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March 14, 2003
The Iranian


Part 23

March 21

I can't believe it. Well, I guess it is really fitting. I just celebrated Nowrooz (Persian New Year) on the 101 Freeway. Guess that means I'll be stuck here for the next year, according to tradition (or is it superstition?).

Instead of relaxing at home stuffing my face with shirnees and watching dumb Iranian programs, I have been forced by Maamaan to chauffeur my parents to their friend's house in Calabasas, whom they haven't seen in 20 years anyway!!!

-- "Nemisheh zeshte befahman in hameh raah oomadim narafteem peesheshoon."

(žIt can't be avoided, it would be so rude when they find out we came all the way here and didn't bother visiting.")

-- "Mom, how would they know you were even here unless you tell them yourself?"

But it's no use arguing with logic and common sense as my weapons. In the end, I just give in to her and so now here we are, in 80+ hot sticky weather, with my thighs stuck to the burning leather of the driver's seat. I can't even roll down the window and have a smoke, or put loud music on to drown out my nasty thoughts.

We are forced to listen to 670 am and that is how we find out Nowrooz has come and gone and we are still in the middle of a sea of cars.

-- "Maamaan, it's too late now, can we turn back?"

-- "Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh Nazeee !!!!"

Finally, after another 45 minutes, we reach our exit. I guess the drive was worth it (sort of). The City of Calabasas is the sort of panoramic paradise and nature lovers's retreat that seems completely out of place in the Hell-Ay environs. It is the sort of place where birds chirp happily in unison with squirrels gnawing on their winter provisions. Children roam free in the grass like Rousseau's Emile, discovering the beauty and freedom of nature. Adults enjoy peace, quiet, and that most rare of gifts: Oxygen.

My mother's friend's house is situated at the end of a lovely, narrow pathway. I wonder if I am stuck in a Disney movie and if Snow White is going to open the door to this adorable cottage style house surrounded by a flowery garden.

The illusion is snapped when the door opens to reveal a herd of Iranian ladies with painted on eyebrows that reach all the way to their temple, all expressing themselves in this sort of high-pitch squeal that only animals could respond to.

What is this? A Soffreh? Where are all the men? Ah... Seems they've all gone out for some tennis. How very Country Club of them I think while I look at my poor dad who seems as comfortable as if he mistakenly stepped into a ladies' restroom with his pants on backwards.

A large TV screen forms the focal point of the living room, with Homeyra or Haydeh or Mahasti (can't tell one apart from the other) belting out some song in honor of the New Year and New Spring. New spring my ass. Hell-Ay has only two seasons: Summer and Summer.

I don't know how but the voice of the ladies somehow manage to outsqueal the sounds emanating from the TV. I am going deaf. And they are pawing me, passing me around from one set of arms to another, planting big sloppy kisses on my cheeks, until I feel like a cheap stripper being manhandled at a raucous Bachelor's party. I have to get out of here. Surreptitiously, I make my way out into the garden where I enter a beautiful, majestic greenhouse. To my amazement, it is filled with roses. Only roses. Different kinds, colors, and shapes, but all roses. The sight fills me both with admiration and a certain wistfulness. I am all of a sudden reminded of the Little Prince, who thought the little Rose on his planet was so unique and special until he stumbled into a man-made greenhouse on earth, filled with similar roses. Maybe he ended up at this very place.

A voice suddenly startles me in my deep thoughts.

-- "I thought we had collected every living specimen in here but I guess we were wrong."

I turn around to find myself face to face with a pair of intensely black eyes, like a pair of black pearls. They belong to a tan face, not the kind of fake tan sported by George Hamilton and the like, but the kind of rugged, weathered skin only athletes get by spending all their lives in the outdoors.

He is wearing a bright white tennis uniform which forms a contrast with his dark skin. He is still holding a racket in his hand and his forehead is perspiring a little.

I can't help but laugh out loud. Immediately, when I get nervous, the sarcasm comes out.

-- "Niiiice!!! Did you learn that one from a Lifetime Movie?"

He instantly reciprocates my laughter. Craaappp!!! This guy is actually laughing at my cheesy, pathetic attempt at humor? On top of his devastating good looks? Damn it, I am in BIG trouble...

-- "Actually, I learned it from my big brother. He used to bring all his dates to this place at least once to... seal the deal."

-- "Did it work?"

-- "We've kept it, haven't we?" He smiles mischievously.

Dariush, our host's younger son, walks me back to the house, where the women all greet us with malicious, all-knowing eyes and smiles. My mom and Dariush's mom, who are friends from elementary school, whisper into each other's ears and look approvingly. Is that pollo khoresht I smell or a big set-up? Mmmm.... I can't believe I may actually be falling for a guy from Maamaan's famously disastrous little black book. I guess this time, I won't mind so much waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe never to drop?

TO BE CONTINUED.



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