Arak is an industrial town in the center of Iran. My uncle lived in a high-rise outside of downtown Arak.
My entire family, and I mean my ENTIRE family, temporarily lived in the “Refugee Center”, as we affectionately called my uncle's house during the initial phase of the war. Yup, the entire house was like a hostel filled with various uncles, cousins, aunts, grandparents and whatever other blood relatives you could think of.
I swear there were times when I saw people walking around the house who I had never seen before, just to give an indication of how many people were crammed in there. Luckily though, we all loved each other and had a lot of fun hanging out. Since the war had just begun, however, many of my uncles and cousins were jobless and needed to find ways of entertaining themselves.
Since there were no American shows on TV, the quest for entertainment served as the impetus for the Backgammon Championships. With 20 participants, backgammon would become the hottest game in the house. Everyone would discuss each participant's strategy with such vigor and intensity, so much so that you'd think we were talking about soccer players in World Cup finals.
Half the fun was watching the names being drawn from the hat and seeing what the draw was going to be. As soon as the matchups were official, the oddsmakers were quick to peg favorites versus the underdogs. The games would go on for a week with the final match being played in the evening to give the game a dramatic effect and to insure that everyone was home from work or school, so we could all watch the masters at work. Unfortunately, that would only provide entertainment for a week out of the entire month.
The rest of the month was allocated for Black Jack. We had a room set aside on the second floor specifically designated for the Black Jack Crowd (BJC), which consisted of ten of my uncles and cousins who would play the game late into night. To emphasize their great hand, a member of BJC, would slam his cards on the floor and say what he thought was the coolest phrase (which it clearly was not), such as “delet besoozeh”. They would get extra points if they could quote a movie line that was appropriate.
With each emphatic slam of the cards on the floor, the whole house would rattle and shake and we all knew someone had a great hand. Sometimes, though, it was followed quickly by a second shaking, which inadvertently alerted the household that a better hand was in the mix and that someone had just lost a lot of money. Sometimes the second shaking would also be quickly followed by some cursing >>> Go to index for next part