February 17, 2007

Carnival 2007 Chaos: Day 2
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

An amendment should be made to the definition of Mayhem: "See Carnival in Salvador da Bahia."

Carnival, Day 2

It was close to 1:00 in the afternoon by the time Brodie and I awoke in his Barra apartment. As my friend swallowed some much needed aspirin, I took in his new accommodations. My feet needed a serious scrubbing.

I was planning on seeing the Barra circuit this evening, and since I was already there I figured I might as well stick around (instead of going back to my apartment). I had left without a single thing, save the clothing on my back and the cash in my pocket, and made a mental note to send Mario an e-mail to let him know I wasn't face down in a gutter.

First beer of the day… ugh

I knew my clothing was going to get pretty filthy from partying in the streets, so a few days before the festivities I bought a cheap, white, rather unflattering sleeveless shirt (made of some type of synthetic material) that I could use toss later. Everything I had read and heard about Carnival warned of pickpockets, so I had opted to simply wear my board shorts out, using the hidden pocket to keep my cash and identification secure.

My white shirt was already getting filthy after just a single night of use, and that got me to thinking about my rather new, beloved swimming shorts. Not only did I fear they would get soiled beyond cleaning, but that someone would use a razor to slice into the empty external thigh pocket. An investment would have to be made in new shorts for Carnival, and a tailor found to sew in another hidden pocket.

The streets surrounding Brodie's apartment were already bustling with activity when we descended. Food was needed, and the first beer of the day was painfully consumed with our pay-by-the-kilo meal of meat.

We made our way to Barra's historic fort/lighthouse combo, used to mark the start of the ocean-side circuit. The event had already kicked off—the mobile music monstrosities inching down the avenue, each surrounded by an army of undulating bloco soldiers. The music, mostly performed by live, eccentric singers, was loud enough to physically quiver your internal organs.

Free junk

Some trucks were tossing out free paraphernalia to the crowd (bandanas, water bottles, etc.), sending the surrounding area into a tizzy. I tried to grab a few items, but the violence and idiotic extremes that people will go to for a free piece of junk eventually kept me well away—lesson learned after getting caught up in Carnival's take on a foul-baseball frenzy at least three times over.

Fun girls

mmmm… Some very cute girls were jumping around in the Barra blocos and atop the trucks. I liked the colorful Timbalada bloco that sported a truck full of lovelies, holding little umbrellas and wearing skimpy tops/skirts.

Ever-present in my mind was the need to purchase a new pair of shorts, and as we walked towards Brodie's apartment we stumbled across a store that provided just that. Seamstresses in Salvador have been working around the clock, modifying/customizing bloco shirts—you can alter your shirt so long as the logos are still visible—and it wasn't difficult getting a quick addition made to the shorts. The selection made ended up being a cheaper imitation of the blue Billabong board shorts I own, and with modifications cost a total of BR$25.

It's called the Carnival

Back at the apartment I put my honorary PhD in Mixology to work by creating a new drink for the event—The Carnival was born. Exotic and easy to consume—it's great warm-up drink to ease you into a long night of vices.

Simple instructions for creating The Carnival:

  1. Take glass, fill with cubed ice
  2. Fill glass 75% with Malibu or off-label coconut rum
  3. Fill remaining space with delicious cashew juice (that just so happens to have never been seen outside of Brazil)
  4. Stir and serve/consume with a smile

After Dark…

We drank and watched on live television the event unfolding just a few blocks away. A few beers and a bottle of rum later (Carnivals—yum), were in the epicenter of madness.

Practically as soon as we got on the scene the pick-pockets were all over us. I experimented by leaving my pocket open to show that there was nothing inside, but I think it just increased the temptation.

I know I should just let 'em go, as I have nothing in my pockets in the first place, but how do just shut off the part of your personality that fights daily against being abused by thieves and criminals (taking pleasure in catching them), and just roll over to the fact they're physically attacking you. I didn't like it, and would slap or snatch probing hands often—as if to say: You're nothing more than worthless piece of meat to me. If you're going to do a criminal trade, at least do it well enough not to get caught—get out of my sight. It's my only hope that by catching them I slightly deflate any ego they might have about their inept abilities.

The scene of the Barra circuit was like that of Campo Grande—amplified exponentially (and ten times as crazy as it was during the daylight). The same news anchors we had just seen on the TV acting erratically or broadcasting next to dancing female were visible on their perches above the intensely illuminated street. The trucks would stop at each of the news platforms long enough for the performer to chat with the newscaster before moving on.

The only reprieve we had as popcorn was in the middle of the street, in between the blocos. Sometimes the trucks were spaced far enough apart for you to catch your breath and get some personal space back, before diving back into the crowd.

…or there was always the beach if you wanted to get away, which smelled like a massive urinal—the stench absolutely overwhelming to the nostrils. It was like a giant litter box for thousands and thousands of humans. Smart locals (and tourists) avoid swimming in it for a week prior to Carnival and at least two weeks after. FILTHY.

Moses troopers

Riot police move about the masses like Gods among men. Moving in roaming four-man teams (with the occasional woman mixed in) they demand absolute obedience from anyone in their path—move or get jabbed in the ribs by the big-ass wooden baton. Brodie called them Moses Troopers as they could part a sea of drunken carnage as easily as Moses the sea.

I would always smile when I'd see a cop doing their job. Excessive force? The phrase doesn't exist during Carnival. Beatings, slaps, wrist-locks, whatever—I saw a lot. Brodie would always smile at the female troopers—getting subtle, yet flirty, reactions from many. A television announcement said 20,000 police were on duty for the event.

Standing on the streets of Barra's circuit and watching the crowd go by is like being in a large nightclub with the turnover rate of a McDonalds. Don't see anyone you like? Give it two minutes and look again. You'd be hard pressed not to break a heart (or ten) in a 20-minute stretch.

I think Brodie was pleasantly entertained by the way I'd take a swig of beer and spit it out after each girl kissed—my mouthwash I suppose. A lot of wasted beer though… (grin)

Here's a little Carnival secret that no one talks about: A girl will probably sleep with you for shelter and a shower. More on that later.

All night I thought to myself that I'd absolutely love to have a Travelvice bloco in the Carnival. Colors of blue, orange, white, and grey would unify group—perhaps the bloco shirts would have little check-boxes with different vices printed all over them (participants marking an X next to those they indulge in). Trucks throwing all sorts of naughty goodies into the crowd—I can see it all now…

OK, I going to come right out and say it—I slapped a child. A seven year old boy that should have been in bed instead of fishing in people's pockets. It was an overwhelming gratifying thing to do, and Brodie said it was just as satisfying to watch.

I was mildly intoxicated and squeezed in an alley with hundreds of people (many of whom seemed to be gay men&#8212later finding out it was one section of a larger gay sector). Brodie in front of me, my recently acquainted Brazilian girl holding my hand to the rear (trying not to let the crowd sweep her away). A police helicopter buzzed overhead, taking a moment to flood the alley with light.

Brodie turns to me and says That kid was in my pocket! Frankly, I was rather fed up with the whole thievery thing by this point, and this kid had it coming. I looked down to see him staring at my thigh pocket, then he notices me staring at him. Looking each other square in the eye I firmly, but not overly aggressively, slapped the child across the face—SLAP—his head moving so little out of place I instantly assumed he had it done to him on a daily basis.

The look of shock on this kid's face was utterly priceless. I raised two fingers to my eyes and then pointed to him with the same hand—I'm watching you. The girl behind me goes awwww, don't blah blah blah blah blah—her remark tuned out by my bliss.

I'm of the opinion that every kid on the street at 2:30 in the morning that isn't collecting cans is out collecting cash (out of pockets). Go to bed!

Can collecting is a huge thing here in Brazil, and at events like Carnival you'll get people coming up to you asking for your beverage even if it's still half full. Cans are worth BR$0.01 when returned to recycling center.

It wasn't shortly long after the slap that Brodie and I looked around the start of the Barra circuit and noticed it was devoid of trucks and blocos—dead. We were pretty surprised that it had shut down so early (discovering only later that other parts of town and the end of the circuit were still going strong).

Barra—an interesting scene. Full of tourists, thieves, television crews, and camarotes. Asleep again, another round complete, a smile on my face.

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February 25th, 2007

craig! great to hear you're ok. Hope Brazil is treating you well!..Besos

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