Friday, 3 April 2009


High summer in Recife, or the dog days of summer, and at night the city feels like running a very hot bath in a very small bathroom with the door shut.

Maybe because of all this I had a sexydream last night, something that I have not had for quite some time. And yes – I awoke to find the sheets damp and a little pool of something marshing around my nether regions. The object of my desires was a little heavier in the chassis than normal, but sleek all the same – generous in her affections, wildly libidinous, and not remotely shy. I knew I was very, very far from being her first, but sharing her with others did not diminish the pleasure – indeed may have heightened it. What was she like? Big, white with distinctive blue and green markings, wide windows front and aft, Cidade Alta emblazoned along her sides…..because in this best of all cities the best of all places on such nights might not be the most obvious but it is the place where the best of all things will carry you. The place is the Cais Da Santa Rita, and the best of all things are buses.

And when an idea strikes it often makes one think how it is that the idea has not struck before, and how important something has been throughout one’s life without one ever much thinking about it, and when one does think of it, well, one remembers everything.

I remember a certain son who we might call Little Jamesie waiting a hundred yards down the street while a certain father who we might call Big Jamesie drove his car a ways to check for the remote possibility of ignition wired IRA bombs underneath said car, and then I remember Big Jamesie dropping Little Jamesie, school bag and 20 kilo trombone case by the side of the snowy road and telling Little Jamesie he could walk the remaining mile to school for the exercise, followed by Little Jamesie clambering aboard the first bus that passed, trombone case banging against assorted ankles, many a comment of get that feckin’ thing out of my way or I’ll break it over your head son, everything on the bus clammy and damp and an umbrella-ish rubbery smell.

Buses everywhere – no money for planes in them days, the long bus up from Manchester to Stranraer and then the oily queasy ferryboat over to Larne and another bus down to Belfast. Buses to Maine Road, night buses home in the early hours, and then London, where there were no buses, or not many, only bloody tubes, and only a true hater of the good things in life could ever enjoy the tube.

Maybe that’s why I love this godforsaken place – because there are few countries in the world where the bus is king as much as Brazil. Truth be told I broke up with The First Ex-Girlfriend (not The Ex-Girlfriend) not solely but at least in part because she told me I shouldn’t take the bus in Belo Horizonte because it was dangerous, while all around me buses rocketed up and down Avenida Prudente De Morais and around the Praça Da Liberdade and Avenida Amazonas and Alfonso Pena, and all of it looked so exciting and hectic and adventurousissimo.

And when I broke my public transport cherry (906 Santa Luzia - somewhere I can´t remember, I think) there was no holding me back. Bus journeys of tremendous symbolism – such was my love (or passion) for The Ex-Girlfriend that I once took a mid-afternoon bus alone to the infamous northern quarters of BH, Primeiro De Maio and Providencia, while The Ex-Girlfriend was at work, rattling up the dusty wrecked avenues, to places I had never been before, never thought I would go, the bus hurtling over the hill into the favela in Primeiro De Maio, a tremendous crash following every bounce and jostle and pot hole, everyone in the street staring in as we wound through the tiny streets…and I took this bus just to see where she lived…oh foolish heart….and then later….foolisher still…..after nights of fumbling passion insisting on escorting The Ex-Girlfriend back downtown where she would get her bus out to Providencia, playing the brave knight errant, The Ex-Girlfriend looking at me and thinking well I know I’ll be alright downtown at 2am, but you?

And then the epic bus journeys across Brazil, already well documented here and in Your Life Is An Impossibility – 52 hours from BH to Joao Pessoa, waiting six hours in Aracaju because the bus in front has been hi-jacked and we’re waiting for the bus behind to get here so we can go in convoy, then another six hours in Maceio while the dangerously tilting bus is repaired, 13 hours from Sao Luis to Belem, the air conditioning unit dripping a small waterfall onto my head, 35 hours Belem to Recife, everything a bit blurred now, hard to remember where we are, what my name might be…

And tonight in Recife – at Cais – the buses all lined up like Ayrton Senna's and Emerson Fittipaldi's sleek jalopies, the drivers sleepily leaving the doors open then complaining as a few enterprising souls jump on without paying, same drivers drowning their sorrows in a few pre-journey beers, the terrible brega blaring from the bars across the way. And our destinations tonight – fantasy neighbourhoods known as The Drowned, The Afflicted, Line of a Bullet

And recently the slapstick open warfare of the bus back to Olinda from Arruda after watching Santa’s latest exploits – shattered windows, broken heads (all a minor throwback to schoolboy Belfast – buses burning on the streets a staple on the nightly news, obligatory duck your head folks as you roll through a few of the choicer neighbourhoods (a big shout out to all our viewers in Short Strand) though this being Brazil the ultra violence is of course cranked up a few thousand notches), all courtesy of Jovem Sport and even a few inter-nacine feuds amongst the Inferno – because after all on this bus we have Inferno Rio Doce and Inferno Maranguape, and probably Inferno Salgadinho and Inferno Peixinhos and Inferno Milagres aren’t always friends with Inferno Rio Doce and Inferno Maranguape, and after all as the song goes…..oooh vai reinar Rio Doce Beira Mar and….oooooh é Maranguape…..

And so, please, no more mythologising of tedious forms of transport like trains (the Orient Express) the London Underground (Mind The Gap? What?) and planes (the Mile High Club). How about I Had Sex on the 910 Rio Doce – Piedade t-shirts (a much more marvelous feat), or rather than 100 Great Railway Journeys, 100 Great Bus Journeys in Recife – for starters I suggest the two-legged 152 Jordao Baixao / Cidade (via Cais De Santa Rita) – 232 Pau Amarelo any time after 11pm…

Because in Recife people throw things from buses, they destroy buses when football teams lose, the more wanton civilians surf buses just for the hell of it, children cling from the sides of buses because they have no money for the fare, and because of all that and more, a last repost to Cathal Coughlin, who once proffered that “only losers take the bus” – Cathal, you big-boned eejit, come and take the bus in Recife.

Small note – the above photo, wonderful though it may be, will be replaced with a photo of, well, a bus, whenever I get around to taking one. Cais De Santa Rita late at night isn’t always the place to be brandishing cameras, no matter how old and battered they might be.