Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday is Street Art Day, Sometimes

Today I went out and did some street art. I used spray paint, so I guess you could call it graffiti, but any self-respecting graffiti artist from the States would scoff and call it mere street art.

Whatever. It didn't come out that great, as I am woefully out of practice (this is my first painting of the year) and the way I painted it didn't allow for a lot of touch-up, but I was happy about a couple things.. First, it is in an extremely public spot here in the center of the city which is a kind of Mecca for the graffiteiros here- an old building at a major intersection that has been walled off with plywood and particle board for years- periodically the wood disintegrates and is replaced, and it gets painted all over again. The plywood was recently replaced, so I took advantage of one of these cycles. The other redeeming quality was a personal achievement on my part. Graffiti lends itself to working fast, and I've been trying to take advantage of this. I am a poky sloth-like perfectionist by nature, and I'm likely to spend hours noodling with picky details rather than calling it done and getting out of there. This time, I brought a beer along, opened it when I started, and as I was finishing up I still had beer in the can. Better yet, it was still relatively cold, despite the fact that I was in the full blast of the tropical sun. Kudos, Kuza! Too bad it was kinda sloppy.

So, as I have already mentioned (twice) the painting left me less than satisfied, but as always when I go out and paint something I had some interesting encounters as I was doing it. A number of people went by and made comments in the "cool!" "looks good!" vein, which is always gratifying. At one point I heard the chirp of a police siren, which was no big surprise as the spot sits right across the intersection from a large police station. A cop car, or viatura as they are called here, had pulled up with four or five military police in it and I debated stuffing all my cans in my bag and walking away. Then I figured I was already way too obvious to try to slink away at that point and plus, the painting would remain unfinished, so I went about my business. The cops had no interest in me as it turned out and a couple of them stuck by their viatura for much of my remaining time there. They may even have been watching my progress.

Later some young guy came up to me and t0ld me the painting was looking good. He stated that he was an artist himself and I asked him if he also worked on the street. He gave a vague kind of answer, or maybe I just didn't understand him, but it sounded like he was interested in doing so but never had. He asked: "There's no technique involved in doing work like this, is there?" and I, surprised, tried to disabuse him of this notion. In retrospect I can understand why he might have thought this, judging from my simplistic lines. Then he wanted to test out my paint, and I told him that not only was the paint mind bogglingly expensive, but no longer available here in Salvador, so he let it go and then went away.

I finished my painting and then did something I've been trying to get in the habit of when Ipaint stuff like this: step back, wipe my brain clean and look at the thing with fresh eyes to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. I hate getting home and looking at a photo of a piece and immediately noticing that I forgot to clean up a line or something simple. I noticed that the nostrils of one of my monsters looked like they were barely attached, so I decided to beef up the nose a bit. As I was doing this, someone started talking to me. It was a police officer, in a full camouflage uniform that is generally reserved for the Choque police, the badass special forces dudes- the ones who walk around during Carnaval with the oversized nightsticks. He asked me if what I was doing was authorized. He seemed kind of keyed up, like he was expecting trouble. I, learning from past mistakes, stated with glacial, Obama-esque calm, that it was indeed authorized. I told him graffiteiros had been painting there for years, which was true, unlike my previous statement. Whether it was authorized or not, I don't think the owner/owners really care if we go and paint their plywood, which is probably why I was able to summon such certainty. He didn't seem entirely convinced, and he said "Você sabe, né?", which literally means you know, right? but which I took to mean you know you shouldn't be doing that and you know I should be stopping you so don't be doing that if you aren't supposed to. I asked him if the plywood didn't look better with the painting on it, which was a pretty stupid thing to say to a police officer but it's what I believe so I said it. Apparently he was satisfied because he left me alone, so I spent thirty seconds finishing what I was doing and then I got the fuck out out of there.

In case it isn't obvious, I'm not going to post a photo of this latest artwork here. I'm happy that I snagged a sweet spot, but the truth is, there are a lot of sweet spots showing up around the city. The graffiti scene seems to be in a lull, maybe because the graffiti store has closed its doors, maybe because everyone's bored with it. I'm even happier that I broke my own lull, at least for one more Sunday, and left another little something for people to look at.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Carnaval 2010

The biggest street party is in full swing and I just got finished preparing my BattleShorts™ for another assault on the crowds. Actually, preparing the BattleShorts™ is a purely defensive maneuver- it means I sewed the pockets shut with big Frankenstein stitches so nobody can put their hands in there. When we went out last night, I was almost immediately set upon by a couple of would-be pickpockets but I'm pretty used to it at this point, so nothing was lost. However, I can't stand having someone put their hands in my pockets even if they won't come away with anything, so I sew up the pockets and I don't have to worry about it.

I see my fellow english language bloggers here in Salvador have written some excellent posts on the topic- Akutyger wrote a great post about Abadas, and the ones in her photos are some of the most sought after items available in the huge multi-million dollar production that is Carnaval.

Aside from what I wrote in the first paragraph, I'm not going to say anything else about the down side of Carnaval- it's been written about far too much and ignores the reality that millions of people have an absolutely fantastic time and nothing bad happens to them.

But I'll tell you what I like about Carnaval- I like that we get a bunch of international visitors who I can converse with in my native tongue. I like that our local friends and Evani's family come to stay with us for parts or all of the week. I like being able to walk the short distance to watch as much of Carnaval as I want, and I like that I can walk back to the house and relax whenever I want. I think our guests enjoy this as well. Far from not sleeping for a whole week, I think the people who stay with us get as much sleep as they want.

I also like taking Lucas out with me on the first days of Carnaval, or early in the day, when tons of parents go out with their kids to Pelourinho, painting faces and buying flashing toys and popcorn and soda. Lucas and his little cousin got some flashing fuzzy bunny ears the night before last. Now the two of them are off at her mother's house, giving us a little break and a chance to enjoy ourselves without worrying about him.

Another thing I really like about Carnaval is that it is entirely democratic. Yes, it can be insanely expensive if you have the money to spend, but it also can be enjoyed for next to nothing, as long as you have a place to sleep. For a lot of Brazilians that place is a sidewalk for a few hours at a stretch; not for me, but I'm spoiled rotten. And everyone has a chance to make some money if they are willing to work for it.

And hats off to the performers- I will never cease to be amazed at their stamina, putting on four to six hour non-stop concerts often in the heat of the day.

My wife is being a real trooper with her foot, trying hard not to overdo it, but also getting out there for a while every day to enjoy herself. She's getting ready to go out shortly, and I'll be going with her: her all prettied up and looking good, me in my nasty old Frankenstein BattleShorts™ and a soon-to-be sweaty t-shirt... sigh.

Time to suit up!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The End of Carnaval

Carnaval begins on Thursday. My wife's birthday falls on the day before Carnaval this year. My wife is one of these Bahianas that lives for Carnaval- it's her favorite time of the year, and she spends every day, and every night, out on the street partying and taking advantage of what is the largest street party in the world. She has every night planned out- where she's going to be, what band, or bands, she wants to hear, who's she going to be with.

These plans were rapidly coming together when this morning they all went to hell. I was just getting out of an ill-planned Saturday morning pre-school-year parent/teacher meeting when I got a call from my stepson- Evani needed to go to the hospital. She'd fallen down on the stairs and cut her foot.

I instantly dropped all my planned back-to-school post-meeting shopping and dashed back to the house. She had a deep cut between her big toe and her... next biggest toe... does that toe have a name? The pointer toe? As well as being concerned I was also confused as to how she'd managed to cut herself in that way on the stairs, and although there was a fair amount of blood on the stairs where she'd stepped after cutting herself I couldn't find any bloody edge where the cutting would have occurred.

A bit confused about where to go as we have a relatively new health plan and haven't used it for emergency room visits, we spent most of an hour in the car trying to get her treated. Luckily she wasn't in much pain. Traffic is bad here at the best of times, but now with Carnaval looming it is worse. This city takes a whole month to get prepared logistically for Carnaval, and all those preparations are now in high gear- parks are getting walled off, huge bleachers are being erected, and temporary structures abound wherever there is an open stretch of pavement. These include police stations complete with little cages to lock drunk violent people into, fire stations, medical stations, etc.

When we finally made it to the hospital we were confronted by a sign reading "Emergency room very full. Expect to wait a long time." Or something to that effect. As I was getting ready to settle in for the long wait, we discovered we were in the wrong place: we needed to go down the hill to the orthopedics department. We climbed back in the car, didn't have to pay for parking as we'd only been there for five minutes, and drove down the hill. Hmm- free parking space out front. Hmm- virtually empty waiting room. Hmmmmm five minute wait and we're already talking to the doctor! He orders an x-ray and Evani is done so quickly I can't believe it. No broken bones, and he takes her off to clean out the wound and stitch it up if necessary, while I wait with Lucas. It was necessary- three stitches. He also solves the mystery of how she got cut- turns out she didn't. When she fell her toe got caught in the railing and was pulled so violently to the side that it actually tore the skin between her toes. We got out of there in less than an hour, and I joked that she was lucky she hurt her foot and not some other part of her body.

When she fell, the first thing Ruan my stepson said was acabou Carnaval, or 'Carnaval is over'. Then he wanted to know why she wasn't crying. Lucas apparently laughed. Evani is not laughing, but neither is she crying. She's had some bad luck at Carnaval time, a couple years ago she got a very nasty stomach thing that pretty much did her in for the whole week. When we got in to talk to the doctor, one of the first things I said was "She wants to know if she can pular Carnaval." Pular means 'to jump' and they do a lot of jumping during Carnaval- the musicians are always exhorting everyone to sair do chão, or 'leave the ground.' Turns out Evani won't be doing much of that this year. She should be able to do a low-key Carnaval, finding a quiet spot to watch where nobody is likely to step on her feet. There are these elaborate platformed structures called Camarotes which put you at the level of the musicians on the sound trucks - some of them even have clubs and internet access and I even heard of one with a pool inside- she can do that. But no six hour slogs behind a trio this year.

I told her think of how much money you'll save! Participating in a bloco, and doing that six hour slog, can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, and if you do it several times during the week, it can get very expensive.

She's taking it surprisingly well.

So that's how my day got turned on its head today. I've been wanting to write a post, or posts, on any of a myriad of topics that have nothing to do with injuries. And I actually did so. But I'm not going to piggy-back it on this post, I'm going to give it its very own post, and I'm going to publish it tomorrow, or the day after, to maintain the illusion that I actually maintain this blog.