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!

 

 

 


“Fire Eater”

Chapterette 10 - E

“Fire Eater”


I lost track of the days while being interned with a potentially fatal infliction. One morning around the fourth or fifth day I felt strong enough to leave my room. I came across a little dairy store and for about three cents bought a glass of yogurt that had a heavenly rich texture topped with a thick and dense layer of cream almost requiring a jack hammer to break through. Oh my God, Moroccan yogurt is the best I’ve ever had. Anyway, the yogurt helped to settle my still quivering stomach. I returned to my room and slept until hunger pangs woke me up, a good sign that I was recovering. I strolled out to the main square where food merchants were setting up for the evening meal. A reasonable fee was charged to claim a chair and be seated at a long table with about twenty other hungry diners. Big bowls of vegetables and trays laden with piles of meat were passed around the table. I passed on the meat trays and piled my dish with an assortment of vegies and couscous while grabbing (with my right hand) a hunk of bread from a passing basket. Oh boy, I was on the verge of my first experience with Moroccan cuisine when I noticed an elderly man sitting across the table who was giving me a long quizzical stare as if he had never seen a hippy before. I smiled at him and returned my attention to my plate of delicious looking and smelling food. I was scooping up what I assumed to be boiled spinach or a near relative. Before putting the green blob in my mouth, I looked up and caught the old man’s gaze which had changed to a coy smirk. It was like he knew something but wasn’t fessing up. I quickly discovered what he knew with the first bite of the green glob. My mouth instantly went into shock. Had I just taken a mouthful of hot coals? It felt like a little nuclear reactor had a meltdown and was burning through to my brain! And Holy Fuckin Hell, it got worse as I tried to swallow the now molten mass. I could feel it pass down my esophagus leaving a path of seared destruction. By the time the glowing ball of fire reached my stomach where it exploded like a hand grenade, I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t talk or breathe. I couldn’t see because my eyes had been spot welded shut and profusely streaming with tears. What kind of new Hell did I just ingest? Was this concoction marinated in napalm? When I could finally open my eyes the old fart was in hysterics. He, still laughing, motioned to tear off a piece of bread, dip it in a bowl of a white yogurt looking substance and eat it. I followed his lead and almost cried at the instant relief from scalding pain. I ate the rest of my bread and the yogurt dip much to the delight of the old codger who got up, shook my hand (the right one) and wandered off. I finished off the couscous and stayed far away from the still smoldering green pile. Thinking that whatever it was that I had eaten would surely kill any nasty microbes that were still hiding in my body, I returned to my room, fell into bed and wondered what could possibly happen next.

 


Chapterette D “Candied Consequences” or (Don’t drink the water)

Chapterette 10 - D

“Candied Consequences”

Or

(Don’t drink the water)

 

Feeling the Berber’s shadow following me I managed to squeeze through the dark passage and broke out into the open square and somehow found my way back to my room. Being totally exhausted from a full day of a hallucinogenic walkabout, I hurled myself on the bed and passed into a candy coated coma. Incidentally, I wasn’t able to find that passageway again. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up with a sense of urgency. I didn’t have anything to eat or drink all day and was now feeling the effects of dehydration! My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls and cemented shut with an industrial strength adhesive. Damn it! In my haste to experience the hash candy high I forgot to buy bottled water. Big mistake! Not heeding the warning “Don’t drink the water” I scooped a handful of tap water, sipped just enough to wet my lips and unglue my mouth and went back to sleep. Just as the sun was rising I was rushing to the public toilet which was nothing more than a small three sided stall with a hole in the floor that the occupant would squat over. A water faucet and a bucket were the standard fixtures for personal hygiene; the left hand is dipped and swirled around in the bucket of water to remove visible fecal matter. The bucket is then poured on the remaining business to flush it down the hole. I emphasize the left hand because it is used as the wiping implement! Therefore, you will only see Moroccans use the right hand for eating never the left. Besides, their culture has survived for centuries without toilet paper which was recently introduced by Western prescription as the proper bathroom etiquette. However, in Morocco, toilet paper was considered an expensive luxury item reserved for the wealthy and tourist. An added piece of advice, never offer or accept the left hand when shaking, it is considered a social faux pas and a major insult. This information is somewhat germane to my immediate plight.

As I said, I had to rush to the “bathroom” and suffer through a very painful elimination of toxic matter. I now had an idea of what disembowelment would feel like. After countless excruciating minutes of this toilet torture, I was finally able to stop crying and regain some composure. It then struck me; “Shit” besides bottled water I also failed to get toilet paper. “Shit”! I had to quickly adapt to the old way of taking care of business. Severely weakened and doubled over with agonizing abdominal cramps, I had to almost crawl back to my room. Fully dressed I zipped myself up in my sleeping bag and lapsed into a semiconscious and nightmarish hell of pain, freezing chills, uncontrollable shivering, profuse sweating and outrageous fever dreams. I became too weak to get up except for the emergency excursions to the “rest room” and endure more convulsions of my body desperately trying to squeeze out every last drop of contaminated fluid. At one point in a rare lucid moment between fever dreams, I thought that this is could very well be the end of my road at the tender age of twenty four. I was alone, helpless and isolated. Nobody knew that I was here except for the grim reaper who, was once again standing outside the door impatiently waiting for the right time to call me out. My withered corpse would eventually be discovered by the little old inn keeper coming to collect rent for the next week, a comforting thought. I heard a sharp knock on the door and the creaking as it swung open. Oh Holy Hell, the Reaper has just entered the room and was now standing next to my bed; time to go down with the ship! I forced my eyes open to get a glimpse of my demise. “Doctor Zorro, you ok”? Oh my God, it was Ahmed my errand boy. “No”, I croaked. I reached in my pocket and gave him some money to buy bottled water. He came with several bottles and told me to drink slowly. “I come back, ok my friend”, he said as he ran out of the room. I drank slowly as he advised and could feel my body absorbing the water and begin the process of rehydrating itself; it was almost a tingling sensation. Ahmed returned as promised with a small bag full of oranges. “Eat, make you feel good”, he instructed. He was right the sweet juicy oranges made me feel good. Ah Ahmed, my savior, he truly saved my life.


Chapterette C “Mired in the Medina”

Chapterette 10 - C

“Mired in the Medina”

I strolled actually it was more of a slow motion glide to the center of the main square where the second and bigger candy wave came down on me. It felt like I had just been dropped kicked two thousand years into the past. I was now looking through a sepia lens making everything seem ancient. The steady stream of people were swirling and dancing around to a centuries old rhythm. It was like a street ballet with everyone moving fluidly through a tangle of tangents; choreographed chaos! Oh my, this hash candy was proving to be as mind bending as acid but without the metallic sheen. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could handle. Oh no, now everyone was looking at me, especially the women with their dark alluring but piercing eyes peeking out of their veils, yes they could see through me! Shit, they all knew I had seen the “Hash Candy Lady” and was now teetering on the cusp of reality. Ok, ok, I’ve got to maintain and act normal. God, I was glad I only ate half of the green jewel.

As an attempt to be less conspicuous I ducked into the heart of the Medina an expansive maze of covered alley ways lined with small stalls and shops all honeycombed together into a tight fit. Walking down the main artery that snaked its’ way through the maze, I was immediately consumed by the everything of it all, I mean like everything. I could see the rhythm of an ancient culture coursing through the Medina. All of my senses were acutely amplified and on high alert. Colors became vibrant entities creating their own tones the aroma of exotic spices pierced through every pore entering my blood stream inducing a savory rush. The women became even more mysterious and alluring. All right, down boy! I stopped at a stall displaying olives piled into mini mountains. The longer I stood there the larger the olives became. When they grew to the size of russet potatoes I noticed the shop keeper staring at me. Oh no, I had no idea how long I had been staring at the olives, the concept of linear time had evaporated but I definitely knew it was time to move on. My next stop was at a spice stand. The fragrance was now almost sweetly suffocating. I became enraptured with a veiled woman heavily invested in the time honored art of haggling. The proprietor would quote a price which was immediately rebuffed by the patron. He then lowered the price which she scoffed at. Heated words were exchanged in a gruff but playful manor. She finally said something that shocked the patron and turned to walk away. He, not to lose a customer, called her back and offered a price that they both could live with and save face. It was a game that everyone knew would inevitably end in tie with an orchestrated compromise but was ritually played out with an air of playful banter. What a civilized way to conduct commerce. And besides, it was one of the very few opportunities a woman could, without shame and sever repercussions, talk with a man outside of her immediate family. After paying the spice man she paused to give me a long stare with her exotic kohl lined eyes, a stare that pierced right through my very existence, I became spellbound. She finally turned and walked away breaking the spell. I’m thinking it is time to move along myself. I aimlessly wandered deeper into the labyrinth becoming more and more awed with every step. Again I became acutely aware of a cadence, a pulse if you will, making me feel like a human blood cell flowing through the arteries of humanity. Oh man, this candy high keeps getting better and better.

I happened upon a blanket and carpet stall. I couldn’t resist the temptation to feel a rug that was on display. To my delight the slightest touch made the carped quiver creating micro ripples that spread throughout the rug and when they hit the borders would bounce back to the original touch point. So, I kept touching it causing tiny tsunamis that produced their own distinctive sound. Ok, I was now drifting without paddles in a sea of hand woven liquid. The patron of the shop watching me fondle his merchandise approached and asked, “You like rug”? God, I love this rug! “Come my friend”, he commanded and led me to a brass table. “Sit, sit my friend”, he again commanded. With two quick claps of his hands a young boy appeared out of nowhere. A curt command sent the young assistant jetting off leaving a vapor trail behind. He returned seconds later with a tray of tall glasses and a pot of hot mind tea. He then served the tea in the traditional manor by pouring from the spout held three or four feet above the glasses. I was blown away by his accuracy, he didn’t spill a drop. “Drink my friend”, he said lifting his glass in a toast. I took a sip and immediately felt every cell in my body absorb the mint’s emerald energy. “You want by rug”? he hopefully inquired. I really had no use for a rug except maybe to crawl on with a cute little hippy chick that passed by. We would fly across the Sahara into the sunset while making sweet, passionate love to Steppenwolf’s song “Magic carpet ride” blaring down from heaven above. My little dream bubble popped when she vanished from view. Heartbroken I shook my head, “No rug”, I replied. “Blanket maybe”? he quickly countered. Another clap of his hands and his young helper brought an armful of blankets for my inspection. Once again, just feeling the textures and colors sent me into a blanket blackout. I got lost in the fabric of time. I almost blew a gasket when a blanket was set across my lap that had very similar patterns made by the Navajo tribe. I could feel the drum beats of another ancient culture harmonically woven into a rhythmic masterpiece. When the shop owner saw my preoccupation with the blanket he asked, “You like”. I nodded because I really did like it. “Ok, I give you good price, my friend”, and quoted an amount that seemed reasonable. When I didn’t respond he quickly countered his offer and said, “Ok, ok my friend, I give you best price”, by quoting an even lower amount. “You like blanket, you like price, yes”, he hopefully inquired. I again nodded yes thinking that it was a good price for this amazing blanket. He sealed the transaction with a hand shake and said, “You make good deal”. The blanket was quickly rolled up and tied with twine. I paid him what I thought was the right amount. His eyes lit up. “Thank you, thank you my friend”, he sang out. With a “Cheshire” smile on his face he quickly shuffled me out of the shop. I may have overpaid him and he probably wanted me gone before the mistake was realized. Whatever, I purchased a beautiful blanket for about three dollars and he was compensated for his superb salesmanship, so it was a win-win for both of us. Happy as a crazed clam with my new enchanted blanked tightly tucked under my arm, I practically skipped out of the shop and down the alley way. The Medina was almost deserted, the human traffic down to a trickle and the shops were closing up. I could only see black through a hole in the canopy, shit it is dark already; time to retrace my steps and find my way back to my room. I became horribly disoriented and confused; everything looked familiar yet totally different. Was I going around in circles? I was totally lost! Adding a little pinch of panic to the simmering pot of paranoia made me realize just how vulnerable I was. I didn’t relish the thought of wandering lost and alone through the alleyways on my first night in Marrakesh, especially high and hallucinating. I noticed a small dark alley that I hadn’t seen before. It looked like a portal to the underworld! What the Hell, I thought, I can’t get any more lost and maybe it will be the passage out of this quagmire. Plunging ahead the alley became narrower and darker. I seemed to be the only person in the alley until I made a sharp turn into an even smaller alley. An image appeared about ten yards away that made my hair stand on end. A dim and flickering bulb cast an eerie glow on a bearded man in a light blue tunic leaning against a tiled archway. His right hand was griping the hilt of a long curved dagger. Holy fuckin shit! He must be a Berber! Our Canary Island informants warned us about this tribe that had come down from their mountain villages to barter and trade for goods. The Berbers had a long history and reputation of being ruthless warriors. They were said to have quick tempers and more than willing to use their daggers to settle disputes or defend their honor and not to mention their propensity to rob easy marks. My first survival instinct was to turn on my heels and make a hasty retreat but doing so would show signs of fear and easy prey, besides I couldn’t stop my momentum. As I approached the flickering light bulb made the lavishly encrusted jewels on the dagger’s handle blink with the brilliance of small stars in the process of going super nova. I could feel his eyes penetrating me like laser beams. When I got close enough to hear him breathing I gave a respectful nod of recognition reserved for royalty. He smiled and returned the greetings. Suddenly light started to pour out of his eyes fragmenting into a flurry of tiny luminescent particles like Fourth of July sparklers. Hundreds of them fell and stuck to my clothing festooning me with firefly sized beacons that lit the alleyway for a safe passage. I was delighted (pun intended) and turned to give this mysterious man a wave of appreciation. He was gone, only his shadow remained.

 

 

 

 


pjosefkilleen.com

Chapterette 10 - B

“Hash Candy”

The taxi driver dropped us off in the Medina, the center and heart of Marrakesh and reminded us to look for him, “I get you good hash”. The sight of five fully fledged hippies bursting out of a taxi attracted the attention of kid gangs who immediately surrounded us, all of them competing for our attention and using the moment as an opportunity to hone their street hustling (survival) skills. Fortunately the advice, given by our camp mates in the Canary Islands, for warned me about this phenomenon and how to establish a little order, otherwise I would have been completely overwhelmed by the surge of street urchins. First, choose an older boy preferably one who speaks enough English to communicate with. For that matter most of the kids spoke three or four different languages, common in Morocco. Anyway, after being anointed as your go to boy, he will faithfully fulfill your every request and help keep the hordes of imps at bay. As soon as I picked him as my personal valet he said something in Arabic making the rest of the children stand down. He shook my hand and introduced himself, “My name is Ahmed”. I told him my name was Dr. Zorro. He gave me a quizzical look and asked, “What you want Dr. Zorro”? “A room”, I replied. “Come with me”, he commanded. I followed him through a narrow alley; he stopped at a two story building and banged on a large door. A crusty old man came out, a few words were exchanged between Ahmed the proprietor nodded and led the way to a slightly musty smelling room. A single light bulb dangling from the ceiling illuminated a small bed supporting a straw filled mattress, a sink, a homemade wooden table and matching chair and a prehistoric looking electric hot plate served as the center piece. “You like”? Ahmed asked. “Yes, I like”, I responded. For two dollars a week, I liked it very much. I paid the old guy rent for a week and gave Ahmed a tip for services rendered. He was very happy with our first transaction. “Anything you need my friend, I get for you, OK”, he said. “OK”, I responded. He smiled and skipped out of the room, most likely to find and offer his services to another foreigner; quite the young entrepreneur.

The very first item on my agenda was to find the “Hash Candy Lady”. Again, the couple at our camp site in the Canary Islands told us about this mysterious and allusive little old Moroccan lady who sold bread in the Medina and to supplement a meager income also sold her own home made hash candy which was legendary and highly coveted by seekers of the sublime. So with that goal in mind I wandered into the large open air section of the Medina. I was instantly stricken by culture shock! Men wearing jubbas (an attire mired in antiquity), women in their julbabs and veils, children running helter skelter, donkey carts in grid lock, people yelling at each other in an unrecognizable language, ah, the humanity of it all. I truly felt like a stranger in a strange land, I was beside myself with awe. I quickly found a row of about a dozen bread stands. If she were to be present which was not always a certainty, the stand on the end of the row would be her station. But which end? I approached the one on the right. A woman with a weathered, leathery and deeply furrowed but friendly face telltale signs of a hard life, stood proudly behind her kiosk. From her description I took a chance and not knowing if she was indeed the “Candy Lady” I looked into her old but bright and wise eyes and whispered, “Hash Candy”. She gave me a long careful once over, looked around and then back at me and gave an ever so subtle nod. She reached under her stand, pulled out a little bundle wrapped in paper and quickly handed it to me. I paid her the quoted amount, I wasn’t yet accustomed to the practice and art of haggling nevertheless I still got what I wanted for about twenty cents. With a distinctive twinkle in her eyes she gave me a wry smile like she knew what was in store for me and then casually continued on with selling her bread. Flush with anticipation, I rushed back to my room with my prize. Savoring the moment I gingerly opened the packet exposing a jade green jewel; I had a piece of a legend in my hand. Feeling empowered to ingest a new experience but with no instructions on what the proper dosage should be, I took the conservative route and cut the thumb sized and shaped gem in half. I then without hesitation popped it into my mouth and let it melt. The heavy sweetness couldn’t mask the taste of hash. After waiting about fifteen minutes with no results I decided to venture out into the strange new world beyond my room. As soon as I opened the door the candy hit me like a freight train and pushed me through the thin and transparent membrane concealing alternative perceptions and perspectives. Oh man, I knew I was in for an extra ordinary trip but had no idea that I had just hopped aboard a roller coaster ride into the realm of altered realities.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter 10 Moroccan Memoirs

Chapter 10

Moroccan Memoirs

My experiences in Morocco had a profound impact on the course of my life so I will devote a little more time and consideration to this chapter which has been divided into several smaller chaperetts. The adventure began with the taxi ride from the airport to Marrakesh.

Chapterett  10 -A

“Hash Cab”

The turbo prop landed with a heavy thud and came to a whip lashing stop. The steward opened the door and ushered us down the steps to the tarmac. As I took my first step on the ground I thought. “Oh my God, I am now in Africa. As the passengers walked towards customs the handful of hippies migrated together like a flock of flightless birds. We all shared a common dread; will we be able to enter the country without having to shear off our “Samson” like locks. I somehow wound up being the first long hair to pass through the gauntlet of customs. I would be the test case. Gulp! With my heart pounding like a Taiko drum I took a deep breath and stepped up to the customs counter. A stern customs official snapped my passport from me, not a comfortable sign. He gave me an impassionate look, scrutinized my passport stamped it and dismissed me with an impassive wave of his hand. Oh my God, it felt like an anvil had just been lifted off my shoulders. I turned to my fearful flock of friends and gave them a reassuring nod. Their faces lit up with new found hope. We all made it through unscathed. The underground rumor about the back door entry into Morocco was true! Praise the Lord! Outside the airport doors we gave each other a congratulatory smile and then piled into an old beat up taxi. When the taxi pulled away from the airport we burst into a spontaneous celebration. Laughter and hugs rocked the cab. Someone brazenly shouted, “I can’t wait to get a hold of some good hash”! The driver slammed on the breaks and brought the cab to a screeching halt and turned to us, “You smoke hash” he asked haltingly. Being caught off guard we all nodded in the affirmative like the spring loaded bouncing heads placed on dashboards. The driver then became quite animated and with a broad grin shook our hands and exclaimed, “You want good hash you look for me, I get you good hash, ok”! Again, we bobbed our heads in agreement. This pleased him and his grin got even bigger. He then gunned the cab and sped off to Marrakesh. “Oh man, I think I’m really going to like this country”, I shouted with joy. Everyone in the cab including the driver exploded into an uproar of laughter.

 

 


“Atypical Canary Island Christmas”

 

Chapter 9

“Atypical Canary Island Christmas”

 


A light rain started to fall as we walked into town leaving us with no time to look for an alternative shelter and in addition to the “Voyage of the Darned” we treated ourselves to a luxurious, four dollars a night, suite. It was spacious and clean and we had our own balcony overlooking the palm tree lined central plaza down below. But, the main attraction was the two big beds beckoning us to lie down and surrender to the lure of luxury. This was a special moment for us after all it had been over a month since we last slept in a proper bed. We left the balcony doors open and let the melodic rain drops dancing on the palm leaves lull us into dreamland.

We woke up the next morning to the wind gently blowing in an aroma of sweet damp earth. The rain had passed leaving a trail of purification. Flora and fauna were all rejoicing from the cleansing. We showered our caked on road grime, washed some vital clothing and hung them on the balcony to dry. Feeling fit and hungry, we found a little restaurant near the plaza. Dutch and I claimed an empty table and prepared ourselves to a feast. An absolutely charming British mum asked if she could join us. “We would be honored” we responded. She smiled and sat down with us. I can’t remember her name so I’ll call her Jules because she was one of those rare gems in the midst of humanity. Jules was having trouble reading the menu. She asked us if we spoke Spanish. I had so far managed to get by with my high school Spanish classes so I helped translate the menu and order for her. Jules almost squeaked with joy. As it turned out, Jules, in her late seventies, was traveling on her own and enjoying every moment of life. I could only hope to be as spirited as her when I’m that old. Jules was so appreciative of our assistance and company she insisted on buying our breakfasts. We took her up on the offer. I don’t know why but we seem to attract little old British mums.

We returned to our room, collected our dry clothes and checked out. The main plaza was now alive with activity. Trinket hustlers were out in force stalking the tourist, street vendors were all open for business and best of all were the gaggles of young Spanish girls swirling about. They all had long black hair, all dressed in black and all wearing extreme makeup. It was like a gathering of goth girls on a field trip from their coven. I loved the look. We found out about a campground just a couple miles from town. We walked to it only to find out a local bus would have dropped us right at the site which was small and looked like some enterprising land owner cleared his pasture and turned it into a campground. It had toilets and showers, we were happy campers. We nestled ourselves between two tents. One tent was occupied by an English woman approaching her thirties and a young Canadian boy about sixteen or seventeen years of age. This chance meeting would come into play at a later date and in a different country. The other tent provided shelter for a young American couple that just arrived from Morocco. They gave us their insight about the country and its’ customs. They also clued us in on what to do and not do. Their most emphatic warning was “Do not drink the water!” It was a warning I would wish I had heeded.

We found the small Moroccan consulate hidden in an alleyway. To be issued visas we would have to get a series of inoculations for a variety of dreaded diseases. We got the first round at a local clinic and would have to return in a week for the last shot, enough time to explore. We boarded a small island hopping shuttle boat for Tennerife, a volcanic island west of Las Palmas. Oh my God, the vessel reminded me of Humphrey Bogart’s boat in “The African Queen”. It was a slightly bit bigger and more modern, never the less it was as dilapidated and weather beaten as was “The African Queen”. The crossing got a little rough in open water and I am noticing an absence of life jackets. Love the adrenaline rush! We landed safely and found a scooter rental shop near the docks. We lucked out and rented a Vespa just in the nick of time. The shop owner was getting ready to close up early for Christmas Eve. We jumped on our little hog and found the “Path to Heaven” a local name for the narrow one lane road that wound its’ way up to “El Tiede” the dormant volcano dominating the center of the island. The volcano had a ring of clouds surrounding it about half way down its’ steep sloops. From a distance it looked like a halo fell from the sky and got stuck on the mountain’s midriff. The “Path to Heaven” was aptly named. We putted over lush green hills thriving with exotic flora and down into primeval rain forest valleys. It felt like we were time traveling into a lost world. I imagined prehistoric creatures peeking at us through the thick foliage. Maybe a raptor was lurking and sizing us up for a tasty treat. My fantasy faded when we plowed into the mountain’s dense and damp mist. Visibility was almost zero; we could barely see the road. Fearing we would never escape from the white out condition our scooter suddenly broke through. Holy shit! We had been transported into another alien world. We were now in a bleak and baron lava scarred Martian landscape. Strange human like rock formations stood like an army of sentries guarding the volcano. We immediately jumped off our ride and like two twelve year old kids began running around and dancing with the rock statues. Our antics came to a halt when we saw dark clouds heading towards us. We made a mad scramble and tried to out run the storm. It caught up with us. We spotted an opening in the side of a cliff that appeared to be a cave. We blazed a trail and bounced to the cliff face. We could see the opening about twenty feet above and easily scaled the cliff to find a cave big enough to stand in and deep enough to shelter us from the rain which was now beginning to pour. Well with nothing to do but sit and wait out the storm we filled a bowl with hash that was given to us by the campers who had been in Morocco. With night falling on us, we resigned to the prospect of spending the evening in this cave. Fortunately we had the presence of mind to bring our sleeping bags with us. After another toke on the bowl we hunkered down and prepared for sleep. The passing storm dumped its’ load and the rain turned into a quiet drizzle. I was just about to pass into a deep sleep when a low roar came from the dark tunnels that branched out from the main chamber. The roar got closer and louder! What kind of hell could be upon us? Suddenly, what seemed like thousands of bats burst out of the tunnels. They flew so close I could hear their high pitched squeaks, actually smell them and feel the wind from their wings. Fuckin bats!! I was actually relieved; it could have been some kind of hungry cave creature with a taste for humans. After the all too close encounter with bats, I needed another toke to put me to sleep. At daybreak the bats woke us up as they returned from their night of hunting and again flying in below the radar. I felt some of them land on me! I’m going to interject a brief post script here. Doing a little research I learned that Tennerife was riddled with caves and tunnels formed by volcanic activity and that the “Guanches” an ancient society inhabited these caves. Writing about this episode made me fully appreciate the significance of this event. Dutch and I spent a Christmas Eve in a bat cave that was hollowed out millions of years ago by lava flows and then thousands of years ago provided shelter for a primitive people. The cave that we slept in could very well have been the living room of an aboriginal family. That is one Christmas Eve that will forever be etched in my memory.

We checked out of the cave, jumped on our scooter and sped down the west side of the volcano towards the ocean. We found the black beach that was rumored to be on the island. We were the only two people on the beach; it became our private playground for the day. We shed our clothes and sprawled out on the jet black volcanic sand that looked and felt like indigo diamond dust; a magnificent example of the beneficial effects of erosion. After several puffs and dips in the cool but refreshing Atlantic we decided to spend the night here and become black beach bums. With the contrast of black sand, lush and vibrant green surroundings, the royal blue ocean gently slapping the shore and not to mention the volcano looming in near distance, how could we leave this little slice of paradise? The night brought with it a totally different but equally impressive perspective. A clear and moonless sky provided a perfect backdrop for stars to shine like billions of brilliant spot lights. The sand reflecting the star light turned the beach into a sparkling black carpet. From our view point we watched in amazement as the blue star lit waves crashed ashore leaving a swirling trail of aqua green incandescence. Holy shit, this is one of the many places on this planet that I would like my ashes to be scattered.

A restful night on the beach spurred us on to see more of the island. We headed to the northwest and stumbled on to a beach popular with the international surfing crowd. A “Surf City” of little huts had been constructed out of branches and palm leaves, a surfing shanty town if you will. It was off season so there were vacant shacks available, we claimed one as our temporary shelter. During the day we smoked hash and basked in the sun, at night we smoked hash and partied with the surfers and mighty good looking surferetts. After a few days of fun in the sun and living on the best coconut popsicles I ever had, it was time to return to the main island and prepare ourselves for Morocco.

We received our last round of shots but just missed the Moroccan counsel to get visas, so it was back to the campground and reclaim our little parcels that the neighbors reserved for us. Dutch quickly became enamored with a new resident, a German lady during nightly campfire ritual; sitting around and clandestinely passing the pipe around after all we were still under the jurisdiction of draconian Spanish laws. Wanting to get an early start I retired early. Waking up in the middle of the night I noticed an empty sleeping bag next to me. I knew where Dutch had lodged himself, that Dog! I got up early and tried to fetch Dutch, we had no time to lollygag if we were to catch the flight to Marrakesh. I found him in the German tent. He looked like a groggy but satisfied dog. Dutch informed me that he wanted to stay on the island for a while longer. Hmmm, he must have been smitten big time. Looks like this will be a solo adventure. Ok then, maybe we will connect in Marrakesh again. I left the dog in what I hoped would be good strong hands. I rushed into town, got my visa and took a bus to the airport just in time for the flight to Marrakesh. I boarded the small turboprop almost queasy with anticipation about the unknown waiting for me at the end of this flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter 8 “Voyage of the Darned Near Damned”

Chapter 8

“Voyage of the Darned Near Damned”

It goes without saying, Dutch and I booked third class passage. Third class passengers were last class to be boarded and were treated like cattle being herded down to their proper quarters, below the main deck. We were funneled into a large room that stretched from starboard to port and sandwiched in between the galley and the engine room. Hundreds of cots were strewn about in no discernible order. Everyone had to make a mad scramble for an empty cot since reservations were not part of the third class package. We marked a couple of cots with our back packs and climbed up top to watch the launching. As the ship was being tugged away from the pier I saw Gloria standing in the crowd below. She was making an exaggerated good bye wave. I felt a little stab of regret thinking of what may have been. The old scow, leaving a thick trail of diesel smoke, chugged out of the harbor into open water.

We learned from chatting with seasoned travelers that this ship was a multi-purpose vessel. Cargo was the primary function, passengers a secondary concern and lastly as a means for transporting prisoners to a notorious penal institution on one of the islands; Spain’s answer to Alcatraz. The majority of the prisoners were Gypsies rounded up as the usual and convenient suspects in the government’s periodic purge of their ilk. Third class was teeming with their wives and children who were accompanying their men folk to be near them and lend moral support. Because of their morally tainted reputation we were warned to watch our possessions closely. Ok then, something to keep in mind. A stiff wind agitated the Atlantic into a choppy sea. The swells were hitting the poor old ship on its’ starboard side causing it to pitch and roll. My sense of balance started to act like a gyroscope losing its’ equilibrium. Ug! A bell rang out alerting passengers that lunch was being served. Ah, I was feeling a tad peckish and maybe a little food would settle my stomach. The dining room was small and had two long wooden tables accommodating less than half of the passengers so the rule of first come first served was enforced. Dutch and I somehow secured seats at a table. I anxiously waited for a hot meal and a first time dining experience on the high sea. The ship was still lurching about and making me feel a little green around the gills. As we waited I had time to marvel at the room’s interior. Peeling paint exposed cold iron walls and the ceiling was an amazing snarl of rusting pipes. It looked like a gallery of “Steam Punk Pop Art”. I’m hoping the décor wasn’t an indication of what was being prepared for us. At last, two frantic waiters stumbled in from the galley and began distributing the “lunch de jour”. The entrée was a delightful dish of cold eel and potatoes with a side of overcooked and limp vegetables. I will have to digress for a moment and explain the dilemma I was facing. I was just about four months into the process of transforming from an omnivore into a vegetarian. Incidentally, that process was inspired by an acid trip in the Height. I was sitting on Hippy Hill in Golden Gate Park about to bite down on a ham sandwich when a tab of purple haze that I had dropped earlier kicked in. The end of the sandwich bun opened wide like an anaconda’s mouth baring fangs and then to my horror the slice of ham turned into a waving tongue seductively luring me in close enough to take a big chunk out of my hide. “My God”, I thought, “I can’t eat this”! That initial epiphany developed over time into a personal conviction that I could not justify eating any sentient being. That being said, I had a conflict of interest to sort through, one being faithful to my recently established principles or giving in to the primary human need, hunger. Hunger won the toss. Nevertheless, I was horrified at the sight of an eel staring angrily at me from the dish. The body was torturously twisted around so that the tail was stuffed into its’ teeth baring mouth making it look like it was trying to eat itself. I’m sure the chef thought of himself as a galley gourmet and this was an artful presentation but I found it rather grotesque. I got a little flashback to the ham sandwich incident. I took a deep breath and attempted to slice into the poor wretched eel. Shit, I needed a hacksaw to cut into the cold hard skin.  Every time I tried to slice into it the knife would slip off making the eel spring toward me in a postmortem rage. “Good God, I can’t eat this thing”. Giving up on the eel, I decided to fill up on the potatoes which were smothered in a thick greenish gray gravy. Big mistake! The potatoes tasted like a delicate blend of used engine oil and eel urine.  Just one bite sent me racing up to the main deck. I leaned over the railing and purged the potatoes into the choppy Atlantic below. That remained my station for a long while because now I was sea sick as well. Anyone who has experienced sea sickness knows it is one of the worst. At one point I prayed for a “Jules Verne” type giant squid to surface reach up and pull me off the ship to end my misery. No such luck. I finally got the strength to climb down to the third class sleeping quarters, found my cot and slumped down into a fetal position. Rest was a fleeting fantasy. It was the combination of the swaying ship, the awful aroma seeping out of the galley, the heat and fragrance of diesel bellowing from the engine room, and the playful clamor of dozens of Gypsy children running around that sent me rushing back to my station leaning over the railing desperately looking for that giant squid. The dinner bell rang out like a warning. No way; I couldn’t even think about eating. Nightfall caught me by surprise. I reluctantly returned to my cot for the night. Everyone was bunking down for the evening. A lot of the cots had two or even three Gypsy children huddled together. Over booking; a third class perk. I felt really sorry for the poor prisoners in their fourth class quarters down in the belly of the ship. Can’t imagine the discomfort they were enduring. Anyway, the rhythmic pounding of engine’s pistons and the asphyxiating effect of diesel fumes put in to a coma. I slept until the lunch bell beckoned again. I heard that eel was once again being served. Just the thought sent me to the railing again. The Canary Islands appeared on the horizon, I almost wept with joy. When we disembarked and my wobbly legs were on solid footing again I almost fell to my knees to kiss the ground. God, I love you Mother Earth.

 

 

 


The Cadiz Caper

Chapter 7

The Cadiz Caper

Except for a brief rest stop in Seville, our ride to Cadiz was a nonstop blur. Our two drivers alternated behind the wheel keeping the VW putting along down the road. I had my suspicions about their almost frantic pace but didn’t complain because we were glad to pass through Spain quickly and anxious to get to Morocco. They bailed us off in Cadiz and kept on going in a cloud of haste. I sincerely hoped they would reach their destination safely.

Dutch and I found the ferry docks but just missed the boat to the Canary Islands. We would have to wait a couple of days to catch the next one. We benched ourselves in a nearby park and mulled over our options; should we indulge ourselves and spring for a room or try and find free accommodations. We were debating the pros and cons of our alternatives when Carson a young Canadian hippy unburdened himself of his backpack and sat down with us. “You guys need a place to sleep tonight”? he inquired. We nodded. He instructed us to come back after dark and sneak into the bushes that surrounded the monument in the center of the park. The bushes were thick and would offer perfect concealment under the cloak of darkness. It was settled; we would return later and sleep in the park. After a delicious breakfast of a Spanish omelet we strolled through the narrow streets of this ancient city. Cadiz was founded by the Phoenicians some three thousand years ago making it the oldest established city in Europe. Cadiz was subsequently invaded, inhabited and influenced by a succession of cultures such as the Greek, Visigoth, Romans, Moorish and finally the Spanish. The architecture of Cadiz is a beautiful blend of the many cultures who laid claim to it. After hours of exploring the city it was now getting dark and time to wander back to the park and wait for an opportunity to dash into to bushes. The moment came and we stealthfully slipped into the underbrush. We were totally surprised by the number of humans taking up residence; it was like a little hidden community of bush people. Our Canadian friend was stationed in a bush next to us. He filled a pipe with hash and invited us to join him. Thank God, our last puff was with the freedom fighters in Lisbon who were now considered as terrorist by the government. The thought still sends a chill down my spine. Carson cautioned us to pack up and leave early as not to be spotted by the police. Exhausted after a full day of walking around plus the toke; sleep came quickly. Just before day break our bush buddy woke us up and with a sense of urgency. “Get up! We got to leave now!” The police were making a surprise sweep of the park and evicting all the squatters. Déjà vu! It’s like the Paris incident all over again except it was now the much less tolerant Spanish police conducting the eviction; not good! We scrambled out of our sleeping bags and got ready to go in seconds. We followed Carson who led us out of the park avoiding the police by keeping low and fading into the shadows. We could hear the cries of the unfortunate who didn’t escape the drag net. Whew! We just narrowly escaped from another potentially bruising encounter with angry authorities.

Dutch and I found a much smaller park and sat down to catch our breaths. Running from the police definitely taxes the body; too much adrenalin surging through the system. We were far enough from the police raid to feel reasonably safe. After a few minutes of deep breathing my heart geared down to a normal beat. Dutch got up to find a restaurant and bathroom. I stayed with our backpacks. A young senorita strolled by provoking me to smile at her lightness and beauty. She returned the smile, took a few steps, stopped, spun around and sat down next to me. I was paralyzed with delight. Gloria’s English was on par with my Spanish so we were able to converse. She wanted to know the basics, my name, where I was from and so on. We sat and talked for a while until she looked at her watch and abruptly got up. “I have to go”, she announced. I was about to ask her if we could see each other again when she said, “Maybe we meet here tonight, OK”. She turned and quickly skipped away. My heart skipped a beat, maybe I’m in for something good. Carson linked up with us again. He was slightly distraught and grumbling about leaving his un-retrievable stash of hash back at the raid. The three of us sat on a bench for hours observing the parade of people passing by all with a sense of urgency. Carson suddenly snapped to attention and told us about a drug that was legal and could be purchased in any pharmacy. Duermaditas was Spain’s equivalent of Quaaludes. “Let’s have a go at it, hey”, he cheerfully suggested. By all means! We ducked into the first pharmacy we found and scored a packet full of the drug. Having no idea what the effects would be from this unfamiliar drug, we decided to wait until evening to take a dose. The logic of this decision escapes me now but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We returned to the little park and reclaimed our favorite bench. It was time to pop a duermadita and see what would transpire. It only took about ten minutes to feel the effects. A sense of unbridled wellbeing welled up from the depths of unconscious inhibitions. It was like getting inebriated without alcohol and its’ toxic side effects. I can see why a brutish dictatorship would make such a drug so readily available to its’ citizens; Orwellian control of the masses through fear and sedatives. Placate the population and they will forget their plight of living in such overwhelming repression. It was working on us! Dutch pulled out his flute and started to blow out a tune that Jethro Tull would envy. Carson and I jumped up and began to dance. This display of temporary insanity attracted a crowd of curious onlookers. The spirit of revelry infected the bystander and we soon had a home grown hootenanny going on. My lovely senorita appeared out of nowhere. She seemed startled and confused by the total breakdown of social order. I motioned for her to join me in the dance circle. Everyone was laughing and having a good time until someone shouted out a warning, “Policia”! In an instant the party broke up and everyone dispersed acting as if nothing was happening. Gloria grabbed and pulled me to the bench. “Sit and be still” she commanded. Two policemen strolled through the plaza casting accusing glances at everyone and especially towards us. They must have had their suspicions about some kind of disorderly conduct going on but kept on walking. Gloria let out a sigh of relief and whispered, “That was too close”! She jumped up and vanished into the night. Damn it, I was going to ask her if we could spend the night together. It was not to be. The crowd also vanished leaving the three of us to fend for ourselves. Carson told us of a reasonably safe place to sleep for the night. We followed him to a sea wall and down steep steps to a beach. We set up our bags at the base of the wall. Carson suggested we take another duermadita. Minutes later we were laughing hysterically and playing leap frog, naked!  Holy shit, if the police happened to look over the wall and saw three naked men jumping over each other, I think we would still be in some dark forgotten dungeon cell.

The next morning we popped out of our bags and rushed to the ferry dock bought tickets and stood in a long line of passengers. To my surprise Gloria appeared as quickly as she managed to disappear. She came to say good bye and gave me her address. “Please write”, were her parting words. I was sincerely touched and gave her a quick kiss on her lips. I did not expect her reaction. She recoiled in horror and pushed me away crying, “No, it is forbidden to kiss in public, we could get arrested”! She turned and once again vanished. “Jesus”, I thought, “Kissing in public, is an arrestable offence; damn General Franco’s fascist regime, what a total bummer”. The line started to move towards the boarding ramp. Oh my God, the ship looked like it might have been a derelict left over from the once mighty Spanish Armada. I couldn’t believe this rusting bucket could actually float. It really deserved a merciful scuttling. This just might be an interesting voyage.

 

 

 

 

 


Portuguese Potpourri

 

Chapter 6

Portuguese Potpourri

“Halloween on Haunted Hill”

Dutch and I patiently waited three days for a ride. We tried hitching during the day and slept at night on the bank of Rio Caia a river that served as a natural border between Portugal and Spain. We set up our camp in a grove of trees that sheltered us from view allowing us to bathe in the cold river and smoke hash in relative privacy. Looking across the river at Spain I felt like we just escaped from an unthinkable fate. At last a middle aged couple from England gave us a ride all the way to Lisbon. In our conversations with them we learned that the Portuguese government was basically a right wing military dictatorship. Shit! Did we just jump from the frying pan into the fire?! The good news was that their economy was tenuous at best and the government eagerly welcomed foreign currency (especially the US dollar) and didn’t care who was bringing it in, even financially handicapped hippies. Whew, that tidbit of information helped to quell our cause for concern, nevertheless we would have to make an earnest effort to maintain a low profile and keep ourselves under the radar. Everything would be copasetic, right? Our British couple gave us another valuable tidbit of information. There was a state park on the top of a hill overlooking Lisbon. For a dollar per day camping fee we would have access to such amenities as clean bathrooms, showers and a laundry room. We were sold! Why, they even drove us up to the park entrance. As we shook their hands and thanked them, they gave us a parting shot. “We should warn you lads that this hill has a reputation of being haunted”. Broadcasting slightly mischievous grins they parted with, “Happy Halloween, boys”! They then sped off in a cloud of mystery. Dutch and I looked at each other with wide eyes. I’m thinking of the 1959 horror classic “House on Haunted Hill” staring Vincent Price. This would be a perfect scenario for a low budget “B” movie titled; “Halloween Night on Haunted Hill”. Halloween! We had totally lost track of the days and forgot about Halloween. Undaunted by the prospect of spending a night on a haunted hill, we paid our fee and found a cozy little space near a fire pit and unfurled our sleeping bags. We were soon joined by a handful of other hardy campers. One industrious fellow brought logs and started a camp fire. We huddled around the fire exchanging pleasantries and a couple bowls of hash. It was getting dark and the cold finger tips of winter could be felt creeping over the hill and settling on the camp. It was time to crawl into our bags and keep warm. As I got up I noticed an array of green and gold eyes darting about in the forested woods surrounding the camp. What the Hell is this? I could feel the hair on my neck raise. I retrieved a flashlight from my back pack and cautiously approached the scores of eyes reflecting the now dwindling fire. When I turned the flashlight on I could see the figures behind the eyes. Dozens of feral cats quickly scrambled into the shadows of the forest. Cats! But, they were all black! The hair on my neck stiffened into porcupine quills. The ambiguous warning from the British couple about this hill suddenly became an ominous prophecy. I slipped into my bag and tried to sleep while thinking of Vincent Price. Just around midnight I woke up to the pitter pater of rain drops starting to fall. Shit! I sprang out of my bag, gathered my belongings and ran for the nearest shelter, the laundry room. Dutch tumbled in right after me. We were the only campers without tents; oh we did have cheap plastic tube tents which were already ripped and torn and claustrophobic. I think we discarded them somewhere in Spain. Anyway, we were two hapless hobos standing in a cold and uninviting laundry room. We made a quick and desperate decision. There were trailer houses scattered around the camp site that were summer vacation rentals. We made a dash to the nearest group of small two people sized trailers. Damn it to Hell! The door was locked and the rain was starting to pour. I had to resort to breaking and entering. My, what a charming little living space. It had a small camping stove, table and chairs, but best of all a bed! I could actually unzip my mummy bag all the way down and use it as a blanket instead of as a cocoon. Before hopping in bed I opened a curtain for a little light and to be able to watch the rain but was instantly frozen by a paralyzing blend of terror and awe. An apparition appeared just a few feet from the window. I can only describe it as a human form delicately draped with transparent moon blue silk. It floated like ethereal seaweed swaying in a gentle current. It hovered for a few seconds peering in at me. In a blink of an eye it passed through the trailer wall and right through me. Oh my God, it felt like I was having a blood transfusion with liquid nitrogen! After a few frozen seconds I thawed out and could move again. Despite or maybe because of my close and terrifying encounter with a paranormal entity, I experienced an indescribable euphoria. With a mixture of dread and hopeful anticipation, I slowly turned to see if it was still present. It had disappeared. I let out a giant gasp of relief yet I felt an almost sorrowful disappointment. I then burrowed under my sleeping bag periodically peeking out longing for another appearance. The morning light erased all hopes of its’ return. I sprang out of the trailer and made a bee line for the shower room. Relishing the simple pleasure of showering, I began to question the authenticity of my midnight encounter. Was it just a hyper realistic dream? I could feel the hot water cascading over me melting the remaining mini ice bergs still floating in my veins. A hard shudder expelled the last of my bone chill. No, I was convinced that it was not a dream. Whatever, this was one Hell of a Halloween night I’ll never forget.

Dutch and I gathered ourselves together and hopped aboard a bus heading down the hill to central Lisbon. Oh my God, Lisbon is not only one of the most beautiful but also one of the oldest cities in Western Europe predating London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. Lisbon’s colonial architecture is so post card perfect it’s almost a cliché. However picturesque the city was its’ inhabitants were very conservative and reserved. They looked at us with a cautious curiosity not quite able to understand or how to react to the likes of us. Another thing I noticed was the absence of our kind. At the time Portugal was not the most popular destination for hippies and it seemed like we were the only ones in the country. Still clinging to the plan of finding a boat we scoured the port and marinas. We did come across an old fishing vessel that was in our price range but was also in a sad state of disrepair and totally unseaworthy. Our dream seemed to be dimming. We were given a little encouragement from a young man who steered us in the direction of Nazare, a small fishing village north of Lisbon. He said fishing boats were scattered all over the beach. Ok then, Nazare it is.

“Strangers in the Hood”

With our spirits rejuvenated we started walking back through the city and stumbled into a very old neighborhood. Two story houses with balconies lined the narrow cobble stone streets. As we entered a quiet murmur cascading down the street quickly became a din. From their balconies little old grandmothers started to yell at us. Mothers would literally herd their children indoors as we approached. Even the men standing around shouted at us. The tone and inflection convinced us that they were not the welcoming committee. As we meekly marched further down the street the balconies filled with onlookers gawking at the spectacle of two Godless hippies parading below them. Women would watch us from behind slightly opened doors and children peeked through windows. It was too late to make a U-turn; we had passed the fail safe point. As we looked behind us the street again filled with its’ inhabitants who were probably thanking God that we, the two “Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, passed through without leaving a trail of famine and pestilence at their door steps. It is probably fortunate that Dutch and I didn’t understand Portuguese or we may have felt insulted or most likely frightened. We hastened our cadence and plowed through the verbal confetti showering down on us. We finally found a main boulevard, hopped on a bus and high tailed it up to the safety of our haunted hill. Well, so much for trying to keep a low profile. As we regrouped in the comfort of our campsite and with a bowl of hash, we sighed, “What the fuck just happened to us down there? In retrospect, I think we were innocent victims of a backlash caused by the infamous Charles Manson and his deranged disciples. The news of their murderous rampage spread around the world putting hippies in a very bad spot light. They no doubt thought we had come into their neighborhood to rape, pillage and plunder. Damn that Manson! Stoned and exhausted from the grueling day we retired as the lights of Lisbon burned brightly far below us. It was kind of like the Peter Pan ride in Disney Land. The next morning we packed it up for the bus ride to Nazare.

 

 

 

“Beach Bums”

Again, I’ll have to say “OMG”! Established in the fourth century, Nazare is one of those special spots on this planet. The old section is perched on towering cliffs overlooking the Atlantic to the north and a southern view of a sheltered beach three or four hundred feet below. The sheer cliffs served as a natural fortress from invading marauders. From our lofty position we could see dozens of beached fishing boats. The only two accesses down to the beach were steep stairs carved into the cliff wall or an antiquated tram. We chose the tram. Upon closer inspection the brightly painted boats were not what we had in mind. They were basically large row boats made for short sprints out into the open ocean. We didn’t let disappointment put a damper on our spirits. Nazare was such a magical place we decided to stay for a while. We homesteaded at the base of a sea wall protecting the fishing village behind it. We settled into a daily routine of waking up at the crack of dawn, light a bowl of hash and watch the local fishermen harness oxen to their boats and drag them to the shoreline. We waited until the fishing fleet disappeared into the Atlantic’s horizon. Now it was time for a nap until mid-morning. Another bowl full gave us the impetus to tram it up to town. We found a little restaurant that catered to our standards, inexpensive but very good. An added attraction was a young waiter who spoke English. Portuguese is a difficult language to comprehend so we welcomed the opportunity for translation. With our bellies full we would walk around the town and wind up at our favorite afternoon perch; sitting on the stone wall of the lighthouse and sneaking in a quick bowl full. From this vantage point we could see the sheltered beach far below and to the north watch the monstrous forty to fifty foot waves come in and pound the cliff face. I heard that the winter waves could get to twice that size, a surfer’s wet dream. Anyway, we could feel the power of the Atlantic as the waves slammed into the vertical cliffs. The earth shook with resisting convulsions. The waves would hit and send a wall of water up the cliff face creating a spectacular show and showering us with a fine salty spray. We sat there for hours in a state of total content. I can’t imagine what the locals thought about two hippies sitting in an obvious trance. As the sun started its’ decent we climbed down from the wall and patronized our favorite restaurant and chat with our favorite waiter, Joaquin. The next activity on our itinerary was to repel down the steep stairs to the beach just in time for the sunset and the return of the fishermen. The homecoming became a family affair; the wives and children would meet their men and retrieve the catch of the day and carry it back to the village. The men would reattach their beast of burden and drag their boats back to their proper places. The boats were then turned over to dry out for the evening. After the nets were untangled and spread out the men quickly left the beach for their homes behind the sea wall. Dutch and I would light up an evening pipe, snuggle into our bags and sleep under a sky festooned with stars. One night we woke up to the sound of rolling thunder and then the first raindrops began to fall on us. We had nowhere to hide from the storm that was now upon us. We made the most logical and desperate decision; we sought shelter under the nearby overturned fishing boats. A perfect fit, ignoring the fishy smell it was dry with plenty of leg room. The heavy rain pelting the hull produced a rhythm that lulled me into a deep sleep. The last thing I remember thinking before passing out was that the storm was shedding its’ tears of joy in the form of melodious rain drops. I was abruptly awakened by the clamor of men surrounding the boat I was under. With a coordinated effort they heaved the boat over and screamed like little girls upon finding me. As they stood staring in disbelief a frightened scream came from the boat next to mine. Ah, Dutch had just been discovered. All I could do was to sheepishly grin and say, “Bom Dia” (good morning). The fishermen broke out into an uproarious laughing spell and became quite animated. I had no idea what they were saying but it seemed jovial. I think they may have been ribbing each other about who was the most frightened and who screamed the loudest. A crusty old fisherman extended his hand to help me up out of my bag, patted me on my back and then joined in with hitching up the oxen. As the boats were being hauled back to the shoreline the crew turned to us and still laughing waved good bye. We retreated to our little safe turf at the wall and completed our morning ritual with a bowl. As we got off the tram people we passed by would smile broadly and cheerfully greet us with a “Bom Dia”! Perplexed by this sudden attention we ducked into our favorite restaurant. Joaquin approached us and said, “You must be the two guys that the fishermen found under their boats”. Guilty as charged. “The whole town is talking about you two”! Word of our antics had spread quickly. “You guys caused quite a stir on the beach today”, he added. Just great! Once again we failed to keep a low profile, our cover was blown. The citizens of Nazare now knew us as the village jesters. We jumped on the very next bus back to Lisbon.

Bonafide Bombers”

The bus ride gave us a chance to reconnoiter our present situation. Winter was rapidly encroaching and our plan for a boat was dissolving as was our financial holdings. Dutch suddenly blurted out a practical solution, “Let’s head south and blow our wad in Morocco”! Brilliant! I whole heartedly endorsed his idea. There was one major obstacle we had to circumvent. The Moroccan government was desperately trying to dissuade hippies and their ilk from pouring into their country. At the main point of entry, a short ferry ride from Tarifa, Spain crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, hippies were being turned back in droves unless they had a substantial amount of money on hand to sustain themselves and were willing to cut their hair. Well, we probably didn’t have the required cash for entry nor were we willing to cut our hair. We heard of a little known back door way of gaining entry without the harsh restrictions. There would be little if no hassle if you flew into Marrakesh from the Canary Islands. The logic was if you could afford a plane ticket you had money. It was worth a try.

Upon arriving in Lisbon we went immediately to the university and checked the public bulletin board for a listing of available rides. We found one that was going all the way down to Cadiz, exactly where we wanted to go. Cadiz was where we would hop aboard a ship to the Canary Islands and then catch a flight to Marrakesh. We scribbled our names on the signup sheet. The ride wouldn’t be leaving until eight that evening so we had a few hours to kill. We passed the time in the cafeteria snacking and ogling the cute coeds. A young student approached and asked if he could sit with us. He engaged us in a lively conservation about politics and world events. After sizing Dutch and me up he invited us up to his dorm room. His room was filled with students all in a state of high anxiety. A poster of Che Guevara was properly displayed on a wall along with Jimmy Hendrix. When the students realized we were Americans they started to speak in English. The air was heavy with anti-government sentiments. Dutch and I shared the last of our hash with our new friends. The discourse quickly became a heated condemnation of Portuguese politics. Looks like we just fell into a den of dissidents; a kind of dangerous place to be in considering the less than sympathetic military police force. Dutch and I were just getting into the spirit of the moment when we realized it was approaching eight. We had to meet with our ride. Damn it! I was grooving on some good vibes coming from a little and foxy Portuguese co-ed. As we started to leave our host jumped up and asked us to stick around. “There is going to be some fireworks tonight”, he whispered. “We are going to bomb the secret police headquarters and the docks where army troops are being shipped out to a supposedly secret war in Western Africa”. Portugal was embroiled in a military conflict over disputed territory and with a rebellious colony seeking independence; a classic case of evil imperialism and its’ wicked cousin, colonialism. I apologized, “Sounds like a lot of fun, but we really can’t miss this ride”. He understood, shook our hands and wished us safe passage. We ran down stairs and met with our ride connection. Dutch and I plus two hippies from the states and a young Canadian couple would be sharing a space in a VW bus. We climbed in and made ourselves comfortable for the long ride to Cadiz. As we left Lisbon I started to mull over what our Portuguese rebel rouser had intimated to us. If his claim was legitimate why would he disclose their plans to us, two total strangers. Nah, I wasn’t buying it. He must have been trying to impress us with bravado. We drove all night and arrived at the Spanish border early in the morning. The border was teeming with police. What the hell? Everyone on the bus was separated and subjected to a thorough search and a terse interrogation. The police wanted to know where we were last night around one in the morning. We corroborated each other with the truth, “We had been on the road from Lisbon since eight. The police scrutinized our passports and compared them to some pictures they were holding. They finally shrugged their shoulders and told us to leave. As we repacked our belongings we caught the buzz circulating around the customs office. Lisbon had been rocked by powerful explosions in the exact locations that we were informed about. Several people were severely injured and one fatally. Holy fucking shit! Stunned, Dutch and I looked at each other with our eyes popping out of their sockets. Holy fucking shit! We had been befriended by and mingled with bonafide bombers. We ever so lightly slipped out of the customs trying not to expose our guilt by association. We cowered in the bus until the driver sped away. Dutch and I made a quiet gesture of zipping our lips, a nonverbal agreement to never speak of this incident to anyone.

 

 


Here is Nazare. The old portion is on top of the cliff. We may

have slept under one of these boats in the picture.