I’m not going to attempt to provide a summary of twelve years at Cafe Brazil, 256 K’Rd., Newton, Auckland, and I hate the fact that I find myself incapable of making a full account, with particulars. Neither a brief eulogy nor a fat history will do. What is worth recording in the life of a cafe? The purely fortuitous, which was in every hour, and the simply habitual, which placed it all in parentheses. This is the trouble. To do Brazil put life on the outside of it. And a certain amount of life got lived beyond the indoors bracket of the barrel vault that hung over our heads for those twelve years.

What would be doing it justice? The life inside? Over the timespan, which is not vast, the changes seem geological. They are at least generational. When we closed, 30 September, 2007, our youngest employee was nineteen and therefore seven when we opened, in September, 1995. I consider it now, in the middle of saying goodbye to a twenty-three-year-old tobacco habit, and finding it difficult to set one word after another, and I can’t see a way of making sense of it … exactly to its merit. It was to the last absurd. Like anything really worthwhile.

I can tell you what I thought we were doing when we did this or that, when we opened the doors for the first time. No. I can tell you everything but that. We opened the doors, that is, we lifted the roller-door, and a world came in. We were almost looking in the opposite direction when it happened. The cafe filled and stayed full for a dozen years. That the world which entered identified itself with Brazil or ended up identifying itself with Brazil, yes, we were aware of and culpable for to the extent that we noticed but refused to reduce Brazil to whatever journey, whatever trip, they were on or we were on; culpable, because, speaking from here, beyond the limit, over the fucking edge, we looked elsewhere than Brazil for getting satisfaction. Did I miss it? Some of it, definitely. Do I miss it? I miss having missed some of it.

I think I should qualify the statement that we were aware of the communitarian aspect to Brazil: about halfway through our tenure, the business went soft-focus, not that the profit motive had really ruled beforehand, but the service aspect, service in the old black-and-white-tv sense – like I heard an early BBC World Service statement today, saying, Don’t expect too much. The stories aren’t going to be good or even interesting – the service we were became a despite-ourselves. We didn’t set up to make or serve a scene; we didn’t in the end make or serve a scene: we did better than that, we were the future.

I think I should qualify the statement that we were the future. Something or nothing could be made of our name. Terry Gilliam’s vision advanced into the past. I remember how pasty-faced brit 1984 looked beside it, although I’d loved John Hurt since I, Claudius. Brazil was an issue. Many delightful people were appalled; many despicable people delighted, as Robert David MacDonald wrote in an altogether different but contiguous culture, and at our beginning as at our end.

I think I should requalify the statement that we were the future by saying that it was not us. Although, as I said to my daughter, in an aside, and immediately exploded into snot and tears, we can now own it. Brazil was for twelve years elsewhere and us. That it was elsewhere I’ve heard repeated many times. It was not Auckland it was for the freaks. The others. The kids. The … what? I really hope it was because I’d like to see whoever it was who thinks it was for them take the city, take the world.

And here it is, the silly thing. Brazil was not it. It was never intended as it. It was supposed to be a way to get to or get at it. The it it was is important and needs to be honoured. It will be important. And for those who knew it, be inspired. Get out there you fuckers and make a difference.