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Tales From the Zirzameen: The story of an American falling in love with Iran



Dear readers,


For several years now you have been asking me to write a book so I have finally succumbed to your wishes.


As some of you know every year since I left Iran in 1979, I throw a Norooz Party which has gotten bigger and bigger each New Year. Last year 2007, it was the best one ever. We had 150 guests including men, women and children. Rashid Safarzadeh sang for us and his band played and Janette danced Bandari. We had a magnificent Haft Sin table with ten Sin. We had Bahman from Café Zest cater the food, plus I brought 3 1/2 pounds of Xaviar and enough vodka to drown a herd of elephants and not the saagi kind either...we had Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and Bahai faiths represented as well as a few Sufis and atheists and ethnicities including Persians, Assyrians, Armenians, Stamboli Turks and Azeri Turks, Kurds, and a few Bakhtiaris and Afshars not to mention Slovakians, Czechs, a Russian, several Arabs, an Afghan and a lot of Anglo Americans enjoying this event


Every year I say a toast that goes to the effect that since Iranians showed me so much generosity and kindness during the five years I lived there, that this is my way of giving something back and of saying thanks.


I want you all to know that I have tried for many years to find a commercial publisher and after much work I have discovered that in today's competitive market publishers have no reason to take a risk on a new author especially one who wants to write in a positive way about Iran.


So although it would take many lifetimes to return all the kindness that I received in Iran, I am asking all of you for one more favor: Please pre-order or buy a copy of my book when it comes out and tell your friends and relatives about it as I have decided that the biggest debt I have towards Iran, which is to help wage peace between our two countries, must be paid for by me. If I don't believe in that cause enough to pay for my own publishing than why should anyone else?


So with a wish for your peace, love and happiness I say may God Bless You,


Brian H. Appleton
Aka Rasool Aryadust



Brief Chapter Outline of Tales From the Zirzameen


Introduction       For Love of Persia


This chapter explains how I came to love Persian culture and live in Iran and also explores some of the humorous effects of the differences between Persian and American culture from my personal experiences in Iran.


Chapter 1.)        A Mid Summer Night Dream Amid The Jasmine


This chapter describes the absolute enchantment of the Iran I experienced on my first stay there at age 16 during the summer of 1966 and the charms of my Iranian host family.


Chapter 2.)        Berim Shomal Ba Radio Darya  (Let's head North with Sea Radio)


This chapter also covers the summer of 1966 when we went to the Caspian seaside resort town of what was then Bandar-e-Pahlavi. I also delve into the uglier side of Persian culture and some of its prejudice towards women and my continued experience of that when I lived there later in the '70's.


Chapter 3.) The Misadventures of Kai Kavous: At the Chehel Setoon of Esfahan


This chapter is the first of two, which describe the hilarious events of a filmmaking episode. It was a docu-drama based on the real diary of a nephew of the pope during Safavid Iran, who came to gain an audience with Shah Abbas to solicit his alliance against the Ottoman Turks. I played the role of an historic figure Sir Robert Shirley who modernized the Shah's army and married his daughter. The chapter delves into the pranks of the film director's nephew, the foibles of some of the actors and amusing incidents which took place when I was a stunt double for the lead actor. I also worked with several actors and actresses who went on to gain celebrity including Shohreh Agdashlou who was nominated for Oscar two years ago for her supporting role in Steven Spielberg's: "House of  Sand and Fog."


Chapter 4.)  A Good Sport: Chehel Setoon of Qazvin with Daijan Napolon


This chapter is a continuation of the hilarious events of the Iranian film making, the rivalries and jealousies of the crew, a vodka drinking contest I was subjected to in which I was pitted against the cameraman and then stories about the Iranian drug culture and opium in general that I experienced in Iran of the 70's.


Chapter 5.) The Seven Sisters


Here I go into the ostentatious displays of generosity, which are so much a part of Persian culture and character. The chapter focuses on a large garden party at a general's country estate who had seven gorgeous daughters. It also talks about unusual platonic relationships I had with several beautiful Persian women and the extraordinary lengths that Persians will go to for their friends.


Chapter 6.) The Man Who Would Be King


This is the story of a friendship I developed with the Qajar pretender to the throne from the former dynasty, which was usurped by the Pahlavis. He was an avid butterfly collector, a wealthy financier and beloved by many ordinary Iranians. There was a mystique and a noblesse oblige about him and his family and at one point I even became engaged to marry his niece. It was interesting to see the love, which existed between this family and their old servants and retainers of multi generations of service.


Chapter 7.) My Friend Touss: The Grand Master of Sobriquets


This chapter is about childhood friendship in general and specifically about my first Persian friend whom I met in boarding school in Rome, Italy in 1961 at age 11. My love for Persian culture began with him and it is a funny recounting of the nicknames we used to make up for all our high school friends and acquaintances and the arrogance of youth.


Chapter 8.) The Incredible Doctor G


This is chapter is also comical in a dark humor kind of way though it deals with the corruption and influence peddling side of Iranian culture and character as epitomized by the Coroner General of Tehran and my dealings with him in arranging for the remains of the American deceased from Bell Helicopter to be sent back to the USA. It also deals with some of the unsavory aspects and behaviors of the Americans living in Iran and their treatment of Iranians.


Chapter 9.) The Gathering Clouds: The Summer of 1978


This chapter deals with the first tell tale signs of the coming revolution.


Chapter 10.) The End of Camelot


This chapter describes my direct experience of the revolution; the massive protests marches and roof top chanting, the Black Friday Massacre I overheard, and the fighting; a secret viewing I had of the Shah and King Juan Carlos of Spain; the massive general strikes and martial law and curfew and what it was like living through it; some political analysis and foreshadowing of the events of the next chapter which is the climax of this book.


Chapter 11.) Two Days In Tehran In 1979


This chapter describes my first hand impressions of  what Tehran was like the day the Shah left and then what it was like in Tehran the day Khomeini arrived.


Chapter 12.) In Free Fall


In this chapter I am taken hostage and it describes the incredible bravery exhibited by some outstanding individuals of both Iranian and American nationality and how we helped each other. It also describes the solidarity, enthusiasm and hope the revolution brought to the Iranian people and then the resulting chaos with the break down of civil authority and the eventual disillusionment when the world community ignored the revolution and the priests usurped it and the story ends on the eve of the "Silent War" with Iraq and my harrowing last four days escaping from Iran four months after the revolution at a time when there were only about 500 foreigners left in the whole country.


A revolution is something that not many individuals have or ever will experience and I try to describe what it is like during the period that anarchy reigns.


In the end it is hard not to sympathize with the xenophobic down trodden Iranian people who have never enjoyed real democracy due to the real politiques of their oil rich region and whose intelligentsia, for the most part have become another Diaspora.




My name is Brian H. Appleton. I was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1950. I grew up in Greece and. I lived in Italy from 1955 to 1966 in Tirrenia and Livorno and boarding school in Rome where I made my first and longest friendship with an Iranian. He was a boy one year older than me named Touss. We are still friends to this day.  Eventually I graduated from George Washington University in Washington DC with a BA in Anthropology but not before going back to Italy Siena from 1970 to 1972 during which time I was a fine artist and did two one man shows and several collectives.


I then spent 5 years from 1974 to 1979 working in Tehran. I have been living and working and raising a family in Northern California since 1987. In the past five years as a freelance journalist I have written interviews of Iranian independent film makers as well as a large body of articles about my experiences in Iran and my political views about Iran in several English language publications and editions including but not limited to the UK Guardian, The Iranian Times, Al Jazeera Magazine, Payvand News, The Persian Mirror, Irandokht Magazine, The Persian Heritage Magazine, CASMII. (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Invasion of Iran), and


I saw the revolution of 1979 from start to finish and stayed on four months after it was over. I did not really want to leave Iran and my friends there but finally foreigners were no longer being allowed to work there and so I had to depart. It was a major change in my life to repatriate to the USA and several decades of hard work and hardship followed which helps me appreciate what the Iranian diaspora has gone through. Trying to rise and succeed in America, "The American Dream" not withstanding, can be a lonely and very difficult struggle without the old world network of friends and extended family and with fierce competition in every field in a culture not particularly imbued with a strong value for helping strangers and in fact often full of bigotry and prejudice against Middle Eastern immigrants.


I feel that Iran is a huge part of my life, my childhood, my memories, my values, my friendships and loves and every day not lived in Iran is a loss to mother and my father came to see me during the years I lived in Iran and they too shared my love for that country and culture.  I feel that I became an adopted member of my extended Persian family, the Sepehr family, during my stay in Iran and from them I learned many things that no one else had ever taught me and they enriched my life in major ways.


I know the values of the Iranian people despite the propaganda generated by their government and ours in the USA. Iran has been victimized and demonized several times within the past century and this current administration is just the latest round. I have made it my personal mission to try to keep a human face on Iran in order to do what I can to stop an invasion and subjugation. The predominant interest in Iran in the West is access to its oil reserves and not in the rights and freedoms of its people or the richness and preservation of its culture. The economic globalization is reducing vast and rich cultural diversity into a faceless consumer and concentrating power into the hands of fewer and fewer parties and in the process it is making the world a bland and colorless if not boring place to be and I for one fight that trend in the only way I know how with my writing. In my heart and I know in the hearts of many, that I would rather be a nomad riding a camel into the sunset of an uncharted desert than stuck in traffic for three hours in a 50 mile commute everyday in any major urban area on the planet. We have too much of everything these days, too much information, too many gadgets, too much stimulation, too many debts, too much of everything except the quality of life and meaningful life long friendships.


I was the beneficiary of five years of kindness and generosity in Iran and also of a chance to self-actualize and be everything I could be. I achieved many personal goals in Iran which I have never been able to realize anywhere else and for all this I am eternally grateful and humble and I want to give something back. I write because I feel compelled to write.

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