Noilly Prattle: Persian Odyssey: Part I

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Persian Odyssey: Part I

I had a dirt bike in Iran. It was a silver 250cc. Yamaha Enduro. Actually, it was my second bike. The first one had been stolen right from my courtyard. It was a royal blue 250cc. Yamaha Enduro. In my eyes, the silver one could never match the beauty of the royal blue one. I learned to ride on the royal blue, but I became a veteran off-road and back-road rider on the silver Enduro.

It was the fateful year, 1978, of the Islamic Revolution and I was living and working in Esfahan, said to be the most beautiful city in Iran. Much of its architectural beauty derives from the 16th Century when it was Persia's capital under the Safavid dynasty. But, no, I wasn't there researching 16th Century Persian architecture. I was indirectly working for the hated Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, although we only heard rumors about his tyrannical regime. We were to learn the truth soon and brutally enough.

My work was teaching English to cadets of the Imperial Iranian Army Aircorps who were in the helicopter pilot training program at the army base outside Esfahan. On the right are some of my colleagues on a picnic on the banks of the Zayandeh Rudh. After a few months of classroom study, the graduates would undergo Bell helicopter flight training, using their rudimentary English conversation skills, with American instructor pilots (who, of course, couldn't speak Farsi—imagine!), and who were fresh from the napalm runs of the Vietnam War. When my class graduated I decided to take a 7-day solo trip on the Yamaha that would take me to  the sites of the summer, winter and ceremonial capital cities of the ancient (circa. 500 BC) Persian Empire: Hamadan, Susa and Persepolis.

By then the early convulsions of the revolution had already begun. There had been fire bombings in Eshahan of places that were considered sinful to Islamic sensibilities, but popular with Western expatriates and the younger more progressive elements of the native population—movie theaters, nightclubs, bars and restaurants; as well as a few banks for good measure. Gunfire could be heard nightly outside the thankfully high walls of our house, including machine gun fire. By morning, however, the streets had been cleared of any bodies that might have fallen the previous night. Some of my friends warned me against traveling alone under the circumstances, but I couldn't resist a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these historic places. The trip turned out to be one of the most dangerous but unforgettable experiences of my life.

To be continued....


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your posts, Joe. They are well written and absolutely fascinating. Who knew? Wonderful that you are sharing this with us all.

Noilly Prattle said...

Ronnie, thanks for your comment. The blog serves me as a kind of memoir and helps me remember stuff and organize my thoughts. It's as much for me as for anyone who reads it. When I write I try to imagine that I'm writing to someone. Since you appreciate it, I'll think I'm writing to YOU. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this and can't wait for the next installment. I remember when you were away in Iran. I was 13 then and I remember hearing that you were teaching soldiers and that it had something to do with helicopters so naturally I assumed that you were teaching soldiers how to fly helicopters. Why not? In my 13 year old eyes you could do anything. I remember all of the times you were away and I couldn't wait for you to get home so you could hang out at our house on week-ends again. I always wondered what you were up to in those far off places. Now I'll learn. - Michelle

Noilly Prattle said...

Mitch, Thanks for your comment. Glad to see that some people are reading my "memoires". It encourages me to keep blogging on.... BTW, I'm also on Facebook, so if you are a member you can talk to me there, too. I think if you click on my Facebook gadget on the upper left it links to my page.

Anonymous said...

I would be honored for you to imagine that you are writing to me, Joe. I love stories…and yours are fascinating, indeed!

I have always been encouraged to write 'my stories'. Who knows…you might be my inspiration.- Ronnie