This is for everybody who knows T very well. Last week in Arak we visited a small handicraft exhibition of some local artists. Some of the work seemed worth buying, but we didn’t do that because at the end of our visit we got to see one piece made by the exhibit organizer, which was so nice that all of a sudden everything else looked like student work. It was a small pot, carved intensively with figures, flowers, and views from cities. The details of the work showed that this man was a true master of his craft. When I told the artist that I am not very crazy about handcrafts, but that I did love his, he was very happy.
During this visit and as a result of my conversation with this guy I was asked by a nice woman, dressed in total black from the head to foot and whose eyes I could barely see through oversized, ugly brown glasses, if T and I had some time to talk to her about the exhibition for the city’s newspaper. I told her that I like modern art and that Iranian artists need to spend time looking at the changes in art and not try to make copies of things that others have done a 100 times better. I said that they should look for new ways, forms, and techniques. I gave Iranian film as a good example. The films are fresh, simple, with strong story lines. She asked T if she agreed with me. Right before T was going to answer, she had to sneeze 14 times. By the end of this sneezing session the tape was full. You really had to see that.
I am not crazy about Arak anymore. When I grew up there in the 70s, it was small. Its great weather and beautiful mountains made it excellent vacation place for my two sisters and one bother who came there from Ahwaz with their families. Everybody used to knows my family in Arak. It was fun to walk with my father through the city when I was a child and when he was still living. I used to say I that am Araky everywhere I went.
Arak is just a big, ugly city with a lot of bad industry: Big Oil and chemical plants, and
car manufacturers. Half of Iranians pass through Arak on their way to other cities and that is a big problem too. I used to see a lot of stars at night when we went to the roof to sleep. Now there is too much pollution. I feel that Arak is like a sick person who is laying down in the hospital where nobody cares if you are getting better or worse. There is nobody who cares. I even wonder why they should care. Arak looks like it has been run over by the army of Genghis Khan. So far T’s description of Arak is the best. You really don’t know if the city is getting built or destroyed. It is sad to say this, but I will not miss anything if the city gets rebuilt. This may sound like whining. If you feel that way feel free to visit Arak and see for yourself. My family would love to see you.
Arak is not very different from other cities around the country. So far I have seen not many. The only difference is that Arak is my city, and I waited 20 years to see it again.
Everywhere I go my brothers introduce me to guys my age. I should know them but I don’t. Everybody has changed; they are much older looking than I am. I read a lot of fake brand name logos on their clothes; I see pain in their faces; and I could see that sometimes they say about me that he was very lucky to get out of this town. I hate to say this, but they are right. I am very happy to have had a chance to see others‘ way of living and doing things. I also feel I pay for this for long time.
How many of you guys have seen “Naked Gun 3 and a half?” Every time the detective wanted to get information, he walked out of the police station, went to the corner to this shoe shiner who knew everything about all the crimes committed in the city of Los Angeles. That’s the way Iranian taxi drivers are.
Today we got into a taxi in the city of Ahwaz. My brother in-law started a conversation right after he argued about the price for driving us from downtown Ahwaz to the oil company housing complex which is located about 6 kilometers out of the town. I was shocked about the comments he made. Clinton’s foreign policies are one of the big reasons that Iran got more powerful, he believed. “He was busy with Monica, and the Mullahs got the chance to buy all of the equipment they needed to build chemical and atomic weapons. It’s not just him,” the driver said. “Democrats are always dumb when it comes to Iran. Look at Carter, he was so blinded because of the Shah’s human rights violations that he failed to notice that women in Saudi Arabia do not even have the right to a birth certificate!”
I was wondering if he really was a taxi driver. He was very articulate about everything. His glasses said a lot about him. Like many of my close friends at the beginning of the revolution, he even mentioned the name of Lenin. In the back seat of the taxi, I was using my new amazing Nikon Coolpix digital camera to take some photos. He was looking at me, and after he heard I used to live in America, he said to me to tell everybody that the Mullahs are finished. He used the fact that they killed the wife of a very prominent Iranian intellectual in a horrifying way (they stabbed her 15 times with a knife.) He said, Furuhar knew he would be killed one day, “Maybe that was the price he had to pay for working with the regime at the beginning of the revolution.”
When I took photo of his back in the taxi, the driver got very nervous. He said, “ I hope you didn’t tape me. I have lost everything. This is the only thing I have right now.” I am still wondering what happened to us. Everybody is so sad, so unhappy. Iranians do tell you everything you want to know; they are not scared anymore. The only problem is that they can’t do whatever they want. I was uncomfortable to talk this frankly in my lecture in a Brooklyn college a couple of months ago when I was asked by my good friend to speak to her class. I don’t want to compare the two totally different situations, but I am amazed.
I am right now in a bus traveling to Tehran. It will take us only 4 hours from Arak. This is the only time T are together alone. It feels good. I am not made for life here. I think for myself too much. In the last 18 days I had 2100 cups of tea, 74 kilos of chicken, 500 kebabs, a ton of bread and cheese, 118 kilos of fresh fruit, 93 kilos of ice cream, and 415 liters of the Iranian version of Coca Cola, yet I have only gained 243 kilos.