In the waning years of my pre-pubescent childhood in the quiet and sunny westlands of suburban Los Angeles, a strange thing happened. At 11 or 12, I was only vaguely aware of geopolitical events happening in far away places. But what I did know was that there was quite suddenly a lot more Middle Eastern people in my sphere than there had been the year before.
Why Iranians fleeing the Islamic Revolution wound up in the west San Fernando Valley I would never figure out. But arrive they did, evidenced by the abrupt abundance of columns and marble lions in front of 1950s ranch-style houses. Not your traditional poor huddled immigrants, they purchased liquor stores, dentistry offices and Italian restaurants, and by way of integration took western names. My friend, Gary, worked at the neighborhood liquor store — Greene’s Liquor — recently sold by old Mr. Greene to a pair of 30-something brothers, “Jock” and “Ben.” (“Your name’s not really Jock, is it??” I remember asking him once.) More