Iran part 2

In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what… he would perhaps never have experienced in himself.
Marcel Proust

Since last I posted I’ve been struggling with telling you wh
at has been taking place since our arrival. Many factors featured in my inability to continue writing where I’d left off before. Namely, finding the time in which to write without interruptions, bad, slow or non-existent internet connections (they are still on dial-up here in Iran) but more importantly, and this is where I think I was failing miserably, I was trying to weave you a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. The understatement of this trip is telling you how that wasn’t working out. Yesterday however, I hit upon a solution that bypasses my Sheherezade-like deficiency. I stopped aiming for Technicolor glory with stereophonic sound and settled instead for polaroids. Would you care to see a little bit of my Iran this way?

May 16th, 3:30 am Tehran time (the day of our arrival)

Waiting for new arrivals at Imam Khomeini Airport

I love it when my husband looks at me with admiration. This time around what won me this particular kind of regard was my calm, non-chalant stroll by the x-ray machine as we exited customs. What I should have been doing was loading my carry-on through like everyone else but, to have done so, might have meant being questioned over the 9 ipod shuffles I carried as gifts for the children in M’s family. Understandably, I was afraid the number would raise eyebrows and that they might be confiscated on some pretext so I made a split second decision that ultimately paid off. In the confusion of porters loading our other luggage onto the conveyor belt, and of the customs agents looking through other people’s stuff, without any premeditation, I just walked right on by them, pretending it had already been inspected. M’s eyes widened at my audacity as he waited for me with our son beyond the checking point. I kept on strolling and thankfully, no hand fell upon my shoulder, no one stopped me. If I might say so, it was done with true Persian panache.

A view of the highway from inside our car as we leave the Airport

Afterwards, still basking in the flush of my ninja-like feat, I nearly missed the by-play of emotions on M’s face as he chatted happily with his Aunt Maryam and his cousin Saeed. Both had braved the early morning hours to come and greet us at Imam Khomeini International Airport. The kindness of their action went double not only for the ungodly hour but for the distance they had travelled to come see us arrive. The last time I was here, we came into Mehrabad. What to say about the predecessor to Imam Khomeini Airport? Small, ill-equipped for international travelers, clearly showing the decades since its inaugural ribbon had been cut. In short, nothing like the newly opened and sleek Imam Khomeini International Airport, so un-Iranian in its steel and glass glory; so spanking clean and resplendently new but with one unfortunate drawback, it is much.
further. away. It took more than 50 minutes of emptied out highway driving (can’t imagine how long it would take in rush hour) to make our way to our hostess’ home. It was time enough however to realize that M was once again like a chick come back to the nest. All the while we sped through to our destination, rapid-fire conversations in Farsi flew over my head. Every little while my husband would stop to translate for me but I did not mind what I couldn’t understand. It gave me much pleasure just watching him reconnect with two people who had seen him grow and in whose presence he somehow, unknown to him, re-blooms into his Persianness.

We arrived at Aunt Maryam’s house just in time for breakfast. Our suitcases were temporarily stashed in a spare bedroom as we shed enough of the dust of our travels to allow us to sit comfortably down to the table and eat. I wasn’t hungry really but there is something truly inviting about the simplicity of Persian breakfasts: hot tea, bread, cheese and home-made jams. Tea
chai, bread-nan, cheese-panir, jams-moraba. The words float out to me from the memory of when last I was in Iran. Everything tasted as good as I remembered. I ate for pleasure if not from need and it was all good. Satisfied that she had seen to us as much as she could for the moment, Aunt Maryam settled us into the bedroom we would occupy while at her house and left us to sleep. But for a brief waking at noon-time to eat once more, we slept the whole of that long Saturday. Truly jet-lagged but happy to have finally arrived in Iran.

The next three days were something of a blur for me. The incipient cold that R and I had caught right before we had left Houston, developed into something more severe. An inflammation of the left ear and a sinusitis for me. Inflamed lymph nodes and some chest congestion for R. Between sleeping bouts, and sneezes we greeted close family members who steadily trooped in to say
hello. They brought boxes of Persian sweets. Little cakes with cream fillings, saffron gaz adorned with pistachios in their centers. Napoleons and soft cookies and then of course, lots of curiosity and more than that, kind regards.

Many of them knew me from before and liked me then as much as now. In this respect, I have much to thank my parents-in-law for paving the way for me. Especially my mother-in-law. The
initial strangeness of their son’s Latin-born and Catholic wife was smoothed over with their kind words and the stories they told of who I am. I like to think though that since then, I’ve won them over with just being me. Not that this is a hard crowd by any means. One quality about my husband’s family that jumped right out, as I met them in all the length and breadth of their familial connections, is how genuine they are, religiously unprejudiced and worldly. Many have traveled and lived outside of Iran. Nearly all speak English as well as other European languages. They are doctors, lawyers, store owners, yoga instructors, students, working mothers and fathers some with children grown and others with little ones at home. They are like much like you and me.

I’m of the view that in the Western world, Iran has been overly demonized. Erroneously lumped in with the Saudis and the Afghanis in their unequal treatment of women and the well-known conditions of their male-centric societies. Iran, like them, is an Islamist country. Ruled by a
religious government and observant of Islamic law but there are vast differences for all those initial commonalities.

I hope before all is said and done, that I might convey to you what I have observed of this country
and its people. Granted, mine is a brief taste, a narrow slice of Persian life that is viewed through the spectrum of my husband’s somewhat above-the-norm family. Nevertheless, for all that, I remain convinced that I can offer you a different look at Iran. A country whose landscape is not wholly sand dunes, whose women do not all dress in burkas, and whose men do not, every one of them, copy the looks of President Ahmadinejad. I hope that I might help you experience something of the kind of people that, for a factor of geographic location, look and sound a lot like everyone I deal with on a daily basis in the United States.

A street corner in Tehran

Coming up in my next posts, slices of Iran.


Random if inconsequential travel observations plus, a female primer for travel to Iran (Part 1)

Glass screen at Sa'ad Abad, Reza Shah's summer palace

George Bush International Airport, May 15th

Have you ever noticed that there is something about airports that brings out the voyeur in everyone? As spectacles go, it is truly a free-for-all of watch-fests. People sit and observe other people without any restraint, the word discretion chucked out like so much lost luggage. I think it has a lot to do with the transitory nature of airports. Who cares if I shamelessly stare at you? Like me, you will be getting on a plane and neither one will see the other again. As far as everyone is concerned, airports are one of those places where an unspoken carte blanche to people watching is extended.

The loudspeaker announced: Passenger Hoodini, passenger Hoodini, please come to the Lufthansa counter. My husband looked at me and said, “you think he’ll appear?” It took me two seconds to process what he was referring to but, once he realized I had gotten the joke, we simultaneously dissolved into uncontrollable peals of laughter. It was the perfect tension breaker to a harried morning of trying to get ourselves to the airport.

In flight, May 16th

The truth is that our previous mirth had deserted us halfway through our cramped plane ride. R was a little trouper but even his small frame was having trouble adjusting itself to the compressed space of his seat. I had done my best to make it as easy and distracting as I could for him. I’d loaded my iphone with movies and some of his favorite TV shows, packed a goodie bag of never before seen toys. A magnetic slate with airplanes, helicopters and other airborne contraptions turned out to be an inspired choice. He played for the longest time with it and fell into exhausted sleep still clutching it in his small hands.

I myself cannot sleep on airplanes. Everything about flight is geared to impede rest for me. I just cannot. My husband dozed fitfully but every once in a while, we’d stare bleary-eyed at each other, silently ticking off the minutes, counting down the hours till Frankfurt could be reached. Hoping our son would remain asleep for as long as possible and thus be spared the worst of our transatlantic journey. We willed a burst of speed that never really came true. It took forever to get to Germany.

1:00 am Houston Time, early morning in Frankfurt

Dragging what felt like all our earthly possessions through miles of airport corridors, we finally made our bedraggled entrance at the Frankfurt Sheraton. We had debated prior to going whether $370 for a half day (unforgiving Euro exchange rate) was a worthwhile investment for the 10 hours we would have to enjoy our Sheratonian luxury (notice the sarcasm). All it took was the hot spray of the steaming shower to convince me of how wise I had been to make the reservation. Clean and revived, we got into bed the three of us and slept like the dead. No dreams, no movement, exactly as we lay down is how we woke.

Frankfurt, early evening

If not exactly fully there in our bodies, we had at least responded well to the pseudo defibrillation of our truncated rest. We made a sorry sight trudging back across the skyway and into the airport once more. For R, all it took was knowing we were getting back on a plane and he morphed once more into the Energizer bunny. At that point in time, I would have given much to have just a smidgen of his energy. I keep wondering where exactly I’ve lost my love of flying because I know that I’d pay a fortune to just materialize in places with all my bags by my side. Yet one more reason why I don’t question my love for Star Trek…

Anyway, despite some apparent last minute snafus by Lufthansa, all three of us got on a fully Persian-populated flight. The few foreign flyers stood out mostly by their coloring and by their ineffectual attempts to keep their invisibly drawn circles of personal space, intact. Not that it did them any good since for the most part, Iranians are physically pushy people (with your pardon jan). From experience, I've learned that many Persians don’t give a hoot about your body boundaries. If you’re in their way, they will get you out of it. Getting into our seats was a Farsi-comedy of mistaken chair assignments (not our own as we knew were we were supposed to be) and a mad-dash for overhead compartment space. I could tell the German crew was used to our kind of crowd. “We have noticed that many of you are carrying more than the allowed pieces of luggage onto the plane – where necessary, we shall be forced to send some carry-ons down to the luggage storage.” There was some rapid scuffling in an attempt to hide the chickens better and to camouflage the 3-foot high date tree sapling but, it was all for naught. Before the plane could actually move there were wars fought and lost, a modern day reenactment of the Persians vs. Sparta except it was the Huns who won this round. Call it what you will but to my fascinated eyes, this was Roman Circus at its best.

By contrast, the last segment of our flight itself was fairly uneventful. Right before we landed at 3:00 am Iranian time on the morning of Saturday the 17th, all the women on board were exhorted to cover their heads with the hejab and their bodies with the manto because by “edict of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we were asked to do so.” I will assume that you are not in the know and explain that a hejab can be any triangular piece of cloth or any type of scarf (colored or printed) that covers a woman’s hair. A manto, is a coat that comes to the knees or a little further up and covers your arms up to your wrists. Like most of the women, I waited until the last possible second to wrap my hair in a sheer ivory gauze scarf and to don the prettily embroidered cocoa-brown Indian style tunic I had brought along as my manto.

I’ll stop my retelling at this moment when we were about to enter customs because I’m tired and, the post is already long enough. More later…


Out to pasture

View of Bazaar in Esfahan by Dave Watts

Our taxi is almost here to take us to the airport. The bags are packed. The kid is ready and dressed and, if he says the word avion (airplane) again, it will surely be for the millionth time. We are all rearing to get this show on the road but all holds still for me, and these final words I post for you. I'll see you two weeks from now. May it be a happy, easy, stress-free time for you and I will enjoy hearing all about how your days have been when I get back.



Answer as though you are not afraid

So Thomas Bryner of Living Next Door to Alice apparently 'borrowed' this meme from Thailand Gal and now, I'm borrowing it from him.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? A book in hand, piping hot dim sum for a meal. My kid reading by my side and my husband kissing my neck. All at the same time.

2. What is your greatest fear? To die today and not have my son know or remember me.

3. Which living person do you admire the most? Moi. Nah... just kidding... Don't really have one besides my papi... sheer nepotism, I know.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Self-vanity.

5. What traits do you most deplore in others? Unkindness, impoliteness and dedicated promise-breakers.

6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? I would have said chastity but for the fact that ThomasLb already beat me to it and, as I can't figure on another, I'll just change the question. What do you consider the most underrated virtue? Here's my ready answer - Temperance. Which by the way, is not only a bea-u-ti-ful word but a quality that I lack entirely. In temperance lies the heart of a quiet spirit. I believe this firmly. I'm constantly trying to achieve a quiet spirit. It eludes me.

7. On what occasion do you lie? When Dora the Explorer is actually on and I tell my kid the show has been canceled because Dora got lost. Forever. In the jungles of Malaysia.


Yes, and a lion ate her.

Lion? Roar?

Yes, he roared and proceeded to devour her.

Hungry? Comer?

Yes, a horrible, horrible kind of hungry. Dora gone.

Lion ate?


No Dora on tele?


I do believe the lion also suffered from indigestion because that head of hers was too big. But I draw the line at telling R a fib like that.

8. What do you dislike most about your appearance? For starters, my pointy chin. It makes me look witch-y. Then everything else.

9. What is your greatest regret? I don't like Maraschino cherries.

10. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My son.

11. Which talent would you most like to have? I have but two I'd kill for: to play the cello. To write really well.

12. What is your current state of mind? Anticipatory - for the trip to Iran. Apprehensive - for the long-haul flights ahead of us with our toddler in tow and not enough toys on hand (9 hours to Frankfurt, 12 hour layover and then another 7 hours to Tehran).

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wish I had tougher emotional skin. I hurt easily. Sometimes it's no fun having a bleeding heart.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Giving birth after 36 hours of labor. 33 of which agonizingly passed me by without even an aspirin for the pain. Actually, let me amend this answer - Parenting on a daily basis. That's it.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be? Hopefully as a thing and I fervently hope I'm sinfully delicious.

16. What is your most treasured possession? I'll tackle this one literally as people are not possessions. Besides my engagement and wedding rings for obvious reasons, my priceless Manton de Manila. Someday I'll tell you how it came into my hands.

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Extreme hunger. Ill health. Being alone.

18. Where would you like to live?

Country-wise - Spain.

City wise - Sevilla.

Heart-wise - there are two places. Stockholm for one. But it is a totally impractical dream due to the fact that I cannot stand cold weather and the dark winter days. Ireland is the other and I really can't explain why I would want to live there since I've never even set foot in the place except for the airport at Shannon. I overflew the countryside though and that was apparently enough. Some desires make absolutely no sense. That's just the way it is.

One final one - and it's just for the sheer heck of saying that I own a palazzo there - Venice.

19. What is your most marked characteristic? If we are talking about behaviors, my husband says I'm kind and it is what people love most about me. I really can't confirm that assertion as I know that I'm capable of being utterly horrid when I sort of lose it or, scathingly polite when I'm truly angry. Neither is a manifestation of my fabled kindness.

20. Who are your favorite writers? For the record, I hate these kinds of questions because it's impossible to pin something like this down but I'll play along for the sake of not being a total poop. Off the top of my head: Maupassant, Proust, C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton, Isabel Allende, Winston Churchill, Gerald Durrell, E. Nesbit, Eva Ibbotson.

21. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Reepicheep. Who would have thought that a rallying cry to go further out and further in would be the silent credo by which I try to live. You'd have to have read The Last Battle to know what I refer to.

22. Who are your heroes in real life? They're as real to me as Hobbes is to Calvin. Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, and Mafalda. Cartoons have no need for lies.

23. What is it that you most dislike? Someone questioning my honesty or my honor. Inversely, lying to myself (something I try never to do) and letting myself down.

24. What is your motto? I do believe I've already stated it. Look at #21.

25. Favorite Journey? I could say motherhood but I'll opt for something more concrete and specific - a winding road along the coast on the island of Ibiza that ended in a little open air restaurant where my husband and I sat down to a meal of roasted kid. I've never had a belly so full that felt so good. It was the perfect ending to a day of burned nipples (after going topless at the beach) and an extreme case of hunger.

26. What do you value most in your friends? The patience to stay with me as I ebb and flow.

27. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Do you have a dictionary on hand?

28. Which historical figure do you most identify with? I don't know about identifying, but I sure wanted to BE her. Nadia Comaneci. It was that little smile she always sported, the beautifully pointed feet and the perfect little backward flip of her graceful hands. She was the skinny dream of my chubby little self.

29. What is your greatest extravagance? As always and forever: shoes.

30. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? Our singular talent for talking over each other.

31. What is your favorite occupation? Reading.

32. What is the quality you most like in a woman? genuineness.

33. What is the quality you most like in a man? A challenge.

34. How would you like to die? Well-loved.

35. If you could chose what to come back as, what would it be? Addictive Turkish Delight.


Two poems

Not happy with either one but then again, I've never been happy with any of them. They need to be reworked. No titles yet. Those are harder to write than the words that follow sometimes.

In the onion heart of my inner self
I dream in languages I don’t speak
and I dream of things I know something of
It is an inverted living this dreaming whose pillar
is not my life in normal mode
But my shifted soul
in sifted thoughts

The rules are different here
outrageous and unpunished
unknown to all
my ever self
All things allowed
rules the time
I spend in this

That is the reason why
when I dream
I am neither me nor me
neither pinned nor pegged
I will not say if this, or that
but for one flowing constant:
In my dreaming,
I remain
As before
a Mother
a Mother

In the poetry class, the students pondered
The meaning of an especially vivid phrase
“the general sat eating green mangoes with salt
while on the shelf, a jar of pickled fingers and ears
belonging to victims he had tortured, lived accusingly.”

I was the sole Latin American in the group
and for a while,
I let the conjecture fly and zip
and flower and zoom
A ping-pong game of supposed reasons
for mangoes with a pinch of salt
in this why of the why
with a bushel of morbidity thrown in
for good

I raised my hand and told what I knew
He ate green mangoes with salt
they taste good
He tortured
I guessed
it felt good
to him
The dead had nothing to do with mangoes
though perhaps
something to do with the salt

In Latin America,
green mangoes with salt are
like pretzels with salt
like french fries with ketchup
You get the gist
of the partnering
The necessity of
the mangoes
with the salt
No deep explanation there to figure
just mangoes
just salt

The killing
was something else


That is here, that is home, that is us

Photo by Woodleywonderworks

The words for the title of this post are excerpted from a lecture which Carl Sagan, the astronomer, gave at Cornell University on October 13, 1994. The here he was referring to was a minuscule blue dot, in a photo that had been taken by the interstellar space probe Voyager 1, 13 years after it was launched into space.

"Having completed its primary mission, Voyager at that time was on its way out of the Solar System, on a trajectory of approximately 32 degrees above the plane of the Solar System. Ground Control issued commands for the distant space craft to turn around and, looking back, take photos of each of the planets it had visited. From Voyager's vast distance, the Earth was captured as a infinitesimal point of light." (www.bigskyastroclub.org)

Today, the earth celebrates Pangea Day. It is the first ever event of its kind. Through a great feat of organization, some of our major cities, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Cairo, Mumbai, London and others, will broadcast a program of 24 short movies to millions of people around the world.

The purpose of the event is to inspire, transform, and allow us to see the world through another person's eyes... because in a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it's easy to lose sight of what we all have in common... through the power of film, Pangea Day seeks to overcome that - to help people see themselves in others.

Sagan's lecture at Cornell, will play a part in Pangea Day. His voice acts as soundtrack to one of the 24 movies that will be shown. His, is called Pale Blue Dot and gets its name from a book of that same title that Sagan first published in 1994. Though short in length, it packs a powerful punch. At its heart lies the unspoken hope (my interpretation) that man will somehow come to this realization: As a people, we either stand together, enlightened in our common bond on this little piece of turf we call our planet or, we continue divided, capable of ignoring all our similarities, destroying ourselves and our world in the process. It is worth taking a look at and I'm hoping you will. Below, is a Pale Blue Dot.

"The entire Earth is but a point, and the place of our own habitation but a minute corner of it."
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, Meditations, Book 4 (CA 170)

Quote taken from Chapter 1 of Sagan's Pale Blue Dot.


Immaculate state

In my country, we celebrate Mother's Day on December 8th. It is the day when most Catholics worldwide observe the impossibility (unless you are a believer) of the Immaculate Conception - when Mary, untouched by man, virginal in both body and mind, had God's son implanted into her womb. Made a mother without... well, it seems almost blasphemous to state the obvious but there you have it - made a mother without having had sex. As an afterthought, I've come up with a more elegant turn of phrase - she conceived without having known carnality.

I remember this from always: Come Mother's Day, my father wakes up and thanks my mother for the gift of us, his two daughters and in turn, my mother thanks my father for making her a mother. I always thought that this was such a sweet thing to do. A reminder that for them, it took two to cook us, and two to raise us, and then two turn us into something that to this day, gives them renewed hope and pleasure because so much of them lives on in us. And that by the same token, will continue to live on in our children: my own son, my sister's as yet unborn daughter.

I'd like to think that the road to my motherhood began on a bus ride to Charles de Gaulle airport one cloudy day a few years back, when I was the one to force an issue which my husband said would have required no force.

Blunt as always, bolstered by the knowledge of a terrific couple of days having been spent enjoying each other's company, I turned to my then boyfriend and I said:

Well, are we going to get married or not?

To his credit he didn't skip a beat. At most, he blinked maybe once and said something that had apparently been quite obvious to him if not me.

But I always meant to marry you, didn't you know?

Hello? No, I didn't know. Nevertheless, amongst a slew of any possible replies he could have given me, this was a perfect response. The end of my single-hood. That divine moment of settling into a space in my heart and mind that felt quite utterly, just perfectly right. Him and I and the opening salvo of a life of loving together. It was as clean and immaculate a moment as any fervent believer in the rightness of things could have ever wished.

That was the first step I ever took towards my motherhood.

This morning, as I write this post, I have my 3 year old son chattering madly next to me in between open-mouthed bites of bread and scrambled eggs. He's spanking clean after the shower my husband just gave him and newly dressed in a little white polo shirt and jeans. He's a poster child for all things cute and a living embodiment of everything that is innocent. All the wonder of the world is reflected in those bright brown eyes of his, and I can't find it in myself to tell him that he must continue to eat (a task we struggle with on a daily basis) rather than chat, because I'm enjoying his babbling, sing-songy observations too much. These fingers of mine keep flying across this keyboard even as I sneak another of my never-ending fill of looks on my little boy. For three years now, I've known exactly what my mother has always thanked my father for. It is a miraculous state that of motherhood. As holy as the word implies. I believe in it like I don't believe in many other things.

Though not quite my day yet, I'll thank you now jan for giving us our little boy. Happy mother's day to you too my love. Like I've always said, it was meant to be, and just for the record, I had every intention of marrying you first. So there.

And to all my blogging mothers AND fathers, a Happy Mother's Day to you all.


A poem I wish I could call mine

Photograph by Violator3

I remember Peter telling me once that I wrote poems like an angel. I'd never met an angel who wrote poems and so the falsehood inherent in his lovely, gushing compliment, forced upon me while in a crowd of true poets, had the opposite result of his desired effect. In my embarrassment, I withdrew from him. Completely.

Eventually, I also withdrew from my poetry. I never entered another contest nor won any more competitions. It was not an unexpected demise for a talent which I had never claimed to have - that of writing poetry. At heart, my inner words remained where they began, inside me. I could not reconcile to the truth of knowing that all my poems contained untruths. Even if others didn't, I knew where the make believe lay.

I wanted to write like Benedetti, like Alfonsina, like Darío. All masters, all honest, all of them not me. This, is where I became lost. A dead end road was that which came of my vain comparisons. A sure death to something that was never really born. I might try again. Perhaps. Whether I'm good or not no longer matters. My inner words want to get outside.

The following, is not one of mine. I've made a most literal of translations for you. Hardly any interpretation at all. Surely I do one of my favorite poets a great disservice but, I wanted to share him with you today. This particular poem is so well known by many Latin Americans that the title alone is like invoking a single-name musician. Below the translation is an audio clip of Benedetti reading his own words. If you understand any Spanish, it should resonate with you as much as reading the words do. I hope you like it.

And before I go, I throw this out into the nebulous: Peter, wherever you are, I am sorry for not being kind and sophisticated enough to deal with your admiration. I was young. That is my only excuse. I thank you now because it means more in this moment than it did then.

Tactic and Strategy
by Mario Benedetti

My tactic is
to look at you
learn you as you are
love you as you are

My tactic is
to speak with you
and listen to what you say
construct with words
a bridge that is indestructible

My tactic is
to remain in your memory
I don’t know how nor
under what pretext
but to remain in you

My tactic is
to be frank
and to know that you are frank with me
that neither one
sells the other off on
so that between us
there be no screen
no chasms

Mi strategy is
grounded in change
more profound and more

My strategy is
that one fine day
I don’t know how nor
with what pretext
you will finally
need me


A bulb, dimwitted name-calling and Iran

The online version of the Los Angeles Times had an interesting story on its front page this morning. It was about an honest to goodness light bulb that has remained continually lit for longer than you or I have been alive. 107 years to be exact. The marvel of the little light that could has had its share of conjecture as to the cause of its bright longevity but, this explanation by an ex-firefighter who was tasked with its care, makes sense to a light layman like me:

"Most people just consider it a freak of engineering," he said. "But I believe the bulb has stayed alive so many years because the makers gave it a perfect seal, so no air gets inside the bulb to help disintegrate the carbon filament. This bulb operates in a vacuum and it doesn't burn hot. That's the secret."

Whatever the true reason for the light's miraculous duration, its uninterrupted life span has garnered a devoted cult following. Charles Kuralt (one of my reporting
heroes ever since I discovered Sunday Mornings in the early 80's) did a piece on the Livermore Fire Department light in 1972 and, it has its own web page where you can spy on the bulb to your virtual heart's content. Though it must eventually flicker out as all good and bad things always do, I too can't help but root for its continued longevity. It deserves a place in the pantheon of illuminated objects.

I suppose that now that the suitcases have been brought down from the attic, that this is as good a time as any to let you know about my upcoming trip to Iran. Notice that I don't call it a vacation (even though that is exactly what it is) because when people think of vacation spots, Iran doesn't exactly come to mind the way say... Greece or Italy do. Travel agencies certainly do not advertise for lovely vacations to axis of evil nations but, take it from one who
is not a novice to its beauties, there is much that is worth seeing and experiencing in Iran despite Bush's dimwitted aspersions.

We go to visit my husband's extended family in Tehran and to see (maybe for the last time) his 98 year old grandmother in the northernmost city of Tabriz. As always, our little world traveler comes with us. Like myself, he's already had a prior immersion into the Iranian experience though I'm sure he remembers nothing of it, since he was just 8 months old on his first trip. This time around, it will be interesting to see how he handles himself in the midst of the kind of doting attention which would spoil even the driest of children. To witness the love and care la
vished on my small boy who, in 500 years of documented genealogical history, is only the third non-full Persian grandchild born within my husband's clan of a family is, simply put, overwhelming. That sensation goes in like measure for me. When I married M, I never expected that the kind of people who would claim kinship to a man like my husband and his immediate family, could not be worthy of my matrimonial ties. I was just incapable of envisioning how much my life would gain in goodness from that link. I love my Iranian family. I feel grateful and proud to have been integrated into their ranks.

My husband, his grandmother, my son and Amu (uncle) in Tabriz

While gone, I will set blogger to post some recollections of my first trip which I've written in anticipation of my absence. I can't wait to come back and regale you with everything new that there will be to tell as well as, show you all the photos I'll be sure to take. It will be difficult if not impossible, to post from there as the latest news is that internet access is heavily censored and widely restricted. In shah Allah I will be able to pen you a line or two but I'm not counting on it and neither should you.

In these last few days before our departure, I'm packing gifts in amounts to which Santa's bag of goodies could not hold a candle to. There are all varieties of European and Asian products
available in Tehran but due to long lived embargoes and some more recent government restrictions, US goods are not readily found. Remind me to tell you how we were forced to fly in two cans of Enfamil powdered milk on a British Airways first class seat last we were in Iran. Who would have thought that our food-challenged son would rather go on a hunger strike than have anything to do with the locally available brands... nevertheless, that is really a completely new post and the kind of Milena story that is best reserved for another time.

I find myself wishing it were already the day to get on the plane. Once I get into the travel mindset, the wait time chafes. I guess that means the Livermore light bulb is sure to outlast my impatience.


Programmed into the male DNA

Photo by Olgite

One of the byproducts of being the mommy of a little boy is that I have been able to observe first-hand how the male mentality (like a light) gets switched on. Up until now, this illuminating understanding had escaped me. There's a particular reason for that. My men (and you may feel free to consider me a Mata Hari of sorts) have all arrived in my life already lit from within by their little gender-specific idiosyncrasies.

Of course, no two guys are alike and you should keep in mind that I'm speaking in generalities only as regards the following observations. Now, in spite of the caveat, there are CERTAIN things that all men universally do and which we women RECOGNIZE as things that MEN DO, because well... men are men.

Somehow (and you'll surely find this silly), I had thought that in creating my little boy, I'd kick some rasa into his tabula. I thought, that I'd be able to circumvent (wait... strike that) that I'd be able to short-circuit - (yes... that's better, but not quite there yet), that I'd be able to surgically strike (brilliant!) at the heart of all the little quirks my collective experience of men, has categorized as UNDESIRABLE behaviors. In other words, I actually thought that my little boy, who will someday be some other woman's man (after all the hard work I've put in), would be a masterpiece of manliness without all that other crappy stuff we just know in our heart of hearts (don't deny it, this is a friendly space and we're allowed to bash here) us good womenfolk could do without.

I think that my mistake lay (no - well yes, there was a bit of hubris involved) in assuming that what I considered typical manly behavior was something that was learned, something that could only be acquired through observation and then (unfortunately) emulated into ghastly perfection. I THOUGHT (this is me laughing out loud) that I'd nip it all in the bud. Easy peasy. I mean really? How hard can it be to train one little boy into a fine specimen of the ideal man? (Did I use the word hubris already?)

Well, the joke is on me most definitely. Yesterday I witnessed how all the bad stuff comes hardwired, waiting on some sort of stealth mechanism mode to just surface at a point where a mother like me, who prides herself on all the lovely manners she thinks she is somehow managing to teach her child, can't help but realize that no matter what, I will NEVER SUCCEED in my endeavors.

This is what took place: I took my son out to the pool, neat as a pin, swimming trunks on and inflatables on his arms. Not two minutes later, he'd managed to divest himself of both and was looking blissfully happy as he petted his frontal nether regions, pulling on his wee wee as if to reassure it that there would be no more of that uncomfortable inner netting to confine it. Next, he alternatively strutted and ran while I tried chasing him back into his trunks. Once he realized however that I had given up and that au naturel pool bathing had won out, the bottom scratching began. Scratch, scratch. No modesty - no care in the world.

Out of my reach, he deliberately arched his little body and peed right into our clean pool. THEN, he leaned in and inspected his handiwork. I didn't say a word. There was challenge in his eyes. I opted not to rise to it. Finally, coming close to where I sat, cognizant of my defeat and internally fuming, he lay down on his towel, belched, passed wind, smiled a beatific smile and eventually let the sun lull him into sleep. Sometime later, a little into his snoring, he passed wind once more. It was the final nail into the coffin of my Pavlovian dreams. I'm sure that the woman who will one day top me in the scale of his love, will surely enjoy all that his dear mother taught him.


On a completely different note: For if you didn't catch it the other day, when you should have... You may thank me later for posting it for you.