Casablanca revisited fifteen years later

``The world is a megalopolis,'' a shipmate said, and so it seemed as skylines and waterfronts, all with their towering high-rises, appeared stamped from a single die. Yet even in this modern concrete city, its harbor enlarged for ships from everywhere, some segment of the old ways still remained: a boy bearing take-out orders of mint tea from mysterious Sinbad's Cafe near the pier; the market with its stalls of dazzling blossoms fighting aromas of the fish nearby; the faithful answering a -- pre-recorded -- call to prayer and here and there a bright-eyed lady, smiling, perhaps, behind the opaque veil, who showed, through the slit sides of her dark caftan, that she was wearing wedgies, open-toed. This time no sheep wove recklessly behind a burnoosed shepherd through city traffic, but palms and pines still lined the highways and souks blaring Oriental tunes, interspersed brass, copper, leather, silver and jewelry of intricate design with T-shirts bearing scenes captioned Miami and sneakers, jeans, and mini-skirts and slacks. And just outside the city, as before, a caftaned figure dropped down for forty winks wherever he chose, his hood pulled forward, resembling a little laundry heap and a donkey and camel, hitched to a plow, worked disdainfully together in a grudging marriage of convenience, reflecting a kind of convoluted reason like that of Ulysses, who pretending madness in a fleeting wish to elude the Trojan War, yoked an ass and ox together -- and sowed salt.

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