Charo woke me up early and I caught a bus to the southern tip of Spain. There, I boarded a boat to take me to Morocco, my first time on the African continent. My arrival port was Tangier. This city is so important to me for many reasons: the writers who spent time here and the influence the city had on them; it was the first country to recognize the United States as a sovereign state; but most importantly, I once acted in a Discovery ID show Scorned: Love Kills in which I played a 50 year old Moroccan man who owned a restaurant called “The Tangier”. It was shown in the second season and the episode is called “Killer Beauty.”
My name was Ed George, and my wife, Cindy, was a passionate woman who slept with men she met in MY restaurant. Imagine my, I mean, Ed’s shame! It says right there in the episode that I was working seven days a week! All for Cindy! I never had time for romance because I was building a Moroccan empire in Akron, Ohio. Forget the fact that I was 24 and playing a 55 year old man (talk about a quarter life crisis!) or how aroused I seem by ironing out the table cloth with my hand, or that there was a successful Moroccan restaurant in Akron, Ohio, Cindy, my love, how could you do this to Ed? It was the first time I was on tv.
I brought all these thoughts with me as the boat powered across the Straight of Gibraltar. When the boat landed and I passed through immigration I walked off the port and into the street. It was a busy highway and I had no access to internet so I couldn’t use the map on my phone to find my airbnb. I had to do it the old fashioned way – walk around and talk to the locals.
I had my scammer walls up and anyone that approached me was waved off. The thing is, never in my life had I put my scammer walls up in this type of heat. My god, not even Saigon made my ass sweat the way it did in Morocco. Twenty minutes along the main street and my shoes were soaked. Also, the sixteen sandwiches that Charo made me eat in the morning were trying for a prison-break through my rectum. I climbed up the hill and escaped into the shade of small alleyways. I found the street that my apartment was on and a local told me it was a half hour walk from there. Sir, can’t you see my skin? Exposing it to this heat is like putting tin foil in a microwave.
A half hour later and I was at the apartment complex and having a security guard call my host. He came out, a young guy in his mid twenties, and he took me upstairs to show me the place. It was clean and modern and very shiny. It reminded me of the Jewish houses that my friends grew up in; everything looked buffed and there were big bowls of porcelain balls that were clearly not to be touched. My host left and I started the task of peeling off the clothes from my body. I rinsed off in the shower and took a solid half-hour nap.
When I awoke my clothes had semi-dried and I walked towards the main part of the city. The sun was going down and the heat was more bearable. I walked for an hour until I got to Cafe Hafa. It was on the top of the city. William S. Burroughs used to write there, along with Paul Bowles and some others. It was beautifully white, with mosaic tiles and some blue walls, it had plastic chairs and is famous for its mint tea. The view of the ocean was incredible.
Yes, I’m aware of what a terrible photographer I am but in my defense I had to wait for my phone to recover from the sweat monsoon it endured earlier in the day.
I ordered a mint tea and Chicken Tangine and watched the sun go down. The cool breeze felt nice on my face after the heavy sun. Most women around me wore hijabs and many of them pulled out ipads and iphones to take selfies. The night before, I watched Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender and I remember feeling angry about how Steve Jobs got all the recognition and Steve Wozniak got pushed to the sidelines. Where was the justice? Ed George and Wozniak got no respect. But then I watched Moroccans in hijabs whipping out apple product after apple product and I thought that maybe Steve Jobs had it right. Maybe marketing is key.
That cool breeze turned colder by the minute and suddenly my shorts and T-shirt were too small. It was freezing. What the hell is this climate? My Irish skin can’t cope. Shivering on the terrace I tried to read Huckleberry Finn (I had this strange impulse to read Huck Finn in Estonia but I hadn’t gotten around to it until I arrived in Spain) but my fingers couldn’t stand the cold to turn the pages. I asked to move inside and wait for my chicken dish there. The dish took an hour and a half to come out. The waiter carefully avoided me as my eyes followed his every move. It wasn’t out of any hunger desperation, I was fascinated by the fact that he was the only waiter for over a hundred people. When I wasn’t watching him I dug in deep to Huck Finn and basked in the climate of the room –sunburnt skin with a slight breeze and the smell of Moroccan food surrounding me. I was so hungry when the food came that I almost cried at the first bite. I still hadn’t drank any alcohol since the infamous Bilbao night and took a walk around the hill of Tangier avoiding all the hustlers.
There was a cinema next to the main square. It was beaten down but beautiful.
I got lost in the hills and walked by kids playing soccer in the dark. I made my way down to the shoreline of the city, walking along the beach until I passed a Hammam. Was it like the spa I so enjoyed in Korea? There was only one way to find out.
“One Hammam please,” I told the lady at the counter. It looked more like a salon than a spa and women seated under bulbous hair-driers read magazines in shiny chairs. The lady at the counter smiled and went over prices with me. It seemed that Hammam was an action, not simply a place. Her English wasn’t strong enough (my Arabic wasn’t strong enough) to paint a clear picture of what it was but there was some sort of massage involved.
They brought me down a dark staircase and had me change into a robe. I stuffed my clothes and bag into a locker and a woman lead me to another room. The lights were low and the steam made me sweat. More sweating. The room was completely tiled and in the center there was a raised platform, also tiled, the length and width of human body. I was told to take off my robe and lie down on the platform. The woman left and another entered, a bigger woman, who looked like an attractive Moroccan version of the Trunchbull from Matilda. There I was, naked and sweaty, with my goods out in the open for the Trunchbull to do as she pleased. She poured a creamy liquid all over my body and rubbed it in. “Roll over,” she said. I tried to make awkward jokes/conversation, but she only glanced at me and smirked. It was a vulnerable moment, this woman could snap my balls off with a flick of her wrist. “Don’t move,” she said. And then she left.
The room got hotter, or at least it seemed to. I could feel the sweat of my body pouring down onto the tiles. Something in the creamy liquid entered my skin and I felt like I was melting. For what seemed like half an hour I sat there dissolving until she came back in. She wore a thin, water-resistant dress on her body and she had a brush in her hand. Not a nice, let’s-brush-your-hair kind of brush, it was a hard brush, like something you’d use to get the mold off of your toilet. Leave nothing behind. She started in on my chest and I flinched. She paused and brushed my hands off and then continued scrubbing. She scrubbed my shoulders and chest and stomach so hard that the brush-fibers came off onto my skin. When she went near my genitals I instinctively started to curl up in a ball (you try growing up with two older brothers) and she stopped and looked annoyingly up at the ceiling until I calmed down again. She told me to turn over and scrubbed my whole back. I sat up and saw that the brush fibers that were scattered across my entire body looked like little rolled up pieces of skin.
“Is that my skin?” I asked. She nodded yes.
She hosed me down with warm water and I rubbed my shoulder. My god it was soft. Is this what exfoliating is? I can’t imagine ever doing in a non-candlelit, non-tiled, non-Trunchbull-ed environment.