Recently Your Life Is An Impossibility has felt Recife getting him down. The worst traffic this side of Cairo, witless modern forro (and a special mention here to the Prince Hal of modern forro Wesley Safadão, aka Very Naughty Wesley, vocalist of Garota Safada, aka Naughty Girl) booming from every corner, witless locals standing on every corner listening to the witless forro. The usual deluge of dispiriting crime stories in the papers, generally involving young men killing other men for small quantities of cash or drugs, or not always so young men chopping up their wives, girlfriends or mothers-in-law because they sat next to another man on the bus (crimes of passion, as they´re dubiously known). Nothing ever working ever, contemptuously disinterested service in bars, restaurants and shops, autumn foliage drifting on the breeze replaced with plastic bags and crisp packets, and so on and so on. If you let it get to you, it can be a dispiriting kind of place.
Though as is often the case maybe it doesn´t have that much to do with Recife, and more to do with YLIAI’s state of mind. Too much pining for Saci Perere of the Centro-Oeste, too much time spent gloomily stalking the echoing corridors of YLIAI Towers, too much (or many) cigarettes and alcohol. Though he knows well that by engaging in such moaning he’s guilty of the terrible crime of complaining with a full belly.
Anyway, at such times the angsty soul needs to hear the sound of a quiet, soothing voice murmuring sweet nothings in its ear. Always contrary, YLIAI seeks solace not in the hills of Gravata or Triunfo, or amongst the whispering palms of the litoral sul beaches, but in Jardim Jordão, though it might not seem to be the most obvious place to go to find such peace. Huddled amidst a few craggy hills just behind the gleaming glass and chrome domes of Recife International Airport, surrounded by similarly hard knock neighbourhoods Ibura and Muribeca, Jardim Jordão is as grim as grim Brazilian reality gets. Or rather – it’s not really, because things can get a hell of a lot grimmer than Jardim Jordão, but in terms of non-favela reality it’s as grim as things get.
YLIAI remembers wandering round the place with The Argument, no stranger to grimness herself. Away from the relatively (but not really) respectable main road, the streets drop away and things get very quiet and nature pretty much takes over. There are shacks, unconnected to either mains water or electricity supplies, clumped together beneath stands of trees, and naked tots play amongst wandering sheep and goats. On a sunny day it’s bucolic enough, but during the torrential June rains it must be hellish. The Argument, who lives only a couple of miles away, shook her head. I didn’t know people lived like this, she said.
But Jardim Jordão has always treated YLIAI well. More than well, in fact. It was where Recife first clutched him to its bosom, after a trying year in the nordeste’s Village Of The Damned, João Pessoa, and the bosom felt so nice that he spent three years working (voluntarily, it should be noted, and if Harold Camping is reading then YLIAI would like these Christian Soldier points included in his passport to eternal happiness) at a tumbledown school in the neighbourhood. After most classes he was sent on his way with a Tupperware box of rice and beans or soup clutched under his arm.
It was also where YLIAI met The Big Black, probably his bestest friend in Recife. The Big Black (note to concerned liberals: calling black people The Big Black (o negão) or The Little Black Chick (a pretinha) is apparently perfectly acceptable in Brazilian Portuguese, at least in the not quite reconstructed nordeste, there being of course no racial discrimination whatsoever in Brazil) is a prince of a man, sullen, morose and given to talking a lot about both Jesus and his mum. But, as the saying goes, you can’t choose your family or your friends.
And it was The Big Black who found, also in Jordão, the Ferrari, YLIAI´s trusty steed for over a year now. The Ferrari is such a fantastic beast that not only does it rarely get sick and need to go to the doctors, despite being in reality not a Ferrari but a 20 year old Fiat Uno, but it can even swim, performing a mean doggy paddle along Avenida Recife a few weeks ago when, in the midst of the aforementioned torrential rains, the only other vehicle on the streets was a large wooden taxi driven by a man called Noah.
There is a kind of peace to the place, a slummy pastoralism, that makes Jardim Jordão feel special. Descending from the onibus you wade a fetid stream of puddles (the bairro suffers from a shoddy water supply and a malfunctioning drainage system, meaning there are usually pools of water that have spilled from rumbling water trucks lying stagnant) to cross the street, and then turning left by the Jordão Canal, over a small bridge, you walk up a tiny mud street where there are kids playing and old men and women sitting outside small, inelegant houses. If you peer inside there is invariably a picture of a relieved looking Jesus on the wall, though this is one of the those lonely corners of his 'hood where the flock should surely demand its money back.
Then there is the school where YLIAI taught for a while, and a little bar has sprung up in front. The Big Black is there waiting, slurping down icy Skol. We sit there for a while, and a few locals roll up, and everyone says hello in quiet, tired voices. A joke starts up relating to the bar owner’s name and the possible clues it provides as to his suspected latent homosexuality. These being working class Brazilians the joke is repeated and stretched out and revisited many times. It is about half an hour before the laughter subsides, and it wasn´t even a very complicated (or funny) joke.
After a couple of hours The Big Black and I clamber onto his motorbike and bump off down the street. We are heading to a pagode, and pagode is not always a good thing, but this is not the monstrous ladees free all nite meat market kind of place that springs to mind when you think of pagode . Really it is a small tent on an intersection of two streets, with four young boys playing a really quite pleasant, plaintive kind of pagode, with not even that much evidence of the standard innuendo soaked lyrics. A hundred or so people from the neighbourhood are standing around drinking and talking, and a few teenage girls are dancing, and a few teenage boys are watching the teenage girls dancing.
When we arrive the singer of the band says hello to The Big Black over the microphone, because The Big Black used to play pagode with the boys. Everyone stops talking and looks over at The Big Black, who grins sheepishly. After that, we stand around and drink for a while longer, and then it´s time to get the bus, and this being Recife the bus takes about two hours to show up, but when it does it´s a hop, skip and a jump back to Boa Vista and home, batteries recharged, Recife once again the owner of a special corner of YLIAI’s heart.