PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1977 - FEBRUARY
1 February, Rio de Janeiro
It is our third day in Rio de Janeiro and things are bad. We tried for two solid days to find somewhere cheap to live, two solid days and we are no nearer finding anything. Last night Chris and I slept cheap but N had to spend four dollars, we walked through the streets until after 1:00am trying to find her a place. This city is being very unfriendly, and yet it is so exciting and vibrant and colourful and beautiful. I do not want to let it beat me.
Sao Paulo is the biggest city in South America. It is also probably the ugliest. A great concrete jungle. It was overpoweringly busy and the air was full of traffic pollution. The bus station was a hideous multi-coloured plastic affair and chokingly busy. We stayed one night in an expensive hotel; N had to take a separate room. People were not helpful or friendly, but there was an over-friendly tourist information whcih seemed to be saying 'Please like our city, it really isn't so bad'. In the district where we stayed there were many street prostitutes, and in the centre were hundreds of men in groups who could only be gay. Cafes were full of men being effeminate - it was so very very weird. Poor Sao Paulo, trying so very hard to be pretty and nice.
I decided we should hitch through the night - it was a very stupid decision. To get out of Sao Paulo wasn't easy, and we found ourselves stuck on a motorway. A very sympatico lorry driver did pick us up and take us way beyond the city, to a service station where it seemed it would be easy to catch another lorry, but it wasn't. While I try and hitch on my own, Christian and N start to pick up bad vibes - the men in the cafe were a little drunk and became suggestive. So we all three hitched together. By midnight, Christian and N had become afraid. so we even tried to flag down buses. One local took us out of the dangerous zone to another danger zone only 5km away. We were on the dark motorway next to an airforce base. Christian woke the guard, who was unhelpful and preposterous. We were three such children on the big black dangerous road. We gave up hitching and just flagged buses. Finally one stops, but we have to pay the full fare from S.P.!
The hot dog stand by the beach is on fire. The hot dog stand by the beach is on fire, and all he was heard to say was the waves are rolling in.
Then it was such a muddle and farce in Rio de Janeiro. We arrived early in the morning and it was the last Sunday in January. The town was very quiet, strangely quiet. Passing through the city on a bus, I didn't feel like I was in Rio; and even now on the fourth day I still feel something very uncitylike about the place. Without scoring the details of Sunday and Monday I can truly say they are pretty bad. We, all three, went different ways several times looking for cheap accommodation, looking for a room to rent for the three of us. At the end of Sunday we were all exhausted and had found absolutely nothing. A maid crept N into her family's apartment; Chris and I drank some beers and slept on the beach. Monday was no better, but Christian managed to dine and swim and N and I soaked in the street sun and sucked in the day toil. We all arranged to meet on the steps of the new cathedral at 5:00pm, but at 7:30, N had not shown up. Christian went to Copacabana where we knew her mochila was stored. I carried the mochilas to the hotel - the cheapest hotel of the day. Then I went to Copacabana and there they all were. I was so cross. Stubborn fool that I was, I would not listen to her excuses which hurt her. We made friends with the sea again, and returned to town later. Then we found that the hotel we had chosen was for men only, so once again we went traipsing through the night looking for a hotel for N. Another crazy stupid misunderstanding the next morning left us both alone for the day. I spent most of it in an air conditioned English library deciding how much I like Elliot and reading about 12 bombs that went off in London and trying to understand a little Portuguese grammar.
4 February 1977, Rio de Janeiro
I am smoking nearly a million cigarettes a day, and I've started a new game: begging for cigarettes off people in the street. It is so easy easy. 'Ten un cigaro por favor.' But I hate everything about smoking: the smell of tobacco, the stubbing out of an end on the floor, the chain of drink, cigarettes, coffee, the desire for lung feeling, the weakening body. The whole thing, I hate it, cannot last much longer.
All the exercise freaks - old men, young men, girls, women - came to end of Leblon beach, where we slept one night. They faced the ocean and swung their arms around. Each one had their own routine. They had such smug expressions on their faces, but such flabby flabby muscles. The irony is that none of them really exercised, really stretched their muscles, hurt themselves; and the young men kept glancing at the young woman.
We did finally get settled in a hotel. One day we went to an island with dirty hot water and people but no cars. We visited a rich jewellery maker and learnt about amethyst, aquamarine, topaz, but the place was crawling with Americans. We also visited the art museum which was out of style. The rest of the time we ate, sat on beaches, swan, talked and lazed around Copacabana in the evening. Christian flew off on magical mystery tours and N met strange people. She also bought a recorder and now plays it all the time. I am burned up with the heat, which makes me so apathetic. Brazilian grass is strong. We fly high over waves in night dives.
Rio de Janeiro is all beaches (fine white sand and green cool frothy sea) anad curves of high rise apartment blocks. The beaches are so full of people. In the night, lovers kiss, schoolboys smoke joints, and aged ones fish with long lines. This place is very very alive.
Lunes 7 Febrero, Cabo Frio
I walk and swim so much this morning. The water is green and the waves soft, there are hills and rocks all around. Some people fish, some sell drinks, some lie motionless expecting the sun's caress. I am hungry. Christian has managed to talk to the girl with frissy hair and armbands and cigarettes. It approaches one or two in the afternoon and the tide comes in - imperceptibly, imperceptibly, imperceptibly.
Viernes 11 Febrero, Cabo Frio
Cabo Frio is a rapidly growing beach resort connected to Arrayan do Cabo and Buzios. Arrayan, from the top of the hill, reminds me of St Kilda in Dunedin. There are lots and lots of different beaches, most of them crowded in the day. N and I found a large empty beach (Playa Forno), which was so beautiful and quiet. We were there for hours in perfect peace. In the night or late afternoon, we usually go to Cabo to drink milk and eat sweet bread, and to hang around the feria. I am very red and I feel bad from my cold. One night we went to a dance bar and danced and drank some fire water. A strange man offered us many things, and then went with Christian to sleep. In the morning the man and Christian's bag was gone. But the man had spent more money on us, than the bag was worth!
Between two of the small hills at the back of the beach stands a tall chimney pouring out mountains of smoke. The click of the mind says how ugly, how terrible, because we have learnt that smoke is ugly. But it is only steam, and really the great white puffs of smoke are quite pretty and not ugly at all.
N and Christian are not here now. They went late last night with a French lady and Alberto to their borrowed house. I didn't quite know what was going on. I slept on the beach, but badly. I have a horrible cold, and my nose continually ejects foul looking substances. Sometimes it dribbles down my moustache and I am very ugly.
When we arrived in Cabo Frio some days ago, we immediately became involved in the just- starting Artesania Ferio. We hung around, talking to people, commenting on the work, the leather, the bags and sandals, the bone necklaces, the brass and acrylic bracelets, the wire jewellery, the ear ring and rings. Each day the feria grew, with many Argentinians, Quechuans and Chileans, but I became bored. I wanted to make something, do something. So I became the cinta man. I bought rows of pretty-coloured wools and started weaving belts, three weaves, four weaves, five weaves, six weaves. One learns very quickly. Now I have some works on sale in the fair!
Sabado 12 Febrero, Cabo Frio
I met two Germans who are working on a Hamburg Sud ship back to Europe from Santos. They said that it was very easy to get a ride, and that there were no waiting list. They told me the boats go first to Santos then to B.A. then back to Santos; but their boat leaves on the 22nd so I won't get that one for sure.
We are still lazing around at Praia Ina. Christian has found a sweetheart (who has anti-hippy parents). There was a big problem with the feria. The police came and ejected all the foreigners who had dared to set up a shop without a work visa. There are many Argentinians and Uruguayans here in Brazil. Even though it is a military government here too, there seems to be more freedom than in the neighbouring states. All these kids are living on what they sell, and it is a disaster for them if their selling outlet is taken away. Moreover they had paid a fee to have a stand for the whole of February.
One afternoon we caught a local bus to Buzios, a very rich, well-built resort with luxury beautiful houses thoughtfully constructed and located. The streets were empty, and a strange atmosphere tingled in the wind. A small private beach served for a sandy bed. It was so quiet and empty we felt it was safe to leave our bags. There were many little bars and restaurants all with interesting tasteful decor and beautiful people leaning back in armchairs, smoking goldtip cigarettes. A lively church had a black-hell-and-firewater preacher preaching and a colourful big band drumming evangelical hymn. We went to sleep with the sound of the brine and the hum of the giant lesser-wanted greater-trouble mosquito, the toss and turn-hide-your-head-all night mosquito. I woke in the morning, nude as usual, to find some young playboys playing with a cine camera. And then we went back to Ugly Cabo and the Hippy Fair and Praia Ina.
Domingo 13 Febrero, Cabo Frio
N and I are near again. We all decide to go to Florianopolis for carnival. I have not written a letter for a month, or read a book or written anything worth reading.
Jueves 17 Febrero, Florianopolis
Rio was a little kinder to us the second time around. N's hotel too was fine. Although it was an uncomfortable room, it was so good to wash and love and sleep without sand and dirty bodies, and with skin smelling clean and fine. We found a shop where a lot of the artesania stuff is bought - wires, clips, beads, broaches, buttons. It is a shop super-full of superlittle things.
We bought lots of porcelain beads. N, like a child in a sweet shop, was enchanted with the colours and shapes, I too.
Monday passed, Tuesday and Wednesday were all travelling, trying to get to Florianopolis, where everything proved a little easier, and more tranquil. I seem to have nothing to say these days, it is Thursday. I dream, think, and wonder a lot about going back to England. I send letters to Lynn, Colin, Daisy, Grandma and my Argentinian friend.
Lunes 21 Febrero, Porto Alegre
All group discussions are now about going home. We are all short of money, and a little tired. Christian intends to rush back to Chile, to work at Ritoque before the semestre starts. N is content to be with me more now than before. But yesterday, I was a me I haven't been or seen for a while. I zipped off hitching around the island alone, people carried me like taxi rides, to tops of mountains, new aeroports, wild beaches, to taste new fruits. It was good to be on the road again, rushing from place to place - with N and Christian I am somebody different, I seem to have moulded more into their lifestyle than they into mine.
Certain thoughts preoccupy me: if Hamburg Sud tell me there is no boat, and the pay boat is full, I could be flying back to London in less than two weeks!
Domingo 27 Febrero, Buenas Aires
This little book has gone from bad to worse. I am hardly writing anything.
On arriving in B.A. there was a problem with my boat ticket and so I couldn't get the earlier boat and will have to wait three weeks. These are my choices: 1) Aeroplane to London - $753 - three days time 2) Boat to Barcelona - $500 - three weeks 3) Boat working to Hamburg - $0 - six weeks The initial temptation to fly was enormous, but then I thought it really would be too stupid to arrive so quickly. Something tells me I ought to achieve my arrival. It's a shame I'm so bored with myself that I cannot wait six weeks instead of three weeks and work my passage home. But is the decision so important. I don't think so. Bueno, I'm going to spent $500 in one big sum.
I've said nothing so far about carnival - carnival in Brasil. I remember in New Zealand planning to go to South America and be in Brasil for February 76. It began on Friday, the shops closed early, and the afternoon was very quiet, then slowly people arrived in the square, a band made a pass, and people started to follow it. Costumed people began to appear in the streets, and in the bars. There was nothing official on Friday night, just little bands of friends, or schools of samba, and unofficial parades. On Saturday morning a small band started jigging below the hotel and enraptured Christian who went to follow it. Later, he reported that he spent the whole day with the mad band moving slowly from bar to bar playing samba. N and I hitched around the south Island, visiting its beaches and fishing villages which were most accessible on dirt track roads only. Very friendly people. The carnival proper seemed to start on Saturday night. The five or six little bands from Friday were still around with their followers but they weren't allowed to join the official bands parading in the grandstand street. The latter start late, each school has a band of drums of different sizes and various clicking/clunking instruments; directors, with a whistle lead the band, working very hard, running around ordering the players. Sunday night was even madder: more people, more bands, more disguises, louder music, more drunkenness. It was also Christian's birthday, so we all got drunk. The next day Christian left us finally; N and I got a lift to Porto Alegre in a very slow lorry. It rained so hard in Porto Alegre and we were so tired neither of us could be bothered to find the carnival activities. For the last night of carnival, Tuesday, we were in Alegrete (after a long boring hitchhike). There were fabulous costumes, big bands, and lots of people It was difficult to find a hotel, and difficult to find a quiet place to sleep - the samba beat hard in every part of the town, the whole night long.
In retrospect I feel we should have stayed in one place for carnival, immersed ourselves more. It was so tiring travelling. So stupid I was! I am! will I be!
Tomorrow N leaves for Chile. I will not see her again. It will not be so difficult for me, I am not going. I will not be tired or agotado as I was before. Although I regret a little the excursion to Brazil, I can in no way regret the whole, the friendship of N and Christian.
I have decided to go by pay boat to Barcelona. Some strange force told me to go slowly; moreover money has become less important than three weeks of waiting. Or maybe I am paying for the certainty and having everything planned.
Paul K. Lyons
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