Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Christ The Redeemer / Christ The Taker Away

And so nearly a year's worth of touring goes out with a whimper. No great fanfare, just an undersold, less than enthusiastic crowd and a show that was hanging on by a thread for it's entire duration.

Remember the time that Jose Feliciano, the blind musician who sang (sings?) Feliz Navidad pissed all over the bathroom floor at the Rio airport? Well, I do. Just putting that out there.

Belo Horizonte

Last show.

And the last time the crew was all in the same place together. It's been a blast, so far.

I have managed to eat my first meal back, at Citrus Club. I could politely and calmly ask for more water (and actually be able to drink it without suffering a roaring dysentery) as well as have something not made of or soaked in beef for the first time in weeks. Who cares if it looked like dog food. It was delicious.

On the "key problem" facing Brazil: "Brazilians live there." -Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh

Failure Magnified

So, it's true. I made it back home. After a false start in Belo Horizonte where I sat in the airport (nay aeroporto, why not add a few extra vowels since everything else seems to take so long?) for eight hours. The word on the street was that a plane's landing gear had some troubles and nearly botched a landing causing the entire airport to be shut down. It didn't occur to me several hours later that the plane without landing gear was the plane that I would be taking to Sao Paulo. No matter. I waited and waited without anything even remotely resembling a clue. I don't speak a lick of Portuguese, and the translators who were traveling with us seemed, more than anything else, to just hate our constant questioning and mere presence. I mean maybe it's difficult to constantly hear 'hey, is it ok if we maybe eat today?' or 'could you tell this guy that his monkey is biting me?', but a little concern goes a long way. As an aside, and sorry if this seems rude, but it's been, and continues to be even at home, a very trying week. I vowed to myself as I was waiting in line at the airport that if I am ever responsible for the well-being of a group of hapless Brazilians in the states; wide-eyed, unsure of the language, but generally good natured, that I would, without a seconds hesitation, leave them on the side of the road for dead. It's just that I have come to feel that way in Brazil. So, I was waiting for news of any kind in a tiny airport in Belo Horizonte. I had ahead of me a flight to Sao Paulo then to Dallas, and finally to San Francisco. I could barely even understand basic numbers (three sounds like 'trash' if you have no teeth, and two sounds suspiciously like 'douche') and for the life of me couldn't work out what was going on. It actually sounded like someone was repeatedly paging Count Basie over the pa. By the time I made it on the plane and to Sao Paulo, the first of many stops on the way home, I had missed my connecting flight, in fact missed every last flight out of the country for the day. It was 2 AM and I resigned myself to being in Brazil for another day at an airport Marriott no less. It was not a well-documented time, but I think that this guy's expression of angry, distraught confusion pretty much sums it up for me as we seemed to both be in similar, if not the same boat.

Too much airport for me. After a night in an airport hotel, when I could have been at home in my own bed, and many many hours in third world airports I was reaching my breaking point. That point came at about 6:30 this morning in Dallas. As I was making my way from one flight to the next, and through customs, baggage reclaim, baggage recheck and then security, I was overrun by several passengers who were convinced that their connecting flights were already taxing down the runway, and their best bet was to push, shove and hop in and out of line where ever they saw fit. I was just nearing the mid-point of my already traumatic day, in fact I was waiting patiently, laptop out, shoes off, for my turn at the x-ray machine when some a-hole in a pair of flip-flops dips in front of me, dropping his bag ahead of mine and running through the metal detector. He then realized that he was still wearing his less than appropriate airport footwear and ran back, pulled off a chewed, leathery pair of sandals and dropped them amongst my things. I called him an asshole, but then I do that a lot and proceeded through after him. He began to gather his things and managed to seize a single sandal from between my bag and laptop. Then, as he outfitted himself with a lone flip-flop I noticed the second one in the tray with my sweater. I'm not necessarily proud of this, but it was a low moment in a week of low moments, so I grabbed the shoe, and before the guy could turn and see me do it, tossed it gingerly to the floor on the opposite side of the x-ray machine. I gathered my things, gave him a subtle hip check on the way out, and heard him say for the second time, voice cracking a little 'um, has anyone seen a sandal?'

Allow me to backtrack momentarily, if only to explain my particular state of mind. Rio was a hectic, catastrophic show, bookended by a pair of rather calm, relaxing days. Our hotel was a mile or so from Ipanema (unfortunately anything but romantic, more violent and dangerous). We had a hundred yards or so of private beach, and the whole complex was reminiscent of a resort. I usually detest the sheltered feel of those places, but when the alternative is being held up by an angry transvestite for the equivalent of 11 dollars in Brazilian cash, I'll take the pool side bar with unlimited Caipirhinas thank you very much.

The show in Rio was at what could easily be called a disused diaper factory, or maybe an old prison. It was a rickety old concrete building in one of the shadier parts of town that was in dire need of outside walls, something stronger than tarps for a roof, and air conditioning.

It was blazing hot, humid and smelled a bit like the Kentucky Derby, like horses and death. To combat the heat Bobby and I bought coconuts across the street. I guess this does look a bit like him nursing on one of his own massive man-teats.

And someone allowed me the temporary use of a fan as well. I use the word fan loosely. It more closely resembled an implement of torture, and if you consider standing in front of a fan blowing hot air in your face to be torture, then I suppose it was.

Before I make myself out to be a sensitive, whiny little guy, let me also point out that no sooner did we get ourselves situated in the place than a bat, the size of a small falcon descended on us (and my coconut) and came to roost just above my head.

The picture does it very little justice. It looked exactly like this close up:

We managed to brave the day, however and set it all up, tape it together and get it running. We even managed just enough time to make it back to our resort-esque hotel to sit pool side and have some dinner. It was all going so well, and then it began to rain...

And in buckets. It dawned on us that we were really in for it on the way back to the venue. It was a deluge. We found that the water was rising pretty rapidly in the streets and what flowed was more sewage than rainwater. The club, however, was relatively dry. Then the band went on, and what started as a little drip turned into a leaky hose and then gradually more of a waterfall. Paul commented after the show that there was a single stream of water dripping solely on his head for about 45 minutes. Water streamed off the balcony above my head and doused the crowd, and then all of the power on the stage went out. The band left the stage as I heard a frantic volley in Portuguese over the radio that sounded to me like someone shouting 'packing tape cannonball donkey kong' over and over. Maybe that means 'it is raining on the electricity.' Shortly thereafter all of the lights went out and we were left dark and silent in a room full of very confused kids. After a few minutes, by some minor miracle the lights came back on. There was a roar from the crowd which upset the sleeping bat who promptly swooped the first 3 rows before perching in the rafters, scaring the shit right out of a few dozen kids. The power gradually came back on and the band managed a few more songs before we were left to meander back to the hotel through flooded streets and unending traffic plodding through several feet of water.

I wish I could say that it was all an adventure.

Day Sleepers


Sao Paulo. Land of Rape and Honey.

Rabid fans in Buenos Aires. Run away.

The upscale restaurant situated in the heart of Sao Paulo conveniently named for a Brazilian slum. The favelas in Sao Paulo (not far, actually, from this very establishment) are constructed primarily of mud and garbage, and are plagued with disease and crime. Well, I'm hungry...It's like going out to eat at a $75 per plate spot called 'project housing,' 'boxcar,' or 'under the overpass.'

The only thing even approaching the inanity of that would be the churrascaria (Brazilian steak house, translated means trip the meat fantastic I believe) that we found ourselves at in Rio. It was like Medieval Times only without the knights and horses and any of the other good stuff. It was basically a room full of people gorging themselves on meat until they fell asleep at the table. They left these little cards at each place setting to set a pace to the outrageous amount of food that was nearly shoved down your throat. It became a bit of a joke to distract the person next to you and flip their card over while they are refraining from swallowing any more beef. It was short lived but fun, and upstaged only by the cab ride back to the hotel in which the driver insisted on driving the legal limit (90km/hr) with no headlights on. He came very close to having a back seat filled to the ankles with medium rare meat.

Nicer from the air...

The information sheet that is passed around to hotels these days calls us 'day sleepers.' It is the truth for the most part, but I'm still not sure if I should take offense. It sounds an awful lot like 'mouth breather' to me.

I am pretty shamelessly addicted to coconut juice these days. It's safer to drink than the water (which I am convinced flows directly from the toilet to the tap in South America), and it's delicious. Bobby is convinced that it has given him the trots for nearly a week, but I disagree.

The sheer volume and frequency of flights this past month or so (18 as of today) is baffling, exhausting, and to some, downright infuriating.

We take our comic relief when we can, and often in short and distant intervals. Following a delayed flight to Rio we arrived at the hotel late, dirty, hungry, tired, cranky and a dozen other not so good things. I think we would have broken had our drum tech and tour manager (both ample-sized men) not decided to step on the same side bar of the van at the same time. The sheer mass was enough to buckle the steel and make a sound like a tornado ripping through a skyscraper. I actually thought that the van was going to split in half. Our Brazilian guides, as you could imagine, were less than impressed by our uncontrollable laughter.

Damn straight.

Another show...

And yes, another disaster...