Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ground Zero of Gay Pride

We arrived by train to the Big Apple and hopped in taxis. We headed towards Washington Square, but the taxi driver didn't want to go there.
"Big parade, too crazy." He was referring to the giant Gay Pride Parade and we needed to get to Ground Zero of the festivities.
"It is very dangerous," the taxi driver intoned in what I took to be a Nepali accent.
" is not dangerous, it is gay," I laughed in reply.
The area was shut down for traffic and the driver let us off to walk the rest of the way, down past half-naked men dancing on fire escapes.
This sounds like the start of a good joke: So a Colombiana, Algerian, Tunisian and Indonesian walk into a Gay Pride Parade....
But indeed parade met blockade, as we tried to get across the few blocked blocks of Greenwich Village. Our street was literally just a block a way from us, but on the other side of the Gay Pride Parade. Every twist and turn in our path, we were met with blockades of fabulousness.
And in our tortuous path, we passed the Stonewall Inn.
Everyone was having a gay ol' time, but we were miserable in the hot sun with all our luggage as we traversed block to crowded block with the sun beating down. I ended up a luggage-wallah with a broken suitcase balanced on my head.
After the hourglass was long empty, we crossed over enough to get up and arrived to the block we needed. A long trek for a short distance, c'est la vie. Have a fabulous Gay Pride Parade, New York.

Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas

Great article by Bruce Bartlett on how "Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Progressive Islam

“Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.

Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic.

The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship. And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith."

A fascinating story on a feminist progressive mosque in Germany, and apparently there have been similar such places in California, Denmark and Switzerland.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Thoughts

“We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more.”
 -Albert Camus

This quote from Brain Pickings was one of the first things my father, Dr. Stephen Rockower said to me this Father's Day morning. Happy Father's Day to a man working to such ends.

Monday, May 29, 2017


From Orson Scott Card's "Xenocide":

"Just because your former understanding of the purpose of your life is contradicted doesn’t mean that you have to decide there is no purpose... Just because one cause you believed in turned out to be false doesn’t mean that there aren’t other causes that can still be trusted.”

 “No matter how smart or strong you are, there’s always somebody smarter or stronger, and when you run into somebody who’s stronger and smarter than anybody, you think, This is a god. This is perfection. But I can promise you that there’s somebody else somewhere else who’ll make your god look like a maggot by comparison. And somebody smarter or stronger or better in some way. So let me tell you what I think about gods. I think a real god is not going to be so scared or angry that he tries to keep other people down.... A real god doesn’t care about control. A real god already has control of everything that needs controlling. Real gods would want to teach you how to be just like them.”

why the Israeli-Palestinian peace process fails

“Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.”
-Moshe Dayan

 A good piece on why the Israeli-Palestinian peace process fails.

On life

"Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself"

Sunday, May 14, 2017

All the President's women

I think it is worth pointing out that regarding the few women in Trump's cabinet: one is the wife of senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: another is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, Mercenary Par Excellence and one of the key links between the Trump Campaign and the Russians. And lest we forget, Linda McMahon--the head of the WWF.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The War on....

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
-John Erlichman, Nixon Administration Domestic Policy Advisor and Watergate co-conspirator

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is trying to revive the War on Drugs as a tool for oppression.  This is a vehicle of repression; it is a mechanism for suppression.  This has been done before, by Nixon and his corrupt gang.

Meanwhile, the war on truth and sanity continues to unfold with President Trump.  If I were pitching this to Hollywood as a script, it would be rejected as being too far fetched.  This is bad authoritarian comedy.  We have a gold-plated con man in the Oval Office, and just for even more chuckles, he is a Russian Manchurian candidate.  Here is a crazy listicle of why Comey's firing is an absolute shit-show.

Do the Republicans have any integrity left?  Did they ever?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Alea iacta est

Can you begin to imagine what those sniveling Congressional Republicans would be doing if President Clinton fired FBI Director Comey?  They would be calling for a special prosecutor faster than you can say "Ken Starr."

This can end either two ways.  In impeachment.  Or in something far scarier.

Alea iacta est. We have crossed the rubicon; we are past the point of no return.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Moroccan Wednesday

I am sitting on the roof, under the pearl full moon-listening to gnawi music. Their claps and rhythmic chants fill the air as the sinir taps out the bass.

The music is a weekly thing. Every Wednesday night they play.  All night and into the morning when I wake up Thursday. They play all night long. Morocco is magical.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Easy Rider, Moroccan-style

On the back of a chopper, I spent the evening cruising the California of Casablanca into the city centre.

The sun's fading golden light filled the expansive horizon as we cruised through a North African Southern California.

Not even if my words did glow could I describe the beauty, the swirling rush of the winds around my head and the coursing adrenaline as we roared through traffic.

Zen and the art of motorcycle memories, as my dreams drifted back to Hanoi, Kampala and Delhi.

"Life loves those who love life"
-Walt Disney

Saturday, May 06, 2017


So proud of my brother Harry Rockower for his work on Medicaid expansion in South Carolina for the South Carolina Medical Society.

 Unlike those dumbfucks in Congress, he actually knows what he is talking about in terms of healthcare coverage, and getting people access to care.

#HarryCare 2018.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

No Health. No Care.

Oh look, a healthcare bill from the spineless, heartless Republicans.

I'll Fly Away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; in the morning
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Our daily bread

Prof. Rockower has found the best student ever: a young fellow who works at the bakery on the corner. I teach him English in exchange for fresh-baked bread.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Monday, May 01, 2017

Only the finest..

Abu Hurayrah feeds brie to his stray cats. Being typical cats, they turned up their noses at chèvre.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ave Imperatrix

Set in this stormy Northern sea,
Queen of these restless fields of tide,
England! what shall men say of thee,
Before whose feet the worlds divide?

The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
And through its heart of crystal pass,
Like shadows through a twilight land,

The spears of crimson-suited war,
The long white-crested waves of fight,
And all the deadly fires which are
The torches of the lords of Night.

The yellow leopards, strained and lean,
The treacherous Russian knows so well,
With gaping blackened jaws are seen
Leap through the hail of screaming shell.

The strong sea-lion of England’s wars
Hath left his sapphire cave of sea,
To battle with the storm that mars
The stars of England’s chivalry.

The brazen-throated clarion blows
Across the Pathan’s reedy fen,
And the high steeps of Indian snows
Shake to the tread of armèd men.

And many an Afghan chief, who lies
Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees,
Clutches his sword in fierce surmise
When on the mountain-side he sees

The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes
To tell how he hath heard afar
The measured roll of English drums
Beat at the gates of Kandahar.

For southern wind and east wind meet
Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire,
England with bare and bloody feet
Climbs the steep road of wide empire.

O lonely Himalayan height,
Grey pillar of the Indian sky,
Where saw’st thou last in clanging flight
Our wingèd dogs of Victory?

The almond-groves of Samarcand,
Bokhara, where red lilies blow,
And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
The grave white-turbaned merchants go:

And on from thence to Ispahan,
The gilded garden of the sun,
Whence the long dusty caravan
Brings cedar wood and vermilion;

And that dread city of Cabool
Set at the mountain’s scarpèd feet,
Whose marble tanks are ever full
With water for the noonday heat:

Where through the narrow straight Bazaar
A little maid Circassian
Is led, a present from the Czar
Unto some old and bearded khan,—

Here have our wild war-eagles flown,
And flapped wide wings in fiery fight;
But the sad dove, that sits alone
In England—she hath no delight.

In vain the laughing girl will lean
To greet her love with love-lit eyes:
Down in some treacherous black ravine,
Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.

And many a moon and sun will see
The lingering wistful children wait
To climb upon their father’s knee;
And in each house made desolate

Pale women who have lost their lord
Will kiss the relics of the slain—
Some tarnished epaulette—some sword—
Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.

For not in quiet English fields
Are these, our brothers, lain to rest,
Where we might deck their broken shields
With all the flowers the dead love best.

For some are by the Delhi walls,
And many in the Afghan land,
And many where the Ganges falls
Through seven mouths of shifting sand.

And some in Russian waters lie,
And others in the seas which are
The portals to the East, or by
The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.

O wandering graves!  O restless sleep!
O silence of the sunless day!
O still ravine!  O stormy deep!
Give up your prey!  Give up your prey!

And thou whose wounds are never healed,
Whose weary race is never won,
O Cromwell’s England! must thou yield
For every inch of ground a son?

Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head,
Change thy glad song to song of pain;
Wind and wild wave have got thy dead,
And will not yield them back again.

Wave and wild wind and foreign shore
Possess the flower of English land—
Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more,
Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.

What profit now that we have bound
The whole round world with nets of gold,
If hidden in our heart is found
The care that groweth never old?

What profit that our galleys ride,
Pine-forest-like, on every main?
Ruin and wreck are at our side,
Grim warders of the House of Pain.

Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet?
Where is our English chivalry?
Wild grasses are their burial-sheet,
And sobbing waves their threnody.

O loved ones lying far away,
What word of love can dead lips send!
O wasted dust!  O senseless clay!
Is this the end! is this the end!

Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead
To vex their solemn slumber so;
Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head,
Up the steep road must England go,

Yet when this fiery web is spun,
Her watchmen shall descry from far
The young Republic like a sun
Rise from these crimson seas of war.
-Oscar Wilde, "Ave Imperatrix"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Journey

The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!'

by Rabindranath Tagore

ht/ La Princesse.


Image may contain: ocean, sky, twilight, outdoor, water and nature
Olive eyes in an orange sky
Of almond clouds that are pierced by
The pomegranate rays of
A sinking crimson sun

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, nature and outdoor

His light plucks the horizon
like guitarists' fingers strum
Hills like beds where so it's said
The moon descends to dance the dead

Image may contain: sky, ocean, twilight, outdoor, nature and water

Streams flow so red around my head
you can't tell the blood from roses
In this house, songs are shared like bread
they open as the day closes
The sky's a pool with fires
Burning all around her sides

Image may contain: 1 person, ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

My heart's a flame inspired
By the breath's of a wind's cry
Where it blows inside, I live
Where it pours outside, I die
-Ibn Zamrak, "Sunset"
h/t La Princesse

Friday, April 28, 2017

The King's Word

"This is a testimony to the richness and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco's spiritual heritage. Blending harmoniously with the other components of our identity, the Jewish legacy, with its rituals and specific features, has been an intrinsic part of our country’s heritage for more than three thousand years.

As is enshrined in the kingdom’s new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity. For this reason, I wish to call for the restoration of all the synagogues in the other Moroccan cities so that they may serve not only as places of worship but also as forums for cultural dialogue and the promotion of our cultural values.

The Moroccan people's cultural traditions, which are steeped in history, are rooted in our citizens' abiding commitments to the principles of coexistence, tolerance and concord among the various components of the nation, under the wise leadership of the kings of the glorious Alaouite dynasty and in keeping with the sacred mission which the Almighty has entrusted me.

As Commander of the Faithful, I am committed to defending the community of believers, and to fulfilling my mission with respect to upholding freedom of religion for all believers in the revealed religions, including Judaism, whose followers are loyal citizens for whom I have deep affection."
-His Majesty King Mohammed VI,
King of Morocco

Royal message read February 2013 at the unveiling of a restored synagogue in Fes.

These are the words of a real leader.

Below are some pictures from a synagogue in Casablanca, which the King of Morocco restored.

With sincere gratitude, I thank KCT&CO for being Muse to this post--by taking me to visit both the resplendent restored synagogue and Jewish Museum of Casablanca, where I found the King's Words. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 27, 2017


In the span of two minutes, I managed to inadvertently make two obscene local Moroccan gestures at my poor, innocent Moroccan Arabic teacher. She was mortified, as was I.

 Hshuma-ali. Astaghfirallah. #culturaldiplomacy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I saw the blind leading the blind. In Morocco, everything is possible.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Questions and Answers

"In the eternal battle between those who answer questions and those who question answers, it is generally best to side with the questioners."
H/t Abba

Thursday, April 20, 2017


A smart person doesn't need a smartphone ;)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Polyglottal Living

This morning, as I was walking to class I got chatting with a fellow selling kleenex who spoke to me in Spanish.  Where in Spain are you from?  By way of La Mancha, but actually de Estados Unidos. In Castilian, we chatted about Madrid and the Plaza del Sol, and before I bade him hasta luego and headed on to my French class.

In French class, I made compromises on the class schedule in 3 languages to our plans moving forward

I went to get some peanuts at a nearby kiosk.  It's a place I often stop at, the fellow who runs it is kind.  He is a dark-skinned Moroccan fellow, I think from Rachidia in the southeast.  We got to talking in Arabic and French about languages.  When I told him I spoke some Czech, he surprised me by speaking Russian.  We compared linguistic similarities of the numbers, and he told me he had studied in Russia and Ukraine.  We spoke of food--of borscht and Central Asia, of Samarkand.  We chatted about linguistic similarities, and I spoke of the closeness of Hebrew.  Through the course of the dialogue, we probably hit 6 or so languages of discussion.

This is why I love Morocco, and it works so well for me.  I have chatted in various forms of probably 7 or so languages today, and the day is still young and long. 

Call me Abu Hurayrah....

My babies! The kittens live in the medina alley next to mine. There are 8 of the precious ones, and I stop by to see them everyday. They are too cute. I have to work hard to refrain from going full on Elvira.

Friday, April 14, 2017

I met a stranger

When I was a camper at Camp Powhatan, every Friday night at services we would read the benediction poem, "I met a stranger in the night" Just as they did when my father was camper before me.

Today, the camp is now Seeds of Peace, and the poem is a graffiti mural where we once held the Friday services.

I made this in honor of my father, Dr. Stephen Rockower. It was created with the help of my brilliant friend Decap.

This is my Friday offering: I met a stranger.

Friday Laundry

Friday is a sublime day to do laundry. On the clothesline on the roof, I hang my clothes as I am accompanied by the songs and chants of the Sufi shrine next door. Through latticework, their songs--sung in unison to the glory and beauty of the oneness of G-d, rise to the heavens.


Raise me more love… raise me
my prettiest fits of madness
O’ dagger’s journey… in my flesh
and knife’s plunge…
sink me further my lady…
the sea calls me
add to me more death …
perhaps as death slays me… I’m revived
your body is my map…
the world's map no longer concerns me…
I am the oldest capital of sadness…
and my wound a Pharaonic engraving
my pain…. extends like an oil patch
from Beirut… to China…
my pain… a caravan…dispatched
by the Caliphs of 'A’Chaam'… to China…
in the seventh century of the 'Birth'…
and lost in a dragon’s mouth…
bird of my heart… 'naysani'
O’ sand of the sea, and forests of olives
O’ taste of snow, and taste of fire…
my heathen flavor, and insight
I feel scared of the unknown… shelter me
I feel scared of the darkness… embrace me
I feel cold… cover me up
tell me children stories…
rest beside me…
Chant to me…
since from the start of creation
I’ve been searching for a homeland to my forehead…
for a woman’s hair…
that writes me on the walls… then erases me…
for a woman’s love… to take me
to the borders of the sun… and throws me…
from a woman’s lip… as she makes me
like dust of powdered gold…
shine of my life. my fan
my lantern. declaration of my orchards
stretch me a bridge with the scent of oranges…
and place me like an ivory comb…
in the darkness of your hair… then forget me
I am a drop of water… ambivalent
remaining in the notebook of October
your love crushes me…
like a mad horse from the Caucasus throwing me under its hoofs…
and gargles with the water of my eyes…
add to me more fury… add to me
O’ prettiest fits of my madness
for your sake I set free my women
and effaced my birth certificate
and cut all my arteries…

-Nizar Qabbani

Merci a la princesse.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Matza m'aidez averted

Matza m'aidez averted, and now I can dine on the bread of affliction.  This is my Moroccan Passover lunch, with chèvre, olives, tuna, golden raisins, juicy dates and confiture de figues. One of the things I love most about being a wandering Jew is how to adapt the holidays to local realities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Matoke M'aidez

Day 1 of Passover, and the bakery on the corner is cruel. I am in need of a matza air-lift (M'aidez).

I am wishing I had Ugandan matoke to make up for the lack of starch.  Matoke are smashed, steam-cooked bananas that serve as a starch in Uganda.

Maybe the Uganda Scheme should have been accepted.

Flacking for the Fourth Child

Levantine PD is working with the 4th child to rehabilitate his maligned name.  His question, "what does this all mean to you" has been cruelly misinterpreted by the Rabbinic order.  

LPD thinks this is an excellent question, and places blame back on an authoritarian Rabbinic power structure. 

Why can't his question of the meaning of these things be answered?

Why does the Rabbinic order feel threatened by his question that wants further explanation of the meaning and values of these Passover traditions and customs?

Why should he merely accept that this is all good, and not seek a broader understanding? It is not wicked for him to want further answers into why this is meaningful.  He is not a toady like the so-called "wise child."  

LPD is pushing to have him rebranded as the "existentialist child"

I am apparently not alone in this Passover re-Seder: In Slate, they call him the best of the children.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Morning Moroccan Fare

The simplest things in life are often the best, he thinks as he sips spiced coffee and waits for his warm bucket bath to be ready.

Round hearty bread literally straight from the underground bakery oven. The baker bade me come in to get the still warm loaves.

Still warm, topped with real butter, fresh nfis (cow chevre) cheese and confiture des figues. .  

Où est la mosquée pour les juifs?

I made my way through the medina and on towards the mellah (old Jewish quarter).  I was looking for Avenue Moulay Ismail, where the synagogue was located.  I was savvy enough to shake off the directions of the woman who pointed me in the opposite direction when I asked if the street I was standing on was correct.

Eventually I found Avenue Moulay Ismail but wasn't sure about the synagogue.  So I stopped a fellow on the street and asked him in Moroccan Derija Arabic.  After exchanging the requisite Moroccan pleasantries and greetings, I got down to business: where is the mosque for the Jews? 

It was a question I asked 15 years ago when I was on a similar search.  He smiled, and pointed to the nondescript building across the street. Bonne fête, he said with a smile. 

Happy Pessach

May G-d deliver the 10 plagues onto the little-fingered Pharaoh. Boils, frogs, and maybe some new variants like gonorrhea. Happy Pessah to the rest of humanity.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


I termed the occupation of life-coaching an "existential ponzi scheme."

The Sound of Silence

An interesting take on an old fave, Disturbed with "The Sound of Silence"

Eating America

A wonderful essay in the NY Times by Lisa Ko on "What 'white food' meant to a first generation kid:"
James Baldwin wrote that American media is “designed not to trouble, but to reassure.” American movies and TV shows help sustain a fantasy of innocence that masks our country’s violence. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie referred to America’s “addiction to comfort”; Junot Díaz to our commitment to “narratives of consolation.” The soothing myth of American exceptionalism depends on maintaining its comfort and innocence, however false. Perhaps my childhood did, too. After all, my family had the privilege to remain superficially apolitical, to attempt to distance ourselves, mentally and geographically, from the devastation of the Reagan years.
By cranking up the TV, stuffing ourselves with Velveeta and Steak-umms, we were trying to drown out our own fears, our guilt for the relatives left behind in the Philippines, our economic anxieties and uncertainties. What could be more American than this sort of desperate denial? We didn’t need to prove that we were American; we already were.
All my favorite ingredients of identity, migration, Americana and food.  Merci Monsieur Marron. 

The sound of infinite present

Recently in Marrakesh, deep the Assembly of the Dead I had my ipod stolen.  There are many ripples that led to changed directions which caused it (late trains, late arrivals) but none are truly worth recounting.  It is gone; it happens; I have insurance for such occurrences.

But what it has done is make me hyper-present and hyper-aware.  Before, I could duck into my own world and wander through the market with my shades on, conducting Amelie's comptine valse or bouncing to Solillaquists of Sound.  Now, I have nothing to distract me from the sounds and so I pay even closer attention--there is no hiding from the present.

So I listen deeper to the lilt and gutturals of the derija. Or the sounds of the cars passing like waves. Or the waves themselves crashing onto the shores.  The birds chirp-chirping above.

I may get a CD player to replace the ipod, and collect scores of Moroccan sounds.  Or I may continue on without sound shelter, rained on by the sounds around me.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Walking words

"He who reads much and walks much, goes far and knows much."
-Don Quixote
H/t la princesse

Friday, April 07, 2017

Couscous Fridays

The smell of stewing prunes and lamb wafting on the wind down the narrow corridor is intoxicating. 

But I am already full, after devouring a plate of couscous.  There are few traditions I respect more than Morocco's Friday couscous. So I dived into a giant ball of couscous covered with stewed carrots (hizou), potato (batata), pumpkin (garah hamra), chickpeas (humus) and zucchini (garah hydra).  It was a handful, with the heat attacking my diving fingers.  I made little balls of couscous wrapped around the veggies and popped the balls into my mouth with my thumb.

Food is always a key to memory because it is so intrinsically linked to both the senses and the past.  I thought of the couscous lunches with my host family when I first arrived in Rabat.  How my couscous balls would crumble back into the clay tajine plate.  My host father would make perfect spheres of couscous and role them over to me with a gentle push of his thumb, to make sure this adopted foreign son wouldn't go hungry.  He is gone now, but perhaps one can live forever in the deep recess of another's memory-- like how a dream is real until the dream ends.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Existential turtle discussions

I left my building and saw a friend at the bakery at the corner.  We chatted in Arabic and French.

I haven't seen you for a while, where have you been?

I was in Marrakesh with friends.  

Marrakesh was good?

Yes, it was good but I prefer Rabat.  Marrakesh is hot, congested and full of tourists and hustle.

Every city is different, with a different language.  Every city's people are different, with a different attitude.

You are correct.  I need to go, I need to feed mateesha (tomatoes, a new Derija word I learned) to the turtle who lives on the roof.

What is the turtle's name?

Fakran (Arabic for turtle).  Fakran's name is fakran. Fakran al-fakran.

He laughed. I pointed to the bread.  Khubz (bread) is happily named khubz; Le mur est le mur.

He laughed deep at this.

And I walked away down the medina alley thinking of Borges y yo, of what Spinoza knew:

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone, and the tiger a tiger.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The day that was

Just another day here in Morocco.

I had a slow start to the morning, doing some laundry that required a double wash because the washer is connected by power to the light switch, and I mistakenly turned it off when it was just about done and had to wash it again to free my clothes.

I had a nice, interesting chat with certain interested parties about the future of transatlatic public diplomacy and relations between the U.S. and certain interested parties.

A leftover treat of Marcella Hazan's famous spaghetti sauce III for lunch.

I began my Derija Moroccan Arabic class this afternoon.  It is so vastly different than Fusha, classical Arabic that I might as well be learning a new language.  I really am.  With its French, Spanish and Berber influences, Moroccan Arabic is so different utterly different a language that when Moroccans speak Arabic on pan-Arab stations, the channels need to offer subtitles.

I know a bit from my time here, and my time living with my Moroccan family, the Taoufiks, so I have a little base.  But technically speaking, I would consider this studying my 7th language (Hebrew, Spanish, Czech, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi/Urdu, French). Ana Hamak (I am crazy).

In honor of my new course, I took myself out to dinner.  I had a hankering for some Syrian food, so I googlebaba-ed a spot just outside the medina walls.  It was wonderful.  In the divan, I had a plate of creamy humus and maklouba with chicken.  The fragrant rice came with almonds and eggplant slices. I wrapped the rice and spiced, roasted chicken in the flat pita and dipped it in the humus and garlic mayo.  Yum.  And knahfey for dessert.

On my walk back, I stopped at my favorite coffee roaster to get some of his fresh-ground variety, mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, anise and a hint of black pepper spice.  Looking forward to my morning cup.

I already commented on my kleine nachtmusik in the previous post. 

Gnawi nights

On the rooftop, I sit.  From a distant, unknown roof gnawi music fills the night.  Percussive beats from the iron castanet krakebs match the claps and chants.  The three-string sintir bass lute echoes off the empty walls and the roof top of the Sufi shrine next to me.  I close my eyes and lean my head back against the wall, and I hear the caravan.  A thousand and one nights on the road, and I am a happy sultan.  Morocco is magical.


"Seventeen days. That’s how much stamina flinty-eyed deal master Donald Trump, sober policy knower Paul Ryan, and all the Republican Party had for a health care overhaul they’d been promising for seven years, before the work of negotiating amongst themselves overwhelmed them and they retired to their fainting couches. You can’t close on the sale of a fucking townhouse in 17 days. Holy hell, what a bunch of losers.

Don’t get me wrong! Literally all decent human beings can be glad these incompetent featherweight sacks of crap couldn’t get the job done: If their efforts were shabby, their goals were vile, the stuff of paranoia thriller villains. In all the particulars of their vision the public got to see, it was a pathetic hackwork, an agglomeration of cheap-shit piecemeal bullshit, managing the mean feat of being both a half-assed half-step—when measured against the tenor and substance of the seven years’ worth of caterwauling these creampuffs mounted against the ostensibly socialist evils of Obamacare—and a savage and heavyhanded assault on the well-being and security of tens of millions of vulnerable people. The unintentional consequences would have been surpassed in cruelty and destruction only by the intentional ones. Seventeen days of negotiation is 18 more than it deserved.

But still. These fucking amateurs! These butter-soft babies. These utter, utter fucking frauds. Let us clown them for all eternity; let us never forget what a bunch of unserious cosplaying shit-for-brains they are, each and every one."
-Albert Berneko at Deadspin

H/t Harry, who could have written significantly better health care legislation.  The nation awaits HarryCare.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decapped in Paris

Here is your dose of genius and beauty for the day--from the incomparable Decap in collaboration with 6Franc and Yak Films. Bravo Decap, this is phenomenal.


I became a turtle-whisperer, and it was all thanks to a mysterious all-white, possibly deaf cat whom I have named Schrodinger.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Love, Loss and the EU

"People say you can love Europe without loving the EU. That’s the wrong end of the telescope for my generation. It was the camaraderie and fraternity the EU fostered that helped us discover and fall in love with Europe. And that makes the divorce so much more bitter."
-Mark Rice-Oxley, "The EU is 60--and it helped my generation fall in love with Europe"

Brain Pickings

"Perhaps the greatest paradox of human life is that although happiness is the most universal of our longings, it is unobtainable by striving. Every seeming end we seek — love, money, purpose, the perfect cappuccino — we seek as a means to happiness, and yet happiness defies the usual laws of effort and achievement: The more ferociously we try to attain it, the more it eludes us."
-Maria Popova of Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a weekly newsletter I receive, and love.  I highly recommend it, it a weekly blast of culture and humanity.

Mukhelalet, or the joys of the return

I just finished one of my absolutely local Rabati favorites, a dish called mukhelalet.
It is unique to only Rabat and Sale next door.  The dish is quite simple yet absolutely wonderful.

The dish is a small bowl of boiled potatoes and beets that have been soaking (brining?) in vinegar. The little squares of potatoes and beets are swimming in a bowl of the beet vinegar, with some preserved eggplant chunks and harisa (spicy chili sauce) thrown in.  It is a bit salty, savory and yet refreshing.  After you finish spearing the chunks with a wooden toothpick, a bit more of the royal purple beet vinegar is ladled back into the empty bowl to sip after the snack.

this is a poem that heals fish

"A poem is when you are in
 love and have the sky in your mouth.

"—A poem is when you hear
the heartbeat of a stone."

From Jean-Pierre Simeon's "This is a poem that heals fish"

Friday, March 24, 2017

La Côte de Rabat

If I had a thousand words, I could only barely begin to describe the view I see.

The vast waves of the rugged Atlantic coast crashing along the jagged Rabat coastline. White spray  levels upward and onward. The sun casts its white light on the spray of the waves and the light tower in the distance. The block city by the coast is bathed in white.

I had been following the coast all afternoon.  There had been a pounding hail storm this afternoon and I went to see the storm's fury in the waves; I was not disappointed for my efforts following the red earth cliffs and sea of many colors that crashed into pools and grottos along the coast.

I wandered my way out to the furthest depths along the stone causeway jutting jaggedly into the sea. I slip-slides my way to the edge and back to sit on the giant rock pier.

To my eastern vantage is the beach, a tall North African square minaret and waves of colored graves on the hill.

Further on is the giant orche kasbah, the citadel on high.  The roar of the waves is pounds the ears as the giant white surf pounds the jagged outline of the city.

Past the minaret of the mausoleum of Hassan II, there is an arc of iris stretching over Salé. The sun's white light lights up the sister city in white.

Dirham to dollar, Rabat has some of the finest coastline in the world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Humpty Trumpty

And all the King's horses
And all the King's men....
I fear that after Humpty Trumpty,
America will never
Be great again.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gaslighting, explained in a coffeeshop in the Red Light District

Professor Rockower gave a lesson the other day on the difference between gaslighting, bullshitting and spin.

I went into a coffeeshop this morning, and the British fellow behind the counter recognized me.  You were here the other day, and he recalled an incident where a kid fervently tried to argue with the guy behind the counter that he was old enough, even though his ID had him just short.

"But it says you are born in April," the man behind the counter replied.

"Yeah, I am 18," the kid was boldly insistent.

The fellow just furrowed his brow and said, "we are in March.  You are not 18."

Nice try.  I can remember attempting that trick to buy cigars at Rodman's Liquor when I was still 17 but the dates were close.

I laughed at the encounter and his attempts to hold fast with the deployment of alternative facts.

When the guy behind the counter recalled it, I explained that this was: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the attempt to manipulate you into believing something that isn't really true.

The fellow next to me asked if this wasn't just "bullshiting."

I explained it as such: bullshitting is just that.  If the kid had cracked a smile and said, "yeah ya got me," that would be bullshitting.  But since he was insistent that the guy had his facts wrong, that was gaslighting.  Bullshitting plus manipulation equals gaslighting.

The difference seen in tone and inflection.

"We've seen a lot of gaslighting these days with Brexit-- with the buses declaring how much would go to the NHS, and with Trump," the guy at the counter said.

"Yes, that's why the word is far more commonplace these days," I replied.

Thanks for the enlightenment, he said.  I smiled, and said that it was "disenlightenment, really...."

The Brit behind the counter told me that he used to be in advertising.  Years spent selling people things they didn't really need.  Now, he works in a coffeeshop and sell people things they want.  "I have never been a more honest salesman," he said.

"Now, I sell people something that brings them pleasure in the red light district," he smiled and said.

I smiled and replied: "now you are employing 'spin.'"

You get a 'spin' here too in the Red Light District, he said, for the right price.  I laughed my way out onto the terrace.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


In an old-timey Dutch bar.  Cobwebs and dust cover the chandeliers and birdcages.  The place is lit by candle light, and smoky jazz croons. A cold glass of Brand pilsener casts the afterglow of the candle in a golden shadow.

Color affects emotion

Oh Van Gogh. I spent the morning with Van Gogh, and it was a delight.  I stared at his visage through an array of colors and moods.

Face to face with Van Gogh.

His self-portrait, him staring over his shoulder with no impressionist blur is haunting.  He is just looking over his shoulder, right at you.

Such utter brilliance.  Even his signature on letters were exquisite.

In one self-portrait, he is exploding in a confetti of color.  Others he is gaunt and drawn.

Or brown, in an elegant smoking-jacket--the brown pipe descending down his face. Or black in a black felt hat.  Or in suits and shades of blue.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a painting is double that.  A Van Gogh is wordless, but rather colored emotion.  Van Gogh understood that color affects emotion.  Goethe understood this too.  I don't have enough words to describe some of Van Gogh's portraits and self-portraits.

Just Van Gogh and Iron and Wine on repeat.  Upward.

The stirring textures of his work is without words.  The yellow of his sun flowers.  He only used three  shades of yellow to paint that masterpiece of yellow.  The King in Yellow.

Or the snowy white fields of orchids.  Fields of painted white snow flowers.

Ah, but my favorite amid all of it was not a work of Van Gogh.  Rather a Monet, "Tulip Fields near The Hague."

Hard to upstage Van Gogh in his own museum but I am quixotically biased.

Vincent Van Gogh, you are an eternal treasure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The floating flower market

"You are a cupcake in a world full of bran muffins."

H/t Allie K.

I wandered my way through a floating flower market. This shop had canopies of hanging lavender, red roses, yellow daisies and tulips. Amsterdam is always a joy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

albert heijn lunch

Dipping brown pistolet bread into sweet savory kurriekip, Amsterdam tempts you with curry tastes of the East Indies.   Creamy humus too, to give you chickpea dreams.  Both were two euros.  Some kiwi-apple juice to wash it down. Blueberry cream cheese for dessert.  Amsterdam offers the finest dine-in lunches.

mending broken windmills

With my red wine, the KLM stewardess in blue handed me a white napkin with two delft blue windmills on it.  Dank Je Wel.

An amazing peace and calm met me in Holland when I first spied her shores.  A huge smile broke across my face when I saw those giant windmills..

When I was in Algiers, on the way to the final concert venue, we passed a broken windmill with a broken arm.  I said how much that felt like me.

America is a broken windmill.  It is literally in the Twilight Zone.

So now I am mending broken windmills in Amsterdam.

Carry on my wayward son...

Carry on my wayward son

"A lost homeland is like the corpse of a near relative; bury it with respect and believe in eternal life." -Amin Ma'alouf, "Leo Africanus"

Today marks the first steps I take to starting a new chapter in exile and a new life in Morocco. Journey on.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Happy Purim

Happy Purim! Purim is like the Jewish mix of Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate Purim, you are supposed to dress up in costume and drink so much that you can't tell the difference between evil ("Haman") and good ("Mordechai").

So in that vein, may you drink so much you can't tell the difference between Trump and Clinton.

What if Trump and Clinton switched gender roles?

A fascinating program of what happens if Trump and Clinton switch gender roles.

As the Pence email scandal comes out, it is good to finally admit that this was never about emails but sexism.

Smoked and Stacked

Mine eyes hath seen the glory, and my lips hath tasted the fury. Kudos to Peter Bayne for his incredibly stellar pastrami spot, Smoked & Stacked.

 It was really one of, if not the, best sandwich I have ever eaten. And I am not one for gastrodiplomacy hyperbole. On my first bite, the only words that escaped my chaw were: oh ma gaw...holy shit.

 Carnivorous friends of gastrodiplomacy in or passing through DC, don't miss this one:

Heil to the Redskins....

There is a pretty good case to be made that the Washington Redskins are "America's Team"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Israel on my mind

A few things of note related to Israel:

First is this courageous video by Israeli comedian and TV host Asaf Harel imploring Israel to wake up to the situation it is enmeshed in, the reality of apartheid:

-More food-for-thought comes from this op-ed by Samuel Friedman on the Trump-Bibi trade-off:

"The trade-off that Trump and Netanyahu have almost literally offered American Jews is a blunt one: If you want lockstep support of Israel, then shut your mouth about anti-Semitism here.

Don’t complain when the official White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day omits mention of the extermination of 6 million Jews. Don’t call attention to growing examples of anti-Semitism when they appear enabled, if not inspired, by Trump’s white nationalism. Don’t get upset when the president ridicules and humiliates a journalist from an Orthodox Jewish magazine who asks him an explicitly polite question about anti-Semitism. One can only imagine the wrath of the American Jewish right had Obama done any such thing.

For the vast majority of American Jews, though, an anguishing reality is now clear. To support Israel when it is cross-branded with Trump’s intolerance is to avert their eyes from a threat right here at home."

-Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has an excellent piece making the case on negotiating with Hamas.  Israelis say of the Palestinians that "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"; the two sides have been married in conflict long enough that it is equally so on the Israeli side. I am not too optimistic but one can hope that maybe Israel will listen--given the source making the case. If ever there was judgement I would trust on Israeli security, it is his.

-Finally, mazal tov to the Israel baseball team, which won a shocking upset in the World Baseball Classic. Ness gadol haya sham.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings

"Last spring, Senate Republicans claimed that Merrick Garland was a perfectly nice jurist, one who was irredeemably tainted by his connection to Barack Obama. As a result, Garland was allowed to sink below the radar of all constitutional norms and mandates. Likewise, Gorsuch is a perfectly nice jurist, one who is—perhaps equally unfairly—now tainted by his connection to the unfolding scandal around the Trump presidency. His nomination should not be allowed to sail above all constitutional norms and mandates. The same rule that held for Garland should be enforced for Gorsuch: Until the presidency is no longer under a cloud, there can be no hearings, and there can be no votes."
-Dalia Lithwick and Sonja West, "Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings"

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Everything is fucked, and it probably due to the internet

"The problem is when this level of distrust is turned on a people’s own political system, that political system will corrode itself.
Democracy relies on trust. Rule of law requires trust. If we lose our trust in our institutions, then those institutions will either crumble or turn cancerous.1
But the internet lines up incentives in such a way that it makes it profitable to breed distrust.
So, we’re fucked.
This isn’t a Trump or US thing either. This is happening everywhere. The Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, France, the UK. They’ve all had right-wing populist elections. They’re all becoming more fractious and uncompromising. The world itself is becoming more politically polarized. And people don’t trust most of the information they receive anymore, and as a result, they no longer trust many of the people in their own societies.
That’s because infinite information doesn’t enlighten people. It confuses them.
And when people become confused and distrustful, they resort back to their basic impulses, their instinctual drives to be tribalistic and self-absorbed: I take care of me and mine first. Fuck everyone else. If I can take care of myself, why can’t they?...
Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this. Much of this education and advancement revolved around a respect for science, public debate, rational argument, putting multiple institutions in power to balance one another, and so on. We’ve barely even gotten it right the couple hundred years we’ve had it.
The problem is, as far as I can tell, the internet and its technologies don’t deliver us from tribalism. They don’t deliver us from our baser instincts. They do the opposite. They mainline tribalism into our eyeballs. And what we’re seeing is the beginning of that terrifying impact."
-Mark Manson, "Everything is Fucked, and I'm pretty sure it is the Internet's fault"

Reality revisited

Are we living in a simulated world? Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker postulates that it isn't so far-fetched. Fine by me, because I am just-about ready for the reboot. I just started the stellar West World, so this biz was already on my seemingly-sentient mind.

Monday, February 27, 2017


"In practice, this is a war on a century’s worth of work to keep our air and water clean; our food, drugs and workplaces safe; the rights of employees protected; and the marketplace fair and unrigged. It’s one thing to make regulations more efficient and no more intrusive than necessary. It’s another to say that all the structures of democratic government designed to protect our citizens from the abuses of concentrated private power should be swept away.

It’s a very strange moment. Trump and Bannon are happy to expand the reach of the state when it comes to policing, immigration enforcement, executive-branch meddling in the work of investigative agencies, and the browbeating of individual companies that offend the president in one way or another. The parts of government they want to dismantle are those that stand on the side of citizens against powerful interests."
-E.J. Dionne

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pablo Africanus Revenir

There-and-back-again. This hobbit's adventures in North Africa are complete. I'll let Leo Africanus close it out:
"A last word written on the last page, and we are already at the coast of Africa.
White minarets of Gammarath, noble remains of Carthage, it is in their shade that oblivion awaits me, and it is towards them that my life is drifting after so many shipwrecks. The sack of Rome after the chastisement of Cairo, the fire of Timbuktu after the fall of Granada. Is it misfortune which calls out to me, or do I call out misfortune?
Once more, my son, I am borne along by the sea, the witness of all my wanderings, and which is now taking you towards your first exile. In Rome, you were 'the son of the Rumi'. Wherever you are, some will want to ask you questions about your skin or your prayers. Beware of gratifying their instincts, my son, beware of bending before the multitude! Muslim, Jew or Christian, they must take you as you are, or lose you. When men's minds seem narrow to you, tell yourself that the land of God is broad; broad His hands and broad His heart. Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.
For my part, I have reached the end of my wanderings. Forty years of adventures have made my gait heavy and my breathing burdensome. I have no longer any desire other than to live long peaceful days in the bosom of my family. And to be, of all those that I love, the first to depart. Towards the final Place where no man is a stranger before the face of the Creator."
-Amin Ma'alouf, "Leo Africanus"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


"Seven years later, after we moved to a new place, I had no idea where I put the box. I couldn’t remember it. And when we don’t remember something, we usually don’t care about it. If something goes lost in your memory, It doesn’t mean you lost it. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like change in the pockets of your trousers."
-Rafael Zoehler

On letters that last.  H/t Abba.


I work with some real maestros. This conductor is Decap, and this is his symphony.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A world gone

A stunning photo exhibit of a world gone.

h/t Marianna.

at night we crossed the border following a Black robe to the edge of the reservation—
to Cataldo Mission 
where the saints and all the martyrs look down
 on dying converts what makes the water holy
 she says is that that it's the closest thing to rain.


A bubble bath met with jacuzzi bath jets sends my world whirled in a froth of foam.  Like the wash cycle on a washing machine.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Seeking and finding

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."
 -Andre Gide
H/T Abba.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mira Miró (I-II-III)

I am watching Miró paint on old footage of the master at his work. I take off my headphones of whimsical Amelie to hear old Spanish guitars wail as Miró sets fire to a canvas of his work. He tosses paint on the smoldering canvas. It is all very dramatic.

The Fish & Chips Shop of Barcelona

Fish & Chips Shop of Barcelona
Merluza de Palangre, tempura style
Patatas artesinas con quatro especias
Salsas: mango chutney and tartará
Both malt and white vinegars on the side.
Vino blanco to wash it down.

I stood outside waiting for my spot at the counter while the smell of curry and tempura wafted out of the window.

It was worth the wait--as most things are.

Muffin muffin...

"You are a beautiful cupcake in a world full of bran muffins"
h/t Allie K

Until all are one

My first bout with understanding good and evil, loss and regrouping came from the original Transformer movie (1986). A classic, and possibly the greatest movie ever made.

This would be the point where Optimus Prime is dead, and there is a world-devouring planet on the loose that sounds a lot like Orson Welles.

But the point is that Trump's short fingers can't open the Matrix.
As Rodimus Prime said: "Now light our darkest hour"

Until all are one!

PS: bah weep granah weep nini bong