Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Another one of my neighbors met his untimely demise early this morning.

They called him Cabeção, which means 'big head.' I knew him well, or should say knew of him well, because the apartment where he lived is directly across from our bedroom window. He used to spend hours in his window, as well as on the street in front of our house, talking loudly in his unusually deep voice. At one point he became obsessed with Pavarotti, and extremely loud opera got mixed into the musical soup that is otherwise dominated by Bahian Pagode and Seresta. I've never been a big fan of opera, but it was a welcome break from the tedium.

Cabeção always ignored me when I'd pass him on the street, until quite recently, when he started to acknowledge me. I don't know why, and now I never will. We are friendly with his mother, who once bought a stuffed bunny for Lucas, and one of his sisters, who came to Evani's last caruru. They're all a bit odd and his mother has admitted as much to Evani. There were rumors that he was a pedophile, and rumors he was using drugs. Beyond that I know nothing about him.

According to my neighbor Mario, last night Cabeção was drinking at a bar a few streets over from ours. At some point in the early morning, something happened, and he was beaten to death. I don't know any details. As is the custom here, he has already been buried.

Whenever something like this happens, conversation inevitably turns to stories of other violent deaths- the news is full of them. "We are like birds," Evani said today, apparently in reference to the fragility of our lives. Then she recounted a road rage incident that happened the other day here in Salvador where one guy followed another into a gas station and killed him because of something that happened in traffic. I interrupted the conversation at one point to say that eventually it's going to reach the point where I'm going to say enough is enough. What is so great about this place that I should live here in fear of my life, or the lives of the ones I love? There are plenty of great and beautiful places on this planet where you don't need to fear random and deadly violence on a daily basis. She replied that what is so great about Salvador (jokingly) is that she is here. I replied that she is also portable, and can be relocated to a less dangerous locale.

Personally, I don't think she'd ever move. But I left behind everything that was familiar to me to live here, and at some point I will have to decide if it's still worth it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things That Happened on Sunday

A List in Three Items

1. I painted some Graffiti

And for the first time, when I backed off to have a look at it, it actually looked better than I thought rather than worse. By no means a masterpiece, but I'm getting there. Here's a picture:

It's a plant eating dinosaur. No teeth. I was gonna do a dragon, but Nova 10 Ordem, the premier graffiti crew here in Salvador just did a big mural of Caverna do Dragão and I didn't want anyone to think I was ripping them off.

2. I went to the craft fair

And came home a bit early because I was discouraged as I sold almost nothing.

On the way there I took this little film of a very popular spot for graffiteiros, and also for political propaganda. What's interesting in this short film, in case you can't figure it out, is that my piece with the snakes is the only one that survived the political campaign. I feel lucky, and I'm also curious- why did mine get spared? Does it mean the political propagandists liked it?

The part of the wall that appears towards the end of the film is where I did the piece from which I copped my avatar: Markuza's avatar

3. Evani and Lucas were at a bus stop...

...And Evani heard a noise, like a faucet running. Or a hose. Or someone taking a piss out the window of a bus. Bahian men have no shame (correction: some Bahian men) and will whip it out just about anywhere. I remember one time driving on the highway and some middle-aged guy was facing the oncoming traffic and relieving himself. One time we were on a boat and this drunk guy who kept stepping on my feet squatted down and pulled his business out of the leg of his shorts and pissed right on the deck of the boat. On my very first visit to Brazil I went to see a band, was taking a leak in the toilet, and some Bahiano came in and just pissed in the corner of the bathroom on the floor. I am feigning indignation- I see it so often I'm jaded now.

And here was this guy pissing out the window of the bus. I'm sure the bus driver and the cobrador (who collects the money, and sits at the back of the bus) saw him doing this and didn't say anything. I think people here generally let others get away with this kind of thing because the people who actually do this kind of thing have a tendency to go psycho if you say something, so they just sigh and shake their heads.

Evani grabbed Lucas and hurried him around the back of the bus stop, just in the nick of time. The guy suddenly aimed higher and pissed all over the people waiting at the bus stop (indignation no longer feigned). A few of them, enraged, went and pounded on the door of the bus, but the busdriver just drove off.

There's a word for people like this, they're called sacizeiros. Troublemakers. Sacizeiros like to brag about how they faz acontecer, or 'make things happen.' What they make happen is trouble and/or fights. These are people you want to stay well away from here in Salvador. They've got nothing to lose and they've got a bad attitude and they want you to start something so they can stomp on you.

I'm glad Evani got out of the way.

That's a Mighty Long Sentence You Have There

Wow- I've always found it amusing Brazilians are fond of run-on sentences- further proof that spoken Portuguese has little relationship to the written version.

Here is a prime example- this is a comment on a blog I was looking at a little while ago, and was written by a journalism student:
Antes de mais nada, parabéns pela iniciativa, muito louvável, e suas peças são belíssimas, na verdade "achei" vcs através de M_____ M_____, em Recife, sou aluna dela e estou concluindo o curso de jornalismo, nosso Tcc, será um podcast, sobre meio ambiente e consumo sustentável, ao longo de nossas conversas Mariana nos falou sobre o trabalho de vcs, e achamos muito interessante, nosso projeto é entregar aos professores um exemplar do nosso podcast e relatório dentro de ecobags, "matutando" sobre isso M______ nos indicou o trabalho de vcs, no entanto já observei q vcs só fazem encomenda de peças acima de 150 unidades ok, no entanto gostariamos de apenas 5 unidades, caso vcs possam nos ajudar nesta empreitada, ficariamos imensamente gratas, aguardo uma resposta, parabéns pelo talento!!!
This is the entire comment. Please note- there are no periods, this is one sentence! I count 19 commas. As my seventh grade english teacher would have said: "Whew!"

For the record she's talking about 'ecobags' - you know, reusable cloth bags like Mr. Bloomberg is trying to promote in NYC. They haven't really caught on here, at least not in Bahia.

I took this quote from the blog, which has some beautiful stuff on it. And if you want eco-bags, they can make them for you.

I have decided, just for fun, that I should try writing a sentence, in the Portuguese style, with lots of commas, that goes on for a very long time, and covers all manner of topics, I'm not real sure why they don't put some periods in from time to time, nobody really talks like this, but then that was my point from the beginning, that written Portuguese bears no resemblance to the spoken version, unlike English, where the two are essentially interchangeable, I have to make a conscious effort not to put in periods, or other forms of 'full stop' punctuation, to make this a very, very, very long sentence, but I think that finally I'm going to STOP.

Hmm- only 18 commas. I need to work on that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Santa Potty Mouth

I just heard something... curious... on the radio. There was a program on where listeners can call in and make complaints about whatever, and one woman told how her seven year old daughter had gone to sit on Santa's lap at the mall and asked him for a present for Christmas.

Before I tell you what Santa told the little girl, a teeny bit of background. Malls here are a big deal, people get dressed up to go to the mall, and far from finding bargains, everything there is generally much more expensive than in other places. They also stage these elaborate events to bring people in, like this extremely elaborate and absurdly premature Christmas tableau complete with the white bearded fat guy.

So Santa says to the little girl: "I'm sorry, I can't give you anything this year because I'm fudido. Go get something at the camelô." Translation: fudido means 'fucked,' but it's also slang for 'broke,' which is presumably what he meant. A camelô is someone who participates in the 'informal economy,' ie they sell pirated dvd's or really cheap plastic toys on the street. Although many many presents are bought this way, it doesn't quite have the romance of Santa's Workshop. He also told her not to tell her mommy what he said.

A couple things are weird about this story:

  1. The first one is obvious

  2. Even though the woman was indignant that Santa had said this to her little girl, who could have been "traumatized" by the experience, neither she nor the host had any problem saying fudido live on the radio- they must have said it twenty times. God forbid any seven year old kids might be listening! Or the Brazilian equivalent of the FCC!

  3. The third is I know exactly who this Santa Claus guy is. There aren't many people in Salvador who fit the Jolly Old Phenotype, at least not with a real beard. This same guy does Santa at the mall near our house, and I've got pictures of the kids sitting on his lap. Plus I just happened to see him at the mall in question on Saturday- maybe I witnessed him scandalizing this young child!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008