February 12, 2004
Our arrival into LAX was really exciting. We got
off the plane and went down to the luggage area where my
dad immediately noticed his uncle standing there. It
was great to see him except for the fact that my
grandparents were supposed to pick us up, not him. We
shrugged it off and ran up to him and we all hugged
and kissed for what seemed like an hour.
asked him where his car was parked so that we could
get all of our luggage in there and head off to Orange
County where we were going to stay with my
grandparents. He had no idea what we were talking
about and it turned out that he was randomly there to
pick someone else up and was just as surprised to see
us as we were to see him.
This brought about two
theories with my brother and me. Either LA
must be a really small town if we are randomly running
into family members at the airport or we must
have a lot of family members in southern California
and we were going to be running into them everywhere.
Passage of time proved the latter to
We have so much family in southern California that you
could go to the grocery store and on the way there,
see your uncle in the car next to you at the stop
light, then get to the grocery store and see your aunt
with her kids in the checkout line and go to a
restaurant afterwards where at least two of the tables
are occupied by various cousins and other relatives.
It's actually pretty cool.
Anyway, after we finally decided that
my dad's uncle wasn't pulling our leg and he actually wasn't there
pick us up, my uncle Mahmood showed up a few minutes
later to pick us up and to drive us to our new home in
The drive on the 405 freeway took
forever but was overshadowed by the driving exhibition
that we were all witnessing. We were mesmerized by
the absolute conformity with traffic laws. People were staying
in their lanes, no trash was being thrown out of any windows and
we didn't hear
anybody honking their horn for the entire span of the
We were completely perplexed. After all, we
were from a land where lanes on the highway and stop
signs were purely decorative -- actually, I think I
laughed the first time I saw someone stop at a stop
sign in America before I found out that stopping at
stop signs is actually the norm, not the exception.
What a country.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived
at my grand parents' house and found that nobody was
there. We certainly weren't expecting a ticker tape
parade when we arrived but we figured
that a couple of people being home wasn't asking
Apparently, though, we had taken so
long to get to their house that they got worried and
thought that my uncle had missed us at the airport, so
naturally they decided to drive an hour up to LAX to
look for us. I guess it seemed like a good idea at
Since my uncle did not have a key to the
house, we had to look for a partially opened window
where my eight-year-old brother was called into action
to squeeze inside and open the door. A few seconds later
we were in the house and were finally able to relax in
the United States.
The very next day, my grand parents threw a welcome
party for us. Due to lack of space in their
house, they decided to invite only the closest
relatives -- all 150 of them. As the cavalry of
Jazayeris arrived at the house, we were quickly
introduced to them and just as quickly I forgot their
names and their relation to me.
It was great to see
everyone but impossible to keep track as my mom would
say things like "Houman, this is your dad's second
cousin's wife's brother, do you remember him when
came to visit us in Iran when you were two?" At that point of the day, I had already been in the
U.S. for almost 24 hours and had not yet been to
Disneyland, which was a complete injustice if I'd ever
heard of one.
During the innumerous pinching of my
cheeks and patting of my head, the noises coming out of everyone
mouth sounded like the parents in Charlie Brown cartoons: "wah,
wah, wah, wah, wah."
I was fixated with the thought of
Disneyland, bordering on obsessive some might say.
Judging by the crowd, however, I was sure that we were
not going to go that day.
The next day my uncle Mehrdad, my dad's youngest
brother, decided to take us to the swimming pool which
in itself was fun since we got a chance to see the
town. Irvine is notorious for its plethora of
community swimming pools, tennis courts and other
family-related suburban destinations of interest.
While in the car, my brother was eating a slice of
cheese courtesy of Kraft. When he was done,
conforming to standard operating procedures in Iran,
he rolled down his window and threw away the plastic
wrapper. My uncle looked at him with concern and
informed him that he could be fined a lot of money for
throwing away trash and introduced us to the concept
I had never heard of the word or the
concept in my life.
I swear that there were times in
Iran where people would throw entire crates of orange
peels and trash out of the windows of their cars with
no regard for the vehicles behind them. Driving a car
in Tehran, or in general, Iran, was like an obstacle
course where the point was to get from point A to
point B while dodging the various pieces of garbage
flying from the car in front of you.
When we got back from the pool, my uncle Mehdi and his
family (Mary, Darius and Ryan) arrived from Palo Alto
in northern California and I finally got to meet my
American cousins for the first time. The problem was
that my brother and I didn't speak any English and
they couldn't speak any Farsi. But we all got along
really well anyway. When you're a kid, the language
barrier doesn't really prevent you from kicking a
soccer ball around and just generally goofing around.
Finally, on our fourth day in America, my dream was
finally realized when Mary and my mom took us all to
Disneyland. We got there at the crack of dawn and
didn't leave until the cleanup crew kicked us out at
the end of the night. Our voracious appetite for all
things Disney not satiated by only a day's activities,
Mary took us for a second serving the following day.
By the end, we had ridden Pirates of the Carribean so
many times that we were saying our good-byes to the
ride operators on a first name basis >>> To
be continued >>> Index
Comedy & Satire in San Jose on
February 27 >>> Details
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