January 5th, 2014 Casablanca

January 5th, 2014
I forced myself out of bed, even though I was still weak. I remembered that flus have to run their courses. Doesn’t matter if you rest or not, it won’t make it better or worse, so I decided to go out. The first order of business was to find the place to play street music. That night. It was fine playing in a club, but street music was much more dynamic and exciting. Plus you could play to more people. Even if they don’t stop, they hear you for a few moments. In a club, most people don’t listen closely. They come to talk with their friends. After a few minutes of listening they go back to their worlds. On the street, everyone who is standing there is listening. As soon as they stop listening, they usually walk away. I like that intensity.
I walked in the direction of the pedestrian zone I had played in on my first night, and after about 20 minutes of hard city walking I found it. Hmmmmmmm. How would I manage it though. I wouldn’t want to walk to there and back to the club in playing condition. That would be too hectic. I would have to think about a way.
Then I reversed directions. Stopping in at a small juice shop I decided to try to eat something. An egg and cheese panini and a bowl of yogurt cost only 12 D ($1.50) and it was delicious. I waited to see if my stomach would explode, but it didn’t.
I made my way back to the hotel and slept a bit until 4, then decided to try to walk to the beach. Lamine had told me 30 minutes but what with getting lost, stopping to take pictures of the ever increasingly palatial homes, etc, it took over an hour. Lamine had told me, morocco is the only Muslim country on the Atlantic, but it looked strange. of course, I was used to seeing the Atlantic on the East, not the West. Also the waves were huge and powerful, not like the wimpy waves of the Eastern USA. Maybe this could be the ideal place to live. I already had 3 key ingredients. The building on the beach were built right up to the water so that the waves, crashed into the barriers with colossal eruptions that seemed to hang in midair too long. I guess they never heard of tsunamis around here. Most of the places were cafes or restaurants, upscale but not overly pricey. Some of the places were waterparks, with pools fed by the water from the ocean, like they used to have at the Cliff House in San Francisco.
I was lucky to find a taxi back to the hotel. It seemed everyone knew my hotel. I had the first experience of sharing a taxi. Just because a taxi is occupied, doesn’t mean he won’t stop for you. If you are going in the same direction, you can share. Sharing is a win win for everybody. I pay less, the other couple pays less, thevdriver gets more, and less gass is used overall.
Sharing my cab were a young couple. the beautiful woman spoke first and asked my where I was from etc. it turned out she was a medical doctor and spoke halting English. I asked if the man were her husband, expecting that he was. For some reason when I did, though, they all started hooting. I have no idea why.
I had found a solution to my problem. That was to delay smoking. It would be too much to navigate the 20 minutes there and back, and that meant that I would have to play the street straight. It was about 7 pm and sunday night. The pedestrian street was busy. It was a whole different experience this way. I picked a spot, strangely enough directly across the street and in the middle of McDonalds and KFC. Could there be a safer, more politically meaningful place pregnant with possibility than that? A few people were eyeing me as I set up. As always, I had no idea what the reaction might be. Would they ignore me, be outraged, or listen with interest? Those first few moments are always terrifying and exciting. As soon as I started playing I had my answer.
A large circle formed around me, about 10 meters of perimeter and then 2 or 3 people deep. Perhaps up to 150 at one point. Most of them looked poor and hard working. They listened with an intensity, a fervor, a hunger to be transported. They put themselves in my hands completely and invited me to take them on a journey. I did my best to lose myself in the music. Some smiles broke through those hardened crusty faces. I could feel the joy of the music going into them and giving them a much needed break, a moment of inner massage, to refresh them along the way. Old whiskey sailors were giving me thumbs up, young women and girls were giving me gooey glances, and some were just nodding to the music and not interested in me at all ( which was fine) holding onto the music like a lifeline in rough seas.
After the intensity of that first song there was a roar of applause. One gentle looking man came up and said he was a pianist and he wanted to play with me later. As he walked forward, so did the crowd so that now they were all right on top of me. Some were street urchins. My hat was filling up with money but I was more worried about someone running away with my amp or mp3 player. I just nonchalantly held on. I tried to get the crowd to back up but it was impossible to get them at a safe distance again. I waited till they thinned out and played another song. Again the reaction was great, but not as great. There were not so many curious people, I was accepted on the street. I had made it; fit in. In the crowd was a young man with a guitar. I motioned for him to play with me and he accepted. He played flamenco ala Gypsy Kings. Our styles meshed and it sounded very nice. After he played 2 songs he left (accepting no money) and I was alone again. There was still a large crowd. As the song ended, a man who had perhaps been high for years stumbled into the circle and applauded loud and hard, smiling wildly. Then as if he had been caught having bad manners, dug into his pocket and pulled out the only thing in there. It was a small piece of hash about the size of a large ant. He dropped it in my open hand. I knew what it was, but I played it up for the crowd, putting on an amazed face, then theatrically sniffing it and finally picking it up like it was a piece of birdshot (which it rather resembled) and dropping it in the hat. How’s that for plausible deniability.? The crowd roared with laughter. What a wonderful moment that was. I looked at my watch, 8 pm, time to head to the club. Oh my solution was simple. Who is going to notice a little smoke in a shisha club? It was my last night in Casablanca, and I felt like I finally found my balance. A little street, a little club was just right for me.
The club was great as usual. towards the end, Lamine asked me to follow him up to his office. It was way up on the 3rd floor. We walked past the are where they were preparing the coals for the water pipes. ” it’s fascinating isn’t it? Lamine said strangely. His eyes had a strange faraway look. I wonder if he was going to burn my eyes out for talking to his female customers when he had said not to. I followed him into his office followed by one of the goons. Lamine bent over and whispered something into his ear. The goon nodded, looked at me, then left. ” Listen Lamine, im sorry i talked to your customers the other day,” I squirmed. ” no Frank. It was ok. We were just kidding. I just want to make sure you have everything. You need anything; money? You have enough?…. If you need anything, just let me know. Here take these 3 bags of shisha tobacco as a present” we sad our goodbyes. I was to leave the next day. I was sure I would be back.

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