For the avid pot smoker, planning a vacation always comes with the caveat of finding a place where trees will be plentiful and the laws regarding them lenient enough that you can avoid the hellish prospect of a Third World prison. By and large, I’ve found most European countries have a pretty lax attitude toward drugs, so when my brother and I planned a two-week trip to the south of Spain, we expected some level of ease when it came to getting weed.
Find hash we did, but not before I was struck square in the back with an orange, pitched by a local of the Malaga ghetto we had entered to buy this sticky garbage. After the attack I quickly swung around a corner, turning to see a second citrus projectile whiz past where my head had been moments earlier, striking a cinderblock wall with a juicy smack. We hightailed it out of there, vowing never to return, and smoked all the fruits of our labor within a couple of hours.
Bummed on the weed-getting situation in Malaga, we placed much hope in the leg of our trip that took us over the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, a nation famed for its couscous. As soon as we got off the boat in Tangier, a negative vibe struck my brother, whom I call Bhai. “Look at all these shady fuckers,” he said. As I peered around at the dozens of shifty-eyed Arab men planted among the cartoonishly rustic alley-scape, Bhai declared, “If there are brown people who are this shady, I’m glad they search all of us at the airport.” Just then, an old hustler accosted us. His English was scary good, and with a slight and inexplicable Brooklyn accent, he asked us for a tip. I politely declined, as he hadn’t provided us with a service of any sort, and we kept walking. That’s when he ran back into our path, pointed at me, and in a full Tony Soprano voice, growled, “Try to fuck this place, and it’ll come right back and fuck you!”
Slightly shaken, we pressed on toward the Tangier bus terminal. Following the advice of a guidebook, whose author I should sue, we aimed to reach Tetouan, a smaller city about an hour from Tangier where the hash was said to be particularly good. We figured that, as brown guys, we’d just nonchalantly sashay through the country and walk right up to the goods. After we’d found what may or may not have been the right bus in a zoo of 1970s-era public transit vehicles in a dirt lot, we rustled our backpacks into a seat and tried to get our bearings. I looked across the aisle at a kid about my age with exactly my skin color. Like me, he was wearing sneakers, jeans, a t-shirt, hoodie, and a baseball hat. Given the description, a police sketch artist would have drawn us exactly the same, and yet sitting on this bus next to him, it was so goddamn obvious that I was an outsider.
If there’s one thing regular brown people hate, it’s Americanized brown people. No matter how hard I try, the traits that flag me as a non-native are plain as day to brown people in their natural habitat. Whether it was accent, attitude, or the appearance of receiving basic nutrition for most of our lives, Bhai and I were conspicuous enough on this bus to get pulled off at a random stop. As we exited the bus, taking care to avoid the goat and chicken sinning against nature right in the middle of the lot, two middle-aged men asked us where we were headed. They told us there was another bus coming for our destination and led us to a tea shop down the street from the station where we would wait. By this point, Bhai and I were pretty sure we were fucked. In the chaos of the bus situation, it was hard to discern who or which buses were official, and what we assumed was a routine transfer was quickly turning into a terrifying ordeal.
At the tea shop, the men led us to a table on the balcony and showed us a breathtaking panorama of urban sprawl that made Rio’s favelas look like Shanghai circa 3014. With this ramshackle backdrop, our host welcomed us to Morocco. He ordered some tea, broke out a game of Parcheesi, and asked if we smoked hash. We responded timidly, but it was enough to get him to twist a huge spliff, fire it up, and pass it to us. As we nervously puffed on the J, I started to notice the grizzled features of these dudes. One or both of them had definitely been stabbed in the face at some point, and it looked like Dr. Nick Riviera had done the stitching work. The second man, a quieter fellow, opened his mouth only to say, “We have entertained many, many tourists,” in a thick and sinister accent that trailed off into a rumble as his eyes shifted into a memorial gaze. I watched him, imagining the bloody horrors he was reliving at that moment. As they eagerly badgered us, we maintained conversation with serious trepidation, not wanting to say too much or too little. We noticed that more and more men were joining our Parcheesi game, pulling chairs from nearby tables to sit at ours. Our host continued rolling increasingly large joints that would make their way around the table, feeding more mouths with every rotation.
After about 30 minutes everyone was lit as hell and the shady characters had been so conversational that for a fleeting moment I half expected a shiny new Greyhound bus to appear with “Tetouan” in the window. Instead, reality happened and our host suddenly turned grave. “I want to ask you to take some of our wonderful hash back to Spain with you.” I showed some resistance, so he suggested I just swallow a couple of little balls of the stuff and poop them out once I got back to civilization. When I flat out declined, he became angry. The chatter at our table dropped to silence. Bhai and I looked around at more than a dozen men, their faces showing the ravages of gritty, unfair lives. They looked hungry and poised. Our host asked for all the money we had and I reached for my pocket. How much did I have, like 100 euros? Two hundred? No amount was worth whatever would have happened if we got stingy.
The next move in this T. Kid fam versus Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves bout was made by Bhai, and was unexpected and completely out of character for him. Between the two of us, I’ve always been the volatile counterweight to his calm and collected demeanor. He steers clear of rash decisions and confrontation, so it was as much a shock to me as it was to the tea shop gang when he stood up and said, “This is bullshit. We’re not giving you any money. Fuck you!” He grabbed his backpack, told me we were leaving, and started out of the place. The gang shifted their attention completely away from my brother and focused their dead eyes on me and my jaw-on-the-table response to my brother’s sudden gusto. There were some lunging motions as I tried to leave the table, but I made my escape by tossing a handful of bills onto the table and bolting as they scrounged for it in a mangled, depraved rat king.
Bhai and I ran back to the bus station, found the most legit-looking kiosk we could, and bought our tickets to Tangier. The place looked pretty official, so we hurried into the empty lobby to wait for our bus. We only had ten minutes to kill, but that was enough time for another chucklehead to come in for a final hit. Flying past the security desk and slipping into the seat right next to us, the emaciated Moroccan with sunken eye sockets barked, “Kiv mee mah-neeeee.” Feeling a little amped by my brother’s recent demonstration of cojones, I said, “You fuckers already took it all.” To this, our new robber leaned in and said, “I’ll break your eyes, man.” Bhai and I both paused for a second and exchanged a glance, wondering if he actually just said what we thought he did. I raised my eyebrows and handed him a five-euro bill. He gawked at it like Gollum, snatched it, and scurried out of the place. I gotta say, he earned it by saying the craziest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
Bhai and I moseyed over to the ticket desk and informed the clean-looking representative that we’d just been robbed in his waiting room. He looked upset, but not for the same reasons we were. “You Americans always come here, have a bad experience, and go home and tell people that this place is no good.” I had to think about it for a moment before deciding he was right. I would hold this experience against all things Moroccan for the rest of my life.
As soon as we got back to Tangier we booked a room at the cleanest-looking hotel we could find. Here, a friendly bellboy recommended a dinner spot, got us some hash for the evening, and agreed to give us a tour of the notable sites of his city the next day. That night, we got to smoke Moroccan hash without the fear of having our organs harvested, and allowed the deep, mellow high to wipe away the anxiety we’d accumulated during the day.
The next morning, the bellboy gave us a grand tour of some poorly maintained historical landmarks, alleys caked in goat feces, and a slime-ridden market where pocket items were forever fleeting possessions. As we neared the end of the tour, Bhai and I agreed to tip this guy heavily for being the only decent human being we’d come across on our excursion. Moments later he tried to hustle us by claiming the quoted price was actually hourly and not a flat rate. My brother handed him the cash and said, “Now you don’t get a tip.”
Previously - Visiting the Motherland