I left Kansas City the morning of May 5th for New York City, and began what I considered a long span of trading glimpses of multiple cities over the next several days. Plane to La Guardia, bus to JFK, plane to Casablanca, train into Casablanca, light rail through the city, propeller plane to Tangier, run across the tarmac, taxi to hotel, car to Tetouan. I ride a boat across the Strait of Gibraltar next month. All I need to complete the list of transportation methods is a bicycle and a horse. Or maybe a camel.
I’m here in Tetouan today at my new studio, with green shutters and glass windows that look over at the market on the street below. I work on a wide desk in the rays of sunlight. I can stand on the small balcony and look down the narrow streets of the village, white buildings rising into the sky on my left, homes dotting the looming grey mountains on my right. The air is damp and cool this morning from the rain the night before. Brown puddles of water gather in the dips of the stone roads, providing the one-eyed cats with something to drink.
My apartment is two blocks from the studios, just outside the palace of the Moroccan king. Ruth, a warm Spanish woman who runs a cozy traditional restaurant up the street (with modestly priced red wine from her home country) handed me a key to the apartment and apologized, in partial English, for the door that leaked when it rained. Up three flights of spiraling triangular steps, a door opens to the petit penthouse, equipped with a bed, a small bathroom, and a balcony that offers another marvelous view of the town and mountains beyond. During my unpacking, a sound filled the air, a mournful wail that echoed off the flat white buildings. I knelt on the floor, removing things from my suitcase, and the long chanting calls inflated outside my open door, calling the town to prayer. I stood, amazed at the reach of the voice, its ability to penetrate my body and lure me outside. Standing on the balcony, I was gripped by the power of the call, the sound like a song of tired bulls under a swarm of black flies. I was shaken, rocked from a place in myself I never visited. Seagulls cry in hysterical laughs from the edge of the Mediterranean sea, the same as in my home town, making the sounds I associate with a harbor. Milwaukee, Homer, Astoria, Tetouan. The seagull call is a reliable gate to wistfulness.
Forgive my overly romantic descriptions of Tetouan (sorry WTF). I am overwhelmed with the scenery and power of the town. I am inspired and eager to write, to produce, to learn from the atmosphere. This excitement will settle back into my style, or change it entirely. You don’t really know what you’re going to get when you leave your comfort zone in pursuit of something meaningful. Sometimes it’s what you expect, but mostly you get to be surprised. Stay updated (subscribe, facebook friend, follow on twitter, etc) with the events of this month as I write and travel around Morocco.