Frogs, celebrity and unanswered questions

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Screenshot 2023 05 19 at 9.40.29 AMSome frogs are too small 

for even the smallest pond.

They need a creek,

a swamp,

a puddle.

In even the ugliest family,

there is the prettiest girl.

In even the stupidest family

there is the family scholar.

In even the smallest pond,

there is a largest frog

–Submitted to and rejected by “The Journal of Submediocre Poetry”

by Keith Howard


Tiny White Box newCelebrity, like frog size, all depends on environment. J-Lo, LeBron, T-Swift are clearly big celebrities in big ponds. Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Benjamin Grosvenor, and, of course, Maru, are huge frogs in the smaller pond of classical pianists. Anna Thomas, Carol Robidoux and Mark Hayward are celebrities in a localized pond. The world of recovery has celebrities, as do the worlds of chess, gymnastics, the Masons and, for all I know, synchronized snowball fighting. Hell, in my immediate family, even I am a celebrity.

Today, in real life, I had a chance to sit down, though, with an international celebrity, at least a Merzouga-area celebrity with worldwide reach. Eva (you’ll note the biggest celebrities have one name) is the creator of notscaredofthejetlag.com, a blog devoted to Morocco in general and Merzouga in particular. I started reading NSJL a few weeks ago, it being the only locally-produced media I could find. Eva is a German radiologist and medical consultant who gave all that up a few years ago to move here. She and her partner (who is not a celebrity and will thus remain nameless) seem to have a simple normal life in this desert town that feels like a home for wayward camels set in a Wild West beach town without an ocean

Eva is whip-saw smart, as evidenced by her writing and, even more, by her conversation. We talked about pandemics (she’s against them), capitalism (ditto, although with less vehemence), local textiles, shopping, a proposed tunnel from Morocco to Gibraltar, and Moroccan football.

On this last, I’ve been astoundingly disappointed not to have seen any love for or even attention to Morocco’s stunning advancement in last year’s World Cup. I mean being the first African team to advance to the semifinals seems to me it should at least lead to kids wearing their colors. Nope. I’ve seen baseball shirts and NBA shirts but not one Morocco football shirt. Throughout the World Cup, I cheered for Morocco and was devastated when they lost in the semis. According to Eva, no one here had expected much from the team, didn’t follow the tourney until the final couple weeks. She said a few flags went up, then quietly disappeared after the 2-0 loss to France.

Eva and I also talked about the cultural differences among Europe, England, the US and Morocco. She asked what I did for a living. When I told her I work with folks in recovery from drug and alcohol, she got a very inquisitive look in her eye.

“Why does America have such a bad problem with opioids?”

I began with the standard explanations—patients prescribed “miracle” pain medications guaranteed not to be addictive, until they were; social strife caused by the transformation of civil life over the past 50 years; poverty, alienation, homelessness, the ready availability, blah, blah, blah. As I talked, I sensed my transformation into a horse’s ass.

Talking to a woman who’d left the First World and the life she had on a physician’s salary to live a simple life in a small desert town, I was blathering on about how hard it is to be a rich American. This is my first time staying in a developing or Third World country. Granted, Morocco is likely in the upper tier of the Third World. As a former Spanish and French colony, the country still retains a European veneer if not in its DNA. Still, Morocco is not a colony of any kind. It’s relatively poor, but, at least from my two or three dozen conversations with Moroccans, drugs and alcohol don’t appear to be a problem here. Thirty conversations is not statistically significant, of course, but we can’t ignore when all the grass has fallen in one direction

Eva’s question is a good one (I told you she was smart), and I’d really like to find the answer. Given the United States has economic strength (even if the fruits of that strength are not shared equally), social infrastructure (even if those agencies may be lumbering and slow to respond) and drug prevention programs (even if some of those programs are expensive and unproven), why do we have such a problem with opioids in this country? Why, in a small pond like Morocco, is the frog of opioids kept a tadpole, while in the U.S.’s huge pond, that frog is now a mutant bullfrog in danger of becoming a snapping turtle?

Warum, Ich frage, warum?

Why, I ask, why?


 

About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box