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A dead body is discovered at Takhte Jamshid with a dagger plunged in his chest by the lion devouring the bull

April 19, 2002
The Iranian

We had to walk the last mile to Shiraz. I was carrying Akira piggyback because of cherry red sores that had begun to form on his thighs and belly and crotch from walking 30k a day up and down mountains in soaking wet deniums.

Americans never forget and forgive Pearl Harbor, cried Akira. He wanted to make a radiant impression but was always foiled because he had lost the war.

He knew his topknot was unfashionable. He wore a cotton kimono and wooden clogs. He had been an iternerant hawker of trinkets and his unusual name Akira was laughed at in Shiraz.

In Persia he saw a residue of the Zand pariah caste consisting mainly of beggers that ranked below all the strata of ordinary feudal society, enjoying none of society's benefits and subject to systematic persecution. He had a sore scrotum too.

About half an hour later coming up the hill was the woodcutter riding a cream painted lady's bicycle carrying a floppy black umbrella and wearing a white shirt, a fawn cap and rubber golashes. We walked together for three or four miles along the empty road while the woodcutter told us his story of Rashoman which he spent his life retelling since 1950.

A dead body is discovered at Takhte Jamshid with a dagger plunged in his chest by the lion devouring the bull. Flashes of thunder and lightning hit the Palace of Jamshid. The dead man had been a Samuri in a funk between jobs. Playing hooky in the great hall.

This tale turns into an exsistential drama that deepens into a metaphysical riddle. Where, after all, is the nature of work in a global economy with an endless flowchart of possibilities.

In the Rashoman film a robber meets a travelling Samuri and his wife who was wearing a sash of pale blue silk stuffed with cotton fornicating on the sacrificial alter of Takhte Jamshid. Jealous and desperate for a fix the robber kills the Samuri and rapes his wife. He is a misfit and sore thumb among the mystical Persians who pursue impossible dreams.

What is the truth asks Akira nearly vomiting from the itch of his sores. Has it one face, one voice or is it relative and subjective? What in life is real? Investing in Africa, creating a management team and mowing lawns.

Kurasawa is an escape artist and decides to interview three eye witnesses to the fatal killing. Anyone who has ever skipped out on work and then lied about it - that is everybody - will understand why his second witness, Yoko Ono lied. Yoko was developing a secret life of her own and could not take a chance of being found out by telling the truth of what she saw.

As the fakery of the witnesses expands Kurasawa realizes he will never know the truth. He begins to freak out and takes out his sword and cuts off the head of a cat. A heavy rain starts falling.

That's the Japanese way with alienation, turn it into violent explosive melodrama with a cup of sake at the Azalea Festival with pink and blue lanterns.

But Kurasawa is after something subtler, deeper and more insidiously wounding. He withdraws into a desperate ideal of truth. Where silence and glassy-eyed Samuri will become heros and gods. But he knows he drinks too much sake and in Shiraz puffs poppies in limbo of his own unfulfilled desires.

To tell the truth ambiguity, vanity, subjectivity are unavoidable facts of exsistence. Vagueness has taken over.

A lowlife swindler is the third witness who smuggles cheap foreign imitations of brand-name consumer goods into the Karim Khan Zand bazaar. With relief Akira falls into the clutches of this sinister but oddly sympathetic man who at least deals in tangibly fake watches, oranges from Isreal, sneakers and T-shirts. He enjoys lying.

I put Akira down to to rest. I observe him and his obsession with the magnificent Karim Khan Zand Qoran Gate with the shifted identity to Rashomon Gate. In the end I was split between wanting Akira to get away with a lie or wanting him to be taken down. Perhaps I felt like killing him because of what he said about myself and also how heavy he was to carry.

He certainly shot an arrow through my heart when I wanted him to forget about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see Takhte Jamshid as a great movie fable in the rain. I was grateful that Akira was in Shiraz with his own Macbeth Samuri Washizu. Only the rain and the shiny brown frogs had come out to sit in the downpour on the great stairs.

Beyond the dark woods near the rose garden of Hafez the tumble of green water in the fountain was a stray dog. Akira looked as if he wanted to commit murder in pelting rain. The door opened a crack as Akira limped up to the teahouse. We spent a fretful hour speaking about the Seven Samuri and Throne of Blood. Akira withdrew into his chai remembering the faded Samuri who got nailed to the cross with a lie. All he needed to live on were mushrooms in the hills and a tie.

The niggling in my stomach told me it was time to go. It was another twenty-seven months before they would discover the cancer in my gut. In the end it was by the sound of the Zenderud River that we fell asleep on the last night of our walk.

I told Akira, I'm gonna smoke a joint and go to sleep. No more talk. The kuintessential Kurasawa kanned it and knocked off into the kollective unkonscious.

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