Monday, July 7, 2014


I'm on the train to work when it starts. It seems almost harmless for a couple of minutes. Like a mild palpitation in the forehead after a brisk walk. But the veins of pain intensify. Sensitivity to light comes next, but I am still not believing it. I am hoping it will pass. Nausea hits and I know there is no hope. Severe nausea, like that time when I took a boat in Brazil and over 50% of the boat was sick from the choppy waters. I'm surfing the waves of tracks in lower Manhattan. The subway car is too cold, and I have a sheet of cold sweat all over my body.

The odors come next. Summer in NYC has a stench like no other. Subway cars are not immune. My sense of smell is as strong of a dog's at the moment. I can smell food, body odors, soap and coffee breath all over this train. I'm helpless and so damn aware. Of the noises, the movements, the smells...

I am aware that people may be staring at me too. With my clenched fists and closed eyes. The sleepy kind of attention that you get early mornings in NYC subways. Almost a polite kind of attention. Never a sustained eye contact.

I get to work and sit in a quiet dark conference room. Throbbing pain dances through my forehead. It smells like plastic and wood shavings here. The room was renovated last month. On another day the smell would be so pleasant. I am hoping no one has booked a meeting this morning. I can smell my own deodorant mixed with sweat and I wish I hadn't put on any. My eyes are watering. I start reciting poetry because that's the only thing that takes my mind off of the pain and I don't need to use my eyes or ears for it. I recite Hafiz and Rumi and the headache throbs and throbs, almost dancing to the rhymes.

Tears start running down my cheeks.  I feel like a toddlers in pain who can't communicate. No one is coming to take my pain away.

Sobbing feel good. Maybe it's the rush of oxygen, inhaled in between the sobs. Maybe it's the motion that jerks my body. But the pain is almost dissipating. It is there but it's not making me want to vomit anymore.

I walk out of the room but I immediately have to put on my sunglasses. My computer is too bright. But the day doesn't stop for my headache. I start responding to my emails...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Everyone is winging it

A few days ago, I read an article by a woman in her 40s about being a 40 something.  She listed a bunch of seemingly random observations about life: nuggets of wisdom, you could call it.

The one that stuck with me was: "There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently."

I think about being a grown up quite often. The first time I seriously thought about it, was after my father passed. Death brings out the vulnerabilities of the survivors. Death of my father changed my relationship with the world. I no longer had someone to defend me against the dangers and perils of the outside world. I was all alone; a real grown up.

I was 29 when my father died and he was certainly not defending me against the world. I didn't need defending: I had immigrated to a different country and was living quite well, financially and emotionally independent for over 6 years. 

But the point remains. I had lost a parent and for the first time in my life I was no longer someone's child. I had to be a grown up and that made me uncomfortable. I wasn't sure I know how.

At 33, I have many friends with kids. Every day I hear about someone getting pregnant or giving birth. For obvious reasons, not the least of which is biological limitations, I think about having children of my own.

I'm not sure I am ready. You have to be a grown up to have children. 

Or do you? 

Were my parents grown ups when they had us? Did they need to think so much about having children, or was it the most natural thing in the world to them?

Maybe they were also winging it. 

PS- I'm writing again after a long time. If you visit me, leave a comment and tell me what you think. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"music is the only language i know"

I love music. I fucking love music.

Just like wine. I know nothing about wine, but I love drinking it.

Similarly with music, I am not one of those people who love a certain genre of music and own thousands of records and know the history of bands in and out and can play trivia all night.

I'm just a casual listener. Shitty music, good music, all sorts of genres and artists and ages. I like operas and classical musics and I love hip hop and rock too. And everything in between.

Sound cloud is the shit, isn't it? You can spend hours exploring all kinds of songs. Since it's another fucking snow day in NYC. I'm trapped at home and have a lot of time to do just that.

Thanks heavens for music.

My recent favorite artists are Soheil Nafisi, The Black Keys and Charles Bradley. My favorite songs by them are:

"Yar-e aziz" by Soheil Nafisi

"You put the flame on it" by Charles Bradley

"Tighten up" by The Black Keys


Sunday, February 9, 2014

foggy confusion

the winter is here
is it here to stay?

icy thoughts whoosh in my head
my heart beats colder
a foggy confusion over my soul
slowly numbing my ways

the winter is here
snow every day
white and powdery snow you say?
grayish slush at every street corner

the winter seems to be here to stay

Friday, January 31, 2014

The past lingers

A couple of weeks ago I pulled out my journals and started looking through them. I've kept journals pretty regularly between the ages of 13 and 24, when I started writing a blog in Farsi. Then I started writing another English blog and then this blog because the other blog was not anonymous enough.

Then I started not writing any more. I don't know why.

Reading my 14 year old thoughts was both interesting and unsettling.  Both very far and very close.

I wrote mostly about every day events. Whom I met that day, where we went, how I felt about boys, my parents, my friends, etc. I have to say, I was a bit of a boring kid. I was always worried about getting good grades and I was into many boys at the same time, without actually hooking up or anything.

And then there was the code language. Some form of made-up symbols that I had invented to hide the top secret stuff from whoever with access to my diary. I'm pretty sure no one ever read my diary, certainly not my parents. I remember that I let a friend borrow it once and a boyfriend too.

There were many names in those pages that I have no recollection of: school friends, boys, teachers, neighbors, etc. And there were events that seemed so dramatic that I have no recollection of.  I guess for a teenager everything is dramatic.

But some emotions were as raw as it was described in my writing. Some even seemed understated. I looked at some of the names and the feeling suddenly rushed through me.  I remembered small details, like the scent of someone. Or the vague dimple on his cheek.  The event was far. The impression of the event, the memory of the emotion, was very near and real.

Rejection, passion, frustration, sexual instincts, heartbreak, anger and excitement. They were all mixed together in those pages.

I wonder if I will ever write a journal again. The act of holding a pen and writing for minutes, or hours, seems a little foreign to me now.  And the fact is that I am not as open with myself as I used to be.  There are things that I don't even want to think about. And there are feelings that I like to deny.

If you deny the truth to yourself, can you write an honest journal? Can you live an honest life?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The joys of reading Joyce

I'd say I have mastered the English language and I am truly bilingual. Sure, here and there I might not understand words, slang or cultural references, but those are few and far between. And they usually occur when I am reading works of literature.

Yet, I have never dared to read Joyce's Ulysses before. Everyone knows that this is one of - if not the- best books in the English language. Everyone also knows that this is a tough read. I know too many people who would not touch the book, because they have tried and failed.

I picked up the book just because I happened to download it on my iPad, that I got as a Christmas gift. Since there is a dictionary attached to the software, you can look up the words without interrupting your read: a great feature. I decided to give it a try.

On the surface, the book is not that hard to read. There are words that you won't know and there are references and names that you might not get. But if you just read the narrative, it is not too difficult, nor it is too interesting. I felt like I am not getting much out of it. The writing is at points very descriptive and beautiful, but I felt as if there is meaning attached to the passages and names and locations that I was not understanding. I decided to look up a guide.

I came across this post. The writer seems to imply that you don't really need a reading guide, but he goes on listing the various available guides anyway. I wasn't convinced that I don't need a guide. Why would so many writers waste their time to write a guide when none is needed?

I opted out for re: Joyce, Frank Delaney's weekly podcast. It is free, readily accessible and doesn't require closing the book and opening another one just to look up the references. I can listen to it while looking at the text on my iPad.

I read the first two pages and started the podcast. And let me tell you, my life is forever changed.

Frank Delaney sounds like a kind of man who you'd like to sit with and drink whiskey. He might be an obnoxious arrogant for all I know, but I am certain he is a good conversationalist. Of course that doesn't matter since I won't be drinking whiskey with him.

He reads the book line by line and decodes and opens every word and every reference, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. The first 50-some episodes cover the first chapter of the book. Since this is a weekly podcast, it took him a whole year to publish that many episodes. By his estimate, the podcast will cover the whole book by 2025, when he is 100 years old. Now, that is dedication. And an odd mission to undertake.

Reading Ulysses when you understand the references and back stories is a vastly different experience. And the references are aplenty. Ulysses draws on Joyce's life, Odyssey, Hamlet, Irish politics, Catholic beliefs and so much more. It is a quite delightful read. Beautiful literature is mixed with stream of consciousnesses. The narrative zigzags between the narrators voice and that of Stephen, the main character and the fictional Joyce himself. As an Atheist, I also particularly enjoy the blasphemous anecdotes.

Reading Ulysses requires a lot of dedication, but it is worth every minute. I am certain that Joyce has written this book to provide the best mental masturbation there is, and to prove that he is a genius. I'd say he has accomplished both.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

On my religious views and Mormonism

As an Iranian woman growing up in a secular family under the authoritarian regime of the Islamic Republic, I am admittedly anti-religious. At some point in life, probably around 15 or 16, I decided that I do not believe in any of it.

Our social lives were extremely complicated because we didn't have the same values as the Islamic government. At parties- in which our parents mingled, danced and drank banned home-made vodka delivered by an Armenian-Iranian dealer- there was an ever present sense of insecurity. The danger of the religious police raiding the party and making arrests, or at the minimum disturbing us and soliciting bribes, was imminent. We lived in this kind of fear as children and adults. Later, when I was a teenager, the same story was true. This time, there were no parents at the party and we weren't children anymore, so the danger of getting beaten and thrown in jail was more real. Naturally, we attributed this stifling sense of insecurity to Islam; that was the regime's value system.

Our private lives were even more complicated. Islam, similar to other major organized religions, is all about the after life. With the promise of the heaven, comes the guilt and the shame of enjoying the pleasures of life. I vividly remember how filthy I felt every time I masturbated. I would promise myself not to ever do it again because I was scared of burning in hell for thousands of year, hanging from my hair. It was a painful image for a 12 year old child.

And these are only two small examples of how the religion manifested itself in my life. There are many others such as sexual harassment by frustrated angry men, limited career opportunities, insults, countless hours of useless religious education, and...

I mention all of this to highlight to you, dear reader, that I am aware of my anti religious biases and you should be too.

And now, let's talk about Mormons.

The religion was created in the U.S. less than 200 years ago. It is apparently the fastest growing religion in the world and currently there are more Mormons that Jews. I won't bore you with the history and facts, because you can read all of that on Wikipedia. Better yet, you should read "Under the Banter of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. It is a gripping and fascinating read.

The most fascinating aspect of the religion for me is the practice of polygamy. Like Islam, polygamy is accepted and practiced, but even more interestingly, it is encouraged and considered the fundamental pillar of salvation. How fascinating is that?

- I should say here that polygamy is not practiced by all Mormons, only by fundamentalists, or the Fundamentalist Later Day Saints.

Now, as a liberal woman, I have no incentive to practice any major religion. Religions are created by men for men, and that is nothing new. But to think that a religion created in the modern times, in America, can be so oppressive for women┘ł is just beyond me. There is rampant evidence of child sexual harassment among fundamentalist Mormons. They systematically marry young girls, as young as 13, to men as old as 80. Women are supposed to be obedient and bear children, some times as many as 12-14. The current prophet is alleged to have had 70 wives and at least 65 children.

Since polygamy is illegal in the US, these men are not lawfully married to more than one wife, usually their first. But the religious leaders, or prophets, wed the couples in their own church ceremonies. And how do the men pay for the wives and the children you ask? They don't. Tax payers do. These women are all on welfare because they are single mothers and none of them have a job. In one of the counties populated by fundamentalist Mormons, 8 dollars is paid in welfare for every 1 dollar paid in taxes.

You ask yourselves, why do these women put up with this bullshit? And I think the answer is because they have no choice. These women are raised in a society with screwed up values. They have never been educated in a modern school system where they can learn useful employable skills, and many of them have been married off as children. By the time they are in their mid-20s they have a few kids and they are completely dependent on the men in the society. Now, how do you suppose one can escape that?