Lunch with Lotfi

One day last week I went to have lunch with my friend, Professor Lotfi Zadeh, in Berkeley. I picked him up in his office on campus. I have written about him before. Inventor of "fuzzy logic," Lotfi is a Professor Emeritus at Berkeley's EECS department. He still goes to work everyday, keeping with his huge network of contacts worldwide. As charming and dashingly clothed as ever, my 88-year-old friend made me laugh and think as is a tradition between us. We had Prsian food at Alborz and talked about the Iranian elections and what is happening in Iran. With his very philosophical view on life, he made light of a grim situation.
Lotfi is originally from Baku, Azerbaijan, though he was raised in Iran, where he attended school and university. His anecdotes, reflective of his wonderful sense of humor, always includes something about Russia and Russians. He told me a joke about the 1996 Russian elections during which Boris Yeltsin was re-elected. He said as the polls had closed and they were counting the votes, a Yeltsin aide came to see him late at night and said: "Sir, I have good news and bad news." Yeltsin asked him to give him the bad news first. The aide said "The bad news is that your opponent has 60% of the votes." Distraught, Yeltsin asked: "What's the good news, then?" His aide said: "The good news is that we've got 80% of the votes!"
Lotfi is a delight! We spent a good time talking about life, relationships, and politics. Disarmed again with his wisdom and charm, I can't wait go see him again.
You can read the other posts I have written about him here and here.


Last Seen Wearing A Green Ribbon

The mother looked in
The sleeping child breathing slowly
Face framed by sheets in the dark
Softly she said “Wake up Sohrab”
The day’s hope and excitement ahead
The shower ran
Bread was toasted,
The sound of the slowly boiling kettle
The green ribbon tied
Heralding the start of a momentous day

~ ~ ~

As the crowd flowed and moved through,

Everyone a drop in a sea of green

Taking tiny steps ahead

Shoulder to shoulder

The telegraphic words and looks

Transmitting meanings and messages

Through the deafening roar

A nod of reassurance

A tiny smile

~ ~ ~

The crowd grew greater and wider

And in an errant second they were pulled apart,

Separated by the sea,

Tiny and black clad among the trees,

She watched him happily engulfed, foam on the wave,

She lost sight of him

The crowd took him

And she stood there thinking

“This wholesome crowd will protect him”

“He will be safe”

~ ~ ~

She waited

And waited

And didn’t hear the key turning in the lock

And couldn’t hear his familiar footsteps down the hall

And melancholy swiftly turned to despair,

She became a soldier searching

The young man who was last seen wearing a green ribbon

She looked

High and low

Low and low

She asked “Have you seen my boy?”

“He was wearing a green ribbon”



A month

~ ~ ~

The news came

Stark and short

And the crowds gathered again

Hailing the end

Carrying gladiola

Wearing black ribbons

~ ~ ~

The mother looked in

The sleeping boy forgetting to breath

The shroud framing his man’s shape

Softly she said “Wake up Sohrab”

Her life’s dread and grief ahead

As the crowd prayed

The smell of camphor and rosewater

Mixed with the sound of sobs and muffled tears

Marked the start of a barren life

The life of the mother without her son.


For Iran

U2 perform "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" in solidarity with Iranian people during their 360 degrees world tour in Dublin, Ireland on July, 24th, 2009. Amazing performance.

Today I am going to the San Francisco Mega Rally in solidarity with Iranians. It will be at the Civic Center Plaza on McAllister Street from 12:00 until 4:30 p.m. (catch BART to Civic Center station). Join us if you can. Do it for Iran.


Our Iran

"The Three Iranian Sopranos," Nasrin Asgari, Shirin Asgari, and Kamelia Dara, perform Iran-e Maa (our Iran) at their 2008 Vancouver concert. The song is composed by Hamid Zargarzadeh. I need to find the poem to this song.

And so, life goes on. For someone who is "in between jobs," I have been terribly busy this summer. It is no longer possible for me to say why my heart has been heavy. Is it my personal stuff and the job situation, or is it what's been happening in Iran? I just know that my heart has been heavy. But everyone's heart has been heavy of late. I'm going to start writing here again. I have a lot to tell you. Soon.

"boro baba!"

My friend calls and wants to gossip about her coworker. While I am on the phone with her, I have abandoned my feverish hourly search for news and information about Iran, in order to pay full attention to her. I sit there and listen to the same words being repeated over and over again, but I can’t really hear or understand a word of what she is saying. My mind is elsewhere, thousands of miles away, where people are running through the streets, scared. Any moment another one of them may be hit with a bullet. She says: “…and I would like to know why Steve takes issue with my being ten minutes late in the morning but he never asks Tina how come she comes in at 10 at least twice a week... .” And all I want to do is to stop her and this phone call while yelling: “boro baba!”
I realize I can’t just sit at home and do nothing other than watching the news. So I agree to go out on a second date with that guy. He is talking about his ex-wife again, the one who hurt and tormented him for years, leaving him scarred and scorched beyond recognition. Somewhere in that long few paragraphs he is uttering he says “and I was wondering whether you would like to come visit my cabin by the ocean some time, maybe next weekend. You know, maybe we can get to know each other better.” And I’m thinking to myself how I would go stir crazy with him and Linda in a cabin, cut off from the world and news about Iran for 48 hours. Though I say something else, something polite, all the while I’m saying in my mind: “boro baba!”
I open the mailbox. There is another offer for free panties from Victoria’s Secret, not to mention a Macy’s discount card for 25% off everything. There is even a card from Clarins summoning me to claim my free facial, free samples, and free gift package. There is a catalogue for courses in my town’s adult education center, and three catalogues from my favorite mail order stores. As I toss everything into trash, remembering the sea of people exposed to sticks and bullets in Iran, I send the vendors a short mental message: “boro baba!”
“What would you like to do for the celebration?” my best friend asks. As she rattles off the options and suggestions, it takes all my might to thank her, ask for a rain check, and postpone all celebrations until a time when I feel able to enjoy the occasion and all the hoopla. Is that a pout on her face? Sheesh, now I have to apologize and explain and justify myself. As I do, I send my friend a cryptic message in my mind: “boro baba!”
I show up to the protest and two minutes into the affair I hear two people behind me, fighting over the flag, one insisting to the other that this is not “our flag” or “my flag” or “Iran’s flag,” I can’t remember now which one he says. Standing there, thinking that I have come to the only place where I might feel slightly better, standing next to others who feel the same dread and anxiety as I do, I tell myself how much I wish I didn’t have to utter the words here, too. Alas I have to do it. This time, though, I say the words out loud, “boro baba!” and I’m ready to fight over this, too. I tell the guy to cut it out and let people do whatever makes them feel better, telling him that the other person is free to express himself whichever way he wants and it’s not right for anyone to tell him which flag to like or dislike. I know I am in the right place and in the company of my kin right there and then, when I hear the other guy look me in the eyes and say: “boro baba!”
I published this on iranian.com on July 19, 2009.


Where is my vote?

People of Holland show their support for people of Iran.