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:


Pedra said...

I didn't even think about going to the Bonfim party because of the pickpockets. The lady I buy agua de coco from every day told me that her husband got nailed... R$60 and all his IDs. It would be nice to be able to go to these events and just be able to chill out, but unfortunately that's not how it is here.

I spent the day at the beach :)

michelle said...

Extreme tree peeling? Bwaaaahahahahahahah!!!!!

Leo said...

Bitchen rua paint! I think it turned out quite wonderfully. I can relate to the party thing. I just can't understand why people play their music far above the capacity of their speakers, only to make whatever crappy pagode is coming out sound more like crap.

and then the conversation....

O meu irmao...grumple garble garble

O que....grumple mumble reply.


Press repeat, rinse, drink more beer. Worse is on Sundays. I live above a bar, and am never going to get any sleep.

jesse said...

I think I know about this new "mysterious affliction" of back pain...especially after walking and carrying a heavy kid around.

markuza said...

Pedra- it is a shame isn´t it?

Michelle- I still chuckle to myself when I think of that

Leo- thanks man- I don´t know how you can live over a bar

Jesse- I can´t believe I didn´t think of that. Maybe because I don´t carry Lucas nearly as much as I used to.