Thursday, 11 August 2011

Given that this was Iran, that it was Ramadan, and that it was already noon time, it seemed about the right moment to get drunk. We started off with some shots of moonlight whisky with mint and lemon cordial, then followed up with vodka that was good enough to be downed straight.

The way to procure alcohol in this country is to call up the person that amounts to the equivalent of a (drug) dealer in Europe. Beer not being popular they will let you choose from the types of wine and liquors at hand over the phone, either homemade or imported. Imports are the more expensive option. Then you will usually be given an appointment somewhere on the streets. The "dealers" are men from young to middle age, dressed in varying degrees of neatness or sloppiness, all generally respectable people, nowhere in the vicinity of the European prototype of a drugdealer in terms of sleaziness.
They wait in a car somewhere, you walk up and exchange a few bills with one or two bottles of your chosen poison wrapped up in black plasticbag that you promptly slip in your rucksack or handbag. One dealer once gave my friend Maryam an appointment right in front of a police station. Even though supremely awkward, it certainly was the safest option, said my friend. The police at the station trust people who meet just outside their door intuitively, and it can be glaringly incongruous for a prim 20-something to walk up to a battered old Paykan with a balding fifty-something wearing slacker's clothes at the steering wheel. I don't know if being safer is necessarily true for the police station scenario. Some people might get so nervous, their visibly shaky hands would certainly give them away and attract the police's attention.
In any case, to remedy such predicaments, in Teheran there is even door-to-door service.

As for my friend Pouya and me, we were soon off to take a taxi to his friends' house. It was hard to stop the bottles in my bag from clunking against each other, making that sound that only wine bottles can make. This would have been too risky on a public bus.

Having arrived in the luxurious appartment in Northern Teheran, where the Alborz mountains loomed seemingly within touching distance outside the window, the general atmosphere was one of laid-back nonchalance. Everyone was there with their boyfriend and the bong circulated as Hollywood movies rotated in the DVD player. I felt like I might have just as well been in a rich kids' parents' appartment in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, or elsewhere in Europe.

Mahan leaned back on the couch holding the bong with both hands on his lap, informing me, "so many of my friends like opium, they smoke it all the time, opium is just anywhere in this country," only to add, tapping his thigh with the lighter that was balanced on his knee, "but I just love my weed."
As for personal, anecdotal evidence, in rural Iran I had certainly seen my share of opium-smokers, although in Teheran marijuana had seemed to me thus far to prevail.

Pseudo-philosophical conversation kept flowing, annoying me just as much as the brainless flicks on the plasma TV. There were moments when you were reminded you were in Iran: Like When the girls got up and served a platter of sliced watermelon to everyone, then took away the plates to share doing the dishes between themselves.

The risk of it being too great, Iranians don't go out of the house once they are drunk. So I was stuck with the rich kids for the remainder of the day. It was a good thing I could medicate my ennui with the red wine for those few hours.

In the night Pouya had planned to go to some sort of birthday party. It seemed to be one of those Teherani parties where men and women mingle freely, the females wearing deep decolletés and having their hair styled up, everyone nibbling on canapés and sipping on glasses of whisky on the rocks. I had never attended such a party, but heard and read much about them, so I was curious. Organizing the evening was Pouya's official girl-friend, a suppposedly platonic affair(I don't know if that's true).
Turned out though that the plan fell through. It just happened so that today the girl-friend had a chat with Pouya's mother, and found out about some recent cavortings of his (while not being exactly happy about my presence neither). Whereas on the phone she sounded supremely cheesed off, when we were at the doorstep of her tower block flat, -her leaning out of the door with her long hair flowing down over her skimpy cocktail party dress with the (not particularly appealing) party music spilling out onto the street from the closed appartment door behind her- she worked herself right up into a frenzy, producing an unabating flow of reprehensions, ultimately rejecting us. As we turned away, deciding to go for a stroll through the city instead, Pouya told me sourly in his discontent that every girlfriend of his always had a separate relationship with his mother, "They talk to each other to find out more about me. The girls to get to know me, my mother to control me."

We walked through the Ramadan night, grabbing free tea and sweets to nurse our onsetting hangovers at some sort of band stand in the neighbourhood. Enormous loudspeakers blared noisy trance music weirdly inappropriate for the holy occasion.

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