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November 2002

Out at sea

Everything, absolutely everything was wrong with the scene. And had I directed it, I would change everything about it: Pearl and I were sitting across from each other at her small kitchen table with a forest of trees staring in on us. Ghostly figures they were, lit only by a florescent light that would only tentatively assume the position of an outdoor fixture in real life. We were both plugged in to Pearl's clunky fifteen year old yellow sports walkman, listening to Jo Anne Greer's fabulous rendition of a stripper in the song "Zip", a musical interlude from the movie Pal Joey about a" broad with a broad, broad mind." My eyes still fixed on the yellow box between us, I was giggling to myself as the song ended. Taking out the menacing earphones from my ears, I heard Pearl's voice, "So what do you feel passionately about these days?"

Like I said, everything was wrong with the scene. The cut was too rough. The vertical pan to her close up, too abrupt. I was badly lit and should have been airbrushed to a much younger version of myself. She should have been a boy and a blasting stereo should have wiped out her words completely. Mere subtitles would have suited the question better, preferably in French, so that they could be considered too pretentious and dismissed at a glance. Instead, the lines were delivered, measured, in however monotone a voice, and imprinted in the dent left by the blighted earphone in the inner edge of my ear, effectively making me dizzy and putting me out of balance for the rest of the week.

Passion ?! More ships have been lost at sea on that question alone. So I wonder, should one ever ask an émigré that question?

Two things strike me about émigré passion: One, that it is always mediated. Two, that, because of its mediation along the longitudinal (east-west) and latitudinal (north-south) axis of national belonging, passion often alternates between the vertical and the horizontal. The latitudinal part of the world's axis has, for over six thousand years, been measured by mariners in the dead of night by the distance of the ship from the stars. But part of the reason that so many ships in history have gone astray, and ended up in the West Indies rather than, say, India, has been that an adequate system of longitudinal measurement, other than the endless counting of knots on a rope (hence the term "knots"), was far from figurable from the distance separating the voyager from the heavens. With the invention of a time piece that would keep time at sea, that is a time piece capable of measuring secular and national time, ships eventually found their course.

It wasn't until I came upon the history of nautical instruments that I realized why passions always wash up on the shore like dead whales. In Roberta Flack's, "The first time I ever saw your face" the sun rises in the lovers eyes÷and the moon and the stars are the gifts those eyes give to the dark and the endless skies. It is, in other words, through the longitudinal movement of passion from lover to beloved, that the stars offer their guiding light for Flack. And in Fuad Hijazi & Assar's, Agape, the latitudinal passion sends the lover off course, twirling, dancing, drinking himself selfless and out bounds. "I twirl and dance and drink from this chalice, heedless of my self and the movement of the sun, this love is divine÷this passion heaven-bound." ("micharkh-am mirakhs-am-o minush-am az in jam, bi khod shode as khish-o gardesh ayam, in esheqh elahist÷ in shur khodaist." From Eshqeh-e Elahie).

I wonder if I could agree any LESS? Do our passions really follow such different coordinates than our ships? Are our passions so fragile that they need be bound to the stardust in the lover's eyes? Are they? Why can't the immeasurable bounds of human love, the distance we are willing to sail from ourselves to the other, be measured by the knots we tie on a rope, or, for that matter, by the tangles on the earphone cord that separates the lover from the beloved? And why can't we figure the distance of divine passions in quotidian measures, in the gleam of the sun and the stars, as the day turns?

We are fools for love. And the box office would never make a hit, had we not been so duped. Headless as you might be, heaven-bound passions speak in quotidian terms this month:

Farvardin: Aries
Hyacinths: Plant them now in arm-fulls before the great freeze. In four months, your garden will be filled with startling beauty and fragrances unimaginable. I promise, it'll all be much better soon.

Ordibehesht: Taurus
Finish Line: Make your way to the make-up counter at the nearest mall and get yourself Trish McEvoy's Finish Line and a straight brush. The Mac counter will have every eye shadow imaginable. But be sure to pick the gold and the metallic blue green. Dip your brush in McEvoy and use the eye shadow to draw the perfect line. You'll forget the stars in those other eyes in

Khordad: Gemini
Paint the walls fantastic: Every room needs work. Loose yourself in renovations this month. And you'll love your new place when the refrigerator finally arrives. Oh, don't forget, you want that in chrome.

Tir: Cance
Toe nail polish: The local drug store will provide you with enough variation to keep you going all month. Try alternate colors on each toenail and then try yellow and purple on each foot. You'll be pleased! And while you're at it, go show them off in a peace march, will you? There are less frivolous ways of getting a high!

Mordad: Leo
The city: There's nothing like the passing glances, the merging faces, the changing fashions of a city it to turn on those headlights for you, even if it is covered by a chador. New York, Paris, Tehran, take your pick and go. Now!

Shahrivar: Virgo
The creative kitchen speaks to you: Mash half an avocado in a spoon full of plain yogurt and some mayo, chop a bunch of green onions and mix in two baked potatoes. Thyme, salt and pepper to taste.

Mehr: Libra
Snow: Antartica may be a ruse, few have made it and survived. Plan a ski trip instead and you'll see how the movement of your body to the curves of the mountain opens you up again.

Aban: Scorpio
Yoga: There's nothing like lifting the mulebanda and doing pranayana breathing for two hours to bring you back to life in the final corpse pose. Put your ass up there and stretch. Yoga isn't just about chanting your OMs, you know. And peace is not just in words.

Azar: Sagittarius
The spa: You say that there are two types of people, those who go to the shrink and those who go to the spa. You and I are of the latter kind, are we not? Let's make a day of it, then!

Dey: Capricorn
The movies: Ever thought about loosing yourself in the untenable spatial and temporal coordinates of anime? Watch a few, say, Ghost in the Shell, you'll find the very structure of your self redrawn in the space between fantasy and reality.

Bahman: Aquarius
Kleenex: Excessive daily pressures (did I hear "pleasures"?) have weakened your immune system. Plan a week in bed, Sniffling! You'll get the lure of that box by and by.

Esfand: Pisces
French Feminism? FRENCH FEMINISM? Ah yes, you're either reading for exams or trying to get yourself out of the dog house. Either way, Kristeva'll get you through. Um÷ but peak over the edge of the book every now and then someone seems to be as passionate about you as you are about the French. Mind if I look over your shoulder?

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