Rain sweeps in from the ocean and drenches coastal California. The Penguin Dinghy, however, rests safe and dry in the Room of Requirement.
With the rain and all, we go to Los Angeles It is Persian New Year.
Once upon a time there was a wisp girl who lived in the city of Los Angeles. One evening she leapt from her bed and in doing so she ripped a toenail off. The little girl was far closer to the beginning premise of her life than we may be to our own demise. Hardly seven years old, her materiality was still fresh and barely set, hardly removed from that time in which she didn’t exist at all. What did she remember, if anything, from that world that preceded her? Maybe for this reason she couldn’t distinguish a wound from a fatal wound. Any injury might be a summons from death. She sat on the floor, cradled her toe and considered her own mortality. Baba, she wept. I don’t want to die. I am too young. I don’t want to die.
Once upon a time on a living room table in Pasadena, the Nowruz goldfish swam in their small bowl. They had been brought into the house as a harbinger of the New Year. But did they know why they swam in the bowl? Or even that they were they and that they swam in a bowl at all? Did they know they had meaning? That they were living fire in a globe of water and the embodiment of spring?
Once upon a time we drove to a shabby boulevard in Westwood in a heavy downpour to purchase saffron, halwa, flat bread, jordan almonds, pistachios, whole fish and tea. The rain was so heavy that the freeway traffic on the I-10 slowed to a crawl and it was as if the world had become cemented with water and we had returned to our amphibious selves.
Once upon a time there was a little girl in Tehran who so badly wanted a goldfish for Nowruz that she schemed with her brother and pestered her mother until the woman finally relented and handed over a 500 toman note. The little girl journeyed to the market and lost her money twice and was scared and sad and elated. She met snake charmers and merchants and a soldier who offered to help. The girl, trapped yet in her childhood felt for the first time a glimmer of the predation of men and of a looming world beyond.
But the girl never existed. And yet when the poor thing sat on the curb outside the market, staring through the sewer grate at her banknote just out of reach, future violations even further beyond her consciousness, she hardly thought to consider our existence. In her world, none of us witnesses and sylphs existed as even a consideration. We were nothing at all.
Es ma man, Kristina, ast. Che toi dee? (a more or less phonetic spelling of Persian for “My name is Kristina. How are you?”). I was once told there are more Iranian people in Los Angeles than all of Tehran. But that was long ago. Shortly after the 16-year-old, regal-nosed Soheila (Sou eh lah’) went to the plastic surgeon for a pert bob job. She then became Suzy, and therefore American. I admired her spirit as I mourned her lost profile.
The spirit of Sou eh lah lives on. In profile and all. Her full bearing will be present tonight. 🙂 And yes Virginia, the Iranian population in LA is the largest outside of Tehran. ]