Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Weekend Part I: Saturday

Evani and I had developed a system for me to have more time to get work done, before I got my office. On Saturday, she would go out to Paripe where she grew up, actually in the same house she grew up in, which has now been diced up between her and her siblings into individual living spaces. In her little apartment, she has the same bedroom she used to share with her three sisters. She would stay there with the kids and then on Sunday I would go and pick them up. This gave me a nice big block of time to work without interruptions. It also had other benefits, as it allowed me to spend some time by myself, which was sorely wanting at that time.

Since I got the office, which admittedly hasn't been long, we haven't been doing this anymore. But this weekend we did- actually, she went on Friday and I picked her up on Saturday evening. Saturday was a pretty uneventful day, work and more work, and at about 7:30 I got in the car to pick her up. Not a half mile from my house, I came upon the first accident of the evening- some guy had bounced off the windshield of a car and was laying, unmoving, in the street. It must have just happened. As I drove by, someone was checking his pulse to see if he was still alive. I have no idea if he lived or died.

Part of my route to Paripe, which is about a half-hour drive, is along BR324, which is a six lane urban highway with almost no lighting, few guard rails, and lots of pedestrians. One of these pedestrians must have gotten hit by a car as I passed another accident scene, this one with ambulance and lots of stopped cars, and they were helping the guy into a stretcher as far as I could tell so I think he was okay. That was accident number two.

Accident number three was the craziest. As I was turning off the main road to drive into Evani's neighborhood, there was a huge crowd gathered and blocking the road. I can't believe it, I thought, something else happened. I parked the car and got out, and what I saw was a barraco (teeny tiny house) that was half caved in. Then I rounded the corner and saw why- a car had driven right into it. I found out later that the owner, a guy called Zé Banana (translates as 'Banana Joe') had been in the house when it got hit, but luckily he wasn't on the side that collapsed and he was able to get out. The driver, by consensus drunk out of his gourd, had come roaring the wrong way down an onramp and lost control of the car when he hit the main road, skidding out and smashing into Zé Banana's barraco. His car was buried under rubble, or I imagine he would have taken off in it, as it was he got out of the car and took off.

Evani's neighborhood is favela. It's not as bad as a lot of favelas, as it's way on the edge of the city and there are a fair amount of trees there still. Evani's father told me that when he went to claim his land and build a house that he had to open a path with a machete- that was only 30 years ago. I lived there for about a year all told, at the end of my first year here in Brazil, and then on my return as I was searching for a house of my own and then restoring it. I never really liked it there- I was the only white guy in the area but that wasn't the problem. I had more nasty race-based encounters living in Brooklyn. Paripe didn't really have anything to offer me. I didn't feel comfortable just walking around, because it was dangerous and I made a spectacle of myself- everyone knew who I was and the assumption is that if you are a gringo you are loaded. Which, by their standards, I was- but not as loaded as they thought I was. So there's a lot of negativity (olho grosso) directed at me. And Evani's family, although all very nice, have almost nothing in common with me and there was very little for us to talk about. Still isn't for that matter. And all her brothers are serious alcoholics and periodically get into fights with one another which is unpleasant. But the real reason I don't like Paripe is because of the noise. It's so freakin' loud there. Everyone's got a sound system and everyone plays it loud. I felt at times that I was living in a dorm again. Even the Catholic church that is next door to Evani's house would have all night revivals, and here in Brazil that includes amplified guitars and drum sets. They listen to a lot of reggae, which is okay, I like reggae, but it was always the same discs over and over and that got tired real fast. But the other musics they like here I can't stand- Pagode (Bahia style) and Seresta (also Bahia style). Pagode is an extremely testosterone-driven, modern, lame-ass Samba variation that features sirens and extremely misogynistic lyrics. It is invariably played very very loud. Seresta is a guy with a keyboard and a canned preset beat playing a few chords, and another guy (occaisionally a woman) singing - generally cover tunes. Syrupy romantic love songs almost invariably. The latter is marginally better than the former, but due to overexposure I can't stand either of them anymore.

Which brings me back to Saturday night. There we were in Paripe, having a nice cold beer (Skol is the brand of choice, Evani won't drink most of the others). There was some loud music in the little bare earth square outside of the 'compound' where Evani's family lives- some big speakers on the porch facing out. Then Adilson showed up.

Adilson is 'married' to Evani's cousin Regiane. They're not actually married, but here in Bahia the words 'girlfriend' and 'boyfriend' are reserved for more casual relationships (or the 'other' girl/boy friend). Adilson is a nice enough guy, but he's mounted one of these loathsome sound systems in his car that are so popular here. Here in Bahia they love to mount a huge sound system in their cars, but not for use while driving. Not even for use of those inside the car. All the speakers are mounted in the trunk facing out, and the primary purpose is to roll up somewhere, open the trunk, and crank it. The music of choice is almost invariably pagode.

So now we have the first really loud pagode blasting, and now Adilson's competing pagode also at ear-rattling, conversation-quenching, thought-disrupting volume. The only saving grace? He didn't point his car at the compound, but in another direction.

And that's a typical Saturday night in Paripe.

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