Today I flew to Africa. I imagined something more wild than NYC with pushy people offering rides. There were only a couple of men outside with signs at one of the most beautiful airports I have ever seen.
The ride to the Medina was quiet. I asked my driver if helmets were mandatory for the motorcyclist, the query stemming from the sight of disheveled hat positions—almost like they were mocking the law. As if the driver spun a helmet in the air and let it lay were it might.
We sat in the van waiting for my assist to come take me to the riad. I felt very Foxtrot Tango—but I was embarrassed. Tourists stick out like neon signs. I sat in the van watching a group of kids picking up a dead rat with a piece of paper and move it around from place to place like a garden gnome, and stepping back examining the best spot. I mentioned they placed it outside the drivers door, thinking he might step on it if he left the car, but unphased, he explained what came to my understanding is that it’s spring break for the kids. Gone wild—the little boy handling the burrito rat cleaned his hands by spitting in them and rubbing them together.
Marina showed up and rode her bicycle next to me as I walked to her riad. She speaks no English and me, no French.
I forget the need to be direct. Being indecisive and polite makes no sense anywhere but in the southern part of the United States.
“Would you like me to walk you to some shops and restaurants in the Medina?”
“Sure, if it isn’t too much trouble”
“Sure if you have the time and nothing else to do.”
Thank god she did. She stopped and made me look around at turns. Directed me in a way I remembered. She dropped me off at a lunch spot where I sat with half of my body out of the shade and burning in the Moroccan sun. Halfway through my lunch a large butch Arabic lady sat across from me, cargo shorts, backwards baseball cap, a friend of the worker at the restaurant. She told me how to eat with bread and use only my right hand. Told me about her hammam and offered me a cigarette. She seemed disappointed when I asked to pay for my meal, so I could relieve the left side of my body from the sun. Heartbreak in the Medina.
I weaved my way back to the riad insecurely remembering Marina’s instructions and advice. I was getting close and one advice was to avoid talking to a group of kids if they ask if I need help. I passed them playing soccer, “ma’am, ma’am, where are you going?” I answer, “no merci” and keep going towards the direction I think is correct. Two of them run up to me and say I am going in the wrong direction, and that gives me pause to stop and think. Just as I remember I am correct these two boys have taken my lead as if they are now guiding me. These two little dudes stand in front of my door blocking it so that I cannot use my key or enter at all. They are asking me for a present for showing me the way. I tell them to move, that they did not show me the way. It goes back and forth for a bit and I get weirded-out for this possible future tax to enter my home so I give a stern, “Get. Out. Of. My. Way.” Their eyes widen, they step aside, but they are no older than 10. It was the first and last time I was bullied on the trip, but I continued to notice the fearlessness of the young boy that inhabits all young boys universally. Note to self.
This trip is going to be an experience like non-other.
Visually it’s one of the most stimulating places with oddities and all types of strange happenings, scenarios, people, and circumstances. It’s stimulating from the mix of old world and time travel, and for it’s textures, layers, colors and monotones. I am uncomfortable with picture taking – people aren’t tourist attractions – but I wish I could capture some of these weirdo moments and layers of life that are all around.
Two days later, I got up very early before daylight to catch the first train to Fez. As I was leaving the riad, I heard what sounded like a fat old man snoring outside our front door. I opened it slowly as not to startle the sleeper, but no one was there. Only a very small cat, which from the sound of it has been on a two-pack a day regiment for 52 years. Damn dude.
I walked in the street lights to catch a taxi and somewhere between last night and this morning I decided I could live in Morocco for a time or make regular trips here. It's intriguing, the handcraft is spectacular, the colors, the food, yet all the gross parts feel familiar and comfortable, I've lived in filthy neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But this place is infinitely more peaceful and rich with beauty.