Archive for July, 2005

We now resume our regularly scheduled life.

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

Editor’s Final Note.

After more than two weeks of exhaustive reconstruction, we put forth for you the finalized version of The Brazil Journal. Blood-stained and beer-soaked, we can now retire the original manuscript to a drawer somewhere and enjoy this new, digital, legible form instead.

We’ve omitted nothing. Mostly. Only some of the… racier encounters were edited, to protect the innocent and the not really all that innocent. After all, you never know who’s gonna read this damn thing. Besides, you kids don’t wanna hear about those two sisters… or that time when what’shername’s top came off… or how Trevor got those wax burns on his inner thigh… That’s just boring reading, kids.

Other than that, it’s all there.

Half of the trip’s pictures have also been made available online, at http://photobucket.com/albums/a132/Tivadaar/ . Perhaps Our Editor will also get off his lazy ass and post the pictures from Nate’s camera as well. Perhaps.

Now, back to real life.

*sigh*

-T.

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Take capsule by mouth 4 times daily

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

/*Editor’s Note: Nate’s last entry*/

Time does not exist you yakeater – new batteries in your watch just make life march on like always. 3 hours. 2 hours. A movie. A fucking love affair. All the things I see every time I blink. Seasons don’t matter. Home doesn’t matter. All I can say is, yes, I think I’ll make it through another day. and No, I’ll never feel bad about any of it. Look out – I’m almost now.

-NATE

This is the end…

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

13 de Julho, 9:30 PM
Somewhere over Southern Brazil, 28,000 feet

São Paulo stretches vast across the entire night horizon, a city so sprawling and varied that the mere scope of it boggles the mind. And believe me friends, my mind is a tough one to boggle. After a frigid, miserable dawn in the rodoviária, we stowed our crap and ventured out into the sprawl on the Metro. We spent the rest of the day wandering the praça da Se section of SP, near the central cathedral and theatre, effectively seeing upwards of 1/1 gazillionth of the entire city. LA and San Francisco combined make up only one neighborhood in SP. The entire concept of a “city”, at least as a metaphor for human habitation, deteriorates after a certain threshold. Specialized sections of the city can no longer serve specific purposes, because the city has grown too large. SP has no “center”, no “down town”, only endless, teeming streets, markets, and plazas. Such a monument to humanity must hold many treasures, and many secrets. I’ll be back here some day.

Exhaustion and insanity loom dangerously close at this point. I’ve effectively been awake for almost 30 hours, with no sleep in sight. At this altitude it’d be a miracle for me to stay normal even if I was well-rested and not hung over. Flights at this height have strange and poorly documented effects on the inner ear and human perception in general, that’s why they take away your fingernail clippers and match books, and feed you MSG-loaded chicken and soda water. Take away the sharp shit and let fly the tranq darts, like a damn mental institution.

All is not lost, however. Bleary-eyed and mentally decayed is the only way to return from a trip like this. If I hit the ground with a spring in my step or a dip in my hip, something’s gone terribly wrong. A trip like this takes a horrible toll on people of my constitution. Diets consisting purely of fried foods and hard liquor, tap water filled with parasites large enough to put on a fish hook, brutal, vicious street rodas where everyone wants to spill some American blood… I’ll need several months of spiritual sabbatical, rehab, and chiropractic adjustment to get myself back in working order.

Working order. In order to work.

Right outside that sterile, nationless no-man’s-land of SF Intl. Airport awaits the Old Life. Responsibilities and debts and guilts and bills, they await like slavering red goblins in the baggage terminal, holding up a sign that says “TREVOR”, written in piss and bile. Such an ironic name, the “baggage terminal”. How could I have never recognized that before now? Running from your problems never works, they say. Well it damn well worked for me, and now the credits are rolling and the house lights have come up, and I’m trying desperately, pathetically to hold on to the joy and freedom of the last month.

All that’s left now, besides a ten hour flight watching Will and Grace or Miss Congeniality 2 in Portuguese is the post-game show.

We know what happened, friends. We know how the story ends, who makes it out alive… But what does it all mean?

Is a trip like this just some hedonistic fuckoff in distant lands? A frantic and pointless orgy of adventure and depravity? Or is there some higher meaning to it all?

The material gains are negligible. T-shirts, some books, a bunch of Bahiano jewelry for assorted cousins… No, booty obviously had little to do with it. Mind the pun, friends, it’s a doozy.

Perhaps it was a more spiritual journey, a testament to the triumph of the human spirit and the purity of nature, a tour de force of blah blah blah cliche cliche horse shit horse shit.

I don’t know.

For me, I suppose, two things really stand out, as accomplishments or treasures or whatever.

The first is success. Fortune favors the bold, and bold we were. Are. With nothing but a guidebook, a dictionary, clean underwear, and sharp wits we navigated across one of the largest and most varied countries in the world. Time after time, we’d jump off a bus with backpacks in hand and not a damn clue what to do. But we figured it out.

It’s one thing to survive a journey, another entirely to flourish on the road. In cities where no one for miles speaks English, where things like baseball and warm water and paved roads are ethereal, mythical concepts, taken with a grain of salt as foreign lies, we rocked. Tearassing across the interior in a bus full of farm workers, pursued by armed bandits and junk vendors, we handled our business. And if this success in the face of non-existent planning and absolute, 100% freedom doesn’t bring a tear to your eye and a lighter to your raised, swaying fist, I don’t know what will. Such a confluence of forces I have Never seen, the universe itself holding our hand and lighting our way. Today, as we stumbled off the metro and bought tickets for our bus to the airport, the tickets cost exactly the amount of Brazilian currency we had left between us. Exactly. Talk about tying up your loose ends, that’s some mindwarping shit, friends. Such luck approaches divinity. The Force must be strong, with these two.

The second miracle (One away from beatification, kids) was the people. There are those among you, life long friends, vague acquaintances, or simply random fucks, that know me to be somewhat… jaded. If I were a breakfast cereal, some would call me Cynic-O’s. If I were a president, I might be called Bitterham Lincoln. And yet…

Our talent and ingenuity, as well as the universe and luck at large, can only account for a small percentage of our trip’s awesomeness. The rest, the rest comes straight from our friends. Everywhere we went, we met awesome people. Everywhere, like clockwork. Elizabeth and Meitol and Fatima… Mosquito,65lbs of fury in the capoeira roda… Willamy and the Four Lovely Sisters… Renalto and Bruno, his repressed homosexual brother… Antonio and the Evangelical Crew… Mestre Raimundo Diaz, old school Angolero at large… Thaís, Ana, the rest of the Brasília chicks who have set my standards for girls so damn high… Christ, does the list go on. Everyone one of them, complete, whole-hearted friends, without exception.

What did a morbid, ruthless gringo like me do to deserve such folk? I worry, friends, that sealed away behind our picket fences and liar’s eyes, back in the good old U.S. of A., we (myself included) will forget what people like our Brazilian friends do for us, and for humanity at large. The best I can describe it is like this: Imagine L.A. Everyone you meet, should you even be in a context worthy of their attention, is a two-dimensional sycophantic ass hat. Now imagine that degree of bold-faced enmity, but 100% in reverse. Imagine being invited into someone’s home, to stay, before they even know your name. Imagine treating someone you’ve known for a three hour bus ride like a long lost brother. Can you imagine it?

I hope so, kids. Cuz some of us don’t have to. Some of us know.

All these tearful goodbyes and shoutouts and grammy speech cliches… I’ll bet you scum think I’ve really lost it this time. You think the Grinch is coming to Christmas with big kisses and dime bags for the whole family. Not a chance, ladies, not a chance.

The black blood runs too deep in my veins for that.

It brightens my day, though. It brightens my life; to know that in a far off land, where the R’s sound like H’s, the doorknobs are all broken, the food is all fried and the showers are all cold, there are people who are genuine and friendly, kind, and loving in ways shitheads like you and I will never know.

Now it’s time to go home.

Até logo, meus amigos. Obrigado por todo.

-T.

11:20PM, over Venezuela

The Foreign Mystique

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

/*Editor’s Note: This is an undated, loose-leaf entry stuffed into the journal itself. The handwriting is Trevor’s, obviously.*/

I love being foreign.

Straight up shamelessly 100% booya foreign. Foreigners… foreigners have it easy.

To begin, the language barrier is a double-edged sword. It takes a few tries to order food, I can’t talk to maids, and phones are out of the question. But being bilingual, or at least mono-and-a-half lingual, gives one a tremendous advantage. First, to be an American and speak Portuguese, for Brazilians, is flattering. American culture saturates Brazil, at least in its warped, exported form, and for better or worse Americans hold a powerful fame/infamy everywhere we go in Brazil. An American who speaks Portuguese is like an albino tiger that plays trumpet, a rare, probably mythical animal, certainly one never encountered in day-to-day life. To be American and speak with a Brazilian on their own terms is to instantly ingratiate one’s self. This advantage extends even further.

Somewhere, in my warped, mosaic Portuguese “education”, I picked up an Italian accent. I’ve never met an Italian who spoke Portuguese, but apparently many Brazilians have and I sound just like the dude. That’s two nationalities for the price of one, kids. That’s advantage.

Also, to be foreign is to be interesting.

Without any hoops to jump through or obstacles to vault, people genuinely want to talk to you. Even the most menial thing becomes interesting to them, and thus interesting to you, in a whole new light. You’re an alien, a stranger from another world, a world many Brazilians know only from TV, film, and other highly inaccurate sources.

It also works to one’s advantage, I’m ashamed to say, that almost all other Americans are selfish swine. The snobbish, loud, uncouth American abroad is not simply a prejudice, but a living, breathing archetype encountered regularly in one’s travels. That makes us what in comparison? Shining god damn gold stars. Honest and humble, yet unwilling to get shafted or yield to inflated tourist prices. We are a breed apart.

Behold, the miracle of lowered expectations.

I talk about all these things as “advantages”, putting me ahead in some sort of contest. How very American of me. And yet it’s the best way I can think to describe it…

In actuality, however, the enjoyment of the role goes much deeper. Being foreign, being American, might make you exotic, interesting, sexy, or strange… but it’s more powerful than that.

Effectively, I’ve got a foot in both camps. Capoeira, forró, all the classic Brazilian stuff contrasted with an American education, a seriously American sense of absurdity, and a wholly modernistic world view.

It’s hard to describe, I guess, without sounding predatory or competitive.

In Brazil, my culture, my language is my home. The deference, the interest, all that is pleasant, but really the eternal option of self-imposed isolation is what makes it worth it for me. At home, I’m one among many, inescapably. It’s the nature of the beast. In Brazil, I’m one among many or, should I so choose, one among very very few. Honestly, it’s the only way to be.

Some parts of me are simply too alien for Brazilian consciousness, if I may generalize broadly. Atheism, atheism is unspeakable here. That’s the big one. Dark humor is a close second… I’ve never met a Brazilian with the appropriate sense of doom or despair to understand a really good joke, and that’s not because of the language involved.

Being Alien creates opportunities as well. Whatever you are eager to learn, people are eager to share, so long as you are respectful. Innately, people love to share and explain and teach; the effect is simply magnified when the learner is strange.

I could see myself building a life abroad, in a place like Brazil. Easily. It’s a kind of very social, very open-minded hermitude that appeals to me greatly.

That’s certainly something worth considering.

-T.

Not the man they think I am at home, no no no no

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

13 de Julho

6:30 AM, Tietê Station, SP.

(English)
N. “Sheik 1 looks good.”
T. “Fuck that shit. R$8.40, that’s a god damn deluxe fancy Sheik. I’m not the damn real tree, I’m not paying that.”
N. “What about Sheik 7?”
T. “Risky. 7 has six Sheiks and no drink or fries.”
T. “How big are Sheiks?”
N. “Judging by the ad poster, about the size of the bottom of a soda.”
T. “You can’t trust that shit. Advertisers use all kind of optical illusions and image manipulation and shit to mess with you.”
N. “What the hell is a Sheik anyway?”
T. “I want to die.”

/*Editor’s Note: Our research staff stumbled upon this, which may help explain the preceding conversation. http://www.mrsheik.com.br/ */

Down and Out in the São Paulo bus station.

Designed more like a parking garage than a freestanding, enclosed edifice, Tietê’s concrete and linoleum offer no shelter from the bitter pre-dawn cold of São Paulo. Our bus rolled in around 4:45 AM, disgorging us and all our worldly possessions into São Paulo, the Ultimate Sprawl. Broken and weary with 15 hours to kill until our flight, we wandered the vast halls of Tietê until the sun came up.

The chairs and benches, designed for maximum discomfort and minimum efficiency, offer the same restful sleeping options as a bar stool. Huddled and contorted, my jaw clenched against the cold, I tried desperately to fall asleep, if only to escape. The problem with falling asleep in the São Paulo bus station with nowhere to go and no friends to call, assuming you can overcome the subzero temperatures and spinemangling seating atrocities, is that you wake up in the São Paulo bus station, with nowhere to go and no friends to call.

We did our best to pass the time, constructing nests of dirty clothes for warmth and playing the “What the fuck is a Sheik” game. This blows.

Our last nights in Paraty… madness. The town, just like Buzios, had assumed the typical off-season tedium. Bored, listless waiters fighting like mongooses (mongeese?) over every random, precious tourist that walked by. We landed at a lanche spot and started drinking seriously around 8:30, drinking overpriced cerveja until we found out pinga was only two reais a glass. Buying a Skol for three bones when you can get a pinga for two is like buying a BB gun for 300 when you can get a rocket launcher for 200. The cost / devastation ratio speaks for itself.

The table next to us was inhabited by a strange a chaotic group of Brazilians with at least one American. His loud, honky English carried to our table, although his hokey haircut and Old Navy polo gave him away long before his annoying voice.

“After I finish this glass, let’s go hit him with a chair.”
“Hit who?”
“What do you mean, who? The honky trash right next to us.”
“Good plan. These heavy, old growth wood chairs could crush a man’s skull like a plum. Distract the others, I’ll trip and fall to make it look like an accident.”
“I fucking hate Americans.”

Honkytool “Hey, are you guys speaking English? Do you wanna sit with us?”

(Portuguese) “Whorehouse! Ours the cover is blown! He is discovered us!”
(English) “Sure…”

Honkytool, as it happens, was an EE from Texas via Colorado State. He’s here with his sister, a soon-to-be disillusioned, plain-jane blond who’s been living with her sleazebag Brazilian boyfriend in Minas Gerais for the last two years. Now they’re getting hitched, and the whole Tool clan headed south for the wedding, since homegirl’s Brazilian squeeze is a convicted felon in the states and can’t get a Visa. God bless Texas, y’all.

Chris (Honkytool) “They met in college in Louisiana. Then
Me (Drunken) “They have college in Louisiana!?!”
Chris “…Then he got into some kind of trouble, got busted for a crime he didn’t commit.”
Me “I’ve seen that shit on Judge Judy. Happens all the time. That’s why I’m starting a revolution to place psychics in power in the U.S. of A. as an oligarchical dictatorship.”
Chris “I don’t really know the details, or wahtever. I guess he had to pleabargain or something, now he can’t go back to the States. But he didn’t do whatever they said he did.”
Me “Just like Harrison Ford. Such a tragedy! GOD.”
Chris “Brazil is way different from Colorado.”
Me “When Miss Cleo is empress, mistakes like this will never happen. Give me the rest of your pinga. Right now.”

Raving and madness in three languages. The groom’s brothers, Renalto and Bruno, were much better company. Chris, excited to have two more translator / companions at the table, was quickly left as isolated as he had been originally. Renalto is a late 20’s traffic engineer major, and Bruno is a 22 year old pre-vet who looks like the geek from The Breakfast Club, but with raging repressed sexual perversions lurking just beneath his fragile exterior.

(Portuguese)
T.”Hey Renalto, you know your new American brother is the ass bag?”
R. “He’s just not used to Brazil.”
T. “He is absolutely without value.”
R. “Your Portuguese is excellent. I mean that.”
T. “Thank you.”
B. “Are you Catholic?”
T. “No.”
B. “Are you gay?”
T. “No.”
B. “We have lots of whore houses in Brazil.”
T. “I am never let you near to my dog, Bruno.”
R. “More Pinga?”
T. “Christ yes, it is 65 cents a glass!”

Madness.

At some point the bride and groom left, and were replaced by several random Paulista girls and a physics professor from Barcelona (pronounced Bahthelona). The Japanese-Brazilian chick with the braces I’d been hitting on ran off with some younger man when I went to take a piss. The Paulista girls were shrieking at us to pay a bum some money, as though it was our duty as foreigners. The pinga flowed.

More drink.
(Spanish) Spanish Physics Professor “Where did you learn Portuguese?”
(Spanish) Me “In the capoeira.”
(Yelling, English) Nate “Where’s the respect?!”
(Spanish) S.P.P. “Your friend is going to drop that girl?”
(Portuguese) Me “No, he does this all the times. Women are having to learn to not badly talk at him while he is drinking.”
(Spanish) S.P.P. “I hope you are right. These cobblestones are dangerous.”
(Portuguese/Spanish) Me “Brazilian police don’t take kindly to foreigners assaulting their natives. If he is to drop her, you, me, and every other foreigner here are rotting in the jail for a century.”
(Spanish) S.P.P. “Really?”
(Portuguese) Me “Yes, it happens all the time.”
(English) Nate “You NEED TO LEARN!”
(Unintelligible) Paulista “Shriek Shriek Something Something Foreign Foreign!”

Madness. The rest is too hazy or too shameful to recount. Only flashes, images.

(English) Chris “How do I hit on this girl?”
(English) Me “Just say (Portuguese) Wanna go drown the goose?”
(English) Chris “What’s that mean?”
(English) Me “You are pretty.”
(English) Girl “I speak English.”
(Portuguese) Me “Oh, fuck.”

Madness.

Nate, fueled by cheap pinga and sassy Paulistas, prepares to steal a schooner. He claims we can be in Buenos Aires by dawn. Renalto and I discuss philosophy, nationalism, and his brother’s emotional diseases at length. The Spanish Professor and the recently released Paulista chick and I badmouth various European nations at length, in a snarled, drunken jumble of Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

(Portuguese)
Me “Sssssssssssssssssssssssp. Waiter! Check!”
Paulista “When do you leave tomorrow?”
Me “Late in the night.”
S.P.P. “A shame you must leave so soon.”
Me “I can’t take this place any longer. I need a god damned hot shower and a tallboy.”
S.P.P. “A tall…boy?
Me “A big beer. It’s idiomatic. It appears not to translate rightly.”
Me (English) “Are you fucking shitting me? 40 reais on pinga and beer?”
Waiter “I can’t understand you, sir.”
Me (English) “You scum. I’m sick of playing “Teabag the Foreigner” with you primitive swine. I’ll have you fuckers banned from the U.N. You know what an Embargo is, you red-aproned bastard? E M B A R G O?”
Nate (English, holding up a distressed-looking street dog) “THIS IS MY REAL BROTHER. FUCK YOU ALL.”

Madness.

-T.

On Mungdiving.

Posted in Blog on July 26, 2005 by trevorgregg

12 de Julho
Random cheap bar

Today’s word of the day: Greasebag-lookin douchemug

Red House

Posted in Blog on July 25, 2005 by trevorgregg

/*Editor’s note: Another entry by Nate*/

July 12 Tuesday, but who cares.
9:30 PM

Pinga is like cracking your knuckles. It isn’t good for you but you don’t have to pay for it until later on, and at the moment, it feels good. Like you’re releasing something pent up All Day. Problem is, I drank 6. Plus 4 beers. And you know what they say about mixing your pleasures. I remember speaking poorly, and once realizing that the available females were no longer available. Then my checks and balances turned off. Whahoo obnoxious American. Set back U.S. relations 5 years. Picked up a girl I just met named Anita. By picked up I mean picked her up over my head and swung her head near some rocks. Yes. I’m stupid. And shouldn’t be allowed to breed. Oh well.

Trevor also did his share. Not counting, but he was handily wasted. Although I believe he didn’t threaten any lives. And his Portuguese lasted longer.

Oh yes, and quentão. The marvel of quentão, a wonderful blend of pinga, ginger, and the charred remains of half-smoked menthol cigarettes + old people rub. Served hot. In a plastic bag. Miraculous stuff. I could feel the hair on my chest growing brittle as I sipped my bag. Surrounded by literature dorks + a Brazilian / American family at an after wedding get together.

I’ve definitely confirmed that Americans are not my favorite breed. However, this says nothing about my positive feeling for the degenerate bipeds that hail from other countries. Yes, It’s true. I am a misanthropist. Good word, wonder who made that one. Since it’s pertinent, even though Trevor hates Canada, “Everyone is overweight + I’m upset. Talking is just masturbating without the mess….Everyone I know today is just so fucking VAIN!” Band name to come later. But many truths have come from the un-named.

A man just rode by on his bicycle. A 25ft 4 inch PVC pipe dragging behind on the cobblestones. Whahoo. For some reason, I will definitely keep that image in the lockbox. A novella int he background, people are so focus I could pickpocket braces. This nice local is well lit, and also strangely clean, although it does face a street where the diesel fumes drift nicely into the open air 2 wall structure.

Liftoff, 2.5 hours. Blasting off over a 6 hour pot hole sleep adventure back to SP. Back to 17 million people living their lives. 3 Los Angeloses (not a mistake) god damn savages. Those city people. Breathing flakes of human skin airborne by the constant scratching caused by an over exposure to cement. People in high concentrations are very dangerous. The fringe is better, but not much. Tomorrow we venture into the lion’s den for 12 hours of no plans on a shaky night’s sleep. With 2 duffel bags + 25$ ingredients for an adventure, mixed together over 30 km between bus station + airport. DONE.

I am not a detail person. But I do appreciate them on occasion. For example, today we rode a nicely built but functionless schooner style ship. Rode her like a worm rides the intestines of a dog. Boo-bad shit. Anyway we were motionless blobs of apathetic crap all day, and aside from one burst of swimming activity, stupidly gazed on at the magnificent green jungles plunging into sparkling green blue seas. And fine sand beaches begging to be landed on. The vessel was all wood, very dark, hard wood, wrought from ancient trees from the very jungle it explores. The joints are smooth and strong, elegant. Not like the square and cut lines of a steel ship.

Even the cleats were wood. Wooden pins, wooden rudder, wooden slats over the cabin window. Beautiful ships allay some of that ocean fear. Cruising through slick and ambivalent waters that lap against the low sides, dragging us down with sharp fins + silent saline fury. Calm seas is an oxy moron. The ocean is nothing but liquid fear, and that is why it is so beautiful, so intriguing. Why I love to be on it and in it. Today we were, if very briefly, and surrounded by the luxuries of modern life – enough to catch the scent of the breeze.