Ardmore, PA

Javad often asked of you. What news did I have? There was a time when all I knew was that you may or may not be in Budapest, or somewhere in Bulgaria. He explained to me that I was wrong not to know. You must find him, he said. What if something has happened to him? I said that I did not know, there was really no way of knowing. I was here and he was there, or maybe elsewhere. I did not have reliable information. He sat quietly, looking ahead at where the black and white photo of Arvo Part, the great Estonian composer, hung between the bookshelves. He sipped at his scotch. I sipped at mine.

We were sitting in his basement drinking and talking as we had done since I was at the university. His wife and child had long since gone to bed and it was very early in the morning now. We had arrived at the final third of the bottle and the silence had come over him. I had not fully adjusted to these long silences but had stopped trying to end them with talk and I was trying to convince myself to enjoy this one. I understood that he was remembering his closest friend, who had died in Iran, a death that he was unable to give up. His friend, a great Iranian actor and painter and poet, had been thrown from a horse drawn buggy while filming a scene, and had stuck his head against some rocks. Javad had last seen him before the revolution in 1979. In Iran he was buried somewhere and there was now only his wonderful self-portrait that hung on the wall behind us. It was one of my favorite paintings and I always thought it might have hung in one of the museums and become the favorite of many other people.

Javad understood, perhaps better than I, that people live and die and sometimes get into trouble and if a person was important you did not let them disappear, but you searched them out. He understood that when they were dead and you heard of it later, and you were far away and you would never see them again, when all you had was the scotch and one painting on your wall--and it was even rumored that some fools had taken his other paintings and simply destroyed them, burned them or thrown them onto a trash heap-- that then their death would not be possible to accept. Javad worried that you were potentially in trouble somewhere, at that very moment, and that your life and work were to be lost and my finding out of it later, when I could do nothing, would be as destructive to me as it had been to him. I sipped at my scotch uneasily and waited for him to speak.

What I did not know was that you were safe. You had successfully escaped a deceitful and dangerous woman and fled Budapest to Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. You were there under the assumption that I lived not far from you at the base of the Piren Mountains. You had recently traveled in the mountains and passing by a small hut in Banska had heard a pocket trumpet, what you believed was my pocket trumpet, playing along to a jazz record. The jazz great of the mountains, known only to the locals as “Stoil”, you falsely believed was me.


  1. You responded ...

    "Perhaps the best response to this is nothing, signifying respectful silence, like the silence that populated much of the scotch evening in
    Ardmore, with wife and child upstairs and bottle of slowing emptying scotch downstairs. It sounds like a moment I never had living in Europe, constantly distracted and displaced. I had very few good conversations. Most of them were
    actually with people of arab or muslim descent.

    In Bloomington I knew quite a few Persians. All of them were at great ease at their being profound. The mathematician who taught me last summer showed me pictures of Tehran, but he
    is of the revolution generation, perhaps our age, and dates Eastern European women. He has a type of Multiple Schlerosis but the women still love him. It would be very interesting to have a conversation with the two of them, Javad and Saleh.

    This is a very concentrated and important account. A few more pages of this and they give you the Nobel. It catches the feeling that was felt. As you were at Javad's house that night I was perhaps asssuming you were pacing your hut
    in Bulgaria and setting up the generator for your German LP player. And had acquired the pocket trumped, and were appearing, quite soon, in mountain jazz clubs and paid in feta cheese and wine. I would come off a bus some where and
    the locals would lead me to the rumored jazz great in the mountain tops. But you would have forgotten your English and your name would have been changed to Stoil.

    But the Iranian actor, I still can't get that out of my head as well. And then all the painting which came about. I would of course like to visit with Javad next time I get a chance to come out East."

  2. Gericault died as well from being thrown from a horse drawn buggy and this Iranian painter was at least as good as him. I can say this from just the single painting in Javad's basement. It is a painting you do not forget.


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