Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting Settled in Tehran

Our kids in pool in our yard in Tehran. In background are Alborz Mountains.

A note to readers:  When you see when some of the things I write about took place, you may say to yourself, “Gosh, that’s ancient history!  I wasn’t even born then!”  Let me put you at ease.  As a person of my years, I try to show you the world we lived in, but I also can see what is going on today in Iran.  Many things haven’t changed!  Iranian people are still very gentle, intelligent and friendly people.

This blog was published on May 3rd, 2011, but is now re-issued, with some additions.

Getting Settled.  We found our house in Sahebgraniyeh, in the northern part of the city. It was a very upscale part of the city—every home was enclosed by high walls, and within the walls were very pleasant gardens and tall trees.  About three blocks away was Niavaran Palace, the palace where the Shah usually lived.  He had several all over town from which to choose.
Our landlord was a wealthy Persian engineer.  In our garden lived a little family.  Hossein Massoumi, with one eye that looked askew, was our gardener. His wife, a teenager, was Keshvar, and they had two small children-- Nassir, a boy, about 5, and Batul, a girl, about 2. We lived in a nice house with glass all along the south wall, which was our living room and hall, looking down over the whole city of Tehran We had a beautiful swimming pool, filled with ice-cold spring water, and on the hottest days, that water was still frigid.
We were at 5200 ft. of altitude, and the city slopes down to the center, at about 3750 ft. above sea level. Windows along our back upper floor allowed beautiful views of the Alborz mountains, which border Tehran on the north. It was October, 1970.

 Moving into a house in Iran was an adventure.

We hired a badji (maid), Parvin. 
One evening she made a huge chelo kebab for us. She used a large metal bowl, about 2½ feet wide, filled with fragrant, delicious rice, with marinated lamb, cooked on skewers over a fire, laid by skewer across the top of the rice. Then in the center, a raw egg yolk.  This is a real Persian delicacy.

Chelo Kebab--Wonderful!

Parvin was nice enough, but after a short time we found she was stealing a lot of stuff.  She left, and we hired Mehrab Mehrabi, a houseboy. Mehrab was a diminutive fellow, very polite, and very shy. Sometimes he brought his wife, Qoli.  She was loud, with a shrill voice, and darting, suspicious eyes.  Mehrab was Iranian, and she was an Arab from down in the Persian Gulf

Hossein, our gardener, would break a branch off a tree to use to rake leaves.  I produced a rake that I had brought from home and showed him, and he appeared grateful.  But the next time he needed to rake, he broke off another branch.  One day he wanted to use the water hose to wash off the roof outside our second floor windows.  He turned on the hose and walked through the house with the hose spewing water over the tile floors as he walked across them and up the stairs.  He would never have thought to wait till he had gotten to his work to turn the hose on.

Next door to our house was the ASS Dry Cleaners.  One of the employees made a habit out of going in the back yard of the cleaners every morning after I had gone to work, and squatted and did his business, in full view of my wife. I don't recall what "ASS" meant.  Next to this was the Barf Laundry. “Barf” means “snow” in Farsi.

The Lulekesh, simsaz and other notables.  “Lulekesh” means one who pulls or draws pipes, or a plumber.  To move into a house in Tehran, you need a plumber to hook up water pipes in the kitchen, and connect the toilet, as people take these things when they move. 

You need a “Simsaz”, (means “cutter of wires”) or Electrician. The electrician uses his fingers to check for the 220 volts of electricity. They count on their thick, Pakistani-made tennis shoes to insulate them. My wife would say, “Someday I expect to see nothing but those tennis shoes standing there!” To find a wire, they demolish the whole wall, because wiring a house Persian-style is quite a bit more haphazard than in the U.S.

After the electrician has done his damage, you’ll need a plasterer, and then you’ll need a painter to “rang zadaen” or “hit with color”.  And when an Iranian painter paints a room, that’s what he does—hits it with color. 

We had Red the Cashier install a 5 kw transformer to convert the house electricity from 220 to 110 volts. Iranians seem to think they can do about anything, but it seems most are still back in the camel-driving era. Red worked for the Americans here, so he spoke English.  However, when he converted our electricity, he did it for the first floor only.  I unpacked our small television and plugged it in to the wall socket and poof!  American TVs don’t work so well on 220 volts.

Karaj Dam near Tehran

Our "Bomb" of a car. It took quite a while for our car to arrive from the U.S., so we rented a car from PKEOM (Persian Knights Enlisted Officers’ Mess), an American servicemen's club that traces its roots back to the lend-lease days of World War II.  These cars were known as “PKEOM Bombs.”  We had this car until our 1966 Ford Falcon station wagon could arrive.  We thought we’d get out and see some of this beautiful country, so we drove up to Karaj dam in the mountains.  The scenery was magnificent, but we soon found out that the brakes on our “Bomb” were imaginary.  While we were up there the car started to spout steam, and we drove downhill as fast as we could, to find help for our problem. We finally reached a village where there was a filling station and drove in, with steam coming from all over.  I had never opened the hood, and then found out that I couldn’t. 
Anytime Americans showed up somewhere, a crowd of curious Iranians would gather.  They are a very helpful people, even if they haven’t a clue what they are doing. Several men tried to help open the hood, and finally a mechanic did it with a big crowbar.  The water pump was “tamum shod”—finished! he declared, and so this looked like it was going to take several hours.  A cab came by that already had an Iranian family in it, but the driver and the family were glad to have us, so our family of five jammed in, and off we raced to Tehran, with about 11 people including the driver.
Iranian taxi drivers always go as if they were on fire, so fast that you know you are in grave danger.  You learn early on to say, “Yavash!” (Slow!!) and this might make the American feel better, but it has absolutely no effect. 

Tehran traffic “Sholouq”, or impossible traffic jam.

We got to visit with a lot of plain, everyday Persian people during our two years in Iran, and found them to be wonderfully friendly and helpful. Where they might differ from Westerners in their familiarity with technology, they were generous, intelligent and fun to be around.
Western coverage of Iran and Iranians, or Persians, in recent years may have painted them as America-hating, single-minded Islamic fanatics. However, I think you will find that those people are in the minority.  I look for the day when Iran and the U.S.A. can be friends again.

Iranian men protest

Here are some books and papers  the Personal Navigator is offering:

 Rawleigh's 1917 Almanac

 Rawleigh's 1917 Almanac, Cookbook and Medical Guide, 28th Year: A Valuable Hand Book  1916 Freeport, IL: The W.T. Rawleigh Co.Marvelous book, loaded with advice and information. 140 products for 1917, including toilet articles, spices, medicines, cleaning products, poultry and stock products. Design for an iceless refrigerator using Canton flannel. Recipes for candies. Canning. Rawleigh's Dip for Cattle, Horses, Sheep and Hogs.   Louse powder. How soap is made at Rawleigh's. Photos show gathering of raw drugs in faraway India and other spots. 104 pp. 14.7 x 22.4 cm. Paper booklet, full color, very good condition. (6561) $29.00. Advertising

 Baby Doll Poster

Baby Doll: Warner Bros. Picture, an Elia Kazan Production of Tennessee Williams' screen play, starring Karl Malden and Carroll Baker; Advertising-Publicity Campaign Packet 1956 Warner Brothers. Advance Publicity campaign and advertising campaign samples for film"Baby Doll", has been called “notorious, salacious, revolting, dirty, steamy, lewd, suggestive, morally repellent and provocative.” This was 25-year-old Carroll Baker's second film, and she received an Oscar nomination for her part in the film. Its advertisements and posters featured a sultry young "Baby Doll" curled up in a crib in a suggestive pose, sucking her thumb.   21 x 28 cm. Paper folder contains Samples of Ad Campaign and Big Ad-Pub Campaign. Very good. (7092) $29.00. Advertising/Cinema

Burdock's Blood Bitters 1892 Almanac and Key to Health 1892 Buffalo, NY: Foster, Milburn & Co. Josiah Lewis of Sing Sing, NY had dyspepsia for years with no cure until he took Burdock Blood Bitters. Hettie McCourtney of Remus, MI had a pain in her back, head, heart, poor appetite, constipation and more until she took BBB. Mrs. Samuel Rieder's little boy (of Summit Hill, OH) had sores all over his body and legs, couldn't stand on his feet. " I gave him two bottles of BBB, and now he looks like another boy altogether." Almanac offers many testimonials and health advice, cures for Dyspepsia, dizziness, headache, variable appetite, souring of food, heart palpitation, constipation, biliousness, scrofula, rheumatism, pain in loins, dropsy, female complaints. Just take Burdock sugar-coated pills, Burdock's Blood Bitters, Dr. Wood's Norway Pine Syrup and Dr. Thomas' Eclectric Oil. Mrs. Wm. F. Babcock of Norvell, MI was "run over by a team of horses and a lumber wagon, and not expected to live, but my friends bathed me in Eclectric Oil..." 32 pp. 14.5 x 20 cm. Paper booklet, good. (7024) $24.00. Advertising/Medical

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