Monday, November 28, 2005

Brazil Moments

November 27 – Fortuleza, Brazil
It might be early in the morning or late at night, you never know. But you can be sure at some point each day you will have a Brazil Moment. They’re unannounced but instantly recognizable.

After nine nights in sleepy Jericoacoara—where Brazil Moments are held in check by the mote of a six-hour journey—you almost forget what awaits you.

An hour before sunset one day I was walking along the beach wall in the Barro section of Salvador when a police van sped by. It screeched to a halt just in front of us and ten machine-gun toting cops rushed out. They stormed the adjacent bus and pulled out fifteen young men, who then laid down in a row on the sidewalk.

Just past 2am last night we were sitting at a café here in Fortaleza. A young, topless man sprinted up the street in our direction, then ducked into a parking garage across the street. Five seconds later a second man came running and behind him another twenty-five. “It’s a riot,” I observed while sipping from my glass of Bohemia beer. As the mob sped past us they threw punches at each other, then quickly disappeared down the street. Many of the café-dwellers rose from their seats to get a better look. Many didn’t bother. After five minutes most of the sprinters came strolling back, smiling and high-fiving for a job well done, whatever job that was.

Around 1am one morning I was mugged.

There was that time at sunset in Rio when the drug crazed beggar seemed to consider doing the same.

Brazil Moments are the clearest examples of the vibrant, often violent energy that pervades the country. It is a kind of cousin to India in that way—you know something strange and maybe dangerous is always hanging in the air.

Tonight Jason and I will go for a walk from Iracema to Beira Mar. There’s not likely to be a Brazil Moment on the walk because we already made the journey this morning. Along the beach road there were several cops huddled in a circle, joined by other onlookers. Jason and I walked around the group and the young guy sprawled motionless and bruised on the pavement a few feet away. “Do you think he’s dead?” Jason asked. We couldn’t be sure of that, but we knew we’d had our Moment.


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