Posts Tagged ‘Qatar’

PutinOne might imagine a scene on the floor of the United Nations where diplomats representing combatants of either side of the Russo-Yank rivalry have their words interpreted for the French Delegation who hear the tits for tats of “Ta Gueule!” responded with a “Casse-toi!” before being trumped with “Nique ta mere!” Putting all of the buggering of mother suggestions aside, the gloves have come off between rival empires in the wake of the FIFA corruption investigation.

It all began when the United States decided to uncover how the hell Qatar, a fossil-fuel enriched sandbox existing along the Persian Gulf as a mole in the back of Saudi Arabia, was granted the rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar is such a literal hell-scape, the preparations for the World Cup games have claimed the lives of thousands of migrant workers (aka Nepalese slave labor) from the brutal desert conditions with thousands of more to come leading up to 2022. How did Qatar, a non-entity in the soccer world until it began buying English Premier teams, win the right to host the games? This was the question America’s Federal Bureau of bullshit sought to answer. What the FBI learned was that FIFA, the soccer plutocracy, is as shifty as a Chicago Alderman learning to drive. What the FBI also learned is FIFA had soiled bedmates with similar corrupt blood running through their villainous veins: mainly Russian Oligarchs and the Qatari Royals, each of whom bribed their way to claiming their rights to host the games. As the investigation proceeds, all is primordial dew-level CHAOS in soccer (aka “football” outside North America) as the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup are suddenly in question, which means billions of dollars could slip through the fingers of the respective host nations, Russia and Qatar.

Sepp Blatter, "that's the ticket!"

Sepp Blatter, “that’s the ticket!”

Russia, to say the least, is pissed. You can imagine Vlad Putin recalling the zillions of rubles he shoved up FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s ass and shrugging to the international press, “Hey Brah, what happens in Zurich stays in Zurich.” Bribery in soccer, after all, is as natural as a bonobo monkey masturbating seven times a day. WTF FBI? Step off my dick! Vlad Putin has gone on the passive-aggressive offensive and activated his crony, Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia’s own investigative bureau, who is teasing the possibility of launching an investigation into American claims of landing on the moon sometime 45 years ago. Tits for Tats: America questions Russia’s scruples in sports bribery and now Russia is asking America for moon receipts in a lunar audit.

In boxing, we would call this a shot below the belt. I mean, you’re punching at something sacred.

Regardless of America’s current position in the World’s Psyche as “Earth Police” and playing “The Game of Drones”, the United States of America does hold historic relevance as the only society in recorded* history to ever put a boot-print on the moon.

NOTE: history is as legit as its records and it is very possible there have been prior Earth-based peoples who have visited the moon and that this information has been buried, either literally or figuratively.

For Russia to challenge the lunar landings now is suspect, given the Soviets didn’t push the “Moon Landing was a Hoax” theory during the Cold War when such propaganda was worth the weight of a dozen Caucasus wet nurses. Why now? Internet. Russia feels scorned and on the internet there exists a plethora, nay! a fucking avalanche of bullshit about everything. Especially Moon Landing Hoaxes.

We are not contending that [the United States] did not fly [to the moon], and simply made a film about it. But all of these scientific — or perhaps cultural — artifacts are part of the legacy of humanity, and their disappearance without a trace is our common loss. An investigation will reveal what happened. – Vladimir Markin

Vlad Markin’s investigative teaser isn’t necessarily going to challenge history insomuch as ask “where are all the fucking moon rocks?” Good question. NASA? Where are all the moon rocks? Stolen by disenfranchised janitors who made a profit over the internet? Yeah, maybe.

Location of the moon rocks may be the second curiosity voiced by the public in this latest slate of questioning. With the conspiracy status set to red, the world will take a second glance at the possibility the United States did hoax the whole “Giant step for mankind.” As a conspiracy theorist (aka conspiracist as I am being told to call myself by the web-savvy public), I have conducted my own floccinaucinihilipilification by meandering through yesterday’s rejectamenta of alternate hypotheses. I have found a few things worthy of note…

In the Hoax discussion, the first question is what would be the point in NASA/America faking the moon landings? First – as propaganda against the Soviets during the Cold War. Second – NASA wanted to justify its own existence. Third – JFK guaranteed it would happen within the decade.

Okay, fine.

But why would anyone doubt American claims, generally? Foremost – no one else has managed to do it, including the United States, in decades. Putting people on rockets is a bad idea, just look at Apollo 1, Challenger or Columbia missions. China and Europe have space programs, but all they have gotten on our sacred satellite is robots.

My conclusion as a skeptic of historic record is still in process; however I am leaning towards “nailed it!” I believe the risk/reward for getting humans on the moon is so great it has not been worth our continued efforts to go all the damn way to the moon to observe what happens when you drop a feather and hammer at the same time. So yes, I believe Armstrong walked on the moon. We can see from Earth erect flags and astronaut tracks, basically enough evidence to suggest contact.

However, I also believe the filming of the moon landings was faked. This is an entirely different conversation, however, and one I do acknowledge I now owe the public. In due time, I will elaborate.

IN SUMMATION

It is clear Russia is on a public relations tear and it will be interesting to see what they come up with next. If their goal is to make their FIFA scandal seem commonplace, who knows what sort of KGB archives they might open up to discredit the West or what sort of secrets they might coerce out of Ed Snowden? It could be an entertaining summer.

Be on the watch… If the FBI does not strong-arm FIFA into naming a 2018 replacement as host of the World Cup, then we can rest assured that Russia does have a secret they are blackmailing Washington on. One could only imagine what that might be!!! JFK assassination details, 9/11 intelligence, UFO technology, the retirement home of Elvis?

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Yeah the Russians are here. I mean, they’re everywhere, but especially in Nashville.

– Layla Santana Crow

NASHVILLE, Tenn

Paranoia is a cottage industry in Tennessee where there exists a strange stew of Revelators, Second-Comers, Doomsday-preppers, bootleggers and coonskin-capped militiamen cooked together by the overhead high-voltage power lines running roughshod through the hinterlands. None of the above characters, however, have cornered the Russophobic market in these foothills like Texan native, Layla Santana Crow. In short time, Layla has become an urban myth in Nashville; spoken of, yet rarely seen and when seen, the witness is left dumbstruck enough to be certified as a hysteric. The going wisdom is to not seek out Layla Santana Crow because, sooner or later, she will find you.

I flew into Nashville beside a rhinestone and sequin-bedazzled woman who smelled like a duty-free store (a mélange of perfume samples with a splash of spilt single-malt) who had heard of Layla Santana Crow. Legend had it, or so conveyed my partner-in-transit, Layla had two wolves smuggled from Siberia who could smell Russians from a mile away.

If you ask the pit-boss behind the counter at the airport pork-rib depot, he will tell you that seeking out Layla Santana Crow is akin to dressing up a possum for Sunday service, which meant, amongst other things, updating my last will and testament and grabbing a shovel to bury good intentions.

If you weave your way through the Papists and Baptists of Sunday morning (do avoid the dressed-up possums) while inquiring laypersons of the aforementioned Layla, more than one will ask if your head had been touched without specifying by whom. “Touched by God, son.” One wizened miser clarified while a spinster spoke in condescendingly sympathetic tones, “Bless your heart.” They once knew of a fella like me, more or less bearded, who went looking for “Leah Crow” and when he laid eyes on her he burst into flames. Spontaneous combustion: one moment pyrophoric hipster, the next – poof – ashes. Dust to dust, etcetera.

And yet, into the foothills of Tennessee I sought her, this Layla Santana Crow…

Layla Santana Crow confronts Vic, "were you followed?"

Layla Santana Crow confronts Vic, “were you followed?”

Assuming the identity of my alias, Bucky Swoon, Esq., I tracked down Layla Santana Crow’s whereabouts to a jazz club this side of Ghost Creek where she was holding court amongst the homegrown moonshiners and imported bourgeois from the Atlantic seaboard. The Ghost Creek Jazz Club was a cigar bar which practiced ventilation via osmosis (absorption through the cement walls) and it wasn’t until I kneeled somewhere between sax and trombone before I had any visibility beyond four inches. Scanning the knee-scape, I found a high-density of sophisticated man-slacks near the bar and rightly assumed it to be the compilation of Layla Santana Crow admirers. Betwixt the sophisticated slacks, I deduced, sat the spy-huntress, herself. Her entourage of admirers, asthmatic and arrhythmic (bouncing in-and-out-of-sync to the jazz), was easily dispersed when I began accidentally lighting their silken neckties afire instead of my own cigar. While the fog refused to clear and her face wasn’t quite visible as I neared, the sheer radiance of Layla Santana Crow created a halo in the suspended cigar smoke, providing her more of a celestial quality than even I was accustomed to.

“Hey Vic.” She spoke non-committal, stoic-even, seeing through the smoke and past the Bucky alias in spite of the mustache I had groomed for the occasion. “Were you followed?”

Russian Spies in America

The trial of Igor Sporyshev, the Russian banker in New York who was attempting to funnel financial information back to the Kremlin, reminded Layla Santana Crow of the unearthed spies of her youth. Specifically, Layla was reminded of Anna Chapman, circa 2010 (aye, Layla is a bit younger than us Cold War kids), the sexy spy who had infiltrated New York high society prior to being outted and who has become a celebrity in Moscow after the United States performed a spy-swap with Putin.

Anna Chapman and Igor Sporyshev: Neo-Cold War Russian Spies

Anna Chapman and Igor Sporyshev: Neo-Cold War Russian Spies

“Anna Chapman is an example of how the Kremlin is attempting to spy on America – by infiltrating our social crème de la crème. Yeah, so this guy Igor, the banker, was a fat a-hole, but he was still trying to get American coeds to act as spies for Russia.” Layla Santana Crow explained. “Russia is going straight to the well for their intelligence: they are spying on the housewives of Washington and New York. I bet they have analysts in Havana watching North American television for TMZ and every reality show just for the gossip.”

Indeed, contemporary Russian spies might have a different modus operandi than former generations, but do not doubt their malice for a modicum of a second as their Grand Master is still Vlad “the Paler” Putin, formerly of the KGB. Today’s Russian spies might be educated on episodes of Saved By The Bell, but they are raised on deception and sabotage from the first day they suckle upon the vodka-infused milk of the teat of Mother Russia. It may be a mafia state which governs the Russian people, but its spies are nostalgic for the old Soviet Empire and eager to fulfill a vendetta against the West, regardless of the different ideologies at play during the chilling 20th Century schism. Whether you believe the Cold War was Democracy vs. Totalitarianism or Capitalism vs. Communism or the Establishment vs. Populism, you could boil the fat out of the whole brouhaha into being nothing more than an imperial gun show. 2015 or 1965, it makes no difference.

Russian Spies in Tennessee?

Russians love Country Music and they see Nashville as the gateway to the soul of America. There is nothing more American than a sorrow-drunken cowboy dancing in his boots and there is nothing more Russian than a bare-chested Premier riding a bear as he invades the Ukraine. The second-most Russian thing, however, is a sorrow-drunken Cossack dancing in his boots.

Cossacks are just Cowboys born of another  mother

Cossacks are just Cowboys born of another mother

“For Russian spies whose first language is not English…” Layla Santana Crow told me over lunch at a fashionable East Nashville burger bar. “They can hide their Caucus accent if they enunciate with a southern drawl. It is a lot easier for a spy to acclimate into the Country Western scene, than say, Hip-Hop or Hipster, because the twang accent is easy to emulate and the music lyrics describe exactly how a countryperson must live: a steady dose of religion, alcohol, good times and sorrow.”

“Country music lacks the ambiguity of alternative hipster shit.” Cyrus Lee Hancock, Layla’s head of security, chimed in. “Whether it is a song about drinking liquor before beer or a song about falling in love at night school while pursuing your GED, country music gets to the point. If a Russian spy has to lie about where he was on the night of August 5th at approximately 2200 hours, he can just quote his favorite country song, ‘I was shooting Fireball while lying in the bed of my pickup truck, looking at a picture of Rhonda Sue who was known as being good for uhhh luck.”

“In short, Russians are already half-hillbilly and it is easy enough to fake the rest.” Layla concluded.

Spy-Hunting in Nashville

Layla Santana Crow was neither raised by wolves nor does she own any. Instead, she has a pair of German Shepherds (one is named after a Top-Gun character, another after a salad) who, allegedly, can smell borscht at a hundred yards. It helps her sleep at night.

“Potential Ruby at twelve o’clock with the shaven head and bear-tooth necklace.” Layla spoke between bites of gluten-free biomass as we lunched at the recycled pharmacy on the eastside. “His front teeth are fake, which is common among Rubies who spend their youth getting head-butted and/or falling on their face after draining too many vodka bottles.”

“Or he’s just a dirty hipster with a smack problem.” Security Chief Cyrus Lee pitched-in. “Heroin isn’t good for the chompers.”

“What about the goon sisters over there?” I mentioned with a head nod. “These guys are a pair of ‘Rubies’ if I have ever seen one.”

“Doom and gloom.” Layla Santana Crow named the untoward thugs. “And they’ve pancake batter on their faces to disguise the burst blood vessels in their noses. Another sign of a Ruby. Vic, take a picture of us and be sure to frame the image with the goon sisters in the background so I can add to the database.”

Cyrus Lee and Layla in the foreground with the Goon Sisters in the background

Cyrus Lee and Layla in the foreground with the Goon Sisters in the background

One of the surefire ways to out a Ruby (Layla’s codeword for “Russian Spy”) is to approach one on the sly and engage them with a joke in Russian. Neither Layla nor her head of security speak Russian, but they can sound out the words. For example, Cyrus Lee Hancock will follow a potential Ruby into the bathroom and while poised before the latrines quip, g’p-ka nush-nee which often gets a chuckle out of anyone who understands Russian and who agrees it smells like horse stables are near. At high society events, Layla, dressed to the nines without doubt, will approach a Ruby at the bar and order a double-vodka tonic. She isn’t the greatest fan of vodka, but the order alone will perk up the ears of any Russian. Layla will then take a sip and mention how it tastes like home, but instead of speaking English, she’ll mumble f’vus ga doma. When the Ruby’s eyes light up, the trap is snared.

“Vic, discreetly take a picture of our beers and be sure to focus on the tracksuit.” Layla said. “Only a Ruby would wear a tracksuit that expensive and have such a horrid taste in foot attire.”

The Speakeasy

We parked somewhere downtown, or so I judged by the street traffic I heard. It wasn’t until Layla whispered the password du jour to the doorman and we were safely in the basement (or the attic, I was a bit dizzy) before Cyrus Lee Hancock removed the blindfold from my gourde, granting me sight. We were in a speakeasy. Despite the hordes of desperate dipsomaniacs begging for a seat, there was a table already reserved for Layla and her plus 2. There was nothing on the menu necessarily verboten and we weren’t here for the $12 Dark & Stormy. This speakeasy was a hub of clandestine activity: political hitmen extracted bribes beneath table tops, a Rosicrucian proselytized a defrocked priest, a guitarist sold his soul to the agent who picked him up at the crossroads and some half-naked pagans prostrated themselves before a boar’s head. It was here, Layla Santana Crow surmised, the Russian sleeper agents would meet their handlers over nefarious naval-strength rum drinks.

Some might call Layla’s spy-hunting senseless fear-mongering. She calls it proactive counterintelligence. All it takes is a few firebrand Neo-Soviets to become embedded in Nashville’s Country Music scene and then if there is ever a Russian invasion (perhaps through Canada once the Arctic melts), Putin’s conquerors will have a Nashville fifth column of sympathizers at the ready. As we finished our drinks at the speakeasy, I mentioned to Layla my opinion on the greater threats of American-bred spies hired by the Qatari Royals and, even worse, the largest intelligence network in the world according the late Kyril Bonfiglioli – the International Chinese Waiter Union.

Layla Santana Crow, in the unsettling way in which she comes out of her thousand-yard stare to refocus locally upon your face, tilted her head ever so slightly before finally responding to my comments. “Really, Vic? Paranoid much?”

See also…
***Layla on the Illuminati’s influence of Hip-Hop***

Ask Vic: the advice column for the damned and determined

Ask Vic: the advice column for the damned and determined

Occasionally, Vic Neverman will answer your questions. Feel free to email him at VicNeverman@gmail.com and perhaps one day you will be featured in the Paranoid Mailbag.

Mr Neverman, I have a girlfriend for five weeks and she is always insulting me cuz of something she read in Cosmo, the magazine. I have a theory Cosmo gives more bad advice than good since more single women read the magazine regularly than happily married women. Am I nuts or am I onto something? – Reginald the Third from Muscle Shoals

Reggie, I like the way you think. If Niccolo Machiavelli were an editor of Cosmo, he would certainly suggest a method for retaining and enhancing readership as you propose. The difference between a conspiracy theorist and a journalist, however, is research. You should look into this potential conspiracy. Start anonymously trolling employees of the magazine until you can get the scoop. Make up business cards that claim you work for TMZ and hand them out at the Cosmo office cafeteria. Flash around rolls of money where the top bill is a Benjamin and everything else is rolled up newspaper. Seek out the interns, get them drunk and milk them for intel. Be persistent. Don’t just be ‘Reginald from Muscle Shoals’, be somebody who matters. Remember, today is the tomorrow you were paranoid about yesterday.

Hi Vic. Longtime reader, first time writer. I am looking to get into the espionage business. I have read all of Tom Clancy’s novels and I once worked with an Arab when I installed air conditioning units. I feel like I have something to offer, yet, I don’t have a degree and my ex-gf says my history with recreational hallucinogens and cockfighting would look poorly in a background check. Where can I find work? – Jerry Bourne of Knob Lick, Missouri

Hey Jerry. Your best asset as a spy is that you are an American. Of course, this is an asset coveted most by enemies of the United States. I wouldn’t recommend walking into Pyongyang waving a white flag or introducing yourself to the nearest Chinese waiter in an act of submission. Your best bet is to offer up services with “allies” of the United States who like to keep tabs on US all the same. Like the world-eating fuckers in Qatar. There are more Qatari spies than there are citizens of Qatar (unofficially 333,033 of the former versus 250,001 of the latter), so you could easily get work there. Or Google the Mossad human resources website. I am currently being vetted by the Israelies for a position in their cryptoblography department. It is tough work, but I am already circumcised and could use the extra income as pizza delivery doesn’t pay as it once did. Plus, their application process is quick, easy and fun!

The Mossad's career builder website...

The Mossad’s career builder website…

Victor, I have a question for Cyrus Lee Hancock. I have one of his business cards, but there are no contact details as it mentions “DON’T ASK FOR US. WE WILL FIND YOU.” This hasn’t been the case and I need to know what he recommends for a pest problem I have. You see, I live in North Florida and there is a tribe of rhesus monkeys gathering about in the trees and they all have herpes. At least, the animals captured by Fish & Wildlife have been confirmed as being Herpes-B infected. It is bad enough listening to their fornication at night, how can I avoid the herpe with these monkeys present? – Sally Jo of Crescent City, Florida

SalJo, on my last trip into international waters, I sent off a carrier pigeon to an offshore data haven and received back a burner phone with a saved number to dial and receive an encrypted password I could use to send an email to Cyrus Lee Hancock. I didn’t bother sending your question to Cyrus Lee because I can already anticipate his response to your Herpes Monkey problem as the following…

Cyrus Lee Hancock's response to rhesus with herpes

Cyrus Lee Hancock’s response to rhesus with herpes

Hey Vic. I know you are something of a gambler on football, as I am, and I have a beef to pick with Jameis Winston, the Heisman winning quarterback for Florida State University. FSU was favored by 8.5 points against Louisville this October and were down by 14 at halftime. At that point, I wagered with my father-in-law I would show him pictures of my ex-wife’s carnal regions if FSU came back and won. Well, it has come to light that Jameis Winston tanked during the first half to help his friend win a bet and then started playing lights-out the second half to win the game (and eventually cover the 8.5 point spread). Now I am in trouble with the ex because her pictures are all over Facebook. How can I bring “Famous Jameis” to justice for the wrongs he done me? – Barry Chichester of Bowling Green, Kentucky

Barry, all’s fair in love and wagering. When you make a gentleman’s bet on a game (though neither you nor your father-in-law, regardless of his relation to your ex, are gentlemen) you are taking the end result of the game in full faith of the proceedings, IfuckingE – unless you have it written in the fine print that cheating should render the wager null & void, you are out of luck. Deal with it. And really… don’t bet against Jameis as long as he is in the college ranks. When Jameis starts quarterbacking the Raiders or Buccaneers in 2015, bet heavily against him. No sooner.

Vic, I am a big fan of the television show, The Walking Dead. I am curious as to which character you think you are most like (my guess is Daryl!) and what strategy you would have in a zombie-apocalypse world. Could you humor me in my sci-fi-horror fantasy hypotheticals? – Tanya of Bitter Oaks, Virginia

Michonne chopping heads off and shit

Michonne chopping heads off and shit

Tanya, I hate to burst your fantasy bubble, but I would be nothing like Daryl in The Walking Dead. Daryl is a redneck biker with a crossbow. I am a pizza-delivery guy who was once on his high school math team. If there is any one character I resemble on The Walking Dead, it would most certainly be Michonne with her dreadlocks and samurai katana blade. Fuck yeah! If I were to have a strategy in the zombie apocalypse, it would involve a strong body of water. I am surprised Rick and his team has not figured this out yet. Find yourself an island and raise zombie stakes on the beach to impale an aquatic invasion. If push comes to shove, swim, surf, paddleboard out to sea… the undead will just walk under the waves and perhaps be picked apart by barracuda. The next spinoff for The Walking Dead should be in Southern California and feature the cast of Point Break. Patrick Swayze isn’t around to surf or dirty dance anymore, so we will have to recast with a bunch of millennial actors (though Swayze’s ‘Bodhitsatva’ character should be Gen X aged, perhaps a bleached Joaquin Phoenix with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Special Agent Utah). It could be called The Walking Dead: Point Break. Perfect. Surf or Die, baby.

Neverman of Marrakesh

Neverman of Marrakesh

Howdy Pilgrim!

Welcome to Marrakesh. Just watch your step.

If you were on the southbound from Casa, your locomotive transit has in all likelihood left you disheveled and dehydrated: a frog gradually cooked south until arriving somewhat boiled, somewhere dead and somehow familiar with the ambitious mercury in your thermostat. Alternatively, if arrived by plane from anywhere further north than Africa, as you step off the plane you will find the sweet warm breath greeting your cheek as a backhanded slap less congenial than downright fucking rude. Take a sip of this – it will make you feel better…

Welcome to the Red City. Palm trees, cobras and scimitars with nothing separating you from the expanse of the Sahara but the snow-capped Atlas on the fuzzy eastern horizon. If you smell the smoke of barbeque dog, do not be alarmed, it is only the hair atop your scalp singeing in the Moroccan sun.

Allow me to introduce myself; I am a Victor Ulysses Neverman, your humble guide to this exotic city. The mangy cat beside me is Mister Giggles. Please do not pet him, do not even make eye contact. Mister Giggles is a walking petri dish: his fleas are bubonic, his eyes are pink, his saliva is rabid and he once buggered a monkey with Ebola. Put your Purell hand-sanitizer back in your satchel – your only hope of survival is a resilient immune system (also: don’t approach the camels, don’t drink the water and stay the hell away from the orange juice peddlers).

As we move from your plane/train, mind the bush league villains feigningly sipping their empty cappuccinos within the terminal/station café or sniffing the catsup on their fingers in the Moroccan McDonald’s; these are the talent scouts… the Red City wants your blood, your kidney or liver, your dollars or Euros, your innocence or your guilt. These motionless vultures will not pounce, but they will study. The jackals in the taxi queues, however, will pounce. Never accept the first offer; you should counteroffer a third of their asking price and walk away when they fake a stroke. This is good practice with any Marrakeshi vendor: if they spit at your feet and curse your family, the next vendor in line will gladly accept your offer.

And now you’ve dragged your luggage through mule shit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I did. I said ‘watch your step’ which implies you should watch where you drag your fucking luggage too. As your guide, I will point the way, but I will not clean the shit off of your shoes – what have you done now!? You should realize there is more than one mule in Marrakesh! Just walk behind me. I will get you where you need to go, Inshallah. Just wipe off your shoes before we enter. Yallah! Yallah!

Marrakech is just what the guide books say… The whole town was buzzing with flies and conversation; cafes, restaurants and brothels had standing room only; the pickpockets were working to rota.

-Chapter 1 of ‘Horse Under Water’ by spymaster Len Deighton

Djemaa el-Fna by day

Djemaa el-Fna by day

They say Marrakesh is named ‘the Red City’ because of the ochre colored clay used to build the walls of the medina, a color that certainly surrounds us presently as the official chamber of commerce sanctioned hue, strategically chosen to better deflect the brutality of the tyrannical sun. Marrakesh should be called ‘Red’ because it is owned by the Chinese who have financed the African infrastructure in order to get the rights to the mineral deposits underneath Moroccan feet. The Qataris are everywhere too, of course. The Qataris are sponsoring youth soccer leagues and hiring manual labor to import home to build another new city before 2022. Turn on any television and you will be fronted with al Jazeera, the Qatari subliminal messaging system urging parents to sell their children into Doha summer-camps.

My friend Rafiq says I have spent too much time in the heat; my brain has too many flies. He is Marrakeshi, himself, and grew up trekking and skiing the Atlas Mountains to our right. Rafiq claims Rabat is the political capital of Morocco, Casa is the financial capital, Fes is the intellectual and spiritual capital and Marrakesh… his beloved City of the Sunset… is the capital of adventure and intrigue. Marrakesh is a tourism mecca and in tradition with tourism meccas, the food service sucks. Tip sparingly.

Per my advice, you should check-in to some gringo-friendly Nouvelle Ville hotel. I have spent the summer living in the “New City” outside the medieval medina at Hotel Incognito drinking 11oz bottles of Speciale Flag in the garden with the tortoises and whichever ex-pats stumble their way into paradise. Across the alley from Incognito is the five-star Hotel Caspian for the high-end feringhees: European aristocrats, American espiocrats, Qatari saboteurs, Russian oligarchs and Chinese speculators. I know the lounge singer at the Caspian, a NYC girl, and occasionally I will put on my best linen suit, strap on my desert goggles and sneak in the back door with her assistance to take in the grandeur of the mini-pool, the foie gras (which I spiritually despise) and draft beer (Speciale Flag, a gulp of which I once accidentally spat – at a table here in the Hotel Caspian restaurant – into the face of the English spy, Victoria, who wiped her startled brow clean and subtly antagonized, “Every so often, I forget you are American. And then you are so kind as to remind me.”).

At home in the gardens of Hotel Incognito

At home in the gardens of Hotel Incognito

The Medina, of course, is the heart of Marrakesh. You can stay in one of the umpteen thousand Riad guesthouses that litter this dark-aged part of the city, just know this: it is damn tricky finding a drink in the Old City… unless you have the right friends, which is why I recommend to friendless bastards such as yourselves to stay in the New City where you can find booze readily enough.

For those of you looking for friends, I can recommend some. Seek out my dear auld mate, Digger McKenzie, the Undersecretary of Cultural Affairs at the Australian Consulate in Rabat. He and his wife, Dame McKenzie, have themselves a Riad where they hold booze-induced brunches at their rooftop swimming pool. We ate pigeon-pastry bastellas and lamb tajines while overlooking the world, sipping at bottles of Casablanca (gorgeous lager), previously mentioned Speciale Flag and Stork. Keeping such a liquid inventory requires legwork, of course, which you cannot expect ‘the Faithful’ willing to perform. On one occasion, I assisted Digger and Dame stock-up on cases of beer by travelling with them by taxi cab to the New City shopping mall where the lower floor was a contemporary grocer establishment. We foreigners were actually detained by the Moroccan police for wheeling our luggage into a mall. Why? Because we three pale skins were terror suspects for carrying the oversized baggage into a public place. After convincing the police (with Dame’s broken French) the suitcases were there to help us carry beer back to our infidel den of heathenism and that we were not kamikaze martyrs for first world opulence, they allowed Digger and I to shop while Dame McKenzie waited outside the mall with the luggage.

Now, for you more intrepid travelers, there are more vices than just beer. Morocco is one of the world’s largest producers of hashish, known locally as ‘Kif’. When you enter the medina’s Djemaa el-Fna, dodgy characters will walk past you mumbling, whispering, inquiring, “hashish?” These are either zombified kif-junkies looking to stumble into a score or they are purveyors of hash looking to take you for a ride or they’re just hallucinatory assassins (FUN FACT: the word ‘assassin’ comes from ‘Hashashin’ which was a cult of hash-stoned jihadist killers organized by the Old Man of the Mountain to murder Crusaders and political enemies in the Arab world of some thousand years ago (#hash-tagged)). Follow them and see what happens. In the darker alleys you’ll find darker drink: Mahia is a liquor of distilled figs and aniseed drank by the Jewish populace before they left en masse for Israel (though a few have stayed behind to discreetly churn out the crescent moonshine for the unfaithful ‘Faithful’ who secretly imbibe), Chiba/Sheba is a Moroccan absinthe drank with mint tea and Majoun is a date jam preserved with cannabis, a treat spread on the toast of many artists who have come to Morocco like novelist Paul Bowles, poet Allen Ginsburg and guitar-deity Jimi Hendrix (who wintered in Essaouira, a few hours west of here).

a brief interlude into the absurdity of a self-consciousness when such awareness only brings proximity to the end, awareness of the end, fixation on this end and, inevitably, the end.

– Vic Neverman, writing about Marrakesh after smoking Shesha out of a Hookah.

Let’s see, where was I?

Ahh, yes, VICES. I have learned the hard way that a massage in the Muslim world and a massage in the Buddhist world are two entirely different things. The torture I experienced at the hands of ‘Hussein’ in the underground Turkish Bath in Istanbul’s old city was one of the most hellish experiences of my life; contrasted to the gentle, but firm, hands of ‘Dan’ (her name was pronounced ‘yung’) in Saigon’s ‘House of a Thousand Smiles’… yeah, no more massages from mustachioed Arabs or Persians for me. That being said, there are in Marrakesh ‘Hammams’ where massages are offered and I have heard some rave reviews from the lady-folk who have returned to the garden at Hotel Incognito amidst an absolute glow. I fed them bottles of Speciale Flag to learn more about their experience at the Hammam, but they were already quite loose-lipped. Wink, wink. Apparently, the lady masseurs of Marrakesh were all-in on the pleasuring. Nudge, nudge. Each of the women (except one dejected Kiwi) had a similar experience of initial shock simmering into nice surprise, before eventual guilt at providing further oral (or pelvic shifting) instruction on direction and intensity. Even the British spy, Victoria, looked as if she had an enormous weight taken off her shoulders. Me auld mate, Digger McKenzie of the Aussie Consulate, asked her, “Is this the first time you had sex with a woman? Or just first in Morocco?”

The Medina of Marrakesh is nowhere near as frightening as that of Fes, where there are 10,000 roads, each of which have multiple dead-ends. Still, one must be en garde here in the center of the Red City. Especially with the dastardly street urchins with their sweet brown-eyes: little, grimy, Arabic princesses cozying-up, singing Bonjour Mademoiselle! Bonjour M’sseur! All the while their grubby little fingers are in your fanny sack extracting passports and Dirham notes. Keep the local kids at arm’s length. Throw them lollies, if you must, just beware their affection. To quote the French Foreign Legion deserter who was out to steal my identity before I sold him out as an Algerian spy, “Marche ou Creve!” (“march or die”, unofficial motto of the Legion).

If the Medina is the heart of Marrakesh, Djemaa el-Fna is the heart of the ancient Medina. The name means ‘assembly of the dead’ as it was the arena of public executions some thousand years ago through last week when I watched a bicyclist mowed down by a scooter in the middle of a pedestrian walkway. I nearly saw another execution the next day when some douchebag from Casa drove his imported Corvette across a row of merchant’s wares. The damned Corvetteer really pissed on the hornet’s nest and was soon surrounded by a mob (fearless of being likewise run-over) until he paid his ransom in Euros to escape the wrath of the souqs.

Djemaa el-Fna, you see, exists as a cluster fuckage of activity. By day, we will encounter monkey-jugglers and snake charmers. Do not pay these charlatans any mind. They are animal pimps looking to whore out their creatures to tourists for photo opportunities. The monkeys are malnourished and the swaying cobras are stoned on the Kif. Whatever you agree to pay the pimps, they will insist on a greater sum. They assume you will be frightened by the venomous snakes they wield – just know you this: they milk the poison out of the slitherers to the point they are little more than a scaly sock of bones. I advise avoiding these sister-fucking bastard snake charmers and monkey jugglers.

Don't trust the bloody orange juice lotharios

Don’t trust the bloody orange juice lotharios

And avoid the damned orange juice mongers while you are at it. Cart after cart of orange juice trolley lines the city square, offering nothing different than the next cart over. The vendors are young Moroccan Lotharios, crying out their impassioned desires to squeeze oranges into your mouth. Resist the urge. They sell bright colors and a healthy aura, confusing the ensemble of heat-stroke tourists with their cacophony of romantic ballads, but their shitty orange juice is tainted, diseased and best avoided unless you are dying of scurvy. Even then scurvy is a kinder fate than what these assholes peddle.

Dinner and a movie for Mister Giggles as Charlie Chaplin plays in the Djemaa el-Fna below.

Dinner and a movie for Mister Giggles as Charlie Chaplin plays in the Djemaa el-Fna below.

At night, the daytime vendors are brushed away to be replaced by the food tents. At one end of the Djemaa el-Fna exists a movie screen where night time movies are projected. During the month long comedy fest, hundreds of Marrakeshi flock before the movie screen to watch the silver screen movies of Charlie Chaplin with French subtitles. By now, you’ve noticed quite the infatuation with Charlie Chaplin throughout Marrakesh, from the restaurant Le Tramp to the street murals, the locals love them some old school slapstick. At intermission, I would recommend visiting the food camp, have a bowl of hareera (a quite tasty Ramadan recipe for tomato soup with chickpeas, coriander, ginger, turmeric and black pepper) and then wander back into the mix of tourists and Marraekeshi as they watch, transfixed by Chaplin.

Tomorrow we return to the markets.

Navigating the souqs takes some practice. Within the fortress walls of the Medina, you will find beyond the Djemaa el-Fna there are acres of market: spice, leather, Damascene plates, metal sculptures, oddities, exotic animals, black market antiquities thieved from the ruins of Damascus and Baghdad, entire streets of olive picklers, avenues of honeyed pastries (swarming with bees, as my was my beard after eating a few of the sweets), lanes of carpet mongers, slipper salesmen, etc, etc, et al. The markets are all crafted out of the medieval mud brick with interwoven thatch ceilings blocking out most of the sun and some of the residual heat.

I have never seen a man lost on a straight path.

– Saadi of Shiraz

There are agents. Just as within Fes, there are agents to guide the way and there are agents to find the way. Guides will keep you on the straight and narrow; finders will take you down the catawampus paths towards the inexplicable. The further back into the spice market you go, the deeper into superstition you wade. For centuries, Moroccan caravanserais have brought in ginger from China, turmeric from India, black pepper from Bangladesh, locally cultivated coriander and cumin as the traditional spices; yet the deeper you wade into the spice souq the more tickled your nostrils become. Your finder will remind you the origins of Voodoo are Africa and the true spice-men of Morocco are more witch-doctor pharmacists practicing black & white magic than they are culinary exhibitionists. In these deeper alleys, you will find preserved bats, dried chameleon skins, leopard furs, live tortoises, clucking roosters, whole hedgehog corpses… all for various different alchemical recipes. Even the smell of sandlewood is thought to entice a male erection (which makes shopping in the wood carving souq a risky proposition). Above all stands Saffron, king of all spices. Don’t fuck with saffron.

Dusk is upon us in the Sunset City. Certainly there is no better time to be on the rooftops of Marrakesh than during twilight as the sparrows emerge from their hiding place to dance through the sky like the nutjob fucking birds they are. Hopefully, Pilgrim, you’ve found yourself a nice elixir to help you fade into sleep. In the very least, I hope you’ve found a bath. After a day in Marrakesh, the least you deserve is to scrape yourself clean of it.

Sunset over the Red City

Sunset over the Red City

GARE CASA VOYAGEURS, Morocco

On the morning in question, I woke to mildewed fumes of an air conditioning unit: a sad piece of antebellum machinery sputtering out dank coolness long after the hamster running its wheel had expired. It (the machine not the hamster) was a relic best left dead, yet there it churned in the wall above me, its recalcitrant stubbornness having wilted to electronic current, resuscitated like Frankenstein’s monster, expelling frigid breath in a stream of phlegmy coughs typical of latter century air-conditioning units. The miracle worker who brought the machine to life (despite my protest, I’d rather sweat than choke on carbon monoxide), a startlingly mechanically savvy Foreign Legion drop-out, croaked in his drunken slumber as the sunburnt blisters of his pinkened belly-flesh trembled in the artificial air. I moved with the quick subtly of the ghost of some dead ninja panther before my roommate could wake and ask for drinking money. Levitating out of bed, I recovered my passport from beneath the mattress, grabbed my desert goggles from around the shower-head, relieved my bladder while sitting down (a strange maneuver if I weren’t in stealth mode), snatched my trusty backpack and snuck out the door into the lukewarm nuke-warm hallway of the hotel.

At the foot of the stairs was the lobby. At the foot of the bill was my laundry charge. For fuck’s sake – I could have a camel decapitated in Meknes for $10, but it took the hotel proprietor’s mother-in-law more than a buck (10 Dirham) to spit-shine and fold a pair of my boxers? I paid the hotel bill and asked for messages. There was one message and it was obsolete. I told the manager to burn the memo, fully aware he would pass the note to the Moroccan Nationalist Party Istiqlal or the Muslim Brotherhood or the French Bastards along the Quar d’Islay, depending on Mustapha’s allegiance du jour (for Mustapha, intelligence paid well to spy on shifty-eyed Americans claiming Canadianship). “Oui, M’sseur” Mustapha acknowledged my incendiary request, carrying the message into the backroom as if his mother-in-law already had a fire going to dry other guest britches.

Leaving the hotel and travelling on foot, I entered the chaos of the medina for the sole purpose of throwing off my pursuers. Somewhere near a snake-charmer, I faked left and darted right: right into the leather handbag souq (medinas are not far different than wandering a Wal-Mart, just here in Casablanca probability of being pickpocketed, bitten by a cobra or contracting Ebola is increased–slightly). I arrived at Casa Voyageurs without spitting blood (spy-talk for being ‘tailed’, followed). The train was on time for Africa, delayed by Western standards. I boarded, following the migration of wildebeest into 2nd class to find standing room only. Before me, in their djellaba robes were a pair of mustachioed Arabs arguing about Allah-knows-what. Their eyes were venomous and veins were strained in their opposing foreheads. To my right, I heard a pair of sunburnt American missionaries ask each other louder than they should, “what do you think they are arguing about?” I turned to them and in an indescribable accent mentioned (lying entirely), “They are asking of each other’s wife’s well-being, wishing ‘well’ upon the other’s family.” The American missionaries, shocked to realize the bearded infidel to their left spoke English, mentioned how angry those fellars appeared while engaged in such congenial conversation and they asked if I was from Britain. Almost, I replied before lying I was Australian. The American Protestant Happy-Clappies (as they are known in Morocco) were thrilled with this knowledge and asked if I might place a figurative skewer of shrimp on some hypothetical barbeque. They further inquired what I was doing in Morocco. Knowing their trade by the patches sewn into their luggage and their sleeves, I mirrored them by admitting I was a missionary doing the religious gig. “Us too!” They spastically tremored at the celestial coincidence, guffawing amazement at how their deity of choice worked by mysterious means. They begged to know my denomination, so I said “Scientology! I would give you a brochure, but I’ve already made my quota for the month.” We didn’t speak much further than that. I winked at the wife and she naturally blushed (naturally).They were seemingly harmless. Although…

Reasons Not to Trust Stevie Joe and Mary Grace of Omaha

  1. They were American. They were missionaries. They were American missionaries.
  2. The CIA often employed missionaries to collect information in faraway corners of the world and the CIA shouldn’t be given a benefit of a doubt. Red-blooded, cornbread-fed, American spooks are a mixed lot: 1 in 8 would appreciate Vic Neverman, 3 in 8 would think me the devil and the other half would just set me up as a patsy to further their own agenda.
  3. The brainwashing Reds – Vlad’s neo-Soviet spies – were damned tricky and could have these two duped in no time. Self-described “patriots” are quick to believe anyone else self-describing themselves “patriots”. This happy-clappy couple could easily be spying for Mother Russia without ever knowing it. Stevie Joseph, did you remember to email our travel notes to Ivan, that nice carpenter from Wichita who was picking his teeth with a sickle?
  4. The Qatar Royal Family paid well and they already had it out for old Vic. Some Qatari dandy with a silk tie and manicured handshake could have approached SJ and MG at baggage claim with an opportunity to “truly do some good unto the world.”

I needed to be more careful of whom I took the piss out of.

I gazed through the cramped carriage and out the window as the suburban Casablanca landscape gave way to the barren olive fields, gum trees and eucalyptus beyond. As I stood there in the common class train car, I was approached by an Arab occupied with his cell phone. He was a lean, sinewy, dude, eyes darting everywhere but here. Once the train was in full tilt and hidden-face Moroccan ladies stopped considering my origins to re-engage gossiping amongst each other, the approaching Arab’s eyes rose above his phone and set a sight a thousand yards in the distance. He spoke, as if to himself, but he was speaking to me.

Bonjour.” He greeted me in French, changing to English. “You are travelling alone?”

If I didn’t already know this dude, I would think I was being setup for some sort of con. Instead, I did know this dude and responded appropriately, “My dog is in first class.”

“Have you yesterday’s football scores?” Rafiq asked, his eyes just briefly making contact with mine before jetting off like a flea trying to accumulate reward-miles.

“Oh sure.” I followed the script, lifting up my shoe. “They are in the heel of my boot.”

“Take this.” Rafiq handed me a folded-up French newspaper. “And keep your shoes on. Scores are on page 10.”

On page 10 was a first class ticket with an assigned seat. Message received.

First class was at the front of the train and I was many cars back. At the next stop, I got off the train and sped ahead as close as I could get to first class before the locomotive continued southward. Climbing back on the train, I fought through the common class caste with uncommon luggage strapped to my back. Eventually, I reached the first class cars where train agents eyed my beard suspiciously and asked to see my ticket. Eventually satisfied, they allowed my passage. My first class train compartment held three westerners (two of them further west than west).

“Victor Ulysses Neverman, have a seat me auld mate!” Digger McKenzie, Cultural Attaché for the Australian Consulate in Rabat, greeted me with something between a handshake and a head-butt. Beside him was his wife, Dame McKenzie. At the window was a Londoner acting as their cruise director, though, was just as likely to be their British MI spy-handler. The Brit’s nomme de plume was ‘Victoria’, which caused some antagonism between the two of us as we both went by ‘Vic’ for short. Between her yellow sunnies and my red goggles, we at the train car window were quite the pair.

He Vic and She Vic, the POME Spook

He Vic and She Vic, the POME Spook

Settling into the first class seat, I waited as Digger dealt with the Berber boy pushing the drink cart, exchanging Dirham for cans of lemonade. Take a sip of this, Love Digger begged of his wife after the Berber left. Once the can was lightened, Digger took out what appeared to be a plastic water bottle and emptied a few ounces of the clear liquid into his lemonade.

“Vodka?” I asked.

“Nah.” Digger cringed, “Gin. Cheap shit, really. Bruce is s’posed to be shipping a crate of Bundaberg on the morrow.”

Bundaberg was the rum portion of the Bundie & Coke ration every Australian citizen is allotted daily. Bruce and Digger were always fretting about the next shipment into the consulate at Rabat. There are only so many relatives and tourists one can bribe to smuggle rum into a country which follows Islam’s prohibition on booze. So the Bundie is locked away for special occasions and the ex-pats make the most out of the cheap, amphibian liquor imported from France.

“Did you receive the package?” I asked; referring to a flash drive of digital photos I took in Casa.

“Yeah mate, yous Yanks click sum bonza beaudy happy snaps!” Digger did away with the clandestine formality and took a slug of his ginned-up lemonade. It most definitely was not his first of the day. “Was going to run through the database, but the machine is tit’s-up. Bruce will run the film on Monday.”

“If it’s not still tit’s-up?”

“Damn skippy, mate.”

Dame McKenzie closed her paparazzi magazine and scrutinized me with eyes that rose above her downturned reading glasses. Digger’s wife spoke as if she was of higher breeding and education, though she was born and raised on a drover’s station out back beyond the Great Dividing Range (or ‘outback’ for short). She spoke of me as if I wasn’t in the train car, “He’s heaps of nervous intensity, Diggs. Are you certain he is trustworthy? He’s a Yank, after all; isn’t he?”

“Ahh, Vic’s alroight. You should hear his love stories. He once faked his own death to grab the attention of some bird in Sydney. Up in Airlie Beach he must’ve met my sis – he took some bridesmaid from Brisbane out dancing and spun her lazy-eye straight!”

Dame McKenzie tut-tutted her husband and looked to the window where Victoria nodded back, once. “Plenty of wait-and-see flags…” She Vic spoke of He Vic. “Nothing damning. In Northampton, 1999, we have him affiliating with Polish socialists.”

“I was in an international summer-school!” I objected. “And she was just a ballerina from Warsaw, studying law. We never got around to discussing politics.”

“Which…” The Prisoner of Mother England spook went on, “we believe you believe to be true. Let us just leave it at that.”

Damnitshit. I wasn’t going to let this POME drive a wedge between me and my first foreign love, Ewa Kubiak, best remembered knocking on my door wearing my leather jacket and naught else. Victor, I am really a good girl. And she was. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead…

“Victor.” Dame McKenzie suddenly became stern. “We’re en route to Marrakesh where we intend to stay. We stay if we’re given reason to stay. You exist as our rationalizing force, an idiot MacGuffin ploy. If Mumsy back in Canberra tells Bruce in Rabat that Australia’s best interests involve a presence in Marrakesh, then Diggs and I get to stay. You, my dear, are the rationale we offer to Mumsy.”

“I don’t follow.” I offered, though I slightly did follow, just unsure of the direction.

“Simple, mate, really.” Digger went on. “We’re after the Qataris. If we strike dirty oil in Marrakesh, we setup a diplomatic branch where we sort through intelligence affairs gathered by our agents on the ground, which is you, Vic.”

“Me Vic?” She Vic asked.

“No, he Vic.” Diggs countered, pointing at me, Vic.

“And if there are no Qataris?” I pondered.

“They’re bloody everywhere, mate.” Digger assured and referenced my blog post on the matter. “And you can’t profile them – there are only a three hundred thousand Qataris living in fucking Qatar. But their money, you can smell the stench of it everywhere. They have, we suspect, the largest intelligence gathering network outside of yous Yanks, fucking Putin, Her Majesty and the Israelis.”

“You’re leaving out the I-C-Triple-U.” I said.

“Yous been huffing my gin again, Vic? Seeing triple, are ya?”

The International Chinese Waiters Union. In the 1970’s, the ICWU was just a theory by conspiracy theorist Kyril Bonfiglioli, but I was able to prove the existence of the spy network earlier this year.”

Vic at the window with her yellow sunglasses cried havoc, “Are you implying every single waiter at every single Chinese restaurant around the world is a part of a grand conspiratorial espionage network organized by Communist China?”

“Yup, give or take a busboys.” I admitted. “Except this spy ring goes back before Mao and Marx.”

“Which is all fine and good.” Dame McKenzie put out an open-faced palm to calm the troops. “If we find Chinese restaurants in Marrakesh, we’ll have reason for concern. If we don’t, we still need to find our Qataris.”

“We’ll find ‘em.” Digger, who had settled himself into a lounging slump, was quite content. “Even if Vic has to invent ‘em.”

“When I was a girl…” Dame McKenzie began an antagonizing anecdote, harping back to her days on the drover station. “We weren’t allowed guns in the house. When we found a snake indoors, we couldn’t shoot it, so we boiled a large pot of water and scalded the beast until it slithered its way outside.”

I cleared my throat before inquiring, “Is this metaphor for finding Qataris in the High Atlas?”

“It is a metaphor, Victor.” Victoria told me from the window. “But it is a metaphor on how to rid oneself of unwanted guests.”

Victoria pulled down her yellow sunglasses just as Dame McKenzie removed her reading glasses to likewise leer at me. Digger was snoring away.

Following Digger McKenzie into Marrakesh

Following Digger McKenzie into Marrakesh

Egypt is in the process of purging itself of all things Qatari. It is a part of a reactionary movement against the former ruling party – the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic quasi-political organization financed by the ultra-conservative Qatari government. The Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Cairo in the aftermath of the cluster fuckage initiated by the Arab Spring and they were just as quickly ushered out courtesy of military coup. As a result of the anti-Qatar knee jerk, Egypt has unjustly imprisoned three al-Jazeera journalists on unfounded allegations (evidence = nil) of fomenting dissent and chaos as a means to usher in the right-wing government. Al-Jazeera, of course, is a Qatari news network. Call it guilt by association. The so-called “International Community” is in uproar about the Egyptian vendetta against the press, yet there is barely a yawn from said community calling out Qatar for acting as a sticky-fingered meddler.

Al Jazeera calling for people to call for "regime change" in Egypt

Al Jazeera calling for people to call for “regime change” in Egypt

I am lion, hear me uproar. Rar. Fuck-off Qatar, says me.

My thought is thus: Just because Egypt is paranoid, it doesn’t mean Qatar wasn’t out to get them.

Qatar has long financed the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization designated as a terrorist organization by Russia, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (ironically, all but the neo-Soviets reside in Qatar’s neighborhood). Qatar has also financed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian love-child, Hamas. Wait… do let that sink in. Qatar finances Hamas. Not hummus, Hamas. Hamas is an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, the same Hamas martyring the Palestinian people in an effort to create anti-Israel propaganda. (S)He of sound judgment should be able to empathize with both the Israelis and the Palestinians in their conflict, but (s)he should also acknowledge Hamas is no better than a horde of drunken jet-ski douche sister-fuckers squatting on your lawn on Memorial Day weekend (the reference may be poorly understood outside the State of Florida, but it describes a quality of undeveloped ape Dante reserved for the seventh sub-basement of Hell).

Yet Qatar is ill-admonished for such dealings.

Except here. Fuck you, Qatar. I admonish you.

Qatar is right... there

Qatar is right… there

For those unaware, Qatar is a growth on the back of Saudi Arabia, jutting out into the Persian Gulf like a sandbar pissed on by Midas. Qatar, traditionally an economy based on pearl diving, is now the world’s richest country per capita (#ThanksOil). Their population of 1.8 million includes 1.5 million foreigners imported to further develop metro-monoliths in the 120 degree Fahrenheit desert. This is true – less than 300,000 Qataris exists within Qatar, the rest are migrant workers dying in droves due to the oppressive conditions. Fortunately, for Qatar, there are more workers where the departed came from.

Help Wanted: come to beautiful, majestic Qatar to build monoliths in the Desert

Help Wanted: come to beautiful, majestic Qatar to build monoliths in the Desert

Of course, do not forget Qatar bribed their way to owning the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Who did they beat out in the official voting to see who would host the World Cup? US. The US of A. So… great, let’s have a soccer tournament in the summer on a speck of land where God did not intend life to live. Much better than Orlando, right? Inshallah, right?

Why is there not more outrage over Qatar from the Western World? Our friends – the Sauds and the American-sponsored military of Egypt – hate the Qataris. Why does the United States sit idly by without gut-punching these rabble-rousing usurpers? Damn it, if anyone deserves a knee to the groin, it is Qatar. But nothing… crickets scratch their legs uninterrupted…

How? Why? WTF?

Well, because Qatar has money courtesy of oil and a few pearl necklaces. Qatar has the media influence courtesy of al-Jazeera. Qatar has soccer influence courtesy of owning FC Barcelona (and in the works to buy out Manchester United). These bits alone cannot influence the almighty corporation of America, but what can is this:

Most of those employed by Qatar are not actually Qatari

Most of those employed by Qatar are not actually Qatari

Qatar is no underdog just because there are only 278,013 Qataris living in Qatar. The small fish in the big pond just happens to have a helluva bite. What is Qatar after, really? They partner with the commonly known Western Devil (US), yet they are the most conservative Muslim nation outside of their neighboring Sauds (also friends with US). Do they want to indoctrinate their fundamental beliefs on the rest of the world via subliminal messaging during soccer futbol matches? Are they a state suffering Napoleon complex, eager to assert their relevance dominance on the rest of the world? Are they just a bunch of misunderstood Persian Gulfers crazy from the heat?

All of the above?

Magic 8-ball says ‘all signs point to yes’.

FES, Morocco

I was on the payroll.

Whose payroll, it was uncertain.

Foolish is he who follows his heart into espionage. If you are going to dabble in espionage, you should only be swayed by financial gain, not ideologies which can be appealed to by any two-bit hack positioning himself as a “friend of the cause.” Sure, you might think you are playing for the right team, but just as you believe you are safely past Checkpoint Carlos, los Federales appear and Natasha, your anti-establishment, on-again/off-again intimate bunkmate unmasks herself to reveal her true identity as Stan from the IRS who is after your estranged uncle’s back taxes.

Why should you only get into espionage for the money, not for ideological nonsense? Because Stan.

Fortunately, the Australians (I assume they were them) paid well. My handler (boss, benefactor or spy-pimp, if you will; I often called him “mother” to which, in his chagrin, he’d suggest I’d be a might bit prettier if he had birthed me) could usually be found grilling saussies in the rock garden of his diplomatic villa in Rabat’s bubbling suburb of Sale. Bruce MacKenzie weighed dozens of stone and cast a shadow over the entirety of the local Kasbah. “I’ve got a new mission for ya, Vic.”Bruce informed me as he stuck his fork into a steaming sausage (actual pork frozen and flown from Brisbane to Morocco). “Heaps of gratitude if you choose to accept it. I need ya in Fes.” Here was when he appealed to my ideology: he was bringing the girls out on a holiday. He was emptying the Australian Embassy secretarial pool for the weekend and wanted to take them to “the Athens of Africa.” Would I be there to see the ladies through safely? The short answer, without the stammer, was yes. I had seen his secretarial pool. “Good on ya, Vic!” Bruce roared his appreciation. “And thanks for the new details on this Baroness bird.” Bruce MacKenzie then yelled over his shoulder at his fellow-countrymate, Digger McKenzie (no relation), “Say Digs, would you ring up the Qatari desk before you knuckle-down into that pigeon pie? I’ve a bone to pick with that dodgy bastard at the consulate.”

So began my sojourn to Fes with the greatest buddy a paranoid off-the-grid spy novice could have: Rafiq. Rafiq was much like me: tall, lean, punctual, deviously handsome, repetitive, punctual, dark & brooding, enigmatic, effortlessly flippant, wickedly cunning with an uncanny sense of direction. The chief difference was he was a mix of Arab and Berber while I was a mix of Slav, Turk, Spaniard, Cherokee, Prisoner of Mother England, Scot, Magyar and Pakistani Gypsy (there might be a drop of Irish whiskey in the mutt cocktail somewhere). Rafiq also spoke Arabic, Berber, English and the Romance languages while I was still humming my way through the Queen’s English. We were, however, both the same age (over-ripened though undercooked) and beholden only to our adored nieces. He did have this one shtick that sent the ladies swooning – he would shake hands with his right hand and then immediately move the escaped palm to his chest to ensure his passionate heart did not erupt from his breast plate. Brilliant, really.

Neither of us trusted the other, but we got along quite swimmingly.

Tariq and Vic, a pair of Nevermen

Rafiq and Vic, a pair of Nevermen

In Fes, I followed the footfalls of Rafiq and some tabby tomcat named Mister Giggles through the medieval corridors of the old medina. Mister Giggles was a striped bastard, feral and malicious, licking his maw after spare mice bits and hissing at the heathen sinners as they pass. Mister Giggles had thirty-four thousand half-brother bastards wandering this city and a few sisters and cousins after them, each one of them stink-eyed and crooked toothed, yet pleasant as punch when you dangled ostrich gizzards their way.

“There are 12,000 dead-ends in the medina of Fes.” Rafiq warned.

“Yesterday you told me there were only 10,000 streets in the medina.”

“Yes.” Rafiq confirmed; his brow billowing as a storm cloud billows. “And for every street there are many dead-ends. There is a story of the Englishman who buys a home in the Fes medina. He leaves for milk and never finds his home again. It is funny.”

“Indeed.” I agreed as did Mister Giggles, the spit-shined white stray that poked its head out of a cardboard box to see what the uproar was about.

I embraced Fes and the One Thousand and One scents of an Arabic night: cat piss and saffron, the recycled teeth peddled by street dentists, muleteers driving their mulleted mules, knife sharpeners scraping pigeon liver off of metal, tanneries dipping animal hides into guano to preserve the color, tagine stews and roasted lamb, couscous and mint tea, sacrilegious sex and Hammam sweat, the old clothes of the water-sellers with their jangling bells. All the way, Rafiq led and Mister Giggles would follow, one moment he was a black cat, the next a calico.

By the time I had lost all faith in my navigating skills, Bruce MacKenzie and the secretarial pool arrived.

Fes

Fes

I was there at the train station, gracious host, hoisting luggage from train to waiting van. This was when I first met Sheila, the Australian typist with hair of Celtic bronze knots tinged with rust, who hid behind aviator goggles and a semi-bemused smirk. Sheila’s waning enthusiasm barely qualified my existence, but it was just a façade, a false calm under-which her humble bosom betrayed her cool as lungs heaved deep-lunges for oxygen. I too, was unlike myself. I combatted her “Well, hello Vic” with a “Howdy, Pilgrim”, which is entirely unlike me to quote John Wayne, but I was on auto-pilot, especially after my bewildered greeting rescued a smile from beneath her guise, allowing it to escape and eviscerate the aortas that attempted to hold my heart into place. My knees turned to J-E-LL-O and Sheila was forced to drag me into the van like an exhausted fish struggling to breath out of water. Sheila might have been slight, but she was full of piss, vinegar and vegemite and easily hauled my carcass into our vessel.

Mister Giggles watched the ordeal with absolute condemnation, shaking his filthy whiskers the whole damn time. Laugh it up, Giggles…

Mister Giggles spying from afar

Mister Giggles spying from afar

Touring the medina of Fes, we entered one gate and when I lost the path, I led them out to another gate, assuring them we took the better, more scenic, route. Along the way, we found the foul tanneries with all that bird shit being tossed about. We lunched on vegetarian tagines and bottled water. We shopped for leather goods and Damascene plates from Meknes. At a pottery studio, I allowed Bruce and his hens to browse as I entered into the café where the resident potters break for French cigarettes and card games. It was here where Sheila was casually sipping hot tea like a tulip suckling a droplet of spring dew.

“Have you seen these before?” I asked, picking up a handful of playing cards off the ground. “They are like Moroccan tarot cards.”

“And what are you like, Vic?” Sheila asked behind the aviators that swallowed half of her face. “The conqueror or the escapist?” She dropped the cards on the table, stood up and walked away. Goddammit, if she didn’t already know my greatest weakness was woman-speak. What the hell did that all mean? I watched the departure of her blue jean gait as everything beneath my shoulders fell away into the abyss, flushed by some chick from Oceania along with the cigarette she was hiding from her boss, Bruce.

Later in the evening, after the swallows occupied twilight with their maniacal flight, the secretarial pool was exhausted and quick to bed. As they slept, I stayed out late with Rafiq, exploring the heathen dens of the new city with Mister Giggles, the mangy calico, the three of us smoking shisha and drinking terrible wine and terrific beer as I lamented my troubled love-life.

Camel Butcher Shop

Camel Butcher Shop

The next day I guided the troop back through the medina (though I mostly followed one Mister Giggles after another) and we visited the ancient university and the Koranic school. Sheila remained aloof and I remained flummoxed, though manufacturing the utter coolness of an orca napping in an igloo. Without fail, Mister Giggles brought us to the camel butcheries where I was able to find falafel for the secretarial pool to feast on as I waited for the butcher to grill my lunch. Casually gazing through the haze of smoke and heat off the camel barbeque, I spotted a blue-eyed brunette casually gazing back. Her eyes did not shy after meeting mine and her chin rose as it dripped with chickpea grease. Her dimples drew out a devious smile that ripped apart my ribcage and played spoons against the rivets of my spine. Her name was Caroline.

Hearing laughter, I looked down at my feet to see a calico rolling in refuse. Yeah, laugh it up, Giggles…

At the end of our second day, as the ladies of the Australian Embassy lumbered up the stairs towards their quiet chambers, Sheila stopped me. At last, her aviators were removed from her face and hung from the collar of her blouse between the slight – yet perky and beguiling – coils of hempen necklace. Sheila’s brown eyes were moist and earthy, a dampened sacred soil that buried me alive and my demise could not have come sooner or so sweet. “Will you join us for a beer tonight then, Vic?” Sheila asked, her upturned lips an invaluable commodity. I guffawed some unintellectual affirmative. She put my thoughts into better perspective, “You wouldn’t miss it for the world?” I gave an imbecilic nod and she disappeared into the elevator.

Not for the World.

When I heard Sheila ask if I would “join us” I assumed she was referring to herself in the plural as royals do (just like my saying, “we’d like to take us a piss as our bladder has filled over the rim”). Instead, she meant “us” as in a whole flock of wild geese of Australian women and passers-by. It ended up being a group of ten of us – the secretarial pool of the Aussie Embassy, a couple of Swiss women, a lady lounge singer from NYC and Bruce MacKenzie, the Under Secretary of the Australian Consulate in Morocco.

I took the gaggle back to my previous haunt L’etranger. It is difficult to describe the scene of our arrival to a westerner, unless you think of Vic Neverman as some sort of warlord, pimp or soccer hero. I was greeted with a strange oriental merriment bordering on sarcasm. The bouncer of the club, the host, the emcee all embraced me, crying “Ali Baba! Ali Baba returns! Put more beer on ice!” and then kissed either cheek of mine. This outrageous display of affection startled the throngs of ladies in my tow. I shrugged, humbly, and begged the women to follow me into the parlor of absurd notion. My servants quickly reassembled couches into a horseshoe so that my retinue might best crowd itself. I ordered beer, champagne, hookah, bottles of varying wine and the customary cucumbers and olives.

“Victor.” Caroline spoke of me as an Aussie accented songbird sighting spring beyond the crystalized flakes of winter. “What is it that brings you here, to Morocco?”

“Spice.” I spoke with intoxicated certainty, winked with a twitch and slurped my beer with minimal spillage into my Ali Baba beard. We casually chuckled merrily together, Caroline and I; the music was too loud for anything conversational. Beside Caroline sat Sheila, her shoulder chilling as it turned away from us.

A night out with Vic Neverman at L'etranger

A night out with Vic Neverman at L’etranger

Hours passed, revelry continued. Caroline had migrated across the horseshoe to speak with the Swiss when Sheila leaned across me and ignited my olfactory with scents alternating between her dollop of melted peach ice cream perfume and the rich au jous of the sweat that salted her skin. Sheila reached for the champagne with the delicacy and splendor of a fawn crawling out of her mother doe. I toasted the beauty that is life, Bisaha! Bahia! and dreamt of a life together, Sheila and I, at the Gagaju bush camp in Queensland with barefoot children running amuck as I washed cloth diapers downstream with the freshwater crocs… But, wait, no… that wasn’t a dream insomuch as a memory of a different Aussie girl and a younger, much younger, Neverman. My trance was terminated with the birdsong voice of Caroline, Victor! Please do tell us that story of the Costa Rican goatsucker again! Sheila, the other woman, looked at me dully, almost urging my departure, well go along, then, Vic. Tell them your bloody story.

“Well…” I, raconteur, stood and addressed my audience. “It is actually a Puerto Rican goatsucker.”

Midnight arrived like a thud, everything turning into pumpkin. I settled the bill – which is excruciatingly difficult to do in clubs where the abacus is the only cash register. Exiting into the street, I saw a black cat lick its scrotum and then smile.

“Hello, Mister Giggles.” I greeted my companion, certain tonight that I, Vic Neverman, would have the last laugh.

I led my caravan down the darkened street, my mind drawing a map of the sharp left ahead, the half mile beyond that which would return us to the main boulevard of Nouvelle Ville. I was an expert stranger, well in control of my path. Mister Giggles, walking beside me, coughed a hairball in mockery of my hubris.

Spanish cards, frequently played in the dens of Morocco

Spanish cards, frequently played in the dens of Morocco

Cursed with pattern recognition, my eyes spied something amiss on the dark pavement. I reached down and picked up a playing card, the same type I had found earlier. Sheila! I call to her attention, eager to ask her nearer. Holding the card in her hands, Sheila’s intuition prompted her to claim, solemnly, regrettably, “It’s the death card.”

Shriek! The crowd of lady that had assembled dispersed; Sheila held onto the card, looked up at me, asking what she should do. On my suggestion, she dropped it! The card fell onto the NYC lounge singer’s shoe and all girls screamed. I asked for calm, insisting the ill omen was just a warning and we should keep together and be careful. Somewhat assuaged, the ladies calmed and their inebriation assisted in quickly distracting them to other subjects. We continued and within moments all omens were forgotten.

“Victor, where would we be without you?” Caroline asked, admiring me as she walked along my western flank.

Attempting to remain humble, I responded, “You’d just have to hail a cab, I guess.” I turned to my opposite shoulder to see if Sheila might appreciate my modesty, but she was hidden deep under her aviators despite the after-midnight darkness of the street. Resigned, I returned to Caroline to make some casual quip about her having breakfast at my place (i.e. the continental spread at the hotel), only to find Caroline preoccupied with Mister Giggles who decided to cross the street here rather than wait for the crosswalk.

“Oh, kitty, no…” Caroline suggested plainly, with maternal insistence. Mister Giggles wasn’t registering. “Kitty, no!” Caroline was more impassioned, hurrying towards the curb. Mister Giggles snorted his contempt towards her, though did not advance further. “Kitty!” Caroline hollered, “No!” Mister Giggles, spooked by the raging Aussie, darted into the street until thwap and we were all left witnesses.

It seemed to be in slow motion, watching Caroline reach out for Mister Giggles… Mister Giggles darting into the street… the red cab thwap! The audible thump was Mister Giggles, you see, as he was interrogated by the front of the taxi cab – THWAP!

Mister Giggles was overtook by the front left wheel of the car, run-over, and then lurched up into the wheel-well to be spat out again and re-run-over. The car braked to a stop. Pause… Absolute silence from the spectators… The car sped forward, leaving the crime scene behind. The crime scene, it was a mound of giggles. I cringed, hoping the beast was dead, knowing that otherwise I would have to put Mister Giggles out of his misery with a coup de grâce stomp from the business end of my flip-flop. Fahck! Mister Giggles lives! The damned cat pulled himself to his feet and fueled by adrenaline in the last 260 seconds of his existence, Mister Giggles dashed down the alley to where he would surely collapse and expire.

I cannot even attempt to explain the disposition of Caroline. She pulled her collar up above her mouth in horror and was inconsolable even when Bruce MacKenzie wrapped his bear arms around her, insisting all was right with the world, there were too many bloody cats anyhow. It was a futile gesture, Caroline was in hysterics. I turned to Sheila and she stared back at me, aviators removed, her eyes widened at the realization… the death card she had drawn… Her eyes then tightened with bitter blame… the death card Vic Neverman had given her. For every mL of Caroline’s despondence was a Liter of Sheila’s hatred for the Neverman. Or perhaps vice versa – I am American and this metric shit is confusing.

I managed to corral the women and deliver them safely to the hotel. The dark omen had played out, but those under my watch were safe. After the women left by train the next day, I would never see them again. Sheila, at least, waved goodbye, or perhaps, she was fanning the flames of my dejection.

As for Mister Giggles, he was waiting for me outside the hotel, splotchy black and white, stink-eyed and surly, laughing his mangy ass off.

 

Read more of Vic’s travels in Morocco here.

Read more of Vic’s troubled paranoid romances here.

Rabat is an increasingly modern city with fancy shit yachts in the Bou Regreg River and jazz concerts in the Roman ruins of Sala Colonia. I arrived via hired car driven by a hired driver whose only CD was The Best of Cat Stevens. My contact, smarmy bastard he was, recognized me as soon as I set foot in the shadows of the Kasbah despite my disguise as a Norwegian ex-Marxist who suffered somnambulism.

“Ali Baba!” Mustapha greeted me with an unprovoked enthusiasm. “Each day you are more and more ugly!” Mustapha was Fassi and Fassis consider themselves exceedingly clever. Mustapha, in all his cleverness, fashioned himself an expert on American humor and believed the cornerstone of sarcasm was direct insult. Forget subtlety and nuance, Mustapha’s quips were more unfiltered hatred. “Greetings, oh itchy fellow! Oh leprous one! Welcome to the Capital of Morocco. May Allah give you fever without perspiration!”

“Likewise… Dick.” I spoke, forgetting to use my Scandinavian accent.

The Marrakeshi have a joke about their clever rivals from Fes. The first time a Fassi encountered a mirror, he immediately set out to deceive his “other” (there are donkeys involved, as is standard with all Marrakeshi stories). Long joke short, the Fassi is eventually carrying the city of Fes upon his shoulders as he attempts to outclass his reflection. When witnessing in the mirror the image of a city as beautiful as his own, he dies of heartbreak… it is funnier if you are from Marrakesh.

Mustapha in wizardly djellaba, gazing over Roman Ruins of Sala Colonia

Mustapha in wizardly djellaba, gazing over Roman Ruins of Sala Colonia

The intensity in Mustapha’s eyes as he wished boils upon my tongue was such that any semblance of sarcasm, if there ever was any, was lost in the exchange. And yet – he was my host and as my host, I was under his protection. There is an old guideline amongst the French Colonialists of lore when dealing with the Berber peoples of North Africa and this guideline plays upon the honor and hospitality of the Berber culture. Read any diary of European adventurers of the 19th Century and they will remark on how the local Moroccans may not drink, but they will thieve and lie and kill… unless you are under their protection. So the guideline is this: find yourself the most disreputable warlord of the region and invite yourself to dinner. Once the water for tea starts to boil, you are considered protected, just do not depart prior to slurping down at least three glasses of sweet, minty, substance. Do not sit with your legs crossed (as I am prone to do) as this is considered to be the habit of dogs. Do not pace or mention Christians or Jews in the company of Believers. Do belch as much as possible when eating and do not fret over your tablemates using their dirty paws to dig into the couscous on the public plate before you. Do not make eye-contact with the ladies of the house; in fact, just ignore them (or risk their being banished by their fathers or husbands). Follow these rules of etiquette and you are protected as an honored guest.

This hospitality custom brings us to Mustapha – the nastiest scoundrel Africa could conjure this side of the Atlas Mountains. He spoke almost as many languages as he had girlfriends, which made him increasingly valuable to a simple-lingual adventurer, such as me. If I was to stay in Morocco for any length of time, I was going to need friends like Mustapha. I had already crossed a Teutonic madman in Casa: a liar, thief and cut-throat convinced I cheated him out of a taxi fare, even after I paid him to quit his screaming outside my hotel window. Mustapha’s associates eventually took Conrad to a cabaret where they filled him with enough drink to subdue him.

After I arrived in Rabat, Mustapha led me into the Kasbah of the Udayas, within the blue and white alleys (painted the two colors to honor both Andalusian and Berber influence) towards an agreed upon rendezvous point. Mustapha reached behind his head to the white wizard hood of his djellaba where it rested between his shoulder blades and withdrew a packet of Marlborough cigarettes, offering me one and suggesting, “Once your business is done, I can show you where the Peace Corps girls can be found.”

Non merci.” I waved off the offering. “I’ve long since learned to avoid them. And I don’t smoke.”

“Avoid?” Mustapha stopped in his tracks, nearly tripping out of his slippers. The look on his face was perplexed. “Avoid women? Yes, yes, it is known by boys in Fes, ‘Share a meal with a Jew, but not a bed. Share a bed with a Christian, but not a meal.’ You Nazarenes are known for particular appetite, no?”

“No!” I insisted. “It is only Peace Corps women I’ve learned are best avoided. As for Nazarene appetites, these I do not share.”

Mustapha nodded, smiling knowingly. “Your hands are too soft for Peace Corps women. Very hard, these women are. Like mule driver. They are very quick to lie down, like wife of mule driver.” His eyebrows peaked excitedly at the wicked notion. Mustapha eventually paused his commentary and his trot, placed his cigarettes back into his wizard hood (“Berber suitcase” he grinned) and withdrew an ancient cell phone. After umpteen seconds of pumping the relic with his thumb, Mustapha announced, “It is time.”

In the Kasbah with Mustapha

In the Kasbah with Mustapha

We entered a blue & white striped building to find a dark room with a darker-still corridor to traverse. It was quiet and the air thick with dust as if sunburnt tourists and molting snakes had a firm shake within these walls. Down a hall decorated with Berber rugs dyed with henna, saffron and clove, we traveled until we came upon a backroom with, seemingly, no other exit. Tea had been prepared and an assortment of almond cookies lain out. I was told to take a seat and five minutes later a hidden door materialized and two well-tanned Western gentlemen entered wearing shorts, collared shirts and trainers. Both men were both built for rugby, though they were of an age where most of their scrums were behind them. These were diplomats from the Australian Embassy.

“You’re Neverman, then?” The bigger one inquired with a half-sneer, his voice filling every crevice of the room. “I’m Bruce MacKenzie, this here’s Digger McKenzie, no relation!” At this, the two Aussies broke into laughter, which I matched in volume. Nothing earns an Australian’s trust sooner than to laugh heartily along with their laughter.

Mint Tea, served with gusto

Mint Tea, served with gusto

Everyone took seats and Mustapha served tea in the traditional fashion, pouring the liquid out of the silver vessel from a great height to honor the guests. Once served, I thanked Mustapha and excused him to play video games on the handheld Nintendo hiding inside his wizard hood.

“I suppose we are free to speak here?” I asked the Aussies.

“Say what you want, just know the Yanks have everything bugged.” The younger Digger McKenzie noted. “And the Chinese have the Yanks bugged, but at least the Qatari can’t hear us here.”

“Bloody Qatar. Fucking everywhere, mate.” The elder and larger Bruce MacKenzie admitted. “Why’s it you come to us and not your Yanks?”

“I am not looking for American friends. Besides, I figured you’d tell them soon enough.”

“Too right, Vic. They rang us up before your Mustapha fellow did.” Digger said candidly.

“Oi, but we got our own file on you, mate.” Bruce said, proud of his own independent intelligence network. “Canberra gave you political sanctuary some years ago. Clean record it seems, other than some fuss in Sydney.”

Faked your own death and then forgot about it the next day.” Digger was impressed, or in the least, entertained. “Brilliant, really. You must have been quite pissed.”

“What’s it you want with us, then?” Bruce MacKenzie, Under Secretary of the Australian Consulate in Morocco, cut to the chase as his sausage fingers powdered the almond cookies before they could be tossed into his great mawl.

“Friendship for a favor.” I suggested. “I can provide intel on shady characters here in Morocco.”

Bruce and Digger glanced at each other, sharing the same thought.

“Not sure we’re looking for any friends, Vic.” Digger admitted, almost saddened by my hapless cause.

“Future consideration, then? I’ll give you some intel, maybe later we grab some pints and who knows?”

“What’s your business here in Africa?” Bruce asked, leaning forward as chief inquisitor. “Not the tequila rubbish, Maroc Spirits, LTD founded by Victor Neverman. We’ve seen your permits. What are you really here for?”

“You don’t go into liquor business in a Muslim Country, do ya Vic?” Digger asked patronizingly. “Next you’ll have a hotdog cart in the streets.”

“It would be mostly exports. Maybe deal in a little spice, some saffron.” I suggested. “Look, do you want to bust my balls about my business acumen or talk shop?”

Bruce and Digger shared another look, this one a bit more solemn. They nodded for me to continue, sitting on their bench like a pair of footballers looking to knock some heads. Their combined ribcages could have fit 18 of me. Their good humor was waning…

“There is a guy back in Casa I can deliver to you. He’s an Algerian spy. His name is Conrad and he claims to be a deserter from the Foreign Legion. He’s mostly full of shit, but I know he is working for the Algerians.”

They were unimpressed. Digger McKenzie, Cultural Attaché for the Australian Consulate explained, “We’re not in the border dispute business, Vic.”

“Now if you make him a Qatari spy we’re interested.” Bruce MacKenzie suggested in a quiet boom.

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” I spoke excitedly. I then mentioned the mysterious Baroness. She was playing every fiddle in the European Union, she drank vodka like a Bolshevik and she was rather stunningly beautiful, I mean, if you could get past the, umm, cold sores.

“Imagine that’s what your Ali Baba beard is for.” Digger suggested with a wink. “First line of defense against the herp.”

“How is it you said she is passing information to Qatar?” Bruce queeried.

“She picks up French newspapers, sometimes days old.” I mentioned. They waited, their opened palms expressing a desire for more. “She doesn’t read French, you see, she is hopeless with a menu. Newspaper transmission is old spy craft – the agent in the field takes a pin and pokes holes into certain letters to spell out a message. She drops the used paper in a garbage bin; her handler picks it up and later holds it in front of a light and writes down the message.”

“Fucking Qataris!” Bruce groaned and shook his head. “It’s got their stink all over it.”

“First offer of advice, Vic.” Digger leaned in. “Drop this Mustapha fellow. He’s a bad sort. We’ve got a Marrakshi bloke who’s tops.”

“Rafiq?” Bruce raised an eyebrow at Digger.

“Too right, Rafiq.” Digger confirmed and then patted me on the shoulder. “Tops.”

Which is how I found my Moroccan partner-in-crime, Rafiq.

First though, I had to end my relationship with Mustapha. I gave him the news before we parted ways outside the Tower of Hassan in Rabat. I wasn’t sure if his reaction was elated or angered. I hoped he understood I was moving on from Casablanca and would be living in Marrakesh, where his influence was nullified.

“I understand, M’sseur Neverman. I understand Allah in his wrath gave Nazarenes the heart of dogs.”

I laughed, assuming he was trying to be sarcastic. I said something about God being with him, as is custom if you can enunciate the Arabic in a non-offensive manner.

“May God let you finish out your miserable life.” Mustapha responded.

“Yep, so… Adios!”

the lads in marrakesh: Digger McKenzie, Tariq and Vic Neverman

the lads in marrakesh: Digger McKenzie, Rafiq and Vic Neverman