Thursday, 20 September 2012

Friends who shared the same dream... 1972-1973

Celebrating Christmas 1971 (Melanie's 'Brand new key' was # 1 at Billboard) - from left to right: Damazio, who had just arrived in 'America' a few weeks back; Neilson, a resident who had migrated with his family from Pará and was a friend of Pardal's (Wilson); and Eduardo, Pardal's cousin, who had arrived a few days before Damazio. They shared an apartment at the Prudential Apartments aka 'Sing-Sing'.

It is really funny how guys become patriotic once they are living far from their birth places. Suddenly, they start waving-the-flag as if nothing else mattered... when a few months earlier they wouldn't give a damn about any national symbol. Maybe that would be explained by the US nationals themselves who are always waving their flag... 

I met a lot of young Brazilian men when I went to live in the USA in October 1971. One might ask why one should meet people from their own countries when they move to a different environment? Well, that's easy to answer. First and foremost is the language barrier. When one moves to a new country where an utterly different tongue is spoken one is forced to stick with his own kind until he can master enough knowledge of the new language to understand basic commands like ordering food or filling out employment applications. Some immigrants actually never leave the 'cocoon' entirely which I hope was not my case. 

In the very beginning it was next to impossible to understand what people talked on the streets or shops. I could not understand what was spoken on the radio or TV. I dreaded talking on the telephone for I could not rely on facial expressions or gestures to get the meaning through. When I went to the movies at the 42nd Street theatres I found it hard to follow the stories missing whole dialogues or the entire plot. 

I realized I would have to live and inter-act with the Brazilian community in Newark's Ironbound. I met a lot of guys from the northern state of Pará. Much later I realized people from Pará were the first Brazilians to migrate to the US back in the 40s and 50s due mainly to Belém being much closer to North America than Rio, S.Paulo and Belo Horizonte for instance. Besides, up to the mid-60s all Brazilian flights to the US would have to stop-over in Belem to reload. I guess Paraenses worked in bigger numbers for international airlines and had easier access to getting into the US.

NEWARK, N.J. 1972

Most of the Brazilian diaspora were from Minas Gerais. I would say about 70% of young Brazilian males were Mineiros (those born in the state of Minas Gerais). Paulistas (people hailing from São Paulo) would make up roughly 10% of the desperados plus 10% of Paraenses. Guys from the northeast states, a few Gauchos (from the South) and one or two Cariocas (from Rio de Janeiro) would make up the rest.

Among Paulistas which were a select group I found it odd to meet a lot of young-men from Guarulhos (an industrial city in Sao Paulo's metropolitan area) and from Franco da Rocha, a much smaller city in the metropolitan area with no industry. I have never solved these two mysteries. Why so many young men from Guarulhos and Franco da Rocha?  

I met Damazio Nazare when I switched from working in the night shift to that in the morning in the record factory on Francis Street. The morning shift was so much better. People smiled and had a life. People who worked in the night shift were gloomy and silent.

Damazio's job was to allocate hot vynil paste to the many hot metal benches next to the machine operators who would then cut it into small pieces and press them into 45 rpm discs. Damazio was always cheerful, usually singing a song or two. I remember he would hum 'No matter what' a Badfinger hit from 1970. Damazio had a good taste in music and liked Black music which was at its peak in the 1971-1972-1973 period. We were lucky to have lived in the USA exactly when things were really happening.

What really made me aware of Damazio, apart from his good disposition and excellent musical taste was his good grammar as well. Damazio was the first Brazilian guy I'd met who knew more than 'Good morning''God damned!' or 'Fuck you!' We hit it off almost immediately and decided to take an English course at the New York University in the Washington Square campus in Greenwhich Village on Saturdays.

Unfortunately, my private life was coming apart at the seams and I found it very difficult to concentrate on grammar points so I dropped out after a few weeks. Damazio went on by himself. I ended up leaving the record factory, became unemployed until I spent my last dime on a plane ticket  to California where I tried to 'start all over again'. Well, this is looking like 'the story of my life' already.

When I came back from San Francisco in late May 1972, Damazio lent me a hand to start all over again (for the third time) and we went on as friends for the rest of the time I lived in Newark. 

Damazio Nazare walking down Lexington Street in the Ironbound, singing do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do! The apartment-building block on the left is the infamous Prudential Apartments aka Sing-Sing by the populace. 
Damazio at Central Park, NYC.
Damazio cooking as Wilson (Pardal) watches... 1972 in Newark, N.J. - Damazio says they were ready to go out to a party at the Jersey-Brazilian Club on Ferry Street. The photographer must have been Edson who also shared the apartment.
Damazio under the arch in Washington Square on a very cold Saturday morning - 5th February 1972, Look at the Empire State building on the left-hand side of 5th Avenue & 34th Street.
Luiz Amorim on the same day - Saturday, 5th February 1972, same place: Washington Square.
Luiz AlbertoGuto Damazio on a trip to Rhode Island in the summer of 1972.
Guto on a very cold morning in December 1972.
Summer of 1973 on 46th Street in New York City; from left to right: Roberto, a Kutschers bus-boy from G.V.; Wilson and Damazio.
Damazio at Kutscher's Ice Arena in the winter 1973-1974 - Monticello-NY.

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