Getting Out and Looking Around

I went on a short business trip to UCLA today. I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to make it to a 6:30 flight from Oakland. Yikes! As I was checking in at 5:30 a.m. my phone rang. I was thinking who would call me at this hour? As it turned out, it was my alarm which always goes off at 5:30 a.m.!

This is Burbank Airport. It is named after Bob Hope, the late comedian. I suppose it is appropriate to name the airport of a city that has so much to do with show business after one of its giants. We drove through the city to get to our destination. This is the entrance to Bel Air.

On our way back to the airport at 4:00 p.m., we saw these guys making a movie in a small park.

So, this 24-hour dry cleaning business (who would want to do alterations at 2:00 a.m?), also has some wisdom to share with the passers by. They say "Success is determined by goals finished, not attempted." What do you think?

The hills in Burbank were covered with beautiful trees, but there was haze caused by Los Angeles' smug, obliterating the beauty.

It was a good meeting and I enjoyed travelling with my co-workers. When they posed for a picture for me, I realized for the first time what a diverse group of people work with me. One is a hispanic man, one a caucasian woman, one an African woman, and one a Korean woman. I love working in an environment which is so receptive to people with different ethnicities and backgrounds, where the reception and treatment is so routine, we would forget about each other's origins--though I have a feeling very few people forget I'm an Iranian, as I seldom let them forget it myself!

I am exhausted, so I call it a day right about now and go to bed, where my beautiful pillow and my blanket await me, hoping to finish the sleep I had to abandon so early this morning. Have a happy Thursday you all.


The Business of Life

Woman farmer plants rice seedlings in a rice paddy field in Ghaemshahr, Mazandaran, April 27, 2008.
Isn't she just beautiful? Isn't that smile worth a million dollars? Doesn't it just bring hope to you when you see someone who works hard and is also enjoying herself? She was my reminder of hope and joy of life today. Sometimes all we have to do is to look. I looked for joy and hope today and I found this woman across the oceans and continents and through the internet lines, whispering, telling, and shouting that hope to me. Does she know she touched my heart today? Does she know her smile moved me and shook me and embraced me today, willing me to work harder and to enjoy my life more and with more hope? She doesn't know, but she does know what she's doing, I believe, enjoying it to the fullest. This woman is in the business of life, and I want to be just like her when I grow up.


A Joyous Monday

Iced latte at my computer at work, this afternoon.
We have been having such beautiful, mild weather in these parts, even in Berkeley which is freezing on most days of the year if you ask me! I started a new week with happiness. I went to visit my sisters yesterday and found out that my nephew Farid's wife is expecting their first child. How exciting! Immediately after hearing this good news I was informed by my sisters that there will also be a wedding in our family this September! My cousin's sweet daughter, Afsoon, seems to have finally found her mate! I complained that I know nothing about what's happening in this family! I was advised that it is my long absences which keep me from knowing all that I want to know! That was a low blow, but I deserved it. Ouch! I'm happy just the same! A new baby (well, in about 5 months!) and an aroosi, how can things get any better in a family? The best things in life come not as a result of wealth, but as a result of heart; that's what I think.
This week I will be taking two trips to Southern California, once on Wednesday for a one-day business trip and again on Friday to attend a writers' workshop and meeting this weekend. I will report on anything exciting I might see! Be good y'all and have a good Tuesday!


This One's For You

Bruce Bahmani's slideshow at Iranian.com's Benefit, April 19, 2008 in San Francisco. I was touched to be featured from among literally thousands of writers who have contributed to Iranian.com for the past 13 years. Photo by Talieh Shahrokhi.
And so, I am taking my own advice. This post is for you. For all you kind and warm and wonderful people who come to read my scribblings, senseless most of the time, and sensible only a fraction of the time, but always written with love and passion. I love you and I am honored for your friendship. My life has a different taste, a different feel, and a different depth since I started blogging. What good is writing if you have no readers? What fun is there in telling a story if there is no audience? Thank you for coming and reading and sometimes saying something. You make it worth the effort tenfold. This is a home with room for more than just me and my family, it has room for all of you. Thank you for coming again and again. Please come and visit me in your own home, where someone who loves you always awaits you.


Easy Saturday

Sohan factory in Qom, March 31, 2008.
It is a beautiful day where I live. Mild and sunny, full of the sound of birds singing on the trees outside my windows. I am organizing my house and taking it easy. A little later I will have to finish a story I have been writing for a while, crossing it from my list of commitments. It's been a busy week for me with work. I also took care of some social visits which I had been putting off for a while, much to my friends' chagrin.
Thank you all for your kind replies to my plea for help in choosing a name for my car. Your comments helped me pick a name for it. I will introduce him to you soon. Someone wrote me a letter, suggesting that I call my car "Dol Dol," which I think was the name of Hazrat-e-Ali's horse. I thank him for his suggestion, but I think it would be a hard name to call a car!
I wish you all a peaceful and happy weekend, surrounded by those you love. In case it has been a while since you told them, please get on with the task of confessing your love. When you hear a confession in return, you'll know just how lucky you are. Enjoy your weekend y'all.



Nine-year-old Guiv Ghalamkaripour performs a piece in Shour on his Setar. He lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he was born and raised.

I walked into that space one last time and I looked around. Everything I needed to take was already moved out. I grabbed my bag, my coat, and my roosari, walking toward the door. I turned around and looked one last time. I stood there, trying hard to see if I had any feelings for the place. I had memories of old feelings, but no present feelings about it. Nothing in that great space looked familiar or dear anymore. It was as though I had never been there, as if I had never belonged to it. I turned again and pulled the door shut. I dropped the keys in the messenger's palm, and pushed the elevator button. When the elevator door opened, I stepped inside without a glance backward and I haven't looked back since. My business has never been the past. It is here and now, doing my very best for it, giving it my all, and feeling its joys and pains to their fullest. Once I move on, if I ever look, it is to the future, never to the past. The past is where I once did my best and gave it my all. Whether it was good enough is immaterial now because it's all done now, so I won't dwell, doubt, and deliberate over my past. For the person who had asked me about it, this is how my life is "regret-free." When you are sure you have done your very best, there will be no regrets.


A Car Without A Name

Workers dying carpet wool in Zanjan, April 14, 2008.
My little car, Shabdiz, has been put to rest by the insurance company. They said it would have cost more to repair it than to replace it. I was sad about that for a few weeks, because Shabdiz and my boys and I had had quite a few memories together over the past year-and-a-half. So many of the good and bad memories we made happened when we were driving that car. More than my "wheels" and a mode of transportation, it was my sanctuary and refuge from so much in life. My kids and I had long laughing sessions, screaming matches, and music discovery and re-discovery times in it. Both of them learned how to drive in that car--Oh My God, that was something, remember?! So many times I sat in that car by myself, crying my eyes out, or writing something in my head as I was commuting to and from work. Well, it is gone now. I picked up my new car today. This one is the same car as Shabdiz, only it's brand new. I will have to get to know it before it, too, can feel like an extension of our group. It will need a name first. It could be named Rakhsh (Rostam's horse), or Golgoon (Shirin's other horse, identical to Shabdiz), or Yaghoot (Morad Barghi's car--does anybody remember that one!?). I rather liked the name Shabdiz, though! Can I call this one Shabdiz, too? I don't know. It feels so disloyal to my blue Shabdiz to go buy a brand new gold car and call it Shabdiz again, as though that original one never existed! I know I must sound like a sentimental fool to you, but help me out, please!Tell me, what do you think?


Sounds of A Day

Iranian dancer at British Museum's Magical Persia Family Weekend, April 19-20, 2008. Photo by Parima Shahin Moghaddam, from Iranian.com.
5:30 a.m. Alarm sound. A car goes by.
6:00 a.m. Second alarm sound. Birds chriping outside.
6:15 a.m. The sound of running water in the shower. Hair dryer. High heels on hardwood.
7:00 a.m. The sound of electric tea pot going off. A car passes by.
7:15 a.m. "Hey, bro, wake up!"
7:45 a.m. "Hello Beautiful! Khoobi?" Running water in the boys' shower.
7:55 a.m. "Hey Mom..." "Do you think you can buy me some black and white film in Berkeley today? I need it for my photography class." "Have a nice day...."
8:05 a.m. "I can't believe you're finally coming to visit us in June..."
8:10 a.m. "It's going to be a chilly day...expect rain later in the day...traffic on I-24....."
8:15 a.m. "What's love got to do with it.......When the lights go down in the City..."
9:10 a.m. "Hi Nazy, are you going to that meeting? I'll go with you."
11:00 a.m. "Oh My God! Where have you been? I called your office all last week and you wouldn't pick up!....."
12:00 p.m. "Thank you all for coming to this meeting on your lunch break..."
1:00 p.m. "I am closing the 'total loss' file on your car and ending your rental tomorrow..."
1:50 p.m. "Chetori? I miss you. Wanna go do something together on Sunday?"
2:30 p.m. "It's settled. Dinner at my house on Friday. Sorry, didn't realize you were in a meeting! Bye!"
4:00 p.m. "Can you sign off on this line, please?"
5:00 p.m. "Where are you Mom?"
6:00 p.m. "Black and white?"
7:00 p.m. "Salaaaaam. Cheeetooori? My Farsi is improving, don't you think?"
7:15 p.m. "Nazy Jaan...."
8:00 p.m. "Salam Maman! I'm starving..."
8:15 p.m. "Delicious, thank you, I just love Persian food..." "Want something to drink, Paul?"
8:45 p.m. "Salam Khanoom Kaviani...." "Salam Khanoom Kaviani..." "Salam Khanoom Kaviani"
9:00 p.m. "Can you boys keep it down, please? I'm trying to write...."
9:20 p.m. Sound of front door closing. Quiet house, humming computer, sprinklers going off outside.
9:45 p.m. Six young men laughing, practising Spanish...my heart sings...



Little girl in Mahshahr, Khouzestan. Photo by Soudeh Rad, from Iranian.com.
I was busy with projects and reflections this past week. I feel I'm good to go now! Tomorrow I will return to work, ready to work hard on a list of priorites which emerged during my reflections of last week.
You know, when we are healthy, when we belong to a loving family and a circle of good friends, when we have the means to earn and sustain a decent living, when we are able to participate in rewarding cultural and social pastimes, and when our outlook on life is hopeful and positive, we have all that we need. I took stock of all of that personal prosperity this week. I don't need things, and I don't have wishes for luxuries in life, not anymore. I have all that I need. I only need to plan and do whatever it takes to sustain and keep the many wonderful things that I already have in my posession. There was a time when I had money and a posh lifestyle, but I left it behind in pursuit of true and meaningful assets in life. This week I realized again that I am rich without money, and prosperous without wealth. I turn a new leaf a rich woman.


Watching the Harvest

Two boys share a secret in Iran. Photo by Nader Davoodi from Iranian.com.
I have been staying home to take care of my health and life this week. So, it has been a peaceful week, and contrary to appearances and circumstances, it has been one of the happiest few days of late. I received some pretty happy news this week. A letter came in the mail, inviting me to a wedding this summer. An email came, inviting me to write something for a fabulous cause. An instant message came, inviting me to a lunch. And a really fantastic thing just came in the mail--my older son's admission to University of California at Santa Cruz! I am so excited you guys! I am so glad he has admission to such a fine university, whether or not he decides to accept the admission offer. It is so good for him to have good choices, hard choices to make. People who make choices become stronger in life, feeling more in charge and less trapped. I am so aware of the "privilege of choice" in building young people's character and future. At this moment, it is really hard to tell which one of us is happier! He is the one making the choice, so he is probably less happy. I am the one who sits observing the harvest of seeds sown in his life, with more seeds and harvests to follow. I am the happier one, I believe.


Elsa and Her Contraptions

Soltanieh Dome, Zanjan, Iran. Photo by Meisam Mohammadi, April 14, 2008.
The nurse's name was Elsa. She directed me to a bed to lie down so that she could do a sonogram on my left breast. I obliged, remarking that the room was a bit cold. She agreed and went to get me a blanket. A few minutes later, she returned with a heated blanket, and covered me with it. She started the procedure. It was so strange. I was so peaceful and calm. I had gone in for a mammogram last Friday. Yesterday I received a call, telling me to go back for more image work, because they had seen something in my left breast. I went in at 9:30, when they did another mammogram, only this one was harder. Those of you who have had to endure one would know that the procedure entails squeezing each breast on this contraption, I guess trying to flatten it (!) for the X-rays to come out clearly. After that second mammogram, after which I was sure my left breast would be flattened forever, they reviewed the results and told me that I now had to go through a sonogram. I knew better than to ask the nurse and the technician to tell me why they had to do the extra work on me. They would have told me to talk to the doctor, so I kept quiet. I was thinking of all the women who would go through the same thing everyday all over the world, waiting to be told some ominous news. I was thinking how strange that I didn't feel any trepidation or anxiety.
I was lying on the bed under my warm blanket, looking at the monitor which showed a dark spot. I asked Elsa: "Is it big?" She said: "It's not big and it's not small. It's medium. And there are several others, too." I shook my head and closed my eyes. The cool room and the warm blanket and the humming of the machine next to me were making me so sleepy. So I went to sleep. I woke up to Elsa's voice. How long had I been sleeping? I smiled and said: "Is it over? I guess I wasn't too worried about this!" Elsa said kindly: "The doctor says you're fine. He says to tell you to come back again next year." It was hard to get up and get dressed and go home. I rather liked all the fuss!


Love Found

Ballet Afsaneh dancer performs at a wedding in San Francisco, April 2007. Photo by Jahanshah Javid.
She says with joy "Nazy Joon, I have met someone!" Across the continents and through the telephone line, my young friend tells me about the man who is showing her love for the first time. I ask all the prudent questions. She is ready to answer them. I ask her if she is sure of his feelings for her, too, and she says "Yes. I am!" I am so happy for my young friend. All the way in Europe, away from family and friends in Iran and in US, just when she wasn't looking at all, she has met a business colleague who is kind and considerate and loving, she says. My heart sings with the joy of love in my vicinity. Good for her. And he is a very lucky man, indeed. I remind her of what I had said to her just a year ago about love--that she will find it in the least likely place and when least expected. She says: "Nazy Joon, why do you think I called you to tell you my news tonight?" I smile.

Poetry and Prayers

Blossoms in Sanandaj, Kurdistan, 13 Be Dar, April 2008.
Sorry for the long absence! I had to do my taxes, as they could not be procrastinated any longer! So, they are done and this is the 4th black cloud shifting and disappearing in my sky, with a few more waiting their turns this week! By the end of next week, I plan to have none of those hanging on my head for a while to come. We'll see!
Some of my older son's poems are about to be published and I'm really excited, probably more so than him! His writing is so good, you guys! He never believes me when I tell him this, so hopefully when he sees other people's interest in his poetry, he will grow more confident and will write more. As shy as he is about sharing his writing, even with me, well, probably specially with me because I tend to go overboard with compliments, he is not shy about talking his mind with me.
I woke up very early today to fetch my papers and files in preparation for the dreaded taxman (not really, he is my kin!). I was concentrating on reading some documents when he came in and started talking to me. He is our token "morning person" in the family. When he was a baby, he would wake up early in the morning and would start singing in his crib! This is how I knew he was awake. He never cried and was never cranky in the morning. The same characteristic has followed him (and me!) into his adult years. He is full of energy and joy and ideas and words first thing in the morning, which doesn't sit really well with me and his brother, as we are quiet and cranky in the mornings! But there's no stopping him from talking to us and trying to engage us in a conversation, as was the case this morning, except I was cranky and quiet and concentrating on the dreaded tax dossier!
He talked to me and told me stories and played music on his computer for me. Just as I was warming up to the conversation and actually paying attention to him, he and his brother left the house for work. I sat here by myself for a few minutes, thinking about him. Much like he doesn't know how good his poetry is, he doesn't know what effect he has on people. Nothing I say will convince him, because I'm his mother and prone to exaggerations, he thinks. I found myself praying a prayer for the two of them and their health and safe return home. I remembered my own mother reading the same prayer for us all the time. I don't mind resembling my mother anymore, for I finally understand her more than I ever did when she was alive.


Life and Taxes

A young man sings a beautiful love song in his bedroom in Tehran. I don't know his name, but it could be Ramin Bibak from what I gathered. The song, Mikham Chikar, is originally by Shadmehr Aghili. Something about the way this guy sings tugs at my heart. Enjoy!

So, I have a few days off from work to attend my new list of priorities. I spent most of yesterday doing some of the medical things I have been putting off for a long time. More will follow next week. I am also doing my taxes at the last minute this weekend, and taking care of the less pleasant but also necessary aspects of life.
Bayramali and I went to a poetry reading last night in Berkeley's Persian Center. Shole Wolpe, who has recently published a book, Sin, translating some of Forough Farrokhzad's poems, was in town. She has done a remarkable job of the task, delivering Forough with passion and accuracy. Shole Wolpe is a poet herself, so that may have had something to do with how beautifully her translations of Forough read. It was sweet to listen to her and to hear Forough in another language.
It's a beautiful warm day around here. I think I will spend some of it in the sun. I will also be spending time with my sisters. I'll come back to work on some writing later this evening. Have a great Saturday you all.

Writing Life

I was in the middle of a crowd. I went to a corner to look at something. I must have taken too long, I don't know. My friend came to me and said: "Nazy, stop writing! Come and join the others, you can write later." I looked into her beautiful eyes, looking shinier and deeper than usual in that bright April sunshine. I said: "Thanks for coming to get me. I'll come, but I can't stop writing, I'm not done yet." How did she know I was writing in my head?! My friends constantly surprise me with their insight, though not all of it is as pleasant. In the middle of a heated discussion, someone dear to me told me not too long ago: "I can't wait for you to blog about it!" Except this wasn't about a happy story. It was about something very personal and bitterly painful. I looked at my friend that day and said: "I am writing all the time, but not all that I write makes it to my blogs." Such has been my life recently. I have tens of hand-written half-sentences, place holders if you will, of things I need to say, written in meetings, in my car, at the supermarket, and more than once when I woke up in the middle of the night. I am getting ready to write them on my keyboard now. That's where I have been. I am writing.


The Address

Lunar Eclipse, Iran, February 21, 2008.
"Where is the friend's house?,"
the rider asked in the twilight.
Heaven paused;
The passerby bestowed the flood of light on his lips to darkness of sands
And pointed to a poplar and said:
"Near the tree,
Is a garden-line greener than God's dream
Where love is bluer than the feathers of honesty.
Walk to the end of the lane which emerges from behind puberty,
Then turn towards the flower of solitude;
Two steps to the flower,
Stay by the eternal mythological fountain of earth
where a transparent fear will visit you.
In the flowing intimacy of the space you will hear a rustling sound:
You will see a child
Who has ascended a tall plane tree to pick up chicks from the nest of light.
Ask him:
Where is the friend's house?

Poem by Sohrab Sepehri, translated by M. Alexandrian. From here.

Please share a poem with us.


Hard Tuesday

Loris Tjeknavorian conducts The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and Shahram Nazeri, performing a Kurdish song in Tehran in 2006. Simply lovely!

Farshad says it's raining in Tehran. I remember the soft spring rains of Tehran so well. The rain that spreads the sweet smell of wet dirt in the air and washes the pollution, delivering a spotless, shiny city back to all those who keep forgetting what a breathtakingly beautiful city Tehran is, surrounded by all those gorgeous mountains to the north, the south, the east, and west. I miss Tehran so much today. Our weather was sunny today, but I'm so cold all the time these days. I swear if I could, I would take my blue blanket to work and wrap it around me and sit behind my desk, just as I'm doing all around the house these days!

Someone around me is suffering from a breakup. It's so hard to watch him suffer, unable to do much to help. 'Happened difficulties' are the order of the day! And it's painful even to watch the thin face, the pained eyes, and the requisite sad and quiet solitude of an ended relationship in which a person must wallow and think and heal and eventually recover. I have been there and I know better than to try. True, you can take the person out to dinner or a movie for a few hours or try and engage him in a discussion about politics or arts, but soon he will have to go back to the cocoon of sadness which is built almost overnight around a broken heart. Delam misoozeh barash. I'm useless, though.
And as though I don't have enough challenges facing my present these day, I have been visited by my past again this week. It's been an unwelcome surprise. Yes, I know what to do and what to say, but it's hard just the same. I wished the past would stay exactly where it belongs, in the past. If you are having a good week, please tell me about it. My kids are telling me good stories about their work and school, too, which is really a blessing. I think some days everyone can stand to be infused with the hope that only others can give.

In Her Generous Hands

Tomato Farmer in Iran, April 8, 2008. See the rest here.
There could be a hundred different poses this woman farmer could have taken for this picture. I love how she offers what she has worked hard to harvest to the camera, to us. I think no harvest is worth the effort if you don't share its product with others. I think that way about life. Working hard to sow a seed and to see it through growth and fruition, what better way to truly enjoy it than to offer some of that fruit to others? Generous people have a very special place in my heart. I aspire to be like them no matter who they are. Have a good Tuesday you all.


Slow Sunday

Interviewing Loris Tjeknavorian in Berkeley, March 9, 2008. Photo by Jahanshah Javid.
I spent a quiet day, working (very slowly) on the "organization" project I had promised myself for the weekend. It was a relatively productive day. The boys and their friend, Paul, stayed home for a dinner I had managed to prepare for them. I went to look in on them as they were eating and Paul thanked me and told me that he hadn't had a home-made dinner in a while. That was so sweet. Such is life in a college town.
For those of you who had asked to see it, here's an excerpt from the interview I did with Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian in March. I have my first draft and will be working to finish it for publication tomorrow night. Be good you all and have a wonderful week ahead.
....The dapper and handsome Loris Tjeknavorian is a world-class conductor and composer, born and raised in an Armenian family in Iran. He has conducted many of the most renowned international symphony and philharmonic orchestras to adoring audiences. Yet, after living in Armenia for many years after the Revolution, he keeps going back to Iran, where he says he feels a primitive love for the place, so similar to the love one would feel for his parents. I have had the good fortune of watching him onstage in Tehran, where the love affair between him and his Iranian audience is so palpable. He is so reachable and so unpretentious on stage, his interactions with his orchestra members and audience create electric magic. In the performance I attended in Tehran, he and one of the players acted out a joke on stage which had the audience in stitches!
I asked him if it wasn’t difficult for him to work in Iran. He said “There are hardships everywhere, and you have to make do with what you have. The Iranian government for the most part leaves me alone, never interfering with my art. I can do as I wish. They have never stopped me from saying my mind, and have never taken issue with my female soloists and my bow and tie. Iranian audiences are so warm. In my concerts I receive love and return love without inhibition. When I come on stage, they adore me and I adore them.”
He says: “From my youth to my old age, I have always been in love. The day I am not in love, I want to die. Love keeps us alive, and able to do things. I think it’s better to die for love than to live without love. I wrote a song about that. Though love for a woman is the best kind of love, it doesn’t have to be all that love is about. I love God. I have a love relationship with God. This love doesn’t show up in religious books, it is of a very personal nature. Love connects all people and all humanity. I don’t follow any religious doctrine for this love. It is just a love to God, a relationship I have with him.”....


Saturday's Funeral, Tea Party, and Thoughts

Tea and chocolate with Omid and Helaleh this evening. Photo of a sign inside Alegio Chocolates of Berkeley.
I went to a funeral today. It was a very peaceful and loving gathering to bury my friend Parisa's father. I don't know a better Moslem than Parisa. In her lifestyle and thinking, she has truly surrendered to God's will, which is what a Moslem is supposed to do, I guess. When I see her, I always wonder what those other people who claim to be Moslems are talking about when they hate and kill. The circle of people who loved Parisa's father made the gathering one of peaceful reflection and joy of togetherness. For some reason, I didn't cry, though I'm prone to downpours in funerals. I think I may know why, though.
This week I have been driving a rental car, as my car was totalled in the accident. When I got in the car to drive to work on Wednesday, I found a yellow post-it note on the CD player. It was a note from my younger son. It simply said: "For you, Mom." I listened to the CD which started with Boston's More Than A Feeling, followed by many other tracks of music I love and listen to periodically. My son must have spent a long time finding those songs and compiling the CD for me, all of his own accord. My eyes filled with the tears that had been threatening for days, and which I had blinked away in my effort to cope with the incidents that have been occupying my mind recently. In all of the released emotions caused by the music and my son's gesture, I felt so liberated and peaceful to know that even when he appears so aloof and devil-may-care, there is someone in my life who knows me so very well and who cares a great deal about me and my happiness. True, I'm sure he didn't want his gift to make me cry, but sometimes tears liberate us of feelings which must be released before we can feel peaceful again.
So, there you have it--the woman who cries her makeup down on her way to work, but can't cry at a funeral, because these days, my tears are all for love and none for sadness. Yes, I cry, a lot! But more and more for the beauties of life. And life is beautiful.


Here and Now and This

Surprise lunch with sweet Leva today.
It's Friday. My children's father is visiting them in this area this weekend, so they have gone out to dinner with him. Iden is also spending his Friday night with his girlfriend, so I have the house all to myself again, enjoying writing and listening to music.* So, I have tried hard to ignore the pains and aches which have followed my car accident, but it seems a bit easier said than done! All this week, I have gone around thanking God for his mercy and kindness on me and others involved in that accident. I have talked to many of my friends and family members this week, and feel really good in the knowledge that I am surrounded by the love and affection of many people from different walks of life. One conversation with my friend at work, Ada, has been the most poignant one of the week for me. Ada was telling me about taking care of her ailing mother. I asked her whether she thinks life's glass is half full or half empty? She said "half full." She then asked me what I think about life's glass? I was surprised to find that I had to think about that question! I finally said I believe that life's glass is all full, without any room for speculation about what may not be in it. Here and now and this is what life is about, not there and then and that. It was good to see Ada smile after many months of seeing sadness in her face.
I wish you all a very happy and loving weekend. Life is too short, you guys! Spend it living, learning, loving, and laughing. Don't give in to doubts and worries--go forward sure-footed and decided on enjoying every moment of it. Go looking for opportunities which would make you happier, leaving the ones that drag you down behind. When you are strong you can help others, too. That's what I will be doing this weekend. I will be working on organizing myself, prioritizing my needs and goals. I will be sure to remember one thing as I do a house cleaning in my head--all the love around me stays and everything else goes! I'll tell you more about this soon. Have a good weekend y'all!
*Hey, Jude, don't make it bad/ Take a sad song and make it better/ Remember to let her into your heart/ Then you can start to make it better...(Hey Jude by Beatles)


The Woman Singing in My Heart

Haydeh sings shahrashoub.

Our friend, Hashem, had a small restaurant in the nearby Albany. His mother cooked the delicious food, and he and his brothers managed the restaurant. Sometimes on weekends he would invite Iranian singers and musicians to perform in the party room upstairs. Our children were young and when we attended the small concerts at Hashem's restaurant, we had to get babysitters and plan our time carefully. He was so happy one time to tell us that Haydeh was coming to town in a few weeks. We reserved a table for 8 for that Friday night and went about telling our friends to come along and arranging for a sitter. When Friday night rolled in, we first went to dinner and then upstairs to the first table off the small stage. In a few minutes the band started playing and Haydeh walked on stage. She looked really good and happy. Because it was a small crowd, it felt so cozy and family-like to be in that room with the singer a whole nation loved. At one point, I asked her to sing "soghati ," and she immediately started singing it, honoring me to no end. We had one of the best nights of our lives in that sweet atmosphere. It was 2:15 a.m. when we finally decided to leave, because we had to let the sitter go home. The concert, however, wasn't over yet, and as we left the building, all the way across the road in the parking lot, we could still hear Haydeh's sweet voice, singing my most favorite of her songs, "Narges-e-Shiraz."
When I woke up the next day, I was still really jazzed about the performance I had seen the night before. As usual, I called Hashem to thank him for the wonderful time we had had the night before and to give him feedback on the performance. Hashem's brother, Saeed, picked up the phone. He sounded different than his usual bubbly self. Was he sad? I asked him what was up, and he burst into tears, telling me that Haydeh had died in the early hours of that morning. Since then, and for the rest of my life, I carry the sadness and honor of having seen Haydeh in the last concert of her life. She was a legend to all Iranians, but I have felt her loss on a very personal level for all these years. She continues to live in the hearts of millions of Iranians now, and I believe none more profoundly than mine.


Rosewater and Flowers

Poppies in Kashan's Niasar Gardens, March 31, 2008. More photographs here.
Faati and Hadi loved each other. Everyone knew their story. They were inseparable. Faati couldn't bear children, and in their lower middle class families, there was immense pressure for Hadi to divorce Faati or to remarry, so that he could have a child. Hadi angrily rejected all such talk and continued his devoted life with the beautiful Faati. He would always tell her not to worry about a thing, because he would always be with her and take care of her. When Hadi suffered a massive heart attack and died suddenly at 51, Faati was devastated. Sad and distraught, every Thursday morning, she would take several buses to arrive at Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery to visit Hadi's grave, each time carrying a small bag containing rosewater and flowers. She would lovingly wash the tombstone first with water and then with rosewater, putting the fresh flowers she had brought from her small garden on Hadi's grave, sitting there, talking to him and crying. She would finish her weekly ritual by noon and would take all those buses back to her small house on Hafez Avenue.
A whole two years had gone by, when one Wednesday night Faati received unexpected guests from out of town. In the morning, she had to wait for her guests to wake up and serve their breakfast and see them off. She was feeling anxious about running late with her "date" with Hadi. Her guests took their sweet time and by the time they left it was already 11:00 o'clock. Faati took her buses and arrived at the Cemetery at around 2:00 p.m. She started her ritual of washing the grave in a rush, anxious to make up for lost time, lest Hadi would be worried about her whereabouts. A man was silently praying at a grave in the next row. When he was finished, he came over and greeted Faati. She had never seen this man before and was irritated at his sudden appearance in the middle of her ritual. The man said to her that his wife had also died a few years ago, and that every Thursday afternoon he came to visit her gravesite. Once in that area of the cemetery, he always noticed Hadi's grave so clean with the beautiful flowers on top. He said he had always wanted to see the devoted visitor of that grave, and this was the first time he had been able to see her. Faati was polite but short with the man, who stooped to do a Fateheh prayer on Hadi's grave. The man who introduced himself as Habib, waited patiently a few steps away and when Faati was done with her ritual, asked her if he could give her a ride into town. Late and exhausted, Faati accepted the ride.
A year later, Faati and Habib got married. They would go and visit the gravesites together now, knowing by now that Habib's wife and Hadi had both died on the same day all those years ago.
This is a true story.

Iranian Actors Sing For Iran

Iranian film actors and actresses sing Ey Iran, led by Parviz Parastooee. I didn't know he could sing, too! This clip originally appeared here. You can watch it there if you can't access YouTube, but you will need a fast internet connection. It's really moving. Enjoy!


A Memory in the Palm of My Hand

Roasted nuts (Ajeel) factory in Tabriz, Iran, March 31, 2008.
When I was a child, my father would sometimes take us to purchase party and entertainment staples. We would go to Shahreza Avenue (Enghelab), and buy pastries and sweets from Shahreza Bakery (Ghannadi-e-Shahreza). This shop later moved to Kakh Avenue (Felesteen), and Mr. Azarba's daughter, Shireen Khanoom, moved it to Jordan Boulevard first and then to Elahieh's Agha Bozorgi Street. Next to Shahreza bakery, there was a nut shop, called Ajeel-e-Fard-e-Shahreza. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever seen in my life. At any given hour of the day, when you went to the shop, they were roasting different kinds of nuts. I remember the bright lights hanging over basket after basket of dried fruit and nuts, lining the storefront. The shop's owners and help would greet you by dropping a handful of piping hot roasted pistachio nuts into the palm of your hand. They knew my father and treated him really well there, I guess, but I have a feeling they were equally generous to all their patrons.
It is rather strange. My childhood memories are full of loving and generous people, friends, neighbors, and shopkeepers. Heeh, the only people who continue to appear as utterly mean in my childhood memories are my teachers and school principles, especially the ones from elementary school! No amount of time seems to help me get over their poor and abusive treatment of their young charges! Anyhow, seeing this picture reminded me of so many of my good childhood memories. I know I'm divulging my age by the by, but I can't help it--nostalgia has a firm grip on me today!