Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Razor's re-post

"It may be that when his life at last comes to an end he will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water."
 -W. Somerset Maugham, "The Razor's Edge"

An old fav re-posted.

On Boston; on Historical Preservation

On Boston, to quote the great Abolitionist Wendell Phillips--whose statue resides in Boston Common:
"Whether in chains or in laurels, Liberty knows nothing but victories"

If you want to remember the Civil War in concrete statues, then remove all the Confederate statues and replace them with Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison and Sojourner Truth. Let's remember the right side of history..

On confronting difficult history, from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Put simply, the erection of these Confederate memorials and enforcement of Jim Crow went hand-in-hand. They were intended as a celebration of white supremacy when they were constructed. As recent rallies in Charlottesville and elsewhere illustrate, they are still being used as symbols and rallying points for such hate today.

These Confederate monuments are historically significant and essential to understanding a critical period of our nation’s history. Just as many of them do not reflect, and are in fact abhorrent to, our values as a diverse and inclusive nation. We cannot and should not erase our history. But we also want our public monuments, on public land and supported by public funding, to uphold our public values.

H/T Abba. 

White America and White Supremacy

"White Americans have a tendency to whitewash and deliberately downplay the reality and gravity of their past and present sins. Slavery is regarded as a minor error within the great tapestry of brutality, despite its long-lasting, systemic and ever-present effects. White people are simultaneously fascinated by slavery-era history and deeply scared of admitting how much they still benefit from generational wealth and privilege from as far back as 400 years ago. Slavery allowed land-owning, slave-owning whites to accumulate massive amounts of wealth while racking up major savings on labor costs (some economists estimate the value of slave labor to be as much as $14 trillion). This money was passed down for generations, while the descendants of enslaved people are still suffering from the effects of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Going further back, white European settlers were given acres of land under the 1862 Homestead Act, after Native Americans were forcibly removed, and thousands died, following the 1830 Indian Removal Act. In 1790, “free white persons” were given naturalization while immigrants like Asian Americans and other non-white groups were denied citizenship and therefore barred from owning land and accumulating wealth. These barriers to citizenship didn’t change until 1952. White people in the U.S. benefitted from redlining, the G.I. Bill of Rights and, even today, white women benefit the most from affirmative action laws."
-Lara Wit, "White Liberals (Moi...) still don't understand White supremacy

Defending the ACLU

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons of bitches."
-H.L. Mencken

A good piece by Glenn Greenwald on defending the ACLU in wake of Charlottesville.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Fan, or fixing things Moroccan-style

A few days ago, as I was exiting my room I accidentally stepped on the power cord of the hotel's fan, and broke the two prongs.  Both prongs lay disconnected, and I knew I would either have to fix it or replace it.

Since this is Morocco, I decided to go the fix-it route first; since this is Morocco I knew that while this would be a long and complicated process, it would also be infinitely cheaper than buying a new one if I was patient enough to see the errand through.

So I set out this Saturday around 2pm.  But I didn't get far.  In Spanish, the owner of the curio shop next to the hotel told me  that it was siesta time, and every thing would be closed until 4pm.  So  I returned to my hotel.  He also told me that I could simply fix the fan by getting a new charger head, which would be cheap.  I doubted I had the tools and capabilities to fix it, but someone else surely could.

I set out after the siesta time.  I wandered through the blue alleyways and down to path leading to Bab al-Ain.  I stopped at the first shop that looked electronicky.  I explained in Spanish and Arabic what I was looking for, bypassing the fact that I couldn't remember the word for fan ["ventilador" in Spanish, instead try la maquina por al-rouh, the machine (sp) for the wind (arb)].  But unfortunately, he didn't have what I was looking for.

I tried another shop a little further down where I had found an iPad cable replacement but similarly no luck.

So I wandered out of the labyrinth and down into the new city to see if I could find a hardware store.  I was getting nowhere so I asked a soldier in French where I could find an electronics store.  He pointed me in the direction of the second floor of the Grand Marche, where I could find some gadgets and gizmos.

I fumbled along further at another electronicky store, but learned the word for plug in French (prise); conveniently, it is the same word in Moroccan Derija.  So I now knew what I was looking for, but not where to find it.

I stopped in another store, and a young man named Muhammad Reda with braces and a big smile decided to help me.  He knew another hardware store further on, and would take me there.

Under the sweltering sky, we walked.  We spoke in Arabic about things like how much I liked Chefchaouen, where my family lived and if I was a Muslim because I spoke Arabic.  I explained in Arabic that I wasn't a Muslim but that I was a friend of Muslims, and that I greatly respected Islam. He respected this.

Muhammad Reda helped me find the tiny hardware store that was a cavern of plugs and hoses.  We got the tiny prise for the fan for 4 dirham (40 cents).  We walked back to Marche Central where he was working.  He didn't want any money for his help, and I tried to buy him a soda or ice cream but he refused.  We parted company with a warm handshake.

From there, I returned back to the blue alleyways.  I crossed the blue Plaza el Hauta, and two young Moroccan men stopped me and asked in Moroccan Derija for directions.  When I gave them a puzzled look, they said: wait, you aren't Moroccan?  No, I said but continued in Derija, and told them to ask me the question again.  Then I gave them directions in Derija to where they were searching for--because after a month here, I am practically local.  They laughed and smiled wide as I helped them in local Arabic to get to where they were headed.

 I returned to the hotel to survey the surgery.  I got back and quickly was sure that I had neither tools nor skills to accomplish the task, so I set out back to the first shop I visited to see if perhaps the shopkeeper could fix it.

I arrived to the shop, but the shopkeeper had gone to the mosque to pray his afternoon prayers.  I sat down on the cool tile outside the store and waited for him to return.

After a few minutes, he re-appeared from the mosque just next door.  I showed him the electric plug and the fan and asked if he could help.  I offered to pay him.  He said he could do it, but refused payment.

The shopkeeper grabbed some tools from the back of his shop.  We chatted in Arabic and Spanish while he stripped the plug head and the cord on the fan.  He began peeling back veins of the cord, so I joked he was a tabib (doctor).  He just laughed.

In five minutes, he had replaced the power cord plug and the fan was working perfectly again.  Again, I offered to pay him and again he refused.  So in turn, I poured down Moroccan blessings on his head and promised I would pay his zakat forward.

And there it was, I had paid 4 dirham (40 cents) to get the fan fixed.  That was all.  A new one would have cost me 150-200 dirham ($15-20) but this was done for pocket change and compassion--the real currency of what we live by.

As I wandered through the blue alleys back to my hotel, I passed the blue square of cats.  My two favorites, a grey kitty and a blond cat, came running up to me.  They were hungry, and they followed me down the alley to my hotel.  I tried to tell them to wait in Arabic but cats never listen in any language.

So I put down my fan in the hotel and ducked into a store to grab them some la vache qui rit cheese triangles.  As they hungrily snacked, more feline friends started popping their heads around, so I decided to repay the kindness I had received with a whole wheel of cheese squares.  I bought a wheel of the cream cheese and fed the cats of the blue square until they grew bored and needed their own siesta.

In Morocco,things are always a bit more complicated-- but I can often rely on compassion to get things done here, and find myself constantly amazed by people's generosity in the process.

Support The American Prospect

Mazal tov to Robert Kuttner and The American Prospect for dethroning Steve Bannon. I am proud to support The American Prospect, I hope you will too.

Kosher Doxing

Rabbi Rockower agrees: doxing, when done properly, has my kosher/halal seal of approval:

"Some are calling these efforts “doxing” – publishing someone’s private information for the purpose of punishing them and inciting others against them – and saying they are therefore unethical and illegitimate. According to this view, the demonstrators have a right to express their opinions, no matter how odious.

From my perspective as a professor of applied Jewish ethics, they’ve got it wrong. While every human life is inherently valuable, this view gives too much priority to the rights of the white nationalists and not enough to our obligations to the people being threatened.

Certainly, Jewish ethical teachings wouldn’t support the sloppy internet detective work that led to threats against and harassment of innocent people mistaken for those demonstrating at Charlottesville. Ruining someone’s reputation and livelihood is a serious matter – this is why the teachings on lashon hara, the spreading of gossip, are so extensive. The rabbis of the Talmud avoid singling out one another for crimes as minor as reeking of garlic, and even God refuses to inform on sinners (BT Sanhedrin 11a).

But the Chofetz Chayim (1873) outlines conditions under which we can talk about someone’s theft, fraud or cursing: If I’m an eyewitness, I’m sure of what I saw, I’m not exaggerating, I’m doing it for the right reasons and I’ve tried a gentle rebuke, I can talk to others about what I saw. But if I can handle the matter just as well in some other way, the Chofetz Chayim says I should do that.

Exposing the fact that someone participated in a public rally for violent racism and anti-Semitism doesn’t seem like it fits into the category of lashon hara. If anyone ruined the participants’ reputations, it was they themselves."
-Jennifer Thompson, "Doxing White Supremacists Is Kosher According to Judaism. Here's Why"

Which side are you on?

Two great pieces on which side we fall, with Trump or with the Jewish people.

First, from Dana Milbank calling out the Court Jews (Kushner, Cohn, Mnuchin) asking where your allegiances fall:

What Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner did thisweek — or, rather, what they didn’t do — is a shanda.
They’ll know what that means, but, for the uninitiated, shanda is Yiddish for shame, disgrace. The three men, the most prominent Jews in President Trump’s administration, could have spoken out to say that those who march with neo-Nazis are not “very fine people,” as their boss claims. Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and Cohn, the chief economic adviser, were actually standing with Trump when he said it. They said nothing.
With a nice shout out to Rabbi Zemel in the piece--Milbank is a Temple Micah member.

Second, from Michael Chabon ("The Adventure of Kavalier and Clay") and Ayalet Waldman in an open letter to the Jewish World:
So, now you know. First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing. You contributed to his campaign, you voted for him. You accepted positions on his staff and his councils. You entered into negotiations, cut deals, made contracts with him and his government.
Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a little sechel. At the very least, show a little self-respect.
To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the President’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.
To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars’ worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.
To the government of Israel, and our fellow Jews living there: Wise up.
To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis: I’ll sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.
To our fellow Jews, in North America, in Israel, and around the world: What side are you on?

The Talk

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bannon out

So long Bannon, you despicable toad.  The strange thing is that with him gone, we may indeed have the generals running the show (Kelly, Mattis, McMasters).  This might be the softest, feintist coup in history. The strange thing is that such stewardship for the next 3.5 years is not so unwelcome.  I never thought I would say this.

Bibi's shameful silence

"In the drama of Charlottesville, Benjamin Netanyahu had only a small supporting role, on the near-eastern side of the stage. The way he played that role, however, was breathtaking in its audacity: For three days, the prime minister of Israel said nothing about people marching with Nazi flags in an American city, or about a terrorist attack with a car allegedly by an admirer of Hitler. As of this writing, he has not uttered a word about President Trump’s infamous “both sides” news conference.

We Israelis are used to Netanyahu responding immediately to terrorism, perceived anti-Semitism or threats that remind him of the Holocaust. This time, the anti-Semitism was blatant, with demonstrators in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” and carrying Nazi flags. Understanding the connection of those flags to genocide required no more than a third-grade Israeli education. Understanding the nature of the murder was also easy: Israelis are familiar with terrorism by speeding auto.

Yet it took Netanyahu three long days before he managed to tweet, “Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.” Even the brevity that comes with using Twitter was un-Netanyahulike. He usually prefers Facebook, which has room for lucidity that, one must recognize, is beyond the reach of America’s tweeter in chief."
-Gershom Gorenberg,
In the Washington Post, "Why did Netanyahu wait so long to condemn anti-Semitism in Charlottesville"

-------
"During the Shabbat prayer, three Nazis, in uniform and bearing rifles, stood outside the local synagogue. The heads of the community hired guards to protect the Jews arriving to pray from gangs of thugs. Torah scrolls were smuggled outside after it was understood that the protesters intended to burn the place down. It is beyond belief that something like this could happen in the United States, our closest global ally, in 2017. What have we come to?

The first person in the world, outside of the United States, who is expected to react to such an event is the prime minister of Israel – the state of the Jewish people.

But Benjamin Netanyahu was silent. Netanyahu didn't bother reacting to events preceding this madness in the U.S. (and Hungary either), and didn't set the bright red boundaries that Israel is committed to insist upon. Even after U.S. President Donald Trump’s historic comments on Tuesday, where the president of the United States uttered statements that should never be said, Netanyahu stayed silent and shamed the Israeli people as a whole."
-MK Stav Shaffir
In Ha'aretz, "Netanyahu's Charlottesville Response Proves He's Lost Any Semblance of a Moral Compass"

How to defeat Nazism with Groucho Marxism....

A great article on how to make fun of Nazis.  A mix between humor and nonviolence.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Saturn

"For the rings, as had been known since the nineteenth century, were not solid: that was a mechanical impossibility. They consisted of countless myriads of fragments—perhaps the remains of a moon that had come too close and had been torn to pieces by the great planet’s tidal pull. Whatever their origin, the human race was fortunate to have seen such a wonder; it could exist for only a brief moment of time in the history of the Solar System.

As long ago as 1945, a British astronomer had pointed out that the rings were ephemeral; gravitational forceswere at work which would soon destroy them. Taking this argument backward in time, it therefore followed that they had been created only recently—a mere two or three million years ago.

But no one had ever given the slightest thought to the curious coincidence that the rings of Saturn had been born at the same time as the human race."
-Arthur C. Clarke, "2001"

Behold, Cassini and 44 hours of Saturn.

On Ice Cream; on Bread

"While the notion of freezing sweetened cream dates back to the 16th century, and the royal courts of India and Europe, the ancient Persians were making iced desserts at least 1,000 years earlier. Faloodeh, a Persian dessert made of frozen rice noodles, rosewater and cherry syrup, is said to date back to 400 BC."
-From PRI's "Travel the world on an ice cream tour in Los Angeles"


"Bread, oddly enough, though we don’t often think about it, occupies a particularly sensitive spot in our collective political, social, and economic lives. Bread is the one essential of nearly every diet around the world and, as many of us in this region have seen, the prices of food—especially bread—can be the trigger of revolution and, sometimes, the downfall of governments."
-From the Amman Review's "King of the Oven"

Trump's telling omissions

"You know Donald Trump. The man who prides himself on straight talk and fast action.
Yet there's something he's not telling us. Because he can't.
I'm not talking about Vladimir Putin and tax returns. This is something else. Something completely out in the open.
Here is a man who immediately and repeatedly condemns hate crimes when committed by Muslims. Especially if the victims are white Christians. Even if the crimes are committed thousands of miles from the United States.
He condemns them whenever they happen. He condemns them even if they don't. "Take a look at what happened in Sweden," he told the conservative CPAC conference this week. "The people over there understand I'm right. Take a look at what's happening in Sweden. Take a look at what's happening in Germany. Take a look at what's happened in France. Take a look at Nice and Paris."
Now take a look at what happens when hate crimes are committed against Jews, or Muslims, or against legal non-white non-citizen visa holders. He's taught us what to expect.
The deafening silence. Unless and until he's forced to say something. Which, from this master of straight talk, is inevitably lawyered-up and mealy-mouthed.
This is what he's not telling you: He can't afford to have hate crimes be declared hate crimes. Not when they're committed by white supremacist Americans.
After all, if they were, they would be violations of civil rights, punishable by federal law. And that is one road Trump cannot afford to go down.
Here's why. Politically, he cannot afford to lose ANY of his base. He can't afford to sic law enforcement on the extremists in any meaningful way. Not so long as his approval rating goes nowhere but down.
If the base is to remain, Trump needs the votes of all of his enthusiastic supporters in the "alt-right," American Nazi sympathizers, Klan offshoots, Aryan militias, doomsday preppers, and a host of other white Christian supremacist groupings and extreme right housebound, head-bound loners."
-Bradley Burston, from a March '17 Ha'aretz column

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hip Hop & Google

"On August 11, 1973, an 18-year-old, Jamaican-American DJ who went by the name of Kool Herc threw a back-to-school jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” - sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. And with that, Hip Hop was born."

Not so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Harlem), I was literally just chilling with Coke La Rock in a park, listening to him chat with the legend Medusa The Gangsta Goddess and GlobalNLer Ms. Mirta "James" Ljulj about the these heady days.

"You never thought that hip hop would take it this far" -Notorious B.I.G.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Thus Sayeth Quixote

"Happy the age, happy the time, to which the ancients gave the name of golden, not because in that fortunate age the gold so coveted in this our iron one was gained without toil, but because they that lived in it knew not the two words "mine" and "thine"! In that blessed age all things were in common; to win the daily food no labour was required of any save to stretch forth his hand and gather it from the sturdy oaks that stood generously inviting him with their sweet ripe fruit. The clear streams and running brooks yielded their savoury limpid waters in noble abundance. The busy and sagacious bees fixed their republic in the clefts of the rocks and hollows of the trees, offering without usance the plenteous produce of their fragrant toil to every hand. The mighty cork trees, unenforced save of their own courtesy, shed the broad light bark that served at first to roof the houses supported by rude stakes, a protection against the inclemency of heaven alone.

Then all was peace, all friendship, all concord; as yet the dull share of the crooked plough had not dared to rend and pierce the tender bowels of our first mother that without compulsion yielded from every portion of her broad fertile bosom all that could satisfy, sustain, and delight the children that then possessed her. Then was it that the innocent and fair young shepherdess roamed from vale to vale and hill to hill, with flowing locks, and no more garments than were needful modestly to cover what modesty seeks and ever sought to hide. Nor were their ornaments like those in use to-day, set off by Tyrian purple, and silk tortured in endless fashions, but the wreathed leaves of the green dock and ivy, wherewith they went as bravely and becomingly decked as our Court dames with all the rare and far-fetched artifices that idle curiosity has taught them. Then the love-thoughts of the heart clothed themselves simply and naturally as the heart conceived them, nor sought to commend themselves by forced and rambling verbiage.

Fraud, deceit, or malice had then not yet mingled with truth and sincerity. Justice held her ground, undisturbed and unassailed by the efforts of favour and of interest, that now so much impair, pervert, and beset her. Arbitrary law had not yet established itself in the mind of the judge, for then there was no cause to judge and no one to be judged. Maidens and modesty, as I have said, wandered at will alone and unattended, without fear of insult from lawlessness or libertine assault, and if they were undone it was of their own will and pleasure.

But now in this hateful age of ours not one is safe, not though some new labyrinth like that of Crete conceal and surround her; even there the pestilence of gallantry will make its way to them through chinks or on the air by the zeal of its accursed importunity, and, despite of all seclusion, lead them to ruin. In defence of these, as time advanced and wickedness increased, the order of knights-errant was instituted, to defend maidens, to protect widows and to succour the orphans and the needy.

To this order I belong, brother goatherds, to whom I return thanks for the hospitality and kindly welcome ye offer me and my squire; for though by natural law all living are bound to show favour to knights-errant, yet, seeing that without knowing this obligation ye have welcomed and feasted me, it is right that with all the good-will in my power I should thank you for yours."
-DQ

Tahaliya

Last night, I had one of the best tajines of my life. It was in Chefchaouen at a place called Moriscos. It was called Tahaliya, it was a goat meat tajine. It was cooked in honey, with raisins and prunes with ground nuts on top. It was delicious, with fall-off-the-bone goat meat swimming in honey sauce.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Days gone by

I came downstairs to escape the heat, and saw Ahmed the hotel proprietor sitting at a mosaic table. He was eating sardines, and invited me to join.  Never one to pass up an offer, I sat down.

The sardines were covered in olive oil, salt and spices.   I picked my fingers into the meaty white flesh of the little fish, as Ahmed explained to me how they had been cooked in the wood-burning bakery oven across the way.  The smokiness left hints on the oily, salty skin of the sardines, and in its tender meat.

Ahmed spoke to me of his travels, across North Africa and in Europe.  We chatted of la belle France. Of Lyon, where I need to visit.  He spoke of days gone by-- when one could hitchhike across a world without visas.

We sipped mint tea, and almond cookies as he shared with me about his favorite seasons in the mountain city--the autumn, in all her colorful glory.

Life is best enjoyed when we take the time to live it a bit slower, and savor its essence.


The Blue City

Scenes from Chefchaouen ("two horns"), the blue city in the Rif Mountains of Morocco. Chefchaouen's distinctive blue hues stem from the Jews who found refuge here after their expulsion from Spain.  More photos here.




Tuesday, August 01, 2017

On Beauty

And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty."

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."

And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."

The tired and the weary say, "beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.

Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."

But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."

At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."

In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."

And in the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."

All these things have you said of beauty.

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,

But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,

But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.

But you are life and you are the veil.

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

But you are eternity and you are the mirror. 

-Khalil Gibran, "The Prophet"

Monday, July 31, 2017

Abu Hurayrah in the blue city

Since settling in to Chefchaouen, I have since picked up the quotidian task of feeding the blue city's stray cats.  More specifically, the dozen or so who live in the blue Plaza el-Hauta just down from my hotel.  Just one stray cat taking care of the rest.

I generally collect about 4 or so large plastic bottles, and cut the bottoms to make little cups.  Then I buy a small 250ml carton of milk (3.5 dirhams, 35cents) and feed the cats of the square.

I do this twice a day, once in the morning before the sun starts bearing down and there is no shade in the plaza; once in the evening after the sun's heat has waxed and waned, and the blue square has cooled down in the afternoon shade.

The people of the quarter watch on at my care for their cats, and they smile at the gesture.  I personify my nickname of Abu Hurayrah ("The Father of Kittens"), and some of the Chaouenis refer to my by my nom de guerre.

Anyway, I would not have been writing about any of this had it not been for a slight yet interesting development.  This morning, as I was getting back from my shower--before my daily feeding, I happened to look out my hotel room window onto the street.

There was a boy outside, carrying the equivalent of one of my cat-feeding bottle/cup contraptions. He had the small plastic saucer full of milk, and he was taking it to a small kitten in the alley.

I had seen this kitten before, he had wandered away from the square and I had been concerned for his welfare away from the rest of the herd (gaggle? pride?) of cats.  Yet his welfare was being taken care-of, in a manner akin to the work of Abu Hurayrah.

I smiled.  I had not seen anything of the equivalent for the days before I started my feedings. I don't know if it will continue, or if I really had any effect on this gesture.  But I can hope, and smile at this development.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Camus' brainpickings

"I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion."
-Albert Camus

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Adventures in the Blue City: Travels with Kane:

After a lovely sojourn in Amsterdam over a long weekend, I headed back to Morocco on a monday evening. The Dutch border guard was curious of my intentions in Morocco, so I explained I was going there to study French at a fraction of the price of France or Belgium. He gave me a smile that indicated he respected the logic.

The flight out was interesting. I sat with an African fellow from Ghana, who had been at the North Sea Jazz festival. He was a jazz musician, we sat chatting about culture and music and sipping Moroccan red wine in paper cups. He gave me one of his CDs, which looks quite professional. I don't have a CD player so I haven't had the pleasure of listening yet. He was heading home to Accra, (“I left my heart in Accra”), and just transiting in Casa.

The arrival to the Casablanca Airport was without issue. I arrived around 8:30pm, grabbed my gear and headed to the train back to Rabat. I was told to take the train to Casa Voyageur, not the usual Casa Port station, and switch train there.

We pulled in about 15 minutes before the 10:30pm train to Oujda via Rabat. The train arrived on time, but the cars were dark. We climbed on the train, and sat in the heat. We sat and sat and sat. After about 30 minutes, ONCF (the train company) said that the train was not functioning correctly. This set off a maelstrom of indignation from the passengers. Groups of men berated the ineffectual conductors, who could offer no information of when the train would leave. They announced that the train was broken, but couldn't provide alternate transport; the mob went nuts. They booed the conductors and looked for a manager, who was nowhere to be found. I got off the train and began considering staying the night in Casa. The confusion fumbled on past the hour mark, and grabbed my things to begin finding a cheap hotel nearby. But just as I walked into the lobby, the train lights turned on and it started moving. I chugged my way back onto the now-moving train.

I finally arrived back to Rabat just after midnight. I caught a cab to my host family's apartment. We had been trying to work out my return of the keys, because some of the family was around in Morocco during the summer. Yassine, my host brother, had mentioned that his mother was in the family village and his older brother Younes was in Spain. I had told him I would stay at the apartment for two days, then head out. I didn't wait for a confirmation, and since I had the keys, just rolled with it.

My return to Rabat was kind. I saw lots of friends and acquaintances from the medina and around the city, who were happy to see me. Rabat had not changed much since I had left: little things like new concrete over Sharia Mohammed V, the main thoroughfare through the medina which had become a construction war zone before I left; inflation set in, and the price of orange juice had gone from 4 to 5 dirham (50 cents). Little things.

Abu Hurrayrah got back to work feeding his stray cats in the park, and I looked into future plans for French class and other details of life. I grabbed favorites like the fried sardine sandwich with fried peppers and fried eggplant stuffed in khubz (round crusty bread), and tajine. My first day back was overcast, but the sun re-appeared the next day and I was back in my element.

My friend Kane, who was running the Next Level Morocco program, was in-country and we had plans to connect and head to the blue city of Chefchaouen.  I had been once before, 15 years ago with my friend Patrick and we had loved it.  But frankly, I had my concerns about heading there because I had been reading articles about how the Riff Mountain area was facing some instability but I spoke with a few tourist agencies and a few Moroccan friends and felt comfortable that the situation was fine in Chefchaouen.

Kane “NovaKane” Smego is a Poet and MC from Durham (“Bull City”), North Carolina, and has been involved since the program's inaugural season. Kane had been the MC on the Next Level Zimbabwe program, and had done phenomenal work there. Since then, he had gone on to serve as a site manager in his own right, on the NextLevel Thailand program on the second season and Next Level Brazil in the third. Kane and I had been having a long-running apprenticeship and friendship since the first season.

Since I left the program, he is taking on a bigger role. As it were, he is now the most senior site manager on the Next Level program. He is running two residencies this year, in Morocco and Viet Nam.

He was finishing up with his pre-tour in Meknes and Casablanca, and we made plans to link up the next morning at the train station in Rabat, then make our way over to the Gare Routiere de Rabat (bus station).

As I was packing up that afternoon, I heard the door click. Sure enough, it was my host mother Zohra, back from the village and a lil confused why this adopted son/squatter was in her home. Oh Morocco, you are always so magical when it comes to timing.

Once the initial surprise wore off, and I explained in Arabic what I was doing there and that I was leaving the next morning, we got to catch up and chat about using the apartment moving forward. Like any good mother, she force-fed me a second dinner later that night.

I wore up early, said goodbye and headed to the train station to meet Kane. He caught his early morning express from Casa and we linked up in Rabat with no issue. We caught a taxi over to the bus station, and chatted with the driver in Arabic. Kane had studied Fusha in college, and had done some work in Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring. The driver decided we must be Moroccan and need Moroccan names: Kane became Samir, and I, Mohammed. I couldn't argue with that.

We arrived at 9am to the bus and faced the scrum of touts and travelers. Not quite trusting the facts (no zig-zag, meaning no con), we got the tickets at the bus company window for the 10:30am bus to Chefchaouen. We grabbed some coffee in the bus station cafe, and with dead roach laying belly-up on the floor—decided we would grab some breakfast elsewhere.

The bus was coming up from Casa, and was supposed to arrive at 10:30am, but that was all inshallah time. Around 10:15am, we sat by the bay aisle, which Mr. Zig-Zag,who ended up being more reputable than initial impression, pointed out. 10:30 came and went, with little surprise. Around 10:45am, amid the confusion, we gave some backsheesh to Mr. Zig Zag to alert us when the bus arrived. In a sea of coaches, finally our rocinante appeared. I stashed our stuff in its belly, as Kane found us seats aboard.

The bus was a sweltering affair. No air con to speak of, and no windows. We settled in; Kane's legs nearly too long to fit in the Moroccan seats. We would switch later to give him aisle access to stretch his legs. In the baking midday heat, we headed north—past Kenitra (of increasing interest) and on through the northern passes.

The countryside grew greenish-brown and verdant as we pushed on towards the north-center of Moroccan terra firma. The bus baked as we rumbled on. Fields of olives dotted the hills, and Kane remarked that the countryside reminded him of California; my own ideas of an Andalusian Southern California came back to me.

We sweated and chugged along the northern route. As we got closer, the bus broke down for a long, hot spell. We filed off the bus as they worked to fix the radiator. So close yet so hot and far.

Eventually, after about 6 hours of a ride that could be done in 5 hours or less, we arrived to Chefchaouen's blue splendor. We hopped a taxi into the center, and entered the blue-walled city through the Bab al-Ain gate. We navigated the blue alleys, past the rapacious touts, until we found a good pension, called Andaluz. It was high-season, so rooms cost us 120 dirham ($12) a piece. Kane got the penthouse suite with two big windows that caught the cross-breeze coming in from the alley; I took an interior room with deigns to switch into his room after his departure.

We settled in, and wandered around a bit to find food to fill our famished tummies. We wandered through the main square, Plaza Outa al-Hamam, and down the road a bit until we found a good, cheap sandwich shop. We chatted with the fellows in the shop about the mountains as we ate fried egg sandwiches stuffed to the gills with all sorts of accoutrements like pickles, potatoes and chili—alongside the famous frittes of Chefchaouen.

And it became clear to us that Chefchaouen was Hispanophone not Francophone. The northern belt of Morocco had been part of Spanish Morocco—under Spanish protectorate for decades. The lingua franca of Chef was Spanish not French. Kane speaks Spanish fluently and I speak it well (and better than French), and that changed the linguistic calculations greatly.

We wandered through the old blue city, past the Thursday market teeming with figs and peaches. We made our way through the narrow blue and white alley ways, whose cool air flowed in the shaded passageways. It's hard to give enough words to describe the blue brilliance of the blue pearl that is Chefchaouen. It is a blue dream of hues of periwinkle, royal blue and even the occasional violet. Sea blue and aquamarine twotone. Every faded and brilliant shade of blue imaginable, and accentuated in a sea of white. No words do any justice to the blue beauty of the narrow alleyways—just slipsliding away down corridors of light blue dreams.

We ascended the city, and ended up at the top of the wall above the city—taking in the setting sun over the blue city from its ochre city wall.

We made our lost way back through the city to our hotel. We settled in and up to the roof-top terrace, where we made fast friends with some students from Rabat. In the sun's fading light, the blue city shimmered.

Under cover of darkness, we returned to the Plaza Outa al-Hamam for dinner. The restaurant touts plied menus with pushiness. We ended up lured into a spot with purple cushions, more by the cushions than the annoying tout who would only get more so as the night wore on. We dined on tajine, and fended off a pushy pusher whose mala onda knew few bounds. This was all forgotten over dessert, in a lil spot with great homemade flan for 3 dirham (30 cents) and the stellar zaazaa, a yogurt dessert with bananas, avocados, dates and crushed peanuts.

We returned to the roof top, where we found black hole chairs under the stairs.

The next morning, we got a proper breakfast with coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice. Kane had massman, a Moroccan version of the crepe which is almost closer to a fried flatbread than crepe; I had an omelet oozing with melted cheese that I ate with thick pieces of warm khubz, black olives and bildia cheese a bit like labneh. A solid breakfast for $3 all included.

After lazing around a bit, we went hiking up between the two horned mountains which gives Chefchaouen its name (“between the horns”). We grabbed some cans of tuna in tomato sauce, khubz and water as we ascended. We past the campsites and cemetery on to the mountain road. We slowly worked our way up mountain road as the blue city disappeared below. As we got higher up, we passed fields of Chefchaouen's cash crop.

I chatted with Kane about his work as a wilderness guide and tour leader on various exchange programs in Peru and Brazil. Kane loved hiking and had lead a number of expeditions with students. He had some really solid, impressive experience running tours in the wilderness, and we discussed future plans to do a reverse apprenticeship so that I might learn some of those intangible skills.

We had hoped to make it all the way to the top, but it was hot and starting to get a bit late. On a good day, we were later told, you can see Spain and the city of Malaga from the mountain top. We didn't quite get there since we were lacking sufficient water and time, but we made it two-thirds of the way up, and under a shady tree we had our lunch. The tuna in tomato sauce may not sound like much, but after climbing up a mountain, it was stellar. We dipped the crusty bread into the oily tomato sauce and fished out the tuna chunks.

We began making our way back down, and met some locals who lived up there. We shared some tea and hospitality, before setting off back down from the mountain heights.

We followed the dusty path back down into the hot blue city before the sun began its descent. After cleaning up a bit, we wandered out for a well-earned dinner. We passed the lit square in its nightly glory; from a white mosque, men clothed with white jelabas stood at the precipice of a white Moorish arched door.

We saw a restaurant with a rooftop terrace, so we circled around until we found the entrance into Casa Aladdin. We climbed level after level until we got to the top. The lights below twinkled like the stars above. We dined on steaks—Kane had lamb, I had sirloin. The meat came perfectly spiced in cumin and other Moroccan flavors. We returned after dinner to the rooftop of the guesthouse and joined our Rabati friends for a night cap. I sipped whiskey that warmed my already sore body.

The next day we took it easy. We had a big breakfast at a local spot in the plaza. I had fried eggs and a big bowl of bisara, a thick lentil soup covered with rich pools of argan oil. Kane had a tajine khalie, which is eggs fried with dried meat chunks. We hung out on the roof as Kane did laundry, listening to hip hop of old and new school varieties. I gained a bit more appreciation for some of the newer rappers. I still don't love Kendrick Lamar or Chance the Rapper, but I can understand their popularity; I liked J Cole, who is closer to my style of hip hop.

Kane also played me some of the catalogue of his friend and fellow NL alum, G Yamazawa. G is dope, 'nuff said.

We ventured off the rooftop to have tea in the blue square near the Andaluz. The cafe in the square is perfect. Unlike the Plaza Outa al-Hamam, this is a plaza frequented only really by locals. It is a small blue square with a blue and white moorish well in the middle. The plaza is filled with cats and kittens, and Abu Hurayrah is back in action. The plaza is about as authentically Chouen as you could possibly find. It is also the newest site of my virtual office, as I sit here writing up the blog in its arched shade.

We did preciously little that Saturday. We sat on the roof as the sun set behind us, casting a glance of light on the blue city in the mountain canyon. We ventured down for dinner at a nearby spot run by two women. We bounced between languages with Argentines and the Moroccan restaurant staff, and dined on excellent tajines.

On sunday, we headed to Akshour and its cascades. First, we walked down through town to the bus station. Kane got his CTM ticket, the nicer bus service which would prove to be worth every extra dirham. Then we headed over to the Gran Taxi spot to catch a shared taxi over to Akshour. In a roomy blue wagon, we drove through the verdant tierra and winded around valley curves. We lucked out with only 5 in the van—usually filled to the brim with 6 people and something we paid an extra 5 dirham for but well-worth it.

We arrived to Akshour in the midday sun, and it was a scorcher. We looked on apprehensively at the parking lots full of cars, and worried if this was going to be worth it. We learned that it would be.

We followed the patch until it started going up. It was a strenuous trek but nothing beyond managing. I don't think Kane was especially winded but he is in better mountain shape than me. Anyway we trekked up the path until we reached the top and to the Ponte de Deiu. The Bridge of God. Truly so, as the view off the natural bridge was incredible. We crossed the Bridge of God, and were faced with two divergent paths.

There was no signage, and both looked to be legitimate trails so we went left since we could see that is seemed to descend.

So we went down the trail. It was a fine trail, with some challenges but nothing too bad. It was fine...until it wasn't. As we got further down this “trail,” we realized that it was not right. It wasn't a real trail, but a well-defined “social” trail. As I learned from Kane, a “social” trail is a trail that looks like a trail because many have passed it so it begins to look like a proper trail. But not planned, and not actually a trail....ao we began facing obstacles that were not planned to be passed.

The trail started to get a little hairy, and a lil “gnarly” as Kane would say. We had to grab claw-holds to rock face as we carefully climbed over spots not meant for tread. We were slowly and deliberately making our way down, examining every challenging spot from different angles and vantages—leaving nothing for chance.

And then we got to the spot that was really meshi mizzyen, not good. We had to climb across a rock precipice with a steep drop that went nowhere but down. The rock grips were minimal and the footholds were really lacking. Kane slowly studied the challenge. After a few minutes, he went first. Prudently and deliberately, he crossed the threshold.

Then, it was my turn. I took my time sliding down to the rock ledge, and slowly turning my body. I grasped on tight as I tried to reach my foot out to the next toe hold. It took me a few harrying tries. At one point, I was stuck. With fear, I started muttering a mantra: “I don't like this. I don't like this. I don't like this.” And I didn't. But with patience and care, I crossed the threshold.
On the other side of the obstacle, we continued our descent down the mountain. We were getting close. We could see a group of guys lounging on a rock in the river below. As we got closer, they saw us and realized we needed assistance. In a cacophony of Arabic, French and Spanish, they helped us get down the narrow rock face until we couldn't get any lower.

They were sitting on a rock just off a pool of water just past a small waterfall. There was no way for us to get to them without jumping in the water. So we took off all our valuables (wallet, phone belt, etc) and put them in our bags, and Kane hurled the bags down across the river. Thankfully, both bags cleared the ravine and were caught.

Then it was our turn to jump off the mountain and into the cold mountain river lake some 20-25 feet below. I had taken off my shirt but had my empty jeans and shoes on. I needed to take a leap off the clip and needed some grip to push off to clear the rocks below. From down on the rock, the shebab cheered for me to jump. And I leapt.

I dropped quick off the heights, and into the mountain-cold river lake below. I broke the surface with a a rush of cold relief, and let myself crash on down to the bottom—where I dragged a toe against the bottom. I floated up with a single right arm in the air. They erupted in cheers, and I flashed a V for victory.

Then it was Kane's turn. He leapt out into the void and came crashing down into the cold water. The shebab cheered for his flight as well.

I swam my way over and pulled my soaking body up the rocks. We greeted and thanked our new friends. We told them our story of woe, as we let the adrenaline slowly dissipate.

We stayed on the rock for a while, hanging with the fellas and eating a lunch of tuna in tomato sauce with baguettes. We dried off, and leapt in again—this time from closer vantage.

Later in the afternoon, we followed the river just slightly upstream. There were plastic tables and chairs set up in the cool, clear water. Further upstream, a canopy of forest shielded the sun's glow. Tagines boiled on small stone charcoal stovetops. We sipped mint tea, and counted our blessings and luck.

Eventually, after a few more dips in, we made our way back to the entrance. This time we took the river path, as we had learned—we were only really 20 minutes from the entrance. We passed little cafes set up on little islands in the mountain river.

We hopped a cramp mercedes grand taxi back, my still wet jeans probably making me little friendship with the passenger stuck next to me.

We returned and hung out after the day's adventure, before grabbing some immaculate Berber tajines on a nice rooftop restaurant. A chocolate fondant cake was the reward for surviving the adventure.


The next morning, Kane headed out by early CTM bus back to Rabat. This time, his air conditioned ride took only 4.5 hours. 

Meanwhile, I switched into his old room, with two large windows that catch the cross-breeze and have been settling into Chefchaouen in my own regard.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Poet

He is a link between this and the coming world. 
He is a pure spring from which all thirsty souls may drink. 

He is a tree watered by the River of Beauty, 
Bearing fruit which the hungry heart craves;

He is a nightingale, 
Soothing the depressed spirit with his beautiful melodies; 
He is a white cloud appearing over the horizon, 
Ascending and growing until it fills the face of the sky. 
Then it falls on the flows in the field of Life, 
Opening their petals to admit the light. 

He is an angel, 
Sent by the goddess to preach the Deity’s gospel; 
He is a brilliant lamp, 
Unconquered by darkness 
And inextinguishable by the wind.
 It is filled with oil by Ihstar of Love, 
And lighted by Apollon of Music. 

He is a solitary figure,
Robed in simplicity and kindness; 
He sits upon the lap of Nature to draw his inspiration, 
And stays up in the silence of the night, 
Awaiting the descending of the spirit.

He is a sower 
Who sows the seeds of his heart in the prairies of affection, 
And humanity reaps the harvest for her nourishment.

This is the poet—whom the people ignore in this life, 
And who is recognized only when he bids the earthly world farewell 
And returns to his arbour in heaven.

This is the poet—who asks naught of humanity but a smile. 
This is the poet—whose spirit ascends 
and fills the firmament with beautiful sayings; 
Yet the people deny themselves his radiance.

Until when shall the people remain asleep? 
Until when shall they continue to glorify those who attain 
greatness by moments of advantage? 
How long shall they ignore those who enable them to see the 
beauty of their spirit, 
Symbol of peace and love?

Until when shall human beings honour the dead and forget the living, 
Who spend their lives encircled in misery, 
And who consume themselves, 
Like burning candles to illuminate the way
For the ignorant and lead them into the path of light? 

Poet, you are the life of this life, 
And you have triumphed over the ages of despite their severity. 

Poet, you will one day rule the hearts, 
And therefore, your kingdom has no ending. 

Poet, examine your crown of thorns; 
You will find concealed in it a budding wreath of laurel.
-Khalil, Gibran, "The Poet"

Monday, July 24, 2017

winds of change

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
-Chinese proverb

H/T KM

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don Q...

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that he fancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his own honour as for the service of his country, that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and on horseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himself all that he had read of as being the usual practices of knights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame. Already the poor man saw himself crowned by the might of his arm Emperor of Trebizond at least; and so, led away by the intense enjoyment he found in these pleasant fancies, he set himself forthwith to put his scheme into execution.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The coldest winter...

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Amsterdam."
-Not-Mark Twain

KHVI

‘Oft have I heard that grief softens the mind,
And makes it fearful and degenerate;
Think therefore on revenge and cease to weep.’
-Queen Margaret, in "King Henry VI"

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Local has its privileges

I took an overnight flight to Amsterdam via Detroit.  At check-in, I asked for a window--and then again at the gate, but they said it was full but I had an aisle.  At the moment the doors closed and there was still an empty seat between me and the fellow on the other aisle, we both cheered. "Business class," I said.  Then I noticed an empty row, window and aisle just couple of rows up.  "First class," I smiled.  The flight was not close to full--I guess they just wouldn't part with the moneyed classes.

I watched a wonderful French crime drama called "The Eavesdropper," which sounds even more profound in French...."La Mecanique de l'Ombre."

I wrote already of our beautiful arrival.  We arrived early, just before 6 am, but already light in the Dutch skies.  I helped a nice octogenarian couple off the plane with their suitcases to their airport escort.  I cleared customs and hopped the train into the center, beaming at being back in Amsterdam.

I arrived into Centraal just after 7am, and I headed to my usual stomping grounds at Hotel Beurstraat.  It was too early to check-in, so I left my stuff in storage at the hotel.  I made some initial arrangements for four days with a note. As I scratched the lazy black-and-white cat Figaro, I was told to come back at 11am after the previous day's check-out.

I wandered through the naked and empty streets and canals of Amsterdam.  The bleary Amsterdam crowds all gone to bed, and just the crows remaining to pick at the scattered trash.  I drank coffee after coffee as I beat back the jetlag.

Nearly 11am, I returned to the hotel.  There was a younger Turkish fellow at the desk.  I mentioned my reservation and asked for the usual room with shared bathroom.  I had expected $50 and was prepared for $60.  I had stayed prior earlier in the Spring at 40 euros because I knew Figaro.  I knew it was the middle of high season in Amsterdam, so I thought I was prepared.

Then he said, "320 euros."

"What?!?" I protested.  I explained that I had been coming here for a long time, and it was never that high. I had been here in the high season, and it was never double.

He dug in.  80 euros per night, it is always like this in high season.

I protested.  I was just here just a few months ago for 40 euros, it couldn't have doubled. I know this place, I pointed to the cat and said I even knew Figaro.

There was another couple there about to fork over for their room at 80 euros, and I knew I was stuck at the moment.

He said to ask the owner who was not far away.  I protested, explaining that I was practically a regular.  The owner stayed out of the fray and said of the guy at the counter, "I am the owner, but he is the boss."

So I grumped and said I would think about it as I stormed out (with my stuff still in their storage).

I stopped back in to ask a question, but no one was at the desk.  So I glanced over desk at the ledger and saw the actual prices.  I knew he was full of shit, and just wanted to cheat both me and the other guest who was checking in at  the same time.  I was done.

I asked the other discount hotel on the block, one which I had stayed in once prior, what their rate was.  It was 90 euros for a room with a private bathroom.  I would stay there out of spite if I couldn't do any better.  I would rather pay more for a room with a lil more, than double for a room I had already stayed in.

I got some coffee and tried to find options on the internet but the tablet was slow and dying of power.
So I went with the other cheap hotel on the block.  I chatted with the fellow in charge for a bit, and got him to offer me a deal.  Rather than 90 euros for the night, and 105 euros for the weekend (Fri, Sat & Sun), he could give me the economical room for 80 euro tonight and 90 per night for the weekend.  And now I had options.

The room was not much.  It did have a shower, but had an underground bunker feel despite being on the top floor.  But at least I had a room for the night at the same price as the original.  It felt a little claustrophobic, and it did not get past me that I was technically paying more for it than my preferred room--even being overpriced, so I was slightly cutting my nose.  I could make a final decision the next morning before I either had to check out or buy in.

The day and evening passed.

The next morning, I woke up late with a jet lag haze. I made my way back to the original Hotel Beurstraat, where I would check to see if one of the desk fellow I knew was there.

Sure enough, it was a Slovak fellow who I had met before.  We chatted in Czech for a bit as I played with Figaro.  He had a room for me.  Same room.  It was 70 euros per night, but since I was a regular guest, he knocked 10 euros off per night for the weekend.

So 60 euros in the end.  Because I knew some Czech, and Figaro.

Henry V


"He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us."
-Henry V

News

I love listening to the news on the radio in Dutch.  I have no idea what the announcer was saying, and I am quite happy with not understanding her words.

Haarlem

Eating toasted pistachios in Willie Wortel, shelling the toasted, glazed nuts as I shed cares.  Just watching the giant Molen de Adriaan windmill spin its giants arms in the midday wind, as trumpets blare in the window and in the speakers above.  The rotating arms are hypnotically turning in the distance.

I am enjoying the slow vibe of Haarlem on a Saturday day trip from Amsterdam.  I was just in a very different Harlem earlier this month. Viva la differencia.