Dec 17, 2005

It happens like this...

It happens like this. She goes out at 5 a.m., with the regularity of the swiss train master, with game face, with her tail in high spiral, in scorpion attack configuration. Two hours pass. Something at the door. You open and she blows in with the cold. She's got a lamb's leg, with the fur, the hoof, the bone sticking out. It must be a little like coming across the remains of suicide bombers. The leg has a hideous smell. It's the bone sticking out, broken off — the rest of it could be stolen off the wall of a men's club. Get the fuck outta here, I say, and take it with you, but she's already gone. Her gang is outside, circling like bikers. I tell 'em she's nuts.

And then an hour later I hear the story about the therapist at the college. She's a hippy chick past 40 working with victims of panic attack. Two dead husbands, Iranian brothers mind you. She's here from Iowa with three kids. There's a fourth in Thailand. One here is 14, big as the Indian in the Coocoo's Nest. She used to play middle school football back in Sioux City, played tackle both ways and you look at her and you know she could. Maybe 5'10; 200; an immovable object and wears game face every day. She's also a cutter.

You could see that coming. She's always by herself. Wouldn't play volleyball although the girls all begged her. Sits, head down, on the hallway. The other day at Volubilis the teacher wanted to take a picture of the class. She didn't want to be in the picture. I told her, "you know it's not all about you." I shouldn't have said it and I apologized later. But somebody should tell her.

Someone asked her mother about it and her mother says, "It isn't so bad really, you should see her sister in Thailand. She's the real cutter."

Dec 13, 2005

Post Script to an execution

I got an email from my dear friend David Weir who, incidentally just wrote a wonderful piece for Salon.com about what's left of Biloxi...
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/12/13/biloxi/index.html. He asked if I thought Barbara Becnel really did love Tookie. I wrote back:

Yes, I think she did love him. But how and why? It's a long story. I think he represented to her something pure, pure hatred, pure ghetto, pure black. She was none of those things. She was pale with white girl's hair, she was beige inside, she was soft and and academic and caught up in white middle class dramas and ambitions, and she began feeling a little odd about sitting pretty in her liberal lazy-boy, and so she looked around. How could I be different? How could I be pure something? And so suddenly he was there and he was pure bold and a physical presence to behold. So she took it, and she wrote the books not him, and she arranged the Nobel Prize, he had no idea what was going on, and she did the film and she arranged all the publicity and it was all B. And no doubt it was her idea to get married, although she raised holy hell when I told her I was writing that they were. She had Vernell C. call me right up and say, 'no, that ain't true. You musta miunderstood. Or maybe I got it wrong.' He did get it wrong. I was told by 3 others, at least one of whom was very reliable that they hitched up in the visitor's room. Eyewitness. It was common knowledge. But Barbara had something on Vernell and that's why he changed his story. Anyway, she got a lot out of her time with Tookie. One thing she got out of it was the sacred permission to be angry. (You'll forgive my hobby horse) She could be self righteous big time. And she did and she was. Angry as hell and no one could take that away from her. And so here were these two in pure anger and pure black and a folie a deux perhaps. I don't think she ever thought he was really innocent, although she said he was. But she knew better although at the same time she could accept a frame, she could begin to see the world his way, after all that time together. Perhaps, she really did believe he was innocent.... In the end, she needed his cause and he needed her humanity and each gave the other what the needed. But it wasn't enough. He didn't get enough humanity, not enough to crack his pride and save himself. She couldn't give him that because she didn't have quite enough herself, she had too much of her own pride... And from his side, he couldn't give her a child, I suppose, if that's what she wanted, something permanent, or maybe he was fine for her just where he was, that old truth of row wives, 'well at least you know where he is every night'... Anyway, they couldn't quite deliver for each and so now she's stuck with a legacy that will eventually be forgotten and he's free out there somewhere.....

Dec 12, 2005

Moment

I couldn't sleep. For whatever reason. And I wanted to mark this for, whatever reason. I know the man? I know his wife? I know her; I don't know him. But now there's less than 10 minutes to his execution. I interviewed TW several years ago. It was BB, his wife, I was interested in and she drew me through her webs. I wondered about this moment then...

She once told me, before the piece ran, 'if afterward I seem like someone you've never met, don't mind.' And sure enough when I saw her in the months and years later, in the visitor's area for death row, she went on a rant, saying how I'd betrayed her and Tookie. I never understood it. It was a shield she needed to show so I could tell her story, because she always needed to have that story told.

I never thought he was innocent as he claimed. I never heard from him any sign of redemption. None of the people I spoke with on Death Row ever heard that. But of course, his weakness should not become cause. His failings are no excuse.

Inside 6 minutes....

I read a few minutes ago on the Gate a quote from him, taken recently, in answer to a question about the people who have come to fight on his behalf and was he afraid: “Me fearing what I’m facing, what possible good is it going to do for me? How is that going to benefit me? If it’s my time to be executed, what’s all the ranting and raving going to do?”

Inside 3 minutes....

But isn't this all about pride? Tookie''s pride and the governor's pride. American pride. No one willing to come down and be human. Not over the war, global warming, prisoners, you name it.... But Tookie is missing such a moment, if he were to come clean, assuming he did the crimes, and perhaps that's a bigger assumption than we would like to think, but...

Now inside two minutes....

but if he were to say finally, 'yes, I'm so sorry I did these things. And whether you kill me or not, nothing can make better the horror I've created...' Or whatever he could muster. Then he could have put the system in jeapordy, then the whole thing would start to shudder and shake....

Now, inside a minute....

When I spoke to him I could hardly hear and he was not friendly, he didn't want to go with my questions, he had what he wanted to say and that was it.... But now with a few seconds remaining, where is Barbara Becnel in all this....

And now it's done.... and the world is racing on its orbit, the first light here is showing, the assurance of another day is intact, and the man has got his freedom, the war goes on, Biloxi is still in ruin, and we are still stuck with our intellect and our pride and our awful and awesome ability to forget......

Dec 7, 2005

The Black-Eyed Angels of Paradise

I wrote this for the remains of the drama club. There are just two actors left. We did it for the talent show, a wild, rucous affair. All through it people booing or cheering. We won first place for a drama performance. There was only one other performance, that a play about a divorced teacher.

(a play in one scene)

Two black-eyed angels dancing in Paradise. With themselves, more than each other. One dances more vigorously than the other, lost in trance. The other seems reserved, but also on edge. She has a worried expression. From time to time she stops and looks around, then starts again, but reluctantly.

Reserved angel: (Suddenly, she stops dancing) Wait.
Wild angel : What’s wrong?
R: It’s coming....
W:: What.
R:: (she pulls her arm down as though on the trigger on a bomb vest. They both stop dancing, wait, and grasp each other... Suddenly a thunderous explosion)
W: That was a big one.
R: It’s always a big one.....
W: Yes, but that was really big.
R: There’s going to be another....
W: There will always be another. (she starts dancing again)
R: No, but you know what I mean. When they wait for people to run out into the street or if the first bomb was just to clear an obstacle. (just then another thunderous explosion with a long echo. The angels hold each other until the echo has gone....)
W: What do you think it was?
R: I don’t care.
W: I just hope it's not another marketplace.
R: I don't want to know.
W: I do. (she kneels down and looks through a hole in the floor of paradise) Oh my God.
R: Don’t tell me.
W: It’s a hospital.
R: Keep it to yourself. (she begins dancing again, holding her ears, dancing languorously,)
W: In Mahmudiya. South of Baghdad.
R: How can anyone be left to kill in that place?
W: Children. Poor babies. Look at them all. ‘Yes, it’s alright. You’ll see. It’s alright. I know it’s scary, but you’re coming home.’
R: How many?
W: Dozens.
R: My heart breaks every time (she stops dancing, sobs, in a heart wrenching way.)
W: I know. But it’s God’s plan. You know that.
R: How many times can a heart break?
W: The number of times you can be a virgin....
R: I don't want to be a virgin anymore.
W: Don't think of it... Think of the bomber.
R: I don’t want to think of the bomber.
W: He’ll be here in a few minutes.
R: Welcome to paradise.
R: Poor baby.
R: Who is it now?
W: (looking out at the audience) A boy.
R: It’s always a boy.
W: No, remember there was that the Iraqi mother and the Palestinian girls and the black widows from Chechya, and almost that other one: Sajida, what-was-her-name?
R: al-Rishawi...
W: The wedding party in the hotel.
R: She had an ugly mouth.
W: And what do we suppose she was promised?
R: Husbands with full heads of hair.
W: Last minute marriage on earth, that’s all she got.
R: Do you think she did it?
W: consummated? No. Not even a little.
R: She was so ugly. No wonder.
W: (dancing again) Everything is beautiful in paradise.
R: But anyway why would you want to make love to someone you hardly know the night before they're going to blow themselves up?
W: The heart always finds a way.... And if not heart, then loins
R: Who is this one?
W: Hicham.
R: lots of Hichams lately.
W: This one is from Syria.
R: (shaking her head) Well, Hicham from Syria, get ready for the shock of your life. (turning away) I hate it.
W: Hate what?
R: I hate it.
W: When they know they’ve been tricked.... When they realize they will never be with the black-eyed....
R: When they realize where they’ll go instead.... I can’t think about it any more.
W: What do you expect? This Hicham, he wasn’t trying to bomb unbelievers; he walked into a hospital. He wanted to kill his own people. And why? Because of some elections, which I’ve never understood what all that’s about... It’s madness.
R: He’s the first victim.
W: Who? This Hicham?
R: Yes, he’s....
W: You ARE a virgin. Snap out of it.
R: What do they know, these kids.
W: There are rules.
R: Everybody knows that.
W: Anybody can read a book. What good is that?
R: Somebody tricked him. Some heartless jinn.
W: And that one will get what’s coming to him. As for this HIcham, I pity him but I don’t feel sorry. He had a choice.
R: Yes, but being imprisoned for all eternity?
(sounds of distant explosions)
W: Keep dancing. Aren’t you interested in pleasure?
R: I don’t remember.
W: C'mon.
R:C’mon what.
W: That’s our promise, that’s our hope.
R: I don’t remember.
W: Well you’re not supposed to, that’s the whole point.
R: What does it feel like?
W: Plaaaaaaaasure.... The kind you want more, more, more. Because at the end of it is oooooooooooooooooo....... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... 000000000000... Yessssssssssssssssssssss.......
R: What’s getting into you these days?
W: If I want pleasure I’ll get it. It is written. i don't need license.
R: you’ve been abducted by Satan.
W: I don’t see him... Where is he? ‘Come and talk to me, Satan. Let’s sit down’.... You’re so uptight. P L E A S U R E... Remember you’re not on earth. You don’t have to live like that. You don’t have to worry that it’ll never happen or your parents will find out or if you do you’ll be forever untouchable.... You’re free, girl.
R: I don’t remember.
W; And you Don’t have to sew it up afterwards.
R: That’s true.
W: P L E A S U R E.
R: When was the last time I had any real pleasure?
W: You want real pleasure; I want unreal pleasure.
R: I want honest pleasure.
W: What is that?
R: The kind you get with a real man.
W: Oh God. Now's it's a 'real' man you want. What is a 'real' man?
R: A real man.
W: A hero. Oh God, don't get me started.
R: A man deserving.
W: I haven’t had many of those. But yes, alright. I guess I’d like to have a hero. About 6’2”, with lips like this (she French kisses the air...)
R: The warriors at the time of the prophet. Now those were great men. When they arrived, you could smell their horses and taste the desert. The stories they told. Now those were men!
W: Kaab b Sur at the Battle of the Camel. And Saladin, of course. Those are the ones I remember.
R: There were so many then. You could open yourself up to them, you could feel their courage and love them forever.
W: You shouldn't feel so much. That's the problem with perpetual virgins; the pain is always fresh. C’mon keep dancing.
R: (sarcastically) Don’t think about it.
W: What’s the choice?
(they keep dancing, until another deafening explosion)
R: Let’s stop for a minute. (she stops)
W: (Suddenly, she stops) Look, he’s here. Look.
R: He’s just a boy.
W: He’s a good looking boy.
R: Such a pity.
W: (yelling) What were you thinking?
R: You didn’t follow the rules...
W: You dummy. Don’t you see what you did. Look he's wearing a key!
R: You're right.
W: Look what that's got you, you idiot.
R: Where was your heart?
W: Where was your brain.... (to her) Why are men’s brains always between their legs or in their stomachs?
R: He didn’t know any better. Just desperate, that’s all.
W: Dumb as dirt, but cute. You have to say he’s cute.
R: He’s not my type.
W: (to the bomber) Hey, don’t you get it yet?
R: You can't come here.
W; What? (listening to him) (to her) He’s not happy is he..
R: It’s pathetic.
W: (yelling) You can’t come here. You did a very bad thing... (to herself) I know poor baby... You’re just a virgin like us....
R: Sure. This is the first time he’s ever died. What does he know?
W:I’m sorry... You can’t come.... What’s he saying?
R: Somebody promised, I can’t hear.
W: Well, get used to the real world.... But you’re cute. That should count for something....(she starts dancing again)
R: You can’t come. (loud explosions and louder music, now screaming) You can't come here. You can't come here....

Dec 4, 2005

Joke

Children tell this joke. There are two dogs. One, French; one, Moroccan. The French dog is a pimpernel, a fop; the Moroccan dog is like Lucy, sleak, unknowable, more animal than dog. The French dog is carrying a bone. The Moroccan dog, ever clever, says, "What's your name?" The French dog says, with much elaboration, "Pierre", and drops the bone. The Moroccan dog snaps it up. "What's your name?" asks the French dog, now miffed. "Azziz," says the Moroccan dog, grinning from ear to ear.....

Dec 3, 2005

Winter sleep

Black of winter has set in, with those heavy, long dreams. Weak narrative, shadow characters... little girl under pier; boy with darkened head rising up to catch a ball: Little kids awaiting baseball practice and across the way a gently grinning soldier, an enemy, deciding to hold fire at point blank range. Then in the hour of the wolf, it's as though everything could collapse just like that, every bit of confidence that you exist could fall in.

Such is death here, here and in these winter coffin sleeps. It's so close, just the slightest touch away. I keep thinking it's the volcano, or the hollow boulders outside the front door, something in the land itself. But then you get up and there's the smoke-mist floating above the town, darker stuff coming from the barracks, and there's the moor at your feet, everything appearing as always. And somewhere out in the moor, sitting with his coan, a middle aged man reciting the sound effects of war, long remembered from childhood.

Nov 29, 2005

Great Exaggerations

Dear Marina MacNamara,

I am Mr James Okoli , the Auditor General, All Standard Securities Limited. In the course of my auditing, I discovered a floating fund in an account which was opened in 1990 belonging to a dead foreigner Late Mr. Mark MacNamara, a national of your country. I decided to track his last name over the internet to locate any member of his family hence I got in contact with you.

I want to transfer the sum of $18.5M from All Standard Securities Limited in his account overseas. I am therefore writing to ask you that you quietly partner with me and providing an account or set up a new one that will serve the purpose of receiving this fund. Even an empty account can also serve as long as you prove to be honest to me till the end of the deal. I hope you will never let me down.

After going through Late Mark’s records and files, I discovered that:
(1) No one has operated this account since 1993;
(2)He died without a heir; hence the money has been floating.
(3) No other person knows about this account and there was no known beneficiary. And if I do not remit this money urgently, it would be forfeited for nothing.

This money can only be approved to you legally as you have the same LAST NAME as Late Mark. Hence I am contacting you. I will require your urgent reply so that I give you the next step. Kindly forward your telephone and fax numbers. I am ready to give you the sum of $7,500,000 ($7.5M) for your assistance and partnership with me.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Best Regards,
Mr. James Okoli.
email: jokoli22@netscape.net

Nov 22, 2005

Woman in charcoal

My friend Allal and I leave the cyber cafe and walk toward the Farrah. I'm thinking I should pay the guardien I yelled at earlier in the morning. Endlessly, it's about money in this city. He wanted something for watching the car. I said, 'look, I don't have anything. I would give it if I had it, but I don't.' Finally, he stands aside and flicks me off. Fuck you, I say.

You're too much like me, I'm thinking. Always, about the money and now I'm in the hell realms of my own obsessions.

We turn on the street where I had parked. Half way down the block we come upon a woman lying on the sidewalk, the top of her right shoulder against a parked car, her head thrown back in the gutter, just behind the front tire. Her left arm is stretched out, resting in a pool of blood. There's a wicked looking cut on her arm. The blood is turning dark in the sun. She looks to be in middle age, dressed in pants and mustard colored Moroccan shoes. There's something European about her. Later, I find out she's Czech.

She's lying outside a bar. A dozen people stand around. This is a poor street, across from the indoor marche on Boulevarde Mohammed V. I ask if somebody has called an ambulance. Heads shake. What about the police? Heads shake.

The woman is alive but breathing with difficulty. A waiter comes out and says she always comes around for a drink but she has no money. He also says she got angry when she couldn't get served, broke a glass and cut herself. She wants to die, he says. Let he be. These are the hell realms of my obsessions and lower self, my anger above all. I grab this man by his shirt, but I'm thinking what I'm doing. I may look out of control, but everything is measured, calculated. Thinking of it now, there was something theatrical underneath. I hold on to his shirt and tell him to call an ambulance. He shruggs his shoulder. I get out my phone and give it to Allal. He calls. I get the woman's head out of the gutter. I stroke her forehead. I'm looking at her upside down. Her eyes flutter. She makes a gasp as though she's going to throw up. I can smell the liquor now.

The blood is beginning to cake. I ask somebody for something to put her head on, a towel, a tablecloth. Shruggs all around. I'm thinking I should take off my coat. I'm thinking of my times with Terence, both of us competing to see who can be the most loving to the loveless. What was that about? I'm remembering the evening outside his election headquarters when I was opening his door, ever the footman, and he tells me instead to go help a man in a wheelchair to get inside his apartment building. I'd seen the man and I was just about to do that, but Terence catches me. This is our game. We're always at this same moment. Were we ever sincere? What are all the games two Irishmen can play with each other?

I take off my coat, fold it, and put it under the woman's head. I bought the coat a few weeks earlier at an outlet in Portland, Maine. It's a Polo, but not expensive. On the other hand, it's the only jacket I have. Everything is considered. But in the end, the coat is there, the woman is resting. She kisses my hand. I stroke her head. She's middle age. Her hair is black but looks dyed. The skin on the left side of her face looks as though it had once been burned. She goes through the dry heaves. She wants water. I ask for water. And then I begin to rant at the people standing around. Move on, I yell at them. Is this prophet's teaching, I yell. She's a drunk someone says, she always does this. So what, I say. We're always doing what we shouldn't do, I'm thinking. Get over it. The woman seems stable. She keeps pointing toward the bar, and in Arabic, insists she was pushed out the door.

Who pushed her, I ask. Heads shake. A few people disappear. I go in the bar. It's black dark. The bartender is the owner. He's the down and out bartender. Cigarette smoking itself in his mouth, sleeves rolled up, a week without a shave. You do this? I ask. He's got a half smile. Over his shoulder there's a patron, with a glass of wine, well to do. You do this? He shakes his head. Who did this? No answer. Are you a practicing muslim?

I ask because after all this is an Islamic country, 99 percent of the people are muslim, according to the interior minister we interviewed last week. Everything is hinged on that in this country. The laws, the monarchy, the whole assumption the country rests on.

I go after him looking for hypocracy. I'm high on self-righteousness. I'm think of Marc Klaas and the male longing in America, not for paradise, but for the moment when you can be angry with authorization. That's all any man wants. Just the stamped authorization to detonate. Could I never have a pure thought, could I never do anything without these filters? Could I never not double think the moment? I cannot. And here I am ranting away, asking them about the prophet. But would the prophet rant and rave?

Actually, he might. So maybe this is my home, after all.

The drama goes on. Act III. I find the security man, the bouncer. He looks like the bartender, only shorter, meaner. The woman on the sidewalk points at him. He's the man that did it. He shakes his head and drags on his cigarette. I tell him he's the insecurity man and if this woman were his mother, sister, wife, whomever... What would he do then? You let her lie in the street, wouldn't you? I say. You would. I know you would. Because you're heartless. Because the truth is, you don't give a damn about anybody.

The lot of you, I'm thinking.

But you're hollow, so calm down, I'm thinking to myself. You're no different. Get off your horse, get down here.

The woman, the drunken European, is dry heaving again. Somebody finds her sweater under the car. We put that under head. I get my coat on. She kisses my hands again and again. As much I suppose because I am touching her. Women aren't touched much in this society. That's why the hammam is so popular. Allal throws water in her face. Allal, I'm thinking, you don't have to do that. I get the water out of her eyes, massage her face for a moment.

When is the ambulance coming, I want to know. It's been 20 minutes. It's coming, somebody says. I see a woman 10 yards away. She's veiled, she smiles at me. We're in league. I have one on my side. Then a man come by holding on to a young girl, maybe 6. The man is toothless on one side. He spent 11 years in America. He's telling me these people are hopeless, this is Morocco. "We all hate each other," he tells me. "It's true, we do. There's nothing to do. We're lost."

I keep looking at my watch. I have to get out of the city. I have to be back in Ifrane in 4 hours. I don't have another moment. I make Allal promise he will stay with this woman until the ambulance arrives. I run off, literally, sprinting away all the way to the Farrah.

Nov 17, 2005

If I were making a film of this city, you would see the decay in time-lapse photography. You would see the buildings shedding paint and plaster. You would see the people's bodies losing hair and skin. The whole city would be dim with debris; everyone moving through it like jinns. And then, at the end, after the man has been executed, and the young girl left to her own devices, sitting blindfolded in a chair in the middle of the forest, her breath visible in the moonlight, sitting there, tied up to her worst fear, the thought of woodsmen and wolves prowling through the night, nameless horrors that she's always known, but also the beautiful memories of this particular part of the forest, when she was with her lover afternoon after afternoon, and now there is nothing. No hope, but clearly she is her own exorcist, and that courage leaves us hope. And then back to the city, and the Hassan II mosque, which would slowly disappear in fast moving clouds of memory and materiel.

Nov 16, 2005

Salafistes


salafistes
Originally uploaded by macnamband.



These two women are members of the families whose sons were the suicide bombers that struck Casablanca on May 16, 2003. Fourteen bombers emerged from Siddi Moumen, a poor district in the north part of the city, and killed 35 people as well as themselves. This photo was taken as family members went to court later that year. The photo was taken by Mourad Borja, a journalist and photographer, and director of Agence Internationale de Communication et de Presse.

Garys bad day at Volubilis

At 5:30 a.m. we get up and run down to Meknes. Every bad driver is in Meknes today. It's faith based driving at its worst. The Australians are riled. "What the fuck is this?" they want to know.

"Hey, Neville," M. shouts out the window at some hapless fellow in the next car, "stop steering with your dick. Dickhead."

Most conversations with the outside world start with Nevile, Gary or Kevin and end with dickhead. "Gary, get me 'nother Heiniken," they'll say to the hotel waitor, waving empty bottles. "And try to bring it before midnight. Dickhead."

"Hey Kevin, what's your problem?" one of them says to the police officer who stops us at a roadblock. "What's up? Tell 'im we've kissed the king's royal ass and let us outta here. Dickhead."

And then always the side dialogue.

"But you didn't just kiss it."

"Don't tell 'im that. He might get excited."

"Like you were with me last night."

"Hey topper, I 'ouldn't tell whether that was a pimple or your dick? ... Dickhead."

On and on.

Of all the things they hate in Morocco the three Aussieketeers hate how slow T. drives. T. is 23. He the sweetest, nicest kid you ever saw and if he knew what these people were saying, in general and about him in particular, he would just smile and he would have no response. And of course there is no response. No non aussie has a response.

Part of the reason T. drives slowly is because this is his father's truck. It's an old white Mercedes with a roof rack and blue curtains on all the windows. It's used primarily for transporting vegetables from the small farms around Ifrane to the marche.

T drives also slowly because the tires are as bald as frog heads. In fact, one exploded the other day. Also, the van speed limit is lower than for cars, particularly in city limits. And, of course, the cops are everywhere.

But slow anything drives the As nuts, especially when we get on the new autoroute that runs between Casa and Fez.

"Hey, we just passed a dead person."

"How'd you know that Gary?"

"Sure looked dead. No head right? That usually means dead."

"There was a head."

"I didn't see it."

"It didn't see you either."

"Well, that's because you're a dickhead."

"I don't care, that makes two things we've passed in the last 2 hours."

"Tell Neville to try second gear."

"Hey look, aren't those ducks? Look over there."

"Hey, mate, tell 'im to get in the jet stream of that duck."

Most nights T. sleeps in the truck, because he'd rather have the room money than the hotel room. But sometimes I. makes him sleep in a real room anyway.

Then last night they got caught filming kids in a bad part of town. Kids were sniffing glue and started climbing all over the truck. T. panicked and it was all they could do to get him in the van, start it up, and get out there.

By the way all the kids sniff glue here. All ages. They run around holding it to their noses. It's good actually, someone explained to us. They forget everything, hunger, cold, the facts of life, no home, no families, let them feel free. There are 15,000 homeless kids in Casa. About 10,000 actually have homes and families. The other 5,000 have nothing. Many live in the port, in old containers. And everyone of them has the glue to his face.

Nov 12, 2005

A prison cemetary for victims of Les Annees Noires


cemetary
Originally uploaded by macnamband.



Photo courtesy of Mourad Borja, director of Agence Internationale de Communication et de Presse.

Nov 11, 2005

In the Pax cemetary

In Rabat, the cemetary for foreigners is hidden behind a long tall, white wall. The cemetary is called Pax. The word is hardly visible in the arches above the entrance. Today — in the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month — a rememberance service was held to mark the end of World War I. Representatives from a dozen countries stood in a semi-circle around a modest obalesk inside the north gate. Ambassadors or their wives, or in one case, a beautiful young blonde woman from Bulgaria, with the bemused and confident expression of a famous mistress; they all stood in front of the monument and looked respectful or uncertain or uncomfortable, or lost in some interior dialogue. Wreathes were laid. A military band played. Colonels and generals saluted. A horn player lost his breath. Pigeons took off. Someone sneezed.

I drifted away, leaving the Australians to film.

The cemetary must be nearly 100 acres. Here and there, patches of 3 foot tall, white-washed crosses, these are mostly soldiers, in among the more elaborate offerings, in gray and black marble. Most names were French. Many of the inscriptions were from the early 20th Century.

Here and there the tombs are breaking up, split by a palm tree or a bush. In the poorer districts of the cemetary names and dates are broken or covered over.

Finally, I decided to leave and found myself on the main avenue that runs right to the north gate. I noticed five black women, elaborately dressed. They were happy, half dancing. One had a broom. The women stood outside a particularly elegant masoleum, with carefully polished marble, and inside, photos and sayings from none other than Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. Otherwise known as "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake". He was the great Congolese leader who renamed his nation Zaire and took on the appearance of a nationalist. He followed the dictator's arc from promise to betrayal. He amassed a $4 billion fortune, the equal of his country's national debt in the 1980s, and pretended to be a nationalist. Which is why no doubt around his tomb there are trees and elaborate flowers and while the Europeans were memorializing the war to end all wars, here were five ladies, half dancing, one with a broom.

Nov 4, 2005

The Nevilles arrive

The three Australians from ABC TV arrived. ABC is equivalent to PBS. Producer, cameraman, and the talent, also known as 'the meat stick.' The program is called Foreign Correspondent. I sold them on a piece about evangelism in Morocco. The first thing they explained to me was that people who are idiots are Nevilles.

Nov 3, 2005

Outside the Ibis

Outside, in front of the hotel, a young man in dirty trousers, veers this way and that through the fog. An older night lady, in black dress and pearls, leans toward the rear view mirror in an old fiat, doing her make-up. Later, she will enter the hotel and sit discreetly, but proactively in the worn red couch in the lobby. No one will come to her. Meanwhile, the guardian makes change under the light of a street lamp. Ramadan has just ended.

Inside, the middle aged woman who is always in the lobby sits on a stool at the bar. She is the 'regular' and wears narrow rectangular glasses. She looks unmistakably French and sits with a man her age. He speaks German and is spread out, from extended leg to bent elbow, like an old Fokker propeller blade. The woman talks and looks at her empty glass. There is no bar tender. And truth be told, there are no spirits. The Absolut bottle and the Gordons bottle stand behind the bar filled with water. All that's left is a half shot of Schmirnoff.

The overhead lights in the dining room flicker. A man by the window holds his shining bald head in his hands. Through the static overhead you can make out “smooth operator.”

On 2M, the pretty newscaster, with long straight hair and uneven teeth, is telling the story of the Moroccan diplomat and his Moroccan chauffeur captured 10 days ago by Zarqawi’s soldiers. The Moroccans have been threatened with death. How can they not meet the same fate as the Egyptian diplomats? The newscaster leads us to a meeting of diplomats discussing the problem and then to the home of the chauffeur’s family. The brother is sitting on a narrow winding staircase, next to what looks like a dead plant. Another brother, blinded by the klieg lights, is talking about how much he misses the hostage.

The public night is winding down. Donna Summer is singing What’s Love Got to Do with It. The gare around the corner is empty. The waiter is taking up the table cloths. The woman at the bar and her partner have finished dinner. She is talking about gliding as her hand turns and banks. The woman at the desk is counting money in an envelope. The night lady reads the paper. The guardian sits on the low wall that runs along the front of the hotel. The veering man has disappeared. A night train will arrive shortly. A few people will get off. A man will get on. I’m sitting in the last of the dining room, making some notes, watching double sticks in stride.

Oct 29, 2005

Mistaken Impressions

Since I saw you, I have a limp — on the way to gout,
And one toe's gone black, but I wear it to perfection.
Comes in useful now and then, why just the other day,
in the Souissi district of Rabat, across from
Shell and the supermarche, I went to a comemoration,
Of the day Ben Barka was kidnapped and killed.
In Paris, betrayed by his trust in a journalist...
So a snapper shows up. Me, second from the right,
they thought I was one of them, I told them I wasn't, but
they needed another old fella with a limp, to look socialist.
grizzled and worn, from whiskey and dead end nights
dreaming of history's promise and the end of monarchy.
I looked into the camera, into the future, into the curious
eyes of strangers years from now who will think I was there,
that I was part of the action, a relic of more noble times.

Oct 19, 2005

Found

Last night Mohammed came to the door in Ifrane, said he had something to show. He'd been down at the marche, saw a creature that looked like Lucy. He got out of his car, opened the door, call out. She got right in.

He drives her home, she slithers in, fleabitten, with her rat-faced grin, and happy somebody finally showed up. "Fuck these legless owners that say they love you. They don't. They just want you to lick 'em." Thanks God dogs always forgive human imbecility. She got a bath, a lot of atta-girl's, and then off to sleep. She's expecting, she's got that round belly. By the way, you see the dad, you tell his ass I got a shot gun and I mean to use it, and he know'd I will, unless he shows up with air freshner in the Silverado and that bed clean so's I can eat off it, and that ain't all: when the weddin's done I wanna hear those Coors cans rattlin' across the innerstate — for his fuckin' sake he better have ridin' off into the sunset with my little girl the only thing in his limp dick of a brain and yea, you tell his fuckin' ass I hope to God he got plans for how he's gonna get a job at Pep Boys and maybe he'll have to do midnight shift at Tiny diner. Jesus won't save 'im if he don't. I don't give a shit. But I do know'd they could probably get one of those li'l rooms with industrial carpet and cable TV over the Allstate office.

Dylan before Middlebury


Dylan before Middlebury
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Oct 18, 2005

Split Screens

On campus, in the bobcat den, the TV is always tuned to Fox News. I had forgotten this part about America. The anchor is a lady with a cinderblock-shaped head; eyes not on a line; with that definitive shade of blonde hair which doesn't suggest a prototype so much as a new ethnic group.

She's serious, but a little wall-eyed. I keep thinking of Y. and how his classmates would tease him. "Don't look at me," one would say. "No, he's not looking at you, he's looking at me," another would answer.

The TV screen is split. On one side, a bridge built in 1823 in Taunton, Mass is about to burst. We're watching from a helicopter. The governor is on the phone. All the people living below the dam have been evacuated. But all is not safe because there is a second dam above the first and if the second goes, the first might be undermined and then it wouldn't be 6 feet of water rolling though a small Mass town, but 10 feet and maybe with that there would be at least one person drowned. Worst case, no one is drowned.

As time passes, it's as though we're being denied this small calamity. We need the visual caffein to go on. The jarheaded woman asks the governor endless questions, over and over. But the bridge will not go down on cue. The governor has to go back to work.

On the other side of the screen a reporter in Islamabad speculates on whether Osama Bin Laden might have been killed in the recent earthquake. He might have been, we don't know, but many people were killed in an area he was known to frequent years ago. Anything is possible in the war on terror.

So we have news of Osama Bin Laden and a failing bridge. Odds are one of them will give. Then, underneath, on the ribbon, an attorney's wife murdered in California; a new storm in the Carribbean is now a hurricane;and the Plamegate scandal is reaching beyond Rove, to Cheney.

The longer you look at her the more you realize the anchor has been trained or cloned, or her face drooped to reflect the stress of ongoing calamity, and as we watch her we know the only way we'll ever see her smile is if that bridge is swept away.

I go away for a few hours and return after lunch. The bridge hasn't collapsed. But now there's footage of people dragging a large man out of a small burning car. The murder in California is still unsolved. The Baltimore tunnel was closed because of a terror threat. A Seahawk corner has a fractured skull. The death toll in Pakistan is up to 50,000 people. The anchor is skaking her head. She repeats the governor's view that he does not expect looting if the bridge goes in Taunton. We see hear his say again that the mayor of Taunton has been on top of this from the beginning. But if both dams go, it could be serious. He admits that. And there are 750 other private dam in Mass, all built in the 19th Century and any of those could go. Trucks could be overturned; backyards decimated; tree limbs cut off; parking lots obliterated; basements filled.

That's not all. An endless loop plays of NYPD men, in full military regalia, M-16s drawn, moving through New York subways. There's a new threat, which piggybacked on top of the terror threat in Baltimore. And then here's Ms. Meier and it turns out she voted to stop all abortions except if the life of the mother is endangered.

Think of that! What that could mean. The beauty of Fox news is that it does what Dave Burgin always says it should. There should be something on every page that appeals to somebody. If you don't get turned on by the thought of a bursting dam what about if Roe v Wade is overturned. How about that? Then you'd have something to wail about. You get your fear wherever you can, but you get it.

And still the dam won't burst. You want to kick that dam, you want to see something disasaterous. Just in time we see, for second time in 60 seconds the big men being pulled violently out of the small burning car.

Oct 16, 2005

In the Maine

Lewiston-Auburn, LA, on Sunday: cold, gray, and leaves, the color of good mustard. I pass red lollypop daycare, the fourth degree wives club at the Knights of Columbus and a man outside the St. Marguerite d'Youville paviliion and emergency room, waiting, holding on to his cigarette for dear life. "Hello," is all he can muster. Then a paroxym of coughing.

Dylan and I go to The Slamma, restaurant and catering. Brochure says they deliver: "Driver tipping is appreciated (No tipping over the driver)." The building is painted in Zebra colors and patterns. Customers are dreary-eyed women, nuzzling coffee; men bent over, in the shadows of baseball caps, key chains on their belt loops.

At night, when down every street, in every window, in every darkened room TV screens are lit... at night, and not just on weekend nights, old ladies come in the Slamma, ladies beyond 65. Old ladies without their teeth and they don't care. They're often drunk. You gotta be living here. One of them, a Molly from out on East Street, wanders among the tables talking to the boys from college. "Anya you boys need a blow job?" she wants to know, her eyes going round and round, back and forth like coocoo birds on a clock. "No thanks," the boys say. But then one of them has a second thought. 'Hey, wait a minute. Check that." He's on his mobile to buds. They gotta come down and see this for real. "Any chance of a special on today?" he adds. "I might know somebody..... "

This Molly won't take American Express but she will take humiliation. Any word her way is credit.

The most fun you can ever have in Lewiston is to dream about fucking and drinking. But if you ever actually get to fuck or drink, the fun is already over.

We sit down in the Slamma. Chair upholstery's ripped. I get the Heart Attack Special ("if the food don't kill ya, the price will"). The price is $7.95. Dylan orders the Loaded Bull. Big fat-baby waitress rumbles by. "Hey, customer musta gone to restaurant and tipping school," she says to no one in particular, counting up pennies and dimes in her palm.

"Yea," says another waitress. "But did you tell 'em they gotta do it over and over and over?"

We look at the local paper, in the Sports section. Dylan scored two touchdowns, made a big time clutch catch, caught punts, had more yards than anyone on his team and played both ways. But he doesn't get a mention.

I'm thinking I'd forgotten America, the Sunday paper, fat waitresses, and the rigid, poor world of New England.

We go to the mall. I get a hair cut at Regis'. Blond fake marble, book shelves full of purple and gold shampoo bottles. Girl in long blonde hair tells me I'm hers. She doesn't look happy about it. You wanna take off that pullover, she says. I do, but when it's over my head, while in the blind, I hit one of the other hairdressers standing nearby.

"You like to hit women," the blonde says. "It's okay, I understand."

I laugh, she doesn't. It's not really a joke3. She gives me a shampoo. Her long blonde hair coming down like a tent, and I look up at her face but I can't see her in the dark of her tent. I tell her I would like her to go on for hours. She tells me that in beauty school she learned that she can look at someone's face and see people's masculine and feminine sides. Their shemaleness. She points out that my left eyebrow arches. And there is more gray on that side than the other.

She finishes, towels my head and gets me in the swivel chair. She goes back to her conversation with another dresser. "You gotta leave 'em sometimes otherwise smack 'em upside the head?" says the one I hit. She's got dark red hair, greased up and around, punked out, but her forehead is under big Betty Boop curls.

"Yea, I leave my man whenever I can," says the one I'm with.

Curls bends over to tell me, "I left mine four months ago."

"I bet that got his attention," I say.

"Now he wants to marry me. You think I should?"

"Why not."

"Yea, but I like the attention he gives me now. If I do it, he'll go back to what he is now."

"And that ain't good," says mine.

"No, it ain't good, but I got a kid."

"So," says mine. "You gotta kid. Everybody's got a kid." And then mine leans down and says, real slow, "actually... actually, he's a hell of a good man, a hell of a good father, and there' aren't a lot of those around these days."

"He's a good man. I guess I'll marry him. What else am I doing this weekend."

"You could," mine says. "Hey, we'll have a big party and then you can get divorced next weekend and we'll have another big party, and that's two weekends we won't have to worry about. Hey, I have an old dirty bottle of wine out in the garage...."

Oct 15, 2005

The American Way


And God almighty
Originally uploaded by macnamband.



1 p.m. Game time in Hartford. The game is supposed to be played at Weslyan College but the fields there are flooded, so the game is played at the closest NESCAC school, Trinity College. They have a big time field, artificial grass, cathedral overhead, and room for 11,000 fans. But Trinity is away this weekend and nobody cares about two 0-3 teams. A few hundred appear, parents, friends, and a man with a bible.

In fact, it's a great game. Bates gets an early chance, squanders it. Weslyan gets an early chance and scores and then scores again. In a flash they're up 13 points. People on the Bates sideline are saying, "here we go again." They look like winless people, like Bill Murrays in Groundhog Day. Some of them have driven a long way, from Maine, from western Mass. They're bundled up although it's not cold. Bundled up because each week they come hoping to go home feeling good about themselves, but they never do. They shake their heads, they shrug shoulders, they smile ironically. Of course, football doesn't matter. But you like to see your boy win once in a while, you like to feel some pride in Bates College and yourself. And these aren't people who would like the idea that the college AD is a lesbo, reputedly, in the jock shop, she is. They weren't happy to hear the college president say she doesn't think sports matter much at all. At $42,000 a year they want their piece of respect. After all, they're Bruschis, and if he can come back after a heart attack, by God Bates can too.

Double stix is having a slow day. A couple balls come his way. He gets 11 yards on a punt return. Bla,bla,bla... But then on second down, pass play, Dylan streaks, ball's in the air, defense screaming 'ball, ball, ball". But you think, no way that kid's gonna catch up with that ball, no fuckin' way, but the ball has arc and this kid can close on a ball. The corner is beaten, even though Dylan stumbled out of the gate, and now, as though he were catching a cake, Dylan puts up his palms and takes the offering as though from God... But the kicker misses the extra point.

Half time. Girl's lacrosse on the other side of the bleechers. Girls in blue miniskirts with white trim against girls in red teashirts. EA lot short white legs, everybody whacking balls, running every which way, bent over in an awkward way, like if you had a hockey stick that was too short and had hardly a tail.

Overhead, the clouds are threatening. Teams return. Bates gets a score; Weslyan gets a score. Bates is behind late in the game, but they're moving. Third and long. Dylan runs an out and pops up like a tree growing in fast motion and catches the first down. Incredible catch, the catch of the day. A minute and a half remaining. Bates is within striking distance. Ball goes up again, like a mortar shell. Aiming for the near right corner of the end zone. Dylan streaking, and on this surface you can't hear anything, no pounding, as though it's a silent reel. He closes easily, goes up, corner goes up, both reaching and Dylan takes it down. Bates up by 7. The game seems won. But D 3 gods are a merciless lot. With no time, Weslyan scores, ties. OT.

Another travail. On the last play, Dylan, who has been playing both ways, misses a scrambling Q, but Q throws a bad ball. Game done. People in the stands can breathe again, feel good for about 25 minutes, maybe the whole drive home. D gets offensive MVP.


double stix
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Oct 14, 2005

Rank

Bates College. The alternative school in NESCAC. Recently rated 21st liberal arts college in the country. Out of 217 colleges. In the state with the most fat people in the nation, after Arkansas. In a city as poor as it is gray. According to Playboy, Bates has the second ugliest coeds in the nation after Bowdoin. But academically, among the "hidden ivies", 11th in overall academic excellence; 8th in customer satisfaction; 9th in "food". 1700 students. One of the 60 "coolest" colleges in America. Tops in the study of economics. Twenty-second among colleges whose graduates enroll in the Peace Corps.

It is both relief and ridiculous.

And very serious. "Let's talk about probability theory in Star Wars," says one nerd to the other late one night in the library. "Sure, yea, good idea. I've been thinking about that all day," says the other. And for the next 45 minutes, until the lights go out to mark closing, they go on, roll playing, using calculators to examine statistical probabilities if this army beat that army....

"I'm really fascinated by household income trends between 1945 and 1949," says one girl to another. "It's so neat."

The library is full every night. Under the desk lamps students peer into their books. Nobody is looking up to see what others are doing.

Still, Ladd library is paradise. I look at how full and rich it is. And you wonder, how can they have such a library for only 1700 students? And if this is the 21st best college, what is it like at the cream of the cream these days? Too, Bates is poor, the poorest among the NESCAC colleges, compared to Williams College, for example. Compared to Andover Academy, with a $750 million endowment. A prep school with that endowment. Bates has perhaps $200 million. Harvard has $40 billion. And that library, those Harvard libaries, are true palaces.

Al Ak holds 60,000 volumes in its library. Bates has that many in its offsite location. And ten times that many in its main library. The Ladd library, which opened in 1972, is full — 600,000 volumes. It cannot hold any more. And there are no Danielle Steele volumes in the stacks. No paperback writers or dime mysteries.

You see this library and you think now if Al Ak is the finest school in Morocco, which it may or may not be, with the finest university library in Africa, so the president once said, and if it has all these financial resources, from the government, from big Moroccan corporations, then how can it be so poorly staffed, how can it have such a petite biblioteque? Does the king know? How can this be the pride of Morocco?

But what else is Bates college? Birkenstocks. The children of rich liberals who want their children to have good food and feel good about themselves. Students are called Batsies. Girls are not like at Al Ak. Not sexy, nor provacative, not snobbish. Not social. Not cutsies. No talking is the motto to mind at Bates. "We are studying" is the message and Do not disturb.

I don't disparage it. It's what makes America great.

Bujt the king should be told: you need to shoot higher, demand more, reject such modest ambitions.

Oct 13, 2005

But where is she now?

The train wriggled out of Gare Voyageur, just after 5 a.m., at worm speed, passing, on bicycle, a figure, underneath a faint bulb light above the street. The being stopped, dismounted. A mukaddim perhaps, suspicious, perhaps noticing a nuance amiss... Forty minutes later, the enigma of arriving at Mohammed V, terminus and sound stage, the cleaning crew warming up, buckets brimming with water, security adjusting their caps, straightening belts, memorializing old vanities of the previous etat. And then the plane stumbled off, wings slow, like an old egret.

Wriggled and stumbled out of there. But was I ever there? A recent reincarnation according to roma mediums, I’m thinking while we get out over the sea, out of sight, out of mind, cleaning my hands of that place and reading with delight a purely Moroccan contemplation: was Hassan II, his son, and Driss Basri, among others, were they all Masons as well? All “fils de la lumiere?”

You don’t know nothin’, I’m always told. You don’t know nothin’ about this country.

True enough. But what would it mean if Hassan II was a mason, if he was part of an organization begun in England that includes Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, and the Duc d’Edimbourg? If the king was part of the ultimate good ole’ boy network, the real trilateral commission and Morocco is far more of a colony than anyone will ever realize....

Morocco is an Islamic country, I'm always told, but really it is not, it is just conservative....

Bird lands in what seems like an open air factory. Like female plumbing. All white and tubes. Doors open, vehicles go in. Carriages ride and fall. Floor jiggles.... Everywhere equipment. Meanwhile, on the concourse, liqueurs and the uplifted breast on every cover, on the magazine wrack, the sheer amount of milk and skin. Europe, the mammary.

Which reminds me that Lucy is now somewhere in motherhood. But where is she exactly?

I stroll down the concourse. A girl's hand on a man’s ass, casually, not secretly. “I don’t care," the hand says to me. "I’m not even conscious of who I am or what I do and I don't care what your hang-up is”.

Unconsciousness, I’m not use to that. A sinister man with a half open eye passes me....

Yesterday, I'm sitting with four women on the train. They are students at the university, we are at the end of the day, pfitur on the train, while they watch a Moroccan comic on a laptop. They are so polite and perfect and friendly... and reserved, and formal, and innocent, yet so worldly. Now I carry the memory of their grace wherever I go.

Conscious v unconscious.

On the plane from Paris I sit next a woman my age, Jewish, she tells me, but her voice and manner have long since made the point. When I first see her, she’s talking to herself. She’s saying, looking at someone hovering near her seat: Don’t even think about taking that seat.... She’s in jeans. She sits young, like a guy, legs spread, but wide she might give birth. Her business card says she imports coffee beans from Panama. She’s says she's returning from Lisbon, a trip to settle an estate with her long dead husband — to whom she was married, for 7 unhappy years, years ago. She’s a foodie, she tells me about the miracle of Argon oil, which you can only find in Morocco. And all the while she reads Paris Match like an art designer, drawing the magazine up to her face, turning it 90 degrees one way, then the other way, upside down. Mumbling something all the while. An art designer of some kind? I ask. No, she’s a dental hygenist. She tells me about toothpaste and water pics, sonic toothbrushes and how to care for your teeth in a fang’s world.

We’re almost to Boston. The plane drops through miles of deep white. We’re going to crash, I assume. Finally, Harvard below. But nothing seems strange or exiting. I feel nothing.

Oct 10, 2005

First White

Storm came out of nowhere, thunder and light, mothball sized hail, now the whole place is white and cold. In a few minutes summer was put away like linen thrown in the hamper.

Meanwhile, notes from underground... An economics professor, a foreigner, suggested to her peers that micro loans might be feasible for the peasants making carpets at Tarmalat. One reply, "Why do you foreigners want to come in and help those prostitutes?"

Look under any hood and it always looks filthy.

The royal family owns ONA. The king, leader of the believers, owns dope land in the Rif, hotels in Europe that contain casinos and reputedly prostitutes, and all the most profitable companies in the land. The airline, the phosphate, banks and agriculture...

We don't treat each other well.

AM told me the other day that the tourist-truth is that this country has a very low return rate for tourists. They come here once and don't return.

Amidst the gloom there is this great beauty and nobility. Like sharp eyes and a long neck. The look of true strength and vigilence.

Oct 7, 2005

The S in Headmistress

She is a lengthy woman, everything as though pulled nearly out of their sockets. In black usually. Owl eyes, thin lips. She is the headmistress of the school, a New Yorker, and for the last 3 years in Casa. Her husband is in the picture, but we can't see him. She adopted children along the way. Something happened, what is not clear. Her own son was a prodigy but then went flat. The best and brightest faded at the moment when success was most needed by others.

She is known as a keen disciplinarian. She runs her music class like Billy Budd's frigate: Miss a step up to the foretop and you'll get the cat O nine.

She called me in to say that some parents wanted me to give more homework. Fine, I said. But there's something else she went on, and nervously. Something else. "I know it's difficult to teach middle school kids at the same time you are teaching college kids, and I know you are a nice person," she said, leaning toward me, as though we know this about me in confidence, and she won't tell anyone so long as I obey. She went on to gently scold me, with her fuck me pump, and urged me to be more strict. This when I throw out at least two students a period. One never lasts more than five minutes.

How should I address them, I asked. How should I speak to them?

She looked at me like a seabass at a morsel, reared back, because this is something she knows all about. "Like scum," she said and nodded to emphasize the ummm. And then she said, "I used to be a nice person, when I first came here, and if the plumber came and diddled around and didn't fix the thing he was supposed to fix, I said, well it's no matter. Another day. But now, I just say, listen you scum, get out. They understand. It's the one thing they understand."

I was never a nice person so I never had this arc.

But she's right. Whether in the French schools or public schools, discipline is relentless and tough. And if you are a woman, the teacher may come to you and say, "why are you studying, you should be learning to cook and stay at home." Or, if they don't like you, they'll come and lick your ears with venom. "You're nothing," they might say. "Nothing, and you'll never come to anything. So look ahead, at nothing."

Oct 4, 2005

Missionary Style

From an email Marina wrote describing a dinner with missionaries in August.... In Kenya.

So, the potluck was actually much better than I could have imagined. It started at 5, and I left 10 minutes beforehand. With heavy, thundering rain clouds to my back, I ran to get a boda-boda (a bicycle taxi), and fled to Milimani, the ‘rich’ neighborhood of Kitale. Boda-bodas are not exactly fast – they’re heavy, Chinese-made bicycles with a single gear that a guy smelling of sweat and wearing old, dingy clothing pedals with all his might. Occasionally, the hills are too much, and he stops to hold the bike while you get off, and then we both walk up. Anyway, because there are also no street names here, let alone house numbers, directions are always a little shady. So, constantly looking back at the menacing clouds, I finally steered us to the ‘rust-colored gate’ that Beverly had described on the phone. And, how did I recognize it? The silver Prado (4x4) turning in, and the mzungu at the gate greeting his guests. The mzungu was Larry, Beverly’s husband, holding an umbrella, his face pockmarked and his eyes cold until he sees you are looking at him in which case he lights up with a politician’s smile. Ah, missionaries.

So, you had to take your shoes off upon entering the ‘mud room’ – and then, you enter AMERICANA LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN. Or, rather, it’s a cut-out from the Southern Living magazine that adorns their wicker coffee table. Yes, from the golf-course length lawn to the curtains to the floor to the green wicker shelf to hold the toilet paper in the bathroom, this is an American home in Kitale, Kenya. Someone flattered Larry by saying this was one of the nicest houses in Milimani. “Yes, Beverly has a gift. And, you should meet our daughter.” I can only imagine. It’s also as sterile as you can get – your socks are probably cleaned by walking on their floor and the kitchen is WHITE and complete with all appliances you could want. The pantry is filled with peanut butter and macaroni, with one half of a shelf filled with Betty Crocker cookbooks. You can only imagine the food: two, count them: TWO chicken casserole dishes (one was actually called: chicken-spaghetti surprise and contained, I am sure, campbell’s chicken and noodle soup), TWO baskets of home-made rolls, a small green salad, my own pepper/bean salad, and three desserts – one of which was a cardamom flan that the sole Indian guest had brought – and because no one had ever even heard of flan, she immediately apologized for the texture, saying she’s new to cooking such dishes. No alcohol of course, though decaf and caf coffees were available and hot during dessert. Wow.

And the people? Well, Beverly fits in this house as you can only imagine that a 50-something year old woman from Alabama will. She’s impeccably coiffed, made up, chic clothing as only a true southern belle can carry off. And, true to her background, I suppose, she did not clear any dishes except for her own and her husband’s (who was sitting across the table from her), only to bring him his ‘special’ bowl of dessert (he’s on a low-carb diet, which has resulted in, he told us proudly, a loss of 50 pounds in the last 8 months – and he could easily lose another 50) and a cup of coffee just like he likes it. Then, she sat back down on ‘her’ side of the round table, where, somehow, all the women had gravitated – except for me, of course. I was sitting in between Larry and Patrick, a 20-year old kid from Mobile, Alabama who is having a hard time making it through college, wants to be a musician, so is majoring in music, but tells me he will become a real-estate agent upon graduating, like his father, so he can make some money, and support his wife – a girl, he says, he’s ‘already picked out’ (does she know, I wanted to ask? What model is she?). It’s his first time to Africa, and he’s new to traveling at all – and I have to say, he’s definitely intelligent enough to make this a turning point in his life. It’s these ‘alternative’ influences in his life that make me hesitate… He told me he was also in a rock band only AFTER we’d been speaking for a while, and he immediately searched my face for a response. When I smiled in affirmation, he looked away, a mixture of shame and relief, and said, “Okay,” as if he had just been waiting for the lecture.

Pam and Mike were from West Virginia, evangelicals here for nine years now (how many years you have stayed is a true testament to your devotion and how ‘hardy’ you are – Pam and Mike win the overtly competitive prize – Beverly and Larry have been here for ‘only’ 7 years) – and, fortunately, came already recommended from the AMPATH people I work with in Eldoret. She is a nurse who apparently trained at AMPATH for HIV treatment a few years ago. Both are typical middle-America; underneath her perm, she squints and blinks her eyes a lot; and he talks not only fast but with a ceaseless energy that reminds you of a rushing river – filled with puns. Another couple (Nancy and ???) are evangelicals who tour the hard-to-reach spots, bringing the gospel to a population, they claim, is ‘thirsty for spiritual guidance.’ And, Russ, well, Russ seems to be a mixture. Originally from Seattle, he’s the only Catholic from the group, works with street youth here in Kitale, having recently moved from Nairobi, where he was also working with street youth. He’s 40 or 50 or older, bald, but with his hair pulled over his pate; he looks a little like Harpo Marx – his expressions at least. He’s quiet, new, shy, just becoming familiar with the local missionary scene. I’m sure he’s gay.

And then ‘Shi’, the Indian, a total suck-up to this group of wealthy Americans. I felt sorry for her husband and father-in-law who run the hardware store that has helped me with a few things around the house – Indians who have been here for a few generations now, and who I hardly thought were Christian.

“So, tell us what you do,” Beverly ordered with a sweet smile from across the table as everyone dug into their casserole. People were polite, acknowledged that HIV is indeed a huge problem, but that has ‘many solutions’ to the problem. Including, of course, spiritual guidance. They told me about members of their respective congregations who are or were HIV+. “Is it true that it can hide in your body for 7 or 8 years???” “Wow, you could lead a seminar!” Hardly. And, then, “how many countries have you been to?”

Upon leaving, Beverly hugged me (again), saying how pleased she is that I came. Larry apologized to everyone for having to take off our shoes.

Such is the flavor of the mzungu scene in Kitale. Another go-round would be interesting to be sure, especially since apparently there are as many who are on leave. So, in October, here I come…

Oct 1, 2005

Rick

The night after the track meet in Casablanca we resort to Rick's American cafe for dinner. Three body guards stand outside. The guardien asks us to park directly in front of the doorway. It's the day of the Bali bombing. I assume the security plan here is to blockade the front door. The security men are in coat and tie, with tie clips. Each wears a gold pin on their lapels. They're serious. They come with eyes, you can see, not just armor and earpieces.

We go up the steps and inside the front door there's Rick as she calls herself. I'd never seen her before but I'd heard. Cathy something from Portland. Late 50s in a black jumpsuit. Her hair cut short, pale skin, a lot of makeup, not pretty, but smiling and the appearance of sophistication, and her friendliness, and a hint of shyness supercede her plainness.

The restaurant itself also makes up. Two stories, brimming with sconce light and spectacle, an old riad dressed to the teeth, and Johnny Mathis in the background. As tourist traps go, this is one to savor. It is at once pretence and safe haven. There's a Tennessee Williams cabin boy, dressed as a cabin boy, standing behind the bar. A bartender who never seems to tend. People at the next table are dressed down. They're Moroccan, young, twenty somethings, the girl holds her bag tightly. She looks painfully unhappy. Behind them, people from the west. Slacks people, blazered, and up in the mezzanine, a gray haired man and a young woman. They are in their own world, totally happy with each other. Everything about them, but particularly their happiness, suggests, 'do not disturb.'

Meanwhile, Cathy is off in a corner, watching everyone. From time to time she passes by, speaking French, then English. She's the classic restauranteur. It's a type, isn't it? She reminds me of John Tuck, years ago, in the Gaslight in Charlottesville. A pretentious place if there ever was one and the ever so proud owner, John Tuck, with his ascot and faux British accent, more affected than British actually, having been thrown out of the university and then stayed on for the next 30 years, forever hitting on the coeds. One night he came to visit me, I was living in someone's front room. He was peeing in the sink because he couldn't be bothered to piss in the pot, he was also a bad, loud, drunk, and this time he was drunk, and he was in this little bathroom peeing in the sink, looking over his shoulder, dick in one hand, cig in the other. "I prefer a hairless pussy," he was saying, as though to say he preferred Jane Austen to Charlotte Bronte.

The plates drop out of the sky. The waiter in red Fez. Sole meuniere and tempura. The pianist is working his way through Ebb Tide. And if it is overpriced, still the food is good, and altogether a silly, soothing luxury.

We drift through observations. About students, about the country, about what will happen. I tell B about the scene outside the bank and she extends the conclusion. "The reason Islam is required is because these are people who feel so much. You need something to contain it, to keep order."

How many times have I heard that? "I feel too much." "If you knew how I much I feel, you would understand but you cannot." "You cannot understand."

I cannot.

And so of course human nature would create and rely on a belief in which everything is ordered. In the desert, the wilderness, what else is there? What other sceneries, what other compensations? What can you do other than feel? And what other outlet, besides poetry. It's not the sibe outside, it's the sibe inside. The chaos of the heart, the mind that sees so much below the surface, it cannot bear it. So you create a way to keep yourself out of trouble during the day, to keep the mind occupied, tied up so it can't go stray.

But now that's breaking down, ever faster.

Dessert. The pianist takes a break. Cathy stops to chat.

We are the hollow people by comparison, I'm thinking. I, for one. A girl said that to me once, about me, not to me, "he is hollow", she said and there is a truth to it.

Dash and Nizar


IMG_0012
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Dash before the 100 meter in Casablanca meet


dash and blue
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Sep 30, 2005

Revelations

It is 9:20 a.m. on pay day. A dozen people are lined up to use the atm machine outside Bank Populaire. The line includes two men in army uniforms; 2 women in veils; a man in a double breasted suit; two tourists; two workers, judging by their torn, paint splattered clothing; a student; and others. It takes each person a long time to withdraw money. It is partly the machine; perhaps it's an old chip. It's partly that people aren't familiar with the screen dialogue. It's partly because people are unaware that others are waiting and because this is a culture in which everyone must wait, then waiting is expected and pardonned. It is partly because time is no matter, yet. But it's coming. The bank hours changed two weeks ago. Now there is no break between Noon and 2. The bank is open straight through now and the day stops at 4.

Yu can tell how long it will take each person to get their money from the machine. If they immediately lean on one leg, then it will be a long time. If they stand on one leg then another, it will take less time. If they stand with equal weight on both legs, it may go quickly. Many come to the machine unprepared. They look at the screen for a long time. The person who takes the longest is the business man who clearly is familiar with the machine. And he doesn't lean on one leg or the other. But when he finished he decides he doesn't enough money so he puts his card in for more.

The line moves. Each person leans against the pilar closest to the machine.

One of the veiled women finishes and stops to talk to the other veiled woman. The first woman drops some change as she goes on her way, but doesn't seems to notice. We look down at the money. I step in her way. She hesitates. I reach down to pick up two coins. I put them in her palm, which is hennaed. The man in the double breasted suit nods to me approvingly, as if to say, thank you for doing what we cannot.

Cannot. Because i's difficult to stand out, to presume, to handle someone else's money, to stoop before a woman, to do such a thing. One of my students said to me — this in the context of domestic violence — that yes he hits his little brother and he will hit his children, just as his father has hit him. Why? I ask. If the prophet were here right now, what would he say? Oh, the student says, but The propht is the prophet, he's perfect. We cannot ever be like him. It's too hard.....

This is the beginning of my revelation. Why is it they cannot? I see it again and again. They cannot. B tells me it's because they are not kind. But then we agree Americans are equally unkind. And the French are equally unkind. But whatever the comparisons and excuses, they cannot.

They cannot because Islam has outstripped its adherents. No way to catch up, or measure up now. Idealization has set in. Human perfection has no meaning. Too many crimes have been committed and now there's no way to close the distance, to go home and so the Prophet has become holy, not human. And so need to even try. All you can do is hope and pray you'll be excused, that you'll be let into paradise inspite of yourself.

Sep 28, 2005

Personal Legend

Mr. K is an attorney in his late 40s, a notably small man, a DeVito of the Middle Atlas who wears fine suits and silk smiles, and drives a Mercedes the color of his ink black ties. If you saw him walking into the courthouse on MacAllister Street, and you for one are sick and tired of these liberal courts, you would say, 'there's one of those federal prosecutors. He's one of us. I hope he gets those snively bastards who want to take away our guns and SUVs.' Or, if you prefer your liberty a little less light, you would think, 'there's one us, I'll bet you he's with the ACLU, going to defend liberty and justice for all presa canarios.'

Mr. K is always on defense and how did he get there? He spent five years in prison, in a small dirty cell in Ifrane, because he took positions against Hassan II, that most intelligent and charming, if also vindictive and ruthless of dictators. Mr. K was released in 1984 and eventually found his way to the legal profession. These days he has a large stable of defendants and so has decided to give up his house on the main road leading into Azrou and move to Ifrane. It's up in altitude and attitude. After all, Ifrane is a university town. It is also a sweatshop of priviledge and patronage. It's where the governor sits, doling out deals, through his son, to cronies who want to cash in on Ifrane's growing tourist business. You see the town and you wonder why anyone might want to come and stay there for more than a latte. People stay because it's on the edge of the forest, it's eye relief from the marble glare down below, in the valley.

But even as they come to see the forest, it's being cut down. You don't notice, because the cutters go the middle of the forest. From the outside everything appears green and lush. But on any afternoon in the fall, if you walk through the forests around Michlieffen, you'll see hooded men driving their little white panel trucks into the forest, coming with their chainsaws, and you'll notice the old growth stacked up. Now winter is coming and nobody can afford to give a damn about the trees.

But how does it happen, when you hear all the penalties you'll bear if you cut down so much as a rose bush. Well, it's the governor. He doesn't care. And the people who buy public land with the intention of selling dead wood, sell the whole lot. Everyone wants his share.

Incidentally, Mr. K lives on the road east out of Azrou, the road that goes up to the plateau and then down to Midelt and Merzouga — and beyond Merzouga in the distance, you can see Algeria and the Sahara. Azrou is an old mountain crossroads, and like all crossroad towns, it's a place where human dust collects. So here you'll find quality wood crafts and prostitutes. And lately the benefits of drug money from the Rif. This a dry cleaner town for rumpled money. The boulangerie has been remodeled and what a wide screen TV it's got. Rif money. And the local bank has gotten very generous lately with home loans. All rif money. Ask the optometrist; she can tell you everything.

Meanwhile, Mr. K is on his way to the local court house to defend a man accused of being converted to Christianity. It is not illegal to beleive in a religion other than Islam, but it is illegal to prosletyze and to be converted as a result of that appeal. He was telling me about his client one day and the conversation turned, as you always hope it will with attorneys, and he told me about his uncle. Now dead. He died of a liver problem nearly 15 years ago. Liver death is common here. So his uncle grew up in Azrou and as a child went to a local school, in which some of the teachers were Catholic. There was a Catholic monastery in those days, off that road east to Midelt, a huge place now abandonned. Gradually, the uncle became intoctrinated. "He fell in love," is the way Mr. K puts it. Fell in love with the holy spirit and then one day in the 1950s, left Morocco, went to France and became a Catholic priest. And a good priest for the next 24 years.

And occasionally, he woudl return home in his white collar and greatly impressed Mr. K. "Now there's someone I'd like to become," Mr. K thought because his uncle was tall and handsome and seemed fearless. Then 24 years after he became a Christian, the uncle returned home. He'd suffered some sort of crise psychologique. So severe, that he converted back to Islam and, to prove, his steadfastness he walked across Africa to Mecca. Up to the Algerian border, to Tunisia, across Lybia and down through Egypt, and hopped a boat to Jeddah. It took him two years.

And then he returned and became, as Mr. k says, "a normal person, who married and had a son." The son is now in his early 30s and lives in Europe. "He's my personal legend," Mr. K says, always with his smile, that smile that betrays nothing, that gives you no sign of his own treks.

Sep 26, 2005

MAROC-PRISON-TAZMAMART


MAROC-PRISON-TAZMAMART
Originally uploaded by macnamband.



Photo prise le 06 Octobre 2000 du bagne de Tazmamart, une ancienne caserne perdue dans l'est du Moyen-Atlas, une soixantaine de kilometres de la ville d'Errachidia, qui est devenue aujourd'hui le symbole des annÈes noires du Maroc tant les conditions de ceux qui y ont ÈtÈ emprisonnes ont ete inhumaines et arbitraires. L'association Forum Verite et Justice qui se bat pour faire la lumiere sur les atteintes aux droits de l'homme durant les annees de plomb qu'a connues le Maroc appelle, une manifestation devant le bagne le 07 Octobre. Photo courtesy of Mourad Borja, director of Agence Internationale de Communication et de Presse.

Sep 25, 2005

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Recent piece about the civil society in Morocco. Go to SSIReview.com

Sep 23, 2005

Never Say Allah is Deaf

Perhaps, a line in a solilquy has become a measure of what's in store here. The line is in a play I've written for the drama club. A new faculty member has joined the club with the conviction, I find out, that he is going to take it over. I am told nothing. I find out from the actors.

The play is about a harraq who comes home after two years working in a factory abroad to visit his family. The family is in disarray and his sister is determined to leave the country. At one point she forecasts the life she sees if she doesn't leave. It's a plea by a distraught woman. Here is an excerpt....

" You will marry some man and you will not care about him, not really — in the end, you will marry for security, not love. That’s your master. After all, what silly dream is that? And if you are not submissive enough, you’ll feel your husband’s distance right away. Or, if he’s like one of these nerds, forever in love with their mother, he’ll want you to put on make up and wear forbidden clothes, like the whores he’s always known. Saving your virginity will have been for nothing. All that worry for nothing. For that one, your virginity is merely a reminder of what you can never be and he can never have. But whoever this man is, maybe he is like every other one, if you are not obedient — if you don’t have his lunch ready just the way he likes it, or if you forgot the bread, he will beat you — with his hand or his mind, and after a while it will get worse, he will ignore you, and eventually you’ll give up, you’ll let your body go, and after a few years he will find someone else and divorce you. There wasn’t anything you could have done, but you’ll brood anyway, and all the new laws won’t change a thing. You’ll be left with nothing except your children, and no one will want you, and then you will be just another divorced woman living the years away in a small apartment in one of those broken down buildings on the other side of town. The closest you’ll get to love will be a song on the radio and the masseuse’s hands in the hammam. You will be bitter and survive on gossip and the hope your children will not leave you. But in the end they will. And you will be alone. You’ll become as warm and loving as a stick. And Allah will be deaf to your prayers, because you did nothing to help yourself. All you did was dream and complain. Dream and complain. And you know what? Your whole joy in life will be to go to dinner with your family, most of them you don’t even like, and it will be too painful even to think about what might have been, the other life you might have tasted.... And when the harrags return in August, with their fancy cars and their European girl friends, and their arrogance, you will know it’s all a masque, you’ll resent them, like everyone else, you’ll think, ‘how pathetic, how you dare you come back like this’, but at the same time, you’ll envy them, you’ll look at them secretly, and it will be torture to see it. "

It's the line, "Allah will be deaf to your prayers," that draws the faculty member's ire. This man is a tall, slender man with exceptionally long fingers. He stops the actors as soon as he hears it. Can't be he said. We need to change this line. We can't say this. Why is that? the actors and I ask. He explains that Allah can never have a human vice, a human failing.

Oh what an argument ensued (to be continued...)

Sep 22, 2005

wide right


ref-2
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Two Days Ago

The guardien says he saw Lucy two days ago with a pack of dogs around the marche. Yes, the dog with the blue collar, he says. Running with a pack around the marche. Everyone else says she's been snatched and 500 dinars is the right reward.

Sep 18, 2005

No Sign

I called Muhammed and we went off to the mazbalah, along the road east out of town to Michliffen. It's a smelly crow's feast behind a tall cinderblock wall. Bulldozers move the trash around. Donkeys, dogs, goats, sheep, foraging through the plastic. Three boys in rag tag police uniforms, shredded and faded, rescued from the trash, come out of a bunker on a hill. No, they haven't seen any dead dogs, but can you spare some dinars. Muhammed smiles but doesn't give them anything.

The wind redecorates the pit; trash swirls everywhere. Much of it outside this pit. In infact, toward the west, the crap and smell extends for hundreds of acres. A man with a face as lined as an old gardner's glove wants a ride back to town. He hasn't seen any dog like the one we're looking for but he has several puppies. He tries to sell one or some. It's the last thing I want.

Sep 16, 2005

Dog Gone

It's been 48 hours since the bitch left. Last seen with another dog traveling off into the moor, on Wednesday evening about 5 p.m. I would have thought she'd come back by now. Went off to get laid, maybe. It's that time; her mind is full of less chaleurs.

Sep 7, 2005

The vet

She may be pregnant so we go to Meknes, to visit the doctor. She looks dreamy on the way. We get lost in Meknes. We're half an hour late. It's behind Belvie, across from the stadium, next to an internet cafe, up a few steps. The office is a narrow sliver. We wait a long time. Has she eaten today, the doctor asks. I didn't realize the operation would be the same day. I lie a little. She hasn't eaten much in truth, but she has eaten. The doctor is concerned. He thinks it would be better to wait. I agree. Come back in a few hours, he says. I do. The dog stays tied up. When I get back the doctor and I sit down. I want to know about the procedure. He explains. How much is this going to be, I ask. The equivalent of $260. I had no idea. I'd heard half that. I fall back on my anger. He explains. I argue. Can he come down a little? The truth is, I'm running dangerously low on money. Finally, he says well what about shots. Get a shot now and another in the spring. It's a short term solution and you woulnd't want to do this every year. Perfect, I say. So, he says, wait a few weeks, you'll see spots. Call me then and I will give her a shot.

His next patient, a pit bull, is late. He tells me that this business of treating animals badly has no corollary in the Koran. In fact, he explains, once the Prophet was sitting with a cat asleep on his clothing. It was time to pray but the Prophet ever sympathetic to cats cut the cloth around the cat rather than disturb it.

But dogs are another matter. If you touch a cat before prayer, no need to wash. Touch a dog and you must wash 7 times. That's with sand, you understand. Seven times and the Prophet said that there was only 3 reasons to have a dog: to guard sheep, to stand guard at your house, to accompany you on a journey with animals. Guard. But he would have no tolerance for other more sentimental reasons. He didn't see them as companions in that sense. He thought of them as necessary but dirty and, unlike cats, without intelligence or felinity, as it were.

Meanwhile, Lucy is tired of waiting. She bites my hand. The next patient arrives. We leave.

Sep 1, 2005

The Muqaddim

At the top of the stairs of the old Hotel De Ville, through the main entrance, to the left, is the muqaddim's office. There is no name, no plaque, no official signs whatsoever. The muqaddim knows where everyone lives, sometimes without their knowledge. Everyone knows where the muqaddim works. It's a tall office with tall windows, old fluorescent lights, a wood veneer desk and behind it, the muqaddim himself. A small man for such a large room. He's 40, in gray slacks and a sports shirt. An anonymous figure but no banality of evil and not like the intelligence agent he is supposed to be. It is rumored that every Friday, sometimes more often, he funnels the latest reports to Rabat of who is where and doing what.

The phone is always between his cheek cheek and shoulder. He motions you to sit down. He greets you in a whisper. Meanwhile, others come in. They greet each other, whisper, and walk out. People come and go. Eventually, the muqaddim hangs up the phone. What can he do, he asks. You wish to have une letter d'attestation. It's a shame to bother you over such a small matter, I tell him, but Maroc Telecom needs this letter. Of course, he says. I give my carte. He quickly finds the proper form, pick up the ringing phone, gives me the form, with a pen, and motions me to fill it out. And while I am doing that, he reaches over and stamps first one signature, then another, and another.

He hangs up, takes my paper and goes away. Others come in during his absence. They look over his desk looking, like dogs over the dinner table. Everyone has this question on their face, "is it ready?"

The muqaddim's assistant returns along with a woman, carrying the application. There is a problem. She needs to see a letter of attestation from the university, a proof that I work at the university. But the police have that I say, pointing out that that information is on the carte de sejour. Yes, but we don't have it, the woman says. She's modern looking, wearing slacks, makeup, glasses on her head, a big smile. But all I need is to prove to the phone company that I live at this address. Isn't it duplication? I ask. It may be, she replies, but we need it. The police have it and we have it. But you both work for the same government, yes? Yes, but it is important that all the agencies have the same information. But this is just to get phone service. Yes, she says, I know, but this is the way it is. It's always like this. Everyone must be noted, we must fill out these requirements. It's not our doing.

We have no control, she adds. Don't you see?

Aug 19, 2005

King's coming

King’s coming. New white lines on the road. No trash in the median strip. Everybody look sharp. The Christmas crown is lit up ruby red in mid August. The highway sign on the Azrou road says, don’t use your mobile phone. Everything ship shape. Everywhere the police are going somewhere in convoys. Troop transports on the move. king’s coming. Get pretty, get clean. Look like you mean it.

Out Dark Spot

The move is made. Infinitely better to be out of Le Residence. The guards; J,, the lucretia Borgia of housing; the blathering of early family cocooning; the eerie sense of collective madness and the laughable security. They have one of those Mission Impossible drop gates, but only on one side of the two line entrance. I told the guards to call Paramount Studios and see if they don’t have another one in the back lot. They smile; I smile. Nobody knows what the other is saying, much less thinking.

What I was thinking was that any terrorist planning a Belson siege in Ifrane is now going to think long and hard about how to get past that bar. Which is wood, to top it all. I’m thinking they might have send in a suicide bomber just to blow up the gate if it doesn’t open automatically; I think the weight is too much. Meanwhile, those who wish to be viewed and noted by Dr. K. as to when they came in and who with and what about, has to wait for the guard to give up his conversation about his neighbor’s cousin’s mother’s dalliances with the mukodoom and push down on the weight and let in the light.

But here’s the point. We moved out because of Lucy. The people were terrified. Poop everywhere. People were drowning in it. Then a boy lost his cap; a little girl watched in horror as her sandwich disappeared into the blackskape of Lucy’s great white Nazi mouth. But let’s be Berkeley. She needed her freedom. And she was not going to be held back by unlocked windows and guards with nothing gunlike in their white holsters... But now she’s here, the door’s open 24/7. No questions about where she goes, who she sees, what watering holes she wishes to frequent. And so now we’re here and you’d think now, finally, happy. HAAAAAAPPPPPPPY.

But it ain’t so. The bitch is on a streak. For the last four days, something destroyed. A scatter rug, the gear shift nob, two poinsettias. Every day she finds something to stab me with. Why? Well, it’s a new house. And incidentally, at least once she’s gone back to Le Residence, to wait for Catherine, of Tarragon, who left her out to dry every day I was gone. Chained up like the hunchback of Neutered Dames. Which she is not and needs to be. But you wonder why she would go back there. Why would Nelson Mandela want to see that prison again? Well in the bitch’s case one reason she went back is I beat her silly when she tore up the plants. For no good reason. That was personal. She knows what she’s doing. It’s all planned. She’s wired. She has a list.

And by the way, It’ll be a couple hundred dollars in repair costs before we’re finished with the sofas she tore up in our apartment and then Catherine’s. But it’s the pathology of it that I mind. Hers and now mine. Folie a deux, what happened to us? Old white men, left to their own devices come apart.

So I try to fathom it. New house, I understand. You feel a little estranged. But you wanted your freedom, right? From wherever she’d gone. But she’s saying, “So get up off your fat ass and let’s get on a mission you old fart. Here you are, adjusting every last marigold, every rug angle and light shadow, not doing a shred of work, because you can’t sit still for more than 6 minutes and you’re talking to me about having too much energy. Physician, heal thyself. And while you’re at it, take a shower.”