Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Death in the Afternoon

The fish I’ll be eating tonight, as prepared at my hotel, the Riad Del Skalli in the Fès medina. I can’t yet tell you details about the fish, but the food in Morocco has been superb, even within the narrow range of a cautious eater like me. Orange marmalade, for instance. Doesn’t it tend toward vague fruity sludge at home? Here it’s positively explosive in its freshness. Same with orange juice, jam, grilled sausage from the street vendor, and my new best friend, mint tea.

My nap just ended. Because my limit is one nap per day, it takes some waking up from. This afternoon’s happened to correspond to the adhan, or call to prayer, which from the rooftop terrace I hear from more than one minaret. I know as little about the adhan as about tonight’s fish, but it’s clearly en exhortation—varied in pitch, volume, tone, the character of the muezzin’s voice itself, and the dated technology used to amplify it—that hums over the city like poetry five times a day.

Ernest Hemingway’s 1939 treatise on bullfighting. I picked it up from a bookseller in the medina while lost upon arrival the other day. I hoped in return he’d offer directions toward my riad, which he did. More than serving an immediate purpose, finding that book felt, even in the heat of the moment, like a spark from interest to opportunity. I’d been thinking about the bullfight since Sevilla where, as Hemingway points out, the bullfight season begins in April, around the time I’ll be passing through.

Something else from 1939. “Salvador Dali found a violent new expression for his subconscious last night by heaving a surrealist bathtub, plus himself, through [a Fifth Avenue show window] and getting himself arrested. . . . Dali had decorated two show windows with tableaux of “Day” and “Night” in accordance with his rather peculiar conception of such phenomena, and when he returned to admire his handiwork he discovered the tableaux had been altered in accordance with the staff window dressers’ notions.” International New York Times, March 18.

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