Thursday, November 30, 2006

GHITA'S GONE (BUT I GOT HER ON TAPE!)

CHAPTER 7
- Bob! says Ghita. There’s an empty seat at her side, the stage is min now, but still I’m here in the back. - Bob! she sighs and stretches her hand into my darkness. I look at Thomas, but that is a dead end, he is the last person in the world for me to turn to. Thomas he hates me. - Come on, Nielsen! he whispers. And so I take her hand as we roll down the hill towards Boulevard Darya. This society is full of rules and laws, but no one respects them, not really. Each moment, each encounter is a tabula rasa, no one knows what is going to happen. You just walk right out into the heavy traffic, Inshallah, look the first one in the eyes, and the next, will he push the brake, or if not, you’d better do it. The same melancholic voice is singing his Iranian song of rain in a bad world filled with bad people, and what do we care? At the roundabout Ghita takes the left way round, off course, it is shorter, and proceeds right into the left lane of the boulevard. We are against all odds now, driving fast and right into the front lights of the closing in others. - Please! I say and let go of her hand and tap her shoulder, - please, I think we are in the wrong lane, this is a one-way and we are going the other, please! But she doesn’t really get it, and I don’t really know how we finally made it: The Iranian U-turn and back towards the roundabout, the wrong way round, but then at least down the right lane. We stop in the street next to ours, and I really don’t want to let him go, without the camera I don’t know what to do, on my own I am no one. Thomas gets out of the car, but he goes on filming and I am wearing a microport so at least he is able to hear me. I change into the vacant seat at the front, I am Him now, and so I take her hand. - Let’s go! I says, soft, but loud enough to be heard. - Bob! she says, - I don’t understand? - Why? I says, - what is wrong, I thought you asked me if I wanted to go to your home. So let’s go! But she just stares out into the darkness. - Why is he filming? she says almost whining, - whyy?! - Oh, that, I says and laugh, - that’s just Thomas, you know, Thomas loves his camera, he’s always filming, don’t worry! - Nooo, she says, - here, in this society, we don’t like that, you know, please! And so I open the door, and Thomas is just two meters away staring into the screen of the camera, - Thomas, for helvede! I says, - gaa lige lidt vaek, rundt om hjoernet, men bliv ved med at filme! I shout as he disappears round the corner. - So! I says to the microphone, - off he went! Come on, kiss me! And she kisses me, and it sounds almost too good, to real, like a “kiss”. - Let’s go, I say. - Nooo, she says. - Why? I says. - My son, she says, - my son in my house, my husband told him to go there.

- Fuck! I says, as I enter the apartment, and Thomas has sunk deep into the sofa, a bottle of milk in his hand, while he takes a look at the recordings, - fuck! It was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do, but now that I didn’t, it is even worse, yeah, this nothing, this being left over in this dirty apartment, this RAF cell filled with empty milk bottles, beer cans, old bread, stinking socks, dust midgets copulating into grey piles along every wall, this is definitely worse than the worst. At least I keep my shoes on, against all Iranian indoor rules, as I cross the living room to invade the sacred corner where all the wannabeoldEuropean furniture has been covered with white sheets. I enter the sofa and put my feet on the table and call her number as Thomas turns on the camera to get the right decadent framing of the failed revolution. - Bob! she sighs, and so, at three thirty the night between holy Friday and Saturday morning I get her entire (love me, doesn’t love me) story: “We lived like happy family, twenty four years”, and but “then Ashrar Hemmat and one student, you know, a bad girl, a bad bad girl”. And so in this dead end everything is the same as back home in Europe, same old story, that I don’t want to be part of, never! I says. But Thomas just laughs. And so I have to go on and I tell her to call me tomorrow when she is alone. And so, at the end of the scene at least, I get what I wanted, and this time on tape: - I love you, Bob!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ME & THE LION OF TEHRAN - A DUEL

CHAPTER 6
On the way all the actors of course have gotten lost in the Tehran traffic and each car has had to call the other over the mobile phone to get the directions, and when finally we enter the apartment all the female actors have taken of their scarf and they are no longer the slightly veiled Norén characters they were on stage, no, now they are exactly the usual “actors at the opening night party” me and Thomas hate more than anything. - No camera, please! says the lady of the house, - everybody here are very famous! she says and waves her hand towards all the to me completely unknown replicas of European actors, - known by every Iranian, so please, no filming in this situation, without scarf and drinking alcohol! - No problem, says Thomas and just goes on filming, - this film is not about you or Iran, this film is just about Nielsen, prost! he says and turns the camera towards me as I take a tour de la apartment, and yeah, someone here really has made some money, a huge flat screen TV on the wall, laptops, fine arts, “Wallpaper”, tonights buffet includes French cheese and not just wannabebaguette, but real faked German style bread with “Sonnenblumenkern”, even the kitchen is hi-tech, but when it comes to an end, and it does: the bar has no whisky, not even a sour white wine, just two tin cans of Heineken and the usual Absolute (Mandarin), - cheers! I say as I go to the loo, - you want me to follow? says Thomas, - no, I says, but I wish he had: this is gorgeous: no hole in the ground, but a shining white almostmarble throne, and on top of it, and in Scandinavian style, the house owners demand: - don’t stand up while doing your deed, please sit! I read, standing. Out again Ghita is waiting, so I try to stand in the light when she kisses me and asks me if I want to go home with her in her car. - And Thomas? I says and look into the camera. - Nooo! she says and goes to the sofa and I am ready to follow, but before I get there, her not very former husband, the notorious Ashrar Hemmat, lion of Iran, has taken my place, and so we are three: me and her, face to face and him in between. (I really don’t know what to say, but don’t worry, he has taken over the scene,) in his broken and scattered English he tells me about his glorious career, all the big parts he has played, Macbeth, Othello, even Richard the Third. And what about me? I think, who am I (supposed to be). The atmosphere is quite low in this corner, but all around us the actors are performing their fame: every time someone enters the apartment the hall of fame rises up in standing applaud. Only once in a while the lion leaves the cage and circles around my camera man who has lost his faith and turned off to instead turn up the level of alcohol. - Thomas! I says, but he doesn’t seem to (dare to) listen. Ghita caresses me cheek, and maybe I’m just their son, their longlost Oedipus, I don’t know, and I don’t really want to. The rest is silence, the lion sits down and violently sucks out the juice of a pommesgranate, and then we are off.
String quartet, every one playing his, walking his string all the way out, a strange but perfect disharmony: the (no longer?) married couple in front whispering to each other in poisoned Farsi and me, the innocent (but curious!) sonny boy on the backseat, (no will of my own, but) ready to do whatever they want. They lion does not, but Ghita she wants, to show him, the lion, that she is in charge. In the dead angle Thomas, almost covered in darkness, but the red light is on now, recording, he’s had his beer, his vodka and juice, and so he is ready for the next revolution. This recording might be the end of their career, not just on stage and on film, no, the end of their life in Tehranian freedom, but they don’t stop it, the lion is too proud, and Ghita wants to show him, that she is free to do anything, even to share her bed with a Westerner, their longlost son. Slowly (but with high speed) we rise from the smog of central Tehran, through deserted dark streets, miles of spiralling expressways to the clear air right under the mountains, where the richest Iranians live their life above Islamic rules. In front of a large new housing covered in white marble the String Quartet has come to a halt. And now? No one knows? The maybe (maybe not!) former husband turns towards the two foreigners and stare at the camera as if to destroy it. But the camera just turns towards him. Silence. Is this game over? He opens the door and slide out of the quartet and walks towards the white light of the house entrance while the camera zooms.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

- AND THIS, GHITA SAYS, - IS MY HUSBAND


CHAPTER 5
The curtain has fallen, everybody rose up and applauded, and now we are out in the white lights of the theatre loo’s, Thomas filming me from over the top of the door while I pee into the third world hole in the ground, - come on, Nielsen! he says, - you’re the main actor now, we want to see you go all the way through that alley of scarfs into the secrets of the Iranian woman, come on! Down in the lobby some of the actors have appeared, the auteur director is offering filled chocolates from a box, - take one, Nielsen! Thomas shouts, and so I take one, and it looks like a praline, but when I bite it turns out to be the usual Turkish lack of delight covered with wannabe but not succeeding chocolate, an Iran en miniature! The auteur director is telling about his years in the theatres of Vienna, half of the actors speak German, and suddenly Ghita is there and she secretly takes my hand, - kiss her, Nielsen! but I can’t, and not just because I’m incapable of such Don Juanian acts, but because it’s illegal, - you cannot touch me! she whispers, - not here! She invites me to come with her to a private party in the home of one of the actors. - And Thomas? I say. - He want to come with you? she whispers and looks at him with almost disgust. - But he isn’t (that) drunk tonight, I say, and Thomas smiles and waves his hand from behind the camera, and I really don’t understand why it is me, why I am the one that she wants, it has always been Thomas, even though I am “Amerikie”, or at least European, and so being far more attractive than any good looking Iranian man, but in the moment they see Thomas, almost two meters high in his black suit and with this superiority of an ambassador, the Roger Moore of reality, the Franz Beckenbauer with two balls instead of just one, they have long since forgotten me.
And so once again it is “me and Ghita Noerby in her car thru the night”, but this time it is not just another Iranian coup or conspiracy, this time it is part of the European history, the camera is on and I’m not so lost and alone. But in the last moment before we enter the car, a third man appear and opens the back door and shows me the way in, and once of a sudden I’m on the back seat with Thomas and this Iranian has taken over my place in the front. I can’t really see him, not from here, not in this dark of the car, but what do I care, Ghita is at the steering wheel as we drive through the Tehranian night past wall after wall of wildly lit cartoon martyrs and mullahs, and she takes my hand and holds it over the seat behind her shoulder while she (tries to) tell me about her two children, a girl and a boy, she has had them very early, the girl is twenty three and studies graphic design at the University in faraway Marshad, the boy is seventeen and stays in the house of his father, - kys hende! says Thomas, and I bow my head and kiss her hand, while she goes on in Farsi, talks and listens to the man in the front seat, and now that he turns his head to look at her and even cast a short eye on me, I can see him, deep, dark and intense, the moustache and the black hair with blitzes of silver gathered in a knot behind the scull, the cliché of an “artist”, but wild and masculine, an Iranian lion, - and this, Ghita says, - is my husband.
- Your what? I say. - My husband, she says and lets go of my hand to put hers on his shoulder. He turns his head and looks at me. - Aha, I say, and then, - what is his name? - Amin, she says, - but here in Iran everybody know him as Ashrar Hemmat. - Ashrar Hemmat, I mumble and he hands me his right over the left of his shoulder, and I try to shake it, but I can’t, it is far too heavy and big. - Ashrar Hemmat is artist, she says, - but also he is actor, very famous, from the tv, she says and mentions the incomprehensible name of a TV series, I never have heard of, - you know? she says. - No, I say. - No?! she says, with the mix of startle and wonder of a Dane who encounters an American pretending he never has heard of Matador or, even worse, Bille August. - No, I say and finally manage to shake it and then slide out of his hand and back into the darkness. - I loved Ashrar Hemmat for twenty four years, she says. - Aha ..., I say and nod and turn my head towards Thomas, but he is lost in the darkness, eyes fixed on the camera screen, and I really don’t know, I just hope this is also part of his masterplan, his script about “me and Ghita Noerby in Tehran”.

Delivering mail to the President’s office

Taxi down to Pastor St. The streets around the Government offices are closed off. The main street leading towards the Presidential Palace is broad and empty. It feels a bit like Downing Street – now with plane trees. We pass by a Presidential Guard post. We leave the car on the boulevard midway between to posts and continue on foot with the letter. Bob has the letter. I have the camera (our film crew is in total disarray. Local staff is on strike). As we approach the main entrance post, guards come on to the street behind us. They call out ‘hey! Hello! Mister! Mister!’ But at this point we’ve heard so many ‘hello-misters’ in Iran that we’ve become quit deaf to it.

Accordingly, a moment after the two protagonists are left standing, kicking the dust in the street without props. Guards walk off with camera, passports, letter and disappear inside a booth on the middle strip of the road. Bob curses under his breath while managing to send innocent touristy smiles towards the opaque windows of the booth. I take out the cigarettes. Prisoners of our own overconfidence. Two battered Trabant replicas (Peykans) pull up after a few minutes. The superior along with his superior and assistants. All in brown suits, no tie of course. The style is right out of a SED fashion magazine from the Seventies – the proud mouldy brown colours of the GDR. They look to be related to the police that picked us up in Yazd. Same stubbles, same elusive greeting (non-greeting), same squatness, same slight chubbyness – caused by extensive sitting inside the Trabant.

So, it is not allowed to film the Presidential Guard. The GDR superiors stand behind the booth – reading the letter, assistants pushing all the buttons on the camera, taking out tape and still-photo memory chip. A moment after they all huddle in a circle around the poor chip, discussing.

They question our hapless taxi driver. ‘What are you doing here with these people?’ Going through his papers, they tell us to go back to the car and wait. We spend a joyful hour on the backseat going through various scenarios that all has us ending up in Evin prison. Our eyes are fixed on the tiny figures bustling down at the gate. The whole thing has the feel of Checkpoint Charlie in Friedrichstraße – we’re waiting to get word on our exchange. The little brown men have our fate in their hands.

The wife of the driver calls incessantly on his cell phone. Bob is on the phone with his diva who pleads with him to delete all the footage of her – where she is without Hejjab, where she is drinking alcohol, where she is kissing, cheating on her husband. She has an actress friend whose life was ruined when DVD’s started circulating on the streets with footage of her making love.

I have lesser problems. I’m a white middle-class Scandinavian. How boring is that. My biggest dilemma is to decide before I turn 35 whether I want join the early retirement scheme and start paying instalments. Oh, to live in a totalitarian society. To be a hero!

I spot footballs in a bag outside a nearby kiosk and leave the car to get one. It’s hard plastic, very poor quality, 20 cents, clonking sound when it hits the ground. I play by myself in the deserted boulevard with the plane trees as silent spectators.

After a while the two Peykans come clattering up the boulevard. All smiles, handshakes all around. They like the letter and promise to send it on to the President’s Office.
Relief – we thought we were going to loose everything this close to our exit, in a stupid moment of hubris. We get back the camera, passports. They’ve recorded the flaking GDR wall of their office over the bit with Bob walking down the street with letter in hand. This film is going to sell well at Art Basel. An art film shot by Iranian Secret Police – who can top that?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

GHITA ON STAGE, AND ME PREPARING TO ENTER

CHAPTER 4
And so the next evening when the day was done and we had decided to take over and do the entire revolution all by ourselves, cause in the end - yeah now we were closing very much up to The End - of every meeting and every dialogue and every little encounter even the youngest and apparently most radical and fearless and revolutionary Iranian turned out to be afraid, just like Mohammad in Yazd who turned up the volume of Linkin Park and drove 130 kmph through the night and opened a blue cardboard container of German vodka and swore he would follow us all the way up through Iran in the bus that we would buy or rent and fill up with young and restless, but as soon as the tourist police had kept him for just a couple of hours, he was gone, just an innocent voice on the phone saying - hi, how I you! and, - I am afraid I have to concentrate on my university classes, and yesterday the filmmaker Mojtaba had asked us to erase him from the surveillance camera tapes and even burn the curriculum vitae he’d given us, just because of the invitation we had sent and handed out to all kinds of artists and students, an invitation to visit us in the apartment, “a cell where Iranians and Europeans together in the coming days will plan for the decisive event; an event that will lead to a new revolution”, and now once of a sudden darkness had fallen over Tehran, “a cold clear night”, everybody had gone and we were alone and so, why not! we decided to go to that theatre, and Thomas even brought the camera cause he wanted to film me all the way trough, just like I had filmed him all the way through that evening before the night we went to the two girls, that turned out to be three, that turned out to be “two daughters and a woman”, that turned out to be all of them whores, and right now we are sitting on the backseat of the taxi, quite late, cause although it is only half past five the theatre is in another part of the city centre, at least “one hour” away, and me bent over a box of salad trying to stuff the void with just anything and Thomas behind the camera trying to stir or cheer me up to act and go all the way, cause “now we want to see what is behind those Islamic scarfs!” And we get out of the taxi and I throw the empty salad box and a banana peel behind a bush on the steps leading up to the theatre, just like the Iranians do, and inside the theatre lobby is filled with replicas of European artists, bohemians and intellectuals with ponytails and designer glasses, and everybody has an air of the superior, an arrogance, but in the moment they hear that I am “Bob Nielsen” the excellent mob opens up a corridor and a kind of theatre servant, an Iranian “James”, appears and hand over an envelope with a whole pile of free tickets to “aroye Bobe Nilsen”. And so I am sitting in the fifth row right in the centre and Thomas is filming me from behind as I see her enter the stage and she is exactly, and now on stage even more, like Ghita Noerby, the same aura of the aristocratic that would make it impossible for her to play any kind of minor role in this “naturalistic”, but safe and unreal parallel world, and of course she is followed by a waitress or courtisane who does the dressing, while Ghita is delivering her monologue facing the audience, le populas, her mouth so sensitive, her voice like the exotic bird singing this incomprehensible Farsi with its “hreile hrobie”s and “hreile mamnoun”s, and but it just goes on for hours and in the darkness behind me Thomas has long since started to whisper “Auschwitz Auschwitz Auschwitz” while shifting his incompatibly long legs over and over again ...

Friday, November 24, 2006

To the mountains

Soundtrack – Revolution Square, Tehran, Nov 24, 7.10 pm -- "Don’t take out the flag. Please don’t take out the flag. They’re taking out the flag!" -- Cameraman 2 (Translated from Farsi).
A silent revolution - carried out on behalf of a people? To revolutionize a people? Or—for the sake of the twisted libido of two individuals? Then a call sounds out: To the mountains! To the mountains!

- I LOVE YOU BOB ...

CHAPTER 3

I wanted to sit beside Thomas, but they put him in the car with the younger woman and drove off with him, and so I was left alone with Ghita Noerby and she had the language, the car, the keys and the steering weel in her hands, I was nothing but a puppet, - Bob, she whispered, - Bob, and we rolled down the dark alley past the Evin prison and the Evin Hotel, which isn’t but a sign and the scattered remains of an explosion, she had put on her scarf and regained some of that mystery I like about the Iranian women and the Islamic regime, this play beyond rules that exactly the rules and the framing of the beauty opens. She put her hand on mine as we entered the endless series of spirals and loops of highways that one has to go through to get from one part of the city to the next, yet another of the Persian paradoxes where everything is its own opposite, the order of highways is the chaos that no one has planned, each new loop just another panic reaction disguised as metropolitan planning, and so somewhere along the highways we lost track of the other car (Thomas!) and from that moment onwards I was alone in the dark and deserted city with her. Only once every second minute another car passed by with it’s single leftover light on, or completely darkened, just a moving shadow in the dark alleys with all the melancholic and naked trees turning the whole city into a long gone world, a sunken and lost part of Europe, and she started telling me I had to stay in Tehran, not for years but forever, - Boob! she sighed, and from the radio a longgone man with his longgone voice of the fate of a people was singing about the rain that fell, the snow and the mountain accompanied by some all too authentic string instrument ... Later we were at another party which wasn’t a party just some post funeral family mourning or birthday and Thomas was there too with his Adidas football making him look like Franz Beckenbauer lost in a Cassavetes movie and somebody offered me a beer and it tasted very clear and refreshing until I realised that half of the beer was pure vodka, beer & Absolute, the only cocktail you are able to shake in a country where the only alcohol you can get access to is Heineken cans and vodka, and every body was seated on the floor carpet drunk in persian depression and off course the television was on, showing a mixture of veiled porno and vocoder pop from the Los Angeles satellites, and on top of it one of the women started singing and Thomas sat bolt upright the white off his eyes turned out and that stiffened cream cheese smile on his face, until he suddenly woke up or just turned his eyes outwards again, and there right in front of him he saw the rounded belly of a standing and not too old woman, and he saw it was good and so he leaned forwards and put his hand on the belly and smiled and caressed it, and all the still very muslims in the room just stared at him, the Tehrangeles porno pop tv playing in the background, and the bellyowner woman obviously didn’t know what to do, she just stood there mouth open and waited for the return of the 12th prophet that would free her and separate the good from the evil, the Persians from the Europeans ... And later we were in the car driving through the darkened and long gone European city where all the latin letters had been turned into pure ornamentics and every windowless wall covered with oversize paintings of two old men, both with long beards, but one of them modernized with a pair of heavy framed glasses that he must have bought at the sale after some shot down nineteen seventies African dictator, and Thomas was lying on the back seat loud asleep, head on the football in suit and tie like Franz Beckenbauer regrediated into the oral phase, and Githa just smiled and hummed and put her hand on mine, which as always was cold as the hand of a corpse, but hers was soft and warm, and finally the night had come to an end, she stopped in front of our house in Mottahari Sahel Seh, leaned back and opened the back door and Thomas rolled out into the street like a corpse and I wanted to save him, - Thomas! I cried, but she held my hand and caressed my chin and told me that tomorrow, tomorrow at six pm she would enter the stage of the city theater and from there she would play just for me, - just for you, she whispered and kissed me, she kissed me, - I love you, Bob ...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tonight at 7

After having established a position in the public discourse – on the streets and in the media – we’re preparing ourselves for the climax on Revolution Square. Tonight at 7. Will the people unite in a unique expression of their general will? Will they rally around our white banner?

[And then there is Bob. Persistently nibbling food – pecking crumbles like a starving sparrow on a bird table. In the taxi I can hardly contain my irritation – a few crumbs left in a roll of biscuits – for minutes on end he fiddles, the crackling sound piercing the fragile mental equilibrium in the taxi. People are not meant to be together for more than a few hours. More than that goes against nature. His diet consists of little cut pieces of cauliflower, tomato, cucumber, beet root, all kinds of nuts and bread. In between – apples, bananas, pomegranate, mandarin. Occasionally a proper meal – but not enough to prevent the nibbling – the constant, persistent nibbling.
And then there is Bob -
In-sich-hineinstopfender Nielsen
In-sich-hineinwuelender Nielsen
In-sich-hinein-und-ueber-sich-selbst-gehender Nielsen
There is the pencil sharpening, the questions, the never ending questions, the barrage of questions, the myopic leafing through wads of Rial notes in the wallet, the outbreaks of panic if strangers should take an interest in his eating habits; the outbreaks of panic as his cries cut through tranquil meetings: "My notebook! Where is my notebook!" -- Everyone scrambling accommodatingly, until Nielsen finds it on the chair next to him.
And then there is Bob –
Skeptischer Nielsen
Wohlgesinnter Nielsen
Ueber-den-Gebetsteppich-hinauslaufender Nielsen]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ME AND GHITA NOERBY ALONE IN HER CAR THRU THE NIGHT

CHAPTER 2

I turned my head and saw her sitting in a very Persian tableau on a coagulated blood red carpet surrounded by pillows smoking one of her long and muy delgado cigarettes, eyelids half closed in aristocratic boredom, looking without seeing in the way people never do in real life, only on film, and I wondered if I was still part of that film and if, what role did I play, the servant or ... This is Iran, I thought, there are no rules, because all the rules are being constantly (but only slightly) broken down in the picture of the Tehran traffic where no one knows what is going to happen in the next moment, so everybody just goes on, fast forward, but ready to push the brakes at any next moment, each encounter is a tabula rasa, car versus car, or worse, car versus pedestrian, you just go, right out into the lights, still far too alive, but ready to die, and then the relief when you didn’t die, not this time, not in this encounter, but maybe the next, cause no one knows what the Other will do ... I slided out of my chair and went over to Thomas who sat at the long high kitchen table talking to a middle aged man around my age, but slightly fat and with a shining black moustache and eyes so sad like Marcello Mastroianni, the melancholic clown, and I sat down for a moment listening to their talk about women and the inevitable divorce that every upper middle class man has to face, also her in the Islamic Republic of Iran, just even earlier, cause they also marry very young, - hvad saa, Nielsen! Thomas said suddenly without even looking at me, - how is it going with your film star? and I just laughed and searched the messy table for something I could stuff into my mouth, - she is waiting for you, Nielsen, get up! go over and sit down with her! But off course that was the last thing I would want to do, I would rather go down the dark, cold and melancholic alley and right into the famous Evin prison at the end of the road and stay there for the next twenty years, - no no, I said, - never! And so I rose up and walked cross the room full of dancing and ridiculous sober teenagers and sat down by her side on the carpet and immediately she bowed her head slightly towards me, cigarette between teeth and thin smoke wavering between us, - last night I saw you in my dream, she whispered. – Oh, I said and coughed and nodded and tried to avoid the smoke from getting into my eyes, - I was in your shoulder, she whispered. – Yes, I said and nodded as if that was the most common place for people to be in their dreams, and at the same moment a young, athletic and outmost handsome young film director or tv producer or script writer bowed down and almost licked her feet while mumbling an endless series of praise in the language I don’t understand a word of, but nevertheless knew the complete slimy meaning of. She just laughed and threw her head backwards and leaned against the pillows, and he bowed once again and then moved backwards mumbling into the crowd. – It must be very ... I said not knowing what to say. - Oh, yes, she said and sighed and lit yet another of those long elegant cigarettes and opened her handbag and took out a thin black book, - I am also poet, she said and pointed her long bowing nail at the picture on the back (which here in Iran is, off course, the front), almost black on black, and she in a black chador and - behind a pair off glasses that obviously wasn’t hers, but just the sign of The Poet - eyes filled with pain on behalf of her people, so pathetic and very Iranian. She opened the book and sighed and started to read, or rather declamate in a painfilled whispering, and I listened and nodded and sighed and she sighed and softly closed the book and sighed once again and touched my hand and her skin was warm and soft and … - let’s go! she said. - What? I said, - where? – To another party, she whispered and wavered her hand towards the dancing mob as if in almost disgust, - in another part of the city. – But Thomas! I said, - what about Thomas! She looked round the room and immediately a younger and more average woman, maybe her courtisane, came over and kneeled down and listened and nodded and then rose up again, - let’s go! – But Thomas! I said and stood up in panic and went over to Thomas who was sitting among a group of teenagers, mostly girls off course, all deeply sunk into a landscape of pillows, his sharpangled blacksuited knees mounting over their heads, his arms waving and this creamy and floating smile he gets when he is beyond the half bottle of Absolut something. – Hjaelp! I said and tapped his shoulder, - please! – Hva saa, Nielsen! he said and looked up at me, (he looked up at me!), - Nielsen! he said to the mob, - this is, Nielsen! my best fiend, I hate him! he cried and made a grand gesture and almost tipped of the pillow and out onto the floor. – Please, I said, - we are leaving! – What? he said, - where? – To another party in another part of the city!

Selling out

[...]
Two hours long meeting worse than going through ten gas chambers. Iranian Academy of Talents. A distinguished institution associated with such notable universities as the University of Baku, Azerbaidjan and Georgia State University. Talking points: the importance of education for world peace. The importance of Iranian talents to return to Iran. The protection of Iranian students in the US from being assaulted by American police. The greatness of the Iranian nation two thousand years ago.
I’m handed copies of letters in Azerbadjanian written by the Azerbadjanian Ambassador to Iran addressing the all important issue of world peace. Also a diploma:

“In the name of God, the beneficent [sic!], the mercifull [sic!]
Dear Mr Altimer [sic!]
We sincerely want to thank you for coming to the Academy of Iranian Elites. Our constant invitation and friendship for being in the areas of global peace hopefully will be accepted by you [sic!]. It will be deeply appreciated if you mention about this Academy to you friends and corporates [sic!].
Sincerely,
Prof. Dr. XXXX XXXXXXX”

About to shake hands in appreciation of my new diploma, my eyes incredulously register the fast approach of the Dean’s lips. Paralyzed, stunned, I let myself be violated Soviet-style. Kisses on either cheek. Oh, the tepid, soft, revolutionary stubbles of a Central Asian Apparatchik! And all in the name of Global Peace...

The meeting proved to be the turning point for our activities in Iran. The revolution became a travesty the instant I fastened our pin – the flag – to the Dean’s lapel. To our complete and utter surprise, our friends, our cadres, broke into violent applause when the deed was done. I couldn’t help but join in. We – the fathers of the future – had become claqueurs of the frauds of yesterday. A complete sell-out.

[...]
Three hours long play in Farsi with Ayatollahs, Khomeni and Khamenei, on either side of stage staring silently out at the audience. It’s as entertaining as strolling through 8 gas chambers. Raymond Carver -- Iranian style. Bob is in the seat in front of me, expectant, thrilled, fixed by the visage of his Iranian diva on stage. He is on his second date in Iran. Traitor!

[...]
We left Europe 42 days ago. We’ve tried to stay true to the script we worked out with Hollywood consultants. But – as we descend into reality - it is increasingly difficult to ascertain on the level of actor where we are on the level of structure, in terms of the larger narrative span. It has been all about playing with reality – just until you realize that all along in effect reality has been playing with you. Also – you work out the script in close sync with the media – the way the world is narrated in the media; sitting there in front of your laptop far removed from the analogue world -- then you enter reality, the world outside the media – the offline world – and then everything becomes totally different. The causal chains are different here. The analogue world knows nothing of its own representation and narration in the mediatic system. On the mediatic level Iranians are just as far removed from Iran as a New Yorker reading about Iran. On the level of media, we all exist in the same abstraction. There doesn’t seem to be any links between the analogue and digital world. This is why the aim we took months ago could turn out to be so off-target. Maybe a truly cosmopolitan world should be founded on the level of media – in a complete abstraction – then we leave the analogue world, the world of friction, the world of necessity to the hyenas and the vultures.

I miss the swim in the Pacific.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

First snow in Tehran

It is cold in Tehran. It is cold in Tehran. There is the cold steel of millions of cars that stubbornly resist to be revolutionized. There are the icy streams of Vodka that flows in narrow canals along roads; roaring forth from the affluent residential areas in the North; to enter the Southern areas of the city diluted in dull, dirty and shallow streams. There are the cold steel of hundreds of plastic surgeon’s scalpels cutting into the flesh of thousands of upper middle class teenagers; who all carry the banner of the revolution in the flesh; white band-aids on the bridge of their noses. There is the cold rim of Ayatollah Khamenei’s heavy-set glasses on roadside signs, reflecting the scattered rays from the silver steel sun disk up there far above the smog dome of Tehran. There is the warm light from a tiny fire on the sidewalk, soaked up by the contours of a little girl, clutching some cardboard as she turns to warm her bum – appropriately wearing a petite hejjab, of course!
There is the cold blue and green light from the fair ground lighting in meticulously manicured gardens and greens in the middle of endless highway loops and bridges. Was there ever such a desolate sight? Parks and greenery made for cars.
There is the icy peak of the far away, majestic Damavand, which still hasn’t been reached by the news of the outcome of ’79.
There is the flat golden sepia light from street lighting reflected off windscreens of cars as they park outside malls on Friday nights (Thursdays). Such is the public space in Iran – car compounds and malls.
The snow has started falling in Tehran. My weary Beckett shoes slips along the sidewalk – there is no revolution without friction. Foothold, we need foothold -- a revolution needs friction to be able to take off. Get us some salt, Nielsen!

(I turn towards Nielsen but he’s not there. He has abandoned ship. Off on a personal adventure. In pursuit of love. Has there ever been such treachery? Kill him, kill him – calls the mob. He’ll be the first to go...)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

ME AND GHITA NOERBY IN TEHRAN

CHAPTER 1

Last night when the day was done with and we had given the last interview and had a sudden vision of our final appearance on the square of the revolution and planned the escape that would follow over the mountains me and Thomas were invited to a party in Northern Tehran and Thomas was still smelling from the half bottle of Absolute Mandarin he had had (or just had?) the night before and we arrived in a taxi in our suits and ties in one of these cold, melancholic, but beautiful dark alleys of disintegrating walls and sad and long ago trees, and the party was exactly as we had expected with Tuborg Beer in red cans and Absolute Cranberry and the girls and ladies all entering completely unveiled and you suddenly saw that they weren't really as beautiful as we had imagined when they were still in the streets under their scarfs and the rule of the mullahs, everything was one big disappointment, the music was loud and worse than just the usual mix of bad techno and persian pop with vocodervoice and no one obviously had any idea or vision of another form of society, just dreams about being themselves and enjoying an average upper middle class westerners life, and "everybody was really enjoying themselves", but I don't know how to enjoy myself, I have no idea how to do that or what it is, so I just started making sandwiches for all the themselvesenjoying Iranians, but not Thomas, cause he doesn't eat anything any longer, he just tries to get hold of yet another Absolute bottle of vodka, and instead of the good Iranian bread that the Iranians bake on hot stones off course the Iranian hostess had bought five plastic bags filled with lookalike or just wannabe baguettes, and as I tried to slice them open they just crumbled and I had to glue them with Iranian mayonaise, but in the end even the wannabebaguettes came to an end, but at that time it was only around eleven and so what should I do, where could I hide or just commit that inevitable suicide, I had no idea, so I just started eating, I took out the ham (yes, ham, yes, pigs meat, in The Islamic Republic of Iran), and chewed and swallowed one sandwich after the other, - look at Nielsen! Thomas shouted, - he is no good at parties, Nielsen, he is not really a human being! And at that very moment a not too young, but aristocratic and very charismatic lady entered the room and everybody started whispering to each other and the hostess came to me in the corner of the alttooopen kitchen where I tried to hide hand and mouth filled with deteriorating wannabebaguette and Iranian cream cheese and dying tomatoes, and she told me she wanted to introduce me to the most famous Iranian theatre and cinema actress and she had invited her just for me, yes, - just for you, Nielsen! she said all too loud, and the actress sat down at a table obviously just waiting for me to come and present myself and tell her how big an honor it was for me etceteraetcetera, but me I just kept on eating, even faster now in even more obvious panic, the dying tomatoeslices slipping between my fingers and onto the floor, but inevitably the sandwich came to an end with me, and so I licked my fingers and went to the table, the famous actress awaiting eyes only half open as if in aristocratic ennui, and she looked exactly like Ghita Noerby, the most famous and beloved actress of my homeland, known by everyone inside and completely unknown by anyone beyond the borders, exactly like this Iranian primadonna, - Bob Nielsen, I said, - khosh hollam as didanet, and she just sighed and looked down, and that's it, I thought and so I wanted to go, but I couldn't move, I stayed in the chair not knowing what else to do of my as always completely obsolete body, and none of us said anything and every twentieth second yet another young male film director or artist or student came to the table and bowed and said what an honor or what a great admirer of her art he was, her films, her presence on stage, and suddenly she rose up an walked out of the room and in the moment she passed my chair she whispered or rather: sighed: - I would like talk more with you, but not here, not all these peoples ...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

IN THE MOUNTAINS THERE YOU FEEL FREE (PART 1)

- What about Gstaad? I says to Thomas, - weren't we supposed to end up in Gstaad? But Thomas no longer answers my questions, he just lights another of those "Modern cigarettes" or pours himself another glass of Absolute Mandarin or if it is late evening, cold and dark and the whistling of gas from the pipes at the gates of the houses, and we are still out he grabs yet another box of Tak cornflakes in the kiosk and tries to ignore the man right in front of us on the other side of the counter staring so evil over the brim of his mask. Way back in the old days when we were still young and full of visions and hope, in LA, Hong Kong, yes, even in Dubai we always used to talk about Gstaad, about the mountains and sweet loneliness, about skiing and eating cold snow right out of your hand. And when we came back from all these second, third, fourth worlds, all the endless numbers of Others and incomprehensible lacks of civilisations, when our Mission would be completed and the revolution loud enough to roll on by itself in the hands of The People, we would never again leave good old Europe, oh, no, we would settle down like Heidegger on the top of a mountain, each in his little (but comfortable, warm and heimlich) hut, each with his beautiful (and silently reading or cooking or woodchopping) woman, and not together, no, never more, far away from each other, maybe just being able to catch a glimpse of the other wandering his loneliness on another faraway Alp, but now we no longer even mention Gstaad any more, since we set our feet on The Islamic Republic of Iran we don't dream about Europe, and then one day in the middle of the neverending greyred desert as we passed the reactors buried in the dust under Natanz I suddenly silently realised that I no longer knew what to do if I ever would come back, home, what home? I thought, where in the world is my home?

We no longer eat, just bread and bananas, just yoghurt in the mornings and Absolute late in the nights (that is Thomas, I mean, I just peel myself another local mandarin), my eyes are red and sore and my suit is all stains. – Nielsen, you look like a tramp! Thomas says. And what about you, I thinks, in your worn out and dusty boots with heels fallen of, you look like an Estragon wandering aimlessly in the world of Beckett. Last night we went to the square of the Revolution, and the streets were filled with bookshops, but the books were all about piping and chemistry and computer programming, and there were piles of dictionaries, but not a word, not a vision, not a single grand European novel to translate or understand, and the dark streets were dense with intellectuals, each walking his loneliness …

Plot loops

Closely knit community in the suburbs of the south of Tehran. It’s a poor area. Everyone knows each other; there is no abstract government expressed in the public positions of clerics, Basij, police – they all have first names, they all grew up together with the grocer, the hairdresser, the teacher, and the unemployed that hangs out at the grocer’s. Because of this lack of abstract power, the feel of the community is much less tense than what we’ve experienced in the bigger cities. Aside from the titles, these people would be the same in any system.

Sitting on a carpet, lunching with a local family, a moment of revelation when the talking head of an Iranian TV host appears on the obligatory screen in the corner. It’s Channel One TV, broadcasting from Independence Avenue in Woodland Hills in California. The slick host was the same man that gave us a tour of the facilities when we visited Channel One a month ago. We have footage of us in the studio on either side of him as he announces to the camera: “Iran welcomes the European Initiative in Iran!” There is a sublime truth to this loop in our narrative, No words can express the gap between the manicured world of California and the sitting room in the run-down humble living quarters in this part of messy Tehran – the grandmother going on in incomprehensible Farsi about her love of dancing despite weak knees, her son talking in incomprehensible Farsi about his beloved motorcycle. – The guests trying to swallow a second round of some sort of pickled fruit that reeks of perfume, with the consistency of rubber.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Grand fantasies of Claudius and the madness of a nephew

My uncle married mother while I was in Germany. He took the throne and slipped into the sheets of my mother. The wind is northerly.

Six years old girls singing, playing on the middle strip in junctions. At the red light they run to the cars, peddling envelopes, band-aids; squinting through, talking to rolled up windows. And Claudius believes that his country has potential for another 70 million people. And there is a complete break-down of traffic, city imploding, and Iran deliriously thinks itself a model nation. Iran is universal entropy. It spews its children out across all corners of the world. It holds its children in an iron grip – shackles made up by fantasies of California, religion without belief, death to its enemies, poverty, islands of middle class refuge, fear, fear above everything, and then soccer. Iran is universal. We are all Iranians. Complete and utter insanity. We are not allowed to see the nape of our women’s necks, and the children don’t go to school, they sell postcards in the streets, we’d rather support Hizbollah, and broadcast ridiculous propaganda in broken English from mock CNN studios, and launch war exercises in the name of the great prophet, and spend money on martyr’s posters instead of schooling. And then we all huddle in a cancerous cage of a city at the feet of beautiful snow-capped mountains. Content to glimpse majestic peaks through the dense smog; not scaling its sides but staying put in the moving rubber cell of our exhaust filled car. Iran a universal prison. Universal Auschwitz with a dab of Parisian Elan. Lined by melancholic plane trees. Everything is fine – we just need a bit of opium – and then there is always Afghanistan and backward Arabs. We are a people of culture and sophistication. Iran – a model nation. Bad car accidents are fine as long as we are good muslims – hold on to that chador (even if you’re desperately trying get out of a burning wreck). We say Inshallah and then our team wins.
Tupperware leads the way into the Iranian 22nd century. The advent of the Microwave along with Tupperware rendered collective action superfluous. Asphalt is excellent for preventing the building of barricades. Summing up the fourth international plastic expo: Global warming will help the plastic industry gain ground in the publishing business. Temerity in government leads to higher sensitivity among children. Koran: A book mostly about women, by Mohammed. Poetry is best sung by reckless bachelors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

THE REASON WHY WE ARE HERE

No, not love, I say, not those too beautiful girls in Esfahan, not Elham and Elaheh, nor any other of those seducingly veiled Iranian girls. We must remember the reason why we are here: We have traveled around the globe to bring the revolution to Iran. The Iranians want at new revolution! That's what the Americans told us: "It is incubent upon us to help the Iranian people overthrow their government!" But now, that we are finally here – after having traveled all around the world and up through the entire deserted, dry and red-brown dusty land of plains and mountains to Tehran – the Iranians don't really want to be helped, they don't really want this new revolution. The filmmaker Mohammad (but this is not his real name, off course, his real name is much longer, more complicated) just wants to talk about art, about literature and theatre and film, "take away this politics from you project!" he says, and the head of the university for film and theatre just wants to sit in his still unwrapped chair on the fifth floor talking about his new film, the story of a little boy who leaves his home and village to bring the old teacher back to the village so that the grown-ups will remember that they also once have been children, and his pupil, our cameraman Meysam, stops filming every time our revolution is about to begin, he just wants his unwrapped teacher on the fifth floor to say that he is a good pupil, "he say I ham very active!", he smiles, and our interpreter just wants to take us to the mountains or to the sea, far away from the Iranian people, and everybody else just want a pizza or a new mobile phone, and the boys all make their hair stand like frozen in panic, and the girls just want their scarfs to fall down by themselves as a personal, but unintended revolution, but the real revolution, OUR revolution, no one here really seem to want. "I want kiss!" Elaheh screams like a five years too-young girl in the telephone from Esfahan, "I want kiss! I want kiss". Yes. Love. That is what they want.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"A city guerilla should be like the fish in a shoal"

Scene: A flat in Tehran. Second floor, stairwell reeking from gas because of leakage (plenty of gas in this country). 402 – behind the door, amid the petit bourgeois knick-knack, a revolutionary cell is forming. Gas fireplace with logs of plastic. Clay plaque on the wall: "God bless this lousy apartment." Embroidery on tables, chairs, drawers and in windows. Mattresses in back rooms, entrance with fresh flowers on a mahogany chest to appease suspicious neighbours.
In the street outside no 90, a single street lamp pushes impatient shadows through the grating of the gate. Steps resound on the stairs. The clatter of locks. Muted greetings. Door phone perpetually buzzing. It's a beehive. Something is in the making.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Avant-garde

TEHRAN. Paradisiac Absolut Vodka in house next to Evin Prison. Satellite TV from Los Angeles. Cell phone network blacked out all around to prevent interception of guard communication. – Fresh out of a meeting with a Mullah friend of Khatami. Nielsen wanted to attach a pin to his turban. But most disappointingly he was all turbanless and casual on this Iranian Sunday in his house with family. He talks of Khatami’s Dialogue of Civilization. The Europeans make the point that there is only one – that to speak of it in plural only reinforces differences (being slightly dishonest – the distinction between a toilet and a hole in the ground, speaks of insurmountable differences).

It has been decided to change strategy (swayed by alcohol?). No more inconclusive dialogue and intercultural courtesies and niceties. The gloves are off. We are throwing the gauntlet at the feet of this regime. From now on we – as an intellectual avant-garde – will take command of the revolution. Thus we comply with the unison demand heard across Iran for us to take leadership. ‘We need leaders!’ ‘You must lead us!’ – this is the mandate from the Iranian Youth.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stardom in Qom

QOM. The revolutionaries have become superstars. Outside the Khomeini Shrine – on a square striated by the comings and goings of Mullahs -- people crowd and push to get autographs. Whispers -- ‘Bayern München’, ‘Real Madrid’ – ripple through the lines. The flag is a team streamer. You can kick a ball through the hole in the middle. Police arrive on the scene. The two men are led off. But not to the station. Just away from the crowd. The officers are inquisitive -- they want to know which position I play for Real Madrid. One saw me play last week against Sevilla. Another arrives and informs his colleague that they have David Beckham before them.

Isfahan Idyll

QOM. At last happiness has found them. Bliss, heavenly joy. Love! The scene: two couples - walking arm in arm, caressed by the unruly, rustling foliage of weeping willows: the path winding along a rushing river. Mr. Fallah, their servant up ahead carrying fruit basket, blanket, cloth, flowers and gifts. As he finds an ideal spot on the bank, he gesticulates and calls out to the couples behind him. When he has arranged everything, the couples approach to stand for a moment; admiring the sight, the river – eddies and foam, the willows on the opposite bank, in the distance the mountains.

Having helped seat the girls on the blanket the two men gets bouquets and presents from Mr. Fallah. The eyes of the girls sparkle and gleam as they see their lovers approach. Sighs and whispers -- ‘khodosh’, ‘my god,’ – are carried out across the waters.
Unwrapping the present, taking care not to tear the cherry coloured fabric with golden filigree, fingers impatiently working the stubborn bows, a shriek of joy as they recognize the portrait of their grooms: a 70 x 50 cm poster showing the two men on either side of their cream-coloured Chrysler on Mulholland Drive... Pictures are taken; the men – again -- on either side, girls seated, holding the poster between them.

Giggles, sighs as each couple cut and eat fruit from each others hands. Looks of wonder as the Delster Beers -- 0.0 % alcohol -- are popped open with the flick of a teaspoon. A moment of contemplation, a gust of wind, the sound of a distant river fall, the play of autumn sunlight, a stubborn beetle scaling the leather wall of a sole. Then a shade of gloom. It will not last. The gap separating cultures and geography is immense. But then -- in a storm of desperate hugs and furious kisses – the dark cloud dissipates. Only blinding light is left.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

First date

An evening worse than any in the streets of Baghdad: A crushingly tacky hotel restaurant – the by now familiar Iran-style tourist makeover – an imitable overload of bad taste etched onto every square centimetre of panelling; there are mirrors, chandeliers, fountains, plastic flowers, figurines, enamelled ceilings, reliefs, arches, columns, TV-screens and – as always – the required portraits of Khomenei and Khamenei. Waiters in uniforms, poor English, rush about empty tables as if they were serving hundreds of patrons. Lethal shopping music plays from speakers in the ceiling.

It is the first date in Iran. Elhal & Elham. The girls are twins – twenty three years old. Except from ‘I love you’ – not a word of English. We are seated across from them. Their older sister is at the end of the table with her two children. They’ve brought gifts. A rose for each revolutionary and a sugar bowl, which fits the style of the restaurant. We didn’t bring any. Instead they get our pins.

It must be difficult for the authorities to fit this activity into a meaningful pattern of suspicious activity. We are kept under surveillance; we do not see a sign of them when we’re out and about, but in the lobby of our hotel there are perpetually two or three shady looking characters hanging about. Asked by our interpreter, a receptionist whispered in reply that she had no idea who they are and what they are doing there. Nielsen took the camera – like any proper tourist -- and started filming the beautiful lobby -- mirrors, chandeliers, fountains, plastic flowers, figurines, enamelled ceilings, reliefs... Training the lens on one of our new friends sitting in a chair, the man holds up his right hand to shield his face. There is absolutely no doubt that the police have assigned a team to follow our doings. What an honour! For the first time in my life I am a very important person! A re-enactment of the GDR -- and I am one of the main characters!

I sincerely hope they will continue to follow my life in the future. Scenes of me in front of my computer, having corn flakes in the evenings. Me in front of my computer at night, spilling vodka all over the keyboard, sending off embarrassing, sentimental emails. Me in my bed watching episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Me in Sainsbury’s trying to decide whether I should buy orange juice or mixed fruit juice. Me in Bethnal Green Gardens at dusk playing football up against a wall.

When Elhal & Elham were born the parents arranged for them to marry their older cousins. Now they are desperate to get out of this deal. The question is whether we as revolutionaries can allow ourselves to take the path of private happiness. Of course this is a contradictio in adjecto. We must go on. We cannot go on.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I'M NOT DEAD I JUST SMELL FUNNY

(or: I'M NOT DEAD I'M JUST SMALL AND FUNNY)

Last night me and Thomas we were sitting in a very fast pizzabar in Esfahan and it was close to midnight and the streets were empty and I was eating a salad because I don't like pizza and so instead I had bought a tin can of chickpeas and had had the man in the kiosk open it and now I poured cold slimy chickpeas over my salad and Thomas no longer wanted to sit beside me, oh, no, not that! he said, mouth full of mushroom & chicken pizza and I promised to go in a minute and he would never see me again, and so I took up the plastic bag from my other plastic bag and opened it and took out the now also slimy tin can and poured a few more chickpeas over my salad, and Thomas he didn't say anything he didn't even look at me he just ate his pizza and flirted with three young beautiful girls in colorfull scarfs sitting at the next table eating their hamburgers, Nielsen! he said (yeah, now he even calls me Nielsen, as if I was just an old skinny butler in his personal story), Nielsen! he said (without even looking at me), go give my business card to the girl with the blue scarf! And at the same moment the girls stood up and left the table and went to the door with their two small children (and it was almost midnight!). Now! he said without even looking at me he just handed me the business card and I ran to the door, please please! I said, and gave it to the girl with the blue scarf, and she didn't even look at me, she just looked at Thomas and blew him a finger kiss, and I didn't want to sit beside him any longer so I just picked up my plastic bags and the half empty (or still half filled!) tin can and the almost empty salad box because maybe I could use it again later, in my room, maybe, and I just stood there as if I didn't really care, but he didn't even notice me, and so I finally went out into the darkness and there were no one out there, not even one of the mad motorbikers without helmet and the entire family sitting behind him or between his arms, I was all alone in Esfahan, and so I just started walking, - hello how are you! somebody shouted, and I turned and saw the three girls and their two small children sitting in a car at the side of the dark road, - mister! they shouted, and so I smiled and waved my hand, - kiss me! the girl in the front seat shouted, the one with the almost copper colored scarf, and I didn't know what to do, so I just jumped over the stinking abyss, that the Iranians always have between the sidewalk and the road, and I bowed down and put my head through the window and kissed the girl (and she was smelling so good!), but she screamed, and I don't really think that she really meant it when she said kiss me! it was probably the only two words in English she knew apart from hello how are you mister and country, - sorry I said, and I suddenly remembered that according to the laws (yeah, there are so many laws here!) of the Islamic Republic of Iran you are not allowed to touch a girl in Iran, not even look a her, I am afraid, - sorry, I said and the only thing I wanted was to turn around and close my eyes and just start to run, - country! the girl in the back seat, the one with the blue scarf, Thomases girl, said, - Danmark, I said, - oh! she said, and they all started to laugh and giggle and I don't know why, I just wanted to die, - hotel! she said, and I nodded and pointed out in the darkness in the direction of the hotel, - berim! she said and opened the door and took my hand (she took my hand!) and it was so smooth and warm and she dragged me into the car beside here, and the older girl, the mother of the two children, I guess, she just U-turned and started to drive, and I was in a car with three beautiful Iranian girls, one in a blue scarf (Thomases girl, I know, I know!), one in a yellow scarf, and one in an almost copper colored, and the girl in the blue scarf she held my hand and caressed it, and I didn't know what to do, cause she was not at all my girl, she is Thomases girl, so I just sat there and smiled, and they laughed and giggled and they even started screaming as the car just roared through the streets of Esfahan, and I thought about the revolution, that we are supposed to start, what about the revolution! I thought, we are supposed to start a new revolution in Iran, me and Thomas, and the Iranians off course, and I had just spent the entire afternoon at the headquarter of the secret tourist police of the city of Yazd playing table tennis, "ping pong", with the under officers, while the chief inspector and the assistant inspector and his assistant and his assistant in their dusty trousers and worn out black muddy shoes and stained jackets and shirts without a tie were looking through all the fourteen or maybe eighteen videotapes that we have recorded on our way up through Iran, from Bandar Abbas over Shiraz and Yazd, fourteen or maybe eighteen hours of endless, long distance blurry shots of two men in suits and ties playing football with the local boys in the darkness at the pier of Bandar Abbas, or two men in suits and ties carrying an old metal box covered with indecipherable Chinese writings into the romantic dusty light of the crowded Hafeze Garden in Shiraz while somebody is waving a white flag with a hole in the centre, or two men in suits and ties sitting far away on the other side of a heavy trafficked road in a tiny sandwich bar just talking and talking for hours and hours with a dozen of student boys while the girls, all in black, heads covered in black scarfs, are sitting at the surrounding tables just listening eating their sandwiches, and I really don't know what they were thinking, the secret inspector and his secret assistant and his secret assistant and so forth, they must have been extremely bored, but they were obviously very polite, so they just kept on watching for more than three hours eyes fixed on the tiny screen at the side of the camera, while Thomas smoked and walked forth and back and forth and back like a lion in the little yard and I beat first the under officer and then his assistant, and then they sent for the tea boy, who wasn't that fat and lazy, but I even beat him, and then they obviously didn't know what to do, so in The End they just let us go, and now I was sitting here in the middle of the night in a car with three giggling beautiful girls thinking about the revolution, - you go with us! the girl in the blue scarf said, and it wasn't a question, - berim! berim! she screamed, and the older girl, the mother, I guess, not of the two girls, off course, of the children, I mean, she stepped onto the gas pedal and the car took off and, – no! I said, - wait! and, - what about Thomas! Thomas! I said, and I don't know if it was because I knew that it was wrong, that I was the wrong man in the wrong seat, that the real main actor is Thomas, not me, or if it was because I am just so shy and almost afraid of girls, and that is perhaps the real reason why I prefer to make revolutions on far away continents or sleep in a shotgun shack in the middle of Baghdad while mortars and machine gun shots and heavy weight B 52s are exploding or thundering over my head in the darkness, I don't know, but the mother hit the break and stopped the car and they all looked at me, and the girl in the blue scarf caressed my knee and her hand was so warm and tender and, - Thomas! I said, - what about Thomas! And suddenly the girl in the blue scarf screamed and pointed out into the darkness, and I turned my head, and there he was! almost two meters tall in his black suit and big dusty black shoes (of a size that you can't even buy here or anywhere in the entire Middle East!), back to the audience, hands deep in his pockets on his way in through the doors of Hotel Zohreh, - Thomas! I shouted, and he turned around and saw me sitting there in a car with three beautiful Iranian girls, and I was so proud that I could faint, - Thomas I shouted, and laughed like a jester, and the three girls screamed, and he came slowly, almost lazily, hands still deep in his pockets towards the car, and the girls didn't even look at me, no, not any more, – Nielsen?! he said, smiling, as if caught by surprise, and for a moment I think he was even looking at me, - Nielsen?! he said and bowed down, hands still in his pockets, - hi! he said to the girls, just a deep, smooth - hi! that was all, and the girls started screaming.



Monday, November 06, 2006

Late arrival in Isfahan

Late evening arrival in Isfahan (three hours later than initial ETA). Too late for food in the hotel restaurant. Brightly lit fast food pizza restaurant – blaring Iranian pop music competing with blaring Iranian TV. Three girls, two children enter and seat themselves across from my table. Blatant flirting. One with a bright blue chador makes a gesture, offering me to have some of her sandwich. The usual fiddling-dropping-rearranging-chador-exercise. The rest of our Iranian company arrives. Giggling among the girls. As they get up to leave, Nielsen calls out ‘excuse me!’ and hands them his card. Sauntering back to hotel separately. A car parked in the dark, empty street across from the entrance, motor running. The police? Halfway through the revolving doors -- whistles, honking from the car – I turn to see Nielsen laughing in the back seat. The girls waves and signals me to come over.

Yazd - now with police

We have stopped handing out copies of our letter the Iranian president. After spending three hours at the Yazd branch of the police that deals with Foreigner’s Affairs -- we also agreed not to raise the flag in the streets. This despite that the officers liked our letter very much (but declined our invitation to be added to the list of signatories) – also the look of the flag they found beautiful, but the problem with it is that anyone is able to read his own meaning into it. Nice sight -- watching adult men examine the tiny, tiny pin at length, discussing the make-up. Finally – we have an audience that takes us seriously!

Headquarters in the old part of Yazd, in a mud-built compound, with a nice cosy court yard outside the main office. As officers looked through hours of tapes with two men, box, and flag, the real two men had plenty of time to make use of the table tennis facilities in one corner of the yard – of course as always immaculate in their suits. An improvised tournament saw the smaller of the two men beat officers of all ranks (two junior officers and the kitchen boys), sporting a flashy Chinese technique. Later bored of his ineptitude in table tennis, the taller of the two fetched the football from the car and challenged the kitchen boys to a game around the fountain in the court yard.

We were told that our audience was not limited to Yazd, our act had been seen from we set foot in Bandar Abbas, and audience awaited us on our tour further northwards. After a lot of parleying and calls to HQ in Tehran, we were finally allowed to keep our tapes and continue the journey to Isfahan.

The youths – Linkin Park fans -- we met in Yazd had also been held for questioning. They later called to tell us they had decided not to go with us to Isfahan.

I gave the senior office my card and Iranian cell number but he didn’t offer his.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yazd

We have started handing out copies of our letter to the Iranian president, building up a public position within Iran. One local paper is publishing the letter. Next step is to get it published in a national newspaper in Esfahan. TV in Tehran. Meetings with youths in Yazd. Handing out pins with the flag. It is turning into a symbol of a revolution without name. Hashem is putting up a website with the flag as logo. A symbol for change, for the new – all form, no content. Is it possible to achieve anything of substance on the level form? Outside Yazd on a mountain knoll, two figures in contrast, one tall, one small, could be seen at dusk raising a flag with a hole in the middle. Iwo Jima.

The two men are no longer disguised. Always in full uniform they stand out from locals like decadent Martians. They wear the counterrevolutionary emblem, the necktie, and yet they carry out a revolution.

People like foreigners. When one says he wants to commit suicide, they respond ‘Denmark! Milk!’ When one says that he is making a revolution, they respond ‘good luck with your revolution!’

Meetings in the streets with students -- all tense and nervous, eyes flickering, scanning for police. One claims that ‘they’ are watching us perpetually. Handing out hundred copies of the letter – four police cars pass by without stopping to the surprise of the students.

This morning – a huge demonstration – children in the street outside the hotel, teachers as shepherds, like the Day of Sports in secondary school, chanting ‘down with America’ – as they notice the foreigners on the sidewalk they wave and call out ‘Hello Mister!’

Friday, November 03, 2006

The love story

We still haven’t done much work on the romantic story line. Yesterday was committed to research in the streets of Shiraz to get an impression of where and how young people meet. Jahan and driver Khasem took us up and down streets clogged with traffic. The two locals used the Readymade Westerners to increase their cultural capital – famous actors from Hollywood. – Khasem was convinced he’d seen us in several productions.
He was yelping ‘hello!’ out the window at veiled girls on the sidewalk, who didn’t seem approachable on distance (black tunic and veil seem to facilitate that impression). Neither up close – but most of them indulged in some sort of negotiation with Khasem, who, tracking them in the car at walking pace, went from randy barking to slightly longer raps.

According to the perceptions of the two men, half of all women in the city are prostitutes. All winking at us as we pass them -- signals lost on the Europeans – but purportedly picked up on the finely tuned antennas of Jahan and Khasem.
Their language on women was beyond disrespectful and wearisome at length. Later left to my own devices and my own pace, standing in the street, I got a taste of how the procedure is: Two young girls passed giggling by me. Ten meters past me, one of casually walks back in my direction and we exchange a few courtesies. -- One has a chance to reinvigorate one’s romantic proficiency as girls apparently have a poor ability to judge age (or they don’t care). My old sorry self was found talking to a girl not more than twenty years old. I am then expected to hand over my cell phone number so we can arrange a later meeting in a coffee house or restaurant. Anyway, I lost it halfway as I failed to give her my number and she strode off back to her friend up the street.

As I turn in the other direction I find a bit of commotion because a Basij – the vigilante corps of moral enforcers – had noticed me, a decadent Westerner wearing a necktie, talking to a girl. Apparently he was asking people around me, which hotel I was staying at. Not approaching me but instead getting into a loud discussion with some youths, he raced off on his motorbike. One of the group, Amin, told me not to worry – ‘He is nothing. He is little police. Nobody.’ Displaying a by now familiar disrespect for the members of the Basij. ‘You cannot talk to girls in the street. This is the Islamic Republic of Iran! And he did not like your tie,’ he said pointing to the sloppy knot that hung halfway down my chest under the unbuttoned collar. The European version of a sloppily worn chador.