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Citylog September 2006
By TA Team
September 2006
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Strolling on the Streets of Beirut

{Jinoos Taghizadeh} -- I was walking last night, in my house, on the mill. It is better than on the uneven sidewalks of this city, with people gawking at you, and with the pollution being the way it is. The TV was on and a group of black-clad musicians were neatly arranged into an orchestra. I walked more and a few decibels away a clan of Afro-American rappers came towards me, pointing their threatening fingers and drooling with foul language, not paying attention to pretty, bronze-skinned, tight-bodied women wriggling around them. I walked in the middle of a family feud and then was witness to the love that a huge gorilla bore for the blond woman. It was then that the cell phone started vibrating, in my hand (a habit of mine to be carrying it all the time). An SMS, a joke: "Celebrating the inflation of the meaning of victory," a sarcastic comment on the use of the word "victory" by the Lebanese Hizbullah in the recent Israeli miscarriage. I switch to the Iranian networks. {Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah} is shouting and the people of Lebanon are beside themselves, having achieved ceasefire after a month-long onslaught. So, why be sarcastic? Many in Beirut are now sleeping easier. With all the damages of the past years, this resistance is a victory, even if Israel has done all the damage that it could.

In the past few weeks, on my way to work, I have been seeing a group of demonstrators on Palestine Square in Tehran shouting slogans in support of Hizbullah. That word ("Hezbollah" being its Iranian version) was enough to shoo me away, even though I had seen pictures of dead bodies, of children, and of ruined houses. For a month now, I have been walking the streets of Beirut and think of those who have been sacrificed, whose lives have been devastated, not matter what creed or race they belonged to.

Today the buses of the city rolled with their lights turned on. You could ride them for free. But in the tone and eyes of those around you a glint of ridicule could be sensed. The same one that lay coiled in the earlier SMS. Where does this cynicism come from? Is it because whatever carries the brunt of religion or state, and whatever stamps us as Terrorists drives us away? Could it be that we have become numb, that the death of a neighbor doesn't portend of things to come?

I was at the German embassy yesterday. Those in line let all the insulting rules and regulation pass. "Well, we are terrorists, aren't we?" Do we still get a laugh out of such jokes? We are sarcastic about everything. The dead bodies of the people of Lebanon, their victory, our being called a terrorist, the rebuttal of our statesmen, the VOA bullshit, these are all fodder for our sarcasm. Is anything serious for us?

The Month of Coup

Sidewalk -- The heat is melting tar. The Coup seethes in our historical veins. Or perhaps, the disaster has already taken place. Could it be that we have become numb to the coming of the disaster? To what we have been waiting for all along? He who fell on this month 53 years ago, {Mosaddeq}, has become the national symbol of resistance, because he stood up to America. But, according to recent documents, he knew that the coup was imminent 5 months earlier, and that his administration was on its way out. His popularity was bound to his obstinacy. When the heat came in July, everything melted like tar.

The Bridge

Hamed Safaee -- Last winter the municipality workers started to dig holes on both sides of Karegar St. When it snowed or rained, the sidewalks around them became swamps. Later, they filled these holes with cement and reinforcement bars. You could tell that they were meant as poles for a pedestrian bridge, replacing the old one. Our municipality is now an expert in erecting pedestrian bridges, which double as billboards. This summer, however, when I passed the same spot, I noticed that the poles were no longer there.


Hamed Safaee -- The Hamshahri Daily, owned and operated by the municipality, printed a neat picture of SEPAHSALAR Ave in downtown Tehran. Apparently, the municipality had decided, after years of thinking only of and building only for cars, to do something for the pedestrians of this city by turning a busy street into a cobblestone walk, the way it used to be at some point in time. We enjoyed watching that picture so much that my wife and I decided to visit the city's gift to the pedestrian. Before reaching our destination, however, I notice a pile of dirt like it was a trench in the frontlines. When we did get to the street, we were reminded of Tehran in the middle of the war years. There were no cobblestones. You could hardly walk the sidewalks. All kinds of cordons (telephone, gas, water) hampered your stroll. We cursed Photoshop, which serves only the eyes and not the feet.


Hamed Safaee -- On Friday mornings the foot of the mountains in FARAHZAD is teaming with weekend visitor who come to this trap for kebab and water pipes. In this part of the city, everything revolves around food (meat). Last time I went there, however, I noticed a commotion around a peddler. In front of him, on the ground, there is an array of wooden clubs, of all size and shape. I am not sure what these are used for. They are obviously not kebab skewers. I look into my brain archive for other uses of clubs. They were obviously used in various Iranian movies, the same ones those young heroes of these movies use to beat their enemies into pulp with.

Charity Starts at Home

Soheila Mahdavi -- Someone knocks my door at 11 am. He is from Tehran's most powerful charity, The Empowerment Committee, which has a metal box installed at every corner of this city. Because money in these metal boxes is stolen often, the plan was to give a box to every unit. I refused to accept the individualized box. He argued that in our apartment building a rug seller and a retired functionary have accepted it. I remembered that from my house to the street there were three of these boxes. I also thought about payments for my daughter's college, our car insurance, and water, gas and electricity bills. I don't remember when the last time was that I bought a book or a CD. Now, I have to let a permanent beggar into my house.