Part Three of a three-part report about my weekend trip to Recife.
We had no exact destination, but we figured that if we headed towards the area of the club from the night before, we’d find out where we could get some samba on a Saturday night. Our bus was full, not packed. Not like the buses that passed us on the way, filled to double the capacity with doors bulging from backs and shoulders and faces pressed up against it. When private companies run public transportation, law and common sense go unconsidered. A guy in tattered orange shorts got on the bus begging for money, and an old woman next to me mentioned that it was better to give him a couple reals than to have him go nuts and try to take them. Amen to that!
Our group hopped off at a random stop that seemed like it was the right one, and it wasn’t. Here I was, a 6’1 black dude walking down a dark street in Recife with two women (and their purses) and a German guy, none of us speaking fluent Portuguese; the possibility of having to fight somebody never strayed too far from my mind. Those pink neo-classical buildings look nice and cake-like in daylight, but come nightfall, they all turn into haunted houses (and not the supernatural kind, neither). None too soon, we hopped into a cab and told the driver we needed samba, stat!
We drove through the run-down downtown area of Recife, passing random off-price storefronts and retro office buildings. The arcaded sidewalks buzzed with last-minute Saturday-night shoppers snagging mops, plastic suitcases, and t-shirts that read “Look Me.” We crossed a bridge and stopped at the tail of a crowded street, boisterous women in halters and Daisies, gregarious dudes in Brasil soccer jerseys or knock-off Ecko shirts. We filed into the flow of people heading under the wash of orange street lights toward the stage at the other end of the street, upon which sambistas drummed, rattled, and sang. Before getting too deep into the crowd, I asked Estrella tentatively if she wanted to head closer to the stage. She said, “If you don’t go hard, don’t go.”
I didn’t need to hear no mo. We dove in.
The current of revelers swept us forward, awkwardly, chest on back on crotch on ass. Perfume and tobacco and sweat and popcorn and weed and funk wafted into our noses. The “ays” and “ows” of stepped-on toes and elbowed ribs punctuated the driving rhythm of the drums and the male singer’s voice, as people yelled the words of the samba in off-key unison. We didn’t know who was performing or why they were so popular, we only knew that a) there were too many damn people on that narrow street and b) our, or at least my, bullshit threshold was quickly drawing near. The deeper we got into the crowd, the stronger the current pushed us, until heads and arms surged forward and upward. People yelled and pushed back and Estrella, Winta, and Mark looked nervous. I probably would have been nervous, too, had I not already experienced Carnival in Bahia once and New Years in Rio twice. Shouting might happen, but that’s about as bad as it would get; Brazilians are pretty reliable when it comes to avoiding conflict. Fights happen, but not during a samba concert, and certainly not because of a little pushing; events with boisterous crowds occur on a monthly basis.
When one short, pushy young lady too many pushed into my stomach, I decided, executively, it was time to carry it back to Boa Viagem for a burger and the bed. It took at least another 30 minutes to work our way laterally towards another street, then out of the fray. We checked inventory next to a makeshift ambulance where three shirtless dudes were trying to revive a fourth who had clearly OD’d on something: we had our wallets and/or purses, our limbs, and our wits. We got home and agreed to hit the beach for a couple of hours before my noon flight back to Brasília.
Then, bright and early Sunday morning, we saw this: