A short story about my best friend’s old man and their trip to Las Vegas to see the girls of Folies Bergere!
Behzad is my best friend. He lived down the street from us back in Tehran and I used to hang out at his house all the time. Bahzad’s dad is the funniest guy I have ever met. He always had a twinkle in his eyes. Although he is in his mid 80’s now, he still looks great, with a head full of white hair and a charming smile. Behzad’s mom and his three older sisters were a different story all together. I think that they were put on earth for the sole purpose of denying men the simple pleasures of laughing and being childish! They had no sense of humor. Every time Behzad’s dad said something funny, his mom just rolled her eyes. He quietly referred to her as Mosibat Khanoom (Ms. Misery!)
A few times that my parents came to their house to visit, Behzad’s mom and sisters acted as they were on the verge of a nervous break down! “Please have more watermelon. You haven’t touched your Baghlava yet! Can I get you more tea? You don’t like your Sharbat!” My parents were very uncomfortable with the whole thing.
On hot summer afternoons Behzad and I used to hang out in their basement. It was nice and cool and nobody knew that we were there. We kept very quiet to make sure that his sisters did not know that we were down there. Our most favorite activity was to look through his father’s old stuff that was in a wooden storage box. One day we found a photo album full of pictures of famous actresses and pin up girls of the 50’s and the 60’s. They each had their own separate pages. On the first page of the album was a picture of Sofia Loren. She must have been his favorite, I thought. Then there was Eva Gardner, Merlyn Monroe, Ginalollo Brigida, Claudia Cardinale and Esther Williams in her bathing suit. “I can see that your dad had the hots for these ladies! They all look great. What do you think he was like when he was our age?” I asked. “No matter what he was like, I am sure that my mom would not have approved of it!”
Behzad and I both came to the US to attend college and we stayed in touch as often as we could. A few years later his sisters who were now married moved to the US and settled in southern California. His parents also moved to the US and lived in a high rise building close to his sisters.
Behzad’s mom passed away around 3 years ago from a long illness. I went to see his dad and his sisters for the services. It was the first time in almost 30 years that I had seen them. His dad was very quiet. We talked for a while and I promised that I would come and visit him regularly. His sisters had not changed much.
About six months ago, Behzad called and said, “You are not going to believe this! My sisters are driving me nuts. They called yesterday and said that our father was going crazy. There is an Iranian girl who is a cashier at a super market nearby. She always jokes and flirts with my dad. And he always has a joke or poem for her. The other day, my father asked her out to dinner! The cashier girl who is in her late 20’s was surprised and didn’t say anything. But, she later called my oldest sister and complained. She said that she knows our family for several years and that my dad is not acting his age. She also said that my dad always stares at her breasts!” Behzad then continued, “So my sisters have called an emergency meeting to go over my dad’s behavior in public! I am heading to southern California this weekend.”
I was anxious to hear back from Behzad. I couldn’t believe that they were getting so worked up over this. Behzad called me as soon as he was back home. “My sisters were furious. They were really hard on the old man. They said that they were losing respect with the neighbors over this episode.”
با اين كار هاش آبرو ى ما رو پيش ِ سر و همسايه برده
Then he asked me what I thought. “They want to suppress all signs of life in him in the name of morality! Let the old man live!” I said.
“He didn’t seem bothered by the whole inquisition! When my sisters left, he looked at me and said,” I hear that Las Vegas is really beautiful at nights, with all the lights, fountains and tall buildings. Can you take me there one of these days?” So, I said, sure dad, I will take you there.”
“You should take the old man to Vegas and let him live his fantasies. Otherwise, you are going to regret it for the rest of your life. Heaven forbid if he passes away before he goes there! It is not about lights and fountains, you know. He wants to go to a show and have some fun!”
So Behzad drove his dad to Vegas last month and got tickets to Folies Bergere’s late night show. I asked him to call me as soon as he was back from Vegas to give me a full report.
“You were right! He didn’t pay much attention to the lights or fountains. But when we went to the show, boy, you should have seen the old grey fox! He was like a kid in the candy store! He was looking to the left and to the right. His head was moving as if he was watching the finals at the Wimbledon! We were seated at a table with 6 women from Bakersfield. They were in their late 30’s or mid-40’s, I think. He didn’t pay much attention to them. But, a couple of them thought that my dad was very cute. I told them that he didn’t speak much English, which I think made him more attractive to them. As the show girls were dancing, all these women were watching my dad! In a strange way, they loved his raw passion! He really liked one of the show girls. She was tall, red-hair, and had the most beautiful body. She even winked at my dad!”
Then Behzad said, “Towards the end of the show, I whispered to my dad, “Some of the women at our table think that you are really cute! What do you say?” He looked at the women at our table and then said, “What do these old hags want from me? I like the one with the red hair on the stage!”