29 April 2005

28 February 2005

Third week in Morocco, 22 February–1 March 2005

Tuesday, 22 February 2005 (Polly’s and George Washington’s birthdays), Marrakech: (PM) Polly’s birthday at her riade: Moha (#117) staff (runner Si Mohamed [Bidaoui], soccer player Si Muhammad [Hamada], Ibrahim, older man [Ârbi?] with only two teeth, Yacine), ÂbdoulFatah from Belhaj, boxer Ahmed and messy Hassane (Angel Sheridan) from Âli, Si Mohamed from M’barek (#114), ÂbdelGhani Waldy out of drag, Miss U etc. Delicious food, good conversation, too much alcohol. ÂbdoulFatah got rude, Hassane got messy, Ibrahim threw up. Most everyone left at once except for ÂbdoulFatah, ÂbdelGhani, Miss U and I (although Hassane briefly showed up again with quiet co-worker Ahmad). ÂbdoulFatah left insulted. ÂbdelGhani got very kaikai. Walking around Djemaâ al-Fna seeing drag queens. Dinner at the so-called Complexe Mabrouka with ÂbdelGhani. Sat at Belhaj with ÂbdoulFatah and parade of others (Hafid from Saïd, Hafida etc.).

Wednesday, 23 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I sat at Moha (#117) for quite awhile primarily because Si Mohamed the runner said Polly had told him I should wait there for her return, which wasn’t exactly accurate. I was seated right next to Habib, a young man smoking hachiche who was making silly faces into the camera while Si Mohamed (Bidaoui) was its operator. (PM) I found Polly at Cyber Mohamed Yassine. Beldi. Dinner at Charaybi (#25), joined by Saïd the newlywed. ÂbdousSamade at next restaurant flirted with Polly and showed us his sausage. The usual wanderings. Met Si Muhammad selling compact discs on Rue Bab Agnaou. Met Sameer Chinoy and gang at Moha (#117). (Left to right, I think they were Moroccan Ibrahim, Saudi-born Canadian Sameer, Moroccan-born Canadian ___, and Rafiq who I thought was Moroccan but Si Mohamed the athlete would later tell me is Pakistani, later joined by Ômar the light-eyed brother of one of the Moroccans, and cousin Reda. “Uncle Shel” and Habib, who now works at Moha, played music with wiglets, garter belt and Barbie necklace.

Thursday, 24 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Snacks at Café Toubkal with runner Si Mohamed (Bidaoui), Hassane and ÂbdoulLatif from Moha, Ibrahim and Si Mohamed from M’barek, and very briefly Bagheera. I ate a cardboard toilet tissue roll. No one we knew in Café Kebir.

(PM) Raining on and off all day. My camera spent its time in Guéliz in my bag. Met Polly at Royal Air Maroc office, Avenue Mohammed V, Guéliz. Shoe shopping at Atika where the security officer with the nice eyebrows also had nice shoes of course. Cybercafé on Avenue Mohammed Zerktouni. Polly and I walked from Guéliz to Daoudiate together. Stopped in Hôtel Redouane for directions when we didn’t need them. Caât Moghtate, met Cheikh ÂbdoulHac. All the boxers present changed their clothing, activated the two punching bags that were stationery when Polly and I used them and then went out to play basketball in the rain. Restraining myself from following the soccer or basketball players into the locker-room or showers with my video-camera was difficult.

Complexe Mabrouka. Saw slim, funny-looking Muhammad and gigolo Cherif eating together on Rue Bab Agnaou. Cyber Mohamed Yassine. Icky French girls at Moha (#117). Runner Si Mohamed (Bidaoui), soccer player Si Muhammad (Hamada) and ÂbdoulHadi (George Hamilton) sang my name repeatedly and loudly. When I decided to walk around, I saw it was raining again and ducked for cover in Café Toubkal.

Friday, 25 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) A fuse blew, and the lights went out in Café Toubkal, and the loud, smoking party next to me began to sing. I returned to the Djemaâ al-Fna foodstalls after 01:00 and stood sheltered from the rain at M’barek (#114) watching the always fascinating deconstruction of the réstaurants, this time made even more interesting by the added elements of the overhead tarps and the rainwater trapped in bulging pockets in them. The dark skinny worker there led a rousing song joined in by his coworkers loudly singing along and banging on various available surfaces. Looking a bit like javelin-throwers, the workers at Moha pulled horizontal metal tarp supports from their positions over the réstaurant’s ceiling. M’barek seemed to be the last foodstall remaining with any semblance of structural integrity when I finally went home and left them to their hot meal together huddled in a circle.

(PM) Net Dev. Caât Moghtate: Cheikh ÂbdoulHac again, met Reda and Âmine.

Ate at Chegrouni again in the rain. Walked around Djemaâ al-Fna a bit and saw boxer Ahmed (and messy Hassane [Angel Sheridan]) at Âli. Ahmed asked why I hadn’t been at Caât Moghtate when in fact I had. When I told him so, and showed him some video footage of my visit, he apologized for not having been there. What is it with Moroccans and appointments? He also seemed quite miffed with any co-worker who intimated Ahmed should perhaps do some work instead of socialize. Polly and I went to Cyber Internet Iris and saw Âbdellah and Si Muhammad. Polly bought some pastries to share with Moha (#117) staff because she felt like a Coca Light. Again ÂbdoulHadi started singing some song and put my name and some pertinent facts about me into it.

Saturday, 26 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Polly and I went over to Âïcha (#1) where ÂbdoulÂsise (Famma) works and spent time with him, co-worker Hassane, and friend Monaïm. Monaïm later joined us at ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida where there were two workers named Rachide and two named ÂbdourRahim. Our old friend Rachide from 2002 continued pestering us for whiskey when we’re certain he’s just a teenager. Polly lost the dieters’ tea and we went to Café Toubkal for drinks. We were joined by numerous foodstall workers, including runner Si Mohamed (Bidaoui), Yacine and Hassane from Moha (#117), boxer Ahmed from Âli, and ÂbdourRahim from Charaybi (#25). Later we went to Café Kebir and sat primarily with Monaïm reading the newspaper and watching sexy Mark Dacascos in a very loud movie dubbed into French. I think I left after 04:00. Monaïm and ÂbdoulÂsise (Famma) from Âïcha (#1) seemed to have every intention of visiting my apartment for Coca and Fanta, and they got almost all the way to the taxi queue with me and decided to postpone the affair one day, and I went home alone. (PM) I walked downtown and met Polly at Cyber Mohamed Yassine, although we also separated there. I took a walk up Rue Souk Semmarine and made sure to flirt with ÂbdoulLati, the turban man. I also noticed an unusually large police presence that made the veiled ladies selling upturned skullcaps scatter when the blasé officers came near. I went to Moha (#117) to meet Polly at 18:30, and we arrived there within a few minutes of each other. We sat there appreciating the workers there, including soccer player Si Muhammad (Hamada) and teen heartthrob Habib, as well as speculating what Yacine’s mother is like. Polly distributed some bottles of booze she’d just bought cheaply in Guéliz. Polly mused the large police presence might be because some VIP, perhaps even the king, is visiting, but in truth, we knew of no such visit. We then walked on and around Rue Souk Semmarine, seeing Âli at the Cheese Man’s shop with his interesting buttons and lack of concern whether we purchase anything or not. We visited Moulaï’s shop when he wasn’t there, and his staff said he was away praying. When we passed again, he hugged me with glee and drunkenness. We then took a stroll down Rue des Banques through Canaria, down Rue Riad ez Zitoun el Jdid past the Bahia Palace, then up Avenue Houmman el Fetouaki back to Rue Bab Agnaou into Cyber Mohamed Yassine again. We continued our walking around and greeting people. Rachide at ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida pretended not to want to talk to us because Polly had refused his many requests for booze. Polly decided to go home fairly early, or at least before midnight. I continued my wanderings including going to Âïcha (#1) to chat with ÂbdoulÂsise and Hassane and their co-workers.

Sunday, 27 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Eventually, I went to Toubkal to sit and have drinks as various food-stall workers drifted in and out and chatted with me. ÂbdoulFatah from Belhaj came for an extended visit. Monaïm came in briefly but not for our appointment, and he said he would return but did not. At around 02:00, I paid for the drink I’d been nursing and found ÂbdoulÂsise just finishing up work. He was with ÂbdourRahim, the food-stall worker who imitates the parrot, and said he’d be replacing Monaïm who was supposedly tired. … (PM) Miss U returned to Marrakech from Fès. Walked downtown. Rue Bab Agnaou extremely crowded. Dinner at Âïcha (#1) with ÂbdousSalam as our forgetful waiter, ÂbdoulÂsise (Famma), Hassane etc. Bought bubble wrap at Place Bab Ftouh. Went down Rue Mouacine to find desired store closed. Snacks and drinks at Bougainvillea Café. Rain began. Refuge in Café Toubkal.

Monday, 28 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Sat in Café Toubkal a long time with Miss U. Visited by numerous: Si Mohamed (Bidaoui) from Moha dressed head-to-toe in blue, hat included, but drinking neon green beverage. Hassane from Moha escaped the rain with a plastic bag on his head. We ate meals, French fries included. We admired Toubkal worker Si Muhammad’s ample posterior. (PM) Miss U and I walked to and around Guéliz, stopping in Star Food, Rue Yougoslavie, for their chicken cheeseburgers. We went to a bookstore and found a coffee table book in French entitled Djemaâ al-Fna, possibly spelled differently, with pictures of Yacine and Ibrahim from Moha. She and I parted company so I could visit Ahmed from Âli at Caât Moghtate in Daoudiate. It started raining on my way there, but finally seeing Ahmed there was a great relief. I got some good footage of Ahmed and others in action, and I really, really wanted to follow the young men into the changing room at the end of it all. Couldn’t reach Polly by telephone. Djemaâ al-Fna. Met Si Mohamed from Moha at Café Toubkal. Drinks and snacks at N’zaha. Met Ômar who makes hot drinks. Sat with Hafida and ÂbdoulFatah (and briefly ÂbdourRahim [Freddie Mercury]) on tiny seats. ÂbdousSamade.

21 February 2005

Second week in Morocco, 15–21 February 2005

Tuesday, 15 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Polly Grip briefly visited apartment. Depressing time at Diamant Noir. Eating sandwiches/panini at Chez Pierre (also in Hôtel le Marrakech). (PM) Cyber Mega connection down.

Dar Si Saïd and Maîson Tiskwin closed on Mondays. Shook soft hands of man at Mr. Fouad’s store on Rue Souk Smarine. Âli ben Youssef Médersa. Briefly stepped into Museum of Marrakech. Greeted sexy turban man. Bought hat for Âsise. Saw slim Mohammed at his store, Boutique Ouledi Hassan, 85 Souk Jdid. Unsuccessfully attempted to call Polly. Encountered tall Youssef while walking to Bert’s. Bert opened door as I was reaching for the doorbell. Substantial houseboy Âbdoulla served us all the courses at once, including bringing out ice cream while the hot fish tagine was still in front of us. Discussion of New York and real estate etc. Moved to rooftop. Cyber Internet Iris.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Cyber Internet Iris. I decided to socialize around Djemaâ al-Fna, but most of the foodstalls were closing down. I gave Âsise the hat that resembled my Turkish hats I’d bought for him in the souk, and he referred to himself as my number one friend in Morocco. Seeing Âsise’s wearing the hat I gave him, everybody asked me for some sort of gift. While Miss U is away in Essaouira, I agreed to Âsise’s request to visit me in Daoudiate the following night with some other workers at his restaurant, plus Hafid and Bagheera who work at a different one.

I came home to blaring rock’n’roll music from the living room while Miss U was in the tub. She really should have been asleep because she needed to meet Jawad very early to be taken to Essaouira, but I wasn’t surprised to find her awake. (PM) I slept as long as I wanted and awoke alone in the apartment. I went to Cyber Mega across the street, then took a stroll around Daoudiate and actually found a cybercafé where they claim they stay open until 02:00. I got to see the nearby mosque close up at prayer time.

Then I went downtown and right to the Belhaj foodstall at Djemaâ al-Fna to eat there as I had thought Bagheera and Hafid had requested, and of course, neither one was there because they actually had moved to a different restaurant since 2002. I did spend a lot of time talking with ÂbdoulFatah (from Beni Mellal), and he seemed to want to spend time together with me the following night at a café or my apartment or wherever. We didn’t have a common language but somehow spent a lot of time communicating with one another. He thought one of his co-workers mean and referred to him as “Hitler.” I also saw Âziz (ex-M’barek 2002) there, who seems not to be working now, as well as “Moubrida” who is now working at another restaurant. Then I went to Cyber Internet Iris and saw sad-eyed Si Mohamed, as well as the Si Muhammad who works there. While paying Si Muhammad ten dirham for my more-than-an-hour there, I saw Âbdellah there and got into a conversation with him. I’d met him there before, and his English is pretty good. He’s a balding but cute, ample man with a white American wife in Wisconsin who converted to Islam. He told me of a twenty-four hour cybercafé in Daoudiate! He has a car and said he’d even drive me there one day or home from there should I bump into him.

Thursday, 17 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I left Cyber Internet Iris and returned to Djemaâ al-Fna and to Charaybi (#25) where they plied me with mint tea. Neither ÂbdourRahim nor one of the other workers invited to my apartment were there, and I had seen neither Hafid nor Bagheera all day, so I guessed Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad would be the only one’s to visit me. Âsise’s good friend ÂbdoulCarim was there, so I thought he might join us also. I went to Café Toubkal to buy sweets (soda pop and cakes) for my guests and returned to Charaybi (#25). While I was sitting there, Polly walked by, and I gathered up my stuff to join her at M’barek (#114) for a small meal of (oohh!) calamari while sad-eyed Si Mohamed listened to Polly’s compact disc of musical theater recordings and other nonsense while singing songs he already knew, like his “one two three four five six seven deedle-eedle-eedle” song. He was in a great mood, dancing and pretending his ladle was a saxophone. All the foodstalls were closing down and being pulled apart, but Âsise’s was staying open later. I spoke to Âsise, and he said they’d be ready closer to two o’clock rather than the midnight or one o’clock they’d originally estimated. As they were disassembling the restaurant, one of the middle-aged workers was chatting with me and Polly, but seeming to be a little intoxicated and saying little more than reciting prayers that began with “Allahu akbar” with a big smile on his face. They rolled the restaurant to wherever it’s kept in the early morning, and Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad disappeared for a little while. Polly and I occupied our time talking to young Rachid from ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida, who was asking us for a gift of whiskey, and then ÂbdoulCarim and chunky Si Muhammad near N’zaha, the former of whom was comparing himself to the Koutoubia. Eventually, Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad reappeared, boarded the same motor scooter and assured me they had my address and would meet me at my building or the nearby Pharmacie Assif. In the meantime, Polly, chunky Si Muhammad, and ÂbdoulCarim lost interest in joining us, so I rode a taxi home to meet my precisely two houseguests.

I stood near the Pharmacie Assif waiting for them for quite a while. Expecting to be home momentarily, I put my video camera in my bag and therefore wasn’t able to record any of the presumably drunken man to show up and chitchat with workers in the market next to Cyber Mega in an animated manner that included repeatedly bowing and saying “Allahu akbar,” becoming the second presumably drunken man in a short period of time to include that conspicuously religious phrase in his ştik. He was actually young and sexy with a nice nose and wore sweatpants that hugged his buttocks in a manner that showed of how nice they were, so I was disappointed I couldn’t record any of him. After waiting far too long on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi, I finally dragged my four bottles of soda pop home and saw it was after three o’clock. Had Âsise and Si Muhammad gotten lost? (PM) I decided to try to find the twenty-four - hour cybercafé, and although the directions I’d been given were flawed, I did indeed find it. It is Net Dev Développement & Communication in the Cité Mohammadia. I hope it’s better in the middle of the night, but when I visited there were lots of giggling and shouting teens and pre-teens there, probably fresh out of school, making it the loudest cybercafé in which I’ve ever been. Upon leaving it, I took a shorter route back to Âllal al-Fassi and encountered nothing short of an amusement park with at least six different rides, including a carousel, bumper cars and Ferris wheel. Of all things, the name of the park is “Disco Round,” bringing to mind “I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round),” the very song that had been put into my mind hearing Akshash’s (ÂbdourRizac’s) name.

I rode a taxi down to Djemaâ al-Fna, and Polly and I found ourselves coincidentally walking right next to one another. We decided to eat at Moha (#117) for a change. We then went to Cyber Mohamed Yassine on Rue Bab Agnaou. While there, Polly alerted me to the fact that corkscrew Youssef and his friend were sitting a few terminals away. I greeted them and returned to my business. When I thought to say something to them a little later on, they were gone, having left as undetected as they’d come. I returned to Moha to find a large, loud armwrestling contest going on between some white tourist and a series of locals, and the tourist always won. Polly was there, and we walked around a bit, noticing that Belhaj wasn’t present, and I speculated how I’d meet ÂbdoulFatah there at 23:00 as I thought I was supposed to do. I visited Charaybi (#25), and Âsise and Si Muhammad each seemed to blame the other for not showing up at my block that morning, although truth be told, neither one can communicate effectively in English. Since Âsise seemed to brush off the whole incident and has been known to be exceedingly wishy-washy about appointments, whereas Si Muhammad seemed annoyed with Âsise, I tend to think Âsise is to blame. Never again will I inconvenience myself for an appointment with Âsise. We walked up and down Rue Bab Agnaou where I bought a bunch of compact discs, mostly video-CDs, in the liquidation sale. Polly wanted to annoy me by bringing me past the Cheese Man’s store (wherein we saw Âli), but it turned out to quite fortuitous because we ran right into the flirtatious souk worker with the turban. He said his name is something like “ÂbdoulLadi,” something specifically not “ÂbdoulLatif.” When we yet again made our way back to Moha to partake in mint tea, there was much merrymaking including Hafida’s singing “La bamba” among other songs.

Friday, 18 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) ÂbdoulFatah from Belhaj showed up at Moha, and eventually I sat alone with him at Hicham and realized I was supposed to meet him at Toubkal, not at Belhaj, and I apologized profusely. We left to sit together for our little date at Toubkal, stopping at Moha on the way to say hello to formerly-little Ahmed who looks like a man now and is a muscular boxer. ÂbdoulFatah and I sat together trying to communicate over hot drinks as an old lady at a nearby table pulled numerous items from her bag, including a plastic toy airplane, until she found the orange she wanted to eat. Polly, taller quieter Si Mohamed from Moha, Bagheera and sad-eyed Si Mohamed from M’barek joined us a little while later, but eventually we all got up and left.

ÂbdoulFatah and I got into the same taxi and rode up to my Daoudiate apartment to continue our date with some Coca Light, Fanta, satellite télévision and cuddling. When escorting him downstairs to the front door of the building, we stopped to chat on the stairwell, and of course the lights went out. In the scramble to press a button for illumination, he accidentally rang someone’s doorbell. We rushed the remainder of the way downstairs. After he left, I returned to Net Dev thinking I might see Âbdellah whom I normally see at Cyber Internet Iris, but instead I saw a loud, giggling teenager. (PM, Shabbat, Âchoura) I walked all the way downtown, and I even lengthened my walk by detouring westward on Avenue Yacoub el Mansour (which eventually turns into Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni) so I could visit Guéliz and walk downtown on Avenue Mohammed V.

I was rather early for my appointment with Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine on Rue Bab Agnaou, and I found myself falling briefly but repeatedly asleep at the terminal and decided I should leave for some fresh air. I had the first half of my dinner at ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida for a change to hear teenage Rachid bug me about getting him whiskey. Afterward, I found Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine, but she was busy and we decided to meet later at M’barek. I wandered around a bit and eventually made my way to M’barek, although Polly would take longer at the cybercafé then she had anticipated, and I sat there nursing a glass of mint tea and talking to Tyler, a Canadian who is spending time in Morocco after a trip “roughing it” all over Europe. It was nice to meet another native English speaker. When Polly finally arrived, she preferred to eat next door at Hassane with their arrangement of steer heads and worker who is Polly’s neighbor on Derb Snane. We ordered méchoui and tangia and shared them, the second half of my dinner being all red meat. We continued wandering, stopping for awhile to sit at Belhaj to be with ÂbdoulFatah and read his miserable Arabic - English phrasebook with outlandishly unidiomatic English. We went to Cyber Internet Iris and of course saw Si Muhammad. Polly left me there to go home.

Saturday, 19 February 2005 (Âchoura), Marrakech: (AM, Shabbat) I returned to Moha and sat with them quite a while drinking mint tea and chatting and sharing the fruit and nuts I’d bought earlier with Polly. There was much merriment there and at neighboring M’barek presumably due to the holiday. Yassine and little Si Muhammad from Moha started a fire in a wooden box, and taller Si Mohamed from Moha led a procession of people from M’barek over to the fire. At first, a few people leapt over it, but most seemed content to sing, clap, dance and play drums or a horn while gathering around it. It lasted longer than I’d thought it would, and every time (but the last) I thought it would end, it instead continued. I went home around 01:30, and there were still a few foodstalls open at Djemaâ al-Fna, and I wondered what I’d miss. However, it was too cold and I had nothing to do while waiting for whatever might or might not happen next other than continue sitting in the cold at Moha drinking their free mint tea. (PM) Meeting Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine worked like a charm. We ate at M’barek because Polly specifically wanted sardines, and they gave us the VIP table in the middle of the rectangle of counter-style seating, away from beggars. Miss Understood, freshly back in Marrakech from her trip to Essaouira, found us there and sat with us. Ibrahim (Ben Affleck) seemed more pleased to see her than we were. Eventually, a rather tipsy Saïd found and sat with us; he’s a Moroccan I met on the street in 2001 and who gave me a great tour of Jewish and other sites in 2002, documented on the videocassette that was in my videocamera that was stolen that year. He soon left us. A small skirmish broke out between two people at a nearby foodstall, but it was broken up by the workers. We walked around and around and saw some of the performers including the notorious chicken man. We sat for a while at Âli where little Ahmad the boxer works when he isn’t boxing. We sat and had drinks at Saïd to see Bagheera in his turban and hear Hafid’s oddly operatic voice, something we hadn’t noticed before because he had been so quiet when he worked at Belhaj. We stopped and had some miserable cinnamon drink at Chrife (#4). We visited Âli at the Cheese Man’s shop, and he gave us quite the animated spil and good time, even opening a few buttons of his trousers for us, although it didn’t convince us to buy anything. Âchoura revelry continued in the form of singing and drumming primarily at M’barek when we were sitting at Moha. While there, one of the Djemaâ al-Fna drag performers stopped by out of drag to chat with us.

Sunday, 20 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I visited ÂbdoulFatah at Belhaj, but he was busy helping to close down and disassemble the foodstall; Belhaj seems to close early compared to the other restaurants at Djemaâ al-Fna. We stayed at Chez Mohamed awhile too, and the worker who vaguely resembled Freddie Mercury flirted with us, offered us massages and imitated what sounded like a parrot who lives with an English woman. Eventually, the cold temperature and desire to use a bathroom sent me on a homeward path. Despite staying up fairly late, Miss U and I both awakened early so Mr. Bachir could come around 09:00 and clean our apartment rather poorly. (PM) I slept while Miss U went out to see some sites, but we met at the Place de la Liberté in the Ville Nouvelle, walked a bit around Guéliz, visited a cybercafé and went to La Strada restaurant (although the menus referred to it as “La Starda”). The place was virtually devoid of customers, and we waited about an hour for our paella, but it was very good. Miss U passed the time watching cartoons and music videos on télévision and erasing precious, one-of-kind photographs from her camera’s disc. We were so full, we could only think about dessert as opposed to actually ordering it. We then took a lovely walk downtown through Guéliz, saw the new fountain near the post office, and walked to the médina to visit that cybercafé opposite the Koutoubia. Miss Understood actually went home from there, but I went out to Djemaâ al-Fna, although honestly there wasn’t much to do, especially since Polly herself had since gone home.

Monday, 21 February 2005 (Presidents’ Day), Marrakech: (AM) There were a group of young men outside our building on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi standing right in front of Dépôt Lait singing and playing various musical instruments. Not long afterward, they started marching down the street in the manner of a parade. (PM) Miss U and I got up and out relatively early. I got an egg and avocado sandwich at Dépôt Lait across the street, but I ate it at Tortilla Âsise with Miss U. Maîson Tiskiwin always closed. Bahia Palace. Badi Palace. Walk to Agdal Gardens turned into walk to housing development. Mellah, pretty piles at Herboristerie Malih, Hay esSalame. Tarik Taloudi at Herboriste l’Artisanat, Hay Salam Rue du Commerce. Through caleche park, drinks at N’zaha (and saw corkscrew Youssef). Met Polly at Moha, but ate at Chergouni where I saw 2002 Djemaâ al-Fna foodstall (possibly Hicham) worker with large ears. Locals seeing picture of Polly in drag. Drunk raspberry man.

14 February 2005

First week in Morocco, 8–14 February 2005

Tuesday, 8 February 2005 (Fat Tuesday), Casablanca, Marrakech: Miss Understood and I first touched ground in Morocco in Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca and ate at Café Café there during our long layover. We knew we had plenty of time and stayed lounging too long. We had to run to our gate to catch the flight to Ménara International Airport in Marrakech, and although we were late, we still made it on the plane. There was a flight attendant beaten down with make-up; it changed her complexion so thoroughly she had a severe line on her neck where the color changed abruptly from light to dark. When we finally arrived in Marrakech, we discovered the larger of Miss U’s bags had not made it with us.

A taxi driver charged us too much money to take us to our apartment complex in Daoudiate. There was no one there to meet us, so we dragged all our luggage to a téléboutique and then to a cybercafé trying to contact the people involved with our rental. Miss U had left the middlewoman’s and the local contact’s telephone number at home in America, so all we could do was send them (and Polly Grip) e-mail messages and hope they’d respond promptly. We dragged our luggage down Boulevard Âllal el-Fassi to Hôtel Redouane, booked a room and fell fast asleep due to our jetlag.

When we awoke, we went to another cybercafé, read their replies and discovered the owner had given the middlewoman the wrong building designation (building J instead of F). We were given the correct address and made an appointment to be picked up at the hôtel the next day. We were late for a unilateral appointment Polly suggested in an e-mail message, but luckily bumped immediately into Polly and Glamamore in front of the post office upon our arrival at Djemaâ al-Fna in the médina.

Since my last visit in 2002, all of Djemaâ al-Fna and two streets leading to it (Moulaï Ismaîl and Foucauld Streets) were essentially closed to traffic, the asphalt replaced with stone tiles! Tour buses no longer roll past Djemaâ al-Fna, taxis no longer clog the street going past the Hôtel CTM and N’zaha. The four of us walked without dodging traffic to N’zaha and had lunch, delighted to see Zoubair works there again. I received greetings galore walking amongst the foodstalls, barely being able to take a few steps without someone from my three prior visits recognizing me. Miss U bought figs and almonds on the square, and we walked to Polly’s and Glamamore’s riade on Derb Snane (“Teeth Alley”) next to Pasha Glaoui’s palace. They showed us around the place, and there we chatted until rather late eating Miss U’s fruit and nuts. Derb Snane winds a bit, so they walked us back out to Djemaâ al-Fna. Miss U and I returned to Hôtel Redouane.

Wednesday, 9 February 2005, Marrakech: While Miss Understood and I sat eating our complimentary breakfast at the hôtel, the lady who would bring us back to Résidence Narjis showed up to meet us. We rode a taxi there, and met Mr. Bachir who is what would be called the building’s bawab in Egypt. The apartment is lovely, but no amount of beauty can make up for the location so far from the médina. We briefly visited Petit Prix on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi. We shopped for food and other household items at the nearby Aswak asSalam hypermarket where Miss U promptly accidentally rammed the shopping cart into a wall and a space heater tumbled to the floor from its perch. Then we went down to the médina and eventually met Polly and Glamamore after unsuccessfully looking for them at Snack Sahara on Rue Bab Agnaou. After having repeatedly heard about them but never seeing them in person, I finally saw and tipped and taped the Djemaâ al-Fna drag performers. We saw the flirtatious man in a turban in the souk, then had drinks at l’Étoile on Rue Bab Agnaou where we bumped into Polly’s and Glamamore’s gay French next-door neighbor Pierre and had a poor man approach our outdoor table and attempt to pour some of my bottled water into my empty Coca Light can and walk away with it but was shooed away by l’Étoile workers and my calling him a thief. The turban man even walked past us. We ate dinner at Moha (#117) with Yacine repeatedly hugging me and pronouncing my name properly. We walked around Djemaâ al-Fna and saw the sexy orange juice man. Back at the foodstalls I spent time at Maslouhi with my old friend corkscrew Youssef while he taught his co-worker ÂbdoulFatah some English while other co-worker Muhammad (stressed on the last syllable in the Berber manner) looked on. I was invited to mint tea by Si Muhammed from Charaybi (#25) but was touched by his middle-aged co-worker rather than Muhammad himself. While the others lounged at Moha, I saw the lovely new bathrooms at N’zaha, then rejoined them and sat a long time by Moha, temporarily running away to Maslouhi again to hear Youssef’s wild story and bump into Mr. Kebir. Youssef had been on a road trip outside Marrakech with friends when he realized he had left something behind in a cybercafé in another town. He got in the car alone and sped back in the direction of the café. Somehow, so he claimed, an old man abruptly appeared before him, and he swerved to avoid hitting him. Instead he smashed a huge hole in a retaining wall in a small Berber village where no one spoke Arabic. (He knew no one spoke Arabic because the whole village came out to see.) His head hit the windshield, and he lost consciousness for at least a little while. Now I think he’s finished paying for the medical bills, and is very slowly working on the payments for the car he destoyed. I brought Mr. Kebir over to Moha to see Polly. Later, Hafida painted my right hand with henna, which meant I hot great difficulty using my video camera and couldn’t put my hand in my pocket when it started turning blue from coldness.

Thursday, 10 February 2005 (Hijri New Year), Marrakech: (AM) The four New Yorkers ambled over to Café Kebir, originally named after Mr. Kebir, with Hafida for drinks. There was a crazy man sitting near Alex who was snorting and talking to himself. Miss U and I managed to pay for a taxi ride back to Daoudiate and get the keys to our apartment building from our pockets without completely destroying Hafida’s handywork. Our apartment with its tiled floors is very cold, and we were freezing at night despite our butane-fueled space heater. (PM) I ran out to Café Kebir to meet Polly while Miss U went to the airport to try to get her luggage. Polly walked me to her home, and I met her houseboy Muhammad. Eventually the French gays from next door arrived (Pierre [Vanilla Ice], Luc [Roddy McDowall], Lorique [Jack Gilford/Mel Tormé], Alain [Desi Arnaz Jr./Rosemary Clooney]), as well as Muhammad from the Moha restaurant at Djemaâ al-Fna. Houseboy Muhammad served us the most amazing food on the roof, course after course. Miss U telephoned in a panic because her telephone card would soon expire, but she spent most of her time complaining Polly was yelling at her rather than expediantly exchanging information. When told to go to Bab al-Oucsour, she replied “I don’t know how to spell that!” The Frenchies really abused houseboy Muhammad, being familiar with him from having stayed in Polly’s riade in the past. Luc was grabbing Muhammad’s crotch, and then a bunch of them were pushing themselves up against him all at once like a big erotic dance. After everyone else had left, Polly, Miss U and I went to La Maîson du Kaftan Marocain on Rue Mouassine, and Miss U tried on clothes in her “fixin’s,” i.e. in drag from the neck down to ensure the dress she was buying would fit properly. She was really a sight, her fake breasts and rear end as well as her tremendous shoes made her head look disproportionately tiny. One staff member was loudly having fun with the ludicrous situation, yelling compliments at her, but yet still responding to one of her requests by saying "Yes, sir." We went to the French gays’ place for drinks. Their place is decorated much more sparsely and with a heavy handed modern or avant-garde touch. Pierre, Luc, Lorique and Alain were there plus boyfriends Tony [Ming the Merciless] and Moroccan Hicham who live together here in Morocco. We had a very loud time, especially since the last thing a normally boisterous person like Pierre needed was to get drunk. He would frequently burst out into song whenever he was reminded of one (not unlike myself actually) even when he didn’t know the words, which were usually replaced with “na na na....” When he left the room to change his clothes, he returned before he’d finished, wearing nothing but a towel, and proceeded to dance for us. Later he turned over a chair and started drumming on it with his hands. Hicham has the most adorable high voice. The Frenchies kept trying to kiss us four New Yorkers much to our horror, but we still managed to make humorous conversation, like coming up with the concept of Polly Holliday and Billie Holiday teaming up as a singing duo; their big hit single as the Hol(l)iday Sisters would supposedly be “Kiss my strange fruit.” We saw Si Muhammad at Cyber Internet Iris when we checked our e-mail.

Friday, 11 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I ate shwimps at Moha at Djemaâ al-Fna without Yacine, and Si Mohamed from M’barek (#114) said someone had given him money to help pay for some medication he needed. Would he ask me next? (PM) This was our first day without Glamamore. I ate an oversized fried egg sandwich lunch at Tortilla Âsise in Daoudiate with Miss U and purchased a telephone card on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi. We walked downtown intending to visit the Dar Si Saïd Museum, but as its closing time drew near, we instead toured the surrounding neighborhood seeing the Place des Ferblantiers, and the little shopping area in the mellah. Miss U noted locals seemed to know we’re Jews (referring to it as “spooking our t”) and attributed it to people’s recognizing me from prior visits. However, in the spice shop where Miss U bought saffron and other stuff, they asked if we wanted to see the local synagogue but also presumed we’d never been to Morocco before, so it seemed we simply looked Jewish, the connection being helped by the fact we were in the mellah. We visited a quaint tailor shop on Rue Riad Zitoun el-Qedim and visited Boutique Ahmed. We sat having drinks at N’zaha and saw Youssef with the corkscrew curls in next-door Café Toubkal, and he later briefly visited and sat with us. We walked to Polly’s riade but barely stayed a moment because we needed to rush to al-Fassia réstaurant on Avenue Mohammed V for our reservation. We entered the telephone kiosk on Place de la Liberté. Cyber Internet Iris; went home around midnight.

Saturday, 12 February 2005 (Abraham Lincoln’s birthday), Marrakech: (AM) I bought sweets at Dépôt Lait on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi. Miss U was sensitive about my saying she eats often. Sleep. Neither cybercafé on or near Avenue Âllal al-Fassi was open at 09:something. I ate a hard-boiled egg sandwich breakfast on Âllal al-Fassi. Miss U and I walked to the Majorelle Garden, the street in front of which was also tiled over and closed to automobiles. “Pretty little fountain” sung to the tune of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” We continued walking downtown and went to the cybercafé opposite the Koutoubia. We met Polly at Café Kebir. Polly and I temporarily left Miss U eating at N’zaha and looked around the shallow souk. We saw Rachide (who used to work with ÂbdoulÂli) in his new store and returned to N’zaha and then wandered the deeper souk. We saw Moustafa in his usual shop on Rue Souk Semmarine and Moulaï at his usual carpet store. Miss U bought a tagine for her sister Esther from Hicham, and also bought shirts. The tagine was carried around and around with a shirt inside. Juice at Djemaâ al-Fna. Left tagine at Moha. Cyber Mohamed Yassine on Rue Bab Agnaou. Formally met Akshash/ÂbdourRizac. Walked up to Guéliz. Saw crazy queen Moustapha at Café les Négociants at Avenue Mohammed V and Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni. Visited crowded Atika with screaming children. Ate at la Sirène. Saw Mr. Fouad at Star Food and saw drunk Mr. Hassane at the same intersection. Saw Bagheera for the first time this visit. Âsise and ÂbdourRahim asked for whiskey at Charaybi (#25). Walked in small circles around Djemaâ al-Fna. Saw drag queens removing veils (five o’clock shadow). Polly turned in(to gryphon).

Sunday, 13 February 2005, Marrakech, Igri el Khemas, Setti Fatma, other municipalities in the Ourika Valley: crêpe breakfast at N’zaha, bee fell into Miss U’s coffee. Ourika Valley with Jawad. Muhammad in Berber house in Igri el Khemas. Setti Fatma with Muhammad. Lantern shop where merchant gave price so low he had to vomit in adjoining room. Taxi ride from Derb Snane to the Marjane. Cutting in line. Djemaâ al-Fna around 22:00. Day we saw Âli in Cheese Man’s store? Corkscrew Youssef does not appear to be working. Getting up from one restaurant to sit and drink in another. Si Mohamed from M’barek wore turban and sang us song to the tune of “Hôtel California.” “We love Bagheera.” “Mina from the médina” to the tune of “Copa Cabaña.” Chunky Muhammad at Charaybi (#25) who studied English.

Monday, 14 February 2005 (Valentine’s Day), Marrakech: Alex left dry cleaners without paying to fetch new, dirty clothes. Breakfast at Tortilla Asise again. Bumped into Bert and Youssef. Shopped at little mall on Rue Bani Marine. Passed Youssef ben Tachfine’s tomb en route to Bert’s riade. He spoke French to us despite hating the language. Youssef kissed my cheek and wanted twenty dirham. He also showed us his penis upstairs. Bert is a Macintosh enthusiast. “Paris is best without the French.” Houseboy Âbdoulla is adorable. La Maîson du Kaftan Marocain with changing, topless male tourist. Tour of souk. Nourdine Fouay in his new shop. Lovely fountain opposite lovely Le Diaffa restaurant (1 Rue Jbel al Akhdar). Dar Si Aïssa. Souk sebbaghine/Souk de teinturiers. Sexy young masseur by herboriste. Souk de tailleurs de pierre. Cute ÂbdoulLatif’s shoe shop. Souk âttarine cuivre. Wandered through little streets. Souk feld. Probably near Marrakech Museum, definitely near tanneries. Hôpital Cheikh Daoud el Antaki, Collège ÂbdoulMoumene. Wide open area with coubba and sport center. Taxi to crowded Djemaâ al Fna area. Walk through calèche park. Bougainvillea Café. Cute “fondouc” (market) at Place Bab Ftouh. Ibrahim’s (Ben Affleck’s) flirting with Miss Understood. Miss U bought lanterns, the adhesive tape used to wrap them cut with a Fatima hand. Corkscrew Youssef horsed around with ÂbdoulFatah. Lounged at Moha again drinking whiskey and Fanta with Yacine. Shoes shined.