Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Back Stairs ~ Random Memory #8 ~ Iran

Worn treads on the back stairs of our 1890 Victorian farmhouse, taken in January, 2009. The stairs are narrow and very treacherous!

Random Memory #8 ~ Iran

When we arrived, Tehran was a crowded city clogged with traffic and pedestrians. There were travelers from everywhere. Hotels were overbooked and lobbies and hallways were full of tired people who would have given anything (and did!) for a bed and a shower. Both were unobtainable without baksheesh placed in a 'helpful' hand. In light of the situation, Peter and I felt very fortunate to have rooms at the Park Hotel in central Tehran. At best, it was a roof over our heads. There was no pool, no tv, no cafe, no room service, no garden and no nearby park. A buffet dinner was served at 9:30 p.m. and it was in those circumstances that I did my utmost to entertain the children with a little imagination (stretched thin!) and the few items packed in our suitcases. I washed their clothes in the bathtub and Peter bribed the cook so JCB and John would not have to wait for the traditional Iranian dinner hour. The cook agreed to leave two plates of chicken (ju je) kebab on the back stairs by 7:30 p.m. He said it was the best he could do and he kept his promise. The dish was always hot and delicious and JCB and John still love juje kebab to this day.

Life at the Park Hotel was mind numbing for all of us and, while we were physically comfortable, the days stretched on with a tedium that is almost impossible to describe. The saving grace, that salvaged my sanity, turned out to be the closet size gift shop in the hotel lobby. There wasn't much there except for the small miracle in the sparsely filled book rack. I've never understood why, or how they came to have a nearly complete collection of John Steinbeck, but there they were. I didn't hesitate, I bought them all!

Many weeks later we were able to move across the city to the Hilton Hotel. The lobby, alone, provided endless entertainment with a fascinating parade of chic Iranian women clattering across the marble floor in strappy vertiginous heels. There was (oh joy!) a twenty-four hour restaurant that served hamburgers and fries and (perhaps) best of all, the belly dancer in the night club who wore weird and dangerous white patent leather platform shoes. We all obsessed over those for weeks! We made friends and ventured out into the beautiful countryside. I learned simple phrases and numbers in Farsi. The children started school (other memories!) Life began again....

post script....

As I wrote this, I realized I had not thought of the belly dancer at the Tehran Hilton in years. From my present perspective, I realize she was really a tragic figure to have had such a job in Iran's culture. Surely, she did not fare well after the revolution.

...and one more thing. My friend, Marie Mautner, reminded me that the Iranian New Year (No Ruz) is Wednesday, March 17th. Happy New Year to all those who celebrate!

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