Sunny Spain! The Iberian peninsula! Bullfighting, seafood, long beautiful coasts and those things Spanish chicks click when they dance.
Having just returned from two weeks there with my family, I can assure you it was a completely awesome vacation because no one in the family killed anyone else in the family.
Sure, there were a lot of stab wounds, but they were non-lethal stab wounds. What’s a non-lethal stab wound among family anyway but a, “wound of love?”
On an unrelated note — if any of you are thinking of shoving four adults into a small, REMOTE, two-bedroom house without English-language television, a functional internet connection or other distractions of any kind, call me.
I may have some useful advice.
Our only collective distraction at the house was a deck of cards purchased by my stepdaughter at the airport. By the end of week two those cards were broken, beaten, stained, torn and falling apart — much like our ability to remain in such close quarters for another moment.
So, pretty standard family vacation I think. Starts off like a honeymoon, around the middle everyone is slightly annoyed by everyone else, and then, by its conclusion, you’re mentally flogging yourself for having gotten into this mess in the first place and everyone hates everyone else.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. Where’s the fun in that? Family drama, betrayal, a hot pool boy named Juan and tears? Oh no, I’m saving that shit for the book, you’re not getting that story free. I mean none of you even click the fucking ads here for Christ’s sake.
Nope, I want to talk about Tangierien rug merchants, because I sure as shit don’t want to discuss the weeping I did after my stepdaughter repeatedly crushed my soul during our 4,379th game of rummy.
Really, who beats someone at rummy 498 to -865, tell me that.
Tangier, if you’re somehow unaware, is a city in Morocco which is a country in Africa. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Africa, so when the chance arose to stop being beaten like a rented mule while playing rummy and to instead take a trip to Tangier came up, I took that shit.
We boarded the ferry to cross the Straits of Gibraltar just an hour south of our beautiful vacation home in Spain-turned prison. The ship’s bow cut through the water majestically, the sea breeze filled the air and the boat had a bar.
Beer in hand, I looked toward the approaching African shore with a tear in my eye (the sea breeze was salty).
I recalled Julius Caesar’s quote when he tripped disembarking his boat on the African coast. In an attempt to play off the misstep with his superstitious comrades, he cried out, “I embrace you Africa!”
If I tripped that was exactly as I was going to play it. I. EMBRACE. YOU. AFRICA!
But mostly I drank beer and thought, “Wow, I’m going to Africa.”
Before we had left, a friend of ours who lives in Spain had visited Tangier many times suggested we contact a tour guide she’d worked with by the name of Majidhumidikawordsgoheredaifia.
OK, the joke about his name is only “so” funny so I’ll drop it. His name was Majid, as in “Mah-jid”. He’s a tour guide in Tangier and through some miscommunication he thought we were arriving there at 8 a.m. when in fact we were arriving at 10 a.m.
After some initial difficulty we linked up and shit was wonderful!
Majid was great. He spoke perfect English, had a van ready and waiting with the A/C blasting and explained that normally Tangier serves beer, but because Morocco was a Muslim country and Ramadan was ongoing, the city was dry as a bone at the moment.
But still it was a great tour. My stepdaughter and her wife rode camels. Dagmar and I having once had the “pleasure” of an hour-long camel ride declined the privilege (both our asses still have bruises). There was a snake charmer with a no-shit cobra. We were also driven to all the places where scenes from the movie, “The Borne Identity” were filmed.
The fact that none of us had seen the movie deterred Majid not one bit.
“This is where they filmed the gun fight on the roofs,” he explained while we shrugged and promised to watch it the moment we could.
There were stops at several historical landmarks where Majid patiently described this or that historical event.
Here’s the marker where the ancient city of Carthage set up a trading post and there’s where the car bomb scene from the Borne Identity was filmed and here are Old Roman walls and there a new harbor is being dredged.
I hung on to every word. This was the best tour ever.
He even asked if we were hungry. Everyone was. There wasn’t much time, but we could have a little snack once we arrived in the old city.
That seemed perfect.
Then it happened.
I should’ve seen it coming. I should’ve known it was coming. The words, “I didn’t see it coming” should be tattooed on my forehead as a warning to others.
Walking through the old city, pestered constantly by merchants selling trinkets of dubious value, our foursome was led into an oasis by Majid.
It was, to borrow from Hemingway, a clean well-lighted place.
The ground floor was a beautiful mixture of amazing crap you can only find in a place like Tangier and crap that is sold to tourists around the world. Replicas of ancient muskets, jewelry of a hard-to-define style, swords that … look it had a lot of stuff. The owner of the shop, hell the whole building, took us to the roof and pointed out that from his rooftop you could see the a mosque, a synagogue and a Christian church.
Truly, Tangier is a place of religious harmony.
“Is anyone hungry, does anyone want some tea,” the owner asked. The girls did. Hell I did. I did want some tea! I was hungry.
We descended from the rooftop and the owner, after offering us some snacks and tea, kicked a fucking rug show off.
Bear with me a moment.
Dagmar and I had been through almost the exact same set up once before years ago and we didn’t see it coming this time. There’s a tour with the promise of refreshments followed by a high-pressure sales pitch. Last this had happened to us it was in Thailand and it was cheap gold. This time is was rugs. Woven, you can call them oriental if you like, rugs.
Here’s the problem no one involved anticipated. Dagmar and I have almost five years in Afghanistan and Iraq under our ammo belts. We have so many rugs I could have rivaled this guy with on-hand inventory alone. Literally, I have a stack of folded up of oriental rugs in my basement right now. That stack is about four-feet high.
I have honestly given rugs away to friends and others to family members.
Rug merchants in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t rely on high-pressure sales tactics. I think with the guns, bombs, abject poverty and death there just isn’t time. It’s more of a back and forth. I’ll give you X amount of dollars, you tell the merchant. He counters with Y and you settle on Z.
Voila, rug is purchased.
Not so in Tangier. It’s more of an hour-long class about how the rug is made. I think virgin-nomad women weave them out of dream fiber unicorns shit out during full moons or something. Admittedly, I wasn’t really paying attention. I considered paying a few thousand for two rugs just so we could get the fuck out of there, but then remembered that my fucking unused rug collection would be a few feet higher for my efforts.
Nothing I said made any headway with the rug merchant.
“We already have too many rugs of this nature,” I said.
“Yes, but they were not hand knitted with elf penis on the African plain south of here,” he countered.
“It’s the exact same rug! The color is different, the pattern is different but really it’s the exact same rug,” I said.
He literally tried to set his rug on fire with a lighter at one point to prove they were better rugs.
They might have been. I’ve never tried to set any of my rugs on fire, but maybe I should if only to reduce my inventory.
I’ve never, yet, been to one of those high-pressure timeshare sales pitches. I figure this was like that though, only you don’t really know it’s coming till it smacks you in the face.
After a painfully, painfully, painfully (I’m going to say it again), painfully long time we were able to leave the rug shop.
Majid continued his tour. Oddly, he seemed agitated, though. I couldn’t figure out why. I chalked it up to his not being able to drink water or eat because of Ramadan.
“Poor dude,” I thought. Early afternoon must be the hardest part. I’d be grumpy too.
The girls went into another shop he took us too and I stayed outside with him.
“What’s taking them so long,” he griped.
“I don’t know, lemme go police them up. Chicks and shopping Majid you know,” I replied wishing I could sooth his Ramadan hunger/thirst.
“You know those were actual knots tied by Berbers,” he said to me outside another shop.
“Yea, well my rug’s knots were tied by Bedouin nomads … dude I think all this shit is just made in China,” I said.
He just sighed.
Slowly we made our way back the boat.
On our way back to the boat someone put a monkey on my daughter-in-law’s shoulder without Majid’s permission and he lost his shit at the guy. My daughter-in-law seemed to enjoy it, her wife seemed to enjoy it and hell I thought it was awesome, but Majid was not fucking amused one bit. Some very frank, native language was exchanged, the monkey was extracted and we were through customs a moment later and on the ferry.
The Ferry slowly filled with passengers and we took a seat near the bar. The engine started and we slowly pushed away from the dock. I ordered beers and relaxed.
Wow, what a day. Majid was super awesome. Well he was super awesome for the first part of the day at least. After that he became cranky. Who can blame him though. Ramadan must have that effect on almost everyone. Up until the rug shop that guy was cool as …
Up until the rug shop …
Holy shit, the rug shop!
I got the attention of all three girls, most of whom were trying to sleep. I put on my serious face and asked in my most serious of voices, “Hey do you all think Majid was in on the rug shop sales pitch?”
I think it was Dagmar who, after a long, awkward silence, said, “You finally figured that out, Einstein?”