The Word On The Street:
Where Are The Americans?
EVERAL months before the June elections,
and the protests, I walked the streets of Tehran. In Hassan
Abad Square two burly men approached. I bristled, expecting
"Are you Russian?" they asked gruffly.
"We donít like Russians. Are you American? We love Americans."
Reassured that Iím an American,
they embraced me and posed for pictures.
I walked around snapping photos
of elderly men lounging lazily in the square and black clothed
women shopping in narrow open-air shops.
The people I met were invariably
cordial and friendly. Some professionals would greet me with
a smile, bow slightly and exchange cards. Once my driver got
lost and stopped a white-uniformed traffic officer. The cop
peered into the car and came face to face with an American seeking
the way to a synagogue. He pointed in the right direction, then
broke into a wide smile for my camera.
Many people revealed a connection
to America. The caretaker at the Yousef Abad Synagogue, a retired
boutique owner, told me proudly that his daughter and son-in-law
live in Brooklyn. A tour guide talked about his annual trip
to visit his daughter who works at a hotel in Las Vegas. The
manager of a hotel in Tehran said the owners are three brothers,
two of whom reside in Minneapolis.
At the First International Tour
Operators Convention in Tehran, which I covered last November,
the vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Esfandiar
Rahim Mashaee, emphasized the importance of tourism to the development
of the country.
He called upon the 132 travel agents
from 42 countries to engage in his bold vision of "peace and
friendship for all people." He added, "Tourism is very important
for global security. Iran is ready to serve, to help love and
friendship materialize." This from a member of the regime!
I read in the local English newspaper
that a reigning cleric in the holy city of Qom criticized Mashaee
for his friendship with Israel.
In Esfahan, I marveled at the grand
mosques and shops bordering the imperial Imam Square, the second
largest square in the world (after Beijingís Tiananmen). It
was nightfall. A young man emerged from the darkness.
"Do you want to buy a tablecloth?
I own the shop over there."
I looked over my shoulder. No one
around. I felt nervous.
"Where are you from?"
"I havenít seen an American in
six months. I want Americans to come."
All this happened on streets bedecked
with stern images of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the current
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, promising "Death to America."
In Tehran I thought I saw a ray
of hope when I spied an American flag on a light pole. I couldnít
believe it so I went for a closer look. It was the Stars and
Stripes, all right, but with these words scrawled over it: "Down
I stood across the former U.S.
Embassy, now a base of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, gazing
at the graffiti-smeared walls proclaiming the inevitable victory
of Iran over America. I wondered how many people pay attention
to the hate generated by the mullahs.
These days, with Iran in turmoil,
the voices of the people I heard resound in my ear: "Where are
Back to Top
Daytona Beach Promises
Tim and Nina cut up on the Boardwalk
Fun And Excitement
HE closest we came to driving at NASCAR happened
on a visit to the Daytona
International Speedway. With no effort
at all the cheers in the stands and the roar of the engines
were ringing in our ears as we tooled around the sleek race
Okay, so we rode in a tourist tram
with a couple dozen other people, but it was exciting just to
be on the inside track for a backstage experience. Good thing
they werenít racing that day or we would have been toast.
We came to a stop in Victory Lane,
where NASCAR champs are awarded their trophies. We visitors
posed for souvenir pictures.
Daytona Beach is also known for
its Biker Block Party the first Saturday of every month. Hundreds
of motorcycles take over the streets. The third Saturday of
every month is Cruisiní Destination Daytona when the town pulsates
with music, food and auto displays.
For culture in Daytona Beach we went to the
Museum of Arts and Sciences
on the Tuscawilla Nature Preserve. Of you stay off the nature
trails and stay focused on the museum you may notice the 13-foot-tall
Giant Ground Sloth that was discovered nearby in 1965. Donít
worry, this baby is 130,000 years old, so it wonít even frighten
you, but it was awesome to see.
Surf and sand and sun
There are exhibits of African ritual
art, Chinese works, and the Cuban Foundation Museum Collection
donated by President Fulgencio Baptista in 1957, two years before
he was bounced by Castro.
We saw the 1948 Lincoln Mark 1
Continental convertible which took Chapman and Susan Root on
their honeymoon. His Root Glass Company in Daytona Beach was
the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the 1950s.
We were thrilled to enter the
Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
It was March 17, 1946, when Robinson took the field with the
Montreal Royals for spring training against their parent club,
the Brooklyn Dodgers, making it the first racially integrated
baseball game ever.
Now home to the Daytona Cubs, a
minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the park has an
interesting exhibit highlighting Robinsonís formidable career.
By now tourists are famished. We saw them cruise the Ocean Walk
Shoppes for grub. We peeked in at
Bubba Gump where "life is a like a box of chocolates."
Or like a frat house. Everyone was having a heck of time, with
some customers actually getting up on the table and singing
for their supper. You have to see it to believe it.
Bubba Gump for grub and fun
An excellent option for upscale
eaters is the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse at the
Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort,
which is where we were staying. This is luxury dining under
the creative supervision of executive chef John Suppan.
The Hilton is luxury lodging on
the beach. Manager David Barone oversees 744 guest rooms, cabanas
and suites, health club, spa, pools, business meetings, and
kidsí activity center.
At breakfast we watched people
converge on the Old Spanish Mill
and Griddle House for unusual self-service. They sat
at tables with hot plates built in, and made the batter, which
they poured into pans and griddled their own pancakes. They
loved the communal spirit. At least they didnít have to do their
own busing, too. The restaurant is located in DeLeon Springs,
30 minutes west of the city. Phone 386 985-5644.
Back to Top
Iran takes you on an engrossing adventure into a country
that is in the news constantly.
The amazing photographs of Mark Edward Harris show you
in vivid detail the everyday life of the Iranian people. Having
traveled and photographed in 80 countries, he has developed
a sharp eye for whatís interesting and fascinating on the street
and in the lives of the people. The full-color photos in this
handsome coffee table volume are satisfyingly absorbing. Chronicle
Books, 208, pages, $35.
Las Vegas covers it all: shopping, recreation, lodging,
sightseeing, restaurants and, oh yes, gambling. Among the topics
covered in the Essentials section are Getting Around, Conduct
and Customs, Health and Safety. Whatís not covered is how to
leave with a small fortune.
If you figure that out you can write your own ticket,
I mean book. Avalon Travel, paperback, 323 pages, $17.95.
}Mexico is Lonely Planetís
little fat book on (almost) everything you need to know when
youíre headed this way. From the Maya temples in the jungle
covered Palenque to the Caribbean waters at Playa del Carmen,
this hefty little guidebook, the 11th edition, will
see through many of the marvelous sites and attractions of Mexico.
A nice touch is the greendex, a list of the editorsí picks of
ecofriendly places, such as the Mexico City Hostel with energy
efficient facilities. Lonely Plant, softcover, 1056 pages, $26.99.