If i take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me
And thy right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139: 9, 10
I landed in Casablanca yesterday and got a call from my daughter’s father asking me to pick up Shiyara. So I took a taxi direct from the airport to Ain Diab to pick up my girl and then to the center of the city, the feminized part of town, Maarif. The taxi driver started a nice conversation with me about everyone being lost today and asking him for directions on our ride into the city. I had noticed many people asking him for directions but especially one car with a man dressed as an Islamist with the typical white robe and head skull cap. He had red hair and freckles and there were two boys in the back with his wife. He looked like the stereotype of everything I dislike but his kind smile and kinder eyes made me think I was misjudging him the way many misjudge Israelis and Jews. He looked at me and smiled, he was actually cute. I thought, he could be my brother in another life or he could be a Jew and moreover I have seen a few Jewish boys dressed like that too. I brought him into my tribe and humanized him anyway I could for myself.
The driver continued to tell me about how his kids went to college and his son works for the biggest Arabic language newspaper in Morocco. “Have you heard of it?” He asked. “Of course!” I answered. He was kind and told me not to rush with my daughter or her baggage that was taking a long time to come out of the house of her father. It’s a mansion actually. With a pool and animals and a little garden. It’s a paradise for kids. I, on the other hand, have a little vintage apartment with lots of sun and plumbing problems. But I love her.
After we dumped our clothes off at home we left to go shopping for food with my last bit of money after spending most of it on the trip in France. I grabbed some vegetables and rice-milk (rice-milk is milk made of rice; yes I have to explain this as twice people brought me rice and cow milk when I asked for rice-milk).
As we got to the register and waited, an older woman with a jalaba and head scarf stepped up behind us. I had seen her before in the store shopping for vegetables and in the cheese aisle. She seemed to want to push in front of me looking at each angle around me sizing up the situation. Then, she made her move and set her food down ahead of mine. The sound of the food sounded like a loud “THDDD” or perhaps it was my anger rising to the surface. The man in front of me turned as did the cashier looking as I turned to her and said, “Why did you just do that?” She immediately said, “Can I go ahead of you because I just have 5 things?” I was already visibly angry as she smiled at me with her teeth.
I asked, “Why didn’t you ask me before? I would of said yes because you are older than me but…” She cut me off,”Okay okay okay enough just let me go before you I already asked. Why are you making a scandal. Are you Moroccan?” I started breathing heavily and told her, “Now I am angry.” She continued to tell me to let her go through and that she already suffered me enough, I repeated that she didn’t ask. The cashier and the man ahead of me said the same to her, “You didn’t ask her.” The man ahead of me motioned her to stop talking about me. She snapped at him, “Why are you defending her? I was here before you anyway. You didn’t say anything to her about that.” I interjected, “There are 5 registers. You can go over there. I almost let you go through but you were cursing at me.” “I was not cursing,” she said. She might not have said fuck you but she certainly did everything but that. She smiled at me and looked me in my eyes to say, “AwarerAh antia!” Which is an expression used to say you are amazing/a universe/a power. It can be used in a loving way as well as in a negative sense to mean, “You are a hard ass!”
I picked up where she left off and continued her sentence with a large physical gesture, “…because Moroccans are ‘Awarer-Reen’ (the plural of ‘AwarerAh’).” That made the cashier laugh and the woman go silent. She didn’t speak again to me. The women behind her were asking if I was Moroccan. The cashier asked with a huge smile, “Are you married to a Moroccan?” I answered, “I am separated from a Moroccan.” They had even wider smiles. They know the deal. They know their brothers and fiances and have heard the stories. It’s a tribe of sisterhood built on stories about surviving lots of heartbreak for girls that believe in the idea of romantic love. Why not make a joke of it and a give the other a little positive energy? At the end, the woman and I bagged our groceries together and the cashier helped me saying, “Misskeena” (meaning “poor thing”) I am going to help her.” The other lady couldn’t leave fast enough almost pushing past and pushing my daughter. I knew she was nervous and wanted to escape the situation.
For my part, I was surprised with myself that I spoke up because I had seen a lot of rudeness in France and in the airport by a group of long white robe wearing, bearded men from Tunisia who cut in line. I had been quiet until that moment. Even when a man called me a bitch on the Paris Metro. As it happened, I was listening to music and in my world when I heard what I thought was “yom shishi” so I looked up at two folks which could easily be Israeli. They were laughing and shouting what again I thought was “shishi” for sure. I must have been wide-eyed and with a happy expression, seated in front of them standing tall above me. The man talking caught my eye. I smiled. Perhaps he was talking about “Hashish” but after I turned away to not make it an act of staring I realized that he then leaned in close to me to said the word, “Bitch!” I was still listening to music but I definitely heard it so I smiled to acknowledge what must have been an invitation to “friendship”. The other man, a good looking very very large boned, light skinned bearded man with a very strong nose and light eyes (stereotypical “semetic” look) grabbed his friends hand roughly shook him forcefully away to say very clearly, “Leave her alone!” I looked at them many times after intently, no longer to hear if they were speaking in Hebrew or not, but to now try to understand their reaction to being smiled at by a blue-eyed fair skinned “French looking” girl. I was even looking very adolescent in jeans and a raccoon hat. I acted naive because I was new to everything. In someways you have to ask what these men with their horrible French accents and even worse Moroccan accents, must experience inside themselves and with others in France that makes them feel under attack when a girl gives them a smile. I wondered what they lived to make them so defensive. If it were boys here or in Tel Aviv, they would believe I was flirting with them.
My observance of life and conflict without much reaction or engagement has been going on for more then a few months now. As if I checked out because “It’s over Morocco”…sometimes in love we do the same…we see the end coming so we cut ourselves off. A crazy idea entered my head that I don’t need to cut off even if it will hurt to know I am leaving but I must stay engaged until the very last minute and for the rest of my life. Times and people and experiences make you a strong person and my time in Morocco can never be one I stop struggling with in a good and in a complicated sense.
When I spoke up over the silly idea of asking before taking anothers’ decision for them or saying thank you when someone gives you what you want, when I spoke up for a better shopping experience at the King’s Acima grocery store chain, I felt like I was home in Morocco again.
The time with my girls, filming my new documentary has put me in the presence of smart kind fighting spirits. They inspire me whether here or there to speak up and demand a little space.
Sitting in the kitchen of an angel, flying high in Paris.
Paris is cold and wet and as I took the Metro yesterday and walked past thousands of people, I wished I could meet and speak with everyone of them. Perhaps this is why big cities are not for me and why Tel Aviv remains a beloved place as the BIG LITTLE city where you can meet and run into the same people if you want and storefront owners recognize you after a few days and tell you things like, “I wanted to tell you that you are the most original girl I have seen.” To which I smile and blush and walk away happy for that moment of connection from nowhere and just because. I miss Tel Aviv especially as I pass people in other big cities and their existence goes by without mention as each person speeds past me.
Last night after a long day filming we walked on Ternes near the Arch and passed a bar full of folks trying to find their life partner at a pub. They had removed the chairs and everyone stood outside behind the cafe’s rope line and were drinking and chatting it up in the freezing cold. As we passed I turned my head transfixed on this big-city style dating circuit and cringed. “I will never meet my future partner at a bar.” I tell my friend with a tinge of arrogance but in truth I don’t mind what anyone does to find love. They are locals of the area and as it was recently reported we don’t marry and partner much for the qualities of the person then for their proximity in location to us (so choose well where you live). What made me stare at the crowd of locals standing in the cold street was their desperation for contact with other people to befriend, perhaps sleep with, date and/or marry.
Paris is big but functions on a technical level as if it’s still small (shutting the Metro service down at night, shutting down on Sunday and at exactly the same early hour on Saturday) not giving you the few benefits of a big city. It’s not that I don’t like Paris but I know this city is not a place I could live in for longer than a week despite the widely held idea that Paris is a romantic paradise. I don’t see romance in the rushing around chasing after enough money to survive the cost of living.
What do I like about Paris? Besides the old buildings which I stare at for hours. I like the immigrant populations that bring a different culture of life to the city. I love all my memories…of Parisian gay bars and discos, art schools and meetings with professors and photographers. My all time favorite moment of Paris though was the anti-climatic-romantic experience of being booted from a lovers bedroom after a disagreement, which was also his entire apartment but in Paris having two rooms is valued at the price of an entire house elsewhere. So in the cold standing with my little bag I went to a local cybercafe (thanks to the neighborhood being working class) and called who else but a Moroccan friend who was also on vacation. He picked me up 10 minutes later. When he saw me he gave me a hug and never asked what happened. He could have asked, “Who were you with?” and then said a many number of scolding accusations but he didn’t. He took me somewhere warm, fed me and knew from experience how to make me cringe and laugh. “You should never have broken up with me.” I made my usual eye rolling rebuff but we both knew he wasn’t there to get laid or get me back he just (for whatever reason) loved me no matter what crap I got into.
He dropped me off at work asking if I had a place for sure to stay, if I needed anything, if I was sure I was fed and warm and okay. I assured him it was okay, I hurried to get back to work and I didn’t realize it at the time but that encounter was by far the the most romantic moment in Paris and it wasn’t a cliche.
An artist has to be a warrior. An artist has to have determination and has to have the stamina to conquer not just new territory but herself and her weakness.
An artist should not make themselves an idol. An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist. An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist. (repeated 2x more)