Archive for September, 2014
The Police are your friends – A Polícia é seus amigos
A huge fat and round moon greeted Robin as he stepped onto the monochrome mosaic footpath; the noise, the crush of people, the sweat, the alcohol, the testosterone and oestrogen that permeated the air and the darkness of the birthday party in the club now behind him as he embraced the bright, cool early morning air. Deciding that it would be a complete waste of such a beautiful night to take a taxi, he set off for home on foot – a journey of maybe 30 minutes – the treed avenues, casting their majestic yet macabre blue-black shadows onto the cobbled road only adding to the beauty of the night as he allowed his feet to do what they do best.
As with any journey on foot, it was accomplished by placing one foot in front of the other and Robin soon found himself nearing home and was in bright and cheerful spirits as he turned into the street that would take him there. The pale and mischievous moonlight hid the deception of his choice of paths until he finally twigged: this was not the yellow brick road that leads to home; instead it was a dark and stony cobbled street that led into the heart of a favela, where the cobble stones abruptly ended along with the façade of wealth and the road became a rough and rutted well-worn red clay path which bifurcated into equally well-worn but narrower paths. This realisation that he had missed his street by one bothered him not one iota as he reasoned he could simply pass through the favela and continue his journey just as easily as if he’d taken the next turn as intended, having already done so during the day on more than one occasion.
The boca of the favela was well lit and a group of strapping, slim, young, swarthy locals lounged under the lamp light exchanging exaggerated tales of past derring do as Robin entered. Naturally, unaccustomed as they were to strange Englishmen wandering through their domain in the middle of the night, they were curious about his presence. Quite at ease, he recounted a brief resume of how he came to encroach upon their territory that night, finding the audience both attentive and seemingly rapt with his inept and childish Portuguese. He was caught totally off´guard when he suddenly found himself flat on his back; saw nothing coming nor even who was responsible for putting him on the ground in the first place, but on the ground he was and unable to hide from the fact that the intention of this group of lads was definitely less than charitable. He only had his mobile phone on him plus a small amount of cash in his wallet, so was not overly concerned as the reality sank in, but he was not about to give up those precious items up without a fight. Though one of the lads was sitting on his chest, another securing his now outstretched arms, and another firmly holding his ankles, Robin struggled valiantly, protecting his assets the only way he knew how: rolling around like the next maggot to be impaled on the hook. Reflecting on this later, Robin realised that his impromptu response was perhaps not the most healthful and may even have incited a somewhat more aggressive response, but it seemed as if the last thing the lads wanted to do was hurt him. Despite his struggles, he and his worldly goods were soon separated and the group of youths soon dissolved into the shadows of the night.
Robin quickly clambered to his feet, finding himself completely intact and surprisingly unharmed. A lad of perhaps 9 or 10 looked on wistfully.
– Oi, tio! Sinto muito o que aconteceu – Hey, uncle, I’m really sorry about what happened –
– Realmente, foi nada, – Really, it was nothing, Robin replied nonchalantly, shaking his head and brushing the perceived dust from his clothes.
– Na verdade, não me importa nenhuma que eles pegarem o dinheiro na minha carteira e o meu celular – Actually, it doesn’t bother me at all that they took the money in my wallet and my mobile, Robin explained.
– Mas, eu tive identidade ingles na minha carteira que eu preciso– but I had English ID in my wallet that I need.
– Deixe comigo, tio. Eu volto, – Leave it to me, uncle; I’ll be back – the mixed blood kid reassured him and swiftly slipped into the darkness of the surroundings. With nothing better to do as he collected his wits, Robin did just that, somewhat surprised as the menino returned in less than two minutes, triumphantly holding his wallet aloft and a mouthful of ivory teeth grinning at him through the darkness.
– Muito obrigado, amiguinho, – Many thanks, my little friend, – Robin said accepting the wallet from the lad’s hand, taking his small hand within his own much larger one and pumping it in gratitude without too much force so as not to damage it and wrapped his arms around him in a customary embrace. His wallet, however, was completely devoid of contents – no money and no I.D..
– Desculpe, – Sorry, – the kid responded genuinely, perhaps apologising more for the actions of his brethren than his failure to recover Robin’s documents.
– Não, não, tudo bem, amigo, a culpa não é sua, – No, no, it’s okay my friend, it’s not your fault, – Robin replied placatingly, putting a reassuring hand on the lad’s shoulder.
The erstwhile quiet of the morning air was suddenly shattered by the screeching tyres of a police car that appeared from nowhere and ground to a halt no more than ten feet from Robin’s feet. Four heavily armed officers, wearing bullet proof vests over their uniform, exited the vehicle in an obviously well rehearsed ballet and their boot clad feet clomped on the hard earth as they set off in search of their quarry. Robin, already unsettled by the recent robbery, merely gawped open mouthed at them, scarcely believing what he was witnessing. In less than three minutes, the four heavily armed agents returned with four seemingly unrepentant and unwilling hostages, now secured by handcuffs and a gun barrel poking into the smalls of their backs, which seemed to aid in their pacification. He couldn’t be absolutely certain, due to the vagaries of the light as well as his memories, but Robin was fairly confident that the four were at least part of the gang that had just robbed him and couldn’t help but wonder at the marvels of the universe and the karma of cause and effect.
Allowing the tense situation to defuse a little, Robin waited until the robbers were safely ensconced in the car and approached one of the officers who appeared, despite the rough and lumpy uniform, to be decidedly female.
– Olhe só, eu já fui asultado, – Look here, I was just mugged, – Robin said by way of introduction, however he was completely unprepared for the reaction he received.
The female police officer reacted like a cat that had just had icy water thrown upon it whilst being threatened by a stray dog with no obvious love for felines. Due to his poor grasp of the Portuguese language and the rapidity of the delivery, Robin understood almost nothing spat from her mouth, but did manage to decipher that she was suggesting that he had gone there to buy drugs and the situation had turned bad. Although everything about her seemed to be female, the manner in which she behaved was completely the opposite of everything Robin regarded as being feminine.
He tried to reassure her that her take on the situation was simply not based on his reality, but she reacted as if he were nothing more than yet another annoying irritant in her daily work life that needed to be dealt with swiftly and with finality, as she was trained. She then aimed her rifle at his belly and screamed further indecipherable obscenities at him. Feeling infinitely more intimidated by her than the youths that had just robbed him, yet had not laid one finger upon him in anger or otherwise, Robin sighed, and sarcastically thanked her for her help and turned for home, more shocked and saddened by the police reaction than anything else that had happened on that most adventurous of Brazilian nights. His second mugging of his life was indeed very different to his first, he mused as he trudged homeward bound, this time taking the route he had originally intended!
Kneel and deliver – Ajoelhe e entregue
The sun was not long from bidding a bright and cheerful bom dia to all and sundry from behind crystalline clear skies as Robin bade farewell to his buddies and bought an icy cold latão for the road; his mood, even discounting what he’d consumed, was, as always, upbeat and positive. His digs were only about a kilometre distant as the crow flies, however, the road didn’t go as the crow flies, choosing to take an inconvenient 90° left hand turn instead, but a huge public park did lead to his street if he dared to cross it. Robin had heard umpteen stories about this park – how the denizens in the hours of darkness comprised every known degenerate from crack-head thieves to transvestite whores and everything in between and how it’s simply too violent and dangerous to enter at night. It had never once occurred to him to question what the advice would be were he to actually wish to engage the services of one of the professional shemales; something completely unlikely, but, as always, he always liked to ponder the impossible.
Since Robin had first arrived in the south of the country, so many people had warned him of the violence inherent in Brazil, but he had just failed to see it. In the first 12 months he’d seen what he considered violence on no more than three occasions: a drunken fight on the street, with one of the combatants at the suffering end of what appeared to be several very experienced and painful capoeira kicks to the head, a cock strut between two testosterone filled drunken teenagers that devolved into a pushing match and ended up with a handbags at 6 paces finale, and one lone cop with an over sized baton beating the crap out of some young teenager, with the lad obviously deserving it for looking at the cop in a funny way or for wearing hip-hop style clothing in a built up area after the hours of darkness.
It was only a long way into his second 12 months that Robin realised that violence had a somewhat different meaning in Brazil than he was used to and could even include raising your voice when your spouse irritates you yet again and thoroughly deserves learning the errors of her ways.
Robin eyed the corner of the park he would have to traverse and calculated how much time he would save as opposed to the general wear and tear on his bones, muscles, energy level and his very real desire to get home as soon as he could against the perceived risk of crossing the corner of this park in the madrugada. Perhaps the dozen or so beers he had recently imbibed aided his cavalier decision as his long legs, without a seemingly second thought, strode easily over the short log fence that marked the periphery of the park.
As the fingers of the tree’s shadows within the wooded park enveloped him, Robin was suddenly approached by an obscure figure that separated itself from the gloom of the nearby sparse, but densely canopied patch of trees.
– Me dá cigarro – Give me a cigarette, – the shape that materialised, who was average height for a dwarf, roughly rasped at him, hand outstretched ready to receive his early morning bounty.
– Não tenho – I don’t have any, – Robin replied shrugging his shoulders apologetically and casually sliding his right hand over the top of his trousers to cover the lie of his words visible in the front right pocket of his jeans.
–Então, me dá grana – So, give me cash – the somewhat diminutive dwarf demanded menacingly, however Robin felt totally unmenaced; how could that little shrimp possibly expect him to be scared by these theatrics?
Robin, in spite of recently imbibing copious quantities of a refreshing but average local brew and still with cold can of beer in hand, gave quite a considered response under the circumstances.
– Na verdade, se não importa, eu preferia que vai tomar no cu – Actually, if you don’t mind, I would prefer that you go fuck yourself – Robin always liked to be polite with strangers.
The look that passed over the dwarf’s face clearly indicated that he had not expected this cara not to be scared of him and a grunt of disappointment and anger was thus spat between his less than perfect teeth. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the enraged torinho – little bull – charged Robin, his little legs pumping like mini pistons, finishing this intended show of determination and power by launching one stumpy leg In Robin’s direction. He succeeded in missing Robin’s leg completely, but his pride was left somewhat intact as he just managed to graze a trouser leg with a once white tiny tennis shoe that surely had a partner somewhere, somewhen, but was now paired with a tan leather children’s shoe on his other foot.
Robin could not help but picture the Rumplestiltskin story from his childhood and roared with laughter at the comparison. His unmerited and most certainly unwarranted response to the situation only seemed to infuriate the angry annoying anão further who reacted by charging him yet again. Robin secured his dewy half-full can of beer in his left hand and the forehead of the furious little furacãozinho – little hurricane – safely within the palm of his right hand, an action which, for some inexplicable reason, only seemed to infuriate the vertically challenged erstwhile bandit even more. The angry little man tried to continue his charge, but was forced to mime the action instead of actually succeeding in carrying it out under Robin’s forceful touch. He tried lashing out with his bite-sized hands, but they had no chance of connecting with Robin’s body, which still stood an unreachable but tantalising distance in front of him.
Realising that he’d have more success going backwards than forwards, the wee little man did just that and warily skirted Robin, one eye trained upon him always.
– Eu vou te atirar, filho de puta – I’m going to shoot you, mother fucker! he barked like a threatening chihuahua.
This only added to Robin’s mirth as he reasoned “If he had a gun, why wasn’t it already pointed at me?”and again guffawed into the coal black night, remembering that this was the second time in his life that he had been threatened by a nonexistent gun and, coincidentally or not, the would be robber was again less than average height, even for a Brazilian! .
– E vou, serío. Eu tenho arma em baixa daquela rocha – I will, seriously. I have a gun under that rock, the dwarf ranted,crouched over mimicking the action of snatching it up from under the rock and shooting him as if he were playing the part of Golem in Lord of the Rings.
This ridiculous Rumplestilstkinish pantomime was more than Robin could bear and flood waters of gut wrenching laughter gushed forth from his belly and tears flowed in torrents down his cheeks in concert; he could do naught else but shake his head in bemusement at the bizarreness of the ritual he had been participating in, turned and, with a broad beaming smile on his face, headed homeward bound; his early morning laughter wafting on the cool early morning breeze behind him, burning the ears of the failed midget robber, further reinforcing why he hated his life.
The bright morning sunshine caused Robin to squint as it dawned on him that it was already tomorrow; something he inherently knew, but which his mind had somehow, and for some reason, masked; it has a habit of doing that! He had had a great night with his lady love, but was now eager to get home and sleep. He grasped his girlfriend’s hand firmly in his own capacious palm and together they strode, somewhat merrily, in the direction of their bus stop.
A hot dog stand, strategically positioned between them and their destination, demanded their immediate attention. Obviously, this savvy saveloy salesman knew that there was profit to be made from offering his wares to the early morning crowd who were still wanting the night before to continue as if the truth of the morning were nothing more than a bald faced lie.
It was as if she read his mind;
– Come on, let’s grab a hot dog! – she suggested animatedly, pulling him in the direction his feet had already mapped out and were aiming for anyway.
Hot dogs in London had no pretension to be other than what they were advertised to be: bread roll, frankfurter, ketchup and mustard, and, if you were lucky, onions – fried or otherwise. In Brazil, a cachorro quente, was something else altogether; they always came with at least one quail egg, one olive, Parmesan cheese, sweet corn, tinned peas, raisins, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and chip sticks – a Brazilian specialty oft enjoyed liberally sprinkled over chicken or beef stroganoff. Robin ordered one with linguiça – sausage – instead of – salsicha – frankfurter – as all the franks he had meticulously read the labels of were made from mechanically separated meat, a nasty chemical soup, whereas the chance still existed that the ingredients from which the sausages were made were a little closer to what he considered to be real food, whilst his lover, as one would expect from a vegetarian, ordered one without meat, but, bizarrely, said yes when offered the sauce in which the sausages had been happily marinating. Robin, accustomed as he was to the idiosyncrasies of his one true love, thought nothing of this apparent inconsistency. After all, even when he had revealed that rennet, essential in the manufacture of cheese, to which both she and her equally vegetarian mother were particularly partial, was produced from the enzymes of a suckling calf, which bravely gave its life for this blessing, neither she nor her mother had changed their dietary habits one whit, whilst both vociferously condemned the heinous practice.
As the merry couple made their way upon the mosaic footpath, hot dogs disappearing rapidly and messily down their enthused throats, a rather rough looking baixinho, a little chap, who looked as if he lived on the street, approached them pushing a battered shopping trolley containing what, sadly, was certainly all his worldly possessions and tried to engage them in conversation. It could just as well have been, good morning, you beautiful couple, for all Robin, newly arrived to Brazil and with almost no grasp of the local language at all, knew and was therefore forced to rely on his namorada to translate what was said so he could understand.
Arriving at São Paulo international airport and finding himself feeling like Gulliver, his solid 6 ft frame standing head and shoulders head above the average Brazilian, Robin very quickly realised that the average Brazilian stood at less than average height and, therefore, the height, or lack thereof, of this scruffy unwashed fellow was nothing out of the ordinary for him.
– He says he is hungry and has a starving wife and family, – his darling translated for him.
Robin stifled a laugh! How many times had he heard a similar story, he thought, from those vicarious Gypsies in Golders Green who hired the babies they bore on their hips to garner more sympathy from the generous and gullible passersby, yet who left their “job” at the end of their working day in a fully paid up Mercedes? But this beggar looked as if he really walked the walk and Robin was certain that his shopping trolley was surely no pumpkin that would magically transform into a bright and sparkling carriage at the end of his “working” day. He did, however, doubt the existence of the starving wife and children.
Although he understood nothing of the conversation taking place between his namorada and the mendigozinho, Robin was not too inebriated to notice that the wee man was starting to become somewhat agitated and irate in his behaviour.
– He says to give him money, sweetheart, – she told him resolutely and it seemed as if she seriously expected him to do just that.
The bandit seemed so innocuous and tiny and nonthreatening to him that the idea of giving him money under duress seemed completely ridiculous and comical. The diminutive urchin became more animated and despite understanding not one word of what he was saying, Robin clearly understood that he was actually threatening them. This funny little man was threatening them?
– He says he has a gun in his pocket, honey, – she translated and looked as if she actually believed this, but Robin seriously doubted the veracity of this.
– Just give him some money, honey, – she implored, reacting to this man’s menacing behaviour as she had been conditioned; Brazil’s middle class were fed a constant diet of fear mongering through the media, whose fingers were firmly imbedded in so many different pies that they constantly had to conjure up ever more and ingenious ways to feed their insatiable appetites.
Robin looked at the unassuming and, in his opinion, quite harmless runt and hummed and hawed over his response; obviously not wanting to give in to this daylight robbery, but also wanting to ensure that his namorada felt safe and secure as well; this was man’s primary mission after all; a very delicate balancing indeed and he felt a little miffed that she didn’t have the confidence in him to protect her.
– Just give him some money, for fuck’s sake, – she insisted, the stress of the situation manifesting in her response.
Again, Robin looked at this little man and dithered; he had no desire to give a free ride to anyone, least of all this little hobgoblin. Why should he freely hand over his hard earned cash just because it was demanded?
His girlfriend perceived his reticence yet her fear was palpable.
– Just give him some fucking money, for fuck’s sake, – she reiterated, her fear augmenting the volume of her plea, but, even still, Robin was reluctant, however, that notwithstanding, he still slowly pulled his wallet from his back pocket nonetheless; there are times, even when we don’t agree, that the lady must be obeyed, and Robin decided that this was one of them.
R$12, about US$5, was all that stared back at him after their morning splurge when he opened up his wallet: a R$10 note and a R$2 note were all that remained after their impromptu breakfast feast. Although he was still feeling merry after their evening outing, he was still lucid enough to know that they needed almost R$6 for the bus fare home and vacillated over the contents of his wallet. This mini robber obviously saw what the wallet contained and didn’t react too favourably when Robin’s fingers picked out the crisp new R$2 note and proffered it in his general direction. The street urchin barked his discord at Robin’s choice. It didn’t take a linguist to figure out that the brigand was demanding the R$10 note in preference over the two.
This was more than Robin could bear; There was no way he was walking the five or so kilometres home just because he’d given his bus fare to this little runt. Despite, maybe even in spite of, the beverages that had lubricated his evening, he snapped and allowed his true feelings to surface.
– Fuck you, you little piece of shit, – he snarled angrily at the little thief, – you take the fucking R$2 note and fucking like it or fuck off!
Obviously, the minuscule menace had never had the wherewithal to learn English, even the poor excuse for same taught in Brazil, but Robin’s response transcended the linguistic boundaries and this dirty little street person clearly understood what Robin was saying even so and happily accepted the proffered R$2 note.
If Robin had had his way, this pathetic little creature would have received nothing! Not one centavo, but he was clearly not prepared for the reaction of this repulsive rodent. The modest would be mugger grasped his hand in gratitude and planted numerous kisses upon it as proof of his thanks. WTF? would probably best describe Robin’s response as he shook his head in disbelief at the situation and, wrapping one arm around his now becalmed namorada, re-embarked on his homeward journey, comfortably secure in the knowledge that he still had change to pay for their bus journey home and reflected, with a smile, on his first ever mugging.