Miami and beach, tits and ass...
Obviously I know nothing about Miami after 3 days, … the coming down to this world is as hard as always, particularly hard in light of shine and boobs and plastic and body, an exposed superficiality that doesn't beat about the bush. My African American room mate takes about an hour to get dressed. But yeah you don't find the intellect in bars that sell 11USD Heinekens, with 50 flat-screens showing the NBA playoffs or however you call that.
To its rescue, Miami is home to many. Races go well together in Miami. Here nobody cares about your color, accent, haircut, dress and we all watch Basketball, together ...
Stationed in North Beach I make it to Downtown one day, get around Little Havana, impressed to find Cohibas and Romeo y Juliettas, tons!, why was I so worried when I took one! into the US? Oh these here were brought in from Nicaragua after they'd been brought in from Cuba, what a story is told to tourists? I buy a cigar, one that is made in Miami by Cubans, so is half Cuban, but this one you can only get in Miami.
I am irritated by no, not one El Che posters, but ah yes this is the other band of Cubans here, the conformists, those that support the war on terrorism. There is a memorial for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. I am missing some irony or criticism on a mural of Nicaraguan Archie Nica which might be viewed as blatant sarcasm as well, the painter obviously disagrees.
I find a laid-back loud bar, Transit Lounge, a loft on the edge of Downtown and Little Havana, music is straight rock and roll. Everybody smokes in Miami, so different from Mexico, so I light my Cigar and love it. I try a SF Anchor but it does not fit here, switch for Jamaican Red Stripe and stick with it, later a Jameson's. This Transit Lounge is about the best thing that could have happened to me in Miami, to sooth the pain of coming back down to this world.
It takes me two hours to get the 17kms home on elevated rail system, busses and a taxi in the end.
I fly out on Wednesday 8th of June, Vienna and my boys on Thursday.
15th of June, Vienna, Madrid, Casablanca, long awaited new journey with boys starts.
I wake at 4.25 in Vienna on 15th of June, the alarm on the Nokia rings at 4.30 a.m and I wake up my boys Daniel and David who know what we are up to. Their imaginations have been running wild for weeks, I'd like to know what is in their heads, they're 4 and a half years old. 5 a taxi, 5.15 on airport, check-in at 5.30, a coffee and a hot chocolate and saying good-bye to Hasna, their mother, no big deal. Before 6 through security checks, at 6:10 at the gate, we wait for the bus, the boys still ask whether we are going on a plane, like today. 6.20 they need to pee still such a long time till take-off at 7.20...
Early into Madrid, the metro to Nuevos Ministerios, we find a tapas bar-cervezeria, a beer for me, a quasi celebratory beer as I am on a new journey with my boys. David eats half of the tortilla de patatas, Daniel none, they are so different in some ways. We take another metro to Plaza Espagna, I tell David off for running too far away, then we slip out away towards the Royal Palace, a walk through the pedestrian zone, eventually more and more walking back north till it becomes arduous. The boys pester for the obligatory ice-cream, chocolate on a cone, they've been looking nice and neat for the longest part of the day, now they're back to being real boys on the road.
More walking, a drink in a cafe, then more walking, Madrid is hot and this is none-sense, we are too tired. Back on the metro they fall asleep but how can we bridge another 4 hours on the airport? Toilet, drinks, no more sleeping now, they climb the poles, run around wild, wipe the floor with shirts and pants, in the very end already at the gate David sets off a fire extinguisher and for a short moment disappears in a cloud of white dust or foam, now this is severe! Still so much energy.
On the plane to Casablanca they fall asleep before take-off, wake only after touch-down, it's been a long, long day. We meet the whole family, after dinner at home they run around and David slips, hits his face on the ground. His nose bleeds, he stops crying pretty soon, he is tough, his nose though keeps bleeding and his pants after the chocolate and the swiping of the airport floor look like he's been to war...
We are tired and we sleep, I sleep most of the next day, I am happy to be back in Morocco, happy be back on a journey with my boys. I will try to tell this story as it happens, tell the contemporary story ... when the boys give me time …
25th of June, Essaouira, Morocco Gnawa/Gnaoua festival, one more time.
Haze like a heavy veil hangs over the flat ocean, brackish brown wavelets break ashore, further south the windsurf and kite cracks go in and out the Essaouira (windy city) bay. I have a bad cold, have had it since Guadalajara, Jalisco and that was weeks back, the very latest trip to the Zagora desert down the Draa valley here in Morocco and its dry climate didn't bring me change, now the freezing Atlantic ocean breeze cuts deep into my sweaty shirt and I let go of just another tirade of coughs; still I order Flag Special. Maybe the greatest of all views on the bay is had in the Chalet de la Plage which looks pretty much like all the other small, undecorated, "bad" Moroccan bars, where one meets the local deep down and dirty beer and rouge (red wine) drinker; those fine establishments that bare Moroccan women from entering (strictly men only and tourist women of course), these bars in local lingo are called le trou, the hole.
I sit and stare into the haze of the bay this afternoon 24th the 2nd day of the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira; the opening parade gave me such hopes, I was right in there from Bab Doukala to Moulay Hassan Place and – got a nice shot or two (see below). Later I followed some friends to the Sufis, the non-dogmatic type, welcoming folk, this is silly season, we all sat in a room, smoking kif and hash, I hence missed the opening concerts and this is harsh as they very often are the best of the entire festival. Only harder is that I don't smoke and found myself trapped, 20 people, all smoke dope but me.
So today here I am, happy and not.
It turns out I am not seeing a concert tonight either, this wouldn't be my most lucky Essaouira.
Moving from to, being pushed and grabbed in the crowd, one hand around my bag, the other carries the camera high on the shoulder; checking the bag right after my wallet turns out missing; the famous festival voleurs struck and I have defied them for all these years when working my way through the masses; but those hundreds of tiny hands go amazingly quickly in and out of pockets. So I have met the other Essaouira? 'Souria?
In my 7th year coming with some regularity to Morocco, thanks to my boys Morocco has become home, I have seen it change and develop impressively since the young King Mohamed VI took over 11 years ago; can I sense a different energy this time around? Certainly events elsewhere in the Arab world have woken Al-Maghrebia too and M6 in an all pro-active speech recently announced a new constitution lately. Sneezing, gasping for air, he seemed ridden by the flu just like me; a king, a rare autocrat who enjoys the support of a majority of Moroccans, "here we love our king".
But opposition is elsewhere and his discourse did little to sooth the Berber and Saharawi base, the Rif, the dark and beautiful back-side of the Atlas and the Sahara want to remain non-compliant. Having felt the father's iron hand for almost 40 years any relief might not be taken as a bona fide cadeaux but rather an invitation to an all-out revolt.
For tourists (this is still me) the recent Marrakech Cafe Argana bombing is a more imminent definer for the situation and who ever did it is for most (of us) secondary when accusations fly far, Algeria!, AKIM!, Berber!, the police themselves! Essaouira and the biggest festival would indeed offer a great target.
Saturday I spend 7 hours on the police commissariat to get the theft declared; Monsieur le Roi maybe there is something that needs addressing: I am white, I am a tourist, it takes "only" 7 hours! How long does it take the Amazight student, for this purpose with a vegetable cart, to get things done, what are the bribes he's got to pay? Corruption is rampant, the greed of those connected doesn't leave opportunities to the rest, the media as elsewhere just a constant lull.
After an entire day sweating it out with the cops, Saturday night I feel exhausted, the coughs keep ripping my lung apart, the sinking feeling creeps in - I should have stayed in Casa - with my children and better now stay in bed, at least heal; but then this ain't me, never this is me!
Amidst pleasant sunset light I push for the Moulay Hassan stage and see a fantastic Mustapha Baqbou in fusion with Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan and later maybe the best Salif Keita and band ever, the bang of djembe, calabash and castanets put me back in swing mood.
Long past midnight while stumbling back through the typical nightly drizzle 'Souira has once again become one with Essaouira. The African rhythms have healed.
I will be back in Africa and back in Essaouira.
What happens then?
From Essaouira I return to Casablanca Sunday and quickly take the decision and fly to Vienna on Tuesday 28th on June, leave my poor boys again behind, truly amazing I find their comprehension; sorting out things is so much easier when you're there and do it yourself, cards, drivers license, it's not a cheap option but one that makes sense in light of our plans.
I return to Casablanca Friday.
We chill a few more days and fly to Madrid on Tuesday, on to Mexico on Wednesday the 6th of July.