Drug addicts plus an English whore and a big black dog

It had been an interesting four months. A contract to IBM, Netherlands, saw me making some decent money and, when not working, enjoying myself amongst a bunch of crazy artists in Amsterdam. We'd all congregate in this little bar, away from the tourists down a side alley.
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The contract was nearing it's end as I sat, above the bar, in Jack's studio (Jack owned the place). He had a bottle of whiskey in his hand and was muttering, "I'm in a creative block.", glug-glug-glug, "Oh #@&%! I'm in a creative block!" Then tossed the empty bottle into a corner, "So what are you going to do when IBM's finished?" I remarked that some people I knew in Madrid wanted me to come over and would probably do that. Then he passed out.

After IBM I did a quick trip back to my folks in England, swapped a suitcase for a small pack, grabbed a train into London then boarded another one going to Madrid.

Not quite what I had in mind

The Trans-Iberian Express was a train which began in London and ended up in Algeciras, Spain. There was no Eurostar then, so you detrained at Dover, rode a ferry across the English Channel and boarded another train in France.

Unless you knew what you were doing, you could get totally screwed on this route. That's because people would get off in Paris, ride the Metro to the next station (where the train was supposed to be) and find it had left 20 minutes before. What the English side did: was not tell anyone (except English people), that you must stay on the train as it looped around Paris and Madrid.

Going across France, by any means of transport was not my favorite thing to do. The French were a miserable lot, but have altered a little since. As the train progressed, things change—most noticeably the toilets. The closer you got to Algeciras the worse it became, especially after Madrid. If you wanted to remain clean, you made absolutely sure you emptied within the first 30 minutes out of Madrid. That toilet got seriously dire. The Moroccans would just do it on the floor. You really did not want to go in there. However, on this trip (my first), I got off in Madrid and went to my friends luxury apartment just off Avenida de América.

It was good to see them again. I'd spent a while with them the year before. Back then, Spain was still under Franco. As long as you behaved yourself, you were okay. Otherwise the Guardia Civil had full authority of judge, jury and executioner—they would not hesitate to shoot you. So I was a good boy.

I used to go have a beer at a bar nearby and on the counter were dozens of little bowls with food in. Tapas, but then it had not been destroyed by the media and "fashion". For 13 Pesatas, you could eat as much as you wanted, and I did. It was in one of these bars I had my first (and last) Escargot. I'm not into eating snails—one was enough for me.

One evening I learned of a place in Tangier, Morocco, where some help was needed. Since I had wanted, back then, to set foot on the African continent, I thought it might be a good idea, even though it wasn't what I originally had in mind. It seems a medical mission there were flummoxed by the hippies. Trying to sort out some guy who: is floating upside down, in Lotus position, 7 feet off the ground, chanting away, was ... just a little bit out of their depth. A few months stay was all I would want and I could help out as well.

Just before I set out, it seems someone got wind I was going and asked me to take some books for a church in Tangier. Not the most brilliant of ideas. Taking stuff like that into Morocco was a good way to get killed. My friend gave me that 'look'. You know what to do, you've been trained—get on with it. Oh, well, it was short straw time again. The best place to hide something is in plain view (doesn't work today). A cheap, brown, shoulder bag was bought, in went the books and was added to my pack. A couple of days later my thumb went out as I headed for Algeciras.

Malaga is a bit out of the way, but I was supposed to meet up with someone there. By now it was November 1972 and winter was approaching. Needing some kind of rain gear, I had gone to a store (I think it was named Altus) in Madrid and asked if they had something that would cover me and my backpack. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. I asked what the largest waterproof, nylon rain jacket they had was. The shop attendant stood there looking amazed as I put this huge, bright yellow, jacket over me and the pack. "There you go amigo—it works", paid the money and left.

Here I was on another transcontinental journey, wondering what'd happen this time. The previous year it had all been one major disaster and a stint in Frankfurt didn't help. At least this time I had more finances and was hoping it would be more relaxed than before.

Leaving Madrid was easy enough and I got dropped off at this huge wye. Traffic had ground to a halt, so I just started walking. Eventually I reach this little village. There was a church off to the left with a large well in front of it. I lowered the bucket, had a drink, filled my water bottle and looked at the long hill on the road. At the top of the hill I waited, thinking this is a dumb place to hitch, but the bottom of the hill was worse. Three trucks were rumbling slowly up it. I guess it was my 6th sense and I held off sticking my thumb out until the last one. It stopped and I asked where he was heading for. Malaga! I love it when these things happen. I met the guy I was supposed to see and then went onto Tangier.

3 months in Tangier

Why can't I just have normal trips?

You know, the ones where you enjoy yourself and nothing untoward happens.

Disembarking from the ferry, I stood in line for customs, which was to the left side of me. Those guys were going berserk! I sort of quietly slipped back to the end of the line, watching everybody getting searched and yelled at. The customs officers even slashed open sleeping bags. Everyone got physically checked. My initial thought was, 'oh well, this is going to be interesting'. I had removed the little bag with the books and hung it on my left shoulder where it was as obvious as could be. Finally it was my turn. This guy looks at me, shrugs his shoulders, makes one chalk X on each bag and waves me through! Think I had a little help on that one. All these hippies were in serious misery mode, when I walked by them, as they tried to get redressed and put all their stuff back into their packs.

Outside you had to walk about a hundred yards to another checkpoint and gate. Before then, this kid appears along side of me.
"Hey, you want some kief?"
"No, I don't thanks".
"Heroin?"
"Cocaine?"
"I don't like drugs."
"You want my sister? She's not expensive."
"No thanks. I do NOT want your sister!"

His name was Mohammed (one of thousands) and I reckon he was around 10 years old. A bit of money in his hand and I had a street kid. He would look after me, get me where I wanted to go, spread the word and no other kid would hassle me while I was in Tangier. I wonder what ever happened to him.
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This photo is from a later trip.
I didn't carry a camera on the first one.

We headed straight through the Kasbah and then I grabbed a taxi to the hospital. Stepping out, I was greeted by this huge compound and mansion. The hospital was off to the right.

The addicts

I am not religious, but these people were and there was another group helping out the medical staff with the hippies. I must honestly admit, this other group did some amazing stuff with kids strung out on just about any kind of drug you can think of (and then some), but what they put into their heads afterwards was pure cult stuff, the hospital staff were mainly okay though. At least the addicts were off the street and safe, especially the girls. Tangier was a major staging post for sex slave traffickers (Amsterdam wasn't much better then either) and quite a few hippie girls vanished into lower Africa as a result. The place had, and still has, a bad rep.

Wandering about and driving around was part of the package. That's how you ran across the addicts who needed help. An ambulance would regularly cruise by the prison. The last thing the Moroccans wanted was a Westerner dying while in jail for some offense and create an international incident. So, if it looked like that might happen, there was this sort of large window about 60 feet above the street. The prison officials would throw the Westerners out the window, so they would die on the street, not in the prison. The poor kid would be picked up and taken to the hospital to be looked after (if still alive). Otherwise their country's Consulate was informed so as to contact their family.

This guy came in one afternoon, he was a complete and total mess. All he had, to his name, was a djellaba and a pair of boots. He loved those boots. He slept in his boots. He would not let go of those boots. Two years later (1974) I visited Tangier again and saw a totally changed person and the boots were gone. Shortly afterwards I helped fund his trip home to Vienna and the last I heard he was doing well with a good job and family.

The whore

Not every Westerner in Tangier was into drugs. For instance, this one English woman was a prostitute (must've been in her 50's). On Sundays, rotating venues would hold English High Tea at 6pm (well they would, wouldn't they). All the English Ex-pats and Consuls would attend. She liked to come to the High Tea but didn't enjoy walking through the streets alone when she wasn't plying her trade. So there were occasions I had to escort her there and back. We took it in turns for that. Strange lady, oh, was she a strange one.

The dog

There was this truly amazing woman. who was part of the hospital. Her name was Patricia and she been in Tangier nearly all of her adult life. Of the staff there, she is the one I remember the most. She spoke fluent Arabic and French, was a bundle of energy (she must have been well in her 60's) and everybody in Tangier loved her. I would help her with shopping sometimes. She also had this dog. A very large black Labrador - never seen one that big before or since. Moroccans hate dogs, but they wouldn't touch this one. His name was Shadow and one day I saw this guy, visiting from Turkey, sling a brick at him.The brick just bounced off. Shadow stops. Then, ve-e-ery slowly, turns his head and stares at the Turk. Fear? I have never seen as much fear in a man's face as I did in that guy from Istanbul—he ran as fast as he could, screaming loudly. Past the dog no less, who still just stood there glaring at him. Then, again ..... very slowly, began to walk after him. Three days later, Shadow had still not returned to Patricia. I found him that afternoon, sitting outside a house. He just sat and stared. Looking out the window was the gaunt, terrified face of the Turkish man. Shadow was doing a serious number on this guy's mind. The dog never, ever, bit anyone—just glared at them in no uncertain terms. Shadow returned home that evening. He loved children, the smaller ones would ride him. His tail was so heavy it would knock over dining room chairs, when wagging furiously.

The rest

During my time there I did what I do now. Go out and explore the city. No map, just a few landmarks and it didn't take me long to know nearly every street in the Medina (Kasbah). I used to like stopping for a hot Mint tea in the Socco Chico (it's still there, as are the cafés). At one stage I wanted a djellaba to wear, instead of Western clothes.

Inside the main gate to the Medina from the Grand Socco, a little way down on the left, was a street full of shops. The typical tourist rip off places. But if you know what to do, prices change. I found a large place full of brass and other items, went inside, then called Mohammed to go get two Mint teas. The shop owner over-rode that and called his own street kid in to get the tea. We sat there for well over 2 hours talking. His name was Hamad and was probably in his late 40's then. I wasn't really interested in the string of beads, they were just for an ice breaker. The $10 dollar beads went down to $2 after our chat and Hamad told me where I could get a nice djellaba. Next day I went to the clothing shop and bought it for local price (37 Dirham as opposed to $70). Tangier had this amazing 'jungle telegraph' and once one person accepts you, you are now treated as a local everywhere and all prices plummet. But, you had to spend time getting to know some of the shop keepers and locals first. Bringing a tourist in every now and then, put the icing on the cake. I would often visit Hamad and we would chat away. He even invited me to his home on one occasion to meet his family.
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Eric's—after dark (1974)

A lot of stuff happened while I was in Tangier, it was kind of a wild place. Tourists see one side, living in the town is another thing altogether. I discovered Mint tea and still drink it. There used to be a place called Eric's (might still be there). It served egg burgers that were out of this world. And ... I love those huge Moroccan oranges! I got to know a few locals and enjoyed their company. The hospital did a lot for the poorer residents of the city and evidently had a very good reputation. I also was able to get out of the city a few times. On one trip was when I sat in the sunset around the coast.

The middle of February arrived and my visa was about to run out so I decided to fly back to England to think things out for a while. I was Tangiered enough and it was time to leave. The flight went via Gibraltar and there was a 7 hour layover, so did a bit of an explore. The place is more English than England (I didn't think it was possible). The Barbary Apes made up for that.

. . . . . . . .


We all learn something when out on the road. Whether it's how to relate to the customs of the people in the land we visit and/or about ourselves. My times on the road during those early years taught me quite a few things and I met some outstanding people.

I'm glad I "packed my little ditty bag" and hit the road.

- - - fin - - -

This post is part of a series beginning here.
Sep 06, 2017

Comments
latest comment at top
Pete
Hey Ted, another interesting story mate. Love the pics too.
Oct 10, 2017 at 0159



Hi, I'm Ted Hawkins, I like to get out as much as possible to various places. more...

Some countries in some years.
Numbers don't impress me.
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