POPhissssss go the canisters and BOOOM goes other artillery. Tear gas is just that. Immediately you start weeping. The throat and lips burn like you swallowed hot cinnamon, but it's better than breathing thru your nose. I catch the first thick whiff at the park across from the burning VW bug.
The protest- a march of anarchists, the disenfranchised, the aware, the progressive, the hyper-left, and those who support them, on the 460th anniversary of the founding of the City of Sao Paulo, and in the name of better health care and education over funding for the impending FIFA World Cup tournament, have left strewn garbage fire roadblocks and siren induced mayhem all across the neighborhood of Consolaçao.
At one time 5 helicopters swung thru a patch of the sky like lazy menacing mosquitoes. The photojournalist I'm running around with, Gus, a while back hurt his heels somehow, and I can outrun him, but he knows where to go, respecting my instinct for pause.
Surreally, just as I get back to the hotel and the helicopter swings over with its cobalt spotlight, (as it will over and over before the night is over) a bike parade comes giggling and chiming and whooping thru. It is the perfect end to the dangerous part of the evening.
Around 21:30 the helicopter hangs over what looks to be Rua Consolaçao. I listen to its pulse reverberate off of buildings, and watch the hotel parking attendants watch it too.
Renauld, the assistant concierge, appears with his blue blue eyes and metal braced smile and observes with me. When a big blonde drag queen appears for drop off, he smiles while I take a snap and smirk a thumbs up. Later we also watch a drunk and angry looking kid amble past. Maybe on his way to getting his face punched in.
I keep writing, and the street lamp just opposite me pops off as if it has burnt out, then mysteriously comes back on. It does this a couple times. The lights in the windows of residences behind it gleam forward for a moment when it does, and I am looking in... Believing the expense of living here. Believing the beauty of the quiet, unsullied places inside. The domicile and the place within the within.
The Brazilian night is wild as an animal. Blinking like a flashbulb. Wooping with the force of a massive dance music party crowd. Wondrous and colorful and scintillating like a billion galaxies in a single deep space telescope image.
I know that Gus is down there somewhere while we are up here with the cops clogging up the shit out of Rua Augusta and causing detours in an attempt to pull arrests. As the night continues they direct traffic (2 lanes almost become 4) and ride bikes and cars both directions. I see some action down the way, but I've had plenty for one night. It's killing the buzz in the hood, even tho' well dressed kids keep moving in both directions.
I'm not doing much good out on the street now. Just thinking and making notes. My feet hurt, but if I take these shoes off, they're not going back on. Soon enough, the riot gear goes back in its camouflaged land boat and kids stare gloomily from the paddy wagon as it too rolls past. I want to free them all, especially any journalists.
Gus turns up at my room about 30 minutes later. He went to the cop shop to see who was in charge and didn't get any straight answers. We head back to his flat for pizza (out of a round box with kale and corn) and my first guarana soda (pretty good!) and I catch another glimpse from his 16th floor windows of the glittering carpet of high rises. It's 'wow' to the soft jagged horizon and back.
He calls his parents to let them know he's ok before grabbing a shower and editing photos. His work ethic is intense. But it always is with someone who really loves what they do.
Do you ever have a moment where you become so aware of yourself and the magnificence of life around you, that you believe for a second that really all of your life has been leading up to this? THIS second is what you've been doing all that other living for... And if you could relive that moment?
I would want to relive the moment where, cruising in Gustavo's car with a can of Brasilian micro-brew (Do Da Bier) in my lap after playing drums at his house, we go past the magnificent bridge and the certain high rises surrounding you always see in postcards, and zoom down over viaduct and neighborhood while we listen to a famous Brasilian songwriter, and we again compare the strategic corruptions of our respective countries. The heartache over materialism and greed. Feeling that the societies around us have been encouraged to compromise what would be their real pure instincts for improvement and positive progression.
It is only about 5 minutes of conversation, before he drops me and jumps on a bicycle. Off to his night-shift work.
It is the kind of 5 minutes that make every expense to get here worth it threefold.
I did not stay long enough.