A Night in the Empório
Yesterday was the debut of a friend’s band. I was invited — as in, show up there but pay for everything yourself, of course — to witness the event in a small but famous place called Empório — this cozy bar that’s existed in Ipanema for decades, a “spot” for all kinds of people.
I got there by cab, a bit early (11 pm), and luckily I knew the street number, since there is no indication the place is called Empório except from a small writing in the glass that seems like it was done with someone’s finger wiping off dust. I went in and leaned on the bar, looking around to see if my friend had arrived yet. This pretty brunette said “good evening”.
My first reaction was to be a bit surprised — are things this straightforward in Ipanema? “Good evening”, I replied with a smile. “I’m waiting for the show to start.” “Oh”, she said. “Let me see if the show room’s open yet.”
Ah. She worked there. Apparently there was no uniform — all the waitresses were wearing whatever they wanted, as long as it was tight, I guess. They were all pretty, as well. She returned and informed me that no, it wasn’t open yet. “Thank you”, I said, and found myself a table to sit at.
Having nothing else to do, I observed the people. I noticed a lot of them were American\English tourists. As the minutes passed, the place started to get more crowded and this waiter approached me.
This was The Coolest Guy In The Bar. He was this balding middle-aged guy with a pony-tail and an awesome silver beard. I guessed – correctly, as I’d later find out – he was an old-timer, probably had been working in the bar since it was created. He asked me if I was using the table — I noticed a group of people with nowhere to sit at, so I gave the table to them.
Now, small places like the Empório offer a challenge to those who stand around — where can you stay put without being in someone’s way? I decided to head for the bar and bought a Pepsi. However, the bar was quickly filling with people and even squeezed into a corner as I was, I was still obstructing. A group of girls was struggling to order drinks.
“Here, lemme get out of your way” I said, moving away from the bar.
“Oh, a gentleman!” she said — well, she MEANT to say that, but she said “cavaleiro” instead of “cavalheiro”. The latter means “gentleman”, the former means “horseman”. But well, okay. I chuckled to her and found another place that hopefully wouldn’t obstruct anyone.
I managed to drink my Pepsi in peace for… about thirty seconds, until my perypheral vision caught a woman standing about five inches from me, facing me for some reason. I pretended she wasn’t there — then she grabbed my arm. I looked at her — I think she was trying to look at me, but there was so much alcohol in her blood her eyes were focused about a foot to my left.
“Oh” she said. “I thought you was drinkin’ wine, but it’s a soda.”
It was a bubbly Pepsi in a plastic cup with ice on it, just so you have an idea how hammered she was. I smiled, hoping this was as far as conversation would go. Luckily, it was — probably because I moved about an inch and she was too drunk to assimilate my new position, so she gave up and went back to wherever she was before spawning in front of my face.
Another minute of peace and quiet and then the “horseman” girl approached me. “Here, cavaleiro, can you take a picture of us?”, she meant her and her friends. “Sure”, I said. I took the picture. “Here, let me take one with you”, she said to me. I was surprised, but okay, I guess. I must’ve become famous overnight and didn’t know it.
I resumed my drink and more of her friends arrived. She asked me to take another picture. I took it and said, “wait, lemme take another one — this one came out too dark.”
They were all black, by the way.
Luckily, they all laughed, knowing I didn’t mean anything by it. I took another picture and resumed my drink. No sign of my friend yet, the bugger.
A guy tried to move to the exit and I was on his way — I moved and he said, “no, no, you can stay there”. He was absurdly drunk — I’d later see he was with the “wine” girl, unsurprisingly.
I said, “Oh, just getting out of your way.” He looked at me for about five seconds while his brain worked out my extremely complicated sentence — then laughed, nodding, and went on his way.
Later, he and the girl would be reminded they still needed to pay the tab, since they were merrily leaving the bar without doing so.
And people ask me why I don’t drink.
I went back to observing the crowd, and I noticed a trio that was walking outside of the bar — a punk trio. Now see, this guys were trying HARD to be punk. They wanted everyone to know, “we are fucking PUNK and you can suck it”. Two men and a woman, one of the men was clearly the woman’s boyfriend — this was obvious because she was pulling him around by the spiked collar on his neck with a chain attached. The other guy, the lonely one, had a mohawk so huge it could take someone’s eye out if he turned his head too quick, and his coat had so many spikes it could be considered a weapon.
Finally, I saw my friend standing outside. We greeted each other, he introduced me to a friend of his, who turned out to be a very nice guy. We talked a lot and finally it was time for the show. I paid ten reais and gave my name, and up I went to the show room.
It was this miserably small space you couldn’t have a birthday party in. As soon as I opened the soundproof door I was attacked by wave after wave of incredibly loud music and I could literally feel every organ in my body vibrate as the drummer punished his instrument. The rock was so loud and hard it took me two minutes to figure out the lyrics were in Portuguese — and that was all I figured out, since I couldn’t make out a word.
The music wasn’t bad, but it was so incredibly loud in such a small space that, if sound was a penis, it would be raping me in the ear. Every organ in my body was vibrating so bad I was worried my heart would start pumping to the beat. And seemingly I was the only person in the crowd of — mmm, twenty, all that fit into that room — to be bothered by it. Am I too sensitive? Or were the people in that room already so used to it they could hear half as well as I could?
After the first band had finished their efforts to bring down the fucking ceiling, my friend’s band stepped in. I was pleased by their work — just as loud as the previous band, but they had more charisma. I loved their cover of “Born to be Wild”. My friend, who was the singer, had a performance kind of like Mick Jagger, only my friend can dance properly instead of having a seizure onstage. I actually cringe watching Mick Jagger perform.
Fun night, all in all.