An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
Two things you won't find in Rio: rain and free beer.
--Leonardo from JASON
Brazilian boys constantly adjust themselves. I don't know whether it's the ubiquity of foreskin, the sexual permissiveness, or a general Latin American propensity, but keep an eye on any group of Brazilian men and within a minute one of them will have his hand on his crotch... checking his zipper, moving himself around. A nudge this way. A tug that way. A pull up or down. Adjust. Adjust. Once adjusted, someone else takes the cue and starts the process on his own tamale. Not being used to this ritual, I can't help glancing at those fingers as they move their cargo around. Occasionally, someone notices me watching.
I start this column in a DC-10 flying to Rio de Janeiro. Usually, this would be where I get nervous over what I forgot to do at home. Is the coffee pot unplugged? The door locked? The light left on? Not this time.
Now I'm nervous about when I get there. The Lonely Planet Guide talks about planted drugs, crime on every corner. Cops station themselves on the road to Uruguay (the one I'm taking) to shake down foreigners and back-packers. I'm both. I've lined my backpack with wire mesh and wrapped steel cable around it. OK, you murderous fuckers-- break into that!
Off the plane. Customs is a breeze. I try to declare my computer. They don't even look at it.
"Just go through that door there and press the button." says the smiling woman.
I know, it's gonna slime me. BUZZ, I get only a green arrow that points to outside. I hate when things go smoothly. It means they can only get worse.
Leonardo meets me at the airport. He's adjusting himself as I leave the customs area. He wears his JASON t-shirt. I wear my "Old Punk's Never Die" one. But he wouldn't miss me anyway. How many guys are running around in black, with steel cable round their backpacks?
"You look like my father." he says when we meet.
Thanks, I need that.
Typical of the small Brazilian middle class, Leonardo's got a computer but no car. He lives with his parents in a little house in the burbs, two busses away from anywhere. We walk through the rain to the busstop and get on.
Leonardo's parents have a two bedroom apartment. In one room are his parents. In the other, Leonardo's brother on the bed, Leonardo on the pullout drawer of the trundelbed. Me, on the floor.
Mom speaks less English than I speak Portuguese, and lemme tell ya, that's muito poco! But she's got the rice and beans ready for me, though, along with some salty chicken. I chow down and take a nap. We've got a date to meet Manfrini in town. Then we go see some bands in another city. We'll take a boat to get there and a bus back. Figure that out.
Manfrini is in a band called Claro que Nao. (My keyboard won't write a tilde over the `a'.) The name means "Of course, not."
A large TV sits center stage in Manfrini's livingroom. Around it hang a buncha college age guys, without mohawks, piercings, or obvious tatoos. They watch a soccer game. It's the national sport. No, not soccer, watching TV. It's not quite as bad as in America, but it's... whoa! What's this? Breasts. Girl breasts. Full and complete, with nipples, right there on a TV ad for something I can't figure out. You don't see that on American TV. At least not without cable. OK, now I understand the real Brazilian national sport.
"You want a beer?" asks Manfrini.
"Claro." I say. "Do I have to pay for it?"
"Claro que nao." he answers, bringing me this huge bottle of Antarctica beer. It's only the first.
Among the group in the livingroom are two girls. One is a tall well-proportioned young woman. She wears a pink CBGBs t-shirt that molds to her upper body. As a matter of fact, all over Brazil, girl's clothes are tighter than humanly possible.
My theory is that Brazilians have a rite of pubescence. At the age of ten, parents give their female children a snug-fitting t-shirt and pair of jeans. They are not allowed to remove these two pieces of clothing until they're married. This gives the girls from five to ten years to mold themselves to the clothes. It's like Chinese foot- binding, with results much more aesthetically pleasing.
The CBs girl says her name is Ramona. She's funny loud and her English is great. She's twice my height with a full head of short-trimmed jet- black hair.
There's also another girl. Thin, shy, shorter than I am. I smile at her. She smiles back. I'm in love.
"My name is Nanda." she says looking at me with eyes that melt my heart and stiffen elsewhere. "I only speak English when I drunk. I not drunk." Then she looks away.
Saved by the bell. The doorbell. It's Erico, aka Korn. He's from the Sao Paolo area. I "met" him through his webpage: Homopunk Brazil. Can't wait to meet him in person.
I pictured Brazil filled with these little coffee-colored punkrock boys. (I always wanted to write a song called "Little Puerto Rican Boys With No Shirts On." I know Brazilians aren't Puerto Rican, but they ARE hispanic, aren't they?)
In walks Erico. Six foot tall... and blond. He's got a spike piercing through his lower lip and a bandaid across the bridge of his nose-- a motorcycle accident, he explains. OK, he's not Hispanic. But I wouldn't kick him out of bed. (He would, however, kick me out of bed... but that's another column.)
Time for another beer, my third Antarctica. Getting drunk is like visiting an old friend. Hey Joe, here we are again. You and me. Old times. Getting together and enjoying ourselves. Doing what we always do. Feeling what we always feel. Drunkenness is a pal. Always there when you need him. Always familiar, no matter how exotic the location. It's comfortable and reassuring.
Throughout the night, at this party, at the punk show, at the birthday party where the newly 20 year old gave me my Yah-Man-Jah, during all of this, the beer keeps coming. Bottle after bottle. Huge bottles of Antarctica. From the store, from the bar, from places I can't imagine. Of the next 72 hours, I'm sober for 10.
Right now, Leonardo wants to get going.
"We gotta make that boat." he says.
"Fuck the show," says Manfrini. "I know where there's a party. It's my friend's birthday. He's gonna be an old man... twenty! There's gonna be free beer."
Leonardo looks at me. "What do you want to do?" he asks.
"I don't care," I tell him, "I'm new here. It's all an adventure."
"And you said there'll be free beer at the party?" I ask Manfrini.
"Then I guess we go to the party," says Leonardo.
The pouring rain doesn't bother us very much as we make our way to the festivities. It's at the birthday boy's parent's apartment. A very middle class place with a glass breakfront, a huge diningroom table, a couch with a fancy white cloth covering, and a zebra collection. Some folks, usually girls, collect frogs, or pigs. This guy's dad collects zebras... Carved, stuffed, porcelain, metal, fragile glass treasures.
No time to look... More beer! And wild dancing to The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols... This guy is turning twenty. he wasn't even born in 1977!
By midnight, half the zebras are in pieces on the floor. I have my first souvenir, a bead necklace, called a Iameinda (pronounced "Yah-Man- Jah"). It's from an African religion imported into Brazil with the slaves. The birthday boy says it'll protect me. I ask him if it'll get me laid.
There must've been more that happened that night, but I don't remember it. I wake up at 2PM the next day, in some strange bed. Fully clothed and alone.
At 3PM the day's first bottle of beer comes out. By the start of the punkrock show that night, I'm back with my old friend.
Fortunately, Kinjin, the owner of the apartment I ended up in, has a car. He's also a skilled drunk-driver, who drives Leonardo and I through the rain to the show. I forget all the names of the bands that played There must've been a dozen of 'em. The best one, with an awful name, was Conspiracao 77. (Is there a Seventy Seven '77? There will be tomorrow.)
After the show, Leonardo splits. Manfrini and the girls take me on a tour of whore street. Right near the club, there's a bunch of not-too- attractive girls, in typically Brazilian super- tight clothes. Many of these clothes are tied together with strings that reveal too much flesh in the diamond shape gaps.
During the walk, Ramona taps me on the shoulder. She turns to face me, stroking her CBGBs covered bulging breasts.
"You ever been here?" she asks.
"No," I answer, "but I'd sure like to be."
After whore street, it's off to a Funk. It takes place in a large white building next to Garagi, where the punkrock show was.
The CBs girl speaks with the big black bouncer at the door. She hangs onto his shoulder and whispers into his ear, letting her breasts brush against his upper arm. He smiles, nods and lets us pass through the gate into the concrete house.
Inside, the place has been cleared of furniture. It's a hard, concrete floor, covered with a soft white dust. In the back of the room, a DJ scratch-mixes house music. Heavy beat. No melody. On the concrete floor, moving to this music are about fifty young men. Most are darker than the average punk rocker. Most are shirtless and barefoot, looking like Puerto Rican boys.
As we enter, we see the crowd dancing around. A little girl, maybe two, stands near the door, her hands clasped behind her head. She thrusts her pelvis out and wiggles it side to side in time to the music.
We make our way up a concrete ramp to the dancefloor. Then, off to the side, near the DJ booth, I see one of the dancers, a lanky young man wearing a Chicago Bull hat, suddenly raises both hands and start swinging. Moving his arms like a windmill, he goes into the crowd and starts whacking anyone in his way. Slap! Slap! Slap! Not love taps. You can hear these hits echo against the concrete walls.
One of the dancers fights back. About twenty people stop dancing and form a ring around the pair. The others keep dancing as the music get louder.
Whack! Whack! The newest fighter slaps the attacker on the side of the head. Then the chest. Slap! Slap! The attacker charges back. Then a kick. Real pro. Knee raised to the chest, then pop! Straight leg and back. Like a rubber band.
Kick! The slapper twists and kicks back, landing a hard one on the whacker's chest. The whacker falls back, just catching himself against the concrete wall. He charges again. The slapper is ready. His weight shifted. He kicks out.
Thud! The attacker is quicker. His leg shoots out and catches the other's. Thwack! Shuuf! The slapper is in the air. Sideways, parallel to the ground. Legs ripped out from under him. Blam, he falls hard onto the concrete floor. There's a second of silence. Applause from the crowd. A surge toward the slapper. Two people stand on either side of the fallen young man. Each grabs him under an arm pit. They hoist him to his feet. Slap him on the back, and get back to dancing.
"That's REAL punkrock, man," says Manfrini, adjusting himself.
As the dancing continues, the flow of the crowd is regularly broken by young men flailing into the throng, fists flying. Some fight back, some get out of the way.
A short older man walks around with a plate of barely fried chicken. He offers it to us, smiling and nodding when we take it and gobble it down. It's too salty, but otherwise really good.
In front of me, a very muscular Negro stations himself, legs slightly bent, hands resting on his knees. He shifts his hips, so that his ass is high and out. Then he thrusts his pelvis forward and backward in doubletime to the music.
A younger, more attractive and less muscular Negro, shirtless and shoeless, plants himself behind the first. He lowers his body so that he can press his hips against the buttocks in front of him. And press he does. Shake. Shake shake. Thrust thrust thrust. Off they go. Into their own little world. The two of them, hips against ass. Pushing forward and back in a ritual fuck.
The man in the rear leaves to join the dancers. The Negro stays there, still wagging his ass. This time at me. I'd like to join in, but I'm afraid I'll get a hard-on. I don't think that would go over too well here.
Still, I can't help just moving my hips in time to the thrusts. I just don't touch. With the pulsating music, other pulsations can't be far behind... Whoa what happened?
The music stops. The lights come on. Bright and full. Half a dozen young men come over to us and form a semi circle.
The tall boy with the Chicago Bulls hat says something to me. He looks worried.
"Io nao fallo Portuguese." I tell him.
Manfrini takes over. I don't know what they're talking about but the boy seems agitated. Someone else from the circle shouts something. The boy shouts back. There's more shouting. The circle tightens.
Nanda, who must be drunk because her English is perfect, says to me.
"The owner wants us to leave. He says we are different from them and we will cause problems. The boys here, though. They don't want us to leave. They want us to stay here."
It's not long before an older man, not much younger-- or taller-- than me, comes up to our little group. The semi-circle parts to let him through. He wears a torn white t-shirt, loose blue shorts, and thongs. He's obviously the owner.
He speaks, Nanda translates for me.
"I give this place for poor people to have parties," he says. "We don't like outsiders to come and ruin things."
"We're not outsiders." says Manfrini, "we have the same kind of party next door. You can come to our party."
"I don't want people come to watch us," continues the older man. "We are friends here."
"They are friends too," says the guy with the Chicago Bulls hat.
"Yes, they are." agrees the Negro who had spent the night waving his ass in the air. Manfrini, reaches over and hugs the guy. The guy hugs me. Soon we're all hugging each other. The girls get hugged a bit harder and tighter than the boys.
The owner looks around, smiles, shrugs his shoulders and shakes hands with us. Then the music starts again. The crowd cheers. The first fallen fighter smiles and gives us the thumbs up sign. We're heroes.
"They all know you're from New York now." says Nanda.
Sure enough. They all come over. Want to shake my hand. Say hello. Their eyes seem fixed on Ramona, though. Maybe they're just interested in CBGBs.
Later that night, I meet up with Leonardo again.
"You went to a funk?" He says.
"You know the government is trying to get them banned?" He's incredulous. "At least once a month someone gets killed in those things. They're war zones!"
"It was fun." I tell him.
My last night in Rio, Leonardo gets me into an EMI concert. Some famous Brazilian band is having a reunion show. They're going to record a "live" album, so they've invited some people to cheer them on.
"Free beer?" I ask.
I'm now on the bus from Rio south to San Jose dos Campos. It's raining. A baby sits in her mother's lap a couple of seats away from me. Not crying, but laughing that horrible high-pitched baby laughter. I'd easily pay $10 extra to ride a kid-free bus or twice that for a kid-free planeride. Marketers take note.
I'm going to visit Korn. I'll finally get to find out what it's like to kiss someone with a spiked lower lip.... Yeah right. But like I said, that's another column. Right now, if you'll excuse me, I have to adjust myself.
ENDNOTES: [Thanks to your protests, sit-ins, marches and church burnings, there are no longer length restrictions at MRR. All power to the people! Yeah! Still, visitors to my website: www.freeyellow.com/members2/seidboard/index.html, or subscribers (email to: MykelB@ix.netcom.com) will receive a few extra endnotes.]
The October 30 issue of Science News tells more. It appears that 75 percent of depressed patients taking placebos show "clinical improvement."
Even better: When the placebos are drugs intended for other conditions (like antihistamines for allergies), but the side effects are similar to anti-depression drugs (like sleepiness), their effectiveness becomes even stronger. In other words, if you convince the patient that the drug is doing SOMETHING, the patient's depression goes away.
Now, tell me THAT'S like diabetes!
One of my favorites is one where the guy doesn't die, but still gets what was coming to him. Here's the story:
American, Ronald Demuth took some Russian friends to a zoo in Vermont. Anxious to impress the Ruskies, he spread some crazy glue on his hands. Then, as a joke, rested those hands on the tough rear of a passing rhino. The animal, used to being petted,thought nothing of it, until it realized this guy was not gonna let go.
Then it started to panic, and run around wildly trying to loose the guy. What was worse, said zoo officials, the animal had been very constipated lately and was given a laxative to help ease the problem.
During the ensuing melee, the tag team knocked down fences, killed several smaller animals, and let others escape.
Here's the quote, as I received it, from the Darwin people, it took a team of medics and zoo caretakers to remove his hands from her buttocks. First,the animal had to be captured and calmed down. However, during this process the laxatives began to take hold and Mr. Demuth was repeatedly showered with over 30 gallons of rhino diarrhea.
"It was tricky. We had to calm her down, while at the same time shield our faces from being pelted with rhino dung. I guess you could say that Mr. Demuth was into it up to his neck. Once she was under control, we had three people with shovels working to keep an air passage open for Mr. Demuth. We were able to tranquilize her and apply a solvent to remove his hands from her rear," said Douglass. "I don't think he'll be playing with Crazy Glue for a while."
Meanwhile, the Russians, while obviously amused, also were impressed with the power of the adhesive. "I'm going to buy some for my children, but of course they can't take it to the zoo," commented Vladimir Zolnikov.
In Rio there's Leonardo, Manfrini, Ramona, Kinjin, Nanda (Goddess), the guy who gave me my Yah-Man-Jah. In San Jose dos Campos, there's Erico (aka Korn) and his roommate whose name I forget. In Sao Paolo, there's Eduardo, Gordo (not the one from Ratos, who I didn't get to meet), Henrike, THE BLIND PIGS, Paolo, Carlos, Maria, and Patricia aka Laiza who you'll read about next month.
In Santos, it's Junior from THE WHITE FROGS. Plus all the bands who gave me CDs and cassettes. I'll have a full listing as soon as I can get through them all!
In Curitibo, there's Rodriguez, his brother, and Julio. Who also deserve my apologies for skipping out on them. It's a long and evil story about a Youth Hostel more hostile than hostel.
More next month.
1. Vinyl is cool. CDs are not. A really cool band releases ONLY vinyl... Wrong.
In many countries, including Brazil, people don't have access to record players. They're either too expensive, or just not available. For a Brazilian band to release only vinyl is pure snobbishness. Foreign bands who don't give a shit about other countries can do so. But if you do, it is as nationalistic and Western-centered as any patriotic skinhead band. Vinyl is nationalism.
2. Bands who sing in their own language are cool. Bands who sing in English are sellouts, trying to imitate Americans... Wrong!
Junior from the WHITE FROGS told me his band was offered a three record deal from EMI. Big advance, studio time paid for. Everything, all they had to do was "sing in Portuguese."
"Nobody will sign a band who sings in English." he says. "The radio won't play you. The stores won't stock your records. It's hard... But we play American style music. We don't play samba. If the notes are English (American), then the language should be English. We won't change for money or fame."
Put that in your PC pipe and inhale it! Oh yeah, ask me next month about MTV!
But how come it only applies to men?
--Mykel Board http://www.MykelBoard.com email: TheBoss@MykelBoard.com