab as Pierre Déréthé and where I have taken my PhD. He is currently taking his PhD while working. Mimi has a PhD in Psychology and she is now lecturing and doing research in this subject. At the time Pierre was single we used to talk a lot about girls. I remembered when he knew Mimi I knew he was completely in love because she was the central point of all his interests and conversations after that, :-). Both like a lot Pop and Psychedelic music. Pierre has an amazing collection of LPs in this music style and he probably is one the authorities in the world about it. Pierre was born in the capital of the Cassoulet, the typical plate of the Southwest of France. His mother prapares an excelent Cassoulet. We passed many new year's evening with them and other friends such as Nadine. Thanks to Pierre and Mimi I went to several disk conventions at Agen, Perpignan and Barcelona where I found many rare progressive CDs. We usually get togheter with Pierre Déréthé, sometimes at the "Six Marmitons", sometimes for the typical French "apéro" in their apartment, or in other restaurants and places. We had a lot of fun with them and it is sometimes difficult to be far away because Pierre does not like planes, which makes very difficult to them to come to visit me when I am away. Pierre and Mimi also appreciate French cuisine a lot and they often accompany me and Pierre Déréthé in our search for the best restaurant in Toulouse. Michel's is still a winner for us even though we have tried many other restaurants. I even brought our university vice-president, my ex research advisor and friend, René Caubet and his wife for a dinner in this restaurant. He liked Michel Bernard and his restaurant a lot.