Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kolbeh and Persian Party People

I’m Irish. My aunt, Molly McCloskey, moved to Ireland in her early twenties and never came back. She still lives there. She even has an accent and says things like “bloak” and “blarney.” My entire extended family likes to drink so much that many of my aunts and uncles now attend regular AA meetings. My grandparents have “happies” every day at the strike of 5pm, happy hour, and they usually dole out cocktails to friends and neighbors well into the night. Our annual gatherings are big and loud and involve card games, occasional gambling, vodka, and uncontrollable, belly-aching snorts and giggles.

Point? Irish folks love to party.

On Saturday night, though, I learned they don’t like to party nearly as much as Persians do.

It’s one of those evenings that only July knows. The air is hot and arid and smells like freshly watered grass sprinkled with efflorescence. I pull up to Kolbeh, a Persian restaurant in Lake Oswego, just as the tree-lined horizon meets the last few minutes of sunset. I’m bedecked in a new shirt and a bright blonde hairdo, and although I’m not sure whether to wear flats or heels, I decide on stilettos because I’m sure the event won’t require too much standing or dancing. It’s an engagement celebration, not a college frat party.


When the belly dancer shows up half-naked and barefoot, and the lights dim and the disco ball starts spinning, I realize I’ve never been more off the mark.

The groom’s father hands drink ticket after drink ticket to each of the 200 guests as they walk in the door, hugging and kissing them on both cheeks—regardless of whether or not he’s met them—before chuckling, purely and happily and loudly. I decide it’s simply the chuckle of a nervous yet blissful Persian man whose son is about to get married.

I order wine and Aubrey sips vodka sodas while we catch up with old friends and watch Aubrey’s sister, the bride, dance with her soon-to-be family members who stuff dollar bills in the belly dancer’s bra.

“I want to be Persian!” I whine over the music. “Why haven’t my parents ever thought to order a belly dancer?” It seems like such an obvious thing to do. My head bounces awkwardly along with the drums and keyboards, my eyes closed.

Aubrey nods sympathetically while scanning the scene, but then she smiles, knowing this is what comes with the territory when acquiring a Persian brother-in-law. Her family functions may be this way forever.

Hopefully she’ll invite me to more of them.

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