A fond au revoir Maroc, and ola Portugal

It’s a good trip when you’ve really enjoyed a stay somewhere but are ready to leave, and have someplace else to look forward to seeing.

Breaking through the clouds after take off from Casablanca

My 24 days in Portugal starts with three nights in Lisbon. Arrived here late this afternoon from Casablanca, and I didn’t even have to shoot any German officers to get a visa.

And just in case you might think I’m just another westerner recalling an old Humphrey Bogart classic folks in Morocco have forgotten about, check out this back lit sign behind the check out counter at the Casablanca airport duty free shop.

Getting through the Madrid airport, which I made the mistake of transiting through rather than just flying direct to Lisbon on another airline other than Iberia, like TAP, has always been at best a pain in the ass. But the approach as we landed was certainly something to see.

When I landed in Lisbon shortly before 5 pm, it was 55 degrees and had recently rained. Given Chicago’s weather, I was pleased.

A longish and not cheap taxi ride got me to my lodging around 6. Very comfortable room in a third floor walk up (I can’t seem to get away from flights of stairs) in a rather funky neighborhood that’s safe, but with lots of graffiti and bars. Down at the end of my block, I could look left and see the ocean a mile or so off.

This is very much like San Francisco, with narrower streets. Not just the steep hills but cable cars everywhere.

A block from my building in Lisbon. Heading down to the ocean front.

I couldn’t take pics, because my iPhone battery was dead when I arrived at the airport, but as best I could tell, the Cardinal who is archbishop Lisbon was on my flight, returning from World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, after the Pope announced there that Lisbon will be the site of the next world Your Day, in July, 2022.

The cardinal’s presence would explain why there were five tactical cops waiting along the walkway from my plane. I watched them escort him away from the gate to the luggage carousels, then sat near the airport exit as a crowd of what sounded like young people on the other side of the departure area, maybe 150 feet away, chanted happily and then cheered wildly as the Cardinal appeared.

Laundry this morning after coffee and a bite, then I think I’ll find my way to one of the several oversights in Lisbon and gaze down on the city panorama.

Photos to come.

On the road from Essaouira

I paid a premium to travel from Essaouira to Marrakech by car, and it was worth every dime. 

I’ve looked down into an active volcano in Nicargaua, walked around Stonghenge in England, trekked up the verdant slate strewn trail to Bron yr Aur cottage in Northern Wales, marveled at whales and porpoises and flying fish cutting through the surface of the Pacific Ocean 4,000 miles from home and hundreds of miles from any shore, walked through the Colesium and many other antiquities in Rome and stood enthralled before dozens of other natural and man made wonders. 

But I’d never seen anything quite like what I saw 20 miles outside of Essaouira this morning on my way back to Marrakech. 

A herd of goats – 13 or 14 – grazing up in the tall branches of a tree. A tree they’d climbed in pursuit of the argan nuts that they feed on exclusively.

Wha??? Huh???

I’d seen a poster of this once or twice before, but until you look up at a goat standing on a narrow branch 20 feet off the ground, it doesn’t quite sink in. 

Those vaunted mountain goats I’ve seen in photos are stumbling clowns compared to these utterly sure footed mammals. While it is pretty clear that some humans have had a hand in nailing up a few supports here and there to buttress the goat’s footing, it’s still damn impressive. 

I guess when you’re the type of goat that can climb up to the highest reaches of a 20-plus foot tree and dine on delicacies, you don’t have to slum like the rest of your goat brethen who schlepp around down on the ground munching on scrub grass and such. 

It all had me wondering if Morocco had considered developing an event like they have in neighboring Spain. Instead of “Running with the Bulls,” you could “Climb with the Goats.” The worst that could happen is one might fall on you. Well, or something else fall on you.

Anyways, as I stood looking at the tree filled with goats, I tried to imagine the first time one actually ventured to climb up a tree after argan nuts. 

Just standing around in a tree, chewing on nuts.

Actually my first thought was how cool it would have been if Alfred Hitchcock had known about this phenomenon in the 60s and made a movie called, say, “The Goats.” Then I realized that they never could have gotten down the chimney, which would have tanked the dramatic narrative in that scene where they invade the house and scare the hell out of Tippi Hedren. 

But I digress. 

“Damn! We’ve eaten all argan nuts we can reach,” a long ago goat might have said to his goat colleagues. “Guess it’s just scrub grass and such for us until we find another tree.”

“Screw that,” another goat shot back, still hungry and very frustrated at having to leave such an abundance of nuts just hanging there, seemingly taunting them. “They’re right there, just above our noses!”

“Might as well be on the moon, Clyde,” the other goat replied dismissively. “We can’t get to ‘em, ‘cause, as everyone knows, goats can’t climb trees.” 

After staring up at the bounty of higher hanging argan nuts for a minute, the hungry goat looked at his colleague and replied, “Says who?” 

“Says… uh… well, um … I don’t know,” the other goat replied with a puzzled look. “I hadn’t really thought about it.” 

The hungry goat looked the tree over again for a minute or two and turned to his goat brethren.

“This is one small step for a goat, and one giant leap for a… well, a goat,” he said, and proceeded to climb up the tree slowly but surely. 

And the rest, as we humans say, is history. If goats were so inclined, which they aren’t, they might have raised a statue to the Neil Armstrong of goats. But they didn’t. ‘Cause they’re just goats. Though goats that, incredibly, can climb trees.

By the way, because all that those climbing goats eat is argan nuts (not the bitter shells) they’re prized for their delightful tasting roasted flesh, which has the pleasing scent of argan oil.

So maybe, if they know what’s good for them, the goats, as impressive as they are, shouldn’t stop at merely climbing trees. Because they need a way to be able to not just get up into the trees, but stay there and become tree dwelling goats. 

Because in the end, after all the wondrous stares and photos, the goats, just like those prized Spanish pigs that eat only acorns and taste so yummy they go for $90 a pound, the Moroccan goats are still just dinner waiting to happen. 

On the beach in Essaouira

I’ve grown tired of walls all around me, even the mere two or three story walls off the plaza by the fisherman’s piers. So around 1:30 Sunday afternoon, I make my way out one of the medina gates and wanderd over to the beach and Le Terrassa Restaurant & Bar Celone.

The restaurant is closed, but you can order food in the second floor lounge overlooking the beach.

Seagulls float to and fro over the waves as I sip a Johnnie Walker Double Black (which I’d never heard of before) on the rocks and eat black and green olives with a wonderful crusty bread while I wait for my calamari.

About half a mile out, three parasailers float and dip over the million flashes of sunlight spread across the water. 

Chicago seems even farther away than usual. With a brilliant sun coming down through a slight haze. Everything here says “lazy,” a slow and relaxed Sunday in a muslim country where it’s just another day. But what a day. 

There’s a sort of Califonia pop/jazz thing playing on the sound system, which is followed by a reggae flavored latin number. 

I can imagine it’s some kind of rite of passgae for boys- and now girls? – to make their way out of the crowded and confined medina at 10 or 11 or 12, and experience modern Essaouira. Cars, wide avenues and shops with packages goods and beer. 

And I assume there are some people who do not want to ever leave the old quarter.

A classic, oft-stolen slow chugging blues riff comes on, followed by boogie woogie piano, and finally guitar. Buddy Guy-ish. 

Now an old, arcane Queen song I can’t quite make out. There’s so much more to Queen than ever made the radio. Before they were big, I was a huge fan of “Liar.” They didn’t have to prove to me they could rock. 

Down on the sand young boys play soccer and small groups of young adults wander about. Three or four windsurfers venture out past the breaking surf.

“The Thrill is Gone” comes over the speaker. BB King sings a little bit before getting down to his core business, playing stirring minimalist guitar that takes you away over the clouds and somewhere both alien and familiar.

Meanwhile, there’s haze but no clouds in the sky as the surf appears to pick up and crash harder on the shore, throwing up spray. Behind it, deeper green lines betray the next wave still forming underwater, straining to surface and be capped with white foam as it crests.  

I sit back and stare at a panarama that alters but never changes. It’s all beyond peaceful. Like God sighed and decided to let the world just drift off a bit for a while, like a parent letting its child wander farther than usual. 

Good thing I’m 66 and not 26- because I’d close this place and worry about finding my way back later. But two hours or so is enough, as is the second Johnnie Walker.

I settle up and wander outside to see what else there is to see, walking a half mile or so down the path by the beach. Feeling the only thing missing from this day is good company, both in general, and specifically. But that’s not going to diminish a day that has flowed like a poem so far. 

Sometimes the world is just too beautiful to describe. 

Why I don’t give $ to beggars

The gentleman below is why I seldom give any money to beggars.


Despite being badly crippled in all his limbs, this man struggles on, creating art for sale. He not only paints with the brush clenched in his teeth, he takes your money in his teeth.

May God bless him. If He already has in some way, I certainly can’t see it.

The art I purchased from him.

Wine, music, The Blacklist …

A good day yesterday. Spent entire morning writing and sipping coffee on a plaza near my Riad.

Spent the early afternoon wandering around aimlessly, and wouldn’t ya know it, came across that nondescript wine store.

Back in the neighborhood (I think of it as my hood) I had a hammam treatment. Lovely.

Along the way, I came across the guy below, a sort of Moroccan Rat Packer busking near my Riad. Pretty good, but I didn’t wait around for “My Way.”

I wonder if he believes “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”?

Frank Sinatra, gone native

And in the evening, the wine, chicken “Chawarma,” as they call it, and …

God bless Netflix

By the way, what would you call this? A “burka” for wine bottles? Wine is somehow needing to be hidden away from sight like women’s faces, but I’ve been offered marijuana, hash and pot cookies half a dozen times in the past two days. (Couldn’t get a photo of that, of course).

The things an infidel has to go through just to enjoy some wine with dinner.