Funny in Farsi
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My father’s hardscrabble life also left him with a burning de- sire to get rich. History is full of stories of men overcoming poverty to amass great fortunes in steel or pig farming. Others
13 14 FIROOZEH DUMAS reach great heights through education, becoming successful doc- tors and lawyers. My father was an educated man, but as a salaried engineer, he had not a chance of becoming rich, and he knew it. Unwilling to abandon his champagne wishes and caviar dreams, my father dreamed of ways to get rich that required nei- ther hard work nor further education. His dream was that the doorbell would ring and he would answer it. Standing there would be a man in a three-piece navy blue suit who would ask him, “Are you Kazem?”
“Yes,” my father would answer. Then the man would inform my father that through a series of unbelievable circumstances, he had come into boatloads of money.
It was with this mind-set that my father decided to enter Bowling for Dollars. In his attempts to embrace American culture, my father had joined the local bowling league. Every Wednesday evening, he would head off to the bowling alley, returning with spellbinding stories about strikes and gutters. Somewhere along the way, he started to believe that he was a gifted bowler. I suspect it had something to do with the American habit of generously heaping praise and encouragement on anyone who tries anything. At some point, someone must have yelled “Good job, Kaz!,” which my father interpreted as “You should go on television and win a fortune!”
Bowling for Dollarswas a game show that merged the fascinat- ing world of bowling with the thrill of Las Vegas. All a contes- tant had to do to win the jackpot was roll two strikes in a row. The jackpot grew each time a contestant failed to win, taking the excitement up a notch. My parents and I watched the show religiously, with my father’s running commentary, which did not
resemble that of traditional sports announcers, in the back- ground. My father’s comments ranged from “You should’ve got- ten that!” to “I would’ve gotten that!” From our sofa, bowling looked easy, and we couldn’t understand why so many contes- tants failed to win the jackpot. At the end of each show, viewers were encouraged to call the studio to become a contestant. My father gathered the courage to call and was invited to come for a trial run.
Like a bride preparing to walk down the aisle, my father care- fully chose his clothing, got a haircut, and practiced saying “Hello, I am Kazem” to the bathroom mirror. My mother, now a self-declared bowling expert, gave him all kinds of advice. “Make sure you win.”
My father drove the hour-and-a-half round-trip to the Bur- bank studio for the ﬁrst trial run and returned feeling tri- umphant. He hadn’t bowled any strikes, but he had been asked to return for the second practice. If the second practice went well, he would then appear on television.
Another hour-and-a-half trip for the second practice, and he was selected to return for a taping of the show. My father was hoping that none of the contestants before him would win, so that the jackpot would be really big. He didn’t want to merely win the jackpot; he wanted to win a huge one.
The big day ﬁnally arrived and my father was ready to strike it rich. He ﬁlled the Impala with gas and set off for the third and ﬁnal drive to the studio. We waited anxiously at home.
My father returned that night looking sadder than I had ever seen him. In his two tries, he had hit a total of only seven pins, winning seven dollars. He had never before bowled so poorly. He blamed his poor performance on everything from the lights to the long drive. We didn’t care why he hadn’t won; we just could
Funny in Farsi 15 16 FIROOZEH DUMAS not recall anybody winning so little on Bowling for Dollars. My father had spent several times as much on gasoline just driving back and forth to the studio.
When the performance was aired a few weeks after the taping, we watched in silence. My father looked very nervous on televi- sion, especially after he hit his ﬁrst gutter ball. After the second gutter ball, he looked positively panicked.
After this brush with fame, we no longer watched Bowling for Dollars.We didn’t feel the same emotional involvement. Who were we to criticize these people, all of whom managed to win more than seven dollars? Shortly thereafter, my father gave up bowling entirely, decid- ing it was a stupid sport, if one could even call it a sport. More important, his Wednesday evening bowling nights had forced him to missThe Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Now he was able to squeeze onto the sofa with the rest of us and catch up.
Funny in Farsi