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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
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Archive for April, 2007

ancient taxi spawning grounds

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

foto by smith

we got stoned and walked to the the city wall to watch martins fly from their wall hole nests at 5 p.m. i asked how the birds knew when it was 5 o’clock, and was that daylight savings or normal time, but no one listened. no birds flew out.

we’re in the middle of marrakech, where walled old city meets new, and as we walk 4 blocks from new to old, we smell urine and rotting flesh mixed with sewage. we walk the wall waiting for the birds, and see that every zigzag of the wall was a urine trap. saw a lot of urined earth – “and poo too – don’t forget number 2” lady adds. people probably been pissing on those sections of the wall for 1,600 years. we should take soil core samples, see how human urine has evolved over the past millenium and a half.

in respect for the men we pass kneeling on rugs praying to the wall, she lets go my hand. yet the outside edge of the prayer rugs is lined with silent men displaying shirts and pants for sale. god and mammon, prayer and purchase. god’s worship is scheduled, mammon’s worshipped constantly.

lady mentions there are no other tourists walking about where we are. i watch the next hour – no non-natives except us. we dip in and out the old city, just wandering, then walk through a used souk – a flea-market auction bazaar. i figure we’ll be besieged to buy, but they’re so surprised to see 2 lone americans stroll through hand in hand, that by the time they realized they had stuff we needed, we were gone.

passed an endless parking lot of taxis outside the walls – hundreds upon hundreds of old taxis looking for food, this must be where used taxis come when they swim upstream to spawn and die.

near home i heard horse clomps, turned, saw tourists in horse drawn carriage. i pointed and said to lady “there’s one, there’s another european. we’re not alone.” lady k exclaims “how colonial was that!” three more carriages clomp by, all full of europeans – and they’re pointing at us. i wonder if lady and i are inside or outside the zoo bars here? i can never keep it straight any more.

just before home, purple petals on the ground, red flower falling. the purple from the jacaranda tree, the red maybe bougainvillaea.

foto by smith

mohammed said there are no public hospitals in marrakech. if you’re sick and can’t pay, you die. no need to worry about what to do because there’s “no solution.” said the same for old people – if you’re old and have no family to care for you, out in the street. too many poor here to worry about niceties. said there used to be water around marrakech and people grew grapes, figs, oranges, but the water’s gone, so more old and poor come into the walled city for work – and there is none.

foto by smith

after 2 nights up on the 6th floor, we spent 10 down here on the 4th. today we move back up to the 6th while the owner flies to begium for 10 days. the 7 days left over after she gets back, we’re not quite sure about. we paid upfront for them, but we’re not sure if or where or what’s going on. i gather that’s not unusual in marrakech. lady k was baking peanut butter cookies this morning to give to folk as thanks, but the stove gas canister ran out when she was half baked. places always try to push us out when our time is up – usually it’s the internet that goes, but we have none here, so the gas disappeared. reality has a sly sense of humor.

foto by smith



Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

I’m lying on Smith’s lap. It’s been an exhausting day.

“Do you want me to close the door? Then I’ll give you my leg back.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Steve looks hurt. “It doesn’t matter?”

“I mean, your leg matters, but the door doesn’t. Not to me, anyways.”

“But they’re both made of matter, therefore they must matter.”

“Does matter matter?” I ask.

“Only to Auntie Matter. Uncle and Auntie Matter.”

“I’m looking across the street at that apartment building. Only two lights on.”

“Do you see any people in the rooms?”

“Oh, someone watching TV for sure. And possibly a person in the other window, I don’t know. I wonder what those apartments are like compared to this. And why are only two windows occupied? Are people away from home?”

“Well, the others are shuttered. And I don’t see anyone opening the shutters. I think the building’s mostly empty.”

“I don’t understand it,” I say. “And I don’t understand our building. It has the character of an old building, but it’s definitely only two years old. The workmanship is so sloppy that it seems like an old building. Just look at the wall around the door. Big gaps, sloppy cutting. The door doesn’t close all the way. And the plastic panel above the door looks like it is dirty, dingy, old. And the paint job is new, but it’s like there are no regulations here. I don’t think they sanded down the walls before they painted. But it is a new paint job; it’s not dirty. The light fixtures are surprisingly elegant, though. And there’s beautiful molding around the ceiling. And marble countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. But then there’s the elevator. It’s so old-looking. I’m afraid of that elevator. I can see getting stuck between floors.”

We often have to coax the elevator to close its doors. It’s temperamental.

“No, it’s a friendly elevator,” Smith says. “That’s all. It’s not a dangerous elevator.”

“I wonder where they got it. They must have salvaged it from an old building. It can’t possibly be a new elevator, can it?”

* * *

“It’s so cool that our power supply was fixed.”


“I like this third world *can do*.”

Smith’s computer’s power supply failed, probably due to the marginal vagaries of Moroccan electricity. Mohammed took it to a friend. He fixed it for 100 Dirhams, about $12.

People are skilled here. Hundreds and hundreds of craftsmen live and work in the medina. Carpenters, weavers, tanners… all kind of industry hums away. One of my favorite activities is to follow Hamid through the workshops. I gather scraps of discarded metal crafts for collage. It’s a sin that such skilled people make so little money. They sell leather wrapped handcrafted lamps for as little at 3 bucks. I think they could be sold for $200 in upscale US markets.

I bought a small percussion instrument. It’s a drum that I can twirl so that beads whip against it. It’s got a hand-cut dowel rod, a leather drum face, and it’s painted.

I asked Hamid, “Why does this cost only 15 dirhams?” Fifteen dirhams is $2.

Hamid said, “Oh, it only took them three minutes to make that. They just threw it together. Not much work went into it.”

But I appreciate its beauty and the delightful sound it makes.

I wonder about the cost for surface mail from here to the US. I could support local craftsmenship, send some nice things to my family.

* * *

“I’m looking at my legs and they seem fat to me. But not unattractive. Just, I can see where the fat is.”

“I’m wasting away. Soon you’ll be with the Ghost of Smith.”

“I’m wondering now how other people see us.”

“I don’t think about that much.” Smith’s accustomed to going his own way, heedless of others’ opinions.

“Well I used to think about it more, but not so much lately. I wonder what the Moroccans think about us. I think not much. I think our age disparity is normal here, not a stigma.”

“I think they see us mostly as white people. That’s what they notice.”

“We *are* watched…”

“(Probably by the FBI…)”

* * *

“I notice that since I started understanding spoken French, my self respect — no, my self esteem — has improved.” I have more handles on reality.

“Self respect is a sort of like self esteem, isn’t it?”

“Well, I think a lot of people questioned our relationship in the beginning. Some people were pretty verbal about it. But by now we’ve proved that it’s the real thing.”

“Oh, no doubt about that. I’m going to rent you out to them. They’re all jealous. They can get five minutes of Kathy.”

“What’s the rate?”

“The rate?”

“For five minutes of me.”

“Five thousand dollars and an ounce of hash.”

“An ounce of hash would be a lot.”

“And a different colored hash each time.”

“This hash seems to be brown.”

“This is brown hash. Brown moroccan hash. There’s black hash, there’s blonde hash, a couple different shades of green hash. Did I say blonde?”


“I think we had black and gold in Amsterdam. We also had black gungy hash. There’s black hash, and then there’s also black gungy hash which you can press. It’s soft. It’s got opium in it.”

“Actually, I think my self esteem improved once we found drugs in Bezier.”

“Oh yeah. That was cool. We scored on our own… without help.”

* * *

“Do you want to see my wooden mouse?”

“OK, sure.”

“See, it’s got one eye here and one eye there.” Steve points to the inlaid pattern on the side of a table. “And here where this wood hangs down, it’s got a little wooden mouse nose.”

“No, I think it’s a titty table.” I grab the mouse nose and make milking motions.

“No, it’s definitely a mouse, some large rodent.”

Furniture seems novel to me now. I appreciate the luxury of a good couch and bathtub. I used to own five couches in the house I owned with my first husband. Now such materialism makes me want to vomit. My exhusband and I tumbled into engineering careers in the ballooning IT industry of the nineties. I left him in 2002, and lost my job a month later. I started my City Poetry zine that summer. Smith started his web site as well.

When I think about the future, it’s with a sense of vertigo. When Smith and I move back to the US or perhaps Mexico, what are we going to do? I gave everything away. I have no furniture, no home. I have artwork in storage, but that’s all. I don’t have any clothes in which to do a job interview. I have 30 pounds of possessions, really.

We’ll have to move to a major city because we have no car. To have to use a car regularly is repugnant to us. The world is worse with a car.

One of my fears is the dollar’s devaluation. Over the past five years, I think the Euro has gained 50% against it and the British Pound has doubled. Speculators recently started to prefer Euros to dollars. Wall Street’s percentage of the international market trading is declining. China has recently talked about selling its US debts.

I’d like to get a bank account in Euros for the short term, but that won’t help us in the future. Social Security is paid in dollars. I think the reason for this devaluation is that our government prints beaucoup extra currency to pay off its creditors.

In Croatia, we learned that when people lose faith in their currency and banks, they invest in real estate. It’s a kind of tangible, semi-permanent investment. They buy lots and construct houses. Morocco has a lot of new apartments. Most of them seem uninhabited.

Smith says we’re going to be poor. He’s taking early social security next year when he turns 62. It seems that he expects I won’t go back to work.

I think the memoir has a chance of success. We have over 200 pages from Smith’s previous life. None of it is filler material; it’s all solid good stuff like stealing cars, doing drugs, committing armed robbery and prison. The first half of Smith’s life will probably be 300 pages once I edit it on the next pass. It will expand because I plan to rewrite the material to put it in present tense, adding reconstructed conversations. We also have 915 pages of blog material. We can construct our recent history from the best of the blogs for the second half of the book. I imagine the finished memoir could be more than 500 pages long.

But if the memoir fails, I plan to work again. It’s too risky to rob banks, and anyways I don’t want to hurt anyone.

I have rigorous daily habits. I’ve maintained and probably improved the discipline required for a career. I spend sometimes 12 hours a day or more writing or doing art or learning languages. Now that we have a bathtub, I spend the first hour of the day in the tub studying my French dictionary or conjugation tables.

I spend the next two or three hours editing my blog or other writing and photos for the blog. In France where we had constant Internet access, I read the news from commondreams. And then I’d keep up with everyone else’s blogs. And after that, I’d do some other web development work. No time to do that here in Morocco, though.

In the evening we spend about four hours talking and writing. I smoke on alternate evenings, because if I do more than that I get too fuzzy.


no warranty or trade

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

foto by smith

physically, long-term budget travel isn’t easy. hand washing clothes means hand wringing clothes with an arthritic thumb. i also walk and work with a creaky neck… plus a stiff back from a long and reckless life… and the coup de grace – a pulled groin muscle from 2004 when mom collapsed and i tried to lift her from the floor. various other nicks, scrapes, dents, and defects. these are damaged goods backpacking with lady k up down steep places for long periods of time over varying terrains where they speak unknown tongues.

lady laughs at me in the mornings because i have to shake my body back in place, get all the various joints and mutinying muscles reacquainted. let this be a lesson to you young ones – there’s hidden cost involved when you marry used goods. there’s no warranty, and most likely the original manufacturing plant’s no longer around.

long-term budget travel to irregular places also contributes to smelly clothes, stinky bodies, and bladders which need be emptied right now when now seldom coincides with public toilet. lady k thought i wasn’t feeling well when i turned down my second cup of coffee this morning – but we’re going out, and coffee rapidly creates more bladder water. i’ve learned bladder pain trumps coffee pleasure. travel teaches you lessons you can never pre-imagine.

is the journey worth it? oh yes. lady alone’s worth the pain. besides, there’s no pain like the pain of boredom from sitting in the same seat in the same house in the same town living the same life looking at the same spot on the same wall licking the same lack in your sorry heart daze after day after daze.

we two make a good life lesson – lady k at 34 shows it’s never too soon to start living your dream, while my 61 proves it’s never too late to run off and join the circus. we’re also example of collaborative get along: we’re old-young, tall-short, male-female, and both sides of the barcode – yet we work wish walk will pretty much as one… i am she and she am me and we will whether the walrus together.

foto by smith

went to a home-made dinner yesterday in the old city, lamb with almonds and prunes. our host spoke some english so i was not entirely out of the loop. he took my broken computer ac adapter to a friend who took it apart and fixed it for $11.

today we went to a hammam, a moroccan public bath. hamid’s teenage son went in with me since hamid’s missing finger is still oozing and not welcome. i was unprepared to have his son wash my body. i’m not used to being touched by strangers of any sex. but it felt good to be washed, scrapped, rinsed in hot water. if i go again, i will wash myself. i don’t like guides, servants, helpers, hangers-on, etc. i come from poor people, and i’m not comfortable being treated like the big boss man. i’m trying to flow with the customs of the countries we’re in, but i prefer to carry my own bags, make my own bed.

after the bath, hamid took us to his mother’s. she gave us fried fish and cold potatoes and two woven baskets with our mint tea. then we visited his brother for more mint tea – the rooster in the next room kept crowing, its cries bouncing about the tiled chamber. you’ve no idea how loud a rooster sounds inside a house.

each meal we eat fixed by others has upset my stomach and bowels. not as bad as the madrid airport food poisoning, but enough to be wary. trouble is, if you’re uptight and afraid to try anything, why be here in the first place. we’d rather take the chance, have the experience, maybe pay for it physically later. besides, it’s good for weight loss. i bet to lose ten pounds overnight, all i’d have to do would be to drink a glass of tap water.

foto by smith

we watched Babel last night – the core of the movie was filmed here in morocco. odd seeing on film sights we see in flesh. what a sad, complicated, interconnected film. my first thought was why make it. i noticed by the film’s end the cate blanchett brad pitt white couple gained happiness, and the japanese father and his disturbed daughter attained a chance for reconciliation and redemption – but the brown-skinned moroccan family and the brown-skinned hispanic family both suffered greatly and were destroyed. racism or reality? or a bit of both?

the most kindness in the film was shown by a moroccan, the least kindnesses came from older white american males. now that i think on these things, i begin to understand why the film was made.

foto by smith



Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Dust Rose Love


“Something’s happening to us,” I tell Smith. “Our guide has a missing finger. We lost a power supply to the bad wiring in the apartment. Our computers are partially amputated in Marrakech. The watch broke, and the camera lens repeatedly wouldn’t come out. ”

“I gave up several times, put it back in my pocket, took it out and tried it again. It worked,” he says.

We had sun this afternoon but now it looks as though it could rain. I allow myself to dip into my depression about what’s happening to the world.

Today we had visceral contact with the way most of the people in the world live. I’m using my pictures of dead and live animals as metaphors for humans. Some are born into this and they are lucky, cared for, pets. Others, not. Animals are providers of either food, labor, or are lucky enough to be cute and indulged in like a pet.

Smith reads me his blog.

“Cats eat dead things in the hall as we walk up the stairwell to the fifth floor Internet cafe… It’s one of those sentences that should perk yr interest.”

“Yr right, you know? They were eating dead things,” and I snicker ickily.

“Two minutes ago, I had a kitten and a cat eating dead things. But just *cats* eat dead things is better.”

“It’s so different, it’s like a bludgeon,” I say. “People in America don’t have experience with it, so they don’t know. I think I gave coins to seven people today in the village. I’ll have nightmares about it. You said you felt like you were an exploiter by just being there.”


“Like you didn’t feel it was proper for you to be there. I know what you mean, the concept of slumming it. But I think it’s essential for rich-worlders to get this experience. For us to *not* experience it would be even more of a sin, since we’re here, in Marrakech. It’s like putting up curtains. Or shaded windows on your car.”

* * *


“Hamid offered to do our laundry this afternoon. I think he was trying to figure a way to make money from us over the weekend. It’s almost an intolerable situation. But it’s rich with experiences. Like I couldn’t say no to the kebabs even though I didn’t want to eat street food. Well, I don’t seem to have food poisoning from the beef. That’s a plus.”

“I hate to say it, but I wanna try camel before we go,” says Smith.

“Camel, are you crazy?”

“Why?” he asks.

“Camel, they don’t have standards for. I know what beef tastes like in different countries so if it’s bad, I might know. But camel, I wouldn’t eat camel in Morocco.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“I’d eat it in Saudi Arabia or Dubai, but not here.”

“Oh you would, would ya? You know, I’d eat camel because I’m a poet. I respond to the poet in the situation. That’s why I ordered blood sausage outside Zagreb, because of the metaphor.”

He continues: “Horrible looking sight to eat. So if I’d been offered camel meat today, the poet in me would take a bite without thinking. That’s one of the reasons I had to jump out of the airplane. For the metaphor. Being in Marrakech is a metaphoric metaphor.”

“Yr right.” I agree.

“But doing something just for the poetry of it isn’t always worth the trouble, like the blood sausage. It’s poetry turned barbaric. I ate the blood sausage, meat cooked in an animal’s blood. Makes me wanna vomit. But I didn’t vomit; I got it in one end of my body and it came out the other.”

I feel my stomach turn. “Ew! I’m going to vomit!”

* * *

“So, did you catch that Hamid thought we were from the Netherlands today?”

“Nope. How’d you get that?” he asks. I guess I didn’t translate for him earlier.

“Because he was explaining to someone where we were from,” I say.

“He did?”

“He said Hollondaise, Hollondaise. That’s the third or fourth person who’s thought that.”

“Probably because we look intelligent,” Smith says wryly.

I think about how I spurted out that we weren’t Hollondaise. I hope I didn’t embarrass Hamid in front of his friend by correcting him.

I say, “Are we really intelligent, though?” As I edit my writing I say, “I’m moving this paragraph up here where it belongs.”

“I wonder what it’d mean if you moved a moving paragraph…”

“Ah, levels within levels within levels.”

“Whereas a dump of shit is called a movement.”

“Well, that all collapses it, doesn’t it.”

“If you take just one step too many, it all falls to pieces.”

* * *

Gold light on the floor from the window. “Sun again?”

“Yeah.” Smith’s on the balcony.

“I can’t believe the weather in this freaky fucking country,” I moan.

“It’s only a break in the clouds. I assume we’re going to the Internet cafe tomorrow, right?” He pulls the curtains, walked in front of me briskly and sits on the couch beside me.

“I hope so. I don’t know what Annette has in store for us.”


“And I don’t feel like talking to her right now.”

“Oh yes. Not now. That’s understandable.” Smith opens his laptop.

“I like her, but I’m exhausted. I can understand her better than Hamid, but she still requires the same amount of attention because she talks more. But she speaks clearly. Not like other French women. She enunciates.”

Smith hunts and pecks some keys for his blog, dabbing index fingers delicately. “Well, she’s from Belgium, isn’t she? Maybe that has something to do with it.”

“Yes, she purls and growls her French. She’s like a cat,” I purr. “A big cat. A lioness.”

“Rowl,” I growl. “*She* knows the fair fare for a taxi ride.”

She’s 63. I wonder if she finds herself surprised. I am, and I’m 34.

* * *

“We could write about dull places, you know? We’d go to the ten most dull countries and write about them.” I’m wondering if this is Smith’s commentary on Europe.

“No, we couldn’t,” I humor him. “We’d have nothing to write about. It’d be this huge echochamber.”

“We can go live in Nebish,” he says, mischieviously.


“Nebish. Nebish, Arkansas.”

“You’re trying to scare me, aren’t you…”

He hovers and sways over me, “He he he.”

* * *

Smith says, “I’ve decided that our blog is like a parasite. It’s gotta get stuff to feed itself. It’s putting us through these experiences.”

“Yeah, yr right,” I agree. “You know, I feel like my computer isn’t really alive without the Internet. I feel like it’s a ghost.”

“You’ve been spoiled,” he says.

“I also think periods look friendly. Commas are OK, but they’re not finished yet. Periods are nice and round. Apostrophes feel like I’m hurrying through something.”

“I don’t like apostrophes. No, wait; it’s something else. I’m thinking of semicolons. Never mind; I’m not even on the right level.”

I’m tired. And I look over at Smith and realize that if I’m tired, he must be really really exhausted after today. We went to a very poor town twenty miles outside of Marrakech.

“How ya doin, sweetie?”

“I have no idea.”

We suddenly hear street music from the apartment window It’s unlike any other music I’ve heard. It sounds like breathy car horns and a muffled drum. Ebbs in loud enough for us to notice it, then ebbs back out. We both simultaneously say, “Wow.” I’m happy. I figure wherever there’s music, there’s an envelope for happiness, a phoenix blossoming out of the fumes of desperation.

* * *

“I’m petting you. You’re soft.” Smith pets the blanket folded next to me.

“Ah, that blanket’s trying to usurp me. It’s forming a golem blanket. Don’t do that. That’s not me.”

He continues petting the blanket. “You’re soft. Here, try petting Kathy.” And he pets my hand on the blanket.

“I could get you a sheep blanket.”

“I already had a sheep blanket,” he jokes. “It gets messy. You can only do that once.”

“I wonder if you’re kidding… Here, I can be a sheep.” And I crawl over him on the couch, say, “Bah, bah. I’m a sheep.” I nuzzle him. “And you can be my shepherd. You have a rod, a staff.”

“A staff of life.”


“That’s a disease, isn’t it?” he asks.

“Cunilingus, meningitis. Do you mind if I write this down?”

“No, why should I?”

“Well, sometimes you mind. So I like to ask. Ya never know.” But we always opt to tell everything.

“Yeah, I’ve been keeping a list. When it gets up to a hundred, you’re in trouble.”

“You’re very funny. I was worried you were keeping a list.”

At Poor Town


porpoise purpose

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

foto by smith

lady k went with the belgium lady to a supermarket for europeans. when she returned, i asked “how was the store?” “o, it was america. with french food.” we see some words are the same in every land – like pizza, taxi, internet

me to lady k: “what a strange reality i got myself into when i hooked up with you. i’m a person who wouldn’t go out and eat with everybody else after the poetry readings. if you wanted to see me, you had to stop by and visit – and then i’d spend most of my time and effort trying to get you back out the door. my doormat said GO AWAY. so what am i doing in marrakech with forty foot of couch?”

i took a toke. it started raining. i stood on the balcony looking through the rain to the sun’s rays streaming through a far break in the grey… the sunlight lit the rain from within, so i had a falling water-sparkle dance before my eyes. wind arrived, pushed the falling droplets back up into round water balls which bounced about in the competing air currents – each ball filled with setting sun light. then came thunder bluster harder water, so i came in. even rainy days have their ways.

foto by smith

slowly reading ‘the rebel’ by albert camus. philosophers seem to have 2 problems: if god exists, all this is god’s fault… but if god is dead, where do we get a moral system. i think they’re beating a dead hearse. you don’t need god in the equation. morality is simple: what you do to others may be done to you. if you don’t want to be stolen from, don’t steal. if you want kindness, be kind. if you don’t want to be hurt, don’t hurt others. it’s simple self interest – do as you would be done is the whole of the law. sure i’m strong and smart now and could take from others by force or conniving, but eventually the strongest age and weaken, the smartest dim, the fastest slow. we begin life weak, we end it helpless. what you do now makes a difference later. life is one huge used karma lot.

some day dick cheney and george bush will lose their stolen power – they’ll age, weaken, dim, and folk can start doing to them what they’ve done to others. i would never kick someone who was down, but for those two i’d be tempted to make an exception – repeatedly… though i won’t, because as richard m nixon said, “it would be wrong.” the moral path’s a slippery devil when you’re human.

the “do as you would be done” law does has a fatal flaw – sado-masochists doing as they would be done is going to upset an awful lot of folks. as will the psycho-sociopaths and social-psychopaths – their paths are not ones most of us wish to walk. that’s the trouble with laws, rules, theories – there’s always the grey areas that don’t fit. i still like “brighten the corner where you are” from my friend mister rogers. and “do no damage” holds up well.

when i said i was looking for purpose, poet jack said the purpose of life is to live it. told him i meant to say porpoise, and he replied the porpoise of life is to swim through it. guess that would be the porpoise purpose principle.

the donkeys are braying in the streets below. they bray day and night. sound like badly adjusted air brakes. at night the dogs start barking. i think they wait for humans to go inside at night and then run the streets. during the day, it’s all imperial cats lounging around waiting to see if you brought food.

foto by smith



Saturday, April 21st, 2007


NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO of animals from Marrakech and a neighboring town which was much poorer. I’m trying to use animals as metaphors for the working and living conditions of people. Some are well cared for, others not:

Some scenes from yesterday in the following photos as well. I forgot to put my blog entry on my USB data stick; will post yesterday’s weird events tomorrow:




Made new gallery of Marrakech photos here


tv truth

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

foto by smith

cats eat dead things in the hall as we walk up the stair well to the 5th floor internet cafe. sometimes the lights go out, the stairs disappear in the dark, and i take one step too many or too few in this eternal shell game of reality versus expectation.

all gods are tricksters, but the more i read of coyote the trickster god, the meaner and more perverse he appears – he offers to watch mrs badger’s hungry children while she scours food for them, then cooks them into a stew and eats them as soon as she leaves. eats her too when she returns. has an eternally hungry endless penis always getting him in trouble. assumes other’s skins to have sex with beautiful unwilling women, as well as their mothers and grandmothers. no compassion. no honor. not a nice guy. a bad role model unless you want to be a politician.

time here doesn’t proceed as scheduled. yesterday we found tomorrow’s dinner was to be tonight. lady k’s market trip with the upstairs lady 2 days hence became today. schedule things for friday and saturday, they both happen thursday. marrakech doesn’t care what our plans are, the city decides for us, informs us as we go. don’t believe i’ve ever had less handle on reality than here. of course, some of my previous realities have had less to handle.

lady k left for a 2 hour supermarket taxi trip with the upstairs lady, leaving me to greet the berber family should they come for dinner before their scheduled 3 hours. or if lady returns after. i had her phonetically write down something in french to explain in case i’m it. mrs hamid speaks arabic, hamid arabic and some french, and i’m one-lingualini english.

i do speak absurd and droll, as well as sardonic and wry, but those are sub-languages – i’d need french or arabic carrier waves to get them across. Sardonic & Wry sounds like a law firm downwind of Hollywood & Vine.

lady k is blossoming here. she’s blossomed each stop along the way since combining our ways, but she’s blossomed some of the blossoms here. the marrakech free range reality agrees with her. she started two assemblages, very moroccan flavor. she’s now a three continent maker of international trash art. and i’m her main trash man. gimme some garbage, baby.

foto by smith

lady k invited hamid and his mrs over for dinner to be social, and as a thank you for feeding us in their house. hamid’s wife took over and did all the cooking, showing lady the moroccan way. lady tried to bake a cake to be part of it, but his mrs insisted on doing that too. she even cleaned up after. for 4 hours i was social with folk i could not communicate with. we again all ate from one big plate. good dinner. they brought gifts, but as they were leaving, he said i should give his wife 100 dirham ($12.50 u.s.) for “doing the cuisine.” so what we thought a social engagement turned financial (i gave her 150 dirham – figure 4 hours is worth $19). but i don’t understand them bringing the gifts – i guess it was both social and financial. i speak neither the languages nor understand the customs of this country. i do know everyone has very little, so money matters. i don’t like paying people to do things for me. paying for dinner in our own apartment upset some sense of sociality i have – and messed up my bowels as well.

there’s threes here. when they make mint tea, they add enough sugar to keep a horse happy. from two foot above the glass, they pour one glass of tea, then pour the tea back into the pot. this is done three times, partly to stir the sugar but mainly to create tea foam. when mrs hamid cooks couscous, she uses a 2 part pot – puts lamb meat and the harder vegetables in water in the lower pot and starts cooking. she places a large amount of couscous in the steamer top part. after it steams, she dumps it on a large platter, kneads it and adds oil and water, then puts it back in the top to steam some more. she does this 3 times, adding various vegetables to the bottom along the way. very time intensive meal – maybe 2 hours to cook. one of several spices used was saffron – a magic poet word, like autumn and sapphire. the amount of food prepared was prodigious – oranges with cinnamon and sugar.. couscous with lamb, carrots, turnips, eggplants, yellow squash and more, a mound of couscous sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, sliced green melons, bananas, apples, cake… etc. could have fed 8 well instead of our 4.
. . .
took a packed bus 20 kilometers south to the town of tameslouht. people pounded on the metal bus walls when they wanted off. we walked parts of town, went into the open-air souks. poverty everywhere. the souks in the medina here in marrakech are richer, wealthier, more for tourists. down there they’re for moroccans. camel meat, mounds of nuts, figs, barber tents, goat heads in piles on the ground – made me think of the rolling stones’ album “goat’s head soup.”

coming back, hamid was stopped by the tourist police – he’s not a registered as a guide. he slipped them 50 of our dirhams, they went away. if only all police would accept $6 bribes.

i’m at least a head taller than most folk here. we stuck out today like rich white. and we’re not rich, not even vaguely well off. not quite white either after 5 months of croatian, french, and moroccan sun. we can’t afford to be here, but we can’t afford not to be here either. we’re gambling what little we have to see what we might become. sold our place, paid off all our bills, and left america. figure we’ll travel for two years and settle somewhere where money grows on trees (it’ll have to, cuz we’ll need some by then). the world is finite, and maybe fracturing. we all may have gone one step past the tipping point in global warming or social cooling. whatever. we just thought it prudent that while things are as they are, it’d be a good time to take a look around.

the unholy trinity we’ve seen everywhere since leaving america are tobacco, tv, and coca cola. you can toss mcdonald’s and cell phones in there too – let those 5 be the unholy 3.

spell check wants me to capitalize tv, which proves TV’s one of our new godz. why capitalize tv and not Truth?

someone else invited to a tangine tomorrow, a traditional moroccan dinner stew. as soon as we accepted, we were informed they’d need 150 dirham to buy the ingredients. customs are uncustomarily strange here to me. even sociability and friendship have price tags. i spose learning this is part of the purpose of traveling. from now on, anyone who wants to be my friend will have to pay me upfront.

foto by smith



Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Smith’s eating an apple, walking through our apartment. He offers a bite to me.

“Oh, no thank you. I’m so tired that I have no appetite. Probably from the huge couscous lunch we had.” I made couscous in the traditional way with the steamer Hamid’d brought us.

“I’ve decided that couscous is too repetitious,” says Smith. “I’m going to call it just *cous*, or *cous-two*.”

“You gotta lotta ideas.”

“Hmm.. I like the way your traditional Moroccan shoes go with your traditional Moroccan socks,” he says. I’m wearing my Moroccan camel shoes with some striped socks I found in Croatia, and it looks weird.

“Well, I’ve never seen a live camel, but I’ve worn one,” I say.

We go up on the roof. It’s a little before sunset. The roof is crowded with satellite dishes.

“The Portuguese won the satellite…”

“The satellite dish war?”

“Yes,” he continues. “There are fourteen, then there’re one, two…” He walks among the satellites, taking inventory. “Ten of them are Gold Vision Portuguese satellites. I think there’re three brand names on the remaining four.”

“I never knew Portuguese were big satellite makers.”

“Yes, this is my first introduction to their line.”

We peer over the northwest side of the roof. A large construction site runs along the north side of our building. They’re erecting yet another salmon-colored apartment building. Over the past week they laid concrete blocks and poured concrete for the second floor. Next to the new building, a yard houses most of the materials for the remaining floors. A man is inside the yard, hammering a fence.

“Hmmm… it looks like he’s boarding it up for the night,” I speculate. “There’s quite a large shed down there. Do you think that’s an office or do you think someone lives there?”

“I think it’s a guard shack. There’s a lot of material to steal here. Maybe the guards live there.”

I climb on an overhang off the north side of the roof. It looks a bit precarious. I don’t understand what function it serves, but it’s fun to climb on it.

“Hmmm. You’re gonna break it off, aren’t ya?” Smith joins me.

“Don’t think I haven’t had that worry. There’s so much to watch here.” I take some photos, trying to capture the complexity of the scene in an understandable way. Smith crawls off the ledge. I pause to figure out how I’m going to get down. He stands in front of me, opens his arms. I hug him.

“Here… RRRRRRR… Your own personal elevator service.” He sets me on my feet, and I hold myself close to him for a long tender bearded kiss. It moves something warm inside me.

We start downstairs, but I see movement in the palmerie on the southwest side. A dark figure trails the uneven ground between the cocked palms. It’s reduced to the simplest human form by virtue of distance and dusk.

“Someone’s walking in the palmerie! First time I’ve seen that.”

I want to walk there. Examining the city from the roof makes it seem so accessible. I’m excited about our plans tomorrow. We’re going to go into the heart of the Medina without our guide.

Smith sits near the roof door, waiting for me. I watch a small bird fly in behind his shoulder, and then it gets larger, and larger, and before I have the chance to film it, it flies over our heads. It’s HUGE, and exotic.

“Big bird, BIG bird, Ohhh! Is that a stork?”

“Looks more like an egret or an ibis to me,” says Smith. “It’s a HUGE bird. And look past the medina. What I thought were clouds are mountains!”

“Oh my!”

“Yes, those are mountains. You can see the tops. Where it goes up and down I see snow.”

“You’re right… the mountains are greater than Koutoubia!” We noticed that none of the buildings in Marrakech are taller than six stories. The central Koutoubia mosque is thus viewable from everywhere in the city.

“We’re actually here at sunset,” I wist.

“Yeah. I’ve been wondering.”

The red sun slips into half sun, like it’s melting into a steel colored cloud, then we look away, and then it’s gone.

I hear a volley of different siren sounds. Children play on the streets. Their voices echo up to the roof. We go over the east side to watch them play in the fountain area in front of our building. On either side of the fountain, huge square planters. There’re no plants in the planters, and the fountain is mostly dry.

Two young boys run twenty feet through the middle of one planter. They aim to get enough speed to jump from it to the next planter, about six feet. But they lose courage and momentum before the end, and they can’t make it across.

One looks up. I wave. He looks away. He looks back up. I wave and smile. He smiles and then makes another attempt.

“He jumped from there over to the bench…” says Smith. “I’m glad I’m not a parent. I had stitches every summer.”

“Oh, soft little bones. Boys who think they can fly,” I say.

We return to our apartment. Smith lays his head on my lap. I pet his fuzzy new hair growth. He shaves his head once a week, and the stubble feels good against my fingers.

We still hear the boys outside. They’re singing now.

“Boy, the kids sure are active tonight.”

“Oh yes. At least they’re happy. I haven’t heard a harsh word.”

“It’s a community here. It’s healthy.”

“Yes, tribal,” he says. I remember one medina walk with Hamid. He tried to teach me the pronunciation of Arabic numbers one to ten. A ten year old joined us. Hamid and the boy sang a song about numbers as we walked along. I tried to repeat after them.

“So what are you thinking?” I ask Smith.

“Oh, nothing. I’m just paying attention to the head petting. My brainpan is empty.”


free range reality

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

foto by smith

lady k couldn’t part with our art, so before we escaped, she made eleven 8 x 10 color prints of her / my / our pieces. wherever we go, she tapes them about so we have a small traveling gallery of us – except in france where she was too busy making new art to hang old. here, i taped them in a line eleven long leaning against the empty wall – a condensed essence of smiths art show. welcome to smith family gallery marrakech – 4 floors up, by appointment / apportionment only.

tonight we’ll have our first viewers – a berber family lady k’s having to dinner. we’re showing our art to the world one family at a time. but what we lose in time, we make up in volume.

foto by smith

told lady she’s a good looking woman on the outside, but more importantly, she has smarts, talent, and a good heart. eventually flesh sags, wrinkles, spots, discolors, decays, falls away – no matter how good it gets, flesh always fails – all flesh fails. when the outside goes to shit, it’s what’s inside that counts. (sounds like a good bumper sticker.)

foto by smith

i spend my time writing, thinking, walking around, absorbing surroundings, taking photos, interfacing with lady k, and getting stoned each night. a decent life. the purpose of this adventure is to stimulate our creative juices, find the who we are, rather than aren’t. seems to be working.

i’m down to 173 pounds – that’s 3 pounds gone this week alone, 17 pounds down past 4 months. keep this up and the are i am will be aren’t. marrakech giveth and marrakech taketh away. my computer recharger died – marrakech electricity killed it. if lady’s goes, we’re screwed because we write, process fotos, and blog with these things. we’ve become borg people, human / cyber symbiots.

we watched the sun set, listened to sunset prayers on the roof last night. the prayers are amplified, sound like mass monk drone chant. from the top of a 6 floor building, you can look out over the tops of the roof tops of marrakech, see the mountains beyond. the only thing taller than 6 stories are the minarets… i counted over 40 minaret towers in a 360 roof top sweep. this is the only city i’ve seen you can see over.

foto by smith

marrakech is 4,028 miles from from cleveland ohio, but it’s taken us 9 months and 12,000 miles to get here.

left cleveland august 1, 2006. went to chicago to london to north england to london to amsterdam to london to lodz poland to krakow to lodz to london to pula croatia to trieste italy to venice to pula to beziers france to barcelona spain to madrid to marrakech morocco – plus side trips.

we sold our studio and gave away our possessions, so we have no place to return to. have limited funds and no money coming in, so cannot wander forever. everything always costs more than expected.

lady k has nepal in her sights soon, but is thinking tunisia and algiers first because we’re already in africa (and i suspect because she can keep practising her french in those 2 countries). nepal is 7,591 miles from cleveland… i tell you, when lady k leaves a town, she really leaves.

foto by smith



Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Leather percussive instrument, french book, and leather purse
Photo by Lady

Thinking about how patronizing I am. How having a hired person is awkward. How I condescend.

I mean — about Hamid’s neediness — is he really needy? Why should I assume this? Maybe he makes a decent living salary at being a guide.

It seemed at first he was poor. He sports a bandage on his hand, he’s missing a finger. And he seemed desperate, following us doggedly when we first breached the walls of the medina.

I recall the first time we visited his home. Twenty feet of tunnel lead up to his front door. It was dark. A bucket sat outside the door – perhaps it was for human waste.

He opened a window in the door and called his wife. She came down and unlocked it. Hamid grabbed the bucket and put it in the bathroom. We followed him up concrete stairs into a middle area between two living rooms. Each living room was partitioned with pretty curtains. The white walls were lined with long thin red and gold couches.

The home was like a cave. It reminds me of the house we had in France in that the walls are irregular. The living rooms appeared spacious to me. Perhaps 20 or 30 people could get together. Smith disagrees, though.

There was a color TV, a satellite dish on the roof. There were no standard bedrooms. I think they must use the living room couches at night.

Typical street in residential area of the Medina
Photo by Lady

Holy shit. I was writing this, and someone rang our door. I hid the hash. But it was OK, Hamid was at our door…

He brings me a big couscous cooker – a pot with a separable steamer on the top for the couscous. I’m trying to learn how to make it for Thursday night when his family visits. He also brings a coffeepot because he was concerned this afternoon about my method of making coffee. I boiled it in a sauce pan. We ate gritty, gritty coffee.

Hamid explains how to make couscous in the kitchen. Afterwards, Smith asks me, “Ask him if he wants to smoke.”

“Voulez-vous fumer la hashish?” I ask Hamid.

“Oh, hashish?” He brings his hand to his mouth, pantomimes smoking intensely. “Yes.”

So I bring out the art supplies (hash) and we sit down. Smith starts to put a chunk on the needle, and then Hamid says, “Here, try mine. It’s better.”

I watch Smith and Hamid pass the cup, then the needle falls off the paper and they pass the smoking needle back and forth. I get a secondhand buzz.

“Here,” I say. “Let me get you a book. You can use Philip K. Dick’s Ubik. I’m probably not going to read it. Too busy writing.”

Smith fiddles the needle through the book. Hamid moves to the floor, rolls a cigarette.

“Today, I smoke. This evening. Tomorrow, no smoke. He doesn’t smoke the cigarette?” Hamid indicates Smith.

“No, he had the cancer.” I grab my throat.

“Oh, cancer,” says Hamid. “Yes, with this hash, it’s good quality. Only need a little bit. I won’t smoke tomorrow. It’s good to have a day on, a day off. Day on, day off.”

“I won’t smoke tomorrow or Thursday,” I tell Hamid.

“That’s good. Otherwise you lose your comprehension.”

“This is good stuff,” says Smith. “Ask Hamid if we can get some of this.”

“Can we buy this? How much does it cost?”

“Oh, two, three hundred dirhams.”

“Will two hundred dirhams be enough?” asks Smith. “We don’t need it now – tell him Thursday. He can bring it when he comes Thursday.”

Steve holds two bills out to Hamid.

“This is good, no? 200 dirhams?” I ask.

“It’s good. Thank you.” Hamid stuffs the money in his pocket.

“And we don’t need it now. On Thursday when you come?”

“OK, I bring Thursday. I can get you a quantity like this,” and he indicates his pinky finger.

Hamid finishes his cigarette as we finish the chunk. He moves to the couch, sits next to Steve. Unfolds the towel he had wrapped around his bandaged hand. Holds it up. There are huge holes in the middle of the cloth.

“Oh, from smoking?”

“No. From mice. You comprehend? The mice. They like to eat everything.” He makes his hand like a mouse crawling on the table.
“I try to sleep, and I see them.”

I giggle and translate for Smith.

Hamid continues: “And they like to eat paper. I had 150 dirhams ready for the bank. When the mice were through with it, I had only 50 dirhams for the bank.”

I laugh, and then I wonder if I’m supposed to be laughing. Of course; he’s telling a story to us. It should be OK.

“So I got a wallet for my money. And look.” He unfolds the wallet, shows us a tattered edge. “Look, now they eat the wallet.”

This seems an appropriate parable for something.

Meanwhile I feel a whole new dimension opens up with Hamid. He’s no longer just “in business” with us; I think the intimacy of smoking is facilitating a friendship.

“Have you always lived here in Marrakech?” I ask.

“Always Marrakech. But my family is from all over Morocco. Down south, the men wear blue pantaloons, blue shirts, black scarves over their faces. Lots of camels there. Beaucoup de camel.”

“Ooo… How good.”

“I have family from the Sahara. I have family who live towards Casablanca.”

“Some other day, we should go on a tour nearby. It costs 4 dirhams for a ticket. 6 dirhams to eat.”

“That is nice. Thank you.”

Artisan area – triangles and diamonds are ubiquitous wall and door decorations
Photo by Lady


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