Tuesday, 29 April 2008

not dead yet

To those who have ask, and I love you.. the book is going very well. Picture me chained to my laptop, not you mutleythedog - your imagination would go way overboard, and typing away like mad. I have 20 May for my goal for the completed first draft. So...you can imagine.

Meanwhile young Joshua is having adventures. Read this: for your entertainment.

Kul blaza, or, All men are...

Kul blaza, or, All men are...

Africa » Morocco » Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer » Rabat
April 11th 2008 by JC44

On my way to meet Abbas at home this Wednesday I passed by—or really, walked through—another protest. They’ve been getting really bad lately. You can tell this not from media coverage or anything, which is nonexistent, but because the watching crowds are getting bigger on Mo V; because if you’re in the old medina and you hear intermittent screams or police sirens you see several people, now, dropping what they’re doing to go and watch—at least putting down what they’re doing to look up and listen for a moment. Also, people are talking, which gossip here does more than the news (and the news, which is what we watch when we’re not watching soccer or soap operas, is watched for gossip, i.e. last night’s reports on Casa’s slums was depicted with dark piano music and montage sequences).

Walking through this one was different; it was, at least, getting old. The very first thing I saw was a man fallen to the ground, curled up, surrounded by standing and crouching people intermittently looking over their shoulders for state police and down to their fallen friend, to help him (many of them are, actually, doctors). I saw his wallet and phone and a bunch of coins scattered a few feet from him, which nobody was paying attention to, and a little trail of blood leading from these prison-checked items to their fallen owner. All I wanted to do was stand and watch, like I was afraid I was going to miss something. It was almost like entertainment, like that feeling you have watching a television show—just one more minute, in case something REALLY good happens—except it wasn’t. There’s this incredibly fine line, I think, between feeling the need to keep on watching to satisfy your insatiable need for entertainment and the need to watch for some bigger reason, witness maybe.

I have usually been on the fringes of the protests, and with someone else, but this time I found myself feeling more a part of it—when the protesters began one of their ritual dispersions, when the state police began to run at them with their long lopes and clubs raised, I found myself dispersing, too. Though I wasn’t in any danger or anything. I’m not sure if I was physically more a part of the protesting crowd, or if my unconscious were more attuned to their protesting, but regardless, I ran for a few minutes. Soon, I was near the edge of the old medina, and I could only hear what was still going on behind me, like a dream just left. Was I meant to walk by? Is this ordained? What the hell am I not getting? I saw a woman—veiled—get hit in the back of the head with a club. What is it to be a witness? How is this different from being a spectator? Why will no one—Moroccans—answer my questions about this violence? These protests are totalizing—I mean, they silence you. How am I on my way to a soccer game? What can I say, and be justified in saying, that does not have to do with this?

I met two friends from the trip, Alex and Ben, and we walked to my house to meet Abbas. I made them wait outside, because I am still not sure about bringing strangers into the house uninvited. Abbas was rushing about; he immediately cornered me in the sort of foyer of the house, took me by the biceps like he does. He explained, in French, Arabic, and English, that his mom doesn’t know he’s going, that I need to tell her I’m just going out with my friends; he’ll meet me on Mo V a few minutes after I leave. He had told me the night before that his father doesn’t let him go to FAR soccer games, because: joomhoor haib. The crowd is horrible/evil. He nudges me into the courtyard of the house; I go upstairs, change my nice sweater for a hoodie, come down. Mama is waiting. Msheet ee-la sharia ma sahebee. I’m going into the street with my friends. Abbas is watching me from upstairs. Mama closes her eyes, looking down, waving her hand up: ya’allah.

The three of us wait in the street for ten minutes. Abbas shows up, packing a red sweatshirt into a backpack. In the bag: sports pants, which he showed to his mother, who he told he was going to the gym to play volleyball. The red sweatshirt is to wear outside the stadium, before and after the game, so that the fans of Raja, the opposing team, do not single him out for the FAR jersey he is wearing and beat the shit out of him.

On our way walking to the bus, Abbas, tall in his red, black, and green FAR jersey, trailed by three goofy Americans, is singled out by FAR fans who would have remained otherwise invisible to me, at least. When’s the game; how much are tickets; what bus do you take; will God will a victory—5 or 6 men, ranging ages, say, 12 to 65, shoot these questions as Abbas walks by them, not stopping, but answering, patting his heart at them. It is as if he is at the center of the world, and yet think about every other FAR fan like him walking to the bus: like there are many coexisting centers of the world, their orbits overlapping, one hopes concentric. When we get to the bus, there are kids literally hanging off the sides of a recently departed bus, banging on the sides, which seem made of tin. Abbas is patient, I like that about him; we get on the next buy, empty, and get seats. It is filled soon and the drunk guy sitting behind me—only he and his 3 friends are drunk—immediately turns me around and begins to try to teach me songs. They are too long, says Abbas; they are long, sure, but they repeat the same words.

I am, by the way, wearing a tight black red, green, and black skullcap with a fake black haired Mohawk. Abbas made me do it. The FAR fans I am surrounded by don’t seem anywhere near as impressed by my American gamesmanship as I thought and hoped they would be; instead, the bus rides gets immediately, anonymously violent. Banging on the roofs, shaking the bus, pushing one another—you can disturb the peace all you want on public transportation, but do not think about standing up for what you believe in on Mo V.

We get to the stadium, which is bigger and more impressive than I expected, definitely, and we can’t get into an entrance anywhere. The cops—the state police, too, are here, which is both reassuring, since if they are at the protests they should be here, and soul-deadening, because they immediately evoke fear—are beating at kids trying to sneak in. There is one angry mustached cop swinging at a group of ten kids, who seem less sure whether they want to get in or taunt the cop; his little hat falls off his head, just like Beckett promised it would (sorry). Every few minutes, also, there are bum rushes: kids without tickets literally storm the police gates, which are manned by a few club-wielding police, and hedge their bets that they will be the ones that slip through—the majority will get beaten down and kicked, though they’ll try again. A few hundred feet above, those who are in, inside, look down from the top rim of the stadium—I can’t hear what they’re saying. They should wrap their tickets around baseballs and throw them down to those without tickets—I’d like to see a familiar scramble for a home run ball.

Mom, I need to go here: my wallet was in my front pocket, and it was taken out of my front pocket; my phone, too, was taken out of the other pocket. I had been thinking as we were trying to get in how this crowd felt unified in its opposition to the police; how it surely seemed that there was recognition of one another, even if it was based on a unity against state evils, whatever; I was feeling so trusting, riding on it. But then I have been thinking, too, whenever I se the state police, just how fine the line is between the men in these uniforms and the men and the women who the men in uniforms are beating; why should clear lines, uniforms, be my understanding both of what humanity is and what society is. So my wallet was taken—I didn’t feel it, though I think I did, because right when I first realized it I turned around and there was this kid, no more than 13, looking me right in the eye. He had been trying to get me to hold onto him, get him in, maybe in a bum rush; I had a ticket, had said no. When I turned around then I saw a bulge in his pocket; I knew. But what kind of thief stays, even for a moment? Did I really see that bulge? I couldn’t accuse him. I didn’t know.

When we got into the stadium, I kept my gaze down, because everyone was looking at me and the two other Americans. Must have looked funny, an American with a FAR fake black Mohawk unhappily looking down. We got to seats, though didn’t sit. Singing became immediately, singing which my brother put on my iTunes, along with the Koran, and makes me listen to almost every night. The first chant/song kept on hailing Che Guevara—can I really hold this against them? It his just his name—do any of them know that he called for “…hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become…”? Does it matter? Yhey are using his name to bond with one another—to be loving—right? Can you evoke a name separate from what it stands for? Is their hailing Che, for all purposes, the same as their hailing “Bob”? But, no, I don’t buy that—they know something about him, more then I think they know they know, there is a collective unconscious, if that doesn’t come too close too taking away their agency. Am I seeing a loving brotherhood between them that is the same lie of loving brotherhood men like Che told? (Are all brotherhoods lies; they have to be private, right—between just two? But: “All men are…” Zach: let’s go to India) Shit! I told my brother I liked his Che belt—why keep my mouth shut? And yet what right do I have?

I dropped my cigarette on the chair in front of me by accident, went to pick it up and properly put it on the ground in front of me, but Abbas stopped me. Kul blaza he said—anywhere. This isn’t America. That was the first time I had ever heard him make any explicit comparison to America. It was immediately alienating and cold, and it was worst that he smiled and put it out for me, like he was reveling in his own hatred (he is only 16, right?). In retrospect: foreboding—only boding, really, though. No payoff.

There were at least a hundred kids standing lined up on this partition sloping downwards, which separated two sections of the stadium. They were holding one another by the shoulders, and they were stilled by the tension required to balance and yet trying to move and sing at the same time. At times, a policeman in a club would come and swipe them down, for whatever reason, and there would be mini-fights, and whoever was swiped down would laughingly climb back on. It never occurred to me there was a reason for the policeman’s violence. At one point, something I have never and will never see again happened: like dominoes, this is the only image to use, the entire line of standing fans fell, one man knocking down the man in front of him, someone must have fallen first at top, and they fell for at least 30 seconds, which is the same as 30 seconds of any serious falling: it looks and feels like an eternity. They actually fell like dominoes, a hundred some odd of them—and still some got back up and on.

It began to rain, a scramble to get shelter above. Someone ran onto the field and we watched a few cops chase him and then we watched the chase disappear behind some concrete wing out of our sights—and I felt like I was the only one who saw the fan who had run on reemerge being held up by the cops because he couldn’t stand ten minutes later, dripping blood. Suddenly, watching that, the stadium lights on the left side went out, like a little plug controlled it all (like God could merely blow: I had to), and in seconds lighters were lit and raised in the air. Torches made of paper—then tin foil: how we learn when we want something!—were lit by the lighters and raised in the air. Have you heard the silence of a violent crowd? It, and they, can be so brilliant and beautiful sometimes that you wonder whether the beautiful is only the failure of the normally violent, bright, dark, dull.

The game ended—zero-zero tie (of course?). There was a rush to get out, and I thought, being me from New York, that it was a rush for taxis. But no, Abbas explained to me, it was a rush to meet the fans of the opposing team—that foolish minority, who must be mad—and beat the shit out of them. Outside the stadium, there were fires, sirens; mainly, people running in every which direction. I don’t know how you knew who you were with and who you were against. There was screaming and laughter. And then—just like a few hours earlier, on Mo V—everyone began to disperse, in this nightmarish expanding V, in a direction away from some unseen state force (I imagined a tank). We ran with steps low to the ground, under low hanging branches, I lost my brother and friends, then found them, and then we had to jump the metal fence. They three went first. I felt the lack of my wallet immediately—why is this a lack at all? Damned cathexis. I couldn’t get up; I was wearing my incredibly flat-soled slip-ons. A large man hoisted me from behind without asking (the best kind of help, sometimes); and then, of course, I sat there straddling the spikes, trying to laugh. I threw a leg over and jumped; it was further down than it looked, there was a moment between my landing and my falling when I could think, and I thought, think something!, and somehow I rolled well enough only to slightly hurt my ankle. That was acting—I was imitating movies—that somehow made real-world sense.

It was impossible to find taxis. There were a half-dozen white pick-up trucks filling up the backs of the trucks with men. 5 dh. So we get in, which it wasn’t even easy getting in; I had to get pulled in by the arms, like I was getting pulled out. We swing and swerve down the street and around corners. The adrenaline of this buries the hurt of the ankle; the men in the back of this pick-up truck are the nicest anyone has been to me, looking at me, blessing me; we can hear one another. A little quiet. Maybe because it’s over. We pass by a small group—one women, one of the few I saw, and her four men. She calls me a touriste. My brother says, yell Tabon mak—which means, I remember, I fuck your mother. So I yell it. And in moments bricks are flying at our truck. Abbas pulls me down to sit and cover our heads. The driver of our truck gets out—he has jeri curls and is bulging in every direction—and he picks up the fender, which has fallen off in the process of our abrupt stop, and raises it at the group that has thrown bricks at us. Is this really all me? Or Abbas?

We drive through the worst part of Rabat. There is silence for a few moments, and then the singing really begins. Every time we drop someone off, we sing to them. I see the familiar ramparts of the old medina. We get out; I head immediately to a cyber café to email you, mom, about the credit cards. I dread that. How—? On my way, I pass SiMo (Sidi Mohammed), our neighbor, who stops after I’ve passed him—he says, with a straight face enabled by his foreign perfection of English, that I have been cursing too loud on the street. But I said fuck—and yes, everyone understands fuck. He invites me to use the Internet at his house; this invitation trumps practicality. I wait for him to eat; while I wait, a Gambian calling himself Bob the Builder (named Bombekar) detains me. Wants to talk about bitches. Tells me loyalty—which I claim—is not a third world concept.

I get back to dinner when everyone has finished. You can sense things in these homes; there’s only so much air to breathe, and fill. I sit; I am offered nothing. Mama asks, I think, you were at the tiran, the stadium—I say yes, immediately, which I could have been and not have lied since I only said I was going out, but the way I say yes makes it seem (i.e. confirms) that I was lying. I am stupidly smiling and hot. I cannot believe this. What have I been thinking? And then, and then—Abbas comes in, and HE is smling. And he says, it’s okay, they know. After all that. But they know, and I didn’t know, and even though I now know it is meaningless; I look down like I did in the staium. Abbas is holding my computer under his arm and sits and he opens it, searches “allah” in my iTunes. Said, my brother in law, makes a joke about the wallet, whose plight no one is sympathetic to: it is the end of your stay in Morocco, he says—of course, you must pay. (If I had written this after it had happened—it’s Friday now—I’d comment on this, this guy. )

Said once called me a man. I forget the context; something about my right to go and come as I please versus women. Now I feel nothing like it. On my way upstairs, to try to write this, which I don’t then, he adds: takbar nseah. When you’re older—or a man—you’ll forget. But, Said: that is exactly the worst part.

Josh Cohen

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