Thursday, September 18, 2008

…Is that why Joan Crawford liked “Jungle Red?”

It had to happen, to someone. And fruitloops is a nickname that I could have. I guess, “Timing is everything. “ I can attribute my lack of sleep to the Eguns. Coulda, woulda, shoulda is the mantra.

What do I mean to say? He hath picketh my pocket. Who? I dunno. I believe it was on the bus to Cabula yesterday morning. I had agreed to not sleep after the Eguns. I would run on the nervous energy; especially if we got home at dawn. I sat down after showering to read for a moment and slept deeply for 90 minutes, almost missing my Moto-taxi and Lancha connection.

I was sure that that evening I would turn to jelly and that would be that. But, no Mr. Insomnia had Everyready Bunny energy. I had crashed the night before last close to 12:45. Yesterday morning, I was woken up by Hannah knocking and calling my name. “Davis was waiting!” I was a mess. I knocked things over dressing quickly. The air on the bike brought me closer to consciousness. Bleary eyed and dopey I made it to the Lancha, as the doors were being pulled closed. I never got coffee, though.

Salvador 8:40 AM; Indecisive about the best route to Cabula on the bus; my gut told me to go up and over the Pelourinho to get to the Av. dos Sapateiros, a faster connection. Instead, sluggish and lazy, I stood at the Lacerda stop looking for a bus. Confused, I asked a friendly woman for help. More waiting. I asked a Guarda, he said, “Deve ter pacíenca.” I probably came off as a mark. I had checked my seat as I left the Lancha. I had had my wallet as I mounted the bus. And, I did check my seat as I exited the bus. Cool, cool, cool.

I walked to the Terreiro, (Opô Afonjá) stopping to try and buy a churro and shoot some pictures. I arrived at the gate by 9:30-ish. I went to the house of Xango and found a seat on one of the salmon leather easy chairs. The room was decorated with references to all of the Mae’s de Santo and other power icons. Within 15 minutes it was full of Brazilians, some seeking Buzio readings, a crippled man fulfilling regular obligations and a mixed bag of folks from far and wide. We all were waiting for our audience with Mae Stella.

I listened to their chitchat as I read at my new find, “Sacred Herbs of Candomble.” Someone put something together and asked me where I had come from. I supplied my back-story, just as the Xango sanctuary room opened and we all went in to pay respects, praise him and kiss the Mae on duty. We were told that Mae Stella had been up until dawn and would not be giving readings today. Later I was told that Mae Detinha was taking her place. She and Mae Stella were both colleagues of Danny, my mentor. It was all good.

I watched the folks in front of me, and sublimated myself accordingly, taking in all of the fascinating objects, and references to Xango in this shrine. Back in the waiting room, over our breakfast of Amala, (Caruru and Farofa) I engaged a woman who had a colleague she thought could help me. Reaching into my pocket for a business card, I realized that it was gone. No more wallet! Sweaty and anxious, I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I did not keep my money with my wallet, so I could still get around. I retraced my steps and realized that it was solid gone. Just then I was summoned to speak with Mae Detinha, sitting in the yard. Probably close to 80, sage and strikingly beautiful, she was sitting on a low wall with a few assistants. After hearing my request she had a youngster take me to Nana, the librarian; an affable, kind faced woman in her late 60’s.

Nana, in the middle of an audience with some upper class Paulistas, invited me to sit in. We sat together for nearly an hour, sharing our interests and requests. When they left, I had a good yet brief private session with her. Back in the waiting room to use the toilet, before initiating the paperwork with police to track down my wallet, I was confronted by one of the Filhas de Xango. “Was I alright?” she asked. I had not known that she knew of my plight.

“Se voce pode ficar aqui quando me banho; posso se ajudar...” That was kind. She, Christianne, telephoned her husband who had a job as a city functionary, trying to locate the best place for a foreigner to register a theft. Per our agreement, I waited as she showered, slipped out of her Baiana whites and into a red dress; preparing to leave the Terreiro and start her day outside this oasis. The best warrior and hunter, Red is Xango’s color. Today, Wednesday is his day. That is why I was at the Terreiro; this is the key day to be there.

I needed to change money. Other than the three credit cards, my business cards and a receipt for cell phone credits that had not gone through: I had had the $2 real bill I needed for the bus in my wallet. I suggested that I buy something at the supermarket, Bom Preço to break the bill.

Christianne chose a small discount store a few blocks down from the Terreiro. They were not willing to make the trade, but suggested that we go to the gas company nearby. Their entryway was locked. Adjacent to the door was a 3” hole in the two foot thick concrete wall, just large enough for a child’s hand to fit into. We called into it, and saw lips at the other end, asking after our business. The man’s lips agreed to make change, and I slipped and shoved my money to him.

Now more mobile, we walked to the bus stop. I had begun to doubt Christianne’s veracity. She was being kind; I was vulnerable and thus suspicious. I spotted my bus, which was not her best choice, but she climbed on, offering to pay my way so that I could guard my cash. If it was a setup, I could trust that a strange bus route would throw her off. In the end, she was just being generous and kind, and I paranoid. She suggested that I come back for the short service that evening, if I could work out my difficulties. I agreed to try. This daughter of Xango had been helpful.

I found the Ajudamento para Turistas at the back of the police station on the Praça Terreiro de Jesus in the Pelourinho. The intake officer In-training, took to me, complementing my Portuguese and agreeing to delay his lunch hour to help me. He shared his dreams of using his degrees and training in sports to create an international foundation for inner city youth to get ahead through sports scholarships. He wanted to apply to a model program in Jamaica. But he needed a job to pay the bills. A friend had hooked him up here. As we talked, and he eased my anxiety, I noticed that he had a carved stone necklace on; Xango’s axe. Hmm, whatever.

I was advised to contact my Consulate to help cancel credit cards, and further register the theft; their offices were in Cidade Baixa on Avenida dos Estados Unidos. Got it. Down in the elevator, past the bus stop of consequence and then a short walk to Av. E.U. Almost all of the Consulates were there. The building that I was directed to had no idea of the Consulate. Luckily, the larger buildings on this boulevard had concierge desks. I would find it. It was just after three o’clock. Eight buildings later, and no end in sight, I was pissed. My phone was still out of money, and I had not wanted to use the little money I had to buy more, since the voucher was in the lost wallet.

I asked several concierge’s if they knew of the Consulate, and the answer was, “Não, só conheco meu lugar aqui.” –I only know my building; Ugh. “How about a phone book?” I implored. Finally, one guy told me to wait until his buddy the bottled water delivery man came downstairs. He would know. Of course, he said it was in the first building I had gone to. Retracing my steps, the new man on duty said that he thought that they had moved, only Danmarka and Hollandaisa were still here.

“Can I go to the Danish Consul then?-They should be able to help me.” He shot me a quixotic stare, but agreed. The elevator doors opened to a security entrance. The receptionist and most of the staff were Brazilian, and not Danish. Exasperated, I had hoped for a schooled English speaker. As I addressed the receptionist, she took a call from a friend; part business, part girltalk. Venom was rising in my throat. Instincts knew that she was not at fault, but I was thin on patience. Nearly ten minutes later, still on the call, she rifled through papers to look up my request, still chatting.

She hung the phone up and stated, that the address was in Iguatemi. “What?” I said, “Está longue da aqui.” Shit. Trying to think quickly, I struggled to find a remedy when she suggested that she call the Consulate and pass me the phone. Perfect. That was when I focused on her carmine silk blouse.

The woman on the phone, Baiana with a stilted English accent, explained “That the office is closed now. They just take calls in the morning. Since another Consul was calling, she had taken the call. No, she couldn’t call my credit companies. Nor did she think she could give me access numbers.” Hmm. “ Oh, wait, her co-worker has an Amex card, he can retrieve their number from his card.” A patch of daylight. I hung up the phone, thanked the receptionist and asked her if she followed Xango. “Com certeza,” was her reply. She had heard through my anger and distress to offer help. I left seeking an HSBC branch to cancel their bankcard. It was just 4:00PM and the man in the blue uniform refused to let me in or take anymore work for the day. Come back in the morning.

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