Casablanca, Morocco 25 years ago Pt. 8 - conclusion

The final diary entry:  

Friday:

Today I got up at 9:20am, ate breakfast, then went to bed. I re-awoke at 11:30 and went for a ride at 12:00. I rode with Mike. We seem to get along OK. It’s only when Aaron is around that he ignores me. Aaron told me he hates Azdine – right after I said he was really nice. No one I know would be so abrasive. I have to put up with things like this all the time, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of Morocco – of being accosted at every step by poor greedy starving people. On my ride I noticed a huge pipe going out to the ocean – I never saw it before because always the tide was high, but at this time it was low and riding past, I was hit with and incredibly powerful smell. It was sludge – pure human waste – there were hundreds of thousands of gallons of it just spewing out – making the whole bay brown.

After the ride, I ate lunch – the best one I have had since I’ve been here – steak and French fries.

I then went with Azdine to the market to look for shoes. We went to many places – he even took me to expensive places downtown – too much for me – 300 durhams for a pair! So we finally found a pair I liked. He wanted 240 for them. Azdine got him down to 160, but he wouldn’t go lower, so we started to leave. He went to 140. I was ready to buy, but Azdine made me leave – I didn’t understand. He then explained – “We go back and offer 120” – so we did and I got a $50 pair of shoes for $12.

We then started to go back to the bus and I stopped to look at some watches. One in particular caught my eye. It was really slim and expensive looking. I asked how much – just out of curiosity. He said 200 durhams. I was really surprised.! So I bargained him down to 150 durhams and I bought the other possibility for a graduation present – an expensive watch!

So we left and I paid for the bus fare again (a whole 44 cents for the both of us). Then I showed everyone what I bought. Instead of dinner here at the hotel, we went around the corner to the Italian restaurant. It was so good – I’m really tired of lamb and liver. I had a pizza and an order of lasagna. After this I returned to my room and read “The Son of the Morning Star” – I’m pretty far – I’ll probably finish it before we leave. After that I’m going to see how far I can get into the “Lord of the Rings.”

Then Azdine came down and we talked, and then went to his room and talked until 1:00am.

Oh, when we went to the market I brought a pair of jeans to sell – they were too small anyway. Anyways, Azdine wanted to look at them, so he pulled them out of the bag. Immediately, without exaggeration, over 20 vultures converged on them and almost started fighting over them. The kept shoving money into Azdine’s pocket and then trying to take them. But none of them offered enough – cuz they were just going to take them and sell them themselves. So finally I grabbed them and quickly walked away. A boy had tried them on yesterday and liked them so I took them to him and sold them to him for $8 – the jeans were 2 years old.

Azdine told me in his room that there are 4 kinds of people here – the rich, with 4 houses and 10 cars. Then the wealthy – with 1 house and 1 car.

The two previous are rare. The working class are the third – which has an apartment and not else. He said the average worker makes 1000 durhams a month. That’s $110 a month. He says that their apartments cost 600 durhams a month on average, so that leaves $45 a month to buy food and clothing. And this is the richest city in the richest country in Africa.

The final class is the unemployed. They are 50% of the population. He said that they rob or beg to get money, and they fish or steal corn for food. Many times have I seen desperate faces gathered around small fires with corn placed on top. It always comes out black, but that is what these people eat.

He makes 1000 durhams a month but he doesn’t have to pay for food or a place to stay – the hotel provides that. I asked him what he does with his money and he said he puts it in the bank. He said that after he gets a promotion, he will take the money, buy a house, and get married.

(Azdine works 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He makes $100 a month, $4.22 a day, or 35- 40 cents an hour. At my Stanford Library job, I will make more in 1 hour than he makes in a day.)

Saturday: The Big Race

 

Today I got up at 12:00pm then ate lunch. Then I went out and watch the line up and start of the road race.  There were 184 riders. The King was there – sitting on a pavilion next to the starting line. I watched the start and took pictures for Clark.

I then started walking to the far end of the course. The farther I went from the hotel, the more obnoxious the people became. I decided I was absolutely sick of all this “attention”. Everyone had something to jabber at me as I went past. A cop

(here’s where it ends)

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One other undocumented event is worth noting. The closing ceremonies were held at a new developed aquatic center complete with swimming pools and a high dive – 10 meter platform. For some reason I became obsessed with jumping off the platform – I had always wanted to jump from the 10 meter, but never had the chance. So after instigating some “dares” I climbed up with several Americans, French riders, and I think a few Moroccans.

In my suit and tie, I jumped and plummeted into the pool. I don’t remember if anyone else followed my lead, but I do remember that the noise from the pool area drew the attention of Craig, and some of the Moroccan royalty. I remember Craig looking pissed even as a lower member of the Royal family shook my dripping hand, saying something in French that I interpreted as being, “I’m happy you American’s are enjoying our facility.” After that Craig didn’t say anything, and I finished out the evening sitting on towels someone found for me and shivering a bit. Still, I had a small silent pride for daring to pull off the stunt.

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25 years later, sitting around w/ Stefan and Scott at a cafe in San Francisco we reminisced over our adventures. For each of us, we realized that this trip, despite its hardships and culture shock,  laid the groundwork for a perpetual wanderlust. Being 17 and unsupervised in North Africa, the souk with its shiny treasures, the shanty town slums, the contrasts of  royalty and slums - something about the sights, smells and experiences - and some unique attribute of our own personalities melded together to form a lifelong passion for travel. In the annals of "really living" and the supporting thesis that you can "make time" or "kill time" we also found that these 7 or 8 days had filled a much broader expanse of our memories, and that with the patina of time, those days have become years of living memory. Further proof came in the form of the impressions and value of shared experience: 25 years later, friendships that were formed in just a few days and in quiet moments watching the Atlantic crash upon the rocks, were rekindled as easily as if we had been childhood friends for years.

PS: Stacie - if you ever read this, I want my Moroccan leather jacket back...

Casablanca 25 years ago Pt. 7

Days 2 through 10 of the never ending junior world trials began the next day… The next 10 days were hell. Each day I headed to the track for a new set of seemingly arbitrary evaluations, (though the first day Jamie didn’t show up.) Standing starts, flying 200’s, motorpaced 200’s, side-by-sides jumps from corner to corner, all head to head with Jamie, all potentially determining a trip to the world championships. Each day brought about another version of the trials. It quickly became clear to me that Jamie was unaware of his “shoe-in” position (if it were real). If Eddy and Craig had already chosen him, they didn’t bother to tell him, so each day we both showed up with something to win, and something to lose.

The worst part is that we often timed each other… For example, in motorcycle-led 200m sprints, Anje would ride the motorcycle and wind it up with one of us following and the other timing. Then after an appropriate rest, we’d switch places on the bike or with the watch – and Anje would write down the times in between.  

I felt good on the bike and felt I performed well, pulling up to the side of the motorcycle after significant accelerations, but my times were mid-tens (10.4, 10.5) – at least according to the watch Jamie was holding. 

When I timed Jamie, he performed well, 10.2, 10.3, so I asked Anje to pick it up in subsequent rounds.

He did so, but still, my times were slower… at least according to Jamie’s stopwatch.

Finally, Craig showed up, and Jamie and I both did a few more  traverses around the track. This time Craig had the watch. Jamie went first with a good time, and then I lined up behind Anje. He winked at me and said in his thick accent, “If you stay me, no matter what watch says, you are fastest.”  He lit it up on the motorbike and we accelerated through corner – tilting completely sideways and continued accelerating hard down the final straight and into the finish.

“10.2 Carney,” Craig said, “9.9 Coyle,” and Anje winked again. Craig also smiled at me after Carney sulked off. It seemed he wasn’t necessarily in Jamie’s corner either and was just following orders.

Finally, a week or so after the trials, the announcement came from Craig: “Coyle, Carney, you both qualify for the junior world championships.” Jamie and I were both immensely relieved and for a period our rivalry was subsumed by our relief.

Still my distrust of the coaches, the process, and the team underpinned the trip I had finally earned… and it showed up in the diary of my 17 year old self...

(On a lark, I decided to search for Jamie on the internet - now 25 years later. Since 1986, we've only met once - summer before last at the Downer's Grove Nationals. Jamie was super fit, but not racing. I had just finished the cat 2. race and come in third. We shook hands. He noted my finish. And then he started, "you know I retired last year, but decided to jump in a stage race up in the pacific Northwest a few weeks back - good money - and I ended up winning the whole thing!" Nothing had changed.

Here's a race from 2006 on the track - a "Keirin" that is led out by a motorcycle until 2 laps to go. If you start a around 3:00 in, you can see the carnage begin. Jamie is in 2nd and backs off the lead rider with 1 lap to go (looking, looking) and then accelerates, riding another up the track and then crashing him...a simple mistake? Then, after the finish Jamie gets cruely taken down for no reason after the finish by another rider... (slow-mo at 6:30)or, if you read the comments...or watch the father of the other rider at 6:51?) No.. nothing has changed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGnLDr6jRSI]

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Back to the diary: Casablanca 1986

My repechage was a 4-up, taking only the winner. In it was an Italian, French, and Australian. I started 4th (highest) and since you can’t go slow on the banking, I ended up 4th on the pole. On the back straight I jumped into 2nd behind the Australian. He led at a decent clip until 1 ½ to go when all of a sudden the French rider sailed to the front. If I would have realized he was going for it I would have jumped but I just thought he was going to the front – until I saw the gap he had. Instead I waited – cuz I thought he would sit up and the Australian would get on his wheel.

As it was, he got a gap and by the time I realized he was going for it, the Italian had gone around me.

I then jumped and by the corner was coming around the Aussy. He rode me up – for no reason really, then I passed him. The French and Italian riders were long gone. I caught but didn’t pass the Italian – bridging 50 feet to him on the last lap. The French rider won by 40 feet.

I was out.

I was really disappointed – I thought I was as fast as or faster than most of these riders – I just didn’t do it. The East German beat everyone in the 8th final by 2 bike lengths, finishing 5th overall. I had to settle for about 16th.

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Wednesday:

Today I got up at 12:00pm. I ate lunch then walked down to the beach. There were trillions of people there once again. Today is some funky holiday – the King’s 25th year of reigning or something. His palace, or one of them, is near our hotel. I then ate lunch, then read, then went to the track. The East German who barely beat me won his first ride against a Russian, then lost his second, then won the third. In the third ride, he led it out and the Russian didn’t come nearly as close as I did to winning. I should be in the top 8 at least. The East German is now top 4!

 

After the races I ate dinner, then went out to the rocks then started writing.

Oh, yesterday, Craig took us all out to eat at the Hyatt Regency. It is the nicest hotel I have ever been in. The floors are all highly polished black marble, and everything was lavish and highly decorated. It was like a palace. I had a shrimp/lobster crab salad, a “Copacabana”, and a sirloin steak. For the finale it was a banana split – the only ice cream I’ve had since I’ve been here. It was great.

Thursday:

Today I got up at 11:30. I took a shower and ate lunch. For the appetizer they had 5 fish. Head, fins, eyes, everything but scales. I picked at it for awhile. It tasted OK, but it wasn’t worth the effort to pick the meat off the bones.

Anyways, after this I went with Anje and Craig and Yuri to the bazaar. Anje wanted a leather jacket like mine. We searched 6 leather stores – but not one had one like it – even the place I bought it from. It was the best one – and I got it. Anje bought another one instead – for $50 – cheap. It is nice but not like mine.

I tried to trade my Levis, but even with them the first two shops wanted 600 Durhams and my jeans. So we left. Back at the hotel I got ready for a ride, but discovered that I didn’t have any wheels. I found my front wheel  - it was on Stefans’ bike. My rear was nowhere to be seen.

So I finally borrowed Clark’s wheel. But it really bugged me that they would take my stuff without asking. I rode hard, doing the road course twice, but extending it down the coast – past the city to the other side. I went fast and when I was finally almost finished, I got a flat – a mile from the hotel. Since it wasn’t my wheel, I took off my shoes and carried it back to the hotel. The sidewall had blown out.

It made me mad because my tires would have been just fine. I later found out that Aaron took it. He bugs me – he is always negative. He is almost exactly like Carney – sometimes worse – always bragging about something and telling you how bad he’s going to beat you. Definitely just like Carney.

This girl Lisa the the OTC was telling me that she was in the Sports Med. Building the day after the World Team Trials and that Carney was in there, and that he had just had them test him for an iron deficiency, mono, and a couple things including anemia. He just had to have an excuse for me beating him at trials. She said he didn’t believe it when the tests came back negative and that he wanted to be tested again.

Anyways, the sprint finals were tonight – I was stranded here at the hotel with a flat and no wheel, but I heard about them.

For the 5-8 final there was 2 Russians- including last year’s world champion (I guess the drugs wore off) a Japanese racer, and an East German I rode against. The East German won, Japan 2nd, and the Russians 7th and 8th. I should have been in there! Third and 4th was between a French rider and an East German. The East German won both rides.

For first and second it was the really fast French rider (11.23) and the Russian Kilo World Champion – he was in position to win two world titles in 2 days! In the first race, the Russian led it out, then rode the Frenchman up – but he still came around and won. In the second ride, the Frenchman led it out and the Russian came around him!

They must have been so tense for the final ride. The Russian led on the pole, and the French rider sat back 5 bike lengths, almost taunting him to Kilo him. So he did – with 1 ½ laps to go he took off. It seemed clear that this was his favorite place to go because he could accelerate that long.

The Frenchmen jumped, but he didn’t close. With ½ lap to go, he was gaining quickly now, but still far back. He was three lengths back there, but caught him near the end of the corner. He then came around and passed the Russian by less than 2 inches. I guess it was pretty awesome. The 200m time – even after 1 ½ laps of sprinting – 11.5 – incredible.

Dinner was lame lamb so we decided to hop over to an Italian restaurant the Kirkbrides had discovered. It was awesome. I had lasagna and a stuffed Calzone and chocolate ice cream. Scott, Stef and an I then went out on the rocks but I got soaked walking out. I stepped in a hole while wading with my pants rolled up, and found myself up to my waist. That’s all that happened today. I miss Stacie. I haven’t gotten her a souvenir yet either.

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Next up - final diary entry from the 1986 Junior World Championship in Casablanca , Morocco, and an evaluation of the Moroccan society, income, and classes.