Alethophobia - Chapter 1, Panda Heat

Stepping out of the shower and drying, I stare at my nakedness in the steamy mirror and admit with a shy but satisfied smile: Pirooz, you were a dirty old man when you were born, and you will be a naughty boy when you die.
I have always been a victim of my passions, not only the passion of my loins, mind you, but also the passion of my mind.  From my untimely pre-pubescent erection in the women’s bathhouse in my native Tehran, when I was just five years old -- I will tell you about that later --to my current basketful of predicaments here at Ohio Eastern, where I have landed as a Professor of Political Economy.
As I rush from room to room looking for my shoes, the radio reminds me that the New Hampshire primary is just one month away.  The radio does not have to remind me that my Christmas break is over, and in just forty minutes, shoes or no shoes, I must be planted in the well of a lecture hall twenty-two miles away.
I find my shoes, a small but comforting victory.  Tugging at the strings, I wish that life were a long Christmas break, with meaningful good wishes and no evil thoughts.  Now, dammit, where is my belt?
The radio now tells me that it will be virtually impossible for any of the eight Democrats slogging around up there in the snowstorms to defeat Ronald Reagan in the fall.  The recession is over and the successful invasion of Grenada has erased the shame of the Vietnam defeat from the collective consciousness of the right-wingers.  Taxes have been slashed, the unions have been punished, and the poor have become poorer according to the Department of Labor Statistics.  It is “Morning in America” once again, President Reagan says.
It is also morning again in Ohio, and just like New Hampshire, it is hellishly cold.
My car rolls from my driveway as if by itself.  My house, surrounded by huge oaks, is in the hills at the western edge of the city.  The early morning ice storm has sculpted a surreal scene: glistening crystals embellish everything in sight; miniature rainbows burst into space; dazzling colors make love.  Snow-veiled pines march in couples, accompanied by Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” oozing from my car stereo.  Despite the morning’s brightness, the sun is strangely anemic, as if just released from a Milky Way’s hospital.
A series of winding side roads deposit me on the highway, which is covered with ice, turning my routine drive to the university into a treacherous expedition.  I drive cautiously and fight my fear of losing control.  Then, as usual, my mind switches and I worry about my son, Bobby.  What would he do without me -- his only parent -- if I were killed in an automobile accident?
I must confess, however, that I am worried about more than my death this morning.  I am also worried about my life.  As a professor, my business ought to be the production and distribution of knowledge.  But, like my colleagues, I surf the surface of the subject matter and teach half-truths.  It is unprofessional to raise inadmissible questions.  For instance, what makes us cherish our system or way of life without knowing the alternatives?  How do we fall for fads, and fashions, and tolerate crime like Londoners tolerate rain, and hate a new nation, like a new monster every other year?  Who has the answers to those questions in America the beautiful?  Is it possible we share a national paranoia, perhaps?  I wonder who I would be without fear -- who I am with fear?
In the past, heads were stuffed with less information and less misinformation because less of both was available.  Maybe that was a good thing.  In the modern era, depending on our birthplace and family circumstance, different cultural ideologies, religions, and opposing scientific theories or historical accounts are flashed on screens or blasted from speakers and are. packed into our brains like stuffing and portrayed as the truth.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes it’s not.  And most times it’s a mix of the two.  So, maybe for us all, consciousness is not what it used to be, and won’t be what it ought to be.  I scream.  “Freud, wake up!  We need you.”
The icy highway leads to the city limits and passes over the great flat valley where once most of the world’s ball bearings were manufactured.  The city retains its motto: “Keeping the World Rolling”.  Of course, the factories have been rolling abroad all along.  The empty brown factories, roofs covered with snow, and walls dripping elephant tusks of ice, look like enormous gingerbread houses.
My mind wanders again.  I look ahead to class.  What is this Political Economy I teach?  I describe the course as the study of how the political and economic forces interact to determine individual and group behaviors.  For instance, how people like you and me get screwed when politicians and businessmen sleep together.  There are many forms of getting screwed.  I am ashamed to admit it, but like other professors at the university, I teach my students what to think, rather than how to think.  So they puke my lectures back to me on multiple-choice tests and do whatever is necessary -- even cheat I suppose -- to get the grades they need to get ahead.  Most suffer no shame. 
And I am no better as I plod along the slippery road.  I pretend to be dedicated, to what I pretend to be doing, and I pretend to appreciate my students’ pretended dedication.  This is a lot of pretension, you and I might agree.  When I think of the classroom, I feel like an old priest who has become a closet atheist preaching to parishioners who pretend to be awake.  I can hear the guilt gurgling through the chambers of my heart.  So, my frustrations pile up as the semesters pile up.  I want to confess, expose, and demand real academic freedom as I once did as a radical student in the Sixties.  Today, I am just a cowardly professor.  I hate my muted voice.  I am waiting for the right moment to rebel -- but it seems forever.  Meanwhile, as you’ll see, sex and poetry sublimate for my instinctual drive to be myself!  “Freud, interpret this!”
Administrators want efficiency without intellectual headaches.  So, it follows that conformity must rule instead of ideas.  It is worse, perhaps, on this conservative campus in a city that used to be run by a KKK front.  The problem for a professor begins at the beginning when the thrill of teaching is dulled by the dread of being denied tenure -- censored from the profession for which you have spent a lifetime preparing.  This dread keeps even the young academic lions on a tight leash.  Little by little, the system either tames you or releases you into the jungle. 
My brain makes another switch.  “When complacency wins, the soul suffers,” J.J. said last week as I faced the urinal, trying to enjoy one of my few pleasures left at Ohio Eastern.  My mind easily wanders to my friend.
J.J. is one of the university’s janitors.  He is an old man, decorated for his service in World War II, during a time when far too many black men were only allowed to cook food and carry supplies for the white soldiers. 
He was born Jerome Jackson, but on the silver anniversary of his employment, he had his name legally changed to Just Janitor.  But the changed name didn’t reflect what was under his skin.  He received a BA in philosophy at the age of sixty-three, and I like him very much. 
I laugh under my breath as I recall a few days before, when I ran into J.J. in the bathroom near my office.  With my zipper still open and my right hand busy holding me, I replied, “Amen. Wake up the professors, J.J.!  We are all sleepwalking!  Sleeptalking!  Sleepthinking!  Sleepfighting each other for nothing!  We are prisoners, J.J., serving concurrent life sentences for what amounts to our expertise, and our pettiness!  Prisoners!”
J.J. just shook his head.  “You really made my day with that bit of wisdom, Pirooz.  After forty years of cleaning toilets, the last thing I want to be is a prisoner in a men’s room.”
“Your voice shouldn’t be trapped in the men’s room.  You have the heart of a poet, J.J.” 
I leap from my driving daze when I hear a horn blowing and realize I am driving on thin ice at the moment, and professionally for some time.  I slow down and try to maintain a safe distance from the other cars.  An overturned car in the opposite lane frightens me and traffic momentarily slides to a halt.  I ask the dog I see sitting on the distant overpass why Dr. S. Patterson “Pete” Wright, the Alabama-born president of the university, didn’t cancel today’s classes?  The dog just wags its tail, as dogs do when they are happy. 
Finally, the traffic moves again, and I can see the ice-encased university tower twinkling its greeting to me.  I relax and congratulate myself: “You have made it, Pirooz!”  The giant centipede of cars in which I’m trapped inches forward, following the curving exit ramp.  Suddenly, the pickup truck in front of me veers left then right and hits his brakes.  I panic and slam my brakes as the driver behind me sounds his horn and slams his.  The driver behind him follows suit and I cringe awaiting the inevitable crunch of metal.  Only the driver at the ass-end of the centipede fails to brake, and instead, slams into the car in front of him, which of course, starts an icy, sliding chain reaction.  The slamming works its way to me with a loud crash, and my vehicle bashes into the pickup that started the whole thing.
Stunned by the jolt of crumbling metal, I stay put.  I hear many anxious voices, but the voice of one woman rises above the others.  “Get the man in the Beetle,” she commands.  “I’ll get this one.”
Flashing lights and people in uniform appear as though rising out of the chaos itself, seeing as how they were just down the road with the other accident.  I am shocked and feel a throbbing on my forehead.  Arms reach in and gently pull me out of the car.  I find myself in the arms of a policewoman.  Her golden hair sneaks from under her hat and onto her uniform like rays of sun on the blue dome of a mosque.  Her turquoise eyes sparkle with confidence.  “Professor Pirooz?  There is a bit of blood on your forehead,” she says.
Still not quite myself, I try to place this policewoman.  I have no clues.  But she isn’t a stranger either, this much I know.  Her enigmatic smile holds me tight as she shuts the ambulance doors.  I find myself in motion again.  My mind continues to cling to her satin skin.  The taste of her touch transforms me from a bleeding Homo Sapient into a jubilant peacock!  For a moment, I feel I’m in heaven, and not in an ambulance.
Siren.  Emergency room.  More disorders within disorder.  I wait and wait until a physician with an Indian accent places a bandage on my forehead.  “Wear a seat belt from now on,” I am advised.  After signing forms, I am finally released into the wild as I was years ago from the immigration office after my swearing-in ceremony -- my American birthday.
That evening, the news dramatizes the pileup.  I groan as I watch myself in the arms of that voluptuous policewoman.  She is beauty, authority, and compassion, the stuff of the ancient goddesses, all in one mortal bundle.  I wish I had passed out in her arms!  Helpless, I write this silly poem to pass time and to help myself smile at the human condition, summed up in my feeble condition and complaint:
She seduced me to imagine the taste of her carrot cake,
To awake my appetite for her juicy sweet carrot cake.
This wasn’t for my sake, her sake, or even for God’s sake --
Just the commands of DNA to awake my duck for a dunk in her cake.
Time will fiddle with poison, earth will become hell, and so in history’s wake
The last duck breathing the last foul breath will quack:
Who is awake to dunk into a carrot cake!
Quack, Quack.
        This poem may sound sexist to you.  This is the sad rationale: It has been discovered that ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a specific part of the brain, holds unconscious pseudo social knowledge such as sexism -- as in the notion that man is superior to woman.  Apparently my unconscious sexism has not yet caught up with my conscious feminism.
A few weeks later, I find myself in traffic court, charged with “Failure to control the vehicle, and/or maintain, a sure, clear distance.”
In the court’s waiting room, I sit next to a dark young man with a bandage wrapped around his neck, like a clerical collar.  There are smaller bandages on his chin and nose.
“Are you the one who was crunched in the Beetle?” I ask.
He nods.  “Right through the windshield.  Needed a transfusion.  Imagine, the blood of strangers gurgling through my heart!”  His melancholic eyes inspire my trust immediately.  He wears blue jeans and his tee shirt has Donald Duck giving the finger.  I like the attitude behind the image.
“I am Pirooz.” I say and stretch my hand.
“I’m Jesus Constanza.”
He says Jesus like the Spanish say it, Hey-soos.
“Your name is ringing a bell,” I say apologetically, “but I’m fuzzy about the tune.”
Before he can answer, a young woman with wavy brown hair and soft hazel eyes slides into the chair next to him and takes his hand.  She is a bit stocky -- wearing a Midwesterner’s winter coating of flesh.  She sticks out her other hand, thumb straight up like the fin on a shark, and looks at me. 
“I’m Amerique,” she says.  “I’m one of the eight million students taking your eight-o’clock class.”
“I thought I recognized you,” I say.  “A big class is like an airport, full of fellow travelers who never meet.”
She informs me that Jesus is the editor of the Lighthouse, the college newspaper.  From the way they look at each other, and touch each other, I can see that they are in love.
“Of course!  That’s how I know you.”  I say to Jesus.  “I read your editorials.  You write what is expected to remain unwritten and refuse to write what is expected.”
Amerique changes the subjects.  “I do like your lectures, almost always.”
“Really?” I say.  “Professional safety forces me to make some compromises.”
Amerique scolds me: “Self censorship!  How sad, Professor Pirooz.”
“This is my tragedy, the big stone I must push up the hill, year after year,” I say.
“Bullshit University,” she says.
I have not heard anyone describe American higher education so articulately since my student days.  “What is your major?” I ask her.
“Art education.  Jesus is in journalism.  But I think he should become a concert guitarist.”
“And you a singer,” he responds lovingly.
As we talk I spot other faces: Maria Firestone, the charismatic assistant professor of sociology; Robert Offenburger, the professor of philosophy, whom everyone calls Dr. Off, my friend J.J., wearing a mischievous grin and the dirtiest looking pair of pants.  Is it his strategy to induce the judge’s sympathy?  I wave at them.  How ironic -- a majority of the school’s marginal souls bunched together like bruised grapes in a traffic court!
At last, the courtroom doors open.  We sprinkle ourselves onto the wooden benches.  We wait as though for the Day of Judgment.
Then a clerk turns on the large TV hanging from the ceiling.  Judge Daniel B. Lyons appears on the screen and explains the procedures, the meaning of the traffic citations, and the options of “guilty,” “not guilty,” and “no contest.”
As soon as the instructions are completed the clerk commands, “All rise.”  Judge Lyons enters.  He does not look as large as he did on the TV screen.  He does not look any friendlier, either, and as we all sit, we are as silent as the wooden benches.
The policewoman who rescued me enters the courtroom with an aura of seriousness.  As if orchestrated, all eyes follow the sway of her hips.  She hands the judge a stack of folders.  As she returns from the bench, she heaves a sensual smile at me  -- as if it was a rose.  It pricks my heart.  I want to follow her.  I pinch myself mentally.  Stop the thought of it, Pirooz, you sexist rat.  You shall not pick up a police officer in the court!
But my heart palpitates.  Go for it, go for it!  Soon my mind is vacillating, and becomes conscious of its own parallel processing.  Now some of my sparking neurons praise, and some belittle themselves. Though however we are amazing, we still don’t know how we create the mind!  How our biology creates love, faith, art and science.  How a policewoman’s sexy smile blipping in Pirooz’ mind, like an intoxicated quasar, reminds Pirooz of the Mona Lisa’s smile that flashed in Leonardo da Vinci’s mind centuries ago.
The judge addresses us: “Let me point out that while you were involved in the same accident, your cases are different, and will be considered independently.”  The judge calls the first defendant, who stands up on prosthetic legs and canes.  He declares: “I was on my way to the veteran’s hospital for therapy when a car rear-ended mine.” 
“Case dismissed,” the judge says.
J.J. is summoned to the bench next.  “I’ve got both my legs, Your Honor,” he says, “but my equal opportunity was amputated at birth.  My premiums are already sky high because of the neighborhood in which I live.  Find me guilty and you take away that old dirty white Plymouth of mine.  And that old dirty white Plymouth of mine is the only thing that gives me some mobility in this shinning white world.”
The judge replies, “Race or poverty are not a legal defense -- guilty or not guilty?”
“I thought I just explained.  Not guilty, your honor!”
Judge Lyons snaps at him, “The court charges you only the minimum – thirty-five dollars.”
J.J. flashes a waggish grin.  “Your Honor, I’m  familiar with minimums!”
As J.J. leaves with knotted eyebrows, he squeezes my arm as he passes and says, “U.S. amounts to Urine and Shit.”
“Dr. Maria Firestone,” the judge calls.
When I first came to Ohio Eastern, Maria Firestone wore an enormous Afro and called herself Black.  Now she wears flowing cornrows and calls herself Afro-American.  Nonetheless, she is the same Maria, delightful, defiant, and a beauty. 
“Your honor,” she says, “I am as innocent as a newborn baby, but I render a plea of no contest if you’ll permit me to expand on Mr. Janitor’s thoughts a bit.”
The judge answers cautiously.  “A tiny bit, I hope.”
Maria becomes solemn.  “In just society, laws must be enforced even handedly.  In a discriminatory society, laws are applied with discrimination. Since a black person is penalized from birth, for being black, legally speaking, he must be given the benefit of doubt.”
“This is a traffic court, Dr. Firestone,” the judge reminds, “not the Supreme Court.”
Maria, shaking her head and absorbing her no contest plea, sits down.
Now the judge calls for Richard Powers.  He is the president of a big insurance agency.  But Richard Powers does not approach the bench, nor is he in the courtroom.  In his stead, a lawyer pleads no contest for him.  The judge and Powers are friends, and I have seen them a few Wednesdays with president Wright, loading their golf clubs into one or the other’s Lincoln Town Car.
The next defendant is called forward.  He is a white man in his thirties.  “Your Honor, my wife was having our baby and was due any minute when the accident happened.  She delivered in the ambulance.”
After a few moments of chit chat, the judge says “Case dismissed.”
Next to the bench is Dr. Offenburger, a philosopher who once wrote: “Like existence itself, homosexuality is neither immoral, nor criminal.  Nature cannot be condemned or prosecuted.”  And so, soon after, a false rumor spread that he is a man who likes men.
As Dr. Off explained his not guilty position, he did so with virtual contempt, sailing words at the judge like “convergence of existential coincidences” until the audience titters.
Everyone grins, but the judge.  “This is a court, not a philosophical symposium.”
Dr. Off appears offended.  “I am unable to leave my intelligence outside the court as Japanese do with their shoes.”
“You are drifting close to the existential edge of contempt,” the judge says, enjoying his own remark and his authority to make determinations.  He finds Dr. Off guilty of tailgating.
Now Jesus Constanza, the young journalist and guitarist, is called forward.  The judge inquires about his injuries and summarily dismisses his case.
But Jesus Constanza does not leave.  “I want to plead guilty your honor.”
“Mr. Constanza, you wish to plead guilty after being found not guilty?”
“Yes sir.  On the iced roads we were all the same.  If I’m innocent, so are the others.  But if anyone else is guilty, then so am I.”
The irritated Judge grinds his teeth and gives Jesus the minimum fine.
Now my name echoes across the courtroom.  I shuffle forward, my beret soaking up the sweat seeping from my palms.
“Your plea, Dr. Pirooz?”
“Innocent,” I explain.  “If anybody is guilty, it is the university’s board of trustees, who hired a university president who ignored nature’s serious warnings and failed to cancel classes.” 
The judge looks up, his friendship with the president is etched in his eyes.  When the judge finds me guilty I respond: “Your honor, as it is, I’m a guilt-ridden accented immigrant.  If you pile others’ guilt onto me also, my superego may crack!”  Everyone laughs except the judge, who pretends he didn’t hear it.
Judge Lyons appears irritated by my comment about President Wright.  In that fleeting moment, biting words emerge, and that which is in my heart leaps across my lips and takes wing into the air for all to hear, one second before I wish I could recall them.  But, of course, I can’t.  And my comments are destined to find Wright’s ear.
The cases go on, students and professors, and other unfortunate residents of the city who chose the wrong exit.  Strangely, the last person called before the judge is the impatient driver of the pickup truck who swerved in front of me, setting the whole sad affair in motion.  The judge studies his file.  “The police report says you were at the front of the pileup.  You didn’t hit anyone?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Then why were you charged?”
“Beats me, Your Honor.”
“Beats me, too.  Case dismissed.”
Judge Lyons bangs his gavel and heads for his chamber, anxiously pulling off his robe as it were infested with fleas.
In the waiting room, I approach the truck driver.  “You caused the whole thing, for Christsakes!  Why didn’t you tell the truth and get the monkey off our backs?”
“I would have lost my license this time.”  His shrug and smile disarms me.  My anger diminished.  “What was your rush that day, anyhow?” I ask.
“Panda heat,” he says, his face lighting up.  He is tall and skinny and looks several years older than my rapidly ending thirties.
I smell beer on his breath.  “Panda heat?”
“The female panda is in heat only a couple of hours once a year,” he says.
“Is that so?” I say while meaning, “So what?”
“Yes.  My lady gets horny once in a blue moon, but man when she does --”
“Like a panda in heat,” I interrupt him, enjoying his unusual openness.
“Yes, yes, and ice or no ice, the moon was bright blue that morning, and, shit, I was out of rubbers.  Just one damn exit away!”
My thinking was catching up with his.  “So, you had to rush out to buy some?”
“Bingo,” he says.  His grin pushes up his huge, untrimmed mustache, revealing a row of jackrabbit teeth.
As we leave the courthouse and walk across the parking lot together, I kid him.  “What do you do when Pandawoman is not in heat, Pandaman?”
He holds my arm and laughs, letting me have another puff of his alcohol breath.  “I go fishing.”
I think I know what he means.  “Fishing for Panda chicks?”
“No.  Fishing for fish, Sir!” he answers with a huge smile.  We have reached his truck.  The paint from my hood is still on his bumper.  He stretches his hand to me.  “I’m Ed Mullen,” he says.
“Every one calls me Pirooz.”
“I know.  My daughter Amerique is in your class.”
“So we are just one big happy law-breaking family today?”
He thunderlaughs.  “I don’t know about happy.  She’s pissed at me.  My lust nearly killed Jesus.  I told her to blame her mother’s lust!”
I change the subject.  “What do you do for a living, besides procuring defendants for the judge?”
He belches and the air fills with the stale stench of beer.  “I’m maintenance manager of the college.”
“Do you always drink when you come to court?”
“How can a sober guy stand it?”
We laugh, as if we were enjoying a few beers at the local pub.  “Please give me your address, Pandaman,” I say, as he gets into his truck.
“My address?” he responds cautiously.  “You’re not going to sue me, are you?”
I laugh.  “No, no!  I am just going to send you a big supply of condoms -- for public safety -- as if the public wore them to avoid accidents!”  Ed drives off laughing and coughing.
As I search for the right key to unlock the door of my bruised car, I see Jesus Constanza approaching.  I fear that he may be sore at me because I talked to Ed in a friendly manner -- the same Ed who not only totaled his beloved Beetle, but also caused his veins and heart to be tainted with the blood of strangers.
But Jesus is not angry with me, or Amerique’s father, Ed, or even the judge.  He is angry with someone else.  “Can you believe that bastard who rammed me didn’t even show up in court?” he asks.
“It was Richard Powers, the local insurance god, who hit you.  Talk about poetic injustice!  Our premiums will rise like thorny blackberry bushes -- a big windfall for him.”
Jesus and I exchange phone numbers and the next week Amerique and I have dessert in his place.  Strangely enough, we eat carrot cake which reminds me of the policewoman.  Later we drink wine and munch on vegetables, bread, and cheese.  They bombard me with questions about my radical student days at Columbia University as if I am Marco Polo, back in humdrum Europe with marvelous tales from the exotic Orient.
They also bombard me with questions about the present, and the future: Will Central America be our next Vietnam?  In El Salvador, why do we back the right-wing government against left-wing guerrillas, while in neighboring Nicaragua, we back the right-wing guerrillas against a left-wing government?  Why, Amerique wonders, has President Reagan sent troops to train in Honduras?  Does he intend to consolidate these little wars into one big war using soldiers and workers as cheap resources, the way our businessmen are consolidating little companies into big companies? 
All the news is not bad, I tell them.  Two Astronauts have just completed the first untethered space walk, propelled by tiny jets strapped to their backs.  “So, at least two living humans have escaped the weight of injustice on this planet,” I say, “if only for a few minutes.”
The following week I invite them for dinner at my home.  I also invite Maria Firestone, and let her play Marco Polo while I am in the kitchen cooking.  I like to cook -- especially Persian dishes for Americans.  I want Americans to like Persians!  I want Americans to know that we are not all hostage-takers.  That we can be kind, and happy people.  We feast on joojeh albaloo polo, chicken and rice in sour cherry sauce.  We also feast on our strengthening bonds.
The next afternoon, still full of joojeh albaloo polo, and memories of my youth, I sit in my study and gaze through the window at a giant weeping willow, whose branches reach the little pond below it.  In the summer, blue and white lilies and the yellow willow boughs hold hands like old friends reunited after seasons apart.
I resolve to meet the policewoman to discover why I’m so obsessed with her.  It can’t be just her looks.  The sudden opening and shutting of the front door breaks my reverie.  Bobby enters my study.  He swings his arms around my shoulders, hugs the chair and me, and kisses the top of my head.  “No soccer practice today?” I ask
“The coach is sick.”  As quickly as he arrived, he rushes downstairs.  I hear the opening and shutting of the refrigerator door, and then the TV.  I am a single parent and this condition cannot be adequately described; it must be experienced.  Even though I ignore Bobby now and then, he is the anchor of my life, my home in exile.  He is, in some mysterious ways, my identity resisting disappearing in Diaspora.  I wonder what I would do or be without him, and I wonder what I am to him.  The ocean of my vacillations doesn’t allow me the luxury of knowing for sure.
Bobby and I get along fine, as long as I go along with what he wants.  But the future will not be simple.  Soon he will want to drive, perhaps to drink and drive.  Girls are already calling him.  Will he take time away from soccer, girls, and TV to maintain his other paths to knowledge and wisdom?  I’m afraid, but I must let him out of my hand like a bird, to fly high and far.  But it isn’t easy to let go.  It isn’t safe for the newly winged.  So many things can happen, to work against the individual.  He must learn the simple rules of this not-so-simple life, and balance needs for the future against present gratifications.  But I know so little about bringing up a child; I still need upbringing myself.  And perhaps not so surprisingly, Bobby is a big help with this.  We are raising each other.  I feel good because he has agreed to a weekend trip to Washington with me.  I want him to see that it is a real place, and not just the television backdrop for the evening news.  Someday I also want to take him to Tehran, so he can see that it, too, and see that it is a real place.  I want to expand his consciousness, and mine, in real and imagined fields.  So he might gather little pieces of the truth.
Part of the problem is I don’t trust my own instincts sometimes.  And at times I leap without thinking.  After all, I’ve championed my unconscious bias toward truth, but I realize at some level, it is my truth.  And it has pissed off a number of people over the years.
Once, on a lecture tour on technology transfer in India that was sponsored by the U.S., I didn’t speak to what was expected of me.  On the contrary, I promoted my own beliefs, and didn’t defend the patent laws which favored multinational corporations.  I reminded my audience that the East has seldom been properly compensated for the vast knowledge that has been passed to the West.  I recalled for them that there were many U.S. scientists and inventors who were foreign born and were at least partially educated in their native lands. 
I was later told that I shouldn’t worry about applying for any further travel grants.  I seem to find ways to open doors, only to shut them again with my unorthodox approach.
On another occasion, the Chamber of Commerce president of Bombay asked me to compare India’s unique version of a Coca Cola drink, to the American brand.  “It looks like Coke,” I said.  “It fizzes like Coke.  But it doesn’t taste like Coke.  In fact, it’s worse than Coke!”
In another time in Bombay, that type of “honesty” would have triggered more than a lifetime in prison for me.  All examples of the battles I fight, with others, as well as within. 

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Novel / Novella
writing MParvin
Professor Manoucher Parvin, a polymath, has published novels, poems, short stories and numerous works in various fields of sciences.
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a•leth•o•pho•bi•a ( ă -leth- o' - fo´be- ă) n. 1. A crippling fear of truth. 2. The inability to accept unflattering facts about your nation, religion, culture, ethnic group, or yourself. [Greek aletho, truth + phobia Late Latin, from Greek, from phobos, fear.] a•leth•o•pho´bi•ac´ (-ak) n. a•leth•o´pho´bic (-fo´bik, fob´ik) adj. & n. Alethphobically