All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon

3:00 AM
Thaís’s House, Brasília, Distrito Federal

Wasted in Brasília.

What a fuckin town.

10:00 AM Poolside
Thaís’s House, Brasília, DF, Quinta-feira, 30th June

We rode in with the sunset, our bus shaking and shuddering like a dying rhino. An entire day of bad roads and sunscorched plains. Severe stomach pains, from some questionable Bahiano dish no doubt. We’ve spent an unbelievable amount of time on buses, but they’re beginning to feel like home. Here are a few important tips for bus travel in South America:

1) Always ask where you are before you get off. Signs are a luxury these places can’t afford, apparently.
2) For best results, bend your knees and hold tightly when using the onboard bathroom. A bus bathroom, windows open, at 60mph on a marginally paved road is an adventure in itself. You’re gonna miss; the trick is just to not miss on yourself. Several times I nearly crashed out through the poorly latched door, equipment in hand, into the crowded aisle. Only a keen sense of balance and a strong grip kept me safe.
3) Bring food. Rest stop food is shady.

I watched the scrub go by, endless bush intermixed with occasional farms and hovels, for hours. Traveling by bus is a very internal, meditative activity, and I had much to contemplate.

Around six, we crested a hill to look down on the sprawling, concrete beast that is Brasília. What a fuckin town. Brasília is a city unlike any other, an entire metropolis conjured out of nothingness, designed block by block, building by building, into a sort of Clockwork Orange monstrosity. I can only imagine how it looked in those first few years after it was manufactured, a sheer, gunmetal city rising abruptly out of the sea of scrub and jungle. Now, it’s begun to decay like everything else in this climate. It’s soft around the edges, with shanty towns and satellite cities full of underpaid menial workers propped up around its rim. Gaudy and squalid, it’s a strange experiment in humanity. The huge capitol towers and circular congress… dome… thing… look out over the city, and millions of ant-like civil servants crowd the streets.

A god damn weird town. I love it.

We said our goodbyes to our tearful Barreiras family, and made many promises. Continued visits, letters, presents. It’s so easy to forget kindness and friendship, however brief, upon returning to the States. This time, however, I’ve promised myself not to be a fuck.

Back in Brasília… God. How long has it been.

This place, these people are a world apart. Our Barreiras house was tiny, a beautiful and incredibly hard-earned home in such an economic climate. Simple, warm, Bahian. Here, we’ve crossed some invisible boundary. Our friends in Brasília are rich, rich even by American standards. Mansion homes patrolled by pairs of snarling boxers, swimming pools and three car garages. Servants. A different world.

We’re staying with Thaís, a friend Pedro introduced us to back in Brazil Trip #1. The splendor of her home is unmatched, and her family treats us like kings. Interesting to see how the same hospitality of our Barreiras family manifests itself here, in such an opulent world. If they’d peel my grapes and scratch my balls, I’d never even stand up in this house.

Just as in Barreiras, though, I feel extremely awkward accepting such hospitality. Call it American independence, call it blue collar, whatever. I’m not used to it. What truly spoils us, though, is the English. Except for the maid & Thaís’s parents, everyone speaks English. What a god damn relief, after eating, sleeping, and thinking Portuguese for the last two weeks. Being able to converse above a 2nd grade level is a pleasure divine.

The company, despite the wealth, is wonderful as well. Besides Thaís, another friend from our last trip has been with us, Ana. Some of you may remember her as the girl who ice-colded the christ out of me last time we were here, after such an auspicious first meeting. It’s coo. I wasn’t myself last time I was here, and even if I was, darlin, I gotta respect the Ice Cold. Our other friend, Carol, is in Italy, unfortunately. Poor timing for us, I was looking forward to spending time with that soft-spoken, chain-smoking beauty.

Speaking English was just the beginning. After pounding several cups of strong drink, the five of us wound our way through Brasília’s maze of streets to some Bar. The UniB college scene, as it were. Not all that different from the college nightlife in the U.S., from what I could tell. Outdoor seating, expensive drinks, people dressed uniformly… the world is a small place indeed. Our second bar… our second bar was home. I paid fifteen reais for a Guinness, and it was worth every fuckin centavo. The place is called UK BRASIL PUB, and is both run by

Holy shit, that’s a huge lizard!

Ok, it’s gone now.

Sorry, where was I.

Run by and frequented by people who have no real experience in the UK or pubs. Beatles albums, Ramones posters, Brazilian flags, and a huge god damn Harley Davidson banner. Guinness in one hand, throwin up the horns with the other, I nearly burst into tears when the band broke into a thickly accented cover of Pearl Jam’s Alive. Screaming along, I flew into a frenzy of drunken American pride and homesickness. Watching fifty Brazilians mouth out the sounds, since they don’t really know the words, to such a fundamentally rock ass American song was transcendental.

As I screamed out requests in English, people around me were filled with a sort of awed respect, as one of the Originals, a true blue god damn Jack and Diane apple pie aircraft carrier guitar playing loud as fuck American had stumbled into their little shrine. Fuck yes.

Things get hazy at this point, as they tend to do.

I remember demanding loudly, in both languages, if the terrified girl next to me even knew who the KKK were, let alone why they took away Joey Ramone’s girlfriend.

I remember stumbling up the deliberately tricky and unnavigable staircase, falling at one point. The girl in front of me, wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes shirt, said something snide in Portuguese, and I demanded to know if she knew (in English) just how much the Buckeyes, nay, Ohio in general, sucks.

Girl – “Porque muffle muffle…”
Our Hero – “I’m a god damn American. Don’t you tell me what to do. I’ll airstrike this whole god damn place.”
Girl – “Yammer Yammer Foreign Foreign.”
Our Hero – “This god damn staircase is just the kind of bullshit trap you savages put in bars for people like me. You think you’re so great with your third world Looney Tunes staircases knocking people on their asses for your amusement, but I can read between the lines. I’m on to you, you evil bitch.”
Girl – “Yammer yammer something something?”
Our Hero – “Soccer sucks. I hate you.”

And so our cultural exchange ended as abruptly as it had begun.

The night ended with lovely Ana escorting me outside, asking in her pristine academic English who Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band were, and why had I threatened to choke the band’s drummer if they didn’t cover their entire greatest hits album, start to finish.

What a wonderful country.

Time to head back into the pool to bake off the last of my hangover.

-T.

p.s. Important new Portuguese words / phrases:

Hangover – ressaca (pronounced heh-sacka)
Shotgun (as in shotgunning a beer) – Vietnam (pronounced Viech-namy)

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