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December 2001

Finding you at the Friday Bazaar

Phew, Madame Bayaz is sorry she is late for her meeting with you this month. Though, frankly, I doubt that you even noticed. We've been meeting quite frequently here and there, though you may not be conscious of it. You see, Madame Bayaz has been out and about in disguise with the intention of experiencing the city in a way the surrealists once did in the Paris streets, catching glimpses of the seemingly inconsequential, the fleeting and the tangential in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Of course there is a vast difference between the stroll-able streets of Paris on the brink of modern life and the traffic jammed highways you find in virtually every post-modern city from LA. to Tehran. Yet your vehicle-less presence animated every moment of this stunning surrealist experience for Madame Bayaz. What's more you delayed her in her wonder and astonishment at you after she descended into the dark, exhaust filled garage close to the old Dar al-Funun in Tehran-i Qadim* -- that musky subterranean garage which, as you probably are aware, is for one day a week used as a Jomeh Bazaar*.

Listen up, as I tell you how I saw you there...

Mme Bayaz

Farvardin: Aries

You poser! Yes, I caught you there donning your Dervish costume, vogue-ing with your slightly under-dressed buddy by the European antiques section towards the back of the subterranean garage! Of all the objects and subjects in the bazaar you're the staple of the commodity return in its original form. No copy, no duplication or forgery here. You're always there. Always in the same old brown aba* ready to strike the less than cliché pose for the poor blue-eyed tourist sweating her death in an ill-fitting black chador. Keep doing it. You'll be noticed, eventually.

Ordibehesht: Taurus

Something tells me you're not going to like this, but Madame Bayaz is faithful in her report: Whatever you're doing right now is "so totally five minutes ago". In fact it is so passe it makes you look kitsch. Madame Bayaz saw you amidst the modern junk heap. And she saw how you tried hard to belong (you seem to be doing that a lot of lately). But the fact is that as the embodiment of the gold rimmed plate of the ex-Shah and Farah Diba, you do nothing but serve as a recollection of a time past, a deed done, and a generation lost. The peddler's display had you standing next to a wind-up imported Russian manufactured Curious George this Friday. His outfit would suit you better, Taurus. Put on your yellow capi, sit on your miniature three-wheeler, wind yourself up and hit the cymbals together until the neighbors downstairs yell at you through the ceiling! Isn't that better than being passe?

Khordad: Gemini

Before you get to the antique furniture where Madame Bayaz caught sight of the Dervish vogue-ing in Aries's reading and before the turn where the Pisces book of dreams is buried under the heap of clocks and gold chains, there is a tea-stand in this one-day-a-week converted underground garage where they serve ash* in the winter and orange or black soft drinks in the summer. A collector of old Qajar telegraphs invited Madame Bayaz to this tea-stand for a steaming glass and a sugar-cube this Friday and introduced her there to a melancholy poet from Shiraz who read an anguished stanza before offering her a handful of toot* in the palm of his stained hand. Incisive, Madame Bayaz noticed a colorful pill in the midst of the dried berries in the poet's hand and asked about it. "A red pill! What's that for?" Madame Bayaz demanded. "My anti-depressants," the poet mumbled burying his chin in his chest. This image is carved in Madame Bayaz' mind to remind me to tell you, Gemini, that you need to take your pill. Because no matter who I ask, you seem to be nowhere this month. Or rather, you seem to be buried under your sheets in the grips of a massive depression. Here, take some of my pills, too!

Tir: Cancer

"Who are you going to use that whip on, Madame Bayaz?" my young male companion on the Friday shopping spree inquired. "No one you need to busy yourself with, darling." "Oh, cum'on! Just tell me!" Madame Bayaz is not a violent person. She is just an avid collector... well, of... whips and such. And frankly I don't see much wrong with that, except for when it leads to embarrassments on the part of her interlocutors. Let me explain: When I went to inquire about a metal whip, just heavy enough to not tax the neck when I bejewel myself with it, the young peddler who thought that I may be an idiot (himself a fool!), raised the price by insisting that the glorious commodity was an ornament for a Safavi prayer bead and worth the 50 tomans he was asking for it. How embarrassing for him when I told him what was on my mind! And how ignorant can one be anyway?! I ignored his muffled apologies when I gave him ten tomans and walked away. After all it is just a whip and a standing threat even when I don't use it. I mean it, Cancer: Get on with it this month. You're slowing down moments from the finish line. Move it or watch me come down on that fanny! "Whoosh!"

Mordad: Leo

I simply can't believe her guts! To scream like that at the bulky Turk selling the oil lamps. Granted, it was you she was trying to take a picture of, not him, but we could hear her screaming back at him way at the other end of the garage. "Ay baba! ki az to mikhaast aks begire. Ru ro beram!" ("I wasn't taking a picture of you, Mr! Geez Louise! What a narcissist you are!"). Of course, she wasn't talking about you. You should be a narcissist, the beauty that you are. Frame after frame of images in lacquer: men with cypress waists and women with knit eyebrows and black hair down to their knees. The playful peeping sun atop the arched back of a lion carrying a royal sword. All these are images that cover your lacquered door. The doors, which once open, reflect the most magnificent sight: My image back at me! You are a spectacular speck-less mirror this month, Leo. Reflect back only the stunning and the beautiful!

Shahrivar: Virgo

You must think that Madame Bayaz detests you, or perhaps you think that she's stupid and doesn't see right through youI was engulfed in a conversation with friends in the middle of the bazaar this Friday, and turned to see you suddenly dangerously close to my back pack. You had a sliver gleam to your face as I turned to look down on you and up at the face of the bully who was holding you tight in his right fist. "Wanna buy a knife, khanum? It's brand new!" That was you he was talking about, darling Virgo. Am I jumpy, or are you really cracking a plan to rob someone clean of everything they hold precious this month? Wipe that gleam off your face!

Mehr: Libra

Madame Bayaz heard the most disturbing five words as she rounded the back corner of the bazaar after lifting the Pisces dream book off the bookseller. In a stall where an old man who had journeyed since five in the morning to sell his share of horse ornamentations from the north east corner of Iran, this madame also found and bought a beautiful violet gown, hand sown around the edges with thick gold thread. The gown went to a Virgo friend, who decided that though she believed it to be a reproduction of a Russian 19th C. khalat*, it was more suitable as the outfit that would accentuate her hippie-goth look for one of her infamous Halloween parties in Ohio. It is all quite hard to explain, but the point was... oh yes, the five words, "Torkaman, pick up this mess!" A Tehrani antique peddler barked those words, pointing to two beautiful red gowns that had fallen to the ground as a draft of tourists passed the old man's stall. Madame Bayaz was horrified that the Persian language still allows for such unsavory ethnic insults. Where were you in all this? I think you know. Somewhere buried under a pile of paper work, when your sense of justice would have otherwise put you in the posture of absolute defense on behalf of the poor hardworking soul the Tehrani called "Torkaman!"

Aban: Scorpio

Scorpio, Madame Bayaz saw you in a painting of Yusuf and Zulaykha towards the end of her spree on Friday afternoon. Do you remember? You will no doubt be aware, by now, that you were saved from a doomed plight on that very eve. As you may still recall from behind your trauma-induced haze, you were one amongst the twelve or so citrus fruits served at Zulaykha's banquet for the city women in that old Qajar painting an antique peddler had saved from back when and was out to sell. That Friday evening, as the painting shows, when Yusuf entered the banquet to please Zulaykha, the city women who saw Yusuf were poised to cut their fruits. Instead they cut their fingers. The blood that gushed from their sore fingers reflects their careless enrapture with Yusuf's beauty. It represents, too, your slick escape from harms way that night and, in fact, for the remainder of the month.

Azar: Sagittarius

I saw you in a black box suspended upside down between rectangular frames. In typical Sagittarian fashion you were calling black "white", white "black", red "blue" , and yellow "green". No darling, Sag, a light bulb does not emanate charcoal light, no matter how much you insist. In your stubbornness you want to continue this reversal for the rest of the month, it seems... You may not care to know, but I can explain why this is so to the rest of my readers by telling them where I saw you dangling at the bazaar: You were the exposed negative I saw through the lens of the camera held up to the tourist's eye. Exactly, the very one who appears in both Leo's and Aries' readings! And since the tourist has a bit of time left on her visa, you won't be taken out and developed for another two moons. Hmmm I guess the rest of us will just have to put up with your hilarious reversals.

Dey: Capricorn

You are in league with Taurus this month, Capricorn as you embody the European china and decorative lamps that Madame Bayaz finds wholly tasteless in the Friday bazaar. Why waste her precious money on junk like this and your time on imitation, when money and time are such dear commodities in the globalized economy? I say, come here and try this on! The peddler from Uzbekistan sold this to me for apparently much less than it is worth. His Qajar khanum (a woman with royal pedigree, apparently) sold it to him from her collection of family clothes. Green stiff velvet designed to be a very short coat with pointy sleeves and gold thread, it looks much better on you than that painted crusty china with an American heritage. Come here! Try this on, too. Nah, maybe the Qajar tutu, is a little much. Madame Bayaz has this much to say, darling Capricorn: a change of wardrobe is in order this month. See to it!

Bahman: Aquarius

There are lessons to be learned about attachments to authenticity and subjections to commodity fetishism when one studies people's shopping strategies. Just tonight at a meeting in which Madame Bayaz was the key-note speaker, a young groupie stood up to say that more than anything in the world of art and science, what she had learned from Madame Bayaz was an exquisite sense of style. She uncovered her $10,000 Cartier from under her fitted sleeve to make the point. "See, honored Madame, I too have a Cartier watch!" ( Little does she know that I got my forgery on Canal street in New York from a Cantonese speaker for a ten dollar bill!) Her choice to mimic the Madame only serves to make her look like a financial idiot with expensive tastes or seen differently, a savvy Mrs. attached to an overfed pocketbook. Be that as it may, the same could be said for the Friday-tourist, hunting for the authentic Safavi miniature painting at the Jomeh Bazaar. The funky little man figure you just bought for 300,000 tomans, darling, isn't 200 years old. The oil-paint that is drying on that artfully aged paper, cost its artist less than 10 rials a fortnight ago. Seen in the profane light of labor, of course, a watch is a watch and a miniature a miniature. The lesson, you ask? This month, Aquarius, wax philosophical, even in the face of the trivial. Then go shopping!

Esfand: Pisces

At the very back of the bazaar, where you turn past the antiques on your right to go down yet another alley of fetishized commodities, there is a lone bookseller of antiques with a knit black cap (do all book worms have to look like book worms?) who has at most four or five selections each week along with old gold chained pocket watches, scarves and necklaces. This week, I found you on his spread out cloth amongst a heap of musty books. To be specific, you were one of the entries in his ancient book of dreams. In it you appear as a drunken horse, masterfully climbing the snow and ice with a tractor wheel on your back?! Madame Bayaz disagrees with the interpretation given in the book. So we'll skip it. It is not that you're struggling this month, Pisces. Rather, you're about to make a comeback on Bahman Ghobadi's screen as a Kurdish film star! Really, you need to sober up! This dream image of you as a horse is utterly pathetic.

Some useful terms

-- Jomeh Bazaar: Friday bazaar for antiques and things exotic
-- Tehran-i Qadim: old city in Tehran
-- Aba: man's old fashioned over coat and dervish wear
-- Ash: Persian stewy soup
-- Qajar: 18th and 19th C ruling dynasty in Persia
-- Toot: a (dried) mulberry which figures as a cherry in Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry.
-- Khalat: Russian term for 18- 19th C. morning robe worn by some poets of the period

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