Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Your Life Is An Impossibility is now three weeks away from Recife, three weeks in the flatlands of the mid west, where all the cultural heartbeats seem to be Man A`s Name and Man B`s Name. Victor and Leo, Bruno and Marrone, Zeze Di Camargo and Luciano. Country music the way the greats – Garth Brooks and Shanaya – used to do it, only more melodic, more romantic, and more awful. No Laurel and Hardy, Cannon and Ball or Morecambe and Wise, more’s the pity. It`s enough time, anyway, for some rudimentary observations on life’s rich pageant, as it’s lived here and there.

There is very little rubbish in Goiania, which makes a pleasant change from Recife’s endless bouquets of trash. It’s safe enough to walk the streets, though YLIAI always thought it was safe enough to walk the streets in Recife too. Try again – it`s nice to walk the streets in Goiania, whereas it wasn’t always nice to walk the streets in Recife, where the pavements are too cracked and fissured, the shade too sparse, the sun too scalding, the traffic too rampant. The traffic’s calmer in Goiania, and the shade more plentiful, and the pavements neater.

There’s no beach in Goiania, but there are parks, and there are no parks in Recife, apart from Parque 13 de Maio, downtown, which is a bit too parched to offer much pastoral relief, and Parque Da Jaqueira, which is full of power walkers and spandex-clad joggers, and doesn`t allow dogs, which makes it a piss poor excuse for a park in YLIAI`s opinion.  The parks in Goiania are bucolic bliss, with ponds and pleasant shady spots to sit and everything, though even here lies a hidden danger. Goianiense parents appear to care not when their darling offspring teeter up to the edge of the lakes, and three times YLIAI has had to hook a stray toddler under the arms and spirit him away from a watery grave. It makes relaxing with an ice pop and a good book a challenging experience.

YLIAI had thought it impossible that any group of people could be more cheerily rude than recifenses, but goianienses manage it, only without the cheery. Miserable and monosyllabic, the locals make YLIAI’s heart weep for the kindergarten ruckus that is interpersonal relations in the nordeste. You know you’re in trouble when getting on a bus is several hundred times rougher play than this.

At least the food is good, and YLIAI can look forward to a comfy, obese dotage with Francis Begbie feeding him pão de queijo, and feijão tropeiro, and torresmo and other such fine fare. As for the music, while duplos sertanejos make YLIAI`s brains seep painfully out of his ears, they can hardly be worse, and indeed might be a few rungs better than, Naughty Wesley and his satanic bastard cronies.

Football might be the deal breaker, because Goias is to football what Norn Iron is to sumo. Which is odd, because on the face of it there are three big teams here, the same as in Recife, and unlike Recife, at least one of them plays in Serie A. But the thing is that nobody seems to care, and people get much more excited when São Paulo or Corinthians are on the telly. Though a long time ago YLIAI promised he wouldn’t talk about football here, so if you want more, you’ll have to read this.  

In the end, despite the odd difference, what's striking is that after a few weeks it becomes clear that whether it’s Recife or Goias, it’s still the bizarre, Alice through the Looking Glass, world of Brazil. YLIAI is comforted, for example, to discover that in an uncertain world at least one thing can be guaranteed, namely that whatever anybody promises to do the following day, or week, or month, you can be sure that will be the one thing they won’t do.

If Mr. Da Silva says I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon, for example, then you will know that Christ may return and walk among us, or dinosaurs may rise again from their prehistoric graves, or nuclear death may rain down on us as soft and silent as cherry blossom, but that the one thing that will resolutely not happen is that Mr. Da Silva will call you tomorrow afternoon. If Mrs. Fonseca says she will deliver your chocolate layer cake a week on Monday, then you know that horses may eat themselves, brush fires may rage across the cerrado, Ricardo Teixeira may say do you know what lads, I think I`ll take a break now and give someone else a chance, but what will surely, definitely, irrevocably not happen is that Mrs. Fonseca will deliver your chocolate layer cake a week on Monday.

Simple, day to day business transactions remain as reassuringly convoluted as possible. The other day YLIAI went to buy a fridge, an oven and an iron. He was immediately approached by a fetching young salesperson. YLIAI described his requirements. Oddly unconcerned with high profit margin items such as the fridge and oven, the fetching young salesperson dragged YLIAI over to the irons. Some hard bargaining ensued. YLIAI chose and paid for his iron, a process that took about twenty minutes, then asked the fetching young salesperson if she might care to assist him with the fridge and oven. Oh I don`t care about those things, said the fetching young salesperson, it`s not my department. You’ll have to talk to someone else about them. If YLIAI had been a cartoon character cartoon steam would have come out of his ears.

Affairs of the heart are little better. On a futebol jaunt to the neighbouring field after field after field state of Mato Grosso, YLIAI makes a new pal. The new pal lectures YLIAI on the wisdom of finding yourself two Francis Begbies instead of just one. One`s no good. You`ll get bored with one. And if she doesn`t know about the other one, then she won`t even mind, will she?

Upon his return to Goiania, YLIAI tells Francis Begbie about his new pal and his philosophy of love. Francis Begbie is not best pleased.

What kind of friend is he, telling you to find yourself another woman? Is he married?

YLIAI informs Francis Begbie that his new pal is not, to the best of his knowledge, married.

So she`s just his girlfriend? I suppose that’s alright then, replies a placated Francis Begbie.

!!!!!, says YLIAI, before going on to query if Francis Begbie really means to say that it’s ok to have a bit on the side if you’re in a long term relationship with someone who is merely your girlfriend or boyfriend, but not ok if you’re married. And, subsequently, and just out of curiosity, what exactly is the relationship status of Francis Begbie and YLIAI?

We`re living together, says Francis Begbie, it`s different.

Different how, asks YLIAI.

Somewhere in the middle, says Francis Begbie, a little too enigmatically for YLIAI's tastes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, thinks YLIAI, tipping an imaginary cap to Alphonse Karr (and Jon Bon Jovi), reassuring himself with the knowledge that whether in Recife or Goiania, at least a Brazilian bar stool (or plastic chair, to be more accurate) is still the most comfortable place on earth to sit. And, often, the hardest to leave.  

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