Day 11 – A gas station with a bar...Why didn’t I think of that?!
Woke up to Nino loudly jumping into the pool with no clothes on. I went outside to investigate and wound up in the middle of a coconut war. Ever been hit by a coconut? If not, it’s probably something you want to work up to. Try starting with something less painful, like a bag of hammers.
I was people-watching at the mall when I got stung by a bee just above my left middle fingernail. I couldn’t get the stinger out and my finger began to swell and pulse. I kept bending the finger to ease the pain and eventually the stinger shot out like a porcupine needle.
The bus ride wasn’t particularly outstanding (or short). Nino spent most of the voyage using volume to annoy Tata, while I spent most of my time flexing my finger back and forth to keep the swelling down. The sting was a lame reminder of life’s stupidly uncomfortable and minor inevitabilities (like barfing or headaches or sprained ankles or sunburns) but further, it was a reminder that these unavoidables were not life-threatening either.
Unlike bus rides in Brasil.
Our driver seems to know only one speed – fast. We tend to travel at the same speed on highways, city streets, and through parking lots.
And yet somehow we still ended up late to the show. We regrettably missed Mayombe, who traveled close to 1000 miles to play the show, and Duff’s, who I was also sad to miss (especially if their namesake was some sort of Simpsons reference). Noticeably absent from the bill was our buddy Tommy del Mar’s band, 7 Magnificos. We tried tirelessly for weeks to get them on the bill but for whatever reason it never happened. After meeting up with Tommy and his band outside, and hearing the story about how none of their (borrowed) equipment or stage mics worked after the last time they played here, or about how they were run out of town and nearly killed by the other bands (none of it their fault, they claim), I started to get a clearer picture about why they weren’t on the bill. We still paid to get them all in the show because Tommy is one of the greatest people of all time.
Caphofo were playing when we arrived and they sounded very much like the Fat Wreck Chord –style bands we played with here back in 1995 – melodic skate rock. They were well-executed, but when Discarga came on they blew the previous band away. This sort of night-after-night rocking is making them an increasingly more difficult act to follow.
At some point while we played I got hit on the head. When the stars faded and the real world finally came back into view I realized I was still standing. Moreover, I was still playing. But somehow I was caught in a plastic lawn chair. Instinctively, I looked back towards Devon. He was smiling, but I could tell he was wishing he’d thought it through before deciding to throw a chair at my head from across the stage.
I weaseled out of the chair and set it on the edge of the stage by the steps. I turned my back to the chair and when I sensed Devon take the bait I extended my leg and connected with his solar plexus, launching him and the chair backwards, off the stage, over the entire flight of steps, and into the people watching who, in turn, fell like bowling pins.
We offered rides to Sao Paulo for a small fee (to help cover the exorbitant costs of the bus) and wound up with a full vehicle. Two stops were made before our all-night trek back to Sao Paulo, the first being a grocery store, the second being a gas station.
The grocery store (the super-est of supermercados) was unbelievably huge, the size of a square city block. It was so large, in fact, that the workers wore roller skates to get from one area of the store to the other. It was 2am when we walked in yet there were whole families shopping, not to mention guys picking up on girls (neither of which had carts or baskets leading me to think people actually come here for the sole purpose of being social), and people hanging out in the deli like it was a bookstore coffee shop.
I went straight for the bathroom to "shower" in the sink. From inside one of the stalls I heard a female John Wayne emanating from a walkie-talkie.
"Are you doing okay in there, friend?"
A real person responded from the stall, saying in slow, deliberate English, "I am having a small problem. I may be a short time." This, followed by a poorly stifled flurry of farts.
The walkie-talkie clicked back on and said, "Can I help you, sir?"
"No, thank you. I will be okay." More farts.
I walked out of the bathroom and saw some employees trading off a walkie-talkie, all eager to try some English with the poor employee on the other end.
At the gas station we spotted our driver simultaneously paying for the gas and having a shot of liquor from the bar. Mozine joined him and they had some more shots. It was apparently so tasty that Mozine bought the entire bottle for the driver and his lady-friend. I kind of assumed it was for later, but when I saw them chugging it as soon as we got back on the bus I started to get the feeling our drive was gonna be harrowing, even by Brasillian standards. We weren’t sure what to be more shocked at: our host buying our driver booze for the road, or a self-service gas station with a full-service bar.
To make matters worse, the fog and/or rain was so thick in some places we couldn’t see three car lengths in front of us. Notwithstanding, we drove around the curves and cliffsides and puddled roadways with more speed than ever. More than once we actually caught air (or at least weren’t using all of our wheels).
Traffic stopped at one point and up ahead we saw a car tipped upside-down. We all stuck our heads out the windows and watched ten people rock it back on it’s wheels and off the road. There were no obvious injuries, but there was a separate set of tire tracks leading off the road, through a newly-made hole in the roadside bushes, and into the darkness.
Did I mention that in Brasil nearly half-million people die every year in road accidents?
Mayombe were in our bus with us, but not very happy about it at this point. A couple of them wanted off as quickly as possible. "Next stop," they said, "we’re getting off and catching a proper bus or hitchhiking."
I told them the driver wasn’t usually this bad and that it was probably all the alcohol, "So relax."
They weighed the likelihood of death by our vehicle versus death by unfriendly locals (we were in a pretty remote area known for kidnappings and other varieties of missing persons) and decided to stay on the bus and at least die among friends. Seeing them so wound up, like I used to be on my first batch of Sudamerican bus rides, went to show how jaded and passive I have become about these types of dangers. I’m not really numb to these experiences, but I am getting better at Zen-ly ‘putting myself in a different place.’ I even fell asleep after throwing a flamenco CD in my walkman (and I only woke up twice when the bus swerved violently past an obstacle and forced my haggard head into the window).
WHN? in Sudamerica - May 2002
0 – Please wake me for meals.