Day 9 – I am Yellowman.
At 3am we stopped at a random bus stop for a pee. The janitor was busy going from stall to stall mopping and wiping and flushing, and all the while scatting some awesome song I could only assume was born from some sort of indigenous dialect. I washed my hands slowly and then leaned against the counter listening. His song was a melodic rapid-fire delivery of harsh syllables and tuneful breaths that all culminated into a catchy refrain that almost sounded familiar. I walked back to the bus with the infectious melody stuck in my head and it wasn’t until I was right on the verge of sleep that I realized the tune was N’Sync’s "Larger Than Life."
We arrived in Sao Paulo during morning rush hour and met with our next liason who sported white pants, a peach fuzz mustache, and a greased-down ducktail hairstyle. Devon said he looked like a ‘procurer’ from the Mission District. I was thinking more along the lines of a pool hall speed dealer. Either way he (Tata was his name) started off on the wrong foot by leading six tired and grumpy people (and all their luggage and merch and equipment) back and forth through the huge Sao Paulo bus terminal trying to find the way back to the van he’d rented. What’s worse was the van actually turned out to be a bus that was going to cost us severely more than we were prepared to pay.
There was still some unknown business that had to go down before we could leave so I went with Nino and Daniel to trek for some water and a bathroom. Like so many neighborhoods surrounding bus stations this barrio was scary even at 6am. For one, it was dirty beyond description. Chinese restaurant dumpsters are cleaner (and smell better) than the streets we traversed looking for a place to pee. A restaurant selling fake jewelry and dilapidated furniture let us use the bathroom, but only if we "kept it clean." I thought they just didn’t want us smearing feces on the walls, but after using their toilet and seeing feces smeared not only on the walls, but on the ceiling as well(!), I figured they meant they didn’t want us shooting up or establishing gloryholes.
You know you’re desperate when you buy foods just because they’re vegan. Case in point, Robert bought a bag of pork reins this afternoon which were probably less healthy than real pork reins, or even the bag they came in.
We arrived at the Backstage Studios in Londrina in the late afternoon. It was an awesome little place that rented a practice room (with equipment) and sold punk rock records and clothes. I bought a belt with YOUR FACE embossed on the buckle. I went to put the belt in my bag on our bus, but our bus was gone. Our hired driver (who keeps money paper-clipped to his driver’s license in case he’s pulled over by police) brought a lady-friend along. I figured they went to find some place private where ten stinky punk rockers weren’t going to constantly board and unboard their bus for trivial things like putting a belt away. Others in our camp were concerned they had fled town with all our stuff.
The Backstage fellows made us a meal and offered up some places to nap. I was already crashed on the couch in the lobby when a woman who was quickly dubbed Nina (as in ‘a female Nino’) started yelling for me to sleep in one of the bedrooms. I didn’t know she was yelling at me, I only heard her repeat the word "Yellowman" over and over until I pried my eyes open.
I looked down and saw that I was wearing the yellow shirt Mama had given me. I asked her with equal parts broken English and sign language, "Oh…you…want me…sleep in room?"
"Not with me, Yellowman, alone!" she replied hautily, then followed up with a slap on my shoulder.
I slept soundly and woke up with Devon lying next to me. Someone came in and invited us to walk around town, which we did. We circled a park the size of 5 city blocks amongst Asian-, African-, and European-Brasillians, all well-dressed and fit. Max said he felt like we were in Burlingame, the yuppy central of the Silicon Valley.
Our bus was in front of Backstage when we returned, setting to rest fears that our driver and his amiga had sold it and eloped. We rolled out to tonight’s venue, Chapadáo (which I’m told translates to "Very Drunk"), where we were to share the bill with Trauma Acoustico, Overwhelm, and Discarga.
I missed the first band because I couldn’t get past all the people to get inside. They sounded good and everybody came out smiling when they were done. Everybody, by the way, was a very affluent crowd. The majority of the guys were well-dressed, well-liquored, and tall. The majority of the girls were done up, ‘enhanced,’ and looked like underwear models. And everybody looked older, like ‘my age’ old (not ‘Devon’s age’ old, that’s really old).
While TA rocked I hung out by the snooker table with some locals. They had no interest in the punk rock band playing inside their bar, or punk rock in general for that matter. And they were far and away the chapadáo-iest bunch in attendance. I had a feeling that when the bar closed each night they just slept in the bushes next door and waited for the next day to come.
I flipped for a few games of snooker while they enjoyed talking to me all at once, in Portuguese. I talked back to them in English, having a conversation with myself more than anyone else. From across the room it may have looked like a conversation, but up close it was more like people running lines from two different plays. My new buddies didn’t seem to mind and, in fact, started buying me drinks. When one guy would buy me a drink I would give it to his friend and vice versa until eventually they had all bought each other a drink. The whole time I could hear a voice through the crowd yelling "Yellowman!" My new friends caught on and started calling me Yellowman and raising toasts to Yellowman and singing choruses of Yellowman, but their attention was easily diverted and in the span of two punk songs the episode had passed. Not so with Nina.
When Overwhelm played I found a loose window pane on the side of the stage which I could open and watch the band through. They played a hyper cross between hard rock and hardcore. I had to stop bobbing my head because it limited my view of the band through the small window space.
When they finished Nina pulled me aside and started a genuine conversation. She told me her name was Anna, which in my head quickly became Anna-Noying. I asked where she learned English and she said her friend taught it and they liked to speak to each other. She then whirled around to a group of ladies, pointed one out to me and said, "This is my friend, Tha. She’s the one who teaches English. Go ahead, talk with her! Now!"
She disappeared and I was left with Tha, who started our conversation with an apology for Anna, whom she described as "crazy." Seeing eye-to-eye right out of the gate, Tha and I talked for a while about a bunch of nothing, but it was nice to speak English to someone new for a change and she said it was nice to practice. She eventually left to buy some drinks with her friends. I turned around to where I thought Anna was sitting and started to say something, then stopped myself. I apologized to the stranger and told her I thought she was someone else.
"Who?" she asked. "That crazy girl?"
Discarga played on the floor which was a punk rock thing to do, but when we set up and saw that the stage lights were 8 feet away, directly at eye level, and hot like a Brasillian country road, we did the same thing. We played terribly and got scattered requests for some mythical song called "Yellowman" which we denied to play. Max was the only one onstage and he was cooking under the stage lights. Robert kept slipping and falling on the slick floor and Devon kicked me so hard he broke two guitar strings. I borrowed Daniel’s guitar but it had 6 strings (one more than I am used to) and I found myself really confused by it. All in all, we were less than pleased with our set. But we forgot that bar crowds, who tend to be pretty drunk and without proper judgement, can often times overlook a poor performance and still like you. Tonight was such a night.
Being the guitar player I am usually approached after a show by lots of bro’s firing techie questions and I-play-guitar-too’s and the like. But tonight I was approached by a very different animal – girls. First was a woman in an old metal t-shirt and tight black jeans that zipped up the back. We chatted about this and that while I rolled up my cords and guzzled a couple mini bottles of water. She left after a few minutes and I thought nothing of it. But on her heals were two more ladies who took her place. Aimless conversation ensued and I started taking inventory of my appearance.
A damp, matted mess.
Standard post-show, post-mortem tang.
Drenched through with sweat and baring a few of Devon’s footprints.
All in all, not my best moment for talking to the ladies.
Regardless, they stuck around for a short while and I eventually stopped caring about what sort of impression I was making. The conversation ran it’s course and the ladies eventually followed their friends who were calling them by the front gate.
When I was done packing up not sixty seconds later, a group of four more girls, all decked out and ready for some clubbing, approached me. I looked around 1) to try and spot someone putting me on with this impossibly interested string of girls, or 2) to see if any of my friends were witnessing this. I found neither.
The group of girls gave me directions to a club downtown and their collective cell phone number and made me promise I would find them tonight. Then, one-by-one, they kissed and hugged me good-bye, the last of them planting a soft, extended smooch right on the lips.
On the way to our bus I wondered how I was going to convince everyone that we needed to go to this club. I also wondered if those girls walked away thinking they had just kissed a saltlick.
Before having a chance to ponder either I was stopped by even yet still more femmes. All but one of the three young women spoke English, which they excitedly used to invite me to ‘party’ back at their place. Furthermore, they explained that I should not let the non-English speaker down as, though she could not communicate it verbally now, she was more than eager to get to know me.
From across the street I could hear Robert yelling for me to hurry so we could drive all night to Joinville. It was a suiting end to an odd night. I thanked the last batch of new friends for the offer and they understood I had to go. With all the attention I was getting I was feeling brazen, so after the standard hug-and-kiss-on-the-cheek with the three English-speakers I gave the non-English speaker a salty, scruffy-faced drawn-out kiss on the mouth. Before I walked away she gave me her address which to me is the tour equivalent of "gettin’ digits." Sweet.
WHN? in Sudamerica - May 2002
0 – Please wake me for meals.
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