The traveler's consciousness of "just passing through" affects behavior. On the road, in a floating world, one's perspective is different from at home. These are the earliest two of a series of portraits of people met while traveling.
Alessandro said, “I think that the only way to overcome the temptation is to succumb to it. Besides, to feel pleasure and pain, one learns so much more.”
His young friend Hector had just returned from Nepal. “I turned the prayer wheels a little, but I had not the right spirit. I was always waiting to see what I’d win.”
“You know, I go to The Tavern,” says Sandro, “and every American I meet, no, I don’t meet him, I sit near to him, and after he gets a little drunk, he says to me, ‘I don’t really dig this place because it’s just like home.’ ‘I don’t like American freaks,’ he says, ‘because I know them so well.’ ‘All the people here,’ he says, ‘they have brought their American hang-ups with them.’ Then ten minutes later, someone else, he says the same words to me, I mean the same words, four, five times in the evening, and yet I see them all there, all together still.
Americans, they are always laughing, always sticking their elbows at each other, making those double-entendre, what?, smart remarks. They always talk about the future, they will go away, go home, should I go home, they even ask this of others . . .”
We had gone to Sandro’s place yesterday to take a shower and smoke a little Afghan hash. He tells us he has published two novels and a volume of short stories in Argentina and won some national prize only to refuse it.
“You know, I just write them a very short, simple note, like a child, I say I will not take the prize because I do not like you. And I enjoy it very much from here, I get the Argentine newspapers and I see the big fuss and what can they say? They cannot say young Argentine writer refuses prize, he says he does not like us. It is the government gives the prize, you know.
This novel I work on now, it is near to the truth, I think, but I hope mainly that I can take a trip to India with Hector maybe. [His manifest destiny, Patricia called it.] I know what I want, it will come. This happens to me always: I find friends, good situations, drugs, I am satisfied intellectually, physically, sexually, emotionally, and it happens in very funny ways sometimes.
For instance, I once see this picture of a girl, she is with Pablo, Hector’s brother, in India and I think, I could get along very well with this girl and six months later I marry her, Pablo marry at the same time her girlfriend.”
The next day he was full of notions about the conjunction of people and places. “How do you find it here? These rocks, they seek people out. We find them, they find us. I’ve met very fine people among in these rocks. And we shall meet again, too – you know – the similar-minded – we shall find ourselves always at the same places.” We never saw him again.
A cute trickster always doing business at the youth hostel, Najibe described himself as “first hippy of Morocco.” When we first met him in Mufis’ hole-in-the-wall café, he claimed to be a student at an American school and hastened to exhibit a card and a song sheet from some program there as evidence. Najibe would go on about his rich wife in Paris: “She have three hotels, no less than $20 a day, any room. When she die and say I am her man you can come, eat, drink, have room in hotel free. I come back to Morocco, build seventeen story hotel, buy good shop in the old town.” He often repeated, in a slightly melancholy tone “Is first two in Morocco smoke too much, is Pa’ahssysy and Najibe.” When another foreign visitor responded to Najibe’s fantasies of world travel by asking if he hitchhiked on the road, he answered with a contemptuous wave, “Me – avion, very time.” When we showed him a photograph of ourselves, he palmed it and wouldn’t return it (aware, I suppose, of the pleasures of recollection, as I am now, thinking of him). Najibe fabricated endless lies sitting in the cafes talking of his friends James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, talking, too, of depression “I think of life, I think of no life,” talking of homosexuality “all of Morocco, it is homoseckual 100% because it needs much money to pay for wife for marriage, the marriage it is not for me, because I am marry with the homosexual.”
William Seaton, Fes, 1971