There's a party on Kyprios' boat this evening. Yeah, I'm invited... but I don't go. Paul says he'll stand in for me, just like the guy who said he was Andy Warhol, did the lecture circuit for him.
The amputee who sold me the hash pesters me every time I go near the Zoco. Wants me to buy some marjuam, which is Kief rolled into a stick with figs and honey or who-knows-what. Hash candy. Supposed to trip you out like peyote, put you in touch with the gods.
Tonight he threatens me with a razor when I tell him no thanks. One of those ugly blades barbers still use around here. Let's call this little prick Kief, although he's probably Mummar or Ahmet. He thinks he's attached to me, like a blood tick on a nice horse. So he's been following me every chance he gets... in the Medina, everywhere. Just comes out of a whore house or a cafe like he's been cloned and disseminated throughout Obo, is everywhere... tugging at my sleeve, hissing, waving his evil wares in my face.
The razor business is ugly. I'm minding my own business in the Damascus, sitting at a table trying to write a few lines for this song I got going in my head. Just slides in like a snake, sets the candy on the table. It's wrapped in unbleached paper like a reject Cubana cigar. Hisses, grunts, unwraps it with a flourish... nudges me, rolls his one good thumb and finger together. Money, white dog. It is your good fortune that Allah makes me do business with you.
Get up, walk out into the Zoco but Kief chases after me, hissing and waving his ugly razor. This gets the attention of the Fez hats sitting on the patio and the people passing by. Do I drop kick the little sonofabitch or run for it? He's gone absolutely loco, like he's about to avenge an ancient grievance to his family or an insult to his mosque. But no way am I gonna let him blackmail me into some foreign aid.
Ah, the stinking alleys of misfortune!
He slices at my arm couple times as I try to walk on. Next thing I know Bolero shows up, grabs him by the scruff, shakes him out of my orbit. Oh, Kief is a different man now -- there's real fear in those gleaming brown eyes. Pockets his blade, slinks away... away, away back into the Old Testament and the lost cities of the desert.
It's unwise to walk alone in Obo, says Bolero.
He has that West African English that you hear in Nigeria. Hate to admit it, but I'm kinda jumpy... so I accept his offer of a ride. For some reason he whips his jeep down to the harbour. Guess he assumes I'm on my way to the party. He is.
Let's talk business, says Bolero.
You want some crystal meth?
Bunch of security with assault rifles loitering around. Don't know if it's a private squad for Kyprios or Bolero. Party is rockin' on the big clipper. Recognize many of the film crew, some of them clearly pissed. See Naomi's face at a porthole... turns, looks my way... like an ancient line drawing on a rock, mysterious and troubling.
El Obo al-sur. I'm outta here.
Tonight, a visit from the Muse. Haven't seen her for a long, long time... thought she was gone forever. First she comes as an old crone, a black hag from the Medina or the graveyard on the hill. I'm kicking, unable to wake up... afraid to surrender to her sickening embrace. I kick, kick, kick... the sheets stick to my sweating body like a spider's glue.
Out there in the desert, beyond the walls of Obo, a razzia approaches from the east, drums beating like Ravel as the camels and horses march in step under the stars... their shrouded riders flickering in rhythm through the uneasy landscape... lunar shadows of the faceless Moors....
The crone allows her robes to melt away. It's all a disguise, I know it.
I'm Domino, she says, standing at the end of the bed, her dress clinging like she's just come out of the water.
Ah Domino.... She's very beautiful, this muse. So my song will be beautiful.
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Paris. Le Devoir on-line edition. March 21'04. Roy Cocteau, guitar player for the Texas group The Cheetahs was found dead in his hotel room in El Obo al-sur yesterday. The cause of death is not immediately known, although Cocteau was known to have problems with substance abuse.
Cocteau was in Obo to take part in the filming of a commercial for Sea Fever, a new fragrance by Panos Kyprios Inc., the international couture and fashion accessories company. Obo is a free-port in the coastal region of the western Sahara. In recent years Obo has been cited by the UN as a major drug and arms smuggling port and is still a disputed territory. Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania consider the former French and Spanish protectorate as ancestral property, as do the Polisari, the rebel group fighting for independence in the region.
A spokesperson for Kyprios International said, "We are saddened by what has happened. Roy was a fine musician and a talented artist who also had a background in film. He had appeared in a previous commercial for our products, although this was his first directing job."
Management for The Cheetahs in Los Angeles has so far declined comment.
The Cheetahs have three platinum records, including Guitar Canyon , Club Noir  and Contrabandista . Cocteau was the main song writer for the group, winning grammys for various songs, including Blue Tango, which was an international hit for Annie Lennox.
In past interviews Cocteau said he wanted to be a film maker and had directed several of the band's videos. Highly regarded for his mystical lyrics, he also published a book of poetry, Blood of the Beast.
Cocteau liked French wine and appeared in a commercial for the Bordeaux Vinters Association. He recently separated from his wife, Domino Desjardin, the daughter of Remedios Varo, the well-known Mexican flamenco dancer. They have one child, a daughter currently in school in Austin, Tx.
Roy Cocteau was 40.
the Valley and the Fortress
The Poet is gone... location hunting. Took off in one of those antique bi-planes, a Breguet 14, from the highway outside of town. Quite a romantic scene. Dawn light and sweet shadows. Was a camel train moving out, going east into the vega, moving a mysterious cargo.
Plane banked out to sea, then passed by about three hundred feet above the sea wall, going south. Don't ask me why, but my feeling is he won't be coming back.
Kate's going too... riding with Bolero this time. She's adopted the local custom of covering her head and face when stepping out in public.
Paul... my young Latino amigo. Seems he made an impression on Kyprios, so he's going for a cruise... deep space, way out there someplace. Got his flamenco guitar with him, says he's the new me. Mexico. I see him as a wandering mariachi in the lost cities of the cat jungles... and the hip cantinas of the Camino Real.
Funny how well you can get to know some people in just one week. Even when you know nothing about them, really....
Like, Naomi. Exactly the way you see her in Vogue... that dangerous allure... primitive, yet sophisticated. No matter what way you dress her, she's naked. No matter what chains, what tattoos, what rings, what beads... what hidden codes.
Well I'm packed and ready to go. Got a black Texas Strat waitin' for me... little girl too. My daughter, my muse.
A closing shot, though, for this movie. Camera is already moving into position. An overhead, God's eye so to speak... 600,000 feet... a hundred miles in the sky the satellite is tracking my soul, my magic. Should I go to the roof, or the wall? No matter. The light is perfect, so clear you can see through the walls of Obo.
The statues, silhouettes waiting to be occupied.
Hard to get off this bed, unload the shadows from my unshaven face. I hear him out there, shuffling on the stone stairs... in the hall... outside the door... hissing, grunting, clawing at the door like a 3rd rate horror actor. The dumb mutant. Pretending to be something he isn't. Now he wants to be in the movies, move to L.A.
Why not? As the Poet says, Death is always welcome in the Valley and the Fortress.
© Lawrence Russell March 10 '04
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