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Some of the nicest moments of my life happened in there

October 20, 2003
The Iranian

Parsha Feshfeshani had visitors.  They were his wife's brother's daughter and her husband.  They were newlyweds and they were driving around the country.

On Saturday morning it was decided that he would show them around the city.  His wife had wanted to do it herself but she was a nurse and one Saturday a month she had to work at the hospital.  Parsha operated a flower stand and he asked his friend Tayehbi, whom he played backgammon with, if he could take over for the day.

"Parsha," his wife said, "you may not be aware of this, but we live in a beautiful city.  Take them to the art museum.  Take them to the waterfront.  Take them to the street where all the new shops are.  Do not take them to the foolish places where you always want to take people."

"I don't know any foolish places," Parsha said.

His wife left and Parsha took the young couple out in his car.  He had gone four blocks when he came to the local junior high school.  He turned into the parking lot.

"This is where I taught my son how to drive," he said.  "That was a funny time.  Have you ever tried to teach someone how to drive?"

The young couple shook their heads.

"It's funny," he said.  "You think that if you tell them about what each part of a car does, that's it.  But that's not it."

They left the school and Parsha drove to the park.

"This is where Iranians gather on holidays," he said.  "We have a great picnic. Hundreds of us gather here.  It's nice because the older generation can remember how it was in our country and the younger generation can learn about how it was.  This is where they cook the kabobs and over there is where they play volleyball.  We used to have gatherings here all the time, but now it's usually only at the New Year.  We used to joke that now it's the holiday commemorating such-and-such Imam so we must go to the park.  It was funny because most of us were not very religious."

For lunch Parsha took them to an Italian restaurant in the business district.

"This is my favorite restaurant," he said.  "It is where my friend Tayehbi and I came one day for lunch.  I always take a sandwich and some fruit and eat at the flower stand while I'm working.  But that day Tayehbi and I came here for lunch.  We sat over there by the window.  It was a beautiful day.  We sat and had lunch and looked everybody out the window."

When the food arrived, they tasted it and Parsha remembered how it did not have much flavor.  It had not had much flavor the other time he had come but he had forgotten.  He could see that his guests thought the same and he apologized profusely.

"No," they said.  "It's all right."

After lunch they went to the waterfront, as Parsha's wife had suggested.  They walked past the piers and the young woman bought a few things.  The only time Parsha normally came to that area was when he went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service building.  He was part of the committee that tried to help Iranian refugees when they were being kept there.  He did not have the legal knowledge to do very much, but he would try to keep their spirits up and he would translate for them if needed.

"Come over here," Parsha said.  "Let me show you the INS building."

It was an old brick building with iron bars covering most of the windows.  Parsha smiled when he saw it.

"Some of the nicest moments of my life happened in there," he said.  "I have gone in there when someone is being kept there who has gotten into the country somehow; an Iranian who does not speak a word of English, and when they see me, their face lights up and they begin to pour their heart out.  It is nice to see them, even though we cannot always help them.  I do not mind when they call me to come here even when it is late at night."

He pointed out to them the room where the refugees were kept and he pointed out the area on the first floor where he had spent time sitting and waiting.  An African family came out the door and down the steps.

"That is one thing I like about the place," he said.  "You will find somebody from every country in the world."

They walked back and went to the car, stopping along the way at a bookstore where Parsha had once seen a great Iranian poet make an appearance while touring America.  On the way back home, they took a different route and Parsha drove past the street where he had once found the family cat after she had been lost for several days.

When they came home, Parsha's wife was in the kitchen making dinner.  She saw that their visitors looked happy and she figured that Parsha must have listened to her this time.  Parsha's friend Tayehbi came to their house to tell him how the day had gone at the flower stand.  Since he had gone out of his way, Parsha thought it was only right to bring out the backgammon set and play one game.

In the kitchen the young woman told about their day and the places they had gone.  She said that it was very interesting for her and her husband.  She said that during their trip they had been taken to many similar places in the different cities they had visited.  It was good to see a city in a different way, she said.

Parsha's wife looked at him.  He was looking at the backgammon board very closely.

"I'm glad that you enjoyed yourselves," she said.  "For my part, I don't understand him.  I told him this morning to take you to some nice places.  I didn't tell him to take you to see the immigration building."

The young woman laughed.

Parsha looked up.

"What don't you understand?" he said.

"I'm saying that I don't understand you," his wife said.  "We've been married for a long time but I don't understand you."

Parsha looked at his friend Tayehbi.  It was his turn and so he had not heard the conversation.

"Well, I'm a simple man," Parsha said.  "I don't know what more I can do to be understood."
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