Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sunset

Olive eyes in an orange sky
Of almond clouds that are pierced by

The pomegranate rays of
A sinking crimson sun

His light plucks the horizon
like guitarists' fingers strum

Hills like beds where so it's said
The moon descends to dance the dead

Streams flow so red around my head
you can't tell the blood from roses

In this house, songs are shared like bread
they open as the day closes

The sky's a pool with fires
Burning all around her sides

My heart's a flame inspired
By the breath's of a wind's cry

Where it blows inside, I live
Where it pours outside, I die
-unknown

h/t La Princesse

Friday, April 28, 2017

The King's Word

"This is a testimony to the richness and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco's spiritual heritage. Blending harmoniously with the other components of our identity, the Jewish legacy, with its rituals and specific features, has been an intrinsic part of our country’s heritage for more than three thousand years.

As is enshrined in the kingdom’s new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity. For this reason, I wish to call for the restoration of all the synagogues in the other Moroccan cities so that they may serve not only as places of worship but also as forums for cultural dialogue and the promotion of our cultural values.

The Moroccan people's cultural traditions, which are steeped in history, are rooted in our citizens' abiding commitments to the principles of coexistence, tolerance and concord among the various components of the nation, under the wise leadership of the kings of the glorious Alaouite dynasty and in keeping with the sacred mission which the Almighty has entrusted me.

As Commander of the Faithful, I am committed to defending the community of believers, and to fulfilling my mission with respect to upholding freedom of religion for all believers in the revealed religions, including Judaism, whose followers are loyal citizens for whom I have deep affection."
-His Majesty King Mohammed VI,
King of Morocco

Royal message read February 2013 at the unveiling of a restored synagogue in Fes.

These are the words of a real leader.

Below are some pictures from a synagogue in Casablanca, which the King of Morocco restored.






With sincere gratitude, I thank KCT&CO for being Muse to this post--by taking me to visit both the resplendent restored synagogue and Jewish Museum of Casablanca, where I found the King's Words. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Obscene

In the span of two minutes, I managed to inadvertently make two obscene local Moroccan gestures at my poor, innocent Moroccan Arabic teacher. She was mortified, as was I.

 Hshuma-ali. Astaghfirallah. #culturaldiplomacy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blind

I saw the blind leading the blind. In Morocco, everything is possible.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Questions and Answers

"In the eternal battle between those who answer questions and those who question answers, it is generally best to side with the questioners."
H/t Abba

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smart

A smart person doesn't need a smartphone ;)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Polyglottal Living

This morning, as I was walking to class I got chatting with a fellow selling kleenex who spoke to me in Spanish.  Where in Spain are you from?  By way of La Mancha, but actually de Estados Unidos. In Castilian, we chatted about Madrid and the Plaza del Sol, and before I bade him hasta luego and headed on to my French class.

In French class, I made compromises on the class schedule in 3 languages to our plans moving forward

I went to get some peanuts at a nearby kiosk.  It's a place I often stop at, the fellow who runs it is kind.  He is a dark-skinned Moroccan fellow, I think from Rachidia in the southeast.  We got to talking in Arabic and French about languages.  When I told him I spoke some Czech, he surprised me by speaking Russian.  We compared linguistic similarities of the numbers, and he told me he had studied in Russia and Ukraine.  We spoke of food--of borscht and Central Asia, of Samarkand.  We chatted about linguistic similarities, and I spoke of the closeness of Hebrew.  Through the course of the dialogue, we probably hit 6 or so languages of discussion.

This is why I love Morocco, and it works so well for me.  I have chatted in various forms of probably 7 or so languages today, and the day is still young and long. 

Call me Abu Hurayrah....

My babies! The kittens live in the medina alley next to mine. There are 8 of the precious ones, and I stop by to see them everyday. They are too cute. I have to work hard to refrain from going full on Elvira.



Friday, April 14, 2017

I met a stranger

When I was a camper at Camp Powhatan, every Friday night at services we would read the benediction poem, "I met a stranger in the night" Just as they did when my father was camper before me.

Today, the camp is now Seeds of Peace, and the poem is a graffiti mural where we once held the Friday services.

I made this in honor of my father, Dr. Stephen Rockower. It was created with the help of my brilliant friend Decap.

This is my Friday offering: I met a stranger.

Friday Laundry

Friday is a sublime day to do laundry. On the clothesline on the roof, I hang my clothes as I am accompanied by the songs and chants of the Sufi shrine next door. Through latticework, their songs--sung in unison to the glory and beauty of the oneness of G-d, rise to the heavens.

Qabbani

Raise me more love… raise me
my prettiest fits of madness
O’ dagger’s journey… in my flesh
and knife’s plunge…
sink me further my lady…
the sea calls me
add to me more death …
perhaps as death slays me… I’m revived
your body is my map…
the world's map no longer concerns me…
I am the oldest capital of sadness…
and my wound a Pharaonic engraving
my pain…. extends like an oil patch
from Beirut… to China…
my pain… a caravan…dispatched
by the Caliphs of 'A’Chaam'… to China…
in the seventh century of the 'Birth'…
and lost in a dragon’s mouth…
bird of my heart… 'naysani'
O’ sand of the sea, and forests of olives
O’ taste of snow, and taste of fire…
my heathen flavor, and insight
I feel scared of the unknown… shelter me
I feel scared of the darkness… embrace me
I feel cold… cover me up
tell me children stories…
rest beside me…
Chant to me…
since from the start of creation
I’ve been searching for a homeland to my forehead…
for a woman’s hair…
that writes me on the walls… then erases me…
for a woman’s love… to take me
to the borders of the sun… and throws me…
from a woman’s lip… as she makes me
like dust of powdered gold…
shine of my life. my fan
my lantern. declaration of my orchards
stretch me a bridge with the scent of oranges…
and place me like an ivory comb…
in the darkness of your hair… then forget me
I am a drop of water… ambivalent
remaining in the notebook of October
your love crushes me…
like a mad horse from the Caucasus throwing me under its hoofs…
and gargles with the water of my eyes…
add to me more fury… add to me
O’ prettiest fits of my madness
for your sake I set free my women
and effaced my birth certificate
and cut all my arteries…

-Nizar Qabbani

Merci a la princesse.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Matza m'aidez averted

Matza m'aidez averted, and now I can dine on the bread of affliction.  This is my Moroccan Passover lunch, with chèvre, olives, tuna, golden raisins, juicy dates and confiture de figues. One of the things I love most about being a wandering Jew is how to adapt the holidays to local realities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Matoke M'aidez

Day 1 of Passover, and the bakery on the corner is cruel. I am in need of a matza air-lift (M'aidez).

I am wishing I had Ugandan matoke to make up for the lack of starch.  Matoke are smashed, steam-cooked bananas that serve as a starch in Uganda.

Maybe the Uganda Scheme should have been accepted.

Flacking for the Fourth Child

Levantine PD is working with the 4th child to rehabilitate his maligned name.  His question, "what does this all mean to you" has been cruelly misinterpreted by the Rabbinic order.  

LPD thinks this is an excellent question, and places blame back on an authoritarian Rabbinic power structure. 

Why can't his question of the meaning of these things be answered?

Why does the Rabbinic order feel threatened by his question that wants further explanation of the meaning and values of these Passover traditions and customs?

Why should he merely accept that this is all good, and not seek a broader understanding? It is not wicked for him to want further answers into why this is meaningful.  He is not a toady like the so-called "wise child."  

LPD is pushing to have him rebranded as the "existentialist child"

I am apparently not alone in this Passover re-Seder: In Slate, they call him the best of the children.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Morning Moroccan Fare

The simplest things in life are often the best, he thinks as he sips spiced coffee and waits for his warm bucket bath to be ready.

Round hearty bread literally straight from the underground bakery oven. The baker bade me come in to get the still warm loaves.

Still warm, topped with real butter, fresh nfis (cow chevre) cheese and confiture des figues. .  

Où est la mosquée pour les juifs?

I made my way through the medina and on towards the mellah (old Jewish quarter).  I was looking for Avenue Moulay Ismail, where the synagogue was located.  I was savvy enough to shake off the directions of the woman who pointed me in the opposite direction when I asked if the street I was standing on was correct.

Eventually I found Avenue Moulay Ismail but wasn't sure about the synagogue.  So I stopped a fellow on the street and asked him in Moroccan Derija Arabic.  After exchanging the requisite Moroccan pleasantries and greetings, I got down to business: where is the mosque for the Jews? 

It was a question I asked 15 years ago when I was on a similar search.  He smiled, and pointed to the nondescript building across the street. Bonne fête, he said with a smile. 

Happy Pessach

May G-d deliver the 10 plagues onto the little-fingered Pharaoh. Boils, frogs, and maybe some new variants like gonorrhea. Happy Pessah to the rest of humanity.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Lifecoach

I termed the occupation of life-coaching an "existential ponzi scheme."

The Sound of Silence

An interesting take on an old fave, Disturbed with "The Sound of Silence"

Eating America

A wonderful essay in the NY Times by Lisa Ko on "What 'white food' meant to a first generation kid:"
James Baldwin wrote that American media is “designed not to trouble, but to reassure.” American movies and TV shows help sustain a fantasy of innocence that masks our country’s violence. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie referred to America’s “addiction to comfort”; Junot Díaz to our commitment to “narratives of consolation.” The soothing myth of American exceptionalism depends on maintaining its comfort and innocence, however false. Perhaps my childhood did, too. After all, my family had the privilege to remain superficially apolitical, to attempt to distance ourselves, mentally and geographically, from the devastation of the Reagan years.
By cranking up the TV, stuffing ourselves with Velveeta and Steak-umms, we were trying to drown out our own fears, our guilt for the relatives left behind in the Philippines, our economic anxieties and uncertainties. What could be more American than this sort of desperate denial? We didn’t need to prove that we were American; we already were.
All my favorite ingredients of identity, migration, Americana and food.  Merci Monsieur Marron. 

The sound of infinite present

Recently in Marrakesh, deep the Assembly of the Dead I had my ipod stolen.  There are many ripples that led to changed directions which caused it (late trains, late arrivals) but none are truly worth recounting.  It is gone; it happens; I have insurance for such occurrences.

But what it has done is make me hyper-present and hyper-aware.  Before, I could duck into my own world and wander through the market with my shades on, conducting Amelie's comptine valse or bouncing to Solillaquists of Sound.  Now, I have nothing to distract me from the sounds and so I pay even closer attention--there is no hiding from the present.

So I listen deeper to the lilt and gutturals of the derija. Or the sounds of the cars passing like waves. Or the waves themselves crashing onto the shores.  The birds chirp-chirping above.

I may get a CD player to replace the ipod, and collect scores of Moroccan sounds.  Or I may continue on without sound shelter, rained on by the sounds around me.



Saturday, April 08, 2017

Walking words

"He who reads much and walks much, goes far and knows much."
-Don Quixote
H/t la princesse

Friday, April 07, 2017

Couscous Fridays

The smell of stewing prunes and lamb wafting on the wind down the narrow corridor is intoxicating. 

But I am already full, after devouring a plate of couscous.  There are few traditions I respect more than Morocco's Friday couscous. So I dived into a giant ball of couscous covered with stewed carrots (hizou), potato (batata), pumpkin (garah hamra), chickpeas (humus) and zucchini (garah hydra).  It was a handful, with the heat attacking my diving fingers.  I made little balls of couscous wrapped around the veggies and popped the balls into my mouth with my thumb.

Food is always a key to memory because it is so intrinsically linked to both the senses and the past.  I thought of the couscous lunches with my host family when I first arrived in Rabat.  How my couscous balls would crumble back into the clay tajine plate.  My host father would make perfect spheres of couscous and role them over to me with a gentle push of his thumb, to make sure this adopted foreign son wouldn't go hungry.  He is gone now, but perhaps one can live forever in the deep recess of another's memory-- like how a dream is real until the dream ends.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Existential turtle discussions

I left my building and saw a friend at the bakery at the corner.  We chatted in Arabic and French.

I haven't seen you for a while, where have you been?

I was in Marrakesh with friends.  

Marrakesh was good?

Yes, it was good but I prefer Rabat.  Marrakesh is hot, congested and full of tourists and hustle.

Every city is different, with a different language.  Every city's people are different, with a different attitude.

You are correct.  I need to go, I need to feed mateesha (tomatoes, a new Derija word I learned) to the turtle who lives on the roof.

What is the turtle's name?

Fakran (Arabic for turtle).  Fakran's name is fakran. Fakran al-fakran.

He laughed. I pointed to the bread.  Khubz (bread) is happily named khubz; Le mur est le mur.

He laughed deep at this.

And I walked away down the medina alley thinking of Borges y yo, of what Spinoza knew:

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone, and the tiger a tiger.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The day that was

Just another day here in Morocco.

I had a slow start to the morning, doing some laundry that required a double wash because the washer is connected by power to the light switch, and I mistakenly turned it off when it was just about done and had to wash it again to free my clothes.

I had a nice, interesting chat with certain interested parties about the future of transatlatic public diplomacy and relations between the U.S. and certain interested parties.

A leftover treat of Marcella Hazan's famous spaghetti sauce III for lunch.

I began my Derija Moroccan Arabic class this afternoon.  It is so vastly different than Fusha, classical Arabic that I might as well be learning a new language.  I really am.  With its French, Spanish and Berber influences, Moroccan Arabic is so different utterly different a language that when Moroccans speak Arabic on pan-Arab stations, the channels need to offer subtitles.

I know a bit from my time here, and my time living with my Moroccan family, the Taoufiks, so I have a little base.  But technically speaking, I would consider this studying my 7th language (Hebrew, Spanish, Czech, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi/Urdu, French). Ana Hamak (I am crazy).

In honor of my new course, I took myself out to dinner.  I had a hankering for some Syrian food, so I googlebaba-ed a spot just outside the medina walls.  It was wonderful.  In the divan, I had a plate of creamy humus and maklouba with chicken.  The fragrant rice came with almonds and eggplant slices. I wrapped the rice and spiced, roasted chicken in the flat pita and dipped it in the humus and garlic mayo.  Yum.  And knahfey for dessert.

On my walk back, I stopped at my favorite coffee roaster to get some of his fresh-ground variety, mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, anise and a hint of black pepper spice.  Looking forward to my morning cup.

I already commented on my kleine nachtmusik in the previous post. 

Gnawi nights

On the rooftop, I sit.  From a distant, unknown roof gnawi music fills the night.  Percussive beats from the iron castanet krakebs match the claps and chants.  The three-string sintir bass lute echoes off the empty walls and the roof top of the Sufi shrine next to me.  I close my eyes and lean my head back against the wall, and I hear the caravan.  A thousand and one nights on the road, and I am a happy sultan.  Morocco is magical.

Deadspin

"Seventeen days. That’s how much stamina flinty-eyed deal master Donald Trump, sober policy knower Paul Ryan, and all the Republican Party had for a health care overhaul they’d been promising for seven years, before the work of negotiating amongst themselves overwhelmed them and they retired to their fainting couches. You can’t close on the sale of a fucking townhouse in 17 days. Holy hell, what a bunch of losers.

Don’t get me wrong! Literally all decent human beings can be glad these incompetent featherweight sacks of crap couldn’t get the job done: If their efforts were shabby, their goals were vile, the stuff of paranoia thriller villains. In all the particulars of their vision the public got to see, it was a pathetic hackwork, an agglomeration of cheap-shit piecemeal bullshit, managing the mean feat of being both a half-assed half-step—when measured against the tenor and substance of the seven years’ worth of caterwauling these creampuffs mounted against the ostensibly socialist evils of Obamacare—and a savage and heavyhanded assault on the well-being and security of tens of millions of vulnerable people. The unintentional consequences would have been surpassed in cruelty and destruction only by the intentional ones. Seventeen days of negotiation is 18 more than it deserved.

But still. These fucking amateurs! These butter-soft babies. These utter, utter fucking frauds. Let us clown them for all eternity; let us never forget what a bunch of unserious cosplaying shit-for-brains they are, each and every one."
-Albert Berneko at Deadspin


H/t Harry, who could have written significantly better health care legislation.  The nation awaits HarryCare.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decapped in Paris

Here is your dose of genius and beauty for the day--from the incomparable Decap in collaboration with 6Franc and Yak Films. Bravo Decap, this is phenomenal.

Turtle-whispering

I became a turtle-whisperer, and it was all thanks to a mysterious all-white, possibly deaf cat whom I have named Schrodinger.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Love, Loss and the EU

"People say you can love Europe without loving the EU. That’s the wrong end of the telescope for my generation. It was the camaraderie and fraternity the EU fostered that helped us discover and fall in love with Europe. And that makes the divorce so much more bitter."
-Mark Rice-Oxley, "The EU is 60--and it helped my generation fall in love with Europe"

Brain Pickings

"Perhaps the greatest paradox of human life is that although happiness is the most universal of our longings, it is unobtainable by striving. Every seeming end we seek — love, money, purpose, the perfect cappuccino — we seek as a means to happiness, and yet happiness defies the usual laws of effort and achievement: The more ferociously we try to attain it, the more it eludes us."
-Maria Popova of Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a weekly newsletter I receive, and love.  I highly recommend it, it a weekly blast of culture and humanity.

Mukhelalet, or the joys of the return

I just finished one of my absolutely local Rabati favorites, a dish called mukhelalet.
It is unique to only Rabat and Sale next door.  The dish is quite simple yet absolutely wonderful.

The dish is a small bowl of boiled potatoes and beets that have been soaking (brining?) in vinegar. The little squares of potatoes and beets are swimming in a bowl of the beet vinegar, with some preserved eggplant chunks and harisa (spicy chili sauce) thrown in.  It is a bit salty, savory and yet refreshing.  After you finish spearing the chunks with a wooden toothpick, a bit more of the royal purple beet vinegar is ladled back into the empty bowl to sip after the snack.

this is a poem that heals fish


"A poem is when you are in
 love and have the sky in your mouth.
-Lola

"—A poem is when you hear
the heartbeat of a stone."
-Mahmoud

From Jean-Pierre Simeon's "This is a poem that heals fish"

Friday, March 24, 2017

La Côte de Rabat

If I had a thousand words, I could only barely begin to describe the view I see.

The vast waves of the rugged Atlantic coast crashing along the jagged Rabat coastline. White spray  levels upward and onward. The sun casts its white light on the spray of the waves and the light tower in the distance. The block city by the coast is bathed in white.

I had been following the coast all afternoon.  There had been a pounding hail storm this afternoon and I went to see the storm's fury in the waves; I was not disappointed for my efforts following the red earth cliffs and sea of many colors that crashed into pools and grottos along the coast.

I wandered my way out to the furthest depths along the stone causeway jutting jaggedly into the sea. I slip-slides my way to the edge and back to sit on the giant rock pier.

To my eastern vantage is the beach, a tall North African square minaret and waves of colored graves on the hill.

Further on is the giant orche kasbah, the citadel on high.  The roar of the waves is pounds the ears as the giant white surf pounds the jagged outline of the city.

Past the minaret of the mausoleum of Hassan II, there is an arc of iris stretching over Salé. The sun's white light lights up the sister city in white.

Dirham to dollar, Rabat has some of the finest coastline in the world.