Dedication for this essay goes to brother MSG (ret) Raymond Inabnitt
I awoke in my plaid dorm alarmed that some force had crept into it in the dark of night and sucked the life and color completely out of it, leaving a drab carpet, drabber curtains, and the drabbest portrait of some clown in a fez.
I missed the fez I had appropriated my first day in-country, one that had long gone by the way to finance a cab ride to the yelping of my poor feet.
I harnessed my run-away mind before it painted a picture of my room so grim as to drive me to suicide, and realized that the drab was the same level of drab it had been the evening before; nothing had changed overnight. I had to peel myself out of this “bed” and extricate my being from this room; to stay here was to die.
My watch informed me that I had achieved a conventional standard of eight hours of sleep. Surely my watch did not presume to guilt me over such an incidental comfort. I washed up and prepared to depart. This I did in spite of my watch.
I made my way to the train station longing for my wayward fez. But wait… the thought of a Taqiya hooked my mind. It was the little (usually white) sort of knit skull cap hat the most Muslim men wore. Certainly, they cannot be that expensive should I decide not to sin and steal one… I decided to wait to see how much the ticket would cost to determine if was going to invest in a Taqiyah. Later adding a Khafia scarf and with my Tevas I was indeed just another Roman!
Muslim cleric wearing a Taqiyah with a Khafia scarf draped over his shoulders.
With the purchase of my ticket to Fez, it looked promising for my wardrobe. The ride was without negative event, just the usual random local who was dying to practice English on me: “How do you do?” wafted the question from a man inside my eight-seater cabin. Wow, how do you do? I think that was the second time I had ever that phrase in my life; the first being in South Korea. I wasn’t even sure how to answer.
“Very well, thank you!” I ventured “Thank you… how do you do?”
“Very well, thank you.” came the reply.
Well, I was exhausted by now, but no rest for the weary as I entertained the mindless conversation that in foreign countries inevitably dwindles down to: “How is it that America, who represents X amount of the world’s population consumes X amount of the world’s resources?”
I’ve been through this before in England, and I know that there is no way that is an amicable question, therefore it doesn’t warrant an amicable answer, one that I was prepared for and well-versed in:
“Well you see pal, parking cars on the moon and fielding multiple simultaneous carrier groups across the globe ain’t cheap—get it?”
I credit my answer with being extant in that it has never had a decent comeback from anyone it was presented to. A quick wink and re-direct of my head to gander out the window put an end to that rocky relationship.
My arrival in Fez was to be dropped into a seething cauldron of madness. The crowds were near impenetrable. An Arab gentleman bumped hard into my flank.
“I’m sorry,” I offered in all innocence.
“Same here,” responded the man in lazy English. Well, that was unique, thought I. And outside as the crowd thinned I came smack across the same gent once again. Coincidence… I knew not. He was dressed in a light brown 3-piece suit, and he wore brown sandals that covered his feet in thatch work that resembled baskets. How airy, I thought.
The gent struck up a conversation with me that was cordial though a might pushy. So it ended:
“Come with me to the Medina, my treat; we’ll see some important sites and have tea with my sister.”
Well in his favor I had HOURS to kill before I had my next contact. In his contra, I didn’t give a tenth of a rat’s ass about having tea, his sister, or tea with his sister. I grinned a white man’s grin and fumbled: “It’s a date!”
The gent, who’s name I am challenged to recall, effortlessly whistled down a taxi and we were off to the Medina. This cab too, it appeared, was in the throes of filming Moroccolypse now as it sped wantonly as it snaked through car and human.
“So, exactly what the hell is the Medina?” I queried the swarthy gent.
“It is a city within the city of Fez, you see; it is the old city, the original old city of Fez,” he explained.
“How do you like this suit? It is good suit, no? It is ok to wear in the West… I America, no?” he begged.
“Oh yeah you betcha, my man. You would be a rock star in the States in that garb; every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp-dressed man, you know?”
“Come again?” he continued
“So more about this Medina; does your sister even know we are coming for tea?” I furthered
The gent did not produce an answer to that question, which made me feel a bit detached and uneasy… in the detached and uneasy situation. Why would I want anything to make sense at this point in the journey. Things thus far had been wonky pretty much daily, and I just didn’t want to break up the set.
A stop at an entrance to the walled city of Medina and we two shotgunned under the archway. I had this thing under control, so I told myself. I would memorize the turns we took so I could cut away at any time during the situation and escape the Medina. Great plan!
The ancient city of Medina in Fez
I was good mentally for memorizing about six turns which we gobbled up in a matter of seconds. Approximately 14 turns into the trek and my head hung so low it almost scraped the stone walkway of the Medina. There were no cars at all in this vast city-in-city. That was great, but it also meant I could not hail a cab once I felt game over.
At once we came to a halt The gent, who was of some 45 years, gestured to a young girl I gauged as about eight years old. “Ah!” he exclaimed, “My sister!” He closed with her and chatted to her at length just out of my ear’s detection range. Well, I reckon they must have a lot to catch up on as I marveled at the age separation between these two siblings. But at least all seemed to be going as planned, right?
The young girl walked away and the gent closed with me: “No, my mistake; not my sister,” he confessed. There it was, I knew it! I glanced at my watch. Let the record show that the Goddamned weirdness started at 1430 local Fez hours! My guard was up and I was getting a little pissed.
“How long does it take you to recognize your own sister, bro, or is your family just really that big?” I challenged.
“Please meet Abud,” the gent invited as he held his hand out toward a shopkeeper in our immediate vicinity. I begrudgingly shook the hand of Abud and tuned to the gent to interrogate him… but he was gone. In his place stood a young Arab boy of about 7 or 8 years old.
Abud began his spiel on the quality and reasonably priced leather goods… but I just glared down at the kid. “Who are you, for phuq’s sake? Can you show me the way out of here?” I boomed to the cringing lil’ fellow.
“I can take you to my cousin Asauud who can lead you out of the Medina for 10 dirham,” the little flim-flam fellow announced.
“That’s just Goddamned peachy… but what say I just pay you twenty dirham to lead me out of her and phuq your cousin Asauud?” I reasoned.
The happy tyke agreed and we were off… turning and tuning. I’m going to end up a leather belt, I just know it, I anguished. To my joy, we skirted through an archway and I saw a field with a green slope which led to a road with busy with cars! I was free!
I pressed on toward the field only to have the kid yell at me offended: “Hey, what about my 20 Dirham. I walked up to the kid and stood, leaving barely an inch of personal space between us. I dipped my head down and queried: “Yeah, what about your twenty dirham?”
The child backed, turned, and hurled himself back under the arch to the Medina and was gone! I scurried up the green slope and hailed a taxi. I pondered my finances. This taxi, among other non-scheduled expenses, was putting me down in the red. I may have to resort to shoe tongue operation. Maybe… just maybe!
By God and with honor,