Friday, September 22, 2017

Toulouse

I am all set to leave Toulouse after a few days here.  I really enjoyed the city.  I generally really like second cities (or third cities), the bigger cities that are not the capital (see: Oaxaca; Rosario; Stuttgart, etc) because I find them a bit more emblematic of life in said country.  Toulouse was a real delight with its dusky pink brick splendor and belle city scape.  It had a real life to it--being home to a large student population. 

After my arrival picnic, I wandered around the city.  I visited the unusual Basilique Saint-Sernin, with an octagonal tower.  After the church visit and some coffee in town, I stopped later at a Carrefour to get the trappings of dinner.  There was a kitchen in the room so I decided to make Spaghetti Catalana.  Nice idea, except that the kitchen in the not-so-large room meant that everyone else would smell the garlic, onions and tuna cooking up in the tomato sauce.  I tried to crack the windows, but I can't imagine I was a very popular hostel mate.

The next morning, I found a nice breakfast deal (coffee and pastry for 1.70euro) and then made my way to the Musee des Agustins, a nice art collection housed in an incredible old Augustinian monastery.  Even better, it was free for students (like moi).  The Romanesque art works looked great amid the old stone archways.  There was an incredible stained glass window over an old organ that was shining all sorts of colored lights on the walls and old stone crosses.  The museum had a nice mix of ancient and modern, as it mixed a collection of Romanesque columns with plastic post-modern lamps hung above the columns.  

In the more modern painting area, there were a number of excellent works by 19th century French artists.  And there was a huge painting whose scenery looked very familiar.  It was a painting with a Moorish door and wall that looked like Meknes...

And it was. As I got up to read the tag, it turns out that it was a Delacroix painting of the Sultan of Morocco in Meknes.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering through the gardens of the city, which were lovely.  I got hungry and made my way up to Marche Victor Hugo, where I read had good lunch specials on meals that come straight from the market.  Once I found the floor of restaurants, I got a fabulous three-course lunch for 14 euros.  It came with an appetizer of roasted, cured eggplant followed by a delicious steak covered in little grains of salt.  Dessert followed and didn't disappoint.  France can sometimes offer some fabulous deals on multi-course meals.

I returned to the hostel to nap before heading out to find the Rosh Hashana services, of which I wrote about a bit prior.  The services were lovely and familiar, even though half of it was in French.  It was the same prayers and similar melodies.  And the French call/response prayers was a great French lesson for me.  We had a lovely communal dinner that followed, of all sorts of salad courses.  There were RH blessings over haricots, carrots, leeks and all sorts of other things I hadn't seen at an RH celebration before.  Dinner was a delicious cabillaud.  And of course, there was a cheese course.  I walked back across the Pont St. Pierre with its arches reflecting into spheres in the water; it seemed an apt image for the new year.

I returned the next morning for the services, which were nice.  I returned back to the hostel in the afternoon and made some shakshouka for lunch.  I decided to make it for lunch rather than dinner because I figured less people would be around for the cooking smells in the afternoon.  

After lunch, I wandered again through the town--along the banks of the Garonne River.  The autumn-hued trees lined the banks of the river area, it was charming.  I futzed around the hostel a bit, and after dinner I grabbed a beer to drink on the ghats of the river surrounded by students drinking and singing on the stone embankments.  

This morning I visited Hotel d'Assezat, a hotel particulare (private mansion of which Toulouse has many) that was turned into a private art museum  The Foundation Bemberg holds its collection at the mansion, and had an excellent collection of works from Renaissance to Impressionist and Pointillist works.

After the museum, I made my way to the lovely Jardin des Plantes, which had been closed the other day for fumigation.  I read a bit in the park before scurrying back to the hostel to grab my lunch out of the hostel office before their own lunch break.  Now I am off to grab a train to Montpelier, where I will stay with a Servas family before i head on to Avignon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Nambia wishes you a sweet year

As the Chief Rabbi of Nambia, I wish everyone a Shana Tova!

Little known Nambian fact, it is the number 2 exporter of Potassium.

Who By Fire, Who By Water — and Who By Lack of Health Care?

Why She Lost

The legendary Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg offers an important analysis of Hillary Clinton's campaign strategic and tactical shortcomings.

Issues like Russian interference and voter suppression are real factors--I am definitely not trying to dismiss them as such issues need to be addressed--but it is also quite important that the Dems take stock in what failed strategically and tactically in Clinton's campaign and ultimately helped cost the election.

Notre Père et Roi (Avinu Malkeinu in French)

Notre Père et Roi, nous reconnaissons avoir fauté contre Toi
Notre Père et Roi, nous n’avons pas d’autre Roi que Toi.
Notre Père et Roi, agis favorablement envers nous pour la gloire de Ton renom.
Notre Père et Roi, accorde-nous une bonne et heureuse année.
Notre Père et Roi, annule tous les mauvais décrets contre nous.
Notre Père et Roi, réduis à néant les conspirations de ceux qui nous haïssent.
Notre Père et Roi, retourne contre nos ennemis le mauvais conseil qui les inspire.
Notre Père et Roi, écarte tout malheur et calamité qui nous menacent.
Notre Père et Roi, protège ceux qui ont fait alliance avec Toi, des dangers de la maladie, de la guerre et de la famine, de la captivité, de la destruction, du crime et de la persécution.
Notre Père et Roi, pardonne et efface toutes nos fautes.
Notre Père et Roi, que soit annulé à Tes yeux le poids de nos crimes et péchés.
Notre Père et Roi, aide-nous à accomplir un sincère repentir vers Toi.
Notre Père et Roi, envoie la guérison complète aux malades de Ton peuple.
Notre Père et Roi, souviens-Toi de nous avec faveur.
Notre Père et Roi, inscris-nous dans le livre de la vie heureuse.
Notre Père et Roi, inscris-nous dans le livre de la délivrance et de la Rédemption.
Notre Père et Roi, inscris-nous dans le livre de la prospérité.
Notre Père et Roi, inscris-nous dans le livre des mérites.
Notre Père et Roi, inscris-nous dans le livre du pardon.
Notre Père et Roi, fais en sorte que la Rédemption se réalise bientôt.
Notre Père et Roi, relève la dignité d’Israël Ton peuple.
Notre Père et Roi, écoute notre supplication avec compassion.
Notre Père et Roi, accepte avec miséricorde nos prières.
Notre Père et Roi, ne nous renvoie pas sans nous avoir exaucés.
Notre Père et Roi, souviens-Toi que nous ne sommes que poussière.
Notre Père et Roi, prends pitié de nous et de nos enfants.
Notre Père et Roi, agis au nom de nos martyrs morts en sanctifiant Ton Nom.
Notre Père et Roi, agis au nom de nos suppliciés.
Notre Père et Roi, agis au nom de ceux qui sont morts au bûcher, ou noyés pour ne pas parjurer.
Notre Père et Roi, si nous ne sommes pas dignes, agis au moins pour Ton renom.
Notre Père et Roi, fais-nous grâce et exauce-nous, car nous n’avons pas assez de mérite.
Accorde-nous Ta clémence et Ta générosité pour le Salut !

Bonne Année à tous!

Shana Tova from Toulouse, where the congregation's Rosh Hashanah meal after the French-Hebrew service had the best kosher wine ever; there was a stinky cheese course to the meal; after singing "Henai Ma Tov," everyone literally started singing "Aux Champs-Elysées."

Bonne Année à tous!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

La Ville Rose

I left Morocco in the darkness.  My flight on Ryanair was scheduled for 6:35am, so I had to be there at 4:35am.  But I received an email yesterday that because of security issues, I had to arrive an extra hour earlier.  So I got to the airport at 3:35am.  It was a waste.  The counter didn't open until 4am, and I was the first one in line and the first one through security.  I was sitting alone in the departure terminal by 4:15am, glaring at the slowly ticking clock.

The flight was uneventful.  Ryanair is not known for its comforts, and that was the case.  The seat wouldn't recline and I had so little space I kept bumping my knees against the seat in front of me, and I am not so tall.  But it passed without issue and we arrived on time to Toulouse.

I passed through passport control and customs without issue and caught the shuttle into the city.  The world had changed greatly from my previous Moroccan existence.

I wandered through the suddenly wide, empty and unlittered streets until I found my hostel.  I dropped my bags and went wandering through the pink city of Toulouse.  The city has a dusky pink color from its terracotta bricks.  I marveled at the autumn I had arrived upon; Morocco was just starting to cool down, but France is already into Autumn with a cool breeze and changing colors of the leaves.  I smiled  at how charming it was under the beautiful blue skies with big fat clouds.

I will always love Morocco, but the prospect of immersing myself in a French environment is what I need at the moment.  In Morocco, there was always too many Arabic distractions to focus on my French skills.  As I sat in a leafy park with my eyes closed--listening to the French banter, I knew this was the right choice to come here.

Anyway, I wandered around the city through a tangle of pink alleyways until I came upon a market.  CHEESE!  I followed my nose until I found a little fromagerie in the market.  I got a nice block of a hard cow's milk cheese for 2.5 euros and a little wheel of hard stinky chevre for a euro.  I picked up a crusty baguette to go with my stinky cheese.  There was a wine shop with giant vats of local wine.  I picked up half a litre for 75 centimes.  And I was set.

I wandered out of the market to Pont St. Michel but realized the bridge and river were not the right place for a picnic so I wandered back toward the Jardin Royaume for a picnic by a pond.  I ate the stinky cheese and crusty bread, washed down by the surprisingly good wine (Best dollar wine ever, with hints of sour cherry) as I tossed hunks of bread to the ducks.

Because what is a sabbatique without La Belle France?  And what is a sabbatique without a good midday picnic of stinky cheese, crusty bread and good cheap wine?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Toulouse-LaTrek

With a tinge of sadness, I bade Morocco goodbye this morning. I had planned to do a French course here this Fall but couldn't find an intensive course....sooo off to France!

B'slama Morocco; Bonjour Toulouse.

So begins my Toulouse-LaTrek across southern France to Nice, where I will be studying French (and cat-sitting. Oui, I am an international catsitter) for the month of October.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Of Interest

-The economic case for letting kids sleep later

-Cassini's image of Saturn and her moons.  Cassini isn't the only one sending back amazing pics.  This is what Juno is sending back of Jupiter.

-The UK's Science and Natural History Museums got in a battle royale online.

Invisible Cities: Asilah

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” -Italo Calvino, "Invisible Cities"

 Morocco is a flâneur's paradise; a limbo of boundless cityscape, of endless alleyways.




More pics here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On 'White People'

"Race might not be real, but racism very much is. Idols have a way of affecting our lives, even if the gods they represent are illusory."
-Ed Simon, "How 'white people' were invented by a playwright in 1613"

A fascinating piece on the construction of whiteness:
Yet our particular criteria concerning how we think about race did develop, and it did so in service to colonialism and capitalism (and their handmaiden: slavery). Bolstered by a positivist language, the idea of race became so normalised that eventually the claim that anyone would have coined such an obvious phrase as ‘white people’ would begin to sound strange. But invented it was.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Around Asilah (II)

Asilah is an old Portuguese fortress city on the Moroccan Atlantic coast.

It is an ochre-walled fortress; above the stone fort is a whitewashed Moorish vista of almond arches and square embankments.

The cold Atlantic waves wash along the rocky surf.  For more pics, click here.




Einstein on religion

"I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research."
-Albert Einstein, "Ideas and Opinions" (1954)

 I have a feeling that Einstein died a believer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dollars under the Donald

For those of us Americans abroad, beyond the constant unenviable task of explaining why Trump is president (I have a whole slew of answers in Arabic that I won't bother translating), we have the other uneviable effects of his presidency: the diminishing dollar.

The dollar has literally plummeted 10 percent in value since he took over in January 2017.  Trump has been an albatross on good ol' American greenbacks, and a tenth of the dollar's value has been shaved off while he has been at the helm.

Make America Great Again?  How about you make the dollar great again first.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

An Ode to the Golden Arches

On Sunday--after two grand taxis, one petite taxi and a lot of walking hungry and lost, I had decided I had enough of Morocco for the day.  I wanted some comfort food, I wanted some Mickey D's.

I knew there was at-least one in Meknes, I had heard someone mention it ("McDo's").  I asked a petite taxi to take me, but amazingly I found an honest taxi driver--who pointed across the juncture to the Golden Arches in the distance.  I thanked him for his rectitude, and made my way to McDonald's.

A lil context as I walked across the sun-baked street.  I had not had McDonald's in probably close to 20 months.  I last had it as I was killing time at a Bogota shopping mall, waiting to watch Star Wars Rogue One.  I don't usually opt for fast food, but every once in a long while I need my fix.  Which inherently what fast food should be--a once-in-a-while binge on salt, sugar and grease; a heavy helping of sodium, caffeine and cholesterol.

But as I neared the Golden Arches, I ran into literally, conscience.  Or Konshens the MC, who is the Next Level Morocco MC.  I had met Konshens a few years prior, and was quite pleased that the talented MC was selected.

Konshens asked me where I was headed, and I furtively nodded towards MickeyDs.  But we got to chatting, and he was a hungry vegan.  Being a vegetarian in Morocco is damn hard; being a vegan is downright impossible.  So I felt the need to help him get fed, and I would save McDonald's for a later day.

That day came this afternoon as I made my way back to Ronald's haunts.  It is always a bit of culture shock entering a McDonald's somewhere in the world--a strange transformation from the foreign to the familiar.  Crisp sanitized McDonald's with its familiar colors, smells and rhythms.

I stood in line, and marveled at all the Moroccans standing in line with me.  NO one in Morocco stands in line, if it can be rushed, avoided or skipped.  And yet everyone was there queued up.  It was not the fastest McDonald's I have ever visited, but I wasn't in a rush and was more enamored with all the other Moroccans around me waiting patiently.

While I waited, I had some time to think about other McDonald's experiences throughout my travels like China, India and otherwise.  The signs on the wall proclaimed that this McDonald's was the only one in Morocco that was completely halal; I wondered how that would affect the price of the BigMac on the Big Mac Index, as I know that the kosher burgers affected the price of burgers in Israel on the index; I thought of the McDonald's I visited in Buenos Aires that was all-kosher; of the veggie McDonald's in India.

I waited in line until it was my turn, glancing at the smiling faces laced in braces (a sign of societal increases of wealth).  I opted to go for frou-frou menu, and got an El Magnifico with some sort of maestro burger.  The menu came with fries (sans salt, amazingly) and a coke.  With ICE.

The reality of McDonald's in the developing world (and really just about any MickeyDs outside of North America) is that it is decidedly middle class fair.  It wasn't cheap, especially by Moroccan standards (about $6.75 for the meal, which is definitely not fast food levels here).

I have to admit, it was actually pretty good.  The double burgers came on a poppy-seeded brioche with caramelized onions, lettuce and cornichons, topped with a mayonnaise citronnée and a smoked bbq sauce.  Tres chic, no?  At least it sounds it.

I am pretty agnostic about McDonald's.  Domestically, I am critical because I think it could be more of a leader for better wages and healthcare for the industry--which employs so many.  Ronald knows, it makes enough profits.

But globally, I am less critical.  Often working conditions in McDonalds globally are not bad.  It pays a better wage than most jobs in developing countries, and in other developed countries actually pays a livable wage. 

As I have long noted, McDonald's is not a gastrodiplomacy embassy of American goodwill; it is a business that actually adapts pretty well to local tastes.

So that is my brief ode to the Golden Arches in Meknes... أنا أحبه  

The Wall Street Journal's Trump Problem

Shocked, shocked that Murdoch would slowly turn the august Wall Street Journal into FoxBusiness...The Wall Street Journal's Trump Problem

Pioneers, Rebels and Fashion Designers

"To be a pioneer one must first be a rebel"
-Not-likely Fidel Castro

I was walking down the street in Meknes, when I saw a guy in a shirt with Fidel Castro's mug and the above quote.  I thought it was a great quote and was getting ready to inscribe it in the facebooks and bloggies.  But I decided to look up the quote to see if I could find out more....

And it would appear that Castro never uttered the words.  It looks to be some cheap fashion brands ascribed to him to sell shirts.

Which is even more ironic.  

Leviathan

Monarch of Violence, rolling on clouds,
I toss wide waters, and I fell huge trees...
Possessed of daemon-rage, I penetrate,
Sheer to the utmost caverns of old Earth;
And straining, up from those unfathomed deeps,
Scatter the terror-stricken shades of Hell;
And hurl death-dealing earthquakes throughout the world! -Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Charter

"Charter proponents will point out, correctly, that you could work up a similar indictment of any number of public schools in struggling cities like Detroit. But in theory, at least, public-school districts have superintendents tasked with evaluating teachers and facilities. Carver, on the other hand, is accountable to more ambiguous entities — like, for example, Oak Ridge Financial, the Minnesota-based financial-services firm that sent a team of former educators to visit the school. They had come not in service of the children but on behalf of shareholders expecting a thorough vetting of a long-term investment: Brown was in negotiations with Oak Ridge about refinancing the school’s debt in order to make much-needed repairs, and the firm was performing the sort of oversight normally handled by a school district. Michigan schools remaining in the bottom fifth percentile for three years running must close, which, in the case of Carver, would leave Oak Ridge on the hook for a 13-year loan.

The crisis at Carver Academy was not unfolding in isolation. Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. But a Brookings Institution analysis done this year of national test scores ranked Michigan last among all states when it came to improvements in student proficiency. And a 2016 analysis by the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan education policy and research organization, found that 70 percent of Michigan charters were in the bottom half of the state’s rankings. Michigan has the most for-profit charter schools in the country and some of the least state oversight. Even staunch charter advocates have blanched at the Michigan model.

The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. In the case of Carver, interested parties have included a for-profit educational management organization, or E.M.O., in Georgia; an Indian tribe in a remote section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and a financial firm in Minnesota. “That’s all it is now — it’s moneymaking,” Darrel Redrick, a charter-school proponent and an administrator at Carver at the time I visited, told me."
-Mark Binelli, "Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost"

Asilah Art

One of the reasons I went to Asilah is because it is home to an international cultural festival that takes place every year in August....except this year.

For some reason, the Asilah Arts Festival took place a month prior this year. I showed up looking for the annual arts festival, only to be told it had already mensually passed.

 C'est la vie...these are some of the murals painted in the Asilah medina from the Asilah Arts Festival that I missed. As always, everything is Inshallah....

For more pics of Asilah's Art, click here.








Friday, September 08, 2017

Cats

Every morning, I feed the cats of the blue square.  Usually about 7-8 cats.  After doing this for a while, some of the cats know me.  They follow me down the alley and back to my hotel.

They meow at me a lot.  I imagine it is something both profound and unintelligible.  They look at me like some I am some non-understanding dummy, as if they repeat their meows maybe I will understand.

Hell

If there is a place in hell for climate change deniers, I hope it is extra hot.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Par Toutatis

Je suis fier d'annoncer que j'ai traduit ma deuxième BD, Astérix le Gaulois.

I am proud to announce that I translated my second comic book, Astérix le Gaulois.



Karmoos

Life is an intricate blue and white flower china bowl of luscious, fresh Chaoueni Moroccan figs (karmoos), quartered and covered in vanilla yogurt.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Gerasimov Doctrine

"'In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov — Russia’s chief of the General Staff, comparable to the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—published a 2,000-word article, “The Value of Science is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. Gerasimov took tactics developed by the Soviets, blended them with strategic military thinking about total war, and laid out a new theory of modern warfare — one that looks more like hacking an enemy’s society than attacking it head-on. He wrote: “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness … All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character.”

The article is considered by many to be the most useful articulation of Russia’s modern strategy, a vision of total warfare that places politics and war within the same spectrum of activities—philosophically, but also logistically. The approach is guerrilla, and waged on all fronts with a range of actors and tools — for example, hackers, media, businessmen, leaks and, yes, fake news, as well as conventional and asymmetric military means. Thanks to the internet and social media, the kinds of operations Soviet psy-ops teams once could only fantasize about — upending the domestic affairs of nations with information alone — are now plausible. The Gerasimov Doctrine builds a framework for these new tools, and declares that non-military tactics are not auxiliary to the use of force but the preferred way to win. That they are, in fact, the actual war. Chaos is the strategy the Kremlin pursues: Gerasimov specifies that the objective is to achieve an environment of permanent unrest and conflict within an enemy state."
-Molly McKew, "The Gerasimov Doctrine"

Around Asilah

After I left Chefchaouen, I made my way to Asilah on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. I spent almost two weeks there, holed up in the beautiful, colorful, funky medina.

 I wandered in and out of the alley ways, and on the rocky beach.

I ate a lot of fresh fish (sardines in salt, grilled over coals), and drank a lot of tea.

 I have a lot of pics from Asilah, so I am going to stagger and share the pics in a few batches.






Monday, September 04, 2017

Europa, europa

Now and Then

"The present is by common definition the instant between the not yet and the already, a moment as narrow and treacherous as a tightrope. But you might instead define it as all that is remembered by those who are currently alive. A version of the now ends when living memory gives way to secondhand memory or recorded history — when the last veteran of a war dies, or a language loses its last fluent speakers. As long as such witnesses are on hand, the now is something bigger than it seems."
-Rebecca Solnit, "Now and Then" in Harper's Magazine Sept. '17

Weekend Roundup

Now that I have some wifi access again, I am posting a few things from the long weekend.

-Things are really looking rotten in Denmark  America for the election and tampering by the Russians.  This NYTimes report outlines the areas where there were Russian election hacking, and election voting issues.

The Philadelphia Inquirer asks if Americans can handle the truth of elections that continue to smell increasingly sour.

-This is the coolest 360 degree "Where's Waldo."  As someone commented, this might be the best 360 degree piece ever.

-The best PTA mom ever:


-The racket that is academia, and its hiring practices.

-An interesting article on Rouhanicare in Iran

-Anniversary of the NL Serbia program, through the lens of the brilliant Anshul Gupta

-

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sermon on the Soap Bubble

"Who else but God gave man this sensuous passion, love that can spark mere dust to life? Revealing beauty in our Eternal Father's fashion. Ecstasy- far above earthly greediness and strife! Poetry, uniting All-One, all-brave, all-life. Who else but God? Who else but God? Love is like a willful bird! Do you want it? It flies away. Yet when you least expect its bliss, it turns around and it's here to stay! Poetry-Unity-Ecstasy-Love, evolving man above, above, above the ape! Only man, absolute clean, reciting poetry, enjoys hours of loving self-discipline."
-Dr. Bronner

Thank you Dr. Bronner, for this Sermon on the Soap Bubble. I filled my bucket with his 18-in-1 Lavender Soap as the Call to Prayer rang out across the city. Thank you Dr. Bronner, as always, for your excellent soap and your Sunday Laundry Benediction.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Perspectives on Westeros

Prof. Dan Drezner has a few stellar pieces on Westeros and beyond:

-IR theory and Westeros

-Fair and Balanced in Westeros. The night is dark and full of FoxNews.
H/T Tywin Rockower

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Camus' Moroccan illusion

I was walking along the beach as the sun was slowly beginning its descent.  I was chatting with a tout I knew. Almost in passing, he told me that his mother had died today. I offered my sympathies as I scrutinized his face. Waves lapped softly against the jagged rocky shores.  Somewhere far, far away, Camus cast down a glance at this Moroccan illusion, and gave a subtle smirk.

The Quixotic Bookseller

I have been having problems with my ipad, specifically that it is not charging well.  It could be plugged in overnight, and yet have added nary a charge by the morning.  I have played with different cords and different charger plugs, but it is acting up.  As such, that means that my access to my vast Kindle library has been sporadic.  A Kindle is an incredible, amazing tool for access to vast libraries of pages...but paper never needs power.

Not having access to my reading material had left me a little bored.  For me, boredom is always an existential issue.

Yesterday, I noticed a street book merchant just outside the gates of the kasbah.  He had bootlegged copies and photocopied editions for sale along the wrought-iron rails and on the concrete edge.  I perused his offerings but had not found quite what I was looking for.

Today, I saw him setup again, and gave his collections another look.  As I had hypothesized, he had others on display today.

I have a funny way of choosing paperback books, and it revolves around a quixotic combination size--if it is big enough to fit in my small satchel or back pocket, and heft.

I first found an old copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.


A wonderful book, which I read nearly a decade ago on an adventure to Jamaica.

The other, a book by Paulo Coehlo called The Fifth Mountain about the Prophet Elijah, my namesake and patron saint of all Wandering Jews.

Stop thinking about life and choose to live it.

As a rule, I don't generally bargain much with booksellers.  I might try to knock a few dirham or rupees off the price but I don't negotiate hard because I always want to support the purveyors of pages.

He told me that the Hemingway book was 20 dirham (2 bucks) and the Coehlo was 15 dirham (a buck fifty), or maybe it was the other way.  I pushed lightly for both books for an even 30 dirham.

Then, I saaw his t-shirt.  He was wearing a Don Quixote t-shirt, of Picasso design.  As a rule, I don't bargain over anything Quixote.  Quixotic gets its own price, out of respect.

I pointed to his shirt, and told him he could have the 35 dirhams he asked for.

I explained with a quixotic grin that on principle I don't negotiate with Quixotes.

He laughed and we talked of the famous knight-errant's tale, which he had read last year.

I happily took both books and stuffed them in my satchel.  My library troubles should be over for a spell.  I left him with a handshake and a smile as I wandered off into the afternoon sun.

Friday, August 25, 2017

On to Asilah

 After a month in Chefchaouen, I finally decamped. I knew if I didn't leave after a month, I would never leave. After a month, I came to really know the blue pearl that is Chefchaouen. If I lived there longer, I would have ended up the mayor of the city, or at the very least the official keeper of cats. I will definitely add the city to my virtual Sultanate.

After a month, I had built a small community in this small mountain city. I knew a little bit about how the place ticked.

I said my goodbyes and my inshallahs that I would return. I will really miss the place, it really welcomed me as a “Chaoueni.”

That Monday, I left behind Chefchaouen and the rugged mountains that surrounded it. I wandered out its blue maze until I was spit out Bab al-Ain. I hopped a petite blue taxi to the Gare Routiere and caught a sweltering, sweaty oven on wheels to Tangier. The bus must have been ten degrees hotter inside than outside, and it was hot out.

I took the baking coffin on past Tetouan to Tangier. In Tangier, I fiddled with the bus station before hopping a Grand Taxi to Asilah. I piled in the back with three Spanish girls. It was not bad, they were small twentysomethings so there was some room in the full back. And there was an open window that blasted cool winds through the back. After an hour and some change, we were in Asilah.

In Asilah, I wandered through the old medina but could not find any cheap hotels. Or any hotels, really. Turns out that in the old medina, the way to stay was rent an apartment—something I would later learn.

After some hot sweaty searching, I took on the help of a tout to help me procure an apartment. I usually don't mess with touts, but in this case it was helpful since the only way to find an apartment to rent was to know who was renting. The tout took me to a few spots before I found something at the nexis of cheap, centralized and habitable. The place, owned I believe by a local muezzin, was fine if cell-like but I could move to a better property he owned in two days so I ponied up for a week ($80).

After settling in, I went down to the beach. This was a different site than I was used to. I walked aling the beach, past an ochre-walled fortress; above the fort sprang a whitewashed Moorish vista of whitewashed almond arches and square embankments. To the maghreb, the Atlantic waves washed along the rocky surf. I wandered down the beach past small plastic table beach tea houses under parasols. I walked along the slippery rocks until I found a craggy spot to watch the couche de soleil, the glowing orb descend into the Atlantic horizon. It didn't disappoint, with a stellar array of pink, peach and gold. There are few things better than a sunset into the ocean; all suns should set into the surf.

I wandered around a bit before settling in for dinner. I found a place that had booze (!) so I had a tart gin-and-tonic with salty olives and garlic aubergine before diving into a filet of merluza (whiting fish, Abba) cooked in thyme. It had been a while since I ate fish, and the combination of all the flavors were light, brackish and wonderful.

As for Asilah, it is a lovely whitewashed labyrinth above the surf. The alleys are alternately starkly white or with colorful pastel hues. There are ample arches, and exploding bougainvillea that pops against the white walls. Asilah is an artsy place, and there are all sorts of colorful murals that bedeck the white canvas walls. It is lovely, and I will have to snap some pics to share its delights.

In the meantime, here are some more pics from Chefchaouen.




Thursday, August 24, 2017

On both sides of the Wall

"I think there is blame on both sides..."

"What about Jon Snow and his gang that came charging at, as you say, the 'White Walkers' do they have any semblance of guilt?"

"What about the fact they came charging with swords in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do."

"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent and had dragons, nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."

The Night is Dark and Full of Trump....