Saturday, 11 December 2010

You wanna go where everybody knows your name goes the song in the theme tune to the best show about a bar on TV – though it´s a big fat gringo bar, as we know now, with shiny wooden tables and clean toilets and beer nuts and coasters.

It would be nice if in downtown Recife there was a bar I could go to where everybody knew my name, or even after I´ve told everybody my name they could say it right and not pronunce it JEMIS (that’s two syllables if you’re counting).

There once was such a bar in Brazil, as frequent readers will know – Bar Do Jaime in the bairro of Santo Antonio in far away Belo Horizonte, where Jaime doles out free cachaça to the regulars and calls beers palavras, or words.

Ever since then it’s been harder going. First there was a year in the dry county that is João Pessoa – people drink in Paraiba, but they drink at home or standing outside their cars with the doors open and the stereo saying clownish forro really loud, or sometimes they go and have a little drink at one of the beach bars, but they don’t drink.

People in Recife drink, particularly downtown and out in suburbia. Even As Republicas has its barbecue joints the size of football pitches (with thanks to Peter Robb), and its never hard to find a beer at the beach, only now it comes in cans and as everyone knows beer tastes oddly different and metallic and generally unpleasant in a can.

There isn’t much that is pretty about most of the bars downtown though Bar Central has its xique merits if you don’t mind paying R$7 for a sausage. Really most of the bars downtown are grim little dives – holes in the wall with a fridge and sometimes a reeking toilet, or a shabby kiosk perched on a street corner with a few plastic tables and chairs scattered nearby.

But to complain about the lack of creature comforts would be to miss the point – such places exist so people can drink, and talk, and stare at women walking past, and for that what more do you need than a plastic chair and table and a fridge full of beer?

Cadu's is not Bar Do Jaime, though it has Jaime’s reeking toilet and sticky tables. At Cadu’s the tables spill onto the street, and it is a quiet, shady street, overhung by stooping jaca trees. There are more wild street dogs and more homeless people at Cadu's, for Santo Antonio is a bairro nobre of Belo Horizonte which in itself is a city considerably more nobre (though not half as interesting) as Recife, and Boa Vista is not even a nobre area of Recife, though it used to be.

Most of all, Cadu is not Jaime, for Jaime is small and dapper in a faded way, and charming and eager to please, whereas Cadu is basically a miserable fucker. But the bar is quiet at night and no-one parks their car in front and pounds out the ubsequious and awful forro, and you can sit and read a book and drink a beer or three, and you can even call them palavras if you want, though Cadu won’t know what you’re talking about it.

What is best about Cadu's is that it attracts a dog eared but bohemian crowd, and if you go there alone you can usually attach yourself to a nearby group of bearded students or trade union representatives or university professors, particularly if you are a blog as charming as YLIAI.

It is here that things like this* can happen, whereas things like this almost never happen in As Republicas.

I went to Cadu’s last week for the first time in a long time. I went because it was a holiday and I went because I wanted a drink. I sat and I read a book for a long time and I thought about the 21 year old boy who had thrown himself off the tenth floor balcony of the apartment building behind this one that same day, and I had a little drink and then a boisterous group of people (students and trade union reps and professors perhaps) arrived. So I wandered over and asked if I could sit with them, and they said yes and we sat and talked until three o´clock and then it was time to go home to bed, only just before I left Cadu asked me if he could buy a copy of my book and if I would sign it, because he wanted to put it on the shelf next to the cash register. And I suppose of such small triumphs the part of life that makes things bearable is both made and unmade.

Note: The painting at the beginning of this piece is Seculo XVIII by João Câmara.

* Entry dated 2/5/2008.

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