October 27, 2016

Voice Like A Lullaby

“Get away from that door.” My mom had just gotten home from work and walked upstairs.
I ignored her. If she really meant it she would try again.
“I said get away from there. You’re going to disturb her.” She was whispering forcefully.
I tried my luck one more time. I couldn’t look away. What was she doing in there under that sheet? With those beads? That ancient looking book? Is that a compass? Why is she muttering to herself? What is she muttering to herself? She stands up. Arms in the air. Kneels down. Forehead to the ground. Repeat.
“I said go downstairs!” The whisper was gone, her voice clear, her hand on my shoulder physically pulling me away. “Now!”

I saw my grandmother kneel down again, clutching a string of beads, her head to the floor one last time, before I gave in and slunked then trotted downstairs- two steps at a time, straight to the fridge for a banana.
“What is she doing in there?” I asked my mom ingesting half the banana in one bite.
“Do you have to eat like an animal? You’re going to choke.”
Finishing the second half of the banana, I asked, “No really, what is she doing in there?”
“She’s praying,” my mom had shoved me out of the way and was starting to dig in the refrigerator, pulling out an assortment of boxed and sealed left-overs for dinner.
“Praying? What does that mean?” I was perplexed. I had no idea what to do with information that my grandmother who had arrived from Iran late the night before, and was going to stay with us for six months, who I hadn’t seen since I was five, I was seven now, who had brought two massive suitcases that stood full and unopened upstairs, who was my dad’s mom, was upstairs praying.

I had out run my mom from the car earlier to set eyes on Maman Soodie, only to find her in a trance, under a sheet apparently praying.
“Why are you ignoring me?” I needed answers.
My mom was busy pouring an eggplant stew into a pot for warming and setting a pot to boil for rice.
“It means that she is talking to god, by reciting lines from the Koran.”
God? Koran?
“She will do that five times a day when she is here and I need you to not stand at the door gaping at her. It’s a very private act and she doesn’t need you disturbing her.” She started to cut some radishes like flowers and throw them into a blow of cold water to help them open up.
“I wasn’t disturbing her. I was just standing there, quietly watching.” I stole a radish and popped it into my mouth. I love the subtle spice. I stirred the stew and watched a few tiny bubbles begin to pop like a lake of molten lava.
“Can you not argue and just promise me that you won’t bother your grandmother? And go set the table. Your dad will be home soon and I want to eat as soon as he gets here. I am starving.” She handed me a stack of four plates.

Four. Not three, but four. It was so exciting to have an additional member added to our family. It had been just the three of us for so long that having another body in the house was a novelty and a treat. I didn’t know at the time how much I would learn from Maman Soodie and how long those memories would last.

“Jabiz Joon come here and let me hold you. I have missed you so much my heart has been broken.” Her voice sounded like a lullaby I recognized from years ago. She was out from under the sheet and heading toward the kitchen. Her face and her voice came rushing back to me from the time before we left Iran and came to America. From a time where we played together while she watched me when my parents were out. From a time that she was my friend, my story teller, my grandmother.
I ran to her as she sat in a chair at the dining room table. She scooped me up into her lap, hugging me tightly, rocking me back and forth.
She said a bunch of things in Farsi I didn't understand, like I was her liver, but I could feel were affectionate and then she said, “Oh how I have missed you. Tonight I will tell you the story of the Persian Prince Rostam.”
“Can you also tell me what you were saying to god?”
I noticed that she and my mom exchanged a quick look. It was fleeting, but I saw it.
“Let’s start with the fairy tales and move onto god later.”

October 26, 2016

A History Of Cars

The first car I ever remember is my grandfathers BMW. I think it was white. I was three maybe four, sitting on his lap as he pretended to let me drive it. The tiny round lights up front. Tan leather seats. Maybe a wooden gear shift knob.

Next, America. 1980. Our family owned a sparking metallic green Volkswagen Bug with brown interior. I loved the little side triangular windows and the way it never felt completely insulated. Gusts of wind entering from random empty spaces in the car. The engine made it feel like a rocket.

1986 Our first showroom floor brand new car- A Nissan Sentra. Silver and with zero perks. It was the base model and had no features expect maybe a fan, but that didn’t matter because it was our first new car with the new car smell and the pricing sticker on the window as we drove it home. Four doors and a trunk, we were moving up in the world.

I learned to drive with that car, my dad and I out near Handy Man and the Dump. Francisco Boulevard- our hood. It was a stick shift. One day he let me drive it into the city and somehow he forced me onto one of the crazy steep streets. And while I begged him to take over he refused. “If you really want to be a good driver, you have to learn how to handle this.” I used the emergency break and found the sweet spot on the clutch to get us home. I was terrified and sweaty, but now I am grateful for those hard lessons.

1991- I bought my first car. A royal blue 1979 VW bug. I was still in love with bugs. My parents agreed to match whatever I had saved, so for $1700 I had my first car. I will never forget the feeling of popping in the Appetite for Destruction cassette and heading toward Jason’s house. The feeling of freedom was intimidating. I knew at that moment that I could, if I wanted, drive away from home, never come back and go anywhere I wanted.

I abused that car. We jammed up to eight people in Ole’ Blue. I once almost drove it off a cliff after a party, damaging all four wheels. I left it on fourth street and drove home. In the morning, my dad asked me where my car was and I had no idea. After a while I remember, and when we went to get it, he nearly lost his mind with anger. The wheels were all shaped like squares. We had to have it towed to a shop.

In the end, I never once changed the oil or took it to the shop. I put gas in it and drove, until one day it stopped on the highway somewhere near Larkspur. I had it towed to the dump for $25 bucks and never saw it again.

Our family car lasted well into my high school years and actually drove me down to San Diego my first year of college. The whole family including my grandpa, who we dropped off in LA. We packed all my sheets and towels and stuff and headed south.

A few months after that, my parents finally threw in the towel and separated for good. I am not sure what happened to the car, but the next time I came home my dad had bought a new Eagle Summit. (Some kind of Dodge copy) I don’t remember what my mom was driving. I moved back in with my dad by X-Mas and he left for Iran shortly after that. He left me the car with the understanding that he would help me pay the payments if I could pay the insurance.

I had this car for a while. A few years. Driving it to College of Marin and La Petite and Bank of America where I work. Until I got too many tickets and had my license suspended. I couldn’t afford the insurance any more and couldn’t get a hold of my dad. I didn’t know what to do and the idea of selling a car was too much for me, so I drove it to the dealership, handed over the keys and I said I don’t want this car anymore, you can have it back. The guy looked shocked; I am pretty sure no one had ever brought a car back and said take it.

I walked home.

I didn’t have a car when I moved back to San Diego, but I used to spend a lot of time in The Red Wolf, Jeff’s truck. I have no idea what make it was, but we used to abuse that car too. It had a kick ass stereo and we played it pretty loud. One Halloween we dressed up like girls and drove it to Santa Barbara. The last night at Bob and Ari’s place, a fire extinguisher was set off and covered everyone and everything with green dust. For some reason this green dust stayed in the Red Wolf for months after.

Back home living in San Francisco my car was the Muni. Buses from Haight to downtown and the N Judah line trolley to SFSU. One summer we decided to buy a VW bus to drive across the country on a two month road trip. We painted forest green and lined the floor with black shag rug and purple velvet curtains. It made it to DC and New Orleans and finally back home. Anthony didn’t know how to drive a stick so I would get it started out of the gates and switch seats once we were in 3rd or 4th gear. Mary and Cortney never drove. I loved that car. We kept it for a few weeks after the trip, but parking was a pain the ass so we sold it for nearly what we paid for it.

Then off to Mozambique and back to NYC. No cars. Shapas. MTA, bus, train, feet.

In Malaysia we bought a tiny purple Proton. It got us around and my only real memory was the terror I felt driving Kaia home form the hospital in it. Sold it before we left.

Doha- we bought the car I have hated the most. A white Jeep Cherokee that was the biggest piece of garbage I have ever owned. Bought it from a lying Qatari and there was something wrong with it for three years. Sold it before we left.

Jakarta- Leased a big black Toyota van and actually had a driver. 75 year old, nearly blind Sunario. It was practical and roomy. Sunario was great with the kids. He barely spoke but he helped us get by in Jakarta or he ripped us off, hard to tell in Indonesia.

And finally, Singapore. We own a ten year old Hyundai Verna, which ironically is very much like our Nissan Sentra. It gets us around and is nothing special. We have to sell it in March because in Singapore you are not meant to have cars that are older than ten years. I wonder what car we will have next.

Each one of these cars has a million more stories, but this was just a start. Which car would you like to hear more about?

I didn’t mention the various Fords that Jason owned, but they too were near and dear to my heart, but that is another post as well.

Tell me about some of your cars.

October 25, 2016

The Monster in You

I like to think of myself as a peaceful person. I try to avoid conflict. I act in mellow non-confrontational ways. I dare say that I am a pacifist. I have been opposing war as a concept since I was a child. I do not eat animals in order to reduce the amount of violence and the death on the planet. I understand and respect non-violent philosophies from Zen to Ghandi to MLK, so why is that last night as I watching the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I found myself salivating with some primal level need for death and destruction? Where does this masochist need for blood in fiction come from? 

I don’t have too many answers in this post, so I was hope to lay out some ideas and here what you all have to say in the comment section. 

I have felt this appreciate and thirst for violence before. Namely anytime Ramsey Bolton is on the screen in Game of Thrones. I watch characters like Bolton and Neegan with my jaw to the floor, entrance by their depravity. Not only do I wish to do them harm, thus awakening my need for violence, but I cannot look way from their brutal actions. What will they do next? How much more unacceptable can it be? 

The writers for The Walking Dead found a nerve last night and messed with it for nearly an hour. Creating one of the most blood curling, antagonistic, tension filled hours of television of all time. Mairin and I couldn’t look away. Well, Mairin looked away while screaming oh my god. Oh my god, but I was all in. How do you explain a pacifist drooling over The Walking Dead? 

I know I am not alone. Many of you out there watch the show as well. Looking at you Brighde, Carol, Mary and other seemingly sane, calm, peaceful people who love them some F'd-up shows. What are your thoughts? How do you make sense of the violence you so thoroughly enjoy in shows like these? 

Of course I know that this is fiction and any intelligent person can and should be able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, but can any true self-aware Bodhisattva be entertained, and even thrilled by, the anarchy of violence during the zombie apocalypse? I am curious to hear your thoughts.