Tuesday, June 28, 2005

St. Pete's

Just catching up here before heading to the Stray Dog and then home to the gostinitza (hotel) which used to be an old dorm for the the technological college of the railroad (iron road.) I went to a reading tonight of Kharms in translation. Eugene read mostly (was very good, dramatic) and then he let Matvei step in. He was good too, but i had a coughing fit in the middle and had to leave. Then I went to a place much like the Bowery called Platform run by a guy named Chicken-little, or anyway a derivative of Chicken, so that was funny. The people i went there with left for Moscow on the overnight train, inviting me to some New Zealander poetry reading there, but I had to turn them down (for better or worse. One of these guys, Sasha, admitted to translating some of it into Russian without understanding it at all.) Now I'm on my own again having been too impatient for the rest of the crew to arrive, and maybe they never would have. They were having dinnerand dinner is a slow affair here, but as I already ate at the Grand Hotel Europe with my family (mostly Charles's doing) a Russian Hamburger, salmon lox between two blini--a blini burger, I was all set. On my way here I saw many interesting things, a mass of humanity lying in the middle of a side street proclaiming freedom--two men:one in a sailor's hat, one in a bashlik with a soviet star, watching them amused. And then I saw a girl, distressed, crossing the street with one of her very skimpy (rather lingerie like) tanktop straps broken, holding it up, then giving up on holding it up. Then I ran into a 19 year old girl in indigo smoking cigarettes and looking intensely and staring at the water in front of the church of spilled blood so I spoke with her for awhile. Another friend had adamently mentioned that he believe the Russian people were intrinsically communist and I asked her about that and she had been staying in one of those Soviet Style apartments, with one communal kitchen per floor, and she seemed to think that was a pain, but they used it anyway of course.

Sarcasm, Irony, I know not these words. I am on 100 grams of vodka (funny how they measure it this way here) and headed home. Each Vodka encounter is served up as a chemistry expirement in a beaker and test tubes. It is fun, but each outcome seems to give a conclusive conclusion.

xo to all you out there. Sorry for the delay in writing I'll be back on a regular schedule early July when I'm back in Tangier. Wish me luck in the motherland. The mushrooms won't be out yet, but there will be smoked fish to eat and nostalgic buildings to picture.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Please excuse my temporary absence from this online journal. Here is a musical interlude from Tarifa, Spain: Parasurfers on an electrical wire. I am leaving for Marrakesh, then Latvia and St. Petersburg for three weeks. I will try to update along the way.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The old Portuguese wall of the Casbah built in the 15th century, with cats.

P'tit Socco

One of the crazies in the P'tit Socco wore a checkered blanket around the city for an entire weekend. Dragging the blanket like a cape behind him, picking up litter in the folds of it along the way, made quite an imposing figure. He just kept walking, and I just kept running into him.

1/2 Mountain along the coast of Morocco, seen from the middle of the strait.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I think I'm seriously damaged and demented from three days of Moroccan wedding. I don't know how I got into this... MAYA... but I will never be the same again. Of course it was something I could never see otherwise, and for that I thank you. I made it through with the same morbid fascination I would have at a Ms. America Pageant, but I would never choose to attend one of those either. Please feel my gaping-mouthed fascination and pain with me below.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Second and Third day of Moroccan Wedding

The bride�s party lasts three days and only girls and the bride�s family are allowed to attend. Most of the celebration involves the guests sitting, somberly as if at a wake, in the bride�s house while the bride is hidden from light in fear that she might be tainted before her groom comes to take her hand. The first two days do involve singing and chanting, but at least at the first party, there were only three girls who ever danced (four if you count me And I did dance my ass off.) See June 3 for first day. Boy have I had enough of weddings to las me my whole life. Here are Maya and I in borrowed Kaftans.

Because the party was all women, some women did take off their headscarves, but many did not since the bride�s brothers and father were also buzzing about. Taking off their headscarves was a major step for some, and for others, dancing belly-shaking style, tying their headscarf around their hips the better to move in their hips, feel them and control them into a sinuous, sexy dance, was absolutely necessary.

The more relatives and friends came, the more the room filled up and resembled a harem. Especially with some girls constantly dancing in the narrow aisle. It seems the other women clapped and nodded approvingly and smiled encouragingly when a girl was very good. It was a kind of school of sexiness. I came to wonder if it is normal for a girl to dance alone for a man once they are married, for she certainly can�t dance for just anyone.

Waiting ladies

The third and final day of the wedding we saw the bride even less. She was locked in a room with a make-up artist and a few ladies-in-waiting. She then proceeded to change four times. Only a few ladies prayed when the Muezzin called from his minaret down the road.

From her nightgown to a modest white dress for the second, symbolic henna ceremony during which she was veiled with three different scarves.

Another woman walked around with a white scarf throwing it over the heads of all the single girls and pulling it over to assure their own future marriages.

The second dress was astounding. And the whole second entrance was insane. She came out in a dress that looked like it must have been as thick as a fur coat with at least 80 strands of pearls around her neck.

Her expression was stone, and her posture was that of a mummy. She was lead unseeing to the tacky gold throne on which she sat while everyone came up in front of her, without greeting her, and got their pictures taken with her.

I had a flashback to my trip to the wax museum, but it was too hot in there for her to be wax. After her family had their pictures taken with her she started trembling and crying. Then she was lead out and disappeared for the rest of the evening until around 11 pm.

At 11 she exited a completely different person, as if she had been possessed before, in this pink monstrosity. She showed off for a while, getting praise in the form of a hand motion from the other women, like when one flicks water off their hands.
After this outfit it was just a waiting game for the groom. The husband comes whenever he likes, starting from midnight until 5 am at times. There are also no vows as far as I could tell. Only this pandemonium of praise.
The whole preparation involves making the woman brand new. A day at the hammam gets rid of any skin that is not its shiniest and brand newest.

It is also to show how special the woman is and to transmit the joy and happiness of her friends, as a girl explained to me.

I didn�t understand how exactly that was done, though, while she was in a room completely cut off from the party except for the music coming under the door.

Ancient Attendants

She waves like Ms. America while she laughs and cries from joy, and glitter is thrown at her. Then she gets lowered back down to earth. The husband is instructed to come kneel inside the silver cage thing to take pictures.

She doesn�t pay attention to the husband, she is so happy and so in touch with her friends (fans.)

This is your moment girlfriend.

The husband arrives

The girl's party climaxes when the husband arrives. That could be anywhere between midnight and 5 am. After 5 am I guess he'll never show. Waiting in suspense is completely normal, the boy's party could be too fun and rowdy. I, like all the other women, would not be allowed access. In the olden days, and still today in more rural areas, the bride would be delivered to the husband's house on a mule with a box around her--as if she were a present. In fact they do this so that she cannot be sullied by the looks of strange men on her way. The end of the ceremony the bride and groom dance, if they wish. Everyone chants �Hoowa, Hiyya, Hoowa, Hiyya� which means, �Him, Her, Him Her.� The bride slinks away for one last �evening wear� change.

Then the two ride off into the night and supposedly, no one is allowed to know where they have gone.

The end of our night. Being at that wedding was like being on drugs. The wedding didn't follow time, time followed the wedding. No one drank, and by the end it was time for a little quality time at Pub.

Friday, June 03, 2005

First day of the wedding: Henna

Salima is getting married. The henna party is like a bachelorette party, only women allowed. But the bride must sit perfectly still in her throne for the entire thing. Henna is applied to both hands and feet. The emotions going through her face during the 5 hours we stayed there were amazing. I concluded, this ceremony is to test and teach patience "tsbar" that will be sorely needed once you are married. She did a pretty good job of keeping a straight face. But forgot to smile for pictures. Her friends sing a song and dance for her. There is a chant everyone repeats, and the chant ends with an undulating screen controlled by sticking your tongue out of your mouth and flapping it back and forth wildly. Henna is supposed to bring happiness, ward off the evil eye, and smells like fertile ground, so I bet that's part of it.

The henna ceremony begins

The bride is not allowed to do a single bit of housework until the henna tattoo has completely faded, that is why the bride leaves the henna on and keeps wetting it overnight. If you do it right, and barely shower, the henna could stay on for over a month.

The cow, with eyelashes still attached. The very same morning Salima's brother Mounir slit its throat, slowly bleeding it until all the life was out of it, saying the muslim prayer for kosher. Interesting fact, Muslims can eat Jewish Kosher, but Jews don't eat Muslim Kosher. "It doesn't go both ways," says Sonia, an original Tangerine Jew. Also, you cannot say that you killed the cow. You must say that you slit its throat.

Henna smells like a mixture between green tea and wet earth. As it dries it leaves an orange trace on your hand. This design was applied with a syringe, but it was squirted out and applied on top of the skin.

The crusty white stuff you see is a sugar, water and onion concoction that makes the oils in the henna come back out when it dries. It continues the dying for another hour.

The next day I find it strange to lick my fingers after eating. It's like I'm eating rust. It's fun to type on the computer. My hands feel delicate...

Like a doily

Refreshments and the bride's mother. We tried to make her dance, but she was too upset and stressed by the wedding.

By this time the bride was tired. This is the last hand. Each limb took 20 minutes to half an hour.

The wedding party. This narrow aisle was where we danced, four at a time.

Sana, the life of the party. She was always ready to dance when I was. Headbanging has precedent in sufi ritual. See article in Bidoun: http://www.bidoun.com/contents03.html# (Under "Hair" click "Heavy Metal: Carnage and Commotion in the Oilfields of Kirkuk.")

It was windy in that tiny room at the back of the house...

perfect circles