Saturday, May 24, 2008

Days: Numbered

Two stray cats are copulating on the sidewalk of Rue de la Liberte, I laughed out of embarrassment and they both looked at me for a minute then kept at it. No one watched them or tried to move them, only moved around them.

The death of the discman has brought me to a strange place, post IPOD death and IPOD II disappearance, this most recent blow has relegated me to punishment of silence, and the discovery that I understand 70% of conversations going on around me. Luckily,
the best way to learn Arabic is to listen to old people. Half the conversation is comprised of noises and they often repeat themselves, or repeat what the other person said, to confirm they heard right.

Eating a cold pancake out of a plastic bag, watching the fountain and the gardener of the traffic circle: the old man to my left is desperately trying to suck something out of his teeth, or maybe that is how he tastes food. The blind man arrives a few minutes later with someone resembling him, maybe only because they both have white hair. They cozy up between a man sleeping peacefully in his booth, and a heartwarmingly plump Spanish woman with a coffee and a cigarette and her head resting on the hand with the cigarette, like she is sitting at her kitchen table waiting for the mail.

I’m back to my daily routine now that my days are officially numbered, cakes for breakfast, H&M&M&M for lunch (even though Mohamed keeps telling me I got fat and inflating his cheeks to demonstrate), and the continued mission to try every fish in the market. Except the ones that are sold only half-dead, squirming around in the bag as you carry them home to their impending fate / doom, then erode their spirits into the walls of the qasbah.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Feels Like Patanka

Through the window at Café de Paris I get to see everyone on their way to work, scarves and belts and pot bellies still in place where they were strategically placed earlier that morning.
Most of us are still waking up, sneaking in yawns, and others are already knee deep in dealings by 8am.
Café Paris celebrates shady passport exchange, what seem like divorce proceedings, and -God help me- small children and their obnoxious noise pollution, as of late.

I have begun to mentally prepare for my departure, designing small handmade invitations for my Mughal-e-Azam going away bash. I will invite all of them, and only Absalom will come.

I’m not usually up this early. Tight times are forcing me to “take-jobs” that have nothing to do with me or mine including menial photography assignments- the latest having to do with the Tangier Renaissance- forces me to think about what that could actually mean.

Will these upscale elitist spaces eventually overtake the low-life gems that continue to differentiate Tangier from Marrakech despite the waterfront, despite the geraniums?
Are the Dar Noors and Serenity Spas of the city really the next wave of urban development for sleepy Tangier?

Sometimes the whole city is like one big yawn. The noise is transparently placed in efforts to wake us up. I can see through it and conveniently, also sleep through it.

From the café window I get to see all of my Souk Barra friends out of uniform and a lot of times I don’t recognize them, only that I know that I know them.

The waiters at Café de Paris wouldn’t let me take pictures this morning- some mumbling about the patron and pleading eyes convinced me to drop the subject and sheepishly tuck my camera back into its hiding place.

A man with a box tied to his neck with a bird sitting on it is in the window, I want to ask what he is selling but I’m losing my vocabulary and can’t pronounce verbs ending in ein. I usually say something like, what’s that you've got there? or Can I buy that from you?

I have become all around very strategic. Being a strategic person involves trusting yourself. Your ability to affect people. General faith in cause and effect.

In general, I don’t trust the words that end with an open mouth. F’gaa, qaraa, shifa’e.

I have two months to get through the 3 kilo textbook that has been making eyes at me from across the room all year. You know you want me come get me, he says. But I resist each time. When will this flirtation evolve into something real? Why can’t you commit? Was it something I did, something I said?

While pleading with my Arabic I lost track of the conversation in real-time. Apparently I had stained my banana-coat in some mysterious place between my waist and collarbone and right shoulder. I thanked the man for pointing it out and chased it like a dog for a minute before deciding it was a strand of my hair that he mistook for a streak of dirt.
I received a free treat from the Qawee on my way out, also like a dog.

What to do when no on takes you seriously? Opt out of the banana coat, perhaps? But Faddal makes brush strokes in the air each time he sees me in it, calls it my artist coat.

I know it’s not the coat-
it seems I’ve all around made myself too familiar.
Too available.

Is that the name of the game? I plead once more with my Arabic, it takes him a few seconds to mentally translate, then he slithers away as if to say, you’ll never learn.
In dialect. In idiom.
Something about my being fit for a pocket.
At least I understood the part about the pocket.

Friday, May 9, 2008


After finally exploring the gloomy remnants of cafes and low-budget sea-side resorts at Robinson Plage (empty pools, etc) I was especially eager to make the trek to Hoceima. A long time coming, I admittedly let myself build it up in anticipation, the long imagined home of Mohamed and Mohamed (and Mohamed and Mohamed).

The six hour approach managed to include a stack of misadventures including the creepily determined, possibly high, car-chasing hash-dealers they warn you about in guidebooks. They put on an impressive performance, luckily shy of running us off the road. The eventual disappearance of each obstacle was only an introduction to a new one on the one lane mountain road to Hoceima. At points we ventured off-course only to be met by potholes and gloom. The first glimpse of the Rif cuddling up to the sea coaxed some gasps, mostly on my part, a pretty constant gasper on the whole. But as we approached the city in our tiny white fiat, still pure and genuinely curious, there came an overwhelming sinking feeling, felt by all parties.
We spent two hours in Al Hoceima, inspecting the gloomy premises, before we decided to flee- or more appropriately- to escape-
no Talla Youssef, a taste of Cala Iris, a taste of the public beach.

Upon my return Uthman interrogated me on what I’d seen and why didn’t I tell him. Come with me next week, he pleaded. I casually blocked his hand from touching my knee and explained that I would never return to Hoceima.