Friday, January 23, 2009

At Last, a Vacation

Whenever I get out of the city I am always astonished at how rarely... I get out of the city.

Well I pulled it off, and now I´m in a tiny town called Cabuçu on the very long coast around the Bahia de Todos os Santos, or ´Bay of All Saints´ as this enormous bay is called that gave this state it´s name. We hadn´t planned to come here, we really hadn´t made much of a plan at all (which seemed like fun at the time) but the original pseudo-plan fell through and now here we are in a small, stuffy pousada with a stinky bathroom run by an tremendously nice couple from Salvador. Tomorrow we are moving to a much nicer pousada a little ways down the road, which I wish we´d discovered last night, or early this morning, but it didn´t work out that way.

(Editor's note: This is as far as I got with this entry when the computer shut down on me- your thirty minutes are up!! I had actually written more but it didn't survive the abrupt shutdown. I'll write more about this trip shortly.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It's been a very long eight years, and I can't really believe it's going to be over in an hour. I just had the kind of realization that struck me as I was washing up for Evani's cesarian- in less than an hour I will be a father. Well, in less than an hour we will have a president that I don't have to be ashamed of.

For all those reading this in the States, the inauguration is big news here too- there is a channel on TV that is showing the event live.


Go Obama!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mark is a Juvenile Twerp, Walks to Bonfim

Part of me is never going to grow up, even as the rest of me is... aging.

I just added an old high school friend of mine as a Facebook friend, an experience I believe many many people are doing these days... folks are often surprised to hear that I'm living in Brazil and wonder, quite reasonably what the hell I'm doing here- a question I often ask myself.

Anyhow this particular friend, who I haven't seen in at least ten years, asked me what I was doing for work. Instead of telling her what I really do, which is kind of boring, I decided to tell her that I am "a stillwater shark fisherman, and for extra cash I lead extreme tree peeling tours in the Amazon."

She believed me.

I've been playing this kind of prank on people all my life... the funny thing is that even though I often get away with telling the most ridiculous story, I'm also extremely gullible and fall for other people's nonsense if they decide to turn the tables on me.

Don't tell anyone.

In other news, this week was the Lavagem do Bonfim, the massive semi-official holiday where everyone walks from the center of the city to the church of Bonfim, eleven kilometers distant. Eleven K is really not that far, except that it is always extremely sunny and hot, and there is very little shade along the route. Add to that dense crowds and lots of beer and it can be quite an ordeal to get all the way to Bonfim. The last couple years I didn't make it- one I didn't even try, and another I got a couple K in and called it quits. Four years ago I walked it with all my brothers and my father, which was a great experience. My dad, who does a lot of walking but is not the young sprite he used to be, didn't get all the way there but the rest of us did. That was by far the best year for me.

This year things turned out a bit differently- I got a late start because I had some work to finish up, and when I finally got under way Evani was probably two thirds of the way there already. I like to walk fast when I can and I'm the kind of guy who works out all the routes I can take to get somewhere faster, especially if it involves avoiding crowds. So I took all the side routes I knew of, running parallel to all the action, mostly on deserted streets at full Pfohl speed and even in the shade for much of it. I made great time and caught up to Evani within the hour.

But I paid a price.

I went to a doctor a week or so ago complaining about a pain in my back. He asked me if I had 'APVC.' This mysterious affliction, he explained to me, is A Porra da Velice Chegando, or loosely translated 'Goddamn Old Age Coming On.'

I guess I'm not the young sprite I used to be either, because as a result of my fast-walk of maybe six kilometers I developed a severe limp for the rest of the day. I had some kind of weird cramp/pain in my hip that could only have been APVC. The young, foolish Mark didn't suffer from stuff like that.

Oh well, I can still play childish pranks on people.

When we almost arrived at the Church of Bonfim the inevitable Gringo Bummer Scene occurred- the crowd got really tightly packed and the pickpockets moved in. I had actually just picked a wallet up off the ground, no money inside but the guy's ID and keys were still in there. That's the only redeeming quality of the pickpockets here, they don't want your ID, and usually toss it on the ground within meters of where they obtained it. I was looking for a cop to give it to and all of a sudden about three or four people 'bumped' into me in an attempt to get their hands in my pockets. This happened within two or three minutes. The thief comes smashing into you, pretending to fall, or jostled by the crowd, and his hand goes for your pocket. This has happened to me so often that long ago I developed the reflex that after the crowd achieves a certain density my hands are always over my pockets in case someone tries to get in there- and I also wore my shorts that have buttons for all the pockets. Sometimes the Brazilians can be incredibly unsubtle about trying to rob you- probably because they have three big friends ready to pounce on you if you do anything.

They didn't get anything but I hate it when this happens. The Brazilians are fair game and get robbed too, but when they see the white gringo, standing out like a zebra in a herd of horses, they figure I'm an easy mark and tend to pile on. Luckily this zebra had four horses helping to fend off the rogues. Soon enough the crowd opened up and it was over, but it definitely put me off for the rest of the afternoon.

Bonfim is enjoyable, and has been going on for hundreds of years. It is a religious festival for some, but it is a drunken beer fest for many many more, and I must confess that I'm getting pretty tired of that kind of thing. It's always the same loud music that I don't like, people yelling over the music instead of conversing, and drinking. At one point I tried telling one of Evani's friends about a drawing I had been working on when we went to visit her, but it was so loud and she was so drunk that it was just an absurd excercise in futility. That's why I generally just clam up and watch people. And drink my beer.

And always there is the threat of violence hanging over the whole thing. At one point this guy came up looking extremely agitated and entered in urgent consultation with someone sitting at the table with us. Evani explained that he was going to beat his woman, and the guy he was talking to was his Pai de Santo, his priest in the Candomblé. It looked to me like the Pai de Santo talked him down, but he maintained his belligerent appearance so I don't know. At one point I became convinced that a fight was about to erupt, so I got up from my chair. Luckily I was wrong, or I should say my prescience wasn't very accurate. We left before the big fight happened, but it did happen- it always does.

The same day, Thursday, was also our second fourth wedding anniversary- that is, the fourth anniversary of our church wedding, which was the second of our two wedding ceremonies. Dominated by the big walk and the beer partaken we didn't do much to celebrate. That's cool- to tell the truth, our civil ceremony, which was about five minutes long and shared with about forty other couples, is what I consider our true anniversary and we celebrated that properly with a night out in September.

And in other news, earlier this week I did the biggest painting of my life: a big old Markuza mural that came out pretty well- not perfect, but I was quite pleased with the result as it was by far the most ambitious graffiti painting I have ever done. And at about twenty feet long by maybe eight feet high, it is by far the largest single painting I have ever completed. The last time I tried to take my graffiti to 'a new level' I painted next to a very busy road, and then was incredibly embarrassed as the result was less than I'd hoped for. As a result, I painted this one in a more obscure location, hidden away in the favela, where only the locals can enjoy it. And apparently they do.

Here it is, almost finished:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So What Does Kuza Mean, Anyways?

Well, funny you should ask.

In my teeny tiny universe, 'Kuza' is short for 'Markuza,' my self-designated nickname, and how I sign most of my graffiti. I discovered that if one googles 'kuza graffiti' it comes up with lots of results for, you know, me.

I also knew it was a surname from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I should really figure out where exactly. I also almost didn't use this nickname because it rhymes a bit too easily with a certain filthy part of the anatomy, but I decided not to be so junior high about it.

But this was really great- I googled just the word 'kuza' and came up with this page:

which shows the meaning of the word in various languages.

In several it means come

In one it means go (Runyankore, the language of contrarians)

In Taabwa it means RAT

But the best of all is Swahili, in which it means:

flourishing, exalt, big, dense, enlarge, foster, glorify, grow, increase, lush, praise, rear, educate, and develop.

Thank you, Swahili!

Just to prove that I still paint graffiti, here's a picture of an eight foot finger that I painted just the other day. Problem is, I painted it at my house, so it's not really graffiti. But you get the idea.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: Ready or Not, Here We Come

Happy New Year everybodeeeeeee!!!

2009.  And I'm ushering in the new year somewhat wobble-illy from too much champagne last night.  At least I'm not shut up in a dark room with a pounding head and a bucket at close range.  Evani woke up with a migraine so of the two of us I'd say she got the raw deal.

Last night we did the same thing we did the year before, which was go to Amaralina beach and meet up with my Welsh friends and their Brazilian friends.  This time Ruan did not fall in the ocean and Lucas was not scared of the fireworks.  We could see at least three different sets of fireworks from where we sat, one on either side of us and then another much more substantial display (probably in Barra) peeking up over the skyline from time to time.  Evani's sisters, who were to join us with their kids, copped out at the last minute, but Ruan's aunt Joelma, who can't seem to skip a party, was with us.  Ruan drank some champagne and suffered the consequences, he also got an asthma attack which was a reprise from last year.

As I said last year, I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve and I have very low expectations for it.  That being said, I had an excellent time, which I think says a lot for low expectations.  Then again, something has to be quite amiss in order to not have fun on a beautiful beach on a beautiful night with your family and friends watching fireworks.  And I'm pleased to say that nothing was.

So how about those resolutions?  I am resolute about not making resolutions, but I would like to write up a list of all the things I have started and not finished, or am planning to do and have not yet started.  I would like to break this into several categories, including home improvement projects (install the fan in the kitchen, fix the slate on the patio), art related projects (finish the drawing of the trio eletrico that I started so I can make it into shirts), work related objectives (learn javascript, php, and ajax), and then maybe some other more whimsical categories just for fun.  Once the list is completed, I will have absolutely no obligation to complete anything on it (that would make it too much like a resolution) but at least I'll have it all clarified and ordered and out of my jumbled brain.

The best thing about making lists is crossing items off them.  I have known people who make tidy little check boxes next to their list items, so they can put tidy little check marks in them when they are completed.  Me, I like to SCRIBBLE OUT and OBLITERATE my list items because when they are DONE they are DONE and I have freed myself of one more thing I have to do.

So today marks an anniversary- I have now been writing this blog for one whole year.  I am quite pleased about this- when I started it I was fully prepared for the possibility that I would just stop writing it about three months in.  I've slowed down at various points, and speeded up at others, but I've got over 100 posts to show for my efforts and I think that's pretty cool.  I have no book contracts and I have a pretty small readership, but that's okay.  I have some close friends and family who keep track of what I'm up to, which was something I didn't really expect when I started (duh), and I've also made some friends and had some interesting contacts as a result of writing it.  And my blog is now recognized as one of the pre-eminent English language blogs out of Salvador, Bahia!  Don't ask me by whom.

Honestly, when I started this blog I wasn't even sure I wanted people to know about it, at least not my family and friends.  Or anybody.  Websites and blogs can essentially be private things if you don't do anything to promote them. I have maintained vague ambitions of writing a book for about ten years now and, finding myself living a crazy and interesting life, discovered I had something to write about.  This blog was initially intended to be live notes for that book, and if anyone wanted to read along then that was okay.  In this respect the blog has been a tremendous success.  I could print out all these pages (and that is something I really need to do, I'll put it on my list) and, you know, stick them in a binder or something and hey presto, it's my very own book!  Not exactly what I had conceived originally, but much better than nothing.  Certainly this is the most substantial creative writing project I've ever undertaken.  I imagine Lucas some day reading these posts, when he's grown up, and learning about what a terribly conflicted and sometimes amusing person his father was at this point in his life.

I have always had a hard time writing 'diaries' and 'journals' because I was always very self-conscious about other people reading them.  Which reminds me- whenever I find those old journals they must be BURNED.  Not that it would make a big fire, all my previous journal-keeping efforts petered out pretty quickly.  Writing a blog takes care of the self-consciousness problem because everything goes public in a way I never could have imagined when I was a morose teenager writing out my self-pitying prose back in the day.  Of course, one must click the 'Publish Post' button, something I sometimes never get around to doing...

Okay, enough navel gazing.  Thanks for reading along and forgive me if I start to repeat myself in the posts to come.  I resolve to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours today once I resolve this wooziness issue.  I wish you all a happy new year and all the best in everything.