Brazil’s ’02 World Cup from a cafe in L.A.

I tried to kick the alarm clock with my feet, but I missed. It was 3:30 am. I had to go to Café Brasil. At that hour, the reason eluded me. I threw on some warm clothes and went outside. I stood in the middle of the street for a minute, not quite sure what I was doing.

To any stranger walking by, it might have looked like I just lit a cigarette and exhaled, but it was just the cold air showing itself. After two tries and a few curses, my car started. I put it in gear and headed straight down Barrington Avenue towards Culver City.

I drove up to the small café off Venice Blvd and oddly enough it was bustling with Brazilians. They were all crowded around small television sets on both sides of the café. I pulled my car around back and parked in the gravel parking lot while my feet followed the foreign sounds to their source.

On any given day, the small café would have about 10 people in it, but on that day, it was overflowing. Their accents were sweet like a sugar-filled cup of coffee. I couldn’t run my mouth off in Portuguese like they did, so I decided to just take baby steps.

It was still in the twilight hours and I was still a bit dazed from waking up so early. As I got closer, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I remembered why I was there. It was the last game of the World Cup.

I was a little late, but it was a forgivable offense considering I was an American who grew up outside of a soccer crazed culture. Brazil was in the lead, 1-0, just as I expected.

On the bottom of the small television, a caption read, “Germany against Brazil,” but there, from where I stood, it was “Brazil against Germany.”

That morning, I observed an energy that lost itself in translation. My mind failed in its attempts to comprehend the madness. I was the only foreigner among them so I tried my best to even the playing field by ordering a large coffee.

Maybe they noticed the Brazilian flip flops I was wearing (a common item in any Brazilian’s closet), or they heard me order my coffee in broken Portuguese. I don’t know which, but they accepted me.

Two hours went by and I saw the sky turn a shade lighter. The work day was about to start, but nobody seemed to notice. I turned back to the television screen and watched as the ball went back and forth between the two teams.

In the midst of all the commotion, someone yelled “pentacampeão,” which means five-time champion. “We just scored the winning goal.” The crowd, already loud, became ecstatic.

Everyone was going crazy, and while cheering seemed to be an American thing, singing and dancing, hooting and hollering, all to the beat of a drum, was purely Brazilian.

The police, who had been patrolling the area all night, noticed the increase in excitement and tried their best to control the crowd. The flow of people walking back and forth spilled over into the streets.

Every car horn in proximity was honking to the sound of victory. It had been a great morning, but when Brazilians are involved, you can bet it will get better.

I followed everyone a few blocks down, to Zabumba, another Brazilian eatery. Once there, my eyes quickly took notice of three delicious young women who seemed to have a knack for making the crowd go crazy.

When they climbed on top of a truck, the crowd gave their “blessing”, “Woo-wee, woo-wee, we want to see some p**sy.” With each beat, the drums seemed to entice the young women to reveal more and more of their cappuccino colored skin.

These girls loved the attention, and began to tease the crowd with a little shake of their hips. Just as they started to samba, three bouncers hired for the activities, were ordered by the police to pull the women down.

The drummers dispersed with the crowd, which wandered down the next block, in search of more excitement. I thought about joining them, but it was a school day and I had to get going.

As I made my way back to my car and away from all the commotion, I thought about what it would be like to live in another country. I wondered if the scene I was leaving was a slice of Brazilian life or just a glorified way to say `I miss you,’ to the country they left behind.

If I did decide to move, would I miss the US in the same way? Just then, a car drove by with people hanging out the window holding Brazilian flags and honking their horn like madmen, and I realized the answer was `no.’

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