Monday, October 20, 2008

Jorge, Georges.

The Ribeira bus hit the park road, the park with the Orixa sculptures in the lake and came to a crawl. Shit. I was just this side of late already. New York is coming closer and time is less openended. Neither of us had a phone so hopefully Michael would just tough it and wait if he beat me to the Lancha dock. I was taking him to Jorge Bandeira’s house for a Feijoada lunch. We had met in front of Big’s this week. He has an official title as a cultural director for ABCMI, a theatre and arts organization.

The park was overloaded with people. Many of them seemed to be online to get into the stadium, others were on Sunday promenade. I heard an auto race in front of me. Sweat bullets were cascading down my back.

I couldn’t pick up the GRE book in this state. I shot some street scenes and snapshots from the bus to kill time. It was about noon when we came through the tunnel just below São Joaquim. I had thought we would have turned in earlier and come up past the Marina. Another right wrong bus. I got out near the Gondola at Calçada/Liberdade and took a bus towards Comercio. I saw Michael right away and we walked around the Mercado Modelo to find a Brotas bus. Nothing, nothing, nothing; then thirty minutes later two came together. Urban transit is the same wherever you are.

Jorge’s directions were straight forward. We found his landmarks and jumped off the bus to look for his street. The dusky bar on the corner with TV sports blaring and slit eyed men drinking away the day clarified the way to his street. We quickly found rua Engenheiro Jose Muccini #9. The two story house behind a high wall was covered in matte green stone, Adams Familyish and all locked up. I didn’t see a bell, so I went to the neighbors door.

I rang twice before someone opened the door. They didn’t know about their neighbors was the reply. Hmm. I went back and still didn’t find the bell. They had suggested that I clap hands. I did and it worked. A craggy female voice called out that she was coming. "Vai, vai. vai." Jorge’s mother. She wheezed like an old smoker with each slow step. Her shock of white hair set off her wrinkled brown face. Clutching at her house dress and the iron gate she told me to knock across the street on the wooden door. Ok.

A Portuguese speaking Japanese man, answered the door and led us inside. Everyone was clustered in the kitchen. A stewpot sat at the center of the table, flanked by bowls of farinha, yellow rice and feijões fradinho. I saw slices of calabresa sausage and some large cuts of meat on the bone and white shell in the broth. Beer and cachaça was flowing and we were handed plates and hands to shake. Just then I remembered that Michael was a fish eater, but predominately ate veggies. Antonio, our host and Jorge’s neighbor encouraged us to dig in.

When I explained Michael’s situation, he said that that was fine. We could both eat from the stew. Michael was hesitant and had already refused alcohol. I mentioned the calabresa and he said it was just a bit for flavor. I turned Michael into a religious zealot to make them understand. Quickly Antonio’s wife heated up some Mariscada, more beans, rice and Caruru. She also cut some lettuce and tomatoes for him. Meanwhile I was fed from the stew pot. I didn’t understand the bone structure, the meat was separated by what seemed like cartilage or the thin bones that make up a fish head. It was too rich for fish, white fleshed but more porcine. I started to ask about the stew, when Jorge began apologizing profusely for the lack of Feijoada.

The curious side to Jorge was that even though we had talked in the street for close to an hour his email directions and his conversation right now were all in French. Michael appeared to have a vague memory of First Form French grammar, but nothing to really work with. His accent sucked and his grammar was elementary. He smiled and looked down his nose at me, without cessation even if I responded in Portuguese.

Michael was sitting quietly, taking it in and becoming slightly unhinged. Augusto knew Jorge and had thought it would be a good idea for me to bring Michael. Curiously, only Antonio’s daughter in her early twenties spoke English. Michael felt free to ask me any questions or make comments without fear of being understood. We had a unique position in this curious environment.

Antonio kept pouring himself drinks from a dark green bottle that I took for Cachaça. In the end it was a liqueur mistura de vinho branco, cidra maça, guarana, cauba e uma outra coisa. It had an oxidized and raisinated quality like Madeira with a sweetness of Port. I forget the name. He offered me some. As I began to drink it, he began to discuss my meal.

Tatu. I wasn’t sure what that meant. He had said earlier that it wasn’t meat. Michael took it for snake. Antonio, his daughter and I struggled with for a translation or description. Suddenly I got it; Armadillo. That was it. Now I saw the shell was really that armor I remember from grade school. I have to say that I loved the taste. Unctous and sweet yet not as fatty as pork. Michael cringed. Since I enjoyed that, Antonio’s wife brought out the Bode, or goat that she had cooked next.

We moved the party out to the terrace, so that they could show me the other Armadillos & Goats that they had in the freezer. For a hobby, Antonio has a 150 goat dairy in the countryside. He makes milk, cheese and yogurt; but eats no dairy products himself. The goat I had eaten was a three year old nanny of his. He told me that the Armadillos are hard to come by, but country people catch and kill them for people like him who have a taste for them and come seeking them out on the backroads.

As we discussed his farm and the game he liked to seek out, he moved the conversation forward to his devotion to Kardecism. I was vaguely aware of Allen Kardec, but I wasn’t hip to the tenets of the religion. It seemed to derive aspects of spiritual power from Candomblé, be heavily grounded in right livelihood and reincarnation up to and including vampirism.

Note: the vampire part had to do with spirits or para-spirits who were not willing to acknowledge that they had to give up the body of their former self. You do that math. It began a heady discussion of faith, the third eye, ancestral guidance looking over your shoulder, etc. When your consciousness was elevated you didn’t require as much help from the para-spirits.

Initially they, the para-spirits decided what you should do, by adopting the activity first, say eating then given you the incentive of hunger and literally lifting your hand to mouth and feeding you until you were sated, another decision determined by them.

I had walked into this party telling Michael that we should do one touristic thing together since he was leaving for Rio and São Paulo the next morning. I had suggested Igreja Bonfim. He liked that idea, as did everyone at the party. It was an essential Salvadoran site in their eyes. Good, I would use its significance as a way out of this escalating ontological discussion.

It was agreed that we leave together, but then an argument ensued between Jorge, should I call him Georges?, Diogo who had hereto fore been fairly silent and Antonio. Should we be escorted to the bus stop, driven to Bonfim, should we be taken to Jorge/Georges house, was their truly time to take in Bonfim, properly, did we need to be fed more, (were we being fattened for a kill)?

It is truly intriguing to hear yourself discussed in the third person when your hosts don’t believe you understand their language and then do the same with your colleague right back at them. I got to the door first and started to turn the knob. Jorge/Georges shrieked and Diogo froze. I looked at them in wonder. Michael began to laugh. Jorge/Georges explained that if someone other than the owner of the house turns the knob to leave that person and potentially everyone else in their group will never or can never return to the home that they are leaving. Only Antonio could open the door. At which point, Antonio declaimed that he had let himself out of Jorge’s house several times. “Ça c’est une chose different. Tout de different!” shouted Georges/Jorge.

We walked across the street in mass. Antonio waited to greet Jorge/George’s mae before going back home. Diogo had a key to the gate, but Jorge rang the bell anyway. He wanted to see his mother out of doors. Again she wheezed and walked sluggishly. “Quarant ans comme tabac, vous pouvait ver?” As Diogo let us into the gate to embrace Jorge’s mom, she looked us up and down and said that we had met before. She knew us already. Of course Antonio reiterated the power of reincarnation, she could see from her previous life.

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