In the years before I was permitted to drive, I lived in a town with negligible public transportation. This necessitated a series of paths and trails that wind through the golf courses and unobservant neighbors yards leading to wherever my younger self desired to go. Which, at that time, was mostly the record store “Tunes” in Marlton, NJ. The main trek my friends and I took to head south was through a patch of woods that wrapped around a collection of apartment buildings. This trail, littered with beer can covered mattresses, was blazed enough to ride a bicycle through with ease, but untamed enough to hide the antics of older kids experimenting with white-picket witchcraft, and who knows what else. I never had reason to linger back there, but as a thoroughfare, it was ideal. In 2005, the copse was destroyed. The trees were removed to make room for a cul-de-sac of cookie cutter houses. This now absent trail, carved by unseen suburban forebears, was likely not mourned by anyone. The residential street, while uglier than a clutch of unkempt flora, still provided passage for those cutting through.
And then, one day they installed a split rail fence to delineate the two neighborhoods. Whoever was being paid to erect and maintain this fence was unwittingly starting an uphill battle against local travelers set in their ways. People would hop the fence, and lift their bicycles under, over, and through the wooden planks. Myself included. The section of fence bearing the brunt of human erosion began to chip and crack, eventually leaving only the bottom of the three rungs. Subsequent slats were installed and destroyed. For years, a silent and unmalicious battle was being fought on both sides. At one point, a length of wire mesh was attached to the newly installed section, perhaps in an attempt to legitimize itself as a barrier. This too eventually folded over and gave way until it became a tangle of splinters and staples on the ground. And this is how I left it before leaving my parent’s home for several years.
Currently, having enough idle time to wander the stomping grounds of my youth, I returned to this fence to discover a permanent dirt rut leading through a gap in this familiar but defeated fence. We had won the day. Humanity’s desire for an effective shortcut is as relentless as the ocean.
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with extended family. Through conversations with them about my recent travels, it again occurred to me that I should take more time to appreciate how jarring my lifestyle can appear to those in my life who don’t roam as much as I do. It was with this in mind that I decided that I should catch you all up as well.
Firstly, I am no longer in Morocco. I am enjoying a mild Nj winter in my parent’s home.
Secondly, in March I will be moving to Oregon. My intent is to get a job at a restaurant, and save up for future travels.
And finally, I will from now on be posting something new here every Monday.
I have a few more posts about Morocco, including more elaboration on why I only stayed a month, but the blog will now just be about whatever it is I’m working on or doing. The focus and tone may change over time, but I will work hard to use your time in such a way that you do not feel it was wasted.
Hope this finds you well.
The movie theater charges twenty-five dirhams ($2.50) for the general admission, and there is also balcony seating for thirty. As I stated in my last post, all information found in the lobby was offered in a language that is not my own, and one that I’ve been quite sluggish about picking up. We ended up seeing a film called “…walk a mile”. The theatre on the inside was not remarkably different from any theater you would see in the states, and the screen and sound quality were as good as I could ever ask for.
The main difference was the previews leading into the film. I felt that I received four shows for my three dollars. The trailers cut for Moroccan audiences are three times as long as American ones. The first trailer was for an action movie completely in Arabic, but lacking the French subtitles that were to come with the feature. As the trailers are supposed to sum up what the movie is about in bite-sized pieces, subtitles should be unnecessary, and in the case of the American movie trailers that also played, they were. But one of these movie trailers pushed the nine minute mark, and in the case of the first one about the cop, I was not confident for the first two minutes that this wasn’t the movie we had paid to see. The movie has so many tropes of the cop-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rules genre that it felt like an SNL sketch that ran a little too long. This moment culminated when the hero flipped a chair around dramatically blocking a door, turned towards the camera, and to someone just off screen belted something that felt like a smooth one-liner. It was at this point, I have been conditioned to expect the date of the films release, followed by the wall of tiny text nobody reads, and the end of the preview. But instead the cop trailer just kept on going at its breakneck editing pace. It was an assault on the senses, and the trailers to follow were no different. When the preview for a Bollywood style movie about a dance troupe going to Las Vegas came on, they showed so much of the intricate song and dance numbers, and took such patient care to introduce literally every character in the troupe, that I could hardly imagine anyone paying money to see the film. There was nothing left to show.
Our feature was about a man who had a bad childhood which led him to a life of crime. I was confident that I was following the plot just by the images alone, until they revealed something in the last fifth of the movie that made me realize that I fundamentally didn’t understand something about the movie. And at that point, my recollection of scenes was hazy enough to be useless. It was an enjoyable experience, particularly their staging of flashbacks. But the film shared the trailers proclivity for long cuts and several scenes took three minutes to establish a point that I understood in nine seconds. But overall I will give the movie a meaningless grade of eleven stars.
Several people received, answered, and completed entire phone calls in the middle of the movie (one was a dinner order that she left the theater to go pick up). As there was no way I was going to be completely immersed in this film, because I was grappling with lucidity for most of it, I did not mind the interruptions. More often than not, I found them as a charming intermissions to long static scenes of dialogue. One woman was laughing so hard with whoever was on the other end of the call that I wished the film had been about the two of them.
It has come to my attention that we have a movie theater in the neighborhood. It has one screen, with three showings a day. Inside are posters covering the walls of the movies that are being shown there, but there are no dates or times on these posters. The only thing indicating showtimes is an 11.5×8 with the titles written out in Arabic. It is my decision that Emma and I should roll in to the late show (8:30pm) with the fare for two tickets (60 dirhams(roughly 6 dollars)), and maybe a few extra for snacks (they have Snickers). I will update when I have more information, but I hope it’s the Disney produced Bollywood film.
Along every street and winding through the tables of outdoor cafes, men with weary looking saddle bags sell cheap imported cigarettes. Their approach and departure is marked by the clink of a handful of coins that they rhythmically, repeatedly shake. A national tradition for these peddlers, the sound stands out among the incessant throb spreading out to every millimeter of this country. An audible beacon for the addicted. I share a bench with two men who alternately grab the arm of the other whenever a new point is made, sitting amongst the conversations of idle old men has become a nearly daily occurrence for me, and has taken on a monotonous quality despite being in a language I do not understand the slightest. Further north, we’re approached by a third elder whom I hear before seeing.
He bellows with a consistent drag straight out of his diaphragm. Too calm to be a scream, he nonetheless fills the surrounding area with his chant, turning only the heads of those who aren’t from around here. From this distance I cannot tell if he is praying or begging.
He moves at the speed of a grazing sheep down the center of the bustling boulevard. He is frail and in his eighties, but his steadiness makes the waves of pedestrians and motorbikes part around him. In his hand he holds a solid gold bowl that is extended in front of him making the “prayer or begging” question harder to answer.
I begin making dashes in my notebook for every new utterance. My attention is drawn behind me, as I turn to try and determine why a woman has screamed. A dark-skinned teenager from somewhere more Southern on the continent is holding up a colossal mirror, reflective side outward, in the faces of a European couple. The woman is blushing, while both laugh at her overreaction. The man attempting to sell a mirror in the most extraordinary way possible remains stone faced. He takes a few more seconds to accept that these two are not interested in his mirror the size of a bathroom door, and he moves down the plaza. “Cheap price! Good deal! Cheap price! Good deal!” I turn back around on the bench. The old men are now silent, sitting in the sun holding hands.
Across the street is a café offering tanjines, it has roasted chickens rotating in a glass case. The man out front smacks his hand against the one page, laminated menu, and lures me in with his call: “Hello. Sorry. Yes. Hello. Good food. Yes. Hello. No diarrhea. Hello. Sorry. Sorry. Please. Yes. Hello.”