Anywhere but Here: Jerez to Tangier

I had a plan for this blog, and that plan was simply to have more visits each month than the previous month. In this way I would build my empire. Last month, for example, I had 245 visits, one of my worst months ever. But I reasoned if I could just increase that each month then eventually I’d be on the path to stardom and literati genius and fame and fortune and stacks of books published and book signings and groupies and everything that comes with literary acclaim.

But four days have passed already in December, and I have 16 views.

Which means I have to pivot a bit.

Which means THIS MONTH will set the new standard, and every subsequent month must have more views (or as I realized this morning lying in bed, I might just trash this blog entirely; I think it would be liberating). The thing is I quit social media recently, the main place where I promoted this blog, and this time it’s for real. This time I actually went through the rigamarole of asking Facebook to delete my account, which is different from deactivating it. When you deactivate it anytime you sign in again it reactivates it, and you’re back to square 0. But when you delete it you delete completely. You lose all your photos, all your friends, and all your memories. Your life begins to suffer. You become depressed. You realize the only friends you had were online acquaintances that you’d barely seen in real life. And despair ensues.

Actually quite the opposite happens. I no longer have Instagram or Twitter or Tinder or Facebook or any of that crap, and my life is immeasurably better. I meet people in real life, now! Or I lie alone in a random corner of the world thinking about how lonely I am.

But back to my trip that doesn’t really have a destination even though I’ve been telling people the destination is ostensibly Senegal, but will I really have enough money to make it to Senegal? And if I get there, what am I going to do? I won’t be happy there because I’m never happy anywhere.  “Man, things would be better if I was just in Tokyo right now. Or Hyderabad. Or Sri Lanka. Or Indonesia. Or La Paz (Mexico). Or La Paz (Bolivia). Or Brazil. Or Svalbard. Or Franz Josef Land. Or Moscow. Or Minsk. Or Pzremsyl. Or Warsaw. Or Lviv. Or Bergen. Or Stockholm. Or the southwest of France. Or Italy. Or Egypt. Or the Greek islands. Or Turkey. Or Georgia,” I think.

After Jerez I went to a town called Vejer de la Frontera, where I stayed in a gorgeous hotel room overlooking the countryside surrounding Vejer. Vejer is on a hill, so you can see Africa from the south side of the town. It’s always novel to sit down on a bench and look out and see a different continent. It doesn’t really happen that much. I once saw South America from a boat, but that was different. That was actually better. But this experience seeing Africa from a small town in Spain was also significant. I felt like Santiago in The Alchemist, on my way to Tarifa where I’d fall in love with the daughter of a wool merchant, but then have to leave her to pursue my destiny just across the water in Tangier.

When I got to Tarifa, though, there were no wool merchants. There was, however, a man selling boat passages, and 41 euros later I had a ticket to Tangier. While boarding said ferry I helped a woman who had two suitcases and about 50 shopping bags who somehow thought this was a reasonable about of baggage for one person try to transport. She kept saying “Thank you” in English and I kept talking to her in Spanish because we were on Spanish soil. But then we got to Tangier, after crossing the blue waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, and I helped her again and we started speaking in French and she said said, “Welcome to Morocco.”

On the ferry there was a horde of Asian people who seemed to disappear as soon as we got to Tangier. I have no idea where they went. Maybe they all dove into the water and had a picnic on the seafloor. I started walking toward the Medina, where I was immediately hassled but a guy who was saying to me, “Relax. Welcome. Have good time.” And then, “Where your hotel? I have hotel for you? Relax. Welcome. Have good time?”

God, I would love to punch this guy I the face, I thought. But I don’t really know how to punch. And either way the moral fiber oozing out of me prevents it.

In my hostel there was a guy from Venezuela named Armando who had on a leather jacket and had done sound design in New York for eight years. There was also a Finnish kid named Ossi who was much younger and who later in the night would tell us about some pretty severe head trauma he’d once suffered and how awesome the healthcare is in Finland. The two of them had been hanging out in the hostel the last few days getting high (in the case of Armando), and walking around. I asked them what they’d seen and they didn’t have much of an answer. I asked them what they’d done the night before and they said, “Hung out at the hostel and got pizza delivered.”

These were my kind of travelers.

In the evening we well went out for a walk together and after not being able to find cheap tagine, a typical Moroccan dish, we settled on a place with only locals selling sandwiches and small slices of pizza. The pizza was delicious and cost 50 cents a slice. We immediately began discussing how many pieces of pizza it would be possible to eat, since they were thin-crusted and delectable, and Armando said 10 would be absolutely no problem. I countered that 15 might pose a bit of a problem, and 20 seemed unreasonable. As I sat there I demolished a kilo of tangerines I had just bought, also for 50 cents but outside in the street, for dessert. Ossi didn’t say much. He was a quiet Finn. Finns are usually quiet. I haven’t met too many boisterous Finns in my life, except for possibly a guy named Sammi I worked with who used to yell the word “wheelbarrow” at me.

And thus concluded the first night in Morocco. Now I’m on a train to a town called Meknes, further south. I once again have a private room, but this time it’s at least partly because there are no hostels in the town. And then after Meknes I will probably continue south to Marrekesh, and by Marrakesh I of course mean: Tokyo, or Greenland, or Sri Lanka, or Reykjavik, or Madrid, or Barcelona, or Senegal, or Johannesburg, or Port Townsend, or anywhere but here.