Monday, 1 November 2010


All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking said Nietzsche (or Justin Bieber), an opinion YLIAI heartily agrees with. And where better to go for an urban walk than downtown Recife on a Saturday night, particularly with the prospect of a palavra or four waiting at the end?

So you go out the door of your apartment and down three flights of stairs, then through the doors of the building and out the gate and into the street, where the church across the road is lit up in shimmering red and green and orange for a wedding. It is a muggy but breezy night and your shirt is already sticking to your back. You turn left on the corner, touching Zita on the arm as you pass the corner beer hut. Zita is setting out the tables that later will be filled with drinkers but still she stops and looks up at you and peers at you through her glasses and she says tudo bom meu filho and you wave and walk on.

You press play and it is Greg Dulli singing tonight tonight I say goodbye to everyone who loves me just as you walk past a policeman going into the strip club slash brothel. Two fat men are trying to light the charcoal of their barbecue stand against the soft warm whip of the wind and across the street on the third floor of the flop house hotel a man is leaning out of his window and smoking and watching everything that is happening down below.

Turining left towards the avenida you pass a strip of bars. Two of them have been plunged into darkness though the drinkers drink on, sloshing down their Skol and their cachaça and laughing in the murky gloam of the light cast by the bigger gaudier barbecue joint on the corner.

Then just behind the shopping center you weave your way through Recife’s very own Sodom and Gomorrah, or Bar Pithausen, where on Saturdays and Sundays the street becomes a Noah’s Ark of adolescent sexual ingenuity – hetrosexual and homosexual and bisexual and trisexual and asexual cavorting merrily until the early hours. It is the same story in Mustang, the big bar on the avenida, though here the gay abandon is diluted by the surliness of the non-sexually liberated and more hardened recifense drinkers.

In the bank all the machines are out so you head down the avenida where the wind has picked up and the buses rattle past and the mendicants and hawkers and scavengers are out in force. The hawkers are selling Barbie dolls and water and pirate DVDs and bus passes and everything in between and the scavengers and the mendicants are eyeing the crowds hungrily for prey. As long as you walk fast and with steely determination you will probably not become a victim.

Everywhere along the avenida tucked into doorways or stretched along ledges or gutters are stick thin homeless people huddled under cardboard and tarpaulin, oblivious to all the people stepping over and around and sometimes on them.

When you get to Sete De Setembro you turn left and walk through the hot dog and the newspaper stands, past the dire pagode clubs and behind the beautiful big white law college building where the palm trees wave their fronds. Then you are at the park where through the fence and in the dark you can see swans, and you zig zag along the bottom side nearest the river and then you turn right and there is the gaggle of bars that you have been looking for.

So you sit down then and rest your legs, and of course there is drink and always, always, something to see happening around you, and just as you sit down there is Greg Dulli again, singing up on the ladder they sing how high does a brother have to climb to touch the light? won´t you take me up there with you you said you would, no-one ever could shake that ladder like i could, which for some reason (maybe it´s the echoes of an old slave refrain, maybe it’s the sense of deperation and regret) seems as fitting an end as anything.

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