As the fallout continues from President Trump’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, my editor told me to find a random Iranian-American to interview for a story about the feelings of their entire community about the possibility of war with Iran. You know, like the L.A. Times does. Lucky for me, I knew of a hookah bar in Encino where I was pretty sure I could find a Persian.
As I pulled into a hookah bar called “The Spot“, I knew from the white Mercedeseses in the parking lot that I’d be able to find some Persians there. “Uh, excuse me, are you a Persian male?” I asked an elderly Jamaican woman returning from the adjacent Chili’s who was getting into one of the white Mercedes. “No…child,” she said, herself playing into the caricature. I guess I’ll have to go into the hookah bar.
When I arrived at The Spot, I spotted (get it?) several men wearing medallions smoking a hookah while loudly complaining that the bowl wasn’t packed correctly. “Um, excuse me,” I approached. “You must be Iranians, right?” I asked.
“Bro, we’re not Iranian, we’re Persian,” said a large, concerned-looking man named Sepir Ardeshir. I asked Mr. Ardeshir if his concern was about the looming threat of war between the United States and Iran, but was told that his worried look was due to him having just gotten his eyebrows threaded earlier that day.
“Oh, that’s like getting your eyebrows waxed?” I asked, but was told it was “totally different” and then given the name of Sepir’s Aunt in Glendale and told I should see her about my own eyebrow situation. It was sort of offensive.
“But aren’t you at all concerned about what’s happening in the Middle East?” I interjected again, but was told by Sepir and several of his friends who I think were also named Sepir to just chill out and smoke some hookah with them while they talk about girls they knew in high school. I politely declined, alerting them that I didn’t smoke because my grandmother had died of lung cancer, but was told that “hookah doesn’t cause cancer, it’s fucking hookah” by one of the Sepirs as he unironically pulled out his pack of Parliament.
Feeling the pressure to partake, I agreed to smoke some of my new Persian friends’ hookah but it caused me to get lightheaded and ill.
“Bro, it’s okay,” said Sepir 1, “you don’t have to smoke if you don’t want to.”
“I just did it to start a report with you so I could find out what you and, by extension, all of the Persians in Los Angeles feel about what’s happening between the U.S. and Iran. You know, like how the L.A. Times does,” I told him before taking another puff and throwing up some more.
“Persians aren’t a monolith and the community’s feelings about what is happening are complicated and varied based on our own family’s history with Iran and our opinions on U.S. politics,” Sepir told me.
“I’m sorry for stereotyping you,” I told him, still vomiting. “It’s okay,” let me drive you home you shouldn’t drive.
As Sepir and I left the Spot I thanked him for offering me a ride and told him I had a new appreciation for Los Angeles’s Persian community that extended far beyond any lazy stereotypes.
“Bro, I’m so glad to hear that,” he told me before driving me back to my place in his white Mercedes at 80 miles per hour while listening to EDM at its highest volume only to turn it off during the three separate times his mother called to check in on him during the 15 min trip.