Chapter 13 “California or Bust”

 

 

Chapter 13

“California or Bust”

 

We made our escape from New York City and were now floating down the highway in a boat sized Oldsmobile “88″. With enough cash for gas and enough reefer to put a pleasant mellow on the long cross country drive, we felt like “Kings of the Road”. Indeed, life was good! We decided to make an all-out nonstop run to LA; it was in the middle of winter and we wanted to get to sunny California ASAP. The plan for this ambitious endeavor was to rotate our positions so one of us would always be behind the wheel while the person riding shot gun would be the spiritual navigator and the third person had the luxury of spreading out in the back seat and in the “88″ it was like sleeping in a queen sized bed.

We had to steer through a winter storm from Pennsylvania to the Mid-West. I swear we hydroplaned across three states. We slid into a shopping center somewhere in Missouri to stretch our legs and buy some staples. We were spotted by a gaggle of teenage girls who immediately descended upon us. Completely surrounded we were pounded with questions. One girl asked, “Where are you guys going”? When we replied, “California”, they squealed with delight and pleaded, “Please take us with you”! Before we could respond to their cry for help shocked and horrified mothers rushed in and snatched their precious princesses from the wicked lure of long haired devils. Entering the super market looking like weathered road warriors we quickly became the objects of unabashed stares from startled shoppers. I think their bewildered gazes were mostly of a curious nature rather than malicious, regardless, it was unnerving. We quickly gathered our groceries tried to make a stealthy exit and scurried back to the sanctuary of the “88″, put the pedal to the metal and never looked back.

As we were cruising down the highway just outside of Tulsa, a car full of teenagers pulled up alongside in the fast lane. The driver started honking hysterically while the rest of the passengers yelled and waved in a like manor. We initially tried to ignore them fearing they were probable local homeboys looking for a little down home fun with some of those damn hippies. We finally made eye contact with them. Holy shit, it was a car full of young wannabe hippies flashing us the peace sign. They were still infants in that evolutionary process. The boys all had early Beatles mop tops; one had the courage and conviction to sport sideburns! A chorus of shrill giggling came from the back seat which was stuffed with coquettish long haired hippy girls in waiting. We rolled down our windows and engaged in a sixty miles an-hour conservation down the highway. A lad looking a lot like Ringo Starr shouted, “Where are you guys going”? “San Francisco” we yelled back. Their car erupted into cheers and more peace signs. The girls shrieked, “Take us with you”! What’s this, another plea for help in escaping from Oklahoma? We could smuggle them out and set them free in California. A novel notion but summarily dismissed as a bad idea no matter how noble our intentions would have been. We had to decline their request but as a consolation prize I rolled up a joint, reached and handed it to a girl leaning half way out of her window, a delicate maneuver as we sped down the highway. Again, their car exploded into shouts and squeals of joy and even more emphatic peace signs. We pulled away from them and continued on down the road.

Road weary and atrophied we pulled into a rest stop in Arizona. The three of us had to stretch out on a stationary flat surface and get a proper sleep. Picnic tables would do just fine. We rolled out our sleeping bags and settled in for the night. I was awakened by a feeling of something light and cold falling on my face. Damn, it was snowing! We bolted out of our bags and packed ourselves into the car. Well, nothing to do now except torch up our last joint and drive on. After a heavy dusting of fresh snow the desert looked like a moon scape. The cacti became moon men sprouting up and reaching for the sky. Some looked as if they were waving at us. As the sun peeked over the horizon we crossed into California. Just a few more hours and we would be in LA, two days ahead of our deadline. We delivered the “88″ to the designated location, received our bonus and scattered in different directions. Both Dutch and Ben were anxious to get back to the Bay Area. I was tired of moving and stayed with my cousin Mike for a few days to reset my sense of balance. I lost touch with Dutch for years until a chance meeting in Lake Tahoe casino that rekindling our friendship; material for a future chapter.

Not wanting to rely on hitching I hopped aboard a bus to Stockton. I found my friends Bush Baby and the lovely Bim cohabitating in the old duplex that I had vacated. The duplex was a notorious refuge for a crazy cast of characters. This is where I had an ever so brief encounter with my current wife of thirty five years. Anyway, I cleared out a little nook in the junk filled basement for my hidden headquarters. My presence was kept a secret especially from the landlord who would have evicted me. Except for occasional visits from special girlfriends I was living like a fugitive hiding from the real world, a self-imposed exile. After a month or so I realized this was a dead end existence. I didn’t know what to do or where to go from here. One day I visited my parents to see if they needed anything or help around the house, my father was getting a tad old and wasn’t as agile anymore. My mother handed me a letter postmarked from Canada. I tore into it wondering who this could be from. I let out a scream that scared my mother. Oh my God, the letter was from Vrandi! She was now in Toronto and wanted me to come live with her! After a flurry of selling and borrowing I was on the next available flight to Toronto.

 

 

 


 

Chapter 12 “Burrowing in Brooklyn”

 

Chapter 12

“Burrowing in Brooklyn”

 

As the ship passed the Statue I looked behind me at the bridge and was quite amused at the sight of panicked passengers tossing all kinds of contraband over board. I had a momentary panic attack; Holy Shit, did I get rid of all my prohibited substances? I ran back to my cabin and thoroughly searched my bag for any traces of questionable products. Whew, I was clean and ready for inspection. We were hustled off the ship and ushered into a large warehouse to begin the entry process. The waiting custom agents were not very amused to see so many suspicious characters waiting in line; they would now have to work and thoroughly search every one that fit their profile of likely suspects. I could understand their concerns after all we had just arrived from Tangier a major drug capitol. Furthermore, Dutch and I looked like the poster boys for the menace that was now tearing apart the moral fabric of a civil and God fearing society, therefore we received special scrutiny. As expected, every article in my backpack was scrutinized but when my gruff agent pulled out a plastic bag from the bottom of my pack his demeanor changed to a gleeful anticipation of perhaps finding the Mother Lode of a drug smuggling operation, I felt a tiny nudge of apprehension. As the agent unraveled the last of six tightly wrapped plastic bags my deepest fears were realized. A God awful odor burst out of the bag and filled the immediate area with a putrid aroma of rotting fish. I had packed away a fish vertebra that I found in the Canary Islands with the good intentions of drying the bones out and making a groovy necklace but the opportunity never presented itself. The gagging agent yelled at me to get myself and my shit out of the warehouse. On my way out I deposited the reeking bag of bones into the nearest garbage can.

Dutch, Ben our buddy from Marrakesh and I reconvened outside of the customs warehouse. Well, here we were three clueless hippies stranded in the notoriously rough waterfront with no ideas, directions and no place to stay. Appearing out of nowhere a “Bro” with a fabulous “fro” boogied on up checked us out and asked, “You dudes want to a buy some righteous weed”? We answered politely, “Love to but can’t afford it”. What little we had was needed to get us back to San Francisco. “San Francisco, that’s cool dudes”. He then pulled out a joint hidden in his fro, lit it up and passed it to us. While we stood there in plain sight of customs getting stoned with a street hustler who looked like Sly Stone, he paused and asked, “Where you dudes coming from”? “Africa”, we chimed in. “No shit”! “Man I envy you dudes, that is where I really want to go some day”. Black power and pride were in vogue and setting foot on African soil was the ultimate goal to fulfil the “Black Experience” and realize their legacy. It was like making a holy pilgrimage to the “Mother Land” where humanity began its’ journey. He was very impressed and moved by our hippy safari to Africa. He then reached into his pocket, pulled a small packet of pot, handed it to us and said, “This one is on me dudes”. He shook our hands and boogied on down the street. We looked at each other and nodded in unison, yes, this was a good omen to begin our California quest.

Dutch Boy suddenly became alert and animated while frantically looking through his wallet. He found a piece of paper with a telephone number that proved to be our salvation. We befriended a three pack of New York Jewish Princesses in Marrakesh. Dutch bedded down with one of them and made such a good impression on her that she gave him contact information on a safe house in New York City. We rushed to the nearest phone booth and dialed the number, what the hell, we had nothing to lose. A man by the name of Carl answered and Dutch launched into presenting our credentials, who we were and who gave us the number. Dutch retrieved a pen and paper out of his pack and wildly scratched down information. It seemed that Carl and his girlfriend Rachael had been expecting us. Alright! We had a place to crash and a stash to boot. We followed Carl’s directions and jumped out of the subway at our designated stop but balked at the sight before us. It was getting dark and the streets of this blighted neighborhood of Brooklyn were nearly deserted except for pockets of hard looking characters checking us out. Fuck, we stood out like three sore hippy thumbs. Our exaggerated gate quickly turned into a gallop as we ran down the seven or eight blocks to the safe house. Finding the address we rang the bell and Carl, our host, opened the door and quickly hustled us in as if he didn’t want the neighbors seeing who he was harboring. We were led up stairs into a typical hippy pad with an old broken down couch swaddled in madras bed spreads and a day glow painted table and matching chairs served as the room’s center piece. We instantly felt at home. Rachael invited us to make ourselves comfortable and offered beers. We accepted and countered her offer with one of our own. “Would you like to help us smoke a joint”? Their eyes lit up with joy and excitement. Due to New York State draconian drug laws marijuana was very expensive and hard to come by. Pot was a coveted commodity. They were impressed that we actually had some and even more impressed by the way it came to us. They hadn’t smoked grass in months and were beyond eager to get high. They had papers we had pot; it was a perfect match. The Bro was right, this was “righteous weed”; just one joint got the five of us totally buzzed and of course the inevitable marijuana munchies struck with a vengeance. Our hosts had a paltry pantry which prompted us to volunteer for the fabled late night munchies run. Carl and Rachael tried to dissuade us from venturing out into their dangerous hood at night. Stoned and starving to death we were undaunted and without a clue stumbled out into the mean streets of Brooklyn which now looked even more bleak and foreboding. I don’t know if it was due to pot paranoia or what but it felt like we were being watched by shifting silhouettes silently lurking within shadows. I’ll have to admit, I was kind of spooked and would have turned back but the need for nourishment ruled. We found an all-night deli just a few blocks away. The caged in night clerk was surprised to see the likes of us strolling into his store. He was probably thinking, “What are these three hippy rubes doing out at this time of night”? “They are either crazy or stoned”! Well, he was right on both counts. Upon our return Carl almost broke into tears because we made it back unscathed and with bags full of snacks. We all laughed hysterically for hours and gorged ourselves into a junk food coma. Sweet sleep came ever so swiftly and a hardwood floor never felt so comfortable.

The next morning Ben woke Dutch and me with a burst of excitement. “Get up you guys, we have a ride to Los Angeles, we have to leave now”! He just got off the phone with an agent from Auto Drive-away a company that provided a vehicle delivery service for people who wanted their car hand delivered without having the tedious task of driving it themselves. Dutch and I sprang out of our bags, dressed in seconds and ate a few hands full of potato chips for breakfast. I rolled a joint for our gracious host who were barely awake and staggering out of their bedroom. We thanked them for sharing their burrow with us and exchanged hugs and fond farewells. I think they were actually kind of sad to see us leave so quickly. We piled into the public transportation and arrived at the Auto Drive-away office which was just a few blocks from the Empire State Bldg. What a mad house! Everyone was in overdrive moving by in a frantic blur except for one character approaching me in slow wobbly motion. He had a wad of money clenched in one hand and his other hand was making a clumsy attempt to zip up his jacket. He stopped in front of me and in a drunken slur asked, “Can you zip me up”? In spite of how odd this might look I zipped him up proper. He pulled a twenty dollar bill from his wad, gave it to me and teetered on down the street. Oh man, a twenty for a quick zip! This would be a nice contribution to the gas kitty. The way the operation worked was a vehicle owner contracted with the company to deliver their car to a specific location. The company would in turn subcontract the actual driving responsibility to anyone over twenty one with a valid driver’s license and pass a physical administered by a MD. There was a doctor’s office conveniently located just a few doors down the hall. For a fee of twenty five dollars apiece and after a very cursory exam we were given a clean bill of health certificate. What a great little racket the company and the doctor had going. We filled out the paper work and then were taken down to the basement parking lot. We were handed the keys to a new Oldsmobile Delta 88 a monster of a vehicle. The company started us off with a full tank; from that point on we had to supply the fuel ourselves but gas was only thirty six cents a gallon in 1971 so we were comfortable with our cash on hand. If we delivered the car on time and in one piece a bonus would be paid by the customer. We had five days to reach Los Angeles. We sped out of New York in a cloud of exhaust and plotted a course to the West Coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 11

“High Seas”


Above is a picture of the Yugoslavian freighter that transported us from Tangier to New York City. Because of falling three weeks behind on their schedule the ship’s captain abandoned safety protocols; we passengers were herded aboard while cargo containers were dangling over our heads. Curt but courteous crew members escorted us to our assigned cabins which were small but with a Communistic flair for utilitarianism. Painted in a drab gray the room had a bunk bed a sink and a porthole to peek out of. I met my new cabin mate who was as straight as a finely honed arrow, a man of very few words and mysteriously elusive. His buttoned down attitude gave me the impression he could have been some kind of covert operative perhaps a narc or spy. Whatever, he gave me pause.

I tossed my backpack on the lower bunk to reserve it and then joined Dutch and the twenty five or thirty passengers on the main deck to watch the freighter disembark and steam away into the Atlantic. We kept our vigil until the Rock of Gibraltar and then the lights of Tangier faded from view. Dutch and I lingered behind to smoke a bowl of hash that we smuggled aboard. A clanging bell alerted everyone that dinner was being served. We followed other hungry passengers to the dining room/observation deck. Two young deck hands bounced out of the galley to take our orders. Now, this is where the fun began. They only spoke Yugoslavian; a majority of the passengers spoke English with a scattering of Spanish and German so much was lost in translation. To make matters even more complicated the passengers were divided into four culinary camps; the meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and a macrobiotic bunch of little old ladies. They were horrified at what was being served and became quite belligerent with the poor waiters and especially the cook who in his defense I don’t think fully understood the concept of a meatless menu. He tried his best to please everyone but was totally intimidated and terrorized by the macro mob. After a few fear filled days the cook finally pieced together a menu that had something for everyone. He received a hardy round of applause which brought a big smile and a slight blush to his face.

A gothic girl from somewhere in Pennsylvania took a fancy to Dutch, swooped in, sank her talons into the hapless lad and sequestered him for the remainder of the crossing. I saw very little of him and when I did he appeared pale and lacking vigor. What unspeakable things was she doing to my friend? He never did elaborate about the inordinate amount of time they spent together and I was afraid to ask. The passengers fragmented and naturally gravitated towards their own kind. Dutch and I enlisted with a lively group of heady hedonist. A young hip couple from New York City managed to book the “Honeymoon Suite” which was much bigger than our cramped quarters. It had the luxury of a queen size bed, a set of drawers, a desk, a table with chairs, an old but comfortable couch and best of all a private a bathroom. This room became the headquarters for our nightly gatherings of conservation, music and indulgences. Everyone who came contributed to the stockpile of drugs that were accumulating on the table. Kief, hash, hash candy, opium and a new delight made with hash, dates, marjoram and other spices were all in abundance and available for the taking. At first only a handful of hard core hedonist participated in the after hour gatherings but word about the “Honeymoon Room” spread and attendance grew. Even a few brave crew- members would sneak out of their quarters to join in on the festivities. I say brave because they were risking severe punishment if they had been caught fraternizing with Western imperialist not to mention drug addled hippies. If caught they could very well have been relocated to a Siberian gulag. In spite of the possible consequences the rogue crew members seemed to nervously enjoy themselves.  After a few tokes on the hash pipe they would get excited and try to sing along when our host put on a tape of the “Stones or Hendrix”.

One night after smoking a combination a hash and opium I retired early to my bunk and fell into a deep dream. I was awakened by a shift in the ship’s motion. The gentle roll had become much more pronounced. The word at breakfast was that an unexpected winter storm had developed in the middle of the Atlantic and was heading towards the ship. The storm was too big to by-pass and the only course was to plow straight through it.  Looking out of the observation windows one could see the swells starting to grow in size. I got an instant inspiration; this was the perfect and maybe the only opportunity to ride out a storm at sea under the influence of psychedelics. Great idea right? I ran down to the party room and rummaged through the pile of drugs. Ah, here was the item that I hadn’t tried yet, the hash-date mixture. After the hash candy episode in Marrakesh I was a little intimidated about the proper amount I should be ingesting. Our host sliced off a sticky slab, handed it to me and said, “This should do the trick”. Without questioning his authority I ate the sweet and spicy glob. I then got another great idea; I’ll go out and view the storm from the bow of the ship, a stroke of genius! I returned to my room and bundled up; it was going to be cold out on the deck. I cautiously navigated my way to the bow because the ship was beginning to rock and roll. Just as I reached the bow the hash/date concoction came on like the oncoming storm, swiftly and strong.  All I could see before me was a very angry sea being whipped up by winds that eventually reached hurricane strength. The bow would be lifted high out of the water as a swell broke under the ship and then drop deep into the trough of the next swell. I was riding on a sea going roller coaster. The wind began to howl sounding like a deafening choir of a billion banshees. The horizon was a deep purplish black punctuated by brilliant fingers of lightening dancing in a fully charged chorus line. And from this beautiful but hellish seascape came a stampede of swells looking like snow capped liquid mountains desperately trying to escape the hell behind them. Despite being in a state of terrified joy I realized the precarious position I was in but couldn’t move; I was frozen to the bow in extreme reverence for the breathtaking beauty of Mother Nature unleashing her power and fury. I held on to the railing with a white knuckled grip determined to maintain my watch at the bow. Because of the now wild motion of the ship plus the sickly sweet hash cocktail I started to feel nauseated. I leaned over the edge of the bow preparing to evacuate the contents of my stomach. But in doing so I took my eyes off an oncoming wave that broke over the bow, lifted me up and slammed me into a nearby on board cargo container. Even in a psychedelic state of mind survival mode automatically kicked in. I made a hasty retreat and crawled on my hands and knees towards the bridge. Another wave broke over the bow and chased me up the deck. I jumped into the first available door slammed it behind me and while standing dripping wet in a puddle of sea water I exclaimed out loud, “Oh my God! That was just the ultimate in awesomeness”!  Leaving a wet trail I found my way to the observation deck. With my mouth and mind agape I watched as rolling mountains of water that were now crashing over the bow; I could feel the ship shuddered in agony under the severe stress. As the waves hit the deck they would burst into a full spectrum of color rich foam that rushed up the deck painting everything with strokes of vibrant fuchsia and pink. A particularly large wave broke over the bow completely submerging half of the ship. The wave slammed against the observation deck creating a display of living art on the windows. The wave hit the windows with exploding paint bombs leaving long translucent trails. As before, time evaporated, I had no idea how long I had been standing in a trance watching the storm’s valiant attempts to sink the ship. A fellow passenger pulled up next to me and asked why I was sopping wet. She listened in a curious disbelief and then suggested I get into dry clothes and take my wet ones to the ship’s laundry room. For a few dollars they would gladly wash and dry my wet and salty laundry. I thanked her for the advice. I shuffled to my cabin, pealed my soggy attire off and walked naked to the shower room. Fortunately I didn’t encounter anyone and didn’t have to explain. Taking a shower proved to be challenge with the ship lurching about like a toy boat in a tub. The hot water felt like tepid lava flowing down my body warming me to the core. I would have stayed in the shower forever except for a hard roll of the ship that threw me to the floor. I momentarily came to my senses, tiptoed naked back to my room, put on dry duds, gathered the wet ones and rushed out to find the laundry room. Just a few steps from my room a second surge of the date/hash elixir hit me like the wave that dethroned me from the bow. The corridor began to telescope into a smaller and narrower passageway that stretched into infinity. It was an exhausting effort just to stay upright as the ship heaved and rolled but now my wet pile of clothes began to come alive like some slimy sea creatures desperately trying to escape. Besides being terribly lost in a maze of endless tunnels I somehow stumbled upon the laundry room and dumped my squirming laundry on a table.  A young man zoomed in on me and before he could say anything I pulled a five dollar bill out of my wallet and pointed to my still squirming pile which now looked like sea creatures engaging in a sexual ritual. The young lad immediately understood, smiled and said, “Tomorrow ready, yes”. “Yes!” I bellowed. Nearing the door I took a quick glance back to assure myself the pile of laundry was behaving. I now had to maneuver through corridors lined with tangled pipes writhing together like snakes. God, will I ever be straight again? I finally located the dining/observation room which had a scattering of passengers looking shell shocked and slightly green. I suppose the rest of the passengers were either too sea sick to eat or huddled in their rooms with life preservers on praying for deliverance. The mere thought of eating made my stomach do a back flip. I returned to my viewing station at the observation windows. It was now dark which put everything in a different perspective. With the ship’s deck lights on the scene became a black and white a film noir movie. As the night wore on the effects of the hash/date concoction started to wear off. I was relieved to reenter into a static state of consciousness. I abandoned my post and wandered down to the party suite for a quick nightcap. Opened the door a cloud of hash and opium smoke billowed out into the hallway. Yes, I was in the right room. I played it safe and just smoked from the opium pipe. With heavy eyes I retired for the evening. The freighter was still being ravaged and struggling to stay afloat. Tucked tightly in my bunk I could hear the ship moaning and groaning as its’ girders were being twisted by the relentless pounding. My last thought before falling into an opium dream was, “I really hope tomorrow comes”. The next morning came! The ship made it through the storm and was now on an even keel. Big sigh of joy!

We were now only two days away from New York and we still had a considerable stockpile of drugs to be consumed before reaching the States. The last night soiree turned into a standing room only event. Passengers that hadn’t previously participated squeezed in. I noticed a few more delinquent crew members also celebrating a last night of freedom. After a toke or two on the hash/opium blend all I wanted to do was fall out in my bunk and sleep. I woke up just before sunrise, bundled up and marched to the bow again. This time weather was clear but very cold and the sea had calmed down to a slight chop. I was surprised that nobody else joined me on the bow which offered an uncompromising view as we approached New York. The translucent brilliance of the city lights made it look like a mythical crystal garden. The best was yet to come. There she was! The sun rising above the Atlantic cast an orange glow on the green goddess of liberty. I was moved to tears at the sight. I tried to imagine myself as an immigrant coming to America and seeing the Statue of Liberty welcoming me to fulfill the dreams of a better life. I, myself, felt like a stranger returning home.

 

 

 

 

 


Chapterette 10-O “Tangier Trilogy”

 

 

Chapterette 10 – O

“Tangier Trilogy”

 

The first order of business was to check out of the Hustler Hotel and move to less intimidating accommodations. Our new hotel was just a few blocks away but a world of difference. What it lacked in professional con men lurking about the colorful cast of characters staying there provided nonstop entertainment. Travelers from all over the world were coming and going, everyone seemed to be involved in some aspect of self-preservation. Some were on the lam and hiding from their past others were seeking a feasible path to the future. Everyone had a secret story and living on the edge of survival. For example, a young American girl would burst into our room and frantically ask us to hide mysterious bundles and packets for her. The items were tightly wrapped so we didn’t know the content and she didn’t bother to tell us. Fatima, the little old Moroccan lady who was employed as the maid, saw and knew everything that went down in her hotel. She warned us not to trust the “American” girl. Fatima would scold us, “She bad person”. This “bad” American girl also warned us not to trust anyone! It was like living in a house filled with scamps and scoundrels. So, one morning the American girl swooped into our room, hastily gathered up her hidden treasures and vanished. No one ever saw her again! As I was implying the hotel was occupied by the full spectrum of humanity lending to a unique ambiance where “Beat” meets the new wave of counter culture revolutionaries the “Hippy”. I had this pervasive feeling that at any time I could very well bump into the likes of William S. Burroughs in the foyer.

We dedicated the next couple of days to exploring this mysterious and wonderfully wacky city. We wandered through the narrow streets eventually winding up on a hill overlooking the sprawl of a densely packed city. We had a panoramic view from our vantage point. To the west lay the expanse of the royal blue Atlantic Ocean. Looking north across the Straights, Spain and the looming Rock of Gibraltar seemed like a stones’ throw away. And to the East the silver shimmer of the Mediterranean Sea sparkled in the sun light. This was one of our favorite spots to smoke the last of our hash. Paralyzed by the view, we sat and gazed for hours. On our last night in Tangier before the ship was to arrive, we decided to celebrate and splurge on a whim. We heard about a restaurant and nightclub that featured “Bellydancing”. Intrigued by the notion we found the place in an obscure alleyway and entered into a dark smoke filled and kind of seedy room with candle lit tables. Spliced into a corner a small stage draped with old tapestries sat empty. We claimed an empty table near the stage and ordered a vegetarian couscous dish. While we were sipping on mint tea a handful of musicians started to filter on to the stage. I noticed a rather roguish looking man sitting at an adjacent table keeping a watchful eye on us. I gave him a nod and a smile. He reciprocated by reaching into his man bag, filled a pipe with kief torched it and handed it to me. I did the prudent thing and accepted his hospitality. I smoked the whole bowl and handed it back to him empty. This gesture pleased him into a wide grin. In Morocco it is considered proper etiquette to return a pipe empty otherwise you risk offending the one who offered the pipe in good faith. Returning a less than empty pipe meant you didn’t like the kief, an insufferable insult. He then refilled the pipe and handed it to Dutch who also handed it back empty. He shook our hands and said something in Arabic that we didn’t understand but it seemed to be cordial in nature. Ah, our dinner arrived we were starving especially after a bowl of kief. Our new friend had a whole chicken with all the fixins set before him. He devoured the meal in a matter of minutes kind of like a hungry honey badger. The chicken carcass was then thrown to the floor. A cat darted out from a dark recess, grabbed the chicken remains and whisked it back to its’ lair. I then noticed other cats leaping out from dark corners and doing the same thing at other tables. What a simple but effective way to recycle and dispose of waste. The cats had a dual purpose; they served as the garbage collectors and their very presence kept the rats at bay. How organic.

The musicians began to play and the sound of finger cymbals rang out from behind the stage curtain. Oh boy, Dutch and I were almost breathless in anticipation. A slender willowy figure appeared from the stage curtain dancing in a sensual but not provocative manor. The men in the audience gave a rousing round of approving applause. We got caught up in the excitement and enthusiastically joined in with the revelry. I became mesmerized by the dancer’s confident undulations so soft and smooth but with a subtle hint of masculinity. Upon closer inspection, to my jaw dropping surprise, the lithe dancer was a young boy maybe fourteen or fifteen years of age. Females were forbidden to dance in public, for that matter women had few freedoms. But, young males could impersonate their female counterpart. There is some irony in this custom. Anyway, I so enjoyed a little slice of the Tangier nightclub scene. I was especially grateful for the introduction to Arabic music and dancing which would in the future become an integral part of my life.

The nest morning we received some discouraging news; the freighter which was due to arrive later that day was expected to be delayed for up to a week. Fucking Hell!! We just exhausted our slush fund on a frivolous outing and now found our selves in a pickled predicament; a scarcity of money for another week of hotel rent. Sleeping on the streets in Tangier was not a viable option. The time had come to shift down into survival mode and try my hand at street hustling. I had an extra pair of Levi’s that still had a faint odor leftover from the Black Flag incident in Barcelona. I snatched them up and ran down to a busy intersection where I stood on a doorstep, held the jeans up high and began to yell, “Hot pants, get your hot pants here”! A crowd quickly developed and a bidding war broke out. Western clothing of any kind was expensive and hard to come by. American blue jeans and especially Levi’s were coveted by the young. They indeed were a hot item to be cool. While the bidding grew heated I noticed a new white Mercedes with all the windows blacked out pull up to the curb. The back window rolled down just enough to view the scene I was causing. I returned my attention to the bidding which had run its’ course. I sold my pants to the highest bidder a teenage boy who was over joyed with his purchase. I collected my money and was ready to leave when a burly looking man dressed in a black suit and tie jumped out of the Mercedes and approached me. What the fuck! My first instinct was to run but where to? He handed me some money and pointing to the Mercedes said, “For you from him”. I could only see a pair of eyes staring out of the slightly lowered window. I gave a grateful wave and received a peace sign in return. The window rolled up, the driver got back in and sped off with my unknown benefactor. Holy shit! I had just been handed about ten dollars from whoever was in that car, royalty perhaps? Anyway, that act of charity coupled with the proceeds from the sale of my Levi’s, I could contribute my share of the rent and have enough left over to eat well.

With my windfall tucked away I eagerly headed back to tell Dutch about the small fortune I just inherited. A young boy no more than twelve years old strolled up and joined in with my brisk pace. He introduced himself and started talking with me in surprisingly good English. “You want to buy some hash, it is very good shit”, he boasted. I explained that I couldn’t afford to buy hash, which was the truth because the cash in my pocket was earmarked for rent and food. Besides, we still had enough opium to tide us over. The boy grabbed my arm and ordered, “Here, come with me”. He led me through a restaurant to a secluded private room. “Sit, sit” he instructed. He reached into his pouch and produced a huge slab of dark hash. The boy then slammed the slab down on the table and asked, “What can you pay for this shit”? I again told him I couldn’t afford to buy at this time. “Ok, ok, we make trade, ok”, he countered. “Give me your belt” he demanded. I gave him the belt. He then asked for my leather pouch including all the paraphernalia in it. Done! “Ok, good trade”, he confirmed and pushed the slab of hash to me. He shook my hand and escorted me out of the restaurant. He parted with, “I see you later, ok”. I almost skipped to the hotel. I not only had enough money for rent and food but I was also in possession of a chunk of hash that would sustain us well into the near future.

Finally the ship arrived in Tangier only about three weeks behind schedule. No matter, we were reluctantly ready to return to the United States. There was no way one could have foreseen the incredibly unbelievable voyage we were about to embark upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chaperette 10 – N “Hotel Hustler”

 

Chapterette 10 – N

“Hotel Hustler”

 

The way to Tangier was difficult at best, rides were far and few between. At the time Morocco was a desperately poor country. The disparity between the wealthy ruling class and the common folks as was in most countries staggering. Only the privileged few could afford cars usually Mercedes for the flaunt factor. The remaining ninety nine percent had to rely on vintage busses, donkeys or on foot. The narrow road to Essouraria was littered with the walking poor who couldn’t afford bus fare and donkey carts overflowing with cargo or people or both. I swear the bus driver for his own amusement intentionally swerved to scatter poor pedestrians off the road. Anyway, back to the point; hitching became a liability. On several occasions we had to pitch a camp alongside the road for the night. As I lay in my sleeping bag my thoughts drifted back to Vrandi and our day in the dunes which now seemed like a dream. Running behind on our time line we had to quickly pass through Casablanca without stopping. Just as well though, the city had a strange vibe; a little too modern and cold. By the time Dutch and I got to Rabat we were running frighteningly far behind on our allotted time. The Yugoslavian freighter was scheduled to depart Tangier in two days. Crucial time had been wasted trying to hitch rides; we could not afford to miss the ship. Being broke and stranded in Morocco with no way to get back home was an unforgiving prospect. We had no alternative but to bus it the rest of the way.

We arrived in Tangier just as it was getting dark and checked into one of our favorite kinds of hotel “CHEAP” but it was also very near the waterfront where the freighter would dock. We paid the rent for two nights, climbed up a rickety staircase and entered a severely simple room with two single beds a window and a wobbling ceiling fan trying to propel itself from its’ loose attachment. We had slept in worse conditions. After unloading our belongings on the beds we went down stairs to the lobby which also served as a restaurant. Dutch and I sat at an empty table and after ordering a bite to eat and tea expelled a giant sigh of relief. We were here on time and could relax. The lobby’s perimeter was lined with chairs filled with questionable characters all glancing our way. We were warned about Tangier and its’ population of professional hustlers and con artist but we were not prepared for their prowess. We were like two hapless rubes in the middle of a web surrounded by spiders ready to pounce. As our food was dropped on our table a man dressed in western clothing approached us. “You Americans”, he asked. We nodded. “Good, I like Americans”, he responded. He then sat down and conducted a disconnected conservation. He finally came to the point and asked us if we wanted to buy hash. We both said no, but that didn’t discourage him. “I can get you best hash at best price, ok” he pitched. I became a little wary of his persistence and started to get up from the table. “Where you go”? he asked. “To our room”, I answered. “No, don’t go to room, stay here”, he demanded. My suspicions surged; shit, this a ruse to keep us here while accomplices were now rifling through our room looking for anything of value like our passports and not to mention our stash of black Bombay opium that we got in Marrakesh. I quickly left the table and ran upstairs expecting to find our room’s sanctity violated. All seemed to be in order. I doubled checked to make sure; passports here, opium here, we were good. Alright, where is Dutch? I was expecting him to come charging through the door any second. My concern grew after more than a few minutes. I had better go downstairs and see what happened to him. Just as I reached the door he entered the room looking quite dour. Dutch had been flim-flamed and fleeced of all the money on his person. The scam went like this; the cordial con-artist skillfully cajoled Dutch into revealing his small stash of hash. Dutch was thinking this gesture would show that he didn’t need to buy hash and the shyster would go away. At that moment another man approached and spotted the hash. “That is hash, it is illegal, I’m calling the police”, he exclaimed. The man sitting with Dutch began to cry and pleaded with him not to call the police and offered to relinquish all of his money as a bribe. He turned to Dutch and begged, “Please, we must give him money or he will call the police and we will go to prison”. This put the fear of God into Dutch; we heard stories about the inhumane conditions in Moroccan prisons. He panicked and quickly gave up all the cash on him. With a fist full of money he retreated and disappeared into the street. The swindler at the table still with tears in his eyes took Dutch’s hand and kissed it. “Thank you my friend, you saved both of our lives”. With that being said he too vanished into the street most assuredly to connect with his co-conspirator in this confidence game and divide the spoils of a well-executed con. Needless to say, Dutch was distraught; a little puff of opium was in order to aid in rounding off the edges and with sleep. I fell in to dreams of Vrandi. The first thing we did in the morning was to find the dock where the freighter would be tied up. We were informed that the ship was stuck in some Mediterranean port with minor mechanical problems and its’ arrival would be delayed for a few days. Fine, we could relax and explore Tangier. We ran into our roommate from Marrakesh. He was genuinely happy to see us. He asked, “Where are you guys staying”? When we told him his eyes got really big and his mouth dropped open. “Oh man, you two are staying at the most notorious hotel in Tangier”, he went on to say, “It’s known as the “Hustler Hotel” and is a hangout for con-artist, criminals and gangsters”. Dutch and I gave each other a knowing glance; yes we had just been schooled in the “Hustler Hotel” and graduated with a BA degree in gullibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chaperette 10 – M Sex on the Sahare

 

 

Chapterette 10 – M

“Sex on the Sahara”

 

 


Dave was left in the dust as I raced to the Hippy Café. Who is this mysterious girl reportedly looking for me? I flew through the door and came to a frozen halt. Oh my God, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sitting at a table was Vrandi the blond goddess from Marrakesh who made my lurid prayers come true. Our eye met, we both launched into each other and fused together in an everlasting embrace. I didn’t think I would ever see her again. My heart was pounding. We finally released our hold on each other and while catching my breath I ask, “What are you doing here”? She asserted, “I came here to be with you”. She abandoned her boyfriend to be with me!? Once again I was beside myself bubbling over with joy and a light dusting of disbelief. What did I ever do to deserve such good fortune? Sitting at a table we held hands and just looked at each other; neither of us knew what to say. She was the first to bridge the impasse, “I rented a room would you like to stay with me”? It took me all of a micro-second to respond. Her room was definitely upscale from the hovels I had grown accustomed to. It even had a bathroom with a shower! Life just seems to be getting better and better! Not surprisingly, we were both exhausted from the day’s events; she was tired from the grueling bus ride from Marrakesh and I was exhausted from a full day of a hash candy walkabout. We slept solidly wrapped up in each other. Over breakfast at the “Café” I told Varandi about yesterday’s outing and the watchtower episode. She squalled with delight and suggested we do the same thing and have a picnic on the tower. We packed a light lunch, broke off a small chunk of hash candy and skipped hand in hand down the beach towards the watchtower. What a perfectly beautiful January day on the Moroccan coast to be strolling along with this beautiful creature. I’m thinking, “Things just can’t any better”, but they did!

About half way to the watchtower we veered slightly off course into the sand dunes. Like children we chased each other up and down and around the dunes. We scaled to the top of the tallest dune around and surveyed our surroundings; an endless and beautifully barren landscape of sand dunes that faded into the horizon. With no visible signs of life we felt like the last two people on earth. The dune that we were perched on was like a miniature volcano with a crater big enough to accommodate two people. We looked at each other, smiled and slid down into the crater. Perfect, we were totally hidden from view in our own private dune. We laid out a light beach blanket that Varandi wisely packed. We looked at each other and immediately started to undress. Varandi was wearing a bikini under her kaftan. While she seductively removed her top I clumsily shed the rest of my clothing. I found myself in total awe at the sight of her two exquisite champagne glass size breast. I quickly moved in to claim the honor and privilege of slowly pulling down her bikini bottom. This was the first time I had seen her naked in the totally revealing light of day. Oh my God! I was not prepared for the sight before me. She was beyond blond! Besides having a head full of long flowing blond hair she was elegantly equipped with a meticulously manicured mound of fine sun spun silk. I swiftly but tenderly assaulted her golden pudenda with my lips and tongue. It was like tasting Danish pastry fresh out of the oven, warm and sweet. I could have munched on her muffin for hours but a gentle tug on my shoulders signaled that it was time to move on up and complete the ultimate act of coitus. I slowly but deliberately entered into her warm liquid velvet vagina and began a motion inspired by the rhythmic sound of waves gently pounding on the nearby beach. We writhed together like two delirious snakes tangled in a sexual ritual. Looking into Varandi’s fathomless sky blue eyes was the last thing I remembered before taking a swan dive and plunging into a vortex of pleasure and passion. I found myself suspended in time and swirling weightlessly around in a kind of euphoric ether. Holy Mother, I think this state of being is the closest a human can be to Nirvana without physically leaving this plane. Oh Lord, I so wanted to remain here forever! A slight sensation of tremors started to pull me out of the void. I opened my eyes and was shocked at what I saw below me. Varandi was trembling from head to toe. Her once sky blue eyes were now white and glazed over. Her eyelids were fluttering as fast as a humming bird’s wings. Oh Holy Hell, is she having a stroke a seizure or what? She suddenly yelled out, “My whole body just went completely numb”! Oh Holy Hell, she is having some kind of seizure! What should I do? We are in the middle of nowhere, I can’t really leave her alone in the desert while trying to find help and I surely couldn’t carry her all the way back to town. Just as I was entertaining the prospect of having a panic attack, Varandi opened her familiar sky blue eyes and proclaimed, “Oh MY GOD”! “I never had an orgasm like that before”! She then pulled me down to her and held on to me with a fervent conviction. Whew! She was having an orgasm and not a seizure, although there is a fine line separating the two conditions. With a sigh of relief, I agreed with her assessment of the sex we just had and confided to her, “That was also the most outstanding orgasm I had ever experienced”. We remained coupled together basking in the bliss of the moment. I finally propped myself up on my arms and gazed down on this Danish delight, this sister of “Thor”, this daughter of “Odin”. Oh Baby Jesus, help me! I think I’m falling in love with this sultry siren! As I pondered the concept of love and all of the sometimes frightening ramifications I heard a muffled giggle coming from above us. I looked up and spotted two young Moroccan boys about nine or ten years old peeking over the rim of the dune. They were desperately trying to contain their excitement and enthusiasm about what they were witnessing. Realizing their cover had been blown, they quickly disappeared behind the rim. I could hear them laughing hysterically as they ran off into the desert. That’s OK my little voyeurs, run like little desert rabbits back to your village. They probably became instant celebrities among their peers as they told their story of spying on a couple of hippies engaging in sex in a Saharan sand dune.

Varandi and I lay together unwilling to move and disturb the moment. A cool ocean mist floated over the dune, yes it was time to get dressed and return to town. Holding hands, Varandi and I walked back up the beach and with the sun setting behind us we watched our shadows grow longer until dusk faded our silhouettes into the sand. We didn’t speak to each other all the way back to Essouaira. We really didn’t have to say anything because we both knew something magical happened to us in that desert sand dune. The event had a radical impact on us, enough to alter and change the directions of our lives.

That night we were contented to just sleep in each other’s arms. At this point any attempt to try and surpass or even equal the sex we had in the dune would be anticlimactic at best. The next morning we hooked up with Dutch at the Hippy Café. He made it clear that it was imperative we leave now. We couldn’t afford to miss our passage back to the States. I was very reluctant to go but understood the logic of his argument. Varandi and I embraced in another crushing hug. I finally broke away from her and started to grudgingly walk away. I stopped to get a last glimpse of her. She was still standing in the middle of the street and I could tell by the way her shoulders were shaking she was crying. Fuck me, this is more than likely the last time I will ever see her again. I felt a lump the size of a grapefruit developing in my throat. With a heavy heart and a tear I turned and swiftly caught up with Dutch. We stuck out our thumbs and began hitching for a ride to Tangier.


 

Chapterette 10 – L The Watchtower

 

Chapterette 10 – I

“The Watchtower”

After endless hours we finally reached Essaouira. The rush to vacate the bus became a stampede with everyone piling out into the main square and collectively breathing sweet, fresh ocean air. We followed the flow of passengers into a main corridor. I was stunned by this gorgeous gem of a sea side city. Brilliant white washed dwellings with blue trim were neatly nestled behind a fortified sea wall. Words cannot capture the beauty of Essaouira so I’ve included a picture of the city below.


 

As we strolled down the busy street festooned with colorful shops a familiar piece of music could be heard blasting out of an open door. Oh man, it was Jimmy Hendrix singing “All along the Watchtower”; a prophetic song about a future experience. The store had a big hand painted sign reading “Hippy Café”. It seemed that a young and savvy entrepreneur saw a niche that needed to be filled and transformed his small restaurant into a café catering to Western tastes. Along with a steady blaring of Rock & Roll and walls plastered with Hendrix posters, the menu included hamburgers and fries. I think the burgers were made with ground lamb meat and a popular item with the carnivores. They should have been called “lambburgers”. The shakes were made from goat milk, a little strong but surprisingly good. Subsequently, the establishment became an instant success and was constantly filled with customers of many persuasions. Drawn like moths to a flame, Dutch and I entered and found the joint hopping. My friend Dave from Marrakesh was sitting at a table chatting with a couple of hippy girls. He jumped up and gave me a crushing bear hug and invited us to join him in a Moroccan feast of burgers and fries. I passed on the burgers but tried the fries which were quite delicious. He had rented a house and graciously offered us a place to stay. We accepted his hospitality and followed him and his entourage to the house. Upon entering a familiar aroma of boiling opium pods filled the air. “The tea should be ready by now; anyone up for a cup”? he asked with a whimsically wicked smile. We all sat on the floor around a brass table and sipped on our cups of tea while passing the hash pipe. It didn’t take long for the opium tea to cast its’ soothing spell on me. After a couple of hits on the pipe all I wanted to do was fold into a fetal position and pass into a dream scape. I curled up on a straw mat and immediately lost consciousness. I woke around noon, the girls had already split. Dutch and Dave were just rolling out of their stupor. We gathered ourselves together and sauntered down to the Hippy Café for a bite to eat. Dutch was in the mood for solitude and took off for Diabat a small flea infested village just a couple miles south of Essaouira. Dave and I went back to his house and reconstituted ourselves with a bowl of hash. He then gave me a tour of the town. We returned to have tea at three and then contentedly idled away on the roof mesmerized by the antics of street theatre happening below us. We got stuck in that modus operandi for the next few days. A young girl who could not have been more than six years old became aware of our daily pattern would come out at our tea time and spread a small rug on her adjoining roof top. After setting up her little tea set she would coyly flirt with us by making coquettish gestures and innocent poses. Needless to say, we were highly amused and kind of flattered. My God, if she were fifteen years older, Dave and I would probably have gotten ourselves in a heap of trouble.

One morning we woke up and realized our supply of opium tea had run out. It seemed like an opportune time to wean ourselves from lethargy and do something a little more adventurous. I still had a sizeable chunk of hash candy in my possession. A walkabout seemed in order. We packed a knapsack with the necessary items to survive on a day trip, bottled water, fruit, dates, cheese and bread. We were good to go. We started to walk south on a pristine beach that stretched and disappeared into the horizon. We stopped briefly and sat on a piece of driftwood to ingest the candy. I told Dave about my first experience in Marrakesh with hash candy. “Oh man, I know what you are talking about”, he exclaimed. “I almost blew a gasket on the candy”. I heard that! We bit off what seemed like prudent portions, ate them and continued on our way. Since we didn’t have anything for breakfast the candy kicked in quickly; I could feel my perceptions being provoked, my senses spurred into high gear. The beach became a blindingly brilliant layer of sub-atomic platinum particles. To our right, the cobalt blue ocean was gently pounding the beach with a timeless and heart felt rhythm. To our left lay the beginning of the vast Sahara Desert. A faint breeze blowing over the sand dunes whispered poems of Sirocco serenades. Ah yes, all was right in the universe. We continued down the beach, occasionally dropping to our knees in hysterics. I had no idea why we were laughing so hard.

A rather phallic object appeared in the distance. As we neared the obelisk the more it looked like a giant stone rook had fallen from the sky and impaled itself on the beach. “Oh shit”! Dave exclaimed, “This is one of the watchtowers I’ve heard about”. As history goes the Romans constructed a chain of watchtowers along the edge of their frontier to keep tabs on camel caravans and enemy hordes who didn’t appreciate Rome’s influence. Like giddy archeologists discovering an ancient ruin, we ran the last hundred yards or so to the tower, entered and bounce up the worn stone spiral stairs to the top. We looked out of the ramparts and now had a commanding view that Roman soldiers enjoyed eons ago. A small undefined shadow appeared on the edge of the endless desert. The shadow grew exponentially as it got closer but even from our vantage point we couldn’t identify the “UDO” (unidentified desert object). Could it be a mirage or was the candy playing with us? Whatever, it became clear that the shadowy figure was much larger than a man and it was coming right towards us. The image disappeared behind a dune and when it came over the top we could see it clearly, it was a camel with a rider. Then another camel came over the top, and another and another, Oh Christ, it’s a caravan coming out of the Sahara Desert. In all there must have been fifteen or twenty camels and their riders. About a hundred yards from us the caravan hit the beach they veered north towards Essaouira. Dave and I spontaneously waved at the passing caravan. One of the riders spotted us waving and responded with an antimated wave. He then jumped off of his camel and raced towards us. He reached the top of the tower huffing and puffing from the run and climb. With a broad toothless smiled he shook our hands and inquired, “You hippies”? We nodded. He pulled a pipe out of his man bag and asked, “You smoke hash”? Again we nodded. Beaming he filled his pipe, fired it up and passed it to us. I could only handle a couple of hits, man this was good shit! We shared our fruit and dates with him. Delighted, he packed his pipe away, and again with an incredible ear to ear toothless smile shook our hands and disappeared down the stair well, ran like a wild rabbit and caught up with his caravan. He got back on his camel and gave a last good by wave before vanishing into the desert mist. Dave and I looked at each other and without saying a word, we knew what we were thinking, “Wow, what just happened here”?

This is not the exact watchtower that we encountered but a close likeness.

 

The day was drawing to a close so Dave and I climbed back down to the beach and started walking to town. Our conservation centered around the watchtower and the caravan man, a moment in time to be archived in the memory bank. Back in town a hippy came up to me and asked, “Are you Dr. Zorro”? I confirmed his suspicion and he added, “Well there is a good looking girl looking for you, she is in the Hippy Café”. Two thoughts immediately came to mind, “How did this guy know my alias and who is this girl looking for me”?

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 10 – H the Bus Ride to Essouaira

 

Chapterette 10- H

“The Bus Ride to Essouaira”

I woke up the next morning in a dazed panic. Oh shit, I was to meet with Dutch and catch the early bus to Essouaira. Damn it, here I was, spooning the Goddess of my prayers. Especially after a night of splendid sex, I desperately wanted to spend a few more days with her but Dutch and I were on a strict time line and besides Vrandi’s boyfriend was due back at any time. Drats! She was still in a sound sleep so I gently untangled myself, quietly slipped out and ran up to my room. Our roommate informed me that Dutch just left to purchase tickets and wanted me to meet him at the bus. I quickly packed my backpack and said good-by to our roommate who was planning to stay put for a while and then catch the famous “Marrakesh Express” to Tangier. “I’ll meet you at the ship”, he yelled as I hurried out of the door. I would have just enough time to awaken Vrandi and convey a grateful appreciation for making my fantasies come true. I came to a screeching halt at the edge of the balcony. Holy Hell, her boyfriend was back! He had just parked his bike and was now entering their room. Oh Lord, by mere minutes I narrowly missed what would have been a most awkward and uncomfortable encounter. Whew! Needless to say, I bolted post haste out of there and found Dutch just in time to board the bus for what we heard would be a long, dusty and crowded ride.

We were able to secure two seats at the back of the bus which looked like a World War II relic that had been in combat. It pulled away from the square in a cloud of diesel fumes the driver ruthlessly maneuvering through the mass of people. Ah, we were finally on the bumpy narrow two lane road to Essouaira. Peeking out of dusty window I saw nothing but a barren, flat and desolate landscape. Short stone fences marked the boundaries of parched parcels of earth. I didn’t understand how anything could grow in such an arid environment. But, defying Mother Nature, farmers were out plowing their small plots with camels a centuries old method of tilling the soil. I felt like a time traveler peering into an ancient past. It was a testament to the tenacity of human beings to survive in less than favorable conditions.

The driver stopped for everyone flagging the bus down. It soon became standing room only and unbearably stifling. The windows were kept shut otherwise the bus would fill with road dust making an already stifling situation unbearable. The passengers that couldn’t be squeezed in climbed to the top and rode with the chickens and goats. At one of the many stops a man made an attempt to sneak in the back door. The ticket taker knowing all the tricks of the trade was right there waiting for him. They immediately began to haggle over the price of admission. The bus started to roll and the haggling became heated. I think the ticket taker was punishing the would be free rider by not only attempting to pull a fast one but worse yet getting caught. As they were still arguing the bus was picking up speed. Fed up, the conductor pushed the man out of the back door. He somehow managed to latch on to the door which now began to swing wildly back and forth. If he had fallen off at this point, I’m sure some injuries would have been exacted. The man now screaming and holding on for dear life agreed to the fare. Smiling, the conductor reached out and pulled the panicked passenger in to the bus and closed the door behind him. Grudgingly the fare was paid and everything returned to normal. God, I love this country.



A view of the landscape between Marrakesh and Essouaria.

 

 

 

 


 

Chapterette 10 – G “The Call to Prayer”

 

Chapterette 10 – G

“The Call to Prayer”

We exhausted our pot of tea after a late night gathering of more than a few fellow opium aficionados. The next morning I grudgingly volunteered to go back into the depths of the Medina and return with pods. Navigating through my slightly blurred vision I found the basket/opium shop, purchased another bag and took the first step back to the room when I froze in my tracks. Oh my God, coming towards me was the illusive Blond Goddess! As she passed all I could muster up was a smile and a sheepish high pitched “Hi”. She looked into my eyes and returned the “Hi” with a sincere but friendly smile. She then vanished into the human stream. I was beside myself with disbelief and joy. Holy shit, the Goddess actually acknowledged me! If I hadn’t been carrying a bag full of opium pods I would have done cartwheels all the way back to the hotel, nevertheless I could feel a noticeable lightness in my gate.

Over a bowl of hash the three of us started the process of making tea when our roommate asked us if we had any plans for returning home. No, we really didn’t have any plans for an inexpensive way back. He suggested we go down to the Marrakesh office of “Jugolinja” (the state owned Yugoslavian shipping lines) and book passages on a freighter from Tangier to New York City. In unanimous favor of that idea, we bolted out of the door and found the small cubicle of an office just in time to purchase the last two available spaces. A hundred and twenty five dollar ticket bought a ten day ocean cruise that included a bunk and three meals a day. The ship was scheduled to arrive in Tangier in a couple of weeks so we had to adjust our itinerary accordingly. Essaouira a small town on the Atlantic coast would be our first stop. We scripted in at least a weeks’ stay in the coastal city allowing us a week to hitch up the coast to Casa Blanca, Rabat and eventually Tangier. To meet this time table we had to leave the next morning. Sounded like a plan, it was settled.

 

 

Dutch and our roommate, whose name is lost in a dense memory fog, went out for a bite to eat. I stayed behind and sat on the center fountain of our hotel in a desperate attempt to catch a last glimpse of the Goddess before our departure. I was just about ready to give up the quest when she walked into the courtyard and was alone! My heart skipped a beat or two. I managed a smile and squawked, “Hi again”. She cheerfully responded, “Hi again to you”. I then retorted, “We have to stop meeting like this, people will start talking”. Oh my God, what a lame thing to say. In stride she shot back, “No, we wouldn’t want people to talk now, would we”? Ok, a slight reprieve from my lameness. I mustered up the courage and asked her if she would like to join me on the roof for a sunset smoke. She accepted the invitation and accompanied me up to the roof. A little side note here; there are three stratums of human activity, street level, courtyard and roof tops which were flat providing space for hanging clothes, a playground for small children and a hangout for women to gossip. So, I lit a pipe full of hash and handed it over to her. Our fingers touched, I felt a current connecting us; it was like a subtle spark. As we became more comfortable with each other a casual conservation ensued. Her name was Vrandi, and she was from Copenhagen but now living in Toronto. I gave her my alias “Dr. Zorro” which she found intriguing so I had to tell the story of its inception. I steered the conservation around to her boyfriend and his whereabouts. He had to make an important business deal back in London and would be gone for a few days. I’m thinking it was probably a drug importation business. She began to rub her shoulder complaining about an ache that had developed. Hello! Could this be a door of opportunity opening up? As a concerned human being, I suggested a shoulder rub to help alleviate her discomfort. “That sounds wonderful”, she murmured while turning her back to me and then assumed the position by reaching out and supporting herself on a short wall surrounding the roof. My heart skipped a few more beats. I began with a slow rhythmic massage on her shoulders and neck. I then worked my way down the arms to her hands paused for a second or two and retreated back to the shoulders. So far; so good. Feeling more adventurous I reached under her shirt and massaged my way down her back. Sensing no resistance I boldly slid my hands around to her stomach and proceeded north to the “Promise Land”. Oh my God, my hands were now cradling two soft but firm mounds of joy. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was on a roof top in Marrakesh getting intimate with a blond Goddess. The sun, beginning to set behind the nearby snowcapped Atlas Mountains, was casting a warm golden glow on everything. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any better, they did! She pulled my hands from her breast, turned and melted me with a passionate kiss. She then pulled slightly away and asked me to spend the night with her. At that very moment the “call to prayer” rang out from a nearby minaret. All I could think was yes indeed my prayers were definitely being answered.

 



The Minaret where my prayers were answered.

 

 


 

Chapterette F “Tea Time”

Chapterette 10 - F

“Tea Time”

I woke up the next morning feeling like I had just passed through a trial by fire and was terribly grateful to have survived my first week in Morocco. I marched into the main square and found the “Candy Lady” to restock for future trips and the next time I will be armed with bottled water and aware of the proper dosage. She gave me a smile of recognition and whispered, “Candy”. I nodded; she deftly placed a green gem into a small bag and topped it off with a bread roll I think as a good will gesture while adding an air of legitimacy to the purchase. I bought some dates on my way to the yogurt shop. After an invigorating breakfast of a date sandwich and a glass of yogurt I felt invincible and ready to press on into the uncharted future.

I spent the rest of the day exploring obscure nooks and crannies hidden in small alleys winding through the Medina. I can attest to the fact that one doesn’t need the assistance of psychedelics to get lost in the rich fabric of this culture. I was hopelessly caught in a whirlwind of awed wonderment, with a heaping of culture shock and just a pinch of insecurity to add a little peppery spice to the mix. God, I love this place!

I bumped into Dave a fellow hippy on the original airborne hootenanny from Oakland to London. We gave each other a big manly bear hug. “Hey, you hungry, man”? he asked. “You bet I am”, I responded. I followed him to his favorite eatery. For about five cents I was served a bathtub size bowl of pea soup with a huge hunk of bread, very good and filling. While drinking hot glasses of mint tea we chatted and exchanged the highlights of our adventures so far. To keep his long hair he also entered Morocco through the back door. He also knew firsthand about the effects of eating too much hash candy. Speaking of hash, Dave invited me to his room for a toke on a recent acquisition, Lebanese blond. Oh my, Lebanese hash is definitely top shelf. As we continued telling our travel adventures he suddenly blurted out, “Hey, you like opium”? I shrugged my shoulders, “I haven’t tried it yet”, I shamefully admitted. “Oh man, are you in for a treat”, he excitedly exclaimed. He jumped up and ordered, “This way”. We swaggered back out into the Medina and came to a little nook with a woman and her young daughter sitting behind a pile of hand woven baskets. Dave while making a cursory examination of a basket whispered, “Opium”. The women nodded and sent her daughter behind a curtain who quickly returned with a bag of dried opium poppies. After a brief haggle we settled on a good price, twenty five cents, kind of expensive but hey, it was opium. I scurried back to my room with my bag of goodies. I had to stop along the way for a few necessary items to process the pods into tea. A pot large enough to contain the bag of pods, plenty of bottled water and honey, yes I was prepared for the experiment! As instructed by Dave, I brought the water to a boil, poked small holes in the pods allowing hot water to flow through, delicately dropped the contents in the pot and after fifteen minutes brought it down to a simmer. It was going to take at least eight hours so I could sleep through the process and wake up to a freshly brewed glass of opium tea. My main concern was with the dubious Moroccan safety standards and the antiquated hot plate; could it last through the night without bursting into flames? An acrid vapor quickly filled the room lulling me into a deep dream filled sleep. I woke up the next morning with a purpose; complete the process and drink the results. First I had to snap out of a semi-stupor from breathing the opium mist all night long. I turned off the trusty old hot plate and let the pot cool down before handling it. As instructed I put three heaping spoons full of honey into a glass and using a clean cloth as a filter poured the tea in. Without a massive amount of honey that barely masked the earthy and bitter taste the tea would have been undrinkable. With some reservations and a slight revulsion I did managed to drink a glass of the greenish brown, muddy tasting concoction. Within minutes I was submerged under a warm tidal wave of contentment, my whole body awash in a powder blue bliss. I immediately fathomed the attraction of this drug but also realized the pit falls of temptation and addiction to instant euphoria. For the moment though, I wasn’t concerned about such matters. I strolled down to the Medina to observe my behavior in a public arena. I spotted an empty table at an outdoor café. Perfect, I didn’t feel like exerting energy. I ordered a glass of hot mint tea and an assortment of sweet treats. From my table I had a wide angle view of the open square which was becoming alive with activity. Just yards from me a row of about fifteen men were playing a variety of percussion and wind instruments. I sat on the thought that my first introduction to Mid-Eastern music I was on opium and in Marrakesh! I found myself involuntarily rocking in my chair to the hypnotic, heart pounding rhythms. This exposure would serve me well in my future engagements of drumming for belly dancers. Accompanying the line of musicians were acrobats, contortionist, dancers, jugglers, and a couple of snake charmers all performing their hearts out to please and gratefully accept alms from the passing throngs. I felt privileged to be here at this moment witnessing this street theater that has been going on nonstop for thousands of years. Yes, I could have sat there for the rest of my life and been perfectly happy. After several hours I sudden got an urge to lie down and take a nap otherwise I probably would have sat there forever. I was just too comfortable to move, ah just a few more minutes and I’ll retire. Out of nowhere a thought of Dutch popped into my mind. Where is that rascal and what kind of mischief is he up to? Will I ever see the likes of him again? Within minutes Dutch Boy wandered by. I yelled and caught his attention. Reconnecting under unusual circumstances became a reoccurring theme in our friendship. After a sincere hug he sat down, ordered a glass of tea and helped me finish the sweets. Sipping on the mint tea we caught up on our recent adventures. His impetuous Canary Island affair quickly deteriorated, ending badly. His mouth dropped open in disbelief when I recounted my two weeks in Marrakesh. I confided to him about my project and the pot of opium tea just sitting there. He shot out of his chair and said, “What are we waiting for”? Back at the lab I reheated the tea and poured two glasses full of the vile broth and drank them down. I could no longer neglect the nap that I so desperately needed. I closed my eyes and yielded to the seductive power of opium. The nap turned into a nine hour sleep fest highlighted by a vivid landscape of very bizarre dreams. I finally crawled out of a dream and open my eyes to see Dutch still submerged in an opium state of semi-consciousness. I raddled him awake and took us to my favorite breakfast nook. After a nourishing glass of yogurt, dates and bread, I started to give Dutch a personal tour of Marrakesh when we ran into a fellow traveler from San Francisco. He asked if we had a place to stay. “Just my dark, dank and dreary dungeon of a room”, I replied. “Great, come and stay with me”, he countered. He had a room large enough for four people. His former roommates had packed up and left for Tangier, he wanted to linger in Marrakesh for a while. We followed him to his hotel and upon entering the establishment I was struck by the contrast between this place and my troll hole. The courtyard was completely tiled with a water fountain as the center piece. His second floor room was large, clean and had windows overlooking the street and courtyard that allowed light and air to flow through. It was settled Dutch and I would share the room and rent with our new friend. I returned to my room, gathered my belongings including the pot of opium tea and hurried back to the new digs. We celebrated our new alliance with a bowl of kif (Moroccan marijuana) and put my pot of opium tea on the hot plate. While waiting for the tea to heat up we poured out onto the balcony to view human activity below us. Just then a vision of extraordinary beauty entered the courtyard. A blond, wearing extremely short cutoff jeans, sauntered into the courtyard. (foot note – exposing so much of the body was considered a blasphemy in the Islamic world, a definite fashion faux pas; we infidels on the other hand had an acute appreciation for the style). The blond was followed by a young buck pushing a BMW bike. Before entering their room she glanced up and caught us transfixed and drooling like the three depraved stooges. The sight must have been repulsive for she quickly ducked into the room with the boyfriend right behind her. “Holy shit; that is one lucky bastard”, I voiced out loud. My fellow reprobates agreed. Little did I realize the irony of my jealous outburst, for the blond Goddess that I was fantasizing about would one day become my wife!