Apr 30, 2007


Here was a recent post in an evangelical blog.

"I went to Spain to a port where ferries crossed the Mediterranean to Morocco. In the port we distributed the Jesus video produced by Campus Crusade for Christ, and the New Testament in French and Arabic. It was an awesome time of sharing God's Word with Muslims from North Africa." ---Madison1101 on 4/29/07

Prosletyzing of any kind is illegal in Morocco; those who convert are often punished. One man was sentenced to 15 years in the south, although that story may not have been exactly as it was told in local papers. In any case, the police are quick to punish, if only to show the Islamic hardliners that the government is an equal opportunity oppressor.

But such is the sensitivity of those Evangelical cats, the generals, who send kids off on these pilgramage adventures. It can be dangerous. Here it appears the Christian soldier did not cross over but merely stood on those docks at either Tarifa and Algeciras, they appear here and there in the terminal, like Mormons, standing around, dressed as well as possible, not in black coat and tie like the blues brothers, but neat and kempt, heart filled with pride for the heathen.

Apr 29, 2007


It's always rewarding to receive a letter from a former student, particularly one so brilliant and this is no exception. But this letter is of interest because it reveals how young people who leave Morocco to study abroad sometimes feel about returning. This is an excerpt from the letter....

While reading your email I thought about my life here.. I do get to meet incredible people everyday and being here has probably been the best experience i ve had so far..at the same time i wonder to what extent this experience has changed me..i see through the eyes of people that all what i was before has been shaped by the pleasure of being away from the pressure of morocco..parents, expectations, norms..some of that followed me...however, i do feel more liberated ...and then the thought of going back there becomes a bit of a nightmare. Well I must say that i do have interesting things waiting for me in Morocco..internship, graduation..but above all..the thought of leaving again is what makes me feel more confident about what is waiting for me after morocco. I see my going back as a step to something greater, just if this was a period of preparation in consolidating my eternal beliefs in tearing down the walls of that disgustingly terrifying fortress of taboos..at least some of the walls I hope..I decided that the topic of my thesis would be an objective analysis of Morocco’s position in the Western Sahara problem. My thesis would probably be rejected and I would most probably end up being declined all favors from my father...which does not make my situation very easy for say... I have dreamed of freedom for such a long time...and I partially found it here...i say what I want without putting any kind of reservation on how my society thinks, or all what the shaped set of norms I was brought in pushes me to believe..And it feels good...and I do not want to loose this feeling...According to some, I will have to keep a low profile for a while until my say is valued.

But I ask myself: when would that be? When I get a PHD, when I get married or when I submit to the oppression? This whole idea of conformity makes me sick, and I want to leave before even going back. Life is incredible. My life has been a meticulous addition of musts and must-nots, and deep inside revolt was born...you once told me that I will set that country on fire...i do remember your words because they have been a source of pride and motivation for me in many different occasions..but I am afraid of having that fire eating up all the fixed comfortable facets of my life...you know..a loving family, a warm house to come back to on weekends..i am afraid that a compromise would not be possible..it would just be another lie in the melting pot of hypocrisy and a fake sense of right and wrong..and then I doubt..why am I doing all of this for? Am I only dramatizing my life because it is only in opposition that I exist? Can all these ambitious visions be a safe way of feeling better about who I want to be? Or am I really fighting for a change for the sake of making others have a better life? I was recently told by a dear person to my heart that I better not worry about myself because I will have a bright future, I will get to where I want to be...Where do I want to be? I want to be home...but home is not morocco anymore…it does not feel like home...home is where I feel safe, valued, and above all satisfied with myself…Morocco is everything but that...I cannot wait to discover where I will end up…I cannot wait to see this friend who is so confident about my future in ten or twenty years and prove him wrong, or right about what he sees as an evidence.

Should I talk about love? I will be 21 years old on the 12th of May and I think I already found love. But then again, the circumstances are not right and it all seems like a ridiculous joke of destiny..i said that life is incredible...I do believe it is...finding what some might call a perfect match and ending up not matching at all because of some absurd parameters such as time, space and people.. What comforts me is the thought of my mother saying..It is all good...It is all for the best..somehow she always managed to see the good in everything..I am trying to fulfill my part of faith in the incredible wisdom of god’s plan for me..it might all be for the best after all..because the best might be still to come..

Apr 19, 2007


And so there is this mystery, this disappearance of honey bees. The most recent speculation is that radiation from cell phones and other gadgets leads to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which in turn causes the hive to be abandonned, as the Independent put it, "leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes." And this interesting detail: parasites, other bees and beasts of the field won't come anywhere near the hive. Ordinarily, they would take the honey but now they stay away, as though the place were haunted by insect jins.

All of which suggests an analogy for time and place: The idea of becoming dizzy from something unexplainable, unbalanced by the slightest thing, you can't even describe it, a bad tummy, a twitch you hadn't had in years, well you're getting older, it's the pain of psoriasis and unusually dark thoughts, I'm thinking of Pliers Bittaker with those girls in his van, unmentionable things and of course Henry with his blue eyes the color or death in the near distance, talking about evil, Steinarian evil, which is the outdoor, drive-in evil, big name cosmic spirits, and being able to imagine any horror... and here you are flying around, unable to remember what needs to be remembered, address is the least of it, can't remember how you got started or even if you are alive at all, life suddenly seems dim and silly, what if there was a bomb blast and you didn't have time mark that, or else you are in the cockpit of one of those Avengers somewhere on a triangle east of Ft. Lauderdale, almost out of gas, sea and sky one and the same, and there is no one else around, you are completely alone, and now the idea becomes less appealing because there is the sense you are missing, but you're not sure, and from what or whom? Meanwhile, you fly on, looking down at places that have no meaning, faces without expression, and suddenly it occurs to you, it must be some form of dimentia, but no, it's not that, something else, and you fly on, aimlessly, more and more in that dreamlike place, skipping time and logic, occasionally believing you are safe in the contour of a swarm, but then suddenly no air speed, no engine, buzz goes dead, prop stopped, somewhere over the front, but where and who and what....

Apr 14, 2007


We go to Turlock, which is below Modesto, above Fresno, underneath light rain, east of nothing, west of the Sierra, I'm sitting in a Travel Lodge lounge, is that the right word, with a silent TV and a Patel behind the desk. Dash's team won their game this morning. That puts them in the final four tomorrow, out of 73 teams for the state cup. It's an interesting accomplishment for a little white kid on an all Latino team, like his brother on an all black team. They've been lucky that way.

Meanwhile, the Indian woman behind the desk is swamped by soccer parents. And now everything is going wrong. In one room, a door lock won't open; in another, no towels; in another, the movie won't play... The Panther parents don't come to games. They can't afford it, they have no transportation, they have to take an odd job whenever they can, even today. But here these parents battering the poor woman behind the desk are wealthy. This is their job, going to the games, getting their kids hyped, trained. As if all their money will make the kids more talented. They come from Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, from cities with the names of a culture that's now behind the teams beating them one after another. The white kids that pump and strump are no match for the Mexican American kids, who play with pessemism, without much hope, but relentlessly, as though this is all they'll ever have. And of course that's true to some degree.

It's all the caucasian kids may have as well but they don't know that yet, they can't imagine.

Perhaps the Indian understands these subplots. I believe she does. She speaks the language well, she's endlessly tolerant. She watches closely. She has layers of interaction. Not like her husband. He has a short temper and after a couple of days I realize his ill temper is semi permanent. He's particularly tempermental when people ask for an internet rate, which he tries to explain was a mistake. So there is a long negotiation with each family. He's running on a tight margin. He has to fight for every penny, to pay all the maids, to wash all the towels. He doesn't have the time or money to fix the tear in the chain link fence behind the buildings and put back the thick wooden slab to keep out the mice and rats. And now is an important moment: When the state cup is over there'll be a long stretch of unused rooms. The clientel will go back to meth brained tanker truckers with their Latin dollies, four hours for $100. Or traveling salesmen come to Turlock to feast on the new businesses springing up. It's a long way from the Grapes of Wrath...

I go downtown for dinner. The only clear radio is "positice and encouraging KLOVE", Christian music rock, Love songs to the Healer, Loving you, my maker, save me from evil love and downward living.


The desire to love little dead men on little dead sticks had to change. Folks need something more hopeful, and more tactile. You don't want to fall in love with a corpse on a stick, even if it's Him. These days you want romantic love, spiritual love, endorphin love all wrapped up in one. A spritzer of sacred and profane, where you can hear the backbeat of sexual healing. Because after all, not if I'm Rosario riding meth-brained truckers to their little deaths or cleaning up the endless mess of anonymous families, if I'm her the analogy is enough, the representation is sufficient, but if I'm tattooed Andrea out at Kragen working 9 to 9 and my only fun on the job is creating the Mystery Oil display, and my old boyfriend went off to Iraq or El Lay, then I need some now-now in my life. I need Jesus to come in and do me, but the way He would, so it would be nice and gentle and he wouldn't leave right afterwards or tell me to go out and buy another pack of cigarettes and by the way bring back an Ultimate Cheeseburger, He would hold me and I'd feel so reassured and so young again. Because out here it's just tiring and you age fast and hard.


Dash goes off with his team to see 300, to get pumped, to believe... I'm stray deeper into Turlock, way of down East Main, and find Wellington Station. It's after 9 and about the last place you can find eats, even on a Saturday night. But this is no imitation English pub, this is real English food, the shephard's pie, the al dente vegetables and masked potatoes, without a hint of taste. Electronic dart board over on one wall, glasses hanging upside down above the bar, high boy little round tables, a few people at the bar, there's a Cal State a quarter mile on. On TV, it's extreme fighting from Manchester, EFFA sanctified, whatever you want, in your dreams mind rage and here's two Americans going at it, they're like in a cage, one's on top of the other, and you think it looks more like they're fucking then fighting because the one has his legs completely open and the other lies in between and they're head to head, you wonder what they're saying to each other, and by the way this is not like TV wrestling, this is for real, this is pain on parade. Finally, the ref gets them out of a corner, not because they're off the mat but because no action I suppose, 3 minutes no punch; break it up. So they do and then with time running out, the guy who's behind, judging by the reaction at the bar, kicks his opponent in the head with his foot, it's eessentially his heel bone on the temple. Well you could see the lights go right out like there was a power outage in Vegas, face goes dark, body goes down and you can see this, he's clunked, but that's no reason to stop and the hitter jumps on the body of the outted man and begins hitting him, they wear these little bikkini gloves, hitting him until the ref comes over and gets the put bull off and he raises both arms and comes to the camera to show his own bloddy mouth. One for the Pulver Team. This is a team sport. The Pulver team won with their last match. Oh my God, the girl at the bar who's been watching this goes, this has made her night, she was betting on Pulver and they won, and she said it first, they won, she knew they would, they had to and this last fighter pulled through, he was the underdog but he did and she knew he would, and now everything's okay for the entire evening for all of Saturday night, until tomorrow, when Church won't be a thought in her head, but her boy friend will give her a wakeup run and then he'll have to get right up and fix his hemi and get down to Fesno to get a rare part.

Apr 12, 2007


I've been thinking of him lately and how it's time to get busy and write it down.

The first time I met him was at the urinal at the federal building in el lay, at the height of the dog trial. He stood next to me, his dick hanging down in that ugly warrior arc, his hands on his hips, upside down hands, thumbs forward, the way steady leather skinned farmers do, and although he wasn't wearing suspenders it was if he was, I think of him that way, and here he was looking out at a grand view of America and saying, 'kid, pretty amazing isn't it.' And then he looked at me with his kindly smile, his St. Anthony smile. He could be mean, vitriolic beyond belief, but the best of him has always been his good hearted regard for strangers.

And then at the other end, riding around with Paulie driving through the city late at night, just the three of us, already then, regretting the loss.

Apr 9, 2007

Dorothy Kilgallen, I miss you

How bad news hangs in the air, like the brown and beige air in Los Angeles basin before catalytic converters. Even now. Good news on the other hand, has no color; it just rises and disappears. But even the slightest bad news has a tint and taste, even when you can't describe it, barely remember it. It always lingers, comes out in a dream or a shallow thought about something else.

"What did I see the other day?"

Oh yes, a second story apartment in Oakland, dense and dirty, a hallway the length of a short smile, chocked with 7 years worth of accumulation, a mother and daughter's hang out, the place they're always leaving, promising themselves to move away from, but then there's never enough money, never enough energy to get out, and so they live on. No matter because they've managed, what they've done with their lives, you think and no support at all. These are poets and writers and creative people. Funny people and you sit and watch her, she's quite a beautiful woman, at whatever age she is, but Sicilian by blood and so there's a dark streak there, and then paper over that a life you would not believe, so filled with death and destructiveness. We sit with her and listen to her say that she has had much creative success lately and more on the way, but she has no life. This is everyone's complaint, I suppose, how can you have a life when there's no time to have it. So she is well, and her daughter is well, and everything is fine, and even the apartment is alright, although you wouldn't want to live there because it's too close to Nathaniel West rooms in East Hollywood, where the curtains are ripped and the floorboards are filthy and the old half Persian carpets reak of smoke and a trillion specs of city vomitage. You have a good visit and everything's fine and you can't wait to see her again, but then later it's as though you lost your wallet and something's amiss.

Or else there's off hand comment. Nothing meant. Just an aside. A good friend telling me a therapist's wisdom, which was that 'all relationships end. Why get excited. Get used to it. Whatever relationship you're in it will end. By death if nothing else. Yours or theirs.' I'm not doing it justice. The comment was easy and off hand and a truth not worth exploring because it's so obvious. But you hear that and then you leave and then everything is colored by it. Then later it's that feeling again that you lost something and even St. Anthony can't find it.

The whole culture is bent toward bad news. Like twisting black flowers bending to a nightmare moon. And how we love it, don't we? The more of it the better. Especially when it involves health. The other day the kid told his mom he'd been seeing wavy lines and a black dot in the middle of his vision. She went right for it. Got on the Internet and all the darkest possibilities popped up and in no time at all, the worst was not possible but probable and from there the long slow trudge of living out the worst even before any doctors had been called, before any tests taken. Any mother would react the same way, any good mother.

But there's something else here. You might even say, there's a longing for the worst. In the bottom of the drawer, in the back of the closet that's what there is, secret pleasure in catastrophe. Because then you are released from everyday, then the fear that this is all too good to be true, is justified.