Sunday, December 14, 2008


When I spent my first night at the Hotel Muneria I didn’t know that it was where William Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch and I didn’t know anything else about Tangier either. I didn’t know that I would leave the city shaped in the mold of the image I would have read if I had read anything about Tangier before I got there. Idealizing the nostalgia and inescapable feeling of being a history-making subject, longing for the empty corner at an old man’s café where I would be inspired and interested in every detail of the action and non-action taking place, creating space for itself in an abandoned corner of the city where we could all be left alone.

I could also achieve this in the streets, in the way Manhattan is now imposing it on me, but back then it seemed like a talent -like I was performing something unnatural. But it was practically the only thing that could have happened to me there, and it was typical. Now I feel like I can draw the constellation by connecting the little holes that the silverfish burrow in the old blue comforter that I keep draped over my head to trap in the heat. It’s not exactly that vision is 20/20 in hindsight, but the pictures are developed. Which is why I opt for polaroids.

The Muneria is situated on a hill, you can see the Mediterranean and a slightly drooping palm tree dividing the view into a neat set of thirds. With all that blue everywhere, going to Marrakesh feels like wearing pink tinted sunglasses. I wore those glasses once for real while driving through the Middle Atlas. I looked just like Um Kultoum. It made everything look more orange and fertile. I need to remember to be her for Halloween some year.

I chose the Muneria over Ibn Battuta because it was twenty-dirhams cheaper per night. I was coming from the Hotel Mhrsa across the city beach, which uses ancient room keys that made me half expect that Room 8 would actually lead me to Narnia. In fact it led me to a huge square room with no visable insects, three king sized beds pushed together, and two single beds at the foot of the larger beds. I imagined it could comfortably house a large Somalian family, and later learned it was probably housing African refugees, as Tangier is in many ways a large blue house of people trying to get to Spain. But Hotel Mhrsa has mint green walls and deep brown wooden doors and no hot shower but the walls won me over. Situated across from a vacant, steep hill of grass which I believe has been converted into a parking lot, the vision of two twin girls at the end of the long hallway telling me to come play with them was enough to send me to the Muneria, a comforting name, the feminine version of my brother’s name.

It may have actually been December 13th, 2006 that I spent my first night in that icy room. Maybe I was aware of this, maybe that’s why I started writing about it last night. I can not always tell what is historical, part of the story in general, how it unfolded and refolded and how I even framed it folded. With certain creases in certain places, to keep track of bad decisions- always a practical move. And it was, on the whole, a practical move. Good things came of it. Blue, historically situated things.

The person I’m referring to when I talk about that night at the Hotel is also situated in something. It would after all be narcissistic to only talk about myself.

I can still say that I did not know what was going to happen to me in Tangier. It could have happened some other way and I could have done something different from what everyone does in Tangier. I could have read it in a book and not even had to make the move. Or written the book without experiencing it instead of experiencing it and not bothering to write the book. Writing it in the second person could be equally as historical and trapped in a certain way of describing and hanging on my wall with the rest of the polaroids I collected from each situation where I needed to see what the picture would look like, so I could picture myself in it.

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