Thursday, 19 November 2009

A quick aside, before we get started - I have received some correspondence from an old friend residing in the fine neighbourhood of Good Jesus, Belo Horizonte. We might, in tribute to the greatest cultural export his admirable country has ever produced, call this friend Celine - a name I feel sure will be to his liking. Celine is of course Canadian, and to be Canadian is a wonderful thing – most Canadians I know, including my friend in Recife, Small Shoe, and my marvelous Cousin Joanne, are open, generous, welcoming, funny and just plain nice. In fact if there is a negative quality one may attribute to the Canadian people, I cannot think of it - other than perhaps to say that the average Canadian’s relationship to irony is approximately that of the average Bornean tribesperson’s relationship to a US F-15 jet fighter passing overhead – it is to be gaped at, pointed at, even admired, but ultimately will remain a large, mysterious object flying thousands of feet above one’s head and may therefore, sadly, never be fully understood. (This is probably old news, and best illustrated by famous Canuck Alanis Morissette, who as everybody knows wrote a song called Ironic about people dying in air crashes – which is not really all that ironic).

This one glaring fault is rather a pity, given that the currency of this blog might well be described as irony (rather than, say, wisdom). Celine was outraged, it seems, and even went so far as to call me stupid and ignorant (and who’s to say he isn’t right?) because I said in last week’s piece that I didn’t really know why American Big Business was a bad thing. Celine was apoplectic that anyone could be so ill-informed, and so sent me some remarkable documents showing US and CIA involvement in the Brazilian military coup of 1964, which lead to the doubtful presidency of our good friend and neighbour White Castle. Even better, Celine also promised to reveal secrets about scurrilous US goings on in Cuba, El Salvador and some kind of spat in SE Asia during the 1970s of which I myself have heard only rumours. It may even be, according to Celine, that the Americans never really put a man on the moon, and that it was all television trickery! (Actually this is quite a commonly held opinion in Brazil). I can only thank Celine for this information, and apologise profusely for my ignorance, and point readers in the direction of his excellent photos, which really do look exactly like the real thing, and which can be found at

Though Celine raises an interesting point. I felt that I could make such flippant passing reference to US subterfuge in Brazil because I believe that I have a vague idea of who most of the people reading this blog are (it’s not hard when one’s readership numbers in the tens rather than the tens of thousands), and therefore can make (possibly rash) assumptions as to their understanding of this kind of thing and things in general. For example, I rely on the assumption that I can make jokes about Canadians like the one above and people will understand that I don’t hate Canadians and I am not a virulent racist (and if I was I’d hardly waste my time getting all stirred up about Canada). I believe that most people reading understand that I have a little (emphasis on the little) idea of what those naughty CIA boys got up to in Brazil pre and post military coup, and therefore don’t need to mention it, and I also believe that most people reading have themselves a little (or perhaps more than a little) knowledge of the same subject, and therefore don’t need me to tell them about it.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps I really have no idea who is reading all this cobblers. Perhaps some people reading it hate me and it, and read it just to vent their own spleen, much in the way that I am strangely drawn to re-reading Man And Boy. Perhaps an Unabomber or two is reading it and finding weird subliminal messages hidden between my endless druthering about Santa Cruz. Perhaps I am inspiring cult fan groups. Perhaps some female readers will soon be sending me their underwear. Perhaps no-one is reading at all. Who knows? I certainly don’t, which manages to be both the beauty and the agony of it all at the same time.

Anyway. The little aside wasn’t so little after all (they rarely are). And so, feeling more like Bras Cubas than ever (modernistic little side comments to the reader, meandering narrative style, very little of substance to say), down to business.

Of which there is very little. Recife basks in scalding summer temperatures. I drive to work. I drive home from work. So much ho, so much hum. I think I know what’s wrong, and no amount of summer flowers blooming in the garden, or palavras, or Pavement reunion tours, or Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO, or viewings of Inglourius Basterds in Recife’s wonderful little Alice In Wonderland style Teatro Do Parque, is going to make it right. The problem is that I have changed neither address, employer or potential life partner in over a year, which breaks the Golden Rule Of How To Be Happy, which is to change something important in your life at least once a year to avoid boredom. Still, if I’m being punished, it’s a pleasant enough punishment.

So with no stories to tell I thought about writing a little pastiche in the style of JMG Le Clézio, who I am currently trying to read (a fruitless pastime). Something like - over the town the sun baked down – it was white and incredibly hot, so hot that it split the hard crystallite diamonds of the concrete paving stones into two, and then four, and then eight – between the rivened cracks the armoured steely body of an ant crawled over the ratcheted sharp metallic body of an other ant. Gross woke up with a headache – his head felt like it would explode – arches of indigo and cerise and crimson and yellow blasted and blasted at the inside of his brain. Though to really be Le Clézio-esque I would have to expand those few lines out over a hundred pages. But then I thought if one can’t really manage to make head nor tail of things when reading a writer then one shouldn’t perhaps try to write like him (though the description does well enough to tell of walking the parched streets of Recife in November any time after 7am and before 4pm).

Which leaves me, once again, with nothing very much to say. Of Brazil all seems to be toddling along nicely enough, the usual old one and a quarter steps forward and one step back, though accompanied as always by an endless deluge of media nay-saying that allows Brazilians who should know better to wring their hands and say oh woe oh woe oh woe a lot. Brazilian self-loathing is a curious thing – during a conversation regarding things that should and shouldn’t be banned a colleague posits the theory that topless sunbathing should remain prohibited here because Brazilians aren’t educated enough for such a thing and then goes on to paint a fairly gruesome picture of the gang rapes and sexual assaults on the beaches of Recife that would ensue if the city’s female population were to remove one half of their bikinis. Which seems to me, I must say, rather fanciful – for now, at least, Recifense males seem generally able to control themselves when confronted with acres of exposed female flesh, so it seems unlikely that the removal of a further small piece of nylon would cause such a terrible breakdown of public order. (And of course it’s not really Brazilian self-loathing at all – because the speaker of such words is always making the point that he isn’t, of course, such a feral beast – it’s his countrymen who are letting the side down in such fashion. If only everyone were like me, things would be different, he might as well be saying. Furthermore the individual in question, a portly fifty something married gentleman, followed up his discourse on Brazilian moral decay by stating that if were he to find himself dying a slow agonizing death his greatest regret would be that he had never eaten (the usual apologies for the local parlance) a really fat black woman. Which might suggest he has a little ways to go before reaching truly urbane metrosexual sophistication).

So with every other conversational topic rendered useless, all that remains to talk about, as always, is football. Santa have roared their way into the final of the juniors-and-veterans-free-for-all that is the Copa Pernambuco, which for most isn’t much, but for Santa is a hell of a lot, and spotty adolescent colts such as Natan, Léo, Elvis and Jefferson have teenage tricolorettes going all weak at the knees. Sport, just to show that real life can be like the movies, and that the bad guy always gets his desserts at the end, have been relegated to Serie B in marvelously humiliating fashion. Conspiracy theories abound – wandering around aimlessly by the seafront, I get into an argument with a Sport fan at the news stand. I told yer man there six months ago that the CBF and the referees would put Sport in the second division! he yelps - a reference to an errant referee’s whistle that cost Sport a goal against Palmeiras. He didn’t, of course, he’s simply labouring under the mass popular (and particularly Brazilian) delusion that nothing is ever anyone’s fault or responsibility and that dark forces (in this case a Rio-favouring CBF) move mysteriously amongst us, shaping our hapless fates. Which they probably do, though not on this occasion. Sport are going down because they´re bobbins, I want to say, but don’t, because it’s before breakfast and I have a strict no street fighting before breakfast rule.

Nautico, to The Argument’s chagrin, are soon to join Sportinho in the second tier, leaving Pernambuco without a team in the top division (and the nordeste down to a measly two representatives – Vitoria from Salvador and the happily promoted Ceará). The Brasileirão is galloping to a fantastically rambunctious finish, with São Paulo, Flamengo, Palmeiras and Atlético Mineiro (Galoooooo, as they’re better known, if I haven’t mentioned it before, are something of my lost love, following a year as an Atleticano in Belo Horizonte, and of course Inferno Coral’s longstanding alliance with Atletico’s Galoucura) all doing their level best not to be champions, and Fluminense and Botafogo doing their level best not to be relegated along with Nautico and Sportinho. Hardly a game goes past without refereeing scandals, and Keystone Cops punch ups, and riot police on the field – Mauricio and Obina, Palmeiras teammates, kick seven bells out of each other during a defeat against Gremio*, the entire Cerro Porteno (Paraguay) team go mentalist against Fluminense at the Maracana while losing the Sul Americana semi-final, engage in fantastic Chuck Norris vs Bruce Lee karate action at the final whistle, and end up in the slammer. Shaggy from Scooby Doo lookalike and Fluminense craque Fred calls them a bunch of marginals. Such is the excitement in Rio, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte that crowds at the Morumbi, Maracanã and Minerão over the next few weekends are likely to be greater than the population of several small European countries. Taken in by all the excitement, The Argument and I resolve to fly to BH for Galoooooo’s last game of the season on December 6th against Corinthians (of which more nearer the time). It’s all very Brasileirão, which, while it might no longer rival Spain and Italy and England in terms of quality of football and hefty salaries, is still a hell of a lot more exciting than all three put together. And in a way, in its combination of occasional incompetence and corruption and frequent lack of personal discipline, and joyfulness, and tragedy, and once-in-a-blue-moon glory, is as good a metaphor as anything else for the rest of the country, and I suppose, life in general.

Just a final note before I go – it would have been nice to have been able to make some kind of commemorative mention of Oirland’s incredible achievement of qualifying for the next World Cup by beating France in Paris. With Algeria having qualified yesterday afternoon (and large swathes of North London therefore awash with celebration), and Oirland winning 1-0 in Paris, I even imagined a gringoish cross-cultural meeting in the street between an ecstatic Mohamed from Algiers (or Finsbury Park) and Kevin from Cork (or Kilburn). You beat France in Paris, my friend, well done, well done!, says Mohamed. And you beat, ah, right then, who the hell did you beat anyway? says Kevin. Egypt, my brother, Egypt! Much hugging. Only of course it never happened, because Thierry Henry, admirably doing his bit for cross-cultural bonding, decided to play by Páirc An Chrácaigh rules. Terry didn’t just handle the ball, as I´m sure you know, he caught it, stuffed it up his jumper, smoked a couple of Gitanes, read some of the naughty bits from Madame Bovary, took a few sips of an impeccable 2006 Bourgogne Chardonnay, fiddled around with his minitel, then took the ball out from under his jumper and kicked it onto the head of one of his pals (probably called Jean-Claude or Marcel) who bundled it into the net. Ah, well. I gave up on football ever making me happy years ago.

* Minutes after this Palmeiras announce that neither player will ever wear the team’s shirt again. Crikey.


Danimal said...

1964...apparently the Irishman's weekness is history.

Christ you can ramble....I make an effort to try to keep my rants short so people will actually read them.

James Young said...

great..wikipedia comes along and suddenly everyone´s a history professor. anyway it says 1964 in the text (or it does now)....are you going mad? and is weekness similar to weakness? I´m confused....

Dazinho Drogedambuco said...

A campaign has been launched in Dublin to rename one of our most famous streets, Henry Street, to another name less likely to cause offence....Cheating Frog Bastard Street is currently the front runner.

alegremistica said...

te desafio a escrever um post em português... que tal?