Tag Archives: gay

Cabaret Embassy (Casablanca, Morocco)

The Things They Never Knew

By Bobby Rich

Photos by Sarrah Danziger

It was late for the hotel and everyone was asleep except the American couple who sat sharing shots of whiskey and anisee on their bed. The paint on their walls was chipping off and the florescent light-bulb overhead had no shade and was suspended from the ceiling only by the electric wires that powered it. The room had a small window at the far side of it that looked onto the terrace, which had no street view because rooms were built around it. To have any type of natural light in their room, one would have to open the door, and even then it was not direct. The American couple kept taking shot after shot from their small glass cups that were normally used by Moroccans for tea and coffee. Sam kept on the bottle of anisee, holding up her cup to the electric light as she poured in the water. And Richard held the bottle of whiskey in one hand and his cup in the other since he didn’t take much time between shots, unless he was ready for a cigarette. They were quiet for the most part, looking at the floor or the ugly wall ahead, and then Richard said:

“Do you want to go out tonight? It is your last night in Morocco and Casablanca is supposed to be a party town.”

“Is it supposed to be?” she said mockingly.

“Well, that’s what I hear. Plus you saw the gay couple romantically kissing and walking hand in hand at the Hassan Two Mosque today. That was a first in Morocco! The people must be less repressed here.”

“I mean, where exactly would you want to go?”

“You know as much as I do about this town. I don’t know, we’ll take out the motorcycle and see what we find.”

“The patron is going to hate us. She already told us the curfew is midnight.”

“That’s nothing ten dirham can’t fix.”

The motorcycle was silver and reflected the night sky wonderfully. Richard had bought it from a friend of his in Marrakech, and he planned to sell it before he left the country. It had fifteen hundred original miles on it which Sam and him had put on together, but after tomorrow how ever many more miles the bike would accumulate would be put on only by Richard. He pushed the bike to the middle of the plaza away from the entrance of the Hotel des Amis, kick-started it, and then said: “I love these women here! I told you that curfew was nothing a small bribe couldn’t change. To think, we’re only paying an equivalent of three-fifty each to stay here. The Western world has it all wrong, Sam. Whoever started charging eighty bucks for a hotel room a night in America was a fucking crook!”

Sam didn’t say anything.

As they drove through the winding alleys of the medina, Sam held on tight to Richard. It is possible that she did this because she was cold, but it was the look on her face which made one think she was doing this to savor her last feelings of love for this man. Her eyes were closed, her lips were slightly parted with the faint hint of a smile, and she pressed her cheek warmly against his back. Sometimes Richard could have sworn that he heard her sigh, and at other times it seemed that she was rubbing herself against him. If she was he didn’t want to know, not because he wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening but because he knew if he talked about it he would ruin the moment for her. So he continued to drive looking straight ahead, driving faster and faster as he felt her wriggling behind him. They were now outside of the medina going down the Atlantic Coast, and he tried not to pay attention to anything but the road. And when he finally heard her let out a subtle moan and loosen her grip, he slowed down the bike for the first time, turned around, and started toward Boulevard Mohammed el Hansali and Boulevard Mohammed V, which was outside the medina. He didn’t know of any clubs there, but he had seen many flashing lights when they drove past ten minutes previous and thought it would be a good place to look.

They drove down Mohammed V and decided they would go to the first club they saw. Richard seemed to not only be physically drunk but mentally drunk as well. Any time he stopped at a red light, which only was when certain death seemed inevitable, he would rev his engine until the light turned green. And when it did he would kick his bike into first and speed away even faster than the crazy Moroccan drivers. Sam told him to slow down, but he couldn’t get a hold of himself. And when he saw the first club with flashing lights he swerved into oncoming traffic, squeezed between the moving cars and the parked ones, rode up onto the sidewalk, somehow managed to stop the bike smoothly, and then jumped off it with his keys in hand before Sam could even scream from fright. Sam did not seem impressed.

The club had a cover charge of fifty dirham, which is an equivalent to five Euros, and this seemed a bit pricey to the couple. “Do you mind if I go take a look?” asked Richard. The door man let him in and Sam stood outside looking at the sign above the doorman which read: CABARET EMBASSY. She thought this club was located in a strange place. It was right next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. She was also surprised by the fact that she hadn’t noticed it before, because it was right behind the Cafe de France, which is the most noticeable cafe outside the medina. But, of course, this club was always closed during the day and looked like a little hole-in-the-wall joint even now when it was open. The couple had walked by it many times and had never taken a second glance at it.

Richard came back and said, “This place is wild. We should go in.”

“I don’t really have fifty dirham to spend. I only have thirty now, and I’ll need it for food before I go to the airport tomorrow. I’ll walk home and see you when you get back.”

“No, you can’t do that. You’ll disturb the patron! Since it’s your last night I’ll pay for it. And really, the cover isn’t bad and plus it comes with a drink.”

They walked to the doorman and Richard handed him the hundred, and then the couple walked down the stairs into the basement, split apart a black, velvet curtain and heard a blast of electric sound. “Isn’t this great!” Sam looked over the crowd. Everybody had their arms up in the air dancing in a way she hadn’t seen before. There were women everywhere wearing short little dresses and smoking hookah with the men at their tables, and they were drinking beer too. This was the first time Sam had seen this kind of female behavior in Morocco, and she figured Richard must have been correct when he said people were less repressed in Casa. “What do you want to drink?”

Sam said, “A whiskey.”

“You go get a table and I’ll be right back.”

Richard found Sam over in the corner and laid a whiskey in front of her. She took a sip and said thank you. She looked over the scene again with a crooked kind of smile. Richard had taken note of what the other men were doing and started to dance the way they were. It seemed to be natural with the kind of music he was hearing. Sam started watching him and then snapped out of the trance she was in. “Those guys over there…” She pointed to the next table, “are New Yorkers. They introduced themselves to me when I sat down.”

Richard looked at the stage. Everybody seemed incredibly drunk to him. The men were getting on stage and dancing with the fat women singers with their arms in the air and shaking their bodies like worms. Richard thought they looked possessed. He didn’t know what was going on or what he was hearing, so he leaned over on the banquet toward the next table and started conversation.

Salam alaikum.”

“Alaikum salam,” Said one man from the group of five who sat closest to Richard.

“Hey, my girlfriend over here says you are from New York.”

“Yeah, we’ve all been living in New York for twenty years. Where’re you two from?”

“We’re from New York too. Bushwick area. Where you from?”

“Astoria.”

“Nice. Yeah, me and my friends like to go there. Play some backgammon, smoke some hookah. We actually almost lived in Astoria once.”

Sam chimed in: “We didn’t almost live there. Honestly this place was uninhabitable,” Sam said to the other man. “It was a basement in someone’s laundry room. It was a railroad apartment in a dungeon. We could see this beautiful backyard but the door was sealed with cement; and only the people upstairs could use it. It wasn’t fit for human beings! You’d have to pay me to live there.”

“Well, it was nine hundred a month for a two bedroom,” Richard said to the man. “I would have lived there.”

“Two bedroom?” said Sam scornfully. “One room was a hallway, and the other was a closet you couldn’t even stand up in.”

“Anyway, I would have lived there,” Richard reiterated. “How long are you in town for?”

“We’re going to stay for a couple months, visit the family, you know?”

“Cool, live it up for a bit, eh? Is this a club you come to often?”

“Naw, it’s our friend’s birthday.” He pointed to one in his group. He blew out some smoke from a hookah and then said, “you want some?”.

“Yeah,” said Richard.

“We like to come here for a couple months every year. Come back to the homeland. How long are you two staying for?”

“We’ve been in Morocco for a month. Sam is leaving tomorrow, but I’m here for a while longer. Say, what’s the name of this music?”

“It’s called Chaabi. It means popular, but It’s country and  mountain music.”

Sam hadn’t been listening to them. She was surveying the crowd again, and then some kind of greater understanding occurred and she pulled at Richard’s sleeve.

“What is it?”

“Ask him if these women are prostitutes. I keep seeing them go from table to table.”

“You think all of these women are prostitutes?” Richard looked around the room with a new pair of eyes. Why were they all wearing these trashy looking, sequin sparkling mini-dresses? Why had they all applied such heavy make-up? And yes, why were they jumping from table to table, talking to almost every man in the bar?

Richard leaned over toward the man. “Wait, are all these women prostitutes?”

The man didn’t even look around. “Yes, every woman who is in this club is a prostitute.”

“Really?”

Sam pulled Richard’s sleeve again. “Ask him how much they are.”

“Hey, man.” Richard handed him back the hookah. “How much are one of these girls?”

“Why, you want one?” He laughed.

“She wants to know.” And Richard looked over at Sam.

“Damn, you get down like that?”

“Naw, she’s just curious.”

“Well, for me they are about three hundred. For you, probably about six hundred, all night. They have different prices for foreigners.”

“All night, eh?” said Richard curiously. “Wait.” He leaned over to Sam. “He says they cost three hundred for him; six hundred for us.” Richard leaned back over to the man. “Wait, so this is a normal practice?”

“Yeah, all over the place.”

“Would you say all women who go to bars are prostitutes?”

“I wouldn’t say one hundred percent, but probably about eighty percent are.”

“Crazy! I never knew that.” He went back over to Sam. “He says all of these women are definitely prostitutes, and about eighty percent of all women in bars are prostitutes.”

The couple polished off their whiskeys. “Wow,” said Sam. She looked all around. “This is amazing.” On stage nothing had changed. The blue Christmas lights were still flashing , drunken men were still dancing, but the women singers seemed to have forgotten they were singing and were now just drinking beers on the side. Sam pulled out her camera and started filming.

The man saw what Sam was doing and leaned toward Richard. “What is she doing?”

“We’re journalists. We write for a website that covers cultural music. We want to get some footage for an article.”

“You shouldn’t do that,” he said. “These people have families and, you know, different identities in the day.”

“Don’t worry,” said Richard. “Our audience is predominantly American. Everybody’s identity will be protected.”

The man seemed not to like this response, but he sat back in his seat and continued to smoke his hookah. Some prostitute had the demon running through her and went on a rampage, hopping from man to man, swinging her head in circles like a rocker. Sam quickly started to film her when she attacked one drunken soul who sat near them. The man from Queens looked over at the couple with little respect as Sam filmed the woman.

Sam said, “I’m having such a great time, and now I have to leave Morocco. I’m sad. I wish I could stay.”

Richard looked at the scene around him, the prostitute hopping onto another man, the crowd drunk and falling on the floor, the man next to them giving the evil eye, and then Richard said, “Trust me, I think it’s better this way.”

Locations In Casablanca

Hôtel des Amis
12 Rue Markazia
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps

Cabaret Embassy
2 Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps

Cafe de France
Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps



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Tandem (Brooklyn, New York)

A Visiting Friend

By David Detroit

Seeing as I’m a relatively lazy, unemployed, welfare muncher these days, I generally don’t make a lot of effort to get exotic with my nights out. I’m sure there’s amazing shit going on in Queens, Harlem, The Bronx, and anywhere else for that matter. It’s fucking New York City, there’s shit popping everywhere. But that shit is too far away from my home base, and a night out is often a gamble. Since it’s been a fairly laid back summer, I’ve been staying local to where I live, Bushwick. Yes, Bushwick, the neighborhood you’ve probably heard of by now. Or “East Williamsburg,” as the realtors call it. Bushwick is the place where evil gentrifiers such as myself don’t have to quite worry about displacing any true community, because Bushwick, historically, has never really held any kind of specific community, unlike Bed-Stuy, which has a significant amount of history and culture intertwined into it’s streets. Bushwick is just a poor dilapidated neighborhood, that seems to be undergoing a rapid amount of ‘gentrification’. I find the word gentrification to be inherently racist, as it often denotes white people, and as if all white people are part of some fucking ‘gentry’. I’m a dirt-poor, fucking white nigger from the sticks, and there’s not much ‘gentile’ about me, other than my education, which I’m up to my ears in debt for. So yeah, I’m some poor white guy who moved to Bushwick, and if some realtor asshole wants to use my broke ‘hipster’ ass as a selling point for the neighborhood, it’s not my fucking fault if this place turns into condos. It’s that relator’s fault, and the property owner’s fault, because I’ll get driven out of the community too. I just need a cheap place to live, where the statistics of me getting murdered are relatively low. So here I am, in Bushwick. And last I checked, it’s a free countryso fuck anyone who tries to tell you where you should live.

And so, being the lazy fuck I am, and not having a lot of money, not wanting to leave the neighborhood, and not wanting to get murdered, my options are fairly limited with bars and venues to visit. I generally like all the spots that my fellow Bushwick exploitationists tend to congregate, such as Northeast Kingdom, Life Cafe, Goodbye Blue Monday, Wreck Room, Wyckoff Starr, The Archive, Kings County, and the new Bodega wine and beer bar. Not to mention all the various house parties in the neighborhood. But in the past year, I’ve found that out of anywhere local I tend to enjoy myself at the new spot Tandem the most.

Tandem

Tandem has only been around for a year, it’s off the beaten path in Bushwick, near Knickerbocker and Troutman, and upon first glance it seemed like pure evil. Such a sleekly designed bar and restaurant in the middle of the fucking ‘ghetto’ will surely drive property value up triple in the coming years. But you know what? I don’t care anymore. That’s right, I don’t care if this place displaces every resident within it’s radius. In NYC, when a new bar applies to start in a neighborhood, they have to hold a town hall meeting, and if the community objects against it, they can’t set up shop. So, the community didn’t object, and Tandem set up shop. It’s as simple as that. If the community had a problem with this bar they should have stopped it, because they could have. FOR FREE. It’s the responsibility of a community to understand these situations, and just like me, they’re lazy and negligent. So fuck it, let what happens happen….

And to fully expand on the brutal amount of gentrification I’m willing to invite to the neighborhood, my tale this month is about the odd bender I had with my future lawyer, Josh. Josh is Harvard educated, currently studying law at The University of Chicago, and I’m totally encouraging him to move here after he graduates. You know why? Because I like being around smart people, smart people tend to be interesting, and Ivy League educated people tend to be smart. And Josh so happens to be a fucking working class dude who worked his way up through academia the hard way, working as a property inspector for several years. And fuck anyone who’s going to tell people like us where to live and where not to live. But despite his education, he’s relatively poor too. But not for long, that lucky fuck. I should have went to law school….

Anyway, this past week, I haven’t had a phone. I recently went on an all expenses paid trip to Fire Island with my girl and my buddy’s ex-girlfriend in the hopes of having a wild orgy in paradise. Pretty awful, I know, but what can I say? Upon excitedly jumping into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time all summer, I felt my phone writhing in vibratory death in my left pocket. Not to mention, my girl got incredibly sick and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Anyway, the same day as we’re leaving the island, Josh is coming from the airport, and he ends up losing all his luggage at the airport, and we can only communicate via instant message. My girl is going to bed, and she’s fine after the asthma attack from twelve hours previous, and knows that I’ve been planning for Josh to come visit for over a month. I feel kind of reluctant leaving, if anything happens, but she persists on me going out with my old friend. He gets to the house around 11pm, and wants to immediately eat somewhere nearby that’s really tasty. After walking to Wreck Room, Life Cafe and Robertas, which are all closing the kitchen as we arrive, he ends up getting a hot pastrami sandwich at Brooklyn Natural, but they totally lather it in mayonnaise, which royally fucks it up.

Now, Josh tends to have some of the best taste of anyone I know. Appreciating most of the same punk and indie rock I do, and hating most of the punk and indie rock I do, enjoys good food, good liquor, good films, good books, good art, good conversation, and good women. Just sitting outside on Bogart, Josh can’t help but eyeball all the pretty women walking to and fro, despite him being in a big-time relationship. Neither can I, ugh…. He wants to go to a good bar nearby, and catch up about things. The choice is obviously Tandem. I mean, Kings County is cool too, along with the other places I mentioned, but Josh tends to be quite the particular alcoholic, and Kings County doesn’t quite cut it with their selection.

So we walk along, and grab a road brew at a local bodega, where the clerk/owner gives Josh only two bucks back from his twenty. The clerk kindly apologizes, and I remind Josh that he’s gotta keep on his feet here. The clerk could have honestly been mistaken, there’s no way of knowing. We drink road brews as I ramble on about the various disasters on Fire Island, and we come to Tandem. Generally, I’d probably be carrying a small flask with me to any bar, during this economic crisis I’m in. I probably shouldn’t be drinking at all. But Josh, on this very night, has officially completed all the work in his first year of law school so celebrations are in order. And god-damn do I wish I could buy him a few rounds, as I have a long and awesome history with Josh. He’s a very generous soul, and I desperately want to pay back that generosity someday.

So we walk in, and to my surprise, it’s a totally gay party, which I haven’t seen at Tandem thus far. A couple dudes are totally on the bar only in g-strings, dancing away. It makes sense, since the Pride Parade is coming up this next weekend. I ask Josh if it’s cool, testing to see how homophobic he may or may not be, but he’s down to hang. Which is rad, because at this point at 12am, I don’t really want to leave the neighborhood, and I’m not the straightest guy that ever lived either. Not that I’m looking to meet anyone, by ANY means, but I certainly don’t care if dudes shake their asses in front of me. For whatever reason, I think most people can tell we’re straight, so we don’t really get hit on.

We take a look at the liquor selection tonight, me and Josh both being whiskey drinkers. Josh insists on getting us both a Buffalo Trace. He drinks his whiskey neat, I drink mine with a little ice. Josh is immediately impressed by our bartender’s pour, which is almost the equivalent of two drinks. Good thing too, because that type of whiskey usually costs ten bucks or more a glass. Throughout the night, we end up each drinking Woodford Reserve, Michter’s, Basil Hayden’s, Maccallan (I forgot the year), and Knob Creek. To top it off, after drinking twelve total drinks of the best top shelf whiskeys in the joint, the bartender actually discounts the tab quite a bit, just because she’s rad. Now, some bar owners might think that this is not profitable for a bar, but I argue the other way. If you hook up your customers, they’re going to keep coming back, and they’re going to keep spending money. And they’re going to bring all their friends to come, and spend their money. So hook up your customers. Trust me, it works.

Okay, let me discuss a little about Tandem. I remember seeing this bar under construction while apartment hunting a year and a half ago. I honestly regret not trying to get a job there when it first opened. Upon opening, me and my girl went in and got a delicious meal of artichoke dip, mac and cheese, and a kale salad. The food was absolutely delicious, great in every way. But the portions were a little too small, given the price, but whatever. That’s life in the big city. I went back again for a solitary brunch one morning, and got a dish that had ham, eggs, cheese, in a bread-like souffle (I forgot what it’s called). It was really good.  And then one night, I went to Tandem for my friend’s zine party, and it was pretty rad, but still felt like just a neighborhood bar. But finally, a few months later, I went to a dance party on a Friday night, and it was the best dance party I’ve ever been to in NYC. Hands down. Better than Rubalaud, better than Ghetto Goth, better than Wierd, Misshapes, Mind Your Own Business, Smiths Night, better than any house party, loft party, night club, or any other fucking party I’ve been to in NYC. I’m convinced that Tandem has the best dance floor in NYC.

Tandem Dance Floor

But why you ask? The reason is the architecture of this venue. Tandem has a general bar in the front, with bar stools and tables, where people can eat till 11pm and drink till 4am. There’s also a private sort of area in the middle, which is great for make out sessions, or to have a long-winded and obnoxious discussion with your old friend (it’s multi-functional). Then, there’s a back dance room, which is set far off from the other parts. And there is NO seating, a really heavy duty fog machine, and a light machine. But really, what gets me, is every time I’ve been there, it’s incredibly dark. And when a dance floor is both incredibly dark and there isn’t a bunch of haters sitting in chairs judging people, the party can get going. Not to mention, there’s a fairly eclectic group of people in the bar and on the dance floor, which I tend to prefer. I don’t dance much these days, as my black girlfriend consistently has laughed at how white my dance moves can be. But almost every time I go to Tandem, I dance. It’s too dark for anyone to really see what you’re doing. So it’s perfect for both the incredibly confident and the incredibly self-conscious person to dance. Sadly, at this point, the dance parties are only on Friday and Saturday nights. Good DJs too, if you dig vintage dance music (I certainly do).

Tandem is the only club I will go to on a Friday or Saturday night. Every bar and night club in Manhattan SUCKS on Fridays and Saturdays; every single one is packed with jerks. A lot of them suck in Brooklyn too. The only options are house parties, art events, or Tandem, in my book. On this particular night, there was a ton of dancing in the back room, and I recognized this one girl who was only wearing hot pants, but shied away from small talk with her. Josh and I opted to just sit around and chat in the middle room. Nothing entirely crazy happened, just me and Josh discussing music and art for hours upon end, getting incredibly drunk, closing down the bar. Then we stumbled to a bodega, got a few more beers, ate breakfast sandwiches and drank beers in Maria Hernandez park as the sun came up, and ended up passing out. One of my friends that night, had invited me to a really wild party with tons of cocaine, drugs, women getting naked, and soul music. He showed me pictures the next day, and was bummed I didn’t come. It would have been fun, don’t get me wrong, but who knows? Maybe I would have done some shit I would regret later. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten to catch up with my friend, I wouldn’t have heard about all the rad law school shit he’s learning, and how he might fight evil property owners in the future. In my book, an insightful conversation beats a crazy party hands down. At Tandem, you can accomplish both.

Locations in Brooklyn

Tandem Bar
236 Troutman Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237

(718) 386-2369
http://tandembar.net

Northeast Kingdom
18 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237-2635

(718) 386-3864
http://north-eastkingdom.com

Life Cafe
983 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206-4792

(718) 386-1133
http://lifecafe.com

Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11221-3013

(718) 453-6343
http://www.goodbyeblue.com/wordpress

Wreck Room
940 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206-4706

(718) 418-6347
http://www.wreckroombrooklyn.com

Wyckoff Starr
30 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237-2646

(718) 484-9766
Google Maps

The Archive Cafe and Independent Video Store
49 Bogart Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206

(718) 381-1944
Google Maps

Kings County
49 Bogart Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206-3836

(718) 418-8823
Google Maps

Bodega
24 Saint Nicholas Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237

(646) 924-8488
http://thebodegawinebar.wordpress.com

Roberta’s Pizza
261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206-3816

(718) 417-1118
http://www.robertaspizza.com