Sunday, 20 March 2011

Scorching heat pours incandescent from the March skies, the furies are abroad in Recife, and Brasil and the nordeste seems a long way from the shiny happy people fantasies of lore. Is it (and this has been asked before) simple jaundice? 


Four years is the longest Your Life Is An Impossibility has ever held down a job, back in the days of the Middle Sized London Record Company, and four years is fast approaching at the Palace of Swords Reversed Medium Sized Language School. Four years in Recife also looms large in the rear view mirror, and four years is a long time to live in Tombstone City (Rio Doce replacing the OK Corral). But boredom cannot be blamed for everything.

There is no doubt that Recife is a fearsome place and it seems to be getting fearsomer.  Que povo bravo, observes Saci-Pererê of the Centro-Oeste, here on a carnaval visit. And worse still is that Your Life Is An Impossibility is getting bravo-er himself. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Southern California once, but leave before it makes you soft, says Mary Schmich (and later Baz Luhrmann, which proves that it’s only the very worst songs that stick in your head).

To which Your Life Is An Impossibility would add live in Recife once, but leave before it makes you too bravo. Chagrin oozes from the gutters, pique seethes between the bumpers, umbrage hovers like a vulture on every street corner. Raiva wafts in the air alongside the pungent whiff of the drains and the sweet fragrance of the bougainvillea blossoms.

There’s traffic raiva, of course. Slowly creeping across a junction where he has right of way, YLIAI is surprised to see a glistening, behemoth 4x4 roaring towards him. YLIAI brakes and waves a warning arm in the direction of the 4x4. The driver of the 4x4, who has two small children perched on the passenger seat beside him, twists his face into a mask of fury and extends two stiff little middle fingers. YLIAI expresses surprise. The driver of the 4x4 makes to descend from his chariot. Startled and confused, YLIAI drives off.

There’s getting a taxi to go to the game raiva. Taxi to Arruda, says YLIAI, standing with The Louth Media Mafia, The Pampas Goat, and The Accidental Tourist at a taxi rank in downtown Recife. It´s the day of the Huns vs the Visigoths, or the Santa Cruz vs Sport Recife classico. Are you crazy, says the taxi driver, I’m not going up there, not today. What, exclaims YLIAI, you’re a taxi aren’t you, what’s the problem? It’s your problem, mate, not mine, go and get another taxi. YLIAI gets angry at this dereliction of duty. Go and f*** your mother, he shouts, or words to that effect. What did you say? What did you say? Piece of shit! screams taxi driver. Chests are (almost) pushed against other chests, foreheads (almost) bumped against other foreheads, handbags (almost) swung in anger, until YLIAI and company find another taxi.   

There’s showing your age raiva. In Recife Antigo, before the bacchanal of carnaval gets under way, YLIAI and the Louth Media Mafia (I and II) and the Jam Tart go a-drinking. A group of young people are cavorting (meaning drinking cachaça from the bottle and sniffing poppers from a Coke can, something YLIAI would never, ever do) nearby. An inebriated young EMO-er slams accidentally into YLIAI. Apologies are offered and accepted. A few minutes later the same young EMO-er again slams accidentally into YLIAI. Apologies are once more offered and accepted, albeit slightly more reluctantly. When it happens a third time, the red mist descends and YLIAI picks up the young EMO-er and throws him into the gutter.

There’s walking along the pavement in Olinda raiva. Heading for a romantic dinner at the Oficina Do Sabor with Saci-Pererê of the Centro-Oeste, YLIAI finds himself in the middle of a post carnaval frenzy. Bloco follows bloco, even though it´s the Saturday after carnaval. Bah humbug, cries YLIAI, don’t these people have work to do? Isn’t two months of pre-carnaval and a week of carnaval enough?  Trapped in a narrow street, YLIAI and SP head onto the pavement, which is blocked by A Strapping Lass sitting on a stool. YLIAI requests permission to pass. Twice. Permission is silently refused. The red mist descends again. Inspired by recent events in the Arab world, YLIAI decides to overthrow the dictator. Tapping strapping lass on the knee he pushes past, dragging SP with him. What the hell’s the matter with you, roars A Strapping Lass, running after YLIAI and SP, meaty fists aloft. Soon she is joined by A Strapping Lad, shouting do you fackin’ want some, do you fackin’ want some. Clearly A Strapping Lad has spent some time on the mean streets of Bromley and Croydon. Thankfully Strapping Lad and Lass are soon trapped amongst the revellers, and YLIAI and SP can make their escape.    

And there is buying something raiva, or ordering a meal raiva, or having any dealings with any type of customer service at all raiva. YLIAI and SP order Sunday lunch at a downtown restaurant. YLIAI and SP ask for the chicken. Excellent choice, says the waiter, won’t be long. Half an hour later the waiter comes back. Sorry, no chicken, is the belated news from the kitchen frontlines. At a street corner kiosk, YLIAI tries to buy some chewing gum for r$1. He has 95c in change and a r$2 note. No-one ever has any change in Recife, so he offers the 95c, hoping to be helpful. His kind offer is refused. No problem, thinks YLIAI, and proffers his r$2 note. Sorry, no change, says the man in the street corner kiosk. YLIAI feels very crossness whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

Then there is former lover raiva, about which the less said the better. Why don’t you get the hell out of Recife, YLIAI is told, this isn’t the place for you. YLIAI feels sad that it has come to this, though is starting to think the sender is perhaps right.

Here there is darkness on the edge of town and in the middle of town and in the suburbs and along the beach. YLIAI thinks he needs a new strategy. From the long ago past in Olinda comes a distant memory. A small Chinese woman. Pensioners stretched in obscene positions on blue rubber mats. A sunlit room. The smell of incense. Nonsensical chanting – onimashibaya onimashibaya (at least that’s what it sounded like) ommmmm ommmmm ommmmm. Could it be that yoga is the only way to survive life in Recife?

1 comment:

Dazinho said...

Consider all acts of competence as miracles and the rage subsides.