I watch the sun rise over Budapest while soaking in a hot spring. Crumpled against the old fountain blasting my tired shoulders with a vigorous massage, I’m forcing stillness. The steam rising between fresh snow and the calming property of water can’t seem to bring me to the state of tranquility the other bathers are enjoying. Tired of breaking the silence by hopping between pools, I gather my restlessness and go to the airport early.
The Marrakech airport is beautiful. And stepping outside, Morocco is more familiar than my predisposition. I’m surprised by the organization, the smoothness of getting through. I’m thankful for weak touts from taxi drivers. I finish the last pages of a novel on the dusty curb of the bus stop between manicured palm trees and finally enjoy the sense of tranquility absent from this morning.
The bus driver looks up into his rearview mirror. He nods at me signaling that this is my stop. Showing the address to women talking in doorways, I get a few head shakes. Finally a little boy, probably eight years old, overhears me. He shouts, “I know!”
Mental note to self. No one is more familiar with a place than the kid who spends all day playing in the streets.
Medhi opens the door, skateboard under his arm, and asks if I want to come along. So I drop my things, and we head to the skate park to meet up with his friends. They are a stylish crew that rolls in right in time for sunset after a day of studying or working to perfect new tricks and film each other fall. To call the skate park a skate park is doing this place a big justice. It’s more of pavilion shaped like a concrete roller skating rink. At the center, a small wooden sheet is propped up by three absurdly small stones. There’s a plain, brown, and wobbly chair probably hauled out from a garbage bin and a ladder laying on the ground. Sometimes they bring out a motorbike and try to jump over it too. Nothing fancy. Just working with what’s available.
I’m doing their handshake with everyone. Excited, they tell me how much they respect the D. They talk about Detroit rappers and other motivators that made the long crawl up. Many of my new friends have adopted the accent of Eric Thomas, because they learned English from him. Medhi says Detroit is the first place he would go in the US if he were ever so lucky. Number two would be Brooklyn. They want me to tell them things. But to be honest, I am inadequate against their surprising wealth of knowledge. Regardless of fabrications or misconceptions, the grind toward the dream is real. Detroit Hustles Harder may be a working class slogan from home, but that doesn’t mean the idea is unique. Wiping the floor with champions of the status quo is apparently as ubiquitous everywhere as skate punks.
Through 8 pm traffic, we are whizzing between cars, and busses, and horse drawn carts on the wide boulevards. Them: confidently tearing up tarmac through the darkness. Me: holding on to dear life.
The next spot is hidden behind a fancy hotel. Some break dancers show up, and more handshakes are exchanged. Unafraid of being evacuated from the premises, the trap remixes are played loudly. They nickname me Eds (lentils). I can’t pronounce it correctly, but I can assure that it’s the funniest word in the Marrakech dialect of Moroccan Arabic.
Akram rolls up to me at full speed. Kicking his board up at the last second, he turns to make sure I get it right. My first night here would not be a lackluster romanticization of what’s between the walls of the old medina (city). Akram pushes his plastic glasses closer towards his afro.
Grinning he yells in my face, “THIS is Morocco! We skate! They dance!”