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Money for nothing
I know it's our country's flag and our identity, but I don't find the beast particularly attractive and I don't think a scary-looking creature characterizes my identity


June 24, 2005

It's Friday night, big date, nothing clean to wear. I had two choices: do laundry or buy new clothes. The choice was clear.

I left work early and drove to the mall. On my way to Banana Republic, I was intercepted by a teenage skateboarder with baggy pants and a T-shirt that said, "Got Weed?"

"Hey, man, you Persian?" the kid asked.

I had no time for this. So, I said what every rational Persian man in my shoes would've said, "No, I'm Italian."

The kid smiled.

"Come on, man. You got Persian written all over you. Driving a Beemer, shirt unbuttoned down to your belt, receding hairline, hairy chest, fat belly, out of shape ... "

"Alright, alright. I'm Persian. What do you want?"

"Man, don't deny your heritage. Be proud," the kid said.

"Yeah, whatever. Get to the point."

"My name is Pirooz," the kid said. "Friends call me PJ. I'm a member of the MKO. "

"The what?"

" You know. The Mojahedin Khalgh."

"Oh, crap, you're not gonna set yourself on fire here, are you?"

"No, I'm not gonna set myself on fire. Have some respect, man."

"Listen, I'm busy. What do you want?" I asked.

"Donations, man. For the cause. Money to win democracy and freedom for Iranian dudes. Money to finance referendum. The whole nine yards."

"Yeah, sure, no problem. Here's ten bucks -- for the cause."

The kid looked at me like I was some kind of a freak.

"Ten bucks? Whoopdydo! You expecting to free Iran with ten bucks? Besides, we ain't beggars, we sell flags."

"Come again?!"

The kid spun me around and I came face-to-face with an enormous Iranian flag with a nasty-looking lion on it--holding a sword, showing its teeth, pissed off at the world, ready to attack.

This was not a very pleasant sight. I know it's our country's flag and our identity, but I don't find the beast particularly attractive and I don't think a scary-looking creature characterizes my identity.

The freakin' lion looked starved like something you see in a zoo at a third world country. It was the meanest looking pussycat I've ever seen. I was waiting for it to jump out of the flag and stick that sword up somebody's ass.

I'm looking at the lion and thinking: this is not exactly the most inviting image to promote tourism.

"Let me get this straight. You're selling this?" I asked PJ.

"What do you mean, 'This?' This is your flag, man. Be proud of it. Love it. Don't be afraid to display your heritage."

"What the hell am I gonna do with this thing?"

"Hang it with pride, man."

"Where am I gonna find a place to hang it? It's huge," I said.

"How the hell should I know? Hang it in your living room for all I care."

"Okay, tell you what. I'll talk to my interior decorator and I'll get back to you."

"Hell no. You are buying this today," PJ said.

"Are you threatening me?"

"Call it what you want. I ain't taking no for an answer. It's a hundred dollars?"

"A hundred bucks for this?"

"Hey man, you think it's cheap to fight for democracy? For freedom? It costs money. Freedom isn't free, you know?"

"Let me ask you a question: have you ever been to Iran?"

"No, born and raised in LA. But my parents are Iranian."

"Do you even speak Farsi?"

"Yeah, I speak Farsi," PJ said.

"Say something in Farsi."


"Okay, say something else."


"You only know bad words, don't you?"

"My cousin LJ said, that's all I need to know."

"Your cousin LJ is an idiot."

"Hey, man, LJ has, like, a PhD from Beverly Hills University."

"Yeah, my grandma has a PhD from Malibu University. Every Iranian in this freakin' town has a PhD from some Mickey Mouse university."

"Besides, what are you gonna do with a hundred bucks?" I asked. The kid was playing violin with my nerves.

"My dad's giving me, like, fifty bucks for every flag I sell. I'm saving the money for collage."


"Nah, I'm shittin' you. I'm spending it all on booze and whores. I'm gonna party like rock stars."

I grabbed PJ's shirt and pulled him close.

"Screw you, screw your dad and the Mojahedin Khalgh, and the saltanat talabs, and the communists, and Iranian satellite television, and the reformists, and the mullahs. That's right, screw you all. Make a note, the people have spoken."

PJ took a step back.

"Hey man, you don't have to get emotional," he said. "I got other things to sell too; I got fake Rolex, Gucci purse, diamond rings, leather jackets, designer clothing, digital cameras, camcorders, laptops, you name it."

"Now you're talkin'."

PJ took me inside his van and showed me the secret stash. It was Christmas all over. I purchased $500 worth of stolen and fake merchandise and a bag of weed.

"So what are you really gonna do with the money?" I asked PJ.

"Revolution, man. Revolution."

Siamack Baniameri is the author of The Iranican Dream, ( Publishing, December 2004). Also see

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