ALWAYS WEAR YOUR GOOD UNDERWEAR,
IN CASE YOU MEET YOUR MAKER
has anyone ever gotten the drop on you? i don´t mean your little brother hiding behind a door to scare you, i mean "the drop." one minute you´re walking down the street, and then next moment there's a gun pressed against your head and someone is demanding all your money. well, i can say it´s happened to me. because it did, last night. there were slight differences. . . mainly that he wasn´t just interested in my money, and he only spoke portuguese. after a lot of yelling and confusion, all while staring at the .45 in my face, it turned out he wanted my camera, and myself. i was then escorted down the middle of the street with a gun at my back, we passed a bar on the street with maybe ten people standing around. they all glanced at us and nonchalantly went back to what they were doing. we reached some stairs that led to a dark rooftop, where seven other guys were waiting. one was holding a machine gun that i remember seeing mounted on top of the american humvees in iraq. they sat me down on a stump in the middle of the roof, forcing me not to look at anyone. all while there was a lot of gun-pointing and yelling in portuguese in my face. eventually they calmed down enough to go through my bag and my pockets, and then force me to remove and give them the film from my camera. after a while i was able to explain (in a mish-mash of spanish and portuguese) that i was a photo student from america. they explained to me that i had wandered into a favela, and cameras were not welcome here (to say the least). at this point they stopped pointing a gun at me for the first time. . . after i had asked, "morro? si o no?" they asked a lot of questions about where i was staying, to which i gave them false information (in case this got any bigger than it already was). lovefoxxx was asleep in the room, and i didn´t want this to somehow come back to her in any way. i think the presence of the walkie-talkies is what made me nervous about this possibility, in case they had someone who could go to the hotel while they were holding me. it´s probably fortunate that the hotel makes you leave your key at the front desk before you can go out. they had frisked me several times, inspected my shoes, my watch, my pockets, and my tattoo. the tattoo may have been a big help i am told. cops, even undercovers, never have tattoos in brazil. so it made the chances of me being a cop doing surveillance a lot slimmer, which i think was the real issue. they were´t fucking with me for fun, they were afraid i was someone that represented a threat to them and their business. when everything finally checked out (tattoo, barely any portuguese, nothing incriminating in my bag or on my person, staying at a hotel just a couple blocks away), they realized i wasn´t a threat and were more annoyed with me than anything else. they made me get up, and after frisking me a few more times and checking the tattoo, they sent me down the stairs. the one guy i had been struggling to explain everything to, with my limited spanish/portuguese, escorted me down flights of stairs and through alleys. all the time saying that:
a) i was crazy
b) i almost got killed
c) don´t go in to favelas
we were joined by another guy from the roof, who i couldn´t understand at all. but the throat-slit and shot-in-the-head gestures helped. they stopped right at the top of the last set of stairs and told me (if i understood correctly) that if i wanted marijuana, to come back. but if i have a camera, don´t come back. and with that they sent me down the stairs alone, watching from the top. just before the bottom, i passed an older man going up. he looked at me, looked at the camera in my hand, and started laughing in disbelief. i think he was saying something along the lines of you have to be crazy to go in there with a camera. i just smiled weakly, nodded and kept going. once i reached the street i was less that 100 feet from a crowded bar full of men and women in suits. and to my left was a parked police car, with it´s lights on.
oh and they gave me everything back. from my credit card and passport, to my digital camera and chewing gum. they even slipped my lens cap in my pocket. the only thing they kept was the roll of film that was in my camera.
you may now call me the luckiest son-of-a-bitch ever. it´s official.
• White Hassle - Life Is Still Sweet
buy music, especially independent.
You've been warned. Before you go anywhere, buy some clean underwear.